Bridget Cleary’s Fingers—Morgan Quinn

  1. You watch her fingers dance, whispering magic into cloth, breathing life into fabric. Her hair is pinned up as she works, a soaring mountain, yielding to the graceful slope of her neck. Your hands long to trace its pale smoothness, touch the tense line of her jaw, taste the perfect tips of her delicate ears. Your lungs burn with un-expelled air and you wonder, with a thrill of fear, if it is your life she is breathing into the garment that pulses beneath her finger tips.

  2. A saucer of milk sits untouched by the hearth, which remains darkened by soot in spite of her ardent superstitions. Those willowy fingers of hers, so deft with a needle and thread – and God knows you love the magic they weave under dark of night – do not make light work of the housekeeping it seems. Disappointing. You twist the band of metal on your own plump digit; sigh despondently.

  3. Her fingers. They are like creeping spider legs, spindly and skeletal, reaching out towards you, pleading and desperate. Your throat constricts. Bile rises.

    This isn’t her.

    She hacks like a stray dog, blood flecks spatter the bedclothes. You stare at her handstitched nightdress, limp and lifeless against her sallow skin.

    In the hearth, a fire leaps, twirls, pirouettes, dancing the way her fingers used to. Her real fingers.
  1. A full moon. You dig beneath a Hawthorn tree, dry lips whispering a fervent prayer. The bundle at your feet is tied with string, like a gift. With mud-caked boots, you nudge it until it slithers into the hole with a muffled thud. The moon sidles from behind thick cloud, but you don’t look away in time. The pale light illuminates her fingers, lithe and brittle and black as coal.
  1. You sweep the hearth. Vigorously. Retrieve a band of burnished gold from the debris. She hadn’t shrieked and leapt up the chimney. That’s what happened to changelings in the stories. She had just shrieked. Loud and long.

    Until she stopped.

photo by Valeriia Miller (via unsplash)