Part 1: Entropy
“We’re expecting some cloudy skies and scattered showers this evening, with a little bit of sun by the end of the day,” the weatherman said cheerily over the radio. “No need for sunglasses to-”
Fabi tuned his car radio to find something more interesting as he drove down Market Street to his destination. He had an extensive cassette tape collection that he usually listened to, which consisted of a lot of classical music, Free Jazz, and some old school Pop, but he simply wasn’t feeling any of it today. He wanted to hear some news.
His hand stopped as he landed on another channel with a news presenter.
“... causing a disturbance in LA county and near Central Park in New York. The protestors appear to be from a New Age religion called the Half Moon Church, bearing signs with phrases like ‘the end is near’ and ‘repents now.’”
There’s another cult, huh? Fabi thought. Everyone seems to be going crazy these days. There are probably just as many doomsday cults as there are burger joints by now.
He turned the radio off, deciding to drive in contemplative silence for the rest of the drive. He had finally escaped the congested downtown area and was now passing through a series of old run-down strip malls. It seemed nearly half of the stores had closed down over the past decade or so.
What happened to this place? He thought. It used to be so full of life.
There seemed to be some kind of entropy at play. Everything seemed to get just a little darker and more chaotic every year, and eventually all of the joyful laughter would fade away into a deafening, dismal silence.
But that’s where you thrive, isn’t it? In the silence…
Fabi chuckled quietly to himself as he turned into the hotel’s parking lot. The building loomed over the entire city like a dark and expensive tombstone.
The silence was over for now. He had a meeting to catch.
Part 2: Scissors
Kimura stared down at the glass in front of him as the coffee creamer settled into the dark brown liquid. He always took a moment to enjoy the cloud-like patterns the cream made as it mixed into his coffee. On the side of his glass, small beads of perspiration were starting to form. He would have to ask the front desk to bring up some new napkins soon…
“Mr. Kimura,” a gruff voice called from the other side of the table. Kimura glanced up to see Detective Mendez, AKA Fabi, staring at him expectantly. As always, his eyes seemed slightly tired, and he was always a little hunched over, as if he were carrying a great weight with him wherever he went.
“Apologies,” Kimura said before finally stirring the creamer into his iced coffee. “I’m sure you’re eager to hear the news.”
Fabi had arrived shortly after Kimura awoke from his dream. He barely had any time to regain his bearings, so he found himself losing focus fairly easily. He was always a little spacey after awakening.
Kimura sighed and glanced around the room to make sure they had complete privacy. He’d taken Fabi into the room next to their hotel command center, which was a basic meeting room with a large rectangular table and around a dozen office chairs. It would be easier to speak one on one without the other team members around.
“Well, I think you’ll be quite pleased to hear that your hunch was right on the money,” Kimura began, smiling. “The common link between the victims appears to be a site that they all regularly browsed. One called ‘Station 8.’ Have you heard of it?”
Fabi shook his head.
“It’s an image board. Users go on to create anonymous conversation threads, with many of the posts accompanied by images. A little antiquated compared to our more modern social media landscape perhaps, but not too dissimilar.”
“So it’s like Bookface or something?” Fabi asked, his expression slightly confused.
“A little, yes. Albeit with some significant differences.” Kimura wrapped his lips around the plastic straw protruding from his iced coffees and took a big sip. The chilled liquid running down his throat felt incredibly refreshing. He felt as if his brain were already powering up, even though the caffeine hadn’t yet taken effect.
“First,” Kimura continued. “Station 8 posts get deleted if they don’t get enough replies to keep them active. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on how busy the site is.”
Fabi nodded in understanding. “Got it.”
“Second, Station 8 isn’t nearly as popular as a site like Bookface. In fact, it’s not even the most active imageboard right now.”
“So it would be unusual for five random people to be regular users, right?”
Kimura smiled again. “Correct, Detective. In fact, I’d say it’s a statistical impossibility. Even if we sampled five random people to see if they were regular users of Bookface, we likely still wouldn’t get five in a row. However…” Kimura raised his pointer finger. “There is one exception to this trend among the victims.”
Fabi raised his dark eyebrow inquisitively. “And that would be?”
“What I neglected to tell you is that we also got our hands on Austin Goldthwaite’s computer devices. You know, the man you were investigating.”
