8.31.2018

Television: Can Sherlock Be Saved?

I'm going to pause here for a second and go back to something rather old at this point. It's no secret I really, really disliked the last couple series of Sherlock. And I came off the fourth series sort of assuming that was the end of it. Like, they seemed to have wrapped it up in a bow, right? But people keep talking about how to fix the show in the next series, and I just keep thinking, Is there going to be one? Is it even worth trying to fix and keep going?

The show's stars are busy with other things now, and Moffat and Gatiss have talked about doing Dracula or Frankenstein or something, haven't they? So I don't really know that there will be more Sherlock. But for the sake of argument, let's say there will be. Someday. And that the show needs to be course corrected. Because, Jesus, that last episode in particular was just so, so awful. But honestly, it's been going downhill for a while, yeah? Starting with the third series? With the making fun of the fans while simultaneously doing random fan service that felt pulled straight from bad fan fiction?

What made Sherlock good in the beginning was the very careful amalgam of plot + character. What made it slowly go bad—like takeaway left out to spoil—was the shifting imbalance of those things. 1. Plot became less important and often less concise, which is the kiss of death when telling mystery stories in particular. 2. Character also became less well defined as the characters began to behave in odd ways that seemed not to fit the way they'd been originally established. So: viewers who had come for the plots were disappointed. And people who'd come for the characters were equally unhappy. It just all went off the rails, really.

When we left the show, where were we? Sherlock had an even smarter sister who . . . was criminally insane? And was upset, I guess, that Sherlock had forgotten her? She's apparently orchestrated his entire life, or at least the last several years of it, by injecting Moriarty (now very definitely dead?) into it. I'm surprised we weren't told she was the one who introduced John to Sherlock in some backward way.

Okay, but the sister is all safe and sound now, and the Holmes family is somehow quite fine with . . . whatever the f*** happened there, and based on the coda to that last episode, John and Sherlock are happily raising a baby together and solving crimes and teaching a baby to solve crimes.

Yeah, that feels like an end to me.  I don't see a path forward there short of something really, really awful like: it was a novel John wrote that was so bad it never found a publisher. Or even a series of novels John wrote, and they did get published, but it was all fantasy. So let's reset to . . . when? How far back would we have to go to make Sherlock good again? I think we'd have to start back at series three. I think we'd have to explain how he survived the fall (and we all know that the writers don't know, which is why they didn't answer that question and instead chose to make fun of the fans for asking). I think we'd have to change Mary or remove her entirely. Because, honestly, the whole mercenary thread? It was pretty awful. I think, if we go with the idea John was writing novels, that was John writing a wish fulfillment/attempt at a James Bond thriller. I think if he's got a girlfriend or a wife, she's probably something fairly normal and not half the fun Sherlock is, which is why John wrote her as way more exciting.* Because he missed Sherlock while Sherlock was "dead."

This is a stretch, I realize. This is Dallas' "all a dream" or St. Elsewhere's snow globe to the maximum. But it's the only way back to good that I can see.

Still, it seems far more likely they'll just leave it and move on. Viewers keep hoping for "one more miracle"—that the show will come back from the dead and redeem itself—but I'm not sure it has any left.

* John's actual wife: "But, dear, why did you kill off the wife?"
John: "The readers didn't like her."

8.24.2018

The Dream Cages #14

"Jesus," said Gansey.

Ronan's body had pitched itself from the chair onto the floor, and as the blue eyes opened, rents appeared in the back of Ronan's shirt, in his flesh, copious amounts of blood spilling onto the scuffed hospital linoleum.

"Henry, no!" Blue shouted as Henry dove for the emergency call button.

"But..." said Henry, gesturing broadly to the expanding puddle.

"It's fine," Gansey said, "he'll be fine." Though, truth be told, it sounded a bit like he was trying to convince himself more than anyone else.

"This is normal?" Henry asked.

"None of this is normal," said Blue.

"And all of it is," Gansey added.

Henry threw his hands up in defeat. "Okay, man. You the boss."

"We need to clean it up, though," Blue said. "Henry, go get some paper towels from the bathroom."

"Why me?" Blue just looked at him. Gansey had bent to check on Ronan, though he was careful to stay outside the margins of the gore. "Fine," Henry muttered, and again, "Fine," before disappearing into the hallway.

"What happened?" Gansey asked Ronan.

For a little longer, Ronan didn't move. Couldn't, Gansey suspected; Ronan always came back paralyzed from dreaming. Only the blue eyes roved in the direction of Gansey's voice. And then, suddenly, Ronan was bolt upright. It happened so fast Gansey didn't even see it; Ronan had been flat out on his stomach, then he was sitting up, then he was on his feet and next to Adam's bed.

"Where is he?" Ronan asked.

"He's right there," said Blue.

"No," Ronan told her. "He was at the Barns. With Matthew."

Gansey's brow folded into confusion or concern; the two looked the same on him. "The Barns?"

"Dream Barns," said Ronan. "That thing..." His words came fast and his hands went to his head in the universal sign for someone who is overwhelmed and doesn't know where to start. "I need to check on Matthew."

Henry reappeared with two fistfuls of paper towels. He looked to Blue, then Gansey, neither of whom noticed him. With a sigh, he dropped the towels over the blood. "That's all I'm doing," he announced. "I'm not scrubbing this stuff. I've got both my shoes."

When no one answered, Henry said, "Hello? Cinderella? Shoes? Is this thing on?"

But Ronan and Gansey just stared at each other until finally the latter sighed and pulled out his cell phone. "I'll call Dec—"

Ronan took his phone out, too, and swore. "Don't bother. I have about fifty messages from him." He handed the phone to Gansey. "I can't."

