Twisted Fairy Tale: The Girl With One Hand by Zebib K. A.
Welcome to the 8th annual #SpookyShowcase! The Spooky Showcase celebrates the dark minds of creatives around the world through short stories and artistic creations that are dark in nature, macabre, or horror themed.
This year’s theme is Twisted Fairy Tales. Expect twisted legends, creepy creations, and dark fairy tales that will keep you up at night. Visit each day in the month of October for a scare. The master schedule is here.
The Girl With One Hand
By Zebib K. A.
The girl with one hand wandered through the sand, the winds whipping it up into a sharp frenzy that night. She held her hand before her, squinting, trying hard to keep the tiny opal rocks out of her eyes. Her brother, her family and the town had cast her out. She now walked through the deserts, far from her homeland.
The night was easier, the sandstorms easing away in the darkness, but tonight the clouds sailed across the bright blue of night and the gusts swept across the rolling, dusty landscape. Her father always kept away from the desert; he said the sands knew best. But the girl with one hand (for, at first she had two), was an adventurer. Her father always said that with a smile.
When he died, he gave his two children a choice between his property and his blessing. He left her brother with all the land, the house, and the money, and his daughter with his whispered dying blessing.
The girl had always been too sincere. She spoke too sincerely of the strange dreams she had at night, especially as she grew older. In her sleep, she tossed and turned for hours, muttering words in her sleep. That girl is a rotten fig in the barrel, her older brother told the family. She tells wild and foreign stories. And he thought, and used dark magic to win our father’s favor. She was caught trying to write words in foreign tongues, that came to her in her dreams. All she wanted was to share her strange stories, trusting everyone too much and with her whole heart.
She gave away her woven baskets without asking for money, gave away the pumpkins from her pumpkin patch to passing travelers and poor villagers, hoping one might take her on the back of their cart to the lands she dreamt of at night. Whole scenes sprouted in her dreams, and visions flashed at her in the reflecting pools of water in the fields after rain.
Her brother did not trust her. He never had. Over time, as her preoccupations mounted, her eyes filled with too much ambition and curiosity, her brother began to think she mocked him. Made up stories, insanity. Her talk of far-away lands and self-fulfilling prophecies filled him with rage. He got older, and got married and lived down the road with his pretty, silly wife from the village over. They lived beyond their means and wasted all their money. One day, his wife asked his sister for a pumpkin. His sister gave her one. His wife later needed another pumpkin. His sister had already given them away, except for one, her only food. He raged, and ranted, and ran to cut down the last pumpkin. His sister protested. In a sweep, he cut down the pumpkin and his sister’s out stretched hand as well.
Nursing her bloodied arm, her hand fallen into the dirt, the girl, now the girl with one hand, wrapped herself up in a white bandage.
Later he told everyone, She’s a witch! I cut off her hand in punishment. There was no choice. She put on a long tunic and said a silent goodbye to the land and escaped, heading for the sources of her dreams.
Through the day she slept under indigo bright skies, in the shade, curled up in a ball, and at night she wandered along the gravel roads and by the faint light of nomads’ tents. Not knowing where to go, she felt her dreams lead her to the biggest town at the other end of the desert, a glittering lamp-filled city.
In the middle of the town, a powerful pale-skinned woman sat alone in a dark, abandoned tower. The girl had seen her in her dreams. She wandered, wide-eyed, through the clamoring city, to the first of her stops. She didn’t know why her dreams led her here but she was tired. At dusk, she knocked on the cold, wooden door. An older pale woman, the whitest woman the girl had ever seen, answered the door. She had red lips, dark hair, pale smooth skin, high cheekbones, and wrinkles arranging themselves across her face, somehow unwelcome. She raised an eyebrow and motioned the girl in, walking with a slow, pained limp.
“My mirror said you were coming. Somehow you could see me in my little, dark room. Are you here for my mirror?”
The pale-skinned woman, with a face both wicked and beautiful, told the girl she has seen her coming. “They chopped off your hand because you didn’t know your place. I suppose I tried to teach my step-daughter the same lesson. And yet I ended up here. They thought they killed me but I escaped.” She lifted her dress to reveal warped, burnt feet. “And all for trying to keep my place as the most beautiful woman in the land. And now I’m in a land of dark-skinned savages. Well, I won’t apologize. But I suppose something greater has brought you here. You look pathetic, and small, and rather innocent. Maybe this time…The mirror is yours now. In it, you can see the next place you should go. You have two more destinations you must visit, before you can find your way back home.”
The girl listened attentively the whole time and smiled at the woman, taking the mirror in her one hand. “And I once had a dream that forgiveness would find a beautiful woman with a pale face. Your face will fill with more wrinkles and you will have a marvelous smile.”
The woman raised one dark eyebrow and said nothing.
The girl looked into the mirror’s depths as she wandered through the city, out of the desert, and into a land of lush green like she had never seen. The air was fragrant, warm and sticky, and there were many poor people lying on the sides of roads, sweaty and begging. The girl wandered through the towns, and slept under giant trees, damp and thirsty. In her dreams, she saw a dark room, abandoned with cracked windows and dusty floors, with a pile of gold in the center of it, shimmering in the darkness. She had dreamt the dream before; she has been giving away handfuls of gold to people wearing rags. They were the same people here!
