Peter called down the stairwell and Nicky followed him, crossing a hidden doorway at the bottom obscured by snow. His brother and Grandma Daisy remained upstairs. Peter Wolf welcomed Nicky into a new world, the Forest Temple, a place he wouldn’t visit for another two-and-a-half years, and even then only in a video game. He went from a quiet winter night to a dark castle overgrown with vines and covered in ambiguously lit paintings. Paintings whose eyes would follow him as he crossed the circle at the base of the building over and over, unsure where to go until Peter beckoned from the stairs, yet again: “Come to the sunshine…” They walked upstairs and flew into the sun. The Fire Temple was open, but Nicky was adamant: “Too hot.” Peter nodded and they went back into the sun and found the Water Temple open but about to close. “Too hard,” Nicky protested.
Rejected, Peter brought Nicky back to the surface and reprimanded for his lack of imagination. “You need to have a better attitude about this. I’m taking you on a magical, spiritual journey you’ll only vaguely remember but carry with you for the rest of your life. Can you please appreciate me a bit? I’m feeling a little under-appreciated right now.” Nicky laughed and called Peter “neurotic.” Peter was regretting giving this toddler a temporarily advanced intelligence, clairvoyance, and flight. He was only able to partially revoke them, and traces remain in the boy, the man, today, although it remains unclear what exactly Peter left behind in his alchemical shrapnel. Peter went back into his lair, just before the on-ramp to the fifth dimension, and wondered how he would impress the other child. He went too fast with Nicky, and he had his feelings hurt. By a toddler. He decided to play the long game with Booker.
Nicky wandered back up into Spiral Comics and found his brother and grandmother. They wandered around the store gawking at standees for characters they’d yet to see in movies—Spawn, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Catwoman, Daredevil, The Punisher. Spiral went out of business not long after 1996, and their extravagant floor displays were likely a contributing factor in their demise. But even more puzzling: where were all the comics? Nicky could hardly find any. All the spinner racks were empty. There were a few varieties of X-Men and Batman around, but nothing worth grabbing, no toys worth wide eyes on that snowy night in New York City, January 1996, when the whole of the rest of the world went on sleeping and fighting and arguing and yelling and shooting and bombing and disrobing and making a mask for all to see but none to penetrate; here was a city asleep, the one that never slept, a winter nap in its revolutions around the sun Peter took Nicky into that night.
They left the store and continued wandering through the snow dunes of Tribeca.
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