From the author: Body parts keep disappearing at the most inopportune times ... my own, that is!
My toes curl and release. I am lying with my back against his chest, with
my ass against his groin and him slowly going limp inside me. I am
catching my breath, slowing down, listening to my heartbeat fill the room.
I am waiting for the right moment to shift away; though it would be nice
to cuddle, I’m dying of the heat. Yes, long enough, and in one movement I
slip a little forward and he slides out and only our toes are touching
now, way down at the bottom of my bed. And I look down the curve of my
body, smiling, down the faint moonlit bed, down my thighs to knees and
calves, looking for my toes — they are not there. Ankle, heel, and
I can’t feel them, either.
My heart thumps loudly. I blink, and my toes are there, returned, and I
am tempted to put it down to a trick of the light, but… Well. Nothing
to be done about it right now.
“You okay?” He seems concerned.
“Mmhmm…how ’bout you?”
We’ve cooled a little, and shift, so my head rests on his shoulder.
“I can’t stay the night.” He’s apologetic. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep.”
“Shh…that’s okay. Thank you…it was lovely.”
He chuckles. “Thank you!”
I am tempted to ask him, if, during the act, he happened to notice any odd
flickering, but decide against it. A little too intimate a question —
I’ll save it for Mark or Peter.
“So, you do this often?”
I smile. They always ask. “Not so often. But occasionally, when the
“Has his own diversions. And friends.” I don’t mention Peter. Mark is
usually enough to explain, the first time round.
“You don’t get jealous? He doesn’t?”
“Hmm….he says he doesn’t. I do, sometimes. But I’m not sure that
really matters. It hasn’t been enough to stop me.”
The moonlight slides across the floor. We talk, about little nothings.
The bed is left entirely in darkness, and now it is my desk that shines
palely in the night, doubly illuminated by moon’s light and flickering
computer screen. Swirling screensaver, cool blues mixing into greens.
Finally, he gets up, peels off the condom, cleans up, gets dressed. He
sets my alarm for me: six a.m. Deadline tomorrow — mustn’t oversleep.
Then he sits by me until I start falling asleep, kisses my forehead
softly, slips out. Sweet boy.
I keep my eyes resolutely closed, until I fall completely asleep.
I won’t be visiting Mark for a few weeks. My flight’s booked for the
twenty-second. In the meantime, the work for the new magazine has assumed
nightmare proportions. Every hour seems to bring fresh complications. If
I had known how much time this would take, would I have started it? A
little late to worry about it now — the first issue’s due in three weeks.
Sometimes, as I’m typing, my fingers seem to flicker away — but the words
keep appearing on the screen, and since I touch-type, I’m not really
looking at my fingers anyway. Maybe I need new glasses?
I’m on the phone while I work, talking to Katherine. “Oh, I’m sorry,
sweetie. Yes, that’s terrible…”
Her boyfriend’s causing trouble again. I make appropriate noises —
that’s all she needs. This is a recurring theme, and it no longer needs
all of my attention. I know my lines. “No, I wouldn’t take that either.
You should talk to him.” She starts crying — time for reassurance. “Aw,
c’mon. It’ll be okay…”
While I murmur, I type. She’ll never know. A brief pang of guilt,
“Dear Mr. Rossiter-Parks, thank you for your kind submission to our new
magazine. I’m sorry to have to inform you that…” I really need to take
the time to set up a template and automate part of this. More efficient
in the end. Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow. In the meantime, I can do
this kind of letter in my sleep. Heh. Now that would be efficient.
“Please do feel free to submit to us in the future…”
Her sobs quiet a little. My cue. “You know he loves you.” Her sobs get
louder, making it hard to concentrate. “Look, it can’t be that bad!”
Whoops. Not too exasperated. She’ll just get more upset. Soothing.
That’s the way to go. “I think you’re great, kiddo, and I’m sure he does
I’ve been sitting quite a while in one place, and my neck has started to
hurt. I reach up to switch the phone from one ear to another…and my
hand isn’t there. My forearm ends at the wrist. I freeze, and Katherine
weeps on, while I stare at the computer through the space that should have
been filled by my hand.
I bite my lip, hard. I draw blood.
Then my hand is back. Just as if it had been there all along, almost as
if it had planned this — just a little excursion. A rest, perhaps? Have
all of my body parts been doing this all along, behind my back? Ducking
out when I wasn’t looking? Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention
to my body lately. Maybe it wants some exercise? I have been skimping on
my sit-ups, after all. Just haven’t felt like I had the time for the full
workout in the mornings.
