“I thought you might like to know your usual cup of coffee is waiting for you in Master Shawn’s room.”
Coffee. Yes. Coffee. How long has it even been since I had an actual cup of coffee?
For a moment when I opened my eyes, I thought it was all back to normal. Lying here, in his bed. Waking up in his house. Getting coffee from his robot. I actually smiled to myself. I actually thought for a moment Nate would walk back to bed from the shower and hold me in his arms like he always did before. I stumble across the hall into Shawn’s room for my coffee and realize it’s been meticulously reconstructed.
“Codsworth, how much progress has the town made on my schematics?”
A deep voice answers instead, “We’re only a few key components away before we can make the last installation and fire it up, General.”
It’s Preston Garvey, the Minuteman. He tips his black hat toward me with pride.
“Stop calling me General. How is that possible,” I ask, “It’s only been a few hours.”
Codsworth rotates his eye stalks to look at Garvey, then back at me, “Actually mum, you’ve been asleep for nearly 96 hours. Master Valentine became concerned so he said he was going to find you a Doctor. A Doctor Amari, specifically.”
My heart is shooting fast and my head feels light. I get that heavy stone in my stomach that tells me something has already gone wrong.
“But that doesn’t make sense. I’ve had longer recoveries than this and Nick has never taken off before…”
Wait. What if they drugged me and did something to Nick? What if this sick cult they’ve created demands sacrifices or something?
I can reach my pistol in my bedroom in two steps. Turn around with one. Shoot on two. GO!
The Robot and Minuteman realize what I’m about to do two seconds too late. I’ve got my back to my bedroom corner with pistol drawn before they even make it down the hall.
“Wait! Please don’t shoot us, Mum! I have proof!”
Codsworth stands in front of Garvey, who has taken cover behind the doorway. He reaches into his holoplayer and slowly extends his metal hand to me, “Master Valentine said there was a…a possibility you might need reassurances.”
I slam the tape into my PipBoy and within a few moments I can hear…me? Why does my voice sound all deep and gravelly like that?
“Awfully nice place you got here. I bet it was something before the bombs fells. Picket fences, green grass, a cul-de-sac where everyone has 2.5 kids and a dog. Too bad none of you people knew how to appreciate what you had.”
“Shut the fuck up!”
No. Wait. That’s me.
“Are you a sad Momma Bear now? Sad about your dead husband and your lost kid? That’s the problem with families, they’re always vulnerable no matter how strong you are.”
“Shut the fuck up or I’ll kill you again!”
“Only way to do that, doll. And I don’t think you’ve got the guts.”
There’s some kind of scuffle in the recording and then a gunshot. Then I hear Nick.
“Goddammit, somebody get me a mechanic and get rid of this fucking gun!”
The tape clicks off.
That’s when I realize the gun in my hands is unusually light, and sure enough the clip has been emptied already.
You’ve responded to an invitation for a “social experiment” by Heineken. You are an outspoken trans woman trying to make a difference so you figure, sure. An opportunity is an opportunity. Let’s get this bullshit over with.
Their film crew tapes you speaking about who you are and why trans people deserve to exist. You already know where this is going, but you hope maybe this time you’re wrong.
You come to a warehouse and are made to stand within taped lines facing a bald, mildly put-upon looking man. Gaffs create a bar which the two of you are then instructed to approach and engage in polite conversation. You do so, critically hyperaware of your body and your transness because you already know what this “social experiment” is going to reference.
A buzzer goes off and you’re then instructed to stand and watch a short video. Sure enough, here is the bald man next to you talking about how “weird” the “transgenders” are. Just like clockwork.
“Another one of these fucking feel-good, bigots-just-need-a-hug commercials. Goddammit I gotta talk to my agent about this shit.”
Of course, two Heineken beers are now placed at the bar and you are given the “option” of having one with this man.
But you know if you actually leave you will garner no sympathy for yourself or other trans women. You are already aware that you alone now represent everything good or bad about all trans women to everyone in this room. You also know they will simply continue this “experiment” with other trans women until they achieve the outcome they want for their ad campaign anyway. So you do your best to make the most of it.
