Original Russian translation can be found here
If you don't understand some part (textually), please don't hesitate to tell me (probably that's a point to improve in translation).
What if you could give a form to God?
What would you imagine God as?
I would imagine him as a hand.
If God is an object that gave mind to human,
then human's hand is the God himself...
***... Whatever he did, nothing worked out well.
At one summer night, when he was found by a phantom under the Sun, lying on a two-tier bed, he vaguely realized: what if he wasn't just awfully mistaken until now, but also can't correct his mistakes until death?
Next morning, his uneasiness came true.
And now the kind smile of his father, without a filter, was a smile full of prudence, and gentle eyes of his mother weren't radiating love and care, but were blackened with indulgent pity.
For a moment... He remembered his friend, who did one wrong step and tumbled down the stairs.
If you only look at the good side, he was a perfect child, a honor student. If you ask for people's opinion, everyone valued him. But...
Phantom from yesterday chuckles.
Know your place. Nothing will go well like clockwork.
You are a loser for eternity.
... Recovery wasn't going well.
When your way of acting lacks important, vital parts...
A car, even a very fast one, is imperfect and defective without brakes. One day it will fail to make a right turn.
When you notice disconnection, it becomes much clearer.
And here you notice that you, no, your way of acting is only calling for a general enmity. And if so...
Well, and he...
Whatever he did, nothing worked out well.
\Beginning of 2004
*Hisaori Shinya, male, 16 years old.
He became a witness in Hisaori Makina's aggression outburst case, which happened in their house, and after the crime his mental condition became unstable, which is why his sanity was put under doubt, and he was placed in this clinic for appropriate procedures.
-- What, name?.. You ask that right in time, nothing to say. That name had a meaning, but it was long ago, and it's mostly dispersed by now. But, hm... Well, yes, since it's left in documents and examination results, then I'm surely... it's.... Hisaori Shinya.
Right after coming to clinic, Hisaori Shinya refused to cooperate, and he neither said that he wasn't involved in the crime nor that he's Hisaori Shinya.
Investigation assumed that it was an attempt to avoid being listed as involved in the crime, but later agreed with psychiatrists about necessity of clinical examination. Three doctors diagnosed a rare mental state, in which patient would be happy to admit he's Hisaori Shinya, but just can't believe it.
-- Of course, whatever happened, I am me. I just couldn't do anything. I came to senses after falling from chair, nothing changed inside of me, but... but my place in life disappeared.
In Hisaori Shinya's statement words "loss of self" and "capture" were frequently repeated. A responsible doctor noted scopophobia, an obsessive idea of being constantly observed by someone.
-- So, as I was saying - when I fell, a suspicious demon got seated in a chair. By the way, it's you who left him roam free, while it still wasn't late!
Taking in account the tragedy, consisting of two dead and one heavily wounded, and also mental state and age of Hisaori Shinya, medical commission made a decision of putting patient in a clinic.
Two weeks after the tragic events took place, Hisaori Shinya admitted his guilt and repented for his sins. In clinical record, it was noted, that due to the temporary nature of violent lunacy, there is a chance for full recovery after the appropriate psychiatric procedures, and he may hope for indulgence of the court.
-- What?.. Are you joking? I don't intend to return to my former life. Let's say, just because I was placed here, my reputation is already over. I don't have a place in life, what am I going to do there? Just fall into depression. An odd man out - that's not for me.
Hisaori Shinya admitted the fact of murdering his parents with his own hands, of his aggression to his older sister, after which...
-- That's why I want to die as soon as I can. But I just can't die yet. Terrible, yes, but that's my mission. You left me roaming free. Oh yes. Now I have to use my life to bring down that demon.
He still calls himself a victim.
Below is the protocol of events from three years ago, during which Hisaori Koji and Hisaori Kayo were killed.
* "Hisaori-san from the third room - it's that role model one, you know? Looks like it fits. Amazing, so little, but made such a mess... And I pity him too, just came out to the street, bang - killed two people... That's an exile to a colony right away, right?"
"Half a year ago, yes. But now, you know, that 'obsessed' thing? Well, because of it, parents' death is an 'accident', well, at least they say so..."
"Really?! I heard it was a false accusation, and it sounds true - he was mumbling something crazily, but there's something... about the damage done to corpses, or something like that."
"Is that so... Well, what did it start from, anyway?"
"Huh? You don't know?
Well, listen. Hisaori-kun has an older sister..."
Beginning of summer, 2003.
* Clinic's lobby was concreted.
The glazed entrance, about ten meters wide, was covering a picture that was nothing else but a nightmare for a patient here, and I think that physically blocking the only entrance and exit was a very bad idea.
Not even because the patients, me included, couldn't go outside. But because such a huge medical complex doesn't have any incoming - well, coming from outside patients. Not a single one. A hospital you can't come in to - I think it can't be called hospital anymore.
Of course, that was my personal perception on it, because that was strictly a hospital. Five buildings, even though there wasn't much medical staff, not even a hundred people, made it the largest hospital of the prefecture. Actually, not a single patient knew where are we. People conventionally thought we're "somewhere in the north", but that doesn't actually matter, as you can't leave here. They say that before becoming a patient here, while possessed is still living in a society, he's sent to a laboratory. Laboratories were called "Origa", "Kinui" and so on. Of course, it's not such a happy place here, it's an unambiguous clinic, and day after day dozens of doctors are tiring themselves for the sake of curing us.
Completely white buildings without a single stain.
Tranquil alley, crystal clear chambers, huge garden surrounded by high walls, glazed from one side waiting room embraced by sunlight. Nothing to pick on, everything in order.
That's why lobby's facade was extremely out of place. Well, after all though, it was the only place in clinic where you could see gray color, and it was lobby that was, in a way, telling us our place here.
Just as I was coming back from lobby to building B, the only one with an inside garden, music filled the clinic.
