The Tortoise and The Bear


bella_icon.gif delia2_icon.gif dema_icon.gif ghost_icon.gif

Scene Title The Tortoise and The Bear
Synopsis Bella becomes the victim of a half crazed and homeless dreamwalker. Her savior is someone that's as unlikely as the Easter bunny giving out Christmas gifts.
Date December 12, 2010

The Hut of a Harpy

How long has it been? Days… Weeks… Months… Time has all run together for Bella Sheridan. She can remember being able to move, being able to walk. Being able to do most things by herself but things went wrong somewhere. Somewhere far away from where she is now, this hut, with a caretaker that caters to her every whim and need. It's aggravating and frustrating, being reduced to a helpless blob in a bed that can do nothing but groan when she needs something. Like now.

In almost no time at all, her nurse is beside her, wiping her face free of the spittle that's drooled in a thin flood from the corner of her lip to her chin. But that's not what Bella wants or needs, right now there's something a little more pressing.

"What do you need? Food?" No. "Do you want me to sing to you?" Please no. "I can read to you if you like? We can pick up where we left off, Mark chapter three. There's some good verses in there, I'm sure you'll like them." Right now, the absence of mercy is even more proof that God doesn't exist. But she doesn't want to be read to, there's something else.

"Oh… Alright."

Within moments, Bella's been changed and she's feeling fresh and dry again. never in her life has she felt so humiliated and helpless. If only she could get the words in her head to come out. If only she had the strength to keep trying. If only there was someone in the world that cared enough to rescue her from this torture by ending her life or healing her. Instead she's put through the arduous strain of this … woman… this redheaded she-devil… making her live out her days in a bed, being fed, clothed, and changed like an infant. She's nothing more than a peasant, some might say that she took pity on Bella, but the invalid knows the truth. She knows that the longer she remains, the less likely it will be that she'll ever speak or move again.

One must never forget that the existence of suffering in the world is not necessarily disprove the existence of God. It may, in fact, in its depth, breadth and sheer seeming perversity prove that God does exist, and the He is a twisted, hateful son of a bitch. And such is the basic underpinning of Bella untheology. It is not that God doesn't exist (which, though, He absolutely does not) but rather that if God were to exist, it would be necessary to fight him. Because that's just what the universe needs, some giant cosmic Prick running things.

If Bella were merely vegetating, indeed, this would not be so horrific. It would be like tending to a plant, a brainstem with a gastrointestinal track and a thatch of red hair that grows matted and tangled as practical maintenance becomes moot. But there remains the sharp gleam of present consciousness in her cool blue eyes, a fixity and acknowledgement that is hardened and tempered by a mixture of intelligence and, more and more, simple hate. Hate that menaces mutely, a fire too well contained that, if released, would incinerate this accursed hut and its detested keeper, as well as Bella herself.

At this extremity of living, reduction to bare life, to homo sacer, there is no dignity. Only the endless continuance of an unremitting pain and humiliation. Death is a thousand times more preferable and, after so long waiting for it, what is wished for is a visitation that will never be forgotten by those that survive. For all their antagonism, Bella would welcome the Wrath of God.

With a smile, her caretaker comes back into view with the accursed book in hand. Flipping the rice paper thin pages, so worn from use, she settles in beside the invalid and raises a hand to brush some of the sweat dampened hair from her brow. “That’s a little better, you’ll be able to see.”

See? What use is it to see when all that remains to be seen is the inside of the dilapidated hovel. So ancient and worn down that the whitewash on its walls is more a riddle of patchwork over crumbling mud. The entire place should have been torn down eons ago. Before her forefathers took the land by force and declared themselves overlords of the territory. Just who is this whelp that has the audacity to imprison her here? Has word even been sent out to her family that she’s being held? Cornflower blue eyes gaze warmly back into her own icy ones and another hand tucks the stench filled blankets up around her neck. It’s a smell that keeps her awake throughout the night.

“I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whomever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin…” Closing the book again with a sigh, the wretched woman turns to face Bella again and presses her lips into a thin line. “Maybe we could try speaking again? You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To speak?”

Of course she would. This woman should remember the garbled calls when she first found her. She should remember wrapping her into a diseased wool blanket and carrying her hurriedly through the streets for what seemed forever. How can she forget the unintelligible pleas for help that Bella gave anyone who passed by them on her jailer’s flight?

