s_huruma_icon.gif unknown13_icon.gif

Scene Title Imagination
Synopsis Jasmine visits one left behind with promise of a better ending.
Date August 2, 2011


In contrast to the cool, constantly ventilated and humidity-balanced air of the Arcology's interior, the wind that ruffles the tops of tall grass is dry and hot and smells of smoke. In contrast to the cookie cutter gardening efforts of the Arcology's artificial parklands, immense grasslands spread across the world, both green and golden and shifting like rippled silk. And on the horizon, a fire is eating through the rich forest that otherwide bordered it, sending up black smoke and poisoning the wind. Natural causes can be easily blamed, but it's not uncommon for it to be done at the hands of man.

The wind blows, carrying trees in the form of ash with it.

Disembodied, Huruma experiences her own memory without a sense of self, and is powerless when the landscape changes to something better. Better, in the conventional ideas of beauty and the preservation of life, anyway — there are those that would argue that fanning flames and twisted black smoke is plenty attractive. Here, African birds gather en masse at a lake as smooth and flat as a mirror, some gliding along the water as if to wet their tummies before powerful wings flap to kill their momentum and rejoin the flock. Watching on the dustier incline of hillside, Benji Ryans, Jnr. is trying to get a closer look. Or Jasmine. Or whoever she happens to be at the moment, more like herself in real life than the bedazzled avatar she sometimes wears, but it should be said her feet are bare because she is carrying the tan highsheels she was wearing originally.

No mask, though, just a white dress that is already getting dirty in her inching her way down across the landscape so as to see the wildlife better — not that she can't conform the memory to suit her needs, move herself where she must be, but immersion makes things richer, colours brighter.

Waterfowl make for an entertaining afternoon; plovers and herons, ducks and little bombardiers that skim their way over the water. The most numerous jostle is a mass of pale, rosy pink, weaving in on itself and spilling around the lake as a cell- as the lesser flamingos of the Rift Valley partake in the usual and traditional migration patterns, fire or no. Not a soul can say that they are not valiant birds, despite the shades and whimsical curved noses. They are ungainly as they take off, galloping up and lifting wingspans into gentle glides across the flock. Lots of legs, a short number of brains, and an overflowing self-awareness. Cows waddle about freely in the shallows in the distance, watched over only by a skinny, preteen boy with a long walking stick and clothes much too big for his wiry frame. Like a postcard.

The incline around the lake is mainly dusty, plush grass, which melts into pebbly shoreline as it flattens down below. A great many plovers have nests there, and their high-pitched pipping is less of a nuisance and more a chorus, a testament to banding little families. Where there is water, there is always going to be grace and life. Where there is not water, there is going to be thirst and weakness. It is a fact of life on earth, that something will, at some point, head for water.

While the sky is blue and the sun glorious, there is no reason for the shade of the bristly little trees on the shore to change; the cast shadow of thorny leaves on the grass near Jasmine shifts subtly, a blotch between branches ghosting past as something crosses in front of the sunlight seemingly into the grass. Even before this, she will be able to feel eyes upon her back, studious of the shapes of bone and the twine of muscle ahead of it.

A nose comes first, pitch black and flanked by a spray of ivory whiskers, poking out through the brush, and cutting a small frame for the broad, silent face of a large cat.

Following that track of shadow and then the sixth-sense prickle of eyes on her back, Jasmine is quite notably defenseless. In practical terms, anyway. Her hands are free of anything except her shoes, and she is not dressed for a hike through the savannah wilderness, nor is she faster than the predators that know its planes and textures better than she.

Despite this, she is more taken by the beauty of the creature she encounters peeking through the grass, even if its obscured by the green-yellow stalks, the clearer thing being its nose parting it like a curtain. But she can sense more than see the accurate depiction of feline muscle and bone, its angles and lines from strong shoulders to the flicking end of her tail. "Look at you," she breathes out, switching her interest from the flocking waterfowl to the big cat nearby. Glancing back over her shoulder, she then ducks into a crouching kneel as if to get on eye level, white skirt getting ever more dust and dirt on cotton hems.

The black muzzle, with its short, slick fur, and flay of whiskers, wrinkles for just a passing moment. The curves and shapes of the panther's head are piecemeal, without seeming too much like any one feline. It simply exists as such, and is accepted as what it is. The sun may beat down often upon such a fine dark coat, though with misfortune comes wisdom enough to stay in the shade, or to come for water where no creature will bother you, just because you are the most obvious danger.

The pricks of black in otherwise moon-shaped eyes quiver with anticipation and hesitation both, watching the movements of the human before it with great interest. Even if not wholly innocent, it remains an interest.

