The Death of The Invisible Man

N.L. Sweeney

The Invisible Man died on the 5th of October.

They held his funeral the following Tuesday, near where they presumed the body was. The congregation fanned out like a Greek amphitheater, the rubble of blackened cement and twisted steel the stage. The fires had been put out long ago, but stacks of charred wood still mingled with the wreckage.

The New York Fire Department had tried to find the body, but of course, they had found none. They’d searched for three days, poking Building B’s remains with the red heads of their axes. Rumored among the losses were a pet gerbil and two golden labs, but miraculously no people had died in the collapse and subsequent explosion. On the New York Fire Department’s lunch break, a man named Kris sobbed into his bologna sandwich. The others looked away.

No one knew for sure if the Invisible Man was religious, so they called together several speakers: a Buddhist, three Christian leaders (a bishop, elder, and pastor just to be safe), a Rabbi, an atheist, an agnostic, and a Wiccan Priestess. One woman argued for a swami, but did you not have to be from India to be a true swami? Those gathered decided to place an idol of Ganesha as a compromise.

There were tears. Kris cried, but with no spongy white bread to catch the tears, they dribbled down to the dusty ground.

Hundreds came, taking up the white plastic seats and crowding body against body. A final count estimated more than one thousand and three hundred people, with reports of simultaneous ceremonies being held around the country. News stations huddled around the outskirts, whispering into their puffy black mics as the speakers spoke into their own microphones. They prayed for his soul or they praised his escape from suffering or they did neither. They all spoke of the man.

“Reliable,” they called him. “Always there.”

They told stories after—atheist, beside agnostic, beside bishop—gripping steaming paper cups of acidic coffee. A single mother mentioned the patience the Invisible Man gave her when her screaming child woke her night after sleepless night. An acne-scarred student told of the long nights where the Invisible Man simply sat and listened. Kris stared into the black well of his own paper cup.

“Today marks a terrible tragedy that hurt more than just one man or one city, but all of us. Invisible man,” a Q7 reporter warbled, not bothering to wipe the lines of tears that smudged his make-up. “You will be sorely missed.”

Just before everyone headed home, someone streamed the president’s address on a white projector screen. Kris only caught the end of it. “It is in times of great distress, that we must come together,” she said, glancing at her family beneath the golden arch. “That is what will make us stronger as a people and as a country. Thank you.” The screen transitioned back to the anchors as she walked away.

The sun was setting by the time most people left, and the autumn chill crept into the air. A few remained behind to speak some final words to the Invisible Man’s resting place. The mayor had decreed the space a historic monument, to be left untouched. The House was voting to declare the 5th of October a national day of remembrance. There was talk that the European Union would follow suit. 

Kris leaned against a lamp post, watching. A worker in an orange and yellow reflective suit pinched a paper cup between the teeth of his clamp and stuffed the detritus into his bag. A pair of women clasped hands and walked away together. The lamp post flicked on with a sparking crackle that made Kris jump.

Kris shivered. His fingers clenched and unclenched at his sides. He could feel the salty remains of dried tears on his cheeks, but he left them.

He walked to the edge of the wreckage, and the ambient sound of traffic rose up around him. A passionless laugh died in his throat. “Guess we all go eventually,” he said.

The breath of wind came in response.

“You made a lot of people really happy.” His lips trembled and his jaw tightened. His voice came out a whisper. “So where the hell were you for me?”

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