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In the blue glow of early morning where there was light out but the sun had not quite risen over the buildings, Desdemona lay on the roof of a crumbling brick building, resting her chin on her folded arms as she gazed off the edge into the bustling street life. She ran her eyes over the brothel across the street, the bar, the little shops full of scrap metal to sell, and some trinket shops, too. She kicked her legs as she people-watched.
Desdemona spotted a hooded girl running and wriggling her way through the crowd, panting and throwing worried glances over her shoulder. Another runaway prostitute trying to escape her pimp, Desdemona figured. That is, until a uniformed officer came into view, pushing through the crowd to get to the girl. The officer grabbed the girl and ripped off the hood. Desdemona could not hear what the officer was yelling at the girl over the din of the street, but Desdemona knew what was going on. The girl had blue hair, and mutants must be registered by the government and carry papers. Seeing as the girl did not show her papers, the officer drew his nightstick and began beating her with it. The girl screamed for help from the surrounding civilians, but none came. When the officer put his nightstick away to cuff her, she lunged for one of his ankles and bit him. The officer pulled out his sidearm and shot her in the head.
With that gun shot all the civilians cleared the street in a matter of minutes. The officer looked down at the corpse, and saw a very posh diamond ring on her finger. He knelt next to her body and uncurled her fingers to steal the ring, and as he uncurled her fingers, her papers fell to the ground. She had been clutching them in her hand, and he had not given her the chance to show them. He shrugged, pocketed the ring, and walked away.
The sun began to rise over the buildings, and church bells began to ring throughout Oklahoma City. Desdemona muttered, “Just another day in Mutant Side.”
Desdemona stood and opened the door to go back inside, walking down the stairs and into the rafters of the theater. The building had once been a factory that produced parts for model T Fords, but in the time of Recreation it had been remodeled into the Monroe Opera House where operas, plays, and ballets took place. After the mutants escaped from the labs and rebelled, rioting in the streets, the Monroe was one of the first places to be ransacked. After the Mutant Acts took effect people like Desdemona’s parents went into hiding. Desdemona grew up in the Monroe, learning how to read and write from old copies of Shakespeare and classic Grecian works that had been abandoned in the director’s office, learned to divide and multiply by counting rows of seats, learned history from what her parents and friends of family had told her, and learned science by observing what she saw in day to day life.
Desdemona slung a leg over the railing and stepped into a bucket attached to a rope, which was hooked up to a pulley. The bucket eased down, the gears of the pulley screeching as it did. Desdemona stepped out of the bucket and onto the stage. Dim light filtered through the ceiling where weather had worn holes. Dust motes floated in the beams of light, making the Monroe look magical yet tragic in its own dilapidation. Desdemona looked at the scuffed and cracked wood of the stage, the red velvet seats that were bleeding stuffing, the chipped golden paint on the balconies, and the moth bitten curtain and saw faded grandeur instead of a raggedy building in need of being condemned. Desdemona strutted across stage, calling to the Monroe, “O my love, my wife! Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath hath had no power yet upon your beauty.”
A man came walking on stage towards Desdemona. He wore a Sex Pistols t-shirt, brown leather bomber jacket, threadbare skinny jeans, and his lucky combat boots. Desdemona smiled at him as he ran his hand through his short hair that was colored like fire while he smoked a cigarette. Desdemona silently decided he was her James Dean turned punk. Desdemona trotted up to meet him and commented, “I didn’t hear you come in last night, Ajax.”
“That’s ‘cause I only got in this morning.” Ajax said.
Desdemona held onto the lapels of his jacket as she rocked back and forth on her heels while she grinned at him, asking, “What held you up?”
“Right in the middle of the con the police came and raided the bar for illegal mutants; they snagged a couple of us, and I had to wait for a few hours for things to cool off before I could crawl out my hiding spot and come home.”
Desdemona immediately stopped rocking on her heels and looked over Ajax’s shoulder. Panic assailed Desdemona’s sagacity in a split second. Desdemona asked, her voice shaking, “Ajax, where are Rick and Vi?”
Ajax had been dreading the Desdemona’s questions about Richard and Viola’s whereabouts. Ajax quietly admitted, “I don’t know. I lost sight of them in the raid.”
Desdemona began walking toward the trap door that led to the outside saying, “We have got to go out and find them.”
“Mona.” He said, warning her she was being silly.
Desdemona argued, “But they might be hurt.”
“Which is exactly why we need to stay here and wait for them to come back.” Ajax said, keeping his voice even and calm in hopes to soothe Desdemona.
Tybalt came lumbering in from the room he shared with Ajax and Rick saying, “What’s all the bloody noise about?”
Desdemona exclaimed, “Ajax lost Vi and Rick!”
“What do you mean ‘Ajax lost Vi and Rick’?!” Tybalt demanded.
Desdemona yelled, “I mean Ajax lost Vi and Rick!”
