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// this is... just a long rewrite of a short first-person fic i wrote about makishima in (looks at the date) march 2013??? (screams) also...

[1] this fic is written solely from the events in the 22 episode anime, so i apologise in advance for any clashing or overlapping with the sequels or novels or spin-offs

[2] makishima has tendency to quote dead men, and any references to old books will be sourced in the end notes

[3] this should go without saying but.. makishima's views in this fic don't reflect my own views, they reflect how i interpret makishima's views

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

If someone said to you, "Imagine a colour you've never seen before, a colour without any shade of red or green or blue," what would you imagine? How would you describe it? It's impossible, isn't it? Every colour you know is within the bounds of red and green and blue. However inventive you may be, humans lack the ability to imagine something without any recognisable traits. So, if you said to someone who was born into a prison, "Imagine what it's like to be free," what might they say? In the end, they could only imagine freedom within the bounds of what they know.

A human who's only known captivity cannot imagine what it means to be free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Blood crept down the hill. It bent around stones and sank into the earth, black in the fading light. Kogami strained his grip on the gun. The ends of his once-white hair feathered in the wind and fell around his shoulders, drawing veins of ink on his shirt. Death was not a stranger to him, but the weight of a human life had never felt so heavy. Only, now Kogami was shouldering it alone. Now, his eyes were blind with the colour of blood. Now, it seemed natural, mechanical, to lift the gun to his own head, but a sole atom of sound mind caught his hand before it moved. He tried again to feel the ground beneath his feet, the air on his skin. Like frozen gears ticking into motion, his thoughts gradually came back to him. He knelt down and searched Makishima's pockets, content to take his phone, and to leave his cherished blade in its resting place.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

When the twilight had buried itself in the hills, he moved through the fields to the outskirts where his getaway was hidden. Without its passcode, Makishima's phone would only allow him fragmented access to its functions, but among them had been the map. Tucking the helmet under his arm, he mounted the bike and began to scroll through a list of recent locations. For each address, he would run a search on his own phone to identify the building - an aquarium, a hardware store, an antique shop in the north fringe of the city, and, the unworldly estate of Senguji Toyohisa, among other wonders. Somewhere down the list, he found what appeared to be a residence in a wealthier pocket of town. There was no safe indication that it belonged to Makishima, but it had been listed as vacant in the white pages, and he would take his chances if only on how many times the address had been logged on his phone. Or, if only because Kogami no longer had any place to belong.

Adjusting the helmet, he slipped the phones into his pocket and started the engine.

 

✻    ✻    ✻ 

 

On the lightless, nowhere roads, the wind rushed through him like he were a ghost. No stretch of concrete had ever been so long, so still.

 

 ✻    ✻    ✻

 

The front wheel of his bike touched on a pebbled footpath. In the light of the garden lamps, he could see the ruddy colour of the quaint, brick walls just ahead. Leaving the bike on its kickstand, he treaded quietly on the path, wary of alarms, of sensors, of anything Makishima might have left behind. In the same vein, he put his ear to the front door before he dared lay a finger on the handle.

Nothing stirred on the other side.

And, irritating as it was, it came as no surprise when he turned the handle and found the door was somehow locked. It crossed his mind that perhaps all the toytown houses in this pocket of the city were fitted with decorative locks, but he would sooner believe that Makishima had gone out of his way to use an archaic sort of protection. He sighed and moved to the nearest window, putting his hand to the glass as he peered inside. For all he could see in the dark, there didn't seem to be any movement inside. Pulling the sleeve of his jacket over his fist, he stepped back. With a half-hearted apology to the fine architects, he braced himself and threw his weight into the glass.

Shards fell like the last drops of rain as he waited, again, for a shadow, for any sign of life.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

When he climbed inside, a moonlit kitchen stretched itself before him. Its worktops were strewn with cups and wooden tea boxes, with stoneware that hung from hooks above the stove. Glass stuck to the soles of his shoes, and scratched against the floor as he moved to the archway. Suddenly, he stilled at a rustling behind the wall. Reaching for his gun, he kept it close at his hip and crept forward, following the sound into the sitting room.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

There was a window that spanned the length of the wall. Behind it, a garden of trees and weeds. Tiny flowers had sprouted in tufts of overgrown grass, and shivered in the wind. His shoulders sank. At some point, he'd started to feel at home under the phantom trees, under silent leaves made of light. Now trees born of water and earth made sounds he didn't recognise any longer. And it was odd to think, but plain to see, the sound of life on this side of the wall had belonged to the garden.

The sitting room was furnished with a sofa and an armchair. Between them was a marble coffee table, where a wooden chessboard lay in checkmate. Behind them was a wall of shelves, packed so tightly with books, there was hardly an empty space to be found. From across the room, he could already see a number of familiar titles. He'd unconsciously turned his body to the bookshelves when he caught himself, and reluctantly pulled himself away to continue his search.

 

 ✻    ✻    ✻

 

The last room in the house had been a bedroom at the far end of the hallway. He'd listened again, with his ear to the door before pushing it open. In the corner of the room was a bed, and beside it, a nightstand decorated with a row of candles and a stack of books. He peered under the bed, inside the closet, behind the door, and down the outer wall beneath the windowsill. Only then did he lower his gun, and sigh at last, without worry of being heard. The tension left his shoulders as he moved to the nightstand, to the stack of books all bent at the spine. He began to lift them, one by one, reading the title of each and placing it on the bed. At the bottom of the stack, he found two books unlike the others, want of titles. One was bound in black leather, the other in white. He opened the black book, and read across the middle of the first page: An Alternate End to 1984.

"Having this much time for yourself must be nice..." he mused, dropping it on the bed with the others.

Under its snowy binding, the pages of the white book appeared tan in comparison. Unlike the black, no title was written on the first page, no date, or any indication of what the book was for. It simply began:   

"I wonder why it is... that countless novels and memoirs have begun with a description of the narrator's parents. I suppose it's because the people who bring you into the world have a profound effect on you. In that case, is their absence also profound?"

Suddenly, his shoulders tensed. His eyes measured the distance between his hand and the gun he'd placed on the nightstand. In one swift motion, he grabbed the gun and turned on his heel.

Where... Where are you... he thought.

His eyes darted around the room - his breathing became stilted, quiet. As certain as he'd been that someone had stood behind him, he was certain now that no one was there. His focus shifted back to the open book in his hand.

A stainless, snowy white.

The ground beneath his feet seemed to falter when he realised it was no work of fiction; in his hand was Makishima Shogo's journal.

