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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

But I can still try.Bookmark here

“What do you like about Trish?”Bookmark here

“Sorry?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

“Oh, uh, she’s nice, I guess.”Bookmark here

“That all?” Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Excuse me?”Bookmark here

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

“You have a hearing problem or something?”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“Ow!”Bookmark here

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

“Why do we need to talk about that?”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“This is what I’m talking about…”Bookmark here

He’s trying to go quiet again.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Do emotion reapers usually order food?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

“Shut up Kai. I’m trying to think.”Bookmark here

“Oooh, a bit of bite. Finally.”Bookmark here

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

“This doesn’t make sense...”Bookmark here

“What doesn’t?”Bookmark here

“The people in there are alive.”Bookmark here

“Is that a surprise?”Bookmark here

There’s that slight turn of the head again.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, roughly.”Bookmark here

“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…”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

This is bad.Bookmark here

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

This snaps Aaron out of his muttering.Bookmark here

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

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

“That’s right.”Bookmark here

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

Without hesitation, he answers.Bookmark here

“Dread.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“You don’t think…”Bookmark here

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

You can resume reading from this paragraph.