Haise took in a deep breath, and slowly released it, softly blowing onto the cream paper below. He let a minute go by before repeating the action, taking in another breath, the smell of a new book and rich coffee clinging to the insides of his nose, making him want to sneeze. The air inside his lungs was warm and comforting, and as he released the air again, slower and more controlled than before, he could feel all the tension leave his body, and he leaned back into the cushioned chair.
The book in his hands was intriguing, to say the very least. Originally in English, the book follows a five year old as he slowly realizes how bad the situation that he and his mother was in, as his mother had been abducted when she was younger. It follows his escape and his recovery and introduction to the wider world, and it was interesting to see it all from such a childish and immature mindset, of someone who didn’t understand what was wrong with what he had lived with for his entire life and how different everything was from what he thought it should have been.
“When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I’m five I know everything.”
But, despite the good book and the comfy seat and the delicious coffee and homey atmosphere, Haise couldn’t help but get the impression that something was inherently wrong about everything, like he was doing something wrong, like something in his mind was screaming and punishing him for forgetting something.
Not that the feeling wasn’t foreign to him, however. In fact, it seemed to be something that he got on a regular basis, something deep inside his mind yelling at him that it was all wrong, that he wasn’t doing it right, that he'll never be able to do anything right. Some of the things had been easy to fix, like, for example, how to make his coffee. Sure, he had to spend quite a bit of money on getting the right equipment to make it from coffee beans instead of the instant stuff that everyone seemed to have, and from there it was just doing what his body already knowing what to do, using his muscle memory to make coffee that always made people smile and ask how he was able to make it taste as nice as it was.
But some things haven’t been as easy to fix.
Like, for example, the weight of glasses on his face. Arima had said that he had never worn glasses before joining the CCG, and while he had been quick to adjust to them there was always something off about them. Either, they were too heavy on his face and shouldn’t be there at all, or too light, and giving him the impression that he should be having something else on his face, something much heavier and something more enclosing.
Haise tried to not worry about it, or at least, worry about it less than he currently does.
But he knew for a fact that his glasses were not his biggest concern at the moment, because if it was then it would not be bothering him as much as it currently was. There was something wrong with the way that he was sitting in his chair, or there was something wrong with the way that the coffee fragrance hung heavy in the air, or there was something wrong with the warmth of the air.
No, it was none of those things, or at least, he didn’t think that there was anything wrong with any of those things. But still, he got this nagging thought in the back of his mind that he was missing something, but what he was missing was still a mystery upon him.
He had his book, his comfy chair, his cup of rich black coffee. There was the home-like environment and the silence of no one around him. There was nothing else one needed before that got into a good book.
And yet, here he was, missing that one thing.
After a moment, Haise took in another deep breath, and slowly released it again, softly blowing onto his book, now closed on his lap, the cover of the book looking back up at him, almost teasing him for not being able to fully immerse into it. Picking up his coffee, Haise quickly drained it of it’s last drops before putting it back down on the saucer, placing his book next to it before standing up, stitching slightly before moving into the kitchen with his finished cup, smiling at Mutsuki when he looked up at him with a smile of his own.
“Hey Sasaki,” Mutsuki greeted, ignoring his paperwork in front of him to look at Haise with concern, “Is everything alright?” Haise sighed before going over and turning the boiling the water for the coffee, setting two cups out for himself and Mutsuki.
“Yep, everything’s alright!” Haise replied, a hand on his chin and a smile carved onto his face and Mutsuki only nodded in return, looking back down at his paperwork with confusion and lost hope.
“Hey, Sasaki, can you explain this to me please?” Mutsuki asked, and Haise jumped to his request immediately, the book next to the comfy chair and all the uneasiness that came with it long forgotten.
Haise hesitantly walked through the wide open door, a cool breeze from the air conditioning hitting his skin, cooling it slightly. The moment he placed both his feet inside the building and allowed him to look around the magnificent building, he instantly remembered why he was reluctant to come in here in the first place.
