Scene Title Fracture
Synopsis Bao-Wei takes his investigation of the Nightmare Man and the dream world into the real world and proves he can get his hands dirty.
Date February 14, 2010

Ichihara Bookstore

In the hours after curfew and after dark, the Ichihara Bookstore is one of the many places on Roosevelt Island that — as of late — is nothing more than a darkened storefront. Under it's owner's management the store keeps nonsensical and otherworldly hours of the day that never coincide with the times clearly stated on the door, but her disappearance several months ago has left it's temporary administration team actually operating a tight ship and somehow pulling in a profit as well.

Amazing what a little organization can do.

However, this particular Valentine's day night gives the store more occupation than normal, but also for less prosperous reasons. A testament to this is the door left only slightly ajar to the street outside, the splintered door casing at the side a sign of forced entry into the somewhat cluttered bookstore than almost identically matches the one from its intruder's dreamscape.

Broad and tall, Bao-Wei Cong's silhouette in the unlit store is very unlike the dragon that he had been when last here. The store is also far more intact, but the geometries of it are so much the same; hauntingly so. Behind the lenses of his glasses, Bao-Wei can see the stairwell going up to the second floor that Teo had awakened on, the curving wooden counter in front of it that someone has been sleeping atop of, the aisles of tightly-packed books and magazines on turnstiles.

A particularly creaky aisle pops into the Doctor's memory as well, where secrets beneath old floorboards had come real. What Bao-Wei doesn't expect, is the throaty and attention-starved mrow that comes from down at his ankles. White fur seems neon bright against the dark of night, where a white cat coils around his ankles just inside the front door.

When the feline turns to look up at the doctor, its golden eyes atre created by a pair of black spots that look deceptively like big bushy eyebrows. Around the feline's neck, a collar with a single bell jingles playfully.


Maybe he's night security.
Having come from the festivities in Chinatown, Doctor Cong is still in the same new suit he had worn about; it is dark cloth, and the cat against his ankle contrasts easily. The only color on him seems to be the bright red of a tie, and the glinting of a pin on his lapel, that of a thin red and gold dragon, clutching a faux pearl of ocean blue. His observations of the already familiar bookstore are cut short by the white cat, and the man pauses to make sure the door is closed behind him. At least he has some consideration for people's pets, as in not letting them out onto the street.

For now, Bao-Wei simply allows the cat to wind around his feet. He is not about to go out of his way to give it attention, but surely it will follow him when she nears the curved counter close to the stairwell. He has not forgotten the floorboards; in this world he cannot stomp his way through, so on his way past shelves, he observes them carefully, and then the walls, the floors, all in silence, taking his due time with the task. A basement needs a door, and though he does stop to look over some spines of books(once a nerd, always a nerd, remember), his quest is to see if there is another door somewhere, possibly one that leads earthbound.

Moving through the store, it becomes readily apparent that the narrow bookstore's front room wouldn't have anything to access the basement. Rows of bookshelves, step ladders and a few cardboard boxes filled with new releases not yet brought out onto the shelves clutter the aisles, though it's a sight better than when Hokuto tried to run this place by herself. On reaching the back end of the shop, Bao-Wei notices something that catches his eye in an alcove at the back of the store, a small, round table flanked by a pair of chairs where a folded plastic sign reads, Tarot Card Readings, Five Dollars. An antique tea set is out on the table, collecting dust, and a closed cardboard box of tarot cards lies on that table surface.

Not far from this table, a tall and narrow doorway leads into an absolutely tiny kitchen with a miniature refrigerator up on the counter, a microwave and a small gas stove. Just a peek in through that door makes it obvious there's no way down from here either. Across the other side of the rear of the store from the tarot nook, there's a closed door that reads Employees Only on a small placard.
If he were a more outwardly considerate person, Bao-Wei would have waited until another time. But, he isn't. He does, however, make sure to leave as small an imprint with his presence as humanly possible. An effort to not disturb anything, for the most part. His gaze travels to the alcove before his feet care to, eyes taking in the dusty little room and the narrow door.

