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Perspective

laaren Mar 1st, 2020 108 Never
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  1. Perspective
  2.  
  3. Mirri left school in a foul mood. Nothing today seemed to go right for the half-Ghoul, and the heft of her school bag only reminded her of future annoyances. The worst was the rain. It rained this morning when she woke up late, missed breakfast, and ran to school just to be late for the homeroom bell anyway. She was slapped with an after school detention, and was sent to her first period class waterlogged. “C’mon! I smell like a wet corpse,” she pleaded to the teacher on desk duty, but the succubus dismissed her without so much of a look up from her phone. Mirri’s wet shoes and soaked feet made plodding, squishing sounds as she grabbed her things and went to her first period class. “I freakin’ hate the rain,” she grumbled as she entered her English class.
  4. Mirri stole a towel from the swim team’s locker room during gym class and ringed out her body. The human in charge, a guy named Zeyph, was neither a teacher nor a certified instructor of any stripe and scolded her for ducking out of class early. She rolled her eyes and shooed him from the locker room door as the others left the gymnasium. She finished drying herself off as the fifth period bell sounded, and only just squeaked into class as the teacher called for roll. She then took two tests in a row, banged her knee on a desk leaving her second to last class, and received a warning from the principal’s office about using school property without permission. By the time detention rolled around, Mirri was ready to snap.
  5. “Hey Gram,” she said over the phone before stepping into detention.
  6. “Hi Mirri, how is your day going?”
  7. “Good,” she fibbed. She hated lying to Gram, but she didn’t want to trouble her. “I was late today so I’m at detention. Could you hold off on dinner until 4?”
  8. “Certainly can!” The loud television played in the background. The voices were indistinct, but Mirri recognized the chiming intro of the local news broadcast. “I have some mashed potatoes, green beans, and a slice of meatloaf with your name on them,” Gram said with resounding pride.
  9. “I appreciate it. I got to go now, but I’ll see you in an hour or so,” Mirri offered as she made a kissing sound.
  10. “Love you too sweetie.”
  11. Detention flew by, thankfully, but now that she was back out in the rain, she had other thoughts. “Maybe they will take me back,” she lamented. Finally, the kiss of undeath, her history teacher dumped a massive assignment on the class. A paper on her crappy, little town, but on an event he assigned between 1851 and 1890. Miri was saddled with the Scranton General Strike, a combination of words she assumed were related to bowling before reading the synopsis provided.
  12. She borrowed a text from the library during her free period, and stuffed it into her locker for safe keeping. The History of Labor Disputes: Scranton, it was titled. The history teacher suggested it in his synopsis, and since Mirri didn't know where else to start, she resigned herself to carrying the dang thing home.
  13. First stop was Gram's. She lived down the street from the school and looked after her kid brother during the day while Mom and Dad worked. Mirri and Daniel would hang out until their Mom finished up her job as a social media tech at a local firm and picked them up. After running through the rain, again, Mirri was greeted by a wave of dry heat and the wonderful smell of Gram's cooking as she opened the glass storm door.
  14. Gram and Daniel were waiting for her in their seats. "Hey Mimi," Daniel said with his nose in a True Goosebumps novel. She recognized the cover art as he put it away: Night of the Living Dummy. It was one of the better ones, in her modest opinion. A pair of siblings are haunted by a Living Doll named Slappy. The Doll plays mean tricks on them until they find the Doll's original owner and reunite them. The siblings think they've won, until they learn Slappy reappears at the end and tells them they are so much fun that she will continue to visit them. Mirri liked the sequels too, as more of Slappy's family joins the siblings, much to the siblings' dismay, until they finally open a theater for the Dolls to perform at and rid themselves of the Dolls at last.
  15. "What's up Danny, Gram?"
