But Not Forever


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Scene Title But Not Forever
Synopsis Dreamwalkers have nightmares, too.
Date January 1, 2011


Something happened here.

Shards of broken glass glitter in the low, flickering lamplight and create the illusion of a gold and silver kaleidoscope that changes direction with every step taken across warped hardwood floors streaked with a tacky black substance that looks like tar but isn't. The metallic taste in the air is sharp. What was once a bedroom, or a close approximation to it, has been torn apart and overturned in that order. The same fluid tracked across the floor and the old, faded Persian carpet at the foot of the four poster bed stains the quilt and rumpled pillows a dark rusty colour that contrasts with pale walls and white linens.

A pair of shoes small enough for a child are the only thing untouched and exactly where their owner left them. Jasmine knows because she can see the barefooted prints that lead out of the bedroom and into the darkened hall outside, visible through a door yawning open.

The family who used to live here was poor. What little art adorns the walls is as antiquated as the carpet, and includes a portrait of a gray horse with an impossibly long, narrow muzzle, coals for eyes and a silky mane of inky black that spills down a neck more wiry than it is muscular.

That its gaze follows the dreamwalker as she moves through her surroundings might be more disconcerting if any of this was real.

It is of course not.

As if in inspiration for the inky black sticking to carpets and floorboards, and the luxurious flow cresting along the horse's arcing neck and back, Jasmine has dressed for the occasion, head to toe. Black heels make gentle clicks on ground, avoiding glass, shins in shiny tights with a whisper of soft fabric, the hem of a skirt slicing along the thinnest point of her knees. A black crop jacket, hair gone midnight black and bound into a braid, and heavy makeup from a film noir give justice to mincing, creeping steps. A true film noir, because where red lips should be red, they're instead as black as an old movie.

Obviously she is inspecting some sort of murder scene. Or. Well. There's no body.

Recognition glimmers like a struggling flame in her blue eyes, catching the painted stare of the horse painting just outside the room before she decidedly turns her back on it, shoulders squaring. She bends at the waist to touch painted nails— bruisey grey— against where the white linens are clean of liquid rust, swallowing hard before drawing that touched away again.

She turns for the door, and drifts to it on feet that aren't quiet, thanks to the glittery glass littering the hardwood floor and her own choice of ambitious footwear.

She doesn't get as far as she might like before slender fingers are curling around the edge of a frame, but at least Jasmine won't have to look any further for the missing body. The corpse, skin gone to ash, steps into view on feet devoid of shoes, though they're a few sizes larger than would be appropriate for the abandoned pair: things of smart, dark brown leather with the laces undone. Glassy, opaque eyes of an indeterminable shade shift between Jasmine and the room around her, silence filled by the wet sound of the corpse's shallow breathing.

It was a she, when it was still alive. Blood acts as an adhesive, plastering matted hair to her face and the material of her nightgown to a narrow waist, gently flaring hips and curves of middle-aged thighs that have lost minimal muscle tone over the years and retained their feminine shape, but if there is any lingering doubt, it's banished by the swell of her left breast exposed by a long, jagged gash in the fabric.

She licks the pink from her teeth and fingers creak around the doorframe. Maybe she can't speak.

Mincing steps for the door halt with a certain abruptness that betrays fear. Jasmine goes still at the sight, hands curling into fists at her narrow sides and blue eyes flaring wide, and with a creak of floorboards beneath her highheels, she takes a step backwards, careful not to slip on blood and glass. To fall might mean a twisted ankle, torn tights, bloodied palms. "Oh, I didn't— call ahead— " is staggeringly apologetic as she sweeps her stare over the corpse-like apparition.

She breathes in, and the air only sucks in shallow, a little fluttery. Betrays a minor glance around, as if looking for a way out, one that isn't filled with the willowy woman and her mutilated flesh. There's a gladwrap sheen of dampness over her eyes, that frantic blinks aren't doing much to cure.

The corpse makes a noise at the back of its throat that sounds like recognition and is supported by the tilt of her brows and the almost predatory way she studies the features of Jasmine's face from beneath lashes that cast strange shadows across her pronounced cheekbones and the delicate slope of her jaw. The dreamwalker's apology apparently falls of deaf ears; footsteps carry the corpse forward, over the threshold and into the bedroom, and maybe death has stolen away feeling in addition to her voice because she seems not to notice the slivers of glass cutting into her feet as she moves.

Dead woman are supposed to float. Her movements are instead very heavy. "Where," she gravels out finally, continuing to close the distance that remains between her and Jasmine until she's a mere arm's length away. Decay has a very distinctive odor that isn't yet present. In dreamtime, things are still relatively fresh.

But blood has a scent, organic, metallic. It mingles with Jasmine's more delicate fragrance of night-time flowers and summer.

There's a nervous clutch of her hands at the hems of her own jacket under the dead woman's inspection, as if wishing to be dressed in something other than facetious femme fatale chic, or maybe just staying her hands. Grounding herself from either moving forward or retreating. "I don't understand— mm. No." A nervous glimmer of a strained smile, tension showing in her brow as she finally gives in and backs up the few steps it takes for her calves to hit the end of the bloodied bed. She sits on the white linens in an abrupt downward motion.

