Shinichi groaned back into a bleary sort of consciousness. His head was throbbing, he was laying uncomfortably on the hard ground, with the taste of mud and something worse, terribly bitter, in his mouth, and something else was subtly off, though he couldn’t put his finger on quite what. He opened his eyes and gingerly tried to push himself up off the ground, but as soon as he did so, he realized his hands were bizarrely caught within his sleeves, and even more strangely, there was a white barn owl with pale blue highlights and inexplicably spiked feathers giving him a very concerned look, standing right in front of his face. Shinichi groaned again and let himself collapse back into the grass. If he was hallucinating, he must be hurt pretty badly, and he could afford to rest a little before dragging himself to somewhere safer. It didn’t look or sound like those creeps in black were anywhere nearby anymore, so he didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger, besides his head injury anyway.
“I heard something from over here!” Shinichi heard a voice call, and dragged himself up into a sitting position just in time for a pair of policemen to round the corner with flashlights. One had a white and yellow shadow, the shape of a Yorkshire Terrier, bounding ahead of him through midair, trailing sparks, and the other had a tiny gray-brown elephant with jewels apparently embedded in its knees and ears riding on his shoulder. He was still hallucinating strange impossible animals it seemed. Shinichi glanced down, and the owl was still in front of him. He would say it was looking at him expectantly and with a little worry, which he could somehow read in its eyes that were sparkling with green sand rather than really looking like eyes at all. Although, given that he was hallucinating, it really wasn’t all that surprising that the animal would have such a human emotion attached to it.
When he met its eyes, the bird suddenly ruffled up its feathers (were they coated with ice? That would perhaps explain why they looked so jagged) and then took off, startling him into scooting back. He instinctively looked up into the sky to watch it go, but realized, as he couldn’t find it with his eyes, that the owl had landed on his knee instead, its talons a gentle pressure rather than sharp like he expected. It also felt proportionately bigger than it looked, as though his knee was suddenly scrawny. That actually made sense with how his clothes were draped strangely around his body.
Shinichi was startled out of his examination of the mysterious ice-coated owl he was still probably hallucinating when the policeman in the lead pointed the flashlight straight at him, stopped running, and observed, “that’s a nasty lump on your head, kid. Are you okay?”
The dog, electricity still crackling through its fur, landed silently on the ground in front of him and turned to the owl instead, echoing the question, “are you both okay?” in a voice very similar to the policeman’s.
Shinichi was still processing why they called him “kid” when he was clearly 17, when the owl turned back to the impossible (and impossibly small) dog and said something that simultaneously sounded like it ought to be language, and as though it had no relation to Japanese or anything Shinichi had ever heard before at all.
Both policeman and the elephant turned to the owl, looking startled. Shinichi tried to tune them out as the policemen took a step back and had a quiet but intense argument. If they could see his hallucinations, that meant they were part of the hallucinations. He didn’t need to listen to what they had to say, though he did catch the phrase “recently awakened” several times. More proof that the adults were part of his hallucinations: they would have no reason to know he’d actually been unconscious moments ago, since they hadn’t appeared until after he wasn’t. He returned to staring at the owl, trying to focus on all the things that made it impossible, hoping that would make it easy for his brain to discard the distracting thing so he could focus on his predicament instead. The owl stared right back.
Momentarily, the police officer with the elephant stepped forward, crouching down gently in front of Shinichi. “Hi kid. I’m Officer Kondo. You haven’t seen that little owl before, have you?”
Shinichi finally accepted that his senses were telling him that he was as small as a young child, despite the fact that in his hallucination his clothes hadn’t shrunk with him, and tried not to be too offended that this hallucination-cop was also calling him a child. His brain was producing far more consistent nonsense than he thought hallucinations were supposed to involve, but he was more stressed about the fact that, other than the police officer acknowledging the owl and calling him “kid”, there was no way he would have recognized the cop as a figment of his own imagination. He wouldn’t have answered, but the cop still felt so real, looking at him expectantly. Eventually, he shook his head no, since his throat felt closed-up with stress.
“That’s okay,” the officer said gently while Shinichi idly registered his partner radioing for an ambulance from halfway down the alley. “That owl is your Kri, which is basically the other half of your soul. If you give him a name, he’ll talk in plain Japanese. People discover they can see their Kri after they’ve been through something really painful or scary. Did something like that happen to you tonight?”
Shinichi thought about everything that had happened earlier that night. Witnessing a murder wasn’t terribly unusual for him and it wasn’t really scary in the moment because he was always so distracted looking for evidence. But being bashed on the head with something heavy, and being poisoned (if he hadn’t hallucinated that too) probably counted. Both were definitely painful. Still, a figment of his imagination would know all of that and he didn’t feel like saying it aloud. He shrugged instead.
“Are you sure, kid?” the cop asked, looking concerned and disbelieving. “You don’t have to tell me about it, but I just want to know if something happened.” Shinichi tried to stare through him, rather than acknowledge his hallucinations again. Eventually, the cop frowned, stood up, and retreated to his partner to talk quietly again.
Well, since his hallucinations were not seeming to go anywhere on their own, Shinichi decided he really ought to get himself out of this alley, to somewhere safer. He stuck close to buildings and shadows, carefully feeling his way along since he didn’t trust his senses on what was real or not. He felt remarkably clear-minded, despite his still-aching head, but the hallucinations weren’t going away, and if his brain was this screwed up, he couldn’t be waiting on an imaginary ambulance either.
He heard the policemen starting to panic behind him, when they realized he was out of sight, and started running, hoping that at least putting physical distance between himself and his hallucinations would help them to fade.