Mister Cellophane is in my neighborhood again.
I call him that because, to me, he is almost invisible. I can see his body through the eyes of others, and it is unremarkable. Suspiciously so. Everything about him seems designed to blend in and go unnoticed. Just your average citizen, another face in the crowd, another person passing you on the sidewalk.
But I can tell the difference. To me, people are souls and his is missing. Or invisible.
To me, looking at him is like looking through a slightly dirty window. He has no aura, no emotion, no empathy. Just a faint but terrifying sense of utter nihilistic hate. Like he’s man so full of loathing and contempt for himself and the world that he willed himself into nonexistence.
But something is still there. Something animates that average body with its average looks and average build. Something makes the decisions as to where to go next and what to do there. There is something hiding in all that nothing.
And I can’t shake the feeling that this something is…. hungry.
So when he is around, I monitor him. To do this I must see what those around him see, and keep track of him through their eyes. This is difficult because his camouflage is so effective that people rarely give him more than a moment’s glance. I have to look through as many eyes as I can at the same time in order to keep track of his movements.
Right now, he is unobtrusively browsing the offerings at the thrift shop at Oak and Coal. He does this a lot, this aimless perusal of goods. I have never seen him so much as pick an item up, let alone buy it, yet he goes through the motions of examining everything exactly as the shoppers around him are doing.
Whatever it is that he is looking for, it’s not bargains.
I must admit, to my shame, that I hate him. I hate that I can barely see him. I hate that he walks in and out of my territory at will, disrupting my peaceful and vibrant environs with his offensive invisibility. I hate that he shatters my gentle and benevolent life of compassion and aid.
But most of all, I hate him because he makes me feel like this.
I stop my monitoring briefly in order to comfort a child who has grown very frustrated with the cast on her arm. She is tired of it being there, all heavy and itchy and hot, and it will continue to be there for almost three more months.
To her, that is forever.
When I return to my vigil, I discover that my worst nightmare has come true.
Mister Cellophane has disappeared from view entirely.
How this is possible, I do not understand. I was with the child for no more than two minutes, and when I left him, he was on the third floor of the thrift shop and would have had to go down to the first floor to leave.
Even if he took the elevator (something I have never seen him do…. hmmm… ) it would take him more than two minutes to leave. And even if he had left, I would be able to find him in the eyes of the people on the street. But no matter how many pairs of eyes I look through, I can’t find him. He is no longer in the neighborhood, as far as I can tell.
This throws me into a panic. I cannot convince myself that Cellophane is actually gone. It can only be that he has detected me and found a way to finish the job and become utterly undetectable to me. He could be anywhere doing anything to any of my people and I have no way to find them. I have failed them!
I am like this for a few minutes before I manage to get a grip on myself and think things through. What do I know about him?
I know that he has done nothing remotely harmful while I have been watching him. I know that he has no soul, only a faint but disgusting smell of pure hate. I know that he blends in with the background so that nobody notices him.
He blends in! That will be how I track him!
I extend my mind to its limits, looking for the sense memory of having seen someone without any of the usual emotional responses to the presence of another human being. Even passing strangers on a busy sidewalk register as human to our deep senses, and this fellow registers as nothing at all. Not even an inanimate object.
And it is by this I shall find him!
There are a number of false positives, mostly from the local mental ward, but then I find him. He is seated next to a heavyset woman in her early forties on a bus bench at Coal and Elm.
He seems to be paying her no attention… but I sense danger.
After a while, he leans towards the woman very slowly. It is a tribute to the effectiveness of his camouflage that he can be get within inches of her face without her sensing him in the least. As he does so, he stares at her with the fixity of a snake about to strike. What is about to happen?
I get my answer when he suddenly opens his eyes and mouth all the way and…. something emerges from them. To me it is a ghostly pale mist which hovers around his victim’s head for a moment, then all at once dives into her mouth and eyes, and proceeds to feed.
It does so by ruthlessly and coldbloodedly devouring the contents of the woman’s mind. Every memory, every thought, every emotion devoured by an incoming tide of nothingness, all happening in the space of five seconds.
I tried desperately to intervene. I flung my entire being into trying to prise that nightmarish creature from that poor woman’s mind and fling it into darkness, but it was like trying to stop a raging river with your hand. The violent energy of the process pushed me aside with the ease of a horse swishing its tail at flies. I was nothing compared to it.
And then it was over. The woman’s mind was drained and she was now as utterly blank as her destroyer. With growing horror, I realized what this meant.
It meant now there was two of them.
Soon, they both wandered off in different directions, both blending in with the crowd, both seemingly looking for nothing in particular. But now, I know better.
They are looking for fresh victims upon which to feed. And it’s more than mere feeding… it is reproduction as well.
There is no more Mister (And Misses) Cellophane.
There is only the Void Which Devours, and I swear to the Radiance Within that I will destroy them.