An Average Man   or   The Chameleon

An Average Man or The Chameleon

A Story by The Great Brain

Jonathan Smith is a completely average man. His name is generic, his life is normal, and that is just how he likes it. However, he soon finds that he is...well, you'll see :-)



An Average Man


The Chameleon

A short story 





“My name is Jonathan Smith. It’s a highly generic name, I know, but then again, I consider myself to be a very ordinary person. Never been married. Own a small home. Live on an average budget. I have even heard people claim I am almost impossible to identify out of a crowd. Some might say I am a bit more refined than most, as I can quote all the famous poets and orators, and speak with a dignified air. However, I still prefer to think of myself as being identical to everyone else. I have a routine every day. I get up, read the headlines of the paper, have breakfast, go to work (and on the days I don’t have work, I go for a stroll), come home, eat dinner, and go to bed. I always wear a grey suit and black tie, just like every other average person. And that is precisely how I like it. I dislike adventures, and HATE change. However displeased I may have been, precisely 2 years ago my life changed drastically. Every time I recall the ordeal, I can visualize it as if it was happening in front of my eyes.

            I was sitting at home and reading the paper, part of my morning routine. It was Sunday, therefore one can quickly reason that I did not have to go to work that day. I read the headlines to myself: CHEESE ON SALE, HALF OFF AT DAIRY-MART// 2-YEAR MURDERER STILL ON THE LAM//STOCKS DOWN//POLICE ON LOOKOUT FOR SERIAL DOORBELL THIEF-ANYONE WITH INFORMATION IS TO CONTACT….I cracked a small grin. ‘Average headlines. Just how I like it.’ Even though there was not a soul around, I talked to myself a bit often. Nothing long, just a few words on occasion. This may seem odd at first, but one must take into consideration that I never received any calls (for I had no friends), never had any visitors (besides the mailman, who hadn’t come that day), and no wife or children. In short, I was in the company of myself, and that was it.

            I decided it would meet my fancy to take a stroll around the town (there was not much to see, for it was a small town). I passed by a few shops, handed a beggar some small change, and stopped to pet a stranger’s dog. I inhaled the air deeply. ‘Ah. A nice, normal day.’ Finally, when the sun began to set, I decided it was time to go home.

            It was when I had reached about halfway to my house, when I suddenly was stopped on the street by one of those dreadful ‘hustlers’. ‘Hel-lo, my friend, hel-lo! Listen here, pal, I’ve got a great little game for ya. You just watch dis hea queen of hahts. Here she goes, round and round, and where’s the lady? 5 banknotes says you dunno which one it is.’ As much as my mother had warned me about these kinds of people when I was young, I was so adamant that I had the right one that I couldn’t help myself.

 I laid 5 bills down on the table and picked the middle card. The flashy-looking man turned it over, and said with a queer smile, ‘Oh, so sorry my friend.’ and took my money while showing me the Ace of Spades. ‘Ho hum. You win some, you lose some.’ I calmly stated. ‘No hahd feelings, buddy. Wanna try again?’ I didn’t wait for an answer, and began to quicken my pace along the street. ‘Hey-hey! Where ya goin?! You might just get luuu-ckyyyy!’ he yelled after me in an almost musical tone. I shortly replied ‘To the police station, you trickster. I saw that queen fall into your pocket and get replaced. None of those cards currently on the table is the queen of hearts, and I would advise you to pack up and get out of here as soon as humanly possible!’

            The sharply dressed man seemed frantic, and, after removing the cards from the table, ran to my side as if he was a fox being chased by the hunting-hounds.  ‘Now wait a sec here, sport.’ He said with that crude grammar he possessed. ‘It appears we got off on the wrong foot there. Perhaps we could be friends? Besides there could be something…’ "upon saying this he flashed me a roll of money big enough to pass for a foot cast- ‘…nice… in it for you.’  I greedily eyed the roll, then snatched it from his hand. ‘Fine, you vile miscreant. I’ve taken your hush money, now leave me be!’ ‘Now, wait a sec here, champ.’ He said in that sleazy tone of his. ‘I just wanna be fair. Like I said, we’re gonna be buds. Howsabout I treat you to a nice dinner at least, whatsay?’ A hearty meal did sound quite pleasurable. After all, I was used to eating the food from the cheaper aisles in the low-end grocery stores.

