sooo hmm yeah. welcome spidey fans. i am listening to the spidey2 soundtrack right now. the fighty stuff was kind of constructed out of me listening to track 16 and seeing things in my head. i like it when that happens. but it is my first time writing description of action like this, so if it sucky, i apologize. to make up for it i will start the chapter with a gratituitous smart arsed quote, okie?
wheeeeeee. enough! now on with the FUN. Part One- Lazarus
"Adventures! Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"
-The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien
Escher Griffin was bored.
Desperately, mind-numbingly so.
She was so bored that, as every new customer approached her desk, her mind had begun inventing fanciful scenarios for each one, mostly involving wistful thoughts about the jar of sharpened Happy Dino© pencils which sat temptingly next to the cash register. Such thoughts were strictly un-customer-friendly, and no doubt her employers would not have looked kindly on such unprofessional daydreaming. But Escher was not professional, she was fourrteen, and she was very, very bored.
Paradox Books was the largest bookstore in Manhattan. It was located in a prosperous commercial district, right opposite the famous New York Science Museum. It stocked practically every book imaginable, seven huge floors dedicated to the written word. It's owners had steered clear of what they saw as the deplorable 'supermarket' trend of other large bookstores, shunning such nasty things as coffee bars, audio sections, and elevators.
Lately, however, the management had come to realise that by making their store about as interesting for the younger mind as watching paint dry they were missing out on a large share of the market. Responding swiftly, they commissioned a large Children's Section on the ground floor, complete with squashy beanbag seats and eye-watering promotional posters, and in order to really be seen to be 'relating to today's youth', they aquired a license to hire very young teenagers like Escher as till clerks to complete the image. The pay was good, the hours were short, and the job itself was easy.
In Escher's opinion, it sucked.
Today, she was doodling. The excessive heat had driven even the hardiest New Yorkers into the parks and pavement cafes, and during the two hours of her shift so far, she had served a grand total of five people, three of which were just looking for a water fountain. So Escher sat on the elegantly uncomfortable high stool, her hair stirred every quarter minute by the electric fan set up by the desk, and doodled.
Her freckled nose was inches from the page, and her tongue protuded slightly, touching against the cool metal of her brace. The sketch book in front of her was covered in biro sketches, lines, spirals, and figures. Escher liked drawing, and wanted to be an artist some day. Currently, she was drawing a little pattern in the top corner of the page, parallel semicircles of angled lines spanned by long, expanding diagonals. A spiders' web.
On the wall behind her, the sleek grey box which Escher had secretly christened 'that stupid damn ding-dong thing', ding-donged. She let out a pained breath, slipped the biro between her teeth and leaned backwards, her elbow clicking against the device's intercom switch.
'Gthh?' She grimaced, and spat the biro out. 'I mean, yes?'
'Escher?' The voice was crackly, male, and intended to sound imposing. It was also in the middle of breaking on an epic, rollercoaster scale. This one word alone encompassed about three octaves.
'Are you busy?'
Escher looked around the huge, deserted ground floor. A solitary fly buzzed around the ceiling.
'No.' And you know I'm not, Mister-Look-At-All-My-Neato-Security-Monitors. You're looking right at me.
'Good, then you can go up to Stocks. The system says we need more display copies of 'The Last Lawnmower' by J. B Price. Ten should do it.'
Escher glared at the box as if it was in some way responsible. Stocks was on the seventh floor. She turned and looked up at the visuals-only security camera angled at her desk.
'You complete bastard.' she said, smiling and nodding.
Then, when this failed to make her feel any better, she sighed again, and turned to the computer to look up the ISBN number of the book. She decided to take her rucksack, just in case this 'The Last Lawnmower' turned out to be some kind of three-thousand-page epic. One trip up to Stocks and back was bad enough.
She put her sketchbook in the bag, out of habit, and stuck the biro in her pocket. With people like Derek in charge, she felt entirely justified in filching pens.
