Walking out on the downtown streets, I watched piles of trash float in the water coursing down the gutters. A used condom stuck to the bottom of my shoe. A bearded skeleton of a man sat naked in the rain, shivering.
People walked by as if they could not see the pitiful figure sitting on the curb. Seeing him, I realized I had walked past him many times, but never noticed him until now. I looked up to the dark clouds overhead, watched a bolt of purple lightning strike between the clouds and felt the rain splash my cheeks. The rain camouflaged my tears.
The crowd walked around him, and began to walk around me. I stopped, but the crowd moved on without me. I saw my coworkers pass me by, heading to the refinery, getting ready to work that stinking Martian clay into fuel. I took my black trench coat off my shoulders and bent down to drape it over the naked man.
He looked up to me with his wrinkled and hardened face. A glimmer of a smile appeared through the veil of his beard: pale rotting teeth and bleeding gums.
"Thank you," he said to me.
"I've been here for five years now. No one has noticed me. They walk past me, leaving me here cold and shivering in this unending artificial rain."
There was another flash of lightning overhead. I saw his face, saw through his face, and saw something majestic, but just as quickly as it appeared it was gone. The wrinkled visage returned.
"Look at them passing us by, looking forward, looking to their work, looking to their paychecks, looking to get wasted, looking to get laid, make babies, and send them off to Institution. They don't see us. They're obstructed by their own self-imposed blinders. Do you know why horses used to wear blinders back on Earth?"
I shook my head, bending down closer to hear his raspy voice over the howl of wind and the roaring rain.
"The old stagecoach drivers would put the blinders on so the horses wouldn't be spooked by what was around them. That way the horses could only see the trail ahead and not be distracted by the dark shadows hiding in the brush lining the trail. It kept them on course."
His smile widened and he pointed across the street.
"With your blinders off, what do you see?"
Wasted and crumbling buildings lined the other side of the street. The remnants of an old mine now used up. Beyond it the world ended. There was a maroon waste beyond a clear Plexiglas wall as far as the eye could see.
"Now look at me."
I looked back to the man. The lightning flashed again, and this time the brightness seemed to linger. In the light, I saw the true features of the figure below me. He unfurled his wings and glowed against the dingy world surrounding us.
"Do not be afraid. I come with tidings of great joy."
I felt a smile widen on my own face and fell to my knees. I held up my hands to the figure rising above me.
He reached down and touched my mouth. It burned as if touched by flaming coals, and my lips were sealed.
He floated further up and shouted down at me. "Spread this message because it is good! Let it take root! Once you do your part you may join us."
The sky parted and I saw others in an unreal whiteness above the clouds. Above the Plexiglas dome I glimpsed ultimate knowledge and unity before the clouds closed to me.
I sat naked on the curb and looked around.
No one had seen. The patrons of this world walked around me. They always looked forward thanks to their self-imposed blinders. Wondering how long I would have to wait for the next prophet, I sat down naked and began to shiver.