Pansy Blade Cassandra Moko
by Andrew Hook
It starts with the desire to achieve more than her current existence. For her, this means it begins with boredom.
On the 12th November 2008 Pansy Blade lies on her back and holds her right arm aloft for a period of five minutes. After this time, she becomes desensitised – her arm dissociating itself from her body. Without motion, it becomes something other.
She repeats the practice every hour until she is ready for more.
During the day she saves lives.
She wears a tight-fitting red lycra suit. A gilded mask covers her eyes. Black knee-high boots complete the ensemble. An everyday girl in superwoman’s clothing. Whilst she can’t leap buildings in a single bound, she can scale them faster than most of us. She takes some pride in rescuing an old couple from the crush of their crashed car. Remoulding the vehicle, reversing the crump. Firemen ask for her autograph. She shrugs.
What’s a girl supposed to do?
Unlike the comic book hero she has no alter ego.
She can’t do anything socially.
She wipes the minds of those that she fucks.
Her costume is held together with a single zip that runs down the front. The top section comes apart easily, but she has to peel it away from her legs. A yellow strip hides the zip, resembling a go-faster stripe.
She has no memory of her past and no knowledge of her future.
On the 13th November 2008, Pansy Blade holds aloft her left arm. She stares at the ceiling. A single crack attempts to divide the room yet stops at mid-point, going nowhere. She anthropomorphosises the crack, gives it an identity that it doesn’t possess. She imagines its frustration at being unable to progress any further, unless acted upon by an external force. She wants an external force to act upon her.
After five minutes her arm no longer feels part of her body. It hangs suspended in the air, with as much identity as the crack. At that precise moment, Pansy Blade gains some relief from her individuality, becomes one with inanimate objects. When she wriggles her fingers, the illusion collapses. She realises it was no more than illusion.
In her suit she traverses the city. Liverpool is quiet. So many new buildings, so little to see.
She finds a small boy, lost, crying. She reunites him with his parents, fights the urge to lose the three of them. Why do we seek completion instead of confusion? This is what she is really fighting against, her desire to undo the world, to unravel rather than ravel, to create questions rather than answers. The father shakes her hand and she can feel the tension within him. Even though she cannot see into the future she knows the future here. He holds her hand for a second longer than he needs to.
From there she climbs the Liver building, overlooks the Mersey. This is her common seat of rest. She finds comfort knowing that the two birds which sit atop the building are looking in opposite directions, one to sea, one to shore. Local legend has it that the birds face away from each other, as if they were to mate and fly away the city would cease to exist. There are times when Pansy Blade wishes to face herself, to find out what would cease to exist.
On the 14th November 2008 Pansy Blade holds both arms aloft over her head. Without needing to concentrate they appear no longer connected to her, but she knows it is only an appearance. Ten minutes later she can’t believe she can move them. So she tries it, does, and once again the moment passes.
She sighs. Rolls over onto her stomach. Slides a pre-cooked meal into the microwave and eats it out of the aluminium tray after the beep.
There’s nothing on television. There’s rarely anything on television.
She holds out her arm after her meal, but the food in her stomach distracts her. She gets up, takes a bath, changes into her suit, conceals her nakedness. Searches for trouble because there is nothing else to do.
The City Records first mention Pansy Blade in ’97. She has examined those records and the date holds little relevance. Her act of heroism prevented a rape. The man drowned in the Mersey. The female watched him fly through the air in awe. A simple jerk from Pansy Blade’s hand and he was away. A legend was born.
Like an atom which suddenly appears from nowhere Pansy can recall nothing other than this. She exists. She has purpose. Yet she is so fucking bored.
From the top of the Liver Building she regards the city under cover of darkness. Lights populate her vision. From here they illuminate nothing other than themselves, constellations of star-like sparkles. Her suit keeps her snug. She feels neither cold nor heat. Neither frigidity nor passion. Sometimes, she just needs to die.
People don’t even point up at her any more.
She wants to use the extraordinary to improve the ordinary.
She sits there awhile, contemplating the city and everyday lives. Then she returns to her apartment, extends her hand again. When she senses that her arm no longer feels part of her body she closes her eyes. She imagines her soul. She imagines her soul floating through her chest and hovering over her body. She views it askance, detaches herself. Until her soul no longer feels part of her. Until it is no longer part of her.
She names herself Cassandra Moko. She has nothing to wear other than the clothes in Pansy’s wardrobe. The suit isn’t a good fit. She is curvier in this body, which surprises her because she thought she’d be intangible.
She runs from one end of the room to the other. Is out of breath. She loves it.
