\ Realm Beyond - Eternal Office /
“I’m not doing it maliciously!” Scarlett responds, defending her actions to the spiritual guidance beside her, Esotera accompanying the young girl toward the epicentre of their first shared delusion. “Your intentions don’t need to be malicious in order for what you’re doing to be malicious” Esotera replies, her pace matched with Scarlett, “the realm clearly brought you in together for a reason. Now you’re disobeying it.”
“I’m focusing on the mission. That’s what I’m doing” Scarlett sharpley retorts, her voice raised a level as her newly-golden locks fall over her jean jacket-clad shoulders. “You can’t do that with Vic?” Esotera inquires, the question met with slight hostility as Scarlett begins to feel pressured. “Last time we shared a delusion, I nearly strangled her to death” Scarlett quickly replies, continuing to speak as a wandering feral ghoul nears.
“I think it’s best that we spend as little time here together as possible” Scarlett mutters beneath her breath, shattering a nearby wall with the wave of her hand before collecting the chunks of stone that fall from it. “I’d really like to not kill Vic, is that too hard to ask?” Scarlett wonders aloud, throwing the stone through the ghouls head via her telekinesis.
“Neither of us would know that answer, would we?” Esotera responds, Scarlett’s momentary pause allowing her to utter more than one uninterrupted sentence. “I can tell you what does or doesn’t exist, but I’m not a mind reader” Esotera continues, stopping as they arrive near their destination’s entrance, “like Suzie said- the realm is a living entity all of its own- you can think what you wish, but I think it’d be best if you didn’t find yourself fallen out of its favour.”
Shaking her head, Scarlett attempts to dissuade Esotera’s thoughts from rooting themselves in pessimism, the realm’s compass not allowing her the opportunity. “Do you think you’d be here right now if the realm didn’t have the ability to choose who it wanted here?” Esotera queries, interrupting Scarlett before the girl has the chance to alleviate concerns, “no- you wouldn’t be. I’m sure you’re not the first, but you might just be the last. Playing games like this won’t help that.”
Looking Esotera in the eyes for a few further seconds before bowing her head, Scarlett lets the woman’s proclamation sink in, sitting with it quietly for a moment. “Take care of yourself, kid” Esotera remarks, watching Scarlett’s still-hanging head nod, appreciative of both the advice and well wishes. Left to her own vices as Esotera steps through thin air to return home, Scarlett’s head swivels toward the steps that climb toward where she believes answers lie.
With a deep sigh, Scarlett accepts the deal she’s been seated at the table having prepared, choosing to go through with sleeping on the bed she’d taken it upon herself to make. Climbing the stone steps, Scarlett enters the chamber sized to monolithic proportions less hurried on her second go-around, allowed to inspect the impossibly deep chasm at its centre just as she can the bonsai tree that grows through it, occupying the chronicle in all its magnitude.
“Show me to-” Scarlett begins to order, her thought silenced by the growl yet another feral ghoul, its grey, decrepit skin harnessing a bright red glow where its stomach would otherwise be. Positioning herself for a fight, Scarlett waits for the trapped soul to proceed forward, the back of her foot pressing into the floor just a few centimetres away from the bannister-less descent into pitch black uncertainty.
Its head tilting to the side, the ghoul steps forward calmly, the sprint Scarlett had expected it to break into apparently a concept the ghoul refuses to abide by. Confused, Scarlett watches the ghoul step forward, approaching the drop she stands before with little intention of fighting. “What are you doing?” Scarlett asks out of instinct, watching the ghoul stare at her as it approaches the drop.
“All hail the king” the ghoul replies in the tone of a muffled screech, stepping past Scarlett and walking over the edge, plunging into the infinite drop the bonsai tree’s roots assumedly reside. Pulling away from the abyss, Scarlett’s confused expression turns into a look of fear, the worry Esotera had voiced earlier suddenly finding its way to her.
“This isn’t real” Scarlett mutters beneath her breath, her lips as close together as possible without touching entirely, “this isn’t real” she repeats. Without warning, a second ghoul tumbles over the edge of a higher level, zipping past Scarlett’s periphery mid-sentence. “All hail the king” the ghoul remarks, its final two words slowly fading off as the pit’s darkest, deepest, and most dubious secrets await.
“No, I’m not seeing this” Scarlett reiterates, temporarily bereft of her ability to speak as the second body falls, trying hard to defend against what she is convinced are delusions of grandeur. “All hail the king!” a third ghoul exclaims, sending themselves into the infinite pit from a lower level, Scarlett unable to even take surprise in its collapse.
