Mr. and Mrs. White and their son, Herbert, welcomed their friend Sgt. Maj. Morris back from his time in India. He brought them stories and a souvenir: a mummified monkey’s paw, which would grant three wishes but came with a warning not to interfere with fate.
The next morning, Mr. White decided to test these so-called powers and wished for £200. Nothing happened. Satisfied, he set the monkey’s paw aside and the Whites went about their lives. Herbert went off to work, and it was full dark before the Whites heard a knock at their door. It was uniformed officers from Herbert’s factory, with shocking news: There had been an accident, and Herbert had been killed. They offered the family compensation: £200.
Later that night, mad with grief, Mrs. White found the monkey’s paw and begged her husband to wish Herbert back to life. Reluctantly, having seen the mutilated body, he did so. Not five heartbeats later, there was a booming knock at the door…
The End by Rosecrans Baldwin
Standing on the stoop were the same officers from the factory, only this time they were holding a body bag.
Mrs. White, whose fate was to teach Mr. White a lesson about greed, went into cardiac arrest and collapsed.
Mr. White, whose fate was despair until he learned his lesson about greed, watched his beloved wife fall. He wailed from despair and grabbed for the monkey’s paw in order to use his final wish to save his wife.
The factory officers, who were floor managers at the “Peace of Cake” Cake Mold Corporation, whose fate was to do everything in their power to bring about peace on Earth, tried snatching the monkey’s paw from Mr. White. But Earth, whose fate was to be destroyed by climate change a bit later in the century, tilted slightly, sending the monkey’s paw bouncing down the walk.
At which point Herbert, whose fate was to be a klutz and a butterfingers, who really had no business working on a cake-mold assembly line in the first place, who had been resuscitated by his father’s second wish but hadn’t been able to work the zipper from inside the body bag, finally got it to slide. He fell out and landed on his mother, restarting her heart.
Seeing his wife alive, Mr. White vowed “I will never want anything again.” Which the factory officers overheard and thought was a very good vow. Such a vow, in fact, would probably bring about world peace a lot faster than cake molds if only they could get everyone else to vow the same thing.
The officers vowed separately, but with similar red-hot feeling, to leave the cake-mold business that afternoon.
Meanwhile the fate of the monkey’s paw was to bounce down the sidewalk until it hit a stone and vaulted through the open window of a passing car, landing in the carry-on bag of Harsimran Preet, who was returning to Heathrow airport on his way back to India after visiting his daughter, Anjari, who was attending medical school in London.
The moral of the story being that colonialism is a bitch, and bitches get revenge.
The End by Jessica Francis Kane
“He doesn’t have to knock!” Mrs. White cried, running for the door. She threw it open and there was her dear Herbert. His clothes were dirty, he looked pale and tired, but he was fine, all in one piece. Mrs. White threw her arms around him. “It’s a miracle,” she cried.
“I’ll say,” agreed Mr. White, ushering them both into the house. “You looked far worse when they asked me to identify your body.”
“That wasn’t my body,” Herbert explained. “That’s some old cadaver they use when they need to eliminate a threat.” Herbert shivered, and his mother settled him on a chair in the kitchen and brought him a blanket.
“What are you talking about?” Mr. White asked. Mrs. White started a pot of tea.
Herbert pulled the blanket around his shoulders more closely. He glanced around as if worried about being overheard.
“The One Percent,” he whispered. “They get the economically downtrodden to believe in dreams and wish on monkey’s paws, things like that. Then they stage a disaster of some kind and offer a paltry sum as compensation, allowing the masses to think their own wishes were somehow responsible. I was on a ship headed God-knows-where when I woke up and escaped.”
“The One Percent,” he whispered. “They get the economically downtrodden to believe in dreams and wish on monkey’s paws, things like that."
“That’s terrible!” Mrs. White cried. “How can they be so unfair?”
Herbert took the cup of tea his mother offered. It was weak, made with twice-used bags, all they could afford.
His father, ever practical, wanted to know how Herbert was a threat to the One Percent.
“I was part of a group asking for a small wage increase. We were getting ready to occupy the park in front of the factory.”
