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"Simon Stares" - by Frank Burton

Frank lives in England.  Visit his site.


© 2007 Frank Burton


Simon stares. 


His main point of interest is people.  People on the bus, in shops, cinemas, laundrettes; people he passes on the street; people nobody apart from Simon would ever dream of staring at.  He's stopped going to pubs because of the trouble he's caused. 


He doesn't mean to stare.  It's his eyes.  Everyone stares to a certain extent, but Simon's looks are somehow too intense for people to handle.  Even though it causes trouble, and occasionally results in injury, he finds it difficult to understand why people have such a problem.     


Simon's interested in people.  "People watching" - we all do it, but Simon takes the blame, as though he's paying the price for everyone.


Strangely, Simon doesn't listen to other people's conversations much.  He usually finds them boring.  People always have the same conversations, he says, but everyone, without exception, has an interesting face.  A face with its own unique features; each idiosyncratic wrinkle and groove telling some story.  Simon may not know what these stories actually are, but he enjoys inventing his own.  The length of Simon's stare depends entirely on how interesting he finds the person's face.  People ought to be flattered by this, but they're not, even when he tells them. 


Simon stares at the TV.  He likes watching TV, but he's very selective.  Sometimes he'll sit for hours, punching at the remote, unable to settle on one channel.     


He likes films, mainly, and when he's really engrossed in one, he'll stare at the screen without blinking, not wanting to miss a frame.  By the end of the film, he'll have streams of water running down his cheeks.  If you say anything to Simon while he's watching a film, he doesn't respond until the film is over, and as soon as the credits roll, he'll respond to every question or statement, one by one, in strict order.  This can be disconcerting when you can't even remember what you said in the first place.


There are not many people who are willing to watch films with Simon.   


Simon stares into space.  Right now, he's staring at the kitchen wall having a fantasy about Armageddon - not the film, but the actual end of the world.  The globe is about to be hit by a meteorite, which the government has been fully aware of for two years, but they didn't tell anyone until it started getting visible in the sky, and they escape in their space ships just before the meteorite strikes the earth and kills everyone on the planet, apart from Simon, who survives by building himself an underground bunker in the three days he has before the environment becomes uninhabitable, while everyone else around him plunges into anarchy, shooting each other, looting shops and screaming, etc.  Once in his bunker, Simon knows he doesn't have enough food to last him until it's safe to return to the earth above, so he develops a way of falling into a long period of hibernation by staring at the tin of beans on the shelf and hypnotising himself.  When he comes round it's three hundred years later, and he's very weak and skinny, having lost half his body weight.  For the next three weeks, he feeds himself everything he has in storage, even though it's mainly past its use-by, and slowly he regains strength.  He performs a daily workout - at first, he can barely move, but after three weeks, he's almost regained the strength he had in the old world.  He returns to the earth, and to his surprise, finds himself in a vast jungle.  Life again has flourished, in spite of the human race being destroyed.  And yet, who is this figure running towards him, her arms outstretched?  It is a woman, naked as Eve, the last woman alive, who left her own bunker five months ago, and has been spending that time wandering aimlessly in and out of trees, searching for companionship.  Simon embraces her, and they have mad sex. 




Simon snaps out of it, realising he only came into the kitchen to make a sandwich, but he's just been standing there fantasising about the future, staring at the wall for the last hour and a half.


He makes himself a cheese sandwich, with coleslaw, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, beetroot and ham.  Simon likes a big sandwich. 




Across the street, in one of the flats in the neighbouring block, a man has been watching Simon with a pair of binoculars.  Every now and again, the man looks back at his wife, who's watching TV, and says, "He's just standing there.  Staring at nothing." 


"You're the one who's staring," his wife responds, as she often does when her husband gets out his binoculars.


"At least I'm staring at something," he responds.  "He's just staring at nothing." 


"What's so exciting about him, anyway?" she asks. 


"I don't know," the man replies.  "He just seems so calm."




Simon is eating his sandwich, watching the TV.  He's not staring at the TV, because it's on an ad break, and Simon doesn't enjoy the adverts.  When the adverts are on, he tends to think about other things. 


Sometimes he thinks people are watching from outside.  Maybe a secret government agency has tapped into his thoughts and is recording them to sell to American movie companies to make into films without paying him royalties.


Come to think of it, he thinks, that concept would make a decent film if they made it well.


Sometimes, like now, Simon imagines that he can see people staring at him from outside, with binoculars. 


But, of course, that's a ridiculous thought. 


He carries on eating his sandwich.






All work is copyrighted property of Frank Burton.






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