How can Bella forget that it wasn’t until she got here, that she was turned mute and that her legs and arms were threatened with removal. To fight infection she was told…

Bella is no nostalgic. Dwelling on loss is not the path to gain, but its opposite. And her anger, hot and bright however locked away, keeps the cold, numbing fingers of pure recollection at bay. The insipid, self righteous prattle of the creedbook only stokes her inner furnace as she tries to turn the heat into steam, to swell up her chest and force out speech. To reforge the lost connection that deprives her of language and get out three solitary words, words that, in and of themselves, would be the granting of their own wish.

'Give it back.'

When Bella's lips move, the redheaded nurse's smile brightens and she turns to yet another scripture in the thick book. None of the words seem to make sense to the woman in the bed, a jumble of letters and numbers that aren't even turned the right way around. Somehow, the young woman is reading them… or perhaps this is all from memory.

"God is healing you! Your lips moved… maybe if we read more you'll be able to say something!" She's a little too excited and as she turns her head to focus on the book, Bella can make out a glint of something a little more sinister in the woman's eyes. "Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."

She turns to Bella and peers into the woman's icy blue eyes, "You have hatred in your eyes… do you think we should take them out to spare you from the lake of fire?"

Oh, its not the Lord Almighty that's healed her. The geothermal power supplied by that very lake of fire is more likely the culprit. Bella's lips, cracked from disuse and the miserable conditions under which she's been kept, move further as she tries hard, so very hard, to hiss a single name. A request. It comes out first as an incoherent sound, something like a sick animal would make. But upon repetition it gains clarity. 'Awww' at first, then 'awl' the, with a painful purse of the lips, a plosive is tacked on, and the word becomes clear. 'Paul'. Bella is asking for something from the Apostle Paul. Maybe she really has been saved!

Maybe she wants to keep her eyes.

"Awwl, Puh.. Paul! Paul! Oh you have such lovely ideas Miss." The young woman turns to Corinthians next and runs a finger down the thin pages, her eyelids drifting down as she reads first silently to herself. They open again to regard Bella and then after adjusting her seat on the bed, she clears her throat and in a strong voice she repeats what she just perused. "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

Raising a hand, she brushes some of the matted hair into place with a demure smile. "It's so nice to know that we two are the only faithful left… Isn't it?" Her cornflower blue eyes flare open a little wider, forbidden blue, witches. Witches have blue eyes! "They've killed nearly all the rest… Remember when you found me Miss? You were going to turn me in… but then I changed your mind and you'll stay with me forever."

When the third enters the dream, it's hard to notice. The walls don't change, nor the texture of the Bible's splayed pages, or the bitter quality of antiseptic in the air, and there's no sense of being watched percolating extra through 'air' already thick with more sentiences than a mortal mind probably should contain. He merely watches for a long few seconds, hanging out in the metaphorical corner as a specter is wont to do, and tasting the changes of consistency in the world contained in here the way one would imagine a snake tastes smells. Forked tongue out, forked tongue in again, a ripple through the eerie, limbless musculature of his being.

All a sudden, tubular plastic snaps taut, IVs furling into existence the same instant they're noticed. Slippery clear coils wind around Bella's wrists, pinching stickily tight against taped-in needles and there's a clank against the stand, bolts and wheels squeaking arrhythmically as plastic and steel complain at their fullest extension, strain, and the mess of quadriplegic starts to tip upright, off the mattress, slowly, marionetted in the little props that are keeping her alive in this chilly little play-world. One of the redhead's hands are lifted, throbbed back and forth. Not an attack, but a wave.


—it's why he and Bella will never be friends, really.

After all her icy eyed glowering, Bella was hoping for a more impressive resuscitation. Something with dream flame, maybe playing off her hair in a sort of motif, a flame that would spread to Bella's captor and set her alight in turn, though less impressively, more combustibly. But that is the sort of thing dreamed up by those preoccupied with the fantastical. As a doctor, this set up is (if only marginally) more likely.

After all the indignity Bella has suffered for the conjured weight of days, being made a puppet is really no big thing. Not when it brings her body upright and her limbs into motion. A tension grips Bella's face, still numb but regaining feeling as agency is pumped back into her veins, courtesy of her professional bailiwick, and her lips peel back from her teeth. A low, orange-red glow leaks from between her pearly whites, the air rippling with heat. Now that… that is more like it. The lifted hand contorts itself into a claw and comes down spasmodically upon the page of the Bible, nails biting and then rending as she really lets Paul know what she thinks of him.

