Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Day of Their Calamity"

This poem came out of the October 4, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] callibr8, [personal profile] shiori_makiba (who had a wonderful summary of how people respond to Dr. Infanta, in a comment below the prompts), [personal profile] kelkyag, [personal profile] librarygeek, [personal profile] moongoddessgirl, and [personal profile] janetmiles. It also fills the "apocalypse" square in my 7-16-16 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] librarygeek. It belongs to the Dr. Infanta thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains material that many readers may find disturbing. Highlight to read the warnings, which are spoilers and also possibly triggers. This poem features references to historic butchery, disapproval of Israel's behavior, (which is not the same as disapproval of Jews in general), references to horrible events which occurred both in Terramagne and in local-Earth but happened a bit differently in each dimension, graphic description of war crimes, canon-atypical violence, child death, mass-casualty events, Israel is a bottom-ten country because reasons, desecration of an Israeli flag, Dr. Infanta is a person of mass destruction, and so is the Undertaker, and this is why you should not piss them off, killing soldiers via superpowers, deliberate terrorizing of Israeli troops, Dr. Infanta's self-image is also bent, imprisonment of a soup, healing Israeli casualties without their consent, destruction of the Wall, graffiti as the art of rebellion, hair-trigger reflexes, and other mayhem. (If you want to read some of my positive Jewish characters, see Clay of Life.) This poem is not a major plot point, and most of its content can be understood simply from previous mentions that Dr. Infanta is a person of mass destruction and Israel is a bottom-ten country; this simply gives examples of why. So no big gap if you skip it. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read.

"The Day of Their Calamity"

Most of the time, Dr. Infanta
watches the world from afar.

She's too powerful to intervene in
everything, all the time; she learned
that long, bitter lesson in European politics.

So she watches, and listens, and reads reports,
because there's a limit to how far she will let
anything go wrong before putting a lid on it.

They should remember the bloody swath
that she cut through Germany, even if they
don't know how many of the earlier tales
about her are fact or fabrication.

She had such high hopes for Israel,
after the fall of Germany, but all of
that has turned to ashes now.

On July 28, 2014, Israel launches an attack
on the Jabalia Elementary Girls School in Gaza,
which suffers twelve deaths and over fifty injuries.
Someone hiding within it manifests Shielding
after the first explosion strikes the school.

Therefore, later mortar shells ricochet back
into Israeli territory, killing another fifty-five people
and wounding over two hundred more.

The Israelis believe that the Palestinians
are returning fire, do not realize that they
are effectively shelling themselves, and thus
continue the assault for more than an hour
before anyone manages stop the carnage.

The individual responsible for shielding
the school is not identified in the aftermath.

Dr. Infanta remembers the ugly evolution
of bombing, from catapults hurling oil barrels
through the grenade launchers and Zeppelins
of World War I to the air raids of World War II.

She makes a note. Israel ranks among
the ten most soup-hostile countries
for many and valid reasons.

On July 30, 2014 an attack strikes
Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility
remaining in the Gaza Strip. Rockets hitting
the compound, and a nearby playground in
Shati refugee camp, kill two doctors and
eight children, plus minor casualties.

Israel alleges a Hamas bunker below the site.
Investigations reveal that Hamas was instead
deploying several of their members with Phasing
to transport casualties in and out of the area.

Dr. Infanta has watched the rise and fall of
war crimes over the centuries, seen nations
refine the laws of war again and again.
She prefers it when they forbid armies
to target civilians, and she is quite stern
on the topic of medical neutrality.

People tend to mistake her title for
nothing more than a cape name, but it is
real -- she earned her first medical degree at
the Schola Medica Salernitana in Salerno, Italy.
Small wonder people forget; the school has
languished in obscurity for centuries and
has been a Mob facility in recent decades.

Of course, Dr. Infanta is relatively new;
Alicia has gone by many names over the years.
She has walked the vinyards of Italy as la Angioletta
and the battlefields of France as la Petite Mort.

Perhaps it is time for a reminder.

On August 3, 2014 Dr. Infanta
makes contact with the Hamas forces.
They are dubious that one little girl can
possibly make much of an impression
on Israel, even if she is a supervillain.

