The Man - A Short Story
"What do you mean no one ever touches him?” I asked. “Does he have some phobia with being touched?”
“Not that I know of, it’s not like that, it’s just that no one ever touches him. Hard to explain really...” he responded. “You’ll see when you meet him.”
He was a tall, lanky man. Odd in a way that one couldn't put your finger on. Like he didn't quite fit right in the world. This was the first time I met him, although I had heard about him quite a bit. Oddly, though, what I had heard really didn't amount to anything of substance. Of course, what did I want to do, but make physical contact.
I tried to shake his hand when he arrived. He moved as if to return the handshake, only to avoid it at the last moment and excuse himself to the bathroom, claiming that his hands were dirty, and it would be insulting for him to shake my hand with them in that condition.
“What are you doing? I told you, you can’t touch him!” my friend said to me.
“I’m sure I can touch him...”
“No, you can’t, no one does. Ever. Just leave it alone.”
“Oh, come on, what does he do in crowds?”
“He doesn’t. I have never seen him in a crowd.”
The tall man had now emerged from the bathroom. He apologized for his sudden departure, and I attempted again to shake his hand. He gave me a look that in a million years I could not possibly describe, and the next thing I knew, we were all sitting down and the handshake had been avoided, again. A couple of times I started to ask him about this ‘no touching’ thing, but each time he changed the conversation so subtly that I hadn't even realized it happened.
After a while his manner and oddness was starting to really get to me. I again, am at a loss to explain why, or what it was about him. Something just didn't fit. I was starting to feel kind of stressed out about the whole thing, so I made up my mind to make some sort of contact so that maybe the uneasiness would subside. I figured that had to be it. I attempted to bump into him when he got up to go to the kitchen, but almost with a sense of precognition he avoided the contact as if he knew it was coming. Another time I tripped in an effort to fall into him, yet somehow, with amazing speed, he had been somewhere else. It wasn't possible, but there it was.
He had gotten up to enter the bathroom again when my friend went off on me, “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you trying to ruin everything? This man... he is unique, and amazing, and all he asks is that he not be touched, and you can’t stop yourself from doing that one thing, can you?!”
I was a little taken back by his outburst, “I... I’m sorry. I am being a jerk, you’re right, I have no idea why I am acting like this, he just makes me uneasy. Actually, I don’t know what it is about him you think is so great, he’s really just a weird guy, he doesn't even really talk about anything...”
“Yeah, I would expect that out of you. Look, if you can’t appreciate that I have decided to honor you with his presence, you can leave.”
Not knowing quite what to say, I started to grab my jacket. At this point the tall man emerged from the other room. I didn’t hear him. Suddenly I was aware of something behind me, and as I turned, after all this, I smacked him on the hand. There was a sound. Something I don’t wish to hear again, ever. A sound that I wish I could erase from my mind. It was so searing and penetrating that nothing like it should exist. And, truly, I don’t think it does, for at that touch, aside from that hideous sound, he quietly said, “Oh. No.”, and then ceased to exist. He didn't vanish, or fade, he was just never there.
I stumbled back, my friend catching me. I was gibbering nonsense, the sound reverberating in my skull. My friend asking me what was wrong... What was wrong? How? But... “I am so, so sorry, it was really an accident!”
“Touching him. I didn’t know he was there, and, oh, dear god, how could I know that would happen?”
“What are you talking about?”
“What! The man, the tall man, that can’t be touched!”
After a long moment, and a look of sad puzzlement, he said “My friend, there never was a man here.”
Copyright 2007 Seriah Azkath