siafukira: ([ we couldn't wait to get outside)
siafukira ([personal profile] siafukira) wrote2009-06-28 10:32 am
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The capital of the Japanese Autonomous Oblast is a sprawling city of not quite a million people - and almost all of it is tents. Everyone in it knows how important it is never to be cornered, to have as many exits available as you can find, or make. June is shading into cool, melting subarctic summer, and along with the endless mosquitoes - at least it's not a malaria zone - the siafu are threatening to emerge. Time to wait out the warmer months and wait to see if this year will be the time they're finally overrun. Whether they'll come out of some hitherto overlooked enclave, or out of the ocean that surrounds Kamchatka on three sides, from the shallow bay that faces on to the camp in the far distance.

There are more than twice as many Japanese here now than there were Russians before the war; infections had been sparse, easily contained. Siberia's bitter climate saved it from the worst, which is why it's rapidly becoming all that's left of the Holy Russian Empire. To Light's ears, the title is ludicrous; grandiose in the manner only a dying people can call up. He hears enough of it around the camp, people wishing for stricter times, for the certainty of the whip, for the infrequent messages the Emperor sends from Okinawa. He's seen people cluster around the precious winding radios and the samizdat transcripts like they're a bowl of rice. Ridiculous. Stupid. The thought's old and tired, the dismay gone out of it. Whatever gets them through the day, after all; they're the remnant of Japan's 127 million people, and now the sun rises at the wrong latitude entirely.

The city's hospital has some low, single-storey buildings - pitiful excuses for isolation wards and operating theatres - but again, most of it's tents; terrified patients don't heal themselves with the limited treatments available, and terrified personnel burn out or snap, or make mistakes. Most of the people here came over on the boats, trapped in steel cages with the promise of death all around, and the chance of it swimming up from the ocean beneath them, and they never want to be locked inside four walls and a roof ever again.

Light has been apprenticed to the hospital almost since he arrived; it's a long story. Most of what they do is triage and public health; trying to get people not to kill themselves - not by accident, and not on purpose. In the six years he's been here, he's thrown himself into learning everything there is to know, and if it can be done with his mind and his hands, with limited equipment and next to no drugs, he can do it.

There's something else he can do, too; something he's done on the rarest of rare occasions over the years. Something that nestles in the small of his back beneath his clothes: please, doctor, I can't bear it any more. And he'll demur, and apologise, and make time to trace the pencilled characters on the notebook's page, to black-feathered, screeching glee behind him. Nothing entertains Ryuk more than seeing Light write someone down in the book.

The tent Light uses as his office and workroom, and lives in during the summer, is more of a yurt; the fire pit in the centre is currently quiescent. Part of what he does is to maintain the hospital's computer and ham radio, to track the stacks of medical books that are kept around, and all that is in here with him; the yurt is crowded. The desk he's sitting at is solid, but improvised, and low; he's sitting on a cushion. And it is as if they've all been dropped back in time a thousand years. Chairs took up more space, and weren't multifunctional, and when they were deserting Japan with what they could carry, multipurpose things had been key.

Today, Light's not writing in the book; it would be shocking if he was. He's just eaten, which isn't at all to say he's not still hungry. He ought to sleep, the sooner to get back to work - but something has him on edge. It's not the stink coming in from outside - shattered people are remarkably hard to educate that the streets aren't sewers - or the chatter of too many people, too close. Or the moans and occasional screams or shouts from the hospital itself. It might be the fact that he's spent large chunks of the day in and out of one of those single-storey isolation wards, and that Ryuk is still talking about it.

[[OOC: private to [ profile] smallpackaging.]]

[identity profile] 2009-06-28 06:16 pm (UTC)(link)
So, a door opens. Out of nowhere, it looks like; just a hole in the sky. A woman steps through, looks around, and tries to step backwards as fast as she can. This isn't the kitchen.

It doesn't work, needless to say. Sayu is stuck here, and she's freezing cold already. This isn't going to be a pleasant one.

[identity profile] 2009-06-28 08:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Fortunately, Light is staring at the textbook in his lap - unseeing, but still staring at it - and doesn't see her appear out of nowhere. It's Ryuk who sees her, and her name, and boggles, drifting over to her all invisible.

At the same time, Light hears the scuffle of frightened feet on a dirt floor. Thinking she came through the flap of door without him noticing - how did someone get in here without me hearing them? - then he sees the sari, and doesn't quite stare. He's rail-thin, hollow-faced, and she is not. She looks healthier than anyone he's seen in years, with no sign of the strained, shared insanity that's common to the camp.

