3000 Miles


april_icon.gif calvin_icon.gif jasmine_icon.gif

Scene Title 3000 Miles
Synopsis Minds collide, but so to does the future with the present, when Calvin and Jasmine seek perspective from April Silver.
Date April 27, 2018

In dreaming

Calvin Sheridan has been walking for a long time.

At least, that's the impression he has should he try and cast his mind back to when he began. Beneath him, the desert ground is unyielding rock, loose sand shaken between the cracks. The sun is high in the sky. Up ahead, there are mountains, and they are blue with distance, destined never to come any closer, no matter how long he walks.

He doesn't feel thirst, save that the thought occurs to him that wherever he is going better have water available, cold and clean. Weariness, pain, hunger, all abstract. Most powerful is a sense of uncertainty that he is even headed in the right direction. That is, until, he catches sight of something in this world of flat yellow and endless blue, wind tossed, drifting several feet ahead of him.

It's a butterfly, weaving through the air, and as soon as he can make out the little glimmers of colour, of what it is, of its flower petal delicate nature in all this blasted rock and scorching sun, how unlikely that is, the innerworld shifts.

And he understands: this is a dream.

In that same moment, April Silver's innerworld likewise shifts. Her mind is lifted from the lagoon of passive dreams and into something brighter and sharper — memory.

She is walking already through the streets of the twice abandoned desert town. It is very quiet, but she can imagine that there was once a lot of noise, considering the empty casings that glitter in the sun, and the way one home has been reduced to a half-standing state of rubble. Forty years empty, repurposed again into shelter for civilians driven out of the cities, there are signs of life here and there — broken windows have tarp covering their empty sockets, where a parked truck, now empty and idle between two of the cheaply formed housing of some defunct mining company. There are still tire tracks in the dust.

There was a battle, here. And now there is no one.

And no bodies, either.

In Calvin's line of sight, the butterfly makes a wide arc, coming towards him, and then past him, over his shoulder, drawing attention to the sprawling desert town seemingly appeared just behind him. He sees April Silver up ahead, back turned, as she moves deeper into it.

Wont as he is to roam blasted landscapes, as a creature native to a more urban circle of hell, Calvin is ill-suited to desert wandering under a relentless sun. He’s a scruffy break in the flat of the horizon in his coat, indistinguishable at a distance from a wooden post wrapped round with old flood debris. Moulded by chaos, vaguely, naturally unsettling, and stopped still as death, save for the stir of his mane in a doldrum breeze.

There is a butterfly.

He narrows his eyes, blue sharp and shrill as the sky called into focus; his next breath is slower, and deeper.

He wasn’t breathing at all before.

The butterfly drifts wobbly over his shoulder, and he turns at his hip to follow its progress towards a town that might have at his back the entire time, if he’d only ever thought to look. One more breath taken to feel around his own bearings, and he falls the rest of the way into step to follow after April’s figure ahead.

“What’s it like having a proboscis?” he asks the butterfly.

Emptiness. Desolation. Constants, fundamentals, and yet there can be such nuance in how they are realized. Brassy glints speak to one flavor of loss, planters desiccated beyond all hope of vitality another, and the limp shape of a stuffed rabbit huddled on the roadside yet another still. April pauses to retrieve the forlorn toy, fingers brushing idly through dust-caked synthetic fur.

She can't even tell what color it was originally, the yellow powder lies that thick.

For all that April was not here when last the town had life — when it lost that life — she feels a twinge of failure at the sight of the toy, the torn seam on its leg, the wisps of fibrous fill poking out. Broken like the town around her is broken, crumbling beneath the unhindered aegis of sun and wind and sand. The town will probably never live again — the kind of place that found its true calling as a highway stop, only to fade away when the interstates were built, and by the time anyone bothers to resettle the desert nobody at all will care about this little speck of place and the history it used to have.

The rabbit gets tucked into her belt, for reasons April couldn't name if asked. Because. It's reason enough.

The wind tugs at her hair, teasing strands loose from its braid; it blows grit in her eyes, and April blinks against it, scrubbing particulates away with the less-dusty back of a hand. Tarp rattles in the wind, drawing attention: nothing actually there. Shaking her head, she turns to study the tire tracks, scanning out the distance into which they disappear.

