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Scene Title Buried
Synopsis Jasmine's nightmare becomes recurring.
Date January 13, 2011


She isn't a gardener. People who have come here before and stayed within the same walls have a better inclination towards making things grow — unusual types, ones you might not expect. Soldier-terrorists and prophets, boys to men. But Jasmine can at least harvest the fruits of the labour of others, and kneels in the dirt as her prying hands explore the green fans of lovage, the spikier spines of rosemary, bristled clingy mint leaves. For cooking, maybe, or medicinal uses as explored in books, or maybe just the scent. Mingled, gardeny scents cling to her palms already as she carefully divests bushes of their product, taking care not to strip them utterly.

It's summer, as it always is here. Sun glistens an extra sheen on the river to her left, found down the incline of land to the docks. Closer, to her right, the two tiered house with the front doors thrown wide open and, unusually, empty of people. Just for now. One could hear, if they listened heard enough, to the echoes of people been and gone.

She settles back to bind stalks of something green and light in colour with string, a twitch of her head to shift summery golden blonde out from her eyes. Its bound into a loose tail at the nape of her neck to trail down between her shoulderblades. Bare feet and a loose cotton dress that wraps over and ties off at the waist make for the kind of garb for when you don't expect company, although a long, silver knife of some design is rested next to her knee, and being used to slice through the plant life rather than gardening shears or scissors.

The wind carries with it the smell of fresh grass and flowers, and on the same breeze birds float across a perfect blue sky the colour of turquoise stones. They alight on the house's slanted roof and in the open windows, bathe in a bucket of water left on the front steps, spraying droplets of water like beaded diamonds.

It's summer, as it always is here, and everything is alive, except what isn't. Jasmine's hand brushes the earth at her knees from which the stalks grow, and her long, slender fingers dislodge a clump of dirt from its surface, exposing part of a lid that belongs to an old shoebox that's begun to fall apart, its cardboard make sodden, wet. Whoever buried it in the garden did not bury it deep enough; it's taken on so much water since the last time it rained that it's become soggy and saturated.

On the front stairs, a tall woman appears in white, all creamy skin and rippling red-gold hair. In her arms she carries a basket of laundry, and bare feet guide her around the side of the house to where the line is strung up between two skinny trees. There's a boy reading in their shade, a book propped open against his knees, legs bent.

The woman smiles at the boy. The boy at the woman.

Running the back of her hand across her forehead, leaving a smear of fertile black earth at her brow, Jasmine narrows her eyes down at the discovery lodged in the earth, hesitating it in the same still way a bird might over the suggestion of movement in the grasses. In gentle, careful clawing, she pushes dirt away, a twist to her mouth communicating distaste for this discovery in her herb garden, shuffling back on her knees a couple of inches. Still.

She isn't covering it up again. Movement out the corner of her eye has Jasmine starting and then hunching a little, almost hiding (albeit unsuccessfully) behind the herbs as she observes the lady and the boy with a startled widening of her eyes. There is a lucid paranoia, that maybe she opened her world up a little too far, but it's not the kind of nervousness that has her picking up her knife. Or even stopping what she was doing.

Fingers pry apart more damp clumps of earth, until she can ease the box up a little, trying to avoid it crumbling. The lid is nudged back with a thumb.

Decay seeps out of the box once opened, and inside a withered body in an advanced state of decomposition shows skinned stretched taut over delicate little ribs, long feet and comparatively tiny forearms curled in on themselves with claws for hands. It's a rabbit, or was. Its lips are pulled back over an impressive set of front teeth, and the lid of its eye rolled up to expose a shriveled socket where something soulful and black should be.

The child-sized bouquet of violets buried with the dead animal is tied with a pale purple ribbon with frayed edges. A beetle, fat and black, crawls out from beneath the rabbit's hindquarters, scrapes up the side of the box and exits out the gap between edge and lid, scurrying across the back of Jasmine's hand.

The small shriek that follows is inevitable and undignified, and it occurs around when the tickle-brush of bug life snakes across her knuckles, and with a shudder, Jasmine lets the box fall from her hands as she scuttles back, slapping insect away. It feels like bugs are tracking across every other inch of skin, however, the reek of long death mingling in with herbs and honest earth. The basket she'd been using to carry in tied bundles of herbs is tipped over with an accidental kick of her bare foot, upended upside down.

A 'hnnn' sort of whines out through mouth and nasal passages both, Jasmine eyeing the dropped box with great distaste at the prospect of having to put it back in the ground once again— deeper this time, with a shovel or at least adult hands doing the digging. Inching closer, she reaches with slightly shaky, jerky hands to right the lid back over the little, shriveled corpse.

