Would That It Were Day Again
Scene Title Would That It Were Day Again
Synopsis Angel calls together new dreamers and old. She isn't any more forthcoming but the snakes have a lot to say.
Date March 25, 2020


He looks down into the river, so dark, so black that it reflects back his frightened face and the sky above. Stars twinkle in the water like drowning fireflies — he’s amazed he can see them; with the smell of smoke thick and acrid tickling his throat. But he’s afraid to cough because he’s been told to be very quiet.

“Be quiet or we die,” someone had said. He remembers.

A strong arm pulls him back away from the edge of the boat, but when Joaquin turns to look for his protector, there’s no one there.

He realizes suddenly he’s all alone, floating in a small dinghy, not the larger boat full of people he had so many years ago. Yet, this is still the Hudson, he knows. Even though the night is black and he cannot see the banks, it is the only river that could make him feel so small, so scared.

It's because he was told not to cough that Joaquin has to fight the urge to do so. The feeling is overwhelming. His body wants to expel all the bad things: smoke, fear, tears.

But he keeps quiet.

When the darkness presses in and the lapping of waves against the hull of the boat feels so distant like an imagined safe shore, he huddles himself tighter into a ball. Fear keeps him quiet. Silent, confused, and trying so hard not to cough.

The gunfire had been growing fainter, duller, though still too close to feel it was in the past, but suddenly, he hears the sharp, staccato report of a single shot — so short it’s hard for ears to figure out the direction unless there’s a second or third shot to follow.

There is not.

Joaquin might consider himself safe, lucky. Perhaps it was a warning or a signal from someone on the banks to someone in his party. Maybe one of the adults knows what it means — if only he could see them, but when he looks around, he can barely make out the dark shapes of the other boats far in the distance, outpacing his small dinghy that drifts without engine or even oarpower.

Looking down for the oars, realizing he must have to man this boat himself, the realization that the boat is leaking is as ice cold as the water that’s started to seep in. The single shot had pierced the hull of the tiny vessel below the water line, and somehow he hadn’t heard or felt the impact.

That single shot, unknown direction, unknown intention, is cause for his paralyzing fear. But he feels hollow inside at the same time, unable to make out familiarity in the form of warm, familiar faces. It's cold, and the approaching shadows colder.

The realization that those shadows could be bringing further malice and gunfire spurs the reaction to flee. Joaquin grabs for an oar. His hand jerks back as it strikes the icy cold water as if stung. Slowly, then quicker like the water flowing in to the bottom of the boat, the horror overtakes him. "We- we're sinking!" he hisses in a panic. But even if he's not familiar with boat propulsion, he scrambles for an oar to stab into the water and row. His life depends on it, now.

As Joaquin begins to paddle, the icy water pools around his feet, his ankles, inch by inch, as the dinghy itself sinks deeper into the water. The front tips upward as his weight, scant as it is, small as he is, pulls the back of the boat downward.

The shadows of the larger vessels in front of him seem to grow smaller as they draw further away, nearly silent as they press onward without him. Do they not remember? Have they forgotten he’s here, alone and helpless? Or do they simply not care? That thought settles into him, weighing him down further yet, like an anchor wrapping around his ankle and pulling him down.

The last inch of the hull slides under the dark surface of the water, submerging Joaquin up to his neck. Small as he is, he knows he’ll die of hypothermia in the frigid river, and his numb fingers try to flip the boat over, to put the bulletholes toward the top. He could use it as a raft maybe — but even then, the rest of the refugees have drifted too far away for him to catch up to them. He has to get to shore.

But the guns are on the shore. The people who want him dead are on the shore.

The immediate emergency sends Joaquin scrambling to row harder until his fatigued muscles are burning to keep him warm amidst the heat-sucking icy waters. "Wait, stop, please," each unheard plea matching the rhythm of his oar strokes until it's beyond hopeless. He's going down. Tears drip down to join frigid waters, for a moment as he squeezes his eyes shut tightly, shivering in fear and indecision.

A part of him could just. Let go.

But another part refuses. The part that remembers hope.

A soft sob escapes him before he claws at the edge of the sunken hull and kicks away from it, still using the oar as a poorly shaped kickboard. His family taught him how to swim, all those beach vacations and excursions to public pools. Those waters were warmer. Those days were… long gone and no longer coming. Still he kicks, pushing himself towards the black shoreline. He tells himself he can still make it. He thinks he can still hide.

The current wants to push him south, away from the boats in front of him and makes it hard to move to the banks either east or west of him. With each kick, pain wracks through his body from icy water so cold it burns. Each kick takes him only an inch or two closer to the bank but in the same span of time, he gets pulled farther downstream — toward danger.

More gunfire sounds over his head and he feels bullets hit the hull of the capsized boat he uses as meager cover. He lets go, sinking under the water, like the weight of his clothes and shoes are anchors pulling him down. Suddenly, from somewhere beneath him, a glowing, silvery light blossoms and he can see a silhouette — a woman? — swimming upward and grabbing his hand. “You’ve been that way before,” she says with a nod to the surface. “Let’s try this instead.” She pulls him down, and the light seems warm and inviting — everything the water surrounding him isn’t.