Cheval and Lorry cross their arms.
They're not happy about this trip, but
they know better than to interfere.

Dr. Infanta pins a captured Israeli flag
to the nearest wall, aims her Kalashnikov,
and calmly shoots out the center star.

The men laugh, but agree that she
may accompany them on a raid.

Then the dark horse beside her
breathes upon an acacia bush and
its leaves fall off, instantly dead.

The men stop laughing.

Dr. Infanta doesn't tell them that
she can do a great deal worse than this.
She simply mounts the Undertaker
and leads them into the desert.

Together they go on a rampage
throughout the land of Israel.

They hit seven different military installations,
and at each one execute everybody except
for the hospital staff and patients.

Dr. Infanta does not freeze time as
she sometimes did when fighting Nazis
to ensure that she could empty the bunker.

She wants the Israelis to see her coming.

She cuts them down with her Kalashnikov
as the soldiers scream into their radios,
and the Undertaker tramples their troops.
Before long, the enemies break and run.

"They do not hold their ground," Dr. Infanta recites,
"for the day of their calamity has come upon them."

They were doing such wicked things in here,
but there will be no more of that now.

One survivor babbles, "D-don't go down
that corridor. It's where they keep
the monster. Don't let it out!"

Dr. Infanta goes down the corridor,
picks the lock, and opens the door.
Inside the cell crouches a naked man
with the head and tail of a lion.

"That's not a monster," Dr. Infanta says,
shaking her head. "This is a monster."

She reaches out to the Israeli guards
who have run to recapture their victim,
slips her superpower into their hearts like
an invisible knife, and leaves them dead.

The lion-man slinks along behind her
as she leaves, and she can't help but
remember posing for the Fortezza, in
the deck now called Mantegna, although
what remained wasn't his art but a set
of exercises drawn by his students.

She'd had a lion cub at the time,
who had scampered in pursuit of a cat toy
she waved around, and when they broke
a costly ceramic pedestal, the artist made
them pose for hours in punishment.

It had been kind of fun anyhow.

The Hamas troops are growing
afraid of her now, but Dr. Infanta
doesn't mind. They, too, will bear
the tales of this day into the future.

She admonishes them to take care
of the wary lion-man, though, and they
do not dare to disobey her in any way.

"Monster," the Israelis call her,
now that they've seen what she can do,
and Dr. Infanta knows that even the Hamas
probably agree with that assessment.

Well, they're not wrong.

By the time they reach the final outpost,
word has already outrun them, and the enemy
is barricaded deep within the formidable walls.

"Fall back," she says to the Hamas.
"Farther." She waves a hand.
"That ridge there will do."

She can aim quite well
when she's careful, but like
the Kalashnikov rifle, when she
really lets loose, her accuracy suffers.

The Undertaker rears up high,
then slams his hooves down
with a great boom! like a bell.

Her power rides his, the way
her slight body clings to his back,
and inside the base, the soldiers die.

The hospital at the back is full of
Israeli soldiers wounded in the war.

Dr. Infanta walks through the halls,
her aura boiling with energy reaped from
the fallen, and she can't hold this much
for very long, it's too volatile for that.

So she heals the men as she passes
through their ranks, the doctors and nurses
giving way first in terror and then in awe
as the casualties stand up behind her.

Of course, they haven't seen what lies
beyond their domain, not yet.

By the time she leaves the hospital,
the energy has subsided to something
she can handle long enough to finish
what she came to accomplish.

"Take me to the Wall," she orders,
and the Hamas troops hasten to obey.

The guards stationed in the towers try
to stop them, of course, but Dr. Infanta
and the Undertaker flick them aside
like a swarm of annoying flies.

Their bodies fall, unremarked.

Like the rest of this expedition,
it's a pointed reminder that if
a nation doesn't feel compelled
to stay civilized, neither does she.

Dr. Infanta stands on the back
of the Undertaker to reach up and
press her small brown hands against
the cold, gray concrete of the Wall.

Into it she pours the remaining energy
of all the lives that she has taken,
death turned into destruction.

Cracks begin to appear in the smooth face,
dust trickling out, and then gushing, as
entropy races up and down and along
the length of the structure.

