The Watchful Eyes of Zora Neale Hurston, Chapter 6

In this visual story, a young, down on her luck white West Virginian woman crosses paths with Zora Neale Hurston in Miami in 1958.

NOTE: Okay, a very dear friend and confidante of mine took me aside and told me I needed to lower the insanity on my text… a little. 🤣 I realized he was right, and that I needed to do it on a more subtle level, accenting only the most important words or phrases. The thing is, my intent isn’t for accented words to shout in your head, but for them to act as hyperlinks — not ones you click, but that you take a moment to contemplate.

Chapter 6


Doc Masterson and the Prisoner of Time, Chapter 12

Doc Masterson’s been in the superhero game for most of his life. But his powers are more dependable than his mental health. Today he ventures into the belly of the beast: Apparatus headquarters.

The Traveller

“Your name, sir?” the Receptionist asked me.

“Uh… Doctor John Masterson.”

“Thank you, Mr. Masterson,” said the receptionist. She was in her thirties, probably former special forces sent to business administration classes, you could tell by how tight her hair was pulled back, only women in the military do that. “Have you been here before?”

I was a little confused. I wasn’t here to see the Apparatus dentist. “No, I haven’t,” I answered.

“Since it’s your first time, we have some paperwork for you to fill out.” The receptionist pushed a clipboard at me.

That was enough. “I’m not filling out any fucking paperwork,” I said, glancing at the men with the futuristic machine guns, whose masks were expressionless.

“Mr. Masterson,” smiled the receptionist, as though she were dealing with a child. “We ask for so little.”

I took the clipboard in my hands and sunk my fingers into it, deeper, deeper, until I was pushing through the field of its molecules like a knife through a living membrane. The clipboard started to glow and vibrate, a whistling sound spun around me, the paperwork and clipboard burst into a flash that looked like flame, but wasn’t, and then both ceased to exist entirely.

A fine mist of the clipboard’s undisintegrated matter lingered in the air, reeking of cancer potential. I glared at the men with guns while I spoke to the receptionist. “I have an appointment.”

A woman’s voice: “John!”

I turned – a petite, middle-aged Jewish woman with curly black hanging to her shoulders was coming out of a hidden door off to the side. It was Colleen Weiss, also known as QuantumKat, formerly of the M-Men, a superhero group consisting only of people of color that had been active in the 80s and 90s before most of them were annihilated. Like me, Colleen could dematerialize and pass though objects, but her powers were entirely different than mine – not that I understood how – someone had explained it to me once when I was drunk at a party. Colleen’s electrical field could also interact and disrupt electronic devices, and there were rumors she had other… undisclosed powers.

When Professor M died in 1997 and the M-Men kind of just faded into an unfulfilled dream like most civil rights causes, Colleen was one of the few survivors. She kind of floated for a while, but then I guess she “grew up,” – found a nice Jewish neurosurgeon to marry, had two daughters. A person of Colleen’s skills and qualities wasn’t found on the classified ads on Craig’s List, so eventually the Apparatus came knocking. Like the rest of us, Colleen said yes. But despite how it might have started, I knew Colleen was a believer now.

We shook hands. “How are you Colleen?”

“Good! How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

Colleen looked me up and down. “I see you still refuse to comb your hair or put on clean clothes before you do something serious.”

I was hurt. “This suit is clean,” I protested.

“I was talking about your shirt, John. There are two coffee stains. That I can see.”

I looked down at myself. She was right. “I assure you this shirt was clean before I spilled coffee on it,” I told her.

She chuckled. “Let’s go for a ride, John.”

Colleen led me through a set of thick blast doors down a long hall. “How are you these days, John? I mean, really?”

Colleen Weiss. Eternally “authentic.” The girl next door. She had a way of making everyone feel like she was their best friend. When I was young I had a big crush on her – she was the spunky teen media darling, her trials and tribulations in the fight against evil and in dramas of teen romance Must See TV back in the 80s and 90s. I remember the TV special she did on the Holocaust, to educate “young people.” And now, here she was, an adult, invisible. But I wasn’t fooled. I knew QuantumKat had a dark side.

