Nom Nom Nom Fingers by Shea Huening | Flickr
I didn’t expect her to show up tonight. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t expect her to show up at all. I mean, come on. It was only a creepypasta, and if you ask me, a little overcooked at that. Written by some nobody in exchange for internet points—value non-transferrable. Who in their right mind would have thought the Fingernail Fairy was real?
But I knew it was her, the second she flashed me that formidable grin, more keratin than calcium, if you catch my drift. That was when the general din of the pub, at least in my mind, fell away to allow for a moment of rapid-fire recollection.
What were the rules? There are always rules. Rules that you have to follow to a T, Baskerville Old Face, Twelve-Point Font. If you don’t, well, then you’re the protagonist. And that’s the last person you want to be in a creepypasta. You’re wondering about me? What’s my deal? Screw you, that’s my deal. I’m no protagonist. I don’t die at the end of this one.
I set down my drink on the scuffed-up table, half-melted ice cubes rattling against the glass. I'm going to need the full extent of my mental capacities for this one. Mind goes blank, like the stares of somebody who’d rather be anywhere else but here but wound up here all the same.
How did we get here? That’s easy. Leave a fingernail under the pillow. Rules don’t specify whose fingernail. But it’s got to be the whole thing. Don’t try to skimp out with a clipping. Then say her name—her true name—four times in the mirror while brushing your teeth. Only the lower row. In the name of all that is holy, make sure it’s only the lower row. Next, make sure you fall asleep before midnight. Unclear what happens if you flub this one, but I doubt it’s anything nice. When you wake up in the morning, the fingernail will still be there. Because why the hell wouldn’t it be? But if you did everything just right…
Your fingernails will stop growing. Permanently. No more nail clippers. No more files. No more—yeah, I know, it’s idiotic. But no one does the ritual for the reward. There’s only one reason anyone does anything anymore, and that’s for the hell of it.
Hell is putting it lightly. She gravitates over to the bar. Turns her back to me. My sweat stalls, her meandering having bought me some time. I know how I got here. What’s important is the next bit. The bit about the girl who attempted the ritual. And the bit about what happened after.
What happened after, I remember like clockwork—the word, not the actual thing. Hell if I know what actual clockwork looks like. Screw up, and you’ll pass out. Wake up in an abandoned hospital, strapped to a rusted gurney. Even then, you’ve still got a fighting chance. Don’t move. Remain perfectly still. Don’t budge an inch. Not until you fall asleep again. If you do, you’ll wake up safe and sound in your own bed. But if you twitch, even the slightest bit, you’ll find bloodied teeth jutting out of the beds of your fingernails and bloodied fingernails jutting out of your gums. Brings a whole new meaning to foot-in-mouth disease.
The lights flicker. That’s got to be a sign. I’m running short on time for stalling. But that’s the thing. Primacy effect: you remember what comes first. How to perform the ritual. Recency effect: you remember what comes last. Your fate, should you flub it all up. But the good stuff? The how to avoid eating finger foods for the rest of your life part? They bury that in the middle, where you’re sure to forget it.
I start making my way over. Can’t remember if you’re supposed to approach her or let her approach you. One of those gets you killed. So if this doesn’t kill me, then it’s got to be the right move. Process of elimination.
Reaching the bar jogs my memory. Don’t make eye contact. Just order up. Something ridiculously specific—so specific that it’s impossible to remember. Don’t order anything, and she’ll rip your throat out. Order the wrong drink, and you pass out. Wake up in an abandoned hospital, strapped to a—we did this part already.
Come on. Think. You can rattle off the lyrics to Ballad of a Bear and His Bicycle by heart. You can recite the screenplay for Star Rats XIV: Revenge of Big Cheese verbatim. You can remember this.
You do. I do, I mean. The bartender eyes me expectantly. I clear my throat.
“I remember now. The name of the drink never appears in the story. Because the protagonist can’t remember it. That’s the twist.”
The bartender stares back for a moment. Then nods. “Just a moment.” Grabs a glass. Starts pouring. I glance to my right, and the stool where the Fingernail Fairy was sitting just a moment ago is empty. Cue the biggest exhale of my entire life. It’s over. I was never much of a pasta guy anyway, creepy or otherwise. The bartender slides me my drink, and, still sweating balls, I take a celebratory chug.
Anyway, that’s how I ended up with fingernails in my mouth.
Justin Dill writes from Toronto, Canada, where he also co-hosts the podcast Story from Scratch, edits for tdotSpec Magazine, and releases music under the name Bloo Burds. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Polar Borealis, The Dread Machine, and The Common Tongue. In his downtime, he subsists on a steady diet of horror movies, psychedelic pop, and matcha lattes. You can find him on Twitter @JustinDill13 or visit his website: justindill.ca