A/N I wanted to write a short story for Halloween and I'm hoping I'll finish this by then as well trying to update Cure. It's heavily influenced by M.R. James's stories, especially "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" and also Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black". I think it's very important to get a sense of place with this kind of story. The setting is a major character so I've spent a lot of time describing it. Hope it's not too boring.
This is set in an alternative scenario in which Light won. Huzzah! Ooops, I mean boo. So, Mikami didn't mess up, Near didn't find out his Death Note, Gevanni didn't do that (vaguely implausible) copying of the Death Note overnight. Everyone died apart from Light. There's no Ryuk... because.
The Killing Jar – Chapter One
Now the waves, they drag you down
Carry you to broken ground
Though I'll find you in the sand
Wipe you clean with dirty hands
So god damn this boiling space
Forget the horror here
Leave it all down here
It's future rust and it's future dust
I'm the fury in your head
I'm the fury in your bed
I'm the ghost in the back of your head
Spanish Sahara ~ Foals
Everyone had thought that he had black eyes. He didn't; they were dark grey.
He was glad for one thing; that he hadn't told him that he loved him. He didn't realise it until afterwards, and even then it was a fairly nondescript feeling that was easy to bury. He hadn't felt a thing until after those liquid grey eyes closed and rolled back into the skull. When the thoughts drifted away with his soul and the smile Light hardly realised he was wearing. You shouldn't smile as a man dies. You shouldn't play the lyre while Rome burns. People do strange things sometimes.
It had probably been the anticipation. Light had congratulated himself upon his patience. He was a gambler and though he had fixed the game, knew the cards, rolled the dice - fixed it all. But, if he was honest, there had been a slim chance that he wasn't as good as he thought he was, so the closing eyes was more like the closing of a book to him, not the leaving of a soul.
Besides, had there ever in the history of man been such a thing as a soul? If there had, then L would have been the last person to have one. He was emptiness. He had been little more than computer programmed to play chess and run off cake after all, yet Light had immediately felt the loss and hated himself for it. He convinced himself it was annoyance, perhaps disappointment that he'd broken him so easily, though at one point he'd considered the rotting piece of meat to be potentially problematic. Dangerous, frightening even. But then winning had always come naturally to him anyway. So he buried him. That book had ended.
Now it was raining, drizzling all the way from Paddington Station. He'd tried to sleep some of the way but soon realised that it was pointless, with the gentle, annoying sway and monotonous rumbling of tracks, so he alternated between reading and working. It was a long journey, 9 hours by train in airless conditions and surrounded by screaming children. Eventually, the further into the countryside they went, the greener the fields, the more people got off at the stations. For the short time it took to travel to the last station, it was just Light, alone at the end of the line. He called a taxi to meet him using an unpleasantly public phone, unused to having to wait for any length of time. It was so different here to the speed of cities. He viewed the small clusters of cottages and farms along the narrow winding roads edged by tall thorny hedges like looking at a Impressionist slideshow at a gallery. Why here? Nowhere.
The taxi stopped at the dead end of a muddy track at what appeared to be a small car park. After Light had paid the taciturn man and the car's noises faded away, Light thought he could hear the sea. He walked up the steep path only intended for feet. With no warning, a coastline appeared from over a dry stone wall. It was dramatic and wild. Sea spray carried upon the air. There was a little cove cut into the rock and perched above that was a red brick building. As Light approached, he walked upon the grass, grown dry and hair-like, which carpeted the grounds. The rough edges ran into sand and further down to the sea water; there was no end to what belonged to the great house. Spaced out mounds of earth and rock-like stumps which had once been sycamores too tender for this climate had perished in the salty winds and made their own grave markers. The building seemed vast and stern; one side draped with creepers, red, like the Victorian walls were bleeding in the few lances of sunlight which broke through the furious clouds. The bricks were chipped, the painted window frames flaked. Broken slates marked the perimetre of the roof. It was unkempt. It was falling in upon itself. Few would choose to stay there but it was all there was. And Light wasn't here for stunning views and classic architecture.
The rain clouds disappeared as quickly as the mist hanging low over the fields.
Once inside the house, behind the stained glass porch and double doors, Light was met by a chinless man at the reception desk, his unmemorable face dripping into his thick neck like melted wax. Probably only in his 30s, his face was already weathered but cheerful. As the man booked Light in and chattered, Light looked around the typically ostentatious Victorian room. Overly large, using every opportunity for vast windows which held sea views looking over the rough and salt-bleached grass and the pale sand of the cove. The tides held a silent treachery which every visitor was was warned of as soon as they arrived. They appeared calm, but within minutes they would surround, corner and devour an isle of sand. The receptionist cheerfully regaled Light with tales of how many unsuspecting people had been swept away by the sea. He took Light's advance payment while describing, without provocation, how bodies would be found by dog walkers, bloated, and half covered by sand, regurgitated by the coast. Dogs could smell a death a mile off.
