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Scene Title Answers
Synopsis After losing her ability in a terrifying plane crash, Abigail Caliban seeks answers from an unlikely source.
Date September 13, 2020

There’s an undeveloped neighborhood in Jackson Heights dubbed the “International District” by local residents, thanks in part to the proliferation of multicultural settlers coming to this portion of the city following the Civil War. The neighborhood only spans a four block area, but it is flush with businesses that cater to a variety of cultural traditions outside of the typical Americana fare.

The tenement building rising up from Broadway is one such locale; a run down but operational building. At the ground floor level there is a small bodega with barred windows and a neon sign indicating that it is open. Signage in the windows indicates Checks Cashed and We Accept Gold & Gas. The five floors above the bodega are all apartments, some windows closed and others open to the street. Construction noise from a few blocks away echoes out this far, but otherwise this stretch of road and this building is unremarkable.

The building at 25-04 Broadway has a fire escape up its right side and a tenement lobby entrance adjacent to to the bodega’s doors. It’s at this address where Abigail Beauchamp’s paper trail ends.

There is no listed address for Lisa Bradbury in any Safe Zone registry. Not the residential lottery for settler housing, not any public works division for bill processing, not even at the DMV. But the volunteers at the Church of Ascension swear up and down they’d seen her, sometimes tending the garden out front, other times volunteering in the soup kitchen downstairs. It took a half dozen discreet interviews to pin down where this mystery woman lived.

After everything Abby’s survived in the intervening year since she ran into Lisa, the nagging question surrounding the thread she was handed still remains. Now, bereft of her ability and clinging to little more than her job and her faith, she finds herself at the end of the line in at a block of concrete and glass.

Jackson Heights
NYC Safe Zone

September 13th
2:14 pm

The little folded up slip of paper had remained in Abby’s nightstand beside other things of dubious or not so dubious value but had some vestige of importance. The man's wedding ring in a ring box, wedged beside a worn bible whose cover had seen far better days and could be termed well loved. A little wooden box that held all of Kasha’s baby teeth that had fallen/been pulled/saved in some perverse tradition that her own parents had done for her. Worn pictures of friends and family from years past. Hand lotion and all manner of small middle of the night necessities. A small fire extinguisher even.. And that little folded up piece of paper that though not the original, is a sticky note with the words written down lest she forget them. And the name of the woman she has been systematically tracking.

She stands there, looking at the door to the apartments above, with a blank stare. It’s been a thread she’s followed as time allowed, probably broke a rule or two looking through police databases, and more than a few conversations after service, baked goods in hand as supplies permitted from her garden to loosen lips. Southern accents can be charming, endearing and pave the way for those who might fall for it.

And so a few bus rides later, double checked against a map and walking, she finds herself here with that little folded up square of paper that Colette wrote on. Staring at the door. Forefinger running up and down the folded side of the note. She did this way back when. When healing left her and she was left feeling empty. Less than. Fractured and parts missing. As if when you lose a tooth and habitually stick your tongue in the socket. Only, instead of a tongue, she just thought. Poked at that space where she should feel the reply of ramped heat, the promise of combustion. And came away with nothing. Empty. Her brain would trip up on the empty and get stuck in a loop.

She hadn’t felt empty for years. Last time she felt empty was before Tamara injected her. This was her second time now, being negative. It was just as off-putting as the first and had more consequences with her job than it had back then. Her heating bill was going to go up come the winter. For her and her immediate neighbours.

Her forefinger stops running along the paper and then taps the spine of it instead. Twice. One right after the other as if she’s made up her mind about something and moves forward. To see if the door to the tenement will open up and allow her entry so she can look for mailboxes that might lead her further, or buzzers or… or just sit. Find some place to sit and wait. While tapping that note. Somewhere in the building was supposedly a woman with glasses and a signed copy of wolves of Valhalla. She’s patient, even as a hand fiddles with the little gold cross at her neck.

The door to the tenement building above the bodega opens on the first pull, but it’s in that moment Abby notices the buzzer call box for residents. All the tags are blank and the buttons look old and worn. Odds are whatever security this building did have stopped working a long time ago. It allows Abby to move into the lobby without so much as a second thought, greeted by the presence of unfinished construction.

The walls of the lobby are covered in plastic drop cloths held up by painter’s clamps. The bottoms of the sheets are pinned down by bricks. A couple of ladders stand in the middle of the lobby below gaping holes in the ceiling where light fixtures should be. The black and white checkered floor is missing a few tiles, revealing bare concrete beneath. Brass-faced elevators give a hint of long-lost class, but paper signs that read out of service prove that they are of no help.