It’s dark. The sort of absolute darkness where there’s not even the faintest idea of light, like someone has thrown a black velvet blanket over her eyes, though there’s no comfort of warmth or soft fabric wherever Eve is. Instead, Eve can only feel the hard, cold bite of concrete or metal seeping into her from beneath.

When she puts both hands out to her sides, her knuckles knock into something hard — walls? — and blindly she gropes for — something. A light switch. An edge. A handle. Anything.

The smooth material — metal, she’s sure now — is all she can feel, though eventually her fingers find a 90-degree angle where all becomes ceiling — or a lid.

She begins to panic, her breath coming quickly as she feels above her head and her hands hit more of that same cold matter. Reaching for her ability to get herself out of wherever she is, she finds nothing but a hollow void.

Time outs were never Eve Mas' favorite.

The scream is loud, it rattles her ears, sends her perception reeling as Eve squirms inside the darkness. Wasn't she in… how did she get here? Perhaps she was moved, in the dead of night.

Easier to be done with her. Cast her aside. Eve doesn't realize that she's been crying until the water begins to rise above her shoulders. Cold, salty water touches her ears, but she just keeps crying. Dark make-up runs down her cheeks, leaving streaks of black. The loss of connection to her gift leaves her feeling hollow inside and the former terrorist curls up into a ball and sobs. The black dress that she can't see in the dark begins to tangle in her legs as the ends get wet, still her tears persist.

She thinks she heard a voice, something calling from within, near her. Maybe it was outside? The darkness has a way of wrapping itself around you when the pressure of fear cracks through. She shouts as the ends of her dress feel like they're dragging her down into the growing pool of her tears, or maybe it was that the pool just kept growing.

When it begins to cover her eyes, Eve panics more. Bucking, screaming, scratching at the walls that will not give her refuge, that will not pry open to reveal the world.


A subtle rumble shakes her and then metal slides against metal — what should be as easy as sliding open a drawer is made a struggle underwater. Metal rattles around Eve, and she feels the floor beneath her move, taking her with it. Down by her feet, pale and distorted by water, she sees a crack of light, pale blue and silver — the color of hope.

It grows larger, large enough for her to push herself up, but she feels too weighed down in a body that doesn’t feel like her own, one that doesn’t want to follow the orders given to it by her mind. Her eyes can make out a figure nearby, clad in black, but she can’t see the face. Beyond that, a body, pale as a dead fish, lies on a table, its (his?) chest split open, its organs pulled out and set in clear containers for biopsy. Another body, this one a woman, lies intact on the table next to him, her long dark hair afloat in the water, as if trying to escape the heavy lead weight that is the corpse’s body.

Eve feels the figure grab her, reaching in and lifting her, then pushing off the ground to swim — where? A window near the top of the ceiling, their source of light, of hope.

The blue light washes over her wash and it's like a blast of oxygen and her chest expands with air and she feels a calm spread from lips to the rest of her. The warmth is dashed almost instantly as she feels trapped in this body. Another stolen body. Her karma for robbing the dead of their true peace, surely.

Her body floats upwards and she sees the body and doesn't scream but looks to the other, tendrils of midnight dark hair frame her face. The body on the table. The tools.

They make her nervous but she spins as the figure grabs her and she digs her nails in them, propelling her legs to send her to the window.

To hope.

Pulled close to the figure dressed in black, Eve feels a sense of familiarity. Oneness. This person is known to her. This person has been close to her for some time. This person will save her, because that is what this person does.

Powerful kicks from dark-clad legs and sweeping strokes of their free arm bring them both swiftly to the window, with Eve’s help. “Hang on.” The voice is like gravel, husky and thick, but known. One pale fist comes out and smashes against the window. It doesn’t give. Not on the first try, or the second, but there’s a saying about the third time…

Glass shatters and leaving Eve to hold to the wall, her savior shifts her posture through the water to kick out the remains of the window, granting them both safe passage as they make their way through. The water pours out with them and behind them, but no longer threatens to consume them. Eve’s grasped by the shoulders.

“Take a deep breath,” that voice tells her. Eve never seems to be able to see that face clearly, as though viewed through the lens of a camera out of focus. “This is our last chance.” The voice is strained. “We have to go.” The woman grabs Eve’s hand and they start to run.

Eve screams and leaps into the air or well tries but all she does is flail her arms at the sides but then they are carried, then they are through.

She's thankful for the air, for the mysterious stranger. The wall is a hand hold she's not ready to let go but this was their last chance. This was the game that were forced to play.

"Follow the riddle!" Eve screams and pushes her body to the limit. Her feet slapping on the floor. Crimson eyes wide and looking back and forth.

There’s trees all around them now. They seem to be closing in. On something, but what? Branches snag on clothes and hair, like skeletal fingers trying to snatch them. Pick them apart. A large root causes Eve to stumble, but those hands are there to catch her. “Eve, you have to do this. Just a little farther.” With a shove, they move the former seer along.

