"Listen to my dream." - Assie
FOR THE SAKE OF CLARIFICATION, THIS IS A PROLOGUE, NOT AN ACTUAL CHAPTER
THAT IS ALL
July 4th, 2002
I had to be dreaming. I kept telling myself that I just had to be. I would wake up, soon. Yes, I would.
When I look back on that, I realize I was only fooling myself. I was already awake. My dream had ended, as did the dreams of the rest of us. Panda was right: the dream would end soon, yet it would also begin again, and so the cycle would be until someone stopped itâ€¦whatever that meant. I didn't know just what it meant, but I didn't really care anymore. I was sick of it: all the lies, the scandals, the "obscurantism", the "equivocalness" and all that crap, and all the...just everything, you know? I was sick of hearing coughing and holding hankerchiefs over my face and seeing another world smeared in black and white and red. God, I hated it. God...I hated God. How in the hell could He do this? Was that another prediction? Did you see that in that good ol' crystal ball in your head, too, Panda?
...We all were at Acmeis...gathered in a circle...cold...having no more shelter. Cold days in July weren't normal back then, but...on this day, I remember, it was. On this particular day it was as cold as December...cold as the hearts of the city and just as hard. A coldness we could no longer tolerate. Thatâ€™s why we were here.
No, actually. When, I think about it, we had no choice.
We were nothing but wanderers now. A gang of gamins. Just as lowly as the paupers the Hall ridiculed, twice as loathsome. Thinking about it got me so angry, I swear...but I think it got him angrier, not in a fury but in a silence. One as pathetic as my...our helplessness. No Harris was gonna pull a lawyer outta his hat this time. The show was over.
Innocent. He abandoned us. Nobody knew where he was.
Xavier was far away in New Jersey. Oblivious, probably. If not, uncaring and indifferent, maybe even a bit relieved. He said it would happen. I didn't wanna believe him. Nobody did, but it did.
Then Leroy, who had no more influence on anything.
Nobody could help us, nobody would...nobody cared.
So, we wandered. All the way to the outlying cliff. Shivering in a circle, to ourselves, but all close by...all in a shivering and silent circle on the cityâ€™s edge. Aeres. She was on the floor, prostrated, looking up at the sky, dust peppering her eyes, dry eyes bleached by smoke beyond recognition. They might as well have been white. White, lifeless eyes, crying icicles into the sky for an answer.
Hal, Isaac, and Joob...they all sat with Kim and Guido on the bench. A pack of shaking, gray ghosts. Ward, he was the only other one who stood away from us. Not looking at a city, but at a woman. Aeres. Wide and watchful eyes, a tight lip, and a furrowed brow, but the fists. He had those same tight, balled up, quaking fists. The fists of helplessness. He didn't know anything...anything about how or why.
Nobody knew howâ€¦or why.
As for everyone else, they just sat on benches or on the ground, hugging themselves or each other, looking down at the ground, frowning, glaring, chattering, shivering, crying, blank. Silent. All freezing and shivering in that cold day of a world, turning its back on us under a red sky...a blood red sky. Stars were winking at me and dancing in their circle, again, spinning to the strumming of harps.
...I wonder where Aileen was, now...
That reminded me of Indy. She was something else. She was someone else. Not twenty-eight and dated or fifteen and fated. She was sitting on a bench all alone with dust, scratches and a never ending stream of tear streaks webbing her face like veins and wetting her thighs like something spilt, all coming from her reddened blue eyes. Thick bags under her eyes, shoulders shaking with sobs.
Indy...she was gone.
Everything and everyone was. I didn't know if I could ever open my fisted hands and hold the world I used to know in it with the people I used to know. Seven million colors, one billion stars, a family, a home, and a thirteen-year-old girl that never stopped smiling...gone. Just me left. Or...did I have myself, only? But, even if I did, how much was that?
Heh.Me. I was the only other person standing, next to him. I was cold, too. Starving. Thirsty. But still seeing. I didn't want to. I wished all the dust would act like salt in my eyes and eat them, so I would be an Oedipus. Looking was killing myself. Yet...I couldn't stop. I couldnâ€™t tear myself from the city I once knew and the home I once had in it. My dream. This dream of a city wasn't a dream anymore. It was real, and it wasnâ€™t forgotten in some foggy Monday morning aftermath. The only thing â€śfoggyâ€ť now was that huge nebula of smoke in the center of Eastern Valhalla, there for three days, now. Looming over a large majority of the city like the mist of a horrible nightmare. A nightmare I still found myself wishing wasnâ€™t real.
Panda was talking to me. Kept screaming at me somewhere, somehow. Not really, but I could feel something mentally nagging at myself. Telling me this wasnâ€™t some dream that my Guardian, my Watcher in the Window would wake me from. The aftertaste of smoke in the back of my throat. The dryness of my tongue. The coarseness of the dust of rubble on my clothes. The redness of my eyes. The stirring of my heart. The quaking of my world and the city in it...all too real.
Him. His body. His face next to me. I thought at that exact moment: he's here. He's a Guardian, a Watcher in the Window, a prodigy, an enigma, a fated-at-fifteen, but he's human He's like me.
However, when I really think about it now, I think his eyes were trying to prove more than his reality that day...the reality he previously neglected. I think on that day, his eyes were proving to him the deep chasms of emptiness that were within himself. Looking at the black, white, and red picture before us through wide rusty green eyes. Face blank, and his hands. His Hands from God open and out. But fisted and furious.
â€ś...Itâ€™s not there...â€ť was all he said.
Yeah...he was right. It wasnâ€™t. But something else was. Something beyond a picture of another world or dereliction. Or innocence and pain and answers.
Hope. Faith. Vanity. Life.
That, right there, within that enormous nebula of smoke and dust, underneath our blood red sunset sky, was life. Born would be the mouths where the stories are told, where the old get young and the young get bold...that's where it would be, again. Something to live for was in that cloud. All this is within this story. This dream. This, and much more. That very day, this dream changed us. It made us realize a reality that needed something. This dream made us realize what our purpose was, and it wasn't to die, but to live.
This dream changed him. Me. Aeres. And, eventually, all of us. With this change in us, it would eventually change the city. And this is where it would all begin.
It would all begin with a miracle named Li.
Listen to my dream.