You put on that forced smile learned from your matriarchs for dealing with potentially dangerous men, and you make yourself as welcoming and understanding as you possibly can be.
He pretends to leave after you approach the bar. “Thank god,” you think to yourself. But then he comes back laughing and cracking jokes. “Oh goodie, this one’s a comedian.”
And even though that’s where the commercial spot ends, you now have to sit with this man for at least ten minutes while drinking a beer that tastes shameful with each sip, wondering if this is really the best you can do for your trans sisters right now? He asks you the same tired crap you’ve been answering your whole life out of the closet. And now, as you both leave, you know he feels great about himself, while you already feel like shit on the way home.
You retreat to your partner and tell them about how you got hoodwinked, and they reassure you that even though this bullshit gets old, we all have to make the best of what life throws at us, and they are proud of you.
The campaign comes out, and everyone praises the man who ridiculed you and your sisters on screen. And the company that didn’t give a shit about your feelings of safety if they could spin it into a message for drinking their swill.
“This is what we need to create change!” someone comments, “You win more flies with honey…or in this case beer!”
God, now that man looks like a hero, Heineken sells more beer, and you’re just a nameless tr*nny that normal people are saints for treating like a human being.
I was with those railroad children for an entire week while they slept in a sewer playing Church Crypt Clubhouse. But it’s over now. I got the code. They got the chip. That was the deal.
Desdemona tried to give me a mission before I left but I told her the only thing I cared about was finding my baby and getting the fuck out of there. I’m not here to play secret agent. I’m just thankful Tinker Tom knew what he was doing and they didn’t get us killed.
Nick and I sat on a park bench looking out to sea after we left. The salty air was a refreshing change from living in a sewer with kids calling me Codename: Professor. Nick lit two cigarettes and handed one to me.
I thanked him and asked with a smirk, “What’s the point of a robot smoking anyway?”
“Just a bad habit I picked up I guess. Goes with the outfit. Gotta put out a proper image to be a proper gumshoe, you know. But what about you, kid? Where are we going to build this enormous contraption of yours? We’re gonna need the resources and labor of an entire town if we want to get this done.”
“Funny you should mention that. Did I ever tell you about my first day out of the Vault?”
It’s a two-day journey from the church back to Sanctuary, but thankfully the day was uneventful. I figure these people owe me one since I saved their skins and gave them my old neighborhood.
It’s funny, according to my older entries I went back there once to retrieve power armor for that trip through the Glowing Sea, but I have absolutely no fucking memory of that whatsoever. Okay, maybe “funny” isn’t the word for it. I tried to ask Nick if he knew anything about it, but he just got quiet and changed the subject.
We made camp along the overpass, high above the ground and safe inside a hollowed out trailer. Nick eyed me intensely as I grilled a slab of molerat meat, sipping my lukewarm Nuka-Cola and vodka.
“Your story about those Minutemen has got me thinking a lot about the first town I encountered after The Institute tossed me out like garbage.” He stared into the fire, making his glass eyes seem hollow, the illuminated irises barely visible as he furrowed his brow.
I flipped the steak onto an emptied out Fancy Lads box and began cutting bites with my hunting knife, “With a freshly wiped memory that must have been a helluva rude awakening, huh?”
“You don’t know the half of it! Here I am, waking up in a literal trash heap, with a mechanical body, believing myself to be a cop from your time. Needless to say, I…well I panicked a little.” His hands shake as he pinches a cigarette out of his coat.
I let out a sardonic laugh, “Boy that’s relatable. What did you do?”
“The only thing I could do. I ran, until I finally came across a tiny town. It’s a wonder they didn’t shoot me on sight, a naked metal man screaming toward them.” The image made us both laugh.
“The first human who ever talked to me was a young boy. I think his name was…Jim. He was full of questions. And answers, at least for someone who had no idea where or when he was. Pretty soon the whole town came out to marvel at the mechanical man. They treated me pretty decent once they realized I wasn’t a threat.”
I gave Nick a smile. He’s one of the only people I know who remembers what it was like before The Day. “Prewar” as everyone else here calls it. I began to unroll my sleeping bag as I said to him, “Maybe we could go back there some time and say hello.”
Wrong. You fucked up, Dori.
