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“Report, what information have you gathered about Roe’s death.” commands a deep weathered voice. A pair of men in suits stand before an ornate throne. The floor beneath their feet is a black-and-white checkered board. The room is lined in gold laced and ebony wood.
“It appears just as we suspected.” one man says adjusting his glasses. “Roe committed suicide of her own volition.” the surrounding occupants of the room let out measured gasps. “She left behind a note explaining the resoning behind her actions.”
The man on the throne clears his throat. “What does it say?”
Reaching to his lapel, the man takes a folded note from his pocket. Slowly he unforlds the document gaining the unwavering attention of the entire room. He holds the note open for a moment taking a deep breath. “This is my last divination to the council. I have seen a bleak omen and the recent reports of the otherworlders has confirmed my vision.
The time to begin the new world has come. I can no longer serve in the capacity to carry forth the priesthood. I advise whoever takes my place as high priestess to have a strong stomach for what needs to be done. Therefore, I will end my life after I have finished this letter. The price of the new world is too much for me to bare. I have prepared the necessary tools for the high priestess to carry out the proceeding rituals. After which the proper devices will be in your hands to finish the greater work. There will need to be a blood sacrifice prepared to initiate the new high priestess and to give her the key to the craft.” reads the man, he folds the paper placing it back into his pocket. “The letter ends there, Lord Mistura. It was handwritten in her own blood.”
“Interesting?” Mitsura considers.
A middle aged man snickers while seated. “Not the stomach for it.” he utters.
Mitsura clears his throat again. “Do you think lesser of her because she is not a killer like yourself, Natsukawa?”
Natsukawa laughs. “We live, we die. That is all.” Mitsura shakes his head.
“Further more there is another developing issue.” answers the man who read the report. “It seems there has been another sighting of an otherworlder.”
“Continue.” Mitsura mutters.
“It’s perplexing, this one was in public, inside a grocery store. The individuals have been detained for examination and interviewing. There was three homicides and four injuries. Two of those injuries are life threatening. They have informed the witnesses that a terrorist exposed them to a biological agent and encountered a group hallucination.” the man states.
“We have to get rid of the witnesses. No one will believe such a preposterous excuse. It will also strike tension in the community.” a man calls out from the surrounding seats.
A woman with a white-painted face stands from her seat. “What would we suggest if several people disappeared? How would we explain that to the public? We are not talking about a few people but an entire market full of people.”
“I agree with Hegia. We should get rid of the witnesses. We can tell the people they died in the attack.”
“No, that is wrong we cannot conduct ourselves in this way.”
Mitsura stands from his chair. “Silence.” he roars. “We will not be making a hasty decision like that. Those who will not conform with the narrative will be held and kept separate. We can convince the community they were mentally damaged from the effects of the toxins. At a later date we can release them after treatment. Until then I do not want any of this to leave the lodge. Am I understood.”
The room calls out “Aye.”
“Now, we have need of a new high priestess. The next in line is Lady Kyo, my niece. Is there any objecting views on her appointment?” Mitsura pauses for a reply. The chamber remains silent. “Then it shall be Kyo to take up the burden of high priestess. Prepare the rites for the appointment.”
The warm yellow inner glow of the police station is comforting for Apricot. Still shaken by the night’s events Apricot sits in a wooden chair. She runs her fingers along the chairs decorative grooves. The clerk’s desk is cluttered with various papers, folders, and photos. A small lamp trained over the mess gives off just enough light for the reports in front. “Miss Apricot, your account of the situation is, troubling.” remarks the clerk as he strikes his cheek with his hand. “You were in a hostage situation early this month and now you experienced a terrorist attack. Not an easy month for you mam now is it?” he jokes.
An urge to slap him takes hold in her palm but instead of letting him have it she nods her head. “Yes, sir.” she agrees.
The man looks at the paper setting it on his desk and grins. “I am just about done with you but the state psychologist will want to speak with you. They will make a determination if those biologicals affected you. I ah, got some advice for you.” the officer whispers narrowing his eyes. “Play along. We both know what happened.”
“Excuse me?” Apricot asks.
The officer leans in over his desk; he motions Apricot closer. “I don’t know what you observed tonight. Don’t want to know but you’re not crazy. I did not record your account. Instead, I wrote you had experienced a hallucination. Please, just play along. It will make your life easier. These things, they, they aren’t real but they’re here. They’re like ghosts or something. Everyone in the office is scared out of their minds right now. They have been locking up witnesses under insanity charges, including anyone in the department that acknowledges them. Even if what you said is true, forget it ever happened. Look, I should not be telling you this. Just please listen.” He sits back in his chair his eyes glassy with tears welling in them. He sterns his voice and grumbles, “Well, mam it looks like I can finish this up on my own.” he flips a switch on his desk. “Hey, I need someone to take Miss Signa to have her evaluation done.”
