2008-02-22: Signal and Noise


Kory_icon.gif Randall_icon.gif

Summary: Kory has tried to shake the effects of the drugs she's been fed, and reaches out to a dreaming Randall.

Date It Happened: February 22, 2008

Signal and Noise

The Dreamscape

(Soundtrack: "Rachel's Song", 0:42)

It's the calm before the storm. No, 'calm' is the wrong word for Randall's mental state; he's not calm at all, just worn out and resigned to the idea that he's done all he can for now, and needs to be ready for whatever goes down the next day. Blanket pulled up over his face to block out the floor lamp he didn't bother to turn off, laptop tuned to the usual New Age streaming station, he finally manages to drift into the realm of the unconscious.

Something hasn't been right all week. Leslie's been kind. He's been solicitous and sweet. And he's made sure she wants for nothing. It's been rather like the early part of the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast; except Leslie's trying to prove to her that he's already the prince.

She finds herself weak and dreamy more often than not in the hotel room. She started refusing the pomagranate tea on Wednesday, suspicion finally germinating into bloom when he reacted poorly to that revelation. But she has to eat, and she suspects now whatever he's doing to keep her pliant and suggestible is in what she's been eating. But her ability is still with her, and since Leslie comes and goes a lot and the hotel staff haven't been forcing her to eat, she's been tossing the food. She's hungry and she's weak, but she has to know. Is what he's told her about Randall the truth? It can't be. It can't.

So she reaches for him. And it's a thin, tenuous thread. When she finds his mind, she's nearly spent. So when she makes it onto the scape of Randall's dreaming mind, she's a ghost - wispy and transparent.

Randall is paper-thin himself, though for a different reason. He's envisioning a projection map of the Earth's surface, only spread out into a sun-girdling halo, Australia drowned out completely by the glare and Hawaii merely an anomalous bright speck within an overarching Pacific. He himself is a hovering solar panel, collecting energy while providing artificial cover of night—

—but wait, this is all for a reason, however seemingly hopeless, and now that reason has come into view after all. That silhouette alone is unmistakably burned into his memories. He drifts downward, closer, struggling to resolve himself back into a recognizably human shape.

Ordinarily, Kory would help. She'd remind him of the very human sensations of her fingers laced in his; the warmth of their lips touching. The gentle caress of her fingers through his hair, or her warm back against his chest. But she has no substance for that. Not now. All she can do is call for him, in a voice that's a whisper the wind might pull away. "…dall…? Ple…e you can…" Her eyes lack the usual brown. They're just milky white, as if she's got full sclera contacts in. Is she blind? No, but that's just another sign of how weak she is.

I've been looking for you, he mouths silently, gesturing toward the projected landscape beneath. Can Kory read lips? Even if she can, they're still badly distorted. As if recognizing this, he stretches one arm longer and longer, abandoning any pretense of normality in favor of the simple task of closing the gap between them.

"…at?" Kory might be able to read lips under better circumstances, but not now, not while the lion's share of her concentration is all she can do to be here at all. That long arm stretching to reach her finally does, and she seems to solidify just a bit. Still a ghost, still mostly translucent, not quite substantial, but not as blurred. "Oh…" she closes her eyes appreciatively. "…ew it was…rue…" She still sounds like a poorly tuned analog signal, though slightly better.

Randall is still plummeting toward the ground, heading for the surface of a pond given over to lily pads, clutching tightly at Kory's hand so as not to lose hold of her. "What was?" he asks, but then shakes his head: better to talk than to listen, now. "I've been so worried! When Lee—" A silver throwing dagger materializes in his other hand, tracing a line of red neon across his palm.

Kory gasps, drawn by Randall's strength, and leaving a trail of sparkling motes of iridescent color behind her as they dive. But the longer he's in contact, the more solidly she resolves. "…eslie. Said you'd step…ide…" She shakes her head, smiling weakly. "..ut…didn…you didn't." Silvery-blue sparkles down her cheek. Tears. "…hat…Lee?" but the question is forgotten as he slices his own palm open. "…Randall?"