I haven’t heard anything Katherine has said for minutes.
“Kiddo, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you back tomorrow, okay? Sorry!
I hang up the phone. She was still crying. My lip is still bleeding. I
have not taken my eyes off my hand, but it seems pacified. It stays right
where it’s supposed to be. My heart is thumping — a few toes were one
thing, but I need my hand. I can’t type without it, and if I can’t type,
then the magazine will go under, and it’s not just my project, people are
counting on me, it’s my responsibility — not to mention that I won’t be
able to make my damn rent…was that a flicker?!
Okay, okay. Deep breaths. Calm. Just calm down.
I pledge that I will do my exercises every morning, okay? I wonder if
saying this in my head is enough, but it would sound so silly to say it
I get up and close the door. “I pledge that I will do my full exercises
every morning.” I add an “I solemnly swear” just in case. I would have
liked to start with “I, Sita Mathuri, being of sound mind and
health”…but that seems a bit risky, since I’m not certain of either.
I go sit at the computer again. Eyes fixed rigidly on the keys, which
means that I make far more errors than usually, I start typing names
again. Everything will be fine.
I call Mark, but he’s neither home nor at the office. He could be
anywhere — the boy tends to wander. No voice mail either. I consider
sending him e-mail:
Mark. Disappearing rapidly. Send help.
Sweetie, I regret to inform you that I am losing my mind. Since I
know you love me for my mind and not my body, please let me know if you’d
like to dissolve this relationship…
Perhaps something like…
I’m not sure what’s going on, but body parts are going AWOL. Would
like to discuss this with you. I know it sounds mad, but maybe it’s just
some strange disease. Hopefully not communicable. Come soon!
I settle for the ever-useful:
Call me, please. Soon.
That should worry him nicely; I think that’s what I wrote the last time I
broke up with him. Or maybe that was the time before last? In any case,
I could use some company in my misery. I log off and go make dinner. I
watch my fingers very carefully when I chop. I can’t afford to lose
Peter’s here for dinner. He got delayed in traffic, which explains why he
wasn’t here to help chop. He’s nothing if not prompt. We have curry and
I have wine. A couple of glasses. He doesn’t drink.
“So? Tell me about last night.”
“Last night?” What? Has he guessed? I hadn’t quite worked up the nerve
to tell him yet…
“The one you took home from the reading. Pretty boy — so, how’d it go?”
Oh, him. Right. “Oh, fine. He didn’t stay the night, but we had a nice
“Think you’ll see him again?”
“Don’t you think I have enough on my hands with you two?” A little
sharper than I meant.
He looks surprised. “Well, that’s hardly stopped you before, has it?
Wasn’t your record five, concurrently?”
“Yes, and I neglected them all. Two of those lasted less than a week as a
“So, even you have limits. Glad to hear you admit it.” He sounds a
little bitter. I haven’t been able to spend much time with him lately —
so busy. What does he expect? Besides, it’s not like he has tons of time
“I have plenty of limits. I have as many limits as anyone.” Ridiculous.
Why am I snapping at him? “Look, let’s just go to bed. We can do the
dishes in the morning.”
Once in the bedroom, I am suddenly shy. Stupid, after all this time, but
I don’t know how to tell him, and I don’t want to meet his eyes. I pick up
clothes and put them away. I straighten books on the shelves until he
comes up behind me and slips his arms around my waist. I stiffen, then
relax into his arms.
“I’m sorry — I’m just kind of cranky. It’s been a long day.” I twist
around so I’m facing him, his arms still loosely wrapped around me.
“Anything in particular?”
I kiss him instead of answering. I don’t know what to say. I raise my
hands to cup his face, and he pulls me closer, his mouth opening against
mine, his fingers starting to dig into my back, soon so hard that it hurts
a little, the way I like it.
We stumble towards the bed. We fall onto it. My mouth is now on his
cheek, his neck, digging under his shirt, my fingers unbuttoning as fast
as they can. It’s one of the best things about sex with him, the way it
blazes up out of nowhere, burns me up so I can’t think, can’t slow down
even when he wants me to — and does he really want me to? He’s egging me
on, his fingers shoving up my skirt, sliding into me, and I’m glad Mark
got me out of the habit of wearing underwear years ago ’cause I can’t wait
for it, I’m squeezing my thighs around his hand, I’m slamming down as he
slams up and rising and rising, with my whitened fingertips digging into
the bed, arched and ready to scream…
…and it’s gone.
