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June 20, 2011

” . . . after his arrest, Bogash’s home was searched. A collection of severed hands was discovered in his attic, each labeled with a name and date. Only left hands were taken. Dozens of tanks containing cockroaches were also discovered in the attic.”

The Reflector

August 8th, 1986



On the first day of the dream, Gabor was astonished to see his mother standing, bloody, outside his window.  Gabor’s head seemed filled with fog and he found it hard to concentrate—hard, even, to focus his attention on the woman at the window, or the bloody cyphers she had begun to write on the glass with her finger. How long had he been asleep? Gabor rubbed his eyes and blinked, trying to cast off the disoriented sensation that was causing him to forget the previous day, and the previous month. In fact, he could hardly remember any details from the previous year at all. Holistically, his mind was sound—that is, he knew who he was, that he was twenty-one, that he had memories—but what exactly the memories were, he couldn’t tell. He sat up and turned to the window, now covered in bloody cyphers. His mother stood staring at him outside the glass. Gabor squinted and after a moment the letters began to make sense—began to form a coherent message.

It is a dream. You are still asleep. A man is in the home with a knife.

Was it possible that he was dreaming? Gabor thought of his vague and foggy memories. And was his mother really dead? Lying murdered in her sheets? Gabor wondered how he would wake himself up.

Outside, the ground was covered, every inch, in small, plastic cups. He bent down and discovered that each cup held a cockroach which hissed and scurried around and made the cup tremble like a cocoon. He leaned over and began moving the cups two by two, out of the way. As he went, he placed the cups behind him, because that was the only place where there was room. It was slow work. Already well into the afternoon, he thought. He was miles away from his home now, in a patch of forest. Every surface was covered with cups. Even the tree limbs were lined with cups, each one hissing and vibrating. All the hissing was quite unnerving and Gabor began to feel afraid. Were the cockroaches hissing louder? Suppose the cups should fall over?

And the cups did begin to fall. Gabor thought of running. His muscles strained as he lifted his feet high, to get them clear of the cockroaches, which covered the ground, because the cups had all tipped over.


On the second day of the dream Gabor awoke and saw that the sanguinary message on his window had grown longer. At the bottom it read, don’t forget to wake up. Gabor rubbed his eyes and tried to think. His memory of the previous day was cloudy. His mother had written the message on the window. What had happened after that? Had he gone, as he should have, to find some means of waking himself up? Had he tried splashing cold water in his face? Had he tried, as he should have done, to slam his fingers in the door, or in some other way startle his dream self into wakefulness? Gabor imagined jumping from a high window. Surely there was a way to communicate with his still sleeping body.

Gabor was still thinking as he stood in the cemetery, where the neat little marble headstones cast long shadows over the grass. A buzzing noise filled his ears. He was only half aware of the morning’s events—something important had happened. What was it? Something he had to do. He remembered his mother, soaked in blood. That was it. His mother had died. And now he was here at the cemetery. Was she buried here? He looked at the headstone in front of him and saw that it was indeed his mother’s. Gabor rested his hand on his forehead and cried for a while. Then he began to rake the grass around the headstones. The leaves twisted around his rake but did not move, and the raking became laborious. He was aware that something was wrong with the tree to his right. Among the tree’s branches, something else grew from the trunk—human arms, with hands swaying, softly stirred by the breeze, the fingers of each hand gently undulating. Some of the hands had a light complexion, some were dark, some looked feminine, manicured, with painted nails, others were masculine, stubby, calloused. Some of the hands had wedding bands, some did not. Gabor stood and watched the gentle sway of the tree and waited for something to happen. Nothing did. At the base of the tree lay the hands that had fallen from the branches. Unlike those on the tree, the fallen hands were dry and sallow. Gabor tried to remember why he was there in the cemetery. He looked around. There was so much work to do. The grounds were littered with hands. Gabor did not like the look of it. He began raking the hands, although the long, thin tines of his rake were hardly adequate to move the heavy hands much. In fact, the raking was beginning to seem ineffectual. He continued to work, though, and imagined he could feel the tines sweeping across the backs of his own hands.


On the third day of the dream Gabor sat up in bed and looked at the window, as if expecting to see something, but nothing was there. He swung his feet out of bed.

A soft breeze was blowing through the grass as Gabor sat down on the bank of the creek. The sun was getting very low—was already past the trees lining the creek. Gabor felt gloomy. He gazed through the arcane shrubbery across the creek as if expecting to see someone. In the dusky light, he could make out frogs hopping on the moist clay around his feet. They splashed in the water. Gabor was startled by a masculine whisper coming through the trees. It said, Did I wake you?

Gabor thought this was a bizarre question. He said no, and watched the frogs bouncing around. The wind picked up a little and the frogs began to hop more frantically, splashing in the water, moving very fast. The current of the creek picked up, too. The water had reached Gabor’s feet and was rushing around the soles of his shoes.

He heard the masculine whisper again but he could not understand the words because of the wind, which was roaring in his ears.

The frogs were jumping several feet in the air and Gabor wished they would go away, so he could think. So he could concentrate on something—but what? Something he was supposed to do—but his memories were cloudy and disturbed.

The frogs had fled, and the rapidly moving water, now up to his chest, was turning into shades of deep, thick red.


© Trent R. Leinenbach, Ashen Apples, 2011

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