Where I Have To Go


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Scene Title Where I Have To Go
Synopsis Delia finds herself in a dreamscape not of her own creation. When Nick finds her, he tries to force her out but not before she gets to…
Date December 19, 2010

The Mind of Nick Ruskin

The world of Nick Ruskin's mind is a colorless wasteland of crooked turns and spindly buildings, an odd amalgamation of an achromatic Dr. Seuss book, Tim Burton film, and MC Escher painting. Nothing makes sense here, and the end always turns one back to the beginning — what one thinks is upright is actually upside down, and vice versa.

It is a topsy turvy nightmarescape of twisting, turning corridors of a million doors in a row, and only one skeleton key that doesn't seem to fit in any of the keyholes — or turn another corner and there's only one door and the keychain in your hand suddenly holds a million keys.

Turn the corner again, and there are fields and fields of snow juxtaposed against a black sooty cloud of smoke coming out of a chimney in the distance, the stifling stench of burning flesh inescapable even from a distance. Black crows sit judgmental upon a line of barbed wire. Bleeding and frozen feet leave trail behind, the only color in this bleak black and white portrait the blood against their snowy canvas.

The footprints belong to Nick as he stumbles along, away from the chimney, away from what it represents to him. But there is no path for what he seeks.

Without a path, Nick stumbles blindly through the freezing snow until he hits a road. Not a very well used road as there is but one set of footprints leading off into the distance. A closer look at the footprints reveal that they are not his but belong to someone whose feet do not bleed. It is a thinner set of feet than his and from the track it seems as though whoever is doing the walking, is trying to be somewhat stealthy. Whoever is making this trail is trying to disguise themselves as something completely different.

Off in the distance, he can see a mass of curly red hair against the mess of white. It's blowing off to the side as the woman's back is to him. She's wearing a sundress of pure white that blends into the snow, much better than her pale skin, which is doing its best to do the same. She's looking over the side of an embankment, then climbing on top of it. Her feet sink to just above the ankle as she stands precariously on the narrow ridge, her arms windmilling as she tries to keep her balance.

"Czerwony," Nick breathes — the Polish word not out of place with that inky black smoke coming out of those chimneys into a pale icy sky. He hurries to catch up to the tall redhead, not climbing onto the embankment but instead wrapping an arm around her waist, pulling her backward with a forceful gesture that might startle her, but the momentum will take them backward into the snow rather than down into whatever lies below.

He doesn't look — in his mind he knows what will be below, if he dares to look: a pile of naked corpses, emaciated and blue-white from not only the cold but from Death's chill kiss. He knows that if he looks, he'll see his own body among them, skull split, lungs poisoned.

A shrill scream emanates from the woman, one that gets lost in the barren tundra only by echoing until it's completely gone. As they tumble down into the snow, one of her hands hooks up as though she's about to rip her nails into his skin. But then her blue eyes meet his and there's a glimmer of recognition before her long arms loop around his neck into a firm hug. A shuddering sob is let out against his shoulder and her grip tightens even more as Nick finds himself with a face full of crimson hair whipped around his head by the wind.

Her nails dig into the thin cloth on his back before she pulls away just enough to look straight at him with a confused frown. Already the tears that were streaming down her face, unseen by him, have frozen to her skin. She doesn't look as hollow and lost as his most recent memory, the young woman's features are smooth and round as when he first met her. She blinks a few times, the salty drops crystallizing on her eyelashes before sliding down the icy rivulets on her skin.

"What is this place?"

His arms creep around her to hold her, to warm her, though he has no warmth in him to offer. One hand comes up to try to brush away those tears that are frozen to her face and he shakes his head, turning away.

"Nowhere you should be," Nick says, turning to gaze out at the frozen wasteland, cold blue eyes narrowing. His face is pale as the snow, his eyes the same color as the pale sky, his short dark hair and brows the colors of the black smoke as it curls upward with spindly tendrils curling like fingers toward them.

"In my head," he says with a shrug. "This is how I dream."

"I don't like how you dream," the lilt of the young woman's voice is almost childlike in its protest of the scenery. Her face angles up toward the angry black cloud of smoke that's reaching toward them and she cows a little, her back curling just enough to make her look a few inches shorter and much more vulnerable to whatever is coming their way. She reaches one hand up toward him and brushes her cold hand over his brow, gliding it down over his eyes to close them.

When she moves it from his face, they're still mired in the icy heath save one small detail. Under their feet and a few inches around them in a circle, the snow has melted to soft grass. For some reason, Delia seems impotent to change where they are. "This isn't a place to grow mushrooms… it's too cold."

Nick exhales a small huff of a laugh — rather than a puff of cold condensation, however, it's black like the chimney in the buildings behind them. "Neither do I, Czerwony."

He glances down when he feels the grass beneath his cold and bloody feet and he lifts his blue gaze back to hers. "I'm trying," he says, voice soft and a little plaintive even to his ears.

His brows twitch and he looks up again. The buildings in the distance are no longer a crematorium but the London skyline, though the sooty smoke still reeks of burning flesh. "Why were you up there," he asks, suddenly turning away from the building to look at the embankment he'd pulled her from. "You don't seem the type to need to jump."

