Prompt Day #167: Design a character who is known for working with his hands in some way—a pianist, a surgeon, whatever. Now put that character into a scenario where they have lost an arm and are experiencing “phantom hand” syndrome.
What The Right Hand is Doing
It was Ami’s first time back at the slab since the accident. The long hours of physical therapy had helped increase her left hand’s strength and dexterity. Up until this morning she had avoided the studio entirely, after the accident, she believed her sculpting career was over. As it was, she had no real memory of those last moments of her life before, having suffered a limited sort of amnesia along with the loss of her right arm.
Of course everyone referred to it as “the accident” although, her friends told her the truth; that she had jumped from a hotel room after a bad review meaning to commit suicide, but apparently had second thoughts on the way down and reached out to grab hold of a gargoyle tearing her arm off in the process. She had no memory of course but could not believe that about herself. For weeks, she brooded over the facts as she’d been told until finally she decided that if she did not at least try to work again, she may never remember what happened.
She sized up the enormous chunk of clay; looking within it for its true form. Using her left hand she cut away large pieces of clay until a vaguely human shape appeared. Now it was time to truly test her ambidexterity. Could the left hand do the work of both? She caressed and massaged the clay until a face began to take place. Soon she was lost in the meditative state of creativity. She felt as if her right hand was back working alongside its mate. Amazing. She could feel the cool, smooth pliability beneath her right hand. The left side of the face, where her ghost hand worked, had a vicious countenance. Its angry brow furrowed violently and the lips snarled like a rabid dog. The other side was calm, the look of an old-fashioned daguerreotype.
Both sides, different though they may be, looked familiar. She put a blanket over the work, bothered by the stark difference and the strange feel of having her arm back. Sleep did not come easy but when it did, finally, she was plagued by nightmares. Her statue stood across the room wearing her left hand’s molded expression. She found herself uneasy with this known stranger and backed up until she was stopped by the large picture window behind her. The statue-man’s face changed to the angry, evil look her phantom hand had created and rushed towards her. She awoke screaming just as the once-solid sculpture passed through her and out the window.
It was 2 am but she knew sleep was out of the question, plus she felt the need to work, sculpt. Who was this man her hands seemed to know, even the one who was as absent as her memory. The studio was ice cold, she followed her breath to the statue and began to work, ignoring the cold. Her non-existent arm materialized and went to work beside its still very real twin. The Jekyll/Hyde sculpture was gradually dressed in a uniform. By dawn, she was exhausted and both hands ached. She had forgotten that her right hand didn’t exist until she tried to rub it with her left.
The man she had created frightened her and she no longer felt safe in the studio. She threw the blanket over him and left. Back at her apartment, she curled up on the couch and grabbed her laptop. She powered it on and began to search historical military uniforms, trying to place her molded-man’s time. Finding a site on Civil War, she scrolled through a number of tin daguerreotypes of men in both Union and Confederate uniforms of various ranks. The old sepia colored pictures triggered a memory and she logged into her Pinterest account. She had a board there called “Handsome History” where she recalled a pin had been sent to her by a high school friend. Scrolling through her pinned pictures, she found it and opened the message that Katie had sent with the photo: “Hey girl, this looks just like you and check out the handsome man candy on your arm! Just don’t click on it and read the sad story associated with this picture, just revel in your past life’s hottie BF”
Ami was fairly certain she had followed Katie’s direction and pinned the pic without ever looking into the background behind it. The man in the pic was the man in her sculpture, the “good arm’s” side at least. He looked so young in his crisp, clean uniform as opposed to the ghost arm’s side which was tattered and torn. The girl in the pic, holding onto the young man’s arm as if it would save her life was Ami’s doppelganger. Ami hovered over the pic and clicked.
The website opened and a cool draft blew into her living room. She shivered and began to read the story of a young soldier named Trevor and his brother Nathaniel. Trevor, the eldest brother, had just gotten engaged to their cousin Eliza when the Civil War broke out. Taking the obligation to his country seriously, Trevor joined the Confederacy, promising to marry his girl when he returned.
Nathaniel joined as well, but was injured and sent home armless two months later. Eliza, having stayed on in the home of her fiancé, nursed him back to health. All the while waiting for her love to return. He did not return, and word that his platoon had been taken prisoner and eventually died of pneumonia in the camps, reached Eliza and Nathaniel. The couple had found comfort in each other and married soon after. The picture of Nathaniel, with the right arm of his uniform folded up and pinned, made Ami’s missing arm itch like mad.
Ami stared at her likeness now standing on the other side of her new fiancé. She wondered what had really happened to Trevor. She read on. Trevor had not died, however and when the war was over he made his way home. Finding his betrothed now married to his younger and handicapped brother, he flew into a fury and strangled her, tossing her body out the upper floor of his parent’s plantation home. Nathaniel came upon the scene and was able to pull his pistol with his left hand and killed his brother.
It was a sad ending to a tragic romance. Ami could understand Trevor’s rage but also poor Eliza’s choice in marrying his brother over the chance of remaining a spinster. Ami sighed, her breath steamed out in front of her and the hair on the back of her neck stood. She turned around to see her Trevor standing in the open doorway. His face now completely overtaken by the angry, vengeful visage her specter arm had molded.
It was the scene from her dream, she backed away and he advanced, his hands up to strangle her. The memory came flooding back, sitting in the hotel room after her first gallery opening, which had turned out to be a miserable failure. She was drinking a glass of wine and pinteresting to take her mind of it. That was when she got the message from Katie and had found herself staring at Trevor and Eliza. She remembered thinking how handsome Trevor was and how very much like Eliza she thought she looked. “I’d marry you in a heartbeat” she’d said to the picture. That’s when the air went cold and there he was standing in her hotel room.
She had backed up now as far as she could, the window of her third floor apartment cool against her back. She had another sense of Déjà vu and was taken back to when she stood against the hotel’s big window and Trevor rushed her. He went through her but instinctually, she threw herself backwards and went out the window backwards. She remembered grabbing at anything on the way and the tearing sensation when she managed to grasp the gargoyle.
This more solid version of Trevor she had created now had his hands on her neck. She pried at the firm clay with her left hand, her fingers sinking into his false flesh. She could barely breathe and then she felt her right arm at her side. Something heavy and cool was being placed in it. Her phantom fingers brushed against other phantom fingers as the pistol was transferred over time from Nathaniel’s hand to hers. She lifted it and fired. Trevor’s head exploded, clay hitting the wall, the floor, the furniture and table. The torso no longer being held up by ghostly limbs fell to the floor with a thud.
The pistol fell too as her arm and fingers dissolved away. Ami slid to the floor as well, gasping for air. Nathaniel stood before her, his empty sleeve dangling useless. She looked up at him from the floor and promptly passed out.
When she awoke in her bed the next morning, she had her full memory back. Her living room was clean without a trace of clay. She felt good though, better than she had in a long time. She decided to go to the studio, she had so many ideas in her head.
The studio was warm and inviting. The blanket thrown over a humanoid shape beckoned to her. She walked over and pulled it off, unsure of where she’d left off. Nathaniel stood there, stately in his uniform, the right arm of his uniform pinned up, empty of its appendage. She smiled. He was perfect, finished and complete. It was time to move on to her next wounded soldier statue, she had a lot of them to do—at least one for each American skirmish—before the next big Gallery show.