Lisa Fontaine is a young short fiction writer who dabbles in experimental and often bizarre styles. Her work has appeared as Open Pen Magazine’s issue twelve cover piece. This New Year she also founded cult cinema website, www.bloodpopcorn.com. Recently starting university at University of Greenwich, London, she now divides her time between writing, experimental filmmaking and photography.
Lately I have been frequented by strange dreams that my ring finger, fat with liquid, is expanding. Sometimes to such a size that my wedding band cuts so deep into the flesh it amputates it, the finger then wiggles across the outdated duck egg lounge carpet and bumps into the skirting board where it’s knocked unconscious.
Last night I dreamt my finger exploded. It exploded silently. Resting it on the duvet, I watched it throb, the warm blood rushing in and out of its channels so violently it moved the rosy sheath like a tide. It enlarged to a remarkable size and disgusted, I hid the ugly thing back under the duvet. When I retrieved my hand sometime later there was a wetness in its place. A stump. Like an untouched pustule it had played itself out; releasing its smelly fluid on the bedclothes. Looking at my hand, slick with the finger’s contents I wondered where the meaty bits had gone and drawing back the duvet with the dry hand I saw a mosaic of sinew and greenish-pink gunk on my wife’s pyjama dress.
‘Your pyjama dress was covered with greenish-pink gunk’ I told my wife. She ignored me as she glided the iron over the same crease again and again and then said: ‘Think nothing of it’.
‘But I’m sure’ I examine the finger in the light; the skin is shiny and tight, ‘my finger is swelling’.
She takes the next shirt from the laundry basket and lies it flat on the board. ‘It looks normal to me’.
‘No’ I stare at it closely, ‘there’s something wrong with the finger’.
‘There’s something wrong with your dreams’.
I feel the ring tight around the finger, there’s a discolouration around the ring from where the blood is being cut off. ‘Can you see that?’ I point to the whiteness.
She folds another of my shirts. ‘No’ she answers, ‘I see nothing’.
When I get into work I’m clenching and unclenching my fist like the beating of a tired heart as someone asks me if it’s cold outside and I tell them no as I try to squeeze the odd feeling from my finger. It remains in the clumsy tired heart, clenching and unclenching. I feel the weight of the finger as I sign for office deliveries, press the water fountain button, the cumbersome thing weighs down my pockets as I walk- hiding the disfigurement away from colleagues. Sweating, I suspect the boss susses something as we talk at the water cooler and I sweat thrice as much when his hot little junior assistant struts over, demurely covering her cashmere coated breasts with a pile of paperwork she holds close to her body. God I want to take out that hand and spank her. She tootles away, oblivious to my intentions. The pocketed hand is stiff, burning. All of gravity is centred under her pencil skirt and I have to stop my hand from being pulled along- the mass of water making it vulnerable to its tug. It requires so much strength that my face contorts into a dreadful come face and my boss flinches like a scared choir boy.
‘What’s the matter with you?’
‘Erm’ I search, ‘I erh…’ pause. ‘It’s my finger’.
‘My finger’ I nod.
He stares deeply into me, a suspicious frown. The bulb burns above us, a slick of light stretching across the oily skin where his hair has receded.
‘Ah’ he sips the water. ‘How come?’
The room solidifies. I shrug. ‘It’s just gradually been… swelling’.
‘Hmm’ he nods. ‘Does it hurt? Can I see?’
‘Well…’ I scour the recesses of my brain for some excuse, any excuse. The finger must not been seen. I’ve yet to figure out what it wants. ‘Well, it’s gross. You really don’t want to see it’.
‘Yes I do’.
‘No’ I back away, ‘You really don’t’.
‘I do’. He squints curiously.
‘You don’t it’s horrible’.
‘Come on’. Firmly, he yanks my arm causing the hand to come out of hiding. The flesh of the finger wobbles as it does so, looking like a gorged beast. It quickly darts back inside its cave.
‘Saw nothing wrong with that. Which finger did you mean?’
‘The giant one’ I shout, pulling the hand out again for him to inspect. ‘This FINGER!’ I flash it to him, parade it in his face. I want to knock him over the head with it so he feels its weight and then curled on the floor, stars about his head I’ll ask him: ‘do you think it’s swollen now?’
I go to bend its neighbour fingers in to clearly indicate the tumescent thing but they won’t bend, the hand’s skin already so stretched by the finger.
‘It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with your hand to me’ he pats my shoulder and walks away. ‘Maybe’ he shouts, ‘you’re just tired’.
‘Tired?’ I SHREIK. Tired?’
