2047: Part II [Latent Image]
The second installment in the “2047” series, short tales of surreality and beyond.
I waited for you last night, but you never came. I waited by the stream just like we planned, by the stream. You asked me to wait there for you at eight. It was so quiet in the park by that stream. I listened for your footsteps but they never padded across the frostbitten leaves to greet me as we agreed. You never came, but a stranger did. A woman came by the stream with a black dog on a leash. I noted that it was very similar to a Shepard, but I wasn't certain.
She let the dog off the leash and sat beside me on a bench that overlooks the stream. We sat in utter silence. The Shepard-like dog knelt over the flowing water and lapped up the clear liquid softly, in a manner that reminded me more of a cat than a canine, but it doesn't matter now. The woman turned to me as if to speak, but she said nothing. She only turned her head to gaze up into the sky to greet the snowflakes as they drifted to the ground, then she looked around like she was waiting for someone. But no one came. The moonlight emerged through the winter clouds and caught her face. I felt a strange need to draw myself to look upon it. I marveled for a moment.
She was an older woman, genteel and very familiar to me; lines etched into her skin to mark her age, but not only to do that. They seemed to echo to me, resound of memories from a life well and long lived. Her gray eyes wrinkled slightly as she smiled sadly at me and called her dog back to its leash. She stood and stole away quietly into the dark night. That smile haunts me still. It was as if she knew something that I didn't and such a possibility frightened me to such a degree as I have never felt before in all my life.
I scolded myself fiercely. I should have said something, done something to try and warn her or help her in some way-any way! She was a lonely woman; I could tell from the strangely familiar expression of sadness, of utter despair in her eyes as spread her lips into a smile as distant and dim as Beetlegeuse. I now regret that I did not reach out and touch her in her loneliness—even if only to assure her or remind her of the kindness that had once been, so long ago, an honorable quality of men in this world. But out of self-centered ignorance, I merely sat there and returned to staring at the rolling stream in silence—so frigid a silence that it may very well could have matched the cold night air.
The stream rolled and trickled over stones, stumbling endlessly over old branches that had been stolen by the wind and dropped into the icy depths of the stream, which rushed on and on throughout the park like some Wall Street bondsman in a hurry to make the 10:15 train to Albany. I waited for you a while longer, but you never came....
I crossed the park, following the stream until I went astray and led myself to the main street where I came upon a sudden commotion brewing just ahead. The traffic was at a tense halt with horns blowing loudly from one end of the avenue to the other and what had begun as a small huddling of people now transformed into a source of nearly anarchical spectatorship.
A swollen mass of onlookers swarmed, flocking to bear witness to whatever it was that was happening. I walked on, wanting nothing whatever to do with such triflers and paying little attention to the foolishness other than to occasionally mutter a small "excuse me" as I pushed my way beyond the crowd to hail a cab, and to head home to bed. All I could think of was you—and that you never came to meet me by the stream last night.
The cab pulled up alongside the curb and I opened the door to get inside out of the cold air, but something caught my eye and so I looked in the direction of the distraction. Through a small break in the crowd, my eyes fell upon the sight of a black object lying in the street. Immediately I felt my heart beating so loudly in my ears that I feared they might be rendered deaf. I froze.
It was such a strange sensation. I could bot open my eyes and everything around me began to sound as if it were submerged underwater.
Then suddenly, through my eyelids, I could almost “see” a dark figure flash across. My eyes opened, but I had no control.
In the small lake, the same shadowy figure emerged and tore off immediately across the surface of the water.
All of the hissing and whirring of New York City ceased as if all had suddenly dropped dead right in their tracks.
Could it be the dog from the park? I recalled the feeling the old woman had evoked in me before. That smile that had made me feel that perhaps she had known something that I was completely unaware of at the time. I asked the driver to wait a few moments but he shouted something about it being late and that he couldn't wait on me if someone else needed a lift. I closed the door and waved him off, then hurried over to the mass of spectators.
As I drew closer to the scene, several policemen approached me to try and shoo me away. They tried to block my view, but it was too late. I had already fixed my gaze upon the familiar face of the woman who had sat beside me on that bench only a few minutes before, and whose body was battered and badly bruised. Her eyes lay open widely, gazing upward just as they had done before in the park, but this time they were empty. This time, they were only limp orbs of lifeless, bloody tissue. The passion, the light that had burned through them was gone now, but I remembered their spirit and their anticipation. I remembered her smile as I gazed down upon her bloodstained lips.
Thick, coagulating crimson blood pooled about her head and a small line of it had trickled down over her eyebrow to her mouth. The policeman continued to warn me to back up, but I refused. I told him that I had seen her in the park and it was then that he became very interested in what I had to say. He began to question me extensively, jumping to conclusions and practically implicating me as a suspect, but I interrupted him to defend myself. He explained to me that she had been attacked from behind with a blunt object.
Perhaps it had been an armed robbery gone awry.
But I was not armed with any such object. He never once tired of pointing out that I was the last person to see this woman alive, which he also never tired of considering very suspicious. But because he had no evidence on which to base his borderline accusation, he could not arrest me and had no choice but to let me go, on the condition that I not leave town any time soon. I acquiesced and made my way back to the curbside to hail another cab. I still can't help but wondering if that old woman had been waiting for someone just like I waited for you. But her someone had never come, and neither did you.
Her face had seemed so familiar to me in the moonlight. And then I remembered. She had been the woman at the Tower the night I met you. She had been the old woman who had shouted at the doorman that night. It had been she, and now she was dead. The black object that had caught my attention earlier turned out to have been the woman's handbag, which was laced with black faux fur. I asked about her dog, but the police told me she didn't have one.
And that was it.
I came out from the dark without you, and every day since has been in shadow.