Harpy in Flight

“Dr. Lecter takes up the bright tabloid from a pile of parchment and looks at the picture of Clarice Starling on the cover, touches her face with his finger. The bright blade appears in his hand as thought he had sprouted it to replace his sixth finger. The knife is called a Harpy and it has a serrated blade shaped like a talon. It slices as easily through the National Tattler as it sliced through the G—–’s femoral artery—the blade was in the G—- and gone so quickly Dr. Lecter did not even need to wipe it.”

—Thomas Harris, “Hannibal” (the g-slur is redacted here, because ew)

I wanted a Harpy because Dr. Lecter carries a Harpy.

My relationship with Hannibal Lecter is complicated. He’s not quite my hero.  But I met him at a young age and something about him spoke to me deeply. I don’t eat the rude (though I am often tempted) and I don’t fancy spending a big chunk of my life in a plexiglass dungeon. I can’t jet off to Florence when I want to read medieval letters and I can’t gut my enemies or feed them to the pigs.

But I could carry his knife.

John bought me my Harpy for Christmas the first year we were married. I’ve carried her for over a decade. She’s a lifetime knife, and despite the fact that I’m almost sure she was stolen I hope whoever has her now knows that. I kept her sharp and used her every day.

My Harpy opened the package that contained my college degree and my first book contract. She cut flowers at a funeral and popped through the ribbons on a birthday present more than once. She slit effortlessly through zip ties in the desert and the twine that held down a Christmas tree. We picked two locks together, her tiny hooked tip catching in a way that most knives could never do. She was always with me, and I find myself reaching for her every day. Grief for an object seems silly, but it is quite real. Muscle memory keeps me feeling her weight in my palm and her sixth-finger dexterity in my grasp.

I learned long ago that a knife is a tool more than it is a weapon, and only fools brandish theirs. She was a secret, tucked in one side of my bra and quite invisible. I used to love the glances I would get when I pulled her free without a look, opened her with one hand, and went to work on whatever situation had called for a knife. Talon, indeed. No knife was ever better.

Goodbye, Harpy. Fuck a diamond. You were a girl’s best friend.

Liked it? Take a second to support Meg Elison on Patreon!

Leave a Reply