I drank the city through blood stained eyes all the way to the horizon. No corner was beyond my sight, there was no scent I could not follow. Life in defiance of entropy danced through my awareness, and blended into the cocktail known as the human race.
The forces of nature bowed at my feet, offering freedom never before imagined. I ran light as a feather and swift as a jungle cat across the Tokyo skyline. Scaling immense towers was a simple feat, as was throwing myself from the ledges, knowing that my landing would be a safe one.
There were no thoughts of ill fortune. What was fear to a woman made goddess? My skills had been made sharper than those of mere mortals. Adrenaline surged without restraint; only movement could satisfy my need.
I followed the course set by instinct, to where I could not say. There was a mission, though I could not articulate what it was. Perhaps I would know once I found it, but until then gave it no time for thought.
Aromas swirled together on the carbon plumes from the traffic. Bodies reeked of meat and sweat, barely masked by the fabrics that covered them. Their collective heat churned between buildings. Each had a distinctive flavor and consistency from which I could tell them apart.
One scent snatched my attention. Tobacco, grease and leather traced an outline along my senses, and lead into the salty fog following the dock. Without so much as thinking I pounced in the direction of my quarry, and scaled whole blocks at a time.
Yoshino Genta stood out from the others like a sore on the face of mankind. His body rushed with blood and tickling synapses, stifled only by the rapid beating inside his chest. Every muscle, bone, and piece of sinew creaked and cracked below his notice, while his lungs contorted around the drag that filled them.
He was halfway between the bar and his ride before he stopped. Perhaps he knew on some primordial level the dark was not as benign as it appeared.
I skulked along the frame of an awning with ethereal grace, and bent to watch. His breath stilled, as though it were the only thing to betray him to a night raptor. Finally, and after much deliberation, he opted to ignore the prickles standing on his neck and shuffled toward his motorcycle.
The time had come to strike. With one deft movement I was on him. My long-sought prey shrieked between my claws.
* * * *
My alarm was conspicuously silent, while the sun drove through the blinds with more than usual intensity. I woke in bed, clutching to the remnants of dreams. The morning was late, and so was I.
Each movement was automatic, from brushing my hair and binding the start of my growth, to draping the vestiges of boyhood over my frame. The haze over my senses did little to hinder that which had become habit.
I descended the stairs and turned to the dining area. My mother had set out a regular breakfast; a bowl of rice with natto and a raw egg, along with a side of grilled fish. In the next room my father leaned toward the television and the stories of the day. We each moved like ghosts, barely aware of one another.
That morning breakfast was exceptionally good. The salty flavor whipped my taste buds to life. Though I ate at a moderate pace, my cells devoured the carbohydrate and protein as though on the brink of starvation.
The sound of a woman’s voice undulated through the surround sound speakers. I turned my notice to the living room, and caught the sliver of a middle aged news reporter.
“...scenes from Tokyo Tower, where rescue crews are working to lower a man believed to have been strung up by his ankles in the early hours of this morning. Officials have yet to release a statement, though sources identify the man as being part of a noted street gang-”
My ears pricked, same as they would at the sound of my name. There was something important that I was forgetting. Mention of Tokyo Tower sparked a feeling of deja vu.
I sat at the dining room table, and dwelled on the night before. Try as I might I could not recall going to sleep, let alone coming home, or anything that lead up to that. The last memory I had was of stepping off the train.
There was a knock at the front door. That we had guests so early was enough to stir my father from his viewing. My mother answered to the two men I’d encountered the day before me.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Yamaguchi. I don’t mean to disturb you.”
“Of course not, detective,” she said. “Our son is sitting at the breakfast table. Please feel free to speak with him.”
Any civility Sakamoto had dropped the moment he crossed the threshold. He peered around the corner, grinning like a cat, and pulled up a chair to one side. Worse, he smelled awful, like a dog who rolled in garbage. It seemed I was the only one to notice.
“Yamaguchi,” he chuckled. “The karate kid! Twice in two days. Don’t you think that’s a coincidence?”
I stared at the wall. “What do you want?”
My father growled from the living room. “Be respectful, son.”
Sakamoto raised his brow, and flashed his teeth, as though the regard of my family gave him any standing. “We just want to know where you were last night,” he said. “Your friends are worried about you, you know.”
“I don’t have any friends,” I told him, and it was true; anyone who would approach this shell of manhood was not worthy of my time or attention.
The stench grew in severity. Worse than the detective was the toxic miasma wafting from the hallway, worse than a feral dog or raw sewage, but like death. I was on the verge of losing breakfast when I turned to the source, and jumped in the presence of its owner.
Sakamoto leered. “What’s the matter with you?” His spectral companion lingered in the entrance.
It took several clicks of his fingers for me to realize that Sakamoto had been talking. Either he could not see or was not bothered by the creature wearing his partner’s suit. My father and mother were also nonchalant about its presence. How was such a thing possible?
Detective Amano, or rather the ghoul in his clothing, stared from the cavernous dark in his eyes. What remained of his flesh was grey leather and dust, which cracked along his every movement. His aura swirled with rot and whatever dark force it was that kept him moving.
His wilted, skeletal hand tapped on Sakamoto’s shoulder. “We’re wasting our time here,” he said with a voice like leaves scratching on wood panels.
“He knows something,” Sakamoto said, as though I was a greater concern.
A surge ran through my veins. Adrenaline choked me like a throttle, prompting me into fight or flight; reason argued against both. It took everything every ounce of will to plant my feet, and to acknowledge the corpse as illusion.
The zombie grunted. “Let’s go.”
My grasp on the world melted like soft clay in my hands. Perhaps it was a dream, or insanity. I closed my eyes and fumbled for an explanation, only for it to fizzle against the noxious odor that continued to linger in my home.
