Fairytale of New York
Chapter One: An Unprecedented Arrival
A/N: Just a note for newcomers--I'd like to say now that my original characters will not become the love interest of any of Weisman's cast, be they gargoyle or otherwise. I'm not into the Mary Sue thing. If that starts happening here, it's a good indication that someone has stolen my identity and you should call the police.
This story begins, as so many do, with the arrival of a letter.
It was just past noon on Saturday, April 15th, and Marjorie still hadn't gotten up yet. This was highly unusual for her; on Saturdays she was up before the sun, well on her way to the nearest Subway station to catch the early morning commuters. After she'd earned her lunch money, she'd then leisurely make her way down to Central park to whichever one of her favorite busking spots was still available. She usually spend the rest of her afternoon in the park, finally ending her day at whichever gig or rehearsal presented itself.
She had become so accustomed to this that when she finally did wake up to the sound of what could only be her landlady knocking loudly on her apartment door, she was so surprised to see that she had overslept that it took her nearly a minute to realize that Carole was still knocking.
"Well, you are here," Carole greeted her with a nod. "I'd thought you'd've gone out by now. Sleeping in for once, were you?"
"Yeah," Marjorie agreed, her eyes still squinting from sleep. "Uh…Yeah."
"And here I thought you were a morning person," Carole said dryly. "Letter came for you." Carole held up a battered looking envelope, looking at her all the while with sharp interest.
Marjorie reached out to take it, mystified. Tenants had their own mailbox on the first floor, and Marjorie hardly got anything but junk mail anyway, never mind anything worth delivering in person. "Uh…okay. It's not the black spot, is it? Am I being evicted?"
"Not before you pay this month's rent, you're not," Carole answered. "And I wouldn't have even noticed that letter if the mailman hadn't gotten me out of bed to specifically give it to you."
"What?" Marjorie knew that her landlady had a strange sense of humor, and now fully awake, she looked Carole over for any sign that she was joking. All she could see in her face, however, was genuine curiosity. "The mailman woke you up to deliver this personally?"
Carole gave a small puff of a sigh. "Tell me about it." As Carole leaned back against the wall, Marjorie noticed that Carole was still obviously dressed for bed, wearing a flannel nightgown and baby blue bathrobe. "He's still downstairs. He wanted to come up, but figured you were already out, and I don't let strangers in past the lobby anyways."
Marjorie looked back up from the letter to see that Carole was watching her. "There's no return address…"
"Read the address," Carole said after an unnerving pause. Suddenly uneasy, Marjorie looked down at the letter in her hands. It read:
Historic Building Under Manhattan Bridge
Who addressed letters like this? Marjorie wondered. She supposed it was amazing in itself that the letter had even managed to be delivered at all, but still, why would it be such a big deal that Carole would get out of bed before three—
The right-hand corner of the envelope caught her eye. She blinked, looked at it closer, and blinked again. "This is postmarked four years ago," she said slowly. She looked back to Carole. "I didn't live in this building four years ago. I didn't even live in New York."
Carole didn't say anything, but she this had clearly already occurred to her. "The guy says it's been floating around in his office for years now. For some reason they've never been able to confirm the address until today, and they've tried redirecting it to where ever the lost mail is supposed to go, but it keeps turning back up….not his problem anymore, I'd say."
There was a pause between them in the hall, and Marjorie suddenly felt the air tense around them, but she couldn't bring herself to open the letter.
"Well, I'll be going back to bed," Carole finally said with reluctance. "Remember, rent by the end of the month."
Marjorie watched her shuffle off, and then quietly closed the door. She reread the postmark again, thinking she must have been mistaken, but no matter how many times she looked at it, it remained the same: March 1st, 1991.
Marjorie placed the letter on the table of her kitchen (which was actually just an overlarge stool) and started making tea and popped half a bagel in her hulking toaster, needlessly arranging the dishes and things on the counter. She munched her bagel and sipped her tea and tidied up around her apartment, and when she ran out of things to straighten and arrange she started to dust, until she remembered how much she hated cleaning and realized that dusting would not make the letter disappear.
Resigned, she finally sat down to the table and picked up the envelope. Frowning at herself, she stuck her thumb under the lip of the envelope, and after steeling herself, she ripped through the seal in one unflinching motion, as though she were ripping of a band-aid. But she could not stop herself from looking at the postmark date one last time.
