Finders Sleepers


astor_icon.gif delia_icon.gif ghost_icon.gif

Scene Title Finders Sleepers
Synopsis Delia comes across a familiar feline in her dreams, who plays Lassie about as badly as you would expect a cat to. But Timmy's down a well. Except his name isn't Timmy, and the well is a rundown shitsty in the Safe Zone.
Date January 3, 2019


Delia is dreaming. She knows she is, of course; she's been a dreamer for a long time.

She is standing in the street. Rain glistens on the asphalt, a dimly accurate reflection of the weather in the real world of late. The scent of wet concrete rises like stones and soil in the back of her nose, earthy and rich. And that, dreams aside, might well be her true element after all. Somehow, Delia was always a woman who had one foot firmly planted in the abstraction of dream psychology, and the other in solid earth. She isn't far from the gardens; they're over to the left.

When she turns to look in that direction, sunshine peeks through the clouds. God's golden fingers prying through gently, touching a dewy glow down over damp leaves and proud trees, illuminating the stalactite drip of raindrops clinging to the boundary fence around it, though the entranceway swings ever open.

In every other direction, the city seems misty, indistinct, lacking intent.

Right now, solid earth isn’t what interests Delia. This is a new place, one that holds no familiarity but somehow still hosts a memory of her place. Someone has been by recently. Someone who hasn’t made her acquaintance. Curiosity as to whom and a general air of carelessness regarding that fact have the dreamwalker exploring.

In real life, Delia is not graceful, no matter how hard she’s tried. Walking is interrupted with trips and bumps, like she’s never fully grown into her adult body. Perhaps it isn’t the adult body, but the amount of time she spends away from it. Which is formidable. The average person spends a third of their life asleep, the dreamwalker easily doubles that… when she can sleep.

This is a new place. A nice place. A place without war or horror. A place where dew sparkles and rays of light spread hope.

Yes, 100%. This is totally everything she observes. And better yet: this is a place with cats. And if Terry Pratchett is to be believed, any world that has cats can't be so bad, after all.


A blink of orange. But mostly black. The feline's round face pops into view through the bars of the fence and focus its golden eyes at her, finding her easily in the rich illumination of sunshine. It blinks curiously, standing still a moment. But then the next, it steps out, one tiny, round paw dabbing into the concrete below. It only smooshes about half of its fuzzy body out of the brush and perimeter fence, as if someone squeezed a bit of toothpaste out of the tube, but only a little bit, like if they were to stop squeezing, the suction would yoink the paste right back in again.

But the cat doesn't leave, not immediately. Instead, it peers at her expectantly. And then it meows again, straightening slightly where it stands. Halfway inside the green garden, halfway out to meet her.

Instinctively, she freezes and side-eyes the feline suspiciously. Then she remembers. It's only because this is a dream, and she knows it, that Delia feels alright to crouch down and stretch a few fingers toward the cat. There will be no sneezing, no wheezing, no eyeball swelling. Everything will be just right. As long as the kitten doesn't turn into a giant man eating shark, that is.

"Tch tch tch.." she clicks the tip of her tongue against her front teeth to coax the kitten over. "C'mere sweet baby.." she coos, creeping a little closer to the bitty thing. Hand and knees in dewy grass mean nothing where the tactile has everything to do with feeling and not feeling. It's been quite a long time since she's shared a dream with an animal, but somehow, it doesn't surprise her that there's a cat near her home.

HUMAN HANDS, says the cat's body language. There's a slight lean backward, as if the creature is thinking no bueno, maybe I am outtie, dk bros, but after a moment, it seems to change its mind. Instead, it stretches out its fuzzy neck and presses a soft nose against the tip of her fingers. She does not suddenly erupt into dream allergies. It's awesome.

The energy ambient around the cat is good. Positive vibes. And as she stretches further, the dream gate dissipates. The metal just vanishes, like she wafted her hand through the steam rising out of a pasta pot.

Mrowww, the cat tells her. Then it starts to purr like a little engine, brrt, brrt, brrt, rhythmic and familiar. It steps closer to her, its paws moving through the dispersing fog that used to be the fence, and rubs its cheeks on the heel of her hand. And then, rather pointedly, but not as pointedly as Lassie, cuz the cat definitely thinks dogs are stupid and ergo only communicate in stupid ways, it turns its head back to look into the garden. Then back at her.

Back at the garden.

The rich green stretch of pruned bushes and growing trees stretches out in front of her. The fabric of it seems to flex slightly, like she's watching a movie, where the lens is stretching perspective, zooming in on the promise of something more in the next scene.

The wrankle of fur and general mistrust is regarded with a bit of amusement and when the kitty comes near, she indulges it with a scratch under the chin, around the ears, and the top of its head. "Aren't you the prettiest little thing," she murmurs to the feline, "you remind me of someone a long long time ago."

