Last night I had a dream where I saw a peculiar man whose skin was made of red-brown bricks like old factories and their chimneys and smokestacks in my hometown. He looked like a man-shaped wall, eyes hidden behind some sort of dark peeping holes, so it seemed he could see and hear me quite well. I asked him why did he look like this, and he told me his story.
"Once I was just like you, a person of flesh and blood. Maybe it was the traumas of my childhood and youth that caused me to become like this. My family, teachers and other children who kept bullying me all the time made me this. Military service and my abusive employer made me this. My sarcastic professor at university made me this. My pathetic and desperate efforts with girls made me this. Gradually I saw my skin harden, die away and turn into this hard stone-like substance. It was like some metamorphosis in a story by Kafka, except in didn't turn into any cockroach, I turned into a brick wall of a man."
Still amazed by this sight, I kept asking the brick man questions as to why and how and other things like that. How did he eat, since his brick face didn't seem to have any place for a mouth; and what if he had to go to the bathroom?
"Well, that's the really peculiar thing here. I don't eat but I found I've got this powerplug in my armpit, so I can load myself and stay sustained with electric currency. And because I don't drink and eat, therefore I have no need to urinate or defecate either, which makes things considerably easier in my current form. Once I forgot to load myself and found myself getting extremely weak until I couldn't move anywhere. I already thought I was going to die but fortunately some friendly passerbys got a car battery with them through which they were able to resuscitate me. After that incident I've dutifully kept plugging myself in every night for a reload before going to sleep, like I was a mobile phone."
So, he was still able to sleep after all?
"Yes, and that's the weirdest thing here. I have to sleep like an ordinary person, and I do have dreams. Usually I dream about being in my former shape, where I can touch and feel and taste and smell things as a man of flesh and blood, and it's always great to have these dreams, walking there through meadows and forests in summer with their myriads of different odours and feeling the warmth of the sun and gentle breeze on my skin. Then suddenly, I wake up and find myself back in my cold and hard, lifeless stone form."
How did the other people react on seeing him?
"First they're amazed, of course, but quite soon they become used to it like they get used to the bums asking for money, so they know how to stay as far away from me as possible. On the street little children always point their fingers at me until their parents tell them that it's unpolite to stare. Teenagers are the worst, always shouting at me and making rude remarks. Every now and then someone wants to pick up a fight, but they will only get their knuckles hurt trying to hit me. Sometimes they try to kick me but seeing that my heavy stony mass won't let me fall down, they normally get bored soon and leave. Once a gang tried to pour gasoline on me and burn me but it was pretty useless too, since my body is basically like a firewall."
Had he tried to get any medical help to this condition of his?
"Once I went to see a doctor, a dermatologist, but he was totally helpless in front of me. They thought my case held some scientific interest, though, so I was thoroughly photographed by some medical students. Someone has allegedly written a paper about me in Korea, or so I hear. They also tried to get some skin samples (or whatever you can call them) of me, but their equipment only broke down since it was too hard. Obviously I'm impenetrable. The army experts say I probably could be able to take a nuclear attack and stay in one piece. Well, trying to get state pension based on my medical condition proved to be quite useless, too, there being no actual physical fault in me. So, now I live on unemployment benefits and try to get myself a job but I think no one wants to hire a guy who looks like their backyard fence."
Did he have any theory about why this had happened to him?
"Beats me, hell if I knew. Sometimes I think that this skin of bricks is not for my own protection, to keep me safe from the rest of the world, but to keep the others safe from me. Sometimes I'm afraid of my own thoughts, all the amount of hatred that is hidden inside of me. When I think about all the people who have hurt me or tried to... or who laughed at me, ridiculed me, thought I was next to nothing."
Then he told me about his hateful fantasies and dreams, some of which really filled me with disgust and put a fear in me.
"Yes, I think there's somewhere a real monster living inside this brick wall, and it's important that he stays inside and never gets out. Some really horribly things would happen if he ever did. Probably it's this armour of mine that also keeps me together; without it I would probably fall apart, unleash the hell inside of me which would destroy everyone and everything."
Speaking this, he had become very agitated, and suddenly I noticed a crack had appeared on his brick skin. At this moment I woke up.