(Horror stories about limbs.)
It’s been just me and my brother for the last fourteen years. No one else. He’s Randall. I’m Joe.
Randall thinks his leg doesn’t belong to him. I thought he was crazy. He is, of course. We both are. We’ve always been. But this seemed different. Still, I didn’t believe him until his foot started to talk.
“I’m gonna hurt you, Randall,” the foot announced. It was the middle of the night. The voice woke us both up.
“See!” shouted my brother. “See!”
I bolted upright and turned on the bedside lamp and looked across the room. My brother’s fat foot was sticking out from underneath the sheet. His toes were wiggling.
“I’ll walk you off the roof and you’ll go splat all over the sidewalk. Just like your Daddy did.”
“Stop it!” Randall sobbed, and kicked at it with his other heel.
I got up and approached my brother’s bed. His foot swayed back and forth, his ankle cracking and popping like my knees do when I bend down to pick stuff up.
“Randall, why is your foot talking?” I asked. I looked at my brother. His swollen face was pale and tear streaked. He seemed terrified.
“It’s not mine. It’s not mine. The whole leg. It’s someone else’s.”
My brother’s knee peeked out from under the covers. “Hi Joe,” it whispered. “I’m gonna kick you to death before I kill your brother.”
Randall gasped. I felt my eyes welling up. He seemed so terrified. I put my palm against his forehead. It usually calmed him down. We sat in silence until I fell asleep next to him. His leg didn’t talk again that night.
In the morning, Randall got up to take a shower. I stayed in bed, thinking about what had happened just a few hours earlier. “Just us being us,” I reassured myself. “Just a bad night.”
A crash, followed by a shrill scream, erupted from the bathroom.
“Randy!” I shouted, and ran to him.
My brother was on the floor of the bathtub. His right leg was sticking straight up.
“Help me, Joe,” he begged. He reached out his arm. I grabbed his hand and tried to lift him up. He was so heavy. I groaned and pulled, but he wasn’t putting in any effort. I couldn’t do it by myself.
“Please, Randall, I need you to push,” I instructed. He wasn’t paying attention. He was staring at his toes. They spoke.
“I hope this hurts!” they exclaimed in unison, and began to laugh. Before my eyes, the toenails began to lift. Randy shrieked. One by one, the nails tore themselves from his toes and fell on to his chest. Blood drooled down his foot.
“Oh my God, Randy, what’s happening to you?”
“It’s going to kill me, Joe. I’m gonna die. I don’t want to. I don’t want to leave you alone.”
His toes twisted and whirled around. The sound of bones snapping and dislocating was louder than the screams of agony they produced.
“Just…just help,” Randall begged.
My mind spun. I couldn’t bear to see him like this.
“Hang on Randy. I’m going to fix this.” I left his side and rushed into the kitchen. I could hear the bones splintering from two rooms over. My brother wasn’t screaming anymore. He just wept. I rummaged through the drawer until I found what I was looking for. I grabbed it and returned.
Randy’s eyes lit up when he saw me. “Yes,” he urged. “Yes, quickly.”
I brought the shears to my brother’s toes and began to cut. One by one, the detached pieces plopped into the tub. Randall had gone white. It looked like he was going to pass out.
“I’m almost done, Rand. You’ll be okay soon.” Only the big toe remained. It shuddered and jerked. I could tell the bones inside were pulverized. I closed the shears around it and clipped.
Blood oozed from the five stumps at the end of my brother’s foot.
“Come on,” I whispered, and wrapped the wounds in a thick towel. “Let’s try to get up.”
It took twenty minutes to get my brother out of the tub. I held him under his arms as he hobbled to his bed, where he collapsed. He rolled over and stared at the ceiling.
“I’m sorry,” he whimpered. “I’m sorry my leg is bad. I don’t mean it.”
“Shhh,” I said, placing my hand on his forehead. “Shhhh.”
“Shhhh,” a voice mimicked. “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
We both looked down. The knee was talking.
“Shhhhhh,” it repeated, and laughed.
“I hate thi-”, Randall began. Then, as we watched, his knee inverted with an ear splitting crack.
My brother’s howl exploded through the room. His thigh remained pressed against the bed, but his calf and foot stood erect. The foot twirled around as if it were on a pivot. My jaw dropped as his Achilles tendon stretched and popped, rolling into his calf, before the ankle broke.
