I wrote this in an hour tonight, 9/20. I put it out there as a challenge on a writer’s community I belong to called bookcountry to free write for one hour and post the results. Only two other writers participated, but the excitement of the doing made it all worthwhile even if I was alone.
When I write I feel extraordinary and I don’t quite understand why I keep myself separated from this feeling of accomplishment so often. Even before this hour began I was regretting posting the challenge. But, forcing myself into situations I’m sure to enjoy is often my MO.
Here is the story. For lack of a better title I’ll call it…
Solace watched the blaze from the rooftop blocks away. The building below his feet was only four stories high, short for Manhattan, and nondescript except that he remembered it once housed a Tower Records. Simpler times. Less immediate gratifications. These streets once provided safe harbor for the alternate and generally perverse. But it hadn’t been that city for a long time. Now it burned away it dirty remnants like malignancy.
Children. Teenagers. They arrived at the labs in NYU with their flames and zealotry, all young scholars from different schools mobilized by superstition. Solace saw the little band of rioters heading down Broadway, torches held high, their chants echoing off facades like a 21st century remake of a witch hunting mob. They interrupted his dinner. More accurately the message that appeared in the timeline scrolling on his smart lens (available exclusively at LensCrafters and a strain to the salary of an underfunded scientist) drove him away from his curry and into the street.
Cowardice drove him to the rooftop. He saw no honor in dying at their hands when all the breakthroughs and research was backupped and dispensed both virtually and physically. And make no mistake, they were on a killing mission. The attention brought on by the leak was completely unwanted. First, the corporations began sniffing, sensing a game changer. Then, the nuts on the right starting stoking fear, calling his work “stem cells on steroids” or some other inanity. They started calling for his head at every megachurch pulpit, the punditsphere, and on the floor of Congress.
People were always performing crimes against nature in this part of town. One way or another.
They stood and watched his lab burn. No fear of repercussion or punishment drove them from the street. Then, Solace watched the great glowing mass of them move toward his perch. His position had been compromised, undoubtedly by some privacy setting he did not know to utilize in one of thousand online services required to exist these days. He grumbled, furious if he was to die because of Facebook.
The horde massed on the street below, Greenwich Villagers, all torches and Prada. He leaned over the edge for a moment, curious to catalogue their superstition. Such a silly impulsive genius, he regretted his training when a bullet seared his ear and tore through his new skin and bone. He crumpled. The nerve endings were only days old, the appendages still fragile, that had to account for the severity of the pain. He tried to move, but shock made jelly of his limbs. Sweat glistened on his bare torso. Blood puddled around him.
Sirens screamed far away.
He didn’t hear the squeak of a hinge or the violent shatter of a door. He had no idea how long he lay there trembling, but they were around him now. They looked down on him, the unlined faces of the young, trying to mask their fear with arrogance. Their disgust was evident. As many as could crowded around to see him, Solace the Abomination, and justify their violence. Indeed he must have made quite a sight lying their, shirtless, his leathery wings, only days old, motioning involuntarily.
He had chosen wings as their first hack because who wouldn’t want to fly, and modeling on bats seemed so much easier than calculating plumage.
But the leak of the others, the videos of the process, the grafting, and the failures, brought this upon him. It seemed so ridiculous to die by the fires of the ignorant and superstitious like so many of his forebears. It was the 21st century. If he could speak he would ask them Don’t you understand? Don’t you want this?
The cameras on their phones stopped flashing. They stopped posing in front of him as if he were an attraction at a freak show. It was about to end.
Then came the sound of beating wings.
His colleagues had arrived.