I have always wanted to write something related to Beyond Birthday, to the BB that has always fascinated me. This is my take on his past, on how he became a killer, with a very wide-range of genres. I purposely did not name BB until he arrived at the Wammy House, along with the once-present A.
This one-shot has it all folks: tragedy, family, pain, and plenty of jam to go around. Rated as such for BB's philosophies, madness, blood/gore, violent thoughts and images, and everything in-between. Now, initially I wanted a second part, but I realized that the future that he paved for himself in "Another Note" was firmly staid and had to remain as such.
Inspired by a wonderful friend I had the pleasure of meeting. Thank you, mellofangirl.
Yoctosecond- one septillionth (10 -24 ) of a second; the smallest increment of time.
I own nothing. If I did, I'd be sure to give BB a part in the anime.
Today I felt pass over me
A breath of wind from the wings of madness.
The first thing he was aware of was a world swathed in blood. There was a red ceiling, filled bright with brimming dots that swam to and from his vision, like a mad crimson sea lulling him to a state of happy consciousness. There was immediate chaos: voices, loud and demanding, the sound of his own crying, a state of fresh panic that came with the beginning of a life. Then he knew the warmth of his mother's breast, the soft murmurs of his father, and the deepest slumber of his life.
The second factor he knew of, was that when he was barely two-years-old, he was taken from the warmth and security that had become habit and into a place that was filled with strangers. There were loud noises which he later discerned as screaming, and sensory overload was at its pinnacle. He didn't sleep very well there, and no matter how many blankets he was given, or what sort of food he was offered, he was never warm like the first time. Something was changed, and he knew even then that nothing would be quite the same.
There were those that helped him in his daily tasks: feeding him, dressing him, and above all, giving him the attention that a toddler so desperately craved. He enjoyed the company, but there was something he never quite understood. There were swarming masses of squiggles above others' heads, and he never comprehended why others didn't see them. Those in charge of him always asked him what he was looking at, and all he could do was point.
"The...the sqwiggles. See?" He pointed in the direction of their heads with a chubby hand, indicating that there it was or rather, there they were: in plain sight. They laughed and waved their hands above their heads, showing him that there was nothing. With their gesticulations, the blurring red shapes vaporized for a moment, and then re-appeared. The curling things were always above everyones' heads, even while they slept, for he had checked countless times when slumber evaded him. The squiggles were above everyone in the orphanage, even the children smaller than himself. He still had no idea what they were, but simply seeing the floating entities made him feel scared, scared that he could see them, scared that he was seeing something that others weren't, or rather, couldn't.
When he began to learn shapes and colors, he understood that the color of these "squiggles" was red. The red of cherries, of ripe red apples, the red of the blood deep inside of his body. Then, when he learned letters and numbers, he recognized that those floating things were red numbers and letters, above each and every person's head. In his young state of mind, he had no idea what they pertained to, but he knew that he was the only one that could see these symbols.
For a brief while, he felt special. If others couldn't see them, then it was his own little secret, something that separated him from all the rest in the orphanage. Among all of the others, where names were constantly mixed up and forgotten, he was different from them, unique from the masses.
And then he realized something interesting about his special vision, a realization that came on a very typical day, if his memory served.
There was a little girl who he sometimes shared his blocks with, those plastic building blocks that he loved gripping in his hands, all to memorize the texture and run his fingernails along the edges of. Sometimes, he became so absorbed in touching the toy, he neglected to even construct anything from it. He remembered that his female play-mate was very kind and patient with him, never demanding that he give up the blocks like so many of the other children had. The girl loved to put the toys in her mouth, and many times the caretakers were forced to resort to teamwork amongst the staff to pry the small objects from her mouth, lest she choke.
On that particular day, the sunlight was streaming through the windows in bands of rectangular light, and it fell directly on her, washing her with the heat of the sun. The light of the day revealed the red highlights in her charcoal-black hair, as well as the intricacy of her eyelashes. He remembered so clearly that she had the lashes of a porcelain doll, such long lashes that curled all the way up to her eyebrows. Sometimes she wore dresses, and that day was no exception. She was clothed in lace, with a floral design on the front of the dress, and he lost himself in the pattern of the dark-blue flowers time and again as he played with the toy, twiddling it in his fingers like silly-putty.
For no reason at all, he came out of his musings and happened to look directly at the girl's face, or rather, directly above her head. That was when he saw that the numbers and letters were beginning to fade and flash, almost as if there was someone with a light-switch above her head, turning the switch on and off again. She was chewing on a smaller wooden block, and within the parting of her light-pink lips, the block disappeared into her mouth. Her throat bobbed, she blinked a few times, and after several long moments, her expression changed suddenly. Her mouth opened, the blacks of her eyes expanded, and the snowy pallor of her face became a bruised color, the blue of frostbite. She coughed once, twice, and then a third time.
And then, she fell over, unmoving. For a full two minutes, the letters and numbers that he was still learning the meanings of faded and recreated themselves, almost as if they could not make up their mind on what would become of the girl's fate. He wondered if she had fallen asleep, or was suddenly sick.
Concern prompted him to reach for her, with a shaking hand, which was when the numbers dissipated.
He sat there for a full ten minutes, not knowing what to do. He continued to clasp the block as he observed her, but that was all he did.
