Lights flickered and glimmered in Hepburn.
Adonis was engulfed in a silky white glow as the moonlight illuminated him as he drove through Hepburn's slums.
Hepburn was once a prosperous mining and manufacturing town but now lies idle. Yet, some remnants of life still exist; Adonis realized he was not the only one there.
A wall of shadows cascaded down from tarnished pewter buildings sprawled throughout it. To refuel, he stopped at a gas station. Outside, a homeless person played the drums.
Adonis was perplexed. Why was a homeless person playing in a dormant sleeping town, a shell of its former self, a husk, if you will? A hollowed tree trunk with a clay and metal exterior, coated with the skins of water animals, never sounded so appealing to Adonis.
Compared to the cacophony of the city, this music was calming. Nature's soothing atmosphere gravitated Adonis towards the homeless man, almost like an impossible force drawing him in. Was this destiny? Fate? God's plan? He pondered some more.
Up close, the homeless man had a tan complexion with deathly green eyes, which looked almost like dying foliage. How beautifully leaves age, how full of color and light they are in the last days. Yet, Adonis saw his own life and he couldn't be some Autumn leaf. He could no longer look at the sky with the will to blissfully live. When it was his time to leave, he couldn't fall to the ground. Adonis needed purposeful adventure.
The homeless man wore a stained straw hat with a ripped T-shirt. The man looked worn out, like a shell of his former self, making Adonis suspicious and questioning why was this man here? Why he here to lure people in with this wallowing self-pity?
A homeless shelter or the rapidly growing suburbs are both viable options for this man, so why sit down in this dead place? Adonis needed to know his story.
"Do you mind if I sit down with you?" Adonis bellowed.
"Sure. You're the first to ask me that," the man replied.
"What's your name, by any chance?"
"Adler. It means Lord in Greek, which is strange because I don't feel like one. I feel like merely a shepherd who has lost all of his sheep. I constantly gaze at the bleached shrubbery, blackened skies, an eclipsed sun, and the pooling of currents of energy inside of us, and I wonder: why are we so disconnected? Life is so beautiful, man."
"Okay... So, Adler… how did you become homeless… or disconnected from the rest of society? Why in God's name would you live out here? You could get a job…."
Before Adonis could finish his sentence, Adler interrupted him, "I was a contractor with about twenty employees working under me; you could say it was the dream life, you know. A big house, sweet cars, golden rings; and only when I lost it all due to a drug charge did, I realize it was all stuff. Just things."
"Why is it just things to you now? Society sees them as special."
"Because I was blinded by it all, so intoxicated by the musings of glory I concocted; I couldn't realize that when you lose things that blind you, reality hits like a fast train. I'm just a tree with no roots—a dead man. Those things have no worth in your grave; they are just concoctions of a society to give meaning to the workers. If people ain't got nothing to live for, that's how revolution happen, ya know?"
With immense focus, Adonis pondered and asked, "How, um, did prison change you? Ya know, with the drug charge? Um. Uh, sure, I know about the horror stories about it as a place of harsh punishment. However, did it not prepare you at all for the real world?"
Adler, wildly sighing, proclaimed, "The hardest thing about prison is not counting the blessed days of release but adjusting to a society that doesn't give a damn about you. I scoured for damn apartments—no one would take me in, even those who said they accepted felons like me. Look at the bigger picture: people do not accept those who remind them of what they can become with one false step. It reminds them that they can be broken fabric like me, so twisted with knots that redemption is so far away."
Adler's voice quivered, with profound sorrow, "I don't want to be a part of a society that doesn't care about me! I believe that there are a lot of good people in this society who just try to do the right thing for everyone; they claim that in their minds, yet if I was getting stabbed in broad daylight, nobody would care at all. You know?"
"Adonis, imagine a fly arrested mid-plunge above a strawberry pie, wanting to fulfill its grand abiding mission, diving into the sweet, red glaze. The fly craves its particular share of sweetness, even centuries after its death. A slight body with its transparent wings dove into the slice of the pie even when it knew tensed vocal cords would ring out in anger, but it endured whimpering cries, smiling at the vanity of their palms."
Adonis quickly interrupted Adler, "But, what's the truth in that story?"
"The truth is that fear persists. Anger that causes fear persists. Its trajectory cannot be changed or broken, only interrupted. Humans are like the fly: even when trapped in darkness, they believe they must selfishly accomplish goals of grandiose greed. They sacrifice their lives to gain even a slice of the pie, so enriching that it causes tremors."
He continued onwards like a rambling politician, "Let's face the facts: everyone longs for someone to save them, but they don't wish to become the hero. They want someone else to do it for them. Saviors. Haha. What a joke!"
