The Many Man

The man picks up his knife and opens the box. With little care he empties the contents onto the desk in front of him. He organises the contents, puts a price on them and then takes them out to display in the front room of the shop.

The man then, with the slouch of someone who has spent years leaning over a desk, walks back and opens another box. He repeats this process for the next few hours, then slouches over to the break room and eats his lunch.

He goes back to opening boxes and decides to play a podcast. He has listened to hundreds of podcasts but today he realises something. Today the host is talking about how shit and monotonous office jobs are, and that people should just do what they want, and that they should quit their jobs and be happy. Today the man realises how detached from reality the host is; detached from the working class. The host makes life sound easy, because for him it is. Famous friends, beautiful family and all the money in the world don’t leave the host with a lack of fulfilment.

He turns the podcast off.

Soon the day is over and the man makes to go home. He drives for an hour in bumper to bumper traffic, something he has done everyday for years, but today he thinks about how two hours sitting in traffic a day makes nearly five hundred and twenty hours of wasted time a year being unhappy. He also thinks about how combining that five hundred and twenty hours with the nine unhappy hours he works a day means he spends at least two thousand eight hundred and sixty hours a year unhappy.

The man pulls up his driveway, walks to his front door and steps into his house. His wife greets him, she is happy to see him, but he won’t allow himself to be happy to see her. He gives her an empty kiss and sits down on the couch. He puts the TV on and doesn’t move a muscle or change his line of sight.

His house isn’t bad at all; it’s actually rather nice. He has never really seen that though, just as he has not really seen his daughter playing at his feet. Words do come out of his mouth and he does make eye contact, which gives the appearance of being here, but he is already lost.

The next day the man is driving to work. Today is a new day and today might be different, he thinks.

He arrives at work, picks up his knife and starts opening boxes. Today is different; today the man realises that today is no different than any other day.

Today the man remembers being young; he remembers many daydreams dreaming of what the future might be, what a successful person he might become, and that now his many daydreams consist of thinking regretfully about all he did not foresee. He had wanted to have an impact; he had wanted to be so much more, but today he is just a man, a man among many, a meaningless many man; he is a normal man.

He thinks about his family, and how to one or two he might be more than just a normal one of many man. But he could never have thought he could have fallen so short. He could never have thought in his many youthful daydreams that he could have let himself down this much. His youth was so full of promises and yet here he stands, opening boxes, such a failure he turned out to be, such a failure he could not foresee.

He thinks about all the people who told him he would only ever be a less than normal man, or that he would never be more, and he realises now that they were right.

The many man puts down his knife as the presence of another made him realise he was clenching it so tight over his wrist that his knuckles were white. The presence of the other many man brought him back to reality, temporarily.

He leaves his work immediately and goes to his car. He starts driving, in what direction he does not know.

Soon he comes to a road leading up a hill and so he follows the road. At the top of the hill is a lookout overlooking his entire city. The many man leaves his car and climbs to the top of the lookout.

He looks over his entire city. He looks at the buildings, he looks at the people moving, and from here it all looks so aimless. Everyone is moving to and fro, building higher and higher, with no real reason.

Ants, the man thinks. And in this moment the man realises that that is exactly what he has been. He looks down at his black and round sectioned body and all he sees are spiny legs and long, strong jaws protruding from each side of his face, and when he looks back up there is no longer a city and there is no longer people. He is now overlooking thousands of his own, carrying items in and out of holes in the ground. Organised, monotonous, pointless.

He is apart from the crowd and some notice him. Others that look just like him, but bigger, approach. He has a deep desire to obey them, to fall in and do exactly what they say, but he refuses.

He takes another look down at the others just like him and begins tearing at his limbs with his large, sharp jaws. He tears off his legs and with tunnel vision digs his jaws into his body, again and again. Clear liquid oozes from the holes he has created in himself, and for the first time in his life he breathes his first and last real breath.

Short Story by Samuel Bensberg.



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