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With Thy Grace

Prompt: “Write a story about someone who is losing feeling in their hands and/or fingers.”

By Gillian CorsiattoPublished 9 months ago Updated 8 months ago 7 min read
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Christian’s mother hadn’t given much thought to his name thirty three years ago when he was born, but in his current life, it proved to suit him very well. Christian Hartfield was used to not having much money since early childhood so as an adult, living cheaply and sparingly was something he was very used to and in a way, very comfortable with. He figured he was lucky enough to have stability that he couldn’t really complain about anything else. Especially not if someone, somewhere, in an invisible realm in the sky above him, was watching and judging his every move.

Christian worked as a church organist and he lived underneath the church in a suite he rented. The suite was fairly rundown but it had all the necessities of kitchen appliances, a bathroom with a stand-up shower, and enough living space for him to squeeze in a bed, a couch, a dresser, a TV, and an electronic keyboard on which he would diligently practice his hymns for his work in the church.

One Sunday morning, Christian’s beeping alarm woke him out of sleep. Each Sunday, the church in which he both lived and worked, had three back-to-back services. The first at 9:00 am, the second at 10:30 am, and the last at noon. Unless there was a funeral or a wedding, he usually had Sunday afternoons off and that’s when he usually headed on public transit to do his weekly errands. This included a laundromat run, as his quaint home did not have laundry capabilities other than hand wash. Christian was up at 8:00 and seated at the organ at 8:45, ready to play some soft hymns as the congregation found their seats. He noticed that the recurring members of the church always had specific seats. Mr. and Mrs. Zelensky always sat in the middle of the third row. Miss McKenna and her four kids always sat in the back so that she could make a quick escape if the baby started getting fussy. Mr. Smalls and his elderly mother always sat in the front right, and the Reid family in the front left. Miss Kinney, who always came alone, sat one row behind the Zelenskys.

The organ music had started and the congregation was getting settled. At 9:00 am on the dot, Christian paused his music so that Pastor Starling could start his introductions, grateful for the short break in playing.

Pastor Starling, an old man that had seemed impossibly old for nearly all of his adult life but never seemed to get any older, cleared his throat. “Good morning and God be with you,” he said.

“Good morning and God be with you, too,” replied the congregation robotically.

“We start today’s service with the singing of God’s Only Wish on Earth.”

Christian resumed his organ playing. This was a hymn that was done often enough that he knew it off by heart and had no need for sheet music in front of him. The congregation sang along as he played both the accompaniment and the melody line for them to follow along in case they didn’t know the song. He held the final chord of the piece for a few seconds to let everyone finish singing on their own time.

Pastor Starling instructed the church members to take out their bible and follow along as he read aloud. Christian, at this point, completely zoned out. His fingers were starting to tingle. He balled his hands into fists and punched them together in an attempt to make this tingling sensation go away. The tingling in his fingers was starting to happen more and more frequently, and just as concerning, his whole hand was now sometimes going numb after playing his organ or keyboard for too long. His hands would then hang limp, unusable and out of commission.

As the pastor spoke, Christian’s mind went elsewhere. He shook his hands, pulled on and cracked his fingers, and did anything he could to ease the tingling sensation.

“God be with you,” said Pastor Starling.

“And also with you,” replied the unenthused congregation.

That was Christian’s cue. Next on the agenda, Come, Holy Ghost.

A simple song in ¾ time in the key of G major, Come, Holy Ghost, was a hymn that, like the previous one, Christian had completely memorized. Again, he bothered not to take out his book of sheet music. The tips of his fingers still tingled but he had no time to stall. He played the intro and then when the congregation started to sing, he mouthed the words along with them quietly.

Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest,

And in our hearts take up Thy rest;

Come with Thy grace and heav’nly aid

To fill the hearts which Thou hast made,

To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

His heart fluttered at the last line. The tingling sensation was persistent today and he began to feel a terrible nervousness about it. The service had only just started. It could not continue without an organist and yet, the organist’s fingers were beginning to fail him. For just a moment, Christian wondered if maybe he could learn to play organ with his toes.

When the hymn ended, Pastor Starling cleared his throat again loudly. Christian intertwined his fingers so that he could stretch them. The pastor set down his open bible so that it was laying pages down. “Let us pray,” he said.

The congregation bowed their heads and closed their eyes. Christian did the same, although, he decided to do a prayer all on his own. He silently mouthed the words to himself hoping that the only one to hear him would be the very God itself that which the rest of the church was also praying.

“Dear Lord, if you are really truly out there, you would not have the hands of a church organist malfunction during a church service in which his duties are most needed.”

Realizing how abrasive he unintentionally came across, he changed directions.

“I mean, Lord, watch over me and the rest of the congregation during service today, and please return normal sensation to my hands so that I can continue providing the organ accompaniment for the services today.”

Pastor Starling finished leading his prayer and closed it off with an “Amen.”

“Amen,” the congregation regurgitated like parrots.

“Amen.” Christian did not mean to say this out loud, he meant to only think it, but the word left his mouth as if possessed by the Holy Ghost himself. Mr. and Mrs. Zelensky shot him a weird glance and then turned to each other to whisper something under their breath that Christian could not make out. His cheeks flushed with red and he turned away to hide it. Nervousness was building and he wasn’t sure how much longer it would be before it rendered him completely useless in his duty as organist. He bounced his knee, feeling restless and flighty, and chewed at his bottom lip. He exhaled a loud breath and rubbed his hands together, then rubbed one hand down the back of his neck in another exhale.

During the next hymn, he completely zoned out, again. His fingers were set to the organ, but his mind left this realm. He was on autopilot, if there was such a thing for an organist. He looked ahead, but his eyes didn’t see. Christian was completely dissociated from the situation and he didn’t even notice the tingling sensation building up and shooting through his fingers, down his hand, and into his wrists. That was, not until his hands wholly failed him and the abrupt end to the music jolted him back to reality.

The congregation stopped singing. Without the organ accompaniment, how were they to go on?

Christian lifted his arms but found his hands and fingers dangling limply. He was unable to move his hands. He tried to clench his fingers and make a fist but they just dangled like they were dead. Panicked, he shook his wrists and his limp, dangling hands followed along, swaying as if picked up by the wind.

After a period of uncomfortable silence, Pastor Starling cleared his throat again and picked up his bible.

“We now do a reading of. . .”

Christian did not stick around to find out which reading was on the agenda. He bolted from his spot at the organ and dashed down below the church to his suite where he collapsed on the floor. He smashed his hands against the hard floor and the walls. He did this until they were bloody and bruised, but he could feel none of it. He bit his hands and tore at the flesh with his teeth. No sensation followed.

An idea came to him in the spur of the moment. Using his left elbow, he turned on one of the stove burners to its highest setting and lay his numb hands over the hot, metal coil and shut his eyes tight so as not to watch the disturbing and gruesome scene unfold.

When he opened his eyes some time later, his hands were as red as cherry tomatoes and the skin was loosely hanging off.

Then, suddenly, the sensation returned and he howled in pain. The pain was hot and unbearable.

“God, take it away! Don’t let me feel it!” he begged.

But God would not take the pain away. His scorched hands looked and felt horrific and feeling now full of terror and regret, Christian wished he had never complained about having numb hands in the first place. For now, that was all he desired of the world.

Short Story
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About the Creator

Gillian Corsiatto

Author of Duck Light and avid musical theatre lover. Love writing spooky stuff and funny stuff 😈🥸

My website is www.gilliancorsiatto.ca

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