Death Note: 23 Days Later
Entry 7: Lacrimosa
I placed the final piece and then sat back to admire my handiwork. It was quite impressive - a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle of the Taj Mahal. Nor was it the only one. The control room was filled with 3D puzzles, including Big Ben, the Whitehouse, El Castillo, a globe of the Earth, and the Sphinx. Accompanying each one was a detailed sketch drawn by Linda.
Now however, I was finished. I had run out of jigsaw puzzles and as I glanced at the clock, I saw that little more than three days remained before my time was up. Just three days left to solve the biggest puzzle of them all.
I confess, I was beginning to have my doubts now. Together, Linda and I had gone through the rules of the Death Note with a fine-tooth comb, bouncing suggestions off one another as we struggled to unearth a solution. An idea. Anything. Yet no matter what we came up with, each idea was just as quickly dismissed. It really was starting to seem impossible.
Linda lay flat on her stomach, lollipop in mouth as she stared with her exhausted brown eyes at the stack of rules in front of her. She groaned and buried her face in her arms, her feet swinging back and forth in annoyance at the sheer futility of it all. What optimism she'd initially had was almost certainly gone now.
I sighed wearily. It was no use. I couldn't put it off any longer now.
She looked up at me and blinked tiredly a few times, before giving me a questioning sort of noise. I stared at the clock and watched as the LED seconds counted down towards my seemingly inevitable demise.
"I have already made all of the necessary preparations for you to assume the identity of L," I informed her calmly, "There's a disc in the desk over there-" I pointed, "It contains instructions and information you will need when the time comes. The files are protected. The password is your name."
I could feel her gaze boring into me, all trace of her previous fatigue gone in the face of my words. She stared, fully alert now, and slowly removed the lollipop from her mouth. I have no doubt that some kind of protest was imminent from her.
"What are you saying? Is that it?" she demanded sharply, "You're surely not just giving up!"
I reached up and began curling my hair around my finger, my gaze shifting to the 3D puzzle on the floor in front of me. "I intend to keep working on the problem until the very last second," I answered, "However it seems increasingly unlikely that I will succeed. Therefore you need to be ready to take over the position in the event of my death."
Silence. Linda said nothing, and I didn't look her way. After a few seconds I spoke again.
"Linda ... you don't have to stay. If you want to take the disc and leave, I won't hold it against you."
I heard the scribbling of pencil on paper, and a moment later a hastily drawn cartoon was dangled in front of my face. It showed Linda handcuffed to me, with the caption 'LIKE HELL' written above it. I couldn't help smirking at that as she dropped the drawing into my lap and then sat cross-legged beside me.
I wish I wasn't going to die.
"I'm not going anywhere," she said flatly, "Now stop with the defeatist talk Near, because it's just not like you. Your brain is probably waiting for the last possible moment before it coughs up the solution, just for the sake of being melodramatic."
I wish that were true.
"Somehow I doubt it ..." I placed the picture on the floor and shook my head sadly. "I don't mind telling you Linda, I'm ... scared."
Which was true. It felt as if I'd finally met my match. I was up against the Death Note, the Shinigami, mortality itself. And no matter how hard I tried, I could not see a way out of this. I'd been so sure I would find a way, but now ... it seemed impossible. I knew what this feeling was. It was despair.
"That does it." Linda got up and marched across the room, to the table where the Death Note itself lay. I stared at her with wide-eyed astonishment as she opened the Notebook and flourished her pencil.
"What are you doing?" I demanded, alarmed. She couldn't be ... surely not?
"Something I should have done days ago," Linda muttered under her breath, "I guess I was just too much of a coward."
She was going to write her own name in the Notebook! Why? What possible reason could she have to do that? I couldn't fathom one. All I knew was that I had to stop her. With speed that would have astonished anyone who knew me, I sprang to my feet and hurled myself at her. I managed to grab a hold of her just as her pencil touched the pages of the Notebook.
"Stop! Have you lost your mind?" I almost shouted at her as I yanked her arm back. A struggle ensued, one for which I was ill-equipped. I had all the physical strength of a child. Only desperation allowed me to stay her hand.
"Near, I have to do this, it's the only way!" Linda insisted, fighting to free herself from my frantic grasp.
"What are you talking about? How will killing yourself help anything?" I managed to pry the pencil from her fingers. Staggering back from her, I held it behind my back and then caught my breath. On reflection I was quite astonished by my behaviour. This was so very unlike me. It was almost unthinkable for me to exert myself in such a fashion. What had come over me?
"Don't you see?" Linda rounded on me and tried to explain. "I can help you to beat this thing if I write my name down. By using the Notebook to control my actions prior to my death, I can specify that I give you the clue you need to win before dying."
