2008-05-17: Agents Of Dream And Death

Starring:

Kory_icon.gif Elisabetha_icon.gif

Summary: Kory attempts to persuade Elisabetha not to go along with her Teacher's goals, via dreams. Then things get complicated.

Date It Happened: May 17th, 2008

Agents Of Dream And Death


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Dowager Empress is returned home to the artsy Greenwich Village couple she was walked for; and Kory receives recompense for the time and effort. A quick lunch of shish kebab sandwich from an umbrella cart provides protein and carbs to help even her out from having quietly kept her nerves under control during the strange and unsettling encounter with Elisabetha and her …er…womanservant.

Then it's home to the Batcave, where the dreamwalker has a seat, checks her email, her voice mail, and the minds of some normal dreamers before she ventures back, mentally, toward the place she met the strange pair of blondes, in search of a dream in which she can turn lucid and try to reach Elisabetha.

Back at the apartment, Elisabetha is lying on the floor, staring at a puzzle. Her Teacher has been trying to get her to do these puzzles whenever she has the time, because they are supposed to help her concentrate or… Something like that. She wasn't really paying attention. The explanation was way over her head. All she knew was that it was important. She has changed into a pink night gown (or rather has been changed into such by Emily), since there are no plans to go out again that evening, and the other clothes were dirty from the sidewalk she fell on earlier.
The one-armed woman's knees have gauze pads on them, and the skin around them is somewhat bruised. She didn't land that hard, but she's pretty frail in general, so she bruises easily. Emily walks into the living room, still in her outfit from the excursion earlier, since she has work to do in the apartment yet. She pauses when she spots Elisabetha lying on her side on the floor, staring and poking at cardboard puzzle pieces (with her wine-red eyes, and only hand, respectively). Smiling she crouches down next to her mistress and says, "Which puzzle is this, Miss Eli?"
Elisabetha is silent for several seconds before she realizes she's being spoken to. "…A puppy…" she answers. Emily nods, noticing the puzzle is nowhere near complete. "If I may offer some advice, you may wish to find the corner pieces first, and then work your way inwards. It often goes faster that way." Elisabetha rolls onto her back so she can look up at Emily. Emily blushes a bit as she looks back into Elisabetha's eyes, and smiles. There is definitely something else between them than just master and servant, or two friends. But it seems a longshot that Elisabetha will ever understand or return Emily's feelings. Elisabetha asks hesitantly, "Can I… Do the puzzle later…? …I'm tired…" Emily nods as she snaps out of her reverie and helps her friend up off the floor. "The puzzle will not go anywhere while you rest," she offers with a smile.
Shortly, Elisabetha is in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling, and Emily is off doing something or other. Elisabetha is already asleep. She just forgot to close her eyes. They slowly droop closed after a few minutes, however.

In her dreams, Elisabetha is standing in a thick fog bank, nude. It is cold, and she is numb, and there is nothing else there but her and the mist. She just stands there and stares, her blonde hair turned to pale white by the shroud, and only her red eyes offering any hint of color. No one else is anywhere around. Her voice speaks in a dulled fashion, not carrying, and her words are in that halting, hesitant manner she is prone to, her tone sleepy.

"…Inside me… I'm screaming… But no one is paying any attention…
…If I had arms I could kill myself…
…If I had legs I could run away…
…If I had a voice I could talk… and be some kind of company for myself…
(I don't get why… They don't just kill me…!)
I could yell for help…! …But no one would help me…"

Then the silence resumes.

"Killing yourself," comes the voice of the Muse, from nowhere, as Kory has chosen to remain invisible in the dreamscape for the nonce, "is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." It's an old adage, but that doesn't mean it lacks truth. She chooses to start there, because it's a good place to start. A good point to call home base, as it were.

Elisabetha doesn't react to the voice. Instead she lifts her right arm — the one she doesn't have in real life. It's a skeleton's arm. Again her own voice speaks without her moving her lips, and without the sound carrying. "Me lying here like… Some freak in a carnival show…"
Then the fog starts to spiral away, slowly, revealing bits and pieces of the terrain, unless Kory chooses to alter the dream otherwise. Perhaps Elisabetha is realizing someone else is here finally, because she looks up placidly, and glances around. "Mother? Where are you?" This time she speaks with her mouth, rather than her thoughts. Headstones and skulls start to appear out of the fog, as the mist fades. The grisly landscape leaves Elisabetha in… A cemetery of sorts, though there are things wandering in the fog around her, unseen, but hinted at by swirls of vapor, and dull thuds and low growls. Elisabetha whispers as she retreats, holding both arms, flesh-covered and skeletal, across her chest, "…Mother help me… I'm having a nightmare and I can't wake up…"

"It isn't a nightmare," is Kory's response to Elisabetha's plea. "It's just a dream." A lucid one, but a dream nonetheless. She concentrates and Elisabetha's skeletal arm grows muscle, a circulatory system, nerves, and finally flesh, right down to pink fingernails. "Dreams don't have to be nightmares." The mist whirls and swirls before it vanishes, dancing around Elisabetha's chilled, nude form, and garbing her in a penoir of white silk, decadently soft.

