Choking On Our Own Blood


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Scene Title Choking On Our Own Blood
Synopsis A news broadcast sparks debate among Pollepel Island refugees and Howard reveals some of the reason for his perpetual angst.
Date December 4, 2010

Pollepel Island

What serves as a dining hall, in the long hours of the day, acts also as a general meeting place for people to congregate — talk, huddle together for warmth while sipping coffee or tea, play cards or board games, study, read, or do any of the activities that keep them from going completely bat-shit-stir-crazy from having to stay within a very small space for what's becoming a very long time.

Of course, while no one (with perhaps a couple of exceptions) is forced to stay on the island, that doesn't mean they have any other options. So they do the best they can.

At one table, wrapped in a blanket as always, Nora sits with a radio that seems to come in rather clear given the stone walls that surround them. An NPR debate on the state of New York City, a matter close to the hearts of so many people in the room, with the pundits arguing heatedly about just what to do about the "SLC Problem."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Nora sits, sunglasses covering her unseeing eyes, holding the radio in her hands. It's just loud enough for those at the table who want to hear to hear. "Bullshit," she says suddenly, arguing with the last voice's contention that, "Giving them their own neighborhoods is the safest bet for all. They'll be happiest if they're among their own kind, and we're not taking away any of their rights."

"Separate isn't equal, ignoramus," she mutters, cheeks flushing an angry pink.

"If you don't shut that thing off, I'll shut it off for you," grumbles across the table at Nora, from the dour young man often her shadow in this drafty old building. Shoulders hunched forward and arms folded in front of himself on the table, Howard Phillips looks as much frustrated by the radio itself as he is by Nora's attitude. "You know that only makes you more upset, n' I ain't much a fan of seeing you upset."

When he finally looks up from the table to Nora, Howard sits up straight, palms dragging across the table top lazily. His jacket he wears has seen better days, spotted now with burned holes in the olive-drab fabric from an 'accident' he is rumored to have had on the forested grounds outside of the castle revolving around some electrical ability he seems possessed of.

"You know all that's gonna do is rile you up," Howard's attention drifts to the radio, his words strained through clenched teeth as if that were his way of whispering. "That ain't no way t'spend yer exile, darlin'."

As if following Howard's suggestion, Nora's hand promptly lifts to push the switch on the radio's side - turning it off with a sharp click of plastic.

The motion is mimicked by the hand of one Eric Doyle from where he's seated at one of the long tables, his bearded visage shaking slowly back and forth. "It's not worth listening to," he opins, his tone dour as he drops his hand back down to pick up a whittling knife and starting to shave off slivers and bits of wood once more, "They don't understand or care and they never will. We never should've thought that we could hide in plain sight…"

"It's goin' t' rile most anyone who hears it here up," is replied from behind Howard in a smooth Irish accent. Robyn Quinn hadn't been meaning to evesdrop or the like, she's simply been passing through on her quest to find a semi secluded spot to play the acoustic guitar slung around her back. But the radio - and the nonsense it spouted - had caught her attention as she passed by, so she had decided to stop and listen for a moment, see exactly what idiocy was being spouted today.

Honestly, she was kind of wishing she hadn't.

"Magnes may be an idiot, but he may have been on t' somethin' with that whole evolved ghetto thing," she says with a sigh and a shake of her head. "The fact that anyone thinks that's fair is absolutely frighteninin'." Arms cross and she leans back on her heels for a moment, before rocking back forward. "I think he's right, I think it's time t' turn it off. Or find somethin' a bit happier."

Ah! Open space. Nelly is one of those seeking refuge from the rather tiny confines of her room, strolling into the hall with hands stuffed into her pockets. Her attention is of course immediately drawn towards the small group and the commotion there, quirking a brow curiously. The curious looks turns into a momentary glare as she spots Howard among those gathered, looking for a moment as if she might simply turn and leave. A glance is given back towards the entryway before she breathes out a quiet sigh and makes her way toward the table. The opposite side of which Howard is seated at. She seems less worried about eavesdropping as she looks about the group, giving a nod as asks, " 'lo. What's going on?"

Further down the table with the radio, on the opposite side of the small gathering from Doyle, Mynama lifts her head, haloed in frizzy, coarse flyaways, from where she had rested in on her arms. "Turn it back on," she says flatly, looking to Nora even if the girl can't see her.

