Halo Twenty-Four: Arisa:
Night shift at the hospital can be slow at times. Kawamata Arisa rubbed her forehead as she stood in front of the bathroom mirror. She couldn’t get her son to stop talking to the man in the black coat who stood at their door at the early hours of the morning. She would’ve been okay if it had just stopped there. But…
Another woman playfully jumped onto her, laughing. Arisa struggled to keep her balance against the sinks.
“Gah!” she shouted. The other nurse grinned.
“Hey there!” she said. “Why are you spacing out?” Arisa smiled and shrugged.
“Hey, Kiki,” she said. Her co-worker frowned.
“What’s the matter?” she asked. The older nurse sighed and shook her head.
“Goro-kun keeps talking to strange men dressed in black at our door at odd hours of the morning,” she said.
“His imaginary friend again?” Kiki asked.
“I’m not so sure it’s that anymore,” Arisa said. “I keep having memories of a monster from my childhood.”
“What kind of monster?” her coworker asked. Arisa gently pushed her off and walked out of the bathroom.
“Kawamata-senpai?” Kiki asked as she followed behind.
Arisa and Kiki walked over to three of their coworkers gathered around the nurse’s station. The ladies looked up when they heard footsteps.
“Did we miss anything?” Kiki asked. A red-headed nurse flipped back her hair.
“Oh, we were just talking about ghosts in the city,” she said. Arisa about jumped.
“Ghosts?” she asked.
“I keep seeing little children running around the hospital at night,” the red-head said. “They don’t really do much. I tried to talk to one of them, but they just stared at me.”
“And you sure it wasn’t one of the patients in this hospital?” Kiki asked.
“I don’t think I’ve seen that little girl around here before,” the red-headed nurse with the big chest said. “I checked twice.”
“And you’re sure it was a ghost?” Kiki asked.
“I’m positive, 110%,” the older nurse said. Arisa clutched her arm.
“She’s telling the truth,” she mumbled. The other four nurses turned to see their colleague trembling. The nurse with the long black hair pressed her lips together.
“It’s my son,” she said. “He keeps talking to this man dressed in black at our front door.”
“What does this man look like?” a nurse with her black hair pinned up in a braid under her hat. Her English accent had a calming effect on the group. Arisa shook her head.
“I can’t see him,” she admitted,
“What?” the red-head asked.
“He’s invisible,” Kiki said, leaning on her senpai.
“It’s not a joke,” Arisa said as she pushed her off. “Goro-kun sounds so serious about it. I thought he was playing around, but now I’m not so sure.” Her eyes dropped to her hands. Already, she began to have the memories from her childhood.
“The children have been acting strange,” she said. The nurses all went quiet. The nurse with the black braid shuffled her feet.
“Well…” she began to say.
“What is it, Joe?” a nurse with brunette pigtails asked. The English nurse shifted her eyes away from her co-workers. She battled with her head if she should speak up or not.
“Are you seeing things too?” Kiki asked.
“Yes,” Joe mumbled. The younger nurse’s blonde ponytail bounced as she handed over to her English co-worker.
“Tell us! Tell us!” she shouted.
“Kiki!” the brunette yelled. The younger nurse drew back and cleared her throat.
“I used to be scared of the dark when I was little girl,” Joe said. “I was going home the other day when I had the feeling that somebody was watching me. I would’ve ignored it if the feeling would disappear when I walked under a streetlight.”
“Did you hear any strange noises?” the red head asked. Joe rubbed at her ears as if trying to remember.
“It sounded like bones knocking against other,” she said. “That wasn’t the first night either.” Joe shoved her hands into her pockets.
“I have the feeling that something or someone is watching me in my flat,” she added. “I was making myself some tea in my kitchen when I heard something breathing down my neck. When I turned around, there was no one there.”
“Are sure that it’s not just the wind?” Kiki asked. Joe shook her head.
“In the middle of the night, I felt like someone was sitting on chest as I sleep,” she said. “I feel like I’m choking. I can’t move as I feel claws sinking into my arms. When I wake up, there is nothing there.”
“Creepy,” Kiki said.
“I get creeped out thinking about it,” Joe said. The red-headed nurse bit her lower lip.
“I keep hearing strange noises in my bathtub,” she said. Her co-workers eyed her. The nurse trembled.
“Himeko?” Kiki asked. Himeko trembled, but nodded.
“It’s okay, really,” she said. “My grandmother had this bathtub that looked so creepy. It scared me just to look inside. The tub looked worse when it was filled with water.”
“What about your tub?” Joe asked. Himeko looked behind her at first.
“Well, when we had my aunt’s funeral, they placed her in a white casket. I remember I was six years old at the time and that was my first time of seeing a dead body. I sat so close to that casket.”
“What color was your grandma’s bathtub?” Kiki asked.
“White,” Himeko said. “I wouldn’t go anywhere near. I didn’t even want to look inside of.” The nurse shivered as she found herself reliving the memories.
“Last night, I tried to take a bath,” she said. “I had run the water and everything. When I went to get in, I could’ve sworn that I saw a face in the water. At first, I thought I was tired from a long day.”
“What happened?” Arisa asked. Himeko lowered her eyes.
“When I leaned down for a closer look, a hand reached out to grab me,” she said. “I fought back and it disappeared.” Himeko held out her wrist.
“That creature left scratches on my arm here,” she said. Kiki examined her arm.
“Damn,” she said. “It took some of the skin!” The more Arisa listened, the more she dug back into her own childhood. When she was a little girl, she heard what sounded like a dog in her closet. Something inside of her told that it wasn’t a normal dog. Her mother warned her of demons that spirited away children in the dead of night. Looking back, that dog demon was probably the one that took her childhood best friend years ago.