Sometimes, the need to touch something can just overwhelm a person- like seeing a big red button which is tagged Do Not Press. Everyone thinks about it. Bao-Wei moves into the alcove, one small step at a time. He first goes to peer past the kitchen door, and is relieved when he doesn't see anything further that direction. The tiny nook of a kitchen probably would not be kind to his- well- turning around to get out. That done for, he turns back to the tarot table and the tea set, looking over the porcelain in vague interest before drawing the tips of his fingers over the closed card box.

He saw the cards in the dream last night; he knows what they are, just not much about them. Symbolism helps, though. So in lieu of having found anything else of value, Bao-Wei lifts the lid on the cards. If they are face up, he'll just encounter the first one- though if they are face down he will go through the motion of picking up the top card.

When the box lid is slid open and Bao-Wei thumbs the first card off of the top of the deck and turns it around to look at, there is the image of a rather regal figure awaiting him in his hand. A high-backed and wrought throne of some gray stone sets amidst a sparse wilderness environment, upon which a sovereign swathed in robes, bearing a gilded crown and holding aloft a sword is seated. The card seems to reflect perhaps an image of authority or military strength? At the bottom of the card, it's title is clearly printed; KING of SWORDS

"Maaaow." The cat at Bao-Wei's ankles opines, one white ear twitching as it curls a tail around the doctor's calf, leaving white fur all up and down his dark suit pantleg. The cat looks up, gold eyes wide and stares before offering up the alternative of "Mrrrow?" Not particularly helpful, cat.

"You are not being very helpful, are you?" Bao-Wei tilts his head down to peer at the feline, with his Groucho Marx eyebrows meeting the stare. He places the card back on the pile after considering it at short length. Perhaps he ought to read up. The easy shuffle of cardboard closes as he puts the lid back, leaving unmistakable prints in the collected dust. "Well, let us see about this other door, shall we?"

His words to the cat will either be totally lost, or come as something else for it to follow. Being the Doctor's only company, he merely speaks to it so that this does not feel like the Breaking and Entering that it is. He strolls across rear floor, meandering on over to the Employees Only door to test the knob.

The door opens, more a deterrent to the honest than any form of security. It opens up into a narrow outlet stacked high on either side with cardboard boxes and old newspapers, magazines, and National Geographics nearly ceiling high. Just outside of the narrow outlet, there's a pair of tall bookshelves, one of which seems to be supported on the front corner by a stack of magazines where it has been crookedly balanced on a very obviously sloping floor.

Past the shelves the room opens out to about ten feet wide, where cardboard boxes and loose booxs with broken spines or magazines with missing covers are stacked up. There's a hanging lightbulb that Bao-Wei nearly walks right into, given the dark and that it's turned off. Then, he's reached the furtherest back of the shop, just an old wooden door with nine glass squares to view out into a paved parking lot behind the store. The lot actually looks mostly closed off, with tall brick apartment buildings flush on either side, and a narrow alley leading out of here, barely wide enough for a delivery van.

Fire escapes are bolted to all of the walls out bark aren't just an industrial addition to the old, plain brick buildings; creeping ivy has overgrown the entire back lot. Growing up between spaces in the pavement and crawling between the brickwork, the ivy has wound its way around the fire escapes, up the walls and around the windows. Amidst this odd contrast of urban and verdant setting, the black iron garden furniture seems to blend in well. The chairs are made of the same wrought iron, four circling the table where an old oil lamp rests along with a box of matches and glass cylinders containing pillar candles that are arranged around the table.

Peering just a bit further out the window on the door, Bao-Wei spots something more, to his discernment, important— the closed doors of a cellar bulkhead.
If it were not winter, the back lot might be cozy, in a manner of speaking. He took his time shifting through the dark to turn on the light, and does the same in making his way to the window. His eye for detail can get him into trouble at times, but today it is working the images of Ichihara books into his steel-trap memory. A thought occurs to him at the point where he finally spots the cellar doors. This is the first time in a long time he has gone off by himself on some sort of quest. Just months ago he would have been told to do his tromping about with one or two Dragons. Now, he is alone in his misadventures, and even his degree of personal prescience did not expect it.

Doctor Cong keeps a sigh inside of his throat as he turns to pull the light off again, and goes back to open the back door into the lot.

