Grow Mushrooms


delia2_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Grow Mushrooms
Synopsis While standing on a precipice in his life, Nick gets a bit of unsolicited advice on what he should be doing.
Date December 3, 2010

The Borderlands

Even in sleep he can't get reprieve. Beat up and bloody, Nick York stands at the edge of a dangerous precipice, teetering on a high cliff between the borderlands of All and Might Be. He's been up here many times to look down at the jagged shards of glass that cover the ground on the other side of the fence. It would be too easy to fling himself out on it. Much too easy.

Today there's a guest beside him, perhaps someone looking to do the same.

The half formed men of Might Be, the ones that steal the wishes and dreams of people as they sleep. The complete opposite of a muse, they rob people of memories, steal their souls, kill them slowly with doubt and anguish. The sort of people that Nick has been having a love affair with for years. His guest is one of them. Telltale by the bone mask of a lion cub it wears as a face, the ragged appearance, though underneath her once white dress is the fully formed figure of a young woman.

Long tresses of the redhead beside him wavers in the warm night breeze, oddly smelling like a mix of mint and lavender. A familiar smell but it can't be placed anywhere specific. The full moon shines a soft white light on everything, painting highlights which in turn create longer shadows. It's been too long since anyone saw the sun.

As he notices the woman beside him, his brows furrow angrily and he steps away, one step closer to the edge of that cliff. Blue eyes appear almost silver and mercurial as they glance up at the moon for a moment and then back down to the jagged shards below.

"If you're 'ere to stop me," Nick says over his shoulder to the redheaded woman, "you don't 'ave to waste yer time. Even if I did fall," or jump, "I don't think I'd die."

He knows the inhabitants of Might Be have no benevolence for him; by trying to save him, they wouldn't be doing him any favor. His wish would be to merely end, to no longer be. His greatest wish is for there to be no afterlife at all, for any afterlife with him in it could have nothing good in it. He doesn't deserve anything good — but he's afraid of what's lies beneath that final sleep.

"I'm here to watch," the figure croaks in a rather hoarse whisper, as though she hasn't had anything to drink in too long a time. Her eyes are cornflower blue, a species of flora that was expunged from the land long ago, and they peer at him through the eyes of the skull. Around them is painted black, as if to look as hollow as the half-men themselves. She laces her fingers together and places them demurely on her lap and then inches toward the edge of the cliff herself, just enough to dangle her legs over the side to swing them around.

Pivoting her head to face him, the young half-woman licks her dry lips and purses them, almost to keep a smile from forming. "You're right though, you won't die. Not here… You'll just lose yourself." Then she cranes her neck toward him and narrows those blue eyes as though judging him. "But you've done that already, haven't you? You don't know who you are or what you want. You just… exist."

The man stares down, brows knitting together as he turns to look at her, caught for a moment by the brightness of those blue eyes juxtaposed against the black and white of the mask, the bleaker landscape beyond her. "Lose myself…" he repeats. "That'd imply I ever 'ad a clue what I was about, wouldn't it." It's not a question.

"I think anything I ever wanted got beaten out of me when I was a kid. All I wanted was to survive." Nick huffs a laugh nodding toward the jagged shards below. "It's about all I'm good at, now. Surviving. Even if I don't really care."

His hand moves over the back of his short-cropped hair. "Why're you here? To watch? To watch me do wot exactly? Who are you?" he says, turning to look at her, blue eyes seeking hers.

"Then you have a while to travel before you find yourself again, don't you?" The masked woman's voice softens with use, becoming something more familiar to him. Her thumbs twiddle around each other, fidgeting along with the swing of her long legs off the edge. "It's not always a bad thing… losing yourself. It gives you a chance to think about what you really want, whether you were on the right path in the first place." From what he's telling her, it's a rather safe assumption on her part that he wasn't ever on a path.

Meeting his gaze, her eyes widen a little, looking too innocent under the coal rings and skull. "I'm just here to watch," she repeats. A hand moves to lift the skull from her face, the sunken and haggard appearance of the young woman underneath might give him cause to beg her to put it back on. "I'm nobody. Lost, like you, but in a different way." The mask is set to the side and she points a finger to the middle of her chest, "You're lost in here… I'm just…" Her fingers wiggle as her arm makes a rather graceful wave to follow the wind. "Gone."

