When last we met, our heroes dealt with the aftermath of a brutal winter storm, and had their lives invaded by a frightful figure known as the Handmade Man.
In his lair beneath the city, Goom takes a defensive position after taking something from his knitting bag, as large bandaged hands begin bending his door back. More and more hands appear, forcing the heavy door, as the beam across it cracks and the door bursts open. The tunnel beyond is filled with thousands of the city’s homeless, shoulder to shoulder, as far back as Goom can see, some sitting atop the shoulders of others, all holding improvised weapons – pieces of rebar, broken 2x4s, rusty pipes. Every eye is black, a gleaming star sparkling within. Goom grabs his gun and the communication radio and bolts out the back way.
The man at the front of the group, speaking with the voice of Goom’s old drill sergeant, shouts, “STITCH HIM UP!” The horde roars and charges, the intensity of their footfalls shaking things off shelves. They chase him through the winding tunnels, the din of screaming all around. Turning a corner, they crash over each other like rushing water, not one stopping, as bodies are blindly crushed under the flow. Taking advantage of the few extra moments this buys him, Goom scurries into a small service tunnel, which leads him to a sewer causeway. The mad horde obliterates all light behind him as they crush into the small tunnel, a wet crunching noise following him as he exits to the street.
Goom finds himself about two blocks from his usual exit. With the city still at the mercy of the snow and ice, there are not many people on the street. He heads towards the group’s original church meeting place and radios to Morgan that he is fine and indicates his destination. She informs the others and Morgan, Gareth, Alex, and Drake convene upon the church with him. Alia joins them as well, her face wrapped in a scarf to hide the gashes (now stitched up at an emergency clinic) she received from the man at the pizza parlour. There are many homeless at the church, though none of them bear any resemblance to the attackers beneath the city. They are taking advantage of the food and space heaters that have been provided, again, by Luthor Grant. Feeling relatively safe here, Goom launches into the tale of his morning, and at the mention of the Handmade Man, Alia and Gareth relate their alarming tales of him as well.
As they discuss, their attention is drawn outside by the ringing of a bicycle bell. Looking out the door, they see a tandem bike going by on the sidewalk, ridden by two enormous goldfish with human limbs. The piscine cyclists make a hard left, riding right into – and through – the brick wall of the church, disappearing from view. They all stare dumbly, trying to ascertain if the others saw what just happened. All of them agree, though it seems that no one else in the church noticed. Curious, Gareth dashes down and presses his hand against the wall where the fish disappeared. It feels solid, though it resonates, brick but not brick. He knocks on it three times. On the first two strikes, his fist leaves indentations as though the wall were putty. By the third it is solid brick again, though it bears the impression of his knuckles, as though the brick had been melted.
Unnerved, Alia wonders if the Handmade Man can take over anything in the form of a human, printed images, television, sculptures, and realising that they’re standing in a church with several statues of Mary, Jesus, and other biblical figures, panics. They decide to leave and head to a coffee shop, Goom being careful to conceal his large firearm under his coat.
Wally is in the lab of his new apartment, scared and weeping, when the hair stands up on the back of his neck – there is someone else in the apartment, walking around his living room. Arming himself with a substantial piece of glassware, he steps out. There is a woman, her back to him, wearing a red dress, black pumps, her dirty-blonde hair in a short coiffure. Wally asks if he can help her, and she turns, revealing her… face?
|Le Viol (The Rape) by René Magritte, 1935|
Where her face should be is a woman’s naked torso. She casually sits on his couch and starts smoking. Out of her vagina mouth. She reaches toward the coffee table and a crude ashtray appears, looking like a child’s art project. When she doesn’t do anything beyond that, Wally returns to the lab to make sure he hasn’t accidentally ingested some awful substance. When he returns to the living room, her head is lolled back and she is twitching. Again, Wally tries to address her, and again she does not reply. Giving up and figuring he’s hallucinating, Wally goes to take a shower.
A couple of minutes later, the door opens. He’d locked it. The woman walks in and begins to undress. Wally steps out of the shower (which isn’t difficult, as the bathroom has one of those walk in deals with no doors) grabs the lid off the toilet tank, and swings. His arms reverberating with the impact, she falls forward, and Wally is treated to the sight of a woman’s face on her lower back. She starts yelling at him, from her back face, berating him, and calling him Kenny. Wally, wanting nothing further to do with any of this, grabs his clothes and exits the bathroom, using a chair to jam the door shut from outside. The door rattles and the woman’s voice keeps going, soon joined by a man’s voice, and they have a heated discussion that leads Wally to believe that Kenny is this woman’s son and that he’d hurt or killed her. Wally dresses, and catches sight of the ash tray which bears the crude inscription “To Mom ❤ Kenny”. Wally calls Gareth.
