Disclaimer: I still don't own Ashes, or any of the other works I've mentioned.
A/N: Hey everyone! This is the the first part of a new two shot I started during my exams, but have only found the time/muse to finish this part in the last few days. I haven't started the next chapter yet, but please bear with me as it shouldn't take long! I should really mention my inspirations in this piece, as there have been quite a few. Firstly is the Doctor Who episode entitled 'The Dream Lord' which plays with ideas of dream worlds/reality- hence the title. The second one was the 2008 Christopher Nolan film 'The Dark Knight', which actually holds a fair few quotes that correlate perfectly with Ashes. The third is another Christopher Nolan film, 'Inception', released next month which I've been reading a lot about. It's about a man who can invade people's dreams and extracting/placing ideas within those dreams.
Anyway, erm, here it is! Please R&R! :)
The Dream Lord
"The Joker took the best of us and tore him down."
– Lieutenant Gordon, The Dark Knight.
He'd made a huge mistake by sending her in there, because as long as that door wasn't closed, she wasn't safe. She danced on the edge of two worlds as she had done before, forces battling for her being until he managed to pull her towards him. But it wasn't over yet, because as long as that door was open, I could get to her.
Alex's hand rested on the door handle, a cooling draft teasing her knuckles as she felt her breathing shallow, utterly panicked. She didn't belong here, not yet; the taste of the air seemed acrid, the voices in the pub seemed false- completely the wrong colour. Synesthesia told her to turn back now, before everything she perceived around her caved in on itself, more than it already had. She shook her head almost imperceptibly at Nelson, her heart aching painfully as she quickly pushed open the door and fell through back into the street before she had time to change her mind.
Her eyes quickly scanned the empty street, tears brimming as she saw no sign of him, breaking into a run and calling his name.
She stopped a few streets away, ragged breaths appearing before her face in pale clouds, eyes on her feet as she suddenly realised the ground was shifting beneath her, the hard pavement melting beneath her and swirling like water.
Alex tried to steady her breathing as she heard a boom of thunder above her, slowly raising her eyes skywards where she saw a rip in the sky. Heart clenching in panic and a scream dying on her lips, she saw the buildings around her crack and crumble, lumps of rubble landing on the street and bursting into a thousand glittering stars.
She felt a clammy hand clamp across her mouth before she had time to react, a strong arm shoving her downwards as the stars were subsumed by darkness.
Physical torture is overrated. I like watching things fall down, whole kingdoms brought to their knees as I show them the truth, ripping down walls with my bare hands and placing people on the edge, on the precipice of existence until they scream with the knowledge they have, crippling them and ripping away at their eyes until everything around them is ruined. Hell may be a place of fire, but my little world is so much more than that.
The world glimmered around her, contorting like the clouds in a crystal ball, her head fuzzy as she brought a hand to her temple.
She looked around, her eyes fixing on a dark figure in the distance, sitting on top of a wooden trunk, facing away from her.
She saw the black and white squares materialise beneath her feet with every step, tentatively walking closer; "Hello?" she whispered nervously.
"Hello?" she said a little louder this time, swallowing as she shakily reached out a hand.
"Hello?" she spoke louder, her voice shaking as her fingers lightly dusted the figure's shoulder. At her touch he grabbed her wrist, Alex blindingly trying to pull away from the iron grip that held her.
He slowly turned around, grinning at her menacingly, "Hello Alex."
She stilled suddenly, the sound of his voice and feel of his sweat on her skin making her shudder, "You." she replied fiercely, "Where have you brought me?"
Keats chuckled, pulling her towards him so their faces were only inches apart, "Why would I tell you that?"
"Let me go now Keats." she said through gritted teeth, once again pulling at her wrist.
He laughed again, "I'd love to, but unfortunately it's not really me keeping you here Alex."
She held eye contact with him as he smirked, desperately trying to hold her ground as he stared her down.
She schooled her features, a muscle twitching in her jaw, "What?"
He let go of her wrist finally, and she let it fall limply, wanting to rub the sore flesh but letting it instead burn by her side.
"When you first arrived in this world Alex, you believed it was all in your head, didn't you?" he said, cocking his head slightly, his expression patronising.