Nick leapt from his seat and kicked the campfire, sparks flying everywhere. I instinctively drew my pistol and pointed it directly between his eyes.
“I CAN’T because they’re all fucking DEAD! MURDERED by raiders like they were nothing but animals, and all I could do was RUN AWAY! Like a FUCKING COWARD!”
He punched the side of the trailer and a long, low hum echoed inside our shelter. He finally speaks again, in a low whisper. And I finally lower my pistol.
“I’m supposed to be able to Protect and Serve. I know I’m not the real Nick Valentine, but his memories are all I’ve got. And you would think a cop would be able to take out a few punks with guns but I just…I had no idea. I didn’t know this brave new world had such people in it. I thought I could take my time, do a little farming, live an easy life out in the country and heal.”
Neither of us knew what to say. Nick shuffled his way toward the entrance of the trailer and sat down, standing guard for me to sleep. I poured unfiltered water over what remained of the fire.
“Doesn’t matter,” he finally muttered, “that was probably a hundred years ago, anyway.”
We didn’t talk much the next day. We passed the old drive-in. And that diner where I killed those two chem pushers. Once we reached Concord I began to worry. What if these people didn’t make it?
They asked for my help setting up camp and I just left them there. And why can I not remember going there before? Were they all dead? Was it so traumatic I just blocked it out? Are we about to walk into a horror show? Or maybe even worse, a new raider camp?
But as we cross the Red Rocket station I hear a familiar bark. It was Dogmeat!
“Well I’ll be damned,” Nick chuckled, “He’s been waiting for you to come home this whole time.”
I threw my arms around him before realizing he had some sort of “armor” made out of old tires and sharpened bolts. On the side somebody had written “Minuteman Dogmeat”. So that Minuteman guy must still be alive!
Dogmeat happily trotted ahead, leading us to the wooden bridge which was now heavily fortified. The Minuteman hopped from his guard post and waved back toward the houses.
“Hey everyone! The General is back! Here comes the General!”
Nick elbowed me in the ribs and muttered, “Kind of an overly enthusiastic hero’s welcome, don’t you think?”
The Minuteman ran down the bridge toward us, “General, permission to shake your hand?”
I stammer for a moment while Dogmeat bounds around the three of us, “Um, yes, sure. Uh, at ease, soldier.”
He escorts me over the bridge after giving me an eager and firm handshake. At least a dozen people are there to meet us at the guard towers and they all salute me as I approach. Which is…weird? What the hell is with this General business? Did something happen when I was here last time?
Where the Sumners’ house used to be is now a basketball court and playground. I pull the Minuteman to the side so we can hopefully talk privately. But everyone keeps staring at me with a creepy expression of adoration. I don’t even recognize half of these fucking people. What gives?
I look at the Minuteman’s uniform and hope the name stitched on it is actually his because I can’t remember it, “Um, listen Mister…Garvey? The reason I’m here is because I found a way to get to my son. But it’s going to require a lot of power and a lot of space. And I’m going to need your help.”
After many praises and cheers and way too much attention from everyone, I asked Garvey if he could give me some damn space. Everyone else leaves but he leads me along the road, insisting on showing me what they’ve done with Ms. Rosa’s home.
Finally Garvey lets me go to my own home. Which is apparently a diner now.
“As I live and breathe! Good evening mum!”
Codsworth. Of course.
“Now I realize the home looks a bit of a fright but don’t you worry Mum. Master Long and I have seen to it that yours and Master Shawn’s rooms are expertly prepared for your return. Um, where is Master Shawn, mum? Is he with you? Did you find him?”
I turn down the hallway to our bedrooms and my heart stops, “Codsworth, I need you to shut the fuck up right now and tell me what the hell this is!”
I’m just gonna put a picture in here because honestly I can’t even deal with this shit right now. I’m going to bed. I’ll write again when I get some answers.
As soon as we walked through the door, Nick and I were blinded by floodlights.
“Halt Outsider. We’ve been following you since you left the Commons. You have exactly one chance to answer truthfully before we blast you apart. Who are you and what do you want?”
I lowered my pistol and tried to deescalate with the desperate mom routine. Cry. Talk. Find Shawn.
