|Gabriel Bautista (xochipilli) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-07-10 09:18:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, xochipilli|
across my dreams with nets of wonder
Who: Gabe & Rafe.
What: Gabe has a much-overdue reaction to the spa. Plus all the other weird shit going on in Pax.
Where: Gabe's apartment, 805.
When: Immediately following this.
Gabe had never been an impatient sort. He was well used to others taking their time, either to come round to an idea or a feeling; he was most certainly impulsive, jumping into an event without a second thought.
But he now found himself waiting most impatiently for Rafe's arrival, needing a second pair of eyes (human eyes, anyway; Spot's were working just fine, and his barking seemed to underline that what Gabe was seeing was indeed real) so that he could confirm that he was not indeed losing his mind. Because everywhere he moved in his apartment (right now, the living room, with its beige couch and entertainment center, the latter currently shuttered) was covered in blue butterflies.
At first, he'd been afraid to move, unsure of crushing the delicate looking insects. He'd eventually found the courage to reach out and brush one; the fact that his finger made contact with a paper-thin wing only made him start, jumping back and sending another cloud of butterflies fluttering away from his person. All of this was the second thing to have happen since the beginning of the month; his apartment had suddenly taken on a strange odor he hadn't been able to either relieve or find the source of. Added to that, food in his kitchen was continuously pulled out of the cupboards and ripped to shreds on either the counter or the floor; these particular cupboards were too tall for Spot to reach, though Gabe hadn't been entirely convinced the elderly pooch hadn't sought something outside of his usual kibble.
Except, of course, for when Gabe came back one evening from walking his dog only to have Spot growl incessantly at the door. Gabe could have sworn he heard a screeching sound not unlike a bird from within, and once he'd managed to calm Spot sufficiently that he could open the door, a package of rice had had its contents spread almost all over the kitchen.
Gabe closed his eyes and took a deep breath; when he opened them, all along his arms and his shoulders were dotted with the Morpho insects. He quickly patted at his arms, glancing again at his front door and wondering, not for the first time, if waiting in the hallway was permissible in a situation like this.
But Rafael did not keep him waiting overlong. A knock soon sounded at the door, rough and rapid enough to betray the concern its maker obviously felt. Gabriel's insistence that all was well had not entirely comforted Rafe; he had rushed out of Alice's apartment, and even now was still tugging downward at one corner of the shirt he had hastily pulled on. If nothing else, he thought, his near breathless rush to reach Gabriel's door might bring color to his shadowed cheeks and mitigate the dark smudges beneath his eyes. This visit was for discussing Gabriel and what help he required, not to make any mission of the strange visions—or visitors—troubling Rafael of late.
"Gabe? Gabe, are you home?"
Thank God, Gabe both thought and said, rushing forward from being in the middle of slapping away more butterflies and heading straight for the door. The fact that he'd asked Rafe of all people instead of one of the other friends he'd made here in the building, or even his own significant other (surely Eshan could have dropped whatever he was doing to come to Gabe's aid) did not completely settle in his mind. Instead, he was focused solely on opening the door to find Rafe's comforting presence on the other side.
"Yeah, one sec," he called out, as though to keep up the pretense of calmness he'd attempted (and badly) to exude via the scattered text messages he'd shot in Rafe's direction. Then he put his hand to the knob, turned it, took in a breath and opened the door. Butterflies scattered from the brief intake of air presented by the door's gentle swing, though several came to rest on its outline regardless. Gabe glanced up at them, presenting a nervous front he did not show often, before glancing back at Rafe.
"Do you... you see them too, right?"
Rafael blinked, thick, dark lashes fluttering much like the insects that filled the room. His lips parted, but at first only a quiet sigh came out. Then he stepped into the apartment and stared wide-eyed at his unexpectedly colorful surroundings.
"Butterflies?" He swallowed hard, looking back to Gabe with as much hope and fear as his friend's expression betrayed. He had hoped for Gabe to never learn of his relapse into drug use, and the thought of this being how his friend found out was remarkably unappealing. "Blue butterflies," he repeated, pressing fingertips to one temple. "Like the one you got in April. Right?"
