The Man Who Walked Alone
This is a short story I wrote to pay tribute to my favorite short story ever written. It could be perceived as a sequel or prequel, or just a homage to simply the greatest short fiction ever written, IMO. I hope you enjoy this strange and twisted tale of a man named Johnny Moses.
The Man Who Walked Alone
Johnny Moses is a strange man. Many people try and break down the reasons that lead to a person becoming a loner; bad parenting, no parenting, only child, bullied at school, traumatic event in the past. But Johnny had none of those. He had very loving parents, 3 brothers and 2 sisters. He never got bullied at school because, well, barely anyone ever saw him at school. He always roamed alone. And he found out at a very early age that he was very good at it. He challenged himself; he would fallow people in the hallways and see how long he could fallow them without them knowing. It started off with him following a person down a hallway, than ducking out at the end. But he never got caught. So he kept going. He would fallow them at lunch, watch them interact with people from a distance, fallow them to lunch, and then fallow them home. This became more than just a thrill for Johnny, it became a passion that consumed every part of him. I cant really tell you what he got out of this. Like I said, Johnny Moses is a very strange man.
Johnny Moses is an adult now. Hes working a 9-5 office job, in a town thats buttfuck in the middle of nowhere. Office job, the perfect job for a character like Johnny. He barely had to talk to anyone throughout the work day. Johnny despised people. He hated how fake everyone was, and how scripted their conversations were. “no one gives a fuck about your kids, how you got a better mortgage rate, what your ugly ass wife is doing, or how good your golf swing has gotten.” But when people did talk to Johnny, he was faker than them all. And he was very good at it. He had to be quick on his feet, and good with human interaction, because of his passion.
Johnny Moses is an adult now. He no longer follows people through highschool hallways, or observe them while in the cafeteria. It was much more than that now. It was much more intricate, precise, and with a strict guidelines which he always adhered to. Never follow anyone over 55; they are boring. Never follow more than 1 person, its always too hard to decide who to go after when they split. Never follow any shady looking characters; dont want to end up being the witness to a murder or a crackdeal. There was nothing sexual about what Johnny did. He rarely followed women, and even if he did, he chose them for their story, not for their looks. Johnny had gotten good at what he loved. Really REALLY good. His record for following and observing someone? 16 days. He rarely ever got caught anymore, and even if he did, he was quick on his feet and got out of trouble just as quick as he got into it. No criminal record, no known enemies; just a man doing what he loves to do. Like I said, Johnny Moses, is a very strange man.
Today was a very exciting day for Johnny Moses. Today was the day to pick a new target. Johnny had a very strict code of guidelines when picking a person, but he almost always went by his gut reaction. He went to the super market for his selection process today. “which one of these people has the best story to tell” he thought to himself. A women, late 40′s, shopping cart filled with meat by products, pet supplies, and other household goods. “Housewife, no doubt. Not today, too dull”. A teenager, looks to be about 19, shopping cart full of Coke, pizza pockets, and beer. “Not bad. House party, 19 year olds. But, not really feeling the house party at this moment.” Than he saw a man, mid to late 40′s, shopping cart full of party decorations, and BBQ food. Interesting. He followed him to the checkout lane, Johnny needed a little more information on this man before he could make his decision. He overheard a friendly conversation between the man and the cashier. He also heard the words “preparing for a big festival tonight..where can I find outdoor lighting…”. Outdoor festival, these words excited Johhny. He loved festivals, they were ever so perfect for following. He could get very close to his targets in festivals, almost touch them, listen to there every word, and never get caught. This is the guy.
The journey started off pretty slow. He named the man Dunbar. Johnny always named his targets, and he named every his targets interacted with. He made backstories, side stories, work history, everything. He created a world for them, inside his mind. Dunbar went to the liqor store, picked up 8 bottles of whiskey. He went to the home Depot, picked up the outdoor lighting he had previously been talking about. He would occasionally talk to people, some he knew, some he was just being friendly with. This dunbar character was well known in this community, and very well loved. A couple times during the day, people would come up to him and tell him how excited they were for tonight, and how they couldnt believe its already been a year since last year’s festival. Many people also asked him if his son would finally be at this year’s festival. Apparently Dunbar had a son named billy ray, left his house when he was 14 years old and never returned. To Johnny, it sounded like he ran away from home. He also picked up that no one had heard from or seen Billy ray in 17 years. “must be hard having a son that you have what he looks like anymore, a full grown adult.” Thought Johnny. Everything was going ever so great. Dunbar was definitely a great choice for a target, interesting stories surrounded this loving, caring, gentle man. Johnny felt at ease following him, so much so that he started letting his guard down and just enjoying the story he was watching a little bit too much.
Dunbar got in his car and started driving on the road that led out of town. Looks like its finally time for the festival, thought Johnny. He was getting so excited, he could barely contain himself. After driving for some time, they got to the entrance of what looked like an oversized barn. Huge, with dozens of cars lining up to go inside and even more people walking about. This was the place. Johnny parked his car a few hundred feet away from the entrance. He decided it was best to walk inside. Now, usually, Johnny would scope a place out before going inside anywhere. He always needed to know that what he was entering was safe. But this was a barn, with families and children running about, playing tag and whatnot. And he was following Dunbar, the nicest man in town. Johnny opted to forgo his standard guidelines, and made his way towards the entrance. He got to the front of the line pretty quickly, but was a little setback when there seemed to be a security person at the door asking for people’s names. Very strange, thought Johnny, but not unmanageable. “name?” Asked the Security personal. “John Mayor” Said Johnny. “sorry, but your not on the list. Im going to have to ask you to step aside and we are going to go have a talk with the head of security.” Said the security guard. Oh no, no no no, thought Johnny. He had his wallet on him, his ID, everything. He would be booked, probably get a record for trespassing, or something. He couldnt let that happen. He needed to get out of this. He needed to make up something, get inside this place, and than sneak out of here and never look back. This wasnt how it was suppose to happen. “im sorry sir, but my real name is Billy Ray. Im ____’s son. Im sorry I told you the wrong name, its just that I havent seen him in 17 years, and I wanted to surprise him. Please dont tell him im here, its a surprise!” Said Johnny, always quick on his feet. The guard smiled and let him in. Perfect. The guard wouldnt tell Dunbar, and Johnny would sneak out the back entrance before anyone would even notice he was here.
