A gentle hand touches his face and he wakes up in his small second-floor loft. The narrow space is like a tomb and every night he commits to sleep as if he is committing to death. He drifts back to sleep and waits for the gentle hand to touch him.
In the silence of the darkness, he feels a presence.
“The world is becoming an angrier place,” he tells the darkness. As soon as he says it, he knows in his heart that he is the one who has become angrier. The gentle hand holds his eyes shut.
“What is this?” he says to the darkness. But something inside himself trusts the gentle hand. Then, there is an absence.
“My legs,” he says. “I have no legs.” He starts to cry.
The gentle hand releases his eyes and he is able to feel his legs again.
He crawls into a ball and lets his bedding curl around him, protectively. He’s not sure he trusts the gentle hand anymore. He closes his eyes and sees something. The ashes of a small house. Suddenly, he reaches to his face instinctively. His face is a lattice of scars and charred flesh. He opens his eyes and uncurls his body.
His face is not charred. It is wrinkled.
“One wrinkle for every failure. That’s what my father used to tell me. He went to work in a coal mine. Went down into a pit and never came back.”
The gentle hand places its fingers over his eyes.
“No, please. I can’t take anymore.” But he relents. There is no reason to fight anymore. The world is an angry place that has etched sorrow into his skin.
The world goes dark. He is in a pit with a dim light off in the distance. His heart is racing. And he sees a clear image of himself as a boy. His father’s last thought.
The gentle hand uncovers his eyes and reveals the world to him. He comes out of his loft, rubs the morning fog from his eyes, and temporarily says goodbye to the gentle hand.