Gabe's head bobbed, stepping back to allow Rafe to enter the space and then closed the door behind him. He was overly stressed himself, and less than observant than he should have been about his friend's condition; instead, he stepped from side to side, latent, unfocused energy coursing through him as he was both relieved and incensed anew by Rafe's confirmation that the butterflies were indeed real.
"Yeah, and in... Uh..." He paused, making sure the door was firmly closed and that the butterflies had not gotten caught in the door jam. He licked his lips, looking back at his friend. "Like in the dreams, too? You know, the, uh. You know what I'm talking about." He stepped gingerly across the floor, though the butterflies both cleared a path for his movements and followed him. One landed on his shoulder and he brushed it off. "Is this... You think this is like before? When the floors changed?" He found he needed more than a comforting presence, but at the very least, where explanations were not to be found, Rafe being there made Gabe feel that much more grounded.
"I… don't think so." Rafe followed closed behind him, walking even more delicately than his host. The butterflies moved before he walked, as well, though they seemed more motivated by self preservation than any connection to Rafael himself. It was enough for him. After a few steps he felt comfortable enough to return his gaze to Gabriel. He reached out and placed a hand softly on his shoulder; Gabe's hand seemed to move of its own volition, rising up to settle a palm on Rafe's appendage, securing it. "They aren't anywhere else. The other changes… they were across the floors. Everyone experienced them. I think… you're the only one with the butterflies."
He swallowed hard. Impossible though the situation was, it could not be denied. "Have you… had any more dreams?" Rafe felt a pang of jealousy at the thought of more dreams that did not involve him; he stifled this quickly, forging ahead. "Have you seen Xochipilli again?"
Gabe shook his head, even as he wracked his mind for any traces of a memory that were not immediately apparent. His hand squeezed fingers around Rafe's, glad for the anchor in the sea of drifting, blue wings. His gaze went unfocused, and then moved to Rafe's overly familiar face once more, and he shook his head again.
"No, just... Just the dreams. Nothing -- well, this isn't the only weird thing that happened, but I figured that maybe something died in one of the walls, and that Spot was stealing food out of the cabinets, even though they're too damn high for him to reach..." He swallowed, visibly shaken. He glanced away from Rafe to the butterflies on the floor, on the furniture, on the bar between the kitchen and his living room. He very much wanted them to go away, so he could have his private space back, but he had no idea how to make that happen. He didn't even know how they'd gotten in; all of his windows were closed, and besides that, even if they were, there were screens designed to keep insects out. And beyond that, he was on the eighth goddamn floor!
And... and were these types of butterflies even native to this area of the world?
His trepidation melted a bit as he latched onto facts and figures, trying to puzzle his way through the scenario.
"Have you?" Gabe looked back at Rafe, pulling the man's hand off of his shoulder to lace fingers together like a Chinese finger trap, holding tight. "More dreams, or anything? I... Goddamn but I'm not sure this kind of stress is worth the lease."
Rafael had to laugh. He nodded and squeezed Gabriel's hand, trying to comfort him in what little ways he could, even as he felt the same sense of being slowly overwhelmed. "I agree," he said. "And I… I haven't had dreams in a while, but there are things…" His thumb stroked softly over Gabe's hand. He swallowed hard, and searched for words that would explain his situation without calling his sobriety into question. "I've been having nightmares, I think. Children with… old faces. They're in the halls in Alice's place. They'll… run at you. Screaming." He shook his head. "I know how that sounds, but I swear I'm telling the truth."
He paused for a long, slow breath. His eyes did not leave Gabriel's face, though their eye contact was sporadically broken by the flight paths of countless butterflies. "I thought about moving out," he said. "If you… if you wanted to leave, Nish might help you break your lease, too."
Gabe's fingers tightened their grip, unwilling to release Rafe. His shoulders rolled a bit, displaying his discomfort.
"No, I... I was just saying," he replied, waving away his earlier remark. He glanced at Rafe with no small amount of concern. "You were going to move out? After..." His free hand rose, making a circle in the air to imply what didn't need to be said. The man who'd allegedly committed suicide in Rafe's apartment. "You changed your mind? Are you going back...?" Concern for his former beau turned Gabe's focus away from the butterflies and other strange goings-on, centering him. He had no idea what was living on the fourth floor, which was just as empty as his own floor, but if there was something he could do, he would.
