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No People Like Show People

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posted by alias Gallisuchus on Tuesday 22nd of January 2019 10:00:15 PM

} These are events set shortly after my previous issue “Atychiphobia”, wherein Clayface’s personalities are put in flux. { *Overview of the slums bordering Midway City, Michigan, on an unusually humid night. A perfect blend of place, time and atmosphere that would discourage most from partaking in a recreational stroll. Additionally, as a landmark notable for housing not one but two guilds dedicated to super-heroics, crimes here are exclusive committed by the ignorant, or the heedless. *Cut to a dolly zoom of an unimpressive three-story apartment building. We see a woman, clad in red and white athletic wear, scaling the forest of brick and metal with swift, elastic maneuvers. A final sling of her arm, and she stretches up to a fire escape. A noise complaint from the neighboring structure was placed not ten minutes before, and this heroine, known as Elasti-Girl, arrived at the scene alongside Midway police officers. Taking into account the warnings made by concerned residents that the prior commotion had sounded excessively violent, Elasti-Girl insists upon entering the premises first, and the officers, in turn, have not forgotten her past reliability, as well as stubbornness in matters of crisis. They accommodate her selflessness, and form a perimeter around the building in preparation. *This is not to be a routine arrest. What will occur in a few short moments is, in every sense of the word, a coincidence. Stars have seemingly aligned in order for the forthcoming events to take place; two vessels that crossed on a treacherous sea, in years past, are to be reacquainted on this unanticipated evening. *Low-angle shot as Elasti-Girl vaults through the window in question, compressing herself on the landing in order to remain inaudible. The living room which she finds herself in is no more homely than the sticky air and concrete to be found outside. No lights are switched on, though she can distinguish cheap furniture, chipped wallpaper, and a worn rug. Rounding the divide to the kitchen, the odor belonging to scorched, spoiled meat reaches our heroine. Nearly stumbling over a sizable lump on the tile, she retreats a step, then kneels to make out its condition. *A stray gust of wind upsets the blinds leading to the street-side balcony, and the minuscule glow of the lampposts lining the sidewalk below identify Elasti-Girl’s find: A man in a tattered bathrobe, unscathed on his limbs and body, but the face… The face is more scab than skin. The nose, lips, hair, earlobes and eyelids are seared off. Miraculously, patches of the marred, red flesh pulsate with blood flow, and shallow breath expels from between the protruding teeth. Elasti-Girl swivels to check the oven, and sure enough, it is still warm from its now-apparent deleterious usage. *In the corner of her eye, she sees, from the same aperture in the blinds which revealed the victim, an object of human height. She reaches a hand across the room and pulls back the obstruction, to be met with what could be mistaken for a large melted candle. A few cautious steps towards the thing causes Elasti-Girl to recoil, in spite of herself, as she now perceives a face side-eyeing her within the heap of grunge. Twin yellow orbs sit deep inside their sockets, and the dribbling mouth beneath them calls the unsettled heroine by name. Myself: Rita… } MANY YEARS EARLIER { Rita Farr made note of the sound stage’s patent aroma of cedar and hand sanitizer, as she lugged a suitcase containing one-third of her worldly possessions the last few steps of her journey to a movie studio in Atlanta, Georgia. Boom mics, ladders and lunches were being whisked about on all sides of her, not in a manner of tumult, but rather like schools of fish with a daily routine. Ms. Farr expected as much, and during her flight, began enforcing a mental note not to be swept up by the current, as she had been with previous bit parts handed to her. Rita (to self): Seven time’s a charm… Finding a calmer spot, Rita unceremoniously drops her baggage, and peers upward at the reconstructed Spanish galleon positioned triumphantly as a centerpiece to the hangar. Cast and crew mill about the deck as they do on the ground level, tying ropes and checking props. Just as a sense of tranquility begins to seep into her consciousness, Rita detects movement in her direction in the corner of her vision. She faces the approaching man, rigid like a soldier in line-up, awaiting the inevitable tirade on the subject her five-minute tardiness, or how a fellow actor has had a breakdown. Instead, she is greeted by a small bow, that which may have seemed curt or sarcastic, if not for the candid grin on the dark-haired stranger’s face. He straightens, first his back, then his Georgian-era apparel, and speaks. Stranger: I gather from your less than period-accurate garb, as well as that holdall, that