Afterwards, once it was discovered that the young girl was not breathing and had been dead for several minutes, pandemonium erupted. There were screams, many tears, and someone took him from the room, whispering words meant to inspire comfort. All he felt was a chill, the first rush of the power that was his for the claiming.
The years brought with them wisdom, the wisdom that what he was seeing was a person's true name and lifespan. If the lifespan vanished suddenly, that person only had minutes to live. Also, if he looked towards a calendar, he would see just when said person would meet their end. This was the power he had over them, the power over the knowledge of death.
It interested him that he was the only one who would know of their death, but it drove him to inner-solitude when he realized he had no one to impart the secret on. If he told others that they only had a month to live, or another ten to fifteen years, then any chance of normalcy would be taken from him. If there was one thing that was important in his life, it was survival. Survival meant that he was kept warm, even if the walls that the warmth provided were painted shades he hated, that he was fed, though it was food he did not care for and often picked at, and that his thirst was quenched, even if the water he was served had a metallic aftertaste. It was essential then to pretend, to act and charade that he was just one more child in the orphanage.
But others did not see that. With his lessons, he excelled far above those in his class, and he was moved up in rank, to a class with only one other student. In that class, he was asked to memorize things, taught letters and shapes, sounds, and was given thick books to read in his spare time. Also, the teacher expressed the significance in how friendship with the other student was imperative and would help him in his studies. He'd had companions, but never a true friend that earnestly wanted to be with him.
The other student often came into his room and studied with him. They talked about things, about their memories, and about what they wanted to do once they were out of the orphanage. They talked about being adopted and gaining a family, the sorts of families that were in the story-books and photographs, the ones with the smiling faces and many siblings. Other times, they talked about what made them mad: when the sheets smelled funny, or when the last piece of dessert was gone, above other things.
For whatever reason, be it fate or some other word fashioned to express predestination, he found himself unarguably drawn to this person. His friend was very inviting, if not intense in their studies. He wanted to be the best, perhaps in the hope that he would get adopted and receive a better life than the existence he had been dealt, from a hand that cared less about his self-happiness. His intellectual equal had a desperation that remained unrivaled.
This friend of his was the first one to know of the red squiggles he saw above people, the names and numbers that revealed just when they were going to die. For some reason, after many months of learning all about his classmate, he felt comfortable enough to trust him with such an important secret. At first his friend thought he was kidding and asked him who put him up to such a story. Then, his friend said that such things did not exist outside of fairy-tales: magic eyes and lifespans that could be seen by a mere boy.
He wanted to prove it, so one day he picked someone who was going to die, on that precise day. It was one of the janitors, an old man who coughed extensively into tissues and cursed a lot under his breath, spewing profanities in the same way that he did his tobacco-stained saliva. He pulled his friend along in his search for the man, for they had some free time before the next set of lessons began. His friend kept telling him to give it up, and that he would not be mad if he lied, but that did not stop the pursuit. He never knew quite why he was so eager to prove himself, but that lesson would be revealed later.
Finally, he found the janitor, mopping one of the halls. He was coughing as he worked, moving his shoulders and arms with quick and tense movements, almost as if there was a puppeteer above him governing his actions. The two of them crouched low to the ground, and he placed a hand to his lips, signifying that his friend needed to remain quiet, though death didn't need silence to come about.
His hands counted down the seconds, and when he reached twenty-eight in his head, the numbers and letters began fading in and out, as if they were a sputtering candle-wick. The janitor took a sharp intake of breath, clutched his chest, and fell to the ground, moaning in pain. His friend gasped and attempted to stand up in the intent of running for help, but he pulled him back to his level, forcing him to watch. His fingers laced into his friend's hand as they watched the man die, and minutes after the man's soul departed, he found himself not wanting to release his hold. For now, they were both connected to the truth of the ability that was bestowed upon him.
His friend looked up at him with wide, wondering eyes, swallowed, and nodded his head. "You were telling the truth."
Bonded in oath to never speak a word of this to anyone, they ran off to class as different boys that had appeared in the corridor not moments before.
Sometimes, in the dead of night when the lucky ones were sleeping, he found himself wanting to be with his friend, with the only one that knew that he could see those crimson vapor lifespans above the heads of others. He wished he could find comfort in those hands again, in those fingers that were so quick to entwine themselves in his as he was scared. For, as he lay in bed, watching the flitting numbers of his room-mates, he found himself very much afraid.
Such fears ceased when good news came to the orphanage. He and his friend were told that there was a place in England that was interested in taking them into full custody, due to the special classes they were placed in. Never had he seen his friend so happy, so filled with life. He came into his room and never once stopped smiling, or moving from place to place. It was almost like he was trying to memorize this orphanage for the final time, before he left it for the rest of his days. By constant movement, his friend was making a lasting impression upon the place of his former dwelling, a place that he would never return to.
As happy as he was that he was leaving, he could not help but wonder what this place wanted from him. What would be the purpose of taking two young boys from one orphanage to the next, no matter if they were both blessed with high IQs and ceaseless perception? He resolved to find out, and above all, to protect his friend from what he revealed if it proved to be in wicked intent.
A posh car picked them up, and he could physically feel the emulation of jealousy from the other orphans, for they wanted escape, a way out of this place. He was lucky then, blessed...or something like that.
The driver was friendly, but left them to their own devices. As they drove and drove, his friend's happy chatter never ceased. He explained that he would do his best here, and that eventually, if he did a good enough job, someday he might be able to have a family all his own.
