Crass Menagerie, Part I


delia2_icon.gif dema_icon.gif s_logan_icon.gif tania_icon.gif

Scene Title Crass Menagerie, Part I
Synopsis The Eltingville night thrums with restless slumber as two oneiromancers begin a trek across the local dreamscape.
Date April 7, 2011

In Dreams

The stone floor of the kitchen hasn't been washed in months, and its as if an ecosystem apart has formed here in the meantime. White-blotched onion peels cluster together for protection like desert-stranded nomads under the cabinet skirts. Something that might once have been cheese holds moldy court over a congregation of stale crumbs and staler crusts. The broom took care of the largest of the wildlife, but the vegetation will get you on your hands and knees, scrubbing like a scullery maid or a scurvy sailor - whichever you prefer - with a brush and a pale of suds.

Whatever Viennese asshole said that dreams are always wish fulfillment couldn't possibly have known about Delia's dream tonight.

As she scrapes the second corner clean of some black gunk that smells faintly of liquorish but looks like death itself, Delia finds her brush coming up with flecks not of filth but of what looks like spackle. Has one of the stains developed sentience? Have they begun construction? But no, it appears that the mortar around one of the floor stones has softened and crumbled under the ferocity of Delia's brush. A small piece has worn away entirely, in fact, and Delia can see the faint off-white color of paper down there, and the dark tip of some written letter.

Perhaps it was the fact that she'd been watching all the old classic love stories with Tania tonight. Huddled together in her bed, they shared popcorn while Catherine alternately rejected and loved Heathcliff. Then fell asleep with a tear stained face as the duo destroyed each others' life. To love someone is a burden that the dreamwalker has almost washed her hands of, instead she finds herself bent over on a floor, washing it instead. The hard wire brush is swept in an arc over the flagstones to clean away more of the mortar.

Her eyes widen at the sight of the mortar coming up. At first, she makes the attempt to piece it back together and hide what she's done. However, as luck would have it, the mortar simply crumbles to unusable flecks that don't even stay in a cohesive lump. Rather than waste her time, she clears more and more of it away, revealing the paper and furrowing her eyebrows at it.

"Tania," she calls through the open door to the front of the house where a gilded harp stands. "Tania, can you come here for a moment?" The summons isn't just from room to room but from mind to mind.

The young girl peeks into the kitchen at the call, looking things over before she slips obediently into the room. "Is something the matter, Miss Deliya?" Tania asks in her crisp, Russian accent. She comes over to crouch near Delia, looking at the woman with a hint of curiosity.

Pulling up more of the mortar, Delia loosens enough to take the entire stone up and lay it to the side. Once the entire letter is revealed she sweeps her hand over it to clean off some small remaining particles of mortar and dust. Only then does she carefully peel it up and stare down at it, the confusion marked all over her face is plain indication that she doesn't understand what she can't seem to read.

She isn't lacking for humility when she holds the letter up to the girl with both hands. "Can you read this? It doesn't make any sense to me at all." She pauses for a little while before adding the afterthought of, "please?"

Tania tilts her head to peer at the letter. "It is addressed to Azerbaijan. This is… just near to Caspian Sea? The address is in Baku." The girl leans in to peer at the letter closer when Delia holds it up for her. She reads over it once before she reads it out in English, translating as faithfully as she can manage.

Tania speaks, but what emerges from her mouth are not simply words. As she speaks the location of the place, the place itself spills out from her mouth, a winding of words that blows over the walls, pulls up and rearranges the floor into a road, lifts telephone poles into the air, and thrusts long piers of crumbling concrete and rusting steel out into the dark expanse of the sea, its oily smell wafting up to them with the breeze off the coast.

The Caspian Sea, both Delia and Tania know, at once. For this is where they are, precisely where Tania said. Before them rises the tired facade of a brick building with a single reinforced door with a eye-line slat and blacked out windows. A peeling red number marks this as their destination.

The fine paper of letter in Delia's fingers has turned glossy. A glance reveals that its appearance has changed entirely. The address remains, printed in white letters, but hooked over it is a suggestively posed woman in clothing that leaves no room for imagination. Further Cyrillic marks the page, as Tania can discern:

'The Easy Mare' - Film, Live Entertainment, Exotic Girls, Special Services. Admit One.

Admit one and both of them without a trenchcoat to hide Tania under. Then again, from the look of the place, the dreamwalker couldn't subject the girl to it without guilt.. or fear of retribution from her brother, second scariest Russian man that Delia's ever laid eyes on.

Turning to the younger redhead, she takes her hand and leads her out toward the piers. "You should go home now… It's not safe for you here," aside from the fact that they're in a red light district but Delia's more worried about their host. "If I don't wake up, look for the bogeyman. Dema. Remember that name." A small kiss is planted on the girl's forehead before she pulls back, not out of arms reach though. The handprint left on her arm from their walk the other morning is gripped again, this time as Delia leans the younger girl out over the water. "Go home, and wake up. Remember what I said."

"The boogeyman? Miss Deliya, I do not think you should be alone here," Tania is just saying as she glances around the area they've found themselves in. Trench coat indeed.

