Halo Twenty-Eight: Widow:
The following events are a record of the last day of summer in the Apocalypse Game.
In the early hours of the morning, Suzuki-sensei went out for his morning jog. He was playing 80′s rock on his iPod. He had to be in the mood to get his exercise in. The teacher was looking forward to seeing his homeroom again. It didn’t take him long to get into his morning routine.
She sat in her white 2006 Toyota. Her hands gripped the steering wheel. Her eyes stayed on the teacher’s back. Could she do this? Could she actually commit to this? He was part of the problem. He did nothing to stop his daughter’s pain. “They were just kids,” he said. “They are just joking around.” She gritted her teeth. Her foot pressed down on the gas. Too late to turn back now.
Suzuki-sensei didn’t hear what was going on behind him. The music built up to the next track. His fitness tracker counted away with his steps. He was going to beat his record for the summer. The next track started to play. Meanwhile, that white Toyota sped closer.
The teacher turned his head.
Suzuki-sensei was sent flying through the air before hitting the asphalt. She turned and looked behind her. The teacher lay crumpled on the ground, twitching. She clicked her tongue and backed up over her victim. She crushed him about two more times before she pulled away.
She was in it now. Too late to turn back.
Around eight in the morning, Tom and Vorona made it down to a run-down apartment complex. Once again, they were going to try and collect a debt from a notorious playboy wannabe. Having Shizuo here would’ve made things go faster. But he’s still trapped in the basement. They still didn’t know what to do with him either.
Tom tried to shake that from his mind as he went up the stairs. He came up to apartment 27. Vorona waited at the foot of the steps. At first, Tom knocked on the door.
“Dan-san!” he shouted. “I know you are in there! Come out so that we can talk!” No answer still. Tom shook his head to himself. Really? They were going to do this again? Okay then. Tom took in a deep breath.
The debt collector kicked down the door. Right away, a rotten smell greeted him. Tom backed up, covering his nose. Without going inside, he had a guess of what that smell was.
“What is it?” Vorona asked. Tom was about to speak when he heard footsteps and small wheels coming up the stairs. The adults turned to see a little girl about eight years old coming up to the door.
“Good morning,” she said. “I’m here to collect scraps of metal for a class project. Do you have some today?” Tom and Vorona looked at each other. The debt collector couldn’t let this child be scarred for life just by going inside.
“I’m sorry, dear,” Tom said, kneeling down to her eye level. “But I can tell you where you can find some.” He pointed to the apartment across the way. The little girl looked at him with a confused look on her face.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he insisted. The debt collector gave the child a nudge forward.
“Go on,” he said. “Get going.” The little girl looked over at Vorona. The Russian assassin didn’t say a word.
“Okay…” the child said at last. Tom watched as the little girl dragged her little red wagon down the stairs. Once she was at the bottom of the stairs and going to the other apartment, he called the police.
Just as Tom predicted, two bodies were taken out of the apartment. Dan-san was found on his bedroom floor lying face down. It looked like he had been beaten and stabbed to death. A woman about twenty-three years old had been shot once in the head in the bed. Aside from Tom kicking down the door, there was no sign of a break-in into the apartment.
“Do you know the victims?” the cop asked Tom.
“Her, no. Him, we’ve been trying to get him to pay up for months now,” the debt collector said. The cop took down the notes.
“And you came here to collect?” he asked.
“That’s right,” Tom said.
“Any enemies that you can think of?”
“Other than us?”
Tom shrugged. “Ask as of his exes.” The cop finished taking notes.
“Okay, thank you for your time,” he said.
“Thank you,” Tom said. The men bowed and walked away. The bodies were taken to the medical examiner’s office.
More shadows have been hovering in the sky. This isn’t too much to think about it. Only, more people are starting to notice them.
“There are thirty-six of them now,” Nami said. Kohaku shivered.
“They creep me out,” she said.
“Not me,” Nami said. Her friend gave her a strange look. The water tadpole took her hands.
“They’re in pain,” she said. Kohaku gave her a puzzled look.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Can’t you feel it?” her friend asked. “Close your eyes and take a listen.” Kohaku drew her eyes closed. Faint wailing filled her ears. She could feel her heart trembling against her chest. Her knees began to tremble as well.
