When winter came and wind was harsh and the ground white, they kept to themselves. For months, cloistered in their ruddy huts with nothing but themselves and the frozen food they had gathered.

It began by holding each other, afraid of what might happen next. They touched each other so innocently, a way to comfort one another. But this happened during what became an unending winter, when the ground remained hard and white for years. They touched each other, rubbing their skin hard to keep the blood flowing.

The first blood spewed forth unexpectedly. They had rubbed themselves raw, and there was no stopping it. Before anyone could think of what to do, it was too late.

Sadly, the hands could understand none of this. They continued to caress and, in a strange way, to hope. In a very short time, there was nothing left of any of them, only their weary hands. They kept on.

Bone to bone and terribly desperate, they inadvertently sparked a fire so intense that it consumed the bones, the ruddy huts, the hard white earth, the memory of blood.

Even the sense of touch was lost. Some say it did not return for five thousand years. Others insist we are living without it still.

Christopher Woods
CHRISTOPHER WOODS  has had his short stories published in The Southern Review, New England Review, Columbia, and Glimmer Train. His  recent books are Under a Riverbed Sky, in which this poem appears, among other prose poems and brief fictions from Panther Creek Press, and Heart Speak, stage monologues for actors and actresses from Stone River Press.