The Stitches

The Stitches

A Story by Seth Kinle

A drug addict inherits a set of special knitting needles and something wants them back.


The hospital smelled sterile and sickly except for the waiting room where Dierdre sat staring at a book and chewing her thumbnail. It smelled of coffee and humans and the pizza the family across the row had ordered after sitting for five hours. Dierdre closed her book and placed it into her shoulder bag, one of those patchwork mail carrier ones, and pulled out the hat she had been working on. It was a brioche pattern in two colors and she went to work on it as if nothing else existed in the world. She liked that about knitting. All other thoughts can vanish, even if it's only for a few moments. The thoughts always manage to seep back in, but for a brief time you are free. The rest is therapy. Once the thoughts return they are dealt with in turn and then it's on to the next one, stitch after stitch, anxiety after anxiety.

She worked four rounds (two in each color) before the nurse came in to summon her back. Her fingers froze and for a moment she might have been mistaken for a mannequin or a deer in headlights. She waited to find out all this time and now she didn't want to know. Dierdre returned her work to her bag and hoisted it to her shoulder without feeling its weight. The light in the room swelled and her head rushed. She was hot. She could feel beads of sweat on her brow, moments from trickling down her bony face. The nurse stood with sullen patience, clipboard on forearm. She wished she hadn't gotten stoned before work. Dierdre walked to the door, her ears were filled with the tones of tuning forks. The nurse gave a forced but compassionate smile. The tag on her scrubs said Lilith.

"She's awake and she's asking for you." The nurse's words didn't seem to match up with the movements of her lips. It reminded Dierdre of poorly dubbed foreign films and cartoons from the 90's.

Dierdre followed the nurse down the corridor, her tennis shoes squeaked on the shiny floor. She tried her best not to look into the other rooms as she passed. They made her think too much. Some were empty, some had families around Grandparents, one had an old man named Mr. Killian. She heard the nurses talking about him once. No one had ever come visit him and the old man didn't talk to many people. He sat and he read and he wrote in his journals. He burned through books like a wildfire and when he finished with the lot, more would be delivered by a private courier who was just as quiet as Mr. Killian was.

When they reached her mother's room Dierdre thanked Lilith and entered alone. Her mother lay with her head back on a pillow. Her eyes were sunken holes in her yellow flesh. Dierdre thought it would have taken a special kind of fool not to see what was coming, or at least a special kind of denial. She saw a pair of needles on the table next to her mother's bed, on them was a scarf in a deep emerald heather that was destined never to be finished. Gorgeous cabled patterns snaked their way` through the fabric. There was a chart hanging from the foot of the bed with her Mother's name on it and Dierdre thought to herself how alien Loralie Cochran looked even in this otherworldly place. She could have fooled herself into thinking that her mother was in make-up some epic film about a plague.

"No matter what you believe about this world, God, no god, afterlife or nothin', no matter how much faith or science is rattling around inside your noggin, there will be things that happen in this life that you will never be able to understand." Loralie said, unable lift her head from the pillow. Her gaze was locked on her daughter's eyes.

"The world is a strange place." Dierdre said.

"Stranger than you think, my child." Loralie gestured toward her bedside table, to a box. "Get that box and bring it over to me. I have something for you."

Dierdre did as her mother told her. The box was made of wood and was black as the space between the stars. Absolute. It felt funny in her hands, there was something not quite right about the weight of it. She sat it beside her mother on the bed. Loralie's jaundiced hands made a graceful show of opening the latches and lifting the lid with deliberate patience. Dierdre saw respect in the way her mother handled the vessel, a borderline reverence. Inside the box were several sets of knitting needles. Her best guess was that they were made of bone. They were smooth and white and well taken care of.

"These are for you, my dear. I give them to you in mein Lebensabend just as my mother did in hers."

"They're beautiful, Mom." Dierdre said. She ran her fingers over the needles.

"They're magic, Dierdre. I know how you think, but no matter what you believe, it's true. These have been passed down for generations going all the way back to the old lands. Sie sind von den alten Hexen."