you are a new arrival? One with a face like yours would not be working behind the camera.. Ms. Rita Farr, I should think? Marvelous! There’s no cause for alarm; you are presently quite ahead of our schedule. Rita (still processing the first half of his chatter): Um, yes, I’m Rita. My agent was told one of the lead actresses was indisposed, though it wasn’t really made clear over the phone.. This isn’t an audition? I’m the only one they contacted? The thing is, I’ve never been given a part that was billed before the end crawl of the credits… Stranger (beaming): It all sounds akin to what we call a “big break”, Ms. Farr! Rita (to self): Not a first-name-basis type of place. I guess that’s alright. Stranger: .. And, you would be correct on the subject of your predecessor. As cruel as it may come across, none of us were surprised to see Ms. Mona Taylor’s drinking habits get the better of her. I don’t like to speak ill of those unable to defend themselves; however, most denizens of this little production will tell you it is well rid of her presence. Rita: Well, that… sort of puts a damper on my thankfulness for the opportunity… The stranger ignores this, instead turning to welcome another actor passing by. Stranger: Ms. Farr, this is Takeo Sato, a performer all the way from Tokyo, playing the part of one of our film’s roguish corsairs. Sato, Ms. Farr is Ms. Taylor’s stand-in. Takeo (equally pleasant): A delight to make your acquaintance. Rita nods politely, almost missing a second man, dressed just like Takeo, take an indirect route around their group, halting behind the yet-to-be-introduced stranger. He seemed the same age as Rita (years younger than the other actors), but a permanently sour expression and hunched frame made him appear infirm, unwell. Takeo and the stranger took no notice of him. Stranger (to Takeo): Has “he” yet to master his choreography? Takeo: Mr. Lord is working fervently, for one his age. The two direct their attention to the ship’s deck, Rita following suit. Stranger (waving a hand to an older gentleman in green and yellow, fencing with a stuntman near the rigging): Our fearless leader, Jonathan Lord. Rita (agog): I had no idea he was attached to this! Or that he was still in the business. Stranger: He is quite adamant to not wash up like many a typecast action star has. His friend Simon Trent, for example, has gone that way I’m afraid. Thus, a twelfth “Silverblade” motion picture was thrust into production, at his request. Takeo: It saddens me to see a legend such as him work not out of passion, rather out of necessity. Rita watches Lord trip the stuntman with a swipe of his rapier. She hated to see a ghost of an actor too, but there was still plenty of fight left in Lord. The stranger once again takes control of the conversation, steering the ensemble towards two other actors chatting by the vessel’s bow. One, a man in deep blue carrying a haughty look about him; and a woman in red, with jet-black locks and a dour mien. Rita saw that the sour-faced man was still tailing the group from behind the talkative stranger, yet remained even further away from these two. Stranger (nodding at each respectfully): Ms. Farr, meet Farley Fairfax, and Madame Laura De Mille. Th- Laura (speaking over his exposition, in a French accent): Rita? Oh yes, Mona’s replacement. We’re finally rid of “ehr majesty”. Rita: It’s nice to meet you; what is your roll in- Laura: You ahre not going to be anothair detriment to zis picture, like she was, no? Your face, it is too sweet and unspoiled to be full of hot air yet. Rita: That’s… relieving. Farley: We hope you take a liking to our little company here. Always a pleasure, ushering in bright young people to the world of stage and screen. Farley Fairfax; more than happy to show you the ropes. Rita: Oh I’m, eh, not exactly new to all this, but that’s generous of- Stranger (once again intercepting the conversation, with a somewhat hurried and ruffled tone): There will be no showing of the ropes from you, Fairfax. Really, you seem to be swayed by the delusion that your smirk will every time win you an immediate “fidus Achates”. Farley: My VERY old friend, I wouldn’t presume to hold the monopoly on using a few flashy words and shiny teeth to make a good impression. Stranger: It’s a wonder to myself and the world of science that you attract anything, Fairfax. Rita (over her shoulder and under her breath): You’re the one that introduced me to the two of them… She is surprised to hear Takeo smother a laugh upon catching her comment, unbeknownst to the rest of their gathering. As the situation seemed to be headed towards a scuffle between the stranger, Farley, and a simultaneously disinterested and aggravated Laura De Mille, the most colorful character yet to appear totters up to the impending drama; A bucktoothed fellow wearing green and lavender, and a battered brown hat atop his head. Farley and the others seem to drop their quarrel punctually upon his arrival, and Rita, at this point, is on the verge of booking a flight straight back to