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Scene Title Empty
Synopsis Jasmine attempts to find a solution to a mutual problem only to discover she has an entirely new one.
Date March 16, 2011

In Dreams

It isn't the same every night, but lately Eileen's dreams are haunted by shadows with burning coals for eyes and teeth that gleam.

She is afraid of dogs. It stands to reason that she would be even more frightened of a wolf if she ever had the misfortunate of encountering one in the waking world — at least here, when she bleeds, her wounds do not transfer from her imagined body to her real one, soaking the sheets with red where teeth and claws have left deep gashes on her arms, legs and face. If they did, then Jasmine would have more to worry about than banishing the same ghost that haunted her with dead rabbits with rotten velvet fur brought back to life and gaunt women whose throats and breasts have been savaged with the same ferocity that the entity has been stalking Eileen.

She tries not to sleep unless she has to, because when she does she doesn't realize that she is.

To her, the damp of the storm drain is as real as what she would wake up to if she could. Once upon a time, she hid here from a man named Abdul-Aziz Nwabueze — or as Odin called him, Garm. She flees now from a different kind of monster entirely, and while it might not be the ideal place to hide or even her first choice, the wolf has already found her at the Dispensary, in the whistling stone corridors of Pollepel Island, Eagle Electric, and even on the precipice of the crumbling Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. She'd jumped then. Was lucky it decided it did not want to swim.

Shivering, alone in the dark, she listens to the howling wind outside and the croaking of the Tower ravens in the trees.

Something finds her.

Not a monster.


That depends on who you ask.

There's a vocal squeak of dismay farther down the tunnel, a splash of low gutter water as feet trip through it and hands blindly go out to steady herself. What light there is shines on the gloss of black hair, cut in hard angles above narrow shoulders. A snug leather jacket over the loose white cotton of a halter-top, trousers of the same dark hide clinging to long legs that are set up on pragmatic ankle boots, for all that pragmatism is hard to achieve down here. And of course, a mask, dense black feathers fanning around blue eyes and conform to the dignified slopes of her face, matching full lips painted the same oily sheen. Long body set against the curved wall of the tunnel, she sets her attention ahead, at the sound of breathing.

Heart beat. Maybe she can hear that much.

Something flashes in the dark and there's the scrape of Eileen's knife. There is not much to do down here except wait and prepare herself for the next time the thing she insists isn't human comes. Hands wrapped in bloodied gauze clutch the handle, and she slides it over something that produces a thin hiss of warning — do not come any closer it says. Maybe she would reiterate if she didn't feel too raw to speak, too exhausted from running to do anything except sharpen the blade.

For once, the birds speak for her instead of the other way around. Wing beats fill the pipe and two ravens alight on a grate directly above Jasmine's head where moonlight shines through the metal slats and bathes her body in alternating stripes of palest gold. "«She is one of us,»" says one in perfectly accented Polish, its voice low and hoarse, exactly the way Eileen remembers her late grandmother's being. "«Look.»"

"«No,»" says the other, this in French, "«she only wears your backside on her face.»"

That Jasmine doesn't speak Polish— or French— is irrelevant.

Language and how much it matters is a subjective thing in dream, but thoughts, intent and feelings shimmer through everything— the thick smell of water, the rough texture of wet concrete, the fall of light and the press of air— as if it were all of the same fabric, suffused with motive. It is not infallible. But she knows at least she might be been made fun of. Though the woman ahead of her has a knife, Jasmine steps out from the light of the grill, sinking against the wall in a primitive attempt to hide. Shadows play long her leather and feathers, as if it could draw her in.

It does not. She obeys after that, the silent warning. For now. "Are they yours?" she asks of the woman with the knife, her voice a quiet murmur, gauzy. "Because I have a mind to throws things at them. Rats with wings."

"«Rats!»" exclaims the Polish raven. "«We are nothing like rats.»"

The French raven fluffs its feathers. "«I do not mind being compared to a rat,»" it says. "«Rats are cunning and shrewd. A wise man once said be a rat, don't you remember?»"


