The Horizon Line


faulkner_icon.gif isis_icon.gif

Scene Title The Horizon Line
Synopsis To new beginnings on the horizon.
Date January 2, 2020

Isis stands with her hooded head tipped back against the cracked flaking drywall, staring blankly across the hall. She twinges suddenly - tiny nose shrunk into a snarl, a sharp intake of air hissing over pale lips. Panning to the other side of her face, her middle finger pulls away from sharply prodding a split high on her left cheekbone. It weeps a fresh little drop of scarlet beneath a swollen violet-ringed eye.

She lets the stolen hiss out with the slow calculated measure of someone meditating and uses a black boot to push herself off the wall and across the hall. Her reddened, cracked bare knuckles rap on the door before she can opt to change her mind…

Park Slope - Isaac's Apartment

Footfalls can be heard for a few moments, approaching the door… then there's the click of a lock disengaging. The door swings open, and there's Isaac. Again he's wearing a shirt for a band before his time — Iron Maiden, this time — and he's got circles under his eyes, like he hasn't been sleeping well. He's also still wearing his Pigeon Courier hat and looking mildly annoyed…

…and as he sees who it is that's come knocking on his door, that annoyance drains from his face, leaving, for a long moment… nothing. Nothing at all.

Then he blinks.

"Hi," he says quietly, with the tired ghost of a smile. He is silent for a moment longer… then he seems to remember himself. "Come on in," he says, stepping aside.

Annoyance. At least the look of being bothered was better than the nothingness…

“Hi.” Isis uses the moment of awkward silence to flick a lock of hair away from her face, a futile effort in the overall scheme of the brawl-tousled style she sports. The invitation has her brows creeping up and she visibly bites her tongue to keep quiet. “Thanks,” is the only thing she trusts herself to say until she’s crossed the threshold.
Isis licks her lips, a deep breath rocking her shoulders and inducing another subtle wince before she pulls back her hood. She scans the apartment - not sure exactly what she expects to find.

She isn’t presumptuous enough to bother removing her coat, but stands halfway between Isaac and the too familiar sofa in the living room. Isis turns back, giving Isaac the same consideration she had given the room. Then, finally and quietly, hoarse even: “I considered bringing chocolates. Not because it’s the thing to do, but because of the delivery. The first time…” She lifts a small gesture towards Isaac’s hat, only to pull her hand back and rest her fingers briefly upon her own lips. Don’t ramble. “I opted for no gimmicks, though. Just a plain, simple apology.” She lowers her hand, hugging her arm across her ribs. “I’m sorry.”

The apartment hasn't changed much; still dark and gloomy. There are still a few old battery lights scattered here and there, a candle or two to be seen. None of them lit; they're for guests, and Isaac hadn't been expecting any.

As Isis steps inside, Isaac closes the door quietly behind her and watches her silently… until she mentions the chocolates. At that, he chuckles, a hint of genuine mirth momentarily breaking the silence. "The chocolates. Dirk Dickson," he says quietly, and for a moment it feels like things are okay again.

At her apology, he looks away, and for a moment his expression is hard to read. Is it anger? Bitterness? Worry? Fear? It's only there for a few seconds before he sighs, and it's replaced by a tired smile. "Well. I'm still glad you're alive," he says, meeting her gaze for a moment.

Then he laughs, seemingly at himself. "You…" he starts, then shakes his head, smiling a little more honestly now. "Why don't you sit down; take a load off. The couch is in the same place… and I've got a first aid kit. It's not much, but, uh, you look like you could use a band-aid. Maybe two." Not the smoothest line, but he's definitely not feeling very smooth right now, either.

As Isaac slips into the shallows the fond little memory, Isis let’s his chuckle tickle up a smile on one corner of her beat countenance. It’s a precarious thing that wavers uncertainly when he looks away. Then his gaze returns and he, in some form or other, seems to accept her apology, and she releases the breath she’d been holding as a nervous twittery chortle.

“So quick to jump back into taking care of me. You’re either the most selfless person I’ve ever met or… “ You must really care. She holds his gaze for only a heartbeat before turning away. Don’t push it. The redhead settles onto the sofa and painstakingly begins the process of removing her jacket. With gritted teeth and one subdued moan, she manages. Leaning back to catch her breath, she looks down to her raw knuckles for want of anything else to do. “…How have you been?”

Isaac is already in the bathroom, rummaging around for the first aid kit, but at her assertion of his selflessness he lets out a derisive snort. "Definitely not selfless," he says drily. But as he speaks, he feels a twinge of… something, hears a trace of it in his voice… and he pauses for a moment, looking himself in the mirror.