There's nothing good to be found out that way. She doesn't need to see to know.

"That's a personal question."

Jasmine's voice rings clear as a bell, and the butterfly lands on her open palm, logic twisting like a continuity error as he sees her now, walking ahead of him by a few paces as if she had been all along. In all the broken concrete and dusty tattered edges, she doesn't wear the setting, save that her choice of flouncey white dress is a good one under the harsh sun, shoulder bearing, with a hem that drags but doesn't collect any of the loose earth she walks over. Her footprints are dainty, sharp heel and spade sole. Her half mask of white lace is more habit than an attempt to conceal, and she wears her hair loose, in long waves of raven black.

She gently closes her hands around the butterfly, slowing to let Calvin catch up as she casts her eyes to the slender figure of April up ahead. Taking a breath, she opens her hands, and the butterfly is sent once more, darting ahead of them.

As April studies the tracks, her eye line catches a distant sight. The thunderhead that rises into the sky looks like an island, stark and dense and grey in all the blue. It brings memory in a gust, shared by them all, where the stagnant desert air is suddenly pushed back in a storm-scented wind that makes the tarp in the windows rattle, that obscures the tire tracks with thrown dust, and makes the butterfly dance more frantically in the air.

Struggling against the tide. Whatever that portends is a mystery for Jasmine to know alone, but it seems to require her concentration.

Calvin sheds his coat with a shake of one arm as he prowls up on Jasmine’s six, tatty folds flopped loose with a fwumph that stirs the dust behind him but never hits the ground. The t-shirt he’s wearing beneath is grey, stamped in bold print:

A city built on Rock n’ Roll would be structurally unsound.

He’s the rag to Jasmine’s riches, taller, broader, scruffier — a gargoyle of a partner drawing abreast with his shemagh pulled up over his nose and his eyes slivered against the wind. It drags harsh through his hair, flags at his shirt and trousers all in a rush, blasts fine sand through the the laces of his boots.

The anvil of the storm ahead sees him opening his mouth and closing it again, wary uncertainty directed back aside to Jasmine. If April hadn’t survived this scenario, they wouldn’t be in her dreams.

Also one of the conditions of his being here is to not fuck things up when concentration is in progress.

The stormcloud billows high yet looms heavy, weighted ominously by the dark promise of torrential downpour, the furious lash of wind shaping its contours, the occasional glint of lightning cracking through its surface. It promises to be a storm of rare fury, the kind that wreaks utter havoc on anything brazen enough to stand in defiance.

The tracks lead into its shadow.

April follows.

There's rain, a wall of water where had been nothing before; for a moment, all that is, is water. A moment later, rain persists, heavy enough to make it difficult to discern details even twenty feet away. Red mud is carried in rivulets downslope, protrusions of black and gray and brown stone defining the channels it flows along. April kneels on a ridge, staring down the red-washed channel of a gully; a thin arch of silver overhead acts as umbrella for more than her alone, but no such consideration is taken concerning the rust-hued mud soaking into her pants, socks, shoes.

There are no tracks here; they'd left the road some six miles back.

"This was a terrible idea," is someone else's voice, all nuance of tone blotted out by rain's patter.

Six hundred feet below, where ridge fades into the next best thing to flatland, umbrella-like structures sprout from the earth like a patch of immense steel mushrooms. They could be some kind of modern art installation, the strangeness that passes for municipal sculpture, except… they're here.

"Yeah," April breathes out, never looking away from the rain-washed view below. "Change your mind?"

Rain falls like a continual volley of silver arrows. The butterfly, struggling its way forwards, vanishes with startling immediacy, as if the heavy wall of water obliterated its frail form. Next to Calvin, the sound Jasmine makes is one of dainty dismay — whether for the disappearance of her little avatar or the downpour is anyone's guess, until there is the sound of a flap, and she swings an umbrella up and over both of her head and Calvin's, all black bat wings and silver handle.

It may resemble a wolf's head.

Looking up at the dark clouds, Jasmine takes Calvin's hand. The gesture is one of mutual assurance — it transmits her worry and seeks comfort, but Calvin may also recognise it as a means of control.