Back in my cubicle I try to type away but can’t. The deformity consumes me. The finger throbs and its skin is becoming chapped, overstretched. I consider the stapler. I consider the punctures it could make in the skin, the fluid pestilence seeping out from the two tiny holes; a great relief. But instead Doreen drops a revised list of figures on my desk, saying: ‘by five’. She goes away, bothering poor Todd and I contemplate the stapler again. It blurs out of focus. I stare at the papers. Anyone could do them. Even pizza face in copying. A sea monkey for that matter. My job is what you call dispensable. There is no point in me looking at the papers. I shred them. Staring at me scornfully from a standard size photo pinned to my corkboard, my wife silently judges me. ‘You should take your job more seriously’ she tells me. ‘You should move up the ladder, get a pay rise… the house looks like an old fogies home… I need more clothes’. It goes on. I scowl at her, realise in unpinning the photo and moving it towards the shredder. I stop and examine the image, sigh. Pinning it back in its original place I fix it so it’s straight. A little to the left. A little to the right.
Dinner. The finger is now hypersensitive. I struggle to pick up a fork because when anything touches it a searing pain takes hold.
‘What are you fussing about?’ She puts down her book.
‘My finger, I told you!’
‘Oh not that again’
‘its worse, look’ I shove it in her face.
‘Oh, not when I’m trying to read’.
‘Why are you reading at the dinner table anyway?’
‘I like to escape into other worlds’.
‘Yeah’, she returns to her book.
‘I’m scared’ I cry, as she turns a page ‘for my life’
‘Umm’ a mutter evaporates from her mouth.
‘I’m afraid the finger will kill me’.
She wears the same nightdress as in the dream. The dream where the finger explodes. Gently, I prod it, feel its squishiness. Suffocating it, my wedding band cuts so deep into the flesh that soon only one of two things can happen: either the ring will choke it so tight it will die, the liquid emptying from its tip, or, it will begin to bleed, the cut getting deeper and deeper and the finger will become dismembered. But what if it spreads? What if it starts with the finger, then the hand, arm, BRAIN?
She switches off the side lamp. And with her action the finger disappears under a blanket of darkness. ‘I’ll be seeing you again tomorrow’ I warn the finger.
‘Night’ my wife tells me.
At 2 AM I awake in damp sheets. The gentle sound of my wife’s snores. ‘God’ I yelp. ‘It’s the finger it’s finally exploded’. I rush for the lamp. But the finger’s still there, enormous as my thigh. Bent sideways, my fingers lie flat, pushed away from the growth. They are bent, deformed, bones broken. Greased with red, the liquid draining from the finger- a cut where the band was so deep the flesh is almost completely severed, on the sheets, spilling onto the floor. I look to the door, the liquid has almost reached it. Watery red lips above the bed. There is an awful smell and the fluid has gotten so high it is filling the room. I watch it rush out of the broken dam of a wound. It has almost engulfed the bedroom and I look to my snoozing wife, the red lapping against her nose and wonder if I should save us but instead I just watch the morbid water lap peacefully against our bodies.
‘It’s time for work’ my wife pulls the covers off me. ‘You’ll be late’.
Routine examination of the finger: an ache, a completely alien body. The extraneous thing is now three times the size of its neighbours, four times, five times. Today, I decide, it must be amputated. If left it could go gangrenous, I can tell inside its already rotting. ‘Yes’ I say aloud, ‘It must be amputated’. In place of my old, familiar finger is a tumescent stranger perpetrating my hand; invading my body. Looking down at it I picture my weapon.
‘Hurry with ya’ she moans.
‘I’m not going in today’. She stops in her track, frozen folding a small towel.
‘I’m going to the doctors about this finger’.
‘You and that bloody finger’, she resumes her morning folding ritual. ‘You’ll get the sack playing bloody tricks like that’.
‘It’s serious now’ I assure her. ‘It could kill me at any moment.
‘It doesn’t look swollen’ he tells me.
‘But doctor, it defiantly is. Feel it’. I poke it myself and wince at the pain.
He looks at me gone out, feels it to pacify me. ‘Well, it’s not visibly swollen but if it’s really causing you pain perhaps you’ve sprained it or perhaps there’s a foreign body lodged in there that’s causing a discomfort, such as a splinter’.
‘A splinter? A foreign body? It is a foreign body. It’s taking over’
‘Sometimes things like that can cause quite some discomfort’.
‘Discomfort! Splinter?’ I huff. ‘It’s not a bloody splinter. Look at the finger! This will kill me!’
The prick looks bewildered. ‘I erm don’t think it looks swollen but erm…’ pause, ‘I’m going to refer you to another doctor’. He hands me a slip of paper and promptly leaves.
I could have stolen something from the doctor’s surgery but I didn’t think of that at the time. Instead I have whisky and a kitchen knife and my wife is watching Family Fortunes, loudly, in the lounge. A shallow opening has formed, a little scabbed blood at its entrance. There’s so much more skin to break. I carefully survey where I shall start the incision. Amputating a body of such size and such mass could take hours. And I shall need a bucket for all the fluid. Before I make a start I’ll have some whiskey; take the edge off. I can hear the buzzers from the game show blaring in the lounge. It feels like I’m playing a twisted game of operation. I pour a little whiskey on the blade, just for good measures. Then I make a start. I don’t know which way to cut, so I prick it first- just to test the pain. A bead of blood forms. My finger is numb. I do it again. Numb. It has become disassociated with my body, like a leach that I can prize off. Again, I prick it, this time deeper, harder. Still I feel nothing. There’s a swell in the room. Now to make a real start and as everything becomes fuzzy and a rush pulses through me and a swift clap on the face-
‘What ya playing at?’ she snatches the surgical instrument from my oblivious hands.