Jasmine is about to place the lid on the box when it gives a jerky shudder, and the rabbit's back legs thump against the side. A moment later, its nose is poking out from beneath, and its head twists around, angling the hole where its eye should be at Jasmine through the gap its muzzle created. "You're not supposed to be here," says the rabbit, not in a rabbit's voice but one Jasmine will recognize. Claws curl like fingers around the edge of the box. Its mouth yawns wide open in toothy, yellowed accusation. "This isn't your place."

The woman with the red hair and the boy under the tree are oblivious to the exchange, and perhaps Jasmine's presence in the garden as well, or if they aren't then they don't take issue with it. He turns the page. She pinches a clothespin between her fingers and hangs up a pair of child's sheets with little green frogs on them to dry.

Enterprising hands go from try to place lid over box to suddenly scrabbling for the silver knife, holding it two handedly with its tip pointed at the apparition, handle level with her own belly. It's an assassin's blade, if to be described as any kind, with a demure hilt, and as long as it is slender, currently shiny with sunlight and plant oil.

"Well," Jasmine breathes out, once initial silent shock has passed, "you're meant to be buried. And dead." That last word is announced at a hiss, landing at the end of the sentence like a slab of concrete — flat and heavy. She drags her stare up towards the two other beings across the garden, the compulsion to go to them strong enough that she sneaks one leg out from under her to press sole against the grass, obscured in skirt save for where foot peeks out beneath the hem.

The rabbit pulls itself out of the box, front end first, followed by the back, spindly and emaciated. Brown fur tipped with gray, or maybe the other way around, is shed in clumps. It clicks its teeth together in what might be amusement, though no whispery laughter accompanies the sound, only a thin rasp as it attempts to draw breath.

If she runs, it will chase her. "Why are you here?" it demands, and does not seem to have the strength to draw itself up onto its hind legs. In crouches in the dirt, shivering. Claws flex. Scratch at the loose earth. The rabbit watches without watching anything at all.

Knife raises, hands reconfiguring for the best grip with which to bring it down, but the question brings her pause. "I live here," Jasmine says, again, voice barely above a breath. A few fine strands of corn blonde hair gets in the corner of her mouth but she doesn't spare a hand to shift it. "This is my home. You— why are you here? What do you want?" she asks, voice earnest. Because for all that the creature is horrible, she's reluctant to run. Reluctant to stab it to pieces.

Maybe it's the voice that keeps her frozen, for now, or the prospect of getting any of it on her, or the horror movie fear of that which you run from will only give chase. And then you lose. Giving into panic feels like it could consume her.

The sky is growing dark, pristine blue replaced by varying shades of gray that bleed into one another. Thunder rumbles in the distance, and Jasmine can feel the vibrations in the earth. Sunlight grows wan, a washed out silver instead of gold as clouds form where there were none before and the first droplets of rain gather in the rabbit's crooked whiskers and fur, Jasmine's hair. Like it made the effort to breathe, it tries to blink. Tries.

At the clothesline, the redheaded woman does not have time to pull the sheets down, only cover the remaining basket of laundry with her arms. She calls out to the boy — two lilting syllables that roll of her tongue with loving familiarity — who is as protective of his book as she is of her linens, and together they hurry back inside.

The front door slams shut.

"You know what I want. I told you I'd find you."


As preoccupied with the answer she gets as she is with the sight of the two other apparitions abandoning her to the garden, Jasmine acts swiftly. Blindly. The knife comes down to bury in damp earth and grass and, hopefully, decayed rabbit flesh and fur, and in the same motion, Jasmine is flowing to her feet. Get in out of the rain. Rosemary and lovage are trampled through, knife still clutched in hand and herb collection abandoned as she makes for the door.

Bare feet are numb against the quickly dampening ground. The coming rain flags cold wind against her shins, whips the tendrils of blonde hair.

The rabbit's shrill squeal is lost beneath the next rolling peal of thunder, not so far off anymore. Lightning paints the sky white for an instant and illuminates the house's windows and the face of the boy pressed up against the glass, his pale eyes wide and small mouth fogging up the pane. Hands smudge, squeak across the glass, but then it's dark again. Mud sticks to Jasmine's feet as she runs and spatters the hem of her dress, swallows toes, then slurps its way up to her ankles.

She trips and the hands are on her before she hits the ground. Dead skin without any pigment makes fingers look like the sticks of bone that they are. One takes her by the throat, the other a fistful of honey blonde hair twisted between gnarled knuckles and an antiquated wedding ring. Two more emerge from the soil and grab calf, thigh, their nails biting into her skin through the material of her dress.

Where is the boy! the storm is screaming. Give him back and live!

