Wisdom and Worldliness


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Scene Title Wisdom and Worldliness
Synopsis A fated meeting from a blackout vision brings together two individuals who really needed someone to talk to, and both leave with more than just new names.
Date November 8, 2010

A pier, Brooklyn, NYC

Pillars of black smoke, underlit by the grim oranges and reds of the fire it heralds, rise from Queens. So many people, so many, are already trapped. Yet more will be, should the infrastructure fail.

But should this come to pass, Pericles Jones will not be to blame. At least not by any direct action. Gripped in his gloved hand, Pericles Jones holds nothing more than a spiral-bound notebook. No detonator, not as he foresaw. What future was laid out, what destiny prepared for him by the machinations of Rupert Carmichael, has been averted. No conscious effort delivered Mr. Jones from the prophesied. He cannot determine that any hand save that of chance was at work. And this troubles him.

It troubles him deeply.

Because the city is still burning. And Perry holds in his heart a dread that points of burning light will ignite under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, that it will come tumbling down because someone else, not himself, might stand on the shores of Governor's Island with the trigger. And that unknown person, assuming Perry's place in history, may make a different choice. But even that is uncertain. Perry has no idea what choice he would have made.

He stands by a pier on the southern shore of Brooklyn, easily within view of the great bridge that replaced Whitman's ferry. But his eyes are on that expressway, and on the columns of ash that rise, volcanic, into the sky. He adjusts his glasses slightly, unnecessarily. Still dressed all in black, black slacks, black leather shoes, a long black navy surplus jacket. His breath ghosts very slightly between his lips. The fires, however great, bring no warmth to him here on the dark shores of the East River.

They bring no inspiration, either. Perry's notebook is empty and unmarked. He'd hoped that something might come. But nothing has. He is alone, without even his habitual companion, clear thought.

There's something terrifying and yet invigorating about walking out of someplace safe and entering into the outside world when you know just how much danger there was to be had. Walking head-first into danger wasn't something Elaine did, but she never saw herself in any danger in her vision. She was holding true that, at least up until that point, somethings would remain the same.

She could have left. There was an opportunity for her to leave, the day before. She could have fled to safety and not come back. It was possible. But there was something about having a blackout, a vision, a purpose that made Elaine Darrow stay in New York City. She had someone to meet.

But where to start? The redhead knew nothing of this man, his identity, what he might possibly have to say. She didn't know if he would even show up. Quinn was going to thwart her destiny and not show up to where she should have been, so would that mean this could be the same? Was there no bomb, no one to talk to?

So she wandered. If she could, she was going to find the man from her vision. It was her wandering that took her to the pier. The bridge was in sight, she could see the expanse of roadway that could have been destroyed. Did she have some purpose in this? Was there even such a thing as destiny? Elaine stepped towards the pier and froze at the sight before her.

She wasn't alone.

Does he sense that someone's joined him? What other reason could Perry have to break his vigil and glance over his shoulder. Still, he expects nothing, is genuinely surprised when he sees a tall, pale young woman with long red hair. A familiar stranger. He shifts in place, turning to half face her, one shoulder still aligned towards the fire in Queens.

"I don't know why you're here," Perry says, lifting his hand, showing that he has with him only the most innocuous of objects. Yes, he has a machine pistol holstered under his coat, but it is for defense only. A precaution taken. "Join me. History clearly means for us to meet."

He's not stammering. Perry's speech impediment is a result of not knowing what to say, or how it will be taken. He's eloquent enough when he's prepared, or when he isn't forced to examine every word for fear it will cause upset.

"I don't know why I'm here either, I guess." Elaine replies, a look of relief on her face as she notes his lack of detonator. She takes a few steps forward to stand next to him, folding her arms over her chest quietly. Her gaze shifts towards the fire, a shiver running through her as she watches it burn. "If history wills it, though, I'm not one to stop it. I like history."

She smiles wryly, head tilting as she looks down at the docks, then back over towards the man from her vision. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to find you. I wasn't sure how much these things can change."

Perry turns his muddy brown eyes on Elaine, examining her with an intentness and curiosity that is a necessary result of his relative lack of attention during his vision. This woman has been a mystery to him for months on end. Seeing her now, in flesh and blood rather than in future memory, is very strange.

"What's to like?" he asks, drawing his arms behind him and clasping the notebook at the small of his back, "the history of the 20th century was bloody beyond compare. This century is looking to be just as bleak. Things are falling apart, have been since the beginning of modernity. I'm not sure history should be trusted to guide us to a happy ending.

