Friends

“I need to get out of here,” I said, standing up. “Give me your keys, Makabe.”

Makabe got to his feet and backed away. “I’m sorry, I only have keys to your cell. You know that.” He pointed behind him. “A guard has to let me out of the room.”

I snarled at the young Japanese man. He calmly stared back, his big, black eyes wide, and round.

“But I wouldn’t let you out even if I could,” he added.

I sniffed. “You think I’m some kind of monster? Is that what Michael is saying?”

“I don’t think you’re some kind of monster, Wayne. But I know you’ve done some horrible things. Everyone in Japan knows about the Nisshin Maru. Murdering those sailors is reason enough to keep you locked up, even without the other things Mr. Telders has told us.”

“I didn’t kill those people. Yumi murdered them and pinned the whole thing on me.”

“Yumi?” Makabe shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s not possible, Wayne. Utsunomiya Yumi was locked in a safe room with ten other people while the rest of the crew were brutally slaughtered.”

“No. She was with me every step of the way. She helped me escape, she showed me where they kept the weapons, and she led the way through the ship’s corridors. She may have been in a safe room, but she was with me as well.”

Makabe was silent for a moment. He pursed his lips, thinking. “Mr. Telders did speak to that,” he finally said.

I rolled my eyes. “What.”

“He said that you often spoke to someone who wasn’t there. He said that there may have been others, but you spoke directly to someone named Yumi. Not once, but often.”

I turned and kicked the metal bed behind me. Of course I knew it was the truth. But when I knew Yumi she was as real to me as Makabe, Telders, and the cell that confined me. I slammed my first into the frame of the top bunk. A sharp sting of pain shot up my arm. It felt good.

I heard Makabe take a step toward me. “Do you still see her?” he asked.

“Not anymore,” I said, without turning around. “I sent them away.”

“Them? There were more?”

“Two others. Spegg, a monster—and Wayne, a little boy.”

“Spegg.”

“Yes, Spegg. A transgenic—”

“A half-fish, half man from the future who sent you messages through a hole in the sky?”

I turned and frowned at Makabe. “No. A figment based on a half-fish, half-man from the future who sent me messages through a hole in the sky.”

Makabe licked his lips. “So, this… other Spegg. Is he real to you?”

I balled up my fists and growled.

“Do you still see him? This other one?”

“The real Spegg is in Antarctica,” I sneered. “I don’t see him now because he isn’t a figment of my imagination, and I’m not in Antarctica.”

Makabe cocked his head. “Mr. Telders says—”

I lurched forward and grabbed Makabe by the neck, slamming him into the cell bars. “I don’t care what Mr. Telders says,” I hissed. “How about I snap your goddamn neck, then the guard’s, and then slaughter Mr. Telders and everyone else on this ship, just like I did before?”

Makabe’s huge eyes bulged. “Way…ne,” he said, laboring to speak. “I don’t… want… to hurt you.”

I grinned. “That’s good. Because there’s zero chance of—”

Makabe’s elbow shot up and connected with my chin. Light flashed before my eyes, a space opened up in front of me, and I collided with the cell bars. I felt my legs kick out from under me, then another bright light announced the arrival of the floor. Makabe dug his knee into my back.

“I’m sorry, Wayne,” he spoke into my ear, wrenching my left arm behind my back. “I like you very much. And I would very much like to help you. But I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about your present situation. And if Mr. Telders gets his way, when we reach Antarctica you will be sentenced to death not only for the murder of those aboard the Nisshin Maru, but for the slaughter of every man, woman, and child who died in the nuclear attacks. Not to mention the horrific virus that followed.”

“I had nothing to do with the war, or the virus.”

“Mr. Telders believes otherwise. In fact, he believes you inoculated yourself before releasing the virus into the population, which is why you are the only one who is known to have recovered from the sickness.”

I let out a sigh. Makabe released some of the pressure on my arm.

“I really don’t want to see you suffer, Wayne. Considering what I’ve learned about you, I doubt you’ve ever had a true friend. A real one. And I would like to show you what that’s like before… well, before it’s too late.”

I turned my head to look at Makabe. He looked relaxed, and his dark eyes were calm and inviting.

“What do you say, Wayne? Can I be your friend?”

A vision of Antartica flashed in my mind. Snow fell in clumps on the fresh bodies of the baby LMO we called Einstein, and my faithful Husky, Buzz. Spegg stared at me, framed by the giant metal dishes of Station151’s massive radio telescope array. His words echoed in my head: We are wound together. My life and your life.

“Wayne?”

I looked at Makabe and growled: “I already have a friend, Chikushou.”