When he had eventually raised his problem to Arika (because it was apparently obvious to her that he was hiding something, and she never took no for an answer), she had immediately suggested going to a library to read his book, as if it would solve everything, as if he had never thought of the idea before approaching her about it. Haise tried to reject the idea, as there was something that was slightly off-putting about the idea of going to such a public and open place to read his books, books that were definitely not something that he wanted to share with any children that he would surely bump into while he was there, Arika had been... insistent, to say the least.
So here he was, and while the building looked beautiful, looking grand over the rest of the streets outside and it did not lose its impressiveness in its interior with wide doors that could easily fit someone twice the height of Haise, he couldn't help but feel like he was the odd one out of the equation, like he was looking through a window at what he could have had, if not for everything that was going on in his life, the bits he could remember and the bits that he couldn’t.
It left like he had managed to swap bodies with an alternate version of him, in a different universe, that had everything they ever wanted in life. It was not a feeling that he enjoyed, to say the least
He was silent as he walked around, required according to the librarian’s death’s stare and the random glance’s from others there that dared him to utter a word or step on the wrong floor bored. Not that he wasn’t used to the looks of course, since everyone knew that he was a ghoul and not everyone was able to let go of that simple fact like Arika and Arima seemed to be able to do, but the ways that they stared on was unnerving, to say the least, and hostile to assume the worst, in a way that was a lot different form CCG Investigators who would kill him if he stepped out of the small circle that they drew around him.
But, nevertheless, he was here and he was going to read his book because there was no point in wasting his trip here by leaving the place so soon. So, he found a secluded corner, sat down on the chair (slightly too hard for his tastes but he wasn’t going to complain), and he opened his new book.
“Who controls the past controls the future.”
‘1984’ by George Orwell was something that Arika also recommended to him and a much better recommendation from some of the other books that she had suggested to him in the past. She said that she had watched it with a friend a couple of years back when it had been in theatre, and while she had been meaning to read it for a while, Haise was more than welcome to borrow her copy from her, since she wasn’t going to be able to do that for a good while yet.
“Who controls the present controls the past.”
The book itself was, as of so far, very interesting, what with the way that it used the unknown to create fear, a horrible striking fear as the idea that it had brought forward was something that the reader could imagine as the dystopia that the world was presented in. It was almost too realistic in some ways, almost too much like the real world that they were living in today, the ways that cameras that saw everything, the information online that everyone could access easily, and the information that only some people knew how to see, as only they had the passwords and the equipment and the methods.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
But then there were lines like this that made him pause with his breath in his throat and his mind racing too fast to keep up with, and the absence of his own past was not helping in this situation at all. His mind was shouting at him, screaming at him, telling him things that were false and things that made no sense to him at all. In stark contrast, the library was quiet, silent. Nothing, not even Haise’s screaming mind, was able to break the spell that had been put into the building, and it was unnerving now that he was able to hear in comparison to his own mind.
Reading in the library was clearly not the answer that he was looking for. It was too quiet, there were too many rules, there was something foreboding about it that just made him want to scream. So he got up, holding the book tightly in his hands, and he walked off. The stares followed him as he left the building and on to the busy street, and even then it felt like the stares stayed with him after leaving the library.
It wasn’t until he was a couple of streets away from it that he had the thought that it might have been his book that caused him to react like that; the messages of control were not subtle like in other books that he had read, but he quickly pushed the thought away, because it’s not a thought that he liked at all, and not a thought that he could risk thinking about for any longer than the millisecond that he crossed his mind.
He gave the book back to Arika a week later, half read, not that he told her that. No, instead he told her that it was interesting, that it’s made him think about things in a different light, because it had, even if he had been unable to finish it. She smiled at him and accepted it back graciously, like everything she did. He never said that there were parts of the book that scared him. He never said that there parts of the book that would stay with him forever, even if he got his memory back, even if he abandoned the CCG, even if he got to a part to his life where he was able to sit back and look back on his life and just ponder.
“The best books are those that tell you what you know already.”
