“Interview regarding the events of October 18th, 2022, at 131st street at 10:32 A.M. This is Officer James Roberts. Officer Amelia Kowalksi also present. We have here…We…ahem. Last name?”
“Your first name is ‘Prince’?”
Clearly that ain’t the weirdest part. You guys mind if I smoke?
“No smoking in the building please, um…Sir.”
That’s fine. I don’t even light the things, I just put them in my mouth. Gives me a humanizing aspect, even if people don’t like cigs. I can’t actually smoke them. You know, on account of not having any lungs.
“…Right. Well, Mr. Wilson, why don’t you start from the beginning?”
I was born in 1565 to poor parents in Brixtworth outside of Leeds. They were farmers. In 1578 or thenabouts I was kidnapped by–
“I meant the start of what happened yesterday.”
Oh, right. Sorry, sometimes I don’t think straight. No brain.
(Hollow knocking sound)
Now then. Yesterday. Well, I usually spend the early morning listening to some tunes or talking with friends online or stuff like that. Music don’t care if you don’t got no skin; it’s chill like that. I’m not really sure how I can hear it, but it works one way or another. I go to work about threeish. I have to get all bundled up, though, so it takes a little bit of time.
“You don’t want people to see you?”
Nah, it gets a little chilly this time of year. I am just as God made me, sir, and I care not that people stare. It does get a little tiring, though. But I always enjoy my October. People assume I’m a decoration.
“Moving on, Mr. Wilson?”
Yeah, yeah, okay. So I get to the garage a little before four, clock in, stand in the break room with a cup of coffee–I don’t drink it, obviously; it’d just spill all over the floor–but I chat with the other guys. Then I start picking up fares. That early in the morning it’s people who just want to get to the airport or the train station or something like that, so they don’t look at me at all. Smartphones have been a blessing. Sometimes people take a glance at me, but there are plenty of cabbies a lot stranger, and I know my way around New York like nobody’s business, so usually they don’t mind that much. Eh, ‘scuse me, I gotta get more comfortable.
(Clacks and rattles)
Things get a little more interesting once the sun’s good and up. I got a few people who know me, so I give them lifts when I can, but plenty of fresh fares, too. That’s always fun. Adults usually just ignore me, I dunno why, but kids tend to stare. If they’re nice, I go about my business, but if they’re being brats I’ll give ’em a spook. Sorry, I ramble. So, I picked up this lady and her kid. Sweet little girl, just talkin’ about the falling leaves and whatever. The mom looked like she’d already had a day.
“That would be Mrs. Padma Othman and Lakshmi?”
Bingo was his name-o, officer. So we gotta get to the library on 125th street, and I say sure, and we go off. Mom’s just got her eyes closed in the back, but li’l Lakshmi is talking to me. Poor gal just wanted to talk, and I don’t mind that at all, so I’m talking back, and we’re talking about trees and Halloween and candy, and she’s asking me if I got a costume on already, but she just goes on talking about how she’s gonna be that lady from Frozen without even letting me answer, and then her mom jumps awake and starts screaming and pointing at me, and I’m like “lady, I know, I been this way for a while, you don’t gotta scream about it.” And then she hauls off and hits me right in the temple! Right there! Well, I don’t have any tendons or muscles or anything, so my skull starts spinning, like this.
(A grinding sound. Officer Kowalksi makes a disgusted grunt)
I have to get my hands up there to stop it spinning, which means I have to take them off the wheel, so suddenly we’re a little out of control.
“I’m surprised you continue driving taxis if it can go so badly.”
Settle down, Officer Judgy-Pants. I like what I do. That sort of thing doesn’t happen all that often. But, it happened this time, and the taxi swerved right into a bunch of mailboxes and hit them all. Letters and magazines went everywhere, and the taxi had barely stopped moving before Mrs. Othman jumped out, yanking Lakshmi right into the street! Not safe at all! I turn the taxi off, cars are whooshing by, horns honking, and the lady is just dragging her little girl across the street, barely looking at the cars! I jump out, ’cause I gotta get her insurance information, and I go chasing after them and yelling which, in retrospect, probably didn’t help the situation. Anyway, I’m running after them, and Othman is screaming, and people in their cars are screaming because look at me, and I’m screaming too because that’s what everybody else is doing, and they run into the oncoming traffic lane! Sometimes I can’t believe people.
