The Damned


elisabeth_icon.gif s_teo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Damned
Synopsis Teo visits Elisabeth dreams after the Caliban's retrieval.
Date Dec 13, 2009

Elisabeth's Dreamscape

Dreams are funny little things… but Elisabeth's dreamscape has become a familiar place to Teo in recent weeks. She has her 'safe space' into which she retreats when the nightmares are too bad, and he's even been invited inside that space a couple of times to sit and merely talk with Elisabeth through the night. Inside this space, Elisabeth still looks younger, more innocent, than she does in the real world — about sixteen. The peach-and-sea-green color scheme, the mahogany canopy bed, all of that is still the same as he last saw it. One of the good things that has come out of these nocturnal visits is that the locked, water-logged, leaking door that was first inside the space no longer exists — Elisabeth asked Teo to help her restore those memories since the secrecy is no longer necessary. So it really is her sanctuary now.

And within that sanctuary, even the young dream version of Elisabeth looks tormented, puffy-eyed, and miserable. Her posture, curled up on the four-poster bed holding a pillow to her chest, most likely reflects the exact same posture in which she finally fell asleep in the first place, though in the real world, Felix is wrapped around her attempting to comfort her even as she cries in her exhausted sleep. Elisabeth clearly has gone beyond the shock of killing the boy to the emotional aftereffects. She doesn't even attempt to keep Teo's astral self from entering her sanctuary with her.

There's a twittering squeak, a shuffle of impossibly fine feather fibers against the skin of her wrist, the pricking of a claw too smooth and hollowly delicate to do more than register a dimple against the thin skin inside her arm. There's something squirming out of the girl's sleeve.

Teodoro's appearance is occasionally wont to change when he arrives in dreams. Sometimes he is recognizably himself as he permits himself to be seen in the day, twenty six years of age and only a few months old, with an immortal sociopath's manias phantasmically light in his step and a laugh as warmly rough as the wind over the Mediterranean. Other times, he's young: 'Simon,' an adventurer dirty-blond and rangy-limbed and garishly costumed, with only half Teo's tattoos, who refuses to admit to his real name and seems not to realize that the dream is merely a dream because he is so inherently a part of the fabric of the fiction that the waking world is the dream.

Still others, he becomes a cat, a snot-nosed pig— sometimes both, or accompanied by an insubstantially elfin, darker-haired child who bears him an odd familial resemblence, a wafting bell. Or more frequently—

A blue bird.

Pinions bunched and tail slightly bent from the cramped quarters of her shirt, the tiny animal tweets two high, challenging notes, plainly aggravated by the mess made out of his grooming. Or perhaps by the fat blob of salt water that falls off the end of Elisabeth's nose and splatted, fatly, onto his nickel-sized head. But the door's gone. Faded away. The door's always gone by the time he's here.

She's becoming used to the vaguaries of the dream world in here. Though in most of her dreams and nightmares, Elisabeth merely seems to interact with whatever's part of the dream, this one place — this sanctuary — is the only place that she's actually lucid in her dreaming state. Aware that this is a dream. Sometimes she merely immerses herself in the 'reality' of the dream — that she is sixteen or so, that her mother is beyond the bedroom door, that she's still in high school. Sometimes, like now, this sanctuary is merely a place to hide from the more ravenous demons of the mind that claw at the exterior door. And tonight they are myriad. The squawking and fluttering makes the blonde shift her weight slightly, to move away from the little bird. But the sight of the bird only seems in this instance make her more sad. "Go'way, Teo," she murmurs softly. Apparently it's lucidity that she's working with in here. "You can't fix this."

The bird flattens his wings briefly against its tiny body, before giving them an experimental flip, wiggle, settling its plumage down to something reasonably continuous and tidy. Tidier than Teodoro Laudani typically is in person, certainly. He jumps sideways twice, his two thready feet registering like cartwheeling pips of confetti against her leg underneath the thin linens. A third jump, and he essays onto Felix's slumbering shape, suddenly and unexpectedly present as in the real world, setting down with enough weight to make a pastelled well of shadow on the blankets over Felix's hip. Two round eyes study Elisabeth for a long moment.

