Last night I had a dream in which I assisted in the deliberate and consensual mutilation of a man’s hands. We were sitting together at a workbench in a dimly lit workshop. This resembled my father’s shed from when I was a child. There was a smell of gasoline and dust. The man handed me a cleaver and asked me to hack off both his hands at the wrist. He is a large faceless man in a brown suit who sits in the semi-shadows beside me. It is ambiguous as to whether he is wearing some kind of a mask. I don’t know him, but yet somehow in the dream I do know him. I acquiesce to his demands, willingly. I cannot seem to say ‘no’. This acquiescence is out of weakness and I am ashamed. The removal of his hands is part of a much larger and diabolical story in which I have long been complicit. I am involved and enmeshed in something with him much more vile than just the removal of his hands. He explains that I am to replace his hands with metal ones. Together we have manufactured two indestructible metal hands from a mixture of flour, eggs, milk and maple syrup. These ingredients for American pancakes are part of a wholly subjective reference system, the associations known only to me. But I know what they are and what they signify. This pancake mixture is poured into molds of hands, and then immediately solidifies. I remove them from the molds and now they are a hard silver metal and cool to the touch. I take a large hammer from the workbench and maniacally hit them in order to demonstrate to the man how indestructible they are. I am keen to impress and please him. And then we laugh at how powerful and strong the hands are. This laughter is one born of a complicity in a secret pact. Somehow I fix the metal hands to his arms and he holds them directly in front of my face and begins to slowly move the fingers. I smile. The feeling of horror, anxiety and fear behind my smile is indescribable. And then I woke up, feeling sick, repulsive and diminished.
This dream evokes a revolting and putrid feeling of corruption, a feeling of being totally compromised, becoming complicit in something disgusting, and assuming a terrible guilt and shame. Real hands represent real responsibility. His hands are his own responsibility and I remove them. His new alien metal hands, manufactured by me from substances with powerful personal associations, become my responsibility. Then there is my inability to say ‘No’. Somehow ‘No’ is being transfigured in this dream. The dream stands at the end of a long process in the workshop where I have been undone and re-made with an inability to say ‘No’ – here I have acquiesced in my own undoing. By removing these hands I finally completely disappear in a moral drain hole, and all that I am is what is left.
In Fleming’s Bond novel Dr No steals a vast fortune of gold from the Tongs, and when he is tracked down he refuses to tell them where he has hidden it. In retaliation they chop off his hands and shoot him through the chest where his heart should have been. But his heart is on the left and he survives. He manufactures some metal hands, which are incredibly strong although lacking in dexterity, and now he becomes transformed into a feared and monstrous figure. The hands become the cause of his eventual downfall as he is unable, like Bond, to get a grip and climb out of the boiling coolant in the nuclear reactor.
My dream’s own Dr No forces me to become complicit in the removal of his hands, the hands which have and will continue to do terrible things. He makes me remove them and then replace them with metal hands that I have made. Now his alien hands, which will do terrible things, are hands that I have made. They are alien because they are mine. I am being forced to assume a responsibility for his (my) hands. I will become complicit with the actions of these hands. Dr No has stolen my will, like a black hole he swallows even my ‘no’. Without a ‘no’ I am less than nothing. There is now a hole where my heart used to be.
What is proving to be so difficult today is that I know what this dream means.