“All hail the king!” a fourth ghoul exclaims, yet again throwing itself into the crater from a floor above, zipping past Scarlett as a fifth quickly follows his lead, the same chant repeated. “This isn’t real- I’m no king” Scarlett mumbles, again beneath her breath, her face shaking as she steps back, reluctant to continue watching despite forcing herself to.
“I’m not your king, I’m not your king, I’m not your king” Scarlett persists, almost humming her refusal as she continues to step back, silently pleading for the suicidal dives to cease. “I’m not your king, I’m not your fucking king” Scarlett denies, half-heartedly expecting another body to drop, a subconscious expectation that her refusals would be met with undeniable evidence to the contrary held deep within her mind.
Gone silent, Scarlett’s breaths space themselves by the second, an inhale lasting one second just as the exhale that succeeds it, countless breaths taken without another ghoul passing by. “I’m not your goddamn king, take that bullshit somewhere else you fucks” Scarlett grumbles, her nostrils flaring as the retreat ceases, the lack of leaping, featureless carcasses providing her with a sense of security, however misplaced it may be.
Though sceptical, Scarlett holds out hope that her tactics proved successful, rooting through the realm’s facade and returning herself to its closest truth. Little other way to prove her strategy’s effectiveness, Scarlett begins her return to the hollow ahead, the lack of footsteps or chants as she grows closer allows optimism to slowly return. “I’m not your king” Scarlett repeats, not wishing to allow the delusion any return in the event her plan had, indeed, worked, “I’m not-”.
“All hail the king!” the chant suddenly intensifies, bellowed from the cores of feral ghouls in the thousands, all swan-diving into the void below in unison, trapped souls falling like raindrops in a thunderstorm. Watching souls zoom past in quick succession, tens of ghouls jumping to their deaths just beyond her floor’s edge, Scarlett throws herself backward, falling to the ground in a state of sheer terror.
“No! This isn’t real!” Scarlett growls, crawling further away from the floor’s boundary before running into an obstruction, one she knows had not been there moments prior. Her eyes widened, Scarlett goes quiet, turning her body around to face the being that resides behind her. “All hail the king” the woman from the carnival whispers, not even lips to border the toothless mouth she speaks through, her head directed toward the young woman’s face.
“You’re not real!” Scarlett shouts, suddenly jolted from her confrontation as she throws herself off the couch, impact with their Maldives floor having never been more welcomed. Her look of relief soon declining into a look of pain, Scarlett holds the side of her face as a bright red handprint forms. “Ow!” Scarlett groans, looking up to find Vic standing over her, all too pleased to have an excuse for slapping her friend, “that was unnecessary!”
“Yeah, so was that rah-rah speech you fed me a few minutes ago” Vic replies, tossing a brown paper bag onto the floor as she steals Scarlett’s spot on the sofa, “what happened to ‘we need a plan’?”
“I got sleepy” Scarlett moans, sitting up on the floor whilst rubbing her hand in circles, the inside of her gums squeezing through her molar teeth. “Yeah, I definitely buy that” Vic sarcastically responds, clearly unconvinced at her friend’s response. “Good, ‘cause that’s the truth” Scarlett doubles down, pushing herself off the ground before taking the paper bag, leading it and the groceries within to the kitchen.
Watching Scarlett venture off, Vic’s face scrunches, suspicious of the young woman’s intentions and means of finishing her assignment. Letting loose a heavy breath, Vic settles into her seat with uncertain thoughts, unsure of how to feel about Scarlett’s secrets, let alone how to react.
= Dream Sequence is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
\ Realm of Reality /
“Just don’t fuck with anything, alright?” an unnamed, unimportant officer warns, granting Montes entry to an underground garage where the station’s stockpile of cruisers reside. “I’ll try my best” Montes responds, making an attempt at humour that the officer doesn’t respond to, instead shaking his head as he shows himself out.
The unimpressed reaction becoming common for him, Montes brushes the interaction aside, directing his attention back toward the car-filled lot. His eye kept out for the tan Caprice he knows the sheriff to fancy, Montes begins his search, a large number of spots vacated by units already on patrol. “Get out of here, Benny!” West shouts, pushing past the officer who’d allowed Montes to pass.
“Sheriff, what-?” Montes begins to inquire, watching as his superior struggles to move forward, dragging himself through the lot’s smooth, concrete ground with a cane and a limp. “Don’t even think about telling me to ‘go home and get some rest’” West interrupts, each strenuous movement causing him to wince in pain, “-I’ll fire you on the spot.”
Accepting the ultimatum waged, Montes nods at West, attempting to step past the man, “I’ll leave you to it then” he proclaims, his departure halted by the shaft of West’s cane. “Not so fast, rookie” West grunts, his handheld support pressing into Montes’ chest before he can pull away from West’s reach, “what’re you down here looking for?”
