The Stranger – Chapter 1: The Train
Written by castor :: [Saturday, 07 March 2015 18:46] Last updated by :: [Monday, 09 March 2015 20:56]
Inspired by Life in Four Colors by Taliesan
‘A loaf of bread, a carton of milk and a stick of butter.’
John Farmer sat in the muni-train with the mnemonic in his head. It was on Sesame Street wasn’t it? But that was what his girlfriend Janey wanted him to bring home. He wondered if he could just buy a stick of butter. Did he have to buy a carton?
He smiled. Ahh well.
John Farmer smiled. He felt very lucky. He wore a leather jacket which was warm on the Autumn day and was a bit tired … but, well, he had a job that let him wear a leather jacket and not do manual labor. He worked for an Ad Agency which was a lot less mad men then you might guess – he had just got a promotion two months ago and found it wasn’t to stressful and he could do it. He smiled. He had a handsome smile and he knew. A lightly muscled body to go with it that made him look sleek and well lined. He was an attractive man, with a beautiful girlfriend and a nice apartment to share with her. Life was good.
Except his girlfriend had a very stressful job that required long hours, that she didn’t like to talk about. Ahh well.
The train after a long day was longish. He often listened to music or read a book, but tonight he kept thinking of his little mnemonic. There was a little bodega down the street he would go to. He liked to get in the car on the weekend and go to real supermarket – that one felt a little seedy … but …
Janey was a struggling professional dancer. She would go off every morning to practice and practice – to have every ounce of fat pulled from her body, leaving lithe, cold little muscles behind. She was a stringy woman of coiled strength and pull. When he came home, he occasionally saw the wounds of it – the bruises the pulls of what her job did to her and, sometimes, he would hold her as she faintly cried herself to sleep.
She would dance – though he knew she didn’t like to be seen. When she would give a performance she didn’t like him to go – she hated the applause. But she did it – often in the chorus of a ballet or modern work. Sometimes in the back of some stupid rap video. She would dance, because she didn’t know what else to do.
He sighed. If he could get her some butter now and then why not?
He relaxed into his chair. He looked out the window. He could see Boston harbor as the sun went down. It was coming from such an angle that the sun was going into the side of the water. It was quite pretty actually. He knew he had maybe a minute to watch the ocean. He should do that more often, just enjoy beauty, enjoy life. He should take Janey out for a night to see the world. She would enjoy it.
When the train stopped.
Just stopped. He looked out the window. To see the entire city went dark in an instant.
It was quite a sight actually. To watch all the power go out – it was like a flick as cascades of light all went off in a circuit across the skyline of the city. He realized he was in the exact perfect spot to see it all, from Beacon Hill to the skyline in the dusky light. It was quite beautiful. He knew for any number of reasons it was dangerous – hospitals, traffic, sewers … but it was still beautiful.
He was trapped with what, about 10 people in a subway car.
Well, this was one of those situations where you hear about people moaning and bitching, but it wasn’t the worst thing ever.
He looked around at the train, which for 6 on a week day was surprisingly empty. There were three well dressed guys, who appeared to be a group. They looked like Jehovah witnesses or something. People in suits didn’t usually travel together. In any case, they seemed to be calm. There was a surprisingly cute punk girl, who had the look that maybe she was a lesbian – John didn’t like that was the first place his mind went, but well. There were a pair of Black men at the end talking the Patriots. A woman slightly too old to have a baby carriage, and her well behaved baby in the chair. A woman reading a book. An elderly man who looked somewhere at the crossroads of homeless, without quite being there. Humanity in the big city in America.
He smiled. Well here they where.
“Should we open up the emergency door?” said one of the well dressed men with a smile.
“Let’s wait until we get instructions.” said one of his fellows.
“Fuck that!” said one of the patriots fans. “Let’s get going”
“We’re on a bridge.” said the second christian brother.
John sighed and let them argue, joined in a bit by the punk girl who took someone side. It wasn’t the loudest most raucous argument he had ever heard, so well life was life. Instead he relaxed. And brought out his phone to turn on the music function.
It didn’t work.
Huh that was odd.
If it was just a power outage it shouldn’t affect his phone – I mean maybe no bars. But …
He heard something.
It was a noise. A very loud noise. But a noise. A kind of almost roar, an almost scream. It wasn’t anything you could easily identify, not a machine or a lion or any of it … other than the faintest sense that it was coming from the ocean. And that it sounded maybe organic.
The other people in the train heard it. And shut up.
Then the sound again. It was giant. And wet … and …
He looked out at the harbor to see a giant wave crest up … and inside of it a large maw.
It was triangular in shape, a large head a large mouth jaw. That was all that he could see … as it crested the water. He was about a mile from the shore … and it still looked large. It was least 500 feet tall as it came out of the water a black a brown mass opening up to revel razor sharp teeth, but no eyes no ears no mouth … just jaws … and 600 feet up no sign yet of a body.
