delia2_icon.gif s_hokuto2_icon.gif

Scene Title Grasshopper
Synopsis Hokuto tries to give a damaged Delia a lesson in forgiveness for her own peace of mind.
Date January 4, 2014

In Dreams

The landscape is a monochrome of nothingness. Clouds cover turns everything visible a the shade of grey that threatens a downpour at any moment. Pale cracked mud underfoot looks as though it's been starving for any amount of wetness for quite some time. Naked trees, turned to charcoal by fire long ago, twist their branches to the heavens begging for the rapture. They long for absolution from sin and the hell they're forced to suffer through now.

In the distance, a single ray of light pierces the overcast skies, sending a beam down to a point in the dirt. Moving closer, a single wilted daisy grows hunched and anemic in the middle of the spotlight. She struggles through drought and famine, and even though the sunlight does nothing but highlight everything wrong in her little world, it does provide warmth.

Delia's been like this for days, not pulling up her roots to roam or run, just existing. Outside of this place, war rages, killing so many people that she's known and loved. So many that now she simply waits for her turn.

A splash of bright red lays among the sun-cracked ground, amid the skeletal corpses of fire-blackened bodies. Carnation red, vibrant and crisp. A woman in a gauzy linen dress, one pale leg bent where it pokes out from the flowing dress’ long side slit. Bare feet blackened by the ground. Her arms are folded over her head, chin upturned, black hair spreading out below her head like a halo of inky snakes.

“You’re parched,” a familiar voice like one from a long-forgotten dream echoes at the back of Delia’s mind, echoes from the porcelain woman laying in the ashen debris. The blindfold of black cloth covering her eyes is familiar. Everything about this is familiar. The black mandala tattoo in the center of her chest, where the neckline of her dress plunges down in a sharp V is familiar.

Dee-lee-a,” the red woman sings. Hokuto. The name comes flooding back.


She knows but she still does nothing. In an instant the daisy is replaced with the redhead’s prone body. She lies on her back, face still up to the solitary beam of sunlight with her eyes closed. “I can’t do anything,” she says quietly, wallowing in a landscape of self pity and helplessness. “Dad was right, I shouldn’t have joined the fighting. I should have just stayed at home.” But where is home exactly.

For the past few days, Delia’s home has been here. A place where no one can get her and no one can hurt her. She doesn’t even know whose mind she’s occupying at the moment, all she knows is that without her there, it’s as dead as she feels. “So many people died, Hokuto,” her voice is a whisper but in this space it’s as loud as a scream. “I tried to help and then I killed more… and I can’t do anything.”

A crack of lightning strikes one of the charred trees nearby, sending a rumble through the ground that vibrates everything. It is both angry and ineffective at the same time, and the hurt that it causes the dreamwalker is only visible from the expression on her face.

“I wouldn’t know what that feels like,” Hokuto says in deadpan sarcasm, moving to drape one arm over her midsection and offer her other hand out to Delia. “You do what you have to do, to protect the people you care about. If you’re looking for someone who will chastise you with subjective morality, you know I’m not that person.”

Hokuto pauses, turning to regard Delia with a blindfolded stare. “Your father is.” There’s judgment behind that, though, and the obvious tone isn’t let to sit by itself. “Benjamin Ryans is a good man, but he’s also a murderer. He wouldn’t call it that, but justifications and moral relativism don’t change the indelible facts. He has killed, because it was necessary. To him. In that moment it happened.”

Hokuto turns her porcelain face to the sun again. “You are your father’s daughter, and you share in the same pain he does.”

Delia opens her eyes but doesn’t get up from her resting position. Maybe if she lies here long enough the wind will sweep enough dirt over her to bury her corpse. “They died because I was trying to be a hero, trying to find someone I should have stayed far away from.” Her eyebrow knit together in worry as she stares up at the sun peeking through that one pinpoint in the clouds.

“Dad — “ she stops and glances away from the pinpoint and Hokuto above her. “Lucille— everyone but me can do something to help. All I can do is dream. What kind of a lame ability…”

That’s where it drops off. Hokuto is like her, and Hokuto is feared, dangerous.

“Teach me how,” she blurts out suddenly, “teach me how to kill people in their dreams.”

“I can't.” Hokuto explains, voice both encouragingly close and distant all at the same time. “I can only teach someone how to do something they don't already know.” The latter piece is more disconcerting than the earlier one. Shifting into inky strands of milky darkness, Hokuto reforms when she reaches the lightning-struck tree. Her legs are curled around one branch, seated higher in the tree like a perched cartoon bird, the long trail of her red dress blowing in unreal winds.