There it is, on his face too. A hint of bitterness. Isaac lets out a sigh, shakes his head, and resumes his rummaging. "Fine. I've been fine," he says. "Just… keeping busy. Dropping off packages. Running. Nobody's showed up from the Book Club to abduct me, which I view as a promising development." There. That's better. Wry humor is a good look for him.

Finally, Isaac finds the medical kit, opens it up — everything's inside. Bandaids, burn salve, an old ace bandage, gauze, and a bottle of iodine tincture. Perfect.

He snaps the case shut and emerges, settling in beside her on the couch; he's not a trained medic, but even he knows how to do the basics. "Alright. Let's get that cut, first," Isaac says, reaching for the iodine. "This… might sting a bit, so… bear with me, okay?"

“Promising. Right.” About as promising as the fact that neither she, nor Zachery, were given so much as a finger wag for their off-the-books science experiment. Sure, let’s roll with that.

Isis adjusts her perch on the couch, turning to face Isaac. “So, seriously… How badass do I look right now?”She turns her visage to better present her split cheek and bruised, quickly swelling eye. Hazel eyes follow Isaac’s hands - the iodine, the cotton swab, the reach… “WAIT!” Hands held up, the bark is clearly a bit louder than she had intended. “Full disclosure, my ability has been a bit… wonky.” With that blaring warning sign speared into the ground between then, Isis lowers her hands and presents her cheek.

Isaac pauses for a moment to assess her, considering how he wants to answer that question. "Like you waded into a crowd right before it turned into a free for all and ended up having to fight your way out," he answers, moving in with the iodine swab —

— only to stop in his tracks at Isis's sudden warning. He hesitates for a moment longer, appraising her. "How so?" he asks, then shakes his head. "Wait. Cut first. Then I can get you some aspirin if you need it. And then, if you want to talk, I'll start asking questions." Of which he has many.

His descriptions earns a smile. For once, just a simple smile.

He’s been warned… any snafus aren’t entirely hers to bear. She gives a nod and carefully rests her hands in her lap, indulging a tedious and strange little process of wedging the tip of one glassy nail on one hand under the nail bend on the opposite. The split cheekbone requires a butterfly bandage in lue of any proper stitches. There’s not much to be done for the split lip that she prods occasionally with the tip of her tongue. Ultimately she declines the aspirin with a polite shake of her head, but accepts a small ‘instant cold pack’ from the kit to press to her swollen eye.
Tilting her head and wrapping her free arm around her torso to support some bruised ribs, she takes a deep breath. “I think I owe you all the questions your little heart desires…”

Isaac remains silent for the most part as he tends the cut, being careful to avoid skin contact. Once that's done, once she's tended to as best he can, he sets the kit aside and settles back down on the couch.

"After last time…" Isaac says slowly. "Where did you go? What did you do?"

“Last time.” She’d almost forgotten about last time. In truth, it wasn’t until she’d stood outside his apartment door that her brain had done her the courtesy of replaying that image - Isaac crouched on the floor, steadying himself in some half-spent motion to rise after her in a dark room. Isis presses the pad of her thumb into her busted lip, chin lowered and hazel gaze only managing to meet Isaac’s through the veil of her dark lashes.

“Immediately afterwards, I went to a bar.” One shoulder comes up in a shrug. “After that?” She grimaces. “I spent a lot of time working at the bar, and not working at the bar. I did get a visit from one member of the Book Club, and it got me thinking. Eventually, I went and tracked Zach down,” she makes a flippant little gesture that turns inward and becomes a swirling gesture over her face. “And, had a dream that I shared with some twenty other crazies…”

She pulls the icepack away from her face. “I didn’t go looking for anything else… if that’s what you’re asking.”

Isaac blinks. He hadn't been asking that. Had he? …maybe he had.

Why is this so confusing.

"You… had a look in your eye when you left. The same one you had in the Botanical Gardens, when you were threatening to burn the whole place down." He gives a faint smile at that — the Gardens are a fond memory for him — but it's gone quickly. "I wasn't sure what you were going to do," he admits. He's silent for a moment as he mulls over her response. The talk of dreams is a bit too much for him to unpack, just yet, so he shifts to what's hopefully safer ground. "So how is Doctor Necromancer doing these days?"

