The first hand

sprouted from the spigot in the garden (a spigot I’d tried and failed to detach one winter). A white hand, probably mid-thirties, female. An artist’s hand. Pale. It waved, desperately, like the owner of the hand was crouching behind the basement wall.

The second hand

grew from a light fixture in the downstairs hallway. Previously, there had been a lightbulb where the hand now was. This hand didn’t do much at all. Just hung there limply, occasionally moving its fingers as if to stretch them. This hand was brown, male, old and cracked—arthritic, probably.

The third hand

sprung up from a dining room chair—it balled into a fist and shook itself angrily, annoyed, for some reason. Needless to say, I didn’t want to sit in this chair. Nobody wanted to sit in the chair because of the hand. This was a male hand—possibly Asian, possibly teenaged.

The fourth hand

was the most disturbing of the hands; not because of its location (though it jutted out of the bathroom mirror, so I had to wake up and see it every morning), but mainly because it was constantly finger-pointing. An accusatory finger. Always the index, never letting up.

I tried to ignore the hands

I tried to go about my daily routines with little thought to why they were in my house. I tried to ignore the fact that the fourth hand was my estranged wife’s—it looked like hers, with a white line where her wedding ring used to be. It had all the hallmarks of my ex-wife’s hand—a pianist’s ultra-long fingers and knuckles so bony and protruding, yet delicate and beautiful. Maybe it was just because it was pointing. Maybe I was simply going mad from loneliness and guilt.

One night, I awoke from a lucid dream in which I was walking along a cliff top

And every time I stepped forward, I would veer, purposefully, towards the cliff’s edge. The dream made me sweat, and I needed to splash my face with water and take a long drink, so I went without thinking to the bathroom.

The fourth hand—my wife’s, no doubt—was pointing still; but now it was pointing in the direction of the shower head, which had, overnight, sprouted

a fifth hand

I stood there in the half-darkness, looking at this new hand.

I flicked on the cold faucet, and a jet of smooth aerated water spurted from it.

I rubbed the water all over my face and neck, enjoying the momentary cool distraction. 

Somehow, the fourth hand, my wife’s, was gripping a hand towel—one of a set for our wedding–her fingers pinching the plush Egyptian cotton, holding it out for me.

The water dripped from my face, off my nose, down the sides of my ears, travelling along my jawline, slipping into my lips.

“Thanks,” I said, automatically, taking the towel.    

 Jonathan Cardew’s work has appeared in Passages NorthSmokeLong QuarterlyWigleafCleaver MagazineCream City Review, and many other publications. He was a finalist in the Best Small Fictions 2016, The Wigleaf Top 50 2017, the Neutrino Prize 2018 (Passages North), and The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction 2018. He edits fiction for Connotation Press and runs the MicroViews column at Bending Genres. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.