Estimated reading time — 13 minutes
I remember the first time I ever saw Grandpa’s hand…I was a little kid at the time, and I didn’t know the story behind it. Nobody did, as I found out. It was…just a skeleton hand he’d picked up somewhere.
When I first saw it, of course, I was frightened. I’d never seen a skeleton before, at least not in person. And this was a human hand, just sitting in a box among all of our old stuff. When I’d asked my mom about it, she told me it was Grandpa’s. I, of course, being a little kid, was horrified, assuming she meant it had actually been part of Grandpa’s body. Why would we keep part of Grandpa?
Grandpa Brown…he was on my mom’s side of the family. He died long before I was even born. I’d been told this before, so it was easy for me to think it was actually his bony old hand sitting in that box.
“No, no, honey,” my mom exclaimed, as I panicked like any ordinary child would. “It’s not actually his hand. He just found it someplace and brought it home with him.”
Naturally, I was confused. Why would anybody just…pick up an old hand and take it home? I asked this, and my mom shrugged.
“He just thought it was cool,” she replied casually. I wrinkled up my little nose, put off by the thought of somebody thinking it would be cool to keep someone else’s bones around their house.
As I grew, I stopped worrying about the hand so much. It became a distant thought in the back of my head, and as the days and months and years went by, I actually started to think it was kind of cool, too. Just something that comes with age, I guess.
After a while, we started showing it off. We kept it in a safe place, of course – it was old, and only held together by wires, and it was already missing a thumb bone. I’d always wondered why that one bone was missing, but nobody else seemed to know, either. My parents always told me it was just missing when Grandpa had found it. I would think sometimes, about what would cause someone to lose just one little bone from their hand. I eventually stopped worrying about it; it probably just got separated from the rest of the bones in the hand at some point. Washed away by water or blown off into the distance by wind, probably. Or maybe it was still buried, deep in the ground around where Grandpa had originally found the hand. In any case, it wasn’t here. It was part of what made the hand cool, though. It gave it character, and made it different and interesting.
As I began to find it cool, I started getting the same weird kick out of telling people who asked about it that it was my grandpa’s hand. I finally understood, as a teenager, why my parents and sister always said it that way when company would see it and ask about it. It was silly, but it was a fun, harmless way to mess with people the first time they’d come over and see the hand hanging up on a wall or sitting on a shelf.
“Ugh…where’d that hand come from?” They’d ask. And one of us would always grin and say…
“Oh, that? That’s our Grandpa’s hand.”
Of course, that would get weird looks, and startled “are you serious??” responses. Then the family would share a laugh and one of us would explain that it was just one he’d discovered one day and decided to keep. Everyone else started thinking it was cool, too.
There was one thing, though…I always got a weird feeling around the hand. It was kind of creepy, having a human hand around, and I’d think back to when I was a kid and I first saw it. I didn’t like that it was always out in the open, which was why I was secretly glad when my older sister decided to make a shadow box for us to keep it in. It was a nice box, too – black, velveteen fabric lining the back, clear, sturdy glass, nice, dark-stained wood, and even a little golden latch to keep it closed up so the hand wouldn’t get dusty. I especially liked the fact that it had a latch; something about being able to make sure the box stayed closed made me feel…more comfortable. My only regret, especially after what would happen down the road, is that it never had a lock on it.
You see, I started…noticing things, a few months back. Things that probably should have raised more questions than they did at the time.
I began noticing odd noises, first off. Subtle things, really. Light scratchings and taps that most people would write off as normal, background house sounds. Things shifting and settling. It helped that we had dogs, too; of course someone with dogs in their home would think of random taps and scratching sounds as simply being the dogs’ nails as they walked around the house. I usually did, too. But sometimes, late at night, when I knew all of our dogs were asleep, curled up next to my dad in his bed, I’d hear the noises, and they’d seem much too close to me. I’d look around, and of course see nothing.
