That’s the thing about this city… the people aren’t people! I mean, they are people in that they look like people--but they don’t act like people. I know this sounds insane but this city doesn’t have a single real person! Sure, they may look like human beings: They wear clothes, walk on two legs, talk in complete sentences, and seem, overall, like your average kind of crowd.
New York, or at least what I think is New York, is a big, bustling city. My brain gets fuzzy when I think about it too much, but shouldn’t people be staring at something? Not a soul. Nobody is glancing at someone, nobody is looking at the buildings, the streets, the signs. You might not notice at first, but everyone is looking ahead and their eyes are all fixed in one place, not darting about. Their clothes are plain and they all have their hair the same way. Girls have long hair past their waist, and guys have the bachelor haircut, everyone single one. This is New York! You should at least see a mohawk or a bald head somewhere in there!
My name is Lisa Green; I’m a reporter from Chicago. My dream was always to see New York, and eventually, I saved up enough money to go. I went to the Statue of Liberty, but when I was on the ferry to get there, nobody was looking at her. Not a single person. Why pay money to see the Statue of Liberty and then not gaze upon it? They weren’t moving, either. Occasionally someone would walk to the other side of the boat, but they would just stare at nothing. I soon realized that it was everyone, everywhere, all the time. It made no sense that something was wrong with New York, but I was going to find out what if it was the last thing I did.
“Huh,” Detective Doyle muttered to himself. “Are you sure this is the last thing she wrote?”
“Positive. We found her hotel room abandoned. The suitcase wasn’t unpacked and there was only a journal, seemingly freshly bought since this was the only entry. The toilet paper wasn’t touched--not a single damn fingerprint practically anywhere--it seemed she never even entered,” answered Detective Bennet.
“How can her suitcase be in the room if she never entered it?” Doyle asked.
“You tell me, sir. Not a single hair was in that room. It was virtually spotless.”
“That makes no sense. She must have come in. She went to the Statue of Liberty,” Doyle said.
“We have no evidence of that. There’s footage of her leaving the elevator, but nothing after that. There is no proof of her visiting the statue. There’s not a tape of her leaving the elevator on the lobby floor,” said Bennet.
“You’re telling me she just seemed to disappear?”
“It would appear so, sir.” Bennet shrugged.
“Who reported her missing?” asked Doyle.
“It seems her boss did… although looking at it, it is fuzzy,” Bennet replied.
A puzzling case indeed, Doyle thought.
Doyle went home later that night; taking the subway, then walking the rest. He entered his lonely little apartment. Doyle didn’t have a wife or a husband. He didn’t find anyone attractive for he found beauty in law. He did, however, have a black cat named Willow and she came howling at the door for food.
Doyle fed Willow, who ate to her heart’s content. Doyle pulled out a frozen dinner and shoved it into the microwave. He knew that not eating healthily every night might eventually kill him, but he was always too exhausted to make dinner. He pulled out his food, turned on the TV, and idly listened to the news. Tonight’s story was like every other, a political scandal.
Doyle was barely paying attention. His mind was fixed on the case of Lisa Green. A woman that simply disappeared. He, of course, knew that nobody could just vanish--everyone left a trace--and although it sometimes took years to find that loose end, it was always there.
Lisa Green was your normal news reporter from Chicago. It seemed she was responsible for the horoscope and random feel-good stories, nothing of importance. So why would anyone kidnap her? Maybe she left on her own and somehow deleted the footage. That can’t be, thought Doyle, or else her fingerprints would be on the doorknob. He sat thinking about possible scenarios until his brain hurt, then promptly went to bed.
In the morning, Doyle got ready and left for work. He entered the building and took some bitter black coffee. It was shitty, but it was free. Doyle went to his desk and opened Lisa’s file. It was bare, with only a photo of her and a sheet of paper giving her physical description. 5´9”, a woman, caucasian, with curly brown hair, blue eyes, last reported wearing olive-green shorts and a white t-shirt. Where she was seen last, her non-existent criminal record, date of birth, and few more things. There were no witnesses. The person who claimed her missing was her boss, but the queer thing was, the file just said “Boss,” no name given.
Doyle closed it. The case seemed to be cold and there was nothing he could do; yet Doyle just couldn’t get it out of his mind. He had no idea why, for he had other things to do than to ponder an impossible case--so why was he pondering it?
Doyle opened the young lady’s journal. The writing was rushed, yet somehow refined, and the woman seemed out of her mind. But what surprised him was that another entry had appeared.