“Right away sir.” a voice replies.
“Just remember what I said ok,” he says to Apricot with a nod.
Apricot nods her head not sure of what to make of her situation. The events play through her head leaving a suggestion of things to come. A man in uniform opens the door breaking her train of thought. He motions with his hand towards Apricot. She rises from her seat and leaves with him through the hall.
“So you did not see a thing.” a woman in a black officers uniform inquires. Her rose framed glasses clash with the officialness of her attire. “A lot of panic in there tonight. Seems you did not get too high of a dose from the chemical attack.” She pauses looking over her papers. “So you blacked out for the duration and found yourself in the warehouse.”
“That is right mam.” she lied. The rules of the game were unstated but very clear. Both parties fully understood they both were lying to each other. At least to Apricot’s summation that was the facts. Complying with the narrative was all the officials of Okabe cared about. The faux illusion of stability. In same ways that is far more effective. Perhaps everyone knew about these things and yet no one spoke a word of it for fear of being outed. Even if anyone did, no one would admit to it. What a brilliant little trap Apricot considered.
The woman taps her clipboard with a pen. “Many people said there was a monster.” she looks up into Apricot’s eyes. “What do you say about that?”
Apricot did not hesitate before saying “A lot of people see things when they are hallucinating.”
“Superb point. Well, I won’t be taking up any more of your time. If you still have any hallucinations, be sure to contact the police. If you remember anything, your cooperation will be very much appreciated.” the woman holds out a card. “Call my number anytime.”
Apricot plucks the card out of the woman’s hand pretends to inspect the card carefully then palms it into her pocket. “Thank you,” Apricot replies.
“You are free to go. The exit is to the left of the hall.” the woman remarks.
A runny long stream of bile projects out of Apricots mouth into a toilet. She wipes the sides of her face as she stares into the messy water. Another gag proceeds the expulsion of her remaining stomach contents. She grabs a hand towel off a shower rod, Apricot wipes her mouth and throws it into a laundry basket in the corner. She flushes the toilet. In the mirror she is greeted by smeared makeup, lids red, puffy, sullen from tears. Her lips chilled, her skin, pale, yet rosy. Her hair a messy, tangled nest. “What the hell is happening,” she ponders. Her eyes flow with tears as these things being everywhere surrounds her mind. “This isn’t happening. This is a nightmare.”
She sniffles wiping her nose with the sleeve of her shirt. A desperate wish to be crazy is all she wants at the moment. To her torment and absolute agony, she recognizes she wasn’t. Apricot had to leave the bathroom but at this moment, it has become her sanctuary.
Turning on the water she drew herself a warm bath. The heat against her naked skin releases the tension in her muscles. She allows herself this moment to slump into the water. Her eyes closed, and she slept. When she awoke, she felt chilly. The warm water that once soothed her had lost its comfort during her slumber. She raises her pruned fingers pushing herself out of the tub. Apricot drapes herself in a towel as she walks into her bedroom.
Peering over at her desk she notices her phone is blinking. She plucks up the black slab off her unmade bed and flips through to discover she had missed several messages from her friends. Apricot set the phone on her desk without replying. She turns to look at her bed and clothes strung along the floor. Clutching a pink and white plaid button-up shirt with a cartoon bunny patch on the front along with a pair of blue jeans; Apricot dresses herself.
As she heads down the wood steps to her living room, she sees Machi sprawled on her couch. “Machi?” Apricot ask. Machi raises her head letting out a yawn, stretching her arms.
She sits up rubs her eyes like a child. “You were out like a light,” Machi says with a warm smile bracing her face. “I heard what happened at the store. Since I have time off, I figured I would keep you company.” Apricot nods as she continues down the stairs. She sits on the couch next to Machi. “We don’t have to talk about it,” she assures Apricot in a calm voice. Apricot hugs Machi’s thin frame in her arms. She pats Apricot’s back as she feels the drips of her tears on her shoulder. “It’s ok hun. You will be all right.”
Apricot shakes her head. “No, I am not. I am not ok.” Apricot moans.
“I know, I know,” Machi whispers giving her a kiss on the forehead. “It’s ok to cry, hun. You don’t need to be ok,” she whispers.
“It doesn’t end.”
“It might seem like that right now.”
Apricot feels a lump in her grow as her heart pounds. If only she knew the true terror that lurks in her mind. “It won’t end.” she thinks to herself.
Machi pushes Apricot gently, she wipes the tears off her face with both hands. “Heh, let’s go get something to eat alright. I will call up the others and we can meet at Bingo Burgers ok.”
