Well, finally-- it's getting dark out. Quiet, too. Nobody about? Nobody watching? Good.
It's not that I really want to keep this little excursion of ours a secret. I mean, I'd love to share this whole shebang with somebody--- oh, not that you're not company enough, don't think that! But... somehow I just don't think any of the others would understand. Well, Tsuzuki might; he's got an adventurous streak. But the others? No way; they might even want to stop us. 'Just another crazy idea of yours---', that's what they'd say, and 'What the hell do you want to do that for?' They just wouldn't feel the same way about it as I do.
But you understand, don't you? Good; thought you would. 'Course, this is pretty natural for you.....
You ready? Me too. Now if I can just get my heart to quiet down... Heh; it sounds like a full marching band, complete with tuba and saxophone. This is...
... so exciting...!!
I've been wanting to try this for years. Guess I had to get my nerve up, really, not to mention my skill level. Well, practice makes perfect, so they say.
And you have to take chances now and then--- that's part of being a scientist. Why else do they call it 'experimentation'? And it should work just fine--- every time I've traveled back and forth from the Meifu to the Chijou I've worked just that little bit harder, managed to arrive just that little bit higher.....
Hang on, let me gather my things together---- slow down, you'll damage something and then where will you be? Don't ruffle up at me or I'll leave you behind... just kidding; I couldn't do that. And here I thought I was the impatient one. I don't know what you're so eager for--- you can do this anytime you want to.
Me, though... And I guess enthusiasm is contagious, ne?
I wonder what the others would think. Wonder what they will think when they see the pictures I'm going to take? I've never heard of a shinigami doing this, though I suppose there's no reason why one couldn't. I've been keeping this little idea secret for quite a while, ever since I thought of it while coming back from the Chijou.
Everybody's gone home now; guess we can get started. Let's see... camera, notebook, what else? Ummmm, telescope, the small one; gotta have that. Leave the labcoat at the lab; it'll show up too easily. Don't forget the balloon and the helium cartridge! Can't manage without those.
Where to begin? I guess... the roof? No, boring photos; how about out in the sakura trees? That'd look good. God, I'm nervous--- excited too; I can't stop grinning.
Hmmmmm..... The sky isn't quite as clear as I would have hoped, but that's okay; that's fine. I can deal with a few clouds. And the moon is at the full. Sure hope I picked the right film for this.
Okay now, pick a primary orientation point. Uhh, the biggest building in the area is the Mansion of Candles--- that'll do. Now for the secondary point; Juuouchou itself, of course. Tertiary? How about the pond? That should reflect the moonlight well enough for me to see it clearly. Fine.
Everything secure? Good! Well, everything's secure but my nerves--- I'm so excited that my hands are shaking. Calm down, man, calm down! And that goes for you too.
Time to begin.
Notebook, notebook; write the time down carefully. 6:43 p.m. Must be clinical about this whole thing, at least to a certain extent. Scientific detachment. Now... Inflate the balloon, tie it tightly to my belt--- it's dark blue, couldn't get a black one, but it shouldn't show up against the sky. Hmmmm, it's a bit larger than I thought it would be, but that's all for the better.
This still feels a little strange, even after all these years. Step up, step off, slip the bonds of gravity..... Earth, even the earth of the Meifu, is so heavy--- there's a *reason* behind the semantics of the word 'depression.' It's easier to do this in the Chijou for some reason--- maybe because shinigami don't really belong there, the way pearls don't belong in oysters. Maybe the living land is more willing to let us escape the noose of natural law than here, in this place where we are natural. Or supernatural. Or whatever.
Humans aren't designed to fly; note that. 6:51 p.m.
Shinigami aren't human anymore; note that too. 6:52 p.m. Whee! It's working!!!
I've never really been good at flying, except when passing from the Meifu to the Chijou, and that's easy. But in either place--- no. Not like Tsuzuki-san, or even Hisoka..... You'd think they had little rockets hidden on them somewhere, you'd think they wore superhero capes under their everyday clothes. But no, it's just natural talent; me, I can hover now, and that's saying something.
