Resurgence– by Victor Moore
The cold winter air slowly worked its way through the buildings of Manhattan. In one such building, on the top floor, the penthouse window was ajar. Like some unseen serpent, the breeze snaked into the room and darted towards the bed. On the mattress and tangled in the sheets, lied a woman who had shifted positions from the throws of restless sleep many times throughout the night. She was wearing only her pink silk undergarments. Soon her head was turning from side to side as she mumbled. Her closed eyes winced in pain and tears began to stream forth. Mumbling turned to the word "no" repeatedly. First, it was no more than a whisper. Then gradually it got louder until Elisabeth bolted up out of sleep screaming it.
As the scream slowly died, bright moonlight began to creep into the dark room and onto the bed. Purple bangs were matted to the sides of her face from the sweat. Breathing heavily, her left hand rested on her stomach, rubbing it warily, as if checking for fresh wound. All she found was the four three-inch scars from her recent past. They started high and ended low over her belly. She also traced the edges of her eye sockets with her right hand. As Elisabeth breathed a sigh of relief, the thought of what she just did scared her more. Stroking her hair back, she realized that she had sweated a lot more than all the previous nights. Even her undergarments were completely soaked. She brought her knees up towards her chin and wrapped her arms around them, rocking slightly back and forth. "Not again. Why must I have the same nightmare night after night?" she asked, knowing no answer was forthcoming.
After a few seconds, her head shot up and her eyes grew wide with surprise touched slightly with fear, for a new element had entered the reoccurring nightmares. "Doug!? Why was he in it?" Slowly the images came back to her. She shuddered. "I think I am going to have to consult someone on this, but who?" As she got up and headed for the door to the bathroom, she grabbed an over-sized tee shirt from her dresser and looked at the antique wooden clock on top of it. It read two forty-six in the morning.
Upon entering the bathroom and turning on the light, Elisabeth laid the shirt on the dark marble countertop. She proceeded to splash her face with cold water. Looking into the mirror as she dried herself with a hand towel, she saw a stranger staring back at her.
Her life had changed so much since moving to the states from England many years ago. When she was a little girl, she craved for adventure. More than anything in the world, she wanted to live the lives of the characters she had read about in books. Later in life, when she found out she was a mutant with the gift, and curse, of telepathy, she got the chance to fulfill her desires.
Her first occupation was that of a fashion model and government spy. It did not have much of the action she craved as a child, but it allowed her to see the world. She then became a hero in her twin brother’s short absence as Captain Britain. The experience cost her the use of her eyes. Later, she would receive new cybernetic eyes, from the inter-dimensional being Mojo, but at a price. When she joined the mutant outlaw hero team, the X-Men, she got the chance to see the stars, fight the good fight, and help people in need. Sadly, she had to endure pain and hardship during those times as well. Such as having her natural Caucasian body, stolen and her thoughts and memories transplanted into an Oriental one. Then seeing her real body being used by Kwannon, whose being she now inhabits, and feeling her ‘sister’ die from the painful Legacy Virus in her mind, which showed them the truth about the swap. Elisabeth’s anger towards Kwannon subsided when it was revealed that the other woman was just as helpless.
Recently an old enemy of Logan’s had vivisected her, nearly killing her. Logan and Warren, her new boyfriend, set off on a journey for a mystic item called the Crimson Dawn. It saved her life, but gave her a tattoo over her left eye, and Warren had to pay for it with equal elements of his own life and soul. A couple of months ago she had been tricked by the Shadow King, a parasitic psionic being who thrived on chaos, into allowing him to touch every mind on earth and cause them to act chaotically, while he fed on the negative emotions produced from the chaos. Elisabeth defeated him and saved humanity, but it robbed her of her telepathy.
"Who am I?" she asked herself in the mirror.
"I am you, you are me, yet neither who we expected to be." She answered remembering a line from an old children’s fairy tail about two twins who met each other for the first time in their old age. Like most of those stories it had a successful conclusion. Hers so far was anything but. "I thought I had accepted the change of body with my ‘sister’ Kwannon. But my nightmares seem to say I haven’t."
She traced the reflection of her blood red tattoo on the left side of her face. Unlike the typical ones you would find from a tattoo parlor, this one’s color does not fade out over time, and it actually seems that her body had grew the symbol on to her face. In fact, that was how she had acquired it. The marking started just under her hairline and ended in a curved point near her mouth. The top of it flared out to points on either side and came back in, and about one-third the way down in flared out and in again. While some of the youth of the city commented on how ‘cool’ it looked and they wished they had one that well done, to Elisabeth it was a painful reminder of her arrogance. Her head hung low as her hand slid down the mirror. "Some adventurer I turned out to be."