Remarkably well behaved for the monster he is, the eyebrowed cat sits patiently in the doorway when Bao-Wei steps outside, perhaps realizing, it is cold outside crazy man and my food is in here on considering the exterior of the shop. When the back door closes, the cat is content to meander away from the door and to other areas of interest. Outside, however, Bao-Wei has found himself on the verge of something more satisfying than simple shenanigans and misadventure, he's found a distinct paralell between the dreaming world and the waking one, and the prospect is tantalizing.

Approaching the bulkhead, ice crunches under the doctor's feet as he considers the concrete sides and metal doors. There's a padlock on the doors, a steel and blue-plastic Masterlock hooked around the door latches. It figures, that the treasure is locked in a figurative vault of the urban variety.

Looking to either side of the bulkhead doors, Bao-Wei can see narrow basement windows with dirtied glass, vindication of his hypotnesis that this place does indeed have a downstairs. However getting inside may be a little more complicated than just putting his shoulder into it.
The very idea of this parallel is extreme; but here it is, the basement to the bookstore. The potential that there is something down there is even more bright in Bao-Wei's head. But of course, the dreaming world does not work like the real world. The real world has padlocks on doors, and in this real world he cannot turn into a beast and smash the doors in. It would make this so much easier, of course.

The man wrinkles his nose slightly in the cold air, an unhappy sneer spreading over his face while he stands there glowering at the locked cellar doors for a good few minutes, backtracking mentally through the shop in case he may have missed something on the way. Nothing from the inside comes to mind, but something outside certainly does. His eyes lift up to the back door, but just off to the side. He walked right past that wrought iron furniture, barely giving it a second look. Now, he looks at the iron as if it were a long lost friend hopping off of a plane, and the sneer on his face contorts with smugness.

The Chinamen wastes no time now, fetching one of the iron chairs and hoisting it with him back to the cellar doors. The thing is, here on Roosevelt, there is so much crime that not everyone cares if they glimpse somebody breaking into a building. If someone liked Hokuto enough, they'd have come here; but he is still alone, and left to his own devices. Besides- he's Asian- will they really think he doesn't have a reason to be there? Everyone's a little bit racist.

Lifting the chair, he pins the leg squarely onto the lock. Another pause is taken, for considering basic aim; in the next span of breath, Bao-Wei is bringing up the iron chair to slam the foot down onto the lock. He gives it a handful of good whacks, probably missing a few others and likely bending the latches with those strikes. Plan A, in progress.

It's a dirty, prolonged process, beating a locked door apart with a chair. Fortunately for Hokuto Ichihara, a Masterlock is one of the sturdiest padlocks money can buy. Unfortunately for Hokuto Ichihara, the flimsy aluminum handles of her bulkhead doors are not. One handle bends, twists, and then just snaps out sending a shower of metal parts clink-tinkling down the concealed steps with hardly any damage done to the wrought iron chair save for scrapes and scuffs to the leg. The door looks battered and bent on the outside, of course, but it's a casualty of this war that suffices.

One light comes on in the tenement building to Bao-Wei's right, followed by a distant shout of "Knock it the fuck off I'm trying to sleep!" Before the window comes slamming shut again, and two more people turn their lights on because goddamn that guy and his shouting son of a bitch.

Settling down the chair, Bao-Wei is able to assess the bulkhead doors, rattling the other handle until the broken locking mechanisms come undone and he's able to swing both doors open and out to the lot. There's a rickety old wooden staircase descending from here, to another door at the bottom of the steps. Halfway down the stairs, there's a plastic painter's bucket full of rock salt and a garden trowl for spinkling it out on the walkway out back— it's probably been there for years.

"«Go back to bed, I will be done in a minute.»" Bao-Wei mumbles to himself, patiently putting aside the chair and wrenching the broken latches from the door. He is good at the breaking into places, not so much not leaving hints that he was there. Anyone that cares to check where things were will know it, but not who it was unless the cat has hidden cameras in its eyeballs.

Holding aside the doors, the doctor props them so that they will not slam shut again. He eyes the old stairs with a squint, uneasy about their state, but there is only one way down there, and he knows he has to take it, and so steps carefully onto the first pair of steps to move down; his hands keep to the walls of the bulkhead, avoiding the hanging bucket and small shovel equally covered in misty cobwebs. Clothes can be cleaned; his concern, though he hasn't quite realized and come to terms with it, is adequately elsewhere- and for someone that is not himself.