Because they're walking into it too, whether they remember having started walking or not, following April to the edge of the ridge — strange apparitions, truly, tailing her through a strange landscape. Made stranger by the structures that Jasmine can't say is like anything. They are like electricity pylons, and like towers, and like art installations, but whatever they actually are is not something she has a name for. It doesn't feel like April does, either. The air is thick with the smell of storm, a feeling in the air like static electricity.

All three watch, then, as a thick finger of lightning suddenly streaks between sky and ground, some hundreds of feet out — it strikes sand, vanishes in a blink, the crack-kaboom of thunder vibrating through their bones. They watch as they see what it had struck, a small grey form now lying unmoving on the desert floor. A dog. No, a coyote. Despite the hundreds of feet of distance, the vivid memory-smell of damp, burned fur and flesh cuts through the ozone.

Limp desert birds decorate the blasted landscape. Lightning forks through the clouds above. Further off, it connects, sporadically, with the desert floor. The continual roll of thunder.

Jasmine reaches, carefully, curiously, for that voice. A delicate operation, bringing one memory into more vivid relief without completely destabilising this shared landscape of recollection.

Hand in hand, step for step, Calvin’s pulled deeper along into the storm, scruffy mane gone lank in the cloying whip of wet air around them, brow hooded down over the dim glow of his eyes. That he hasn’t said much says plenty — there’s a defensive breadth to his shoulders, and tension strapped behind the fingers he has bound through Jasmine’s.

He bristles against the lightning flash, a zithery sizzle and hiss as hot on his senses as the crack of thunder that splits after it.

The stink of flash-broiled coyote permeates the air, muddy water chewing away at the gully below. A squeeze through Cal’s wrist is signal of his intent to disengage — he twists away into the rain to have a closer look, circling in from behind like a wolf. Not to peer at the giant cybergoth fungi farm situation they’ve come upon, but to peer at April Silver.

Rainwater drills in through his hair and slaps at wet clothing, making a mess. He trails close around her, his back to the ridge, eyes narrowed to slivers in study of the state of her.

“…This is weird, right?” he calls back to Jasmine as if over a film roll, voice raised to carry through the thunder.

April won’t hear him. Probably. Hands out, fingers splayed to their surroundings, he steams in the rain, runoff blown harsh off the end of his nose to take the path of least resistance under his chin instead.

“This is not normal?”

April flinches from actinic flare; its glare washes out the silver field reflexively, instinctively raised between her and ground zero, but afterwards, it's the forcefield that remains. At least until she lets it fade for lack of obvious, actual hazard.

"Nah," comes belated answer, given once the reverberations of too-near strike fade from bruised ears. A man crouches not far from April, Latino by extraction, though with no trace of that heritage evident in his speech. He casts a cheeky grin her way, but she doesn't look to notice. "Cyrus would kill me if I ran off and you died. He really doesn't want the job back."

"He'd just shanghai Ted," is the woman's distracted reply. Narrowed eyes study the splotch at the earthbound end of the strike, visible mostly due to amber glints of flame struggling to catch hold in damp fur. As those hapless flickers gutter and yield to the rain, April shakes her head.

"Whatever these are, I don't like them. Let's go around."

Lightning flashes, bleaching everything white. No thunder sounds.

The world resolves the same, all red earth and weeping gray sky, yet: its contours are different. Flatter, for the most part, the ground's swells and ridges sited at greater remove. The scrubby mesquite and creosote and yucca scattered about are the same in type, but scarce; the landscape is if anything even more bare.

Only one thing breaks that pervasive monotony of earth and sky: a blocky building of concrete make, its profile low and squat, its perimeter encompassing a considerable swath of ground. The single jutting peak of a guard tower promises alert vigilance; orbs mounted on extremely tall steel poles illumine the surroundings, promising an expansive field of view for those watchers even at night… or under stormgloom.

"Last stop for you," says the man who shoves April forward from where she had stalled, staring stock-still at the facility ahead, her heart sinking to entirely new levels of despair. Chains linking wrist and ankle jingle as she struggles to keep from falling, as she reluctantly, inevitably plods on. "Nowhere left to run," he adds to her back.

The door opens, the darkness behind it seeming a cavernous maw, a void, one that threatens to swallow her down for all time.

"It's our normal."