Gansey pocketed his phone and took Ronan's. "Speaker?" he asked and Ronan shook his head. So Gansey hit play and held the phone to his ear. Ronan watched the way Gansey's throat moved as he swallowed. The way his hand shook just a little as he looked at the screen, moved to the next message, on and on through about five of them before he stopped and handed the device back.

"Same," Gansey said.

"What does that mean?" Blue asked.

"As Adam," Gansey clarified. "Declan found him in his room this morning. Breathing but unresponsive."

Ronan swore in a long and impressive stream before demanding, "Why? Why didn't they come back with me? Adam said—"

"You saw him," said Gansey, and when Ronan just stared, "We weren't there, remember? I think you'd better start from the beginning."

"It was dark, and there was a hall, and a voice, and then I fell to the Barns—"

A high-pitched noise cut Ronan's Cliffs Notes recap short. For a moment, he thought it was Matthew screaming again, somehow. Then he thought it was Adam. Because it was coming from the bed, this sound. He turned, expecting to see Adam's eyes open, to hear Adam trying to speak, even if it only came out as this thin stream of sound. But Adam was as still and silent as ever.

And still he didn't understand until Gansey said, "Shit."

Adam wasn't screeching, and it wasn't an errant night horror, and it wasn't some PTSD memory from the dream he'd just had. The equipment was shrieking. One long, ear-piercing blast.

Someone grabbed Ronan and hauled him back away from the bed.

"What?" Ronan asked, but feet coming down the hall like troops distracted him. Suddenly the room was full of people in coats and scrubs, one of them skidding precariously on the paper towels strewn across the floor, more wheeling a cart.

"Out!" one of them shouted. "All of you, out!"

"What?" Ronan asked again because it still hadn't sunk in. Too much had happened, and he was no dummy, but his brain just could. Not. Keep. Up.

Gansey dragged, Blue pushed, and then they were out in the hall.

One more time, the only word he seemed to be able to summon: "What?"

"Ronan," Blue said, and she used that soft and gentle voice that people used when they were about to give you bad news. Ronan glared at her, but she had become immune to his particular brand of venom.

"Ronan," she said again. "Adam just flatlined."

8.23.2018

The Dream Cages #13

Sorry for the long wait.

Adam froze to his chair, but Ronan shot up and out the door without hesitation. The piercing noise sounded not at all human, and Adam didn't even comprehend at first what he was hearing. Even when the truth sank in, he couldn't move for several seconds more. By then, Ronan had begun shouting as well.

"Leave him alone, you ugly bastard!"

Finally, Adam unstuck himself from the chair and forced his feet to take the steps to the screen door. His legs didn't want to. They were stiff, leaden. Not from fear; it seemed like Cabeswater itself was trying to hold him back. Like a huge, invisible hand pushed back against his chest as he advanced. But he was stronger—or his will was. The place that usually worked to help him struggled when his desire ran counter to its own.

Adam made it to the door, though the seconds it took to get there felt like minutes. The screaming had stopped, but Ronan continued to yell no longer intelligible words, just angry sounds of vexation. When Adam stepped out, Ronan shouted one word: "No!"

Adam didn't even have time enough to see what had happened, was happening. A shadow fell over him, and then a searing pain like light and heat penetrated his shoulders.

His feet had left the ground, he realized, but whatever had its claws in him seemed unable to climb very high. Adam heard the snap of huge wings like an oversized flag in a fierce wind.

A night horror?

If so, it was either injured or incompetent. Or perhaps Cabeswater was trying to restrain it, too. Adam's feet dangled no more than a foot from the ground, and they'd only traveled a yard or so when Ronan hurtled into his legs and pulled him free.

The pain was immense. Almost intolerable. The creature's talons ripped through Adam's shirt, his flesh, then he landed hard on his back in the dewy grass, Ronan on top of him.

"It got Matthew," Ronan said in a strangled voice.

Adam turned his head, trying to see the field where the cows dawdled, where Matthew had been, but he was at the wrong angle. And what did he expect to see? A rent body? A heap of torn clothes and bloody blond curls that had been Matthew?

Except it wasn't Matthew. Not really.

If they died here . . . Their wandering consciousnesses would what? Disappear? That didn't happen to Ronan. He woke with wounds but didn't die.

Except that one time.

Could he, would he, create a second self? (A third self, if Adam counted the one already dead and buried.) Could Ronan make another Adam, another Matthew?

Adam thought about the old superstition, that if you died in a dream, you died in real life.

He looked up at Ronan, not sure of how long his mind had been loose. Ronan's eyes were squeezed shut, his arms on either side of Adam as he held himself up. And blood . . .

Blood . . .

Pouring off Ronan as the creature ripped at him. Not a night horror. At least not any kind Adam was familiar with. But something nightmarish all the same. Four clawed feet, two leathery wings that extended beyond Adam's limited view. The whole thing the color of dried blood. It didn't screech like a night horror, either. It roared like a T-rex in a movie.

Adam knew he should be afraid, but he felt oddly detached. Outside of himself. Which, he supposed, he was.

He studied the lines of Ronan's face, pinched with pain. Jaw set to keep from screaming. Ronan's sweat dripped onto Adam's face—maybe tears, too, though it was hard to tell—the blood onto Adam's shirt. Ronan's breath came in gasps and went in gusts. This was Ronan, saving him, protecting him. Dying for him.

And for what?

Adam reached up and put his hands on Ronan's cheeks. Ronan's eyes tightened.

"Ronan."

Ronan shook his head just a little.

"Ronan, open your eyes."

A sliver of blue appeared between the eyelids.

"I'm not here," Adam told him. "And neither are you."

8.16.2018

The Dream Cages #12

"I just landed on my ass in a cow pasture," Ronan declared. "What the fuck do you do when you scry, man?"

