Valerian began as a writing project some years back. Originally it was a story about a boy, a boy trying to find his father against incredible odds. It has grown beyond this, however. Beyond even where I imagined it. Historical fantasy… with just a tinge of horror thrown in. Setting, modern day New York City…
Richard II- ACT II, SCENE IV. A camp in Wales.
Enter EARL OF SALISBURY and a Welsh Captain
My lord of Salisbury, we have stay’d ten days,
And hardly kept our countrymen together,
And yet we hear no tidings from the king;
Therefore we will disperse ourselves: farewell.
EARL OF SALISBURY
Stay yet another day, thou trusty Welshman:
The king reposeth all his confidence in thee.
‘Tis thought the king is dead; we will not stay.
The bay-trees in our country are all wither’d
And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven;
The pale-faced moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean-look’d prophets whisper fearful change;
Rich men look sad and ruffians dance and leap,
The one in fear to lose what they enjoy,
The other to enjoy by rage and war:
These signs forerun the death or fall of kings.
Farewell: our countrymen are gone and fled,
As well assured Richard their king is dead.
EARL OF SALISBURY
Ah, Richard, with the eyes of heavy mind
I see thy glory like a shooting star
Fall to the base earth from the firmament.
Thy sun sets weeping in the lowly west,
Witnessing storms to come, woe and unrest:
Thy friends are fled to wait upon thy foes,
And crossly to thy good all fortune goes.
Shakespeare: Richard II., ii. 4.
They say you don’t know what you got till it’s gone. But what if you didn’t know what you where missing, would you ever know if it was gone? Would you even care?
Let’s say your Aunt had a million dollars setting in a bank in Buffalo, if she were to suddenly up and die and no one ever told you about it or her, would you set around all day pining for something you never even knew existed… even if it were yours to begin with?
See my point, the worlds a cruel, cruel place.
The streets were busy, but no more then usual. Huddled masses, blurred aspects, shadowed continence’s.
He’d been in the city less than a year and already he hated it. Everyone always seemed to going somewhere, always in a rush, never taking the time to stop and just say ‘Hello.’ Not that he would have answered them mind you. It was just the thought, the thought that some of them might take the time to be nice to someone like him. But now, even that no longer mattered. Not anymore.
Three hundred days, three hundred treks through Times Square, always looking, always hoping. Three hundred days of watching the sliding blur of humanity shimmer its way down glass corridors wide enough to literally drive a bus through.
Speaking of busses, there were a herd of them now, steel gray pachyderm, head to butt, shoulder to shoulder, coughing and heralding their way south towards Central Park.
“Probably packed to the rafters with Asians, cameras in tow, jet black hair greased to smooth perfection-”
“Excuse me young sir… young man.”
He’d been so lost in thought it never occurred to him that the aged and bent figure swaying before him hadn’t been there even a minute before, but seemed to have materialized from the naked night like a sudden fog breaking over a pond.
Startled he withdrew, as much from fear as from the bitter northern breeze which seemed all to intent upon cutting him to the bone.
His first attempt at dismissal went unheeded, as well as his second. With a sigh, “What is it old man?”
Beyond the figures straggly gray hair lying long past his shoulders and scruffy white beard he’d really not given the twisted old fart a second glance.
“Might you have a bit of change to spare, young master?”
Young master? How old was this guy anyway? The only people who spoke like that nowadays were in the movies.
“Do I look like I have ‘a bit of change’ to spare?”
At his words the old man began to shuffle, first leaning left and then leaning right, as if he’d felt the sudden need to break dance.
‘Looney-toon without a doubt…’ Or was he? Something about his shuffle, the way the shadows seemed to cling to the man’s face, never revealing, not entirely anyway. Only the tip of his nose remained. At the crook of it, near the bridge was a mark… a flash of memory… the beginning of a thought- then it was gone.
At this point the old man seemed to smile.
“You want to take a good look around Grandpa. We’re standing in the street in the middle of winter, in one of the richest most grandiose sections in the entire city. Every second there are ten thousand ‘ever do betters’ walking by and all you can manage, all you can do, is to stop and ask me ‘if I’ve got a bit of change to spare.’ Have you lost your freaking mind?”
A moment of pause, perhaps to reflect, perhaps not, then shuffle step, shuffle step, as if the very act of thinking involved more than just thinking… involved doing.
Maybe words were too much for the old geezer after all. Running with this idea the boy began to gesture about, at all the ‘mister and missus who always appear to have so much’, so much in fact that even though two complete strangers had stopped in their very midst, none of them really seemed to notice at all. As if they were being guided by some poverty sensing GPS, alerting the crowds to break to either side with never a glance spared or word spoken.
“I’m sorry, young master. It appears you are right.” Stopping in mid-shuffle the old man began to draw back, his face now turned to the ground.
“You should be ashamed,” the boy continued. He wasn’t really all that upset with the situation or the old man, it had just been an ugly year that’s all. And to top it off, there was this place he really needed to be, and he was already running late…
‘As in late, I’m late, and for a very important date…’ And the last thing he needed right now was to be distracted or delayed. In his mind the old man had already ceased to exist, as, with so many others in this city, he’d simply edited him out of existence- that’s when the unexpected occurred.
Without any sort of warning he was suddenly and brutally grabbed from behind. An elbow snaking its way around his neck and was tightening, drawing him back into the ever present darkness of the alley, an alley thick with the stench of humanity’s waste.
He immediately began to struggle, straining to scream, his fingers attempting to gain a grip on an arm that wouldn’t let go and was slowly continuing to tighten. All the while, well beyond the alley’s entrance and along the fuzzy peripherals of his darkening vision, shadows trailing shadows rushed by, seemingly oblivious to the life and death struggle taking place just beyond their sight.
Lips were pressed against his ear. A mans breath, a voice… and a single sentence uttered-
Just as sudden he was being pushed away, made to stumble out beyond the darkness of the alley and into the light, his eyes bleeding tears as he turned to face his attacker- who was already gone.
“Crazy old bastard,” Eyes wide, he scanned each and every face around him seeking the old mans, but it was too late, the old man was already gone.
‘It had to be him… who else could it have been?’ With his reeking old man breath and his coat sleeve all rough and raspy. All the while, all around him, ‘Mister and Missus ‘o so fine’ sought to clear a path, as if sensing something unusual had occurred but not really knowing what.
Trouble, like poverty and hunger had a tendency to rear its ugly head often on these mean city streets, of this he was only too aware. When it did, it was best not to be around.
‘Not fair… not fair at all.’ He wailed, shaking his fists towards the heavens. But then again he already knew that. The only real mystery that remained, besides why all this was happening to begin with, and he had a pretty good idea about that as well, was what the old man had whispered in his ear just before letting him go…
‘Remember boy, all the worlds a stage so don’t dawdle when your time comes lest you be left all alone in the dark… and know this boy, they feed in the dark, boy do they feed.’