Bubble Workshop is located on 84th and Columbus. They serve bubble tea. There’s a specific oolong blend that they have that I appreciate, but I sometimes get this strawberry one they offer. I always take a seat at this one table in the back right corner. There’s always three chairs even though it’s clear that the table barely fits two.
I settled into my usual table with my strawberry tea. When my knee pushed up against the table, I felt something. Looking, I saw an orange and black sixteen gigabyte USB flash drive duct-taped to the underside of this metal table. It was covered in dust. Of course, I took it. I had not thought about it until after investigating it, but I don’t know why there was dust on it. I’ve sat at that table almost every day for a year, and I never noticed this thing. How long could it have been there to have so much dust on it and the tape? Or how long had it been sitting somewhere, getting dusty, before being left there?
Anyway, I went to a local library and booked two hours to use one of the computers. The USB did not work at first, and I do not know what I did differently after fifteen minutes to make it work. But, eventually the light came on inside the flash drive and I found two folders stored on it.
The first one was password protected.
The second one contained Sixty Eight photos, all numbered 1 to 68. The GPS info on most of the pics put them on Park Avenue, all of them between 116th and 86th. They were all candid photographs, taken at about noon. People walking through the city, on their ways home, or to stores, or restaurants, or Central Park. But every photo had something wrong, a black mass in every photo. Sometimes closer to the camera, sometimes far away, sometimes against a wall, sometimes walking free. Sometimes it looked like a contained black smoke in the vague mimic of a person. The rest looked like a mass of ashes, falling apart one molecule at a time as they moved, leaving a trail of inky blackness behind them. A few looked like they had hats or coats made from the same material as their bodies.
The people around them didn’t seem to notice.
The last picture in the folder seemed to be one of the ash beings, alone on the sidewalk, wandering east from Central Park. There was an ugly watermark over the image.
On a whim, I returned to the first folder and entered “Wichita.” The file opened.
One picture. Ashes, tightly formed over a screaming face, falling apart, eyes towards camera, filling the whole image.
I have since re-duct taped the flash drive to the table at Bubble Workshop. I sit further away now. If you sit in the back right corner of the Workshop, and that flash drive is not meant for you, this is a public warning that you should NOT touch it.