The graveyard remains untouched. "Why do you dream of a yard of the dead, Elisabetha?" she asks. "Why do you not embrace life?" She concentrates one time more, and the fog parts, revealing a ray of warm sunlight from above, warming the landscape. "There is so much life to embrace. Are you afraid?"

Elisabetha stares at her arm, eyes widening, as flesh grows over it. She doesn't know how to react. She has never felt anything in her right arm before, because it's not actually there outside of dreams. She looks down at her sudden clothing, and around at everything else. The creatures… Are they still out there? With no more mist, it would seem not. They only like to be around when they can't be seen. It makes it easier to sneak up on Elisabetha and bite her and bite her until she wakes up.
"…I don't…" she starts, and then looks around. "…I don't… Feel alive, when I'm awake… It's all…" she furrows her brow looking for the right words. She doesn't seem to be able to find them, as she eventually just shrugs and looks down at the skulls on the ground. She crouches down and then sits and stares at the headstone in front of her. It has a name on it, but it's blurry. Even though it's made of stone, it's still out of focus, almost like it was being censored. "…I walk around… And talk… And… I don't know whether I'm alive and dreaming… Or dead and remembering…"
Elisabetha sighs. "How can you tell what's a dream… and what's real… when you can't even tell when you're awake and when you're asleep…?"

"Good question," is Kory's response, voice gentle. "But here's a better one — do you want to feel things when you're awake? Do you want to feel alive? My guess is you do, or we wouldn't be having this conversation."

The sunbeam widens and bathes Elisabetha in warm, golden light. "The sun feels this way in your dream. It feels this way in the waking as well. Have you never turned your face up just to feel the warmth?" Kory, remaining invisible still, is incredulous that a girl living in such posh environs is so starved, living such an existence, austere of simple pleasures, to say nothing of more complex ones. In response to the first thought Elisabetha brings to Kory's mind, a little orange clown fish with a white stripe and a much smaller right fin swims past Elisabetha, right through the air, seemingly unaware it is out of water.

Elisabetha looks up at the sunbeam as it streams down on her, she stares directly into it, feeling warmed by the sunlight, but not reacting to the brightness of it… If she is even supposed to. After all, it's a dream. Brightness might not have an impact on dream-selves.
"…I have to get… control… To help others not suffer… Teacher said so… But… I don't suffer… And that makes me suffer…?" Her red eyes reflect the sunlight, but then she closes them. "…I don't want to feel pain… …Teacher says it's bad… …But if I don't know what pain feels like… …Why am I so unhappy…?" She opens her eyes in time to see the fish, and stares at them, watching them swim by. She reaches out with her left arm out of habit, even though she apparently has a right arm now. But whether she succeeds in touching the fish or not, she tries to smile, and barely succeeds. "…I don't feel… …But Teacher says if I work hard… I can control my gift… And then I can feel…!" She smiles a bit wider at that. "…So I have to try…!"

In a dream? No. Sunlight is just warm and bright. If this were a nightmare — and Kory could do that, but it's not what she's after this time — Elisabetha might find her eyes melting. But not this. This isa ll a sgentle pleasure.

"Each of us is responsible for our own suffering," Kory replies, still a voice coming from nowhere. Or everywhere. "It is unfair for anyone to try to ask you to stop the suffering of other people. To ask you to concentrate on that, to the deprivation of your own life."

"Pain is not pleasant, but without pain, we have little to contrast against when it comes to the joys of life. You are unhappy, Elisabetha, because you do not live. You exist. Existence is simply going from one moment to the next. Without feeling. Without experiencing. How can anyone be happy like that?"

"Controlling your gift is important. Because your gift can cause suffering more easily than it can stop suffering." One of the fish gets touched, and in response to the pleasurable sensation, doubles back to swim through the air beneath her finger. See, Elisabetha? Pleasure. Not suffering. And you did it with your simple touch, and without your gift. Kory doesn't put those words out there aloud — she just allows the visual and tangible to happen, and hopes Elisabetha picks it up. "Did you feel that?" she prompts. "The little fish did."

Elisabetha listens to the voice, slowly seeming to come out of the numb state she's been in for so long. Her mind, and mannerisms, previously very childish, taken on a sudden edge of maturity. "I… Understand. But… My gift can cause suffering? That isn't what Teacher told me. He said I was the only one who could fix everything… Fix the world for good."
She smiles softly, but genuinely, no longer a strain. Standing up firmly, Elisabetha speaks as one might expect a cultured young woman to, as the apathy and numbness almost visibly sloughs off her, giving her strength she doesn't have in the waking world.
"I want to feel things like this. I want to know what other people feel. I want to understand their pain, not just erase it out of being… You're right, a life without pain isn't life at all." She looks around for the source of the voice, as more lucidity comes to her. "But there is one major obstacle."

