EPILOGUE: TOWARD METROPOLIS
Several Grand Entrances
The scene is the frame of the frame
of the scene. All that we see or seem
is that famed dream within a dream.
This dream is Metropolitan:
New Year's Eve of '39 finds
Jim Olsen walking, alone, by a snow-
swept lake Metropolis. His friends
had wanted him to go with them
to a party, but work was fine
for Jim. He turned thirteen today,
chose not to be called "Jimmy"
anymore, and got called a fool
for deciding to quit school
and work for the paper full time.
"Give me a chance, Mr. White,"
he had pled. "You know I can write!
You've seen the kind of pictures
I can take! O, please don't make me
stay a copy boy all my life!"
The gruff editor had kept his head
in his work -- never looked up -- and said,
"Boy, if you didn't remind me
of me at your age, I'd save you
some trouble -- put you out on the streets
right now, tail first! There's a crime wave on;
I need experienced reporters,
not some dropout 'wants to wet his feet
at my expense. I've seen your work, sure;
but what I've seen so far is nothing.
Get me a scoop! Prove you've got the stuff
and maybe I won't fire you!
Might even let you write something."
Not the kind of talk would inspire
a lad. Jim skulked out of the office
close to midnight and took his walk
by frozen Metro Lake.
If he wants work badly enough,
an idea will dawn on him for a story,
will point him in bold new directions.
He looks down at the moon's reflection,
cloudy on the ice. It's so cold out
he can see his breath in the air,
feel the frost on his hot red hair
as he turns his gaze toward the stars.
They are about to bequeath him
greater gifts than he can wish for,
than those for which he has wished (like
a battle sword, a fleet of cars) --
They will bequeath him... Adventures
beyond the wildest dreams of youth,
and glimpses at the Heart of Truth
itself. You readers, however, will
have a better vantage.
Point your sight
from the other edge of the stars
my friends, from beyond those points of light
as they glisten in the bitter night,
point them from ...
... a million-billion miles away ...
... from Argos, singular asteroid
resting so firmly in the void.
Kara Zor-El makes sacrifice there
over Hyra-Khan's priestly corpse;
this the method of her witness.
Her eyes are ours, friends. Stare
as a viewer.
Kara skewers the Wu-ba
with a sacred wire. Blue
mists rise therefrom. We see Lyla
Lerrol, Kara's agent, therethrough
as she makes the leap of faith
off the Land of Zon's highest cliff
and into the world between worlds.
Kara takes great comfort at this,
but not at the scene that follows.
It only adds
to her present sorrows --
WHAT KARA SAW THROUGH THE WU-BA MISTS
And it is like no other water
Lyla's ever swum through, or bathed in,
before. It is gelatinous, it is porous,
it breathes in and out
like a living thing, and she can breathe
the whole way through its slick depths,
falling until she is not falling
but climbing, until something pulls her
forward -- up, up, and away -- rushing
like no current she's ever been in
before. Sojourn in limbo -- pushing
oneself through it is so liberating,
like the first moments of breathing,
like being born all over again.
The layers of her environment suit
peel off as she passes through it;
she can see her destination, a light
overhead, even as she senses
that it will bring her people freedom
from the fear and want of dark, cold space.
Rising fast now, rising grand, she puts
a touch on her own ankle, for she feels
a drag thence, the tug of some dead weight.
It is a hand, a hand on her heel,
the hairy hand of an evil man.
It is he. It is Zod. Not so good.
He must not reach the dry land.
She tries to turn herself around --
better that neither reach that light
than that he should bask therein --
but he has his claws in her heel,
then he has his jaws on that heel
and his firm fingers clutch her calves,
clawing their way up while she falls
through this medium clear, this stew
of limbo. 'Must keep Zod from Earth,'
she thinks as she tries to shake him,
but the strength of the bad is great:
she cannot its fury abate,
nor keep him from scratching at her
the way cats paw their way up trees.
His face reaches her knees,
his hands her thighs.
She tries to pry them off
and he pinches her, pulls her down
to ladder himself up higher
and be the first out the tunnel
when its swiftly flowing fluid
spits the pair into the dry air.
Yes, the wind blows dry and cold
this eve in old Metropolis,
wintry eve in the breezy town
where Ness met his destiny
by kicking doors down
and the warlord Capone,
who'd thought himself immune
to his country's laws,
heard taps played, his own
lusty greed the cause.
