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Scene Title Psychopomp
Synopsis Joy comes to understand where she's ended up. Alejandro learns more about who, and what, Joy is.
Date January 31, 2010

Ascensión Commune


The early afternoon sun cuts a path across the desert, leaving the rippling mirages of heat in its wake. Seated on a shady porch in diffuse sun filtering through a canvas canopy, Alejandro Herrera reclines in an old wooden rocking chair. The plastic water bottle in his hand makes a crinkling sound as he presses a calloused thumb into it, condensation beads and rolls down his palm. Beside him, the woman known only as Joy sits cross-legged on the porch, cradling a chipped ceramic cup of water in both hands. The breeze is warm and comforting, gentle in the way it plays with Joy's partly braided hair. Alejandro and she have sat in silence for some time now, watching a group of children in the dirt courtyard between all of the adjacent residences playing kickball.

"How many people live here?" Joy asks, dark eyes flicking over to Alejandro as she takes a sip from her cup. He pauses to consider, fingers tapping together as he counts faces in his mind.

"Seventy three, if I count you." Though Alejandro's response was meant to be welcoming, Joy blanches a bit at the touch and threads a lock of hair behind one ear. She smiles, deferentially, then slouches forward and stares into her reflection inside the mug, as if it would show her something else. "We're all like you," Alejandro adds, undeterred. "Different, y'know? Most of them are brought in by Coyotes," he makes a flat-handed gesture to the horizon. "Smuggled from across the border. Safer, here, even spitting distance from the States." Joy bobs her head in half-hearted agreement, taking another wordless sip of water. "You from the US?"

"Yeah," Joy admits, realizing she'd have to talk at some point. She leans to the side and sets her cup down on a short stool next to an ash tray and an empty beer bottle, then shifts to sit on her knees. "Utah," comes a little belatedly. "Just north of Ogden. Nice, really quiet out there." Alejandro nods, chugging from the water bottle again before setting it on the same stool Joy put her mug.

He rises up from his chair, offering a hand to help Joy to her feet. As she levers up with his aid, Alejandro offers a warm smile. "What brings a Utah resident to Mexico?" His question has Joy diminishing some, her eyes flicked over to the wrecked truck visible in the distance as a red blotch. She draws in a breath, then exhales a sigh and runs one hand through part of her hair. Together, they walk out into the sun and circle the courtyard where the children are playing.

"I travel a lot," Joy admits reluctantly. "I'm — " she eyes Alejandro, but looks past him to watch a young boy fly straight up into the air holding the red leather kickball while taunting the others. They boo and jeer and the sight brings a smile to Joy's face. "Is it really safe for them to be showing off like that?" Alejandro looks back, eyes the flying boy and waves a hand at him.

"¡Oye! Cabrón! Juega limpio!" The children all laugh at Alejandro, and the flying boy flutters down to the ground with legs kicking. Joy covers her mouth and laughs, then looks up to Alejandro with a more relaxed expression. "It's safe. They're putting pressure on us," he jerks a finger north, indicating America, "but our President isn't a fearful man. Things aren't great for us, but it's better than it could be. South of here, it's not great. Venezuela, Argentina, real bad places…"

Shrugging, trying to lighten things, Alejandro looks over to Joy. "They're good kids. They all came from troubled homes, really bad parts of the States. We give them hope, here, homes." Joy inclines her head, looking to the kids one last time before they're completely behind them. "Second chances. It's what we're all about here."

"You too?" Joy asks, a brow raised in query. Alejandro smiles, cattishly, and nods in fond confirmation.

"Yeah, I spent some time in the US. My sister and I?" Alejandro looks to another nearby building as he invokes her name, then back again. "We lucked out, got out of that mess. New York's a bad place, was bad for us. Nearly killed us both. But our mutual friends got us out here. Helped us, you know?" Relaxing as she listens to Alejandro, Joy keeps pace and follows. Though it feels like an aimless walk at first, it eventually leads to a large penned in yard where half a dozen horses roam free. Her smile grows, and Joy hustles over to the men, climbing up on the wood post frame to get a better look at the horses. Alejandro walks up behind her, teeth toying at his bottom lip.

"So," Joy can feel the shift in conversational tone. "I know you just got here, I know you've…" he hesitates, "you've got your own counsel. But there's some stuff I need to know if you're going to spend any time here." Pivoting, Joy turns and sits down atop the fence, crossing her legs and resting her hands on her knees. She looks like a bird perched on a wire in that regard, wind playing at long, dark hair. "I'd rather you stay, rest, heal up before you go."

Joy nods, reluctantly. "I understand," is a bit begrudging. "You have…" she considers the children. "Family." Alejandro nods in agreement, slips over to lean against the fence beside Joy, horses galloping at his back. "You did see some — things?" An awkward smile paints its way across her lips. "I'd understand why you'd be concerned. I don't want to overstay my welcome, and…"

"What happened?" Alejandro asks directly, pretenses faded. "The crash? You were hauling ass out there, cut yourself up good. Was someone following you?" Joy looks away, down to the ground, then closes her eyes and shakes her head. She sweeps her hands over her hair, unwinds her braids idly while she considers her answer. Alejandro is at least patient, watching her consider, watching dark eyes flick left and right.

"I've always had a gift," Joy explains softly. "It started small, I could change the color of fire. My folks weren't surprised, my grandmother could do the same thing." Joy looks over to Alejandro, and he's intently listening, arms crossed over a bare chest. "I gained that gift when my grandmother passed away. Over time," Joy's eyes search the dirt, stare through it. "I picked up other gifts, as people passed away." One of Alejandro's brows starts to rise. "I'm… different, like the kids here. Like my grandmother. Obviously." She gently tugs at her bottom lip with her teeth.

"How… near do you have to be, exactly?" A hint of worry colors the tone of Alejandro's voice.

"I've had it happen over a few miles, before." The answer surprises him. "Every time I feel it coming on, I get these…" she waves a hand in front of her face. "Flashes, of the person's death. Their last thoughts, regrets, and then… whatever they do passes on to me. I mean — if they're different." She refuses the term Evolved at every step. "For a while it was only something I had to deal with every few years. But it feels like it's happening more and more now. So I've — I've been trying to go places more remote. Get away from people, it's — "

"Hard to control?" Alejandro sees some similarities in Joy's words. Hears some of his sister in her concern. "I understand that. So, all those things you did… that's people who've died near you?" Joy closes her eyes and nods quietly wringing her hands together and kicking her sandal-wrapped feet back and forth.

Joy considers the wind, the way it feels on her cheeks, then looks back to Alejandro. "When it hits me, it's painful. Most of the time I black out, barely have any recollection of who I am or where I am. I lash out, hurt people…" she seems nervous to say that, and quickly follows it up with, "I can't stay here." The laughter of children nearby fills her with a sense of uneasiness, anxiety.

"Maybe," Alejandro doesn't disagree with her. "So, when you were driving, you got hit by something?" Joy shakes her head, brows furrowed and a briefly troubled expression crossing her face. Joy stays quiet for a time, then slides off of the fence. She rakes fingers through her hair, looks up to Alejandro, and then over to the horses.

"I've had a bad couple weeks," Joy explains quietly. Then, meeting Alejandro's stare again, clarifies.

"It's a long story."

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