New Mutants Unlimited 58

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New Mutants Unlimited #58
Post by Risk on Apr 21, 2007, 6:02pm

New Mutants Unlimited #58

Cover: A light shines over a beautiful woman in a long, white dress with long black hair. Her eyes are shut and her hands are brought together as if in prayer.

Title: A Sunrise's Reverie?

***

It starts with a dream, as do most things, good or bad. A chill runs through me, like a biting wind. I’m in my room. I know I am. Locked in my room. The windows are shut. It can’t be the wind.

And then I realise that I can’t move. I try to lift my leg, but nothing happens. A finger. The same. I’m helpless. Paralysed. The vulnerability of my situation hits me, and I hate it. It actually frightens me.

Fear. That’s not an emotion I feel very often. Not because I am fearless. But because fear just gets in the way, so I force it away. It’s… interesting, though. The emotion. But ultimately, it’s useless, and not something I would admit to anyone else. It’s something I would rarely admit even to myself.

Despite the situation, though, despite the fear, I have to wonder why. Why is this happening? Firstly, what is happening? I continue to try and move something – anything – and it finally pays off. My head turns slightly. It lets me take a breath of air away from the fear. The air is colder there, and there’s something else about it… Is that jasmine?

I look at the window again. It’s open. That’s not all. There’s something wrong here – something off… I can’t see anything, but I can’t move my head very far either. I move it where I can – back to the window. There’s nothing on the windowsill. That means that it’s likely to be a flier. Whoever it is, they’re good. I didn’t hear a thing. I should have heard something…

“Looking for me?” A soft, sweet voice, like a lyre. And there’s another smell. Rosemary. The smells mingle and intertwine with each other, making something else. This time I can’t put my finger on what it smells like. What it is, though? That I know. Memories.

Whoever this is, knows me. I have to wonder who would even bother with this. Who would waste time doing this? Who would care enough to learn this much? I doubt that there’s anyone who would.

But somehow, someone has. And the main thought running through my mind now isn’t about the fear that was initially caused by my vulnerability. That’s been replaced by anger. It isn’t concerns about who this might be, and about how to deal with it. The only thought is that whoever this is, they’ll pay.

“Don’t you have anything to say to me? I thought you’d be glad. Or at least, that you would be polite enough to acknowledge my presence…” A lilt in the voice. Only one person in the word had that lilt. My anger reaches a new zenith, and as I jerk to face the speaker, I realise that my movements aren’t restricted anymore. The over-energetic jerk lands me onto the floor, and I look up at the speaker.

Whoever it is that is doing this is at a nadir I hadn’t thought possible. I didn’t know that something could be this morally bankrupt.

The memories. The lilt. The jasmine and the rosemary, and those fragrances coming together. I prayed that it didn’t mean what I thought it did, but as I look up, I see my prayers rejected. I see the apex of torture. I see my mother standing in front of me, and as soon as I do, I lower my head again.

This is a dream. It must be. Except it isn’t always that simple. Who knows if it is a dream? Who knows if it is a portent? Who knows if it is just a base hallucination? It doesn’t feel like I’m asleep… but then, isn’t that always the way? It always seems real. Does it matter if it isn’t?

Who even knows? I certainly don’t. Not yet, at least. But I will. I have to.

And when I do, I will know who has to suffer for this mockery.

“You aren’t here. You aren’t real.”

“What sort of thing is that to say to your mother? Of course I’m real!” the lilt is steadfast. If anyone is trying to fake this, they are doing an extremely good job. I would almost be convinced that my mother is standing in front of me. But I know better. I’m still blind to why someone would do this. But it can’t be real. It can’t. However, there is still the chance that I’m dreaming. A strong one, I think. Possibly the most logical one.

“Death is just that. Death. You are dead. You can’t be real.” I have to be adamant in this. If I’m not, then I leave myself open. Then I leave myself weak.

I still can’t look at her.

A sharp slap finds its way to my face followed after a moment by a soft, gentle hand being placed where the slap hit.

“Oh, my poor boy… so cynical. So jaded. So paranoid. This isn’t the boy I recognise.” I try to resist it. I have to. I owe my actual mother that much. Her voice… it’s almost a lullaby.

A single tear trickles down my cheek.

Damn it all to hell.

I’m caught.

“No” I tell her with my head lowered. Not because I can’t face her (which I don’t think I can), but out of shame. “No, I suppose I’m not.”

I’m sorry. I gave in. But I can’t shake the sound of her sweet resounding voice away. The fragrance won’t leave me. The cadence in her voice is constant… it’s real. I wouldn’t let my guard down if I wasn’t sure. She’s too perfect to not be real. Any other person, and I would say that she was too perfect to be real. But not her. Not her.