She bounces on the bed. Creaking reminds her of fucking. She wonders whether she can have a proper romance, given time. Part of her wonders if she wants to.
She takes a bath. The water is sweet on her skin. She alternates the temperature from almost unbearably hot to certainly unbearably cold. She wants to feel those extremes.
She says the word aloud. Her voice is clear, doesn’t waver. She has a conversation with herself which feels like a conversation with other people. Words tumble out of her. She laughs and the sound refreshes. She catches her smile in a mirror and it is real. The shock pulls her out of herself and when she wakes on the bed she is Pansy Blade again.
Emotions are brittle inside her. She opens her mouth but can’t speak, has no one to speak to.
Holding her head in her hands her existence is heavy.
After a night without sleeping she goes shopping. She accumulates clothes easily, stores are only too eager to service Pansy Blade. She overhears speculation. It is well-known that her wardrobe is limited to red lycra, latex, and pvc. She holds a dress up and has to wipe the memory of the shopgirl who serves her. She can’t break the myth because it would taint Cassandra Moko. She is unsure how she chose that name.
Back in her apartment she places the packages on the bed. La Senza, Karen Millen, Oasis, USC. Doing her duty she rejoins the city. Alerts the police to a man dying at home, his angina spray inches from reach. Rescues the proverbial cat from a proverbial tree, the feline’s nose pushing against her palm in wet relief. Prevents a minor drug deal out in Knowsley Park without wondering why she bothers.
Above her the hot sun strips males out of t-shirts, places women in short skirts, creates children with ice-cream running through their fingers. She doesn’t quite see it.
Yet in her apartment. Naked. Her back on the bed, the clothes safely away, she closes her eyes and holds out her soul. Visualises everything displacing, shredding away. Once, when she slips into self-awareness, she falls backward and becomes Pansy again. She opens her eyes. Sees the crack. Closes them again and resumes the discard. Within twenty minutes she is Cassandra Moko.
She made good choices. The clothes fit. She pulls on French knickers, feels the silk against her own silky thighs. The bra cups perfectly. The dress is light, understated. It’s mid afternoon and she decides to walk.
The heat hits her as she hits the street. Her room faces north whilst the sun’s in the south, but even so the difference is palpable. She gets to enjoy her surroundings, gets to love her freedom. As she walks she can feel the passing of air, her senses heightened. She journeys down to the docks, slips into the Tate. In a sculpture room she regards John Davies’ work, The Redeemers. The posture of the two men is suggestive, slightly sinister. Their hands imply menace, their closeness implies collusion. Their lack of hair, creepy. And the brown silk shawl worn by one of the men unnerves her. It appears natural yet alien simultaneously. It reminds her of herself.
When she enters a bar no one looks at her. Without her mask she isn’t remotely beautiful. Just an average girl with an average body doing average things. She sips a glass of wine, regards the street, wonders what would happen should trouble occur.
At that moment, reminded of her other self, she wakes on the bed and cries.
She becomes conscious of her voice. She sings in the shower. Buys music, books, art. What was once a bare room, a bed, a costume rail, the minimum of cosmetics, becomes a paean to existence. Before she was saving other people’s lives now she is saving her own. As time progresses she spends fewer moments as Pansy Blade. Having shed that skin she wants to hide it. Secrete it.
She invites herself into the houses of others, and doesn’t have to wipe their minds when she leaves. She creates friends through her own creation. Lies about her job, her seemingly limitless income. Lies about where she lives. Lies about her past, her parents. The more she integrates into society the more she finds she has to lie. Eventually, she does wipe their minds when she leaves.
“I like you when you sleep.”
“I fell asleep?”
She considers the possibilities.
“Can I call you Cassie?”
It is her turn to nod.
He nestles into her. She feels a closeness previously unknown to her.
Now when it’s hot she wears an extra layer of clothes. When it’s cold she removes them. She wants to feel those extremes, not to become used to anything. She understands that everything can be snatched away at any time.
Occasionally, Cassandra can no longer recall her past. She sees newspaper cuttings about Pansy Blade and wonders whether she collects them. Other times, she sees the line retreating backwards, from herself to Pansy Blade to someone else who had once lain on their bed with their arm in the air. But she can’t quite see the face of creation.
Surrounded by the new buildings of Liverpool One she eats a chilli chicken wrap bought at Pret a Manger. The taste peppers tiny explosions in her mouth. Sitting at the top of a series of stone steps she can spy an edge of the docks, the swell of the Mersey, the female of the Liver birds. She suddenly desires an overview of the city – not only from height, but from past present and future. She wants completeness.