            The ever-suspicious looking man said his name was Andrew Barloni, but asked me to address him as ‘Shifty’. ‘It’s what all my friends call me.’ he casually stated, with a flick of his hand. ‘What kind of friends are these that they call you a synonym for a crook?’ He seemed a bit startled. He acted nervous for a second, then tried to settle himself back into his regular sneaky looks. ‘Oh, you know, just some friends.’ We ate well that day. I must admit I had never eaten so well in my entire life.

               Once I had retired to my bedroom, I gently got into my bed, took my nightly glass of water, and sat thinking for a while. I had gotten to like Shifty, even though he was the type of fellow that seemed...well…shifty. I found it odd I got along well with a crook, and wondered if it said anything about me. As I said before, however, I am an average person, and it must have just been the high-quality food that made me feel happy. I must admit, I don’t remember feeling happy very often. I just have always felt…average…like I’ve just….existed. After musing for a while, I slowly fell asleep.

 I had a dreamless night as usual, but nevertheless a peaceful one. I never have had any dreams as long as I can remember.

            The next morning, I decided I would go to visit my friend Shifty again. Did I say friend? I meant acquaintance. Anyhow, I decided to go to his apartment. I ate my breakfast, skimmed the paper, and put on my usual black suit and grey tie. Just as I had left my house, it soon dawned on me he never told me he even lived in an apartment. As I thought more, I realized he had never told me where he had lived at all! He had simply taken my money, bought me some food, and left almost as quickly and as hurriedly as he had come. I remembered his real name, Andrew Barloni, and made up my mind to look in the phone book. As much as I do hate change from my daily routine of going for a stroll, I decided maybe I would just pay him a small visit, just walk by and say hello. Keep everything normal, since, after all, that is what kind of person I am. I looked up Andrew’s name, but I could find nothing. I do not know how, but I soon found myself at the city records, looking up his name. I’m not quite sure how I ended up there, it just seemed like my brain said no, and my feet said yes, and the two had a lack of communication.

            I searched for endless hours, but I soon saw he was nowhere to be found. I threw my hands up in the air and yelled ‘Where on earth could that man have got to?!’ All the people there began uncomfortably staring at me, and I soon realized my habit of talking to myself would probably need to be confined to my home. I heard a soft voice behind me. ‘Can I help you, sir?’ ‘Yes, you can, I’m looking for a certain man named Andrew Barloni, and I can’t find him anywhere in the city records!’ I realized I was talking with more force than usual, and the frail woman seemed a bit stunned at the franticness with which I was searching. It surprised me a bit myself, since I am usually just an average man.  In fact, I wasn’t really aware before now that I even had this side to me. I’d never really had an angry personality. I actually don’t remember ever having a personality at all.

            The frail woman was still stunned, but I soon realized that it was not from my harsh tone.

‘Sir, you’re looking in the wrong section!’

‘I am?’

‘Yes, this section is for those who are still alive, silly.’

 I remained frozen for a minute.

‘Do you mean to tell me that Andrew Barloni is dead? Er, deceased?’

 I had slipped a bit from my usual vocabulary. Often, I use highly descriptive adjectives, but today I found myself stumbling for the right word.

‘Of course, sir. Don’t you read the paper?’

‘Of course I do. It’s the only interesting thing to do in this quiet town.’

 I couldn’t believe I actually said that.

‘But Andrew isn’t dead! I just saw him yesterday, that’s preposterous!’

‘No sir, come with me, I will show you.’

The woman led me through a few hallways and, after a bit of rummaging, showed me a piece of paper. ANDEW BARLONI. DECEASED. CAUSE OF DEATH:MURDER. ‘Murder?!’

‘Yes, sir, he was a victim of the infamous murderer around this town’

 My mind flashed back to the headline I saw yesterday: 2-YEAR MURDERER STILL ON THE LAM.

