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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Pieces of My Body

Caroline M. Yoachim is the author of over two dozen short stories, including her Nebula-nominated novelette "Stone Wall Truth." She is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Asimov's, Interzone, and Daily Science Fiction, among other places. For more about Caroline, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com.
I gave my left arm to Elizabeth. You've never met her, but she was my dearest childhood friend. After my disembodiment party she went home to London and put it on her end table, hand side down, with a lampshade made of green velvet and children's nightmares. The nightmares gnawed at the nerve endings on my shoulder, or maybe the unpleasant sensation was my longing for Elizabeth. Or perhaps the scab was itchy. The arm was the first part of me to be removed so it was hard to be sure what each sensation meant.
My long-ago first boyfriend Michael was surprisingly squeamish, so I gave him my hair, thinking that it would be bloodless and therefore more appealing. He stuffed it in a plastic bag and took it home to Houston, but then he threw it away. Inside the plastic bag, the hair will never weave itself into the dirt and sing lullabies to earthworms. It will never tangle in a shower drain and capture off-key songs. You know how fond I was of my hair, so you will appreciate how angry I was to see it wasted. Let us never speak of Michael again.
Tim and Jim and Annabel and Nora--did you meet them when we were in college?--have become so close as to be practically a single entity, and they each got a finger from my right hand. They are in San Francisco, which is where I would live if location was an attribute that I could still possess. Tim uses his finger to thumb wrestle with Nora, even though technically it isn't thumb wrestling because he has an index finger. My fingers are happy that they get to be together, although they miss the middle finger, which I mailed to Michael, of whom we are not speaking because he isn't worth the words.
My co-worker Courtney got my right leg, because I couldn't think of anything better and she left my disembodiment party in something of a hurry. She was like that, always dashing off, so maybe an extra leg wasn't such a bad gift after all. Courtney put the leg in a freezer in her Montana basement, nestled in among the ducks and deer she and her husband killed on hunting trips. Ice crystals transform my skin into a delicate lace, which the deer might lick like salt if they could control their frozen tongues.
Lee asked for my heart, which I was saving for you, until I thought of something better. When I gave it to him, he sprinkled it with salt and ate it, raw and bleeding. Then he went back to Germany. It was an interesting experience, being digested on a transatlantic flight. Don't look at me like that, Lee is from when we were separated--it is your own fault for kicking me out.
My brother Andrew got my stomach, with my esophagus still attached. He loves both food and music, so I thought he might fill my stomach with honey or play my upper digestive tract like bagpipes. Instead he put his childhood memories into marbles, and dropped them down my esophagus one by one. The marbles clink together in my stomach long after all the memories have been absorbed.
I gave my neighbor Deb my teeth, because she likes little things that fit in glass jars. She planted the teeth in her garden, and waters them with root beer. Every night at midnight she puts her nose up to the dirt and looks for any sign of plants. I'm not sure what she thinks will grow, but so far nothing has come of it.
Our daughter Shreya was the most difficult to decide. Nothing seemed to suit her. She clearly shouldn't have a leg, or a shoulder, or a torso. No, definitely something smaller, more delicate. In the end, I gave her my three favorite freckles, which she wore on the back of her hand when she boarded the plane to Bangalore. She shared two of the freckles with our granddaughter, who painted them gold and used them as earrings. The last freckle collapsed into a black hole, a gravitational singularity so small that Shreya accidently dropped it down into the gap between two ceramic floor tiles, where it slowly eats away at the grout.
You didn't come to my disembodiment party to get your piece of me. You cling to your body even as it fails you, dragging you inevitably closer to a final and unending death. I mailed my eyes to you in a package filled with single-serving bags of those potato chips you like to eat, which are better padding than Styrofoam peanuts. I worried that you would throw my eyes away, and the last thing I'd see would be maggots burrowing into my pupils--but instead you strung them like beads on a section of fishing line, and wore them as a necklace.
With eyes no longer mine, I see a forest of rowan and maple, overgrown with moss that weeps with rain. I used to find such things beautiful, but I do not miss this world we shared. I certainly do not miss my body, with its parts scattered around the world. There are some who argue that I no longer feel emotion, but moths eat holes in the fabric of my disembodied consciousness. The goldfish of my past swims in restless circles as it drowns in a bowl of whiskey. I miss you.
If you change your mind before you die, invite me to your disembodiment party. I will take anything--an eyelash or a kidney, your left ear or sixteen neurons from the cortex of your brain. It will be all the body that I have.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, June 19th, 2014

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