Chapter 4:

I feel nothing

The Sequence of Kai

Is it so crazy to think god could exist in silence? Why would we presume to know what a god would think? We tell ourselves that if god existed, he would talk with us because it is in our nature to speak. But our nature is not god’s nature, he needn’t conform to our logic, because he would have created it. There is no relating to the divine.Bookmark here

This is not to say that I believe in god, just that I can understand a little bit where Elm is coming from. If god does not speak, why do we assume he is dead and not simply angry. So angry that he would see rid of us.Bookmark here

“No, no, I think any truly introspective priest understands the value of metaphor.”Bookmark here

Our conversation has been winding like this for a while now, almost all the other patrons have left the bar. I’ve taken up my position as the sceptic, asking questions designed to find some hole in his logic. For his part, Elm seems to be revelling in being able to speak so plainly about his beliefs. Bookmark here

Not that what he’s saying contradicts his public persona, it’s just a bit more direct. I’m not trying to find any inconsistencies though; I’m prodding in the hope that he’ll let slip some useful information. Bookmark here

“Excuse me for a moment, I need to use the bathroom.”Bookmark here

He gets up and wobbles his way to the toilets. I’ve tried to be careful to pace our drinking, make sure he gets drunk enough to be loose-lipped but not so drunk that he becomes incoherent.Bookmark here

“Ahem!”Bookmark here

A loud throat clear, just to my right. The lead-in wasn’t perfect but there was really good form on the execution. It’s gotta be Trish.Bookmark here

“Yeah sorry, we’ll take two more beers.”Bookmark here

“I took last orders an hour ago.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, but you’re gonna take another.”Bookmark here

She plops herself down beside me with an exhausted sigh, forcing me to move further into the booth. She can see the other side is completely free right?Bookmark here

“So, you two seem to be hitting it off.”Bookmark here

“Are you eavesdropping on the same conversation I’m partaking in?”Bookmark here

“I wasn’t eavesdropping!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, you were.”Bookmark here

“What were you two talking about anyway?”Bookmark here

“A bit of everything really.”Bookmark here

She’s good at that.Bookmark here

“And what is a bit of everything?”Bookmark here

“Guys, god and girls?”Bookmark here

“But what is it really?”Bookmark here

“Discussing why you’re such a nosy bitch.”Bookmark here

She flicks me in between the eyes, light enough as to not cause pain. Not that she doesn’t want to, of course, she’s never been one to keep her emotions in check.Bookmark here

“Well, whatever it is you’re talking about, make sure it’s not too engaging, I expect you to walk home with me.”Bookmark here

“You don’t even have to walk home.”Bookmark here

She walks to work, sure, but only because there’s still daylight left to burn when her shift starts.Bookmark here

“Yeah well, you came here to talk, and you’ve left me out of the conversation entirely, so we have to find time somewhere.”Bookmark here

“You could find anyone to talk to, why does it have to be me?”Bookmark here

“Why can’t you just say you’re not going to fuck Elm?”Bookmark here

“Trish! I’m not going to fuck the weird preacher guy!”Bookmark here

What the hell? Why would she still think I’d be interested in men like him?Bookmark here

“AHEM!”Bookmark here

Now that was perfect, great lead-in and stellar execution, the bass in his voice really helps. Bookmark here

Trish has truly fucked this for me. I turn to Elm and try to lessen the blow.Bookmark here

“Another preacher just passed through, really wasn’t my type.”Bookmark here

“It’s OK, you don’t have to lie about it, it doesn’t bother me.”Bookmark here

It so clearly bothers him.Bookmark here

“I’m uh…… I’m gonna…. shoo the stragglers out the door. Make sure you finish up soon.”Bookmark here

Just like that Trish dashes away from the situation as Elm sits back down. She really is good at that. Bookmark here

“I don’t know how you managed to get on to such an… interesting topic in the couple of minutes I was gone.”Bookmark here

“Trish is just looking out for me; she gets all worked up over nothing sometimes.”Bookmark here

“But why would she be worried about that? I like to think I haven’t given off that sort of impression, I certainly try not to.”Bookmark here

“Are you kidding me? You don’t become a regular here without knowing what kind of place you’re drinking at; it’d be the perfect place for you, if you were into that sort of thing.”Bookmark here