He shut it tight, not a second to spare, lest his ghost rise again from the pages. Dropping it on the bed with the others, he left the room with his fingers coiled tightly around the gun.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

Water flowed from the kitchen tap as he gripped the sides of the counter, waiting... waiting, for the nausea to pass, for the white to fade from his eyes. He filled a cup with cold water, half to drink, and half to lean over the sink and pour over his head. But, water doused fire - not chaos. The cup rattled on its ring as his hand fell to the counter like an anvil, and he left again for the sitting room.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

There were titles he recognised among the books crowding the shelves, many of which had been erased in recent decades. Some were new to him, but he could recognise the names of their authors. Others were entirely unfamiliar. As he scanned the shelves, it became apparent that most of these texts were un-books, things that only existed in practice, not in theory. His fingertips ran along the spine of an old favourite: The Long Walk by Stephen King. Books shifted and leaned on each other as he pulled it from the shelf, and sank into the sofa. With a heavy sigh, he tipped his head back, and stared idly at the ceiling. 

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

It was nearing four in the morning when he woke with a cough, shivering from the early morning air that swept through the broken window. At some point, he'd fallen asleep with the book open on his lap, and his head propped up on the armrest. In his heavy-eyed and half-minded state, he didn't think twice of it when he hauled himself onto his feet, and wandered down the hall to the open door. Moving the books onto the floor, he wound the covers around himself, and fell asleep in Makishima Shogo's bed.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

That night, he dreamt that his eyes had opened to the light. Only, it hadn't been sunlight. On the nightstand, the row of candles had been lit, and in the corner of his eye was a familiar shade of white. As if his body were still asleep, he was unable to move when he looked at the shape of Makishima, who sat on the floor with his knees pulled to his chest, and whose face he couldn't see behind a veil of white hair. He was leaning against the side of the bed, with his journal resting on his lap as he scrawled across the page in black ink, and at times, paused to think. Kogami tried, over and over, to will his arms and his legs to move. But his eyes, half-lidded and brimming with sleep, closed in spite of his struggle. The light of the candles faded to black.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

He dreamt again, that he woke up to a flood of blue light. The candles on the nightstand had been put out, and at first, he believed himself to be awake. But the streaks of moonlight filtering in through the blinds were unfamiliar. Lifting his gaze from the floor, he saw Makishima standing at the window. His fingers rested between the open blinds as he looked out on the sea of leaves behind the glass. From where he lay, Kogami couldn't see his face. But as his consciousness slipped away, he half-wondered what kind of expression he was wearing.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

He woke at last to the soft glow of morning light, already lamenting the dreams that had robbed him of his sleep. But he found, now, the closet door had been pushed open. Inside, Makishima was sifting through clothes. He took a jacket from its hanger and pulled it over his creased shirt. Kogami was still, dreadfully still, clutching the ends of the pillow as he listened to his footsteps fade down the hall. He wondered to himself if he would ever truly wake from this dream. 

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

When the morning finally came for him, it came as the glint of the rising sun in his eyes. Tentatively, he glanced at the closet door, and the white journal on the floor, relieved to find it was where he'd left it. Even so, he felt more tired waking up than he had falling asleep. As he sat up on the bed, a voice echoed from the walls.

"We won't know until we ask him."

He recognised it. This voice was his own.

"And you don't intend to ask," Saiga echoed back.

"No."

He felt the weight of every bone in his body as he dragged himself off the bed. Blinking the light out of his eyes, he turned his back to the sun and made his way to the kitchen, trusting that he would find a semblance of coffee among the drums of tea leaves. 

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

He set his cup on the table, and picked up his reading where he'd left off the night before. It was in the moment when he reached again for his cup that his eyes came to fixate on the chessboard. Of all the rarities and antiquities in the home, what had struck him most was the evidence that Makishima hadn't lived here alone.

"Kogami, let me ask you something. Do you think that you and Makishima are alike?"

Voices echoed from the walls again. They never left him. And the resent he felt at the memory of the question was no less than what he'd felt at the time. Saiga hadn't waited for his thought-out answer. His answer had been in Kogami's pause, in his tense shoulders and his threatening stare.

"You don't intend to ask."

If it was true that he and Makishima were alike, then, what of his life? Kogami was quite sure his own past had not been an extraordinary one. If there was a point of divergence from the ordinary and the mundane, it had been the exam scores that placed him in the Public Safety Bureau. He imagined that he and Makishima were like branches growing from either side of a tree. Yet, they were branches of the same tree. Lowering his book, he stared again at the chessboard, at the contrast between the spaces.

I might regret this, he thought when at last he stood up.

He returned a few minutes later, with the journal from the bedroom and the pot of coffee from the kitchen. As he sat down, his hand rested on the cover, and for a moment, he couldn't bring himself to open it. Sighing at his own cowardice, he leaned back, then hunched forward again. His elbows were digging into his knees when he finally turned back the cover.

"I wonder why it is-" it began.   

"-that countless novels and memoirs have begun with a description of the narrator's parents. I suppose it's because the people who bring you into the world have a profound effect on you. In that case, is their absence also profound? I never knew my father, nor am I able to place my mother in my memories. I was raised by an elderly couple who were nothing short of strangers to me. In the end, we never grew to be anything more, or anything less. But even among those raised by their biological parents, mine is not an uncommon story... It's normal, to feel like strangers."

 

Growing Pains

 

Makishima Shogo was born in the autumn of 2084. Some time after his third birthday, a gas fire had swallowed the second and third floors of their apartment complex. His parents were, with nine other residents, poisoned in their sleep by the smoke. But a neighbour who was running down the hall had paused at a knocking from the other side of an apartment door, and rescued Makishima who was half-conscious behind it. He'd spent two weeks on a bed in the nearby hospital, and the only memory he retained of the incident was an aversion to fire that stayed with him in his early childhood.

Upon leaving the hospital, he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents, who had nothing if not contempt for him. When he'd grown up enough to understand the words in their arguments, it became apparent that he was not their grandchild at all. Both the old man and the old woman were certain he was the child of a man his mother had been in a long-standing affair with. But as it were, they had no means of identifying him or of contacting him. It was natural to conclude that he had been confined to a mental health facility, and thus erased from living society.

The old couple lived a modest life on the outskirts of the city, where their pensions could pay rent and groceries. Makishima grew up in small rooms of bent, paper books and scenic watercolours of valleys, and trinkets and treasures that he never saw the likes of anywhere but at home. As a small child, he would climb the shelves and come down with odd toys - a music box, an old smartphone, a ticking clock and a book he couldn't read. He became fond of a folded blade that rested among other antiques, with an arched, grey handle adorned with hollowed spirals. When the old man caught him playing with his spoils, he would shout something to the effect of, "Don't touch those! They're not for children to play with!" before his hand came down, once, twice, as many times as it took for Makishima to abandon his toys and run away.  

"I hated him. But when I look back, he was the only authority I heeded. I couldn't get away with anything on his watch, because he assumed that I was always up to no good. The old woman was... something of a mute. Whether she had always been, or was changed by the death of her son, I couldn't say."

