Day 4 of 365.
Hands. They were pink and red, still full of warmth. Fresh off the train were the pair of eyeballs, arms, and tongues. The left thumb stuck up and fingers curled as if it were mocking the idea of hitchhiking. The mercenary picked it up roughly and turned to his customer.
After the exchange the mercenary handed the body parts over to the small man. The man seemed to curl over himself, thin and short, an old man. He had a warm coat on and dark herringbone hat. The man took the body parts from the mercenary, placing it in his red bag. The bag looked more like a pillowcase than anything else. He shuffled away from the line that had started growing behind him.
He continued on his way for a long while, down the gravel road and through the market. It was a hustling and bustling place. People bringing parts for sale constantly. The man paused only to wait for a pair of men fighting over a toe. They knocked each other and into his path before a large mercenary pulled them to their feet. He threatened the two with a finger pointed at the nearest market. Fresh parts were always a fair price, no matter the condition of the skin and bones. They scuttled away, angry, and the man continued his walk through the market.
At the edge of the market was a line to leave the premises. The open field bottlenecked to this point where every man and woman lined up, obedient. The man shuffled along. His thoughts wandering as he did. He reached the outpost, another mercenary guard reached his hand out. He placed in it the red bag, the hand shifting as he did. The guard looked in and nodded to a small woman. She nodded back and pressed a stamp onto a piece of worn paper. She handed it to the man as the guard gave the hand back.
Out in the open the man headed to the bus stop. He was alone there, watching the rest of the shoppers head to cars and walking toward the sea. The bus came and he sat alone on it. The driver hummed a tune that seemed familiar to the old man, but he couldn’t place the name of it. The man rode the bus until it was almost outside and the driver had announced the last stop. Then he walked.
The last stop was at the edge of the forest. The man headed to the lone path which wound its way through the trees. It was pitch black before he could see the simmering light of a cabin. He sped up, as if reenergized by the sight. The man knocked gently at the door when he reached it. His wrinkled face weighed upon his blank expression.
The door cracked a bit. Light spilled out across his feet and blinded him slightly. It was an old woman. She sighed, tilted her head and looked at him with pity. The old man held his red bag out to her. She shook her head. He moved closer to the door and motioned to her again. With a sigh the woman opened the door wider and let the old man in.
Inside it was warm and smelled of a crisp fire. There was a large cauldron over the fireplace. Something green with purple chunks simmered in it. The woman motioned to a chair and table. He placed the red bag atop and pulled the left hand out. The thumb was still curled up.
The woman walked up behind him, rubbed his back, and then took the hand. He watched as she took the hand over to the kitchen cabinet. She grasped a knife and began chopping up the fingers. Each bone snapping as she came down forcefully with the blade. He watched as she worked. Not saying a word, only moving to sit and take his coat off.
She dumped the chopped hand into the cauldron. It sparked pink and black fire when the hand hit it. Smoking something red. The man could smell something sweet, like an apple. She hummed a song. The man cocked his head, it was the same song he’d heard the bus driver singing. He sighed happily watching the woman stir the pot. She paused and glanced back at him, smiling slightly.
The woman cooked the potion for almost an hour, in silence with the man watching. More ingredients were added and the cauldron’s contents had changed from the green to a bright purple with now orange chunks. It sizzled, an almost sighing sound. Satisfied that the potion was indeed done she poured it into a metal cup.
The man watched her, leaning forward eagerly as she brought the cup toward him. He reached out with wrinkly hands, but she paused. They made eye contact for a moment and then he dropped them. He was frowning, watching her with sadness. The woman licked her lips, sighed, and then placed the potion on the table next to him. The man stared at it, wanting to drink it, but obedient.
The woman returned to the cauldron and poured another cup. She sat down across from the man, lifted her cup. He stared, suddenly afraid of it. She sighed, reached her hand out to him. He watched it. The calloused old fingers of a witch. He placed his hand in hers, expecting warmth. It was cold, a dead feeling. He once again made eye contact with her. Her eyes were grayer than he remembered, older than her body. Her white hair was tangled around her neck, parts of it stuck in her necklaces. It was thin and frail like the grasp of her fingers now. He wondered if he looked like that now. Frail and old like her.
She squeezed his hand gently and held her cup again. The man did the same. His hand trembled a bit, the cup shaking the potion a bit. Then they drank.
The liquid was thick and grotesque. Chunks went down his throat, scratching it. He could taste the fingers of the man, and it made him want to throw up. The man continued drinking the potion though, until it was all gone. The liquid settled slowly in his stomach and he tried to ignore the aftertaste.
The woman was still holding his hand as he set the cup down. She had a nauseated expression, shaking her head.
Pain suddenly stabbed the man’s stomach and he released her hand, grasping his stomach. He had been poisoned! He stared at the woman, confused and betrayed as a burning pain spread from his stomach up through his chest. His throat suddenly burned from the liquid, like he’d swallowed fire. Then just as quickly as the pain had come it was over.
He looked at the old woman for an explanation, but there was no longer an older woman before him. A youthful woman sat in front of him. Her hair blond and thick. He could see the same nose and face shape as before, but she’d aged backwards.
The man looked down at his hands. The wrinkles of time were gone. He touched his face, looking for the familiar wrinkles on his aging face, but everything was smooth. Fresh and smooth. The man gaped at the woman, scared and surprised. She smiled again, leaned forward and held out her hands. He placed his new hands in them, feeling warmth. And then he just stared.
Her eyes were old, older than her body. Gray and old, but her skin and organs had cheated death again. He stayed there staring at them for a long time realizing that soon, his eyes would look the same.