Time now for
A Grim Fairy Tale
Tonight we present
The Hand Made Stale
I was minding my own business, you know, yearning for the future and poking about a Pawnbroker Shop in India, when I came across a mummified human hand. It was shrunken and clasped into a fist. I queried the proprietor as to what exactly I had found.
“Ahhh… That hand belonged to a fakir who—it’s been said—dabbled in black magic before he was put to death by an angry mob enraged at having fallen victims to spells he cast. After they killed him, they cut off his hands and mummified them. Legend has it that if the owner of a hand strokes it a certain way, it will grant a wish up to a maximum of three wishes.”
I looked around me. “Where’s the other hand?” I asked.
“Why?” he asked. “Three wishes aren’t enough, you want six, is that it?”
“No,” I lied. “I was curious, that’s all.”
“The other hand has not been found. Some people think it came into the possession of Adam Smith, and that maybe that he was possessed by it…”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Like all things magic, there’s a price to pay for using this article.” He paused for effect, then continued. “It’s cursed, you see! Using it causes the death of its owner.”
“Go on!” I exclaimed in disbelief, “You’re trying to drive up the price!”
“I can see you’re a savvy bargainer. Very well, 100 rupees.”
“50,” I haggled. We settled on 75, with him mysteriously chortling as he took my money.
As soon as I was away with it, I began stroking the hand, trying to elicit the wishes. It took me a good fifteen minutes before suddenly the hand opened. I took this as a sign that it was receptive to my bidding.
“I wish for a world with no war,” I demanded, holding the hand up to my mouth as I spoke so that it could better understand what I said. A finger folded down into the palm, signifying, I supposed, one wish gone.
A blackness swirled about me, enveloped me, and carried me off to another existence. When I came to my senses, I was standing in what appeared to be a supermarket.
Around me, women—only women, and all of them in their 20s too, it seemed—were choosing articles of food. Yet the grocery lists they were holding consisted not of writing but of pictures. I tried to speak to one of them, and after several unsuccessful attempts, managed to engage one in conversation.
“Is there any war here?” I asked.
“No war,” she nervously whispered, looking around to be sure she wasn’t watched. “But no freedom, either.”
“It’s true,” she continued, “All of us are chattel, slaves for the childbearing pleasure of the theocratic elite.”
“Methinks I don’t like the sounds of this,” I said, thanking her for the information and moving off to a safe distance in order to extricate myself from this reality.
“Hand!” I spoke roughly to it, angry at the deception. “Hand! Do you hear me?” I shook it, trying to force it to respond. There was no reaction.
I held it up close to my mouth and spoke. “Okay, here’s the thing. No war, and no theocratic dictatorship.” Another finger curled down, marking my second wish gone.
Again the swirling darkness, then light. I looked around. Where was I? Around me pranced blue-furred humanoids bearing bunches of flowers, and sporting what appeared to be… Wtf? They weren’t looking at me, were they? I ran.
I got away, and encountered another human. It was sheerly by accident, for there was not another to be seen anywhere. I tried my question again. But he wouldn’t answer. Instead, he demanded… a fish. Then he told me of a nearby lake teeming with them.
Alrighty, then. I used my handy pocketknife to fashion a spear, then proceeded to obtain said fish, which I presented to He Who Sent Me On This Task. During the time I had been absent, he had started a fire, and after getting me to fillet the fish put them near the fire on a rock to cook.
Then he answered my question. “No, there’s no war here, nor is there a—what did you call it again?—a theocratic dictatorship? No. But…” he continued, “there has been a plague, which I believe was the result of a genetic engineering experiment gone wrong. Humans are no more, just these blue folk, here.”
And here they were! They had tracked me down. I ran again.
Once away, I furiously shook the hand and screamed at it. “Hand! Hand! I want out! No war, no theocratic dictatorship, no humans wiped out by GMO plague! Get me out of here, NOW!” I banged the hand on the ground, adding angry emphasis to my shouts.
A third finger curled up.
Blackness, and then… white everywhere. Snow, snow, and more snow. Where was I?
I started walking. And walking. It was so cold! I was shivering so much I shook violently. The air seemed thin. What was this, I wondered, some kind of climate catastrophe?
Finally, a building.
Beside the door, a plaque on the wall of the building said, “Dr. Franke Stein, Optometrist and Meteorologist.” Was there a connection? I felt so sleepy. So cold and so sleepy. Struggling to stay awake, I cleared snow away from the door and sat down with my back against it. My eyelids became heavier and heavier and finally closed; I drifted off to sleep.
Some time later, Dr. Stein pulled open the door and jumped back to avoid being struck by the dead body which had been propped on it. She dragged it inside and, while searching it to try to ascertain its identity, discovered the shrunken mummified hand. Not exactly serendipity.
“Ewww!” she said. Holding it out in one hand well away from her between index finger and thumb, she hurried to the bathroom and flushed it down the toilet.
PS: By the way, there was no war in this existence either, due to the fact that manmade climate catastrophe had brought about the destruction of the planet by freezing, so people were too busy trying to stay warm instead of fighting wars.