“And what kind of place would that be?”Bookmark here

“Oh, come on, you don’t need me to say it, you know full well”Bookmark here

“Say what’s on your mind.”Bookmark here

Shit. That’s a direct command, if I don’t answer him, he’ll know I’ve avoided the message on his shirt and then he’ll get scared. Why did I push it? Of course, any guy who gets his drinks served here is some kind of pervert. He just wants to hear me say it doesn’t he? Bookmark here

I mentally pry open my gritted teeth and give him what he wants.Bookmark here

“This is the kind of place where men like yourself can buy drinks for girls much too young for you, slip them some cash while everyone pretends not to look, then bring them home and fuck them however you like.”Bookmark here

I see Trish jump a little out of the corner of my eye. I know she wasn’t eavesdropping earlier, but she definitely is now.Bookmark here

“And I bought you a drink, didn’t I?”Bookmark here

He slips a 50£ note across the table to me. I’d be offended even if that wasn’t under market value.Bookmark here

“What do you expect me to do with this?”Bookmark here

“I have no expectations. You will take that money, then you’ll come back to my place and sleep with me.”Bookmark here

If I can keep my composure this might be a good opportunity. Not that I have any intention of sleeping with a guy like him, I just want to get him somewhere no one else can see what I do. Whether that’s his bedroom or somewhere more exotic doesn’t matter to me. There is the small matter of Trish watching us very closely to see if I’m going to leave without her but that’s something I can deal with tomorrow.Bookmark here

Elm stands up and indicates that I’m to follow. I can’t afford to drop the act now, so I wait until Elm is outside and then do as I’m instructed. I duck my head, hoping that Trish will for some reason decide to ignore me. I avoid her gaze all the way to the door, but she grabs my wrist to stop me going any further. This is why I never try for the unreasonable.Bookmark here

“What are you doing?”Bookmark here

I can’t answer her, so I let my arm hang limply in her hand. Elm comes back through the door looking for me.Bookmark here

“Trish, nothing’s happening here, go back to what you were doing.”Bookmark here

“Kai, speak to me.”Bookmark here

She ignores him completely and yanks on my arm to pull me a bit closer. This seems to annoy Elm, who clicks his fingers twice to get her attention.Bookmark here

“Trish, listen to me, nothing’s happening here, get back to work.”Bookmark here

She stands there for a moment before turning around to get back to work. She doesn’t let go of my arm. When she can go no further without dragging me with her, she freezes, seemingly unsure of what to do. Elm lets out a frustrated sigh.Bookmark here

“I suppose it is getting late anyway. I’ll leave you girls to it.”Bookmark here

He takes his wallet out of his jacket, producing a business card from within. Bookmark here

“Let’s continue our conversation tomorrow Kai, it would be a shame to let things end here. Make sure to call me so we can set something up, make it about 4.”Bookmark here

He tucks the card into the front pocket of my jeans.Bookmark here

“You girls should go home now. Don’t forget to lock up”Bookmark here

Trish wordlessly nods and quickly moves over to the till to finish everything else she needs to close up shop. She still won’t let go of my wrist so she drags me with her, doing all the work one-handed. Bookmark here

In the couple of moments it takes Trish to drag me to the till, he’s disappeared. I consider chasing after him, ending things right here… but I can’t leave Trish like this, she’s not in her right mind. She keeps fumbling over the change in the till and having to restart her count. I grab her other hand and lead her to the door. Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about closing up properly, I’ll apologize to Darren for you.”Bookmark here

“OK…”Bookmark here

Her voice is weak, not at all like her. I grab the keys from her bag and lock up myself.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Trish’s mind is in such a state that she can do nothing but walk back to her place. I practically have to carry her there, open the door with half a free hand and then help her into bed. Bookmark here

She’s fallen asleep before she’s even hit the covers. I take off her shoes and her jacket, but I can’t bring myself to do more than that. I throw a blanket over her and leave the room.Bookmark here

The anger hit a while before we got back to the house. It’s the kind of full-blown rage I haven’t felt in a while. I might just kill someone tonight if I’m not careful. Bookmark here

I realized on the walk back that Elm probably used his power to have sex with Trish. I’m never going to ask her about it, I won’t get him to tell me, my mind is better off not knowing for sure. But I know it happened, I’ve known far too many creeps like him to be naïve to that reality. Bookmark here