It roared free of any water at last.
Inside you could see its mouth as it crested and moved on about 10 small leg things – well small being a 100 feet long – like a bug would. It was over all about 1000 feet long … with 700 or so of it mouth. He imagined the biology of the thing, the strange mechanism that gave it what ever counted alive. Was it alien, natural strange or one of a kind it was …
And he screamed. He screamed.
And he was joined by his fellows.
The creature started to move towards town. You could see it move. It was the trick of large things. It was an awkward creature of mostly mouth, and it moved awkwardly on its legs that appeared to be very slow and ungainly.
But, well, its actual speed was freakishly fast.
He had a view of it as it came mouth a groaning toward the city of Boston Massachusetts from some unknown hell.
He had stopped screaming. There seemed little point. But as it opened its giant maw to reveal its hideous teeth things, it mouth almost at 45 degree angle, taller than a 40 story building. It screamed. It screamed.
But he had hope.
For as he did he saw what looked to be a small speck. Just a speck. It could have been for all the world a dot on the window. But it moved.
For even in the dying sunlight, even without the light of the city, even the darkness she shone.
She was the Defender.
He had never actually saw her before. Well, on TV. But … well … how small was she? It was hard to gauge. She was what maybe 5’6 if that? She was at least 10 miles away, so the fact that he could even see her was something.
But still he felt her awe.
She didn’t wear a cape or tights. She dressed a bit like a medieval knight, with a gleaming steel armor covered in strange runes. Her humanity was obscured, but one could hope there – for she was the heroine who flew towards the monster.
It was just reaching the shore when it became aware of her. The 1000 foot long creature that must weigh – what 3 million tons – turned slightly. It had no eyes, but it looked … curious. People weren’t suppose to fly through the air where they?
No they weren’t. Abstractly it was a very strange thing. Even miles away, he could see the faint, slight red glow from the ruins.
The speck came at the large monster head one. It didn’t have a nose as such … but right between the eyes. And connected. On a huge monster it wasn’t an easy target to miss. She hit with a single punch.
The creature flew upwards, leaving the water with the power, turning in the sky from being hit slightly off central in a small loop as it flew maybe 50 feet into the air. Honestly from John’s vantage point it wasn’t all that impressive … until you thought about the power behind it for a second. This was mind boggling strong. A creature that big, you would expect it to be that strong. She was human size.
But one of those was coming to eat the city. The other to save it. Perhaps in life a little oddity isn’t the worst thing.
The creature hit the ocean, it looked around. Opening its mouth as a defensive weapon, hitting boats and navy destroyers – barely noticing them – focusing on the much more dangerous her. It was huge, gigantic, as described … but she had the advantage. Its big size made it relatively immobile compared to the small darting thing. It moved to circle not to let the Defender out of it sight.
John, as he sat trapped, thought of Janey in a dance. If you said he lived with a professional dancer, you would think ‘hey he do a lot of dancing’. In truth not much. Janey didn’t like to dance like that. When she had to dance a pace duex-a pair dance … she would describe it not as two people coming together, but two people at war, using choreography. And that’s how this felt. These two were in a strange dance. The creature wanted to bite and eat her. She wanted to connect. They moved around the harbor a bit.
“OH MY GOD!” said the woman with the baby. The sound of her screaming caused the baby to turn the head curiously. Huh, what was it watching that was so weird.
The Defender flew towards it … right through its jaws-which snapped shut with her inside of it.
This produced a gigantic shock wave. Every window, mirror … glass … at least 5 miles that John could see broke.
Including the one right in front of his face.
More screams more shock-but at least the subway had safety glass so it mostly just stood in its frame.
“LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!” screamed one of the christian men. He was joined by some of his fellows.
John paused as he watched people in action. Something – a book bag, maybe, John didn’t quite see – was picked up and tossed out one of the windows, which in its weakened state broke instantly. John sat still. There was panic as people ran through towards the window, even if it wasn’t the most panic ever. He looked out. They were maybe 40 feet in the air suspended on a bridge. There was railing outside – but that was the thing. In this circumstance – well he felt as safe here as anywhere.
He watched … the creatures jawed had snapped shut … but then it looked out triumphant to catch its prey … for a second.
It was hard to attribute emotion to it. No eyes, no nose, just a mouth and very little else … but panic.
Because the mouth started to open … to be pushed open. It wasn’t instantaneous … it kept pushing back like a tug of war, but inch by inch, the creatures maw started to spread … and it clearly didn’t like that. It didn’t like that one bit.
The creature started to rush forward in panic toward the town. It made landfall not with a bang, but a hurried motion of action as its spindly legs pile it into the cities downtown. It would have looked silly as it moved its mouth back and forth to get out the irritant – but then, it went into John Hancock tower and nearly knocked it down.
