The Bench

By Leighton Tanaka, TIWP Student

Leaves had fallen on the bitter floor, torn apart and trampled upon, they would not rise again. More dead than alive, withered leaves weakly gripped the trees as the grinding winds attempted to rip them away. Their final struggle before being blown apart from the woods, a last dance with the wind before being melded with the ground. The frostbitten air stung the rouged cheeks of the passersby as they scampered along the pathways with their gazes fixed at their feet and their hands stuffed in their pockets. Do they listen to the noise around them? Do they hear the birds sing or the Earth cry? Empty. Everywhere was empty. Everyone was everywhere, yet they seemed to be nowhere at all. Absent from their own lives, they watched like observers while they lived the lives of a stand-in. The buildings climbed high. The people watched from above. But not really watching, merely looking carelessly, for they have never truly seen. But on an old rusty bench with three armrests and a rigid structure, there was a single person. This bench was not comfortable. No, it was not made to be so. Instead, it was meant to blend into the scenery, nobody ever used it anyway. Except for now. The bench was stiff and the third armrest made it difficult to sit comfortably without being impaled by one of the metal spikes. Nonetheless, it was being sat on. Many may have furrowed their brows, looked in disgust or confusion, and pondered this strange person on the cramped bench. But this was not the case. Everybody kept on walking. They did not notice, they did not care. Just one place to the next. Over and over and over again. And so the person crossed their legs and observed the masses. They were equal in intelligence to sheep. Perhaps capable of thinking on their own. It could not yet be determined if they were scared or simply incompetent. Their heart beat fast, almost as if it was beating inside out, but there remained a facade of confidence. A determination to be caught and a curiosity about why. A vast, unthinking hoard propelled by their own pride and ambitions. Some oblivious, others are merely indifferent. And yet, they kept going. How stupid! It was thought, in fact, many thought the same. But forward motion cannot be stopped when it is forced onward, so one must continue or be trampled. And so it went until the bench had been sat upon. Insanity! It continued. But only for a few fleeting moments. The person raised their arms and brought them together. A miracle, it truly was! A genius act of rebellion! To a man, everyone within range stopped dead in their tracks and their heads snapped in the direction of the unwelcome sound. And where, where had that indescribable, inescapable, predatory pressure gone? They all stared. The person breathed hard and met their eyes, before being dragged away, hands behind their back. Away to a world never seen, beyond the walls of their lonely existence. They turned away and walked on.

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