by Clare Kirwan
You cannot go through any kind of life untouched. And everything that touches you affects you, marks you. And you remember.
So fingers remember the feel of wood, the intoxicating flesh on flesh of a lover’s touch, the burn of extreme temperatures. And this finger in its icy cavern remembers everything. Just because it may appear inactive now, resting, one might say, does not diminish this.
Water remembers more than anything because it changes so little. It does its job and is washed away, excreted, ending up time and time again in the ocean, misting into the clouds to grow fat and heavy again, coming down to a new reality. It remembers the rivers, the beakers, the cisterns, the bellies, the puddles and ponds. Everything trying to hold it and nothing quite managing to.
Not until now. Another long rest in the cold. But it knows and understands that there is all the time in the world, that the darkness will not last.
It’s different for the finger. The finger has been distressed for some time. If it had any kind of motor ability, it would even now be fighting the cold sleep, rousing itself in a glove of ice and scratch, scratch, scratching on the walls to find a way out.
Most of all, it misses the ring. Nothing special. It was never going to rule them all, never going to find them. But the finger had grown accustomed to the ring and felt its absence—the weight of it has left a pasty impression at its base, an indentation.
The finger cannot see the darkness, cannot hear the silence. All it can do is feel the rough surface, abrasive and icy, on its sensitive tip.
Brains only get so much information. The stimuli have a long way to go: the length of an arm; the expanse of a shoulder; the busy traffic of a spine, with everything trying to rush there first. I’m hungry. I’m itchy. I’m wearing cotton. I’ve got a blister. Urgent stimuli bruising their way to the front of the queue. So much gets missed. The tip of a finger could tell you so much more.
It remembers many things: the shock of the first unaccountably dry thing it ever touched, the shape of building blocks, the hastily wiped-away stickiness, the hair of a dog, the tactile teasing of play dough, the rough gabardine of a school coat. And so much more—the sting of a ruler’s slap, the rough twist of a rope, the fumble of a missed catch, other fumblings.
But it is important for the finger to remember the last thing that it touched. Important to hold that information. Important to remember the scratching, to hold his torn flesh beneath the frozen nail. He likes to keep his souvenirs. They’re all here like pale vegetables. One day. One day.
Clare Kirwan has won short story competitions in Dark Tales and The Nerve magazines and also performs poetry with Liverpool’s Dead Good Poets Society.