Else Refrains...


cat_icon.gif else_icon.gif

Scene Title Else Refrains…
Synopsis …from being pleasant.
Date August 12, 2009

The Rock Cellar

A comfortable place, located in the basement of 14 East 4th Street. The red brick walls are covered with memorabilia from various icons of rock and places in rock history, creating a feel similar to that of a Hard Rock Cafe.

The left wall has two bars separated by swinging doors which lead to and from the kitchen. Directly across from the entrance is a two foot high stage with all the equipment needed for acts to perform there. The right wall has three doors marked as restrooms: two for use by women and one by men.

Thirty square feet of open space for dancing and standing room is kept between the stage and the comfortable seating placed around tables which fill the remainder of the Cellar.

The lighting here is often kept dim for purposes of ambience, and when performers are onstage the place is loud enough to make conversation difficult. Just inside the door is a podium where location staff check IDs and stamp the hands of those under twenty-one with a substance visible under UV lights at the two bars and by devices the servers carry. On the podium's front is a sign with big black letters that just about explain it all: If You Don't Like Rock 'N' Roll, You're Too Late Now!

From a table in the shadows, the stage performance is watched by a woman with a pint of stout on the surface before her. She doesn't call attention to herself, Cat's purpose is to simply observe and wait for the opportunity to arrive. The panmnesiac won't even make an approach to the musical precognitive, no, she's going to be far more subtle than that. It's her belief Else will come to her, given the need for those painkillers her visions has caused.

So she's simply let herself be seen and left it all in Miss Kjelstrom's court.

The hour-long set took a heavy toll on Else, judging from the way she barely keeps her footing on stage. The already thin woman looks to have lost ten pounds in the time that has passed since the last time Cat set eyes on her. Eyes are set with dark circles around them, and her hair is more tangled, unkempt and wild looking. As she staggers off stage, her guitarist watches with an uncertain expression, then with just a dismissive shake of his head turns to start packing up the stage equipment. She didn't even ask if he minded her just flouncing off stage the moment they were done.

Else's path is different from before, she exits through a back door out of the club proper and into the concrete-block hallways painted a smoky blue that leads towards dressing rooms and backstage bathrooms. Cat notices the eagerness with which she moves, and it's clear she's suffering from some form of withdrawl. The crowd on the floor is cheering for her, calling for an encore, and the last thing she wants to do is listen to them.

The sight prompts a slight change in strategy for the dark clad proprietress, who rises from her seat and heads for the backstage areas calmly. Cat makes her way down those corridors in silence, seeking the Scandinavian songbird with speculation in her mind as to whether or not the woman is in withdrawal and the haggard state she's come to because she's trying to kick, she's not been able to get her fix for some time, she's having more visions and trauma associated with them, or all of the above.

It's time to attempt finding out.

The door to Else's dressing room had hardly even closed as Cat is hot on her heels, pushing the door open. Seated on the countertop in front of the dressing room mirror, Else has her arm out, starting to tie surgical tubing around her arm as the door opens. Her eyes go wide, hands falling away and yellow-brown rubber flapping lifelessly to the countertop. "What the fuck!?" Irate fury rises up in her tiny frame as she slips down shakily to her feet, "Fuck off for five seconds for god's sake!" One hand reaches back, grabs a half full can of Pepsi and hurls it towards Cat, missing by a mile but clunking in a fizzing slosh on the wall beside her.

Everything about this depressing scene seems to lay heavy on Cat's shoulders, affixing itself to memories that will come to haunt her for the remainder of her life. But it's not just Else's matchstick-thin frame and sallow features that catch Cat's attention, but the needle she had prepared on the counter. Oxycodone isn't injected and heroin doesn't glow blue. The syringe on the countertop is all of those things, phosphorescent blue in color and awaiting a vein.

It may even seem that way to Else, when Cat arrives at the dressing room door and raises her hand to knock on it, finding the portal hadn't been closed tightly and swinging open from the contact by her knuckles to draw the cursing and the hurled can of soda which misses her head but manages to spray carbonate fizz on her clothing. She has a sinking feeling this is already going horribly wrong, it was supposed to be a calm approach and conversation, where Else would choose to speak or not.

But it is what it is, and there's that syringe, the rubber tubing prepared for her to inject, a thing which obviously isn't an opiate. "Five seconds?" she asks deadpan, "It's been nearly three minutes. I had to cross the club and make my way back here, taking my time."

"It seems you've found a new chemical companion," she quietly observes.

Indignation spills over Else's features, "Oh come off'a yer high horse." Her eyes narrow, and the blonde woman reaches out to sweep up the glowing syringe, curling her fingers around it to try and hide the glow, but it only filters out between them. "Did you come all'a way up here just to bitch me out about what's my personal business, or did you need somethin'?"

Else moves quickly to stow the rubber hose into a gym bag, turning a narrowed stare back to Cat. She can't rightly order her out of the dressing room, as much as she'd want to. This is the second time, in as many meetings, that Else has seemed so much more antagonistic, so much more sharp than the awkward and shy woman who first came into the Rock Cellar months ago.

"High horse? Is that how it seemed, Else?" Cat's voice is calm in asking the question, as calm as it had been when they spoke the time before. "That wasn't, and isn't now, the intent. I'm more concerned about the things you see, the reasons you use the drugs. What you're trying to escape. Beaches on 34th Street. The moon being swallowed. You have dreams, visions, that eat you up, right?" Else is studied for some moments. "I do care if you die, of course, and I see the drugs killing you, but that's your choice. What concerns me far more is learning about what you see, to take a shot at making it not come true. Are you resigned to all that coming to pass, or do you still have hope?"

"Because it doesn't have to be that way."

