The Crawling Hand (with a gun)
The Crawling Hand (with a gun) inched toward the man in the fancy leather reading chair. It wasn’t just hand—there were a few inches of forearm too, pale and springy with hair, but this, rather unceremoniously, gave way to streamers and flaps of purple flesh that wetly brushed along the floor. In dreadful fits and starts the whole ghastly thing catepillared onwards, twitching and quivering between the cold, comfortless furniture. Occasionally the perfect curve of the pistol’s barrel caught a somber glow from the fireplace. Finally, the beastly thing came to a rest about two yards from where Anthony Smeegle sat—quite near the ashy bluestone hearth. Veins bulged beneath parched skin as the Crawling Hand (with a gun) deftly shifted the .45 until its muzzle set a spiteful eye on Smeegle.
Yet the large, stolid Smeegle didn’t budge an inch. Since he’d first caught sight of the thing on the floor, he’d fallen prey to a paralyzing fear; not borne of the ghastly abomination itself, but of the terrible likelihood that he’d, after so many years on the brink of it, finally crossed over into madness. Now his breath plumed visibly from his lips in quick bursts; despite the large, crackling fire nearby, the room tonight harbored an inexplicable chill. Frost cornered the window behind him, obscuring an otherwise serene vista of the moonlit beach.
On the floor the Crawling Hand shifted its odd grip on the gun, in order that its pointer finger could find solid purchase on the trigger. Then, finally, all the necessary muscles contracted. The gun discharged with a riotous crash. The kickback literary spun the Hand counter-clockwise ninety degrees. Some blood from its own flesh-streamers spritzed the smooth oak legs of a nearby chair.
Now, between Anthony’s legs, in the flesh of the leather reading chair, there showed a definite, value-depreciating hole. By the time his ears stopped ringing, the smell of gunpowder stung at his nose. That’s when his jaw dropped like a cellar door, and he issued the most appalling, high-pitched cry a man of his bulk could possibly generate without first swallowing a lungful of helium. A damp spot bloomed in the crotch of his slacks, ribbons of steam rising up through the chilly air, commingling with the black smoke of singed leather.
The Hand (with a gun) crawled and dragged its way back to firing position and, seeming to understand there was no great rush, trained the gun with far greater care than before on the large man’s bosom. Then for a second time it pulled the trigger, but the hammer rung dry on the firing pin. No more cartridges! For a moment the Hand bobbed irresolutely on its wrist, as if only then considering the technicalities of reloading a firearm with only one “hand” available.
In moments the Crawling Hand (with a gun) seemed to understand that the unexpected crisis wasn’t, after all, going to hamper it’s devilish plans. For Anthony had already, and indubitably, expired. In the chair by the window he was frozen bolt upright, his eyes bulging glass orbs, his stark expression frozen solid in a cold visage of blood-curdling fright. His hands were like the roots of an old, dead oak. Moments after the shot had rung out, Anthony’s heart, ever under duress from supporting so sturdy a man in the first place, tore and deflated right there in his chest. Now his tongue was a purple thing huddled sideways in his hanging mouth. In this frightful posture the other fellows of the Tsunami Beach Club found him. And not a one of them noted any long streak of blood on the floorboards, nor the bullet-hole in the chair, because these things had somehow departed the scene as cleanly as had the Crawling Hand (with a gun).
Copyright 2013 Derek Osedach