The first sign that something is wrong is the creak of the old wood. Unfortunately that comes four steps down from the mouth of the bulkhead opening. When Bao-Wei goes to make his next cautious step, the board running up the center of the stairs serving as a backbone and brave just snaps with a loud splintering of wood and the whole goddamned wooden staircase comes tumbling down. Fortunately the fall is only six feet or so, but tumbling forward down a set of collapsing stairs, Bao-Wei's full weight comes smashing into the door at the bottom and simply bursting it open and sending him rolling over one shoulder — ass over head — into a cluttered basement.

Dust comes up in a huge cloud, broken pieces of wood come crashing down from behind where stairs once were. On his back and staring up at the dusty boards of the ceiling above him, it takes several long moments of internal assessment before Bao-Wei realizes he has not broken anything and is also — aside from his pride — largely uninjured.

Choking at a cloud of the thick dust, he's able to get up onto an elbow, spotting a few old milk crates filled with vynyl records, a table covered in dust with a record player seated atop it is just about at head level for him right now, and there's even a record still sitting atop the player with the playing arm down.

His eyes dart around the shop, glasses somewhere on the floor where his hand bunks into the bent frames; seems as though he landed on them, thankfully they're flexible enough. From the floor, that's about all he can see, aside from street light illumination coming muddied through dirty and high up basement windows.

Even though he has just fallen down half a flight of stairs, the first thing that Bao-Wei thinks of while peering up at a ceiling(again) is that he thanks whatever powers that be that nobody was around to see that. Yes, his pride has a large bruise probably the same size as the one likely forming on his shoulder, but wounds do heal. Even if this is painful to even acknowledge as happening. It's not his fault most of his immediate and extended family has the same in large builds. When he pushes himself up it is to try and find a light source so that he can adjust his eyes to the dark of the basement. He will worry about getting back out later- and if he is stuck- he's stuck,

He coughs a couple of times, huffing loudly and wagging one arm to swat dusty particles out of his face. It finds his glasses on a short search of the floor, but as they are bent he simply tucks them away. They may be worn often, but he hardly needs them. The doctor takes his time for the umpteenth turn, getting to his feet and not even attempting to dust himself off. Pointless, that.

An exhale swirls the dust still floating around him in the stale air, and it looks like the smoke he is so used to in the dreamscapes, curling out of his mouth and nose. If he could, he would stay like that. He happens to make a better dragon than a person. Both eyes trail over his surroundings, a hand wiping at the dust on the record player closeby, wiping at the label on the vinyl.

Wiping the dust off of the label at the center of the record, the title becomes clear behind the motion of thick fingers; Fleetwood Mac is in a flowing script, and then beneath that the album title, Rumors. The table is littered with a variety of old books, stacks of college textbooks on psychology, biographies of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. All of them have a thick layer of dust atop them, dirt that came form between the floorboards, years of detritus settled on this table. Hanging on a wooden post at the corner of one of the brick walls, a boquet of dried roses are upside down, a few scattered dried petals on the floor and on the seat of a wooden chair at a sewing machine.

There's a bookshelf here, more records stacked up and angled, a little black onyx cat figurine with gold painted eyes, a picture frame showing a dark-haired Chinese woman in a wedding dress beside a stern looking Japanese man with short hair and a goatee. Pacing past the bookshelves, Bao-Wei sees an old rocking chair with a knit blanket thrown over it, a reading lamp next to it on a table and an old leatherbound red covered book with a faded gold-leaf profile of a queen with a profoundly large crown and a scepter over her shoulder. Paging it open, the interior text reads, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

Something crunches under Bao-Wei's foot, and the shoe moves aside, revealing a broken sliver of glass. His eyes catch another glint not far away, and then like some ominous figure looming in the distance, there stands a six foot tall dark wood frame, covered with a dusty cloth.

Just like in the dream.
The basement hadn't been opened in years, he could tell that from the stairwell alone. Inside, it is virtually like a time capsule, and his carefulness here shows a caution that one might see in a museum. Excepting that he can touch these exhibits, within reasonable boundaries. Absorption of what is here is the same. Titles, pictures, books, objects, degradable things that have somehow weathered themselves down here. Cong does take a moment longer to scan the photo of the couple, recalling the memory of Hokuto's memory- of her keening into the phone for her father while Midtown burned.