Ronan knew he was being loud. He knew his anger was irrational. But anger was always first in line when he expressed himself. When he was sad, it came out as anger. When he was scared, it came out as anger. When he was relieved—and Jesus Mary was he relieved—it came out as anger.

Lucky for him Adam had learned to read the shades of his anger. The relief Ronan felt reflected back at him in Adam's expression.

"You want some grilled cheese?" Matthew asked from his station at the stove.

"Fuck no. What are you even doing here?"

Matthew shrugged, ever unperturbed. Ronan had forgotten to give him anger when he'd dreamed him. He'd kept it all for himself.

"And why is there death metal playing in the barn?" Ronan went on.

"I thought the cows would like some music," said Matthew. "And that's the only thing that boombox plays." He brought a plate of grilled cheese to the farmhouse table. "Soup coming right up."

"Don't bother," Ronan told him. He folded himself into a chair and grabbed a sandwich. Adam took a seat more slowly and showed no interest in the food.

"We need to get out of here," Adam said.

"You think I don't know that?"

"This isn't really the Barns."

"You think I don't know that?"

"What's it doing here? In Cabeswater?"

Ronan sighed and used his full mouth as an excuse to stall. But he couldn't chew forever. "I thought if maybe I fit this one over the real one... If I brought the dream world and the real world together..." He sighed again. He couldn't explain it. But it made perfect sense in his head.

Adam seemed to understand anyway. "Even if it worked," he said, and he had that careful tone Ronan hated because it was the tone that meant bad news was coming, "it wouldn't really achieve your goal of making them truly alive and independent. Would it?"

The final question was fake, Ronan knew. Because Adam already knew the answer to it. Ronan threw his back against the back of the chair, just to expend the energy his irritation gave him. "No. But it might work as a temporary measure until I can figure something else out."

Adam's mouth worked in a way that suggested he wanted to say something but was stopping himself. Fine. Good. Ronan didn't want to hear all the reasons it was a bad idea or wouldn't work.

Matthew set cups of tomato soup in front of each of them, spoons sticking out like garnish, then sat down and began to eat as placidly as the cows. Ronan watched him with a mixture of fondness and exasperation. "Why are you here?" he asked again.

"I don't know," said Matthew. "I figured I was dreaming. Am I?"

Ronan's brow furrowed, and he turned to Adam. "Why were you scrying? And what the hell is that place?"

Adam shook his head, not as negation but to indicate the questions caught him off guard. "I wasn't. And what place?"

"I tried to go where you go when you scry. Wait, you weren't? Then how are you here?"

"Jesus," said Adam. "And no, I was just reading a textbook. Then everything went... wrong. What do the numbers six and twenty mean to you?"

"Six two oh," said Ronan. "That's what the whatever in the scrying space said."

"It spoke to you?"

"Doesn't it to you?"

Matthew's gaze darted between them as he followed the conversation. "This dream is really kinda boring," he said. "But I like seeing you guys and being home." He got up and set his cup and spoon in the sink.

"Wash it out," Ronan told him, but Matthew was already pushing the screen door open.

"I cooked. You clean." He went out.

Ronan watched him go then turned back to Adam. "You're in the hospital." Adam jolted where he sat, and Ronan went on, "I got a call. You made me your emergency contact?"

Adam only stared.

"Gansey and Blue and Henry... Gansey's managing the doctors. I came in to find you. We thought you'd been scrying and got lost or something."

"My body is still...?"

"The doctor said you had no brain activity or whatever. But the rest of you is working."

Air rushed out of Adam. "Where are you?"

"In the hospital room."

Adam nodded thoughtfully. "I'm sorry," he finally said. "I don't know why Cabeswater snatched me. And I don't know how to get back."

Ronan looked over his shoulder out the screen door. He could see the green of the fields, smell the grass and livestock. "This isn't Cabeswater, not in the way we know it," he said, as much to remind himself as to inform. "This is the dream version of it. At some point it bleeds into the real world, but..." He turned back to Adam. "If you imagine them in layers, this one above the physical world..."

"Like you were saying, about slipping this one over the real thing."

Ronan loved that Adam understood him so quickly.

"So how do we line them up?" Adam asked.

"I don't know, I—"

And then, carried on the fresh, sweet air, came the sound of Matthew screaming.

8.13.2018

The Dream Cages #11

Ronan was not there.

Matthew was.

Adam paused in the doorway of the barn and watched as Matthew opened a stall and coaxed a black and white cow out with nothing more than an encouraging wave of his hand and his brilliant smile. Matthew was something of a cuckoo in the Lynch nest; he had his mother's golden hair, and his smile was softer than his brothers'. But Adam had seen the same smile on Ronan, rarely, and usually when Ronan thought no one was looking. Matthew was Ronan's gooey center made flesh, as though Ronan, when dreaming him, had wanted to put his vulnerability elsewhere so that he could safeguard it and not carry it with him. It hadn't worked; Ronan still had plenty of soft spots if one knew where to prod. Adam suspected he was one of those spots, a bruise waiting to manifest on Ronan's heart.

Don't break him, Adam.

But high school sweethearts seldom lasted forever. Especially when one left home and one adamantly refused to.

Later. Every time Adam started to board this train of thought—and he found himself at the station more often than he liked—he decided to wait for the next one. There were always other things that took priority: like school work, or being stuck in Cabeswater.

The cow followed willingly as Matthew turned and walked to the back of the barn where another door stood open. Adam saw the boombox set on a hay bale nearby. The cow's ear flicked as it passed the music (if it could be called music), and Matthew stepped aside to allow the cow to pass out into the pasture beyond. "Atta girl," he told the cow. "Go play." Then he turned to look down the row of stalls. "Who's next?"