"You'll see! I'll leave when I'm old enough, or if someone adopts me, and I'll be the best son!"
In the nighttime, when the skies bled murky ink from the last remnants of sunset and autumnal cloud-tufts, his friend's fingers laced in his hand again. They fell asleep like that, his friend settling on his shoulder, and he buried in the scent of his friend's hair. That was the best sleep of his life he realized much later on, for there was nothing troubling his spirit, nothing keeping him from the innocence of his youth. The blessing ended there.
The iron gates swung open, and in the faint morning sunlight, the words "Wammy's House" gleamed like the eulogies carved on gravestones. Their bags were taken, tired smiles were exchanged, and their future was set the moment the gates closed.
The head of the House, an elderly man known as Watari by all greeted them later on in the evening and said that if there was anything they should need of him, they needed to only ask. His real name was Quillish Wammy, which was not a far cry from the alias he bestowed himself. He liked this man, for he was earnestly kind, interested in both himself and his friend, and he made the extra effort to see to it that they were taken care of.
Dinner was delicious and filled with his friend's careful observations, as well as a happiness the likes of which he had never seen before. His eyes were bright and alive, and never had he seemed more content. If his friend was happy, then so was he.
They slept side by side in comfy beds with sheets that smelt freshly washed, and with the steady tick ticking of the clock, his friend fell asleep within minutes, halfway through a sentence about how they would be friends forever. He smiled, rolled over, and found himself strangely looking forward to the morning.
As the weeks progressed, several factors became evident. The first was that it was very obvious he was being tested in every possible facet of academia. His mind was being honed, sharpened and he welcomed it. However, he still wondered just what it was that he was being trained for, what the purpose behind it all was. He was asked to solve puzzles, to decode and unveil meaning where there was seemingly nothing. While children his own age were still running to their parents due to night-terrors, he was being trained to forsake fear.
This was all due to the fact that above everything else, he wished to prove his worth. He wanted to prove that he could stay and survive in a place that had hand-picked him and his best friend. He didn't wish to return to his past life, to a world in which he wouldn't have such an un-stimulating upbringing. Hence, he did what was asked, time and time again, not caring of the cost it had on his free-time. There would always be time to go outside, but there would never be enough time to continue learning, to continue proving himself. His words and thoughts were filled with shapes and letters, equations and situations that would have stunned a man twice his age. He was a child genius, and with his friend at his side, they were the perfect team.
The second factor that was brought to his attention was the name change. On the first week of their arrival, they received letters as aliases, for safety reasons. He was B and that was fine with him. The shape of the letter always fascinated him even before he received the pseudonym, the straight line and the two inter-locking loops. If the line of the letter was erased and the coils of the letter unbound, or rather the letter he now represented, he saw a circle: an inter-merging, ever-going loop that knew no end. It was beyond his understanding, beyond time.
In secret, he called himself BB, for if his theory still stood, if he manipulated the shapes to his liking, he found himself staring at a page filled with two circles. Albeit, they were messy, but that's what made the shapes: the flaws, the imperfection. Two was better than one he knew, and the one flaw in his character was that at times, he suffered from grappling loneliness. By the name he called himself in secret, the very fiber of his identity was not encased in solitude. He was never alone.
His friend, his ambitious best friend was called A. A came before B, and he liked that. BB found himself liking the thought of someone guiding his life, of someone before him showing the way towards a future he might have been so cruelly denied before. If one manipulated the letter A, erasing the small line in-between the almost but not quite triangular shape, he found himself with a true triangle. It made BB think of one thing: a pinnacle. A was becoming the peak of his existence, a point and arrow that would not deter him from his desired path. He told A this, and instead of the staring and outright mocking BB expected, A smiled at him. It was no ordinary smile however, for it was such a brilliant motion with his mouth, with his eyes, with the vitality it gave his friend's face, that it stole BB's very breath.
"Wow...thanks!" A forgot his books for the moment and walked over to his desk, towards where the paper he had scrawled the shapes on lay. A's fingertips traced the ink and all of a sudden he emitted an exclamation, as if something had just been made clear to him. A grabbed the pen from his fingers, told him not to look until he said so, and worked for several long moments with the pen. BB tried to look, but A placed a hand over his face, saying that he was not ready yet. Finally, A released his face and gestured towards the paper. There, in an imperfect mesh of coils and ink, was the Latin symbol for eternity.
"There! You be one circle, and I'll be the other. That way, we'll always be together." A never really had a problem with telling others what was on his mind, or revealing what was in his heart. That afternoon was no exception to A's character.
Once BB was done gawking at the page, BB managed a nod. "Sure. I'll call myself BB. It works in our favor." They shared a smile and returned to their studies with eager hearts, sharing excited glances every now and then. A's life-span was still intact, and hitherto, he would live long and happily.
Time passed and the both of them grew to unveil their purpose: they were to be the replacements for a young detective whose name was known throughout the world as L, by a letter like they were. If something ever happened to L, the both of them, or one of them would succeed him. The chosen one, or two, would fill his position as a type of proxy, but the public would never know about the true L's demise. Eventually, they would become the L that held the world in such thrall. It was a good purpose: solving crimes and bringing justice to those who were deserving.