But with proper lift, hovering can get you places; hence, the balloon.
You know, one of the things I noticed not too long after I died was that hardly any shinigami tend to fly here, in the Meifu; it almost seems to be taboo. Isn't that strange? It took me a while to figure it out, but I think I've got it. This is our *normal* place, the place where we fit in; we tend to act much like we did when we were alive here, and live people just don't fly. But when we go to the Chijou, we're not natural inhabitants; therefore we can do unnatural things there. Mmph; better make that 'supernatural' things... sounds better. Semantics again, the delicate science of language.
Ohhhh, look at that; I'm already above the treetops! It's working, it's working..... You're excited too, and a little perplexed, aren't you? Circling me like that, your eyes even huger than usual with puzzlement. It's okay; can't you feel it?
I can see my house from up here!!
This is so--- so cool.
(Speaking of cool... It's a little chilly, isn't it? How bizarre--- sweet Spring night down below, in the sakura; yet it's as cold as Autumn once you rise a little ways. Wonder why?)
Detachment, detachment. Must keep calm, note things down. Rate of ascent: roughly ten feet per minute, slowing perceptibly. Not very fast, but I'm not doing this to set any speed records. Which brings me to something I've been debating with myself for some time.....
Why the hell am I doing this??
It's no secret that flight fascinates me. Sometimes I think it's because of the way I died..... But you'd think I wouldn't want anything to do with flight after that; I mean, getting me aboard another airplane would require severe sedation, a straightjacket, a number of very strong porters and quite possibly an Act of God. Never, never, never; if anything happened to the plane and the passengers--- again--- I really don't think I could bear it. It was all my fault before, you see; all my fault. If I had packed my chemicals more carefully in their crates, they wouldn't have tipped over; if they hadn't tipped over, there wouldn't have been a fire, and we wouldn't have crashed. All my fault.....
It's all right, quit looking so worried; stop circling me and take a break for a moment. It's okay--- I won't fall.
That was nearly two decades ago. I still dream about it now and then, you know: the sudden drop, the distinctive reek of my chemicals filling the cabin with smoke, choking us all--- the screams around me, and the knowledge that it was my fault, my fault, all my fault----
..... but no; it's over with. I have them on my conscience, all those deaths; they'll never go away. But I learned a long, long time ago that you can only grieve so much before it eats you alive (so to speak) and makes you useless to the people around you. What's the good in that? So I atone, every day, by being useful. Knowledge is never useless, never. That's why I'm here--- to be useful.
Otherwise, what good am I? Oh, I don't mean to sound self-pitying--- I'm not a depressive type, not at all. I know my worth. But we all cope with our pasts, we shinigami, in our different ways..... and this is how I cope with mine. By being useful.
Maybe I'm shallow, but I just can't stay depressed for very long. Not even about... that. But you should've seen me when I first got here, little one; there were moments when I could give Tsuzuki a run for his money in the Great Depression Mope-Off.
Of course, none of this explains why I'm currently floating through the sky of my own particular Afterlife, holding on to a dark blue helium balloon.....
Heh heh heh.....
Oh, now I've got the giggles. It's just too absurd; what I'm doing is every child's dream--- floating away on a balloon! Too bad you have to die to manage it. Up, up and away----
Back to the subject. Why am I doing this? Well..... because it's never been done before. Because I want to. Because I'm curious. I mean-----
Just how big is the Meifu? I know that the local area mirrors some of Tokyo, but is this an entire world or just a sort of.... landscape, floating in the heavens? When we travel, we teleport; but what would happen if I just started walking? What's beyond the horizon? The Meifu, I'm told, isn't Heaven... so what is it? A whole world, just for we few shinigami and the other districts? How wasteful (how--- wonderful... a new world...). There are people working in the local 'city'--- you don't ask them where they come from; it's not considered polite. But who are they, why are they there? They just seem to be regular people, same as us. They're not shinigami--- so what are they? I want to know. There're no maps of this place, no explanations given, not by Konoe-kachoe or Hakushaku-dono or... or anybody. What is this place, really?