“Kohaku?” Nami asked. The other tadpole opened her eyes. Her friend had a concerned look on her face. Kohaku lowered her eyes.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. Nami narrowed her eyes.
“You’re shaking,” she said.
“Huh?” her friend asked.
“Come here,” Nami said. She pulled the other girl into a tight hug before she could say another word. Kohaku turned her head.
“Nami…” she said.
“Shhh,” the water tadpole whispered. “Shhh.” Kohaku drew her mouth closed. Nami counted down in her head.
“Better?” she whispered. Kohaku’s eyes widened as she nodded.
“Yes,” she said. Nami squeezed her hand.
“Stay by me until we get inside, okay?” she whispered. The other tadpole girl nodded. The girls started walking again.
A woman covered in blood paced around, biting on her hands.
“They kept me in a birdcage for years. I am always hungry. They won’t let me ear. But I can always smell blood. There is no light in this cage. They can’t hear me scream.”
Her long black hair floated around her. Her body never touched the ground. She had her blood red eyes opened. Something was different.
“I am not alone.”
Tapering fingers reached down towards her. Warmth began to fill her chest.
“You really mean it? I can finally leave again?”
A strange sensation spread across her face. Was she… smiling? She closed her eyes.
“Well, okay,” she said. She lifted her hand into the air.
“Take me out of here.”
The fingers wrapped around her hand. Her body floated upwards and vanished from her cage. She left behind a single black feather.
[How are you feeling today?] Celty typed on her PDA. Shinra stretched his neck from side to side.
“Good,” he said.
[No creepy visions?] she wrote. The doctor gave him a goofy smile.
“Aw, that’s so sweet of you to be worried about me,” he said. Celty jabbed him in the ribs with one of her shadows.
“Ow!” he shouted.
[I’m serious,] Celty typed. Shinra’s mood shifted into a serious mood too.
“I haven’t seen any more visions lately,” he said. Celty flopped back against the couch.
[That’s good,] she wrote. Lately, she hadn’t seen any reapers around the apartment. Celty didn’t know if this was a good thing or not. They could be waiting to ambush them when they least expected it. The dullahan shook her head in her mind. Shinra put his hands on hers. Celty turned to her boyfriend.
“I’ll be fine,” he assured her. Celty didn’t look convinced but he wasn’t really going to listen, was he? She started to type again.
[Good, good,] the dullahan wrote. [Just let me know if you start seeing things again.] Shinra’s expression became warm.
“Let’s stay in today,” he said.
[Heh?] Celty typed. The doctor kind of shrugged.
“I mean, why not?” Shinra asked. “Summer is going to be over tomorrow. Might as well make the most of it, yeah?” Celty took a moment to think about it. She finally dropped her shoulders.
[Fine,] she wrote at last. [We can do that.] The doctor pulled her in for a tight hug.
“Thanks, Celty! You are the best!” he said. The dullahan didn’t add anymore with her typing. She figured that it would be wiser to keep him by her side for the time being. The dullahan had to be on her guard with the reapers still on the loose. Suddenly, Shinra let her go.
“That reminds me,” he said. The doctor stood up and walked to the front door. Celty looked so confused on her non-existent face.
[Wait! Where are you going?] she typed on her PDA.
“Just out,” Shinra said. “I forgot to do something. It won’t take too long. I’ll be back before you know it. I promise.” He bowed and headed out the door.
[Shinra!] Celty yelled with her shadows. The door was already swung closed.
Shinra wandered around the streets with his hands in his pockets. He started walking as if in a daze. Something seemed to be calling out to him. It’s not clear if he’s even aware of it himself or not. He didn’t know the shadow floating above the sky. The doctor didn’t notice the shadows walking around him either. His eyes looked so empty.
Finally, Shinra managed to snap himself out of it. The doctor turned to find himself standing in front of a crumbling apartment building. A confused look came over his face.
“Huh?” Shinra asked. Something about this run-down apartment complex looked so familiar. The doctor looked up at all of the windows in front of him. This building definitely stood out compared to the other apartment buildings around it. The dead grass and trees didn’t make it any better. Despite it being summer, there was some melted snow on the ground. This whole place didn’t even feel right. The more Shinra looked, the more uneasy he felt.
That’s when he saw it.
