Prompt Day #187: Put a hole in a place where it doesn’t belong.
The Hand of Death
There’s an old superstition that says if your left palm itches, you will be receiving money. If that was true, Josie thought then I’ll be winning the Powerball lotto. The itching woke her up that morning and had continued throughout the day. She rubbed it on the carpet, with a brush trying to avoid digging in with her fingernails but nothing seemed to help. The only difference it made was turning her palm a purplish-red. Finally, she scratched at it without abandon.
Josie had to take a sleeping pill that evening because the irritation was driving her mad. She could have chopped off her hand at the wrist to make it stop. The sleeping pill bought her only three hours before the intense itch woke her again. She scratched hard and deeply, feeling her fingers sink through her skin like rotten fruit.
She jumped up and tore into the bathroom to look at it in the light. In the center of her left palm; a dark, necrotic-looking sore festered. The tissue surrounding it was bruised but otherwise intact. She prodded at the soft spot. It took little pressure to push her finger straight through her palm.
“Ugh” She said and wriggled the finger on the other side. It didn’t hurt. She grabbed some Q-tips from the drawer and began to push and wipe out all the pudding like rotted tissue until there was a hole in her palm about the size of a silver dollar. She could see the sink right through her hand. There was no pain, and even more importantly, there was no itch. It wasn’t bleeding, in fact, it was almost as if the hole had been there all her life and somehow it had just gotten clogged with dirt because the edges were smooth. Her eyes burned for sleep and since it really didn’t hurt at all, she decided it could wait until morning.
The nurse examined her hand with a puzzled look.
“I’ve never seen anything like this.” she said to Josie.
Josie just nodded. Obviously, she thought.
The doctor came in shortly after the nurse left. The advantage of having an unusual problem, Josie thought, the nurse probably shoved him in whether he was ready or not.
“Can you move your fingers?” he asked. Josie lifted her hand and wriggled her fingers as if to wave. She looked at him through the hole as a joke.
She saw Dr. Warren, but not as he was just a second before. Instead she saw his face, bloated and shredded; his hair flowing upwards as if underwater. His mouth ajar and eyes bulging. The shreds floating around his face were from fish bites. She saw this too as a small minnow swam up bravely and snatched a bite before swimming quickly away.
She dropped her hand immediately into her lap.
“Are you ok?” Dr. Warren asked her, noting her change in demeanor.
“Yeah. I thought I mean, I had a little pain when I wiggled my fingers at you. That’s all.” She lied
“Well, Josie, I have to say. I’m stumped.” Dr. Warren said, typing away at his laptop. “I’m going to refer you to a hand specialist obviously, but I’m going to order some labs as well. Check some basic stuff, but also some rare viruses and markers of disease.”
“Ok” Josie said surreptitiously looking at her feet through the hole.
“Now, my partner, Dr. Patel will be covering for me over the next two weeks.” He smiled “I’m going boating in the Caribbean with my wife for ten days. So, he’ll be calling you with your results.”
“No!” Josie yelled, realizing she’d just witnessed the aftermath of a shipwreck through her hand. “I mean, have you ever boated before. Maybe you should take a captain along, just for safety’s sake.” She said. Dr. Warren laughed.
“Oh I think we’ll be alright.” He winked at her “Just stop at the front desk for your lab slip.” He left Josie sitting in the room.
She kept her hand down at the bank on the way home for fear of what she might see. She had to stop at the grocery store and that’s when it happened again. There in aisle four looking at the Triscuits was Carol O’Brien, Pastor Ken’s wife. Rumor in town was that Carol was praying at another man’s alter lately. Carol had graduated two years ahead of Josie and they’d been good friends in high school. She wasn’t sure if she believed the rumors, but she knew Carol wasn’t happy in her marriage.
Without a conscious thought, Josie held her hand up in a greeting salute to Carol who had in turn just put her own hand up. Josie saw her do it but then, in the hole in Josie’s hand, instead she saw Carol, lying in a bed, half her face gone in an explosion of blood and gore.
“My God, Carol!” Josie said and rushed towards her. Seeing her friend with her unobstructed eyes, the woman looked fine. She was beaming even.
“Josie! How are you?” Josie wasn’t able to speak just yet. She simply nodded and Carol dove into a full history of her marriage since she’d seen Josie last and finished with “and so, he’s being served the papers today. He’ll be shocked of course, but shouldn’t be.” Josie was putting the pieces of the puzzle together; papers served, angry husband, leading to a fight and either a husband on the couch or out of the house entirely. Too upset to think clearly, if he can’t have her, no one can, boom, murder in the bedroom. Josie didn’t doubt it. The biggest issue Carol had with him when they were first dating was his jealous rages and tendency to speak with his fists. But that’s ok in the eyes of God, at least the God of a fundamentalist like Ken O’Brien.
Josie tested her hand with strangers in the store. The lady buying eggs would die in a car crash but not for at least 10 years by the look of her body. The cashier would die in her sleep of old age and the bagger a heart attack after gaining about 100 pounds.
She couldn’t concentrate, part of her was horrified at these visions and another part wanted to see everyone through the hole; to know more about them than they did themselves. Were these vision accurate? How could she know?
It was the little girl who ran directly into Josie, who showed her the painful truth. Josie had held her hand out to catch the girl and caught just a glimpse of this child, wearing the same clothes she was now, lying broken and bleeding on the concrete. The girl’s mother caught up to her admonishing her for running off and thanking Josie before pushing her cart out into the lot. The sun was at its brightest of the day when the obstinate child ran off from her mom again in the parking lot. Watching through the picture window of the store, Josie gasped as the girl ran directly behind a car in the process of backing out and was hit. Her little body flew into the air before landing in the exact position Josie had just seen through the hole in her palm.
She sat by the window waiting for the rescue crews to finish and the ambulance to finally drive away; quiet and dark. No need to rush. She watched everything through her own magic window. She learned that one of the paramedics had been helping herself to the drug box and that would soon be discovered along with her dead body. The mother, currently on her knees in the parking lot, had a cancer starting in her body that would take her down soon enough.
When she finally made it home, she stood in front of the mirror in bathroom, her hands at her side. Did she have the strength to look? She didn’t want to know, but as long as she had this power, it would eat away at her. She began to lift her hand slowly but as soon as she saw the blood on the mirror Josie dropped her hand and walked away. Not today.
She was trying to eat dinner, ignore the nag that paced in her head like a wild animal. Go back to the bathroom. Look in the mirror, find out how this ends. She couldn’t though. This day had been so overwhelming. Her right palm began to itch.