"Please, Mom, not all this about witches and magic. You sound more and more like Grandma the older you get."

"It's all true, Dierdre. All of it. I've seen what these things can do and I am paying the price for how I used them. It all comes back around."

"What does that even mean?"

"It all comes back around." Those were the last words Loralie Cochran ever spoke. She closed her sunken eyes and never opened them again.


Dierdre didn't remember the drive home. She sat in her car in the driveway with tears blurring her vision. The thought of never being able to speak to her mother again weighed on her. A stunned numbness had taken her over. The box sat on the passenger seat. She lifted it as she stepped out of the car into the icy night. When she entered the house she placed the box and her keys on the table next to the door and walked to the living room where she found her father sitting in his usual chair. He tore the newspaper in half, placed the two halves on top of each other and tore them again. At his feet was a pile of shredded scraps that came close to covering his shoes. It was another mess that she would deal with, but one she neither had the strength nor drive to clean at the moment.

In her bedroom she dug in her top dresser drawer and found the familiar orange bottle she kept stashed there. She dumped two of the pills into her hand and reburied the bottle under her socks and panties. She reached into her pocket and drew out her debit card, laying it over the oblong white tablets on her top of her dresser and pressed down with a twist. The pills crushed down to a powder. She split the pile into four hefty lines and snorted them through a rolled dollar bill. After drawing heavily through her nostrils she checked herself in the mirror for residue. She cleaned up the obvious signs of drug use and returned to the living room to check on her father. He still sat shredding paper.

"How was school?" he asked.

"I graduated five years ago, Dad. I don't go to school. I was at the hospital."

"Well I hope everything is okay."

"Everything is fine." She sniffed again to get the drip to run down her throat.

"Wonderful. That's just wonderful. Fine." He said. He tore the paper.

The thought of dealing with anything else was too much for Dierdre to consider. She left her father and his mess and returned to the table next to the door to retrieve the box. She wanted to knit until she was high enough not to feel. She took the box to her room and placed it on her bed. She opened it and ran her fingers over the needles again. They were beautiful. She had never seen a set like them. For a moment she wondered why she had never seen them before, but the longer she thought the less strange it was to her. Her mother had always been a superstitious woman. She had been raised that way. Her entire life she had been told of the witches of the old land and all the magic that was still in the world if you knew where to look and how to use it. Even as sharp as she was, Loralie had never been able to see those stories as stories and Dierdre had always been secretly disappointed in her mother for this. How could a woman so smart not see through such silly tales? There was a pair missing from the box. It was the pair her mother had been using for her scarf. She had left it there. I'll have to go back tomorrow and get it, she thought.

She closed the box without having picked a pair of needles and sat it on the dresser where she had indulged herself a few minutes before. Her tension was melting and her pain dulled, turning to an incomplete indifference. He'll be okay in there, she thought. He'll just fall asleep in the chair like he does. Dierdre shed her clothes with smooth serpentine movements and slid into bed, switching off the lamp with a quick twist. She masturbated, trying to think of nothing, just feeling herself surrounded by the darkness of the room and embraced by the warmth of her blanket. When she came, she writhed and shook and for a brief moment her thoughts finally did leave her. A blissful silence washed through her mind. She just breathed and the last tingles made their way though her body and then she rolled over onto her side feeling just as high as she needed to be and fell asleep.


It was sometime in the early afternoon when Dierdre woke with her head groggy and her throat swollen from thirst and the snoring she must have done in her sleep. She sat up on the edge of her bed rubbing her face and then running her hand through her hair. She shuffled to the bathroom and took a piss and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked like Hell. On her way to the kitchen she saw her father's chair was empty and that the mound of shredded paper was still on the floor, spread more now from her father getting up, having forgotten that his feet had been covered by it. She continued to the kitchen and downed two full glasses of water, feeling it's wonderful effects on her brain. The pressure in her head dispersed and her cobwebs shook loose. She put on a pot of coffee and made it strong. She needed to return to the hospital to get the scarf she had left. "That f*****g druggie b***h nurse better not have taken it."

