Cold Hands

📅 Published on August 31, 2021

“Cold Hands”

Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 8.50/10. From 2 votes.
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Scott swam through the warm waters of a dream. He floated in a place he simultaneously recognized and knew nothing about. It was the nature of dreams and his subconscious didn’t mind the confusion. He was warm and comfortable and sleeping as soundly as anyone ever had.

Back in reality he stretched his limbs across the king-sized bed he once shared with his ex-wife. He’d always slept on the right side of the bed, huddled and balancing precariously on the edge of the mattress as his ex-wife took up the other three-fourths of the bed. She wasn’t a large woman, just selfish and unconcerned with his needs, spreading herself over the mattress like a starfish. But she was gone now, and Scott slept directly in the middle of the mattress every night, his arms and legs placed wherever he wanted with no fear of being pushed over the edge again.

In his dream a cold current washed over him and he shuddered as he crossed his arms over his chest. It was enough to rouse him from the dream for a moment as he fumbled for the edge of the blanket to draw it up to his neck. The task complete, he sank back into his dream and in no time was snoring softly again.

Time passed, and soon the bright dream waters began to lose their luster. The teal blue began to deepen to the purple of a fresh bruise and the currents grew stronger and colder. They pulled at him, grasping his ankle and threatening to take him deeper into the murky violet below. Scott began to panic, flailing his arms in a pantomime of swimming. In true dream fashion, his movements were languid and ineffective.

Scott sat straight up in bed, panting as the dream fell away from him.

“Shit,” he said in a breathless whisper.

He flipped his pillow over to the cool side and laid back down then smoothed the blanket back over him. He wanted the comfort, the weight of the blanket on top of him but not the warmth. Somewhere in his sleep-addled brain he vaguely remembered reading somewhere that leaving your foot uncovered helped to regulate your body heat while sleeping. He didn’t know if it was true or not, but he stuck his right foot out from beneath the blanket before closing his eyes again.

He was floating once more, but this time his head was above the water. He was near the shore and watched as people milled about in swimsuits, clutching their drinks, laughing, or lounging in beach chairs. The condos in the background jutted up from the sand like tan and cream teeth drawn by a cubist. It was Gulf Shores, Alabama, the place he and his ex-wife had honeymooned all those years ago but at the same time it wasn’t. She was there near the waterline, wearing a black two-piece and waving at him, her feet covered in the foam left there by the waves. He waved back as a pang of sadness bloomed in his chest followed by nostalgia so heavy that it threatened to weigh him down and drag him beneath the waves.

Her waving grew frantic, her hand a blur of too many fingers, but her smile never wavered. Was she happy to see him? No, even on their honeymoon she’d never been that cheerful at the sight of him. If only he’d realized that sooner, he could have saved them both over a decade of fighting and grief.

The current slithered around his ankle, cool and gentle. He sighed at the touch, at the intimacy, the most he’d felt in years. But it was cold.

So goddamn cold.

Scott woke again, the dream of the beach dissolving as he opened his eyes. Moonlight streamed through the window, casting a silver-blue rectangle of light diagonally across his bed. There, at the edge of light, was a hand wrapped around his exposed ankle.

Caught between sleeping and waking, his mind couldn’t process the sight. But the frigid touch sent a message to a deeper part of him, the animal part, the part that instinctively told his nervous system that something was very, very wrong.

A precursor to a scream squeezed out from between his lips, half-formed by his sleep-stuck tongue.

“Nnnnnnhhhhh,” was all he managed as the hand clamped down around his ankle like a cold noose left swinging in a January storm.

He was yanked toward the edge of the bed and a true scream burst from his mouth. His pajama pants rode up painfully into his crotch as he was nearly pulled off the bed. He kicked at the hand with his free foot again and again with no result. Twisting himself around, he grabbed the nightstand with one hand, giving himself the leverage needed to pull himself up enough to grab the headboard as well. The wood creaked as the cold hand redoubled its efforts, jerking his leg from side to side like a wolf tearing a mouthful of flesh from downed prey.

Scott panted as his hand scrabbled over the top of the nightstand, desperate for anything that might help. The lamp toppled over and fell, crashing to the hardwood below. Pages fluttered like falling leaves as his notebook followed. As hope was leaving him, his fountain pen rolled down the inclined top of the nightstand and brushed his fingers. He seized it with a cry of triumph.