While the group is walking to the coffee shop, Gareth and Wally discuss what is going on in the new apartment. Realising that they are not far away, the church and Wally’s new building are both on 21st street, the group decides to visit Wally instead of Starbucks. Drake gets a cab for himself, Alex, Alia, and Morgan. Gareth, still fuming from their argument, opts to walk the ten blocks, and Goom joins him.
When they arrive, first the cab group, followed a few minutes later by Gareth and Goom, they are greeted by the building’s doorman and shown up to the 23rd floor. While they wait for the walkers, Alia turns on the news. The leading stories are:
- Konstantyne has disappeared and the police are looking for him. EMTs on the stage saw a corpse, assumed to be a stunt man, and that body is also missing. Police are questioning Konstantyne’s manager, Lanny Dorkin. There are rumors that the illusionist fled the scene in a limo, but later ditched the ride and has been MIA ever since. There are pending civil and criminal charges, involuntary manslaughter, for the audience deaths, the death of the assumed stuntman, and the ensuing cover up.
- Luthor Grant continues to hand out emergency supplies to the city’s poor. He is joined for a photo op by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, with their arms around each other’s shoulders, shaking hands. The mayor-elect has joined Grant in his humanitarian efforts and has nothing but praise for the man.
- Local gas companies are looking for the source of an assumed leak as people in a significant portion of the city are reporting hallucinations.
At this last story, when an outline of the effected area is shown, Wally goes pale. The area is centered on his old building, which until now was Hank’s centre of operations, and pretty much aligns with Hank’s area of distribution. Wally’s new building and the church are within the effected radius.
Once everyone has arrived, they bring each other up to speed, discussing their hallucinations (which Gareth and Drake both recognise as being tied to surrealist artworks) and the threat of the Handmade Man. Gareth suggests that the Man might be one of the Vanishers, and they all agree that Madame Butterfly might know something about it. Drake gives her a call.
It turns out she is very familiar with the Handmade Man, although she’s horrified at the mention, as in the 1970s she had assembled another group similar to theirs, and they brought him out of his realm and killed him down in the subway beneath the city. As she’d mentioned before, these creatures are sensitive to iron, and the group in the 70s had pinned the Man to the train tracks using a giant iron lance. What was left of his body would have been in the area of the gas leak, and though it has been quiet for the last 30 years or so, Yuri-ko suggests that they check down there. She also offers that if any of the group wish it, they can shelter in her “cage”, designed to keep out the Vanishers.
Armed with this bit of knowledge, the group tries to figure out what to do next. Wally is convinced that the remains of the Handmade Man lie beneath his old building, and that the drug “Sand” which had excited Hank so much is connected to the influence of this powerful entity. Goom sticks around Wally’s new place, as Goom has nowhere safe to stay at the moment, and Alex decides to pause there as well for a time. When the others leave, Wally goes out to buy food for the new apartment and to check out his old apartment, to see what can be salvaged.
Drake invites Alia back to the Waldorf, giving her the opportunity to pick up a higher set of clientele, businessmen stranded in Manhattan by the storm. Drake returns to his room and begins making calls.
Gareth returns to his apartment and removes any artworks that could be conduits for the Handmade Man, stashing them in a closet. He then goes out around the city to dumpster dive, hoping to find scraps of iron that can be used to arm the group against their new foe.
Morgan similarly goes home, removing knick-knacks and art that seem risky. She lies down and naps. While she sleeps, Morgan dreams that she is riding the Ellis Island ferry. She is doing a Tarot spread for another passenger, a man, who looks as though he is out of time, his attire suggesting someone living during the turn of the 20th century. She flips over a card, the Inverted Handmade Man. This is not a good sign, she tells her customer. Suddenly there is screaming at the bow of the boat. The cause is not hard to miss. Standing in the river, water rushing into its gaping mouth, is the Statue of Liberty. A voice bellows from her, “I AM A HANDMADE MAN”
|You know, close enough and just as horrifying.|