The Imploding Girl


adelaide_icon.gif belinda_icon.gif

Scene Title The Imploding Girl
Synopsis Underaged drinking leads to multiple deaths, structural damage, and the summary implosion of a fine evening at one of New York City's finest nightclubs.
Date October 19, 2009

The Upper East Side — The Purple Rose Nightclub

Saturday night on the Upper East Side, and the Purple Rose has drawn a respectable crowd, if not quite the constituency the likes of which will be paying exorbitant fees to get into the Orchid Lounge — the demographic and style of which the Purple Rose rather obviously aspires. The two lounge clubs have had a few years to identify the competition, however, and to establish each of their own respective identities. The Purple Rose has learned to stop apologizing for being cheaper, more inviting, less expensively upholstered, and has in turn become renowned for being a classy place to showcase new young musical talent with an emphasis on talent rather than the cesspit of gossip and inbreeding of high society networking.

Yes, that means they tend to have more of a problem with underage kids and fake IDs, but as long as everyone's careful, no one really gets hurt. A little overweight, with a wig of unbelievably red hair, Belinda Aniston doesn't pass for twenty-two as easily as her sneering classmates do, but she deserves an A for effort with the tasteful application of mascara and an empire-waisted dress that sets off her moonskin pallor to pretty advantage.

She's gripping the stem of an emptied wineglass, sitting stag at the bar, doing her best to ignore the tiny clot of gigglers at the other end of the room. They are probably talking about her wig again. There's no way to make them understand that it's the same color as her natural, and even if there was— that isn't what they're really talking about, under it all, so she doesn't try. Stopped trying months ago.

Fortunately, they aren't too hard to ignore, not with the next performer coming up on-stage. Pillared lamps designed to look like AUTOCAD concepts in exploded view light the way across the floor to the black platform, its risers, the house band already set up and warmed up under the presiding ambience of somnolent lights. One spotlight knifed down on the microphone and stool center-stage. Next up, Adelaide Xylander.

A different crowd a new venue, Adelaide let herself be. She dressed casually this evening ,adjusted the microphone and the second amphlifier, and began to play. The musical notes drifted, serenely beginning to conjure up things- like the images of a book, detailed and crisp. She sang carefully, a trained and powerful voice. As if her music was personal.

Bird's Wings, Dreaming Things
Moon's Light, Stars Fall
Moonrise, Sunrise, starrise
Twinkling lights up in the heavens
Dreams and Hopes, whispers and fears
So far away when I'm close to you

Close enough to feel you breathe
Close enough to see your eyes,
Reminding me of starlight nights.
Your laughter:festival song
Your hands:Lucid fire
Your voice:Kindled Flame
Your strength:A lighthouse in life's darkest night

Stars watch our wordless dance.
Fire, your gift
Water, mine
Control opposing elements
Naming our souls
Know we are forever bound
Say it, my heart and soul

A whispered chant
A Song softly played
You and I knowing our lives will bring about
Eternal Sleep, peace
Eternal sleep awoken by innocent unknowing

Music doesn't have to be personal to be successful, as shown by the manufacture of Britney Spears, but it rarely actually hurts to give every listener the feeling that they're being spoken to, alone out of the crowd. Belinda certainly feels it now. The other girls and their carping, pinching cruelty fall away in the sweeping eddy of the songbird's voice, soothing away the tension that had begin to knot her neck and bare shoulders. She rests a flushed cheek against the heel of her hand, eyes sliding into the same dreamy disfocus that finds so many of Adelaide's other listeners tonight.

The images are beautiful in their brevity, made elegant by the full-throated depth and body of her voice, the auditory version of a white wine tonic. She starts to think about a boy. So distracted by this is she, warm in her blood and comforted to complacency, that she doesn't notice Siobhan Callahan coming up from behind, thin angled shoulder in an imperious jut, drink poised to spill icy wet down the back of her dress. It's hit-or-miss for any women's college, engineering the paragons of maturity that is their boast.

Adelaide contiues to play, her fingers flicking across gituar strings and creating melodies.. Weaving word and blood and heat. Boling passions and cooling the flames. She stopped, though as the song came to its finaly refrain, holding the note.

