(c) 1990
It was a sticky, stuffy, sweltering August day. The weathermen were predicting another record breaking heat wave for the next five days. They could have just rerun the weather forecast from the last two months. Never in anyone's memory had the temperatures remained so high for so long. Streets and sidewalks had literally heaved and broken. In some areas the roads were impassable. Here in the outer rim of the heart of the city was no different. What few trees there were, offered no relief from the angry overpowering heat. It wasn't just the heat, there was the repugnant stench.

Garbage had begun to accumulate since the sanitation department couldn't get down many of the streets. As far as the eye could see there were huge piles of debris. No dogs, cats, birds, kids. Nothing moving. Nothing except Mason.

Mason Clark. From a distance Mason looked like he might weigh about 300 pounds. Close up, it could be seen that his bulk was solely attributable to the layers upon layers of clothing he wore. A raincoat, under which was an old woolen army coat. Under the army coat were four flannel shirts and a pair of long underwear. Mason also wore three pair of pants and three pair of socks. Topping this off were a pair of knee high rubber boots.

Mason wasn't crazy. He just knew that there was nowhere to store his possessions. Mason lived in the streets. These valuable possessions had taken him several years acquire; and he wasn't going to chance losing them with winter only a few months off. Winter! Just thinking of it helped Mason to forget the sweat that was pouring out of every pore in his body.

When people saw Mason they never wondered how he got to be what he was. They just made sure that they avoided all physical contact and hopefully any eye contact. It was embarrassing to see someone like Mason. He was something to abhor, to dread; maybe even hate. No one seemed to know anything about Mason. All the other street people kept their distance from him. They feared him and with good cause.

Mason wasn't a vile vicious person he just had no use for any other human being. Occasionally, he could be seen sharing some scraps he had found with the dogs or squirrels. But whenever another human came near he seemed to emit a heavy dark cloud that caused a sense of fear in the trespasser. No one had ever seen him speak with or to anyone else. No one had seen him touch anyone. Yet, the stories and rumours persisted. Once it was rumoured someone had stolen a bag of empty cans from Mason while he slept. That someone was never seen again. Someone else had accidently touched Mason's arm one day and the next was found with his neck broken in the alley behind Clem's Diner.

Clem's Diner, the main source of Mason's food supply. Though no one else knew it; Clem would frequently toss a carefully wrapped sandwich in the trash, as if by accident. Clem was the only person who even suspected there was more to Mason Clark than the eye revealed. Though neither would ever admit it, Clem owed Mason his life.

It was 3 years ago this coming December. Clem was getting ready to close the diner for the night. He had already shut off the gaudy neon sign and had locked the front door. While putting out the trash in he alley, Clem heard a coughing sound behind him. Turning, he saw two of the 'other' street people. These men were not the regular homeless, they were the vile dredges of society that prey on the unfortunates. And that night Clem was going to be one of the unfortunates.

As the two vermin began to close in on Clem they suddenly stopped as if like Lot's wife they had turned to pillars of salt. Clem hadn't heard anything and didn't know what had caused such a reaction. Then he turned to look down the alley where to two statues were staring. He convinced himself later that it was an illusion but down that alley was an enormous dark cloud that seem to pulsate and emit a chill that was simultaneously cold and burning. The silence was overpowering as if the cloud were absorbing all sounds. And it was getting closer. From the deepest recesses of his mind Clem heard a scuttling sound like rats make when he comes out to empty the trash. He turned to look at the men who so recently were about to accost him and saw them running away. Quickly he looked back toward the cloud but it was gone. In its place was a man wearing a raincoat and knee high boots.

Clem tried to ask if the man had seen or heard anything but the man acted as though he were deaf. Greatfull for escaping his near brush with death, Clem offered the man some food. After he explained that the food was going to be thrown away anyway the man mumbled 'O.K.' and accepted. The only other words that Clem could get out of the man was his name ... Mason Clark. From that time on, whenever Clem saw Mason through the diner's front window Clem would leave a 'special' trash bag out back.

This hot August day was the first time Clem had seen Mason in over a month. Every 'special' trash bag had remained just where Clem had put it. At first Clem thought something had happened to Mason, then after about three weeks he had forgotten about him. Now, sitting at a window booth, Clem saw Mason.