prompted by tragicllyhip
rated pg-13 for language
He saw the looks on their faces but didn’t understand the expressions there. Their features were scrunching and twisting and making looks that made him intrigued. They pointed to him and he stopped walking to wonder why. He looked down to himself and saw bare flesh and bare feet and turned back to them, seeing the clothes on their bodies and somehow knowing he was different. He put a hand to his chest and was puzzled.
Signs were all around this place—red banners covered in yellow flourished script. They were beautiful and he wanted to know what they meant. He stared up to them, looking from one to the other frowning, trying to make sense of them if he could.
A rough hand was suddenly on his shoulder and turning him around, away from the pictures. This man was speaking to him, shouting at him. He couldn’t understand the words he was saying but he knew the man’s expression—it was anger. Anger somehow fascinated him. He leaned in, studying the ticks and twitches of the man’s face when he felt a sharp pain between his temples and lights strobed before his vision. He brought his hands up to his head and pinched his eyes, hoping the light would stop but it only got worse until it was just a flood of bright white.
“What the fuck are you doing?!”
The words made sense now. He opened his eyes, the light fading and he smiled. Understanding. He loved the feeling of understanding. There were more men rushing to him. He’d learned enough about these people. They were just interested in what he was doing and since he wasn’t actually doing anything in particular, they held little importance. He glanced up again to the banners and saw that now they spoke to him: Temple of Heaven.
“Temple?” He mumbled, his voice strange and new to him. “Of Heaven?” More flashes of light and he felt the man drag him to the ground.
“What is your name?!” The man barked and he wondered why he had to shout so much. He could hear him just fine. He thought the man was very odd. It was a by product of the anger he supposed—irrationality. He now understood the word temple—place of worship consisting of an edifice for the worship of a deity and the concept of heaven came to him—the paradise of the afterlife in certain religions, considered to be the home of the god or gods of those religions but it didn’t really make much sense. Why would there need to be temples in heaven?
“Name?” He wondered and another glare brought to him the concept of naming—children were given names at their birth as a way of identification, personally and by familial connection but what didn’t come to him on that flash of light was what his name was. “I don’t have one,” he assumed. The angry man hit him then and a different kind of light flashed before his eyes. He felt instantly weak and dizzy. That was unnecessary and he wanted to say so . . . after his mind stopped spinning.
“What is your name?!” He shouted again and again the truth was told,
“I don’t have one,” he breathlessly repeated. Was the angry man also deaf? He meant to ask him but more hands were on him and he was being dragged away, his feet scraping the ground. He was brought to a black box—vehicle. Humvee. On the side was more of that florid script and it said: Beijing Police. Police—agents or agencies, usually of the executive, empowered to enforce the law and to effect public and social order through the legitimatized use of force. He now understood why the man shouted. It was his legitimate right to do so. Those people were reacting so strangely to him because he was disrupting the social order. He was disrupting the social order because unlike everyone else, he was bare. It all made sense.
Well . . . except for why he was bare. He pondered that for a moment before he was tossed into the car.
Lois Lane didn’t have any fingernails left. The absolutely fabulous silk-wrap manicure she’d gotten for Chloe’s wedding was now in pieces on the floor. She frowned and huffed. Slouching in her camouflage cargo pants she raised the beat-up copy of Cosmo to her face and read for the fifth time how to make men sing in bed. Useless information.
Her phone started to vibrate at her side and she jumped up, scrambling out of the hospital room. “You have a lot of explaining to do!” She shouted in the middle of the hallway. A grumbly gravely growl forced her eyes to go round. “This is why I should check the caller ID on my phone, right?”
The smile on her face was plastered and plastic even though she knew he couldn’t see her, “Hi, Dad.”
General Sam Lane grumbled, allowing the break in his daughter’s decorum. “How’s Jimmy?”
Lois turned and looked back into the hospital room. Jimmy Olsen, the newest member of her small family lay as still as death on the bed inside. Wires and tubes connected him to the machines that kept him alive. “The same. Which, may or may not be really good or really awful. Doctors are secretive bastar—so, dad—” She spun on her heels, squinting her features and scratching her head, “Any news on your front?”
“I’ve got people searching every grid and Chloe’s off all of them.”
Lois went to chew on her fingers but blew out her cheeks to see nothing was there. “And now Clark’s gone dark,” she absently murmured.
“What?” The nearly immediate anger could be heard in his voice.
She froze, turning left to right and damning her big mouth. “Umm, nothing. Nothing.”
“Lo, some farm boy from Kansas can not handle what I saw on that tape so you tell me where he is.”
“Dad, listen: Clark’s resourceful when he’s in a crunch, okay. Have a little faith.”
“Where. Is. He?”
“Come on! Chloe’s his best friend, you didn’t expect him to sit on his as—butt, and twiddle his thumbs. Would you?”
General Lane sighed, “No.”
“I’m not some recently post-pubescent copy boy, either.”
“Okay, my fault for comparing four-star general to cub reporter but still, it kinda works?”
“He’ll be okay, I’m sure it’s not a problem.”
He exhaled, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Alright. I have other things to worry about.”
“Chloe, yeah, I know.”
“And Gabe. He’s a mess.”
Lois ground her teeth and tried to reassert another of her fake smiles but it came out as a grimace. “He’s always a mess.”
