The Hand is a scary story about a man who keeps a grotesque trophy from his time in the army. A withered black hand. It is based on an old French horror story by Guy de Maupassant.
Many years ago, when I was a young man, I worked as a policeman in a little town in France. There was rarely any crime in the area and, most of the time, there was precious little for me to do.
There was a small villa on the outskirts of town that was sometimes rented out for the summer. One summer, a stranger moved into the villa. Nobody knew who he was or where he came from.
He was a peculiar sort of person and the neighbors didn’t know what to make of him. He never spoke to anyone and never went into town. The only time he left his house was when he went hunting or fishing.
Soon, rumors began to spread about him. Some people thought he was a pirate who was on the run from the law. Others thought he was a murderer who was in hiding after committing some abominable crime.
It was my job to pay a visit to this strange man and find out exactly who he was. So, bright and early one morning, I knocked on his door and introduced myself.
He was a tall man, with broad shoulders and he had red hair and a beard. He showed me his papers which confirmed that his name was Sir John Rowell. He was an English man who had served in the British army. He said he was retired now and had come to our little town to take advantage of the hunting and fishing in our forests and lakes.
He invited me to come inside for a drink and I asked him a few questions about his life. He told me about his years in the army and said that he had many adventures during the war in Africa. Then I turned the conversation to hunting, and he told me about all of the animals he had killed. Lions, tigers, elephants, a hippopotamus and even a gorilla.
“These animals are quite dangerous, aren’t they?” I said.
“They are,” he smiled. “But the most dangerous animal of all is man…”
With that, he slapped me on the back and let out a loud guffaw.
“You haven’t really hunted… men… have you?” I asked nervously.
“I certainly did,” he said with a grin. “During the war in Africa. And I have a trophy if you care to see it.”
He led me into the living room. The windows were covered by long black curtains and the walls were covered with animal heads, mounted and stuffed.
Above the fireplace, I saw something that filled me with disgust and horror. It was a severed hand… a human hand… a dried and withered black hand with yellow fingernails. It had been chopped off at the wrist. The hand was hanging on the wall from a chain that was fastened around the wrist like a handcuff.
“That’s my best enemy,” said the English man. “It comes from Africa. I hunted him for days and when I finally killed him, I hacked off his hand with an axe and left it to dry in the sun for a week.”
I was speechless. I couldn’t take my eyes off the hand. It was terribly disturbing to see the hand of a human being displayed on the wall like a trophy.
“I keep it on a chain to stop it running away,” Sir John Rowell chuckled.
I glanced at him, wondering for a moment if he was serious, but he flashed me a mischievous smile.
I couldn’t bear to spend any more time with the English man, so I said my goodbyes and left. I was disgusted by him, but what he had done was not illegal at the time, so there were no charges I could bring against him.
I gradually put the man and his grotesque trophy out of my mind, but one morning, a few months later, I got the news that Sir John Rowell had been murdered during the night.
I rushed to his house and when I went inside, I saw the body of the English man lying on the floor in the living room. He was lying on his back and his clothes were ripped and torn. It was clear there had been a violent struggle.
His whole head was swollen and black, and there was an expression of indescribable fear on his face. His neck had been crushed and there were five red marks, as if he had been strangled by a powerful hand.
A cold chill ran down my back and I looked up at the spot above the fireplace. The terrible hand was gone and the chain was hanging loose.
That’s when I noticed something strange about the dead man’s mouth. When I pried his teeth apart, I was shocked to discover something inside. It was a severed finger, bitten off at the knuckle.
The murderer was never found and the crime remains unsolved to this day. The only evidence we had of the murderer’s identity what that severed finger. Because he had no family or friends, Sir John Rowell was buried in the town cemetery.
One night, about three months later, I had a terrible nightmare. I dreamed that I saw the horrible hand running over my curtains and walls like an enormous spider. Three times I woke up and three times I went to sleep again and three times I saw that hideous thing galloping around my room and moving its fingers like legs.
The next morning, someone found the missing hand in the cemetery. It was lying on the grave of Sir John Rowell. When I arrived to examine it, I already knew what I would find.
One of the fingers was missing.