It took nearly ten minutes to climb the stairs, which were built in one massive stairwell on the east corner of the building. The air was hot and stuffy, and there was a strong smell of new carpets. The architect of the building, in a rare fit of creative passion, had covered the walls in huge, curved windows which allowed someone climbing the stairs to see out across the majestic spread of the city, although the effect was spoiled by all the taller buildings that had sprung up since the store was oringinally built. Now the windows showed the majestic spread of several looming grey stone walls, the busy intersection in front of the Science Museum, and a rather pathetic square of grass and sculpted bushes which someone had optimistically named 'Forest Parks'. The thick, smeary glass of the windows also had the effect of making Escher, toiling up the fourth flight, feel as if she was being fried like an ant under a magnifying glass. She sincerely regretted that morning's rebellious clothing decision which had made her choose a pair of baggy black combats instead of her light blue work trousers.
The job had been her mother's idea, her high-flying work-driven mother to whom watching her daughter sit around drawing all summer was a nearly physical pain. Suzanne Griffin was a senior executive of the sucessful New York based perfume company, Emma Rose. She was a caring, intelligent woman, but the importance she placed on her career and her concerns for Escher's future had lead her to badger, hint, nag and generally force her into this bookstore job. Escher was still in two minds as to whether to ever forgive her. Especially when her little brother, Jamie, who in Escher's opinion was twice as lazy and ten times as spoilt, was allowed to spend all day running around the large roof top garden of their apartment building with his friends.
Fifth floor, and Escher was interrupted from further thought by a stabbing stitch in her side. She sat down on the stairs to recover, staring out of the window at the banner-draped stone front of the Science Museum, which was now about level with her.
Hadn't there been a big deal about the museum the other week? she thought idly. Something about the prototype of a new invention…some high powered groundbreaking blahdy blahdy blah…being exhibited in the museum for a month before going on to tour Europe. Some whizzy one-of-a-kind…new…sciencey…thing.
Escher wasn't really into science. Her life revolved around stories, stories in her books, stories by Lovecraft and Rice and Poe. The stories that she made up in her head, and scrawled in narrow-lined secret sketchbooks which one day she would turn into comics. And she loved comics, and the stories they told, from made-up stories from Spawn to Lenore, to real-life stories so amazing they hardly seemed real, like Spiderman.
…A flash of red and blue, a lithe streak against the azure sky, free-falling impossibly. Free-falling upwards.
Escher stood up, hands pressed against the heated glass pane. She was vaguely aware her mouth was hanging open. The tumbling shape touched briefly against the side of a wall five buildings away, and arced into the air again, in a move which surely defied the laws of gravity, not to mention common sense.
No-one on the street below seemed to have noticed. Not even the queueing crowd that wove around the steps of the Science Museum, who would have had a clear view if they had only looked up. Escher felt the breath catch in her throat as the figure performed another impossible flip, and this time she was close enough to see the thin line of silver which shot from an ouflung arm, finding an anchor somewhere in the tangle of TV arials on top of the opposite building, now only two buildings down. The line stretched as the masked figure ran along the side of the building, a dizzying move which ended in a headlong diving swing right across the empty space above the park, snapping into a long horizontal arc which, at its widest point, passed not two feet from her window- so close that Escher found herself falling back against the curling stair rail behind her.
'Showoff…' she breathed, her voice dazed with admiration and envy.
Dropping the line, which caught the sun as it fell limply towards the road, the figure tumbled upright and dropped gracefully onto the triangular facade of the Science Museum, a carved, time-weathered affair which resembled a Greek temple. There it stopped, frozen against the tone, as if waiting for something.
And now there was a sound, rising above the muted hum of the city, distant and urgent. Police sirens. Escher looked back at the crowd around the steps of the Museum, and realised that the random milling had turned into something different. People were running, streaming out through the big white doors and down the steps, shoving, pushing, panicking. Escher was suddenly reminded of a National Geographic documentary she'd seen at the weekend, which had showed a bunch of zebra stampeding away from a hunting cheetah in their midst. She'd missed the end, because her mother had switched it off around the point that blood had started to spatter the camera, but nevertheless the memory was enough to start a worried, sick forboding feeling in her stomach.
