“Nightfiends” by Rob Hill
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Rob Hill finds a severed hand and some bad characters in Manhattan.
The riffraff of Tompkins Square wear wool jackets in the humid night, perhaps in defiance of the elements. The squirrels aren’t panhandling as usual. They’re preoccupied with something in the weeds behind a bench, what looks to your eye like a mangled piece of bread or a crumpled paper bag. A closer look reveals a human hand. Chalky white, like that of a department store mannequin. A woman’s hand, judging by the slender fingers and polished nails. Its condition suggests the squirrels have been at it for a while. A cursory search around the vicinity reveals no trace of the rest of the body. Your first assumption is that the person is dead, but that is not necessarily the case. You sort of hope so, if there is any mercy in this world. Which there seldom is. A scuffling comes along the far end of the path. Some bad characters are approaching. You’d prefer not get involved, but it may be too late for that. Your clumsy attempt to hide behind the trunk of the hanging tree only draws more attention to your presence.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the man with the scarred face addresses you, standing uncomfortably close. His breath reminds you of rotting seafood.
“Just out for a walk.”
“Oh, so you’re out for a walk?”
You’re not sure if you are expected to answer that.
His hulking companion leans over the bench. “There’s a hand back here.” He puts in an effort to sound surprised, but you don’t believe him.
The scarred one faces you. “Is that your hand?”
You hold up both your arms to indicate it is not. The companion holds a pair of salad tongs. With them he picks up the hand and turns it over, appraising it thoughtfully. Then he drops it into a paper lunch sack.
“Where’s the rest?”
You admit you don’t know. You would like to not be here. There are many places you’d rather be than here. In your head you can picture several of them.
“Let’s take his hand too,” suggests the companion. You notice he now brandishes a hacksaw. “For our collection.”
“You right- or left-handed?” asks the scarred one.
“Right,” you reply.
“Then we’ll take your left hand. We’re not cruel.”
You shouldn’t have wandered into the park after dark. These are dangerous times. You wonder how far you could run before they caught up with you. Probably not far. You wish there were other people around. You remember seeing some earlier, but they all seem to have evaporated. People don’t like to get involved.
“Don’t worry, we’re not going to take your hand,” says the scarred one. “We’re just kidding around. Right?”
The companion doesn’t respond but stares at you with fixed eyes of cold granite. He begins to guide the blade of the hacksaw across his left forearm, opening a ragged gash in the skin. A glob of blood strikes you just under the eye.
You turn and hurry quickly—but not too quickly—away, sharply aware of how vulnerable your back is. Nothing but a layer of skin to protect your frail being from harm. Then you are out of the park. You hasten down Avenue B and make a left. In your tenement building you climb the steps to your room, aware of every noise in every shadow. Rats scurrying in the stairwell. Water dripping from an unseen leak. In your room you scramble to lock the door behind you but realize the deadbolt is broken and will not close properly. Even in your home you are not safe.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 9, 2015
Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: Mondays Are Murder, East Village, New York, Manhattan, flash fiction, short fiction, New York City, Tompkins Square Park, Tompkins Square, Alphabet City, Nightfiends, Rob Hill
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