There’s a stairwell ahead, but no sign of a resident directory. Her research got her to the building, but the last leg of the journey is shrouded in as much mystery as the rest was.

A scrunching of her nose is the only indication of her displeasure at the state of the lobby. But this is the state of her living room at home, plastic and boxes of flooring. But there’s something common in all tenements and with care to the plastic, she is pulling back sheets to look at the right then the left till she spots what she was looking for.

Mailboxes. Surely there’s a name on there so when bills come, one can get them. Eyes tick over the numbers and names till gold is struck. Two taps of her finger to the one for 404, L. Bradbury. “You do exist” She murmurs to herself, carefully putting the sheeting back. Spared the indignity of knocking on everyone’s door, Abby starts for the stairs. Four oh four.

The ascent is remarkably uneventful and this tenement building is surprisingly quiet. The main stairwell offers a look down each of the hallways with no door for a fire break. The carpet smells musty and old, peeling in some places. The third floor’s drop ceiling is entirely missing, and exposed wires hang down from within.

Up on the fourth floor, there’s a little noise. It sounds like a talk radio program coming from down the hall. And after a cursory check of the numbering on the doors, Abby confirms it’s the direction of Lisa’s apartment. As she closes in on the door, she sees the copper numbers that read 4 4 are missing the 0 in the middle. There’s just a grimy ring where the number once was.

Abby can hear the muffled sound of voices over the radio through the door. «…mistaken for the northern lights, but I’m telling you, it was something else. If you drive out there— go out there past Colorado, and I’m telling you…»

Memories. Most assuredly there are memories and in the back of her mind she can hear Teodoro’s voice expressing disgust at the state of the place she is walking through. Abby eases past doors and dodged dangling wires as she has to remind herself that this is just how New York is these days.

That and offer a prayer of thanks that Kasha doesn’t live in a place like this.

But she comes to a stop at the apartment housing the woman she is looking for and the conversation she is privy to by the good or bad graces of paper walls and slum lords. She hesitates again, that sticky note in her hand before reaching up and giving a rap, rap, rap on the door. “Hello” she calls out, going to be loud enough to be heard. “anyone home?” Just a little louder.

“I’d like to talk to you about our savior, The Lord, if you have a moment” In her most southern twang as well.

«…my cousin, Marty, went out there. Drove out west through Utah about a year and a half ago. He said he saw a flying mountain. A flying mountain just floating over the desert.»

Other than the radio, there’s no response from the other side of the door.

«We’ve heard some amazing stories on this broadcast over the years, but I think this might be our first reported sighting of something quite that extreme. Is your friend sure it wasn’t just someone with powers, playing a trick on them?»

There’s a distant clanking sound, running water, it sounds like someone might be doing dishes in a kitchen.

This time with feeling then, when there is a lack of answer. Radio and running water can muffle noises. So, Abby kicks then. The toe of her shoe three times. Not hard enough to open the door but hard enough to be heard.

«I don’t know.» The voice on the radio says, right around the time Abby hears the water shut off. «But I believe ‘em. I believe ‘em. He says he tried to send pictures of it to the newspaper but they never got them. Says someone intercepted the mail. You know what I think this is?»

Floorboards creak on the other side of the door, the telltale harbinger of someone walking softly enough for their footfalls to not be heard, but are betrayed by the age of a building.

«No, no. Tell me. What do you think this is?»

The creaks stop, but not by the door.

«Alien— » the radio cuts out.

“Who is it?” Abby recognizes Lisa’s voice.

“I don’t know if you remember me. Probably not. You sat beside on a bus about a year ago” Abby stands on the other side, looking at the door, forefinger running along the folded spine of the note. “I autographed your book you were reading at the time, Miss Bradbury.”

But Lisa asked who it was. A simple question and in true Abigail fashion what should have taken two words took over thirty. “Sorry.” She says. “Abigail Caliban. Though you called Abigail Beauchamp” She finally closes her mouth. Almost. “Can I come in?” Now she closes her mouth.

Silence is all the response Abby gets for a short while. Then the creaking resumes, continuing right up to the door. Then there’s silence again, two shadows of feet in the gap at the floor. The slide of a deadbolt is the answer Abby was seeking. But when the door opens, it only opens as far as the chain on the door allows.

