A Play In Contrasts


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Scene Title A Play in Contrasts
Synopsis Abigail Caliban's life once had divine purpose.
Date April 7, 2019


Everything in the Safe Zone feels at once familiar and alien.

The bus stop outside of Elmhurst Hospital serves as one point of focus for this contrast. Under its plastic awning, protected from the drizzling rain, Abigail Caliban finds herself staring into the familiar and the unfamiliar. Brooklyn — what used to be Brooklyn — hasn't changed much in her immediate surroundings. Buildings are a little more worn, streets are a little more cracked, the people are a little more resilient. But with unfocused eyes, the incongruent details remain blurry.

Then, she's reminded that busses don't sound the same anymore. The steady hum of an electric engine has replaced the loud diesel gargle of a New York City bus. These white and gray busses with black windows and digital displays on the side were built in Japan by Yamagato Industries and shipped to the Safe Zone. There's no hydraulic hiss when they come to a stop, just a synthesized musical chime for the seeing-impaired as doors at the front and back slide open soundlessly. There's a driver, at least; tired in the way all New York bus drivers tend to look. The card reader beeps softly as it takes fare out of Abby's pass, beeping again at her back as other passengers get on. At 8:15 in the evening there's not many people still traveling. It feels later than it is. This is like a 2 am NYC bus. But here, now, in this day and age… the city does actually sleep, and its got an early bedtime.

The seats are white, clean, streile, and the lighting on the bus is dim and considerate of the dark hour beyond. Rain beads on the black glass, streaks in forking paths down the windows as the bus takes into motion again. As it rounds the corner away from Elmhurst Hospital, a blue-purple neon glow in the distance marks the border of the familiar and the unfamiliar, the hazy and colorful glow of Yamagato Park at the southern coast of what once was Brooklyn, occluding view of the broken jaw of the city that was once Coney Island.

At the next stop, only one person gets on the bus. Young-looking, blonde, strung-out. She fishes for her transit pass, finding it in a cargo pocket of her pants and the meter beeps when she swipes it, passive-aggressively reminding her "low balance" in a soft and cheerful but entirely artificial voice.

She settles down next to Abby, facing the middle of the bus as all the seats do. She's been in the rain, probably walked in it. Reeks of cigarettes.

There's something familiar about her and unfamiliar all at once. She's a play of contrasts, just like the rest of the city.

Her first place in New York was Brooklyn. Till Teodoro found out where she lived and insisted she move from the roach and rat residence to something a little less rat and roachy. She lived in a lot of places in New York. Perils of being who she was. Someone would find out where she lived, she'd move. But she's put down roots in Williamsburg. Kasha will be home, frozen meal in the fridge to microwave hopefully before power goes out. Odds are the sitter already thought about that. Luke warm enchilada's it will likely be.

She watches outside the window, purse on her lap, green rain slicker with it's floral lining and her blue scrubs that for once are devoid of anything that doesn't belong to her in the body fluid category.

Someone sits beside her and her gaze flicks to the other tired blonde, offering a quick smile by habit and by rote. A quick little dip of her head before turning to her purse to dig out a hard back. The book about Francois. Only halfway through it. She wrinkles her brow though, a quick look again to the blonde.

The blonde settles her bag down between her feet, buckles scraping on the floor. She doesn't seem to recognize Abby, not in the way some people more familiar with the Albany Trials or the Ferrymen do. Just a cursory glance, then she's opening up the flap on her bag and withdrawing a book of her own. A cousin, in ways, to the one Abby herself is finishing. It's cover is a stark contrast of black and white, the silhouette of a wolf and a forest with a flock of birds. A familiar red banner. A familiar title:

Wolves of Valhalla.

As the young woman pages the book open to where she's tucked a ballpoint pen as a bookmark, handwritten blue ink annotations on both sides of the pages it's marking, she pauses. Her brows furrow, and she turns to look over at Abby again. This time, behind the thick lenses of dark-framed glasses, her too-big blue eyes stare vacantly. That's the look.

"Holy shit," the young woman says breathlessly. "Holy shit." Her exclamations a whisper. The followup unsaid, but Abby's heard it before.

It's you.

The odd one showed up at the farm now and then. A camera in hand, oh so casually in the neighbourhood. Meaning they happened to be passing by a podunk town in the back woods of Louisiana. Conveniently. "Hello." It's politely offered. "Do I know you?" The gentle inquiry.

She takes a while to answer, "No." Her smile is tentative, as unsure of itself as she is of this moment. The book in her hands is closed, forgotten, the subject at hand is sitting in front of her on a bus. "I mean…" She offers out a hand, hastily thrust into Abby's personal space.

"Lisa Bradbury," she says in greeting, still wide-eyed. "You're— you're her, aren't you? You killed Kazimir Volken." She needs to finish the book.

"Yes." She doesn't lie. "Abigail." She offers up her hand to the other woman, polite as can be. "Are you enjoying the book?"

