Valter liked the image in the mirror. It was time to set up the camera, take a photo, post it on the site, and then, walk about in public at the convention. It was time to be someone. Time to exist. Time to matter.
He’d spent hours getting the body paint right. The perfect shades of blue, teal, green, and white. “Dude! Painting left handed is a bitch!” It was the first time he’d had to try that. It had taken forever. His left hand was anything but steady, and he could only paint a single stroke with the brush at one time.
He smiled at himself in the mirror. The blue highlights in his hair stood out flawlessly, just like in the diagram he’d made. He was proud of the lack of flab on his belly. It had taken him almost a year, and over an hour’s work each night, to get rid of that flab.
Now, he was ready.
He pressed the release on the camera, and 10 seconds later heard the shutter. The picture was done. On his computer screen, it looked perfect. He had the mischievous expression, the trouble visible in his eyes. “Perfect!” He uploaded the image to his blog, for the world to see.
Valter took a deep breath, held it, slowly let it out. He repeated the breath. Several times. Until the vibration in his hands stopped. Until the tension across his chest relaxed. Until he could breathe. Think. Smile. Until he was ready to walk among thousands of people he’d never met. Never know.
People who would never know his name. Never know what he looked like. Never care what he did for a living. Never care how his father died. “Fifteen years ago, now, Dad. Since they sent you away, to some part of the world no one ever heard of. Since the truck you were driving blew up, and took you with it.” He closed his eyes, and tried to breath again. “And no one noticed. No one cared.”
That was the reality Valter lived with. His father died a hero, in a strange country on the other side of the world. And no one sent his mother a card. Not even a note. Just a medal, in a plastic box, with a letter of appreciation, and sympathy.
At first, his mother cried. Mourned. Grieved. Then, she forgot. She moved on with life, and left her memories behind.
So had Valter. He’d learned. His father was gone, and no one cared. No one replaced his father. No one noticed his father was gone. As if his father had never existed.
“It’s how the world is.” For normal people, it was true. No one existed. No one mattered. If you died, someone else filled in the hole where you’d been. And no one cried. No one cared. Everyone forgot. Like you never existed.
“Ah, but tonight…” Valter knew. He knew, for tonight, he would be real. He would matter. People would cheer, clap, wave, smile, take his picture. And years from now, they’d see that picture, and they’d remember him, and wonder how he was, what he was doing, if he was still as great as he’d been.
Valter placed the hotel room key in the pouch inside the pants of his costume. Then he stepped into the hall. It was time to exist. Maybe only for a few hours. Only for one night. But, for that one night, he’d matter. For that one night, he’d be the only one of his kind. He’d be unique.
For one night.
He’d be real.
Miranda Kate has started a weekly short fiction challenge. You can read about it here. I’ve decided to write when I can. This is the third week of the challenge. Please, go read her short tale this week, and any others that show up.