I’ve been fondling this dream I had Monday morning – no, Sunday. Most of the dream was as non-sequiter as usual, although it involved a few people I am not used to seeing, like my coworker/manager. But as I headed toward waking there was a vaguely coherent section that came out with me and I’ve been mangling it since. Not that it makes sense, it was just a linear storyline. Ish.
It is a dark world suffering an underground war that is fought with terror rather than guns. A darkling beauty, almost autistic in how she reacts to those around her, is drifting into a tall building. Her eyes are dark with an inner sorrow, a self-hatred that cannot be explained away as she climbs out of a stairway and starts down the hall. An open door to her left is a room with – not a bar, but a public room with a counter in it. A man hunches over the counter, dusky blond and quietly powerful. He is her bodyguard, but at the moment he seems to be fighting his own inner demons. Her tentative greeting is met with a sullen dismissal, a denial that is not really aimed at her; caught in his own thoughts, he does not truly see her, or what his words do to her. In her current state, in her own strange world, this is an arrow that strikes a near mortal wound. Down the hall and around the corner is a string of doors. On one side of the hall are bedrooms, on the other side are their associated bathing rooms. Typical of hotels in this world. She drifts down to her room, deliberately changes her clothes for a towel, and crosses the hall. He had ‘suggested’ she relax in the bath, and her distracted state takes this as a command. There is nothing better for her to do, not one like her.
She is a hunter, of a sort. Where others stalk their prey by feet and eyes she stalks with her mind. Her ability to cast her mind out of her body to travel free or find another home makes her terribly valuable – and terribly vulnerable. Her body lies helpless while her mind is away, and even when she is all in one place she is never quite aware of the world as it currently exists around her. For all this she has her bodyguard, as much to guard her from herself as to keep her safe from a world that recognizes her power without understanding it. He is also her conduit to interact with reality. It weighs heavily on him at times. They have just chased down a small but powerful terror cell, 3 or 4 people that would kill anyone for their ends. The cell had based itself quietly in this building until the girl and her guard ferreted them out. Three were gone, dead or taken by authority.
The robe pools on the floor as she slips into the deep tub. Water sloshes against her chin, bubbles tickling her nose. She is buoyed, sheltered by the water and suspended as if apart from the world in a physical way that mimics the space around her mind. Absently she braces her foot against the other end of the tub so she does not slide beneath the surface as she leans back. Her head lies inches away from an outjut of wall that protects the vents of the building. As the water soothes her she casts her mind free as naturally as breathing. There is life in the vents, the creatures that live on the outskirts of any human settlement, but to her they are as valid in existence as any person. She brushes several of them caressingly as her mind – her soul – wanders the vents for the sheer curiosity of it, ‘feeling’ the texture of the seams, the cool metal, the rivets and bolts, the ripple of the grates leading to other rooms. A tactile experience that no normal human could truly understand. A tendral of warmth leads her further down the unused vent, a heat that attracts her in a way she does not understand. Speeding down as fast as thought itself brings her to the source of heat, and a terror that she grasps quickly and completely. This is a deep trouble that will flair and bring death before any one can get to it, no matter how fast she can be back to herself. It is fire and explosion in a building of innocents surrounded by buildings of innocents. And so she acts as she must, as she always does, but alone more than she has been in so long.
Her disembodied soul can ‘feel’, but it cannot touch or manipulate its environment; she needs a body. With deepest apologies and a promise of safety she can only pray to maintain she borrows the body of a rat that is trying to scurry away from the approaching death, its soul gently laid farther away and cocooned in comforting darkness. With paws and teeth she dives into nearby pipes, finding the one that carts water throughout the building and struggling to break it open, break it free, free the water that can slow the fire, keep the fire from the stores that haven’t been cleared yet, the stores of the terrorists that now has a gleaming, glistening trail leading to the vent she struggles in. The fire licks near her borrowed body, the heat unbearable. Deftly she shunts away the heat and fear to be paid for later as she continues digging at the supports, gnawing at the seals, until at last there is a hole, a trickle that she bathes herself in as she digs harder, deeper. The pressure of the water itself begins to help her, forcing itself through the hole she has made. The support is weak, cut through, and the pipe sags open enough for the water to flow back down the vent. It will not stifle the fire, but slow it enough for real help to come. A last bite, a shake to spray water clear of nose and eyes, she returns to where the true soul lies awaiting its home. With love and thanks she wakes the rat in its own head and watches it run free, ahead of a cloud of acrid steam as the fire sizzles and cries below her. With a soundless cry of her own she flies up the pipes, at once intent on warning and afraid – afraid of the heat and pain she carries in her, that channeled from her borrowed body into her. The world is pain and fear, and within her lie more seeds.
