Chapter 5:

Hangy Maggie

I'm Engaged! ...To Death's Designated Thread Cutter

Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god.  What the hell what the hell what the hell what the hell what the hell.

These thoughts roll through my head like machine gun fire.  My arm.  My right arm!  It's actually gone!  This man did something with it.  I am so incredibly close to exclaiming into the air my displeasure, my agony, the cruelty of it all, when my lips are abruptly shut.  

I did not shut them.  It must be some ghostly spell.  A wrinkled and, unfortunately, hairy hand covers my mouth to keep me from screaming.  Somehow I would rather have my lips cauterized shut by fire.  Not really, but I know what I mean.

I am about to bite and/or fiercely lick this sicko's hand when he starts to speak and, unlike before, I listen as attentively as humanly and spiritually possible.

"Please do not scream," he says.  

"Hmmm." I say through his hand, not yet beginning the biting and licking.

"I get so very tired of the screaming.  I don't mean that in any weird psychotic way like I'm always holding up people in my lair and torturing them and have thus grown tired of the shouting like in those horror movies.  Yes, I've seen horror movies.  You expect me to say some really vague bullshit about how you're not in any danger before I smack you around a bunch and contradict myself."

I shake my head 'yes' in confirmation, against my better judgement.  In fact, I shook my head against really any kind of judgement.  I was honestly not in my right mind.  Just sort of shaking my head yes to appease him.

"Well," he continues, "none of that will be the case here.  There will be no 'It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.' Please tell me you get that reference."

I nod 'yes.'  Again, I know not what I nod to.

"Ya wanna know why?"  He continues.  "Because you're fine.  I mean, you're not in any pain at all.  Am I right?"

He removes his hand from my mouth.  This sudden, seemingly merciful gesture, pulls my sense of attention back up to the surface.  He repeats:

"You don't feel any pain.  Right?"

I try to move the area where my right arm used to be.  Even spiritually, I guess, phantom limb syndrome is still very much real.  I guess especially in this case since I am something like a phantom.  I feel nothing.  There is no burning pain.  No feeling of having a million nerves suddenly severed at a single spot.  There is not even a creaking of a shoulder joint from suddenly having to move a limb that is athousand times lighter than what the body is used to.  I don't know if that is actually a painful issue with people who have lost limbs.  I only know that attempting to lift a moving box that you think is filled with something but is actually filled with nothing will make you pull your back out from the sharp pull upward.

No pain.  This yields me a sense of solace in my situation, but I quickly overtake that solace with anger, frustration, and overall concern as I prepare my spiritual lungs to shout out: "Well, you still didn't have to cut off my limb."

"I bet," the man said, "that you were about to say..."

He taps his finger to his chin in a phony contemplative way.  It's almost mocking.  He points his finger in the air and then raises it down to my nose.  I take note of how it is in biting distance and how I am currently in need of some new fingers.  He says:

"You still didn't have to cut off my limb."

He retracts his finger away quickly (surely anticipating some unsavory retaliation) and awaits my response.  He did not wait long.  My mouth opens agape, as do my eyes.  

"W-well, yeah!  I mean, you didn't!"

"Why?"  He says matter-of-factly.  What a question to matter-of-factly respond to.

"W-why?"  This threw me for a loop.  Not because I couldn't think of reasons not to cut a limb off but because I could think of so goddamn many that this question hardly warrants a response.  Like, list the reasons not to kick a kitten like a soccer ball.  Too many!  I continued:

"B-because!  Y-you shouldn't!"  Nailed it.  Nailed it like my pride in a coffin.

The man sighed as though this whole scenario served no other purpose than to make him weary.

"The reason," he said abruptly, "that I cut your right arm off and fed it to you was so that your body can redistribute a certain spiritual wound."

Question marks float over my head.  Lotta big words and newfound words there.

"You see," he continued, more professorial, more compossed, "when you had left your physical form and came here it was not as though you shed a wounded vessel and were reborn fresh as a newborn calf.  The pain and strife from your life of living in flesh is still very much a force here in..." he stopped himself "  Only now, such wounds to the heart bare a stronger sort of pain.  I can't say that the pain is physical since physicallity is kinda no longer a thing, but I will say that the wounds of the heart have now become much much more...potent, since now you are, in effect, a heart."

