The Hand of Phantasos


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And also featuring…


Scene Title The Hand of Phantasos
Synopsis Greek myth.: The god of dreams, particularly fantastic and surreal dreams.

Somewhere that isn't with people who aren't quite, the story starts out decidedly fantastic — and then takes a turn for the dark.
Date February 7, 2010

Not Actually Tel Aviv

The sun is bright; the air is cold. Desert cold, crisp and clean, allowing a person to see innumerable miles in any direction — yet the panorama is all but meaningless, for all there is in all directions is sand. Narrow ribbons of flat sand framed by undulating serpent-squiggle dunes, all shaded in the bleak blue-gray of some pulverized stone. They stretch from blue horizon to blue horizon, not even heatwaves bending light around the edges of vision to produce some intangible mirage.

There's just enough wind to pull at the tied-back hair of the woman currently sitting just below a dune's gentle crest, brown strands one by one working loose of the restraining band. Vaguely foot-shaped depressions lead back over several of the undulating gravel piles, silently attesting to the distance she has already walked; though her Mossad olive and khaki uniform is marked by neither sweat traces nor accumulated dust. The rifle held comfortably but never casually by her side, business end towards the ground and her fingers well away from any functional pieces, is older, more worn, but still clean and unblemished by dirt or windblown grit. Dark eyes gaze towards the horizon as if waiting for something to come, or perhaps just for the sun to descend; she faces into the wind, and… waits.

In fact, Hana Gitelman is listening, as much as waiting, but what she listens to is inaudible for anything so mundane as ears.

Olive and khakis are only an odd fit because Teodoro Laudani isn't, has never been, never will be a Jew. It was an odd fit in 2015, too, and if Teo were more lucid he'd know that that particular closet of memories was where he'd dug the outfit out of, but he doesn't.

Before he got to Israel, he had just spent a long few hours with his elbows on the edge of her mattress, breathing in the mixture of bitter sterilizing fluid that permeates Grand Central Terminal's med wing and the fragrance of aloe rubbed onto his sunburned nose. News of Milburn's butt-boy wandering this close to their borders had put an extra line into his brow and corroded his shoulders with knots. It's a minor miracle that he's here, that he managed to fall asleep at all, but he's been awhile without proper rest and his REM cycle rolls up to catch him up in its spokes and wheel him away. Sand replaces concrete. Hana's severe figure inks in where there should have been the rigid stack of an EKG box and IV stand. The sky opens up like a wound.

She doesn't look as pale. Her hair is more coarse in its ponytail than its real world regimentally soaped cornsilk strata on its pillow, and her eyes are open. This reassures him.

Beautiful weather. Israel always had good weather, if you like the sun, and today's is bright but cold enough that Teo's forgotten his sunburn. He plods boots in sand and raises an arm. He'd think this was his dream, if he was aware that this was a dream at all. "They went back to base," he tells her, and then joking: "Why don't we ever get a base?"

Once upon a time, she learned how to take jokes, or at least how to indulge them — albeit only up to a point. These aren't those days, that time born of long years' association; her answer is dispassionately literal. "Because we don't follow their rules. And they can't forgive that."

The Israeli woman turns her head to look at Teo, failing to notice his intrusion into her dream, only recognizing him as a fitting part of its paradigm. She looks at him for a moment, then levers herself up to her feet, the butt of her rifle leaving a rectangular dent in the gravelly sand that loses all crisp edges the instant Hana slings its strap over her shoulder.

The wind hisses softly between them, sibilant noise carrying the hint of regular pattern, the punctuated intonation of words. Her eyes narrow, head angled in a listening pose, perhaps hearing more than the wind carries. "Let's get moving. I want to be in town before dark."

Now that she says it, the sun does seem to be getting awfully close to the horizon.

