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#TheDevilsMalware (The Continuing Adventures of the Gleaner: Episode 21 #AdventCalendar Edition)

The Devil’s Malware 21.1

Mother Mary w flare

21.1
(We rejoin our hero at his old church in Forest Hills, once again facing the Malevolent Intelligence.)

The laughter is all around me.
The voices keep hissing.
All around me.
“The plan in hand. The plan in hand.”
I rush through the churchyard and feel the Devil’s lens on me again.
Even God can’t defeat the Devil forever.
Light and dark fighting it out for supremacy.
All the chatter in my head.
More. More. More.

The Devil’s Malware 21.2

Mother Mary w flare gone

21.2
All is suddenly calm.
The voices go silent.
The Devil’s lens dissipates.
No wind.
No air.
No sound at all.
I can’t even hear the breath in my lungs or the blood in my brain.
No sound.
I need to find home.
My ex-wife and daughter.
I need to find them.
I head out of the churchyard and run for my old apartment building.

The Devil’s Malware 21.3

Apartment Bldg Construction 1

21.3
It’s gone.
The old apartment building is gone.
Gutted for new condos.
Or a parking garage.
How long has it been like this?
How long ago did they break it all down?
Where is my family?
Where did they go?
Did they move?
They must have moved?
So many years since I’ve seen them.
I’ve come all this way.
Where did they go?

The Devil’s Malware 21.4

Apartment Bldg Construction 2 w flare

21.4
The light changes and I see the Devil’s lens watching me.
The sound returns.
The laughter and the hissing and the beat of my heart and the gasp of my breath.
I can hear everything.
I can hear the subway running beneath my feet and I can hear planes overhead and I can hear the radio and cellular waves passing through the air.
I can hear everything.

The Devil’s Malware 21.5

Apartment Bldg Construction 4

21.5
“Sweetie,” I hear a woman’s voice whisper from somewhere inside the gutted building.
I move closer to the building.
I listen to hear if the voice speaks again.

The Devil’s Malware 21.6

Apartment Bldg Construction 3

21.6
“Look sharp, sweetie,” the voice says again.
The voice of my ex-wife.
Speaking to me from somewhere inside the building.
“Daddy, look sharp,” the voice of my daughter whispers.
They talk softly.
As if they don’t want to be discovered.
“Look sharp and help us,” the voice of my ex-wife says like a rustle of paper in the wind.
They speak so softly, but of course I can hear them.
Of course I can hear them.
They’re my family.
No matter how far I’ve gone away, I can always hear them.
Sympathetic signal sent into the ether and falling on my ears. My ears know every single edge and tone of their voices. The way my daughter pleads for another piece of candy or the way my ex-wife rebukes me for yet another asinine comment.
I want to smile at the sound of their voices.
But I can’t.
Because I hear the fright in their whispers.
Because I hear the way they’re evading discovery.
I need to find them.
I need to find a way into this gutted building.

The Devil’s Malware 21.7

Apartment Bldg Construction 5

21.7
There’s an apartment building next to my old home that still stands.
I remember there was a back entrance down the steps and around the side.
Down these steps and around the back, I can get into the building.
The hero enters the cave.
What lurks at the heart of the cavern?
My family’s voices are in my head.
“Look sharp and help us,” my ex-wife and daughter say again and again.
Like an SOS whispered into the ether.
I reach back and touch the painting of the two lovers strapped to my backpack once more.
To give me strength.
To give me the courage of the lion.
The courage to roar. The courage to yawp. The courage to bellow.
The courage to turn the Devil to stone once more.
I walk down the steps and into the cavern.

(Tune in tomorrow for the final installment…)

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