The Panic Room


delia2_icon.gif s_elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title The Panic Room
Synopsis "Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high." —William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Date February 24, 2018

In Dreams

Darkness. Cold. Wet.

It's perhaps not what a wandering dreamwalker expects when she visits people's dreams, but it's the holdover fear that Elisabeth deals with and copes with but has not been able to fully break despite years of therapy.

Initially it might even seem comforting, but the sense of threat is visceral. Images suddenly roar through the darkness.

A man stands next to her and then he's simply gone, blood and brain matter splattering her face. Running. Always running. Stairs. Screaming. Kain's face, clearly shouting. Vor spiraling up out of smoke to stab. Richard exploding into shadows to pour over Kazimir Volken. A cage full of children burning. People at a table being executed. Robots firing on a crowd. Edward Ray and a string map.

Horrors everywhere, jumbled together with no sense of linear order.

And curled up with her arms wrapped around her knees, her face buried in them, Elisabeth. It's almost like she's sitting in a stage set — three sides of a peach and sea-green bedroom with lovely mahogany furniture surround her. As if she has figured out how to use the space Hokuto long ago built as a base but forces herself sometimes to let them play out where she can see them but doesn't have to feel them. An old door, moldy with a rusted padlock and chain, trickles water onto the cream carpet of the room.

The smell of popcorn permeates the area where Elisabeth is huddled for safety but she can’t see where it’s coming from. She can hear the crunching as it’s being eaten and the cries of anguish, screams of terror, and cheering as the scenes play on around her. But there’s nobody there.

The reel flickers and the screen counts down from five before going completely white.

All around her are voices, jeers and cries of foul, hollering to get the production moving again. All of these, voices that Liz just doesn’t recognize. Spotlights prevent her from picking out familiar faces, but from the silhouettes that she can see, there aren’t any. Outlines of garish wigs, curled and powdered, line the front row.

That's new and different… and Elisabeth is aware enough that she is, in fact, dreaming that she doesn't just react as if such bizarre occurances are just normal. She lifts her head to look around the darkened theater, part of her wondering what new horror will unleash from the dark while part of her just goes along as any dreamer would. It's a horror movie, right? In horror movies, the main character follows the obvious path — and so she moves to get up and go 'see what the problem is' even knowing that it's the path to Doom.

She wanders up the aisle, looking for familiar faces, her heart thudding in her chest. Something is sure to jump out any second.

“Down in front!” A heavily accented German yells at Liz as she wanders where she obviously doesn’t belong. She knows that voice but she can’t place it. As popcorn begins flying at her, she can feel herself being lifted like a marionette on strings. Jerking up into the air, she flies backward until she drops back on the stage.

In the middle of the middle aisle, Delia is hunched in her seat, a tub of popcorn in her lap. To one side, a Mongolian dressed in greasy furs and stained leather, Genghis Khan. To the other, an S.S. officer that looks suspiciously like Adam Monroe. All three of them are dipping their hands into the bucket and it doesn’t seem like she minds sharing. Eyes wide as her attention is caught on one particular scene playing behind Liz. Starring Liz. Featuring Benjamin Ryans.

Finding herself on the stage, Elisabeth freezes there. Her heartbeat picks up — not the terror of being in the spotlight but the terror of what's playing behind her. Turning slowly, she faces the screen … and sinks to her knees to watch once more the failed attempt at rescuing Gillian that cost the lives of children and pitted her against the Virus world's version of Ben Ryans.

The gut-deep horror of a cage full of children burning in front of her eyes is enough to make her fight to wake up, but she's deep enough in slumber that she can't surface. "Please no," she whispers, covering her eyes with her hands. She really doesn't want to watch this hideous memory again… she's so tired. Weary in soul over it but weary in body too because her sleep is constantly interrupted by such imagery.

To her side, the image of Adam sits up and grabs a fist full of popcorn to throw at the stage. “At least use a proper accelerant!!” He yells out, obviously meaning for the children. Delia shrinks into her chair, a grimace on her face. For now, she doesn’t say or do anything to the man at her side. The mongolian on the other is cheering and kicking the seat of the woman in front of them. After a particularly rough jar of her seat, her head tilts to the side and tumbles into the lap of the person sitting next to her.

“For goodness sake, Marie, keep your head on. You’d think you’ve never seen an execution before.” Then Socrates carefully picks up the woman’s head and places it precariously back on her neck.

