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The New Albion Radio Hour Special: The Great Fitzgerald

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"Blues were written because of wars, he was certain, for there was much to be blue about when the war takes its losses."


           There was a green light.

            If he peered through his crisp, clean windows and looked just above his iron-wrought balcony, tilting his head just to the left, Fitzgerald could discern a small, but prominent, shimmering green light somewhere far-off in the distance, emitting a cool but welcoming sight. He wasn’t quite sure when this light had made itself first known, or when he had even first seen it, but Fitzgerald felt like he has been staring at that one, unblinking green light for ages now. There was nothing alien about it, nothing unusual, but it captivated him all the same. He would stare at it some nights, when sleep crept none too soon and the darkness of the room gnawed at the icy fringes frosting around his slowly-beating heart. It was on these nights that he would quietly creep from the bed, careful not to disturb his peacefully-slumbering wife, and—using the wall as an aid--slip out into the cool night air smelling of ash, and gun smoke, and pearly jasmines.

            The nights were never silent; the city never slept. It was about as restless as he was, during those nights he would join it. From a close distance, from the downtown metropolitan arena of clubs and soirees and shows, jazz music blared sonorously. Sometimes, they would play the blues, other times they wouldn’t. Fitzgerald liked the blues; not always, but on nights like those, the blues were a welcomed thing to hear amidst the far-off distance sounds of ricocheting bullets and bomb-basting bombshells. If he was lucky, the bombs would go off at the tempo of the beat, and the bullets would blare with the sound of a weeping sax, a graceful tandem concocted of chaos and crime and torture unseen.

            Blues were written because of wars, he was certain, for there was much to be blue about when the war takes it losses.

            Fitzgerald would sit—didn’t matter where. No one would see him; he would just sit somewhere and let the blue night swallow him whole in violet anonymity, red-eyed and pale-skinned. He would sit where he chose, hum if he so felt, and would stare fantastically at the green light drowned in amongst the waves of neon night-life and city-wide fanfare. Yes, he would train his eyes every night to pinpoint out this one, small flickering dot lost somewhere in the vivacious concrete wilderness that was New Albion at dusk. Sometimes, Fitzgerald might see it, other times not; sometimes he just stared blankly at where he thought it might’ve been but made no active search to dig it out from crepe yellows and vermillion reds. He would just sit and stare and drown himself in jasmines and blues, eyes lost, heart an-aching, and hum shaky.

            But on the nights Fitzgerald did see the green light, saw it like no other against the backdrop of city lights and grizzled billboards, it became his fanaticism. He would stare, jaw set, determined, hum steady, and heart alight. The frosty tinges from which the dark crept were no more, his delirious sleepy self a discarded thing of the past. All Fitzgerald saw was the green light, an endgame, a vision—green lights mean go, so go he must. But go where he to? He didn’t know, but that didn’t frighten him. He felt restless, sure, but not impatient. All good things come to those who wait. Fitzgerald had to wait for that green light, he had to wait for that go, but before he could go, he had to find where he must be, and quick, for while he waits for time, time waits for no one.

            And, while he sat there, humming that steadfast little tune and contemplating his emerald Holy Ghost, he heard it, the smallest sounds of static, the sultry voice of a man long past agelessness and a song long past dead.

            He sometimes, heard the blues.


 

            It was hard to believe that there was anything else out there waiting for him.

            Outside the comfiest of high-end districts, New Albion was nothing more than a wasteland, buildings decimated or walls tick-tacked with bullets holes fired from non-too-conspicuous machine guns. Streets were reduced to rubble, homes mere ghosts of what they once were. Shops were pilfered, playgrounds destroyed, and grass tramped long dead from the aching feet of bleeding, wounded soldiers and rebels gone suicide. There were skeletons of aircrafts, burning wreckage of tanks, and corpses smoldering in the humid, smoky haze of their destruction.

            New Albion was afire—freedom fighters and civilians alike were unimmune to the ravages of war. It has been ten years—ten cold, blindingly hot years—of political turmoil and fear of totalitarian whiplash. Ten years of absolute fucking insanity, and with which neither side seemed more promising than the other. Rebels and government alike killed and offed civilians with the slightest of ease—there has been an offset of casualties for those caught in the accidental crossfire of bullets and landmines.

            The upper crust was saved from the brutalist of methods, but this did not mean that they were in any less danger than their lower predecessors. Armored police and suicidal freedom fighters would on occasion infiltrate the affluent districts of New Albion. They snuck into parties—crashed, if they got the brass—and shot up a hailstorm of bullets on the pretense that someone, somewhere in that crowd of miscellaneous party-goers, was a rebel in disguise, an insider with some secrets to whisper in some Parliamentary ear, or just a wicked thing out to rob the system for what it has.