"I am not a protagonist of novel or anything,
If, for argument’s sake, you were to write a story with me in a lead role,
It would certainly be,
There comes an end to all things; the most capacious measure is filled at last; and this brief condescension to evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul. And yet I was not alarmed;the fall seemed natural, like a return to the old days before I had made discovery. It was afine, clear, January day, wet under foot where the frost had melted, but cloudless overhead; and the Regent's Park was full of winter chirrupings and sweet with spring odours .
Haise enjoyed this book, very much so, in comparison to all the other books he had been reading recently, the only downside that he could find so far was that it was as short as it was.
However, unlike in the book, it was no the beautiful January it described but much rather the bleak November afternoon, the overcast shadowing onto the city and reminding people of the winter ahead. It, too, was wet underfoot, but not by the melting frost but rather the previous night’s rain.
However, despite the fact that there was no beautiful Regent’s Park view, no ‘winter chirping’ and no ‘sweet spring odours’, Haise had found a secluded bench away from the footpath, hidden away by bushes, meaning that silence greeted his ears, a difference silence from the one that the library was drowned in, and had found that there was a cafe of some sort nearby, as the bittersweet smell filled his sensitive nose.
I sat in the sun on a bench; the animal within me licking the chops of memory; the spiritual side a little drowsed, promising subsequent penitence, but not yet moved to begin. After all, I reflected, I was like my neighbours; and then I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a book that he had found on his own this time, at the back corner of a shelf of a second hand shop. It was a beaten up copy, with the spine of the book properly broken into and slightly ripped, a multitude of dog eared pages and a slight bend in the book to show that it had been placed page down to save the previous owner’s page. It was clearly looked after and still held the use of being able to be read, and that was all that mattered to Haise when he picked it up for ¥200.
And at the very moment of that vainglorious thought, a qualm came over me, horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering. These passed away, and left me faint; and then as in its turn the faintness subsided, I began to be aware of a change in the temper of my thoughts, a greater boldness, a contempt of danger,a solution of the bonds of obligation. I looked down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs; the hand that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward Hyde.
Haise could count the number of times on his hand that he was happy that he held no memories of the past because it was not just his memories by his cultural understanding of the world that went too. This had meant that a lot of references to things like Jekyll and Hyde was things that had gone over his head until he asked about it or looked it up himself.
There were not a lot of people these days that could say that the ending of a book as classic as this one was not spoiled to them before they even knew it was a book.
He flicked over to the next page, but before he could read another word of it there was a murmuring that spoke Haise’s special gift of silence, small willow of whispers that tickled Haise’s ears and triggered his curiosity. He actively went out of his way to continue reading his book, he didn’t want to eavesdrop on a conversation that had nothing to do with him, however, he could help but zone in when the talk when from ‘How’s your day’ to ‘Have you heard back from Cupid yet?’
‘Cupid’, in Haise’s opinion, was a stupid name to call a ghoul as vicious as he was, but he had gotten it from the media for a reason. He only seemed to want the hearts of its victims, leaving the rest of the body as it was with a hole in their torso and only the heart missing from the corpse. Usually, this would be something that the police department would deal with, as it seemed to be more of a serial killer case more than a ghoul case, but just as they were about to catch the guy, he whips out his kogune and kills all three men before they could get back up.
The ghoul shouldn’t be too hard to catch, considering the police had done most of the legwork for them and managed to track the ghoul down, but there was a reason why the CCG didn’t like working with the normal police. For there to be a case, there needed to be paperwork and evidence. The paperwork and evidence were currently with the police. The Constable needs to be the one who signs the paperwork off. The Constable, however, has so much paperwork to sign off that it was undoubtedly buried under piles and piles of paper, meaning that it would be forever and a day before it was signed off. And even then, it would take an eternity for it all the evidence and paperwork is transferred, processed again by the CCG before a team could be properly assigned to the case. Haise’s squad was all lined up to take over, once the Constable got to it.
Meaning that Haise had all the time in the world to read in the middle of the park. He certainly didn’t mind how slow paced work was for once, but the rest of the team was beginning to get very on edge.