"I'm a heart?"


"Well, yes or no?"

"I guess I would have to say yes.  I hesitate initially because they invoke fundamentally different images, but my meaning is that you are now entirely a being made up of...feelings."  He says this last word with the wave of his hand, like the word was a bug that he wanted to swat away.

"That's cheesy."  I say.

"Well, then reality is cheesy.  But we're running very far off the track."

"No, I get it."  Somewhere along the line I became completely comfortable having a conversation with him.  Everything, I guess, is just too damn surreal.  Nothing feels the way it should.  I guess I should just roll with it.  I repeat:

"No, I get it.  You're saying that all of the things that have occurred to me during life.  Every emotional scar...All the mean words others have told me, all the mean words I tell myself.  Now that I'm what I am, now they will actually feel like fists to the gut literally instead of metaphorically.  I get it I get it.  But where would all of that pain be centered at all?"

"All throughout your form."

"But you just said that..."

"This wound that you had on your arm is very very different.  You want to know how it was different?"

"Of course."

"It's different because of the very fact that it is on your arm.  Rather, that it was anywhere at all.  You see, after death, these emotional wounds become like shocks of inconstant pain that spread throughout the entirety of your system.  They are not visibly noticeable.  The exceptions are emotional wounds that are specifically connected to a part of the body.  Stronger still, are emotional wounds which are fresh and which are the result of actual physical wounds."

I wanted to rag on this long-winded explanation, but oddly enough it seemed kinda fascinating.  I was genuinely curious about everything he was saying.  He continued:

"If you need an example of what I mean.  Think of...well..."

He reached behind his back, into his long and mangy looking locks.  There, he pulled out a lock of his hair.  No, actually, it was not his hair.  Or it did not appear to be.  It was a brown color.  It was straigh and seemed to exude a youthful shine.  The hideousness of the old man's mane did nothing to diminish its apparent luster.  This single lock was bound together by a string in the middle.  It did not look like much, but it was apparently more than adequate to hold the single strands of hair together.

"This hair," he said, "belonged to a young lady named Margaret.  She had come here some few years ago."

I felt tempted to ask if "few years" was more comparable to my definition of "few" or if this was one of those deals where hundreds of years was likened to mere moments by some immortal being.  I was only briefly tempted though.  I pocketed the question for later and sat up straight.  I opened my ears to listen.

"Margaret was a young soul when she came here for...let's call it 'true healing' for now.  I'm still not truly at liberty to discuss everything about this place.  Anyway, she was 4 years old.  I called her 'Hangy Maggie' because of how she liked to hang from my beard when I walked around."

"So your beard was long then, huh."

"Longer.  And fuller too.  More puffy and more kept.  Honestly, if I could untie this dreadful beard ponytail that idiot forced upon me then you could see a fraction of its former glory."

"I could--"

"You couldn't, not even if you tried, but now is not the time for that anyway, I would kind of like to get through the story--"

He seemed a tad snippy.  Not rude or mean perhaps but just with a sense of urgency.  He wanted the story told and told quick.  

"One day I was walking through the corridors when Maggie decided to hop a ride on my beard.  I had long since gotten used to it.  She had been there a little while at this point.  She just ran right up, clinged on like a monkey, and nestled right in.  It was on this day that I had decided to make my way to a certain place in the building to check on certain things..."

Vague as fuck.

"...and as we got near that place it became known to me that she, in fact, had a wound like yours.  Well, I heard a loud thud and my beard went slack.  She had fallen out.  She had left go so that she could clutch her head.  It seemed like she had been having a massive headache.  i got her out of that area quickly.  She calmed down shortly.

"At first, I thought that her head had suffered some kind of wound from when it was still a part of the body, but after she spent a few days with the master, I learned that was not the case."

He handed me the lock of brown hair.

"It was her hair."

"Her hair?"

"Yes, specifically her roots.  You see, Maggie did not have the easiest life."

"Who does?"

