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Alluvion
#21
Philip absorbed these mysteries with devout attendance to each clue. He was accustomed to being the shadow behind the screen and wearing enigma like a cloak. That the roles were reversed bothered him for his own limited insights as much as the injustice of a girl’s undeserved fear. Certainly, she was afraid of the all-intimidating ’him’ whomever he be. The shivers wafting from her skin rippled the air as much as it did his dream flesh, but the emotion permeated like a foul stench. He sneered with the distaste of all of it. “Another wolf will keep them away,” he said, and on the heels of proclamation rolled a promise: “Me.”

He lurched in the heaving swirl of worldly motion that followed. A prelude was absent to the change, and in the midst of far-flung souls, his hand gripped upon hers tightly to prevent their ripping apart across the divide. A downness dropped them into a new place, or perhaps an upness rose while they remained fixed. Either way, what he beheld was completely unlike the previous experiences. The room was in constant flux, but it wasn’t a wind that tossed the ever-changing environment. As soon as his eyes settled on something, it disappeared. Even the furniture shifted.

He wasn’t sure if the loft was a home or an art studio, maybe both. Paint splattered furniture as much as the walls. The same speckles decorated Nimeda’s fingertips. “This is where you live,” he noted the flickering dishes around a sink and blankets shifting around on a couch. A charming life she must lead, like the souls of old.

Curiosity pulled him to the cityscape displayed through the window. “Moscow,” he said to himself. After a few moments, when he turned to regard her, his hands were clasped gently in front of his waist. Whatever it was he was waiting upon, he clearly wanted her to fetch it for him.

Man is like God: he never changes.

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#22
Noctua moved to explore their new terrain, and Nimeda flopped back against the floor like it was a cradle of soft grass rather than hard boards. A careless swipe of her fingers urged the ceiling to part for the night’s sky above, filled not with the twinkling promise of other dreams, but a moving constellation of stars. It was only at the utterance of Moscow that her attention diverted from her idle play, and when she twisted upright once more her clothes were bone dry, her wild curls ordered now into braids around her crown. “I’m not fond of this city,” she said. “It sleeps so deeply these days. It’s not what I remember.” Though what that might be she did not elucidate. 

Noctua called himself a wolf before, unknowing of what he spoke for he was certainly not of the kin, yet she understood the sentiment in her own unique way. He was more like a father. Her lips quirked a pleasant smile at the comparison. It made her feel safe, like some small creature sheltered in the palm of another, but also rained down other, older memories. A lattice of rules caged alongside that protection, once; rules she broke with impunity and childlike enthusiasm, both in her friendship with Melinoë but also others that ought not cross the boundary into His shadowy realm. Forbidden was not a concept natural to her watery soul.

She bounded to her feet, a blurred shift from one state to the other, and absorbed the shifting room herself. A penchant for bright colour flooded the walls, for which she laughed delightedly. Some old song hummed itself to her lips, eyes half lidded to a memory of wagon wheels and a happier time. What a strange thing to have persisted! Meanwhile she began to riffle curiously through the detritus of her Other’s existence. Canvas fluttered. Paintings bloomed and faded. She held a ripped sheaf of paper in her hands for a moment, a drawing of a riverbank that held almost the detail of a photograph. A moment later it crinkled with folds like it had spent some time in the confines of a pocket, before it vanished altogether.

“Do you help all those who have a need, Noctua?” He was standing expectantly by one of the windows, framed by the cityscape beyond. She did not seem to mind his inactivity. Behind her a canvas set upon an easel scrawled furiously into something violent and fiery. A blink later and the entire studio was cast in bloody droplets of paint, the painting ruined, and then gone. Meanwhile Nimeda pondered a framed picture containing the mirror of her own face alongside another whose dreams she watched frequently. Such a practical mind drifted often to the white halls of her most enduring passion; her work. And Mara’s prison. Nimeda shivered.

She reached distractedly for Noctua’s hand once more, and their world changed again; quickly this time, and without flourish, as to the whim of one used to travelling by such means.

The second dwelling was more orderly in its arrangement, and if it moved in flux as all such ephemera did, it did so into various states of clinical precision. Nimeda blinked. This time she did not release Noctua’s palm immediately, taking everything in with a wide gaze first. She had seen this place in her sister’s dreams on the occasions she did not dream of work, but never passed the threshold of her own volition. Such urbanisation held little charm for her, despite the very precious soul who called it home in the waking world. The apartment was simply furnished and neat. Nim’s bare feet padded to a framed picture on the wall, beside a bookcase whose innards gently fluctuated like soothing tides. A newspaper clipping lay trapped beneath the glass. Nim could see the faint trace of her own outline reflected against the sheen, imposed over the paper and ink portrait of her smiling Other standing beside a painting. Words accompanied the photograph, but Nim only stared curiously at this strange proof of a life she had no memory of.
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#23
With every brush of color to haunt their surroundings, the shade of Philip’s white attire glowed with neon impressions. As a man of faith dropped into the midst of worldly storms, as much as he was present, he was also set apart, and just as the colors touched him, he was not of their kind. The white of his seemingly athletic attire was subconscious as much as deliberately selected. White, black, red – these were the colors of profound symbolism and Philip was a man of faith even in dreams. As he watched the kaleidoscope of time churn around them, he remained steady in the instability. Nimeda floated among the living walls as if she were more a part of it then even she realized. It was in that moment that Philip truly connected the line of a dream back to a place of reality – and the mercurial nature of it all.

