Act I – A change of scenery

The first thing he notices is the leash in his hand, and the second is the snow. At the end of the leash is a short, stout, brindled dog; and it snuffles its dark nose through the dirty slush like a boar rooting for truffles. The dog he doesn't mind so much. He's always been rather fond of dogs. It's the snow that strikes a worried chord in the depths of him, as last he knew he was taking a leisurely stroll through the summer rain.

Beneath palm trees.

The palm trees remain, but there is the addition of the snow, the dog/leash bundle, and a scarf he doesn't recall owning much less putting on.

The dog snorts in his direction and wags its tail. Jordan knows the dog to be named Abel, just as he knows there is another dog named Cain waiting at home. Abel resumes snuffling and Jordan stares mutely at a snow-draped palm.

Across the street there is a monstrous pine tree, sitting casually between a row of snowy palms. These form the first line of trees in a dense, confusing pine/palm forest.

A moose watches him from betwixt the trunks.

Jordan's brows crawl upward an inch or two, and he gives the leash a tug. He turns, boots (he was wearing sneakers he left the house, or so he thought; he isn't quite sure anymore) crunching crystallized muck as he adjusts his course for home.

He knows precisely where home is, just as he knows of Cain and Abel, and just as he knows that home isn't technically his.

Home belongs to Ned, he thinks as he unclips the dog harness and sheds his scarf. He locks the door behind him and hangs the scarf on a rack, and his muscles tell him he's done this a thousand times before. The rack affirms this claim and the dog trots away. There is a scrabbling of claws against hard-wood as he encounters his brother, and the two tumble off down hallways Jordan has yet to explore.

He feels uncomfortable nosing about the house, as it is not his. It is Ned's.

Only Ned is dead; has been dead for years, and the house is now in Jordan's name. The mans considerable (and questionable) assets had been left entirely to Jordan. No one in the family could quite say why. Jordan had met Ned all of once, the encounter uninspiring at its best. The pair of them had sat in the parlor for nearly three hours without exchanging so much as a single word. Then Jordan's mother had arrived and collected him, and that had been that.

He must have been thirteen at the time.

He knows it has been nine years since that day, when it had only been six when he'd left the house for his walk. Or so he thinks.

His eyes grace Ned's old leather recliner, and for a strange moment he hears the tinkling chime of a music box, and the room fills with light. And on the sunbeams he sees-

The phone rings, high and shrill, and Jordan blinks.

The room is dark and silent. The phone does not ring again. Feeling oddly as though he's lost still more time (years to hours, what's the difference?) he moves towards the bathroom. Not Ned's bathroom, not the bathroom on the first floor, as things have happened in that bathroom and Jordan is leery of their repetition. He walks up the steps, his feet thudding dully against the polished wood, and he makes his way to the small guest bathroom, off the guest bedroom. This is the room he sleeps in, and the only bathroom he'll use.

He is a guest in Ned's home, after all.

It is when he looks in the mirror that it is all suddenly given a face, this sense of lost time and these things remembered but not lived; because it is not his face he sees. It will be his face, when the years have been righted and gone their proper way, he knows.

But this is not his face. Not yet. His reflection does not belong to the he in his mind. Which is the one that counts, he believes.

There is the strangest feeling, then, of being in anothers skin. This skin has known places and hours that Jordan has not, has known lovers and faces-

quite suddenly, he is on his bedroom floor, screaming screaming screaming though he can no longer hear as he watches the bug scuttle away, under the dresser, possibly to nest, and now his mother is at the top of the stairs and-

he wakes with cool tile to one cheek, warm tongue to the other as Abel licks his face. He sits up, pushes the eager animal away (Cain dozes in the corner and half opens one sleepy eye as Jordan moves), stands, and catches a glimpse of his reflection again.

But he doesn't look long. Just long enough to establish that it is still in Not Quite Jordan's skin.

He sheds his shirt, sheds his pants, and crawls to the relative safety of his bed. Relative, because things have happened in the bed too. Not quite so frequently as other places. Of all the places he's tried to sleep, the bed is the safest. He shakes beneath the comforters, eyes wide and watchful until sleep finally swallows him.