Hands From The Sky: 1

The shutters shook open and morning light poured all around a man, Paul, dressed in dirty clothes. Paul had a long beard. He moved, silent, to the kitchen and boiled water on the gas stove then poured coffee which he sipped to soften bites from a hark chunk of bread.

There were three doors in this place. One to the left of the kitchen lead to a hallway. Another, to the right, by a window, led to the woods. A third lead to a bedroom, and it swung open. Another man, Thomas, disheveled, walked out rubbing his eyes.

“We need more water,” said Paul.

“Why do you bother with the coffee?” Thomas replied, going to the sunlit window and staring up in to the sky.

“It wakes me up.”

“Do some jumping jacks,” Thomas said. “Coffee makes you piss. It’s a waste of water.”

“You’re going to bag on me for drinking coffee now?”

“I’m going to bag on you for wasting water.”

Paul snorted and sipped his coffee.

There was a small cry, and Paul disappeared in to the bedroom to dip his arms in to a cardboard box. When he emerged again, Thomas was drinking a glass of water.

“You shouldn’t drink that,” Paul said. “It’s a waste of water.”

Thomas did not reply. Paul shifted the small bundle in his arms.

“How does he look?”

“I dunno,” Paul said. “The sunburn is pretty bad.”

“Hmm.” Thomas sipped his water.

“We need to get water,” Paul said.

“We?”

“Yeah, we. It’s for both of us.”

“We agreed one of us goes and one of us stays.” Thomas leaned back on the vinyl counter.

“Yeah?” Paul shifted the baby in his arms.

“So who’s going?”

“You are,” Paul said. Thomas stared at him for a moment.

“Okay,” Thomas said. “Okay.”

“We need… We need diapers too. And food. This thing is hungry all the fucking time.”

Thomas walked towards the bedroom. “I just agreed to get the water,” he said. “Don’t push it.”

Paul shook his head.

Thomas fiddled around in the closet and emerged a few moments later with a harness around his waist.

“How much money do we have?” Thomas asked, adjusting straps.

“Why?” Paul was reading a book in a couch against the far wall, the child in a blanket and on its back.

“If I see a trader I can ask about baby stuff. Maybe someone’s able to find what we need.”

Paul went to turn a page and his hands were shaking. “We don’t-.” He paused.

“What?” Thomas was half-turned on his way to the door by the window.

“We don’t have much.”

“How much?”

“Enough for… Enough for food.”

“And water?”

“Yeah, water too.”

“And what else?”

Paul shook his head.

“God damnit,” Thomas said. His voice was stone. “God damnit what are we supposed to do?”

“I don’t know,” Paul said. “But just…”

“Just what?” Thomas threw his hands in the air. “I’m fucking pissed at you, Paul! What are you doing, picking up a kid?”

“You’re telling me,” Paul said. “You’re telling me you would have rather left this child to die?”

“I didn’t leave it to die,” Thomas said. “There’s a difference.”

“You’re a monster.” Paul stood up and went in to the washroom.

Thomas turned back towards the door then opened it.

He slammed the door and stepped out. He clipped a carabiner from his harness on to a small wire running from a hook dug in to the back of the building. The wires were spread across the building’s back and all converged on a small series of hooks scattered across the middle trees. Thomas clipped on and the hooks quickly narrowed to a single path that Thomas followed towards a complex of brick buildings through the trees, carefully switching his clips all the while. The shadows moved with the soft breeze shifting the leaves above him.

Paul was in the bathroom, hands on the counter, breathing heavy. He nodded a few times and stared very intently at his own reflection.

He walked out of the bathroom. On the couch was a deflated blanket. The back door was ajar. It must have rebounded after Thomas slammed it. In the window by the door was a strange sight. It was the child, the one Paul had found under a bay leaf by the bank of a river when the two of them weighed their pockets down with stones and moved between the shade of trees. The kid, being lifted foot-first, was all caught in the wire leading to the forest but slipped and by the time Paul snapped out and began to run the child tilted and twirled and kicked and gurgled happily as it was lifted towards the sky. Paul stopped himself with two hands in the back doorway. He didn’t have a harness but it didn’t matter because the small bundle was gone, upwards, vanishing.

Thomas, with just enough money and some stern haggling, had secured two large bottles of water and a three miscellaneous but pristine diapers from the strange men in the brick building. He did not ask where they got their wares. He smiled, thinking about his triumph. Almost back now, Thomas sped up. He was only three trees away from safety. Paul was in the doorway, he was holding something-.

Thomas’ head snapped back then he fell forwards. His body sagged, limp, suspended by the harness. The water and diapers fell to the ground.

Paul’s lips were trembling. His hands shook and his arms sang from the impact of the bullet firing. He left through the front door, taking nothing else with him. By the time the small child’s bones fell one at a time, impacting soft on the grass, Paul was on the highway. Paul’s lips and hands still trembled, and the pistol rubbed something fierce against his tailbone. His money, the last of it, spent on a rented harness. He switched his clips at shabby wooden poles with thin wire strung between, and the morning light was all around.