The anger in that realization hit me like an axe splitting open the back of my head, it felt like my skull was going to tear itself in two. I only managed to hold it together because I had to get Trish home. I’ve managed to calm down a bit since then but it’s all relative, being ready to kill someone is a step down in truth.Bookmark here

It’s already two in the morning, I’ve only got 14 hours to gather info and make a proper plan. Good thing I don’t need to sleep. Bookmark here

First order of business is to wring Paul’s neck until his throat squeaks out better info.Bookmark here

I find the door to his study locked. He usually does that whenever he feels he’s about to pass out for a few hours. I kick the door right above the handle and rip the lock through the wood that holds it in place.Bookmark here

It doesn’t even wake him up, he’s out cold on his desk. I push his body upright in his chair and slap his face to wake him up.Bookmark here

“Huh? Wha... Who?”Bookmark here

He blinks himself awake and after seeing that it’s me, immediately picks up his quill to start writing.Bookmark here

“How did you get in here; did I forget to lock the door again?”Bookmark here

“Don’t even try to ignore me, Paul.”Bookmark here

Paul is no idiot, so when he hears the tone in my voice, he reluctantly puts the quill down.Bookmark here

“You sure you told me everything there was to tell me about Elm?”Bookmark here

“I told you everything you needed to know.”Bookmark here

“No, you didn’t.”Bookmark here

I put both of my hands on the desk and loom over him. He’s always been scared of me, even if he’d never admit it.Bookmark here

“I told you to leave him alone Kai, if we just go around killing everyone who becomes a minor inconvenience, we’ll have Kohsan’s men on us in no time, none of us want that.”Bookmark here

I grab him by the collar with that right hand and pull him close.Bookmark here

“You don’t get to decide who I kill old man. If this guy deserves to die, and he does, then he’ll die.”Bookmark here

I push him back into his chair. Bookmark here

“What happened?”Bookmark here

He must’ve finally copped on to the fact that I’m not just ticked off but genuinely furious.Bookmark here

“That guy is using his powers to coerce people into doing things for him.”Bookmark here

“Since when have you cared about strangers?”Bookmark here

“One of those people is Trish.”Bookmark here

This hurts him a little, it shows on his face. I don’t think he always used to be like this, I think he really does care for Trish and Aaron, somewhere beneath those layers of ink. Not enough to take action though, not anymore.Bookmark here

“Whatever he does to people they won’t remember it, that’s the nature of his power.”Bookmark here

“I don’t care if she doesn’t remember it, I care that it happened at all!”Bookmark here

“Memory makes who we are Kai, things we forget never happened to us.”Bookmark here

“I don’t want to hear that from a man who spends his life recording his memories on a page.”Bookmark here

He gives me an exasperated sigh.Bookmark here

“I can see that you’re angry Kai but there’s nothing more of value I can tell you about him. He’s a hack, a charlatan. If he’s gotten better at using his power it’s because he’s become more skilled as a con artist, better now at hiding the fraud he is in reality. His power is weak, even in the best of circumstances it can be negated by those with strong enough will or a connection to the wrong sequence, he can only control the weak, the unaware or the apathetic.”Bookmark here

“That’s not everything you can tell me. How do you know him? What’s your history?”Bookmark here

“We don’t have one.”Bookmark here

“That’s a lie.”Bookmark here

“One you’re going to have to accept.”Bookmark here

I was foolish to think I’d be able to get anything worthwhile out of him. This is the type of man to part with any of the worthwhile information he’s willing to upfront and he’s not someone I can beat more out of either. Bookmark here

Whatever it was that happened with Elm in the past is staying there. But as much as he might not want to admit it, whatever it is is real, he clearly remembers it.Bookmark here

I turn around to leave because I’m wasting the time I have left by standing here talking to a wall.Bookmark here

“Kai.”Bookmark here

Surprisingly, the wall calls out to me.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

Unsurprisingly when I turn around, he’s multitasking, writing as he speaks.Bookmark here

“It’s not my place to make things real again but, for Trish’s sake, you don’t want Kohsan sniffing around here. She should never have to remember that….”Bookmark here

His quill pauses and his fist clenches.Bookmark here

“I’ll try to keep that in mind.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.