Kira had changed from those old days. She had not been around in his beginning but she could sense this change, this loss, everywhere. Kira had once been a misguided man, a controversy, something that could be (had to be) stopped. They couldn't. They tried and failed one at a time until they were only graves. He outlasted them, outlived them, and that was all. Then no one had disagreed anymore, and the world began to move on.
She imagined, as she walked through the crowded Earth cities to the trains that would lead her to Tokyo, that the old world was much different. Kira was a force of nature now, nothing more. There was nothing to argue with, nothing to debate. If you murdered and you were found, you would die. If you raped, you would die. So it was written. For three hundred years it had been written.
There were physics equations based upon him, formulas, rules that predicted his movements. There was nothing to talk about: no fear, only knowledge.
Helen believed that there was a world beyond the fear of powers beyond their control. There was an attainable world in which Kira was not God.
She watched the lights twinkle like stars in the sky beyond the train window, her head leaning against the glass. The cities were ghosts, flickering by as she rushed above the water. Out of sight and out of mind, they faded into nothingness. She imagined instead of seeing cities, they were memories—brief moments of illumination caught in her mind. Her mother dying, the red desert, the replicants, the visitors… All attacked her like lightning and then faded behind her, into the abyss, as she drew closer to the man who became God.
It is only now that she knows why she thought that, and understands what programs and manipulations placed the ideas in her head; at the time, it was only a thought.
There were temples dedicated to his name. They prayed that Kira would strike down their enemies and deliver unto them the kingdom of heaven. They didn't expect him to answer. She had entered one of these temples before leaving for the trains. It was alive with candles and holy light; the windows were made of brightly-colored glass. Above the altar there was a picture of a bearded man with a sword in his hand. Fire descended from heaven at his command, and the sinners beneath him pleaded. It wasn't a picture of Light Yagami, quiet, dangerous Light Yagami, smiling over his shoulder and playing his dangerous game. It looked so wrong, so horribly wrong.
She had stood there, staring at it. There must have been something in her eye, some horrified sense of recognition, because she found a girl in white next to her, staring up at the picture as well.
"The artist took creative license from the Sistine Chapel," the girl explained, brushing auburn hair behind her ear. "It is what we imagine to be Kira's first appearance after he made the decision to manifest, though we know that realistically he was unseen at the time."
"Then you have never spoken with him," Helen said, turning her eyes to look at the girl next to her, who looked unshaken in her faith, as if she had never doubted for a moment of her life. Yet, Helen knew that beneath her robes she knew nothing of Kira.
The girl shook her head and smiled. "Some say that Kira spoke to humans in the earlier years—three hundred years ago, we think—but he has brought forth no prophets since."
Prophets. There was something in that word, and in the way it was used so reverently, that made her shudder. The candles flickered and the wax dripped in beads of white. Helen turned back to the picture of that noble, vengeful God.
She asked another question, then. "What do you think he'll do about the replicants?"
The girl in white seemed as if she had never even entertained the thought that replicants might be relevant to anything, and looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"He hasn't made a decision about the replicants yet. He ignores them. I don't think he can decide if they're human or not. What do you think he'll do?"
The girl in white looked at Helen then, truly looked, and shook her head, her mouth pursing. "Kira is ineffable and omniscient. He made all decisions long before we could even ask the questions. We simply cannot comprehend them."
On the train as Helen thought back to this girl in white, this deluded worshipper who did not even realize the nature of her god. She pitied her. If Helen succeeded, she would kill this girl's God as if he were nothing. He was no more real to them than he was to her. They didn't believe in Light Yagami, either.
The cities scattered in the distance behind her, their light stolen by the darkness, until all she could see was the water rushing behind.
"Kira's a phenomena, certainly not a person." The mentor's brother gave a short chuckle as if he found any other idea to be ridiculous.
They were sitting at the table in the room with the red carpet. It was the place for all meetings of importance. Helen sat at the table; her feet made streaks of scarlet in the carpet and she stared listlessly at the dust kicked up by her movements. The others sat as well, looking at the brother as if they had heard this all before and were quite irritated by its recurrence. The boy tapped his fingers on the table, his eyes glancing at Helen every once in a while.
"Honestly, it's sickening that you persist in this belief… and then you tell it to children. You should be imprisoned for this." There was something in the way he lit his cigarette—a casual defiance and condemnation of everything his brother had ever believed—in that reminded Helen of watching replicants get shot in the streets.
