‘Nor have they any inkling of the dark fate that is stalking so near and will strike them down in a single day.’ – Homer, The Odyssey
Prison, he decides, is all right. The guards call him by the name he gives them, and the other prisoners stop bothering him after a while (“He put how many in the hospital?”). Plus, the spirit seems to be trying to reconcile with him after its dramatic debut; so far, he’s got cigarettes, booze, some books and manga, a Sea Life magazine, and some games. It doesn’t make him feel any better, but the thing is trying. He leans against the cool stone wall with his knees up to his chin and rubs his arms up and down, brooding.
He can’t believe how fucking violent it had been. It had – fuck, it had put them in the hospital. He’s done stuff like that before, of course, but… never this serious. Never more than one or two, and never this badly. All this time this brutal spirit has been haunting him, lulling him into a false sense of security with its gifts and –
Fuck. The testosterone. Is it poisoned somehow? Some kind of drug that’ll ensnare him in addiction till the end of his days? What if it’s some sort of mind control or – hell, even a hallucinogen? That would explain the purple hands, at least, if not the arrival of the testosterone itself. (The baseball bat man hadn’t seen the hands, he’s pretty sure.) Of course he zoned out during the fight, too, of course he hadn’t been able to tell where the blur ended and he began –
Fuck, he’s a druggie. Somehow, something – or someone – has been bringing him some kind of loopy drug that makes him see ghosts, and he’s been taking it like a sucker. He had wanted so desperately to be a boy. Probably the muscles, the voice, and the lack of menstruation are side effects.
Of course they are. How could he have been so stupid?
Hold on, though.
That doesn’t explain the manga, or the cigarettes. Where could a drugged-up kid like him have possibly got a Sea Life magazine, of all things?
How had he got them into his cell? Had he blanked out the memory of stealing them?
He definitely remembers not having cigarettes or booze when he first got here. The guards had been quite clear on that – had almost given him a pat down before deciding not to bother. And he had emptied his pockets, just like a prisoner is supposed to do. There’s no way anything could have come in with him.
Unless… unless it really is an evil spirit. He supposes it’s no less crazy than the idea that someone has been drugging him for years. (And it has been years, now, hadn’t it? He had been, what, thirteen? Fourteen? And now he is seventeen, and there is no way someone could have been slipping him stuff for that long without him finding out.)
Of course, that leaves the rather more pressing question of what the fuck a purple pair of hands wants with someone like him.
“Spirit? Demon, I mean?” A whisper, just barely enough to hear; he doesn’t want his cell mates to hear him talking to himself and get any more creeped out by him than they already are.
A hand appears beside him. If it is a hallucination, it has impeccable timing. He frowns.
“Are you… real?”
The hand reaches down into the inner pocket of his gakuran and pulls out his cigarettes. The packet dangles in front of his face from those strange purple fingers, and he hears one of the guys in his cell gasp (“The cigs – they’re floating!”). It doesn’t really prove anything, of course; everyone knows hallucinations can make themselves very convincing sometimes. Still… he’d definitely felt the hand in his pocket.
Right then. “Are you gonna hurt me?”
The hand puts the cigarettes down and strokes his face affectionately. Apparently not.
“What about everyone else?”
The hand lets go of him instantly and turns palm upwards, in a kind of shrug (and he definitely recognises that gesture, even if it’s been a while). Then, unmistakably, it bunches up into a fist again.
“So you do mean harm.” He turns his head away and sighs. “Then it’s better if I stay here.”
“Good grief, spirit. Can’t put everyone in danger like that. Not if you just put everyone who says bad things in the hospital.” (Not that those men hadn’t deserved a good beat-down, but… not that bad. He tries and fails not to think about it.)
“You know, Mom calls me that. A girl. You can’t beat her up as well. Please. Not her.”
The fist curls up again.
“Then we’re staying here.”
The fist shrugs and fades away. He is alone.