By Hannah Earnshaw
The rush of a New York downpour hissed outside the hotel room. Drops spattered violently against the glass, running down and dripping into the room through the open window, to where a damp semi-circle spotted the carpet and a few stray pigeon feathers alike. Inside the room proper was a chill sort of peace, enough at least to allow its occupant his usual two hours of sleep, stretched out on the bed like a corpse. Lines creased a bare face that had once, in his youth, borne sharp features and a fine moustache. Now, he looked in his rest a little like a stern vampire.
The pale woman looking on did not seem to care, and neither did the second person watching her. And truth be told, they were not really watching his physical face - rather his own image of himself - for they were Winged, and they watched him dream, a dream full of light and colour and the grasping confusion that precedes an elusive moment of revelation. The Dreamer held out his arms towards the rippling light, eyes focussed and searching, unaware of his audience.
The second person - or rather, a sharply dressed Mockingbird who went only by the name of Mr Sparks - spoke. Hir voice was smooth and elegant, and strictly business. “Shall we?”
The woman shook her head. “Not yet. I want to stay a while longer.” Her voice was soft. Mr Sparks inclined hir head and resumed watching her.
She was an odd investment, the White Pigeon, but ze had never once regretted backing her cause. And she was a Pigeon - an oddity, born with plumage white as a Dove, with pale grey fingers. That had raised no few eyebrows, but she had taken it as a sign, a reminder of the heritage of the Pigeons who had once, in the mists of time, been Doves of the White Hand. A divine message that the future of peace and unity, of the Chorus itself, lay in progress, in innovation - in the Dirt.
She had declared herself a prophetess - no, more, a manifestation of the Chorus itself. She abandoned her name, in a move which rather endeared her to the Mockingbird who, like many others of hir kind, had done the same, and went only by the epithet of White Pigeon. And when she spoke, you could truly believe that in science and progress lay the way to eternal peace. There is always a buyer for peace, and so Mr Sparks took her under hir wing, ensured she had every resource she needed, and watched with fascination as the Dreamer she selected as her personal project began to change the world. A fine investment indeed.
After a while, Mr Sparks cleared hir throat and spoke again, pausing to select the correct words for the moment. “Don’t you think that your...protege has...completed his purpose? Perhaps it is time to...let him go.”
“He is so close,” she whispered. “I have met no other who has responded to my tuition with such natural understanding. Did you not hear what he said? ‘If you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration’. It is a song, it is all of it a song, and the Chorus the cosmos, and you are so close to hearing it, my Nikola Tesla...”
At some point she had transitioned from talking to Mr Sparks to the man himself, who stood perfectly still, just observing his dream, perhaps unaware of their presence or perhaps simply not acknowledging it. From his motionless figure flowed ripples of concentrated Intent that spilled into the Dreaming as small, glassy spheres. The Mockingbird took one up between a finger and thumb to examine - it was Intent all right, always useful in the Desire trade, but shot through with crazed patterns the like of which ze had never seen before, and if ze rolled it through hir fingers it seemed almost to bend and change shape, passing through a thousand different dimensions while somehow remaining a sphere. Raindrops pattered against the inside of its surface.
Mr Sparks frowned at it slightly. “Surely, White Pigeon, he has done enough? He has...ceased to be taken seriously among his peers. He has done so much for your...cause...but he will not live forever. You must now find another to...continue your work.”
“Oh, but the world does not understand him yet,” she replied. “Not yet. They mock him and steal every good thing he has created. Edison grows fat on the riches of my Tesla’s inventions but soon... When he finally opens his eyes to the reality of the world, to the Dreaming, to the Chorus, as he alone amongst humans can, then-”
“Then he will go mad, White Pigeon,” Mr Sparks retorted bluntly, holding up the warped Intent. “He is already half-crazed as he is. The Dreaming is...not for the Dreamers to experience in waking. I acknowledge that I leave his care to you and...trust you with it...but you have hindered his developments by exposing him to...truths...no human should know. You have driven him to madness!”
The White Pigeon ignored this tirade. She sat down on the side of the bed and cupped Tesla’s sleeping face in one silver-grey hand. Mr Sparks’ eyes widened in shock as ze saw the blankets shift under her weight. Ze glanced hurriedly around the room, in sudden definition around them, the light and emotion of the dream seeping into the walls and dripping out of the window. The carpet was dusted with a thousand twisted spheres. The Mockingbird grabbed the White Pigeon’s shoulder and shook it roughly.
