The first thoughts in his mind were: There is no chance that was a dream. Marko lifts the covers from on top of him while swinging his legs over the side of the bed. When his feet land he feels the carpet beneath him. He sighs as the recognition of his bedroom is made all the more clearer. But angry as he was, there is always a silver lining, he was angry. They hadn’t gotten his anger, and since he was just about always angry these days that would serve as an internal check that he still had an ounce of humanity left in him.
Rushing images of an ivory white figure with its hands in his brain sent a shudder down Marko’s spine. That was one of the more unpleasant experiences of his life, which to date had seen a score of unpleasant experiences. But more on that later, right now Marko was wondering how he arrived here and who the hell put him in the one room he never set foot in. “You awake, stranger?” The voice he instantly recognized, it was that of an old friend. “Tessa, how, why, what? Begin.” Tessa, who had been sitting patiently on a small sofa in the master bedroom got up and walked over to him. She sits right beside him and offers a hug. He accepts, not fully able to appreciate the embrace, just another part of him lost. “When Deacon got sick, that was about the time we met Alex, remember that? Well, she took us in to try and help Deacon. Anything learned from him might be applicable to Tatia or vice versa so I happily agreed. The Blade Master is a very rich person, Marko they have some shiny toys. Some of their order are strong in certain arts. When they felt something unusual they wanted to send an agent of the blade, but once they saw it was you they asked me to go instead. They zapped me over; I showed up and gave them the all clear and then, bam! Here we are.” Marko didn’t buy it, but there was no need to tell her that, and honestly if Tessa wanted to lie to him he would know she has her reasons. “Hey Tess, did you see anyone there with me?” She shook her head. Then she spoke as if she was not fully present, like her sight was gazing beyond Marko. She almost strained her eyes trying to look past him. “No, there was some weird doorway, I don’t really get it but it was open and it led to another door right next to it.” Marko sat in silence. Had he just released one of the most dangerous things on the planet so that he could fail to gain some kind of insight on his powers? Damnit all. “Listen, Marko. I am so very happy to have gotten to see you again after all this time, but please understand I have to get back to Deacon now.” He nodded adding: “We never got to go on that double date. You and Deacon, me and Rebecca. Would have been nice.” Tessa lowers her head, she hides that she is fighting back tears, hides that it hurts her to be in this room without Rebecca or a healthy Deacon, and she hides something else that Marko can’t trace exactly. He doesn’t know how bad it hurts to be in that room and feel Rebecca’s presence as it was when it last entered the house, as it is right now. With some effort she manages to say: “I know, we always talked about it.” Marko gives her a hug goodbye, “I imagine they have a way of bringing you back.” She disappeared from right in front of him before the sentence was even done. A lone feather sits on his bed. He has no desire to be here. As thankful as he is that somehow Tessa was able to teleport to the cage sight despite the intense no magic zone, he is unhappy that she used her ticket to bring him to this particular room. He is so unnerved that he lies down on the comfortable bed, kicking off his shoes and he closes his eyes in protest.
Thoughts flood his already plagued mind which was running every scenario possible involving Ben’s wrath and how quickly he would make up for lost time. Could the gift have completely removed the effects of the cage so that magic was now possible near it? That would explain Tessa being able to get so close so quickly. Then again this was speculation, he doesn’t know how long it took her or how long he was out, he just suspected from her disappearing act that it was an effortless transport. Something about it rang true in his gut. But what if that meant a group of demon worshipers could reach Ben now and help him open the only door between him and Earth. “What if…” this is the last thought before Marko finally drifts asleep having run his mind into a near panic attack. He has nothing in the sense of answers only a very confusing mess of images, a friend that seems more powerful than she ever revealed, and an old nemesis somehow freed. Marko had figured that if Ben was already out he would have sensed him by now considering how close to him he had just been and how much of his essence he had felt. But these are his waking thoughts; they have no place in the realm of sleep where he has been steadily drifting towards.