“A look? I have a look?” Several, more than likely. Like the one right now, for example, that reads ‘oh shit’. Isis washes the reaction in a dry chuckle. “I guess-…” She freezes and cants her head, letting the chuckle fade away like spent ripples into a pool of thoughtful silence. No…

It takes effort to chip off the edges. For someone that prides herself on honesty of word, the honesty of self takes a conscious effort. Sure, she must pull up on each chuckle meant to sweep the worry under, but even the finer things have become second nature… The extra degree of a smile here, the glimmer in an eye there.
She tries to find herself among the habits of disguise, her gaze using Isaac as an anchoring reason to keep up the search. “I suppose that is because, I thought I had burned it all down.”… “He’s fine,” she says as absently and dismissively as possible. He was, in fact, as fine as the rest of them. Everyone’s fine. Everything’s fine. She scoots a hair closer on the couch.

"Good," Isaac says quietly. "That's… good." He has more questions — about the Book Club. About the Virus, especially. Can they really be planning to do what Isis had feared? It doesn't make sense, dammit… but then, people do a lot of things that don't make sense.

But it seems that she probably doesn't want to talk about Doctor Necromancer right now, and probably not the Book Club or the Doomsday Virus, either… and he doesn't think pushing things will help. With an effort, he sets it aside for now. She probably doesn't want to talk about why she looks like she was set upon by a mob, either, else she'd be talking about it already. "Well. I don't see any fire yet, at least, so… hopefully we're okay," he says, giving her a smile… though there's a shadow of worry on it that he can't quite hide. "For now, at least," he murmurs.

Isaac shifts on the couch, coincidentally also moving a bit closer to Isis, peering at her intently. "So… what's your ability been doing differently?" he asks. "Does it have something to do with the dream you were talking about?"

Isis tips her head gently as she considers Isaac, the sublest scowl tugging down on the corner of her mouth. Avoidance, then, was not just her cross to bear. For whom do they do this kindness, really? “Yet,” she reiterates quietly. Her nose twitches once and her gaze slides down to consider the ridges that make up the knuckles on the back of his hand. “I don’t know if it has to do with the Dream, Adam, or just… me.” Her hand spiders along the couch, resting a breath’s distance from his leg.

“It’s as though I can slow it down. So, instead of two trains passing in a dark tunnel it’s more like…” Her face screws up as she struggles for some real world comparison to the intangible experience. “Brushing shoulders with a ghost in crypt?” Wait. What? Yeah, that sounds super exciting. “I mean, there’s this space - a middle ground - hovering there with some link to both parties. But, sometimes it’s twisted?” Hazel eyes tip up, searching him for some hint of understanding.

Isaac tilts his head, slightly, regarding her intently. "Ships passing in the night, bound for ports far distant…" he murmurs… but that isn't quite right, is it? The 'ships passing in the night' is more of a missed connection type thing, as he recalls, whereas Isis's power… hm. 'Ships passing in the night' might work for her usual ability, but for this…

"Or maybe it'd be more appropriate to say that it's a heart-to-heart?" he muses. He frowns, impatient at his own ability to pin down an accurate articulation… then an idea occurs to him, and he smiles.

Isaac raises a hand, holding it out towards Isis. "Can you show me?"

“A heart-to-hear, yes!” Isis sits up a bit straighter at this more optimistic, albeit more intimate, description of the strange direction her ability has taken as of late. With a sharp little adjustment, her gaze adjusts to consider the back of her own hand now instead. “I’d like to… I mean, I can try.” She meets his gaze as she moves her hand to rest gently upon his fingers.

She’s prepared this time. Careful. It makes the initial sensation like slipping into cool, placid waters. There is the sense of weightlessness and then the initial chill, the discomfort, begins to wane, to warm. Quickly. Soon, suspended, there is no sense of self, no sense of surroundings to differentiate oneself in the tangible world. It’s almost peaceful but for this sense of Other lingering at the perimeter on every side…

Limbo. The Neverwhere. The Place Between Places People.

This time it is lake the horizon cuts in half. On one side the setting sun transforms the surface into liquid fire, on the other the moon hovers in a velvety blanket of stars. Two figures stand on the line - one foot each in darkness and in light.