Marjorie did not like thinking about her life from four years ago. She rarely enjoyed being reminded that she was not a native New Yorker, or that she had lived for the first fifteen years of her life in upstate New York in a small town full of people that didn't miss her. But it was this rough patch in 91' that she especially did not like to remember, and here was a letter from exactly then that had seemed to know exactly where to find her, and that scared her a little.
She abruptly pulled out the contents of the envelope much the same way she had opened it. Clutched in her hand was a small single sheet of paper folded over once. Marjorie opened it up to find to her surprise that it was a piece of hotel stationary for a place called Journey On Inn, a local bed and breakfast from her hometown. The sense of dread Marjorie had felt upon the letter's arrival almost kept her from reading further, but soon the dread was replaced by confusion, and then baffled curiosity as she read the short but cryptic message:
137 West 30th Street
Find the back door
All your answers start here.
Marjorie felt oddly insulted. True, she hadn't known what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this. It felt too much like a prank some of her NYU friends would pull. Getting her nervous with that touchy date in her past and then sending a hokey clue to get her on—a what? A scavenger hunt?
Except…Marjorie bit her lip. She had never told anyone what had happened on the exact date of March 1st, 1991.
She scanned the paper again, and turned it over. Marjorie blinked at what she saw. Just as cryptic as the message before it, a scratchy and ambiguous figure was sketched on the back of the paper with what looked like ballpoint pen. Studying it closely, Marjorie was able to discern what looked like a large animal—maybe a big cat, like a panther, from the way it crouched—but then, it also looked strangely human by the shape of its head and torso. Marjorie looked closer. It had wings.
Marjorie sat back in her seat, now at a complete loss for what to think.
"It's a conspiracy, man," Lonan was telling anyone who would listen. But because he was surrounded mostly by thoroughly smashed NYU thespians belatedly celebrating last semester's completion of a successful run of Kiss Me Kate, his captive audience consisted of only Marjorie and their mutual friend Rodger, who Marjorie suspected was only half-conscious. It was January 5th, 1995.
"But it's not like it was hushed up or anything," said Marjorie, ever the devil's advocate. "I saw the gargoyle story on the news."
Lonan snorted. "If you mean that piece o' biased 'Times-Square-Bigfoot' crap they pushed it off as, then yeah, you did see it on the news." Lonan was referring to the five minute segment on last night's Nightwatch had displayed an amateur's photography of a blurry object seemingly rushing up the side of a building on January 3rd. The piece could have been called humorously skeptic at best, likening anyone claiming to have seen a "living gargoyle" running amuck in Times Square the urban counterpart of crazed Bigfoot fanatics. Lonan, having spent the past few days telling everyone he could about his near encounter with a giant monster while strolling down Seventh Avenue, had not been pleased.
"The point is, something is going on, and everyone up there is freaking out about it, so they write it off as a hoax so no one is the wiser." He solemnly took a swig from his beer bottle. Marjorie considered her friend with an indulgent smile. If she hadn't had known Lonan as well as she did, she would have probably given his story more credence. However, Lonan was the kind of person who seemed to have a never ending supply of cousins who had boyfriends who had dentists who had tax brokers that aliens were always abducting or who had disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.
"I know what I saw, and you," he said, tilting the neck of his bottle forcefully in her direction, "had best be more careful when you go out at night. This thing could eat you in three bites. They are out there."
"Do do, doo dooo," Rodger hummed the X-Files theme song in agreement.
"Hey, don't worry about me," Marjorie said with just the right blend of humor and seriousness. "If a gargoyle comes after me in the night, I'll just remind them about how they don't really exist."
Lonan ignored her for the rest of the night.
As it turned out, Lonan would benefit from his persistence in retelling his gargoyle story over and over. A little more than a week later found Marjorie sitting across from Lonan in The Twisted Nail, a.k.a. the only "proper" pub to be found anywhere east of the Village—a small underground smoke-trap that served drinks and occasionally had bands play. Marjorie was filling in for Lonan's regular fiddle, and they had just finished an extended set that had lasted an hour longer than on the bill. Lonan, as usual, jokingly chalked it up to his good looks, but Marjorie suspected it had more to do with his righteous energy on stage.
He'd been especially cheerful—perhaps triumphant was a better word—ever since Nightwatch had aired the report of gargoyle-like creatures robbing MOMA and the other sightings. All day, people kept coming up to him and asking him to tell his "urban Bigfoot gargoyle story" again.
"Admit it, you have to admit it," he said across from her, beaming. "You're eating your words right about now, aren't you?"
"What words?" Marjorie asked innocently, wiping the sweat away from her forehead.
Lonan sucked in air through his teeth, eyebrows raised. "It's no use tryin' to pretend you don't remember what you said. I saw it, and now everyone else will too."
