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Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Boy From Upstate

When it comes to stories that belong to the superhero genre or surround characters that can be described as superpowered in one form or another, they tend to follow those with the more entertaining or eye catching powers or abilities.  They also tend to follow individuals who have more of a charismatic or otherwise appealing personality.  You hardly, if ever, come across those who are nobodies with powers, traits, or characteristics that aren’t that spectacular, interesting, or eye catching, despite the fact that such individuals have to exist somewhere in that universe.  What follows is one such story, where the extraordinary traits that the person possesses aren’t that flashy, useful, or interesting.  Their mutation just makes them different.

Her name is Sadie, and according to society, she is a mutant.  However, due to the nature of her mutation, she isn’t able to be singled out from the crowd and identified as a mutant.  The extraordinary traits that she possesses, if they could be called that, consist of bright, fiery red hair, very pale skin, and unnaturally green eyes.  During earlier centuries, such traits would be a clear indication that she doesn’t fit in with the larger society when it comes to appearance.  With the modern concept surrounding the situation, she would be immediately identified as a mutant.  It’s not so much her pale skin but the color of her hair and eyes that would alert others to her condition and separate her from the rest of the community.  This has to do with her hair being truly red, not the orange that society identifies as red.  This is accompanied by the fact that her eyes are a bright green that people don’t consider to naturally occur in human irises.

However, as society changed over time, progressing and advancing as it tends to do, such differences aren’t considered that unusual.  True, members of mainstream society would look and take notice, but they wouldn’t give it that much thought.  This is due to the fact that color contacts and hair dye products have been invented and are readily available on the market for people to purchase and use.  With modern society, people with odd hair and eyes aren’t that unusual, especially in larger cities, though they might be considered a little strange.  Society just sees these individuals as people who are just trying to stand out from the rest of the group or are just expressing themselves in a nonconventional way.  Hell, there are people out there who thrive on such things and are the types who have their faces tattooed, have five hundred ear piercings in a single ear, and will have a few large safety pins pierced through both lips.  And in regards to Sadie’s pale skin, people would just think that she’s an albino or doesn’t go out into the sun all that often.  With all three traits, she might get a passing glance by others, but nothing more than that.  It is because of this that allows her to hide in plain sight.

But not everyone is that lucky.  One such individual is Conner.  Much like Sadie, Conner is a mutant with the same type of unusual characteristics.  However, with the unusual characteristics that he possesses, Conner always manages to draw the wrong kind of attention.  His unusual characteristics consist of green hair, blue skin, and odd colored eyes that consist of dark gray scleras and dark red irises.  It’s not so much the hair and the irises that draw the unwanted attention, for they can be easily explained away.  It has to do with the odd color of the skin and scleras.  As a result, he receives a lot of abuse from other people, and this abuse came from more than just kids his own age.  Compounding the problem is the fact that Conner attends the public school system.  Luckily, he has some understanding parents that he can turn to for support, which help him to deal with the situation.  Aiding in this is the fact that he has a good relationship with them.  But they can’t protect him from everything, and the abuse reaches the point where a line will be crossed that cannot be re-crossed in the opposite direction.

When this incident occurs, Sadie is working part-time at a smalltime café in New York City.  The café is accepting of Sadie’s “Gothic” lifestyle, but the management nonetheless frowns upon it.  And this is ok with her because it’s better to be thought of as a Goth then to be known as a mutant.  And adding to this Gothic look is the fact that Sadie has dyed parts of her hair black, creating a series of streaks.  But she needs to dye her roots again, and relatively soon, for her natural hair color is beginning to show though there are those who would consider it to be unnatural, and this is toward the modest end of this type of thinking.  And though she is considered a Goth, she doesn’t really dress the part.  Her attire isn’t that much different than that of the average person.  Knowing that her appearance can be off-putting to some, Sadie does what she can to provide a friendly and welcoming attitude to her customers when the situation allows for it.

During one of her shifts at the café, she just so happens to overhear a conversation between two of the customers in regards to Conner.  The conversation consists of Conner’s body being found in a farmer’s field in an Upstate community.  His body also shows signs that he was badly beaten before being left in the field.  Sadie won’t learn until later that the field which his body was found in was located not that far from his hometown.  And when she begins to look into the situation, she won’t know if his body was just dumped there in the field or if he was left for dead and died in the intervening time due to exposure.  This question won’t be answered until a later point in time.