Bored without his toys, Makishima had fallen into a habit of tailing her around the apartment, studying her as she carried out mundane tasks, and occasionally, trying in vain to help with his small and awkward hands. At some point, she had opened the door to an old storage room, and brought out a couple of children's books from a dusty, cardboard box. He thought now that in all likelihood, she had done this not out of kindness but in hopes that he would leave her alone. But when the old man had seen him sprawled on the floor, leafing through his late son's picture books, Makishima had watched the old woman take a beating worse than any he'd endured. The books were taken from him and returned to the storage room, but having learned where they were, Makishima had no difficulty waiting for the old man to venture outside or fall asleep, before retrieving them a few at a time and hiding them in his room. Before long, the box in the storage room was empty, and the books had found a new home under his bed.  

"When the system was still taking root in human society, there was confusion about what raised one's crime coefficient. What became increasingly clear was the correlation between latent criminality and a surge of emotion. Be it art, nature, or relationships, feeling too much of anything was known to cause a spike in your crime coefficient. Put simply, the system held in high regard those who were numb and unresponsive."

The air in the room was alive with the drums, with the ringing of the shamisen as it hooked around the beat. His feet and his fingertips pulsed to the rhythm, like it had grasped him, tight, and he'd become a part of the song. On stage, colours bloomed and fluttered down like fireworks, and he could not for a second bring himself to look away. It was the first time in his life that he'd been so moved by an art. But it was a dying, archaic kind of art, one that few sought and fewer practiced. The nursery school teacher, being a simple mind, had taken the children to see the travelling group when they made their rounds through the neighbourhood. And he recalled that on the following day, only he and one other child had shown up to class. In a group of eight children, six had been kept home to treat the sudden rise in their crime coefficients. It became apparent that music stirred emotion more in children than it did in adults. Sibyl-approved music was soon branched into categories, only one of which was approved for children.

But at the time, his greatest concern had been that the only other child who came to class that week was a boy he never got along with.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

He was crouched with his feet firmly planted on the floor, and the stylus gripped in his hand as he scribbled shapes over the pixel-canvas. At some point, he'd realised that what he wanted to draw was too grandiose for the measly face of his tablet. So, he'd carried it under his arm, like a man on important business, to the other side of the room where his lone classmate sat beneath the window, tracing spirals over his own tablet.

"Hey. Listen."

The boy looked up from his screen.

"Hm?"

"I have an idea. If I draw a barn, and you draw a field of horses, we can put them together and it'll be a farm."

"Okay."

"I'm counting on you."

Makishima sat beside him, and in silence, they toiled.

"I'm finished," the boy said at length. Aware that he'd tasked him with the more difficult half of the drawing, Makishima was impressed that he'd somehow finished sooner. But as he peered over his shoulder, his open-mouthed curiosity slanted into a frown. It looked less like a field of horses and more like a field of insects. With an expression of disdain, he stood up, and like a tiny caricature of the old man, his hand came down in retribution.   

"Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed... was it? Then, I suppose I was damned from the beginning. Why was it that I was always expecting more of people? I don't know when it was... but at some point, I'd started to expect disappointment."

 

 

  Down...

 

 

 

 

 

Down...

 

 

 

 

 

Down...

 

 

 

Would the fall never come to an end?

  

"Either the well was very deep, or Alice fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next."

The little girl clutched at the fringes of her dress. Her socks were full of playground sand, her eyes full of wonder.

"Shogo-kun is so good at reading." she said, half-admiring, half-envying.

"Oh?"

He gave a bright smile, and she pulled another book from her daisy-adorned bag.

"Read this one, too. After."

His eyes glossed the cover as she handed it to him.

"I know this book." he mused. It lay in the space under his bed, with a gilded spine and English lettering:

Treasure Island

When the girl from the ground floor asked him to read her books aloud, there were always other children, smaller than him and smaller than her, who would collect around the edge of the sandbox to listen.

"Tomorrow," he said, returning it to her. "I have to write a book report tonight."

"Ehh? Which book?"

At this, his smile stuck to his face like a thorn.

 

 

Not recommended. Before reading, take mental supplement to prevent contamination.

Not recommended. Before reading, take mental supplement to prevent contamination.

Not recommended. Before reading, take mental supplement to prevent contamination.

Not recommended. Before reading, take mental supplement to prevent contamination. 

N̸o̴t̴ ̷r̷e̸c̸o̶m̴m̴e̸n̵d̵e̷d̴.̵ ̴B̴e̵f̸o̸r̴e̸ ̵r̸e̴a̸d̴i̷n̵g̴,̶ ̶t̸a̸k̵e̸ ̴m̸e̷n̶t̶a̷l̶ ̷s̷u̸p̴p̶l̵e̶m̸e̸n̷t̴ ̵t̷o̶ ̴p̵r̸e̷v̵e̸n̴t̶ ̵c̷o̶n̶t̶a̶m̶i̴n̸a̵t̴i̶o̴n̶.̶

N̸̻̎o̸̳͒t̶̡͝ ̷̨͐r̶̜̈e̵̥̾c̷̰̔ȯ̴̥m̶̫͝ḿ̸ͅĕ̸̘ǹ̴̘ḋ̵͈é̵͍d̶͚̀.̷͙̚ ̷̋͜B̶̟͑ȇ̴̲f̶͎̚o̵̮͗r̴͈͝ë̵͇́ ̵̧͠r̴̳͝e̷̻̿ä̵̗́d̴̩̊ĩ̵̞ṉ̷͊ḡ̵̰,̸͔̊ ̵̥̆t̷̫̎a̴̧͗k̷̻͝e̴͖̾ ̵͔͠m̶͈̊e̷̦̐n̸͚̕t̵̲͝ä̵̬́l̷̪͝ ̶̥́s̷̟͋u̷̞̅p̶͖̀p̴̫̀l̴͈̎e̴̥͝m̶̙̒é̴̺n̵̝̐t̷̠́ ̶̰̉t̴̰͑o̴͎͘ ̵̙͘p̶̼͗r̵͉̾ė̵͚v̴̯͂ẹ̵̕n̵̼̅ṫ̵̢ ̸͔̇c̷͎̅ó̷̢n̵͙͐t̷̪͐ȃ̵͇m̴̗̽i̷̟͒n̷̩̓ä̵̹́t̶̰̀i̸̧͑o̴̧͆n̵͖͝.̶͓̄

 