"I can remember, but please wake up, alright? It would not be okay without you there!" She's fairly insistent. You know, for Tania. Which is to say, she's timid about it, as she tries to urge Delia to take care.

"Just remember," Delia says before letting go of Tania's arm, letting her fall to what could be certain death. If all of this were real it could be. "Goodbye Tania.." The words flow from the dreamwalker's mouth just as she hits the freezing water, jolting the girl awake next to the prone and quite comatose body of her housemate.

Turning back toward the brick building, she waits in the drizzle from the comfort of the cold across the street. Gathering her courage. Though time is meaningless here, the sky grows dim and she doesn't move until she's the only thing lit up on the street by the streetlamps. The building looks so warm and inviting and the sundress she wears isn't much use for keeping warm. The misty rain has dampened the cloth until it sticks to her legs, her bare feet turned color long ago.

Slowly, she pats her way across the street with the ticket in hand. Without Tania there, the script doesn't make any sense anymore and all she can do is trust that it says what she was told. She curls her hand into a fist and raps sharply on the metal door.

When Delia lets go, Tania takes in a breath, looking up at Delia with genuine fear in those eyes no matter if it is a dream. But the girl does nothing so dramatic as screaming, she just lets herself hit the water.

Better to keep vigil over the dreamwalker.

Moments after Delia's knock, the slat on the door snaps open and beady, watery blue eyes peer out from the slit, across to the dreamwalker's curl-framed face. They linger there for a bit, pale brows lifting out of sight in what might be surprise, might be skepticism, then slide down to the glossy page in her hand. Four fingers appear beneath those eyes, tapping three time. "Daite mne, chto," he says, in a tone that sounds like an imperative, and the jabs on of those finger down to indicate the admission slip, "Speshite!" sounding distinctly impatient.

The language has her thrown and scrambling to remember the little bits of Russian that she's learned. "G'day," it sounds a little more like a feeble Crocodile Dundee than it does anything out of From Russia With Love. "Vanya Coomnata?" Delia's lips stay parted and one side curls up into a small smile that (coupled with the arch of her eyebrows) looks more skittish and worried than anything.

"Privette," please. Where is the bathroom… please. Seeing down the dreamwalker just happened to leave her Russian translation book in her other sundress, it'll just have to do.

"Idiot," is cognate enough to require little translation, especially when coupled with the roll of the eyes behind the door, "this," he manages in accented English, "eh- bilet? Bah! Yebat? yee , ne govorya uzhe," sounds like giving up, and it seems the doorkeeper has. "You wait," he instructs, clear enough, and he starts to slide the slat back into place before- "net oruzhiya - no gun, no knife, OK?" Because Delia looks so dangerous.

The slat closes shut, and the sound of metal squealing against metal heralds the opening of the door. It swings inwards, and the first thing Delia sees is the submachine gun slung over the doorman's arm, after which she sees the doorman's impatient face. He's got a jowly, boxer dog look, a nose ruddy from what is probably habitual heavy drinking. He seems sober enough now, and maybe not too happy about it. Delia is scanned once more, then he steps aside to let her in. The hallway beyond has peeling wallpaper and a darkly stained red carpet. The air that leaks out stinks of cigarettes.

The streets felt cleaner against her feet than the red carpet does but Delia doesn't complain, besides the point that there's really no one to complain to. What would she say, 'clean up your filthy mind'? Eyeballing the doorman, she steps forward into the establishment, craning her head to stare at him until she's certain he's not going to machine gun her in the back. It would be unfortunate.

The smell of the cigarette causes her to breathe in just a little more deeply, as if searching for some other scent that might be mingled into it. Gripping the ticket between both of her hands, she pushes forward, crinkling the slick piece of paper at the outer edges in nervousness.

Something foul pervades this whole place, a stickiness on the soles of Delia's feet, the staleness of the air, the humidity making this Azerbaijani summer hot and thick even indoors. If there is air conditioning, its being saved for other rooms, or it simply cannot fill the interior of the Easy Mare. Delia spots more than one place where smeared circles of plaster both cover and commemorate bullet holes. This is not a happy place.

At the end of the hallway - impossibly long and seeming to press in at points, the walls nearly brushing Delia's shoulders - she finds a broad desk with a fan slowly swiveling back and forth, making a high pitched squeak, oddly human sounding, as it reaches the limits of each oscillation. The wave wind it kicks up does little to disturb the great fuschia architecture of the hair resting atop the woman behind the desk. Brightly painted over skin that has begun to visible sag, this woman has made up her face in futile defiance of time and the misery it brings. She smokes a long, thin cigarillo, holding the coal out of the way of the fan's airstream as it passes, avoiding any tobacco waste.

The gaudy woman's eyes, red rimmed and blue-green, find Delia. She exhales a roll of smoke that she then sucks back through her nostrils, before puffing it all back out in twin jets. "New girl?" she says - beyond this door, it seems, the dream handles translation for her; that or this woman rather conveniently knows English. She glances down at the slip in Delia's hands, and her pencil-lead thin brows lift. "Here," she points at it with a talon that makes the shade of her hair, "give it to me," the talons beckon.

