“You are certain that I can't persuade you to join me, Watson? Edinburgh is nice this time of year.”
“No. I have been old Mister Taylor’s doctor for many years, and I should very much like to be with him in his last days.”
“Understood. Oh, there may be a special delivery whilst I am away.”
“Oh, Holmes! Mrs. Hudson hasn’t recovered from the last one. Do you know that she found one hardy stowaway-fugitive in the privy just yesterday? Or rather, it found her, and at a rather inconvenient moment, judging by the screams.”
“I don’t think science has told us everything there is to know about the intelligence or resilience of the amphibious order of Anura.”
“Yes, well, be that as it may, it will be your legs, instead of the frog’s, on a plate if yesterday’s surprise wasn’t the last. So, what is this special delivery, dare I ask?”
“Nothing alive, I assure you.”
“Your assurance is hardly reassuring, Holmes.”
“Do you remember the late Doctor Mortimer?”
“Of course. The Baskerville case. Wait a minute, ‘late’?”
“Yes, he perished at sea some months ago.”
“Oh, dear me.”
“Do you remember when we first met that he spoke of coveting my skull?”
“Yes, amusing that. He was quite the phrenological enthusiast. And fascinated with your specimen. He wanted to run his fingers along your parietal fissure as I recall.”
“Well, apparently heads were not the only body part of interest. As part of his will, he provisioned for casts of my hands to be made and added to the collection that he bequeathed to the British Museum.”
Holmes nodded. “I submitted to the first step of the process some weeks ago. The molds were then sent to France for casting, and the finished products will be delivered here for my final approval before being transferred to the British Museum.”
“How curious. And convoluted.”
“There is method in the convolution, my dear Watson. The casts are being made of an experimental material, a manmade clay, if I understand correctly. It is supposed to be quite life-like. And there will be some sort of internal engineering. A skeleton, if you will.”
“So that the digits will be able to move.” He curled and uncurled his fingers by way of demonstration.
“But if the hands are meant to be shown behind glass at a museum, why do the fingers need to move?”
“I do not know, Watson, but those were the details explained to me by Doctor Mortimer’s solicitor. Anyway, I expect the hands to be delivered this week.”
“Well, I shan’t disturb them. Shall I store them in your bedroom until your return?”
“You may. Or you may open the parcel and send me a report of your impressions. I daresay there is no one in this world, save myself, of course, who knows my hands better than you, Watson.”
My skin warmed, but I would only commit to a mumbled ‘perhaps.’
Yesterday I spent my final vigil at the bedside of old Mister Taylor. When I arrived home, it was well after breakfast and I was regularly done, so I laid down on the sofa and slept until afternoon. Thus, I missed the delivery of the parcel that you mentioned would be arriving from the Continent, but after a heavy tea courtesy of Mrs. Hudson, I made the decision to open it.
Oh, Holmes, believe me when I say that these hands of yours are quite extraordinary!
I cannot fathom the nature of the material, or even what its parts might be. It has the precise texture of human skin and—and this, I admit, may be a product of imagination—seems to bear a certain heat; not the circulatory heat of a living creature, certainly, but in no way the inert coldness of earth, clay, or stone. The hands are hairless, of course, and free from the many plasters that decorate yours, but nevertheless, the likeness is unmistakable, not to say, uncanny. The colour of the hands is what yours might be without the discolourations from strong acids and perennial ink blots. Each hand has a wrist and about an inch of forearm which serves as its base and in each base, are sunk five small gold hooks, each of which may be pried with a sharp, flat instrument. Pull on the hook and the corresponding finger or thumb curls inward toward the palm. The hook maybe twisted to lock the digit in its position. I suppose the museum will have some sort of stand for them, for when the fingers are drawn, the hand cannot stand upright on the wrist-base and must rest flat.
I discovered, too, quite by horrendous accident, that the hands are impermeable to water. Each is stored in its own velvet-lined case, and the two cases were packed in straw in a larger crate.
