Aphelion Issue 229, Volume 22
June 2018
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The Disfigured Man

by Michael Falcone

We walked together, hand in hand, coming off the O-Train from Confederation to Bayview, towards the east entrance of the Unicentre, where we came upon a large crowd, rowdy and enraged. They gathered around someone, as if beating on him, hard; a person who must have been hated enough to afford such a cruel response from a band of students, hell bent on giving painful retribution. We hope. Never had we seen such a loud gathering at Carleton, impromptu, as no protest signs seemed prevalent amongst the large group. We saw no sign that a political battled ensued either, just sheer anger towards this one individual, so despised by everyone, an object of vicious attacks both verbal and physical.

Hesitating to approach this debacle, we held back only to be compelled forward, from inside, to see who it was; who this individual could be to incur such a wrath from these angry university students. My hand separated from Ani’s with the last touch of our skin tearing apart; the softness of her touch leaving me, alone and her alone in this angry crowd turned hateful. Sensing the loss of touch, I immediately turned to search for her in a split second to catch a glimpse of her, a little afraid that we might be walking into a bad memory that would haunt us for years after graduation. We drew in even closer to the man being beaten. The loudness of the students deafened us, both in heart and senses, but finally, a space opened up in the crowd, just big enough to see who this awful creature could be, or what it could not be, or should not be.

I thought my eyes betrayed me, or my mind, for the rage of the crowd could have warped my brain to see, not a man, but a semblance of a man, or a beast, but rather disfigured or severely disabled. He had pale skin with rough, angular cheeks and a slim body with long, thin limbs. He helplessly rolled side to side as if for panic and protection. His squealing was so guttural, tortuous. We nearly felt lost in the darkness of this rage, the angry rant of the students who beat upon it mercilessly with such despicable hatred that it disturbed us to the core of our humane hearts, which now leapt with compassion for this poor creature. Aghast, it shrieked in loud fear. It plead, in its own way, for reprieve, but got nothing instead unflinching violence which lay upon it bruise upon bruise.

I looked to Ani. She was gone. I instantly threw myself into finding her. I found her, soon enough, not far, having to push bodies aside, to see her with her mouth gaping open, vomiting. Her neck jutting forward as I palmed her forehead, letting her disturbed feelings pass as respectably as she could by the sight, this surreal view of humanity caught in some kind of psychotic beat-up of sorts. This beast, surely not a beast, but something more ordinary, more normal, or least something that should have been treated as such, lay there writhing in pain, falling side to side in confused panic. Our hearts struggled for compassion for what didn’t seem real to us. The students beat upon it. They beat upon it still with viciousness from angry young people gone crazy with mad injustice, reeling with their unsteady eyes, an unquenchable vengeance, an impatience within a maddening world and their shrieking unholy contempt for this thing, this person or whoever it could be. A beast of burden.

The beast fell back, fallen by the hands and feet that punched it, scratched it and poked it from all directions. And, the squealing continued, but changed in tone as if the cumulative effects of violence towards it reached a peak that summoned a deeper, darker energy, now ready to burst forth in sudden rapture. Ani and I felt it, from a far, like of subtle burst of energy in the air, just a few meters away from us as we tried to steady our hearts and minds enough to plan escape. The time had come. We watched, with gaping mouth and wide-eyes, as the crowd continued to beat, scream and cajole at the wounded creature, surely out of their minds, like wild beasts or ravenous lunatics who lost all sensible thoughts or knowing of time and space or basic rationality. Ani and I looked to each other, her dark brown hair showing signs of sweat from the thick heat emanating from the crowd as they continued to descend upon this hapless creature, outnumbering it, thirsting for revenge or some kind of perverse justice.

Something had shifted. We felt it reverberate through the air. We all did. We collectively took a step back as if to catch our breath. Aghast. Shock. Dismay. Ani and I found each other again. We locked fingers, capriciously, at first, then whole-handed. We felt something within us, primal, unthinking, but rational nonetheless; animals more than men or women moving with nothing more than the desperate intent of outwitting danger with an opportunism that is undeniable in times of near injury or death. Every hair stood on its end. Our eyes widened without volition. It was as if we became aware of being frozen in place, like something animalistic drive taking over us all; something at the gut level, but in our brains too.