A trembling hand holds the ticket out toward the woman, Delia moving only close enough to allow the talons to snatch it up. With nothing to keep them occupied, the dreamwalker laces her fingers together and hold them demurely in front of her. "I was invited," she begins in explanation, perhaps denying that she is one of the new girls. The explanation falls flat though, she doesn't know why or for what purpose she is here.

The sticky humidity of the establishment doesn't allow for her cotton dress to dry any. The curls of smoke that drift toward her are absorbed into the fabric, making it more uncomfortable to wear. "What sort of place is this?" The question is posed in such a manner that would suggest that the young woman is either too naive to guess or doesn't want to know the truth.

The ticket is snatched out of Delia's quivering hands, and promptly turned, the woman peering at something that is apparently written on the back of the page. She holds it closer, then farther away, closer with squinting, farther away with squinting, middle distance with and without squinting, and finally - after making a sour face - pulls a pair of reading glasses out of a drawer and sets them on her nose. She looks up at Delia at once, smirks, and then reaches under the desk, depressing a button. A faint buzz can be heard in the distance.

"This place?" the woman finally replies, breaking a quiet that had begun to stretch after the buzzer, offering Delia a lurid half-smile, half-sneer, "a candy store."

A door opens to the left - Delia isn't sure if she saw that door before, can't really be sure of any of the architecture when she isn't looking at in. Out of this new, dark aperture steps a giant of a man, a familiar presence. Dema stands, somehow simultaneously drab and imposing in track suit pants and an extra large once-white 'wifebeater' that strains against his barrel chested enormity. He regards Delia with a calm recognition before turning to the fuchsia haired woman.

"This one has an appointment. See she doesn't disappear around the wrong corner on the way?" she says, pushing the well handled slip over towards Dema. The big man takes it up and dips his head respectfully. "Da, Madame." He turns to Delia and rolls a shoulder, indicating she should follow as he steps through the door and begin to ascend a dark flight of steps.

There's a quirk to Delia's eyebrows as she regards the exchange between the dream manipulator and the madame. Confused as to what his purpose here is if not to dominate the dreaming mind with his own desires and wishes rather than play what looks to be a lowly servant to the painted lady. The redhead lifts her chin in a rather regal manner and straightens whatever surprise may have been on her face into a neutral or nonplussed expression. A hand is swept over her garment, at once blurring the lines of reality and the dreaming mind by making it as pristine as if it had just come off the clothesline.

"Where am I?" she questions the giant Russian in a haughty tone that sounds borrowed from the woman behind the desk. Despite her misgivings about following him up through the darkened stairwell, curiosity gets the better of her. Straightening her posture, she puts on a false bravado only given away by a tight fist clenching a bit of cloth at the side of her dress.

Apparently Dema does not have to bend his knee to every shade of russethead that gives him orders. The big man pauses on the steep, ill-lit stairway, turning to look over his shoulder at Delia with lofted brows. Really? She's going to use that tone of voice on him?

He doesn't protest further. Instead he continues to ascend the stairway, taking step by step with plodding deliberateness. His voice, basso deep, carries back to Delia even though his face is pointed towards the stairs before him. "A dream of a memory. Also memory of a dream. Both. No difference," he states, off-handedly, as if it doesn't really matter, both the distinction and the place itself, "I asked you here. I saw you in passing. You are close to me- this new place, Eltingville?" another glance back at Delia, "you live here also?"

The younger dreamwalker halts in step, the black of the stairwell not as frightening to her as the man in front of her. No matter what the tone she used on him before, he's much more terrifying to her than the darkness. "Y-you're in— " Pale as a ghost, she lays a hand out to steady herself against a wall that quite possibly hasn't been cleaned in ages. Were this real instead of imaginary, she would likely require gloves and an entire tub of antibacterial wipes. Maybe bleach. "— in Eltingville?"

Blue eyes so wide and crazed with fear, they should belong to a wild animal rather than a human. "Where are you taking me? Tania knows your name.. she'll look for you if I don't wake up." She's legal now, is the other argument but it goes unvoiced.

"I do no understand," Dema says, dryly, pausing in his ascent moments after Delia does, "why you fear. I gave you over to your lover when he came, with all the rest. I have only tried to help you. So what you fear- it is not what I have done to you." He jerks his head back, indicating the upwards slope behind him. "Come. I will not do you harm, I promise. But if we are neighbors, we must come to- eh- an understanding, you see? You will walk in the same dreams I do, and there may be others out there, maybe stronger, maybe weaker- we don't know. But all the more likely to be here, in this place."

The big man begins to scale the steps again, the climb seeming interminable. Nevertheless Dema states: "We are almost there."

"He's n-not my lover," Delia stutters, looking toward the wall before quickly removing her hand. She holds it up, as though she's just touched something unseemly, and twists her lips into an unhappy frown. "He's not my lover," she reiterates, in case he didn't hear the first time. "He used to be my boyfriend but I— " She stops herself and looks down at her feet, taking the initiative to climb more steps until she comes up right behind the large man.

"You know what I did," she murmurs as she looks past him. "You were the one that took me from there."