Behind, the darkness seems intent to pursue and overtake them. Ahead, there’s a break in the trees. A clearing. A cabin. A light in the window.


Their lungs are burning by the time the door is pushed open and they’re staggering inside, Eve ahead of the woman in black. “This is the end of the line for me.” It isn’t just the quiet gasping for air that causes those vocal cords to pull so tight. “I can’t be here to help you anymore, and you can’t keep blaming yourself for what happened in Detroit.”

While Eve stands there, panting with her hands on her knees, movement catches her eye. When she lifts her head, it’s a three-panel vanity mirror she sees. The woman is seen in each of the panes.


Her hood lays around her shoulders, the pale gold of her hair perfectly arranged. A flower blooms across her white sheath dress, scarlet petals and long tendrils reaching toward the sun. Grey-blue eyes stare sadly into the distance.

Her hood is up, and a single wisp of blonde hair hangs loose to frame a fair face. Grey-blue eyes meet Eve’s. She holds a finger to her lips. A red flower is pinned over her heart.

Her hood is pulled back as they examine the space. Dark make-up has streaked down her face from their exertion and from her tears. Tousled blonde hair has been pulled in this direction or that from the snaring branches they had to break through to get this far. That crimson lily clings stubbornly to her pale locks. Grey-blue eyes come to focus. “My three lives are up,” the woman in the center mirror tells Eve. “We won’t see each other again after this.”

A fresh tear slides down the blonde’s cheek. “I know you’d always said you’d follow me into Hell, but… Where I’m going next, you can’t follow. Not this time.” She smiles shakily and gestures across the room to an interior door. “Do what I can’t do, Eve. Go out there and help people.”

The hand that rests on Eve’s shoulder is cold and firm, but gentle. Eve keeps her eyes on the three-paneled mirror for a long moment, before turning to look back at her savior.

She isn’t there.

The face she sees instead is that of a stone angel, a small, Mona-Lisa smile curving her lips upward. She regards Eve with blank stone eyes for a moment, then tips her head in the direction of the door. “Well? What are you waiting for? A written invitation?” the angel quips, her hand sliding into Eve’s, who can feel the rough and chilly stone fingers curling around her own. They seem welcoming, nurturing, despite their strength — not unlike the saving grasp of her rescuer moments ago, in some ways.


Even before her eyes slit open to the gray light of what seems to be morning, Geneva realizes she is not cocooned in the soft layers of her bedding but instead sitting on cold, hard metal.

This feels familiar.

Somewhere below is a low roar. Somewhere above, the sound of metal pulling metal.

When her eyes widen, she finds herself in a small cage. There’s enough room to sit comfortably but not enough room to stand. Not enough room to get away from prying hands that might poke needles through the gridded bars of the cage. Like she’s some lab rat.

Or worse, a circus animal.

Not again. When she reaches for her ability, there is nothing there but the hollow sense of something missing and cold that cuts deep into her bones.

It's an experience that only feels crueler for its long familiarity, rather than any better.

In addition, not everything seems to be quite the way it should be, for good or for ill. The first detail that strikes Geneva is that ambient sound scarcely seems to be making its way into her ears, regardless of what it is; everything is washed out in a fog regardless of logical distance.

As more of her awareness returns— such as it is— it becomes apparent that more is being suffocated out of her environment than sound. Like a hunger, the ache of her missing ability sets itself into place as a darkening gatekeeper over her other senses, and from there it grows into an emptiness that eats her world whole. Internal void drowns external roar. Cold, tiny flakes of emotion curl outwards from the seat of her heart: the sensation of hatred feeding itself into terror and vice versa, stamping out her will to process anything else.

After all, this is a wound ripped into the innermost fabric of her being that she knows only too well. Knows the feel of only too well.

Fucking not again.

When she forcefully twines her fingers around two of the bars in front of her, she barely notices herself doing it. Barely notices that she's on the cusp of breaking into a sob, gritting her teeth so hard in her mouth that it should hurt her.

Should. But, this is not her reality. Like any true and proper dreamstate, it operates by its own innocently alien set of rules. In particular, there is one concept she becomes inexplicably attached to as though it were a law that had always been written into this world, and who knew? It may as well have been.

She had to go. Go and see the tigers.

The tigers were expecting her. Waiting for her, oh so patiently, in the lowest levels of the ship. They would know how to return the fire that had been stolen from her being, and they would know how to punish those responsible for the transgression.

But she couldn't go and see the tigers if she was trapped inside this stupid cage, now could she? Feeling her consciousness shifting within her, she withdraws her hands and balls them both into fists, staring furiously through the darkened air as though willing the mesh in her narrowing sights to melt beneath the savagery of her gaze alone.

Ability or no ability, she was determined not to keep the tigers waiting.

There are differences from the real memory and this strange, surreal version she finds herself in. This time, there’s no cage nearby, no Isaac there to hate or pity, to fight or not fight as they are thrust into the belly of the arena.

