The Hand And I (Short Story)

A quick one whipped up out of an idea I’ve had for a while.


I found the hand behind a dumpster in my alleyway.

It was a good alleyway, if only for the fact that all the dumpsters gave us plenty of room to crash back there. I’d just stolen a leftover sandwich from a table outside Chili’s Cheesesticks three blocks down the streets and was wolfing it down when I noticed the hand.

Long silver fingers attached to a metal stump, it just lay there next to my foot. I was sure it hadn’t been there when I sat down — I kept my place clean, or at least as clean as could be. Then, suddenly, it moved. Jumped up to my leg and poked my ankle, then fell back down.

“Hey there, little fellow,” I said, because it seemed like the most reasonable thing to do.

It didn’t answer. I finished my sandwich in silence, keeping an eye on the hand.

It didn’t move again until I curled up on my cardboard a little while later when it crawled down to my feet and wrapped its fingers around my ankle. I instantly felt a warmth rush through me, as the hand began to purr. Like a cat.

That was the moment I decided to keep the hand.

*

Good things started happening after I found the hand.

It started bringing me food to eat whenever I returned to the alley. Then money.

And once, the hand brought me proper sleeping bag. It was stolen the next day, but I didn’t mind. I’d had my warm night, now it was someone else’s turn. The sleeping bag returned the day after.

“Hey there, little fellow,” I’d greet the hand and it would purr. Like a cat. It would keep me warm at night.

The hand and I, cuddled in the sleeping bag together.

*

Before I found the hand, there was a guy who used to hang out in the alleyway, too. He didn’t talk, just grunted in greeting and we left each other alone. Mostly.

He wasn’t quite right, sometimes. He’d scream and trash in his sleep, sometimes waking and rattling everything. He’d grabbed me, once, in a fit, his eyes staring at me but not really seeing. I bit his hand and he let go.

He didn’t come back for weeks after that.

I was rattled awake one night, the hand purring by my feet, by his booming voice. He was dreaming, I knew. I crouched deeper into my sleeping bag, hoping he wouldn’t wake up. Praying, he wouldn’t grab me like that again.

The hand purred louder.

“Don’t,” I whispered, but the hand was already on its way. I watched in fear as it crawled over to the man. It disappeared in the bundle of paper and junk. The groaning got louder as the bundle began to shake. His body, massive as it was, thrashed around. He got up, still groaning. On all fours, eyes wide open, he tried to move. A car drove by, its lights flashing his face.

The hand was wrapped tightly around his neck.

I stared as he moved, winced, groaned until the noise subsided and his limbs went still. His eyes were wide open, staring right back at me. He looked as scared as I’d felt.

The hand crawled up to his face and closed his eyes, then came back to me, purring.

*

Bad things started happening after that night.

The hand would still bring me food and money, it would still curl up with me in my sleeping bag every night. But its touch now felt stronger, harder. Gripping me.

I tried to leave it behind one night, making my bed underneath a bridge. When I woke up, the hand was there, around my ankle, purring louder than ever before.

Its gifts got more elaborate. Soon, the hand brought me jewelry, clothes, entire wallets with bundles of cash.

I started to wonder if the spots that were on them were dirt or blood.

After the second time I tried to get rid of the hand, it would no longer let go of my ankle. It sat there, all day, only leaving for five minutes to grab whatever gift it had for me. Once I started to run while it was gone and when it found me, it grabbed my ankle hard enough to leave bruises.

See what you made me do, it seemed to purr when it stroked the bruises later that night. It’s you and me now.

Nobody else.

The hand and I, cuddled in the sleeping bag together.


Original image by Don Harder.

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