The Imperfect Collection: FIVE

I wrote this short story for an online competition. It was a 55 hour fast fiction challenge and the prompts were as follows:

  • Your story’s first word must be FIVE.
  • Your story must include something being replaced.
  • Your story must include the phrase A SILVER LINING (‘a’ or ‘the’ is fine).
  • Word limit = 500 words.


Five fingers…

Each digit is mottled purple and black. Curled slightly as my eyes try to focus. I don’t think I should be awake. I hear voices that are too loud around me. There is a bright, white light and the smell of… hospital. My face is covered in tubes. I can hear my breath. All I can see though is my hand. It sits next to me. Is it even mine anymore? It is not a part of me. My breath quickens and I feel the beeping above me follow suit. *It must be a machine* I wonder thickly before a person shuffles behind me and everything fades into blackness again. 

I wake in the dark. Eyes still. The world is grey behind my lids. *It must be just coming on dawn.  My alarm will go off soon surely. I don’t remember going to sleep last night. I don’t even remember coming home. I remember being at work, fixing up the machine. There had been a jam…*

I inhaled sharply as I opened my eyes. I remembered everything all at once. The panic, too much noise and the pain. Small snippets of conversation. As sudden as my memories came back so does the awareness of how my body felt. Every limb felt like someone was pressing down on them. A ghostly weight and prickling runs through each of my veins. I let out a deep breath. A sickly-sweet pain runs through my right side. I shift my head with a wince. I glance down at my right hand. It is hurting the most. 

It was gone. 

My brain told me this is what I was seeing but I could feel the pain radiating from each finger, each joint in each finger. I blinked twice. Hard. It wasn’t there. 

Jutting out from my greyed hospital gown was my arm, skinny and stained yellow from surgery. My upper arm, my elbow, my forearm, my… nothing. No, not nothing. Where my hand once would lay was replaced by a nest of knotted bandages but after that just empty space. The ghost of my hand still tricking my brain into believing its presence. I thought about moving a finger, only a fraction. Nothing happened. Of course, …

“Oh, you’re awake! 

A nurse stood before me with smiling eyes. His presence made my head swim. Too real, too close. 

“You’re a lucky one! That machine could have taken your whole arm or worse if the emergency stop wasn’t pulled. Your parents seemed to see that as a silver lining when we told them. They are just outside; I’ll go fetch them. Would you like that?”

I felt too tired to speak, I couldn’t muster any words so instead I lifted my hand and gave the nurse a thumbs up.  The nurse looks at me expectantly for a few seconds before I realised. 

“Yes” I croaked, “sounds good.” 

My ghost hand still held in the thumbs up.  

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