  16. "Not a lot Mirri," Gram said as she uncovered the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. She doled them out to her grandkids, then herself. They didn't waste any time, their ghoulish nature on full display as everyone dived into their meal with gusto. Big mouthful of meat followed by large, chugging gulps of cold lemonade to rinse their mouths for more food, Mirri's family were gluttons unlike any she knew. Mirri savored flavors with her cheeks packed to bursting. Gram's cooking was always good.
  17. The clamor passed, and Daniel left to lounge on the half circle leather couch. Mirri helped her Gram clean up.
  18. "Carrying stones in that bag of your's?" She asked. Gram did not look much older than Mirri's mother. At a glance, it was easy to mistake the two of them. Ghouls were a slow-aging type of Mythfolk, and shared a vigorous endurance common among the undead. Her mother and Gram both had white-grey hair they wore long. Gram kept her's prim and proper at shoulder's length while her mother's was in either in a ponytail or wild. To Mirri their faces were different enough: mom's face was more freckled than Gram's, but she could understand why others mistook them.
  19. "No, Mr. Novak's history assignment for next week, and the big book he said to use as a source."
  20. "Oh," she said with a coy smile, "perhaps I might take a look?"
  21. The granddaughter shrugged. "It's about the Scranton Strike."
  22. "I remember that," Gram said, nonplussed. Mirri's eyebrow shot up like a bullet. Gram was sampling a mint as she recalled the memory. "Scary stuff. Started a year after I um… woke up." Mirri leaned over the table.
  23. "I don't think I knew that."
  24. "Uh huh. You know 'bout the Censure, yeah?"
  25. Mirri did. Prior to the Censure, Mythfolk were very rare. They existed more in books and stories, with few willing to reveal their existence to the world. On September 1st, 1850, something happened. Mythfolk appeared en masse. Mirri clutched her head as the Censure took effect. Dizziness, nausea, a painful, sharp pressing on the back of her neck, all symptoms of the Censure.
  26. "Yeah, I thought about it."
  27. "Feels awful?" Gram passed a wrapped mint to her granddaughter. "Here. Take the edge off." Mirri allowed the refreshing, cool taste of the candy to ease her stomach. "I was um… dead before that happened."
  28. "I'm sorry," Mirri instinctively responded. Gram waved it off.
  29. "Eh, I hardly remember being human. I had enough wits about me to check my gravestone when I woke up. 'Deliah Winthrop,' it said I was more hungry than anything else. Whoever reanimated me left a decent first meal of raw meat and berries, but dang Mirri, I devoured that in an instant."
  30. "I can't imagine what that was like," A hungry Ghoul is a dangerous thing. They lose the ability to think and were liable to attack the nearest person. Mirri kept a small plastic bag of chips on her at all times after her own incident. The embarrassing memory burned the flavor of frozen fish into her taste buds. Mirri offered a smile as she glanced at her phone. 4:13. Mom would be here in a half hour.
  31. "Yeah, woke up in Washburn Cemetery, ate… oh and it was dark. The gravedigger jumped out his plum skin when he saw me gnawing on a bone." Gram paused. "It was deer, I think."
  32. "Not human?" Mirri joked. She chuckled to herself.
  33. "I dont think so…" Gram trailed off. Mirri stopped. "Anyway, it's not important." Mirri disagreed, but wanted to hear more so she was willing to let her Gram's statement go. "So I wake up in a Welsh cemetery, gravedigger screaming and sobbing like a new babe, and with no clue who or what I am. Eventually, and I do mean a while, like by morning after Bert the 'digger is done making his eighteenth last rites, and finally he gets some sense I ain't a devil here to take his immortal soul to the pits of hell. Ugh, spare me Christ.”
  34. "Gram, what about the Strike?"
  35. "Oh! I was caught up in a different memory dear. Forgive me."
  36.  
  37. There was a commotion on the street. Deliah heard men arguing, which on the main street of Scranton wasn't terribly uncommon,  but as they got closer her curiosity got the better of her. She peered out her single window overlooking Lackawanna Avenue. A small group of passersby was starting to circle around the bickering men. They were shouting in Polish, Deliah guessed, and both were caked in coal dust from head to toe.
