delia_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

And also:

young-delia_icon.gif young-nick2_icon.gif

Scene Title Thanatopsis
Synopsis The fevered descent into a private hell is interrupted by a companion with good intentions.
Date May 19, 2011

In Dreams

She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
and healing sympathy that steals away
their sharpness, ere he is aware.

Steep and serpentine, the black staircase he stands upon descends in ever-tightening spirals; whatever lies below is shrouded by a sulfur-scented mist that curls cold and wet tendrils up toward his feet, around his legs, seeming to tug him downward.

He doesn’t want to to descend.

There are whispers and hisses, words he can’t make out, but they seem to come from all around him, from darkness above and below, behind and before. Cacophony reigns below: a child sobs, plaintive and pitiful. A train’s whistle. The cawing of crows. The minor chord of men moaning in agony. The scratch of a match being struck, the fizzle of sulfur igniting. A tea kettle’s keening. Sirens. The screech of brakes and a horn’s blast before a thud and sound of shattering glass. Arguing voices. Staccato gunfire. The hiss of escaping gas.

The tug of the mist pulls, and he takes an inadvertent step down. Turning to look up, the step Nick had just been standing on disintegrates into dust.

The sounds grow louder, impossibly so. The smell of sulphur mixes with that of burning flesh. Voices grow more distinct.

“… that’ll teach you to lie to me…”

“… a man who denies himself the grace of God is dangerous indeed…”

“…you leave…”

“…No. I wouldn't like what I see, either…”


"…if you could go back and change something important The lives you might spare of pain and heartache — and not just your own…”

"…before I throw you to the wolves…”

“…you’re so weak…”

With the sound of the voices growing louder, Nick steps back instinctively — to the step that’s no longer there. With just one bare foot precariously on the last step, Nick grasps for the baroque banister before he tumbles back and down into the abyss below.

What he catches isn't the banister, he misses it completely. As his arm begins to windmill backward there's a pale hand that reaches through the darkness, disembodied if only for lack of light. It grips onto his forearm, strong and enough to brace him, keeping Nick from falling backward into the void that threatens to swallow him whole.

When he's pulled closer the purple hued form of Delia is what meets him, her free arm is braced against the rail that he missed, just farther up. "I didn't want my last words to you be that I didn't care.." she explains, trying to ease into a conversation that isn't the horrifying scene around them. Like a game of Cthulhu, she's trying to keep her sanity by ignoring what's around her.

What she doesn't do is ask him how he's feeling. The fact that he hasn't called to update her, she already knows.

"I miss you," is what's offered instead. Bending forward, she peeks down to the abyss while curling her fingers around the material of his shirt to keep her grounded. "I'm not down there, am I? You're not dreaming of me…"

The man’s heart pounds against his chest, the sound echoing like drums in the cavern of darkness that surrounds them. He clings to her, staring down at the dark mist that swirls below, and when he turns to look at her, the glacial blue of his eyes is surrounded in blood red; his face is pale, ghostly; Nick looks like one of the demons he fears wait for him below.

Even as he clings to her, a shuddering breath that rattles through his lungs, Nick shakes his head. “You aren’t there,” he nods below, “and you shouldn’t be here…” Where that staircase goes is no place for her. Another tug of the mist pulls him forward, insisting that he, however, belongs below.

He stumbles forward, letting go of her rather than to pull her along with him, just one more step — the sounds grow louder, the sulfur thicker, and he brings his hands to his face, fingertips curling into his temples.

"Why are you pushing me away?" Delia says, remaining on the step that she appeared on. She doesn't defy the request as much as stall for explanation. "I can stay with you, you've held me before. I can help you…" She takes a pace forward to try to follow but the next step causes her foot to sizzle and she stops, backpeddling to the empty space where Nick almost fell. She doesn't.

With her toes on the edge of the precipice, she balances precariously, teetering between safety and following him down, only her path is much faster. "You don't belong down there… if you go, I'll go after you and I'll find you." It's a warning as much as a threat.

She's defying Constantine's orders by even being here, she knows it. She was supposed to take time off, time away, but when she noticed Nick's spark of unconsciousness, Delia had to go.

“You can’t!” Nick growls into his hands, fingernails digging into his scalp. “Don’t you get it? It’s my hell. Everything bad’s waiting for me down there…” His voice holds real fear for himself — something he rarely shows. Threat of pain or death in life doesn’t frighten him as much as it would most young men of 23. Now, the shake of his hands is echoed by the tremor in his voice.

“If you’re here, it’s… it’s just to torment me,” he whispers. “Like Tantalus…” The image of the king in one of his and Eileen’s books on myths and fables comes to his mind, the king condemned by the gods to stand in water beneath a fruit tree, the boughs of the tree rising out of his hand’s reach, the water below receding from his other cupped hand.