"No," Rafe cut in. "No. I, um." A faint blush dusted Rafael's cheeks. "With everything that's happened, they agreed to transfer my lease to another apartment. At the end of the month I'll be moving into eight-oh-two. Across the hall." His teeth worried at the tip of his tongue, as though he might bite back the words. They came anyway. "Is that all right?"
He shook his head, cutting himself off. "I'm sorry," he said. "I came here to help you, not talk about myself. What… um. Would you like to try to open the windows? Maybe let the butterflies out? Then we can see about taking care of the smell…"
Gabe moved toward Rafe, forever pulled in his orbit; a hand went to Rafe's empty shoulder, fingers still entwined in their handhold. Butterflies dashed, as quickly as they were able, out of the way, a spray of blue moving between the two men.
"Of course it's fine, Rafael! I don't... I mean, I don't own this floor! And I told you already, I'd be more than happy for you to be on the same floor as me. Now when I have a draft or a plot problem, I just have to go across the hall." He squeezed Rafe's shoulder, their close proximity more than apparent. Gabe let his teeth draw over his lower lip, spreading flesh, and let his hand drop away; he did not, however, release the grip he had on Rafe's other hand. Rafe was grateful for that continued touch, and he showed it with a slight squeeze of the other man's fingers.
"And if more of this happens," he continued, waving at the butterflies, "I'll feel better that I'm not alone on this floor. If you need help moving anything, let me know, OK?" He fell silent, looking over the sea of waving blue wings, his grin shrinking into a frown. "And yeah, we can try the windows. They were never open, at least, not without the screens, so unless someone stashed caterpillars in my unit, I still don't..." He'd begun muttering to himself, his words trailing off as he started toward the described section of his abode. The wide, clear windows offered a beautiful view of Newport Beach, the horizon in the distance as blue as the insects crowding Gabe's apartment.
Hesitantly removing his hold of Rafe's hand, Gabe began to work at opening one of the windows; it was a simple lock and slide, pushed up. Then he popped out the screen, a slight breeze wafting in through the opening. Glancing back at the butterflies, and then Rafe, his brows drew together. "I wish I had a fan; you know, some 'encouragement'? Do you think sweeping them would be a good idea?" His ideas were presented with no small amount of trepidation, clearly still doing whatever was possible to avoid hurting the delicate beasts.
"Sweeping?" Rafael echoed. "No. We might damage their wings. But…" He turned in place, observing the apartment, searching for anything that would serve as a makeshift fan. He settled on an oversized art book resting nearby. "Let's try this first." He began waving the book toward the window. A few butterflies rose and began drifting toward the window; more seemed to look for Gabriel, settling on him instead. Rafael tried again, and a small group of the insects at last seemed to take the hint. But it was precious little progress, and they had multiple rooms to deal with.
"They like you," Rafe said, smiling softly. "Grab a book. Maybe they'll listen to you better than me."
Laughing a little and shaking his head, he moved between the blue sea of wings and grabbed another coffee table book, this one about monsters in movies. It was weighty, but he handled it with care as he wafted azure insects toward the window. After a beat, they seemed to comprehend what he wanted -- the streamed out into the open air. Gabe didn't watch to see where they'd land, or what they would do; as long as they were out of his apartment, he was glad. As he worked, he looked back at Rafe again.
"Has Alice said anything about the... the, uh, things you've seen on the fourth floor?"
"Only a little," Rafael admitted. He waved the book again, and a swarm of butterflies hastened toward their exit. "We've both just thought they were nightmares. We've shared dreams before, you know? Why not nightmares, too?" He blew at a butterfly that rested on the book's spine, riding each movement of the tome as though it was enjoying itself. At last it departed along with its kin. "After this, though… maybe those things really are there."
He looked over to his friend. "Do you think the other floors are having… similar issues?"
Silent for a moment, Gabe focused on brushing five more butterflies out the open window; then he shrugged, glancing at Rafe.
"Not sure, to be honest," he said, the book going to rest against his knees as his arms fell. "I've been trying to focus on work, and less on... you know, all the weirdness going on. I think the last time I really saw anyone was at the pool party last month.
"Have you heard anything? From other people?" He lifted the book again, wafting more butterflies toward their exit.
