A million bits of shattered glass lay strewn on the street. Glittering in the sun they refracted a million more stars of every color imaginable onto the cold grey concrete. The bits of glass watched the shadow pass, as a dark bird landed among them.
The raven was ugly and misshapen, but had an affinity for shiny objects. It picked up one of the glittering pieces in its beak, but dropped it quickly as the shards began to shift and move in concert. The bird flitted away several paces and watched as the shimmering fragments coalesced and began to take form, jingling and tinkling as they flowed over one another.
“Hey there! Get back here!” shouted a voice. The bird squawked at the man approaching but continued to watch the distinct shape form out of the glass.
The man arrived just in time for the glass man to be reborn. He scooped up the bird and placed it in a nest of grass and twigs set in a large cavity where his chest should have been.
“Excuse us,” said the strange man with the bird, “We didn’t mean to disrupt your oblivion.”
The glass man just looked at him. In a world of rock and tree people, this man was rather different. He was made of a thousand bit of random things, stones, old bottles, cogs, and twisted wire. The glass man tried to reflect him, but could not.
“What are you?” he questioned abruptly.
“Me? I’m not entirely sure. I guess you could call me a man of Many Things. My friend here is called Fear,” the man replied still tending to the bird in its oddly placed house, “and you are?”
“I am Glass Man,” the younger replied, his colors shifting rapidly as he averted his eyes from the unusual impenetrable visitor.
“I very much doubt that,” Many Things still hadn’t looked up from his pet, and seemed to speak more to himself than to the boy.
“Put that those away, flames hardly suit you, and I know you don’t really mean it,” Glass flinched at the abruptness of the man’s words. As Glass watched the man’s appearance morphed in a blink to reflect the scarlet fire he had become when his identity had been challenged. The burning duo shifted in sync to a blushing pink hue before Many Things morphed back to himself, leaving Glass alone in his tender vermillion.
Many Things looked about, not seeming to notice Glass’s discomfort.
“Would you like to have a sit?” he said casually as he strolled towards a nearby bench.
Glass wanted nothing to do with this man, but felt oddly drawn by his peculiarity. He walked stiffly and stood beside the bench on which Many Things now reposed. An awkward silence spread as Many Things sat and smiled at the sun above. Glass shifted his feet, and started to speak.
“I can’t quite say what your glass is like, but there really aren’t many folk out there quite like us.” Many Things broke the silence first. He sighed and rested his elbows on his knees, staring at the ground with hands clasped. The awkward bird clambered from its nest, now tipped sideways and climbed up onto his back. Many Things shifted appearance again, this time becoming transparent for a split second before returning to his smiling self “But there are more than you might think.”
Glass saw the mottled green he had become and forced himself into a resolute grey, taking on the facsimile of granite. Many Things looked up at him still smiling, “No worries mate.”
“Would you like to hear a story?” Many Things continued, looking out at the grounds before them. Glass didn’t have a chance to respond before Many Things started in.
“I once thought I was a man of glass. I felt different, and I was ashamed. I everyone wanted to see their reflection in me, but no one could show me my reflection. I couldn’t feel for myself and so I filled myself with the bits of others. But reflections are not real and when there were no others around I felt odd and didn’t know how to appear. I felt like I was the only one like me in the world; it was a lonely existence. Eventually I fell in love; and with a Flame no less. She was brilliant you know; a passionate fire. I tried to be something for her. I even pasted bits of rock to my brittle skin, but it didn’t work. Then I tried reflecting her beauty back to her as best as I could, that was a mistake. No one can stand to see their full self, not all at once. I’m afraid my reflection only dimmed her light, and without anything of my own to give her she waned until she was only a barely burning ember, nearly as alone and empty as I was.”
“Thats when I became the Empty Man. I had nothing to give, nothing to live for, I wasn’t the shattering type, so I just ran. I ran and ran until I could run no further. There are lots of runners out there you know, all with different reasons. I swore that I would not stop until I became something real, something new.”
“And that’s when it happened. In my race I came across a Traveler. He told me that he traveled the wilds of the earth collecting things of value. I believed him because his worn shoes and scars consented to his tale.”
“The Traveler gave me a burlap bag tied with a red cord. He said he had searched high and low for the thing it contained, even risking his life. Then he gave it to me.”
“I wasn’t sure what else to do so I took the thing, and continued on my way. I opened the sack and to my surprise Fear burst out of it. A mangy wild beast he was at that time, he disgusted me more than anything I had ever seen. Nasty too. He attacked me almost instantly. I barely escaped with my life.”
“Oh, I see, so you eventually tamed your ‘fear’,” Glass motioned with air quotes as his exterior became frosty.
“If he was tame, I wouldn’t have been chasing him just now, would I?” Many Things smirked and continued, “No, Fear stalked me for a while, always haunting me as I ran. Then, as you say, the tables turned and I stalked him back. I tried catching him, taming him, but the more I tried the stronger and more violent he became.”
Glass sighed, wondering where the story was going and how much more he would have to endure.
“At last it came down to it, and I just couldn’t take anymore. I decided to subdue the lousy bird or die trying. Fear and I fought a long time, a really long time,” just then Glass noticed the scars on the man’s arms and back. The raven was now picking at bugs in the grass as Many Things watched and continued talking.
“It ended in a stale mate, both of us too weary and injured to continue, and that’s when it happened,” Many Things looked up at Glass.
“We were both to weak to survive without each other’s help. And so for the first time we had to help each other.”
“Now, I offer Fear shelter and whatever food I have to share, without restraint mind you, and he brings me trinkets that give me substance and replace the glass. He still strays now and again, but I always follow. I care for him and he cares for me. That’s how I became a man of Many Things.”
Many Things looked up at the sky.
“Some of us are born with hearts that cannot be restrained; that are so wild they are lost or abandoned along the way. I think Fear and I must have been separated early, before my memory begins. But we weren’t made to be glass men, you and I, glass men aren’t made to last.”
Many Things stood suddenly from his repose.
“It’s been nice chatting, but I’m on my way back to my Flame. It’s been far too long. Now where did that damn bird get too?”
Both men looked around but the raven was no where to be seen.
“There he is! Little bastard.” Many Things pointed off across the field as fleeting black feathers disappeared into the forest. “Here we go again!”
“Good luck kid, I hope to see you around again someday,” called the strange man as he darted off across the field towards Fear. As he ran great wings made of the assorted bits that composed the man of Many Things grew from his back.
Glass watched until he flew out of sight, a tumult of waves swirling through his transparent body. He turned to leave and a dim yellow light began to glow from his eyes as he caught sight of a small card left on the bench.
‘153 East Main’ was scrawled on the card in messy print. Glass put the card in his pocket not knowing what else to do and continued back to his home.
Many weeks later, Glass was strolling through the grey city, mirroring its coldness. He was looking down at his feet and so nearly collided with the man in his path.
“Oh, excuse me,” said Glass looking up. His eyes met the cool grey pair of a weather worn man with a tattered beard and an immense pack on his back. He of course tried to reflect the man, as was his habit, but for the second time in his life found that he could not.
A flashback of the prior encounter with Many Things leapt to his mind as sparks surged through his transparent frame. His hand went to his pocket where the card still remained.
He looked up and saw the street sign which read ‘East Main’ in large letters, white on green. Glass looked back at the man, who still had not spoken. The stranger had set down his walking stick and was quickly rummaging through his massive pack.
He turned back quickly to Glass who was now a scintillating black and white. The man bore no expression, only a brown sack tied with a thin red cord.
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