Nick crouches so she doesn't have to strain to look up at him. Resting his elbows on his knees, he peers at her. "I know someone else who was lost — I was supposed to try an' find 'em. But I can't remember — it's a bit foggy," he confesses.

He looks around, frowning at the dark and colorless world. "Where is 'ere? It's … it's familiar. I've been 'ere before, a lot of times but I donno where I am. I donno where to go." Of course, that's been his problem for a long, long time.

"Pull up a chair and stay a while, you looked like you were going to be here for a bit anyway." The young woman extends an invitation by patting the ground just a little ways over from her. Not close enough that he might think she was being too forward, maybe the opposite. "Lots of people have trouble remembering in this place. Don't try too hard though because when you remember, you have to leave." She turns her head to look at him, giving him a small smile to indicate that she doesn't necessarily want him to leave, not just yet.

"You don't know where you are and you don't know where to go…" The redhead muses for a little bit, even going so far to stroke her chin in thought with her long fingers. "That's a bit of a problem, isn't it? I suppose you have to think about where you've been first. Then decide if that's where you want to stay… if you don't you have a little bit of work cut out for you. Finding things isn't always easy, especially when you're looking for yourself. I'm having a tough time."

Casting a wary look, Nick holds that crouch for a moment longer before shrugging his left shoulder and shifting to sit on the ground rather than his haunches. "Where I've been is shit," he says bleakly. "Nothin' good in that direction. I'd wipe out the memory of everything I've done if it'd do me any good, but that's a bloody cop out. Make it too easy on me, and I don't deserve that."

He stares across the void in front of them. "Tryin' to do some good now but I think it's all tainted by the past. Everything keeps circling around and everything I touch turns out to be just so much…"

He pauses, trying to think of an apt word, before shrugging his one-sided shrug again and settling on, "shit."

Reaching out, the young woman grabs Nick's hand whether he allows it or not and holds it firmly in her grip. She stares at him with a little squint at the corners of her eyes, challenging him to pull away before she finally speaks. "You're touching me now and I'm not going to turn to shit." The redhead states it as a fact, knowing full well what he means by the statement. "Nothing good, really good, can be tainted. If it is, then it's not really good, is it? It's just sort of pretending. If you're trying, someone's going to see it and it'll work out."

She turns to face the man and gives him a crooked half smile, one that's too familiar. Reaching out with her other hand, she points out some of his cuts and bruises. "You give these to yourself, at least here. You beat yourself up for things that happened, instead of forgiving yourself and making it right." Touching one of the purple bruises with her finger tip, the discoloration moves from his skin and slides into hers until it settles in roughly the same place. "There, now I took one of them and it's mine. Don't hurt yourself any more for things you can't change. If what you touch turns to shit… grow mushrooms."

His hand tenses when she takes it, and he glances down at it in her finer boned fingers, his posture stiff and taut as if waiting for something bad to happen. His brows furrow when his bruises transfer to her, and he shakes his head, mouth forming a silent don't but it's too late to protest.

"That's the problem. The things I try to do — even the things I think are good — they're not. I think because I'm not. Can sommat bad ever produce sommat good?"

A strained smile accompanies his words. "Other than mushrooms, I guess."

He looks from their hands up to her masked face. "You don't deserve to carry my pain. It ain't right. And I can't make what I done right; the past is the past and I can't make amends."

He swallows and looks back out to the horizon. "She told me as much. No amends. She did say to stop…" He nods down at the precipice below. "To stop throwing myself on the spikes." A soft huff of a chuckle punctuates that and Nick shakes his head ruefully. "I'm a bit daft sometimes, but I think I get it, Red."

"You're wrong, you know." The young woman states, taking the mask and playing with it in her free hand. "Bad things can create good, just like good things can create bad. You can't change the past but there's always a way to make amends… Even if you don't make it up to the person you hurt, by changing things and by stopping…" She puts the mask down on the ground again and runs her fingers through her tangled hair.