Late at night, A and BB discussed their possible futures. A told him that he'd never let him down, and BB proclaimed in earnest that he would use his ability to tell criminals apart from the innocent. In the dead of night, possibilities unraveled themselves in yards of moonlit-patterned shapes on beige walls, and in that time, BB gained a new meaning to his name.
"Say...why BB? Does it stand for something?" It didn't. He just liked how the letter B could, by the manipulation of an eraser and pencil, become two perfect circles. With the joining of the two circles of the two letters, a way to eternity was paved.
"No. I just like that the shapes become something whole, things that aren't alone." That's really what it came down to: his fear of being all alone, alone with his ability, alone with the burden of taking a world-known identity for his own. It also had to do with control, over a facet of his life that he alone could govern.
A was quiet for a few minutes, and with the steady ticking of the shared clock in the room, BB felt his eyelids slip shut, knowing A was immersed in his dreams. He wanted to join him.
A's voice suddenly roused him. "BB. Well, why not the word Beyond for the first letter, and...I dunno...Birthday for the last." That was such a unique name, something BB didn't believe he could fully embody. He never really wanted to be special; he wanted to survive and find a place to belong. Uniqueness only came for those who were blessed with a comfortable life, or in the boon of a character in A's instance.
BB licked his lips, as if to bring the inquiry to life. "Why?"
"Well, you're beyond smart, and beyond cool for starters. And the word birthday is really a day of birth, the beginning of life." A rustled his sheets a few times, and turned to his left so he could face him. With the angle of faint-white moonlight, A's features were perfectly visible: his wide excited eyes, his hands, and above all, his life-span. It wavered with longevity, with the promise of a life of happiness. That was enough for BB.
"So, I'm beyond life?" A blinked, causing his eyelashes to form slanted shadows down his face. His smile eliminated the physical darkness of his features right then.
"Kind of. You can see death, so you understand life better." A closed his eyes and hugged his pillow to his chest, exhaling deeply. "Beyond Birthday...that's neat..."
Sleep claimed his friend, but BB remained awake for awhile longer, thinking and reminiscing about what his friend said. A better understanding of life, of the cost of his vision...that was certainly one way of looking at it. His name had multiple meanings then.
BB was not surprised that A came up with such a profound yet optimistic way of looking at the letters he chose to associate himself with. A always found a way, no matter how bleak the situation, to see a spark of goodness there. Whether it was naivete or brilliancy, BB had no idea.
Several months passed since BB gained a new meaning behind his name, and though he found himself happier than he had ever been, there was something deeply amiss with A. No one else saw it: not Watari or the three other children who were very close to their shared level of intelligence.
As A studied, there was an absence of passion, the passion that he'd had before. A hunched over his books and assignments at his desk, not with brimming determination, but as if he had become encumbered with the burden of knowledge, with indescribable fatigue at what would become of his life. It was as if a thief of souls had come through the crevices in the walls and had stolen A's spirit in the dead of night. What shared his company was no longer the vibrant, young soul who had renamed him; he was a mere shadow of an existence, a fabrication of the old A. BB was surprised that no one else saw the way the fire had left his friend's movements, as if a god had extinguished his flame with a bated breath. This was no subtle change, but a monumental one that made BB wonder just how much their caretakers cared about their upbringing. Granted, BB only saw this because he had known A for the longest time, and was in-tune with A's personality. Still, that was still no excuse for A's teachers to forsake his spirit for the Divinity of academia.
BB knew he had to try and help, by any means possible. He confronted A one evening, right as they were getting ready to sleep for the night. A was brushing his teeth, and BB was at the sink, running dental floss through his molars. As he ran the floss in his gums, BB considered the words to say, and the words to leave out. He would keep it simple, but he knew that if he didn't ask now, the repercussions would be costly on A's spirit. Finally, he found the courage to speak up. He asked A outright if there was something bothering him or rather, someone. BB couldn't think of a reason why A would be looking so sad unless he was being bullied. A was not being himself, for his usual self was an eager, passionate individual with a zest for life that had never been hindered before. A was not this phantom being before him.
A caught his eye in the mirror, spit in the sink, and shook his head as if to dissuade his claims on bullying. "No, there's no one bothering me. I have no bruises or scratches, or mean notes in my books. I'm just...tired. Really, really tired." A looked at the bleached-white sink, turned on his heel, and exited the bathroom. BB followed suit, wanting to know if the word tired had a double-meaning when he saw just where A was headed. A walked calmly over to the window, all the while gripping the olive-green curtains. He looked out the glass and into the courtyard, fixating his gaze on the sights outside.
Past the window, beyond the trees and the stone-path, was a children's playground. It served as a reward for those who had completed their tasks for the day. It was paradise, but one that was not easily warranted. The sentinel of daily toil and ceaseless activities for the future prevented the gift of play. BB could count on one hand the number of times he had been out there to swing, or to romp around in the cloister of trees the courtyard provided. The other children in the House were always out there, for their duties were not as lengthy as theirs.
A was staring out the window he had ran to with such intensity, it had made up for months of inactivity and disinterest. For the moment, what lay outside of their room, beyond the green curtains made life come back to A's eyes, a flare the likes of which BB had missed seeing. There was undisclosed longing there, a craving of desperation that had to be fulfilled, lest it wither with their obligation of slumber.
All A wanted was to play, to be a young boy without an already-paved destiny, if only for one night. BB would absolve him.
"Come on. Let's go." A started, and turned around. If shock and endless gratitude could coalesce into one living entity, it was a right then.
