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#TheDevilsMalware (The Continuing Adventures of the Gleaner – Episode 3 #AdventCalendar Edition)

The Devil’s Malware 3.1

NYPL Lion

3.1
(We rejoin our hero in front of the #NewYorkPublicLibrary on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.)

The hisses and the voices and the taunting laugher return. The sounds are deriding me as they drift in from Grand Central Station.

‘The plan in hand. The plan in hand.’ They keep saying over and over and over.

But what’s the plan?

Why did they need to torture Barry and Sydney and Suzie? Seal them in plastic. Seal them in pain. Why?

What do I do? How do I stop them? How do I stop the Devil and his minions with their plan?

I’m moving uptown to 42nd Street. Toward the hissing and the taunting and the laughter.

God Almighty on high. Give me a chance to be like the lion. Protector of all he surveys. Strong and silent. Except when he roars. And then all cower in his presence.

Give me a chance to be like the lion. To save the city from the Devil’s plan. The plan in hand. As soon as I find out what the plan is, I can stop the plan.

And they’ll lay a wreath around my neck every December. My flower blanket for a race well won.

God Almighty on high. Give me a chance to be like the lion.

The Devil’s Malware 3.2

Billy with his cup

3.2
I cross 5th Avenue to the East Side of 42nd Street.

Heading to Grand Central. Heading to the voices and the taunting laughter.

Billy’s just started his early evening shift.

Good old Billy.
He went into his father’s carpentry business and ended up being a high-end contractor. Billy worked on refitting one of the malls up in the Bronx when the borough started to change. Solid work. Solid man. They don’t make them like Billy anymore. They broke that mold with Billy. He was a legend in town.

He loved his work, but he loved the horses more. Lost a huge bundle on a Triple Crown hopeful and could never bounce back.

I figure we’re all one big loss away from not bouncing back.

“They got Barry,” I say to Billy. “They got Sydney and Suzie,” I say to Billy.

“Haven’t seen them in days and days,” Billy says back to me. “Maybe they left town?” Billy asks.

“The Devil got them,” I say to Billy.

“The Devil gets us all in the end, I reckon,” Billy says as he continues to shake his cup.

“Have you been hearing the voices?” I ask Billy. “The laughter?”

Billy looks at me strangely. “I”ve been hearing the voices for two decades now,” Billy says to me. “And the laughter? That’s all they give me out here.” Billy keeps shaking his cup.

“Don’t let the Devil get you too, Billy.”

Billy smiles. He still has most of his teeth. He swears it’s because he still flosses. He may not have a steady roof over his head, but he can still take care of his gums. His gums are one of the few things he still has.

“I’ll keep the Devil off my trail. You do the same.” Billy keeps shaking his cup.

I think Billy is listening to different voices and different laughter. He’s a legend in this town.

But he’s no good to me now. He’s not hearing the same voices as I am.

He’s not hearing them talking about the Devil’s plan.

The Devil’s Malware 3.3

Grand Central Foyer

3.3
I cross 42nd Street and head into Grand Central Station.

The voices and the laughter get louder and louder and louder.

And the hissing. Now it’s like white noise on the radio when the dial is in between stations.

Rush hour just started.

People are moving and people are hustling. Catching trains. Changing lines.

Nobody hears the voices or the laughter.

Nobody hears the Devil’s plan.

It’s just me.

The Devil’s Malware 3.4

The Devil's Can

3.4
I hear my name being whispered from a corner.

A metallic voice. Like those old string-can phones we used to make before we got the walkie-talkies for Christmas. Back when my parents were alive. Back when the most important thing in life was trading ghost stories with your best friend next door.

And speculating on neighborhood girls.

Before we all got way too complicated.

The voice is coming from a single aluminum can in the recycling bin.

It’s a dark voice. Sinister and sinewy like slithering snake.

“You won’t stop us. You won’t stop us. The plan’s in hand. But we’ll need a few more things. We’ll just need a little time. We’ll just need a little space. And we’ll need you daughter. We’ll need your ex-wife. We’ll need them to finish the plan.”

“Why do you need them?” I ask. I want to crush the can in my hand. But I don’t want to lose the voice. I don’t want to lose the connection.

The can laughs at me. “You’ll see. We won’t tell you too soon. That wouldn’t be any fun. You’ll see.”

The Devil’s Malware 3.5

Grand Central Constellations

3.5

I have to be a lion.

I have to protect all I survey.

I toss the can away and turn to the station foyer.
“I am the lion!” I call up into the heavens of Grand Central Station above me.
“And I will stop you!” I cry out as I stare at the cyclorama of manufactured constellations above me.

The voices and the laughter stop.

The hissing cuts out.

All I hear is the rush hour crowd around me.

The Devil knows I’m coming for him.

My eyes dart around the station.

I need to get on a train home.

Home. My real home. A place I haven’t seen in ages.

(Tune in tomorrow for the next installment…)

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