That night, alone in his room, Mr. White took out the monkey’s paw. He couldn’t quite believe it didn’t have some power. He closed his eyes and made the most reasonable wish ever wished in the history of the world, an eloquent if rambling series of ideas about hope and justice and opportunity. Then he put the paw under his bed and went to sleep.
In the morning the bedroom window was open and the paw was gone. The carpet and his bed sheets had been slashed and torn, but he was unhurt, and Mrs. White slept peacefully at his side.
The End by Bridget Fitzgerald
Mrs. White scrambled to the door, panicked and all but delirious, while Mr. White stood back, afraid of what would appear on the other side. With a jolt, he came to his senses: “Betty—Betty, wait!” but Mrs. White had already unlocked the door, and a sliver of moonlight appeared, widening.
Moving with more speed than he’d been able to muster since his days as a cricket player, Mr. White threw himself forward against the door, and the latch clicked back into place as another knock shook the doorframe.
“ARTHUR, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” wailed Mrs. White, but her husband shoved the monkey’s paw into her hands, his back smarting with every assault against the wood.
“Betty—you know we can’t do it like this.” Frantically, he met his wife’s teary eyes. “You know it’s not Herbert out there. Please, Betty.”
Mrs. White struggled another moment, a monstrous boom resounded against the other side of the door, and she shrank, defeated. “I know.”
Relieved, Mr. White squeezed her arm. “We have one wish left.”
Mrs. White cradled the (frankly quite disturbing) limb in her hands, her tears still flowing silently. She looked at her husband, so desperate to protect them, and made her wish.
Later, she and Zombie Herbert sat down to a lovely tea, chatted about the factory, and discussed their plans for disposing of Mr. White’s ravaged remains.
The End by Eric Feezell
“Bunny! The door!” Mr. White whispered tremblingly. “Why wouldn’t he just let himself in with his key? Something’s not right! Oh, I knew we shouldn’t do this! What if it’s a…” he gulped, now nearly in tears, “Zombie Herbert?”
“Stop being such a baby, Alan!” she admonished. “There’s no such thing as zombies! Now let’s go answer the door for our son! Coming!”
The couple jumped with fright into one another’s arms. The telltale utterance: Braaaaaaaaiiiiiins. Indeed, Zombie Herbert was on their porch.
“Look through the peephole!” Mrs. White squeaked.
“What if he sees me looking? He’ll know we’re in here!”
“Well, one of us has to. What if it’s just the pizza guy or Jackie wanting to borrow sugar or—”
“Wait a sec,” her husband redirected. “You ordered pizza? I thought we were having the smoked trout with capers like I like? I’ve been looking forward to it all week!”
“Well, deal with it! I was too busy to go to the store. Now go look through the peephole!”
She shoved him toward the source of the disquieting growl. He peered through the lens…
Mr. White fell quickly to the floor, scurrying back toward his wife.
“He licked the peephole!”
“He licked the peephole! He could probably smell my brains five inches away from his face! Oh, Bunny, we’re going to die!” Mr. White curled into himself, trembling delicately. “Oh, if only we’d gotten capered trout for dinner!”
“Enough with the trout, you ninny! We’re not going to die. Isn’t there a rule they can’t come in unless you invite them?”
“That’s…vampires!” Mr. White managed between sobs.
“Aren’t vampires also zombies?” she inquired matter-of-factly.
“No!” he yelled. “Vampires drink blood, Bunny! Zombies eat brains! Our brains!”
Mrs. White decided to take matters into her own hands. She picked up the monkey’s paw and considered for a moment.
“What if…” she mused. There was still one wish left, after all.
“What if what?” Mr. White asked distrustfully.
“I wish Herbert were no longer a zombie!” she blurted suddenly, holding the curio triumphantly up toward the heavens. She turned to her husband with a condescending glare: Who’s the pants-wearing problem solver? Oh, right.
“No!” he immediately cried. “Don’t you see where the first two wishes got us? Our son died for a measly £200—totally worthless here in Rhode Island, by the way, not sure why I did that, or why the factory compensated us in a foreign currency—anyway, and now he’s on our porch, a re-animated corpse intent on devouring us! And you want to take us deeper into the rabbit hole?”