The hand is wiped off on her dress, leaving nothing but an invisible smudge of whatever lived on the black paint. Her bare feet make barely a sound as she creeps up the stairs after the large Russian. Any noise that might come from her is masked by his weight against the groaning staircase. Handy. "You'll tell me where not to go then?"

Not her lover, okay. Got it. "Lyubov' zla, polyubish i kozla," Dema offers, tone halfway between sympathetic and sardonic, "dreams are behind the backs of everyone but us. They have freedom, dream without responsibility," he shrugs, "so we learn.

"And I do not tell you. We tell each other," Dema says, clearing yet another landing, "you are rash and you are taught badly, but you are not a bad person. If dreams are to be safe in this place, maybe we will have to keep it safe, you understand?" A glance back at this, always a sign of significance. "Some things. I need to show you. So- this is an offer. I can teach you, but also I am asking for your help. I think you want to help me, too."

Up above one more flight of stairs Delia can see a single door set in the wall: a sturdy thing of oak, gilt with red and gold and bound in strong black iron that contrasts with the Byzantine carvings that decorate its surface. Dema climbs the stairs, hand heavy on the banister as he reaches out with the other to places a hand on the door handle. "We will be protecting people who are close to you."

He pushes down and draws the door open. "Customers first," Dema says, with more than a hint of wryness.

Light of pink and gold, smoke and the scent it carries all poke fingers through the opening of door that widens with Dema's tug. The incense is strong, enough to make one light headed should they stand in the thick of it for a very long time — it's a mix of crushed flowers and herbs, and the smokey heat of their burning, along with more artificial perfumes and the sweeter edge of a drug that is weak in its sharing. Music, too, but almost too soft to actually pick out any melody, just random notes of a string or the plunk of a piano key, occasionally a little off beat and out of tune.

The room is elaborately round, a prism, and the ceiling is unusual, and a little strange to see — it's a mirror, and the clinging smokey scent in the air doesn't seem to smudge it or hinder its quality. It's almost vertigo inducing, to see crystal clear reflection of one self hanging from the ceiling. The ground is a rich red carpet, with a throw rug of black and white zebra stripes in the vague shape of the animal itself, skinned and spread. The walls are covered in wallpaper that could have been stolen from old Victorian decades in affect, despite the vaguely Middle Eastern touches in colour choice, tapestries, gilt gold and accessories like an ornamental hookah placed on heavy oak furniture.

Hanging from the mirror ceiling by a chain, a birdcage of gold, the avian creature inside preening its feathers.

There are multiple doorways set into the walls of the round room, though they have no doors — gauzy chiffon curtains them off from the main room, some closed and offering only shadows beyond, or drawn open and guarded by a presence. Women in various states of undress, and various kinds — from leather shorts drawn right up into her crotch and lacy tights stretched over firm calves, to harem choices of concealing silk and sequins, exotic makeup and masks.

"Protect them from the memor— " Delia's words are cut off as she squints her eyes against the brightness of the room, "— ies?" She inhales deeply, trying to identify the scent as she ventures in a few steps. The redhead turns around fully, just fast enough to cause a flare in her white dress, a sharp contrast to the outfits worn by the women tucked behind or guarding their curtains.

Suddenly, the dreamwalker isn't so full of the hubris she displayed at the foot of the stairwell. A tint of rose that matches the light darkens her pale cheeks and she lowers her head to allow her hair to mask her features. The grand decorations of the room are missed by the young woman, if only to avoid eye contact with its inhabitants. Stepping into its center, she risks a quick glance at one of the ladies and offers only a ghost of a shy smile.

Then her attention goes back to the door as she waits for Dema to join her in the room. "Where am I?" The question is reposed, this time in a frightened whisper. "Is this Amadeus?"

"I do not know who Amadeus is," Dema states, for the record. He reaches out to catch Delia's shoulder, two fingers doing the work that another's hand might, "Wait. This is the dream of a man who lives very nearby. Maybe the same house. But it is like the place we left," he frowns, glancing up at the reflective ceiling, then down, scanning the shapely bodies that drift back and forth, "it is dressed well, but it is the same place, seen another way."

Dema applies light pressure to tuuurn Delia around to face him, catching her eyes with a serious look - and a hint of the instructive. Is this going to be yet another lecture? "This is what you must know," oh here it comes, "what I have told you - a thing is not a thing in a dream, it is a thought, yes? And thoughts they are always also memories, also emotions, also madness, imagination- all these things. This place is the same place we left, because we took a door, but it is not how I see that place, it is how he sees it," Dema points through one of the gauzy gateways, "the dreamer."

And there, behind a thin sheen of fabric, is the clouded aspect of a sharply dressed man, the lines of his suit clear even through the obfuscation, his hand pressed to the top of a cane which leans away from the lines of his legs at a jaunty angle.

Dema taps Delia's shoulder. "We are not here to disturb him. We will play along. We are only here for this," he lifts his other hand to point and the gilded cage, "so, we dress the part. We are simple workers," Dema glances down at himself, and the instant he does, he is no longer in his bratva ensemble, but rather some equally drab sweat pants and sweat shirt, both a bit stained. He's smaller, too, and looks careworn. The details of his features grow indistinct; Dema no longer, he's masked as a dream figment, resolution only as clear as the dreamer's attention demands.