His wings palpitate again, once, a flash of pale color underneath the palette borrowed out of the spring sky. There's no visible disagreement, nor— verbal, for that matter. Instead, acknowledgment comes in the sudden ejection of one slender tailfeather from the bird's small frame, its quill scarlet. A pinion after that, and then, with a thin-boned shiver, a ragged loosing of breastfeathers.

The appearance of Felix's slumbering body in the bed of her sanctuary actually sends Elisabeth scrambling away from both man and bird, out of the bed to pace toward a dresser. "No!" she rejects violently. Felix is her friend, her confidante, her comfort right now — even her lover at times past — but here, in this place, she does not want that comfort here. Or perhaps she's wishing for a different kind of comfort. "And if you're going to share my space, at least have the courtesy to TALK to me," she snarls softly. Her tone is not angry, just… lost.

When the bird hops off Felix's prone body, it leaves footprints in its wake. Not mere indentations, this time, but a sticking print; of a surface material pressed down and sticking into an embossed mark on a liquid substrate underneath, and that liquid happens to be red. Felix's face is half-buried in pillow and thinned by shadow. Grows slack underneath his skin, and then still; a deeper sleep than sleep. The bird doesn't change, but it's an acknowledgment of her request, somehow, that he continues to do what he had before.

The blight multiplies across its plumage, ripping blue loose, and stippling the visible raw and puckered red of his skin with knots and boils in the grain. As the avian bops closer to the girl off the edge of the bed, one infinitessimal fish-hook of a claw catches on the fabric of her sheets, snags, sends the creature tumbling wing over clumsy-thrashing wing. Keratin uproots from weakened flesh, streaking the rucked morass of bedding already rapidly staining from below with another surface dash-dot-dash of blood, and the claw breaks off, leaving the one digit of the bird's right foot twitching with sore uncertainty when he finally regains upright and traction.

Flustered, he limps only another cringing half-inch of a stride, then a second. Gives up, finally, and tries at a heady burst of wings to join the blonde girl on the floor. Only, he falters mid-air, tumbles off the edge of the bed with naked nubs bristling with only a handful of flight feathers remaining, that look almost impaled in the pimpled nudity of his skin. Serous welling in pores, a crack slithering across the top of his bill when he squawks at Elisabeth in alarm.

"I hate it when you get all weird and bloody and shit," Elisabeth grumbles as she captures the little bird in her hand. She brings the small creature that is Teo to her face and nuzzles him gently, those salty tears streaking her face once more. "He was just a kid, Teo. He probably wasn't even anyone involved. He was just…. someone they used," she whispers into his nude little birdy body. He's so tiny like this. "I had to do it. I couldn't let him put a bullet in your head. I couldn't… have brought you back from the dead like you did for me." But oh, how her heart aches. "Richard… keeps reminding me that none of this is supposed to be easy. That we don't get a happy ending. And somehow… I keep losing sight. I keep hoping that we're not damned. And then shit like this happens, and… I wonder how it's held in the cosmic balance. If the life of one person trying to make the world better is somehow worth the sacrifice of an innocent's life."

The audiokinetic's change of heart, however slight and temporary, slows the encroachment of sickness across the bird's small shape.

Though the split in his beak doesn't knit up and reseal, nor does it break off to hang by a tissue tassel from the roof of his broken head. He is terribly teeny like this, turning black sloe-eyes up to dish Elisabeth's reflection back up at her in retoned and lacquered miniature.

His declawed toe drags a stippled line of beading blood across the heel of her hand, a lurching step almost tumbles him off her palms, but he manages to get just close enough to match the velveteen crown of his head to her nose, a brief rub of returned affection. No; he understands. Believe it or not, Teodoro Laudani is wont to be regretful of necessity. He also likes having a corporeal body to inhabit, despite its cost.

