The Man with Hungry Eyes: A Fable by Mark Budman
A man came to a wealthy country in the North, and whatever the man laid his eyes on would disappear. If he looked at a car it would be gone, if he looked at a tree it would vanish, if he looked at a dog it would cease to exist.
He was scrawny like a starving dervish, his beard was dark as the crude oil that comes from the veins of the earth, and no one lived to tell what kind of eyes he had.
The authorities sent policemen to arrest him, but they were soon gone, too. The same thing happened to a contingent of soldiers. So the authorities sent an elite unit of a secret task force, cunning as a dozen Machiavellis, in berets the color of a moonless night, armed with guns that could shoot hollow-point bullets that exploded inside a human body, and could shoot backwards or around the corner, and they seized the man while he slept in the park. They bound his hands and feet, blindfolded him and carried him to their van, which bore a sign of a well-known distilled water company.
Little Johnny, who lived nearby, ran to his mommy.
“Mommy, Mommy, men carry a bag, and it’s alive!”
“Go back to sleep, Johnny,” Mommy said. An hour before, Johnny had woken her up to look at the green monster under his bed, and she had no more curiosity left.
The soldiers locked the man up in their underground vault under the watchful eye of a guard.
The next morning, two generals interrogated the prisoner. They belonged to the National Committee for Promoting Security and Preventing Terror and therefore could legally do what they wanted.
“Why did you do this?” the general with the green star asked. “Who sent you?”
“I am hungry,” the man said, in a thin voice. His face was white, as though he had never seen the sun.
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Mark Budman was born in the former Soviet Union and is fluent in Russian. His fiction poetry and book reviews have appeared in such magazines as Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine (UK), McSweeney’s, American Book Review, Sonora Review, Another Chicago, Sou’wester, Turnrow, Southeast Review, Mid-American Review, The Literary Review, the W.W. Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, Short Fiction (UK), and elsewhere. He is the publisher of Vestal Review, the longest-running flash fiction magazine in print. His novel, My Life at First Try, was published by Counterpoint Press to wide critical acclaim. He co-edited the anthologies You Have Time for This (Ooligan Press) and Sudden Flash Youth (Persea Books/WW Norton). He is at work on another anthology and two new novels.
“The Man With Hungry Eyes” was originally published in ChiZine.