It had been a busy day at Anteiku. The workers were exhausted after the many hectic hours. In midst of the chaos, a customer had turned the channel on the TV to the news. It had been left on even after the shop closed, unnoticed by the weary workers.
A news anchor spoke, “And now, on a more local note, another student from Kamii University has disappeared. This is the second disappearance, and police are now investigating where the victim was last seen. His name has not been released, but it is known that he was working for the CCG. It is suspected that this disappearance is closely tied with the disappearance of the first student, Kaneki Ken, and that ghouls are involved. Investigators, though, say there have been no clues found as to where the victim may be…”
Hide awoke with a start. The first thing he noticed were the bright lights above him, effectively blinding his eyes. Squinting, he tried moving his arm to cover his face, but found that it wouldn’t move. Nothing would move. Oh god, he thought. I’ve been kidnapped. I’ve been kidnapped and I don’t even remember anything, oh my god.
Panic began to seize him, and he pressed against the restraints holding his limbs down. He thrashed, hitting his head on the cold, hard steel table he was lying on multiple times before subsiding. He sat still for a moment, regaining his breath before trying again. It was no use.
What the hell should I do?
Just then, the door opened. Hide sat up as best he could to see a tall man with graying hair in a white lab coat stride in. “Ah, I see you’re awake,” the man said. “Let’s see how you’re doing.”
“What’s going on?” Hide asked, distressed. The man didn’t answer, and instead inserted a needle into his right arm. Hide flinched as blood was drawn into the tube. The man pulled it out and walked out of Hide’s sights, murmuring to himself as he did so. Thoroughly weirded out, Hide tried questioning him again. “Who are you? What did you do to me?”
The man stepped back into his view, a sinister smile plastered on his face, but said nothing. Then he left.
As the time passed, Hide grew more and more agitated. He wanted to know what was happening. He wanted to know what that creepy guy had done to him, and why he needed his blood. But even more so, after a whole day of lying awake on the hard table, he wanted to know why he didn’t feel even the slightest pang of hunger.
The man periodically came back, bringing him a glass of water each time. Despite Hide’s constant barrage of questions, he remained silent, not speaking single a word. After a day and a half, he finally responded.
“Can I have some food?” Hide asked when the man entered his room.
The man thought a moment before speaking. “I think you’ll find it to be to your disliking.”
“Please,” Hide pleaded. “I’ll take anything you have.”
“Are you hungry?”
“…No, but humans need food, man. It’s kind of a necessity.”
The man snorted. “Very well, then. I’ll bring you some food.”
He left and returned around half an hour later carrying a plate with a sandwich on it. It was pretty plain— ham, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes—but Hide accepted it nonetheless. The man removed his restraints for the first time since he had awakened and let Hide stretch his sore limbs. It had never felt so good to move again.
Hide picked up the sandwich, the man’s watchful eyes on him. Then he took a bite.
It was like nothing he had ever tasted before. The bread was like a bland sponge, and the lettuce like chewy grass. The cheese had the texture of curdled clay and was definitely spoiled. The ham tasted putrid and tainted; the tomatoes like liquefied vomit. Hide spit it out immediately, and it took all of his effort not to vomit then and there.
“I told you it would be to your disliking,” the man stated simply, holding out a glass of water for him. Hide snatched it out of his hands and downed the entire thing before looking at him angrily.
“What the hell? Did you literally search for the most disgusting ingredients you could find and slap them in between loafs of sponge?” he spat. In reply, the man picked up the abandoned sandwich, brought it to his mouth, and took a bite. Hide gagged in response, not wanting to think about the taste of the sandwich from hell.
The man took another bite as Hide cocked his head in confusion. “It’s not…bad to you?” he asked.
The man swallowed and smiled that creepy smile of his. “No, of course it isn’t. It’s only bad to you, Hideyoshi Nagachika.”
“But…” He didn’t understand. First, he wasn’t hungry, and then when he tried to eat something it was so disgusting he nearly threw up. It didn’t make any sense. “Please,” he said weakly, a pleading look in his eyes, “just tell me what’s going on. I deserve to know at least that, right? It’s obvious I’m not going anywhere soon, so what’s the harm in telling me?”
The man contemplated his words, scratching his chin as he did so. “You’ll find out soon enough,” was his answer. And then he was gone, taking the plate and glass with him. Hide briefly rejoiced at the fact that he had forgotten to put him back in restraints, but then realized he probably meant to leave him out. Maybe it was some sort of test to see if he’d try to escape.
Slowly, Hide swung his feet over the edge of the steel table, shivering when they came into contact with the cool floor. His feet were bare. All he had on was a hospital gown and boxers. He was thankful at least those had been left on. Tiptoeing to the door, he gradually twisted the doorknob, finding it unlocked. Strange; had it been unlocked the whole time? Well, it wasn’t like it mattered—he had been bound down to the table until a few minutes ago.
Hide hadn’t noticed it before, but his lower back hurt. Not only his lower back, though, but around his shoulders as well. Brushing it off, he quietly cracked open the door and peeked out.
It was a hallway. There was a numerous amount of doors on the wall opposite to him, and he looked left and right and saw even more doors. He didn’t know what could lie behind them, and he didn’t have any intention of finding out. His mind was a twisting tornado of thoughts. Should he run for it? What if he got caught? But he couldn’t stay here forever, he had to get out. Was now the best time? Should he wait until later? What if the man had forgotten to lock it just this one time, and he would never have another chance? What would happen if he were caught?
Would he be…killed?