But before she can pick the cat up, it's pointed toward the garden and gives Delia cause to frown. "No, you don't want to go there. It's a place filled with raspberry canes and roses." She gives chase to the cat by way of leaping back to her feet and taking a few steps toward it, hand out and making a little tch of her tongue again. "Come on puss puss, you'll hurt your little toe beans."

And then she repeats, "You don't want to go in there."

Wiiiill it? The cat stops and turns slightly, peering at her through the mottled shadows. One tiny paw upraised.

But after a moment, it assents, dipping the tiny triangles of its ears as if they are Doritos. And then the little creature pivots, stepping back into the sunlight. It doesn't want to go there.

And ahead of it, the city beside the garden starts to clarify. Buildings resolve; the long, grey stretch of street ruptures into texture, the rough surface of asphalt, the winter-scarred sidewalk and damp trees. There's an old two-story house with teal, peeling paint; near it, a battered fire hydrant with a yellow duck stenciled onto the round cap.

The cat pauses by the hydrant. Takes a swipe at it with its white claws, then looks back at her expectantly. Beside it, the teal building seems


to be growing flowers of its own. Roses prying their way out of windows, and raspberry cane twining its way down the stairs in a way that it never would, in real life.

Raspberry canes and roses.

Two things that Delia loves most in the world. The fragrant blooms are always present wherever she lives and the ability of the berry bushes to grow thick like weeds endears them to her. Effortless beauty, both of them.

Not waiting on an invitation, she makes her way to the house. As she nears the step, the canes and vines shrink away, as though daring not to hurt the woman or daring not to touch for other reasons. She used to have a black thumb, no longer. She grew out of that.

“What’s in here?”

Half expecting the cat to answer verbally, perhaps even hoping so.

There's no such luck. The cat appears to have its limits. But there's a big-eyed intelligence to the way that it looks at her, a question-mark curl to the soft line of its tail in the air, looping high above its slender hindquarters. It tells her, Mrowww once again, and makes its silent way up the steps, its tiny round feet leaving no mark on the winter-scarred stone.

Up into the building's gap-toothed facade. In through the doorway.

(When she wakes, she'll remember this one.) (The real one; she's driven past it before, moving through the Safe Zone on business both exceptional and unusual, not far from a rainy snare of rundown bars, somewhere you'd go to shoot pool.)

The cat disappears into the building.

—Then reappears, just for an instant. White whiskers, eyes are geometrically perfect as glass marbles, peeking at her. And then the creature vanishes back in again, leaving the door ajar, the darkness inside squared by the doorframe like edges of a gift shop invitation card.

It's a familiar enough place, she's even been here herself on occasion to hustle some dollars from misguided youths looking for a quick buck. Heaven knows there are enough desperate people around the Safe Zone who gamble for a chance at even the slimmest possibility of getting ahead. She's one of them.

The cat's invitation is one that she doesn't hesitate to accept. Chasing after it, Delia takes the stairs two by two until she's at the top and in a wink, she too is swallowed by the darkness. Because… why not? Where can a dream cat possibly lead her that's more dangerous than Jeopardy.

Apparently, murder.

When Delia steps into the room, she sees it like a caricature of a crime scene. Chalk figure on the floor, is limbs sprawled in the shadow of an untidy heap. Adult size. It's laying out amid needles, rubber tubing, a blanket that looks blotched by something other than food, furniture that looks fresh out of the dumpster— anything but fresh. A splash of scudded vomit, too.

But perhaps that's not the oddest thing in the room. Not the marked corpse, nor the garbage. The odder thing is that she's not alone in here. And nor is there a cat.

Instead, there's another person. Facedown, prone.

He has curly black hair, matted and dirty. Disheveled clothes. His hands are long and lithe as a pianist's, but they look more like smashed lays lank on the floor. There's a realness to him— a tingle in the edge of her mind, a form that is more concrete than symbolic. The edges of another sleeper's mind.

Hand to mouth is how she walks in, covering the better part of herself against the horror inside the room. It's not the first (or even the worst) she's seen in past years, the war and dreams of her own have scarred more than this. This place is more like reality than she'd care to admit…

…and she doesn't like it.

The body is so real and, for a moment, Delia forgets that she's actually in a dream. The rush of first response comes back to her like breathing and she rushes to the man's side to feel the side of his neck and his wrist for a pulse. That niggling at the edge of her consciousness, another mind creeping up on her like the sun at dawn. So she nudges the figure's shoulder.

The body is as heavy as— a body, which is something you tend to never notice right up until somebody isn't moving, that awful stillness weighing down bones, organs, uncooperative stacks of muscle and head rolling off its stem. And when Delia puts her hands on the man, he's just like that, clumsy and inert. No warmth in his clothes, which seems fucked up somehow, even though it's not supposed to be. Just fabric on a stranger.

A stranger.