"Okay, so maybe you did see something, Lo," Marjorie said, speaking loudly to be heard over the noise in the club. "But the question you're not asking is, what?"
Lonan seemed caught off-guard by the sudden turn in conversation. "Dunno," he answered much more seriously. "Whatever it was, it was fast, heavy, and apparently has a thing for modern art," he said, referring to the report of the Eye of Odin's theft. "Also, it was scary as hell."
Marjorie smirked. "I thought you barely even saw it."
"Doesn't mean I wasn't scared."
Now it was Marjorie's turn to be surprised. "You're scared? Why?"
Lonan looked at her incredulously. "Are you kidding me? A bunch of hulking monsters are running around New York and you're asking me why it bothers me?"
Marjorie looked around the crowded pub. The band after them was beginning to tune. "We done here?" she asked Lonan. If there was any chance of having a normal conversation about this, she would much rather have it outside where it wasn't so noisy.
Minutes later they were bundled up against the winter air, deep in discussion as they carefully made their way over the thin sheets of ice that covered the streets of the East Village. "So you think they're real monsters?" Marjorie asked.
"Well, if we're going to call them real, why not monsters?" Lonan responded, not quite understanding what she meant.
"No, it's very interesting you say that," Marjorie said, struggling to explain. "Even people who buy tabloids everyday, they still react the same as everyone else does when shown something unexplainable, at least by acceptable standards. I mean, if they really saw a, I don't know, if an actual alien landed on their doorstep, they'd be just as inclined to deny it was happening to them as a first instinct. That's what people do, they see something that doesn't fit with their way of looking at life, and they pretend it isn't really there."
Somewhere along the way, tiny thin snowflakes had begun to drift down from the sky. Lonan hugged his bomber jacket closer and gave her a considering look. "You've got experience with this sort o' thing, then?"
There was a long pause for which they both kept crunching through the snow, finally stopping at an empty intersection. Marjorie checked for cars as she finally answered. "When they told me my mom died, I didn't believe them."
None to the left, none to the right. She stepped forward, Lonan in her wake. "Not even when I saw her casket. And I don't think it was shock, either; it just wasn't supposed to happen like that. It was denial."
Lonan didn't say anything. Marjorie had told him about her mother years before now, but she hardly ever mentioned it otherwise.
"But, anyway," she continued briskly, "what I suppose my point is, is that some people can convince themselves on a shallow level that anything, even weird things like giant monsters, is possible, but there's a standard of normal that everyone wants to maintain. When that standard is breached, instead of accepting, they deny."
Lonan chanced a look at her again. But it was the same old Marjorie: ridiculous curly hair bouncing in step above her shoulders, happy gleam in her eye, and the good-natured smile that always rested easily on her face. "Been thinking about this a lot, have you?" he asked, relieved.
Marjorie made a non-committal noise of agreement, and they both turned the corner in the eventual direction of the subway station that would take Marjorie home. Even though she had mocked him before, Lonan had made a point ever since the Times Square sighting to walk Marjorie as far as he could whenever they were together at night. Gracefully, she never mentioned or poked fun at the particular reason why he chose to do this; she was too moved by the sentiment.
"I'm just wondering how you fit in," she continued. She looked up to him and smiled. "Are you accepting for real? Allowing monsters in your world?"
Lonan didn't answer. They spent the rest of the walk in companionable silence, Marjorie enjoying the snowfall. As for Lonan, his mind was on other things.
Of course, it was only after that night that it was revealed that robots had been behind the sightings and MOMA theft. Even after the second, more publicized sighting in Times Square in February, Lonan never brought the subject of monsters, mechanical or otherwise, back up.
Marjorie tapped her fingers across her table, which wobbled under the slight weight. She looked out her kitchen window to the magnificent view she had of Manhattan across the East River.
Besides, she reasoned, Lonan would never do this kind of thing to her. Rodger, maybe, and she could see Sally convincing Timber it would be fun to mess with her head. But that also seemed unlikely. After all, she told some of her friends about her mother's accident, but she had never mentioned that it had happened on March 1st.
Even if she had, she couldn't think any of them would be so cruel.
The sun drifted lazily across the floor and to the wall, and Marjorie still sat, pondering. Trains passed over her head, making the glasses in the sink rattle faintly each time. Finally she looked over at the clock. It was now a little past two.
"137 West 30th street," she muttered aloud. She read the message one final time. All your answers start here.
What the hell. She needed to get out of the apartment anyway.