57 Days Until
Shinji wanted to read, but his mind had almost completely left him hours earlier. He sat cross-legged at his desk, tracing the many circles marked into the wood by half-empty glasses left on the table over the years. Circles were unnatural, and he didn't like them; they were just another example of humanity trying to make perfection that simply wan't meant to exist. Not until the right moment, at any rate.
Shinji flinched as he heard a woman's drawn out, guttural scream sound from the distance. Frozen, he waited until silence suddenly returned and ran downstairs to put some boiling water on the stove, just like the government's handbook instructed.
The little house was all but empty, but no one would know that from the outside, where various fortifications almost completely obscured the land and residence. Gendo Ikari has built this small, fortified palace the moment he heard SEELE and the UN made the decision to release their plans to the public. Those working on the project had lost all connections with reality, so absorbed were they in their goal of achieving perfection. Somehow, the men in charge neglected to predict the hell their announcement would force the world into.
Shinji's bedroom wall was covered in numbers, just like the walls of the hallway and part of the kitchen. He'd had begun writing them the moment he knew how to read and write and continued to count down one every day. He stated at 4015. Now he was at 58. Shinji glanced at the old clock hanging on the wall and amended his estimation, grabbing a red pen and scrawling "57" next to the previous day's number with the note "Father called today."
"Shinji," he had said, "I found out that maybe I can come visit you Saturday. Would you want to leave the house again?"
"Yes, Father." A monotone, mechanical answer.
His forcefully cheery voice didn't miss a beat. "What have you been up to since I last called?"
The conversation was beginning to die before it truly began, like always. Gendo Ikari barely saw his son. They would "talk" until Shinji managed to maneuver their dialogue into a corner from which Gendo couldn't nudge him onward, leaving both parties feeling like they had completed a sort of duty to the other, but completely unsatisfied.
"Harlan Ellison." Shinji knew he would never look up anything he mentioned anyway, so he may as well tell the truth.
There was a pause down the line as Gendo searched for a way to continue. "I've never heard of him. What did he do?"
"Just had some... ideas I find interesting."
Father and son volleyed words back and forth for around half an hour before Shinji said goodbye with an awkward closing.
"Saturday," he murmured, "Huh." It had been a month or two since he had been allowed to leave the house, but he didn't necessarily hate his father for it. After all, if he ventured out without protection, it wouldn't be long until he met a robber, murder, rapist or any of the similarly dark figures who roamed Tokyo in packs like wild dogs. Out of habit, Shinji began leafing through the government-issued "pamplet" for every household, which was really around the size of a novel, and contained everything from basic self-defense tips, like keeping a pot of water boiling to throw on intruders, to detailed explanations of why Instumentality was necessary for humanity and would all be worth it in the end.
The page Shinji's thumb came to rest on had the almost disturbly garish title of "What YOU Can Look Forward to Post-Instrumentality!" Ten or so bullet points rested beneath, each dot revealed to be a Christian cross upon further examination. Shinji didn't understand the page, not ever. It talked about never having to be alone, which yes, he yearned for, and of becoming one with all the greatest minds in the world that have ever existed. If pre-Instrumentality death was of no concern, then why all the safety tips? Why did people struggle to stay alive?
Shinji's eyes shown bright with the flash of sudden inspiration, and a little shivver of anticipation made its way down his spine. "I could just go..." he murmured, "As long as Impact happens, I can do anything I want." There really was no reason to stay huddled in his oubliette of a home. He only did so because he always had. "I really could just... go." The small gold key he always carried burned in his pocket, begging to be used.
His eyes darted around the room and a nervous sweat trickled down his forehead, as if his father or NERV agents were hiding in the shadows waiting for him to try leaving. But that was silly... right?
Shinji made the quick decision to bring only his iPod and the Ellison book; practically everyone in Tokyo was stealing everything they could get their hands on, and no one minded it. After all, in fifty-seven days there would be no need for money. As he approached the door- his own door- his steps began to gain weight, as if his legs and feet were slowly being transformed into lead by the proximity of the outside world. Was it worth it? What would he gain from going outside alone, aside from a small bit of personal satisfaction? Shinji's beath caught in his throat, and he hesitated as he reached for the door handle. If his father found out, he would never forgive him. Gendo would scold him like he hadn't had the occasion to in over a year. Shinji was always very careful and mindful of his father... Would leaving the house help him escape punishment, or just make the situation worse?
"I hate decisions," he moaned. Shinji suddenly felt weak and allowed his knees to collapse, leaving him sitting awkwardly on his ankles in front of the door. He could feel himself tremble. "Why do you keep me here, Father? !" he raged, slamming a fist into the wooden door, "You give me the key, but you still keep me locked up! Even when you're not here!"
After a few steady, deep breaths, Shinji managed to calm himself, to a degree. "Father..."
