The warm yellow inner glow of the police station is surprisingly comforting for Apricot. Still shaken by the night's events Apricot sat in a wooden decoratively carved chair. The clerk's wooden desk is cluttered with various papers, folders, and photos. A small desk lamp trained over the mess giving off light for the reports in front of them. "Miss Apricot, your account of the situation is, troubling to say the least." says the clerk as he strikes his cheek and lip with his hand. "You are a student journalist it says and recently were in a hostage situation. Now you experienced a terrorist attack. Not an easy month for you mam now is it." he joked.
Apricot felt anger well up inside her. Instead of letting him have it however she nodded her head. "Yes, sir." she said.
The man looks down at the paper setting it down on his desk. He looks up to Apricot with a smile. "I am just about done with you but the state psychologist will want to speak with you. They will make a determination if those biologicals affected you. I ah, got some advice for you." the officer says to her narrowing his eyes. "Play along. We both know what happened."
"Excuse me?" Apricot asks.
The officer leans in over his desk, he motions Apricot closer. "I don't know what you observed tonight. I don't know what happened but you're not crazy. I did not record your account. I wrote you had experienced a hallucination. Please, just play along. It will make your life easier. These things, they, they aren't real but there here. They're like ghosts or something. Everyone in the office is scared out of their minds right now. They have been locking up witnesses under insanity charges, including anyone in the department that acknowledges them. Even if what you said is true, forget it ever happened. Look, I should not be telling you this. Just please listen." He sits back in his chair his eyes glassy with tears welling in them. He sterns his voice and grumbles, "Well, mam it looks like I can finish this up on my own." he flips a switch on his desk. "Hey, I need someone to take Miss Signa to have her evaluation done."
"Right away sir." a voice replies.
"Just remember what I said ok," he says to Apricot with a nod.
Apricot nods her head not sure of what to make of her situation. A man in uniform opens the door to the officer's office motioning with his hand for her to come with him.
"So you did not see a thing." a woman in a black officers uniform said. Her rose framed glasses clashed with the officialness of her attire. "Many people panicked in there tonight. Seems you did not get too high of a dose from the chemical attack." She pauses looking over her papers. "So you blacked out for the duration and found yourself in the warehouse."
"That is right mam." she lied.
The woman tapped her clipboard with a pen. "A lot of people said there was a monster." she looks up from her paper into Apricot's eyes. "What do you say about that?"
Apricot did not hesitate before saying "A lot of people see things when they are hallucinating."
"Superb point. Well, I won't be taking up any more of your time. If you still have any hallucinations, be sure to contact the police. If you remember anything, your cooperation will be very much appreciated." the woman holds out a card. "Call my number anytime."
Apricot plucks the card out of the woman's hand palming it into her pocket. "Thank you," Apricot says.
"You are free to go. The exit is to the left of the hall." the woman says to Apricot.
A runny long stream of bile projects out of Apricots mouth into a toilet. She wipes the sides of her face as she stares into the messy water. She releases another gag followed by the expulsion of her remaining stomach contents. She grabs a hand towel off a shower rod, wipes her mouth and throws it into a laundry basket in the corner. She flushes the toilet. In the mirror she looks back at herself, eyes smeared with makeup, red, puffy from tears. Her lips chilled, her skin, sickly, pale, yet rosy. Her hair a messy tangled nest. "What the hell is happening," she says to herself. Her eyes flow with tears as these things being everywhere surrounds her mind. "This isn't happening. This is a nightmare."
She sniffles wiping her nose with the sleeve of her shirt. A desperate desire to be crazy was all she wanted at the moment. To her torment and absolute agony, she recognized she wasn't. Apricot had to leave the bathroom but at this moment, it had become her sanctuary.
Turning on the water she drew herself a warm bath. The heat against her naked skin released the tension in her muscles. She allowed herself this moment to slump into the water. Her eyes closed, and she slept. When she awoke, she felt chilly. The warm water that once soothed her had lost its comfort during her slumber. She raised her pruned fingers pushing herself out of the tube. Draping herself in a towel she walked out of her bathroom and into her bedroom.
Peering over at her desk she noticed her phone was blinking. Plucking up the black slab she flips through to discover she had missed several messages from her friends. Apricot set her phone down on the desk without replying. She turned to look at her unmade bed and clothes strung along the floor. Clutching a pink and white plaid button up shirt with a cartoon bunny patch on the front along with a pair of blue jeans Apricot dresses herself.
