It was one of those summer days you wish would never end. The weather was perfect, barely a cloud in the sky. People as well as animals walked the streets, looking like they didn't have a care in the world, and despite the sound of cars driving by you could hear the birds sing happily.
But someone who didn't take time to enjoy all this, was Catherine Denham. The young lady had a serious,almost concerned look on her flawless face. Her black hair danced in the wind, making the ends slightly curled. She wore a red, spotted dress with a wide white belt that made her look even thinner than she already was, and high heels in the same red color as the dress. Red fits good on her, he had told her so, and maybe that was just the reason she insisted on wearing it lately. But, she could not convince herself enough that that was not the case. She just enjoyed the color, liked how it brought out her light skin, and how it fit so well with her long black hair. There was nothing more to it. Her concern was not with her clothes,though. She had for over a week thought about confronting him about what she had seen, but never really dared. What if he took it badly? He was a genuinely calm and nice person, but she still hadn't been able to talk to him about it. However, they were meeting for coffee today, and then she would have her chance. Catherine was on her way to the nice, cozy little cafe where Dell probably already sat,waiting for her. That man was always in time, he'd rather be early than late. He didn't have a problem with waiting, it was more like the other way around, he enjoyed it. Being early gave him some extra time for himself, time to think and plan. He was extremely curious, eager to learn and very educated, and unlike most workers at his job he had a certain passion for it. Not once had Catherine seen him sit around and do nothing. He was constantly doing something, and he was quick too. Mostly he was only repairing things the company needed to get repaired, but he had too much potential for that job, at least in Catherine's eyes. A man with such love for his job and everything technological should not work as a repairer. He should be able to make and build things, and he would probably get the work done much faster than any of the other lazy workers. She could put in a good word for him, if the boss would let her. But she had not been working at the company for very long, so there was no real trust between her and their boss whom she worked very closely with. In time, when she's proven herself to him, he might listen to her and consider promoting Dell.
Catherine had lived in Texas for two years now, and worked for the company for almost a year. She handles the company's paperwork and makes sure everything is going well for them. She was born and raised in the northeast but decided to relocate, mostly because she grew tired of all the people around her. Her mother, for instance, cannot accept the fact that Catherine is twenty-eight years old, without kids or a husband. At that age, Catherine's mother had already given birth to Catherine and her older sister Vivian, and gotten married to their father. Tired of the constant nagging, Catherine left the only town she's ever known, and headed for Dallas where she could get a new start.
She first met Dell at work. Well, she noticed him pretty quickly, how he was so different from the other workers. Usually whenever she had to run some errands she would pass by him and view his intense working from a distance. He never noticed her, or anyone else for that matter. It was obvious he only had eyes for the machines he was repairing. After some time she built up the courage to actually walk up and greet him, and she still remembers how he turned to her, - a bit surprised since he's never really seen her before – smiled and with his heavy Texan accent greeted her back. From that point on they began talking more and more for each day, and it didn't take long before their friendship bloomed. Nowadays Catherine speaks to Dell almost every day, if not at work, so afterwards. Sometimes they met during weekends too, however that did not happen very often. This particular Saturday, Catherine had called Dell and asked him to meet her at the little cafe. He did not know why, and hadn't asked why, which was a relief to Catherine. She wanted to talk to him about this face to face and not over the phone. Luckily Dell was the kind of person who didn't need a reason to meet up with his friends and family, unlike some people who could get very suspicious and start asking questions. Catherine was more that kind of person, she always got concerned if someone called her and wanted to "Meet and have a talk" without giving a reason to what it was all about. There was just something about that sentence that gave her a bad feeling.
She took a right, and came out on a narrow street where she further down could see the sign for the cafe, and it's outdoor seating. She could see a couple of people sitting there, but it wasn't exactly crowded. A day such as this, nobody should want to sit inside. As Catherine came closer and closer to the cafe, her heart began to beat harder. It was almost as if she could hear every beat right in her ear. She searched the patio with her eyes, and soon locked her sight on a man sitting by himself, reading the newspaper. It was Dell who sat there. She could see he had already ordered a cup of coffee, placed neatly in front of him on the round table. Dell's light blue eyes followed every line of the text, picking up whatever information the newspaper had to give him. He seemed calm, and even though he was not exactly smiling, he somehow looked very gentle. Catherine took a deep breath and walked up to the table where Dell was sitting. She tried to look as relaxed as possible, just like she had been doing for the past week so he wouldn't suspect anything, and she could only pray he wouldn't notice that something was a bit off about her. She pulled out the metal chair which let out a small shriek when it scraped against the ground. The sound made the surprised Dell look up, but as soon as he saw Catherine's face his eyes took on their calm appearance again.
"Hey, Catherine." He said, and folded the newspaper once before he put it to the side.
