Chapter 15- For How It Is
When I left Blake’s apartment, the incoming storm left a patch of sky opening itself to the stars. Humming alongside the dazzling city lights.
I felt as if my bottle of emotions had cracked. Slashing over the floor leaving my present self to figure out an impossible solution. Blake and I’s conversation unleashed thoughts I had subconsciously suppressed. I realized I haven’t traveled alone since time, traveling? Portal walking? Time… Shifting? I really need to ask someone about that terminology…
When my ride arrived I was able push aside my thoughts a little longer. Sliding into the cab being driven by a peculiar man. His scent thick, intoxicating but not in a pleasant sense. I pushed aside this disgust, choosing to retreat back to my existential mindset once more. My fingertips curled under the soft indents of my maroon sweater, bunching up the extra fabric for warmth.
The car door slammed into my abdomen. Hurling me across the backseat. BAM. Glass shattered around my head. Hand waving to find leverage through splitting pain.
“Hey man you good?!” The driver shouted.
THUMP THUMP. Vision blurred. Hands shaky. Quickened breaths. My heart pounded while aches slithered down my torso. Gaze bouncing to the driver with a nod. But he had already left. He stood outside the vehicle, communicating with a pair of men. A glimpse of sickening blue crossing the corner of my eye.
Dread stabbed my heart. Their deadly tongues pressing for identification. A silver L across their hearts enabling catastrophe. The driver refused, backing up against his car. The muscles of my aching figure trembling until the weight of my palm cracked under glass.
An official spotted me, urging me to exist the vehicle but I could not comprehend his words. I froze. Irritated, the official threw open the crush door and forced me out.
My arm wrapped around the weight against my bicep. Peeling the official’s grip off of me. He focused his interrogation on me. Requesting. Demanding… But I stuttered over my words. My incompetence antagonized him. He grabbed my collar, pulling me forward. Heart beating rapidly staring into the eyes of the enemy.
“Leave them alone!”
Everyone turned. Hunger consumed the pupils of the officials upon identifying the owner of the voice. A semi-nude woman who had stormed out of a nearby business. The little cloth highlighting her curves. I raised my hand, covering my view out of modesty.
Flashes of powers erupted from the official’s hands. The woman’s eyes narrowed, determination embellished in her stance. Vines unraveled from the stranger’s hand, curling around her body as our eyes met.
The cool gaze of her ocean eyes poised to strike. A familiar strain tugged from my palm. My light illuminating itself behind my back. Flexing my fingers, a shield formed, ringing itself across my arm and around my bicep. I consoled Edith, who gave me the nod.
Edith sprung to action when my elbow drove into the official’s face. Our attention divided between the two threats. My opponent knocked me on the ground, striking from above. Rays of light clashed with burly fists.
Edith fought with more grace and skill. Her exposed figure harmonized with her powers, dealing deadly blows to her foe. The driver stood frightened. Fearful of the conflict surrounding him. With the flick of her arm, Edith flung her official across the wreckage, ushering towards the driver.
“Get out of here! Now!!”
My shield brightened the now deserted street. Feet planted while the official swung. Each hit cracking my light.
Manifesting a large orb within my palm,I hurled it into my attacker’s face. His body colliding with the ground which prompted Edith to draw him closer with her vines.
“Go!!” Fear dominated her expression. “Now!”
I ran. Aimlessly into the city. As far away from the wreckage. I wouldn’t be able to fight off any more officials. Edith could.
I backtracked towards Blake’s apartment. Desperately searching for familiarity. But the synchronizing streets led me astray as I found myself crushed between busy streets and peculiar faces.
It’s as if time hasn’t passed. The noise. Flashes. Why’s this happening now? I tightened my fists, bouncing my leg to distract the intrusive thoughts.
I’ve been here before. I’ve seen these lights. I’ve SEEN people like this. Noises like this. WHY IS EVERYTHING SO LOUD. I spun around desperately trying to grasp reality. A building. A sign. Anything.
My feet moved without thought. Stumbling down the streets. Each step blurrier than the next. There was no thought. No plan. Only quickened steps marching as a result of a pounding heart.