As time passed, though…the noises started changing. I’d hear a sort of grating sound, like someone pushing on something that wasn’t willing to move. Sometimes I’d hear something like wood splintering, but there was never any sign of anything being broken, no little shards of busted wood around any of the furniture or doors. I figured it was my imagination; I had a habit of playing horror games or listening to readings of scary stories late at night, even though I should have known better. But what fun are those kinds of things if you don’t do them in the right atmosphere? So I ignored most of it, occasionally getting a little freaked out, but otherwise knowing it was probably nothing.
Every once in a while, I’d be helping with cleaning, and feel compelled to clean the shadow box. I’d wipe the glass off with a paper towel soaked in some window cleaner, rub down the wooden outsides with furniture polish, all that good stuff. And sometimes, after I was done…I’d look at the hand, inside the box. I’d appreciate the structure of it, the cool, clean white bones held together by sturdy metal wires. It still kinda creeped me out, knowing it was just some poor person’s disembodied hand hanging on our wall, but I knew it was just a hand.
I started working nights, which meant I had to stay up on my nights off, so I wouldn’t mess up my sleeping schedule. This usually meant sitting up in a comfy chair, messing around online until the break of dawn, then going downstairs to the basement, where I slept during that time so that the light and noise of the daytime wouldn’t disturb my rest.
That was when things started getting really weird. Everyone knows basements are already inherently creepy. The darkness, the cool, insulated air, the dull, gray walls…and the unnatural feeling of being underground, in a silent room. I got used to it, for the most part, but it sure made the odd noises stand out more. Sometimes I’d get so creeped out by them that I’d be unable to sleep anymore and I’d just move upstairs, even at the risk of not sleeping as well. As though I’d get any decent sleep feeling creeped out, anyway…
Sometimes, when I was lying in my bed down there, just thinking as I tried to fall asleep – or go back to sleep, after getting some water or going to the bathroom – I’d hear the tapping again. It sounded louder, down in that eerily quiet basement room. Of course with my habit of doing late-night creepypasta binges, or playing survival horror games for hours before bed, I would get the absolute worst pictures in my mind when hearing the soft scratching sounds around me. But it always turned out to be innocent noises. At least, at first, it did.
Then came the times when I’d feel something pulling at my blankets. Of course I’d tug on them lightly, and they’d come unstuck from the bed frame easily. But sometimes, I could swear they would stick for a moment, hanging down below the frame and going tight as I jerked at them, like someone was holding the other end.
“It’s just my imagination,” I’d tell myself, finally pulling the covers free and adjusting them over myself as I lay back down. “I’ve been listening to too many scary stories. I need to calm down.”
But every so often, after I’d free my covers, things would be different. Instead of simply curling up, giggling at my own silly imaginings, I’d start to drift off…and suddenly, I would feel something. It felt vaguely like something was touching me. Usually on my arm, sometimes one of my feet. It was never a grabbing sensation, just an odd, light touch. Like something just barely making contact, lightly, on my body. After I would notice it and shift the offended body part a bit, the feeling would usually subside. This went on for months, and I never minded it that much, aside from getting chills now and then.
But then, it would start coming back every so often. I’d feel that light touch, shift my arm, and feel fine. Then, just as sleep started to claim me again…the feeling would return. Sometimes, I’d even glance at the part of myself that felt the touch, but for the most part there was never anything there. I did catch, once in a great while, a small streak of white as I glanced away, though. But then again, my blankets had white on them. There was one that was even fluffy, so it had a textured look to it even in the dark of the basement. So I wasn’t too concerned.
Not until the noises and the touching feelings started happening together, anyway. I’d lie in my bed, cozy and secure, when suddenly…
Tap…tap tap tap tap…scrrrsh…scrrrsh…
Then a cold, light pressure on my arm or leg. I’d look…and see nothing.
Scrrrrrrsh…there it would go again…the sound of something small dragging across the carpet. I’d glance hesitantly to the floor near my bed…still no sign of anything unusual.
And so it would go until I got too anxious and moved upstairs. Tap, scrrrrsh, touch, glance…nothing… This would happen so rarely that I never thought much of it until the next time it happened. I’d catch those little, moving glimpses of whiteness in the corners of my eyes each time, but there never seemed to be anything there. It’d happen while I was up late, too, on my nights off. Sitting in my chair, I’d hear the noises, but strangely, the feeling of being touched never showed up when I was sitting up alert in my chair. But still, that ever-present tapping, that eerie scooting, dragging sound…These things persisted, stopping anytime I would pause to look around. But I couldn’t see anything. Every time, a quiet, innocent house around me, and nothing more.