“Please, I’m trying to find The Railroad. I have spent months trying to track down my baby. He was kidnapped by The Institute. I have murdered every single agent of theirs across the Commonwealth. I have had my brain scooped open and contaminated with a psychopath just so I could gather some basic intel about them. I have been to The Glowing Sea and back again to talk to a sentient Super Mutant who used to be their top scientist so I could get schematics. And now, finally, after all this fucking time, I just need this Courser Chip decoded so I can break in and Find Shawn.”
The floodlights went dark. As vision crept back into my corneas I could see a raised platform above us. On it was an olive skinned woman with white hair like mine, pointing a minigun directly at my chest. Next to her, a white redheaded woman smoking a cigarette and eyeing me with suspicion. In the corner, a boy in a blue jacket and newsie cap hiding his face. And on the stairs, blocking my path, a white man in Aviators wearing a plain white tee and jeans.
He was the first to speak, “The Courser Killer finally graces us with her presence.”
The redhead shot him an annoyed look and snapped back to me, “So it’s true then. You’ve actually seen a courser. And you killed it? And you recovered a chip from it’s brain?”
I pulled the cold metal component out of my bra, where I’d been hiding it ever since Dr. Amari recovered it. I held it flat in my palm as the redhead eyed it closely. Suddenly her eyes grew wide and she snapped back to attention, barking orders.
“Glory, lower your weapon. Drummer Boy, go get Tinker Tom. Deacon, I want every piece of intel you’ve gathered on our new friend. On the double, go!”
Glory eased her minigun slightly and stood at ease while the two boys clambered past each other into a hallway behind the leader.
Nick and I carefully approached the women on the platform, chip still in my hand. The redhead took a long final drag of her cigarette before flicking it away.
“I’m Desdemona, leader of The Railroad. Sorry about the rude welcome but you are about to become the only outsider who has ever set foot in our headquarters. But before I can allow that, I must ask you something crucial: Would you risk your life for your fellow man? Even if that man is a synth?”
A loud laugh escaped my mouth before I could compose myself. I thought about it for a minute. Truthfully, I had no desire to risk my life for anyone. Synth or human or otherwise. Had I put myself into dangerous situations for others? Sure. But always with ulterior motives. Find Shawn. The rest is secondary.
“Maybe I could answer that question for you: Yes. This woman risks her life every day for at least one synth. Not only did she rescue me from a sealed vault, she even managed to fast talk our safe passage out of there when things got too hot. And believe you me, you’d much rather be her ally than her enemy.”
Nick placed a hand on my shoulder and gave it an affection squeeze. Desdemona and Glory both seemed impressed.
Sure, I stick my neck out for Nick all the time. But that’s because I need Nick to Find Shawn. What would I do if I didn’t need him anymore? What happens after I Find Shawn?
A red light flashed, then we followed Desdemona through the hallway into a large open crypt-turned-military-operation. All eyes were on me and Nick.
“We’re going to need time to decrypt this Courser Chip of yours and make sense of these…very crudely drawn schematics. In the meantime, Deacon and I will brief you on everything we know about the Institute. I have a feeling we could be great allies. Welcome to The Railroad.”
When I woke up the next morning, Magnolia was nowhere to be found. Which saved me the trouble of any awkward goodbyes.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” I heard Nick opening my hotel room door behind me as I finished getting dressed.
“Dr. Amari got the chip out while you were wetting your beak last night. But she says we’re gonna need some help getting it to dance for us.”
I held the surprisingly clean microchip in my hand and sighed, “What does that mean, Nick?”
“It means we’re going to have to make some new friends along the Freedom Trail. A group that fancies themselves abolitionists. Call themselves The Railroad.”
I never did much in the way of Bostonian tourism before The Day. Or if I did, I don’t have any memories of it. As far as I can remember, my husband and I had only just moved here. But everyone knows about the Freedom Trail downtown. Even now, it seems.
Our would-be adventure started in Boston Commons, which is rumored to be the home of a giant monster named “Swan”. Thankfully, I can still neither confirm nor deny the truth of that rumor. In front of a broken fountain was a crude spray-painted sign reading “At journey’s end, follow freedom’s lantern.” Below our feet we found a State Seal with the number 7 pointing toward an “A” in crude graffiti.
