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#TheDevilsMalware (The Continuing Adventures of the Gleaner: Episode 12 #Advent Calendar Edition)

The Devil’s Malware 12.1

Queensboro Bridge 2

12.1
(We rejoin our hero crossing the Queensboro Bridge out of Manhattan into Long Island City.)

I step forward.
Around the curve onto the pedestrian ramp.
Two cyclists rush up behind me, missing me by a few inches. They zoom past me and sail off ahead of me, their red taillights blinking at me like a warning.
Don’t come any farther. Go back. Go back.
I ignore them and keep moving forward.

I’m a beast of glory.

The Devil’s Malware 12.2

Queensboro Bridge 3

12.2
Is that the Devil walking toward me?
Holding up his sword and shield and declaring, “None shall pass.”
Do we fight here and now on the bridge?

The Devil’s Malware 12.3

Queensboro Bridge 4

12.3
No Devil.
Just another lost soul crossing the bridge back into Manhattan.
Listening to all that chatter from his phone through his earbuds.
Too much information.
Too many truths.
Overlapping and overwhelming.
Like a sort of malware the Devil let loose in the system.

The Devil’s Malware 12.4

Queensboro Bridge 5

12.4
The Devil’s voice returns, speaking to me through the suspension wires that run to the top of the structure.
“You can’t make it. You can’t beat us. We have your ex-wife and daughter already. We’re not letting them go. Go back to you begging. That’s all you are. Beggar. Beggar. Beggar. Nothing more than a panhandler on a street corner.”

I suddenly hear my father’s voice through the suspension wires.
“Beast of burden,” my father’s voice says. Clear as if he’s walking on the bridge with me. Clear as the days I heard him speaking at the kitchen table after his two shots of whiskey chased by his second pack of cigarettes. Clear as stereo.

I suddenly hear my ex-wife’s voice through the wires.
“Who do you think you are?” my ex-wife asks. Clear as if she’s on the bridge with me too. Clear as the day we had that final argument. The day I left them.

Still can’t believe I left them.

I hear the voice of my daughter.
“Where are you going?” my daughter asks.
Clear as if she’s on the bridge with me.

They’re all on the bridge with me.

Always ghosts at Christmastime.

Past. Present. Future.
Regret. Regret. Regret.
Stupid things you said.
Loving things you should have said and never did.

Am I more scared of getting across this bridge and facing them all on the other side than the Devil and his minions getting me half-way over?

The Devil’s Malware 12.5

Queensboro Bridge 6

12.5
I suddenly hear the suspension wires snap.
Like the sound of a deranged concertina. A broken vibraphone gone mad.
The bridge suddenly buckles as if it’s about to collapse.
The cars are still driving. The cyclists are still spinning past me.
But the ramp beneath my feet shifts suddenly and I can’t stand anymore.
I fall to the guardrail and clutch the cold metal.
Hold on. Just hold on.
The bridge writhes like a buck that’s trying to throw me off in a rodeo.
It jerks up and down. Left and right. Up and down. Left and right.
Hold on. Hold on.
I pull myself forward along the guardrail. Like climbing along the side of a ship that’s being tossed by a tempest.
Don’t let go or the sea will wash you away.

(Tune in tomorrow for the next installment…)

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