By Peter Birsen
It wasn’t as though anyone from these parts really saw him as a threat. In fact, a lot of people in those days hadn’t known what to make of him. They didn’t carry the lingering prejudice of their parent’s time which would have caused them to throw up their lips in a sneer as they passed him by. Instead it seemed people greeted him with a smile, which he would clumsily try to return. And in that way, he became part of the town, really.
First time anyone could recall, he had come wobbling right down Kennedy Street, oversized briefcase trembling in a hand he was still learning how to use. He wore a mismatched suit as he came into town, a bright yellow jacket, struggling to conceal the chaotic blues and yellows of the Hawaiian shirt he had seen fit to don underneath. Below that hung a fine pair of corduroy pants, the hem of which fell to just below his knees. The short pants worked just fine for him though it seemed, as he wore high enough socks to cover the rest of his calf, as well as a good deal of thigh, judging by how far the material seemed to have been stretched.
And there he stood, in that exact attire, on the corner of Kennedy and Main every day, peddling his inventions to unsuspecting passersby. He had all sorts of things to sell. A machine that could dry anything with just a push of a button. A box which would emit flowery smells when its owner was joyful, and putrid, rotten smells when its owner found themselves in distress. A little gizmo which when placed near plants would cause them to perk up quite rapidly into a state of bloom. He sold things of that manner. Things on the edge between magic and science. Sure, he always had an explanation for how everything worked. He would explain in his signature sing-song garble the science behind the magic, but it went right over the heads of most people around here.
It wasn’t as though it wasn’t common knowledge that he was something other than human, but it wasn’t something talked about, not something thrown in his face. And besides, he looked human. Or at least he disguised himself to look that way. And for the most part, no one could tell, save for the occasional bubble of flesh which would work its way gelatinously from his feet, up his legs, and eventually over his face. Like a small golf ball rolling its way over his body. Most people figured he didn’t really mean any harm, just looking for somewhere to sell his inventions, following his dreams really.
It would be ludicrous to think, however, that there was no one in town who was unwary of him, even the slightest bit untrustworthy. The voice of the elderly would spring up in townhall meetings from time to time, a trickle of concern in their voices as they asked what could be done about “that man from the stars.” Nobody really took them seriously at first, but as often happens, all that hemming and hawing stirred up in town hall and the fact that a boy lost a finger while playing with one of the man’s inventions, the town began to turn on the man. He was now no longer viewed as the friendly space man who made wonderous inventions for the people, he was a potential threat, an outsider, a soviet, a fraud, a charlatan, and he had to go.
He didn’t really understand when they kicked him out of town, exiled to live in a dilapidated old factory up in the hills. Or maybe he understood all too well. Knew it was only a matter of time before he burst a hole in his suit, and the goo rumored to lurk beneath would spill out, giving away his secret identity. Or he would say the wrong thing, misunderstand the culture, and become a pariah. He must have known he couldn’t stay forever. Maybe that’s why he left town with a smile. Periodically, he would turn back to wave as he went up the hill, feet traipsing onwards, until he was a blob, then a dot, then a memory. The town stood in a united front at his back, ushering him onwards.
The factory could be seen from a distance, its great windows glowing an electric blue in the night time, casting the faintest of glows on the sleeping town. This went on for a few years, and to the untrained eye it might have seemed as though the man was still there, as if his shadow remained, a memory of a forgotten time. The corner of Kennedy and Main became dull, then dirty, then decrepit as grime and filth seized it. No one dared set up shop there, just in case the man came back. But of course, he never did.
The last encounter the town had with the man was this: around the time when the dirty gray air of October had seeped into the streets, making them much more dreary and dull than was typical, a great blue light split the sky and remained for a moment. The eyes of the town fixed on it, and with something akin to hope, followed it down to the factory in the hills. A shape moved through the center of the beam, up and into the clouds. After that, there was no longer a glow from the factory at night. No busts and booms, which rattled the ground and shook the window panes. No, the man was gone. And is gone still. And if you look sometimes, you’ll see people in this town look up at the night sky, a hallow glint in their eyes, then in a steadfast glower return their eyes to the dirt. It is all they could really understand anyway.
Peter Birsen is a student studying filmmaking and screenwriting at the University of Cincinnati. He originally hails from Toledo, Ohio, but now operates out of Cincinnati. Birsenis fascinated by storytelling and seeks to engage audiences with wondrous tales. In his free time, Birsen can be found reading or catching up on sleep.