Next is the State House, L4.
Then the Old Granary Cemetary, A2, which is naturally covered in feral ghouls.
Old State House is O6.
The Old Corner Bookstore was nearly a deathtrap between more ferals and raiders. But I’m still alive so – 3I.
At Faneuil Hall, a large gathering of Super Mutants put a hold on our progress. One of them had a missile launcher, which he was using to gleefully blast holes in the ground to prevent boredom.
Nick looked at me between worried peaks over our cover, “How do you wanna handle this, kid? I don’t think we can take them head-on and live to tell about it.”
I looked through my bag and dug out the Stealthboys we had salvaged off Kellogg and the courser. I tossed one to Nick.
“We can’t outgun them, so we’re gonna have to outsmart them. Use this to get to the other side of the courtyard without being seen. I’ll distract them by sniping a couple of the weaker looking ones. As soon as they start moving toward my location, that’s when you start shooting. That gives me time to cloak and relocate. Then I’ll pull them off of you from another corner of the yard. With any luck, they’ll be too confused until it’s too late.”
Nick stroked his plastic chin with a concerned look before admitting, “It’s suicide, but it might be foolish enough to work.”
The plan started off well.
I followed his hazy camouflaged figure through the scope of my rifle before lining my sights with the head of the “smallest” Super Mutant. Exhale and squeeze, Dori. Wait for the pink mist.
That’s when it goes wrong.
As soon as the first mutant fell, a missile came screaming toward my location, forcing me to fall back and reveal myself. Nick popped off a few shots so I could cloak, but then I began to hear a frantic beeping getting closer and closer.
That’s when I noticed the Super Mutant holding an active Mini Nuke in his hands like a football, charging toward me without hesitation.
I ran backwards as fast as I could while unloading half my bullets into that beast’s head. He dropped and I immediately hit the dirt, waiting for an explosion that never came. Nick’s cries for help pulled me back into the fray. As I ran back I slammed a big hit of Psychojet. Everything seemed to slow down except for me, while I felt a murderous surge of chemicals fill my bloodstream. I rushed toward Nick’s location with my shotgun in hand, and somehow managed to squeeze off a round into the last two Super Mutants’ heads before they noticed me. I unleashed the kind of yawp I imagine would be right at home among vikings, while I continued to bash their skulls in with the butt of the shotgun.
“Need I gently remind you we have a trail to follow?”
Faneuil Hall – 5R.
Paul Revere’s House – 8D.
And finally the end of the line, Old North Church – 1R.
1R, 2A, 3I, 4L, 5R, 6O, 7A, 8D.
Are you fucking kidding me?
If this is the smartest band of people in the Commonwealth, we might be in more trouble than I thought.
It should come as no surprise the Courser is dead by my own hands.
Nick and I found him at the nearby Greentech Genetics, waging a one-man war against a squadron of military-styled mercenaries who apparently call themselves “Gunners”. Not that it matters. They’re all dead now.
As I approached the Courser he managed to hear my footsteps. With a gun in my face, I told him I needed what was inside his head and he was about to meet his friend Kellogg. That must have spooked him, because instead of shooting he attempted to use an old military Stealthboy to escape. But not before I tackled him to the ground and forced my combat knife deep into his neck.
When he stopped moving, I ripped the whole damn thing off his shoulders and placed the gruesome prize in my rucksack. I know that chip is somewhere in his brain, but frankly I don’t feel like performing surgery out in the wild. I also stripped him of his superior armor, even though it is a bit too black-trenchcoat-over-black-clothes for my taste.
Turns out the Courser was there to track down a synth who escaped The Institute, only to be captured and sold by these Gunners as a slave. So naturally, I executed the slavers and freed the synth. But the synth was terrified of me, and refused to leave until I was gone. Given what she just witnessed me do, I can’t say I blame her.
I am no hero. I’m just a bigger monster than these other monsters.
This was confirmed by the screams of Dr. Amari when I plunked the head onto her desk in Goodneighbor.
“What the hell is that thing?!”
“It’s a courser. Or more accurately, it’s a courser head. I need you to get the chip out of its brain so I can decode it and get into The Institute.”