“It seems he’s the only one who hasn’t used Station 8. It wasn’t anywhere to be seen in the history of his phone or his laptop.”
Fabi took in a deep breath as he contemplated this new information. “That matches with the interview I did with Austin’s friend,” he said. “Guy told me Austin just wasn’t interested in computers. He was more of the frat boy type, it seemed… just without the frat.”
“I see…” Kimura took another long sip of his coffee to get his brain firing on all cylinders. “It’s still possible that Station 8 has a part in all of this,” Kimura continued. “We’re going to follow that lead for now. It’s the best one we have.”
“Agreed. I don’t know what else to do.”
“You’ve done quite a lot already, Fabi. It was your suggestion to pursue the internet theory.”
Fabi leaned back in his chair. His lower body slumped forward, making him seem smaller than he really was. “Yeah, but maybe you’d have figured that out anyway,” he replied.
“It’s true I was already considering it at the time, but your suggestion confirmed to me that it was the right idea. Sometimes all it takes is a little push like that.”
“I get it…” Fabi’s brow suddenly wrinkled and his eyes narrowed, as if he’d remembered something important. “Hey, Kimura,” he began, leaning forward.
“When I first came here, you said you had an idea of what caused all of these people to die, right?”
Kimura silently nodded, his expression completely still.
“Well,” continued Fabi. “What was that idea? You never told me.”
Kimura lifted his arms and set his elbows up onto the table. He took in a deep breath before starting his explanation.
“Detective Mendez-... Er… Fabi,” he began clumsily. “I trust you’ve heard of the Sunday Night Cannibal.”
“Yeah. I did an internet search about you. That was the first thing I saw.”
“I figured you would. You seem to be a very prudent man.”
Fabi didn’t seem to know how to take such a compliment. “Uh… thanks.”
“The true identity and nature of the killer were kept completely secret from the public, the reason for that being the nature of his killings. You see, the Sunday Night Cannibal was actually a regular salaryman. He had never hurt anyone, not even an animal, before going in for his first murder one Sunday night.”
“Why did he do it?”
“He didn’t want to. The pair of scissors he used to cut the victims up made him do it.”
Fabi watched the beads of sweat slowly making their way down the glass of iced coffee as he listened. At this point, one of them finally hit the table. He looked up into Kimura’s eyes, completely confused.
“Mrs. Wolf told you she worked for the FBI. That was a lie. In truth, she works for a different organization; one that is connected to the FBI but different in function.”
“What organization would that be?”
Kimura shrugged. “I’m not sure what exactly the name of it is… if it even has one. But it’s not the FBI. It apparently has a higher clearance level, all the way up to the president himself.”
Fabi’s eyes widened. He felt as if he’d just entered into some kind of spy thriller.
“The truth is that there are still things in this world that can’t be fully explained with science and reason. I personally have a great deal of experience with these things. The Sunday Night Cannibal was one of them.”
“You’re talking about…” Fabi’s throat suddenly felt dry. He gave a quick grunt as he tried to clear it. “You’re talking about the supernatural?”
“Yes. You could call it that. You see, the Sunday Night Cannibal had apparently found a pair of scissors in an alleyway on his way home from work one day. He felt the inexplicable urge to pick them up, so he did and he took them home. That weekend, he blacked out and woke up later in his apartment, covered in blood.”
“And he didn’t remember anything, right?” Fabi guessed.
Kimura nodded. “Correct. This happened every weekend for months, every Sunday another victim falling prey to his murder streak. The scissors gave him mysterious powers, like the ability to pass by security cameras undetected. They also gave him superhuman strength, which let him sever entire limbs with ease.”
Kimura quickly glanced down at his prosthetic arm after he said this. Fabi, of course, took notice.
“Is that when it happened?” Fabi asked, nodding towards Kimura’s missing arm.
Kimura breathed in deep and closed his eyes, letting the memories of that night rush back to him.
“It is indeed…”
Part 3: Cannibal
Raindrops ran lazily down the passenger’s seat window as Kimura stared out at the pedestrians wandering through the narrow streets of Tokyo. The sky had been darkening more with each passing minute as the sun made its slow retreat behind the city’s horizon.
As someone who had grown up in a small town, he still hadn’t gotten used to being surrounded by so many people. In fact, he had to wonder why more people didn’t go insane in such an environment.
