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Jump to Chapter 1
The alien screamed. It was a high-pitched cry that shook the already-swaying drone even more precariously.
And there was blood. Bright green blood. It sprouted up from the two dots that I’d drilled into my wrist. It utterly defied gravity. I hadn’t even known that this was the stuff that was flowing in my bloodstream.
Jeez, and here I’d thought that I was merely having irregular periods recently. Come to think of it, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had it. It’d definitely been less than a year, but also definitely far longer than a month.
Green alien blood. My nemesis hadn’t wanted to give that away, not until he thought his idea of a “full circle” was almost complete.
Well, he should’ve waited a bit more, and maybe I would’ve let him complete it completely. But that ship has sailed, you impatient prick!
And so had the ship where I could simply stop here. The point hadn’t been to merely make two dot-wounds in my wrist. The point was to cut off the wrist. Yes, cut off that which had become a part of me, to proclaim that it was me no more. If there was one unbendable truth that I wanted to hold on to in this world, it was this: I was of this Earth. I loved my flesh and bones. The former would eventually rot, but perhaps the latter would remain for me to leave behind, for my daughter or my granddaughter to turn hair ornaments out of me.
Creepy? Think what you will. It’s an ancient custom. Just as your ancestors are a part of you, you will stay a part of someone as an ancestor, in one way or another, without you being them and them being you.
Again and again, I raised the binyeo in the air—
—and struck again.
Each time, I thought: My. Hand. Will not. Be. The key. To your. Alien domination!
A mad zeal was driving me. Needless to say, you can’t do this to yourself in just any random mind-state. In fact, if I hadn’t been so sure that the alien domination would mean my death, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.
The alien’s screaming grew fiercer and angrier. It wasn’t because he was in pain. It was because he was infuriated. He’d come so close, and now I was about to ruin everything.
Soon, the dot-wounds became so numerous, they joined to become lines. Eventually, the short segments of line-wounds connected and revealed the cross-section of my wrist. The alien hand with the deep crevices fell on the floor. The parts making it up were becoming nearly detached. The webbing was thinning.
Then came the pain: the maddening, furious pain that was all the worse because I’d inflicted it upon myself. Gosh, maybe I shouldn’t have gone this far?
But I stopped myself from weeping uncontrollably because I didn’t want the alien to notice how immediately and dastardly I’d begun regretting my crazy decision to harm myself. I’m proud to say that I valiantly managed to suppress any gasps. Tears did flow down my cheeks—thank heavens I didn’t have to find out whether they were colorless or green—but they did so in a quite dramatic, completely warriorly manner. Meanwhile, I tried to focus on the bip bip bipping of the alarm while letting the green fluid flood the floor of the drone.
Yes. Flood. There was a lot more in me than should’ve been possible, physically speaking. Indeed, as the alien had implied, something more than me seemed to have taken root inside me already. Or maybe I was functioning like a portal, letting random outside stuff travel through me. It was a horrifying concept. I stumbled in the slippery puddle.
The alien hand floated to the surface, at first. Then it bloated and enlarged like an inflatable swim float. But that brief moment of separation didn’t last. Soon, the now-giant hand, as long as my torso, seemed to become one with the flood. Absorbed, digested, whatever the correct term was for such alien phenomena. All I knew was that I couldn’t see the hand anymore.
In my unharmed hand, the bone binyeo shook. The charms pressed into my unharmed palm, I was holding that end so tightly. From the sharp ends of the U-shape, the green fluid from the chopping still dripped. Everything was green, so green, in here because of the fluid and out there because of the alien clouds.
And the smell? Not honey and raisins, as I’d half hoped. This was something unfamiliar, consisting of molecules which, I feared, I only detected because I had too much alienness in me. These molecules weren’t from this world.
Was that possible? That somehow, from my body, I was oozing out molecules that were made of elements that shouldn’t have existed in this universe? Meaning, there was another universe?
Great-great-grandmother, this is how I leave this world. And maybe some other worlds, too, while I’m at it.
The blood refused to stop flowing. I felt dizzy. The bip bip bip had faded a long time ago. My ears weren’t my own anymore.
Too much green…
So much so that I felt myself empty…
Only a shell, nothing but the idea of a shape and form, which the alien had wanted to rob from me and all beings of this world…
But what was that idea? Was I the dentist-like CEO of the Scientific Palm Studies Institute? Or Madame Polonaise, although she was more of a CEO now than I’d ever been as the broke business owner of the Institute?