And the hated caretaker is next, if Bella has anything to say about it. Or to hiss about it, which is what she's limited to, now.

When the more modern machinations melt into existence, all so seemingly natural in the hut that slowly turns from a degenerate hovel into a more sterile environment, Delia keeps reading. Her clothing, once a dirty white sundress is now a bleached set of scrubs, again something so natural to her that she doesn't even realize the change. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed unto them."

The hand coming down onto the page snaps the younger redhead out of her biblical stupor and her face contorts in anger at the desecration of the book. "No! Don't!! That's MINE!!" The last word is yelled out in a fevered pitch as the young woman takes back control with a wave of her hand, a hand that strikes the invalid backward across the face, knocking her back onto her pillow. "Give me back my page…" It's a threat hissed through a clenched jaw, the young woman having learned nothing of her own hardships drops the rest of the book to the floor to take back the one.

Somewhere inside the book there's a verse about leaving an entire flock to reclaim one lost sheep…

Girls. So excitable. So silly. The third presence loosens the plastic snare around Bella's wrist briefly, enough to leave the woman staggering for something else to brace her befuddled weight against, and the metal bars of the stand squeal as wheels stutter and slide closer, subtly interposing the cold steel between the patient and the girl in the scrubs. It's very narrow, of course, doesn't block Bella's view, never mind barricade the Bible or its missing page to safety, but it's in the way up until the moment the hissing woman's shoulder clanks into it.

And then it's tipping like a tree toward the young oneiromancer, flashing a brief reflection of Delia's narrowed eyes back to herself, a startling instant of (nevertheless doubtful) perspective spliced in. Tape snaps off at its stringy waist on the thin skin of Bella's forearm, freeing one, while the tubes around the other contract around bunches of atrophied muscle.

When the needle comes free, Bella starts leaking. A milky, ruddy, viscous fluid ebbs out of the piercing in her vein, bubbling up over her arm, sizzling as it strikes the smelly old blankets, chewing away at the fabric like acid. Someone's choleric humors are a little bit on the high side, and there's some sanguine mixed in there for good measure.

The third presence, insofar as it is even recognized as a presence its own, is viewed, in the haze of contingent dream logic, as a spirit with whom to traffic, or some abstract manifestation of her will or wish. No divine agency, of course. We already have Bella's feelings on the theistic.

But just in case there was any doubt or uncertainty, Bella puts an end to it. Moments after she has struck the bed, hurled back again, her arm lifts the crumpled paper in her hand up to her snarling mouth. And bites. And chews. Teeth gnash as she eats the torn pages of the good book, her inner heat causing the paper to brown and rumble, smoke curling from between her lips.


It's sort of a sick sound as the pole hits Delia in the forehead, sending her reeling backward in a tangle of IV and pole. When she lands on the floor, it's like a romantic comedy except the part of the hero is played by a metal hook that stops a fraction of an inch from her nose. Fighting the mess to get up, she's upright just in time to see Bella defiantly eating a piece of the bible.

The young redhead folds her arms with a hmph and bends to pick up the rest of the book. "You shouldn't eat so fast, you'll either choke or throw up… or worse…" she emits with no small amount of sarcasm etching into her voice.

What could be worse than vomiting all over herself? Well.. the sudden introduction of fiber into a liquid diet can sometimes produce a disastrous result. "And I'm not cleaning you up this time. You wrecked Romans!"

The paper creases in Delia's hand, wrinkles briefly, flattens again, and none of it's timed to the squeeze or pull of her fingers because it has nothing to do with her fingers. Or any part of her influence, really. The writing's changed, no longer the densely-bricked print of verses and line numbers, but the scrawl of a brusque hand, and it catches the oneiromancer's eye with the act of seeing even before she thinks to look:

Just because you lost your body
doesn't mean you should
fuck with people about taking theirs away.

A few empty lines there, filled in by the geometric shadows of rumpled paper. Then, And I don't even like her.

The toppled stand stops turning its wheels after a moment, and the IV around Bella's other arm neither tightens nor loosens, staying in its glossy spiral nearly up to her elbow as she fidgets through feeding herself bits of book. Where the leakage falls and eats at sterilized cotton and steel, there seems to be glimpses of a second layer of dingier accommodations underneath; Delia's earlier setting showing in glimpses, like holes.