It opened its mouth at last-not very big … but big enough for her to fly out. Its teeth snapped shut instantly but she was to quick far too quick for it.
It roared in anger.
He could see the details of her now, the armor that covered the tight curves of her body, the mask on her face that hid everything of it … the single long red ponytail. Her hair was the same dark sapphire red color as Janey – except so much more lustrous as if she was born in salon. Janey’s looked stringy and loose, it fell down her small lithe little body. Here it rang strong over the massive armour that covered her, defined her heroic build, emphasized powerful curves, a well formed chest. She was beautiful.
And if he could see these kind of details very close.
She moved at a 90 degree angle to the monster … a 90 degree angle that was directly between him and the creature down a busy street. People were racing away.
He looked at his now empty subway car. Huh.
The creature lunged at her, moving at a speed you didn’t expect from it 10 wobbly legs. But it could move. And it did, faster and faster towards it opening its mouth wide to strike …
He could see very well now what was inside of it, what was the mouth look like. The teeth where hundreds each as a big of a man and a series of jagged little sharp
Inside its mouth was a million scales.
It had a tongue of sorts – a bio-organic monstrosity of curves and failed tentacles that got up and lashed …
For now he was very very close to that mouth.
She was to … she flew backwards a bit. He could see her. See the visor of her eyes covered in glass … could she see him?
Then she flew up.
As the creatures mouth hit the track as he felt the train fall in.
He braced he felt the world turn around him as the glass did fall away as the train did land on the monsters tongue …
As he felt himself fly into the air.
He looked out the window … or the space where the window was …
As he realized the entire creature was being flown across the water, flying at hundred of miles an hour across the Atlantic. She had flown behind the creature to the tail, and picked up the monster using its momentum to fling it into the sea …
The creature was screaming screaming loud – when you scream you hear different then the world because your noise is going through your head. He could hear that from his position. It was louder than anything he heard before. Above everything above everything he heard it, he covered his ears and whimpered.
When he heard barely a voice.
He turned to see out the window … Her.
“Grab something stable.”
He grabbed his seat bolted to down
She grabbed the 50 ton train … and pulled it out of its mouth. The creature was too scared, too frightened to make much resistance … she pulled it out of its throat stopping the train momentum as the creature kept moving. The pull shocked him to his senses, shocked him to stop … as the rivets holding the train together held. Barely. The seat jerked and buckled a bit … but …
He was flying now, holding on to a chair at a 90 degree angle over the open Atlantic ocean.
He heard a voice that he couldn’t hear “Are you okay?”
He whimpered a touch.
“Are you okay?”
“How many are in there. I only saw one.”
He looked around. He was the only one left in the train like a stupid idiot. Even the baby was gone
“Okay then … this is not heavy but its awkward so …”
He felt the train move slightly
He heard a crash.
“What was that?”
“That was the monster. It just hit a 800 ton iceberg. It smashed it into pieces. You can hear it I guess even though its like 200 miles away.”
“Good work.” John said
“I hope its enough to stop it.” said the Defender, “the outer shell is very hard but I didn’t get a sense of the innards. Who knows?”
He heard her voice … was it … it was muffled a bit … but also weak a little unsure of itself. He never heard it before really. A couple of “Thank you sir, happy to help”. The Defender wasn’t the type to do interview shows or speak to the press. She just … was.
“I can’t see you, but are you stable.”
“I am holding on with both hands … but I am feeling okay … can you maybe move the car a little to the right …?”
She did so slowly as the angle turned inch by inch flatter.
“Okay I have a leg in the seat. This is more secure.”
“Stay like that.”
He saw her. She was moving with her hands around the train trying to keep it balanced. Which was tricky. Even to the strongest being in the universe, balance was tricky with something this big. He saw her fingers bend into the steel, just to keep it stable – even though the steel walls weren’t really thick enough not to bend and buckle against such force.
“Okay.” she said. “I see you. Stay like this.”
She turned around the car with him like a funhouse … but thankfully slower. He sat still for a moment, until she got there … and he could see her right next to him. She extends a hand through a window, as the train now supported by a single hand moved around her body as she entered the cabin. She grabbed his shoulder.
“Can you hold on to me?”
He grabbed her with one then two hands.
“Let your leg loose.”
It as was awkward as he grabbed her around her and she grabbed him …
And the train fell away around her. It weighed 30 tons, but fell into the sea unimportantly as she lost his concern. He heard it crack in a giant wave 100 feet down into the ocean, which churned in the night. He realized he was that high, and he was wet, and he was cold … and she was there holding him putting his head to her metal chest.
“Okay.” she said shaking her head.
“Thank you.” he said “Thank you.”