Noises are very difficult to write. Comic books, of the kind that Escher loved, used a sort of shorthand- for example, using the word POW to describe an explosion and letting the reader fill in the details for themselves. But the sound that hit Escher at that moment, shaking the building and throwing her off her feet, was just too big, huge and complicated, to be simplified. It was a masonry-hurling, ground-shaking,
Dust filled the air around Escher as she picked herself up off the floor, golden motes that flashed and drifted in the sun. She tasted blood and touched her lip, feeling stickiness. Grabbing for the stair rail, she stared, eyes wide, at the scene below.
The front of the Science Museum had, mostly, gone. The steps, now free of people, were strewn with chunks of rubble up to and over the size of small cars. Clouds of brick dust and smoke were spiralling lazily skywards. Of the Spiderman there was no sign, and the elaborate facade which he had landed on just a few minutes ago had lurched to one side, losing half of its supports in the process, and come to rest hanging twenty feet or so above the wide hole where the doors had been. It looked, Escher thought, very unsafe. And then there had been that sound, towards the end, that frightening hissing which had sounded like no explosion or impact, but instead like the biggest snake…
…in the world.
Miraculously, no-one in the stampede below seemed to have been hurt. As the dust began to settle and nothing further happened, a crowd started to gather at a safe distance from the debris, pressing forwards curiously.
'You morons!' screamed Escher, hammering on the glass with both hands. 'HAVE NONE OF YOU EVER SEEN AN AN ACTION MOVIE?'
And then it happened. Faster than she could blink, an olive-grey blur shot out of the ruined doors, a long, sinuous something that shone dully as the light caught it. The end, outspread in a jointed, three-tongued claw, slammed into the sidewalk on the other side of the road, raising another thick cloud of dust. It was quickly joined by a second, which whipped out sideways and caught a fire hydrant side-on as it went, sending a plume of high-pressure water high into the air.
Rising from the wreckage, drawn by the pull of the claws which were now both securely anchored in the buckled concrete, came a shape which up until that moment Escher had only seen in the blurred photos of the Daily Bugle.
The shape of a man, bulky in a long, trailing trenchcoat, from the back of which curled four huge metal tentacles. It was the lower two of these that were clamped into the sidewalk, and the upper two curved up and over his shoulders like the backbones of two skeletal wings. Suspended between the four tentacles, the man hung nearly ten foot off the ground.
Escher's attention was suddenly distracted by a burst of sound from the other side of the square. Sirens wailing, three police cars drew up on the grass verge, their occupants spilling out to take up positions behind various statues and benches. A fourth slewed across the park, stopping only inches from the two anchored claws. Two cops jumped out, drawing their weapons.
The taller cop yelled something at the suspended man, who turned, shrugging his shoulders to trigger a fluid movement which started with a shudder in the base of one tentacle and ended, seconds later, with the police car being thrown clear across the park, smashing through the window of a car showroom on the other side of the square.
As inappropriate as it was, Escher couldn't help a snerk of laughter at the looks on the faces of the two men, as they turned to stare at the place where their car had been. The giggle quickly died in her throat, however, as the lower tentacles shook themselves free of the ground, one after the other, walking their owner swiftly towards the two cops. As the monsterous, eight-limbed shadow fell across them, the men gaped helplessly, clearly frozen to the spot.
The upper two tentacles drew back, tensed to strike…
…and couldn't move. The claw heads writhed, trying to open, glued shut by the thick strands of webbing that twined into strong, thin lines, lines that stretched through the air from the sturdy head of a nearby lamp-post. The figure swung around to see what had happened, snared tentacles thrashing like a violent dog on a leash.
A blaze of red and dark blue shot from a side street and cannoned into the man at the centre of the robotic arms, Losing their grip on the ground, the two lower arms slid out from underneath their owner, who hit the ground in an untidy roll. Immediately, one of the tentacles was there, nudging the figure upright. Meanwhile the two trapped upper arms bunched in a combined effort, tearing the lamp-post right out of the sidewalk.
