What Dreams May Come, Part II


elisabeth_icon.gif hokuto2_icon.gif

Scene Title What Dreams May Come, Part II
Synopsis Sanctuaries are places of the mind where you are safest.
Date Sep 5, 2009

Elisabeth's Apartment… and her dreamscape

If dreams are the subconscious's method of working out problems, it is usually with vivid imagery, symbolism. In this case, there is almost no imagery. There are flashes, shards in the darkness of silvery light, the glimmer of a fantasy of wings and starlight that kept her sane. It always begins the same way. It is loud in her mind. She will hate that song — "Mack the Knife" — the rest of her life. Not that it's a huge loss, really. But it is the sudden shock of silence that is when the true nightmare begins.

It is not pure silence…. just pure blackness. The sibilant hiss of shoes scuffing against concrete, hot breath in her ear. The vivid smell of onions on that breath. The jagged pain of having her arms tied over her head for hours, days. The wet snap of fingers being broken. The heat and shame of wetting herself on that frigid floor when she couldn't hold her water any longer. The feel of rough hands on her face, on her body, on her throat. Of steel-toed boots rupturing internal organs. The smell of blood as it trickles down her body. These are all memories — her subconscious doesn't even really have the ability to find a way to make them worse than they are. She relives it each night in her dreams. Her heartbeat picks up almost on cue. She hasn't reached the point of waking, yet — and now the sleeping pills won't exactly allow her to pull back. All she can do is hold on tight for the ride. The starting points vary, but this — the last moments of her life, or intended to be anyway — is the one that generally holds a favored place.

"Why won't she talk to me?"
"Why won't she talk to me?!"
"If you answer my friend. I'll let you have the bagelwich."
His groan in her ear, his weight on her lap, his cheek against hers and his breath against her lips.
"If you don't answer him, I'm going to chop off your foot with an axe."
It's said so sweetly. And it is so far beyond terrifying for all its sweetness.
The *click* of the gun's hammer that echoes through the dream, far larger than life.

In the quiet apartment, there are soft whimpers and tears as the dream progresses through those last moments. She doesn't want to relive this.

Beside Elisabeth, sitting up but with her head tilted back against the cushions of the sofa, Hokuto Ichihara is entirely without waking perception. Her drained glass of wine rests on the table in front of her, and an open bottle of sleeping pills rests between curled fingers at her side. But while the woman Elisabeth Harrison met is but an arm's reach away, someone and something else entirely stalks at the corners of her sleeping perceptions.

There's one particular that the dreamers was not expecting in the landscape of thought and anxiety she finds herself in, and that is consuming darkness. The confines of a dreamlike prison of suffocating black and unrelenting voices taunting in the periphery causes a tangible presence near Elisabeth to recoil into herself, try to navigate her way through perceptions of something that aren't there. There's no faces to give to the attackers, no way she can remove the blindfold and give Liz experiences she doesn't have. There's an emotion, panic, like in the way a cornered animal might thrash at its environment in order to find its way out of a trap, but this trap is far more tricky than others — it's a trap of the mind.

Twenty some odd years of experience, and sometimes situations of the depravity of human kind can still rile Hokuto. The sensory deprivation of the ironic loss of sight and the howling voices, the suffocating black, the music it all plays as primal fears of the dark and the unknown, of isolation and of terror. Hokuto claws instinctively at the edges of the nightmare, fingers curling around the midnight black wallpaper that defines the sightless void, and in an attempt to steer the mind elsewhere, she hastily tears at the foundations of the fear to try and exit into somewhere else, pulling for memories of comfort and relief to contrast against the dark — but she claws too fast, and too quickly.

Darkness peels away and gives forth to altogether different sounds. Only dim light this time, filtering in through curtained windows. Sweat shines off of barely visible flesh, blankets entwined and twisted, heavy breathing and hushed voices, one small hand brushing down along the side of a man's face. Suddenly an observer where she does not belong, her presence going unnoticed for the illogical transition from terrified imprisonment, and the coarse side of Felix Ivanov's cheek beneath Elisabeth Harrison's hand, one arm wrapped around him as light glistens off of their sweat-slicked forms.