He twisted and flipped himself onto his back like a drowning fish and swung the pen down like a dagger, driving it into the mattress.

“Fuck!” he cried and pulled the pen out and back into the air. He swung it once more, stabbing one of the hand’s fingers. The tip turned away when it hit bone and lodged into the soft skin above his ankle. He cried out as the hand released him and sank back into the shadows beyond the edge of the bed.

Scott pushed himself all the way up to the headboard, the heels of his hands bunching up the sheets in his haste. He stared at the pen jutting from below his calf like the top of an exclamation mark. He pulled it out with a grunt and a small spatter of blood peppered his face. Although the wound didn’t look terribly deep, a steady stream of blood ran from it and onto the white sheet below, sinking into the fabric and spreading like reaching fingers. He grabbed the top sheet and wrapped nearly half of it around his lower leg. He sat heavily against the headboard, his chest heaving from exertion.

Only a moment passed before he saw movement to his left. The hand shot from the shadows and Scott instinctively took hold of the end of the sheet that dressed his wound. The hand tugged but Scott had gotten to the sheet sooner and yanked it from the grasping fingers.

“Enough!” Scott cried. “Who are you?! What do you want!?

No reply came, just the sound of his heavy breathing.

“Look, I don’t have much,” he said. “My ex took damn near everything in the divorce, but I do have some cash in my wallet. A couple of hundred, I think. How about I just give you that and you can go, and we’ll forget all about this, huh?”


Scott reached over to the nightstand and opened the top drawer. He reached blindly for his wallet. It was there, the leather rectangle surprisingly easy to find. And below it he felt the glassy smooth surface of his cellphone. He pulled both to him in one hand.

“So, what do you say?” he asked, trying his damnedest to sound calm. “Deal?”

No reply.

He placed the pad of his finger over the print reader and his phone screen sprang to life. His thumb failed twice to pull down the menu but the third time he got it and quickly touched the flashlight icon as he held the phone out before him like a talisman.

“I see you now, you–” his words dried up in his mouth.

The hand was there, about three feet above the foot of the bed. Scott’s eyes traced the hand to the wrist, then to the forearm, the elbow…and another forearm, leading down to another elbow, which led down out of sight.

Scott’s mind blanked, like turning on the TV to a channel that wasn’t available. When coherent thought returned, a single image filled his brain: A long arm, segmented like a scorpion’s tail, stretching down and below his bed.

The hand retreated, and Scott heard the long arm zipping under the bed’s dust ruffle.

“It’s under the bed,” he breathed.

It was impossible. The house only had one floor, hardwood over a concrete slab. And under the bed was a bachelor’s mess of unused dumbbells, a guitar he never played, and boxes of God knew what. He shone the flashlight from one side of the bed to the other, as steadfast as a lighthouse’s beam, waiting for any sign of movement.

Still scanning, he brought up the dial pad and pressed 911.

His thumb hovered over the call icon. What was he going to tell them? No way he could say the truth, not if he wanted help to arrive. A home invasion, a burglar or something. That could work, he decided.

He made the call. After one ring a man’s voice came out of the speaker.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“Yes, hello,” Scott said, his voice just above a whisper. “This is Scott Madsen, at 4012 Sycamore Lane. Someone has broken into my house and they’re still here. I need help as soon as possible.”

“Okay, Mr. Madsen, are you sure they’re still inside the house?”

“Yes,” he said. “I can um, hear them.”

“Understood. I’m dispatching a unit to your location right now. My name is Chet, and I’ll stay on the phone until they arrive. Is there a place you can hide or possibly barricade yourself in somewhere?”

The thought of trying to leave the bed while that thing was beneath made him shudder. “No, if I leave my bedroom, they could see me.”

“Okay, that’s fine. Is it possible to at least get out of their line of sight if they decide to open your bedroom door?”

“Yeah, sure,” he lied.

“The unit should be there within ten minutes. So just sit tight with me here.”

“The front door is locked but there’s an extra key hidden to the left of the door near the bushes. It’s under a ceramic frog my ex-wife thought was cute for some damn reason. But they can break the door down for all I care, okay? Whatever it takes.”

“I understand, sir,” Chet said. “Just try and remain calm and stay on the phone with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said, forcing a laugh.

Minutes passed but he didn’t know how many. The thumping hoofbeat of his heart slowed back down to something resembling normal as he counted his breaths. He noticed his hand drooping, the beam of light illuminating his lap now instead of the bed’s perimeter.