Her blindfolded eyes assess Delia, wordlessly and piercingly. When she finally speaks again, it's with a sense of authority. “You’ve always been able to, you just never had the will to. That's what it's about, Delia. The will.”

Delia just stares at Hokuto, frowning. “I haven’t,” the obstinate retort she gives predicates the slow movement to stand. Her movements are jerky and awkward, as though she has too many joints. She folds up to a stand, each bend sounding out a loud click like lego snapping into place. When she’s finally pieced together again, in whatever Delia’s normal is, she pushes off the ground, flying up to the branch that Hokuto is perched on.

“I have the will now, I just…” her eyebrows knit together tightly, forming a crease between them. Then, instead of a tree, Hokuto and Delia are perched on a tall crane overlooking New York City. The skeleton of a building beside them is warped and misshapen, like it’s been superheated and then cooled too suddenly. It’s something that will likely never be finished. The other buildings around them are a mishmash of mirrored windows, some blue, some pink, some green. All of them reflect the seated pair as they view the busy city below them.

People are fighting, killing each other, and from this height they are all ants. Looking down, Delia angles her bare foot to hide an entire block. Explosions rock this world but the two dreamwalkers are unaffected, their crane the most stable thing in Midtown.

“Don’t know if you should.” Hokuto finishes Delia’s sentence, whether it was what she intended or not. There’s a message to be had in that. “It changes you,” she offers in a hushed voice; red cloth fluttering in the ephemeral wind that whips across the crane. “It changed me,” she adds, with emphasis.

“Taking a life can’t be undone,” Hokuto’s blindfolded stare looks out over the ruins of New York, the place of her own death and rebirth, the place where both halves of her were realized. “Even when it can. The scar it leaves on you is forever,” and when she angles her face back toward Delia, her ink black brows furrow intensely. “They stay with you.” It’s a warning, one that comes with a porcelain hand laid atop one of Delia’s. A squeeze. Understand.

“The lives they take can’t be undone and they’re more valuable to me and leave bigger scars.” Delia places her free hand over Hokuto’s and meets the expression with one of her own, except the furrow of her brow is determination instead of worry or warning. She wrinkles her nose in disgust at the fighting below them, knowing it’s just a manifested truth, things that play out in her mind over and over.

“I just don’t know how.”

She cants her head in Hokuto’s direction again, her chin lifted stubbornly and body stiff with perfect posture. It’s easier in dreams than reality, where responsibilities and guilt weigh on her shoulders causing her back to stoop more often these days than not. “I know how to bring them back when they’re trapped in their dreams, I just don’t know how to lock them in. I want to know how to lock someone in a dream so even when they’re awake, they can’t get out.”

The crane is a bridge, what was once the Queensboro, its broken span now laying in ruin just past Roosevelt Island. Delia and Hokuto sit on the railing, looking down on the island that was once Hokuto’s home. She reaches out, porcelain hand on Delia’s again. “Dreams aren’t places of their own,” she explains patiently. “A mind isn’t an individual.” With her inky hair blowing in the wind, Hokuto looks back to the island, blindfold still shadowing her eyes.

“If you enter someone’s mind, and they die… it isn’t…” Hokuto can’t quite put it into words. “What you’re feeling, right now, this tempest.” The hand raises, moves to Delia’s collar just below her throat. “You are scattering them, because you are a prism. Your mind is a prism, and they are light filtered through it. But you can’t…” she looks away, still unable to quantify it.

“I’ve killed.” Hokuto knows that Delia is aware of this. “But they’re not gone.” Looking back, she hopes this sinks in. “The mind is light. We’re prisms, and when we scatter, it… becomes hard to separate what was us, from what was them.” Dark brows crease together, and Hokuto’s hand moves to her student’s shoulder. “You don’t want that.”

“I want to make them suffer as much as I do,” She doesn’t shake Hokuto’s hand away, she furrows her eyebrows a little and presses her lips together in a thin line. “I want to make them suffer as much as they’ve made the people they kill suffer.”

Then the two of them are away from the crane and standing in front of a tree. Swinging from its branches by her neck is a middle aged woman in a floral print dress. “Heller did this,” she says in a tone seething with hatred. “He wouldn’t let them cut her down, she was an example… because she wasn’t useful to him anymore.” Then the dreamwalker snaps her fingers and they are in the middle of a riot.

“They started this…” Delia growls, “I want to help finish it, Hokuto, no matter what.”

Everyone in the riot dies in an explosion of atomic fire. Rolling waves of light and heat, dust and rubble blow past and around Delia and Hokuto harmlessly. Smoke, fire, screams, sirens, all erupt from the aftermath. An incandescent mushroom cloud chokes upward from the horizon. The front window of Ichihara Booksellers is blown out, glass in the street.