And the Wall comes tumbling down.

A section over a block wide
crumbles into pebbles and powder,
leaving an enormous breach in the barrier.

From the Palestinian side, refugees
rush across, scrambling over the rubble.

Members of Hamas hurry to guide them
away from Dr. Infanta, pointing out
routes to safer places nearby.

The soldiers she has fought beside
are staring at her, and yes, they
can really see her now.

They know she's a person of mass destruction,
now, essentially a walking apocalypse.

"We thought the Israelis were holding monsters
to turn against us," one said. "I didn't realize
we would be doing that to them instead."

Dr. Infanta looks him over. "The monsters
that should truly frighten you," she tells him,
"are the ones who don't look like monsters at all."

They won't forget the lesson any time soon.

Dr. Infanta walks to the edge of the remaining Wall
and gazes critically at it. "I need some spray paint,"
she declares, holding out a hand for it.

The soldiers shuffle, hesitant to approach,
but equally wary of offending her.

"We'll search the stores, miss,"
says Lorry, and thank God for that.
Dr. Infanta needs sensible people around
to keep her grounded. Without that,
bad things tend to happen.

She'd slaughtered a lot of Nazis
after they killed all her Guardians and
espionage wasn't enough for her anymore.
It had taken her years to settle after that,
even with Aidan for a new anchor.

Soon enough, Lorry comes back
with his arms full of paint cans that
rattle cheerfully when shaken.

Dr. Infanta begins writing the names of
Jews killed while trying to cross the Berlin Wall,
interspersing them with faltenlilies in white.

Before long, Lorry and Cheval confer with
each other and the edgy Hamas members.
They begin copying the names so that each
is recorded in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

In the end, the gap is bracketed
by an impromptu, irreverent,
utterly sincere memorial.

After they finish with the spray paint,
Cheval sets the cans aside, then brings out
some wet wipes and shop towels.

Dr. Infanta scrubs herself off
as best she can, but there is
no way of getting really clean
without a long soak in a tub and
vigorous application of a brush.

"Feeling better, miss?" asks Cheval.

"I'm hot, dirty, tired, sweaty, and I stink,"
Dr. Infanta grumbles, lifting her sticky hair
off the back of her neck. "I need a bath
and to sleep for about a week."

A soft click makes her whirl,
machine gun ready to fire.

A terrified journalist huddles
against a car, clutching his camera.
"P-please don't shoot me," he whimpers.

Dr. Infanta snorts. "Show me
what you got," she orders.

Trembling hands bring up
the last image the camera has
taken of her shaking out her hair with
an implacable look on her face.

"That's a good one," she says
"Here, let me help you out a little."
She plucks the camera from his grasp
and adds an embellishment of her own.

"W-what are you doing?" the journalist says.

"Sending a message," she replies, and
hands the camera back to him.

Under the photo now runs the caption,
Dr. Infanta Has Had Enough of This Shit.

* * *


Dr. Infanta
-- Alicia Martins is a world-class supervillain who looks like a little girl about 7 years old, but is actually centuries old. She has hazel eyes, shoulder-length wavy hair of light brown, and slightly tinted skin. She has a heart-shaped face. She admires altruism and loyalty, hence the makeup of her minion contingent. She isn't malicious, just ruthless. She is effectively asexual, due to her biological age. In French she is called la Petite Mort ("the Little Death"); in Italian, la Angioletta ("the Little Angel").
Dr. Infanta is extremely well-protected by other super-villains and many wealthy naries because of her powers. She always travels with a "nanny" and bodyguards, masquerading as a rich young heiress. She can't be killed, has rarely been captured, and it never takes long for her to escape. She is that powerful and connected.
Dr. Infanta often uses her influence to quash legislation that could harm soups. She is a key reason for how little institutionalized oppression there is, given the amount of informal oppression. This makes even some superheroes secretly appreciate her, if they haven't personally had to fight her or watch her give their archenemy a new face.
Origin: Alicia was a peasant child purchased by a noblewoman for experiments to extend life. They worked. She killed her owner and ran away. When Alicia discovered what she could do with her powers, she soon gathered adult protectors and traded her skills for what she needed.
Uniform: street clothes, usually whatever is fashionable for children of her apparent age.
Qualities: Master (+6) Children's Folklore, Master (+6) Wealth, Expert (+4) Intelligence, Good (+2) Cute, Good (+2) Gunplay, Good (+2) Living History
Poor (-2) Pint-sized
Powers: Master (+6) Time Control (Signature Stunts: Erase Memories, Transfer Lifeyears; Spin-Off Stunts: Danger-sense, Precognition), Expert (+4) Healing (Signature Stunts: Plastic Surgery, Regenerate Lost Body Parts), Average (0) Immortality
Average (0) Minions: The Guardians are a set of 7 trusted grownups, in charge of the collective personnel. They protect Dr. Infanta and usher her through the adult world. They are all relatives of people whose lives she has saved, thus all sharing the Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader quality. In addition, each has a Good (+2) profession (usually Nanny or Bodyguard), another Good (usually social for Nanny, physical for Bodyguard), and one Average (0) superpower (often Teleportation, Invulnerability, Super-Gizmology, or Sorcery). They currently include Nanette, Cheval, Lorry, and Melissa.
Motivation: Survive and prosper.