“No,” I pleaded. “No. Don’t.” Randy’s calf sliced through the air in my direction. His foot impacted against my face with so much force I fell. Everything dimmed.
Muffled sounds of cracking and crying combined with the high-pitched ringing in my ears. I tried to stand on unsteady legs.
“How about this?” my brother’s thigh suggested, before folding in half. The sound of his femur shattering was like a gunshot.
Randall lay motionless on the bed. His eyes were bulging and his breaths were shallow. I couldn’t imagine what all this stress was doing to his heart.
“It’s going to be over soon,” I assured my brother. “I’m not going to let this kill you. You’re my brother. I love you.”
I hobbled to the kitchen and returned with our serrated bread knife.
“Do you want this to be over?” I asked. I couldn’t tell if he was still with me or if he’d retreated into a safer place. “Please – just give me a signal if you’re ready. I can’t do it unless you say it’s okay.”
I stared into my brother’s glazed eyes. “Blink twice,” I whispered. “Blink twice and I’ll be able to help.”
Randall blinked once. He stopped. “Please,” I urged. He blinked again. And again. And again. Over and over, my brother’s eyelids snapped open and closed. It was all I needed.
“Okay,” I acknowledged. “Okay.”
I cut off a strip of sheet and tied it around Randall’s thigh, up near the hip. Then I began to saw.
Before I knew it, I’d reached his femur. I pressed down as hard as I could and tried to saw through. It wasn’t easy. Blood poured onto the bed. My brother’s eyes were closed. I cut and cut and cut, breaching the bone and passing through the soft marrow to the other side.
A deep groan filled the air. It was the leg. Not just the foot or the ankle or the knee or the thigh. It was the whole thing, groaning in unison, as I powered through the remains of the bone and muscle until, finally, it was off. I pushed Randy’s leg off the side of the bed. It landed with a thud.
“Randy,” I pleaded. “Randy, open your eyes.”
He obeyed. A smile etched itself across his gray face.
“You did it,” he whispered. “I’m safe. Thanks, Joe.”
I reached across to the nightstand and called 911. I told them there’d been an accident. They said they were on their way.
“Hang in there Rand,” I said, holding his hand. “You’ll be okay.”
His eyes were closed again. His chest barely moved.
“Hang in there,” I repeated, tears carving through the blood spatters on my face.
At my feet, the detached limb twitched. I gasped and backed away. It jerked and cracked, bones breaking with each spasmodic movement. Inch by inch, it crawled across the floor toward the open window, laughing as it went.
“Thanks for that,” it giggled, hauling itself off the ground onto the windowsill. “Bye now.” It rolled off the sill and out into the world.
After another few minutes, the paramedics were banging on my door. I let them in. Two police officers were with them.
“Oh my dear, sweet Christ,” one of the cops whispered.
“My brother’s gonna be okay, right?” I begged. “I tried to help him but I don’t know if I made it worse.”
The two medics looked at the bloody knife on the ground. One of the officers asked me to put my hands behind my back, then he put handcuffs on me.
“Where’s the leg?” a medic wondered aloud.
“It went out the window,” I answered. He looked at me, then out the window, then turned to his colleague and shook his head.
“He’s still bleeding badly,” the other one said. “Get some towels from the bathroom to help wrap him before we transport.”
The younger medic walked into the bathroom. I’d noticed a soft clattering sound ever since the commotion died down. When the medic went in, the clattering grew louder.
“What the hell?” I heard him say, then he pulled back the curtain. He hollered. The other medic and an officer ran in.
“What the…are those…toes?” one of them began.
“They’re moving,” another observed, his voice thick with disgust.
No one said anything else. The medics emerged from the bathroom and wrapped my brother’s leg good and tight, then hoisted him onto a gurney. The officer holding me gave me a shove to get me moving. I obeyed.
We rode down in the freight elevator together in silence. Right before we reached the ground floor, I glanced over at Randy. His eyes were open again. Tears ran down his cheeks.
“I love you, Rand,” I told him. His eyes met mine, but he didn’t reply. “Rand?” I asked. He kept looking at me, his eyes widening. “Randall?”
The elevator door opened as my brother’s left pupil started to laugh.