Content warnings for this episode include: Blood, Drowning, Monologuing
Intro - A Little More Static
You hover in the dark water. It is an infinite abyss around you, as black as ink, and so cold that only the scarcest jellyfish may swim. You drift through it without feeling its bitter touch, for you have slipped from the mortal coil into an arctic purgatory. As you float forward through the waters, you hope that the great black wings of the Grackle will not spread above you, not here, hidden from its sight…
No, this is not the place. There is too much. Hours of things to tell unfolding in minutes. Perhaps…
You are a ghost, and you do not feel the winds that flow through you as you approach a cold body in the ice. You…
No, still no.
You blink awake. Is it sunlight that you feel? It is a warmth you have not felt in what feels like many months, and…
You plant your claw in the ice, and scar it, for there are fish beneath you would love to see…
This is not the time, dreamer. I know it is not the time. Not when the hour grows so near. And yet, I…
I am a coward.
I have always known it.
To guard the gates of the council of heavens indeed.
What would I have done? If any real threat had ever come along?
Would I have run from it?
It is all unfolding so fast, dreamer. Our stories stretch into hours because in a dream, they can. But what occurs is simultaneous and unstoppably quick and it happens all at once.
And it is happening. All at once. It is at the same time, night, and Downing Hill burns and threatens to flicker out. And in the arctic, a girl descends on a broom, and Mort walks for the spire of ice that stands at true north, and Riot drifts and… we watch.
We watch snowflakes suspended in the frosted breeze. I watch tears form in eyes and lips part to speak words of comfort or hurt. I watch the infinitude of a last breath, blossoming like a flame in the cold.
And I should never have stepped in. I should never have interfered. It was easier when I did nothing. And I know it may not seem as though I have done much. But if I had not, then Mort would not be here. And likely Creep, bursting through the ice would have taken what supplies they held, and there would one great chance be gone.
Do we channel hope to Downing Hill, that as Clara Martin draws north, that it is to her that the library travels? Or do we turn our hopes to Diggory Graves?
The difference is, dreamer, that no matter what happens now, I have altered it in some way. And so I am not simply narrating a death to you. I am the hand that caused it. As these dire journeys reach their conclusions, I am painfully aware that it did not need to happen this way.
Perhaps Old Afterclaps was a liar. A fool in the desert. What could a rote machine, an iron judge, know of the workings of gods?
If I had done nothing, if I had let all of these attempts fail, then at least I could watch impartially. Hurt, perhaps. Concerned for your kind, even. But it would not be my fault. And perhaps I would be able a little more consistently to dictate for you without…
Breaking. Without breaking down.
What a foolish god I have become. Lolgmololg would drown a nation for amusement, if she was given the avenue. Syrensyr burns souls for fuel. And I am concerned for a very finite number of very finite organisms. I am sure you cannot comprehend, dreamer, from your mortal stance, how far below me you are supposed to be.
I have wasted my years, dreamers. I am not a lord of nightmare, but a frightened animal. Frightened of the wide universe and its loathing, so I have clung to the memory of the Garden, and all the desolate traces of him that are left. This is only a stain of his blood. I was too afraid to believe that it would ever be shed. And now I am afraid that I will watch your kind die, and at the same time, afraid that I have condemned you myself with the worrying.
It would be better, I think, had I never started this at all. Never spoke to you in dream. Even that is a, an affect. What is it all for, all these stories we have followed, if only to watch it burn?
What have I done, dreamer? What have I done?
How am I to confront this ruin that I have created. All of this…
Nik? Nik, are you there?
*breathing goes still*
I’m reaching out as hard as I can. Do you remember me?
Well, I don’t know if you can hear me or not. But we’re here. We’re all here, at the Scoutpost, hoping that our friends are okay. I don’t know if you can see them the way that you see me.
I know what you are, I think. My grandma Laura… she mentioned that her sister Amaryllis was like me. I think you’ve crossed paths with my family before. Maybe that’s why you came to me. I know you see a lot. So if you’re still out there, if you’re still paying any attention to this world at all… can you let me know if they’re in danger? We just want to know if they’re alright.
This is a bad time, Danielle.
I’m sorry. We’re all so worried.
I am worried also.
...that’s not a good sign.
Danielle. I am not sure that any of them are coming back to you. Some may never leave the arctic.
I guess I already knew that, deep down.
...I wish I had better news for you. I wish they had lived.
Can’t you do anything? You can see so much and talk to dreaming people everywhere, but you can’t help them?
I am helping them! I have taken action, Danielle, and now Cindy Lockheart is dead. Not because she had to die. The rest might follow any minute. I have put their lives in jeopardy, you understand. So that your friends would have one singular chance at all of this working. That their mission would not be completely in vain. It is going to work. I think.
Do not tell them that at the Scoutpost. There has been enough of my meddling, but it is true. I have tried to give you a chance. And now there are three. I can not guarantee any of your friends will return, but it will work. It has to. If they die, they will not die for nothing. That is all I can give you. This is all I have.
Why do I get the feeling that I’m not going to hear from you again?
Danielle... you and I are not supposed to speak like this. I did not intend to cross paths with your kind again, after Amaryllis. I reached out to you in a moment of weakness. Because you could do something I could not. That may have been a mistake. I should not have tampered. Made myself known. It was selfish. I am sorry, Danielle.
…I have done nothing worthy of thanks.
If I don’t hear from you again… just remember me, okay? I’ve got a nice home at the Scoutpost. I’m learning to walk. I have friends. And the only reason I’m free is because of you, I think. You taught me how to use my dreams. You set all this in motion. I’ll think of you, every so often, and I’ll thank you for what you did for me back in Box Andromeda. For giving me this life instead of that one.
Think of me, too, maybe, if you’re ever wondering if it was worth it. For all of us… it was. Thank you for doing something. Now matter how hard it was… and is going to be.
I’ll see ya when I see ya.
*alone, Nikignik weeps*
I have got to pull myself together.
What kind of a narrator am I for you, dreamer?
I cannot run from this. Not this time.
For better or worse, I have touched your world.
It began when, in my ignorance… no. Not ignorance. Denial? Fear? I knew the Industry would not suffer Marolmar to live, but I could not bring myself to imagine a world without him. Thought that if I just hoped it would get better, than it would, and no calamity would befall us.
I ignored the signs, and Marolmar died. And his heart, his great engine of change, the first of many, was buried in the ice beneath your world. Supposedly forever. In a way, this is all my fault.
I touched your world again, in Cairo, when you called to the stars and I decided to speak. Lonely, and aggrieved, and irresponsible.
I touched it when I became friends with Amaryllis Ward, and changed her life forever. Would she have gone on to found Downing Hill, I wonder, if she had never known me? I do not know if it would have ever crossed her mind.
If the heart has doomed you, and Downing Hill has perhaps saved you, then. I do not know, dreamer. The only thing I can claim to know is this.
I warned you when we began this winter that we would venture into the dark. I promised that I would not leave you.
I do not want you to die. I do not want your kind to drown in a flood of new life, an outpouring of creation from the open heart of the spring.
I have done something about it. Something small. But something. And I must stand now, by that choice.
You and I, dreamer, will face the future together. It is a future we both fight for. Your future. And in a way, mine.
I am more fragile than I thought. And you are stronger than I imagined.
A dreamer, and a nightmare. An audience and a narrator. No. An audience and a friend.
Let us face this bitter end together.
If I have saved you, I deserve no thanks.
If I have doomed you, I am sorry. I tried. You know that I have tried.
Let us begin this dream again. It is time for us to confront the ending.