It's hot ash Bella is choking down as she swallows the mouthful of incinerated pages. Black stains her lips and flecks across her teeth, and the invalid looks more sick of mind than sick of body - or she would if she weren't bleeding bile. "Be'er," she says, jaw and lips moving clumsily, like a patient on novocaine, "to liff in shit th'n be shit," with the t's literally spit, plosives nearly ex-plosive.

Oh, come on man, what's not to like?

The prisoner is clutching at her bed, clawing her way to a sit again, reaching over to claw in Delia's direction, aggression mostly shapeless, not well thought out, the product of the muddled rage thinking nightmares induce. One other hand goes out to try and grip the IV, the rogue patient's favorite walking aid. Her fingers are curled and talonous, muscle control still touch and go.

The book is lifted up and thrown directly at the patient when the words are read, "Stop changing my bible you… you… redheaded she-devil!!" It's an insult that's been tossed at the young nurse before. "See?! Even GOD doesn't like you!!" The accusation is hurled at Bella as the book lands against the wall behind her head, flipping back open to the same page with the changed wording.

When the patient lunges at her, Delia falls backward (yet again) this time with Bella on top of her. Lesson for next time, the nurse is certain to note that dental hygiene in torture victims is a must should they ever regain the faculties to make an escape. "Getoffgetoffgetoff!!" The woman sounds more like a child than her actual age and when her hands wrap around Bella's throat to choke off the air supply, a veil of blue blankets the scene and it swirls into something else entirely.

This time, they're in a memory… Not Delia's own but one she adopted from someone else.

The blue dust is raised and swirls around them in a tornado, roaring out of control as it sweeps away the sterile wallpaper on top of the disgusting hovel. Even the hut itself is torn away and whirls up into the sky like Aunt Mae's farmhouse.

And then it's all gone; the roaring wind, the storm, and when the dust settles…

"I'd like you to concentrate very hard on that memory. Imagine it as clearly as you can. Just put yourself in that moment." A voice that's familiar to the unseen intruder, perhaps even to Bella herself imposes into the memory.

"And describe it in detail. Relive it."

A shorn woman sits on the ground wearing a formless orange jumpsuit, she's beaten badly. Her bruised jaw and sliced skin is pale and sunken, she hasn't slept in days… Patchy new growth of hair makes itself known in prickly stubs. There's a figure in the distance, shadowy and looming, but hard to make out. But there's something definitely wrong with it.

"Lynette, I want you to try and remember that nightmare."

Don't think he didn't remember. He's Teodoro fucking Laudani, you know, sometimes a ninja, always a vigilante, collects enemies like he's got Pokeballs for them and memories as if he forgot that the idea is that you're supposed to own the ones you have. Maybe all dream-walkers are a little like that and necessarily have to be, living out here on the ragged edges of people's mental problems and imperfect recollections. People hate it when you do that. People are crazy. And Bella and he had some issues even before the whole dream-walking shoot her in the leg thing came up with his medium-strength triplet.

Analogue. Knock-off. But it's Ghost who's looking at the thorn woman, remembering the voice, this citation; not the one who'd dragged a broken leg into midtown to drive getaway for a small army and Joseph Sumpter. This is the one who throws knives sometimes, makes nightmares by accident. Can't help but wonder if he's doing it here, now, even though he's trying to be careful about how deep the shadow he casts. Nightmare in a nightmare in a nightmare? He isn't God. It's probably funny to somebody that they think he's either that or— or whatever Bella's pleased to have on her side.

He does not know Lynette, but he knows of her. She looks small like a bird that hasn't been fed right since it was a chick. She's regarded with a touch of uncertainty, before the distortion of perspective between them and the one arriving bends, starts to shred, clarifying as if he'd done something as physical as burned away a mist.

Context robbed, all narrative sense as thoroughly masticated as the victim Gospel of Paul, Bella is not in the best position to figure out what that voice, all garbled and distorted, is actually conveying. Does she remember speaking those words? If awake, if prompted, she'd say yes. But right now, the pitiful scene of Lynette Rowan is taken, within the framework of Bella's own experience, as some projection of Bella's own state. After all, whose nightmare could be in play but hers, right now? And who is a victim more victimized than poor Isabella Sheridan, beset by lunatics and theists and cretins and criminals?

