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Nocturna league (episode.., p.3
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       Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath), p.3

           Kell Inkston
 
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  *cl-cl-cl-click*

  Dunklestein snorts in his sleep. “Y-yeah girl… shake that fin,” he mutters as he rolls over on his pillow. Grancis smiles and her brow raises awkwardly as she creeps out the door. It’s cold tonight and the deck lights have been lowered as the cruising speed has gone down. Grancis makes a cautious shoulder check to ensure no one is around, and then she starts for the infirmary. Her footsteps are perfectly silenced, arching into each movement as she gradually makes her way around to the front deck and up the steps. Grancis sees a light in the infirmary— probably the only light that’s still on tonight. She sneaks up to the door and in a moment of supreme coldness, realizes it’s locked. She’ll have to knock… quietly. She checks her surroundings once again - still no Captain in sight. She forces a smile, lying to herself that he’s probably happy with that single go around to find stragglers and is now snoring in his quarters… or whatever he does when he sleeps. With mechanical poise, she raises her knuckle to the infirmary door and knocks. A few seconds pass, and her face is bumped by the opening door.

  An electric eel seasort with a small pair of spectacles and a lab coat peeks his head out from the door. “Who is…” He sees her rubbing her face at his knees. His eyes glint. “Oh! One of the human girls!” He opens it wider. “Please come in, my dear primate, what can I help you with today?”

  Grancis takes to her feet and smiles disarmingly as she enters. “I’m terribly sorry. I’m Grancis Vereyrty and I need your help.” The clinic is warm, well-lit, overwhelmingly themed in white; but something strikes Grancis that it's the sort of place she wouldn’t like to spend much time in.

  The eel adjusts his glasses. “My name is Sampsaing Estradia, resident surgeon, psychologist, and scientist. Now you said you needed my help?” He gestures to a couple of chairs, one with metal restraints.

  Grancis gently sits into the chair, folding her limbs to miss the restraints. “Thank you. Colette’s been having some strange dreams.”

  Sampsaing raises a brow as he takes up a decanter filled with coffee and pours two cups. “Strange dreams, you say?” He starts over for her with the two cups of coffee to sit down.

  She nods, eying the violent surgical tools and unnerving syringes lined up across the wall for easy access. “That’s right. Something about… bells?”

  Sampsaing, halfway to Grancis, drops one of the mugs and fumbles with the other.

  Grancis, hands on her lap, squeezes in anticipation.

  “Bells? Oh my. And she’s a human, too,” Sampsaing says, gaze jutting out of the single port window, as if to ensure that no one is watching. He hands Grancis the mug, now only half-full due to the turbulence, and he turns around to clean up the mess. “What else has she said?”

  Grancis dips her finger into the coffee, partly to check the temperature and also on the chance she might feel a dissolving pellet of something devious. “No, that’s all she said… I think.”

  Sampsaing takes the moment to pull down his glasses to his rubbery, slimy nose, and look her in the eyes. “You think?”

  Grancis averts her eyes, and takes a sip of the coffee with a nod.

  Sampsaing finishes cleaning in just a few seconds and gets another cup. He sits in the chair opposite to Grancis and takes a deep breath. “Okay… Can I call you Grancis?”

  She nods again. The coffee’s really good.

  “It could just be that she had a dream with bells in them. There’s all sorts of shit people dream about, but this close to Jess missing roll call… it’s probably not. What it would be if my concerns are validated, would be something called The Cathedral Dream.”

  Grancis squints an eye. “Okay.”

  “Basically…” he sighs. “Okay, how long have you lived on the Eversea?”

  She looks aside and purses her lips. “About a month and a week or so.”

  “And you’re Boris’ kid, right? Apprentice chef?”

  Grancis squints an eye at the thought of what a child of Boris might look like. “Eh, yeah, that’s me.”

  “So I’m sure you’ve fished a little.” He takes a long sip.

  “Yeah.”

  Sampsaing raises a slimy brow. “What have you seen in the water?”

  “Well, lots of creepy stuff.”

  “Eldritch is the word we like to use. The deeper down you go, the more horrible they become. Their favorite food?” He takes a sip. “Human souls.”

  “Oh… Yeah I kinda guessed they’d want something like that.” She takes a sip. The coffee suddenly tastes mediocre at best.

  “The Cathedral Dream is when a certain eldritch sea monster attempts to influence someone through their dreams, luring them to take the plunge into the water to ‘join the cult’ per se. I have no idea what happens to the people who actually hop in the water. On a clear bright day a human has about one minute to get out of the depthy drink before something pulls ‘em down; at night, when the creatures come close to the surface, it’s more like ten seconds— if even that. Eversea travel is not very helpful for humans that enjoy living.”

  She sighs. “That sounds like an understatement.”

  “Indeed. I’m glad you brought this up. The condition has no directly physical side effects until it’s too late and they’re scrambling to hop in the ocean, so it was lucky you brought this up when you did. I promise I won’t tell The Captain you were here.”

  She nods her head. “Thank you. So how do we fix it?”

  Sampsaing hisses lightly— a sign of discomfort. “Well, I’ll be honest. The only way we can do it is if we get another human to split dreams with them. Have you heard of it?”

  Grancis draws back slightly. “Shared dreaming?”

  “Precisely. I can cause the two of you to operate subconsciously at the same wavelength, tuning you into her dream. It’s quite a complicated process, but all you’ll need to do is sleep next to her… that’s what presents our first problem.”

  “What’s that?”

  “We need her to be next to you; makes configuring the two of you much easier. You need to go get her, preferably unconscious.”

