“I never did tell you how I lost my left hand”, ran a voice in the drab, dim lighted bar whose twilight threw an uncanny look over them all, making them appear as nothing more than immovable objects whose shadows seemed more substantial than they were. He sat at the far end of the counter, thinking and remembering something that brought him there in the first place. Yes, remembering something. For he tried to forget that something which crept craftily in his thoughts, budging his conscience, visualizing itself in his memories like a well-remembered dream he didn`t want to have. He came there with the hope that he will be heard, that he might transfer a little from his burden to the rest of them, if only in words.
“What I want to convey to you is the experience of the whole thing, the reality of it.” After he said this he exhaled a grayish smoke from his mouth while a red dot moved along with his right hand, getting ready for the next drag. He cleared his throat and looked at the cigarette.
“I will have to use the clichéd phrase about the curiosity and the cat, but in my case the curiosity killed my left hand, or rather snapped it. It is hard to think of anything else these days after that. When I try to think too hard on it I sometimes ask myself whether it was real at all. But the final verdict I come to is always ‘real’ since my left hand is gone apparently.
For few seconds he didn`t say anything, his eyes fixated beyond the windows, as if brooding upon something inexplicable, something that he began hesitating whether he should relate at all to those present in the dim bar. His eyes now moved and glanced at each of them with a monotonous expression on his face, as though looking for a final approval to begin relating his experience. His face was now half-concealed in the haze of smoke while his eyes were focused and unmoving.
“If you remember the three story house close to the town`s center, the one that recently got knocked down for the new building,” here nods were given, “well, I suppose that you remember the old recluse, Dr. Garret, who rented the whole house for many years before he died some months ago in circumstances not revealed to the public after some noisy business inside the house took place. Some said that it might have been a suicide; others said a burglary, because the old man was seen carrying a gold ring and bracelet every time he went for a walk, so someone might have thought that he had more of the stuff hidden somewhere in the house. Anyway, no one knew exactly what happened that night.
“As you know I worked for the local newspaper then, and this was a story waiting to be written. When I came that night to inquire, I was told to back off the scene. I only saw one police car, an ambulance that carried the body of Dr. Garret and some bystanders. That same night they`ve put the yellow stripes on the door and chained it. But it was easy enough to find a way in; I used the old public building next to it, because they were connected with an underground tunnel for some reason.
“After traversing the short length of the tunnel I entered the basement full of old crates on which the labels were hardly readable; the damp air in the basement was unendurable and suffocating, and in it I could smell a trace of some vague odor which reminded me of rotten plants and rotten meat.
“I entered the first floor of the house, the hall that is. It was dark; the only light was coming from the lamp-posts outside, and was not enough to enable me to see the interior. I didn`t want to turn on the lights and attract attention, so I turned on the light on my phone. The moment I turned it on I saw a door widely open. The room behind it was completely empty and spread on the floor and walls there was something like slime mixed with soil. I then turned to the closed door opposite and opened it. It was the room that preceded the library, as I later found out, with an old chest of drawers in one of the corners, and a fireplace at the wall opposing the windows; above the mantelpiece on the wall there was a recent portrait of the old man. In the middle of the room there was a circular wooden table with four chairs, and on it was a silver candelabrum caked with wax.
“There was no carpet so the footsteps on the creaking floor filled the room when I walked over to the door of the library. The walls of the library were nowhere visible, they were covered with wooden bookcases from the floor to the ceiling; only the windows were left untouched. At the far corner, near one of the bookcases, was a writing desk apparently made from the same wood as the bookcases. When I threw the light on it I saw many yellowed papers scattered on the desk, some lying on the floor, and two old books written in Latin.
“I sat on the chair and opened the drawers. All of them were empty. It started to seem to me that someone came here and in a hurry wanted to find something. I began rummaging through the scattered papers; they all seemed to be research papers of some kind or another. They ranged from biology, botany, geology, geography, chemistry and astronomy, to such obscure and discredited studies such as astrology, alchemy and the occult. On some of these papers were diagrams and illustrations, some familiar from the modern sciences, while the others incomprehensible and even eerie and hideous when I come to think of it. There was some kind of celestial map on which dots were connected to form some route that lead to what looked like to be our Solar System. I came to an old photo showing the old man, then younger, with some man that looked like a Chinese, and behind them a desert landscape filled with sand dunes. On the back of the photo was written `Taklamakan, 1971`.
