2010-01-26: Knife In The Back (Phantasm)



Posting Date: January 26, 2010


The Nightmare never ends.

"Knife In The Back"

Art Gallery

The sun never rises here. It's always dark and there's always the sounds of sirens soon to follow. Peter doesn't know where to go. His old apartment is empty of possessions, rooms blank and walls chipped. It's as if no one's lived there in years. The water doesn't work, the electricity is turned off. The fire escape feels like it may fall off the side of the building as he attempts to go down to the alley below. Eventually, it makes a creaking sound, and the metal snaps and he's forced to jump, flying down to the bottom, and landing too heavily on his legs. He closes his eyes against the pain.

Hey, when did someone put an art gallery right next to his apartment?

If the theme of the art is a bit morbid, you can't blame it, what with the surrounding state of the world. Even the lights inside are dim, though — clouded over — a poor state to be displaying much of anything in. The spotlights supposed to illuminate the works seem slightly off-kilter, setting everything off-balance.

Even right then, one of the lights becomes loose, shifting in its setting and falling an inch to swing freely. The now roaming spotlight flickers in and out; on a good swing, it reveals movement in the back of the gallery. A flash here and there. A trick of the light? Or is the blur all there is? Either way, it's a hint of brightness in the murky atmosphere— there's that night-light ultra blonde color.

The hint of brighteness in the murky atmosphere draws him in, making him get closer to the wide windows and touch them. All of a sudden his hand slips through, and he pulls it back, looking at it, before poking at the window again. It seems to shimmer around his hand, but his hand passes through it like water. He's never been good at phasing, but suddenly he's able to step inside without disturbing anything, without breaking the window.

The morbid paintings draw his eyes, and he frowns as some of them take on a style similar to that of Isaac Mendez, or him using Isaac's ability. Images of people dying, bodies twisted, the world in shadow and blood. Red, black, white… all these colors stand out, strong and bright, as he moves further in, to find the flicker of blonde he spotted.

Creak, swing. Creak, swing. The lantern is doing its job, beckoning towards the back of the building. It should have run out of momentum by now, but it doesn't seem to care. The rest of the room remains as still as the death it portrays. Where the blur was last is among a circle of paintings that have been set out as their own set, on huge easels instead of on the walls. They've been left, in staggered position, halfway between being ready to display and not.

Then— from one predominantly white to one predominantly black, their subject matter equally disturbing, there it goes again. The blur itself is similarly colored in darks and a flash of red like blood. Maybe it is blood. And, when it stops behind the large black painting to stay hidden from few, the blur is a girl with no shoes on, just feet darkened by the ash of the street. It also, of course, has Daphne's voice. "Ohhh ho. Think you're clever, comin' in here like that? I had you pegged."

So many familiar faces. The possibility of the one that could be inside is what brough him in. Even if Peter doesn't know exactly how he managed. Eyes flicker across paintings, then down her small form, to the feet that have no shoes, just dirt, then back to her eyes. "Daphne?" This isn't going to end well. Even when he thinks he might have a familiar face that's comforting and warm…

Forehead tenses, eyebrows lower, and he steps back toward the window again. To leave, he'd have to break it, or get lucky and walk through it again. But…

What if this time she needs his help? What if this time he can help her?

"What do you mean you had be pegged?"

There could be little considered 'comforting' in the face that lurks behind the paintings. Nothing's so bad as her dirtied feet, but she isn't exactly sparkling clean — not even the sleek gold tiara that is perched crookedly on top of her ratted hair. Daphne's cheeks, thinned to an angle unbefitting her, are smeared with two red lines to each; she's painted with this blood, like a deformation, or perhaps clarification, of war markings.

"What it meant, numbnuts, is that I knew you were ther—"

The taunt dies on her lips as she struts out from behind her hiding spot only to get a good look at her intruder. For half an instant, some unreadable expression evens out those taut cheeks, widens the hardened eyes. But it's gone. Erased. In a similarly timed instant, she appears at Peter's left, eyeing him appraisingly. "Ohhh, so it's the big damn hero. I'm flattered." She's not. "You remembered my name."

The super fast movements are one of the things he's used to seeing in this pixie sized woman. The gust of wind dislodges his hair slightly, pushing what hangs on his forehead off of it. Peter looks disappointed for a moment, eyebrows lowering with tension, and he moves back a half-step. A very slow half step for her. Each pause would seem eternal, nearly, and he's certainly pausing.

