The Hand, by Patrick Zac


The Hand




I have a new pet. She’s a silverish siamese cat named Kretes, and we really love her a lot. My fiancée, Jessica, suggested a cat as a way to help me relax. I’ve been pretty stressed out this year; money issues, problems sleeping, and to be honest I was drinking too much too. Kretes helped a lot. They really do have a way of creating calm. But I’m just not sure about the ‘gifts’ she brings home. It’s started to be a real problem.
Anyone who owns an outdoor cat, like mine, knows that they like to bring back whatever they catch out there. You know, birds, mice, even a rabbit on occasion. Jess is usually the one who discovers them, because she doesn’t work, and I’m the one that does the cleanup. Well, normally it’s not a big deal. What are a few robins? How many field mice does this town really need? I don’t believe in declawing or collars, and I want my pet to be free. I view it kind of as a necessary evil. I mean, cats are hunters by nature. Have you ever seen a picture of a feline skeleton under an x-ray? Yeah, well, it looks like something straight from John Carpenter.
Today, though, Kretes brought something back that caused Jess to freak the fuck out. Not good for my nerves. When I got home from work, she was completely distraught, screaming at me, pointing and waving at what was out the window.
Kretes was on the porch, licking her lips, and in front of her was a severed human hand.
I remember shaking my head and, after the initial shock, feeling really irritated. Just what I needed. I didn’t even know where to start; do I call the cops, do I do something about Kretes, do I—
Clean it up?
Yup. That’s exactly what I ended up doing. The first thing, anyway, if only to calm Jess down. I figured I could put it outside, in the compost behind our shed—just as a spot for it until I figured out what to do next. I sure as hell wasn’t going to keep it around, out there in the open, for neighbors or kids to see.
I used a broom and dustpan to gather the pale appendage up as Kretes watched with wide innocent eyes, purring loudly. Even with the bloodstains on her paws, I couldn’t stay mad at her.
Cats, right?
As I carefully carried the hand in the pan down our backyard, I looked down at it. Come on, I had to. It’s not every day you see that.
It appeared to be a woman’s hand, with glossy, ruby nail polish. Other than that, nothing else. Except for the cracked wrist bones protruding out.
Again, shock accompanied by an unmistakable feeling of anger. Of course I had to be the one to deal with every mess that came along. Of course Jess couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it; she never even took the garbage out, for crying out loud.
But I did what had to be done. I lifted the lid to the compost, tossed it in ...
(Don’t do this)
... closed it.
When I got back inside, Jess seemed a lot more relaxed. That was good.
“Where’s Kretes,” I asked.
“I put her downstairs,” she said, “in the storage room.”
“Oh, yeah? Well, I suppose that’s good for now. Just until we get this sorted out.”
“Yeah. So did you get rid of that thing?”
“Yeah.”
“Good. Oh, hey, you know that store downtown, Gloss, well they’re closing down and I thought you could take me there tomorrow, I think you’d like it, plus it’ll all be really cheap—I know that the Mastercard’s maxed out, but Visa still works, right, so we could probably ...”
I nodded and got on the phone to call the police. When I told the cop on the phone what happened, I was a little pissed off because he kept asking me to repeat myself, like he didn’t quite get it or something. What was there to get?
“... a human hand,” I told him over the phone, once more, “our cat brought it onto our porch this evening ... What? No. ... No. ... Yeah, okay. ... That’s it then? ... Okay. See you guys soon, then. ... Bye.” I sighed and sat back, catching sight of my wife-to-be sitting with something in her hands. When I saw it, I got really upset and grabbed her by the wrist.
“What the hell!” I cried. “Is that blood?”
“Hey, relax! Holy shit, it’s just nail polish. Some dripped, okay? Hey! That hurts!”
“Huh?” I was holding her like a vice. “Oh. Yeah.” I slowly released my grip and scratched my head.
“Jesus,” she said, inspecting the red mark I left. “You always lose your shit over the stupidest things. You always go way overboard before you even think about it.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Why are you looking at me like that,” she asked.
“Well, it’s—” I breathed in sharp, “—it’s that hand. Look, nothing. I’m sorry. Nothing. Just stress. It’s just—why the hell would you be doing your nails at a time like this?”
