Sunday, September 30, 2012

City of Tomorrow, Part 12 (Conclusion)

A long time ago, in a more remote part of the country, a boy named Mannix Roberts woke up one day to discover his parents packing everything they owned into the family vehicle, which backfired almost as often as it drove smoothly.

He asked, bleary-eyed, what was going on, and his mother cooed to him, “We’re moving, baby.”

Years later, Mannix learned the truth, that his father had just committed armed robbery, during which he murdered the shopkeep of a convenience store.  Somehow in the grand scheme of things, the motivation for creating the City of Tomorrow was lost.

The Roberts clan arrived on the outskirts of what was to become Metropolis in 1927.  They discovered a rural population centered around an academy Mannix quickly found himself attending.  After he entered the academy grounds, Mannix never saw his parents again.

This school in the middle of nowhere was the remnant of an earlier time, when the area had been rich and prosperous.  The locals would later claim that they were the first victims of the Great Depression.  For Mannix, however, history was just beginning.  He met a circle of friends with whom a vision of the future was mapped out, plans to resurrect the dead world around them, all inspired by the ridiculous books they tried to hide from the teachers.

Upon graduation, Mannix was overcome with an urge to make that vision a reality.  His friends were more reluctant, but they played along.  Before any of them knew it, the year was 1938 and Metropolis was presented to the rest of the country with a grand opening fair, in which the first fruits of its dream of innovation were revealed, along with a prototype rocket that actually shot clear into the sky but never landed.  Some claim it reappeared in Kansas, others Cleveland.

One by one, the friends split up, moving on to other cities, until Mannix was the only one left.  The truth was, he was never very good on his own.  Sure, he had a wife and kids, but they only ended up reminding him of something he’d struggled to deny.  He grew older, more secluded.  His name was lost to the very thing he’d struggled to create, and finally he understood what history was all about.

His wife left him, took the kids.  He was standing outside the hospital when the first grandchild was delivered.  A man named Jasper Finds had replaced him.  Probably never even knew what he had.

Mannix settled down into the very kind of neighborhood he had tried to eradicate from his memory.  He became a bum.  He drank all day long.  No one around him had a clue who he was, and perhaps if they did, they were only spit on him, and he would deserve it.  The vision had passed into other hands, and he wasn’t sure they knew what to do with it.

One day he learned that a plane crash had taken the lives of his family.  The sole-surviving member was a granddaughter, nine months pregnant, barely holding on.  He stood outside another hospital, waiting to learn the fate of his legacy, the only living soul who would remember his name.

The granddaughter died in delivery.  His great-grandchild, Chelton Roberts, was placed in the arms of strangers.  Like an afterthought, Mannix learned that for some reason, Jasper Finds had not been a passenger.

Then one day I stumbled across Mannix, and then Celeste Montano, and some time later put all the pieces together.  The Boy Who Fell to Earth, I suddenly realized.

I’ve been struggling with what to do with all of this.  What do mere humans mean to the City of Tomorrow when there are superhuman aliens flying around in the sky?  I suppose it’s the basic struggle, the fight for the future despite impossible obstacles.  Something like that.

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