Legends Of The Multiverse #2 - Faits Accomplis
Henry wakes with a start. A melange of cheap vodka mingles on his tongue with cigarette butts smoked to the filter. Henry is a tea totaller and has never smoked a cigarette. His forehead is covered in sweat.
A dim morning glow rises from hidden LEDs and Henry takes stock. His bedroom. His bed. His life.
"I never left."
He always needs to say it outloud to believe it.
Henry's driver pulls up to the Harris building and Henry steps out into the post-rain coolness. Today was the announcement, the most important day of his adult life.
Before heading upstairs, Henry walks to the edge of the building and peers down an alleyway. It is strewn with detritus and a bundled mass of blankets is wrapped up thick and tight against the wall.
Destitution at the foot of wealth. Henry had spent his financial career helping to create this reality. Not directly, of course, but as effectively all the same. Now Henry was determined to solve it.
He walked over and dropped a twenty into the slit of a soggy wooden box nestled in the homeless man's blankets. The bundle did not stir. Henry could not help but stare at it, momentarily transfixed by the sight of the blankets, the smell of the alley. He could not put his finger on it.
"Mr.Harris?" The nasally voice startled Henry and he spun around. A young man in a heavy winter coat, too warm for the season, stood there, hands in his pockets, eyes fixed on Henry. The short man wore thick glasses and cut a pathetic figure.
"May I help you?" Henry readied himself for action - something about the young man.
The bespectacled figure stood indecisively for a few seconds. Henry thought he saw him figdeting with something in his jacket pocket. "M...mr...Harris." The man spoke with a soft stutter. "It's just... a p...pl...pleasure to meet you s...sir. In p...puh...person." Then he held out his right hand to shake. The palm glistened with sweat.
Wary, Henry considered the hand and instead placed his own on the man's shoulder. "I appreciate that. If you'll excuse me." Without a look back Henry walked into his office. The man in the winter coat stood there and watched.
It was a cop woke him up. Alex could still feel the warmth of the heated floor, the softness of a $500 yoga mat, something about a speech. Who the fuck knows. Alex hated his dreams, even as he longed for them.
Now the ache in his brain echoed cavernously in his skull and dragged him back to consciousness. He popped his head out from the cocoon of blankets and checked the bait box, unlatching the combination lock. 3 singles, 2 quarters, a crisp twenty. Fuck yes, some wall street shitbag had a pang of conscience.
The pain in his skull rose with the sunlight. Alex emptied the last of his liter of Titos and felt a little relief. Time for an all star McDonalds brunch, courtesy of Captain Fucking America, and then back to sleep till the goddamn sun went down, cause fuck that.
The tentative voice creeped through Henry's office door, and his eyes opened silently.
"Mr. Harris, it's 4:15 sir."
Henry looked up at his office ceiling and stretched his back. A pang of anger still resonated in him at the asshole cop he'd dreamt of. Some kind of citation, a little impotent pleading and then back further down the alley. Leaning against a garbage container. Thankful for the shade.
"I'm up. Thank you Zach."
"Of course, sir. Press is starting to arrive sir." The voice whispered as though the door spoke. "Do you need anything?"
Henry blinked away the last vestage of a phantom hangover. "No Zach, thank you."
The door went silent.
Henry walked off stage to rapturous applause. It could not have gone better. There had been an audible gasp when he dropped the 10 billion dollar initial investment figure - and another, louder one when he announced the eventual total divestment of his fortune into free public housing development.
A wave of euphoria passed through him. This was the legacy his father wanted, but did not have the courage or foresight to realize. Now it was Henry's. Redemption for a life of excess - or at least as close to redemption as life would allow.
He would sleep soundly tonight.
Alex rose from the perfect oblivion of a horse hair mattress and total self-satisfaction back into the hangover addled vision of a decrepit city night. A rat scurried over the edge of his blanket and he kicked it away.
He checked the bait box. His lock lay broken on the floor, the box pried open and empty. He cursed the fuckers who thieved him, even as he silently thanked them for leaving him unharmed.
Time to stand up and get a start on the day in earnest. But first, a fortifying chug of Titos and a quiet blessing for the guardian angel of wall street who made the new handle of vodka possible.
Then he was off to the rat race.
Alex saw the knife disappear into his abdomen, but couldn't feel it. The bald dealer he'd been arguing with sneered at him and gave the blade a twist, then a pull. Alex felt the sensation of a sudden loss of altitude in a plane.
Alex swung for the bastard's pallid white face, but the punch went far wide and was easily dodged. Alex could feel the muscles in his abdomen release unnaturally. Then the crackhead pretending to be a dealer looked down, and even the angry red welts all over his face, scratched bloody, visibly whitened. Without a word the knife was thrown and the stabber off at a sprint.
Alex looked down at his ruined insides and let out a slow, terrible wail of realization.
He stumbled into the heart of the night, headed wherever instinct took him.
Henry woke with a scream and clutched his stomach, prepared to feel the warmth of his guts exposed there. It took a long moment of panic before his mind understood he was not hurt and the phantom pain began to subside.
He lay in the dark for a long time then and cried, though he knew it was a only a terrible dream.
Henry's car pulled up to the Harris building, as it had every day for the last thirty years. Henry wished his driver well and stepped out. Yesterday's intense high was dulled now by the awful dream, but Henry was determined to overcome it.
He walked briskly in the newly risen sunlight toward the building entrance. But again he stopped to look down the nearby alley. No bundle. But something else caught his eye, a pool of dark red. Then another. And another. A trail which led behind a dumpster.
An inexplicable doom filled Henry then. He wanted to walk away, but knew he could not. Slowly, he followed the trail, each step reverberating dread. Now he was at the dumpster, and now behind it. There the bundle of blankets sat, partially soaked through with arterial crimson.
Panic threatened to overwhelm him. He touched a corner of the blanket and found it was still wet with blood, but cold to the touch. He steadied himself, took a breath, and pulled.
Eyes Henry had never seen stared grimly up at him from beyond life, above a frozen grimace contorted by muddled pain. Henry recoiled and stared. The eyes seemed know him, and he them. Time dilated and Henry became lost in the eyes.
From behind him a figure approached, small and unassuming, in a jacket too hot for the season, thick glasses weighing heavy. "Mr. Harris?"
Henry could hardly place himself in time and space. Without turning he said "yes."
The knife entered his back, exited and entered again before he thought to even turn around.
"Fuck you you fucking wall street p...pi...pig!" The words were an insane, nasally snarl in his ear and then the sad young man was running, the knife left in Henry's side.
Henry's hand felt his back and came back coated in red. He tried to take a step, but his strength gave way and he collapsed on to the bundle of filthy rags.
Laying there beside the dead stranger, Henry felt strangely at ease. The melange of alcohol, well used cigarette butts and filth seemed so familiar. He decided to take a nap in the rags. It felt so natural, so easy, as though he'd been there already, many times before.