I was an empty shell, punctured and robbed. “I” was a bizarre concept. Who was I? I remembered a life—life in the biological sense. Eating, sleeping, fucking. Flashes of city lights and views through car windows. I knew what a car was. What a city was. But I didn’t know my city, or my car, or if I had a car, or if I could have a car.
As I sat on the bench, wholly aware of my external body, the weight of it, the emptiness, a man stood nearby and snapped what I thought could have been gloves. But he wore no gloves. He faced away from me, and in the twilight of the park I couldn’t see his face. Only the back of his head, as he fitted his hair and patted his cheeks as though pressing something over them. A mask? But he wore no mask. I could see that much.
He looked over his shoulder at me, at my body on this bench, and I knew from knowledge of human faces that his was lop-sided. His goatee was where his ear should be. One eye on his forehead, the other on his cheek. Slowly, he pushed his face back to symmetry. It radiated with invisible familiarity—familiarity as a concept, not a feeling. It was a face a man could find familiar, but I was not that man. I was not a man. Akin to man. Man akin.
My arms and legs functioned. I could breathe if I wanted. If I tried. I didn’t have a heart, so I couldn’t beat it. But I could move. I chose not to. I had no reason to choose otherwise. No place to go, no need or desire to drive me.
“I won’t give it back,” the man said. “Some of us like to borrow. I steal. There is no reason to tell you this because it means nothing to you. But now that I am you, I pity me. I pity my loss. I was a beautiful person. I loved my wife. Hell, maybe I still do. Yes, I think I do. I didn’t deserve to become the thing that sits before me. And that brings me sorrow. But now that I’m me, I was always me. You are a mannequin in the park. How strange…”
He frowned. Then he nodded. He felt as though he had woken from a surreal dream. The mannequin on the park bench unnerved him. The uncanny valley, he supposed. Or maybe it was unsettling for being so out of place.
It was getting late. Twilight faded to night. He worried about thieves. So he went home to his wife, leaving the mannequin empty and alone.
Surprise! A brand new prompt. It’s been a while, hasn’t it, reader? Ol’ H. has been busy doing the freelance writing thing. Rest assured that I haven’t forgotten about you. I wrote this particular prompt during a writing workshop recently. The prompt categories were, “In Media Res,” “Alone at night,” and, “A crisis of identity.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of surrealness. I sure did.
Till next time, dear reader. Because there’s always a next time.