There are no needle-wielding cats or pandas, no one to lunge at or beg to or scream at, before she hears the whirr and rumble of the pulley system lowering the cage. The roar of people yelling gets louder with every inch of chain that drops, and soon she can see the vast ocean of faces there to watch her fight.

Only this time, the faces aren’t masked creatures, but everyone she’s ever known — loved, hated, barely acknowledged, everywhere her eyes fall is a familiar face, and they all shout in unison.

It takes Geneva a moment to figure out the words:


Or is it “Murder her?”

Who she’s fighting, she can’t see yet.

One aspect of that progression is, at least, similar to what her real self had actually experienced. Sound returns all at once to Gene in an almost unbearable deluge, freezing her in place as she struggles to adjust to the heightening clamor of color and light.

Then the gridwork of the cage surrounding her melts away of its own accord, though the question of whether that's a result of Gene's work or not ceases in relevance when the entire thing simply ceases to exist.

This time, the moment she is free, she heads straight for the nearest wall.

…and finds herself staring many feet straight upwards at her father, whose face she had not seen since she was a child. She hasn't even had cause to consider him for years— so much so that in waking life, she would likely have trouble recalling his exact physical details with great precision. Yet, here he is now before her, clear as day.

"Yo, pops, where the fuck are the tigers?" she yells up at a face a great deal like hers if one totally ignored the overlying ravages of old age and terrible self-care, her voice hoarse as though she'd been yelling for hours already.

If her father hears her question or knows the answer to it, he doesn’t show it but continues to chant, the same words as everyone else, his voice rising, pitching higher and louder with every iteration of the same words.

Murderer. Murder Her.

Geneva still can’t tell which it is, and really, it doesn’t seem like there’s much difference for all of the hatred and anger and fear she sees in their eyes. She’s the murderer. She’s the one they want murdered. One and the same. They may as well be carrying torches and pitchforks, not simply sitting on cold metal benches pumping their fists in the air.

A loud rumble and scrape of metal can be heard, and when she turns to find its source, Geneva sees a metal door being pulled open -to release whoever or whatever it is she is meant to fight. When at last the doors are open wide enough, Gene can hear the sound of chains being dropped before something orange and bright launches out of the dark hole it’s been kept in.

A tiger, fiery eyes like a djinn’s blazing, stares her down, before it lifts its head and roars.

A tiger!

The girl balks in her tracks as she stares down the long sweep that separates her from her would-be opponent, her eyes blazing in their sockets with the same hungry, sun-bright flickers as those of the great cat.

She is barely aware of the moment her feet begin picking up speed and purpose again, but once it happens, it feels like the most natural decision she’d ever made. Step by step, stride by ever-lengthening stride, the approach she pounds straight down the center of the arena towards the tiger causes the din of the crowd to die away from her ears the further she goes.

They aren't important. They never were.

And only now does she notice a peculiar sensation pouring through her veins like liquid light. Had she been drugged again? Immediately however, she knows this cannot be the case.

Instead of a substance that numbs her mind and befuddles her emotions, she finds only primal clarity glowing across every visible corner of her mindscape, white and wild and pure as starfire. It’s a molten joy that finds and ignites every little coal of her soul, purging memories of the dark as it goes—

Because the tiger isn't a nameless feline anymore, and it never had been.

It's Idiot.

Her cat. Her stupid, half-blind, impossibly beloved chunk of a housecat, now large as half a barn and the red fires of murder written into his crossed eyes the size of dinner plates.

"C'mon! Let's fuckin' get them!" she roars, swinging herself up onto the impossibly high curve of his back. As she does, the remnants of the chains binding Idiot’s pillar-like legs simply melt away into nothingness, just as the confines of her own cage had done.

As the tide turns, the crowd rises as if one to their feet, but that is where the unison ends. It is every man for himself as they rush for the exit, pushing and pulling one another in their panic. There’s only one door not blocked by the giant cat and its rider, and getting to it and through won’t be easy.

For those still trying to get out of the stands, their due justice comes in the form of fire. The blazing flames shoot from Idiot’s eyes, the white-gold rivers of heat washing over everything in its path. Geneva’s eyes shoot the same fire, and her hands too, if she lifts them, to send arcs of liquid fire into the stands and toward the door where the bottleneck keeps most of the spectators from escaping.

But instead of fear or pain, the hate-filled faces of the victims become transfixed, almost beatific as they become engulfed by Geneva’s and Idiot’s immolating fire. What should be glory is beautiful in a way — they resemble nothing so much as hundreds of candles, still now. Time unfurls and the melting speeds up, until there’s nothing left but the scent of smoke and paraffin in the air.

In the center of the arena stands one who was not there before. A silvery-white statue, a funerary angel, looks around with blank stone eyes. Her lips curve into a smile. “I came to help, but it looks like you didn’t need it. Still, come along. This ship is no place for you.”

Rider and cat-steed wheel as one, and in that intensely swirling aspect of flame, Geneva momentarily looks much closer to the figure of a biblical, avenging angel than the statue itself does. Two sets of luminous eyes gaze down at the newest visitor to the arena, steady and pure as a combined glare of sunlight.