Until one night. I got up to get something to snack on, on a night off. I’d been on another horror game binge, and thus was feeling pretty tense. I got my snack and hurried back to my chair. As I sat down, I caught a small glint in the other room. Looking over, I saw what looked like…the door to the shadow box…hanging open… Reflecting the light from the nearby computer screen, it cast an odd light as it hung there. I of course went over, and reflexively closed it. I turned back toward my seat, ready to resume gaming, and froze.
Where was the hand…? I looked back inside the box, and for a moment my blood ran cold. It wasn’t there…and it was nowhere else to be seen. I looked around, just in case, thinking maybe it had fallen out somehow. The door was open, after all, and the latch wasn’t locked because it had never had a lock. Maybe, I thought, the hand came loose from the backing, fell, and knocked the door open.
But there was no spooky skeletal hand on the floor. Nor anywhere else in the room. I took a deep breath, convincing myself that I was just psyching myself out.
“Too many scary games in one night…” I told myself. As if a bony hand with no muscles or nerves would be able to move. I was being so silly. I convinced myself that it was nothing, that one of my parents had taken it out to clean it or fix something on it. It was old, after all. We didn’t even know how long Grandpa had it before we’d gotten it. It may have started breaking up after an unknown number of years hanging on a wall. I went back to my chair and settled in, content in the explanation I’d given myself.
That was when I heard it.
I shivered, not daring to look around this time. I saved my game file on Dead Space 2 and closed it, feeling it was clearly time for a break if I was hearing noises. It was just the tension of having been immersed in the game, after all. Nothing a good dose of funny videos wouldn’t cure. I opened up Youtube, and typed in a search for one of my favorite funny Let’s Play-ers. I’d finally started relaxing, when I felt that cold, light touch…right on the edge of my right forearm. All that was beside my chair was a small end table, where I usually set my laptop when I was up doing something. There couldn’t be anything there, and the dogs would be barking up a storm if someone had broken in.
But, against my better judgement…I took a quick glance at the table next to me, expecting to see, as usual, nothing.
There, resting against the arm of the chair, leaning with the bottom of its palm against the cold, wooden end table…was Grandpa’s hand. Its bony little fingers sat on my skin, chilling me down to my bones. I don’t know how long I sat there, just staring in horror at the pale, twitching hand. I felt like it was testing me…waiting to see if I would panic.
All I remember after that is a clatter, as my laptop was tossed off my lap and hit the floor. My arm swung up, and a crack resounded from the far wall, where the hand must have hit after I sent it flying across the room. I curled up on my chair, pulling every body part that would fit on the chair as close as possible, trying to keep myself out of reach. I looked around frantically, trying to see where the hand had landed. It was nowhere in sight.
I didn’t sleep well that week…or the rest of the month. I’d stay awake until daylight, and curl up in a tight ball on my bed when I finally had to sleep. The sounds changed again. There was clicking, now. The odd, hollow clicking of bones bumping against each other. Strange, rusty creaking, like old metal trying to bend. I knew what it was…It was Grandpa’s hand. The cracking and clicking were from it clenching itself, tapping angrily and impatiently on things as it moved. The creaking was the old, metal wire that bound the bones together, squealing in protest when the hand moved.
If I’d only known what it was that hand wanted…I would have tried to find the hand, would have done my best to get rid of it. I’d have smashed it, sold it, thrown it into the road where it would be run over, anything to make it go away before it could hurt someone.
It was months later, when something finally happened again. By then, I’d almost forgotten the hand. The noises had even stopped, something for which I was extremely grateful. I’d moved on to another job by then – surprisingly, not due to being fired for falling asleep at work, as you might think. No, it was just life, moving forward.
Anyway…There was one night, after things had calmed down, that I started hearing something again. The fear and panic flared up, and I immediately curled close in my chair, pressing myself against the back of it. I looked around frantically…and saw one of my dogs, Zoey, walking out from my dad’s bedroom. I relaxed, laughing at myself a little. I’d actually thought- no, that would be silly.
