Find the Best Vein


delia2_icon.gif dema_icon.gif

Scene Title Find the Best Vein
Synopsis Advice from a medical assistant to a patient is coupled as a lesson between dreamwalkers.
Date November 18, 2010

The Octagon

When the dust settles, they are no longer in Kansas.

In truth, Dema has never been to Kansas. Any image of Kansas, should such a place hold any sort of significance to Dema, would be constructed out of cultural artifacts, borrow significations, all the fragments of common knowledge that construct the (in)completeness of one's world.

Not Kansas, no. The smell of the sea makes that very clear.

Salt and fish and oil and smog. And stale tobacco smoke. And sweat and cement and blood and alcohol and all the aggregate of vice and life (insofar as there is a difference).

"You must be gentle," is the fist sound, that of Dema's low, sonorous voice, added to the scents, "you must find the best vein and you must clean the site. Otherwise this happens, you see?"

Blink. Blink. It's not darkness that abates, but nothingness, a lack of sense for which darkness is the only useful metaphor. Smell and sound are joined by sight, and Delia sees the great, broad shouldered form of the Russian, kneeling by a pale, near-emaciated woman with bleached blonde hair, painted lips and smudgy eyes. She wears a dress that is both shabby and garish, gauzy and tattered. Her arms are a chaos of pinprick wounds, and one such arm hangs, limp and petulant, in Dema's large hands. They are in a room. Yes, a room, small, with a single bed, dimly lit by a lamp whose shade bears a large stain, projected upon the wall by the yellow incandescent light. Yellow mixes with grey-white that leaks in from outside, through a window cracked open. Beyond is- a vague greyness; this dream has not resolved unnecessary details.

Touch next. The ground beneath her feet. Concrete, unkind to unshod feet. "You cannot work if you are sick. And you will become sick if you are not cautious." Dema says, a touch of chiding in his voice. He's speaking Russian. But Delia understands. The blonde woman averts her eyes, looking over at the window, giving a long, weary sigh. Like she's heard this all before.

A dry swallow is what Delia gives as she watches the scene unfold before her horrified eyes. Backing away from the image, she scrambles against a wall and clings to it, squeezing her eyes shut and clapping her hands against her ears. Like a small child at a slasher film, she keens in protest, wanting everything to just go away.

Like a moth, the light draws her to open one eye, to watch curiously while the vision of the emaciated woman puts a lump as heavy as a brick into the pit of her stomach. If she had anything in there to bring up, the floor at her bare feet would be covered.

"I don't want to be here… I want to go home…" The whisper in her mind is echoed through the room. The redhead, never having been exposed to anything of this nature before, not even when she worked in the hospital, keeps tearing herself away. Wanting to be separated from this.

This place is sturdily built, the substance of this mixed dream and recollection as stalwart as the Soviet architecture that surrounds them. The wall supports Delia, but keeps her in place. Meanwhile Dema gives a gentle shake of his head. "You need antibiotics. Do not let this happen again. I will tell the madame you cannot control this, otherwise," the man says, getting to his feet, relinquishing the blonde woman's arm. It drops, hanging listlessly at her side. "Tend to your good, or she will."

Dema turns to see Delia, cowering. He doesn't look particularly sympathetic. A hand lifts, palm upwards, and fingers fold. 'Up,' they say. 'With me,' they say. "You are safe," he says, "but I cannot sleep forever. We must talk. You are losing yourself. I have seen this." The focus of the dream, the focal point, shifts momentarily to the woman behind him, sitting on her bed, leaning back with a languidness that is beyond simple fatigue. "Dreams are not trifles. They are games with high stakes."

A wary eye is cast toward the blonde woman on the bed and then up to Dema himself. "W-wh— " Her eyebrows knit together in the middle and Delia drifts her gaze down to the cement floor. "I don't want to be here… I'm tired. I want to go home but I don't know where I am." It's a story repeated time after time, to many different people over the course of many nights.

With sunken shoulders, she sighs heavily and then looks up at the large Russian. "I keep forgetting my name. I can't remember who my family and friends are…" the sword she carries and the little chess piece, one could call them trophies. "I can remember these people more easily… The man that gave me this sword, I remember things when I smell him. The chess piece… I know that man, he exploded out of someone's pants. I saw it."

Dema moves over to the doorway, drawing it open and motioning for Delia to step out into the hallway beyond. He wants to keep moving. To leave this room, though its inhabitant scarcely seems to notice them anymore. The light outside begins to dim visibly, a darkness leaking in from outside that fights against the yellow light of the lamp.

"You mistake yourself for what you see, what is here," Dema explains, with the stolid tone of one explaining basic principles, "you are not here. There is no here. You carry nothing with you. That is not a sword. That is no chess piece. Memories, maybe, yes. But these are metaphors. They stand in for things. It is-" Dema stops, closes his eyes, reopens them.