A looming shadow in the back of that room drags Elisabeth from moment to moment, depositing her somewhere and somewhen else. There is a sudden sensation of falling, a disconnect from both sexual dreams and the suffocating imprisonment of Humanis First, a sensation that causes her to wake up screaming in a smaller bed, blankets tangled around her legs and sunlight filtering in through familiar windows. There's a sound, distant on the edges of her perceptions, a voice — her mother's.

Home is hopefully a safer bet, a place to gain equilibrium.

The rough juxtaposition of literally being ripped out of the terror and panic and into a far more pleasurable dream disorients the blonde whose dreams are being observed. She willingly stumbles from the horrifying darkness to the comfort and safety of a lover's arms, experiencing the pleasure for a bare moment — and then that too is ripped away. It is only as she wakes screaming in the brass bed of her childhood that there is finally a sense of balance. Her heart pounds so fast that she can't catch her breath — in point of fact, Elisabeth's sleeping form has by now altered from a tight fetal curl trying to hide from the darkness to a looser sprawl now as she struggled unsuccessfully to force herself from her mind's eye. She looks around her dreamscape now, calming her ragged breathing with the familiar safety of her sea-green and peach bedroom. The sound of her mother's voice puzzles her physical body — a fleeting not-quite-memory drifting through the dream of the touch of maternal fingers on her brow. Had her mother come in to find her dreaming and tried to soothe her?

Shaking off the nightmare, the younger Elisabeth — for she cannot be more than sixteen in this moment — slips out of her bed and ventures toward her dresser to fetch a hairbrush and yank it through blonde tresses that reach almost to her hips. Her sense of displacement here is only fleeting… perhaps because her mind latches onto this moment of safety with a white-knuckled death-grip to try to keep herself here.

It's only upon taking the hairbrush and looking up into the mirror that Elisabeth is graced with the fact that she is not alone in the room. Looking over her own shoulder, there is a cadaverously pale figure standing behind her, a black cloth blindfold drawn over her eyes, dark hair flowing loose and ephemerally as if she were trapped underwater. Ash gray lips are set into an impassive expression, and stark contrasts of black and white show in a traditional Japanese kimono worn folded left over right, an inverse of the proper folding, one reserved for corpses — a minutae that eludes Elisabeth.

"Sanctuaries…" Her voice is familiar, more so than her appearance, but the backmasked echo of a more whispering tone behind it is disconcerting. Hokuto, like a sponge, has absorbed the negative emotions and feelings of the original nightmare she was trapped in, and it displays in the more disconcerting lightning and tone of voice that affords her idealized dream form, "are places of the mind where you are safest."

This is supposed to help, right?

The scream that rips out of the younger Elisabeth would do a teen scream queen proud. The image in the mirror might as well be Freddy Kreuger in that moment. She backpedals from the mirror and whirls around to see who's behind her, dropping the brush on the floor, and there's…. nothing. What the…? And then the whispers beneath the voice are what really make the hair on her neck stand straight up. The words… are not fear-inducing, but the visage sure is! Liz quickly whirls back to the mirror to see that image once again.

"Wh… what??" she demands, even as she starts to comprehend a little. It is rare that she is a lucid dreamer — more often she lives in the moment of the dream. And such is the case here. Yet something in her understands that the message is important. She looks around the room, her sense of her mother so close by lending the moment a poignancy that she won't recognize before she wakes.

"Please, be at ease." Comes the hushed voice once more from behind Elisabeth, this time between her and the mirror. A thin, pale hand comes to rest on her shoulder, squeezing firmly before another arm gently wraps around her waist, fingers coming to rest against her ribs. "This place is a safe one," her head inclines, brow resting against the back of Elisabeth's head in an oddly maternal gesture. "Be aware, Elisabeth, who you are… where and when you are."

The words bring back scraps of memory, ones not befitting a child's room, but rather the life of a law enforcement officer. Some of them, admittedly painful memories, but the good comes with the bad. "I am the friend of Abigail," she admits in that quiet tone of voice, breath warm against the back of Elisabeth's neck, "and you're here— your sanctuary— where your mind took you when you were at your most vulnerable."