"Yeah— I remember your name. You and I used to be… friends." Friends and business associates, in a way. As he looks over the near tribal markings, he then casts a glance at the art. "You're robbing this place, aren't you?"

Too slow. Daphne's examination is only partially done, as now she darts to behind him, blocking his exit, but it won't be forever if her circle continues. She hardly seems concerned with his movements, narrowing in instead of those words. Her head snaps to the side at 'friends' like he had some physical impact. "I cared for you," she shoots back, bringing her gaze back around to him with chin raised high and defensive; her tone wavers between sneering and a kind of violent desperation. "Look where it got me, huh!"

Flinging both arms behind her, fists clenched, she avoids losing it entirely with the call for a dismissive look around the gallery. Pointedly, "Stealing lost its thrill a long time ago."

Cared for him. Peter's eyebrows lower again, this time out of pain, a grimace of heartache. Is there anyone who cared for him that he didn't fail in this… place. Wherever or whenever it happens to be. A prophecy, a warning… "I'm sorry," he says, voice deep and hoarse, whispered as he can no longer quite look at her. "I can… I can change this. What — what happened to you?"

If it hasn't happened yet, he can still fix it. If he can stop it… He won't fail her.

"Where did it get you?"

Bitter laughter fills the dark gallery, odd remix with that continuously swinging light. Peals of sarcasm, then that — swing, creak. Daphne's eyes roll right after that laughing, her posture reflecting that same feeling. Fairies are so small they can only have one emotion at a time; right now, the tiny speedster holds the same feature. And she's hateful.

"Of course you're sorry," It's equal parts believing as it is disgusted by that belief. "You're always sorry. And if I told you, you'd just find a thousand other things to go off and be sorry about." Gesturing with both hands out in the air, she then brings them to the edges of her worn cut-off jacket. Straightens it proudly, even in her dirtiness.

Then she's standing in front of Peter with all this poise of certainty. Morbid triumph. "Tell me you're not thinking about other people you have to 'save'"— quote fingers — "while you're looking at me."

Yes. That's one of his many flaws. There's always someone he needs to save. It's never just one person. Never just one thing… "Too many people are suffering here. I can… I can fix things for everyone," Peter says, looking away and possibly wanting to apologize again. It's been a hard couple of months— years— it feels like years. Even if he doesn't know for sure how long he's been trapped here. The nights all bleed together, with no shifting of time. The clocks speed up, turn back, skip ahead…

And he doesn't remember the last time he just rested.

"I'm here for a reason… I want to help you. And the others too. What— what's wrong with that?"

"That's what wrong, Peter," the speedster replies almost on top of his own words. Daphne's body relaxes, some of the edginess smoothing out of her voice, as she reaches up to pet his chest patronizingly. Isn't it cute, he doesn't know. "You can sort of help everyone, but you can't really help anyone… not that way." She angles her chin up, looking right into his eyes, full of regret like his, full of what could have been. Her feet flex longingly, shortening some of that space between their heights as she pushes up.

"You seem pretty adamant, though, so… you want to know where it got me." Backing up from him, she gives a little contented nod. Sure. She'll show him.

There's a tiny flicker of time wherein to catch the way her face morphs back into cruelty shaped by betrayal. The blur of her makes for behind him again. But now she's holding a knife — where she got it, anyone's guess — and she means to plunge it right into Peter's back.

Well, he wanted to know.

The last few encounters, Peter attempted to get away, to block such things. This time… even if he had a fraction of a second to react, he either doesn't notice, or doesn't care about the consequences. The blade digs deep into his back, piercing skin through his coat and shirt, spilling blood freely as his legs start to buckle, making him falter and fall toward the floor of the gallery.

Can't really help anyone. Can barely sort of help everyone.

There's so much he could do. But right now he just falls and bleeds, hands impacting the floor. Hair falling into his eyes as his head lowers. The wound will heal. That one. But some wounds just don't go away.

He falls and she's right there beside him, crouching down to catch every moment of emotion on his face, even though he lowers it and ruins the chance. Daphne, clutching the newly stained blade, seems hardly satisfied with these results. Instead, she zips from one side to the side, watching his languishing.

"Come on!" It's almost encouraging. Certainly insistent. "Come on, get up. What are you gonna do for anyone if you just lie there and bleed a bit? I know you're already healing." She presses close the entire time, within hand's reach; she's even close enough for some of the blood to join the stain on her bare feet.