Apricot shakes her head, the last thing that she wanted right now was to leave the safety of her house. Outside the things could get her, but within these walls she was safe. “No. I don’t want to go out right now.” she groans.
Machi nods her head. “I can understand that. I want to make sure you are ok.”
“I am fine,” Apricot wipes her tears with her sleeve. “As fine as I can be at least.”
Machi nods, a silence between the two crosses. Apricot gets up from the couch walking across the carpet of her living room into the tiled floor of her kitchen. “Machi, want some tea with me?”
“Sure, sounds good. Let me make it.” Machi chirps walking past Apricot. “You go sit.”
Apricot sits back in the living room watching Machi move about her kitchen as if she lives there. From the few times, Machi visited her house it surprises Apricot to see her remember where everything is.
“You know my house don’t you,” Apricot remarks to Machi.
“Well, I had a peak while you were sleeping. That is dangerous you know.” Machi sings.
“What do you mean?”
Apricot heard a slight giggle escape from her kitchen. “Falling asleep in a tub of water.”
“Machi that snoop.” Apricot thought to herself hearing she peaked on her while she was in the bathroom but now was not the time to confront her. “It was just so comfortable.”
Machi giggles again “I can’t say I haven’t done it before.”
Machi places a tray of two teacups along with a few cookies onto the black glass coffee table. Apricot sat on the floor cross-legged while Machi sat curled up on the couch.
“It seems so weird. I mean we are adults now but… nothing has changed. I remember being a little girl in primary school. Now, everything seems overwhelming.” Apricot says.
Machi smiles “Yeah, I know what you mean, sorta. Exams are still exams but now they seem like they matter.”
Apricot lets out a long sigh. “Thanks, Machi.”
“Yeah, well, it could’ve happened to any of us,” Machi mutters while looking into her tea. She stirs it with her spoon adding a lump of sugar into it. “It scared me Apricot. They said it was a terrorist attack. When I saw on the news, it was the store you worked at.” Machi’s voice quivers. “I was so scared for you.” Apricot looks up to see Machi’s lip quivering. “I thought you might have got hurt or worse.”
“Nothing happened, to me. I was just scared.” Apricot takes a sip of her tea. Trying her best to keep her composure. The thoughts of the monster, the man’s head, that slow snap of his muscle tethers breaking. The sound it made. The screaming and crying. It all rushes in her mind as the taste of tea danced upon her tongue. It all seems so surreal to her.
Machi grabs a cookie from the tray. She dunks it into her tea taking a bite of the soggy sweet. “I saw the hideous clothes they gave you. Those blue-green scrubs. What happened to your old clothes?”
“Taken for evidence,” Apricot states considering what that evidence might have been.
Machi shakes her head. “That seems odd.”
“Fabric analysis I am guessing so they can identify the agent used.” Apricot lied. There was no reason to look for that and they knew it too. There must be a reason for them to keep her clothes she ponders. Not that she could have kept her uniform anyway considering the amount of blood on them, she almost gagged at the thought.
“How did the interview go?” Machi asks.
Apricot looked up. “The interview?”
“You know the one about the robbery,” Machi adds.
Apricot had forgotten about the interview she had earlier this week. “It went fine, but that reminds me, I got to go see your brother.”
Machi frowns. “Why is that?”
“Camera, I got him a new one,” Apricot replies. “It’s used, but it’s a Nihon Dazzler. Bought it from a friend of mine.”
Machi rolls her eyes. “Just give it to me. I will make sure he gets it, you stay home tonight and get rest ok. You better not come down sick.” Apricot nods her head giving Machi one last hug. After Machi has left Apricot crawls back upstairs into the warm covers of her bed. She decided she would close her eyes until Jasper came home from school in the afternoon.
Apricot is in a room. She can see herself standing in the room at the same time. Outside of the floating room is darkness. Upon further inspection it is her bedroom. Its silent in the floating void. That is until she hears scraping on the walls. Fingers drag across an invisible barrier but whatever is clawing is desperately trying to make its way onto her side. From outside the room she can see an endless ocean of monsters all battling with each other to tear a hole inside.
A voice inside her spoke. “Let us in.” Apricot looks around in a panic holding her chest as she screams. The things could not get inside the room but the walls buckle and quake. Her door bursts in knocking to the floor with a loud bang. A head about the size of a human torso floats in the doorway’s threshold. A thick layer of flesh covers the face and reminded Apricot of an uncooked hamburger wad. The pulverized face lets out a scream as it flies at Apricot.
Pushing herself up from her bed she lets out a scream of her own. Apricot looks around her room she shivers curling up into her pillow. Her gaze scans over toward her closed bedroom door. She questions if she has the courage to even open it.
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