Rafe shook his head. "Not personally," he admitted. "I've seen a few posts on the forum about strange things happening. I haven't asked, but…" He directed a few more butterflies out the window. He drew nearer to it, leaning down to watch the steady stream of beating azure wings. Like a wisp of glimmering smoke they rode the wind out toward the beach. "It's mostly been things going missing, or bad smells. Thomas saw snakes on his floor, I think."
Gabe's eyes went a little rounder, and he brushed what looked like the last of the butterflies -- in that room, anyway -- out the open maw of the window. He stood for a moment, staring at the opening, before turning about the room. He set the book down, and started to move about the furniture, looking for any stray blue insects.
"I... Wow. I mean, beyond the smell, and the food going missing... No one's said anything about their apartments being full of bugs?" A half-hearted grin slid over his face, but it was extinguished nearly as soon as it was born. Gabe toyed with his bottom lip using his incisors, but his was at once reassured when he saw no more butterflies in his living room. "They were in my office, too... Pretty much wherever I was." He moved to close the living room window, the frame producing a quiet hush sound of expending air. Turning back to Rafe, the smile was back, albeit smaller and softer this time.
"You don't have to stay and make sure they're all gone... I just... Thanks for coming by and making sure I wasn't going crazy. I wasn't sure who else I could call."
Rafael smiled. "I'm glad I could help." He returned the outsized book from whence it had come. "I'll let you know if I see anyone talking about bugs," he said. "Or if Alice and I get some kind of infestation. Honestly, I'd take your butterflies over the things in her apartment." He shrugged. "But who knows. Maybe we should put in a request for exterminator services. It can't hurt, right?" It would like as not accomplish nothing at all, Rafe knew, but at least it might make them feel they had done something. "I can stick around for a while if you'd like. I don't really have any plans…"
At that moment a faint scratching emanated from the kitchen: a sound like claws on wood and a cereal box overturned. Rafael's brows knit. "Do you hear that?" he asked. "Is Spot in the kitchen?"
Gabe shook his head, glancing around for the dog and finding him in his much-loved spot on his dog bed, in the corner of the living room. He'd been all but buried under a smattering of butterflies, and now that he was free, he was backed against the wall, growling low, ears tucked against his head. Another crash sounded from the kitchen, and Gabe moved to put himself between Rafe and whatever it was.
"Knew I should've bought some mace," he muttered, moving toward a nearby drawer and pulling out the first weighty object to come to hand -- a long-handled flashlight for potential power outages. It was far more heavy duty than necessary, and worn, signs of long ownership. "Just stay behind me, OK?" He glanced at Rafe and did not wait for a reply, instead heading toward the kitchen. The sounds continued, growing in number, and Gabe could have sworn he heard a faint caw along with talons scrabbling on countertops. Pausing for a moment behind the kitchen door, he nudged it open with one foot to see... a winged woman sitting on the kitchen island, a cereal box clutched between hands that sprouted feathery wings from each arm, tearing it open with a beak instead of a mouth.
Gabe stood in the doorway, flabbergasted. The door swung fully open, exposing and revealing him, catching the winged woman's attention. It dropped the cereal box, frosted flakes crashing and spreading all over the floor. With several flaps, she managed to haul herself into the air and headed directly for the man who'd disturbed her feeding.
Rafael, who had been peering over Gabe's shoulder as they'd advanced upon the kitchen, swore under his breath. He stayed behind Gabriel, just as he had been told, but it could be said he obeyed the letter of the law rather than its spirit. In one swift motion he grabbed Gabe's arm and a fist full of his shirt, jerking him out of the doorway and the beast's flight path; it soared through the kitchen door and up toward the tall ceilings of Gabe's apartment. They tumbled to the ground in a heap of tangled limbs. The heavy flashlight struck Rafe's forearm, and a second curse—so rare, he thought, before he had moved to this place—broke free of him.
He dragged them both to their feet before the bird woman's next pass. Rafe grabbed the first makeshift weapon within reach: the book again, the same one he had used to gingerly coax butterflies outdoors. He had neither the time nor the situational awareness to reconsider this weapon. He only raised it aloft, ready to take a swipe the next time she came within arm's length.
"Gabe," he said, "am I hallucinating now?"