"Some do, unfortunately."  He looked at me when he said that.  It made me uncomfortable.  "But that's not say unfortunately.  We should all want easy lives and a blessing on all those that have that."  It was like he didn't believe his own words even as he said them.  Or rather, it felt as though he believed them, but in the way one believes that 2 plus 2 equals 4.  It is the truth, undoubtedly, but who smiles and declares this truth with a fiery passion?  No-one.  Not even mathmaticians.  He continued:

"Maggie's life had been nothing but having her hair pulled day after day.  I shouldn't have to say that there is seemingly no end to the amount of parents who wail on their children, but occasionally you get some very odd examples of physical abuse.  In the case of Maggie, she was raised by a single parent.  Her mother.  This mother, from the girl's earliest age, would pull the hair on the top of her scalp.  Hard.  Over and over and over again.  Day after day after day after day.  She would pull little Maggie's hair."

"But why would she--"

"Oh I'm sure there was some vain subconscious reason.  Revenge for her lost youth or something.  I stopped caring a while ago.  But...uh...Maggie, eventually, when she reached an age where she wasn't so fragile anymore, the hair pulling got to the point where the mom would lift her up in the air by nothing but her hair."

"Oh my god."

"Yep, and the little folicles on her scalp would ache and her head would feel raw...and her mother would kiss the head to heal it.  But it would not heal.  It would weaken day after day after day.  Until one day, she held the girl up by her hair, and the hair simply ripped right off.  Maggie did not fall gracefully like the other times.  Her head hit hard against a table corner.  She died in a very ugly way."

"And so...?"  I said, curious as to what happened next to the girl.

"Well, 'if thine right eye offends thee...'"  He waited for me to respond.  

"'Pluck it out.'"  

"Correct.  Or, in this place, cut it off.  After we had gotten to the root of the problem, then we decided to cut her hair off.  That would break the ties of regret that she still harbored toward her mother.  And that is what we did, and as a result of that, well, not very long after, once all the remaining regret in her system had been eeked out.  She, well..."

He made a fluttering motion with his hands.  He was trying not to say it, trying his hardest not to give any more hints as to the nature of this place, but I had figured out as much.  Threadbare Manor is like a purgatory, but not quite.  It seems more merciful, with a sort-of inherent duty to help people sever ties and pass on.

"And, well, that basically sums up what I'm talking about.  That is an emotional wound.  For Maggie, her hairs were an emotionally traumatic tie to her mother as well as sources of a physical pain that had been so constant that it got etched into her very soul.  And, well, you had one too, but it had yet to effect you.  I'm sure you had not even noticed it yet, but as I brought you here unconscious you held your right arm subconsciously and winced.  There, I saw the tiniest cut."

A cut?  When was I cut?  I don't remember anything like that happening so how could it be an emotional wound?  I could see that the man was awaiting me to ask something else.  He twirled the little stands of hair in between his fingers.

"What happened to her afterward?"

"You could tell that wasn't quite the end, huh?"

"It just seemed rather abrupt.  I don't know what it is, but you seem like someone who can weave a good story and good story weavers don't just end things with 'and then we cut off her hair and she went somewhere else, the end.'"  

"Yeah, you're right.  I have to end with some kind of philophical rambling right.  Something memorable.  Something quoteable.  A lot of books do that.  I'm not sure if that is a problem though.  It's typical and I tend to associate the typical, the cliche, with something being wrong and in need of change.  But, that being said, I can't, for the life of me, see myself satisfied with a book that simply ends with a 'and then this happened, the end.'"  

"I know.  I know exactly what you mean."

We both nod.  I continue:

"It would be so cool if someone could do that though.  Tie a masterpiece up with the most mediocre of bows and yet still have you say 'Damn, that was a good story.'"

"Some things can never be though, but I guess if it's possible to make someone cry with a haiku then who's to say honestly."


"Oh, but, uh, where was I?"

"You had cut--"

"Right, I had cut Hangy Maggie's hair.  I ended that in a way that just makes me sound like I grabbed a handful and snipped it off like it were a dangling ballsac."


"Bet that woke you up though didn't it."

