Holding Hands

I don’t really remember how I found it, or why I felt the need to stick my hand inside. Curiosity eclipsing good sense I guess. I may have been high. I still go back sometimes if I’m high or really drunk, thinking maybe it’s still there. I know it isn’t. I know nothing has changed.

It was just a hole in a wall. Not a dive bar, a literal hole, in a literal wall. A small gap where a brick was missing, on the back wall of the old factory. I don’t know what it used to make. I think there was a fire. It’s pretty gutted, so there’s nobody around, and I used to go there with friends to get fucked up back in highschool. The back wall is still standing though, and that’s where the hole was. It was just a hole, but inside there was more than insulation.

The first time I stuck my hand in there (maybe I was just high and stupid, maybe I was looking for a place to hide something, or maybe it was a dare from somebody) I felt like I had stuck my hand in a bucket of ice water. Not just the cold, it felt wet, and slow, like moving my hand through fluid. Then something grabbed me. Fingers, strong as steel, snatched at mine. I freaked out, tried to pull my hand away, but whoever was on the other side of the wall held on and wouldn’t let me go.

I calmed down eventually, not sure how long I’d been freaking, but the hand was still holding mine. Not doing anything else, just holding on tight as a vice. I got a feel for the fingers. Slim, long, broken but still longer nails. I thought a girl, but then that’s not proof is it?

I thought it was a ‘her’ though, and I could feel her shivering through the hand. She held tight and shivered. She was cold. Cold and afraid. I don’t know how, but I could tell even then how afraid she was. Something in the way the hand held to mine like it was the only thing in the world. I banged on the wall and shouted to her. I asked if she was stuck, how she got in there, who put her in there.

There was no answer and no reaction from the hand.

I shouted and shouted, but there was nothing.

Then I gave the hand a squeeze. She couldn’t squeeze mine any tighter, but she loosened for a fraction of a second and then tightened again in a sort of reverse-squeeze.

That’s how it started.

I held her hand, giving a little squeeze every now and then, stroking her fingers with mine, tapping her thumb with mine. I just sat there for hours, one hand stuck in a wall the other holding a bowl of weed, taking the occasional hit. I don’t know how long I would have stayed there, but she did eventually let go. Not willingly though. I felt a sudden jerk, her hand pulling me out of my seat and into the wall. My whole arm began disappearing into the hole, until the width of my arm just below the shoulder was too much. I yelped in pain as she kept pulling, but then, just like that, her grip slipped and she was gone.

I fell back into the heap of plywood I’d been using as a seat, sputtering and cursing.

I didn’t go back for awhile. Mostly I just chalked it up to some kind of vivid hallucination. I’d dropped some acid back in my highschool days and they say you can get some pretty intense flashbacks years later.

But I did go back, and I did put my hand back into the gap. I remember exactly why I did it that time. I had to know if what’d happened the first time was real. I felt the fingers again, and they grabbed me just as quickly. They didn’t have the same strength they’d had that first time though. I even managed to pull my hand away. I put it right back, and she grabbed me once again.

I couldn’t explain it. I still can’t. All I know is that there was a hole in a wall, and beyond that hole, somebody was cold and afraid, and needed to hold somebody’s hand.

I started going every night (at least every night I could), just to sit on the stack of plywood and hold her hand. It’s not like I knew her, or had any reason to care, but it was better than getting high alone I supposed.

We figured some stuff out while sitting there. How to sort of talk to each other. We started by just squeezing hands back and forth, early on when she didn’t want to let go at all, but eventually she would let go, and I would trace letters on her palm or she would trace them on mine.

I found out her name.

J-E-S-S

It was Jess.

She asked me who I was, and how I had found her. I told her my name, explained about the wall with a hole in it, that I was just some loser hanging out, and that I had no idea how this worked. She couldn’t really explain to me what the hell was going on either though. She talked about magic (which seemed as reasonable as a hole in the wall with a person’s hand inside) and something about a book. She said the book had done this too her, but that’s where she kinda lost me. Whatever had happened had put her somewhere she shouldn’t be, and she couldn’t find her way back. She had her hand in a hole in a floor (not wall).

She tried to tell me about the room she was in, but she didn’t make a whole lot of sense when she was explaining things. She would say it was too bright to open her eyes, but then say it was too dark too see anything anyway. The size of her room was either too small to move or so big she couldn’t see the walls and she seemed just as confused by that as I was. The worst part was when she tried to explain what she was afraid of. Every time she tried, it seemed like she was just talking in circles, repeating things. One thing she was very clear about though: she wasn’t alone where she was.

There were monsters there.

She said they came for her every night, but she also said there was no day or night where she was. She spent hours trying to describe them. Most times she couldn’t. The one time her description was clear, I hate to say it but I had to ask her to stop.

She asked for things sometimes, food, water, that sort of thing and I tried to bring her whatever she asked for. Later she asked for a flashlight. I didn’t have one at the time so I gave her my lighter. I asked if she wanted a knife or some kind of weapon, shuddering as i remembered the half of a description she’d gotten through. She said it wouldn’t matter. She wasn’t even sure if they could be hurt, much less how she’d do it. The very last thing she asked for was a pen. That was right after the flashlight.

She needed someone to know she was there. Needed to know there was still something outside the blind darkness she was stuck in. So I sat, and we talked, and I held her hand. I held it almost everyday for three months, until the day the hole was gone.

Nothing else about the place had changed, just a new brick and fresh mortar in that one single spot where Jess had been. I kicked and pounded at it but it was already too dry to move myself.  I ran to the hardware store down the road and got a hammer to punch through it. It worked, but when i reached my hand inside the wall it was warm, and dry, and Jess’s hand wasn’t there to hold mine. All that was there was a crumpled piece of paper.

I still go there every now and then. Hoping I’ll reach in and feel her there, or that maybe Jess got out and will be sitting on my stacked up plywood waiting for me, so we can finally meet for real.

She’s never there though. The hole is always empty. I sit and wait. If she gets out she’ll know where to find me. I made the warehouse the return address when I mailed the paper for her. It was just a beat up, worn piece of notebook paper, but I know it was important too her. She wrote a letter to some of her friends on one side, along with a note asking me if I could please mail it for her “if it got through.” There are teardrops blotting the ink on both sides, way more on the back, where there is an older letter written in what looks like a guy’s handwriting, but you can still make out the first words clear as day.

“Dear Jess”

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