Ever since I was young, I've had this feeling that my left arm was was not quite my own.
There were no outward signs like stitches or a strange mark or a different skin tone, but I just had this strong premonition. I couldn't shake it off no matter what I told myself, nor could I explain or understand it, so I kept quiet about the matter.
Instead I wrapped my arm up in layers of bandages, so stiffly I could barely move it at all. I concealed as much of that arm as I could, lying to my parents that it was weak and it hurt to move.
I never took the bandage off. Not at school, not in bed, not even in the shower. I was determined to keep that arm completely hidden from the world, from myself.
Of course, I received a lot of negativity for it. My parents lamented about how my arm would never get any stronger after so many years wrapped in a bandage, and that we should consult a doctor about it. My teachers all found it a hindrance, especially my phys-ed teacher. My schoolmates teased me relentlessly over it, gossiping that I was trying to disguise a deformity of some sort.
I endured all of it without much concern for their opinions. They didn't understand my reason for being so cautious. They all believed the shallow lie without looking for the deeper truth. But even if they were to learn of the truth, I knew they'd never understand it.
As the years passed, I grew increasingly weary of my left arm. It was as if my body was rejecting it more and more as I got older, like a puzzle piece glued into the wrong puzzle and slowly falling out.
One night the feeling of misfit became so overwhelming that I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned in bed, every change in position only resulting in further discomfort, every move bringing out the irritation of my bandaged arm.
Finally, I was able to diffuse the notion long enough to fall into a light slumber.
In my dreams, I was surrounded by fog, and before me stood a woman I'd never seen before. She was best described as wispy, her clothes and hair seemingly flowing in an invisible wind, and she was beckoning to me with a finger. "Come, child," she whispered, her words hollow and airy.
"Who are you?" I asked, perplexed.
The woman paid no attention to my words. "It is time for you to pay back to me what is mine." Her skin was emanating a translucent glow, almost like she was pulsating in and out of existence as she spoke.
I took a small step forward, a slight understanding coming to mind. "You mean my arm, don't you?" I raised it level to my neck, still wrapped in its usual bandages. "I always knew it wasn't mine. You can have it back."
Her thin lips slid into a small smile as she shook her head. "That arm is, undoubtedly, yours. It is something else I have come to claim."
"Something else? I don't understand, what else could I possibly owe you?"
The woman's eyes lit, and dense fog gathered around me. I retreated, my right arm flailing in vain to disperse it.
The fog had fully obscured my vision by now. The white mist was shifting before my eyes, moving past me as scenes of my life flashed in them. Memories...
I saw fire. A terrible, raging fire that was relentless in its devour. My five-year-old self was caught in the flames, burning to death with no way to escape. I watched in abject horror as the fire ate away at my skin, my flesh, my bones, as the toddler version of me struggled uselessly.
Then a strong surge of water. Firefighters appeared on the scene, but it was too late. My body was already just a charred shell by then, the only remnant of my corpse being a bruised and battered arm. My left arm.
"What? Th-this can't be right!" I shouted, desperately trying to disperse the fog. "I can't have died in a fire! I don't recall any of this, and I'm here right now, aren't I?"
"Indeed, you are not dead. But your body was certainly, indisputably destroyed."
"H-how is that possible?"
"You've been reading the situation wrong this whole time, child. It is not your arm that is foreign; it's the rest of that body that belongs to me."
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