"Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil." - Aristotle
Ariadne stirred slowly, dredging her thoughts out of the murky sludge of unconsciousness. Her head ached, her lip was split and she could feel a cut on her cheek sting as she pulled herself off of the cold floor.
"Leave us." A woman's voice ordered through the fog. "Shut the door."
There was a great bang as the steel door was shut. She felt as if it had been shut on her head.
"Ari?" The voice had turned soft. "Ariadne, it's me, Dora."
A warm hand rubbed her back. Through cracked eyes she saw a vague, blurry Pandora kneeling beside her, peering at her with a worried expression.
"Shit." Pandora whispered. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry; this is all my fault."
"What happened?" Ariadne asked. Her voice was brittle from a parched throat.
"I gave Brer five minutes with you, but the bastard already knew I would intervene. He sent someone from Grieg to distract me. You were with him for over an hour."
"Does…does he know you're a—"
"No." Pandora said, shaking her head. "He doesn't have a clue. I've seen napkins smarter than him." Pandora looked at her for a moment. "Are you alright?"
"I think so. He—well—he roughed me over, but I'm fine."
"Here." Pandora handed her a handkerchief. "It's the least I can do."
"Thanks." Ariadne dabbed it to her swollen lip. She should be surprised that someone still carried them but because that person was Pandora, she wasn't.
"Do you remember what happened?"
"After you left?" She asked and Pandora nodded. "He—he asked me where Eames and Arthur were, what they were planning, and when they were going to do it. When I didn't tell him anything, like he knew I would, he took out this—this device—"
"Did it look like a tape recorder?"
"You know about it?"
Pandora nodded. "Here it's called VERRA. It's like the PASIV, but five times smaller and five times more powerful. It scans the brain for significant spikes in activity. It looks for memories and particularly emotional experiences."
"Where did this—" She indicated the blood on the napkin. "Come from?"
"You must have fought back." Pandora said, glancing at Ariadne's split lip and cut cheek. "One of the symptoms of VERRA's use is temporary memory loss. It usually occurs at the moment of VERRA's implantation and tapers off at its withdrawal."
"So I won't know what he found? Or if he even found anything?"
"I'm afraid not. You may not get your memory back for hours or days; it may never come back. If I hear anything new, I'll know he got it from you and I'll tell them it's a false trail I overheard you lot talking about. Brer can't deny something he didn't witness."
There was a knock at the door and Pandora stood. Light spilled into the room, seeming to Ariadne like she was looking at the sun, and a figure was pushed in.
"You!" A voice said, accusing and angry.
"You've got this?" A dark voice said. Ariadne assumed it was the guard.
"Yes. The man's blind, he doesn't know me from a hat rack." Pandora answered and the door shut to merciful darkness.
"Dante, it's okay!" Ariadne called. "I'm fine!"
"Why is she here?" He asked, a chill evading his voice.
"Sirin is not my only client." Pandora said smoothly. "I have employers that want to see Ariadne survive this ordeal."
"It's unlikely if this is the way you treat her." Dante spat.
Pandora looked to Ariadne. When she spoke, her voice was hard but her eyes were apologetic. "I will send for medical help shortly."
With one last glance to Ariadne, Pandora left, her blonde hair swinging behind her.
Dante wordlessly sat down beside Ariadne. "You've got a bite mark above your heart." He said softly, pointing to a wound she hadn't even noticed.
She glanced down at the swollen bite, undoubtedly from human teeth. A sickening sense of violation rose in her like vomit, hot and painful. Brer had stolen her dreams and her memory. She might never know exactly what he had done to her.
"Are you alright?"
"Please—please just talk; talk about anything you want. It will distract me."
"If it helps you, I will." Dante said. "I can tell you how I lost my sight."
"Thank you." She sighed.
"I was working in Moscow, on one of my last cases." He began. "I was establishing a model I had created in the dream world when I became stuck in limbo briefly, very briefly. The sedative working on my client collapsed and his conscience attacked me; I fell back and struck my head. I didn't die, necessarily, but I wasn't alive either. Something happened between my journey from one plane to the other where I lost my vision, but it remained in the dream world."
"What does that mean?"