Jasmine doesn't have to raise her voice to be heard. Likewise, Calvin can pick up on telegraphed nuance, which is that she's not entirely convinced by herself. Some dreams, in which a field of electricity and giant steel structures and dead coyotes and birds make strange sense, run wild with fantastical imagination.

Hers don't.

And then a flash, and the world shifts, and she can't stop it.

That sudden feeling of despair is shared; it sinks its hooks into both Jasmine and Calvin, seems to permeate the changed landscape with a shift in gravity. Out the corner of Calvin's eye, Jasmine slips out of visual range as the scope of his sights narrow on that yawning darkness, finding himself unable to look away, as with April. The door grows, or they are dragged closer to the abyss in a nauseating shift in perspective; April with chains on her wrists and ankles, prison uniform chafing the back of her neck, and Calvin disembodied, and Jasmine—


In the darkness, twin red glowing lights await them. A mechanical whirr fills the dimensions of the shared dreamscape. You can just make out the way those red lights reflect off the skull-like construct they inhabit, glowing out from sockets. Silver fangs beneath. A cat-like sleekness. It lurches, emerging from grey sand which slides out of its metal ribcage with an ongoing hiss, followed then by the beginning trick of an oily yellow smog that falls like dry ice.

Its sights set on April, who still feels manacles on her wrists, and her ankles, and a fresh dose of negation like vinegar in her veins.

Behind the hunter bot, those same sets of glowing red eyes begin to appear at a distance as more rise from the ground, clawing their way of the sand. Out of the rubble.

What’s normal for them is at odds with even the most ominous of desert monsoons. Prior to his escape into the past, Sheridan’d be hard pressed to cite any memory of a clear sky above ground, with the sun peeking through fluffy clouds or stars winking bright over desert darkness.

In this reality, he looks to Jasmine at her diagnosis, clear through the haze of rain and sand and — shadow. The world changes.

The wet in his beard grits into dust. The dust pulls him away into ethereal nothingness, even as he bristles tall against the of brass of April’s captor. Not enough to stay, on his own.

But he’s not here alone.

He resolves again out of obscurity, more movement than man — right hand thrust forward to wrench red eyes and silver fangs backwards skull over metal pelvis into the darkness from whence both came. Fuck subtlety, as the sand his boots are sunk into blends dark into powdered rust and pulverized glass, and lightning flashes to connect with a shattered skyscraper at his back.

His scarf is still bound up tight under his eyes; April’s chains twist, screech and snap, links broken off sharp, cuffs humming against her bones.

The guard’s still there.

Calvin leaves him to April, still dripping wet off his jutted chin, eyes cut back coyote bright for where he last saw Jasmine in the dark. Get a grip.

Lambent red in the darkness, and the gleam of chrome; menacing stalk, intent attention vicious in its promise. April shuffles back a step, reaches for a power that does not answer, that cannot answer. The guard behind her snags her elbow, grip tight to the edge of bruising — but before anything can be said past shock and stutter, before anything else can be done, the stalking robot is gone.

So are the tethers confining April.

The guard is half a breath too slow; she stomps her heel on his foot, yanks her arm free and drives that same elbow home into his midsection. He has a gun, until he doesn't, and April leaves him gasping in the dust —

— only it isn't dust, not anymore.

It's only now that her attention has turned outward, away from immediate hazards and constrictions, that April realizes the landscape has changed. Not the vast sweep of unknowable desert meets her eyes but a familiar skyline rendered foreign by damage and destruction. It may be the strangest environment she's ever run off into; the former agent doesn't let that slow her down, propelled as she is by the urgent drumbeat of away.

Glass chips chink and crackle under the rapid tread of bright orange step-ins, thin-soled, all but tractionless. The gun in April's hands is reflexively slid into a ready position, low, poised. She ducks down an alley, and again down a cross-street, putting distance and diversions between herself and the guard left behind.

Although she doesn't even remember the guard anymore, as orange morphs into denim with scarlet-spattered hems, into black that only seems pristine, into sneakers at least somewhat better-suited to the broken landscape underfoot. Things April wore once, long ago, running away from this very place — when New York City died to her, as broken on the inside as this wasteland appears on its surface.

