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Changes in Death

Chapter Text

Even in the chaos that was modern day New York City,there were places that served as oases of life and calm. Places where people could laugh and relax,free of the grinds of everyday life. Places where nature still ruled all.


One of these places was Stuyvesant Preserve. An artificial neighborhood (if you could call it a neighborhood),built at the dawn of the century,it stood out like a sore thumb amidst the city. Like its bigger relative to the south,Central Park,Stuyvesant Preserve was a landscape made green and verdant,flower banks shining in the Sun. Bike trails lined the parkland like delicate veins,beside of which grew arbors maintained by some of the best gardeners,human or droid,the city could buy.


The Preserve (as its 1,400 permanent residents called it) was centered around four principal landmarks. The first was the Historic Alexander Hamilton House,now a museum. It was maintained by a corps of curators,who organized semi-regular public tours. The second was the impressive bulk of St.Martin’s Church. Built at the beginning of the twentieth century,more than a century and a half earlier,it was on its third female pastor in a row. It had a modern,artistic style that wasn’t found in most churches. The third was Riverside Towers,a modern retirement home. The residents of the Preserve joked that it was “two towers attending a manor house”,from the way it looked. And the fourth was the new Museum of Natural History,which boasted a rock from the Uranian moon Oberon.


One of the residents of the Preserve was Bella Freestone,an emancipated teenager entering her senior year at a nearby high school. You might be wondering why she was emancipated. It wasn’t for hatred of her parents,nor because she was pregnant. No,it was because she wanted a quiet space where she could finish her education in peace,and ‘find herself’. Besides,she knew better than any of her friends how to take care of herself.


Bella was a tall,attractive girl,with blue eyes and a blonde pixie cut that ended not quite all the way to her shoulders. She always had a smile for everyone and a hug for those she knew well. She was a smart girl,currently fifth in her class at her high school. She lived in a well kept brownstone that was one of the oldest houses on the Preserve.


Today,her footsteps took her to St.Celestine’s. St.Celestine’s was a Catholic high school operated by St.Martin’s. It was an attractive Retro Deco-style building with a ‘20s (2020s,mind you) flair to its design. And it just happened to boast a rocket pad,where a tourist rocket was about to land.

As she approached the school,Bella saw a man sitting crosslegged on the ground. He had brown hair,twinkling green eyes,and a handlebar mustache. He was playing a violin,and this is what he sang in his deep voice:

We are crescent moons, whose light
Banishes the shade of night;
Wheresoever we sit, we bring
Glory to the gathering.

Fate, the traitor, may efface
Wrongfully our pride of place;
Fate may take the most; yet whole
Still abides our pride of soul.”

Bella found herself drawn to him. “Who are you?”

”I am Owen Faulkner,violinist.” With that,he played another tune:

A palm tree I beheld in al-Rusafa,
Far in the West, far from the palm tree land:
I said: You, like myself, are far away, in a strange land;
How long have I been away from my people!
You grew up in a land where I am a stranger,
And like myself, you live in the farthest corners of the earth:
May the morning clouds refresh you at this distance,
And may abundant rains comfort you forever!”

Bella found $10 in her pocket and handed it to Faulkner.

“I thank you for your gift. May you live well!”

———

 At the edge of the landing field,a small crowd had gathered. According to a map being projected on a communal TV screen,the passenger rocket was over Maryland. Its onboard motors were bringing it in on a slow and steady flight profile. Bella could imagine the 2 g’s of gravitational force the passengers were experiencing right now gently pushing them into their seats.

Soon afterwards,she could see the rocket in the distance,a silver glare against the rising Sun. At an altitude of 12,000 feet,directly over the landing pad,the rocket bled off most of its speed. Then it began its final descent.

But as it approached,Bella heard sirens in the distance. And as it landed,cop cars pulled up. Bella could only watch as her Auntie Eve,her boyfriend’s mother,emerged from the lead car.