Jake screamed as the viperwolves savaged him. Teeth biting into flesh. Unable to resist two of them latched onto his arms and feet and started tugging. Jake felt the flesh tear he saw a figure looking over him, urging them on. As he was torn limb from limb he realised it was Neytiri looked on. Smiling as he died.
He jerked upright on his mat again, the scream dying in his trough. “Is it the same dreams?” Neytiri asked awakened by the sound.
“Worse this time” Jake replied bedding back down again. While he never gave details, Neytiri could see the fear and pain in his eyes.
“You need to speak to Mo’at”
“Jakesully you’ve been having these nightmares for weeks. You need help” Neytiri looking sternly at him. She knew full well that Jake didn’t want to go, fearing Mo’at would talk about his condition to the rest of the clan.
“Fine you win. I’ll talk to her tomorrow”, Jake said after a second. Neytiri cuddled him, when she made that face he always gave in in the end.
Mo’at seemed to be already prepared for him when he arrived. “I see you Jake. What brings you here outside of our official duties?” she said pausing from working on her collection of medicinal plants. She’d spent months rebuilding her collection since the destruction of hometree but she said it would take years to fully replace it. Jake smiled, while Mo’at and him didn’t entirely get on personally they managed the clan well.
“I’ve had a personal problem I wanted some advice on” Jake said skirting around the issue.
“I take it Neytiri asked you to come to me about your nightmares?” Mo’at said cutting to the chase suddenly.
“How did you know. Oh” Jake said putting two and together after a moment of shock “Neytiri has already told you” he said.
“She did think it was better that you came on your own accord” Mo’at admitted. “But I will admit that I have been aware of your condition for a while Jake. Along with the rest of the clan.
“The rest of the clan? Why have no one said anything” Jake asked. He suspected that some of the clan on the upper levels of the tree had heard his screams but hoped that the rumour mill hadn’t started yet.
“You are not the only person to have nightmares after the war, Jake. Almost everyone have come to me to discuss about ghosts of past battle or those lost with home tree.
“You’re talking about PTSD” Jake said.
“A skyperson concept?” Moa’t asked, she never liked it when Jake brought up human concepts.
“Yes, but I think you already understand it. Continue.”
“But its rare for them to start so suddenly or this long after the event. While everyone knows you need time to overcome this, your condition is causing concern” Mo’at explained.
“So what would you recommend” Jake asked.
“I think we need to go to the source of these nightmares. A dream hunt is the best way for you to look within yourself,” Mo’at declared.
“A bit drastic,” Jake protested, Dream hunts were a big thing.
“Given such a serious case we should move quickly. Anyway a Olo'eyktan should always perform a dream hunt a season to remain close to Ewya,” Mo’at countered.
“ I trust in your guidance” Jake said.
“Good, I will prepare the ceremony” Mo’at said.
It was several hours before Mo’at could catch a suitable kali'weya and it was night when she started the ceremony. Thankfully this was a much more personal ceremony than Jake’s rite of passage. It was just Jake, Mo’at, an assistant and Neytiri. “Are you sure you want this? I know you feel you have to live up to Eytukan,” Neytiri asked.
“If this will stop these nightmares I’m going to do it,” Jake said and gave her a quick kiss. “I have done one of these remember,” he added.
“Are you ready, Jakesully?” Mo’at asked.
“ Yes,” Jake said holding Neytiri’s hand. Mo’at began the chant calling ewya to the hunt and before offering Jake the glow worm.
“A different one from last time,” Jake commented. Mo’at glowered at him for breaking the flow of the ceremony.
“This one will focus the hunt within yourself,” she whispered as Jake eat the worm not wishing to disrupt the ceremony any further.
The kali'weya bite still stung like crazy. Jake resisted the pain and soon felt himself slip into the hypnotic state of the dream hunt, a smoother experience now that he expected it. However instead of becoming hypersensitive to everything around him everything started to feel dim and distant. Before he could even react the world totally floated away into a vast white void.
“You never get used to these things do you,” Jake said out load as he floated in the void. A muffled silence was the only thing that answered back. Jake took a step forward into the nothingness, he’s brain said there was nothing there but his foot has the was something there. “I was expecting something more than this, ” he looked around.
“Sorry, I’m only human,” said a voice behind him. Jake spun around. Where he’d just looked at a figure had appeared. It was himself. His human self. Hair still in the tight clipped arm he had in the marines. “Well this is getting a bit metaphysical,” it added.
“Who are you?” Jake asked in shock.
