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Hungry Wanderer

I sweat when I walk. And I walk a lot. It’s a good thing, sweating; releases whatever is built up inside you, all that energy your body absorbs.

I have a problem taking in more than I can handle. That’s one reason why I’m walking all the time. From town to ghost town, from highway to dusty road. It’s a living. I didn’t mean or plan for it to be this way. I was just kinda born into it.

Well, I got a long way between here and the nearest settlement. I can tell you about what happened in the last town I went to — a little dot on the map called Casper, about five miles back southeast.

I arrive on foot, in the morning. Like how I always come across a new town. Strange, as if probability is stacked against me. Anyway, I enter Casper. It ain’t much. Two roads that intersect in the center, forming a town square. Each road is about three miles long. You can walk the entire town in a few hours. And I do. I walk around it twice.

I count as I walk. One general store. One school. One clinic. One bar/restaurant. One small bookstore/cafe — I guess for the non-drinkers. One church; Presbyterian, if you’re wondering. About fifteen or so houses. Real small, quaint. A nowhere town.

It’s early, pre-dawn. I’m hungry and I don’t see no people during my first walkabout. I continue walking and my hunger gives way to sadness; sadness gives way to frustration and frustration boils into anger. I start sweating real bad, even though the autumn air is cool against my neck and breezes through the loose legs of my trousers, up on through the sleeves of my shirt.

Still, I’m hot, angry and hungry. This ain’t a good look. I’m ready to punch my hand clean through the nearest window.

I reach the town square, again, and bank left. That’s when I hear a door open and close behind me. “Greetings, stranger.”

I turn to face the speaker. A cop — a deputy sheriff given her uniform and star on her chest — is glaring at me with intense green eyes.

“Hello,” I say.

She steps down from the police station/courthouse/mayor’s office, struts towards me, hand hovering above gun handle, keys and cuffs jingling like bells of war. She stops a few feet from me, her freckly face all scrunched up. “You lost?”

Her energy smacks me. I lick my lips, taste her hostility in the air between us. It’s bitter. I spit it out. It doesn’t suit me. Her bitterness is gross.

I shake my head. “No, ma’am.” I’ll play the coon to placate her and get what I desperately crave. “I’ma jus’ passin’ thru.”

“Passing through? It’s the crack of dawn. Why ain’t you home?”

“Well, I reckon that’s ’cause I ain’t got no home to go to.” I shrug. “And I ain’t see a motel or nut’in’.”

The deputy’s expression softens. Her stance relaxes. Is that pity I sense? No, that’s not it. I hit the jackpot: she’s emitting compassion. Mmmm, even yummier.

“Look, buddy, that ain’t no way to be,” says the deputy. “We’re good Christian folk here. I got a complaint — a call — about a suspicious looking African-American male wandering around town. I came out to investigate. No one realized you were homeless. Like I said, we good Christian folk here.” She smiles, weakly, gestures to the building behind him. “Why don’t you come on inside, get some coffee and a sandwich and tell me how you came to be wandering around town.”

I accept her offer. Drink her bland ass coffee, eat her stale ass ham and Swiss sandwich. She watches me eat. I feel like a lab mouse.

“So, where you coming from?” she asks as I force swallow the last bit of sandwich. The aura that drifts off her skin floats towards my nose. A tinge of honey sweetness has infiltrated her bitterness.

“Mountain Pine,” I say. Not a lie. I had come from there — I left in a cloud of smoke after sucking the town dry, having fed on all the positive energy them good folks had to offer. It lay a few miles to the south.

The cop leans forward, intrigued. “I heard what happened there. Some wild shit — pardon my language.”

Here’s what happened in Mountain Pine:

I walked in, did my tour by twilight. Folks were out in about and greeted me — no phone calls to the police about a suspicious man walking about. Women, men and children smiled and nodded, gave a friendly “hi” or “hello” as they went about their tasks — sweeping the porch or sidewalk, delivering mail, watering flowers.

I sucked up their joy one by one. It felt good. Their peace, harmony and serenity filled the air like a miasma and I breathed it in. I indulged my gluttonous ways, unable to prevent myself from absorbing their positive energies like sun rays.

I sucked them up way too fast. Their contentment soon turned to fear, and it didn’t take much for that fear to morph into anger. I ended up being ran out of town because I had looked at the shopkeeper’s wife longer than he felt was appropriate. And I guess she seemed not to had mind my looking. He came at me with a shotgun, calling me all kinds of slurs. I skedaddled. Wasn’t the first time something like that had happened. Wouldn’t be the last, neither.

The deputy listens to my story, silently, barely moving, not even sipping her nasty ass coffee. Her calm expression drops when I reach my conclusion. She’s already dry, empty of anything good — I siphon energy while I speak; sucking in a person’s goodness as I weave my tall tales. I’ve seen it happen countless times before. A person’s compassion and eagerness to protect is easily transformed into fear and willingness to destroy any threat — real or imaginary.

Anyway, the deputy jumps up out of her chair, withdraws her gun and points it at me. Her arms and hands are shaking. She’s close enough for that not to matter if she decides to pull that trigger. “You — you’re inhuman; a demon!”
I most certainly am not a demon. Well, at least I don’t think I am. Everyone I encounter, once I feed on them, says I’m one. But I don’t think I am. Both of my parents are human; how could they give birth to a demon? I just go around minding my business, living my life and trying to eat. I can’t help that what sustains me might harm others. I can’t control my hunger or my ability to absorb and feed on positive auras.

“Ma’am, I am not a demon.” I raise my palms in a non-threatening manner. Too bad I’ve already sucked the cop dry of any emotion other than fear.
She fires off three rounds into my chest.

Yeah, she ruined my favorite shirt — that’s why I ain’t wearing one now. The impact knocked me back in my seat. It toppled over onto the floor. I recovered before she did; I got up before she could skirt around the table and inspect my body.

Boy, she was in complete shock when she saw me hop on up like I had only slipped on a waxy floor. She just stood there, paralyzed — dropped her sidearm and everything. I glanced down at the holes in my shirt, groaned, and ripped it off as I stomped out of the building.

The folks outside were frozen too, all staring at the multipurpose building I sauntered out of. There I was: a shirtless Black man, a monster, with bullet wounds sealing in front of their beady little eyes. They were no good for food. Nothing but fear in their bodies. Most of them hollered and ran away as I swaggered down the steps.

I got to the street and kept on walking. Everyone gave me a wide berth as I walked straight out of town.

I kept on walking and eventually ran into you. And here we are, you and me — a guy who feeds off energy and survives gun shots at near point-blank range. I guess that would make me a demon in anyone’s eyes. What do you think; am I a demon?

No comment, eh?

Well, it’s a long walk to the next town and I’m getting mighty hungry. Got anything to eat?

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