I want to know. Knowledge is never useless. Right, little one?
So here I am, ascending, like Icarus with his wings. Eeeeehhh, bad comparison..... we all know what happened to Icarus.
Mrmph. Enough of that.
Wow, I'm pretty high, aren't I? Juuouchou looks like one of those architect's scale modals. Time to get out the telescope. Pretty little thing, isn't it? All brass and ebony--- it was a gift from a shinigami I met on a case about ten years ago, one who'd been working her trade for a couple of centuries. Very interesting woman..... lovely, too. And quite uninhibited; we passed a few magnificently memorable-but-exhausting evenings together. Ahhhh, memories..... Wonder how she's doing?
Hey--- oh, that's a fine place to choose to perch--- silly bird, right on the telescope. Oh well, you don't weigh much. And I *did* tell you to take a rest.
.....Look at that. Just look at that.
The world is big. I can see across Meifu-Tokyo, all the way across--- you can tell where it ends 'cause there's no lights--- and then there's just forest and hills. Lots of forest and hills, stretching on forever..... or at least to the next District, or maybe the ocean. It's so beautiful..... dark and perfect, frosted with moonlight. The treetops look soft at feathers from up here.
Stretching on forever. Forever.....
That's a word that means something, here.
Higher. I've got to go higher. I've got to see more. Still ascending, but so slowly----- hardly moving now-----
Write everything down, all the details; look, there's a river glinting in the moonlight over there! And hills, just like the ones west of Tokyo--- are they mirrored from the living world, too? I wonder... do the trees down there grow at all, or do they stay green forever, like the sakura outside Juuouchou? Maybe I could go and look.....
Trees that live forever--- untouched, undying, perfect. Eden.
This is just amazing. Why the hell didn't I do this a long time ago?!? My face hurts, I'm grinning so widely. Brrrrr, it's getting cold----- How high am I now, several hundred feet? Way, way up above everything; it's windy here and so incredibly beautiful. A funny thought comes to me: I'm hovering, right? Just sort of floating, but being pulled along by the lift of the balloon. So if I let go of the balloon, I won't fall--- I'll just stand here, on the unsolid night of the Meifu. I'll be fine. So when I'm ready to stop, I should be able to just let go, and then---
Watari, you silly ass. How the hell are you going to get down?!? Short of dropping like a stone, I mean.....?
Can I--- walk down, maybe? Like walking down stairs? I'm... not sure. The classic Scientist's Dilemma; we tend to forget that the act of observation affects the observer until it's too late, and then the test-tubes are smoking and the fire alarms are going off. Not that this has ever happened to me, no sir, of course not..... um.
How am I going to get down??
Hmmph. Nothing like hanging several hundred feet in the air to make you think fast. I've racked my brain until it's beginning to squeak, and it looks like my possibilities for getting down have narrowed to one.
I'm *not* going to enjoy this. But I can't teleport down--- way too far up; I'd probably end up with my parts in multiple locations, NOT a prospect that thrills me--- and I'm pretty certain that I can't "walk" my way down, because I tried to move sideways with absolutely no effect. Let's face it, bird, I can make myself weightless and inertialess and that's about all.
That leaves me with only one alternative. Shit..... This is going to be embarrassing, unless I can manage to get away with it without any witnesses. I'm going to have to sort of 'doppler' my way down--- do it all in one go and I'll end up hitting the pond like it was rock, and I don't think that even a shinigami could survive a several-hundred- foot acceleration trauma. So it's going to be drop-hover, drop-hover, drop-hover, all the way down. Outch.
If I were still mortal, I wouldn't survive the last fall; SPLAT, messy Watari-splashes all over the landscape. Of course, if I were still mortal, I wouldn't be here at all, ne? Sigh...... If I keep drifting like I am right now, I should be in position in about five minutes----- So I'd better take care of a remaining bit of documentation for the experiment: my photos.
*click.... click...* Sure hope these come out okay..... *click, click.....* Nice shot of the Mansion of Candles, wow, it's really big.....