She didn't reply.
He shifted in his seat on the trunk, facing her fully, "Well, you weren't technically right. But luckily here, you are; where you find yourself Alex Drake, is the darkest, most personal place of your entire mind. All your deepest and greatest wishes reside here and also your blackest thoughts and worst fears. Of course I'm willing to inject a little reality here too; how well you know yourself will depend whether or not you can sift those moments from those of illusion."
Alex felt tears sting the back of her eyes, blinking as she rushed forward and grabbed his lapels in angered desperation, "Why am I here? I did everything you asked of me, I found out the truth-"
"You didn't do that for me though, did you Alex? You were doing that on your own watch."
Alex quietened for a second, silently accepting the validity of his words, until she spoke again, "What do you want from me? Why? If you brought me here, you can let me go."
He grinned this time, "You should know the answer to this already."
Her hands loosened from his jacket, stepping back as her eyes fell to the ground, moving like molten silver beneath her, "Because. . . because you said I was the best of them." she whispered brokenly.
There was a pause, "There have been few brave enough to try and pull you away, Alex, corrupt you. But there's only ever been one person who's capable of making you lose your faith."
Alex looked up at him, waiting for his name.
". . . This is nothing to do with him."
"Oh, but it is Alex! He's the reason I could get to you, his own actions- his secrecy- chipped away at your belief more than my words ever could. Think back to Supermac, when you thought you'd 'lost him', I wasn't even there and you were fading."
He smiled, straightening out his jacket, "That crack in your heart is how I could get you here- the one he made. The pain of losing your daughter is ever present, but you've adapted to this world; you always thought if you didn't have her, you'd have him." He laughed heartily as Alex's heart constricted, "Isn't it ironic? The moral compass, the shining example, the best of them doesn't actually belong in heaven!"
She felt the burning taste of sick rising in her throat, clenching her fists in fury at his laughter, her focus on Keats suddenly breaking as she heard a quiet knocking.
"What's that sound?" she asked, her voice catching slightly in her throat as she moved back towards him.
"What sound?" he replied, feigning ignorance.
"That knocking." she said, hearing it louder, "It's coming from the trunk."
Silence fell again, and she heard more knocking from inside the trunk, followed the muffled cries of a child.
Keats didn't reply, Alex giving him a desperate look as she suddenly recognised the trunk- the cries- shoving him unceremoniously off it, and yanking opening the lid.
"Oh god. . ."
She saw the green eyes of her younger self look up at her, the little girl's voice haunting and unnatural, "Where's my mummy and daddy?"
"I don't. . . I don't know. . ." Alex whispered, "I'm sorry. . ."
Alex Price stared at her with glassy eyes, standing up slowly in the trunk and never breaking eye contact, her cream dress stained with blood and burnt at the hem, her tights ripped, "Mummy said she'd heal my hands when I touched it." she said, holding out her burnt hands, "But the fire had already got her."
Alex stumbled backwards, Alex Price slowly climbing from the trunk and walking steadily towards her, Alex scrambling away as the little girl still held her hands out towards her, "Where's my mummy and daddy?"
Suddenly Keats came back into view, standing up and slamming the trunk close, his eyes fierce and merciless. Alex Price turned around, screaming at the sight of him and running into the darkness, Keats switching his gaze back to the woman on the floor, two words leaving his lips.
So she did, she ran in a world that never ended. A ceaseless, watery infinity that changed with her deepest thoughts, the only light that entered this world was from the checkerboard floor- which seemed now to be the only constant as her breath ripped her soft lungs, eventually slowing down to a stop as she clutched onto Molly's scarf that was settled around her neck.
She felt her breath choke her as she suddenly saw the image of her daughter form in front of her, blurred slightly by the wisps of dusky light that surrounded the image.
Alex felt a tear escape her eye, shaking her head mutely as she saw her daughter, oh Molly. . . still the same girl she had left on the bridge with Evan that day- yet she looked older, her face more adult.