“Hey Mr., you okay?”
I shoved a weight off my arm. Anxiety pulsing down my spin. My vision narrowing on a young teen before me.
“Hey, calm down, yeah? Whatever you’re scared of isn’t here man.” His unassuming posture reflected compassion.
The teen gave me the space to regain focus. While my vision cleared, small snowflakes trickled from the sky. Peppering our hair in a freezing mist.
“Sean!” A young girl rounded the corner, halted at the sight of me.
“He’s no threat, just scared.” Sean reassured his friend, “What’s your name?” He turned to me with intrigue.
“R-Raymond.” I nodded, hugging my body for warmth.
“Are you on drugs?” The younger teen asked, standing beside Sean.
“The girl’s scrawny figure swayed with scepticism. “Positive?” Her hazel eyes interrogated my shakened conscience.
“Yes.” I peered down the street.
“Were you running from someone?”
“Come with us, we got you. You can lay low til you think it’s safe.” Sean instructed.
“Where are we going?” I asked the pale faced boy.
“No where.” He responded. “Coming?”
I’m lost. And I didn’t trust myself to be able to find the factory in the darkness. Or, in general. Should I have stayed with Edith and hid? Maybe the corporation got to her. Maybe they arrested her. And maybe they- ENOUGH.
To my surprise, the teens had taken me to the Brooklyn Bridge. Underneath it, specifically. The teens and I snuck into a formerly blocked off area, away from any street signs or lamps. Much like the factory, we slid through a steel door and entered darkness. The eldest pulled out his phone’s flashlight with calloused fingers. Bringing definition to the old, deteriorating bricks surrounding us. The roof arched above, guiding us down an eerie hallway. I scanned around, slowing my pace before the teen urged me to continue. My doubts began to corrupt my trust, but I followed anyway.
We circled a corner where a glimpse of natural light flickered off the wall. My head tilted, eager steps numbing my ringing anxiety.
The next corner opened to towering ceilings with exposed architecture cradling the upper walls. Inside, a whole community bustled through the space. Several tents lined the outer edges with various stands standing in the center. The area buzzed with life, people huddling together and exchanging in conversation. The teens guided me through to their tent where a young adult in a wheelchair waited.
“Finally, did you get the stuff?” He asked, looking to the girl.
“Yea, here it is.” She happily handed a grocery bag off.
The man’s rounded jaw acknowledged the gift, “And who’d this? Have we got a friend?” His lips crinkled.
“He looked like he was in trouble so we brought him along.” Sean turned to me, inviting me to sit on a flimsy chair beside their setup.
The man’s olive skin glowed from the mixture of lights bouncing off the walls. One of his hands folded within itself while the other weakly maneuvered the bag.
“I…” How am I supposed to explain this…
“Police?” The girl asked.
“No.” I shook my head,
“Family?” Sean said.
“Blue-suits?” The man asked.
My forehead creased. “What?”
“Ugh, the stupid Lothar Corporation.” Sean rolled his eyes.
“Yeha, fuck em’.” The girl pouted.
Yes, actually.” I confirmed, checking to make sure no one else was listening.
“What’s your name?” The man asked.
“Daniel.” The man leaned back.
“And yours?” I asked the girl.
“Amy.” She shook my hand.
“The blue-suits are the worst. We know some kids who threw trash at some and they were arrested. But they’re not even the police!” Sean waved his hand.
“Yea, but like the police, they hate homeless kids.”
“They hate people in general.” Daniel remarked.
I hadn’t taken into consideration the impact the corporation would have on the current homeless population. These were people they prayed on. Probably punished and diverted blame for their own actions. The sick and the poor. Was there anyone this corporation didn’t discriminate?
“They really suck. Don’t they.”
A newfound rage filtered through my system. Their impact dominated the lives of every citizen. No one was safe from their clutches. Past. Present. Future. Their chaos affected more than the Forgotten. My anxiety bubbled into a festering rage. A tingling sensation sparking at my fingertips.
