Upside-Downy

Shama first saw him from the corner of his eye across the railway tracks. His peripheral vision was good; he had honed it for years in the rough areas where he’d lived, sometimes on the street. He immediately spotted people that didn’t fit, making him wonder what they were doing there.

Who was that tall, thin man in a green, hooded coat, looking part-yob, part-mod, and part-military, stalking more than walking towards the tracks? He bore no relation to Lucerne. Why was he here?

Shama was heading away from the village centre, and the green-coated man was heading towards it. Their paths would cross upon the railway tracks.

Before they reached them, red lights began flashing and bells ringing, warning of an approaching train. The striped barrier came down between them.

The green-coated man waited directly across the tracks from Shama, with his hood pulled low. Shama couldn’t see much of his face but he seemed to be talking.

There was no one around him. Maybe he had an earpiece for his cell phone. His lips were moving rapidly, rhythmically. Was he talking to himself?

When the freight train came, Shama’s eyes shook. It was partly due to the rush of hot air, and the train’s shuddering, but he had also seen something that didn’t make sense, or maybe he had imagined it.

The rush of air had caused the man’s hood to lift up, showing all of his face. The mouth Shama had seen was near the top of his head, rather than the bottom. It was speaking, chanting, ranting, from where his forehead should be, with his nose and eyes beneath it. His face was upside-down.

When the train passed and the barrier lifted, Shama and the man walked towards each other. The man’s hood was back in place but Shama couldn’t help staring at his face.

He was confused and horrified. Who was this man? What was he doing here? Was he a disfigured accident victim or was he disabled from birth? Had his mother taken drugs when pregnant, or his father worked in a power station? As he walked by, Shama heard him saying:

“Upside-Downy,

Upside-down me,

Everything is and everything isn’t,

As it should be and as it shouldn’t.

Upside-Downy…”

Shama turned to look at him, but the man continued walking into town. Stalking.

The next time Shama saw the man, he said hello. The man ignored him and continued chanting and stalking. He must be deranged, thought Shama. If your head looked like that on the outside, imagine how mixed up it was within.

Shama believed in doing the right thing, regardless of outcome. So he continued saying hello to the upside-down man every time they passed.

One day the man replied, saying, “Goodbye.”

Shama was taken aback but managed to say, “I’m Shama.”

The man engaged in a strange – was it reversed? – conversation. He said, “See you again; nice to talk to you; I’ve seen you in town; I am not the first man, but the last man you would want as your son; it was Adam but I changed it; my name is Zadam; hello.”

His speech was confusing to follow but Shama got it. He had dealt with crazies in the city before. One winter he had almost frozen on the street, and became a little deaf. It helped him to lip-read when people were speaking. That was easy to do with Upside-Downy.

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