It does. Teo turns his eyes toward it, his brow furrowed by the squint, his mouth turned around a frown. The sun's orb does seem to be sinking toward the evening at an alarming rate, and for all that the ghost's gift was one of preternatural perspicacity, sight is not nearly so easily replaced. And an alarming many of their enemies know, by now—

Teodoro's grasp on the situation drops out before he locates any kind of conclusion about who the enemy of the week is, but that does not shake his faith at all in the certainty that they have at least one. Arthur, maybe, except he's dead and, besides, he's lied to her about that for a long time, now. He doesn't know what she's thinking about or what she hears. When he turns his ear against the wind, he hears nothing except the furring of atmospheric gas exchange against the side of his head. He scrubs his fingers through his scalp and they, too, come away dry.

It's going to get colder yet. He turns to follow her, fetching one brief glance back toward the the way she'd tilted her head. By the time he's swivelled his attention back to her, he's decided to catch up, kicking a few abrupt, jogging steps through the sand. He holds his hand out in front of her, his elbow bent and glove opened to offer her a snack bar. It's dressed up in merry yellow, red and blue plastic, its Hebrew scripting declaring peanut its main flavoring and component and the brand name. Zamba, which has been around for decades, since she was a kid.

He doesn't ask if she's hungry.

She walks away from the westering sun, without a backward glance; not until vivid primary colors intrude upon her field of view. A sidelong look is given to the Sicilian, even as Hana takes the wrappered bar and peels it open. Then she turns her attention forward.

In terms of distance to travel, Tel Aviv is some ways from the wide-open dunes of Middle Eastern deserts — yet in this dream, it's no more than around the corner of a gravelly slope, bright lights dazzling in the gathering darkness of dusk.

The Israeli woman steps from sand to sidewalk without noticing the transition between, save to pause in mid-step and lean down to scoop something from the sidewalk. It glints in the failing sunlight, the harsh tones of artificial illumination: silver shine, bent into a seamless circular shape. Hana turns it end-over-end, then passes the ring to Teo by way of a flick of her fingers, the better for him to examine it in turn. Obviously her inspection didn't turn up much of note.

She isn't going to wait for him to do so, of course. The heels of her shoes tick on the concrete with each purposeful stride. She's still dressed in uniform, but the people scattered in ones and twos on the street are not; they're out to enjoy the night, in shorts and skirts as suits the weather — which has mysteriously become pleasantly warm, here in civilized territory.

Every single person they pass pauses to look at them, smile, and offer a pleasant greeting or benediction.

It says nothing good about the ghost or little frinkle Teo or any other component of the Sicilian's persona, active or inert, that it's the lattermost event that rouses his attention and suspicion. He goes squinty behind Hana, shuts his fingers over the tiny circle of metal in his hand, feels the press of sun-warmed metal against his skin and bone and wonders why everybody is smiling at him. People aren't supposed to smile at him, nor at Hana; they're armed and in uniform, and even for a country as proud of their military as Israel's wont to be, civilians tend to avoid eye-contact in the street.

Teo double-takes at the ring. Looks down at it. It hasn't changed by then: silver, sized for a smaller finger than his. Recognition clouds in, needles into the droning routines of his thoughts, jolts him into a jogging step to catch up to the tall woman ahead of him. "Hana," he says. Snags at her arm, the ring palmed against her sleeve already half-forgotten. He looks over the top of her head and then slices his gaze down to peer over her shoulder. Tel Aviv is getting darker already, and not in the way that evening lights can compensate for.

Ironically, if he were lucid, he might not have thought to say: "Hana, this feels wrong. This isn't Tel Aviv." This isn't Good-Bye Lenin either, surely, or a setup as elaborate, but he isn't as good at coming up with logistically probable situations or predictions when he's asleep. Instead, Teo's left to think he sounds absurd, slowing as he stares at children herded by mothers, shopkeepers and beggars, whispering: "Those people have— a fucking agenda."

Her stride falters as he grabs at an olive-dyed sleeve, the snatch drawing her attention backwards. The wrapper is folded closed around half-eaten peanut-flavored snack bar, its remnants tucked into a pocket for future consumption. She looks at Teo for a long moment, then lets her gaze sweep across the street they're on. Hana doesn't seem alarmed.