The touch brings the scream to the fore again, and Elisabeth does the whole try-to-run thing again but the thing — the being… the person — in her dream has hold of her. Instead of completely freaking her out, though, the flashes of memory that touch brings with it serves to calm her. Well, that and the fact that she can't see the utterly creepy appearance. She relaxes into the arms that bind her … briefly. She can't find within herself the anxiety that such a hold would bring in the waking world. "I remember," she finally says quietly. Now aware of the fact that she's walking in a dream. And sad…. beyond sad. This is one of the last memories she has of high school, of living at home. Everything after this point is a blank. "What…. will we do here?"

"We do nothing, this place is not for me." Hokuto's head tilts down, resting her head on Elisabeth's shoulder as her arms squeeze just a little tighter, then slowly unwind from her as she steps back and to the side. Only thin tendrils of ephemeral hair drift weightlessly in her peripheral vision. "I can do what I can for you, but no more and never less. This place, is like something I made for Abigail, to keep her away from the nightmares…"

Slowly, the hair disappears out of sight, but the click of wooden sandals on the floor comes around behind Elisabeth, and then finally into the opposite peiphery as the pale, black-robed woman steps into the fore, arms folded across her chest and hands tucked into the long and drifting sleeves of her kimono. "What you let in here, is only what you want. But a sanctuary is only something you can hide away in while you sleep. You can rest, peacefully, but when you wake you're outside of my influence…"

Turning slowly, the blindfolded woman regards Liz silently, her black hair drifting and flowing in that underwater grace. "But even sanctuaries have secrets, it seems." Her focus isn't on Liz, but past her, towards a closet door wrapped in old, rusted chains with a heavy padlock at the center. The door is molded on the edges, water seeping out from beneath. The dreamer's brows furrow ever so subtly, and her head turns more towards Liz.

"Who did that to you?"

As she turns to face the apparition of Hokuto's dream self, the knowledge of who she's looking at easing the tendency to imitate an 80s flick, Elisabeth listens to what's said carefully. "So… when I sleep, this will … always be here? I can find my way back?" When her attention is drawn to the closet, Elisabeth frowns. "I … don't know what that is," she tells Hokuto softly. "Dream imagery is not exactly my strong suit… lately mine are pitch black." Her tone is somewhat rueful. She tilts her head. "It's something that was done to me?" The water seeping out…. alarms Elisabeth even in her dream state. She steps back from it instinctively.

"You can always find your way back here, it's yours, it's a memory — safe. No one can get in, unless you let them in." Hokuto's brows furrow as she speaks though, sandaled feet moving towards the closet door, chained as it is. "You either did this to yourself, or someone did it to you." She brings out one pale hand, brushing it over the rusting and wet chains, forefingers and thumb rolling together to spread the brown grit around on chalk white skin.

She turns, looking over a black-clad shoulder towards Elisabeth. "Portions of your memories are sealed off," she admits with a tilt of her head, "suppressed, or…" her focus turns back to the closet door, "I don't know." Those last words are spoken with a curiosity, but she turns away from the door and back to Elisabeth. "Did you ever have something done— something like what I do— to take away the pain?"

Tensing slightly, Elisabeth's eyes remain on the locked closet door. Her tone is tight as she forces out thoughts. "Some…. of my memories are … gone. A bullet to the brain and some rather large chunks, I'm told." She hesitates. "I suppose it's possible they still exist, just… with no pathways to get to them." Sadness permeates her expression once more. "There are… a lot of memories of my mother that are gone," she says softly, with a wistful glance toward the door that leads to the hallway. The temptation is great to walk in lucid fashion through that other door and perhaps even see her mother, even if only in dreams. But she pulls her attention back here. And then another thought hits her. "There was… apparently one other time that I asked… for memories to be withheld from me. Something I took part in that … it could have been dangerous for others to know about, and I was working with a telepath at the time," she offers.

Tilting her head to the side, Hokuto's brow furrows and her lips purse together. Swallowing awkwardly, she turns to look back over her shoulder and nods her head. "Details would be missing if it were the former, so I imagine it may be the latter." Glancing back over her shoulder at the door, there's no certainty in her voice, her tone is like a doctor who sees a symptom in a patient they can't diagnose. Her neck tenses, and when her focus turns back to Elisabeth again, there's a subtle shake of her head.