She’s gossamer here. Perhaps it was all that talk of ghosts. But, there’s always that chance it’s something deeper that manifests her as a phantom of herself. Like last time, though, she is still taller, slender, and sharper. The water around her feet begins to emit subtle dark ripples that stretch off in all directions despite her stillness. Isis turns her gaze over the figure in front of her…

…and finds Isaac… although he, too, is a little different. The lighting on him seems a degree or two darker than it does on everything around him, as though he walks in his own personal shadow. Combined with the lighting of this place, it makes him look like a chiaroscuro version of himself: the side of him that's on the 'night' side of the line is visible only as a silhouette against the night, and even on the sunset side, his colors seem washed out and paled. His skin, his hair, his clothes all seem vaguely muted… only his eyes have their full color.

For the moment, though, Isaac's attention isn't on himself — or even on Isis. Instead, he's looking at the world. The middle ground. It's…

"It's beautiful," he says, sounding faintly surprised — Isis's talk of a 'twisted' place hadn't prepared him for this. It reminds him of that time, after the Garden party. Watching the sun set on Lookout Hill.

Isaac’s words encourage her attention to venture elsewhere. With an effort to pry her gaze away, she considers their surroundings. “It wasn’t This before…” Even her voice is lower. “.. At least, I don’t think it was.” Her brows furrow. Another ripple runs. “I wonder how long we could stay here…” Isis turns her sharp featured visage to consider the sunset side. Then the dark side. “I wonder which side is which. Is… who.” But then, those aren’t the only two directions are there. A movement draws her gaze downward. There on the water - No, in the water, something unfolds. Light. Color.

The ripples start to reverse, drifting in towards the pair and down… pulling them with it into whatever lies just beneath the surface…

As Isis's gaze turns to the world, Isaac's wandering gaze slips to the ripples spreading from them, then to Isis, studying her for a moment. "Good questions," he says. He has his guess as to the second question, though he's curious as to what Isis thinks. As to the first…

"Let's find out," he says, offering a grin.

It's then, though, that he notices the flicker of light beneath the waves; he glances down, seeing the ripples converging instead of spreading, and his eyes widen in surprise as he's suddenly pulled under, into —

— a small room, rendered in shades of grey. The bed is neatly made, a dresser in the corner with a small television on top, a rolltop desk sitting on one side of the room. There's a sense of order to this place… and a sense of emptiness. It's too perfect. The bed isn't just neat, it's made perfectly, with hospital corners. There are none of the traces of clutter or decoration or personality to suggest that anyone actually lives here. It's just a small, empty, silent room, rendered in monochrome.

The sterility of the room draws Isis’s attention to ever crisp nook and cranny, even as her body with the hazy aura draws nearer to Isaac. Hospital corners always raise the hairs on the back of her neck. She stands so close as to tuck her elbow into the small of his side, standing shoulder to shoulder with him now to consider this grayscale setting. “I don’t think it’s mine,” she whispers. “Dream or…” Something else. Afterall, the abstract thoughts and feelings that exist in the subconscious are interpreted in ways that are entirely up to the Maker.

"No. Not a dream," Isaac says quietly; there's a smile on his face, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. "This was my room."

The revelation brings with it a sense of change in the air, something as subtle as the faint stirrings of a breeze in the treetops on a becalmed summer day.

It's only out of the corner of the eye that any sort of change is visible; there, looking carefully, it's possible to see changes — fleeting, ephemeral ones that only seem to exist in the peripheral, vanishing beneath the full weight of a gaze like frost beneath sunlight. Here , a neatly tucked blanket is suddenly turned down at the corner for a brief moment; there , the rolltop desk goes from closed to open for a few seconds, with no visible transition between the two states.

"I lived here for quite awhile, growing up," Isaac says, his voice distant as he glances around the room; there's a faint smirk on his face at the ongoing changes, fleeting or not.

“Really?” She fails in every way to hide the incredulous tone from her voice before she elaborates. “It’s just, not what I expected…” Between the fleeting changes at her periphery - those little motions of near recognition that make you question your own sanity - and this new gem of information, she cannot help but turn this way and that. Trying to absorb it all. Eventually even that is not enough to sate her curiosity, though. She moves towards the rolltop desk and gently grinds the lid back. “Military family?” There’s a hopeful air about the way that she inquires the causation of such a tidy little space.

The rolltop desk closes neatly enough when Isis shuts it… though the instant she's not looking, it's open again.

At Isis's question, Isaac chuckles. "No." There's a hint of puzzlement to it, though; now he's wondering. He hadn't gotten that vibe, but… somehow he'd never thought to ask. Something to add to the list, if he ever catches a hint of where he might be. "My parents died when I was young," he explains, without pathos; it is what it is, and being sad about it isn't going to accomplish anything. "I was raised by an uncle," he explains.