After her coffee she got dressed. She threw on the same jeans from the day before and the first shirt she found on the floor that didn't smell too awful. She grabbed her keys from the table beside the door and went out to her car, started it and backed out of the driveway faster than she should have and then drove toward the hospital. She didn't bother warming the car first and she regretted that fact not a mile down the road. She blasted the heater but it still only produced a chilling artificial breeze. She lit a cigarette and cracked the window. By the time she finished smoking it and had flicked it out the window, she was pulling into the parking lot. Her eyes were drooping and her head nodded, so she opened the small hidden compartment in the ring she always wore and snorted a generous bump of crushed Adderall that she kept in case she needed a boost. She was licking the front of her teeth by the time she walked off the elevator on to the fifth floor.


The fluorescent lights were an assault on her eyes and she hated the squeak that her shoes made on the concrete tiles. Dierdre felt a chill as she reached the nurses station. She didn't see any sign of Lilith or anyone else in the typical uniform. She clenched her teeth and spun in a circle to see what she could see. No one was around.

"Hey." A voice said from behind her.

She turned to the source of the voice and was looking straight at Mr. Killian's room. She stepped forward and peered into the room. Killian sat as he always did on his bed. She saw that her mother's scarf was laid across his legs. She looked back up to his bandage wrapped face, seeing a smile spread across it. His blue eyes were calm. It was hard for her to understand calm people. She stepped into the room, the chill of the place vanished as she crossed the threshold.

"Hey, Mr. Killian." She said.

"Henry, please. I've never been much of a man for titles." He said.

"Henry. I imagine you know why I'm here then." She said.

"I do," he said with a nod. His eyes never broke contact with hers. "Sit down a spell, if don't mind talkin' to an old man dying in a bed. I'll tell ya, if I'd known I'd never be leavin' this place when I came in, I woulda just tied me a noose and been done with it at home."

Dierdre pulled a chair next to the bed and sat. The old man wasn't so old really, maybe late fifties. Even so he looked old. His disease had worn him down faster than the world alone would have, and those eyes. In them she saw age immeasurable, years of experience that she would never know. Duane's chest rose and fell in ragged gasps but his voice still had strength in it. The rest of him was a shriveled ruin. He was all pale flesh stretched around bone. What was left of his hair was a wispy mess of white and blond that jutted out from the gauze that covered his head. There were machines hooked into him, each for a different purpose. Dierdre nodded, understanding that dying at home on your own terms would be better than this.

"How did you get the scarf?" She asked.

"Lilith brought it to me when she saw you had left it behind. She knew that your mother and I liked to talk we we got the chance." He said.

"I think that girl is on drugs." Dierdre said

Duane Killian's stare cut into her. She could feel how wide her eyes were, how tightly she was clenching her jaw. She noticed her hands sweating and fidgeting with one another. Her eyes darted around the room at the books stacked on every available surface. His eyes never left hers. That smile spread darkly across his crooked mouth again. He leaned forward with a strained breath as far as his withered body would allow.

"Well, we all have our demons, don't we?" He said.

With this, Duane lifted the scarf from his lap with grace and handed it over. The scarf was long. It had to have been at least twelve feet. It was all garter stitch. The knitting skills of her mother were unmatched by anyone Dierdre knew. She couldn't help but wonder why her mother would spend her dying days knitting such a simple and impractical project. The yarn was beautiful though. It was a variegated merino wool that faded shades with a soft subtlety. Dierdre ran the fabric through her fingers. The machines around them beeped and hummed.

"Thank you for keeping it safe for me." She said.

"She said it was finished, you know. She told be just the other day that all she needed to do was bind off and she'd be done. Guessing by how it's still on the needles she didn't get around to it." He said.

"Everyone will always have things they didn't get around to." She said.

"Ain't that the damned truth?" Duane said.

Without thinking much about what she was doing, Dierdre took the needles in her hands and began binding off the stitches. She had always loved this moment in knitting most of the entire process. This is the moment your project goes from being a bunch of string that you looped together with some needles to being an object of its very own. Killian watched the young lady's hands as the manipulated the small bone needles to her bidding. It was clear to him that the skill was in the family. Dierdre looked back up to meet his eyes and her hands resumed their work.