“Well I just saved your life,” she sassily shot back, “So how about a little gratitude, you dickless wonder?”
Mrs. White turned away from her spouse and made her way toward the front door. There, she paused for effect and let her hand rest on the lock, ready to spring it open for a fully human Herbert who would embrace her as a loving, thankful son should.
“Wait, Bunny. I just realized…”
She stared at him contemptuously. Their marriage had long been over, he realized at this moment. To her he’d become odious, grotesque, flaccid. And he’d only ever loved her.
“You’re right, dear,” he offered sheepishly. “You’re right. Thank you for keeping your head in this tough situation. I owe you my gratitude. Now go get our son back. Open it.”
As the door swung open, Herbert lunged across the threshold at his mother, subduing her like a tackling dummy. His dead weight upon her, he declared one final celebratory “Braaaaaaaaiiiiiins!” before sinking his fist into her throat and tearing out her jugular artery as he simultaneously bit her nose off. Mr. White kept his distance while his undead progeny ravaged the cranial remains of his cruel, overbearing wife.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door…the delivery guy!
Mr. White thrust £20 into the unknowing stoner’s hand and slammed the door. He then pivoted, stepped around the bloodbath, took a seat at the kitchen table, and proceeded to enjoy the most delectable smoked trout and capers he’d ever wished for, courtesy of Pizza Hut.
The End by Lauren Frey Daisley
The Whites heard something slide through the mail slot and plunk unceremoniously on the floor of their entrance hall.
“Stay here,” Mr. White said to his wife, who had become visibly overwhelmed with a blend of terror and hope that appeared manic.
“No, I’m coming.”
What they found, propped against the door, was a pregnancy test. It had landed standing on one corner like some cardboard circus performer dressed in garish pink. Not the wiggling zombie limb they’d half-expected.
Mrs. White took the test immediately. It was positive. Though she wasn’t normally one for emotional displays, she wailed, “Whyyyyy? Whyyyyy us? What did we ever do but accept a stupid trinket from India? I don’t want to be pregnant again. I’m 50, for Christ’s sake. What is this supposed to be? Like I’m giving birth to Herbert and raising him all over again?”
“I don’t know,” Mr. White said truthfully, “I can’t make sense of anything. My heart, it physically hurts, I miss him so much.”
Stunned, in acute mourning, and unsure what to believe, they set themselves to doing what seemed the only moral thing: taking care of the unborn child. Mrs. White swallowed her folic acid tablets, took long walks, and cut out soft cheeses, alcohol, rare meat, and other delicious things that would otherwise have made her condition more bearable.
Soon after Mrs. White placed Mr. White’s hand on her belly to feel the baby’s first kicks, he accompanied her to the 20-week ultrasound, where they learned Herbert II was a girl.
“A girl,” Mrs. White said to her husband, “Not Herbert.”
The ultrasound technician, unaware of their circumstances, joked, “I’m afraid you’ll have to think of another name. Herberta won’t do.”
At home, Mrs. White said, “I don’t know what to make of any of this.”
But weeks later they noticed that the teenager next door was pregnant. She looked to be about as far along as Mrs. White. Had someone bought the test for her to avoid scandal, then gotten the house wrong? It was not impossible. It approached likely, even.
“Was it all just…coincidence?” Mr. White asked.
What followed for the Whites was a defiant war on superstition. They set up ladders just to walk under them, stepped on the cracks in sidewalks, adopted a black cat and named him Monkey Paw. Aside from the cat getting a treatable case of worms, nothing else bad happened.
But one thing they could never bring themselves to do ever again was make wishes. When their daughter grew old enough to blow out birthday candles, they instructed her instead to say three things she was grateful for.
She always said, “Mommy, Daddy, and cake.”
If they’d allowed themselves, the Whites would have admitted that after all they had been though, a healthy child was everything in the world they could ever have wished for.