“Don’t.” Hokuto warns, looking back to Delia. “Don’t.

Run in the shadows

Dim light filters in through high and narrow windows from a basement that both Hokuto and Delia transition into. Seated in a rocking chair, a dark-haired woman has her face hidden in her hands, legs curled up to her chest and shoulders trembling from the shuddering sobs she breathes out. It feels just as real as any other dream, the emotions of loss and grief that come flooding with it. Loss not only of a loved one, but of hope and sanity behind the stress fractures put forth in an already troubled mind.

Damn your love, damn your lies…

A familiar song plays on a record player on the table in the basement nearby, her father's favorite song. Hokuto’s, not Delia’s, and yet the boundary between the two of them is thinner than ever here. The young woman’s neck muscles tighten, and as Hokuto Ichihara drags her palms down her face, she leaves streaks of black makeup in their wake. Tears wet her cheeks, and reddened, puffy eyes do little to hide her emotional break. Across from her, standing up in the dark of the basement, a full body mirror shows her reflection in the chair.

Break the silence

But when she stares at her own reflection, it is not as she sees herself, but a scowling and angered depiction of her own deceptively youthful face. Golden irises stare back at her, and the figure in the mirror moves of its own accord, rising up to stand tall and approach the glass, bare feet scuffing on the floor as she rests a palm flat against the other side of the glass. Hokuto's brown eyes go wide as she watches the vivid hallucination, knowing full well what that kind of vivid hallucination means for her own fragile psyche.

Damn the dark, damn the light

"You have to move on…" The voice in the mirror states flatly, her golden eyes staring Hokuto down through the reflective pane of glass. "Grieve, let them go, and move on…" Hokuto's breath hitches in the back of her throat as she hears that voice, and she rises up from her chair, tears streaming down her face as a strangled and emotional scream rises up in the back of her throat, fingers balled into a fist as she lashes out and punches the mirror with bare knuckles, shattering the glass and fracturing the reflection into several different shards of the same woman. Blood wells up from cuts in her knuckles, and she exhales a pained scream— more from emotional rather than physical trauma— and collapses to her knees in front of the mirror, choking out a ragged sob.

And if you don't love me now

In the reflection of the broken mirror, one gold eyed woman stares down in different reflections, watching Hokuto curl up into the fetal position on the floor of the basement, pounding one hand against the concrete, dark eyes wrenched shut and a ragged wail croak out from the back of her throat. Whimpering, pleading noises croak out from behind her lips, and she paws with one bloodied hand up at the mirror, breaking down into sobs once more.

You will never love me again…

Her fingers leave red streaks on the glass, and where her hand touched one of the larger fractures, her reflection closes her eyes, and draws up a piece of black cloth to bind her eyes, while the remaining fragments in the mirror take steps back and away, receding into the reflected shadows of the basement, disappearing save for their yellow irises burning like hot forged metal in the dark.

I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain.

The Hokuto beside Delia moves her porcelain hand to the redhead’s shoulder. “It is like aikido. You will be the attacker, and they will be passive. You will shatter, regardless of the force you exert” she warns, “and they will win.” The blindfolded dreamwalker squeezes Delia’s shoulder again, firmly.

“Do not become me.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Delia says as their surroundings begin to circle and then speed up to a blur around them. The scene shifts and when it stops they are back in the wasteland, standing on the dry and cracking soil. Delia’s eyes seem to flare a brighter blue as her anger consumes whatever feeling of pity she might have for those fighting ants that were once below their feet.

The ground rumbles from underneath them and the earth breaks. Large shards of glass, mirrors, rise from the ground like tombstones. Each one carries the image of a soldier, like clips from a movie on an endless loop. These soldiers climb from trenches and out from behind cover, they wear their Mitchell badges proudly and when they raise their guns… it loops back. Delia glares at each one of them and Hokuto can feel the rage that’s building, she can see it in the storm clouds swirling and whirling overhead in a slow circle.

“I am not you,” Delia iterates as she turns toward the first mirror, “I won’t ever be sorry for this.”

And the mirror shatters.

Sending millions of fragments into the air, into Delia’s skin, and into the ground.

Lowering her head, glass blowing through her inky hair, Hokuto takes on a solemn pose. Arms wrap around herself, lips downturn into a frown, and the last words Delia hears her say are as much a warning as they are a confirmation. “No,” she whispers, “you are exactly like me.”

And the red-clad dream walker dissipates like smoke on the wind, blown into the ether to leave Delia alone in the nightmare of her own making. Not a prison, not a trap, just distance over time. Delia can feel Hokuto’s presence untether from her mind, retreat to somewhere else — somewhere safer.

But the warning remains.

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