The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

(Chapter VII)

Posted by Matt on January 20, 2011

Previously

It…finally happened, during the night. There was a knock at the door. Pearl answered it. There were two security officers, both of a tall and burly stock. They wanted to speak to Aia. Pearl let them in. Aia answered their questions calmly. Do you remember where you were approximately 22:45 8/17/37? Do you remember what you were doing? Can you come down to the Head Security Office with us?

She told Pearl it was alright, that she would be back soon. Another lie. She was tired of lying to her.

The Security Office is on the the second level, not really all that far from the print shop. The office was simply three dark rooms. The main one was like a larger version of the booths, this one with three chairs, a dusty microphone attached to nothing, and countless little black and white monitors where she could see most of the park in bite-sized chunks. She never realized there were that many cameras around. The other two were small offices where the Security Chief and his assistant had their desks, as well a single larger monitor hooked up to another device she had never seen before. It was that device that let them re-watch old camera records, she found out.

The Chief’s office was empty that night. The two officers led her in, and told her to take a seat. Although they were much bigger, with mountainous shoulders and arms that look like they could crush concrete blocks, and had flat-looking, motionless faces, she found them entirely more pleasant than the short officer she met earlier. Maybe its because they didn’t seem to take any pleasure in anything they did there. She thought they probably knew it was a job like anything else, and she could respect that.

There was a little black block on the table, labelled “8/17/37 -A2”. She could never understand the little codes they kept using, but she made the connection to what they had been questioning her about before. And she knew what that was about. They never said it in the same terms she knew it by, but she knew what the “night of 8/17/37” must be. She tried to keep her composure the entire time. Even when she was not in Pearl’s presence, she must not break down. Who knows what would happen then?

One of the officers put the block in the device, and pushed a button. After a second or two of loud static, the image cleared up, and showed that familiar dark midway. The image was from above, craned downwards at the abandoned trail; the camera must have been on top of one the old stands. She could see from the end of the midway where she entered, all the way up to the little crevice where she had hid. She could see the homeless man, sitting against the old stand, motionless. The colourless footage was eerily silent. No one spoke.

Then she saw herself onscreen, hurrying straight up the near-empty lot, passing by the homeless man without looking at him. She could see him look up at her, put his hand out. She still didn’t look at him, and she could see herself start to move faster. She didn’t like being reminded of the whole thing for certain, but she especially didn’t look getting a chance to look over it from a new viewpoint and notice little things that never occurred to her before. Little needle pricks to make the throbbing pain worse.

She saw herself look back. She saw the man cringe and contort, and then fall over. The angle didn’t capture the look of agony and terror that became the man’s death mask; it was at the wrong angle, and a little too far away. She was glad she didn’t have to see his face again. She saw herself look around, pace, throw up her arms in bewilderment, shake, spin, move her head rapidly. She saw herself suddenly bolt backwards, fall to the ground. As much as she dreaded that moment, she wanted to simply get to the moment of agony, to kill the suspense and finally let her die inside as she knew she would. She was frozen in her seat. No shaking, no signs of any sort of internal reaction. She was a static figure, like the Poster People in their paper prisons. Even her thoughts eventually shut down, everything reserved in anticipation of the grand finale.

Then it came. Then she could see what she did, finally. She knew what she did all this time, but had been blessed and blacked out during it. Now the final piece was being handed to her, like it or not.

She saw herself turn around and lunge at the body. She never considered herself particularly athletic, so the speed and power she showed there was as much a surprise to her as anyone else. It was a rapid, savage movement, unlike anything she had ever seen before. No one needed reflexes like that in the park, not for any job or activity she could think of. Why did she have them, then?

She was finally able to move again when she saw herself latch onto the arm of the body. She winced as hard as she could, and looked away. What kind of monster could do something like that? Unfortunately, she knew the answer all too well. You beast, you horrible flesh-eating reject! You deserve everything you get! You’re a menace! Get out of here!

The screen cut out after that moment, static returning, louder than ever. She had hid her face in her hands, feeling like she should crush her own skull and get it over with. The two officers looked at her, and silently stood in place for a few moments; they didn’t really look like they knew what to do now, either. One of them finally broke the interminable silence.

“What were you doing there?” he asked.
“I don’t know” she replied with a muffled sob from her hiding place.
“That man disappeared afterwards. Do you know what happened to him?”
“No.”

The two officers stared at each other, but said nothing. Were they communicating something? You couldn’t tell from their dazed expressions. It was like they were expecting the other to come up with an answer, but was disappointed when nothing came.

“You can go now. We will be talking to you again soon.”

She crept slowly from the Office and headed towards the stairs. Would she be able to go home? Would she be able to face Pearl, knowing she had been found out, and it was only a matter of time before everyone did? How long could she keep lying? What would happen now? More questions! “When will I ever start getting any answers?”, she thought.

She lifted her head and looked up at the ceiling. At night, there was barely anything to look at. She could see some stars in the broken panels, but otherwise it was pitch black, the only source of light being the lamps hovering above and shining below. There was nothing else to think about.

She thought about the encounter with the short officer. What happened? What caused them to go back on the deal? It had only been a few weeks since then. They promised! As long as I didn’t say anything about them, they promised they wouldn’t tell anyone about me! What happened? What did I do wrong?

She started getting angry. She was barely ever angry, and was especially never angry at someone other than herself. This was a new experience, being disappointed by someone else. She began asking the same question over and over again: why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? The pangs had begun as the same time, which only made her angrier. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? She started to speak it aloud, beginning with a slight whisper, gradually growing in decibels with every new utterance, until she had to stop herself from screaming and waking everyone in the general area. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? She didn’t even want an answer, she just wanted to do something that would take all her rage and all her pain away, and the only thing she could think to do was ask the question. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

It was late by the time she reached her flat. Her anger had subsided somewhat, but not the pangs, which were a distant thing she didn’t even think to care about anymore. She stared at the door, knowing what was inside, and afraid to confront it. What would she say? Would she finally tell the truth? What would hurt the Pearl the least? Was there some way she wouldn’t have to hurt Pearl at all? She wished she could just vanish and take all her inefficiencies, all her worthless baggage, with her, so that they would never be able to bother anyone ever again. She could leave a little mark, something harmless that could fulfil all the little things she did for others, but couldn’t possibly screw up as badly as she did. A little artifact to show she was there. But alas, she didn’t have a way to turn into an eternally grinning piece of paper that could make people happy without even trying. She would have to go inside and face the one she has let down.

She opened the door slowly, trying not to make much noise, though she didn’t know why, as Pearl was probably still awake. In fact, she wasn’t; Aia saw her laying flat on her bed, sound asleep, as if nothing was askew. She must have believed her when she said not to worry. Oh, Pearl, sweet thing, you would believe that, wouldn’t you. She closed the door, cut the lights, and went to her bed. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep, but she didn’t want to be the one to break the calm.

In the morning, she heard Pearl wake up. Aia was still wide awake; she didn’t sleep for a moment that night, but she had finally found a way to clear her mind of all thought. She simply stared at the wall. At least she had that.

“Big Sister?” Aia heard from across the flat. She moved slightly, a good enough sign she heard. “Are you okay?”
“Yes.”
“Where did you go last night?”
“To the security office.”
“Why?”
“The officers just wanted to ask me a few questions.”
“Did you have the answers?”
“Sort of.”
“Was that okay?”
“I think so. They may want to talk to me again.”
“What was it about?”
“They wanted to know if I saw someone who’s missing.”
“Who?”
“I don’t know who he is. I saw him once, and that’s it.”
“So you don’t know where he went?”
“No.”
“I hope they find him.”
“I hope they find him, too.”

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