Shit City


teo_icon.gif ghost_icon.gif

Scene Title Shit City
Synopsis Teo's pessimism zooms in on the most obvious culprit while he is drinking and in possession of firearms.
Date March 25, 2019

NYC Safe Zone: Elmhurst Bridge Crossing

Elmhurst is a large neighborhood that spans the entire east-to-west division of the Safe Zone. Its western side is comprised of hundreds of rundown and dilapidated factories and mill buildings that were abandoned even before the civil war, when the post-Bomb economy sent Queens into a nosedive. On its eastern end, Elmhurst transitions into a sprawling residential neighborhood littered with overgrown and wild parks and mostly-repaired brownstones and tenement buildings. Much of Elmhurst is still under reconstruction, and surveyors working for the State of New York assess the integrity of damaged buildings on a daily basis. Elmhurst is also home to the only cellular broadcasting tower in the Safe Zone, and as such, areas closest to central Elmhurst have the best cell phone reception.

Unfortunately, Teo observes, he still hates it here. With a florid fucking passion. Now, it's not only the city where too many people died because of and around him, but it's also become the city where his husband cheated on him. Probably. At minimum, it's the city where he first met his husband who went on to cheat with him. Not an improvement, he observes, as he carefully maneuvers his gigantic truck down the narrow morning road. He can't shake the feeling that the guard at the bridge crossing to Elmhurst had looked twice at his ID. Old paranoia, he's confident; anyone with government resources who wanted him in the ground would have driven three hours to get it done, no problem. New paranoia, maybe; checkpoints, walls, guards in turrets, he still isn't used to that.

Battered neighborhoods swing past his windshield. Rubble. Tenement. New construction. More rubble. Original rowhouses, miraculously intact. It feels like Midtown in 2008 trying too hard, lipstick mashed around a set of ruined teeth.

Teo drives down to Williamsburg to look at the water. After all, he used to like the water. It seems as likely that he's outgrown that particular affinity, any more than he's outgrown brooding.

Williamsburg: Coastline

Overlooking a jetty, Teo climbs out to sit on the hood of his truck. He is wearing Francois’ jeans, which fit too tightly, promising to leave grooved marks burned into the back of his knees. Teo listens to the tide wash in, wash out.

He remembers corpses in the water, some big and some small, from the firefight in 2012. At a certain point, you couldn't tell what was staining what. He remembers how the sharp, chunky radial exit spatter left by bullet rounds would stretch out, slowly, into runny, vertical lines. Past a level of saturation, he recalls, the sea would not wash the marks off the breakwater. Instead, the red water made the red stains just a little blurrier, wispy and long, while feeding back more viscous color up the surface.

Teo remembers thinking entertaining the whimsical line of poetry: this must be the origin of ghosts.

Intellectually Teo knows, of course. A combination of bad guys and accidents was responsible for that. Not him. Not any of them. Greater purpose, etc.

Nothing has changed since the last time he was here, dropping off a little robot at Eve's. Regret and apathy have spread a coffin pall over the brave twinkle of renewed city lights; the smell of impending spring feels like a laugh interrupting a funeral. Not for the first time, Teo thinks himself justified in not having told Francois that he had come through that night; not wanting his husband to get his hopes up. Unfortunately, nothing had changed when he had visited then. Like nothing has changed now. Well, you know. Apart from that, this point, Eve is dead too.

Jesus fucking Christ. He laughs in the half-dark— interrupting nothing but his own thoughts, this time. He finishes the beer he’d been nursing since the bridge and throws the bottle in the water.

He had read Francois' entire book, and still he finds himself wondering why everybody he knows insists on living in this reeking carcass like they can do no better than make like maggots. Waiting for the flowers to grow out of its skull, for its bubbling pus and fermenting guts to relax into warm earth.

He hates it here.

Ghosts, Teo thinks, the next moment. And not entirely at random. He calls Lamar Jean, who hasn't heard from him from two years and probably thought he'd lost his personal number, and thus sounds understandably surprised when he picks up and asks:

"Who's this?"

"Laudani. I need one canister of N-gas."

"Oh. Fuck. Hey, Laudani." There is a decidedly nervous quality to his pause. "I ain't really in that business anymore," Lamar says, slowly.