"Hi Dell" Catherine responded and sat down, opposite of him. She could hear herself talk all too well and prayed that Dell hadn't heard the slightly shaky tone in her voice. "So, uh..how are you?" She looked up at him, not smiling like she used to. She could see that Dell was studying her face, very discretely. "I'm doin' aw'right." He said and gently scratched his chin with his right hand. It was - as always - covered by a big glove. Catherine had thought he only wore the glove at work, but when they started to meet after work and on weekends she noticed he always had it on. No matter what other clothes he had, he always had that glove on. But now, she knew why.
Dell put both his arms on the table,making him lean forward a bit. He never took his eyes away from Catherine's, which just made her uneasy. She looked down to escape his gaze. "Everything aw'right with you? Don' look that way. You're acting like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs." Dell said.
Catherine glanced up at him, still saying nothing. Dell knew something was wrong, he had been able to see through the wall of confidence she had tried to put up.
"I-I.." Catherine looked down again, but her eyes then fell on the glove over Dell's right hand. The hand he never let anybody see.
"Would you like something, ma'am?" Catherine winced in surprise upon hearing the voice of the waiter who had walked up to their table. He stood next to her, ready to write down whatever she might desire to eat or drink.
"Yes, uhm..just a cup of coffee, please." She said and looked up at him, still in a state of shock. The waiter nodded and walked off again. Catherine followed him with her eyes for a second or two, before she – still trying to avoid Dell's look – turned her head facing down her lap again. Dell still wouldn't take his eyes off of her, and he was constantly trying to read her face to find out what had her so on edge.
"So tell me, what's this all 'bout? It idn't like you to act like this." Dell's voice was calm and a bit puzzled. He didn't like not knowing what was going on, yet he was not in a rush to find out. If Catherine needed time, he could wait. Though he never liked people keeping secrets from him, but he respected it nonetheless.
The young woman looked up, and straight into his eyes for the first time in a while. She didn't know how she was gonna go about telling him. The best thing was probably to just say it.
She opened her mouth as if to say something, but it took a second before any sound could be heard.
"I know, Dell...your hand." Her eyes wandered down to his hand, or glove, once again. Dell didn't say anything. He almost looked like he hadn't heard what she just told him, that she knew his secret. But there was a small sparkle of surprise and wonder in his eyes. How could she know? He always kept his glove on, except when he went to bed, but he doubted Catherine had been spying on him. Neither of them said anything, and just as Catherine was about to break the silence the waiter came out with her coffee. He placed it before her with a small smile on his face, trying to be polite of course. She thanked him and attempted to smile back, but it did not go too well. She put her hands around the cup, glanced at Dell who was now looking down at the table with an empty look. It was almost as if you could see the gears turning inside his head while he was trying to figure out how Catherine possibly could know.
"So..." He said, and smiled a crooked, joyless smile. "..you know?"
Was that the reason she had been acting so strange lately? She knew about the cold, metallic excuse for a hand that he had. Did it frighten her? Disgust her? It was not like he had ever done anyone any harm with it, and many people had prosthetic legs and arms..why would this bother her so much? Then again, Dell didn't know of anyone else who could move their prosthetic hand like he could, just like a normal hand. Maybe that was what it was all about, the fact that he was able to make it look like he had two perfectly good human hands. It must've been a shock to her when she found out...how did she find out?
Catherine slowly reached for Dell's right hand. She looked up at him, to see if he would pull it away. Now that she thought about it, she had never held his right hand before. Dell followed her hand's motion, without moving a muscle. Catherine gently put her hand over Dell's, very carefully. Her fingers followed the backside of his hand and bent around it's side so she now had one side of Dell's hand in her own. She squeezed it lightly, and couldn't feel anything underneath the soft glove at first. But then something hard met her fingers. It was almost like holding a skeletons hand, only it felt much edgier and bigger. She could feel a couple of bolts and screws, nothing soft, nothing human. It was just a metallic, lifeless machine programmed to work like a hand, hidden underneath a glove.
Catherine looked at her own and Dell's hand for a second, a bit concerned. She then looked up at him and met his eyes. He looked back at her with a bit of resignation in his light blue eyes. Catherine's face became more compassionate when she looked at him, and saw how this discovery from her side had caught him so off guard.
"How did this happen, Dell?" She asked in a low voice, trying not to draw any unwanted attention towards them. Something horrible must've happened to Dell, something that had made him lose his hand. Maybe he had to just amputate it due to some sickness, or he had been in an accident where his hand had just..been dismembered from his arm. Catherine shivered. Losing a hand, or even a finger for that matter, must not only cause panic and blood loss, but also a whole lot of pain.
