The Man

March 2, 2011
It was a bright and sunny day. John had just finished work and returned home to his wife. He ate and laughed and talked about the day as any loving husband would do. Then he would get into his Ford and drive to the bar, as was tradition to him, every Friday night. He normally didn’t drink much, maybe one bottle and talk with the neighborhood men.

But this night wasn’t like those.

This night John came home to find his wife gone. Papers of divorce were on the table, instead of warm food, when he arrived home. It was March and John liked March. March was good to him, except this one. When he saw the papers he threw them into the air, storming out the door. As he drove to the bar he kept asking himself why. This was the usual bar, the usual bar where his friends gathered, his friendly friends. But this night his friends weren’t so friendly.

John walked into the bar and looked around. Seeing his buds, he walked up to them, but when they saw him they stood up with apologetic hand gestures and walked out. John threw his hands in the air, huffing, “What?!” He sat at the bar counter and the bar tender walked up to him, polishing a glass.
“Usual, John?”
“Yeah.” Came his reply.

As a bottle of beer slid to John’s hand, a man dressed in black walked in. John glanced up at the man, black boots, black trench coat, and black hat. The man took a seat a few seats down form John, looked at him, nodded, and spoke to the bar tender. John didn’t hear what was said because he looked away at a TV that showed an uninteresting football game, which wasn’t normal.

John finished his beer and ordered another. He suddenly felt a tug at his mind, urging him to look at the black clad man. He then ignored it as well as his order for another beer. Soon, five bottles sat in front of John.
“John, are you ok?” asked the bar tender.
John clumsily nodded, “Why you ask?”
“It’s just usually you don’t drink but one or two beers. Did something happen with Sharlett?”

John felt anger rise up at the mention of his wife’s name. “You ain’t got no business in my business.” He heard some of the other men chuckle and he turned around to face them but faced the stranger instead. This time he really did look at the stranger, face and all. The man wore a white smile that illuminated his black face.

John stood and pointed at the man. “Why you smilin’?” The man didn’t respond, but kept smiling. “Why you smilin’ you n****r?!” The man kept smiling, locking eyes with John and walked up to him. “It’s March, baby. March the 15th!”

John froze and his eyes widened as he saw flames in the black man’s eyes. Then the man disappeared and instead of eyes on fire he saw the bar on fire and heard screams and shouts of the other men.

John flailed his arms, grasping for the door and kicked his legs. The door seemed to be moving away and away, slowly turning to black.

Hallelujah, amen, you are dismissed.

“What?” he hear himself ask.
And suddenly the black man’s face popped up, laughing at him.
John shot up in his bed, grasping his face and arms. He breathed heavily and realized where he was. He felt warm and sweaty, realizing his heater on. It was just a dream, he thought. I may have turned the heater on accidently. He looked at his clock. Saturday, 7th of March, 7:00. He climbed out of bed and prepared for work.

The week passed on and John realized the calendar. Friday 15th of March, it read. Throughout the whole day he grew more and more worried, feeling his skin grow hot. At the end of the day he twisted his tie off and slipped into a pair of shorts. Maybe a cold shower will help, he thought.
After he finished his shower he felt even warmer as he stepped out into his bedroom. He looked at his keys. Go to the bar, he heard in his head. He’ll cool you off. An image of the black man smiling his pearly whites shot into John’s mind.
Hallelujah, amen, you are dismissed.
John clenched his teeth as he heard the strange saying. Then shook it off as he lay down on the bed after he put on a shirt. He turned on the TV and tried to relax. He pulled his shirt collar and looked down. The white tee was now soaked with sweat. John stood and turned the overhead fan and air conditioning on. “Good God,” he said and slumped down on the bed. He suddenly smelled the scent of burning wood. He sniffed the air more and walked to his door. He touched the doorknob and suddenly pulled it back, cursing. Suddenly a flame engulfed the door, licking at him. He fell back and let out a shout of fright as his shirt caught on fire. He tried to swat it out, seeing it didn’t help, he rolled on the ground. The flame engulfed the rest of his clothing.

John heard screams and shouts, the same as was heard the night at the bar. Except these weren’t other men’s screams. These were his own.

“There were reports of a mysterious man walking around.” said the newscaster. “Dressed in a black trench coat and cowboy hat. If you have seen this man please report to-” The report stopped abruptly as the black man’s face covered the screen, only showing his smile. “It’s March the 15th, baby!”
Hallelujah, amen, you are dismissed.

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