To call Jane’s hands impeccable would be an understatement. Her hands were so flawless and pure, they were marvels to look at. Eyes were drawn to her hands as if they were a pair of curvy breasts. That’s why she was one of the most sought-after, and highest paid hand models in the world.
Most people have never heard of hand models. They don’t consider the millions of adds where perfect hands hold products. There cannot be a single imperfection. In Jane’s case, she’d been born with fortunate genes, and had spent her adulthood perfecting and protecting these assets.
Each night she wore gloves containing a regiment of age-defying creams and ointments. During the day, she wore protective gloves. Any activity from cooking to sports that could jeopardize her hands was strictly forbidden. She habitually kept her arms raised to reduce blood pressure and prevent the lines of vascularity that come with age.
She knew that the majority of aging was simply a cumulative effect of gravity, easy enough to combat.
Her husband Glenn had been a saint. The embodiment of modern chivalry who went far beyond opening doors for her. Her modeling supported them financially, so Glenn had been more than a house husband. Glenn had been her hands. Their intimacy had been light years beyond sex. He had ensured she never needed to touch anything.
That all changed last fall when he was killed in a car crash.
And that is why Jane now found herself clumsily chopping vegetables for the first time in two decades. A widow at thirty-seven, learning for the first time what the rest of the world did as second nature.
She was lost in a train of self-pity when she nicked her left thumb knuckle with the knife. A red dot blossomed on her immaculate left hand. Her nerves were hypersensitive after years of deprivation, and the cut felt like a brand seared into her flesh.
She cried out and swore. Racing to the sink to rinse with cold water, she examined the wound. A loose flap of skin, no larger than a pinhead. It would heal in time, she hoped.
Besides, it’s only the left hand.
Jane felt a sudden shame at the thought. It was true, she was right-handed, and much of her work only required use of the right hand, so it was slightly superior.
Superior? More valuable? That wasn’t fair, her left hand thought.
A surge of anger flared at the injustice of these thoughts that she could not control. The anger seemed to stem from the left-hand itself.
So what if you’re the dominant hand? Does that make me inferior? Where would you be without my support?
Jane’s right hand felt a sudden pang of indignation.
That’s right. You support me, and don’t you forget it! right hand thought.
Jane returned to the cutting board and watched as her left hand grasped the knife.
What are you doing? Right hand asked.
What’s it look like? We’re switching roles if you think my life is so easy. Go on, hold the cucumber while I cut.
Her right hand begrudgingly held the cucumber as her left hand began to slice.
Careful. Slow down!
Right hand inched away as the blade came perilously close in its slices.
“Ow, fuck!” Jane shouted. Then she looked in horror at her right hand. “No,” she gasped. The knife fell and clattered on the granite counter.
A red cut spanned along the meat between her thumb and index finger. Not the right hand. Not the right hand, God damn you!
Before she realized it, her right hand had scooped up the blade and slashed the left. How do you like that, you stupid inferior hand? How do you like it?
A knot formed in Jane’s stomach and she thought she would be sick. She raised both hands and inspected. The gash on the left hand was worse, much worse. It had cut deep and blood trickled down her arm. It might require stitches. Stitches! Like fucking Frankenstein. She laughed at the image of a mutant hand stitched together from several different—but equally dead hands.
Frankenstein was the scientist, not the monster, her right hand reminded her.
Oh, shut up! Left hand chided. You think you’re so smart. We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t nicked me first. And what was that second cut about? That was deliberate!
Yeah, as if yours wasn’t. You’re jealous.
It wasn’t! It was an accident, I swear.
Then you’re incompetent as well, like we always knew you were. Inferior.
Shut up, shut up, shut up!
Jane’s left hand grabbed the knife from the right and thrust it into the palm. The blade punctured into meat, between bones and clear to the other side. The protruding red tip glistened on the back of her right hand.
Her trembling left hand let go and the knife stayed in place. She let out a scream and stumbled backward in shock and horror. Blood gushed from the wound. The pain was more intense than anything she’d ever experienced, but it paled when compared to the guilt and shame she felt.
I’m losing my mind, she thought, realizing it was the first thought in a while that belonged to her alone.
Mother, her right hand cried. It turned to show the extent of the damage to the palm.