"I can see, but it is like opening your eyes underwater. For the first few weeks afterwards, I felt as if I was still trapped inside limbo; nothing felt real or tangible to me. Not the bread I ate, not the sunlight I felt on my skin, not the smell of my wife that always lingered around the house."
"How did you escape it? I mean, it just seems like you don't feel that way anymore."
A light seemed to enter his eyes.
"I began to dream again." He said with a smile.
"What?" Ariadne was amazed. She had not dreamed in days. She had begun to fear that the next dream would be her last, if it came at all.
"It first started as ambiguous gray matter, but then color slowly started to dye my dreams. It was as if a movie on pause had been resumed. I began to feel life again, to feel the blood rushing through my limbs and my heart and my head.
The first dream I remember as if I had woken up seconds ago. I was in front of a large door that stretched upwards and outwards as far as I could see. I couldn't scale it or blast through it, so I knocked. Anja greeted me and took me inside to a place that was white and warm. I couldn't see around me, but the feeling, it was—it was like lying under blankets in the cold weather. For the first time in months, I was content that I could no longer see, but I can always carry that warm feeling with me." He looked at her. "Are you feeling alright yet?"
"I feel alright now. Thank you."
"I am happy to help."
A silence fell between them.
"I haven't dreamed in days," Ariadne muttered quietly. "And Brer took my memory…" She looked up at Dante, her eyes desperate. "What if I never dream again?"
"But surely you know that dreams are sometimes randomly dealt? You don't strike me as being in this business for long. You either must first have attained a high mastery of the dreamscape so that your mind could not fool you into believing a dream or you must have used the PASIV device to a point where your mind was too distracted to dream."
"What if I will never have another?"
"Do you remember the most recent one?"
"I—" She stopped, thinking. She remembered the glancing pierce of Arthur's eyes and the color of blood and blonde all around her. "No. Not really."
"Then that dream was not your last." He said softly. "If you stay in this business, you will always remember your last dream. In mine, before the accident, it was snowing and I was barefoot. I could hear Anja calling my name to come inside. My son was a child again and he was playing with me in the yard. He went inside at his mother's voice, but when I tried to follow, the door slammed in my face and I woke up. That morning my bones felt like they were carved from ice."
"What if I just can't remember?"
"You will remember," He said soothingly. "Trust me."
She looked at him and smiled. "I do."
"You must not be afraid, Ariadne." He said reassuringly. "Every knot will unwind in the end."
Oliver Samal stared out of the train window. He found that trains were the most beautiful form of travel. He had always loved it, when he went with his parents and his sister on trips to Dover—
Okay, perhaps he had lied to the Forger, Eames. Perhaps only a little. It wasn't the worst thing he had done. Telling the Brit that he didn't remember his past was useful, and it threw him off his trail. He had to be careful, though; keep track of his stories. He couldn't have anyone figure him out. It was essential that no one should truly know him. He was untraceable that way; invisible.
He did have to hand it to Eames, though. He was far smarter and far cleverer than Samal had initially thought. Perhaps a bit cocky, a bit too confident, but certainly not stupid. He knew a fraud when he saw one.
The other one, Arthur, interested him as well. He was too quiet; it unsettled him. He knew that Arthur would be the one of the group to always have a card up his sleeve. He seemed to care for the girl, which certainly had its disadvantages. Caring for something made you reckless; it made you take extremes to save it. You fight for what you desire, and that fighting had consequences. Arthur seemed to know that well. Samal could tell there was something inside him that he was not willing to share with anyone. He had a dark side that he wanted to keep in the shadows. Understandable certainly; everyone had secrets. But, in Samal's experience, the darkness often swallowed you whole if you didn't let in a little light.
He was startled out of his thoughts as the dark man, Yusuf, nearly dropped his laptop. He was entering the data from the lab, soon to be available to those who knew where to look.
Samal had completed the sedative nearly thirteen hours ago. He had lay awake most of the night in his back room, void of everything but a bed, watching the ceiling fan turn the hot air. He didn't sleep much; he found it wasteful of his time. In those early hours he often thought of the life he had once led, the happy childhood he had spent with his sister, the only person he had ever truly cared for.
He would have to be reckless to get her back from the darkness. He would have to speak to Arthur about how to properly fight for what you care about.
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