Two bodies were hanging in a hole in the apartment. Chills ran down Shinra’s spine.
“You can see them too, can’t you?” a small voice asked. The doctor whipped around. A little girl stood inches away in a thick red coat. Her brown boots seemed to be sinking into the ground. Her little pink scarf stood out in bleak gray. Her hood about hid her face.
“Who were they?” Shinra asked. The little girl shook her head. She grabbed onto his right hand.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she said.
“What?” Shinra asked.
“You do not belong here,” the little girl said. “Turn back now.” Before the doctor could say a word, a fog formed around him. A quick flash of light flared in his eyes.
[Wait! Where are you going?] she typed on her PDA. Shinra turned to see Celty sitting on the couch with her PDA in hand. The doctor lowered his hand as he realized what just happened. He smiled and shook his head.
“Nowhere,” Shinra said. “I forgot to do something, but it can wait.” Celty had a confused look on her non-existent face.
[Are you sure?] she typed. Shinra gave her a little smile and nodded.
“Yeah,” he said. “We’re staying in today after all.” The doctor walked over and sat down next to her on the couch. He cuddled up against his dullahan girlfriend with a calm smile on his face. Celty didn’t know what was going on with this about-face.
[Okay…] she typed in response.
Kitano sat at his desk. He pulled out his tape recorder and hit record.
“The new round for this game is coming,” he said. “But yet, I feel that our tadpoles are getting too complacent with their condition. I think it’s about time to push them to their limits. Personally, I think raising the stakes will do them some good. Trauma can be healthy in development. Coddling can do damage to a growing child. Asato-sensei agrees with me.
“Chirin is developing rather nicely. He’s had some trauma watching his siblings die before his eyes. Satoshi when Kida killed him. Azusa and Emily dying by suicide. Seeing the death of someone you are close to can always spark the right amount of trauma. He’s going to need it for the next round. Now, I don’t have to go ahead and kill anyone unless I have to.”
Kitano leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling.
“Still, I have other pets that are developing rather nicely. There is a double edge to this. I do have concerns about Shounen Ya and Adam’s tastes for revenge. I heard of the former staff of Chou Mori have been dying. That is not a worry for me, however. We have ways of handling them if needed. Right now, we need to work the next phase of the experiment. There is also the issue of the sirens in Russia.”
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Kitano looked up as he hit stop.
“Enter!” he shouted. The door opened and Yuka poked her head inside.
“Sir, we have the drug ready,” she said.
“Excellent,” Kitano said. “Gather up the interns and we shall begin.”
“Yes sir,” Yuka said. She pulled back from the doorway. Kitano waited for the door to close before hitting record again.
“As I was saying,” he said. “It looks like that we have the push that we needed. Let’s see what happens next. End recording.” Kitano hit stop on his tape recorder again.
By noon, Kaori slipped into Yagiri Pharmaceuticals. It was so easy for her. Cameras couldn’t pick up her image. She could brush by anyone she wanted. It didn’t take her long to get past the front gates. There was only one place that Kaori wanted to go.
She made her way down to the basement. The elevator doors slid open. A sweet little smile spread across her face. Perfect. Kaori walked down the bright narrow hall. She could hear him at the other end of the hall. This was falling right into place.
There he was. Shizuo sat with his bull head still on his head. It was hard to tell if he was asleep or awake. Kaori waved her hand in front of him.
“Hello?” she asked. “You awake Bull-san?” Shizuo didn’t respond. Kaori could hear him breathing heavily. She stepped closer to the minotaur. The creature twitched his head. Kaori tilted her head as she perked up.
“Oh! So you are awake,” she said. Kaori clapped her hands together. She seemed to dance her way over to Shizuo. The minotaur snorted in surprise.
“Shhh. Shhh,” Kaori whispered. She reached and patted the bull head. Shizuo sat in place. Kaori’s smile had a hint of devilish intent.
“Yes,” she said. “You will make a perfect beast of the apocalypse. We have so many plans for you!” Shizuo made a loud guttural noise. Kaori threw back her head and laughed.
“Yes! Yes!” she shouted. Her laughter filled the basement as the minotaur made more confused, loud noises.