            Crime was an especially common thing nowadays; it was how most people got their start. With the government so focused on the war effort, their laws cracking down on organized crime has slipped over the years until it became almost primarily nonexistent. Being someone who has gotten his lucky break from the illegal smuggling of firearms and rare munitions, Fitzgerald knew better than anyone that the government benefitted the most from the initiative of its law-breaking citizens. Bribery, coercion, blackmail—it didn’t take much for them to relent. Corruption of office stemmed from corruption of society…or, perhaps it was the other way around? Not that this particularly mattered to Fitzgerald. The New Albion Freedom Corps (do not be fooled; tis a group used by the standing military, not the freedom fighters themselves) bought his wares, and bought them well; tis not his fault for their corrupt and boondoggling ways.

            Ah, but, if people like Fitzgerald had not intervened, had not become the leading supplier for violence and retribution on both sides of the aisle, may haps this war would have ended a lot sooner. Ten years…

            Ten years is ten too long.

            Something brushed against his hand, and he blinked.

            “Darling, you seem distracted; you’ve barely touched your tea. Is everything alright?” inquired a raspy, but gentle, tone of voice.

            Forcing his eyes away from the smoky, gray-looking fog swirling around their lavish garden, Fitzgerald turned his attention to the woman by his side, Zelda, sitting as calm and as graceful as ever if not just a little thinner than he was used to. She looked pale, and it concerned his deeply, but voice not his concern lest he was to face another wrathful lash of the tongue. Over the weeks since, he has gotten used to it, but on morns like these—where the world was deathly chilly and the city was obscured by smog-induced clouds, she stood out like a phantom in a sheet. It sometimes took him by surprise, what he could see, like a green light cutting through a dizzying fog, startling but there.

            When reality reared its ugly head through the mists of Fitzgerald’s self-assured fantasy, he felt like humming the blues, for nothing was bluer than a dream left to shatter by fantastical, startling wretchedness. Blue was the color of hopeless, hapless, helpless melancholy—and there was so much Fitzgerald was helpless, hopeless to control.

            Giving his wife a gentle smile, Fitzgerald grasped her hand and laid it tenderly atop his leg, rubbing his thumb thoughtfully against her stark, white fingers and skin, trying to elicit what little comfort he could from what was not yet phantom and what was once so alive. Feeling the warmth now shared between their fingers, he was self-assured—not lonesome yet; there was another being here with him, transient, ethereal, loving, and that was enough to boost what little inner peace he may have had to harbor since the day of her ailment has become prevalent.

            “I’m fine, my love, just…a little tired.” He answered back accordingly, voice soft, “I’ve been having difficulty sleeping for the past few nights.”

            Zelda knitted her eyebrows, the pale smooth skin of her forehead crinkling like folded paper, flexible and thin.

            “Is it the leg?” she asked, pointing.

            At the mere mention of it, he felt the faintest tickling of an itch creep up along his right thigh and, moving a hand to relieve the sensation by instinct alone, went to scratch at it, only to have his fingers hit hard metal and for his thigh to feel nothing of their presence. The itch remained but the limb to which it was inflicted upon remained not. Fitzgerald frowned, and squeezed Zelda’s hand.

            “It’s…not the leg that’s been keeping me up.” He assured her, feeling irked. That itchy sensation persisted and he knew it was only going to aggravate him the more as time went on, for one cannot scratch the source if the source had no physical existence in the first place. However, if Fitzgerald had any positive spins to place upon this dreadful occurrence, he supposes he would rather deal with an annoying itch than be seize up completely by a burning sense of pain, for nothing could relieve the phantom pain of a limb long since detached, not even miracles, and every time for which he was attacked, he found himself unable to move, a great inconvenience in and of itself, especially when amid doing something else.

            However, the phantom limb pain—chronic though it may have been—was not the reason for his sudden restlessness. There was something weighing upon him, something heavy, an anvil on the chest and a storm in the brain. It was hidden somewhere in the darkness of their room during the late hours of the night; it was in the icy fringes creeping around the outer most edges of his heart. Fitzgerald didn’t know what it was or, rather, he pretended not to know, if that was ever such the case. He liked the blues, but never not for some known purpose other than to drown in them—the same could be applied to unresolved melancholy. Though it hurt, there was an odd serenity to it. The world, once so bright and loud and lively, now dulled out and quieted. People became gray-faced, their voices became hushed, and the city thrums on like a tuneless moan. Colors were muted, sounds distorted, and touch all starved—except for the blues.

            Except for the blues, the green lights, and the feel of that one aching itch now unbearable creeping along his leg. All except for them, and it was enough to convince him that life was too short for the numbing.

            “…sure, honey?”

            He scratched his cheek absent-mindedly. “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s been a couple days since the last attack. They’re becoming by the by a lot less frequent than they have been.”

            Flashing Zelda a disarming smile, Fitzgerald continued. “I assure you that there’s nothing at all to write home about. Speaking of writing…”

            At this, Fitzgerald picked up a half-open envelope, humming a catchy tune as he carefully slipped a thumb from underneath the paper and opened the envelope the rest of the way, making sure not to tear the contents in the process of revealing the treasures within. Pulling out a letter, he gave it a quick once over.