The Illusion of normal keeps fading the longer I’m here. The hair colors of everyone are now the same. Brunette is all I see and all the little kids are gone. Everyone is slowly fading away or becoming the same thing. The more I try to remember what city I’m in, the more confused I get. Nothing here is right, so am I even on earth? I don’t think I’m breathing. I can’t talk about it. Everything is so far and yet so close like everything is on the tip of my tongue. Once I figure out what is wrong with New York City, it will be my biggest story yet.
Doyle could not believe what he saw. He double-checked that the entry was there (it was indeed), but he refused to see it with his own eyes. He went on with work, determined not to think about such an impossible thing.
Doyle eventually went home; he just really wanted to pet his cat. Doyle made his way inside but Willow did not run to the door or angrily howl at him for feeding her late again.
“Willow?” Doyle called.
“Nathanael Doyle! You’re finally home,” a voice called out.
Doyle went pale. He barely ever told anyone his first name, and no one had used it in years. It wasn’t because he didn’t like it; simply because Detective Doyle sounded a lot better. He reached for the pistol in his holster.
“Don’t you dare, Nathanael. It’s not going to help you,” the voice said. Doyle moved his hand away from the gun. He didn’t like using it anyway. Doyle entered the living room and saw a man with long legs and a broad torso sitting on his couch. He had a sharp jawline, cold eyes, and neat brown hair. He was wearing a suit with a white shirt, a black tie, and a pair of sleek dress shoes. He also had a pair of black wings, but Doyle tried not to mention that to him.
“And who are you?” Doyle asked.
“I’m Death. Well, in a sense,” the man answered.
“Huh,” Doyle said, and sat down in his chair.
“You seem calm?” the man said.
“It’s about time those frozen dinners caught up with me.”
The man stared. “You have the wrong idea, Doyle--”
“Oh, great,” Doyle interrupted.
“Look, we don’t have much time. I need you to stop investigating Lisa Green.”
“Lisa was never meant to disappear. We had some things go wrong--”
The man stared as if he had never been interrupted so much in his life. “Someone else was supposed to die in that lift. Not her.”
“There was no lift accident,” Doyle said.
“That’s because it was covered up. Like I said, Lisa was never meant to die.”
“If you shut up, I might actually be able to tell you something.”
Doyle shut up.
“Thank you. Now as I was saying, Lisa was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens occasionally and usually, we have people sent to fix it before they die, but I guess Lisa slipped under the radar. The lift was supposed to malfunction and drop down, killing someone. Lisa was in front of the person that was supposed to get on the lift. Lisa is currently trapped in hell. Which, for her, is a mystery that she can never solve. That should explain the journal entries you read. We are working on getting her to earth but one thing is stopping us.”
“What would that be?” Doyle asked.
“How can I--”
“Everyone else has forgotten the case of Lisa Green but you. For a man who hates things not making sense, you sure have acquainted yourself with this case. We were supposed to get Lisa back on earth, that person on the lift, and put things together. Apparently, Lisa, being her confused self, somehow reached out to you and reported herself missing. We still have no idea how she is doing all of this, but in order to put her back in place, we need to break the connection between the two of you.”
“And how are you going to do that?” Doyle asked.
“You won’t forget anything important, just the case of Lisa Green, and, well, me, of course. Your tiny human brain would go insane pretty quickly if you knew we existed.”
“So why haven’t you done it?” Doyle asked.
“We need consent. Policy rules. Don’t even know why we have them, but there’s terrible termination if we break them.”
“Look, Nathaneal, if you forget about this, Lisa Green will come back to life and everything in the universe will be all right.”
“The universe would go wrong?” Doyle asked.
“Time wimey stuff. A person is alive and shouldn’t be and a person is dead and shouldn’t be. We just threw off the course of history.”
“God, you ask so many questions. The person’s death leads to more technical advances for lifts. That to help ensure the safety of the public, which then leads to more technical advances. We have no idea what would happen if that were to go wrong. Plus, you save Lisa Green in the process. “
Doyle thought about that. He would save Lisa in the process, but what would happen to her?
“Does Lisa get to remember?” asked Doyle.
“She won’t remember a thing and neither will you,” the man said.
“So you consent to the memory wipe?” the man asked.
“Yes, I consent.”
Doyle woke up sometime later to Willow meowing. The poor detective had fallen asleep in the chair and forgotten to feed her. Doyle fed her and went to bed.
The next morning, Doyle went to work, got some of that shitty coffee, and read the latest case file. Next to it was a Chicago Times newspaper, which was strange, considering he lived in New York. He read the Horoscope by Lisa Green and her article on some of the best hotels to stay in New York. He looked up and saw the TV flashing, “Lift Accident In New York Hotel, Worst One We’ve Seen In Decades.” The victim was a college student named Bella Young. May her soul rest, thought Doyle.
Doyle continued about his day, then went home and fed his cat.