Chapter 4:

A Bear Wearing a Military Uniform

Medial Space

It would be a gross understatement to say that the wait for Char and Kaiser was awkward. There must be a better word to describe the feeling but I was so engulfed in it that I couldn't figure out what that word might be, so I will reluctantly settle on awkward.

Six people and one body waited for them to arrive. The body had been covered with a few squares of fabric, blood-soaked near the middle. Holt had already followed the trail of blood in an attempt to gain some information but the rain inched out ahead of him, starting up again and washing away any trace of where Muse had come from. After that, the majority decided that it would be best not to contact the police. Lain seemed insistent on that being our best option.

Both Char and Kaiser had already been called, told to hurry, I thought it strange that Maria didn’t specify over the phone what had happened, but he didn’t. Holt had also been tasked with cleaning up the blood in the hallway, which was after Lain and Maria struggled to keep both Haruka and Panda from going out to look at it. They both wanted to see, felt that they were being treated unfairly, treated like children. They both explained that one of the reasons they enjoyed being here was because they didn’t get treated like children. They both struggled for the entire time it took Holt to clean up the blood.

It was awkward. I felt as if I’d been dropped into an arguing family and told to integrate myself, actually, that’s exactly what happened, they were much more like a family than mine had ever been. The people with more experience looking out for those who had less. They really were a family. I didn’t interact with them much, only sat and watched. It was as if I’d had an opportunity to see how the group normally functioned, or at least how they did under dire circumstances.

I didn’t know Muse so I found it difficult to feel sad about him, though I will say that seeing everyone mourning the loss of their friend was a little heartbreaking. In all of my life, I’d never once gotten the opportunity to watch others mourn, I’d always been the one weeping. Something I didn’t realize until this moment was that you can’t exactly see other people with tears in your eyes. And so I watched.

Char was the first to arrive. It felt odd to make my impression of someone based on their reaction to the death of a friend, so I made it my priority not to judge too harshly. Lain was the one who told her what had happened, went through the details leading up to it and told her the same that I’ve just told you about what they’d done since. She seemed to be in shock, didn’t react much, didn’t get loud, didn’t cry.

Kaiser arrived about ten minutes after Char had, he seemed much more prepared than Char had been. Instead of being told all the details, he’d asked for them. Looking for clarification whenever something was unclear after Lain had explained how any such action took place, he’d ask Maria to describe the events from his point of view, then Holt from his. Finally, once he’d been sufficiently caught up, Kaiser came and stood in front of me. He was tall and I had to look up to see his face.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

I assumed he meant the one I’d just been given, “Fledgling.”

“Both parts.”

“Little Fledgling…”

“Okay Fledge, describe how it happened.”

He was much nicer when he talked to the others. I went through with my recount of the events and he only interrupted a few times for extra details. Where I was standing, how I opened the door, what it felt like to open, he even had me open it again, asking what the differences were. I finished talking and everyone in the room stood silently for about twenty seconds, Kaiser broke the silence.

“How did you do it?” he asked me.

“Kaiser—he isn’t involved,” Lain immediately came to my defense.

“Save it for later,” he dismissed her without so much as glancing in her direction, “I want to know how you did it.”

The tension in the room had spiked. I didn’t know how to respond, I only knew that it had to be the perfect answer.

“I didn’t,” so much for the perfect answer. I said the words looking right into his eyes, my only hope being that he was good at reading people.

“Where’d you meet him?” he asked Lain without breaking my gaze.

She didn’t say anything, only looked to the floor.

“At Shibuya Station,” I answered myself.

Kaiser seemed to find it funny, he must have, since he started to laugh, “And you don’t think it was him?” he questioned Lain, finally ending our little staring contest.

She shook her head, “And Muse couldn’t have been him, I know you know that much.”

The man then turned back to me, eyed me up for a quick moment and without any warning he placed his palm right against my face. I didn’t have any time to react but in the brief moment between his hand covering my eye and making contact with my skin, I could see Lain’s expression from over Kaiser’s shoulder. She looked worried, almost afraid.

There was no transition to darkness, there was no blink, no blurring of vision, nothing. I was only greeted by it in the eye that hadn’t been covered as if the lights had simply been turned off. A sudden booming voice filled the empty space.

“Do. Not. Lie.”

