68 THE DEAD HAND  

jasonabadboy4u 30M
48 posts
6/3/2006 6:08 pm

Last Read:
7/7/2006 7:04 am

68 THE DEAD HAND

68 THE DEAD HAND
The village huddled on the edge of a vast
swamp. As far as one could see, there were soggy meadows,
holes filled with black water, and glistening sheets of
wet, spongy peat. Skeletons of giant trees--"snags," the
people called them--rose up out of the muck, their dead
branches reaching out like long, twisted arms. During the
day, the men in the village cut the peat and hauled it home
to dry and sell for fuel. But when the sun went down, and
the wind, sighing and moaning, came in from the sea, the
men were quick to leave. Strange creatures took over the
swamp at night, and some even came into the village--that's
what everyone said. People were so afraid, they would not
go out alone after dark. Young Tom Pattison was the only
person in the village who did not believe in these
creatures. On his way home from work, he'd whisper to his
friends, "There's one!" and they would jump and run. And
Tom would laugh and laugh. Finally some of his friends
turned on him. "If you know so much," they said, "go back
into the swamp some night and see what comes of it." "I'll
do it," said Tom. "I work out there every day. Not once
have I ever seen anything to frighten me. Why would it be
different at night? Tomorrow night I'll take my lantern and
walk out to the willow snag. If I get scared and run, I'll
never make fun of you again." The next night the men went
to Tom Pattison's house to see him on his way. Thick clouds
covered the moon. It was the blackest of nights. When they
arrived Tom's mother was pleading with him not to go. "I'll
be all right," he said. "There's nothing to be afraid of.
Don't be foolish like the rest." He took his lantern and
singing to himself, headed down the spongy path toward the
willow snag. Some of the young men wondered if Tom wasn't
right. Maybe they were afraid of things that did not exist.
A few decided to follow him and see for themselves, but
they stayed far behind in case he ran into trouble. They
were sure they saw dark shapes moving about. But Tom's
lantern kept bobbing up and down, and Tom's songs kept
floating back to them, and nothing happened. Finally they
caught sight of the willow snag. There was Tom standing in
a circle of light, looking this way and that. All of a
sudden the wind blew out his lantern, and Tom stopped
singing. The men stood stock-still in the blackness,
waiting for something awful to happen. The clouds shifted
and the moon came out. There was Tom again. Only now he had
his back pushed up against the willow snag, and he had his
arms out in front of him, as if he were fighting something
off. From where the men stood, it looked like dark shapes
were swirling in around him. Then the clouds covered the
moon again. Once more it was as black as pitch. When the
moon came out again, Tom was hanging on to the willow snag
with one arm. His other arm was stretched out in front of
him, as if something was pulling it. It looked to the men
as if a rotting, moldy hand with no arm- a dead hand--had
grabbed Tom's hand. With one final wrench, whatever had
hold of Tom jerked him into the muck. That's what the men
said. When the clouds blotted out the moon once more, the
men turned and ran through the blackness toward the
village. Again and again they lost the path and fell into
the muck and water holes. In the end they crawled back on
their hands and knees. But Tom Pattison was not with them.
In the morning the people searched everywhere for Tom.
Finally they gave him up for lost. A few weeks later,
toward evening, the villagers heard a cry. It was Tom's
mother. She was rushing down the path from the swamp,
shouting and waving. When she was sure the villagers had
spotted her, she turned and ran back. Off they went after
her. They found young Tom Pattison by the willow snag,
groaning and gibbering as if he had lost his mind. He kept
pointing with one hand at something only he could see.
Where his other hand should have been, there was nothing
but a ragged stump oozing blood. The hand had been ripped
clean off. Everybody said it was the dead hand that had
done it. But nobody really knows. Nobody will ever know--
except Tom Pattison. And he never spoke another word again.


Become a member to create a blog