"I was already awake."  I tried not to laugh.

"Well, what I actually did was I sat in with the master while he was in one of his sessions and while he played with Maggie and distracted her, I had went about cutting off piece by piece every individual hair that made her wince with pain when I pulled them.  Those were the hairs that were tied to her mom.  I could have cut off every hair and been done with it, but it is my policy not to cut off that which does not need cut off.  It is a little less time efficient in some cases, but alll I really have around here is godforsaken time, so who cares.  Not to mention, I don't know, I don't want to mess with the TFP."


"That's the name I came up for it.  The 'True Finished Product.'"

"And that's-"

"Well, if I may use a metaphor, imagine a bush that has been pruned to resemble a rabbit."


"Over the course of time, that same rabbit shaped bush will continue to grow thicker, will become more scraggly with elongated branches with leaves gnarled by aphids.  Eventually, the rabbit, the true pristine form, will become entirely lost to layers and layers of flaws.  But someone will know that there is meant to be a rabbit underneath it all, and will know exactly what that rabbit is meant to look like.  That person, the person who knows, will prune the bush and get all of that non-rabbit stuff off of it, but it can never truly be that simple.  Scars can run deep and on occasion they can kiss beauty marks.  Or, in other words, sometimes the aphid will gnaw too close to where the toes of the rabbit lie, and in impatience the toe is severed to get rid of the flaw that could have been dealt with with a careful hand and a small pair of clippers."

I say nothig.  I want to hear.

"And then the rabbit will no longer have a foot.  And the rabbit will no longer have a foot for no other reason than because the tree pruner did not want to take the time to cut around it.  I did not want Maggie to be a footless rabbit, I wanted to see her the way she was meant to be with all of the scars lifted off.  And ONLY the scars lifted off."

"Her True Pristine Form."

"I had said True Finished Product but that actually sounds a bit better.  I don't tell this story often but when I do I will use that instead, and I only need to switch the last two letters around.  Back on point though, I went through each of hairs, one by one, and swiftly clipped them off or pulled them out.  What was left at the end was something unforgettable."

"I'm guessing she had no hair left."

"Of course not, it isn't reasonable at all that every single hair on her head would have been pulled by that bitch of a woman.  Afterward, she had what looked like a crown of hair circling her head along the sides which I assumed was because her mother would not likely have pulled on the hair at the sides of her head when lifting Maggie up.  I expected that though, but what I didn't expect was there would be a singular tuft of hair on the top of her head.  Like a single tree alone in a barren field but surrounded by a forest.  When I pulled she did not wince at all.  I assumed that what that tuft of hair was where the mother had lifted her up in the air right before accidentally killing her.  These were the follacles that had snapped and severed Maggie from the mortal plain.  As such, despite the fact that they had surely been part of the culmination of hairs that had held her in the air many times before, Maggie had subconsciously released them of any hatred.  At least, that's what I think."

"Uh huh."



"Don't get your panties mixed up.  I said I only wanted to SEE the pristine form, not preserve it.  Unfortunately, pristine forms are sometimes not very...pristine.  I mean, she looked like an old monk crossed with a unicorn.  All of it had to go so I could start anew.  She still had to stay for a little bit and I just don't like things that aren't symmetrical."

"Really?  You're certainly one to talk."

"How so?  Sure, I'm a bit unkempt, but everything on me is ordered and in its place as it should be.  As is everything surrounding me.  Look around, doesn't everything look nice and orderly.  Not a thing is left in a place where it should not be."

It was true or at least the room (apparently a kitchen) that I was in seemed to exude an air of having Quote - Everything in its own place - Unquote.  Even if, by rights, I had absolutely no way of knowing if things were out of place, everything just seemed to place, like no-one would ever have to step over anyone to get to a certain spice or plate and no-one would have to scratch their head and search for long in order to find something needed for some recipe.  The entire opposite of my old room when I was a teenager living at home.

"Now!"  He interjected my thoughts, and clapping with each new word he said:

"Let's, get, back, on, track.....for, the, last, time."

"I know, sorry, I won't interrupt anymore."

