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hyaenidae

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Even the ocean's been dead silent for the last half hour: when Erika speaks at last, he nearly jumps.

"She's almost like a dog, Tokio. Look at her."

Tokio lowers his sunglasses, his eyes squinting a little in the blazing sunlight. Across the way, she's hitched her white dress up to mid-thigh so her feet can dangle over the edge of the boat. They're too high to skim the sea below, but close enough that she must feel the cool saltwater spray, as if remnants of the waves were still trying to lap at Erika's legs. The hyena cocks its head to the side before approaching and sitting back on its haunches beside her. Sure enough, docile as some kid's stupid pet, it nudges its snout into her waiting palms.

"You've got to be kidding me."

She isn't. Erika glances up at him long enough to notice that he's paying attention and reaches over to scratch the hyena under the chin, through the tufted patches of fur along its snout. All the hyena does is move its head about lazily, relishing the attention from her hands. The sight's almost too surreal for him to watch: it's as if they really were just on some tropical vacation together. Tokio frowns. He sits up, adjusts his shades on the bridge of his nose, and looks away, out and over the ocean.

"You know... Hyenas are actually more closely related to felines than canines."

"Oh, shut up." The hyena's ear twitches. Erika pauses to give the animal's back a reassuring pat before she continues. "Poor thing. All of this for those eyes, and you didn't even choose to have them."

The noise it makes sounds almost like a whine. (But maybe it's wrong of him, trying to anthropomorphize the thing.)

"Don't tell me you're getting attached, Erika."

"What, I can’t be nice?" She shifts away from the edge of the boat and turns, sitting cross-legged, to him. "Even if we won't have that much time together, that doesn't mean I can't show her a little kindness."

”No, just...” Tokio trails off.

"What?"

Tokio chews the inside of his lip. The sun's oppressive: it's as if he's being pressed into a vice of white light and bright heat, beating down from above and reflected back from the white boat, the too-clear blue water. There's hardly any shade here. He craves the comfortable darkness of his Typhoon apartment, shutters drawn, the outside world blocked away completely.

I don't know if it'll be killed, wherever we're taking it. It's cruel to interact with it at all.

"Nothing."

"Do you think it's your fault?" she says suddenly.

"What?"

Her tone softens. "That's the dilemma of journalists everywhere, isn't it? We want to uncover the truth, but when we find it, we're just... people. Small, weak people. We're powerless to move the gears that have already been put into motion." Erika looks away. The hyena is silent. "You knew that, coming here. I know you did. I mean, I had to get it through my head not trying to come after you. I know it's hard not to take it personally, but..."

"Wait. Are you--"

"Don't get up. He's on his way. Also, you should remember to drink something... it's hot out here."

Tokio sinks back onto the deck. 

"Erika, please tell me you're alive."

All she can do is turn to him and smile, already distant and sad, already a dream, fading slowly as if in the morning's waking.

"I am. I think you just miss me."

---

The hyena perks up at the sound of the footsteps crossing the boat. She cocks her head to the side, staring at the newcomer with eyes wide and silver. Hesitating on the spot, she finally moves towards Tokio, sitting back on her haunches beside him.

The hyena nudges her snout under Tokio's open palm.

"I've been waiting for you, Sumio Mondo."