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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Noelle Richardson 2017

The Thing With Five Fingers


Gary Lovisi




            For decades I had been obsessed with the little known, supernatural conundrum I’d dubbed “The Borlsover Affair”. I’d heard and read snatches of it here and there of course, but never beheld the truth of the matter until now.

          The story particularly intrigued me as I was a writer -- one who can only create his stories in original first draft by hand  -- hence I became obsessed with the tale of an animated appendage told to me by one of the survivors of the affair. The man was named Saunders -- an old and rather unsavory broken fellow living out his last days as a mathematical master at a second-rate suburban school. Upon the application of a far too liberal mixture of alcoholic beverages one evening I forced him to tell me the entire tale -- a grotesque nightmarish story he had often intimated to me, but never fully expounded upon, for the fear was always upon him. The alcohol loosened his tongue as I knew it would that dark late October night, before Halloween would come upon us, as he told me the full tale of the Borlsover Family. He began recounting the sad life of old cantankerous Adrian Borlsover, gone blind but gifted with some form of automatic writing in his animated right hand, and of his young nephew, Eustace -- and then of the hand itself.

          “A beast with five fingers it was, Mr. Jameson,” Saunders grimly whispered to me in the dark corner of a secluded booth in an empty barroom that chilly evening. “Not a proper hand at all was it. Long bony fingers, muscle to it certainly, but no warm flesh nor blood. A demon thing, haunted by some disembodied spirit of Adrian Borlsover or some other of the Borlsover clan -- a human hand that put pen to paper to write such blasphemy as one could never imagine. I think the entire family was cursed. Poor Eustace! The hand took him eventually.”

          I nodded grimly, for I believed the man entirely. I believed him because over the many years of research and through vast expense, I now had the hand in my possession, locked away in a safe in my home.

          I told this all to Saunders. His eyes bugged wide in terror, froth flecking at his lips as he appeared momentarily unable to utter any words.

          “So will you help me?” I asked him plainly, impatiently. My plan was to investigate the hand, understand it, to control it, and Saunders was the one man alive who possessed that knowledge. He was someone who had actual experience with the thing and could help me make it do my bidding. Long ago, Eustace Borlsover and he had discovered it, on that dark day a mysterious small box was delivered to Eustace with his uncle’s severed right hand inside it.

          Saunders shook, took a long drink. “You have it, don’t you? You son of a bitch! Why? Why on Earth! How ever did you find it?”

          “It was not easy, Mr. Saunders, I can assure you. The time and expense was excessive but… Well, who can place a value upon such a thing? I am a writer, as I told you before, and I write all my work by hand with pen on paper -- in the classic style. It is the only way I can write and I make a very successful living from it. All first drafts are done in that manner, then after editing I transpose the manuscript via typewriter for further rewriting and editing, but the idea phase -- that most important part of the creative process -- I can only do by hand with pen to paper first.”

          “Automatic writing?” he asked with a wild-eyed look of suspicion.

          “Perhaps…?” I replied softly. “I imagine one might call it that if one were to think in those terms. The mind creates the ideas, but the hand holding the pen writes them all down carefully and with great speed. Writing them faster than I could ever type them. Better than I could ever speak them into any recording device or to any secretary via shorthand. While each writer has their own system that works best for them, this is the only way I can create my work.”

          “But sometimes, doesn’t it seem to you that your hand writes what it will, almost with a mind of its own?” Saunders asked hoarsely.

          “Yes, it does,” I replied with a sly grin. “Sometimes in the heat of the creative process…the hand does seem to do what it will.”

          “So what is it you want?”

          I laughed at him, then smiled indulgently, “Mr. Saunders, I know not what you are thinking. My success enables me to indulge myself in these little conundrums that I find interesting, fascinating, even exhilarating. The story of the hand of Adrian Borlsover is one I have been obsessed with for a long time, and now I own the thing.”

          “You may think you own it, Mr. Jameson,” Saunders husked dryly, trying to hold back the evident terror he felt lodged within from long dark memories, “but I am afraid that it owns you now as well.”

          “Nonsense,” I said briskly, impatient, refusing to accommodate the fearfulness and abject blue funk that had overtaken the man. “I want to study the thing and more so -- what I really want to do is set it to writing for me, then to read what mysterious words and sentences it will put down on paper. Who knows what mysteries it will unlock and tell us?”

          Saunders looked at me with utter disbelief. “It is a demon haunted thing and no good can ever come of its use. I would fear its words, sir, I would fear the print from a pen written by such a hand.”

