The Other Tiger


mallory_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Other Tiger
Synopsis Teo gets his stalk on with the other Allistair twin.
Date November 1, 2008

Brooklyn Public Library

The central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was designed to resemble an open book, two wings stretching out along the bordering streets, with the main entrance located at their hinge. Inside is the heart of one of the nation's largest public library systems; the Central Library alone contains over 1.5 million books, magazines, and other materials. It also contains the Brooklyn Collection, an assortment of references and ephemera that chronicle the history of the borough, and a Multilingual Center for non-English speakers and linguistic scholars. A cafe on the first floor sells coffee and snacks, while a restaurant on the third floor (open weekdays only) sells cafeteria-style meals. Internet access is freely available throughout the building.

Mallory's fairly easy to tail. She goes to school, she goes to work, she goes home, she goes to the library. Every so often she drops by a park, but mostly? This kid has no social life and is a perpetual shut-in. Maybe that explains why she's so damn pale. This evening she's set up in the Brooklyn Public Library, tucked into one of the carrels. At least, her stuff is there. She's presently standing up beside her seat and craning her neck toward a vending machine. Delicious caffeine awaits her.

Teodoro is better at stalking tracking shadowing people than any high school teacher-in-training ought to be. And he probably has too much time to do it, between the various and sundry responsibilities he holds in the civilian world and the one underneath it. He'd been checking out Stillwater Security Consultation, as per the hacking attempts on PHOENIX's erstwhile incarnation, and he'd had his eye on the Other Allistair ever since he saw her skulking around in Diego Smith's shadow the evening of the Linderman fiesta.

He's watching her from between the bookshelves, two aisles away, a book in his hand, one he's already read: Antologia Personal, in its native Spanish. He notices her getting up and turns a page, his blue eyes blank. He mentally urges her to go and caffeinate, though he lacks the genetic or adrenal peculiarities to put more weight into that than a bit wishing.

Mallory bounces on her heels; she eyes the machine, then her laptop, then the spaces in between for people. Digging around in one pocket, she produces coin and wrinkles her nose. Fine. Brushing her fingertips against the laptop's keyboard, she turns and heads over to the vending machine to buy some Coke.

Retrospectively, Teo supposes he should've been praying. He's awfully Catholic sometimes; thinking he should be praying. He does so then, in vague hope that, really, all of his curiosity and stomach-knotting dread is for naught, that Mallory's commitment to hermitude and social suicide is because she's a unique and lovely snowflake and not necessarily a symptom of personal or mercenary interest in terrorist factions, that her internship is a weird coincidence and, really, his paranoia is just a bullshit distraction from other stuff.

Also, he includes in this appeal to God that he doesn't get arrested. He crosses himself, snaps his book shut, and lopes out of the bookcase's boxy latticed shadows. Noncommittally, he slides on by her computer, Mallory in the corner of one eye, her laptop screen in the other.

The laptop's screen is settled on YouTube; there's a little video cued up of what looks like a shrimp on a tiny treadmill. Seriously. What horror could this be?

Animal cruelty, Teo identifies instantly, or somebody with a bad sense of humor. Given her brother's last couple reactions to him, he has to wonder if that either runs in the family or if Simon Allistair just happens to have the right idea about him. He eyes Mallory for quaver-beat, then reaches out as quick as a dog-bite. 'Esc' out of full-screen.

Well, that ain't Windows, Vista or otherwise. Mallory's just putting her coins into the slot, one finger hovering over the button, when her brow furrows. She frowns. It's like an itch at the back of her neck or something; she reaches back to scratch it, jabs the buttons, and turns quickly before stooping to fetch the can. Her eyes seek out her study carrel.

No one. Nothing. The space above Mallory's workspace is empty, unoccupied, no shape or moving shadow cast from her laptop's liquid crystal display against the rows and rows of books backdropped beyond it. A Hell of an acrobatic feat for Teo, crouch and scuttling crabwise, but he's put himself through worse before. It's fortunate that even in the library, she prefers seclusion. She'll probably notice the fact the screen's gone whiter— video exited from full-screen— before she notices the book left on her chair.

Mallory's nose wrinkles; she stoops to collect her Coke and makes her way back to the carrel, popping the tab and taking a sip as she starts to sit down. And she almost sits on the book; butt hits cover before she jumps up again and turns to see. "Buh?"

Jorge Luis Borges, his personal anthology. All in Spanish, which would preclude it being a reading recommendation for her unless she reads the language near to fluency, but it was really the only thing he'd had in hand and the poem he'd picked— L'altra Tigre— though excellent, was less important than the bookmark pressed into it.

