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FINGERS • by Stef Hall

He stood alongside the open grave. The earth was scorched, grasses withered and blackened, but the fire appeared to have burned in a perfect circle, delineated by a line of salt.

Crouching, he touched the circle with his fingertip, then licked it. It was common table salt. Nothing had been added as far as he could tell, but he would send a sample back to the lab.

Something crunched under the heel of his boot. He rocked his foot to one side and saw the jagged remains of small white bones protruding from the ashes. Finger bones. Something glinted in the floodlights. He brushed the ashes aside with his sleeve. The simple silver band had slipped down the fleshless digit to rest against the knuckle joint.

He looked at the headstone. Although the grave was open, it was not the one from which the bones had come; this grave was freshly dug for the morning’s solemn interment of a local businessman. The sexton, returning for a forgotten shovel, had discovered the woman’s remains and called the police.

He said that when he arrived, she was still screaming. By the time the police responded, the ambulance they brought in their wake was unnecessary. The flesh had melted from the bones so completely it looked as though they had been sucked clean.

Despite the lateness of the hour and the chill in the air, a small crowd of locals had gathered. In the forefront was a girl in her early twenties dressed in earthy colours. From beneath her skirt protruded a pair of Doc Marten boots, and the pentacle she wore on a thong round her neck was large enough to be seen from twenty paces.

He shook his head. Murder in a graveyard, and all the freaks came out.

He rose, instructing the forensics team to bag and tag everything and send it back to him. As he ducked under the tape, the girl with the pentacle caught his jacket.

“Officer?”

“Actually, it’s Detective.”

She made a small moue of indifference. “Be careful,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re dealing with.”

He gestured to the open grave. “Some whack job killed a girl.”

“No.” She shook her head. “The body was salted and burned.”

“So?”

She looked up at him from beneath a dark fringe that was too heavy and made her face look squat and masculine.

“You only do that to something evil.”

“I’ll bear it in mind, thanks.” He disengaged himself and moved away, shaking his head again.

All the freaks.

***

He laid the evidence bag containing the finger bone and ring on his nightstand. It was the only means of identifying the victim; all her teeth had been removed. The forensics people thought she’d been alive and probably conscious when it was done.

He put the bag under his pillow. When something eluded him, he liked to sleep on it. He slept soundly and did not wake.

Even when the girl wearing the simple silver band curled against him, her cold causing ripples of goosebumps to travel across his naked body. Her hand passed easily through his chest cavity and wrapped around his heart.

The coroner’s report would say it was a heart attack at thirty-two, brought on by the stress of his job.

But when they removed his effects from the apartment, one of the officers would find a finger bone with a simple silver ring fused into it by some intense heat.

Thinking it a curio, he would take it home to show his wife.


Stef Hall is a country girl at heart. Born and raised in Norwich, England, she now resides in London with her musician partner, Paul, and their three bonkers cats. She tries to make up for the bustle of city life by procrastinating, walking slowly, and drinking far too much tea. Since early 2007, Stef has enjoyed publication of many of her short stories in anthologies and magazines, including Twisted Tongue and La Fenetre. Her current focus is to find a home for her first completed novel while trying to write the second before the characters take over her head entirely.


This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.

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FINGERS • by Stef Hall, 3.4 out of 5 based on 48 ratings
Posted on October 27, 2009 in Horror, Stories
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  • Debra

    Very eerie! You should turn this into a novel. Great job.

  • http://tensecondsaday.blogspot.com Cascade Lily

    I knew this was heading somewhere nasty, but love how you ended it. What is with these guys taking their work home? It’s always a bad idea LOL. Well done. Very enjoyable

  • http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com rumjhum biswas

    Five from me for giving me fodder for nightmare! :D

  • http://users.beagle.com.au/peterl P.M.Lawrence

    “The sexton, returning for a forgotten shovel…” might need to be “The sexton, returning for a forgotten spade…” – you need a spade for digging, but a shovel is just for shovelling loose material and so is less likely.

    “The simple silver band had slipped down the fleshless digit… Even when the girl wearing the simple silver band curled against him…” should be “The simple silver ring had slipped down the fleshless digit… Even when the girl wearing the simple silver ring curled against him…”, both for consistency with elsewhere (to help the flow) and because “band” has other meanings – particularly since “band” for “ring” is an Americanism, so it isn’t what you think of first with a non-US author. Even though context makes it clear that it is a ring, the inconsistency made me look twice to check, which hurt the flow.

    “He lay the evidence bag…” should definitely be “He laid the evidence bag…”.