“Scott?” Chet said. “You still with me?”

Scott shot back up to a sitting position with the dawning horror that he’d dozed off. He set the phone down on the blanket beside him and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m here. Sorry, it’s the middle of the night and–”

“I totally understand but you have to stay awake, okay?”

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

“No need to apologize…”

The phone flew and tumbled from him as the blanket was ripped away, coming to rest near the foot of the bed.

“No!” Scott cried and lunged for it. The phone had landed facedown, the flashlight’s beam shining up to make a bright circle on the ceiling.

The cold hand appeared from the dark, its fingers bright from being lit from below. Thick bands of shadow separated the light on the ceiling into shining slivers before its fingers closed over the phone and plunged them back into darkness.

Scott jumped away, making himself as small as he could against the headboard. The hand lifted the phone, splinters of light spilling between its fingers. There was a series of low popping sounds, then a loud crack as it crushed the phone within its grip.

He whined like a scared child and willed himself not to cry.

What remained of the phone crashed into the wall less than a foot over his head. Drywall dust settled into hair like fine snow as he screamed.

All was dark again and he didn’t know how much more he could take. He felt he could hear the tension, a violin string being wound too tight, ready to pop at the slightest movement of his bedsheets.

“Please God, oh please God,” he pleaded. “I know I haven’t had shit to do with you in years but if you could help me this once–”

Footsteps in the hall, moving towards his bedroom.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he sighed.

There was a soft click as the doorknob turned. The door opened a few inches and a flashlight shone through.

“Mr. Madsen?” a voice said softly. “It’s the police. Are you in there?”

“Yes!” Scott said. “I’m here!”

The officer swung the door open wide and shined his flashlight to each corner of the room in quick succession. Scott could see most of the man by the light, could see the gleam off the gold of his badge and the silver of his wristwatch. He lowered the gun but kept it ready in one hand as the other flipped the switch near the doorframe on. Light filled the room and Scott winced, closing his eyes to the brightness but relieved it was there all the same.

“I’m Officer Hilton,” he said. “Are you injured, sir?”

“No, no, I’m fine, listen–”

“I came right to you as quick as I could, but I still need to sweep the house. Will you be okay here?”

“No, officer, listen he’s under the bed,” he said, the lie coming out easily. “I’ve…I’ve only seen his arm–”

Hilton lifted his pistol once more and stepped toward the side of the bed. “You, under the bed. I want you to stick out both of your hands. If you have a weapon, slide it out first. If I see a weapon in your hand, I will use lethal force. Do I make myself clear?”

Nothing but silence came from beneath the bed.

Hilton shot Scott a look. “You’re sure he’s under there?”

“Completely,” Scott said, the words passing over the lump in his throat.

Hilton knelt and reached for the dust ruffle.

“Don’t,” Scott said.

“You’re coming out of there one way or another,” Hilton said, pulling up the thin material to look underneath.

The hand shot out like a cannonball and grabbed the front of the officer’s vest. Hilton cried out and grabbed the thing’s wrist, trying to free himself as he aimed his pistol.

“Let go right now!” he yelled. “That’s your only warning!”

The hand began to push at the man’s chest, the uncanny length of its arm coming out into the light inch by merciless inch.

“What in the fuck?” Hilton managed to say before he was lifted a few feet into air and slammed back to the floor with enough force to crack the hardwood beneath.

Hilton gasped as all his breath rushed out of his lungs. He was dazed but not out and took aim at the arm and fired.

The shot was a deafening crack in the confines of the room. Scott screamed and put his closed fists over his ears. Another shot rang out before Hilton was lifted once more and slammed to the ground again and again.

Scott’s hope of rescue didn’t fully die until he heard the crunch of Hilton’s skull against the floor. Hilton’s body went limp, and his pistol tumbled from his hand.

Scott began to cry as the officer’s body was dragged beneath the bed and out of sight.

Moments passed as he stared at the open bedroom door.

“I can make it,” he whispered to himself. “If I can jump past its reach. It only comes out of one side at a time, right? I can do this.”

But he continued to sit, fear rooting him to the mattress.

From below, the bed began to shake.

“No, please, no,” he whimpered as two arms burst out from under the foot of the bed. They grabbed each side of the mattress and shook it back and forth, trying to dislodge him from what he thought was the safest place on the bed.