"Just because you don't hear it doesn't mean it isn't happening." Her dark eyes, cold now for so many reasons, scan the others who have started to congregate, but they don't linger for long on any one in particular. "Someday, we are going to go back. And I'd rather know what's going on than be like an ostrich and pretend everything is alright."

Nora's hand immediately clenches into a fist when Doyle makes her lift her finger and punch the power button to off, and she turns her head angrily at the voice that follows, assuming it was him who did it — post hoc ergo propter hoc — this time she's right of course. Her brows furrow into a scowl above her sunglasses, and she opens her mouth to argue before other voices chime in.

When Mynama speaks, Nora nods, crossing her arms and lifting her chin. "It's important to know what's going on out there," she says, and the radio turns back on, staticky for a moment before settling into something comprehensible — but this time it's music: REM's "End of the World."

"So fine. We can sit in ignorance and bliss and pretend everything's going to be all right instead. Anyone want to play Chutes and Ladders?" Nora adds sarcastically.

"Nothin' ain't never gonna' be all right," is Howard's response, one palm flat on the table as he pushes himself up to slowly — and shakily — stand. "We ain't never gon' go back to the city, not if we know what's good for us. Fuckin' world is fallin' apart at the seams, and nobody seems t'give a shit 'cept that it's impactin' their rights." He waves to the radio, clearly lobbing that accusation at people not here on the island.

"All we got t'look forward to goin' back there's a bunch of bullshit. But it ain't much worse than bein crammed up in here with all 'f you people." As abrasive as sandpaper, Howard stands up from the table, adjusting the collar of his unbuttoned jacket, brows furrowed together frustratedly. "The sooner you all realize that it ain't never gonna be normal again, the better. We're all gonna' be living in holes like this, eatin' beans outta' cans fer the rest'f our lives. But y'know what?"

Howard's brows raise as he looks up and down the length of the table. "We'll be a sight better off than the poor fucks they line up against the wall."

A sliver of wood peels slowly away from the block of wood in Doyle's hands, adding to the small pile of shavings that's already begun to gather there. None've the kids are in evidence, so they must all be with Brian or someone else this afternoon. The puppeteer's fingers lift the small block up, turning it from side to side as if trying to see the shape hidden within it, his tired eyes heavy-lidded as he focuses upon his work.

"Optimism," he chuckles mirthlessly, "I've been around the block a few times, kids. Level Five custody. Moab Penitentiary. And let me tell you, blondie over there, he's— he's got it right. There's only two ways this's gonna go. Neither're pretty. We either keep under the level, we hide, we— we do what we can. And one by one we're hunted down and killed until we're just a myth."

A look up, and he smiles without warmth, "Or we all rise up as one and make them choke on their own blood until we're the ones on top. And fat chance of us all working together."

"Please," Quinn groans out with a roll of her eyes. "I'm not going t' pretend anything's going t' be okay, but it's not the end a' the feckin' world." COntrary to the song playing at the moment. "Not yet, at least," she adds after a moment of thought. "Knowin' what's goin' on is one thing. Sittin' around listenin' t' fear an' propaganda's just going t' get people even more pissed, you know? I mean, Christ, we're already arguin' over this shit.Finger reach up to pinch the bridge of her nose, and she sighs.

Nelly shakes her head slowly as she listens to some of the others, waiting until they have said their piece before speaking up. "Things aren't alright and yeah, we all know they aren't going to be alright for a very long time." Her tone is calm, but firm. "What we don't know is that they're going to stay that way forever. With attitudes like that," She glances sidelong at Doyle for just a brief moment, "Of course things are only going to get worse. It's like Quinn says, it's not the end of the world. Things can get better. It just takes time. People are slow. I know this ain't exactly the same and maybe I haven't seen all the things some of you have, but it's definitely not the first time in history people have had to deal with this kind of prejudice."

"Which is why we shouldn't have to deal with it again," Mynama says in direct reply to Nelly. "Same bat-oppression, same bat-channel."

Nevermind the fact that she was on that convoy leading to Precogs only know where, to be thrown into a dark hole forever or, more likely, killed without a moment of hesitation. Nevermind the fact that she might be able to live among the general populous for anywhere from two to ten years, given proper precaution, and never be discovered. Mynama's frown turns toward a snarl, and she looks away from the group and rests her chin on her forearm, staring daggers into the empty spot at the table across the small aisle. Her fingers curl into fists, digging into the knitted fabric of her wristies.

"Fuck 'em," she adds after a moment, the words thick with anger.

