Author : Anthony R. Elmore

William rode the Green Line, making the passengers hostage to his presence. Here, they couldn’t walk away, far. They could only avoid his glare, his insistence at existence. The train stops at Parkway Station and a pretty teenage girl with soft brown hair enters the train. She glances at the only empty seat next to him, and walks toward it. The train moves and the air shifts forward and she shudders like a gazelle that caught a lion’s scent creeping upwind. She moves toward the gangway, glancing backward at possible danger.

“But he lied…” he wants to cry at her, at the world.

Attention starved little…

The train rattles to a halt at Memorial Park and many people in bright summer shorts and carrying lawn chairs and coolers disembark. A weekend street fair is happening topside, but he’s not invited. Facial recognition cams on lampposts would alert the police and they will escort him away. So he rides the train, staying in motion.

But he lied…

The trains stops at Chamblee station and a horrible, fecal smell enters as a covey of passengers leave. The bum is layers of filthy, mismatching coats and shirts and shoulders a rucksack. The passengers’ noses curls and some gag and comment to others. Newspapers and handkerchiefs rise to their faces to block the stench. The bum drops into an empty seat and he feigns sleep. At the next stop, everyone leaves the car except William.

The odor disgusts him but he wonders if Pheremonic Shunning caused the bum’s state and this is what awaited him.

No more overcrowded prisons, chip tracking and dedicated surveillance, they said. Shunning put offenders in an open air prison with their own skin and guilt for a cell.

After his trial, state doctors injected him with a solution that changed his pheremonic signature that broadcasted “Danger, Stay Away.” messages.

But he lied. He misunderstood my touch. It wasn’t like that.

The stinking bum was his future, his present, he thought. Six months into a five year sentence, he would never again teach and would die on the dole. This was his family. Guilty or not, they were a confraternity of the shunned.

He approached the bum, crossing through the fog of stench. “Did they shun you?” he asked.

The bum looked at him through a camouflage of dirt, his beard nitted with food bits a dried mucus. He moaned and leaned over and slapped the side of his head with both hands, rocking back and forth.

He didn’t see the shiv lance his gut or the bum draw it. He only saw the betrayal of snared animal fear in the bum’s eyes. The train bucked and slowed and his legs gave way and he fell. From the wrong angled view from the floor he saw the bum shuffle through the crowd of arriving passengers, parting the crowd with his stench.

“Do you see me now?” he sputtered to their shocked faces. I exist. Then he didn’t.

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