5. The Disembodied Hand

5. The Disembodied Hand

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



The trouble with being trapped in that chasm between life and death and consequently being neither is simultaneously I’m nothing and everything, sighed Colin Wharton, I can even be an old man when being an old man’s called for.

And that much was true.

When he’d stood weeping by Eleanor’s gravestone he’d been older than old. Not physically, of course, physically he was little more than a dried out mummy trapped in a rotting box six feet down, but intellectually, (if he could ever be called intellectual) he was a sad old man, bent backed and weeping for a woman he’d never known, not as a woman, but might have if things had turned out differently.

I must get my flesh back, he reaffirmed.

But that might be easier said than done. Was it possible to reanimate a mummified corpse until it shone with the vibrancy of life?

Possibly. After all, he’d never heard of the strange world he was in now, and had been since a Land Rover had smashed into him while he was carelessly crossing the road on his way home from school and left him disembodied but aware, whilst his corporeal flesh was slowly returning to the dust from which the clergyman said it had sprung? What he needed was a clergyman to advise him, a man of the cloth with one foot on the stairway to Heaven and the other in the graveyard clods of fetid mud. Yes, that’s what he wanted.

Who the hell are you?” asked the Reverend Phoenix Pyke in the firm belief that the presence invading his pulpit was most certainly from a nether world of evil which he most assuredly believed in. It was early afternoon, he’d had double fish and chips for lunch, and that had given his bloated stomach cause to complain most bitterly, and if there was one thing that convinced him of the existence of the Antichrist it was indigestion. He was a martyr to it, had been for as long as he’d loved fish and chips. Not that he blamed the food, of course: he was certain that the Antichrist was haunting him, trying to convert him to an alternative faith in which the young wives of his mother’s group might be looked on as fair game.

Very occasionally there was one who was. He sighed. Not recently. Word, it seemed, had got around and the prettiest young things n his mother’s group had two qualities: they were both devout in prayer and wary of wandering hands. And unbeknown to him his own hands could wander. That was further proof of the dastardly Antichrist, forcing him, against his own will, to stroke female bottoms.

Now he was aware of that Antichrist like he’d never been aware before because, and this was the rub, it had spoken to him. It had carved the empty air inside his church into words, and uttered them. Only the Antichrist would do that. He’d read papers on the subject and was, himself, considered a bit of an expert by a coven of Bishops.

Did Bishops come in covens? Witches did, so why not bishops? He knew a few witches, old Ma Foggerty from the tumbledown cottage that was solely supported by the west wall of the church, this church, dedicated in love to Saint Angelo some time in the seventeenth century.

Old Ma Foggerty had been an early conquest of his Antichrist. He looked back on her underwear with a strange mixture of horror, loathing and lust.

But that didn’t answer the big questions concerning bishops and covens and nor did it begin to suggest what manner of Antichrist the very obvious presence in his church might be.

I have nothing to do with hell,” Colin assured the Reverend Phoenix Pyke, “I am merely the remnants of a lost soul whose need for flesh couldn’t be more urgent.”

The fish and chips (double) interrupted him by obliging the vicar to expel a raucous fart.

Pardon me,” that clergyman said, automatically, then, sure that it must be so, asked, “did old Ma Foggerty send you?”

That threw Colin, who might have heard odd rumours about an old lady who had once been disgraced by the underwear of the local vicar but didn’t really know if she was still alive, the rumours having about them the flavour of stories that might have been passed down several generations in much the same way as religions are.

I have come for your advice,” replied Colin, “I am need of it, I really am. Don’t you remembering burying me a year or so back? I was only a teenager, cruelly knocked down on his way home from school by someone carelessly driving a Land Rover?”

I barely remember a single soul who I’ve planted in the good soils of Saint Angelo,” replied the vicar, aware that to anyone looking on, say a parishioner who’d popped in to the church to spend a few moments with his or her god and dropped off to sleep due to a monotony in the conversation, might think he’d gone round the twist talking to himself in his best sepulchral voice.

Well, it was you who buried me, and I want to be unburied,” said Colin, “I’m bored with my fleshless life. All I can ever be is a few words, and there’s no fun in that. I mean, half of communication is body language, they say. Facial expressions. Winking. Scowling. That kind of body language, and I can’t do any of that because body language requires a body. All I can do is talk, and I’m fed up with it. So I want to be unburied.”

Exhumed?” asked the Reverend Phoenix Pyke, frowning. He’d never had an exhumation and didn’t fancy there being one without the coroner and police being involved. And this voice, he said he was a teenage boy but was he? Really? The voice might belong to anyone. Maybe there was a tape recorder wickedly left on one of the pews and he was being taken for a ride by a confidence trickster with evil intent?

Prove who you are!” he demanded of thin air.

Can’t do, I’m afraid,” replied Colin, “I mean, could you prove who you were if you didn’t have a face that has been photographed by as many happy wedding couples as come by your church on a bright spring morning?”

There’s always funerals,” replied the Reverend Pyke irrelevantly.

So how do I go about getting to be unburied?” demanded Colin.

The reverend Phoenix Pyke sucked between his teeth, frowned and then came up with a plan.

You pray,” he said, “you beseech the Almighty to give you your body back.”

Will it work?”

I suppose there’s a chance,” mused the vicar, “there’s a chance of most things occurring if we wait long enough. Even a chance of Old Ma Foggerty washing her smalls once in a while!”

Then I’ll pray,” decided Colin, “Will you hold my hand while I do?”

What hand?” asked Phoenix, frowning.

This one,” said Colin and to his own personal surprise let alone that of the vicar a hand appeared a foot or so in front of where he thought he would be if he had a body, scratching an itch in his groin, but with grubby finger nails.

© Peter Rogerson, 05.06.21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on June 5, 2021
Last Updated on June 5, 2021
Tags: church, vicar, young mouthers, reputation, exhume


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..