“His own daughter’s wedding and he’s M.I.A., yeah, he’s a mess.”
“I wasn’t there either; wanna throw potshots at me too?”
“I think being in Fallujah is a better excuse than . . . oh, right. He never did say why he couldn’t come to the wedding.”
“That’s enough. I have to go. I’ll be in Star day after tomorrow.”
“Bye, Lo. And call me when you hear from Clark,” he warned.
She nodded a little too vigorously, “Sure thing!” The line clicked off and Lois shook it like she was strangling a rat. “When I hear from who? I have no idea ‘cause he’s not answering my calls!” A nurse walked slowly by. “Ha! No, not the psychiatric ward, trust me.” The nurse slipped by. Lois snapped the phone shut and she sighed, “Where the hell are you?”
He was handed clothes. He wondered if by wearing the clothes and not being bear anymore they would maybe answer some of his questions. He had so many. He stood in a room that smelled different. On the door it said ‘men’s’ but there weren’t any men in there. He put the clothes on the counter and looked to the bank of mirrors that ran all along the wall. Standing before the mirrors he looked to himself. He looked somewhat the same and still, very different than everyone else. His hair was the same, his skin was the same but he was taller and his eyes were different. He wondered if that was important. He leaned in closer.
A spike of light and he flinched, “Green,” he breathed. Green eyes and black hair. Everyone else was brown eyes and black hair. Except for that one person with the pink hair and the spikes on her boots. He found her particularly interesting but everyone had looked at him instead of her. He wondered if he were particularly interesting.
He slipped into the thin clothes and found them a little short but he was no longer bare. He opened the door to see the angry man standing there.
“Why are my eyes green?”
The angry man sighed, “Fucking crazy foreigner.”
A few more flashes of light. He rubbed his eyes. “Foreign?” He was grabbed again and pulled down a hall, up a flight of stairs and pushed into a small, dim room. There was one desk, two chairs and one black window. The door was slammed behind him and he was alone for the first time. He walked to the mirror and studied himself. He wasn’t sure what made him foreign—from a different country; belonging to a different culture. To what other country did he belong if not this one? If he could speak and understand and read, what made him different?
He reached up and touched the glass, circling his eyes. Could they make him foreign? It didn’t really seem right. It wasn’t logical and the angry man had already established his irrationality.
The door opened behind him and a different man in a different type of clothing than the uniforms worn by the police officers came in. It was a suit. A flash of light and, “Polyester.”
The man froze. “Excuse me?”
He gestured to the blue pinstripe. “Your suit. It’s polyester.”
“What the—sit your ass down,” the man said and he did as he was told. He wasn’t sure what he said. It was polyester. The man was older with a crinkled and hard face. “We’re running your prints so it would save a lot of time if you just told us your name.”
“I don’t have one. Why do you keep asking for one?”
“Don’t have one?” He chuckled. “You think this is a game? What do you think this is? You take a semester, say you’ll visit China, get into a keg of Tsingtao and think you can dick with me?”
He frowned, trying to place that last word . . . “dick? I’m not sure—”
A backhanded slap to his face caught him off guard. He frowned, the acute sensation of pain bloomed around his mouth and jaw. The slick crawl of something down his chin brought his hand to his skin and there on his fingers was—a burst of light later—blood. He held out his bloodstained fingers to the man and quietly asked, “What did I do?”
The man in the polyester suit’s anger immediately ebbed, looking into the curious and puzzled eyes of the young man before him. He leaned over him, “Where are you from?”
From—with the source or provenance of or at; with the origin, starting point or initial reference of or at; with the separation, exclusion or differentiation of . . . Flashes of light and he held his head, “I don’t understand.”
“Born? What country were you born in?”
Born—past participle of bear; given birth to. Bear—to give birth to someone or something. Birth—A beginning or start; a point of origin. More flashes and he leaned over the table, his forehead against the smooth steel.
“This country,” he insisted.
“You’re not from this country—”
“I’m from the temple. That’s where I started.”
“You’re not from the Temple of Heaven. Where are you from? Before the temple.”
Before—earlier: earlier in time; previously. The light was burning him. “There isn’t a before. There’s nothing before. Just the temple.”
“Is that all you remember?”
Remember—to recall one’s memory; to have an image in one’s memory; to memorize; to put something into memory; to not forget; to convey greetings; to engage in the process of recalling memories
The light exploded.
bear in mind, bethink, brood over, call to mind, call up, cite, commemorate, conjure up, dig into the past, dwell upon, educe, elicit, enshrine, extract, fix in the mind, flash on, get, go back, have memories, hold dear, keep forever, know by heart, learn, look back, memorialize, memorize, mind, nail down, recall, recognize, recollect, refresh memory, relive, remind, reminisce, retain, retrospect, revive, revoke, ring a bell, strike a note, summon up, think back, treasure . . .
The man in the polyester suit bent over him and shook his shoulders but his head lolled to one side. His eyes immediately went to the black mirror, “I need help in here!” He shouted, pushing the young man up and slapping his cheeks to wake him. His eyes were open but his consciousness was gone, blood running from his nostrils. “Wake up, wake up!” He said, the room too dim for him to see the stream of Kryptonian code racing across his prisoner’s green eyes.