(A period of silence. A sucking noise from Prince Wilson pretending to draw from his unlit cigarette)
Anyway, they go running across the lanes, and a huge truck is screaming right at them. They take a long time to stop, those big trucks, but I’m right behind Othman and Lakshmi and damn my bones if I’m going to let something happen to them because I accidentally spooked them. I push myself forward, leaping, straining, practically coming apart. I fly forward, hands out in front of me, feet out behind me, and I push them out of the way.
(A longer period of silence)
Well, don’t start thanking me all at once for my selfless sacrifice. I got scattered all over the street! It took me fifteen minutes to get everything back together, and I still think I’m missing a vertebrae. I feel a little shorter than usual. I had bones caught underneath cars, one of my phalanges went down a sewer drain, and a rib landed in a lady’s hair. Kinda freaked her out. Dunno why. Everybody’s got ribs.
(Officer Roberts clears his throat)
“Thank you, Mr. Wilson, for going to the defense of Mrs. Othman and Lakshmi. You…are aware they still passed away, aren’t you?”
Yeah. Shame. I tried, but I couldn’t push them out of the way enough. Ah, you know, I feel terrible about it. Little girl had her whole life in front of her. I know it wasn’t exactly my fault, but I still feel a little responsible.
“Well, Mr. Wilson, we appreciate you coming in to give your account of the events. Uh…as to what happened after you had put yourself back together?”
Yeah, yeah, sure. As I said, I feel a little responsible, so I just took some of the necromantic energy that keeps me movin’ and grovin’ and I put it into their bodies. Just a pinch. Enough to get them back up and get their hearts and brains going the right way again. That’s not illegal, is it? I try to keep up with the laws, but things have been moving a lot faster lately.
“We…don’t believe you did anything wrong, Mr. Wilson. We just wanted to see if we could get to the bottom of things. We tend to do that when people come back to life in the middle of the street.”
Well, there ya go, then. Anything else?
“We don’t believe so, no. You’re free to go, Mr. Wilson.”
(Chair scraping, steps on the floor. The voice of Officer Kowalski leads Mr. Wilson away. Officer Roberts sighs)
Prince Wilson pocketed his unlit cigarette as he stepped out of the police station. He pulled his wide-brimmed hat low and turned up the collar of his overcoat, keeping the chilly October air off his bones. Lakshmi ran toward him, and he bent down, picking her up and twirling her around. The girl giggled.
“They let you go?” Padma Othman said, a few feet away, wearing a large hood over her head. A bandage covered the top half of her head and one of her eyes. Lakshmi wore a similar bandage on her head and a cast on her arm; the hard plaster pressed against Wilson’s clavicle.
“I didn’t do a darn thing wrong,” Wilson said. He set the girl down. “In fact, as far as they can tell, the only thing I did was save two lives.”
“Thank you again,” Mrs. Othman said. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“I’ve been rattling around this world for almost five hundred years, young lady. It’s about time I did something worth something.”
“What you told us after bringing us back….” Mrs. Othman took Lakshmi’s hand. “Is it true? Are you sure?”
Wilson put his hands in his overcoat pockets and rocked back on his bare heels. “It’s true. Can’t be helped.”
“Not even I can last forever, kid. Nah, I’m tired a lot, you see. It doesn’t take much of that weird wizard stuff to keep me going, but it’s limited. It’ll run out eventually. Like I said, I waited long enough to do something worth something.” Wilson tilted his head back, and the holes in his skull, where his nose would be, drew in crisp, cold air. He took Lakshmi’s other hand, and they walked down the sidewalk. “It’ll be quick. It’ll be painless. And I’ll get to enjoy my October.”