Sunday 1 March 2015

Prose 500 2015 Second Prize, Arka Datta

The Helping Hands

The world wanted her to give up, but her will was stronger than the pile of bricks and broken dreams she was under. Her life has never been easy, but this was different. The turmoil of bygone days was metaphorical, but the earthquake was terribly physical... Real. She was breathless with fear, and also because of the crushing weight over her. It seemed to her that it was only a moment ago when she was making lunch. She remembered the vegetables trembling, what happened next was blur to her. She tried to scream, but lack of air denied her of sound. The darkness tricked her to believe that she was blinded by the fall; or perhaps it really had. There were no ways to know. Then she lost her senses.

When her awareness was back- maybe an hour or perhaps a few seconds later- she could feel the air to be thinner, free of some of the dust. She could breathe again, even if painfully. She tried to move, but her lower body didn't respond. Then she tried to move her hand and it touched something. It felt like wet skin: a palm, fingers, nails, and some blood. It was bigger than hers. She held it tight. It felt like a man's hand: strong and rough. She pressed on it tightly, hoping for a response, but that wasn’t granted her. Yet, she didn't let it go. 'Whose can it be!' she wondered. 'I hope it's of that boy I walk past on the stairs every day. Oh! Does he have a nice way about him; a very engaging smile. When we walk out of here, I will finally talk to him. I will see where it goes from there.'
Then she prayed for that hand not to be of her neighbor: the man in his fifties; the one who undresses her with his eyes every day.

'Or maybe it's the hand of the old man's wife. She is manly herself!' She thought.
For next many hours, there were only two things for her to do: fight to inhale air, and list all the people whose hand she could have been holding during the darkest hour of her life.
Then many more hours later- just when the thought of giving up had started to ignite in her- she felt movements over her. One by one, the bricks disappeared; the early evening light assured that she wasn't blind. Two men dragged her out of the ruins. She looked at her side. There it was: a hand. Just a hand.

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