Monday, 28 July 2014

Mysteries of the Manifold Man

Recently, I entered a writing competition on The Cult of Me blog, hosted by Michael Brookes. The competition was to produce 500 words based around this photograph:

The winning entries for the competition, including my own, can be seen here, and I have also posted my entry below. As always, notes on the piece are at the bottom of this post. My thanks go to Michael for hosting the competition, and congratulations to the other winners. And now, the story itself. Enjoy.

Mysteries of the Manifold Man/Sitting And Watching The World Going By

‘You don’t understand the Manifold Man;
Don’t know what he sees with those eyes made of glass.
He’s sitting and watching the world going by
And watching the long ages pass.’
21st Century Proverb

Sometimes, they snigger in corners, the huddled masses, laughing at the Manifold Man, out in the cold. Sometimes, they pity his glassy eyes that can never smile; they wonder, in their quieter moments, if that gaping mouth has ever spoken the simplest of words.
“I love you.”
“Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Where were you when the bombs came down?”

The urchins in ragged scraps of cloth swarm about him when the winter subsides; they wipe his glassy eyes of their icicle tears and their small white hands free the snows from the thick folds of his own clothes. He is a friend to some, always there; he always listens as they pour out their troubles to his motionless form. He never judges them, never speaks, but they know he listens. He is a terror to others, and they sit by their bedsides as the fires die, watching him watching them; if they can’t see him in the street, he’s under their beds, in the dark of their corners, coming to get them.

“Don’t stay out tonight,” their tired mothers say, “the Manifold Man will get you.”
“But he never moves,” they say back. Hoping they’re right.

And as they watch him from shattered windows, or throng around firelights that keep the night at bay, they do not understand the Manifold Man. What he has seen. What he has done. Who he is, and what he was. It does not matter to them.

To them, he is a symbol, a grim reminder of the day the bombs came and the fire fell from the sky. He is an icon, proof that all can stand the test of time. A comfort by day to one lonely child, a terror at night to another. The older ones remember; he was there before they were, he will be there long after they’re gone. Has he always been there? They close the shutters, some afraid, some inspired. He is eternal; whether he brings fear or faith, he will always do so.

What does he see through those reflecting eyes, in the glare of the flames and the cool of the moon? The man who never moves, never speaks, does he see at all?

And the days come and go, and winters and summers blend into one. Stars move in the sky, new constellations rise and fall. Rock turns to dust turns to sand in the wind, and a thousand, a million, new faces flash past the Manifold Man. Still, he sits, motionless. Sitting and watching the world going by.

With long-dead eyes.


Author's Notes: 

- The idea for this one came to me almost instantly on seeing the picture. I knew immediately I wanted to both play on the post-apocalyptic themes and also do something more relevant to today's world. The focus of the piece can really be synonymous with any kind of common belief or ideal; everyone has their own interpretation of that. Some fear what others love, some hate what others have faith in. This manner of playing with perceptions against realities is something that can be seen in a lot of my other works, but this is by far the most overt example. 

That's all for today. As ever, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment. 

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