Stumbling Toward Bethlehem

Author : K.A. Magrowski

The giant handprint appeared on the hill sometime during the night of April 30. No one in the nearby farming communities and town saw or heard anything, but on May 1 everyone woke to see the imprint in the distance, across the cow pastures and cornfields, pressed deep into the good, green earth. The media of course flocked to the area in droves. Professional news reporters, amateur social media gurus, gawkers, supernatural believers and skeptics flooded in, and for a few weeks Martinsville, Pennsylvania was known around the world.

Everyone had a theory: from giants of yore to a crop circle-like hoax to aliens trying to communicate to a government conspiracy. Although what the government could be contriving to do with a giant handprint was beyond me. But there you have it. People argued that it was a socialist plot to undermine the fabric of society by creating false gods. Some saw it as the hand of God that would bestow miracles and answer prayers. Others set up stands selling small jars of earth “directly from the Hand of God” to those willing to pay twenty-five or even fifty dollars for good, non-hand Pennsylvania dirt mixed with cow manure. Someone claimed they could walk again after crawling around in the muck (he always could walk, it was later discovered, but by then the story was on the internet and even Snopes couldn’t dissuade true believers).
Soon, the area had to be roped off. The local police set up a watch to prevent anyone from hurting themselves or doing something stupid until the FBI barged in, flashed their authority, and established roadblocks. Scientists came to test soil samples, radioactivity, and whatever else scientists do with their rubber gloves and tubes and petri dishes.

For a week, Martinsville had a festival-like atmosphere. Local businesses saw a three-hundred percent profit increase while local people only saw traffic jams, packed shops and diners, and cameras in their faces. Souvenirs bearing the “Handprint of God” flew off the shelves and the internet was inundated with calendars, mugs, keychains, and other essential memorabilia of the event.

Then disaster struck. A sudden storm, not in any weather forecast, whipped through the region. Severe enough and windy enough to smudge then eradicate the imprint. Afterwards, nothing resembling a hand was left. Just a misshapen hillside and trampled country landscape.

The tests by the scientists were inconclusive. Forensics found nothing. Those questioned by the FBI had alibis, or no means to pull off such a massive feat with no witnesses or raising any suspicion. The media, the thrill seekers, the charlatans, the believers and the skeptics melted away. Hand of God sales plummeted. The internet hopped on another story, Martinsville faded back into obscurity, and no one changed their mind about anything.

Lesson learned. Watch out for hills when I’m on my annual stroll. Luckily, I owned a watering can.


  1. KennyC

    Ha! Love it. Conclusion, be more careful. But what about footprints….hmmm….

  2. Irene

    Amusing story! The end could be tweaked to be less ambiguous for dummies like me.

  3. Jae

    Clever piece, but as already opined, the last line needed a little more work.

    That being said: it’s still highly amusing.

  4. SimonJM

    Nice poke at the fad culture and the need to see conspiracy everywhere (but I would say that, wouldn’t I …? ;))
    The last line is needed, in some form, to lift this into the speculative, but (and I am not sure how I’d do it) it does not quite work for me.

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