Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Part 4

The year was 2014. Five years earlier, Gabriel Bell was just another citizen. His name meant nothing to anyone. In fact, you might say that he was anonymous by design. Five years earlier, he had been complicit in a system that preferred to keep the majority of citizens anonymous, enthralled by a handful of inconsequential but very famous names, but anonymous.

Of course, five years earlier, Gabriel Bell was also still alive.

He came upon the movement as a skeptic, as someone who didn't believe it would last, that it meant nothing but the absurd delusions of those who had screwed up their own lives, who were causing a disturbance that would be forgotten quickly, who had devoted themselves to a cause without reason, without resolution, without an ending. It had come several years into a recession, several years after corporate corruption had been exposed, not just corruption in the form of monopolies or crooked bosses, but a systematic corruption that had robbed entire companies of their profits, of their futures, of their intrinsic values, both to themselves and for those they had been intended to service. The exposure of this corruption led to the recession, which led to bailouts, which led to the movement. Those who stood the most the gain gained the most, and those who stood the most to lose kept on losing.

There had been many arguments on these last points. It was argued that more people in this country lived in greater prosperity than ever before, that the standard of living had so drastically risen in recent years, there could be no proper understanding of need. Gabriel had been among those who believed this was true. He had led a mostly comfortable existence. He had never gone hungry. He had always had a roof above his head. The arguments concerning this basic prosperity suggested that physical need was the only thing a person needed to survive. Gabriel had also attended schooling until graduation from college. Daily he was exposed to the highest ideals of humanity. Daily he was exposed to the American Dream, the belief that anyone could become anything. All that was needed was determination.

The movement sparked something within him. Gabriel realized that somewhere along the way, the American Dream had been regulated. It had been systematically isolated to the reach of a select few. Where it had not been deliberately calculated to benefit the already-fortunate, it had then been relegated to those who possessed innate but perfunctory skills; somewhere along the way, the Dream excluded the imagination, choked it out, said that the only thing worth rewarding was the obvious, that no one ever need think again. Somehow, even the midst of a great recession, this belief was tantamount to the vision of the future.

Gabriel considered the movement to be a rejection of this belief. At first, he had no interest in participating. He saw those who represented it, saw how easily they could be interpreted by observers to be easily ignored, just as they were before the movement began, just as so many others who weren't there, but who did represent it, embodied its spirit. He learned of a writer named Jake, who was denied his own dream because it was considered inconvenient, impractical. He learned of a woman named Zinn, rescued by a man named Swift, and neither of them knew what was truly happening to them.

Gabriel began to speak, to become the voice of this movement. This was how he kept tabs on Zinn, on Swift, on Jake. The person in the front doing the talking is not blind. They observe. They know the character of a situation better than anyone. They of all people ought to have perspective. Gabriel fought to keep his.

He saw what Zinn was immediately, someone who had lost their identity, their purpose, who could have been claimed by the first person to come along to try and rescue them. He saw how Swift had approached her from one direction, but had been overcome by Zinn's hidden power, her inner resolve, her sense of purpose even in the grip of helplessness. He read the words Jake wrote, feverishly, when he believed no one else was paying attention.

Gabriel also knew it couldn't last. He'd made himself a target, and the purpose of all targets is to be struck with a weapon. He was assassinated on a clear morning.

He knew what would happen, even without him, especially without him. That was why he had singled out the three of them, without their ever realizing it. Jake wrote about his life, about his message, his hopes, his dream. Zinn found to courage to find herself again, and because of that, Swift realized what he'd been doing with his life, how he'd been fooling himself about his selfish success. The three of them spread Gabriel's message. They didn't let him be forgotten.

In 2014, a movement that wasn't supposed to produce any tangible results changed a country, and then the world. It only cost one man his life, Gabriel Bell, the prophet, the man in the wilderness. His words continued to echo long after his death. To free his people, all people, he had occupied a little space, only to give it up, so that everyone could claim it, claim the world as its birthright.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Part 3

Swift liked to consider himself a people person.

The fact was, as soon as he'd become successful, he'd preferred to distance himself from actual people as much as possible. It just seemed easier that way. It wasn't just physical contact, but emotional contact. He did what he needed to so he would maintain a healthy lifestyle, but other than that, the only person he answered to was himself.

Still, he liked to consider himself a people person, even if he was a little out of practice. He would never have even noticed her if he hadn't taken a slight detour from his daily walk. He normally kept to a strict routine, to minimize digressions from the routine that had proven so beneficial to him, but on that particular day, and he couldn't even have explained it if pressed to explain, he ended up off his particular beaten path, and stumbled into Zinn.

He assumed immediately that she was homeless, but that wasn't the first thing he noticed. Simply put, she was breathtaking. The fact that she was unconscious or otherwise passed out in an alley was a detail he took in stride. She roused almost as soon as he saw her, and he saw that as a sign that he was meant to intervene.

"You look like you could use some help," he said, in his most charming tones.

