Why Are You Here?


delia2_icon.gif jaiden_icon.gif

Scene Title Why Are You Here?
Synopsis Upon falling asleep on the train, Jaiden meets a woman in his worst nightmare and hers.
Date August 25, 2010

AMTRAK Northbound

The train leading to Brooklyn from the northern part of Long Island is mostly deserted this time of evening, with only a few people busying themselves with going home from whatever they're doing. Most people are already home before the curfew hits, snuggled up in front of their televisions or in bed, ready to read a book or watch the latest episode of 'Who Wants to Marry and Make over a secret Millionaire?' or whatever the popular show of the day is, but Jaiden, who has spent a relaxing afternoon working on a car north of Long Island, is not. He's far from home and the train's jerky motions do a pretty fine job of lulling him into a state of half-sleep. He does rouse himself momentarily to make sure his toolbox is locked to his leg with a length of chain and a combination lock before settling against the glass of the rail car to sleep the rest of the way home.

He doesn't dream very often, and the first sign that he is dreaming is the silence. The train's noises fade into nothingness, and the world takes on a muted gray light with stars twinkling overhead.

The stars fade and the world gets brighter until Jaiden finds himself sitting alone in a circular room, surrounded by doors. Everything is white; the floors, the doors, his clothes, except for the soles of his shoes which are black. There is no sound except for a whisper, "Who are you?"

The voice is distinctly feminine and vaguely familiar, barely. "Who are you?" it repeats, still whispering. Rising to a stand, Jaiden walks toward one of the doors to test it. Locked. The next one is found in the same state, locked. "Tell me who you are…" The voice is a little stronger now, still disembodied. Looking around, he is most definitely alone in the room.

Doors that don't open? A room that's white and clothes that match the decor or what he was wearing the last time he checked? Something strange is afoot, he thinks. "I'm Jaiden!" he calls out to the voice, stepping away from one of the doors to stand in the center of the room. "Who are you? I like to know who I'm speaking to even if…" He tries one of the doors again. "I can't see them."

He doesn't exactly see the face as much as it appears in his mind. Just a translucent thought, like a ghost, of a woman with curly red hair. It is as though he's plucked a stray memory and attached it, to that voice. "What are you doing here?" the voice whispers, it's not unfriendly as much as quizzical. "Tell me what you're doing here…" Again, the voice grows stronger when she is making a demand rather than asking.

One of the doors is tried again, the man about a quarter way around the room, 1/4th of the doors tried, none opening, none even budging, and no revealed hinges that would allow him to pull the door off from the inside. "Well…Right now I'm trying to see where I am and what's behind these doors. I guess I'm dreaming, but I don't normally have conversations with cute redheaded ghosts. As for how I managed to get here? I don't know, to be perfectly honest." He looks around. "White walls, white floors….it's a little bland, wouldn't you say?"

"Dreaming." The voice is much closer now and from behind Jaiden, that same redhead appears, dressed in white. Unlike Jaiden's outfit of a white suit with mandarin collar hers is more casual, a white cotton cambric dress, sleeveless. One of the spaghetti straps threatens to slip off her right shoulder. The woman's hair is loose, stretching in long curls to the bottom of her shoulder blades at the back.

She frowns a little at his compliment and looks down at her bare feet. "I'm not cute…" Her voice drifts off as she moves to one of the doors on the opposite side of the room and twists the knob. Upon swinging the door open, it's like an entirely different world is closed off and locked away behind it.

That's confirmed, then, that he is dreaming. People fading in from nothingness do tend to do that more often in dreams than not. He does give the girl a smile as she swings open the door, but behind it is a terrible, terrible place.

Imagine a single room, with a naked bulb hanging from the ceiling, flickering due to the generator it's attached to not putting out enough power. The walls are cracked and stained concrete - once white, now faded a dingy brown. Streaks of blood, handprints, and even a few impressions that look like a body resting against the wall can be seen, and a single wooden chair rests in the middle above a floor drain, empty now, but with ropes hanging neatly coiled over one of the sides, ready for the victim.

"Holy….shite." Jaiden murmurs, taking a stumbling step back at the sight of the room. "That's…the cell in North Korea I escaped from…"

And yes, she is cute. Just putting that out there.

The woman fades from view, only to reappear on the chair, tied in the ropes. Her head is down and what parts are visible have been beaten and bruised as though she's been there for a very long time. The dress, once so clean and perfect is torn and sullied. The strap on the right shoulder, fallen completely away, letting the top corner of the bodice peel down to reveal one of several burns.

She's not answering him, she seems unconscious and on the far end of the room, behind yet another door, are voices. They're angry, shouting at each other in a foreign language.

The pop pop of gunfire sounds out, echoing through the room, though it's clearly outside of where he finds himself. The door to the white room slams closed and disappears, trapping the two of them inside the cell.

Oh fuck this.

Fuck this dream right in the ear.