N̷͎̩͔̅̌̃ó̸̦̼͔͗͠t̸̟̍͐͛͐ ̷̨͈͒̏̎͌r̵͉̱̘͐͌ȩ̸̮̗͕̑͌ć̴̜͓̣͉̒̀o̴̪͗̔̾͝m̷̫͖̰̮͐͌͆m̷̙̯̪͋̏ě̸̠̀̀͐n̵̝͝d̷̦͍̳̺́͋̈̄e̸̟̩̗̔́̿̀d̸̘͈͚̃͛͛͂.̵̟̝͑͆̕ ̸͚̙̪́́̆͝Ḇ̴̰̬͕̆͝ȩ̵͍̔͝f̵̧͇͍̹̊͌́ő̴̗͌r̵̺͇̬̗̓̂e̶̪̗̒ ̸͙͍͈̠̏͂̈̎r̶̭̩̲̀e̸̻̓̍͜á̵̺d̶͙̐͘͝ĭ̶̧̜͙͎̔͊̇n̵͖̮̫͉̒͠g̴̲̟̾͗͝,̴̬͎̱̐ͅ ̷̯̙̋̿t̷͓̼́a̴̜͍͌̈̏͝ḱ̵̙̯e̷͍̻̓̿͘ ̸̨̺͕̙̃́̌m̸͎̎̐͘͝ͅe̶̢͈͓͛n̸̛̤̦̽̿t̵̻̖̣̓ä̸͓́̈́́͜͜l̷̨̜̝͒͊͒ ̸̰̆͘s̵͉͙̣̉̿̉́u̴͇̐̓̂̚ṗ̸̨͇̫͠p̷̠̩̽̂l̴̳͍̣̽͝e̴͕̳͖̙͑m̴̡̲͉̍̐͐̇ḙ̷̳̘̽͆̀n̸͍̹̮͋̓t̶͉̲̝̽̃͝ ̶̥̓̒̋͝ẗ̷̲́̈́̆͝o̷̓̋͜ ̷̞͂̂̈͠p̴̖̦͊͑́͝r̸̞̦̭̆͐e̴̡̝͓̓͂v̶̙̓̐͂̿ȩ̴͙̊̍̂ṋ̴́̒̈́͝t̸̛̮͗ ̶̤̖̬̤̔͂̽͠c̴̭̥͆̂̓̔o̴̳̓̀͂͝n̸̯̄ẗ̸͕́ạ̵̠͒m̵̫̩̹̞̚ì̴͙́͠n̸̨̙͊̎͋͜ä̵̫̜͍́ẗ̷̨̨͕̯̍i̷̺̯͒̀͋͜͠o̵̤̥̐͝ṅ̸̟.̵̣͉́

 

 

N̸̰͔͓͍͚͈̥̊̂͝ò̷̡͙̘̲̲͈̜̙̓̆͒̽͜͝t̸̡̗̙͎̮̹̑̆̏̋̆͊͆͋͆̋͗ ̷̢̱̫̝̠̉͋͠r̷̢̬̻̪͔̠̥͖̰̥̋͐̇́͊̌̑́͝ę̷͕̰͓͚̮̣̪̥̟̊̀͜c̷̙̺͈͚͕̦͔͎̾̍͊̅͊̏̕͝͝͝ó̷̬͍̓̽̾̅̈́̕m̵͇̣̀̓͘ḿ̴̲̬̮̹̮͎̝̻͂̕̕è̶̙͎͖̬̔̈̂̆̽n̵̟͔̗̹͈̫̤͗͆̈̐͑̈̚̕͘͜d̵͓͕̲̉̓e̴̗̘̮̯̣̞͔͓̅̈́͐̍̀͗̍̎̔͝d̸̛̘̔͒́̚͝.̸̠̹̬̰̩̗̺͂͑̊̿͊ ̸̖̤̠̞͛̔̊̒́̇̽̔͂̉͘B̸̧̥̹̬̰͔̪̙͉̊̀̂̇̎͜ͅe̷̛͖̖̲̖͔͑͆̈́̀̀̓̂̈́̒̒f̸̨̗̯̺͎̘͈̽̽͊͐̀͐̒̾̕͠o̵̢̢͗̀̔̃͌͑̍̌̈́̃͌r̷̢̛̻͔̳̗̝͙̮̝̼̈́̍͗͋͂̄̂͜͝͠ė̷̺͈͙͎͕̮͇̘͔̫̭͗́ ̸̨̖̰̘̻̗̠̬͚̮̆̀͋͊̌̐͝r̸̨̜̪͎̜̻͉̭̣͉̅̋̀ę̵̱̟̜͈̪̟̫̈͌͘͠ͅȁ̵̢̬̪̥̰͍̮d̷͔̳̮̯̗̲̺͊̊̍̽̓̅ḯ̸̧̡̢̛̙̰͍̖̦̞̹̝̕ṋ̶͇͓͓̠̱̱̂̆́̓̀͊̈́͜͝g̴̨̘̜͍̮̼̉͋̏,̴̢̡͈̼̠̞͍̲̙̏̒̍͜ ̶̢͖̳̻̞̯͍̈́̎̀̔͂̆̌͠͠t̶̨̫͉̘̫̮͙̠͚̮̟̑͒͆̉̍́́å̴̧̢̖͈̳̆͛̆̀̌͘͝͝͠ḱ̸̢͎̈́̌̀̌̄e̸̡͙̩͎̐̓͜ ̸͙͠m̶̥͇̭̥̼͕̜̹̲̳̓̈́̀̏͐̾̑̓e̴̛̞̗͇̻͍̫̞̋͋̀͋̽̏͘ņ̴̞̬̱̻͛̈̀̂́̓̈́̇̑̊̚t̶̫̞̬̝̩̞̙̫̥͇͔̐̌͋̏̊a̶̩͋̉̍̌l̷̢̙̱̥̤̹̠͐̊̉̏̃̐̂͠ͅ ̷̜͔͓̝̤͍̯̹̾͛̀͗ͅś̷̝͊̋̊u̵͗̋͗̑́̓̍̈́͌̾̓͜ͅṕ̷̡̦̪̮͋̈́͑p̴̱̺͉͉̪̮̭͎͙͂̓̓̈́̽̔̏͜͠l̵̪̺̠̓̎̏̿̍̿͌̋̈́͝ë̷̡̖́̾̎̏m̷̠̪̃̋̓̇́̉̓̄͝e̷̢̡̢̳̣͙͑̇̍́̔͑̀̚n̷̜̮̱̗͕͈͍͎̤̥̼̐͋͗̔̎̅͋̅̅̉͂ẗ̶̢̘̤̭͉̮̤́̚ ̴̭̤̲̗͚̳̯̖̲̦̯̐́͝ṱ̷̡̦͑ő̸̦̱͇͔͙̯̖̍͂̽ ̶̡̼̩̯̪̿͒͌̅̌p̷̞̗̗̯̍̍̊r̴͉̮͈̰̀̏̄͒͊͐̚͠͝͝ě̵̱͖̳̒̑͝v̴̤̝̓̽ę̵̡͈͍̞̜̹̙͊̽̐͘ṅ̸̤̩̊̿͛̔͝t̵͙̟̹̹͒͘͠ ̵̯̝̠̰̓͌̒͝͝c̷̡̲͎̩̳̬̀̾̍ǫ̷̲͓̗̙̥̯̭̹͙̪̓̃̀̈͋ň̷͉͔̱̩̙̝̣̦͙̥͗̍̋̓̀̋̑̚̚͜t̶̨̡̛̗̟̙͍̬̒́͜͠ͅå̷̛͇̫̥͍̦̗̺͈̞̻͌̑̍͠m̴͉̺̠̞̙̲̳͊̔̄͛̿̔i̵̢̞̺̪̯̕ņ̸̢̡̡̗͕̬̳̤̰͖̐a̴͖̭̫̤̘̺̰̹͖̎͋t̵̝̪̦̐̈́́ͅi̶̡̛̲͎̼̅̅̆̌ǒ̸͚͕̫̼̦̈̆̈́̏͘n̶̲̰͊̀̑̈́̄.̶͔̜͉̝̼̰̘̺̣́͘

