amato_icon.gif child-mika_icon.gif

Scene Title Flashbacks
Synopsis Amato has a run-in with a little girl who turns out to be so much more than a little girl…
Date August 15, 2010

The Garden

Situated in a copse several miles away from the nearest stretch of asphalt, the Garden is accessible via an old dirt road that winds snakelike through the woods and dead-ends at the property's perimeter, which is surrounded by stone wall plastered with wicked coils of rusty barbed wire to keep would-be intruders from attempting to scale it. Those with a key can gain entry via the front gate.

The safehouse itself is a three-story brickwork cottage over a century old and covered in moss and ivy. It slants to one side, suggesting that the foundation has been steadily sinking into the wet earth; incidentally, this may be one of the reasons why its prior occupants never returned to the island to reclaim their property when government officials lifted evacuation orders and re-opened the Verrazano-Narrows shortly before its eventual destruction.

Inside, the cottage is decorated in mismatched antique furniture including a couch in the living room and an armchair nestled in the corner closest to the fireplace that go well with the safehouse's hardwood floors and the wood-burning stoves in some of the spare bedrooms. A heavy wooden table designed to seat eight separates the dining area from the rest of the kitchen, which is defined by its aged oak cabinetry and the dried wildflowers hanging above them.

Even with the National Guard and other various government agencies swarming Staten Island in the wake of the Institute disaster, the place is much more pastoral compared to the city across the water. Where as electricity lights the marred skyline of the city, fireflies light the sky on Staten Island. It is in this intermittent glow and the dying oranges and reds of the setting sun that Amato picks his way through the edge of the wilderness that separates The Garden from the more populated places on the island. The humidity is almost unbearable, and is evident in the sweat that has stained the lanky-turned-lean man's undershirt.

He wears that and a pair of brown pants, held up with a pair of suspenders. He isn't on any sort of "beaten path" this evening - rather, Amato is checking the few rabbit traps set to catch game. Sure, The Garden gets supplies on a regular basis, but fresh, wild game has a certain tang to it that can't be replicated. Amato hasn't had it since his stint as a hermit, but that only makes him want it more.

There are some days when the daily grind of real life becomes almost too much to bear. When responsibilities wear down on a person to the point where they're just about ready to crack. Everybody has a day like that every once in a while. Sometimes, you just want to throw off all of the ropes of obligations. Run around, be free, act like a kid again.

Or, in Mika Iwasaki's case, actually be a kid again.

The soft sound of a child's giggle can be heard through the area as Mika runs through a clearing not far from where Amato's rabbit trap. The little Japanese girl, who appears to be no older than ten, wears a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that has a crown on it, and says 'Self Rescuing Princess'. There's a large jar sitting off to the side, containing sticks, leaves, and grass, and quite a few fireflies. The little girl is running through the clearing, having a grand time of catching fireflies.

No rabbit. No matter.

Around the time that Amato comes to the trap and finds it empty, he hears the little girl's gleeful report. Narrowing his eyes, he looks out from behind a tree to watch her for a moment. It's a curious sight, especially given the locale. He looks around then, trying to locate a supervising adult of some sort. Then again, many of Staten Island's children don't have such things.

"It's getting close to the time where all little girls should be in bed," Amato says in the voice of his American alias, Benjamin Sall. "With the number of bad men with armor and guns that are wandering about these days, little girl, you might want to head home a little early."

There is no supervising adult around. No parent standing in the wings to be sure that their beautiful little girl isn't hurt. The girl skids to a stop with a firefly in her hands, turning a baffled look to Amato, her brows raised high. It's when she turns to look at him that he may notice that there's something off about the little girl. She certainly looks normal, yes, but her eyes contain a look of intelligence and wisdom that most children certainly don't possess. The little girl has old eyes, in some indescribable way.

She takes a step back, staring up at the pale man. "Well, you're not a bad man, are you?" She turns her dark eyes down to the firefly held in her hands. Uncupping her hands, she raises it up, smiling as the firefly opens its wings and flies away. "I'm out because now is the best time to catch fireflies! They're such pretty things. Do you ever wonder how they glow like they do?"

Amato shakes his head, stepping out from behind the tree and folding his thin arms across his chest. "No more than the sparrow wonders where it's next meal will come from." The girl is worthy of study, even if it is simply because she dares to be out here alone, given recent events. "Have you lived here on the island long?" Maybe she's newly arrived. Maybe she isn't aware of the danger.