Interested to learn more about the situation, Sadie makes her way over to the customers and says, “Hi.  I don’t mean to pry, but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.  If you don’t mind, could you satisfy a curious mind?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” one of them says.  “Just some kid from Upstate got himself into a bit of trouble.”

“He had it coming if you ask me,” the other one says.

“How so?” Sadie asks.

“He’s a mutant.  What else do you need to know?”

This strikes a chord with Sadie, as if mutants disserve nothing but trouble and she should know this fact.  “So what are you saying, that he deserved to be attacked just because he’s different?” she asks.

“Exactly.  He’s just a mutant, nothing more than that.  And besides, they don’t deserve to rub shoulders with the rest of us, plain and simple.”

“And besides,” the first guy says, “from what I’ve heard, he looked like a piñata.  How can you not help but want to beat him?”

This gets a laugh out of the other guy.  These two guys are of the type who support the passing of the National Registration and Regulation Act of Individuals with Gifted or Extraordinary Abilities.  However, they don’t feel like it would go far enough if enacted.  Even though they feel like the bill falls short of its full potential, they think that it’s a step in the right direction.  And Sadie would have wanted to say more about this matter, but an order comes up and she has to excuse herself in order to attend to it.  But a small part of her was glad to have been called away at that moment.  This is because that part of her was concerned that maybe, just maybe, she would have inadvertently exposed herself to be a mutant.  When it comes time for them to leave, she’s glad to see them go.

Eventually, it comes time for her to head out of there herself.  When she leaves the café, she doesn’t go directly home, though she doesn’t consider where she is staying to be “home.”  At the moment, she’s staying at a women’s shelter.  This is due in part to the fact that she can’t find an affordable place to stay and she learned that it’s too dangerous for her to be living on the streets.  Thus, the shelter.  The reason why she turned to the shelter is because she is a runaway.  The reason for this was because she was in love with a boy that her parents didn’t approve of.  But being a teenager, she thought that she knew what was better than her parents did as well as being swept up by the feelings that she had for him.  In addition to this, the relationship she had with her parents while growing up led to a lot of animosity and hard feelings between them.

After running away, Sadie and her boyfriend managed to survive for a while in the city, and they were happy.  But this didn’t last.  He eventually broke her heart and as a result, the relationship bottomed out.  Isn’t that always the case?  As a result of the breakup, she left him as well as the apartment that they were staying at, causing her to be on her own.  But after leaving, she felt like she couldn’t go back to her parents, due to the manner in which she left.  This resulted in her sleeping on the streets for awhile, but she quickly learned that the streets of New York City are no place for a single woman.  But as a result, Sadie seriously thought of going back to her parents, but decided against it.  She wants to prove herself before going back to her parents.  And to prove herself, she wants to earn some kind of college degree.  Not long after getting off the streets and entering the shelter, she earned her GED and began to take college classes whenever she can at a community college.  She’s now 22, and though she’s still at the shelter, she’s making good progress on her associate of arts degree.  She also takes classes when she can afford them and that her schedule would allow.  She’s also looking for fulltime work so that she can move out of the shelter and get her own place, but it’s frustrating because she’s having trouble finding one.

Before heading back to the shelter, she has to go and take care of her second job, which is modeling.  The type of modeling that she does is for some local photographers as well as for some art classes.  Is she had an agent, she would be getting some better paying jobs, but not being wild about agents or knowing how to get one, she will just have to accept what she’s been getting.  And she’s been doing photo shoots for awhile.  Some of them have even had her be scantily clad, but she hasn’t done any nude shoots yet.  She also learned that she gets paid more with her natural hair color then with dyed hair, though the photographers think that it’s reversed.  It’s strange how things can work out at times.  And if any of them ask what her “natural” hair color is, she can always fall back on the line of “A girl never tells.”

But today, instead of modeling for photographers, she is modeling for an art class at the community college that she is attending.  And any person who knew Sadie before she ran away would be surprised by the fact that she is modeling now because she was the type who didn’t even like going outside.  This was due to the fact that she felt uncomfortable going out in public because she felt like people were staring at her because she thought that they knew she was a mutant.  How she changed over that intervening time.  However, she never took the time to reflect upon the progress that she made on this front.  And as she is modeling for the class, her mind keeps going back to Conner.

