|nishka//loki (nishka) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-02-01 09:40:00
|Entry tags:||hades, loki|
Sleep With One Eye Open
Who: Nish and Obed
What: The dream world is strange and terrifying, and sometimes it’s almost real.
Where: Where, indeed.
When: Early January
Nish loved and hated sleep. She loved the warm comfortableness of her bed and her duvet and soft pajamas, but hated the actual sleep part. If she was perfectly honest, most of her dreams were normal innocuous things, running through her daily routine, acting out silly fantasies, the normal things people dreamed about. But every once in a while, she was blindsided by a nightmare so vivid that she woke up screaming.
Tonight was such a night.
It started out fine, her mind rehashing the case she was currently working on, sitting at work researching precedents and puzzling out a defence. At one point she got up to get a book from the other room, but as soon as she crossed the threshold into the main office, it had dropped away, and she was back in the cave.
It was almost always the same. She was in a dark, damp tunnel. Her sixth sense was the only thing that told her how big it was, how rocky and harsh, because she could barely see. An immediate sense of dread and panic seemed to crush the air from her lungs and she hugged herself against the damp chill air. She could feel she was wearing nothing but a thin shift, bare feet scraping against the rocky floor. She could barely see her hand in front of her face, but as with the other dreams like it, she instinctively knew she had to move forward.
Her hand reached out to the rocky wall next to her, steadying herself as she picked her way through the dark, stubbing toes and scraping shins on unseen rocks on the way. It was always the same, every scrape, every bruise, in a way where she knew it was coming, but was unable to stop it.
Soon the darkness gave way to a thin watery light, and the tunnel she was in opened into a cavern. It was dim, but compared to the earlier complete darkness it was blinding. She shielded her eyes against it at first, and that was when she noticed the broken shackles on her wrists, became aware of the feel of them around her ankles. Only they weren’t made of metal, but something...else. Something that made her stomach turn. They weren’t attached to anything, but they weighed her down just the same. She wanted to get them off, but knew from previous dreams that her attempts would be useless. Just as she knew that she had to keep going, into that dim light, to the center of the room.
There was a stone slab there, and tied to it was a man writhing in pain. She didn’t recognize his face, but she knew him, as well as she knew herself. She knew that what he’d done to get where his is was no worse than what she herself had done. And she knew they both deserved what they got. She stifled a sob and hugged herself, sliding down the wall behind her to curl into herself, the jagged rocks stabbing her back as she hugged her knees to her chest. Your fate... her mind repeated, over and over, while the man on the slab roared in pain.
The cries echoed off the walls of the cave, reverberating back to the woman bearing witness. But in one corner of the room, the sounds of agony were muted, muffled, perhaps, by the black shape that stood there. Too tall, too thin, the shape was more a void than a presence: a thing that should not be, in a place that it did not belong. It moved closer, and from within it, two sharp blue eyes peered out.
The dream turned as the shape approached. As the man on the stone writhed in anguish, the soft droplets that fell to his skin seemed to fall, too, on the woman observing. Their pain was shared, as was their fate, and the pain only grew as the dark shape drew near.
What is this to do with you? the shape asked. It looked at the woman, the man, and back again. Its posture suggested it already knew the answer, and yet it asked again. What is this to do with you?
There was something else there. Something new. Her skin felt it like an icy cold draught coming from the other side of the room. Her eyes tried to focus on its source, but all she saw was blackness like a thick smoke, felt the roaring rush of a cold wind. Normally, in the waking world, she reveled in the cold, but here in the dreamworld, it caused her skin to prickle and her bones to ache.
A hiss above her was her only warning. As she jerked her head up to the sound, the venom of the enormous serpent splashed onto her face. She screamed, trying to brush it away from her eyes, feeling her skin begin to bubble and burn under her hands, the pain nearly blinding her. Dimly, she could hear the man in the center of the room screaming too, and knew it was from the same source. All the while the voice demanded answers, as she felt her skin begin to repair itself, anticipating the next drop.
