"We are writing this diary to prove to ourselves that either this happened or that we're all suffering the same hallucination. Well, assuming we come out of this alive. The path we take isn't going to be easy, but at least it's better than surviving Mr. Godwin's parties and the nuns at school. At least, it should be."
Sam Roberts, Jr.
Survival Diaries: New York, 2000
By Akino Ame
Part of Lord Archive's Diaries Universe. Used with permission
Disclaimer: I'm far too poor to own Digimon. Accept that for the whole fic.
Entry One: "End of Normal Days"
The gorilla climbed to the top of the Empire State Building with everyone below watching in terror. The New York National Guard held up their rifles but didn't dare fire. Why, the boy didn't know. This was just too unreal for him, something out of one of his father's movies rather than an interruption in school.
"It's like that old movie," gaped the bespectacled boy beside him, as though reading his mind. "But, then nothing could keep the military from shooting." Trust Steve to have all that random trivia knowledge. "What's stopping them?"
The loud whirring of propellers sounded through the air. An American Indian boy pointed as three helicopters triumphantly roared in the sky, charging into battle like the knights of old.
"Look!" he shouted. "That's probably what they're waiting for!"
But he couldn't see. His Native American friend could and Steve could, but he couldn't. A nun was eclipsing his view while a terrified little girl clung to her leg and a nine-year-old African-American boy watched the event in anticipation just ahead of the two. He envied how this boy could get past Sister Margaret without getting in trouble. But then again, who was really watching the children? Everyone's eyes were on the display in the sky.
He stood on his toes and tried to get a better view before his friends scooted aside to give him room. He managed to get out a quick "Thanks, Steve, thanks, Lou" before it happened. The helicopters exploded suddenly from some kind of blast. And if he didn't know better, he'd swear it came from the gorilla—
"Michael!" a woman's voice shouted. "Michael Patrick Godwin, wake up now!"
The boy yawned, stretched, and got out of bed. Eleven years old with light gold hair and blue eyes, he was almost the spitting image of his father, the famous movie and television star Brandon Godwin. But Michael was far from being merely his father's son. He was a perfect Boy Scout, merit badges and all, and almost every bit the stereotype of a good Catholic schoolboy. He was the kind of boy every mother wanted her daughter to bring home: innocent but not too naïve, studious but not too much so, and willing to lend a hand to anyone in any kind of distress. It was hard to believe he was Brandon Godwin's son. The man was a Casanova with crude humor, too much of a taste for alcohol, and far too many parties. The boy was polite and kind to women, tried his hardest not to laugh at even the funniest of objectionable jokes, hated the smell of alcohol, and locked himself in his room to study when parties were thrown. In fact, he was embarrassed by his father's lifestyle. That was one thing that he had in common with most children: his father humiliated him.
They lived in a penthouse in Manhattan—just them and their housekeeper/cook, Felicia Llewelyn. She had been the Godwins' housekeeper for eight years now and was practically a mother to him. Or as close to a mother as he could get since his own had remarried three times without expressing the slightest bit of interest in him.
Hollywood romances. What did you expect? Not the fairy-tale "happily ever after" endings the parents of some of Michael's friends had. He didn't envy them, per se, but he did enjoy spending time at their houses, watching the familial functions and dysfunctions.
"Michael!" the voice cried again.
"In a minute!" he replied. "I'm getting dressed!"
The voice muttered something about his waking up late being the cause of his constant insomnia. He just smiled and laughed softly to himself. Felicia had a habit of teasing him lightly, even if it sounded insulting to others.
Finally through putting on his uniform, he pulled on his shoes to hear the phone ring. On the other end was his best friend Steve.
"Steve, why'd you call?"
"Can't a guy call his friend before school? If this is the way you'll be in college, you'll just have to tell your roommate not to have any phone calls before class. Besides, I'm getting ready. I've eaten breakfast and I'm decent." Decent, for Steve, meant he had his pants on at least.
"So what is it?"
"Wanted to let you know that I have that CD ready for you. Burned it last night—and legally, mind you. I don't need you spurting off Scripture. I used one of the download systems where you pay. So you'll owe me about $7.35, I think."
"I'll give you the money on the way to school."
"Okay, and I'll give you the CD. Bring your player so you can listen to it on the way."
Had this been a face-to-face conversation, Michael would have been staring at Steve in horror right now. "Steve, I can't. It's against the rules…"
"Michael, it's okay. It's all right if the temptation is there so long as you resist it. At least, I think that's what Father Tom was getting at during Mass. I was kind of comparing how close Judaism and Christianity are. Amazing how just one man makes all the difference."
