The bus halts. I can feel the memory of my mother waft over me when the automatic doors swing open, the air pressure changes… I land on the wet floor, my boots squeak against the surface. The stop is empty and clean, freshly made like everything in Inner New Borough. Greeting me with the smell of metal. It permeates from recently finished buildings, it makes up most of what surrounds me. It smells harsh, makes me wanna spit. Each step I take towards Kusanagi’s building, I take with caution, though, it makes me wonder, how she ever got used to walking up and down these roads. It’s not classy or respectable, it just makes me sick to my stomach. But now she’s one of them, a child of Stalemate, living in a reflector. It sounds stupid the whole idea of it. But now I think on the concept, everything seems a little stupid since I came back from Holy Mountain, no doubt she’ll enquire about my findings, her lost brothers. Better smoke a little something before my nerves get the best of me before my eyes stare a little too long at her new plastic nose. I light my joint, look up at the bleak night sky, at least I see stars here, ain’t no stars in Stalemate, all you get is a blank sheet of dusty orange. It covers everything like a dirty blanket. They say the sight irritates the eyes, sure enough there’s a tendency for seemingly random periodic blindness but I can’t say nothing, as far as I’m concerned. I look at the orange sky all the time and, well, my eyes feel fine.
White light reflects off white walls, none of it appealing. I came all this way to be sucked into this. I buzz for number twelve, just like she said. A lower pitch buzz quickly replies and I enter the elevator. A fucking elevator, can you believe it? Kusanagi, standing in this thing everyday, multiple times a day? Everything’s a little canted now, would rather be back up there, where I belong, Holy Mountain. I didn’t know it then, but I was made man, I felt awake.
A big wide bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen sits in front of me, steam rises from the broth and it makes me sweat. Everyone eats fancy like this now, Kusanagi returns from the kitchen with a couple of beers, sits one down in front of me like a special guest or something, I ain’t that. I’m more, I know it. Her tight bleached blonde braids have been traded in for something more simple, short black hair, followed by a brand new sharp nose and the same big wide eyes. Hand on her cheek. Waiting for me to say something, waiting for me to play nice like some dog.
I don’t want to eat, so I’ll comply for now.
“Since when do you eat food like this?”,
“I missed you.” She replies, her voice is softer than it was three years ago, I respond sharply, “You released your notes then? Made a little money, good for you I guess.” She replies,
“Made a book, stead’ of waiting on you. Suppose I’d make something of myself.”
The way she talks, she still knows how to get to me, even after all that time. She continues, “Explain yourself then, where did you come from? Where did you go Jonah? Where are my brothers?”.
I take a sip of beer finally, “I said I’d break new ground didn’t I? That’s exactly what I did.” She snaps back, “So you found them?”
This high energy or whatever… it makes me nervous. “Yeah, I saw them.” I can see her hands shaking now, “How did they look?… where did you find them?”…
I notice the rain pattering against the windows outside…
“Are you going to ignore me like this all night?” she says.
I exhale, “Thinking real hard about it, don’t much feel like talking if I’m honest.” She shakes her head.
“You’re not always honest.” Kusanagi’s got temper, I’ve seen it first hand. “I’m saving you time and tears, ain’t worth talking on. Ain’t worth it at all.”I say. She replies,”Pretty sure of yourself, especially for someone who breaks promises.” She’s got me there, I did promise. May have broken new ground and found her brothers and all, but other than that, my actions count for blank. Though it won’t make any difference now, I have to admit, “I’m sorry.”
Then, I hear the door unlock, footsteps hitting the floor like stamps on paper, a head creeps into the doorway, where I finally see it. God… fuck. Kusanagi introduces him but I already know who he is, it’s not the husband part I’m worried about. His suit maybe wet but it’s polished and completely clean. He would seem like an upstanding man if it weren’t for what I knew, so here he is now, shaking my hand, getting a good feel. Marcus Mustang sits on my left, leaning toward me. That’s when I get a good eye for it. My eyes meeting his, heterochromatic, they’re different colours and they hide behind his square glasses. It’s him. Of all places, he’s here. Kusanagi ceremoniously serves him a bowl of ramen. He takes a few patient sips and acts like I’m not there, he glances up at me sporadically, everytime he does gives me a sense of whiplash.
“I’ve heard a lot about you.” He says, I push my seat a little further away from the table, being this close feels invasive. “Me too.” I reply.