Nora's head tilts upward when Howard's voice comes from a higher position as he rises from his seat. "If you don't think it's ever going to get any better, then why the fuck are you even here?" she demands, voice edged with vitriol before she brings a hand to her forehead, scuffing over her brow.

"I mean-" she starts up again, the radio cutting off into a sudden and very final silence, "if it's never going to get any better out there," she waves a vague hand toward the wall to suggest what lies beyond, "why even try to get away, why even try to hole up and hide out, because this is no kind of life. If you don't think it can get better than this, you may as well just go lay your neck down for them to cut it off, because this and whatever is worse than this — it's not a way to live."

Her fist comes down, making the radio and the cups of tea and coffee jump, hot tea sloshing out from her own mug and over the top of her hand.

"Ffffuck," Nora hisses, jolting and bringing her hand to her chest, her other hand curling around it defensively.

Some of the fire in Howard's expression cools when Nora hurts herself. There's a show of compassion, fleeting, and one that isn't vocalized because then Nora doesn't have to know he was actually worried about her. Looking away, Howard crosses ihs arms over his chest, lifting up one hand to pluck at the odd input-jack necklace he wears loose at his chest. "When I was a born," Howard doesn't have that argumentative tone anymore, "I didn't have no choice about having this ability I do or not…"

He looks down to the metal and plastic in his hand, turning it over so that the bent metal dully reflects in the light. "They captured me when I was sixteen…" his brows pinch together, and Howard's voice becomes somewhat distant. "I was kept in a concrete cell, studied, poked and fucking prodded." Turning slowly, Howard offers a look back to Nora, then over to Doyle, sympathy in his expression.

"When I was eighteen, they put six foot long iron rods into my spine, to immobilize me. They cut me open," he lets go of his necklace, holding out one arm and rolling up his sleeve past the bandages on his hands, to reveal large surgical scars on his forearm. "They cut me open to see how I ticked, and then they put me back together. I spent my ninteenth birthday hooked up to a machine as a living battery, fed by feeding tubes with an IV in my arm."

Howard closes his eyes and shakes his head. "It ain't never gonna get better. Fat-man's right," Howard admits disgustedly, "one of us is gonna' die choking on our own blood."

On that chipper note, he starts walking towards the door to the stairs.

"See?" Eric's gaze follows Howard as he turns to walk out, his voice quiet, "He knows. He's been there, same's me."

The knife's edge curves to wood again, head shaking a little, "But you're wrong about something else, too, girly. So long as you're alive, it's a life. So long's I can wake up in the morning and go— and go see Mala and Hailey playing with their dogs in the sun, it's worth living for. Even if I have to keep the kids hidden, even if I have to keep running. Just for that one second've innocence. So long as we've got that… then it's still living."

Robyn looks a bit humbled, honestly, quiet at Howard's short story of the shit he's been through. She grimaces as he takes off towards the door, her head hanging a bit. "God, that's terrible. I'm really sorry t' hear that, Howard." As if he'll hear it, or that'll somehow magically help. "But I still say she's right," she adds after a moment, motioning to Nora. "Sure, maybe for you, it's still a life becuase you have the kids. Not everyone has a luxery like that t' make everything better. Me? I'm here t' help, and do whatever I can. But holed up an' hidin' on a regular basis? That really isn't a life."

Arms cross as her gaze settles on Doyle, looking over at Mynama. "Yeah, somethin's gotta be done, no doubt. Yeah, shit's bad an' it's probably going t; be bad for a while. But if we resign ourselves t' chokin' on our own blood, what's the point in even tryin'? We might as well just go jump in the freezin' water." She sounds pretty set on this as she speaks, eyes narrowing. "An' if we decide t' make them do it, we're not going t' do anything but make it worse. There's gotta be other ways t' fight this."

That said, she looks over to Nora with a weak smile. "Need some ice?" she inquires, looking around for a napkin.

Nelly turns her gaze away as Howard shares his story with the group, biting at her lower lip as she looks off to the side. She remains quiet for a few moments as the rest continue to argue, looking between each of them for a moment as she searches until spotting Howard on his way out of the room. Nelly gives a nod to the others, not that they're likely to be paying her much mind, before hurrying past them to catch up to Howard, slowing once she's at his side. She stuffs her hands back into her pockets, looking towards the doorway rather than Howard as she states, "I'm walking with you, we still got business to discuss. So no lip."