"Really? Won't we get in trouble?" BB shrugged, not caring of the consequences at the moment. Even if he didn't get dessert for a month, or was forced to do more chores, it would be worth it to put a smile on his friend's face, to give meaning back to A's life. For, A was the one to do those two things, and so much more; it was time to return the favor.
"So? You deserve it." It was settled. They waited exactly one hour in budding anticipation until all of the chatter of the adjoined rooms silenced, and only the tick ticking of the clock was heard amidst their breathing pattern.
They dressed quietly, tip-toed into the carpeted corridors, and all about ran into the night air. BB had never bore witness to such a beautiful night before. Autumn was beginning, and though a chill was prevalent in the air, the temperature was ideal. The moonlight fashioned both frosted light and shadow, throwing fragmented shapes around the playground. The chains of the swings creaked with the slight breeze, wind whistled through the spaces in-between the monkey-bars, and the symphony of secret play-time began.
Together, they hit the ground running, not being mindful of how loud the soles of their shoes sounded against the gravel. Both of them raced to the swings, whooping with new-found freedom, with the vindication of rebellion. Their hands clenched the chains of the swings, and they swung higher and higher with the movement of their legs, beckoning each other on in friendly competition. Back and forth they came and went, like merry pendulums that enjoyed the time they were given. As of this moment, neither of them cursed the clock for stealing their youth, for tonight, it was retrieved. It was a sacred hour, and BB reveled in it.
They jumped from the swings and ran to the slides, eager to touch, to memorize what it felt like to be normal, to be children who could do this all afternoon. It was stolen time, but sweeter because it was unbidden. Their fingers scrambled for the bars, their shoes touched the metal ladders, and they sailed down the slides, again and again, as if they were in the perpetual drop of a climax. The gravel crunched beneath their toes as they ran to the monkey-bars, straining and stinging their palms and fingers as they played. They attempted to go further and further without falling every-time, as if they were soldiers-in-training instead of two young boys at play.
The sand-box was the one named Near's favorite place to play, but eventually they gravitated towards it. It was mainly for the younger children's amusement, but for the moment, neither of them gave a damn about their age.
In the sand-box, there were forgotten toys there: plastic trucks, small bouncy balls and pails that could be used for building monuments and castles, made entirely of sand. Both A and BB knew that if any of the other children saw them right then, kneeling in the sands in their hour of reclaimed childhood, they would never have heard the end of it. However, pride was gone for the moment.
They knelt in the sand, gave each other a smile, and began pulling out the toys. Within no time, they had come up with a nonsensical plot about the truck and the ball, all the while tracing patterns and shapes in the sand with their fingertips. The castles were made, a fragile town was created, and BB knew that this was a swan-song of sorts.
At the very last, when their imaginations evaded them, A did something very interesting. When they were fully out of the sand-box, A told him to stand far away, for it was for his own safety. BB stepped back a few feet, swallowing his inquiry all the while. He wondered just what it was that A intended to do. A took the bucket they had been playing with, filled it with sand, and threw it in the air at an angle.
If it had been at any other time, any other time where the mediocrity of the days bloomed into activities that were supposed to be enchanted, A's actions wouldn't have worked. The sand would have fallen in a heap in the box, or in the worst-case scenario, flew in their eyes and faces. With the angle A threw the contents of the pail, as well as the unspoiled majesty of the night, neither occurred. For a moment, for the smallest increment of time, BB believed that a cloud had opened up and rained from the skies a glittering shower of gold nuggets. The sand winked and flashed, remaining in the air for a longer period of time than what was natural for the law of gravity. Magic and logic were never supposed to exist side by side.
But on a night like this one, a night purposefully ignorant of the consequences, it rained gold from the skies in a celestial shower, all for them.
And then the sanctity of the night was shattered, all with the few lights that turned on in the windows of the House, revealing that they had been spotted. A dropped the pail, and the both of them ran to the trees in the hope that whoever they had woken up hadn't seen them. They huddled behind a massive tree-trunk, all the while whispering to one another about possible escape routes. They could crawl on their hands and knees, and when their pursuers had their backs turned, they could sprint back to their rooms without getting caught. Neither thought of the possibility of leaving the other behind.
For the third and final time, A laced his fingers through BB's. It was a show of comfort, a way to impart that neither were alone in this, for they were connected in this stolen play-time, as well as with the consequences that may or may not have risen as cause of it.
Just when they were about to try and escape back to the House, dual flash-light beams sliced through the midnight hour, exposing them.
BB remembered the shared walk of shame back to the room, promises of punishment from the adults, and above all, A's trembling. Not once in all of their years of friendship had BB witnessed A's tears. Instead of crying, shouting, or other natural venting processes, A trembled. His hands shook if he was frustrated, his toes curled, and his eyes narrowed into slits. But not once had he ever cried, no matter what he was feeling.
The consequences were not as severe as BB had predicted. They were both scolded, assigned a few chores, and their caretakers said that they expected better of them. BB was quick to dismiss the chagrin of punishment, but the thought of expectations, of disappointing others who were far beneath his level of intellect left a bad taste in his mouth.
He wished he could retort that they were young boys who just wanted to have a good time. But then BB thought better of it. They both were not simply young boys, for they were being trained as soldiers of the mind, as warriors in the ideal of Justice itself. Just as crime didn't sleep, those who pursued justice couldn't play.