“This isn’t the way it happens,” she sobbed, but she knew even as the words left her lips, that she was wrong. The dream had changed, but the memory, if she could call it that, was only more real. The guilt stabbed at her, but even in the face of it, she didn’t own it. “I didn’t do it! It wasn’t me, it was him!” She meant the man on the slab, but when she tried to point at him, her hand, of its own accord, turned around and jabbed her accusing finger into her own chest.
Yes, the shape said. It was. A dark head canted, blue eyes turning as they watched the woman. They were crinkled at the edges, almost as if their owner was smiling. There are things worse than death, aren't there? I know better than most.
A hand stretched out to her, pale and slim. The cuticles were faintly blue. Behind the shadowed figure two monstrous doors opened, exposing two black paths that wound away from one another, out into the void beyond. Choose, and come with me.
She could see it now, the thing in the darkness. Tall, willowy, with haunting blue eyes, like shards of ice. She wanted to argue, to defend herself as she defended so many other horrible people. To tell him what doctors and psychologists and friends and family had all told her countless times - that she hadn’t killed her sister, it had been a suicide - but the words wouldn’t come. Her greatest asset, her voice, had abandoned her, and she knew why; in her mind, her words would have been a lie.
She startled to her feet as the room began to tremble around her and the walls seemed to cave in, throwing her arms up to protect her head against falling stones, until the rumbling stopped and she opened her eyes again. There were two doors now, on either side of the creature. Both of them called to her, and both of them filled her with dread.
Choose. But she didn’t know what she was choosing. One of the first things she told clients was to never sign or agree to anything unless you know exactly what it was you were agreeing to. She hugged herself tightly, struggling to find her voice again, and it finally came, sounding thin and terrified. “What will I be choosing?” In court, it would have been a demand. Here, it was a plea.
A way out.
His hand remained extended, unwavering where it rested before her. With his other he pushed back the veil of shadows that surrounded him. His face was pale and sharp, vulpine, with the pallor of death. There was no cruelty in his gaze, only cold resignation, a kind of certainty few ever showed and fewer still felt. The doors remained open at his back, each a mirror of the other, empty and waiting.
Choose, or remain here, he said. He tipped his head toward the man still lying on the stone, and to the serpent coiling above him. But I advise against inaction.
Her heart was pounding against her chest as she glanced between the two identical doors. Two dark voids. Two choices with nothing to weigh them against. ’It’s not a fair choice,’ she wanted to say, but she knew the figure in front of her would not be swayed. She swallowed thickly, feeling the enormity of this choice as frantic fluttering in her stomach, but no help or answers were forthcoming.
Slowly, as if to delay the inevitable, she walked forward, towards the darkness in front of her, and the sharp eyes at its center, delaying the inevitable. At the last possible second, she let instinct take over and veered to the left, squeezing her eyes shut and stepping through the void into whatever awaited her, the last cry of the man on the table being swallowed up by the void behind her.
And then there was no door. There was only a field, fog-grey and dotted with white flowers. There was a treeline in the distance, so far and so thick it looked more like an impenetrable wall. Beside her stood a man, black-clad and blond-haired, his hands folded neatly at the small of his back. The same blue eyes as before stared out at her, frigid and unblinking, but the face in which they were set looked more human than before. More human, but not fully. Not quite.
He said nothing at first, only walked, and as he moved a trail of bone-white flowers sprang up in his wake. Before him, what seemed a great distance away, was a second stone table. Beside it sat a man, silent as he stared at the venom-pitted stone before him. As her guide walked, the distance grew less and less, until at last the man's face and his small, pained movements, could be seen. He was touching the table with a sort of reverence, a kind of awe in the motions of his hands. He seemed to be searching for someone, but his face showed clear mourning; it was plain he did not expect to find who he sought.
Her mind didn’t seem to register the strangeness of the new setting, simply accepting what was. She noticed the man beside her first and turned towards him, about to ask him where they were. That was when she saw the eyes and knew. He was the shadow. Again, her mind simply accepted, though unlike most dreams, where faces were hazy and hard to recognize, his face was clear. Human, but not human, and distinctive rather than the regular featureless dream faces.