          “Not I! I should be delighted to read what it has to write down for us, Mr. Saunders,” I told him firmly. “Come now, join me in this endeavor and I can assure you, you never need want for money. I know you are perpetually short on funds, but if you join me you need never fear that situation again.”

          “Aye, I am low on funds but I fear not poverty -- I drink up most of my pay to keep the nightmare’s away -- for it is an old fear that rattles around in my bones about that hand, Mr. Jameson. I still see it in my mind’s eye, scurrying across the floor of Master Eustace’s library, climbing up the drapes, cater pillaring its long bony fingers along the book shelves. It’s a nightmare I’ll never forget, but I will join you and help you as best I am able, just as I did young Eustace, God rest his soul. But not only for money will I do this work, but upon your command I will be there to destroy the creature when you come to your senses to allow it to be done.”

          I laughed heartily at that, “I don’t think that will ever happen, Mr. Saunders. But I accept your service and will pay you well for your advice and experience. Now let us get home and get some sleep, for we start our adventure bright and early tomorrow morning promptly at eight am.”

          I helped Saunders to a cab that took him to his run-down hovel of an apartment. Then I drove to my townhouse, my mind swirling with thoughts of what marvelous words that amazing hand would soon put to paper for me.


          The next day promptly at eight am, Jenkins, my assistant, let Mr. Saunders into my parlor for our initial meeting. I must say that for the amount of drink, lack of sleep, and his advanced age, he seemed remarkably sharp and alert.

          “I’m here, Mr. Jameson, I’m ready to begin,” he stated firmly, though I thought my eyes could detect a slight tremor of his left hand. Tension, fear, terror, or early onset of some debilitating disease? I did not know, nor did I much care, for we had important work to do.

          “Then let us get started,” I said, leading him into my large wood-paneled book-lined study and closing the door resoundingly behind me. “We are alone now.”

          Saunders looked in awe around my large library, which was the pride of my home. High shelves along all four walls full with books rose almost 20 feet in height, topped off by a large glass skylight in the center of the room. “By God, the place reminds me of old Adrian Brolsover’s library. That was a foul place of dark happenings and dire memories.”

          I smiled ignoring his grim words. Instead I said, “It is time we begin our work. I suppose you would like to examine the hand first?”

          Saunders blanched, “It’s here! In this very room!”

          “Yes, in this very room, I have it locked away in my safe.”

          Saunders gulped nervously, “Young Master Eustace once locked the hand away in a safe -- and it got out.”

          “Fear not, Saunders, all is secure here,” I told him briskly. I would have offered the poor sot a drink but I feared that at the moment he was unnerved quite enough. Better to calm him and show him that the hand posed us no threat.

          I undid the combination of my safe and brought out a cigar-box sized wooden case and placed it on my desk in front of us. There was a bolt lock that secured the lid and I instantly undid it.

          Saunders gasped in terror, and I couldn’t help but let out a slight laugh. “It is quite safe, Saunders, I assure you.”

          Then I opened the lid and we beheld the hand. It was the severed, dried, blackened, long fingered right hand of Adrian Borlsover. There was a deep indentation in it where Saunders had told me it had been nailed to a board by Eustace years before. There was no board, nor nail now, and the hand lay there entirely still and unmoving -- a horrible severed human appendage!

          “It really is quite harmless. In fact, I must admit it rather disappoints me,” I told Saunders, who looked upon the thing mouth agape. I continued, “With all I had heard and read about it, I expected some movement, some form of life or animation of the fingers, something -- but in all the days I have possessed it, it has not made one single movement.”

          “Be thankful of that, Mr. Jameson.”

          I laughed, “Well, regardless, here it is. It is not doing anything, and we can examine it to our heart’s content. Would you like a drink?”

          Saunders nodded absently, his eyes could not leave the hand, “I could sure use one, sir.”

          “Very well,” I called in Jenkins and told my man to bring us two bourbons -- Saunders and I had been imbibing the very same the previous evening so I assumed that would be acceptable to him, and he agreed.

          I covered the hand with my handkerchief once Jenkins appeared to take our order, then uncovered it once he’d brought our drinks and left the room. The hand was still there, of course, apparently having not moved at all.

          Saunders was shivering by now. He lunged for his glass and downed the dark fluid with relief or terror -- who could truly say.

          I sipped my drink slowly as I looked carefully at the motionless hand.

          “And it has not moved since you first obtained it?” Saunders asked curious, somewhat hopeful, to my dismay.