His head clunks over, end over cheek, and in the instant before she makes out his face, it's then that the dream

j i tters, jumps


And suddenly the body's gone. Replaced by a chalk outline, white against the wood and stained edge of concrete. Four limbs delineated, the cant of his head. A foamy spatter on the floor where his mouth would have made a mark, muddy brown mixed with a greyish slime. And then the next instant, the chalk outline itself implodes, replaced by a blue scribble, bright against the dulling backdrop of urban decay.


She can smell the detergent off her own sheets, the shampoo in her hair. The world creeping back into the waxing, waning vagueness of her dream space, the phantom of a cat’s voice fading.

The Safe Zone

In the dark, Delia’s blue eyes open wide as she throws the blankets off, shocking her body with the cold temperatures.

The instant Delia abandons her blankets, the room claps down cold and dark. But the blue mark stays in her mind's eye, like the afterimage burned out of a neon sign. It floats in her thoughts long enough for her to fumble her way to a pen and a scrap of paper, scrape it down. But she doesn't forget, even as she gets dressed and gargles a mouthful of tapwater that tastes dimly like blood and toothpaste that tastes reassuringly of mint.

Twenty minutes later, the weather outside is brisk, a cruel edge of wind trying to sneak its small knives into her skin from under her coat. But she doesn't forget.

Not the symbol, and not the house from her dream. The building is real enough, nested in one of the dingy corners of the Safe Zones, not far from pizza parlors and a school. That's New York City in 2018; flophouses rubbing shoulders with institutions that service people who insist they've never seen such a thing, though they know on some gut level, to walk a little faster when they come through.

In real life, it's still painted teal.

There's yellow police tape still, but half of it torn down. Whatever crime was committed here was done. The doors still hang open at her, a sleeper's mouth. It—feels unlikely they'd have left a corpse in here, or a man taking a nap.

Reaching out, Delia tears away the remainder of the tape and as she crosses the threshold winds it slowly around her hand. The difference between dream and reality is the smell. Dreams filter the stale smell of urine and vomit that’s permeated every surface of the house. Bringing her sleeve up against her nose and mouth, a hot spot begins to form on her sleeve as she slowly breathes in and out. Whatever happened here, it was too long ago to be scared now.

She doesn’t call for the cat, knowing that it’s an exercise in futility. She does keep an eye out, just in case there is such a thing as a dreamwalking feline. Whatever dim light manages to seep through the windows isn’t enough and she’s forced to draw a small flashlight from her pocket. It flickers as she smacks it awake, strobing her eerie surroundings. Dumpster furniture is the same here as it was in her sleep and so she points the light toward the floor in search of the chalk outline.

“If I die here, I’m going to haunt Amadeus and every freaking cat in the city.”

For better or worse, there's no cat.

For better: she doesn't die.

Probably for worse, there is absolutely one hundred percent a chalk outline where a body once lay, dead and decaying. Vomit still dried up on the floorboards right by the head, but fading into the soiled discoloration that characterizes the rest of it. It is very like her dream, but maybe not exactly; in the dream, the figure had been slightly smaller, maybe. Skewed by interpretation. Funny, because you'd think that people would look bigger to a cat.

It probably doesn't mean anything.

But Delia's eye catches a mark on the wall then; a scribble that's small, maybe the size of half a hand. It looks accidental, maybe, a pencil scribble left by a hallucinating somebody on the verge of becoming a dying nobody— but she's seen it recently enough to know it's not.


It's by the door. And then there's one more in the hall. Out the window, of all places. And crouching in the desiccated, brown remains of the lawn, she finds another on a low wall, made out of scratches this time, leading out into the alley, absurd as following a man in candy-cane stripes in a children's novel. The trail gets thin halfway down the block. It's fucking cold. Delia gets frustrated, probably. Cats are obtuse, but this one was clearly worse than most. But eventually, she finds him. Not the man who'd died choking on his own fluids; fortunately, this isn't a zombie story.

Even now, he's handsome. Black hair shot through with incipient grey, eyes that used to be clear before some combination of hardship and experimentation sucked out the meat from under his exhilaratingly lofty cheekbones.

Astor Loukas is sleeping on a park bench. He opens one eye to look at her, and his mouth makes a shape that might be a frown or it might be, "Auntie." But when she calls for an ambulance, he doesn't object.

She’s never met him in the flesh but she knows him, and she loves him like her own child. “Astor,” Delia whispers, rushing to his side and kneeling next to the bench. Her hand moves through his hair to brush it away from his forehead, pressing her cold palm to the skin there and at his temples. “Oh, you sweet precious boy…”

Yes, he’s older than she is by a few years but that isn’t how she remembers him. The way Benji gave him to her in dreams.
It’s fucking cold, she probably knows this better than he does right now. Somewhere in the back of her mind, there’s a thank you reserved for cats. “We’ll get you better,” she promises, moving up to sit next to him and shelter him from the cold. “This time, Jensen and Amato won’t take you away…” Pause. “…and you’re not going to argue.” This is the very least she can do for Eileen, her Eileen, and the most she can do for Benji.

Her forehead to his, she waits for the ambulance’s arrival with her eyes closed.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License