Mary was half asleep when they came into her room. The hands–floating in the air—white on white—touching, prodding, poking, groping. Different hands than the ones in her dream. Those hands were soft and gentle with a sweet smell and soft song. Those hands fed her, held her, calmed her, and rushed away the demon of her dream. The black demon. The spitting dog with long pointy teeth and matted hair–forever chasing, snarling, and snapping at her, running away when the soothing hands came.
The new hands pinch and prick—hurting Mary. Then more hands, rough and strong—shifting and lifting—Mary levitating then quickly landing. Rolling–overhead lights flicker through her drowsy eyelids. Pushing through swinging doors, white turns to green. Cold metal, rubber and glass hum their greetings as the doors flap, flap, flap. Machines tower over her—glinting, glowing, and glowering. Grabbing hands lift Mary. She stiffens at the rush of cool air across her naked bum. The shock of cold greased metal on her backside brings Mary out of her stupor. Fight! Struggle! Scream! Arms and legs are strapped but Mary shakes her head—no, no. The hands stop her head still and hold firm while straps are fitted and she is silenced with the mask of black rubber.
“Breathe,” the hands tell her. “Breathe deep and count slowly. It will be over soon. Count backwards with me—20, 19, 18, 17, 16…”
The black dog is growling, jumping and snapping at a toy hanging by the door. Mary is hot and thirsty under the scorching sun. She wants the shade of the front porch but the dog is there. The amber light of the desert sun is unforgiving and there are no trees or structures. Just the house–dry, dark, decaying–with shingles missing, windows broken, and porch leaning—all askew. Mary must run–hide but something keeps her still, looking closely at the dog and at the house. She slowly traces the path to the front porch as the dog continues to jump and snap at its prize—just out of reach. Mary is thankful the dog is not after her but wonders what could distract it so. Stepping out of the hot sun and on to the porch, her vision clears and she sees the thing occupying the dog. The unbelievable sight of it fills her sick with fear and revulsion–she starts to retch and turn away. For what Mary thought was a toy, is a hand—a human hand–a soft and gentle hand—dismembered and swaying in the hot breeze–hanging by a rope around its wrist.
Mary turns her head and vomits into the crescent shaped metal bowl. Blood and bile stare back at her and she tries to cry out. Her throat is sore and dry–all she can do is whimper and moan. Tears fall and the hands come to her—white on white. The soft gentle hands hold the cup with the straw and place a wet cloth on her head. The hands soothe, encourage and make promises of ice cream and Jell-O. Mary sleeps.