The Dealey Five
Chapter 7 (or, "By The Light Of The Coney Island Moon")
Where We Last Left Off: Matsumoto, Squirrel, and the newly named Rosa were off to find the other two members of their group.
“Where do we even start?” Rosa asked as they went to the 181st Street train station. “I wish Mac or Carissa were coming with us.”
“Yeah, but they have a point in not doing so,” Matsumoto said as they went down the stairs. “It’s about time we got used to doing this ourselves. We’re supposed to be QWERTY associates, after all. Squirrel, do you have the list that Mac gave us?”
Squirrel nodded as he gave Matsumoto the folded piece of paper. “Right here, Boss.”
Matsumoto unfolded the paper and looked it over. “Okay. I wish we could split up, but that’s probably not a good idea since there are three of us. Once we find one more person, we can split in groups of two. But we’ll have to go together. Now, according to Mac, we’ve already been to Central Park -- that’s where Squirrel woke up -- and also to Times Square, where we found Squirrel in the first place. We also have been to the 9/11 Memorial -- you know, the one in this world.”
“Let’s not talk about that,” Rosa said. “I keep thinking about the kids.”
“You would,” Matsumoto said. “Anyway, this is a pretty extensive list that Mac gave us. He said that if we go to Coney Island later tonight, we may have some luck as well. There are amusement parks and things to do there, and we can crash at his place instead of going all the way back to Carissa’s.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Squirrel said. He put his boombox on his shoulder.
“Uh,” Rosa commented, “just what are you doing? Those guys in black are going to come after you again.”
“They can come all they want. I may be interdimensional, but I’m not an alien.” Squirrel grinned. “Plus, blasting the Squrrlax music may attract the people who know what it is, like it did with you.”
Rosa closed her mouth. “You have a point.”
“So,” Matsumoto said, pointing to his list, “where first?”
They went by train to the Rockefeller Center, where they did an extensive search but couldn’t find anybody. Squirrel even started dancing in the middle of the plaza, only to get chased out by a bunch of security guards. “At least they weren’t wearing black,” he joked to Rosa.
From there they went to Grand Central Terminal, and Squirrel kept his boombox off for a while as they walked through the fabled halls and corridors. They got some food, courtesy of Squirrel’s card, though Rosa swiped it (as she was the most adult looking out of the three). When the lady asked for identification, a different card popped out of Rosa’s device, and Rosa saw it had her picture, name, and even birthdate on it. That was enough for the cashier.
“Those phones must be synced with our memories somehow,” Matsumoto said as he ate his fries. “I mean, it even says your birthday now.”
“Yep.” Rosa grinned. El ocho de Agosto. And since I’m oldest, I should totally be leader.”
“We wouldn’t get anything done,” Squirrel muttered mid-bite. “You’re too flaky.”
Rosa narrowed her eyes. “I heard that!”
“And too stubborn,” Matsumoto said. “At least we can cross both of these places off of our list.”
From there, the three took the train over to the Brooklyn Bridge. “This is huge,” Rosa said as they got out of the station. “Are we supposed to walk across that?”
“Yeah, and that’s why you’re not wearing heels today,” Squirrel said. “Get over it.”
They followed the path to the bridge and walked toward it, looming in the distance. There were thousands of other people around, taking advantage of the great weather and enjoying themselves. Matsumoto used his card at a kiosk to buy everybody a bottle of water, to make sure they were hydrated.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on anything like this before,” Rosa commented.
“Let’s just stick close together,” Squirrel said. He finally shouldered his boombox and started it up. Even though their plan hadn’t worked so far, they were sticking to it. Nobody would know this music except for people from the other world. Besides, they were looking for two people out of a crowd of eight million or so. There was bound to be some lags and some red herrings.
When they got to the middle of the bridge, Rosa turned and saw the city behind her. “Wow,” she said. “Hey, Matsumoto, look!”
Matsumoto turned, and his mouth opened as well. “Wow. You’re right. You can kind of see everything from here. The Empire State Building, that new building over there, everything else...”
A noise alerted him. When Matsumoto turned, he noticed that Squirrel had put his boombox down again and was dancing for a small crowd. “Does he always do that?” he asked to nobody in particular.
“I don’t know.” Rosa grinned. “But we’ve got peoples’ attention. Let’s go.”
Together, they went around to the crowd and kept the energy up, asked if anybody had heard the music, and collected donation. Six dollars later, there were no leads, but at least they had stopped.
“Never gets old,” Squirrel said as he turned off the music for now. “What you say we enjoy the rest of our walk? It’s getting dark anyway and we’ll want to head to Coney Island after this.”
As the sun set in the background, the three crossed the rest of the bridge together, then taking the subway all the way to Coney Island. Matsumoto called Mac when they finally arrived at Stillwell Avenue.
“We’re here and are going to check it out,” he said. “I’ll let you know when we’re done.”
“Cool,” Mac said. “I’m still in Manhattan right now, but I’ll be down shortly. See ya.”
Matsumoto snapped off his phone, then looked over at Rosa, who was completely starstruck by the lights and the scenery. “Wow!” she said. “¡Qué bella! We have to try EVERYTHING.”
