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Hands
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

The fence is endless, stretching out of the darkness and into darkness. It is day, but overhead the clouds are like lead, and the light so poor it seems to be night.

The fence is of chain and barbed wire strung on posts. The strands are rather far apart Ė but not too far. Nobody can climb through this fence.

The path past the fence is white concrete, and looks whiter than it really is in the gloom. It parallels the path, going on and on until the eye loses it, as it does the fence, in the darkness and the distance.

Iím walking down the path, my pistol heavy at my hip, my sword slapping against my side at every step. I look straight ahead, where the path merges with the darkness. I look ahead, not to my right, where the fence is; I know what I will see if I look in that direction.

I will see the hands.

I will see their hands and arms, stretching through the fence and reaching for me, the tips of their fingers Ė white as death, drained of blood Ė almost brushing the sleeve of my shirt. If I listen, I will hear them sigh; the sighing is softer than the wind, less important than the swish of grass under marching boots. I ignore the sighs. I do not hear them. I shall not hear them. I will not look at the hands and arms, reaching, reaching.

I snap awake. There is a night-light. The room isnít completely dark Ė I canít stand complete darkness anymore. There was a time when I could stand anything, but I am old now. Iím old, and things have changed. How they have changed.

The dream still has me in its grip. Itís a dream I have had many times over the years, and itís growing more frequent as I age. There are variations Ė sometimes I am in a well with the hands reaching down, and sometimes I am on a hilltop and the hands strain up to touch me, to hold me and drag me down with them. But most frequently itís the fence.

Iíve mentioned these dreams to nobody. They are nobodyís business but mine Ė and, besides, I am who I am. I canít have anyone suspecting I am cracking up or going senile. And itís not as though the dream can do anything to me. Not even the hands...

I blink and struggle to sit upright. This sort of thinking shall not do. I am Nakamura Kenji, and nobody Ė no business opponent, no personal enemy, and certainly no vaporous dream Ė has ever got the better of me.

I climb slowly out of bed and walk down the short hallway to the little kitchen. Certainly I should get someone to live with me Ė but the habit of years is hard to break. I have been alone since my wife died, and I never felt the need to share my time with anyone. But I am growing old, and my body is slowing down.

The tea I make is weak, almost flavourless, the way I have grown to like it. The tea helps me to concentrate, helps me to beat back the dream, to banish the shadows. When I think of it, the shadows the dream leaves behind are long and threatening. I am Nakamura Kenji, and I am not affected by dreams, but even then this dream lays an oppressive hand on my soul.

I return to bed, the aftertaste of the tea lingering on the back of my tongue. I walk along the darkened corridor, with the sureness of years of practice, although my steps are short and tottering, an old manís steps. But once it was different. I walked as I walk in the dream, tall and strong and confident, and the years roll away, and I am young once more...

Back in bed, I lie on my back, staring up at the dimly-lit ceiling. This always happens after the dream, and most times I lie awake till morning. I canít say I ponder the dream. The dream isnít something to ponder on Ė it is.

Tonight, on a sudden impulse I am at a loss to explain, I reach out and switch off the night-light. I do not normally act on impulses. I have not come to be where I am by acting on impulses. But I am going to lie awake anyway, I think, so I might as well lie awake in the dark, for a change.

I try to remember when I first had the dream. It must have been a long, long time ago, just after the war. Not that it really matters when it began; I know whence it came. Normally I donít think of it. It was a long time ago, more than seventy years, after all. But, again, just for a change, I decide, let me think of it all again, the time when I was young and strong and my back still unbent. Let me think back to Nanjing...

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Information
Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:7 / 10
Rated By:15 users
Comments: 0 users
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