The End by Erik Bryan
Everyone had started calculating time in heartbeats, you see, because ever since Herbert died in the accident at the factory, all the employees had gone on strike, including the one-legged moppet that had been consigned to pull the factory’s steam whistle which signaled the passing hours, and the even quarters thereof. That unfortunately hobbled young lad, whose Christian name was Lawrence, but whom everyone amiably called Leggy Jack, had been happily paid in raw cat skins for his service, which he was glad to get since he was the sole breadwinner (or, more accurately, cat-skin winner) for his lice-ridden family of 12.
The point being that the whole factory had been closed due to protests over the unsafe working conditions that ended Herbert White’s short life, not to mention the meagre compensation given to his grieving parents. According to a Scotland Yard informant, the strike was planned by a shadowy cabal of Kensington anarchists, but whether this is the truth or a slanderous patrician scapegoat shall now never be discerned. The factory owners, indisposed at the Brighton seaside, were ignorant of the situation for several days, as conditions in the city prevented the delivery of an elucidating dispatch, which prompted the nervous and vindictive factory manager, a Mr. Pughley Choozlefitz, to take matters into his own hands and hire dock-loitering rogues at a shilling a day as security forces, the better part of which had illegally returned to the shores of Albion from exile on the Australian continent.
Needless to say that when Choozlefitz’s thugs met the overworked and malnourished, albeit spirited, factory workers, calamity ensued. The strikebreakers wielded truncheons and blackjacks as Scotland Yard merely contained the proceedings from what they then deemed a safe distance, and the stones of Fenchurch Street, where the factory was located, ran red with the blood of the beleaguered hoi polloi. Naturally the riots spread from there into the neighboring ward of Billingsgate, and I don’t have to tell you what a bloody load of bollock-rot that became. Eventually Her Majesty roused her royal army to put down the insurrection, and as Sgt. Maj. Morris dutifully shot and bayoneted both convict and striker alike, including the poor but saintly wretch Leggy Jack, it never occurred to him that the whole unfortunate business could be traced directly to his foolhardy and blasphemous taste in imperially ill-gotten antiquities.
But I digress.
As he would tell his wife moments later as he died on his parlor floor, Mr. White, upon hearing the ominous knocking on their front door just five heartbeats after he made that cursed wish, initially considered using the final wish of the daemonic monkey’s paw to hastily return his son’s mangled body to the gates of Hell. However, skeptical as he was of reanimatory possibilities, he ultimately wagered that an infinity of further wishes would make him invulnerable to all misfortune, and the monkey’s paw obliged. By then the walking corpse of Herbert had crashed through the door and delivered a killing blow to his mortal father before Mr. White could utilize a single one of his putative wishes. Thus Mrs. White collapsed to hear her husband’s final words and watched in silent horror as the zombie that had been her son picked the paw up from the floor where Mr. White had dropped it and dumbly wished the world into its foul apocalypse by gurgling in a ghoulish and stygian voice, “Brains! Brains! Brains!” ad infinitum.
The End by Todd Levin
A tremor of dread passed through Mr. White, and the monkey paw shook in his trembling hand.
Mrs. White leapt to her feet, weeping with joy. “Our Herbert’s home!” She raced to the door.
“Wait…” Mr. White croaked, but he was too late. Mrs. White flung open the door, to reveal a rough, misshapen silhouette slumped against the doorframe. The grotesque form slowly shifted into the light, illuminating a face ribboned with blood. Sheets of flesh were torn from the face, exposing muscle and bone. A wet fold of skin flapped forward from the top of its skull, obscuring half of the creature’s face, as rivulets of fresh blood thickened the fringe of dark hair dangling from the edge of its scalp. A lone, milky blue eye met Mrs. White’s own terror-gripped stare, and a gurgling noise bubbled from somewhere within this monster, forming a terrible, hollow whisper: “Mother,” it spoke.
“KILL IT!” Mr. White screamed. “KILL IT NOW!”
Mrs. White backed slowly into the room. The creature that was once their son was shuffling toward her, lifting a hand that appeared to be nothing more than a skeletal frame encased in freshly ground hamburger.
