Seek To Know


eileen_icon.gif tavisha_icon.gif

Scene Title Seek To Know
Synopsis Two people go separate ways before they can even cross paths, and Tavisha starts to realise he's not quite normal.
Date February 2, 2009

The Rookery

After the bomb, Staten Island grew to become a haven for undesirables. If the Island is their home, then the Rookery is their playplace. Equal parts gritty and decadent, it boasts dark alleys, bright lights, and every pleasure that one could imagine. Provided you know where to ask, of course.

Some areas have fared better than the rest of the island; some have fared far worse. For each well-tended brothel or gaming house, there's at least one creaky, crumbling structure left over from the days of pre-bomb suburban glory.

The population is considered universally distasteful, even by much of the rest of Staten Island. Criminals, refugees, victims of radiation poisoning… Those who have nowhere else to go often end up here. The most common method of getting out is to have your body dropped in the river, followed closely by being left wherever it is you got killed.

Good luck.

With the remains of the Verrazano-Narrows closed off, the only way on and off Staten Island — excepting the bridges that lead to the irradiated section of New Jersey — is by boat. As a result, many goods have become difficult to get ahold of during the past few days, and the merchants who make a living by bartering at the Rookery's daily market have taken advantage of these shortages by raising their prices to exorbitant highs that the Island's residents can't not afford to pay.

For Tavisha, the sights, sounds and smells of the marketplace might seem strange; if it weren't for the distinctly Western architecture around him, he could easily mistake the scene taking place on this bustling section of street for something out of an exotic travel magazine. Moroccan lanterns hang on thin silver chains from the roof of one stall, glowing brilliant shades of gold, pink and red in the early evening umbra, while a few mere feet away a man tries to lure customers closer to his own makeshift shop with freshly-skinned rabbit carcasses strung up on strings over tall wicker baskets full of dead birds, all of them wild.

Muldoon wasn't kidding when he warned him it was a zoo out there.

Faces of all ethnicities, accents and languages filling the air with clamour of voices, mostly English, but this little community draws in all kinds of people, it seems. He moves at a slow, wandering pace, finding it hard to believe that this is really Staten Island, New York's Staten Island, but then, what does he have to compare it to? It's not entirely unenjoyable, anyway, content to move through the thin street-market crowd. A thin wallet of leather sits in the pocket of his new coat, a long dark green woolen thing that resists the chill of the air, containing a decent stipend from those looking after him, and he keeps a protective hand over it as he goes.

Ultimately, Tavisha finds himself stopping at a table displaying glittery, likely stolen wares - rings, necklaces, but mainly? Watches. Lined up, some fake and some genuine, and all with price tags either too cheap or too expensive for what they're attached to. All the same, he takes out his wallet and pulls out a couple of notes, handing them off wordlessly to the woman behind the table who smiles warmly and lets him take his purchase - a small but masculine watch that may or may not be Dolce & Gabbana. Either way, it serves its purpose of telling time, and Tavisha steps away from the stall with the intention of putting the wristwatch on straight away, standing still in the sea of people moving around him.

Like the tide bubbling up around a rock on the shore, the sea of people licks at the very edges of Tavisha's personal space without actually invading it — no elbows jostle him, and no one accidentally collides on their way about their business. Instead, most of the throng seems content to brush against him, shoulder to shoulder, sleeve to sleeve, as they pass by, their attention elsewhere — it's getting darker by the minute, and those who travel unarmed have begun to think about beginning to trickle their way homewards.

"It's a good choice," a feminine voice remarks in a low but dulcet tone, sounding somehow very close but also very far away at the same time. Warmth tickles Tavisha's neck like a woman's breath spilling across his skin despite him being alone at the center of a large, fluidly-moving crowd. "But I don't think it really suits you."

He pauses his fidgeting with the strap, brow furrowing before he glances up only to see the people coming and going, faces flooded with light of nearby buildings, the street lamps proper on the street nothing but dead, lightless metal stalks. Securing the watch in place and then clasping a protective hand over it, Tavisha turns towards where that slight, prickling sensations walked up the back of his neck, dark gaze darting to try and find the source. His behaviour goes largely ignored by those moving past and around him - there are certainly stranger people out tonight. Maybe.

"Not talking to me?" the disembodied voice asks lightly, wry, "I can't say I'm really surprised. What would people think if they saw you speaking with someone who wasn't really there?" Nearby, a young woman dressed in white stands by a cart selling bundles of colourful wildflowers tied at the stem with ribbons, picking through the available bouquets with delicately-fingered hands, her movements calculated and almost songbird-like in their apparent fragility. She can't possibly be the speaker, for her mouth is shut, lips settled into an expression of quiet contemplation as she ponders the difference between fireweed and goldenrod. "Anyway," the voice continues, "you don't remember anything — or at least that's what you told your new friends. It isn't entirely true."

