2011-02-23: Nightlives



Guest Starring:


Date: February 23rd, 2011


It's just an ordinary day in the life lives of Clara.


Manhattan, NYC

The cold, acrid air cuts like a knife. Clara takes a deep breath and chokes on it.

Outside the only pool of light in the dark, she sits against the rough wall of a building. The red neon of the empty convenience store sign — OPEN 24 HRS — around the corner seems to warm her pale face and fabric of her coat, playing over her shape like lurid firelight.

Warmth doesn't exist here.

She curls up into herself, only a hand escaping her coil. It presses under her nose, her cold knuckles digging into her face as, ever so faintly, she cants herself forward and back. Forward and back. Forward and back. Worn shoes rock ahead against the ground, flat heels push her against the wall.

Shadows dance in front of her, bringing impassioned murmurs with them. One shadow leans into the shorter and they merge. There's a grunt. A shout. The shorter shoves the other off. A tangle of angry limbs criss-cross the alley with their shadows.

Clara draws her eyes up, gleaming; the eyes of an animal looking out of the dark Her evaluation of the figures is distant, although they can't be seven feet away from her, framing the mouth of the alley leading to the sidewalk as two hostile silhouettes. The petite figure is her acquaintance on the streets: Jenna, the girl with the dark hair and darker make-up. She's in an argument: her voice rises to a higher pitch now, and she boldly shoves at the ragged young man with her. The silhouettes meet as though in perfect choreography: she shoves, he catches her arm.

It's a familiar dance to a familiar song. It doesn't matter what the steps are, or what the lyrics say; Clara has it all memorized. Money, drugs, payment, who owes who what. She slowly cups her hands over her ears.

The muffled sound of a fist hitting flesh and bone reaches her nevertheless, striking the drumbeat.

Familiar and yet — there's no reaction on Clara's face. Though lines of trouble are etched deeply, she stares upon what rapidly becomes the tumbling form of Jenna onto the ground with blankness. Cold hands press more firmly over her ears, shutting out the man's shouting. Her eyes drift unsympathetic, distant, as though anesthetized. Away from the others, down the alley, up past the buildings to the dark unreachable sky above.

Yet despite blank eyes, a cringe flickers at her lips as another blow of violence reaches her covered ears.

Cringe turns to smile as she closes her eyes, lets her head loll against the cold wall and drifts away from a vicious life.

"It'll be over soon." It's Clara's own voice in memory. "Faster than you think if you go somewhere else while your eyes are closed."

Flash— her vision is flooded with light. The streets travel by at impossible speeds, transforming the lurid neon of the city into a beautiful blur of a thousand colours and a million places. It all comes to a stop when Clara is overtaken by brilliant blue; pure and clean, it washes away every trace of where she was moments ago. The silence that seems to surrounds her is at first jarring, but settles into what it is: peace.

An electric fireplace glows just over her shoulder, situated in a lovely home — warm and safe. Clara sits curled cozily in the corner of an overstuffed couch, holding a newspaper atop the soft yellow blanket draped over her lap. A blouse of lace and ruffles is buttoned primly up to her neck. There's a pencil behind her ear. She's smiling. "It's about time," she jests; her voice is soft, muffled as though from inside a well. The accent has changed to American. "I'm stuck on two across," she says, lightly crinkling the New Haven Register crossword puzzle in her hands.

A deeper and even more muffled voice replies fondly, heard in bits and pieces. "… sorry to … my dear…" The round-faced elderly man settles next to her on the couch, looking into the face of the woman sitting there with the yellow blanket. His white-haired wife: wrinkled by seventy years of life, but still warm, especially for him. The hands holding the newspaper are aged and arthritic.

One such hand reaches out and holds his, and they puzzle out the crossword together.


"What's…" she mumbles softly, falling limply to the side against the wall as she's shaken in the alley only inhabited now by two. "…a five letter word for 'connections'… starts with— with S."

"Clara, come on."

"Mmnh— " Harsh reality pounds away at her consciousness until it finally breaks through. Darkness is more accosting than any bright light as her eyes fly open to re-meet the alley, blinded by light only she can see. Jenna soon becomes a blur of eyeliner and bruises, strobing as Clara's eyelids tremble arduously to stay open. The grating sounds of Manhattan assault her ears— along with the young vagrant's.

"It's time to go, come on."

Clara is pulled to her feet and stumbles. She immediately tears away, bringing a hand up and blinking in the cold, sharp air with an expression of sour moodiness. "No," she refutes childishly, "I don't want to, I want to go back."

"We are going back, Clara, to the new place. It's not safe hangin' out here. Come on, hurry up and come with me. God."

That's not what she means— " No!" Clara's features twist into a violently sulky disposition, tears in her eyes, and she crosses her eyes. Simply rolling hers, Jenna reaches out— but the moment her hand is on Clara's, the well-meaning, necessary guardian gets an unexpected shove.

Bewildered by the result of her own spell of aggression, Clara looks down at Jen, lying there on the ground, battered as it is, moving just slightly in an attempt to rise. Her eyes soften at the wonder, and sharpen in turn with fright. Jenna's soft groan is as overwhelming as a tidal wave.

She runs, straight out of the alley, to fade away.

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