Then, Idiot lifts an elephantine paw to bat curiously at the slender figure before him, and Gene swats him to get him to stop before the colossal feline can take the statue's head off.

Or something. Anyway, it's enough to break the spell. Gene tosses her long, wild curtain of blonde hair back from her face in a single shake, and her mouth breaks into a grin so wide and reckless it’s almost unnerving. "Well, you aren't wrong about the ship, anyway. I dunno who the actual fuck you are, but what the fucking hell. After you."

Onwards, to the next adventure!!!!


“Ah! Come on!” A teenage Cooper shouts at the game, smacking the side of the game cabinet. He’s playing Street Fighter, his favorite character Chun-Li (Cause her boobs do a lot of bouncing - heh heh - and she’s totally hot) just got wasted by the guinea pig headed man next to him. “It’s a dream! Aren't I supposed to win in dreams?” He complains at the screen with a puberty induced crack in his voice.

“It’s not my fault you’re a shitty player, stop mashing the buttons and actually play like a real man,” comments a 8bit Chun-Li, who looks at him with hands on hips. She sounded disturbingly like his ex-Daisy. Way to ruin the mood. Cooper gives the little digital woman a flat look, but instead of making another comment he grabs his suicide soda and walks away.

After a sip, Cooper grumbles, “I need to pee.”

However, when he opens the door it isn’t the grungy and nasty men’s bathroom at Al’s Arcade, but an open field, with a brick road to a cabin. The boy frowns in confusion and closes the door to make sure that - Yep! - it says Mens right on the plaque. At least the cabin is familiar and it means Angel is there and he’d been hoping to get here again. Peeing is gonna have to wait. Taking another sip of his monster sized drink he starts towards the cabin.


Finch, dressed in an overly modest dress of blue and white, is in school. Or her best approximation of school, anyway, which sits right between the stark insides of a lower rent office building and a classroom that looks like it might be stuck in 1890.

Sitting at her too-small wooden desk, she stares helplessly at the blackboard, the letters upon which are not staying in one solid shape long enough to be read. The teacher is saying what sounds like words but aren't sticking like them, and Finch finds herself looking toward the door out.

But it, too, is not what it's supposed to be. Maybe she willed it into being. Within the classroom, there is an impossible patch of natural ground preceding a familiar cabin wall and entrance.

"Miss?" She tries, and the teacher as well as the two dozen students around her turn to their blurred faces toward her in the same beat. Sliding out from her cramped seat, Finch pushes away from her desk and adds while making her hurried way to the door, "I'm very sorry, miss, I have to go!"


Each steps through a doorway into a cabin nestled in the woods, but once they step through, they find themselves not in the cabin. Cooper and Finch expect to see the cozy kitchen and cabin (or cozy until the place became nightmarish and hostile, flooded by icy lake water or stampeded by dark, red-eyed cloudbeasts.

Instead they find themselves in the middle of a clearing in the forest — there is no longer a pleasant and woodsy path, but instead, overgrown bushes with sharp briars create a maze around the outskirts. They can no longer see the glowing, warm lights of the cottage, if there ever was one. Tall, skeletal trees loom above them beyond the labyrinth of brambles, towering and seeming to lean over them like unhappy sentinels.

Angel sits in the heart of the clearing, her eyes downcast, hunched in a forlorn posture. The stony length of her hair seems to hang forward, shielding her face. Her hands lie, one flat upon the other, as if she’s holding something in them, though it’s hard to see what.

Stepping through the door, his drink in hand, the teenage Cooper stops and looks around himself. “Whoa, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto…” After a moment he adds, “Whoa… Deja’vu.”

Spotting Angel at the center, Cooper’s youthful features light up in a big smile. “Angel!” he calls her name as he hurries over, his curly mob of hair flopping. He moves to crouching down just enough to try and see her face, though it makes his plaid blue boxers peeking up the back of his baggy jeans. “Hey, girl. Been thinking about you. Pretty worried, too.”

“Angel?” He asks again after a moment of silence, sounds a bit like he’s pouting.

"My name's not Toto," sounds meekly out from behind Cooper, a little late. Finch stands, her eyebrows slanted in confusion and disappointment both as she clutches her own hands to her chest. Her eyes are fixed on Angel, but she might as well be bolted in place for the moving she's suddenly not doing.

Still, there is clear and genuine concern in her voice when she asks of the stranger ahead of her, "Is she okay?"

Some paces away at the edges of darkened overgrowth, a figure suddenly appears. Joaquin's eyes fly open and he gasps, sucking in a breath he'd been holding as if he were underwater. There's cause to think it - he's soaked to the bone. Confused and chilled, still feeling the cold strike of fear from near-death experience, he turns at the sound of voices and stifles the urge to call out for help at first. Not until he squints to see the others, and not until he realizes one of the voices sounds familiar.

"Finch? Is that you?" Joaquin lurches forward, noisily through the brush, towards the friendly voices.

"Nobody move a muscle." They all know that voice.

