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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man suffering the emotional devastation of a divorce finds a way of coping by severing his fingers, one at a time.

Submitted: November 22, 2011

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Submitted: November 22, 2011




by Noah Rockmore


Sometimes the only cure for pain is more pain.  The pain was unbearable, and the man wept uncontrollably, tears streaming and all.  His wife left him the house and most of their possessions, but it meant nothing without her.  Their home was no longer a home.  It was now an empty tomb full of memories of what now seemed the greatest pain of all.  Love.

Through the prism of tears in his eyes he looked at his wedding ring, clenching his fist as though to loosen it would cause the ring to disappear as his wife did.  He knew it was pointless.  She was gone and would never return, but he held it tight nonetheless.  He held it until his hand grew purple.

He could not bear the pain any longer.  It was worse than death.  He knew that the only thing he could do to release was to let it go, but how?  He tried to pull the ring off but his fingers were as plump and swollen as his heart felt.  Take the ring off, put it away, go to sleep, and begin a new life tomorrow, he thought to himself.  The ring then popped off of his finger.  He flushed the ring down the toilet and for a moment felt some measure of relief.  Just as quickly, it left him, and his heart swelled again.

Suicide would cure the pain, but to the man, that was quitting, and he didn’t like the idea.  In the kitchen, he grabbed a butcher’s knife and played with it, amusing himself of the possibility of inflicting pain to release the other pain.  On an impulse he swung the knife down upon his ring finger, severing it below the middle joint.  He cried out in shock more than pain and collapsed to the ground, trembling, his jaw hanging open without a sound.

Blood squirted from the remaining stump and a burning pain radiated through his hand, up his arm and into his shoulder.  His hand throbbed, and breathing became more difficult.  He watched the blood trickle and started to feel lightheaded.  He could see the bone.  A chill went through him and panic set in.  He quickly wrapped his hand in a towel and drove to the hospital.  He was asked where the finger was, but he did not know.  It popped off somewhere in the kitchen, but he never thought to look for it.  He played it off as an accident, and it sort of seemed that it was.  It even seemed funny to him.  And in a strange way it did relieve the hurt that he’d been suffering.  The doctor marveled at how calm the man was.  He cleaned and dressed the wound, prescribed some painkillers and sent the man home after a few hours.

As the man got on with his life, he thought often of the finger he’d cut off, and the intense sensation that it gave him.  In wanting to understand better, he began to educate himself on anatomy and the nervous and muscular system, trying to map and understand every nuance of the pain he had experienced.  It obsessed him for a time, and eventually he had trouble thinking of anything else.  It was around this time that he began to wonder what it would feel like a second time, if it would be different, easier, or worse than before.  He waited until his finger stump was more or less healed and then began to seriously consider losing another.  He wanted to feel it again.  After some deliberation, he determined that if he were to choose a second finger, it would most certainly have to be the little finger next to the stump.  It was on the end of his hand, and there was plenty of room for error since the finger next to it had already been removed.  And it seemed to be a finger that he could very easily live without.

This is crazy, he thought to himself.  Why would I want to cut off my finger?  But it did give him a sense of pride, of power, and of something else he could not articulate.  Who would ever do such a thing intentionally?  Surely no other man or woman in his circle of friends and associates could do it, even on a bet.  Even for untold riches they would never have the courage to inflict that kind of pain on themselves.  That’s what it was, courage.  Others were vain, too ashamed to live with deformity, and too cowardly to willfully inflict pain on themselves.  Warriors in ancient times would wear their battle scars as a badge of honor, for each told a story of heroism, of conflict, and of victory.

He grabbed the same butcher’s knife, placed his little finger on the counter top, tucking his other fingers away.  He took deep breathes and his heart raced.  Beads of sweat on his scalp and under his arms felt like pin pricks.  He anticipated the blow, and the surge of pain to come.  There is no turning back now.  God and fate have put him in this position.  It’s a test from higher powers, and he had to fulfill their request.  He chopped, and off came the little finger.  Almost immediately, he was seized with a searing pain, much worse than before, which stunned his whole arm and caused his body to collapse beneath him.  He yelled out and clutched his bloody stump.  He trembled and perspired, and felt nauseous.  He layed back on the floor, dizzy and chilled, until the pain and initial shock subsided.

He cleaned and dressed the stump himself and vowed never to do this again.  The pain this time was indescribable.  His whole hand throbbed for days, and the bleeding would not stop.  After a time, it swelled and became discolored.  He noticed that he was running a fever.  This worried him and he thought of seeing a doctor, but was sure that the doctor would grow suspicious at him having lost another finger.  The throbbing continued for over a week.