The disfigured man – no, not a disfigured man but a large creature stood before us: White, thick and bony. A creature very tall, almost eight feet or more looking like a towering spidery-like figure with extended limbs that seemed more insectoid than primate. It’s hard, bulging skull was like a tough, fibrous vegetable whose cranium moved atop the skull’s horizon as if each thinking process reshaped it ever so slightly, but visibly to us all. This weird, cranial bending became the precursor to razor sharp limbs that swerved in swooping arcs which sliced through human flesh so effortlessly, so shockingly, that nothing but sheer instinct caused the rest of us to scatter away, in shared paranoia, like a terrible, psychedelic dream now turned into some kind of real life nightmare. We found ourselves, being chased. We, the prey, darted in all directions across the lawn, so curved in its shape of greenery, but now a velvet carpet of blood to an untimely massacre in progression.

Our screams moved synchronous like the wind, as each student flinched hard and wide-eyed, gasping, mindlessly, instinctually and radiating away from the point of violence. We scattered like frightened tribes, unwilling participants of a new reality, still incapable of fully processing the novelty of its invitation to impending death. We faced annihilation at the hands of a creature obviously so inhuman, but dangerously real and overwhelming. This reality, so inarguably poisonous at its foundations in which we are the hunted, the prey now, the weaker ones, fleeing for our dear lives, already forgetting the vicious beating just minutes ago; our failed history of seeing ourselves as victims of violence, as if we never heaved a hard blow upon another creature before. We, just misguided angels without malice or forethought, never thought of deserving of retribution.

We, the fallen grace. Fallen hard. So pitiable without question or argument.

Ani heaved as she ran around the UniCentre with me near her side running past the side entrance underneath the glass walls and entrance with the hopes of running atop the lawn towards Library Road away from the scene of destruction. We still hoped the creature would somehow go away - that we could get away - knowing this meant betraying other students to their death so that we could live, but also sensing, in the back of our minds, that we could not care anymore. This unfolding nightmare stung us awake to an unreality which we would soon probably forget, in total experience; this reality so strange, so unflinching, that our turning minds could only grasp it in small minute portions where our eyes gasped for Providence, an escape or retribution to life, universe or God, a place where we would plead our case as innocent, misguided human beings. The vicious beating that was prescribed, the attack that became a scene of carnage, not retribution, as no single person, student, human being lay on the ground to justify such hated violence.

There was no nobler way to die now, being so guilty. Our flamed heart, so inhuman and cruel to others! Now what? Being noble didn’t enter our minds anymore. Just survival. We lowered ourselves to the level of animal, abandoning all angelic hopes save our new goal of the fittest. Our primitive brains could not fathom what we had just seen anyway. We did not work together. We did not even flee together. We could not have. Or, at least, we probably wanted to believe we could not have. We beat this thing that now turns on us. We nurtured its rage.

The creature moved with rapidity that was both instinctual and unbeatable. Like an insectoid creature, its claws crashed the concrete effortlessly and without injury as chunks fell to the ground, exploding on impact like masonic bombs that threw powder and debris into the air. Our world shattered with fragility now and its meaning meaningless without divine protection, just raw reality with a scathing apathy for humanity followed by scathing appetite for revenge. This creature, with dark eyes, blinking with a thin vertical, grey membrane, over large pupils sans iris or sclera; nothing there, such emptiness like an insect, so large and so powerful, and so angry and so deadly and so inhuman and incomprehensible. Deadly to us, being without conscience offered no hope of reprieve. We needed to run for our lives. We owed it to ourselves. But we felt guilty, like stupid little creatures, so foolishly arrogant about the world we live in. For in the world when you beat the beast so hard or watch the beating, the beaten so mercilessly will rise within its own stream of imminent rage not blinding to the touch but foul as the hellish air. A power so dangerous now turned outwards with implacable might and a hard finality to anything in its path that all hail storms break loose upon you.

Resurrected now in magnanimous rage and grandeur, with a fierceness of vicious nature! An irrational impulse now given purpose to ensure, one way or another, intense destruction to the face of its enemy! If not massive death at the hands of its impatient rage, now fomenting to plain hot fluidity pouring heedlessly in whatever direction flows - in the path of its victims, now mercilessly cut down and finding death, final death, without God or savior to care for them.

Another chunk of the UniCentre fell to the ground. The quake hit hard and fast. This thing, this creature, screamed, or at least we think it did, a kind of shrieking sound that squeezed the air dry of its smoothness and left only raspy tremors that reverberated throughout campus as the beast flung itself, madly, to each side of the building and sinking its claws deeper into concrete as if it were soft to its touch. Wild hurtling chunks fell hard on escaping students whose terror compounded by hard stone bashing their heads; Hard ripples of cracked skulls and bloody death strewn about with lifeless eyes staring blankly now at thundering meteorites, crushing atop each person – dead or soon to be.