 

 

 

Beside him was a stack of books he'd assembled, with the intention of choosing one for his book report. But each book was first to be run through the school's database of approved titles. And so he was confronted, again, and again, with a bold, red warning: 

Not recommended. Before reading, take mental supplement to prevent contamination. 

Some books yielded no results at all. Not a trace of them could be found in archives or databases, in reviews or in articles. It was as if the only place in the world where they existed was in his hand, on the pages between his fingers. If these books were ever burnt, or lost, or stolen, then even if he were to say to someone, a book like this existed, and I held it in my hand once... how would he prove it?     

"A feeling was growing on me that what I loved didn't belong. But, how can I say with certainty that it wasn't my own feeling of misplacement that drew me to them? We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it. Where I was going... and what I was searching for... I may have been intentionally blind to it."

In his first year of secondary school, there were two boys who emerged from the crowd of students around him. Children, like any other children, like drops in an ocean. But at some point, they'd started pulling their chairs up to his desk during breaks. Makishima had never sought them, and he'd never lead them. Nonetheless, they seemed to follow him. And for all the time they'd spent sitting across from each other, he couldn't remember their faces - only, their materialism, only how insatiable it had seemed to him. There was always one thing or another they wanted, and every time they carried a conversation, it came up.

He'd been seated at his desk, chipping away at a crack on the surface. Over the summer holiday, a new gaming console had entered the market, and at the time, it was the most expensive console to date. The mass consumer brothers were, of course, thrown into a frenzy by its existence.

"If I don't ask for anything until next year, my dad might buy it for me-"

"Stupid. Next year is only three months away. Don't ask him to buy you any food, then."

"Food doesn't count as anything!"

"But it costs money, yeah?"

Makishima had watched their back-and-forth, and had grown quite bored by the time he leaned over his desk and said, "If you want it so badly, just steal it?"

It seemed to him like the most natural conclusion. But he could hear from their silence, and see from their blank stares, that he'd said something he shouldn't have.

"Shogo... that's a crime."

He rested his chin in his hand.

"But in reality, your psycho-pass won't be clouded by it."

At the time, he'd said this in earnest. Because taking what didn't belong to him had never clouded his colour. Whether it was money from the old woman's purse, or a laptop from the unattended computer room at school, his colour never changed.

"Seriously?"

"Seriously. I'll even go with you," he smiled.

"Then, what time? Aren't you doing judo after school?"

"Well... I'll skip it today." 

"All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties which I meet with in order to realise my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilise my activities, my capacities. Sometimes I wonder if, for example, Orwell had tried to express this thought, how would he have said it? I imagine in simple words: The pains of existing spur me into being human."

His eyes followed the trail of neon lights dividing the shelves. A wall of the game store had been dedicated to the release of the new console, stacked with boxes upon boxes sorted by colour. Behind him, the burnished gold. Here, the lucent green. Ahead, the ocean blue. He walked with his hand in his pocket, a little too close to the shelf, and let his elbow knock a few boxes onto the floor. As he bent down to pick them up, his back shielded his hands from the ceiling cameras, and he slipped a green-coloured box into his coat pocket. When he'd placed the rest back on the shelf, he pushed his hand into his pocket, hiding its shape. 

"Alright. Should we go home?" he said, when they'd met at the door.

His classmates passed each other a nervous glance. Then, with a nod, they followed him to the sliding doors. Makishima had easily, and thoughtlessly stepped over the threshold and onto the sidewalk. But the two that trailed after him had only made it onto the entrance mat when the doors suddenly flew shut. The dull beep of the cymatic scanner made him pause and look over his shoulder. What he'd felt at first, watching the security drones crowd his classmates behind the glass, was confusion. His confusion then grew to a quiet pulsing, the quiet pulsing to a soft ringing. His ears became deaf to the beep of the scanners, his eyes blind to its flashing lights.

Why... he wondered, lifting the box from his pocket enough to see its corner.

He understood, but he didn't understand. How was he to make sense of it?

He turned his back to his classmates, and watched as people rushed past him on the street. He watched as drones happily rolled about, collecting litter and hazardous objects, lest they cause someone to fall and hurt themselves.

What's wrong?

Can't you see me?

I'm here.

A drone wheeled past him, past the box he was holding, now, in plain sight.

 

                   Strange...

 

This is strange...

 

    Am I strange?

 

No... I'm human...      

 

I think, it's you...               

 

              You're strange...

 

And your world,   

 

  this world...

 

this world is a lie.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

He sat, motionless on a park bench, staring at the plastic bag by his feet. It was unassuming, but heavy, with stolen electronics, high jewellery, drugs, and for no reason in particular, a box of rainbow-sprinkled cookies. In that moment, sounds and lights felt distant. He felt that he was under water, and somewhere... somewhere above the surface, the world was moving. Thoughts were rushing through his mind faster than he could make sense of them. But more than anything, what he felt was fear. Not of retribution, but of its absence. Of the notion that he couldn't be punished, because he couldn't be seen. That he couldn't be seen because he didn't exist. That he didn't exist because he didn't belong. He made a fist, unravelled. Made a fist, unravelled. He was real. He was made of skin and nerves and tangible things. He was made of water, the same as everyone else. He existed - but only in practice, not in theory. He existed, but understood that he should not exist, understood that in theory, he was not human.

He dragged the plastic bag along as his feet led him to the abolition block. On walks home from school, he would often find himself taking this detour. It felt horribly out of place with its rundown high rises, with its broken windows and odd inhabitants. Like him, this block of buildings did not belong, but existed nonetheless. Like the abolition block, he was a part of this world, but inside him was an abyss. His fingers were white from the cold, curled tightly around the handles as snow began to fall around him. He paused to look up, held out his hand to catch it, then kept moving.