          “Not one iota.”

          He nodded, looked down at the hand laying there upon the top of my desk, “And how long has it been in your possession?”

          “One week, and I have examined it carefully each and every day. I must admit I am disappointed that the thing seems dead, unmoving. How can it write anything if it can not even move?”

          “Is that so important to you? That it take up a pen and write?” Saunders asked me, calmer now, but with serious concern in his voice.

          “Of course! The story about the thing tells us it wrote such diabolical messages as chilled old Borlsover to his very bones. I am a writer. I am fascinated to see what words it will put to paper, but there is something else…”

          Saunders looked at me now with dark suspicion in his eyes. I just laughed, “My dear fellow, it is not that bad, I assure you. Look at my hands, especially my right hand which I use for my writing.”


          “Yes, rather severe and growing worse,” I told him with a sigh. “Soon my very means of earning a living -- a quite nice moneyed living by the way -- will end. For if I can not write using my hand to hold pen to paper, I am doomed.”

          “But surely you can use a typewriter? Or even hire a secretary…?”

          “For editing certainly, but not for the crucial creative process. No, none of that will work for me. I have tried everything. The creative process is a complex and delicate one, one’s muse can be a fickle bitch at times. I am only able to write by hand and now my livelihood will be ruined. I must find a way to make the hand responsive to my commands. I know it can be done.”

          “That you shall never do, Mr. Jameson. The thing has a mind -- if one can say such -- of its own. It is not the mind of Adrian Borlsover, whom I knew, but something else, something quite malevolent. If I were you I would douse it with gasoline and set it ablaze right away. Destroy it before it destroys you. It is of no use to you as it is, so why not dispose of it here and now? I will help you do it. Please.”

          “Nonsense! Look, Saunders, I hired you because you have experience with the thing, with trapping it and controlling it. I want you to get it working for me. I want it moving and writing again!”

          “You’re quite mad, you know that.”

          “But I pay well, eh, Saunders?”

          “You pay well, and I’ll do it, but not only for the money.”


          Saunders and I worked on various plans to reanimate the hand. After we each examined it minutely, we were convinced that it was indeed dead. This caused me considerable despair, until I decided there might be some way to shock it into wakefulness. Saunders vehemently disagreed with this idea but I overruled him. I began by using sharp probes, long pins and needles, to poke and prod the thing, but it was all to no avail. Old Saunders was alarmed by my actions and warned of reprisals, but I heeded him not. Then I came upon the idea of using a battery to give the thing an electric shock.

          “A good jolt of electricity may just do the trick, eh, Saunders?” I asked, setting up the apparatus. I first tried a 9 volt battery, but when there was no reaction, I grew more ambitious and set it up using a far larger automobile battery. The connection instantly caused the hand fly off my desk and fall to the floor. Still lifeless and motionless. It was hot and smoking as I picked it up and replaced it upon my desk. Saunders was mumbling to himself by then, but I could not make out his words.

          I was severely disappointed, depressed even, for nothing we tried seemed to reanimate the hand. I had spent so much money and many years of my life to procure this now useless object that my frustration boiled over in sudden rage. I attacked the hand with a knife, stabbing it repeatedly as I cursed it and all the Borlsovers. I shouted vile words as I plunged the knife into it again and again.

          “Stop!” Saunders ordered, finally restraining me. “What are you doing! You’ll  make it -- mad!”

          “Good, then if it has any feelings, any life left in it at all, it should get mad. By God, I’ll give the damn thing something to get mad about!”

          “No, don’t do it!”

          I pushed old Saunders aside and continued to stab away viciously into the dried up blackened thing, my knife cutting deep gouges into it -- and through it -- the knife going into the wood of my desktop. The hand gave off no reaction. None at all. There was muscle tissue there, bone and sinew, but no warmth, and no flesh or blood at all.

          I grew despondent, my writing career was over and the fortune I had spent to obtain the hand had been wasted. I was in debt and broke. With a curse I hurled the useless thing across the room where it smacked against a bookcase. It dropped to the floor with a dull thud. Then the thing moved. The fingers twitched, and quickly in the manner of a geometer caterpillar, the fingers humped up one moment, flattened the next, the thumb appeared to give it a crablike motion, and the hand righted itself upon it’s fingertips and quickly shot off behind the bookcase. It was gone in an instant.

          I was astounded and looked at Saunders. He was cringing in terror.

          “You’ve done it now!” he whispered in dire warning.