("This is a great city,"
two minds think at one time --
Zod's as he surveys it
in close proximity,
and Kara's from afar --
"Though not without its flaws.")
He has her by the hair
as they draw near
the portal, the city
growing, power surging
in him from the hidden sun.
Yellow sun! Low gravity!
He will be able to fly!
He knows, somehow, instantly,
that, in the Earth's atmosphere,
he can wage war without armies,
do all the killing with bare hands!
He swears to seize this place as his
from the moment he first sees it.
Lyla has too much else in mind
even to notice the setting.
She feels their impact on the ice,
feels Metro Lake's surface break
like plastic under bullet's thrust,
and she too feels the power burst
in her breast, fill her with purpose
as she debuts on earth.
She fights for others' freedom,
he for his own license.
Who can doubt the outcome
as they emerge into the air
(so dry!) like marbles being spat
into the neighborhood circle
by the fat kid's beefy digits;
like a water spout, a geyser
Krypto-sapien, as they lift
themselves, propelled from the cold lake
to soar, grappling like gods reborn?
Jimmy Olsen, watching from the shore
can't be so sure. The 'wrestlers' --
is it a human cannon-ball
act like he's seen at the State Fair? --
are locked in a queer embrace,
one tearing the other's long blonde hair
while the other tries to shield his face.
Are they trying to crush each other?
Why didn't he hear a cannon roar?
Jim thinks he's found his story
and tries to figure where they'll fall.
Lyla pummels at Zod's back,
trying to make the bones crack,
trying to drive her steely nails
into his neck, to strangle him
or scratch him until the skin breaks
and his blood spurts; but he is thick
like leather: Though bleeding, he slows
not, but butts her head with his own
and she is out cold. He hugs her
limp form. Their flight becomes a dance
in the dry air, a perverse dance
of conquest and pure happenstance
in which the luck of timing won.
The luck of timing always wins.
Timing is everything.
Zod kisses her bruised brow
and drops her. Lyla's chin
whiplashes on his foot
on the way down; and he laughs,
laughs, laughs, cackles echoing down
over Lake Metropolis, and out...
... Over the trackless reaches of space
to Kara Zor-El, High Priestess
of the last Kryptonians,
in that sanctified place
where Hyra-Khan lies in state.
The Wu-ba mists dissipate.
The timing is unfortunate:
Kara won't ever see
Jimmy Olsen snatch victory
from defeat's iron jaws
by reviving Lyla
and so furthering her cause.
Kara closes the crypt,
not knowing whether
to kiss it or spit.
If she does either,
guilt will gnaw (as always!)
inside of her gut.
To honor her father
is to betray her mentor,
and vice versa. Still, the rut
of mourning she must circumvent
as useless and assume her place.
She must stand in the stead of both
father lost, the civil leader
who led the faithful here in chains
only to die himself in chains
(all so proud, not one a pleader);
and the High Priest who bound them,
all of the survivors,
together as in one body,
and whose extraordinary pains
took with a prisoner's daughter
ensured she could replace him;
but, she will take both their places.
She turns from the crypt and faces
the gathering democracy,
still near-prostrate in reverence.
She thinks of the Great Uniter,
Hyra-Khan, her predecessor,
and wishes he could have lived forever.
Argonauts are a nation
of scholars and priests again
because of his work,
but, is she up to it?
She looks at her slender hands.
Church and state are one in these hands,
she thinks, and finally stands
before her constituency.
No great uniter, no Lincoln
or Octavian, no Bismarck
nor Bessyrabian Khan,
can live on and lead forever.
The reins are in her hands
and those hands must push the mass further
than any people's ever gone before.
Hundreds put their knees to the floor
as she speaks.
-- The Priest of Rao is dead! Worship
before his crypt the lord he served
and his anointed successor.
Hyra-Khan is dead! Lives the Khan
by his office! Whilst' home he slips
to collect his wages ....
('His adopted daughter
takes his place on the holy altar,'
she thinks but dares not say.
If they find her out a woman,
should mask slip or her voice falter,
what hell to pay? None can say.)
-- The rest of us will bend the bars
of our captivity-cages!
Bend steel faith with our bare hands
we must, my friends, to escape
this exile for pastures fertile,
for fields afar, blessed by Rao's grace.