For A though, the results of getting caught resulted in a steady progression into inner-solitude. He didn't seem angry, but very, very sad. His eyes were always downcast, his fingernails were bitten to the quick, and the phantom being that BB had tried so hard to banish was back. Also, A began carrying around a small notebook, a journal of sorts that he always scribbled in when he had a spare moment. This was unusual for him, for A was not one to keep secrets. When BB asked him what it was, A told him to mind his own business and placed the notebook underneath a pile of his textbooks. Academia, the one thing that bound the two of them, was now a physical barrier between their friendship, and BB hated it.
The sting of A's rejection cut BB far worse than he would have expected and instead of continuously attempting to see what was in the notebook, BB gave up. The thought behind this submission to A's poor attitude was simple in BB's mind: if A didn't want to tell him, then BB would wait until he came to him. It was the hardest thing BB knew he would have to do. It made BB feel so petty, almost as if he had become an arrogant young boy who couldn't care less if his best friend was suffering. That was the furthest thing from the truth. He wanted to give A space, space to breathe, to think, and to merely live. If BB's presence was so demanding, so scant in A's mind, whereas A was the remedy to BB's very existence, then there was nothing for him to do. They were no longer symbiotic beings. As the butterfly fluttered into the sunlight, the slimy caterpillar awaited in the cocoon, longing for his friend back, yearning with everything in him to have his companion once more. But his plea went unanswered.
If this change in their friendship, one that had merely come about through something BB did in order to help A, then it was meant to be. Even if it meant that A would succeed L or that one day, they would emerge into a different world as rivals, BB knew he had no say in it. Just because he saw the dates of deaths didn't mean he governed any control over life.
One morning however, a winter's morning filled with math equations and the swathing scent of chalk, BB uncovered a terrifying truth, one that would rattle his psyche and leave him so affected, he would emerge unrecognizable.
BB had happened to glance at A as they were in class together, a glance that was merely obligatory and in no way needy or camaraderie based. With this glance, BB happened to take in the full sight of A: the slightly slouched posture, the eyes that were filled with intense concentration. It was nothing new, for BB had seen him for a significant portion of his life and if he was bid, BB could identify his once friend in the dark.
It was the life-span that made BB's eyes widen, resulting in the awed opening of his mouth, and the slipping of the pencil from his now shaking grasp. Based on the date, A only had one week to live.
Deaths could change, as could their causes. It happened everyday, for it was based off of the choices the humans made. Some would have more time than others, and some would get sliced, again and again by that merciless pendulum that wanted nothing more than the blood of mankind.
The teacher's voice became a distant buzzing, shadows cloistered and bloomed in BB's vision, and when he blinked, the burn of tears filled the back of his throat. The timing then became laced with his teacher's inquiry on the problem set, and afterwards, a question if he was feeling alright.
BB almost snapped right there. But that was for much later. Alright, he wanted to say- no, scream - nothing was alright. Based on the eyes that could see someone's name and lifespan, his friend, his best-friend, only had a week to live. Nothing was fucking alright.
Perhaps if he hadn't been born with the eyes, he still would have had A as a friend and not as this distant shade of a boy who shared memories with him. Maybe if he hadn't been cursed with this awful, crimson-slick sight with those damned squiggles of information, information mere humans shouldn't and never should be able to see, BB would be alright with it. For, he never would have been driven mad with the knowledge that nothing could be done, that nothing could ever be done. A person's date of death could change, but irrevocably, they had to die, for the branded numbers and letters revealed the truth.
If it changed, if it managed to morph without BB's knowledge, he considered frantically with a narrowing of his eyes, then maybe there was a way to save him. Maybe there was a way he could keep A safe, keep him away from anyone and thing, and when the date came, he could...could...could what? Cheat death?
A voice, a shrill and booming voice consisting of maniacal laughter and a cacophony of vocal chords rang through his mind, and BB never forgot the words. "You might be able to see death, little human, but don't get cocky and believe you can do anything about it."
It was settled then: A was doomed, and BB was doomed to witness this death.
BB wiped at his eyes, horrified to find that his own tears betrayed him, and reality snapped him back to the classroom. No amount of liquid excrement and salt could take back this futile truth. He asked in a voice detached of all emotion if he could be excused from the classroom, because he wasn't feeling very well.
The teacher nodded, not seeming to care too much about why BB was acting so oddly. Perhaps, BB's shattered mind voiced, the teacher was glad to see him leave. He didn't want the freak to disrupt the lesson, didn't want the boy with the big eyes and dark hair to cause a disturbance in the peace of the Wammy House. So, he let him go off to a dark corner, not caring that the boy with the big eyes and the dark hair knew a truth too powerful for grown men, much less that of a young boy.
Stupidly, oh so stupidly, BB had waited outside of the door for A to follow him. Some part of him, the part that was still fighting in his spirit, fighting for the hope of the dawn and a new day, grappled with the fibers of faith that left him rooted to the spot just outside of the door of the classroom. A would come for him, take his hand and ask him what was the matter, and they would figure it out just like they usually did.
But did the door open and reveal his life-time friend, the friend with the beautiful eyes and the ever-present smile? No. The door remained closed, leaving him to the phantoms and the shadows of the hallway, the shades that would be his constant companions from then on.