"It's fine, Laudani," she says, resuming her forward motion after shaking her arm free of his grip. "We're going home." As if that makes everything forgivable, turns all circumstances into harmless ones. In dream, it might. There are no incidents — so far.

The walk continues for a long time, and for no time, in the way of dreamscapes; distance and time are both irrelevant, although the sky continues to get darker, the light harsher. They walk through some of the city's business districts, skyline familiar from Hana's past and the future that is Ghost's past; and when they leave them, it's for a building that isn't familiar to Ghost, for all that its dream-version comes with the feel and weight of known territory. Their destination is a first floor apartment, large for a city residence; white walls and linoleum flooring, but it smells good. Cooking food usually does.

The woman who looks up from slicing bread at the kitchen counter is not much older than Hana; not when her appearance hasn't changed in twenty years. Her hair is darker; they have the same eyes. She smiles, of course. "Hana. Teodoro." Zahava Gitelman's tone is less severe than her daughter's habitual manner; so is her demeanor. Her mother is still alive. "Dinner is almost ready; I imagine you're both hungry.

"You've been gone for a very long time."

It takes Teodoro a few seconds (protracted into minutes, it feels, in truth no longer than a synapse's burp) to place a sentiment to this emotion, because it's been awhile since either of him had been to one: home.

His mouth opens and closes a few times like a fish. Fortunately, he had already managed to get out a polite sort of rote salutation a moment earlier. His perplexity and surprise is a little later-coming, stumbled like a hurdling-block, tripped into rolling right along with him. He's shrugged his jacket off already, the sanguine glint of his cross and his sailboat pendant jingling loose with the rumple and shift of his shoulders. "Erev Tov, ge'veret Gitelman.

"I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. Hana's memory is better than mine— somehow, I forgot," he adds, after a moment. Heaven, he means, but somehow it seems rude to use proper nouns in this odd fugue. Slowly, slowly, like he isn't sure if the round-shouldered chair will hold, he puts his jacket down on the back of one before turning to his mentor— friend— to take hers with somewhat greater care. Not the kind of paranoid delicacy one would show something fragile, but a militaristic touch of respect. Or, at least, some sense that Hana's stuff trends toward neater, more Spartan organization than his own.

His eyes move between her face and the eerily similar one set on the front of her mother's head. Has the strange urge to apologize about coming up short in something of the past year (or is it ten years, watching Palestine? six months wasted in the basement of a ruin? three, of partnered assassinations and separations? a past life, or foreseeable future?), so he admits, a little stupidly: "I never learned to cook anything but matzah balls," but that isn't it, of course. That isn't what he meant to say.

Hana smiles.

It's a foreign expression on the woman's face, to Teo's experience; a degree of warmth and relaxation she rarely — ever? — affords. She lets him take her jacket without thought, or even real notice of the action; force of habit, that, one which doesn't come from experiences in this time — and yet it does, or near enough. Teo is allowed these things. Was allowed them.

The rifle's already gone, disappeared dream-like between the city outskirts and here. The foil-wrapped snack bar is still there, crinkling faintly from inside a jacket pocket.

She steps forward to the counter, intending to help with dinner preparation. Is refused, of course, shooed back around to the guest's side of its black length by a commanding flick of Zahava's hand; she goes, stealing two slices of the still-warm bread as she does. One is offered to Teo as Hana sinks down to sit on the near end of the ivory-colored couch; there's no butter, not for these filched pieces, but it's fresh enough not to need any.

"Is Tanta coming?" She dodges the rebuke inherent in Zahava's statement by simply not acknowledging it; not beyond a nod that doesn't quite achieve apologetic, it not being typical of Hana to apologize for things she can't help and/or didn't cause. Inasmuch as making a career out of moving from one arena of conflict to the next isn't a root cause.

Zahava Gitelman smiles at the Italian. "Well, you will both just have to learn more," she replies. "I find it very soothing." She arranges the sliced bread on a plate, pulls a baking pan from the oven and carries it over to the table — small eggplants stuffed with mushrooms and cheeses. This is followed by a plate of sliced coffee chicken — for sandwiches, perhaps, given that other sandwich ingredients also find themselves on the table.

