FHD Remix Chapter 38
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 37: Let Me Not Forget
Chapter 38: Flashover!
Yurushi pulls hard on his rake. It is a brand new rake on its first day of hard service. In accordance with the rules for the Haibane, he doesn't own it per se; it is on permanent loan from Bob and Victoria, who bought it for him. He's obviously struck a rock in the soggy soil. Rather than risk bending the tines on the rake, he picks up his rebar-hafted hoe, built for him by Hubert, Glie's only welder. Remembering how he first used that piece of rebar, he grunts, "Talk about turning your sword into a plowshare," and finally wrestles the rock from the stubborn ground.
The caucasian boy with the middle-eastern skin tone hefts the ten kilo stone to the edge of the garden plot and plops it at the base of the flimsy fence, wipes his brow, stretches his back and spreads his grey wings, then trots back to the hole left open by the rock. After busting the hardened soil molded around the stone, he fills it in from a couple of metres around, backs off and notices that there is a visible depression.
He hears Kana's clock bell toll five times. Looking to the sun for confirmation, he frowns as he discovers that it is blotted out by clouds.
Carefully, he reads instructions printed from some sort of machine. How many seeds per metre, how deep, how many days to mature, how much water and sunlight, how much they tolerate frost in each stage of growth.
The two ravens sit on adjacent fence posts at the edge of the garden plot, both set at a modest sack-your-nads height designed to keep out nothing bigger than rabbits and cats. Jack immodestly chews the toes of his right foot while Nancy just stands there twitching her head every few seconds.
Nancy taps into the PDA's virtual keyboard with a toe, "I can't believe you taught that thing Japanese!"
Jack, busy translating seeding instructions through Beaver Butch's "main" computer, jumps to the PDA to respond, "Hb don't know Russian."
"Yeah, but all that _kanji_?" Nancy replies in exasperation.
"Furigana's hard on paper," Jack replies with a chirp.
Yurushi looks over at the two ravens and sighs, "You two look as dumb as any other crow."
Jack stops his pedicure and snaps loose an offended chirp.
Nancy tilts her head slightly and cocks it up and down, her eye on Jack.
<Yeah, yeah, I know,> he thinks, <there's no avoiding it.>
"With nothing but your beaks, wings and claws," the boy says in admiration, "I can't see any way you could have pulled this off. However you did it, thank you very much."
Nancy fluffs up her body feathers proudly. Jack gives him a slow, very humble, very human nod, and then, a few seconds later, having enjoyed enough of Yurushi's warm smile, he resumes his bird act by starting to pick at his other peeling foot.
Nancy puts up her beak and shakes her head slightly, <He knows no pride.>
Up on the Hill of Winds, Shimoni rappels down the side of one of the windmills, brakes half a second too late and wipes out in a heap in the grass at the bottom. <Oops.> She picks herself up, brushes off her little skirt and the pants underneath, then yanks on her own halo, letting it flop back and forth as though on an invisible spring, whence it flings its collected dust away. Finally, she pulls out a comb and straightens out her dark ruddy hair as she starts off towards the garden.
She sees smoke rising from the town.
Shimoni runs at top speed past the garden.
"Where's the fire?" Yurushi asks in jest as she rushes past, hopping on her scooter and kickstarting it, gunning away.
"North District from the look of it," Kurai points out.
The Haibane of Abandoned Factory form the tail of the bucket brigade line, Chishio cranking a pedal operated winch made from bicycle parts to get water out of the river. He envies Shimoni for her scooter as she races through Shrine Block to the North District. Suddenly he remembers how Shimoni waters their tree every week with her hands and stops pedalling. Nodding over to Shijima, he says, "There goes Shimoni, this fire is over."
Jumping up to park her behind on the guard rail overlooking the river, she sighs, "Amen to that."
It is Gibson's house.
As Shimoni pulls up to the flaming house, she draws all kinds of jeers from the locals, watching helplessly between the occasional buckets they get.
A resident of the North District lifts a stone from the side of the street and winds up to throw it at her, screaming, "Go home, little feather dog!"
His throwing swing is stopped by Gibson, who gives the man a smart backhand and says, "Cut the nonsense and watch how she saves this town."
Shimoni walks up to about ten metres away from the house, and senses something. She calls to the crowd, "Get back!" she waves, then pulls at the nearest two. "Flashover!" she screams at the top of her lungs.