Adagio by Albinoni.
At the same time some patients in the waiting room of building B limply went to their chambers.
Private time for one of the buildings was over.
When the time comes to come back to chambers, music is sounded for patients. If you hear it - come back to your chamber. It's improper to announce "Dear patients of x building, your private time is over!" - and it's no good for other patients to know who's from which building.
Looks like everyone's music is adagio today. I'm from the C building, and we had adagio by Brahms. That means that ones returning now are from either B building or A building. Patients from D can't come here, to B building, so D building is excluded.
Music is changed everyday, and if you're curious, you can find out who's from which building, but patients here don't feel like doing such nonsense. That was in a mutual assent with staff.
All patients that are allowed to leave the room are harmless like corpses, that's why in a waiting room everything's so in order that you get dizzy. On a sofa, that probably wasn't stuffed from the clinic's opening day, are some dormantly sitting patients.
Bleached with an afternoon sun waiting room reminds of a church. It hurts my eyes. The sight of praying corpsies under the bright sun.
That brings me to thought about that summer day, and I join the corpse company. I fall on the sofa, unable to bear dizziness.
Opening of that isolation ward is a ten year old story.
Ten years after discovery of the carriers of A-syndrome - in common parlance, "possessed" - specialized health center was finally built, where the earliest, and maybe the latest diagnosis was confirmed about twenty years ago.
Symptoms of the illnesses were so surrealistic (or exceeding expectations) that medical institutions couldn't react in time.
As a result, country bought an unfinished public hospital not in the greatest area of N prefecture, and prepared it for curing the "possessed", so it became this health center.
Later, the inhabitants of building A, after moving to clinic, got a duty and rights for special procedures.
To this clinic, the only and greatest health center in the country, all Japanese carriers were being brought.
... Though infection patterns were limited to west part of Japan, so "all Japanese" term is inaccurate.
Normally, patients diagnosed with A-syndrome received state care, after which they were brought to this clinic, and then they were allocated to one of the buildings, A to D.
Once in a clinic, patient could not leave until he was cured and wasn't allowed to meet with his family. That was necessary both to prevent leaking of distorted information to society and to protect patients' private life.
Even now, ten years after, security classification was still high, but everything noted here isn't about specific patients.
That completely isolated from outside world sterile space.
And now I think that this little world, that made you think if everything's extinct in the outside world now, was for them, carriers and patients, best possible environment.
* -- ...ri-san? Hisaori-san, are you not feeling well?
Gentle words make my dizziness fade. Geting up from sofa that I fell onto, I answer: "I'm alright".
Doctors that were crowding the waiting room quickly and habitually test my pulse and my pupils, and note: "No abnormalities".
-- Okay. Don't overexert yourself. If you can't return to your chamber, don't be shy, shout.
As usual, showing his knightly attitude, Dr. Dolittle, also known as Dr. Kinui, left the waiting room.
"Carriers" - it doesn't mean that our illness is spread through air or some other type of contact. It isn't spread through fluids, skinship or animals. Normally, carriers don't increase number of carriers. That's the only common feature of the polymorphing A-syndrome.
As for confirmation of this theory, Dr. Dolittle fearlessly touched the patients. Of course, other doctors weren't so heartful, or humanitarian.
On streets, people with A-syndrome are called "possessed". A rude nickname, but in the sense that they can't be handled like normal humans, it's absolutely right.
All their thinking processes become a little bit eccentric, and body grows new organs. In mild cases, physical abilities become stronger or weaker, in heavy cases they're multiplied. To put it bluntly, it's apparent.
For example, my face nerves became more sensitive than normal human's, but I didn't have any special changes.
Nevertheless, among those patients in the waiting room, there are some with sixth finger or unknown outgrowths. It's easy to see them.
Which means, we're divided to those, whose old abilities were changed, and those, whose body was changed.
The latter are frankly freaks, and they're very lucky, Dr. Kinui became like a native to them. It's like they met Buddha in hell. The nickname "Dolittle" isn't just for appearances. When you talk to him, you feel like maybe you can really get cured?..
Whatever you say, though, even if you get cured, the crimes you committed aren't going anywhere. But even just because I'm put to this clinic, my life is over.
-- ...I overdid it. I didn't have to go that far.
It's been two years since then. I blundered and was caught. Full of determination to commit a full-blown crime, I, without dirtying my hands, inflicted injury on my parents. For half a year I was spending my life with those people, for whom for the same amount of time a trap was being prepared. You can't really get out of a trap like that. Dad and mom both stepped on a mine so good, it was a pleasure to watch. But it missed a little, and as a result two dead bodies fell on the ground one next to each other.
-- ...It's a shame. Well, whatever. Screw the result, everything was perfectly prepared. But all my tricks weren't worth a broken penny when I was accidentally spotted as possessed and caught.
It's like karma. Order of my actions was perfect. My blunder was that I had a goal, and in the end, as a compensation for that, I became confined in this hospital center.
Though, compared to other patients, I have some hope.
Two years after, my parents' death was noted as an accident, and my innocence was, actually, proven. I didn't kill anyone yet, and I could let myself be a little optimistic.
Right now I was concerned with my full recovery and, finally, freedom from this place.
I want to come back to society. From the very beginning, I was trying hard for that. From the very beginning, it was my goal. I was delayed by that case with mother and father, but I'm going to be innocent again and recreate myself.
I repent. This time I'll live like a human, in a way not to harm anyone. For that, I first have to find a new way to exist - no other way, it seems...
Just when I got filled with optimism and raised my head, a weird something caught my eye. In front of the glass door, leading to the inside garden, something impossible was happening.
Dissolved in sunlight, a man with a paintbrush in front of a canvas. Around my age, but with gray hair. That gray-haired youngster, with bored look, was drawing a worthless painting.
For the first time in two years, my cheeks spread by themselves.