"Steve, I'll never understand you, you know that?"
"That's what makes me an individual. See you on the way to class."
Steve Smith yawned and hung up his phone. Class clown, otaku, geek, and role-player all rolled up into one, he seemed an unlikely candidate to be Michael Godwin's best friend. But his fun-loving personality helped Michael lighten up in life, and it tended to annoy his relatives. His parents had urged him to be an individual in order to succeed in business, and he had taken the matter a little too much to heart. For example, he was 75-percent Jewish, practiced the Jewish faith, and enrolled in a Catholic school because he liked to keep an open mind to other religions. His British heritage inherited from his grandfather shone brightly, inciting animosity from extended family members. He didn't care though—Heaven forbid he should actually care what closed-minded people thought—and kept with his role. Clown. Otaku. Geek. Role-player. All-around fun guy.
He put Michael's CD in a case before slipping it in his book bag along with his CDs and player, some manga, a few other books (mainly Lovecraft and Dragonlance), and his school things. He then added a Pop Tart to eat on the way and changed into the rest of his uniform. He hoped his friend liked the compilation: everything from Utada Hikaru to Yuki Kajiura to Dir en Grey to the Pillows. J-pop and J-rock tunes he picked carefully and scanned lyrics of so that Michael wouldn't hear anything embarrassing. He didn't really care what his relatives thought of him, but his friend's opinions did matter. Family never left—they couldn't, but friends could and did. He didn't want to risk it.
"Steve?" his father asked, knocking on the door. "I'm leaving early for work, and your mom's already gone. I want you to start heading off to school now. No TV—you run late every time you watch your cartoons." Steve didn't even bother muttering that anime was a lot more mature than most American cartoons; his father would just brush it away anyway. "So get your shoes on and go."
Slipping out his shoes and running out the door, he managed to catch one of his other friends, Samuel "Sam" Roberts, Jr., stalking angrily out of the adjacent apartment. The ten-year-old African-American barely noticed him and therefore bumped his arm as he walked past.
"Hey, Sam, watch it."
"Oh. Sorry, Steve."
"It's okay. What's up with you? I've never seen you this angry before."
Sam sighed. "Nothing more than the usual father-son bonding moments."
Steve knew what that meant and winced. Sam's father had bought his first franchise of the McWonder fast food chain at eighteen and now owned a dozen McWonder restaurants. "Father-son bonding" meant he was trying to instill the work ethic in his son, trying to get him to succeed in life. But Sam just wanted to be a regular kid.
"I'm ten years old," he continued. "Right now, my money's spent on videogames like any normal kid. I don't want to get it in stocks and bonds so I can have enough to start my own business. That's too far off for me."
"So what are you going to do?" Steve asked. Sam shrugged.
"I'll know it when I find it. Anyway, we'd better get to school. Lou's waiting for me outside probably."
"Oh yeah," Steve recalled. "I'm supposed to meet Michael on the way." He pulled out his snack and broke off a piece. "Pop Tart?"
Sam looked at him as if he was crazy (which he probably was, he decided). "No thanks. That stuff's disgusting."
Steve shrugged. "To each his own." With that, he took a bite into the iced strawberry pastry and continued his walk out to the streets of New York.
Eleven-year-old Lou Stoneheart tried desperately to pay attention to his social studies, but he found it all the more difficult as the class progressed. To the other students, this seemed easy for him: the progress of racial minorities in society today. Five paragraphs, each with at least three sentences. And he was an American Indian from a pretty wealthy family, now enrolled in a private Catholic school. There was an example, good enough for at least two paragraphs.
He held his head in his hand as he stared at his notebook paper, trying to concentrate in spite of his emotions. The red-orange headband holding back his shoulder-length black hair (both allowed only for cultural reasons) felt almost damp with sweat. Why oh why did he have to have this topic? What could he say? "You can buy cheap cigarettes on their lands"? "They make their money with whores and gambling"?
He felt sick.
"Louis?" Sister Margaret checked, coming up to him. He began to feel even worse; of all of King of Kings Parochial School's nuns, Sister Margaret Andrews was the most severe. If she saw that he wasn't working, he knew what kind of punishment he was getting.
And it wasn't exactly fun getting paddled by the priest, especially at eleven.
"Louis?" she called again, observing his cold, clammy sweat and the greenish tint to his tan skin. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Sister Margaret," he answered quickly—a little too quickly. She placed a hand on his forehead, and he began to blush brightly. This was even more embarrassing than the paddle.
"You don't feel warm, but I don't want to take any chances. Go to the clinic and lie down." She gave him a pass and sent him on his way, allowing him to forget the assignment for the moment.