“Are you insane?! How did you even track down a courser, let alone kill it?”
“I’m…I’m not entirely sure. My memory is still a bit…untrustworthy, since the last time I saw you.”
“Yes. Yes I worried if there were going to be lasting side effects of such an unprecedented procedure. But you were quite insistent!”
Nick interrupted, “If we could just get back to the decapitated head in the middle of the room…”
Dr. Amari agreed to help me recover as much as possible but said it would take time. So I bought us a room at the Hotel Rexford and told Nick I was going out for a drink. I expected he might warn me, or tell me to be careful, but he never did. He knows me too well for that now. I can see it in his eyes when he thinks I’m not looking. The look of a man who is in way over his head but doesn’t know how to leave.
I made my way over the The Third Rail, a bar in what used to be State Station. Before The Day happened and turned my world into…this.
The bouncer is a ghoul in a nice suit. The bartender is a robot wearing a bowler hat. But the singer, yes the singer, is a stunning older woman in a sequined red dress.
She asks if I liked the song when she steps off the stage and sits at the stool next to mine. I guess I was starring a bit more obviously than I intended.
“I’m sorry, I just haven’t heard live music in a very long time.”
“That’s okay handsome. I love a captive audience. And you have the look of someone who could use it.”
I buy us a few rounds and we get to talking. She quickly evades any questions I have about her life, but is also polite enough to return the favor. Every time she calls me “handsome” I squirm a little too obviously on my stool.
During the evening she gives my left hand a sly look and says to me, “I may be wrong, but if I’m not mistaken that’s a wedding band.”
“It is. My husband gave it to me less than a year before he died. Before our child was kidnapped right out of his arms.”
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry to hear that. This wasteland takes everything it can.”
Whitechapel Charlie continues to pour drinks. Magnolia and I continue to drink them, the alcohol making us feel warm and safe. When her next set starts, she asks if I have any special requests. So I ask for Billy Holiday. She sings “The Very Thought of You”. Just for me.
For the first time I can remember since I woke up in that Vault, I feel tears stream down my face. Her voice is so beautiful, and she is so kind. She is the first person in this awful world who hasn’t asked me for anything upon first meeting them.
“What’s the matter, handsome? Didn’t like the song?”
“No, I loved it. A little too much, maybe.”
A long silence between us hangs heavy. Many of the patrons have already called it a night.
“Do–Do you want to get out of here? Maybe go for a walk?”
Days killing men and monsters. Days hacking at mutated beasts or digging up mutated plants or trying to stomach 200 year old radioactive processed junk for “food”. Days staying awake on Jet and Psycho and Buffout and Adrenaline. Days sleeping off wounds in bombed out shelters. Days obliterated with alcohol for the need to sleep. Days of never having a hot shower.
That’s the sort of unimportant focus on details that this sort of introspection cannot become, for my own survival. The only reason I am keeping this journal once again is to attempt to maintain my grip on reality in a life that feels absolutely unreal.
So I am going to go back to my last entry, the time I killed Kellogg, and do my best to reconstruct from there.
I remember Nick Valentine and I found a weird piece of circuitry and hardware attached to Kellogg’s amygdala among the “evidence” we gathered from our own murder scene. But how many days did I sleep on that concrete floor with a half-melted face before that?
I remember we went back to Diamond City so I could see a “doctor”, and Nick could speculate with Piper. That reporter who pisses off the mayor writing scare pieces. How many days did they drug me out of pain and hope for the best?
I remember Nick and Piper concluded we had to take the amygdala to the Memory Den. To Dr. Amari. The woman who put the brain of that murderous psychopath into my brain. And Nick’s…processor?
From that point forward?
I remember days that Did Happen.
I remember days that Did Not Happen.
I remember days where I died. There are so many of them. But those Did Not Happen because I am still alive. But I still remember dying anyway.
Ironically the one day I can focus on to keep my real-or-not-real barometer on track is The Day The Bombs Fell. The Day Shawn Was Taken. Because that day undeniably Did Happen. And that helps me focus on what really matters. Find Shawn.
Find Shawn. It has become a prayer I echo in my brain as I trudge through the bodies and the shit and the blood and the mud and the filth. Find Shawn.