See, it had been so long, that I’d actually convinced myself the whole thing with the hand finally letting me see it…finally…grabbing me…had all been a really vivid dream, or a creepypasta I’d gotten a little too immersed in. I guess I just really didn’t want to believe it had been real. It was too unnatural. Too freaky.
Assured that it was just my dog going out to the yard, I settled back down. I had just gotten back into the video I’d been watching, when Zoey started barking. Sighing, annoyed, I went outside to see what had her bothered. I figured it was nothing; it was probably a far-off sound only she could hear, or our neighbors being up way too late making noise, like they sometimes did. And Zoey always had a habit of barking non-stop at things, once she got going. So I wasn’t surprised that even as I called out to her to stop and come inside, she didn’t. I went out to where she was, looking around with a flashlight to see if anything was there.
Something was there, all right.
The hand was back. It had a hold of Zoey, trying to pull her closer. Its long, sharp fingertips dug into the material of her collar, jerking every few seconds, fighting her for control. I shook myself free of the initial shock of seeing it again, of realizing it was real. I kicked it, as hard as I could, careful not to hit Zoey by mistake. I tried to grab Zoey, to carry her inside and lock everything that led to the outside world.
She bit me. Hard. She’d been really, really scared by that hand, and I didn’t blame her. All the same, it freaked me out when I realized that she’d taken off the end piece of my thumb. I tried to get it back, ignoring the pain and shock, ignoring the blood coming out in sharp little spurts from my now-severed fingertip. But she ran off into the darkness of the backyard, still terrified.
I tried to find her. But she’d hidden somewhere, and I was too freaked out to worry about it. I ran inside, woke up my dad, told him Zoey had been scared by…something…I wouldn’t tell him what it was. I showed him my hand, and we went immediately to the hospital to get it looked at and fixed up as much as possible. I ended up having to get used to being a little less handy – please pardon the pun – because we never found the thumb.
We did find Zoey, though. In the yard, the next morning. But she wasn’t alive.
It was horrible…I had always been closest to Zoey, out of all the dogs we’d had. So of course the sight gave me a horrible reaction. I got sick, I cried hysterically, I even fell to my knees next to what was left of her.
Her stomach had been…clawed open. It looked like something had ripped her belly open in a frenzy, looking for something inside her.
We took Zoey’s body to the vet. He did an autopsy, looking in through the ready-made opening in her gut. It was really bad, and I had to stay home to avoid freaking out again. There wasn’t anything inside, and some part of me knew there wouldn’t be. After all, I knew what had done it. I knew what it wanted, now…All the vet found were weird, dull claw marks inside the stomach lining, inside her skin around her organs…even in her throat. Her stomach and esophagus had been shredded, but nothing else was able to tell us what exactly had happened. When my parents came home with the news, it took all I had not to burst into tears. Especially later, when I was outside and saw something I hadn’t noticed before…a pile of skin and a little blood, and a fingernail with little scratches in it.
I’d had enough. Scaring me was one thing. Touching me was bad enough. But that hand had killed my dog…the one I’d bonded most with out of all of our dogs. I hated that hand, now. And I vowed that if I ever found it, I was going to crush it. I started keeping heavy objects under my bed, on my side table, on the end table near my bed. I was determined to smash the bones on that evil thing if it ever came near me again.
I did see it again, after a long time. It was when I woke up, one night, feeling something near me. I opened my eyes slowly and looked straight ahead.
It was right there…on the table next to my bed, right next to my pillow. And it looked different, now…
It had a smooth, clean new thumb bone, where the missing one would have been. It wasn’t entirely clean; there were traces of pink where the blood had dried on, and dirt from the hand moving around outside in the lawn. As soon as I saw it, I reached for the hammer I’d hidden under my pillow, moving slowly so I wouldn’t alert the hand. Zoey would have vengeance tonight. I’d make sure of it…
I remember thinking one other thing, as I pulled out the hammer and took aim.
I remember wondering…if maybe a replacement for its missing thumb wasn’t all Grandpa’s hand wanted, after all…
Credit: Alicia Hawkins