Tatum Mottle was a murderer. He is also the central character of this story. I’m aware that this makes him hard to like, but it might help if I said he only murdered horrid people who deserved murdering. It might help, but it wouldn’t be true. He was absolutely mad for murdering. He didn’t mind when he did it. Morning, noon, night. During elevensies. During brunch. Tiffin. That weird in the middle meal you sometimes have at Christmas at around five which is mostly sandwiches. Sometimes he didn’t even plan the murders that well. Sometimes, they were so spontaneous that they were practically manslaughter. Before you start getting all upset about the fact that he’s a murderer, and murderers shouldn’t be all talked and glamourised - it’s also probably worth remembering that this is also fiction, and it suits the story.
If this feels like news to you, you should probably apply this to lots of things in life. The news is largely not fiction, but Robocop is. That’s a good rule of thumb. When trying to work out whether things are fiction or non fiction - just think to yourself - is it more like the local news programme, or is it more like Robocop. And whichever is closest - just go with that - and you’ll know whether it’s fiction or non fiction. I like to help you guys out a little. Give a little something back.
So. There we are with Tatum Mottle, the murderer. On the particular day we join him, he was all excited about murdering a man named Silba Thwaitethwaite, 34 years old from the Bradbin area. More on that story later. Back to the studio. Sorry - that makes it sound like a local news programme. I’ll...I’ll stop doing that. Silba Thwaitethwaite had an interesting job. He was in charge of feeding the lions and sharks and giant spiders at Pilthorp zoo. Tatum Mottle had had a huge argument with Silba Thwaitethwaite in a nearby pub about the diet of sharks. Silba thought he was in the right, Tatum thought he was in the wrong. Silba said that sharks would never eat a human’s hand because they think it looks like a jellyfish, and might sting their mouths on the way down, and he should know he feeds sharks all the time. Tatum said that this was all nonsense. Sharks will eat all the bits of a human, and they will also eat jellyfish, but considers them a pudding. So, by that reckoning they might eat the hands last, because most sharks are very well brought up and don’t eat their pudding until after they’ve finished their mains.
So riled up was Tatum Mottle by Silba’s refusal to back down that he decided to murder him as he had done so many others. He planned to do it the very next evening, while Silba was doing has last feed, at ten o’clock at night.
And now the weather. The night was clear and crisp, and the first proper autumnal evening that year. Might be a good idea to wrap up warm if you’re heading out.
Tatum had done so. He’d put on his warm coat. It was old, but still did the job. Most of Tatum’s clothes were old. Murdering didn’t pay very much, you see. It really is a vocation. He brought with him a length of steel pipe with which to do the business.
He found Silba in the Aquarium section of the zoo, high up at the top of the shark tank, where he had just finished feeding the massive carnivores.
Without saying a word, Tatum raised the steel pipe, and did what he had done so many times before. Silba Thwaitethwaite was now the late Thwaitethwaite, and Tatum pushed his lifeless body into the tank, where he assumed the evidence would be naturally devoured and destroyed. But that wasn’t the end of the matter. The sharks in the tank, having had their mains, eyed Tatum’s blood spattered hand keenly, and within a second, had bitten it off completely. For pudding.
On a side note - French sharks have a little joke about this sort of behaviour. They say - we’ve had our mains, now let’s have our ‘mains’. Mains of course being french for hand. Sharks are incredibly efficient eating machines. They are not brilliant raconteurs, but they enjoy themselves.
Back to our main story tonight. Tatum is now one hand down, pleased to have been right, but not pleased about the hand thing.
He put a tourniquet around his wrist, and struggled down the tank and out of the zoo before blacking out in the middle of the road.
He woke up several days later in a hospital bed. To find himself in possession of not one hand, but two.
This massively surprised him as one had definitely been eaten.
He discovered over the course of the next few hours that as usual in these cases, when a John Doe is discovered with a missing hand (Tatum didn’t carry any ID for obvious reasons) the normal course of action is to take them the the kind of hospital that does experimental procedures - like engineering pretty babies, creating the kind of exercise that can be swallowed, and hand transplants.
Tatum discovered that not only had he not only not been accused of murdering the late Thwaitethwaite, apparently his death had been attributed entirely to the sharks. Even the bit about being being around the head. Apparently they had always had that look about them and it was only a matter of time, thought their neighbours, who in this case were some octopuses said that they were very quiet, and kept themselves to themselves. Not only was Tatum a free man but he was bi-manual which is definitely a word.
So - here he was at the hospital of Pff. Which stands for Prosthetics Fertility and Fitness. One hand up.
He was over joyed. And within a further few days, he was sent home. Sure his new hand was a bit grubbier than his old one, and he thought it would be a very long time before he indulged in any onanism because that would definitely be weird. Or sexy. After all he didn’t know whether his new hand had previously belonged to a man or a woman. If only hand had adam’s apples, he thought to himself, then he’d know. He did ask at the hospital, but they just shrugged and said ‘Pff’.
All was normal for a while, but one morning, Tatum awoke to find something very strange had happened. His bedclothes were filthy, smeared with mud and slimy brown water.
And by on his bedside table was a small and inexpertly made coil pot.
Tatum was massively freaked out, and couldn’t even blame this on anyone and do one of those murders of which he was so fond.
Then nothing happened for a while. Until one morning he woke up in his kitchen, the same filth all around, but this time he was met by a little array of tiny clay animals, not many of which were any good.
Another morning he found that he had ordered a kiln online. He stared at his weird new hand. It had to have a had a hand in this, he thought. And then laughed a bit at his joke, and then got all serious again because of the seriousness of the situation.
He went back to the Hospital of Pff, and kept asking them questions until they finally gave him an answer, though they weren’t happy about it.
Apparently his hand had come from the very recently departed body of a potter of some note. He was absolutely mad for all kinds of ceramics, until his untimely death.
It’s rare, the doctors said, but it does happen. The new hand, the wrist infiltrator if you like, gives some of the qualities of its former owner to its new one.
‘What could be done about it? Who do you guys think you are?’ Shouted Tatum.
‘Pff.’ Said the Doctors. Pointing to a sign that said Pff.
And so it went on. This poor murderer who could no longer go about his daily business of murdering, because if the toxic and overriding whims of this...potter’s hand.
‘My cerama-cyst’ Tatum called the hand, self consciously doing a joke that works better written down.*
His murdering basically dropped off, and each morning he would have no idea what he might wake up to.
A vase, an ashtray, some cups. Other things made of clay.
Then one day, almost a year to the day after he had acquired his new hand something terrible happened. Or something good happened, depending on how you feel about Tatum the murderer.
Tatum woke up one morning to find himself encased in a giant pot. Unable to move his arms or legs, unable to rock back and forth, unable to do anything at all. When he woke up, he had about seven minutes left to live, as that was all the air that was left in the urn.
He died very shortly after that.
It was later discovered that ceramicist whose hand was grafted to Tatum’s was not only a keen ceramicist. He was also a keen amateur murderer.
And finally, the policeman who found the jar that made Tatum potted history, was also a recipient of experimental procedures from Pff. He was injured on duty whilst being a policeman in Detroit in the near future, and most of body was replaced by robot parts. He was part man, part machine, but all cop.
And that’s how you can tell that this is fiction.