1919. Russia. The snow is cold, but the darkness is colder.
The “searchers” are in pursuit. A young woman sprints through the winter night, her boot sloshing on every step. She is wanted for questioning by the Communist government, at least that’s what the warrants will say. But she, just like everyone else in this world, knows exactly what it actually means.
A boat for America is just up ahead. She drops her lantern, leaving its glow to flicker behind her. She can’t reveal the secret location of the ship to the searchers, for if she does, their entire operation would be at risk.
She hears dogs barking in the distance. Even though her chest pains and her ears are frozen, she continued running as quickly as her body would let her. This young woman has to escape, she has to.
Finally, just around the bend, she sees the small river whose mouth leads to the ocean. She sees the small boat, no bigger than the smallest of tugboats, with six people already jam-packed in there. She made it.
“You, girl, what is your name?” the captain asks her.
“Ayn. Ayn Rand,” she says, panting.
The captain checks his list, and then nods. “Climb aboard.”
Ayn made it to the boat. She is safe from the searchers.
A new life awaits her. In America. The land of the free, the home of the brave, and just across that shining sea.
It is dazzling, even the thousandth time Ayn sees it. Looking at that display of massive skyscrapers, buildings stretching up into the heavens, each filled with thousands upon thousands of people, is an utter delight.
Only a truly magnificent world could hold such wonderful displays of progress, of power, of the beauty of an artist, working his magic into designs that would be on this Earth long after he passed into the ether.
It is the fourth year that Ayn Rand has lived in New York City, after her perilous expulsion from her homeland, and the journey out of war-torn Europe. America is different than the Old World; it has space, it has new ideas, it has opportunity.
She has established herself as a copywriter for a small advertising agency, writing the descriptions, requests, and practically anything else asked of her by the dozens of companies that employ her. Her English is far from proficient, but she makes up for it with her tenacity.
Out in this new world of hers, eating a sandwich as she walks down the streets of Manhattan, she wonders how such a world could even exist. Is it the magic of the ether, flowing through all beings, propelling such a universe of the future into existence? No. Indoor plumbing seems like something only a wizard could accomplish, but Ayn knows better.
It is the struggle of humanity.
Each individual human possesses all the knowledge of all his ancestors, wrapped up inside each particle of his being. If tapped, each human could reach their full potential. And that is what these great men are doing every day, even among all the rabble who are content to live their existences in mediocrity.
They are like the mythical titan Atlas, holding up the world with their power and preventing it from falling into chaos and disarray, like another wave of death like the one that took her parents’ life during the war.
At this moment, Ayn wonders: will she become determined to tap into the full potential within herself and become the best she can be? Will she become one of these great men, holding up the world on her shoulders?
The thought intimidates her. For the moment, she merely wants to finish her sandwich and then return to work to write a newspaper ad.
And then... she bumps into a man. She drops her papers all over the ground, and rushes to pick them up before the wind carries them off.
The man turns around and hurries to helps her. His hair is slicked back, dark blonde, and his face is pale like quartz. He looks unfriendly, but he is indeed helping her. “I am so sorry about this,” he says to her.
“No, it was my fault,” she says. “Thank you.”
“Then maybe I can accept your gratitude by inviting you to a lovely dinner this evening at my friend’s restaurant,” he says, extending his hand, covered in a black leather glove, and waiting for her to shake it.
“I would be honored, Mister...”
“It’s John,” he said. “John Galt.”
The nightlife in this modern New York is a strange experience. One night and a dinner, and Ayn is already in the bed of this mysterious John Galt. She is naked and she gazes out the window of the thirty-fifth-floor, overlooking the whole of Manhattan.
Tonight is not her first time experiencing the wonders of sex, but this is the first time that she has realized how little it means to her. Back in her homeland, in Mother Russia, this would be unthinkable.
A world without access to pleasures of love and human contact is not one Ayn wants to live in, though. This modern world is exactly what she wants in her life. From this moment on, she realizes that her homeland is no longer her home; New York is.
This man, next to her asleep in this too-large bed in this too-large apartment, was so kind to her, and yet seems to have been preoccupied with only one thing; her body. Did he actually care to help her with the intention of being kind, or was the end result all he desired?
John Galt... who is he? If Ayn could use some magical powers, contacting the ether and commanding it to probe this man’s mind, what would she find? What kind of person is he? What are his hopes, his dreams, the moments that stick in his brain he can no longer place?
While she is immensely curious, she decides it is not meant for her to know. It is his life to live, not hers, and there is no point in her trying to invade his privacy for the sake of knowledge.
It is better to simply lie here, wake up in the morning as the nightlife disappears and the cars begin rushing through the streets again, and return to work without a word. It will be for the best.
Will John Galt be angry? Is he one of these future great men, destined to hold up the world? Is Ayn making a big mistake by abandoning him so? She does not know. And she does not care.
Unless that wasn’t what she wanted at all.
You begin to realize that this story of Ayn Rand is not true, and that I have been making the story up entirely, based on a complete lack of knowledge of the woman known as Ayn Rand. I have never once read The Fountainhead, nor do I understand what Objectivism actually is.
Ayn doesn’t seem to care, though.
“I don’t,” she says to me.
Ayn happens upon Times Square, which, not yet the center for American capitalism that it will become, is still a busy sight in the middle of this day. Cars and carriages and people make for an endless expanse of bodies.
She’s just a copywriter, and just one human of millions in a city so large her ancestors could not have dreamed it in their sleep. What was there for her to accomplish beyond the life she had already made, except for to become a great person, bringing her life into the life of all? And most of all, what point in living her life was there if she wasn’t the woman she was supposed to be? Even if she had no idea what that was.
Even if that wasn’t what she wanted.
Ayn attempts to call a taxi cab over to her. She fails to make it to the front of the street and get anyone’s attention, and wonders if it’s better this way, if she is better off walking back home. I agree, though my propensity towards saving money by skimping on convenience is not a factor shared by all.
You may wonder why I write a story about Ayn Rand if I know nothing about her, and I cannot answer. It was as if I heard her calling out, running through the Siberian darkness all those years ago, hoping someone would save her.
And save her I did.
I don’t know what her philosophies are, and I don’t know if she did anything particularly nasty to anyone else. I don’t know if she ever met L Ron Hubbard, or if she died wondering what her life was all about. All I know is that this Ayn Rand is safe, living in New York in 1923.
She gives up on finding a taxi and begins to walk back towards the intersection. She looks at me in the eyes, her dull green eyes meeting mine, and nods slowly. “Thank you for saving me,” she says. “But I have decided I don’t want to become like one of those great men. I don’t want a life that can be dramatized into a film, or written about in an encyclopedia decades in the future. I just want to live my life the way I make it.”
And that is exactly what she will do. I let go of Ayn’s hand and she begins to wander off, walking back home through the bustling sidewalks of Times Square. She’s cut loose from history. Free to do what she pleases without the burden of what comes next.
Just before she disappears from the crowd and out of my sight, she turns once more in my direction and repeats, “Thank you.”
She is gone.
Author Bio: Thedude3445 is a writer based on the internet, known mostly for Homestuck fan fiction. Unfortunately.