          “Did you see that, Saunders?” I barked elated now, seeking his verification. Verification that I had not imagined what I had just seen, nor gone entirely mad. Insane.

          “Yes, and you’ve done it now, Master Jameson,” was all he said in an accusing tone,  adding fearfully, “Now you’ve made it mad. Master Eustace made it mad and no good can come of it now.”

          I swallowed hard, it was a lot to get used to. Not the fact that the hand might be mad at me, that was pure poppycock, but that it had indeed moved! That it had actually come to life! This was wonderful!

          “Come on, Saunders,” I blurted full of excitement. “We must trap it!”

          “Aye, now we must, but we shall not.”

          “Oh, come now, it’s just a thing, only a hand, nothing more. We can trap it and then I can use it for my own ends.”


          Well, I uttered those words to Saunders days ago with utmost confidence, but they had not proved true. The thing possessed an uncanny energy and wiliness I never would have thought possible. It hid from us and was difficult to find. Every time Saunders and I would seem to trap it, it escaped our grasp.

          I locked down my library, we nailed shut the windows, boarded up all vents, bolted the door. I gave Jenkins strict orders never to enter the room unless by a prearranged signal. I did not want the thing to get loose and escape. I felt sure that while we had it locked within my library it was just a matter of time before we would find it and capture it.

          Saunders and I never left the library now except to bring in items for use to trap the thing, which all eventually failed. We slept in the library on cots, taking turns keeping watch. We tried many ways to find the thing and trap it but nothing worked. It was as if it were playing some game with us, hiding out just to spite us. Though none of our plans had worked as of yet, I knew I would eventually capture that hand and I would not let anything stop me.

          It was on the night before Halloween when the moon was full, beams of illumination coming in through the library skylight, when I saw the hand. It was upright upon fingertips, slowly walking along the top rail of a high bookshelf. I could plainly see its’ silhouette against the skylight. I dared not move for fear of alerting it. Saunders was fast asleep in his cot -- as it was my watch just then. I reasoned that to awaken him might alert the hand to hide itself, so I did my best to be quiet and began to stalk the thing.

          Silently I moved closer and quietly climbed the mobile library stairway I used to reach the upper shelves. The hand was motionless now, I could see it plainly against the skylight glass. It seemed to be transfixed by the light from the full moon. I moved up the steps. Quietly. Silently. I had just a few more steps to go and I would be even with it -- close enough to quickly grasp it into my own hand. I knew I could do this, I could surprise the thing and capture it in one feel swoop. I took the last step, the wooden ladder beneath my foot gave the slightest creek. I shuddered in fear that the sound had given me away, but the hand remained motionless. I was almost upon it. I reached over and outstretched my fingers to grasp the thing, when it suddenly turned and flung itself off the shelf upon me. It’s long cold bony fingers instantly grasped my throat and closed tightly. I gasped, I could not breath. I was flung backwards by the sudden surprise of the attack and had to do my damnedest using my left hand to hold onto the ladder so as not to fall the 20 feet to the library floor below. My right hand vainly tried to pry the thing’s fingers from my throat, as I desperately tried to breathe.

          By then the ruckus had woken Saunders. “Mr. Jameson?” I heard him ask in alarm. Then he looked up and must have seen us struggling there at the top of the ladder against the skylight and the full moon. He saw me and shouted, “Mr. Jameson! I told you it would come to no good!”

          I barely heard his words for I was in a life and death struggle with a demon thing that possessed supernatural strength I had never encountered before. I gasped for breath, my eyes bulging as I struggled to keep my balance on the ladder with my left hand, while  I tried to pry the creature’s fingers from my throat with my right. It was to no avail. The thing’s fingers were like steel rods. I was gurgling froth, then blood. Finally I could hold onto the ladder no longer. I felt myself losing consciousness and tried to scream -- the scream stifled in my throat by the tightening pressure of the demon hand.

          Then I lost my grip and fell backwards, end over end, hitting the hard wood floor of my library with a resounding whack. I lay upon the floor face up and conscious but unable to move, my eyes locked upon the stub of the hand with it’s long bony fingers still wrapped around my throat. I could not move. I must have been paralyzed from the fall. I was alive, but I could not move, but the hand could move and did. It was still seeking to choke the very life out of me.

          Then I saw Saunders approach out of the corner of my eye. Now I knew he would help me  and pry this hellish thing from my throat.

          But would he be in time?