“Woah wait --” But before Matsumoto could stop her, Rosa had already grabbed him and was pulling him right down the station stairs. Squirrel just laughed.
“Never underestimate the power of a woman,” he said as he shouldered his boombox and followed them out.
By the time Squirrel had gotten down to the street, Rosa had already taken Matsumoto into a sweet shop and had bought out almost the entire store. Matsumoto was left with the bags as Rosa marched toward the boardwalk, long hair waving in the breeze, purple jacket and long legs a fleeting memory to every tourist around.
Squirrel rolled his eyes. “I’ll take some of those,” he told Matsumoto.
“But you have your boombox.”
“So what? It’s not that heavy. Relax.” And with that, Squirrel took the three huge gummy bears that Rosa had bought and put them on his other shoulder. “Let’s go follow her before something else crazy happens.”
Rosa found herself alone as she walked down the open alley toward the beach. Around her were beach shops, people playing arcade games, fortune tellers, and stands selling glowsticks. She walked up the ramp to the boardwalk and saw the amusement parks, rides and roller coasters standing tall and shining bright against the new night. Beyond that was the dark sea, rumbling and restless.
Kind of crazy, ¿no? she heard a voice say. Now would be the perfect time to blow all of this up.
She stuffed the urge back somewhere in her mind, a place she didn’t want to go back to. She hadn’t told Matsumoto nor Squirrel about that...about the voice that still popped up in her mind, even though she was in another world entirely. She could handle it by herself. After all, this was the same voice that had driven her to insanity, the same voice that had encouraged her to blow up the cathedral on Christmas Day. She couldn’t let them know and further endanger their friendship.
Still, Matsumoto’s words rang in her mind. You’re still Amiga. You’re still our friend. Whatever that meant.
There was a crowd gathering on one side of the boardwalk; Rosa went over to investigate and see what the commotion was. When she got there, she saw that a huge stage area had formed, raised off of the main boardwalk. “Coney Island Open Mic” was written in huge blue banners, and a girl with short hair was setting up some speakers.
Rosa turned. “Matsumoto! Squirrel!” But neither of them were around. You really are alone, the voice echoed out again, but Rosa squashed it. Not today, voice.
A tall man with a beard and dark hair jumped on stage. “Welcome to today’s Coney Island Open Mic!” he said. “Anybody with any sort of talent can sign up tonight. Just make sure to sign on the sheet!”
Squirrel would be perfect for this, Rosa thought to herself. She looked around and saw him, walking on the boardwalk with Matsumoto (and all of her bags). She waved, and they found her, walking toward her.
“Let’s get started!” the man on stage said as a guitarist got up, and everybody clapped. Rosa stopped paying attention to the stage as Matsumoto and Squirrel arrived.
“Do you see this?” she asked. “Anybody can go up there and perform! Squirrel, you should totally do it.”
Squirrel blushed. “I’m more suited for street performances, not official open mics,” he muttered.
“But if you do it, and you use the music from your boombox, then everybody will hear it and maybe we can find somebody!” Rosa said with a smile.
Squirrel sighed. “Okay, fine,” he said as he left the gummy bears with Matsumoto and Rosa, heading over to find the sign up sheet.
“That’s it for our first performer!” the man announced. “Now, give it up for our next performer, who will be doing interpretive dance! Here’s Milaya!”
Squirrel sat his boombox down by the sign up table and put his name -- “Squirrel Jones” -- on the list. He then turned toward the stage and watched the next performer, a young girl with blonde hair and a green dress on. She posed, ready, but instead of the classical music Squirrel had been anticipating, a loud bass filled the speakers, and she moved. Squirrel could tell from the way she moved, even in her brown boots, that she was a ballerina, pirouetting on toes and spinning with no effort at all.
Dang, he thought to himself. She’s good.
Then, without any warning, the music skipped. It must have been on an old disc, not playing correctly, playing the same three seconds over and over again. The girl named Milaya stopped dancing and turned towards the MC, who turned the music off and walked back on stage.
“Okay, seems like we have some technical difficulties --”
Then the speakers started up again, blasting the other dimensional sounds of Squrrlax. Milaya looked over and saw Squirrel, leaning on the setup, his boombox plugged into the system without any trouble.
“Looks like a friend’s got you covered,” the MC said as he sat back down on the side of the stage. The crowd cheered again, and Squirrel noticed Milaya looked nervous.
“You’ll be fine!” he yelled over the music.
When Milaya’s green eyes met his, he initially translated the worry as I don’t know this music. And in a flash, he then knew: I DO know this music. Because Milaya put her foot forward, and then her arms went up, and a smile was on her face, and she was spinning around.
Squirrel recognized it -- this was the choreography to Squrrlax’s biggest international hit, My Country Tis of Thee. He raced on stage, and Milaya paused for a split second before Squirrel started doing the choreography with her. Then, she was smiling, and he was smiling, and they were both dancing in complete tandem, and the crowd was loving it.