Mika couldn’t get the images out of her head. She had seen traces for days. She began to remember what was coming next. The girl kept everything she knew from Seiji. Things were just now on the mend between them. She couldn’t risk losing him again.
There came a knock on her door. Mika opened it up the crack.
“Hello?” she asked. A young man dressed in Victorian style clothing stood outside. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
“Victor-sensei?” Mika asked.
“Are you alone right now?” the young man asked. She turned and looked back into the apartment.
“He’s asleep right now,” Mika whispered. She stepped outside of the apartment. Victor-sensei took a breath.
“How much do you remember?” he asked. Mika pressed her lips together.
“It’s all coming back in pieces,” she said. “Who’s coming next?” The doctor hesitated at first.
“The four horsemen,” he whispered. “Listen, can you take a walk with me? I promise this won’t take too long.” Mika took another look into the apartment. This couldn’t wait anymore.
“Give me a minute,” she said. Mika disappeared into the apartment. She came back with her purse.
“Tell me everything I need to know,” she said. “Don’t hold anything back.”
“Right,” Doctor Victor said. The two began their walk from the apartment. Mika sent a quick text to Seiji and followed behind. She paid no attention to the shadows floating in the sky.
The phone rang in Daichi and Osamu’s lab.
“Hello?” Daichi asked. The call didn’t last long, maybe about five minutes. The man nodded as he listened. Osamu watched him with shears in his hand.
“Understood,” Daichi said. “Thank you. Goodbye.” The man hung up.
“Who was that?” Osamu asked. Daichi turned at the question.
“That was Watanabe-san,” he said. “He’s got a little problem.”
“With the product?” his partner asked.
“No, that’s someone trying to steal away his main girl,” Daichi said. Osamu snorted.
“Why is he telling us? That’s not our problem,” he said. The younger man shrugged.
“Maybe just to vent?” he asked. “I don’t know. I just passed him on to Kitano-sensei.”
“Why would you do that?” Osamu asked. “That club has never been his interest.” Daichi nodded in agreement.
“Yeah,” he said. “But this type of problem would be up his alley. Besides, he could fix it fast enough not to break the flow of the game.”
“Speaking of which,” Osamu said. “When do you think the horsemen are coming?”
“They will come when they want to,” Daichi said. “You know that.” His partner frowned and rolled his eyes.
“You didn’t have to say it like that, you know?” he said. The younger man didn’t respond as he got back to work. Osamu clicked his tongue and went back to work as well.
Michiko, Makoto, and Noriko all sat in Noriko’s living room. Michiko stood in front of the other two. She had her arms folded across her chest.
“Do you understand how dire the situation has become?” she asked. Noriko was still trying to get her bearings.
“So you’re saying we’re the ones that can stop this apocalypse?” she asked.
“Yes,” Michiko said.
“It won’t work,” Makoto said. The girls turned their attention to him. He gave off a dry laugh.
“We can still try,” Michiko said.
“And what good would that do?” Makoto asked. “They have the advantage now. The game’s going faster than it ever has in the past. We can’t win this.” The young girl clicked her tongue.
“So you are just going to roll over and give up?!” she asked. Makoto chuckled to himself.
“I envy you sometimes,” he said. “How can you keep up this war after all this time? Why even bother? It’s all hopeless.” Michiko fought back the urge to scream.
“Have they broken you down that badly?” she asked. “You can’t let them win! You don’t want these people to die, do you?”
“Aren’t we all going to die?” Makoto asked.
“I don’t want to die,” Noriko said in a small voice. Her words shot him worse than any bullet. He couldn’t even think of anything to say.
“Uh, well…” he mumbled sheepishly. Michiko raised her eyebrow. Maybe Noriko could help get Makoto off his ass to help her end this game. She just needed to get the other girl to understand the danger they were all in.
It started with a text. Mikado awoke to see Hikira holding his phone up to his face.
“You have a new text,” she said.
“Huh?” Mikado asked. He picked up his phone and looked at the screen. The tadpole didn’t recognize the number, but he felt compelled to open the message.
“Look out your window.”
Mikado leaped out of his futon and crawled over to his window. A figure in dark purple robes and hood stood outside, staring up at him. The tadpole quickly got dressed and ran outside. The figure lowered their hand as he got closer.
“Who are you?” he asked. The figure didn’t speak. The tadpole held up his phone.