“I’m you,” the human Sully said stepping forward. “I believer I’m an anthropomorphic personification of your subconscious mind created by the dream hunt.”
“I’ll believe you, but why are you here?” Jake asked.
“Because I’m also a personification of our problems leading to you awake at night screaming. What? you thought the personification of your troubled would be Quaritch with a gun?” Sully asked mockingly.
“I hoped so. He killed me enough in the dreams. And what do you mean our problems?” Jake said.
“You think we live a perfect life Jake?” Sully asked.
“Yes” Jake said instantly.
“Liar,” Sully said just as quickly. “We might have gone from living on the poverty line in the sprawl to the leader of a clan on an alien moon but we’ve been dodging a lot of home truths for a while. You didn’t think they wouldn’t bounce back at some point?”
“How do you mean?” Jake asked, he was getting annoyed at his alter ego self.
“Well there is our brother for a start,” Sully said.
“What about my brother?” Jake asked.
“We owe that body you now have to him. Surely you must have some guilt about taking it from him?”
“I did at first. But I’ve come to view it as him living on through me, his gift to me to walk again,” Jake tried to explain.
“An odd way to talk about a man you haven’t meant in years until you saw his corpse,” Sully pointed out.
“Hey he’s my brother, sure we weren’t close but I still loved him.”
“After what we did to him?” Jake asked.
“What do you mean?” Jake said but the empty void around him was starting to texture itself, forming into objects, muffles sounds could be heard.
The world around him became a cheap bar, Jake had been in so many over the years and they never ever changed. Loud dated music and bad tasting beer. Then he realised he was a 12 foot blue alien in a bar on earth and he looked around expecting screams. Then he realised everything was normal sized, it was the size of his old body. “You never seen A Christmas Carol?” Sully asked grabbing a bar stool. Then Jake realised that it was a memory the dream hunt had dredged up and which memory it was.
“Not this,” was all Jake could say before the world just into activity.
“Look Jake I’m sorry. Mum and Dad don’t have the money for both of us to go to college. Who has these days” Tom said pulling back on his glass at the table. Young Jake sat opposite, Tom was in a fashionable outfit while Sully was dressed in well worn shirt and jeans.
“You said we were always going to be equals. That there would be no favourites,” young Jake said drinking from his own glass.
“I know its shitty Jake, but at some point we have to grow up and face the fact that there isn’t enough to go round for everyone these days. Someone in this family has to succeed, making it to the next level. My grades were always better.” Tom emphasised the last point.
“So what I’m just another loser in your eyes?” Jake asked putting his glass down suddenly.
“I didn’t say that,” Tom corrected.
“You did,” Jake argued voice rising a fraction.
“God shake Jake you’ve still got prospects in the regional colleges. You’ve always talked about joining the military, fighting the good fight,” Tom said recognising the rising anger in his brother. “Its just my teachers say I could go places.”
“Its all about you!” young Jake suddenly exploded. “You lying shit, you broke our deal!”
“We were kids” Tom said but young Jake had already snapped, smashing his glass into Tom’s head. “You stole my future!” he said punching Tom several times before the other bar patrons restrained him, the scene warping into weird, twisted shapes before disappearing back into the void.
“Our brother was always an ass. But it was not a loving relationship at the end,” Sully said, looking at Jake.
“I was a drunk hothead who’d just had his dreams crushed.” Jake said.
“Mum threw you of the house after that. You joined up the next day and never looked back.”
“There wasn’t much else I could do. Didn’t have the grades for anything else,” Jake commented.
“And yet in all those years you never tried to contact your brother and apologise. You barely even spoke at Mum’s funeral. Why?” Sully asked.
“I blamed him for it,” Jake admitted flatly. “Oh I regretted it as soon as I’d done it but deep down I still blamed him for egging me on. So I kept away so I wouldn’t have to face it.”
“And then he died,” Sully said.
“And when I was standing over his body, all I could think about was how I could never apologise for my mistake,” Jake said wearily.
“Perhaps its time to apologised to him and not just take his second body. Perhaps even a prayer to Ewya.” Sully said.
“I will. Though Ewya doesn’t work like that, she never seems to respond when I talk to her about earth.” Jake replied.
“Whatever. We have to stop pretending we were the perfect person.”
“What do you mean?” Jake asked.
“Have you ever thought about all those men we killed in the war?” Sully asked suddenly changed the conversation.
“A bit. War here is so much more closer here, so much more personal,” Jake explained
“You mean we aren’t shooting at blobs or calling in air support?” Sully commented.