"«Flint Deckard, I think it was. Or at least that is how she remembers it— ah. Excuse me. Excuse me.»" Eyes like black glass peer through the slats at the top of Jasmine's hair, its head cocked sharply to one side and clawed toes flexing in what be irritation or just generalized anxiety.

On the other side of the tunnel, sparks snap off the knife and Eileen flips it between her fingers. "«Miss Jasmine, isn't it?"» asks the raven. "«You were at Hertfordshire with Nicholas.»"

Eyes closed through almond-shaped eyeholes, open again. Resigned. To talking to birds.

Hopefully they speak English. They'd want to. They are, after all, in and of the brain of an Englishwoman. "I was cordially invited," she allows, with the raising of a leather-clad shoulder. Her feather-clad face turned up, although she makes sure to keep sparking knife and the damaged hideaway that wields it within her peripheral vision, for all that such gestures are token. "We had tea. And I'm sorry for arriving without expecting a friendly welcome.

"But I'm looking for someone else."

"«Of course you are,»" says the French raven with a dignified click of its beak. Maybe it's a he, or maybe it's a she — its voice is too much like gravel to tell. "«Just a moment.»" It pokes its head through the gaps in the grate, wings spread for additional balance while its flockmate stands guard and steers a look over its shoulder. "Eileen."

She looks up, then, as if woken from a dream within a dream and searches out Jasmine in the dark with eyes that are bleary and unfocused.

"«There's someone here to see you. She seems a little— out of place.»"

Eileen uses the back of her arm to wipe something dark from her mouth. There's more of it oozing from the gashes on her face and the furrows on her exposed legs. She was wearing a dress, something pragmatic and functional and gray. There's not much of it left. Enough to cover.

"You're looking for the woman who isn't. I know."

And back to the woman ahead of her, Jasmine fumbling her grasp on the mechanics of this dream. Maybe a blush warms behind heavy makeup and feathers, but then, Delia isn't here to see, or Hokuto, or any other experienced dream walker.

"Mm," Jasmine agrees, painted mouth pressing into a small line. Tentative, she moves on closer, and now her clear eyes study the evidence of hurt painted on the woman's body. Expression is difficult to make out, beneath feathers, beneath the shadows, but there's a tip to her head that indicates sympathy. Regret. "She's painful, I know. Come closer?"

Rather than invade. A hand goes out in invitation, long musician's fingers, blunt nails.

"No." Eileen's voice is rough, abrupt, similar to the birds perched on the top of the grate, and the one that had been speaking to her swiftly withdraws its head. "Sometimes the world is cold and the soles of my feet taste snow. I feel the wind in my hair. Dead feelings."

Feathers crackle. Claws click against metal. "«She's hurt,»" the raven advises Jasmine, as though the dreamwalker cannot see it with her own eyes, "«and not herself. She hasn't been since the other came. The man. He killed a boy — we can show you, if you would like, or we can tell you. Sometimes telling is enough, though I don't understand it. The little one was gentle.»"

The bird that had been looking over its shoulder lets out a harsh metallic scream of warning, no other sound like it and one a human throat cannot make, and explodes into the air. Its companion is not far behind, without even an apologetic glance darted in Jasmine's direction before it takes flight. A moment later, a shadow falls across the grate and Eileen presses her back to the side of the pipe, hand held out — not to take the one the dreamwalker is offering her, but imploring her in a desperate gesture to remain silent.

When Jasmine does fall silent, it's with a drooping sort of helplessness.

There are things she wants to say. To ask about the crunch of snow under sleepless feet, the dead feelings. But she doesn't, yet, shrinking to blend into the curved wall, patent leather and black feather as shiny black as the where the filthy water underfoot turns the brick to glassiness. There's determination in this hiss of an inhale, before a hand goes out — a gesture to don't panic. And then she moves, drifting with preternatural levitation along the side of the wall, and up the grille.

As her hands wrap around the slick bars, she changes her shape. White fabric bathes her form, becoming even smaller and more slender than it was before. Feet bare. Dark, chopped hair becomes curls, lengthier inky swoops, and blue eyes turn to green. The mask is gone, revealing Eileen's own delicate features.

Claw marks on her shins, minor bruises and scratches here and there, but the former describes the worst of it, still bleeding ruby rivulets to path down her vulnerable feet, drip into shallow rainwater.