The mentor's brother's attention wandered to Helen. He stuck a finger at her and said through smoke and cigarette, "You better watch out, little girl. He'll stuff all his fantasies in your head until all you'll be thinking is 'death to Kira'!"
He laughed again, as if he had said the greatest thing ever to be said. The smoke poured out of his mouth until she couldn't make out his face. He had become a dragon, and with him he brought all the fantasy and illusion that belonged to a dragon's cave. (There was none of the treasure.)
His wife spoke, then. "Tell me, how did you get involved in this Kira business anyway?" she asked the mentor, who looked up at her through thick lenses.
The brother answered for him. This farce wasn't the mentor's place, not his purpose. He was there for Helen, not for his own estranged family. Kira has made that clear through the fine-tuned placement of the mentor throughout the memories.
"Ach, our crazy grandfather got him hooked when he was too young to know any better. Said that Kira was really a man, just some kid with a magic object he found. The kid decided to start killing off psychos, and so he started. There was a police investigation and everything, but they never found him. And so we just wrote him off as being a god." He offered his audience a lazy smile, more an entertainer than a man "Frankly, our grandfather was so drunk that half the time, he thought that he was Kira."
"So, wait a minute. If Kira's just some guy, then how's he been around so long?" the son asked.
The brother seemed to be darkening with each mention of Kira. His cigarette grew shorter with each breath and his eyes glowed like embers. Helen watched him and noticed how unreal he seemed, how fake, how different from the other real things in her world. She guesses now that Light put a little less effort into the mentor's brother than he did the mentor.
"That's the real kicker," the brother laughed. "Kira's magical object, it made him immortal. Yup. Cancer, radiation poisoning—all we need to avoid it is Kira's handy dandy mass murder bobble."
The table grew silent. At the time, Helen had thought of her own mother—who had died so suddenly, who had not been as lucky as Kira. She had the feeling that she was missing the point. They were all missing the point, somehow.
"How did your grandfather know?" Helen asked. She felt as if a spotlight had been dropped on her. Until that moment she had not existed for them, even the mentor; she had been the wallpaper, and she had been the table, but not anything real and breathing.
The brother scratched his head awkwardly, smiling. "He made the shit up, but he said that he had connections back to this orphanage. He said that the orphanage had a couple of really smart kids who tried to stop Kira, but that it didn't work out too good for them. Don't take it too seriously though, Heather—he was a terrible excuse for a relative."
The irony, Helen feels, is entirely intentional. Even Light Yagami has a sense of humor.
"Helen," she corrected him, glancing at the mentor. He sat motionless, staring at the grains of wood in the table as if they held all the answers for him. He looked like a doll, then, cast aside and forgotten, not real when he wasn't speaking.
"Hmmmm?" the brother said as he lit a new cigarette, the old having served its purpose, ground into dust in the ash tray. She watched the smoke drift upward, still breathing, from its remains. Like a line of paint it flowed skyward, almost transparent, and she felt that it was more important than anything in her life had ever been.
Another cigarette took its place and the moment was gone. Memories are a funny thing, she thinks.
"My name is Helen," she said, looking firmly at the family who was staring at her, not sure quite what to make of her but looking at her all the same.
"So, Helen, when did he pick you up?" the boy asked with a cheeky smile, nodding his head at his uncle, who had said nothing the whole time—like he wasn't even there.
Something about the way he said it, "picked up", made her think of a black notebook falling from the sky. Something that brought misfortune. At the time, she shook her head and smiled at the thought, wondering where on earth it came from.
(It was not from earth, her earth, any earth. He took elements of his own world, his own reality, and put them into hers… So saith the maker.)
"I was eight when my mother died. There was an accident," she, said looking at him while seeing in her mind her mother's discarded body. "I never really had a father. They couldn't find him, at any rate. I went to a foster home for a little while; a couple months later I was adopted and I've been here ever since."
(Funny that even then, even in that moment, she did not know his real name. Light hadn't even given her a name to call him by, and it hadn't made a difference.)
The boy smiled as if she had something particularly funny. She really hated him in that moment, hated all of them. They were so false, so different from her; they were human and she was not. Even then, even when she believed the memories on the walls, there had been something lacking. In the distance she could hear the sirens again, and she distantly wondered what poor replicant they were chasing down that night.
The sirens, she has decided, were Light Yagami's little reminder to Helen. Just another of his little mind games that he had given her to keep her busy during the long dark nights when the smoke seemed brighter than the stars.
The brother's family laughed amid the smoke and Helen couldn't see a thing.
"A sham?" he asks. "Well, that certainly is an interesting way to put it, even if I don't agree with you." He looks nostalgic, and something about that makes her sick.
