Short Story: To the Point


A short story I wrote for The Guardian‘s short short story contest.

Every night, Tom lay in bed wondering if his toes spoke to each other while he was fast asleep. He listened intently to his heartbeat in sync with the rhythm of the clock by his bedside, like a puppy feeling safe by the warmth of its mother side. Stricken with cerebral palsy at birth, he was always upset about the way his hands worked. This inability to control his body frustrated him and he believed his state of subconscious had the answers.

At 15, Tom was far more intelligent than most boys his age. A precocious solitary boy, he never stopped questioning his disabilities and often derived logic from his own reasoning based on substantial research pouring over medical books, doing mathematical equations and challenging the statistics and probabilities of situations.

Rejecting all possible medical reasoning and that of karmic connections – paying for ill deeds in his past life; he couldn’t find any plausible explanation for his body’s uncooperative reactions, other than concluding that his body parts talked to each other while he was in deep slumber. He was certain they wove conspiracy theories for battle in his body while he slept. They had plans to take control of his nerve fortresses that governed a large part of his movements to conquer him without notice, exactly like how the Liliputans captured Gulliver, unguarded. To catch them directly in action would be almost impossible since the conscious and subconscious rarely met each other.

Tom took on a Holmes persona and set about investigating the various ways to observe his toes while he slept. He spent many sleepless nights awake, occasionally with toothpicks to keep his eyes open — dali-resque style and other times he counted crocodiles instead of sheep. Crocodiles frightened him and the thought of the scaly reptiles snapping with their powerful jaws kept him awake the entire night.

One day, he asked his elder brother to help him set up a video camera and explained his ‘mission’. Although it sounded ludicrous, Pete gladly obliged and so that Tom’s unfounded anxieties could be addressed. Tom was determined to find his alter ego and get it to cooperate so that he could have better coordination and perhaps even be rid of his disability forever.

The recordings started that night.

Days passed and Tom slept soundly. He replayed the tapes religiously every night before he went to bed and noticed nothing unusual, save the fact that he snored as loudly as his father, and sometimes he drooled.

His toes twitched occasionally, but there were no fixed intervals or patterns that implied his toes communicated in Morse code with the rest of his body. For an entire month, Tom meticulously recorded his findings in graphs and charts before concluding that his own body was conspiring against him. He felt possessed by his own body and there was no exorcist in the world that could dispel this negative energy that existed within.

Finding himself was harder than he imagined and his patience was running out. He’d had enough. That night, he sharpened the kitchen knife to slice off all his toes; if he couldn’t fathom their secrets, he’d just have to get rid of the ‘enemy’. Recalling the documentary he watched on the Chinese’s traditional foot binding, he bound his feet tightly with cloth and crushed the bones of his toes with a heavy rock before he performed his surgery of exorcism. Unfortunately, with his lack of dexterity for the operation, he passed out from the excruciating pain sans his ten toes, never to awake.

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