“Is that right? Only good things I hope.” he says when I spark my joint, immediately Kusanagi warns me from the other side of the table, “You can’t smoke in here!”. ‘Only good things I hope’, what in the hell does that mean? His demeaning sideway looks make me feel like a rodent. A rodent tracking in dirt. Hell, she’s still talking, it’s time I interrupt, “Stop being so fucking uptight… I’m leaving.”
Kusanagi won’t stop pounding the door, wondering if I’ll get a lick of silence in here. I can’t leave and I can’t stay, not in this town, not in this bathroom… can’t help but stare at myself in the mirror now. I look tired, filthy. I could shrug off the dust sitting lightly in the rip of my tee shirt. Shit, there’s a rip in my tee shirt? How’d that get there? A raccoon maybe? It reminds me of Kageyama, what he said on the way up to Holy Mountain, two of us drenched in rain. ‘Raccoons up here so big, they eat whole people.’ Thought it was straight crazy then, just seems funny now. I open the cabinet and there, what detective Scott didn’t have, what she couldn’t find. I see with my own eyes, what was just a toy to little Sam, that poor boy. I discarded it so easily, like common Stalemate rubble, the iguana tail. The first thing I saw, the last thing I remember about Sam… toiling with it in between his small sooty fingers. I can feel… I can feel the marrow in my bones boiling, swelling, stretching even.
Kusanagi’s room is barely made up, it’s simple and small. Two pairs of naked feet lay next to each other, the moon sits fully in firm darkness outside the window. The phone rings in the background as one of the pair starts to twitch. “Hello,” Mustang’s voice is sharp and acute. The silence is for listening, a moment later he calmly puts the phone down. He’s a healthy man. Muscles well defined, full hair. He exhales slowly, disciplined even in breath. In the bathroom he analyses his seemingly shiny skin, his square jaw, his six pack abs. Polishes his smart black shoes, cleans his square glasses with a silky cloth. Picks up his black umbrella, simple coat from the coat rack. Shuts the door behind him. Not so much as a second of his concentration spent on Kusanagi.
He waddles through wide, cold aisles of supermarket colour. The ceiling is high, the supermarket is huge and empty. The air is sullen, reserved, Mustang clutches his jacket a little tighter and checks his watch, 20 minutes past midnight. At the end of the aisle, he notices a figure. Straightens his glasses, “Jonah? Jonah is that you?”. For now, no reply, his legs shuffle closer and his eyes squint. “Jonah? I’m here, I’m here like you asked. Now it’s a bit late, don’t you think? Jonah?”. A red bandanna hugs Jonah’s shaved head, his sunken eyes are lifeless and placid. He’s holding something, Mustang’s sweating now, “It’s a bit late now. I think I’ll go home.” His eyes find Jonah’s luggage, a jug of gasoline. Immediately, Mustang begins to heave air in and out, he’s backing away and Jonah finally moves. Confidently spouts, “I’ve had enough of this act. I ain’t a fan of this character Mr. Mustang.” Mustang’s fear is real, terrifying, “I-I-You better think about what you’re doing here!” They’re finally close enough for a clear view, spots Jonah’s other hand gripping a hefty pistol, 38 calibre. Mustang darts to the other side of the aisle… The bullet whistles and pulls him like a piece of meat, his body crashing into the aisle, he brings down a heap of canned food with him. He desperately tries to crawl, then music begins blaring through the supermarket speakers, it’s Russian punk. It’s confusing at first but he struggles to drag his body nonetheless, a nonchalant Jonah throws the gun away. Follows Mustang’s bloodtrail. Places a joint in his mouth,
“I don’t find you intimidating Mustang, that’s because I don’t care about you. Kusanagi I find intimidating, I’ve known her for a long time. I care about her. I’m not completely unaware of you though, I know what you did, those boys… they never coming back now, huh? Little Sam? You remember him? Got a scar right up here.” Jonah points to his forehead, in between his eyes, Mustang begs, “Please, Please!” Jonah unscrews the jug lid and resumes,
“Some people like guns… you know what I like? I like gasoline.”
He spills the jug over Mustang, drowning him whilst he tries to speak, Jonah continues, “Mustang, you should know that I’m a Stalemate boy. Suppose you’d know us well, knowing what you did… Just eager to let you know what will happen now, is because of a boy from Stalemate.” Jug’s empty, he throws it aside, eventually, lights the joint in his mouth with a cheap lighter.
Jonah stands outside the supermarket in flames… the fumes rising high into the sky at the birth of the sunrise. He flings the iguana tail into the fire, guzzles down a carton of milk as he watches it burn. Jonah walks away from the scene, head down, disappointed, crying. In the background the fumes care less, dancing and twisting upward into the atmosphere, where it will disperse among all things, disappearing completely.