Because otherwise I start trying to count the days. How many days in this hell actually belong to me? And how many of these days which I can never forget were just shoved into my brain just to maybe learn a clue to finding Shawn?
The reason I destroyed my brain.
I remember Kellogg’s most recent mission (not mine, he is not me and I am not him) was to hunt down and murder a man named Virgil who escaped from The Institute, “The Boogeymen of the Commonwealth”.
I remember that man was rumored to be hiding in The Glowing Sea, the most radioactive corner of the city. Where The Bombs Fell. The Bombs from The Day. Again, the one undeniable day everyone can agree Did Happen.
I remember I took that powersuit from Sanctuary and set off into The Glowing Sea. I remember I ran out of power cores once I got to the cave and found a Super Mutant with glasses and more clothes than a loin cloth. I remember he turned out to be Virigl.
I don’t actually remember how I managed to leave The Glowing Sea without a powersuit. But I do remember the doctor told me the white splotches on my skin and my white hair are scars for surviving ungodly amounts of radiation.
I also “remember” dying in The Glowing Sea. Being eaten by a Deathclaw. But I have this Deathclaw scar on my face I can touch anytime I want to remember I survived. Of course, a earlier journal entry confirms that happened before then. But whichever Deathclaw I got this from, I clearly haven’t actually been killed by one because I’m still alive. Death days are days that Did Not Happen, even if I “remember” them.
Scars are good. Scars keep me grounded. Any time I look at them I can touch parts of my body that confirm certain intrusive memories over others. Like markings on a map. The map I am now following to the Commonwealth Institute of Technology with Nick Valentine.
I am not entirely sure why, but there is a synth we must murder in order to Find Shawn. So that’s what I am about to do. Kill the Courser.
I spent Sunday with my mother, as I try to do at least once a month if life permits. We went out for lunch, shopped lazily through the crafting store, and popped into a thrift store on the way back home. While doing so we discussed, as we always have, politics.
My mother and I have been talking politics since I was ten-years-old, “campaigning” for Bill Clinton in my elementary school’s “election day”. She was the one who helped me join Amnesty International when I was in middle school so I could paper my small-town Arkansas town with anti-capital punishment literature. She supported my right to sit during the pledge of allegiance and told me I was brave for doing so. She drove me to my first anti-war protest in the wake of 9/11. My mom is a self-declared “mad dog liberal” and she did a damn good job raising me to be my own “radical commie queer” brand of political.
It was this slight difference in our approaches which created an awkward moment where my mother said, in response to my desire to hang an upside-down American flag outside my home with “Well it’s not like you’re not patriotic.”
I sucked in the air slowly into a humorously awkward pause, then laughed and said, “I like where I live in the sense that it’s got My Me and My People there. But, you know, Fuck The State.” To which my mother admitted, growing up exclusively in Post-Reagan Brutal-Capitalist America would make the idea of patriotism off-putting.
But I understand what my mother meant in her mild protest. While I have become increasingly Anti-Capitalist and Anti-White Supremacy the older I get (and therefore pretty damn anti-american politicoeconomic state in general) I still get teary eyed when I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty on my childhood pilgrimage to my ancestral home. However, the country I live in wants nothing to do with tired, hungry, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We are the country of #ICantBreathe and that is not a new phenomenon, it is our foundation.
There is a picture of Captain America on my desk with the caption “Punching Nazis is an American Tradition”. But of course, it is impossible for me to be proud of the same country that was interning Japanese descendants for the same sort of excuses the Nazis gave for their camps.
The musical Hamilton gives me complicated feelings of pride as the hardworking offspring of Polish “Immigrants, we get the job done!” Complicated because I can’t pretend to forget how many millions of American and African indigenous people had to be slaughtered and/or enslaved to make the young scrappy and hungry nation.
And I remember, oh yeah, America Has Never Been Great. Unless you’re a white land-owning male.
I realize now it is the mythical America I have loved, while becoming increasingly disgusted with the literal America. And no matter how much those two clash, I still want to believe in the America that’s never actually existed. An America of take-all-immigrants who take care of each other with New Deal Socialism rather than Cut-The-Bootstraps Poverty. Then I hear my mother’s last thoughts on the subject, “Well, you and I can’t leave. So we have to make the best of it.”
