Out of Habit
Knowing that the demon feeds on children --and knowing that all its previous victims had been runaways-- Jim and I promptly found ourselves on the seedier side of town. It was natural for us to be there, seeing how we were investigating the murders, but once we arrived we knew we were bound to hit a wall. Runaways are not exactly trusting and the sad fact is that --for the most part-- those around them tend to either ignore them or exploit them. They have their own sub-culture and cops are not exactly welcome with open arms... not surprising when you consider what most of their backgrounds are like. In other words we knew we wouldn't exactly find a lot of cooperative potential witnesses eager to provide us with useful information.
Out of need we turned to the handful of groups that could possibly help us: charities that work with the children on a regular basis and are at least somewhat familiar with them. At first that too seemed like it was bound to be a dead end. The number of children and the fact that most of those organizations are run by volunteers and have no real system in place to keep track of them seemed to be an unsurmountable obstacle when it came to finding a common link between all our victims but then something changed: We realized that we had one nun too many --one whose presence there we could not really explain-- and soon she became our prime suspect. I guess as a result of our own cultural bias we had assumed that the demon would have chosen a male form... that was a mistake and a stupid one at that. If the demon wanted to gain the children's trust then it needed a human facade and it was only natural that that facade would be one its intended victims would deem to be non-threatening. For that a nun was perfect.
While runaways tend to be wary of strangers, most of them have gotten used to having nuns and priests trying to meddle in their lives --whether they want them to or not-- even if not all of them welcome their presence. By assuming the guise of a nun the demon was able to get close to them in a way few people can. It may have been ignored by most of the children but a few obviously fell for its trick... and for a hungry child the promise of a hot bowl of soup coming from a seemingly benign source --of a bowl of soup that does not carry a price tag-- may have been enough.
Once we knew who it was that we were looking for, finding the demon was surprisingly easy. Not only was it not really hiding its presence but also by assuming the guise of a nun --by wearing a habit-- it made itself easily recognizable. As my father had predicted I was indeed able to see through the illusion from the very beginning. Its aura felt off... way off. It's hard for me to explain exactly what it felt like --believe me, it's not like I haven't tried. Unfortunately words have some serious shortcomings when it comes to describing things that cannot be translated into a shared experience. Language works only among people who share a common frame of reference and even that is mostly a cultural thing. When someone says 'it sounds like rain' the analogy works only because both parties know what rain sounds like, and both of their experiences when it comes to the sound of rain are indeed similar enough to enable them to understand each other... and in some instances even those simple analogies can be trickier than they seem. The sun may seem to be yellow enough to us but most Japanese will actually tell you that it is red. The thing is that in a way trying to explain to my father exactly why the demon's presence felt 'off' was almost like trying to describe a tune to someone who is completely deaf.
On a positive note I think Giles's questions on the matter have served to teach me a valuable lesson, one that was long overdue. For years now I've been pestering Jim, asking him to describe to me what he sees, what he hears or smells and more than once I took offense when he tried to blow me off and avoid answering my questions. I have to admit I was less than understanding about that, now I realize that maybe it wasn't that he didn't want to answer my questions, it was merely that he couldn't. Just like I can't explain to my father why it is that the demon feels off, so Jim was unable to share with me the details of his own sensory experiences... there was just no way I could have possibly understood what he was saying because we lack the necessary common references but it goes deeper than that. Given that in a sense language only allows us to share comparable experiences, it is entirely possible that Jim's senses may be beyond its scope. Simply put, chances are that the words Jim would have needed in order to convey his experiences don't even exist.
As I said, this has been a valuable lesson but right now I can't afford to spend too much time thinking about it. Right now there's a demon on the loose and we have to track it down... the good news is that --even if he can't describe it-- Jim has caught its scent.