A smile grows across Belinda's face. She straightens, is one of the first to break the numinous quiet that follows the final chord with an enthusiastic dolphin clatter of applause. Unfortunately, a half-beat and unforseeable ambush later, she's also the first to break the polite cadence of applause with a shriek. Leaping up, the girl twists and torques in her frock, trying to see what got onto her, her plump white hands lifted and twisted back into a taloned flutter of dismay. "Oh my God, my dress you— excuse m—"

She shouldn't be excusing herself, and she realizes it in a moment, lifting her gaze to find Sibohan smirking coyly under cover of five flattened fingers, and chin tucked down, deceptively artful in her seeming artlessness. "Oopsie," she says, her voice absurdly bright in the low light. "Red wine. Let me pay for that? I'll just explain it to your mom—"

When she realizes she's suddenly the glance-askance focus of everyone in the room— even, doubtless, including the elegant young songstress on the stage, Belinda's face turns as red as her false hair, and the clamminess clutched in her fist can't be entirely attributed to the condensation on the surface of the flute she'd been drinking out of. Breathe in, breathe out. She works a swallow down inside her throat and fights back the staticky blur wasping its tingle at her eyes.

Adelaide stops. She wasn't surprised but she hands her gituar off to one of the stage crew and marches down to the pair. "Excuse me?" she asks,. She reaches out a hand totouch the shoulder of the red-wine stained young woman. "I'll hand this." she whispers. "You are?"

"M-my name's Belinda," says Belinda, when she locates her voice somewhere in the queasy, rolling tar pit of her stomach, mortified and sickened by the sudden arrival of the performer. She's suddenly trying to make herself small against the counter, which her schoolmate finds thoughtlessly hilarious, like she'd found the notion of Belinda getting in trouble for faking her way into a club thoughtlessly hilarious, conveniently forgetting that she would inculpate herself in the process. "I-it's r—really okay! I'm fine, I'm… we go to school together. We're in college," she adds, hastily, reaching a hand out at Siobhan.

Who recoils, ungrateful, and a few sheets too far into the wind to realize that the attention she's getting is a few inches too close to the crumbling edge of a certain metaphorical cliff. "Yyyyes," she agrees, hiking her brows dismissively, shifting her eyes past Adelaide with the obvious arrogance and subtle discomfort of a pretty girl who realizes she's standing far too close to someone who's prettier than she is. In doing so, she misses the odd flicker of light that skirts down Belinda's shoulder, like a static electric spark. Siobhan sniffs like a kitten. "We go to college. Anyway— aren't you supposed to be singing or something? That's what we paid for."

Adelaide exhales. "Yes.." she says softly. "But you're ruining the mood and atmosphere, I will ask you to leave, Miss."

That instantly has Siobhan stiffening, offended, stung, and harshly aware that she's abruptly traded places— or joined Belinda on the brink of social humiliation. Unacceptable. "Listen," she says, sharply, drawing herself up to her full height. Adelaide is such a diminutive thing, despite the size of the voice she carries within her, that the teenager has little trouble trapping the older woman within the ostentatious bulwark of her shadow. "I paid good money to get in here, and I expect good service.

"So I'm going to deal with my friend Belinda here, we're going to go back over to our table—" she reaches a hand out to snare Belinda's elbow from where it's bent into an awkward angle, twisted around to pat a fretful wad of napkin at her own back. She grips tight enough to leave a pink mark, pulls, and then makes a caricature of waddling legs with two fingers of her other hand stilting them around in front of Adelaide's face.

A peculiar whimsy of a breeze begins to toy with the memory manipulator's curly hair, then, and it's obvious to Adelaide— the only sober one between the three of them— that it has nothing at all to do with the foolish cruelty of Siobhan's gesture in front of her head. "And you can get yourself back onto stage and perform. How… doe—?" Abruptly, Siobhan falls silent. Stops. Turns, her drunk-pinked face draining to a heroin chic shade of white, eyes popping huge in the pits of her skull. She opens her mouth to scream, but what evacuates itself instead is a thin, pathetic urine-trickle of a whine, her brain failing to parse the fact that, suddenly, half of her arm is gone.

Abbreviated, lopped off neat as a stump of butter. The wind's picked up. Glasses begin to quiver, clothing snatched up by the sucking speed of a breeze, and Adelaide is close enough, sober enough to parse the unbelievable fact of the matter: Belinda's body is changing, imploding into something like vacuum, the flesh of her arm faded into a flat pane of energy blacker than the mere absence of light.

Adelaide turns she beyond shocked Evolved- not that its bad, the girl who's removing limbs isn't good noose. She takes a few back. "Calm down…" she says to Belinda, trying to smooth over the conversation, trying to mitagate damage before people become bodies.. and people lose lives, and jail happens.

