The blackbird sings to him
'Brother, brother, If this be the last song
you shall sing -- 'Sing well,
for you may not sing another;
- "Into Battle" Julian Grenfell
Let's start this simply and without fanfare, for now that I am able to write it down and present it to the public, he would have liked it to be nothing more than the truth. My name is Abigail Atchison and this is not a story about me, nor is it a story about someone who I wish to be or a story of how by some great turn of fortune I suddenly discovered the true nature of what it means to be. This is the story of a man, who by twist of fate, managed to expose to me a view of a largely diminished world. These are his words, and these are his experiences, unaltered, undiluted, as they were when they happened. I will ask that no conclusions be drawn prematurely about this man; he is not someone to be loathed nor is he someone to be made into a hero. He, like so many of us, merely existed in and was never selected to be either famous or infamous. He spent his life victim to the throes of History; like so many of us do without our knowledge, floating, in space and time.
The year was 1974, a year dominated by glam rock fashion and glitzy British rock bands. Oil Embargos were ended and Nuclear limitations were agreed upon, an American president was almost impeached and a new one sworn in. A speed limit of 55mph was imposed to conserve precious gas. Lucy was introduced to the world and machines that would later become known as "Calculators" were starting to appear in the arsenal of every student all over the globe.
I was a college student in Detroit, struggling and going through all the woes that all people between the ages of 18 and 25 seem to be caught in. I had barely moved in when I started hearing all the rumors and ugly talk from the upper classmen about some fiendish, faceless man, a local in the community, that they simply called "The Muller". I was introduced to this new character one afternoon while walking to the cafeteria to see if I could manage to stomach my way through some of the poor excuse for food that they served us when I happened to pass by him. He was tall, even for the old man he was; he was far taller than I was; that was for sure, though it was not like that was an unachievable goal since I stand only five foot five.
A rickety old German shepherd limped its way along side him, never taking its eyes off him as it walked, ready to respond as fast as it was physically possible to any lead or command the man would give. He shuffled his way, with the help of his cane, through the campus, taking notice of no one, not caring if anyone took notice of him for he kept his eyes forward and down turned slightly, straying occasionally to the dog hobbling beside him. When I saw him, some part of me froze, knowing that this was the ever infamous Muller that everyone talked about. And for all I had heard, I avoided him that day, quickly moving to the other side of the sidewalk as he passed, to collar of his shabby, brown, old great coat turned up against the wind.
He walked by, not even noticing what happened, his eyes still ahead of him, relying heavily on the cane at his side for walking and support. My eyes followed him all the way until I turned the corner to get to my next class. Muller indeed was decrepit: every crease, every wrinkle upon his facade fell about his sharp features. His face, seemingly carved out of stone, had an eternal scowl chiseled into it, his eyes merely chips of sapphire upon the surface. Dark circles hung under them standing out glaringly obvious against the pale stark white of his skin. His nose curved out from his forehead in a c-shape only to drop abruptly down his face and then come back above his mouth just as sharply. His high cheekbones created shadowed pits upon his face, laced and creased with age and dappled with liver spots. The thick rimmed glasses rested low upon the bridge of his nose aiding his weak eyes. The aged, brown fedora sat upon his head, pulled down over his skull, protecting his near bald head against the chilly fall weather.
Despite all this conjecture I had heard, he looked like any other old man that was alive in the world. At first I did not see it, but when I had I felt my hands get a tingly feeling, the feeling one gets when they see something they are not meant too and have just been caught in the act. The feeling when your brain tells you to avert your eyes, your conscious says that staring is rude, yet your entire persona suddenly becomes locked in watching what ever you were witnessing. My green eyes stared on, indeed. The entire left side of his face was completely marred, the only remnants of some horrid accident from decades before. The ghost of scars traced their way all up and down his face, sprouting from his jaw bone up his cheek and from his forehead down across his brow. The skin upon the left side of his face was tight, seemingly stretched too far like a plastic bag over sand paper bones.
One particularly gruesome scar ran over his nose, creating a pale pinkish depression upon the near parallel to his face bridge. Another, just as horrid one split his lip up to his nose, exposing what was behind it. It gave him the impression that it was cleft, yet the cut was too ragged, to broken to have been branded upon him by Mother Nature. As he breathed the cloud of vapor swirled out through that hole first before he actually exhaled. I stared on. My tongue flying over my chapped lips as I watched him turn the corner and disappear, and then it was done. After all that I had heard, the fear that had suddenly gripped me when I saw him started to ebb slowly away being replaced by a feeling of incompleteness and anti-climax: that was it? As wretched as he looked, he appeared to be just a normal old man with a cane and an old dog.
And thus it started.