"My name's John by the way. Any problems, come to me. Well, there's no one else. Huh huh. Now, you said that you wanted a large room. Well, the best room is vacant but, um," he admitted conspiratorially, "between you and me, all the rooms are vacant bar one. You can take your pick. Will there be someone joining you?"
"No." Light replied simply. He signed the register and flipped back through the pages, it spanned over years from what he could tell. Maybe L was in here somewhere. He had to be. "Your largest room will be fine. I have some work to do here and need space."
"Why not, eh? There's a desk in the room but we might have a larger one in the attic if you need it. Might need some help bringing it down, mind. My wife's expecting so she's neither use nor ornament," he laughed. Light glanced up at the expectant and urging face willing him to laugh but Light hated the overly friendly tone. He didn't want to know the man's name. He was sick of names and faces. He didn't want to be friends or to feel obliged to pacify the man with the pretence of friendship during his stay. He came here for peace and to break open a dead secret.
"Congratulations," he managed, turning back to the book.
"Thanks. Wasn't planned but... I don't know. I guess it's good news, right?" John replied, smiling a weakly crooked smile and lazily reaching behind him for the keys. "So how did you find us?"
"A friend recommended you," Light answered.
"Really?" He sounded surprised. "Well, people like the quiet I guess. We get artists and kooks mostly. Aspiring writers, politicians and their -"
"You might remember him, or his friend," Light interrupted.
"When were they here?"
"I'm not sure. A few years ago."
"Oh, what was his name? I'm good with names."
"Well, it was... he was on important business at the time. I don't think that they would have used their real names to be honest. It would have been an older gentleman, in his late 60s, early 70s, and a young man."
"Don't misunderstand me," Light said, seeing the disturbed look in John's eyes.
"No, I'm not one to judge. We get those blokes but I've only been here a year or so. What did your friend look like?"
"He was about my height. He might have been in his early twenties then, very dark hair, thin, terrible posture -"
"Not ringing any bells with me. Sorry."
"I see," Light said, disappointed. He had hoped that someone would have seen him.
"So, shall I show you to your room? Is this all your luggage?"
"Few flights up. You don't mind do you?" John said, not waiting for a reply, hunking up the bags like sacks of coal and marching heavily to the stairwell. Light looked to his feet as his followed solemnly. The patina of the oak floor was lined with thin tracks of sand between the boards. The stairs were covered in a threadbare, overly flowery and complicated Victorian design with worn patches from thousands of marching footsteps. Everything smelled of beeswax and the banister had that lightly grimy dark feel from the polishing glances of oily hands over a hundred years. Light didn't much care for the tired atmosphere to the place. He tried to picture L here; closed his eyes and tried to imagine him walking these same steps. He couldn't feel him in this place. There was a distant sound of children laughing. It echoed through the curling staircase like the sound of the sea in a shell.
"Here you are," John said, standing to one side and obviously expecting applause once Light saw the room and the view.
Light placed his holdall on the bed.
"Well, you've got tea, coffee, UHT. If you want proper milk just let me know, I can bring you some up. The beds can be pushed together but yeah, you won't be needing that so, ok. Any plans for dinner? My wife is making something at 6. You're welcome to join us but don't expect marvels. Failing that, The Mansong Inn down the road make sandwiches and that. Just mention my name and they'll see you right."
"Jet lagged, I bet," John tried. Light smiled weakly. "Well then," he continued awkwardly, "I'll leave you to it. Just give us a shout if you need anything."
The door clicked shut and Light immediately went to it and turned the key out of sheer habit than anything but mindful of the children who were obviously staying. The last thing he needed was children bursting in.
He opened a window and the sea air rushed in, kissing his face. It was salt and the bittersweet smell of washed-up seaweed. Light turned to look around the room. It was uninteresting; like the rest of the place, stuck in it's Victorian heyday – faded William Morris style wallpaper, a thickly stemmed bed, bare floorboards, clunky, dark furniture, two single beds. He couldn't see L here. It would have been in this room if he had been anywhere. He would crunch up small in the largest of rooms.
Light flipped open his phone. 3 voice messages and 7 text messages since this morning. He sighed and started dialling a number without looking at them first.