At the side of the stage, three men step out from behind the curtain. One carrying a ladder, the second carrying two buckets of paint, and the third carrying long handled paint rollers. They set up against one of the walls of the bedroom, not even noticing Liz huddled there.

Nope. That's about all of that she can stand. Her nightmares are usually a little less bizarre, if still disjointed, but Adam, Genghis Khan, and Marie Antoinette jeering while children burn is pretty much when she mentally starts noping right on out of there to deal with fears that are more familiar and therefore easier to contain.

The 'rooms' all go pitch black, and sound swells to bone-rattling proportions.

Ya know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, oh, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there's never, never a trace of red

Freezing cold wind whips through the dark, and slamming sounds reverberate around her until the walls — all four of them — of that peach and sea-green bedroom are suddenly illuminated to offer safe haven around her. And there is no more Mack the Knife, no more cold, no more darkness.

Elisabeth sprawls on her bed on her stomach kicking her feet in the air, the faint sounds from the other side of the door those of parents moving around in the kitchen making breakfast downstairs. She hums under her breath, "If I could make days last forever… if words could make wishes come true…"

Nothing gets into this space without invitation, Hokuto once said. There's never been anyone with her here inside this space but a shadow who hid with her sometimes.

Except now, for some reason, Delia is sitting on the floor of her bedroom like she's always been there.

In some respects, she has. Perhaps not in the spot that Liz has currently chosen for her but she's been here all along. Her own demons mingling quite nicely with those of Liz. Her eyes move around the room, mentally noting the cracks in the walls, stress fractures. Elisabeth's foundation has settled.

Through the curtained window, dark, vaguely humanoid shapes move about. They're busy with something. Inside, they can hear the shuffle of equipment and scrape of tools. Whatever they're doing… it feels like a heavy ball in the pit of Elisabeth's stomach.

“Hi,” the dreamwalker's voice isn't quite out loud and not just internal. It's everywhere all at once. “You’ve been busy.”

The teenaged blonde on the bed looks up, and she studies Delia for a long moment. This place holds so much of Elisabeth's inner Self, it's nearly tangible. The blue eyes in that young face are ancient and weary. The subtle shifts of aging behind taking place and by the time the girl on the bed is sitting upright, cross-legged, she looks more like the woman Delia knows, the child hidden within one more layer of protection beneath the adult visage.

"I suppose that's one way to look at it," she admits, looking around them. Here in this space, she's learned to be a much more lucid dreamer. "I just hope the walls hold long enough. I don't think they were meant to hold back quite such a load." Obviously she too can see the cracks… knows that her protections are failing under the weight.

"Do you think I'll be dangerous if they break before I have enough time to sort it out?" It's an almost clinically detached question.

“Probably,” Delia's matter of fact tone rings a little too true to Elisabeth. “But you're not really sorting it out, are you?” The question is posed more like a statement, her voice bland and without the hitch of curiosity at the end. “You're just hiding from it here.”

There's a clunk against one of the walls and the entire room seems to shudder at the force of it. Muffled voices, men arguing, can be heard through the wood and plaster. Whatever they're saying can't be made out but from the volume and pitch, it can't be anything good.

“How long have you been hiding here?”

"This time, about two years," Elisabeth admits candidly. "When Hokuto built it, I was already in therapy to deal with being tortured and left for dead. I just needed a little breathing room. But when we fled Arthur's world, … there just wasn't the luxury of talking out my issues. Everyone else was dealing with their own hurts. Therapists weren't thick on the ground in either of the last two places we were."

Shoving a hand through her hair, she sighs heavily. "I am dealing with it. There's just… a lot to deal with." Elisabeth studies the redhead and smiles faintly. "I have to make sure Aura's okay. I'm not avoiding my own shit. I know this is isn't a long-term coping strategy. I just… have a lot built up."

“Leave her to me.” Whatever issues the little girl is having, Delia's fairly sure she won't be able to verbalize them as vividly as the dreamwalker's can experience. “The best thing you can do is work through…” She pauses as another clunk against the wall causes a bit of dust to trickle down from a new crack in the ceiling. “…whatever is causing that. I can help Aura with her nightmares, eventually they'll go away. Your nightmares…”

That's where she stops.

That's where something behind her eyes, a glint of something peculiar, hides itself from Elisabeth completely. “I'll do what I can,” she finally says. There's another clunk. This time the wall holds. Outside, they can hear cheering voices.