Meaning, if A could care less about his emotions or how this was so out-of-character for BB, then BB would let him feel apathy. But for him, apathy was not part of his thoughts.
The good boy in him, the one that was always polite and mannerly to everyone, never causing a disturbance screamed at him to stop. But the voice, the one that began domineering his spirit the longer he lingered in the hallway turned to the good boy, pulled a gleaming knife, and gutted him like a pale-eyed fish. The sight of blood, no matter how imaginary in BB's minds eye was beautiful, shimmering in crimson pools of life.
Life. He was beyond life, right? Then what was keeping him from acting out on his anger, on causing a little bit of mayhem? Nothing, not anymore.
In the main play-room, a room that Near sometimes wandered into to grab more toys, was a giant aquarium. There were fish in there, tropical and expensive, that most of the children in the House could identify the scientific names of, as well as where they were commonly found in the oceans. They were beautiful creatures with the colors of their scales, the gliding movements of their fins, and their wide, black eyes. BB always liked them, and A...he loved them.
Disgust rose in BB's throat, and the gall made him want to do something crazy, something that would be etched in stone, a physical relic of his wrath. That was the thing about anger: it had a way of being so wicked right in the moment, and then forgotten the next, forsaken with the rolling of the tides. The tide...his first memory was in blood. Blood would not be spilled today, but in a week's time.
Anger the likes of which BB had never known seized him in a vehement vise, encasing his lungs in hellish breath. He inhaled smoke and exhaled poisonous vapors, and as he stalked the halls in a frenzied journey of padding foot-falls, BB felt as if he was leaving parts of himself behind. In the shadows was the creature of light that had been born in this world, the creature that had attempted to do good by using his mind, forsaking and purposefully ignoring the curse of his sight. And right then, as he stepped into the bleached light of the play-room, BB knew true carnal release.
There were no children around the aquarium, and some part of his mind was grateful for that small blessing. There was however, an audience. There were children at the tables, playing with complicated puzzles, some in chairs with big books in their laps, and a few having whole conversations in other languages. BB had an audience, which was what he wanted.
Gray eyes locked onto his glass prize, his hands twitched, and he all about sprinted for the aquarium. With a mighty heave, BB shoved the glass off of the stand, and the most satisfying splintering sound was heard.
The room was suddenly silent, the inevitable quiet that came before panic and hysteria ensued. Glass, water, false seaweed and flopping, gasping fish were now staining the tiled floors a murky color. It was not the turquoise that the glass promised, but rather a dull gray. Gasps hit BB's ears and he lifted his face to see the reactions, to remember them for the rest of his life. Eyes were opened wide, there were some tears from the girls, but above all, there was undeniable shock. Shock, because it was unexpected. Shock, because no one would have thought that he was capable of this. Shock, ultimately, because it was not in his nature.
How foolish, a voice whispered to him in his mind, for none of these people knew what he was capable of. BB wanted to fall to his knees, to bust into laughter, hysterical, maniacal laughter that reminded him of the blood-thirsty hunters in the days of old, but he didn't. He was many things in that moment, but being melodramatic in front of this unwilling audience was not part of the script.
His eyes roved to all of the children, the confused genius children of the Wammy House, and he clearly saw all of their names and lifespans. He wanted to tell those that only had a few years to live to run away right then to spare themselves, and to the others that had long lives to enjoy themselves, for time was on their side. The pendulum wouldn't get them yet.
It was a moment engraved in mania, and in what his teachers called an out-of-body experience triggered by some unknown stress, or a secret anxiety. Temporary insanity was a definite possibility, along with talks of counseling, medication, and a change in his class-schedule. BB heard some of this, but instead focused his attention on the lifespans of those in authority. Some only had a few months, and others a few years to live. This job, taking care of gifted children who would one day succeed the world's greatest detective was definitely a burden on the bodies of adults.
For four days, BB remained in stone-cold lucidity, in the clutches of a vindication that was known through his actions. Never had rebelling felt so justifying, or so liberating. He proved to himself that he could destroy, that he was capable of acting out and making a name for himself. Again and again he played the scene in his mind: the strength of his arms, the shattering of more than glass against the tiles, and above all, the looks of sheer horror in the eyes of those who he had never considered his friends. It was a time of truth, of a grim reality that made itself known. Solitude was his lullaby, and he reveled in the undisturbed peace, in the sanctity of his preferred solitary confinement.
But then, on the morning of the fifth day, something changed in his thought pattern. No longer did he feel invincible, on-top of anything anymore. He just felt small, small and cursed and so damned for having the eyes that knew death before the dying. For a full day, he remained curled in a ball, silently crying, wishing that the tears would wash away the sight of the life-spans of others. He cried in the hopes that it would wash the power from his eyes, and with it the entirety of the mess he had made out of life. Nothing had gone as planned, nothing at all, and he wished for a fresh beginning, with the next set of tears.
The sixth day began with a new goal in mind: talking with A, no matter what it took. He asked if A could visit him, and those that were monitoring him agreed with a wary eye. To his anguish, their life-spans still bobbed over their heads, looming over him like red scythes that razed his very sanity and their own existence, reminding him that he was still a freak, still a cursed little boy who acted out of anger.
To his surprise and complete disbelief, A came to him. His once friend looked like a negative copy of himself, a monochrome doppelganger, barren of a smile. The conversation was strained for the both of them, for too much had happened in the passing of days: BB with his bout of insanity, endless wrath and self-loathing, and A with the unknown ailment that plagued his soul.