Cheval (Seydou Armistead) -- He has brown skin, black eyes, and short nappy black hair. His body is big and broad with prominent muscles. He is from Senegal. He speaks French and English fluently, and is learning some other languages. Although strong in body, he actually has a gentle personality and excels at stopping fights before they really get started.
Origin: He received his strength from a risky mystical ritual. He met Dr. Infanta when she came to Senegal to assassinate a corrupt government official. Dr. Infanta knew that Seydou's sister was dying, and offered to give her the lifeyears taken from the assassination target, if Seydou would arrange access. The assassination worked perfectly, Seydou's sister was saved, and he agreed to serve Dr. Infanta.
Qualities: Good (+2) Big and Tall, Good (+2) Bodyguard, Good (+2) De-escalation Skills, Good (+2) Family Ties
Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Dr. Infanta
Powers: Average (0) Super-Strength

Lorry (Hamish Turner) -- He has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He is physically fit without being overbuilt. Although his everyday teleporting ability is only average for mass and distance, he is particularly adept at stretching himself in an emergency; it just tends to flatten him afterwards. His heritage is British, but he has traveled around much of Europe.
Origin: He dove on top of a previous client, taking a super-gizmotronic bullet in the process. The bullet was meant to teleport vital organs out of the victim's body, but instead left him able to teleport himself. Later, Lorry was involved in an altercation where his partner was seriously wounded, saved only by Dr. Infanta's timely intervention.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bodyguard, Good (+2) Partnership, Good (+2) Pushing Limits, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Dr. Infanta
Powers: Average (0) Teleportation

The Undertaker (Judd) -- He is a big black Friesian stallion. He can speak English, but poorly; his voice is rough and difficult to understand. His favorite song is Michael Longcor's "Tribes of the Draft." Unlike most supervillains, he not only doesn't hide his identity, he actively advertises it. Even the undersoles of his shoes are stamped with his emblem, a horseshoe surrounding a spade.
As a horse, he has a good-sized brain; his Super-Intellect makes him as smart as a clever human. His Super-Strength is considerably more than a human's, plus his body is designed for draft work so the physics of certain motions (pulling, pushing, kicking, trampling, etc.) will be far more effective.
Origin: He used to work as a draft horse for a mad science facility, hauling the kind of super-gizmos and exotic chemicals that weren't compatible with conventional engines. One day a superhero team hit the facility, wrecked the cart he was hauling, and killed his beloved driver. None of the other horses in harness survived the chemical spill, but it gave him superpowers and he managed to phase himself to safety.
Uniform: Black leather tack with silver fittings, with his name on it.
Qualities: Master (+6) Draft & Dressage Skills, Expert (+4) Tough, Expert (+4) Endurance, Good (+2) Friends with Dr. Infanta, Good (+2) Patience
Poor (-2) Savage Temper
Powers: Average (0) Death Touch, Average (0) Immortality, Average (0) Phase, Average (0) Super-Intellect, Average (0) Super-Strength
Poor (-2) Human Speech
Motivation: Revenge. He targets mad scientists primarily, superheroes secondarily, and makes occasional detours for people who abuse animals.