Ani and I ran from we knew not what. We struck hard for Library Road, resisting to look back, the feeling that doing so would bring us the bad luck, the final luck of death, where we turned to stone like the others. The endgame comes, that final reality takes over sometimes, and now was our time, with the other life a fantasy dispersing without a whimper, quietly into our night. That life that is over, squashed like little insects, with our tiny blood and guts spilling to the ground. I am thinking, ever so slightly, how fitting it is – or rather, was – for humanity to falter so. This thing and how it makes sense in the grander scheme of things, one without humanity and its accursed consciousness, for what it has brought or could have brought into a peaceful world, teeming with such an abominable nature tamed not by principle but by avarice and greed. Life never seemed so cheap, but the price placed by the cheap can only be it and cheapened by a grandiosity built upon frames feet from the ground that were never steady, unmoving and unbreaking. Our tears, Ani and I, blend into our new identity now. Tears at this place that we revolved around nothing, not a Sun, a God, or Star. Just lifelessness mixed in with miniscule hopes of being the conquerors of a reality for what that would gain us in the end.

The UniCentre was pieced off a bit at a time. Missing large chunks obliterated its function, its very existence and purpose in our world. The walls cracked as if bombed repeatedly, without mercy, without consideration or conscience to humane living; an angry testament to the vagaries of advanced living, a somewhat humanized life with seemingly harmless foibles that brought so much injustice to the world - and to our bodies and to our neighbors’ bodies and to the rest of the creatures of the world. The students are lifeless, like tiny insects, strewn upon a Flanders field of sorts, held together by enfeebled principles not connected to nature. My enfeebled mind could barely make out a shape of a young woman, dressed like someone I knew, like Ani, most likely her eyes staring, unblinkingly, not happy or sad, just unblinkingly, the reality being real, so real and an indisputable fact to the mind. This student was dead. More were on the lawn, dead and dying. The place seemed quiet as if it were in the eye of the storm. But it wasn’t. The creature hurled more angry screams that ran through our frozen veins like pure fear and terror. The sky wrinkled at the sound, clasped in its very blueness like a wave rippling throughout a disturbed pond, no longer quiet, but solitary in its destructiveness or apathy towards humankind; a species now reliving its fate of its own predestined doom. Now, the real life, the true nature of the world takes hold of the Earth.

Ani must have been beside me, surveying the destruction, wanting to keep running, and hoping to escape with our shattered minds barely intact. I imagined her looking at me as I looked up, around, to look for her, to sense her, to feel her body, to taste her blood, or was it my blood, with my mind gashed. No, not my mind. My forehead, in front of me. Did the breeze just pass my face? Ani was on the ground, all bloodied, with no expression, lying there, her beautiful hair, her beautiful mouth, her youthfulness, not taking away from her, but frozen in place, for some time before more destructiveness. The new reality took hold over her body. Ani was dead too. Gashed blood curdling wounds rained rivers of blood off her lovely legs now dripping down her dismal fate. Was Ani still there? Was Ani still afraid? Sleeping on the field, like at a concert we enjoyed, a festival we went to, so brave and young and in love and hopeful in a world ready to change, but now, like a statistical bug, squashed? So arrogantly dead, because that is the end of all that is unnatural for us, and we’re sure, for all that is humanity today and tomorrow. Your afternoons will run dry too. Just watch.

The creature hurled itself with dangerous claws ripping chunks into the ground, flipped into the air as it sped my way. I clutched against Ani hard. I held her tight. She held me too. I dug into her breast and it descended upon me. Letting out an angry shriek, it came down hard on me with lifeless, buggery eyes. Just angry and vengeful eyes. Nothing else. No intelligence required. A stare filled with hatred and malice, letting out its unnatural shriek even for this day when all went wrong. An injustice turned backwards. A curiosity that killed memories, now and forever. An evil, apathetic beast of burden, never seen the sun at midnight, never heard the quarrels at dawn, never chased away fleeting punishments for painful slights undeserved. Never mind the mind, or the sound of it, now sleeping so lost in its loss, so profound, so undeserved and brutal to us both. To be lying now. Dead. Descending back to nature. Back to the world. Back to the primal living. Ani, I love you. The end of the world is nigh.


2017 Michael Falcone

Bio: Mr. Michael Falcone is a Canadian writer who enjoys reading books on humanities, spirituality and pop culture. He also contributes to his personal blog, "Story Arcs - A Cool Place to Learn about Stories."

E-mail: Michael Falcone

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