The Devil’s Playthings


Credit to Jim Silvia, found here:


This Week’s Prompt:7. Horror Story. The sculptured hand—or other artificial hand—which strangles its creator.

The Research:Idle Hands

I’ve known Jeffery for years. He was a nice old codger, living in his families dying home. It goes back to before that nasty business, must be at least two hundred years old by now. Jeffery Ruven spent days whittling, molding, and sculpting on the porch. Wood, bone, stone, it didn’t matter. He’d make something useful out of it. When he was younger they were toys, for children on holidays or birthdays. Sometimes he’d make tools, small forks or decorative stands for older folks who wanted to look rich.

And then the Great War came, a scar across the nation. Jeffery went off to those forbidding fields of Flanders, under Major Clapham , rifle in hand. He was one of the senior men, sure, but he would fight as hard as the rest of them. Of course, hard boiled will-to-fight didn’t matter much when compared to rifles and gas. Landmines and tanks didn’t give a damn if you really wanted the win. And so he ended up in a hospital, a puzzle missing some of the pieces. Most important, his left hand had been mauled by bayonets when he was sent back, a bloody stump of a hand.

Now, Ruven knew what to do. There was a medic in the company, a Mr. West, that had done wonders stitching men back together. If some doctor could do it, he could manage something like repairs. He’d built things all his life, he’d build some more.

Hours were spent carving, crafting, shaping his new left hand from. His first was a simple one, mean for grasping the wooden end of another hand. It had no nails, barely any markings of fingers. But it served its purpose and he was able to continue on to his second hand. A stone carving, a fist of marble for grasping as well, this one for the local pub, in case he needed to swing as well as take a swig.

His third was wooden, with fine detailing, for shaking hands and gesturing about town. After all a man needs such things. He even war his family ring on the skeletal wooden grasp. His fourth was a replacement for the first, with joints that could be carefully positioned in order to hold pen or pencil. His fifth was an ornate punching hand, his sixth little more than a ghastly claw he made in the night in case of Germans on his shore, his seventh was for Sundays, a beautiful oak hand shaped to pray.

Jeffrey was never the most social man, but as the wheel time turned round, he came out less and less. He bought food from the general store, and there wowed others with the wonders of his hands. Oh, yes, sometimes they were still toys and tools. But he’d taken up other work as well. Back during that madness, he made a piece of majesty, this wonderful crown of wooden digits. He had statues of the Hands of Glory, to hold candles by. Some northerners or foreigners bought them as novelties, but mostly they lined his lawn to ‘keep the devil at bay’.

The ultimate triumph, which how he made I still don’t know, was this strange little hand. It had smooth, lithe fingers, plated in gold leaf. How he could afford that I don’t know. I don’t guess. The joints creaked a little, made this horrible scratching sound at times if he waved too fast. He explained that he’d made them using some steel he’d bought and cut and bolted together. When he wanted, by some machinery I’d guess, he could grip like a gator.

How it got round his neck, I didn’t know. We found him like that, pinned in place by his hands. His stone hands lay across his chest, his wooden hands held to his wrists, and that golden wonder gripped his throat, while that damnable claw rested on his head, holding it back against the post.

It had eagle talons of stone, that hand, and its joints were stiff and useless. Jeffrey’s next of kin, Malcolm, ask us to take the lot of them. Wanted nothing to do with those things, thought they were damned creepy. Ernest took it home that day, thought it’d make a good show piece. He was found carved up that night by something vicious. I told them the hand did it, and we buried the cursed thing in the fields around the house. Ripped up all those hands of glory, tossed them in for good measure as well.

Next day, Warner, oh God Warner was found with the golden hand stuffed down his throat. So we buried that one. Then the stone ones feel on Lincoln and his wife’s head, smashed them clean. How the hell they got in that house, I don’t want to guess. They were good people, Lincoln and Warner. From good, honest families too.

The wooden hands we burned when we found them again. They’d made there way into my sons play things, and I’m not an idiot. I think I’m working my way down to the last few. But last night, last night Malcolm was checking the grounds. Someone’s gone and dug up those old hands. He saw them at night, he swears, crawling about the yard, rolling about. But worse, worse he swears he saw a group of men gripping them in the darkness, using them instead of their real hands. The lot of them looked to be in poor shape, bloated with malnourishment and bleeding from their back and limbs. They stared at him from the fields, and went on.

I told him it was nonsense. Just the fields hands mocking him. But the next day, he’d been burned by those hands of glory. That just leaves me, the last honest man in town with some heritage to be proud of. Let’em come. I’m not afraid. I know where I’m going when I die, and I know where there from. Let’em come.

Apologies for the delay, but this particular ghost was hard to draw from the depths. Perhaps you had better luck, and would like to share your lost technique? In the mean time, I believe I have found Mr. Lovecraft’s eventual story here. I have also gathered more research from fellows in the field of horror on Frankenstien’s monster here, and another story of living dead here.

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