Dema looks to Delia, clearly expecting her to follow suit, before moving towards the bird on its prison perch.

The man behind the curtain, paid no attention to, doesn't seem inclined to pay attention to them in turn, but the women that guard various mouths of the brothel's corridors pay avid, catlike attention to the two that move through this space. But it's not suspicion, simply interest, before slowly, activity as normal grinds back into motion. A woman leans up against the doorframe as if bored, inspects her nails, while another— the one in leather and lace, all bleached blonde hair and sharp edges— sends a wide, feline smile to Dema — mocking and flirtatious all in one.

A man like him could never afford her. But she looks then to Delia, suddenly sharply focused, and sends a glance for the door where the lanky, masculine figure is lingering obscured.

"For the bird?" Delia questions, her eyebrows knitting together in a tight vee. Unlike the Russian bear, she doesn't feel the need to change her ensemble; sundress and bare feet fitting quite well to the surroundings in her own mind. Only as obedient so far as their goal, she follows Dema toward the cage, folding her hands behind her back as she treads lightly toward the avian creature.

Her gaze is caught by the hand on the top of the cane and she pauses for a moment. Long enough to catch the tilt of the woman's head toward his door. The subterfuge tugs at the young redhead's curious nature and she takes one step further, trying to discern just who is behind the curtain.

"I know him?" she asks, turning back toward Dema. "How do I know if a mind is dangerous if I can't even tell who it is?" After all, she didn't open the doorway to this place. Another quick look is sent toward the man's curtain, then back to Dema as though she's caught between following her own method of stomping through a playground rather than cultivating the dream.

There is always a chance that the master of the house is watching.  The veiled are not blind.  The figment Dema wears dips its hazy head respectfully while the older dreamwalker continues his conversation. The scorn of the woman - being no woman at all - is disregarded.

"If you tread lightly, are not seen, it does not matter how strong they are.  They will let you in and out with the flow of the dreams.  Things are not things, girl.  Here…" Dema reaches out to catch on the bottom of the cage, lifting it up off its hook. He looks to Delia, lowering the cage so as to let her more easily peer in. "Tell me, what bird is this?" the creature inside is a bird, most definitely, and some kind well suited for such an extravagant setting. It is exotic, certainly, brightly colored perhaps? But there is no specificity to the creature. It has the same half-made appearance of the figment Dema wears.

"Watch-" Dema bids, and turns to face the figure behind the veil, "sir, good evening. May I ask, what kind of bird is this fine and doubtless priceless creature?" his words uncoil with a fabulist's fluidity - it sounds not at all like Dema himself - "Also, as you seem a man of aesthetics, may I ask what - to you - a caged bird symbolizes?"

The silhouette shifts to turn to the veil, having had his back to the room before, cane coming up. The head of it breaks from the length as something from within is extracted, long and slender, and by the time the sharp end is tugging aside the chiffon, tearing it, its status as a mean looking sword is clear to view. John Logan, despite his surroundings and the fine cut of his suit, could be having better days than he is now. Three-piece suit is just black with different textures, and there's a welling of blood making the black cotton of his shirt shiny where it's visible around waistcoat. A cut to lip, as if he'd been struck some few days ago, and bloodied bandages wrap around the knuckles of his right hand.

His eyes are a bright green, the same colour of cheap jade, only with a light behind it, glowing like a cat in the dark. "Do you like it?" he asks, his accent downgraded to its more natural south London drawl as opposed to the refine he can add to it on a whim. "Does it int'rest you?" The fall of his footsteps are heavy as he moves farther into the room.

Texture glimmers unnaturally, too, a flaw to the theme. In the shine of silk or bloodied cotton, the gleam of his irises and silver of the wolf-headed sword-cane, streams of data seem to reflect vaguely, ghostly green, crawling past reflective surfaces his form has to offer. "I like to look at things," is his blunt agreement as for aesthetics, "but symbols— " He turns his attention from Dema to the bird in the cage, watching it preen is indistinct feathers. Scarlet, violet, acid green colours that seem to fade and shed with each go over of his fine beak. Whiteness is leaking through the colours, and the bird itself begins to grow — expand and expand until it is uncomfortably filling the cage that does not shape itself to accommodate, even as its neck lengthens and is forced to curl.

Silver and gold line the tips of pure white feathers, but otherwise, the white swan is what it is, cramped, confined, but not necessarily unhappy about its predicament. The cage is heavier in Dema's hands, and Logan's hand goes out to hook a finger around a golden bar, but not in protest — just to brush his knuckle against soft white feathers. "Don't let it out," he cautions. "It might go away, if it had any say in the matter. Migration instincts, you know. If you're going to be in love with any thing, best keep the door closed."

She peers inside the cage almost sticking her nose within reach of its sharp beak. "The bird?" Delia's eyebrows twitch a little as she reaches one long finger in, teasing the winged creature. "Bird is bird, like fish is fish." It's a bit too literal unless you understand the context of the storybook she stole the last bit from. By this time, her companion has turned to address their host.

