T H E Q U E S T I O N
T H E Q U E S T I O N
I S S U E # 3
I S S U E # 3
S E L F C A R E
S E L F C A R E
The truck rolled steadily along the freeway, exiting the town of Highwood and getting back onto the rural roads leading to Hub City. The forest that Richard Dragon and George Waltson called home was far behind me. I won't be able to return for a while, if I ever will, but my time there will stick with me forever; it's left an imprint on me that no hardship could ever deface, a permanent mural on the walls of my soul that can't be washed away with the fires of-
My musings are cut off as I see a sign on the side of the road. I flick my gaze to it quickly and make out "Hub City 31" before setting my eyes back on the road ahead of me. Whatever I was thinking about before I saw the sign leaves my mind as the realization dawns on me: 31 miles from Hub City, traveling at 70 miles per hour... Just under half an hour until I get home.
The man is scared of the trials he will have to tackle in the coming days, weeks, months. He is coming back to a city that is familiar, yet foreign; there's no way for him to know how much has changed since he's been gone. All he can know is that he will face adversity from his enemies, people who will try to destroy him, both physically and spiritually. He is uncertain if he can truly retain what he has learned when he is in the face of evil, staring into the gaping maws of corruption. Will the wisdom of Dragon depart from him in that moment? Will the butterfly be blown away by the gusts from the beast's breath?
The butterfly...... Shut up about the butterfly...
The butterfly knows that all things are temporary. Everything that's good will slowly die off, but so will the evil, and they shall be replaced. An eternal cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth. Never ending. Constant. The only constant in an uncertain universe. The man is scared of that certainty, for he has made due with the uncertain. The butterfly takes heart in it and knows that even if they fail, even if they give it their all and get nothing in return, that their passion
was what truly mattered in the end. The destination matters not, only the journey.
... And right now, the journey is boring as hell. I need some sort of stimulation to make sure I don't nod off at the wheel.
I glance around the car for anything to keep myself occupied when I spot it: a binder of CDs peaking out from under the passenger seat. I pull over on the side of the road and park the car, grabbing the binder and setting it on my lap to flip through it. As expected, the punks' taste in music is as crappy as their personalities. There's some names I don't recognize but I know the type, hardcore metal bands with merely hypothetical morals, but the names I do recognize make me laugh a bit: Rage Against The Machine (ironic considering their subject matter), System Of A Down (ditto), Nine Inch Nails (three for one!). At least some of those might be able to distract me from the dread building up in my gut, but I'm hoping for something a bit less... Heavy.
I flip another page and-
No fucking way.
Swimming! This is my favorite album
! What the hell
are skinheads doing listening to Mac Miller? This seems a bit too... Y'know, not vile and disgusting enough for them. I shake my head at that, deciding that I'll just take the blessing without questioning it too much, before sliding the disc out of its sleeve and into the car's CD player. I hit play, taking comfort in the guitar chords and vocals that begin nearly immediately.
Time passes. The road rolls along as it so often does. I hum along to the music as I get closer to home."I switched the time zone, but what do I know? Just spending nights hitch-hiking, where will I go?"
I'm closer to Hub City than I have been in over a year. The skyline is on the horizon, peeking out from beyond the hills and over the trees. From this far away it looks like Sodom, or maybe Gomorrah. A city of sin, rivaled only by Vegas or Gotham or Detroit. The way I'm heading into the city I'll be passing by countless homeless camps, shanty towns composed of tents, broken down cars, maybe an abandoned building if they're really lucky. Just a few miles further up the road is Hupert Square, all the law firms and news stations and banks. The most decadent highs of wealth brushing shoulders with the most crushing lows of poverty.
When I was a child, my mother and I were only a bad month away from being in those camps, and even then we weren't much better off. We had to count change to buy bread and butter to feed ourselves. And somehow, just a few years ago, I was brushing shoulders with the highest paid newscasters in Hub City, lounging around in leather armchairs and snacking on croissants and drinking gourmet coffee. Amazing how quickly a life can change, how one can go from nothing to everything and then lose it all again. Just one mistake is all it takes.
Now, I deny both. I take the middle path, where true virtue lies. Both poverty and power can corrupt, through desperation or greed. When one is content with what they have, they have no desires. Have too little and your needs become wants, have too much and your wants become needs. I've seen it, I've been it. My desire to rise above my status corrupted me, and when I had it all my desire to make my mark took it that much further. I was still corrupted by desire when I was pushed into writing for Starrstruck, might have been corrupted further without intervention. Only through Dragon's teachings have I learned to shun desire and embrace what I have. I am content with what I have.
... And yet still that hunger remains, a low roar echoing through my entire being, something that wants me to crush others underfoot to satiate it. But it doesn't have to remain a weakness, it can be a tool, something I can use to my advantage. Aim the hunger at something that will help people, use it as fuel for a hearth rather than fuel for a tank. Something to warm those who need it, not destroy those I hold animosity towards. Before, my crusade against Fermin and the Sinners was something to make myself feel better, hurt some people and have some excuse to justify it.
I'm good at it. Hurting other people. It makes me feel good
. When I punch a man so hard that he crumples
at my hit, I feel powerful
. It's a high like no other. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine; I've tried them all at least once and nothing can hold a candle to the ecstasy
of having a life in your hands. You can snuff out that fire in a person so quickly, end their life so easily
... I can deny it all I want. I like
hurting other people. I'm not a good man. Probably won't ever be.
But now, I can truly say that I want to take Fermin down for the sake of Hub City, not my own ego."I didn't know, I didn't know..."
The beat switch pulls me from the depths of my mind, back to reality, back to Earth. I realize that I've stopped in front of a townhouse, on the edge of Lucifer's Corner and Hupert Square. A pleasant little place with plants in the windowsills and a mid 2000s SUV parked in the driveway. Some antique garden gnomes out front, always creeped me out but I guess that's why they're still around. Quaint belongings for a quaint owner: Aristotle Rodor.
I chuckle to myself. Of course I'd drive straight to Tot's.
I pull into the driveway and park behind the SUV, taking a moment to steel myself before turning off the truck. I exit the vehicle and walk up to the doorway, searching through my pockets for the spare key before realizing I had left my keyring at home over a year ago. Shiva said she'd take care of my apartment, make sure the rent was paid, all that. I wondered why I hadn't stopped there first... But maybe seeing a familiar face would help ease me back into life in the Hub.
I'm standing in front of the door now. I take a deep breath then knock.
E N D O F A R C # 1 : O D Y S S E Y