After the water was turned off, she removed her silk tank top and shorts, then donned the oversized black shirt. The garment ended at about mid-thigh, and had an image of a simplified fat child wearing an orange parka and a green cap. While she hated the image, it was a comfortable shirt, besides it was a gift, from her old teammate Bobby Drake. Elisabeth turned off the light and re-entered her bedroom.
Clouds had covered the moon again so she flipped the light switch for illumination, then grabbed the sheets from the bed. After depositing them in the laundry, and making herself a cup of earl gray tea, she entered the living room and sat down on the black leather sofa. On the dark marble coffee table in front of her was an open photo album. She had retrieved it after her brother’s wedding. The loose picture on top was of Douglas Ramsey and her, when he was still alive. Kathryn had found the picture and gave it to Elisabeth, just before the wedding.
Remembering Douglas in her nightmare, sent chills through her spine. He was a corpse showing Slaymaster and Sabretooth where to strike. The realization of this made her drop her cup of tea. The ceramic cup shattered on the cold tiled floor.
"Bloody hell! Tomorrow I talk to Logan about this. Maybe he can help. I hope he can help. Please let him be able to help." The last sentence was barely a whisper. Shivering, Elisabeth curled up on the couch and looked at the picture.
An hour later, sleep overcame the tired woman, and the nightmare returned, only this time Doug was telling the villains not only where to strike, but also how to strike.
Harry’s Hideaway was not a place that Elisabeth usually would frequent for lunch. She preferred a more elegant restaurant, but this was Logan’s choice as he stated over the telephone. Now he was twenty minutes late. At the distinct sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle pulling up outside, she smiled to herself and sipped her ice tea.
Moments later, a short gruff looking man in a black leather jacket asked her if the seat across from was taken. After she motioned him to sit, he took off his shades and coat and laid them on the seat next to the window, then sat down.
"Sorry, darlin’. I didn’t mean to be late, but Marrow needed a last minute instruction." Logan stated as the waitress came up to them.
"Hello, Mr. Logan what would you like to like today, the usual?" The blond woman asked.
"Actually, I’m in the mood for steak sandwich, medium rare and on sourdough. Also, can I get a beer? Thanks Matilda."
"And what will you have miss?"
Elisabeth handed the menu over to the woman, while stating "I will have the chicken Caesar salad, no onions please."
The waitress thanked them both, and went into the kitchen. When she was out of earshot, Logan asked, "What’s wrong?"
Sighing to herself, she answered him hesitantly while stirring her tea with a spoon, "I… I needed someone to talk to, Logan. I think I am slowly going crazy."
"This is about the loss of your powers isn’t it? Y’know ever since you psychically bonded with me years ago, I could always feel your presence, even when we were miles apart. I couldn’t tell where ya were, or how close, just that somewhere in the back of my mind I was aware of you." He waited until the waitress had left after bringing his beverage before continuing. "But after that incident with the Shadow King, I could no longer feel you, as if a small piece of me just died. I had always meant to ask you about that… I’m sorry darlin’. I didn’t mean to go one like that."
Elisabeth watched him take a drink of his beer. Even after all the years they worked together as X-Men, she still found it hard to open up to him. Actually, after the whole situation with Kwannon, she found it hard to be open with any of her previous teammates. "I believe you are correct, about the loss of my powers, but I think it is only a trigger. You see, some weeks after that, I started having nightmares, bad ones. At first, I was being chased, but then my pursuers would catch up to me. As the dreams progressed their identities became clear, and as what happened in real life happened there too. Slaymaster blinded me, then Sabretooth tears out my innards with his claws."
Logan saw her take a long sip of her tea, after that. Her scent had fear in it, and he noticed her eyes showed signs of the emotion as well. To a normal person, Elisabeth would seem in complete control of herself, but to his heightened senses, she was at the edge of her rope. "These flamin’ nightmares, they gone on for months haven’t they?" She nodded to him. "But it’s gotten worse, hasn’t it?" Again, she nodded.
"This time Doug was in it. He… he was dead and he was explaining to those bastards how to do what they did to me." An involuntary shudder came over her. "I could not go to Warren about this, since he has already given up so much for me. I need your help, please."
"S’all right darlin," he said reassuringly. "I’ll do what I can, but truth be told, you should probably talk to Jeanie, or if he was here, Charley."
"No, not them, not any telepath. I am not sure if that could cause the Shadow King to be released or not. I do not want to take that chance."
"Good point. I have to admit that’s one flamin’ nightmare. Ok, taking in to consideration of all the false memory implants I had, plus the restructuring of my mind after what the Hand made you do to me, I see two different elements in what ya told me. An’ I also believe ya already know what they are.