This unusual missile, catapulted by the elastic string of web which still adhered to the tentacles, flew skywards in a deadly arc. The Spiderman, launching himself from the roof of a convenient taxi, shot a snaring web after it. His aim was perfect- but before it could hit, his tentacled adversary leapt into the air, all four limbs leaving the ground at once, and with one contemptuous shrug of an arm swiped the web aside. The same swipe sheared through the strands that glued one of the upper arms, which snapped out and caught the lamp-post just as it started to fall. The arm lashed out, forcing the masked hero to throw himself forward into a low dive to avoid the reach of this new weapon. Another lethal swipe, and this time the Spiderman jumped directly upwards, landing on the remains of the stone facade. Several chunks of debris slid from this unstable perch, and he stumbled as the facade keeled over a little further.
The arrival of the lamp-post-wielding robotic arm spelled the end of this delicate balancing act, slamming into the stone a hair's breadth from the Spiderman's feet. With a rending groan, the whole thing gave way, sliding like a toppled tower of Lego bricks into the remains of the marble steps. For a heart-stopping moment, Escher thought that the hero had gone with it. Until she saw the thin line of the web, and traced it up…
…until there was no more up, until she was staring at the shadowy roof of the stairwell far above her head. Whatever relief she felt at this narrow escape faded as her gaze was dragged, slowly, inevitably, back downwards…
And, as if on cue, she heard it.
One after the other, far below her feet, getting louder with each sucessive blow, the terrible impacts climbed up the side of the Paradox Books building. And then, just as she thought that her teeth were going to be shaken right out of her mouth, they stopped.
There was an ominous silence, broken only by the faint commotion in the street far below and the deafening thudding of her heart.
She wanted run. But which way? Up was insanity, and down was worse. Like the hapless policemen, she felt rooted to the spot. Almost of its own accord, her hand crept to her pocket, where it encountered the small smooth length of the biro. She pulled it out and held it in front of her. The sheer stupidity of this made her want to laugh again.
Could be worse. Could be made out of rubber.
Suddenly, a long, dark shape - a tentacle - rippled up past the window, splitting the air with a dry hiss which carried through the glass. Midway, it met a falling red-and-blue figure, which actually landed on a curve of the limb with both feet and surfed downwards for a moment before leaping off. Another moment, and the eight-armed man rose into view, swinging one tentacle sideways in a vicious move which was clearly intended to squash the Spiderman against the window like a bug. The hero ducked, and leapt away as the arm hit the tempered glass pane, leaving a pretty pattern of cracks and an oily smear.
Escher couldn't help it. She screamed.
It wasn't a good scream. Terror had taken most of her breath, and anyway the slight build of her fourteen-year-old body was not designed for delivering the kind of operatic, prima donna screech that was suitable for occasions like this. But it was enough.
The heads of both antagonists snapped around, all movement stopping in an instant. Escher stared into their faces, their hidden eyes- one pair frosty white and stylized, the other large, round, and jet black. She noted the thin, scored cut across the red cloth of the Spiderman's cheek, and saw the scratched skin beneath it. She noticed the brick dust that still clung to his enemy's hair, turning what looked like a shade of brown to patchy grey. A couple of seconds drifted by, long as years.
Of the three, the Spiderman recovered quickest. While his adversary was still distracted, he let go of the wall and pushed off downwards, piledriving feet first into the man's shoulder. Even through the glass, Escher still heard the sickening crack.
The villain screamed, and the claw that Escher could see spasmed, releasing its hold on the wall. The Spiderman dodged the thrashing tentacle, throwing another punch at the man's face, and sending shards of black smoked glass glittering away into space.
It seemed that all four arms lost their grip then, and their owner fell several feet before one of the claws lodged against the cornerstone and stopped him with a jerk, now exactly level with Escher's step. As the Spiderman backed off up the wall, his lean body tensing for a final attack, his enemy turned his head and looked straight at her.
This time, beneath the shattered lenses of his sunglasses, she saw his eyes.
Saw the decision.
Escher watched, in the soothing calm that comes from extreme hysteria, as the fourth tentacle snaked into view. Time ran into treacle, following the lazy drift of the arm, curling towards her window with all the unstoppable force of continental drift. She saw the claw open, as pieces of glass exploded soundlessly outwards from the impact, and she saw the bright glow at its centre, a glow which looked just like an unblinking eye.
…And then there was nothing.
oooohhh. more soon folks. i guess. i like comments. a lot.