Not in a million years would he begin to recognise her. But Ryuk is flitting side-to-side around her like a bat, peering into her face, at least keeping out of line-of-sight. Usually, when he plays up this way, it means someone's about to die. But this is more; this is unprecedented for someone who's just standing there.

So much what Light does is to be professionally calm, to always know the right thing to do, to always be on duty no matter how he feels. Used to ignoring the shinigami's antics, no matter what, he asks a simple question: "Can I help you?"

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 01:37 am (UTC)(link)
"Woah, oniichan. You look awful."

Her voice is different; much deeper, and faintly hoarse, but fuller, like someone who's used to screaming for attention and being able to command it, shouting orders across a hectic room.

"Someone needs to feed you a samwich."

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 02:02 am (UTC)(link)
The ground opens up beneath him. The voice is so different, but it's also the same, and now he can see it's her - but old, too old. She's dead and she's back which means it can't be her and yet she's talking without understanding and she's alive and glowing with health and that's impossible—

Has he finally snapped, lost his mind entirely? Because there are people who do that, who see them coming and don't notice the moan and the slack, grey features and torn flesh; who lie down for death like it's a lover. Or is he hallucinating his sister over someone else entirely, probably because of—

Helpless, his eyes meet the shinigami's, who's watching Light crumble internally as if it's a rare treat. "Well, this is interesting, isn't it? Didn't think I'd see her name again. Don't do anything stupid, Light." To an outside observer, it looks as if he's spotted a spider weaving in a high corner, before looking back to her. She's not dead, not if Ryuk can see her name, not if he'd go to the lengths of warning him—

Picking up the sword from where it sits within arm's reach, he slides it through his knotted belt, and climbs to his feet. Draw and swing and spin in one motion, all his weight behind it - and his strength, which is greater. He can and will do it, if she gives him the slightest excuse.

"Who are you? What are you doing in here?"

He knows her. For all that he's so controlled and locked down, it's all over his face.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 02:07 am (UTC)(link)
It's obvious, if she wants to admit it to herself, that this is a bad world. That Light has had a hard life, and that he's lost her and doesn't believe this is happening and really will decapitate her because he has that jumpy, fucked up look in his eye that she usually sees in her patients. Sayu holds out her hands, palms up.

"It's really very complicated. Do you have a jacket I can borrow, oniichan? I'm not dressed for the weather in this universe. Where are we, anyway?"

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 02:25 am (UTC)(link)
I'm not dressed for the weather in this— He repeats it, silent under his breath, ignoring Ryuk's quiet hyuk-hyukking; it sounds as delusional as anything he's heard. But then, wouldn't all of this have sounded that way, ten years ago?

Without taking his eyes off her, he steps backwards, fishes in a net bag hanging from a beam, and produces a blanket. It's reasonably clean, though like everything in the tent it smells of woodsmoke and dust; he sleeps under it. One-handed, he throws it to her. Maybe it will fall through her onto the floor and solve this whole affair.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 02:27 am (UTC)(link)
It doesn't. She catches it, and wraps it around herself. It makes her look younger, like she used to when she played caterpillar in the house, charging about just like this in her purple duvet, inevitably tripping on the thing and hurting herself or breaking some object or another.

"I know this seems really improbable, but it is Sayu. I'm from another world."

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 02:33 am (UTC)(link)
He'd remember; he remembers all of it - the house, the noise, the way he'd warn her off and the way, inevitably, Sachiko would order her to behave. The way it had been so clean and warm, and food had never been an issue, and he'd never, never appreciated it. Sometimes he stares into the dark trying not to see it.

"Sayu's dead. You aren't her."

Ryuk's laughter intensifies; he fades it out.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 02:38 am (UTC)(link)
"Sayu in this world is dead. In my world, it's you that's gone. That was a long time ago, for me. It's so good to see you alive."

If skinny. She won't comment on that again, she'll just wish she had a power bar to give him or something.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 03:13 am (UTC)(link)
Weirdly, it's the pitying look she's trying to hide that makes it real. He remembers Sayu as younger, so young and faded and wasted at the end that she'd seemed like a child, refusing food and water and drawing down into herself to make the terror go away. And she'd got away from it, hadn't she?

Pictures flash in his mind of what he expects would have happened to him: teeth and broken fingernails and clawing, competing hands. "Wh—" Annoying, to stumble like that. "When did they get me? It was in Japan?"

