Pen Of Iron Prose Winner: “The Forsaken” by Evan Liu

Cold. Alone. Homeless. Masses of people walk by the man with the shaggy beard, huddling on the sidewalk of New York City in layers of worn, torn and thorned scraps of clothing he likely scavenged from a rusted trash barrel on the corner of the street. He has a hat. A shredded, musky-brown upturned hat–no longer the respectable article of clothing it once was in its youth–sits in front of the man, empty. The hat opens up towards the arid sea of people, expecting a sprinkle of generosity but receives none, like a chick expecting a meal from its mother–miles away in the talons of a hawk. Another man with a hat walks by, a man with a tall black hat wearing an expensive black suit and shiny black shoes. The man in black walks by the man in brown without a glance or any acknowledgment of his existence; but he knows that he is there, for the man deviates a few feet from his path to distance himself from the man with the sullen eyes as if he is some rabid monster. 

My biology professor tells me that we are all 99.9% genetically identical, that the man hunched over on the sidewalk is 99.9% identical to the people passing by, clutching their children and purses to their sides. We are so similar yet society focuses so much on that one tenth of a percent. They look at him like he is 99.9% different, 99.9% dangerous and 99.9%  inferior.
I try to imagine his previous life, his life before an unfortunate series of events outcast him from society. He may have been a powerful businessman or a wealthy CEO, feared and respected throughout the industry. Or he might have been a blue-collared worker, living a simple life with a wife and two kids. His now lifeless eyes may have once burned with ambition or glistened with kindness. His cold, rough hands, hidden within the layers of his clothing, may have once built large corporations or shelters for the homeless. 
I wonder what will become of him. I wonder if anyone will remember him when he is dead and gone, if some morsel of his existence will still linger in the stalactites of the mind of someone he once met. Or maybe he will return to the life that he once had, resurrected by a long lost friend or a kind stranger passing by who will take him off the streets and rekindle the life in his eyes. Maybe his new life will be even better than the one he once had. Maybe he will start a new family and die an old man surrounded by the ones he loves. I feel an urge to help him, to help him turn his life around and give him a second chance. But I don’t. I walk by without a glance. I leave him. Cold. Alone. Homeless.

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