            I darted out of the building, leaving the frail woman a bit dizzy. I ran back home and dashed straight to the fireplace. I searched through the newspaper stack I used for the fire, and thankfully found yesterday’s newspaper still intact. Instead of just reading the headlines as usual, I searched through until I found the article I was looking for.

‘The infamous two-year murderer is still being sought out by the police. This dangerous criminal, for some strange reason, kills an individual every two years. Police believe he is insane, and should be turned in to the local asylum. Oddly enough, the victim is found the same date every two years, and, after analysis, is found to have been rotting for 2 years. More details will be printed once police release more information. Inhabitants of the town are advised to stay away from dark/suspicious places.’

            I sat down and tried to sort this thing out in my mind. I was always good at puzzles when I was a child. Or was I really terrible at them? Come to think of it, I never really do remember my childhood. I carefully put together the pieces. After most things becoming a jumbled mess in my head, I decided to get organized and wrote down the clues on scraps of paper. After a few hours, I had come up with the following:

‘Murderer claims victim every two years’

‘When body is found, victim has been rotting for two years-but where?’

‘Andrew said to be killed by 2-year murderer yet was seen by me yesterday’

            I paused at this third clue. Was that my imagination? Was my loneliness finally getting to my head?

‘Impossible,’ I thought, ‘I didn’t imagine that meal and that money. And besides, I have been living by myself for at least 10 years. Same old, average life. I do wonder how they found his body, though. Was that man posing as somebody else?’

 I soon mused about some things:

‘I do wonder why I never remember anything for a while back? Perhaps it’s because my life is so monotonous…I mean, average.’

After thinking for a bit, I looked at the three clues I had written down, and began writing down some ideas:

‘Why is he called the 2-year murderer? Is it because the body is found to have been decomposing for 2 years, or is it because a body shows up every 2 years?’

            ‘Drat.’ I exclaimed. ‘I can’t think of anything more.’ Then, suddenly, realization hit me directly in the face.

‘Wait… could it be that this two-year murderer is hiding the body for two years before planting it somewhere? I’ve got it! He must kill somebody else the same day he plants the body! That’s why someone’s found every two years, having been decomposing for two years! This explains Shifty perfectly. Seeing as he’s a criminal, I doubt anybody was keeping a close eye on him and he was disregarded as an all-too-common hustler. He was probably killed the same day as the decomposing body was found and all the fuss was made over the newly-found dead man. Combing this directed attention with the fact that Shifty was probably not well-liked, nobody would ever notice he was gone.’

 I beamed with pride at my sleuthing skills.

‘But…’ I suddenly realized something. ‘…but I just saw Shifty yesterday! I know I saw him! He was alive! Am I going mad?!’

            As much as it was my dream to live each day the same way, being the average human being, I was determined to unmask this 2-year murderer. I knew that if I just pretended it never happened, I could never sleep again. For almost 2 years, I searched endlessly for this mystery man and signs of my friend Shifty, taking tips from the police and paying off local small-time criminals for information. Time passed quickly, and before I knew it, the day had come that the newest victim of the 2-year murderer was being expected, with police lining all the streets trying to catch this elusive villain. I tried to inform them of my intelligent cogitations, but they were all stubborn that their gigantic guns could stop the man. The more powerful they assumed the guns were, the more arrogant they became. They seemed to think as one, where there was no such thing as independent ideas. If their orders were to be stationed on a particular street, it never occurred to their ignorant minds that the man who gave the orders might not have been right. They trusted completely on their strength in numbers, not in wit. I already knew they would never catch this murderer.