Youngster, sticking out his lip, was moving a paintbrush on a canvas. He was just having fun drawing, to kill time. Amazing. Why did he decide to do that? Unable to fight my curiosity, I went up to him.
-- Sorry, you don't mind if I stick around?
My tongue started to talk before awkwardness came. In this building, it's uncomfortable to talk to other patients. It's not prohibited - but you just won't get answered. Probably that youngster was looking so carefree that this theory, absorbed by me in the past couple years, got completely forgotten.
-- Sure. But I only have one chair.
He appeared to be even more carefree than it looked like from afar. I remembered the almost forgotten, heard who knows how many years ago, art of naturally talking.
-- I'll sit on the floor. Can I watch for a bit?
-- As long as you won't be a bother. But a weird taste you have.
Gray-haired one snorted, looked at me and engulfed himself in drawing.
His glance was a bit scary. He's probably always like that, but his glance was like snake's. I have a childish face, I try to look admiringly. He looks originally, like a street bully.
Which building he's from, I wonder. I didn't see him in C. It's either B or A. Probably, A - I can't imagine people looking this healthy in building B.
-- Mm, which building are you from?
-- From A. Sorry that I occupied the place in B. I have a scary sister there. I'm trying to flee to where I don't catch her eye.
I looked closer - he was all in moles.
I only know about that from rumors, because I'm quiet, but they say that disobedient patients are examined by some medical expert, that is like a demon from hell. Somewhy I decided that this man is his permanent client.
-- Hm? Eh, you don't have a hand?
-- Yeah, dropped it on the way here. That's why I'm now in a hospital.
-- Woah, I envy you. A normal clinical reason.
What am I saying... But that's true. The patients they're bringing here are those with weird outgrowths. And this gray-haired one - with a normal wound, normally went for treatment, a normal patient.
-- Ah, no, that's just, unthinking observation, mm...
He looked at me, amazedly.
He grinned - one that said "a", would say "b".
-- I see. Pessimist, but optimist. By the way, yes, it's logical that I came to a hospital...
His right hand with a paintbrush draws a sharp line.
For a while I'm watching his movements. He isn't drawing something in particular. He just has nothing to do, and painter's utensils caught his eye, so he's using them. He doesn't have a motive to display, he's caught in the very process of drawing. Naturally, he doesn't care what gets drawn, his mind is in other place.
-- Hm, that hand of yours...
-- M? Which hand? One that I have? One that I don't?
-- The one you have. Your movements are very agile, they're fascinating.
He looked at me amazedly again. Maybe he's always this amusing?
-- "The one I have", amazing. Usually people ask me about how I lost my left.
-- There's no meaning to talk about what is not. I have more interest in your right one. Is it possible to be so agile at handling everything with one hand?
-- I don't have the other one, so I'm doing my best.
Movements so natural, it feels like he was born with one hand.
I wanted to talk with him again, but then heard music. Adagio by Brahms. The slow classic tune, pressuring the freedom of building C's patients.
-- Are you going to be here tomorrow too?
-- If I'll be able to move after examination. The picture's going to take a while.
Relieved, I get up. I have to say my goodbyes and go back to building C.
-- Wait. Let me write down your name.
Looks like he has a horrible memory. He seems to have a habit of writing down everything new and important.
-- I'm Hisaori Shinya. And you?
-- Shinya? It doesn't fit you. Well, I'm not the one to talk...
Gray-haired writes "所在" in a corner of canvas, which means "location".
-- Weird name, right? - Gray-haired ironically, but with some pride in it, smiled, and added: - And it's read as "Arika", with that.
That's how, on the second year of my confinement, I got acquainted with Ishizue Arika.
If you think about it, from the handful of friends I have, with two I got acquainted with this clinic.
One, as you already guessed, is this gray-haired.
The other one is, afterwards drowning this clinic in blood, his sister.
Buildings, ordered from A to D, are equipped with strict exit/entry control.
Patients' freedom consists of two levels, first one of them - freedom to leave their chambers. It's given to patients like me or Ishizue-san, who didn't have any cases of aggressive behavior in the past.
Directorate also decided to give freedom of taking strolls to neighboring buildings. That is the second freedom level. It was intended to allow communication between the carriers, and recovery of their social behavior. It wasn't called for. They have more than enough of themselves, they don't communicate. Me and Ishizue-san are exceptions, but Ishizue-san is an amazing guy a level above me. He can freely talk to any patient. I think that was the reason he got almost killed a couple of times, but he doesn't learn. He just doesn't have anything that resembles feeling of danger.
-- Well, what can I do? Mato-san told me to talk to other patients as much as I could.
The same old waiting room in building B. Ishizue-san said that today he's going to finally finish the painting - in a voice that felt like he absolutely hates the very thought of it.
-- You don't like to paint, Ishizue-san?
-- Well, not to say I don't like it: it's cool, but it's strange. I only started it because some doctor suggested to kill time like that. And today is the last time. After that... Yeah, wanna play catchball or something like that?
Ishizue-san, being an unexpectedly responsible guy, doesn't drop what he started halfway. Like he said himself: "If I don't finish it properly, I'd be scared for my afterlife".
-- It's nice for you, guys from A building, you get to borrow that sort of stuff. They say you can even watch TV in the waiting room?
-- Only the local boring stuff. And there's so many willing to, there's a real contest for it. Well, nothing too great. And behind the wall they're writing reports about how we react to certain films.
-- That's not entertainment, that's lab data... Means that we're also paying for others' music. That isn't fun.
-- Yeah. You know, I think your building is more fun. I mean, I wouldn't go to D even threatened by death...
The only rule of free commuting between buildings, whomever it was made by, is that you can only commute to buildings neighboring your own.
As a patient from C building, I can be in either B or D.
Ishizue-san, as a patient from A building, can't go further than B building.
You can say it like that: patients from A and D can't meet.