Lisa Bradbury stares out through the crack in the door, big blue eyes wide and blonde hair in a messy toussle. It looks like a storage locker inside of her apartment. There’s stacks of newspapers piled up on furniture, cardboard boxes awkwardly stacked on top of one-another. And that’s just a narrow slice.

“I remember you,” Lisa says with a squint of one eye. She seems hesitant, waiting for something, but it isn’t clear what. The expectant what do you want is written on her face, but not said out loud.

“Oh good!” Abby smiles at this. Then holds up the sticky note, out of reach and unfolds it so the written contents on it are seen. Mind you it’s in Abby’s writing. “You left this on the bus. Well not this particular note. The original, Colette took, because it was her writing. Thank you for connecting me back up with her by-the-by. It’s been…” Abby has to pause. “Some time. She’s grown. For the better I think.” But she’s getting derailed.

“But I remembered what was on it and wrote it down.” Abby explains. “It’s taken me a year to find you, so I could get this back to you though, because clearly it was important. Nothing in the police records, and most of the people at Ascension had no clue who you were, but then a few did, and that led me to here, and then a look at the mail boxes before…” It’s offered up then.

“When are you from?” A pause. “You’re not in trouble. I promise. I just… you’ve been on my mind since that night. Don’t know why, you just… are. Like… this corner of my brain that won’t let you go, or that night, or the note you forgot. This little string I just now and then tried to follow from one point to another time and time again when time permitted.”

Lisa makes a noise in the back of her throat, tongue presses to her cheek and a deep sigh exhaled. She leans out of her apartment, still gripping the doorknob and looks up and down the hall, then steps inside and leaves the door wide open.

“You’re asking the wrong questions,” Lisa says with a scrub of one hand against her brow. As Abby now gets a full view of her apartment, it looks like a storage unit more than a home. Cardboard boxes are stacked up, newspapers piled on the floor. The windows are papered over by newspaper clippings glued to the glass and connected to one another by pieces of poster tape and colored string. There’s simply nowhere to sit in the living room.

Through an open doorway into the dining room, Abby can see a square table mostly covered with old issues of PAUSE magazine, more newspapers, and stacks of VHS cassettes. Lisa pauses in the doorway to the kitchen, looking back over her shoulder to Abby. “Shut the door behind you.”

“I mean, when all you have is a post-it note then there’s very few questions that you can ask. The post-it and then the bus trip.” Abigail points out, coming in and closing the door behind her. “And I’ve met people displaced from whence they came, in all facets so… maybe in your eyes it’s the wrong questions, but to me, it’s the only question that makes sense in the context of what I have.” She points out even further as the door clicks shut.

Lisa makes a sound in the back of her throat, somewhere between concern and consternation. She looks Abby up and down and then walks into the kitchen. “It’s not when, it’s where.” She says with a shake of her head with, unusually, without any hesitation. “I’m not from up or down, I’m from left or right. If that makes any more sense.”

Lisa pulls out one of two chairs in the dining room on the side of the table that isn’t covered in mail, magazines, and newspapers. “Somewhere, there’s a world where the Vanguard flooded everything. Where everyone lives on boats or…” she waves a hand in the air. “I’m from there. Obviously, here is the better side of the coin.” She’s being remarkably candid.

“Kevin Costner would be thrilled” Abby says without thinking. “So you’re like Theo’s doppelgänger.” There’s a small nod of realization before taking up one of the offered seats. “So. You are here. Welcome. Not the finest of vintages of earth. Little drier. Sorry our welcome mat is a little torn and… bloody “ Her purse is settled in her lap and she regards the other woman for a moment. “Are you trying to get back? Better understand how you got here? For that matter how did you get here? When?” Another pause and dawning. “Why did you have a note with Demsky’s writing on it? She’s not planning something stupid is she? I thought she had grown out of that”

Lisa lifts her hands, brandishing them palms out in opposition to the questions. “No, no, no,” she stammers, “no it’s nothing like that.” Grimacing, Lisa sits forward with a thump of her elbows on the table, raking her fingers through her wild mane of blonde hair. “Wait who’s Theo?” Then immediately after. “Who’s Kevin Kostner?

Lisa shakes her head, dismissing the questions with a flippant wave of her hand. “Nevermind.”

“No, I’m… it’s not what you’re thinking.” Lisa says with a press of her teeth against her bottom lip. “I’m fine here, I’m just trying to make sense of what here is. Trying to understand the uh, the um, the connections between things?”