"No, no, you're not real. You can't be real." It sounds a little like I hope you're not real, but that those words don't actually occur has relevance too. If she's trying to make this place happier, then she's failing. Hokuto would laugh. And also laugh at the concept that Jasmine would not know if this being is real.

"They took him," says the corpse, as if that explains everything, and maybe to her it does. When Jasmine sits, it fails to compel her to stop; a cold hand seeks out the other woman's cheek instead and pushes dark hair away from Jasmine's brow instead, leaving a wet smear of concentrated ichor in its wake. Although the gesture starts out as something gentle, almost affectionate, it swiftly takes a violent turn as the corpse takes a fistful of that same hair between her fingers and twists it around, rough, before pulling back hard and baring Jasmine's throat.

Lips peel back around a bloodied snarl, and more of the stuff dribbles from the corner of the corpse's mouth, carving a path down her chin and neck where her own throat has already been slit. "Where's the boy?"

A rough yelp leaves Jasmine's throat, a hand flying back to cover the bony fist tangled in her hair, the other gripping cold-skinned arm with suddenly no trepidation about contact, belying the fearful stillness affectionate touch had inspired just a second ago. Her exposed throat works wordlessly, the soft scrape of heels against the ground in an attempt to gain leverage that doesn't come. Nor physical retaliation, not yet, for all that tension coils up her spine, the bend of one leg.

Her blue eyes focus more on the grin of a split throat than the face looming over her's, before she wrenches eye contact upwards. "S-safe," she stammers out. "He's safe. They took him but not forever." She forcibly loosens her own grip on the other woman's limbs, a kind of submission in the hopes it pays off. Glimmering wetness at the corners of her eyes threatens to ruin artfully applied mascara.

"You're lying."

The corpse's grip on Jasmine's hair winds tighter, and she'll feel fingernails bite into her scalp in retaliation. Warmth should be washing over her face when she leans in, but just as her hands are cold, so is the blood thickening in her veins. She can smell it on her breath, too; there's no telling how much found its way into her stomach and her lungs when the rest of it was pouring out onto the pillows, onto the quilt, onto the floor.

Jasmine's tears do not give her pause the same way her face initially did. The corpse is on the verge of weeping as well, if for entirely different reasons, and behind the fury that has her wrenching the other woman's head around by her hair, there's explosive anguish and fear that has her voice adopting a shaky quality that's all tremors. "I'll find you," the corpse hisses around a spray of stringy saliva. "I'll find all of you."

A squeaking sob accompanies the shut eyed flinch at renewed violence, pain and fear both, Jasmine's posture indicating she'd sooner curl up into a ball than fight back. A voiceless no is meant to be vocalised protest— I'm not lying— but it doesn't make it that far as to be coherent. Inky black strands stick to her brow, where there is beaded sweat as well as exchanged blood that smears with the delicate touch of an Ash Wednesday, while greasier tracks of running makeup mark the beginnings of raccoon eyes.

Breathing in once, Jasmine claims back some courage maybe around the words all of you, eyes snapping open clear and blue. Her leg bends, muscles coil beneath the shiny sheer fabric, and with a viciousness that matches the woman's treatment of her, a kick to the stomach comes scrabbly and with all the anger that victims can act on.

Once she's away, cold hands out of her hair, and scent of blood less pervasive, maybe she can steer things— think clearer—

Jasmine wrenches free, but there's still a bloodied clump of hair in the corpse's hand when she hits the floor, torn straight from the roots. The noise she— it's making is more animal than human, and there would be something almost feline about the way it writhes, arches its back and hooks glass claws for nails into the hem of the soiled quilt if its movements weren't so juddery and arrhythmic.

It pulls itself halfway up on the next shrill intake of gasping breath, and the fingers that had been tangled in Jasmine's hair, then the blankets, find her calf and sink in, producing a spasm of pain that knifes up the leg responsible for flooring her assailant, but before the corpse can drag her down and wrench her face open with the same sudden viciousness that its throat was split, heel connects with temple and its skull cracks against the bedframe with enough force to send it slumping all the way back to the floor.

The next breath that escapes its lungs is a gurgle, then nothing.

Which is as it should be.

There's a corresponding thump when Jasmine— more willingly— topples over the other side of the bed, putting furniture between her and her attacker, hands gripping white linen and huddling close against the cushioned side. Disheveled and now bleeding stripes of red down her legs, she remains frozen there for a few seconds before inching to peer over the edge towards the crumpled figure beyond. Softly keening, horrified breathing is open mouthed and damp sounding, and for several moments, that's all she does.

She lost a shoe, in the scuffle. It's resting on its side, between she and the dead woman, and her hand gravitates for it even as blue eyes remain locked on the corpse. "Oh," she breathes out, as she fits the shoe back on, blindly. "I'm sorry, I'm— "

But words are falling on deaf ears. Dead ears. She shuts up.

Squinching her smeared eyes shut, the world around her— body including— begins to crack and smoulder, as if all made from the same burning material of ply wood for all that no flames lick along the developing, singing crevices, ash coming up in the slightest of air shifts. Smoke billows up into a blue sky of consciousness until there's nothing left.

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