I should have stayed with Edith. Fought that official myself instead of running away like a coward. I could have taught him a lesson…
“Where you from?” Sean asked.
Daniel’s gaze hardened. “Got a place?”
“Sort of.” I mumbled.
“We’re not judging if you don’t. Look at us haha.” Amy chuckled, gesturing around.
For a group who had nothing, they maintained more spirit than the working man. Their smiles welcoming the compassion they wish to have bestowed upon themselves. Who knew such kind spirits would be forced to seek shelter in the depths of the Brooklyn Bridge. Away from their fellow man, void of a place they could truly call home.
“Is this where all homeless people live?” I asked, observing tired faces passing by.
“This is only a couple of us. So, where’s your place?” Amy leaned forward.
“Brooklyn. We live in a factory on the westside.”
The teens’ eyes expanded. Jaws unhinged processing the apparently shocking information. Looking to me as if I were insane.
“Oh my fucking god you’re a drug addict.” Amy gaped.
“What?! No!” I defended while the beating in my chest came back.
“Do your friends have numbers?” Daniel asked, pulling one out.
The young adult scowled, wheeling back to exit the conversation to his own tent.
“Nope? Well then, this is fun.” Sean’s brows curled.
“Got a job?” Amy asked.
“Then what the fuck are you doing with your life?”
“I, um…” I gripped my sleeves. “I can’t remember certain things about this world.” My vision sputtered. “And my friends, they help me remember.”
“Hey man, calm down. Sorry we’ve been so judgmental. Look, we can figure something out in the morning, yea? You have powers?”
“Perfect.” Sean grinned, getting up to unzip his tent. “You can sleep right here.” He pointed to the floor below us. “This sleeping bag should do. As long as you’re out by tomorrow, we won’t have any problems.” He handed me a complex blanket.
“Thank you for your generosity.”
The teens whispered to each other before disappearing into the tent. Leaving me alone. With this sleeping bag in hand I knelt on the dirty floor to position myself to sleep.
The dusty floor uplifted particles that teased my nose. After patting the bag I slid into it. Aches wrapped around my torso as the plush blanket enveloped me. The swelling at the back of my head prevented me from getting comfortable.
Between the aches and crippling anxiety, the hours advanced while the flickering lights slowly died down. Their orange glow gave into the darkness of the tunnel where people entered with frost covering their shoulders. But when the artificial lights flooded the tunnel so did people. A symphony of zips and shuffling echoing like alarms. The zip of the teens tent opened shortly after with Sean stepping over me
“Mornin.” He yawned with bedhead, “Did you sleep alright?”
“You ready to go?”
Amy slid out of the tent wearing a fluffy winter coat with a red scarf in her hand. She chucked the scarf at Sean’s face where he caught it, wrapping it around his neck.
“Where are we going?” I stood up, peeling the sleeping bag off the ground to fold it.
“You see, I have powers. Sean doesn’t.” Amy boasted, “And we typically go around the city performing tricks for money. It’s not bad, not great either but it is what it is. You can tag along to get hopefully enough money for a bus pass.”
I gulped, shoving the anxiety down my throat. It was time to do something for myself rather than praying for the pity of others. I couldn’t think of any other way to get back to the factory. I needed to do this.
“If we hurry, we might run into Mrs. Haefner! Hopefully those heels are treating her well in the snow.”
“Don’t bother,” Daniel spoke from the tent beside us. “I’m taking him home.” He crawled into his chair, sliding on a pair of gloves.
“Pardon?” I crossed my arms.
“You know Edith right? Elwyn?”
My heart stopped. How does he..
“I’m a Forgotten, just like you.”
He brushed his long hair to the side, waiting for a response. Was this a trick? Catori had made it seem like the Forgotten were living prosperous lives away from the factory. But this… The crowded tunnel, filth covered walls, and rows of tents… This didn’t seem like luxury.
“You’re from a different time!” Gasped Amy.
“Well that makes sense now.” Sean laughed.
“Sh!” My finger smacked my lips.
“Oh don’t worry! Your secret’s safe with us! Everyone knows Daniel’s from another time here. There’s legends of time traveling people all over the place.”
