Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
It will happen when you are alone. It can happen anytime, anywhere, it does not matter. You will be walking and will be in no great hurry. That is when you will meet him: The bum. The people who have met him have all described him with differing detail. Sometimes he is short, sometimes tall, sometimes of an average build. Sometimes he is old and fat and sometimes he is young and skinny. His age and appearance are of little circumstance as he is always a man of charisma. He will call out to you when you are walking. His voice will be charming and pleasant and if he should startle you, you will soon reconsider your fright. He is not aggressive, and he will not approach you. You must approach him. He will be wearing tattered clothes and will give you the impression that he is a homeless man down on his luck. In fact, it is you that will be down on yours when you meet him.
The man is witty, and knows himself to be so. He will grasp your attention with his charm and whatever thoughts you will have in your head previous to this encounter will be momentarily whisked away. He will proceed to introduce himself to you and will make pleasant small talk. You will not know it but he knows your life and your story. Talking to him will feel relieving, as if you are talking to your mother or a good friend. He will calm your anxieties, and with his wit and humour he will make you feel happiness. However, after a couple moments you will begin to wonder why he has called you to him and will wonder what he wants. He will begin to smile a clever grin and will instead inquire as to what it is you want yourself. This man, like most beggars and bums is in need, but his need is entirely in consequence to the needs of you. He will produce a match from his clothing or from whatever he is holding. He will strike it on a surface and its tip will flare a bright orange glow. The glow is entrancing and you will be drawn to its brilliant flame. The world around you will seem to fade away as you look into the blaze. The bum will speak to you, his face a shadow behind the flame in his outstretched hand. This is when it will begin. Amongst the fire in the match head, images will appear. They will be blurry but will still be easily recognizable. The sound accompanying the images will be faint and it will seem as if you are hearing it from under water.
In the match’s flame you will see the greatest pain that plagues you, and how it got to be there. You will relive the memories of that pain vividly, as if experiencing it again for the first time: A heart break, the death of a loved one, a rape, a mugging, a tragic accident… You will see the memory that is the most painful to you. You will act accordingly, with panic, anger, or sadness, but in the snap of his fingers the bum will put out the flame and you will be released into a calmer state. You will listen to his words as he consoles you with due diligence, and it is then that he will offer you a choice. The choice is perplexing, a choice like no other you have experienced before. He will ask you if you wish that painful memory of yours to be removed from existence, for it to never have happened. If you have lost your life to an alcohol addiction, he will make it so you would have never picked up a bottle. If you have lost a loved one to a car crash, he will make it so that they will have never been in that car in the first place. It will sound wonderful to you; your pain will be relieved in an instant, but it will come at a cost, for you see, what is taken must be given.
You cannot remove without adding something to fill the void. You can have your pain removed, but at the cost of inflicting it to others. If you lost your leg in a workplace accident, the bum can make it so this accident happened to another in place of yourself. If your spouse committed suicide at the end of a rope, the bum can trade your spouse’s spot on the rope with the spouse of another. The cost to this deal will mean nothing to you, as he will explain that if you accept his proposal you will be relieved of any memories of this event or any memories pertaining to the hardship he will solve. Thus, you must ask yourself if you wish to inflict pain to relieve yourself of it. It is a perplexing choice, one that you cannot comprehend the answer to if you are not in that moment, in front of the rag-clad bum and his smoking match. If you agree, he will answer to your command, and with a sinister smirk, will exchange what needs to be traded. However, if you decline his offer you will be persuaded to reconsider. He will tell you that there are no second chances, that this opportunity will never befall upon you again, and he is not lying. Forfeit this chance and you will never see this man again. If you insist upon abstaining the man will give you a cold and hard stare, his face changing from one of optimism and persuasion to one devoid of expression. He will stare at you for moments that will seem like hours, filling your mind with doubts of your conviction. For now, it is still not too late to change your mind. If, however, you remain persistent in your choice, the bum will merely flick the smoking match into the air and place its smokeless head back from where it came from. He will then depart in the opposite direction from which you came. He will walk slowly, as if unburdened by your choice. If you choose to follow him you will be ignored, and you will find that the moment your gaze departs from his body, he will have disappeared. If you chose this path and decline his offer, this will be the last you will see of him.
Credit To – 9753
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