Someone besides Moses had gotten to the jukebox and Santana was telling everyone within hearing to make it real or else forget about it. On the tiny excuse for a dance floor, Mark Walker was showing Cindi Guttierez how to do a natural underarm turn, only he missed her hand. She, an enthusiastic if uncoordinated partner, spun wildly out of control, careened off the table where Jerry Lee Kwethluk and Lyle Willoya were hunched over their usual battle for the Newenham arm-wrestling championship, and slammed up against Eric Mollberg.
Jerked rudely from his peaceful slumber, Eric snorted, sat up, lost his balance, and fell off his barstool. He might have stayed upright if that garbage sack hadn’t been sitting at Liam’s feet. As it was, he tripped over it and fell flat on his face. The arm with its clenched fist was propelled out of the bag and slid across the floor to come to rest against Eric’s face.
The way he’d kicked it must have loosened the fist because, suddenly, the fingers relaxed. Something small and round and bright rolled out of the palm, around Eric’s head and into the middle of the dance floor. The music kept playing but people had stopped dancing, and it looked like stopped breathing as well.
The coin rolled and rolled, right into the middle of eleven pairs of paralyzed feet, where it spun in an ever-shrinking circle and eventually came to rest, the side up gleaming dully in the dim light of the bar. Everyone watched it, mesmerized, or perhaps just reluctant to look again at the severed arm.
Eric, whose eyes had followed the coin like everyone else’s and watched it until it came to rest, traveled back to the now almost-open hand, forefinger outstretched to where it nearly touched his nose.
He screamed, a high-pitched sound of pure terror. He screamed again, leaped to his feet, and raced to the door, hitting it with both hands held straight out in front of him and disappearing into the night.
Spoils of the Dead, the fifth Liam Campbell novel, publishes on February 6, 2021.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.