Carnival of Flesh - Luke Palermo

City streets align with neon dreams, passing laughter of the nuevo cool. New York in all its glory stares down from gargoyle faces, facades of another day now backdrops to this story. Words varying as the people that inspire them, 42nd Street becomes a carnival of flesh, bone, and rose scented novelty. Offers of every kind fill my ears as I make my way down 8th Avenue, for twenty dollars the world and a smile.

Drops of rain send me looking for a cab, enough hands fill the street to let me know it's time for a three dollar umbrella. If no one stops at least I'll be dry enough to walk the rest of the way. As I step out into the downpour a taxi appears inches from me. The driver never turns around as I get in, two eyes watching from the rear view mirror.

"Seventh Street, between C and D."

Without a sound he shifts into drive and edges forward. Soon enough we are on Ninth Avenue headed South through an exceptionally violent storm. Wind battered umbrellas litter the sidewalk keeping score of man versus nature. Swift red faces duck between storefronts, a splash of water sends them running. Quickness is a virtue hurrying leap frog, shelter to shelter.

"You can smoke if you want to," the driver says in a monotone voice.

"No thanks, I've been trying to quit."

"Cigarettes and nights like tonight, makes a lot of sense."

"A stiff drink sounds more my speed."

"Behind the wheel there's no time for alcohol, I might get you killed."

"What about yourself?"

"I found my death a long time ago, you could say I woke to it."

"What are you a junkie."

"It's not that simple, I've been dead for five years and counting. But before you think I'm crazy let me get to the good part, I can't step out of this cab."

"Why don't you simply stop and get out?"

"I'll cease to exist, this is the only life I have left."

"If you're trying to scare me, it's working. Drop me off right here."

"It's raining out, let me take you to your door. Forget I mentioned it."

"Alright, but lay off the freak show."

Possibilities play their game of weave and cover, I try not to think about what was said. Having fun with his fares that's all, the rain must have me paranoid. I ease back in the seat and watch the city flicker by, green turning red becoming blue. Faces slither across the sidewalk, weathered by time and all of its children.

The driver adjusts the rearview mirror then begins, "These city streets and I are good friends by now, how long have you been in Manhattan?"

I remain silent for a moment. "Eight years."

"Then you've seen it changing, not all for the best."

"Crime is down."

"It's only changed its face, history will tell the truth."

"You talk a lot for a dead man."

"So kill me... sorry, bad joke"

"If you are dead, how did it happen?"

"The last thing I remember is drinking in the Lower East Side, I came to sprawled out in the front seat of a parked cab. When I opened the door and put my foot on the street everything began to tingle, reality started turning gray until I pulled my foot back inside. The key was in the ignition, so without knowing what to do I began taking fares. I didn't want to be dead, it's the only thing that made sense."

"You know you really had me going for a moment with your ghost story."

"Story!" With that he slams on the brakes and opens his door.

"What are you doing?"

"You want to see a story, watch this." Without hesitation he puts one foot out the door and then the other, stepping into the falling rain. For a moment he stands there a total idiot, then it begins. Slowly the rain works its way through his body until he's no more.

Unsure of what just happened I open the door and begin getting out, as my foot hits the road everything starts to dissolve. Quickly pulling it back inside the cab I became all too aware of the truth in his words. My thoughts go blank trying to think of what to do, what had I stumbled upon?

Knock, knock, knock. "Are you on duty?"