From My Hands

Submitted into Contest #58 in response to: Write a story about someone feeling powerless.... view prompt



The light was dim. The halls smelled like death. 

Perhaps the reason it was so foul, was because they’d tried to mask the scent of corpse with copious amounts of alcohol and fresh vanilla spray. It just made the corpses smell like chemicals. Or, so, perhaps they were masking the smell of the abundance of chemicals and pills they gave them with rotting flesh. He hated hospitals.

He stood with balloons in his balled fist, an expression so mute on his face that he could’ve been in the mortuary and they would have started cutting. He didn’t even realize his fists were clenched to her lapels until he heard the faint thwap of the balloons hitting the ceiling where he had let go. She held onto his wrists, trying to calm him down. 

“It’s going to be okay,” she told him, but she sounded so desperate it felt more like she was asking. “Do you want to see her?”

“You were supposed to protect her.” He said, teeth gritting. If his face weren’t seen, she might have thought he was furious from the sound of his voice alone. “You were supposed to stay with her until she fell asleep. Now look at you.” He let go of her coat angrily, almost shoving her. “Look at you!” He roared.

“What do you want me to do, Lane?” She asked, voice raw. She tried to fill it with as much malice as she could, but there was nothing in his eyes to fight. “You want me to bring her back? I can’t.” 

“You can’t do anything.” He hissed. “You couldn’t just listen to me, when I asked you to stay with her,”

“It didn’t matter what I did, Lane!” She shouted, stomping her feet. She wasn’t one to raise her voice. She wasn’t fighting with him this time. She felt like she was shouting at herself. God knew fighting with him would be like screaming underwater. “This was bound to happen!” She cried.

Lane had his face in one palm, the other tightening on the fabric of his shirt, twisting, pinching, kneading. It looked as though he were trying to hold his face together with his hand.

“You don’t know that.” He said stiffly.

“Oh, I do. I do know that.” She sounded coy. If it weren’t for the tears streaming down her face, one might have thought she was amused. “You wanna know how?” She tilted her head, red hair slipping over her shoulder. “Because you wouldn’t let her be. You wouldn’t stop dragging on about her work, about her deadlines,” 

“I wanted her to be happy.” He said. “She said she wanted to be happy.”

“And what do you know about being happy?” Her voice was rich with disgust. She all but sneered at him, fists clenching shut like flowers blooming in reverse. His lip curled; the only emotion he had shown all day. It was enough to melt her. “I’m sorry.” She said, moving towards him slowly. “I didn’t mean that.” 

He didn’t wait for her apologies. They were made of plastic, anyway. “Fix her.” He said; demanded. “Get in there and fix her. Right now, fix her.” He pointed at the door. A nurse walking down the hall eyed them, face morphing into one of sympathy. It infuriated him. "What are you standing there for? Fix her!"

“There’s nothing I can do.” She said, helpless. “What do you want from me?" Her voice grew desperate as he continued to stare at her with those expressionless eyes. "I can’t just make her better! I can’t just push life into her from my hands!” She splayed her fingers out, as though she were attacking him, as though spikes would shoot out from her palms and hit him in the chest.

 And he moved like they did, startling, eyes wide. He looked hurt, pained, to see her so afraid of him, desperate to please even as she was falling apart. 

She didn’t know how he felt. He didn’t, either. “If that’s what it takes.” He mumbled, finished. His brows fell, eyes dulled. He slumped against the wall, dropping his head back. Her eyes, red and teary, fell over his stilled frame. He was dead, with a beating heart. His skin was fresh and tan and warm, he was breathing, and blinking, and he was dead. 

She stood in front of him, her own heart racing inside of her. “There’s nothing any of us can do. We just have to be there for her.” She said. He looked up at her with dry eyes. Almost lost of moisture. “And, Lane?” She asked.

He glared at her. “I am here for you.” She whispered. 

They stood helplessly in the hall, waiting for the monitor on the other side of the wall to stop beeping. Lane prayed he could do anything to make it better. He prayed he wasn’t this useless ever again.

She grabbed his hand. “Do you want to go inside?” She asked. It was too much at once, the touch, the words, the easiness and boldness to her tone. The balloons flitted nervously against the ceiling. His face grew red. “Do you want to see her?” She asked, and his jaw grew tight. She knew what she was doing. She wanted a reaction. He had to come back to life. “Before she dies?” She pressed on. His teeth clicked shut, like a steaming pot that suddenly cooled. 

“I know what you’re doing,” he said. 

“Then let it happen.” She murmured.

“I can’t.” He told her, even though she wouldn’t understand. “If she dies, I can’t go on, Maya.” He dropped his head, eyes wide and lost, hanging out of his face like a fish’s. 

She grabbed his shoulders. “You have to.” She said, digging her fingers into his skin. “You have to go on.” She tightened her grip. She felt his muscles tightening under her palm. “She’ll resent you if you do this because of her.” She said through gritted teeth. Then she shook him. “Look at you!” She roared.

“Shut up!” He shouted, and the balloons on the ceiling popped, the sound so loud and jarring, that they both jumped away from each other. They took deep breaths on their own, slow and palpitating, as the flimsy residue fell over their heads. The string fell limp to the floor. She looked up at the broken tile on the ceiling that broke the balloons. Then she looked at the door to her hospital room. “Do you want to go see her?” She whispered. 

She took his hand, and they went inside, to watch his wife die.


Outside, the air was cold. It had been three hours, and he still hadn’t said a word. “Are you okay?” She asked softly, pressing her chin to her chest.

He looked at her. He was dead, he had to be. But then he moved towards her, and she watched his eyes fill with tears, and dead people didn’t cry. She let him fall into her. 

And pressed her hands to his chest, and waited for the life to come back.

September 10, 2020 18:51

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Sincerely Free
21:24 Sep 17, 2020

The dialogue is really impressive , was a great read.


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Maya W.
01:09 Sep 17, 2020

I'm here from Critique circle, and am not disappointed! This was a really nice story! I loved the emotion you were able to convey through this story, and your descriptions really added to that. Nice work! Would you mind checking out some of my stories here? Thanks!


Kathryn D
22:36 Sep 17, 2020

Thank you and of course!


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