J B Mulligan
I had been sitting for the longest time. Silent. Motionless. Listening to the barrage of noises from the street: car horns bleating, trucks cursing slowly past, children shrieking at some pointless game, a dog in another apartment baying and barking for or at its owner. And from somewhere in the building, a telephone, ringing endlessly, as if persistence would cause the phone to be answered by someone who wasn't there. But even that was not upsetting me; for once, the insulating layer I tried to keep between me and the world was actually working. The barbed stimulae of life swept over me without carving a mark. Even the shift and blur of shadowy leaves and limbs on the drawn blind registered without any strong impression. On some days, such a thing could occasion a headache that would render me almost motionless for an hour.
For no particular reason (I had nothing urgent to do), I started to rise—and at once slid gently backdown into the chair. I looked down at my feet—and they were gone. My ankles were round, frosted stumps. Twin puddles of a clear liquid half-filled my shoes, which were glazed with a thin, shiny mucous. An irregular puddle stained the floorboards, in which a parallelogram reflection of the window gleamed. And faded as I watched.
I lowered my feet back into the shoes: more of the liquid gushed out. A small wisp of a thought rose in my mind—I should be screaming in terror—and evaporated before I could grab it, before I even thought to do so.
Idly I glanced at one hand, then the other. The edges of the fingers were icy-smooth and crystalline. I could feel nothing there—but my extremities were never very sensitive. I have very poor circulation. I sniffed my fingers, and could smell nothing. I stuck them in my mouth, but could taste nothing. I reached carefully down and put my finger in the pool in my shoe, and could not even feel the liquid on my thinger. Perhaps that was a symptom of whatever this was.
My feet slid back into the shoes again, and out of the left one, a small segment of toe squirted out onto the floor, its crest a single toenail, which quickly dissolved, like a snowflake.
I lifted my pants and saw that the coldwhite condition of my ankles extended up all the way up my shins—as I watched, the bottom of my knees began to glaze, and the downy hair on them mmelted away. This really was most extraordinary, I thought, it must mean something.
I looked around the room absently. Nothing had changed. Bare walls, bare furniture. All the corners crisp, all the lines where one wall joined another straight and sure. The sandwich I had made for lunch, and had not bothered to eat, lay in four triangular sections on a plate on the table, five feet away. The noises from the street were the same—the phone was still ringing, or ringinging again—and the shadowy leaves and limbs still skitterered up and down on the curtain. Nothing had changed. A day like any other, like the day before.
Another piece of me dropped off the bottom of my leg, and splashed softly into my shoe.
I looked again at my hands. It didn't seem that they were mine, or hands. I tried to move my fingers, but could not. A glove of weak, milky color crept toward my wrist as I watched. I raised my right hand in front of my face, and saw that thin wisps of white smoke were unfurling from the skin, and quickly dispipating—though the windows were closeded, and there was no movement of air. In the room. My fingers were liquifying; clear veins of droplets trickled down my arm to the elbow.
I could not rise. I turned my head slowly, looking around the room for a mirror, something in which I could see my face. At first I could find nothing, but at last I saw my head reflected on the side of the toaster by the oven. The face that looked back at me was blurred, runny—but the metal reflected a blurred, misshapen door behind me. I looked: the door seemed to be nornmal.
...to the floor. I closed meyes, tried to focus. The cushion I sat upon was soaked. So I was evaporating all over. I wondered why I was not afraid. The sounds of the street continued. Over all that brutal racket, they would never hear me shouting for help. If I could shout. I might be mmelting inside, too, vital organs and evaporating, veins thinnining and parting like old string. This might be my only chance. I thought for a long time, but decided not to try. There seemed to be no risk but I wasn't sure.
My face must be the same. The bottom halfof me lurched forward, and I thought for a moment I would slide...
I was in a very awkward position; the thought made me smile. Carefully, I leaned against the arm of the chair, and raised my right hand. There
... fingers were stubs, short tapered candles. The lines of my palm were gone. I... my hand. I shook my arm, and the sleeve of my shirt slid halfway down to my elbow. The skin was waxy white, and hairless. I looked down to my legs, which, since I had slid forward, jutted out clumsly from the chair. I started to push myself up on my elbows, but dropped back down at once, uncertain what would happen. The phone was still ringing. Was it my phone? No. I didn't ha
I heard a loud thud beneath me, and decided that a large portion of my leg had fallen. Perhaps an entire knee. Was the process quickening? I slid further down in the chair, almost flat on my back. I looked to the side, and my glasses slipped off. Now the room isself was blurry. Had it been before?
I tried to lift my arm, but it was very heavy, or perhaps I was growing weakern. I could only lift my forearm. Half my palm had vanished. The vapors were more visible now; they spiralled up into spreading flowers. I let my hand fall. I stared at the ceiling. For a long time. Smooth white. Smooth. White. Had it always been that cover? I felt my head sinkning into the cushion. I couldn't move it. I didn't have to try. After a long—time, I felt myself slide slowly forward, dragged down by the weight of the lower part of my body. Or by some force.
Perhaps I was immersing into some other
Perhaps I was immersing into some other word, I thought, as my body, what was left of it quickened forward, as a swimmer in a pool, half above, I slid over the edge and fell to the floor, a few seconds later I heard the splash. Oh. I had to...
...was on my back, a little to the left of the chair. My chair. I had to think. The phone, still. I looked at my seeves, they had collapsed, my arms were gone past the eblow now. My legs. Somewhere. I. The ceiling. Even blured. That. I tried to hold, to something. With my mind. No hands. I could feel litle foughts scaterning, where?... I lokked. I had to hold. To. Hold.
I sank, slowly, into the rug. Like stain. My head fell. Side. Fibres, threads, so clear, al waoven, for a warm moment, wavered. Window? Even phone. Anser. Had to, some, how liqid movent, too and froo. settling. ing. ing. bight light, must be. ceiling. no.
somewere I. Dropooze.
JBMulligan has had more than 800 poems and stories published over the last 35 years.