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The Six-Fingered Man

I. A gorgeous, muscular young woman with long raven hair and small, firm breasts, Rachel awoke in darkness, her naked body drenched in sweat. Sensing death and wondering if her heart was still beating, she listened to the reassuring thump of the ceiling fan over her bed.

Listening, she remembered the dream as she forced herself to concentrate upon flickering hotel-casino lights beyond her window: a striking woman with a severe affliction, she had been raped by her brothers and their friends, mutilated beyond recognition, then buried alive.

During the final part of her burial, moist dirt suffocating her, something had yanked her awake and back into her large top-floor apartment overlooking Las Vegas. It could have been anything: a six-fingered hand from another dimension, a black rat trapped in her room, or a garden spade driven into her chest.

Slowly, stiff with the pain that often followed her nightmares, she sat up, the wet sheet clinging to her. She focused on the familiar things in her room. To her immediate left was the nightstand, now cracked, that her mother had given her two Christmases ago. On the far left, she saw the old warped bureau that she had bought at a garage sale in North Las Vegas. At the foot of her bed sat the chest containing toys from childhood. To her right, the window kept the November cold out.

The fan spinning slowly overhead, she gazed into darkness and, wondering if she should go to the kitchen and get something to eat when she heard it: a shuffling, a whispering nearby. She felt her neck, hands, and feet grow cold and a tight pain grip her stomach as she tried to console herself that she had heard nothing more than the wind or the fan or the heater, whose vent was directly over her bed.

Then, unbelieving, she saw something move in a dark corner of her room. This can’t be happening, she thought, and heart pounding, mouth dry, she assured herself that nothing was there, that nothing could get in, that she had locked her door after coming home from work hours ago. To make her fear of an intruder disappear, she considered pounding her head with her fists, a behavior that her therapist had told her suggested a bi-polar disorder.

Tense as a rabbit, she waited for the next movement. Her pulse raced as wind banged against her window.

And, yes, there it was again, a slight movement between the dresser and the door, something huddled in darkness. She could almost make it out. Icy fear filled her, and she felt her jaw go numb. Hoping what she saw was a dream-image, she tried to force calm into her soul by going over her favorite Psalms and found that she couldn’t remember the words to any.

Again, horribly, she heard a shuffling, then a hissing, and, without willing herself to do so, she pictured the dark shape, her mind constructing an image of something half-human, half-beast. Rachel could almost see the skinny, squatting thing lurking nearby, holding her in its gaze, and she knew what she must do. Terror would seize her if she did not act.

As if she had imagined this situation a thousand times, she slowly lay back and reached behind her head and under her pillow. Slightly trembling, fighting the sick and empty feeling that must precede dying, she felt the handle, then the sharp blade of the ancient weapon that her father had bequeathed her on his deathbed.

Returning to a sitting position, heart racing, she used the knife to push the blanket and sheet away from her body, then commanded herself to breathe slowly. Superbly conditioned from years of working out at the local gym, she fingered the razor-sharp blade, sensing her soul harden, then remembered a line from a play she had read in her college literature class last year. “Something wicked this way comes,” she heard herself mutter several times. Wickedness, she was certain, had entered her home.

Knife-ready, Rachel peered into the dark corners of her room, straining to hear shuffling. Barely breathing, she waited, ready to spring, claw, bite, and cut. She imagined, in the dark interlude, the knife quivering and singing to her. And then, again it came, a loud crack of the floor boards not in her bedroom but in the living room just beyond the door.

Her fingers and back went cold and numb.

Maybe I have not heard a thing, she thought; maybe I have made it all up. She knew better.

Rachel waited, nerves balled into a fist, as the fan thumped overhead. And again she heard the creaking, this time mixed with the sound of something brushing and tapping against the living room wall. Instinctively, she sniffed the air and smelled slightly rotting flesh. She knew this scent. Fighting the urge to vomit, she knew who her assailant was as her mind returned to what happened two days before.

II. Two days before, happy as a lark, Rachel had been working her shift at Foxie’s, a blue-and-red-neon-lit striptease bar in the industrial area of Las Vegas. She had danced at Foxie’s, from 6 pm to midnight, for seven months and had found that, with few exceptions, she loved the place.

One dark exception was the creepy, stumbling man in sunglasses who, four times in the past two weeks, had sought her out. He had refused the other girls, even when they had touched him privately, and though he made her think of a hairy lizard, Rachel had performed all four times for him, seven dances each time, in one of the back rooms. She loathed him, but during the second and third encounters she had massaged him. Smelling of rotting flesh, he had given her the usual $100 tip when she was through.