Not gone the way it is when you get there and fall over the top and down
the other side. Definitely not that kind of gone. It’s almost as if
someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on me at just the wrong damned
moment — except that then I’d have felt the ice at least, I’d be cold and
shivering and wet. And I am wet and shivering, but only on my skin, only
cooling sweat, ’cause what’s between my thighs is absolutely nothing
except for Peter’s hand, wet and slippery and hanging there in air.
Peter’s face is chalk white. He looks like he’s about to have a heart
attack. Then everything suddenly goes back to normal and his hand has
disappeared between my thighs again, except that I am not on the verge of
coming anymore, I am not even close, I am about as far away as you can be,
and I am not happy. Peter slowly pulls out his hand; even if he’d wanted
to keep going, he could tell that I didn’t. He pulls it out and wipes it
on the sheets and then looks up at me.
“Okay. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know.”
That’s not going to satisfy him. It doesn’t. I tell him everything,
starting with last night’s toes and proceeding through missing fingers and
a disappearing hand and ending with today. And as I do, I get more and
more scared — and more and more angry. Toes I could deal with. Even
fingers or hands — I can always dictate, right? Voice recognition
software gets better every day. But if I can’t have sex anymore ’cause
the relevant parts have chosen to wander off at the crucial moments…my
fingers are digging into my thighs. They hurt. I am hurting myself. I
am hurting my body, which is not behaving at the moment. I am wondering
what will happen if I try to actually tear away some skin — will it
disappear before I can? Would it come back?
The phone rings.
It’s past midnight. It must be Mark. Peter goes outside to smoke a
cigarette and think. I pace back and forth as I tell the story again.
It’s easier than I expected. It usually is, talking to him, at least once
I get started. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the answer for me. I try
not to let him hear how disappointed I am. I doubt I fool him, but he
lets me pretend. It’s been a rough day, after all.
Peter comes back in. I tell Mark I’ll talk to him tomorrow night, and
hang up the phone. Peter pulls me into a hug.
“You should go see a doctor.” He’s using that
‘I’m-not-nagging-but-you-know-this-is-a-good-idea’ voice. I hate that.
“What can a doctor do?”
“This might have happened to someone before. I’ll see what I can find
on-line, but in the meantime, you should see an expert.”
I consider arguing, but he will be impossible until I give in. He was
like that about my wearing seatbelts, and remembering to take my thyroid
medicine, and going to the dentist. I think I give in just to get him to
stop nagging — but he doesn’t care as long as I do it.
He holds me tight all night. I wake, once or twice, and he is still
holding me. It doesn’t really help, but it doesn’t hurt either.
Peter calls the following morning, and somehow gets me an appointment. I
think he bribed the secretary. He waits patiently while I do my
exercises. I’ve already lost faith in them, but I did swear. I keep my
The doctor is very beautiful, with short black hair and ice blue eyes. I
try not to check her out too obviously as she goes through the routine
physical, checks my pulse, palpates my breasts…
“Well, you seem pretty healthy. What seems to be the problem?”
I can’t say it. I just can’t. I stare at her, and she at me. Her
cheerful expression grows concerned, but she waits patiently. This room is
too big and cold and white. I want a blanket, but you can’t ask a doctor
for that. My teeth are chattering. She says nothing, and finally, I have
“Could I borrow your pad? And a pen?”
I write it down. It’s always easier to write. “Parts of my body keep
She reads it, and her eyes only widen slightly. Good doctor —
“Parts of your body keep disappearing? Which parts?”
I tell her, and watch her expression subtly shift. This isn’t going to go
well. I can tell.
I argue with Peter in the car going home. He thinks I should do what the
doctor says; slow down a little, try to decrease stress, maybe talk to a
counselor. Unfortunately, none of my body parts acted up in the office,
and I know what the doctor was thinking, with her sharp blue eyes and
pointed questions. ‘The poor girl is over-committed, in more ways than
one.’ ‘She’s so tired and stressed that she’s imagining things.’ It
would have been ridiculous to bring Peter in as witness, and she’d
probably just have decided that he was over-committed too. He’s not been
sleeping well, and he looks exhausted. Still, there aren’t any bits of
him disappearing. I’m getting scared.
Peter drops me off with a hug and makes me promise to call him if anything
else blinks out. For a moment, I don’t want to let go…I hang on tight.
But I can’t hang on to him forever — besides, I told Mark I’d call him.