“Did you send this?” he asked. Still no answer.
“Is something wrong?” Mikado asked.
“Yes,” the figure said.
“What is it?” the tadpole boy asked. The figure put her hand on his cheek. A bright light flashed out and surrounded them.
When Mikado opened his eyes, he could see an endless tapestry of stars. He looked around for any sign of the hooded figure. The cold of the empty space ran down his skin. Mikado turned around when he heard heavy breathing. A blackened deer stood inches away from him. Deep red eyes glowed in the darkness. Mikado could see the bones, veins, and decaying organs through the skin. Even the horns looked breakable.
“Hello?” Mikado asked. The deer stared at him with a freezing and burning gaze. The tadpole gulped but didn’t feel any fear.
“What do you want from me?” he asked. The deer slowly walked towards him. Mikado lifted his hand to pet the decaying creature. A low hum filled his ears.
“I’m so glad that I found someone who can hear me,” a familiar-sounding voice said. Mikado about fell backward. Anri’s voice was coming from this deer.
“Why do you sound like her?” he asked.
“I mimic the voice of the one dearest to you,” the deer said. “I mostly cannot talk in your world.”
“Who are you?” Mikado asked.
“I am a god of time and death,” the deer said.
“Are you here to take me?”
“No. I need your help.” The deer lifted its head. Mikado backed up with shock all over his face. The deer had turned into that hooded figure. Pale tiny hands removed the hood. From what Mikado could tell this was a woman in a deer mask. Her blonde hair fell to her shoulders.
“Your world is in just as much danger as mine,” she said. “If she comes back, life as we know it will be destroyed. She already wiped out my home. I am forced to roam in the darkness. We can’t let her be free again.” Her words reached something inside of his head. He’s heard this before.
“Have we met before?” the tadpole asked.
“Yes,” she said. Mikado tried to reach back into his memories to please this deer goddess. She reached into her robes and pulled out a small stone.
“Here,” she said. “Please take this. I did my best to protect it like you requested of me.”
“What is that?” Mikado asked.
“This was the heart of Gabriel,” she said. “You gave this to me and told me to keep it safe until you found me again. She tried to shove it into his hand, but Mikado shoved it back. The deer woman looked up at him.
“I don’t understand,” she said. Mikado shook his head.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “But I can’t accept this just yet.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I can’t explain it yet,” the tadpole said. “But I just can’t take this just yet. I’m so sorry. But can you hold onto this a little bit longer. I will come and take it when the time is right. I promise.” The deer woman bowed her head.
“I understand,” she said. “I will do my best to protect the heart. For now, I will try and protect my world from her and this game.” Mikado nodded.
“I wish you luck,” he said.
“Thank you,” she said. “I will return you to your world.” The deer goddess put her right hand to his cheek. Another white light flashed out and swallowed everything.
Mikado ended up falling out of the sky and landing in West Gate Park Fountain. He couldn’t feel any pain, but the cold water was enough to make him bolt up straight. When the tadpole boy sat up, he noticed that a woman with a group of school children in yellow hats staring at him. The woman with the black hair to her shoulders blinked at him.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Mikado said. “I’m fine. Please don’t touch me.”
“Uh… okay,” the teacher said. The tadpole boy took a breath before stepping out of the fountain. The children stared at him as he walked by. To Mikado, this was going to be a long walk home.
By evening, a man sat in his dressing room looking at himself in the mirror. He had on a fancy white suit with black shades. The bright lights reflected off his made-up face. His dressing room was colder than the North Pole itself. It took hours to get his slicked-back black hair and make-up done up perfectly. He refused to sweat before going out on stage. Image was everything to him. His flock had to believe in him. His words, charm, appearance, and persona all had to be perfect for his career. He worked so hard for everything. He couldn’t afford to have a single crack in his holier than thou persona.
A knock came on his door. The man turned his head in time to see it creak open.
“Yes?” he asked.
“You’re on in five,” a stagehand told him, poking their head through the open door.
“Thank you,” the man said. The stagehand bowed and disappeared through the doorway. The man turned back to the mirror and smiled to himself.
“Showtime,” he said to his reflection. The man straightened up his tie and rose to his feet. He took one more look at himself in the mirror and walked out of his dressing room.
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