That time he'd first seen them, when his security had cracked down the centre and the police had tried to contain them and he'd run and run and run, faster than he knew he could, and for longer. And by the time he'd got home he'd coughed blood and he'd been screaming and he'd fallen headlong and his clothes had been dirty and torn, and his mother had called his father home to take him aside and smack him sharply in the face and order him, oh god—

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 03:16 am (UTC)(link)
"It wasn't a 'they.' You became a police officer, like father, and you were killed in the line of duty." She tells this lie so often she's perfect at it. She believes it herself, half the time. She loves him, and she's proud of him.

"Stopping a mass murderer."

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 04:04 am (UTC)(link)
"I must have been young."

He's not shocked, but alert; every nerve ending is screaming at him that this is wrong. He wants to slice the wall of the yurt behind him and get out. He wants to put her down before she gets too close. She has no idea what they are. Well, and he only has to look at her to realise that - but - how can that be?

"If you're meant to be from some other world, why are you here?"

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 04:06 am (UTC)(link)
"About the age you are now. Maybe a little older." It's hard to tell, him being all emaciated. She shudders, and pulls the blanket tighter around herself.

"The universes have been messing me around for a little while now."

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 04:12 am (UTC)(link)
"I wish they'd mess me around. I wouldn't mind seeing some other places."

It's for himself, and for Ryuk - who snickers at the comment; he knows perfectly well Light would freak out if he found himself away from his work. Maybe it would be fun?

He wishes he could be happy to see her, but there's only one way he can think of someone being back from the dead. "Do me a favour, and -" throwing her a pillow from a stack of them beneath the net bag - "sit down."

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 04:20 am (UTC)(link)
She grabs it, and takes a seat, more gracefully than she used to be able to move. Sayu has grown into herself, finally.

"You must have missed all the fun stages. Threatening to kill my boyfriends with the notebook, being victimized by my cooking."

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 04:40 am (UTC)(link)
He knows perfectly well that, even if the Great Panic hadn't hit, he would never, never have mentioned the notebook to Sayu. And yet she knows; that's no random comment.

"That's not even remotely funny, Sayu."

It's something he thought he'd never, ever say again, and it's colder than it would have been back when she was alive.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 04:44 am (UTC)(link)
"I dated a pimp. I don't think it was supposed to be funny."

She runs her hands through her short hair, and grins at him.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 05:03 am (UTC)(link)
"Teenage rebellion?"

No, he's not shocked. He's standing there with the book against his skin, half-starved and worked to the bone, wearing his grandfather's naval sword, and trying to hold a conversation with the ghost of his older younger sister, while another ghost watches avidly from the side. Folding his legs beneath him, he slowly drops back onto his own cushion.

It's a huge act of trust; he feels as if he might be sick from it. But it speaks; it hasn't moved towards him.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
"I'm so glad to see you, Light. Really, I am."

She bites her bottom lip.

"Is this your tent? Are you a doctor?"

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 05:28 am (UTC)(link)
After a fashion. I work out of here, partly - library and communications.

[It's shorthand for "more than most"; he rarely sees patients in the yurt, but it's his domain.

She has no idea about any of it. It's like not remembering how to breathe air. Something is stinging his eyes.]

Sayu? Tell me something. Something I'd remember.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 05:31 am (UTC)(link)
"I always use the story about the scar on my forehead from the rock, but that might be a little specific."

She thinks about it.

"What about- September 11th?"

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 05:51 am (UTC)(link)
"You overreacted. Didn't want to go to school. I walked you there."

He remembers explaining the politics of it for his little sister, as if it would cheer her up. So hard to look back to that world that's gone, that family that he can't ever touch. This older woman is more like his mother than his sister, for all that he can see the shadow of the girl he knew. And perhaps it's that, that lets the words escape, melancholy.

"I should have known then. Maybe if we'd taught you better, things would have been different."

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 05:53 am (UTC)(link)
"Light, you're still just a kid. You weren't responsible for me, no matter how it felt. DOn't blame yourself for anything that happened, okay? Promise?"

She knows hiw will anyways.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 06:05 am (UTC)(link)
"No, I haven't been a kid since I was seventeen."

The date overlaps starkly with something else in another universe, if she remembers. Another of those odd sideways glances: you're going to leave, right? Ryuk sniggers to himself, and does so, vanishing through the wall and complaining all the while. Light won't see him flit up to listen through the vent hole in the roof.

[identity profile] 2009-06-29 06:08 am (UTC)(link)

It doesn't work like that. He has to know that, intellectually.

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