Michigan. Laura: Not ‘im again! I cannot listen to zat imbecile one more MINUTE. Rita: Who-? Stranger (upon the bucktoothed man’s obtrusion): Mr. Spelvin, you’ve… found a way into the lot. Once again. Much to the dissension of the studio, as you may recall. Mr. Spelvin: Hey, it’s “George” to my friends, remember? How’s it hangin’ kids? Boy, this is a real get-together, isn’t it? Laura: You ahre like a goat, Monsieur Spelvin. A black ‘ole for wit and the relevance of whatevair space you occupy. Mr. Spelvin: Always good for a yuck, Laura! Ha! Farley: Spelvin, really, you can’t carry on like this. How many times now have you disrupted a take? Which line do you plan to botch this time? Mr. Spelvin (finger guns): I read you, Farls, and I gotcha covered! He moves to put a hand on the dark-haired stranger’s shoulder. Mr. Spelvin: I asked a pal of ours to put in a good word for me with Mr. Lord.. for all those little unforeseen mix ups I’ve been affiliated with in the past, y’know how it is.. So, Lord gave me a bit, right, chum? Stranger: I did not speak with Mr. Lord, Spelvin. Mr. Spelvin: You eh… didn’t… Stranger: I will not prevaricate. You are unwelcome to this location and its occupants, for the duration of our filming. It is expected of you to cease these infringements that only further solidify a poor image of your person. They have all, and will all, be in vain. Mr. Spelvin (his bubbly facade now crumbling away): Now… look, I know you’re only teasing to toughen me up, but see this? The costume people don’t even need to make me a getup; I put this together at home! I-I thought the purple would be a nice contrast to the Silverblade costume, and well, the hat is iffy, I’ll grant you, but if we got like some safety pins we could bend it into a tricorne… Stranger: Spelvin, Mr. Lord does not wish you to be here! You are a frustrated man incapable of bearing success. Farley and Laura look crossly between the verbal duelists. The sour-faced man still lingers behind the stranger, hardly looking troubled in the slightest. Rita, by comparison, senses the imminent eruption. Takeo’s brow furrows. Mr. Spelvin: Well… in all fairness, I was prepared for you saying something like that. Heheh, you… you might say I’m PACKING accordingly, heheheh… His hands shift to their coat pockets. Rita feels opposing forces within her wanting to run, and to make a grab for whatever Spelvin is about to reveal. The sensation is like a frigid, iron grip on her very essence. Mr. Spelvin (unadulterated bitterness clouding his words): Dismissal. That’s all life’s dealt me. A little thing I’ve picked up over the years, though… all that pain, that feeling of ostracism… nothing a little accelerant and igniter can’t wash away. Leastways, that’s how it works for me. He cocks his head to the stranger, who still stands firmly in opposition of the madman. A scream within Rita, desperate to warn everyone, never makes it out. Mr. Spelvin: Nighty-night, Sloane. His hands whip out a can of hairspray and a lighter, aimed straight for the stranger, “Sloane”. As Spelvin flicks the mechanism, and a burst of flame reaches out to mar Sloane, Takeo leaps between them, palms out as though he is catching a softball. The fire sputters mid-flight and bends into tendrils, wrapping around Takeo’s fingertips. They absorb into his skin, leaving a faint orange glow. All but Takeo himself stand with mouths agape. Mr. Spelvin: You’ve gotta be SHI- With the debate having transitioned into an uproar, two stunt performers drop from the deck above and pin Spelvin to the floor before he can recuperate. His arms and legs flail, with the expected result of more pressure being applied to detain him. Stuntwoman: Give it up; my friend here survived a POW camp breakout in Vietnam before he was doing fake falls, and I chewed up pipsqueaks like you when I was still in middle school. It’s pointless, mister. Futile. Mr. Spelvin: NRAAAAGHH- “Sloane”: My… undying gratitude… Ms. Sutton, Mr. Savage. The stuntman gives a taciturn nod back, while wrestling Spelvin away. Sloane: And… Takeo… Rita looks about with Sloane for the superhuman within their midst, to see that Takeo Sato has been swamped with onlookers expressing their shock, and agents already trying to nab him for their next picture. Takeo seems overwhelmed, not wishing to drag out his moment of glory. Laura and Farley have gone off skulking away from the hubbub, obviously envious of Takeo’s attention. Rita: So… “Sloane”. Sloane (no longer his composed self): … You must forgive me, how silly; yes, that is my name. Paul Sloane, at your service… Rita: NO one knew Takeo had… those powers?? It looks like this is his first time exposing them.. Sloane (trying to make merry): No people like show people, Ms. Farr, as they say, eh?.. Jonathan Lord calls down to Sloane from the mast. Lord: Everything in order, Mr. Sloane? Sloane: Eh, yes Mr. Lord.. Lord: No injuries? Good; let’s round up our people. We have a film to shoot. Rita (to Sloane): Do you need to sit down? You’re pale. Sloane: That would be an immense