Again, she hesitates before taking the hand. A flush comes over Lisa's face, babbled laughter mixed with half-finished sentences. The handshake goes on for just a little too long before she relents. "The book?" She remembers the instant she embarrasses herself, snatching it up from the side of the seat she'd left it on, losing her ballpoint pen in the process as it rolls its way under the bench seat. She doesn't notice. "I am— I mean, as much as anyone can. This is heavy. But you… you're really her? I— I knew— I assumed you lived in the city. I just… on a bus."

Wringing the copy of Wolves of Valhalla between her hands, Lisa's attention shifts briefly to the book Abby was reading, then back up to her. "I'm sorry, I'm— you were reading. I'm being invasive, it's…" Lisa recoils, if only just. "Can I ask you something… really pedantic?"

"We all gotta get to work somehow Ms Lisa. Gas is still the same price whether you dispatched Kazimir Volken or just make coffee in a shop in the market." She doesn't confirm -where- she lives though. Nope, she'll be getting off a stop before, or a stop after. "it is pretty heavy and yes, it is me. That was a long time ago." There's a shake of her head at the apology. "Go ahead. How many people get the chance to take the bus with someone from the pages of the book you're reading."

Making a soft noise in the back of her throat, Lisa nods and feels around the edges of her book. Then, thumbing through it is clearly looking for her bookmark. "Oh hell, oh… stupid— I'm sorry. One second. One second." Apologizing repeatedly, Lisa slides off of her seat onto her knees, reaching under the seat to fish around for her ballpoint pen. While she's out of sight, Abby catches a reflection of herself in the dark window of the moving bus, and is reminded of how much time has passed since the days that book discusses. There's a photograph of her in Wolves of Valhalla, black and white and from an old driver's license. That young woman with a divine purpose isn't looking back at her from the bus window.

There's just today, and tomorrow, and onward.

"Sorry about that," Lisa apologizes again, pen proudly held in hand as she pulls herself back up onto the seat. "Um, so, would you mind…" Abby doesn't need precognition to understand what's happening as Lisa offers the book and pen out to her.

"Could you autograph the inside cover?" Lisa asks, sheepishly. The inside cover is blank, save for a library slip. They're probably not getting this back.

"I've never signed a copy of the book before." She notices the jacket of the book, the other indications of the library tome. "Will it be worth the library fine though?" She takes the book and pen, settling it on her lap. "Beauchamp or Caliban?"

Lisa considers both questions, blue eyes averted to the book for a moment, then searching. "Your choice," seems like a thoughtful answer. She's curious what Abby puts to paper. Worries about the library fine go unaddressed.

For Lisa Bradbury, may you find your own truth and inspiration, Abigail Caliban. The name written in neat, the A and C in a flourish underneath before she passes pen and book back to Lisa with a smile. 'What do you do?" Offering small talk on the bus while the woman is there.

Whatever she was expecting, it wasn't anything more than a name. As she looks at Abby's personalized note, Lisa's brows furrow and her lips part as if to say something, but nothing comes out. The book is held in her hands with a momentary tension, one that eases as she remembers to breathe and close the cover of the book.

"Do?" Lisa says without thinking, then seems relieved when she puts different mental pieces together. "Oh, I'm— a groundskeeper. Church of Ascension, over in Williamsburg." Lisa motions with her head to the west, in the direction of the darkness where the lights of Manhattan once gleamed.

The bus starts to slow and Lisa quickly boosts up to stand, stuffing her book in her bag and hauling the bag over her shoulder. The street outside is pitch black; scheduled rolling blackouts. "I should… I really should be going. This is— it's my stop." No one else is getting off the bus.

"Ms. Abby," neither Beauchamp nor Caliban, from Lisa's lips, "it was a pleasure to— to meet you. Y'know?"

"I have no doubt that it was Ms Lisa. You made my trip home a little less… rote." She smiles wide. "Make it home safe now, you hear?" Still all southern twang.

Lisa pauses mid-stride when Abby says that and with such force that her glasses nearly slide all the way off of her nose. Hand on one chromed railing, Lisa looks at Abby wide-eyed and uncertain. She smiles, nervously. "I suppose this is home now, isn't it?"

Lisa doesn't wait for a response before stepping down and out of the bus. It's only once the door has slid shut and the bus started moving again that Abby realizes Lisa left something behind on the seat. A folded piece of paper.

It's a handwritten note in blue ink.

Berlin Beckitt

Both conduits?


Rochester NY

Maybe she's writing a book? Abigail inwardly shrugs and tucks it away. There's a looks over her shoulder again, frowning before digging in her bag for her little flip pad and a pen. Church of the Ascension. A reminder to look it up later. A way to get this back to the woman in case it was something important.

The bus continues off into the night, into a city both familiar and alien at the same time.

A play in contrasts.


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