She knows the Liver Building is reputed to be the Gothic inspiration for both the Manhattan Municipal Building in New York and the Seven Sisters in Moscow. She realises knowledge doesn’t add completeness but makes her understand how impossible it is to be complete. Sometimes, even in this existence, she realises that the more she knows then the more she realises there is to know.
But if sometimes Cassandra forgets Pansy, Pansy never forgets Cassandra.
She peels on her lycra skin, pushes her feet into her boots, arranges her mask with a quick glance in the mirror. Beside the bed yesterday’s newspapers query her existence. She begins to query her own existence. Was she born from the collective imaginings of the city’s population? Did their desire for a crime-free climate create her as their saviour? If they start to forget her, will she start to fade?
She knows she is raising more questions than there can be answers. There is ever only one answer.
But another question: if Pansy Blade ceases to exist would Cassandra Moko also cease to exist?
She knows the answer to that one.
She takes the hand of a blind man as he crosses a busy street in the knowledge that he will never realise it was her who had helped him.
There is anonymity and there is anonymity.
She wonders whether she could climb the Liver Building and have the strength to turn the birds to face each other, to see if the city would cease to exist.
Pansy has residual Cassandra memories. She seeks out her lover. Fucks him. Wipes him.
Afterwards she realises with a hollow laugh that she was jealous.
She is no longer bored. Considering she is only herself for ten per cent of the day she finds there is much to do. There is greater satisfaction when she helps the public. She no longer regards them with the disdain which had started to seep into her heart. Pansy reclaims herself as a superhero. People wave to her again. She sees smiles alight on their faces. Can sense the joy bursting out of them as they regard her with the knowledge that something is greater than they will ever know. She recognises the hope which that brings. The possibility of something wondrous acquitting the surety of their deaths.
Pansy decides to be sociable.
She enters the bar where Cassandra regularly takes a glass of wine. The barman smiles, doesn’t know he’s already flirted. She orders a coke, doesn’t want to trash her reputation. A group of young men shyly approach. She signs beer mats. They return louder than they came, one of them touched her costume when he thought she wasn’t looking. A tremble of excitement rushed through her body faster than a speeding bullet.
She knows more than ever what it is to be alive.
In the evening she fights the urge to close her eyes, but through repetition alone habit dominates. When she rises as Cassandra she has no knowledge of her alter ego.
She wanted to use the extraordinary to improve the ordinary, but instead found she used the ordinary to improve the extraordinary.
She has no memory of this.
Cassandra chooses clothes for a summer evening. Wonders why she fell asleep in the afternoon, wonders why she often cannot recollect moments in her day. Is she narcoleptic? Should she see a doctor? She can’t decide whether it would be a good or bad thing to find out.
At her lover’s apartment he seems distant. They eat in a restaurant with a solid reputation, but the food tastes bland, without extremes in flavour. Background music is trite, spoils the atmosphere rather than improves it. When they share a kiss in his doorway she doesn’t want to go inside. When he cites work as an excuse she sighs in relief. She knows it will be the last that she sees of him.
She walks back to her apartment. She wants to run but doesn’t want to look stupid. She flinches when a group of males pass her, turns her head to one side when a gaggle of girls does the same. Her shoulders hunch inwards, there’s a cool breeze in the air. When she looks up at the Liver Building she thinks she sees movement.
A bird stretches its wings. Looks from east to west and back again.
Another bird does the same.
On the ground, Cassandra shields her eyes against the dark. Searches for a flash of red. She has heard about Pansy Blade but has never seen her. She has read some of the newspaper cuttings that scatter her apartment, wonders about this obsession which she can never recall. She wonders what it would be like to be her.
The birds face each other. The city shimmers as if a mirage.
Cassandra shakes her head. Continues walking. Continues.
Pansy Blade scans the city from the top of the Liver Building. She sees a woman watching her from a distance. Is tempted to wave. Something about the woman attracts her attention. Possible suicide? She always finds those harder to avert. Everything kept inside.
Nevertheless she follows the woman, first with her gaze and then on foot. She watches her traverse the dock; attempt to locate her reflection within the black water. Does a circuit before heading residential. Looks from side to side before entering an apartment. Pansy scales the wall, her fingers dislodging fragments of brick onto the pavement. When she reaches a window she regards the woman as she undresses, showers, climbs onto the bed. She watches as she raises a hand in the air.
She knows her.
On the 6th August 2009 Apex Gale performs her first ever rescue. Afterwards, she wonders how she came into being. But not for long. There’s work to be done and a life to be lived.