Thing With Five Fingers
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
I was astounded and looked at
Saunders. He was cringing in terror.
“You’ve done it now!” he whispered in
“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
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
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
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
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
Copyright by Gary Lovisi 2014 and 2017, All
“The Thing With Five Fingers” originally
appeared in the anthology The Monkey’s
Other Paw, edited by Luis Ortiz, Nonstop Press, 2014.
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