I had received a tip the same day from a hooded vagrant who said that ‘The Chameleon will be found in the old factory.’ I was about to ask him who ‘The Chameleon’ was, but he left before I had the chance. I used almost all my energy begging and pleading with the police to investigate this ‘Chameleon’, but they would not listen. They were too convinced that they could catch the 2-year murderer to deal with what they called ‘the minor stuff’. Unfortunately, this same mentality was the very reason they could not catch this killer. The mystery man left his old victim’s body in plain sight, while he snuck off to kill somebody else. The police never thought to protect the next potential victim. Once this happened, the found body would get the biggest possible headline, front page, in the newspaper, while the newest victim, if he was found at all, would get put in a much smaller article, somewhere near the back. I did find it odd, however, that the newest victim, when found, was always seen the next day. And the victim was always somebody seemingly unimportant, someone nobody paid attention to. I tried telling all this and much more to the police, but nobody listened to me. One officer did seem to actually pay some attention and believe my story, but he said nothing, just sat with an inquis…inquisit…a questioning expression on his face.

            I decided to let the professionals handle the 2-year murderer, and look for the Chameleon, whoever he might be. I brought along my bolt cutters and some gloves, and snapped the chain on the old factory door. Honestly, I’m not sure I really needed the bolt cutters, as the factory was so old that the doors looked ready to fall down at the slightest disturbance. I was surprised that they held up when I entered. The whole place was dark. The atmosphere was gloomy. There was not a soul around, but I was used to that. The police were apparently not smart enough to think of the place. I began to ascend the staircase, and as I did, I reflected on what had happened to me so far.

            Obviously, my average life had come to an end. Who knew what I was going to see at the top of those stairs? I still didn’t know the answer to why I hadn’t remembered anything.

‘In fact, I never remember anything. The day after I met Shifty, it was as if it was the first day of my life. I don’t remember my childhood, I don’t remember ever having a personality, and I don’t remember what I’m like. If I were to describe myself, it’s impossible; it’s as if I’m nobody. That’s why I keep saying I’m average. I wonder if I am really average…or am I nobody at all?’

            I finally reached the top of the stairs. Strangely enough, I was not in the least bit scared or nervous. Even though this was my first time doing this, it was as if I had gone through this before, except not in the factory. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I saw a figure.

‘Who are you?’ The figure did not reply.

‘I said, WHO ARE YOU?!’

 I wasn’t sure why, but I found myself acting frantic. Actually, I wasn’t sure why I had acted like I did numerous times since I had gotten wrapped up into this mess.

            The figure finally replied.

‘I…am the Chameleon…’

 He spoke in a voice that was slow and dreamy, but at the same time sounded as if it was coming from one of those fancy voice synthesizers.

‘Who is the Chameleon?’

‘Me….I….am the Chameleon…’

 The voice sounded poetic, but also a bit monotonous. It was almost as if the Chameleon managed to be everybody’s voice at once. I stood still for a moment, not knowing what to say, but the Chameleon soon broke the silence.

‘Although….you may know me as….the two-year murderer…’

 It sounded like he wanted to give a chortle, but didn’t.

‘You’re the two-year murderer? You fiend! What did you do to Shifty?’

‘I am….Andrew Barloni…’ I was frozen stiff. I was in a real pickle, but whenever there was an eerie silence, the Chameleon always filled in.

‘I….became him….’

‘I don’t understand! How did you know that Shifty was Andrew Barloni?’ If I could see his face, I imagined it would be smirking.

‘Would it please you….for me to….explaaain?’

‘Yes, it would, greatly.’

‘Then….I shall…..I am the…Chameleon….I am….everybody….I am….nobody….I am your best friend….I am your worst enemy…I am the greatest athlete…..I am a complete…couch potato…’

It seemed as if he only used the words ‘couch potato’ for me to understand. It didn’t feel like his natural choice of words.

‘I am…a man….I am…. a woman…. I am… a respectable….gentleman…I am….a….street hustler…’

At those last words, he seemed slightly amused.

‘I still don’t understand!’ I screamed.

‘I will explain, my dear friend….so we may….remember…I have no personality of my own…….I take ones from…..others….after their lives are gone…I assume their identities.’

He didn’t speak so slowly this time.

‘Do you mean to tell me that you kill people and…disguise yourself as them?’

‘Not quite….I…BECOME….them…the Chameleon needs no…disguises…’

I realized everything in that moment. All of it made sense. The man I had met was not Andrew Barloni, but was, in fact, the chameleon. Every two years he killed somebody and assumed their identities. He stashed the body away for another two years while he lived as them. Then, he stopped taking on the role of that person, placed the body somewhere, and went to do the same thing again.

