A street in the better part of Columbus, lined with corporate stores trying to look like little independant shops. Not a lot happens there, but, then again, not a lot of things happen in a lot of places. But I was lucky enough to be there when something did happen. Maybe lucky isn't the right word. And maybe nothing did happen.
Anyway, I was walking along with Rachel, speaking back and forth with her about what she wanted to get from wherever we were going. She was leading, I wasn't paying much attention to what stores we happened into.
"I want to get to the north side of town before two, alright? There's a little sunglasses store around there, and I need a new pair."
I nodded. "Yeah, sure."
"Oh, wait. Can we get some coffee or something? I'm starting to slow down." Rachel had a thing for caffeine.
I nodded again, and she started off in the direction of the nearest Starbucks, which was about ten feet away. These expensive coffee places are positioned strategically so that when you start craving caffeine, you only have to turn around to find overpriced mocha lattes. It's hard not to trip over them, really.
So, to coffee we went. Rachel with her fifteen bags, and me trudging along behind. I was looking forward to one of those high-priced coffee-flavored things. But, before we could get to the doors, we were stopped. Rachel stopped, I should say, and I stopped with her.
There was a woman holding a cell phone on the corner in front of the Starbucks. She was shrieking into it, her eyes bloodshot and watery, tears spilling from her eyes.
"I c-can't find him...you have to come back, you know what h-he looks like."
Rachel grabbed the woman's arm. "Who are you looking for?"
She's like that, Rachel. Not very shy.
"A b-boy, he was supposed to be here." The woman could barely choke out any more words. She was going into hysterics.
"What does he look like?"
"Please, he was supposed to be RIGHT HERE -"
"Okay, ma'am, what does he look like?"
"He's thirteen, about this tall," She held up her hand about to Rachel's height. Rachel wasn't very tall. "And he has glasses."
That should have tipped me off right there. Thirteen and this woman is going totally fucking nuts? The kid should be able to take care of himself. But Rachel wasn't done.
"Okay, calm down. I'll call security." Rachel reached up and put her hand on this woman's shoulder. God, she was so cute. So short.
"Tom, will you stay here with her?"
Excellent. Stuck with the schizo lady. Well, it was better than walking around in the perfume section of Nordstrom's.
"Yeah. You're gonna get security?"
"Yeah, I'll be right back." And so she sped off toward the middle of town.
So. Alone with crazy. Maybe she would calm down a bit if I talked to her.
"So, is this your son?"
No, she would NOT calm down, no sir.
"He was here, right HERE. I went in, and he was gone, and now I can't find him, he was right on the corner, RIGHT ON THE DAMNED CORNER -"
The woman's voice caught in her throat. She looked like she was about to faint, so I helped her sit down on the curb. She didn't seem too happy about that.
"How long were you in Starbucks?" Try, try again. Maybe it would work this time.
"About twenty minutes. He didn't want to come in."
Strange. Standing outside for twenty minutes? I chose not to ask about it. Luckily, before she could babble any more, Rachel came back with two security guards.
Oddly, the woman didn't turn toward Rachel and her gang of security personnel. She got up and started walking down the street. As she reached the other corner of Starbucks, she issued a sound I had never heard before, and hope to never hear again. A piercing moan, a dying cry of some animal.
And that's about when things started falling apart.
Rachel hadn't heard the cry, strangely. It stabbed into my ears like sharp, hot glass, needling its way into my brain. So, I ran toward the woman, not knowing what I would find. If I had known, I don't think I would have gone over to her. I probably would have turned right around and ran the hell away. Not looking back.
She was standing by the sewer grate on the corner behind Starbucks. By that time, Rachel had gotten the message and herded her little playgroup of security guys over to us. I wish she hadn't.
There was something in the sewer, something I couldn't see. I crouched down next to it, and peered in through the grate. The sight that greeted me made my throat clench. I couldn't breathe.
Someone, someTHING, had stuffed a boy into a sewer. That's the short story.
This is the long version.
He didn't have any eyes anymore. That was the first thing I had noticed. Two bloody, black holes. Empty. His glasses were still on, though.
He'll never SEE his mother again, I thought, screaming, frenzied laughter echoing in my head.
I think he was eviscerated. Hollowed out, barely even a torso left. Is that what eviscerated means? I never asked. All I could think of was this broken pile of bones covered with rags, a horrible parody of a boy.
I looked up at the woman. His mother, his guardian, whatever. She didn't have any eyes, either. I guess I hadn't noticed.
Rachel wasn't there. The security guys weren't there. Nobody was, except this woman. Clawing at the sewer grate, which was now just a wooden plank covering a hole in the dirt.
I looked back at the sewer. The boy was smiling. Grinning eyelessly. That shouldn't have made sense, but it connected in my mind.
It was contagious, so I smiled too. Why not? Everybody was happy here. Just fine and dandy.
Rachel was staring up into my face, worried.
We were on the corner, in front of Starbucks. No woman, no boy, no sewer grate. Everything sewed back together.
"I think I lost you for a second. You feeling alright?"
I nodded. Of course I was.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Still want that coffee?"
Rachel laughed. Of course she did. So we went in and got ourselves some expensive coffee.
So, yeah, not much happens on Gramercy Street. It's a pretty quiet place, stitched together well.
But, then again, not much happens in a lot of places.
When Rachel and I were done, I decided to ignore the pair of bloody glasses lying by the curb.
Some of this story is true. Much of it isn't. Gramercy Street is a real place. I apologize to those who know of it, because I'm not exactly sure where it is.