"Would you please stop bleeding on me? You're weirding me the hell out, Teodoro," Elisabeth murmurs to the creepy, sickly little thing in her hands. She's oh-so-gentle with him. "It's sort of like talking to a zombie. Even in a dream, that's just icky."

The bird is not singularly offended that his looks are, apparently, not up to the dreamer's standards. Are in fact 'icky.' 8( Not to be deterred, however, he merely acquiesces to her request by taking an unwieldy leap off the flat of her hand.

This time, his fall is controlled. He manages to open his frayed wings and snare a buffeting eddy of wind out of the bedroom's stagnant air that lessens the weight of his landing on the floor. Jump-jump-jump. He walks his bedraggled frame as birds do, in a series of two-foot hops instead of single-legged walking strides, moving on a neat trajectory toward the wall. Within it, some point between avoiding looking at Felix's quiet, wet death in the bed and giving the bird her human kiss, a door came into being. It is black. Featurelessly black as a rectangled hole, except for the spoked vault lock bolted into its center.

The bird stops an inch from darkness and turns its patchy head back, expectant.

And you don't have to be a connoisseur of dreams to know, that whatever lays behind that door won't be framed in the luxury and objectivty of lucidity.

It is, after all, a dream and Elisabeth's response to Teo's little zombie bird fluttering off her hand is to merely let him go. She keeps her eyes off that thing in her sanctuary's bed, though she murmurs to him, "Hokuto said this is my dream space. Nothing comes in but what I allow…." She wonders if that means she actually has control of it. A quick glance over her shoulder to the now-empty, pristinely clean bed makes her grunt thoughtfully. At least she won't have to leave a wet, disgusting husk of dead-Felix in the space. Climbing to her feet, she follows the little bird to the door that suddenly appears. "What are you up to, Teo?" she asks quietly. But she'll willingly follow.

The bird sets his bill against the door once, a click no louder than the spiking fidget of a fingernail on a desk. Click tick. Revving his wings slightly, he turns his walnut-sized head around to look up at her, expectantly. Something different animates his body, now, puts a lively gleam in the inky dot of his eye and shivers energetically through his wings even as three long pinions, new flight feathers, begin to push themselves out of the beaded skin of his skinny ulna. Feathers don't grow this fast in the real world. A stirring. If not the wind, then a wish for it: he chirps, once. Though there are none of the words she had demanded, the note of encouragement is high, clear as a bell.

And the door— groans in answer. Belches thunder, and something from the other side flings itself, bodily, or perhaps that is her fear in the throbbing of unseen violence. The iron wheel of its lock turns one onerous degree, but not enough to open.

She'd have followed him right through the door without a question until the thunderous attack on the door from the far side. And considering that this place is a place of sanctuary from nightmares, Elisabeth does not want to let the nightmares in. She jumps back from the door and frowns at him. The chirp of encouragement is not as encouraging as he might have liked. "If I get jumped in here, I will wake up and beat you severely about the head and shoulders, Teodoro," she warns the astral traveler shakily. And then in spite of the fact that her hear
t is beating harder, she moves to open the door to see what's on the other side.

A sturdy clout around Teo's head, in this shape, would probably result in undesirable bird paste across the floor but she's right: in the flesh, that would get her point across in fine style. And he'd be okay. He'd get the point.

In here, it's easier to forget that. That things are going to be okay.

Shadow falls into the room like light, not the absence of an energy frequency, here, but a presence in itself; matter, separate, alien and inherently wicked. There's a droning, a cry, a blended whisper of Abigail's entreaty and a raucous hiccough of laughter from Douglas, mingled hysteria keening along the nerves behind her neck. Outside, it's featureless, nothing but noise, a flicker of motion, a moat of dreadful recollections and strangling terrors designed to keep a woman trapped in as much to keep what's beyond it at bay. The darkness that comes in, on the other hand, is not so great that she can not still see, at least within the room.