The patients are divided between A to D by, of course, the development level of their agonistic syndrome. A is mild, D is heavy.
Patients are sent to A building if they have no visible outgrowths or changes. Or those that had complications from a wound dealt by carrier. Normal patients. "Ishizue-san is obviously normal" - and envious glance.
If it wasn't for isolation and limitations of free time, their life was like that of normal people. Schedule: three examinations per day... well, many types of examinations... chat with arbitrary patients. Ishizue-san says there are about twenty patients there. The inside structure of the building is quite right too, except for one room for special examinations by a private medical expert that is out of ordinary.
I don't know what's common between patients of building B. They look like relatively stable and curable people, even though with some neoformations. It almost looks like surgical intervention is all they need.
Not the level where removal of neoformation leads to death. I'm making this conclusion based on Dr. Dolittle's words, that when they find a way for surgical intervention, they remove the infected organ.
As the symptomatics are completely individual, investigations are proceeding sluggishly. Everyone needs their own surgery, and development of new medicaments and techniques is not an easy task, so surgeries are very rare. Building B has the most patients. They also have the classiest waiting room.
Well, and our building, C, is for those patients whose symptoms are stabilized as "A-syndrome," possessed.
It's actually not as dangerous here as in B building. Patients whose conscience is breached are not allowed outside their chambers, and the ones that are allowed out are stable and won't go rampaging again.
But patients with weird body parts, even the slightest, don't leave their rooms, and as a result the building is empty like a jail.
I was in the D building only once.
If C building is a jail, then D is ruins. Even doctors with security guards are only appearing near the entrance. Most patients are afraid of light, so corridors are barely lit, almost like a cave. When I thought about escaping from here, I decided that I should know at least the basic layout of D building, but I couldn't even reach waiting room.
From what I got to know, patients there were in the last stage of syndrome. Procedures and amputations don't work. You can say they're fully developed. Only about three people are living there, the other forty are in "seclusion".
By the way, around half a year ago, they moved a new patient to D building. It was the biggest all hands' job in past two years. Clinic's been in a wild turmoil, and after three days of some mega-surgery the almost dead patient was checked for life signs and sent to D building.
Doctors that carried out the surgery for some reason dropped him to a mixer, but somewhy he still lived - or so they say.
Anyway, that's how the building D is, holding an army of monsters.
-- How do you think, what are the "possessed", Ishizue-san? Unfortunate people with a terrible disease or creatures that are not human anymore? - in a waiting room with nothing but corpses, I asked the only living creature. Looks like he felt weak for a bit, remembering D building.
-- Who knows... I'm not a doctor, I don't know the definition of "human". When something inside or outside changed, but you don't know how it was originally, you can't say what the difference is.
Clever analogy. Even doctor doesn't know that until the autopsy.
-- For us, normally living - well, yeah. Maybe those that you can talk to normally are the human ones?
Difference between medical and philosophical definition of human. Hm, Ishizue-san seems to give a lot of meaning to mental part. And ignores logic too much...
-- ... Cool. I wish you were my upperclassman, I would attend school properly then. You just don't give a damn about anything, do you? I could lend money from you, and you would forget about it the next day.
-- I would. But it's okay, I'm writing down that sort of stuff.
Paintbrush moves on the canvas. Canvas is eighty percent black by now. It's not just that he doesn't wish to paint anything in particular, he also makes mistakes a lot, and produces such a result that even an abstractionist would faint after seeing. And it's almost completed.
-- Anyway, it's nothing to be thinking deeply about. Possession is just like catching cold. Possessed aren't guilty, and the main problem is what to do with them after that.
Ishizue-san's logic is built from a safe distance - absolutely thoughtless idealism. But... I have to agree with that formulation...
-- Yeah. I envy those who caught cold.
-- If you're unfortunate enough, you'll catch it, whoever you are.
... He just doesn't understand, after all. People that catch cold are those that have weak health from the start.
-- Well, but why are you saying that? Word "possessed" isn't used much around here, is it?
-- I just remembered building D, and started thinking seriously if we're really human.
Paintbrush freezes. Ishizue-san makes a funny face again.
-- You know what, Hisaori... About that monster cemetery there, forget it, don't think about it, don't even say it. It holds the real demons. I'm sure that if you speak in medical terms, these are aliens.
-- Oh come ooon. Doctor said there was a girl, beautiful like a flower. Came half a year ago, she was around fourteen. He said the "gothic lolita" dress fits her perfectly or something like that.
-- Don't take Dr. Dolittle seriously. It's just his passion for lolis. Uncurable disease, "pedophilia". And it wasn't "gothic", it was a wedding dress. Blackened with blood.
-- Huh, how do you know that?
-- What? I came here half a year ago too.
Ah, got it. Explanation accepted. Bold paintbrush movements resume.
It's really amazing - he's drawing such a crappy painting, but movements of his right hand are so fresh and perfect.
Ishizue-san is very attentive, and answers anything you ask him. Even though four out of five answers he says with uninterested face, it's interesting to watch such live mimics, adding special nuances to all of his words.
-- Ishizue-san, what were you doing outside?
-- Nothing much. Lived normally, got wounded normally, normally finished a monster, just that.
I'm watching every wrinkle of his while he says that.
I stop feeling my limbs and just concentrate on watching. It feels like I'm made of eyes alone.
-- And before that? You look twenty or so, were you studying?
-- Half a year in a university. Just made the report on social relationships, when everything went down.
I'm counting his pulse, breathing rythm.
Meaningless topics, meaningful topics; topics that he likes and topics he doesn't like - I'm raising any question I can and correct it with real him inside my head.
-- You didn't have a lover, right? You're so cold.
-- Who knows. Maybe I had, but I don't remember.
This guy doesn't remember even THAT sort of stuff?!
