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#TheDevilsMalware (The Continuing Adventures of the Gleaner: Episode 19 #AdventCalendar Edition)

The Devil’s Malware 19.1

MacDonald Park 1

19.1
(We rejoin our hero somewhere on Queens Blvd.)

Snap.

I awake to the click of the camera shutter, the way an alarm pulls you from a dream. Startling you awake. Kicking you out of the stupor of a hangover by the stark sobriety of light.

I sit up resting on a park bench as my eyes try to pull focus.

Shit.

Have I been sleeping this the whole time?

Shit.

The cruelest trick the mind can play. The sleight of hand that a dream fools you with.

What’s real and what’s dreamt?

Like the moment of dusk right before night falls. There’s just enough light to see shapes and shivers however you want to see them. Magic and menace lurk at the edge of everything. Magic and menace are everywhere right before the sun slides behind the horizon.

Which park am I in?

Where am I?

I look to the sky.
The sun is still up, but hidden behind clouds.
Snow has fallen and changed the landscape.

Where am I?

The Devil’s Malware 19.2

MacDonald Park 2

19.2
My backpack rests on the bench next to me.
Snow has fallen around me, but my painting is still safe and dry.
I stand up from the bench and sling my satchel over my shoulder.
Where am I?
Still in New York?
Still in Queens?
Still on Queens Blvd.?

The Devil’s Malware 19.3

MacDonald Park 3

19.3
I’m standing in MacDonald Park.

Forest Hills!

I’m here.

A few blocks away from our old apartment. The last place I saw my ex-wife and daughter before I left.

The Devil’s Malware 19.4

MacDonald Park 4

19.4
Did I sleepwalk here?

Did the Bentley bring me here as I slept? The magical, mystical valet taxied me here while I slept. Tucked me in softly in the park where I used to play with my girl when she was a child.

Or was this a parting gift from that woman’s avatar with the camera on the yellow callbox as I crossed the Queensboro Bridge?

One last wormhole to send me home?

But did any of that happen?

I remember as an awkward kid, ten or eleven, the way I would wander through our neighborhood alone, walking up and down streets and in between houses and down back alleys where our driveways were hidden away from view.
And I would build elaborate worlds of pretend.
I would imagine myself millions of miles away.
Travelling to the past or to the future.
Travelling to other worlds and other dimensions.
Long and elaborate games of pretend.
So I wouldn’t have to go home.
Building worlds of adventure because the real world wasn’t safe.
Is that all this has been?
Have I invented a game of fantasy with some ominous Devil I built from some mortal on the street I glanced out of the corner of my eye?
So I wouldn’t have to go home.
Defeat the Devil in a dream.
So I wouldn’t have to fight evil awake.

Like Jimmy said.
What if there’s no Devil? What if there’s just bad shit people do?

What if there’s just bad shit I’ve done?

How do I battle that?

Am I ready to go home?

The Devil’s Malware 19.5

MacDonald Park 5

19.5
The statue at the center of the park cuts an imposing figure.

Another symbol of courage.

The Devil’s Malware 19.6

MacDonald Park 6

19.6
Go forward.

Move through the fear.

The Devil’s Malware 19.7

MacDonald Park 7

19.7
Whether it was all a dream or a bona fide fight to the death, go forward.

Hell.

Two truths coexisting in tandem.

Whatever.

Go forward.

I gather up my backpack and painting and head out of the park.

I’m heading home.

(Tune into tomorrow for the next installment…)

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