The Ghost of Emma's Future

March 15, 2015:

It's a dream. It's a vision. It's impossible. But it leaves quite an impression.

Dreamtime

Descriptions are in the log.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Another deal successfully sealed, she allows herself the tiniest hint of relaxation, easing her posture just enough that she can actually feel the soft, welcoming support of the incredibly expensive supple white leather chair against her back, the brush of the silk of her blouse as the breathy sigh escapes her lips.

There is a moment's discordance, as the crystalline phone on the desk flares with soft blue light, demanding her attention. She cannot even recall what the deal is that she just completed, or any of the details of the success it implies. How odd.

The moment of discord, however, is left aside as her fingers brush the phone by reflex, and her assistant's voice comes through clearly. "Pardon me, Ms. Frost. Your two-oh-clock is here." Pale blue eyes sweep across the liquid crystal display on the phone, denoting that it is almost a full fifteen minutes until that time.

How odd. She almost never takes a business meeting that would require her to cut short her regular two hour lunch.

"Very well. Make them comfortable, and show them in on time." Emma's voice is crisp and easy, as always, a show of her control however at ease and graceful she appears.

For a moment, the discord threatens to return, as she wonders where the time went. Yet seemingly in the time it has taken for her to blink her eyes, the clock now reads 2:00, and the door at the far end of her office is opening to admit her assistant and her appointment. Discordance is abandoned in the face of sheer confusion, as the tall figure strides in wrapped in a deep grey hooded robe, sleeves and hood swallowing the form entirely, leaving no hint as to whom lies within, or what business they may have with Emma Frost.

"Andi, who is —"

Emma's words are cut off by reflex, however, as her assistant exits the room as if thrown, while nothing touches the woman. There is merely the spare, economic gesture of a raised arm, and she is propelled back beyond the door. A hint of a flick of the wrist, and the door slams shut, the locks audibly engaging as the arm lowers once more to the figure's side.

Emma surges to her feet as the words spill from her lips with a sharp, staccato tone the wise have learned to recognized instantly as 'furious command voice.' It usually precedes loss of employment or the summary dismemberment and sale of entire corporate divisions. "What is the meaning of this? Who are you, and what are you doing here?" Coldly contained fury paints her features and her posture, the sort from which even some billionaires have been known to retreat in concern.

Yet the grey-robed figure moves into the room unperturbed, almost seeming to float given that the feet are hidden by the trailing hem of the robe. No word is spoken, yet a command is heard, felt … and nearly obeyed by instinct. « Sit. »

Something about that telepathic voice brings Emma up short. She doesn't recognize it. And yet she does. Somewhere in the deep, lizard-like ganglias of the hindbrain, her instincts know to listen to that mental voice, despite refusing to cough up a name, or any identifying information. She is not even aware of moving, yet she can feel she is once more in her office chair, leaning back by instinct, as if to put space between herself and that advancing figure.

Another gesture, and the crystal clear glass panel on the desk in front of her flickers to life, its liquid crystal display awakening as words take shape. "Your path is laid out before you, already chosen. You have sealed your fate, and the fate of countless billions more." Before Emma can think to question the figure, or check her computer to determine how this message is getting through, her chair abruptly spins, rotating as it was built to do, but with no discernable touch and far faster than she would ever do; decorum demands patience and deliberation after all.

Spun about, Emma grips the arms of the chair for stability, even as her mind tries to fathom the sight before her. Where natural blonde wood bookcases and a broad cut crystal block window should be, there is now simply … open space. Her office is gone, save for the chair upon which she sits, its wheels digging into lifeless, cold grey dust. This is not soil, not dirt. Merely grit and dust. It is ash, and the plain of it stretches beyond the horizon. Its dominion is broken by lumps and irregular shapes, which the eye insists on trying to fit into patterns of sense, until recognition dawns: buildings. Skyscrapers, snapped off, shattered, leaning askew, the blasted remnants of a forgotten, crumpled world.

Emma readies herself to turn, to confront the figure and ask questions, but what might have issued from her lips sticks just like that ash in her throat, as she bears witness to an emaciated, withered husk of a child scurry from the ostensible safety of a leaning, toppled behemoth, letting the wan, weak and watery light of the sun slice across her frame, wrapped in singed scraps that pretend to decency, hair a lank swatch of dingy mange. The child scampers in a shuffling stride across the ashen ground, making for a low lump soon identified as a blighted, twisted remnant of a motor vehicle.

Whatever the child's reasons, she never reaches her goal. Almost there, she is suddenly beset. What comes over another near-invisible lump in the ashen terrain and boils up out of the grey soot and silt put paid to the label for all of this: nightmare. Each unique and different, they are a patchwork mismatch of misshapen, often inhuman body parts and sleek, metallic, obviously cybernetic limbs. The one that reaches the little girl snatches her up not with hands, but in a mouth made of a bestial humanoid skull and a glittering bright robotic lower jaw, beads of sullen reddish light visible through some of the seams. The girl barely chokes, and never gets out a scream before she is dragged away and out of sight.

