Sacrificial Limb

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Eight

She was the oldest
grand-
daughter.

She had
strawberry
crimped
blond hair.

She poofed her
bangs into
balloons on top
of her forehead.

She was a cashier
at the grocery
store
that smelled
like sweat
and
wrapped
fruit in
plastic.

She wore a
gold cross
on a
gold chain.

Her boyfriend was
nice and kind
of cute, too.

He was a plumber
or an electrician.

He could fix
things.

She had a
soft voice
that
sang songs
in the
shower
and in
church.

Shoo—
shan’t
shoot,
shan’t,
shoot!

He asked for her heart. She offered her right hand instead. He said he needed it—her heart. She believed him. Still, she only offered her hand.

She offered her hand, starting at the wrist. The instant she sliced the flesh, the burgundy blood bled down across the soft pink pad of her palm, over one knuckle, then the next, and cascaded off her pale thumbnail in an angry torrent. The fissure gushed, splattered, covering her hand in slippery red ink.

He clutched her inky hand like a greedy child. Pestilent and proud of his possession. Smiling like a schoolboy pulling the ponytail of the pretty girl.

She was once the pretty girl. He could never claim pretty. He’d claim her instead. One time, he claimed to be in love.

She never claimed to believe in love. She claimed faith. And until then, her body – her heart, her hair, her head, her hands.

He choked her hand in his. She felt the nerve endings in her phantom hand recoil into a fist. Her nails that were no longer hers dig into the lifeless soil of his flesh.

His pointy teeth jutted out of his fleshy jaws. His smile was full of them. He was still hungry. He had more to take. He warned her—he needed her heart.

He needed more than her heart. Much more. She knew her right hand would never be enough. If only she could take it back, reattach it to her arm, rewire the muscles needed for defense. But he had a stranglehold and wouldn’t let go. She would have to be the one.

Fine, she thought. You can have it. But she vowed to give no more. To be sure, she locked her heart inside her rib cage with her left hand and swallowed the key. Then dipped a finger in the cherry red sweet-smelling puddle, stuck it in her mouth and tasted what was once inside her, what he left to dry in the arid air. The flavor of metal lingered on her tongue as she kissed him goodbye.

She swallowed the spit in his kiss, then placed more metal in her mouth. The cold cylinder slid into her perfect mouth and permanently muted any inkling of doubt. The blast splayed the rest of her body parts out for him like a puzzle. A puzzle he would never figure out without a heart.

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