Asleep on a ledge, under a blanket torn at its corners, was a man who smelt so strongly of alcohol that his nose crinkled as he approached him.

"Ojisan."

A tired eye cracked open. His voice came in a rasp.

"...What do you want?"

"If I give this to you," he held up the bag, "what will you do?"

The man sat up, letting his blanket fall to the ground as he peered inside.

"Will you sell them and use the money to live with dignity?" with every word, the man's eyes grew wider. "Or maybe, you'll spend it all on alcohol again?"

He stared up at Makishima. The air was silent. Then he asked in a grave voice, "Are you an angel?"

Another, longer silence passed between them. He didn't know what kind of expression to make, so he fell into his habit of half-smiling, half not. And to the human eye, it was just a smile, because the half not was always under the surface. The man reached out, and clasped his worn hands around his small, cold fist.   

"He began to confess to me all of his sins and regrets. I swear that if I'm given a second chance at life, I'll never make the same mistakes again, he said, and with such conviction that I was moved. I wanted to believe him, however much common sense would tell me not to. So I left the bag with him and went home. When I came back a month later, what do you suppose I saw? He was in the same place as I'd left him, under the same blanket, wearing the same clothes. Nothing had changed, except the number of empty bottles at his feet. But my expectations had been too high. No matter how grim, people will adapt to their condition. When they've accepted it as everyday life, any change, even change for the better, feels inconvenient. To him, probably nothing could have been more inconvenient than abstaining from alcohol."

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan-

However you look at it... he thought.

-and bound him for a thousand years.

This is fiction.

Sighing, he closed the book. His eyes wandered to his nightstand, to the spine inscribed: 1984. A voice echoed to him from its pages.

"If there is hope," wrote Winston, "it lies in the proles."

It lies in the proles...

In that moment, he thought to himself that if there was salvation, it was not in bibles or steel oracles.

It could only be in the human soul.     

"Humans are foolish. But humans are clever. It sounds like a contradiction but it's not. In the same way, you could say of a sleeping beast: asleep, you're weak, but awake, you're mighty. This city is asleep. Its people move like humans, and speak like humans, but they're sleepwalking. They carry on with their eyes closed because Sibyl will always lead them in the right direction. If ever their eyes open, they'll find themselves in a padded cell, surrounded by voices who say, close your eyes, go back to sleep. I think this city knows they've painted a pleasant dream over hellscape. But to wake up is to admit to it. To wake up is to know you'll never sleep peacefully again. To realise that you're alone, and you were always alone. To wake up is to remember that you're human, and struggle."

Some time after he began his third year of secondary school, the old woman had died quietly in her sleep. And the old man, who'd always refused to furnish his home with post 2040 robotics, and whose bones were crumbling to dust with every day in passing, was left with no choice but to buy a household holo. He fell into a habit of sitting in his armchair and looking out the window, from morning to night, with little to say and little to do.

 

Mechanical Man

 

On the day of his graduation ceremony, Makishima had met a peculiar man. He was an alumni of the school, who had graduated 92 years back, in the spring of 2020. His interest in speaking to Makishima was at first, impersonal, and solely to praise him for the effort he'd expended as captain of the track team.

"In this day and age, it's rare to find young people so dedicated to sport. Even people who are naturally adept won't use their talents. It's really a terrible shame. In my youth, I was particularly passionate about cross-country running, and huntsmanship."

Makishima noticed very quickly that this man did not blink.

"It'll be interesting to see which career track your exam results place you in."

He gave a half-hearted smile, admittedly too cheeky when in reply he said, "But I wonder if Sibyl's judgement will align with my own passions?"

This answer seemed to have sparked a personal interest.

"Oh? Passions, you say?"

"Yes. My interest lies in the human soul."

"The soul? How so?"

Makishima's gaze fell into his hands. He thought of it often, but never spoke of it. To begin with, hardly anyone spoke of passions any longer. To find himself saying the words out loud felt, odd. It caused him to second guess what he'd believed for so long. And when he found that he believed in it still, his conviction grew stronger.

"If there's desire... I want to see its desires. And if it's magnificent, I want to see its magnificence."

Those unblinking eyes, perpetually wide, were suddenly wider. He grinned, in the way adults do when they turn a blind eye to a child's mischief.

"I see! Like a teacher, perhaps?"

Makishima looked up from his hands, met his stare.

"That wouldn't be bad either," he reflected, "But more than a teacher, perhaps... like a curator."

A silence fell over them. He was not smiling any longer, but studying him with a grave fascination.   

"Senguji-san insisted on meeting the old man, to explain to him in person that he wanted to pay for my education. I didn't try to stop him. He spoke for some time about the prestige of the institution, and he must have thought the old man could hear him. But in the end, he just sat in his armchair, nodding and waiting for him to finish. He probably didn't remember how old I was, or realise that I'd graduated. I wonder what he thought the conversation had been about?"

He searched the storage room for spare luggage, and brushed the snow of dust off the only spare he could find. After packing his clothes and his necessities, he found it was not even half-full. He began piling on books from his nightstand and the spaces under his bed, then clicked it shut. With some pains, he hauled it to the front door. As his knuckles cracked under the weight, he fleetingly thought to himself that he may have been unreasonable in packing it with books. But the thought of letting them collect dust in an unused room was too unpleasant. He went back for the coat he left on the bed, and on his way out, paused to admire the folded blade on the shelf - the odd toy that had been the object of his admiration. Taking it in his hand, he ran his fingertips along the edges, turning it and seeing it glint in the sun. He thought, there was no reason a gem should collect dust, either.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

Senguji's dining table spanned the width of the room. On one side was a wood-burning fireplace. On the other, a barred window of stained glass. More so than his dining room, his estate in itself was an anomaly that didn't belong to its time period, or even to its hemisphere.

Four months had passed since his enrolment at Senguji's alma mater. He'd considered at first to study art or literature, but had questioned the earnest of modern academia, and taken to human history in hope that he could salvage something under its heavy censorship.

He sat quietly now at the dining table, reading his book in the glow of the fire as Senguji lit his pipe.

"Makishima-kun, how are you getting on in school?"

For a second, he hesitated. His eyes were on his book, but his focus had lifted from the words, and he was lost in thought. It wouldn't do to belittle the institution he was being sponsored to attend. But there was something he felt he must say.

"...The facilities are impressive," he began at length, "but it's disappointing how much history has been omitted from their libraries and curriculum. Sometimes the gaps are too wide to go unnoticed."

Senguji paused, gave a dry laugh.

"Of course. If you'd like to fill in the gaps, I'd encourage you to have a look at my library upstairs."