“Yes, but also it feels like I was fighting for something I really cared about, instead of simply pay check like those grunts,” Jake said.
“We were a grunt once. I face I seem to remember we planned to sign up,” Sully pointed out.
“When?” Jake asked. Sully pointed and a new memory faded into view.
It was an even cheaper bar this time with loud, pounding music and a heaving counter. A military bar before deployment Jake remembered. He turned to see an older Jake and the rest of the platoon squeezed around a table and thoroughly pissed. “So we will we do once we are out of the service?” Johnson asked as the real Jake ans Sully perked at the end of another table with a view.
“Not sticking with the service, boy?” Sergeant Andrews shot across the table.
“No offence sarge but the pay here is crap compared to the private sector,” Johnson pointed out.
“Oh, you’ve got me there,” Andrews admitted and returned to drinking getting a laugh from the table.
“I’d probably sign up for RDA if I’d left. Better than on the dole,” Richard said.
“And end up guarding a refinery for years? Go for some of the mercenary forces, always plenty of action, global adventure,” Johnson argued.
“What, one bombed out shit hole to another? No if you want real adventure, you need to go to Pandora. Now that would be an adventure,” Sully countered.
“I don’t know. You hear a lot of rumours about people not coming back from a tour,” Richard said.
“Yeah but think of the money,” Jake said.
“Oh, Mr adventure, if your so brave, chug this”, Johnson dared, thrusting a pint of some synthetic alcohol in front of Jake.
“You’re on!” Jake said, readying himself while the platoon hammered the table egging him on as the scene faded from view.
“I don’t remember that,” Jake protested.
“That’s because you and Johnson got rat arsed after daring each other for the rest of the night and Miguel nearly got strangled by a hooker” Sully explained. He seemed different now, the face was still the same but his clothes had changed they were now the thrift store brands Jake had bought when he’d been discharged.
“Oh I remember Miguel and the hooker. Don’t remember talking signing up with RDA,” Jake said remembering.
“It was a fleeting fancy about our future. Before the wheelchair,” Sully commented.
“what’s your point?” Jake asked.
“The point is we could have been one of those grunts we killed. Fighting the good fight, burning down home tree,” Sully said.
“No! I’m better than that,” Jake said firmly.
“Really Jake? What about our time in Venezuela? How many times did we laser a slum to be shelled into rubble because we were told the enemy was there? How we dehumanised the locals in the barracks, and called insults at those we saw on patrol? Remember that time we got into a firefight in that apartment complex only for it turn out to be some terrified family who’s stayed when the block had been bombed? We carried them out in body bag.”
“Fine, yes damn you,” Jake swore.
“My point exactly, we weren’t a better person than them, just we fought on the right side, right?” Sully said, dropping the suggestion.
“Next you’ll be telling me that Quaritch was right,” Jake said.
“No I’m just fooling you. Whatever reason Earth had for mining unobtainium, Quaritch was a bastard that needed to be stopped, But stop pretending everyone you killed was an evil guy. Its tearing us inside,” Sully said.
“I don’t know. Go search for their dog tags in the jungle like what we did for Johnson when he got blown up,”
“The clan won’t like that,” Jake commented.
“Screw the clan, do it yourself. Ask the science team for help,” Sully suggested.
“That’s a nice suggestion, I suppose I could give them access to the area around the tree of souls” Jake said agreeing with Sully.
“You know Jake you’ve been pretty shitty to Max and Norm and the rest of the science team,” Sully said shifting the subject once more.
“You do you mean? I’ve been a great ally to them” Jake replied.
“Ally? They were your friends but now you act like you never knew them. What their current situation?” Sully asked. His clothes definitely had changed, this time the slightly more expensive clothes he’d been given before he’d left to Pandora.
“I don’t know… things have been so busy I haven’t been able to visit them,” said Sully. “Your dodging the issue. Remember I’m you. I can see your just creating issues, demanding you handle everything,” Sully said.
“Why would I do that?” Jake pointed out.
“Simple. They remind you that you are not really a na’vi,” Sully said.
“Bullshit,” Jake countered.
“Come on Jake, when did you last speak English? Even when Neytiri has to help you with the pronunciation? Each time you learn more about na’vi culture you adopt it without thinking, always trying to be the perfect leader.” Jake thought about what Sully was saying, sure perhaps he did adopt things too quickly but he was Olo'eyktan, he couldn’t be that and stay apart from the people. “You don’t even use your real name any more. You keep letting them pronounce it wrong. you’re always Jakesully, never just Jake Sully,” Sully continued.