‘That’s ghastly! But why are you doing this?’

‘Because….I have no….personality of my own….I will find someone who suits me….best….and I have found….that Jonathan Smith is not it… Jonathan Smith has…so much….personality…’

I paused at this.

‘Personality? Me? But I’m just very average. Not a complex guy at all. No adventures, no…’

He cut me off.

‘Then what are you doing here?’

This was a good point. I realized more and more that I had started to develop a personality, which was something I never saw in myself before.

‘But you….will not….do…’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Don’t you…remember….?’

‘Remember what?’

‘You…are….the Chameleon!’

I stood, frozen in horror. I didn’t want to believe it, but it explained everything perfectly. Why I hadn’t remembered anything of my childhood or family. Why I hadn’t developed a personality. Why everything seemed like it was happening for the first time.

‘But you….will not….do….’

‘I still do not understand! Why did I see Andrew? I thought he was the Chameleon!’

‘Let me…correct myself….you’re not the Chameleon…at least…not…yet…’

I realized in horror what he planned to do.

‘You….you’re going to kill me!’

‘You still don’t understand?.....I assumed your identity the day after you met….Shifty…in his case…I made a mistake….I killed the man….but the police… had been watching him… they found the body…they soon paid it no heed…..since he was a criminal….but…my schedule had to be….revamped….I was still…him…but if I was found….the police would realize…that Shifty was dead….I would be….revealed..…so I quickly assumed the identity of….Jonathan Smith…that’s you….however…I had…forgotten…about being…Chameleon…’

‘So…you’re a figment of my imagination?’

‘Precisely…I’m…your memory….I chose…wrong….Jonathan Smith….had bad memory…so I am here….to remind you…you are…the Chameleon!’

It finally all made sense. I was Shifty, and I met Jonathan Smith. I made friends with him, and that night, I killed him and assumed his identity. But since Jonathan Smith had bad memory, I forgot all about being the Chameleon, along with many other memories. I didn’t want to believe it. I was so confused. I knew I was the Chameleon, but I didn’t want to be… I wanted to be plain old Jonathan Smith… I soon lunged at the shadowy figure with my bolt cutters.


As I lunged, I went right through the shadow, and it dissipated. I bumped into someone, and heard him screaming, and the sound of glass breaking. I looked through the shattered window and saw a police officer who had snuck in, the same one who had actually listened to my advice, lying dead on the ground five stories below. He must have been hiding behind some boxes. I felt so aggravated. My mind was whirling around. I leaned out the broken window, and stared down at the dead police officer.

‘I wish…I wish this hadn’t happened to me…. I don’t like being Jonathan Smith…I wish….I wish I could be that man…’ I slowly lifted my head, then I realized what I had to do, and everything came back to me.

            That’s my story, sir. You asked for the whole story, and now you’ve got it.”

“I’m afraid we will have to keep you here in this padded room. You’re mentally unstable. The police will be pretty interested in this one, though.”

“Preposterous! I should be let out of here immediately! I’m a police officer! I should be the one arresting YOU! Just wait until the chief of police hears about this! You’re going to get locked up for life! I demand to see a lawyer!”

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I have to leave now.”











“The patient calling himself ‘The Chameleon’ has been in the asylum for a few weeks now. The police finally listened to the man’s own advice against himself, and focused on who would be killed next instead of where the body showed up. Sure enough, they found him attempting his next murder. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. He was charged with several cases of homicide, impersonating a police officer and all other sorts of people, ranging from those in authority to the lowliest vagabond, and stealing several make-up kits and hairpieces from local beauty supply shops. The police will take over soon, as he has been sentenced to the electric chair for several murders. The patient is quite beyond insane, in my opinion. Poor soul. Some of the other boys in the office swear he’s some sort of ghost or monster or something. I think he’s just good at disguises and murders. Just like all the other crazies in that place.”

“You really shouldn’t worry yourself about that, doctor. He’ll be finished off soon enough.”