Matthew spotted Adam then, their eyes meeting, though Matthew didn't immediately register any recognition. For a split second Adam thought maybe his body wasn't physical after all, that Matthew couldn't see him. But then Matthew said, "Hey."

"Hey," Adam echoed. He stepped inside the barn and eyed the cows, all of which he recognized. But now they were awake. "Where's Ronan?"

Matthew shrugged. "No idea. Haven't seen him."

"What are you doing here?"

"Cows," said Matthew.

"Yeah, but..." Adam frowned. "You know this isn't actually the Barns, right?"

Matthew shrugged. "It is, though. I mean, it's here and I'm here, so it's real to me."

"But you... Your body, your physical self... Where are you really?"

"As far as I know, I'm here. Home is where the consciousness is, I guess. Want to help me get these ladies out into the pasture?"

Adam didn't want to; he wanted to go look for Ronan. But he felt bad saying no, so he did his best to help. It took more cajoling from him than Matthew. The cows clearly had misgivings when they saw Adam and were slow to move. Only when they saw their fellows going out did they follow.

"Lunchtime," Matthew said cheerfully as the last brown cow swished through the back door, and Adam wasn't sure whether he meant for them or the bovines. "Come on," and Matthew said it to Adam the same way he had to the cows. "Let's wash up and eat."

"Aren't you worried?" Adam asked as they trailed toward the house.

"About what?"

"Yourself. How you got here. How to get back to your body and your life."

"Nah," said Matthew. He pulled open the screen door and held it for Adam.

"Well, are you worried about Ronan?"

The door snapped shut behind Matthew like a trap, and for the first time the youngest Lynch appeared something less than happy. Not concerned, exactly, but maybe doubtful. "Should I be?"

"I don't know! Where is he?"

Matthew shook his head. The doubt began to morph into fear.

Adam knew Ronan would never forgive him if he made Matthew cry. So he said, "I'm sure he's fine." After all, he's not stuck here like us. But that would be saying too much.

Matthew's expression cleared and he walked past Adam to the kitchen sink. "I'll make us grilled cheese and soup," he pronounced, then paused and looked over his shoulder. "Is that okay?"

"That's fine," said Adam. It's fine. This is all just fine.

The screen door creaked open again, and Adam turned to see Ronan standing there, countenance thunderous.

"What the fuck is going on?"

8.11.2018

The Dream Cages #10

Adam was tired. He didn't know how souls worked, exactly, but apparently they could wear themselves out. The body he inhabited didn't physically exist in the real world, but it was physical enough in this place to operate accordingly, and he'd been walking for what felt like, as Ronan would call it, for-fucking-ever.

And all he saw were trees. The cottage had been the one difference. Adam imagined a road sign stuck outside the clearing: LAST EXIT FOR MILES.

He wondered if, as he thought it, it had come into existence. Not that he was going back to find out.

Cabeswater, though, was often slow to react to thoughts and wishes. You usually had to concentrate, focus, ask outright. Every now and then, however, it picked up something from the subconscious and pulled it forward into view. Adam still didn't completely comprehend what made the difference. It was one of the reasons he'd chosen to take psychology; he wanted to understand how people worked, how he worked, and maybe by extension places like Cabeswater.

Though at the moment, Cabeswater didn't seem to be working at all. It had provided the path as requested, but he felt like he was getting literally nowhere. Yet Adam kept walking because he couldn't think of a better option. Or any other option, for that matter.

How much time had passed? Had he missed his Latin quiz? How long before someone came looking for him and found his body? Adam had been made an RA—he was reliable like that—and one of the perks was a single room to yourself, so he couldn't count on a roommate tripping over him. But Ronan would notice when he didn't call, though that would be almost an entire day...

What if my body is already beyond saving?

He'd know, though, wouldn't he? He'd be able to tell?

He trudged on, and finally the trees began to thin, the line of them pulling back from the trail, which now looked more like an actual road. When had that happened? It didn't matter; it was a change, it was something. Adam pushed his legs to move a little faster.

Then a couple things happened at once: music and numbers.

He felt the music before he heard it, something that had become commonplace for him since losing the hearing in his left ear. The thudding vibrations ran through him like tiny waves. He couldn't tell where it came from, but based on the beat it was one of Ronan's loud and angry electronica songs. A good sign.

At about the same time as he noticed the music, Adam started seeing the numbers on the trees. Faint at first but clearer as he continued down the road. They were scratched into the bark, on the last few trees deeply enough to cause sap to weep from the wounds. Sixes on some trees and the number 20 on others.

Adam's mind immediately flew to tarot. Six was the Lovers. Twenty was Judgement. Together they meant... what? A clear choice, perhaps. Coming to an understanding about something. The revival of a relationship. He needed more information to know for sure, and he didn't have his cards so asking Cabeswater directly was impossible.

The road began to climb, and suddenly Adam knew exactly where he was.

But I'm not really here.

His soul had not been transported hundreds of miles. He was not walking in the physical world. He kept telling himself this like a litany, else he'd forget because it looked so real. It even smelled right—the scent of the grass and the trees and the cows.

The gray, plasticky sky overhead broke into something weathermen would call "partly cloudy." The still air began to move in a cooling, comfortable breeze. From somewhere overhead a raven cried out.

Adam crested the rise in the road and took a deep breath of the brisk air. The music was louder now and clearly originated from the open door of one of the many barns that dotted the yawn of grass. Islands of flowering clover nodded sleepily in the scudding light as the sun played peek-a-boo behind the clouds. Definitely spring here.

Home.

But not really, and not only because this was Cabeswater and not the Barns. The Barns was Ronan's home, not his, even if he used it like one. Ronan would disagree, which was why Adam never said it aloud. But he still longed for things that were his.

Something borrowed, something...

