Distorte is a collection of stories written by Pierce Gleeson

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The Real Man

Does the real man exist? No one is sure. He is often seen from passing aeroplanes, lying out in some valley meadow, picking idly at his teeth with a pine trunk. Witnesses report confused perspectives; snow-capped mountains are the mounds where he rests his head, surging rivers dammed by one sprawled leg, lakes forming in the crook of an arm.

What could he eat? shout the skeptics. He’d strip the plains bare. He drink the valleys dry. Explorers send back photographs of themselves posing, arms stretched, in the crater of one toeprint. Measurements vary, suggesting hoaxes or gaffes, or both. “A family,” some say. But only the real man is seen, and only from aeroplanes.

He lives in a cave, they say. He lives in the underworld, emerging only to nap in the sun. He has cattle, claim others, behemoths that trail him across the ranges, grazing the forests like grassland, feeding and clothing him in this land of ants. Others again are sure he walks naked. For what could cover him? His face and shoulders are ruddy from towering above the morning mists.

An old woman emerges from her cabin into midday darkness that lifts as suddenly as an eclipse, but her eyes are too weak to see what blotted out the sun. Two mountain climbers are nearly buried by an avalanche which, they maintain, rained down after what sounded like a string of sneezes. A river turns yellow for two days. Proof, say some. Supposition, say others.

What could he teach us? We picture him wise, although we’ve never heard him speak. What could he do for us? What would he do for us? Move our mountains? Vanquish or enemies? Why does the real man ignore us? How can we mean so little to him?

Written by Pierce Gleeson
Posted on the 20 Mar, 2011