There was no room to breathe. How could anyone ever find their center?
To his right, Officer Ito drove in a stern silence. He was trying to ignore their guest who was currently weeping in the back seat of the squad car. Kimura knew this because he was doing the same thing.
Clad in a diary pair of black pants and a stained white shirt, the Sunday Night Cannibal was laying on his side, tears steadily streaming down his cheek onto the car seat below.
“Uhuhuh… Uhhhhhhh….” He sobbed before letting out a pathetic whine.
Teru Suzuki was an ordinary salary-man who seemed like he wasn’t even capable of shoplifting a box of candy, much less murdering anyone. Yet once the authorities showed up at his apartment, he flew into a fit of desperate rage, smashing up the place and screaming insults as the police forced their way through his door.
They had carried him, weeping and gnashing his teeth, out to the police car. Once inside, Teru seemed to finally come to his senses. He had begged Ito and Kimura to let him go, and insisted that he had been framed. Of course, his pleas fell on deaf ears.
As the reality of his situation finally set in, he turned to despair.
“Waahahahahaaaaa… waaaahh…” he moaned again.
Still ignoring the “cannibal” in the back seat, Officer Ito pulled up to the front of the police station and parked the squad car.
“I’ll get him out,” Ito said. “You can start on the paperwork. The news will be here soon, so get ready.”
Kimura nodded and opened the passenger side car door. As he left the vehicle, he thought he heard Teru dry heaving in the back seat.
“Sounds like he’s sick,” Kimura told Ito, who had just gotten out of the car as well. “Be careful. There might be a mess back there.”
Ito nodded and pulled open the door to the back seat. As Ito bent down and peaked his head into the car, Kimura heard a ghastly wet slicing sound, accompanied by a gurgle. Ito’s hands shot up to his neck, clutching frantically at the red gash that had appeared there.
“ITO!” Kimura shouted. Before he could do anything, Ito fell backwards, pushed by the now viscous-looking man inside.
Teru was smiling wide… too wide. His mouth seemed to stretch all the way to his ears, making him look both freakish and sinister, while his eyes bulged out of his head, staring at Kimura with bloodshot intensity.
The chain on Teru’s cuffs appeared to have been cut. In Teru’s left hand were the scissors he had used in his murders, bronze colored and rusty, and far bigger than any pair Kimura had ever seen. They must have been at least a foot long in length.
Where did he get those? Kimura wondered. His mind wandered back to the dry-heaving he had heard earlier.
Were they… in his stomach?!
“GRAH!” Teru leapt out at Kimura like a feral animal. Kimura instinctively put his right hand up to block the attack.
There was a flash of red, and time seemed to slow down. Kimura watched in helpless terror as his hand, now disconnected from his arm completely, fell to the ground. Bright red blood splashed across his face, and he heard one more sinister laugh from the killer…
Good god… Is this where it ends?
“BANG! BANG!” Multiple gunshots sounded out, echoing through the Tokyo twilight. They were the last thing Kimura heard before it all went black.
Part 4: Supernatural
“They couldn’t reattach it?” Fabi asked, looking down at Kimura’s prosthetic hand with visible concern.
“Allegedly the cannibal actually ate it.”
Fabi’s eyes went wide. “He… ate it?!”
Kimura nodded grimly. “They told me that he had grabbed my hand off of the ground and simply slid it down his throat like some kind of snake. It took at least thirteen bullets to take him down, and by then it was too late.”
Fabi visibly shuddered at the picture that was forming in his mind.
“I was the lucky one though,” Kimura continued, his eyes distant and sorrowful. “Officer Ito… he wasn’t so lucky. He was dead within minutes… One last notch on the cannibal’s belt, I guess…”
Fabi gathered up the willpower to ask the obvious question that had been hanging in the air. “Do you think that case has something to do with this current one?”
Kimura rolled the inquiry around in his head, attempting to formulate an adequate answer.
“Not directly,” he finally replied. “But after that case, I was made privy to another that might bring us some clarity.”
“Back in 1998, there was a case in Japan around a collection of mysterious deaths. All of the people who died were artists or art collectors of some kind. They were all found in their homes, withered and brittle like mummies. It was as if something had sucked the life force right out of them. I wasn’t around to see them in person, but I was shown photos, and I can tell you that they looked unrecognizable as human.”