"First, I believe that your mind is remembering things that you would like to forget. Like Doug’s death and the attack by Creed, among other things. Because you no longer have use of you telepathy, your brain is trying to cope with it the best way it can. Possibly clarifying or demystifying your memories. Sort of like when a person becomes blind or deaf, the others senses increase to make up for it."
"Sounds reasonable, but how do I know if that is true?"
"Tell me, after you were gutted by Creed what is the next thing you remember?"
Elisabeth closed her eyes and answered, "I… I remember looking down and seeing all that blood and thinking that could not be from me. Tabitha was holding me in her arms, and apologizing. She was so quiet. I felt the wetness of her tears hit my cheeks. Her thoughts vanished quietly and blackness consumed me." Her eyes turned hard as she stared at Logan. "I do not need to remember that, the wound is still fresh in my mind and I have constant reminder of my failure every time I look into the mirror!" She gestured to the tattoo and continued, "Look at it! I did not ask for this! My arrogance, because of all the times I bested him before, led to my downfall when Sabretooth slashed me and left me for dead. Because… because…"
"Because you did not use your telepathy on him?"
"That’s not true, I did. I tried to give him the glow, but he no longer needed it."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes… no. Oh my god, I remember now. Just before I blacked out I wondered why I did not psionically shut down his mind. It would have stopped him. I have done it before." She ran her fingers through her hair, and stared at her empty glass. Slowly, Elisabeth brought her eyes focus on Logan’s, as if really seeing him for the first time. "How did you know?"
"Honestly, I didn’t. But it was a question I always asked myself while you were in a coma."
Just then the waitress came over and brought them their lunches. Then she filled their glasses and asked if they were all set. After an affirmative from both Logan and Elisabeth, she left them alone.
They both ate the food without conversation. Elisabeth was a picture of an English noblewoman eating with proper poise and etiquette. This was in direct contrast of Logan, who devoured his food like the average American would, little in regard towards table manners. Before he could finish his last bite, she stunned him with a comment.
"For some time now, I wanted to tell you how sorry I am."
"Sorry? What for?" He asked as he put the remainder of his food on his plate.
"For not staying with you when you told us that Viper was your wife. We have quite a history you and I. After that incident with the Hand, you believed in me when I would not. The thing is, I should have stood by your side out of honour, but instead I let the shock of the fact, the hurt it caused, to doubt you. So when the others left, I did also."
"No need to be sorry darlin’. You did what felt right at the time. There’s no shame in that. You did what any normal person would do in that situation. So I don’t want to hear no more about it, okay?"
After watching Logan finish his last bite, Elisabeth began to gather her belongings. Signaling the waitress for the check, she wondered aloud, "I still do not understand why Doug is in my nightmares, though?"
"I believe you do. I mean part of you does. I can’t help you on that, though." After paying for the bill and donning his jacket, "This is something you have to do on your own. I had to do it more times then I wished."
Logan walked out the restaurant without answering. Elisabeth rushed after him. She caught up with him as he lit his cigar.
"Why do you not answer? What is it I am supposed to do?"
"When was the last time you visited him?"
Logan climbed on his Harley and started the thunderous engine. "When you figure that out, you’ll know what to do darlin’. ‘Till next time." With that, he sped away and turned the corner.
Waving the remaining exhaust away, she watched the street in a vain hope he would come back and explain what he meant. She knew that would not be the case though. Somehow, he had told her what she wanted, now all she had to do was figure it out. Puzzles were not her strong suit.
Brian had stated once, when he was stumped by a problem, he would walk it out. Walking helped the mind to think, or so he said. Elisabeth looked back one last time, and began to walk through Salem Center.
It was not a large town, but it did have many buildings and people traversed the sidewalks. As she walked, Elisabeth did not notice. She thought of the questions brought forth from earlier. The answers were there in the conversation. Going over the names brought up over lunch, it suddenly became clear. Stopping in mid-stride, Elisabeth knew whom she had to see, and now she knew why.
"Are you okay, Miss? You looked like you’ve seen a ghost." A police officer asked her.
"I have, Officer. I have." With that, she walked off towards the oldest part of town.
A gentle breeze carried the cool winter air through the Salem Center Cemetery. Headstones rose from the ground in limited shapes. Most were the generic stone ones, while some were crosses, a few had the Star of David, and one was definitely oriental in design. Out of all these, only one headstone was of any interest to Elisabeth Braddock. It was on top a small hill and under a large leafless oak tree. In her hands were flowers, red roses.
