October 12th
Arm in Arm
by peter johnston

Leo’s parents often stayed up past his bedtime of 9:30 pm. This made sense to Leo. After all, they were adults and adults have things to do at night. What bothered Leo was that he felt his parents lied to him about what they did while he slept.

“What were you doing last night? I heard a strange noise coming from the kitchen.”

“Your mother and I were just cleaning up from dinner,” said Leo’s father, sitting in his wide wicker rocking chair in the corner of the living room.. “You know how dirty dishes can get after making beef bolognese.”

He did know that beef bolognese was messy. The way the red sauce would coat his lips was proof of that. However, Leo was still troubled.

“But the dishes weren’t clean when I came down this morning. They were still stacked in the sink! They didn’t look clean to me.”

“Hush, Leo.” said his mother. “You’re just bringing this up to avoid your bath. Come now, it’s time to bathe and get ready for bed.”

“No, I’m not. I…”

“Up, up!”

Leo’s mother moved across the living room and picked Leo up by the arm, the boy dangling in mid-air as she took him up the stairs.

“Your father and I are adults. What we downstairs while you sleep is our business.”

A few nights later, Leo’s curiosity got the better of him. Lying in bed, his mind raced with every conceivable possibility of what his parents were doing downstairs. He had to know what was going on. Moved by his anxiety, his quietly rose from his bed and put on his slippers. The red lights of his alarm clock read 10:30 pm.

“Surely they must still be awake”, he thought to himself. He snuck towards the door, taking great care to avoid every creaky spot that lived in the worn wood. He clutched the doorknob with both hands and turned it slowly. Through the door, he heard a low guttural hum.


As he tip-toed down the stairs, the humming grew louder.


Leo turned the corner to enter the kitchen. It was then that he saw his parents. His eyes widened in terror.


In the middle of the kitchen stood Leo’s parents with large arms coming out of their mouths. The skin on the arms was blue and wet, glistening under the kitchen lights. Long yellow nails hung off of each finger. They clicked and clacked as the two arms stroked one another, grasping for one another across the kitchen. Their eyes were fully rolled back within their heads and their tongues were caught beneath the arm-pit of the full arms coming from their mouths, creating the hum that had drawn Leo down the stairs. Their bodies were no longer independent. The arms owned them.

Fearful tears stung Leo’s eyes as he watched his parents. Every hair on his neck stood upright, and Leo’s mind pleaded with him to stay quiet. “Just go back upstairs. Please, Leo. Please please please please.” His body finally listened, and Leo turned around towards the stairs, hoping that this was all a nightmare. That the memory of this would be erased the moment his head hit the pillow.


The floor had betrayed him. Leo turned towards his parents and saw that the arms hanging from their mouths were no longer entwined. Instead, the arms looked at him with their hands spread. The blank stare of their palms shook Leo, and he dashed up the stairs and into his bed. He threw the blankets over his head.


The knock on the door was heavy and wet, the sound echoing within the wood.


“I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have come downstairs!” shouted Leo. He threw off the blankets, dissatisfied with their protection. He began to search around the room for escape.


Leo sprung from his bed and ran to his window. The roof was high, but he figured that he could leap into the bushes to cushion the fall. He would run to his school to hide, wait for his principal and tell her everything that happened. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, ready to unlock the window.


His arms fell to his side as a wet, blue arm emerged from his mouth. Leo’s lips began to crack as the bicep slowly crept out and slid across his tongue. The yellow nails clicked and clacked on the window locks, fastening them to prevent escape. Tears streamed down Leo’s face as the hand opened and turned toward him. Slowly, each finger rolled down the hand until just the pointer stood upright. The arm drew itself towards Leo’s mouth, and the finger rested on his shaking lips. As his eyes began to roll back into his head, all Leo could see was darkness.

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