Oooh, beautiful. The clouds are clearing nicely and the moonlight is flooding the Meifu with silver. The pond gleams below me like a pool of mercury.
*click, click...* There, a good one of the hills, and one for Tsuzuki of his apartment.... *click, click, click......... click....* Hey, you; off the shoulder. Now circle around me to the left--- good---
Sure wish you could do this for me..... oh well. If I hold the camera out at arm's length I should be able to get *one* more picture, this time of me---- Look confident, Watari-san; say "cheese"!
Time to put everything away as securely as possible. I'm going to hit really *hard,* so everything has to be buttoned into pockets and tucked inside clothing. I don't imagine my camera'll survive this; a pity, but oh well. So the film gets removed and placed in its neat little plastic cylinder and stowed away, safe as houses. As for my notebook, heh, it's a good thing I use waterproof ink.
Untie the balloon; grasp it tightly--- we always hold on to things the tightest just before we let go and fall, don't we?
Now, in the last minute before I get into position..... one last item. Lean back, brush the hair out of my eyes, and stare upwards. Upwards.....
Dear God, look at the *stars.* They're as thick as flowers in a field, they're like letters on a page----- The Milky Way is spilling across the sky like--- like milk, I guess----- it's so beautiful I don't have the words; my eyes are blurring with tears. So much for scientific detachment. But who the hell gives a damn about that?
The balloon is slipping from my hand. I let it go. No, silly bird, don't follow it--- let it go, give it to the sky.
And now I'm hanging here, motionless except for my hair whipping around me in the wind. Seems that I lost my hair-tie at some point--- I don't remember, I don't care. All I can really see right now is the starscape above me and the landscape below. I'm standing in the sky.....
And now I'm in place; the farthest end of the pond is right down there, straight under my feet. Can I do this?? Not like I have a choice, do I? Aaaack. Suddenly it's rather frightening, being up this high. Where'd that come from?!? Left-over survival instinct, I suppose. Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down don't look down don't look down---
Yeep. I looked down. Well, of course I did. I'm stupid that way.
Ohhhh boy, I do not want to do this..... can't hang around here all day, though. Follow me, bird, and don't freak out (I'm covering that quite well, thank you). Deep breath. One more. Here goes...... I.......
........stop hovering and drop!!!
***whoooomph!!!!!!* Aaagh! Think I might have..... cracked a rib or two there (pant, pant, pant)....... Gotta hang here a few minutes, let myself heal...... I think maybe three more drops'll do it. It's okay, it's okay, stop hooting so loud; just give me a few minutes to catch my breath. Shhhhh, don't worry so; I'm alright. Silly bird.
There, better..... You know, if this wasn't so terrifying and didn't hurt, it might almost be fun..... Watari, you're touched in the head. Okay, now in quick succession.... I can do this, I *CAN* do this........
***whmmmph!!!* Owwwwwww........ Not so hard a stop next time (gasp, huff), or I'll end up dead again. Twice by falling would be a bit too much, I think. Drop---
***whammm!!* (Pant, pant, gasp.....) That--- wasn't so bad. Almost done. Here goes, the last one, right into the water-----
*** S P L A S H ! ! ! ! ! ***
.....wet, cold..... can't breathe.... where? Oh, yeah, pond--- it's dark, where's the surface?--- think I rattled my brains loose, I can't find the surface, which way is up? Well, stupid, it's up, of course---
---go limp, let yourself float, if you inhale water and drown you'll still be okay eventually..... but it's so dark.....
where's 003? Idiot bird, you didn't fall too, did you--- of course not, you've got wings, you don't fall--- dark.....
where's the surface? Need air, need air, need air need air right now!!!
Still dark, wet, cold, but ohhhh, breathing is good! Floundering about, splashing--- I can swim, right? 'Course I can, but everything's sort of numb, I hit really hard--- warm taste of blood in my mouth, think my nose is bleeding--- Don't sink you silly ass, keep your head up! Head? Something on my head, scratching--- get off me, idiot, can't swim with you perching and hooting on my head--- ah shit, where's my glasses? Where-----
something's got me, grabbed me by the jacket----- towing me through the water----- whatthehell?!?