Emma finds herself torn, a part of her on instinct - not completely stamped out, despite her rigid self-control - wanting to reach out and strive in vain to save the child, while another part wants to crawl back in the chair and push this - all of this - away. That feeling is what creates the duality in her mind, allowing her to realize that this is in her mind.

In her mind, but not a dream. She can feel her body, asleep in bed, the cool nightmask still covering her eyes and cheekbones. Even more disturbing, she can feel her mind, and her telepathic shields are up. Her mind, to all of her instincts and senses, has not been violated. No force she can detect is controlling her thoughts or pushing this vision upon her. And yet … this is not real.

Before the instinct to panic can well up more strongly, her perceptions shift again, and she is flung around again, nearly falling out of the incongruous desk chair. She lurches to her feet, tired of being manipulated by the chair, but finds her three-inch stiletto Manolo Blahnicks ill-suited to the shattered terrain; it is a struggle even to stay upright when standing still. Unable to feel out the other mind, Emma finds herself unable to make herself wake up, or to block out the dream-like vision being pushed upon her. But it is still her mind, and the heels are replaced as she shifts into the attire she might wear at her estate in Idaho, complete with riding boots.

Able to stand steady, Emma follows the seemingly drifting form in the grey robe as it leads through the broken concrete tunnel, the dull grey ash and silt eddying across the floor as tiny gusts enter and course down its length. The hall seems endless, almost as if it is stretching out to eternity. But Emma does not find herself growing tired.

Eventually the figure steps out of the tunnel and into a Stygian darkness, unbroken and relentless as it bears down upon the viewer. Gurgling screams and sickening squelches sound out of the darkness in a hundred directions at once. Finally, the darkness is lifted from Emma's eyes, not by light but by some effort of will. Yet she would rather have kept the blindness of darkness than to witness the garish gore of the plentiful tortures being visited upon what seems an untold number of human forms.

Most startling for Emma is the number of persons she witnesses who ring through to her as coming from her own memories, those she has known. She watches, sickened but resolute, as arms are sawed off, gushing blood, or eyes are plucked out, cast aside. Drills bore into skulls. Needles drive into flesh. She watches as this horde of people is transformed, one horrific act at a time, into the very creatures she saw steal away the girl. And she watches as some few - here, a thin bald man, there a rail-thin and wasted redheaded woman with half her scalp shorn away, there a sinuous oriental woman with a purple-tinted black mane pulled through a steel ring at the top of her skull - are marked and tortured still further. She has only vague perceptions of a raven-haired, black-robed figure wielding a kriss-bladed ceremonial dagger, chanting as the blade is heated to glowing and used to sear the flesh of the face, creating radiating lines upon each visage. Their agonizing screams, not just audible but slamming into Emma's mind … as twisting, amorphous shadows of dark and deadly power are bound into their flesh.

It's not that Emma lacks the vocabulary to encompass what she is witnessing. But it is so far beyond anything she has ever even imagined, she is sure this is not a dream. More sure, now, than she was even before. What it is, she is still not sure. But she is sure it is no dream conjured up from her mind, her memories. Despite recognizing countless faces in that crowd of agony, she is sure this is not from her. But who?

Turning to the grey-robed figure, Emma sees it lower the outstretched arm, apparently finished beckoning her to take this all in. As she steps along to follow the specter towards whatever its next destination, she tries to ponder just what all of this could mean. She is convinced it is a purposeful demonstration. But who? How? And to what end? She is usually a genius at figuring out and manipulating the desires and intents of others, using that to her own ends. But not here. Not yet.

Around them, the air seems to waver. Then the concrete tunnel they had been following is gone. They stand on another plain The ash here is thin, but char is visible along the broken edges of stonework barely poking up above the earth. The contour of the land shows a massive crater. Beyond its edge, the earth is twisted, cracked and broken. They stand at the edge of the crater, looking at a series of blasted, seared standing stones. Leaning down to examine them, a cold wind of terror floats up her spine, as she just manages to make out two names. Hazel. Christian.

"So what?" Emma questions, turning towards the robed figure. "I'm dead, then? All this, just to threaten me? How pathetic." The disdain is palpable, as she shakes her head. "Such overkill, and for nothing."

The figure turns, facing the shattered tombstones no longer, but facing Emma now. One deeply belled sleeve lifts, then falls back to reveal a metallic cyberarm, its inhuman fingers curling slightly as it scoops up the edge of the hood and pushes it back. Back, revealing a visage horribly scarred. Eyes burning with hellfire and shadows, barely pushed back to reveal irises of the lightest blue. Skull irregularly shorn and mostly bare, dotted with metal studs and gleaming spikes.

"Not for nothing." comes a voice raspy and shorn, but with still the diction perfect, the edge clipped. A mirror, darkly shining. "A message. A warning. You stand upon a precipice, teetering on the brink. This is your only chance. Our only chance. Repent. Change your path. Or all of this, and worse, lies in your future. A fate so much worse than death. A fate so foul, you wouldn't even wish it upon Father."

And then the hold is loosed, and all of it is gone. There is only Emma, awake in her bed, eyes still blinded by the nightmask, screaming and sobbing.

Good thing no one is there to see. How humiliating.

But what does it all mean? Can it possibly be real?

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