Eve Mas barges in with crimson eyes gleaming, she sees the Angel and begins to stalk over. "Hey you! Yea you! Winged thing, cherub, what are you doing in my brainpan, I was told my psychosis was under control."

She then notices the people around her and blinks. "Chimo… Donut…."

The older woman is confused and floats in the air a few inches off the ground, frowning. "Ahh….." Rubbing a spot in her elbow.


The angel looks up, her stone cheeks wet, but her face broadens with a smile when she sees Cooper. “You came to see me again! I didn’t think you would come after the snakes,” she declares, before uncupping her hands so he and the others can see.

A sprig of long tear-drop-shaped leaves with serrated edges rests on her palms. Some of the leaves have tiny holes, and the culprit creeps slowly toward Angel’s thumb as if to escape: a tiny caterpillar, gray with blue and yellow stripes.

Angel turns her head when she sees the others. “More friends!” she says brightly. “I’m not a psychosis, but thank you for the compliment,” she tells Eve, before pointing her finger to Finch. “Hot chocolate. WIld horses could not keep you away from me!” She laughs merrily as if the stampede of storm-cloud stallions wasn’t terrifying. They survived, after all!

Hot chocolate appears in Finch’s hands, as well as Joachin’s, since he’s still shivering from his dunk in a very different body of water. Cooper finds himself with a perfectly-concocted “suicide soda,” just to his liking. Eve finds herself with a bottle of Mezcal, complete with a chinicuil at the bottom.

The angel watches them, smiling and waiting for their responses, but somewhere a voice rings out in childish sing-song as if they were reciting a jump-rope song:

Love has turned and left me and the days are all alike;

Ache I must, and sleep I will, — and would that night were here!

But ah! — to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!

Would that it were day again! — with twilight near!

When Eve came storming in, the youthful Cooper had shifted between her and the statue. Taking a protective stance, in his baggy cargo pants, oversized hoodie and the mop of hair… well and the fact he doesn’t look older than thirteen probaby detracts from the seriousness. Once he realizes who it is, Cooper looks surprised. “Hey Evie-Bo-Beevie,” he offers back in response to the nickname, his youthful voice cracks as if he was just starting to hit puberty.

He’s quickly distracted by the new cup of his favorite concoction of mixed soda flavors, he takes a sip and nods in approval. Perfection. “Thanks!” He lifts the giant plastic cup in salute to the stone angel.

“And, of course, I came back to see you. I don’t scare away that easily, Angel,” adds puffing out his chest with a grin. He watches the caterpillar inch along the sprig with curious interest as he admits, “I had hoped to come back earlier, but dreams are tricky things. But, I want to help you,” Cooper says with a shrug of shoulders. “And I don’t like seeing you alone.”

He moves to sit cross legged in front of her, looking at the other dreamers that joined him this time. Studying those he isn’t overly familiar with, he lifts a hand. “Hey there, name’s Thomas Cooper. Don’t let my dashingly youthful appearance fool you.” He smacks his own cheek with a wide grin. “I’m SESA agent.”

Joaquin, Finch mouths after a gasp, beginning to move in his direction, only to startle with a small yelp at the hot chocolate suddenly in her hand.

When she's confirmed it hasn't spilled, she stands stunned, breathing in the scent of her drink as she listens and looks around - first at the sharp bramble around them and then taking stock of everyone who's here.

"I'm Finch," she tells Cooper, squinting at him with the most critical eye she can muster. Which isn't very, what with the smile that's also overtaking her face before she turns her attention back toward, presumably, their host. "You're really good at this, Angel."

Joaquin certainly knows Eve's voice, even if his confusion at hearing her makes it seem like he's lost track. He does as he's told to at first, paused with a hand on a supposedly supportive tree trunk. But for no particular logic at all, he's drawn forward again to join the group around the Angel. Comfort in numbers, perhaps. Where he had been so cold and alone before, now there was light, even welcoming warmth in the hands and voices of the others.

Cooper's introduction finally gets an awkward chortle from the technically younger man of the two. "I'm Chimo - er, Joaquin," he starts to say around an attempt at a furtive sip of hot chocolate that's suddenly appeared in hand. "Where are we?" he asks to the others. But it's to Angel he peers instead, asking, "Is… is this your dream?" He's also about to ask on the cottage when another ethereal voice sings out in their dark. Joaquin inches closer to the group again, wedging into the space between Eve and Finch.

"Weren't you dressed like that for my party?! Mmmm." Eve grins at the younger Cooper.

A gasp.

"The worm?? You shouldn't have!" Tilting the bottle back until the label is in the light, Eve squints and rubs her nose against the bottle. "I met a man once, on the way down to good ol Mexico, he told me the worm has psychedelic properties, far out man!" The older woman snorts as she continues to lean back until she is losing her balance with a yelp.

Luckily the raven haired woman doesn't fall, she floats. On her back, the bottle nestled to her chest. Her knees knock into Chimo's and crimson eyes fall over the younger people in the room. "Is someone trapped?" Eve has seen these sorts of things before with Delia or Hokuto. "Sometimes a dreamer can get lost." It's said almost absently but everyone in the room has noted the tears from the Angel.