The New York City that April traverses at a fast clip is both familiar and unfamiliar. The destruction is unfamiliar, battle worn, buildings crumbled or pock-marked with gunfire or blackened with fire. There is a strange sound in the air, like a constant mechanic hum, a groan, as distant and pervasive as thunder, a sound that is more bass vibration than anything else. Another, similar sound registers; smaller, closer, and she will twist a look upwards to see a shining spot light pierce through the darkness, chasing her footsteps.


A second crests over the broken edges of the buildings to her left, and she can't make anything out about them save their searching lights sweeping in thick bars of illumination across the streets, but she does know to run.

The landscape of the dream expands, and then contracts.

Calvin sees the orange jumpsuited figure of April Silver dart off like a jack rabbit into the dark seams of the city, and the guard turning to pursue her, and then simply vanishing as his memory-made-form collapses into obscurity. Calvin then hears her emerge again, in rugged denim and wielding a gun low, the dream catching her into a loop and depositing her on that same stretch of blasted landscape, and Calvin Sheridan, masked beneath the eyes with a characteristic shock of ginger hair made duller in the low light, turning to look at her at the sounds of her sneakers striking broken concrete and glass.

Slipping into her vision, there is movement. Wobbly, improbable, like a ticket caught in a windstorm, a butterfly. It's the most colourful thing in her immediate vicinity, and as soon as April's eyes lock on it, a sense of peace is shoved upon her, and a simple understanding, a possibility opening to her like a flower: none of this is real.

Thunder rolls, lightning flashes.

In the distance, the city horizon is obscured in fog and cloud. A low, bellowing horn of some kind reverberates across the sky in time for both of them to see distant lights in all the haze, like a series of windows in otherwise dark buildings, vaguely blue. Except, then, they move — not smoothly, but with a certain lumbering soll of some immense figure between the city structures. Around it, fog and cloud seem to shift as it moves through them.

Calvin has seen this before. April thinks: it reminds her of something.

Ap—ril!” April is leaving.

April has left.

The robot drops and twists on itself like a half-stomped rat, spitting sparks. The guard April dropped vanishes like the memory he is, and Calvin stays put to shift into a quickchange of his own: t-shirt given over to a long, sweeping black coat and a high-turned collar with a two-fisted snap at his lapels — sanity anchored in dry clothing that was fine, once.

But no amount of awareness is like to save the hairs on the back of his arms prickling at the familiar hum of machinery in his bones, fight or flight tension coiled hot in his gut. It takes effort, not to give into either instinct. His breath fogs quicker through the screen of his shemagh.

April has arrived.

Sheridan zeroes in on the sound of her return, eyes searing a little dizzy with the effort involved in keeping tabs. Normally he’s better at this.

Normally the dreams he’s packed off into don’t strike quite this close to home.

As is, he looks upon April with absolute, unshielded suspicion. No shh, we’re just dreaming. No it’s fine. For once in his life, he says nothing at all. There’s an immense figure lumbering through the city behind her, over her, all around them both, its mass obscured by the lash of lightning white through an apocalyptic haze that only the tallest buildings scrape through.

Jasmine’s here somewhere, he knows, as a butterfly before him or a bag of glass behind him. Watching, listening, pulling levers. He’s still staring at April, stock still nose to toes.

“…What did you see?”

There's a familiarity to being hunted, even if the hunters are different; lights overhead, agents on the ground, the end result is the same: April runs. In dream, it makes a natural kind of sense for the running to stretch on, the familiar-foreign landscape to fold upon itself — a metaphor for the years she spent trying to survive in places that all blurred one into the next. Fitting too, that at the same time it's New York everywhere she looks: that city, its memory, dogged her heels for longer still.

The butterfly does not fit.

Colorful, delicate, haphazard in its flight, the winged insect stands out like proverbial sore thumb. It stops her in her tracks, heels grinding glass down one step nearer to dust, the gun rising reflexively and then falling back down as the futility of that reflex is recognized. What use to shoot a butterfly?

Especially in a dream. For she recognizes, now, that she is dreaming… recognizes the architect of this experience, and from that can infer the need that drives it.

The horn that sounds out over the city draws her attention; the silhouette lumbering through the fog holds it, draws forth a frisson of remembered fear. Calvin's voice has her glance over her shoulder, taking in his motionless coat-shrouded form for the first time tonight.