“Among the papers scattered on the floor I found a torn piece of paper with a note jotted on it. It said: `about their growth, diet and cycles consult the second volume of the Hypostasis`. Suddenly there was a sound from somewhere in the house, and I hurried to take few photos from the scattered papers and the old photo. I then turned to retrace my steps and exit the house.
“I was now at the hall when I heard the sound again. I could more distinctly hear that it came from somewhere in the upper floors. Somehow I felt that I couldn`t bother less if it was someone from the authorities who would throw me out of the house; I took some photos anyway, and it was enough for few speculations. I checked the second floor only to find the two rooms empty with traces of that slime and soil mixture as in the previous room. When I got to the third floor I noticed the same vague odor from the basement, but now more penetrating to my sense of smell. What looked like the door to the attic was locked, so I turned to check the last door.
“It was different from the other doors in the house. This was made from what looked like some strong wood fortified with steel frames. There was no handle on it, but there was a rectangular spyhole in the middle of the door. This opening was wide enough for one to put his whole arm through it. I first illuminated the interior of the room; I couldn`t see anything, only damp walls and that terrible odor. If it could only come to me then to put my phone through the spyhole and take few pictures from the two other corners of the room! In the zest of it all I forgot.
“The next thing I did was to put my right arm through the spyhole and check whether there was any inner lock on the one side I could use to open the door. I couldn`t find anything of the sort. I then put my left arm only to find the other side without a lock as well.
“The second I started to pull my arm out of the hole I felt a firm grip above the elbow. It was some sort of appendage, like a thin, cold and slimy rope tightening around my arm. I tried to pull but it held it very firmly. I then heard a sound as of something crawling on the wall behind the door, something wet. A moment later I felt my arm submerged in a very warm mass of what felt like pulsating flesh. I was so bewildered that I actually didn`t panic, as if I was hypnotized in a way. The odor was now so pervasive that I felt nausea.
“I can`t remember exactly the moment when I fainted, but it was probably when I heard the sound of my hand being snapped. When I came to my senses I was lying few feet from the door, my left hand gone. Now, my first thought was that I would scream the moment I saw that my left hand was gone, but what averted this from happening was that when I looked at my arm there was no blood where the wound should be and I felt no pain; actually, there was only well healed skin, like I never had any hand in the first place.
When he finished that last sentence, he revealed his left arm under one of the bar lights above him. He caused their shadows to stir a bit when in bemusement they saw the arm; it looked like he never had any hand at all, just smooth skin at the end of it. No traces of wound whatsoever.
“It amazes me, it baffles me, and it terrifies me. It is not entirely because of the hand, but because of the whole thing. I didn`t dare to approach the door for the second time and I hurried to the hall. It all started to seem like I was in a dream, but I wasn`t. I exited the building the way I came in and simply went home.
“The following day I called the editor and asked for a few weeks leave, I plainly told him that I lost my hand in an accident; I didn`t want to baffle everyone at work with my miraculous healing wound, and even when I got back to work I had to put a bandage so as to look plausible. I got fired, of course. Why keeping a cripple when you can hire someone with two hands. I decided not to publish the story anywhere because of its improbable nature”.
He abruptly fell silent. They probably expected more, for this was not the way they thought the story should end. But it was all he had to say. All of a sudden he didn`t seem too much distressed as before. Maybe he felt some relief in the telling, or he was already affected by the alcohol. “I think that I will go and get some good rest”, he said. He got up, left the cash and said goodbye. Through the windows he could be seen disappearing between the buildings, with the cigarette smoke trailing behind him.
It was less than a week later when rumors spread of a peculiarly beheaded body with a missing left hand. It was said that someone found it in an alley and thought that it was some discarded wax doll, until a vague odor was felt and trails of slime mixed with soil were detected all around the body.
We will never get to know how he felt when the thin, cold and slimy appendage was tightening around his neck and drew his last breath before his head was submerged in a very warm mass of what felt like pulsating flesh.
Among the scattered papers in the empty library of the late Dr. Garret a torn piece of paper was lying on the floor with the note he previously read. What he failed to notice was that the other side of the paper was filled with words as well: `It seems to know exactly how much sustenance it needs and then closes the wound of its victim as a means of conservation for the next cycle of feeding. It is written in the second volume of the Hypostasis that they sometimes follow their victims, but this is yet to be demonstrated`.
Bio: Dimitar recently started writing short horror fiction. He has one story published in Sirens Call Publication, December 2016 issue. For quite some time he indulges in the words of Gogol, Maupassant, Bierce, Poe, Lovecraft, Ligotti, Ramsey Campbell and others pertaining to the weird and the macabre. He lives in Skopje, Macedonia.