So the term was time traveling, good to know. Daniel nodded his head, positioning to leave.
“Come on, I’ll pay for your ticket, I know where we’re going.” He wheeled off, but I remained still.
“Red Hook Grain Terminal. I swear I’m not a blue-suit, I mean look at me.” He gestured to his broken body. “Now come on, before it gets too cold.”
I followed Daniel out of the tunnel, holding the steel door open for him. Snow had covered New York in a layer of mist. Blinding my eyes after exiting the darkness.
The walk into the factory took a team effort. I walked in front across the lot, shuffling my feet through the snow creating a walkway for Daniel. He kept watch behind us, ensuring we weren’t being followed. It took both of us pulling at the large doors for them to open. The frozen hinges creaked under pressure. Daniel squeezed his way in to push the remainder of the door open for us.
The elevator croaked while the gears sputtered to a rhythm. The empty floors passing cold drafts during ascension. The warmth of the top floor greeted our freezing bodies. My eye caught a glimpse of two figures standing at the center of the floor.
Ralph and Edith. Edith’s cold expression discussing plans with crossed arms. Periodically pulling out her phone for something. Ralph listened intently, as if taking mental notes to an instruction. Their attention shifted at the wiring of our entrance.
Ralph’s eyes lit up, the corners of his lips exposing teeth. “Ray!”
I opened the metal gate, exiting the elevator to greet him. His thumb dug into his chair, wheeling faster than I’ve ever seen. Smiling like crazy. His efforts grew lazy as he flew out of his chair, swirling mist aiding him while he stumbled into my arms.
He almost knocked me over. But our connection kept us grounded during our embrace. My face buried into his shoulder. Relief glossing over my thoughts. When we pulled away his soft olive eyes swelled. And I found myself smiling harder than I ever have.
“Are you hurt?!” His hand glided over my head, “ I can call Blake and they can-” His knee buckled.
Ralph latched onto my arms for support. I stabilized him as he recovered, running over to bring his chair back to him. “I’m okay.”
I watched Ralph lumber into his seat, his hand wrapping around mine. This gentle pressure around my palm warmed my spirit. My cheeks grew warm from our connection.
“Thank you sir.” I focused on Daniel. “Is there anything I can do to express my gratitude?”
Daniel’s small body rested on the arm of his chair, “Another bus pass would be nice.” He chucked.
“Let me take care of that.” Edith said before jogging off to her office.
“I saw the news, is everything alright?” Ralph looked up to me.
“Yes.” I pulled my hand away. “I got into a crash. And the blue-suits were there. And Edith- She…”
“You don’t need to talk about it if it makes you uncomfortable.” Ralph painted a smile.
“Okay.” I slowly nodded.
Edith walked back over with a card in hand, “Thank you for bringing him home safely.”
“Of course.” Daniel glanced down to the phone in his lap, “You heard Alexander’s speaking at noon, right?”
Edith sighed, “I know.” Her body stiffened, “It’s not safe to associate with us any longer.”
Daniel paused. Searching for something behind Edith’s distant demeanor. When he found what he was searching for, his hand fell to his lip.
“You’re actually going to do it.”
“I don’t have a choice. I have to make amends for our fallen and these people want to go home. Only we can save ourselves.”
Daniel’s eyes fell to the floor. “My decision doesn’t change, but, I wish the best of luck.”
“Thank you. Ralph plans on staying once we finish the job, if you ever need anything, he’ll help.”
Ralph nodded, avoiding contact with me. The conversation around me continued. But I didn’t hear. The shock of the last several hours began to catch up to me. The adrenaline wore off and the soreness and emotional drain took its toll. The usual rhythm of anxiety and self destruction worked its way down my body to steal my motivation.
But something was different. Anger. Genuine anger. That same feeling I felt under the bridge boiled under my skin. Hot and furious rather than the chilling self-loathing of anxiety.
One thought after the other. Anger. Frustration. All of it building up inside of me. I needed to move. Or to be away from others. This… The silence movement of lips. This isn’t what I needed.
I wanted to be alone.
Anyway from the noise.