Jail's a horrible prospect, but what comes next is arguably far worse. Siobhan begins to stagger, less from the loss of blood than because she's too small, too weak, to resist the growing forces around the other girl's body. Belinda's eyes are huge in her round face. Within them, Adelaide's ability catches a rippling, snapshot series of inadvertent glimpses.

A sneering girl; another sneering girl; a gaunt blonde woman holding her arms out to receive a reluctant and tearful embrace; an open book; a hospital ceiling in sterile chalk gray. Belinda opens her mouth to give the songstress some form of reply— but there's darkness inside her mouth, blackness rather than mundane shadow, then her eyes vanish into it, her skin thins, ripples, gives way to a weird flat girl-shaped zone of twisting, self-cannibalizing light, a hole in space or a hole through which space is falling, bottomlessly.

In other words, Adelaide's decision is a wise one: taking a step back. She might do better to take more.

Siobhan finally trips over her struggling heels, disappears with a scream that no one can hear, her lips rolled back from her gums and teeth in a stark rictus of terror. The ceiling groans, the floorboards peel up like scales sanded off a fish, chairs and tables lifting, cartwheeling toward Belinda. Wind snatches at Adelaide's clothes with growing ferocity.

Adelaide stunned, she staggers back. "BACK!" she half roars, she doesn't need anyone else doing a disappear ing act possibly never to return. She tried to think, calm the girl down- A black hole… "BACK! Everyone move back start exiting… Open the fire exits NOW!" she screams, not sure if she can be hurried,but hoping someone will do it. She thinks. No way to really stop a black hole.

"Huh?" The liquor-addled gentleman in a suit a few feet in front of Adelaide is the second to go, nipped off the floor with his chair still bent around his back and folded legs. His date is quicker to respond: she screams, flushed up onto her feet as if the force of Adelaide's command were a smart rap to her head instead of verbal. She grabs onto the edge of the table, flings it back over her shoulder. There's no tinkle and crack of shotglasses smashing vaulted down onto the floor. Instead, liquor and vessels alike go streaming into what Adelaide has correctly determined to be a living black hole.

Barman's clinging to the counter he's supposed to be working behind, seconds before his fingers slip on the glass and polished steel, and that's the last anyone's ever going to see of him. Bouncers yelling. Their voices carry despite the rumble of masonry from below, faces gaunt and artery-ridged and big arms up, out, to snag fire exit doors open and push fleeing patrons out into the relative safety of the rainy night. The ones with enough sobriety left in them know to keep running as soon as their polish-shone shoes meet storm-watered asphalt outside, cellphones clicking open, tread clicking rapid-fire in their retreat. When they say the Evolved are a plague upon New York City, no one really expects it to come in like a dying star's singularity on the Upper East Side. This is the nice part of town.

Supposed to be.

A beefy hand closes on Adelaide's shoulder. Big man, black suit whipping back and forth around his burly frame. A bouncer, no doubt. "We gotta get out of here!" he hollers.

Adelaide frowns. "I know, but the girl…" she gestures. "Its too dangerous to leave her… just kind of there. Black hole's just get bigger! Someone's gotta calm her down!" she says. A compassionate, and irrational woman, right now Adelaide inhales. If there was ever a time for charism to work… "You've got to calm down…" she says. She tries to think of the girl's name, she'd not heard it mentioned. She looks at the crowd, trying to find those faces of the school girls.. they would bem ore than helpful in this situation… She moves. "Ok, lets go… first outside and then we'll come up with a plan." She pulls out her cell phone, dialing. Her mother's friends & connections, they might be able to help her thing… "Hi, Dr.Rose, it's Adelaide… umm… there's a situation…" she begins walking swiftly quick glances over her shoulder, as she grabs her bag- and her gituar case- only couldn't find it. It'd be her father's present to her before he died. She ran out- maybe one of the stage crew had it.

Thank goodness for doctors who are committed to their job and the odd hours they sometimes bring. Despite the hour, there's only two rings before the Doctor picks up. "Hello?" she asks, that familiar voice turned thin and tinny with the warping electromagnetic feedback in the room's rapidly emptying walls. "Hello— Adelaide?

"What is that noise?" As the compassionate young songstress fights to explain, panic injects itself into the doctor's voice. "She'll exhaust herself— if she's out of control, Adelaide, and she can't hear you, you just need to get out of there!"

