Friday, September 21, 2012

City of Tomorrow, Part 3

The legend of Charlie Varrick fascinated denizens of Metropolis for decades.  It’s said that he was one of the primary reasons the Apex Club stuck around for as long as it did.

You see, he was known as the Man Who Fell to Earth.

Now, before you get carried away, the appellation was always assumed to be allegorical.  The tricky part is, the legend grew because no one really knew what it meant.

The obvious interpretation is that Charlie literally fell to earth, and the implication is that he survived.  Since he exists in legend more than documented reality, it’s assumed that he lived in the earliest days of the city’s foundation.  Yet all attempts to verify his existence have been rebuffed throughout the years.  Most assume that he lived under a series of aliases, and that “Charlie Varrick” itself is merely the most famous ones.  If you poke around the basements of my best friends, you’ll discover scrapbooks full of purported identifications in newspaper clippings and circus flyers, even the commemorative brochure from the opening of Metropolis.

Did he survive a fall?  Such a sensational story would likely leave an impact, but also theoretically a trail in trade journals and perhaps permanent enshrinement in the medical field.  As he’s already a cult figure, it might be argued that religion already found Charlie.

Chances are, however, that the fall is metaphorical.

Perhaps he was one of the founders, and he suffered a fall from grace, and that’s why no one talks about any of them anymore.  That would certainly solve a couple of mysteries, wouldn’t it?

But he seems more common than that, even if he lived an uncommon life.  If you visit a playground, you’ll still hear children sing rhymes about him:

Charlie Varrick fell to earth
He’s been falling since his birth

Those are the only ones I know, I’m afraid.  The strange part is, I think I chanted them myself when I was that age, which would make it a long time ago.  I suppose the fact that even I don’t know may say something about Charlie.  Maybe he was the pied piper of the founders, leading them to this ground, marking a spot as it were, a truly symbolic fall.

Yet the memory is a funny thing, as I’ve suggested.  Charlie is such a part of the background chatter that it’s difficult to separate the man from the legend, especially when there’s more legend than man to him.

Do I have my own theories?  Sure I do.  I could name a dozen men, and a few women, who could’ve been Charlie.  Can I come up with a single individual actually named “Charlie Varrick”?  Searching through the public record will quickly solve that particular mystery.  Do an Internet search.  You will probably come up with a ghost or two.  Maybe there’s a connection.  I wouldn’t put much stock in that.

No, Charlie is the guardian angel of Metropolis, a man who never existed in the past and so is as much a man of the future as anyone, on whom you can project anything you want, insubstantial, ephemeral, a part of someone’s dream.

Still, that doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried to find him.  As I said, the Apex Club did, for a very long time.  Their efforts were seen as dubious by some, a discredit to everything else they hoped to achieve, chasing after a legend when they were supposed to be inventing fact.  Well, discovering the unknown was always their game.  What else did their critics expect?  I will say that I gave them a little help, in a roundabout way.  But more on that in a moment.

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