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#TheDevilsMalware (The Continuing Adventures of the Gleaner: Episode 22 #AdventCalendar Edition)

The Devil’s Malware 22.1

Gleaner Final Episode 1

22.1
(We rejoin our hero in Forest Hills climbing the steps of his old apartment building, all the floors now gutted as the building is being reconstructed. His family’s whereabouts are unknown, but he hears their voices from somewhere inside the building.)

I move up the stairs at the back of the site
The air feels thinner with each step I take up. As if I’m at the peak of a mountain, the ascent getting steeper and steeper as I go forward.

Beast of glory.

Keep going.

Beast of glory.

All the floors of the building have been cleared of anything recognizable.
Little of the building’s frame is left.
There’s scaffolding everywhere.
My family’s apartment is gone.
But I still hear their voices.
The sound is coming from two floors up.

“Look sharp and help us,” they keep whispering.

I climb up another floor.
The voices are just above me.

“Look sharp and help us,” they whisper again.

I climb up the last set of steps.

“I’m here,” I mutter as I finally reach the floor where the voices are drifting from. “I’m here,” I say again. “Where are you?”

The Devil’s Malware 22.2

The Devil as Cat 1

22.2
His eyes are on me.
Steady as a laser.
The voices change to impish laughter.
He watches me from his perch in the corner of the empty floor.
No sound but his roguish laugh and the breeze moving the construction tarp hanging from the ceiling.

Looks just like Tickles.

Sydney and Suzie’s absurd and absurdly named cat.

The Devil looks just like Tickles.

Was it Tickles the whole time?

Or is the Devil mocking me with this form? Taking the shape of our beloved companion.

The Devil is watching me again.

I felt this was coming.

Even God can’t kill the Devil forever.

Light and dark. Battling for supremacy.

“You took your eyes off the plan in hand, old boy” the Devil says to me.

“Where’s my family?” I ask the Devil.

“We got them while you were sleeping,” the Devil says. “While you were lost and confused. While you were working out all you puzzles. While you were off on your tangents, furiously pedaling your tandems, we got them.”

“Where did you take them?” I ask.

He snickers. “That would be telling, old boy.”

“What’s the plan? Tell me. What’s your plan? Why do you need them?”

“That would be telling as well, old boy. And where’s the sport in telling?”

“I’ll find them. I’ll save them.”

“Give it a go, old boy! Give it a go.”

“I’ll stop you. I’ll get you.”

“Give it a shot, old boy. But just remember what it’s like trying to catch a cat on the run.”

The Devil’s Malware 22.3

The Devil as Cat 2

22.3
He moves like a coiled spring unleashed.

The Devil’s Malware 22.4

The Devil as Cat 3 (gone)

22.4
And the Devil that looks like Tickles the cat vanishes from his perch quicker than flash paper.

The Devil’s Malware 22.5

Painting of Lovers Cropped Final

22.5
The color rushes out of everything around me.
As if the Devil has left me nothing but black and white.
I collapse onto the ground, my legs giving out beneath me.
The breeze still moves the construction tarp hanging around me.
I close my eyes for a moment.
The Devil has my family.

Have I come all this way to be this lost?

The Devil has my family.

But…

The Devil doesn’t have me yet.
I take my ratty backpack off and look at the painting of the two lovers strapped to it.

Got hope?

Not beaten yet.

I got the Devil once with my roar. Turned him to stone. Beat him with my roar.
I can beat him again.
Light and dark, man. Battling for supremacy.
The Devil has taken my family.
But he hasn’t taken the beast of glory yet.

The Devil’s Malware 22.6

Gleaner Final Frame

22.6
Never a beast of burden.
Always a beast of glory.
I beat the Devil once.
And I can beat him again.
I put my ratty backpack on with the painting of the two lovers still strapped to it.
Got hope, man?
Ready to beat the Devil one more time.

Beast of glory, man.

I’m a beast of glory, man.

(To be continued…)

(HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!)

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