The panther opens its mouth enough to allow a wide pink tongue to run over the cleft of lip and nose, vocal chords rumbling into the ground as it chooses to lie down on its belly where it had been standing in the grass.

That's encouraging. Better than launching forward, claws out and ready. People don't get hurt in their own dreams. They don't die. Dreamwalkers have more rules to abide by.

"I, uh." Jasmine's voice wavers, squinting in the sun at the dark cat having its lie-down in the sun. She is too much the city child to be very well equipped for an African sun, and her freckles stand out all the more without actually growing in number. Yet. The wind coming across the grasslands tease at dark hair, left longer than in real life, and she sets her shoes aside to balance her hands against the ground. "I wanted to see that you were okay. I had to go— to go back to New York City, after, but I've here again to. See you. And apologise."

And even in her powerful position in this realm, she isn't sure how much Huruma is aware, in the cat-form she has chosen — but Jasmine imagines intelligence in the luminous eyes blinking her way.

Huruma's head tilts back, mouth opening into a short yawn, ears pinned against her skull, and tail swishing there behind her haunches. Both front paws, roughly the size of her hands in the waking world, fold out onto the dusty ground in Jasmine's direction. Claws slip out into the knotty surface, kneading furrows underneath. She is right about one particular thing- that there is a mind, as self-assured as the flock of flamingos, lurking behind the shield of long ivory teeth and an intense stare.

"Hakuna suala." The cat's lips peel back over those shining teeth, the nose remaining smooth; the expression is as near to a passive confirmation as can be, it appears. Whiskers flat on her muzzle, Huruma's ears pivot on satellite hinges, and fold back down, and the slip of pink flesh in her mouth can be seen when the mouth opens half an inch. "I thought that something was …here." She looks past the human body there, gesturing in her glance to the sky. Here. Around. "Something like you. You are not my first."

"Apologies mean little, when my world is glass and metal. But your willingness to say so, wapenzi, is appreciated." Huruma's voice, in this place, comes out far more clearly. Thoughts come more easily formed in this aware state, and are spoken aloud in the mind with a truer voice than in pure memories, or that which is spoken in passing. It is as deep as the water and just as smooth. She has had a lot of time to catch up on her sleep, that is for certain. What else to do but dream on her own, then?

Jasmine's lightly painted eyes slide more shut as Huruma speaks, listening to the near-telepathic voice that, to her, not only seems to belong to the big cat in front of her, but steeped in the dry earth and the long grasses, the depth of the lake and the sun lighting the sky illuminated. Pressing her palm down against the ground, she feels the grittiness of the dirt beneath her fingertips as if to test the texture and quality of the empath's voice, her state of mind, and there's a small twitch to the dreamwalker's mouth at the news of worlds of glass and metal. "I'm sorry," she says again, despite Huruma's response, and that she already said it. "If there's something more I can do, I will do it. You deserve a chance.

"A better chance than you got. We got told stories, where I'm from. My grandfather…"

She trails off, then, head tipping to the side and eyes downcast. "I showed you how your story ended, in the hope you could make a better one for yourself. I won't leave it there and with an apology."

The earth is warm under the rays of the sun. Alive, and soft on the surface, hardness below that dust. The warmth, however, is strikingly emanating, and the water looks equally cool, and crisp. Even in her dreams, there is a certain rawness to her, and even in the stillness that she possesses. For a few moments, the colors of this world shift, and bolden, and saturate, flickering like this before returning to the natural contrast of nature.

Paws flex more deeply, the points of claws sticking, and the tendons of its arms tightening upwards. Huruma watches the youthful face in front of her, the paneled reflections of the cat's eyes only narrowing when she mentions stories- and her grandfather. The earth shudders, once.

"You did me a greater justice by showing me." There will be changes- however minute, however slim. "You need not do more, and yet you have gone above and beyond your own duties, and that, presumably, of your friends." It is hard to tell whether or not this is a good thing, as the deep female voice seems to come from anything in front of her. "That said, I do hope that I am not simply… left here. If your grandfather taught you anything about me-" The cat's face pulls back, and the roots of teeth flash around the pink of her tongue and mouth. Jasmine can feel the burst of pride, clean as air. "-it is that they operate better with me, than without."

Clouds form like cotton balls in the sky, dotting the blue with stormy blotches of white. Huruma sets her head back into her shoulders, muscle bunching under the folds of black fur. The snake-like tail behind her gives a languorous, curious curl-and-flick. "Tell me that they were good stories. And that I am a reasonable facsimile of your-" The cat rolls her skull on the hinge of her neck, eyes focusing past Jasmine, ears flattening at seemingly nothing to be seen. Her voice has taken on a vibration, between a growl and a simple vibrato. "Mmmm. Imagination."