The words send a pang through her, enough to cause a bud of red as deep as the color of a passionate rose to bloom on her white dress. "You're so selfish," she retorts teetering backward before rocking back into balance. She's blatantly defying gravity with the hope that he might find something amiss. This place, it isn't good for him.

"You should know by now that you can't tell me what to do, you're not my dad." Even her father has trouble with giving her orders, especially in places like this. Ignoring the sizzle of her feet, she skips down a few of the stairs, disappearing into the mist ahead of him. Impertinent and impetuous, her footprints sprout tiny springs of grass and miniature purple flowers.

His personal hell or not, she's not callous enough to make him face it alone.

“No!” Nick cries out, grabbing for her hand as she slips by, but he’s too slow, and he stares at the steps before taking a step and then another. The lower they go, the colder and darker it grows, the mist hanging on them like a wet blanket that makes Nick shiver. The spiraling descent is so tight as to be claustrophobic, but with each step down that Nick makes, the step above disintegrates a moment later.

Below on the stair, rising from the mist is the shadowy form of a woman; her face is not quite visible, though pale skin is veiled by dark hair. A pack of Capstans in fine-boned hands taps out a cigarette; a lighter flares, illuminating for a moment a pale face and icy blue eyes.

The cigarette comes to a pinched mouth, a drag taken, before the woman takes a step up, past Delia as if the redheaded woman were not there, carrying with her the heady scent of alcohol tinged with sulfur. Nick sinks down onto the step, arms coming up to cover his head defensively; one blink, and suddenly he’s a child, and while Sophia disappears into the dark void without laying a hand on him, a fresh cigarette burn can be seen on his arm, the scent of burning flesh in the air in the wake of booze and sulfur.

“Go away,” the little boy says, eyes squeezed shut. “You’re not supposed to be here. The good people go th’other way.”

She could shrink down as he did but right now it would serve no purpose. What she does do is step up to meet him and gathers the boy into a hug. Nick's not so large for Delia to shy away from lifting him up into her arms. She's a tall woman and given his size and weight, it's relatively easy to balance him against her.

"I know I'm not supposed to be here," she says gently, raking fingers through his messy hair a few times in attempt to straighten it by hand. She gives him a silly but sad grin as she thumbs the tears from under his eyes. "But I'm not leaving just because you don't think I belong. That's not what friends do, friends don't take the safe road when someone is in trouble. More than anything Nick, you're my friend."

It's her turn to plant a reassuring kiss to his forehead before hugging him tight against her. "She can't hurt you anymore, not more than you let her. Please don't let her do this to you…" With the boy balanced on her hip, she stares to where the ghost disappeared, glaring at the empty air as though the other woman was still a part of it.

The child sobs, then chokes on that raspy breath, beginning to cough against her shoulder. The fabric of her gown grows warm and wet, and when Nicky lifts his head, his mouth is smeared with blood, as is her shoulder. He’s staring at the red stain when the echo of heavy boots can be heard from below, each footfall coming closer.

Out of the black mist, which has grown less damp and cold and more dry and hot — like smoke — a Nazi soldier steps into view, his rifle pointing at Delia and Nick, who squirms out of her grasp to stand in front of her, to protect her…

…from his own demons.

Halt! The sick ones go to the showers! You know that!” is shouted in a thick German accent.

Tight springs of red curls that will one day loosen with age peek out from behind the boy, scowling defiantly up at the soldier. She's shorter than Nick but thicker, three square meals every day plus snacks has seen to that. Her knees are scabbed from play and her bare feet are filthy from the same.

"You're not my dad!!" She snipes back at the soldier, too innocent to be afraid when someone might mean her harm. As of yet, nothing of the sort has ever happened. "I don't have to take a bath if I don't want to!!" Her pudgy little finger points straight up at the Nazi, wagging at him as though scolding him for the audacity in ordering her anywhere.

Then she steps in front of the little boy again, her blood stained dress mixed with the mud that's soiled her feet. She may not want a bath but she's definitely well suited for one. "'Sides," she adds in a haughty tone, "I don't take showers." It's punctuated by a huff and her arms crossing over her chest stubbornly. "I take bubble baths with my princess bubbles."

“Suit yourself,” the German officer says, and as he aims the rifle he carries at the little girl, Nick darts around to launch himself at the soldier, a primal yell of anger accompanying what would be the collision of child and Nazi…

… but the Nazi disappears in a swirl of smoke that smells like those of the chimneys in Nick’s frozen dreamscapes to Delia, and to the chimneys of the frozen landscape of Treblinka to Nick. The child pitches forward, the staircase much too steep; the cacophonous sounds from earlier — the hisses and whispers and cries and caws — all rise to a crescendo as the darkness seems to swallow him whole.

And then silence.

Somewhere, Nick is no longer sleeping.

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