"Any idea who she was making this for?" Dierdre asked.

"She didn't say. She always said it would help with the missing man and she would talk about the needles. She talked about them like they were magic." He said.

"I see him in the woods sometimes." Lilith said as she entered the room with a tray of medications.

Dierdre noticed her own eyes being drawn to them and jerked them away before it became a stare rather than a mere passing glance. Duane took the pills and thanked her with a nod and turned his attention back to Dierdre. Lilith left the room with the swift motion of one who has many things to do.

"She was always talking about witches." He said.

"It was a popular topic of conversation for her. She was a smart woman, but a superstitious one as well." She said. "That combination in a person has never made much sense to me, but people just are the way they are I guess."

Dierdre was looking at her hands. The needle in her left had just five stitches left on it. She slid the stitches back down the needle so they wouldn't slip off and let the still unfinished fabric just sit there in her lap. She looked back up at him. He was smiling again.

"She told me those very needles there and the other ones you left here with were carved from the bones of a witch who had been publicly executed in Germany a few hundred years back." Duane said.

"She told us that story all the time. She told me that the woman's friends had run off with her body before the people could burn it. Could be true, I don't really know." Dierdre said.

"She said they could do things. Make things happen that most folks wouldn't think possible." He said.

"I don't believe in magic, Mr. Killian."

"That's a shame." He said. "And call me Killian if you like but you'll have to drop all that Mister nonsense. I ain't no better nor wiser than you just cause I'm older than you by a good spell."

Dierdre decided to just look at the man. She felt the fabric in her fingers and saw this withering life form before her. She was staring at the spots on his arms that she knew he was not born with. One day her arms would look that way if she lived long enough to see old age. She always wondered if there was anything inside of her that people liked enough to be around when she was no longer beautiful. Who would take care of her when she got old? She returned her gaze to his and his eyes were squinted and gleaming with curiosity. She could see all over his face that he wanted to ask what she had just been thinking. Duane did not ask that question. Dierdre excused herself and went to the bathroom and snorted more Adderall. She flushed the clean toilet and returned to the chair next to the bed. She rubbed her sweaty palms on her dirty jeans. She replaced the scarf back across her thighs. Killian sat up like a storyteller.

"Your mother believed in magic. She told me that only passionate people could make magic happen because they couldn't keep all of that inside them, so they poured it all into their art, their cooking, their knitting." He said.

They both looked down at the five stitches still resting on the needles. Dierdre picked them up and bound off the final stitches and broke the yarn. She tied the loose piece in several knots until she could get to her tapestry needle to weave it in. It was finished. She wrapped it several times around her neck and let it dangle. The Doctor himself would have been envious. The old man sank back down into his pillows, his face strained with exhaustion. He looked up at her once more.

"I think you should go on home girl. I think the Sandman is about to take me for bit. Don't be a stranger though." He said.

Dierdre stood from her chair.

"I'll come back, Duane." She said.

She turned and walked from the room. There was still no one at the nurse's station and it was still cold. She was grateful for the scarf. The weight and warmth of it was a comfort. She ran her fingertips over her pockets to make sure she felt she shape of the needles. When she was satisfied she turned on her heels and made her way out of the hospital and back to her car where she immediately lit a cigarette. She needed to go back home.


The crunch of the gravel on her driveway was like a welcome mat. As she got out of her car she took a minute to look around her at the sky and the trees. There's something about the trees in Tennessee, especially in the winter. The bare limbs scattering out from the trunks look like scars on the skyline. Dierdre looked up to the vast blue expanse.

"I guess none of us get out of here without at least a few batters and bruises." She said, "Not even you."

She pondered for a moment and grabbed her things and went inside. The house was silent. She put her bag down by the door and began unwrapping the scarf. With a glance to the living room she could see that her father's chair was still empty. She tossed the scarf over her bag and the box on the table and went to her room to repeat her ritual. Once her head was right she went to the kitchen to make coffee. The floor to the kitchen too was littered with strips of paper. Dierdre just shuffled through it all with heavy steps and heavy eyes, knowing she would get to it eventually. F**k it for now. She made the coffee strong.