Hanging his head, Montes refuses to make an attempt at putting on a poker face, immediately responding with guilt to West’s question. Though able to recognise Montes’ disappointment, West struggles to gage its reasoning, lowering his head to look Montes in the eye.
“I wanted to get into your cruiser” Montes confesses, the lack of context for the moment somehow making West more curious, “I wanted to see if what you were telling-” Without needing to hear Montes’ conclusion, West pulls back, interrupting the deputy before the reasoning can be offered.
“You didn’t believe me, did you?” West responds, having begun to draw his own conclusion, though second thoughts emerge once Montes’ poor reaction to the claim follow. “No! It’s not that I didn’t believe you!” Montes urges, the truth behind his explanation once more intriguing the sheriff, “I just don’t want to be the guy that buys into the crazy story and gets laughed at for being gullible.”
Though the answer to his question has been given, West remains silent, allowing Montes to continue speaking until the thoughts have been fully flushed from his mind. “I never made it in college, I wasn’t popular in high school, and up until now- I didn’t have a purpose in life” Montes concedes, grating West a look into his life behind the badge, “I’ve been made to feel like an idiot more times than I can count, and- and I guess I want this to be the one place where I’m not the fool.”
His allure to the man’s elucidation subsiding, West looks to Montes somewhat apologetically, somewhat appreciative of the willingness to believe West’s claim. “You coming down here to know for sure means there was at least some part of you that didn’t write me off” West admits, watching Montes’ face take back toward his own, “a lot of the guys here, especially the snotty pricks, wouldn’t have my back that much.”
Still disheartened, Montes flashes West a smile and nod, his quiet way of thanking him for the kind words as he returns to the station’s interior. “Where are you going?” West calls back, allowing Montes to walk a few steps ahead before fetching his attention, “let’s take a look at that cruiser.”
His mood raised, Montes’ smile is brought back, the young man accompanying the sheriff through the lot with the car in sight. Unlocking the doors, West throws himself into the driver’s seat both out of exhaustion and pain, the leather seats welcoming him with an embrace. “I know it’s only been a few days, but it feels good to be back in here” West murmurs, watching through the rear-view mirror as Montes climbs into the backseat.
“What were you looking for back there, champ?” West inquires, resting the handle of his cane against the open door. “Anything that suggests a supernatural force was in here” Montes replies, his hands suspended in the air as he looks around aimlessly, unsure of where to start. “Alright, now go ahead and explain to me what that looks like” West follows-up, not taking long to ask a question his subordinate has no decent answer to.
“Is exoplasm a thing?” Montes replies, one eye squinted harder than the other, his voice purposefully softening, already regretting the question. “I said he wasn’t human, not ‘let’s call the Ghostbusters’, rookie” West responds, running into the cul-de-sac his initial question had lead them to.
“Then I don’t know” Montes replies, his shoulders shrugging as he surveys the backseat, the only noticeable damage having been committed against the partition. “Can you give me a little more to work with than ‘not human’?” Montes finally inquires, staring to the man in the seat ahead. “Sure, but I don’t need to” West replies, nonchalantly reaching beneath the window-attached mirror just overhead, removing a small camera designed to blend in with the lens.
“You couldn’t have told me that before I mentioned exoplasm?” Montes sarcastically remarks, earning the laugh he’d failed to get when entering the lot. “I’m not supposed to be on my feet” West jokes, gazing back over his seat to find Montes’ unamused face, “I needed a break.”
Reclaiming his cane, West pushes himself from the cruiser’s seat, limping around the car to rejoin his increasingly-likeable novice. “So, how are you gonna explain what happens in that clip?” Montes wonders aloud, his question confusing the sheriff. “Who am I explaining this to?” West responds, his puzzlement not a method for amusement this second time around.
“To the people in evidence?” Montes replies, looking to West as if the answer was obvious, his sheriff’s head shaking. “This isn’t going to evidence” West replies, throwing the small box into the air before catching it with his free hand, continuing to limp onward. “Are you serious?” Montes inquires, his question left unanswered as West begins to whistle, forced to stop when Montes jumps ahead, impeding his path forward.
“That might be the most critical evidence we have to find those kids!” Montes exclaims, a declaration that West does agree with, but also struggles to fully believe. “Rookie, those kids probably died before I woke up in the hospital” West responds, stepping around Montes to continue his walk forward, “all I need is a picture of the guy who did it. That’s the thing that’ll go around every news station from here to New Orleans.”
