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Monsters of Men
We knew all about him. He lived on top of the solitary hill and we lived below, safe from “the man”. It was second nature for us to stay away. Ever since he had moved into our neighborhood eons ago, people changed. Fear became a daily routine, like brushing your teeth. We were told to stay away and stay away we did.
However there were always those of us (me included) who would walk by the house on our way home from school (on the other side of the hill) and stop, stare, then slowly begin striding and later sprinting, all the while spiting syllables speedier than you could speak. Secrets mostly, about “the man” in the house. He was a neighborhood legend really.
When he first moved into the neighborhood decades ago, one of the neighbors, Mrs. Doughtery, I think it was, saw him come out of the house, clanking to the mailbox, then pausing to wind a metal gear on his left leg, after which he slid out the mail and clanked back to his house, turned his face towards Mrs. Doughtery, and smiled. She screamed; he had a metallic eye and nose. He quickly clanked into his house and slammed the door behind him.
“The man” was half machine half man.
Not a cyborg mind you, but a machine, without a personality or emotions, but one with gears and springs and those types of things.
He was the curse befallen on our neighborhood. And from that day on no one ever saw him. His lights would never be on at night, and the house seemed as empty as death itself.
He was the talk of the neighborhood forever. We joked and teased him, naming him “the machine man” and claiming that he had probably killed some inventor to get ahold of the machine, a replacement for the limbs he had lost in battle. Some even claimed that his heart was made out of cold steel metal, unchanging or compassionate. To us he was as famous as the Lock Ness Monster. Maybe grander even, because of all the mysteries surrounding him.
On Halloween night, when we were all stimulated from the candy, we made a bold, presumptuous move. We had to know what he looked like to us, we had to find him for ourselves.
We marched up the solitary hill, our footsteps matching our pounding hearts, beating ever louder as we approached the residence. Ten feet, eight, five, two…we were at the door.
“Well go on.” Someone said. Reluctantly, I rang the bell. An owl hooted in response, but nothing stirred.
“Open the door.” I wrenched the icy knob as quick as I could and the door screamed and jumped open. We stood, frozen as we came vis-à-vis with…darkness. Puzzled, we crept into the building.
“Where do you suppose he is?” We all shrugged.
We went from room to room, flashlights in hand and costumes adorned, seeking the legend. It wasn't until we came to the bedroom that we found out the truth.
In the bedroom was a black coffin, dust an inch thick coated it. We crept up to the coffin, cautiously and carefully, caught the clasps. The coffin opened and inside lay a pile of bones with a picture of a man sitting at a desk, working on some kind of machinery. We flipped the picture over and read the inscription:
First prototype for the disabled
And now it was clear, “the man” wasn't a machine, but an inventor, trying to help someone else. We were the monsters, the creatures who had built him up only so he could keep us entertained. We were the monsters, with our machinations and fantasies. That was us. We knew all about him. Or so we thought.