    Oh, and “goosebumps” is also a jarring Americanism – it should be “goose pimples”.

  • http://www.jonathanpinnock.com Jonathan Pinnock

    Nice work, Stef. Creepy as ever.

  • Catriona

    Going to have to disagree on the “goosebumps” issue – even if the word originated in the States, it’s defintily used and recognisable in the part of England I’m living in.

    This was creepy, and mostly very well written, nicely done. I feel like the end was a little awkwardly written (especially the paragraph starting with “Even when the girl…”), but not so much as to throw me out of the story, and up till that point it was very strong.

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    The story was pretty good for a while, but somehow the ending didn’t have much “grab”. I felt a little let down.

    Also, the idea of the detective taking evidence home and putting it under his pillow doesn’t seem very probable … violates most of the rules you see concerning the proper handling and tracking of evidence. There was no visible reason why he would do that.

    And the sentence starting with “Even when the girl …” (4th paragraph from the end) doesn’t seem to parse correctly, it’s all clauses, no subject/verb/object. (Don’t want to be a grammar Nazi, but it just doesn’t work.)

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Nice little creeper, Steffi.

    Maybe you could have the finger and ring holding a sort of a spell over those who come across it – ‘my precious’!

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Nice dark story, Steffi. Have to agree, though, about that sentence: ‘Even when the girl wearing the simple silver band curled against him, her cold causing ripples of goosebumps to travel across his naked body.’ Something wrong/missing there? Sorry. Thought the atmosphere was great, though.

    ;) scar

  • J.C. Towler

    I got distracted by some of the procedural errors in the investigation. Jim already mentioned the one where the detective took the evidence home. The other was him tasting some foreign substance at the scene. Maybe thirty years ago, but you’d be hard pressed to find a professional police investigator doing that today. (Though I have seen videos of some pretty bone head stuff at crime scenes).

    I do agree with Debra’s inclination that this could spawn a longer story. Has a definite “beginning” feel to it.

    –John

  • Margie

    I would have loved to seen this story stretched out into a full-sized-novel. Interesting characters that I would like to have fleshed out more (no pun intended) in both the mystery girl and the detective. 3 stars as is.

  • http://www.cocktailfiction.wordpress.com Cathryn Grant

    Great, creepy story with a nicely chilling ending. I can overlook the police procedural comments – somehow you managed to suspend my disbelief. (Maybe it’s the line – all the freaks – maybe he’s one of them.) Five stars!

  • Sharon

    I had the same thought about the tasting the salt and then taking the bone home. When you had him putting it under his pillow, I was jarred right out of the story. Nothing after that was a surprise, since the pillow thing was such a contrivance to get the ghost in his bed.

    And WHO takes a finger bone home to his wife? If it had been just the ring, maybe–but it’s still stealing and very unprofessional behavior.

    I was a bit disappointed that the witch in Doc Martens wasn’t the person within the salt circle.

    A little work and you could have a winner.

  • Bob

    Some nice touches – the ring on the finger bone makes a suitably creepy token – but too many contrived and unlikely actions in this one to make it a real winner. Sometimes a story grows on you with time; with this one, the holes (already noted by others) become more bothersome.

  • Effie

    Great little story – good piece of fiction. The only jarring point for me was the tasting of the salt – a modern day no-no.
    I liked the ‘sleep on it’ touch. Oh – and cop might just slip something into his pocket at the scene of a death, esp if they thought it irrelevant. It’s been done many a time in reality.
    It’s a story and a good flash – something that could definitely be lengthened.
    Pleased to read it.

  • Synthjock

    Yeah, I was distracted by those “police procedural errors”. Same way I get annoyed when those young types who break down in front of spooky castles in horror films don’t just call out the RAC… lighten up, people, it’s fiction. And a fine pallid specimen too, the kind that teenagers should tell each other in coarse whispers while huddled around a camp fire on a pitch-black night.

  • http://bookspot.blogspot.com Camille Gooderham Campbell

    Typo (“laid”) corrected, thanks, P.M.!

  • Jen

    Wonderful story. Espically like the twist at the end, wasn’t expecting her to come and kill the police officer. Nice one!

  • http://jfjuzwik.webs.com Joyce

    This was great and perfect for Halloween week. Not the usual boring stuff. Really like this one.

  • http://ionplayer.blogspot.com/ Ian Rochford

    Nice! Yeah, the idea that he would actually put evidence under his pillow jarred for me, but it’s a neat character trait and the fact that so many people mention it simply means you didn’t sell it well enough. Nice atmosphere at the graveside, ending felt just a bit rushed.

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