Shoreline, muddy but solid. Oh, good.
Breathe, breathe, breathe..... cough, cough, cough.....
Shuffle and crunch of footsteps beside me. Who?? Blink wet eyelashes (blurry; need my spare glasses), attempt to push wet hair from eyes, look around---
Ummmm... there's nobody here but me and 003. Nobody. Just the pond and the sakura trees and the moonlight, plus one half-drowned deceased scientist and a ghostly owl. Said owl happens to be fluttering in circles 'round and 'round me, making me dizzy. Or maybe that's from all the water in my lungs? Could be..... so who pulled me out of the pond?
Don't think about ghosts, Watari; giggling hysterically will only make things worse. Cough some more first, then you can collapse.
Ummmm, 003? Since when can you hang in space like that without moving your wings? Looks just like you're perching on something I can't see-----
.....flash of a half-mask as someone unseen leans over, flash of a white glove as a cold finger brushes wet strands from my face..... 003 flutter-jumps from an invisible shoulder to mine, flinching away from damp clothing and hair with a hiss.....
The white gloves and the mask move away from me as *he* steps back, grass flattening eerily under his unseen feet. Sit still, Watari, don't move at all..... you never know how *he'll* react to anything..... totally unknown quality, even after nearly twenty years----- Frankly, he scares the shit out of me-----
"Next time, be more careful." His voice is faint but clear over the rushing in my ears as he walks away. Pushing myself up, I laugh shakily.
Guess he knows me all too well. Heh.
Uhhhh..... do I still have my film? Yes, there it is, still buttoned inside my sodden jacket's inner pocket. Intact, too; watertight container. So I call out to him: "Hakushaku-dono..... Thank you. ---- Ahhhh, I took a good photo of your mansion--- would you like a copy?"
The mask pauses in mid-air, tilting as its wearer considers; for a moment I could swear that the moonlight almost outlines a face, long hair glinting. "Certainly. I am interested in all aspects of my shinigamis' work... even that which is--- unscheduled. I shall look forward to seeing it." And there is, almost, the glint of an amused smile. Almost.
Then the mask is simply--- not there. Gone, not in the ripple-ripple-fadeout way that we do when we teleport..... Just--- gone.
Brrrrrrrrr. He still scares the shit out of me. But he did drag me out of the pond----- wonder how he knew I was there? Must've been watching.
Hakushaku-dono..... just another mystery of the Meifu, possibly the biggest one of all. And even though he scares the shit out of me, well, you like him, don't you, 003? Strange. Curiously reassuring.
Cold; I'm a mess, soaked through and blood-spotted from my nose (which has of course healed by now). My ribs ache--- must've cracked them again when I hit. They'll be okay soon enough, which is more than I can say for my nerves. But we did it, didn't we, bird? We *did* it!!!
Lay back, Watari; you're too shaky to stand up yet. Besides, the grass is soft and no wetter than you are. Lay back and bask in the satisfied glow of a completed experiment. And giggle hysterically.....
I don't think I'll tell anybody about how I got down. Let 'em guess. It'll just be between you and me, right, bird? Right.
Besides, Tatsumi-san will probably be the only one to think about that. I doubt that Hakushaku-dono will say anything to anybody else--- well, maybe to Konoe-kachoe, but that's to be expected. That's okay.
Everything's okay. We did it. And in a little while I'll climb to my feet and we'll head back to the lab for some celebratory hot tea and owl-crunchies. Not to mention dry clothes. But in the meantime.....
In the meantime, let's just stay here for a bit and look up at the stars.
That was fun; fluff, fluff, fluff, and maybe some cheesiness... but sometimes you need a little cheese. Should I write a third part, maybe a bit citrusy, about Watari's lady-friend? Could be amusing, and we shant go into symbolism about telescopes right here, shall we? Hisoka would blush..... Ysabet =^_^=