The only person in all of New York City who isn't in 'that' business anymore, Teo guesses, irritated. “I'll give you a hundred, no questions. For old time's. Come on."

"Ah, shit," Lamar replies. It's not a no. "Meet me at Park Slope. I'll text you the cross street."

Park Slope: An Intersection

Park Slope is a narrow stretch of the Safe Zone that has thoroughly resisted attempts to reclaim it. Nearly all of Park Slope is completely overrun by wild and untamed plant life that spread out from Prospect Park in the decade following the Civil War. However, seven years of abandonment does not quite account for the abundant foliage that has spread across the neighborhood, pressing its way between tenement buildings, crawling up factories, and reclaiming entire streets. Safe Zone authorities speculate that there may be unknown SLC-Expressive residents within the neighborhood who are able to manipulate the plantlife, but have yet to uncover any proof of this. Due to massive structural damage and the presence of second-generation escaped zoo wildlife, much of the region has been left as parkland, and plans to form an official border around the wild and overgrown neighborhood are coming together. There is no electricity or public works in Park Slope, but in spite of this some Safe Zone residents have chosen to resettle in the area, bringing personal generators and occupying gorgeous — if somewhat overgrown — townhouses on the edge of this lush wilderness.

"Is this real?" Lamar twists the one-hundred dollar bill around. He's carrying a smiley face takeout bag over his wrist, weighty with unfinished pancakes.

"Don't be an asshole," says the least legitimate source of criticism about being an asshole on the planet, possibly. Teo examines the merchandise under his cellphone light. "I can still kill people." Farmers kill stuff all the time.

"I didn't ask," Lamar says. "How much did you drink last night? No, I didn't ask. I'm not asking. I’m going. Bye, Teo.”

"It's Teo," Teo tells him, "like the song," but Lamar is already gone. Along with his authentic one-hundred dollar bill.

Bay Ridge: An Alleyway

Bay Ridge is the most densely populated neighborhood in the NYC Safe Zone, with nearly 50 of all Safe Zone residents living in its tightly-packed rows of refurbished residential buildings and ivy-encrusted apartment complexes. The structures in this neighborhood are in considerably better condition than those elsewhere in the city; however, its many new buildings and their reliable power are reserved for wealthy investors and lucky housing-lottery winners. The presence of the Brooklyn Army Terminal means that military security is prominent within the neighborhood; along with Red Hook, Bay Ridge is one of the most secure places within the Safe Zone. Some of the coastal roads have even been repaved, especially those directly connecting to Yamagato Park and the harbor. Bay Ridge is also the home of the Safe Zone Transportation Commission, interconnecting the limited public transportation options within the Safe Zone.

Tranquilizer first, nullifier second. Tinktintink, the case shot skitters across the pavement, plume of gas whipping translucent past Ghost's shins. The Ghost pinches off the dart from his shoulder immediately, starts to run, but his equilibrium has already started to slip and slide by the time Teo gets to him. He crashes his knee into the other man’s back.

When most people say there's a part of them they wish they could kill off, they don't have a way to do it literally.

They go down together, heavily. Teo's alternate self is not an easy person to track, but once found, everything about being the same person makes predicting his behavior easy enough. Teo takes an elbow to the face, not dodging, because he is busy throwing away Ghost’s knife, then the other knife, pinning the other man's elbow down over his pistol where he won't be able to reach it without breaking his own arm in two places.

Especially not when Teo shoves the muzzle of his own semi-automatic into the Ghost’s head. .45. One of John Moses Browning's finest designs.

Bare skin there, at Ghost’s temple, just below his rumpled hairline. Creepy, probably, but Teo wants to make sure he can really feel it. Cold metal, machined to straight lines that you would never find nature, the weight of its upper, the overlapping parts designed to take its deadly payload home. The Ghost is furious, spit flecking the grimy asphalt under his clean-shaven cheek, but also manages to be terrified, which Teo only knows because he has experienced the same feeling himself, quite often in the past. Ghost's shoulders bunch, his teeth glinting; his eye rolls back in his skull to look up at his attacker, and there is no surprise. No swearing or pleas or pissed shorts, no quotable last words when the real professionals are involved.

Teo squeezes the trigger.

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