"Hi, it's me," he mumbled.
"Finally! I've been so worried. I've tried to phone you, why didn't you answer?"
"Are you ok?"
"I miss you so much! So, what's the place like?"
"It's... it's pretty horrible actually."
"Light, just ask me and I'll be there tomorrow."
"No, I didn't mean it like that. I need to be alone Misa. I'm fine, really. I just need to think things over."
"Think what over?"
"Where I go from here."
"You mean us? We're getting married aren't we? What do you mean?"
"Misa, I can't talk about this over the phone."
"You do still love me don't you, Light?"
"But if you loved me, Misa, then you wouldn't mind me taking some time for myself."
"I don't. I just... I miss you."
Light was silent. It didn't shock him now that he felt nothing.
"Look, I'm flying back out on Tuesday. I need some space until then."
"If you're sure. Should I just carry on like we said?"
"Yes, like we said. Mikami knows what to do until I get back. If you're unsure then do nothing and check with him. I'll see you next week.."
"But, but – you'll call me later, won't you? Should I call you?"
"No, I'll call you. I'm going to sleep now, Misa. I'm tired."
"Ohhh! Alright then, I don't want you getting ill just to talk to me. Sleep well and call me as soon as you can. I love you!"
Light opened his mouth like he was going to answer but there was nothing there. Misa's begging tone thousands of miles away made him feel crowded but empty. He ended the call and turned his phone off in case she phoned back, which she probably would. It was unfortunate that he could get phone reception in this place. He fell back on the bed and listened to the unhurried, mourning sound of the sea.
He woke up shivering. Light groaned at his aching head and the realisation that his 'I'll just close my eyes for a few minutes' hadn't quite worked out that way. The sea was silver while everything else was deep blue. The thin white net curtain blew up repetitively to the ceiling, kept up by the breeze. Light sat up, brushing the hair back off his face. There was a blanket was covering him. He must have pulled it over himself while he was asleep.
Drawing himself up, he unsteadily walked to the window to close it. After a shower he felt more human, but coming back into the bedroom, he was hit by the strong smell of flowers. He looked around the room briefly but found no flowers or air fresheners to account for the sugary sweetness. He opened the window again and resolved to look into the problem in the morning.
He staggered downstairs, annoyed that he was still feeling strangely dozy and otherworldly. Passing the reception he saw the guest book and started searching through for likely names or handwriting that seemed familiar. It was 2 in the morning and the hotel was asleep, which gave him plenty of time to search with abandon. When that book proved useless, he slipped behind the counter and pulled out older visitor books, but all records only went back to mid-2004, when L was with Light and dead by November.
Light sighed and put the books back as he found them. Nothing was ever so easy with L. The dead man was holding on to every last shred of a secret. Light climbed the stairs again, the wood creaking underfoot. Back in his room he put away his clothes in the ancient wardrobe and chest of drawers, took a seat at the desk by the open window and put on his iPod. Instead of music, it was a playlist of spoken word; interviews between two men, the voice of one he knew as well as his own even after years of silence. The recordings were found on discs within the records kept at Wammy's House which Light had commandeered soon after Near's death and there was nothing to prevent him. Some interviews were missing from what he could gather, reading between the lines. Light's English was good enough now after years of discussion and determination to be proficient that he could listen to the recordings without sending it away to be fully transcribed, which he couldn't do for fear of what the tapes held. It took him years to get to this point. He wouldn't admit that it was mostly for this reason that he'd studied so hard to improve his fluency. Now he knew these words by heart. He pressed play on the first track.
"You talk now? Sometimes you don't. You stare at me and copy my moves behind glass."
"Did you sleep well?"
"You know we don't."
"Not even last night after your injection?"
"Only when you force it on me. And that's unfair, it doesn't count. But I'll catch up with you."
"You were telling me about the dolls."
"The dolls. All broken? I smashed them till their blood killed them but that didn't work so I strangled and chopped. That did it."
"Not the victim, the straw dolls."
"Nothing but pulp under the skin, like jam. I took it with me. Did you see the mess I made for you?"
"I saw it."
"But photos don't do it justice. You should get out more. And the door locked from the inside."
"You nailed the dolls to the walls. They represented the victims but you used the nails to help you lock the rooms from the outside. Or did they represent Christ too? Do you see yourself as Christ, B? Or do they represent me? Are you cursing me with wara ningyos?"
"It's not all about you. It's ALL about you. Christ? Oh no, no crosses. No vinegar on sponge sticks."
"How does it feel to be insane, B? I suppose everything makes sense to you."