          “Mr. Jameson, are you alive? Are you conscious?” he looked down at me frantic with terror and fear, staring at the hand upon my throat with dire dread. I feared he might  run off. I know I would have done so, had our situations been reversed. Instead he told me, “You were trying to trap it, now it has trapped you. Your anger brought it to life and once you began to hurt it -- I knew it would hurt you. I am sorry.”

          “Help me!” I pleaded, though no sound could escape my mouth as my lips formed the silent words.

          Then I saw Saunders run off, and I suddenly felt deserted and doomed, for I knew I could hold out for only a few moments before I took my last gasp of air and expired.

          However, Saunders quickly returned and he held the wooden box from my desktop and placed it close to my head. He opened the lid. Then he withdrew a large pair of snipers that he brought up to the demon hand at my throat. He quickly snipped off the thumb of the hand, and as that appendage fell away to the floor in twitching anger, he pulled the rest of the hand from my throat. I thankfully took my first full breath of blessed air as I watched Saunders place the twitching hand and severed thumb into the box. He quickly closed the lid and locked the clasp. Then he picked up the box and left.


          The doctors tell me the fall left me paralyzed and that I will never get out of this wheelchair. My life and my writing career are effectively over. Saunders takes care of me now, I am an invalid and quite helpless, thankful for his company. Saunders assures me that he destroyed the thing but the manner of how he did it, he will not discuss with me.        When I try to write it is quite impossible. Arthritis coupled with the damage done from the fall make it difficult for me to even hold a pen in my hand. But I try. I try because once that had been my profession, my livelihood. I had been a writer. Now I am a former writer who can not even sign his own name.

          I’ve not been the same since my encounter with the hand. I know Saunders told me he destroyed it but I still realize its presence. I can sometimes feel it’s bony fingers pressing upon my throat, but there’s something more, something there that is deeper inside of me. Dark thoughts haunt me; it is almost as if something has passed between us. In the middle of the night, when Saunders is sleeping and I am alone praying for dreams of sweet slumber that refuse to come, I know that strange things happen. In the darkness of night my right hand silently picks up a pen and puts it to paper. It writes such terrible things as send my blood to ice. They are demon haunted messages -- black realms of malevolence that make me shudder, through I be paralyzed -- such is their power.

          I have kept these messages hidden from Saunders, but of course he found the written sheets this morning in my bed and read them in utter terror, but not disbelief. At that moment he realized what I already knew, that the thing had some kind of hold upon me still, and it is only then that we looked upon my offending right hand, realizing what must be done.






Copyright by Gary Lovisi 2014 and 2017, All Rights Reserved.


“The Thing With Five Fingers” originally appeared in the anthology The Monkey’s Other Paw, edited by Luis Ortiz, Nonstop Press, 2014.


GARY LOVISI BIBLIOGRAPHY:  (Recent and partial):


Sherlock Holmes:

The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Series:





HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2016)


THE GREAT DETECTIVE: HIS FURTHER ADVENTURES, edited anthology (Wildside Press, 2012)


SOUVENIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2002, non-fiction, new edition forthcoming)

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE GREAT DETECTIVE IN PAPERBACK & PASTICHE (Gryphon Books, 2008, large-size, spiral bound)



BATTLING BOXING STORIES, edited anthology, (Wildside Press, 2012)


MURDER OF A BOOKMAN (Wildside Press, 2011)

DRIVING HELL'S HIGHWAY (Wildside Press, 2011)

THE LAST GOODBYE (Bold Venture, 2015)



DIRTY DOGS (Gryphon Books)



BLOOD IN BROOKLYN (Do Not Press, UK only, 1999)


Science Fiction / Fantasy & Horror:

GARGOYLE NIGHTS (Wildside Press, 2011)

MARS NEEDS BOOKS (Wildside Press, 2011)

WHEN THE DEAD WALK (Ramble House, 2014)

SARASHA (Gryphon Books, 1997)


The Jon Kirk of Ares Series: (Wildside Press)



#3 THE SPACE MEN, 2015

#4 THE MIND MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)

#5 THE TIME MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)


Other Fiction:




THE SEXY DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2001, large-size)

THE PULP CRIME DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2004, large-size)


DAMES, DOLLS & DELINQUENTS (Krauss Books, large-size trade paperback)

BAD GIRLS NEED LOVE TOO (Krauss Books, hardcover, 2010)

MODERN HISTORICAL ADVENTURE NOVELS (Gryphon Books, 2006, large-size, spiral bound)

THE SWEDISH VINTAGE PAPERBACK GUIDE (Gryphon Books, 2003, large-size).

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017