His gaze snagged on something not right. His subconscious caught it before his conscious did, so it took him a minute to understand why he was staring, fixed, at the house. His eyes didn't want to let it go. His mind insisted he look, see, discern. It was like one of those games in kiddie magazines: What's Wrong with This Picture?

The numbers again. On the house this time in big, tarnished metal figures. 620.

Adam didn't think the Barns had a street address, but even if it did, he knew that wasn't it. Those numbers didn't belong on the house.

Somehow, it came as a relief. Proof that he wasn't truly at the Barns, that this wasn't real. A touchstone, like a pinch when you were dreaming.

He started down toward the open barn and the pounding music. Ronan would be there. All would be well.

8.10.2018

The Dream Cages #9

Dark. Not like a dark room. In a dark room you can sense the potential for light. This space had none. Light didn't dare tread here, it couldn't survive it.

Kind of like your head, I guess.

Ronan couldn't see anything, not even his own hands when held in front of his nose. The best he could do was be aware of his body, feel it when he moved.

No sound, either.

Nothing.

This is what being dead must be like.

Oh, God, is Adam dead?

How long have I been here?

Though his arms moved freely, his feet felt rooted. For all he knew, this place was filled with people like him who were unable to see or move.

"Adam?"

The word hissed back at him from all directions.

Which means there are walls, something for sound to bounce off of.

Close walls, too, given the speed and trajectory of the echo.

Take that, Adam, I did learn something at school.

Wait, am I in a box?

Ronan reached his hands out slowly, experimentally, half afraid something might take a bite out of one of his arms. His right hand brushed smooth, solid wall. His left only hung in the air. He took a tiny step sideways, then another. There, the other wall. He reached up but couldn't find the ceiling and didn't want to jump to try. He reached forward and found only air, turned around and touched the wall behind him.

His pulse jumped as claustrophobia set in. More than Ronan hated yellow, he hated feeling confined. He tried to take deep breaths, but the space felt airless. His panic threatened to launch into hyperdrive.

You're never going to find him. He's gone for good this time. You promised you wouldn't let him disappear, and now...

Ronan turned back around to face the way he'd originally been standing. At least, he thought he was facing that way. He hoped so. He reached forward again. Nothing. A small step. More nothing. Step after minuscule step, like a toddler learning to walk. Every now and then he tried the side walls. Still there.

It's a hallway?

He worried that he might run into someone else. After a while, he hoped that he would.

An interminable time later, he stopped. This was literally getting him nowhere. "Fuck you," he told the blank black around him. Fuck you, it whispered back.

Was this really where Adam came when he scried? But Adam supposedly saw stuff, didn't he? Whatever abilities Adam had, Ronan clearly didn't share them.

He needed a different perspective, but he didn't know how to get one. Wake up and try again?

Dreams and scrying occupied the same space; he was sure of this. They used the same energy source at the very least. They were the non-space of the mind. Except Cabeswater had become a physical place, and this...

Did this place want to become real, too?

"You can't be real," Ronan said. "There's nothing here. Nothing means nothing. You can't exist if you're just an absence."

Black holes exist.

Had he thought that or had the space around him spoken?

"I'm leaving," he said. He folded his legs under him so that he was crosslegged on the floor and scooched to lean back against one of the walls. He hated to imagine the expressions on Gansey's and Blue's faces when he woke up. This whole pointless excursion had wasted precious time.

You wanted to come here. You wanted to see for yourself.

"There's nothing to see."

You can't see.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Silence.

"Fuck you," Ronan said again, but this time the words didn't slide back to him. Ronan stood up and walked toward what should have been the opposite wall, but he never found it. He tried several inches to the left, the right, but his fingers only found empty air.

If Cabeswater is a construct of my mind... This is Adam's?

He comes here, the space answered. He comes here to see.

"We're talking in circles," said Ronan. If 'talking' was even the right word for it. "Is he here now?"

... No.

"You couldn't have told me that sooner?"

You didn't ask.

Ronan balled his fists but in the interest of time let the argument go. "Then where is he?"

Six two oh.

"Six two... Is that supposed to mean something to me? Are they coordinates or what?"

Six two oh. Goodbye.

"What does that—?"

But then a hole opened beneath Ronan's feet and he fell.

The Dream Cages #8

It was right and wrong at the same time. The trees looked familiar... ish... but the path was not one he'd seen before. He supposed Cabeswater had created it when he'd asked for a way to Ronan.

Spring and fall had clashed here. There were unfurling leaves on the branches above him but freshly fallen ones on the ground, a confetti of brown and red. No yellow. Ronan didn't like yellow.

The sky refused to be defined. Not blue, no sun, but also not cloudy. Just white-gray that made Adam think of science fiction—everything on those shows was this non-color. Space-station gray he decided.

Maybe Ronan had not finished the sky, or maybe he was in a bad mood. Maybe this was Cabeswater in energy-saving mode, waiting for input.

Where are you taking me?

Nothing but trees and the trail. Was this all there was?

But then a familiar clearing came into view: a cottage with rosebushes around it. "Mrs. Lynch?"

Had Ronan recreated his mother?

Adam approached slowly. No question of season here; the roses were massive and came in every color, probable and improbable. The grass formed a lush carpet, and a sudden sun shone through the trees to gift everything with a green-yellow cast. The air was warmer, too, more humid. It looked and felt like a fairy tale.

The door to the cottage was closed, however, and the structure bore a hollow, uninhabited atmosphere. Adam felt the need to tiptoe as though in a graveyard. Not that he had to tiptoe in graveyards, either, but he always did.

It took a stupid amount of time to get to the door that way, and when he tried the door, it wouldn't budge. He tried to peer in through the windows, but though there were no curtains or blinds, all he could see was the shadow and shape of his own reflection. Mirrored glass? It didn't look it, but it acted like it.