There's no source for this voice, the lack of direction and distance almost grating for someone with preternatural hearing. But it's a voice, alright, and he's not imagining it, right? He can't be. He has a clean slate. He's meant to have a clean slate. Swallowing, Tavisha keeps picking his gaze through the crowd, trying to find the culprit, even as he mutters, "I don't. There's nothing to remember. I've tried." And he feels silly for it, talking to himself even at a quiet murmur that only draws a glance from an older woman moving close by, but really, the fact that he's still standing in the middle of a marketplace is drawing the most attention. So, Tavisha walks, a few very uncertain steps, and his gaze is drawn towards the girl in white with the flowers.

The woman decides on one of the smaller, livelier-looking bouquets and reaches inside her pea coat, dark gray against the pale dress she's wearing beneath it, her fingers slipping into one of the interior pockets to fish out several dog-eared dollar bills. "If you didn't remember anything," the voice says, "then we wouldn't be having this conversation. Just because no one answers when you call out doesn't mean you're alone in your head. I'm willing to bet that you remember enough to know that Tavisha doesn't ring true. Do you even know what it means?"

The tiniest knife twist, making his slow walk falter. Tavisha isn't his name. He knows that much. Nisha never pretended otherwise. "No," he says, under his breath. "But I don't have to. It's just a name. It's better than nothing." His attention is on the woman however many feet away, disappearing behind people as they walk by her, and he doesn't approach her. Because he could just be going crazy.

Still, his attention remains, even as he moves towards where a bird display has been tied up in old-world wooden cages, containing fluttering avian creatures that cling to perches as well as the thin bamboo bars. Tavisha steps behind this, as if observing the birds, but really, he observes her. For a hint that maybe this voice is not coming from him. "You're not a memory," he murmurs, focusing drawing to a canary landing just in front of him, hand absently moving towards the bars. "Memory doesn't work like this."

"Not for most people," the voice agrees, "but then, you're not most people, are you? You're special. Not everyone can flick pieces of furniture across the room with a thought, you know, newspaper clippings aside — and that isn't all you can do, either." The woman trades the money for the flowers, and places them in the small wicker basket she carries in the crook of her arm. There are some other items in there, too — a loaf of bread wrapped in a plain white towel, two plump pomegranates and a brown paper bag leaking grease, half of a roasted chicken peeking out from beneath its lip — but nothing out of the ordinary. "Does something about her bother you?"

The clamour of birds within the cage is reasonably noisy - for birds, anyway, the flutter of minute wings and the incessant calling to one another. It's distracting in a way Tavisha can't quite pinpoint, although is hardly noticing right now. Either way, his presence seems to be driving them a little more hyperactive than it should. "She's not what's bothering me," he says, eyebrow raising as if there were someone around to see his expression beyond the canaries and whatever else inside the cage. God, he really is talking to himself, and his eyes shut for a moment, a hand up to press against his forehead, where the bruising and stitched over head wound used to be. Despite his anxiety, he continues to do just that. "Should she be?" And he dares another look towards the stranger, eyes narrowing. He's not being truthful. She is familiar and the voice in his head matches it in a way he can't put words to. "If you're a memory, tell me something useful." Frustration. A bird's wing clips the edge of the cage hard enough to make it swing.

As if sensing Tavisha's eyes on her, the young woman looks up from her basket and turns toward the display, gray-green eyes bright with curiosity, though the expression on her face remains somewhat guarded and subdued. "Something useful?" the voice asks. "Mm…" Between the many people floating by in both directions and the frenetic fluttering of wings, the woman does not pick Tavisha out from the crowd, her attention quickly returning to her flowers, which she repositions with care to avoid seeing the bouquet crushed by one of the other items in the basket. "It sates itself on the life-blood of fated men, paints red the powers' homes with crimson gore. Black becomes the sun's beams in the summers that follow, weathers all treacherous. Do you still seek to know? And what?"

An impatient, nasal sigh as the riddle, or quote, or lyric, or whatever it is is recited in a head that holds no context. "A straight answer would be too easy wouldn't it," Tavisha mutters somewhat darkly, his expression settling into stoic anger that isn't so unlike the person he once was. The hand against the cage curls a little, and he finally gains the attention of the merchant of the birds, who opens his mouth to tell him to leave or buy already. Tavisha is, however, already moving away after one long look at the woman across the marketplace, adjust his coat before turning his back on her. He's had enough. "I seek to know more than you're telling me. Leave me alone." A bookstore is passed by. Perhaps it would be worth a browse. For now, however, he's moving away from the marketplace at a determined pace, hands back in his pockets.

The voice does exactly as Tavisha requests — the easy silence that follows is, if nothing else, familiar in a transparent way that the moments preceding it were not. He may get the impression that this isn't the first time he's ordered it to be silent.

And he'd be right.

On her way home to the Filatov Clinic, Eileen's heart is fluttering in her chest much the same way the birds were in their cages. She sensed something back there at the flower stand — something painfully obtrusive yet completely and utterly impossible all things considered. Chalking it up to the lingering effects of grief and longing, she hurries off in the opposite direction, basket clutched to her breast, ballet flat-clad feet flying across the pavement. The further away from the memory, the better.

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