Chapter 21:

Paper soaks up ink as it does blood

The Sequence of Kai

We’ve been sitting across from the residential block for a couple of hours, monitoring the front door. Aaron is hoping someone will exit the building that we can tail and question. Knocking down every door until we find the thing we’re looking for was vetoed.

I’m getting bored sitting here, and I’m committed to not using my earbuds in the presence of Aaron. He hasn’t tried to talk to me much, despite the commitment made on the train. It’s a sign of his weak… his shy personality.

As usual, he’s laid the first brick but it’s up to me to build the house. I’m more of a demolitions expert, great at taking houses down, not so much when it comes to putting them up.

But I can still try.

“What do you like about Trish?”


The empty notepad in his hand momentarily has the pen lifted from it, allowing the paper to breathe. Nothing has happened for so long that the ink is starting to bleed through.

“Trish, dyed hair, bubbly disposition, lives with you. What do you like about her?”

“Oh, uh, she’s nice, I guess.”

“That all?”

“I can’t think of anything else right now.”

He presses the pen back to the damp black circle on his notebook. He’s not making this easy.

“Ok then, what is it that you don’t like about me?”

“Excuse me?”

This time it’s his eyes torn from the page as he turns to face me.

“You have a hearing problem or something?”

“No, I just don’t understand why you’re asking questions like that…”

“Well, we should talk about something, right? I feel a good place to start would be some common ground.”

Aaron raises his hand to massage his forehead in frustration. He forgot he was holding the pen, so he pokes himself in the eye accidentally.


Normally, I’d pounce on something like this but since we’re ‘friends’ for the time being, I refrain. How nice of me.

“Why do we need to talk about that?”

“You didn’t have much to say about Trish, this is the next logical topic.”

I can sense he’s not buying it, thinks I’m just looking for a fight. Completely unfair assessment, the sort of snap judgement that could cause an argument.

“Come on, wouldn’t it be better to clear the air. What’s the point in turning a new page if the book is covered in unwashed mud?”

He considers my words for a moment, then puts his notepad down.

“Fine. You tackle things in such a… you way. It’s always too violent for my tastes when it’s to do with work, too blunt when it’s interpersonal.”

“You’re just naïve. Can’t handle a drop of blood so you avert your eyes until it drips into a red river.”

“This is what I’m talking about…”

He’s trying to go quiet again.

“That power of yours is crazy, don’t know how it fell into the lap of someone like you.”

“Could you stop insulting me for like 5 seconds?”

“It’s not an insult, I’m serious. It’s like handing a toddler nuclear launch codes, no idea how to utilize them.”

The shift of his head away from me is slight but perceptible.

“I think you’re overestimating the extents of my ability…”

“And I think you’re severely underplaying what you can do. At least when you’re around me.”

A dry pair of lips opens and closes a few times without him forming any words. He knows he’s not a good liar.

“Don’t worry Aaron, I won’t push you on it, you don’t have to tell me anything. I wish you trusted your ‘friends’ more is all.”

Just as Aaron is about to strike back, we both notice some activity across the road.

A man on a bike pulls up to the entrance and unpacks multiple grocery bags from a delivery box attached to the back. He leaves them in front of the door, then takes out his phone and calls someone. Hanging up, seemingly satisfied, the man cycles away.

The door opens a few moments later, and a young woman drags all of the bags inside. In the couple of seconds of unobscured view before the door slammed shut again, all I could see was darkness on the interior.

“Do emotion reapers usually order food?”

Aaron ignores me and heads straight for the residential block. I take my time following him. By the time I’ve strolled over, I find him on the other side of the building. He’s got both hands pressed up against the wall like he’s trying to push it. Both are covered by gloves I swear he didn’t have before.

“I don’t think this is the time for stretches.”

“Shut up Kai. I’m trying to think.”

“Oooh, a bit of bite. Finally.”

A couple of minutes later, he peels himself away from the wall. He’s drenched in sweat and his expression is pained.

“This doesn’t make sense...”

“What doesn’t?”

“The people in there are alive.”

“Is that a surprise?”

There’s that slight turn of the head again.

“Come on, Aaron. I can’t help on this case if you won’t at least tell me the details. You don’t have to say how you got them.”

“Well… how do I explain this in English words..? You know how our powers come from having our soul sequences hooked to another sequence, right?”

“Yeah, roughly.”

“Well, it’s a bit like that. This entire building is acting like the cards do. It’s connecting something directly to the sequence of the end. Even disregarding how it’s possible to hook a primary sequence without a card, how are there living beings inside a place like that…”

Aaron has talked himself into one of his little mumbling fits, best to ignore him.

The sequence of the end governs the ceasing of all things, which includes life. Amongst those in the know, it’s also called the sequence of death for that reason, death in an abstract sense. I’m much closer to that sequence than Aaron will ever be, maybe I can find something he chose not to.

The concrete wall of the building is cold despite the sun beating down on it. I feel the essence of the building, and then, just as Aaron had said, the unmistakable sequence of the end rears its elusive face. But just beyond that, hidden behind the sludge, are some soul sequences, the telltale sign of living bodies.

These souls are strange. They’re screaming silently, like they’re drowning in the darkness that surrounds them. It’s like the screaming of a dying soul but it never ends. An all too familiar spectacle.

This is bad.

“What would you do if you were an emotion reaper?”

This snaps Aaron out of his muttering.

“I don’t know, I can’t think about something so horrible.”

“Well, I guess that’s why I’m here. These things basically feed on strong emotional reactions, right?”

“That’s right.”

“What’s the most intense and universal emotion you can think of.”

Without hesitation, he answers.


“Exactly, how do you think you’d feel if you couldn’t leave your room, knowing if you stepped out into the darkness. You’d be scared at first but how would you feel when that darkness starts feeding you? Naturally, you’d start to wonder what it wants with you.”

“You don’t think…”

“I do. This reaper has turned this tower into a dread farm.”

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