The fourth time she had danced for him, he had grabbed her arm in his vice-like grip and pulled her onto his lap, forcing her to feel his thick, hard manhood, which he had somehow taken out of his pants. When she had grabbed his member, he had sighed in pleasure and told her a story. “Born and raised an Oklahoma Pentecostal, baby,” he had begun, “Left home at nineteen. Ran away actually. Police thought I murdered my parents, two good people who rammed Jesus down my throat until I puked. John and Edith found decapitated in their bedroom. Can’t say I did or didn’t do it, but I did get out of town late one night, changed my name, and headed for Vegas where I been for three years holed up with a monkey and an endless supply of whiskey. It was here I first tasted human flesh,” he had laughed, “and here that I discovered what a truly talented guy I really am. Women love me and my cock.” Appalled yet aroused, she had listened. No way this could be true, she’d told herself, but she had decided that she would never allow this man—who had six fingers on each hand--to touch her again. Of course, she could never tell him this, and this time, telling confessing his love for her, he had tipped her $200.

And so it was that, two days ago, dancing on the center stage, Rachel had spotted him slithering through the black glass front doors: the skinny, balding, bearded freak wearing sunglasses, a Raiders T-shirt, brown slacks, and alligator boots too big for his feet. I’m not going to be with this man a fifth time, she had told herself.

As her second dance ended, she had grabbed her glistening red top off the floor and walked off the stage. Hoping he would not notice her, she had kept her head down, her long raven hair falling forward to conceal her face, and prayed that God would make her invisible.

Carrying her top in her right hand, even now enjoying the chance to display her breasts, she had moved rapidly among the tables, customers, and dancers, and towards the dimly-lit small stage on the other end of the room; management required that each girl dance once on the big stage, once on one of the smaller ones when her turn came up. With several computer conventions in town, the club had been packed with wall-to-wall customers, many from the Far East, and she had hoped that she could conceal herself in the crush.

Breathless, she had just climbed the four steps to the smaller stage when she had felt his hand, cold and clammy, on her arm. Looking down, she had recognized the long thin fingers with their long, sharp, blackened nails encircling her arm like snakes.

“Hey, baby,” he’d said in a raspy voice.

She’d taken a deep breath.

“How are you tonight?” she’d responded, tight as a drum.

“I’m fine,” he’d whispered, leaning close, “now that I’m with my own very, very special cock-loving girl.”

She had smiled, nervously. “Look, babe, I’m gonna be busy for a while,” she had said. “I gotta dance some more on this stage.”

He had looked disappointed.

“I know you do. I’ll wait,” he had finally said, using his free hand to caress one of her breasts and finger the nipple. Caught somewhere between stimulation and anger, she had looked at him. He had removed his sunglasses. Even in semi-darkness, his eyes had looked ground together, like pieces of shattered black glass.

“I’ve got a lot of dances with some of my other customers after this, sugar,” she had said. “You might be in for a long, long wait. Is that all right?”

Squeezing her nipple, he had continued to hold her.

“Thunder Cock will wait,” he said. “Honey, Thunder Cock can wait and go all night.”

“All right,” she had said. “You can wait over there.” She’d pointed at an empty sofa across the room. “I’ll come and find you.”

“Promise?” he’d said.

“Yeah,” she’d smiled, “promise.”

“You don’t come,” he’d concluded, wagging his finger in her face, “I’ll come and find you. I know where you live.”

The words froze her.

As soon as he had turned to walk back to the couch, she had scampered off the stage and into the back. There she had dressed, spoken to no one, and let herself out the back door leading to the parking lot. There was no way he could know where she lived, she kept reminding herself as she stepped into her Acura and sped from the parking lot.

III. Now in her bedroom, she had arrived at the darkest moment of her life. While she could neither hear him nor see him, she could smell him. She could feel him. And she knew she must confront him. Reaching to her left, putting her legs over the side of the bed, Rachel turned on her bed lamp, and dim light filled the room. It had been years since she had cut someone.

Rachel climbed from her bed and walked slowly, stealthily into the living room, holding the knife in front of her, blade out. Moving to the wall on her right, she flicked on the light with the tip of the knife. A large place with a wooden floor and a high raftered ceiling, the room looked as she had left it: to her left, a wall full of black and white photos of her mother’s hard-grained Nebraska relatives; the full-screen TV on the far side of the room; placed on either side of the TV, black leather chairs placed diagonally in the corners; and finally a black couch along the far wall. There was no rug on the hard wooden floor.