“Yeah, he’s laying low for a couple of weeks, which is stupid. He does know how the CCG work right?” There was a laugh from the second guy.
“He’s one of the thicker ones I’ve met for sure. He’s still hanging by east side? I don’t want to be where he is if the doves start doing their raids.”
“Yeah, he is…” The conversation moves onto other things, but Haise doesn’t care nor does he notice. Putting his book on the bench, with his current page facing the bench to save his place. He got up to leave, stretching his arm over his head and picking up his case, ready for a stroll. If he was to accidentally kill a ghoul who just so happen to be the cause for piles of paperwork, well no one would be complaining about it.
It was raining when he got back to the chateau, which meant that his bloodstains were disappearing, which was great, but did fill him with disappointment as he realized that his book would have been destroyed in his absence.
He never did find out the ending.
Haise didn’t read poems often.
There were many reasons for this. Sometimes they were too flowery with their language for his liking, sometimes there were too many metaphors that he didn’t understand and too many gaps and commas when it wasn’t necessary. Sometimes it was because they were simply too short. How could you possibly tell a whole story that could fit in one, sometimes two pages?
But Arima had been the one to recommend the book to him, a book of poems as well as short stories, so read it he will.
A knock on the door echoed down the empty corridor, leaving Haise to stand there for a moment, two moments, three. It wasn’t until he reached a full minute standing there in silence before he let himself into in.
As he thought, it was void of Arima, which was not surprising, since despite having an office, it was rare to actually see the man in it, since he had a very busy schedule of meetings and ghoul killing. The door was never locked anyway (mainly because Arima, as good as he was, never seemed to have use for keys and thus would either leave the door unlocked anyway or lock the door and lose his keys on a mission, leading him to have to break down his door to get in), so all Haise had to was turn the handle and let himself in.
(Maybe Haise should have taken a closer look at some of the things in the office, have a look at some of the files that were close on hand or open the drawers to see what things could be seen. Maybe Haise would learn something that he needed to know in the future, about V, about the truth of the CCG, about his past. However, he did spot the small camera in the corner and he knew that Armia would know if someone had touched something, and there was always that small fact that Haise had forgotten for a reason, and that he was in no rush to ruin the life (or lie) that he had worked so hard to get.)
(The future wasn’t important. The past wasn’t important. That book was important.)
The book was left where Haise thought it would have been left, on the small coffee table a little off to the side of the main desk, that had a sofa and a chair around it. It was the most used part of the office, with dark coffee stains on the table despite the overabundance of coasters, gifts from those who wanted to see fewer coffee stains on expensive wood no doubt, small, almost unnoticeable, cuts in the leather and the small worn patches from almost overuse. The arm of the sofa is slightly dented like there is a weight there that there shouldn’t be like it was being used in a way that it shouldn’t.
So, Haise picked up the book, and he started to read the back of it while he left, making sure to shut the door of the office behind him, but not too loudly because some of the people in the nearby offices didn’t like him and he would much rather leave them ignorant of his passing, lest they get angry with him.
After reading the back of the book and getting far away from the offices that the site of him wouldn’t lead to his demise, Haise opened the book, flicking towards the contents page, skimming through all the titles, and only one of them really catching his eye.
The Tell-Tale Heart - By Edgar Allan Poe
Something about the title made his head turn, so he was quick to turn to the page where it started and started to read.
Now, in hindsight, he really shouldn’t have started to read the book when he got in, even if there was something that made reading at home harder than normal. But it looked interesting and it must have been a good book if Arima recommends it to him, and good books are better the sooner you start them.
But it also leads to Arima, still printing despite the growing mission he had just come back from, looking down in confusion as to why he was sat on the floor in the middle of the corridor, nose deep in the book that Haise had taken from his office.
Needless to say, Haise didn’t do that again.
He’s walked past this place a lot.
The coffee shop was on the main street, on his walk from one office to another. It’s one of those places that everyone seems to know but never seems to go into. He’s always too busy to go into himself since it was on the walk between offices and he was always in a rush (since no one liked the idea of him driving, for some reason), but he wasn’t busy now. He had nothing but time now.
