Tuesday, September 25, 2012

City of Tomorrow, Part 7

The truth of Charlie Varrick’s defining action is less miraculous than the legends, but then again, perhaps it’s moreso.  Such is the problem with reality.

I only recently learned it myself, and that’s the reason I’ll telling you any of this, because it begins to tie the whole thing together, but you’ll see how for yourself.  Well, hopefully.

Charlie Varrick wasn’t so extraordinary, and neither was the act that defined his life.  In many ways, it’s what we expect any decent individual to do, even though many people wouldn’t have done it, and nowadays it seems downright superheroic.

One night as he was walking home from another lousy day at work Charlie heard someone calling for help.  It was a residential neighborhood, exactly the opposite of what you’d expect from such a scenario.  The other unusual element was that the man calling for help didn’t need it himself.  He was asking on behalf of another man, who was presently crouched down and holding his head, which if Charlie had been able to see clearly enough given the poor lighting, would have noticed a fair amount of blood on it.

The man asking for help on this poor individual’s behalf only wanted Charlie to make a phone call.  The man seemed to be impatient, but Charlie was never one to judge.  As soon as he related the basics of the situation, he got in his truck and drove away.

As Charlie understood it, the man had come across the victim of an assault, and given him a ride home.

The victim was an old man, though he looked like he could have been twenty years younger than he was.  Charlie knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked to make the necessary call.  It didn’t occur to him that the man who had just driven off could have easily doe that.

The call was quickly made, with the neighbor being a relay of information, including the particular spelling of the victim’s name, Mannix Roberts.  The first name was certainly unusual, but Charlie didn’t give it a second thought.  If you’re catching on to a pattern, you’re not the first one.

Charlie hadn’t intended to stay, but the more questions the dispatcher asked, the more he realized that he should.  He reassured Mannix Roberts as best he could, but neither was feeling very chatty that moment.  An ambulance arrived and a phalanx of medics emerged, started asking questions, and as soon as Mannix was identified as the victim, Charlie started feeling superfluous.

He walked on.

Within weeks he started noticing people treat him differently.  Charlie had always been a private sort of individual, maybe even mysterious, but he had never experienced a reception like this.  He didn’t think for a moment that it had anything to do with the incident that night, but of course it did.

Even I didn’t know who Mannix Roberts was the first time I heard the story.  I asked and was surprised to learn that he was the founder of Metropolis.  The founder of the City of Tomorrow the victim of a common mugging?  How had he even gotten himself into such a situation?  That much isn’t important to the story, but the fact that he had become an anonymous old man is, and the fact that someone stopped to help him in his hour of need was something he never forgot.

Somehow that steamrolled into the legend of Charlie Varrick.  The more he tried to distance himself from that legend, the more people started to wonder if they had the right man.  The source of the legend died years before anyone could try and confirm it, making it that much harder to verify, and therefore that much more of a legend, that much more distorted, a part of the fabric of the future, when the impossible in fact became reality.  But that’s the kind of thing that happens here, what we all believe in, even if that belief turns out to belong more to fiction than anything else.

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