... But his reaction was valuable, that's why I'm not going to be mad for now. Thousands of things I should watch. Silent pauses are very important. As the time passes, little by little I merge my imagination with Ishizue-san's. I like this simple work of mine.
Music is heard. Corpsies are starting to slug out of the waiting room. Ishizue-san doesn't seem to care - so it was a sonata for B building patients just now.
-- Say, Ishizue-san. What do you think of God?
I'm asking this last question while thinking if I should watch and learn from him or not.
I already decided to keep our friendship forever, but there is still one line that is yet to be confirmed. I should make at least that sure while I still can.
-- I don't see a connection. Why that all of a sudden?
-- Well, we started from demons, means God is next.
-- Ah, in this way. We didn't have that sort of stuff, I don't know about Buddha either. If you want to talk about God, talk to Dolittle, he's gonna keep you occupied for the whole night.
-- I don't mean the definition of God or belief. What do you imagine when you hear "God"?
-- Nothing. Emptiness. No shadow, no looks, no smell, no feel.
He understands God like that. It's not that "God is an empty concept", but that "God is emptiness itself", half-belief. It's different from my view on that, but it's acceptable. Even if I don't know how he thinks, I can understand him.
-- How about you, Hisaori? Do you believe in God?
-- Not as much believe as worship. Not to God, but to what symbolizes him. What if you could give form to God? What would you imagine him as?
-- It's a task like "draw air"... Well, if he's that great and almighty then an eye or light, maybe?
He wasn't hesitating with his answer at all. He didn't even give me a wry smile for giving him an uninteresting question, he acts just as Ishizue-san I imagined.
-- I would imagine him as a hand. If God is an object that gave mind to human, then human's hand is the God himself.
-- What? What's that, anthropomorphism?
-- It's result of mind. That what people have, but animals don't - that's the hand.
-- I don't get it. Mind is brain, isn't it? That's where knowledge is collected.
-- Don't say it like that, even animals have brains. And human's mind is worthless to an animal. It doesn't have any abilities superior to theirs. Isn't brain just a machine to move your hands?
Oh damn. He just gave me such a weird look. I'm kind of uncomfortable, but he's my new friend, so I'll get mad later. I'll just have fun for now.
-- If you say so. But it means that we both lost God.
-- Yeah. But there's nothing we can do about that - it's normal for demon-possessed.
From that simple element, Ishizue's hand that felt so alive stops. For the last time he moves his paintbrush and mumbles: "Well, something like that".
-- Oh, you're finished?
-- If I continue, it will turn out all black. And it's almost time to go back, great moment.
He starts to gather the painting tools, scattered in the waiting room for about a week. Is he mad at me for bringing up that topic?
-- Ishizue-san, what are you going to do with this picture?
-- I don't need it. I'll give it to Dr. Dolittle, and it'll be burned in a couple years, I guess?
-- Aww, how can you say that? Give it to me, please. I don't promise to keep it perfectly, but it would at least decorate my room.
He looks at me amazedly again.
Ishizue-san kept thinking, making faces, but in the end he decided that it would be too much of a hassle to bring it with him.
-- Alright. But know that: even if you try to return it, I'm not taking it back.
-- Okay. Don't wave your copyrights in front of me then, yourself.
With incredible agility Ishizue-san picked up everything with one hand and went back to building A.
I'm looking at the finished painting.
Strokes, which render eighty percent of the picture black. I thought it was a butterfly with scattered wings, but after investigating it closer I understood the simple theme of it.
The sign "Arika" in a corner, and two children holding hands.
The heavier the symptoms of patients, the more breaks in their schedule.
Waking up at six. Breakfast at seven. Examination after breakfast, dinner, and free time till lunch. That's what it's like for me in C building, in D building they probably don't even get fed.
Patient-like lives are spent in B and A buildings. Ishizue-san is always relaxed, but in difference from me he only has lunch break as free time.
His day is like that: waking up, being with me till breakfast, then a round on internal therapy, external therapy, psychotherapy, chat with other patients, P.E., examinateion by medical expert (aka questioning), and so on - incredibly detailed schedule. And you can't skip anything, clinic keeps watch on all of your movements. Examination is alright, but what is that marathon for? And I felt bad that Ishizue-san was the only one to go through that. To keep up the talk with him, I am following similar schedule as much as possible.
And then - it seems like my wish came true.
For the first time since my arrival I was sent to torture room... I mean, examination room.
-- Nice to meet you... well, no. We already met when you were just brought here. Okay, sit down now, time's not waiting.
Too big of a room for examination room, not enough items in it. High ceiling, glassed watching room at around the height of a second story. Feels like you're a single white chip on a "go" board. The room is tilted, the patient's entrance is below, and the entrance she used is on top.
In the middle of a tilted room is a table and two chairs on different sides of it. On a higher chair sits a woman in a business suit.
Touma Mato. Ishizue-san calls her Mato-san, sometimes Tomato-san, but to me it's just an unattractive woman in her thirties.
Touma Mato is imposing, like devil looking down on a sinner in hell. Normally this room would be making people think they became smaller, but that woman instead made the size of the room pressuring. I heard that Mato-san feels like "three of these hospitals", but who would've thought it's true?
-- It's hard with you, both sister and brother... Did you hear the news about your parents? Yesterday they gave a conclusive verdict. The case would be viewed from a point where Hisaori Koji and Hisaori Kayo's deaths were an accident. Rejoice, it means you're free now. So if you want to, I can give a permit for your discharge by symptomatic improvements.
I'm at loss of words from the sudden turn of events. She amazed me, "amazed" being a perfect word for this case.
-- Just a minute, what do you mean by that? Symptomatic improvements... My illness is going to be cured?
-- Dumbass. How can it be cured? I'm talking about mental state. Question is, "Do you regret almost killing a human"?
... Terrifying. Not the content of her words - her glare is terrifying. The eyes of Touma Mato in her best favor don't see a human in me. Her carelessness comes from the fact that if I move even a finger, a trigger is going to come off in my chair, but she still doesn't see me even in point-blank range. Even garbage or dirt are looked upon better than that.
