Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Winter Story

One cold winter night, when the roads were slick and snow was falling outside, a man sat watching the fire he had built in his fireplace. The warm fire and the crackling wood had nearly lulled him in sleep when he heard a knock at the door. Three light taps. Tap, tap, tap and then it was silent. At first, he wasn’t sure if he had heard it, but in a few moments, it came again. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. The man rose from his chair and went to the door to see who might be there at that late hour. He opened the door and only the cold wind greeted him as no one was at the door. He peered into the darkeness, trying to see beyond the trees that were nearly outside the reach of the small bit of light that shown from the windows of the old house. He could see no one and he could not hear the sound of snow crunching under some visitor’s boots. He closed the door and returned to his chair.

The man soon fell asleep, but he woke a few minutes later when he heard a knocking at the door. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He quickly rose from his chair, hoping to reach the door before the person left, but before reached the door he heard another knock. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He opened the door and as before, it was only the cold wind that greeted him. “Is anyone there?” he called out into the darkness, but there was not sound but that of the falling snow. He returned to his chair thinking that surely it must have been tree limb striking the house or only his imagination.

It was a few minutes later that the sound returned. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He ignored it, thinking that no one was there, but in a few seconds, it came again. It was slightly louder this time. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. Once more, he ignored it. Then it came a third time. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. This time he was certain that it was a knock at the door. The man went to the door and looked out. Once more, he saw no one. Only the cold greeted him. He turned to go back inside, but as he did, he noticed something lying on his front porch in front of his door. In the darkness, he could not make out its shape at first, but when he looked closer, he could see that it was a human hand, severed at the wrist. The cold air had mad it stiff and frozen.

Not knowing what else to do, the man went back inside to call the sheriff. The woman who answered the phone told him that the weather would make it difficult for anyone to make it out that night and that he should put the hand in his freezer until someone should make it out to investigate. It would not do for some animal to drag it off before anyone could make it out to retrieve it. He found a small box to put it in before he placed it in the freezer. He did not like the idea of having a human hand in his freezer, but it was all he could do. When he had finished his unwanted task, he turned off the lights in the kitchen and began to get ready for bed.

He remembered a book that he had been reading and decided that he might read in bed for a few minutes. He returned to the kitchen to get his book, but when he did, he found the small box sitting on the counter near the refrigerator. In his haste to complete the unpleasant task, he must have forgotten to put the box in the freezer. He feared that the warm air inside the house might have thawed the hand some, so he looked inside the box, just to make sure nothing had changed. It looked no different than it had before.

The man returned to his bedroom and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. That did not take long and when he was finished he walked over to his bed, but there on the night stand he saw the small box. He was certain that he had placed the box in the freezer, but he must have carried it with him by accident. He returned to the kitchen to place the small box in the freezer. He looked inside the box once more. The severed hand was still unchanged.

It was around midnight when he woke. There was a faint sound. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He thought that he might have been dreaming, but then it came again. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. It was the sound of something hitting the side of a box. He reached over and turned on the light. There on his nightstand was the small box. He opened it to look inside.

When the sheriff made it out the next day, the man was nowhere to be found. The sheriff looked all around the house and found nothing. He did not find the man and he did not find the severed hand. The old house has been empty ever since, but people say that on cold winter nights there is a man that is sometimes seen at the door of other houses. They say the man looks very much like the man who lived in that house. With one hand, he holds a small box and with the other, he knocks on the door. Tap, tap, tap and then silence.