(It would be utterly futile
to warn them of Brainiac's
approach, against which, in truth,
they will all be racing
in the project she announces.)
-- Jor-El's 'space-arks' will be built
to accomplish this purpose,
following the schedule
proposed by the Council
earlier this week.
We are all in this great work
together, my Argonauts.
If any dissent, speak now
or hold your peace forever.
Only the silence echoes.
Kara smiles behind the mask
of office; a wave of relief
drops from her shoulders to her toes.
Yet, even as they all kneel
and pledge their honor for to go,
the being in whose name they pray
embraces who will be
their next-most ardent foe.
And not a one of them can know!
Brainiac feels this irony
tingling in his dry electrodes!
First, through his view-screen, Brainiac saw
the Argonauts, all genuflecting.
Then, sitting in the Captain's seat,
steepling fingers to chin,
seething with a soulless hate
for the prayers of sentient meat,
his robot mind did contemplate
the new prize he'd found to win.
He turned a knob, rewound the tape,
froze a frame and magnified it 'til
he could see through the drape of Wu-ba
vapors and into the city bright.
Metropolis by night, its skyline
all a'glittering: What a sight!
And one he can take without a fight:
The earthlings have no defenses!
He must to this helpless planet
be his ship a'quickly getting!
His instruments find the setting
of Zod and Lyla's recent "match,"
then to Lake Metropolis
he tunes in, just in time to watch...
On a billowing cloudbank, Zod lounges,
basking in his victory, and planning
Occasionally, he cackles
and rolls like a dog in the snow.
During one roll, a light crackles,
another cloud, nearby, glows
with a line of it, which looks
like it will soon break open.
It does, and out of it steps
a tall man draped in black leather
with two bolts of lightning
on a patch on his shoulder
and a military cap
and sharp, pointed, steel-toed boots.
Rolling over, righting self, Zod asks:
-- Are there, then, others?
Others whose disdain for wealth
of mere gold births the impulse
to crush their weaker brothers?
Are there humans who fly,
who feel, and worship, the power
of this sun in their firm bosoms?
Are you one of those others?
The figure answers:
-- I am not of the mortals.
And, we have met before.
The figure's voice is so loud
even mighty Zod covers
his ears and cringes in fear
as the figure grows until its head
is the size of the clouds
and its breath of torrential
force. In its open mouth, Zod
can see the Sodium Cove
of Krypton myth, where Raoman
himself once sat, with harem
first, then with his one true love.
A melting warmth overcomes
the general. He has seen
the face of his fathers' god.
"Come into me, Zod," it says.
"Of course, my Lord," and Zod goes limp,
"Of course, my Rao," and Zod whimpers
as Rao breathes in the clouds and him.
The face inhales; Zod is absorbed.
Lightning flashes; clouds are disgorged
as the head folds into the streak
of light and disappears completely.
All this, Brainiac sees,
but not the Argonauts.
The machine laughs ironically
and plots in a course for the Earth.
Other witnesses watch with less mirth.
Jimmy Olsen, who took notes throughout
stands as still as midnight's emptiness.
Red, blue and yellow clad, a woman,
a blonde with a red 'S' on her shirt,
lies, unconscious at the lad's cold feet.
He lifts her -- it is no simple task
-- off of the frozen, crackling grass
and walks with her, pencil in his mouth,
toward the sound of revellers, southward
into the city and the New Year,
1939. 'Perry White's ear,
and his resolve to keep me in school,
will bend for this,' Jim thinks. 'He's no fool.'
A clock tolls the witching hour
and the new year. 'Round town, corks pop,
as, footsteps slow, as if in trance,
Jim reaches the wide entrance
of the Daily Planet Tower.
The revolving door almost clips
her head, but Jim is very careful.
Parting sparkling green marble walls,
an elevator opens. It frames
the young man and his charge very well,
closing with a grind and a clap full
of finality. It will open
sometime in Part Two of this.
will pry them apart to make
new scenes to edify, mystify,
and entertain you.
And those scenes, readers dear,
my very best of friends,
are but frames of the frames of scenes.
All you see or seem is, in the end,
but a dream within a dream. Pretend
personages will sleep now, or seem
to. They will neither dream nor feel.
Dreams and dreaming are for the real.