escapism • ephemeral
playland by the beach

Though the notion of staying in the 1950s for a few years - not just for a few days, not for the span of a week, not even a few months, but a few years - had been a daunting forecast even for something as important as mental conditioning and power training, it had been something required when even the thought of returning to the 21st century brought on that slurry of mechanical beeps and dial-up telecommunication tones that, here, only echoed in the quiet moments when he had some time to think and pick up on the late night television radio waves broadcast into nearby apartments. Their contents had been ignored for the most part, Nate meditating on the sound at first so it wasn’t such a disrupting factor in a life where, any given minute of any given day, there would be something with a much stronger, much more annoying signal ringing in his head, before he dared attempted listen between the electromagnetic highs and lows to figure out what they were really saying; and when he had finally felt his oats, confident enough to at least test it, he found himself in moments like this, leaned up against Smith’s Yum Yum and the Beach Coffee Shop with a soda in hand, staring down the over-populated midway of the ten acre large Playland at the Beach where the number of patrons could have just as well thrown his telepathy for a loop.

And even worse, he could still feel her there, popping at the back of his brain like a fire that wanted to extinguish everything that was around her if only for the fact the expansive amusement park to share space on Ocean Beach was only slated for failure anyway in the next two decades, the result of deceased patrons, lost roller coasters, and a dying blue collar population who saw little entertainment value in the dilapidated rides those around him would inevitably become; but as far as 1955 went, Playland at the Beach was alive and kicking, perhaps not the same as it had been in decades prior, but still drawing in the masses - everyone from families with children who would find the most entertainment value out of Dali-inspired fun house rides and rounds made on the carousel to events funded by the Rotary Club that allowed children the opportunity to ride the rides at the park free of charge to those teenagers out for a fun date spot that wasn’t necessarily under the watchful eye of their neighborhood soda fountain, not that such was a bad date in the first place. It was just a little close to home.

For Nate, it provide not only that training ground against the wayward thoughts of all that had been visiting as he strolled along the midway, checking out the rides and stopping to peruse the game booths that had been set up, but a change to see how the other half lived - the one that didn’t have to live with the ever-present struggles of being a mutant; the one that didn’t have to live with the missing parents and his casting into a future where there was even narrower chance to have a childhood; the one that hadn’t turned into a complete paradoxical mess thanks to one selfless attempt to save him versus every other selfish choice Scott Summers had made in his life. They didn’t have to worry here, the kids who were happy to run around in hopes of being towards the front of the line of the next ride or beg their parents for a dollar to spend to their heart’s content, very few moments - if any - coming to mind in Nate’s head as they applied to Nathan Summers.

You poor bastard, he commented to himself - to Nathan - as if there was a clear distinction between the two anymore. Such lines weren’t so well-worn anymore; they weren’t drawn and depressed in the ground as soon as the Phoenix had seemed to burn away the distinction between one side, the one with a normal and a normal life and a normal upbringing, from the other, the one with no such thing. Some tender moments with a mother he knew now to be in this time, and this place, if only for the sole purpose of making sure he was okay; some Christmas shopping with Bobby Drake even though his intentions had been to try and pick up a girl; some telepathic training with Jean Grey who, as was Scott, was finding out just the basics of his potential during their use of Apocalypse’s discarded ship as their base of X-Factor operations - these were a few such moments that came in wisps, disappearing as soon as they had arrived to him and covered up by life with the As’kani, under the constant threat of Apocalypse and Stryfe who wanted nothing more than to stop the As’kanison from fulfilling the prophecy laid out before him, all part of a life that was so much harder to live than even the time-displaced one he was experiencing now.

Now, in the immediate sense, his greatest struggle was trying to hit everything that crossed in front of him at the shooting gallery, the pump-action toy rifle perched on his shoulder with the poise of a professional even though the targets always seemed to breeze on past the lead bird shot BBs ultimately collected on the back wall. This was at least escapism that he was familiar with, something that felt more right in his hands, even if the time he was currently living wasn’t. This was something he was skilled at in all lifetimes, in all time lines, in any he had lived or he had bypassed for greener timeline pastures as he crossed through the time stream with relative ease - and sometimes without. If nothing else, even if he couldn’t reach out to others with his mind or throw objects with his telekinesis, he could always shoot; and a bunch of panel ducks or runaway horses or birds careening on slot tracks across a panoramic display wouldn’t be able to tell him any differently as he regained some focus, some composure, and drowned the world out so he could make good on a few dollars spent.

