by Brandon A. English
Sitting in a small country cottage in a somewhat dusty but simple and kept room was a little boy of average size and little boy manner. He walked throughout the room, about the cottage, amongst the trees, across the river’s bridge, through the meadows, and even atop the highest peaks—or at least, he envisioned it. You see, this little boy, though similar in almost every regard to other little boys, was without the one thing most of us—little boys being no exception—put to use in order to do practically anything that is to be done: hands.
The boy stood near the door of the room and looked down upon the round, polished brass doorknob before him and then raised his thin stumps up to touch it on either side. Flinching slightly as if to expect a cold sensation, he remembered suddenly that he lacked little, if any, feeling in this area of his extremities. He wondered then why he had even fostered the urge to grasp the knob at all, given his longtime, hand-less predisposition. He pondered it for a moment, unsure of just when his hands had become non-existent but, as most little boys do, became distracted yet again with something else, as he was unable to open the door.
Leaving these confusing questions behind him, he turned to view some long-forgotten toys upon the floor: miniature, dark-green soldiers of various rank and function, plastered in their respective places like some grotesque god’s trophy case, frozen as if time had suddenly stalled directly in the middle of their fiercest and final battle. Intrigued by these outdated, juvenile trinkets, the boy knelt down to the creaking, wooden floor and then inched closer, slowly arching his bike like an old man while simultaneously tilting his head like the same old man’s dog might.
He squinted and examined each piece—man—individually and carefully, noting their postures, poses, possessions, and positions. Some of them seemed to have an aversion to standing, keeping themselves as diminutive as possible, while others openly performed their actions without any apparent concern for being seen. No, in truth, it was as if they were more akin to macho models on a photo shoot, desirous for public display, rather than painted targets for an enemy.
The urge to take up one of the evergreen time soldiers struck him when his eyes fell upon the visage of a pawn whose leg was apparently turned in an uncommon direction. Struck with wonder, the little boy again reached out with his digit-less, palm-less stalks, attempting to take up this anomaly. As he swiped the air nearby the broken man, the slowly swirling dust in the air spun and twirled about in the golden sunlight which was pouring into the room from the smudged window beyond the bed.
The boy loosed a sigh as small as he, gazing yet again at his invisible hands, only confused thoughts clouding his mind, even as the dust in the room seemed to take new life of its own and swim about. The warm intensity of the light’s rays lit up his eyes and pulled his attention away from his musings once more, and the boy awkwardly struggled while rising from the floor, leaving the injured soldier in the shadows behind him.
The closer he drew to the blurry, bright images between the window frame, the greater his curiosity increased to know what lied beyond. A few short steps was all it took for him to reach the antiquated glass but his attention was then fixated upon the oversized latch atop the dark, wooden frame. This time, the little boy refrained from looking at his missing hands, but in his mind, he could see them plainly. As the physical and mental were so plainly and obviously at odds with one another, he felt himself drawn to the outer and, somehow, real world beyond the room.
Gently and quietly, the doorknob to the room turned and the old, wooden door gave a long, steady creak as it opened. Not surprised, the boy turned to see a great, familiar figure standing in the doorway. “Have you a question?” The figure asked in a deep, vibrating, yet calming tone.
The little boy looked from the figure back to the window, and then back down at his arms before returning his eyes to the doorway. “My hands,” he began, frowning at the thought now coming from his mouth, “Why don’t I have any hands?”
“You must wake up.” The figure said simply, but the boy frowned at this and rubbed his eyes with this arm, the sun’s dancing rays playing upon his face.
“I must what?” He asked, unsure of what he had heard.
“Wake up.” The figure spoke again, this time beginning to close the door and exit.
“Wait,” The little boy spoke quickly and blinked many times, attempting to keep his eyes open, and then stumbled around the bed as he tried to reach the door before it closed. “What?”
“Wake up.” The voice was vague and almost indistinct.
As the boy opened his eyes again, he reeled back and rubbed his eyes with his hands.
“It’s time to wake up.” His dad said to him, pulling the curtains back and allowing the sunlight to fill the room. “You’ve been asleep for too long, I think.”
“Dad, I have a question.”
“Yes, what is it?” His dad asked and sat down on the bed beside him.
“I have hands, but how do I wake up?”