  Grancis squints. “Well, I’m not very strong. Couldn’t y-”

  “How much more suspicious would you think it, a grown man like me drugging a young lady and dragging her into my private office?”

  Grancis pauses a moment and then nods. “Right… so how do I do it?”

  Sampsaing points at her as if to say 'good point' and he gets up with his coffee. He steps over to a locked cabinet filled with vials and bottles of who-knows-what and dabs a cloth with a clear liquid. “You’ll have to take her by force, there’s no way she’d willingly go out into the outer decks after curfew.” He steps over, holding the cloth carefully in his hand. “Don’t breathe this,” he says as he hands it to her, “even a whiff’ll take you off your feet for a few seconds. Hold this to her face, and she’ll be out in an instant.”

  She looks pensive. “And I couldn’t just tell her to come with me?”

  “She has to be unaware that you’re there in the dream for it to work. Her subconscious needs to perceive that it’s a natural dreaming environment,” he says, stepping over to the door.

  Grancis stares at the dabbed cloth with purpose. “Okay. I’ll get her.” She takes a stand and turns for the door.

  Sampsaing nods and opens the door for her. “Good luck.” Grancis starts for the door, but Sampsaing imposes himself in the frame. “Of course, I trust you’ll do your best not to get caught. As it stands you’re the only one on the ship that hasn’t been punished by The Captain for breaking a rule I hear. I’ll tell you now it’s something you never want. There’s a reason people only push it a single time, and you’ll be out for the rest of the day. We only have one shot at this, alright?” He says with a pointed, serious gaze.

  Grancis exhales at the thought of it— the screams, the people dragged into the interrogation room and emerging hours later, silent, horrified, and entirely loyal. She remembers Colette had nightmares days after her punishm
ent. As it’s also breaking a rule to tell someone what the punishment is, she still doesn’t know—but she very much doesn’t want to find out. “Absolutely. He won’t know.” She steps out, creeps down the stairs, around the side and into the quarters. In a blink of inspiration, she uses the cloth on Dunks to ensure that he won’t rise for the short time she’s collecting Colette, and she turns to the back of the room. Colette’s in her bunk, snoring loudly as expected. Grancis closes the door behind her, ducks and crawls forward under the rows of bunks. She gets to Colette, prepares the cloth and pushes it into her face. Colette’s hazel eyes jolt open in the dark and a second later she’s out. Now comes the hard part. Grancis stows the cloth in her pocket and takes a deep breath. She pulls up Colette, laxes her to the floor and starts dragging her across the quarters. Her breathing precise and her moves spry, she shoves Colette across the room, unheard by all; but then she feels it.

  Just as she gets Colette to the door, Grancis can feel she’s being watched— but she doesn’t know by whom, or from where. It’s as if an unseen, incorporeal force took a breath— as if she’s being viewed by something beyond the waking realm. She would almost prefer it was The Captain. A chill down her spine, she promptly gets Colette up to the infirmary and opens the door. Dr. Estrada’s waiting with his cup of coffee; he’s still as he sees her enter. “Well! Looks like you’re sneakier than I thought. That, or the Captain must’ve cracked into his bottle o' poison early. Now put her on this table,” he instructs as he helps the dreaming Colette up onto an operating table. Sampsaing pulls up the infirmary’s rest bed next to the operating table. “Now you.”

  Grancis promptly takes to the bed and lies down.

  Sampsaing nods with approval and turns to get a few more things. “Alright, we need to cause a distinctly abusive outcome in the dream, so that her subconscious will be less likely to bring them up again.” He spreads a line of salt across and around them. “The subconscious attempts to prevent nightmares, and if we make the Cathedral Dream one for Colette, her subconscious will be much more resistant to it in the future. We can only do this once, so you need to make it as painful as possible.”

  “I need to make it painful?” Grancis squints up at the ceiling, the bright lights giving the room a distinctly medical, dentist-like quality.

  “That’s right. You need to kill Colette as slowly as you possibly can. If you do it too fast her subconscious will pull her right out from the trauma. Make it last— make it emotional— make it personal. Have her trembling and afraid to even rise from the bed when she wakes up. If Colette has the dream any time again, her subconscious will almost certainly spark and wake her up. This doubles for you too; if she attempts to, she can traumatize you out of her own dream. Also— remember that she’s having this dream because something’s inciting it into her. It might be in the dream as well, whatever it may be.”

  Grancis takes a deep breath and looks to Colette’s calmly sleeping face. “G-… got it.”

  Sampsaing injects Colette with an unpleasant-looking orange liquid, then steps over to Grancis. “In the subconscious realm, you can do as you please if you concentrate on what you need. What’s most important is feeling as if you’re experiencing what you want to be or have before it actually manifests. Alrighty?”

  “Alright.”

  “Good, you have roughly five hours until sunrise. This would give you about fifty in the dream world, but dreams don’t usually last that long— so be quick. You need to engage Colette before the primary events of the dream take place.”

  Grancis furrows her brow and nods upon the bed. “Okay, let’s do it.”

  “Rodger. Good luck, kid,” Sampsaing says as he injects the same liquid into her along with another to knock her out. Just as she feels the lurid liquid travel from the syringes to her arm, she feels a rush of determination emerge from her head. Everything, her vision, nerves, the sounds she can hear, shrouds and swirls into the void of her own mind for only a moment, and then she can feel the otherworldly tug of her entering a dream in complete lucidity.

  Above, Sampsaing stops hiding the grin across his face as he picks up a pen and note pad and begins monitoring the two. “Academy of Medicine, here I come,” he says to himself with a smirk. Just as he gets comfortable, he hears a knock on his door. His gills slime themselves the moment he looks up and spots through the porthole, the face of The Captain, staring in.

 
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