So to hell with the display that's being conjured. The only pity Bella feels is self pity, and she intends to remain guiltless even as she savages Delia, gouting fire from mouth and nostrils, trying to manifest herself and the woman she's bearing down upon, insistent on this/being the dream where she choked the life out of this sanctimonious bitch.

Little else seems to matter, from her dreaming perspective.

As Bella gains strength and ground through sheer desperation, Delia loses both due to fatigue. She's been doing this for far too long and she lost her grip on what's real and what isn't sometime before that. Her hair singes and begins to emit a putrid smell as she turns her head to avoid Bella's flaming morning breath. Curls of smoke weave through the air between them, filling it with the stench of burnt hair and skin. The dreamwalker, oddly, cries out in with the pain associated with the assault. Things that shouldn't happen in a dream, only one more sign that she's too disassociated with reality.

Turning her head to avoid her eyes burning, she suddenly finds enough strength to throw Bella off her person. Strobing to a stand, she flits through the room trying to find a place to hide as the shadowy figure looms into view. This one isn't exactly from Lynette's memory or nightmare, this one is Delia's fear.

Though he's been nothing but gentlemanly, Dema's form here is a rather grotesque hulk nearing eight feet tall. Sporting four arms, each one of the meaty hands at the end is wielding a needle full of bright blue liquid. Refrain.

Delia is frozen in place, staring wide eyed at the monster and shrieking at the top of her lungs.

The tarmac abruptly spits up a cat. Little one. Tortoiseshell, an orange patch over one eye and a black one over the other, white bib and the hackles all standing up, finishing in a bottle-brush tail. Bitches is crazy is the long and short of the ghost's assessment. Bitches would have to be pretty fucking crazy to motivate him to manufacture something particularly him in a world where there isn't necessarily, obviously, anybody else holding the bones of it together. Delia's thready, Bella's the dreamer. Somehow, the guy with the pyromaniac's style of oneiromancy is left to move things.

And he shows up a cat. Stronger than you'd expect, when his jaws snap shut on the leg of Delia's pants and his tiny paws root against the sinosoidal torque of his spine, pulling her away, from the approaching figure, from Lynette, from Bella's fiery, adrenaline-charged shit-flipping. His claws come out, translucent, white and razor-tipped, raking the ground — raking lines into the ground as he hauls her away. Away. This way. Come. Hurry up. Slit-pupilled eyes swivel glassily toward the psychotherapist with fire exploding out her orifices and.

Yeah. Time to go, little girl.

This is the trouble with concocting nightmares when you, yourself, forget who is the true subject of the dream - the nightmare can become your own. Delia's Refrain wielding bogey is all her own invention, the garish shape far outside the kind that the taciturn Russian himself would conjure, though his invocations sends ripples through the wafer thing fabric of Dreaming. If he isn't here now, he may well be soon. Much of Delia's sense of impeding dread may be a recognition of that very fact, though the self fulfilling nature of her prophecy may be fuzzy.

Fuzziness is not an issue Bella is having, however. She has just the minimal level of awareness, a thrust of desire, to make some small choices in the dream as its reigns are passed back and forth as if in a game of somnolent keep away. If Bella had any real sense of that tortoiseshell's identity, decent chance that it would be her target. As it is, Delia is the most hated element, and the dreaming space becomes conduit for her anger and frustration. She doesn't sleep all that well, you see, and she has some control issues.

The room ignites, flame darkening the walls, casting everything in hellish, flickering reds and oranges as black smoke gathers in oily pools overhead. Bella herself is losing consistency, sliding into the role of observer as the world itself manifests her indignation. The hulking Dema-thing, animated further by the dreamer's anger, makes its awful way towards girl and cat. If Bella had the slightest clue as to the tortoiseshell's identity, she might be re-prioritizing her targets right now. As it is, Delia is the sole object of her wrath, and the real center of the growing conflagration.

The pull from the cat earns a swivel of Delia's head as she turns to look down at it and shakes her head to try to place the little cat, she's seen it somewhere before. Rather than follow its urging to safety, she reaches down to scoop it up, cradling it protectively from both the monster and the fire. Her blue eyes dart around the room, the poor tortoise shell suffering the iron grip of her arms as she attempts to keep the tiny animal safe from danger. "I'll get us out Tuzzy Bear…" her whispered words relay that, unconsciously, she's already named him. "Don't worry, it's going to be alright."

