Tales from the Back of the Book

Black Topped Caper

On the first day of my senior year I strolled around the campus knowing exactly where everything was. To the world, I was an automaton, quietly moving along with the flow. Inside, however, I was devastated by the course of my education, how certain aspects of it were faring. I hadn’t been getting the courses I wanted. I had gone through all the levels of frustration the situation brought, and I was finally coping with the reality of what it all meant, yet a residual feeling of unease lingered as I moved amid the blur of the student body. I had always tried to keep a positive attitude about the future, and I figured I would do what I always did best: I would adapt; and yet these thoughts stuck to my mind as I pelted from class to class. I thought about the money I was spending, that vast sum that would have me making payments until the day I died. That I was able to adapt did not always alleviate the tension matters caused. Life wasn’t perfect nor tailored to suit me and me alone, of course I knew this, but later on, after I had made a stop at the library, a muggy gloom just seemed to follow me around.

I again took note of the students sprawling about the campus in every possible direction. I let the stimulation flood my senses as I realized that in spite of the discomfort I was feeling, life was teeming about me. No one among us could be better or worse than anyone else in the world, as long as everyone was trying, and the bulk of the people I interacted with possessed such positive spirits. Life was for the living, and I could count myself one among them, yet curiously enough, it was here as I pondered on such thoughts that I was met with the unexepected. Much to my surprise, and seemingly from out of nowhere, a girl wearing a backpack came running up to me. She was breathing fast trying to catch her breath, and she stopped me in my tracks grabbing me by the arm in a hectic manner.

“That man,” she cried, “save me from that man!”

The look on her face was desperate and her eyes bore into me like spinning drills. The energy was frantic and I barely stood still in the aftershock of our abrupt collision. She did not stay with me for long. In fact, as I witnessed a flurry of activity unfolding down the side walk, the girl took off away from me just as fast as she had appeared. In her wake, the gesticulating movements of a man clad in black–a strange fact in the face of the blazing, late-summer sun–wobbled towards me in the nearing distance. Onlookers turned their heads aghast at the man, who was mumbling aloud, lifting his knees high into the air as he plodded along. He wore a black top hat that matched a solid black cape lined with fine red velvet. His pressed black pants complimented a pair of glossy black dress shoes, and the only thing that didn’t match this outlandish get up were the streams of drool pouring forth from his mouth. Considering the bizarre nature of the situation, I thought, changing my mind, that the drool was a characteristic appropriately fitting for this odd, frightening semblance of a human being.

For some unknown reason, my first impulse was to let the crazy man pass. The girl was well ahead and surely security would catch him as he was not moving all that fast. I rethought the matter instinctually, thinking of the horrified look on the girl’s face. I thought I heard the distant sounds of her shouts still yelling for help, and with another look at the loon approaching, his eyes spinning, his wiry hair on the fritz beneath that ridiculous hat, I interrupted his boisterous course with a bump of my left shoulder. Knocked completely off guard, and with an expression of utter astonishment rising quickly into his countenance, we then stood looking at each other as though nothing else in the entire world were relevant at that singular moment in time.

The moment grew tense. His chest heaved in and out from his fast breathing while a crude snarl escaped from beneath the slight contortion of his upper lip. His wily eyes, positioned above a gnarled and reddened nose, stared like fires blazing from the infernal pit of hell. Our gaze was caught in a spell of fixation, yet the strange man looked appalled, as though I’d interfered with a task of the utmost importance, for his mouth stood wide open, agape with shock.

Silence grew and all around, groups of onlookers lined up to observe, abiding by some eerie patience that seemed to bring forth the most inconspicuous elements of their souls. The two of us, we stood before the spectating crowd like fleshly statues on edge, braced for some reaction to ensue, our limbs quivering near motionless. The vile spark in his glare tore at me in my stand, and I struggled to keep my head high, widening my eyes to counter the sting of this psychical onslaught. He slurped on his drool and grinded his teeth, moving his head ever so slightly from side to side, and I felt frozen as though mesmerized by the beady eyes of a snake. He lifted his black, bushy eyebrows, and I lifted mine own to counter. I tried to fire a look that would dispell the madness, but my efforts could only be dashed away by the severity of his grotesque scowl. We ignored the incoming officers finally dispatched to attend the situation, and still our eyes squinted hard at each other. I was trying to figure him out, and he me, and we could have been fighting the battle that wizards fight when they thrust their invisible powers, vying for the depths of complete control.

Finally, he let out a gasp. He noted the armed men on the approach, and they seemed to make him nervous. My gaze broke and my heart seemed cracked, for I felt I had been learning of some deep mystery within that minute span of silent but intellectualized terror. The thing tried to hobble away, but was quickly over taken by his new captors, and I, too, became in an instance, a spectator along with the rest of those unmoving people watching over the scene of our exchange.

We all stood, the capture of a villain unfolding. A monster of society subdued, his crime unknown. With fixed eyes we gawked. The silence was uncanny, and the situation became ceremonious, as though some great man had just lost his soul. They carried the pitiful thing away with its pitiful look in its eyes. The moment was solemn even, and I surprised myself by the lines I recited aloud, devoid words surfacing from the pool of my stirred emotions:

Deep in the age when the fires
Forged the rock of time’s lore
The symbolic loss of the past
Took us by storm to herald faith
Yet the forlorn paths that led men
Astray to the sodden hillsides
Offered no hope for the bastard
Animals baring their teeth, grinding
Till the spires of truth ascended
Their unparalleled heights
Scraping the sky by thousands
Only to have their shameless pride
Cut to the grounds helpless
Where the empty leaves of yesterday’s trees
Are blown by the restless wind.

All of us, let us empathize
For the encaged man,
For who among us can know
What the world means
To mingle among the souls
Who claim to know sanity.

[To account for the lost time I used to devote to writing fiction, I have been utilizing the moments before my classes begin to invoke my creative side. I begin at the back of my notebook as to allow for the rest of the notebook to serve its academic purposes, and I let my pencil run wild. The activity works well and has even spawned the beginning of a non-ghost story novel. At any rate, if the pieces are short enough, then the blog is the place they belong until I complete my first volume of short stories.]

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2 Responses to Tales from the Back of the Book

  1. woowooteacup says:

    Gripping! Good description of the crazy man.

  2. LK says:


    This back of the book activity is really helping me with my need to create.

    Immersed in the world of post-teen life, YA stories unlike the story posted are cropping up as well, hehe. Of course, the transfer from paper to computer required much editing, which makes me admire all the more those who can write w/o computers.

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