stories

Standing Woman - Chapter 1 - page 5

The manpillar, nodding silently, accepted the envelope and took stamps and a registered mail slip from his pocket.
I looked around quickly after paying the postage. There was no one else there. I decided to try speaking to him. I had been giving him mail every three days, but I still hadn't had an opportunity chance for a leisurely talk.
"What did you do?" I asked in a low voice.
The manpillar looked at me in surprise. Then, after running his eyes around the area, he answered with a sour look, "Won't do to go saying unnecessary things to me. Even me, I'm not supposed to answer."
"I know that," I said, looking him in the eye.
When I wouldn't leave, he sighed. "I just said the pay's too law, and it got back to my boss. Because a postman's pay really is low." With a dark look, he jerked his jaw at the two mantrees next to him. "These guys were the same. Just for letting slip some complaints about low pay. Do you know them?" he asked me.
I pointed at one of the mantrees. "I remember this one, because I gave him a lot of mail. I don't know the other one. He was already a mantree when we moved here."
"That one was my friend," he said.
"This one was a very nice man, very refined. Wasn't he a chief clerk or section head?"
He nodded. "That's right. Chief clerk."
"Don't you get hungry or cold?"
"You don't feel it that much," he replied, still expressionless.
Anyone who's made into a manpillar soon becomes expressionless. "Even I think I've gotten pretty plantlike. Not only in how I feel things, but in the way I think, too. At first, I was angry, sad... but now it doesn't matter. I used to get really hungry, but they say the vegetizing goes faster when you don't eat."
He started at me with lightless eyes. He was probably hoping he could become a mantree soon.
"They say they give people with radical ideas a lobotomy before making them into manpillars, but I didn't get that done, either. Even so, no more than a month after I was planted I didn't get angry anymore. It got so I couldn't care less about human society."
He glanced at my wristwatch. "Well, you better go now. It's almost time for the mail truck to come."
"Yes." But still I couldn't leave. I hesitated uneasily.
"I'm just guessing," he said, giving me a sidelong glance. "But someone you know didn't get done into a manpillar recently, did they?"