Dell sighed. He looked down for a moment, and turned his right hand around so that he now had Catherine's hand in his palm. He couldn't feel her touch, or anything for that matter. His robotic hand was not exactly as a human hand, of course. However he had learned to use it without even having to look, despite the fact he couldn't feel when he touched something or someone with his robotic hand.
"It ain't no fairytale" He said. "But I'll tell you.." He continued, and closed his hand gently around Catherine's. She felt the robotic pieces put together like a hand,close around her fingers. She was almost afraid that Dell would squeeze too hard, be unable to control that robotic hand, and break her fingers. But Dell seemed to have control and the grip didn't get any tighter. This was also very confusing to Catherine. She never thought you could have a robotic hand, and even if you could how would you be able to fully control it? It didn't make much sense to her. The man who came up with the idea must've been a genius.
"..if you're sure you wanna know?" Dell continued and looked at her, now calm and confident again. Personally, he didn't like to relive the incident, but he was also very aware that he wouldn't be able to keep a robotic hand hidden from the public for too long. Sooner or later the truth had to come forth.
Catherine's eyes were yet again concentrated on Dell's hand, that so gently held hers. Her face was a mask of concern, compassion and even a bit of fear. She wanted to know what had happened to Dell, but she was also afraid of what she was going to hear. Was it even important for her to know how he got his robotic hand? What did it really matter? But her curiousness took over, she had to know despite how horrific the tale might be. Catherine looked up at Dell and met his gaze. He looked as calm as always, waiting for her answer. So she nodded. "I want to know" she clarified.
Dell nodded as well, and picked up the cup of coffee in front of him. He took a couple of gulps and let out a short sound, implying that the coffee was good. He then put down the cup on the table again, and thought of how he was gonna start telling the story.
"Three years ago, when I was newly employed at another company, a machine needed to be repaired.."
The year is 1962.
Dell Conagher is - along with two others - working on repairing a machine that was sold to another company, but then soon broke down. The company was furious and sent the machine back and demanded that it would be repaired, without pay. Whilst the three are working, Dell's boss, George Thompson, sent his secretary to tell Dell about the company's shredder machine that just had stopped working. It was a rather big machine, but Mr Thompson didn't see any point in having more than one man work on repairing it. He was certain that there was just a minor problem with it, that could be fixed rather quickly.
"Mr Conagher?" Dell turned around by the sound of the secretary's voice, facing the man standing there in his suit, looking mighty fancy, while Dell and the other workers wore helmets and construction clothes. It was almost a surprise that someone so nicely dressed would set foot there, where there were oil spills on the floor, and everyone's hands were dirty.
"Yes?" Dell answered, even though he didn't like to be called 'Mr Conagher'. It was after all his grandfathers name. 'Dell' worked just fine.
"The company's shredder machine broke down, so you are to repair it. Mr Thompson's decision. Follow me if you please." The secretary said, very politely. Dell listened, and knew that he didn't have anything to say about it. But he didn't like leaving the two others alone, there was still much to be done with that machine they were repairing. Apparently it was pretty poorly built from the very beginning, it was no wonder it had broke down.
"With all due respect, we're not done here. This here machine ain't ready by a long shot." Dell said, gesturing toward the machine. "It doesn't matter, Mr Conagher. It's just some minor problems with our shredder, you'll have it up and running again in no time. Then you are to continue with your work here." The secretary continued, still polite but slightly annoyed. Dell scratched his chin and shrugged. "Aw'right" He said, decided it was best to just listen. "Show me where it is."
Dell followed the secretary, and soon they reached the big shredder machine. Dell looked it over and asked; "So, what's wrong with it?"
The secretary looked down in his papers while Dell continued to examine the machine.
"It simply stopped working. We suspect something might have gotten stuck in the system, but it's uncertain. I suggest you open it up and take a look. The power is off so it's safe for you to work with. Report to me when you're done." Dell nodded and the secretary walked off to leave him alone in his work. Dell decided to firstly take a look at the part of the shredder where all the metal to be "shredded" were placed. He looked down at the big,metal teeth this monster machine had, but couldn't see anything there. Maybe, further down in between the sharp gears, something might've gotten stuck. It didn't take long for Dell to get the machine open on the side, so he could see the entire machinery. And, right he was, a big metal piece had gotten stuck between a couple of the sharp gears. Someone had obviously fed this machine something too big for it to swallow.
