The Corpse, the Ax, and the Ungloved Hand

On The Enduring Pleasures of Sad Stories

Gavin Paul

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Photo by Angelo Pantazis (Unsplash.com)

The other morning I woke with a dead man drifting through my mind. I saw his body on a cold shoreline, grey skin tangled in seaweed as grey water lapped at his body, clattering the little grey stones that lay all around him. Ruined acolyte of some drowned god. The sight filled me with complete, utter sadness, sadness as cold and pure as the pealing of an iron bell. I could almost reach out to touch him, but the image slowly ghosted even as I tried to hold it steady in my mind’s eye, evaporating, distending, receding all at once. After the vanishment, what remained in my body was the sadness, a distillate that lingered long after waking.

The dead man’s face had been a blur. Perhaps it was obscured by long, dark hair or perhaps he lay face down. Whatever the case, my mind did not conjure a face for me to gaze upon. Nevertheless, the vision of the corpse brought with it an intense chill of the uncanny. I had seen this body before, though I didn’t know where. The body was not a fragment or splinter of a longer dream that I could place in a sequence or recurring series, but rather a kind of murky bubble free-floating around my brain, quietly bursting and slowly draining its contents, unbidden and unwelcome.

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Gavin Paul

English Professor. Author of "Conspiracy of One," a small book of short stories, and “The Coward," a collection of essays. amazon.com/author/gavinpaul