by Corey Maida
What they didn’t understand—what I couldn’t get them to understand—is that I didn’t do those terrible things that they said I did. It was the hands. They were responsible—they were always responsible.
First and foremost, they claim that I killed my wife. But where is the motive? We were newlyweds just out of college, two professionals madly in love and excited to start our lives together. There was no life insurance policy to blame, no marital strife, no jealous ex-lover—or, for that matter, any given person I had reasonable suspicions of her conducting an affair with—so why would I strangle her?
The answer is simple: I didn’t. It was the hands. I wanted to stop them—oh, god, did I want to stop them—but I couldn’t, don’t you see that? Tell me you see that. When they grabbed her throat, I was screaming at them in horror to relent, but that was when I first learned of their power; the hands had a mind of their own. And strength—my god, their strength was unspeakable, leagues beyond their deceivingly average size. I submit to you that I did not kill my wife, Concerned Reader. I loved my wife.
Secondly, they say that I murdered my brother. But why bother? Me and my brother were the best of friends since childhood, and still were up until the time of his death. He was a great man—an accomplished teacher at our university—and a marvelous older brother. A father figure—a man who was more than capable of the title, where there was no other challenger for my father was lost on the wind.
They say I shot him in his home while he was asleep. They allege that they found fingerprints on my own gun that links me to the crime—and, true, they would have, wouldn’t they? Because the hands had found their way to it! I challenge you, Concerned Reader, to find a shred of evidence linking me as constituent in this heinous act of senseless violence, or any other for that matter. I have faith that you will find none, as I had no part in these debaucheries. If anything—if there is any minute thread of cohesion sticking me to the murders—I submit to you that I am guilty merely by association of the hands, an indubitably lesser charge. This, I trust you see, is a biological misfortune beyond my control. However, do not confuse what I say; I am not responsible.
And lastly still, they deem me implicit in the death of at least a dozen inmates here at the prison, possibly more they say. Each of the murders were identical in nature to the aforementioned; mindless crimes full of brutality and execration and devoid of motive or purpose, murders nil of reason. They thus attribute these executions by the hands to me of course, who they’ve now deemed to be nothing short of a monster, an animal bent on senseless blood-lust and, as I notice they’ve started marking on their notepads, “random outbursts of insanity.” Which leads to another facet of humiliation, upon the plethora of others I have experienced at my stay here; I have now acquired the tasteless appellation “serial murderer”—ha, try that on for size, me, a murderer. A serial one, no less!
Once they finish their papers, I won’t even have the luxury or pride of being considered a sane serial murderer. Once they’re finished, I’ll be no doubt be dubbed mad. And so I leave the question to your own deliberation: could an insane person make such a meticulous and detailed—detailed down to the very grit of it– report for you, Concerned Reader? I have faith that I have illuminated every nook and cranny of Reasonable Doubt, and that you will see to justice. I must believe this.
I’ve tried my word with everyone else: the warden, the counselors, the inmates, the guards, anyone who will listen. I’ve explained in scrupulous detail my entitlement to freedom, my necessary absolution. I’ve done my very best to show them that I am the victim, that it was the hands that were malevolent; it was the hands that were evil and did these awful things. Do you think they listen? Well, I’ll tell you that they don’t. They laugh in my face.
So with the changes wrought by time settling deep into my bones and etching sharp haphazard lines into my face, I finally conceded my thoughts. I decided that—as time had done its magic on me—I would never have liberty to run amok in society again. As time crafted even deeper caverns under my eyes, I came, reluctantly enough, to terms with this. However, I told them that if I must be here—in this prison of both the body and the spirit—at least, for god’s sake, at least grant me one wish: at least shackle the hands so they can harm no one else. It took little over ten minutes of deliberation for them to decide to sequester me away in solitary confinement instead, a box no bigger than a dog house. This I now call “home” indefinitely. It must be easy to decide the fate of another man. I wouldn’t know, but I imagine the hands do.
My response to this was, of course, nothing less than sheer terror. I begged them—I fell to my knees and wailed, “Please, I’ll do anything, but don’t leave me alone with the hands.” Alas, the cries of a convicted murderer fall on the deadest ears of all.
Hope is a hard concept to find in prison, but with nothing else left, I hold on to hope at last, if naively, in you, Concerned Reader. I say naively because I believe in my heart to be true that they, Malevolent Readers, will find these papers—the tyrants of this decrepit establishment—and they will burn them after they burn what is left of me, with little to no concern. By the same token, I suppose, convicted murderer or not—sane, but not for long if the papers tell true—I can have hope, can’t I? Hope that this will by the grace of some distant God fall into the hands of a Concerned Reader, not a Malevolent Reader.
Not a deeply encroached belief—not quite—but a fantasy to entertain no less; an exquisite steak dinner to the inmate who will live just long enough to smell it, but not to take the first bite. Yes—this paper I write on, withered but adequate, is my steak dinner. This pen, writing still but near its end; this pen is my steak dinner, too.
However, as easy as it is to stave off reality and enter my own cave of protective hope, I accept that I must crawl out to address the Malevolent Readers who may very well partake in my last dying letter. This digression will be brief and I will try my best to see that it is my last—my last indulgence and a petty catharsis—so I pray you stay with me.
To the Warden: Fuck you. With luck—and more time here at your horror resort—the hands would have gotten to you, too, you sickly vermin.
To the Guards: You are sadist. If I am able—and I pray that I am–my ghost will see its way back to this prison, bent on a lustful revenge to torment you relentlessly, and in the most sadistic ways I dare conjure. This is your prisoner speaking: not the hands. If you are reading this, the hands and I will have finally parted by now.
And to the Counselors: Your therapy is a farce. There is no cure for me, and there is no cure for the hands.
Alas, Concerned Reader, I write to you, whoever “you” might be. But I digress—and this will be the final time, because I run short on paper, and even shorter on time. True—I have harnessed the hands just long enough to write this, not quite a confession but, more accurately, my attempt to understand what has happened to me; a concise memoir, one final shot of morphine to the dying soul I have no delusions of what is to come next, what the hands have in store for me. I know just as well as I am innocent that they will turn on me—in fact, I feel them becoming more restless. I smell that steak dinner, sizzling, moist with flavor. Did you know that phantom smells are said to be a suggestion of brain cancer?
I wish I could say I had cancer—even then my death would be more pleasant than what the hands have plotted.
I wish I had that steak dinner—I swear I smell it, it’s almost like it’s getting closer.
I wish that a Concerned Reader will find this letter and they will hold it close, until at some point they can safely expose it and my good name will be reclaimed and I will not go down in history as another sick man who took the lives of the innocent. Perhaps if they find these papers—if they are still readable after the hands have had their way with me—I will be absolved of these accusations.
I wish that when they pull me from my inhumane abode at some interminable time down the line that they find me still alive and smiling—feasting gaily, perchance, on my steak dinner. The hands, those malignant cancers, gone forever; sitting there is only me, the innocent, handless…and most importantly, free.
I wish I could write more, but I’m running out of ink, these last few words mustered only by my forcing the hands down on the pen aggressively. I told you the hands have a strength of their own. And I also told you they were getting restless.
I wish they would find me alive.
But the only certainty—the only thing that I truly know—is that they will only find what is left of me.
Just the hands.