21/01/2016: Orchard: Something is Rotten

CW: Mental illness and drug use. The character Siobhan is not a happy character.

1. the healer

Her name is Siobhan, or at least, that’s what everybody calls her.

She was, a long time ago, a doctor working in the ER, slowly growing numb to the increasing violence of triage and mending and fixing and dying around her, and slowly, forgetting what it was like to go home not smelling of blood (she knows it’s psychosomatic – the water in her showers runs clear – but she can’t get the smell to leave without scrubbing her skin raw).

And one day, she just collapsed under the water, tired and weary, and closed her eyes, letting the hot water kiss her skin.

and then the world changed

She didn’t recognize the orchard in which she stood, filled with tall, proud trees and heavy, beautiful vines, a riot of summer colors.

knowledge or love? asked the Maiden in white, and Siobhan retreated somewhat, fearful.

“Choosing one means giving one up,” she said, “And I need both to do my job.”

so your answer is both?

“I didn’t say – ”

your answer is both?

“I guess it is – ”

Her hands burned, suddenly, and so did her eyes and mouth and head.

Morning found her, still in the shower, eyes glazed over.

In this case, the Maiden decided to be particularly cruel.

2. now

“My eye hurts,” muttered Briony.

“You whinge like an old woman,” observed Jo, “I’m taking you to Siobhan, aren’t I?”

“So, who is Siobhan?” asked Jasmine, trailing behind the two.

“Someone you need to know.” said Jo.

Why does she need to know Siobhan?” asked Briony.

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe if your lousy ass gets itself kicked again and I’m not around, it’ll be helpful to have someone on our fucking team to drag your pathetic ass to her.”

“Could you at least pretend to let bygones be bygones?” asked Jasmine with a heavy sigh.

Jo and Briony, glaring at one another, let out their breaths in near-identical hisses, before moving on.

“So, why are we in probably the worst, most impoverished area of the city?” asked Jasmine.

“Also the most gentrified,” muttered Briony.

“Eh?”

“What, you haven’t noticed that frequently impoverished areas end up becoming incredibly trendy, hipster locales for artistes?” Briony moved one arm in an over-exaggerated motion, making Jasmine laugh and drawing a wry chuckle from Jo.

“This area used to be where a mental facility was located; it was closed down mid-last century, and all the inmates released. But, as you may or may not have noticed, you’ve got some really scummy places rubbing elbows with some incredibly beautiful manors. Gentrification; it’s a bitch.” Jo waxed eloquent as she led them down a seedy alleyway before pausing at a door.

“Yeah, but we seem to be solely in the not nice part of town.”

“Well, if you need to hide someone, no better place. Police don’t check around here for squatters, or they’d spend half their life here. Community watch doesn’t either; too busy trying to agree on anything.” explained Briony, before quieting as Jo held up a finger, and knocked a complicated rhythm on the door.

Slowly, it creaked open, revealing a young man in scrubs glaring at them.

“She’s asleep.”

“Yeah, and my friend is minus one eye,” replied Jo boredly, “I’ll pay you when she’s fixed.”

The glare lasted a few more seconds, before he ushered them in, revealing a fairly nice apartment.

“Wow this is, uh, prettier than I was expecting.” began Jasmine.

“That’s because this is the part he lives in,” said Briony, “Siobhan…doesn’t.”

The man in scrubs led them to a door that he knocked gently on, before glaring at the others and entering alone. There were the sounds of soft conversation, quiet sobbing, and then he reappeared.

“You can go in,” he said, with something like spite to his tone.

“Do you want me to handle it?” asked Briony gently, “I’ve handled her before, and you clearly need to get to work, Keith.”

He paused, before reaching into his nurse’s bag and handing Briony a syringe.

“You know what to do. Lock up behind you.”

“Will do.”

He left, and only Jasmine seemed to notice his shoulders shaking, as if he were sobbing.

3. healing

The woman on the floor beneath them was disheveled and glassy-eyed.

“Hi, Siobhan,” said Jo, “We need your help.”

She nodded. Jasmine noticed that there was some drool slipping out her mouth and flinched. Jo looked at her sympathetically.

“Don’t be afraid,” she told her, “She’s just a person. She’s just…the Orchard did something truly terrible to her.”

Briony sat opposite Siobhan and the woman smiled brightly, before reaching out and grasping her face. Jasmine had enough time to note the sorrow on Jo’s face, and that tears were leaking out of Briony’s eyes, before there was a flash, and Siobhan ripped the eyepatch off, revealing two, whole, beautiful blue eyes on Briony’s face.

“That’s amazing!” said Jasmine.

drip

dripdrip

In the tiny little room, bare of anything else, the sound was like a steel drum.

Siobhan’s eye – the same eye she had just healed Briony of – was gone, and blood slowly cascaded down her face. Pleadingly, she held out an arm to Briony, who took the syringe she’d been given and gently inserted it into Briony’s arm.

“What is that?” asked Jasmine.

“Morphine,” said Jo, “The cruelty of her power is she can only heal herself – can only be lucid and sane – whilst high.”

There were a few flickers of eyelashes, and between one heartbeat and the next, Siobhan’s chocolate-brown eyes had been restored.

“Can I have a shower?” she asked.

Jasmine expected softness and kindness from Briony. But it was Jo who said:

“You can have anything you want, Siobhan. Anything.”

4. secrets

While Jo helped Siobhan strip off and get into the shower, Briony leaned against Jasmine and, to Jasmine’s surprise, cried.

“Wha…”

“I hate coming here,” she said.

Jasmine looked around at the filth and squalor of Siobhan’s room and realized that Briony feared that one day her power would do this to her. Or worse.

“Let’s tidy it up for her, shall we?” asked Jasmine.

When Siobhan came out of the shower, in clean clothes, leaning heavily against Jo, the room was spotless, the bed made, all of her clothes washed and hung out to dry.

Siobhan smiled, slightly.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, before her legs buckled. Jo caught her, and quickly maneuvered her into the bed.

“There you go,” Jo said gently, “All well and good.”

Siobhan smiled a bit wider.

“You used to take care of me. Back before…before he found you.”

Siobhan’s eyelashes fluttered.

“Girlie, you tell Keith to let me know if anyone bothers you, okay?”

“I can’t be your friend anymore, Joey,” said Siobhan, “I help your enemy.”

“Anyone hurts you,” said Jo, clearly ignoring what Siobhan said, “You tell me. I’ll knock ’em dead.”

Siobhan’s smile looked weary now.

“You always say that.”

For the first time since Jasmine had known them, Jo looked vulnerable. It was clear to her that Jo loved Siobhan when she was lucid, and hated how rarely that was – hated more that morphine was the only way to get her that way. Hated even more than that that they could barely see her.

Jasmine wondered if Jak, who frequently stared at Jo in the same manner that she was staring at Siobhan right now, was aware of this. And wondered even more if Siobhan was also aware. Judging by the wry, tired smile on Siobhan’s face, she was aware of the bizarre love triangle she was part of.

Siobhan motioned to Jasmine. Jo looked, briefly, hurt, then suspicious.

“Watch over my girl,” she whispered to Jasmine.

Then added a few more words, that made Jasmine stare at her in quiet horror, lips sucking in breath through her teeth.

Slowly, the glazed look came in over her eyes again, and they fluttered shut. How strange, that sober she looked drugged out as anything, and on drugs she was as sober as a priest.

5. changes

That night, Jasmine dreamed.

And the tattoos burned themselves into her back, as she dreamed of death, and blood, the emptiness of a chamber, and a man holding her future in the palm of his hand.

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