A fireball erupts from the house, and it collapses downwind, towards the crowd and a neighbouring building.
Finally, although too late for three of the residents who are knocked over and singed, they start obeying her urgent commands to stand back. Several people run out of the apartment building. A burly young man drags his screaming wife out by the hand. "Helen!!" she screams.
"Get to the river, little haibane!" one of the locals barks, "We need water, not shouting!"
Shimoni gives him a nod, then rushes at the edge of the burning apartment building, her wings start glowing brightly.
"Are you deaf, you little twerp!?" one of the ruder North residents screams, leading many of them to indicate, "The river's that way!!"
Shimoni holds out her left hand towards the wreckage of Gibson's house and, with no sign of kickback or any other distress, still on the run, emits a thick stream of water. It breaks upon entering the front of flames which instantly transform into dark smoke. In moments, white smoke starts to appear and Gibson's house, what little is left of it, is already extinguished.
With her right hand, she blows fog into each of the apartment building's first story windows as she passes them, until she reaches the last one down the side of the building. She grabs a picket from Gibson's smashed wrought iron fence and uses it to smash the last window on the second floor. Urgently, she clears the glass from the lower edge before dropping the picket and blasting in some more fog.
With a vigorous thrust of her legs and flap of her wings, she jumps and grabs the sill of this window. Taking the potted plant and dropping it to the ground outside as gently as she can, she quickly scrambles over the top and into the building.
The boat drifts along in the moat inside the wall, Tatakai is doing only what her Saviour has asked: holding her hands in a certain direction blindly towards the town. Suddenly, without a conscious will to do so, the Saviour's light of war leaps from her fingers, startling her. She falls on her backside in the round boat, careful to keep her radiation robe from hiking up during the unexpected fall.
Yaiba arrives at the scene on her bike, ignoring all the jeers, sneers, and get-out-of-heres of the locals, some of who, even after seeing Shimoni's miracle-working fight against the fire, still somehow believe that the Haibane are the last people who should be there.
In a charred white dress, comforted by a husband, is a mother too distraught to care, bawling, "Helen, Helen, Helen!" Clearly she has lost all hope of this Helen surviving.
Yaiba notices far too late to block the attack, the man who is charging her with a piece of iron. At nearly the moment the weapon strikes her head, he is struck by Tatakai's discharge through the wall, and sent flying some thirty metres into Gibson's yard where he rolls several times before stopping next to a charred timber in an awkward position no one would choose to lie in.
Her wings tight behind her, and her hands tight together in front of her face, Yaiba staggers back from the direction the attacker originally came from, then she quickly looks about, wondering where he went.
The man who was about the throw the first stone upon Shimoni stops wrestling with Gibson instantly.
"Perhaps I saved your life," Gibson says grimly, without any pride in his tone.
It suddenly gets very quiet. The loudest sound anyone is making is the oblivious mother in the tattered white dress, her crying punctuated every few seconds by the increasingly distorted name of her daughter. Not even the crackle of fire, since Shimoni has already knocked it down.
A bright white light moves silently through the grey smoke flooding out of the broken windows. Onlookers can track it through the corner windows. Shimoni is coming down the stairs from the third floor.
Yaiba stares at the body of her attacker, tentatively extends her right hand, spreading her wings, then withdraws it back to her face. Her wings droop along with her head, sad that he cannot be helped.
At that moment, Shimoni emerges from the building, slightly wet. Her beige clothes still wear the grass stains from her fall from the windmill, but she doesn't have any soot or singe marks, nor is her breathing distressed by the thick smoke around her. The unconscious child she holds, however, is a charred mess. She runs to the edge of the grass and gently lays the child down, her wings dimming as the need for the Saviour's light lessens.
Yaiba rushes to her side and kneels. Joe from the community watch arrives.
"Oh, you're here already," he remarks without much surprise in his tone.
"There are eight more inside, including his parents, and Bob and Victoria," Shimoni pants, "Thank the Saviour for my strength, and that I can breathe the smoke."
Yaiba and Shimoni grab each other's clothes at the shoulders and close their eyes, "Love, mercy, and grace from his hands," Yaiba replies.
"The flash?" Shimoni asks after opening her eyes.
Yaiba points at the body in Gibson's yard, which still lies in the same uncomfortable position it stopped in, "He tried to kill me ... I think it was Tatakai."
Shimoni simply nods, then returns to the building, her wings glowing brightly again by the time she reaches the entrance.