She accepted gracefully, and he interpreted it as an apology for her situation, and found it endearing. She quickly corrected his assumptions, insisting that she wasn't homeless, but that she otherwise could not explain her situation, a disorienting event having otherwise obscured her memories. He took her word for it.

He only wanted to help her, felt compelled to help her, because of her beauty, which was so utterly foreign to the circumstances he'd found her in. He said he could help her, and he in fact did everything he could, but she made it difficult by insisting that she felt some kinship with the struggle in the street. Her insistence on this point almost made him sympathetic. He couldn't explain why, but he continued to help her, and that's how he came to know of Gabriel Bell.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Part 2

He knew that he was going to be a writer from a very early age. When he was a child, he entertained other ideas, sure, like being an astronaut, but the older he got, the more sure he was that he would write for a living. In school, he met others who had the same idea. Some experienced writers might have agreed and identified with the belief he saw in others that writing early and writing often and working on apparent masterpieces was the way to go. Jake was never convinced. He never believed that a story could be forced out of a writer. He was sure that he'd struck on his masterpiece when he was eighteen. But he didn't start writing it then, and ten years later, still hadn't.

The more schooling he experienced, the more students, and teachers, he met who believed the same things, who believed any writing was important writing, that writing prompts meant something other than exercises (and even then, he wasn't sure exercises meant all that much to anyone but the writer, because he'd been doing that all his life, creating stories, creating worlds to amuse himself) the more he wondered just what writing meant to them. To him, it was a way of life. To them...he could only assume that they believed writing was a way to distinguish themselves. It could very well be that for some, that was true and it led to real success. But to him, writing was something more, and he saw that idea reflected in all the books he loved, the books he was asked to read in school, and the many he read for himself.

The problem was, very few people actively agreed with him. Very few people felt it was worth championing that belief. There was very little money and too many writers submitting material for someone like Jake to stand out, especially with ideas that would not stand out as bestseller material. The more he tried to make a living as a writer, the more he realized that for most people, writing really wasn't about ideas at all, it was about being a success in just another career, looking out for oneself, taking the easiest way out possible.

He had no idea how to survive on skills he wasn't sure he had. He had always been sure of writing, of ideas, of the stories he told himself, and eventually found a way to tell others. He wrote stories, all the time, writing the ideas that came to him, that helped him make sense of the world, and he believed might help others do the same. In the meantime, before he was allowed to make a living with these ideas, these stories, Jake became lost.

That was how he ended up there, how he observed as a man named Gabriel Bell slowly sacrificed everything he had for an intangible ideal, something greater than a status quo, even one that might in some sense be interpreted as comfortable even for those who struggled like him. He found a cause to believe in. He decided to write about it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Part 1

The year was...well, she didn't really remember. She remembered her name, Zinn, but that was pretty much it. She found herself under some cardboard in an alley one evening. She was sure she wasn't homeless, or at least that she hadn't been.

The commotion was what stirred her. She had no idea what was going on, only that, when she investigated, there was a considerable crowd gathered not far away. She didn't know exactly where that was, either, where she was, what city. She was at least reasonably sure of the country.

Someone, who did not appear to be homeless, and in fact was reasonably well-dressed, grabbed her arm, but not in a threatening way, simply to include her. It felt strange, but she was willing to play along. There was a lot of shouting, which was momentarily disconcerting, but again, she found that when she concentrated, it felt more welcoming than anything, inclusive.

Many of them were holding signs. Her vision was too clouded for her to read them, and she was unsteady on her feet, and if anyone had actually asked her to read the signs and she'd had to make the confession, she might have forgiven them for thinking she was drunk. Again, she wasn't sure about a lot of things, but she was sure she wasn't drunk. Reasonably sure.

The man who had offered her help was still nearby, and he kept looking at her, as if to check that she was okay, or reasonably okay. She trusted his sincerity. She wasn't sure she trusted herself. The evening was still young, and the crowd didn't seem like it was going anywhere soon. In time she'd figure it out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Department of Homeland Recruitment

Boothroyd was homeless when he was recruited. He was homeless because that had become the easiest option for him, after a lifetime of hard choices pushed him away from the rest of the world.

The moment he was recruited, he sense a difference, a new and unfamiliar sense of purpose, belonging. All they asked was that he help them recruit others.

At first, he didn't understand their mission. You might even say he misunderstood it, suspected even in his belief that they were anything but what they represented, agents of change.

He was asked to recruit another. "Recruit for what?" he asked. "For yourself," was the answer. He had no idea what that meant.

He found someone, much like himself, and when they asked him the same question, he replied, "For the greater good."

This went on for months, Boothroyd recruiting for the office, without knowing why. Finally, those who had recruited him asked him a question: "What have you found about the people you recruited?"

He didn't know how to reply. "About them personally," it was clarified. He knew the people he'd recruited, many of them personally, if peripherally. Eventually he understood what they meant, what his relationship with those he'd recruited was. He knew them. The office asked him what he might think they could do. It had been a long time since anyone had been interested in his opinion. It caught him by surprise. He gave it some thought. He was able to expound on each of them, he reflected with amusement.