The dreamwalker only nods her confirmation — that the Ferry does better with Huruma than without, and a gentle, slightly sad smile tensing the corners of her mouth. As the cat's attention moves passed her, Jasmine tips her attention upwards at the achingly beautiful African sky herself, arms coiling around her knees. "They were fair stories," she says, after a moment of consideration. "I have heroes. When we saved Carol Praeger, I got to work with them, and they aren't heroes because people say only the good things — and around me," and there's a small sound at the back of her throat, a hem of tiny chuckle, "most know better."

She stands, the dirt-dusted hems of her skirt flowing passed her knees, threads come loose and ragged, but not pitifully so — this land is just a little unforgiving about these vanities. "But I knew you must be a warrior, and brave and wise. But I didn't know you were half this lovely on the inside." A smile pulls white — Jasmine doesn't mean to be flattering, but the savannah is an alien idea, as is the kindness in the mind of someone desperately wronged.

"Leaving you would not be simple, Miss Huruma," she adds, a little grimmer. "But I don't think it's likely, either."

Lips pull back over teeth again, an amused sort of expression when paired with narrowing eyes and a slight lift from the ground. Huruma listens, for the most part- something she is undoubtedly excellent at, at least physically. Listening to what you hear is another matter to be debated. The cat hoists itself up only after Jasmine stands, rippling with inky black as it takes a few paces forward, to perch on what acts as the crest of the slope down to the beachfront. Huruma hangs there, a vulture in a fur coat, examining the far side of the water.

The boy tending cattle has a second little creature with him- hopping about in the shallows with bare feet and nothing more than a long, tattered shirt on a frame mostly made up of dark skin and thin limbs. The toddler splashes, grabbing up rocks and tossing them weakly at the birds.

What Jasmine says of her heroes- and of her- Huruma appears to accept with an honorable wordlessness.

"I had never felt as at home anywhere else- until these past months, I think. That is why you see what you see." Her voice lowers, rumbling darkly. The cat swivels its head to stare at her now, ears flicking forward, then down. The features of its face seem suddenly drawn, the skin underneath pitting slightly. "The rest is likely as you expect. If you feel you may be more comfortable there…" An afterthought, voiced without a reason. Huruma's eyes glimmer in her skull, watchful.

"Nothing is ever as simple as it appears. You know this as well as anyone." Teeth bare in her jaw, and the sun begins to steep down over the horizon. Stars follow its tail, poking holes of light in encroaching dusk. The air chills as the sun sounds its steady retreat, and the birds, and the children, and the cows, all fade into the files of memory, leaving the lake's mirror to reflect the last swatch of orange sunset.

The smile on the dreamwalker's face becomes a little warmer at the sight of the little girl interacting with such strange this as flamingos as a child her age might do with seagulls or pigeons in the corner of the world that Jasmine is from. That Benji is from.

She loops her arms around herself, hands gripping above her elbows, as the coolness of the evening begins to descend, taking it with it details, whole creatures, and Jasmine herself begins to unravel in the shading reality of the word in small increments, a fuzzying of detail and the colder wind drawing at hair, clothing, and seemingly flesh in inky tendrils of colour and matter. "I like it here," she says, even as the world is reduced to night and the cusp of Huruma being left to her own thoughts and dreams. "When I come back, I can show you what home means to me, if you like."

"Kuangalia, mwezi." Huruma tips her head back, far enough that when the moon breaks through the clouds, it cuts her silhouette as if in wolfish prayer. The moon here, is as lovely as the sun, even though its face is scarred, and its light is a phenomenon caused by the brilliance of the stars- both Sol and otherwise- around it. Fittingly so. Her gesture beckons the same from Jasmine, though she does not look to see if it is copied.

"I should like to see that, Asumini." Her company may be leaving, piece by piece- but Huruma's heart is currently wholly in her slumber, and her words affirmation. "Do not let anyone worry too much for me, hmmm?"

And Jasmine looks, her hands coming to clasp together even as the slow inking from Huruma's dreaming mind dwindles her down, like a painting running off the canvas. It doesn't deprive her of unnecessarily human gestures, like breathing in and settling her shoulders in a show of approval, the moon reflected in ice-water eyes and bringing up the pale luminousness of her freckled skin.

"Only the right amount," is a promise, one that doesn't come from a body, which has by now disappeared — a quiet voice that carries on the wind and whispers up through the ground beneath Huruma's paws. And then, as the dream reduces down to blurred clarity and diminished lucidity, nothing.

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