She only recognises that the knife has tumbled from her grip when she feels the earth unhindered beneath her palms, a small and near voiceless cry squeaking from her throat. Breathing hitches beneath the greasily damp, cold grip of the hand burst through the earth, and without really seeing, her hand sees the dropped weapon, curling compulsively around cold metal when her fingers seek out the handle in the grass. Clumsily, Jasmine directs the blade to the bony wrist in stabbing, cutting motions, free hand gripping the other. She struggles, legs tugging against the painful, clawing grips digging into her flesh.

Too horrified to cry, though her eyes go filmy in instinctive dampness. Stalled words form and don't yet come free, as constricted as breathing, and somehow, this other presence can talk through storms and memories.

The dead feel no pain. Jasmine's knife does little to convince them to relinquish their grasp on her, but they can take only so much punishment before they lose their ability to clutch and hold, fabric and hair slipping wet from their fingers. No blood flows because there is no blood left.

Rain falls heavier, harder, as though the other dreaming presence might drown her that way if corpses buried too shallow can't hold her head under the mud for the amount of time it takes to fill her nose and mouth. Her feet carry her up the front steps of the house, though the door will not open. On the other side, a female voice made tight with fear shouts, "Go away!" and Jasmine recognizes it, too. "Please, just leave! You'll lead them right to us!"

Jasmine more or less bounces herself bodily off the door, hand gripping onto the locked handle and the knuckles of her hand gripping knife impacting once on the wood and resting there as the voice within echoes out. The door's never been locked before. No one's ever kept her out before. Cotton clings to her legs, ponytail in a sad, dripping, rat's tail down her back. "Please don't leave me out here!" is bleated through the door before she can actually stop and think. "I…"

She squeezes her eyes shut, before turning to ruined garden and stormy skies. "Why me?" she demands, voice going shrill with both fear and a kind of heart break. "Why are you punishing me?"

Standing in the garden where the rabbit had been is a woman. Not the one on the other side of the door, softly weeping, but the dead thing in her torn nightgown soaked with blood, though the rainwater washes some of it away and has pink rivulets running down her bare legs. Glassy eyes, unfocused, stare across the distance between garden and home. Like the rabbit, the arms that had protruded from the earth are now gone, and she steps forward, feet squelching in the mud, which bubbles up cold between her naked toes.

There is nowhere left for Jasmine to run. The other presence knows it — although deliberate, there's a certain stiffness to her movements, slow and halting.

Stupid girl. You don't know what punishment is until you've had your baby torn from your arms.

Brief bravery collapses in favour of weighty fear, Jasmine's back hitting the shut door, narrow elbows jarring against it and hand on her useless knife going white and anemic. Rain rattles like pennies on the overhang above her, sheeting silver beyond it, and tentatively, she steps forward towards the cut-stone steps she'd practically flown up moments before.

"I can't help you," she says, firmness beneath the quaver her voice takes, tone thick. Attempt to talk, negotiate, her general response to conflict, only slightly undermined by the knife she grips near her thigh. As always. "But you— you should know I wish I could. You used to read to me. Words, and music." She glances back for the door, briefly, the sound of the woman beyond it almost magnetic, but she remains postured at the lip of the patio, just shy of the rain.

She takes a shallow breath, trying not to let what she really feels show on her face.

The woman stops.

No, says the sound of the wind in the leafy trees, whistling, I would remember you. And her eyes sharpen, pale mouth growing tight as her gaze finally focuses, studying the features of Jasmine's face, familiar or not. They rove across her jaw, nose, the shape her brows make and the gentle bow of her lips, but it's not until she settles on the blue of her eyes that Jasmine will hear her breath hitch and the thunder tremble.

She's telling the truth. The corpse woman's head turns, angled in such a way to suggest she can sense something that Jasmine can't. A hand is placed over her heart, the tips of her fingers curled in on themselves, and the next flash of lightning takes her away, leaving the dreamwalker alone in the pouring rain.

There's another no this time, but this one doesn't come pitched and panicky, or even with much of a voice. Bare feet carry Jasmine down the steps and into the rain and onto the mud, despite the threat of reaching creatures groping through the dirt. The knife is dropped with a ting against the flagstone, but after that, there's no direction to run. The garden is empty. She is, once more, alone, but not peacefully. Legs fold up beneath damp skirt, ducking herself into a crouch, arms tight around her knees. Feeling worry. Fear.

Shame. A squeeze of her eyes follows, and she wills for it to be summer again.

Sunlight warms her face, her hair, a solitary beam of yellow-gold that burns through the clouds and spills its glow over Jasmine's patch of earth to comfort her as the rain transforms into a fine, dewy mist.

She'll have to settle for an early spring.

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