It was still very, very early morning... He would sleep, and hopefully with rest put his shameful, deviant thoughts from his mind. His father only kept him in the house because he loved him, wanted him to be safe... right?
Shinji dreamed, but didn't remember much when he awoke a few hours later. Someone he trusted had cut off his hands, and he screamed. There was more, but it lay just out of reach.
He began preparing breakfast with what little ingredients remained in the pantry. It had been quite a while since the last NERV agent arrived to deliver food, but Shinji knew his father's organization was busy and didn't want to bother them by asking for more asistance. Over the years he had taught himself how to ration.
A nearly empty carton of yellow powder almost magically turned in to something vaguely resembling scrambled eggs as he stirred it into the hot water. Shinji did his best to tap and shake the last bit of the substance into the pot before throwing it away, but ended up dropping the container itself in the water as he jumped from a sound at the door. Two quick knocks. One long thunk. Three quick. NERV. Shinji rushed to the door, checking the peephole as a secondary precaution.
Outside stood a beautiful woman with long dark hair, kind eyes, and a practically perfect hourgless figure. Her suit-dress fit well in all the right places, and the case whose handle she held in her left hand almost certainly contained very welcome food. Shinji didn't care about any of this, though; only about the badge and hat that signified her identity. If there was one phrase that had been drilled into him since childhood, other than "obey/love/admire/respect your father," that is, it was "trust NERV."
Shinji found that opening the door to let someone in was infinitely easier than opening it to allow himself out.
"Ikari-kun, I presume?" The woman smiled widely and offered him her right hand.
Shinji subconciously crossed his arms over his chest, ignoring the gesture. He nodded.
The visitor, curious from all she had heard about the commander's son, tilted her body to the side in an attempt to peer into the little house. Shinji shuffled to the right and closed the door a little further to obscure her view. She realized she would have to be a little more direct in order to to get to the bottom of the rumors and, possibly, accomplish her goal. "May I come in, Ikari-kun?" she asked, flickering her eyelashes a little.
"I don't know you," Shinji stated, in a calculatedly blunt voice.
She sighed and exasperatedly flung her hand to her forehead in a salute. "Agent Misato Katsuragi . I come bearing food. Besides..." Shinji shrunk back as the woman leaned in closer to him, close enough so he could smell her cherry blossum perfume. "...I'm curious to meet the oft-discussed son of the great Gendo Ikari."
Shinji chewed on the inside of his lower lip while deliberating, and eventually gave in to the woman's request. Misato clapped her hands together in happiness and patted Shinji's head as she pranced through the door, causing him to wince slightly.
"Well," she remarked after poking her head into few rooms, "this is a little barren, isn't it?" Shinji shrugged. Misato turned her attention to the mess of numbers scrawled across the wall, studying it carefully. "Maya mentioned this to me. The woman with the short brown hair who normally brings updates about your father?"
"I know her." Shinji would rather have had the normal agent come again than this Misato Katsuragi, as a matter of fact. Misato wasn't part of his routine. He didn't like unfamiliar things.
"So are you looking forward to Instrumentality, or scared of it?" She returned her attention to Shinjj, lips still curved in a smile. "That is what the numbers count down to, right?"
He hung his head. "I don't know. No one really knows what will happen, right?"
"...your father hasn't told you?"
Shinji shook his head.
"Well damn. I was hoping you could inform me," she sighed.
"I-I really think you should leave. My father wouldn't like this."
Misato walked up to Shinji and patted him on the head again, much to his embarassment. "How old are you, Shinji-kun?"
He blinked in confusion at the unexpected question. "Fourteen."
"You're too old to be blindly following your father like a little kid. I bet you can't even tell whether you hate him or love him..." a deep pain glossed over her eyes as she seemed to recall a surpressed memory. "Really, shinji-kun. The world will never be the same again in fifty-seven days; you should live a little."
Shinji squirmed under her gaze. "It's dangerous."
"Hell yes, it's dangerous! Life is dangerous!" Shinji began backing away. "'Live' and 'survive' are synonyms. So are 'live' and 'enjoy yourself.' There needs to be danger!"
"Why did you come here?" Shinji demanded, his hands balling into fists, "You sound like you don't want Instrumentality! Like you want there to be pain, suffering and loneliness in the world!"
Misato was taken aback by the sudden outburst. "Maybe I do, you know? There was really nothing wrong with the world until Second Impact, when they let everyone know about this "Instrumentality" crap. Everyone went off the rocker. There's a world-wide war going on, just because of that one speech."
Shinji nodded grimly. "Pro- and anti-instrumentality. The Perfectionists and Imperfectionists. Katsuagi-san... Japan is a Perfectionist country. You're talking about treason, and trying to convince me to join you. Is that why you came, Katsuragi-san? To gain ground by pitting the Perfectionists' commander's son against him?"
A heavy silence fell between the two of them as each tried to decipher the other's thoughts.