And I owe Katherine a call, still. I let go, kiss his cheek, and head
It’s easier telling the story the fourth time. I’m not sure why I bother,
though. Katherine reacts as expected. She’s been convinced for years
that if I just picked one of them, settled down with Mark or Peter, got
married, etc. and so on ad nauseum, then I’d live happily ever after.
She’s read too many romance novels. She’s fixed up the problems with her
boyfriend since we talked yesterday, which means that she’s even more
convinced that True Love(tm) will conquer all. If I swear monogamy to
Mark (or Peter), then all my problems will be solved. No more
Even if that were true, it wouldn’t be worth it.
“That’s not an option. I love both of them….No, Kat, I can’t tell you
which one I love more. I don’t know…..Well, I’m not you, am I?”
She eventually gives in on that one, but then shifts her attack. Surely I
can at least stop bringing pretty boys and girls home for a night? Sure I
could, but why should I? What can that possibly have to do with this? We
argue for hours. Usually she’s less persistent than this — after all
these years, you’d think she’d have given up entirely. But now she has
new ammunition. We argue until I am ready to weep with frustration.
Finally, I just hang up. She’ll understand. I’ll call her back next week
and apologize; I just can’t cope with any more right now.
There is work waiting for me, but I can’t look at it now, I can’t. I just
I call Mark.
I meet Mark at the airport; he’s bought a ticket and come out early, two
whole weeks before my scheduled trip. I feel better as soon as he
arrives; stronger. Solider.
Nothing had disappeared in the few intervening days, but I’d been
looking a bit translucent. My housemates had mentioned that I seemed
pale; one of them made me dinner last night, out of the blue. She kept
trying to get me to drink carrot juice. I’d started staying inside; in
bright sunlight, I could see the veins and arteries through my skin, the
blood pumping away, the muscles stretching and flexing. It didn’t seem to
be dangerous — my hands could still type, my legs could still walk —
it’s just unnerving. I’m so glad to have Mark with me.
I slide my arm around him, hold him tight. Definitely better. I don’t
mention it until we’re home, until the bus has deposited us down the
street and we’ve walked up the last few blocks to the house. Luckily, he
travels light. We slip inside, dodging housemates; he’s not the
gregarious type, and lately, for all their kindly concern, they weary
“I think you should spend more time alone.”
Mark doesn’t usually give advice, even when asked. He must be actually
“I feel better. Now that you’re here.” It sounds appallingly mushy, but
he’s used to that from me.
“I can’t fix it for you.”
We talk for a while, and then go to sleep. No real answers yet. Difficult
to have answers when you’re not sure what the question is. Is the doctor
right? Is Peter? Am I stretched too thin? And if so, is there anything
I can do about it? Is there anything I’m willing to do?
In the morning, I wake to sunlight coming in the window, and tentatively
hold a hand up to it. I can’t see through, even a little. Totally solid
and normal. Relieved, I turn to wake Mark up, but he looks so
peaceful…he hates being woken. At least I can make it a pleasant
I slide further under the sheets, slip down to gently breathe on his hip,
his thigh. If I do this just right, I can get him hard without waking
him. Once, I even made him come in his sleep; that was satisfying. I’m
not particularly interested in trying to repeat that, though — my nipples
are sore and my thigh muscles are tight. I want him, and I want him
awake. I breathe in deeply; the scent of him always turns me on. I blow
gently on his hardening cock, I lick down the length of it, I rub my
thighs together as I take the head in my mouth…I rub my cock against his
He’s awake. I’m very awake. We sit up; I yank back the sheets, and
there, below my belly, nestled in a little nest of fine blonde hair, is a
pale cock just like his, shocking against my dark skin. I can’t help it
— I gasp out loud. You might call it a shriek. Not that I haven’t
fantasized a little about having a penis — what woman hasn’t? — but to
have his… And it is his, exactly. Our eyes flick back and forth
between our groins, comparing. Twins! Mine softens just as his does, it
relaxes into exactly the same shape. We don’t say anything; we just sit
there, staring. It’s there for at least a minute before it slowly fades
out, and my own, more discreet, genitals fade in. I feel a little better,
“Well.” My voice is shaking. I take a deep breath. “Peter has been
complaining that I start sounding like you when I’ve been talking to you a
lot. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.”
“I don’t think being near me is going to be a solution.” He sounds
“No.” What if it had been my head that faded out, to be replaced by his?
Or even my heart… “Still, if I could figure out how to control this, to
do that again, the possibilities…”
“Do you think you can?” He has an unfortunate predisposition for asking
“Well. No. Probably not.”