Dream stuff.

With a sigh, Adam concluded he was alone after all. If one could ever really be alone in Cabeswater. He hadn't realized how much he wanted to see another person until the likelihood of it had vanished.

Back to the path then. Maybe Ronan would be there... somewhere...

8.08.2018

The Dream Cages #7

“You don't scry,” said Blue.

“But I dream,” Ronan said, adding because Adam had once said it to him and it sounded good, “with intention.”

Blue made a face that suggested she didn't think it sounded that impressive. “So you're just going to what? Lie down on the floor and fall asleep?”

“Let me understand this,” Gansey put in, and Ronan realized that if their gang were a car Gansey was not so much the engine—the assumption Ronan had always made, that Gansey was the one running things—as the brakes. Ronan knew he needed brakes, at least some of the time. This was not that time.

“Let me understand this,” Gansey said again. “When you dream, you go to Cabeswater, don't you? And when Adam scries, he goes...” He frowned and turned to Blue. She shrugged.

“I don't scry either,” she said. “But from everything I've heard, it's dark. And weird.” She cocked an eye at Ronan. “Not so different from your head, I guess.”

“We don't have time for this,” Ronan said, not rising to the bait. Why were they stalling?

“There's a chair,” Henry said quietly. They all turned toward him, and he pointed at a sagging vinyl chair that had been shoved into the corner of the room. “So you don't have to lie on the floor. Though I dunno, man, the floor might be more comfortable.”

“If you go to Cabeswater, how is that helpful?” Gansey pressed. “Then we've lost two of you.”

You haven't lost anything, Ronan thought, but he couldn't say it, didn't want to, because saying it would be to admit things had changed. Priorities had shifted. Allegiances... They would always be friends, brothers even, but they wouldn't ever be as close as they used to be. Ronan knew this was normal, but he didn't have to like it.

Aloud he said, “I won't be lost. I'll just be asleep. Not out of my body like...”

Every head swiveled in Adam's direction.

“Just... take care of the paperwork,” Ronan told Gansey. “I'll be right back.” He said the last part with more bravado than he actually felt, and he was fairly certain Gansey knew it. But Gansey only nodded and looked again at the stack of papers he still held.

“There are some tests we can request, stuff just to keep the doctors busy while we...”

Keep you busy, too, thought Ronan. He wondered, fleetingly, if it had been a mistake to call them. But no, he couldn't have done this alone. Or maybe he could have, but he didn't want to.

He flung himself into the chair. Henry had been right, the floor probably would have been more comfortable. Less lumpy. But Ronan had cultivated the ability to sleep anywhere, anytime. He threw his head back into one corner of the chair and his legs over the opposite arm, and almost immediately the world began to turn gray around the edges.

Hang on, Adam, I'm coming.

The Dream Cages #6

Note: I had been away for a couple weeks, so this scene somewhat overlaps with the previous.


This Cabeswater was both familiar and foreign. Adam recognized it well enough to know he was in Cabeswater, though not all the pieces were in place yet. He stood in a construction zone of sorts, a living dream, and in the way of dreams, the things he could identify were not quite true—that rock formation used to be taller, that tree had too skinny a trunk, the crooked wooden swing that had hung there was missing.

Was he truly back in Henrietta? Could he walk out of Cabeswater and find himself in solid, unchanging environs? Adam didn’t think so. He’d been at school, studying, hundreds of miles from Henrietta. Cabeswater had snatched him, not physically but mentally or spiritually or… something. The body he wore now was not physical.

How long could he stay separated from his physical body without it giving up on him?

If Ronan had created this place, there had to be a way to contact him, let him know he needed help. The question was where would Ronan be? The clearing Adam stood in looked mostly finished, but maybe there was some area Ronan was focused on building or refining. That assumed Ronan did anything in a methodical way, but Adam had no other options. He didn’t know which direction to start in, how large this Cabeswater was, anything.

He closed his eyes against a rising wave of anxiety. What if I’m already dead? He shook his head, deciding he could tackle that problem if and when it arose. And if he was dead and this was the afterlife, well, there were worse outcomes when faced with eternity.

Ronan, Adam thought and then immediately pushed the that thought away, too. He didn’t want Cabeswater to fabricate a clone of Ronan in an attempt to appease him. Show me, he thought. Show me where he is, or where he goes when he’s here.

Adam opened his eyes and saw the path bending ahead of him through the trees. It looked as though it had always been there. It begged the question, “How could you have missed it?” Yet hanging beside the seemingly well-worn track was a splintering wooden swing that definitely hadn’t been in evidence minutes before.

He hesitated. The appearance of the path might be anl answer to prayer, but the swing felt ominous.

“What do you want?” he asked the trees. “What do you need? Why am I here?”

The trees rustled and whispered but Adam could not distinguish any distinct words. Did this Cabeswater speak some other language? God, did it speak that weird dream language from the puzzle box? If so, he was screwed.

No time. No time to stand around and ask questions while his body slowly died in a dorm room somewhere.

He began his trek through the strange new Cabeswater.

The Dream Cages #5

Things slipped sideways. The words of his psychology textbook blurred, and for a moment Adam thought he had literally toppled over. Am I that tired? he wondered. Wouldn’t be the first time.

But then the book wasn’t there. The room wasn’t there. Everything went black.

Some time later—Adam wasn’t sure how long—he became aware of discomfort. His right shoulder rested against something hard, his head hurt. His entire right side was damp for some reason. His eyes felt glued shut, but he forced them open.

Green-yellow light. Adam squinted. A Bambi-like deer stepped into view and put its nose to Adam’s forehead, snuffling his hair.