So, she thinks, this is my maker.
"You're not God," she says. "I don't know what you are, but you're not God."
She holds his eyes and realizes that he is the most real thing she has ever seen in her life. He has been there in her memories, a vision, a dream, but he is here as well. He has transcended that abyss in her head into the true world. All else is an illusion he has created, a game they have been playing, a test. Only now does she find herself staring reality in the face.
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
"I am not the God you are thinking of; although I do resemble him." When he says this she can't help but think of that painting in the church and how it didn't resemble him at all. "I am a great, ineffable power. I have grown distant to the point where I can do nothing and everything to these people. I fix only what needs fixing, like a watchmaker; I don't meddle where I'm not needed."
Her eyes flash to his desk, to his walls, to all the tools he's used to create fantasy and illusion. She knows her expression has grown darker; his face doesn't change at all.
"Is that how you justify yourself?" she asks. "You could just stop. The watch was there without you; it'll run without you."
He looks at her and she knows that without words he has just said no. For a moment she sees past his mask of the maker; she sees a desperate old man sitting alone in his room, tinkering with things beyond his control.
"No, it won't," he assures her, as if it is the simplest, most natural statement in the world and should be perfectly compatible with her reality. "The watch adjusted itself to me. If I left now, it would be a disaster. I thought of that too; I even tried it, once…" He trails off, staring inward at his own workings. He holds out his hands as if there is supposed to be some magic trick there, but they remain empty. There is no magic.
"So even the great Kira doesn't believe in himself," Helen says for him. Somehow she has become his prophet. She is the only one that truly sees in his mind; all others who claim that title are liars, lunatics, and frauds.
"At the time it seemed like a good idea." He looks up at the ceiling, at the dim lighting in his lonely apartment. A ceiling fan whirs above them and she can't help but notice that while the furniture is sparse and dull, the instruments that litter his apartment (taking up all table space) are a bright silver that look both alien and ancient. Half hidden in a closet she sees a skeletal frame, almost human, shining in the half-light. It's more than the walls, she thinks; his home is full of bones and half-made corpses.
She sinks further into her chair, away from the realization that there is more to this room than the walls filled with her, only her. There are other things that encompass this graveyard, and it terrifies her. For she is certain that if she were to get up from her seat and to search the apartment, she would find other blank not-real not-human (her) faces staring with the glazed eyes of fish and open lips, as if they had paused mid-breath to remember that they had never learned to breathe at all. And he would let her, she knows now—he would let her search and find them, and oh God, look at their faces and see them staring at her (when there's nothing there, nothing there at all).
"I don't regret my decisions. I merely wonder at them sometimes." He looks at her then tenderly, as if she is his daughter or perhaps his younger sister; he looks at her with more love and hope in his eyes than she has ever seen from anyone before.
She's not sure what to think of that, and she thinks this shows on her face. Her eyes flick to the notebook on the desk. (There are bloodless bodies stashed in his closet and in his workroom with half-finished hands and toes; there are tools like needles that stare at her with silver glints in their eyes...)
"But Helen, we're not here to talk about me," he says casually, standing from his chair and making his way to the cold coffee he had left on his desk to drown in a sea of papers. Before he turns, his eyes meet hers. She understands that he knows every thought that has passed through her head, and understands that the words he says are not words at all. It's a distraction, it's an escape—temporary, but real, so that she doesn't have to look. By giving him the go-ahead she is allowing him to read from a script so that she doesn't have to look, so that she doesn't have to see.
(She isn't real, he isn't real, the room isn't real, the memories are on the walls, the bodies are in the closet...)
"What are we talking about, then?" she asks genuinely—because as far as she has been told, they have been discussing nothing and everything that needs to be discussed.
"We're talking about you," he says as he casually looks away, grabbing the coffee from the desk (it has been sitting atop a pile of blue prints, next to the fine tuned silver needles, so it must be cold; she wonders if he even tastes it or if it is only a show for her benefit.)
"You know everything about me already. You made me," she accuses, to which he nods again—as if this act of God is nothing new or significant to him. Creation is just another field day for the great Kira.
"As much as I appreciate that blatant fuel source for my god-complex, that point is rather irrelevant. I do not know you: I know your possibilities, what you have the potential to do. There is no set universe, Helen. All those programs inside your head could amount to anything. Just because I happened to put them there, happen to be the God you accuse me of being and not being, doesn't mean I have the faintest idea of what you're going to say or do. Only guesses."