“You don’t want to just disappear bit by bit, and you don’t want to turn
into me. I think you should at least try going away. Away from
“But the project…”
“Will survive without you for a few days.”
He’s right, of course. Maybe that’s why he so rarely gives advice — so
that when he does, he can be right.
I borrow some camping gear from the housemates, send out e-mail to the
appropriate people, change the message on the machine: “Gone fishing;
back Wednesday”. I take out some money, buy groceries, pack the laptop,
try to remember what I’ve forgotten, grab my medicine, and finally head
out. Peter drops me off at the trailhead. I promise I’ll call every
night and let him know that I’m okay. He’s not much of a woods person; I
think he thinks I’ll be eaten by bears. There are no bears around
By the time I hike in and wrestle with the tent and gather wood, I’m so
exhausted that I don’t even worry about being able to see the fire through
my hands. It’s kind of a pretty effect, actually: flickering reds and
golds glowing under my brown skin. I feel a little guilty about not
having written anything, but console myself with the fact that I only have
three two-hour batteries for the laptop. If I don’t type tonight, then I
can stay another day. I curl up in my blanket and go to sleep.
Third day. I didn’t type anything yesterday. I didn’t flicker either.
Skin’s opaque this morning, and the lake is beautiful, if cold. I swam
naked at noon yesterday. I think I’ll go in a little earlier today. I
could swim for hours here; days. When I finish, there’s a meadow nearby,
and my blanket makes a perfect place to curl up and bask in the sun. I’ve
got a lot of bug bites, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve run out of
books, too. I could always write my own — when I run out of paper,
there’s bark, right? I could learn how to make ink out of something.
Bug-blood, maybe, or fish guts. Of course, I’d have to catch a fish for
That’s a bit of a problem, actually. I didn’t really bring enough food to
stay past tomorrow afternoon. When I hike back out this evening to call
Peter, I could ask him to bring more food. Maybe I’ll do that. It’s nice
Peter looks worried.
“You sure you want to stay longer? Do you have enough batteries?”
“Plenty — don’t worry.” It’s not as if I’m using them.
“This should last you a few more days. You — you do look better.
“Glad to hear it. I’ll see you Saturday, then?”
“Umm…okay. Guess that’s it, then.”
“Yup. Listen, it seems a little silly to call every night. I’m fine out
here. I’ll call if there’s a problem, okay?”
“Bye, then.” I heft the now-heavy pack onto my back and turn away. He
leans over to kiss my cheek before I’m out of range. I let him, and
“Bye,” he says, as I walk away.
the sun is so warm and the insects buzz above the grass tickles as the
breeze blows it against my damp skin the sky is a thousand shades of blue
and i will count and name them all before sunfall before night because
when night comes then i will have to count the stars and there are so many
this is my one two three day of naming blue
Mark’s eyes blue
computer screen blue
my favorite jeans blue
i made that last one up entirely esthely the color where midnight runs
into deep sea lit with sunlight blues esthely esthely esthely
Peter finds me. Peter finds me and cleans me up and takes me home and
holds me until I am myself again. He tells me that my skin had turned
green. Not transparent or translucent; very there — oh, definitely
there. There, like a tree is there, a tree reaching up into the esthely
sky, alone in the night but solid and rooted in the earth.
I don’t think I was meant to root quite so deep.
I don’t have an answer to the questions, but I have a plan to keep me
whole. This is the plan.
1. Schedule time for Mark and Peter. Schedule time for work. Schedule
time for friends. Schedule time for play.
2. When I start feeling a bit translucent, drag someone with me to the
woods. Don’t talk to them, or at least not much, but make sure they bring
me out again before I take root.
3. Repeat as necessary.
3a. If this doesn’t work; panic.
The first issue is coming out on time, it looks like. Or only a few hours
late, at any rate. Katherine is engaged. Huzzah — that should keep
things calmer. Tomorrow I go to visit Mark, thank the gods. And my
housemates have made dinner for me, which is nice. My toes are tingling a
little — that’s the first sign, I’ve learned. It’s okay, though…it’ll
be a couple of hours before anything actually disappears, and I’ll have
time to take a long walk first and count the stars. That should hold it
off for a while. It’s just like remembering to take my meds.
This isn’t quite how I expected things to go. But I don’t know if that
I’m not giving up, not yet.
If I hadn’t come this way, I’d never have found my shade of blue.
This story originally appeared in Wicked Words 3.