“What the…?” Adam struggled to sit up and the deer backed away, turned, darted off into a stand of trees. The dampness had been the dewy fallen leaves, now stuck to Adam’s arm and the side of his face. He sighed and picked them off then craned to get a better view of his surroundings. Trees, tall and thin as sentinels, crowded around the patch of leaf-strewn dirt where he sat.

Cabeswater.

Ronan had been recreating it, but Adam couldn’t understand how he’d ended up there. He hadn’t scried.

“Persephone?” he wondered aloud. Maybe she still existed there, somehow. Maybe she’d dragged him there because she needed him to do something. Usually she came to Adam in his dreams, but maybe she hadn’t been able to wait for him to fall asleep. Maybe it was an emergency.

The forest remained stolid and silent.

“Ronan?” Was he here, working? Had he somehow called Adam in?

Nothing.

“Goddamn it.” Adam got up, his limbs protesting; he felt banged and bruised, like he’d fallen from no little height. He looked up at the swaying treetops, as though to find the entrance. He didn’t know how he’d gotten there… which meant he didn’t know how to get back out, either.

How long had he been there? How long did he have before his body decided he wasn’t coming back?

The Dream Cages #4

“I don’t get it,” Henry said for about the thousandth time. Ronan would have beat Henry’s head against one of the hospital room’s walls long before now if Gansey hadn’t kept angling himself between them. Every now and then Gansey said, “Henry, maybe you should…” But he never finished the sentence, so Henry never “…” and therefore continued to irritate Ronan to distraction.

And he couldn’t afford distraction right now. The longer Adam stayed out of his body, the more likely he would die. Ronan couldn’t figure out how Adam had stayed alive this long as it was.

Though, to hear the doctors tell it, Adam was already dead in all but the most basic sense.

Gansey flipped through a handful of papers, documents the hospital had given to Ronan that Ronan had not bothered to look at. “He has a DNR,” Gansey murmured. He shook his head and went to the next page, scanned it, looked up at Ronan. “How is it that you’re his power of attorney?”

“The fuck do I know?” Ronan asked. It felt good to swear and be angry, even if it didn’t help the situation. It helped him.

“I mean, you’re eighteen,” Gansey reasoned. “Still, do they not know Adam’s parents are still alive? I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Parrish would contest this.”

“Who’s going to tell them?” Ronan challenged.

Gansey froze. He met Ronan’s gaze then exchanged a glance with Blue through which they somehow communicated complex information. Watching it made Ronan want to wrap his fingers around someone’s throat though he didn’t know why. Ronan Lynch didn’t speak the language of envy, didn’t know how to name it when he felt it.

“No one, I suppose,” said Gansey. “He’s emancipated, after all.”

“And probably doesn’t trust his parents to have his best interests at heart,” Blue put in. “They wouldn’t, you know, have all the information.”

Everyone turned to look at the figure in the bed, the shell of Adam.

“And we do?” Henry asked. “‘Cuz I don’t feel like I know very much.”

Gansey ran a thumb over his bottom lip, and Ronan resisted the urge to slap his hand down. The familiar gesture only irritated him. It meant Gansey was thinking, and they didn’t have time for Gansey to think; they needed to act.

“Who found him?” Gansey asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, what was he doing before he collapsed?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“If he was scrying…” Blue said.

“Why would he?” Ronan asked. “He knows better than to do it alone.”

Even as the words left Ronan’s lips, a cold dart shot through him like an arrow. What if Adam hadn’t been alone at the time? If he’d been with someone… scrying with someone… what did that mean?

“I have to go after him,” Ronan decided.

“What?” Blue cried. “How?”

“Dreams and scrying occupy the same space,” said Ronan. “If anyone can go find Adam, it’s me.”

The Dream Cages #3

Ronan woke abruptly with “Adam!” echoing through his head, which was not unusual. What was unusual was the strange light by the side of the bed. He lifted his head just enough to see his cell screen aglow. Chainsaw stood over it, sinisterly lit from underneath, head cocked as though to read whatever message might be coming through.

He nudged her back and picked up the phone, not because he planned to answer, but because he was already awake so he might as well look. The number was not Adam’s (he used the dorm’s landline because he still refused to let Ronan give him a cell), but it was the same area code. Maybe Adam calling from a different phone?

A notification popped up to tell him he had a new voicemail.

A brief debate: hatred of phones vs. it-might-be-Adam. Of course Adam won. Ronan touched the voicemail icon and listened. He missed the man’s name, heard “emergency contact,” heard “found unresponsive,” and had to listen to the hated message a second time to catch the name of the hospital. Then he threw a handful of random clothing items found on his bedroom floor into the back of the BMW and drove. He stopped once for gas, at which point it occurred to Ronan to call Gansey.

“Ronan?” He heard Blue’s incredulous voice in the background. “On a phone? What's the occasion?”

Gansey listened and said, “We’re heading for the nearest airport now. We’ll be on the next flight.”

Ronan hung up and continued driving, arriving 90 minutes earlier than the GPS thought possible. He wished Gansey had gotten there first, though, because he was having a very difficult time remaining calm and polite in the face of blank stares from behind various desks. Gansey would have known what to say, how to say it in a way that got him heard, got results. The only thing that kept Ronan from smashing things with his fists and swearing up a storm was the notion such behavior would get him kicked out or arrested. Normally not a concern, but not helpful to Adam. So instead he made fists that he didn’t use and took deep breaths to keep his voice steady. He didn’t smile, though. He couldn’t make himself go that far.

Finally, someone understood. Even still, she eyed Ronan dubiously. “You’re the next of kin?”

Was he? What had Adam put on his forms? Ronan had no idea. “I’m his emergency contact.”

She asked to see his ID. He showed her. She tutted some more but otherwise didn’t protest. “The doctor will want to speak to you,” she said. “Just have a seat.”