“Where are we?” she asks. A simple enough question, and she highlights it by casting a sweeping glance across my room and to my door. Maybe she’s looking through the door. It seems like it, at least. I rise to my feet and rest a hand on her shoulder. She seems so much smaller than when I last saw her… before she stepped into the car.

Any thought but that.

I hear a snap.

Looks like ‘any thought’ wasn’t quite accurate.

“Xavier Institute. It’s where I go to school now.” I try to keep my voice balanced. To keep any emotion out of my voice. It isn’t easy, and I don’t do a good job. I never was good at deceiving her.

“School. That’s nice. How many of the classes do you actually go to?”

“I don’t really-”

“How many?” It’s soft but firm. Of course, I have to listen.

“I skip most of them,” I tell her, scratching the back of my head nervously. Even now… a dead mother. I’m still nervous about disappointing her. It’s funny, actually. It’s funny…

I hear her make a slight tutting sound, and I feel another wave of cold crash around inside of me. Against me. It’s something that runs through my entire self, but that I can’t place all the same.

“Such a shame… you could be doing so much better than truancy,” she chastises me.

“It isn’t like that.”

I open my hand and there’s something drawn on the palm. It takes me longer than it should to place it. The mark of Cain.

“Oh no? Then what is it like?” She glances at my hand, and an understanding, warm smile spreads across her face. “Ah. I see. That’s what you’re doing instead of studying.”

She shakes her head slightly with a sigh, and looks at me, clearly disheartened. It cuts through and hurts where most other things fail. Disappointment in her eyes. Like I said… funny. Funnier if it didn’t hurt this much.

She spins on her heel, and walks over to my door, resting a hand on it before facing me again.

“Have you been to Pakistan lately?”

“No.”

“No? Oh… that’s a shame. I guess you haven’t seen Afsal for a while then, either. I always liked that boy.” She pushes herself away from the door with her hand and walks back over to me.

“… why?” she asks.

What a question. Why? I take a cowards route. I stall before answering.

“Why what?”

That just deepens the look of disappointment in her eyes. She knows I know what she means.

“Why do you do this? Why do you put on that costume,” she points at the box in the corner of my room and then catches the look in my eyes, “sorry – uniform, and go out there, and… do what you do? Why?”

I crouch besides the box and rest my hand on it, thinking.

“That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m not sure I know how to.”

She shakes her head slightly.

“Show me.”

“What?”

“Show me it.”

Apprehensively, I open the box. I don’t want to do this, but I can’t say no. I can’t. If I could say no, then I could just ignore all of this. Then it would be so much easier. Unfortunately, I can’t take the easy route. Taking the mask, I put it on and look back at my mother, just in time to hear another tutting noise.

“This is what you’d rather be? You were a good boy… Try to answer the question, at least. Try. Why?”

I ripped the mask off and tore it into two in one motion. The lenses popped out. One bounced off of my chest onto the floor. The fabric separated with a high ripping sound, a protesting scream against my callous action. A labour of love. Of hate. Of spite.

“I… you and dad, you- you could have done so much. The money you had. The resources you had. So much. I never saw either of you lift a finger to help. With dad’s brain and his money, he could have even cured cancer. Anything. I never saw either of you either try.

“I had to do something to help. This is what I know. I can help people like this. I can. I know it.”

I see something shimmer in her eye. A tear? No… I didn’t mean it. I don’t – can’t – damn it. I didn’t mean it. The tear runs down her face and then falls off of her cheek. She catches it on her palm and closes it, trapping the tear in her hand.

“Oh, Damien. Is that how you saw us? Selfish and vain? Squandering?”

“No, I didn’t mean-”

“Damien. The company wasn’t just a source of revenue. But then, you’d know that if you ever took any interest in it.”

My eyes stray away from her. It’s much easier to just pretend that I can’t hear her. That she isn’t here. Or at least, it would be if such a thing were possible.

“I’m not disappointed in you, Damien. I couldn’t be. I just… I just wish you were doing something that would actually help people instead of what you think would help people. You were always a smart boy. You could be anything you want. On top of that, in two years you could take active control of the company… do something worthwhile with that. Or would that route bore you too much? You never could stay long for that long…” she sighs, standing up and walking away from the box. The sigh breaks my heart, and watching her walk away from me… well, it isn’t easy.

“Things change… people change…”

A soft smile formed on her lip and her eyes start shining with a brightness that lights the room.

“I thought I was the parent here.” She lets out a light laugh. The kind that I haven’t heard for far too long. It’s torture and joy all at the same time. Too long… Out of the corner of my eye, I see a few stray rays of light dancing across the room through the window as the sun begins to rise, shattering the shadow that had been cast over the room, but only in a few places. The shadow rules the corners of the room still. But that doesn’t matter. What I see creeping around out of the corner of my mind doesn’t matter. The search for refuge doesn’t matter. The shadow fleeing as it twists away from the rays of light, burning, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that laugh.