They were no longer innocent. Yes, innocent. They weren't the same two boys that snuck out to play in the jungle-gym, the boys that shared sweets and traded desserts, and always encouraged the other with their studies. It was as if they had matured into a melancholic version of manhood, emerging from the threshold as tired, weaker versions of themselves that could barely produce a voice.
And then, suddenly, A gave him a pained look, placed his face in his hands, and wept with open abandon. BB's eyes widened, and the tears that he thought had left him, the tears that he wished would wash his vision clean of dates and times, crimson squiggles and death, formed in his cursed eyes once more. They clung to one another, as life-lines and brothers, as best-friends and comrades in this life they had been granted, and cried their hearts out.
A told him that after they had been caught playing, he had begun having dark thoughts, depressing thoughts. He felt as if he would never be good enough to succeed L, and that if he was never good enough, then what was the point in being here, in leaving that old orphanage? A told him, through hiccups and snot, that he wanted to be happy and not a young boy who couldn't even play outside when he wanted, all because his studies were deemed too important.
They gently released each other, and as BB wiped his nose on his sleeve, A revealed something in his book-bag: the hidden notebook that he had been scribbling in, for many months now. A told him to open it, and BB complied.
In the notebook were A's thoughts, frantic and desperate, spilling forth on the page like a jumbled Rorschach of images. It was both a diary and uncensored confessions. A spoke about how he wanted to live normally, going to school and having a family, a mother and a father and maybe some siblings. He wanted BB by his side, but he felt as if he couldn't tell him anything, for he would only worry himself to death. And lastly, the name he had been given, the one-lettered alias that etched his very identity was received in multiple ways by his own tortured mind.
Two full pages were filled with possible definitions for the letter A. Arrow. Atlas. Apathetic. Annoying. Anonymous. Animosity. A was a vowel: any; a single; not a one.
They were all disjointed, jarring, and above all, an eye-opener as to how much A had been suffering all of these months, all alone with only this small notebook for company.
It was then BB had a thought, a crazy thought that would affect everything that his future would be. He turned to A, embraced him fully, and stated that they couldn't live like this any longer: they had to run away.
A released him with a gasp, and astonishment filled his eyes, as well as a faint hope. It was that very same look that would make BB attempt to do the impossible, just for his best-friend.
"Really? Where would we go?" BB shrugged, but he knew that it really didn't matter. With their intellect and know-how, they could easily find ways to the necessities. Hell, they might have even been able to tap into funds and live like wealthy men for the remainder of their days, with a backyard filled with golden-swing sets and inlaid with jewel encrusted monkey-bars. The possibilities were endless, for they would have each other.
"We'd go together." A nodded and they made the promise to run away that night, when all the adults were sleeping. They'd pack only the necessities, and then take off for the trains, leaving behind the responsibilities that had been thrust upon them, unwanted.
This would save A, BB was sure of it.
BB woke up the following morning with the bright, stinging sunlight filling his solitary room. He blinked a few times and took his time with getting out of bed. He yawned, wiped the corners of his eyes, and then got out of the warmth of the covers. All the while, there was a thought dangling over his head, like a weaving of spider-webs that he didn't know the meanings of.
Until he saw the clock, cursed loudly, and ran out of his room. Those who had kept him away from the others had stopped locking the doors when BB proved that there was nothing for the authorities that ran the Wammy House to worry about, which warranted a fair amount of freedom. But with the way he was screaming down the halls, sprinting faster than he had ever run in his life, he would have easily given them more to be concerned over.
A's room was the same, but barren of BB's presence. All of the rooms in the Wammy House, those that were shared with children who wished to be roommates, had wooden bed-frames that they could decorate in any manner they liked, so long as it wasn't inappropriate. There was at least a good three feet of space from the carpet to the bed-frame, a number that marked the end of a life.
BB opened the door, and in the shaft of light from the hallway, he stared without blinking at A's lifeless body. In the night, or maybe minutes before, minutes in which BB was absent from A's side, due to accidentally over-sleeping, A had taken his own life by means of a rope, and the three feet of space he had with the bed-frame. The rope went around and around A's neck, like the Chaos theory manifesting itself through suicidal means, and A fell into the vortex for the final time, unable to live the life that he was given any longer.
BB didn't know what happened after that. BB didn't know if he had tried to cut down A's body with some bed-side scissors, or if he dissolved into true insanity and attempted to take his own life with the remaining rope. What BB did know was that he awoke in his own room much later, under the dosage of a drug-induced haze, and he knew that his life would never again be the same.
He had failed A, he still had the cursed eyes, and any hope of him succeeding L was obliterated, for the one who was supposed to share the responsibility had died under the pressure of such a massive burden.
But right then, BB knew what had to be done.
Several weeks later, with what remaining belongings he had, he left the orphanage in the dead of night. He walked past the playground, went down into the woods, and took the back way out of the House. All the while, he knew that survival was once again his mantra, and his school-books could be left behind permanently if he wanted.
What really mattered was in making a name for himself, by any means possible. And since BB knew what he was capable of, for and against that damned pendulum, he would be sure to rise above the self-fulfilled destiny so many others had wanted out of him. He would be the opposite of what they wanted, and be sure to create a relic that would make the world shudder at the name his best-friend gave him.
The world would be swathed in blood once more.