The Icy Hand

The icy hand comes and it spares none

Its grip is a vice, steely cold as ice,

That cannot even be melted by the searing sun

And cannot be corrupted by any price.

In the damp and dark room where I sit on the floor, a million thoughts run through my head. None of these thoughts give me any pleasure; but like unwanted ghosts haunting a prized estate, they refuse to leave me at peace. I think of the people in my life I have lost, people whom I had been born to love and people whom I had learnt to love.

All through my life, they have fallen dead like flies. Helpless, unreasonable deaths. Unavoidable deaths. Deaths that left gaping voids behind.

I knew this faceless brute called death even before I knew what life was. It began with the people who had birthed me—good god-fearing, churchgoing folk—who were snuffed away when the car we were in collided headlong with a tanker. The baby seat saved me, I was told later when I could understand.

Caretakers of orphanages are usually shady criminals, I have heard, who mutilate those they are entrusted to protect. But my folk were kindred souls. They fed me, clothed me, trained me and educated me. I grew to love them—the fat generous matron and her strict husband who had a merry heart of gold. I made friends too, boys of my age who were just as unfortunate as I was. Our individual tragedies bound us together. And then the fire happened. Everything and everyone I knew burned to cinder. I don’t even remember their faces now; I only remember the inferno blazing into the night. But I survived. They had sent me out in the garden to walk the dogs.

Then he took me in as a waiter. A lowly waiter in shabby clothes in a grubby bar serving stale wine. But it was a job, and it fed me. And he was a nice man too. He held my hand when I had no hand to hold. I graduated from boyhood to manhood at his bar. I understood what hardship means. I got beaten by irate customers and I learned to fight back. However, that was not meant to last either. Such a noble man, such a compassionate person—but he was destined to die by a bandit’s bullet. While I crouched under the bar table, I saw him collapsing to the floor, his outstretched hand pleading to me to save him. But I could not.

A little down the lane, I met her. Beautiful as the earliest drop of morning dew was her face—spotless, without a feature out of place. Sparkling as the water of the clearest spring was her heart—blameless, without a shred of sin. She gave me love. She taught me to love. We vowed to share our joys and sorrows till death do us part. And death did do us apart. The sickness came over her when I was at my happiest, and consumed her entirely, leaving behind her rotting self in my trembling hands.

 

*

 

And that is not all the death I have seen.

I have seen corpses of people I hardly know. People dying in front of me, pleading with me for that elusive one more day to live. But they won’t get it, will they? Is there anything as unsympathetic as death is?

The young fresh-faced college boy, rife with the hope of a budding career, died in my hands last week. I was beside him as he winced in pain, clutching his torn abdomen. I cried for him, but death forgives no one. He should have known that, shouldn’t he?

The new mother who had just kept her baby in the crib collapsed and died in her house three days ago. Stabbed in the back. Right in front of my eyes. There was nothing to save her. Her baby cried, I cried, but death spares no one. The baby will learn that as he grows.

And now, here, the teenage girl lies lifeless in front of me. How innocent she looks! Even in death, she has the face of an angel, regardless of the fact that her throat is slit in the most gruesome way.

When I had no respite from death, how could they have had?

But I won’t see any more deaths now, I think.

They have been investigating, probably even following me; and, as I wipe the poor girl’s blood off the butcher’s knife in my hands, I hear the angry law-keepers banging at the door.

 

END

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