Death and the Maiden

Participants:

helena_icon.gif kazimir_icon.gif

Scene Title Death and the Maiden
Synopsis Helena encounters Kazimir and one of his victims. She does the smart thing.
Date October 4, 2008

Lower East Side

The Lower East side is one of the oldest neighborhoods in New York City. Starting south of East Hudson Street and west of the East River, it is also bordered by Chinatown and the East Village. Tenemant housing is very prominent here, as well as many religious structures and more than a few excellent kosher delis and bakeries. For those in search of entertainment, the Lower East is home to many bars and live music venues.


Morning.

The adage goes that New York City is a city that never sleeps, and while that may have been true in the pre-bomb world, it at times seems like a distant memory in the current era. With the skies shrouded by a heavy blanket of grey clouds and the crisp chill in the air, New York seems for the time to have settled in to find peace in rest, still nursing its grevious wound at its heart. Street lamps are still illuminated at this hour, the dim and diffuse sunlight filtered through the clouds washing out color from the city. Beads of dew cling to the surfaces of parked cars, puddles line the sidewalks and streets, the sound of tires treading across wet pavement fills the air. Those few who are out on this unusually chilly day are bundled up for the autumn weather, jackets and light scarves, their breath visible on the air.

Helena could cheat, of course. Simply making the air warmer around her would make her a good bit more comfortable than most of the poor suckers currently out and about in the dawn's early light. But that wouldn't be fair, and would take more energy then it would be worth. So she makes do with the jacket she's been seen with so often of late, along with a knit cap and a scarf that she stole - err, liberated - from Claire. There's a farmer's market opening very early today, and she wants to get some fresh food. She might have had a bizarre fondness for the tenement, but aside from what she grew on the roof, fresh food was a luxury that she is thoroughly indulging in now.

That trip through the lower east side takes Helena down the lightly populated sidewalks, past businesses just flipping on their lights and turning over their "Closed" signs to welcome in customers. The entire schedule of the city seems to have changed since the bomb went off, with stores closing earlier and opening later. Even if there is a feigned sense of security, people are still nervous of the Evolved, and that pulse of tension in the city is as palpable as it was in the mid 80s at the city's most dangerous.

Cutting down a back alley between two large brick-faced buildings, Helena's trip to the market isn't a particularly long one, four blocks with plenty of short cuts. Steam issues forth from a sewer grate in the middle of the paved through-way, a single graffiti'd dumpster pushed up beneath a fire escape prominently reads, "FORTIS ET LIBER" in large yellow spraypaint. A motto of the times, a motto of the rebellion of the Evolved, and while not wholly responsible for the tension between Evolved and Non-Evolved, the presence of such a group undoubtedly brings some anxiousness to the people here.

Halfway down the alley, the sound of birds gradually becomes more prominent. Not songbirds, but the rasping caw of ravens, several of them perched atop a clothesline that hangs two stories up between darkened windows of the buildings. A few more perch on a rod-iron fence that partitions off the small back-lot of a tenement building, a chain wrapped around the gate with a padlock on it to keep unwanted tresspassers out.

That trip through the lower east side takes Helena down the lightly populated sidewalks, past businesses just flipping on their lights and turning over their "Closed" signs to welcome in customers. The entire schedule of the city seems to have changed since the bomb went off, with stores closing earlier and opening later. Even if there is a feigned sense of security, people are still nervous of the Evolved, and that pulse of tension in the city is as palpable as it was in the mid 80s at the city's most dangerous.

The slogan scralwed on the dumpster can't help but bring a small smile to her face, one that she hides in the fall of her hair as she passes it by. When the birdsong changes into something more knowing and cynical, she brings up her face to peer at the black birds. "Caw to you too." she says softly as she keeps on walking. She likes walking, it gives her a means to think without being interrupted. At least not too much. Except there's so much she doesn't want to think about right now.

At first the sound that interrupts Helena's thoughts could be mistaken for rainwater flowing through a clogged drain, a burbling sound that seems too out of place in the alley. A narrow divide between two buildings, not wide enough to bring a car through seems to be the source of the sound. After a moment of hearing it, Helena can recognize it for what it is, the rasping sound of someone choking, along with muffled thumping and banging, as if whoever was making the noise down the alley was thrashing around uncontrolably. At the same time the sound's nature dawns on her, the ravens let out a series of loud caws, scattering from the clothes-lines, moving up higher into the air, and that high up, Helena can see more of them, a parliment of ravens perched atop the fire escape and edge of the roofs, their dark silhouettes contrasting sharply against the white-gray skies.

In their hasty retreat, a few black feathers flutter down through the alley, amidst that macabre sound.

Helena can already feel the inner argument starting - don't invite trouble, you have enough of your own as it is, things that are found in alleys usually lead to misfortune. But curiousity drives her footsteps forward and so she pads slowly into the alley, her fingers sliding up and into the cold air from where she had kept them tucked back into her sleeves. The better to defend herself with, just in case. She says nothing, merely edges in, keeping a sharp eye for the source of that bubbling sound.

Rounding the corner, Helena's shoes tread silently on the dew-dampened pavement. As she focuses her eyes down the narrow alley, a surreal and unwelcome sight is the reward for her curiosity. The alley is lined with boarded-up windows, broken glass littering the ground, along with two toppled trash cans and the waterlogged remains of old newspapers. At the dead end of the alley is a partially open door, the back door to this tenement building. There at the end of the alley, the light seems to be unnaturally dimmed, as though whatever act was taking place, the girl's mind was trying to block out.

In that shadowy illumination, she can see the source of the choking gurgle. Sprawled out on the ground is a figure, it's hard to tell if it was a man or a woman, pinned down by a man dressed in black, wavy salt-and-pepper colored hair falling down to shoulder length, most of it hanging down in front of his weathered face. He grasps at the mouth of the person on the ground, wispy tendrils of what looks like black smoke wafting up from between his fingers. The person — the body — on the ground can only be described as horrifying. A completely dessicated husk of a person draped in the loose shell of clothing. Skin pulled tightly to bone, grayed as if baked by heat, skin cracked and flaking. Eyes are shriveled up into sunken sockets, lips receeded to reveal the white of teeth. The corpse looks frozen in a thrashing motion, one arm crooked up into the air, withered fingers curled into the fabric of the attacker's black suit jacket.

The caw of a single raven calls out, and slowly, that figure in black turns to look up towards the blonde girl at the end of the alley, his hand still clasped around the mouth of the corpse. His face is painted with shadow, a pall of darkness lingering about him like some cloying mantle, thin in places like smoke would be.

Helena makes a sound at the back of her throat, backing up a step, then two, and then turns to start running as if her life depended on it. Which it probably does. She did not just see that. She did NOT just see that!

The moment Helena turns to run, the ravens all break out into a chorus of cawing and shrieking, as if some form of grim alarm. Her shoes skid now on the dew-soaked pavement, sending her skidding into one of the brick walls in her haste. There is a sound down the alley behind her, the slow click of hard soled shoes on concrete making a steady stride towards where she was. Helena's haste, her urgency of escape pushes her onwards, running full-tilt down the alley until she collides with a passer-by on the sidewalk of the adjacent street, stumbling away from Helena with a ragged, "Watch where th'hell you're going!"

Out of the alley, cars rush past, a yellow cab parked not far away on a street corner. A brunette woman walks with a a young boy bundled up for the cold while she talks on a cell phone. A white box truck drives past, splashing in a rain-filled pot hole. The city awakens.


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October 3rd: Mind's Eye
Previously in this storyline…
Life Is But A Walking Shadow

Next in this storyline…
A Corpse of Interest

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October 4th: A Corpse of Interest
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