“How ironic, isn’t that the same solution you had for those girls a while back?” Montes replies, allowing West to create a short amount of distance between them before the sheriff’s departure halts. “What did you just say to me?” West replies, his tone dropping significantly, head glancing toward the deputy from over his shoulder, the air having quieted.
Quiet for a moment, Montes looks to the sheriff, watching the hunched-over, wounded man stand there, ear belonging to the rookie. “I thought as much” West remarks, turning his face toward the exit before stepping forward again. “Isn’t that the same solution you had for those dead girls!?” Montes shouts back, answering the sheriff’s question just as West had lost hope in hearing one, prompting his superior to stop yet again.
“Let me ask you again” West responds, his body turning slightly as he glances over his shoulder for a second time, his voice dropping even further, “what did you-”
“You know what I said” Montes replies, matching West’s cold, callous tone despite his insides turning, shifted from the fear he hides deep within him. With a sigh, West turns around the rest of the way, peering into Montes’ eyes with a scowl. “I’m going to give you one last opportunity” West replies, placing one foot in front of the other, each step slower than the last, not another carried in his breath until the space between himself and the rookie is no more.
“What did you just say to me?” West repeats, looking into Montes’ eyes for the slightest shift, the young man’s blue eyes stoically kept upon the whites of West’s own. “I said what I said” Montes replies, West’s face inching ever-so-closer to his own, their eyes kept still. “And that was?” West questions, practically daring the rookie to double down in any way other than explicitly telling him to.
Leaning forward himself, Montes touches his nose to West’s own, repeating his previous statement. “I said what I said” the tyro replies, the man that confronts him wielding his cane as a weapon, striking Montes in the side of the knee before sweeping his leg out with the cane’s handle. “Say it like a man!” West shouts, his voice bouncing off the walls of the concrete enclosure, the words wrapping around the pair like a sonic blanket.
More than meeting West’s demand, Montes wastes no time in springing back to his feet, a surprisingly bunched-up right hand swinging through the air without warning. His face warping as Montes’ strike shifts his jaw, West hits the floor, his cane sliding across the ground as the sheriff grabs at his chin, the punch he’d taken served well.
“I said you’re fucking up just like you did with those girls!” Montes howls, the echo effect of West’s shut duplicated for Montes, audibly holding them on an even level. “You can stand around and pretend like you wouldn’t redo it if you had the chance, but I know damn well you would!” Montes yells, the grizzled professional staring up at him from the ground, refusing to interrupt.
“The plane crash, these murders, this fucking serial killer- this is your doing!” Montes declares, a remark that, in his toppled, assaulted and exhausted daze, West is unable to refuse. “All of this could’ve been avoided if you bit the bullet and promised to crack down on corruption- or whatever cheap tagline you could write to save face!” Montes concludes, beginning to step over West as he makes for the exit, “but you painted those girls as criminals- and now all these people are dead!”
Though able to get up and give chase, West stays on the ground, watching Montes step out of the garage, returning to his duties for as long as his employment lasts. The door slamming shut amidst Montes’ exit, West remains on the ground, the adrenaline built from the punch incapable of overwhelming the frustration that, mostly through a cloud of anger, he can’t find much fault in Montes’ confession.
\ Realm of Reality /
“I don’t remember” Rachel groans, her eyes sleepy and head groggy, resting on Jared’s shoulder as he holds her steady, his arm wrapped around her. “That’s alright, we’ll get there” Jared responds, letting Rachel’s head rest against him, comforting her as best as he can manage. “Can you tell me what you do remember?” Jared queries, his chin pressing against her forehead, his voice soft and soothing.
Struggling, Rachel grimaces, her eyes squinting at the hassle of thought, a headache brought on hours prior remaining as present as it had begun. “I know I live in a house with my parents” Rachel responds, the basic recollection bringing a smile to Jared’s face, the illusion of progress alone rewarding in itself.
“I’m in high school?” Rachel asks, tilting her head upward to look Jared in the eyes, his nod somewhat of a reward for her troubles. “I have friends, right?” Rachel questions, the question itself making Jared laugh, her headway having earned another nod. “You’re very likeable and pretty. People don’t really stay alone for long with that combo” Jared jokes, watching Rachel smile appreciatively, able to comprehend a compliment.
“Do you know any of your friends’ names?” Jared redirects, her proud expression falling aside, a more inquisitive look dawning upon her face. “Uh, I-” Rachel staggers, looking off into the distance as thoughts escape her, the fragmented mind shielded by her skull growing more blank the longer she struggles. “I don’t know” Rachel finally whimpers, her eyes beginning to water as Jared gently sways her, the young woman held securely within his arms.