  38. A knock on her door pulled her attention away from the scene. "Deliah," her landlady croaked, "Deliah sweety, are you in?"
  39. "Yes ma'am. The door is open."
  40. The landlady was an old human woman. She scraped a copper pointed cane as she walked, her eyes nearly blind with age, and wore a patchwork coat as old as the landlady herself. If she spoke too long she started to cough. She was a widow and rented her former husband's property to Mythfolk.
  41. Above her lived a trio of dark feathered harpies without names and next to her apartment was a single room inhabited by a Machine woman, an automata, living quietly. Deliah liked the old woman and her neighbors. She guided her landlady to a bench with her sewing projects neatly piled on a wobbly table.
  42. "What brings you here?" Deliah asked as she shuffled about. The men arguing outside faded into the background.
  43. "Nothing good," the landlady sighed. "It's getting ugly Deliah. My sons were arrested during a march. The union's talking about getting rifles." The weight of the women's statement was in her every wrinkle.
  44. "Oh no." She heard about the miners preparing to strike for weeks now.  No one was being paid enough to live, the hours were getting longer, and there were rumors of anarchists agitating. The old woman owned the land the union hall sat on and her two boys were in leadership. "Have you heard from them?"
  45. "Junior is getting released in an hour. He said he was going to stop and check on-" She gave a whooping cough as she struggled to find her breath. It passed in an instant, but it bothered the Ghoul all the same. She was never going to get old or be sick. The same change that robbed her of most of her past also blessed her with a vigour the living envied. She handed the woman a glass of water.
  46. "Did you need help, or-"
  47. The landlady's grey brow jumped as she sipped at the drink.
  48. "No, no. It's something more important." She leaned forward to conspire. "The strike starts tomorrow morning. Everyone is on board. The conductors, the miners, the fire brigade, everyone is hurting." The landlady paused and cleared her throat. "Could you speak with the breakers down on Pittson? The lads plan to march in the front, but I've heard it said that Mayor McKune is organizing a militia."
  49. Deliah pictured what that meant. Dozens of armed, company men confronting angry strikers on the road leading to Scranton Coal. "I read the miners plan to keep striking-"
  50. "Miners will. It's the others he's planning to scare God damn him." The blasphemy surprised Deliah, although the landlady couldn't see the Ghoul's shocked expression. The old woman was a devout Catholic, a church three times a week attendant, who always gave to the plate even when  the Polack priest with the ugly smock and the barely passable English held service. For her to take God's name in vain, well, Deliah was now concerned.
  51. The landlady produced an envelope with an illegible name scribbled on the front. "Take this to the foreman. The lads listen to him."
  52. "Yes ma'am."
  53. "And stay off the street," she added as she stood up. "You're a good kid."
  54. "I'm probably older than you are ma'am." They shared a laugh.
  55.  
  56. The story was put on hold as Mirri and Gram helped Mom bring in groceries from the Subaru. Daniel held the door as the ladies hurriedly brought in overstuffed plastic bags. The rain only worsened as the wind went from light to driving. It was impossible to see farther than a few feet.
  57. Gram tossed her daughter and granddaughter a warm towel she had drying on the radiator. "Ugh, it's hideous out there," Mom said as she patted down her soggy hair. Gram did the same while Mirri dried her face. She uttered anjoyful squeal as the warmth of the towel seeped into her skin. Thunder rattled the house as they tried to get comfortable.
  58. "Gram was helping me with a school thing," Mirri mentioned as her head hung on an open palm. "History report."
  59. "Well, Gram is a relic," Mom jabbed. Gram threw her wet towel at her daughter's head. "Oh, mother, you don't look a day over 75!"
  60. "Aren't you 92, Mom?" Mirri innocently chimed. Mom looked confused as she did the math on her fingers.
  61. "Oh, crap." She scratched her head. "Whoops, sorry." Gram waved away her daughter's apology.
  62. "It's fine dear." An impish smile graced her lips. "We all forget things from time to time, in our old age."  