No, he told himself. He obviously had some importance. From all the tests the man had run on him, Hide figured he was some sort of medical experiment. Maybe he had altered his digestive track. Maybe he had figured out how to stop humans from being hungry by making all food taste bad. It was probably the wrong conclusion, but it was all Hide could come up with for now.
After ruling out the possibility that he would be killed if he were found, he knew he had to make his decision. Someone could come at any time, and he might lose his opportunity to make a choice. Looking around one last time, Hide opened the door and stepped out into the open. He suddenly felt exposed and vulnerable, and he wished he knew what exactly was different about his body. He didn’t want to leave—or at least try to—without getting answers, but he had to.
His first step was tentative. Hide was cognizant of every little noise—the hum of machinery not far off, the noise of his heart pounding in his chest, the sound of his uneven breathing. He took another step, then another, and another. He walked quickly until he was at the end of the hallway. Carefully, he glanced around the corner. Seeing no one, he rounded it and took off in the direction the new hallway led him. It eventually expanded into a wider one. He took a few more turns and ended up in a large and spacious room. He vaguely wondered where the man was in this place, and if there were more people patrolling it. The answer had to be yes; the facility was too huge to be run by a one man show.
But, so far, he had run into no one. He hadn’t even seen anyone, which made him suspicious. Part of his mind thought that maybe, just maybe, this was what the man wanted. He wanted him to escape, to let his experiment roam free. Could he have put a tracking device in him? Hide tried dismissing the thought, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that his every move was being monitored, even though there was no one (that he knew of) around.
Hide turned his attention to the room. Bodies littered the floor and blood was splattered on the ground. It looked like a massacre. He didn’t want to know what had happened; all he knew was that his yearning to get out of there was increasing by the second.
He danced his way through the room, avoiding touching anything by hopping on one foot around the bodies. The bodies—they were more like carcasses when he got a closer look at them—were in midst of decay. The odor they put off was repugnant and foul. He stifled a gag, wondering why nobody had bothered to dispose of them already.
Wandering aimlessly, Hide begun to lose hope of ever finding a way out. A wave of despair washed over him. He contemplated trying to navigate back to his room, but he knew it was too late for that. He was completely and utterly lost with no way of finding his way back. So, he pressed on, going down hallway after hallway, entering room after room, his hope for escape deflating like a balloon losing helium.
Suddenly, there was the sound of movement from behind him. Hide, startled and afraid, bolted, making a dash for the end of the hallway he was in. Turning the corner, he stopped and caught his breath before peering down the hall he had come from. Detached voices began to speak.
“It’s no good, monsieur,” the first one said, “we’ve searched the place top to bottom. I’m afraid no one is here. It must have been abandoned after the raid. Shall we go back?” It was deep and elegant, like rich honey.
“No,” the second voice responded. Hide froze. Even though it was just one word spoken, he could recognize that voice in his sleep.
“Kaneki…” he whispered to himself.
“We’ll keep looking until we find him. Got it?”
The other sighed. Then, “Wait, monsieur, I believe I smell something.” There was the sound of sniffing and then a long inhale. “Oh, yes, I do. But it’s not entirely human, nor is it entirely ghoul. This smell is…tres bien!”
Hide went rigid as the sound of hasty footsteps echoed off the walls, coming closer towards him. “Tsukiyama!” he heard who he believed to be Kaneki shout. And then he was there, looming over Hide like a giant. Grabbing him, the man—Tsukiyama—inhaled his scent and released him. Hide staggered backwards, trying to get away from the crazy purple-haired guy called Tsukiyama. He ended up falling on the ground. “Dolce!” Tsukiyama exclaimed. “Please, give me your scent once more!”
Kaneki stopped mid-sentence, having rounded the corner and spotting Hide. Yes, it was indeed him, but he looked completely different from the Kaneki Hide knew and loved. For starters, his hair was white, and his clothing was unlike anything Hide had ever seen on him before. That wasn’t to say it didn’t suit him, though. He was no longer the small, scrawny boy he used to be. While he still retained the same height, which wasn’t very big, he was muscular, and his face looked older and sharper and more refined. But his eyes were still the same; they still were filled with the same warmth and kindness as they were in the past when they met Hide’s own.
But just because this was a new Kaneki didn't mean that Hide would love him any less.
“Move,” Kaneki commanded harshly, shoving Tsukiyama out of the way. He bent down to be on Hide’s eye level, who was still on the ground. “No…No, no, no, no, no!”
Kaneki stood and kicked the wall as hard as he could, denting it. His breathing became unsteady and choppy, and he began to pace back and forth at a rapid speed. “I can’t believe this, I can’t believe I let this happen. I should have kept a closer watch, I should have been there, I should have been there!” He kicked it again.
“Kaneki, stop! You’re going to hurt yourself,” Hide said, getting to his feet and grabbing his best friend’s shoulders. Tsukiyama hung back, observing the two’s display. He licked his lips, eyeing Hide. Hide refocused his attention back on Kaneki. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t let what’s happened to me happen to you. I can’t…”
“Kaneki!” Hide shouted, not caring if anyone else heard anymore. Kaneki looked at him abruptly, tears in his eyes. One eye had turned black and red—a ghoul’s eye. It had been as Hide suspected from the day Kaneki returned to school after the surgery; Kaneki was a ghoul. He was fine with this, of course. His best friend would remain his best friend no matter what. But what was causing him so much strife?
“You don’t know what’s happened to you, do you, monsieur?” Tsukiyama asked, stepping closer to Hide.
“No, I don’t,” he answered.
Kaneki looked at the floor and mumbled something incoherent. “Huh?” Hide asked.
“I said, you’re just like me now.” He looked Hide in the eyes. And then he said the words that would change his life forever.
“You’re a ghoul, Hide.”