"Come out," says a voice on the other side of the grate, and Jasmine knows who it belongs to. Whether or not the voice can distinguish between her and Eileen in the dark is a question answered by the hiss of something metal. Silver teeth gleam in the dark and the subject of the dreamwalker's nightmares is standing above the storm drain with Eileen's cane in her hand, the blade of unsheathed and shining with the light of an opaque moon like a milky eye behind the clouds in the sky, always twilight.

"Or make him face me again," she invites, "and I'll keep him here with us until he understands what it is you've done."

Below, Eileen watches her reflection by the bars but does not speak. If this is an act of kindness of Jasmine's part, she is not about to argue, though the conflict is clear on her face. She does not remember Gabriel being here and does not need to. Talking birds keep track of what's closer to the surface, things that her subconcious cannot — important details she thinks about only upon waking like a dead boy in a clearing outside a house in the woods not terribly far from here, his throat slit from one side to the other.

There's a grinding sound as the grille is pushed against, lifted, slowly edged aside. Her hands against the edge. Her face upturned, like submission, shaped to reflect the visage of the woman down below. That Jasmine has her eyes wide with fear is not a fiction. She doesn't need to act afraid to be terrified of what she's trying to do. "Nothing's been done," she tries. Her words resonate through the fabric of the dream, as easily heard by Eileen down below as it is to the woman above. "But you broke a promise. You said you would find what was yours by the time the sky's gone dark.

"You're speaking about the hours that belong to me. I can help you before it's too late, if you come with me. I have him." Not unlike how she held her hand out for Eileen, she does so now to the woman above. "This place is empty."

I have him blankets the woman's face in a kind of anguish that makes it uglier that it already is, and death has not done kind things to her. She looks like she might even believe it, her grip on the blade tightening and free bloodied hand held in a clutch. She extends her fingers first, slender and pale, then the rest of her arm. Corpses aren't supposed to breathe, though this one does, the sound of it growing a little coarse and ragged in response to a promise that's could not be crueler to make if it cannot be kept.

She looks at Jasmine— looks at the woman that she believes to be Eileen and takes her hand.

It isn't until her fingers and twisted around the dreamwalker's with a wedding ring biting into the skin between her knuckles that her mouth twists into something like a snarl. "No," she says, "I've found half."

There's a violent sensation of displacement. If someone could survive having their heart torn straight out of their chest, then that is what they could liken Jasmine's experience to. Pain punches through her one instant and emptiness fills its place the next. Then she's falling—

Staten Island

When the dreamwalker's eyes snap open, she's in a darker, colder place than Eileen's dream. Wind pulls at feathers, and it will take her a few moments to realize that the body she's awoken to is not her own.

It isn't even human.

A robin looks down at the Dispensary on the other side of the trees from its perch in a frozen beech tree where the glowing light of a lantern left on while its occupants sleep bleeds faintly through the attic window but Jasmine is alone with the misting rain.

Wings flicker, twitchy. As clumsy as such delicate appendages could be. Beady eyes blink, and a trill sound whistles from that mechanical sounding bird throat in place of human cries, or even psychic ones, suddenly bound by the laws of flesh and bone. Jarred awake. It doesn't matter that Jasmine could scream no! in internal monologue when there's no one around to listen, save for the compliant animal mind that regards her dully, or doesn't seem to regard her at all. Even when, with an insectile twitch, she opens wings and leaps.

The robin lands soundlessly in melting wet snow and dirt, a shuffle of leaves and frost kicked up in a panic from flapping wings, that shrill peeping breaking the peace of the Staten Island landscape. Incoherent cries of shock, disbelief, a plea for help from something unknown all rattle loud within bird brain.

When Jasmine stops, she can feel the tiny heart hammering inside delicate ribcage, and tentatively assesses the feeling of a bent feather. It could have been worse. The thought makes panic grow, subside again.

This hasn't happened before.

Nothing like it.

Stunned and at a loss, the dreamwalker— shoved into this new form, too awake to drift away as easily as she normally is able— folds her wings back around her and shivers as she tries to think, beak opening soundlessly, eyes blinking.

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