There's a flinch at the sounds from outside, and the Elisabeth notes, "Leaving Aurora entirely to someone else is not exactly in my nature." She forces a small smile. "But between you and the psychologist she'll be seeing, I'm pretty sure you're right. Where to start wading through my shit is the problem." The cheering voices make her pause and she frowns slightly.

"The head shrinker in Kansas gave me a recommendation out here. I'm already looking into it." Elisabeth considers and asks softly, "Not all of this was mine, was it?" She's no one's fool, processing what she's been dreaming while they talk. "Wanna tell me why Adam Monroe is haunting you?"

“You're deflecting,” Delia answers with a flat tone, she's not falling for Liz’ tactic. Her expression shows it, so stoppit. “The audience doesn't matter, it's fluid. It's the show that brings them in. Horrible things bring horrible people.”

And one martyr. The subject of which, she does not broach. Not a the moment.

There's a knock on the door. A door that wasn’t there two or three minute ago. A door that maybe wasn’t ever there. Regardless, the dreamwalker pushes herself to a stand and walks over, not checking with Elisabeth on whether or not she should answer it. She just does. Behind it, Elisabeth can see beyond Delia to spy one of the three workmen from the stage.

“Framework’s a bit old, but it’s not shot beyond all possible repair. Some of the plaster will need to come off so we can shore up the load bearing wall. She’ll be exposed.” The redhead is handed a thin slip of paper and from her vantage point, Liz can see a large number circled in red.

Frowning at the knock, Elisabeth moves off the bed but just stands and crosses her arms in a defensive motion. The workman is unexpected, and her brows furrow together. "… What is that?" Her tone isn't as worried as it could be — some part of her comprehends that the workmen arena manifestation of Delia's help in here, though it's been a long time since she was dreamwalked.

Being exposed is a terrifying prospect. Having no defenses against the evils that she's witnessed and the ones she's perpetrated, no walls against the guilt and fear and memories… Elisabeth backs up a step. "I can't," she blurts out. "I can't do what needs doing without some way to keep things out sometimes!" Panic shrills her tone a bit.

Closing the door behind the workmen, Delia shields them from most of Elisabeth’s piercing discourse. Turning calmly to the woman she shakes her head, “They said pieces. That means there’ll be holes. So, yes it‘ll get worse before it’s better.” Taking a deep breath, she pinches the bridge of her nose as she tries to think of a way to explain. Time works strangely in dreams because the small time it takes, seems literally like forever with the thunks and clunks outside the walls.

“When I was little, my dad and I used to watch Clint Eastwood movies.” Of course they did. Of course Ryans likes Clint Eastwood movies, there’s too many similarities between them. “Whenever Clint got into a gun fight, he’d hole up somewhere and shoot at his enemies from a place of cover.”

She motions around them.

“This is your place of cover, use it to take shots at your fears and issues not just hide from them.”

The description eases Elisabeth's instinctive panic and she nods. "That I can handle," she agrees a little shakily. Then she grins. "Your father and Clint Eastwood movies … that association does not surprise me at all."

Her arms remain crossed, but the tension in the rest of her body is easing some. The loud sounds from outside do make her jump occasionally, and she sidles toward the dripping door that still sits at the center of the room. Her fingertips trail down the rusted chain and she sighs quietly. "That, I think, will be the last thing to do."

Eying the door, there’s a glimmer of interest but the dreamwalker turns away instead of pressing further. Now is not the time, she can cut that one with someone more qualified. The outside commotion dies down slowly but surely, repairs stop. That’s enough for tonight.

Outside the room, the audience dissolves like morning mist against the sun… which is what it is. “The sun’s coming up,” Delia’s quiet tone matches their surroundings, pastel and calming. Pretty when it needs to be. “I have other places I need to visit before it does, make sure there’s no one in distress.” She doesn’t need to say it but the concern in her eyes spell it out clearly.

She’s going to check the children.

For a long moment, it might seem as if Elisabeth isn't going to say anything at all. But then she turns her blue eyes toward Delia's dream form and murmurs softly, "I don't know… if you can reach them, but … Lynette and Mateo's children could probably use some help too. Evie… saw what happened to her parents and to Elaine. I … don't even know where Addie is, Delia… but if you find her, watch out for her? Please? We are coming for her."

The redhead turns to face Elisabeth but doesn’t make an indication whether she will or won’t.

She just vanishes.

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