-- So, if the psychiatrist says that everything's okay, I'll have ambulatory treatment?
-- Yeah. It's going so well you get nauseous, right? We're not doing charity here, we can't waste our money on civilians in vain.
When we get spare, we want to fill our wallets. Hisaori, do you know how much every one of you corpsies cost to contain? Keeping a whole C building of patients without a hope for cure just doesn't make sense to me.
To contain and to keep alive are synonyms. I don't want to talk with her a second longer, but if Ishizue-san is doing it, I can't back off either.
-- Am I guaranteed normal life after discharge? After all, I'm just used to give an example of a carrier patient getting back to society.
-- Wow.. what an unpleasant worldly wisdom. Ah yes, two years ago there were talks about human rights... You're right, this decision was made for the clinic, not for its patients. We had the health center here gathering possessed from all around the country. No discharged in ten years - what a great image.
Thoughtful consent. Did they select some patients that are harmless to let outside, and chose me among them?
Two years ago there was a debate between "protectors", calling carriers "victims", and a group screaming "murderers". Some were saying that "protectors" were backed up by some influential people and this clinic just barely avoided dismounting. Some underground debates seem to continue even now.
-- Well, that's just one of the reasons. Main is money. The budget wasn't made for us until this year. We don't have issues, we don't give much income, and consumption is high, and we want to get rid of some unadequate patients. While there is still some sense, time and money are unlimited, but, to be honest, we should save up where we can.
She probably says what is meaningless to say to give us the reality. "Don't even think that; Clinic will never see you as normal people. Even when you're outside, don't dare to think of yourself as adequate."
-- ...I see. If you behave, you're chosen as candidate for discharge, is that right?
-- Yeah. We want to discharge at least five. And in a year, if you keep pretending to be a good boy, I'll recommend you. Nice, isn't it? No need to resent. Just don't screw up.
-- Don't be like that. I... really resent, you know.
-- Great. Kinui-san's efforts don't go to waste. Just one thing, Hisaori. Recently you got quite lively. You can see that clearly even through the monitors. Did you get a new toy?
Her glare alone makes me want to vomit.
If I really get out, first thing I need to do is kill this woman. Even I can understand that, and I'm bad with intuition stuff. She's the enemy that you kill before she kills you first.
-- Ah, right... Is Ishizue-san a candidate for discharge too?
I'm feel pressed to the floor by hellish aura of Touma Mato.
Rumors are that Ishizue-san is called her "favorite toy".... Well, I wouldn't say so, judging by her reaction.
Touma Mato tries to look gently now, but her face expression gives her out. Those were the movements of tiny muscles that no one but me could see, but she was definitely compassionate. Touma Mato doesn't want Ishizue-san to be discharged not because it's dangerous, but because she's pitying him.
-- Dr. Touma, what about me? Recommendation is not approval, after all. Thanks for selecting me candidate, but you don't want to let me out, do you?
-- Ah, you're alright. You're stubborn, so to let you out is easiest... You won't get into any dirt, and you'll make it through anywhere. So much that I want to make you my personal pony when this all settles down.
Touma Mato maliciously curves her mouth and roughly glares at me.
Horrifying. That just now was her true opinion, that woman won't say a lie even in front of a carrier, compassion or favor won't wave her decisions the slightest. She's the embodiment of law, that raised an iron hammer above us and waits for our first misstep, to wear our excuses and drop it down. That's how Touma Mato is. But nevertheless the chat was surprisingly pleasant. After some questioning it seems that Ishizue-san will get an admission for discharge in half a year's time, and for me it's a year. Thanks to Fortune suddenly smiling at me.
-- Ah, yeah, one more thing. There's a clinic's request here... Someone from D building wants to meet you very much. They approved the meeting already, go make a visit tomorrow morning. Here's a pen and paper, want to borrow them to write your will?
Of course, it's not a request, it's an order. I forgot that for the last couple years. For a pleasant talk they ask for a proper reward.
In a convoy with head physician, Dr. Dolittle and three watchers... I mean, guards, I'm going to D building. I can't refuse anyway, also that would be bonus point for me, and I'm a little curious myself.
The one who wants to meet with me is that newcomer one, that was brought here half a year ago. That what Touma Mato told me about without any particular interest seemed to be a question of life and death to clinic.
What was after my talk with Mato-san? After I came back to my chamber, I was begged to go there for half a day by a head physician. I was amazed that we have one in clinic, and my image of clinic's world got completely overturned after I saw staff, normally ordering us around, obey orders of their patient.
Head physician was with me until we reached waiting room in D building, after which he retreated to building C. Looks like D building is so alienated to people that building C feels like a safe zone in comparison...
To start with, everything around looks rough. The floor and walls are same as those other buildings have, but they look feeble, like they've been in ruins for past ten years.
-- Well, let's go. There are other patients here, so be quiet.
Look, even Dr. Dolittle is nervous. Guards sincerely hold their weapons in front of them. Submachineguns... Hilarious. Are we in front of a triumphal arch?
Feels like I'm taking a step into a building that is to be demolished a moment before it is brought down. I do a step forward, and something crumbles somewhere in a building. Of course, it's an illusion. Construction of D building was the most costly - they hold patients in the latest stage of the syndrome here, they can't afford to make it weak.
Narrow, long passageway goes on and on. Each six meters it intersects with another ones like that, and the sight is same everywhere. It looks like D building is a labirynth made of intersections like that... Reminds me of insides of a Rubik's cube.
Dimly lit with electric lights ash-colored world. No windows, no doors, even chambers are unnoticeable. It was a primitive world made of ash walls, a strange world of an abstract painting. And as I walk here, I become a part of it.