“I c-c-can’t,” Mrs. White cried. “He’s our boy.” Then, remembering the power of the monkey’s paw, shouted, “I WISH WE’D NEVER WISHED FOR ANY OF THIS!” Mrs. White cinched her eyes tight, and the room fell still for a moment. And then she felt a hand on her shoulder. Her grimace softened, and she slowly opened her eyes to see the destroyed face of Herbert staring back. “I wuv you,” he spat, expectorating a mist of blood that sprayed his mother’s face.
Mrs. White wheeled around and shrieked at her husband. “What happened? Why isn’t it working?”
Mr. White averted her gaze, abashed. “I don’t know how to say this,” he said. “But I used our last wish for this.” He pointed to the far end of their living room where, resting on an old sideboard they’d used to store VHS cassettes, was the most kick-ass Samsung 55-inch LED television Mrs. White had ever seen. Its incredibly vibrant display was built to display 2D and 3D picture depth with superb 1080p HD clarity, and its ultra-slim bezel design provided it with a sleek, modern profile and a nearly edgeless picture.
Resting on an old sideboard was the most kick-ass Samsung 55-inch LED television Mrs. White had ever seen.
The color drained from Mrs. White’s face. “That…thing. Does it include Samsung’s industry-lauded Smart TV web-connected apps, so we can enjoy our favorite online media services, including Netflix and Pandora, as well as full access to social networking apps such as Twitter?”
“Of course it does,” replied Mr. White. “Do I look like a fool?”
“What about Micro Dimming Plus® for optimum picture brightness and contrast?” sputtered Herbert, as a thick, pink ooze seeped through the strands of visible muscle holding his jaw in place.
“Look here” said Mr. White. “I did a lot of research, and I promise you this Samsung TV is fully loaded to ensure the best possible home theater experience for all of us. It was a CNET Editors’ Pick!”
“I love you so much,” wept Mrs. White.
“I hope you’re not just talking about the TV,” joked her husband of 47 years. And they all had a laugh, though Herbert’s was more of a damp choking sound, like he was being strangled to death from inside.
The Whites used their £200 to purchase an optional Samsung Sound Bar speaker system, and agreed their monkey’s paw wishes were the wisest they could have possibly made. The three of them spent their remaining years enjoying their favorite 2D and 3D programming on their truly top-of-the-line Samsung television, uninterrupted, because no one ever came to visit.
The End by Sarah Hepola
Mr. White looked through the blinds. A beefy man with heavy jowls shambled around on his porch. “Who on Earth is that?” he asked his wife.
Mrs. White peered outside and then thwacked her husband on the arm. “That’s Herbert Hoover!”
Blast. It had happened again. Who thought the creepy-evil magical monkey paw would demand such specificity? They sure do things different in India, Mr. White thought. He looked at his wife. “What do we do?”
Mrs. White clutched her nightgown at her throat. “Let him in! He’s our 31st president!”
Herbert Hoover was delighted to be there. “I knew you’d all change your mind sooner or later,” he said, enjoying the tea that Mrs. White made for him. He discussed his thoughts on the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and then giggled when Mr. White showed him how to send a text. “So tell me how ol’ Herbert Hoover can help you out?”
“Listen, Herbert Hoover,” Mr. White said. “There may have been a mix up here.”
Hoover looked like he might cry. “Damnit, I knew you meant to call on FDR.”
“No, no, that’s not it at all.” Mr. White looked at the ground. It was clear Herbert Hoover was thrilled to be called back from the grave, and he felt bad disinviting him at this point. “We’re glad you’re here. I really want you to feel completely welcome in our house.”
Right then, as if by magic, a wet bar appeared in their living room, stocked with jugs of a brown liquid. It was flanked by two women with tidy pincurled hair and short black dresses. One of them handed Hoover a cigar while the other bent over and lit it.
Mr. White put his head in his hands. Foiled again.
Herbert Hoover leaned back. “Well, this is fantastic. I’ve waited nearly a century for this moment. Tell me, how can I help you folks?”
Mr. White looked at his wife, who shrugged. There were no more wishes left. What could they do? “Well,” Mr. White said, “we seem to have a job opening at the factory.”