's 2019 Horror Write-off:

Hands Hands Hands

Submitted by Dandelion Steph

He couldn't stop drawing hands.

Not yesterday. Not today. And still not now, at this humble Denny’s, where hands upon hands filled a pocket sketchbook.

Those knuckles, those fingertips, the edge and flex of the haunted Tim’s mind. Sometimes, something within him twitched: flexing, flinching, deep within his chest. And sometimes his own hands itched and ached with some sensation, some longing, he couldn't quite describe. With every new hand he drew, his maelstrom of emotions whirled faster, soaking his brain with shame, with disgust, with confusion, and fear. And, above all, he felt an ache he couldn’t quite place.

What is it like to be normal? Tim thought, staring ahead in his booth. It's been so long...Perhaps, once he had satisfied that constant craving, that ache for hands, for some sweet, sweet would go away. And he could be normal again. He nervously checked at the door with folded hands. His hands weren’t folded...quite...right. He glared at them. Why? Why had he forgotten to...just....fold....

"Hi, are you Tim?" the girl said.

"Yes! Uh, yes. I am," Tim said, snapping out of his thoughts.

The girl looked up and down at him. He straightened up in his seat. There was nothing to worry about. She would definitely recognize him: he was wearing exactly the same outfit he wore on the website.

The girl slid onto the other bench, leaning toward him, and smiled.

Tim’'s eyes darted downward.

There, on the table.

Her hands.

They....they were in gloves. Thick, black velvet gloves. What is she hiding? he thought. It's just for the cold, he thought.

She waved one of those black-clad hands at him. "My eyes are up here."

"Oh! Uh, sorry," his face scrunched up. What a faux pas, and just on the first date, too. "I was...I was looking at your hands."

The girl quirked up an eyebrow. Oh, so much like my roommate, he thought. She thinks I'm a freak. Well...well, I am, but it still hurts.

"These?" she waved a hand around, casually flicking up a finger. "Oh, it's just gloves." She tilted her head. "I suppose you tolerate the cold more than me."

"Right, right," he rejoined quietly, almost muttering to himself. "Gloves are perfectly..."

"How may I serve you?"

He yelped at the server's intrusion. The girl frowned at him again, and then turned to the server. "Just a lemonade will do." The server looked briefly at him, too. "And what about you, hun?"

"Hands," The server, she had these lovely, simple, blocky brown hands, almost polygonal, like the hands of that customer from…

"Come again?"

"Chicken fingers! Because, because, they're like chicken hands!"

The waitress gave a little chuckle. Oh, just for politeness's sake, he thought. "I suppose so."


I gotta shape up. Make this normal. I can't ever fix this thing if I act like a freak. So just be casual. He straightened up in his seat.

"I'm sorry," he told the girl.


"I'm sorry I' nervous today. I...don't have much experience dating," he admitted. "You see, I...I had other priorities in life for quite a while. I never...had the need for dating until recently. Uh, you know? Things work, they get in the way. A lot."

The girl sipped her lemonade experimentally. Moisture on the glass wetted her gloves, darkening them slightly.

"Butterflies in the stomach? Is it that kind of thing?"

"Um, well, I wouldn't call it butterflies. But, yeah. Something in the chest."

"Ah, a fast heartbeat," she put one of her hands, her beautiful black-gloved hands, under her chin in thought. She nodded slightly. "Yeah, that seems normal."

Oh good. Oh good. I haven't messed things up.

"So, what are you? Still the guy I met online?"

"What, what? Oh! You mean...yeah. I draw stuff. And I work in---" hands hands hands "retail. I'm hoping to get a nice job drawing h—" hands hands hands "handsome humans. All kinds of humans, really! I specialize in that."

How could he not? Those mad, hasty scribbles kept leaping from him onto paper.

The girl sipped her lemonade once more. She stared at him, her eyes darting over his eager face, and pursed lips, and carefully folded hands over the table.

"Me too."


"So, it was nice. Talking to you, I mean."

"Mostly I talked. You just listened." she said. He stood, hands uncoiling, taken aback. "Eh, I don't mind. Some people are like that.” the girl added.

"..can...I ask you a favor?"

She tilted her head at him and opened her mouth. "A small favor! I assure you." Tim said quickly.

"Well, what is it?'

Not a yes, but not a no, he thought. Please, please let this be normal. He paused for an awkward second. "Could you...could you please take off your gloves?"

"Well, sure." She brought out her right hand and, with her left hand, gently tugged off the glove by the fingers.

Inside, his heart was pounding, even more than usual. He swallowed his nervousness. Come on, keep it together, this is it...

In but a few moments, her hands shone forth, exposed.

What? What?!

That's it?! No, that can't be it! It's...

Disappointment. Rage. Shame. Sadness. Rapidly, those emotions cycled on his face as his own hands shook, his face filled with disbelief.

You didn't lie to me. You...just weren't the one. The one to fix me. You never were.

Tears collected at his eyes.

And the hand-thoughts. They'll keep coming.

"...Why are you crying?" She was frowning at him—quite intensely, this time.

"It's...I'm....I....I am still nervous. You know. Not a lot of experience." he fumbled as he spoke.

The girl's cheek bulged, her eyes narrowed, and she tilted her head again. Oh. No. He'd seen that before. He couldn't be sure if it was pity or disdain, but either meant...he had messed up.

"It was nice to have dinner with you. Bye." The girl walked out the door.

He gave a big sigh in the lonely lobby of that Denny's.

He brought out another little notebook from a pocket in his pants, the one labelled in extra-large letters "NO HANDS". He wrote a few notes—"got to sound more confident"—and tucked it back in his pocket.

This one was a bust, but at least he one step closer to ridding his mind of all those hands.