“Yes, that’s true….There’s only one thing that unnerves me, though...”

“And what may that be?”


as I left, he said....





‘I wish I was him’”












© 2013 The Great Brain

Author's Note

The Great Brain
If you will notice, this has many layers to it. There are also two plots at the same time. The development of Jonathan's personality, and the murder. I do hope this is not too much to keep up with. I also apologize if the subtleties of Jonathan's "morphing" personality were...well... subtle. I intended for the reader to pick up on these little nuances, but almost disregard them until the very end. Also, I wish to mention that the sterotypical observation I make about the police is not my belief. I just wished to keep everything as "generic" as possible (hence me not mentioning the time, place, currency, etc.). I respect and honor the brave police force for what they do, and may God bless them.

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Featured Review

I really, really liked this. Very suspenseful, and you kept me interested all the way through. Sometimes the way you explained things got a little confusing, but I managed to keep up! Again, this was a great story, and keep this sort of thing up :)
Best Wishes, Rachie B

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This comment has been deleted by the poster.


A riveting and somewhat solemn short story of a man trying to find himself. Ordinary and dreary from the onset, this story soon delves into a mysterious and suspenseful tone, and finally climaxes with the reader sitting at the edge of his/her seat. Once the story is finished, the reader is left to ponder and take away a personally constructed conclusion.

The only criticism is that "..." punctuation was used a little excessively.

A great piece of writing. I encourage you continue to write, as from my perspective, you have a particular talent at keeping the reader involved in the story. I have a feeling that even if you wrote something outside of someone's genre, they would still be engrossed in your story.

Keep up the great work!

Posted 9 Years Ago

I am impressed with your ability to build a multilayer story and still keep it suspenseful. The constant reminders of his memory issues were the first clues for me that he and the chameleon were one, but also the very subtle change of clothing.. from grey suit and black tie to black suit and grey tie. I still didn't know how he could be the murderer and have no memory of his deeds until the very clever ending. Wonderful story, great details, and a great ending. Well done!

Posted 10 Years Ago

The Great Brain

10 Years Ago

Thank you! I'm glad you caught on to those little subtleties!
You're 14 and this is your first piece? Damn, child. You impressed me and my best friend and we've been writing for years. Well done!

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

The Great Brain

10 Years Ago

Thanks! I had given up hope on anybody else reviewing this piece.
Quoting Ravens

10 Years Ago

Hell, I'll request it.
This comment has been deleted by the poster.
Excellent. I love it. Your imagination is incredible.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

The Great Brain

11 Years Ago

Wow, thanks! I didn't think anybody would like it so much.
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Oh, wow. I did not expect that little bit at the end. Methinks the doctor is the next victim.

I did not expect that part where he said that he was Shifty and met Jonathan Smith. At first, I expected Shifty to be the murderer. I guess that's what you wanted us to think. Then second, I expected Jonathan to be the murderer. Which was sort of it, but not quite.

I like your writing style and voice. The voice is very prominent, if I do say so myself. I like how he is sort of naive in what is happening to him, what has happened to him, but it is happening. I do not see this as subtle. I see it as falling.

Like, you-don't-know-you're-falling-until-you-hit-the-floor-falling.

I just am a bit, eh, unnerved at the too many "...'s" Or it's just me. I guess it is. Well, just me.

POST MORE, ASDFGHJKL. I don't care if it's just a short poem. As you said to me, your writing style is unique, too (in a good way)

-Alm :D

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

The Great Brain

11 Years Ago

Yes, the doctor may just be the next victim. I leave that for the reader to decide. I'm very happy t.. read more
I really, really liked this. Very suspenseful, and you kept me interested all the way through. Sometimes the way you explained things got a little confusing, but I managed to keep up! Again, this was a great story, and keep this sort of thing up :)
Best Wishes, Rachie B

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This comment has been deleted by the poster.

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6 Reviews
Shelved in 4 Libraries
Added on June 29, 2012
Last Updated on August 25, 2013
Tags: Psychotic, Disguises, Ghosts, Average, Chameleon, Murder