Sort of, a voice that sounds a lot like Isaac's murmurs; Isaac doesn't seem to hear it.

"He was rich, but he was… busy. A lot. There were housekeepers and cooks and tutors and trainers to take care of me, though; they did most of the heavy lifting." He looks over to the bed, lets out a chuckle, and pulls the top of the blanket down, shaking his head. "If I kept the room looking clean, the housekeepers wouldn't clean it. If I didn't, then they did. They threw away some of my stuff sometimes when they did it," he says glumly.

“An uncle!” It comes out a hair too chipper. It wasn’t a foster home, then. It wasn’t kept clean by the persuasion of a belt. It wasn’t a horror story. A sad one in ways, perhaps, but not horrific. She crosses to where Isaac stands by the bed, hovering like a teetering satellite not entirely stable in its orbit. The phantasmal redhead reaches out to rest a light hand on the small of Isaac’s back. “Did they toss anything important?” she inquires compassionately before turning a curious eye back over the room. “Anything we should look for?”

Subtle silent ripples chase inwards across the floor to where she stands.

"Yeah, an uncle," Isaac says; he's not sure why Isis is so chipper at this, but he's not going to argue. Instead, he just smiles and leans a bit closer, laying an arm around her shoulders.

"Nothing terribly important," he says, then he chuckles aloud. "Comic books. The odd magazine." He sees the ripples , the faint disturbances in the light, starting to converge on the two of them; he takes a moment to look around the room for anything forgotten, then shakes his head. "I think our time here's about up," he says, and there's a certain lightness in his voice, too… though whether it's at the prospect of being able to leave this place, or because he's been able to share this with her, he couldn't say. Maybe both.

Slender shoulders wriggle and then settle in just so under the weight of isaac’s arms. Isis’s hazel gaze sweeps the room, more idly now. “Magazines, hmm?” She gives a suggestive nudge of her elbow into his ribs, turning her cheek up to let him see the silhouette of one cheeky smirk. Then his comment draws her attention down to the ripples…

Ripples that continue to move inward more rapidly. And the reason why is painfully, frightfully clear. They’re rising upon the surface of water so clear as to allow one to continue to look upon Isaac’s childhood room as though through crystal - brightening colors and sharpening lines. Isis lifts a hand to catch Isaac’s where it dangles from her shoulder, fingers tight. “I think you’re right.”

The redhead closes her eyes and turns her body in towards Isaac’s as, in a blink, the ripples are at their shoulders. “It’s not real…” The rising sensation turns cold. Bitterly so. And then it consumes. There’s a lurch as the instinct of the ability seeks to slam the consciousness into the opposite body, but a whip-lash snap sets things back to a proper course…

Isis gasps a gulp of air and twists her hand in his, turning it into a tight grip and instinctively checking on Isaac.

As Isaac's vision returns, he blinks, drawing in a deep breath, momentarily off-balanced to find that he's not in Isis's body, but his own.

"Huh," he says, then looks to Isis, lips curving into a delighted grin. "That was…" he begins, only to trail off; he's at a loss for words, but that smile on his face gets the message across pretty plainly anyway. "Awesome," he finishes, squeezing her hand back. "And we ended up in the same bodies, too!" he chuckles.

“Awesome?” Isis blinks at Isaac, quieted a moment as she runs her free hand up her own throat and back down to collar bone. “I think we are using totally different rating scales,” she comments, and yet… His smile is utterly contagious. Paired with the smallest thing - a little squeeze of her hand - it’s inescapable, really. Her fingers adjust, from gripping to lacing.

“I suppose it was kinda nifty. To see where you grew up, I mean. I’d like to see more, know more.” Isis tips her head, a quick flash of thoughtfulness writ into her expression before it hurries her words along. “In person. We should do that. Go on a trip or something. Soon.” Her smile might be just enough, for its sincerity is without question, to smooth over the disjointed and hurried quality of her suggestion.

Isaac laughs, his smile widening. "I'd like that," he says quietly. "The early years were in New York. We could make a day of it sometime?" he asks hopefully.

Sometime. Isis bites her tongue off the side thoughtfully even as she’s nodding. Some. Time. There’s. Time. Right? Her eyes wrinkle up at the corners with the pressure of her smile. “This weekend. If you’re free? I’m just…” A quick sigh breaks free as she squeezes his hand again. “I got some making up to do, and I know that. And sometimes is always another time, isn’t it. I don’t wanna live in another time. I wanna live in the now.” The now, because really… that’s all they have left.

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