Or maybe it found her. Sally had lost most of her own middle finger to a jigsaw ten years earlier, and its absence had long since stopped being an annoyance. But while camping with friends in the Santa Cruz Mountains one June night under the stars, she had the definite sensation of a phantom finger materializing where her own had once been. She chalked it up to the wine and brownies and said goodnight. In the morning, however, the finger was still there.
Shaken, Sally headed home a day before schedule. On the way, she ran into a Grateful Dead song while surfing channels on satellite radio. It struck some chord within her, and she listened to the whole melancholy thing before finding some Lykke Li.
Sally worked as a receptionist at a leading aerospace lab, and her acquaintance with the scientific method (tangential though it was) should have reassured her that the improbable finger was a figment of her imagination.
After a few days of hoping the finger would just go away (and its steadfast refusal to do so), Sally googled “phantom limb”. None of what she found seemed to describe what was happening to her. Not exactly, anyway.
Tingling, yes. She had that. Pain, no, not really. Feeling of finger being deformed, or operating of its own volition? No. Distinct feeling of otherness? Hell, yes! A thousand times. But that last symptom she couldn’t find listed.
Variations on her search didn’t offer much more until she typed in “phantom limb not my own”, which led her to a few places she wasn’t prepared to explore, even under the influence of the finger.
The finger altered her consciousness.
Before, Sally’s interest in the occult had extended to the occasional Wikipedia article and B-movies involving Ouija boards. But now…
Crowley. Parsons. Blavatsky. Crowley again. She couldn’t get enough. And this preoccupation felt natural, as if it had always been within her, deep asleep, wakened by the finger.
Other recent obsessions, she was sure, were due entirely to the finger’s whim. Like certain music. Acoustic music. Banjo music. Sally hated the banjo.
Also, milkshakes and hot dogs threatened the contents of her closet at gunpoint, quite possibly a side effect of her staggering marijuana intake. Bizarrely, old Boris Karloff movies appealed to her.
One Sunday she jolted awake from a near trance and found herself perusing sweat pants at Target. Sweat pants. Not yoga pants, sweat pants. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling. The middle-aged woman across the display offered a concerned smile at her obvious existential consternation.
Gods, Sally thought, her hands scrunching the comfy but unfashionable material, who am I, really?
Ra! Ra! Ra! was Sally’s favorite occult bookstore. It had a broader selection than Wisdom of the Seers and wasn’t full of bad turquoise jewelry like Enchanted Forest. She wandered down its narrow, crooked aisles on the lookout for something on Gurdjieff.
She wore a loose black T-shirt and the aforementioned sweats. Three months had passed since that night in the mountains, and she had capitulated to the finger on quite a few things. In what was perhaps some weird variation of Stockholm syndrome, she had decided she liked the finger. She and it were friends.
Sally turned to find the youngish clerk standing too close. “Yes?” she asked, somewhat nonplussed.
“Not sure I should be telling you this,” the girl began, wrinkling her nose, “but there’s this other regular customer. David somebody. Parsons, I think. Really weird guy. Or now he’s really weird, he used to be pretty normal. Anyway, he saw you in here last month and flipped out like he was in a John Carpenter film. You know, like you were his evil twin or something. And now I think he’s stalking you.” She snapped her gum and looked at Sally expectantly.
Sally took a step back. She found herself paranoid. Very paranoid. Sneaking weed onto an airplane paranoid. “Stalking me? What makes you say that?” she asked, scrunching her sweats.
At that moment, the door dinged open, and both Sally and the clerk turned reflexively. A slender, well-groomed guy dressed in business casual (and looking uncomfortable in it) stood in the doorway. Time stretched like a rubber band as he and Sally shared… a moment. It is like seeing a long lost twin, thought Sally. The rubber band of time snapped back. The man blanched, and scrambled out the door.
“Yeah, so that was him. See what I—” began the clerk, but Sally had already bolted after the guy, urged on by some sudden impulse.
Once in the street, it didn’t take her long to locate her stalker/twin. He had collided with a passing pedestrian (who happened to be a chubby stoner kid in a Grateful Dead t-shirt) and both lay sprawled on the sidewalk just yards away. Again there was a moment, even stranger this time, with stoner kid gazing in awe as though he had caught a glimpse of the divine, her twin (David, she thought) looking at her as if she were a ghost, and she herself wondering why the stylized portrait of Jerry Garcia on the kid’s shirt felt like looking at a family album.
And noticing David’s right middle finger. Or rather the lack thereof.
Something clicked inside her head then, and she felt a rightness to the world she had never felt, a wholeness, like completing some cosmic puzzle. An instant later it was gone, but not before she had been changed forever. Again.
In 2004 Sally Brewmeister lost her finger to a jigsaw.
In 2014 David Parsons found it.
Jon Christian Allison lives in Northern Colorado with his family and assorted animals, including a cat named Jim Morrison. You can find him on multiple social media platforms, if you’re into that sort of thing.