Bob is homeless man living in San Francisco's Tenderloin District who regularly converses with monsters that only he can see. Is he crazy? Or is he the only person who stands between the human race and total destruction?
Justin Coro Kaufman's Transient Man has a simple, but compelling premise: What if the fellow who stands on the street corner ranting about the end of the world knows something we don't? What if the invisible figures he speaks with are real, and impart to him the wisdom necessary to save world? What would the hero's journey look like from the perspective of a street-living protagonist?
Bob is our homeless protagonist, a man who, up until a few years ago, took medication to block out his visions of bizarre creatures. But Bob's visions aren't delusions; he's able to see creatures that exist in other dimensions, creatures who impart wisdom and warn him of a coming danger. The only way he can save the world, they explain, is for him to leave his family and trade his happy middle-class life for a life on the streets. So Bob becomes a Guardian of the human race, living in the seedy Tenderloin and waiting to be called into action.
One day, Bob sees a friend of his explode into a burst of light. Moments later, he encounters a strange man made entirely of pigeons, and realizes he must have something to do with his friend's sudden disappearance. This is the moment Bob has been waiting for, the moment when his quest to save the world begins. He acquires homeless allies, undertakes mystical journeys, and sees the face of evil beneath an underpass in Sacramento.
Transient Man is billed as a dark comedy, but Kaufman manages to find his kicks while portraying his homeless protagonists as compassionate and heroic individuals. The humor is at times absurd, such as when Bob downs a bottle of cough syrup to commune with the oracle Auntie Histamine. Sometimes Kaufman simply plays with our expectations of the heroic epic (for example, one of Bob's friends finds an unconventional weapon in his Hepatitis C and weak stomach). But like any good epic, Transient Man has its share of romance, tragedy, and self-sacrifice.
Most of Transient Man is available online, but Kaufman has left it with a cliffhanger ending, with plans to release the entire story as a print volume.