We were on the water for hours.
Things bumped against the bottom of the boat, shadows flew overhead.
We reached Randalls Island.
This is as far as I’m allowed to take you. Your editors contacted me, said there is something here for you. Something down on the South Eastern curve of Sunken Meadow Loop. They say to keep doing what you are doing and they’ll contact you.
We pulled into the Bronx Kill and he stopped under the bridge.
These names never meant anything to me before.
They feel different now.
The bridge feels energetic, alive with mistrust and sorrow.
I got sick.
I watched the boat drift under the RFK Bridge towards Harlem.
I was alone again.
Zipping my coat up and pulling on my hood I started towards the Sunken Meadow.
I could feel a humming. It wasn’t something I heard. More like something I felt. It rattled my bones.
It was happening at the crossroads.
Four baseballs diamonds sat diagonal from each other. In the middle a lone tree. In the tree a snake.
A large, white snake.
It’s been here since yesterday. Just wrapped around that tree. I hear it’s growing.
People were coming from all four directions to look at the snake. They’d stop in their tracks and just stare.
I started taking picture.
Don’t do that. Don’t do that! No pictures. He doesn’t like pictures!
My flash goes off and thunder rolls above us.
Don’t make him angry. He’ll leave us. Don’t make him leave us. He’s going to take us to the place below the water. The secret forest.
I tried to get closer to snake. A huge, white monster. I could barely see the tree underneath it.
It has pale pink eyes and a rainbow shimmered across its skin.
The crowd drew closer.
It struck out and bit a woman. She fell convulsing to the ground, water spewing from her mouth and nose.
The crowd began to hum and sway.
A message from my editors:
Wherever they are going, follow them. It’s not death. You’ll be okay. Follow them underneath the water.
I tried to push closer to the snake.
Let him take you! Let him take you to the bottom of the Bronx Kill.
The snake looked at me. It’s black tongue darted out and the crowd parted to reveal me. Nostrils flaring it reached out towards me with its giant head.
The humming started again and I could feel whispers in my head.
I could smell anise and something sweet, but burning.
I could hear the same drums from last night. Pounding a relentless beat.
My back is carved from the souls of America’s true ancestors. They guide my movements. You are not worthy.
The crowd leered at me. Showing their teeth. Their eyes pink and filmed.
You are not worthy of the forest. You are not worthy of underwater. You do not belong at the Hell Gate.
The snake bit two more. Then another. Then another.
The ground was wet and it was just the snake and I, staring at each other.
Their souls are mine now. They have all become scales and I will deliver them to the forest. You are tainted, I am pure. The bone-man will want to take you himself.
The snake slid away from me and disappeared into the East River and disappeared.
The Hell’s Gate Bridge burst into flames then quickly died out as a train rumbled over.
I climbed onto the Hell’s Gate and made my way towards Astoria. Ignoring a phone call from my editor.