Title: "New Amsterdam"
Summary: The most human contact he gets is during his bi-weekly
forays outside, and even then it's with a politely-smiling Chinese
woman selling him mangos.
Rating: Nothing the MPAA wouldn't mind you reading, I think.
He lives in a tiny little cubbyhole of an apartment on Avenue D & 6th
Street; he has a futon and a small fourth-hand television set that
doesn't pick up channels broadcast during the day, because of the
smog content in the New York air diffusing the signal.
He shops for his groceries at the farmer's market in Chinatown every
week, because he doesn't have enough money to buy food from anywhere
else. D'Agostino's is a pipe dream for him; K-Mart is a pipe dream
for him. He only get fruits and vegetables, ever, because his gas has
been shut down, preventing him from preparing meat. Or fish, or
poultry, or really, anything that requires heat in order to be
edible, and really now, isn't that so damn fucking Alanis? He tried,
once, to cook with his powers, but he didn't have the fine control
necessary and ended up torching the single chair he'd managed to drag
up from the street.
This is what it's like to fight for mutant freedom; this is what it
means to be a terrorist.
All things considered, John had hoped for more.
John walks the streets these days in something of a daze. He sees
people slip around him like fish navigating around a break in the
current, and after they streak past him he mocks up conversations
with them in his head.
_So yeah, Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Obviously-Fond-of-Sid-Vicious'-Hair, did
you catch the Mets game last night?_
But even then, after that, after the first few fumbled sentences in
his head, the people collapse, the experiments fail. Because
conversations require two people, or more, and as a rule of thumb are
designed for execution outside the confines of one person's mind, and
John: John doesn't have the energy to sustain them, in his head.
The most human contact he gets is during his bi-weekly forays
outside, and even then it's with a politely-smiling Chinese woman
selling him mangos.
Sometimes, he's stricken with the urge to speak with people on the
subway. The last time he was on it, bobbing his head in time with the
dips and lows of the train gliding over its tracks, a purple-haired
girl with a nose stud tried to make eye contact with him. He nearly
winked at her, before he caught himself and buried his face in the
curve of his palms and started laughing hysterically; melodramatic,
yes, but it conveyed the desired message, the girl had looked away,
and never mind that John thought her pretty in a porcelain way,
because his stop. Was next.
A mind could collapse in on itself, with thoughts like these.
Instead, this is what he does for fun, for a diversion: he goes to
Central Park, the Met, the New York City Public Library. (Yes, he
straddled the lions one night when even the city's dispossessed were
nowhere to be seen; no, he never screamed "Who you gonna call?" at
the top of his lungs, even though he sort of maybe wanted to.) He
doesn't go to these places out of any sense of community with the
teeming throng of humanity that surges around him constantly,
perpetually, invading his senses and assaulting his sense of personal
space--but because they're free.
Well. Free as such things are. The Met. Suggested donations, they
have, and while John feels a little guilty that he's skulking around
the Met taking in the swoops and curves of Brunelleschis and
Caravaggios for fifty cents on the dollar, he figures that if the
place was really strapped for cash, it would case one of the big
naked Greek man statues that are all over the place.
The days go by like faces on the subway. They run together like ink,
seeping through paper--one day, a week, and suddenly it's been half a
year living in a loft that might generously be qualified as a cell.
He's lived alone in the city now for a little over six months; the
last night he saw Erik, the man had handed him a cellphone, uttered a
single word ("Wait," pronounced the way Erik pronounced everything,
like gravity bending the sides of his mouth), and slipped into Gotham
dreaming without so much as a fare-thee-well to John.
It's okay, though. He had been getting used to it. Up until last week.
A week ago, on the subway back from the Met--riding the subway back
being one of the few indulgences he allows himself, and
fuck Mayor fucking Bloomberg for the fare hike that's effectively cut
the number of trips he can make on the 6 down by a third--he
overheard some flatscans talking about something happening on the
west coast, in the city most near to the rising sun: San Francisco.
Explosions. Property damage. Leather.
So he got off before his usual stop and walked into the Circuit City
on Union Square, where a cluster of people were situated around the
widescreen TVs, watching the tail end of live and breaking news, and
John got there just in time to see what he recognized as an optic
blast punch through Erik's shields and send the old man plummeting
down into Pacific blue.
The flatscans murmurred their approval; leveled invectives against
the damn mutie population; brushed up against John as he stared
blankly at the instant replay of Erik falling into the western sea.
John went straight home, after that, and hasn't left the apartment
He still has the cell phone with him. Presumably it can still make
outside calls. Maybe even non-pseudo-supervillain-related ones. It
used to be able to; he has made one on it, once, an order for
Malaysian food from a place down on Bayard, back before he realized
that Erik wasn't depositing any more money into his bank account and
that nobody was coming to sound the call to arms any time soon.
Last night he tried dialing Erik's number; he got a click, a three-
tone beep, "The number you've called has been disconnected, and its
owner dashed against the rocks that guard the San Fransisco Bay.
Please hang up and try again."
There's nobody else he can call; Erik insisted on complete and total
autonomy in his cells. It's like some horrible secret Ivy League
frathouse gone wrong--the only other mutant who knows you is the
mutant next to you in the chain. Still, he knows where a few of his
peers are, if not necessarily how he can ring them up and ask them
over for a barbeque and the game. A few cities over, in Philadelphia,
there's a terrakinetic waiting for Erik's order to bring the City of
Brotherly Love to its knees (heh, and John laughs and makes a joke
about death knells and the Liberty Bell, even though nobody's there
to hear), but John has no way of getting in touch with him.
He has no way of getting in touch with anybody.
Once, at the obelisk next to the museum, he thought he saw Bobby and
Marie. That was--difficult. He had been lounging, sitting on the sign
that said "Do not touch the obelisk," and his fingers were tracing
the glyphs that told the story of Ra Sun-God, Most High, riding alone
across the sky. He had heard a boy say a name that sounded like
Marie, and John's ears perked. Because nothing had pricked his ears
so in weeks, months, and when the mind is locked in a box like his
had been it seizes upon notes of familiarity it strikes out in
unexpected ways. And he looked up and there was Bobby with his
spilled sand for hair and Marie with the way she tucked her hair
behind her ears--
--and when John leapt from his seat atop the obelisk's legend, one
hand already up in salutation and a wicked, stupid smile curling his
lips, the boy had turned and the girl had laughed and Bobby and Marie
vanished. The light caught different-like on the girl's hair, the
boy's nose narrowed to a sharper point than Bobby's ever did, and
John went back home to his vegetables and his futon and the cinders
of his chair.
It's not so bad, at night; then, the sky clears and the air thins
just enough so that the schizophrenic box of circuits and plastic
that he calls his television set is able to receive a steady signal.
Then, he channel-surfs between Leno and Letterman and he banishes the
thoughts of Bobby and Marie, and John waits for a call that he
suspects will never come.