Really, I am quite fascinated by them, and I know that you will be as well. I hope that you are enjoying the conference and remain, ever, yours sincerely,
10.10. Why do humans feel the need to confess the depths of their depravity? Some do it before a curtain of wood and a priest. I have decided to record mine here, in my private journal, without hope of absolution. Holmes’s hands are magnificent. And I am as smitten with the facsimiles as the originals. In fact, after testing all the mechanisms to the point of mastery, I configured his fingers into a slight curl, put them to my cheek and made them stroke the side of my face. A gesture of affection, one that Holmes the man will, of course, never bestow upon me. The extraordinary delicacy of touch is there. How, I do not understand, but it is there. Were these hands attached to a body, I am certain that they would manipulate fragile philosophical instruments as Holmes does, with utmost care and precision. I suppose it must be artistry. Or engineering.
I still feel the caress, though, and, God help me, am eager for another.
12.10. Holmes is due to return in three days, but I pray it will be sooner. Thoughts of the hands plagued me all day, at breakfast, as I tended patients, even at the club. I had left them in Holmes’s armchair in their cases. When I retired this evening, I took one with me. The left one, as it turned out. I sat it on its base on the chest of drawers as I readied for bed. My eyes were drawn to it, again and again, and the memory of yesterday’s touch resurfaced with every glance. Finally, I gave in. I put it to my cheek, I made it stroke my hair, pet me like the faithful companion that I am. I am ashamed, so very ashamed, but I loved it. Reveled in every touch, every moment. These touches, these moments, well, were pure affection, they might even be considered fraternal, but then, of course, I grew bolder. I brushed the thumb ‘cross my bottom lip. Then I took the tip between my teeth and licked.
Oh, dear God.
I sucked the pad of the thumb. And of each finger. Put my nose to the palm and nuzzled, then licked a wide swathe down the center of it, too. My eyes burned with shameful tears by the end of my ministrations, but my prick throbbed, clamouring for attention. I gave it none. Trembling, I set the hand back on the chest of drawers and hurled myself face-first into the bed.
I woke very early this morning, stiff and aching from the clenched position in which my body had remained for some hours. I decided to record the events of last night in order to purge myself of this wickedness. At the earliest hour, I will return the hand to its case and both cases to Holmes’s bedroom. And there they will remain until Holmes returns.
12.10. Oh, how even the simplest of plans, fate sees fit to thwart! After writing my earlier entry, sleep overcame me and I did not wake until my regular hour. Mrs. Hudson and I entered the sitting room at the same time, and together we discovered the second hand, the right one, spilled onto the hearth rug; its case was still on the seat of Holmes’s armchair, but it was tipped on its side and threatened to slide to the floor as well.
Mrs. Hudson was alarmed, to say the least. And who could blame her? The sight of a disembodied hand on the rug is unsettling. I said perhaps one of the girls was curious about the case and, upon opening it, was disturbed at what she saw and dropped it. This notion alarmed Mrs. Hudson, too, for I know her to be as competent an employer as she is a landlady. She told me in a very firm voice that I was to keep both cases locked in my wardrobe until Holmes’s return and that if she saw either hands or cases south of the stairs, she would not be responsible for her actions.
After doing as Mrs. Hudson bid, I fled. I ate all three of my meals at my club and spent the intervening hours at work or at the library or in a long, solitary evening ramble about the city. I even considered spending the night in a hotel, but chastised myself severely for the thought.
So here I am. They are still in their cases on the chest of drawers. But I am as giddy as a sweetheart. I want to see them. I want to be seen by them. I want to touch them.
And most of all, I want to be touched by them.
I shall never know the real ones, but these are enough.
More than enough.
They are, almost, in many ways, better.
I am ill! This is madness!
There is nothing for it. Though I abhor the habit in my patients, I shall dose myself with laudanum and take refuge in dreamless sleep.
13.10. Oh, the dream I had!
It was no dream, of course. I must’ve woke and, in a state of thick slumber, disrobed and procured the jar of unguent from its hiding place and taken my neglected prick into my own hands, for I just found my nightshirt and the unlidded jar beneath the bed, a tell-tale wetness on my sheets, and splashes from the washstand on the floor.
But my dream, of course, was of the hands. They lifted the lids of their cases and crept like spiders, down the chest of drawers, across the floor, and into the bed. I did not fear them. On the contrary, I raised the duvet and sheet to welcome them.
One hand was dry. One was slicked.
“Oh, God,” I groaned.
Holmes would never touch me like this. Ever.
