Drawing: a small brick house in a rural area. Caption reads: "A little brick house, just outside the city."

Hand short story by Iris Carden

Settle in dear reader, while I tell you the strange tale of Evelyn, who learned that dreams can become nightmares.

Evelyn had a dream.  

As dreams go it was a simple one: she would have a little house just outside of the city. It wold be brick, for better insulation, and have solar power.  It would be as far off grid as it was possible to get in the modern world.

She would grow her own vegetables and fruit, raise chickens, and live a simple life.  The resources of the city would be close by if she needed them, but mostly she would keep to herself and enjoy the quiet of her home.

That was the whole of her dream.  She didn’t want to use the quiet to write a book, or start a cult, or prepare for the apocalypse, or do anything grandiose, or paranoid, or outstanding or unusual in any way.  She just wanted the quiet of the country, with the resources of a city nearby.

Evelyn worked hard, lived minimally, and saved as much as she could to meet her dream.

Sadly, many others had similar dreams, and the cost of little homes just outside of the city increased faster than her savings.

One day, when her lounge chairs had outlived their usefulness to the point of being painfully uncomfortable, she went to a second-hand shop. Evelyn, thinking of her savings and her dream, never bought new if second-hand was available.

She found a suite, a three seater and two armchairs, which looked much nicer than her old one.  Sitting in each one, she found them comfortable.  Evelyn cringed a little at the price, but realised that it would be at least three times the price new. There was definitely enough money in her savings.  She had plenty of money, just not “buying a house on the outskirts of the city” money.

Approaching the counter to pay and arrange delivery, something caught her eye.

It was ugly.  It was offensive.  It was hideous. It was hypnotic.  It seemed to call to her.  It demanded her attention. It looked like a tiny hairy hand, shrivelled and desiccated. 

“Ah, you’ve seen my most unique treasure,” the salesman said, seeing her staring at the object.  “You don’t get these around much any more.  It’s only legal because it was made before the law was changed.  It’s a mummified monkey hand.  A great talking point at parties, and there’s a legend it will grant wishes, four wishes, one for each finger. The thumb doesn’t count. But of course it’s just a legend.”

Evelyn did not need a mummified monkey’s hand. Never in her life had she ever thought: “I want a mummified monkey’s hand.” Looking at the hideous object, she felt nauseous, repelled, and yet… There was just something. If she’d been asked, she wouldn’t have been able to say why she did it.

She bought the monkey’s hand, as well as the lounge suite.

Somehow, she failed to notice the salesman putting on gloves and using a pair of tongs to pick up the paw and put it in a paper bag, before wrapping the bag in tissue paper and placing that in another bag to hand over to her. 

At home, Evelyn carefully unwrapped the hand, and put in on her fairly bare bookshelf.  Evelyn loved to read, but why buy books when the library is free?

She stared, transfixed, at the ugly, hairy hand.  “You grant wishes do you?” she asked.  “I wish you could give me the money to buy my dream house.” Nothing happened. There was no flash of light, no roll of thunder, nothing whatsoever.  

Of course nothing happened.  No inanimate object had the power to grant wishes, or anything else.  It was just a stupid myth.

Beware, dear reader, of anyone, or anything, which offers to give you something with nothing in return. There is always a cost.

While Evelyn was eating dinner that night, she received a phone call. Her beloved mother had died. With tears in her eyes, she looked over at the bookshelf, to see the monkey’s index finger had curled, leaving the other three fingers upright. 

In the next few days, and weeks, Evelyn was overwhelmed with organising a funeral, discovering she had inherited all of her mother’s money and possessions, and the emotional rollercoaster of grief.

It was only months later, when her mother’s house and other major possessions had been sold, sentimental pieces kept to be treasured, and other miscellaneous items given to charity, that Evelyn realised she now had enough money to buy her dream home.

After moving, Evelyn found herself wondering if the monkey’s hand had somehow caused her mother’s death.  It was a stupid idea, and yet, the death had happened so soon after she’d made that wish, and the death had eventually led to her buying her house.

She searched online for the myth the salesman had mentioned, and found the W.W. Jacobs short story The Monkey’s Paw.  With horror,  she read, the characters in the story had also first wished for money, and gained it via a death of a loved one. 

Evelyn picked up the hand, with its one curled and three outstretched fingers, took it outside and threw it in the council wheelie bin. She felt as if an imposing weight lifted from the atmosphere around her, as if she’d been carrying something heavy all day, and hadn’t realised the weight until she put it down.

That night she slept better than she’d done since her mother died. In the morning she continued to lie lazily in bed while she listened to the rubbish truck empty her bin.  The horrible, fascinating, object was gone, and life would be good from here on in.

She was so happy she almost skipped to the kitchen for breakfast, but there, on the kitchen bench, was the hand.

Evelyn put the hand in an old shoe box, dug a hole in the yard, and buried it.  

The next day, the grass for about a metre around the buried box was dead.  A day later it was two metres. The day after that, it was three metres, encroaching on the chicken coup, and the chooks were sick.

Evelyn dug the box up again, took out the hand, and took it back inside.

The dead areas of grass did not heal, and nothing she planted would grow there.  The chooks all died.

Evelyn bought more hens, and built a new pen for them further from the house.  She also bought a dog for companionship.

She tried to not see the hideous hand as she walked past it numerous times each day, and concentrated on living the life she’d dreamed of.  She planted her vegetable, and her fruit trees.  She nurtured them, checking on each plant and tree each day, her faithful dog walking by her side.  She fed the chooks, and gathered eggs, and the dog learned to carry the egg basket for her. 

One morning she woke, to the sound of her dog whining.  It was lying on the floor, paws over its face, muzzle covered in black slime.  Beside it was the hand. No.  She could not have her faithful friend share the fate of the first chooks.  She picked up the hand and made her wish.  “I wish I’d never seen this horrible thing.”

Evelyn was back in the second hand shop, looking at a lounge suite that might meet her needs.  She was dismayed by the price, but realised it was good value.

Returning to her small rented flat, she phoned her mother and chatted about everything of passing interest and nothing of note. 

Life continued as it always had, but Evelyn found she no longer wanted her little house outside of the city.  With her savings, she was able to put a deposit on quite a reasonable house in a less expensive suburb, and be able to buy herself some of the little luxuries she’d always denied herself.  She also developed a habit of calling her mother every day.

So, dear reader, we leave Evelyn, whose life has not turned out as planned, but is still not bad, apart from those strange dreams about a horrible little hand and a house where things just died.

I invite you, dear reader, to look out for more:

Strange Tales

While you’re here…

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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