Hana's mother pauses on her way back to get the bread, standing next to the corner of the couch, between Hana and Teo. "She isn't," is her reply. "Tanta went to visit friends in Jerusalem, remember?" Probably via bus.

The homemade bread favored by Tel Aviv's finest is different to the homemade bread created by Louisiana's. Teo bites into the slice he's offered, grates his molars on it thoughtfully. Despite that he's never— really tasted this before, not any incarnation of him, Hana's memory serves him some of the best baked goods that he's ever tasted.

It turns to ash in his mouth before he can begin to think of why. Unease prickles his spine, unwelcome and alien here, in the warmth of the kitchen. "That's dangerous, isn't it?" How unthinking these words; how obscurely perplexed. Even in 2010, the denizens of Israel do not allow suicide bombers to completely erode their way of life, but it isn't particularly comfortable family dinner fare of conversation. For a woman who is or was or is going to die in the opening wave of the conflict— and that's confusing enough already, temporally— that's either a perfectly safe bridge to cross or one on the brink of catching fire.

Sometimes things catch on fire around Hana Gitelman. He's a little furtive glancing back at the woman on the couch. So rare to see her like this, even if she's as unapologetic in the kitchen as she is slitting throats. Seated, smiling. She'd smiled at him once, the first time they met, and still it is like black water parting around the sheen of treasure.

Worth keeping. "You should try like Tanta, Hana," he calls out, with the uncomfortable awareness he is pushing past some unseen hurdle. He rests hip against counter and, as he wipes crumbs onto his shirt, glances absently down at the small circle-shaped imprint in his empty palm. He won't sit until the matron harries him to do so; it seems like the kind of thing to do. "With the friends and the social obligations. It isn't all boring, not all the time; sometimes these things work out."

She doesn't eat the bread. Closes her fingers around it, soft-textured warmth condensing into a squishy lump; not because of Teo's remarks, exactly, but not exactly not for them either. She looks towards the curtained-over window, darkened by the night outside; the drapes are faintly spattered with amorphous blobs of orange and white from street lighting and other people's windows.

"Friends die," Hana points out, sliding away from the question of danger with an unease she can't quite put name to, much less express. They die, or they drift away, or take advantage of weakness shared to sink blade in exposed back; but mostly they just complicate things. Emotions are like that — complicated. "Or they get in the way." She rocks her weight forward over the balls of her feet, legs straightening to bring her up from her seat on the couch, smile long since vanished; dark eyes narrowing, Hana cants her head, the short, sharp, jerky motion of someone who isn't quite sure they heard something.

"They're not the only ones who do," says Zahava Gitelman — only there is no Zahava Gitelman any more. Gone between one eyeblink and the next, without sound of motion, never mind its sight; leaving only emptiness where she once stood, and the fading sound of ominous parting words.

It's very dark outside. The lights flicker exactly once.

She's gone. Not because Hana merely stopped noticing her, either, not some whimsical tesselation and shift of a dreamer's attention, but because Hana took her away.

This is astonishing for a number of reasons. Dreams tend to be seamless after their own fashion, like well-made couture. All sequins, lights, sleek fabric or bold colors, but the rudimentary importance of zips and seams carefully concealed. The fact that he can see the stitches unravelling here throws Teo head over heels through the veil to lucidity.

He becomes aware that he is not standing at this counter and staring at the spot where Zahava had been a moment ago. He is standing in Hana's mind and she just watched her mother die, again, this time in as much dark and quiet as there was deafening, explosive fanfare and fast-wrecking chaos the first time.

What's worse is that he puts out a hand in no small haste to bring the woman back, and it does nothing.

Teo remembers his recent— psychic castration extremely abruptly. Turns on a heel, moves around the furniture toward the woman by the couch; footfalls that clash so hard they actually smear some of that practically permanently-packed dirt off his shoe and onto the tile. He probably should have realized. If this was his dream, he would have taken off his shoes. "Hana," he says. He grabs her hand. Looks up at the troubled light then down at the bread kneaded and wadded in her hand.