She was dressed in her school uniform, yet she didn't recognise the new school shoes, her new fringe unfamiliar. Alex tried to swallow the stone in her throat, her dark eyes one of a mourning mother, filled with fear and panic at not recognising all the little things that had changed in her daughter since she'd died. Alex felt her gut twist, her heart sinking at the thought of all the small mundane changes that would occur in her daughter's life, the ones she would miss. If she was there, if she'd never been shot, then to a mother's eyes they would've happened so slowly that she wouldn't have realised that her daughter was growing up.
She'd seen her daughter only once in the past year, and only as some unreachable figment. And the tiny alterations in her daughter she saw now made her feel even further away.
She was sobbing into her pillow, biting the cotton to stop herself from screaming out loud, her body older but still with the voice of a child, "Mum. . . Oh mummy. . ." she wept, her nails digging into the mattress with anger and loss. "Why aren't you here mummy? I miss you so much. . . please come back mummy. . ."
"Molly. . . I'm here Molly. . ." Alex pleaded, her hand suddenly freezing as she tried to reach out to her daughter, moaning as her frozen fingers crunched, hugging them back to her chest.
Her daughter could not hear her mother as she stood up, screaming through her tears as she pushed everything off her desk in blind fury, piles of paper floating to the floor.
"Please. . .please make it stop. . ." Alex begged to herself, clutching her head as tears streamed down her own face, turning around and seeing the sneering face of Keats, his lip curled as he laughed at her distress.
"You left her Alex. You passed up so many opportunities to leave here, but you let them fly away. All because you thought you were here for a reason, here to help. . . here for him. . . Dancing with the devil- he leads, you follow. . ."
Alex wiped her face, her make up smudged as she pointed an angry finger towards him, "You and I know he's not that, we both know what you are. . . everything I did here was to get back to my daughter. . ."
"And you've convinced yourself that?" he sneered, a nasty twinkle in his eye as Molly's sobs rang through her ears.
"I did everything in my power to get home, I did all I could!" she cried, her eyes shining with anger and tears.
"Oh but Alex, you can't lie to me. No no no. . ." he tutted, chuckling to himself as her hand slowly dropped down to her side. "I know everything about you Alex, I've read all about you, I can listen to your darkest secrets, your deepest longings and desires. . ."
She shook her head as she took a step back on the checkerboard floor, landing on a black square, the salty tear tracks glistening on her cheeks, "This is it, Keats. Let me go."
"This isn't about release, Alex, it's about escape."he said, almost too nonchalantly as he swiped off his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose, "But for now, I get my fun with you at least. Although the thought of you locked up here as my little caged pet, the best of them, is appealing, don't you think?"
Alex tried to keep her face devoid of emotion, her heaving chest giving away her panic. The thought of being stuck alone, taunted by her own mind as she inevitably grew mad. . . she saw a fleeting image of herself as a child again over his shoulder, the cream dress still bloody and burnt as her feet tapped on the floor towards the wooden trunk, climbing in and closing the lid on herself again.
"She always comes back to that wooden box, she's more scared of this world than she is of me."
Her whole body shuddered erratically, squeezing her eyes shut as she tried to block everything out, her eyes flying open again when she heard his voice over her left shoulder, a low, spiteful whisper. She looked around, but he'd vanished . . . yet she could feel his hot breath on her neck.
"It's awful really, how much you loved him. . . he ruined you Alex, ruined you. . ."
She felt her hands tremble, her throat constricting in shame at the truth behind his words. The utter fear that rose unbidden from her stomach. She'd never admitted it to herself, barely remembering the Alex that had first arrived here, strong and self assured, to the one that now stood motionless, broken and lost and crying out in pain.
He touched her shoulder, making her look down as she saw the floor being eaten away by a wave of blackened rose petals, thorny stems winding her way towards her like charmed serpents, a thousand hideous screams tearing at her ears.
She felt herself run again, trying to flee from the roses and from his voice that sparked pictures around her. She saw the image of Molly living a long, happy life morphing into one if her being stabbed in a dark back alley, her screams reverberating around her mind as she watched her daughter die alone, Molly's own daughter left alone on the kerbside waiting for her mother to collect her, crying into her mittens as the night grew darker.
Alex closed her eyes, repeating her words like a prayer: This isn't real, this isn't real, this isn't real. . .
