((Exterior. Collins House Grounds.))
Quentin Collins recognized the pit in his stomach as he approached his ancestral home. Or at least, his mind’s version of it.
Though he had many happy memories behind the walls of the ancient estate, THIS was how he usually remembered his home. Imposing. Over large. Enveloping. All these words and more bounced through his brain as he slowly approached the looming mansion.
Though he didn't hear anything else after making the sprint up Widow’s Hill, the unease of his body and chill of his blood remained. A chill that just sharpened as he slowly made his way up toward the door.
He reached out tentatively, relishing the polish and smoothness of the wrought iron door handle. Whatever this was, it surely wasn’t skimping on the details. But suddenly, as soon as he stepped onto the lacquered wood of the porch a mighty gale of wind blew from behind him. A wind so ferocious, it blew back the doors and literally swept Quentin into the black, gaping maw of his home.
And for a moment, there was only the dark and panicked sound of his own breath.
((Exterior. Somewhere in Ecuador.))
Alvarez: Hey, you, you’re finally awake.
Quentin Collins’ didn’t know just how long he was “out” but his heart leapt at seeing Maria, the REAL Maria it seemed, through the din of darkness that surrounded them. He tried to scramble to his feet, but the ache of his body drew a taut resistance band of pain around most of his limbs and a great deal of his torso.
He settled for drawing himself up to a sitting position and leaning against the wall to his side. Which seemed to be more of a craggy rockface than the oaken walls of his former home.
Maria watched an understandably groggy Quentin prop himself up, as she gnawed off a piece of granola bar. Not that food had any meaning in this place. The calming sound of a waterfall rang in the distance.
Alvarez: Well, not awake awake, but... you know what I mean.
Collins: Yes, I’m afraid I do…
But as Quentin tried to stand, the full anachronism of their surroundings made itself known to him. Gone was the mid-century mansion of his youth and in its place was...a soothing grotto? Quentin turned a confused eye toward Maria.
The pair were perched atop a rocky plateau with needle-like white mountains far behind them and deep green rainforest below and in front of them. It wasn’t clear how two of them got here on a single-seater motorbike parked a short distance away.
Collins: Where...are we? I have no memory of this place...
Alvarez: We’re in Ecuador. Sort of. I stopped here for a couple days a few months before I joined Starfleet - I figured we’d be safer from Faraday in one of my memories. They’re starting to blend together though - I don’t know of any lighthouses in the Andes.
She pointed, and maybe a couple hundred meters down the way was a perfectly white light tower with a quaint adjoining house that should have been perched on the northern Atlantic seaboard, not in the mountains.
She was right. The Lighthouse she was referring to was Old Man Evans’, the charge of the third oldest family in Collinsport. The first branch of the Evans clan had made that first crossing from England, alongside Quentin’s ancestors and the rest of the expats back in the 1800s. The Evans family had been a part of Collinsport just as long as the Collins’ had, taking it upon themselves to contribute to the town’s infrastructure, with Quentin’s ancient family as patrons.
They were responsible for the roads and the foundations of many of the buildings that still stood to this day. Including the cracked, but still functioning “Evans Tower”, which never once NOT housed an Evans. The last time Quentin had seen that “Tower” was the day he left Collinsport, waving to the wizened, but kind Samuel Evans Jr. as he sat on the bus speeding away from the town that bore his name.
Instantly seeing it again jarred him back to the same scared, but anxious to grow young man he was then
Collins: This is...absolutely gonzo.
Alvarez: It really is… :: She chuckled. :: I’m not really sure why we’re still here, in whatever twilight-land this is. I hoped we’d wake up once you came around, but that didn’t happen. Best guess? We’re keeping ourselves here.
Maria pulled her sleek black leather jacket a little tighter, and sorted her black hair around her neck. Sitting still, there was just the slightest nip in the air. She dangled her legs freely over the edge of the large rock they reposed on as if she were unconcerned by the observation. In reality, she was keeping a lookout for danger.
Quentin approached her carefully, and mindfully. Mindful of not only the precarious position her current foxhole was providing them, but also of Maria’s clear and obvious rawness at the whole experience. Quentin couldn’t and wouldn’t ever blame her. Re-experiencing his own memories was...striking enough, but having them filtered through her own experiences in surely terrifying ways was surely quite another, bone-rattling thing entirely.
Collins: Alright then, let’s unpack that. What do we, right here and now, concretely know about our surroundings?
Alvarez: Well, we keep revisiting emotionally intense scenes right? Memories, fears, not really sure what they are. I’m guessing by now you’ve seen as many of mine as I have of yours… or at least bizarro alternate versions of yours. It sounds dumb, but I think we might be stuck here because we’re “stuck” on them.
A cold shudder passed through him as he crouched next to his peer. She wasn’t wrong. Ever since their shift, he had felt a passing strange of Maria’s life and emotions. They were complex and nuanced situations, ones Quentin couldn’t quite get a full read on, but he understood the feelings all too well. Anger, disconnection, and ambition. All sterling qualities to better hearts, but heavy chains to those who find themselves unremarkable at the social keenness required to make use of them.
But there was also a sense to her words. The many therapists and counselors Quentin had throughout his life would also concur, presumably. Memory was much like the sea in that way. Beautiful on the surface, but oppressively deep just below.
Collins: No, that’s not dumb at all. In fact, that may very well be the least “dumb” thing you’ve ever said.
Alvarez: I know it sounds crazy, but I was able to start moving around scenes on my own and controlling this “vision,” for lack of a better word, to an extent after I started confronting some things instead of running from them. That’s how I found you. Something tells me you’ve been running too?
She turned to face the man that was no longer her XO. She’d seen enough for that relationship to be fully broken down. It was unlikely, but possible, he could be that again to her if they got out of here, but for now she just gazed at him with her brown eyes, scrutinizing the man before her.
He huffed wryly and finally sat heavily next to her.
Collins: For longer than just today, I think, Maria. I keep so much bottled up inside me. All this fear, all this anger and self-doubt. It’s a wonder it hadn’t exploded before now. The Gentii might have gotten us here, but I built the trap decades ago. It just took our swap to finally spring it.
He felt himself getting suddenly very sad. And very, very aware of his own fracturing mind and emotional well-being.
Maria didn’t need empathic senses to feel the weight in his body mirror in hers. Just as it was for her, this unravelling had been a long time in coming. Having seen what she’d seen, his battles and all, she couldn’t avoid a keen protective fondness for him. She reached across, and set her hand on his forearm. Her eyes pleaded with him to look back at her - searching for a sign he’d be okay.
Collins: I...uh...don’t think I’m a well person, Ensign. It’s long past time I admitted that to myself.
As if on cue, his words triggered a sort of earthquake. The sediment shook underneath him and started to give way.
Maria gripped on to his arm, but the dream was collapsing. Everything around them started to blur and fall apart. Gravity and time re-asserted themselves dragging the pair apart and back into reality.
Collins barely had time to scream. Little more time to even move as he was ripped away from Maria and taken back into the black. Alone. Afraid. And seemingly without form.
(( Thanks for bearing with me folks while I'm travelling. It's been so, so fun to write this with Collins! ))
QUENTIN COLLINS III
(Soon to Be Ex-)