“It’s this brand I like, they that just came out with a new kind, not like the others but more of a glossy kind, with reinforcement, to make them harder, I guess—and you know I love that—but I wasn’t going to, at first, but then I remembered I had your Visa, so I said what the hell, we’re not doing that bad, then the cashier told me there was a sale—she was really nice—she gave me a discount and ...”
I nodded. “Yeah. Yeah. Mhm.”
I was waiting for the cops for at least half an hour. I don’t know what it is about the police here in Stratford, but they seem to take forever to respond to anything. You’d think that telling them about a severed hand would be an emergency. And waiting like that, I was getting nervous. The sun had gone down, and the whole time my cat was downstairs, meowing incessantly:
Meoawww ... Oawww ... Rowrrr!
I got a beer and before I even swallowed the first gulp Jess grabbed me, shaking and shouting:
“You’ve got to get that hand out of here! You’ve gotta get it out! Oh, Christ, Patrick!”
“What, what, what?”
“That’s the hand, that’s her hand! They just found her this morning! Oh, God, if you get nailed with something I just—I don’t—well, how are you gonna support us? I still owe money all over the place and—come here.”
She pulled me by the arm over to the computer, where a news article was displayed on the screen:
‘Authorities have discovered the remains of an unidentified woman in Stratford’s Upper Queen Park. Decapitated pieces of her body were found in a number of the park trash receptacles this morning, the first of which was her head, found and reported by thirty-two year old Jason Ulrich, who had been picnicking with his wife ...’
I grabbed Jess by the shoulders. My mind was racing. “Okay, look,” I said, “we—we don’t know anything. Nothing. It was a false alarm okay? We thought it was a hand, but it turned out to be a rat or something, or a hare, I don’t know—yeah, okay, a hare. That’s good. That’ll be fine. You can mistake a mangled hare for a hand, right? Okay?”
She nodded, shook her head, nodded again.
“I’m going to get that hand outta here and throw it in the river. No—I’ll put it somewhere in the park. Yes. That way they’ll just have happened to miss it. Okay. Okay—”
knock! knock! knock!
The police.
“Fuck. Okay, ah, stay in your room unless I call you,” I told Jess.
Tears were rolling down her cheeks, and she started protesting, but I just shoved her along upstairs and she reluctantly went into our room.
I hesitated for a second, lost in thought. Bit my thumb so hard that the pain brought me back to reality. Then I went for the front door, and opened it.
No one there.
Then I looked down.
The severed hand was there, holding itself up by its own red fingertips.
I slammed the door shut.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
My eyes were stuck wide open. I couldn’t even blink. “Honey?” I called, “Honey? Can you come down here for a sec?”
No response.
“Honey! I’m going to need you to call the police again—”
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
It couldn’t be real. No, of course it wasn’t. This was a joke. It was October, after all. Hah. Who the fuck was I kidding? It was rubber! It was October!
I swung the door open.
(I’m baaa-aaack)
The hand jumped, soared through the air, then latched onto my neck. Its hard nails dug into my skin.
“Ow! Fuck!” I grabbed on it and pulled, and with every tug its nails cut deeper, deeper, deeper. Pain, pain, blood. “Honey! I cried. “Unck! HONEY HELP!”
Still nothing.
It wasn’t going to come off on its own. So I clenched my teeth and just tore it off like a bandage.
ssscrip!
I juggled it in my hands for second as it squirmed about, slippery with blood, but I managed to get a decent grip and then I whipped it down the hallway. It thumped a couple times, then rolled. Then it promptly got back upright. It hopped left, it hopped right.
(There is sooo much shopping to do, and that new stuff at Saje is so nice, it smells so good, great for the skin, I’ve got to check it out, oh, and the Le Château, and the Dynamite, and oh, hey, will you take me, please, please, please!)
It skittered across the floor, straight for me, its glossy ruby fingernails clitter-clattering on the ceramic tiles. It jumped into the air with claw-like form and its sharp nails were pointing forwards.
I screamed and leapt out of the way.