“We have a winner!” The gallery attendant shouted to kick off the latest line of rambling, hoisting a stuffed animal off the gallery’s wall of prizes to pass on to Nate who, at least to the public eye, ignored what comments there had been about ‘passing it off to the pretty young redhead next to him’. It wasn’t that there wasn’t a redhead next to him, someone who could have just as well been his date by all outside appearances, but Nate was definitely not there on a date with his mother.

Still the plush poodle eventually found itself pushed over in her direction, Nate not saying much about it until they were well on their way from the shooting gallery and the stuffed animal was out of his hands. “You can give it to Lily when we get back,” he pointed out, knowing that Lily, out of any of the kids, might have been the one to appreciate it or, just as well, maybe it would spark childhood rebellion among his would-be siblings; and wasn't that what big brothers were for?

Like all good things, however, he knew even a day spent at an amusement park, enjoying something that might have been a mechanism of Arcade in another life rather than something to enjoy, would have to come to an end, just like his time in the radio-light 1950s would have to end; but one of those things would come sooner rather than later as the darkness of night fell over Playland at the Beach, bringing the midway and other ride to life with the bright lights and neon signage that covered the grounds, bringing a level of fantastical nature to the amusement park and welcoming those who were en route while beckoning those who were simply driving by. It was ephemeral, the time spent there, and just like a child inclined to tantrum because he didn’t want to leave, Nate felt a part of him attempt to stay - just perhaps not for the same reasons those younger than his teenage self would have been inclined to.

It felt like something strange on the breeze, something his mind seemed to fixate on as his paces came to slow on the midway despite the distraction found in the laughter of those still entertaining themselves with the park’s amusements, the mechanics of the rides that brought out everything from shrieks to all out screams, and the music that echoed through the park’s speaker system in between whatever announcements there might have been to broadcast over park grounds. It sunk beneath the crash of ocean waves that had been drowned out by the liveliness of the park despite how readily they crashed against the shoreline and the levees there to keep the park protected, cutting through the chattering wheels, bouncing along steel rails, of the Big Dipper, a roller coaster he was almost sure was in a considerable state of disrepair if only because of the ages it had been in activity; and before Nate could narrow in on what might have been bringing about such an ominous feeling, it had nearly hit him in the form of a body, all but launched from the roller coaster as it whipped along the track into it’s gut-wrenching eighty-foot drop.

Even the most trained soldier would have jumped in response to a body hitting the ground directly in front of them and Nate was no exception, his body jerking back in time with the impact while his heart leapt into his throat and his stomach took the place of it accordingly. The pounding of his heart in his ears, a response to finding himself as startled by it as he was while his mind swam around in the endorphins of a night that seemed without issue, without trouble, found itself punctuated with the shrieking and screaming of park guests around him who just as well saw what had happened but as of yet hadn’t figured out the reasons why, and he could feel her there - the push of the Phoenix against the edges of his mind in a sense of heat, of fire and flame, that threatened to escape.

He couldn’t let it happen - not here, not now, not when there were people standing around in shock because of events they could only speculate about, as he heard loud enough in the open wave of thoughts that came to hit him. Was there an odd bump on the track? Was he secured in the track? Did he stand up when he shouldn’t have? Had he hit a beam? All questions Nate couldn’t answer, all but stumbling back while the crowd gathered, resisting the urge to cover his ears until he had found some solace in the relative cover of a building nearby - relative, as just because he was hidden in some sense, didn’t mean there weren’t eyes on him in the distance, a familiarity in the air around him that spoke of such long-standing rivalry no matter what timeline they happened to be in; one that spoke of the same origins even though it was Nathan who had been the original, the one which had been the source of such cloned genes, however raised as the heir to something more.

“According to history discs of this era, the man should not even exist,” he commented to himself, watching Nate attempt to get a hold on the Phoenix, fingers clenched and eye alight with the inferno she wrought, with the slightest hints of a smile on his face, “which means it shouldn’t be hard to take him out either.”

“I'm going to make you suffer as you did to me, Cable.