And how can you be sure it isn't real, Alex?
This is my mind, my rules. . .
So why don't you just leave?
Just don't hurt her, please don't hurt her Keats. . . please tell me you won't-
I don't think you're in much of a position to make requests, Alex.
Her lungs started closing in panic as her breath became more laboured, and she felt hers legs stop. Her body, or maybe it was her soul, imploding in on itself, preferring to die then let Keats' snake into her blood, rip her apart from the inside out.
She suddenly felt the weight of metal in her right hand, looking steadily up as she saw a golden haired figure on his knees, gagged as Keats stood next to him, one hand digging into his shoulder, the other forcing a gun into his hand and pointing it at Alex.
"Gene. . .?" she said softly, his tired blue eyes meeting hers, his face still bruised from Keats' treatment.
"I know he's held a gun to you quite a few times Alex, but it's your turn now."
Alex stared at Keats, shaking her head as she felt the gun slipping from her hand, "No. . ."
"If you want to escape from your mind, to move on, you need to wipe away the thing that's keeping you here. I'm giving you a choice, Alex, which is more than he gave you when he sent you away."
She felt a tear slip down her face. "I can't."
"It wouldn't matter- if you shoot him- he's erased from your mind, like he never existed. No pain Alex. . . just peace."
"No. . . I can't. . . I can't forget him. . ." she shouted at Keats, meeting Gene's pleading eyes as she suddenly whispered quietly, "I don't want to forget him. . ."
She saw Keats grit his teeth, and out of nowhere, she felt herself being shoved backwards, falling onto the floor where she hit her head, warmth spilling from her skull and she started to slip from consciousness.
Keats' menacing voice dragged her back, screaming as her veins caught fire, unearthing every thought, every emotion she'd ever felt for the man she loved, her heart searing in pain as it overwhelmed her, tears dripping like rain from her eyes and onto the black and white floor as if the pain was going to consume her.
She managed to turn her head slightly, her retinas burning at the soft light in the distance that glowed. Through her blurry eyes, she could sdee two figures stood wrapped around each other, close enough at first she thought they were one person, steadily kissing and undressing the other with touches so tender and loving, her heart glimmered a little through the aching agony. She watched them sorrowfully as they locked fingers, met for the first time- soft but forceful words falling from their lips. She sighed almost silently, heard his voice in her mind like a distant echo. . .
"I love you Alex. . . I love you. . .don't leave me. . ."
She sighed again, the wisps around her caressing her body as she felt something soft against her lips, only to be snatched away again at the sound of hissing as she moaned at the loss of it, the taste of him. . .
"He sent you away Alex. . . he never loved you, he never really wanted you. . . he could never give you what you wanted. . . what you needed so much. . . he could never say that to you, never. . ."
"No. . . he does. . .we have a connection. . .we need each other. . ."
"But he sent you away to a place where you would had nothing. . . he felt nothing for you. . . just pick up the gun and shoot him Alex."
Alex shook her head desperately, her body shaking, the sound of Keats' voice starting to crush one side of her head, her ear burning at his words, "Why are you doing this to me?" she whispered helplessly, her nails scratching at the cold floor.
"You have to know the truth Alex. Not just about this world, not about Gene, but about yourself. You're mine now Alex, and this is how I play."
She didn't reply, couldn't reply.
Her eyes were closed, but she felt a shadow being cast over her body as he stood next to her, crouching down over her limp form.
"I feel sorry for you Alex." he mused as he played with her hair, her body too weak to push him away, "I really thought you were going to leave this place, get back home. I was willing to let you leave. I mean he shot you Alex and somehow, whilst you were gone, you fell for him. . . fell for the only man who could never love you back. . ."
Alex's heart seized in sorrow, the moon blocking the sun as she squeezed her eyes shut, a dying "No. . ." leaving her lips as the darkness started to eat away around the edges of her vision, the bed in the corner of her eye where two sleeping bodies lay blissfully intertwined was slowly consumed by black, closing her eyes as it engulfed her.
A/N: Hope that was ok. Please review and let me know what you think, and hopefully you'll want to read the second part haha. :P Love Minx xx