Oct/Nov 2006  •   Fiction

The Man of Flies

by Joseph Zozaya

Photo by Jim Gourley

Photo by Jim Gourley

There was a man sitting near a mirror in a small cafe near the avenue Corduvez.

Dispersed outside were numerous empty chairs, and the sound of the dying evening was approaching. Surely, there was nothing odd about that transaction of life, but as I stared at the man more and more frequently, I began to suspect he was not all as he appeared. Men usually removed their hats as was customary, but his still emanated from his head, his overcoat resided continually upon his body, and not once did he ever touch his drink.

People were engaged in that miniscule building with their own ways, so hardly did they even notice the deceit this man was inflicting upon them. I stared at him openly, and he seemed amused. It was not that I could perceive his eyes, for his whole form was one of vagueness and a suppressing, gray nature. Perhaps, as I could discern no semblance of matter, he did not even have a face at all. It must have been some hours he sat there, only moving at certain increments, and then finally he departed without even leaving a bank note for the waiter.

"An arrangement with the proprietor?" I thought to myself. He wandered away down the lethargic boulevards, lumbering about as if plagued by an inconsistent defect of character. It was my impulse to follow him, and so I crossed the street, which was vacant at that hour, and I pressed my feet into the sidewalk while I glared at the falling sun and the transient implications of the ensuing night.

My thoughts began to conspire. I imagined that man a dabbler in some esoteric art, a deranged criminal of some sort, or a hidden eccentric with a thoroughly deformed face. These were all apparent possibilities, deficient without proper evidence, but most assuredly plausible.

The gas lamps along the bridge were lit by then, and as I made my way across the river, I saw the dark form enter the boulevard. What secured my gaze was a gas lamp exploding without instigation, particles of glass hurled in obtuse directions, and I became frightened.

I passed near the shattered lamp. Ineffectual flames still quivered along the sidewalk as the echo of my feet usurped the silence. Before me were seemingly vacant edifices. Not even was there one light in any of the windows. I continued moving, turning into corridors and walkways, trouncing upon stone paths. I felt I was a self-confessed man, but at that point I had nothing to concede: a lingering emptiness pervaded me; I felt abstract, useless, unidentifiable in that agonizing moment.

Soon, the crowded buildings spread out, a larger boulevard arose, and then a park. I heard the train leaving the Zergonuez station, colliding with the air above the adjacent bridge. And the man? Where had he elapsed to, what mist had carried him away?

At last I identified him near a tree, but he soon left that enclave and entered the congested city again. My feet were tired, but my veins were urged on to know the identity of that man. He ambulated into a more populous area and then stopped briefly at a shop for watches. I had difficulty seeing him there, confusing him with the ambiance, with the air drifting at that unexpected moment.

Perhaps everything was exaggerated, and men themselves were nothing but skeletal decorations.

After he departed, I immediately proceeded to the watch vendor and asked him what transaction had transpired between the two. "I am a private man!" he said, but the indulgence of the affair was too great for me and I bartered with him, offering him my own chain watch.

"He wanted to know the..." but before he could finish the utterance, his face expressed grief, and then he contorted as if confronted by a pressing debilitation. Staggering away from the counter, he fell back against a wooden shelf and appeared dead.

I ran through the door and onto the street once more. What plague had been spread, what unholy wisdom allowed itself to be ushered by time and to cause death to surface? That I could not know, but I found the peculiar man in a bar, weaving through the boisterous crowds. Approaching him, I detected a harsh resonance, and then I could smell in the air something abrasive, with a texture not devised for human nostril. I tapped him upon the arm.

"You. I would like to convey a word with you!" I said, but neither could he see me, nor would he allow me to become a distraction in his unity. He removed his overcoat, and in front of me were thousands of flies, configured in a way allowing the assemblage to form a rudimentary human outline. The hat fell from the aggregation, and then the flies dispersed into the air and escaped the confines of that limited sphere. I heard only the laughing of the inebriated patrons, unaware such an episode was even possible in their world.