"Just stay away from it, and you should be fine…" As Hokuto speaks, the dark-haired woman drifts across the room with gliding steps towards the bedroom door, resting her hand flat agains the surface. "This place is home to you, comfort, and relaxation. But…" turning to look back at Elisabeth, she asks, "who do you trust with your emotions more than anyone else? Who in your life, do you let see you with your guard down?"

If she were a turtle, Elisabeth would be pulling her head and feet back into her shell and peering out warily from beneath. "Why?" she asks softly, ducking her head a bit as she drops her eyes to the floor. This woman is already seeing….. far, far too much. And it makes Elisabeth very uncomfortable. There are actually woefully few names that present themselves — the only one that she's told almost everything to in the past couple of years is someone she doesn't talk to so much anymore.

"It's important," One dark brow lifts higher than the other, and Hokuto continues her sweep around the room, pausing by one window to peer outside through the veil of her blindfold. "I said you can only let in to this sanctuary what you want to let in," she brushes her fingertips over the bedroom door, listening to the lock click shut when she does. "But I can bring people here, to your sanctuary, so that you are not ever alone. It takes focus, concentration and most importantly, timing."

Turning around, Hokuto draws her hand away from the door, folding her arms across her chest again. "Who would you want here, with you, to keep you safe for one night?" Dark brows furrow together, and Hokuto's sandaled feet carry her back towards Elisabeth again. "I can bring you anyone who sleeps…"

There's a shift of her eyes sideways toward the room's windows, covered in lacy sheers. Elisabeth balks at volunteering a name of anyone, she can't help it — she is unwilling to expose anyone that she knows. And yet Abby sent this woman to her, and she wants the help… she needs the help and she knows it. If she doesn't do something soon, find some way to get through, … she shoves the thought away. Crossing her arms across her chest, the slender teen pads on bare feet toward that window, her brow furrowed as she struggles with the trust issues. "Richard and Abby are the ones who've been staying overnight," she finally says softly. "Abby's… lived what I've lived. But… he's the one who makes me feel safe." The admission is difficult — in spite of the fact that she basically told him as much yesterday, letting him here, into this place…. she is reluctant to do.

"Does Richard have a last name?" Hokuto doesn't dare reach outside of the sanctuary, plumb the depths of Elisabeth's mind. There's nothing outside of those windows that makes her comfortable, too many shadows, too long and dark to want to search for Richard's identity. Hokuto makes her way around Elisabeth to another window, looking outside, before her eyes narrow behind the blindfold and the curtains come sliding down to block out the view of the outside, the interior lights warming and brightening just a touch more.

"I can bring him to you, provided you both sleep at the same time. Let him share your mindspace, let him come in here, visit you. He'll be tired in the morning, but— if he's as close to you as you say— I don't think he'll mind the sacrifice."

There's a hesitation. Time hasn't got a lot of meaning here, but she knows that it was late … 10am or something when Hokuto arrived. "He … sleeps daytimes. Might be asleep now," she allows hesitantly. "You said that it's important. Why …." She hesitates on the question, uncertain how to phrase herself. "If this is a haven, a place that I can come back to anytime…. why is his appearance here important? He can't get here without you, right? So it's a… " Again she searches for the right way to phrase it without offending the dream manipulator. "It would be something that only works for this particular visit, yes? Because you're here with me. But…. is there a purpose to it? Or is it merely to make me feel better right here and now?"

Tilting her head to the side, Hokuto wanders over to the bed Elisabeth had initially been sleeping in. Her head downturns, voice distant, "I don't need to be present, only insitage the arrival. I won't be— eavesdropping." That last word is laid with a bit of tension, as if worried her motives aren't entirely trusted, or perhaps not entirely trusting herself.

"It's always good to have someone you trust, someone to comfort you help…" one shoulder rolls, "personalize the memory here." Her voice keeps that distant quality, "make it less just the past, and root it more firmly in the present. Strong emotions can do that— love, trust, respect." Turning slowly, Hokuto settles down to sit on the edge of the bed, blindfolded eyes peering up towards Elisabeth. "The purpose is easing your mind, your soul. The best way to do that, is through your heart."

A moment later, the meddling old Chinese woman in her rises up. "Do you love him?"