Beside her feet, the bird taps a few inches closer, braving the shadow. He snips his bill irritably when a tendril of blackness furls too close, and it merely coils away from the tip, sliding past him serpentine to try the fibers of the carpet. She smells burning, the vomit of radiation sickness, her mother's death in degrees of liquefying heat.

Unlike most other times when she has hidden in this sanctuary and been mostly lucid, this dream is anything but. And this is the first time since Hokuto helped her build and Richard helped her anchor this space in her own head that Elisabeth has felt…. threatened. She doesn't feel safe here anymore, and that sends her mentally spinning. Lucidity shot, the odor catapults Elisabeth into the realms of horror dreams — she was a cop when The Bomb went off, and she smelled that smell — she touched those people, helping them get to medical attention. It was…. horrific. Terrible. And though a part of her knows she should merely slam this door that suddenly appeared in her safe space, she can't seem to make herself control it. There is merely a whimper and then a soft wail from the teenaged Elisabeth as she crouches down and scrabbles backward into a corner of the bedroom that she inhabited as a child, looking for safety in her retreat.

The bird beats three hop-skipped steps forward, stops on the brink of the groaning abyss, perhaps noticing— finally— the absence behind him. Fresh plumage sticks out oddly bristly-slick from his wings, and they seem— too blue, somehow, refurbished with either garish pigmentary excess or intensifying in the contrast against darkness' insurrection. Winnowing the air briefly with his wings, he twists his head back, looks at the girl in her corner. Shrinking. Terrified.

The darkness grows. Blanks the bird out and eats up half the floor, roiling toward Elisabeth, keening now with the note of a child's grief before it breaks into the familiar gurgle of a girl's dying breath. Contralto. A Southern twang to the broken syllable— before the bird's querulous interjection subsumes it, and the tiny creature pops out of the darkness like an LED on an alarm box, fluttering papery to a landing on her knee.

There is a soft whimper from the young Elisabeth. As the darkness roils into her safe space, the blonde hides her face behind her hands, much as a toddler in the 'I can't see you so you can't see me' phase. "Oh God," she sobs as the whispers in the dark assault her ears. And worse… so much worse…. is the silence. The darkness itself. Elisabeth has not had time to work all the way through her issues with being in the dark, with having only silence around her. And as the shadow rolls over her, she might as well be back in that place, blindfolded, though she opens her eyes to look around as if at least trying to face the soul-deep fear. There is nothing but the music, that hateful, awful song. "Mack the Knife" over and over and over, and then silence. And in the silence, the whispers. Doug's voice juxtaposed with a sudden flash of Abby's gaunt face as she looked coming off Staten Island, made even more terrifying by the strobe effect running through the choking darkness. There are so many faces, people lost. Her mother appears in a strobe, half her face burned away, screaming. The crushed body of Conrad Wozniak makes a brief appearance, though his countenance holds a more rueful expression — it is perhaps what Liz imagined he looked like in those final moments. Those images are less terrifying, really, just painful to see. Her father. Abby. Richard. Teo. Cat. All of these faces appear in the strobe effects, briefly, as if they are the things she worries about in the dark of the night.

It is only when it all goes silent does the teenaged form of the blonde go utterly still, petrified. The strobe effects stop. There is only silence in the dark. And then the whispers. Inaudible, really, most of them. Voices from far away, voices in the dark who don't want you to hear them…. or are they rats scrabbling? She can't differentiate the sound, and Elisabeth tries desperately to backpedal even further into the little corner that she is balled up in. But it's not about what happened to her… there are other faces. The gangbanger she shot in the face to save herself and Cassidy. The 35 kids who committed suicide. Some faces familiar to Teo himself — Grant Hughes, the math teacher whose classroom was next door to Elisabeth's; Sybil Johnson, a cheerleader at Irving, a kaleidescope of others who died the day Elisabeth stepped onto this path. Several men in black with blood all over them, dead on the beach at Sea View. The boy, barely more than a child, that she shot today. So many times when it has been 'us' or 'them' — and even now, she can only regret the necessity of choosing 'us.'