“What’s the problem with that, you know the na’vi construct their names differently,” Jake said defensively. “Anyway, what’s your problem with this? you’ve been acting like I’m the one with the problems but it seems to be like the problem is with you!” he added after a second. Sully thought for a second.
“Because I’m the part of you who’s tired of this life Jake,” he said and shifted again, this time he was dressed in the na’vi clothing Jake’s real body wore, but on him it looked stiff, almost comical. “I’m tried of living in the jungle, wearing these stupid uncomfortable clothes, and having to think about every word I say,” he said picking at the clothes.
“But our old life felt so empty and without purpose. With the people I have a purpose and respect,” Jake countered.
“But there are some things I miss, coffee for a start, long hot showers, and while na’vi songs are great I really want to hear some rock music again,” Sully explained.
“Come off it, you didn’t give me nightmares for week just because you wanted a coffee and to listen to slayer,” Jake pointed out.
“Perhaps its the only way I’ve got left!” Sully said, he’d shifted again becoming Jake’s human form during the final battle, limbs atrophied, clothes dirty and unwashed. In the battle Jake never realised how terrible he’d looked, not that anyone else had been much better. “You’d buried me so far down inside that I all I could do was haunt your dreams,” Sully continued.
“Any now that you’ve told them to me are you going to leave me alone?” Jake asked. Sully looked at him nostrils flared, his skin was even worse, almost dead. The world around the two was starting to break up as well, darkness beginning to creep in.
“Have you not listened to what I’ve said? Are you still going to keep on denying to yourself that you were human?” Sully spat.
“I’m not denying anything!” Jake said.
“So who are you? Are you Jakesully, Olo'eyktan of the Omaticaya? Or Jake Montagu Sully former marine and avatar driver?!” Sully shouted, decaying rapidly now.
“I am both god damnit! I’m both” Jake shouted in frustration at his dream form.
“Then start being both,” Sully, now little more than a rotten skeleton said as the blackness reclaimed them both.
Jake awoke to see Norm’s avatar shining a bright light in his eye. “Easy there,” he said grabbing Jake as he tried to rise. “But next time you can you tell us before you do something like that again?” he added.
“Norm what are you doing here?” Jake asked seeing Neytiri and Mo’at also standing over him.
“I called them. You were spasming and Mo’at could do nothing. I thought they might know what to do,” Neytiri explained.
“Spasming? That didn’t happen last time.” Jake said
“Last time you did this through the neural link,” Norm pointed out unstrapping a medical monitor from Jake’s wrist. “It looks like whatever is in that worm messes up an avatar’s brain chemistry good. Without an ongoing link to stabilise it your body started to go into synaptic shock. Was pretty easy to fix once we got here,” Norm explained.
“Why did you never tell me about this?” Jake asked.
“Didn’t get around to looking at the data for several months and you haven’t been over for a while.”
“Yes. How is the rest of the team?” Jake said guiltily.
“We’re holding out but the wildlife at the edge of the base is becoming an issue. We were going to ask you to lend some hunters to clear them out,” Norm said.
“I’ll lead it myself” Jake said making to rise again but Mo’at restrained him.
“I might not know your skyperson medicine but I know when someone needs rest,” she protested.
“Fine. But Norm there is something you can do for me” Jake said knowing he was beaten but reaching over to whisper something to Norm.
It was several days later that Jake appeared with the strange device. He got it from Norm when they visited hell’s gate to help the science team. Jake have been reluctant to have the rest of the tribe deal with them but now he was suggesting having warriors there on a permanent basis to help out. “I had Norm load it up for me. Its crazy what there is on the entertainment net,” Jake explained without explaining anything.
“But what is it?” Neytiri asked in frustration.
“Oh. Its a media player. Music and the like.”
“But why would you want any skyperson songs?” Neytiri asked.
“After that dream hunt I have to remember that I can never be fully one the people my mate,” Jake explained kissing her. “Anyway its not all bad, listen to this classic” he said and put on Daydream Believer and gave Neytiri an earbud to listen to. It wasn’t the his ears heard stuff so differently but the song was still good.
“What did you think of that?” Jake asked.
“Interesting. Not terrible. Again?” Neytiri said after a moments thought.
“As many times as you like” Jake said starting the song again. The Monkees? That’s what you decided to show her earth music with? a voice echoed in the back of Jake’s mind. Shut up I like what I like Jake thought, pushing the voice aside as he lay down with Neytiri and listened to the music.