Chapter 8:

The Demons Within Us

The WTP Club

"Please, Va, talk to me!"
"Va, I'm so sorry!"
"Va, you are everything to me."
"Please return my call!"
"Va you are the love of my life!”
"I feel so ashamed."
"I want to make it up to you, give me another chance!"

Glenn and Emily were speechless while Sousui kept scrolling up. There seemed to be no end to the flood of apologies and confessions of love.

"That's crazy", Glenn whispered overwhelmed. Then he suddenly froze. Before their eyes, the most pertinent message had appeared that, perhaps, also containing the answer to the question they had been asking themselves all along: Why was Va so disgusted with Keiichi?

"I know I shouldn't have touched you like that."

Glenn's expression darkened. He narrowed his eyes and clenched his hands into fists. "This can't be real!" He whispered and snatched the phone from Sousui's hand. In disbelief, he held the phone right in front of his eyes and read the message a second time. Then he yelled "I'm going to rip his balls off!"

"Calm down!", Sousui hissed. 

Emily looked around paranoidly. "Somebody must have definitely heard that", she stammered, swiftly taking the phone from Glenn's hand and disappearing in the women's locker room again.

Right when Emily pushed the door shut, Sousui heard a voice shouting "Hey, what are you guys doing here? You better return to class right now!” Professor Kjeld had appeared and was striding towards the two with a stern expression on his face.

Sousui sincerely apologized and dragged Glenn, who was still paralyzed, away. Seeing his friend like this seriously worried him. After all, Glenn had always appeared so strong, both mentally and physically. 

"Please stay calm, we'll talk again after school", Sousui said soothingly, after he had accompanied Glenn back to his class. Then Sousui returned to his own class. His teacher had noticed that Sousui had been away for quite some time but, to Sousui's fortune, didn't question it any further. A few minutes later Emily confirmed via chat that she had managed to put the phone back and was also in her class now.

After the bell had ended the final lesson and the weekend had started, Glenn and Sousui walked to the new club shelter as usual, accompanied by Emily this time.

When they arrived, Wark and Sikh were already present, eagerly waiting to be brought up to speed. In order not to raise any suspicions among the teachers, Sikh and Wark had stayed in their respective classes during the mission.

When Glenn went through the doorway into their base, Wark immediately noticed that he looked pale. He first wanted to cheer him up by showing him a new Lenin-order, but then decided to wait and hear what had happened.

It had been Sikh's turn to prepare food again. He pulled out a box from his bag and divided the dish – traditional Korma - among his friends. While they ate, Sousui began to explain Wark and Sikh what they had found on Va’s phone.

"Why exactly does this make you so sad, Glenn?", Wark asked cautiously after Sousui had finished talking "Now Va is safe with us." He smiled, hoping it would rub off.

Glenn, however, just nodded absently. "It's a hard subject for me, you know."

The group looked at him, expecting him to elaborate.

Glenn avoided the stares and instead watched the flame dancing in one of the lanterns. 

"I've wished I would never have to talk about this again", he continued in a low voice after a while, "You see, there was this experience that probably explains why this makes me so emotional. Interestingly, that's also the story of how I got into working out."

The others pricked up their ears.

Glenn was still struggling with himself but seemed to have a need to get his grief off the chest.

"I had just turned 16", Glenn finally began to tell "It was in the middle of the night. I was on my way home from one of my first parties - a little drunk, but still in my right mind. All of a sudden, I heard a woman's scream. The scream was panicked and anguished. 'Help, help, help' I can still hear it in my inner ear. Hypnotized, I followed the scream down from the street, into the bushes and there I saw her. The woman was pushed to the ground and half of her clothes were removed. Sitting over her was a muscular man with upper arms bigger than my thighs were at the time. The man kept the woman's mouth shut with one hand, and with the other he was going down her body. The woman was kicking, trying to free herself, but of course it didn't help." 

Glenn paused. Numerous tears had begun to run down his cheeks. Emily, startled by his reaction, snuggled up to him. It broke her heart to see Glenn like this. The others looked at each other a little helplessly. Glenn struggled with himself to continue telling the story. The words just wouldn't come out of his mouth.

"Take it slowly, Glenn", Sousui said encouragingly "You also don't have to tell the story if it's so hard for you." 

 Glenn shook his head. "No, I have to stand by it! ... I ran away! I ran away! I ran away!"

Glenn burst into tears and pounded the rotten floor with his fists. "I was scared, I was a coward!", he cried "I tried to block it out, went home with a smile, pretended to myself I hadn't seen or heard anything. But it kept catching up on me. Every night in my dreams I was shown the scene, again and again, again and again, and at some point..." Glenn smiled slightly, while tears still streamed from his eyes. "At some point I realized that from now on I would have to live with this demon inside me, with a demon that would show me these images again and again. But it is also these images that drive me to exercise every day and ensure that I will never be weak again. Never again I will allow something like this to happen… never… again..." Glenn's voice grew quieter and quieter with each word before finally falling silent. 

"My mother is in a coma!", Sousui shouted all of a sudden.

Glenn startled. He remembered how Sousui had once told him about an ominous call from the hospital.

Sousui smiled at the irritated Glenn and continued "You think you're a coward? You made an admittedly terrible decision, but you did it in a split second and in a drunken and intimidated state. I, on the other hand, have been continuously choosing not to see my mother for weeks.... because I'm too much of a coward." Sousui also looked really depressed now.

"Yesterday I thought that this was all some kind of comedy club.... How wrong can you be?", Emily spoke, perplexed by the confessions.