Dr. Dolittle turns for the third time, to left now. I don't see the way back, already for a while now. Suddenly I lag behind Dolittle for about one second, and hallway in front of me catches my eyes.
The passageway was scarlet-black. If you looked closer, it was a passageway made of various dead bodies. Cemented part of it turned into a pipe of flesh. In it, there was mother, with blood-soaked stomach, and father, with blood gushing from his neck.
Ahh... Even though I wasn't next to them back then, the image of a heartbroken Hisaori Shinya is going to reflect in tears...
-- Hisaori-san, it's wrong way. This way.
Dolittle's voice distracts me before I step there.
-- You shouldn't look into unnecessary passageways. We don't feel it, but sometimes it badly affects patients.
I ask to clarify, what does "badly affect" mean.
-- For an example: In a chamber you were looking at just now, two patients went missing.
There were patients who, like me, looked into different passageways. Then they walked into a chamber, and went missing... Obviously, they were hidden by a D building patient. Question is - how and where did he hide them? Did he crush their bodies to small sizes and hide them under his bed? Did he absorb them into his body?
When doctors stormed him with questions, he grinned and answered:
"They're thrashing about in my head!"
I'm walking in a way not to lose sight of Dolittle. I am to meet a girl around fourteen years old. Brought here in pieces. No hands or legs, her torso minced.
Because of some mistake, she was still alive. Even A-syndrome infected - even possessed - die properly when they're killed. She's going to be bound to bed for the rest of her life, or maybe she's only alive in clinical sense - a brain floating in an aquarium or something like that...
There are enough of rumors like that in D building. There's a horror story about a pool filled with guts, and since it was a single patient from the start, who was, to general inconvenience, still alive, it's impossible to clean there.
The pool dors are securely locked, so it's uncomfirmed. No one feels like making sure of it, anyway.
Dolittle opens a door.
A narrow tunnel appears in front of us. Looks like that's the last station. About ten meters inside it, there is another steel door.
-- As soon as you enter, this door is going to be locked. We'll wait here, so don't worry and talk to your heart's content. Ah, right: a minute after this door gets closed, the inside door will open.
Sickening. Maybe that's really a death sentence?
-- I know the answer already, but I'll ask anyway - can I borrow one of those from guards? For self-defense, you know.
-- Ha-ha-ha, don't exaggerate, it's not a wild beast there. By the way, they wouldn't open fire either. That sort of stuff isn't even a threat to her. What works are the multi-layered steel walls.
I regret my hastiness. Life and curiosity switched places for some reason.
I walk forward through the passageway. Behind me, the door closes - bang. In a minute, the front door opens. Bang!
I felt like I was warped in time. Or like I'm now in an imaginary world, after parting with life.
On the other side of a door was a gym, though still resembling ruins.
From the eight meter high ceiling, in the very middle of the room, that looked like a gym of an abandoned school, a human-size doll is hanging down. Bang! Oh, she jumped. Bound by a steel chain, doll, like a pendulum, flew sideways and hit cement wall. Bang. Pendulum, as expected, brings doll back.
It is caught by a human in the middle of a gym: "Hop!". The doll appears to be a sandbag, and it is patted by a gloved hand of incredibly resembling a flower...
-- Oh, you're here already. Hi-hi, Hisaori-san! I'm sorry, can you please stand there for a bit? I'm almost finished with my daily norm.
Bang. She does a wide step forward, swinging her right fist. The sandbag vertically, like dolphin, flies up to the eight meter ceiling.
It's the same carrier that was brought here half a year ago without a hope for recovery. That fourteen year old girl, who looked nothing else but twenty, was Ishizue-san's blood-related sister.
X X X
-- Are you sure your body is sturdy enough? - she was able to diagnose the carrier with a single sentence.
We got along right away; that comment was same as my own impression from long ago.
-- Me? The next day after I've shown symptoms, I was caught by that woman. She shot me down, cut me down, chopped me down... If she didn't want a lab sample, I think I would be dead gone by now.
Her presence was strong, overwhelming the feeling of reality of what's happening. If you think of C building patients as of ghosts or corpsies, then she's literally a monster. Even for D building - stretched, but realistic - she's like an imbalanced manga character. Later Ishizue-san would say: "If Mato-san is a hero, then that is a superhuman". Those are really fitting categories. Any medic would say she's not human anymore.
And with her own hands Touma Mato brought this monster to half-death?
-- Well, I was a kid back then - but that's not an excuse. She came there - that was heaven's punishment for not giving a damn about reality.
Taking her boxing gloves off, she makes an awkward smile to cover her embarrassment. Long, silky, black hair. Antipode of Ishizue-san. Incomparable beauty - I think that's what it's called.
-- Next thing I knew, I was here. I learned just a single lesson out of it, after all. If you value your life, and you're not me - don't deny her. How about you, Hisaori-san?
I tell her the tale from two years ago. She wanted to know it all, and I tell her everything from the start.
Killed parents - no, now that everyone accepted it as accident - watched my parents die, and pushed my older sister named Hisaori Makina, trying to save them, out of the flat - that's the story of Hisaori Shinya. Sister didn't die, but hurt her hand from the fall. She paid for her life with a dysfunctional hand.
-- Yeah, unfortunate... Didn't work out as planned...
Yeah. From long ago, nothing goes well.
Even when it all happened, everything was going slim, but after it's over - I'm back to starting point.
It's like... The winning prize was bankruptcy. Like the game that you play itself is made so that no one ends up well.
-- Heee. Do you like to play musical chairs?
I don't have interest in games like that.
Even in such a simple game as musical chairs, I never could win. I like watching it instead of playing. I don't want to sit on the chair, and I wasn't admiring those that conquered their seats. I was content with just sitting on the floor, watching winners and learning from them.
"Stupid... Bye-bye, Shinya..."
Things took a strange turn, when...
-- Aaah. Let me warn you. Try not to find an ideal chair.
