's 2016 Horror Write-off:

All of this is happening right now Section 1: Hand Museum

Submitted by Brendan Cleary

Rikona never thought she'd ever see the Hand museum. It is a rare privilege given out yearly by the school as a prize to the student awarded the most perfunctory award. Yet here she was, Rikona Nakigo, the galliards institute of learning's perfunctory student of 2016, standing just feet away from the massive gated entrance. 

Right now. 

At this very moment, this is happening.

Her teacher, Mr. Fritz, who spent the entire 3-hour car ride telling Rikona how lucky she was, pats her on the back.

"You don't know how much of an honor this is." This was the 37th time Mr. Fritz had said this to Rikona. She has been keeping track. 

Without another word, He starts walking back to his car and makes a strange, flamboyant motion with his left arm, and the massive iron gates, with their intricate design of thousands of interlocking hands, start to creak open. The security cameras track her movement as she walks into the Hand Museum.

Rikona had never heard of the hand museum before attending Galliards, she didn't know what being perfunctory meant either, and even after learning what these words meant, she still had no clue how they tied together. The perfunctory award and the Hand museum was linked in her and the others children's mind firmly, thinking of one without the other was like thinking of a dog without skin, or an umbrella without the handle. Not only did they exist together, they defined each other, contextualized each other, justified the others existence. 

The Perfunctory award is important because the winner gets to go to the Hand museum, which is important. The hand museum is important because it is the prize for getting the most perfunctory award, which is important. Thinking about it too much made Rikona's brain hurt. It didn't help that beside their designated importance, little is known about the Hand Museum, or the perfunctory award. The fact that most of the kids didn't know what perfunctory meant allowed the teachers to stretch and change the definition and meaning of the award yearly. 

One year Jeremy Robinson, a pasty child who seemed to make an effort to be as unmemorable as possible, was awarded most perfunctory for his work as eraser clapper. This was odd, because Jeremy had only clapped the eraser's once, and that ended with him going to the hospital after inhaling too much chalk dust. 

Another year, Lilly Thomas, a girl who Rikona played hopscotch with a few times, was awarded the award after consuming an unreasonable amount of cough syrup at the nurses office. 

Rikona had won most perfunctory this year for being the first person to hear the noise. 

This scares her, as Rikona does not know what the noise that she was supposed to have heard was, and no one had been nice enough to enlighten her.

But for the little she knows of the perfunctory award, Rikona knows even less about the Hand Museum. 

No one had ever returned from the museum (which was to be expected, getting moved across the country to an entirely different school and state was part of the award package). Rikona knows only two things about the museum.

1. It was a museum

2. It was filled with Hands

A group of men and woman, all dressed in identical blue outfits, meet her at the door. They greet her politely, one at a time, and removed her coat. Of course, only the first greeter gets to remove her coat, the others have to resign themselves to pretending to remove her coat, getting behind her and removing a no longer present piece of clothing from her back. This makes Rikona laugh, but it's a confused laugh, the kind you make because no other response seems appropriate.

She is in a large cylinder shape room, where posters with the words hands are plastered around the wall at odd angles, with no inherent pattern or scheme. Some of the posters have more on their mind than just saying "Hands", one says "Hands are used by all" another one says, "See the hands of all your favorites" with a faded hand giving a thumbs up.

 Some of the posters seemed to cover other posters, but not intentionally, more like there wasn't enough space and they had no other choice but to put them on top of older posters.

"This is just the lobby." Says one, ushering her into a featureless hallway, "The fun is just behind that curtain." The usher points to a pristine red curtain. On the curtain, in sharp, cursive, letters are the words "Time For Hands". 


The curtains don't lie; on the other side are hands. Many hands.

Each hand is covered by it own set of red curtains. It reminded her of seeing a fancy opera, only instead of lady's in helmets on the other side of the curtain; there are hands in formaldehyde. 

Each display case has a label with a name on it, some names she recognizes, but most she doesn't. 

One of the hands, a gnarled hand whose fingers brachiated out like tree branches, has a label that reads "unknown". This is the most interesting hand Rikona has seen so far by a mile; all the others are depressingly mundane. Beneath the glass cases are plaques that go into detail about why this hand is important and how it advanced the field of hand research. It wasn't until the fourth plaque that she realized they were all identical. 

After 15 minutes of this, Rikona wants to go back.

"No,no,no,no! Not yet! Not yet." Attendants, all shaking their heads and wagging their fingers, suddenly surround her. "You can't leave yet, you can't leave yet, you haven't seen them all." They say in perfect unison.

 They point to a variety of cases throughout the expansive room. She can't remember if she had seen these cases before, there are all so similar. Begrudgingly she trudges back to the cases, hoping that by the time she was done, the attendants would have moved from their current, exit-blocking position. 

She has been in the hand museum for three hours, and Rikona has still not seen them all. 

She can no longer see the exit, she is in a deep, forgotten part of the hand museum, far from her starting position. 

For every hand she looks at, two more seem to appear. It was hard to keep track of which hands she has seen, as the only thing separating one display case from the other was the name engraved on it. If it was fun, or at least interesting, Rikona wouldn't mind, but the novelty of seeing detached human hands had worn off surprisingly quickly, and none of the hands seemed terribly important, they all just looked liked normal hands. She doesn't understand why these hands deserved to be preserved, or put on display. How are these hands more important than any other hands? As she reveals more and more generic, replaceable hands, she starts to wish the next hand would be terrifying, like the tree fingered hand, just to add some variety. 

It is by now dawning on her that this is an impossible task. The hand museum is now bigger than it was when she entered, and it is still growing.

She starts pulling up the curtains without looking at the plaque's; they all say the same thing anyway. She only glances at the hands now, even if a hand is deformed or different (none of them are) she doesn't notice, she moves to the next case before the image of the hand even registers.

A strong hand, of the non-detached variety, suddenly stops her from pulling one of the ropes. It belongs to one of the attendants.

"Whoa now! You can't just flip this one up all willy nilly, this is a special occasion." 

"B-but" Her mouth feels weird, like it's covered in sandpaper. How long has it been since she's used it? "I-I'm supposed to... supposed to see them all."

"You will, don't fret. We just wanted to make sure we didn't miss it." He gestures around the room, there are attendants everywhere, hiding behind displays and each other. They look like little kids at a surprise party.

 "After all, this is the last one. The special last one."

She looks at the exhibit; it looks exactly like all the others. She couldn't be certain she hadn't seen this one before.

"L-last one?" This all feels wrong.

He nods, "You understand why this is the last one, don't you? You understand why this one is so important?" He says it like no explanation was necessary.

She stares at him, confused.

Suddenly, he laughs. "Oh, you didn't read the name! That's why!" He turns to all the other attendants, hiding behind cases.

"She didn't read the name!"

She looks down at the name engraved on the case.

It reads "Rikona Nakigo"

Rikona joins their laughter. What else can she do?

The attendant releases his grip, she is ready.

As she raises the curtain, she is surprised to see there is already something inside.