Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Regression By J Caldicott

I stare at the fingers. Bone, blood, sinew, all wrought together to form a useful appendage. That is where objectivity gets you. That is what science would call a hand. No, not wrought, that will not be tolerated! The notion of creation is anathema to the men of progress. Evolved, that’s more like it – all the delicate interweaving of fine muscles, capillaries, nerve fibres branching into the most powerful of nature’s tools: a hand! Yet: a mere fluke of mutation. Never mind it used to be a flipper, or a fin, or some such protrusion of our distant piscine relations – behold what it is now, and that it has made us kings.



Thud. Thud. Thud. Distracted by this muffled noise, my eyes alight on my handmade teak bookshelves; things of beauty. Adorned with timeless philosophical and theological texts. They could still be standing there when our nearest star expands to an impossible size and consumes our small corner of the universe. Their wisdom does not change as science’s does. The idea of a shelf devoted to empiricism is laughable: much of the content would be obsolete within weeks of assembly. To what end do we strive? When all is burned to a crisp, either by man’s hand or the inevitability of entropy, the universe will shrug and continue to expand without feeling the loss of man’s repository of knowledge. God may indeed mourn the loss of his human project; but one would hope he has a contingency plan.



The thudding stops for a while and I find I am able to write again. How are computers and electrical lights, both of which I am compelled to work with for most of my waking hours, superior to this fountain-pen, or these candles? Mankind assumes that progress is our raison d’etre. Yet the history of technological advancement tells us that our most rapid and astonishing progression gives us the means to utterly destroy ourselves. The Manhattan Project did not just set the Doomsday clock ticking; it created it.



While I compose, I notice once again how urgent yet deft my movements are. The nuance and spirit with which I write originates somewhere, but I find myself more grateful for its effect and outcome than consumed by a need to know its origin; for irritable reaching after fact and reason. I am content; or I would be if the room had remained silent. This time the noise is an unpleasant, urgent scraping that cannot be tolerated.



I march over to the chest and lower myself onto my haunches. Not being a young man, this increases my irritation tenfold. I spin the tumblers on the padlock. Two-eight-seven-four: I gain a measure of calm from the spiritually significant number. Throwing back the lid, I instantly see the binding on her hands has come loose. I secure it and show her the blood-stained knife: she knows what will happen if she misbehaves.



The chest is locked. Back at my desk, I stare at her fingers again.


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