The music warped around his mind, and for the first time, he heard something more than what was being sang. Voices surrounded his mind, pushing, pulling, the lights above him suddenly hotter than they were a minute ago. No longer were there single notes, but the sound and sights and colors were a blur. He tried to stop, to find Matsumoto or Rosa, but he couldn’t.
Milaya turned, stopping her dancing as Squirrel lost his balance and tumbled into the crowd below without warning.
His head hurt. He couldn’t even see straight.
“Hey, Jason! Man, you okay? You barfed on Robinson’s shoes, dude.”
“Stand back, guys.” Another voice. “I think he’s got a concussion.”
“No, no, I’m okay,” he said, getting up slowly, then feeling two arms beneath him, and they hoisted, and he was being carried. Where was he? He opened his eyes and all he could see was sun.
Milaya hoisted her hands above her head and formed an X. “Cтойте!” she yelled, loud enough to be heard over the music.
Immediately Squirrel’s music snapped off. The crowd around the stage area formed a circle around where he had fallen. Some people were frantically dialing 911 on their phones.
Matsumoto and Rosa pushed the crowds aside, racing toward their fallen friend. Matsumoto reached him first. “Move!” he yelled as he finally made his way into the circle. Squirrel was on his back, eyes closed, like the wind had been knocked out of him.
But Matsumoto had a hunch -- was Squirrel remembering something?
The scene switched in his mind.
He knew this house. The backyard, with the small swingset. The couch and television he had watched. All those times he had Robinson and the guys over. He tried to make sense of it all, break through this madness. Was this what Rosa had gone through? She hadn’t ever fully explained her wake up.
The sound of crashing glass brought him back to reality -- or something like it. He turned and there was a white man and a black woman and it all suddenly made sense.
Rosa sat down by them. “What’s up?”
Matsumoto turned to Rosa. “I think he’s remembering who he was, like you did. Keep the crowds away.”
“Got it.” And with that, Rosa started to form a barrier. “Get back!” she yelled, walking around the circle and swatting at people.
“We can’t just let him know,” his mother said. “What else are we supposed to tell him?”
“That he’s adopted? Sweetheart, we need to tell him the truth.”
That had been all he needed to hear.
Matsumoto ran a hand through Squirrel’s hair. “Seriously, we need to get him out of here.”
“I said stand back!” Rosa kicked with her heel at the crowd. She turned to Matsumoto. “Oye, would you just kiss him already?”
Matsumoto’s mind blanked out. “Uh...why?”
“Because you kissed me and I woke up. If he’s remembering who he used to be, like I did, that’s all you need to do!”
Now Matsumoto found his voice back. “Hey! Squirrel just said that I kissed you! You woke up on your own. Mac and Carissa both backed up that story! And furthermore, I have never kissed you! You were the one who kissed me, remember, Miss Querida?”
He remembered now. Music, dancing -- movement -- that had been his only mode of escape.
Rosa Querida. He remembered her now. She wasn’t from America, but the people had talked about her and her crime. It had been national news. He remembered Robinson, learning how to dance on the boardwalk. AiM, Squrrlax, German Flyer.
He remembered the day of the attacks. Los Angeles hadn’t been hit, but from then on, nobody was allowed to see the sun.
And he also remembered. The lamps had disappeared. The television had started broadcasting Querida again, and only Querida. He had been trying to fix the television when, suddenly, there was no television, no music, no house, no mother and father and no Los Angeles, only Jason Jones and the vast nonconformity that existed before him, because this is how the world ends.
“Not with a bang, but with a whimper,” he muttered with his first gasp, and then he reached up, toward the light, and found his arms around Matsumoto’s shoulders.
The other boy felt himself be pulled down, and then, he found himself wrapped in a spontaneous Squirrel hug. He let go of the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, then squeezed Squirrel back. “Are you okay?” he asked, his voice shaky.
He could hear Rosa’s voice around them. “Give him room, give him room.” There was still a crowd, but there was a huge circle around the three of them. She then went to Squirrel’s side. “Okay, so I take back what I said.”
“You better,” Matsumoto said, then sat up, giving Squirrel some room. “Man, Squirrel. You can run across Central Park without breaking a sweat, but one false move on a stage and you pass out?”
Squirrel reached out and grabbed Matsumoto’s shoulder. “I’m not Squirrel,” he said, and in that moment, Matsumoto understood this wasn’t just any ordinary knock out.
He sensed someone behind him; turning, he saw the girl with the gold hair and green dress, holding The Dancer Formerly Known As Squirrel’s boombox. Matsumoto remembered the label on the disc. “Jones?”
“Jones.” A deep breath. “Jason.”
Matsumoto smiled. “I like it.”
Jason gave his best glare. “Dude. You don’t even know American names.” He remembered his mother and father -- or whom he had always thought were his mother and father, until recently. “But it is kind of nice.” He didn’t want to think about his not parents, or that they would never be his parents again.
He just pointed at Milaya. “Her.”
Matsumoto’s attention turned to Jason and to the girl. “Her what?”
“Dude. That dance we were doing. It’s from our world. She’s from our world.”