snowdarkred: (inception: numbers: 528491)
[personal profile] snowdarkred
Title: mad maudlin's dirty toes
Fandom: Inception
Author: [livejournal.com profile] snowdarkred  
Word Count: ~1K
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Seriously.
Rating/Warnings: PG-13; standard Inception mindfuckery
Author's Note: [livejournal.com profile] lathyrism  continues to be a goddess on earth with her marvelous betaing skills and endless encouragement. 

Summary: There's a staircase, a hall, a wall that is a window, another hall, and a room with a fire that doesn't burn. Ariadne has a gun.


mad maudlin's dirty toes


Ariadne lets sleep drag her down, down, down, until she blinks, starts, and stands at the top of a tall spiral staircase. There is a quiet, distant hum of conversation and traffic, just far away enough to tune out. She follows the staircase down, down, down, all the way to the golden tiles of the floor. The far right wall is smooth glass without seams or support beams. She can't even see the left wall; it is lost to the shadows. Her mind notes the impossibilities and then races on, trying to decode the mystery.

The sky hangs over the endless and uniform buildings like a tapestry; it's a rich blue not found now in nature, smeared by pollution and shredded by skyscrapers. The trees are too perfect, like neat children's drawings colored carefully inside the lines. The hum of conversation and life persists, even though the halls and floors and parks and streets are empty. A noisy, empty city.

Ariadne is dreaming a dream that is not hers.

She walks across the golden tiles, and her shoes don't make a sound against them. She remembers what Arthur taught her and conjures a gun, forcing it into existence. The reality of the dream stretches and tugs to resist her, but Ariadne never backs down. She bends the dream to her will, and it surrenders this one small point to her. It is an empty victory.

One step, two steps, three steps, four steps, five steps, six steps, seven steps--

On and on she goes. Step, step, step, parallel to the glass wall. The city looks the same from all angles. There is no light source in the sky, no moon or sun or stars. Not even a wispy cloud interrupts the field of blue.

Step, step, step.

There's a free-standing, ornate doorframe in front of her; it's made out of carefully carved bone. She grips her gun and eyes it wearily. Should she go in? Should she turn back? Should she take the gun, hold it under her chin, and shoot her way out of the dream? Should she follow this path laid before her, go further into whatever rabbit hole this is, just to find the end?

Ariadne twists around to look back. She can't see the spiral staircase, and she can't have come far enough to lose sight of it. The city outside remains empty and barren. Stop lights change. Nonsensical ads run on silent billboards. Rotating doors admit invisible patrons.

The door opens. She goes in.

She steps inside another hallway, one that was not there before. Brown carpeting covers the floor, and the walls are wallpapered with something green. She can't quite make out the pattern, and trying gives her the beginnings of a headache. Her palms grow sweaty, and her fingers clinch and unclinch around the gun. There's no light source in here either, but she can see everything perfectly. It's wrong, wrong, wrong, and she should be waking up now on her own, the dream should be collapsing in on itself, but it's not.

Maybe she's stuck here. Maybe she can't get out. Maybe nothing can wake her up, not even the gun.

Step, step, step. She steps forward and goes down the hall. She shoots the wall every ten paces to mark her passage, but the bullet holes fix themselves as soon as she looks away and then back again. The dream doesn't want her to know.

(Her head hurts)

She walks and walks. She walks until she thinks she's going to go mad, until the gun in her hand starts to look more inviting than it ever should. Just when Ariadne is about to lift the gun to her head and test whether it'll wake her up or send her careening into limbo, the walls begin to widen and grow taller, expanding out until it's not a hallway at all but a room.

The ceiling is high. Everything is somehow brighter than it was before, even though she still can't see where the light is coming from. The carpet twists and flattens into wood flooring, perfectly uniform and exact. The walls become bookcases, which fill with books Ariadne can't read; it's a little like looking at the shelves in IKEA – she knows that she's not supposed to be able to understand them, but it still bothers her that she can't. Ariadne likes understanding things.

(Her head is pounding.)

There's a couch in the room. A chair. A fireplace with a heatless, lightless fire dancing merrily across torn pages. A low table currently doubling as a footrest.

The woman using it as a footrest.

“Hello, darling,” Mal smiles. She has a book in her hands, creased and worn. Ariadne thinks that it might be a poetry collection, but she can't be sure. “How nice of you to join me.”

“What are you doing here?” Ariadne demands. She forgets about the gun in her hand, forgets about the door that used to be behind her, forgets about everything. Her focus narrows to the projection sitting calming on the couch reading a book.

(She can feel the blood pumping through her brain, and it's agony.)

“I had to go somewhere after Dom,” Mal says. She turns the page, even though she hasn't looked at it. “And you. Well, I like you, little girl.” Her eyes are too sharp for her face. Ariadne feels like they're cutting her to pieces. She wants to run away, but she can't get her feet to move. “So here I am.”

“Get out.”

“No,” Mal says, “you get out.”

The books rattle, and the table shakes, and the fire goes out and, the light-that-isn't-there vanishes, and everything is dark, and Ariadne can feel a hand brush down her back, following the soft curve of her spine, and her head feels like it's going to explode, and then--

And then she wakes up, groping at her arm for the PASIV line, ready to wrench it from her arm.

Except there isn't one.

Her head hurts.

to see mad tom of bedlam,
ten thousand miles I've traveled
mad maudlin goes on dirty toes
to save her shoes from gravel
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