Once class is over, Sadie changes back into her street clothes and finally heads back to the shelter.  She’s pretty tired and would just like to lay down for a little bit.  And it’s not like she has anything to do tonight or have any other plans, other than look for fulltime work.  And since she’s taken care of all of her responsibilities for today, she has the rest of the day to herself.  And when she returns to the shelter, the first thing that she does is lie down.  She wants to try and find out some more information about Conner, but first, she needs to rest.  Sadie didn’t realize how tired she was until she was only a few blocks away from the shelter.  She’s had a few busy weeks behind her and they’re beginning to catch up with her.  So whatever information search that she’ll want to do can wait until later.  But right now, she just needs some sleep.  And as it turns out, she falls asleep not long after putting her head down upon the pillow.

With her return to the land of the living, or at least the land of consciousness, Sadie realizes that she has slept through the night as identified by the fact that morning is beginning to show itself.  She must have been pretty tired and needed the rest for she slept for well over eight hours.  In the end, it was more like a solid ten.  Seeing that morning has arrived, Sadie is taken off guard a bit, but she isn’t put out of countenance that much.  Though she didn’t have any formal plans for the night before, she would have wanted to at least do something last night other then completely sleep it away.  But she can’t do much about it now, and she doesn’t see it as much of a problem.  So she’ll start looking into the situation surrounding Conner today instead of yesterday.  Also, she’ll get an early start on the day as well.

And she actually likes getting an early start because she enjoys walking through the city early in the morning and seeing the early light of day bathe the city streets in gold.  While out and about, she stops by a bakery and grabs a pastry or two and calls it breakfast.  After getting something to drink as well and enjoying her meal, Sadie heads to the local library.  Since she doesn’t have to work at the café today, she has the leisure to do things like this during the daylight hours.  And once at the library, the first place that she goes to is where the newspapers are kept.  She will follow this by doing some internet research.  Sadie wants to learn as much as she can about what happened to Conner.  But she wants to do this by checking out primary sources first, and for Sadie, she sees the printed media of major newspapers as a good primary source to start with.  True, the internet is growing in importance and popularity as a primary news source, but there will always be a place for paper.  It satisfies a niche that can’t be entirely digitized.

And Sadie spends the entire day researching the matter, and this is the information that she has been able to obtain.  Conner was a 17-year-old high school junior who was a good student and tended to earn good grades in his classes.  But on one night, when he was taking a walk around his neighborhood, witnesses reported seeing a dark colored sedan pull up next to him, a few words were exchanged, and two people jumped out from the car and tried to grab him.  But Conner didn’t make it easy for them because he resisted their advancements and put up a fight.  However, he was quickly overpowered by the two assailants and was pulled toward the trunk of the car.  As the assailants pulled Conner toward the trunk of the car, the trunk door popped open, allowing them to throw Conner into the trunk itself.  Given the fact that the trunk popped open without the two assailants doing anything to open it, accompanied by the fact that the assailants got out from the passenger side of the car, it implies that there is a third suspect sitting behind the wheel.

Once arriving at the trunk, one of the assailant’s temporarily steps away from Conner in order to fully open the trunk door.  Once doing this, he returns his attention back to Conner and gives him two or three punches to the gut, almost doing it as if for good measure, followed by grabbing Conner and throwing him into the trunk.  With Conner now fully inside, the assailant grabs the trunk door and slams it shut.  Unfortunately for Conner, this model Sedan doesn’t have an emergency release tab attached to the inside of the trunk door which would have allowed him to at least attempt an escape.  With the trunk now closed, the two assailants climb back into the car and they all drive off.  Conner never comes home that night, or ever will again for that matter.  The next day arrives and a farmer working his field comes across a body tied up to one of his fences.  The body has been tied up in such a way that it gives the appearance that the person has been crucified.  In addition to this, the front of the shirt has been ripped open and the word “freak” has been carved into the blue skin of the chest accompanied by the fact that the face was heavily mutilated.

Since there wasn’t any form of ID present on the body, the dental records had to be checked to try and determine an identity for the body.  With an identification determined, the authorities contact the parents, asking them to come down to the coroner’s office in order to provide a positive identification.  Even though the face was heavily mutilated, it was still intact enough for the parents to positively identify their son.  Conner’s parents now have to deal with the fact that they now have to bury their child.  Checking the dates, Sadie sees that the articles and other news postings were from a few days ago.  Finding some follow up articles, she sees that at least two suspects have been detained and are being questioned, though the third suspect is still believed to be on the loose.  The two that are in custody are 16-year-old Carl King, who is also known as Carnival Carl, and 17-year-old Harvey Whitehead, III.  What allowed the authorities to apprehend them so quickly was the fact that they were boasting and bragging about what they did to Conner to other people.

