Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"The Finger" from THE FROZEN WITCH

             Eric approached the table, then delicately lowered his backpack to the floor. Even the way he unzipped the bag bespoke supreme caution. When he lifted out the large, dusty glass jar, Hildr saw why.

             Inside the jar, something was moving--a human finger. It was an extremely dirty digit, to say the least. There was mud caked beneath the yellowing nail, and the wrinkles on the knuckle were black with ingrained filth. Splintered bone protruded from its end. More to the point, the thing was still animated. As Eric lifted the jar up, the pad of the dismembered finger pressed and pulled uselessly against the slick glass, causing it to flop about in place. Hildr thought the thing was trying to propel itself forward, inch-worm fashion.

             Eric set the jar down on the table with a decisive little thump. This bounced the finger, but otherwise had no impact on its behavior. It just kept scrabbling for traction, and twitching with--it was hard not to anthropomorphize--frustration.

             "Hello, Thing," murmured Adan, bending over the jar's strange contents. When both Hildr and Eric looked puzzled, Adan said hastily, "Old TV joke. Never mind."

             "Where did you find this?" Hildr asked.

             "On my grandfather's farm," said Eric. "You know where it is. I was thinking. Could it be part of that revenant we killed?" Hildr thought she caught a slight emphasis on the we, and smiled inwardly at the pride that warmed his voice.

             "It’s not blue," was what she said out loud. "This looks human."

             "Ugh," said Eric, making a face. "That's worse, somehow."

            "It is," Hildr agreed. Picking up the jar, she tilted it. The finger slid and fell silently against the side of the jar. It continued to squirm, its nail clicking frantically against the glass in a vaguely threatening fashion. Hildr hadn't the faintest idea what it was.

             "Adan?" she asked.

             "Not a clue," was his prompt response. "I've never seen anything like it."

             Adan had never seen it before--that didn't happen often. Underneath the headache and muddled anger and lingering sense of violation, Hildr felt a gut-clenching flash of excitement. Something new.

             "Where exactly did you find this?" she asked.

             "I can show you," said Eric. "I took a rock and made a sign exactly where Miriam and I--Miriam is my friend--where we found it. I tried to follow its tracks, too, but they weren't very clear. I think it came from the north, though. Which is another point against it being part of the revenant, because the grave is over to the east."

             Hildr lifted her eyes from the finger to Eric. He was still the same bespectacled, round-faced boy who'd come to her with a haunted sword. And yet, he wasn't. Amazing, what beating a dead monster into submission could do for self-confidence.

             "All right," said Hildr. "Show me."

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