She waited, adrenaline coursing through her. He was here, she knew. She could smell him, the odor of putrefying flesh falling upon her like dirt. He had to be very near. Then she heard it, a creaking, a sliding of something over wood, a guttural panting.

He was here and, slowly glancing up to look at the dark shadows overhead, time froze as she saw the dark bearded figure squatting on the largest crossbeam, grinning hideously at her, his body covered with dark hair, his long, thick appendage dangling like a rope. Eye contact was immediate, and she saw again, even in the shadows created by the triangular ceiling, eyes resembling fragments of dark glass and glowing like obsidian.

“You six-fingered freak,” she said, her voice shaking and her hand with the knife dropping to her side.

At first, he was silent.

“Hello, Rachel,” he finally hissed. It was a weak, mewling voice.

She did not take her eyes off him.

“Get the fuck outta here now,” she commanded, trying to be strong but backing away from the point just beneath him. “You don’t leave, I’ll gut you like a fish, sweetmeat.” Her voice still shook.

Again, he paused, then gave a high-pitched, whining laugh.

“Why, I was waiting for you, bitch. You left me, didn’t you?” he asked. Wagging a finger at her, he continued: “And didn’t I tell you what I’d do if you left?”

“You can’t do shit to me, Baby Cock,” she said.

“Oh, can’t I?” He laughed again.

And then it hit her: my God, he’s been in here before, she thought, realizing that to set this trap he had to know her apartment. The thought angered her.

“Then come for me, you wormy lizard,” she said, less fearful.

This time he snarled and inched to a point directly overhead. Sensing urgency, she slowly began raising her knife, her arm refusing to move as quickly as she wanted.

With a shriek, he sprang, a hideous thing flinging himself at her, seemingly suspending himself for a split second in the space just over her, not giving her time to think or scream, then crashing into her. Stunned, Rachel fell backwards, her head banging against the floorboards, explosive pain temporarily numbing her and causing her knife to fly out of her hand.

Dazed, sickened, she felt him on top of her, heard him breathing in guttural rasps and smelled his fetid breath. He had placed one of his legs between her legs while his hands held her arms down. Glancing down, she saw that he was going hard and wished for her knife. Feeling warm wetness on the back of her head, smelling her own blood, she looked up at him. Sweat dripped from his forehead onto her face and breasts.

For a time—it seemed like hours—he stared, studying her, cocking his head, a beast sizing up his prey. Forcing herself to hate the thought of dying, she silently cried out to God, just as she had done when, as a child, her brothers had abused her.

Cool numbness spreading through her entire body, she wondered if God had abandoned her. In that instant, she was entirely alone and sensed death about to crush her. Again, she cried out to God.

And then, just as quickly, light moved within her, and she felt her rage ignited. Life returned, and she knew that she was receiving strength.

“You fucking little rat,” she said, snapping her teeth.

For a split second, she relaxed. Then, in one lightning movement, she kicked her leg back toward her and then forward, locking her leg around his neck. Quickly, with surprising strength, she pushed his head violently downwards, his head crashing onto the wooden floor, and as he struggled, she brought his head crashing down again and again.

Finally, she stopped. Slowly she took her leg away from his head and pushed herself free from him. Curved in an arc, resembling a grotesque idol, he remained stationary. Forcing herself to her feet, she scanned the floor for the knife. It lay next to the sofa fifteen feet away.

She turned, looked back at the twisted body, legs curved beneath him, blood dripping from the back of his head. Rachel felt only rage for the man who had invaded her life.

But it’s over, she told herself; it’s fucking over. “This man’s death is right,” she mumbled. Reviewing her years, she considered this man’s death a high point in her life; after all, since early children, she had been tainted by almost ritual abuse from family and friends. She ran her fingers through her long hair, felt it sticky and moist, and rubbed her hand over the wound in the back of her head.

Turning, she stepped toward the weapon. She was bending over when she heard a cracking, scuttling and shuffling behind her. She could not yet see him, but she had felt him rise, and turning her head she saw the dark hairy thing rapidly crawling towards her, flinging himself at towards her feet, and felt the icy hand grab her left ankle. Looking to the knife, she screamed as he pulled violently, her legs collapsing beneath her. Face first, she hit the hard wood.

Wondering why she had not lost consciousness, Rachel lay on the floor, on her stomach, nose and mouth bleeding. His moist spidery hands crawled up her legs to her buttocks, and feeling his fingers trying to enter her, she tensed her body, braced herself with her arms and pushed her body up, working to push herself across the floor. Inch by inch, she moved, leaving a small trail of blood.