It was an almost cheesy-sounding stereotypical Voice-of-God that had me wondering what kind of person Kaiser was more than anything. Before I got the chance to recuperate though, it became apparent that I was standing inside of a glass box. The realization was as instantaneous as it was confusing. The glass was covered in condensation and being lit from some unknown source, I walked up to it and wiped my hand across with a loud squeak. Water streamed down as I disturbed it like a wet window pane recently rained on, the path that my hand had taken revealing something on the other side, what looked to be a room with walls made of black felt.

I kept wiping at the glass until I could distinguish the environment around me to be an interrogation room, as soon as I recognized it, the glass disappeared. Behind me was a black door that seemed only slightly smaller than a regular door, enough that I wouldn’t find it difficult to pass through, only annoying. Without warning, the door slammed open and the sole of a boot emerged from a dark void. In shock, I fell back into a chair conveniently placed behind me. Stepping into the room was a giant bear wearing an old German military uniform.

The bear roared at me, somehow without words it was still clear what was being said. It wanted my confession.

“I SWEAR, I SWEAR I DIDN’T DO IT,” I held my arms up in front of me as if it wouldn’t just tear through them like butter.

In response, its claws dragged along the black felt walls, shredding large marks that dug deep enough to hit whatever material made up the structure of the wall. The thing’s sights were clearly set on one simple conclusion. I retreated to the back of the room in a panicked frenzy, as the bear worked its way closer to me. Relentlessly, it continued forwards, slamming its massive paws into the table in front of me and shattering it in two, snapping its jaws at the papers that had flown into the air, swiping aside the other chair and sending it flying directly into the one-way mirror by my side. Shards broke off into every direction, coating the entire room in tiny razor-sharp edges, a few larger ones randomly falling around the floor, one of them landing directly beside my foot.

Eyes wild, I jutted my hand towards it, taking grip of whichever end seemed slightly less sharp in that split moment, its edge still instantly cutting a deep gash into the palm of my hand. I let out a loud groan and gritted my teeth, keeping my grip firmly around the impromptu weapon. The bear roared again; I was surprised my eardrums hadn’t burst with how close it had now gotten to me. I braced a moment as its paw came down, nearly merging with the wall above my head as it made contact, the creature now towering over me and sending a hot, humid, huffing, in the form of its periodic breaths, down the back of my neck.

I waited for a split second to think before acting, the bear’s heavy saliva dripping down onto my head, one particularly warm bead of spit hitting an ear. I waited for another second and then, still alive, I was certain that my suspicion was correct. To enact the plan, I only had to wait one more moment, just to be safe, then in one fluid motion, I pushed forwards off of the wall, the bear’s teeth locking together where my head had just been. My arm shot up, leading the shard of glass to meet with the bear’s gut as I slid through the space between its military garb-laden legs. Dragging the shard of glass along and through its tough skin, somehow I’d lost my grip on the piece and it lodged itself into the bear’s lower stomach.

Now behind the beast, it let out a hollering cry of pain. In sync with the bear’s cry, I felt a mind-numbing pain even greater than before coming from the hand that had been holding the shard of glass. Almost too afraid to see what might have been there, or hadn’t been there, I avoided looking down. I only needed to prove one more thing before I was sure we’d be back sitting in that large room, my name sufficiently cleared. I quickly checked my surroundings and sure enough, right by my side was a large splinter of wood from the table, the second knife-like object placed within my vicinity. The bear, now giving off a multitude of struggling bellows, seemed to have its claws stuck into the wall. It shook around violently, attempting to free itself and meanwhile gave a perfect view of its back, right within striking range of a certain wooden steak.

I stammered to my feet, feeling dizzy from the pain of so many tiny pieces of glass deeply embedded into both of my arms and legs. Ignoring the second weapon, I stumbled out past all the wreckage and towards the door, letting myself fall into the darkness on the other side and slamming that attempt at incrimination shut behind me. With the sound of the door locking shut, I felt my body jerk back into its correct place, opening my eyes and gasping for air like my life depended on it, the dim light of a familiar room and familiar crowd surrounding myself and Kaiser. I instinctively checked my hand, which had indeed returned to its unharmed form, the pain from only a moment ago quickly subsiding as my mind readjusted to reality.

In front of me, Kaiser was also panting, holding his stomach with one arm and moving the other around freely, as if he’d just recently not had the ability to. He looked up to me from his hunched-over position, eyes filled with a slow fading hatred.

“He’s safe,” he said in between staggered breaths, confirming my suspicions.