One of those collectibles from the Children's Corner, sporting a festive yellow tassel at one end, with rosey-cheeked kids cartooned and printed on it, holding big colorful tomes in their star-shaped hands. More eye-catching by far are the words written over the pictures, bold-font, all capitalized. Mallory knows the three. Latin. Loud and proud.

Mallory picks the book up and peers at the bookmark, mouth hanging open a little. She glances from one side to the other and finally hisses, "Who's there?" This is a little nerve wracking. Like a lot nerve wracking. She slowly stoops to collect her backpack, eyes darting to and fro.

There's no answer, of course. For a moment, there's nothing at all registering in Mallory's senses but her own vitals, all thunder and heat. And then a padding of footsteps some ten feet off, a squeak of wheels: a librarian coming out of the furthest recesses of the book collection. She's pushing a cart in front of her effortful and slow like her shoulders are a little sore after stretching gymnastic all over the ladder to get heavy books back into the top shelf.

Some ten yards away, Teo is idly trawling behind a bookcase. His back to the wood, his eyes cast downward nonchalantly peering into his cellphone. Not paying attention; not in the slightest.

Okay, the librarian is doubtful. Mallory purses her lips, tucks the book under her arm, and grabs up her laptop to stuff inside her backpack, glancing this way and that still. And then she's darting out through the rows. She might just catch a glimpse of the back of Teo's head if he doesn't move it.

He does. Just, incidentally, Teo moves his head the wrong way. Prayed for the wrong things, maybe; he has a habit of doing that. There's a flicking-past of dark, cropped hair, the curve of his ear and the angle of his shoulder, incompletely outlined in the light of his cellphone, a moment before the bookcase parallaxes into her view, blocks him out. Just as well: the library throws Mallory's retreating back a sharp look. "No running," the weasel of a woman hisses, so sharp she might have cut the syllables out from between filed teeth.

"Some guys touched my stuff!" Mallory informs the librarian, waving her hand toward the carrel. She squints briefly at Teo - not much to go on, but maybe in later meetings she'll be able to identify him. Not tonight, though. "Did you see anyone at that work station?"

It's a possibility, if not for tonight. She has enough maybes and what-ifs to deal with right now, by the standards of most. "I saw you at your work station," the woman responds, her brow knotting in indignation, unhappy that Mallory protested instead of apologizing. The next moment, her features soften. The same professionalism that led her to take a hard tone earlier changes promptly to concern now. "That's unacceptable. Did they take anything, dear? I can call security immediately. They'll just ask you a few questions."

Mallory rubs her face with one hand, shaking her head. "No. They didn't take anything. I'm going to… I'm going to check this book out. Sorry."

The Other Tiger

"And the craft createth a semblance."
— Morris, Sigurd the Volsung (1876)

I think of a tiger. The half-light enhances
the vast and painstaking library
and seems to se the bookshelves at a distance;
strong, innocent, new-made, bloodstained,
it will move through its jungle and its morning,
and leave its track across the muddy
edge of a river, unknown, nameless
(in its world, there are no names, nor past, nor future
only the sureness of the passing moment)
and it will cross the wilderness of distance
and sniff out in the woven labyrinth
of smells the smell peculiar to morning
and the scent of deer, delectable.
Among the slivers of bamboo, I notice
its stripes, and I have an inkling of the skeleton
under the magnificence of the skin, which quivers.
In vain, the convex oceans and the deserts
spread themselves across the earth between us;
from this one house in a remote lost seaport
in South America, I dream you, follow you,
oh tiger on the fringes of the Ganges.

Afternoon creeps in my spirit and I keep thinking
that the tiger I am conjuring in my poem
is a tiger made of symbols and of shadows,
a sequence of prosodic measures,
scraps remembered from encyclopedias,
and not the deadly tiger, the luckless jewel
which in the sun or the deceptive moonlight
follows its path, in Bengal or Sumatra,
of love, of indolence, of dying…
Against the symbolic tiger, I have planted
the real one, it whose blood runs hotly,
and today, 1959, the third of August,
a slow shadow spreads across the prairie,
but still, the act of naming it, of guessing
what is its nature and its circumstances
creates a fiction, not a living creature,
not one of those who wander on the earth.

Let us look for a third tiger. This one
will be a form in my dream like all the others,
a system and arrangement of human language,
and not a tiger of the vertebrae
which, out of teach of all mythology,
paces the earth. I know all this, but something
drives me to this ancient and vague adventure,
unreasonable, and still I keep on looking
throughout the afternoon for the other tiger,
the other tiger which is not in this poem.

— Translated by Alastair Reid

November 1st: Paint Me Destruction
November 1st: Trust Takes Time
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