by Edogawa Ranpo, translated by Yeu-Ann Huang,
illustrated by Emerson Barrett
Image Content Warning: Blood
Music played by Sofi Sanders
The patient slowly woke up from the anesthesia and saw my face.
Thick and heavy bandages were wrapped around his right hand, but he had no inkling that it had been severed from the wrist down.
He was a well-known pianist, so the loss of his right hand would prove fatal to his career. The perpetrator was most likely a peer who was jealous of his success.
In the darkness of the night, he had lost consciousness in the street. A passerby had chopped his right hand off at the upper wrist with a sharp knife.
Fortunately, the incident happened near my hospital, so in his unconscious state, he was brought in. I did my best to treat him.
“Oh. Am I under your care? Thank you… I was drunk… I was attacked by someone I didn’t recognize in a dark alley… My right hand, I see. Are my fingers alright?”
“They’re fine. Your arm is slightly wounded, but don’t worry, it’ll heal in no time.”
Until my friend was in better shape, I hid the fact that his career as a pianist was over. I couldn’t bear to see his despair.
“And my fingers? Will my fingers be able to move as before?”
“Don’t worry,” I said.
As if to get away, I distanced myself from the bed and stepped out of the room.
I also firmly instructed the attending nurse to pretend that she didn’t know his hand was gone.
About two hours later, I went to check on him.
The patient was in a somewhat better condition. But, he still didn’t have the energy to examine his right arm. He didn’t know his hand was gone.
“Does it hurt?”
I looked down at him and searched his face for a response.
“Yes, I am feeling a lot better now.”
As he said that, he gazed intently at my face. The fingers of his left hand, which were sticking out from under the blanket, began to move as if playing the piano.
“It should be fine if I move my right fingers for a bit…I composed a new piece, so I have to try to play that at least once a day or else…”
I let out a voiceless gasp. While pretending to stabilize his right arm, I used my fingers to apply pressure to the spot on the ulnar nerve along the upper arm. By applying pressure there, even though he had lost his right hand, the sensation of having fingers can still be transmitted to the central nervous system.
As the fingers of his left hand smoothly danced across the surface of the blanket, he murmured,
“Ah, my right fingers are fine. They move quite well.”
He continued to air-play an imaginary tune as if in a trance.
I couldn’t bear to look anymore. Without a word, I made eye contact with the nurse and signaled her to take over applying pressure to the ulna nerve on the patient’s right arm. I stole out of the room.
Later, when I happened to pass by the operating room, I saw a nurse standing as if stunned, staring intently at a shelf attached to the wall in the room.
Her behavior was not normal. Her complexion was pale, eyes strangely wide-open and fixated on something that was on the shelf.
I unconsciously entered the operating room and looked at the shelf. There was a large glass jar with the patient’s hand embalmed in alcohol.
One look, and I froze.
Within the alcohol-filled jar, his hand-no, his five long fingers-slowly moved like the thin legs of a white crab.
They moved, as if playing the keys of a piano, but more subtly, like a child’s hands weakly but unceasingly tapping away.
About the Author
Edogawa Ranpo (1894 – 1965) was a Japanese author and was considered a major figure in the evolution of Japanese mystery and thriller fiction. He is most known for his Private Detective Kogoro Akechi series, which spans over 21 novels and short stories from 1925 to 1955. The inspiration for the Detective Akechi series is said to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, and Edogawa Ranpo’s own penname is derived directly as a Japanese rendition of Edgar Allan Poe, whose works also largely influenced his writing.
About the Translator
Yeu-Ann is a graduate of the Global Media and Cultures program at Georgia Tech, with a concentration in Japanese (and Chinese, if she may add!). Her interests include translation; the study of East Asian arts, language, and culture; and manga scholarship. During her downtime, she likes to bake, watch Asian drama, and read manga/manhwa. Lately, she has been obsessively reading Korean Webtoons and Webnovels and is out to rope everyone into joining her addiction.
About the Illustrator
Emerson Barrett is an Undergraduate Student majoring in History, Technology, Society at Georgia Tech, and is currently drawn towards East Asian history. She has been interested in art since she was able to hold a pencil, and has recently been exploring more in the world of digital art. In regards to Speculative Fiction, Emerson is an avid reader of all things fantasy and science-fiction, and enjoys reading and writing short stories in her spare time.