The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

(Chapter VIII)

Posted by Matt on January 21, 2011

Previously

For a few days, Aia couldn’t go into work, not knowing what might be happening now that the secret is out. She got Pearl to tell the shop she was sick. She would normally hate missing a single day of work, a single day of pay, let alone several, but this time she had other things to worry about. She felt awful about that; she wasn’t used to thinking so much about herself.

Security called her back to their office a few nights in a row. She was interrogated by a new combination of officers every night; the burly, flat-faced ones from before were separated, one or the other replaced by someone different. At least it broke the tedium. They asked her again and again what happened that night, what she was doing, and if she heard or saw anything. She had no answers. Nothing. This was partially out of fear, but for the most part, she really didn’t know. She didn’t know what she was doing when she attacked the body, even after extended periods of soul searching and contemplation and a curse to forever relive it in her nightmares. She had no idea who had entered the midway after her. She had no idea what they did with the body afterwards.

She didn’t tell them about the gang of voices that followed her or the blackmailing at all. What good would it do? She didn’t know they were; the only clue was that they were the harassing officer’s ‘associates’, whatever that means. They probably wouldn’t believe her anyway. And if they didn’t, she didn’t blame them for it; she probably wouldn’t believe her own story if she didn’t already knew it was true.

It was pretty clear to her after the third or fourth interview that they had no idea what they should do. They had never encountered a crime like this before; they had no idea what to look for, or who to look for. Crime was not a huge problem in the park; people stole things, there were brawls in the late hours, usually between homeless people or homeless people and the people they ask for change. None of these things required a whole lot of thinking on the part of security; they caught the one who stole the goods and made them give it back or pay them back in some way, and they broke up the fights. That’s what they knew how to do. Extreme violence was different. Most sorts of violence were rare, and the perpetrator was usually someone who was obviously deranged in the first place (whenever a new one was reported, the people who knew them would say “Oh, makes sense. He always looked crazy to me”, no matter what they actually thought they looked like). And for those situations, they simply sent them outside and that was that.

This, however, was something else. They had some evidence, but it was for something they had never encountered before, and possibly not even related to what they were investigating. Was there enough to go forward on? Was the act on the tape a crime? There was nothing at all obvious or clear about this case. All they had was a tape that showed Aia gnawing on a dead man’s arm, and they couldn’t even figure out what that really meant for them.

She somehow got brave enough to ask them where they got the recording; they said it was from an anonymous source. She didn’t know if she could believe them or not, but did it really matter now? It was either that angry little man with his sadistic grin or the people he had as ‘associates’, who she guessed were punishing her for some unknowable thing she did wrong. They were the only ones who could possibly do it, weren’t they?

Eventually, the officers informed her that they had sent the case to the Council to get another opinion on what to do next. It made her ill knowing someone else was now watching her shameful act. Everyone will know you’re a monster soon, everyone, even Pearl. Pearl will know you’re a monster, and she’ll hate you forever. And you deserve it, because you ARE a monster, a savage beast, a threat to everyone around you. Who knows when you might go off again?

The response came the next night. She was almost stunned at the rapid response, considering how slowly the Council responded to everything else. But since this would likely get them some easy publicity, maybe it’s not so much of a surprise? Aia was surprised she could have a thought like that after so many years of indifference. Was it pent up? Did she pick it up from someone? No time to figure it out.

The two officers that night (this time neither of the burly fellows were there: it was a tall, slender green one with a single, unnerving eye and a fat one with a metallic sheen who wore a hat that was obviously too small for him) told her that the Council thought the best thing to do would be send her outside. She knew that was coming. They informed her that, although they had no idea if she had done anything to the homeless man or if she was a continuing threat, they thought it was best to be safe about it. I can agree with that, she thought, as her heart sank.

She was allowed one extra day to gather belongings she wished to bring along and give everyone she knew a farewell. She had to be at the gates the next morning. They were counting on her being on time. She had no idea what they would do if she tried to flee, and she doubted they did, either.

Aia didn’t want to confront anyone from work about it, or any neighbours, or any other acquaintances. She didn’t think she could go to that many people. Besides, they would all find out in time. There was only one other she wanted to talk to, to explain the situation to, to console.

“Why are they sending you outside?” Pearl asked. She didn’t cry, but all her words were laced with hurtfulness, disappointment, pleading. It was a like a punch to the gut for Aia to hear her talk like that, to finally listen to the optimistic inquisitiveness overtaken. “I thought outside was a bad place”

“I did something very bad. I’m sorry.”

She made sure never to specify what she did. Even after all this, she couldn’t bring herself up to it. She wanted to leave her on the highest note possible. She’ll find out eventually. At least she’ll be far away by then, and never have to face her disappointment and anger. She didn’t want to face her perfect little Pearl when she finds out her Big Sister is a monster.

“I don’t believe you. You’re not bad, you don’t do bad things. You don’t need to go.”
“I have to go.”
“Please don’t go. Please.”
“I know this is hard. But neither of us can do anything about it. I did something bad, they said this needs to be done, and I know they’re right. They’ll get someone else to stay with you. This is for the best.”
“I don’t want to stay with someone else.”
“I know, but you’ll be okay. I know you’ll miss me. I’ll miss you, too.”
“I don’t want you to go.”
“I know.”

Then came the morning of her departure. Aia got up earlier than usual (another break in the routine, but the routine had long been smashed to bits by now) and slipped out without waking Pearl. She wanted to get out of her life silently, and let her move on. She would be better off now. A weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She can finally get the life she deserves.

She went to the northern gates, as the other ones were partially boarded up; another gift from the Poster People. The authorities must have wanted her to go there as well, as one of the burly officers was already there. He stood stoically, arms crossed, looking outwards into nothing. Beside him was a drowsy-looking guard in his tiny glass booth, even smaller than the normal security booths and much more cylindrical, like a can with a plastic cup on top of it. She thought a day like this would actually be exciting to the gate security, but apparently not. She stopped in front of the officer, ready to answer whatever final questions he had for her.

“Bringing anything?” he asked.
“No”
“Okay”

He signalled to the gate officer, who didn’t seem to be paying attention at all, but still turned his head towards them and got up. The gate officer proceeded to exit his booth, his head slung low and his eyes half-closed, settle himself in front of the symmetrical railings that led to the doors, and waited for Aia to react accordingly, which she did by promptly skittering towards him, completing their silent process. He hobbled slowly towards the doors, his back arched and his feet dragging, as if this was inconvenience to his day of sitting in his tin can and not doing anything. As she followed closely behind him, deciding not to try to move past him even though easily could, she started to get annoyed. “Just get it over with!”, she wanted to say. Of course, this was just a job for him. Part of the routine. No need to exert himself.

When he finally reached the door, he opened it in one methodical push. In blazed a beam of blinding light, the likes of which she had never seen before, and caused her to turn her head and cover her eyes for a few seconds before her eventual adjustment. Quite the introduction. He motioned her to go through, like a servant showing someone to their room. She walked out, and without saying anything he closed the door. Unceremonious. Like an everyday thing. This didn’t mean anything to him at all. Open the door, close the door, that’s his day. He can’t really complain, she thought. Could be worse.

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