Nobody in the village knew how long the hand had been there. Everyone in living memory could only remember their parents and grandparents telling them the story of how one day long ago, the hand appeared out of thin air. Where once there were only the green grasses of the rolling hills and the graves of the ancestors, there now stood a hand. It looked both ancient and of the future with weathered cracks like wrinkles and material that no one could identify. It did not rust and though it made a noise like a bell when struck, the walls felt thick and solid.
At first, nothing changed. The farmers planted and harvested their crops. The old taught the young and the young kept the old child-like at heart. The women worked alongside their husbands while the older children watched over the homes.
Then one day a child became sick with a violent illness the likes of which no one had ever seen. The child was a girl who had only just passed her seventh autumn. Her body was covered in boils and she burned with fever. She vomitted every few hours and could barely keep water and tea down. Her symptoms did not appear over time but came upon her with startling speed.
On the night the child took ill, her brother was walking among the hills, praying to the ancestors, and making his way to offer sacrifices in the graveyard. As he walked passed the hand, he stopped. There was a small set of stairs he had never noticed before. As he climbed them, he raised his eyes. Bright lights, multi-colored crystals, and jewels hung from the fingers illuminating the fissures of the hand. The crystals reflected like shining mirrors across the hillside.
The brother gasped as his gaze rose higher. The moon was blood red and seemed to be encircled by half a dozen rings that grew further apart the farther from the epicenter they were. But what caused the brother’s mouth to gape was the woman who floated a few meters above the palm. She wore strange clothes. Her body was covered in some form-fitting black material and over this was a thin, flowing dress that seemed to iridesce as it moved in the wind. Her hair was grey but her features were that of a middle-aged woman.
“I know what it is you seek,” she said as she looked down at the brother. “I am sorry to have brought this upon you and yours.”
“Who are you?” the brother asked
“I am a woman from another time and place.
“I do not understand.”
“Neither do I. But I do know how to help your sister.” She pulled a vial from the folds of her dress and with a wave it floated out of her hand and stopped within the brother’s grasp. “Mix this with dandelion root tea and give it to your sister.”
The brother clutched the vial tightly to his chest. “And what price must I pay for such a gift?”
The woman smiled at the brother with tears in her eyes. “A life for a life. You must wander the years and spaces with me. Everyone you know and love will die. Every thing you have ever held dear will fade away as you watch from a distance. You will live to see this cycle repeat itself endlessly and when at last your days have ended, you will fade out of existence. Your memory will be gone forever.”
The brother thought for a moment then asked, “But my sister will live?”
The woman nodded.
“Then I will return tomorrow at this time.”
The women bowed her head before pulling a hood over her face and disappearing.
The brother returned to the village and gave his sister the liquid prepared the way the woman had instructed. His sister’s fever broke immediately and the boils on her skin began to disappear. The brother kissed his sister on the forehead and hugged first his mother then his two brothers, eldest sister, and father. As they all marveled at the young daughter’s recovery, he slipped out of the room and packed a satchel. Although he had told the woman he would return the following night, he could not bear to stay with his family knowing he would have to wrench himself away from them. Better to slip away now and start the next part of his life.
The brother was exhausted when he arrived at the hand so he lay down at its base and slept. In his dreams, he had visions of strange places and things long past. When he woke the hills were once again bathed in blood and the woman again floated above the hand’s palm.
The woman held her hand out to the brother and without hesitation he reached for it. He began floating toward her and the moment their fingers touched, they vanished from sight.
The two strode across the centuries riding the flow of time. Sometimes they were simply observers, watchers on the edge of history witnessing the sign posts on the journey. Other times they stepped into give time a hand, shaping moments and moving people to their correct places on the stage. And still other times they stepped in to the current of time to become key players in the production.
And across these years, the woman and the brother came to love each other. They shared joy, sorrow, pain, and ecstasy in ways and depths only each other could understand. Their love stood outside the bonds of time and knit their souls together for all eternity.
Finally, the day come when death called to them both. They returned to the spot of their meeting though the hand was now buried beneath the ground. They lay down inside the hollow base, wrapped themselves in each others arms, and faded away into the tides of time.
(Artwork by Viv Tanner as found on Pinterest.)