Tybalt was Viola’s older brother, as obvious by their matching pallid skin, black hair, and violet eyes. Tybalt bore holes into Ajax with his intimidating violet eyes, torn between his love for his best friend and his love for his baby sister. Tybalt had been named for his bad temperament when he had been born and was infamous for having quick fists and a quicker tongue. Instead of strangling Ajax right then and there, Tybalt’s lip twitched and he asked in a tone so furious it could liquefy steel, “How the hell did you lose them?”
Ajax calmly said, “I lost sight of them in a police raid at Jamie’s Place. At least one of us needs to stay behind while the other two go fishing for gossip about where they might be.”
Normally Tybalt and Desdemona would argue or agree, but they just glared at Ajax. Ajax, their oh-so-cool leader had actually lost members of the team. Desdemona did not even know exactly how that was possible. Ajax looked at the cocktail of anger and disappointment on Desdemona’s face. He murmured, “I’m sorry.”
But Desdemona did not hear because she had turned on her heel to collect medical supplies. What hurt more was that she did not throw a second glance over her shoulder like she usually did, as if to make sure he was still okay. Ajax muttered, “Vi and Rick are old enough to take care of themselves. Why is this my fault?”
“Because you’re the leader. You’re supposed to keep things together.” Tybalt barked, walking towards the exit.
Ajax followed him, and on the outside they immediately went to the closest bar. Men and women drank together, talking over tables in hushed tones about what happened recently. Over half of them were probably taking head counts, hoping that their friends or family had not been taken in the most recent raid. Ajax and Tybalt took a seat at the most promising booth, where the people all wore worried expressions. Ajax and Tybalt introduced themselves, shook hands, and asked what was up.
Naturally they were talking about the raid. A burly middle aged man named Peter murmured, “My cousin was taken in the police raid, but I know a friend of a friend’s girlfriend who used to date and officer, who said that there are more people missing than in the police records.”
“Meaning that not all of them were taken by cops?” A woman named Alicia asked.
“Yeah,” A young man named Darryl said, “I think it might have to do with the abductions.”
“Abductions?” Tybalt asked.
Peter grunted, “Mutant young’ns have disappeared.”
“Children?” Alicia asked.
“Nah,” Darryl clarified, “Young people. Like people in their teens and twenties. What messes with my head is that these people were in the prime of their life. You think someone would have saw something ‘cause they were fit enough to put up a good fight.”
Ajax and Tybalt glanced at each other because Viola is sixteen and Richard is seventeen. Ajax put a cigarette in his mouth and snapped, causing a flame to rise from his thumb, and lit his cigarette. Peter jerked his chin at Ajax saying, “Pyrokinetic. That’s a powerful affliction you got their, kid. How did you manage to fly under the government’s radar?”
Ajax said around his cigarette, “I’ve got a keen mind, which the police force seems to lack. Not only that, it ain’t an affliction. I just am.”
“The government is corrupt and the police are mindless yes-men overrun with chaos. Whatever happened to our country?” Alicia asked.
“They started playing God,” Tybalt said, “That’s what happened. They created clones to organ harvest, started picking at people’s brains, and force feeding test subjects odd pills then acted surprised when it blew up in their faces.”
Peter raised his glass to the American flag pinned to the wall and said, “All hail the new Lord Jesus Christ.”
Meanwhile, Desdemona paced, occupying her time by running her fingers over the extravagant costumes that had been left behind. Luxurious outfits, decadent dresses, and magnificent hats- all at Desdemona’s disposal. Desdemona took a pink ball gown off the rack and held it to her form, looking at her reflection in a broken body-length mirror. She brushed a hand through her neck-length red hair, patting the waves down to tidiness. She liked the way the pink complimented her skin tone and hair color, contrasting nicely with her golden eyes. Desdemona’s lips pulled into a wicked little smile as she was struck with an idea.
She stripped down and put on the dress. The shell pink gown fit perfectly. Desdemona’s mother had been fed a cornucopia of pills when she was in the labs, and when she got pregnant what was in her system got into Desdemona’s. Desdemona had improved motor skills and an irregularly high IQ from the drugs her mother had been given, meaning she was balanced and smart. Desdemona knew she could mimic normals exactly because she spent a lifetime of watching and envying their life from afar. When she was twelve, she would play on stage with Ajax where they lived in a pretend household in a fantasy where everything was ideal. Where they were normal and their parents were still alive, and where they lived on the rich side of town in a place with heating, A/C, and hot water. Why wait for Vi and Rick on the outside when she could go looking for them on the inside?
When Ajax and Tybalt returned home from asking around, Desdemona had primped herself to the point she looked like any other young wealthy normal lady. She walked up to meet them, turning and allowing her skirts to swish in display. Ajax stared at Desdemona in silent confusion, but could not stop his lips from twitching upwards a little. Tybalt snarled, “Now’s not the time for dress-up.”
