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The American called out, "Are you alright?"
No response. The figure stood, bathed in shadow, arms swaying.
The American grunted. This creep could clearly see him. They were less than 20 steps apart. He called out again, "Are you alright? Mister?" He repeated it in Dutch.
Silence, again. Now, the clouds came through in their promise and it started to drizzle. The American, dismissing the man as either insane or stoned, pressed on with his bicycle, rolling across the bridge and keeping his sights on the next streetlamp.
But as he inched toward the light, he noticed a river of dark liquid creeping along the road. He stopped again and bent down for a closer look. The liquid was black in this light and filling the crevasse between the brick, pressing forward, as if reaching for something. He dipped his fingers. Warm. He held it closer to the light.
"Blood?" he said. His heart started beating - hard, pummelling his rib cage. He reared around to face the man on the bridge and called out, "Hey! Do you need help?"
There was no response. There was no sound anywhere, he realized. The neighbourhood was totally still, utterly silent. On most nights after work, he'll see a few other cyclists, even a car or two, or some light peering through the windows of surrounding homes. But it seemed the whole city had fled on this moonless night.
He dropped his bicycle and ran back up the bridge, to the figure, which was bent over the barrier again, looking down into the canal as if searching for something.
"Hey!" The American pulled the man around by his shoulder, to face him. But there was no face, only a gaping wound where the head should have been. The lapels of the jacket were soaked with blood. Even in the low light, the American could see the wound was ragged, rough, as though it had been removed under strenuous circumstances.
He let go of the body, which slumped against the guard railing as if it were tired. The American noticed that it had the same jacket as him. The body had a similar, slender build, and roughly the same height, he realized, if the head was still attached.
It raised its arm, swaying as if fighting for control of its own extremities. It pointed with one finger, arm now hanging over the rail, down into the canal.
The American's heart was now threatening serious action. The blood was pressing at this mask of his face. He bolted, back toward his bike. As he picked it up, he glanced back at the bridge but the figure was gone. The blood was gone too. The streets were dry.