Sister Cecilia Brown, a nun and a nurse, was in charge of King of Kings' student clinic. She had seen all sorts of sicknesses the kids faked in order to get out of a class. With all of this experience, she knew who was really sick and who needed the paddle.
One of her frequent visitors was Louis Stoneheart, a young descendent of the Paiute nation of Nevada, and despite the fact that his family gained their wealth from running casinos in Vegas, he was pure and innocent—a complete foil to their sinful origins. He never wanted to cause any trouble, so he kept to himself. Sister Cecilia supposed this was why he was sick so often: The stress was too much for him.
He came in once again with a stomachache, and so she asked him to wait outside the resting room. Father Tom had found another patient and needed to help her get situated first. Lou nodded and sat down, submissive and quiet as always. Sister Cecilia shook her head. Couldn't he just scream or yell or swear just once? Just once to show that he was going to be okay?
May the Lord watch over and heal him, she prayed silently.
Inside, Father Thomas Sullivan laid a seven-year-old girl on a bed. While at Communion practice, she'd fainted from the strong incense. Old Father Montag, the pastor, had burned a little too much, his failing eyes miscalculating the correct amount. Rumor had it that he was retiring soon and all bets were on that Assistant Pastor Tom would take over.
The girl, Maria Sanchez, stirred and slowly began to open her eyes.
"Maria, are you all right?"
"Father Tom?" she asked.
"Don't worry," he assured. "You just smelled too much incense. Father Montag is fanning it out of the chapel. You can try practice later today if you're feeling better." She nodded. "All right. You just rest for now and get better. I'll let Sister Cecilia know you're awake."
He stepped out of the room to see Lou sitting in a chair, his head between his knees. If he didn't get to the restroom soon, he was going to vomit.
"Father Tom, can you take Louis to the men's room?" Sister Cecilia requested. "I'm afraid he's too unstable to walk on his own."
"Don't worry," the priest assured, getting one arm around the nauseous boy.
Inside the restroom, Father Tom allowed Lou to lock himself in a stall so he could throw up without being watched. But for some reason, in between his vomiting and spitting, he and the assistant pastor managed to talk about some very important issues.
"Sister Cecilia says that you've been in and out of the clinic a lot," Father Tom noticed. "Is everything all right with you, Louis?" There was the sound of him blowing some half-digested food out of his mouth.
"I don't know. Sometimes I just get too tense and suddenly I'm throwing up."
"This isn't healthy. Have you talked to your parents about this? Or your friends?"
"You should. You can't keep everything bottled in anymore. That's what Sister Cecilia thinks is making you sick, and I have to agree. Promise me that you'll do something about it? Scream, yell, punch something—as long as it's not another person or living being. God will forgive you if you let your emotions take over."
"I want you to really promise."
"Good. If you break this, God will know and so will I. Now, can you tell me what it is that's making you so miserable today?"
"Father, I have sinned. I've broken the Fourth Commandment." Father Tom frowned. "Honor thy father and thy mother," the Fourth Commandment said. Another meaning was "Respect your elders."
"What have you done that is so disrespectful?"
"I should be grateful that my family has the money to raise me so well in New York and enroll me in this school. But I have lately been criticizing their methods. I…am ashamed of my family's legacy and the business my uncle still runs. I am angry at my family for running their casinos on our ancestral lands, and I find it hard to respect my heritage and my parents with all of what I know."
Father Tom was silent for a moment. This was a difficult one. The Stonehearts were notorious for running casinos and brothels, and poor Lou had to suffer through whispers and dirty looks his first years at King of Kings. But at the same time, he had disobeyed one of the greatest laws of the Bible. Just because his parents were sinners, it didn't mean Lou could treat them without honor and respect. The boy threw up once more, as if purging his soul of all the sins of his fathers and himself.
"Louis, I forgive you your sins, as does the Lord. Remember that although your family has turned from God, you must still show them the same respect that you would if they were less sinful. Go now and sin no more." He then stood up and left the boy in the restroom, heaving, breathing, and believing that things could improve. He then flushed the toilet and went to the sink to rinse out his mouth.
The three boys walked into the clinic during their lunch hour, all for the same reason: to visit Lou Stoneheart. He was Sam's friend and therefore Steve's and therefore Michael's. With that boy especially, Steve had suggested making a web of support so that the three could have somebody to talk to when they needed it. And with the way Lou had gotten sick again, it was obvious that he needed to talk.