"And no," he says with a shake of his head. "I'm not a bad man." Not anymore.

The little girl watches the firefly flutter off, its rear flashing in green glows. Then, she's approaching Amato, that carefree smile still on her face. "I've lived here since before the bomb. That was a very terrible day." She raises onto her tiptoes to peer at him curiously.

The child's smile only brightens as he confirms that he's not, in fact, a bad man. "Well, then I am lucky that today, a good man has found me instead of a bad man." She extends a hand toward him in offer of a handshake, giggling softly. "I'm Elise McKenna. What's your name?"

It is rare that Amato has the opportunity to see a child's sins. Babies may be selfish, but in the eyes of the church, one is not held accountable until the age of seven. From the look of Elise, she can't have been accruing indiscretions for very long. What few she may have will be as innocent as sneaking a cookie before supper.

So it is with a smile that Amato bends his knees to put himself on the girl's level. "My name is Ben," he says as he raises a hand to take hers.

As the smiling child takes Amato's hand, he certainly does get to see her sins. And it is quite possibly far more than he would have ever expected, or even prepared for.

To start out with, it's simple. Little thefts of sweets and foods from the kitchen counter while her mother prepares food. But the setting is all wrong. The housing is old, primitive, not from this time. A little shack in the mountains of a strange, foreign land. She pushed a little child down and called her names, made the other little Japanese girl cry.

Then, the setting changes, an obviously Asian style mansion of sorts in the vision. More little thefts through the eyes of a child. She stole makeup from a senior Geisha there and then lied through her teeth about it, blaming another child who had been bought by Iwasaki Okiya for the disappearance of the Geisha's lipstick. She stole food from the kitchens when she could, and made the other child do her chores.

Then, her teenage years come. She smashed another girl's chances at a dance audition, taking the lead role herself. Flash to an old shed, losing her virginity to a young boy who worked at a food stand in the Hanamachi. In another act of treachery, she smashed another girl's chances at an amazing Oneesan, taking the position herself. The life of a Maiko was a difficult one, and backstabbing was a common practice to get ahead. More sins come, unwed sex with random partners, entertaining married men as a Geisha. More fierce competition and treachery, backstabbing, envy, minor thefts and bribes.

The scene changes again, to a war-torn Japan in the throes of terror from recent attacks on Hiroshima. Unwed sex with a man who would later become her husband. The sins then become less for a time as she nears her thirties. Children appear, with occasional little fibs told to them to keep down unwanted behavior.
Then, she abandons her children and her husband, leaves them never to return. She goes to Tokyo, seduces American men; strangely enough, she's young again, a woman in her prime once more. It's the late 50's, and World War II is finally winding down. She convinces a man that she loves him and wants to marry him, and they fly off to America. She abandons him and flees to California.

Theft and lies abound in this chapter, as the woman lives homeless for nearly a year. Then…the biggest sin of all. She goes to an orphanage, and makes herself into an infant. She is adopted, raised by this family for a full eighteen years, with another eighteen years of sins. Then she abandons her family on false pretenses.

And she does it again, raised by another family. When she regains her cognitive functions around the age of five, she calls her family, only to find that both of her second parents had died. Another lifetime of sins follows, lies and deceit and theft from people who were completely unaware of the fact that they were housing and feeding a woman who was old enough to be their grandmother.

Lies and deceit lead her to New York, with lies about her identity, use of her two alter egos to get ahead in life. They lead all the way up to this moment, where she lied to Amato about her name being Elise. It's really Mika Iwasaki, and she is, in truth, 91 years old.

And she is a con artist like this world has never seen before.

There is only one other person Amato has ever seen the sins of that could even compare with this little girl - this old woman wearing the shell of a child. With a shudder and a gasp, Amato pulls his hand out of Mika's grip and staggers to his feet, looking at her with wide-eyed horror. If he didn't know any better…but she can't be. No, he would know if she was.

He gulps, trying to get his breathing to level out. But there are beads of sweat on his brow that weren't there before, and a trickle of blood seeps from his right nostril. So many sins over so much time packed into the breadth of a handshake and the elongated blink of an eye. "So," he finally says, rolling his bottom lip beneath his top row of teeth.

"How about you let me walk you home, Miss Elise?"

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License