And she’s right.
I am no patriot by any stretch of definition. But this is where I live. And that means shit being done in my house is my responsibility to deal with whether I like it or not. It doesn’t matter if this is arguably the most powerful government in recorded history.
We must provoke outrage, outright. And make it impossible to justify the cost of the fight. But not while losing sight of how we fucked it up for people who aren’t white.
Superheroes and comic books have been an important touchstone in my life since I saw Tim Burton’s Batman when I was not even five-years-old. From there I moved on the Bruce Timm’s Batman Animated Series and later to the mid-1990s X-Men cartoon. I grew up from a wee fangirl to an assistant manager of a comic shop when I left high school, where I stayed for nearly five years. This is where I eventually transitioned, surprised but pleased to find fellow nerds could readily accept someone growing tired of juggling dual identities.
During my years of slinging comics, it was non uncommon for me to give presentations about the history of comic books and their cultural relevance to American Arts. Comic Books, Cinema, and Jazz (among all other Black-Created “American” music styles), are some of the only American claims to cultural fame. And being American, comic books have an entangled history with many forms of our cultural expectations, as well as struggles against oppression.
From their birth, comics and their predecessors, pulp novels, were looked down upon for the people reading them (children, non-english fluent immigrants, and less-literate working class), which meant the views of people creating them weren’t much better. The comic book industry in its infancy mirrored many other problems in industries of that era. With little oversight or regulation, plagiarism and theft and non-payment for creators was extremely commonplace. Workers had little to no rights whatsoever about their creations or intellectual property. Writing for comics might be seen as a humble stepping stone to more lucrative copy work, but certainly not something any creator should actually aspire to.
While this might have put off more socially privileged writers from joining the medium, it unwittingly created something of a haven (or maybe a trap) for minority writers who might not otherwise be able to get regular work. Black creators, Jewish creators, immigrant creators, women creators, communist creators, and queer creators all became the soul of American superheroes under the guise of “who cares it’s just harmless kids stuff”. They wrote about what they knew and experienced. They wrote about tenements and slum lords and wicked bosses and exploitation of the Little Man. And they created heroes who would listen to them and defend them. Perhaps the most notable example is a certain white-passing immigrant raised by Americans to believe that he too could stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, created by two young Jewish immigrants.
In Part 2, I will begin discussing the intertwined history of queer subtext and comic books, starting with Masked Men and when staying in the closet was the noble thing to do.
I’ve survived toxic relationships, abusive situations, and physical recoveries. I’ve witnessed political despair, queer-antagonistic massacres, and state brutality with the rest of the world.
However I also got a new nephew and started antidepressants for the first time, and I have even started to become active in queerlesque and found the time and space to develop other new talents and hobbies. (Such as renovating tiny houses for plastic people.) Despite the struggles, there were also small comforts. Time makes fools of us all. Perhaps especially the worst of times.
I primarily focused on survival in 2016, rather than living. Which is one of the reasons my writing has dribbled to a stop in my usual history of being a somewhat reliable, if not prolific, writer. When struggling with self-worth and executive function, it can be hard to believe my voice or my words have any reason to exist. That anyone would want to read what I have to say. This is a lifetime struggle for me as a writer, an activist, and a person fighting for their right to exist in a hostile environment. But this is a time for marginalized voices to speak out and create, not yield.
I realize that new year resolutions, and apparently even the concept of breaking time into manageable-socially-agreed-upon yearly increments, has fallen out of favor recently. But I want to do everything I can to not just survive 2017, but to fight for the space for myself and people like me to create. To communicate. To share thoughts and frivolity and pain and questions and observations. I will not let the antagonists of the world restrict my creativity.
So I’m promising myself and my readers that this year will have a lot more angry rants. A lot more queer dystopian escape fantasy. A lot more retorts to poor representation. A lot more snark. A lot more outrage. I do this with the trust that those who wish to read my writing will do so, and others will see themselves out.
Like many of you I am still tender. I am still recovering. I am still grieving.
But I am here with you now. And I promise to be with you more in the coming year.