“What’s funny?”

“Nothing, just… you tried to help in memory of our death… but in spite of our lives. Or what you thought that part of our lives was.”

“It isn’t like-”

“Yes. It is. Or are you going to lie to me?” she asks, a hint of amusement appearing on her face. I close my mouth and look away.

“So why did you wait so long until you started?” she cocks her head to one side, curiosity written over her face.

“I- I couldn’t do anything before. A gun- and a man, and he hurt her… tried to, at least. A tear from her… more, I think; and a snap…” I trail off and stare at the corner of the room. The lack of light there lets me think that I’m staring at nothing at all… Nothing at all would be easier than staring at what looks so much like a void.

“You’re rambling. I don’t understand what you’re saying,” she tells me softly. The tone in itself relaxes me slightly, and then I realize that I was rambling… strange. Just another addition to the list of what’s been off about me lately.

“The blood on my hands… I couldn’t do anything.”

Another, quieter laugh leaves her lips. Is she… laughing at this?

“My son is an idiot.” She adds a shake of her head to the laugh, and I feel smaller by the moment. The power of a parent is an impressive thing. “Blood on your hands? You mean the result of the actions of a boy who didn’t know what he was doing besides the fact that he was saving his friend? Blood on your hands indeed. There’s no such thing.” She turns my head by pulling on my chin and forces me to look away from the corner, and into the blue of her eyes.

“Is that why you’ve forced this impassiveness onto yourself? It isn’t right, you know. It isn’t you.” And then I notice something I hadn’t seen before. The sadness in her eyes. The slight wrinkles beneath them. I even spot a single stray grey hair. This isn’t how I remember her. She suddenly seems so much more tired than she was before… just a moment ago she was so energetic. So full of… life…

And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? No matter what I’m seeing right now – no matter how I might long for it – she isn’t alive. She’s gone, and she can never come back. Oh, there are ways that she could come back to life. This world is insane. There is almost no impossibility.

But it wouldn’t be her. She would be alive… but it isn’t the same thing. That’s what is important. And it isn’t what she would want.

I hate magic anyway. I smile to myself, but I don’t show it on the outside. This is the perfect gift, and it isn’t even my birthday. I have to wonder what the occasion is.

No. I don’t. For once, I can just be happy about it.

“Shh. It isn’t- you might be right, but it isn’t important.”

“Yes. It is.” A tear trickles down her cheek. It doesn’t belong. It shouldn’t be there. There shouldn’t be any tears in her eyes.

“Not anymore.” I wipe the tear away from her eye and stare into, watching for any others. None come; instead, she forms another warm half smile.

“There you go again – acting like the parent. You’ve grown well. I’m proud of you, Damien.” She shuts her eyes for a moment before opening them again and running them across my room.

“What about that death wish of yours?”

My face goes blank and I look through her for a moment rather than look at her. I ignore the question on purpose. It isn’t something I want to think about, let alone answer. I don’t know that I would be able to answer, even if I tried.

“Are you even real?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” she replies with an innocent smile on her face. It’s hard to doubt her when she does that. It’s hard to see anything objectively – as I know I should. As I know I have to. But do I really have to? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to give it? To accept?

Of course it would. But no-one said that life should be easy. Not even her.

“Does it even matter?” she asks me.

Does it matter? On the one hand, I could just be happy. I could take this by face value. I could let myself… see things innocently again. I could let things be easy, even if they shouldn’t be. So does it matter? Does it matter if this isn’t real?

Yes. Of course it does. It’s almost all that matters.

“Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. Sleep eternal, never disturbed, left to your deserved final night.” I blink as I say it, looking anywhere but at her.

“Isn’t that always the way?” she sighs more than replaces the blank look on her face with another bright, radiant smile. It leaves me feeling… elated, and at the same time, somewhat… empty.

My eyes snap open, even though I didn't close them. I'm alone in my room. Completely alone.

I walk over to the window and look at the sun as it continues to rise.

What sort of a life is it where you are owned by the dead? Your every action determined by those you have known – those you have let die – and those that you have watched die? Where everything you are depends on the dead.

I turn away from the sun and glance at the mask lying on my floor. Ripped. Torn in two. I hear a voice calling me from the other side of my door.

“Yes… yes, just a moment. I just need to- just a moment.”

Is what I’ve been missing something I’ve been depriving myself of? Would it be that simple?

I know I’ll find out as I go along. At least… I hope I will. Hope. An interesting concept. Looks like I’m going to be resting so much more on faith than I have in years. And maybe… just maybe it’s time to move on and let the impassiveness die.

Everything is a maybe. Everything is an uncertainty.

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