"What does the Department of Homeland Recruitment do?" he asked. "Who do you work for? The government?"

"We were a committee, originally," came the reply. "We discovered we could help people by recruiting them. By giving them purpose. And we have you, Boothroyd."

He thought about what that meant. "You want to help," he said.

Time passed. He continued to recruit, looking for people, looking for their purpose. He set up offices, as those he recruited in turn recruited others. They were all in the air, spinning like windmills, and they were all going in specific directions.

In the future, in the times that came, Boothroyd noticed that people were doing what they were meant to do, and everything worked better than he had ever known it to.

He had been recruited into a cult, but it was the cult of humanity.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Agents and Angels

When he became an agent for Homeland Security, Jason Donovan no doubt had every reason to believe that he'd be assigned to perfectly human casework. Five years in, he learned that he had been wrong.

The woman he knew as Tara, whom the whole of DHS had been working on for as long as he'd been with it, whom he personally had been safeguarding for unknown reasons for most of that time, turned out to be an angel.

No, literally, an angel. He'd been told there was a threat to her personal safety, and that in turn her safety was the country's safety, and never for a moment questioned how or why. That wasn't his job. He spent years believing that he could have explained it to anyone, easily, if he'd needed to, if he'd been allowed.

He developed an interesting relationship with Tara. He knew romance was off-limits, but he could never shake for a minute, from the very first moment that he'd been introduced, that they somehow had an intense connection that went beyond any conventional understanding he'd ever had. He wrote it off for most of that time as a duty of his professionalism to overlook.

For months, though, before he found out who and what Tara actually was, Jason had been increasingly unable to succeed in that regard. He never crossed the line, was never inappropriate, but he began taking his duties to a whole new level. He was rarely anywhere but directly at her side, and he had no complaints at all about that. She didn't seem to mind, either, but then she seemed to be at peace with the world, at all times, no matter what happened.

When he finally learned the truth, Tara immediately changed tacks with him. She expressed to him in intimate terms how much his devotion had meant to her, how she could never say anything about her own feelings to him, and how much it'd hurt. She'd chosen him personally.

He was told that he would need to escort Tara out of the country, that she had become a target of terrorists who resented that the angel had come to America. She only trusted him, and now the people entrusted with her protection planned to put them in the most remote region on earth. Jason decided that it was an easy call to continue his service.

He found himself in a secret base, and an even more secret space shuttle, the last operational one under American control, and told that he'd be going with Tara into space, where they would all be safe, where Tara could continue her duties, and so could he. She kept the world safe, and he kept it safe for her, only now that would be on the moon.

It was many years before they finally acknowledged their love for each other. Jason Donovan discovered that he no longer aged. As long as he could remain at Tara's side, he was fine with that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just Imagine Tony Creating...The Amazing Spider-Man

Sergei Kravinoff was the best hunter the world had ever known. He traveled the world, and proved it everywhere he went, against all conceivable game, both on land and in the sea. Many claimed to be his rival, but he bested them in every ill-conceived challenge. He was a man who kept to himself, otherwise, since in truth he understood animals better than people. If he had family, he himself hardly seemed to realize it, or would have cared if he did.

His morals were all the more curious. He viewed murder with disdain, since he didn't see a challenge in it, and had no use for the rewards, accolades, and wealth that seemed to motivate other men. He would have gladly carried on like this until his death, surely many years in the future, if by chance he hadn't made the trip to New York, and heard of Spider-Man...

Peter Parker has finally figured everything out. He has eluded his enemies, settled into a happy relationship with Mary Jane Watson, and has even won over J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle, though he has developed a website that better exploits the legacy of his alter ego. Peter believes his days as Spider-Man are behind him, until he receives a message on the site from Kraven the Hunter, who challenges him to a contest, and the victor walks away alive!

Kraven has reluctantly made this challenge, since it is not his custom to initiate such things. This behavior would have been beneath him, if Spider-Man had proven easier to find. The challenge was a last resort. Spider-Man finally accepts after much public prodding, even from Jameson in the most surprising editorial he's ever written.

At first meeting, Kraven proposes a chase through the city, which he considers as an advantage to Spider-Man, being a native, and Kraven a foreigner, even the most experienced one anyone has ever known. It is a matter of honor to Kraven that he succeed. Spider-Man, Peter Parker, can hardly understand, but is willing to play along. He, too, has only success on his mind.

The chase is a long and harrowing one, and to Peter's horror he learns that Kraven, in his increasing unease at possible failure, has chosen to use Mary Jane as bait, thus revealing that he has discovered Spider-Man's secret identity. Failure is no longer an option, and this is no longer fun.

Still, Spidey frees MJ and bests Kraven in the final confrontation, but not before Kraven poisons himself, shamed at this first defeat. Peter races for a cure, but it's too late.

Jameson once again praises Spider-Man in the papers, but Peter can't appreciate his victory. He decides to give up being Spider-Man, until Mary Jane convinces him that he's just proven to everyone but himself that he's exactly the hero that he always hoped he'd be. So she proposes to him, and he gladly accepts.