Staring at him for a few minutes, Delia's lips part a fraction of an inch as she sucks a breath inward, freezing her lungs in the process. Her blue eyes follow his and she lifts her shoulder in a half shrug, a jerking motion that seems more like a nervous twitch than a real answer. "I wanted to see what was there, at first. Then I felt hopeless, like nothing would ever be good again. That I would never be what I want most of all."

Her voice drifts off to silence and she squints, trying to keep that feeling from invading her again. Reaching down, she clasps his hand in hers tightly before pivoting her head toward him and pressing her lips together. It's a hard stare that greets him, the defiant expression of a child that's seen too much suffering in one short life to actually come out alive. When she clenches her jaw, Delia's chest expands in a deep intake of air that expels in a long sigh. "Forgiven. I will never be forgiven."

He swallows at her words, one hand rising to rake through his short hair. Muscles twitch along his jaw and he gives a shake of his head, eyes narrowing as he stares at her defiant stare that's so much like his own at times.

"Get away from there," Nick says abruptly, his hands gripping her by the wrist and jerking her further from the ridge. "You ain't got nothin' to forgive. You are good and 'ave a good life ahead of you, Red. Keep out of my head and you don't 'ave to feel like that — you're feeling what I feel, and you don't deserve it."

The words are kind, but there is a bitterness with which he spits them out, and he tugs her a touch too roughly, his feet starting to move along the path again, tugging her with him, blue eyes seeking something that doesn't belong to him, but that belongs to her, to her mind, something purer, something better than this nightmarescape that is all him.

The farther they travel into the waste, the more he realizes that there's nothing of her here. Nothing except what he's holding onto right now and the tiny patches of grass that his feet are leaving in their wake. The patchwork of greenery and miniature flowers dot the landscape for a few seconds before the cold and snow engulf them again, leaving the plains wanting.

"Nick… stop." Fighting against his forward motion but not enough to wrench from his grip, Delia skids her feet along the glacial ground. The tracks of grass that pop up are, again, gone before one can study the collection of tiny flora that grows in them. "Stop…"

Now she does pull her hands free, only to reach forward again to grab him by the wrists in the same hold. Tugging the man toward her, she stands square in front of him and twitches her eyebrows down in concern. "Stop." This time it isn't a request, it's a command. Whether he follows it or not is moot. Delia releases one of his wrists and brings her hand up to cup his cheek. "We're never going to get where you want to go. I might never get there. Let's just stay here for a while."

Beneath their feet, the earth warms again, just enough to let a sprinkling of grass soften their step.

He doesn't stop the first time — probably wouldn't the second time, if she doesn't force him in her way. He gazes at her hands on his scratched and scarred wrists, and when one is raised to touch his cheek, he ducks his head against it, turning and lowering his head into the palm so his forehead rests there, eyes hot and wet on either side.

He sinks downward, kneeling in the grass. "I can't get there either," he whispers. "But you can't stay 'ere. It'll kill you. Nothing good can live here, Red."

Her hands reach around his head and Delia moves close enough to hug him to her waist, coddling him like a mother would a small child. "Sssshhhhh…" she soothes, trailing the back of her fingers along his cheek to dry away any of his tears that happen to touch down.

"You're trying," she whispers back, her head bending down until her long fiery curls tickle at his nose and chin. The soft grass spreads a little more, this small patch of life wrapping around the two of them like a shield from the cold snow. He can feel the soft and steady breathing as her body expands and contracts. Her grip on him is almost like a cage in its strength but gentle enough that it doesn't feel like he's chained.

The city in the distance shifts again — this time to the familiar skyline of New York, burning as it was on November 8th; the tenebrous tendrils of smoke the constant of that corner of his mind. Every city is its own prison in a mind intent on condemning itself.

"I can't… I'm so exhausted…" he protests, but then the wind echoes you're so weak through the gnarled branches of leafless trees, and he lifts his head, defiance in his eyes. He can't give up — his mind will trap her with the will, his will, to give up, he feels sure.

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow," he breathes out, some poem from some book Eileen had once. "I learn by going where I have to go."

Icy blue eyes turn up toward hers, shaking his head slightly. "You're not near near here, are you? I can't help you, not in this dream. I can't get you where you need to be."

Delia's hold loosens enough that when she slinks down onto her knees with him that her hands slip to his shoulders. "You can't help me this time but it's alright, I can help you." She places one hand on either side of his face and stares him him the eye. One corner of her lips lift just a fraction of an inch to keep her face from looking altogether too somber and grim.

"I believe in you, I know you'll get to where I want you to be." Not where he wants, not where he has to, but her wish for him. Touching her forehead to his, Delia slowly lids her eyes and lets out a small huff of warm breath. "You're trying so hard, Nick…" A few more breaths before she closes her eyes completely and lets off a soft sigh.

"It's not my place but I forgive you, if only you'll learn to forgive yourself."

His brows draw together fiercely, and he nods, his forehead rising and falling against hers before his hands rise from where they've clawed at the wet grass. He wraps his arms around her tightly, taking the comfort she offers, offering what he can to her at the same time in that needful embrace.

"Thank you," he whispers, ducking his head into red curls.

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