aid to my wits, thank you. Mr. Lord expects order, however, and- Rita: … and I can chip in. I may be new around here, but I can carry my share of responsibilities. I also didn’t just have my life threatened. Come on, it’s the least a regular, un-powered human like me can do. Sloane, wordless and debilitated, gives a look of appreciation, and moves away to a more restful area. Rita spies the sour-faced man. He seems to notice her watching, and begins to move after Sloane. Rita: Hey, he never introduced you. The man stops. He offers only a glimpse of his eyes, still standing in profile to her. Rita: You’re a friend of Paul? Sloane? Man: .. Yeah. He’s… the best man I know. I wouldn’t be in show business, without him. Rita: Why didn’t you announce yourself? Man (shrug): I just follow along. That’s what I’m good at. Sloane knows how to best handle… stuff. Rita (big sigh): Are we talking about the same gentleman who nearly got himself charbroiled a minute ago? To tell the truth, I can do without all the fancy talk and putting-on-airs. You got a name? Myself (many years ago): … Basil.. Bas is fine. } PRESENT DAY { Rita stands stunned, nay, horrified, by the sight of me. Myself: Oh, there’s no need for those dramatics. You would have, by now, heard tell of my “condition”; the exploits of Gotham’s Batman and his nemeses are national news after all. Thought our paths would never converge again, did you? That I would remain in Gotham to the last? How you must have prayed for that. No, that place, inciting mayhem, challenging The Bat… this offers me no solace any longer. Most of us CAN’T leave, you know. Riddler stays out of internalized necessity; Black Mask, for fear of losing his empire. Catwoman for “this” reason, Freeze for another… But I am privileged to come and to go as I please. It’s something I’m quite good at. Rita: You’ve just assaulted someone, Basil. He’s nearly dead. Myself: I’m… sorry, I don’t remember how to respond… to some things… The other ones are talking, and it’s hard to concentrate on… just one… I trail off. Still wary of me, Rita’s eyes drift to the chair-side table beside her. On it, an unlit lamp, and a framed photo. The one I subconsciously began staring at. Rita (trembling): Basil… Oh my god, Basil, do you know who’s house this is? That’s Paul Sloane you've done this to. Basil, why? What are the words I had planned for this? They were just there… Rita: Basil, you’re not well. I need to take you away from here. Paul needs medical attention. Myself (unable to hold the tide of voices in my head at bay): Oh, she’s trying to mask her abhorrence for us with stoicism, bless her. How very genuine, personal. This moves us greatly. Rita: WHY, Basil? Myself (I’m… sad now?): … I thought… if I got rid of him, maybe I… wouldn’t be a lie. I can’t be whole. Not while HE’s here. Rita (pleading): Even before you had this gift, you felt you had to be someone else to be worthwhile. You DON’T. You can leave all of this behind. Find the real you again and hold onto it. Myself: YOU THINK I’VE NEVER TRIED? Tried to find normalcy in this maelstrom of raving madness that persists both within me and in the outside world? Let me spell something out for you, “Ms. Farr”; There is to be no normalcy in the lives of people like us. Do you recollect Farley Fairfax? Takeo? In years gone by, both have since died in unrelated attacks by DEMONS. Mona Taylor is imprisoned for crimes committed on behalf of a costumed gang in Gotham. You yourself were blessed with abilities from exposure to volcanic vapors, and you STILL battle your old rival Laura De Mille on occasion, assisted by your very own band of incorrigibly heroic freaks. Really, Rita, your taste in companionship… Rita: Don’t do this to yourself. Myself (droning): Mr. King Savage, our stuntman friend, was inducted into a covert special forces unit later on, and was never heard from again. Oh, have you ever heard of the actor Steven "Champ" Hazard? He vanished into thin air one day, quite literally. Delores Winters. It was hearsay for a while that her mind was stolen by a telepath… Rita: I can’t help you anymore, Basil. The police will be taking over in a minute, and I can’t stop them. I wouldn’t want to. She sounds hurt, though I can’t seem to distinguish why anymore. Myself (wetly laughing): You need not feel guilt, this form is merely residue, only a spent shard of Basil, and it will die hastily. This one couldn’t kill Sloane, and we banish any part of us that harbors those pointless sentiments for the old days, you see… The rest of us is already down there. An officer, a citizen, it makes no difference… Rita watches as I relax into a puddle, drizzling through the balcony slats down to the pavement. Myself (faintly): You won’t find me. You won’t see me, ever again. Pounding footsteps come from beyond the front door Rita has failed to unlock. Police shout for Elasti-Girl to dictate the situation. Rita (without so much as a slight crack in her voice): I haven’t seen Basil in years.

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