"I think your teacher is not giving you a fair and complete picture," is Kory's carefully phrased response. "But definitely, yes. Your gift can cause suffering. All things that live — truly live — want to live. They do not wish to die. Death causes suffering. And fear."

The smile encourages Kory, and watches the woman sort of blossom here on the dreamscape. "You can never truly know other people's pain and understand it. There are so many nuances. So many permutations. Different things cause pain. Emotional pain. Mental pain. Physical pain. There are different levels of tolerance for different people. No one person can know all that."

"What do you consider the obstacle?" asks Kory, warily floating above Elisabetha, particularly as she seems to have gone from childlike to lucid, mature, and aware.

Elisabetha sighs, and crosses her arms, hugging herself as she says, "I've already caused death. Not because I wanted to, but because something else inside of me wanted to. It doesn't like life. It doesn't like light. It doesn't like joy or sadness or pain. It just wants to kill and kill, no matter what I want. It's… Something that woke up inside of me when I was younger. My gift… I remember now. I… Killed my dog, Otis. It was an accident."
She stops smiling, looking down at the ground, and feeling the pain from back then resurface after so long of being without. It tears at her, but she keeps talking. "I thought it was because of my mother at first… She has always been disappointed in me… Always seen me as a failure… But there's something else trying to eat up my feelings… Trying to use me to cause pain and death."
She shudders and says quietly in a way that may make a shiver run up Kory's dream-spine, "And it has a name."

Kory's done the dreamwalking thing for a long time. This is disturbing, but not the most disturbing thing she's ever encountered. "Then the question becomes, do you want it to control you, or do you want to control it? Didn't you discuss with your friend the possibility of getting another dog? Do you want to accidentally take another life, or enjoy sharing love with a being that trusts you and wants to enjoy sharing love with you?"

"Disappointment can be painful, but it is not all there is. You are allowed and entitled to be your own person. And choose what you want."

Elisabetha shakes her head. "You don't understand. I want to be what you say. I want to be what I want. I want to be free of the emptiness… But… That thing I was talking about… The thing that lives inside of me… I don't know if I can overpower it. It's part of my gift, and my gift is part of me. Can I really fight that… Thing? The one named…" Then Elisabetha looks up abruptly. Not at Kory, but at something beyond. Her skin turns pale, and her eyes widen in terror. The sunlight and pleasure that Kory has begun to create in Elisabetha's mind and soul are attacked by darkness and the chill of something unnatural and unwholesome. Kory may still have control of the dream for the moment, thanks to her experience and sheer power over dreams, but a new factor has entered the equation.
There is a third presence in this dream.

Everything goes black and red, leaving only Kory and Elisabetha as crimson and ebony figures in a dreamscape suddenly turned to nightmare. It is possible to fight against this, probably. Dream is Kory's domain… In a way, she could be considered an agent of the Greek god 'Hypnos' or 'Dream'… But the problem is that Elisabetha is an agent too. An agent of Hypnos's twin.
Elisabetha whispers, "Its name is Thanatos." Then the pitch sky shapes itself into an enormous skull, with red eyes not unlike Elisabetha's own, that stare hatefully at the two women. What kind of person is Elisabetha that she has something like this inside of her? Just what IS her 'gift'?
The Greek god Thanatos opens its fleshless maw wide and SCREAMS with such raw malice that Kory may feel it wise to leave this dreamscape. And if she doesn't, she'll likely be booted out shortly because Elisabetha is fighting to wake up with everything she has available. She doesn't want to be here anymore.

Shades of Trigun!

Kory senses the darkness before it hits, holding her invisible position. "Death," she whispers, understanding. Or believing she does. She's only the Muse. She can only inspire. But she also is not going to abandon this young woman to a nightmare. "You are not welcome here," she tells the entity, and pushes back. Hard.

The malicious scream shreds the dreamscape, but the warm sunlight rallies, retaliating. "Elisabetha!" Kory calls, a pearlescent, iridescent female shape hanging between light and darkness. "You are not helpless unless you choose. Unless you give into your fear. Unless—"

And whatever the Muse had intended to say is cut off. She doesn't ordinarily have to push quite so hard to control a dream. Whatever that entity in the dream is, it's strong. Dangerously so. There's blood rolling down out of one nostril as she comes back to herself, her grip on the dream lost for the time being.

"Damn," she says, voice somewhere between astonished and frightened. She reaches for the phone to call Sophie. This one needs to be recorded.

It's only when she looks down that Kory realizes her hand is shaking, and she decides perhaps a shower to wash the rinse out of her hair and relax her is warranted before she calls Mnemosyne.

And there the children of dark Night have their dwellings, Sleep and Death, awful gods. The glowing Sun never looks upon them with his beams, neither as he goes up into heaven, nor as he comes down from heaven. And the former of them roams peacefully over the earth and the sea's broad back and is kindly to men; but the other has a heart of iron, and his spirit within him is pitiless as bronze: whomsoever of men he has once seized he holds fast: and he is hateful even to the deathless gods. — Hesiod

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