The bodyguard, his own bout with self-pity relieved by the wallowing in it, feels that breath-catching sense that something is not quite right. Either his subconscious remembers the look on his charge’s face, or their connection is so deep that he senses her danger without knowing. Whatever it is drives him down the hall to the room. Her clothes on the bed tell one part of the tale, the steam leaking from the opposite door tells more. But there is a sense – or lack of one- that has him rattle the locked bathing room knob, call her name. No answer. No brush of awareness, her mind must be elsewhere. It isn’t unusual, but here it has a taste of wrongness. Maybe it’s the sour taste of the steam – smoke? – that piles from below the door. People gather around, drawn by the sound as he hollers her name once more before backing across the hall and hurling his leg at the door. Its resistance crumbles before his anger and fear, shuddering free and slamming into the wall within. The emerging cloud makes the assembled choke as he ducks in, low and alert to the body that lies crumpled deep in the tub, inert and vulnerable. Steam in fitful spurts roils around on the few inches of water left to cradle her. His arms take over that job as he tenderly gathers her to himself and then to the floor, hissing at the heat that blisters her skin now that she is clear of the water. He knows much of this reaction is not real, that her mind has that much power over her body. As he has done so often in the past, what ties them in ways that drive him near despair at times, he lays his fingers gently but firmly on her forehead. The contact opens a path, lets him hear what she so desperately needs to warn them of. The message is passed, men are dispatched and fire crews summoned to save the building, people are shepherded out of the room and down the hall. No one will evacuate; this is a common threat although reported in uncommon ways and blind faith couples with nowhere to hide as people return to their rooms and activities, sure that they will be saved.
In the bathing room, crouched on the floor, another rescue is under way. She remembers the fire, the tremendous heat, and her mind is fascinated with the feel of it as it settles inside her, the melting of body and crisping of skin as she imagines it must feel to burn alive. Even as pain consumes her the driving force of her power and imagination propels her down a destructive path of curiosity, trapping her in a deadly spiral of her own design. On the outside, her skin darkens, blackens as her self-destruction becomes a version of truth. Black scales like charcoal begin to encase her, creeping up her body. Her guard knows the signs, the danger. His job. And his inescapable duty to guard and save her, just as it is her heart-deep duty to hunt. Even when he resents the necessity of it and his lack of true freedom, he never questions, never regrets the soul-deep ties that keep him at her side. Deeper than love he reaches through his hand, soul calling to soul, reaching down through the whirlpool of her thoughts to grasp the sparkling gem within. He cradles it as he cradled her body before, drawing it back where it belongs, giving her an anchor of purpose to focus on where her chaotic thoughts had cast her adrift. He needs her as he sometimes hates her, and need calls her back from the clutching black scales, back through the heat and fire, back through pain and hate into the fragile body that imprisons and binds her soul to a finite world. Her heart will not let her ignore the siren song of life, nor can her soul truly ignore his call. She will return and continue the hunt for the next evil. He will guard her life and her sanity. The world will continue to misunderstand the strong young man and his silent strange-eyed charge. And one will continue to be the chain of the other for so long as they live.
Huh. Not quite how that ended the first time. Not sure how well it works out of my head, dreams don’t often make it intact to ‘paper’. Not that this has anywhere more to go, but it’s an idea that needed out somewhere. Ouch. My brain hurts now.