He took a sip of wine, and lowered his glass to observe the colour. Makishima studied him with a child-like curiosity, his gestures, his expressions, his word choice. Born on the cusp of the new millennium, Senguji was now 110 years old. Watching him move was like watching an antique clock move its hands.

"It must be hard to live in a time," he thought aloud, "where so much of what you know to be true has been erased from history."

Senguji's tone was sober when he said, "It is quite a strange thing."

Makishima set his book down on the table - Senguji emitted clear signals when he was about to ramble.

"But more than that," he went on, "I miss the days when humans lived like humans. Many of our oldest traditions have been forgotten. Take hunting, for example. It's exceedingly difficult to obtain a hunting license these days. And even if you do, so much wildlife has neared extinction that it's simply not possible to hunt in the way we used to."

"I haven't given it much thought before. But that is indeed the case."

"It's worth consideration. Humans were born to live among animals, but the only animals we live among now are ourselves. If you wanted to hunt in this day and age, you'd have no choice but to hunt humans." 

"When Candide and his companions end their unfortunate journeys and retire to a life of boredom and monotony, the pope's daughter, who suffered more than any in the course of their travels, asks them which is worse: to experience all the miseries through which every one of us has passed, or to remain here doing nothing? To the reader, this seems funny. 'How could boredom be worse than perpetual misery?' But in truth, humans will seek anything to avert boredom. It's because they know, instinctively, that boredom is closer to death than sleep."

"Senguji-san, that's an unspeakable crime."

He grinned, turning out his palm, "That's why it's only a hypothetical."

"But, it doesn't matter to me if it's a crime. I think there's value in a person when they act on their will. If hunting is what you truly desire, why do you hold back?"

The room went quiet. For a moment, Senguji's mouth hung open.

"Makishima-kun," he asked, "...what colour is your psycho-pass?"

His rogue eyes turned soft as he smiled, and sat forward in his chair.

"Would you care to see it?" 

 

✻    ✻    ✻ 

 

The midday sunlight filtered in through the blinds, warming his back as he leaned over the desk. His fingers curled around the corners of his textbook. A vain struggle took place, before the earthy colours of Edo blurred his eyes, and at last they shut. He saw people bustling through the streets in their wooden sandals, past the painter using the street as his canvas, past the theatre where the hanashika artfully told his story, past the samurai with his katana bound to his waist, and past Shogo, who sat on a bench beneath a great plum blossom tree. An seaborne wind swept the street, and shook its branches. Counting the fallen petals, he slowly drifted to sleep.

 

Forsaken Lands

 

"He's not Japanese?"

"No, he's really an interesting person. I believe he's of Korean descent."

At the time of Senguji's re-election campaign, he'd found himself faced with a young opponent, untainted by the disgraces of politics. And Senguji spared no efforts and no pennies in the warfare he waged on his political opponents. To half-kill was not his trade. And he had, in the chasms of the city's underground, met a hacker whose skill knew no bound, and whose presence was less marked than a ghost. The tales that Senguji told of his extraordinary feats were almost hard to believe.

"I should like to meet him," he smiled.

"Yes, while there's still time. I think you'd find some amusement in speaking with him, Makishima-kun."

"While there's still time?"

"Naturally, I'll have to silence him after the election results are officialised. One can't take chances with these things, you know."

His eyes trailed from Senguji to the centre of the room.

"Is that so?"

"Moreover," he continued, "what of your exam results, Makishima-kun? It seems you have an aptitude for politics. I could've said as much without Sibyl's oracle. But have you given consideration to pursuing such a career?"

His fingertips unconsciously traced the edges of his book. A complex of emotions welled up, and finding he didn't know what expression to make, he fell into his habit of half-smiling, half not. Politics were a farce. They were not a means of change but a means of self-enrichment. He knew this, and his voice seemed to come from a place of emptiness, bitterness, when he said, "I suppose... I don't have any interest."

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

At the centre of a room circled by screens and flooded by their blue light was the man of Senguji's eerie tales. He was tall, angular, a person of sharp edges and quiet footsteps. His ears were pierced by rings that hooked into one another like chains, his hair swept to the side. From the looks of it, he was nearing middle age.

When Makishima entered the room, he stood up from his chair, offered him a hand in greeting.

"Choe Gu-Sung... was it?" he said, taking his hand.

His eyes flitted up at the sound of his name, like sunlight streaming in through open shutters. For a moment, Makishima's mind wandered from the present, as he wove peculiar stories to himself of how he'd come to have such unusual eyes.

"Yes. It's an honour to meet you. If I recall, your name was..."

"Makishima Shogo."

"Ah, that's right."

Like a surgeon dissecting a heart, Makishima asked him one question after another, and Choe Gu-Sung was willing enough to indulge his curiosity. And within minutes of meeting him, Makishima had already begun to feel that killing this man would be a great waste of intellect, and, of amusement. Taking a bludgeon to the fragile atmosphere, he said, "You have an execution order on your head, you know."

At that, Choe Gu-Sung's smile had slanted into something awkward.

"An execution order...?"

"Yeah. Honestly, I would offer to help you escape," he said, gravitating to the monitors at the front of the room, "but Senguji-san can't be evaded so easily. Even if you were to disappear, he would chase you to the ends of the earth. That's the kind of person he is."

"...I see."

He sank back into his chair, still cradling a polite, albeit nervous smile. Despite the composure in his tone, his body language was honest. It was clear that he was overwhelmed by the news. However elusive he was among packets of data, Choe Gu-Sung could not hide his thoughts on his face.

"That's not what you'd want to hear, is it," he sighed, hunched over in thought, "I wonder what I should do..."

"I think you should die, though."

Choe Gu-Sung looked up in disbelief. Even more so when he saw the bright smile on Makishima's face.

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

Shuttered eyes opened to a wall of green light, blood stains, and bullet holes. His body felt heavy and half-asleep from what he could only imagine to be the fading effect of a drug. As he sat up, he awed at the maze of iron walls, at the high ceilings that extended past the reach of the dim lights. Somewhere in the distance, he recognised the sound of water, that carried on it the stench of chemical poison.

Tap... Tap... Tap-

The clack of wooden heels was approaching from the dark. Still numb and unusually burdened by the weight of gravity, he clambered onto his feet and followed the lights to the north. Weaving around the barriers, he continued in the same direction, until he reached a platform with a canvas bag. Inside it, he found bottled water, chemical lights, and a handgun loaded with two bullets.

You'll buy some time if you make a trail of lights that lead him around the edge of the maze.

Makishima's instructions were at the front of mind. Breaking the lights down the middle, he moved along the outlines of the maze, leaving a red glow in his path.

Stop when you reach the water.