Logan's appearance earns a sharp intake of air from the redhead and she peers at him through slightly narrowed eyes. There's no malice in the stare, at least not for him. Rather her blue eyes flit between his injuries before they settle on the glow of green he presents them with. Turning her head, she regards Dema and purses her lips together. "He's hurt," it might be a little rude not to address the man himself and in this realization, she offers him an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, you've been hurt… I don't like to see you hurt." Something he knows all too well in waking hours.

Aesthetics, symbols, the colorful bird that's really a white swan, this fish is not a fish. "Door closed? But— you— Oh! …oh" Her lips remain pursed in the shape of a small 'o' as her eyebrows curve upward at the inner edges as if to convey oh you poor thing. Pity might be something he doesn't want but it's something he just might be getting from the younger dreamwalker. "It would come back, if you love it, it'll always come back."

The sharp bark of laughter is a break from character even if Dema were playing himself. It's a very, very grim sound, and the light in this place seems to dim in sympathy, just for an instant. "Everyone is hurt," Dema says, leaving the unsaid an implication that gives the air the momentary taste of rust - and who hurt him? who has he hurt? who will they hurt in turn?

But he's here for a bird, not a seminar on the origin if human cruelty. His arms sink, compensating for the cage's new weight, the grand and miserable magnificence of the caged creature. Dema doesn't seem particularly sympathetic to anyone in this scene, be it Logan or the caged bird. The bird, after all, is not a bird, and no one should be blamed for what they do in dreams. Blame enough to be accrued while waking.

"Leave him," Dema instructs, plodding back from whence they came, towards the oaken door ajar, "we have other eyes to see through."

Green eyes flit their gaze to Delia and settle there, dull recognition that doesn't offer Logan context — he is not lucid, in this dreaming. If he were lucid, he might have dressed better. "But by then," he responds, a little roughly, "it's too late."

His finger slides off the golden bar by the time Dema is backing up and headed for the door, and Logan hesitates, before fitting sword back into its polished wooden sheath, and he winds some sinuous steps back. As if in subconscious reassurance— because how could Logan exist without such kind of masturbatory self-congratulatory defense mechanism beneath the surface— two of the women at the doorways break off to tend to him, one winding arms around his shoulders in the same way Tania had in his dream, the other taking his free hand in a strangely platonic clasp, mindful of his injuries.

"Be good," he implores of Dema and Delia both, before he's turning his attention to the women summoned to his sides.

"Goodbye Mister Logan and don't worry, I will." Delia imparts this to the man's back as he walks away from the two of them. Her lips are tilted downward only at the edges and her shoulders sagged just a little as she watches him leave. When she focuses her attention back on Dema, the light gets a little brighter again. The thing that depresses her and makes her unhappy is out of sight and therefore out of mind, at least to the surface.

Taking a breath that swells her chest, she lets it out very slowly in a whoosh through her lips and she follows toward the door. "Where are we going next?" Especially with the bird, it seems a little wrong to the younger dreamwalker to take it and there's a guilty expression on her face when she glances back to the man being fawned over by the two women. To aid this, she stoops a little and grips the hem of her dress, ripping the lace off the bottom edge.

It's not the scratch of a dreamwalking cat in the dirty mind of a dog but it's a marker. She reaches up and ties it like a ribbon to a sconce next to the door. A trade, a piece of herself for a piece of him.

It is only with effort that Dema schools his disapproval of this exchange into indifference. He has to watch his temper, he has spent too much time alone and it has sapped his self control. The elder dreamwalker leaves nothing, but he leaves with something. The captured swan shifts with discomfort and wounded dignity as Dema opens the door and steps back out into the shaft of darkness beyond. The stairs slope down before them, but there is a door right at the end of this flight. Why they had to climb so high, why the return trip is so much shorter, questions that likely have dream logic answers, wasted upon waking minds.

"Catch a film," Dema replies, which is cryptic, thanks, "I wonder, you tell me as we walk, what does a bird in a cage mean to you?" This question, recurring, is directed at Delia now as they descend, the darkness of the stairs casting shadows over the white plumage of the swan and dimming the brilliance of the gilded cage.

Trailing her fingers down the wall as she treads lightly down the stairs, Delia grimaces at the explanation of where they're about to go. "I've never thought about it," she answers honestly, "but this one is sad. The cage is too small, it's unhappy." The young redhead laments for the caged bird, raising her hand to pet at its hooked neck through the bars. "It should be set free.

"I suppose it's a little like slavery in a way. Forcing something to stay confined in a place unsuited to them." Swans, after all, should be swimming in a pond. Not squished into a cage meant for a parrot. "What does it mean to you?" Her question, reversed on the elder dreamwalker, isn't expecting an answer as much as acknowledgement.

"Many things are slavery," Dema says, with a flat judgment he seems to wield regularly, "many things made slaves. There are many kinds of chains." He presses his hand to the doorknob and pushes into the same cigarette stinking space they left, but news smells have been added to air - the iron tang of blood, the bitterness of cordite. The fuchsia haired woman lies slumped in her chair, riddled with bullets.