When the door, when the white room goes away, leaving the darkness of the hall, Jaiden crouches, eyes wide at the sound of the gunfire, at the harsh, guttural Korean coming from behind the door. His clothes are no-longer white, but the same stained and battered pants that he wrestled out of that chair so long ago, and the fact that there's someone else in his place now? God help them.

"Come on girl…" Jaiden whispers as he crouch-walks over to the chair, standing and twisting the too-hot bulb with his bare hand, singeing his fingers momentarily before the room goes dark. "You and me, we need to get out of this place before the Major comes back in and finds us out of the ropes." The situation has moved from he to we without a thought, as if it's always been like that. His power comes into play and a blade of water, only a few atoms thick, slices through the ropes, tension releasing, the man ready to catch the girl if she falls into her arms. "Can you walk or do I need to carry you? Are you awake at all?" He gives her a light, tentative shake.

The young woman slumps forward with a groan. That battered face lands on his shoulder, leaving a wet smear of blood in its wake. The sting of pain has her whimpering and her left eye tries to open, the other too swollen from injury to allow sight. "Help me.." she whispers, raising her arms. Her hands grip the material of his sleeve and she attempts to wobble to a stand beside him.

With shaky movements, she manages to take two steps before collapsing against him and trying again. She's too weak from lack of food and water, unable to withstand as much punishment as he's been able to. And he remembers. He remembers everything. She's been there the whole time. Taking every bit of abuse and suffering along with him.

The fiery red hair that was once so vibrant is now dulled. The bouncy curls are matted and frizzy, parts of her head have been shaved to make way for painful brands, marking her forever.

The blood doesn't matter. Getting out of the room does. Getting to safety does. Getting both of them away from this hellhole does. When she buckles, he catches her, he keeps her from falling, lifting her into his arms, cradling her close as he stands on shaky legs, staring at the door. "I'll help you, beautiful. I'll help you."

He moves to the door and lifts up on his tiptoes, glancing out of the rusty metal grate and, seeing no-one, brings his power into play again. Inside the lock water starts to move and twist, pushing tumblers back and up, unlocking the door with a muffled splat, the door opening with a slow squeak, the pair stepping into the hall once it's seen that it's clear.

The hall is like something you'd find in an abandoned hospital - white tile and linoleum lit, occasionally, with flickering fluorescent lights. He doesn't know where they are other then ten miles North of the South Korean border, and they will have to get there in order to even have a chance at survival. First thing….food. Water he's got a handle on, the pure, cold stuff brushing over the girl's lips, letting her drink if she can. He carries her into the hall, watching for guards, watching for any threats, muscles straining. They're going to get out or die trying.

The door at the end of the hallway at the end of the hallway opens and two Asian men in battle worn uniforms raise their rifles, screaming at the pair. Before Jaiden is able to take another step, there's more popping as small bursts of flame shoot out from the ends of the guns.

The world goes white.

When Jaiden opens his eyes again, he isn't standing. There's no woman in his arms and he's laying in a grassy meadow. There's a small tickle on his nose as the seeded end of a blade of grass touches him, the sparkle of laughter following close behind. The bright sun is shaded for a split second by a swath of red hair before it disappears again.

The cool summer breeze drifts over the meadow, rippling the grass like green water as far as the eye can see. He is alone again and when he sits up, a voice from behind his ear utters. "Is that what you dream about at night?" It's soft, full of mirth and when he turns he can see the redhead smiling at him.

When the asian men raise their rifles, Jaiden instinctively turns, shielding the girl from the gunfire, his eyes clamping closed as he awaits the inevitable pain of being shot and the darkness of what lies beyond.

And then the world goes white.

He sits up slowly, pushing himself with both arms, looking about. "Not if I can help it. I don't like remembering that time at all." HE looks at his hands, clean as the driven snow, no bloodstains or darkness there anymore, squinting in the light before looking over at the redhead in the spaghetti-strap top. "I don't dream very often at all….a lot of them are of the bad things I've seen, but this…" He looks around. "This is nice. The scenery's a lot prettier, too."

"This is where I think," the redhead replies, lowering her head as she plucks up another blade of grass. "One of the places…"

She looks up as a cloud passes over the sun, effectively blocking it. A worried frown crosses her features as she spies the darkening horizon and she pushes herself to a stand. "Come on, we have to go." She reaches for Jaiden's hands, trying to pull him up. There's an urgency in her tone and in her movements. When he's finally standing, she begins to run, still holding his hand and pulling him along. "Come on, hurry!"

As they run, the darkness looms and the meadow begins to spin. "Hurry!" she screams, her frantic expression as she looks over her shoulder at him is nothing short of chilling. The sun is completely blocked out now and the last steps of meadow quickly soften to molten asphalt. The pungent smell of hot tar and ash burn the senses. The skeletal remains of midtown are all around them.

November 8, 2006.

Just after the bomb.