“No!” he screamed. “Stop it!”

The hands retreated, and from beneath him came hammer blows as they pushed and punched the mattress from underneath. Scott jostled and bounced as the sounds of the box spring being pulverized echoed from wall to wall.

He grabbed the top of the headboard, digging his fingers in like hooks while the mattress rose and fell like a ship over tortuous waves. There was one final massive push, and the mattress was off the bed and over the side, landing where the officer met his end.

Scott’s grip on the headboard tightened as the rest of his body fell into the gaping hole in what remained of the box spring. Sharp edges of broken wood dug bloody furrows into his stomach and thighs. He craned his neck and looked over his shoulder.

The floor beneath his bed was gone. In its place was a long, cavernous tunnel roughly the dimensions of his bed and plunging straight down. The edges were roughhewn earth, as if it was dug by hand.

And maybe it was, he thought as his mind splintered, breaking against the pure unreality of the sight. One of the hands grabbed his ankle and pulled hard enough that Scott let go of the headboard with one hand. He dangled, his body turned to the side now, giving him a better view of the void below.

The other hand took hold of his free ankle and they began pulling him down in unison. Scott screamed at the pain in his fingers, at the strain on his shoulder. He looked down at the hands, at the unfathomable length of the arms as they stretched on and on and out of sight somewhere down below in the dark. A numberless line of elbows studded the arms at intervals like knots on tree bark.

With what rational thought he had left, he imagined the arms finally connecting somewhere miles below with shoulders, and those shoulders would lead to a neck, and that neck would lead to a head, the head of some thing, some creature living in the darkest depths, waiting until someone like him slipped their ankle from beneath their sheet, the bait too enticing to ignore.

The pressure became too great, and Scott let go of the headboard. One hand stayed clasped to his ankle while the other wrapped around his throat, cutting off his scream. His panicked eyes shot from left to right looking at everything and at nothing before landing on the last thing he saw before he was dragged down into the dark.

It was Officer Hilton’s wristwatch, still wrapped around the wrist of the hand that held Scott’s ankle in a viselike grip.

* * * * * *

In the light of dawn, Officer Montoya parked his cruiser behind Officer Hilton’s at the house on Sycamore.

He thumbed the button of the radio clipped at his shoulder. “Dispatch, this is nineteen. I’m at Officer Hilton’s last known, over?”

“Copy. And Montoya? Be careful in there, okay? Hilton has been radio silent for almost half an hour.”

“As careful as I can,” he said and stepped out of the car.

Montoya unholstered his weapon and walked swiftly to the open front door.

“Police!” he cried. “Officer Hilton, are you there!? Officer Hilton!”

No reply came from the shadowed hall.

He picked up his radio. “Dispatch, no answer from Hilton. I’m going in.”

“Copy that.”

Montoya pulled out his flashlight and held it out in front of him as he stepped into the house.

“I’m warning whoever’s in here,” he yelled. “If you ain’t Officer Greg Hilton then you better have your damn hands up!”

He surveyed the living room. It was neat and tidy. No signs of a break in or a struggle.

Spotting the open door at the end of the hall, he slowly made his way to it, pausing for just a second before turning into the room with his pistol leading the way.

The room was a disaster. The bed was just goddamn everywhere like someone had planted a bomb beneath it. The mattress was a few feet away, and beside it lay a police-issue Glock 22. Montoya stepped closer and looked at the hole in the middle of the box spring. Nothing unusual there, just some dumbbells and boxes. A couple of bullet holes like pockmarks were dug into the hardwood.

He thumbed the button on the radio once more. “Dispatch, I’m gonna need backup here. There’re signs of…well, I don’t know what kinds of signs these are, but this place is a wreck. No sign of Officer Hilton himself but I’ve found his pistol. Looks like he fired it too. I’m gonna sweep the rest of the house but get some guys over here ASAP.” Montoya looked down again at what remained of the bed. “And, shit, send a detective too.”

Montoya prepared himself to sweep the other rooms. He’d never leave another officer in danger, that was priority, and trumped everything else.

There was a tremor beneath his feet. Small, almost imperceptible, but there.

Montoya backed out of the room, beads of sweat beginning to form on his forehead as he wondered just how much shit he’d get into with his supervisor if he just waited for backup outside.

Rating: 8.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ryan Harville

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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