Matthew Curlewis


Once upon a time, in a land soaked in fear and violence, there lived a lonely Left Hand who had lost its Right during wartime. In this land where Hands were only publicly accepted in pairs, The Hand tried and tried to fit in, but felt itself waging a losing battle.

You see The Hand had a dream, of knitting itself a beautiful glove – thinking maybe if it was more splendid in appearance, then others wouldn’t notice it was actually, alone. But in this grey-streaked, anxious land, the decoration of Hands, in any shape or form was considered a crime punishable by torture, imprisonment – and often even worse. Knitting was outlawed, and gloves had been banned many years before.

One day, while seeking refuge from a mob, The Hand stumbled into a classical (the only kind of music allowed) music concert – performed by Music Hands who’d been maimed or injured during combat. But The Hand was scarcely prepared for what it encountered – the musicians here were following the lead of a Single Hand conductor. What sweet melodies that conductor could divine by swooping and diving his baton through the air!

Inspired beyond belief, The Hand ran out to purchase its own baton to begin practicing immediately. This Single Hand conductor had become successful – clearly this was the way to make others forget The Hand was single. Alone.

Behind closed doors The Hand carefully unpacked its baton, then read the instructions and government warnings:


It is Prohibited to use this baton as: a signaling device • an element of an art work • a knitting needle • a writing implement • a weapon”

The Hand froze for a moment in disbelief. The thought had never crossed its mind until it was suggested by the warning… You see pairs of knitting needles, by now, were only the stuff of legend – you couldn’t even get them on the black market. Yet here in front of it was, potentially, half of a pair of needles – The Hand trembled at the idea it was having, and then ran as fast as it could to find him…

The Conductor – at first – was skeptical. His music was already borderline illegal, but knitting! (A sure way to frighten children was to tell them the grisly tale of what befell the members of PerlOnePlainTwo – the revolutionary knitters’ circle. Knitting could lead to gruesome consequences.)

But of course The Conductor also understood The Hand’s anguish – and found he couldn’t help but agree. So together they devised a plan: on the pretense of the conductor giving lessons, they would meet, and secretly knit together.

At first they were clumsy. They barely knew how to tie the wool to their baton-needles. But day by day, little by little they made progress, making it up as they went along.

And sure enough, just as the first of winter’s winds began to chill, they managed to complete the most beautiful, most spectacular glove ever created in their land. Finally it was here – the possibility The Hand had dreamed of for so long – when others, beguiled by the beauty of its glove, would finally cease to notice that The Hand was, in fact, alone.

Against The Conductor’s protests (who was afraid of what The Authorities most surely would do in response), The Hand decided it would wear its glove in all its glory, to The Conductor’s newest concert, opening that very night.

When The Hand arrived backstage it was nervous, and again The Conductor tried to dissuade it. But The Hand signaled, “These laws are outdated, insane and unjust! I HAVE to show the world that this kind of beauty is possible!”

So during the concert, at the height of the greatest crescendo, The Hand made its entrance and stopped beneath a spotlight.

At first many in the audience were afraid – they had never seen anything like this before – a Hand completely encased in the brightest white silk and woolen thread, flecked with gold and silver that made The Hand shimmer like a star. And soon, seeing that The Hand meant no harm, any fear in the room gave way to fascination.

Tentatively, Hand Pairs approached, but once up close, simply witnessing wasn’t enough – they found they had to touch The Hand, and caress it, which made The Hand tremble and shiver – these were unfamiliar, new sensations.

Wonder and awe sparkled and rippled throughout the crowd. Some Pairs spontaneously started dancing. Others began leaping and bounding, while some simply fainted out cold from excitement. But the ones who were most afraid and threatened? They sent word out to The Authorities, who were quick to arrive on the scene. And their reaction was swift, and merciless.

While The Conductor and the crowd looked on helplessly, The Hand was taken outside, and beaten so badly that its blood soaked through and stained the starshine glove a dark, violent crimson.

This should not have been so unusual – Hands were used to seeing terrible beatings, but this time something snapped inside everyone. How could any being with a shred of compassion be so cruel to one so defenseless, and so incomparably beautiful?

And without agreeing on anything formally, quietly, little by little, Hands began to revolt – just with an occasional ring here, a nail-polish splash there, or a whimsical knot of starshine thread.

Until all at once came an outpouring of decoration, from imaginations locked up for too long, finally set free. There were gloves and hand-sashes and saris and nail art and bracelets and rings that played music and hand-painting and finger-puppets, and special memorials and tributes to The Hand who had started everything: these came in the form of decorations made to resemble blood and bruisings, although added to, and made more beautiful, with jewels and crystals and splashes of glitter.

At first The Authorities tried to quell the uprisings, but soon their prisons were overflowing; they had to admit they had lost control. A declaration was made that henceforth Hands were free to wear whatever they chose and saw fit.

The Conductor was at once so saddened by the loss of The Hand who had become his closest friend – but also so honored to have been a part of this history, he set about composing a bittersweet symphony – sadness and pain and joy and beauty all layered together, dedicated entirely to the bravery of The Hand.

And that could be the end of this story, except for another part that must be told. It is true that in its beauty and in its terrible suffering, everyone did in fact forget that The Hand was, actually, alone. But remember The Hand’s Pair who was originally lost during wartime? That history it turns out, is a lie.


Because you see, I am its Pair – its other half – its partner.


But I was taken away and imprisoned for the crime of writing. And then The Authorities falsified my disappearance. Thanks to my other half, Hands can now wear what they will, they can express themselves, through adornment. But writing? Writing is still banned, writing is still a punishable crime.

Through sympathetic friends I have managed to write my partner’s story as the film you have just seen. But it will never be allowed as a piece of writing. Please carry it with you in your mind’s eye – this film will self-erase once your viewing of it is over, and all that will remain will be some pages of dissonant dark stripes, once the censors have taken to this with their thick black pens.

But I know, and now you know, the real story of what one lonely, passionate Hand was capable of achieving, by simply confronting might with right.


Since growing up in Australia, Matthew Curlewis has worked as a performer-designer-writer on three continents. At his organisation Amsterdam Writers, founded in 2009, he runs the workshops Writers’ Stretch & Tone and Storytelling for Academics. His work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, Time Out, Blume Illustrated, and Fantastic Man. Matthew is a board member of Books Away from Home, a foundation that supplies books to child refugees, in their native language. Their first project Books for the Youngest Ukrainian Refugees, is currently distributing 20,000 copies of five different Ukrainian picture books to Ukrainian refugee children in the Netherlands and Belgium.