Both are, or at least at one point in time were, classmates of Conner, though Carl was kicked out of school several months earlier for disruptive behavior accompanied by acts of violence, vandalism, and overtly threatening behavior.  Further condemning them, King and Whitehead had no problem spilling their guts on the matter, though they laid principle responsibility on each other and refuse to take any form of personal responsibility.  This was due in part to the fact that they were hanging out together when they were apprehended.  But it’s concluded that their primary motivation for ratting each other out is because of cowardice and not wanting to be blamed for the death.  However, despite their willingness to implicate each other, they’re refusing to say anything about the third suspect in the crime; their mysterious driver friend, though their behavior implicitly implies that there is a third.

It’s unclear to the authorities why they’re protecting this third individual given the fact that they’re so readily pointing the finger at each other, but the authorities think that King and Whitehead are doing this because they either respect this individual so much or that they so deeply fear him and what he’s capable of doing that they don’t dare cross him.  That or they’re refusing to talk about this third individual because of some misguided sense of loyalty to the individual.  All that the authorities know for sure at this time is that the dark colored sedan must somehow belong to this third individual in some way because no such vehicle has been found or otherwise connected to King or Whitehead, either personally or through any of their family members, associates, or other contacts.

Sadie learns all of this through several hours of research.  She also manages to get images of both King and Whitehead for they have been posted online as well as through news clips and broadcasts she came across.  She is also able to learn that, though they’re refusing to take any form of personal responsibility, King and Whitehead aren’t ashamed of what they did to Conner.  They even confessed to the authorities about what they did.  They did all of this against their parents’ objections and without having a lawyer present.  But even if their lawyer was present, they wouldn’t have heeded the lawyer’s advice.  And as it turns out, one of them actually had his lawyer present and blatantly ignored or dismissed him.  It appears that they are hell-bent on letting the world know what they did.  They just don’t want to take full responsibility for the act, possibly out of fear of facing the death penalty.  For them, doing the act is fine, but taking the fall for it, or at least taking full responsibility, isn’t.  Their attitude is to let the other shithead take the fall for it and is trying to throw the other one under the bus.

Toward the end of her time at the library, Sadie finally relents and checks out the website Freak Watch, which is nothing more than a site meant to monitor “mutant” activity and to openly attack anyone that they consider to be a mutant as well as any person that supports them, even if this support only exists in these people’s heads or can be seen as support in any possible way.  Talk about blindly lashing out and engaging in blatant bigotry.  There are also indications that these people are also conspiracy theorists, as seen as how they present their information and arguments.  The people who run this site believe that anyone that they consider to be a mutant, which for them is a blanket, open ended term and concept, should be rounded up into ghettos before being shipped out to concentration camps and eliminated, much like what the Nazi’s did during the 1930’s and ‘40’s.  And while exterminating the mutant community, these people think why not throw in some other undesirable groups as well, which consists of anyone that doesn’t fit into their narrow view of reality.  And all of this is freely laid out on their website.  You can see why Sadie doesn’t like visiting this site.

On Freak Watch, Sadie sees that they nakedly attack Conner and say that he had what was coming to him while at the same time holding up King, Whitehead, and the mysterious third suspect as folk heroes.  And since both King and Whitehead were caught, the site also paints them as being martyrs for the cause.  The sites sees them being apprehended as a small price to pay for the greater good of society and for humanity as a whole.  And through some convoluted line of thinking, they manage to tie in the New World Power into this entire mess; that their radical fight for equality only demonstrates why people with extraordinary traits and abilities need to be collared and eliminated.  On top of all of this, Freak Watch point the finger directly at the leader of the New World Power as an example of why their position is the only right one.  Making the situation worse was the dramatic escape that he managed to pull off from the LA County jail not long after his arrest.  And even though Sadie doesn’t approve of the actions that the New World Power is taking, because she thinks that it reflects badly upon the entire community, she realizes that those at Freak Watch would find some other way of attacking those of the “mutant” community if the New World Power didn’t exist.