“What are you doing?” ze snapped in panic, all sense of control lost from hir voice. “Stop this at once, or I will withdraw your backing! This is reality, this is the waking world! You can’t do this. We can’t be here. The Dreaming can’t be here! Not like this!” Ze choked as hir words came out in a rush that sounded more and more like a frantic twitter.
“It can, and we can,” came the reply, as the White Pigeon slipped her fingers between those of Tesla’s left hand. They tightened around hers in the subconsciousness of sleep. There was the sensation of tearing, and in the gaps around them where the Dreaming and Waking began to bleed into each other, small beads of Love began to condense into tiny wire shapes. Mr Sparks watched them form in a moment of realisation.
She loved him. The White Pigeon loved Nikola Tesla, and he loved her - how could such a detail have escaped hir? Ze had foolishly believed that ze knew all there was to know about the White Pigeon, but the vagaries of emotional attachment had eluded hir notice. Ze reached out to touch the wires, which were coiling into the shapes of hearts and butterflies, wondering for a moment if they had touched upon a way to cultivate Love outside the Xenos territories...could it be?
Ze shook hir head - not now. Not like this. To lure a human into the Dreaming in a trance was not uncommon practice, but for Winged to attempt to step their true form into the Waking - it was not only unheard of, and undeniably ridiculously dangerous, but it was impossible...was it not? But then Mr Sparks saw the grey lines of immutable laws of reality begin to extrude into the Dreaming and decided that ze would think about it later.
With a soft sigh of regret, Mr Sparks decided to move to the second phase of the operation early. Ze pulled the White Pigeon apart from Tesla and met her eye. “White Pigeon, listen.” She did, reluctantly, and the world around them wavered.
“The world does not understand Tesla, and they never will. And Tesla does not understand the world. Why do you think Edison and Marconi took the credit for his work? I gave them the idea to take it.”
The White Pigeon looked at the Mockingbird blankly, as if trying to process hir words. “I don’t...understand...” she murmured, seeming almost dazed.
“Tesla had the ideas, sure enough, but Edison - he had the ability to manufacture them, to market them, to profit from them, to spread light across the world and realise their potential. If I had left it in your Tesla’s hands he’d still be out on a hill somewhere making electrical magic tricks with no consideration of how to go about shaping the world. It’s thanks to me his ideas are having any impact at all-”
Mr Sparks was cut off by a wordless cry from the White Pigeon. Face glistening with tears, she suddenly turned and reached back to Tesla, stretching out her hand and grimacing as she pressed through some barrier before her. At her palm, Dreaming and Waking met and reacted and in a shower of lightning bolts her hand passed through, and for a moment a strange juxtaposition of skin and feather, hand and wing, object and concept emerged into the world. Nikola Tesla leaned up, eyes drifting open, reached out his hand for a reality, a truth, an answer just before him, inviting him into enlightenment.
“Beli?” he called.
And then Mr Sparks struck her around the head - a distasteful move, but a necessary one. Ze pulled the dazed Winged back into the Dreaming, and she lost her focus on whatever strange power she had been channelling, the worlds drifting safely apart once more, although the fabric of the Dreaming seemed to sag underfoot as if stretched. Mr Sparks took the White Pigeon into hir arms and left the area, stepping out into the street of the Dirt coterie. Before ze left, ze put up yellow hazard tape around the entrances. The area would certainly be worth further study. Another time.
Ze took up the White Pigeon in hir arms and began to carry her home. She wept weakly into hir shoulder. She was sad, she had not been prepared for hir revelation, and that was a shame. But she would be all right in time. Mr Sparks rocked her gently, and felt some form of vague affection for her. Well, perhaps one day ze would devote some proper study to the workings of Love. Suddenly it seemed rather worth investing in.
In a dark New York hotel room, Nikola Tesla sat up in bed. For a moment, his eyes had been filled with light and colour, and he could have sworn that he had been on the edge of a profound discovery, but as he grasped for the idea it swept from his mind. He looked out to the window. The downpour still roared outside, a thousand tiny spheres of water throwing themselves against the glass. It was strange. For a moment he thought he had seen her. The white pigeon. But the window ledge was empty and he knew, somehow he knew, that he would never see her again.
And he knew without a doubt that his work was over.