Adonis twitched and said with a soft tremble, "Why… why are the people with the purest souls the ones who suffer the most?"
Adler faintly smiled, "Who said I was suffering? The fakes are suffering, ain't they?"
Adonis shouted with a burst of energy, "What?! You are suffering. Do you not have any friends to take you in? Are you crazy, man?! Don't be delusional."
Adonis was not expecting Adler's answer to his question.
"I'm gonna do what I love for a living, pal. I'll live in tents. I'll drink some dirt-infested water if it means people see me for who I truly am, not some facade people claim I am. I'd rather play the drums than go back to some contracting site to make money."
Adler thought a bit and continued, "Money is just cotton paper, but it makes us judge others. In the end, quite frankly, the world only knows ya by your mistakes."
He blathered as spit drooped from his face, "You could make the right decisions for twenty years and have a pristine career, make all of the money in the world, but what happens if you get addicted to a drug that takes control of ya? Who will truly come to save you? God? Please. Religion. No thanks. Homeless shelters. Not close. Billionaires donating to charity to avoid paying taxes? Haha, give me a break."
"I witnessed junkies coming through these parts. They treat their drug supply like it's the Holy Grail or something, like some mystical treasure that cannot be shared with other homeless people. Even when people have lost everything, they are still selfish. Apparently, heroin feels like you are wrapped in a warm blanket; you're back in the womb as nothing can go wrong and all of your worries are gone. Your cold, shivering body gets covered with warm honey starting at your head trickling down your body making you feel warm and good. But, once that drug high ends, reality strikes."
Adler's next message stuck accord with Adonis, "When you lost it all, you realize how much discomfort or even pain being alive is, but you were just too accustomed to it. People have lived in mansions, drove Ferraris, drank grand champagne, but still get addicted to drugs to satisfy their own broken reality. It's like I don't even matter to those homeless people; it ain't just the richest folks judging me."
Adonis shouted, "But I think you matter."
Adler was caught off guard. "You're one in a million."
He gave a hearty chuckle. "One time, I walked up to a woman and asked, 'What's the time?' Before I knew it, the woman yelled at me, 'I don't have any money, you damn junkie.' I was caught off guard. What could this woman have gone through to make her so afraid of human interaction and conversation? I could've needed her number if I was having a heart attack, but man, she startled me. She was even more broken than I was at my contracting job. So fixated on trying to be ordinary, just like sheep. They want to build up their digital profiles rather than their human ones."
Adonis replied, "You have changed my perspective on life. Our own digital worlds have shackled us from the real world. We parade our digital avatars around as if it was reality. We, as individuals, are scared of having real, meaningful conversations. This includes relationships too. We take people for who they say they are, as we are afraid of getting hurt by their true selves. Even when something good happens, we doubt ourselves and question whether it's true that we are being played again. Man, it seems like one person can change one hundred lives. I believe you matter, man."
"I agree, Adonis. The Internet has become their idol. They don't want any relationships no more. They stay glued to their phones and computers or whatever they hell they use nowadays. They would rather text for hours than have an actual conversation. They want those relationships where they can lie about who they are instead of being themselves. They would rather drive over me than give me some money because they are scared that I would spend their precious benajamins on drugs. This world is sad."
"This world ain't sad with people like you in it, Adler. Your story has proven to me that you deserve a second chance at life. We, as people, have to be the difference that we want to see in the world for it to truly change. We must not merely say words but commit to action that will revolutionize people's lives."
Adonis confabulated some more as Alder's grin widened, "Sure, everyone might die alone, but if you mean something to someone, if you help someone or love someone, if even a single person remembers you, then maybe you never really die at all."
"How are you gonna turn that ideal into reality, Adonis?"
"By changing the world, one life at a time."
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Some very fine imagery in this piece: “A hollowed tree trunk with a clay and metal exterior, coated with the skins of water animals, never sounded so appealing to Adonis.” “…the homeless man had a tan complexion with deathly green eyes, which looked almost like dying foliage.” I could relate to both Adler and Adonis, and their musing on what horrors technology has produced seems valid. My one piece of constructive (hopefully) criticism is that, in my opinion, Adonis replying: “You have changed my perspective on life,” while nice, happen...
Interesting take on the prompt. You leave the reader wanting more... :)
Glad you like it, Kendall! I wanted to make a happy story in the sight of all the horror stories we will probably be reading. You could say it was a stranger thing... in the midst of the other stories to see such a happy tale! ;) Thank you for the comment. I appreciate it! :D