Dr. Kiryu hummed absentmindedly, prodding the back of his assistant’s chair with his foot.
The assistant in question gave a long-suffering sigh of annoyance. “Mark, what are you doing?”
“Practicing my flamingo stance, Riven,” came the easygoing reply. “Hii-yah.” Dr. Kiryu kicked an empty water bottle off his assistant’s desk.
Riven groaned. “Okay, okay. The new item went through preliminary scans alright, nothing dangerous noted, so they’re letting you check up on it in two hours.”
“Excellent.” Dr. Kiryu hunted for the water bottle on the floor. “Where was it recovered from, again?”
“Some high school,” Riven replied, kicking the water bottle away from the doctor out of spite. Kiryu simply rolled his eyes, shoved his assistant’s swivel chair, and recovered the water bottle while Riven tried to prevent himself (and his chair) from crashing into a wall.
“Background if you please, Riven?” Dr. Kiryu lobbed the bottle at the recycling bin.
Riven shrugged. “The notepad was some sort of urban legend. If you were worried about something, you could write about it in the pages, and the fear would be completely gone by the next day. It never ran out of pages, and it would randomly turn up in people’s backpacks, purses, even athlete’s sports bags.”
Dr. Kiryu nodded, standing up and adopting the flamingo pose once more.
Riven looked at him deploringly. “You’re not going to evict my stapler to the floor next, are you?”
Kiryu didn’t move. “No. Keep talking.”
Picking up a stack of computer printouts from his desk and rifling through them, Riven continued. “Hmm… no one tried to keep a close eye on the notepad, since there was apparently some rumor that if you hogged it to yourself, you’d suddenly be scared of everything written there. One kid kept it for three days and ended up needing to see a psychologist because he kept having panic attacks about stepping on sidewalk cracks.”
Wobbling slightly, Kiryu frowned. “That sounds terrifying.”
Riven nodded. “The retrieval team sent over a few scanned pictures of the pages and the things written. Most of them are the usual things, for high schoolers, I guess. Dating, grades, getting a car. Riven flipped a page. “Some weird stuff though. Did you know that anatidaephobia is the fear of-”
“-being watched by a duck? Wasn’t that a joke phobia?” Kiryu walked over to his potted bamboo and prodded one of the leaves. “Certainly out of the ordinary, yes, but it doesn’t seem like it’d be debilitating… anything else?”
Blinking, Riven flipped another page. “The kid’s favorite food was roast duck. Oh, and the first page had some sort of repeating design. Two sentences printed over and over. ‘Think you have it bad? Walk in someone else’s shoes.’”
Kiryu had obtained a tissue from somewhere and was wiping dust off the bamboo stems.
“So you’ll look into the query, Mark?” Riven said in exasperation, tossing the papers back onto his desk.
“Yes. Go ahead and take your lunch break, and say hello to my sister for me. Fellow researchers should communicate and all that.” Mark flopped into his own swivel chair and closed his eyes, thinking.
My chest felt tight today. When I woke up. last time that happened, I panicked and blacked out a few minutes later. What if I’m going to have a heart attack? What if I already did have a heart attack? when I was asleep? I know I’ve been stressed out because school and shit, I bet I'm overworking, but I can’t have a stroke or something now why now?
Everything is supposed to be perfect for tomorrow. I’ve got it all planned out, I’ve already asked a bunch of people to help out, already bought the dance tickets, so why am I still worried?
I wish my house wasnt so far away from school I heard about one family that died because they left a candle burning and their house caught fire. What if my house starts burning while no one is home? Some of my friends live close and theyd be able to see smoke if their house was on fire why cant I be so lucky?!?!
Fucking math teacher made me retake the fucking test during first period instead of after school like he promised. What if my test gets mixed up with all the other stuff on his desk? What if I was supposed to put it in the inbox and not the desk? By the computer?? I don’t remember. This used to not be a problem. I thought about going to check, but what would I do if I did really misplace it????? I can’t stop thinking about it. Everyone’s saying that the test doesn't count for much but I really need good grade on this.
I don’t trust cars. Mom and Dad are always away at work and at night its dangerous to drive so far. What if they crash? What if no one is there to call for help? What if something bad happens?
“I thought you reserved the testing room for the next session.” Dr. Kiryu looked up as his assistant closed the door of the testing room.
“I did, but since no one’s using it now and no one is scheduled, I moved my time half an hour earlier. The notepad is rather fascinating. A plethora of fears, mostly irrational, I think, all in the palm of my hand.”
Riven glanced at the small spiral-bound notepad, smaller than the doctor’s hand. “How far have you read through it?”
“About halfway. Some D-class took a look at the pages earlier, so I’m decently sure the notepad is safe to read. Precautions, though. I’m going to run a few more tests.”
Preliminary setup: Notepad was placed on table in center of testing room, various empty bags (backpacks, purses, shoulder bags, sports bags, etc.) were arranged around the table.
Procedure: D-3549 instructed to copy a short paragraph detailing agoraphobia into notepad.
Results: No immediate effect. Written paragraph noted to have disappeared after roughly five minutes.
Procedure: D-7231, noted to possess arachnophobia, instructed to write briefly about his fear.
Results: No immediate effect. Five minutes after D-7231 was allowed to leave the room and the notepad was placed in one of the bags, it was discovered that the notepad was missing. Notepad discovered in one of the other bags placed in the testing room.
Note: Due to information gathered, I’d suggest that D-7231’s condition be confirmed after 24 hours. - Dr. Kiryu
Results: (24 hours following test) D-7231 shown various pictures of spiders, demonstrates no aggravation or uneasiness. However, it was noted during mealtime that D-7231 has since developed an extreme aversion to provided food, citing worry about allergic reactions. Medical records pertaining to D-7231 indicate no recorded allergies.
Riven paced around the shared office, reading the test logs. “So it relieves your fear and trades it for someone else’s, I guess?”
“The grass is always greener on the other side,” Kiryu commented idly, tapping away on his laptop.
“Will it be destroyed?”
Mark looked up from his computer screen. “Perhaps. I’m going to submit a request that it be properly locked up, though. I don’t know what will happen if someone tries to damage it, and until I know for sure, I don’t want to risk part of that rumor about a fear explosion being true.” He stretched his arms out and glanced at the digital clock hanging by the door. “There may be more we can still learn from the object.”
Riven began stuffing the printouts into a filing cabinet. “How so?”
Glancing out the window, Mark continued lightly. “Everyone's got that little voice in the back of their head nagging them about something.” He stood, walked to the window, opened it. A faint breeze fluttered the leaves of his bamboo plant. “People lead their own lives, have their own circumstances and worries. But in the end, there’s a sameness in the fear, inconsequential or silly though it may be. It's natural to worry about things.”
Pausing in his filing, Riven was silent.
Kiryu laughed. "You're not afraid a duck is watching you right now, are you?"