Lisa swallows audibly, fidgeting in her seat. “I stole the note from that woman. Demsky?” It’s like Lisa didn’t even know her name. “Because I had to.” It sounds like a compulsion, but nothing in Abby’s life is ever that simple. “Just like when I saw you on the bus, I… I knew I had to give it to you.”

Then, slowly spreading her hands, Lisa says, “I have no idea why.”

But when that answer feels unsatisfying to Lisa, she looks guilty and offers an apologetic smile. “I’m different. You know, with the capital D.” She looks aside to the stacks of newspapers, then back to Abby. “I got tested when I came here, proved to me what I suspected most of my life. That I had, you know, a thing I do.”

Lisa grimaces awkwardly. “But I couldn’t tell you what it is. I’ll get these… urges sometimes. Like, I need to go somewhere, or do something, or say something. It comes to me like an idea, fully formed. Sometimes it’s simple, like… you know, take that piece of paper someone dropped.” She pantomimes reaching for the ground. “Then that’s it. I just keep it until I get another gut feeling that says… give it to this person.

With a sigh, Lisa rubs her hands over her face. “Jesus Christ I sound crazy.”

“No, sounds like you are a living plot bunny, not crazy.” Abigail murmurs sympathetically. “Lisa, we live in a world where people turn into living fire, stone, can communicate with machines on an intimate level. Some can inherently assume the abilities of others just by being near them or able to take the injuries from others no matter how grievous and save them from death. I knew someone who could see the future. Could see which iteration would best suit his needs. Walk this way, that happens.”

Abby looks to the note. “Sometimes we don’t get to understand the why’s though Lisa. No matter how hard we want to. Mind you, I would say it’s probably god working, through you, to exercise his will. But if Catherine were here, she would tell me otherwise in that slightly condescending tone, the precise name for your gift and then look at us as if she had no patience for those who have faith,” Abigail shifts in her seat. “But I understand the urge. The need to do it. When I could heal, it was an urge to do it all the same. Sneak it in if I could, I couldn’t bear to see another hurting. I still don’t.”

Lisa makes a face, brows scrunched together and nose wrinkles. It’s like she’s trying to puzzle something out that Abby said, mouthing the word bunny. But Lisa is quick to dismiss the rabbit hole, per se, and focus on the heart of the conversation instead.

“Most people aren’t as understanding of what basically feels like total nonsense,” Lisa explains with a sigh and a shrug. “But here we are, I guess. I didn’t get a bad feeling when I considered telling you so, I guess maybe whatever I have anticipated how you’d respond. SESA classified it as heightened intuition when I explained it to them…” though she doesn’t feel sold on the definition.

“Is that why you came here?” Lisa wonders. “To ask about that paper?” There’s a part of her, and it’s written on her face, that thinks there may have been more to the meeting. Maybe that’s also her intuition.

“They always have the official classifications that rarely line up with what we have chosen to call them. I called my first gift faith healing. I needed to pray to make it work. They called it metabolic manipulation or something like that and prayer was the way over a mental block instilled by my upbringing. Then I lost that. Eventually I ended up with another gift. I call it being a literal flaming baptist. They call it pyromorphism.” There’s a roll of her eyes. “I prefer flaming baptist. You can call what you have whatever you want. A sixth sense. A Bradbury tingle.” Abby shrugs, lifting sharp shoulders before unfolding the post it she wrote on.

“I came back to New York because, like you said, it didn’t feel wrong. Because on some level I miss running into burning buildings. I just tucked this into my nightstand and when I take out Robert’s ring, it’s there. Something just…” Abby looks to Lisa. “It’s like an aching tooth you can tune out, but eventually you can’t”

“I am at a crossroads again. I don’t turn into a flaming baptist. Once again-“ There’s a self deprecating laugh. “I am normal. Or mundane? Or simple. However you want to say it. I am a little lost again. Floundering and have time on my hands. I thought to totally abuse my SCOUT powers and track you down if I could and ask if you knew what this meant. But I guess you don’t”

So she folds it back up. “Did I kill him in your world?”

Lisa’s expression is hard to read through the story of how Abby got here. Though there’s sympathy in it by the end. “Who?” She wonders, uncertain if she meant Robert Caliban, who she isn’t clear on the nature of, or someone else. She’s worried it’s something she isn’t suspecting. Abby can see that tension play out on her face.

Perhaps, then, that’s why Lisa suddenly gives the easier answer. “I didn’t know you,” she says softly. “But it sounds like we… we lived really different lives. My world is more a zig than a zag. It’s hard to explain.” Though perhaps not as hard as she thinks, given everything Abby’s experienced in her life.