The man knew that something was wrong, but stronger than the urge to seek medical help was, again, a desire to cut off another finger.  In a strange way, he knew it would make him feel better.  After that, he would see a doctor.  He thought long and hard about which finger to do next, but knew he had to think fast.  It was obvious that his previous cut had become severely infected and if he did not see a doctor soon, his life might be in danger.  Looking at his hand, he determined that the thumb would be best, for it would balance out what remained of his hand.

Holding the knife, he examined his thumb, trying to determine where best to make the cut.  He thought about cutting above the middle joint, but didn’t want such a large stump remaining.  Ideally, he thought, he should try to chop right down the side of his index finger to where the thumb attaches to the palm.  He laid his hand on the table and stretched his thumb as far as he could.  This, he knew, was going to be his toughest cut.  Doubts filled his head, but he wanted to go to the doctor about his little finger, and made a deal with himself that he had to cut one more finger first.

He was weak and unsteady with a fever.  Get it over with, he told himself, and, without aiming, swung the knife down on his thumb, cutting an inch below the second joint.  This seemed quick and painless compared to the other fingers, but he allowed himself a moment to allow the pain to radiate and subside.  It was a messy and bloody cut, and he was angry at himself for missing his mark.  He wrapped a towel tight around his hand and went to the hospital.

The doctor could see what was going on, and that these wounds were self-inflicted.  He cleaned up the hand as best he could but found that the little finger stump was gangrenous.  The man was told he would have to stay to be sure that the bacteria would not spread.  The doctor cut off the rotted knuckle of the little finger, put the man into a medically induced coma and put him into a pure oxygen tank until the gangrene died.  When the man awoke, he was in a small room, strapped to a bed, his hand bandaged with only to two remaining fingers exposed.  He was drugged and out of it for a long time, and at some point was visited by a psychiatrist who told him that he was in a psych ward now, and would be under examination until he proved not to be a danger to himself.

The man was embarrassed and reluctant to talk about why he had felt compelled to cut his fingers off.  For weeks, these sessions proceeded, and he tried to convince them that he was not insane.  He was permitted to walk the grounds once a day, but still had to be accompanied by an orderly.  He grew comfortable there and was generally well liked among the staff and patients.  But all the while, those two remaining fingers would draw his attention, and he would wonder what it would be like to finish what he had started.  He was not permitted to possess any item that may be deemed a weapon.  He spent many nights wondering how to remove one more finger.  It seemed impossible.  He certainly couldn’t cut it with anything, but he could bite it off.  That would be very painful and messy, and he wondered if it was even possible.  At least with a knife there was a point when it was out of your control, and the velocity of the swing took over.  But to bite through flesh, muscle, bone, nerves, veins and arteries sounded impossible because it obviously couldn’t be done with one bite, but many, and he would have to tear through it.  His teeth were not sharp enough, he thought.  It’s impossible.  He’d bleed to death before he could finish.

Many nights passed and the temptation only grew.  The two fingers just sat there.  He looked at them and moved them and thought about which one he would want to lose.  The middle finger, he thought.  It’s big and would be a great accomplishment if he were able to succeed.  He figured on the best angle to bite from, stuck the finger in his mouth and bit.  He bit until the pain was too much, barely a dent in the flesh, maybe a bruise.  He gathered his wits, stuck the finger back in his mouth, back to his molars and bit as hard as he could.  He moved his head to try and saw through, so at the very least he could break the flesh.  He tasted blood.  It hurt.  Tears came down his face and he cried, but he kept at it.  With a grunt, he bit down hard, moaning and screaming, but the bone would not break.  He bit again, tears pouring from his eyes and his face turning red.  Then he felt and crunch, then heard a snap.  He screamed out in agony, but he had done it.  He had broken through the bone.  He cried.  An orderly heard his cries and looked in the window.  He fumbled for his key and called for help.

The man knew he only had a few seconds left.  He again and pulled the bone fragments apart to fit his teeth between.  He shook his head to try and saw though what remained.  His whole arm felt like it was on fire.  He tugged and pulled and sawed with his teeth, choking on his own blood.  The door opened and just before he was tackled and restrained, he tore his finger off and spit it into the air, victoriously.  He cried and was rushed to the emergency room where his wound was cleaned and dressed.  He told them not to reattach the finger.

From then on, the man was put in a straight jacket and placed in a padded room.  Once in a while they let him out to walk the grounds, accompanied by an orderly and a security guard.  Inside his straight jacket, he could feel his one remaining finger as he tapped it on his side.  He regretted that it was there, but knew he’d find a way to remove it.

© Copyright 2018 Noah Rockmore. All rights reserved.

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