Johnny blend into the huge crowd, trying to look as inconspicuous as he could while making his way towards the rear entrance. “too bad I cant stay here longer” thought Johnny. This place was bursting with families, and children, and stories. He couldnt risk it, not even for a second. He was half way through the barn, when suddenly someone grabbed him by his shoulder. Dunbar. FUCK. FUCK. “I…” Dunbar managed to squeeze out. Johnny thought about running. “I..Cant believe its you. I knew it. I always knew you would come back! I just knew it!” Said Dunbar, his face elated with Joy. This disturbed Johnny, but atleast he knew he wasnt in trouble. Change of plans. Make friendly with pretend Daddy, say his to a couple people, ask to use the bathroom and get the fuck out of here.
Dunbar Took Johnny to many different people, introducing him, and retelling the story of how Billy Ray left his house suddenly many years ago. Johnny would smile along, make fake talk with everyone. Hug little children, bullshit with husbands, and compliment the wives. Johnny despised these human interactions, but he had to do it. Until he could get a chance to sneak away to the bathroom. Just a few more moments, and he would make his escape. Finally, after what seemed like hours, He saw Dunbar leave towards the main stage, and immediately Johnny went for the Exit. He was almost there, when he heard the loud speakers turn from music, to the sound of Dunbar’s voice. “Hello everyone, and welcome to this years festival! We are so glad all of you can join us once again, as we celebrate our 35th year of holding this festival. But this year, to me personally, is the best festival ever. Thats because my son is back! Billy Ray has come back home after 17 years”. The crowd applauded. Johnny said Fuck. Dunbar went on, “Now, I know that we usually hold the lottery at the end of the festivities, but im just ever so excited, that I think we should just do it now? How would you like that Billy Ray! I knew as a child how badly you wanted to be selected, but you never did. Maybe this is your year, kid!” Johnny said Fuck. He hadnt heard anything about this lottery contest at all during the entire day he had been fallowing Dunbar. “it better not be some kind of win a dinner with Dunbar kinda deal” thought Johnny.
Johnny watched patiently from the crowd as Dunbar and other gentlemen carefully went through the list, making sure every name was accounted for and everyones name was on its own piece of paper. They went through this process for well over 30 minutes, taking extreme care with everything they did. Johnny had never seen a group of people so obsessed with a stupid contest before. The crowd grew impatient with anticipation. The children were jumping and screaming, “Lottery! Lottery! Lottery!” while the adults drank there whiskey, smiled and sang folksongs. Johnny just stood and watched, as people came up to him and with smiles on their face said “Billy Ray! I hope you win!”
Johnny stood and watched as Dunbar called everyone to the main stage, it was time to make the drawing. Dunbar spun the container that held all the names inside it, telling jokes to the crowd in the process. People were no longer holding their excitement in, as almost everyone in the entire barn was jumping, hooting and hollering in anticipation. Johnny watched as Dunbar picked out a name out of the container. “damnit, he better not pick me” Thought Johnny, ever so non-chalently. Dunbar started to smile even before he spoke, “The winner of this years lottery is..LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BILLY RAY!!” The crowd erupted in applause, as the people standing directly around Johnny started giving him hugs and high five’s. Fuck, thought Johnny. two of the larger gentlemen came and took Johnny by the arms, taking him towards the stage.”shit, might as well get this over with.” thought Johnny. Out of the corner of his eye, he started seeing the crowd going over to bins and taking things out, although he couldnt make out what it was they were taking out. “Im so happy for you son, you have no idea how happy I am you won the Lottery. You completely deserve it, you have always deserved it” Dunbar said to Johnny, with tears of joy flowing down his eyes.
They took Johnny up onto the stage, and one of the bigger gentlemen started tieing up Johnny’s hands. “wait, what the fuck is this? Why are you tieing my hands” Johnny shouted, growing nervous as to what was going on. “Dont worry about it Billy Ray, just standard tradition, come on you remember how it goes!” Said Dunbar. Johnny tried to get out of the strings that tied his hands, but he couldnt. He looked around at the crowd, still hooting and hollering. He could now see what was in their hands, what they had been taking out of the bins. Every single person, Child, mother, grandfather, all had the same thing. Stones. “What…what the fuck is going on here? What the fuck are you all doing? Let me out, now. PLEASE.” But his voice was drowned out by the crowd, which was getting closer and closer the Johnny. “Come on now, everyone!” Said Dunbar as he threw the first stone which hit Johnny square in the side of the head. “Please. Please, this isnt fair. this… isnt right,” Johnny screamed on last time, and then they were all upon him.
I forgot to mention, the short story that inspired this story is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. If you enjoyed this story, or were confused by why it went down the way it did, read that story. It blows me away everytime.
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