"So even my maker doesn't know who I am," she says quietly, trying not to think of what that implies, how alone that makes her, and how desperately alone it makes the both of them. He doesn't answer. She supposes that he doesn't need to—the answer is that he still knows her better than anyone else knows her.
He puts down the coffee and looks at her, his eyes darker than they were before, more detached. He is thinking, calculating, planning, estimating, listing off the possibilities one by one in his head. She remembers the mentor saying that Light Yagami was a very old and very dangerous man.
"What on earth is there to talk about?" she asks dryly. "I'm nothing. I'm less of a person than you are. I'm just something you made up."
"You haven't asked me why," he states as he watches her—states, not says, as if it is a fact that needs to be declared rather than something that is being asked for. Once again she is reminded that he is not what she ever expected, ever hoped for, because she can't describe his arrogance. She had expected a lunatic sitting on a throne in his basement with servants, but she finds an old man (in the costume of youth) who lives by himself in an apartment where there is no light. His assurance is not in his tone of voice, which is soft, but in his eyes when he speaks. When he talks and looks at her, she can see that he expects a certain answer and will receive it, has already lived this moment in his mind a thousand times before; he has memorized his own script. This man has outlived empires.
"Why does there have to be a reason?" she asks, a smile on her lips. "Why couldn't it just be the game of a sick man living by himself, whiling away the time?"
"There is a reason," he says again with that calm assurance that clashes with her own jumbled fragmented state of mind. "There are things in this world that I do not understand. I need help."
It is harder to summon anger than she thought it would be; just as terror is often repressed, it is a slowburning furnace in her head. It stares out of her eyes at a man who is immovable as the red mountains in her mind. She wonders if this too was written, scripted in some program on his desktop in the late hours of the night.
"You made me your enemy, your last enemy, in my memories. Why would I ever help you?" she asks.
"Because anyone who claims to be my ally suffers from insanity and lives in a fractured, fragmented reality of my own creation. Only my enemies could possibly be sane enough to see the way things truly are," he says as if he believes this is obvious and hardly worth mentioning.
"I thought you were God. Doesn't God have all the answers?"
His seriousness is broken and he grins like a child. "This God thing is a very sore subject with you."
"You didn't answer my question," she says, pinning him down, strapping him to a table with a knife in her hand, cutting him open while he's still breathing, still looking; she wants him to bleed, thinks of him dying under some man's gun as he should have died when it all began. She likes him better that way. (Like her, like the toys he engineers for the rich and for the corporations, like all those fools he's manipulated with paper and pen...)
"Even God plays with dice, sometimes."
There were people everywhere in Tokyo. Too many people. The desert had been empty, the sky had been bright, the ground had been red. There were people yet there were no people; all the people she had known, truly known, were gone, lost in one accident or another.
She only had the photographs.
They didn't look at her as she passed by, so she looked around her at the captured lights, captured stars, and up at the dark, smog-colored sky. She carried her bag under her arm and looked up constantly, looking for the sign.
Kira was careless in his old age. Perhaps he wanted to be found.
All it had taken was a typed name. He had hardly touched it, hardly altered it in any way or form, and his name had glared at her over the internet like a declaration of war, a challenge painted in hundreds of years of deaths. Hikaru Yagami: Light Yagami...
There had been a flash of terror when she had seen his photograph for the company (he was a biogenetic engineer for a Japanese branch of the leading builder of replicants). That he was real, still alive—she hadn't truly believed it. He wasn't smiling; it was the first time she had seen him without that challenging smirk, and he looked old and alone. He looked at the camera with blank, ancient eyes that spoke of a time before gods and men. He looked so small and so very old, and with horrified recognition, her hands had shaken and she had known that he was real. All the nightmares, the legends, the deaths were real. This man had murdered thousands.
She searched through his history on the website. He was apparently an accomplished engineer, having designed the overall nervous system of the Nexus 6 generation of replicants. The company website listed him as thirty-five years old and employed for fifteen years. Soon, she knew, if she didn't find him, Hikaru Yagami would die in some fateful accident or kidnapping; another Light Yagami (perhaps Kouki Yagami) would be born and appear out of nothingness with a false I.D. and a birth certificate.
No one would look, no one would think—he was just some poor intelligent street-rat with one of those familiar faces.
So no one would look, no one would see, and no one would realize that he had been dead for hundreds of years. They would only see his photo in the company registry and think, how strange to have such a young face and eyes that are so terribly old.
Perhaps, Helen thought, as she had stared at that new photo, perhaps the only reason she needed to kill this man was simply that he had lived too long.