Let’s leave Mystic Island for a moment and head to New York City. Manhattan, to be exact. And let’s focus in on Paula Reese, a sharply dressed forty year old business woman striding along the crowded city sidewalk. She is returning to her office after a very important business lunch. Paula just made a big deal, and the spring in her step makes her forget about the uncomfortable high heel shoes she is wearing. Paula is walking with her head held high, her shoulders back, and purpose in her gate. Seemingly, nothing can a-break-a her stride. That is, until a buzzing commotion swarms through the sea of pedestrians around her. There seems to be some sort of fracas up ahead, and the crowd, like a school of minnows, all move forward in unison.
Paula turns to a young man with shaggy brown hair and a corduroy sports jacket. She asks him, “What is it? What’s going on?”
The guy with the shaggy hair shrugs and continues lock-step with the crowd. Car horns begin to beep in the distance, and the crowd begins to slow, the people forming a large semicircle on the sidewalk, people murmuring to one another with excitement.
Paula uses her new confidence from her meeting, and she moves through the crowd to the front edge, as if she belongs there. After all, that’s what her boss John Thompsontold her to do: When in doubt, just act like you belong there. Paula looks up at the surrounding high-rise buildings, spotting countless people peering from their offices, their faces pressed to the glass windows.
Paula now stands beside a young man with sunglasses, a backward hat, and earbuds cranking a deep, muffled base rift.“What is this?” Paula asks the young man.
“Huh?”the man says, yanking the buds from his ears, his base rift now a clear thumping.
“What’s going on?” Paula says.
The young man nods his head, gesturing into the distance.
Paula spots the camera crew across the street. The spotlights. The sound booms. Then she spots a man in an impeccably tailored suit. The most recognizable face on television. He seems larger in life, but only because of his recognition factor. He is no larger than any other man. If anything, he is below average height, and his shoulders are beginning to sag a little, his temples graying prematurely. His blue eyes, however, are still quick and sharp.
The beeping car horns intensify as cars crawl by, drivers rubbernecking at the crowd.
Paula turns and says, almost giddily, to the young man with the earbuds, “Uh-oh, who’s the unlucky person?”
The young man shrugs and returns the earbuds to his ears.
Across the street, The man in the suit says something to a man wearing a headset. The man with the headset scrambles about, talking quickly into the headset’s mouthpiece. The cameras turn toward the crowd, and a panicked murmur breaks out amongst them, each person looking at the people around him or her, some craning their necks as if looking for someone in particular.
Paula says, “Who’s the…?”
Then a buzz begins running through the crowd, people turning their heads in one direction. Their heads turning toward Paula. And then the crowd, as one, steps away from her like a ripple from a stone cast into a pond.
Paula has a sudden realization, and she begins to plead with the crowd, “What are…?No, wait… It’s not me.”
But the people continue to move away from her. Looks of sympathy and thrilled anticipation upon their faces.
“It’s not me. Please. It’s not me.”Paula says. She darts toward another woman who is dressed in a business suit. The woman flinches as if faced with a leper. Paula saying to the woman, “Please. It’s not me.”
The woman in the business suit says, “But he’s never wrong.”
Paula reels around at the crowd, begging them all for assurance. But none can offer it to her. She begins to back away from the crowd as they back away from her, Paula almost tripping off the sidewalk as she turns toward the cameras and calls toward the man in the suit, “It’s not me. You got it wrong. You got it all wrong.”
The man in the suit lowers his eyes, saying something to the man in the headset again.
Paula begins ranting and striding in circles, raving at the passing cars. “It’s not me.”
At this moment, a man named Toby Strunk is driving his car by the ruckus, craning his neck to watch the camera crews. He doesn’t notice Paula ranting. And as Paula reels around, screaming and pleading, she trips and falls in front of Toby’s car. The crowd cringes, gasping, some looking away as Toby’s tires drive over Paula, crushing her body.
Toby stops the car with a squeal of brakes.
The crowd goes silent.
Toby gasps, looking around. He then notices the man in an impeccably tailored suit walking slowly from across the street toward his car. Toby says, “Oh no.”
Toby leaps from his car and darts to the front of his vehicle to check on the woman he now realizes he’s just hit, but the man in the suit is standing before him, stopping him from reaching the woman. Toby cranes his neck to look past the man at Paula’s broken body, Toby saying, “I didn’t even see her.”
The man tells Toby, “I know. It’s not your fault.”
Toby looks around at the crowd, everyone silent. The silence inconceivable for mid-day Manhattan. All eyes are on Toby and the broken body beneath his car’s tires.
Then the silence is broken as everyone cheers.
The man in the suit turns and looks at the crowd. Generally, he’d throw his arms up with showman exuberance here, but now, he looks at the crowd as if seeing a crowd like this for the first time. The man looks at Toby. Toby is still staring down at Paula— her eyes open, blood trickling from her open mouth—with a lost expression on his face. The camera crew is suddenly blocking his view as they get a good close-up of the woman for the television audience.
The man looks across the street at the man in the headset, his producer Brent Parker. Brent gives him a thumbs-up as the crowd of onlookers begin to disperse and continue on with their lives.
The camera turns from the woman and onto the man in the suit. The man in the suit says into the camera,“I’m Nick Bishop. And welcome to Death Watch.”
Continued in: Death Tours: Part 2 — Oracle