So that was what she was playing at. I should have guessed. It was insane. True enough, the Notebook could be used to control a person's actions up until the moment of their death, but it had its limits. I shook my head in denial of her flawed logic. "That won't work. If the circumstances are deemed impossible, then the person simply dies of a heart attack."
"How is this impossible? You said it yourself Near; you're convinced that there is a way to beat the Death Note!" She took a step towards me, her hands gesturing as if to illustrate her point. I backed away, keeping the pencil behind my back and out of her reach. "Look at it this way," she tried to reason, "If we put a person in a room with a ..." she searched about and, upon seeing the 3D jigsaws I had lying around jabbed a finger at one of them, "A jigsaw puzzle! Then if we wrote his name in the Notebook and specified that he solved the jigsaw before dying of a heart attack, he would!"
What a tenuous analogy. Did she seriously think that would work? I know I liked to describe this situation as a puzzle, but in truth it was hardly that. I actually snorted at her. "A more accurate comparison would be to put that man in a room and then specify that he writes down the key equations needed to solve Unified Field Theory before he dies. Somehow I suspect he would drop dead before ever putting pen to paper."
She still wasn't convinced and took another step towards me. I in turn took a corresponding step back.
"It has to be worth a shot, doesn't it? If there's even the slightest chance it could work, isn't it worth risking my life to save the lives of you and the other members of your team?"
It wasn't, and I said as much to her. "No. You'd just die needlessly. It's suicide, Linda. Don't throw your life away like this."
Our eyes met, and I could see the determination in hers, even though I couldn't hope to understand it. She stopped approaching me and simply held out her hand for me to return her pencil.
"It's my life, Near. I'm willing to take that chance."
"I'm not," I countered, my own eyes narrowing at her. Linda hesitated for a moment, then charged at me.
We both fell to the floor, fighting over the pencil. It occurred to me that Linda could have simply strolled over and picked up any one of the dozen or so other pencils she had set aside, rather than fighting me for the one I had taken from her. I suppose she had just become carried away with the moment.
Either way, I didn't stand a chance. Back at the orphanage, Linda had frequently tried to convince me to come outside and play with her. I never did, preferring to stay inside and solve puzzles or stack things. I had never actually gone outside to play or partake in some kind of physically taxing activity at any point in my life. Consequently I had all the physical strength and ability of a doll. Linda had the pencil within seconds. I lunged for it again as she sat up, but she easily held it out of my reach.
"Sorry Near," she said, "You may be the smartest person I know, but you're weaker than a little girl."
She was right. I was forced to watch as she marched over to the table again, pencil ready to sign her own death warrant. And there wasn't a thing I could do to stop her. I had never felt so useless in my entire life. My heart thudded painfully in my chest and my vision began to blur.
"Linda," I said quietly. I felt something moist roll down my cheek, and my ever so sharp mind pointed out that it must be a tear. I was crying. For the first time I could ever recall doing so. Amazing. Was this how normal people felt when they were upset? I had no idea. I saw Linda pause, pencil touching a page of the Notebook for a second time, poised to write.
I had her attention. Now what should I say? Well here was a thought ... why not the truth?
"Linda, I ... don't want you to die."
She hesitated, and I felt another tear follow the first one.
"Please don't do it," I added, my voice barely above a whisper. I had to wonder if she could even hear me, but she must have, because she lifted the pencil from the Notebook and slowly turned to regard me. She was stunned. By my words, by the tone of those words, and by the sight of me crying. Me. Near. The current L. Weeping at the prospect of what she was about to do.
I don't know who was more surprised by that. Her, or me.
"You're ... crying," Linda said in awe. I exhaled sharply and dried my eyes on my sleeve.
"So I am. How the mighty L has fallen." I chortled at that. I really was not acting myself. It must be the prospect of certain death looming before me. The prospect of defeat. I had to get a hold of myself, this was embarrassing.
"But ... you never cry," Linda insisted. I blinked my eyes clear and shrugged.
"I suppose there is a first time for everything."
She turned back to regard the Death Note, before carefully closing it and setting her pencil down on the table beside it. She must have decided against her suicidal plan then. Relief flooded through me at that realisation, then puzzlement at my own feelings. This was getting ridiculous. Since when did I start being so sentimental?
Since I took up residence on death's doorstep, apparently.
Suddenly Linda was kneeling on the floor before me, a wry smile on her face. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed as if her eyes were sparkling. It must be my imagination. I refuse to believe I had descended into the levels of romantic, poetic nonsense.
"I'll make a deal with you," she said, "I won't die if you don't."
I smiled back at her and extended my hand. "Agreed."