Far less accustomed to communicating in this way, Randall's response is less coherent than it would be if he were awake and on the phone or something. "Hurt. Trying for me! But hurt." He lifts the knife, frowning at it— then, suddenly, it's hurling off into the distance, turning end over end as it whips through the air. Something is noticeably off about it; it's gone to sepia tone, sticking out like a sore thumb against the faint greens and blues that dominate the dreamscape. With a thud, it strikes a distant target, giving off a metallic stench and a spreading cloud of red-brown.

Kory frowns, not understanding him. She watches, face scrunched, brow knit in concentration. And then he throws the knife. She tugs at his hand, alarmed. Afraid. "…o! Say it's no…" Even though his presence, his touch, is helping her keep solid, seeing him this way is pinging off the suggestions that have been played under cover of Yanni, John Tesh, and Kenny G into her subconscious. "Why…?" she asks plaintively, the silver-blue tears streaming down her ghostly face again.

In his confusion, Randall was actually reaching out in hopes of taking the knife back before it got away from him… but the appearance is much the same. Luck is favoring Leslie's cunning plan, for the moment. "Dammit!" he cries out, and instead draws his hand down to break the still surface of the pond. As it settles back into place, a new image appears: Lee, not up and about as he was the day before, but with his face cartoonishly smoke-blackened as Randall imagines he might have looked right after the building blew up.

Kory blinks, uncomprehendingly, as Randall's face contorts in frustration. He wasn't throwing the knife? She watches his hand lead her gaze down to the water, and the reflection. "Oh!" Lee…it's a second or two of her continuing to look utterly bewildered before his words and the picture of Lee begin to fall together like Tetris pieces in her taxed condition. "Oh!" she repeats. "…lie trying…urt you…nd got…Lee?" She flutters her eyelids. It's taking a lot out of her, even saying these ilttle sentences. She draws closer to Randall, clinging to him, hugging his arm with both of hers.

Randall smiles, starting to nod to Kory. No, he's not happy that Lee got hurt, he's happy that she gets what his thoughts are trying to get at. Only… at that moment, Lee's face suddenly freezes, and the light goes out of his eyes just before he topples forward. The figurative camera pans downward to follow him, zooming in on that same silvery (now rusty and blood-spattered knife) sticking into the small of his back.

Kory gives him a faint smile back, glad and grateful she understood. She looks with alarm to the sudden death of the Lee-reflection, before turning that same alarmed, confused gaze to Randall. She's shaking her head 'no' at him. Her friend, dead? Dying? She begins to fade into transparency again, distress causing interference with her already thready concentration.

Randall reacts so vigorously - no, Lee is not dead, and no, Randall did not kill him - that his head spins around and around, like a nut-and-bolt connection flying apart. As his head floats up toward the sun, his body crashes into the shoreline, evaporating into a thick yellow spray, just before the entire dreamscape abruptly vanishes.

Back in the real world, Randall groans and pulls his knee back away from the coffee table, too caught up in the pain of impact to think about anything else until it subsides.

Kory blinks, and before she can try to ask him anything, he flies apart on her. She screams, loudly, but nothing Randall will hear, as he's been yanked violently out of the dreamstate. But she doesn't know what did it. For all she knows, Leslie could've done it. "No…" she rasps, and falls apart into a series of sparkling motes as her concentration is completely shattered. Even if Randall gets back to sleep, she's got nothing more to reach with. She comes back to herself to find her pillow wet with tears. She couldn't tell him where she is even if she knew.

And he does eventually pass out again - an hour later, after a pain pill and a bowl of cereal - but this time, the target of all his affections and fears is nowhere to be found. The surface of the dreamworld stretches out even further than before, impossibly vast; he's barely able to explore as far as the closest patch of fjords by the time morning arrives.

She did everything she could, he says to himself, dragging himself up to a sitting position. Now it's your turn.

Kory looks up, tears still streaming silently down her face as Leslie's chaffeur tells her he'll be bringing her to meet the young master. She is too weak to even put up a fight. The driver tucks her into a wheelchair, and blindfolds her with a soft silk cloth before putting her in a warm coat and taking her down to the garage.

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