He slowly opened up the door, and bell slightly ringing at his entrance, so it doesn’t surprise him that a couple of people turn their heads to look at the new person entering their domain, before smiling and quickly going back to their conversations at low quite tones. There didn’t seem to be anyone behind the bar, but Haise didn’t mind the seemingly missing staff and instead of having a closer look around.
The view from the windows did not give the cafe the credit that it clearly deserved. It was well decorated, lightly with earthy colours, and while the empty fireplace showed that the weather outside was not calling for it to be lit, and Haise could remember the warm wind through his hair and the heat of the sun on his face, it nonetheless made him smile, because he could also imagine sitting down in here with the snow outside and the numb fingers, a book in one hand and a lovely brewed coffee in the other.
Another thing that caught his eye was the bookcases, located on one of the corners of the cafe. Something about it was alluring, however, and he couldn’t help himself but walk over, scanning the shelves and marveling at what a collection had been built up over what must have been years of work, which was strange because the cafe, to his knowledge, was new to the ward. A little sign dangled from the shelf, the script ‘Donations Accepted!” was written onto wood using a permanent marker and had bled into the material, then hung with a small bit of string.
Taking a closer look at the covers, he smiled at the disorganization it seemed to have, there was no older as to where each book had been placed and the ranging book thickness along with size made the place feel all the more comfortable. Some of the titles he recognized from recommendations, some he had read, but than there were some that he didn’t and it pulled his curiosity in a way that he was sure was not allowed, something that he should be pushing away, but he doesn’t, and instead he takes one of the books off of the shelf.
The Black Goat’s Egg, by Takatsuki Sen
He loves his mother, he really does. If anyone was to ask him about her, he can only say the most glowing of praises, or else. There’s something inside of her that is hidden from the world, and should stay that way. But with the city’s murders beginning to stack up and people starting to ask more and more questions about her, he must look inside himself and see what he really is, and not the lie he told himself.
Haise turned the book back over, taking in the plain, minimalistic cover that betrays nothing of the book, and he took in the slightly red marks on the edge of the paper from where something had stained the book in the past, perhaps a berry juice of some sort. Nonetheless, it looked like an interesting read, and he had been wanting to read Takatsuki-Sensi’s work for a while, so he opened the book, and frowned at the neatly written script written on the first page.
This book is owned by Kaneki Ken.
“Ah, yes, because most of the books are donated here, a lot of them have the previous owner’s name written in them. Do feel free to read them yourself though, as long as you return it of course,” Haise looked at the person talking, a shorter girl with a blue bob and a beautiful smile looking up at him, a notebook in one hand and a pen in another, wearing a small apron with the cafe’s name on it.
“It’s a lovely place you have here,” Haise said as he is led to a table, the book carefully placed in front of him as he smiled at the waitress. She smiled back, looking around the place for herself.
“Yes, it took a while to get it all up to scratch, but it was worth it,” she looked back at him, and there was something about her, something that made his mind cry out for her, cry out in a way that he was used to suppressing. But there was something about her that made him curious, made him want to know more. So, instead of suppressing it down, instead of forgetting like he always did before, he smiled back at her, because he was curious. While being curious always seemed to get someone killed, it was often the path that had the most interesting of people in it.
So he smiled at her, and he ordered a coffee, and then he started to read the book once owned by this ‘Kaneki Ken’, and not once he did get the feeling that he often got when it came to reading. Because, for once, the weight of his glasses seemed absent, Because for once, he was able to sit in a chair with a coffee and a book without feeling wrong. Maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t his chair, but the café's. Maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t his book, but in fact borrowed from someone else, someone who gave up their book for other people to read (and he will be thankful to this ‘Kaneki Ken’ for allowing him to do so). Maybe it was the coffee, the delicious coffee that he always subconsciously tried to make but failed in one way or another.
He had his book, his comfy chair, his cup of rich black coffee. And he read.