Sister Cecilia permitted them to enter, waving them in as she typed on her computer. The phone at her desk rang, notifying her of a crisis in the kindergarten class involving the students eating glue. She dropped everything and ran for the class. The three boys decided just to enter the resting room and check up on their friend.
"Lou, you okay?" Sam asked.
"Sam? Steve? Michael?" he recognized, sitting up slowly. "What are you doing here?"
"We wanted to make sure you were okay," Michael informed.
"Yeah," Steve added. "You looked pretty sick in social studies."
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "Just nerves."
"Hmm?" questioned a voice nearby. They turned to see a seven-year-old girl waking up to see four rather unfamiliar boys. "Who are you? Did you get sick too?"
"No, they're just visiting me," Lou explained.
"Oh. I'm Maria Sanchez."
"Michael Godwin." His voice was low, anticipating the traditional reaction. He got it.
"Isn't your daddy the movie star? My mommy watches his movies all the time."
"Yes, he is."
"That's cool. My daddy just works at Wall Street. I don't know what's so special about working at that street, but he brings home a lot of money." The boys laughed. Of course a little kid wouldn't know what stockbrokers were. "So why are you here?"
"Lou got sick in class, so Michael, Sam, and I came to visit him," Steve answered.
"That's nice of you. I got sick and fell asleep in church. Only Father Tom visited me."
"Why'd you fall asleep?" Sam questioned.
"The smell of the incense. It made me sleep during Communion practice. So Father Tom said I could try practicing later today."
"You fainted then?" Michael guessed. Maria nodded. "Well I hope you get better."
"Hey, Lou," Steve offered, "why don't you come to my house for Passover tonight? It's the second night, so…"
"What's Passover?" Maria asked.
"It's an important holiday in the Jewish religion," Steve explained. "Jewish people like me celebrate it instead of Easter."
"Do you get chocolate bunnies and colored eggs?"
He laughed a little. "No."
"Doesn't sound too much fun to me. And if you're Jewish, why don't you go to a Jewish school?"
Steve was about to explain, but Michael stopped him. "Trust me, don't get him started on this."
"Well, anyway, why don't you come?" Steve suggested again. "You and Michael and Sam…"
"Can I come?" Maria questioned.
"I don't know," he admitted. "You'd have to ask your parents."
"I'll ask them after school."
"Okay," he replied. "Can the rest of you make it?"
"Probably," Michael answered.
"Sure," Sam added. "Besides, it's not like Dad's going to be worried about where I am. Your apartment is just across the hall."
"I guess so," Lou affirmed. "There's really nothing my parents have planned tonight for dinner. And I think they'd like it if I get out with my friends every once in a while."
"Then it's settled," Steve decided. "After school, I'll let my parents know. Just write down your phone number, Maria, so I can call you. And I'll give you mine so you can let me know what your mom and dad say."
"So we'll see you later, Lou," Sam commented. "Want us to bring you back anything for lunch?"
He shook his head. "I don't even want to try food right now."
"Okay, see you at the seder hopefully," Michael answered.
He and Sam had just about stepped out the door when the monitor of Sister Cecilia's computer began to glow and pulsate. He stepped forward with the intent to see what was wrong when light blue devices shot out to the children, burning in their hands. Each device beeped loudly and blazed, sending its radiance around a child. Without intending to, each child felt himself being brought closer and closer to the computer…
Michael opened his eyes to find he was lying in the middle of a river. He felt so lethargic; his limbs didn't want to work and his brain didn't want to think. Beside him was a large green frog with a red mohawk, just watching him. He didn't even have time to wonder what that frog was before he lost consciousness again. With a gesture equivalent to a shrug, the frog bit on young Godwin's blond hair and towed him back to shore.
First off, major thanks to Lord Archive for the title. It drives me crazy when I can't think of one. The event at the beginning was not a dream—it'll come into importance later on in the fic. I did not create these characters—I think that was Archive's work. I just added onto Lou mostly. The nuns and priests are mine though. And though I haven't gone to Catholic school, my friend Kelly and my parents did, so they helped me out with the descriptions of King of Kings Parochial School. Yes, according to Kelly, they still use the paddle. And an odd little coincidence: Kyle Evanick had been considering using the New York team before I took it and he wanted to use the same idea of stress-sickness for Lou. Weird how some things turn out.
Now, after the embarrassment of "Southern Cross" one, I want to point out that whoever reviews must follow the rules at the top of my profile. I won't accept any reviews that consist of merely "Great job" or something of the sort. And be sure to write in a language I understand. No l33t, Japanese, or fangirl speak, okay? I'll work hard on trying to update, but with several other projects, I need to share time. Till the next, anyway!