Catalysis, Part VII



Scene Title Catalysis, Part VII
Synopsis Hope is a casualty.
Date January 15, 2021

Standing at the bow of the ferry boat, Daphne Millbrook can pretend things are normal. The railing gives her a place to lean aside from the crutches she’s come to hate. The wind in her hair as the boat moves across the water gives her just a taste of what it was like when she could run across the East River like a stone skipping water. Even if the ferry can’t touch her former speed or anything close, it’s the closest thing she’s felt to what used to be her normalcy since July.

Marring the pretense, though, is the smoke to the east as the ferry heads that way. She rubs a little ash from the white railing of the boat; the river is close enough that anything that stands still for more than a few minutes is dirtied by the black bits of soot. The fire isn’t the only thing that ruins the illusion, but the most obvious as she looks out across the water. The wheelchair sitting by her side, the crutches leaning against it, and the braces encasing her legs are all daily reminders of what she’s lost.

Ahead of her, the gleaming white-and-glass buildings on Roosevelt Island are another reminder of how things have changed.

Despite the trip on the ferry, this isn’t a place to come to be normal, to feel normal — not for Daphne. She slowly wheels herself along the wall of names at the Forced Relocation Memorial, not looking for any names in particular but letting her eye fall where they might. She knows some of the people listed here, and she knows her own name is here somewhere — though Roosevelt Island was not where she’d been forced to live by the government.

Her stay had been earlier and shorter than those who lived here while she was in Eltingville, but just as frightening. Just as debilitating.

The last time she was on Roosevelt Island, Daphne Millbrook had been sick with the flu, her ability lost to her along with her ability to walk. She had been one of the Ferry’s flock who had hidden here in the Summer Meadows neighborhood. Her dark eyes look around but she can’t remember what stood where she sits now. She isn’t sure where the Den was, not in context of the new buildings. She had only come to the Den under cover of darkness, and left the same way, and her memory of that time is a hazy fog of flu delirium and medication.

Daphne’s eyes squint when she becomes aware of a headache behind her eyes. Too much time in the smoke-choked sunshine, she figures, but it’s better than staying cooped up inside like she does most days. She looks away from the wall to the grassy area as she hears the laughter and yells of some children, too small to understand the gravity of a sight like this. She isn’t the kind to be bothered by it; instead she’s happy for the distraction of something not sad, not weighed down by tragedy. Her eyes are caught first by the bright magenta coat of a little girl as she runs away from the outstretched hand of a younger boy, his coat like hers but green.

Normal — except that they seem to be in slow motion.

At first, Daphne thinks they’re just playing — some made-up game like those she’d seen other school children play when she was little and looking longingly at the playground of activity. But the way these two leap and jump makes that an impossibility, at least for someone without gravity control or something close to it. In the distance, a couple — probably their parents — walk hand in hand at a creeping, snail’s pace, slower yet. They look like they’re barely moving.

It feels just like when she used to run through crowds, a blur of color almost too hard to see. In some ways, it used to seem like she was the normal one, running at a natural pace while everyone else moved like an animated film played one cel at a time, like a DVD played frame by frame.

Only she isn’t moving now.

Slowly, Daphne reaches down to unbuckle the braces on her legs. There is the tiniest ember of hope in her heart that her power has returned to her. She could test it without taking the braces off, but maybe, she thinks, she has to have faith — something she’s failed at more times than she can count. Maybe she has to give herself over to it, to trust in it, to earn it back. Joseph always did say she needed to have more faith.

That she has to lift her feet off the foot rest doesn’t bode well for that faintly glowing hope, but she tries anyway, setting each foot in its sneaker on the cement in front of her. She pushes herself up off the chair, testing her balance. She stands for just a few seconds, then tries — all or nothing — to rush forward like she would if she had her power again.

The world does blur for a moment and Daphne feels the wind rush past her face as she slams hard onto the ground, onto her hands and knees. She hears the shout of someone and footfalls hurrying toward her — they sound slow, but she knows they’re running.

The pain in her knees and her hands makes sense, but the pain in her head spikes suddenly. A red stain on the pavement confuses her for a moment, and she can hear the little girl cry out, “She’s bleeding!” It’s only then that she can feel the warm blood on her lips as she tries to speak.

“I thought I was better,” she whispers to no one in particular as she closes her eyes.

The ember fades, and all is dark.

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