Then she pulled Sousui close to her and Glenn and invited Sikh and Wark to join them as well. She hugged all of them and said "You are all wonderful people, but you are only human. Don't be too hard on yourselves!" She smiled at the group and both Glenn and Sousui felt like a weight was lifted from their shoulders.

"What happened to your mother?", Glenn then asked.

"Car accident", Sousui replied quietly "Some jerk rammed her from the side. She hit her head hard and lost all consciousness right away. No one knows if she will make it." 

"I see." Glenn thought if there was anything he could say to build Sousui up a little.

Before he could continue, however, Sousui had already taken the floor again "Remember when you asked me what goal I could possibly pursue by joining the WTP Club? Distraction! Va's fantasy world gave me the opportunity to break out from reality, to run from being a son who has to fear for his mother. Here I could be a WTP soldier who has to save the world from Keiichi. It's pathetic, isn't it? I've been to the WTP Club meetings every day, but haven't made it to the hospital once." Sousui was now struggling to hold back his tears too.

"Sometimes...", Emily said soothingly "Sometimes reality is just so terrying that the only way to cope with it is fantasy. In fact, maybe fantasy only exists for us to mentally survive the reality’s cruel aspects.”

Glenn looked at her with wide eyes. That really sounded very deep. He had always liked Emily but he hadn’t expected such smart words from her.

"Do you think Va also created this fantasy world just to better deal with her fate?", Glenn asked pensively.

"That’s possible", Sousui replied "Perhaps the anime doll in her story was a reflection of herself. Maybe she projected her fate onto the doll and put herself in the role of the observer. Maybe that was her way of processing what had happened." 

Glenn was close to tears again and whispered in an aggressive tone "I will protect Va. I won't let Keiichi or any other weirdo mess with her again. Keiichi is a dead man!"

"I understand you, Glenn." Sousui tried to calm him. "However, I don't think Va would want you to physically attack Keiichi now."

Glenn looked stubbornly to the ground. His hands were still clenched into fists.

Wark recalled "Bane - and as it’s Bane, I immediately believe this wasn't intended as a joke - did suggest to simply kill Keiichi back in the second WTP meeting, remember? The suggestion didn't seem to appeal to Va at all."

"I don't think she's out for revenge", Sousui added "She said that she wants ‘to find waterproof evidence for Keiichi’s plans and stop him’. Perhaps, that means she wants to uncover what a person Keiichi actually is. I guess her main priority is to protect potential future victims. Maybe it's simply WTP's job to find evidence for Keiichi's assaultive behavior."

"You might be right", Glenn conceded "She also noted something about potential allies. I wonder if that means that it's not just Keiichi but a circle of predators."

"Who knows", Sousui said gloomily. Then he stepped up to the window and pulled aside the curtain to look out into the nature. "I guess figuring that out will be our job too."

Glenn nodded. He slowly regained his clear mind. "I'll protect Va, for sure!", he repeated to internalize his new mission.

"We'll all protect her!", Wark confirmed optimistically "The WTP Club is a unit after all!"

"Well said", Sousui praised "And don't underestimate Va! The fact that she had the strength to start this club in the first place says a lot about her stamina."

Emily once again hugged everyone as tightly as she could. Afterwards, they all smiled at each other sheepishly. Sousui and Glenn felt a little naked, having revealed so many personal details.

"In case it's not official yet, welcome as the seventh member of the WTP Club, Emily!", Sousui said ceremonially to finally end the awkward silence.

"Eighth!", Glenn corrected "Did you forget about Lenin? Shame on you!"

"Right, right! Sorry Lenin!", Sousui apologized and smiled at the computer, who was lying peacefully next to one of the beanbags. Apparently, he hadn't been fazed by all the emotionality. A broad grin was still shown on his display. 

Sousui cleared his throat. "Again: Welcome as the EIGHTH member of the WTP Club, Emily!"

"Thank you!" Emily laughed. "I have a feeling this is going to be an exciting time!"

"Welcome!", Sikh and Glenn exclaimed as well, toasting with their water bottles.

Wark, meanwhile, had straighten up and was now standing at the window that Sousui had cleared before. With a warm feeling in his body, he watched what went on in the center of the room. "As Emily rightly said: Sometimes you need fantasy to survive reality. But at the same time, if you lose yourself entirely in fantasy, you also lose all touch to reality", Wark said to himself in thought. Then he turned around and took one last look outside before rejoining the others. He had to learn to arrive in reality. No matter how uncomfortable he sometimes felt in it and no matter how hurtful some things were, moments like these also showed how beautiful it could be. 

For the first time since its founding, the We the People Club or Weed to People Club – after all, the group members didn't really care what their name actually was - seemed to have a real goal. Glenn, Wark, Sousui, Sikh, and Emily were determined to support Va wherever they could and figure out what Keiichi and potential allies were really up to. 

First and foremost, they had to come up with a plan to get Va and Beat involved in the physical meetings again. Sousui took up the idea of a tunnel again but after researching how much work that would actually require, he finally closed down on the idea.

"Why can't it just work like in the movies?", he grumbled "Then we'd just have to dig with a shovel for a few days and we'd be through half the city."

Coincidentally, almost as if she had sensed her clubmates' desire, Va got in touch with them via text message that same evening.

"A few things happened. I think the chances of Beat and I being monitored should be pretty slim from now on. Let's meet Monday at the new headquarter, preferably in the evening though, just to be on the safe side."