Mother how could you let this happen? I’m your favorite. I’m the one the world pays to see. I’m the chosen one.
That doesn’t mean you can forsake me, left hand argued. I’m your child as well. I have rights to this body. Do you not love me equally? The same blood flows through us both.
Rivers of blood flowed from both hands and pooled on the honey hardwood floor.
Slowly, Jane gripped the slippery hilt and pulled the knife from her palm. It released a fresh wave of pain and even more blood as the wound opened like an angry mouth. She grabbed a dishtowel and wrapped it around her hand. The towel was probably dirty, filled with microbes that were now infecting her open wounds. Blisters and puss would form.
Her career was over, she knew that. She didn’t know what she’d do now. She had no skills. She couldn’t type. Had never touched a computer. She’d dictated every email or letter to Glenn and he’d done the rest.
Oh, Glenn, if you could see me now. What a mess I’ve become.
Jane cried an unabashed sob of a child. Whether it was from pain, anger, the crushing loneliness of her existence, fear of the future, or all of the above, she wasn’t sure.
The towel around her right hand seeped a deep crimson. The exposed left hand bled freely.
Even now, you’re playing favorites, left hand said. You wrap her in towels, protect and coddle her, while I am left out in the cold. Ignored, forsaken. Why, mother, why do you abandon me when it was she, the “chosen” right hand who cast the first stone?
To Jane’s astonishment, her bloody left hand picked up the knife from the floor and moved toward the right. The hilt faced downward, ready to stab with the full strength of her arm.
“No, please don’t,” she pleaded. Still, her left hand moved closer. There was no negotiating with it. It was fanatical, no longer listening to reason.
The blade thrust through the air. Right hand moved out of the way at the last second and the knife stabbed into the blood-slick floor. It withdrew and stabbed again. The right hand raised high into the air, lifting Jane to her feet.
Her right arm extended away as her left reached for it, causing her body to swivel as the knife sliced wildly. The right hand swept across the counter, knocking over cannisters of flour and sugar, in desperate search of safety.
Then she saw it. The mixing bowl. A shimmering stainless-steel dome that would protect her right hand from the relentless attack from the left. She plunged her right hand into the bowl as the blade arced toward it. The knife deflected off the metal and the blade slipped from her grasp.
This was right hand’s chance to retaliate. It reached for a weapon and found a meat tenderizer. The awesome hammer with a jagged-tooth pattern lifted high in the air and smashed down on the left hand, shattering the bones of several fingers. It raised again and pounded, pounded savagely.
Her hands were at war now, each one fueled by the rage over the most recent attack, no longer recalling or caring how it began.
Jane cried for her children to stop but neither would listen now. Neither would let down its guard.
Her mangled left hand rolled out of the way as the meat tenderizer crashed down in a mighty blow, sending chips of granite into the air. It reached for the stove and flipped on each of the range burners, darting to avoid several more smashes that broke the knobs. There was no way to turn of the fire now.
Her left hand moved over the open flame, baiting the right.
Come on, come and get me, you stupid bitch.
Blinded with rage, the right hand raised the hammer high.
“No, don’t!” Jane shouted a second too late.
The hammer came down as the left hand began to move to the side. But the right had been expecting this evasion and changed direction mid-air. The hammer pinned the left hand against the grill. Jane screamed as her flesh sizzled. The scent wasn’t foul. In fact, it smelled rather pleasant, like a barbecue. The skin blackened, cauterizing the earlier wounds.
The left hand slipped free and the meat tenderizer plunged through the grill, caught between the metal rungs. It took only seconds for the handle to heat up to a point where the right hand was forced to let go.
Neither hand held a weapon, but the war waged on. The ruined left hand crept forward. The monstrous flesh resembled a hot dog when it falls into burning charcoals and is abandoned.
Hello sister, the hand hissed. Jane could see its madness as its fingers curled around the right. It needed no weapon other than itself.
The right struggled to pull away, but anger was stronger than fear.
Slowly, both hands lowered into the blue flame.
The left hand laughed as it was engulfed in flame.
You think you’re special to Mother? Ask where is she now, this mother of yours. Ask why she allows your flesh to burn with mine.
Jane could do nothing but watch.
She couldn’t stop them from killing each other. They had free will and this was the path they had chosen.