"Why do you cry, angel? Have the tragedies of our world become overwhelming?" Her tone is sympathetic and blood red eyes widen a touch with open concern.

“Not lost, but left and found,” the angel says to Eve, her attention back on the crawling caterpillar on the leaves she cups in her hand. As it reaches the end of her hand, lifting its front end up into the empty air, she brings her other hand in front so it has a place to find purchase.

The blank, gray-white eyes of the statue fall on each of the others, and her head tips slightly as if she doesn’t know how to respond. She looks back at the creature in her hands. The caterpillar has turned back toward the sprig, its tiny maw biting into the stalk.

“Its nature is to destroy. It devours and devours and devours and gives nothing in return.” She looks back up, her stony face oddly expressive, her countenance a questioning one. “Does this make it bad?”

As she speaks, her hands begin to come together, their cupped position losing shape as she straightens her fingers slowly, turning them instead into flat planes that will crush the little crawler within them.

Love has run and left me and I don't know what to do;

This or that or what you will is all the same to me;

But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through, —

There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

“Don’t…” Cooper’s hand goes out to stop her, but doesn’t touch her. “My mother always believed that all living things deserved to live, because they serve a purpose.” He gives her a small lopsided smile.

“You are simplifying its purpose, though,” Thomas says with a worried look at the caterpillar. Sitting the plastic cup between them, he kneels in front of her. “It’s purpose is to bring about change, just like it changes.” He motions to her hands and the caterpillar. “The caterpillar keeps plants from over growing. Culls the weak plants so that the strong may grow.”

Cooper doesn’t know if he’s making sense, but he continues, his hands hovering around the cooler stone ones, but not touching them. “But… after it devours it’s share, something magical happens. It transforms and becomes something else, something that brings a different type of change. Where the caterpillar destroys.. The butterfly brings about renewal.”

With a swallow, Cooper looks at her hands, “Human’s have lost their purpose and spend our lives trying to find it, so we don’t really compare to the industrious and important caterpillar. So please, don’t destroy the caterpillar before it can change for the better and become something amazing.”

With hands still cupped around the warm hot chocolate cup, Joaquin casts furtive glances to the shadows around the group when the second nihilistic verse in childish tone calls out. He steps ever closer to huddle between Eve and Finch, looking worried over the caterpillar's fate. Or, rather, worried about their group's fate.

But speaking of simplified purposes. "What does that mean, 'Not lost, but left and found'?" he asks the others and Angel. "We're all here because of someone, something, that… needs us?" After a pause, Joaquin looks to Cooper, then down to the caterpillar, then to his cup. Shortly he upends the hot chocolate away and out onto the ground, then holds his newly emptied cup out to the SESA agent and Angel. The freshly emptied receptacle looks intended to be a new housing for the caterpillar.

Finch stiffens the moment the angel's hands begin to draw toward each other, watching others begin to act where she fails to. But she's not idle. Her face scrunching up in thought, she locks her eyes onto the angel's face, and listens for clues. Her smile fades with a dip of her head and a very serious sip from her hot chocolate.

And a small but resolute whisper over the top of her cup. "We're dream detectives."

Their words stay Angel’s hands, and just in time, as the caterpillar was a mere half-inch from being crushed between the statue’s white-gray fingers. Her eyes narrow and she tips her head, looking at each of them as they speak.

“It doesn’t turn into something more amazing. It just sheds its skin and becomes what it always is,” she counters.

As she speaks, the caterpillar seems to stretch — at first like it’s trying to reach across the gap between her hand and those belonging to Joaquin and Cooper. But then the creature does stretch, like it was being pulled by some invisible force, pulling it longer…

…and also larger.

The little caterpillar loses its tubby roly-poliness as it grows before their eyes. The velvety texture of its skin hardens, becomes glossy as it shifts into diamontine scales; its tiny nub feet disappear, but its eyes get large enough to see, beady and black, along with a mouth that opens to show its sharp, glistening fangs.

The colors remain the same — the striping and pattern not any snake any of them know.

Love has gone and left me, — and the neighbors knock and borrow,

And life goes on always like the gnawing of a mouse, —

And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow

There's this little street and this little house.

As the snake rears up in her hands, now the size of a full-grown rattlesnake, Angel flings it away from her — unfortunately toward the others — and shrieks, covering her face. The scream echoes back from the woods around them, a dozen voices shrieking back at different intervals.

There is a shout of fear from the teenage Cooper when the snake is thrown. Stumbling to his feet, Cooper accidently knocks over his soda, but he isn’t paying attention to that. Looking at the scared stone angel, his resolve strengthens. Reaching over his head he grabs at his hoodie and pulls it over his head, leaving him in a D.A.R.E shirt, faded to a dark gray from the wash.

“It’s gonna be okay, Angel,” Cooper tells her as he eyes the snake nervously.

Looking over his shoulder at the others, he directs the others to “Stay back, I got this.” not sounding completely certain, also sounding far more grown up then his thirteen years.