"I'm not going to fight you," Peter says, though he does push himself to his feet, the wound healing over, the blood staining his back and fresh on the floor, but not going to flow as heavily… Unless she stabs him again. "If you want to kill me, then kill me. I won't stop you." The dreams have gone so bad, that it seems, right now… he's given up. The only way he could stop her would be to kill her to hurt her, and he can't bring himself to do that…

Not after what he's seen.

Daphne's nose wrinkles unhappily at the very sound of his first statement and, by the time he's done, she's stomped her foot down in that dried blood in the semblance of a tantrum. "No! No, come on!" She moves forward again, but only her palms find him, and she just gives a push. Perhaps it is a push beyond her usual means, but nothing that'll toss him any distance.

With that seeming to fail, she attempts several provoking, but shallow, cuts at his arms.

All to end, again, in front of him and frustrated. "You don't get to not! You said you wanted to help, you can't back down now. Punish me!"

The knife slices fine cuts up his arms, annoyances more than real damage. Peter doesn't back away, though, perhaps pulled closer by her words, her request. It makes him a bigger target, an easier mark, as he reaches out for her shoulders, to try and stop her. He doesn't even attempt to take the knife away. "Punishing you won't help you." Maybe it could, but it's not what he ever wanted to do.

"I've seen too many people I care about hurt themselves here— die in my arms… I'm not going to let you do the same…" Or let himself do that to her, either.

"If you have to punish someone, then punish me."

The knife stays clutched tightly in her hand but only sways vaguely when she shudders against his own. Daphne's eyes had already been getting wider with the effort of holding back a more vulnerable sign of emotion. Now she rears her head back with overdone bravado. "Oh yeah, well! I've hurt some of those people myself. On— on purpose! And I did it because it was fun!"

Although her small side-steps don't wrench her necessarily from Peter's grasp, she can find no comfort in his touch. She couldn't stand that still that long if she wanted to. "You're going to let me if you don't stop me, big hero." The first tear escapes, pulls free, and creates a rivet through those smears of blood on her cheeks.

"I'm going to kill more people."

"You don't have to," Peter says, keeping his hands firmly on her shoulders, keeping her close, where she can stab him with that knife if she enjoyed it so much. "You're not killing me… and you have every opportunity to. I wouldn't stop you— but you can stop yourself." Maybe he can help someone. Maybe it's not too late.

Stepping closer, his hands move from her shoulders to go around her small body, pulling her against his chest as he closes his eyes. It's almost as if he's trying to shelter her, rather than punish her. Stop her by holding her. It may not work, but it seems to be the path he's going to try.

"I can't hurt you— even if it would mean stopping you from hurting someone else." He cares about her too much…

Since she's already been called out on it, Daphne's trembling fingers eventually loosen, peeling off the handle of the knife like they've been molded there and each move is painful. Eventually, it clatters to the floor between them before there is no space and she's locked into the enveloping wrap of his arms, the press of his shirt, the tear she created there just moments before.

"I hate you, I hate you!" She insists, with less conviction than might be suggested by her tone — not just because it's muffled in his shirt — but because her only retaliation is to pummel at him with her small clenched fists. Speed-aided she could do much more, but she seems settled on hammering at him in her own version of slow-motion. "I've become just like them, all the bad people I knew were out there. It's me now!"

Her hardest hit, she actually meant something with this one, it's perhaps the smallest bit aided, the smallest bit trying to force him away. "Because you left." The hardest truth.

All his fault. Because he left. Peter lets his arms drop away, a few steps back help him brace against the impact. It hurts, but it hurts more that… she's not wrong. "I didn't mean to leave." But it's no excuse. He can't change that it happened, but… "But I will come back…" Maybe, wherever she is, it's not too late. This a dream. He's here for a reason. Maybe he can keep this from happening. "I'm coming back," he repeats, before he starts to back away further to lean on the wall.

It may take him a long time. He's not sure how to end this dream he's trapped in… But he'll find a way to go back to her. And he'll try to fix it.

"It's not too late." Not outside. He closes his eyes, wishing himself somewhere else. Somewhere without a girl who hates him, and wanted him to hurt her.

With Peter's eyes closed, Daphne is only a sum of the noises her movements make. The hint of her bare feet padding against the floor. It's serenely quiet for a while. Then, the clang of metal dragging up and off the floor. The approaching of tiny footsteps. The sensation that someone is there next to him. A whisper of her hair against his cheek.

"That's exactly what it is."

The sensation of her lips against his could be a dream in a dream, how light it is. Then a harsh breeze and everything is gone. Rattling on their easels, each of the paintings tumble to the floor in loud, angry clatter.

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