Ronan couldn’t sit. He’d been sitting for hours while driving. Now, without a speeding car to transmute his anxiety, he couldn’t remain still. He leaned against a wall of the waiting room, arms folded, and glowered in a way that prevented anyone from taking magazines from the table beside him.

A woman in a white coat called Ronan’s name, yanking him from his brooding fog. From her expression, he knew it wasn’t good. She led him through swinging doors and into the bowels of the hospital.

“He’s got no neural activity,” she said without preamble. Ronan leveled a deadpan stare at her. “No brain waves,” she said, in order to clarify. “It’s like someone shut off the lights inside him. All his vitals are good, but…” She grimaced and looked at Ronan in a way he suspected was meant to be sympathetic. “You’re going to have to make some hard decisions here.”

She pushed open a door, and there Adam was, adrift in a sea of hospital sheets and blankets, a herd of monitors blinking lazily around him.

It only took a split second for Ronan to sense that Adam wasn’t in there. Not in his body.

Adam was gone.

The Dream Cages #2

Without Adam beside him, Ronan’s dreams went horribly wrong. Sometimes in all the old ways, which ended with him bloody and scarred. But more often in new ways, which ended with Adam dead or dying, or Adam hateful and leaving.

Days at the Barns felt long. Drowsy. Ronan avoided sleeping, which only made the days longer. He wasn’t alone, but Chainsaw and Opal had their own odd habits, and he didn’t want them hovering anyway. He tinkered with ideas for waking the cows, he tried to imagine a perfected Cabeswater, he glanced at the photos Gansey texted, pictures of him and Blue and Henry in sunny places that opposed Ronan’s mood.

The only calls he answered came from Adam. They came almost nightly, on a wave of relief at hearing Adam’s voice and knowing the dreams weren’t real. Adam wasn’t lying injured somewhere. Adam still loved him.

Not that they said it. But Adam’s tone told Ronan what he needed to know and somehow both satisfied his cravings and left him hungrier than before.

Adam sensed this. One night he said, mournfully, “Sometimes I think I’ll never be enough for you.”

To which Ronan replied, “You’re the only thing I can never get enough of.”

A long silence followed as Adam puzzled out the logic. “That’s the same thing,” he finally deduced.

“It’s not.”

“It is. What happens when there’s none of me left?”

“That will never happen,” Ronan told him. “I will never let that happen.”

Adam accepted this without comment; he knew Ronan never lied.

Alas, Ronan did sometimes make promises he couldn’t keep.

The Dream Cages #1

With Adam beside him, Ronan’s dreams became tame, even sweet. Though he also had less use for dreams; he was happy to stay awake and watch Adam’s face fall slack with sleep. Ronan wanted to capture every moment because he knew they would not last. Soon enough Adam would leave, leaving nothing but dreams.

Ronan was tired of dreams.

He wanted something real and solid, something he could be sure of. Something he could touch and hold without worrying whether it could survive the harshness of reality.

Adam was real, and he was a survivor. They were both orphans of sorts, but they had each other. And Opal. She loved Adam because Ronan loved Adam, and somehow he’d put that love in her when he’d dreamed her. Back when he’d been trying to hide it from himself.

They had Gansey, except he was gone. And they had Blue, except she was off with Gansey. Ronan didn’t count Henry because Henry had been mostly Gansey’s friend and not really theirs. Anyway, Henry was also off with Gansey and Blue.

Ronan didn’t care where they were. It was enough they existed, real, in the world. As long as they came back.

As long as Adam came back.

The Dream Cages (Intro)

Okay, so I have a Tumblr that I pretty much never use. Except recently I started a kind of fanfic on it, written in very short bursts. And it didn't have a title, so it's sort of all over the place and hard to follow. Which meant I needed to a. give it a cohesive title, and b. put it somewhere people could actually read it.

So here we are. It was a tossup between this site and my actual author site, but I decided on this one. For no particular reason except that I haven't been posting here much so this will give me something to post. Here. More. I guess?

This is a Raven Cycle fanfic that focuses on Ronan and Adam. It's set after the books. Look for "The Dream Cages" in post titles in order to find all the pieces (they'll be numbered). I'll be bringing over what's been posted on Tumblr so far and then we'll go from there.

8.05.2018

Movies: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Voices by: Scott Menville, Tara Strong, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Hynden Walch, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Michael Bolton
Directed by: Aaron Horvath, Peter Rida Michail
Written by: Michael Jelenic & Aaron Horvath from characters created by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Marv Wolfman, George PĂ©rez, Arnold Drake, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, William Moulton Marston
Warner Bros., 2018
PG; 84 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)


_______________________________________________________

Every time we travel as a family, it seems like at some point we turn on a hotel television and Teen Titans Go! is on. We do it as a way to entertain the kids while we (the adults) try to relax for a few minutes before whatever next big thing, but we always get sucked in and end up watching too. And it's so . . . dumb. But it never fails to make me laugh.

If you're thinking a Teen Titans Go! movie is more or less an extended episode, you're not entirely wrong. You're not entirely right, though, either. I think the humor is more sustainable in smaller bites, but there is plenty here to amuse. The general plot is: Robin really wants a superhero movie to be made about him. So the Teen Titans try to make that happen. They're told that a superhero has to have an arch-nemesis, and they find one in the form of Slade. It goes from there in predictable fashion, with a few songs thrown in.

As I mentioned, there are a number of funny moments. However, the relentless focus on Robin (who, for me, is the least interesting of the characters), and the need to push some jokes into your face rather than let them play in the background (yes, I know, typical of the show), lessened the joy. Not by a ton, but by enough to notice the debit.

Still, I found myself laughing in spite of myself. Which is really all this movie is required to do: entertain and make people laugh. In which case it does a fairly solid job of it.