Here's Aprils White Rabbit Story:
We were standing in the drizzle at the corner of Tallow Street and Grand when she casually put her hand on my leg. Gently, she touched my right thigh. It was an intimate gesture, but she was like that. A little bit touchy-feely.
I smiled and carried on talking – I don’t remember what the conversation was about, only that it was about something. Small talk at the end of a long day.
As we parted company, she leaned in close and whispered something in my ear that I couldn’t quite make out. The noise from passing traffic drowned it out, and I’m pretty sure she spoke the words in a foreign language anyway, one I’d never encountered before.
For a moment, I watched her as she faded into the light rain.
I was in no rush to get home, so I called into a local pub and ordered a beer. People stared at me as I stood at the bar. Nobody spoke to me. I felt excluded from a joke whose punchline had been delivered badly and caused an uncomfortable atmosphere.
I finished my drink and left the place, heading back to my small apartment by the canal. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until I got inside and took off my coat.
It was still there. Her hand. Still resting on my thigh, holding on gently but firmly enough not to lose its grip with her long, pale fingers.
The hand had not been severed; the wrist ended in a neat, smooth nub of flesh, like that of a healed amputee. I’m pretty sure she’d been in possession of both her hands when she’d walked away from me at the junction. I’m certain she’d waved at me with the hand that was now attached to my leg – the left one, if that made any difference.
When I touched the hand, it twitched. The fingers tensed. The stubby wrist jiggled slightly.
I had to cut off my jeans to get undressed. By now I could barely feel the hand gripping me, but it was holding on so tightly that I was unable to pull it away, no matter how hard I tried.
I took a shower. I even washed the hand. Shock must have set in by then because I don’t remember feeling any emotions. I simply accepted what was happening to me. What the hell else was I supposed to do?
That night, I slept on my back and tried not to disturb the hand. I wasn’t sure if it was asleep or awake – or even if it recognised such notions – but I didn’t want to take any chances. It was like a huge spider clinging to my flesh.
The next day, I went looking for her, but nobody knew where she was. She’d ghosted out of my life and left me with a permanent reminder of her presence. I barely even knew her; she was just someone I often spoke to on my way home from work, passing a few pleasant, if forgettable, minutes at the end of the working day. I didn’t even know her name.
After that, I stayed home a lot. I started wearing baggy trousers and jogging bottoms as I slouched in defeat through the lonely rooms of my apartment. I avoided all human contact. Had my food delivered and only ever talked online. The only touch I experienced was one I’d never asked for. It didn’t seem fair: I was being singled out for no reason.
I never saw her again. But I feel her through that phantom limb. I feel her every day.
© Gary McMahon 2019
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