I stare dumbfounded, the rush slowly submerging.
‘Why are you playing around with my kitchen knife? And look at ya. You’ve cut yourself’.
I swallow hard. ‘But my finger-
‘Yes there’s something bloody wrong with it now. You’ve gone and bloody cut it’. She wags her finger at me like I’m a scoundrel tom cat and tells me she’s hiding the knife.
I grab my coat.
‘Now where are you off to?’ The buzzers are still sounding from the next room.
‘Soon I’ll need a snorkel’ I think, my head so low that my nose is almost plunged into my pint. ‘That was my first attempt’ I warn the finger. ‘Only the first’. I drown my sorrows, contemplating if the finger controlled my wife back there, if it sent her mental messages to sabotage me. Knocking back the dregs of my beer I order another. At the edge of the room, her friends wishing her goodnight is the boss’s hot junior assistant. Soaked in makeup and the dusty light from the bar she sits back down and sips the remainder of her vodka coke and for some peculiar reason I feel I have the right to approach her. Alarmed by my shadow she looks up at me, startled, as I hover over her. ‘Hey’ I exclaim.
‘Oh, hey’ she answers softly. ‘You work at my place don’t you?’ she asks, unsure.
‘I saw you talking to Harrison earlier at the water cooler’. She twiddles her hair, her taciturn disposition making it extremely difficult to keep eye contact with her.
‘Yeah’. I search. Mind blank. ‘He’s a good man’.
‘Yeah, he’s been really nice to me since I started’.
I think: ‘I bet he bloody has’.
‘That’s Harrison’ I falsely laugh.
‘You work in head office right?’
I’m about to correct her when I just nod in agreement. The fact I work in the cubicle farm in a position below her- a girl who didn’t finish college isn’t what a girl like that wants to hear. ‘Yes. You always look so busy I never want to disturb you’.
‘Well he keeps me busy’. I think: I bet he bloody does. ‘So I never really notice anyone around me. But I know a few people in head office- like you, because Harrison only talks to people in head office. He says those people in the cubicles are chimpanzees’, a delirious laughter takes hold of her.
I sip my beer nervously.
‘So’ she leans in, fixing her face into a pout and smiling seductively with her eyes, ‘how close are you to the top?’
A new persona has emerged. The one Harrison sees and I now go forth and create mine accordingly. ‘Well’ I smile casually, ‘you know the company is FTR Computing? Well, I’m the R’, I sit down with a big smug grin, knowing I’ve done everything I need to secure myself a good night.
When I wake up the following morning in her bed the first thing I check is not the hot blonde, nude beside me but the finger. For some reason I feel refreshed. Perhaps the alcohol and the sex made me sleep hard. They peep out of the duvet. One normal sized finger, two, three, four, and five. Five? I bolt up in bed, clutch it; feel the softness of the sheets to assure myself this is real. The finger has been drained of all fluid; it’s back to its full dexterity and narrow shape. My ring slides up and down the finger with ease. A strange sensation settles in my stomach. I look at the girl next to me and realise I have no need for her. Now I know I’m not dying. These are not my last days. And now my body has returned to normalcy so must I. So I grab my clothes and sneak out the door as I hear her tiredly call some fake name I gave her last night.
Of course my wife is at the table in her fluffy dressing gown when I roll in. her arms are crossed and she distantly asks me: ‘good night?’ When I walk past her I remember I smell of perfume. She chews on her pen, filling out the Sudoku. Maybe the detail has escaped her. I shed my clothes by the door and shower. The water is warm and refreshing. I let it rain down on the finger. Freely, I waggle it. Then I admire it, I admire the slenderness it has returned to. Clouds of steam melt along the mirror’s surface.
I switch the taps off.
The dirty clothes are no longer by the door, I hear the washing machine spin in the distance.
I dry, then dress.
She’s finished her Sudoku and is making coffee. The day is white. Birdsong. ‘Morning’ I say as I pass her. ‘Make me a cuppa while you’re up’.
‘You’re phone rang while you were showering’.
I grab a banana from the fruit bowl that my wife uses as a table centrepiece and go to unpeel it but can’t. I can’t ruin its intactness. So instead I stare at it. ‘What, love?’
‘Your phone’ she chucks it at me, not facing me.
I see the number- I’ve saved it as Queen Tits.
Forcing some saliva down my throat, the room becomes dry. Uninhabitable. ‘I don’t remember this’ I tell her, staring at it.
‘No?’ she faces me this time- it is expressionless. She chews her lip, moves closer to me.
And then with corpse like frigidity she brings the kitchen knife down between my legs. I expect to yelp but don’t. Instead we both look down, scarlet pooling and the kitchen tiles, my bloodied member sliding across the floor. Post falls through the letter flap. Dogs bark somewhere in the distance. My wife gets a mop from the cupboard and begins to clean.