Her question elicited an annoyed reaction, not so much because she asked it, but because it delved straight to the first-hand knowledge of his life’s work. “I help none of them, Nimeda. Ten billion souls walk the earth, and every one of them say they need something: money… fame… rescue… healing… sex..” He looked at her as the list concluded as though judging her reaction to which of those items she coveted most, but it was not for him to grant any desires, least of all to her. He was nothing. He was powerless. He was invisible. When he continued, an expression of great contemplation darkened his expression that it verged on sadness. “The ironic thing is that everyone does need something, but it’s not what they think; nor is it for me to deliver.” He wondered if she may pick apart the riddle. It was life's great question: what does man need most?

Before his curiosity was sated, inspiration struck Nimeda like lightning, and in a wash of light and color, they were yanked through the empty unknown. The apartment that formed was orderly in a way that appealed to him. Her directionality honed with objective destination, and Philip followed on her heels. He wasn’t a tall man except in presence of aura, but she was petite at his side even still; a hovering essence that he was acutely aware crept close. The picture was recent, the caption illuminating. He read out loud with the resonant voice of one accustomed to crowds hanging on his every word. “In a new exhibition, artist Thalia Milton blurs the line between art and reality with delicate sensitivity of the senses. Milton is an artist based in old Arbatskaya of Moscow’s elite district. She is famous for illustrating what she feels not what she sees. She paints a world dressed in ideas that are close to her heart.”

When he looked at her, it was with the scrutiny of this newly revealed shade overlaid upon what he knew of the girl from the river. “It seems you have another name after all,” he said, thinking of his own lack of identity. He wanted to tell her, but the desire was birthed by an ego he vowed to ignore.

Man is like God: he never changes.

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#24
Nimeda tilted her head and watched the vague outline of her reflection do the same. She could see Noctua too in the shine of the glass. His words drained off like water from a duck’s feathers, and yet still they seemed to leave her strangely pensive -- else perhaps it was the resonance left by his answer to her earlier question. She could not rightly say. Nimeda’s names numbered many, and she did not know or remember them; this was but one droplet of identity in a churning sea. It felt a little like being presented with a glimpse of one’s soul though; something you weren’t really supposed to see. Thalia.

“That’s why Jon says it’s dangerous to reach out with Need. The Dream might answer, but not to the question you think you asked.” She tipped a shoulder, nonplussed by the academic advice -- sensible though it was -- and blinked her grey gaze to observe his profile.

She had wanted to ask if he might help Mara. But now it felt like a trespass into waters he might instead frown upon, and so she did not.

“I watch sometimes, in the inbetween place, you know? Much truth lives there.” She didn’t admit to crossing the threshold into those dreams, of course; it was an impolite thing for her to do, for starters, but also felt like it might be an action of which he would disapprove. She was cognizant of the shifts in him even if only on a subliminal level. Disapproval would sting but it would not stop her either; they were tiny windows into the world and minds of others, shining like the evening sky. The infatuation revealed her loneliness.

She came to realise, then, that he had made need sound like a bad thing, and it brushed her expression with a frown.

She was not a philosopher, and her world was primarily a sensory one. Whether it was fame or money, healing or rescue or sex, Nimeda made no judgements. It mattered little to her if those things nourished soul or sin, and she was usually willing to give whatever it was she felt someone else required, for comfort of all kinds was intrinsic to her nature; that nebulous power to forget. Puzzling over his words, she had a sense of misunderstanding though. Nim recognised all shades of sadness, but not this. Deeper than death or loss. An unfamiliar flavour. Perhaps his life beyond the dream was one bound into the service of others; ten billion souls-worth of them, which seemed a rather heavy burden. That many drifted in the inbetween place, for sure, and Nim could not hope to visit them all.

“Noctua, I would not ask you to do something for me you could not do. Or did not want to do, either. I would not ever ask it of you.” The words were simple and earnest, and as transparent as she might make them. A little confusion still lingered. It was quite clear she was concerned at being one of said needful souls to presume upon his charity. Though she did not linger upon it, any more than she had upon Tristan’s promise followed swiftly by determination that he was not even in Moscow. Curiosity continued, despite that she had the small sense that he might not welcome the questioning. “If you listen to so many, to whom do you tell your needs?" Then, a little more pensive. "Have you ever asked here? Though you should be careful. Jon was not wrong.”
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