“That’s alright, we won’t over-do it. It’s okay if you don’t know” Jared replies, the girl’s struggles nearly bringing him to tears. “What about me?” Jared whispers, pulling his face away as Rachel turns to him, trying to give her a good look at his face, “do you remember my name?” Parting her lips, Rachel hesitates, short and subtle sounds made whilst she waits for a response, seemingly hoping Jared’s expressions would guide her toward the right answer.
“Ppp, Ttt, Lll, Mmm” Rachel hums, watching the hope drain from Jared’s eyes the further she moves along, unable to lead him on any further, “I don’t know.” Watching Jared’s face fall, Rachel’s earlier pride erodes, the empty joy she’d felt seconds prior overturned. “Oh god, you’re disappointed” Rachel mutters beneath her breath, the slip of Jared’s positive expression corrected as quickly as it had been brought upon.
“No! No! No!” Jared emphatically replies, rubbing the girl’s shoulders in as friendly of a manner as possible, trying everything he can manage to not discourage her. “It’s okay, I can’t be disappointed in you! You got hurt and now you have to get better, that’s all!” Jared remarks, their eyes again looking into each other’s, looking for the same optimistic demeanour.
“Soon enough, you’ll know my name, and you’ll know your friends’ names, and you’ll know what school you go to, and everything will-” Jared adds, suddenly pausing as his eyebrows lower, his head pulling back for a moment, almost as if he doubts what he wants to say, “-everything will go back to normal.”
Left without an answer, Rachel watches Jared’s eyes pan across the room, looking at each wall as he caresses her, their efforts stopped at the distant sound of a metal door’s opening. “Okay, you do remember what I told you to do when the bad man comes, right?” Jared inquires, Rachel’s assertive nod implying a genuine memory.
Retreating to his bed, Jared unleashes Rachel’s hand from his own, propping himself in the corner just as he has since awakening inside the bunker. Forced to duck beneath the door’s frame, Lincoln enters the paddock, an ingenuine smile paid to the sight of a now-conscious Rachel. “Look at you, killer!” Lincoln exclaims, feigning astonishment as he steps onto solid ground, two platters of food levitating behind him.
“Has she made it more than a few minutes without slipping back under?” Lincoln inquires, his question aimed at Jared, who wields a shiv out of the plastic tray from days prior. Silent, Jared just stares back, looking at Lincoln with a look of repulsion, slowly running a jagged piece of metal along what would be his dagger’s blade.
“No comment? Okay” Lincoln responds, resting each individual platter at the foot of their beds, hands pressing upon his hips. “So that’s what you’re going with? A shiv?” Lincoln inquires, addressing the obvious elephant in the room, “I have the powers of a world you didn’t even know existed and your solution is ‘Shawshank Redemption’?”
“My solution is whatever’s gonna kill you- because I’m gonna kill you” Jared responds, his voice lowered from the compassionate, empathetic tone he’d taken with Rachel. “Yeah, said that, heard that” Lincoln mocks, waving his hands through the air as he steps forward, having his fun with poking at Jared’s aggression, “don’t you have something more interesting for me?”
His smile quickly fading, Lincoln’s eyes take to the sound of twisting metal in the direction he’d arrived through, the narrow, steep staircase leading into the bunker ensuring the sound travels well. His eyes widened, Lincoln hears the bolts and screws rip from the chamber’s exterior, he and his two prisoners immediately locking their sights upon the bunker’s entrance.
“Whoever’s up there, I’d suggest you not enter any further!” Lincoln exclaims, summoning a long, electrical current-sporting blade from thin air, its glow a deep, vibrant blue. “You say that like it’ll detour me” an effeminate voice calls back, Jared and Rachel’s past look unchanged as compared to Lincoln’s, his eyes somehow managing to grow wider.
Suspensefully, a set of light footsteps begins to climb down from the surface of earth, their shadow cast against walls behind the backlight of the sun. Two larger, heavier and less coordinated set of feet following after her, the girl reaches the bunker and rounds the corner, entering the makeshift prison cell. “I see you’re living well” the woman remarks, two men, their frames much larger than that of Lincoln’s, standing in the doorway behind her.
“Suzie?” Lincoln whispers, her sight nothing short of an amazement to him, her cheap smirk and furrowed brow presenting a lack of enthusiasm to be confronted with the man’s sight. Crossing her arms, Suzie stretches a single leg outward, her left eyebrow lifting, “how’s it been, Linc?” she replies, her lip curling. Passing a glance to each other, Jared and Rachel share confusion, unsure of what to make of what’s occurring before them, or what fates await them imminently.
== Dream Sequence ==