“I’m okay, I think,” I told her.

“You ever see your dad?”

Only a nihilist who clothed herself in compassion would have asked me that. I knew Colleen, but we had never been close. She probably read an article about me and my dad at some point. I doubt I’d ever talked to her about it. That’s the thing when you’re famous – people assume that anything the media has dug up on you is an appropriate topic of conversation, that because they’re out in the open about it, you are too. Colleen was getting sloppy, going through the motions. She had handed in her girl-next-door act for the modern mother persona, and she had become appropriately blind – everything had become orderly to her, everything was worries and schedules that must be adhered to.

“No,” I told Colleen. “I haven’t talked to him for a long time.”

Through another set of blast doors was “the train,” – a sort of subway pod that was carried on rails from this front entrance to deep Apparatus headquarters under the river. While every communicable disease on Earth could be found on the seats of the MTA, this subway however was immaculately clean, the plastic seats traded for rich, enveloping leather, and the scum-magnet floors exchanged for thick, luxurious carpet that begged you to take off your shoes and dig your does into its fabric. Colleen sat herself on a loveseat and I chose an armchair next to her. There were no windows in the pod. It never traveled on the surface.

“John,” Colleen said as the pod doors closed behind us, and the pod began to power up, “I wanted to talk to you about our visitor and his ship.”

I nodded. “Of course.”

“We know a lot more now than we did the day he arrived, but there is still a lot we don’t know. But first of all, you should know the ship is from the future.”

“Time travel?”

“Yes. Our physicists managed to figure out a way to pinpoint its date of origin – 178 years into the future.”

“Seriously?” I asked. I had considered the possibility, but the reality of it was a little more frightening. “Are you sure?”

“Even if the dating is wrong… the technology on that ship is a whole other level. But not alien – it’s technology that we could theoretically develop, but still, for now, is incomprehensible to us. We don’t know how to interact with it. We don’t even know how to identify what does what.”

“But could people in the future really invent time travel?” I asked Colleen.

“It might seem impossible, but the evidence is pretty indisputable. We have come to the conclusion that the level of technology needed to create the illusion that ship is from the future would have to be as advanced as technology really capable of doing it.”

“So that’s that,” I said. “What about the pilot?”

Colleen stroked her wrist. “The pilot is part of that technology. He seems to be in a self-induced, computer-regulated coma, managed by the same kind of technology in the rest of the ship, meaning we don’t understand it.”

“It’s been nearly two weeks since the ship crashed!”

“We can’t say for certain what the purpose of the coma is – perhaps the pilot is injured, or the coma is used to protect him from the effects of time travel, which we can only guess at.”

“What about his DNA?”

“We thought of that too,” Colleen snickered. “But his DNA is locked.”

“What do you mean, locked?”

“The system managing his coma seems to be part of a larger network of artificial intelligence that regulates and protects his body.”

“You can’t take a damn mouth swab?”

“You don’t understand, John. It’s like when a file on a computer is locked and hidden. It’s like it’s not even there. We can’t find it. The technology in his body and his actual body are inseparable.”

I didn’t know what to think about that. When you think of insane technology, you think of death rays, armies of robots. Not password protected cells. “I have a headache,” I told Colleen.

Colleen frowned. I had expected her to laugh. “There are many questions,” she said, her eyes distant. “But there are a few clear facts. The pilot and the ship ARE from the future. They ARE real. But the most important detail is this – signs seem to increasingly point to the pilot travelling to our time period in an act of reckless desperation – a one-way, last-ditch attempt.”

Colleen turned to me and laid her hand on my forearm. She looked into my eyes in utter seriousness and my doubts about the morally complex former M-Man wavered. “Now,” Colleen said,  “why would someone do that?”