Laying the bag at his feet, he sat with his knees at the edge of the water, and began to fumble with the feathered earring that hung from his gauge. When at last it came free, he pulled the needle from it, and leaned over the water's surface.

A little blood won't be enough.

His teeth sank into his lip as he pierced the pulse in his wrist, and stretched his arm over the water. By the time the clack of wooden heels sounded in the distance, its murky surface had been dyed red. Pressing his wrist to his side, he took the gun from the bag and zipped it tight.

Throw the bag up first, as far as you can from the edge. The timing will be pivotal.

Tossing it up to the ceiling, he waited until the bag was falling with force to fire a single shot in the air, a moment before it splashed against the surface. As the bag sank to the bottom, he hid behind the wall, leaving the gun at his feet to clasp a hand over his wrist. The cautious footsteps at his back had turned to a run as Senguji flew to the edge of the water. He lifted his goggles, looking down at the blood rolling over the waves.

From where he stood above the maze, Makishima wondered if it had been enough to fool him. He glanced at Choe Gu-Sung, who sat only an arm away from Senguji on the other side of the wall.

Suddenly, Senguji's voice came into his earpiece.

"Did you see that?"

"...I saw it."

Senguji turned away from the water.

"Makishima-kun... did you suspect that he would take his own life when you suggested to give him the gun?"

"I knew that it was a possibility," he said.

"Young people these days are so prone to giving up... What a shame it was."

Smiling to himself, Makishima lowered his binoculars.

"Do you find it sad?"

The dogs trailed behind their master as he started for the exit tunnel.

"Well, he was a rare talent. If he'd lived, he might have gone on to achieve much greater things."

"I couldn't agree more... Senguji-san."

Twice, he thought, Choe Gu-Sung had been killed. Once, when the system had judged his existence to be unnecessary, and again, when Senguji had done the same. 

"By way of his trade, Choe Gu-Sung was already confined to the dark. And with a crime coefficient so high, he could hardly move above ground. But I don't mind that he lives in my shadow. I genuinely enjoy his company. I especially like his stories of his home country and his old life. He's a practical man, he's what I would consider normal. But in an abnormal world, his normalcy becomes a rare and precious thing."

Kogami paused, lowered his cup. He was not mistaken. Makishima Shogo was the human shape of natural disaster, a flash of light and a clap of thunder that left a path of destruction in its wake. He was inevitable retribution in a world built upon collective sin. Even so, he would go out of his way to save a life. Like Kogami, he was a man who clung to age-old ideals, who thought himself in circles chasing concepts like justice, fairness, inevitability. But unlike Kogami, he hadn't used his virtues to pursue a career in the force, to search for compromise in the fog between justice and complacence. Makishima had used his weaknesses, had submitted to the most blunt and unremarkable sides of human nature, to strike at cracks in the foundation of a world he could never accept as just.

He looked again at the chessboard in checkmate.

"I don't mind... I-"

Shutter eyes, and quiet footsteps.

"...genuinely enjoy his company."

 

✻    ✻    ✻

 

Waves broke on the hull of the ship. Footsteps thundered on the deck as men rushed to their stations. From the helm, the captain was shouting orders above the howl of the approaching storm. It was familiar. Makishima had dreamt this dream before. He looked down at his hands, frail and childish. In this dream, he never aged.

"Bring down the foresail!"

Heeding the captain's order, Makishima ran to mast. But as he reached for the ropes, another sailor stepped in front of him, and set to work lowering the sail.

"Throw the anchor!"

Makishima darted instead to the rode, where another pair of sailors moved abruptly in front of him to lower the anchor. He backed away, to the centre of the deck, startling himself when he faced forward, to find he'd nearly collided with another sailor.

"Sorry," he said. But the sailor didn't seem to hear him. Makishima stared up at the man, who stared out at the sea. The sailor turned to face him, and walked through him like he were only a fragment of light. Wide-eyed, Makishima stood rooted on the deck as men passed through him, one by one, never casting him a glance, never noticing his presence. He looked down at his hands again; they were not transparent. Reason would argue that he was not a ghost, but evidence would tell him otherwise.

Feathers floated down like snow as the beating of wings came from overhead. Beneath the spiralling clouds flew a trail of doves, over the no man's stretch of the sea. He raised a hand over his eyes as the sun peered out. When it painted the doves in its light, one of them suddenly appeared black. It was a crow, he thought, it had been a crow all along. He reached for the light, blinking as it crossed the spaces between his fingers. The further he reached, the louder the ship moaned in the wind. The boards snapped under his feet, and he fell through the deck, through the hull, and plunged into the cold water. He sank until the blue of the sea turned to dark, and the dark turned to empty. He wasn't sinking any longer, he was free-falling, tumbling into a void with nothing to catch himself, nothing to slow his fall. Suddenly, a book was falling above him. From somewhere between its pages, he saw the glint of the sun again. He stretched his arm to reach it, and brushed the corner of its cover with his fingertips. It tore open. Pages flew up, falling all around him as he landed on something soft and uneven.

It was a mountain of fallen pages.

He scrambled onto his knees and started searching. There were pages from every book he could remember reading, from fairytales and fantasies, from dystopias and Greek tragedies. He couldn't say what he was looking for, but he kept searching, burying himself deeper in the mountain. The pages began to feel warm to the touch, and as they closed around him, his hands moved slower. He was searching, still searching, but he brought his knees up to his chest. There was a far-off feeling that he hadn't yet found what he was looking for. But the longer he spent buried under the pages, the more he began to think that he was content just to fall asleep in their shelter.    

"At the end of No Longer Human, an old woman acquainted with the protagonist concludes what she believes to be the reason for his strange and miserable life. When I die, there may not be anyone left who remembers that I lived. But if such a person exists, I'll be content if when they speak of me, they don't say anything so boring as: it was all because of his father."

Kogami closed the journal on his lap. His eyes flitted up to the ghost that had taken shape before him. The ghost, that now shamelessly sat in the chair across from him.

"And," he sighed, "if I say it anyway?"

The ghost leaned back in its chair.

In the silence, he heard a breath of resent, and saw in the hazy light, a bitter smile.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

// thank you for reading this mess of a character study and here's a list of references

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
Letter to William Fortescue - Alexander Pope (1725)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end!
Either the well was very deep, or Alice fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (1865)

We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it.
Pensées - Blaise Pascal (1670)

All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties which I meet with in order to realise my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilise my activities, my capacities.
The Revolt of the Masses - José Ortega y Gasset (1930)

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:2 New International Version

"If there is hope," wrote Winston, "it lies in the proles."
1984 - George Orwell (1949)

Which is worse: to experience all the miseries through which every one of us has passed, or to remain here doing nothing?
Candide - Voltaire (1759)

It was all because of his father / あのひとのお父さんが悪いのですよ
No Longer Human - Osamu Dazai (1948)