The crash of the mirror to the floor shattered the tension in the small cluttered room, causing both occupants to jump. Aaron immediately started to mumble, “I’m so sorry Taylor…dammit, I shouldn’t’ve lost it like that…” his eyes stayed on the ground, away from the tear stained face of the woman sitting in the corner of the room. It was 3:42 AM.
The degree of miscommunication between them operates as an effective metaphor for the impossibilities of negotiating peace between the former Gaza strip and Israel in the early 2000s…too much history, terrible crimes committed by both “sides”, and consequences that resulted in the end of an untold number of human lives. You think I might be writing this semi-sarcastically, but sometimes I’m convinced that Aaron’s personal quest might not have had such an enormous impact on the rest of the world if he had stuck with something like music, or maybe theater; she’s the one who convinced him to do otherwise as far as my perspective is concerned, but whom to blame is not really issue I care to devote time to.
Proceeding from before my previous rant on interpersonal relationships, Aaron swept the glass away into a pile, ignoring the small cuts all over his hands. His upper-middle class upbringing led him to have little concern for personal health, although rising healthcare costs and his own meager funds had left him stressed out and anxious. His constant desire to repair the broken system around him, was constantly at war with his desire to destroy everything he could get away with before he was killed, leaving him constantly battling (but mostly ignoring) his emotions. In my opinion, this makes him fit perfectly into the role of “dark hero”, but he’d decided long ago (for no real reason as far as I know) to be a villain that commits his acts for “good”. These self-pitying thoughts raced through his head as the clock struck 3:43 AM.
“Aaron I wouldn’t do this to you,” Taylor whispered softly, hurt dripping from her voice, “it isn’t fair for you to make me choose between my….”
“Bullshit!” Aaron’s voice shook with a barely constrained rage, yielding a sharp gasp from Taylor. Aaron turned towards the wall and began slamming his fist down, his momentum not stopping as he originally anticipated, instead sending him tumbling through the wall into the walkway outside his bedroom. As he fell he managed to just barely catch glimpse of a man running around the corner of the portico, and a bullet impacting that man’s head.
* * * * *
When the guard had come to release Adrien, disbelief painted his face. The guard knew that Adrien’s parents had refused to bail their child out again, but three hours after the kid had been brought in, two men had walked in and briskly taken care of everything necessary for release. Adrien was nearly as confused as the guard, though long years of hiding had given Adrien an uncanny ability at disguising emotional responses.
The two men stood close to the otherwise empty jail cell, sunglasses helping hide their expressions. Both men wore simple, yet well cut suits, what would be typically seen on government contractors, but one wore a large cowboy hat, lending him an almost comical appearance. The other man stepped forward as the guard opened the cell to let Adrien out, “Well, we took care of this latest incident for you, but we will be unable to give you such assistance in the future unless you’re willing to sign this contract.” He finished his statement with a flourish of the aforementioned contract, giving Adrien a small bow in the process.
Adrien’s eyes scanned the contract, looking up after a moment with a wry smile, “You know I’m not admissible due to my record, right?”
“We can take care of that little issue as well, we need all the help we can get now, and our employers are willing to take a slight risk for the possibility sizable return on their future investment, namely, you.”
“What happens if you release me, and I break contract?”
With this question, the man in the cowboy hat started laughing boisterously. The other man was better at hiding his mirth, but as he slid his sunglasses down, and peered at Adrien with dark eyes that held far greater mystery than Adrien was willing to probe, he whispered “Oh, but you know what they do to those like us when we break contract, don’t you?” Adrien’s breath caught as the man leaned forward, their faces nearly touching, “but you understand there’s really no choice, this system has caught you in its vice, and you’re far too rebellious to become an ordinary cog in its wheel, you crave to be different. This is your chance to do that.” He pulled back and turned to walk away, Adrien’s cuffs immediately shattered, and the trio walked out, leaving the guard to incredulously stare at the cuffs.