"Still," Perry adds, smiling just very slightly, "I'm too intrigued to avoid you. Though, like I said, I don't know why you're here. There may be some other person in need of your intervention. I intend to be of no harm to anyone tonight." That is, as long as no one intends to harm him.

Elaine remembered her vision quite vividly. There's a lot more at stake when you think you have to stop a bomb. Still, this wasn't how she pictured the conversation, nor was it what she pictured talking about. She tilts her head a little, peering back towards Perry, the tiniest hint of a smile on her own features.

"History's not giving us a happy ending. That's not the point of it. The point of history is that there's evidence of survival, of perseverance. Despite how bloody everything was in the 20th century, you and I are still standing here. Our parents and our grandparents and their parents and their grandparents somehow all made it through life long enough to bring about new life. They persevered through who knows what kinds of odds and here we are, standing here, still."

She wets her lips. "We're here in the middle of something that, I'll be honest, scares the shit out of me. But you know what? I'm not dead yet and I don't plan on dying anytime soon. History's not leading us to a happy ending, or an ending at all. It's just showing us what we've gone through to get to where we are, and the rest is up to us. And that is why I like history."

"There are six million less Jews, eight hundred thousand less Tutsi, seven million less Ukranians, thousands less Armenians," Perry recites, tone entering the flat register of fact, eyes fixed on the burning skyline, "That is- that is a lot, uh, a lot fewer grandparents." His stammer returns briefly for this pitch black joke.

"The worst- the worst of these slaughters were answers to modernity, to modern struggles, to a world facing enormous, epochal change," the bespectacled young man continues, regaining his diction. His eyes slide over to Elaine. "Epochal change. Does that sound familiar? On this day. An anniversary of burning - kaustós - and when everything is burning - holókaustos."

He lifts his hand and gestures to the grim tableaux, "this is Rupert Carmichael's Reichstagbrand. But he's made his own people into the Jews. Even Hitler knew better than to do that." What a charming conversationalist Elaine has found for herself. Perry shakes his head. "You don't plan on dying? Why not? Why shouldn't you be towards death? Death is inevitable, but it is not uncontrollable. We can meet it on our own terms. Die properly. But we can't deny it."

Elaine's lips curve into a frown. "I don't plan on dying because I plan on doing everything I can to avoid it. I have things to live for and I'm not done with anything I need to do yet. Sure, death is inevitable, but I want to spend my time doing something worthwhile, not planning my own death. If Rupert Carmichael started all this, that doesn't mean that we all just have to sit down and die."

The words are getting Elaine a little worked up. "People died today, and I don't intend to spit on their graves by sitting down and saying 'Oh, I'm going to die anyways, might as well give up now'. You know what happened in concentration camps, there families still happened to be together? The parents stopped eating to give food to their children. They starved themselves in hopes that their children would survive."

The redhaired girl looks back over at the fire. "Four years ago, my parents died, right here in New York. They died and yet somehow I figured out how the hell a fourteen year old girl was supposed to live on her own. I was lucky enough not to be here four years ago, and I'll be damned if I let myself die when they gave me a second chance at life. If it weren't for them, I would have been here four years ago and I would have been dead. So don't talk to me about slaughter. I know what slaughter is. I might not have lived through the Holocaust, but I lived through enough to know that I'm not giving up."

"I never suggested we ought to give up," Perry answers, maybe just a touch defensive. Not that he can afford to be overly so. Not in the face of Elaine's confession. Orphaned by the Bomb, Perry presumes. Far too common a tale, he's sure. But never one he's heard directly. And not one he care directly relate to. Olivia Jones is alive and well in Bangor.

So what can he say? Perry's just evoked some of the greatest tragedies in the history of mankind, but it's all abstraction. Elaine's tragedy is personal, close at hand. And she has endured, even without parents to feed her. "When- when I say 'be towards death' I mean- I mean… we will all die, that is the truth of our being in the world. You will die. I will die. You cannot die for me, and I cannot die for you. And our deaths are a constant reality for us, indeterminate, yes, but right at hand. Right here and now. I could kill you. You could kill me. And-"

But Perry stops here. He lifts a hand to his brow and rubs, slowly. "I don't know. I can't- I can't do this. I want to be. But I don't even know what I am." Something like a note of desperation is in his voice, along with a powerful frustration. "You've- you've lost something. But you still have yourself. I have something, but I don't even know what it is. I- I- I don't know what- what's-" and then words fail him again.

"I don't know that I could ever 'be towards death'. Our being in the world isn't to die. It's a part of it, but so is breathing. To breathe is not our purpose, neither is it to die." Elaine shakes her head, but his pause causes her to take a half step closer. She looks at him intently.

