The Pulse: New York
Prophecy 1: The Political Climate
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
(Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind")
If Winter Comes
Curtis Rufus had noticed for some time now that things were going wrong. But he was a student of history, and if history taught anything, it was that once things had gone wrong, they would go wrong again and again.
But this time it was different. This time a far more sinister pattern was emerging. Songs about open windows and sunny skies were disappearing from his playlists. Charities he used to think about sending money to were no longer soliciting contributions. People were whispering that it had something to do with the Russians. All the official government news had to say was: America First.
This was understandable during election season, when all the circus tents were open for business: clowns, jugglers, sleight-of-hand artists. Curtis even caught sight of a shady-looking man with a Slavic accent, who looked suspiciously like the Devil in Bulgakov's Master and Margarita.
But now, after the commentators and comedians had scolded for months on end, everyone around them was taking it in stride. The slogan he saw on the hustings was now blazoned on the side of every bus: America First and to Hell with Everybody Else. It seemed rather harsh, but at Starbucks Meaghan and Kristy just went on talking as it screamed by with its candy red lights and harsh Third Reich soundtrack.
The voice was like two enormous iron wheels grinding into one another while sirens wailed and Nazguls dropped onto the street. Some of the black birds were agile, darting like ravens between the skyscrapers, swooping down Fifth Avenue like a demented squadron of evil spidermen. Others were clumsy, low-ranking fallen angels who never really understood the reason for their revolt. These maladroit spirits tripped over their own pointy feet, and fell all the way into the very flames they'd laboured to ignite.
Meaghan ordered a skinny latte and thought about what Kristy told her about the Nazguls unleashed by the Dark Lord. She'd never seen that movie, the one about Sauron and the magic ring, and wondered if it was on Netflix. She said to Kristy, "I've heard he wasn’t such a bad guy, after all."
The sun dropped from the sky. Whole blocks froze, and the barrios of the city lay silent beneath six feet of snow. All that Sauron's reptile eye could see was one piñata lying battered on the # 1 line, headed for Washington Heights.
Can Spring Be Far Behind?
The bloody streets were crusted over, and boot steps could be heard crunching through the snow. Curtis remembered when he was a boy and his mother brought him to the battered stalls of Coney Island. He remembered that she gave him a cherry crush.
Beneath the Stalinesque buildings — each engraved with the surname of a monopoly or clan: Thyssen, Gazprom, Trump, Krupp — came a creak and then a groan. Hot liquids shot through coils, and two massive hydraulic arms opened the steel curtains of the factory doors. Thousands of ant workers scurried to their tasks.
Pedro brought in churros and some hot chocolate for his friends who worked with him aligning transmission shafts. ¡Que leche! ¡El jefe said that these were on the house!
It seemed impossible, but the buses were rolling down the streets again. Parents were dropping their kids off at daycare.
Curtis was a student of history, and if history taught anything, it was that the night was always darkest before the dawn. From the pier across from Battery Park, he saw the Green Lady of the Harbour motioning to the world.