by Stanley Lieber
Hokkaido. April.
(Though it felt like summer.)
Prince Rogers Nelson scaled the Black Gendarme, wind biting at his unprotected neck and face. His telepresence flickering in and out of apparent corporeality. His mascara running down his face.
“It’s windy now,” he remarked to himself from between clenched teeth, “But it’s gonna be okay.”
If only that had been the case.
Stilletto heels stabbing dark ice, Prince wondered at the whistling of the mountain wind. He observed each snowflake as it slowly drifted down the Black Gendarme. The snow was mounting beneath him, just as it had happened in his dream.
“Avalanche,” he predicted.
And then: “Oh.”
He stared at his hands as his fingers slipped from the black rocks. His body peeled slowly away from the mountainside, and his telepresence appeared to change color as he fell. This had not been planned, and did not at first seem to be a new idea wrapped in a so-called happy accident.
No such incident had occurred in his dream.
Down, down, down.
Prince’s telepresence resumed at the base of the Black Gendarme. Sunlight glinted on murky water as he waded hip-deep into reeds and rushes. Prince observed the river rising to soak his armpit-waisted, black silk trousers.
“Bullshit!” he protested, rather too loudly.
He seemed pleased when ambient volume adjusted itself automatically to compensate for the outburst.
There could be children watching.
Gradually, Prince made his way to the opposite river bank, where he pulled himself up to his full height atop three-inch heels. A flourish of expressive dance dispensed with the excess river water that had been absorbed by his uniform. He hoped that it all seemed intentional.
He smoothed down his black silk shirt and loosened his apache scarf. The trousers seemed ruined; or at least, had seen better days. Abandoning protocol, he discarded them casually on the riverbank. Damp, his black stockings glistened in the afternoon sunlight.
“All I ever wanted was to be left alone,” he claimed, to no one.
The Black Gendarme, the river, and the valley beyond offered no objection to this obvious lie. What could they have said?
Presently, Prince’s gaze shifted to the heavens above.
Compilation of his new album had been completed before he’d set off for the Black Gendarme. In his absence, album art had been prepared by his staff. Settling his focus mid-field, he reviewed the material for several seconds before gesturing to expand the playlist:
        1. June
        2. U KNOW
        5. affirmation
        6. WAY BACK HOME
        7. Time
This would do.
Seemingly satisfied, Prince authorized the release with his thumbprint, then shifted his gaze back to the river, adjusting several of the microphones that had lately come to hover in the vicinity. Preparations completed, he waded back into the water, proceeding in a straight line until his apparent body had submerged completely beneath the mossy sludge.
Telepresence sustained.
From below, Prince regarded the shafts of sunlight that penetrated the river’s surface, and he smiled, sweetly, at the successful transliteration.
Who would be listening?