Reaching for the knife still a foot away, she felt one hand grasping her neck, long, cold, black-nailed fingers tightening their hold and sending chills through her. Groaning, she felt him place his legs between hers, felt him parting her legs, forcing her to spread. God, don’t let this happen, she silently cried; don’t let this happen. This is not me. This is not real.

Dizzy, her head throbbing, fighting as she pulled herself forward, she touched the knife with the tips of her fingers. The knife would save her, she knew, and as she struggled to clutch the handle she felt a searing, tearing pain beginning between he legs and moving through her. She collapsed onto the floor, arms dangling beside her.

“Jesus, no,” she sobbed, as he began to enter her. “Help me, God,” she breathed.

“There is no God,” she heard him say.

For an instant, she felt nothing, and as he pushed further inside her she sobbed. Darkness has won, she thought when she heard the still, small voice from her soul telling her to relax. Years ago, her grandmother, still alive somewhere in Kansas or Nebraska, had told her that this was the voice of God.

She relaxed and, as she lay still, felt a surge of power. Placing her hands to her sides, she pushed herself up and forward, halted, then lunged and grabbed the handle of the blade. Choking, she turned slightly and arched her back. She brought her arm up, then violently stabbed backward and felt the blade enter flesh. The man screamed. Pulling the blade out, she stabbed again, entering the same wound with a moist popping sound.

As the man’s fingers loosened their hold on her neck, she separated herself from him, then rolled and lay on her back directly beneath him. Hunched over, eyes bleary, he looked down upon her. She stared back, wondering what sad thing dwelled inside the man and what he had been like as a child.

Then, burying sympathy, she stabbed upward, her knife entering his belly just below the sternum and slicing downward, opening a wound that, as she withdrew the knife, gushed blood onto her and the floor. Coated with the man’s blood, Rachel did not move, did not breathe, and only watched. She would remember his expression for the rest of her life: his mouth gaping in a sickening “O”, his hands placed against the wound to stem the flow of blood, the sobbing as he toppled sideways onto the floor, his legs quivering convulsively.

Lying on her back, she stared at the man. He was choking. Clutching the knife, she knew she had left something undone. Coated with blood, she slid to him. She would always remember it. As he had lain before her, she had knelt, grinning at him.

“Now, you miserable freak,” she began, “I’m gonna to take you apart piece by piece.”

“Fuck you, honey,” he responded, choking. Obscenities caught in his throat, clotted with phlegm and blood.

“Mustn’t, mustn’t fuckin’ curse, baby doll,” she reprimanded him, wagging her knife in front of his face. “Now, it’s time to work.”

“Work?” he rasped, eyes fading gray.

“Piece by fucking piece,” Rachel assured him.

She looked between his legs, grabbed him, and actually caressed him. It gave her crazy pleasure to do so. The she rose and walked to the TV.

Turning on the set to provide background to keep away the quiet, she returned to the man, knelt, and knife in hand worked through the rest of the night and into the next day, finishing at around three in the afternoon. Beginning with his ears and then moving down to his hands and arms, she cut expertly. Last, she severed his head and penis. She would keep these two items in a safe place.

Then, carefully, she wrapped the body parts in newspapers and towels that she shoved into a freezer in the extra bedroom.

IV. It was now five in the afternoon, a beautiful time of day, and through her window she marveled as the sky became a concert of yellows, oranges, reds, and blues.

Standing in front of her full-length bedroom mirror, Rachel laughed and muttered, “Jesus, I look like hell. Must be that time of month.” She could barely recognize herself, her hair clotted with and her breasts, stomach, and legs covered with dried blood.

As she watched herself, her stomach growled, and recognizing hunger she turned and strolled through the living room, floor and walls spattered with blood, and into the kitchen. As she opened the refrigerator and searched for something to eat or drink, she knew that if she hurried she would only be an hour late for work.

After wolfing a cold week-old old ham sandwich and drinking a glass of milk, she walked triumphantly to the bathroom. Telling herself that she would roll up her sleeves to wash the blood off the floor and walls tomorrow, Rachel turned on the shower, waited until the water was hot, steam beginning to fill the room, and then climbed into the stall, closing the shower door behind her.

She’d never taken a more refreshing shower, soaping her entire body and then allowing blood, soap, and water to run down her body and into the drain. Her heart beating powerfully, she wondered where she was going to bury the body parts. “I’ll think about that,” she said aloud, soaping herself again, “when I get home from work.”

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