He doesn't know why he thinks that it's going to get darker, but he no longer has faith in the flashlights in their packs or the matches in their pockets. Without sight, touch is the next best anchor to anything in the immediate fabric of their reality. Here as in the flesh. "We've known each other a long time."

The voice, familiar only to the memories of a girl ten years and younger, fades from hearing — and Hana spins around to fix the now-empty void with an intent, piercing stare.

Teo grabs her hand; finds its tendons taut and stiff, tension wiring up through her entire frame. She doesn't respond to the touch, the pressure of fingernails against tanned skin; doesn't seem to hear his words, never mind react to them. To be fair, though — she doesn't shake his grip away.

"What did you do?"

The words, hissed, aren't addressed to him; it's clear in the lift of her chin, the thinning of lips directed… well, not at Teodoro. But there's no one else here.

…Is there?

"What did you do?" Cry challenge, now, the Israeli woman pivoting to throw the wadded lump of bread at the window with a pitch many baseballs would envy. For all that the impromptu missile is so much gluten and fiber — the window shatters with the sharply crystalline sound of fracturing glass.

The sound seems to drive Hana to her knees; bared teeth, the shaky reach of her free hand to her head and the wordless grunt of abruptly expelled breath all indicating some degree of pain. Of course, Teo can't hear the blast of staticky noise that accompanied the window's destruction; that was never his ability.

You want her back, yalda?

Words, now, plain to be heard even by mundane ears; perhaps especially by them. The voice speaks from the empty air around them, a stretched and thin distortion of Zahava's melodic timbre, parody underlining her sudden and gaping loss.

Even as the disembodied voice speaks, darkness creeps in through the door like some impossibly swift-spreading mold, tendrils reaching out over walls and floor, expanding, spreading, swallowing the apartment around them one square foot at a time.

There's no devil in Judaism. Teodoro knows this better than most. There is evil, but it goes unpersonified, unnamed, ubiquitous and nonsentient; floats around the toes of God as dust is to Man, inspires snakes and is conceived in the idle hands of mortals. Despite that Teo knows this, however, and despite his lucidity, his first instinct is to think—

Of the Devil. His assumption may be excused by a childhood full of explicit and subliminal Catholic programming. A panicky snarl, "Il potere di Dio—" gets out of him before he thinks the better of it, stops short with a grating click of molars. His hand is tight around Hana's hand, apparently effectively already having forgotten the size of the courtesy afforded him by not having been thrown off when his sentimentality didn't, in fact, constrain her physical movements with any kind of force. Even after he banishes the notion of Christian demons, however, he doesn't let go; his grasp doesn't loosen.

Counterintuitive, perhaps, to what he says. "Let it go, Hana." And dare he exert force, then, pulling on her tethered hand like an insistent pup. Neither of their calluses are thick enough, even combined, that she can't tell he's beginning to sweat a little. "Come on: let's go." Out the window if they have to! He tries to convince himself that they have made harder exits out of tighter corners before, but in the churning of his gut he knows that this is not a matter of physical geography and reflexes.

And it is for that exact reason he doesn't merely spin her around the shoulders and scream in her face: WAKE UP. Not yet.

Let it go?

When, in all the time Teo has known her — now and then and before — has Hana been known for doing that?

She snarls at the darkening interior of the room, words failing utterly to express the emotions those words stir; expression never was her skill. And there's nothing here to attack — if it occurred to Hana to wonder why Teo remains still, this might not be so true. But it doesn't. As it is, she ignores his demanding tug at her arm, just for a little longer, her fingers finally closing around his in return: you're not charging out there first. Not that he would — charge. But she won't surrender him the greater danger of point, either. Not here, not while she has a bone to pick.

"I will find you," she tells the room around them, jaw set in a determined line.

What she'll do when she finds him, her, or it is very clearly implied by the crisp, curt words. The taunting entity — demon, devil, or whatever it may be — merely laughs in return, mocking sound bouncing off all of the shadow-eaten walls as if it were a bouncing-ball's rubbery consistency.