Yaiba's wings start glowing brightly as she puts her hands on the boy. With a bright flash, extending in a brilliant shaft through the billows of smoke and deep into the blue sky above, all of the boy's injuries are instantly healed. He starts breathing again, and except for his clothing, appears to be in perfect shape. Even his hair is restored to its natural blonde.
"I knew you were the good guys," he sighs as he sits up and wraps his arms around Yaiba's neck, "Thank you so much."
"An angel?" the young woman asks as she lies on her back, on the floor, hands burned where she had held the door to her suite, slamming it against the fire rushing through the hall as Gibson's house flashed next door. All she can see is the gray smoke, the floor inches from her stinging eyes, and a bright light moving towards towards her.
Shimoni sees fresh smoke along the ceiling, puts her hands on the wall below to feel the heat. "Light of rain, please," she sighs, "in the Saviour's name, just a centimetre beyond." Instantly the painted wood curls outward and snaps between her hands, held together by only the paint. Brackish, charcoal laden water oozes from the baseboard. "Thank you," she sighs, having put out the fire inside the wall. Quickly she feels the the rest of that wall, and the one on the other side of the corridor for heat, but doesn't find any.
Shimoni stoops and picks her up gently, easily carrying her from the building into the light outside. "Follow me," she says, slowing down her pace. "Come on, I know you can."
Bob scratches along the floor towards the light, otherwise completely lost in his own building. Victoria grasps his pant leg, coughing desperately in the soupy, humid smoke, over the debris, some of which still glows with angry sparks and crackles with impatient heat. They sizzle in pain as drops of water mysteriously appear from above to douse them.
Shimoni pauses at the steps of the building as she carries the young lady, then quickly rushes to set her down beside the first boy, who is now sitting up on the grass and telling Joe about his experience.
Bob and Victoria emerge from the lobby on their hands and knees. Bob tries to stand, but instantly collapses back onto his face, scrabbles to the edge of the grass in front of the building. He grips it tightly, coughs hard. Patiently he waits as Shimoni passes him ten times. Five times she goes into the building empty handed, and five times she emerges with another victim.
The last one he sees her emerge with, after what seems like forever, is horribly charred, dangling foot that of a black skeleton, obviously dead.
As Shimoni gently sets the body of the child down in front of Yaiba, the latter asks, "Who's he?"
"I don't know," Shimoni pants from exhaustion, "who she is. I found a patch of pink cloth under her back." Shimoni holds the few square centimetres that remain of the girl's dress.
"Here goes lunch," Yaiba winces, turns away, and tosses her cookies onto the sidewalk. After wiping the vomit from her mouth, she rises to her knees and says, "Everybody, I need you to turn around and cover your eyes, please." She taps Shimoni and Joe to indicate that they must as well. "Oh, Joe, your coat, please."
Most of the onlookers turn about out of their sense of self-preservation. A few see past that to the greater reason: the young girl's dignity. Shimoni puts some distance between herself and the body, facing away, descending to her knees and covering her bowed face. Two onlookers do not. Victoria does not because she is no longer conscious. Bob curls up as best he can with the tiny dash of strength that remains.
"Please," Yaiba says to the remaining two, "turn around and cover your eyes. It is a command of the Saviour."
They shake their heads and continue to stare at the dead girl's body.
Yaiba spreads Joe's coat over her charge, covering the body from its neck to its knees. The charred remains stare thanklessly into the sky past Yaiba, the eyes burned from their sockets in the blackened face. Yaiba closes her eyes and holds her hands a few centimetres over Joe's coat. "In the name of the Saviour," she sighs softly, "be thou restored."
Two of the North District's residents will never see again.
The girl opens her eyes, blinking rapidly in the sudden light. As she tries to sit up, the hands of a haibane woman, hair a near black grey which belies the care in her eyes, hold her fast by the shoulders, until she realizes that she is lying on grass, wearing absolutely nothing, her body covered by the coarse grey jacket of a watchman's uniform. She moves her hips sideways an inch to get escape some irreverent blades of grass. She starts looking about, grabbing onto Joe's coat by the shoulders.
"Mom?" she calls, "Mom, where are you?"
The wife spins about, escaping the grip of her husband. "Helen?" she gasps in disbelief.
The girl reaches towards her with one hand, "Mom! Dad!" she cries.