With a deep breath she tore her eyes away, towards the horizon. The trees, grass, flowers. They were beautiful after the cave, but melancholy. Gray. If the cave represented terror, this field represented despair.
The man began to walk, and as if on an invisible tether, her feet followed. She became aware of herself, that she was no longer dressed in rags, but in gray pants and a simple gray top, as featureless as the rest of this place. Her feet were still bare, but the grisly shackles were gone.
She could see now that they were walking towards something...someone. He stood in front of a stone slab like the one in the cave, but empty, and examined it carefully. Nish glanced at the man beside her, and then peered closer at the man in front of her. A strange sensation of familiarity began to fill her more and more as they drew closer; a mixture of fear and excitement in equal measure. That outline, those clothes, that posture, were all familiar to her, and her heart began to beat faster with a different sort of fear from the cave. She rushed forward, her body now feeling oddly light, unbound, and stopped when she stood just behind the figure at the table. He didn’t notice her, but she approached more cautiously, closing the distance until she was an arms-length away. And that’s when she smelled the cologne, and her breath was ripped from her lungs.
He didn’t turn, didn’t make any indication that he could hear or see her, but she knew it was him. Cautiously, she reached out to touch his shoulder. Her hand passed through him, a chill filling the air where his body should have been.
This is a future, her host said. If you want it. If you are strong enough to claim it. But the thing in the cave holds you back.
She looked down at her hands in confusion when she passed right through him, shivering from the sudden chill. And then, in that moment she knew that she did want it. Want him. But she was being held back by...something. The cave. The snake. The punishment.
”I didn’t save her.” she murmured, turning back to the James’ apparition only to watch it dissipate into vapor. She swallowed thickly, tears tightening her throat. ”I was jealous. I wanted her to suffer. But I didn’t want her to die.” She was her sister, and she’d loved her, no matter how much she hated her.
Are you certain of that?
With James' disappearance the field began to constrict around her. Her guide was gone, replaced by high walls of black loam. The pit rose above her, darkness dotted with the torn remnants of asphodel flowers. The walls drew nearer and nearer, until soil and petals and something quietly pulsing and horribly alive brushed close against her arms. They rose until only a pinprick of sky could be seen far above. She was alone, but only for a moment.
And then a familiar scent permeated the narrow space; the sign of someone she knew. Thin fingers shaped by soil wrapped low around her ankles, and pulled, sharp and quick.
She gasped, catching the man’s eyes with hers just as the earth rose around her, swallowing her whole. Panic seized her heart, pushing the air from her lungs as the claustrophobia took over, fingernails scrabbling uselessly at the walls closing in on her. ”No,” she choked out, turning around in circles, frantically searching for a way out. ”No, no, no, no, no…” Her other hands tangled in the bedsheets, white-knuckled and trembling.
The scent hit her like a punch in the gut. Cologne and tobacco and old leather. A scent that used to excite her, but now turned her insides to ice. He was here, and she was alone, a trapped and cornered animal awaiting execution. Fingers grabbed at her ankles from the dark and she jerked away, only to find there was nowhere to go. ”No, no please-” she cried, but more hands grabbed savagely at her from behind: her legs, her hips, her breasts, her face, and finally closing around her mouth and nose, muffling her screams, burying her alive.
Her eyes snapped open, lungs gasping desperately for air, ears ringing from the screams she was sure had been real. Her arms frantically tore at the sheets now twisted around her legs so she could bolt out of bed, only to fall back down on trembling limbs to sit on the edge. She rubbed her face with shaking hands, willing her mind to banish the nightmare, but it only became more real the longer she was awake. Before she knew it she was sobbing, folding into herself and doing all she could to convince herself that it wasn’t real.
After a few moments she sat up, taking in gulps of air, wiping the tears and damp hair from her face and reaching over to turn on her bedside lamp, flooding the room with light. She stood on still shaking legs and padded over to the window, pushing it open so the comfortingly cool night air could chill her skin. ”Just a dream,” she repeated like a mantra, hugging herself and watching the moon, ”just a dream.”