"I snipped all of the hair on the side of her head to start.  The circle around her head was gone and all that remained was her one tuft.  It felt ceremonial, like I was clipping the horn of a unicorn, and just as I was about to snip the hairs you know what she said to me."

I say nothing in honor of the promise I just made.

"She said 'I would like you to have this hair Mr. Guillotine.  You like to groom them so much it seems.  Too much, it seems.  Well, mom loved hair too.  She loved to pull it.  And I had a lot of hair so I guess she loved me.  And I guess that means you love me too.'"

He stopped for a beat.  

"I thought that was sweet, but also sad.  I got the feeling that all the regret that she had toward her mother, all the regret that she stored in her hair was nothing like resentment or hate at all.  Indeed, I don't know if she was even capable of such things.  It was more like longing.  More like she had mistaken the brutal yanks from her mother as some kind of affection and yearned for them despite the pain it caused her."

"Sometimes a slap can be so hard that it almost feels like a kiss...Oh, I'm sorry for interrupting."

"No, it's fine.  Did you make that up or did someone say that?"

"Someone said it.  I don't know who.  I think one of my old music teachers said it was from a play but that might be wrong."

"Hm, maybe I'll look around and see if I can figure it out."

"What, do you guys have google here?"

"We have means.  I watch movies in my free time.  Some of my free time anyway.  But ya know, it felt weird, I was happy to find that the little thing seemed to love me, but I didn't enjoy that the affection, the love, she gave me was tainted by her love for one who gave her no love.  It was like, her love couldn't feel like love to me.  Does that make sense."

"Emotions don't have to.  I get what you mean even if you don't.  At least I think I do.  So let me say that I think the love she gave you was greater than what she felt for her mom."

"Why would you say that?"

I searched my mind for an appropriate answer.  I found an answer.  Was it appropriate?  I would see.

"If, for some people, a slap can feel like a kiss.  Then what must a kiss feel like to such people."

At this, Guillotine fell silent.  

"I think you probably know as much anyway," I said.

"Sure.  But it's nice to hear these things in prettier ways.  Anyway, I kept the hair, tied it up, kept it.  Here it is, of course.  She played with the master for a few days, and met with me a few times.  I would play with her as well and then she was sent on her way."

"Aw, we could have ended this whol scenario with a cool quote like we said would be a better idea earlier.  And you had to go and summarize stuff again."

"Well, what do you want from me.  That's what happened.  And since we're on the subject of abrupt endings to things.  It looks like your right hand finally grew back."

"Wait, what?"

I looked down at my right arm.  It did grow back.  I moved it around to make doubly sure that it was real.  When on earth did that happen?  Was I that enthralled with the conversation?

"Also," he continued.  "It's time for dinner with the master."

"Wh--wait wait wait."

"No.  No more wait wait wait talk talk talk.  The time for that is over.  The time to use our mouth for eating is now.  Let's get you out the door, I'll direct you there."

I get up from my seat.  Feeling an odd sense of urgency and follow him out the door.  I walk behind him, feeling my right arm and contemplating my time in the kitchen.  I came to an uncomfortable conclusion.

That conversation in there had dragged and dragged.  It was interesting but I don't feel like I got any answers.  I did get some answers, but I feel like some were missing.  I remembered I had asked something important but what...OH RIGHT!

"Hey, you never did tell me what the reason was for feeding me my arm.  You said it was to redistribute the pain throughout the body but you never said exactly what that meant.  I guess I kinda get it.  But couldn't you have discarded it somehow?  Did you do that with Maggie's hair?  You never said.  Did she have it redistributed?  Did she have to keep her pain?  Well?  Well?  WELL?"


"When you gaze into the abyss, so too does the abyss gaze into you."


"Tsk tsk tsk.  Don't you remember?"

"Remember what?"

"You said it yourself.  And I quote and therefore will conclude -"

He moves his fingers up and down in a zig zaggy fashion and suddenly my mouth is stitched shut by some stray hair that must have creeped onto my person.  

"'-I have to end with some kind of philophical rambling right.  Something memorable.  Something quoteable.  A lot of books do that.'"