“I think it might be coming back,” she mumbled in present day.
Her coworkers stared at her.
“What are you talking about?” Kiki asked. Arisa opened her mouth to speak.
“Excuse me, ladies!” a voice spoke up. The five nurses turned to see a bigger woman in her nurse’s uniform glaring at them.
“Just because it’s the night shift doesn’t mean you can just stand around talking!” she snapped. “Get back to work!” The nurses all raced back to work. Arisa tried not to make eye contact with the bigger woman.
Arisa tried to focus as she began her rounds. She believed her co-workers and their stories. The nurse took measures to protect her children. Goro never left the house without his orange paper lantern. Arisa tried to keep the door locked and bolted at night. She even placed protective charms on all of the doors and windows around the apartment. Still, Arisa wasn’t convinced that would be enough. What if the man dressed in black came through the closet door like that demon dog did? She would not take that chance.
Arisa was about done on her hall when she came to room 19. For some reason, the hospital always kept this door closed. No nurses were allowed in to tend to the patient inside. Arisa began wonder about who was in room 19 and why were they closed off from the rest of the hospital. The nurse looked around for a quick moment. It wouldn’t hurt to take a look inside, would it? No one would notice her walking over and taking a look in.
Arisa slowly walked up to the closed white door. Her hand inched towards the doorknob.
“Kawamata!” a loud voice shouted behind her. Arisa shouted as she whipped around. Etsuko stood further down the hall with a stern look on her face. The nurse quickly bowed.
“I apologize,” she said. “I had just finished my shift. Excuse me.” Etsuko’s didn’t lift her cold gaze as Arisa grabbed her cart and hurried back down the hall. The nurse turned when she thought she heard the doctor mutter something to her.
“It’s best not to go down rabbit holes you ought not to.”
“Excuse me?” Arisa asked. The doctor didn’t respond as she walked up to room 19′s door. Arisa shivered as she walked out of the hall.
“What took you so long?” Kiki asked at the nurse’s station. Arisa rubbed the back of her head.
“I got distracted,” she said. “Hey, what’s with Room 19?” Kiki’s face darkened.
“Nobody goes back there,” she said.
“Why not?” Arisa asked. Kiki grabbed her by the arm and led her down another hall.
“Kiki?” the older nurse asked. They didn’t stop until they reached the janitor’s closet. Kiki opened the door and shoved her senpai in.
“What are you doing?” Arisa asked.
“Nobody talks about that patient,” Kiki said in a serious tone.
“What do you mean?” the older nurse asked.
“They just don’t.”
“But why not?”
“They just don’t.”
“It’s a really special patient in there.”
Arisa blinked. “Special patient?” Kiki leaned in and motioned her in.
“Two years ago, a prominent psychiatrist’s daughter was admitted here,” she whispered. “She in an accident and has been in a coma here since then.” The senpai blinked.
“Okay…” Arisa said. “Why all the secrecy?”
“We were told not to go into that room,” Kiki said. “Asato-sensei is the one that takes care of her.”
“All by herself?”
“Yes.” Kiki looked down at her feet. “I can’t tell you anymore. Please don’t ask any more questions.” She quickly covered Arisa’s mouth as she opened.
“Please don’t,” Kiki pleaded. Her senpai slowly closed her mouth. They turned when they heard the door opened wide. The bigger nurse stared at them with her narrowed frog eyes.
“This isn’t a game of hide-and-seek!” she shouted. “Get back to work!” Arisa and Kiki ran back down the hall to the nurse’s station.
“Nurse Ino is creepy,” Kiki complained. She shivered as she grabbed her arm. “I miss Mariko.”
“Did they ever catch whoever killed her?” Arisa asked. Her kouhai looked up.
“No,” Kiki said. “I still think her husband did it.” The older nurse gave him a strange look.
“Why would he do that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Kiki said, shrugged. “Mariko-chan was a bit controlling.”
“So she’s -chan now?” Arisa asked.
“Hey, she was kind of cute in her bossy way.” The younger nurse giggled and stuck out her tongue. Her senpai gave her a strange look.
“Okay… Why do you think Ken would’ve killed Mariko?”
“I think she might’ve nagged him too much and he finally snapped.”
“But that wouldn’t explain how he strangled her with her pearls, snapped her neck and then nailed her to that cross on the ceiling—all without being heard? The only blood was found on his face when he found the body.”
Kiki took a moment to think about it. “Yeah… you do have a point. It’s still kind of creepy. Come to think about it, Mariko didn’t talk much about her past either. I tried to get her to talk about herself, but she didn’t want to talk about.”
“What is it?”
“Didn’t she say something about blowing the top off of something?”
“You’re right! She said that there was a huge cash payment in it too. But, I didn’t take her as the type of person who lived for the money. Ken made a good profit at that research lab in Shinjuku.”
“What was she going to blow the top off of?”
Kiki made a face. “I don’t know. She distracted on the other line the last time I spoke to on the phone.”
“Something weird is going on in this city,” Arisa said at last.
“Now that you mention it, I’m starting to think so too,” Kiki said.
Outside of the hospital, Tiresias stood in front of the steps. The blind woman held out her left hand. A fast shock ran through her body.
“It’s here!” she said. Tiresias reached into her pinned up white hair and pulled out another silvery-blue pin. She smiled as she dropped it into the ground. The warm vibrations rumbled under her feet. But, this victory was short-lived.
Across the street, Kai watched her with a cold glare.
“I don’t think I like this so much,” he said to himself.