Faris Al-Hassan
-- He has tawny skin, amber eyes, and golden-brown body hair. He has the head and tail of a lion. He is Palestinian and has suffered greatly under Israeli oppression. He used to be a family man and a dancer, but all that is left of him is a reflexive flailing in search of meaning.
Origin: Israeli troops butchered his whole family right in front of him -- elderly parents, pregnant wife, children, and all. Traumatic manifestation gave him the head and tail of a lion. He tore apart several of the soldiers, but was unable to stop the slaughter or even escape. Since then, he has been in solitary confinement (aside from occasional torture) for unknown period of time, probably several years.
Uniform: He was kept nude, like an animal. He will require modified clothing now, and will probably prefer garments similar to what other Palestinian men wear.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Dabke Dancer, Good (+2) Existential Intelligence, Good (+2) Family Skills
Poor (-2) Traumatic Grief
Powers: Average (0) Lionman
Motivation: "WHY?"

In a way, the concentration camps of WWII revealed that the fundamental drive of humanity is not procreation, not survival, but the search for meaning -- the last thing to fade, after all others had gone, was the persistence of asking, "Why?"

* * *

"Also her princes who are in her midst are like fattened calves, for they too turn around and flee together, they do not hold their ground, for the day of their calamity has come upon them, the time of their visitation."
-- The Torah, Jeremiah Chapter 46.21

(These links are depressing.)
There are many arguments for why Israel is the way it is, but I found the most convincing one in a comment on my blog. It is a devastatingly elegant, first-person description of how communal trauma leads to atrocities. This perspective is actively taught and obligatory in Israeli schools. It is possible to transcend this, but very difficult.

The catapult has a long history. Among this is an equally long list of things people threw with these devices, including various flaming balls and other bomblike doom.

Actual aerial bombs and the bombing of cities came later. The beginning is generally placed in WWI and by WWII had grown into a magnificent apocalypse that devoured large parts of Europe.

The Laws of War customarily grant immunity from attack to certain groups and facilities, including hospitals. The principle of medical neutrality includes an exchange of guarantees: soldiers are not to attack or otherwise interfere with medical personnel, and medical personnel are to treat everyone in triage order regardless of affiliation.

Among the oldest medical schools in the world, the first recorded was the Schola Medica Salernitana, in Salerno, Italy which had its height in the 11th to 13th centuries. In local-Italy, it is now defunct; in Terramagne-Italy, it is still running, just a Mob facility now.

(These are depressing too.)
Palestine and Israel have had problems since the beginning, and part of that stems from Israel stealing more of Palestine's territory over time. Considerable debate questions whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, and whether Israel is a terrorist state.

A person of mass destruction is anyone whose superpower or other ability gives them the potential for devastation on a similar level as weapons of mass destruction such as bombs.

(These links are violent.)
The Kalashnikov is widely considered the best assault rifle in the world, and one of the most deadly guns of modern war.

Among the classic carnival games, shooting out the star is very tricky to win. The flag of Israel has a star on it. Dr. Infanta has a very rude, and in some ways very childish, sense of humor.

Acacia grows widely in Palestine, a very tough plant that is difficult to kill by ordinary means.

Tarot cards have been used for divination, games, and various other purposes. Strength is one of them. In the Tarot of Mantegna, described here, this card shows a tiny lion and a woman with a broken column. Most often, the woman is shown opening/closing a lion's mouth, but a few cards show them playing together.
Strength Tarot Card

The Israeli Wall was built to oppress Palestine, which has led to brutal arguments. There is an inescapable parallel between this wall, and the Berlin Wall, and those from WWII such as the Warsaw Ghetto Wall. The Jews of Berlin have memorialized the Wall, and research continues in attempt to confirm how many people died at the Berlin Wall. In Terramagne history, Granny Whammy helped to tear down the Berlin Wall. Of all the people in the world, the Jews are the last who should be building a Wall with which to oppress people. It always makes me think, a shonda for the goyim, Israel. But that is what trauma tends to do to people.</user></user></user></user></user></user></user></user>
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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