I wake up just in time to hear the shuffle and click of Wynn leaving the apartment, locking the door behind her. I immediately run to the bathroom and vomit. Sinking to the floor, I focus solely on the sensation of the cold tile against my bare legs. I’m still wearing yesterday’s clothes and they smell faintly of booze and sweat. Last night’s memories begin to bob up from the depths of my bleary consciousness: images of a huge dog with a knife sticking out of its gut, a strange blond man with his hand inside of a living human being, the feeling of bones crunching under my foot. I want to scream, or maybe vomit again.
Instead, I pull myself to my feet before tearing off all of my clothes. I brush my teeth without looking in the mirror, and then have the hottest and longest shower of my life. I scrub until my skin is pink and stinging. I breathe in the steam and imagine it cleansing my heart and my mind.
For some reason, the snippet of a song pops into my head. Something I wrote back when I still lived with my parents.
“Find me where they refuse to look
And the places they can’t see
Because I’m just the same
I’m where the lost should be.
Once the sun rose,
Or so they said,
But they only…”
I stop and stand mutely under the rushing water. Was I just singing? Actually singing? Out loud? I hyperventilate, desperately recalling the last time I sang.
A posh lounge near the Northern suburbs. I can see a sign: “Festival House” in gold script beside the image of a bright orange, Japanese-style lantern hanging from a skeletal tree branch. The dark-stained wooden doors open outwards. Inside, the walls are blood-red with occasional black and white panels depicting sakura trees, waterfalls and elegant Japanese houses. The stage is at the back, in the right corner; a rounded, black platform with white rope lighting set into the perimeter. It is one of the biggest stages we’ve ever performed on. I can smell the white and purple-speckled orchids gracing each table.
As the experience fades I try to sing the next line of the song, but the words won’t come. It’s as if I can sense their presence but they refuse to answer my call. If I just think about the song, I can remember every word. I even remember where I was when I wrote it – sitting on the small awning outside of my bedroom window, my fingers on the guitar strings aching from the cold and from playing too much. But when I try to sing it, the words and memories fade like a dream.
I turn off the shower, reaching for my towel as I try to muster my thoughts into coherence. My breaths comes slowly and steadily by the time I reach my bedroom, but I’m still shaking. I throw the towel on the bed and stare into the mirror.
Large, chocolate brown eyes stare back at me. They look a little red around the edges, but otherwise they appear no different than yesterday. My nose is as short and round as ever. My mouth as broad and thin-lipped. My skin as noticeably pale. Shiny, silver-pink scars still trace familiar lines and swirls across my stomach, hips and thighs. Other than the deep purple bruises and the broken blood vessels around my neck, I look the same as I did only a day ago. But somehow I know that’s not true, that I can’t be the same. The person who woke up today stabbed an animal to death and smashed a bottle into a man’s face. The person who woke up today has seen the impossible happen. And the person who woke up today can sing.
My cell phone, half buried in the rumpled bed sheets, rings and shocks me from my self-absorbed stupor. I sit, naked, on the bed and look at the screen. I don’t recognize the number. I glance at the clock on my dresser, 10:03 am, before answering.
“Hi, this is Detective Yagher from yesterday evening. I’d like to meet with you to ask you some questions. Do you have time to come to the downtown station today?” A familiar voice – definitely the miracle-worker from last night.
“Yes. Of course. I booked the day off because of the… because of the party,” for some reason it seems silly thinking of things like hangovers now, “I’m free any time.”
“Okay, perfect. If you can come over as soon as possible that would be best.”
He sounds a little frazzled, and I hope he hasn’t gotten into any trouble for letting me off the hook last night. “I should be able to get there in less than an hour, is that okay?”
“That’s fine. Just ask for Detective Harvey Yagher at the front desk and I’ll come get you. See you soon.”
I walk briskly into the station wearing yet another scavenged outfit. (I make a mental note to do laundry when I get home). The bored-looking gentleman behind the desk makes a quick call and Officer Yagher walks out from a hallway to my right. His skin looks paler today and there are dark circles under his eyes. I have a feeling he never made it home last night. Despite his obvious fatigue his smile is warm and genuine, making me feel less uneasy about the whole witness-interview-thing. I’m trying not to dwell on glowing crystals and weird healing magic right now, though my curiosity is practically burning a hole through my skull.
“Miss Kondo, you look much better today. I hope you were able to rest last night. Please follow me and I’ll show you to my office. Would you like some coffee? Tea? Water?” He motions me towards the hallway he’s just come from.
“Just water please,” I answer, and he stops at a small kitchen on our right before leading me into a tiny, windowless room at the end of the hall. The walls are white and bare and the only furniture is a particle-board desk with a black, padded office chair on either side. He motions for me to sit in the first chair and places the Styrofoam cup of water in front of me.
“Honestly, the interrogation rooms are much bigger. Hell, so are the prison cells,” he grins, “But this is a bit more private.”
I blush a little. In my defense it’s a tight space, and he’s still attractive even without adrenaline muddling my senses.
“Now to be honest Miss Kondo,” he begins, “what happened last night, it isn’t really something that people are supposed to see.”
The office starts to feel more prison-like than intimate, “I swear, I won’t tell anyone anything. Not about the weird blond guy or about what you did with Grant…”
“Whoa,” he interrupts, lifting his hands from the table as if to slow me down, “I’m not going to hurt you. You saved people’s lives last night, and I’m a good guy, remember? I just wanted to make it clear that… in case you were wondering… there absolutely was some supernatural shit going on last night.”
“Oh,” I say, because what else do you say to that?
He takes a deep breath and rubs his hands over his face. Then he stares at me the same way he did before, as if he’s trying to judge whether I’m really okay. Whether I’m prepared to hear what he’s going to say. As if I could be.
“In a nutshell… magic exists,” Detective Yagher begins awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck as if he feels stupid saying it out loud. When I don’t respond, he continues, “Normally I would do something to convince you, but I think you saw enough proof last night. It’s limited to a small group of people, called mages, but like any kind of power there are people who abuse it. The guy you saw last night, he was one of those people.”
Despite everything I experienced the night before, I still feel sceptical. This is the kind of thing people say for hidden camera shows. I feel naive for half-way believing it, even though I watched a man’s skin knit back together after having another man’s hand messing around with his insides. But for now, I have no choice but to keep rolling with the punches.
“Why was he even there? Why Brie’s? Who was he? Why kill those people?” There are a hundred questions I want to ask, but I can feel my face growing flushed and tears gathering at the corners of my eyes. I realize that it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours since I witnessed so much carnage…since I was an active part of it.
Yagher looks at me, concerned and slightly pitying.
“The man you… met… last night was named Johannes Trent. He was at that party because he was looking for two men, two other mages. Anyone else was no more than a necessary casualty to him. One of his targets was killed: a man named Jason Thompson,” he pauses, gauging my reaction as he continues, “The other target was Grant Walker.”