"Stop throwing yourself on spikes, okay? Nothing all bad ever tries to do anything good. People make mistakes, some of them are horrible, too horrible to mention…" Averting her eyes, the young woman chews on her lip for a little while and squints, "But when you try to make it right, you can't always be beating yourself up and reliving it. Grow a mushroom in your shit… and help someone else, maybe that's what she means. What's done is done, you can't change it. What you can do is stop it from happening to someone else."

Nick watches the woman remove the mask, lip quirking up into a slight smile for the revealed face beneath. "Good to see you," he says softly, then reaches to take her hand again, squeezing it. "I'm tryin' — it's why I do the work I do, not that it's how I started. It's why I keep at it, you know? Not that it will make up for it. It can't."

Staring down at the shards, his free hand touches the bruise she'd taken from him. "How can I help you? That … if I could do that… I'd call you Mushroom instead of Red."

Both of Delia's hands clasp around the one of Nick's. "Good to see you too, I understand now… Why you're so… Well the way you are. If you really want to try, let me help you. Stop living back then and look forward," she smiles a little and keeps his hand squeezed between both of hers. "I'm scared that I hurt her too… she's cayying a message for me, to my dad. She was just supposed to scratch, but she cut deep…" Lifting her blue eyes to meet Nick's, Delia furrows her eyebrows in worry. "You're both… Both of you… are beating yourselves up. For different reasons but you're hurting."

A few long tendrils waver in the warm breeze and she purses her lips together. "If I can get close enough, I'll feel my body… I'm just scared that the longer I'm gone, the harder it'll be to recognize it. I need spotlights, a way to find my way there. Or someone to carry me." She wrinkles her nose in a grimace when she adds quietly, "And if you're going to call me a vegetable, call me Carrots… It's what my brother calls me."

Nick's dark brows twitch into another scowl as she expresses concern for Eileen. "She's tough. She'll be okay," he assures her, though he can't be sure, of course. It might explain why she wasn't among those he's seen since his return to the island.

He reaches up to touch one of her red curls. "I never liked carrots. I'll just stick with Red. or Czwerwony." His blue eyes search hers. "How do I put up these spotlights? Can I tell you where you are — would that help? Your body — we put you in the Redbird building, over in Battery Park. Can you … can you seek those people, find yourself that way?"

"You don't want to put up spotlights… Not if you're trying to be good," Delia smiles up at him. The smile falters a little, her eyes drifting down to stare at the dusty ground between them. "Refrain users, they're — they're attractive, like moth lights."

Lifting her gaze to meet Nick's, she shakes her head with a sad sort of smile. "I don't have a map here, I'm blind to what's out there. Without a trail or path to follow, I can't find my way from here to across the street. I can find people, if I can reach them, but not places."

He laughs at the word good, but not in a malicious way, then shrugs. "Can't help even if I wanted to, Red — not special like you in that way," Nick points out. "But I think your man Jaiden, maybe he's around, and the people who work there, live there, if you know any of 'em — that cowboy, maybe? If you can reach out for them — maybe you can find yer way back that way."

He glances down at her hand in his, studying, tracing a coarse thumb over the pale skin. "I told that ghostie woman I'd 'elp — but I guess I can't, eh?"

"You can, you could carry me back if you could stay asleep long enou—" Nick can feel the ground disappear from under him as Delia's words are cut off and she begins screaming. Her eyes are wide with terror as she realizes exactly what's going on. She grips his hand tighter, trying not to let go but the result is only that he's tugged into the atmosphere as high as she is.

"Nick I can't hold on! You have to wake up!!" His body succumbs to the pull of gravity as he slips down from her hold. They whirl up through the air, spinning higher and higher. "Wake up Nick! I'm so sorry!!" She claws at his arm until the last possible second, when his fingers slip away from hers and…

He sits up, the cot of the infirmary creaking under the sudden shifting of his weight. Gasping for breath as if he just came up from water, he stares into the darkness of the infirmary, heart pounding as he looks around to see if he's woken anyone — but anticlimactically, his fall and his waking were nearly silent but for that ragged sob of breath and metallic groan.

Very physical, very real pain seeps back into his consciousness as his bruised and battered and torn body comes back into wakefulness. Nick closes his eyes, easing himself back onto the cot, his hands coming to his cover his face as he exhales a long and shaky sigh. "'m sorry, Red…" he whispers.

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