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by Melissa Elborn

Anne sits in the riser recliner chair that can lay her back or pull her into a standing position. Her finger rests on the button on the remote control. She sits there, alone in the communal lounge, waiting.

She stares at her hands in her lap. Her baby hands once learnt how to grasp. As a child she learnt to use a knife and fork, write her name, make a pinky promise, clap, pinch, tickle and stroke. And now she was unlearning it all.

So many things hands can do.

She was once a whizz at chopping vegetables in one quick blur, could text with her thumbs, wash her body, drive a car, sculpt a vase from a lump of clay, paint the pictures she saw inside her head from tubes of paint.

Her hands had a life of their own back then. She didn’t tell them what to do. They drove the car when her mind was somewhere else. They brushed her teeth without her telling them anything. Her fingers twirled curls of hair and tapped her knee when she was nervous.

Those same hands were now either icy cold or burning hot. Different from the rest of her. Creases threaded across weak skin, brown spots, veins bulging, skin puffing up and stretched thin. Hands she doesn’t recognise anymore. Stranger’s hands, attached to her arms.

So many things hands can do.

Once they could grip on a knife, a sting and a slice. Leaving a pretty zig-zag of silver lines to form a web, a map on the skin. A way out perhaps.

Hands that now don’t grip, hands that slip. Hands that don’t work the way they should. A feather or a whisper of a breeze cannot be felt. Only the needle, the shiny razor, the sizzle of cigarettes.

Someone else writes Anne’s letters now. Other hands feed her, bathe her, grip hers in the darkness, touch her in places that she pretends not to feel.

So many hands.

So many things they can do.


Melissa Elborn writes short fiction and is a former award-winning journalist. She has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing, and her writing veers towards dark fiction. She haunts deepest, darkest Bedfordshire in England with her husband, daughter and two black cats. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaElborn.