The Hand and the Knife—Ellen Huang

after a Grimm fairytale

My brothers warned me of humans
Fleeting Folk, unbound by promises,
While our word means life or death to us. 

But she shone as she worked 
Harder than the rest of them
Whilst her sisters pushed her, she danced, dillydallying
Whilst my brothers teased me, I thought of sparks flying
I sharpened my knife 
               and stuck out a hand between the particles
For her to take, finish her herculean tasks
Only a little faster. 

The hand was all she could see of me
by some spell or some choice
But I didn’t mind
being useful 
She always gave me the knife back 
Gleaming, shining as she did 
After finishing her chores. 
Her satisfaction became my addiction. 

I lent her my hand many times, 
her fingers brushing by ever so slightly
as our fingers traded places on the handle of the knife. 
Her touch would linger longer 
and longer. 
Until she caressed my hand 
               And        didn’t    return 
                                                               my knife 
                              so quickly. 

True, I started to only feel her touch 
and lost ability to see her. 
My brothers warned that would happen 
when worlds got muddled. 
But I thrust my hand into the mist, cool and sweet
For our exchange was of love 
and wholehearted trust
For we know kindness and rewards are found in 
Hidden places. 

The night I lost my hand completely was a blur, a day in fog. 
I waited for my shining human maiden in expectation 
We might hold hands all night. We might run off together. 
One might pull the other through the mist; 
               we may then know each other.
She returned the knife too swiftly, 
It cleaved so cleanly, despite its little teeth, 
despite outstretched need, 
               despite muddled worlds.
My phantom palm remembers reaching out
yearning for warmth
               and only meeting metal.
Last touch, last touch.  

Now between worlds, wounds and touch alike fade.
The cut doesn’t bleed, but the mist where my limb disappears
Reminds me every day: I only have one more hand to give
But no other hand to hold it, 
keep it from trembling
               keep it from this shiver 
Reminds me we do not bleed like human folk. We disappear. 
               That my heart is already gone.

Ellen Huang (she/her) is an aro/ace author of fairy tales. She peer reviews for Whale Road Review and is published/forthcoming in various venues such as Persephone’s Daughters, Grimoire, Not Deer Magazine, Sirens Call, warning lines, Wretched Creations, and Wrongdoing Magazine. She is a changeling, ever adapting to this world, sent to find its hidden magic. Follow her discoveries: or her mortal persona on Twitter as @nocturnalxlight. 

photo by Serge Kutuzov (via unsplash)