None of this seems to perturb Dema, who doesn't even glance at the limp form of the brothel madame. He makes his way towards another door that has appeared off the recently ravaged room. "When I was a boy, the schools told me all the rest of the world were slaves. That our land was the free land. At first I believed them. Then I did not. Then I believed the rest of the world was free," he draws this next door open, "now I do not."

What does a caged bird mean to him? He hasn't said, but a glance shows that, in the space between the stairway and the blood-stinking bordello, the cage has become a framed oil painting, its colors dark and drab, depicting a mustard yellow bird perched in a small tin cage, resting in a single bar of dusty sunlight in a dark room.

Unlike Dema, the bloodbath deeply affects Delia. As though forgetting all of his previous lessons about etiquette and staying on the fringe of a dream rather than using her ability to shape it to her own whims, she waves her hands flat across in front of her. As though never there the bullets suck themselves out of the wall, plaster falling upward and filling in the new holes as blood and gore slip through the air back into the body of the bright haired woman.

She's breathing so heavily that if she were awake, she'd be in danger of hyperventilating. "How can you just walk through this?! It's horrible!" The echo of her yell through the room at the older man is full of anger, so much so that the redhead is trembling. The fuchsia haired woman does not rise back to a seated position though, she still lays in a heap over the desk, the last bit of her burning cigarillo dying out with a fizzle of dim ember.

She's seen worse things, things she couldn't change because the dreaming mind was just too mired in depression. This mind isn't like that, it seems to simply accept such tings as a fact of life. "I don't like this anymore. I want to leave."

Dema turns slowly to face Delia, eyes scanning to examine the changes she's wrought. He sniffs the air. Even the scent of blood is gone. "These are dreams. Nightmares too. Bad memories. This has already happened," he snaps his fingers, and the limp shape in the seat snaps up like a marionette on strings. She removes the finished smoke from her lips and crushes it out on the desk before sweeping aside carelessly. Her bored sneer shows little appreciation for the life that's been returned to her.

"It always will." Out of nowhere, three large men with pistols step out of the hallway, point their weapons at the woman. She stares, dumbstruck, jaw sagging as the men fire round after round into her, then turn and disappear. The scene is returned to just as it was before Delia changed it. Resilient.

Dema dips his head to the once-more-corpse. "This is not her. This is only me. Something I saw. Something I dream. If you cannot bare to see these things, why go into the dreams of others? In this place? You will find much of this."

Squeezing her eyes shut, Delia cringes and covers her ears with her hands. Maybe her screams are only given to block out the sound of the gunfire, forcing her to breathe through her mouth and inadvertently muting the stench of gunpowder and blood. The redhead keeps screaming for seconds after the violence is over, stopping only when the men disappear. She stays where she is, turned with her back to the woman, her shoulders hunched and body curled in on itself.

When the hands finally come from her ears, she gives Dema a fearful glance and rushes toward the door, pulling it open and jumping to wherever it leads. He was right, she is reckless, possibly as reckless as her father but in a different way. Where he rushes toward violence, she runs away from it.

The smell of blood doesn't follow her. The room Delia sprints into is low lit and large, though the ceiling seems oppressively low. Chairs are scattered in loose lines, all pointing towards a white projector screen that stands on its metal tripod, its white surface torn a little at the edge. It's complimentary twin, a tripod-supported camera, sits on the other side of the room, casting a constant light that catches pale motes in its spreading wedge. No image there. There is no audience, no projectionist, no film.

It's the same place, though. The Easy Mare in another aspect, as Delia can tell from the carpet and the heat and the sense of stagnancy and regret that seems to suffuse the very air.

Dema closes the door behind him as he follows Delia, big hand holding the frame of the picture with the remarkable delicacy it is capable of. He moves to the wall opposite the door, casting a momentary eclipse on the screen as his bulk intersects the projector's beam. He reaches up with his thumb and presses it against a single nail, driven at an angle into the wall, checking its hold. It's firm. The big Russian begins to hang the picture.

"And you do not have nightmares, then?" he asks, rhetorically, "you make your own dreams pleasant, always?"

"I— " The question gives her pause and she lowers her head, a surly grimace covering her features. "I had one the other night." Without being told, she slides toward the chairs and chooses one, dusting imaginary debris from it before taking a seat. Who knows who did what while watching you know in it. "But I didn't invite anyone in," she adds in her own defense. What she doesn't admit is when she is having her own nightmares, she usually partakes of them in someone else's mind. Torturing them instead of herself.

"It was one of the memories that don't belong," she says quietly, lacing her fingers together and tucking them between her bare knees. "The ones Hokuto asked me about, she said that they're memories that don't belong here. A lot of people have been having them."

"My mind is my house," Dema intones, "There are many rooms in it. I cannot pretend some are not there, just because I wish to close the door. I will walk through every room. Every room is part of me. I cannot control myself if I do not know myself. What I do not know can control me. And we are all slaves to ourselves." Cheerful fellow.