The young woman's bare feet sizzle as she steps through the empty streets, drifting ash falls from the sky like snow. It could be beautiful if it weren't for the heinous act that preceded it.

There's not much that can be said. It is a nice place. The grass reminds him of the meadows near the creeks at home, and the breezes make it relaxing. And quiet. But she has some kind of power over this place. She grabs his hand and he runs, bare feet pounding the grass, sending shivers through the ground as they flee whatever it is. If he tries to slow his flight, or stop and look back, something forces him to keep running. Fast and hard, fearful of what might be behind them.

And when the buildings come into view, twisted and warped from the heat of the explosion. When the crushing silence, broken only by the sound of falling masonry and the hissing of fluttering radioactive ash particles settles over the pair like a wet blanket, he slows, then stops, looking around.

"I was in Japan when this happened…." he says softly. "Booked a ticket the instant I heard, to come help. To come tell the stories of what happened here, but I never saw this…." He shakes his head, looking to the redhead standing in a puddle of molten asphalt, smoking footprints leading from where she stopped. "This is where the world changed. This is where everything changed." He takes a deep breath, the smoke causing him to cough, the dust settling on his head and shoulders, before he approaches her.

As he steps toward her, it's like a 360 degree camera swirls him around and he's in front of her. She's looking off toward a small skeleton of melted steel beams and disintegrated bricks. The ash falls down over her hair and skin, covering it with a fine dust. Through the pale powder on her face, streaking tears form twin lines of flesh colored streams, edged by the dark gray of muddy soot.

"I was here…" she murmurs softly, her blue eyes flit up to his face before they fall away again. Slowly, she begins to walk toward the heap of rubble, her feet burning with every step. The smell of burning flesh mixes with the acrid scent of decay around them. Should he peer down at them, he can see the black and red marks where the skin on her feet has burned away.

He follows behind at a respectful distance, stopping to look occasionally at the perfect destruction nuclear fire can rain down on an unsuspecting city. The image of a body burned in photo negative against a brick wall, trying to flee the blast. A melted telephone booth - one of the last in the city before this happened, but he finds himself drawn to the girl with the bare feet, following her to wherever she may lead. "I'm sorry." he finds himself saying. "So many good people were lost today. No-one knew it was coming, or even if it could have been prevented…" He trails off, his own bare feet burning before a thin film of water floats between, hissing, taking the heat from his feet.

He follows behind quietly, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder as she moves. "It is a bad memory - like when I was in the prison. One that shaped your life as the prison shaped mine."

The hand on her shoulder, though….that contact.

With it, HE remembers everything. He's been here, with her, the whole time. Suffering….

She turns toward him, her eyes wide as the flood of memories sweep over both of them. She was in school that day, hoping that when she got home a new pair of jeans would be waiting for her. The flash of light, the shaking of the world around her, the breathless run to an empty house.

Waiting… waiting for days all alone in the dark. Curled up in blankets in a white and pink room… a room that's stayed exactly the same for years.

He watches her age from a teenager into an adult, still huddled in those blankets. Her innocence is stolen before his very eyes when hatred forms in hers.

Then she looks away but those memories remain. "I hated all of them, for so long." He remembers the rallies, Humanis First. A young redhead jeering as she witnesses a riot forming between evolved and the men and women so against their very existence. Then he remembers an old man in a hospital bed, dying in a coma all alone. He remembers a conversation and a last gift to the person holding his hand and sleeping beside him. A gift of life and a new beginning.

"We're not all like that, you know." Jaiden says softly. It's his dream so he should, hopefully, have a little bit of control of this place, his hands going out as if he's moving a curtain aside, the dust parting, a bubble of pure water forming around the pair, shielding them from the heat and the smoke, cooling them. "One Evolved caused so much destruction…so much hate from this single, unspeakable act." He looks up at the skeleton of a building - perhaps a bank, perhaps an office, now gutted by fire and melting in places, before stepping forward and hesitantly reaching for the red-headed girl. "And you were alone….only a child. I can't imagine that and now…now I don't need to. I can see why you hate. I understand you.

He moves slightly, his arms closing around her shoulders, giving her a gentle hug if she'll allow him, his eyes closing as he pulls her close. "Who are you, and why are you here, beautiful one?"

"I'm nobody special…" she murmurs as she buries her head in his shoulder and closes her eyes. A pair of white arms wrap around him as he pulls her close, her form melting into his quite soundly for perhaps a moment before he's holding nothing. The world disappears to inky blackness and he's left alone.

The whistle rouses the sleeper. As the train chugs to a slow move, a young woman with long curly hair steps alongside the windows. She turns for a moment to catch his eye and her lips twitch to a faint smile. One white hand, bandaged at the fingertips on many fingers is raised in a small parting wave before she can't be seen anymore.

He blinks himself to wakefulness, catching her blue eyes with his olive ones, reaching up to wave before she's lost in the crowd again.

He hopes to see her again. He hopes to understand what just happened.

He hopes she will be okay.

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