"I don't— " Else's hands come up to the side of her face, eyes wrenched shut, jaws clenched. "I don't fucking see anything I— " the blonde takes a step back, furiously throwing her arms down at her sides as those dark eyes open again, her jaw trembling, thin fingers wound tight into fists that shake at her sides. "Fine, fucking fine!" She whips around, reaching out for that black gym bag and grabs a red spiral bound notebook out of it, brandishing it around in one hand, "you want to see what I fucking see!?" She hurls the notebook down to the floor with a loud slap. "Here! Fucking take it!" It lands cover-side down, sharpie-marker scribblings on the brown back of the thin notebook depicting a large black circle scribbled in with the strong scent of the markers, with numbers left out of the coloring like a stencil. 12, 12, and 09, spaced apart by dashes.

"I don't fucking see anything, Cat." The musician's fury is uneven, focus of her eyes unable to maintain perfectly, just a little drowsy looking from the way her eyelids sweep up and down. "I just fucking write things. I get high and I start writing and that shit is what comes out of it!"

She watches Else as she rants, and holds back the urge to yawn and cover her mouth at the outburst. Cat isn't without sympathy, but the anger and the melodrama fail to impress her much. Her features show nothing more than an 'are you done yet?' expression as she picks up the notebook and studies the back, memorizing the pattern and speculating a bit over what it might mean. 12, 12, and 09. A date?

"Some years ago," she comments in a solemn voice, "I started to remember things, Else. Like everything I perceive in all five senses. Mostly it's good, but there are a lot of things I'd love to have fade over time. I'm no stranger to anguish. To guilt and sadness, the pain of loss, and the memories trigger so easily, with such crystal clarity." The look to her eyes now shows the truth of that. "So I deal by keeping myself busy. I have to, or I sink in the pool of recollection and drown. I'm not the police, I'm not DHS or anything of that kind. I'm not your enemy, and I hope soon you'll understand there's no need for hostility. I've kept others who are far less pleasant away from you, in fact."

"Thank you," she offers next, sincerely, holding the writings up with the stenciled date showing. "Does this refer to December 12th?" Then, in silence, she begins to turn the pages and look at the contents.

"I don't care what you are, I just want you to butt out of m'goddamned business." Swallowing back a touch of that anger as she becomes light headed, Else rests one hand down on the countertop by the mirrors, bracing herself as her other hand comes up to her forehead. After a moment o fgathering her wits, she looks up to the numbers Cat's questioning and rolls her shoulders. "I don't know. I don't even remember drawing that. It just— " she waves one hand flippantly in the direction of the notebook.

"Everything in there, all'a my song lyrics, they just… I don't remember writing them. I don't know what they mean, I just write, n'shit comes out. If you think it means something than you know a whole lot better'n I do."

One by one she looks at the written songs long enough to commit them to memory without comment. It's only after she's reached and recorded the last of them that she offers the notebook back and takes in a slow breath. Her voice in speaking again is as even and calm as it had been, there's not a trace of hostility. "The one called Fortis strikes a chord. The events in it came to pass after you wrote it, and the song about Munin is a possible thing to come. It's unfortunate you see me as prying into your business, Else. What you write provides remarkable, and valuable, insights. You're extraordinary. I only wish you could see this about yourself."

She turns a few pages back while holding the notebook to show her the lyrics of Munin, stating "There's a man who can reshape the earth itself out there. He might cause those beaches on 34th Street. But it can be stopped, you've shown us a warning." Else's face is studied, to see if what she says registers with her.

Jaw tensing a moment, Else's immediate response isn't surprising. "I don't wan'ta be remarkable. You want t'waste your time reading into that nonsense, go right ahead. It's just words, I can't— " Cutting herself off, Else looks away and forces her eyes shut, head down and tangled blonde bangs falling in front of her face. "I don't care, Cat. Maybe that's what you don't right understand…"

"I don't care if all'a New York sinks under some big lake. I don't care. What happens happens an if the world's goin'ta end tomorrow, I'd rather just live it out an' see what happens than turn gray tryin'ta change anything!" Running her fingers through her hair, she exhales a shuddering breath. "You can't change shit, and if y'do, it just makes things worse."

It seems fairly simple. Cat could try to reach rapport with the woman further, but that'll fail. She could ask her to stay off the drugs and not die, but that would fail too. Else won't kick unless she wants to, and she plainly doesn't. The curiosity over that blue vial remains, but she chooses not to ask about it. There are other avenues she can take on that score, this one would only result in another angry outburst. Else is studied in an extended silence. When it breaks, well…

Quiet words. "Thank you for your time, Else. I'll likely not approach you again. I'll just enjoy hearing you and your band playing here when you've got gigs. If you want or need help at any point, you know where my table is to look for me. I'd like to buy what you write in the future, to just see it, if the songs are the kind you wrote and don't remember putting on paper. But it's all up to you." She leaves the notebook behind and leaves the room, headed back toward the club proper and her table where the pint of stout remains.

In that last moment with Cat, Else's expression changed some. There's genuine surprise in her eyes when the woman actually leaves her be, genuine confusion when an argument doesn't continue brewing. Cat can see it palin as day on the woman's face, and it's evident that the allowance of freedom afforded to the young blonde isn't something she's accustomed to. When the door closes, and when Cat's gone back into the hall, Else slouches up against the counterspace, her eyes drifting down to the luminous syringe held in one of her hands. She swallows, tightly, and throws it into her gym bag, bringing a hand up to her face as she hunches forward and draws her legs up to her chest, back pressing up against one of the mirrors.

It's the first time someone's ever let her ruin herself without an argument. And somehow, when the sting of self-importance is gone, and when she has no one left to be contrary to but herself…

It feels all that much emptier.

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