[The Wounded Man, 1,197 words, Genre: Experimental]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
It had been a long time since the man had breathed oxygen. Not a simple breath of air, but of clean air, fresh air. The sort of air that when breathed in would travel down the windpipe, fill the lungs full of air and exasperate the sweat on the brow. The intake of oxygen would result in a relieved feeling. A feeling that ingratiated one to be alive, that would be breath and… release. Release and then intake. Intake and release. The simple act of breathing in and out. He didn’t have lung cancer or any form of ailment to his own health. It was just that the air in the sky, the air all around, it was polluted. Several factories circulated the town and pumped their toxic chemicals up and into the sky. The pollution would lay as a thick layer up above the city. It would just lie there like a soft blanket, a quilt that held down the city lights so that the stars could not be seen at night. Nobody around him had had a breath of fresh air either. It was just that way, the way it always had been. There would be no change, there would be nothing that would come and turn everything upside down on its head. Reversing things so that one could finally fill their lungs full of fresh air. There would be nothing of the sort. Things would remain with this fog and blanket of pollution lying over everything.
And so the man, Charles was his name, did not bother to focus on such things. He did give it a moment of thought as he looked at what lay above his head. In the clouds. The black clouds. The grey clouds. He just simply continued walking and carrying through with his life. Putting one foot in front of the other in an attempt to move forward with his own life. So many people look backwards on their own life. Not knowing what to do with themselves. Always questioning whether or not that they had made the correct decision in their past. So many people got caught up in their own past. They took a single moment out of their lives and said to themselves, ‘This moment. This moment is where I fucked up. This is the moment I wish I could go back to and change.’ But Charles was different, he didn’t know how or why. But he knew one thing, he was different and for all of the time others spent regretting their decisions and dwelling on their problems. Charles would look forward towards the horizon. Oh, he would look at the sky and see the pollution. But this wasn’t a problem for him. This was a reminder that the world is full of people who make mistakes, so why should he waste his time dwelling on his problems when he could be moving forward? Always forward. And so that’s what he contended himself to do. To place one foot in front of the other and continue moving.
And as he continued moving he found that people would attack him as he walked his humble path. Humble? Perhaps he was not. It always attended itself to a certain amount of the ego so that he could gather the motivation to keep on going forward with all of those steps. As the pollution gathered up in the grey clouds above, as people shoved their metaphorical pitchforks into his sides as he continued to walk. He contented himself to looking forward. Always forward. He would see bodies all along the highway of life. They would gather there on the side of the road, in their mountains, spreading forth bile and blackness. The mounds of bodies would ferment in their own way, they would grow gangrenous and seethe out a putrid smell to those who would breath in. Another reason why there was never any fresh air in the vicinity. For the pollution in the air that hung above the city lights. For the rotting bodies with their rotting flesh on the side of the road. There was no fresh air. There were just maggots. Squirming disgusting maggots all eating the flesh of the dead. Those maggots would one day turn into flies and those flies would one day lay their eggs and the great cycle of death and rebirth would be fulfilled at the lowest levels.
Then more. More about these beings with imaginary pitchforks who would go about stabbing at Charles as he walked down the streets. Keeping his eyes on the road ahead. The path ahead. One foot in front of the other. With their imaginary pitchforks they would thrust out at his person. Tearing and ripping away chunks of his own flesh. Attempting to cut him into pieces so that they could devour him. Ripping away parts of his person and then roasting them above a fire. The fire would be seen simmering on the sides of the road. And those people with their pitchforks would hold their pitchforks above the flames. And the flesh that they did rip off of him, they would toast, they would simmer, they would burn. As if it was still attached to him. He could still feel it. As if his soul was thrown into a million different pieces. He was being burnt alive. But still he would have to keep moving forward. Putting one foot in front of the other. Always walking. Poor Charles, the poor man who would have no time to simply sit by the road and dwell on his regrets and woes. For he saw there was no point to such action.
Eventually, those imaginary pitchforks took enough flesh off of him so that he could walk no longer. He was burning in a million different places up and down the road. He saw a seat up ahead. The seat had been prepared for him. So he walked up to it and sat down. For the first time in his life he felt his wounds. The wounds of a million different imaginary pitchforks, all scraping away at his skin. All taking something from him and returning nothing. That is what they had done. All the bystanders alongside the great and evil road. In the great city with a cloud of smog that lay above them all. And he sat and he felt his pain.
His own pain. The pain of this and the pain of that. The pain of things as of yet unforeseen. It was incredible, he felt it in the pits of his stomach. Swirling around and making him feel nauseous. That feeling of nausea. That pit of darkness, bile and secretion. It mixed and as if there was a whirlwind in his stomach. It churned and made him feel gross and melancholic. He attempted to look up, attempted to breathe in, but became dizzy. He became dizzy with the wounds and the pain, and the pain and the wounds, and then threw up. A chunky solid mixture. Puree. And the vomit would dribble down from his lips, onto the ground. And for the first time in a long time, he could breathe.