Desdemona crossed her arms and said, “This isn’t dress-up, it’s a plan. What’ve you got, Tyb? Scuttlebutt?”
“Scuttlebutt can be very dependable,” Ajax said, “And we’ve learned quite a bit. There have been abductions of young mutants around and about. After these people were abducted this guy was throwing his weight around about discovering this wonderful scientific discovery. He’s throwing a dinner party for the unveiling.”
“How are we going to get me in?” Desdemona asked.
“Who said sneaking you in as a guest was a good idea?” Tybalt sharply asked.
“Do we have another plan?” Ajax asked him.
“Just think of it as the biggest con we’ll ever pull,” Desdemona said, “After all, we’re theatrical, Tyb. We were all named after characters in Shakespeare. Except Ajax- he’s a Homer character.”
Tybalt smiled a little and chuckled, “Ajax- the man out of the circle of Shakespearean names.”
“I don’t need the circle.” Ajax grinned, “I’m not only Ajax, I’m Ajax the Great.”
At the dinner party, Desdemona was hysterical with fear. Yet on the exterior she was unruffled, cool, and calm: the picture of refinement. It was a miracle that a woman of Desdemona’s physical description had been invited and never showed, leaving Desdemona to take her place. She sat with the normals at a long table in the dining room, a mysterious red curtain set up in the corner. This would be fine and dandy if the host was not sitting directly across from her. Desdemona had run cons many times before, but she never tried to wriggle herself into a higher social standing. She barely scraped by the meal, watching her peers to see what to do. She had been wrestling with herself to hide her fear of her situation and contempt of those who sat around her who were gossiping away, gorging themselves, and discussing how overrated the mutant’s problems were.
The host, Evander Marcus, had been eyeing her all night with unnerving black eyes. The fact he was older, had a muscular frame, and blond hair that was professionally slicked made him that much more intimidating. Desdemona kept her cool, reasoning that she was impersonating no one at the table knew closely, and that he may just be checking her out. But reasoning did not stop her heart from jumping into her throat when Evander suddenly stood, crossing the room to the red curtain in the corner. The guests fell silent and Evander tore back the curtain with dramatic embellishment.
Evander had unveiled a simple rickety stool with a light bulb set on top of it. Peculiarly enough, the light bulb was filled with what looked like white sand. Evander delicately picked up the light bulb, showing it to his friends. Some laughed, some were silent, and some were openly displeased with the lack of grandeur. Evander looked at the light bulb, asking, “Doesn’t look like much, does it?”
Without another word Evander threw the bulb to the ground, causing the glass to shatter and the white powder to disperse into the air in a plume of white. Shortly after all the dinner guests fell dead with bloody noses, except Desdemona. Evander smiled and took a seat on the stool, staring at Desdemona from across the room. Evander turned his head and whistled, and Richard and Viola walked in from another room. Evander asked, “Looking for them?”
Desdemona did not want to utter a word to someone she did not trust. Instead, she just gave Evander a terse nod. Viola and Richard stood holding hands next to Evander, gazing at Desdemona with anxious and excited eyes. Desdemona knew it was Viola and Richard for they looked the same, but different. Though there was something different she had not seen before, a certain optimism in their eyes. Desdemona swore it was something you would call “hope”.
“I assure you, they’re perfectly fine. They aren’t prisoners, they’re volunteers.” Evander said, “Allow me to fill you in. A little about myself first, though. My name is Evander Marcus. Though I share my father’s name I carry my mother’s ambitions. As you know, our world was turned upside down when scientists began playing with nature. Their epic plans backfired and the government tried to control its own mistake using inhumane and cruel methods. There are many in our political faction that wish to put my new discovery to use. Would you like to join us?”
Desdemona stared at the bodies on the floor and asked, “What is this discovery, exactly?”
“I used the chemical the government uses to separate the mutants from the normals and applied the equation as opposite, using the chemical to separate the normals from the mutants. The powder is a biochemical weapon against the normals, Desdemona. Richard and Viola have told me so much about you. They told me that you were smart, so I have left the bread crumbs, you came here, and so you’ve proved yourself intelligent. They also told me you’re a dreamer; I am, too. I have a dream to restore equilibrium to our world by removing the variable that’s plaguing the equation. As God created man in his image, I want to create the world in ours.”
Desdemona stared at this ingenious madman and her friends that joined him. Mutants had not been abducted. They joined Evander in his quest to reshape society. Desdemona knew exactly what he was suggesting; genocide. But then she thought of being twelve years old and playing on the stage of the Monroe, playing out a fantasy as reality crushed upon her life. She thought about how that fantasy of a real house, a real family with children, and a real life that she could gladly entitle as “normal” could become tangible reality. She thought about all the injustice she had seen and how the normals took her parents and childhood away from her. She met Evander’s eyes and said, “Let’s kill them all.”