TW: self harm, gore, murder
Mary decided to chop off her hand today. She ignored the voice in her head for months. That voice that told her to toss her inhibition in the garbage disposal and flip the switch.
Cut your hand off.
A tear dropped from her eye. She’ll miss her hand. It kept her balanced during high school gymnastics. It carried her wedding ring during her first marriage. It lifted her baby in the air that one day when the spring sun stood behind them.
Mary pulled her cleaver from the kitchen drawer. The slightest touch of the blade slit the skin of her finger. She rested her wrist on top of the edge of the sink. Her other hand raised the cleaver above her head. Her grip around the handle tightened. Her arm tensed so much it started to shake.
Do it. What are you waiting for?
She took a deep breath. No more inhibition. No more fear. Just calm objectivity.
A door slammed shut. There was a sound of running feet that grew just as fast as it arrived.
“Mom!” cried a little girl’s voice.
“Lily!” Mary dropped her cleaver in the sink. Lily entered the kitchen. She threw her backpack on the white granite countertop that fashioned the center of the kitchen and hopped on one of the wooden stools that stood next to it.
“Mom, can I have a samurai sword?”
“Why would you want a sword, my little superstar?” Mary made her way around the countertop to kiss and hug her daughter.
“She’s been begging me to buy her one the entire right from school,” said Andrew, Mary’s boyfriend, who strolled within view.
“A sword is the perfect weapon to fight off bullies,” said Lily. “Plus, they take a crazy amount of discipline to master. You keep saying I’m growing up fast, Mom, so I’m big enough to handle one. I can train everyday and become a samurai master. I would be the coolest person in school, and no one would mess with me.”
“Wait, is someone bullying you at school?” asked Mary.
“No. And no one ever will if I had a sword.”
“You know,” began Andrew, “guns are just as powerful as swords. They have more range and take less discipline to use.”
“I told you, Andrew,” exclaimed Lily, “only bad people use guns, just like on the news. I’m one of the good guys.”
Cut off your hand. Do it. Do it, now!
Mary cleared her throat. “If you’re disciplined enough to handle a sword, then you’re disciplined enough to go upstairs and do your homework.”
“But, Mom, what if a murderer tries to break into the house? We have to protect ourselves somehow.”
“There will be no swords, guns, or weapons of any kind in this home. Now go on. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”
Lily sighed, snatched her backpack, and marched upstairs, yelling all the terrible thinks that could happen as long as she’s swordless. Andrew and Mary inched closer to each other. He was so warm, like the heater clicking on in the winter cold. The way he and Lily were so comfortable together made her want to snuggle up against him.
“Please don’t egg my daughter on like that,” she said.
Andrew laughed. “So, what are we having for dinner tonight?”
“Chicken with mac and cheese. Easy and kid-friendly.”
They both leaned in for the kiss.
Cut off your hand, already!
“Is something wrong?” asked Andrew.
“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong.” They kiss, but with no more heat than a candle. “Now, make sure Lily’s actually doing her work. I need to start cooking.”
Mary listened for Andrew’s footsteps up the stairs. Then she grabbed her cleaver from the sink. Her wrist once more rested on top of the edge of the sink.
Just do it. Just cut it off. You have to cut it off.
She cleared her mind and raised her cleaver. She took deep breaths to build her courage back up again. She looked up at the blade, how it gleamed in the light from the window. It’s so sharp, she told herself. This will only take a second. Chop off the hand and throw it away. Find the first-aid kit to treat the wound. Clean up the blood before it gets everywhere. All with enough time to cook dinner before anyone could notice.
Mary took one last deep breath, to throw away her inhibition.
Her cellphone buzzed loud against the countertop. She quickly answers.
“What?” she snapped.
“Wow, babe, what did I ever do to you?” It was Tye’s voice, slightly muffled by wind and a car motor. He is Mary’s secret lover.
“I’m sorry, babe,” said Mary. “Work is just stressful. I have more glass sculpture requests than I know what to do with. You know I’m not mad at you, baby.”
“Well, is Lily with her dad? I’m really in the mood to see you right now, if you know what I mean. And, by the sound of it, you need a stress reliever.”