-- Well, you're an observer, right? Someone's already sitting on a chair. For Hisaori-san, there are no unoccupied chairs. And when you find an ideal chair, you won't be able to sit on it, until you remove the one sitting there already. Right? Watching and learning is good, but if you start dreaming about it - you'll turn into ugly possessed again.
-- You're locked here because you can't hold yourself together, - she concluded. - If you would want to sit on a chair, things would happen...
"That's why be more careful." - I was scolded by a girl five years younger than me.
Someone who is already sitting on it. Can't sit before getting rid of the real one... But her concern isn't needed. Because until now I didn't ever want to sit on a single chair.
X X X
Our talk after that became completely like girls'. We talked for almost an hour, and we agreed to meet once a week. That said, I get up from the floor.
-- Oh, by the way, how do you know about me, when you're not leaving here?
-- Ah, that... You're talking with my brother, right? I felt like you're a nice guy. And actually, I have a small favor to ask of you.
She sticks out her tongue.
Collected, like an adult woman, she gives me a smile of a naughty girl.
-- Can you please somehow delay the discharge of my brother?
Of course, I can't do that kind of a favor.
I could give Ishizue-san some problems, and I wouldn't mind doing so for his sister, but because of the tricks needed for that I would have to sacrifice myself, and that would delay my own discharge. I mean, no, that woman would surely exclude me from the candidate list forever.
Tormented by the dilemma between helping Ishizue-san or his sister, I couldn't fulfill her wish until the very end... Well, whatever. I didn't need to sacrifice myself after all.
-- Hi there, Ishizue-san. Shogi today?
While solving a shogi etude, Ishizue-san is looking at me, puzzled. He reacts just like when we first met.
-- Are you okay? It's me, Hisaori.
-- Hisaori?.. Ah, right, you fit Hisaori image. Sorry for comparing it too long. I only see you during the day, after all. So, what's up with that? Did you fall?
-- Ah, that? That's after surgery. Everything was bad there for a while, so I just told them to amputate it.
Ishizue-san nods, murmurs: "Is that so.", - and writes it down to his notepad. Single-handed, but how agile.
-- I came to say goodbye today. We won't see each other again.
Even though routine life of buildings doesn't change, days and months are passing by. We rejected the world, which is amazingly caring about us, and almost irresponsibly helps the outcast.
-- Yeah. You're weird. It's taboo to talk to other patients here. They did tell you that when carriers communicate, a devil gets attached to the one you talk to?
-- You're the one to talk, Ishizue-san. I'm not talking to those that seem unable to answer, and you don't know the limit to it... I wanted to ask this for a while, why do you not feel danger?
-- That's my disorder.
-- Not that you're forgetting everything?
-- I can fight that one, so whatever. And this one isn't that bad either.
"This one" is that bad, what are those wide gestures?.. I can sort of understand his sister's worries.
-- You should instead tell me, what was up with you, Hisaori? Why did you talk to me all of a sudden? I thought no one here has interest in anyone but himself.
-- I guess so. But I only have interest in everyone but myself.
-- Wow, - Ishizue-san stops his etude. Gray-haired and single-handed guy watches me with his eyes, without a trace of interest on that topic: - And why is that?
-- Maybe because I can't be allowed to think about myself? I'm very temperamental, so to say. It's hard for me to keep my emotions under control, from the time I was a kid. I get mad, I get depressed, and I can't stop until the reason is gone.
For example, if I read a sad story, it's getting into me, and I can't get over it myself. The story doesn't solve itself, so I'm depressing until I think of a deconstruction for the plot.
While I was a kid, it didn't bother me, but near the end of grade school I had a personal crisis. My feelings were my greatest enemy, so I had to take the urgent measure of rejecting myself.
-- Yeah, that's inconvenient. Is that temperamentality congenital?
-- I think I had the roots for it. But it fully bloomed around fifth grade of grade school.
I don't remember it clearly, but my sister said I saw a ghost and, uh, went loony. So, we lived on a third floor of a cooperative high-rise building. I was standing on a balcony, repeating: mom, dad, cool, there's a human burning!
-- Wow, what a story. Was a human burning, uh, still alive?
-- Yes, still alive. It looked like he's supposed to be like that - black from the burns, he was crossing the yard diagonally! No, now I can think of some real explanations why did it happen like that. But for me as a child it was a ghost and nothing else.
After his sister became my best friend, I had some regret left. He listened to this story not as to a tale of a sort, but as to a witness's story. He made a puzzled face, because he was contemplating the kid that was treated like that.
And there - adagio.
Just like on the day we met, lazy music sounds.
-- It's time for me to go back. So it's time for farewells. Should we do a handshake, in the end?
I extend my right hand.
-- No, sorry. My credo is no handshakes.
Ishizue-san firmly rejects it. He denied the handshake itself, not the handshake with Hisaori Shinya.
If that's so, there's nothing I can do. Everyone has something they don't like. And we can't do a normal handshake, after all.
Without touching, we say goodbye in words alone.
A new day. "As this is the very last time", Dolittle told me, "his disease is that he has no memories of what happened during the day."
Now some riddles were solved. That's what his forgetfulness was about, the one I couldn't find consistency in.
Only now, when we can't see each other again, I realize that he was in this building not without a reason.
Ishizue Arika is reborn every day.
If you round it up, he's a guy who lives only "today". And while being like that, he was still leading a human life. A human without definite present is living while looking forward to future.
Even when his sister appeared to be a biological monster.
I think Ishizue Arika has very high mental endurance.
That ability is the one I don't have, even though I probably need it.
Whatever, enough of the clinic's stories.
I'm going to be discharged soon. When I'm finally discharged, first thing first I'll do is pay a visit to Ishizue-san. Fortunately, we're from the same prefecture. If we both live to that day, we'll meet again soon - that is life.
Next subchapter: 1\Hide(R)