Oh, such arrogance!

Hana moves forward, towards the jagged edges of the window; starts just in time to not test whether the creeping black mold will also swarm up her boots. She releases Teo's hand in the interest of climbing through the window — which consists of little more than hopping over its sill, the earlier bread-ball having done quite a number on the glass pane. The fragments which still litter its edge draw blood, tear a rip in khaki hems, but those are items of negligible import.

Such towering pride!

There's no outside on the other side of the window, which is disappointing but probably not surprising. Hana doesn't have the reality outside of dream by which to judge; and Teo knows all too well how malleable a dreamscape's terrain may be. The hallway is dark, uncarpeted, with the tangibly radiating chill and dank smell of unadorned concrete. Possibly underground. Which might explain why it's dark. Oddly enough, though, neither of the dreamers quite lose visibility with regards to one another.

You think they were arrogant?



She slides a knife from one of the uniform's olive sleeves, holding it easily in hand. Refuses to acknowledge the voice's words with anything so significant as a reply, although Teo can see that they leave intangible marks; tension, angles, lines spell this out obviously enough; they have been together for a long time. Walks forward, because at the very least they can't go back.

No one ever can.

There is nothing on him that could beat back the darkness, but he tries anyway. A distress flare out of his vest— yanked out of a velcro fastening, the end snapped off with a yank of his other fist. There's blood on his shin, now, too, and fractured glass shedding like scurf but he landed like a cat and his stride is even as he measures a rapid pace after her. The light from his hand is immediate.

And he almost immediately regrets having lit it. It burns too harshly to bring clarity; makes looking upon what there was to see harder, reduces everything to flattened, high-contrast reliefs tinged a fluorescent shade of red. Christ. His brow finds a viciously unhappy knit; Teo's eyes show too pale even as they cringe in his squint, catching at the back of Hana's figure, rifling at the dark for something— if nothing else— to throw this at, in the style of the little girls of yore.

He doesn't like this bodiless voice in the dark. Doesn't like how it garbs itself in Zahava's alto, and garlands itself in chiding Hebrew words. "You're one to talk about ego, motherfucker," he snarls. It swizzes spit out of the scarred hole in his face, the wall of his cheek ruched wide. "Miserable, hypocritical son of a bitch; what damage stretched out your cunt so far that's all that's fucking left? You have the humility of a giant—"

The thing in the dark could care less, of course. It pays Teo no mind, except maybe to consider this and keen on a different plane; it 'relents' just enough to send another epileptic twitch of illumination through the broken home left behind them, by now, it seems an indeterminable distance away. White walls and brightly dignified furniture, a dinner table laid out, bread basket and dishes of meat and vegetables stewed richly. One moment it's there again, through the scarred socket of the smashed window, wetly crimson-rimmed now in a way that can not be explained by their climb. The next, it's gone, and the flare in Teodoro's hand stains at the darkness like a bruise. His head snaps around to find Hana again.

He hopes she didn't look back. And the darkness coldly inquires:

You think they were so miserable?

The silence of the dark, save for the sound of Teo's voice, means there isn't much to compete with the grinding of Hana's teeth.

There's nothing here for her to hit, kill, or otherwise maim and injure for its offenses. Which means there isn't much for her to do except keep walking. She didn't look back, didn't notice Teo looking back; looks ahead, to where a rough-edged patch of lighter shadow breaks up the monotony of gloomy corridor. An exit, perhaps?

Surely nothing so easy.

"I think they're beyond you," Hana calls into the black. Implying that any misery comes from the entity who's made her dreams its very own playground. Heavy-soled boots crunch planes of broken glass underfoot, never seen but only felt in the way they crack and splinter.

A speckle of light gathers on the blade's bared edge, testament to something changing up ahead.

Soft whispering wells up from the threshold of hearing into a muted clarity, malevolence in its gentle tones. They are beyond you. A beat of silence, half a beat, too short a pause to allow any words in edgewise. Admit it, yalda.

It stops hurting when you accept it.