It's only natural that he debates the real owners of what is down here, and exactly how Midtown affected Hokuto herself. The capsule, as he sees it, holds enough symbolism to last him the year. He tries to match parallels again and again, to things in the sleeping world. The crunch under his shoe catches his attention again, and after seeking out the item under his shoe, lifts his head to blink hard at the dark ahead of him. Was he expecting the mirror? Yes. And No. He was not sure what he would come upon down here, but blatant mimicry wasn't going to shock him.

"…Let us see how you fare here." Bao-Wei steps nearer to the mirror, lifting his hand to the cloth and pulling it up and aside.

Shattered. The mirror has a single fist-mark in the middle of it just as it did in the nightmare, save that this one has dark brown crust at the middle where broken glass cut real human knuckles. It looks like the figmentary mirrors in the dream world do though, a carefully hand carved wooden frame, six feet tall and on a pivotable axis so it can be flipped backwards to not reveal the mirror's surface. It's an antique, one that deserves not to be sitting down here moldering away in a damp basement like this.

Nothing down here should be locked up the way it is, and yet— here it all is. Records and books, pictures and pieces of broken glass. All of them parts of some greater whole, jumbles and shuffled and scattered around just as the many pieces of the mirror that Bao-Wei stares into are broken. His reflection looks divided in the broken glass, segmented pieces of shattered silvered backing and everything that is was in dream.

The mirror, is broken.

If mirrors had feelings, he might feel something for this one in return. In many ways, its sitting here is just- sad. So is the rest of it. Every bit, broken or not. The man runs his thumb over the dusty wood of the mirror's frame, taking the side in his fingers. If there is nothing here, and he is stuck for no good reason at all- to say the least he will be very angry about it.

Bao-Wei can admire handiwork, but he can also think like a person that has something possibly work hiding. He takes both sides of the tall mirror, making an attempt to shift it further from the walls so that he can peer behind it without having to flip the mirror, even going so far as to run his fingers along the frame and backboard.

When the mirror rolls aside on its wheeled frame, clunking over a few broken shards of glass, there's a small nightstand behind where the mirror had rested. It's a cherrywood stand with a gold leaf ribbon design on the top, covered in as much dust as the rest of this place is. Unremarkable at first, save for the tiny drawer in the front that curious hands are able to pull open slowly. The wooden drawer takes a few tugs to pull out having been swolen from moisture. Inside, there is a small leatherbound book that has been kept safe from the dust in this drawer. Across the front in simple silver leaf lettering is a stenciled font that reads My Dream Journal. Beside it are an assortment of pens and pencils, and a small business card seated atop the journal.

Primatech Paper Company

Paper, People, Performance. Primatech, since 1962.

Hokuto Ichihara, Regional Claims Manager.

At first he is hesitant to open the drawer and the book to follow; privacy is jut one of those things. But even privacy needs to broken sometimes. Bao-Wei is careful with whatever he has been finding, at least. He runs his thumb over the lettering as he holds the small book in his hand, studying it before he studies the card that sat with it. Such a thing he has ease in memorizing, though he possesses no knowledge of Primatech or what it actually is. All that Cong sees is that Hokuto used to work for a paper company.

It sounds so very dull, for a woman that can move through dreams.

There must be something down here that he was meant to find- even if he does not wholly believe in Fate itself. Coincidences happen- and that look he remembers from the Shadow, when he stepped over the floor that is now above his head echoes shyly in his memory. After mulling over the card, he finally opens the cover of the journal to look inside.

The pages of the journal are all torn out, save for the last page filled with black ink scribblings and a very clearly worded, frustrated scrawling of writing at the very bottom of the page.

It's not me in the mirror.

The sentence causes the hairs on the back of Doctor Cong's neck to briefly rise, eyes flicking to look back at his own shattered reflection in the glass, and the sudden erratic depiction of this private book leaves something to be considered by the doctor, about the mental state of the dreamwalker following the bomb. Fortunately, he'll have plenty of time to consider all of that.

While he's trying to get back out.

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