The Men of Cement by Denise Chick

Part 1

Do you know the difference between cement and concrete? You shouldn’t focus too hard on the science. It can’t explain it. It was never cement, and always concrete I think. But we called them men of cement because it sounds better.

I saw her one night. 

It was luck. I was walking home late. And there she was at a wall. It was amazing to watch, to see her mould and give life to something. To see her stroke the concrete and to watch it form beneath her hands. To see the wall move, flow as she sketched and moulded it into life. 

Living.

Her ability to imbue life with her hands was remarkable. I’m sure her hands were raw with the effort of it. All that rubbing of concrete. Her complexion was from a life in the darkness. I don’t think she was a happy person. Driven, but not happy.

I did not watch for long. It seemed impolite. In a way she was giving birth. I did not wait to see him fully formed. I wished I had. We would know more if I had. I don’t think she liked being watched. No one ever seems to have seen the whole process. No one witnessed the final moment where the wall became something else, the final moment where life was given, where a man of cement was finally revealed.

I think it was a very private thing.

I never walked that way again. I expect she used a lot of different walls. Whatever happened, we are all agreed she was, at least at that time, the only one. 

That she and whatever they might have been were connected is clear. Why they chose to do our bidding is even less clear

I should start from the beginning. But the beginning is lost to the cement particles of time.

Part 2

I don’t know why he chose my house or me. He simply arrived late one evening. One of them. Perhaps she thought I had need. I confess to having been lonely. He had a kind of greyish aura to him that was hard to explain. 

They all did. 

He was flesh coloured enough. In a certain light that hue was silver. When he sat down there was a greyish dust left behind. Like everyone I wondered if that lessened him each time. He left the same sandy, gritty residue on the sheets. It was clear that whatever flesh he had, somewhere a large part of him was cement or concrete or something.

He was slightly bigger than your average man and definitely more solidly built. I guess that just reflected what he was. A concrete wall moulded into a human form. Somehow drawn out of the structure and formed. Life out of sand and water and some other stuff. He ate nothing. Cheaper than a man in that sense. He was useful for all the things that men are useful for, jam jar lids and the like. Although not everything, I should say. Too rough and gritty I think, if he even had the equipment, something I don’t know.

He seemed to have no interest in that. I think like most women that grey residue was quite a turn off. There’s pleasure and there’s abrasion and it’s best to err on the side of caution. But I took him everywhere with me. I think every woman who had one did, like a kind of personal bodyguard. 

It worked. There were incidents, but no one messed with a cement man. And it seems that cement men were not particularly enamoured of the behaviour of human men. And so it was that the world tilted one way. Women took them to work and the gender pay gap closed quite quickly.

Part 3

I remember when the world was different, before we grew small and took up less space. While we sat in bars drinking beer and talking football something else went on out there. The world changed imperceptibly, in the darkness. They came. Fully formed. And women seemed to like them. To prefer them.

And they were fine physical specimens if you could get past the kind of odd greyish tinge. It was a lustrous silver in certain lights. They seemed faceless and smelled slightly of a building site but my wife had not had one three weeks before she asked me to leave. I had no choice.

They were big and solid. You couldn’t hit them. They turned to stone. Literally they had the ability to go from flesh to concrete in a flash. By the time your hand connected with their stomach or chest, they were solid concrete. There is many a man with no hand left to show for that bravado. Worse if they hit you. A solid concrete hand. It not only hurt, it damaged. Like, well like being hit by a brick wall. 

And so the world grew quieter, smaller for us. We worked harder, talked less. Our physical prowess paled and we began to exist in the shadows. The men of cement quietly replaced us and dutifully did as they were told in a way we never could. And it seemed no one was sorry for it, least of all the women. 

Epilogue

And then one day it happened. She passed from this earth and her children with her. Her last breath slipped out and they slipped into dust.

The men of the world grew large again. We grew small again, but every night. Every wall we pass by. We touch. We test. We are out there, trying, trying to make it work to make it happen. Sometimes a whole group of us at a wall, trying to make it work.

There is a prophecy, there will be a child and we will rise again.

Based in the UK, Denise writes for enjoyment. She writes on a variety of themes but most recently has been writing more poetry with the occasional flash fiction . Her blog can be found at Tuesdaylatte.blog

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