“Say less. I’ll be there in a minute.” Tye hung up.
Mary groaned. She rested her head on the wrist of the hand she needed to get rid of.
Hurry up. There’s not much time.
Tye’s so frustrating, Mary thought. So stubborn. Must always have what he wants when he wants it. He never listens. He just keeps going and going. And going. So much stamina.
She didn’t have time to think about that right now.
Cut it off, now! Do it now!
Footsteps, again. Coming down the stairs this time. Heavy and deliberate, so she knew it was Andrew. Mary hurried to the fridge to grab the raw chicken, to create the impression that she was preparing dinner this whole time.
“That’s a really big knife you got there,” said Andrew.
Mary noticed she still held her cleaver. She placed the raw chicken breast, still in its grocery store packaging, on the countertop. She waved the blade an inch from Andrew’s nose, to show it off.
“Look how sharp it is,” said Mary. “I’m going to cut up the chicken in record time with this bad boy.”
Carve his face off. Slice his throat. It’s so easy.
“Woah,” said Andrew, pulling his head back. “Get that think out of my face, you psycho.”
They shared a laugh.
Mary gathered all that she needed to prepare the chicken. She was frying them tonight. Two bowls, one of beaten eggs and the other of seasoned flour, stood around the chopping board where she placed the washed chicken. With her cleaver, she chopped the chicken breasts into strips. The cuts were so smooth and effortless. Andrew reached into the fridge to retrieve a beer.
“So, have you thought about what we talked about the other day?” he asked, taking a sip from the bottle.
She paused her chopping. “No. Sorry, what was it we talked about again?”
“Don’t play dumb. About us living together.”
Mary stared at the fingers holding the chicken in place. Her cleaver hovered over the tips, yet slowly traveled to the knuckles.
“It’s still a lot to thing about, Andrew. Especially considering Lily.”
“Trust me, I know. Look, I love that little girl more and more every time I see her. I can provide for her, and for you.”
Her cleaver inched closer to the wrist. If she did it at that moment, if she let go of her inhibition, she would make a mess. Blood would get all over the chicken. Andrew would freak out. He would have to pick up KFC when he calmed down, while she cleaned up.
Andrew grasped the hand that held her cleaver in both of his. “You two are the most important people in the world to me. I want to wake up with you girls in my life everyday.”
“I won’t drop it until you say yes.”
The doorbell rang, followed by repeated knocking.
“I’ll get it,” said Mary, pulling away from Andrew. She waked across the living room to open the front door. It was Tye, young and visceral. Tye kissed her twice, pushing her back as he entered the house. She pulled away.
“What are you doing babe?” asked Tye. “You know I’m horny. Come here.”
“Who are you?” asked Andrew as he entered the living room.
“Who am I? Who the hell are you?”
“Who is this guy, Mary?”
Mary struggled to speak. She tried to back away from the scene, but the two men followed her, demanding an explanation. They soon turned to each other. Then the shouting, the intimidating glares, the puffed-up chests. Andrew and Tye began to shove each other. They went back and forth from confronting each other to calling for Mary. They needed Mary to make sense of the situation, but she couldn’t think straight. She couldn’t speak.
Through the balusters of the staircase, Mary noticed a squatting Lily observing the chaos she brought into their home. The little girl did a slashing motion with her arms with some urgency. That’s when Mary noticed her cleaver still in her grasp. Her cleaver, which Lily suggested using to defend their home against this unwanted intruder.
Cut your fucking hand off!
Tye threw the first punch. It grazed Andrew’s cheek. They clinched. Their punches were so close they might as well be mosquito bites. Andrew was taller and lean, Tye more muscular and energetic. They knocked over a lamp, then a decorative vase.
Lily continued to slash at her mother with an invisible katana.
Cut off your fucking hand, Mary!
Mary screamed. High pitched, blood-curdling. The world stood still. She smacked the wall behind her and kept the hand there. All eyes were on her. Her cleaver rose in the air. No more inhibition. The blade swung right through that useless wrist. That quick slit sound, it echoed.
No more voice.
As she suspected. It only took a second.