"Lightning," she says as another actinic flash splits the sky overhead. "Too much of it. Bodies, headless, abandoned in the dust." Red bleeds into the cityscape, painting the buildings in rust; their profiles crumble and melt under renewed downpour, leaving behind a rugged ridge that curves around and defines the horizon, blocky buildings forming low in its shadow. "A warehouse of — I don't even know. Some kind of machines."

"Nothing good," is the eminently obvious conclusion as the gun fades from her hands, far more dangerous silver light threading between them instead.

The Mojave Desert opens around them like a picture book, and the incessant droning of colossal machinery dims and disperses beneath the white noise effect of heavy rain on rock as April speaks. The butterfly hovering between where she and Calvin square off seems to maintain itself, and then drifts away, somehow avoiding each arrow of rain by impossible chance. It moves towards those distant buildings as if it intends to flap all the way there, purpose in its wind-caught leaf path.

Jasmine is standing in its path, watching that horizon, a more familiar figure to April's eye in clothes suited for the desert, and for these deserts in particular with a rifle slung across her back.

Lightning cracks, from ground to sky, sending white illumination over the landscape, and over the grey blocks of buildings on the horizon. As it lights up the sky, something visible gains clarity. Lights, mainly, blinking through the rainy haze, a halo some fifty feet high. A tower, with a top-heavy crown, a disc, just visible when lightning strikes in a flicker.

And then the tower moves, a slow progression past the compound. There's a low, earth thump of something powerfully heavy making gentle but inevitable contact with the desert floor, heard from here, felt from here. And another.

And another.

Lightning strikes, sending a fine cloud of dust and smoke into the air, close enough to taste on the wind, and Jasmine flinches backwards.

“Well the headless bodies are new.”

The rain batters around Calvin in miraculous defiance of all physical odds, finding no purchase in the wool of his coat or the crest of his gingery ruff. He’s finished with being stormed on, thank you.

“Do you reckon this is what proctologists feel like when they find something?” he asks of Benji, voice raised to carry through the weather, hazy as the halo of light lurching in the distance.

He’s not quite sure what to think, never having looked away from April, eyes bright in the rain, smudged round with darker kohl. This isn’t just a proctologist finding something. This is a proctologist expecting more of the usual shit and finding an homage to something artisanally terrible and impossibly familiar.

Lightning cracks, gravel hisses, and the stink of ozone bites acrid at the back of his flinching sinuses.

He’s forced to look away from her — out over the compound, and the machine, and the shapes of Benji and her butterfly between here and there.

“We’re going to need help.”

Bracketed between Calvin and Jasmine now, April disregards the question pitched past her, sets aside the intensity of his stare, the cautionary prickle of her skin, in favor of watching the ambulatory tower in its progress. Her hands curl thoughtlessly into fists, pale luminescence winking out.

Lightning crashes down spectacularly close like the wrath of some demigod, or the ambition of one would would be so — severe, savage, overwhelming. The simultaneous crash of thunder leaves her ears ringing, but this is a dream; she still hears.

"Yeah," April breathes out in agreement, still staring towards the lumbering machine.

"Help sounds like a really good idea."

Jasmine's focus is intently forward, butterfly wandering closer and closer until it lands on her sleeve. Carefully, she cages her hand around it and brings it in, cupped between her palms. She can feel it, or imagine it into feeling, as a delicate tickle as it flutters within the confines of her hold. If Calvin's question required an answer, she doesn't have one.

She doesn't know how she feels.

That steady reverberation of great weight landing on solid ground continues. Grows louder, even if nothing visibly approaches. The integrity of the dream seems to tremor each time, perspective distorting until the hazy outlines of distant compound feels like an out of focus image pressed into their eyes. Blinking past it has the broken New York skyline forming in the haze, and a mechanical roar fills all three shared senses, a bright light rising.

In her hands, Jasmine crushes the butterfly, and a slash of white lightning breaks through the muddled darkness. A vision of burning fur, of white teeth, a coyote alone in the blasted desert and climbing to its feet.

The hammering of thunderous footsteps replaced by adrenaline heart beats, the pulse of blood, and in the Bronx, more ordinary rain, muffled, sleeting down brick.

On the other side of the country, April is delivered back down into the passive waters of her dreaming mind. When she eventually wakes up, it's a new day.

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