Sleep never came easily to Manny. To combat it, he could often be found taking lonely walks at all hours of the night or morning.
Oddly, one of the more comforting places he would visit in the dark was the century-and-a-half old Hebrew Cemetery, nearby on Angel Street above the University of Nevada, Reno. There was something about the place that calmed his soul.
Other times, he could be seen wandering the sidewalks of Virginia Street. Where and when he walked, he let his body decide, allowing his mind the pleasure of following along.
One late evening as he slipped quietly between the headstones of the cemetery, a large, ungainly figure accosted him. Without a word of warning, he picked the smaller man up and tossed him, as one would a rag-doll over the wrought-iron fencing, before disappearing into the shadows.
Shaken, but uninjured, Manny quickly got to his feet and rushed around the outside of the cemetery and re-entered, intent on challenging whoever it was that had manhandled him. Angry, he shouted, “Come and face me fairly, you cowardly son-of-a-bitch!”
A long shadow cast itself over the headstones and came to rest at Manny’s feet. He followed it with his eyes, until he saw the man-shaped thing standing slightly outside the light of the overhead street lamp.
Frightened, Manny backed out of the cemetery and retreated to his apartment hoping for safety. Over the next two nights, he refused to go out after dark and often saw the large thing, looming in the darkened distance, watching him, waiting.
After some Internet research, Manny realized what he’d encountered and now he had to devise a way to defeat it. That morning, he rushed to the grocery store and purchased two large, red apples.
Come the evening of that third night, Manny acted on his knowledge; he slipped out his bedroom window and down to the street. He knew of a vacant building being renovated on South Virginia, where a face-off could take place.
It was an elderly building, built during the early years of Reno, once used as a car dealership for the Dodge Brothers. Long abandoned, it was soon to become a restaurant and anchor location for the up-and-coming Midtown district of the ‘Biggest Little City.’
Manny applied pressure to the backdoor of the building, pushing it in to make entry. There, he found a cardboard box and set it on end, placing the two apples on it.
He waited for darkness to fall, knowing the man-thing would eventually track him down. It wasn’t a long wait.
Though very large and heavy, the figure moved both quietly and quickly through the doorway and stood before Manny, his upturned box and the apples. “Because this building has the sign of the Hebrew on it, it will not stop me,” it whispered in a gravelly voice.
Surprised, Manny said, “I had know idea you could speak. And the sign is only symbolic.”
“There is much I can do, that you would not know about,” the man replied.
“So why are you following me?”
“You have trespassed where you are not wanted.”
“I’ve walked around that cemetery many times, so why now?”
“I do not care for ‘why,’ only that I obey my master. You must obey, too.”
“Whose’s your master?”
“He is dead. I can no longer speak his name. I do his bidding.”
“Maybe you can explain this as we share some these apples I brought as a peace-offering.”
“I will gladly eat, but it will bring no peace.”
“And why’s that?”
“It has been so directed and I must obey.”
“What must you do.”
“Put trespassers to death.”
“Very well, but first, eat.”
Manny could feel the fear pulsing through his entire body as he handed one of the apples to the man-thing. Next, he picked up the remaining apple and took a bite of it, encouraging the other to do the same.
To his astonishment, the man-thing placed the entire fruit in his mouth and swallowed. Meanwhile, Manny quietly chewed his bite.
“You have tricked me!” the figured growled a second before crumbling to dust.
Amid the dust was the uneaten apple. On one side of it, the Hebrew letters, aleph, mem and tav were neatly carved, with a slash struck through the letter ‘aleph.’
As Manny swept up the remains, taking it to the dumpster outside, he reviewed his findings: the three letters together mean ‘truth,’ but without ‘aleph,’ the word became ‘death.’ And while he knew some Golem could speak, he could find nothing in the Torah or other related manuscripts that showed the mud figure was overly intelligent.
As Manny walked towards home, he concluded that nearby or not, he’d have to find another place to frequent besides his favorite cemetery. “Too dangerous.”