She stops, standing on the threshold of paler gray, as if to walk into the very edge of twilight. The coarse grain of uneven, untooled concrete defines the darker outline of the threshold, the near-blackness of the corridor behind them. The only thing to be seen, back that way, is the Sicilian following on her heels — but Hana looks, as if weighing whether she might find more success in that direction than the other.

Teeth pressed together, the hand that doesn't grip the knife closed tight enough for fingernails to bite into her own palm, Hana denies the heckler a response on the theory that he can't win if she doesn't play along. She looks at Teo. Doesn't say anything to him either, but the reasons are different there.

Teo's throw is underhand, but it sends the flare spinning end-over-end. Forward, into the wan light of dawn, where even the smarting sore of its red incandescence is flattened out, lessened, gentled down by the soapmilk wash and runoff of some unseen sun. Not that Teodoro is actually searching the sky, of course; the flare laps light through and discloses nothing but concrete, an even course, no traps to the naked eye or the lucid dreamer.

It isn't as cold anymore, not out here, but that doesn't mean that going through a ghost town — or the metaphorical landscapes of beyond and away from the domestic paradise that alone forced Hana's solitude into focus long before the Company's betrayal or Phoenix's death by demolitions. Rotten tooth by the roots, snake at the head, festering at the entrance wound. Teo doesn't think of it in those terms, of course. He thinks that they need to get out. Get the fuck out.

"This shit doesn't bleed, signorina," he tells her, his voice harsh with urgency. "Not even with you behind that blade."

Determined to commit action to word, he starts toward the light, his boot alighting the ridged rubber almost soundlessly on the concrete. It's a little codependent, a little antsy that he turns his head back at her then, instantly reaches a callused hand at her arm to recover one corner of his safety blanket companion. He doesn't trust the darkness. Not in the slightest. Not even if it might impart a germinating tendril of spoken truth in its toxic peat.

"No. It doesn't." She can tell that much, even without the advantage of lucency — concrete and disembodied voices don't lend themselves to any of the forms of damage Hana Gitelman has trained to deliver.

That's more aggravating than the voice, to be honest.

The Israeli woman sidles past his grip even as the blade disappears from sight, restored to sheath or pocket or sleeve; probably the last, since that's where it came from in the first place. Strides forward, one pace, two paces, three; and the distinctive sound of pebbly gravel crunching underfoot crackles through the air, concrete supplanted by coarse sand. The air becomes neither warmer nor colder, but with each of Hana's successive steps, the atmosphere becomes lighter.

The landscape beyond isn't meant for the lucid dreamer. Teo can't follow. He can only watch as — is it snowing?

Dawn comes, albeit a dawn without a sun; but that means there's no painful glare to detract from the revealed landscape. It was a city, once; a city battered by impact and demolition, crumbling, broken relics simultaneously reminiscent both of the Midtown blast and Tel Aviv's intact skyline. The 'sand' is pulverized structural material — asphalt, concrete, shimmering glints of sand-grain glass. Bits of white drift down from the sky, a dusting already having covered most of the landscape. It's rather pretty, in a stark and desolate way, one that inherently includes the connotations of war and death beneath that layer of pristine white.

The bits aren't the right size or shape for snowflakes. They're big — perhaps half the size of Hana's palm, on average; some larger, some smaller. Less round, more linear, and — fuzzy. They don't fall like snowflakes, either, which tend to go straight down in the absence of crosswind; the bits float, sashaying to one side and then the other as they drift towards the earth.

They're feathers. No — fragments of white feathers which must once have been gigantic. Feathers from no natural bird.

Gravel ceases to crunch as Hana stops, leaning down to brush the thin layer of white away. Straightens again with a white plume in hand that is nearly the length of her forearm, for all that the bottom half of it is missing. She runs her fingers over the frayed vanes, tipping her head back to look towards the turquoise sky.

Teo's sight fades, the dreamscape rapidly failing — or perhaps closing him out. But not, for all that, so rapidly that he can fail to hear the three words she speaks in an uncharacteristically broken voice:

"The angels fell."

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