Like any perfect secret spot, if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you would never see it. Hell, you could be staring at it, but if you didn’t know what you were supposed to do when you were looking at it, you would see what everyone saw. You would be presented with a crappy alley behind a long since shut down by the Health Department, Korean Barbeque restaurant.
If you could read the signs that the owner of the building had put up when he left, you wouldn’t go near it. They spoke of giant rats that gnawed through steel and other incredibly unlikely facts about these denizens of the basement and alley. It got a little hysterical towards the end, and the last words were “…especially the alley.” Since most people didn’t read Korean at all, these signs were generally ignored or thought to be advertisements of some kind and, for this reason, went ignored.
David had been walking back and forth in front of the alley for an hour. The fetid stench from it assailing him every time the wind shifted just a little from East to West. The smell was something barely noticed truthfully. The palpable dread of why he was there that kept his feet moving in a line. Back and forth they moved, not taking the simple ninety-degree turn they needed to take for him to reach his ultimate goal.
He ran his hand through his hair for the hundredth time. Muttering under his breath, he kept flicking his eyes to the end of the alley, to the blackened brick in the otherwise banal masonry.
Three days earlier, David had been walking with a group of friends of his from University. Mostly ignoring the world and staring at his phone so he could know every little bit of news as soon as it happened. He was a junkie for it and would get physically upset if not kept up to date on anything and everything he deemed newsworthy.
A sentence fragment caught his attention, and he looked up to whoever it was that just spoke. He didn’t walk with people much, they just all happened to be going to the same place today.
“What was it you just said, Bill?” He couldn’t have heard him right. Goes to show what not paying attention will get you.
Bill looked shocked to see David speak and repeated what he had just said. “I was just talking about the urban legend from around here about The Alley. It is supposed to give whoever finds it and solves some puzzle, instant knowledge about anything in the world they want to know. I am sure it is just some bullshit story to draw kids downtown to shop or something.”
Bill kept talking, but David was already gone. His mind had withdrawn at the mere mention of being able to know absolutely anything that he wanted to know in a single moment. Who wouldn’t want that? He broke away from the pack without as much as a wave and headed straight for the library. He knew it was probably some jock thing to scare kids or some other stupid tradition, but not knowing was simply not an option, not an option at all.
Taking a deep breath when the wind changed, David finally turned his feet towards the back of the alley and started walking. David’s back was straight, and he was resolved.
However, if even half of the things he had read at the library were even remotely accurate, he was walking the last thirty steps of his life, and there was nothing he could now do to stop.
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