Taking breath, young Thomas holds the hoodie in his hands and yells “BANSAI!” while diving down on the snake in an attempt to trap it and protect everyone, using his oversized hoodie as a shield between him and those fangs.

Eve explodes into bright crimson particles, buzzing in the air before slamming back together with a gasp. Snakes! They were so precious, not when they were thrown at you!

"Watch it!"'

Eve clings to the ceiling with wide eyes but a devilish smile. Were they playing a game? "Angel! Who are you dearie!"

Joaquin's cup quivers as the caterpillar stretches towards the rim of it. Holding it as steadily as he can, Joaquin can't help but stare at the transformation. Only, when it's clear that it's not into a cocoon or a butterfly, he shrinks back in alarm. "Holy sh—!" The expletive cuts away as he shuffles back in half steps. A sidestep brings him beside Finch as if numbers would protect better against the serpent.

Joaquin's head snaps up and around at the shrieks emanating around them. He clues in too late to Cooper's intent, blurting out at the emboldened leap and Eve's warning, "Wh- wait!" The empty cup drops as he grabs for both the teenage Cooper and stony Angel.

A shadow like a black, misshapen mountain looms over the heart of the clearing, eclipsing first Angel, then everyone closest to her in its own particular darkness.




Before the advance of the now violently-unfurling shadow, several of the skeletal trees explode apart into clouds of flying splinters. A great stone pillar plants itself onto the earth, completely obliterating the hoodie and the rattlesnake both— and otherwise missing Thomas by mere inches.

No. It's not a stone pillar, after all, but a leg.

A fuzzy leg which is apparently attached to a hulking monstrosity of a cat at least twenty feet tall at the shoulder, its crossed eyes like glowing, misaligned saucers in the sky— though one has to crane their neck back to take it all in properly, given the owner's incredibly awkward proximity.

Further up still, mounted on the back of the four-legged titan like a valkyrie atop her very own celestial steed, is Geneva Stevenson. Rivers of her blonde hair cascade wildly over both her shoulders, as though she had long ago given up the effort to contain it, and her expression is riddled by exasperation and giddy triumph both.

"Idiot, I know this isn't real and shit but please actually stop killing everything in the enchanted dream forest oh my god—"

The angel falls backward; the earth shudders beneath them as both the ground and the angel begin to crack, the sound like ice cracking on a frozen lake. Her frightened scream becomes a cry of anguish as the snake is stomped on, and she reaches out a stony hand toward it. “No!”

Many things happen at once:

Eve, clinging to the sky as if it were solid, finds herself holding a snake herself. It strikes at her face, just missing, before it slips from her hands. She falls to the earth. The snake falls beside her but whips away fast before she can blink.

Joaquin grabs Cooper’s arm — it comes loose, limp in his arms for a moment before he feels it twitch, and it too is a snake, rearing up and hissing, before Joaquin flings it away.

Cooper’s armful of his hoodie becomes a cold and coiled snake. Before he can register this fact, it squirms out of his hands and slithers away, joining Chimo’s and Eve’s.

Finch’s mug of coffee, held to her lips, becomes a snake — and she only realizes it when it bobs at her liips, scaled and cold instead of warm and sweet. It slinks out of her grasp and toward the others.

Idiot, the giant cat steed that Geneva rides, seems to pull apart into a million smaller pieces — only those pieces each become slithering snakes streaming toward the ground. Geneva herself tumbles to the ground — cushioned by snakes before they slide out from under her, leaving her on the hard ground instead.

The place swarms with the snakes, but stranger yet, they all congregate, lining themselves up and then twisting their bodies into shapes. It’s hard to tell at first, given the different sizes, shapes, and a rainbow of colors across the field of serpentine bodies, but soon the dreamers can see the snakes have configured themselves into letters, the letters into words — and the words into the poem.

The first two lines of the poem appear in snake-script:

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;

Eat I must, and sleep I will, — and would that night were here!

But then a few of the snakes turn, twist and writhe, and the letters shift:

Love has turned and left me and the days are all alike;

Ache I must, and sleep I will, — and would that night were here!

The snakes move again, creating the rest of the stanza, but nothing changes until the first line of the next section the dreamers had heard in that ethereal childlike voice.

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do

The snakes that form the word gone move again, their sinuous bodies contorting until they read:

Love has run and left me and I don't know what to do

While the snakes do their strange dance, captivating their audience, the stone angel crumbles into pieces, and a single snake within her slithers away, out from the rubble, and away from the dreamers.

The final stanza begins to form, before only the second line is altered by the creatures on the clearing’s cracked floor.

And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse

The snakes shift one more time, the word for forever turning this time until it reads:

And life goes on always like the gnawing of a mouse.

Finch recalls the meeting after her last dream, discussing the poem they’d found in that one. Something Nick said returns to her: Something’s off, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Cooper remembers something the Angel said the last time: Words are snakes. Words change skins.

Before they can voice these thoughts, the world grows dim, dark, black — and then bright again, as each of the dreamers open their eyes.


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