"What can't you do?" She takes another step closer. "In the vision… in the vision you were so, so determined that blowing up that bridge over there was the right thing to do. I didn't think I could stop you because you seemed to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you needed to do something. But I told you about the lives that were going to be lost… and you stopped. You stopped. You stopped for a reason. You stopped for a purpose. Maybe you just need to find that."

"I can't explain it," Perry admits, removing his glasses in a weary motion and closing his eyes. The distant sound of helicopter rotors echoes over the river, their insectile source like black specks, emitting thin rays of white light. "I can read well. But I can't teach it. I just mean… the immediacy of death is something most people forget. And you can't do that. Or else you forget an essential part of what you are. Mortal."

His eyes open, and Perry's next look to Elaine is all the more curious. "I stopped? I don't recall that, not in what I saw. But I stopped?" he frowns, "that is… peculiar. I shouldn't have. It shouldn't have ever been a choice. Carmichael wouldn't have let it be a choice. Unless…" Perry's gaze becomes searching, "are you one of us? Evolved?"

"But it was a choice. You chose." Elaine stated, her lips pursing a bit. "I saw it at the end. You threw the detonator into the water. You didn't blow it up." His question, though, surprises her. "I-I'm Evolved, yes." She tilts her head. "It's not… not like I have some spectacular gift or something. It's just… languages. I can learn them much faster than most people. Days, even. Written or spoken, I just need to be exposed to it and I can learn it. It's not like I have some ability to stop you from setting off a bomb or something. That was all you."

There is a brightening of those dark eyes as Elaine explains her ability to Perry. "That's- that's really- I mean- have you any idea how-" he begins, stammering and self-interrupting as his thoughts run ahead of him, "you're a natural polyglot? That's wholly amazing! That you- I mean language. It's the substance of thought itself. Heidegger called it the the House of Being. Language is- it's the closest thing there is to a soul. That's- that's not just anything, that's everything."

"W-What? You're serious? You think it's…" Elaine seems almost entirely dumbfounded. "In comparison to everyone else it always just seems so… so useless. I know ten languages and I hardly even get to speak all of them… I hardly get to speak any of them other than English. I just keep learning and hoping I'll have a purpose and everything. I'm taking classes at Columbia… I'm trying to learn anything they'll give me. I hope it'll do some good, that I'll be able to do something, but…" She peers over at Perry. "You really think it's everything? You really think it's that important? Hardly anyone seems to think it's so amazing… there's only really been two people who seemed to think it was entirely incredible… my friend Ygraine, who helped me get into Columbia… and Rupert Carmichael."

So this woman knew Carmichael? This gives Perry pause. She could easily be under his influence, unknowingly effected by an insidious ability that Perry has yet to contextualize within his worldview, another thing troubling the cohesion of his ontology. "I knew Carmichael as well. I- took orders from him. Indirectly. How is it-?" but he stops himself, "it doesn't matter. Yes. Yes I think it is the most important thing there is. Do you know Greek? Heidegger believed Greek was the closest language to pure thought. Do you- do you think in other languages? What is the experience of having all those modes of thought available to you? What does each of them feel like?" Question after question. The burning city is all but forgotten, in favor of Perry's burning curiosity.

"You were under him? I only met him once. He said he hoped I'd take his class, if I got into Columbia." Elaine smiles weakly. She looks back to Perry, rubbing the back of her neck. "Ah, no… Greek I don't know. I'm thinking about taking some Greek and Latin, though… I figured it might be nice to use some words that were root languages…" She trails off, listening to his questions. "No one's ever really asked me about these things.. I guess… I guess I don't really think in a language. At least no particular language… I know the meaning of what I'm thinking and the words fill in but it's like… I don't think it's just a language I know. Maybe it's greek and I don't know it yet." She offers a smile. "I guess it feels like… understanding. Like, above everything, I can understand. I know what things mean and why they mean it… just understanding, I guess."

"Don't you realize how remarkable that is?" Perry says, emphatic as he is about few things, voice anything but toneless, "most people, they think in their native tongue. Or in acquired languages, if that's the context. You're saying- you don't think in a particular language- it must be because you're a polyglot. That's incredible! Revolutionary. You, better than anyone else, have access to sophia.

The young man's excitement is punctuated by a trail of gunshot periods, cracking sharply, echoing from across the water, emanating from the other shore. It steals his attention momentarily, drawing his gaze to where the blaze has only grown. Is it his imagination, or does he hear the riotous clamor of the mob? "Yes," he says, reminded of the talk of Carmichael, and their improbably mutual relation to the architect of tonight's chaos, "I was under him," this is said with bitterness and regret, "The CDC building in Chicago… the one that Messiah destroyed? I set those charges. That- I don't think I would take that back. Of course, nothing can be taken back. Each instant is us building the whole of our personal eternity."

