He'd woken from a dream, or it felt that way, his brain a cauldron filled with frenzied, fuming bubbles, churning all around til their climax preceded their rising action which preceded again their denouement
and he couldn't make sense of any of the chronology at all. That fog had fallen over his brain, that hazy way of understanding individual sensations and motifs, but realizing that the whole picture, the canvas painted with all the combined colors, was a non-sequitur
, pointless and disjointed. There too was the whiplash of thinking he was in one place, but waking in another, and not recognizing the place in which he woke—
He remembered nothing but the vague discomforts of drunkenness: the tiling of the kitchen floor and the streaks of plaster pasted between them, and how these uniform borders tilted and spun while he crawled about with his face down; how he didn't care for the taste of soured milk, but so lethargic was he that he drank it anyway simply because it didn't hurt much. All those stupid little quirks which a sober man can laugh about like they happened outside of his will, like the poison possessed him and made of him an involuntary fool.
As he wondered where outside of the city this field belonged—or was it a park after all? a botanical garden, perhaps?—Deai struggled to stand, and in doing so, saw that he still wore his wife-beater and boxers. Still
, because somehow he was certain that he hadn't stripped down, or been
stripped, throughout his rampage. One memory jolted another and then another all in a chain, and realizing that a noose had been involved at some point, he lashed his hand toward his neck, feeling for scars or rope-burns. There it was, a slender, snaking patch of flesh, tender to the touch and risen with swelling.
I'm dead, then.
Placidity is often interrupted by sudden discovery. Enthusiasm, while not a solely human trait, certainly suited them well; whether their boundless emotional energy be within the spectrum of positivity or otherwise. Rose watched the new arrival with some interest, noting, even from the distance between them, that marred ring around his neck. Putting on her best smile, she moved from the Hollow Egress' maw and down the stairs seeking to approach what she suspected was the Bonewoven. "Ya look pretty rough. It's strange for a wound to carry over, when a Dream enters this place."
She stopped a fair distance from the man, a smile blooming on her face. "You musta had it pretty rough, but don't worry, ya can relax here, for a minute. Take a breather, ya know?"
A minute? Literally, or metaphorically? His chest clenched, and Deai felt like a clamminess should have assailed his palms, like sweat should have puddled from his pores, but no such afflictions struck his physiology; the ethereality of this after-life, he had to suppose.
Rose brought a finger to her chin, letting her eyes drift over him a moment. "We need to talk anyway,"
she said, then mentioning her name aloud. "I'm gonna be ya guide through Navain. I'm here to help ya adjust."
But he didn't hear, or didn't comprehend, that strange, alien word. "Am I in hell or in heaven?"
he asked."It's nothin' like that, Bonewoven,"
she said, rocking on her heels, "ya ain't dead, at least not while you're here!"
Meeting his eyes, she continued. "Ya got torn from your native Corporeal Reality at the moment of ya death, due to the interference of a Scribe. After that, ya entered Navain; this field and everything beyond it!"
The "Bonewoven" blinked, recognizing, at least, that she used that phrase for him, for whatever purpose it may have served to this queer being. "Purgatory?""Ya gettin' colder!"
Rose shrugged, uncertain as to how long this line of questioning would continue. "It's more like a world situated between ya home reality and a whole mess of empty existence. It's nothin' religious, so drop those ideas real quick. If anything, Navain is somethin' unique to its self. I can't tell ya much about the gritty bits, but I might be able to answer some of ya other questions!"
Shame had begun to return to the young man, who realized that the stained armpits, and certainly the noose burn, were not something he wanted any god or angel to see. He sat, crossed his arms and legs, and made himself small on the grass, which felt as real as the real stuff, plump and soft and fresh."This is a lot to take in. For, uh, a human like me,"
he mumbled. No mere man could walk around with her composure, knowing what she knew, or at least feigning at it with such confidence. "Okay; uh, why, why am I here, then? In 'Navain.'"
And what's a "Bonewoven," for that matter? And if this isn't an afterlife then why did he have to die to come here? But these could wait. His ultimate fate, and how much burning sulfur it would entail, claimed immediacy on the list.
After a moment, she lowered herself into the grass alongside the Bonewoven; a man she had not yet received a name for. Her fingers spread out across the grass and Rose reclined slightly, keeping her eyes on the man before her; who seemed to have deflated in a strange way. Her smile faltered at the pain she sensed, but she did not let it abscond entirely. "I know, and I'm sorry about that! It's gonna take a long time to understand everything there is to know about Navain and the Corporeal Reality ya came from."
Rose brought her right hand to her chin, letting her head rest fully against it. "Might be best to start from the top, then. Ya ended up here to become a hero, simple as that! Pariah Dreams—that's whatcha are, by the way—are brought from other worlds. Each of you possesses a power of immeasurable potential, and ya don't necessarily have to follow the rules of Navain."
She sighed, though it was not a noise of frustration. "Ya got brought here, to the Hollow Egress, to see if you're worthy of the Title that was given to ya!"
Rose pointed lazily with her free hand, behind her, to the concrete monstrosity. "Not just you, though. There are others; a few of 'em are already waitin' inside!"
Slowly, she stood. "Ya first task is to find ya Anchor, so you and the others can exist on the same plane of Navain."
An Anchor. With the help of some context clues, all this was becoming easier to understand, albeit slightly. "And my title is 'Bonewoven,'"
Deai discerned."Yep! And I gotta admit, it, uh, sounds pretty sweet. Ya...ya familiar with ya body, right?"
She offered another slight smile with the comment, raising a hand to her mouth. "Sorry, just jokin' around. What's ya real name, Bonewoven?""Yasushi Deai."
He launched then into a little tirade, stammering out his explanation on who in his life addressed him by his family name, and who by his given; honorifics; levels of formality and closeness and so on. Catching himself, he cut this explanation short. She probably knew it anyway, what with the deific omniscience. "Anyway, what do you mean, 'sounds pretty sweet'? You're not the one who came up with it?"
Rose listened, but was already familiar with the social customs of Deai's culture. It was something that had been included in her P.R.P, allowing for more easy interaction with the myriad of Dreams that had been assigned to her. As such, she paid it little mind, preferring instead to continue with her less-than-formal interactions. "Nah, I don't get to choose the Titles...or anything, really, Deai. I'm just here to make sure nothin' goes wrong before ya enter the Egress. I'm a Guide, ya know!""Oh."
Giving himself only a moment to let it all soak through, he decided he didn't want to know any more. Perhaps he couldn't handle it; the sheer scale of everything, knowing what sort of infinity existed beyond the borders of that place he'd known as his world, his country, his city and street. Whatever it was, he mustered his courage and he stood. If something as weak and feeble as him could be chosen for these Tests, then he had to believe that he was ready to face them, despite the terror lumping in his gut. He nodded. She understood the nod, and started to lead him away."You said there are others like me? We're meeting up with them?""Ya are! I ain't goin' through that door...I...I, uh, can't...I'm kinda barred entry."
He looked ashamed again. "S'wrong?"
Rose asked."Well, uh—"
he looked away— "can you manage a change of clothes?"