Gabe shook his head, changing the flashlight from one hand to the other as he inspected Rafe's face while keeping a close eye on the winged woman now fluttering about the ceiling of his apartment. Now that it wasn't obstructed by wings or a cereal box, it was clear the woman was nude; her feet were eagle-esque, with long, wicked looking talons curving away from each toe.
"No, that's...." The creature dived, bringing its taloned feet to bear. Gabe swung the flashlight, metal clanging against claws as he hit the harpy and forced it to withdraw. Panting, he stepped closer to Rafe, clearly protective. "That's very fucking real. Are you OK? Are you bleeding?" Glancing at the winged woman once more, he turned away from it fully as it dived to the floor beyond the couch, bringing a hand to Rafe's face so he could see if he'd done more damage than expected. As his back was turned, the winged woman suddenly launched itself into the air in a bundle of wind and loose feathers.
"No, no," Rafe mumbled. "I'm fine…" But he was blinking as though dazed, stumbling back toward the kitchen with one hand still wrapped around Gabriel's arm. He tugged Gabe along with him as he moved. His eyes, wide and wild, flicked from Gabe's face to the feathered woman and back. "We need more than a flashlight. Did you see those talons?"
The beast seemed quite happy to give them another look. She dove down toward them, curved talons angled decisively at the two men. Rafe struck out with the book; her talon caught its edge and sliced away the topmost corner. "Fuck!" Her talons struck out once more, but Rafael dragged himself and his companion into the kitchen just in time to narrowly avoid her. "Tell me you've got some really sharp knives in here."
Gabe slammed the kitchen door shut, buying them some time. From the sound of it, not much: the winged woman screamed in outrage at the obstacle, ramming against the door and making it rattle in its frame.
"Uh, yeah, I think...shit, where did they put them..." Gabe's wandering gaze revealed just how little time he spent in that room, and he started opening drawers. "There should be some stuff in here, stuff Mom was trying to get rid of when her new husband replaced her stainless steel set... here!" Kneeling, he pulled out an ill-placed butcher's block set of knives, putting it up on the counter. One hand gripped the biggest handle, sliding a nearly foot-long knife out with a subtle ringing sound. Shredding sounds, making Gabe wince as he thought of his deposit, came from the doorway currently impeding their attacker's progress, and the door rattled again as if in its death throes.
Then, all sounds stopped. Gabe could still hear flapping wings growing distant; he briefly wondered if the thing was going to release them and find some other area of his apartment to destroy, but that hope was dashed when a large, loud thump came at the door, nearly knocking it free of its hinges.
Rafael started at the sound: a dangerous gesture, given the sizable knife in his hand. But his grip was tight and unshakable. He inched toward the door, one hand outstretched to open it. He looked to Gabe, a question in his eyes. He must have found the answer he was looking for; in an instant he threw open the door. Wickedly curved talons slashed through the air, and Rafe's knife flashed to meet them.
The winged woman screamed, an ear-splitting noise. She fluttered higher, toward the ceiling, her claws still carving toward them both as best she could. Rafe moved toward her as she flitted toward Gabe, and brought his knife down again.
Gabe had wanted to warn Rafe back from the door, to let the thing work in in its own time and not before, that maybe it would tire itself out even still, but then it was all happening too fast. The bird thing was flapping in the kitchen, and Gabe was silently thankful that he had no hanging light fixtures; he never thought he'd be thanking god for recessed lighting. He took his flashlight and swung at the creature as it came toward him; somehow, it was low enough and came close enough for him to make direct contact with the thing's head, clocking it hard and fast. It crashed to the floor dramatically, half onto one counter where it took a plate and a cup with it. Gabe winced at the sound of breaking dishware, but it could have been much worse.
He paused for only a moment to see if the thing was still breathing -- it was -- before stepping over it and approaching Rafe. He nearly grabbed up the man's jaw, stopping just a heartbeat away from pressing his mouth to the other man's in gratitude for the fact that they were both still alive. Rafe blamed the pounding of his own heart on their harrowing ordeal, telling himself it had nothing to do with the flush in Gabe's cheeks or the warm scent of him so close.
"Maybe next time we do that with more of a plan in mind, yeah?" Fingers slid back into a thick tuft of hair as Gabe breathed out a sigh of relief. Once he was assured that Rafe was whole and well and unharmed, he glanced back at the feathery thing on the floor. "What... What do you think we should do? Call the police? Stephan?"
