It wasn’t often that Brian found himself scared. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he had feared anything. It was like that particular gene had been left out when god had made him. However, he was experiencing intense fear now. He didn’t know the exact cause of it but he suspected it had a lot to do with the man wearing the purple hat. He had seen him many times over the past few weeks. He saw him lurking in bus shelters on rainy days. He saw him smoking a cigarette in alleyways. He saw him sitting on rooftops or driving lorries. Brian knew the man couldn’t possibly be in all of those places. It was too much of a coincidence. No, Brian knew the man with the purple hat was a figment of his imagination. He just didn’t know what it meant.
He could see him now, smoking over near the alley between the department store and the coffee shop. Brian knew if he walked over towards him the man would stub out his cigarette and walk deeper into the alley and be gone by the time Brian reached it. The man was never close enough. Always he was at a distance where Brian could not manage to reach him before he disappeared. Brian had considered shouting at him but that would have made it all too real somehow. Right now it was all in his mind and he intended to keep it that way. No one else knew about the man in the purple hat but if he started shouting then inevitably they’d want to know who he was shouting at and that could only lead to trouble
BUT WHAT IF HE IS REAL ??
He’s not real, how can he be? Brian thought to himself. What kind of person spends their days waiting in bus shelters and smoking in alleys and driving lorries and sitting on rooftops? Maybe a person would partake in one or two of those activities in a day but to continually rotate all four on a daily basis seemed a little far-fetched. No, he was imaginary alright, Brian just wanted to know what the point of him was. Plus, of course, he would quite like it if he went away
Why am I scared? Brian asked himself. Am I scared I am going crazy? No, it wasn’t that. Brian was scared because he knew the man wore a purple hat for a reason. He was trying to show Brian something. Something that Brian didn’t want to be shown. That’s why he was scared. The man was here to convey a message and Brian was going to be the recipient of that message, reluctantly or otherwise.
Brian noticed the man was lingering for a longer time now whenever he spotted him. The cigarette took a little longer to burn itself out. He waited a bit longer in the shelters before jumping onto the departing buses. He stayed on the rooftops for an extra few seconds before retreating out of view. He even seemed to drive past more slowly in the lorries so Brian could get a better view of him. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was the man had started looking back at Brian . At first it had been Brian spotting a glimpse of the man, recognisable of course by his purple hat, but now it was as if the man was looking for HIM. It was extremely unnerving.
Why can’t he leave me alone? What does he want with me? whined Brian to himself. He dare not tell anyone about this. They would think he had completely lost it. He had to come up with a plan to get rid of him. Maybe he could confront him somehow? Trap him and make him admit that he wasn’t real. That he was just a blip in Brian’s psyche that needed correcting. Brian could live with the man being there in the streets but he was terrified of the man becoming more prominent. What if if he saw him in his home? In his bed even? Brian felt shivers running through his body. He couldn’t let it go that far. He had to stop it somehow.
The next day he came up with a plan. He would wait in the bus shelters . He would smoke in the alleys . He would find a way onto the rooftops. He didn’t think he could drive a lorry so he’d have to give that a miss but he would do all that he could do to be in the same places as the man with the purple hat. Then when the man never appeared next to him maybe Brian would have to admit that the man wasn’t real and he could delete him from his mind. It was worth a shot anyway.
He spent hours in the bus shelter averting his eyes every time a bus stopped and the driver looked at him questioningly. There was no sign of the man with the purple hat. He lingered in alleyways chain smoking cigarettes . Still there was no sign of him . He went to the back of a shop and found a fire escape that led up to the roof and spent a long time squatting up there on the roof next to the bird shit and old bits of tiles . The man in the purple hat was nowhere to be seen there either, until at one moment he looked down and there he was! Driving past really slowly in a white lorry and looking up at him with a sly grin on his face. Damn that purple hat! Brian ran down the fire escape as quickly as he could and chased after the lorry but the lights were green and the lorry sped up and zoomed off down the road until it turned a corner at the end and drove out of sight.
Brian walked home despondently . He had been so close to freeing himself of this nightmare. As he got out his key to open the door to his house he spotted a white lorry parked on the kerb a few doors down. Surely it wasn’t the same one? There was no sign of the man with the purple hat anyway so Brian turned the key and entered his house. He could immediately tell there was something wrong . Sure enough, there was a purple hat sitting on the little table in the hall. Bracing himself, Brian entered his living room. The man was sitting there on his sofa
“Hello Brian” he said in a rough gravelly voice “Do you know who I am?”
“No” replied Brian shakily, his throat dry. He had never felt so scared in his entire life.
“Check your pockets” said the man
Brian checked his pockets and was surprised to find a set of keys inside them. He instantly knew they were the keys to the lorry parked outside
“I’m you!” said the man , who was no longer wearing the purple hat
Brian looked at himself in the mirror. He was wearing the purple hat. When had he put it on? He couldn’t remember doing it . He looked back at the sofa. There was no one there
The phone rang . Brian answered it, dreading it might somehow be the man calling him . “Got a job for you Brian” said the voice on the other end of the line “We need some stock picked up from the warehouse and delivered to the outside of town” the voice gave Brian directions and hang up
As if in a dream, Brian walked outside of his house and up to the white lorry. He opened the door with the key and climbed inside. It felt so familiar as if he had spent a lot of time here. He started the engine and naturally slipped into first gear whilst releasing the handbrake. Driving the lorry was second nature to him.
Later on, after having delivered the goods, he stopped for a smoke in an alley . He noticed a man looking at him, scratching his head . The man looked as if he was close to having a mental breakdown of some sort but he didn’t approach.
Brian was waiting for a bus later, he couldn’t drive the lorry for personal use, and again he noticed the same man looking over at him with a confused look on his face. He thought of calling him over and asking what was the matter but he decided against it. The bus arrived and he got on, making sure his purple hat was in place.
He found himself on a rooftop looking out over the city. It had been a strange day. Something had happened but Brian couldn’t remember what. Once again, when he looked down he noticed the strange man looking up at him from the street. It was starting to unnerve Brian
For many days after that Brian saw the man. When he was driving his lorry, when he was smoking a cigarette in an alley and when he was waiting for the bus, even when he occasionally sat on the rooftops to look out over the city. Brian started to look for the man . He’d smile at him but this seemed to scare the man . One time he even followed him home to find out where he lived. The street looked strangely familiar. Maybe I’ll pay him a visit, he thought, whilst adjusting the purple hat on his head.