I talked to Tempest about Shiki. She thanked me for letting her know, but she has a history of doing this before and that she should be fine. She’ll snap out of it soon enough. Frankly, I’m not sure that having a history of alternating between violent tantrums and catatonic silence means that she’ll be “fine,” but hey, what do I know? Apparently an assignment went south. Some girl named Audrey who Shiki’s actually dealt with before. She’s an elusive one with good self-preservation instincts, Tempest says. She’s killed several of the Hunters other divisions have sent after her in the past, so she’s just glad that Shiki and Theta managed to get out okay.
She did send over medical to get her shoulder looked at, though. The guy was a melancholy-looking ginger man, probably only in his early 20’s. I greeted him when he entered, but he just looked at me, nodded in response, and headed for Shiki’s room. “Shiki?” he had a quiet, calm voice. “I’m here to take a look at your shoulder.” Silence. “Please. We can’t risk it getting infected.” The door swung open, and Ginger disappeared inside. When he finished, he left just as quickly.
Shiki finally came out of her room later that night.
“Hey, you all right?” I asked.
She shrugged. She was still nowhere near her usual energetic self.
“You want to talk about it? It might help you feel better.”
She sat on the couch, gripping her knees to her chest. She didn’t say anything so I turned away and kept working my way through the jobs the Highers had sent me. “Messenger?” she finally said, “have you ever let any of your friends down?”
“Of course. Who hasn’t?”
“No, I mean really, really let them down? Like…they were counting on you to do something for them and they put all their trust in you to do it, and even though you tried, even though you wanted to do everything you could for them, you still ended up letting them down because you messed up…you know how bad that feels, right?”
“Um…I guess. I can’t remember any specific time, but I can imagine it’d feel pretty bad.”
“And what if the person you let down was your only real friend? Do you think he hates me now?”
“…Theta? Is that who you’re talking about? I don’t even really know him, so—”
“I’m not talking about Theta. I’m talking about…you know. Him.”
Oh. Him. How the hell do you respond to something like that? To someone who tells you that the closest thing she has to a “real friend” is some creepy monster idolized by cultists that only might be real?
“Uh…he’s…probably not mad. I mean, you tried.” I sighed. “How did you even get wrapped up in all this in the first place?”
Evidently, this was a good move, because she grew a bit more animated when she spoke. “A friend online. She linked me to some forums. They were creepy and cool. And I started seeing him in my dreams and then in the corner of my eye and then for real. He was…there for me. He didn’t say anything. Didn’t judge or make fun of me. He was just there and he didn’t go away so now he’s my friend.”
“And it, uh…doesn’t bother you that he…you know, kills people?”
She looked legitimately puzzled. “But they deserve to die.”
“Well, I mean, they’re still people. Just to play devil’s advocate, I’m sure a lot of them think you deserve to die too.”
“Well they’re just like everyone else, then.”
It was such a casual statement, which was why it caught me off-guard.
“Uh…Shiki? I was wondering what your life was like as a kid.”
She shrugged. “I don’t remember too much. We moved around a lot. Mom was a teacher and she taught at a lot of different places.”
“Ah. That must have been tough.”
“Like I said, I don’t remember much. Just the moving. We never stayed long enough for me to make any friends.”
“Did you ever end up making any, though?”
She shook her head. “By the time we finally ended up settling on a place, everyone was telling me I was a weirdo or a freak. Said I was a baby for still watching cartoons. Treating me like I wasn’t one of them because I was new. They got really mean about it. They started getting violent. I had to start bringing a knife to school for self-defense.” She looked at me and grinned. “And guess what? Nobody picks on me anymore now!”
“That’s…good.” I kind of cut the conversation short there. I don’t want to know whether or not she ended up killing one of her classmates in self-defense.
It’s weird, though. I mean, she’s obviously insane. Like, not just a little unhinged, but flat-out crazy. Still, I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for her.