Rafe's answer came quickly. "Stephan. You know what the police would say. And neither of us needs that kind of publicity…" He frowned down at the unconscious body of the bird woman. Taking the knife with him, he backed slowly out of the kitchen door, letting it close behind them. In the living room, he set aside the knife, keeping it well within reach as he fished his phone from his pocket.
The conversation that followed was brief and punctuated primarily by a slight rise in one of Rafe's eyebrows. He hung up soon after, blinking, confused, at Gabriel. "I shouldn't be surprised," he said, "but Stephan didn't seem surprised. He says he's sending animal control to come take it away." He chewed the inside of his lip. A certainty nagged at him, one that seemed too paranoid to speak, and yet he could not easily dismiss the thought.
"How much would you like to bet that 'animal control' is actually just another employee of this completely weird building." He smirked. "Or Stephan himself, just in another set of clothes."
Gabe swallowed a laugh. "I'd bet good money on the latter," he said, putting the flashlight bulb down on a nearby table. His fingers moved away from it hesitantly, his whole form unable to relax until he was certain the thing was out of his apartment.
"I just... He clearly knows more about what's going on here than he's letting on. That thing—it's real, it's not some hallucination. There's a naked woman with wings lying unconscious on my kitchen floor and I... I don't even know how to start processing this." Between the dreams and everything else that had happened in the complex, one answer stood out fairly plainly, but even that was too much for Gabe to handle.
He shook his head, glancing back toward the kitchen door. He frowned, his hand going back to the flashlight, gripping it as though it were a security blanket. Rafe moved close by his side. He placed a hand on Gabe's shoulder, squeezing tight.
"I don't think there is a way to process this," he said. "But we both saw it, and nearly got clawed up by it, so we know we're not crazy no matter what Stephan or anyone else says when they get here. Okay?"
He let go of Gabe, walking past him on slow, uncertain steps. He heard nothing behind the kitchen door: no scrabbling of claws, no screeching of an angry creature, bird woman or otherwise. Carefully he pushed open the door, just enough to peer inside with one wide eye.
"Gabe?" His voice trembled on that single syllable. He did not turn around. "Gabe? Um. It's gone."
"What?!" Gabe beelined toward Rafe, then past him, into the kitchen. It was just as Rafe had said -- there was no woman, birdlike or otherwise. The kitchen was still in a state, cereal spread everywhere; there was even a stray feather or two between tiles, but their source was utterly gone.
"How..." Gabe shook his head, looking back at Rafe. There was absolutely no reason for any of this, and now? No reason at all to have called Stephan. Gabe's grip on his flashlight tightened, as though he expected the winged woman to suddenly emerge from somewhere, but there was nowhere for it to hide, unless it had suddenly shrunk exponentially and gone inside one of the cabinets. As if to test this theory, Gabe reached out, peeking carefully inside one that was lined with dishes. Finding the expected plates and not the bird-woman, he stepped back, letting the cupboard door swing shut with a light smack.
He passed a hand over his face, trailing fingers through short-cropped hair. Turning, he looked at Rafe with a crazed gleam in his eye. "I don't know about you, but I think I need a drink. Or several."
"Several," Rafael agreed. The corner of his mouth twitched downward in a brief frown. "Somewhere other than this building, please."
He padded back into the living room, retrieving the knife and returning it to its place in the kitchen. The situation was bound to be uncomfortable enough with them having called about an animal that was no longer there; he did not want to add to that by leaving a weapon lying in full view of their visitor. He paused beside Gabe on his way back out of the small room.
"If it comes back," he said, "you should come and stay with me and Alice. Just until it goes away. Okay?"
Gabe nodded, putting the flashlight down on the kitchen counter. He was already trying to piece together what he was going to say once Stephan or whomever arrived after Rafe's strange phonecall.
A knock on the door brought the moment into glaring focus. Gabe sighed.
"Let's just get this over with," he muttered, a slight, paranoid smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Then we're getting drinks. Definitely away from here," he agreed, moving past Rafe and brushing against him not entirely unconsciously. He padded quickly but quietly back out into the living area and toward the front door, and whoever they were going to have to explain all of this to -- or at least make the attempt.