As she heads down the wood steps to her living room, she sees Machi is sprawled on her couch. "Machi?" Apricot asks to see Machi sleepily raise up her head.
She sits up rubs her eyes and smiles. "You were out like a light," Machi said. "I figured you should not be alone. I heard what happened at the store. I have time off, so, I figured I would keep you company." Apricot nods as she continues down the stairs. She sits on the couch next to Machi. "We need not talk about it," she says in a calm voice. Apricot hugs Machi's thin frame in her arms. Machi pats her back as she feels the drips of Apricot's tears on her shoulder. "It's ok hun. You will be all right."
Apricot shakes her head. "No, I am not. I am not ok." Apricot moans.
"I know, I know," Machi says giving her a kiss on the forehead. "It's ok to cry, hun. You don't need to be ok," she whispers.
"It doesn't end."
"It might seem like that right now."
Apricot feels a lump in her grow as her heart pounds. "It won't end." she thinks to herself.
Pushing Apricot back, Machi wipes the tears off Apricot's face with both hands. "Heh, let's go get something to eat all right. I will call up the others and we can meet at Bingo Burgers ok."
Apricot shakes her head. "No. I don't want to go out right now." she groans.
Machi nods her head. "I can understand that. I want to make sure you are ok."
"I am fine," Apricot says wiping her tears with her sleeve. "As fine as I can be at least."
Machi nods, a silence between the two crossing. Apricot gets up from the couch walking across the carpet of her living room into the tiled floor of her kitchen. "Machi, want some tea with me?"
"Sure, sounds good. Let me make it." Machi says walking past Apricot. "You go sit."
Apricot sits back down in the living room watching Machi move about her kitchen as if she lived there. From the few times, Machi visited her house she is surprised to see her remember where everything was. Machi places a tray of two teacups along with a few cookies onto the black glass coffee table. Apricot sat on the floor cross-legged while Machi sat curled up on the couch. "You know my house don't you," Apricot says to Machi.
"Well, I had a peak while you were sleeping. That is dangerous you know." Machi says.
"What do you mean?"
Apricot heard a slight giggle escape from her kitchen. "Falling asleep in a tub of water."
"Machi that snoop." Apricot thought to herself hearing she peaked on her while she was in the bathroom but now was not the time to confront her. "It was just so comfortable."
Machi giggles again "I can't say I haven't done it before too."
"It seems so weird. I mean we are adults now but... nothing has changed. I remember being a little girl in primary school. Now, everything seems overwhelming." Apricot says.
Machi smiles "Yeah, I know what you mean, sorta."
Apricot lets out a long sigh. "Thanks, Machi."
"Yeah, well, it could've happened to any of us," Machi says while looking into her tea. She stirs it with her spoon adding a lump of sugar into it. "I was scared Apricot. They said it was a terrorist attack. When I saw on the news, it was the store you worked at." Machi's voice quivers. "I was so scared for you." Apricot looks up to see Machi's lip quivering. "I thought you might have got hurt or worse."
"Nothing happened, to me. I was just scared." Apricot takes a sip of her tea. Trying her best to maintain her composure. The thoughts of the monster entered her mind. The man's head, that slow snap of his muscle tethers breaking. The sound it made. The screaming and crying. It all rushed in her mind as the taste of tea danced upon her tongue. It all seemed so surreal to her.
Machi grabs a cookie from the tray. She dunks it into her tea taking a bite of the soggy sweet. "I saw the hideous clothes they gave you. Those blue-green scrubs. What happened to your old clothes?"
"Taken for evidence," Apricot says considering what that evidence might have been.
Machi shakes her head. "That seems odd."
"Fabric analysis I am guessing so they can identify the agent used." Apricot lied. There was no reason to look for that and they knew it too. There must be a reason for them to keep her clothes she pondered. Not that she could have kept them anyways considering the amount of blood on them, she almost gagged at the thought.
"How did the interview go?" Machi asked.
Apricot looked up. "The interview?"
"You know the one about the robbery," Machi says.
Apricot had forgotten about the interview she had earlier this week. "It went fine, but that reminds me, I got to go see your brother."
Machi smirks. "Why is that?"
"Camera, I got him a new one," Apricot says. "It's used, but it's a Nihon Dazzler. Bought it from a friend of mine."
Machi rolls her eyes. "Just give it to me. I will make sure he gets it, you stay home tonight and get some rest ok. You better not come down sick." Apricot nods her head giving Machi one last hug. After Machi had left Apricot crawled back upstairs into the warm covers of her bed, to close her eyes, until Jasper came home.