"C'mere you troublemaker" Dell mumbled as he reached for the metal piece and began trying to twist and wiggle it to get it loose. What he wasn't aware of, was that the machine was not turned off like he was informed. In fact, Dell had been very blind not seeing the red, shining lamp on the machine that indicated that it indeed was on. Dell's right hand was far in between the gears as he continued to try and get the big metal piece loose. He put his other hand against the outside of the machine to try and drag the metal piece out, and suddenly it got loose. The machine started to growl and its gears immediately started to turn, whilst Dell's hand was still in between them. He felt how the sharp edges pierced his skin, and as the machine crushed and savaged his hand he let out a roar in pain. The machines gears were soon covered in blood, just like Dell's underarm. But before the machine had a chance to chew down Dell's entire arm, the metal piece he had had in his hand got stuck once again, and the gears stopped turning. Dell were able to pull his arm out, heavily bleeding and with his hand completely gone. He was shaking in pain and shock, and grabbed his own arm, just underneath the part that was now missing. Blood covered the floor, his clothes, arm and hand, and it just kept on bleeding. Some workers that had heard his scream came running, and when they saw what had happened they alerted the others. Dell was in a state of shock and began to get dizzy from the blood loss. He was just mildly aware of what was going on around him, how his co-workers did their best to keep him from bleeding to death and getting him to a hospital. But before he got there, he blacked out.
Dell stopped. He was looking down at the table and had placed his left hand over his right one. Reliving what had happened to him three years ago was painful, and the memory of how bad it had hurt, and how much blood there had been still gave him the creeps. It was something he rather not think about.
During the story, Catherine had wrapped her hands around her cup of coffee, and every now and then taken a few sips. When Dell finally had come to the part where he explained exactly how he lost his hand, she had frozen in place. She stared at him, shocked and frightened. This was truly one of the most horrific things she had ever heard!
"My god, Dell.." Was all she managed to say, she was completely speechless. Dell looked up at her, met her wide open eyes with his gaze. Catherine could see he was in mental pain, and she almost regretted making him tell her the story. "I'm..I'm sorry..my god I'm so sorry. You poor thing."
Catherine put down her cup of coffee and took Dell's left hand with both her own. She tried to give him comfort, and show that she felt bad for him. Dell smiled a little, and gently stroke the backside of Catherine's hand with his thumb. "Don't worry about it." He said. "I was lucky. It could've been a lot worse." Dell glanced at his right hand. It was thanks to his grandfather that he had such a functional prosthetic hand.
"When I got out of the hospital, I went right on home. 'Course I didn't have to work, and since the company was partly responsible for my accident I was able to squeeze some money out of 'em."
Catherine didn't let go of Dell's hand. She kept holding on to it, hoping it would make him feel better. "So, with that money you bought the-"
"No." Dell interrupted, and actually smirked. "I built it."
Catherine's jaw dropped, and she stared surprised at him. "You..built it?! But..how were you able to do that?" She knew he was a genius, capable of so much more than the crap job he had now. But had he really been able to come up with an invention such as this, and build it?
"My grandfather, Radigan Conagher, was...a mighty intelligent man, an inventor. When he passed he took all the blueprints for his inventions with him in the grave. Except for one, that got left behind."
Dell lifted his right hand to prove his point. "I got the blueprint, and kept it instead of diggin' up the old man again. With the dough I got from the company, I bought everything I needed to build me this prosthetic hand. I quit my job at the company, 'course they would ask me 'bout my hand if they saw it, so I thought it was for the best. Would've gotten replaced sooner or later anyway."
Catherine nodded, still unsure of what to say. Dell had really been lucky, in a way, and at the same time very unlucky.
Dell's eyes now rested on his and Catherine's hands that were holding each other. His hand looked so big compared to her delicate, feminine hands. They were so soft too, Dell would guess she had never done any sort of hard work in her life, unlike himself.
"How'd you find out?" He suddenly asked her and looked up. Catherine, who had been silently studying their hands as well, looked up at Dells face again before answering. "Well, last week by the time I ended my shift, I still had some paperwork to go through. So, I stayed for a bit to finish it. I thought I was all alone and that everyone else had gone home, but when I was on my way out I..saw you."
She explained shyly. She felt so guilty, like she had been spying on him, and for not saying hi when she saw him. Dell tried to recall what he had been doing that day, when he had stayed after work. He did remembered that he had stayed to get done with repairing a machine that needed to be repaired until the next day.
"I saw you work, and was about to walk up to you and ask why you were still there." Catherine continued. "But when you stood up and pulled your hands out of the machinery, I think your glove got stuck and slipped off.. I could see it,your hand, and I was so shocked that I..I just got out of there as fast as I could. Since then I couldn't stop thinking about it, but I never dared to confront you."
Catherine looked up again, and a short silence followed. They both looked at each other, and continued to gently stroke their thumbs against each others hands, very lightly. They had never held hands like that before, but neither of them seemed to want to let go.
"I..really am sorry for you, Dell..I wish that you never would have experienced that."
Catherine said in a low voice. Dell smiled at her, and had now shoved all the pain he had felt aside.
"Actually, there's some parts that I left out when I built this thing..." He said, almost slyly.
"If I improve it, this hand might come in mighty handy."