The mother collapses to her knees beside her resurrected daughter and embraces her tightly around Joe's coat.
After a few seconds, she rises to her knees and looks at Yaiba. "How?" she sobs, "I saw her crushed by a rafter from the house next door." Turning to Shimoni, she says, "I'd never guess it was her from what you brought out."
"Mom," Helen sighs softly, "the Saviour says hi. He brought me back so you could believe in him." Softly, she smiles as she finishes, "His name is Yesu."
"Yesu," the mother grabs Yaiba as his proxy, "Thank you for bringing our daughter back." After several seconds of bear-hugging Yaiba, she turns to Shimoni and says, "I believe in you, Saviour," embracing the other haibane, she adds, "Thank you so very much."
Tatakai walks up to the edge of the crowd, a rather undignified sight in single-piece thermal pyjamas, an untied coat thrown over her shoulders in a flat rush. She holds a wrapped package. The moment she is noticed, a path clears for her instantly.
"We lost everything," the mother explains, "Clothes, bedding, linen, everything ... we have nothing to put over her back. We don't even have money to buy anything. We left it all in there."
A raven flies over to Shimoni and lands on her right wing, chattering excitedly at her.
"Campbell!" she giggles, "Take it easy."
The little bird looks like he's about to throw a party.
A flash erupts from closer to the building. Yaiba is tending to Bob and Victoria.
Helen looks up at Shimoni and asks softly, "Which one of you is Tatakai?"
"Oh," she reacts, "Uhm... Tatakai isn't here, right now. That's Yaiba, and I'm Shimoni.
"I guess I'm not the worst dressed person here," Tatakai says as she kneels beside Helen, "but I soon will be." She unfolds the pretty school uniform she just bought from Furugia, "I guess this is for you."
Helen grasps it and cheers with tears, "Oh, thank you!"
"I'm Tatakai," she smiles, "Fires aren't my forte. Those two did most of the hard work."
Tatakai stands, then looks at Shimoni and cheerlessly grumps, "Who'd I nail?"
Shimoni silently thumbs over to Gibson's house, where the smitten body still awkwardly lies.
"Who else?" Tatakai asks.
"What?" Shimoni gasps, "That's the only one."
"No, there are two more," Tatakai says. "They were much later, only a few minutes ago. I was just leaving Furugia when my wings flashed at the same time as- Sukoi!! The brightest I've seen of the light given to Yaiba." She continues, "All I know is that there were two that disobeyed a command given through Yaiba, and were punished by the light given to me."
"Oh," Shimoni looks about. She soon finds two men, near each other, who grasp about, asking for directions. "Maybe ask them."
"Help me," one of them says, "The little wench blinded me."
Tatakai rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "Morons. The Saviour just told you to avert your eyes from a naked child while he brought her back to life. He blinded you. And it was the light given to me, not the healer." Tatakai purses her lips at the two men, then dutifully offers, "Tell me your addresses, I'll guide you home."
"It rained," he sighs. Yurushi lies on his back in the grass beside his garden. "The moment I closed the soil over the final seed, it rained." He sits up and shakes off his hair like a dog.
Menmo recoils as the flying drops hit her, "Goodness, you're all wet!" she shrieks from under her umbrella.
"Of course," he sighs, "I love the rain, especially when it's warm like that. Tell Shimoni, thanks."
"Why? That was a natural rain," Menmo says.
"Hardly!" Yurushi grunts as he stands up, shaking his wings slightly. "Ow," he scrunches his shoulders, "Still a bit early I guess."
Menmo rubs his shoulder as he says, "That rain came from the cloud that formed above the fire," he points. His wing follows his movement. "Uh," he pulls his wing back without moving his arm, "That's more like it."
Kurai frowns at him from about eight metres away. Her wings are covered in a graceful white veil. Once Yurushi notices her, she turns and runs.
"What's with that?" he asks.
"I told her your story today," Menmo says, "She is sin-bound, and jealous. She's jealous of you not just because you escaped your circle so quickly, but also because you're gardening. She used to tend the temple garden before the Toga were imprisoned in it. She's also jealous of the big three and their powers, the ravens. She feels like God has written her out of the story."
[The story of Helen's healing and the blinding of the two men who refused to turn away is inspired by Genesis 9:21-25 in the Bible; Shimoni's "ultimate firefighter" properties are inspired by Daniel 3:21-27 in the Bible.]
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 39: Return to Humanity