"It makes sense to both of us. Why do you ask so many questions? Why don't you just shut your mouth and understand?"
"I can just sit here with you if you'd rather."
"Yes, I'd like that."
"You like listening. You make up your own dirty mind and judge and pay for it later."
"Don't you tell me what you do, you disgusting calculator with all the filthy, rotten bodies in your head. I'll put my burning fist down your throat and rip out your voice and jam. Tell me what to do."
"There's a new case, B. He's quite impressive. Would you like to hear about it?"
"Kira? I heard. The nurses say Kira will kill me."
"Did they? That's not very nice now, is it?"
"They're not nice. This isn't a nice place. They won't let me play."
"Don't you like Mansong, B? I thought you'd like it more than the prison."
"That's not why you put me here. You want to keep me near you. We have to be together and you know that. You can't split an image down the middle and expect both sides to survive. Don't you know that already, you stupid boy? Wretch. You make me retch and you're a wretch and I'm a wretch because you are so are we both. Don't you know what I was trying to tell you? Stop calling me B. I'm L! We're L! But what about Kira?"
"Kira's better than you," (there was the sound of struggle and a groan)"Now, B, no need to take on like that. We all meet our match. Some of us do anyway."
"He's not me."
"No, he's not."
"You think Kira is a he. I feel sick. I'll vomit on our nice white shirts."
"He kills at will and from a distance, like he can specify the time and manner of death. It's impossible."
"How do you think he does that?"
"He changes the numbers."
"The numbers. They have a time to die like you do and he changes it. Names, numbers, faces."
"I'm not playing with you, Mirror. Not much. I don't know how he does it exactly but that's what he does. And I don't want to know how he does it. He's your plaything and you're his. But don't get involved."
"Because he'll change your numbers."
"I appreciate your concern but I've no intention of losing to him."
"You can't win. Not against what he is."
"And what exactly is he, B?"
"He's like me. He's death."
At six the sky lit up like flames but pink and cyan broke through. It was a shame that people missed this while under their duvets and with closed eyes. So it was just for him.
Light felt drawn to the sea. He put down his notes, threw on his coat and left the hotel. On the beach, expanses of white sand was washed and blown into ripples and dunes. It was like the end of the world in both senses and not another soul to be seen along the whole stretch. He took off his shoes and socks and kept walking across the sand to the water. Broken up, tiny dustings of shells stuck to his feet and he felt the skin drying out from the salt. The waves lapped gently, washing his feet clean, reclaiming the sand he stole. The footprints disappeared with every wave.
After a few minutes of watching the sun rise higher in the sky, he retreated a few feet and sat on a drier piece of earth. Pink flowers grew in the sand and gripped onto whatever they could. He brushed his hand against the foliage and the edge where the roots let the sand give way like a tiny cliff-face. Something caught the sunlight.
Silver glistened in the sand. He dug around it, clearing space and revealing what was hidden. Roots of the sea thrift has wound themselves around it. Light ruthlessly ripped at the tough cords and grimaced as they cut into into fingers as if they didn't want to relinquish what they held to him, but in Light's mind it was his already.
Tearing at the last of the roots, he pulled free a solid band, thick like a cuff and mostly caked in wet sand and earth. He rubbed a thumb over it to uncover the silver beneath the dirt. Spurring him on, he used the cuff of his jumper to clean the rest off until the whole thing was shining dimly. Turning it over in his hand, it was just a plain cuff, too thick to be a bracelet, although that was clearly what it was. Some remnants of dirt highlighted etched letters on the inside and outside of the metal, engraved like a wedding band. He inspected it for a moment, then gathered his things and walked quickly back to the hotel, creeping up the stairs like a ghost in an empty house. In his room he opened his laptop and found an online dictionary to translate the words he found.
On the outside of the band, was a Latin inscription which read:
aequales sumus quam nos propinquus distantia inter nos
We're even in how we have closed the distance between us.
And on the inside:
OCCISOR QUIS EST ISTE QUI UENIT
Killer, who is it? Who is coming?
I hope the Latin is right or at least makes some sense. The "We're even in how we have closed the distance between us" is one way of translating a line L says in ch.10 of the manga in relation to himself and Kira.
No more Latin, I promise.
Finally, HUGE thanks again to Wordbombs for being the best beta in the world and my lovely twinny wifey kittenkins. *Gush* She rewrote quite a lot of this for me and generally made it readable. I really appreciate her time and nonfinite brainpower in looking over this and for doing it so quickly.
Thanks for reading, lovelies. Hopefully chapter 2 is forthcoming. xxx