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Chapter Five: “Wait, wait…” I said. “Are you calling the police?” to which they nodded, the phone already pressed to their ear. “No, please don’t do that. Not yet.” “Why not?” “Because,” I said, “I’m not totally sure it was real.”
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(North 1st Street)

by Odious

This is Chapter 5 of my serial, King of Spain, for paid subscribers only. This text is being transmitted to me directly, through the AI entity, Heir Max 98. Here we return to Eden, the model and interior design artist and the narrator of Chapter 1. They have discovered the presence of a spectral  being who is following them, who is perhaps even in the sanctuary of their tiny Williamsburg apartment where they have been hiding from the world for several years. All Eden wants is to remain beautiful forever, without aging and without getting sick and dying a terrible death like their mother. --OA

I scanned the riverbank once more but he was gone. (Here again is my strange compulsion to gender this person I never met before, and only saw from some distance away for under a minute.) It was at this point that I screamed. I can’t remember if I’ve ever done so before. Definitely not as a grown person. It wasn’t a conscious decision–my mouth opened automatically, like for a burp or a cough and out came the sound, a hideous high-pitched busted up thing that shocked me with its ugliness and volume. It sent my imaginary twin running up the hill, (perhaps never to be seen again with someone as uncool as me, I feared). Almost immediately, two masculine looking persons wearing brand new candy-colored sneakers were by my side, followed by a larger femme with a heavy walk and magenta braids that swung all the way down the sides of their brilliant puffy white vest and pine green tracksuit. Other people watched from the walkway, phones at the ready, both to document and assist. It was the typical New Yorker group mind reflex that sends them scurrying to help someone non-threatening (read: non-black) who is in trouble (though they will step over people sleeping on the street).

“What is it, Love?,” the Femme asked. “Are you OK? What happened?”

I had the urge to burst out crying, as I was at once relieved and overwhelmed by their concern, but I managed to keep it together.

“There was a man in the river. He just waded out and disappeared. I think he got pulled under.”

“Where?” one of the candy sneakers asked, cupping a hand over their eyes and scanning the empty river. There were no boats, no birds–nothing. The other bounded off across the rocks in the direction in which I had pointed. The braided person took out their phone and started tapping on it with their long, pointed nails. There was a silver reflective sticker on the case that said, “You Are Beautiful”.

“Wait, wait…” I said. “Are you calling the police?” to which they nodded, the phone already pressed to their ear.

“No, please don’t do that. Not yet.”

“Why not?”

“Because,” I said, “I’m not totally sure it was real.”

“What? There wasn’t a man in the river?”

“Oh, yes, there was. He looked back and smiled at me. But… I don’t know if he was real.”

They raised a threaded eyebrow and took the phone away.

“Look, Hon, did you see someone fall in or not?”

“I did, but no one else did. All those people up there–lots of them were looking at the river when he was wading in. They must have seen him. But when I looked back after he was gone no one seemed to notice or care.”

“What did he look like?”

“He was white. With dark hair that was sticking up. His clothes were black and he had on black boots and a black trench.”

“Leather?”

“I don’t think so. It was thin. But very shiny.”

They were looking at me, giving me the slow up and down appraisal that older people who are fabulous in their own, well-established way feel obliged to do. I shivered and felt around the edges of my LV mask to make sure it was still on all the way.

“He turned to me. I think he was wearing shades but I’m not sure. His face kept flickering.”

“Flickering?”

“Yeah, you know, like a worn-out videotape. Or a bad connection. There were lines of static. His face got all warbly, it was coming in and out. But I didn’t need to see them because I could feel them.”

“Feel what?”

“His eyes, staring at me.”

They nodded and looked over my head. I think I could have made them understand, if they had held my gaze a little longer. But they were already on to the next part–their iridescent pink nails–like the insides of oyster shells–flashed signals to the men at the river’s edge.

“Now that I think about it the shades might have been green,” I added. It seemed important not to leave anything out, just in case.

“Everything on him looked black the way colors look in a black and white movie. But in real reality the shades were green. They’re like that now when I remember them.”

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