"How do I explain this? You want to remember who you are, yes? So you stay the same. You are," Dema motions at Delia, "this girl. And this is what you look like. But it is a chess piece. a carving playing at queen, you see? If you think 'this is who I am' you are wrong. The queen is not a piece of stone. The queen is the queen. The piece of stone stands in."

Her eyebrows still knit together in confusion, Delia gazes up at the large Russian warily, almost disbelieving. "So… if I'm not.. here.. then where am I? Why can't I leave?" The softer tones of her voice is petulant and stubborn in its questions, the expression on her face the same.

The dim corridor where they walk, it seems almost endless. As though actually considering his discount of the sword and the chess piece, the black bit of stone fades in and out in her hand. A construct of her own imagination to represent something she could lose. "So… even if I throw this away… I can make it again somewhere else? But I don't understand where I am if I'm not here."

"A dream, you see, it is a world you make with your mind, yes?" Dema says, steadily plodding alongside Delia as the hallway stretches out before them. Darkness seeps into the walls, until they disappear, and it is just them and the thin band of the floor, surrounding by endless black. "and also a story. It has rules like- like a conversation. Subject changes, because the thing you see, it reminds you of something, or it looks like something else. In a dream, this is everything. Subject changes, so object changes. The table, it becomes a plateau. The plateau has horses running atop it. The horses run into a stable. The stable is on a farm. The farm is in a picture. The picture is in a book."

As they walk, the darkness swells with content, the sea smell seeping back in, the sound of wavers layering onto the previous stillness and silence. The strip of floor is now a pier, jutting out into a dark sea. "You are in my mind, and I am sleeping. That is where your mind is. But this," he motions at the expanse of water, at the starry sky, and the great tangle of industrial machinery and refining equipment that boils up behind them, "is not a place. It is a conversation. Alone, I talk to myself. With you here, we converse. We build the dream together. If we have a nice talk, if we agree on things, it is safe. We understand each other. If we argue, it is not safe. Things change too quickly, break, rupture."

Dema nods at the fazing stone. "This thing… it is a memory you have of the man you took it from, yes? This… pants explosion you speak of. You know this, so that is what it is. But you always must remember that it is something you remember, you see? It is not a chess piece. This is not a pier. That is your memory. And this is mine."

They arrive at the edge of the pier, where the cement drops off into dark water below.

The dark water seems to frighten the young woman and she backs up a few paces to avoid the drop. Perhaps not the water itself but something about the color and the pier itself nags at her. From a few feet back, she looks up at him and chews on her upper lip, trying to understand exactly what he's saying. It's not a language barrier that stops it, it's her own hang up on one little detail.

"Wait.. I don't understand. If nothing is real, and I'm not here… And everything is just a memory… then…" She blinks a few times and studies the ground beneath her feet, her breathing quickening a little, until she's gasping in panic. "Who am I? Am I dead?"

Perhaps there's no body to get to anymore, perhaps everything is just a figment of imagination. A cosmic joke. The sword in her hand is clenched a little tighter and her eyes rivet from detail to detail on the pier, trying to remember little details.

"I do not know your name," Dema states, honestly enough, "but you are who you are. Like me, you can move from dream to dream. But you are not gentle enough. You must find the best vein, you see? You must slide in. If you become too much in the dream, then you will mistake this," he waves a hand at Delia's barefooted manifestation, "for who you are. This is not who you are. This is a chess piece. You are your mind. What does the mind look like? Nothing. But it still is. And it is with me. Where my body is.

"And you are alive. The dead do not dream," Dema intones this like it's a proverb, though it isn't, "You are lost. You must find your way back before you mistake the world you are making for the world that is. This is why you need these things you are finding. These memories. They keep you as yourself. But they can trick you, too. This is a story you are playing out. At the end of it, you wake up."

Delia's head tilts down as she examines herself, the body that Dema waved at. The white dress that's been worn far too long, the bare feet that have walked too many miles, out of the corners of her eyes she can see the curls of bright copper hair that's too wild to tame. Like a caricature from a picture book, not a character from a storybook, with a sword in one hand and a chess piece in the other.

Her eyes fade grey to a dull blue as she considers everything the giant Russian is telling her. If it's making sense, there's no clue. "But… if this isn't mine… how do I know that you're not making me up?"

"Because you wonder this," Dema answers, simply enough, "you know you are yourself." Cogito, ergo sum. "I know, because I found you in another's dream. I can feel that you are yourself, not just my memory of you. But the you that you are… this you must keep clear. You must keep remembering, find your way back, or you will only be in dreams."

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