            “From your parents, I presume?”

            He could recognize the Sabre’s handwriting.

            “Hm? Yes. Said it was important for me to read. Why? You’ve never showed an interest in my correspondences before.”

            “Consider me curious. It’s no fun being kept out of the loop, ya know? Perhaps I want in on your little secrets.” Fitzgerald teased, brushing his fingers along the side of Zelda’s neck as he chuckled, watching her try to swat his hand away as she held back a laugh of her own. She huffed at him with what he perceived to be her attempt at frustration, but he knew that the endeavor was a pointless one. Zelda was easy to tease, easy to tickle—she’ll laugh at just about anything if given the cause for it. The only reason why she was holding it back so desperately now was that Fitzgerald had remarked upon the behavior during some dinner party a couple weeks back, embarrassing her enough into silence and eventual anger. He hasn’t brought it up since, but the remark had failed to slip from Zelda’s memory. Ever since, she has been quite self-conscious about it, unfortunately, twas also the amusement of her husband as well. He found the notion quite silly, in fact, and reveled in making her attempts to be as difficult as all means possible. Sometimes, it would work—he would, eventually, succeed in making her laugh. Other times though, Zelda would stomp out the room in mere frustration, leaving him behind to laugh on his own.

            “My secrets are for mine eyes only.” She held out a hand.

            Fitzgerald knew that what she wanted was the letter, but the temptation was too much for him to resist so, like the contrary man that he was, Fitzgerald gave her his hand instead, flashing Zelda a devilishly charming smile. When Zelda retreated her hand, quickly letting go of his, Fitzgerald began laughing happily, Zelda’s cheeks flushing to an all-time red.

            “Francis!”

            This only caused him to laugh louder and, the next thing he knew, she swung a fist into the side of his left thigh, just barely above the knee, catching with enough surprise to stop laughing entirely. Now, Zelda’s punch hurt none—she was a fragile thing, barely any muscle left—but this didn’t stop Fitzgerald from pretending that he got injured, leaning over and gingerly massaging the point of contact, pouting in a somewhat childish fashion.

            “Hey, now, that’s my good leg you hit.” He whined, looking at her. “Ya could’ve broken it, ya know?”

            She rolled her eyes. “You must be more fragile than you appear if your leg gives out with such a flimsy-feeling punch. Walk it off.”

            “You are a cruel mistress you are.” He said quietly, pretending to grumble but betraying a smile just enough for Zelda to see.

            She didn’t see it; instead, she gave him a haughty huff.

            “Scottie never complained.”

            At this, his smile vanished. “S…Scottie?”

            “What, has the punch to your leg rattled your brain too?”

            “I…no, no.” Fitzgerald quickly denied, sitting up. “I…I just didn’t expect you to bring up Scottie now of all times.”

            “Why wouldn’t I?” She looked annoyed. “I’m her mother; of course, I’m going to bring her up. What, is there a crime against that?”

            The itch came back; he went to go scratch. Fingers clawed at nothing but metal and an eye winced.

            “Francis, don’t do that, the metal makes a horrendous screech when you do.”

            “Ah…yes, my bad, I am…still getting used to this thing.”

            “Are you alright?” Zelda’s annoyed tone made way to worry. “You look out of it.”

            I do?

            “It’s…it’s nothing. Just, an itch.”

            She looked ready to say something, but before she could even open her mouth, the door beat her to it.

            “Sir,” greeted the servant, eyes fixed on Fitzgerald, “The Freedom Corps representatives are here to see you.”

            “Oh?”

            I hadn’t expected them to arrive so soon…

            He looked around, blue eyes roving.

            “It fell over.”

            Fitzgerald watched as Zelda picked up his ornate-looking cane from off the ground, and handed it him, looking grave. It was apparent that their conversation was far from over, but he welcomed the intrusion for when it had occurred; the icy fringes from around his heart were starting to grow again.

            “Thank you, my dear.”

            Giving her a kiss on the cheek, Fitzgerald steeled himself to stand, praying that the metal contraption didn’t give way and cause him to fall over; he has gotten better by even now, he made the occasional fall. Once feeling properly prepared to deal with an utter failure, he heaved himself upward and stood, leaning on the cane for extra support and placing all the pressure into his one usable leg. Gaining a good balance, he was quite relieved (and quite proud) that he has yet to crash onto solid ground, welcoming the stroke of luck with a little more relish than usual.

            “I should be back soon; these meetings tend to not be very long.” He informed Zelda, moving about and stretching his legs. “The damn fools don’t know what they’re doing anyways.”

            “Francis…”

            He paused, midway through the held-open door. “Hm?”

            “What about the letter?”

            Silence.

            Turning to Zelda, Fitzgerald gave her a charming, but cold, cordial grin.

            “What letter?”