“I am glad I could help” she said “That was … something.”
“Thank you.” said John “Well … you saved my life. I reckon it’s something.”
She turned and stood there. He turned his head to look. Boston was burning. Not all of it but he could see a swath of destruction in its wake.
“I should never have let it grab me.” said the Defender “That was dumb.”
“Did it hurt?”
“Not really. I got between it and its tongue. It barely even touched me, honestly the mouth was so big. I am not sure what would have happened with the teeth … but … dumb. It panicked and you don’t let an animal panic.”
“What was it? “
“Does it matter?” she answered. “I leave those questions to others.”
There was an aura of defeat in her face as they started to fly towards the city.
“Let me fly you home.” said the Defender
“Thank you … shouldn’t you …?”
“I … there is a lot of death tonight. So much death. The papers are going to say how I saved the city, the North American continent … but so much death. Yes, I am going to go on, go through buildings that I hope are empty … but I want to clear my head a minute.”
“Thank you then.” said James again.
“Can you do me a favor … tell me I did a good job.”
“You did a great job.”
“Tell me like it’s true.” said the Defender.
John moves a hand gave her a hug as best he could
“We did an advertising campaign … what was it? Six months ago.”
“Am I being compared to an add?” said the Defender with mock condensation. But he could tell she was listening. Advertising was power, and there was a part of him that realized he had power over her. It was an odd thought. But like any power he had to use it well.
“Well it was for GE – and what would world be without electricity? The question is what would the world be without you there to save it? I mean, right now I would be monster chow. Right now, all the damage would be a thousand times worth. You saved us from a monster. You fought and killed the dragon. There is something to that. There is something to that.”
And Defender’s features were hard to make out in her face. “Thank you. Thank you so, so much’.”
“I am not sure you take the armor off at all … but if you do … maybe not tomorrow, as I don’t think the city is going to be ready then … but when you do … I dunno go to the park or something. Watch the kids play around stuff like that. None of that would happen without you. Go save some from a real emergency right now …”
“I can’t stop them from dying.” she said. He realized something. She wasn’t really flying very fast any more … it was as if she was preserving the moment.
“It doesn’t matter.” John said “You still did a good job.”
“People think I am a god.” said the Defender hovering now over the city “A goddess. I am not. Not hardly. I can do anything. I can hear them sometimes. Praying to me. Literally praying to me. To save them. To heal the lame. Cure a goat … I am not exactly sure what a goat is. But they pray to me … they see my flying through the air … and it’s so overwhelming. So overwhelming … the pressure of it. Yes I do go to the park sometimes … but when I do it’s …”
“If you can’t be a god just be a woman. There hot dogs and lemonade and the park. And merry go rounds. Balloon thingys.”
The Defender started to lower them. “You make it sound divine.”
They were in front of 342 Front Street, it was dark. She put him down. It was only in that second did he realize she was carrying him. The incredible strength and power that had been excreted to bring him.
But she sighed “I am not sure when the power is going to come back on. May take days. It was a good emp blast the creature gave off. I am not sure how long that takes to fix.
“Its okay.” said John “It looks like my phone is fried, but I’ll live.”
She turned to fly away “So much to do …”
He put a hand on her shoulder before she left though. A shoulder that had just punched a 300 times monster from 50 feet in the air. Someone with incredible strength and power. “You did a good job”
He let his arm linger for a second then let her go. She paused for a second and with a glow … flew up into the night.
He looked around. He went up to his apartment to find his girlfriend wasn’t there. Yet he wasn’t that worried. She was at a rehearsal studio that was inland from the harbor and he doubted she could be injured. So he went outside again. There where rescue crews and hordes of people … but they were elsewhere. In fact on that street it was a fairly empty night. Slightly cold to. He thought about getting a sweater
Instead he sat on his stoop and waited. And waited. And thought. He realized he was working near the ocean then her … did she think.
It wasn’t until 3 A.M. That Janey. She of the thin build, the slightly string brown hair and the always slightly scared eyes walked forward. She looked at him. And cried. She ran up and with the power of a dancer jumped into his arms and started to kiss him, and kiss him and kiss him with the tears of joy of someone you love.
He held her and lifted her from the ground finding his strength holding her up in the sky.
As on on a nearby building Defender watched. She watched.
There was a million things she should be doing, should be saving right now … and she had. But as the night went on she kept coming back to him. To watch the man sit out in the cold and wait for someone, just wait for someone … who was finally here.
She looked at the woman the straggly little thing. She could see how beautiful the woman was to him though and she was pretty. She was so lucky. Either a knight in shiny armor or a woman on the street he was the nicest man she had met in quite awhile
She should be happy. Two lovers left alive. She should be.
She flew off to the carnage to deal with rescue efforts and more lives saved. She should be happy.
But she wasn’t.