Elaine's eyes drift to the water, then over at the fire again, before the come to rest on Perry again. "Then you should always be certain of what you do. Be certain that it is the right decision. I think if you blew up this bridge, you would have regretted that, and that's why you didn't. At least, in the vision. I think you're the kind of person who only does what he feels is right."

"Feel?" Perry says, picking up the word and turning it over and over in his hands, examining it, testing it for authenticity, "I suppose, yes. I'm not sure. Sometimes how we feel… we have to overcome it. Being afraid. To overcome that feeling is to be brave. Not to not feel it, but to not permit that feeling to rule you. I don't know how that relates to rightness, though. A feeling of rightness. Maybe it has something to do with caring? I don't know. I'll have to think about it."

He replaces his glasses, pushing them up the bridge of his nose with a single fingered prod. "I don't know your name," he observes, at length, "do you know mine?"

"Caring… that's always a good thing to think on." Elaine smiles a little at the idea, folding her arms over her chest a bit. "No. I don't know your name." She pauses. "Would you like to know mine? Or shall we keep this some big hidden meeting between two strangers? You seem to be the one in need to make some choices… you tell me. Strangers or friends?"

So it still comes down to his choice, and how he shall be remembered - how she will remember him. In an odd quirk of temporal inertia, it takes Perry precisely as long to think about this question as it did, within the vision, to decide on whether or not to activate the detonator. This is not to dishonor the importance of either choice - both have their consequences. In many ways, to destroy or not to destroy is a much simpler decision.

"I don't think," Perry says, at length, "that it is safe for me to know your name. It isn't safe for you. I- I don't know that it is safe for me, either, if you know mine. But- but I think need to have something to call each other." He pauses. "Name me. I'll abide to be called by you whatever you will call me."

"Name you?" Elaine can't help but laugh at that. It's a dangerous thing to just ask someone to come up with a name for you. "Alright… since we were musing on death, I'll call you Edgar Allen Poe. Poe, for short. I was going to think of a suitable historical figure, but all I could think of were Kings of England and I decided they didn't quite fit you." She looks back over with a wry smile. "Alright, so what are you going to call me?"

"Sophia," Perry answers, almost instantly, "I think that is fitting in every sort of way. And- and yes, Poe is good. Poe will do. He was a critic of modernity himself. Have you- have you read 'The Man in the Crowd'?" What a time to be swapping literary experiences… "that- that I think is- uh- is very- um- indicative. Of the problem today, of the fear of the Evolved. They could be- could be anyone."

"Sophia it is," Elaine states, peering back over. She can't help but smile. The fact that they are able to make literary references in the middle of something like this? That's something that seems to cheer Elaine up to enormous proportions. "I think you're right. People fear what they don't understand and I don't think all of us understand ourselves in the first place, much less our abilities. People are just afraid of being hurt, things like that…" She glances at the pillars of smoke in the distance. "I'm more afraid of what will happen after this. This is senseless violence. It's the violence that makes sense that is scarier."

"Scary?" Perry echoes, "Of course. Anything that threatens to change the world in a radical way is scary. You speak of fear of the unknown. That's just what it is. If you make real radical change- well, radical, it's from the Latin radix. It means root. It's changing the unseen things that produce everything we do see, what we know. If real radical change happens, everything after that change is necessarily unknown. The very basis by which we know anything will be different. It's whatever lies over the horizon, an invisible, new land. But we can't be afraid. And if violence is necessary… then it's necessary."

Elaine offers a small nod. "Sometimes it's hard to escape violence." She laughs. "We're good at musing on these things, huh?" She peers at the water. "A lot of talk, we are. Guess that's just what I do, huh? A lot of talk?" She smiles at the cheesy joke she's attempting, and rubs the back of her neck. "Tell me something, Poe, since you're kinda more in the world and seem to have more of the pulse of the world than I do… do you think, after today, that we'll be okay? I mean, Evolved. Do you think that it'll be safe?"

Being in touch with the world is something Perry doesn't think he has ever been accused of before. Rather the opposite. Elaine gets a perplexed look as a result, but one that is most definitely pleasantly rendered. Being-in-the-world is, after all, one of his highest aspirations. "You- you can't know," Perry says, "how- how relieved I am to have some- someone to talk to. My- uh- my compatriots, they-" he hesitates, "they are- they are- I have my reservations about their lack of philosophical rigor. I need- I need dialogue." The stilted way in which he speaks, the emphases on certain words, they betray his investment but also his frustration.