  63.  
  64. August 1st, 1877. The Mayor, Robert H. McKune, organized a militia to resolve the strike and send the union workers back to the mines. Against an outcry from the workers and the public, the militiamen were armed with rifles. The militia gathered at the busy, main street where the previous three days of protest gathered. Mayor McKune was at the head of the militia, an assortment of men Deliah recognized from her perch above the butcher's shop. The militiamen were composed of local toughs and managers from the mine, and the talk that echoed up to her made her uneasy.
  65. "... of course the gorillas, Krauts, and the Polocks are in it together. I saw-"
  66. "They tossed my brother in the river when he tried going to work those-"
  67. "The Governor is sending in the National Guard to get the coal moving again. I wonder how many Catholic scalps they are going to take?"
  68. Deliah kept just out of sight of the militia. The Know-Nothings may have lost their legs after Lincoln passed the Second Bill of Rights, but the sentiment of foreign spies seeking to overthrow the government was still gossiped about town, and always just in earshot of Mythfolk and other minorities. It was one of their number, John Wilkes Booth, that assassinated President Lincoln, and it was clear the current government was uninterested in enforcing the little gains made by the Republican coalition of Radicals.
  69. Deliah heard the marchers before she saw them make the turn onto Lackawanna Avenue. Each day was more raucous than the last, with the crowd swelling to thousands as more supporters traveled in from the outskirts of the city. They sang songs and made chants as they went unopposed. Today, a column of miners stood against the militia. While many of the other unions conceded after only a few days, the miners were stubbornly resolute in their strike.
  70. Those in apartments above the road watched like spectators of a colosseum as the two groups met. Four men came forward, two from each side, and they began to speak. It was the Mayor and a man Deliah would later learn was a priest named Father Dunn representing the government, and Junior and another man from the union.
  71. Both sides seemed agitated as they spoke, but Deliah couldn't make out what was being said over the crowd's dull roar. She was too far back to see the Mayor or priest's reaction, but Junior's face was a bright red. The Irishman's anger grew as the conversation proceeded. The older of the two brothers, Junior's temperament was often a concern of their mother's. Here, he was furious, beyond any sort of gentle eruption Deliah personally witnessed. With a grandiose wave of his arms, the union reps turned their back and each group returned to their host.
  72. The throng of miners began to jeer the militia. “Get out of the way!”
  73. “Fucking Black-legs!”
  74. “Scabs! Scabs!”
  75. Rocks began to fly. Deliah watched in horror as loose bricks from the street landed among the militiamen, then chaos followed faster than she could process. She wasn’t sure who fired first, but the blast of a pistol rang out, hitting Mayor McKune, and sending him to the road. A cry rang out: “The Mayor is killed!” More screams. The people watching from above vanished as the militia opened fire on the crowd. The miners screamed as the forward most men crumpled like wet paper. The reek of expended powder followed as a second volley sent the shocked miners into a desperate, panicked retreat. The stampede away was followed by a third volley, and more bodies fell. She shut her eyes and closed herself off from the violence.
  76.     Deliah let herself breathe, even if the air didn’t mean much to a Ghoul, and slowly the sensation of her body returned. A feathery arm was wrapped around her, and chestnut hair nuzzling against her chin. She looked at the harpy who was doing her best to comfort Deliah with her own wavering smile. "Hey, thanks." She embraced the harpy back as the chaos outside continued.
  77.  
  78. Mirri beamed as she read over her finished history paper's grade. She was a C+, maybe B student at her best, so for her to receive an A grade with glowing remarks from Mr. Novak, she was elated. With Gram's help, Mirri produced a paper detailing the bloodiest day in her city's history in gushing detail. She included copies of Gram's newspaper clippings from the old Scranton Tribune and a recording of their later conversations. Mirri lounged back at her desk as the final bell rang. She wanted to savor her success a little longer. She unpocketed her phone and sent a picture of the big red A+ to Gram.
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