"I've heard people talk, Shinji-kun. And what I heard reminded me of myself. I came to help you, because I know what NERV is planning, and I know it will destroy you."
Shinji wanted to trust Misato Katsuragi, with her kind face and concerned voice, but he couldn't until he was certain of her motives. "What have you heard?"
"I've heard that the commander's son is a shy, obedient, scared boy who will do whatever anyone tells him..." Shinji opened his mouth to protest, but Misato continued talking. "And it makes sense, given the pupose your father has been raising you for."
Shinji stayed silent. He didn't understand what she was hinting at.
"You know about Rei Ayanami and the Evangelions, correct?"
Shinji nodded, not seeing the connection. "Everyone knows about Rei Ayanami and the Evangelions. The Imperfectionists use that as ammunition all the time; they say there's no way to justify using all her clones for combat only, and-"
"They can't use her anymore. The commander always knew this would happen, you see, and that as the Angels got closer to their purest form, to their mother, a emotionless part-Angel humaniod would grow more and more powerless against them."
"You're saying that-"
"He wants to use you, Shinji."
Shinji cowered behind Misato as the two walked down the street. After a long period of talk and debate, and one smaller emotional breakdown on his part, she managed to convince him to run. Sure, as recently as the day before he had considered running himself, but there is a wide divide between deciding to do something and making it happen. His eyes burned. He knew that by crying he probably made Misato feel like a terrible person, but he could not truly comprehend the things that his father had planned for him, carefully raising him in seclusion all his life so he could be sacrificed at the right time and ensure the coming of the Third Impact.
"Where are we going, Katsuragi-san?" Not that he was overly familiar with the surrounding area anyway, but he couldn't shake the feeling of being lost and uncomfortable. The trees were tall, straight, and forboding; not at all like the natural elegance of the pretty branching oak trees that grew around Shinji's house. The houses were narrow and ricketty with bars over the windows and doors, scraps of wood and metal littering the yard. People walking outside saw Misato and stared, grimacing, as their eyes shown with a mixture of fear and hatred of NERV.
"We're going to a safe place, I hope. I believe I've essentially resigned myself from NERV by doing this..." She glanced around nervously at the people eyeing her. It was a tough call to make; wearing her NERV badge and beret would attract attention to them and make them easier to find if people started searching, but they also offered valuable protection for an attractive woman and young boy walking the streets of post-impact Tokyo.
Shinji looked down at his feet as his spirits sunk a little. He had been in a 'safe place' all his life, and now he was simply being shuffled to another. Maybe it wasn't worth it to trust Misato...
There was a popping sound, and Shinji felt something splash on his cheek. He flung his fingers to his face to see what it was. All color left his face when he saw his nails tainted red.
"Shinji..." Misato was just behind him, collapsed on the ground. She moved her mouth, but no sound came out.
An older man stood in the yard across the street, holding a large rifle witha home-made silencer. "Fucking NERV!" he yelled, spitting a cigarrete from his mouth and crushing it with his heel. "This world isn't fucking over yet!"
"Shinji, run!" Misato spat. A spasm shook her body and she clutched at her chest.
Shinji turned and ran, like he had never run before. The pavement beat at his toes, and he could feel a stitch growing in his stomach. The people on the street seemed to shocked at the smoking man's action to pursue him; He heard cries of "Are you crazy?" and "NERV'll mow down this whole block thanks to you!" but he didn't pay attention as he fled.
After a while, there was no one in sight. Shinji slowed his pace as a deep horror rose in his mind. Misato hadn't told him where the safe house was. It was late afternoon, getting dark, and he had no where to go. Nothing to trade for lodgings. He had some money, but money was useless at the end of the world, and people would only barter with goods and services.
He would have to find someone to help him.
But who would?
Shinji kept walking, and tried to keep his head held high and steps deliberate, as if he knew what he was doing. Should he try to find someone from NERV to ake him to his father? He cringed at the though of what his father would do to him after his little adventure with Misato...
Shinji stopped walking as the immediate panic faded, and recent events sunk in to his mind. "Misato," he whimpered. His eyes began clouding up, but he knew he had to keep going, find help, find someone. His odds were looking less likely by the second, as hhis path to him towards somewhere that looked like an abandoned junkyard covered in glass and giant chunks of twisted metal, but the crater surrounding it indicated otherwise. An Angel had landed there.
Somehow, Shinji managed to walk to the egde of the crater before something inside him cracked and he collapsed from the flood of emotion, fear, exhaustion, or maybe something else entirely.
It was late. There were fifty-six days until Instrumentality began.
End Notes: If I decide to continue this story, which is quite unlikely unless I get interest, It will continue to count down until the day of Third Impact. I am curious as to whether people think this little plot bunny is worth continuing. If so, then I also need a betareader!
Thanks, and please review if I should write more.