"But- um- but as to- uh- as to the Evolved - us, we - we will not be safe," Perry comes to this conclusion at this very moment, but he sounds certain, "No. I very much doubt it. But- but I think we never were. I think that- that for all his sins, Carmichael understands - understood - that we are moving towards a watershed. That the violence and the antagonism that was- that was already happening quietly, hidden, controlled, needs to be brought out. Needs to be revealed for what it is. That this- that if there is anything to be gained from this night it will be the open- the open recognition that the government has no- has no recourse besides violence to suppress us. It already- it already was using violence. But it hid that violence. Now- now it's there, for everyone to see. Dressed in riot gear, throwing tear gas, throwing negation gas. They've shown their true face, shown how much they really fear us.

"And I think- I think- I think the should- should be. Afraid."

"Everyone's afraid," Elaine says, rubbing her arms. "But I'm afraid too. I don't tell people that, though. I've been scared for the last four years. I'd barely even found out about my ability then… I was figuring myself out and then I didn't have anyone to rely on. I was really scared that this was gonna be the same thing… everyone I cared about ending up dead, me having to start over, unsure of anything. M-Maybe they should be scared of us. I just don't want to end up in some concentration camp. I j-just want to go to college and learn and help people and I don't think that's a huge thing to ask from the world…"

"If you had the choice," Perry asks, "to give up your ability, to lead a 'normal' life, never fearing what you fear now and have feared for so long - would you? To have friends and- and whatever else, to have them all be uninvolved in the Evolved struggle, never placed at risk but taking no part in the great changes shaping our world. If you could - and I am not saying it is possible, purely a thought experiment - but if you could step out of this whole struggle and have nothing to do with it and it have nothing to do with you, would you?"

Elaine shakes her head vigorously. "No… it's part of who I am and who they are and I wouldn't stop it… I just… I'm scared and I want everyone to make it out okay. I want to live. I don't want to be some slave in some concentration camp just because I have this ability."

"They won't," Perry says, simply and without discernible sympathy, "we will none of us be 'okay'. But we will not be slaves, not unless we permit it. They can't control us, not all of us, not with all we can do. But we can't want a normal life. We can't agree to play by those rules anymore. That's what they want."

Elaine hugs her arms a little bit. "I guess you're right… we can't expect things to just be 'normal' because normal isn't normal anymore…" She looks back over to the water, shifting on her feet a bit. "It's just a lot to take in…"

"We need to think," Perry states, "and that takes time. Something we have in short supply at the moment." He flips open his notebook, finally ready to inscribe something. A pen is retrieved from his pocket and marks a quick scrawl on a page. Gripped and ripped, the page comes free of the book and is offered up to Elaine. On it: a telephone number and three letters forming the name Elaine gave him - 'Poe'. "I will give up my claim on your time now, in hopes you will grant me more later."

The number is taken and carefully tucked away, and Elaine looks back over. "Okay. I'll call you again. Maybe… a few days? Maybe after things have settled for a bit?" She suggests, making sure the paper isn't going to get lost in her pocket. "I liked talking… it was a lot better than dealing with a bomb, I think…"

"At your discretion," Perry says, rolling his shoulders in a slow shrug, "don't go too far out of your way. I am not a safe person to know." He closes his eyes, draws a deep breath, lets it out, opens his eyes. "I should go. But I will- um- I can escort you as far as you need to go. If you'd like. I don't- well- a woman alone, on a night like this…"

"I know a lot of not-so-safe people. I'm dating a guy who regularly gets himself into trouble of the worst kind and then back out. I wouldn't worry too much about it." Elaine states, offering a small smile. "You don't have to worry about me, I'll be okay heading home on my own. I appreciate the offer, though… but I'm sure there's plenty you have to attend to today. And plenty you need to think on."

"Yes. As always," Perry agrees, with a hint of wryness. He doesn't further protest Elaine's decision to go it alone. He makes a small, somewhat awkward bow. "I'll hope to hear from you, Sophia. I- I don't know when but- but, well…" nope, no more words on that subject are forthcoming, "I am glad you were here. And now. This was necessary. I believe that."

Elaine beams at the bow, giving a little curtsey in response as she looks back towards Perry. "I'm glad I was here too. I'm not sure yet what it all means… but it was important, I'm sure. One day I'll figure out the full significance of it."

"We can hope that the essence of our time will reveal itself to us, unconcealing itself," Perry says, with a determination drawn from doctrine, "we simply need to be ready for it. We need to be in the world." The bespectacled young man turns. "Until next time," he bids, before beginning to walk away.

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