All the bohemian skirts and tassels and loose blouses enveloped me, together with the dentist’s loafers.
All the tacky round tables and simple white walls shielded me.
Even the suffocating incense of sessions past shrouded me, floating in and out of the windows that I’d so proudly kept, sticking to the building code.
They were all my incarnations. In them, I’d been—undeniably, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The many-me’s appeared in front of my mind’s eye. Being the truth-teller that I was, I had to say, Yes, they are me, all.
No matter how I’d framed the world, they’d been me. No matter how the world had reacted, it had reacted toward me. I remembered me. Therefore, there still had to be a “me.” Perhaps I even was that me.
But I was thinning. And the shell of the drone had thinned just as I had. “I” floated above the clouds, green or white. The world floated, too, the entirety of it. All was upside-down, but since there was no set definition of “down,” it might as well be right-side-up.
“Don’t you like this?” the alien’s voice came from everywhere, pleading. “This is what you could be, if you’d just let go. It’s not too late. Just let go.”
“No,” I said. My voice, too, came from everywhere, and the experience was chilling and tragic. “Begone from our world, aliens. I will never let go of myself. And no one else around here will.”
As soon as I said this, I noticed a silhouette in the distance, approaching me through the thick green fog. It looked like a sail… No, a lot firmer. A sail…
No. A hand. A palm, upright, flat. This was the alien hand that I’d cut off from me, now hugely inflated and slightly separated from the rest of the alienness. It was as tall as me. It faced me.
<You don’t belong here,> I said, in my mind’s voice.
The palm didn’t respond. It only continued to enlarge.
<You never belonged with me,> I said.
The palm kept becoming bigger and bigger until it towered over and around me. At the same time, its silhouette solidified. I could begin feeling the absence of the wind. The hand had gained substance and therefore was blocking some air from reaching me.
<That’s right. You will never be part of me. So, begone.>
The alien let out an angry, beastly cry.
Suddenly, I felt a pull: violent, unquestionable, indestructible—something that belonged in our world, although greenness still reigned everywhere.
Gravity. It had returned. This meant I had a body for it to exert its force on. I had mass. I weighed something.
And I saw the drone in front of me. I wasn’t in it.
Just as I began shrieking, I started to fall. The drone kept hovering, getting farther and farther away from me. I reached for it with both arms. In my left hand, I held the binyeo. The wind whipped off the green fluids from its sharp ends. The green atmosphere sucked the fluids up.
And where my right hand used to be, there was an absolute nothing.
My shrieks died down. The clear image of my own handlessness felt too surreal, enough for me to forget that once I hit the ground, it wouldn’t matter if I was me minus one hand. I’d die.
With a whoop! I hit the ground.
My thoughts froze. I think it was survival instinct. Up to a point, your brain tries to process as much as possible. But when it deems there’s simply too much, it goes blank. Otherwise you’d die then and there, of trauma.
But the next moment, I noticed the slipperiness below me… And also, the cushiony, bouncy resistance. Against my better judgment, I swiftly turned my head to see where I’d landed:
It wasn’t the ground. I lay on top of a bed-length palm: the alien palm, completely green. And as I stared at it in awe, the palm-parts became undone: fully, wholly, perfectly. No webbing was left to hold it together anymore. As the entirety of the palm shrunk and disintegrated, I was gently lowered onto the real ground: the rough, crumbling asphalt of the now-not-so-abandoned industrial neighborhood near the first Madame Polonaise’s location.
This was the thing with city governments: it took them a year or more to even begin fathoming any construction project. Long after there’d been a consensus that Madame Polonaise’s had revived the economy around here and new roads would be necessary, the council had approved the budget.
After all these months.
The asphalt was still crumbling, as it had done more than a year ago. Construction hadn’t even begun.
But perhaps that lack of change was why, once the alien palm was done disappearing and the greenness faded from the atmosphere, I found a human palm lying on the ground. It faced the sky. I could see its lines. Tears welled up in my eyes. The return of familiar smells and sounds—of abandoned newspapers and fliers, not as numerous as a year ago but definitely still prevalent—overwhelmed me with relief.
I recognized the lines on that palm. They were mine.
© 2022 Ithaka O.
All rights reserved.This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author.