“Kazimir Volken” Abigail replies back, providing the missing piece. “We all live different lives. But at some point, clearly, zig and zag crosses and here you are.”

“Nobody did.” Lisa says quietly, wringing her hands in her lap. “They won. Drowned the world, destroyed what was left standing, and receded like the tide. Maybe you were the difference my home didn’t have. Maybe you zigged when you should’ve zagged, and everything was for the worse.”

Lisa looks down to her lap, shoulders hunched forward. “You should tell him.” Lisa says in a small voice, before realizing how quietly and out of context she was talking. She looks up quickly to Abby. “Richard. Ray.” There’s a tension in her voice, but she’s speaking at a proper volume at least. “Tell him your troubles. Like a confessional?” She doesn’t sound like she understands the context of her own words.

Maybe they weren’t hers.

“My shadow on the wall?” Abby asks, but a soft thin line to her lips. She looks reluctant. “I lost healing once. A run-in in an alley. It zipped right out of me and into another. I had spent… it wasn’t pretty. It was a bad time in my life. A pretty quiet time.” Abby looks down, grown woman falling quiet. “Someone stole me out of my house, just under the nose of my daughter. I suspect someone who can mess with the flow of time. One minute we are there, the other, we are not and none the wiser. Regardless.” She taps her fingers on the spine of the note. “It’s happened again. No healing, no baptismal fire. Like before, I am suddenly not able to do the job I was hired to do, no one knows why and… I am hiding from everyone because I don’t want them to think less of me.”

She taps that paper again. “The shadow though, always found me” Lips are bit down on before she looks to Lisa. “That your suggestion or is that god speaking”

Lisa grimaces and offers an over-exaggerated shrug with a purse of her lips as if to say who the fuck knows? She slouches immediately after. “It’s hard to tell what’s instinct and what’s intuition, and I honestly don’t know if there’s a difference. But… I know I can trust him, myself, so…”

There’s a look in Lisa’s eyes that says she’s avoiding something, maybe that’s her intuition talking too — or not talking, in this case. “I think if anyone would understand what you’re going through, it’s him. He lost his ability before the war started.” Lisa says with confidence, even if she wasn’t here to experience it. “But I know things are… complicated now. You might be able to help each other.”

“I don’t know, but can’t hurt to visit my shadow. I haven’t seen him in… almost a year.” She taps the paper again, looking at Lisa. Blonde brows furrow and she leans in, her voice dropping. “Are you okay? Do you need anything? You have enough food? Your bus pass good?” Kindhearted Abby, at least that part of her hasn’t changed.

“I’m fine,” Lisa says, in spite of her apartment looking like something that would belong to an elderly conspiracy theorist on their deathbed. “I’ve got a grocery store downstairs, the people are nice here, and the busses are easier to get to now than when I first moved in. But I— ” Lisa grimaces, though the expression slowly shifts into an awkward smile. “I appreciate it.”

“Make sure he’s okay?” Lisa asks after a long, thoughtful pause. “Richard, I mean. He’s— ” she considers how to explain this, but leans on Abby’s presumed past experiences instead. “You know how he gets.” She presumes that anyone who knows Richard on a long enough time-table, knows just how weird and paranoid he can get.

“I have a gut feeling you two’ll be able to help each other more than you know.” Lisa manages to say with a straight face, not realizing the ability-related pun she just walked into.

“I’ll see what I can do” Abby offers, a nod of her head. She stays sitting though for a moment before starting to stand. “Do you miss there?” Queried. “How did you even get here? How long have you even been here? That must have been… frightening. Stranger in a strange land”

Lisa laughs, an abrupt and barking thing that sounds like something Flint Deckard would’ve done. “No it’s… drier here. I— miss my family. But it’s better here. My dad just wanted me to be safe.” That much isn’t a joking matter, and Abby can feel the tension in her voice when she speaks about her father.

“As for how I got here…” Lisa shakes her head, “you’re better off asking Richard. Science makes my head hurt. But,” she squints one eye shut and grimaces, “it was a pain in the ass.”

“Gosh, I hope not literally” is Abby’s reply near instantly.

Lisa practically chokes on her own tongue with laughter, an awkward and just horrible whooping laugh that she embarrassedly covers her mouth to stifle halfway through. Wiping tears from her eyes, Lisa exhales a few more dying huffs of laughter and says, “Holy shit.”


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