“And this case was also supernatural in nature?”
“Yes.” Kimura raised his left index finger. “Investigators learned that all of the victims had one thing in common. They’d all watched a reel of film for an extremely rare movie. One for which there was allegedly only a single remaining copy. They were dead exactly a week afterwards. The federal Japanese government has possession of it now, and they keep it under extremely tight lock and key.”
“So you think whatever is causing the recent deaths is similar in some way?”
“I think it makes sense. Do you?”
Fabi took in a deep breath as he digested the world-shaking information that he had just been given. If there truly were supernatural forces at play, it would explain a hell of a lot. Still, there was a skeptical part of Fabi’s brain that simply wanted to throw the entire hypothesis into the trash outright. Could these allegedly cursed objects really exist?
“I think it sounds about right,” Fabi replied. “But I still kinda feel like you’re messing with me somehow…” He put his hands up defensively. “Uh… No offense or anything.”
Kimura chuckled. “None taken. I know how strange it all sounds. I do appreciate the honesty as well. I really like that about you, Fabi.”
“Thanks, but I can’t say I’m always the most honest person,” Fabi told him. In truth, Fabi held back his true feelings fairly often.
“No, but even when you’re holding back, your face still tells the whole story. You’re quite expressive, did you know that?”
Fabi suddenly felt self conscious. In his mind, he always had a perfect poker face.
I guess I’m not as stoic as I thought…
“I… I did not,” Fabi replied.
“Well, you are, and I can tell you have a good heart, which is why I’m comfortable revealing all of this to you,” Kimura said. “I feel like I can trust you with the information.”
He leaned forward slightly and looked straight into Fabi’s eyes.
“Speaking of which, I’d like you to share some of your thoughts with me, if you don’t mind.”
For reasons unknown, Fabi was starting to feel slightly nervous about where the conversation was headed, but he nodded in approval nonetheless.
“It’s about Niles Ishida,” Kimura continued. “You remember him, don’t you? He’s the one who works for the CIA.”
“I remember,” Fabi replied. He was always a bit distrustful of feds, but Niles struck him as untrustworthy right off the bat.
“What’s your impression of him?”
Fabi scratched noisily at his stubble-coated chin. “Well… He seemed kinda stuck up. Seems to hold himself in high regard.”
“I see,” Kimura said with a nod. “I got that impression from him as well, but it seems there’s something more there. Remember how I told you that you have a good heart? I don’t get that feeling from him. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mr. Ishida seems bitter and cynical.”
“So you’re saying you don’t trust him?”
“Correct. I do not. Which is why I want to ask you to keep your eye on him… if that’s not too much to ask.”
The corner of Fabi’s mouth rose ever so slightly in a sly smile. “You wouldn’t even have to ask. I’ll let you know if anything seems off with him.”
“Good!” Kimura replied with a grin. He put the straw from his iced coffee into his mouth and downed the rest of the ice cold liquid until it made loud slurping sounds. “Now that I’ve finished my coffee,” he continued. “Let’s return to the main room, shall we?”
“One more thing,” Fabi cut in.
Kimura raised a white eyebrow in his direction. “Go ahead.”
“How did you manage to find the Sunday Night Cannibal in just a couple weeks?”
“Oh, that?” Kimura replied, his impish smile suddenly returning to his face. “I saw him in a dream.”
Part 5: A Living Meme
As Fabi and Kimura were entering the main base of operation, Niles Ishida was on his way out.
“If you’ll excuse me, I’ve spilled something on my loafers,” he told them as they passed.
“You need to get some sneakers or something,” Mike chimed in from his work station. “You can’t run in those. Aren’t you supposed to be a secret agent or something?”
Niles looked over his shoulder and rolled his eyes before closing the door behind him.
Projected on the wall to Fabi’s right was what appeared to be a video call with a slender, almost sickly-looking glasses-wearing man. Agent Wolf was standing in front of the image, her arms crossed sternly.
“We made a promise to our users, and I need to honor that promise,” the man said, his voice very obviously nervous and quavering. “And you guys said you have no direct connection between my site and the murders or anything, so why should I just hand my data over to you just because you asked, ya know? It’s, like… It doesn’t make sense.”