Removing her right hand from the feline, she hoists it under her left arm like a football and holds out her newly freed limb. Phasing into her palm, a broken sword with a jeweled hilt makes its appearance. She hefts it up, twirling the leather bound hold until it's balanced properly and then points it at the creature. "Stay back, I'm not afraid of you." The quiver in her voice betrays her enough that the monster knows she's telling a blatant lie.

Teo is surprised and slightly dismayed by this turn of events. And he is Teo, you know. Dressed up in tiny bib and a tail, whiskers on his face, in an effort to reduce his influence on the dream and therefore the unfortunate side-effects that his psyche tends to have on others, but nevertheless: Teo. And ergo, slightly confounded at being hoisted aloft, deprived of his own paws, pedalling momentarily in the empty air— still programmed to a retreat that Delia is entirely ignoring— before he abruptly unsheathes claws and sinks them sideways into Delia's clothes. He attempts to voice protest, but it's so fucking weird in here that it merely comes out in an incoherent fizzle of half-assed censorship.

His tail puffs out bottle-brush. He stares at the fire that used to be a reasonably unprepossessing little psychotherapist. He stares at Dema, who was probably never little but is nevertheless a specter unalike to the one who carried him out the other week. To all appearances, his eyes are very large in his small, fuzzy head.

Sheets of flame cast chaotic shadows hither and thither across the walls of the room, a room, now, hardly deserving of the name. Without proper governance, the dream has been reduced to the usual sparsity of dreams, consisting only of those things filtering through the loose skein of Bella's sleeping consciousness. Girl. Cat. Monster. Fire. Room. -> Targets. Weapons. Space. -> Targets. Weapons. ->

The next step of the equation involves collapsing the whole of the sleeping terrain on top of the intruders, a catastrophic result that will probably end with Bella jolting awake to cold sweat and whatever sympathies she can wheedle out of her bedfellow. Not so bad for her, really. Not any good at all for dreamwalkers trapped inside.

The tiny pin claws sinking into her side has Delia yelping and frowning down at the cat in her arm. "Tuzzy Bear no! Bad kitty!" If plucking him up off the floor was enough of an insult, the scolding and little tap of her finger on his pink nose might just tip the scale. "What're we going to do, baby?" She breathes anxiously to the animal, not realizing that it's actually a very handsome man in her arms. Surprise Surprise.

Her scrubs have melted away into a white cotton sundress with spaghetti strap sleeves. Her long red hair flies loose in a mess of curls that fly up from the rush of hot air billowing around the room. Bumping the cat up in her arm with her hip, she places his body over her shoulder and looks into those large slitted eyes, "Think we can make it to the door?" All the while, she inches slowly from the monster form that is, at least in her mind, Dema.

Yes? How do you say Yes in Cat? A lashing of Teo's tail and he hisses, his spine curling up underneath Delia's arm, flumping high, his tiny body making like a motorboat vrrrrrr. He squeezes forward and back a few times, like toothpaste trying to escape from the tube, but the tube is agile. And wielding a sword. And could in theory die if abandoned, so. He flexes his mottled tail, swinging it around in the increasingly heated air in an effort to point with it at the door. YES. A thousand times yes. Bella's psycho-fire is coming in and, um, he doesn't even have any idea what Dema thinks he's doing if anything, so there's a half-hearted flap of a paw. Less of a swipe, more of a—

—wave. Hey. No remember me? A little help here?

Note - that isn't Dema.

At least, it wasn't Dema. Not until a spare instant ago. Finding someone is much easier when they ask for your presence, and though his last invitation didn't go so well, the Russian dreamwalker has been following the thin filaments of association that link sleeping consciousness to sleeping consciousness. As he approaches the destination mind, it does not strike him as familiar. It shouldn't. He's never been here before.

The place that's been prepared for Dema is, as previously mentioned, not quite the one he'd choose. As he fills out the form set out for him, there is a moment of confusion. Dema's first order of business while in a dream is to determine his role in it. With four syringe wielding arms, a burning conceptual building, and an adorable girl and adorable cat cowering before him… that would make him the bad guy. He doesn't want to be the bad guy. And where is the dreamer?

Chilly realization sinks into Dema as, paradoxically, he feels the quality of the heat the flames give off, the precise vintage of fury, whose sparks, to a careful eye, revealing tiny gleaming flashes of defeats and humiliations inflicted time and time again upon a singular person, one who thinks herself very much the victim. Now… now she is familiar. Dema's shape starts to diminish at once, looking at once smaller and more distant, the two being impossible to sort from one another in this space, especially as the dream loses cohesion.