"Please stop?" she begs the small blue bird that she cannot even see anymore. "Please, Teo, make it stop." Elisabeth's voice is a bare whisper.

Darkness scrubs sight, smell, and sound into Liz's ears, presses up the slopes of her cheeks and tangles in her fingers and her bright hair, laps at her knuckles and crowds her eyes, throbbing like cello music or a leperous membrane.

Movement scratches through. Sudden— nails on her arms, a boyish chuckle in her ear. Long arms around her waist; she's hefted up, gripped by the knee and sieged at every center of balance on her person, carried so quick that she doesn't find it in her to sink nails and shout until the doorframe is clipping numbly past her shoulder and the blackness shreds to darkness like a fog clinging to the nose of an airplane. Earth crumbles below her feet before concrete, a rasping tangle of grass. She sees a face then: long-nosed, pale-eyed, even younger than the rangy, reckless, and blithely unself-conscious (unself-aware) 'Simon' who has kicked his heels out, crouched, and lounged around her refuge furniture so many times.

An inch away. Teo blinks when she does. It's easier to breathe out here than it was in there, though not easy. He doesn't seem to mind the half-moons carved on the skin of his arms or the bristling array of black and blue feathers protruding inexplicably from her blouse. Grins, fiercely, and tweaks her nose before he snares her hand.

The movement, the chuckle in her ear, those things bring Elisabeth's bright eyes open to look around again in the hopes that the darkness has receded altogether. She jerks back a little when he's right there in front of her, blinking owlishly at him with a shimmer of tears. As things have gone from lucid to surreal, she seems to have merely accepted that this is going to be one of those dreams. Where nothing actually makes sense — where talking to the person who was sharing her space is not going to be as useful, perhaps, as merely going along for the ride. The tweak of her nose makes her laugh, the sound bringing forth a shower of musical notes to sparkle like suncatchers in the air between them. When the grinning boy snags her hand, the young Elisabeth launches to her feet to go with him this time instead of hanging back.

The boy's fingers are cold in the girl's hands, but different to the awful discomfort of animate, oily pain, somehow; the sort of cold you get from playing outside in the dark too much, catching fireflies or swinging on monkey bars. The grin on Teodoro's face is too big to fit on his face, but it works somehow in this place where the physics of one recollection are granted the whimsy of childhood fantasy, and those of the next are infinitely worsened by learned legends and adult regret. Not everything impossible about this place must be bad.

Lucidity's harder to hold onto, here— like holding a balloon's molecule's skin-breadth intact inside of one's hand but it could be worse.

"'Kay," he says, as if picking up in the middle of a conversation, albeit one she can't— apparently— recall all too well. "Like this." He steps close. Out again, turns, channelling a wiry, chicken-limbed grace, out again. Pulls close, abruptly, and turns his head on its axis. At this age, Teo's hair was darker, if not quite as much so as his brother's, still; her heart thunders against his shoulder, and he shuffles his feet like a hummingbird tests its wings. Still fogged out, near impossible to see, the grass goes thready under below, contracts, breathes like the surface of the sea. "One."

Two. "Three."

And he bounds.

There are things Elisabeth doesn't mention to people in casual conversation. Playing the piano never came up with Cardinal. Ballroom dancing has never come up with almost anyone. In point of fact, she knows how … so few people of her acquaintance do! She follows the lead he offers, giggles coming from her almost nonstop now. A swirl of snowflakes? Elisabeth actually loves the snow but as if part of her remembers that Teo hates it, they are no longer snowflakes swirling on an impossible breeze, they are fireflies. Glowing little golden pinpoints of light while dancers do their thing.

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