Hands

He left his apartment that sunny, cheerful day whistling a happy tune. Swinging his briefcase in the breeze. Nearly skipping in his joy of being there, being alive. His tie was loosened and fluttering, but he didn't care. It was his first day of work since he had dropped out of high school and he was finally getting a good job.

He arrived at the door with a great beam on his face and asked another worker where to go. The surly man pointed towards an old, scratched door at the far end of the narrow, dark corridor. It was then that he felt the fear. The fear that had only come to him once before, in a dream with hands grasping at him, screaming, as he strained to reach the doorway at the end of the corridor. This corridor.

He backed off, perspiration beading on his brow, but at a scornful look from the worker he started forward again.

The instant he stepped in the corridor all the friendly bustling sounds ended abruptly behind him. He turned to look but everything was dark. He whirled about, then saw the faint shine of light from behind the closed door. Just like in his dreaded nightmare, which had come only once. But that one time had been enough.

His breath quickened and shivers ran up his spine. His nerves seemed frozen and he felt as if he were floating outside of his body, controlling it as if in a computer game. Only in this game is he lost, he would die.

He willed his body forward and watched it take stumbling, faltering steps toward the door. And then the hands appeared.

He snapped back into his body, stunned, and was nearly too late to dodge the first hand. He tore down the hall, the fingers snatching his jacket, tie, hat. An unearthly moan echoed down the hall; he was looking about when he realized it was coming from himself.

The door, I must get to the door. He scrambled on his hands and knees when the claws began reaching out on long, bony arms. Then when he was at the end of the hall, his clutching fingers upon the doorknob, he screamed. The doorknob came off; it was composed of a decaying hand. He scrabbled futilely at the crack in the door, willing it to open, but it was not part of himself; his mind had no power over its movements. He closed his eyes and emitted a despairing cry as the hands descended upon him.

The attendants shook their heads, watching the old man writhe upon the floor. "How can we feed him if he won't let us help him? He's too feeble to even lift his arms, much less carry on like this," one said to the other.

"Oh well, the sooner he dies the sooner we'll be rid of him. Let's go, forget feeding him." But the first one reached over to pat the man, laying a bowl of porridge on the floor before him. "I tell you, he won't listen. Come on, it's a miracle that he even lasted this long." The second rolled his eyes impatiently and turned away.

When the attendant touched the old patient he screamed a pitiful wail and then collapsed in a heap. "Jerry? I think he's dead!"

"Well, good riddance! Let's leave before anyone finds out, they'll think he had a heart attack or something."

The sounds of two pairs of feet scampering away echoed down the hall. Only a mouse, creeping from its hole in the cell wall, watched the old man as he grabbed the tin bowl with unnatural strength, tore it apart, and used the serrated edge to cut off both his hands.