“There are ways we can get it without your permission,” Wolf warned him. “But we don’t want to do that. We want to go through the proper channels, but we need your participation to do that. You’re the only thing holding this case back at the moment.”
The man appeared to be taken aback at Wolf’s comments. At this point, his expression was more angry than nervous. “I’m sorry, did you just threaten me?” he asked.
Wolf realized she screwed up and shook her head defensively. “N-no! I’m not threatening you or anything! I just uh-...”
The conversation came to a screeching halt as Kimura Shozo walked into view of the video call.
“Oh, Kimura,” Wolf said, turning her attention to the white-haired man. “Perhaps you can help. This is Aaron Harlan, the owner of Station 8.”
Kimura glanced over at the projection on the wall and nodded. “It’s a pleasure,” he told Aaron in his usual unaffected posh manner.
To Fabi’s surprise, Aaron Harlan seemed to straighten up at Kimura’s presence.
“O-oh! Nice to meet you, Kimura-san…” Aaron was noticeably more nervous than he was before. His eyes darted around as if he were afraid to look directly at Kimura. “Er-... I mean konnichiwa haha…”
Kimura smiled. “English is perfectly fine, my friend.”
“Ah, got it. Sorry, I’m a little nervous. You’re, like, super famous on my site. You’re like a meme. You know what that means?”
“I know what it means, yes.”
“Like, whenever there’s an unsolved murder or anything, people say like ‘time to send him in,’ and they post a picture of you. It’s crazy that you’re actually on this case. Like… Wow!”
Kimura remained stone-faced at the man’s ravings. “Well, I’m flattered. However, I’m going to need your help to crack this case. Do you think you could lend a hand?”
Aaron glanced downward, extremely conflicted. “Uh… Yeah, I can. I only have a month’s worth of data though. I can’t give you more than that, sorry.”
“It’s quite alright,” Kimura replied, giving the man a quick nod of approval. “Whatever you can give us will help tremendously.”
“I’m glad I can be of assistance. I’ll be in contact later today” Aaron glanced over at someone who was apparently just off camera. “Dude, did you see tha-”
The feed cut out before he could finish his question.
Impressive, Fabi thought. The man was able to get us the information with barely any effort.
Kimura turned back towards the rest of the team, who appeared to all be in a state of shock. Mike and Mitch glanced at each other, slack jawed from disbelief.
“Well, that’s settled,” Kimura finally said, breaking the silence. “Victoria, make sure we receive that data from Mr. Harlan. Mike, Mitch, I want you two to examine the data tonight for anything suspicious.”
“Piece a’ cake, boss,” Mitch replied. “We’re on it!”
“Fabi,” Kimura continued, lastly turning his attention towards the grizzled detective. “I want you to go get some rest. We’ll reconvene tomorrow at noon to go over our findings.”
Fabi nodded and prepared to make his exit. The meeting with Kimura may have ended, but he still had one more thing he needed to take care of that day.
Part 6: The Death of You
The wheel of his mother’s wheelchair squeaked slightly as Fabi pushed it slowly through the courtyard behind the nursing facility. Despite the pleasant weather that day, the place was strangely devoid of life.
It wasn’t just a lack of people, but animals as well. Fabi saw no squirrels or birds the entire time he was out there. Not even an insect stirred to cut through the otherworldly silence, only the squeaky wheel and the faint voice of his mother.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“I told you, I wanted to. You needed to get out of that room.”
His mother was having one of her bad days, which meant she got tired easily, and forgot things she said even minutes earlier. She even struggled to remember Fabi’s name occasionally.
“But… I’m sorry…”
Fabi wheeled her by the tree that was outside her room’s window. To Fabi’s dismay, the nest that had been up in the branches appeared to have fallen to the ground, and now lay empty and in pieces on the grass. That happily chirpy family, completely gone.
Where did the birds go? Fabi thought. He hoped they were still alive.
“They’re gonna be the death of you,” his mom suddenly said, breaking Fabi’s train of thought.
His mom nodded slowly towards a scrub-clad caretaker who was taking a break just outside the building. The big bald man was currently staring down at the smartphone in his hands, his thumb frantically scrolling through some kind of feed.
“The phones?” Fabi asked.
His mom didn’t answer.