It landed, seized up, screeched across the floor, and then crashed into a candelabrum, sending candles toppling over. I watched in pure astonishment and dread as it scuttled out from under the mess. It twisted and turned around, like it was confused, but it soon reoriented itself in my direction.
In the fervor of my fright, I panicked and clumsily sort of skipped over to it, then attempted to stomp it with my foot.
It dodged each attack with the quick, animal-like reflexes of a giant house spider.
(You’re getting so mad, it’s not a big deal!)
It turned to the basement stairs. In open-and-close gestures it hopped along and went down.
I was hyperventilating. There was blood all over my neck and shirt. Upon inspecting my neck with my hands, the cuts seemed superficial, or at least not fatal.
But the cops.
If the cops came, if they saw me like this, if they found that hand ... It was too late to run now. The best I could do was try to stop that possessed thing before anyone got here; damage control.
I ran to the kitchen, yanked open a drawer, and grabbed my best carving knife. Then went to the basement stairwell. As I cautiously descended with the gleaming knife raised in front of me, I could hear Kretes:
Meoawww-Dooawww-Rowrrr!
“It’s okay, girl,” I whispered, “I’m coming.”
I got down, turned the lights on, looked around. Nothing was different than usual. But that thing was surely lurking somewhere.
Then I heard it—
Wait, no.
It was just Kretes, pawing at the glass door that was holding her in the storage room. I went and opened it up.
“Good girl,” I said.
She purred. Then she hissed at me.
“What?”
Her ears folded back and she started caterwauling:
MREEEEOEEEEEWW!DRRREEEEOOOWWWW!REOEEEEWWWWW!
There was a stinging pain in my scalp. I clasped my hand over it; the hand was pulling my hair, with what felt like the force of a grown adult. I reeled backward as it dragged me around the basement, singing in this strange, distant effeminate voice:
(Places to go, places to go, come on, there’s so much stuff to buy, remember your Visa, remember the cash, oh, and can you take the trash out, I forgot!)
My feet were skidding along the carpet, nailed my leg agasint the coffee table.
“Yoaw! Rrrrg!”
(Oooooo-oh, and food! Can we go out again? Somewhere fancy, can we, can we, can we!)
It grinded my head agaisnt a wall, back and forth, serious pain on my forehead.
(If you buy me something, maybe I’ll fall back in love with you!)
That did it.
I could feel my eyes roll back as I lost control of myself, consumed by a pure, seething hatred.
I grabbed the hand, tore it off my head, then pinned it against the wall as tufts of my hair floated around me. Then I drove the knife through it.
It shook violently, but held in place.
“YOU!” I screamed. “YOU STUPID LYING GREEDY BITCH!”
Kretes hissed again.
“I can’t believe we were engaged, I can’t believe what a goddamn mistake I made! You changed. You used me for my money, day after day, taking, taking, taking, hah! Never once doing anything for me. Never once talking about anything else but goddamn shopping. And you know the best part? I knew about you and Jake, yeah, I knew! All that time, I knew. Did you think I was fucking stupid? Did you think I was a fucking loser? What, huh? HUH!?”
Its fingers wiggled and bent hook-like.
Meeeoeoeeerrrr-dwoer-ROWR!
“Well I loved you! How ’bout that! So I figured I’d stay it out. Maybe you’d come around. But when I saw what you were doing to me I couldn’t take it anymore. Drinking didn’t even alleviate it. I was losing sleep. I was going ... I was going ...” I released my hold on the hand.
MUR-DER-ER!
It wasn’t moving anymore.
I blinked. For just a moment, all of it disappeared; the blood, the hand, even Kretes. I blinked again and they returned, just as they were.
I went upstairs and got another beer. The thing is, when you can’t sleep, and when you’ve got anxiety, and you’re drinking like I am, you can see or do all kinds of things.
But the scary thing isn’t what you see—not even close. That has nothing to do with anything. That can be rationalized.
It’s the loss of memory.
As I sit here, with Kretes on my lap, I’m going to finish one last drink.
“I forgive you,” I told her, and scratched the scruff of her neck.
It seemed like she smiled.
I’m really not worried so much about Kretes brings home anymore. What I’m worried about is that I’ll go upstairs and Jess won’t be there.
That when the alcohol clears away, I’ll remember.




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