As Dierdre stared at the floor she realized for the first time that the paper was not blank or just some advertisements as she had assumed but were handwritten pages. A chill spread through her as she recognized her father's handwriting. She did not know why fear was there, but fear had come and he was telling her that something was wrong. She walked the house room to room, leaving shreds of paper In her wake. She checked every room. Her father was not there. Her father never left the house. The drugs were numbing her panic but fear was still there, standing always just out of sight. He's an old friend who's always around to let you know when things aren't right. The coffee pot gurgled and began to drip.

"F****n' b*****d never leaves me alone."

Dierdre bent and began picking up the strips of paper, doing her best to keep an order of sorts to the madness. There were words and what she guessed must have been crude sketches, of what she could not tell. The rustling of the paper reminded her of school and of the woods in Autumn. Some of the pages were several years old from the discoloration alone. They felt dry and crisp in her soft hands.


Dierdre had made her way through most of the pot of coffee and still understood little of what the pages contained. She had spent the past two hours piecing pages together like a morbid puzzle. There were stories of witches and folk tales from Germany. There were sketches of public hangings and burnings with notes off to the side giving dates and names. The only things she could find that seemed to connect any of this were that they all took place in the late seventeenth century and a name that her father had written on nearly every page: Vermisst. She had never known her father to be interested in such things. He had never been a superstitious man or even much of a history buff, but these pages showed a man with an obsession. If she wasn't positive that the handwriting was her father's she would swear it had been something her mother had written. At the bottom of one of the pages it said: I see him in the woods sometimes.

© 2018 Seth Kinle

Author's Note

Seth Kinle
This is an unfinished piece that I would like some feedback on.

My Review

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Featured Review

These were my first impressions. I enjoyed Dierdre, her flaws where well done and made her interesting. There was not really a dull moment or a time I said to myself come on already lets get moving. Your prose are good, nice to read, clear with some clever bits here and there.
I enjoyed the pace as I said before and I really, really really enjoyed the hints of the supernatural you drop down here and there. The only thing I would change is seeing the guy in the gray suit so early on.
Hopefully its just a guy and not anything strange, becasue the suspence you built up to this point is really good. I hope there is supernatural stuff but string us along for a while, make us doubt there are things in the night. This story I think would work more as a slow burn, but that is just my opinion.

Posted 6 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


6 Years Ago

Ohhhhhh, thats a great idea. Its clever because you don't think much about the needles at first but .. read more
Seth Kinle

6 Years Ago

The needles are carved from the bones of witches who were hung in Germany.

6 Years Ago

You just know thats going to attract some creepy attention. There is a lot of potiental in that idea.. read more


I need my heart stitched from all the pain and hurt people constantly cause me and the situations I'm in they make worse

Posted 3 Years Ago

These were my first impressions. I enjoyed Dierdre, her flaws where well done and made her interesting. There was not really a dull moment or a time I said to myself come on already lets get moving. Your prose are good, nice to read, clear with some clever bits here and there.
I enjoyed the pace as I said before and I really, really really enjoyed the hints of the supernatural you drop down here and there. The only thing I would change is seeing the guy in the gray suit so early on.
Hopefully its just a guy and not anything strange, becasue the suspence you built up to this point is really good. I hope there is supernatural stuff but string us along for a while, make us doubt there are things in the night. This story I think would work more as a slow burn, but that is just my opinion.

Posted 6 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


6 Years Ago

Ohhhhhh, thats a great idea. Its clever because you don't think much about the needles at first but .. read more
Seth Kinle

6 Years Ago

The needles are carved from the bones of witches who were hung in Germany.

6 Years Ago

You just know thats going to attract some creepy attention. There is a lot of potiental in that idea.. read more

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2 Reviews
Added on September 29, 2017
Last Updated on April 15, 2018


Seth Kinle
Seth Kinle

Clarksville, TN

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