He steps back, examining the picture as it stands on the wall. It's image is obscured in the shade of the hanging alcove, but he doesn't seem to be bothered by this. He turns back to face Delia, perched upon the chair. "I have felt these. I didn't approach, but-" Dema pauses, "we became distracted. And I-" another pause, "I behave like a stern father, but you are not a child-" he may think she acts like one but… "and I invited you for a reason. Eh-"

Dema sometimes can't quite find the words. He can think in English and Russian, both quite clearly if more nimbly in his native tongue. But what's thought in one sometimes is hard to quite express in the other. "Dreams have never been in danger like this, I do not think. Never before, so many people like us. Someone must try and keep it safe, yes? To not be safe when you sleep- it is too much."

The big Russian steps closer, his profile caught by the light, giving his shadow mouth as he confesses, "I am just one. I need help. All these dreamers- someone must protect them, yes?"

"There's more than just you and me. There's Hokuto, Jasmine, and Tuzzy Bear…" The dreamwalking cat. "It has to be someone like us, right? Someone that can manipulate dreams? Or someone that can tell the future?" Delia pauses her verbal diarrhea for a moment to gaze at the picture and presses her lips together in a thin line. Her host might find it a fitting place, the alcove, as a place to hang it but to the redhead it just looks all wrong.

"What are you going to do with Mister Logan's love? Are you going to keep it?" The questions sound someone strange when presented like that but… "Why didn't you give him something for it? Why did you take something away and not replace it with something else? It doesn't seem very fair… if you take and take and never give. You'll get fat."

Dema lifts a hand to his brow. He is doing this all wrong. Not good with young people. At least that's what he tells himself. "I am asking, will you help me? These others- maybe we can find them-" he refrains from his usual diatribe against Hokuto, trying to be diplomatic - he also doesn't ask about Tuzzy Bear, "ask them. But we need to work together, you see? The more harm done in dreams, the more they will fear us. Find the good, stop the bad. Strong, together," he joins his hands before him, clasping, "you see?"

But she has a question about the portrait, once swan. Dema blinks, but he suppresses irritation and impatience in favor of continued good behavior. He's here to make her an offer, after all. "I did not take his love. I took a bird in a cage. He saw his love in it, but I cannot take his love. I am not that strong. I would never wish to be that strong. Such strength no man should have." He shakes his head. "It is not greedy to share an idea. He lost nothing. When you sing a song to a friend, and your friend sings it to himself, he has not stolen the song, has he?"

Delia's chin angles up and to the right as she focuses narrowed eyes at the elder dream manipulator. She's somewhat suspicious but curious at the same time, therefore it doesn't last before she gives him a slight jerk of a nod. "I'll help," she intones softly flicking her blue eyes back toward the picture. Something that Logan saw as love but wasn't. Somehow, it saddens her because even with Dema's explanation, it will never return to him from where it is placed in the alcove. "I want to know about the dreams, though, I've seen the collection. There's so much there I don't want to happen."

Her eyes drift to the floor and then back up to the large Russian and she tries her hand at a smile that only ends up bittersweet. "What should I call you?" Assuming he doesn't want to be called 'the bogeyman'. "I mean— I know your first name but it's sort of rude because… You're like my dad's age."

"Better we look together, yes?" Dema says, "together maybe it will be safe to approach, to see where they come from. What they are for," he gives a low, dry laugh, a single 'heh', "this is a first quest, yes? A mystery in dreams. Such times we live in, eh?"

People don't ask Dema's name. Medic, nurse, aid, assistant, orderly, enforcer - he's always occupied subordinate roles. His name has never mattered, only his skills and his size. Delia's question takes him a little by surprise. After a moment he inclines his head. "Gataullin," he says, "mister, if you like. A name does not matter as much as a manner, I think," his already looming brow lowers, "I will try to show more respect as well. Too long alone. Forgetting to live with others."

"Mister Gataullin," she says slowly, repeating the name a few times more than necessary in a few different ways, putting the emphasis on different syllables each time. "Mister Gataullin," Delia finally decides, standing up and holding her right arm straight out with her hand angled for a shake. "I'll look with you, together. It might be… I'll learn a lot from you." The diplomatic route rather than saying they'll have oodles of fun. After all, he's almost twice her age.

"If you don't mind me arguing, I think you're wrong. Names matter, they remind us where we come from and that someone cared enough to give us one." At least, that's how it is in her case. "Maybe later, after we get to know each other better and you're not so— " scary "— I'm not so— " scared "— What I mean is, when we're more used to each other… Maybe you can help me with my dad. I can't reach him from here."

His great bear paw swallows her hand with room to spare, but his shake is on the gentler side of firm. Dema doesn't offered a preferred pronunciation. It's not quite like they are speaking, anyways. They are not making sounds with their mouths. When she address him, he'll know. Names do not mat-

Only Delia begs to differ. Dema blinks but no, apparently he doesn't mind her arguing. Her folds his arms as he considers her contestation, seeming to give it some thought. He doesn't disagree, either, though he comments no more than by nodding. He hears her. Perhaps when they know each other better, she can make him understand her as well.

"I will help you," Dema agrees, without elaboration or condition, "when you are ready to ask."

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