A score of fingers squeeze a quartet of hypos, and glass shatters, letting blue liquid drip and gleam and sizzle in the building heat. Shards of glass mingle with droplets of Refrain, catch in the furious, hungry updraft of the fire, swirl and expand in a series of glittering cyclones. A few associative links later, and the shimmering becomes crystalline and cool, gusts of ice and chill, beating back the flames, at least for the moment.

"She is waking," is pretty much all Delia needs to know. Time has been bought by the bogeyman.

The broken sword fizzles out of existence and both of Delia's hands come up around the tiny cat to hug it to her face. Teo— er Tuzzy Bear's fur is matted with the salty tears of a panicked fledgling dreamwalker. Slowly, she raises her head a little to turn a fearful eye to the bogeyman and she edges away. While most are afraid of her mentor, she is most fearful of the gentle giant in front of them.

As the electric blue liquid fizzles and snakes into the cracks in the floor, Delia uses the time to pivot toward the door. Sprinting a few steps she adjusts the cat in her arms to free up on of her hands and she begins pulling at the handle, shaking the flaming wood until it finally relents. With a whoosh, the backdraft of flames singes at her clothing and hair. The curling the tendrils spark into ash that breaks off and drifts to the floor in smoldering wisps. "C'mon Tuzzy Bear… we have to run…" she whispers, giving a last look to the giant Russian, "..we have to find the redbird. We'll find my body."

The cat says something like, "Yaaah." In cat language, that isn't actually affirmative, but any kind of noise will probably suffice under the circumstances. Personally, he thinks that Delia is a bit slow on the uptake for this industry, where hours pass in instants, but then again, he supposes that she really doesn't have much of a choice in the matter. Anyway now his back is being used as Kleenex and referred to with inane names. Isabella Sheridan would appear to be a lot more insane than he had originally conceived, also, or they probably would have left her be months ago.

They, he, whatever. Now that his ride seems to have figured out how the fuck to operate herself and in which direction would be best, he turns his slit-pupilled eyes to study the world and what strives to crystallize enough to hold it in place. Not concerned, exactly. He twists his little head, curiously expressive, nod-nodding at Dema with something like gratitude. The dangling paw by Delia's wrist swipes another wave.

Dema will be gone soon, slipping out of Bella's mind like the middle digits of a too-long sequence of numbers. It may be a near thing, but there is simply no way a slippery survivor like himself is going to get chewed up by the mind of his former boss. But he will hold the levee for the moment, permitting a confused girl and her equally but dissimilarly confused cat to get well and clear.

A single portmanteau floats through the searing, distorted air. 'Redbird'. With care and gentleness, Dema reaches out towards the fire and plucks a single tongue of flame free. The shimmering lick of incandescence resolves into a long red feather.

Racing from the door into the night, Delia sprints with the little cat in her arms, hugging it tightly to her chest. Her heart pounds with the intensity of a bass drum in a marching band against the tiny feline's ear. Through a barren field until she spies a wire fence; one jump, two jumps, and a third has her springing off a fencepost. She's airborne, twirling through the dark sky until she punctures a hole in the dreamscape to escape back into the void.

It's not until they're out of Bella's mind and entering another that Delia's grip on Teocat loosens and she lets him float away from her. She holds his gaze for just a moment before gravity takes over and she begins plummeting to the ground, her arms flailing in a pseudo wave at the tiniest dreamwalker she's ever met.


Caught in a giant branch, the redhead peers down at the dog standing against the trunk of the biggest tree she's ever seen. When all else fails, jump into the mind of a canine. The older ones sleep more than any human being.

The cat shreds like confetti midway through that jump, pixellates, comes apart in so many ribbons and unravelling stitches of concept and memory, the impression of color and living quiddity and — smudged tear-water blowing out through Delia's bright hair in a wave. The last part of him to shred in the journey between Bella's mind and the untenable environment of the dog's is a paw, of course, reflexively curled, claws picking for an instant into the flesh of Delia's forearm. Pinches deep enough to draw the notion of pain. And a teeny tiny bit of red besides.


And then he's gone, sucked into nothing like the image on an old cathode ray television television. A blob of light, and then negative space.

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