The next day, the mirror finally showed her something; the road to the abandoned house. The joy of that dream came back to her, of throwing piles of gold to the people. On the path down into a town in the middle of the hot forests, a local constable stopped her, took one look at her face, and her one hand, and arrested her for trespassing. She spent the night in a small, one room prison, her mirror hidden in her now dirty tunic. In her despair, arrested in this town so far from home, with no hope, she cried onto the cement floor. Her soft laments filled the empty police station, like the soft whine of the wind. The constable listened to her cry all night, and finally took pity on her and opened the jail door.
“I am sorry. You see, I had a dream that a girl with one hand came to my town and found the famous lost treasure of our long dead king, and I wanted that treasure for myself. I have become a bitter, corrupt man, locking a young woman in jail, who has a good heart and pure face. Wipe your tears. I will let you give away this precious gold. Where did you see this long lost treasure?”
“Down the road, in a shed, far behind the house behind the largest and leafiest tree in your town.”
“Why, that’s my house! The old shed has been locked up for years. My father told me it was where the wild animals slept.” He began to laugh, and laugh, laughing all the way down the road as they walked through the trees, past his house, to the shed, prying it open to find a pile of the oldest, most glittering gold coins. They carried the gold to all the poor people of the town and the town besides them, to people living alone in the lush green forests with nothing. The constable insisted the girl keep some money for herself.
She asked that he try helping the poor people of the land and stop arresting them. And that he take a little money to feed his family too. That night she slept with a few gold coins and her mirror, in the house of the constable and his family. She dreamt of the third place she must go. It was a tall mountain, snow-capped and cold.
When she awoke, she told the constable’s wife of her dream. The wife had grown up on a snowy mountain north of them. The family booked her a ride on a caravan, which she could now pay for. Her feet were tired, and her arm had started to ache for her missing hand. She had wandered all over the lands. Her wagon led her out of the lush forest, through rocky terrain, higher and higher, until the caravan had started to ascend a great mountain. The air thinned and grew frigid.
Her dream had shown her a small red hut at the top of the mountain. The caravan only dropped her up halfway; the rest she climbed, her one hand gripping the rocks as she climbed higher and higher. Finally, her fingers numb and body shivering, she reached the peak, and the red hut at the top. She knocked on the door. An old, greyed haired person answered the door, looking like neither man nor woman, and the girl fainted with fatigue.
She awoke in the person’s cot, wrapped in blankets. “Young girl, I am happy you made it up the mountain. I saw you in my crystal ball.” A crystal ball shown purple and blue on the table nearby. “I am a wizard, and I sensed your power rising up the mountain top. Please, trust me. I am Nira. A long time ago, my village cast me out too, for having too much magic within me. I can help you, to get back home, to get back your lost hand. You have to remember.”
“Remember what, great Nira?”
“What your father told you on his death bed.”
“He gave me his blessings.”
“But girl! You forget because your brother cursed your name so often, and was so jealous of your father’s love. What else did your father say?”
The girl thought for a long time, her body warming in the hut. After a long time, she could not remember.
“Look in the globe, you will be able see things in it others can’t.”
The girl leaned over to look in the globe. An image formed in the purple and blue swirling gas. Her father, showing her a yellow flower. She remembered, suddenly, what he had said. In her grief, she had forgotten, until now. If all else is lost, follow the road to the yellow flower, and drink from its nectar to find me again in your heart, and for your strength to be restored.
Sitting up in bed, she remembered this same flower was on this mountain side, barely visible in the fog and snow. Outside, she searched and searched and finally found a yellow flower. She picked it, tipped it to her mouth, and drank from it. Everything began to swirl and the ground beneath her began to shake. Suddenly, her missing hand emerged and rejoined her body with a snap. She gasped, and stretched both her hands before her.
Nira sat in the red hut, smiling. “Now go home, you still can.” Nira refused to go with her, waiting on the mountain top for whatever visitor would come next.
With new found strength, the girl was able to journey back with her last gold coin, on foot and on wagon, down the mountain, across the rocky hills, through the lush forest, across the desert, all the while her new found friends wishing her well. On her way back through the forest lands, the constable had insisted she take a bag of gold for her own people, and seeds to grow more crops. She arrived in her hometown, now beleaguered after they had banished the kind girl. Her brother gasped as he saw her walk into the town, with both of her hands.
“I only wish to bless each and everyone, to share tales of the world I have seen, and to bring good fortune back to our town.” She arrived with these goods, and everyone remembered her pure heart, and they marveled. She was miraculous. She was welcomed back with greater love and her brother was shamed and humbled. She continued to have dreams of people in other lands and think of her next travels.
About the Author
Zebib K. A. is a writer, psychiatrist, and movie lover living in NYC. Zebib comes from a black immigrant background, identifies as queer, and explores these identities in her writing.
Zebib K. A. has published in The Rumpus, Counterclock Journal, HerStry Blog, Black Freedom Beyond Borders: Re-imagining Gender In Wakanda Anthology, Detritus, Drunk Monkeys, Dear Damsels, The Selkie, Midnight and Indigo, Nightingale & Sparrow, and co-published in Cabinet of Heed, and presented at the event ‘Memoir Mondays’ (a monthly reading series, hosted by Narratively, The Rumpus, Catapult, Longreads, Tin House, Granta, and Guernica). She has upcoming pieces in 42 stories anthology and Kissing Dynamite.