Prompt Day #291: Create a character who has no fingernails. What happened to them and what surprising skill can he perform without them?
The Fingernail Effect
I killed my baby brother when I was three. I didn’t mean to; no one at that time had any idea of my abilities. How could they? Children are born occasionally without fingernails and up until me, there’d been no strange ramifications of that birth defect. Doctors did tell my parents that I was unique among the anonychia victims in that my fingers appeared otherwise fully formed with full normal length, whereas most have stubby foreshortened fingertips.
How I made it to the age of three without anyone realizing what I could do was likely due to the kind of family I was born into. My parents were not the touchy-feely, snuggling type. The first chance I had at physical affection was the day my new brother moved into the crib in the room we were to share. I was enamored with him. Someone to share things with, someone who, in the not too distant future, I could play games with, who would want to be with me.
The day he died, he was nine months old and he’d just had his bath. My mother left him lying on a blanket in his diaper and told me to stay with him until she came back. I reached down to tickle his belly. I was enthralled with the feel of his soft, velvety smooth skin. I tickled a little harder and then something strange happened: the skin of my fingertips just sort of melted into the skin of his belly and I felt the rest of my hand slip out of my skin and into my brother.
I was shocked and looked down at him. His eyes were wide too but he wasn’t crying. It was like he was just concentrating on the feeling and trying to decide if it hurt or not. I wriggled my fingers around inside him. I wrapped my hand around his intestines. They felt like slimy mounds of warm spaghetti. He began to cry and I got scared. I pulled my hand out and with it came a foot of his intestine. I heard my mother coming and I tried to stuff it back inside him but when I pushed hard and fast, I met resistance. He was screaming now. So I did what any three year old would do. I tried to hide what I did. I ripped the external organs off his belly wall and shoved them under the blanket. I wiped his belly with a towel. There was a small bruised dimple but otherwise no evidence of my crime.
I told my mother a spider bit him. And she bought that story until she found the cold, dead piece of intestine. When my brother died of sepsis from a bowel perforation, my mother swore it was me who had something to do with it. She shunned me, she hated me, and finally, for my own protection, my father took me to an orphanage. It was the last I saw of my family.
Suffice to say, no one wanted to adopt a kid who refused to take his gloves off and no child wanted to play with a weirdo like that. I spent the rest of my miserable childhood in and out of foster care, suffering all manners of abuses. At eighteen, I packed up my few possessions and walked into the city to become another faceless bum living on the streets.
I resigned myself to this life. Such a small error in development, like the butterfly effect, had a most profound effect on my life. I chose a street known to be friendly to panhandling and marked out my territory with a flattened cardboard box. My “spot” was on a corner of a building that housed an Irish pub on the lower level and apartments above it. It was a good choice, the dumpster in the alley often had some prime pickings.
The alley was also a prime spot for muggings, rapes, and all sorts of human depravity. Smart bums turned the heads to these things, as I often did. One night, the attack sounded much too vicious to ignore. I peeked around the corner. It was just after midnight and lighting was poor so I could only make out shadows, but I could see that someone was being mutilated with a knife. My mind flashed to a story I had once read about Jack the Ripper. I wanted to step in and stop it, but even a life like mine was still life and I wasn’t ready to give that up. Like the coward I was, I did nothing. I watched the killers finish the job and with eyes half closed, saw them leave with a six pack cooler in tow. They appeared to be wearing those white contamination suits you see government agents wear in disaster movies. After they were a safe distance away, I scrambled into the alley to see the corpse of a bum I’d panhandled with a few times. His sides were split open from arm pits to hip, his guts spilled out from each of these incisions. I had a flashback to my baby brother but shook it from my mind. The body was lying on a big plastic sheet. I got out of there fast. Nothing I could do.
The cops came the following day, took him away, asked us all some questions and went about their day. Turns out, the body was missing its kidneys and eyes. The speculation of course was that he had been a victim of black market organ trafficking. The article I read went on to discuss just how much could be made in this illegal trade. All of a sudden, my little genetic defect turned into the Midas touch. All I had to do was find the gang and show ‘em what I could do.
The quickest way I knew to find them was to compete with them. So, I’m sorry to say, I found a woman willing to get naked in exchange for a fifth of rot-gut whiskey. I had her kidney in my hand before she could sober up enough to know it. Her eyes proved more difficult. Getting my rounded fingers in such a small space wasn’t easy but once I wedged them back there, the eyes popped out easier than I expected. I felt bad about wasting the organs, but it was more about the media report on the incomplete corpse that I needed.
Once the report finally came out (my work is much less bloody than the gang I was looking to join, so it took longer to discover), it wasn’t long before the group sent feelers out to the homeless community asking a lot of questions in exchange for booze or cigarettes. I turned myself in to the group and showed them what I could do by ripping the aorta out of the guy ordered to take me out. I was brought into the group on the spot.
That was five years ago. I am now one of the richest black market dealers in the world. My services are contracted worldwide. I fly via private jets and stay in Ocean side villas. I steal kidneys on the subway, the beach, even elevators. I am a biologic pickpocket and I make millions. Such a small error in development has given me a superhuman advantage in life. I call it The Fingernail Effect.