"Yes." Elisabeth's tone holds a wealth of weariness. It's not that she hasn't loved other men in her life — she doesn't sleep with a man she doesn't have feelings for, in general. Though they're usually more of the friendship kinds of love than the build-a-life kinds. The emotions she has for the thief in her life she hasn't got a single clue what to do with, struggling as she does with the Catholic guilt of a life of sin. Because after all, she's been taught from before memory that what you're supposed to do is stick with one person and marry them and have kids. But the idea of that kind of restriction on her affections has always disturbed her. And the conflict is easily read in her expression. "For whatever that's worth out there. Yes."

As she paces the room slowly, Liz is finding that this sanctuary has its own mild sort of downside. The whole honesty thing. She can't… or won't… lie to either of them in this space. "Richard Cardinal is his name," she finally tells the wraith as she turns to look at her. "Why do you wear a blindfold here?" she asks finally.

Her head inclines, tipping down to stare at the floor, hands folded in her lap. "Love is important," she admits quietly, "worth more than what you might imagine out there, or anywhere else." The full name earns no reaction, just a bob of her head into a nod. But when the question of the blindfold is asked of, Hokuto's head tilts back up, regarding Liz curiously, her voice still small.

"Lady Justice wears a blindfold," she says in a somewhat cryptic manner, her pale hands coming to rest ont he bed at her sides, slowly pushing herself up to stand again. "So that she sees things impartially, so that everyone has an equal chance for justice, redemption, and fairness…" dark brows crease together, "in that I empathize. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness, no matter who or what they are."

Lips purse and eyebrows raise and lower at the explanation as Elisabeth absently picks up the hairbrush she dropped from the floor to toy with it. "I like this dream," she says absently. "I can … almost feel my mother just down the stairs. I remember she used to cook breakfast in the morning — every morning — before we all scattered for the day. She used to check on me in the middle of the night." Her hands come up to pull the brush through the long skeins of blonde and she peers into the mirror over her dressing table, a faint smile quirking the corners of her mouth. "I'd forgotten ever wearing my hair this long," she comments with a rueful smile. "I thought… when I was this age… that being a cop would make me happy."

"We all make idealizations in childhood." Hokuto's black and white frame comes into view in the mirror behind Elisabeth. "I thought that by following in my father's footsteps, I'd be happy. For a time, I was… but then, ultimately," her head hangs, turning to look towards the door wrapped in rusted chains again. "People change, life throws you unexpected twists, and the world goes on without you…"

Her voice trails off, arms wrapping around herself as she turns to look back up to Liz's reflection in the mirror. "Now I surround myself with books, watch the world go by, and help people more than I ever did with my old job. Sometimes what we think is right as a child, isn't anywhere near right when we've matured. I never thought I'd be using my ability— for this."

She turns her back to Elisabeth, arms still folded across her chest, head down. "I'll draw your Richard here for you, as soon as I find him. He'll need… explanation. But you'll be alone together."

"It's not…. " Elisabeth hesitates and then shrugs very slightly. "It's not required," she finally says, though she completes the thought with the quiet admission, "But I wouldn't turn away the company, I suppose." She looks at the apparition of Hokuto and smiles faintly. "Whatever this actually is? My thanks doesn't seem nearly enough in repayment for whatever measure of peace you can offer. Just the ability to actually sleep for a while …. is priceless right now."

"Knowing that one more person in this city can find a moment of happiness?" Hokuto shakes her head and walks back towards one of the windows across the room, her fingers toying with the blinds. "That's all I need in return. This is a place with enough sadness, enough loss, and enough people struggling to get by. People… don't often consider that changing one life can make a difference," she turns to regard Liz over her shoulder with an askance stare.

"But sometimes even one person can make many ripples, and do unto others as was done unto them." When Hokuto's head turns back, she starts wandering away from the dresser and over to the door out of the bedroom. Her hand brushes over it, a soft click of the door unlocking as her fingers stroke over the wood. "He'll be here, sooner or later…" The door opens with a turn of the knob, revealing a stairwell that descends down into a lightless basement of subconscious thoughts. "When he knocks, don't let him wait for too long." Her ash gray lips creep up into a hesitant smile.

"You should sleep for several hours yet. I'll show myself out." Symbolic as the opening of the door is, it's the same thing Hokuto will eventually do in the waking world as well. While her dreaming self linders in that doorway of subconscious and conscious thought, so too does her waking self, sitting on the threshhold of dream and awake.

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