* * * * *
Less than a hundred yards away from where Walter Berlin sat musing about his future, Lily and Marie lay in their bed. Lily’s arm was splayed across Marie’s chest, preventing her from lighting the bowl she had awkwardly pressed to her lips. It was 3:43 AM, and Marie knew she should’ve been long asleep, but the pressures of the last week had left her with a nervous tension that wouldn’t allow her brain to rest. She had recently taken a job at large insurance brokerage, the beginnings of the dream career that she’d just recently realized she desired.
The world that Marie lived in was one of constant deception. This was a necessary evil as far as she was concerned, for the only way to move forward in this world was to play the game before her. As long as there was a specialized class in a place of authority, they would look out for their class’ interests. Marie knew this, had fought and rallied against it as a youth, but recently she had become tired of the constant struggle just to survive. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, was her new motto, and if some parts of society couldn’t accept her and Lily, it seemed like the business world would be more accepting than most.
“You still awake?” Lily rolled over and pulled herself closer to Marie, burying her face into Marie’s shoulder with a contented sigh as soon as the words left her mouth.
“Yeah,” Marie smiled down at Lily wondering how she’d found such a perfect woman, someone who understood her desire to succeed, who knew she wasn’t doing all this to “sell out” as her friends called it.
It was 3:44 am when Lily’s eyes shot wide open, and Marie saw the lighter she had in her hand disappear in a ball of flame.
* * * * *
The air of the auditorium shimmered with the excitement of the attendees, although the speaker spoke with a somnambulistic quality. The tall grecian arches framing the stage dwarfed the man standing in the center at a small podium, lending even his droning speech a far more engaging quality. While Joe Donovan was usually better than most at hiding his boredom, he felt like he was utterly failing today. The students next to him seemed to be more excited being here rather than Professor “Spacheman’s” words. He was glad his sunglasses hid his expression at least a small degree.
Joe’s thoughts drifted back to what his brother had told him before he left for the Academy hidden at TCU in Ft. Worth, TX. Mother’s friends, who used to come visit almost every weekend until Joe was 6, were supposedly the first ‘festers. His brother didn’t know if they were members of The Revolution or what would become the AMPS Alpha Team, but his brother had told him they had spoken of their first manifestation. His brother’s description of their story bemused him, it was nothing like the official stories, thus likely true, “It was Berlin who was jumped, not some other innocent person, and it wasn’t by a gang of thugs with guns or anything like that! Berlin was shit-housed, and he started laughing about how annoyed he felt when he was getting hit, hahaha. Everyone said that Ray Ray actually killed the guy, but that kinda makes sense; he was the one that committed the DC massacre.”
While not enjoying an ideal childhood, Joe retained a nearly childlike morality. The thought of his mother spending her time around the men who would go on to kill millions sent shivers of fury down his spine. He couldn’t understand who he felt more betrayed by, his abusive father or his deceptive mother, but he could forgive his mother anything for the hell she’d had to endure because of him. With his dark features, and his large, athletic physique, it was impossible for him to be the biological son of the man he had called father. His father had been a short, red-complexioned, stout Irishman, and his mother had been English and virtually as pale.
The appearance of another man on stage left snapped Joe out of his reminiscing. The man was of average height, with a tousled graying head of hair. He was dressed in a leather jacket and torn old jeans; he looked like he was trying to be an older James Dean. The speaker turned to the man, with a wry smile, and spoke sideways into microphone with far more enthusiasm than he’d done before, albeit sardonically “and dear students, I give you the man formerly known as Patient Zero, Walter Berlin.”
* * * * *
As the fist came into contact with Walter’s temple, something unlike anything in recorded human history happened, reality shifted in order to benefit some of its observers. It was at that moment, on July 17, 2014 AD at 3:44 am, that the first manifesters were born. How I came to be included in this initial group, I do not yet know, but at that precise moment reality rearranged itself in a manner that included 17 individuals with unique gifts that allowed them to manipulate the very foundation of reality in a manner very similar to their desire at that moment.
-G, July 31 29 UE