GGGAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!! It be I, Anonymous the Pirate, seekin' ye help, oh great Giant Squid. While sailin' through the ocean, one of me mutant crew was sayin' we be lost, so I tells him that if he don't shut his lyin' whore mouth I'll cut off his head. So then he pulls out his pistol and shoots me left hand off. Now my question is should I get a hook, or a newer more hand-like replacement?
Master of the Mutant Crew,
Anonymous the Pirate
My Dearest, Unnameable Pirate,
As always, we here at the lab are much delighted to learn that you have not fallen prey to the usual career-ending ailments that so oft afflict privateers: scurvy, British bullets, the keel haul, sirens, old age, gout, typhoid, the dread sasquatch and Abram Lincoln. But, alas, you have found yourself striken with the most common non-mortal affliction to those in your line of work: loss of limb.
It is indeed an odd coincidence that you have contacted me about such limblessness, as, just twenty-four hours past, I and my crew—consisting not of pirates and sailsmen, but rather of surly and overly-skilled office workers, mechanics, grade-school-aged students, the functionally unlettered, and one lone angry Francophonic chimp—spent hours contemplating a mysterious hand that had come into our possession.
Regrettably, this hand is not your hand.
You see, we have recently been burgled. Our Cabinet of Wonders was ransacked by unknown and powerful parties of quite startling guile and strength. Worse yet, the greater part of the items in my Cabinet were not mine in any proper sense, but were rather on a sort of loan. All of this is a regrettable development, as the burglary rather casts doubts upon the quality of the secure-storage services we were just now bringing to market.
In general my Cabinet, being a sort of private and compact museum, saw little use. Within this past year, we only found call to even unlock the case on a handful of instances. One was so that Mr. Leeks might make a full accounting of my tentacle collection. The other seven were at the behest of besuited individuals who would, on the occasion, visit my lab sans announcement, package in hand. Such couriers would not speak, and occasionally possessed no mouth at all. My optically perfect eyes record all—every detail of every face that paces is etched into my mind like acid upon a baby's foot—and yet those deliveries persons . . . They haunt me. The packages varied in size. One was wrapped in robin's egg blue gauze and was no larger than a thimble, though it weighed several hundred pounds. Comically, the office men took turns trying to lift it and to "put the shot" before the man-who-cannot-be-remembered scolded them.
On another instance the package was a U.S. Postal Service priority mail envelope that pulsed with a dim light. This suffused the office and brought a cloying calm. Rob, Molly, and even excitable Jarwaun stood still about it, their faces radiant with inner peace. I am immune to good will and cheer, dear pirate, or I too would have fallen into a joyful stupor and starved.
This is all prologue to say: the Cabinet of Wonders was robbed.
We returned from the afore-linked merry chase to find the Cabinet doors splintered, the protective lead shielding bent, the pentacles and mystical symbols inscribed into the floor were slashed as though with a thousand knives (or 500 cooking forks). My head cabineteer, Mr. Leeks (née my accountant) was badly beaten, the contents of my Cabinet thoroughly riffled, with many of them gone altogether (save the blue gauzéd pellet, which remained reassuringly in its place).
In that cabinet, dear pirate, had been a hand of great power. It belonged to a woman in the 1920s named Vera Rosemont. The name is likely unfamiliar, as its owner was remarkable in only two regards: Three of her toes were webbed, one to the other, and she was the landlady of the late Howard Phillips Lovecraft. One night in October, whilest our dear Lovecraft was peering into the vast darkness Beyond, she sat in his study and kept him company. Vera had developed a crushing love on the mad fantasist. Tea she would bring him. Crackers and jam. Fine cheeses from all across Delaware State. Doe-eyed, plain, and duck-footed, she would serve H-and-P like he was a hero returned from war. She bathed his feet. She brewed teas to soothe his nightmares. In her grey robes and pinkéd hat she would watch as he wrote and smile upon him.
But HP only had eyes for the Elder Gods. He would dream of them, thrashing in ecstasy. He wrote paeons to them, sang them songs of devotion. He noticed Vera naught. Until one night when the Elder Gods chose to gift upon HP a boon of power. Down into his house like a meteorite plummeted a crystal infused with raw chthonic power. It crashed into his siting chamber landing on the floor between HP and Vera Rosemont. For long seconds they stared at the black crystal and its tentacles of shadow. HP wondered, Is this a gift or a punishment? Have I been singled out for acclaim or being made an example of? And while Lovecraft pondered, Vera snatched up the elder crystal in her left hand.
Let me pause in my recollection to suggest this answer to your woes, Pirate: why not seek out a modular hand that can be both hand-like and hook-like, depending on what you need? For a cinematic example, look for this documentary regarding Bruce Lee's raid upon Han's private island compound. Although his mano-mehcnanizations proved ineffective against Lee's fine choreography and philosophical acumen, Han's ersatz arm deployed a wide variety of attachments of varying utility, including a blade, a claw, and flamethrower. Bear in mind that this was in the 1970s; imagine how far removable hand technology has come since.
In any event, several days after her impetuous grasp at power, Vera was a shrivelled, convulsing, grizzled wreck of a woman. Nonetheless, she managed to quite badly batter the Russian man who, 6 days later, killed her and cut off her left hand, and then his own, with gardening shears. He pressed the still-warm base of her severed hand to his and it grafted immediately. Power surged through him. His name is lost to time, as he was killed by a Japanese spy on the way to the airport who then removed his own hand and performed the same grafting trick. On and on the hand traveled, never staying with any one person for more than a few weeks at most. Until it came into the possession of the Ford corporation, who then brought the Hand of Vera to us. It was, in fact, the gathered equity they held in the Hand which gave Ford the wherewithal to decline government bailing out monies this past week.
The Hand of Vera had been safely stored in our cabinet, Anonymous Pirate. But there on the floor amidst the wreckage of the door was a man's left hand, freshly severed. The Hand of Vera was once again loose in the world.
According to all of our tests thus far, the discarded man's hand lacks any magic(k)al, or even scientifically or aesthetically curious, qualities. I shudder to imagine Alan Mulally's reaction when he learns what has befallen his corporation's hedge against financial ruin. Likewise, I do not imagine that the balances sheets and first-quarter financial reports for our secure storage business will be very uplifting reading.
And of course, while all of this is but the tip of the iceberg as far as the items taken from my Cabinet, it is to say nothing at all of those which left of their own accord once the Cabinet's many seals had been broken.
Your Giant Squid
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson