A Penny For Your Thoughts, Part II



Scene Title A Penny For Your Thoughts, Part II
Synopsis Eighteen years of fear and paranoia come to a head.
Date March 25, 2009

The sun is beginning to set.

The streets of Manhattan are sparsely populated. They look like riverbeds, cracked and broken after a dry summer. There is no public transportation, no pedestrians on the sidewalk, just concrete barricades and military police checkpoints; martial law. On the street, it simply looks like hiding. A microcosm; people too afraid to live their lives, hiding from the fist of an authoritarian regime. From higher up — from a different perspective — the shape of things starts to change.

From a farther perspective, the individual stories start to blur. It becomes harder to see the personal struggles, but the bigger picture becomes evident. The gutter corpse of New York City is home to nearly 5 and a half million people, and every day more flee the city for the suburbs. The economic and social collapse of the last three years is bleeding New York dry. This city requires so much to keep it afloat, and all of that support structure has rotten and started to crumble.

This is the autumn of mankind. The drought is here.

The Linderman Building

Manhattan's Financial District
New York City

6:45 pm

March 25th

Daniel Linderman is slouched at his desk, head in his hands. He has not bothered to turn on the lights in his office. Narrow shafts of late evening sun cut sharp lines against the walls, illuminating isolated sections of prophetic paintings that he had hoped would fill in the gaps in his memory, give him guidance and forewarning about the thing that has gnawed at the back of his mind for nearly twenty years. When he lowers his hands and looks down at them, he does not recognize his palms. Weathered, wrinkled, soft, and old. On his desk is a hand-typed letter, set on Linderman Group letterhead, addressed to a son that he will never know. The pit of Daniel's stomach twists, and he sets the letter aside beneath a copy of When Life Becomes Precious. Beyond the book is a framed photograph of a smiling redhead standing in a library. He smiles back at Zoe, then looks away.

Standing up from his desk, Linderman is surprised when he's hit with a bout of vertigo. He struggles, quickly grips the corner of his desk and manages to stop himself from falling. He leans against the desk, feeling the room swimming around him. The paintings on the walls loom judgmentally, paintings of ruin and ego, an Isaac Mendez original showing New York City struck by a nuclear explosion stares back at him like a pair of dagger-filled eyes. He looks away, down to the floor, heart racing.

This world is sick.

Wetting his lips, Linderman levers himself away from his desk with a shaky hand. He steadies himself, draws in slow and measured breaths, and walks over to his sidebar and pours himself a single finger of Bourbon. He did not drink, this was reserved for guests, but in the face of his own mortality he has begun to shirk his own personal restrictions. There is a letter left open on the bartop, drink ring on it from the last time he'd broken his inhibitions. The letterhead isn't the Linderman Group's, but Johns Hopkins Memorial Hospital. He can't help but read it over again. The grim prognosis, the lack of answers. The uncertainty. The finality.

Quickly tipping back his drink, Linderman returns to his desk and lingers there, hand on the back of his chair in survey of an empire he built with his own two hands. An empire on a foundation of rotting corpses, walls painted with the blood of everyone who stood in his way. Regret rises as bile in the back of his throat, bubbles his stomach and turns his already wracked guts. The buzz of the intercom on his desk nearly causes Linderman to jump out of his skin. He fumbles for the call button.

"Yes?" He tries not to sound shaken.

«Mr. Brannaugh from the IRS has called again, I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to delay him.»

Daniel looks around his dark office, then presses the button down again. "I'm in a meeting, presently. I'll call him back tonight." He lies. Then, depressing the button again opens his mouth to speak, but loses his conviction that what he was about to ask for was the right choice. "Ah, that will be all." He instead says with the confidence of a confused old man unsure of what he wants in the refrigerator. He recoils from the intercom like it burned him and sits down in his seat, looking at his hands again.

Trembling, Linderman reaches inside of his desk and retrieves a lighter from where it sits next to an old photograph of the Company founders gathered together for an anniversary atop the Deveaux Building. He sees Charles there, and his heart sinks. His mouth is bitter now, throat burns. He slams the drawer shut and snatches the letter out from under his book, setting it alight with the lighter. As it starts to burn, he slides out a metal waste basket from beneath his desk and drops it inside. Linderman's eyes become distant, his lips tremble, eyes glass over.

To say that this letter is insufficient as both an apology for my absent parentage and the
circumstances of your birth is obvious. You were never supposed to know this truth. Yet, here
we are. What is imperative in this moment

The words are consumed by fire, creeping up the page. Linderman sits forward, elbows on his knees, rubbing his hands over his face. No matter how many times he tries to drown it out, no matter how many ways he tries to distract himself, it is always there.

The world is sick.

And yet, the unavoidable truth is that it may not be the world that is sick at all.

But him.

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