The bouncer she'd spoken to has only half a second to voice agreement with the doctor, though he can't even hear her from where he's gripping the wall, before a sudden ripple and fluctuation in the aura around Belinda suddenly yanks both the burly man and Adelaide off their feet. Implodes a wall with it, sheetrock tearing like paper along a horizontal axis, splitting in half while the two lounge workers go flying in through the gap. The bouncer vanishes into Belinda's warping vortex with a holler that sounds brave, for all of its helplessness.

Dr. Rose's voice— and the phone— disappear with a spark into the girl's blacked-out stomach. Adelaide's only twenty feet away from her, now, the force terrific: a sheared-off piece of the bar-top counter has her hooked by the leg of her trousers, but the seam is splitting, gradually, dangling her precariously close to the epicenter of the vacuum. Belinda hasn't moved an inch, through all of this. Silent, quiescent, as the building comes down above and around her. Without a face or ears visible in her, it's impossible to tell just how much of the room and mayhem around her the child is aware of.

Pressure. Even Adelaide is finding it hard to find air or breath or purchase. She struggles trying to find something to grip. "Please." she cries her voice is painful… it hurt to breath perhaps to even exist. But she had to. "You've got to WAKE UP!" she says as the words are sucked right out her… the air in her lungs… all of it. She had so much she had to live for.

Physics say that time dilates when you're near enough to a singularity, the Hell that physicists would know. Doubtless, there are few scientists who've been this close to one, and for Adelaide, time seems to move all too quickly. She needs more time. She's young. Has her ideals, however 'irrational' people tell her they are, her compassion, her cause, her music, and the seconds seem to be bleeding out of her in the same eerie keen and abyssinal roar that is taking the breathable oxygen out of the room. The floor gives way. Naked ventilation shafts stare skeletally up, the basement visible and buckling below it.

Another thread snaps in the stitch of her pant leg. Another half-inch jolted closer to death by crushing, self-annihilating mass. Her hair slaps and stings tendrils against her own cheeks, and Belinda shows no signs of stopping, calming, even hearing her entreaty, until she stops just as suddenly as she began.

And Adelaide starts falling. Tumbling ragdolled, Belinda, too, only ten feet away from her, her red wig disconnecting with a rasping scratch from her sclap, crashing limb over swinging white limb into the cold concrete darkness of the basement level below. It isn't a long fall, but the floor slams into them with enough force to wind them.

Ow. Adelaide couldn't form coherent thoughts-couldn't form words, or images. Her voice failed her. She could only scream and cry, in a very soft hoarse trickle. An oxygen starved body, and mind… it hurt. Living hurt. Pain HURT. But it was the good kind of hurt, it told that she was alive, not dead. Wait… buried alive….

Fortunately, there's little from above that's managed to resist the pressure of Belinda's ability so far that's like to come down and batter or bury the young memory manipulator now. It's dark down here, that's all. Outside, the dull crescendo of footfalls, voices shouting— Is anyone in there?— and sirens in the distance. Adelaide's own breathing is muffled in her own ears, dense and damp, soundwaves rolling below the unsteady tik-tik-tik of something dripping in the distance and masonry settling back into itself.

It's so thin it might as easily be mistaken for a figment of her own imagination, when the apology comes wheezing thin over the distance: "'M sorry."

Adelaide coughs. "Ok." she responses, She tries to move, was anything broken-missing? She struggled, she couldn't should and there was little she could to do signal… was there.. Her phone was gone… and with it all her contacts- sort of, a new phone was easily gotten her life was not. "Here." she squeaks hoping to be heard.

Either she is, or they figure it out. The rescuers, when they come. Some civvie in an anorak, surefooted, adrenalized and eager to help, and then a cop who orders him in a harsh register to get back. "Ma'am!" A thin flashlight beam slices down, slides over the slick of red on the concrete below her hip. Something broke, but the automated wash of endorphins and sluggish retreat of consciousness is holding the details back from Adelaide's perception. Something broke. "Don't move, ma'am, we're going to get paramedics right over to you, and the DHS is on its way. You're going to be just fine."

The next blurred snapshot Adelaide's eyes cede to her is a downturned face, an oxygen mask tied with skinny green elastic onto her face and her body strapped down flat against the stretcher; the vague impression of the younger woman flat on a stretcher to her right. The club lounge a smoking ruin with wires hanging down from demolished lighting fixtures like viscera. The ambulance, second, rain falling in streaky silver needles through the sidewalk lights. Crowds barricaded back behind bumblebee-striped barricades and tape. Click-clack. Adelaide Xylander, they're telling her, somewhere above the haze of anesthesia. We are taking you to St. Luke's Hopistal and Dr. Rose is going to meet us. You're going to be okay.

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