He’d never offer his fingers for me to suck. He’d never trace the features of my face with the lightest of touches. He’d never ruffle my hair, affectionately, until I leaned into the caress with feline supplication for more.
He would certainly never dip beneath my nightshirt and tease my nipple as the wet hand was. The oh so sensitive nubbin was being rolled to pebbling between slicked finger and thumb.
I threw off my clothing, desiring no barrier between my skin and theirs.
Oh, let them wander wherever they wished!
I heard a soft crumpling, then despaired when I thought that one hand had vanished.
“Oh, please!” I begged softly. “Come back.”
The wet hand crawled up my neck to my temple and rubbed it soothingly.
A moment later, a very, very wet hand slipped along the crease of my thigh.
I opened my legs wide and lifted my hips.
Shamelessly. Wantonly. Needily.
The hand at my temple scurried down my torso and met its companion.
My head rolled back and forth on the pillow.
I moaned softly, but openly.
One hand toyed with my bollocks while the other pushed between my cheeks and probed my rim. Very soon I had one, then two, long, elegant, violin-playing fingers deep inside me, thrusting, and a wet fist sliding up and down my prick, squeezing, pumping.
I bit my lip to keep from screaming. The pleasure was so sudden, so violent, so complete, my mind went dark and when the darkness lifted, I found myself curled on my side, trembling.
“I love you,” I whispered.
The hands slid from their captivity between my legs and crawled to my lips.
I kissed them. I licked them. I suckled them. They reeked of my own lust and filth, but I didn’t care. I spoke to them, trying to describe in foolish lover’s words how they made me feel, how beautiful they were, how I adored them.
The dream faded as they petted me and I purred.
Madness! Madness. Madness?
But I know tonight I shall not take the laudanum.
And I shall leave the jar of slick where it is now, without its lid.
And I shall leave the cases open.
And my nightshirt folded in the chest of drawers.
Yes, I’m mad.
14.10. The first dream arrived early in the night. This second one did not arrive until almost dawn, and it is still so vivid that I ache, well, in a part of my body that will become obvious once I relate the dream.
I had fallen asleep on my stomach.
The dream began with fingers sodding me awake.
I sank my mouth into a pillow and let a near-scream escape my lips. One hand gripped the flesh of my buttock. The other fucked my hole. I covered the first hand with my own, caressing it as roughly and as lovingly as it caressed me.
The fucking hand dripped with slick and stretched my hole with every thrust. When a second finger joined the first, I lifted my arse in celebration, jerking up, impaling myself deeper.
I growled into the pillow.
More burn. More filling.
More. Just more.
I had been hungry for Holmes’s touch for so long. I was determined to glut myself—to death, perhaps—now that it was, well, within my grasp.
Fingers plunged. Fingers stretched.
The other hand was no longer on my buttocks. It caressed the edge of my buried face, my hairline, my ear, with our fingers, its, mine, laced together.
I turned my head. And sucked the tip of its thumb.
Four fingers inside me. Then the thumb.
“Oh,” I breathed. “Oh.”
The whole hand was inside me.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.
I could only be.
The whimpers were mine. The hollow exhale was mine. The sobbing was mine.
The rolling me on my side, the gently stroking of my prick, the coaxing me to tender crisis.
That was theirs.
Such good hands.
I’m a mess, of course. So is the bedding. I suppose I attempted what the dream-hands achieved. They are such skilled lovers, and I am an oaf.
Oddly, the notion of madness no longer bothers me.
Now I am filled with dread, for tomorrow Holmes will return.
And take back his hands.
14.10. I made love to the hands tonight.
They didn’t come to life, of course. That was just a pair of foolish dreams.
I kissed them and told them how much I would miss them. I rubbed them and told them how I would never forget them. I licked them and sucked their fingertips and told them how people would come from around the world to look at them and study them. I kissed the centre of each palm one last time and told them how much I loved them.
Then I tucked them gently into their velvet beds. And said good night.
And now I am going to lay my pen upon this page and go to sleep and await one last farewell dream.
NEVER HAVE HIM,
“S-s-scotland Y-y-yard? There’s been a m-m-murder! B-b-baker Street! D-d-doctor W-w-watson! S-s-strangled! And the hands are gone!”