Rebecca’s cries would have woken the whole house had she not decided to doze off in the barn near the horses. The only living soul aware of her plight now was standing just a few feet away from her. It takes just a second but his approach calms her stressed features. He needn’t get much closer, this seemed to be enough. Marko felt so sorry for her, it wasn’t that he blamed himself for not being able to catch the Mare, it was just in general that she had to be put through something so out of her control. The night before, he had caught on that there was something to his presence that seemed to bring her back to Earth. He had not stayed there long, but he was becoming quite fond of her. This woman was so capable, and so genuine, Marko found himself running into her on accident quite purposefully. Then began the dull awakening of repressed senses, the smells and sounds of the farm at night coming back in vivid detail. Marko as usual was too aware of himself to be fooled into thinking this was anything but a dream, still he relished the opportunity to see her as she was with a set of emotions still in place. She rouses from slumber, far more gracefully than Marko ever could, and sits up straight. She looks around to see it was night then back to him who had been watching as she slept. He can tell that Rebecca was feeling a little uncomfortable and his first instinct was to tell her not to fret, she looked beautiful even when she slept but fearing that would only make her all the more uncomfortable Marko settled with: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I just wanted a closer look to see if our theory is right.” She nods, giving him a reprieve for the moment, and still being a little bashful she doesn’t make direct eye contact right away. There is that first instinct of his rearing up again, he wished only to make her feel less exposed, but again he fears he might initiate the opposite. Even by now it was certainly not an easy task for Rebecca to allow herself to be vulnerable and alone in a barn with a relative stranger. Finally she spoke. “It’s working. I’m feeling the difference and it goes quick.” Marko sits down on the opposite side of the wall from her, he was eyeing a stack of hay for a minute that he might have sat on but he did not want to chance disturbing her sleep when he had finally moved close enough to make the difference. The wall would do fine. “Tell me about it,” says Marko.
Rebecca speaks low, even though they were far enough from the rest of ranchville to go unheard, she spoke in hushed tones as if the whispers would keep her dreams private that much longer. “This time there is a highway, a Jeep, and I think I’m driving. I have blonde hair, which I don’t plan on having anytime soon, and then there’s a man with me…” she looks closely at Marko scrutinizing his features. He looks behind him and then back to her with a quizzical look. She pauses another moment before going on, “Well I think it’s you but you look thinner in my dream.” Marko grunts, “Thanks.” Rebecca rolls her eyes at him, “Hey I just dreamed it, what do you want the sugar coated version?” Marko replies half-jokingly “I do have a sweet tooth, but no, we said full disclosure so keep on talking.” Rebecca half smiles and continues, “Ok so you and me are driving and then next scene we’re standing on a highway off to the side of the road and,” her face hardens as she pictures the scene, “…and there is an explosion.” Marko’s eyes narrowed, “How did the explosion look?”
“Big. Like nuclear…” Rebecca did not enjoy the silence that followed. “But that doesn’t mean anything right, not a one of these dreams have come true yet so this one probably won’t either right?”
“They don’t always have to mean one thing or another. But then again Rebecca your dreams are supernatural now.” She did not like that at all. The idea that somehow her dreams had become more valid now that she was cursed and that each one depicted a whole lot of violence was not sitting well with her. “There’s nothing you can do for me is there?” Marko sensed the distress in her voice, she held herself together but no one could be expected to show a brave face when you were telling them how the rest of their life may be burdened with increasingly grotesque visions, one for every night of the week. “These last two nights your nightmares have been cut short. It’s not ideal I know but I think something about me wards them away.” Rebecca frowned, “I’m not liking where this is going, slim.” Marko smiles. “What,” asks Rebecca, “I really do not like wherever your heads at right now.”
“It’s nothing like that, it’s just that name, slim, it’s from a comic book. No one has ever called me that.” Rebecca looked puzzled. “Well I’ve never called anyone that before. It’s kind of a stupid nick name now that I think about it. But after my dream and all…” Marko let it slide. “Yeah well, bite me. I know I’ve stayed here longer than I wanted to. I’m sure it’s been longer than you wanted me to be here for,” Rebecca nods. “… So if this next idea here doesn’t seem like it will work for you, then I’ll be gone. Out of your hair for whatever that’s worth.”
“I’m listening… slim.” Marko stands up for the dramatic affect. “Until we get a solid bead on this Mare, I can stay near you to keep the dreams at bay.”