Having enough of this tripe with Freak Watch, and just getting tired of research as a whole, Sadie signs off of the library computer and heads out.  Though you don’t realize it, doing things like research can be tiring.  And when dealing with people like those at Freak Watch, you can only take so much of their tripe before you become physically ill and need to put it aside for awhile.  Sadie is surprised that people can actually think like this let alone become persuaded by their arguments.

And even though she’s had enough information for one day, Sadie does continue to follow the story as it develops.  Eventually, a picture of Conner is finally shown through one of the main media outlets, and Sadie can’t help but look at it.  After looking at the image for awhile and continually returning to it to study it, Sadie has a haunting feeling that she’s seen Conner before.  After racking her brain, she thinks that he actually visited the café before, and he did so when it was her shift.  He must have visited it when he visited the city.  How disturbing is that?  She actually met Conner in the recent past and didn’t realize it until now.  Thinking back upon it, Sadie realizes why she didn’t make the connection at first.

When Conner visited the café, he was wearing jeans, gloves, a hooded sweatshirt, and a baseball cap with the hood pulled as far forward as possible and the bill of the cap down pretty low.  She didn’t think anything of it at the time, nor did anyone else.  In New York City, people tend to keep to themselves and don’t get involved in other people’s business if they can help it.  New York City is a stressful place and there’s no point in adding to an already stressful situation.  The common attitude is “to each their own and it’s none of our business unless someone makes it so.”  And Sadie is no different.  This is her city.  From what she remembers, Conner also didn’t do anything to make himself standout.  He barely lifted his head or made any kind of eye contact if the situation allowed for it.

And this behavior seemed perfectly natural for him, as if he’s been dressing and behaving like this for years.  And that’s probably what he did for most of his time in school, most likely dating to elementary school.  And though she didn’t realize it at the time, when Sadie was able to glimpse Conner’s face and see things like his eyes when he did look up, she did see something unusual about him.  It wasn’t until she was able to study Conner’s unobstructed face that the pieces finally fell into place.  Given enough time is what allowed Sadie to realize that she saw him before.  If that part of her didn’t continue to think about it, she would have just dismissed Conner as just another person passing through the café.

As she looks at his picture, Sadie thinks to herself, “What brought you here? Why did you come?  Did you know what was going to happen to you?  Did you try to escape?”  Eventually, something else comes to mind as she is studying the picture.  Why did he go back?  He had to have known something was going to happen to him.  If he didn’t, then he never would have come to the city in the first place.  The distance that he had to have travelled between New York City and his hometown is not an inconsequential one.  Sadie knows this because she checked.  It required some thinking and planning on his part.  And in the end, it was a round trip.  Was this a trial run, was there something back home that he had to return to or called him back, or did he just become scared of the larger world that he saw in front of him and thought that it was better for him to just face the fear that he was living with back at his hometown?

And as she is following the news story, Sadie eventually learns that the third suspect in the assault has been apprehended.  As he is being interrogated by the police, he actually does the smart thing by not opening his mouth.  The extent of his conversation with the authorities was that he wanted a lawyer, which was about all that he ever said to them.  And once he was lawyered up, he let his attorney act as his mouthpiece, despite goading from the authorities in an attempt to get this third suspect to make a mistake or say something incriminating.  Only people who tend to have a weak sense of pride but believe that they are stronger than they actually are will tend to have this particular ploy work on them and have that rake strike them square in the face.  The only time that the third suspect would actually talk to the police was with his attorney’s approval, and even then, it was limited and controlled.  On occasion, the attorney would interrupt his client to prevent him from saying something incriminating.

Not long after hearing about the arrest of the third suspect, Sadie decides to make her way up to Conner’s hometown and visit the place where his body was discovered.  Once arriving at the location, she finds that flowers have been left at the site as a makeshift memorial for Conner.  Seeing this brings a tear to her eye; not only because there are people out there who actually cared enough to leave flowers at the site, but it also acts as a counter argument to all of the hatred and bigotry that Sadie has come across that has been directed toward Conner after the incident occurred, even if it’s a nonverbal counter.

After visiting Connor’s memorial site, Sadie eventually makes her way back to her parents’ home.  After arriving there, she just stands outside with a part of her wanting to go up to the front door and knock.  And she just stands there for awhile, trying to decide what she should do.  But in the end, she decides not to and just walks away.  She just isn’t ready to truly go home.  She needs some more time before she can cross that bridge and to at least try to patch things back up with her parents.  She just needs a little more time.

 

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