Not paying much attention at all to Howard's sob story in favor of glaring at the table, Mynama is a bit startled when she catches Quinn's focus on her out of the corner of her eye. When she turns her head to look at her in turn, her scowl is all the more deeply etched into her dark face, but any sharply edged and cold-as-steel retort she may have had is stolen away by the woman changing the subject to assist the now unattended blind woman.

"They don't want us? Fine," she mumbles, looking back to the table and using a thumb to dig into one of the knots that was too deep to get sanded away. "They want to kill us all? Let 'em try. There's gotta be enough of us and people who want to protect us to be a good enough opposing force to either fight back or just leave. But not leave and hide on freezing cold island. Leave like, leave the country. Mass exodus. To someplace that'll treat us like people instead of monsters."

"Howard-" Nora says, thin legs in too-big pants scrambling over the bench she sits on. Her voice clearly says wait, but then she hears the footfalls of Nelly and her distant words to the man trying to make his exit.

She sits back down with a sigh, back to the table, sitting backwards as she crosses her arms around herself. One tear slides out under the black frames of her sunglasses before her hand brushes it away irritably, the knuckles already an angry red from their scalding. "I'm fine," she says tersely to Quinn, though it's clear she isn't.

Nora reaches for her small radio, her hand fumbling until she finds it, picking it up. "I don't think that place exists. Not really. Some places just pretend better than others," she says quietly to Mynama. "Maybe Antarctica, but you know, this castle's cold enough for me as it is."

Nelly's approach has Howard slowing, though Nora's words have him stop dead in his tracks. He flicks the blind girl a look, one that shows that fleeting compassion again in unvoiced manner. He looks away from her, over to Nelly with a puzzled expression, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown as he considers her in thoughtful silence.

"Fine," is as close to approval as anyone gets around Howard, and when he jerks his head towards the door, its indicative that he's willing to entertain her idea of walking and talking, at least in the short term. He goes ahead of her, though, stepping out the open door, rounding the corner of the hall and heading for the worn stone steps that lead up to the unfinished upper floor, where chill air and exposed sky will help cool him off.

Literally and figuratively.

"Sometimes I think that the best idea'd be to go hide in the Amazon somewhere and start up our own society," Doyle murmurs, audibly but half just thinking aloud as he works at the block of wood, carefully gouging out a shallow pit with the tip of his knife, "Just away from everyone, somewhere else, like that girl said. Get away from everyone. 'Course, then they'll find where we are and drop a nuke on us, but hey…"

The half-carved wooden head is lifted up cradled in his palm, and he blows on it softly to scatter the shavings, "…maybe we'd get lucky. Heh."

QUinn's shoulders slump a bit at Mynama and Doyle, a hand rubbing at her cheek. "I don't think I could do that, personally. Too much hope, too much I still want t' do here, you know?" Her head tilts a bit, watching Howard and Nelly walk off, before settling back on the others on the table. "Hopefully, though, it never comes t' that. We'll make it through this, I know it. It just might take a long time." Admitteldy, Quinn is having to say this so much altely that… honestly, the words are becoming a little hollow. Her normal confidence in them isn't quite there.

Hands falling back to her side, she looks back towards the door. "I, uh… I think I'm going t' find some place t' play for a bit," she says, pointing her thumb back at the guitar on her back. "Whoever wants t' come is welcome to."

"Or just some island somewhere," Mynama muses, "A warmer island." Since they're on an island, and Antarctica is an island. She pushes herself to her feet, only to vault over the table and join Doyle at his. In one fluid, if loud, motion, she sits and props her cheek in her palm, looking not at the sculpture, but the knife.

She gestures to it subtly, lifting her eyebrows before she asks, "May I?" Perhaps a young enthusiast looking for some common ground that doesn't involve genetic makeup. "It could be all Swiss Family Robinson. A treehouse utopia. With monkeys and zebras."

"And rhinos," Nora adds to Mynama's words, brows furrowing as people discuss things she can't see. May she what? Play what?

Another tear trickles down her cheek, this one unbrushed away and running a long trail down the line of her jaw before finally falling to splash on her leg, darkening the faded denim into a dark blue in just that spot.

"I'm going to go lie down. My eyes hurt," she mutters, as Doyle hands the sculpture — rather than the knife — over to Mynama.

She rises again, though she sets down the radio on the table, and when one of the others at the table starts to offer help, Nora shakes her head. "I've got it," she says, low voice determined; she begins to count her way to the wall, burnt hand groping until it makes contact, and then she begins to count under her breath once more to make her way to the infirmary.

After she disappears into the hallway, the radio starts up suddenly in the middle of the Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth":

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind.

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