“How near?” Asks Rebecca. Marko, who had been slowly walking towards her while speaking, looked to the ground as if to say the distance between them now (About six feet) was it. She rolled her eyes again, “No, I’m not big on strangers sleeping next to me, or near me, or… well no, that’s about right. So no thank you.” Marko nods. “It’s alright, I wouldn’t be sleeping,” immediately regretting the haphazard comment Marko hangs his head. “Oh really? You wouldn’t be sleeping?” Rebecca asks a bit defensively. Through a thin veil made of his fingers he explains: “No, I wouldn’t be sleeping. I’d be watching over you. He has to know when his dreams are being intercepted, at some point that will bring him back to you. I can’t afford to be caught off guard when that happens. I can’t let him get to you while I’m asleep. That just isn’t going to happen.” Rebecca looked at Marko for a long time after that. She didn’t know how she knew, she just felt the sincerity in his voice and it led her to believe that he would without a doubt spend sleepless night after night protecting her. Well she didn’t need protection. That would have been the end of it right there except that since Marko arrived, every promise he’s made he’s carried out with the only caveat being that now Rebecca was exposed to the Mare, a fact that killed Marko, but a fact that soothed Rebecca in that her family was safe. “The answer is still no,” Marko had been expecting as much, “but don’t go yet. Not far anyway. They’ve grown to like you here and you’re not useless so…” Marko nods. Witnessing the event for the second time in his life he now wondered if it was more than the feelings of the rest of the family that made Rebecca ask that he stay, or her own. He never thought to ask, no back then it was catch the Mare with the strange brand on its neck at all costs, don’t sweat the small stuff. They never did figure what the mark meant, but after that it never mattered. What they had gained in the interim was a chance few would squander; they had won peace, fleeting, and blissful peace. The blonde haired Rebecca and her thinner Marko never watched a nuclear bomb explode, and they never road around in a Jeep (that part regrettably so), but from that night on, Rebecca never looked at him the same. For better or for… no, just for better.
When the dream had reached its conclusion Marko was not totally at a loss for words. He woke up feeling rested, a peaceful kind of rested that he had not experienced on the couch downstairs. Her being had long since been erased from their bed, but he could still picture her as she slept. He remembers the flight and the dream that shook loose a tear, and when he reaches up to his eyes and finds there is none he wonders to himself if it had been sorrow that the Ivory monster stole from him. Because now that he was awake again the concerns of the living began to take center stage, and the state of his mental health was still very much in question. Bereft of proper insight at the moment and just hungry in general he crawled out from the room and walked down the stairs. He could feel the others in the garage. A strange place for a meeting but Marko figured he would hazard a look anyway. He is excited to feel the presence of another old friend in the house. Scott had made it back, and there was another… but he wasn’t human.
Opening the garage door Marko sees first, two buckets of water, followed by Nick with his sleeves rolled high and his feet grounded, and a beat up man sitting on a chair. Sean was talking to Alicia, and Eliot had excused himself and Kiara from the scene. Scott walks up to Marko and they shake hands as Spartans would with a pat on the back. “Scott, I said good hunting when you left. Never expected you to bring back the spoils.” Scott shrugs, “A man’s gotta be proud of his catch.” Sean gives Marko a nod, as he turns back to Alicia (ever full of questions.) “I don’t get what you’re saying,” begins Alicia. “Is it not water boarding?” Sean replies with: “No that’s plan B.” On a stack of shelves which housed a variety of shoes and work boots, at the very top, were a few items recovered from Collin. Marko did not wish to interfere or interrupt in the preceding so he walked quietly over to the belongings of the man being tortured in that same room. A wallet with a real human ID, for Collin in fact, had no real surprises in it. There were photos of what was either a pretend family, or a real tragedy that he hadn’t yet heard about. But then there was a small box, like a cigarette case. Sean saw Marko looking at it. He interrupts Alicia’s babbling to tell him: “That’s a real interesting number. Don’t have a clue what it is.” Marko opens the case and finds himself staring at a hauntingly familiar brand. He had seen the symbol just moments before. “There’s something else too,” continues Sean. “Tell him Collin.” The wrangler bursts into sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he says! “The Mare… I didn’t know…”
Marko was already ahead of him. He was so aware of that symbol that from the day he saw it, the image of what it looked like on the horses neck would never leave him. Not the way it scarred, or the way it looked old, or the way that despite these two facts it looked like it was mending still. But that wasn’t the immediate shock that was nagging at Marko. It’s that Rebecca called him slim. It was from a comic book. He remembered her saying it just like it was yesterday, even though it was actually two and a half days ago, only then, it came from a demon.