Abigail Oswald

True Crime: An Examination

The girl. Last imagined wandering through a sea of pale chrysanthemums. Last recorded leaving the elevator after arguing emphatically with a ghost. Last spoke with the concierge, who describes her as “lively” without a hint of irony. Last seen floating facedown in a water tank on the hotel rooftop.

The girl was: (a) an adventuress (b) a danger to herself (c) doomed from the start.

The hotel. An incomplete list of incidents: on-site murder, temporary headquarters for two known serial killers, the various suicides, a dead pedestrian. They could taste her in the water for days before her body was found.

The hotel is best classified as: (a) a home (b) a crime scene (c) a coincidence.

The elevator. Don’t play with things you don’t understand, they said. Like fire. But fire seems simple enough. Feeds on oxygen, births smoke. Part of a natural cycle, hardly a thing to fear. And the game, too, seems innocent: press a sequence of buttons, step back, enjoy the ride. Maybe it’ll transport you to another dimension. Or maybe you’ll just come out on the fifth floor.

The elevator footage: (a) was altered prior to broadcast and cannot be trusted (b) verifies that the girl was not alone (c) proves the existence of a parallel universe, once and for all.

The man. May or may not be real. Did she fall in, jump, or was she pushed? If the man exists he likely has thick eyebrows, a full dark head of hair, perhaps bears a passing resemblance to the Night Stalker. Or none of the above. If he exists he would know how far the security cameras could see, that the emergency exit alarm was disconnected, that the roof had the best view of the city at night.

He was: (a) a threat (b) a seduction (c) all of the above.

The tank. I just need to know—at the end but before it was over—could you see the stars?

Abigail Oswald earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College and currently resides in Connecticut. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, Firewords, Flash Fiction Magazine, Linden Avenue, and elsewhere. You can find her online at abigailwashere.com.