She set the flowers down in front of the tombstone. "Hello Douglas." Noticing some weeds around the grave, she began to pull them out. "You would think things would be a tad bit tidier around here. I suppose the caretaker is slacking off." She paused when she reached for the fourth weed.
"I’m sorry. I do not know what I am supposed to say. No, that is not true. I…" She sank to her knees. "I should have come here earlier, when I first learned about your… your death. But I could not. Instead, I choose to ignore the feelings of your passing, and locked them away. In doing so, I also closed off a portion of myself as well. After all the changes, doing so with my emotions became far too easy."
Elisabeth shakily reached out and touched the headstone. Her eyes began to water. "I never told you, how I felt. I know I did not need to, but I should have. You knew me, the real me, in ways no one else ever has or will. You saved my live from eternal slavery more than once by restoring my mind. Once, you even opened your thoughts to me. Nothing hidden, nothing blocked, just your entire mind with all of your heart, so I could free myself from Mojo
"I… miss you, my guardian angel. I miss the way you smiled, the warm comforting presence of your thoughts, and everything thing else that made you what you are… were." Tears began to fall from her eyes. Years worth of trapped up emotions bundled themselves with her tears. "I loved you, Doug. I cared for you so deeply, but never told you. That was a mistake."
A gentle rain came down from the dark cloudy sky. Elisabeth took no notice. Her tears melded into the water from the sky as it soaked her hair and ran down her face. For ten minutes, she kept crying. "I wish I could go back in time and tell you to you in person what I am saying now. I can not. But I believe somehow, in that better place you are now, you can hear me. I still love you and I will never forget you. In a way, you have taught me how to live, even if it has taken me this long to realise it. For that, you will ever be in my thoughts.
"Brian once called you the noblest of friends and of heroes. From time to time, he still recounts how you helped him in that time of need. To those we fought, you seemed to be the weak link. That was a misconception. You were the strongest, the bravest, and the most gallant person I have ever met. Most people who knew you would agree.
"I came here to stop a nightmare, one which you were in, but I now realise I was the one giving the nightmares, from my decision to suppress my emotions long ago. You helped me once again." Her tears had stopped and she noticed while it was still raining, none of it was any longer touching her face.
Katherine Pryde held her umbrella over Elisabeth. The young woman also had some flowers in her other hand. "How long have you been here?"
"Long enough. Logan said you might be here." Kitty answered.
"He did? Of course he did. Thanks, I will be just a second."
"Take your time." Kitty then walked a little way off to the right and stood there, waiting patiently.
Elisabeth wiped the water off the top of the tombstone. "It seems you have touched a lot of people. You are the best of us. I will visit again, until then…" She got up and kissed the area she cleaned on the tombstone and softly stated, "goodbye, my guardian angel."
After that, Elisabeth walked over to Kitty, who handed her the umbrella before striding over to Douglas’ grave. Elisabeth watched as the young girl talked, to him. At times Kitty was laughing, crying, or both at the same time. When she was done, she came back and stood under the umbrella.
"I do this every year. He was my best friend, and I still miss him. But somehow, just talking to him makes me feel better." Kitty stated.
"I just found that out. I knew he was dead, but until now, I never mourned his passing."
Kitty put her hand on Elisabeth’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "He meant a lot to all of us. If I had known that the picture I found would have upset you that much, I would not have given it to you."
Elisabeth looked at the teenager, and smiled. "You did the right thing. The picture reminded me about a part of myself I had buried so deep, the reminders took the form of nightmares. Hopefully, I am now free of them."
"Hey, what are you doing for dinner tonight?"
"I know of a great Italian place in town that makes the best chicken fettuccine in the world."
"Sounds great." Elisabeth heard her stomach growl. "Strange..."
"I just had lunch a little while ago, and now I famished."
"Crying will do that to you."
"Yep. I figure, if you feel up to it, maybe we can swap stories about Doug. I know you must have a couple, and I have a few. Kind of a way to remember him. You know, from one ninja to another." Katherine smiled at that last statement.
Elisabeth laughed aloud. "I would like that, very much. Let us be on our way, ninja girl."
Later that night, in her bed, Elisabeth lay looking at the ceiling, smiling. They had shared many stories that night. Laughed until they cried, than laughed some more. She learned things about Douglas she had never known. In talking about how much Douglas meant to them, Elisabeth had gained a new friend. She chuckled as she remembered Katherine telling her a very funny story about Doug and his first time at Xavier’s School. She looked at the clock and saw it was well past midnight.
As if that was a signal, her body rapidly grew tired. Her eyes refused to stay open. As a gentle breeze pushed at the curtains of the open window, she fell fast asleep. For the first time in a long while, she had pleasant dreams.
Marvel Comics owns all these characters.