Both parents had a million questions, while I carried a different burden in my chest. Much to their anger and confusion I ran for the back door and vaulted over the neighbor’s fence. Somewhere, anywhere was better than this suburban prison.
* * * *
There would be no school that day; not while literal monsters crawled the face of the Earth. When I closed my eyes Amano stared from the abyss, from shadows deeper than any that existed in this world. From the tunnels there were screams of a man on the precipice of falling.
I shook myself. All these things were a trick of the mind; there was no other explanation. Nightmares had followed me into the waking world, and made a sport of my senses. In time they would pass, but until then I would hold to reason.
It wasn’t yet noon when I slipped into Ladyfingers and descended the stairs into darkness. Even blind I knew the path to the bar, and flicked the house lights on. The space was comforting in its silence, and was equally devoid of people as it was monsters.
After pulling a bottle of scotch from the middle shelf I poured myself a glass, then another, and more. Each went down with two gulps, and a gasp for breath. Soon my cheeks were warm, numb and relaxed enough for one to simply exist.
I laughed in the absence of anything funny.
Another hour passed before the sound of high heels clicked down the stairs. Madam Haruko lowered her glasses and frowned at my stool. I was presumptuous in coming to her bar and drinking her booze, though I was prepared to pay for the bottle. She sauntered to my side, perched, and grabbed a glass of her own.
“You’re early,” she said.
I poured her a half glass, and shrugged. “There was nowhere else for me to go.”
“School,” she said. “A young woman your age belongs in school.”
The warmth spread to my chest. That she would see me as I was, even in male attire, seemed a rare gift. Only she, my dolls, and others of our kind would ever make that distinction.
Madam Haruko regarded me with a sideways glance, and continued her drink. There was business to discuss, but I was thankful for the silence for as long as it lasted. Fortune had yet to inform me if it was our last drink together.
When she spoke it was to ask the inevitable. “Have you resolved matters with the Black Soul Angels?”
I stared into the bottom of my glass, and tasted the drops of bitter mash that continued to swirl. Soon it turned acrid and hot, while flashes of pain blunted by memory tore across my body. Between them Yoshina Genta laughed, and landed another blow. Was it a dream? The visions were too vivid to be just that.
Madam Haruko narrowed upon me. “What are you going to do, Chiyoko?”
Another glass settled my nerves and allowed some room to breathe. There was nothing between the Hellbound Dolls and Black Soul Angels but the desire for revenge, even if it destroyed us; even if it cost us a home.
The door creaked from atop the stairs, followed by heavy boots scaling down. A deep voice restrained by nerves called from around the corner. “Is anybody in there?”
I slid from my seat and froze on my hind legs in the presence of the leather clad thug. Yoshina Genta raised his hands and approached with small, tentative steps. No sooner had he laid eyes on me than he winced and cast his eyes to the ground, as though such submissive gestures would encourage forgiveness.
Madam Haruko flew toward him, waving the cascading layers of her dress like a jungle bird. She shrieked with equal ferocity. “Get out! You’re not welcome here! Go!”
Yoshino fell to his knees and whimpered, still holding his arms in an attempt to shield himself. It was only then I came to notice the cuts and bruises along his hands and face. The whites of his eyes had burst inside and were drowned in red. Despite the fact his tears ran clear down his cheeks.
“I didn’t come here to fight,” he said. Yoshino turned to face me, and prostrated himself. “Please! Please forgive me, Queen Chiyoko! I’ll never cross you again, I swear!”
The order of the world must have taken leave for events to unfold in such away. Perhaps I was dreaming still. Disbelief caught in my throat; nothing of what I was experiencing was possible, and yet I had lived it before.
His words echoed in the abyss, and jarred loose a memory veiled in blood. Suddenly, I was in two places; the bar area of Ladyfingers, and a towering precipice overlooking the night lights of Tokyo, dancing the length of a steel beam from which Yoshino Genta dangled.
Power churned beneath my skin. I was human, and more, thanks in no small part to the wolf. Yamaguchi Chiyoko had been reborn!
Yoshino stared at the nightclub tile. My gift to him was fear, and it had set in his bones. His tongue was still in the present, but his screams were clear as ever. “Please! Let me down! I’ll do anything!” In the face of true power he was quick to bend.
I stood over him, just as I had before. The words fell from my lips. “You know I don’t actually have anything against queers,” I said. “It’s fun to push your buttons sometimes - chase you, give you a bit of a scare, maybe shove you around if we need to - but in the end nobody really gets hurt. It’s all fun and games, isn’t it?”
Hanging from the tower his eyes sparked with realization. Like a catalyst it reacted with his fear, expanding it to fantastic proportion. “Queen Chiyoko! Is that you?”
My soul had a new body, as did my intent. He was right to fear.
Yoshina remained spread across the floor, ready for whatever would come. Would I punish him, or would I allow him to crawl away? In truth I had yet to decide. Both options had merit. Then again, his lesson in humility had taken hold.
My foot pressed down into his shoulder, so that the gang leader was kissing the floor’s polish. “Swear to me that no harm will come to the Hellbound Dolls. Whatever action we take, there will be no recourse from the Black Soul Angels.”
He whimpered, and nodded. “I swear! I swear! Thank you, Queen Chiyoko!”
I stood over him, no longer a mortal thing, but something of another realm. Even under my human skin I was aware of her, my new self, waiting to be unleashed. As I turned to the bar I told Yoshino, just as I had when he dangled from that tower, to address me by the proper title. “My name is Platinum Doll,” I said. “Now, away with you.”
Yoshino ran with the grace of a boar, practically throwing himself up the stairs. It was as strange as it was satisfying to witness a gruesome man made so small.
I poured another drink for Madam Haruko, and one for myself. She stood wide eyed as I swirled the liquid in the glass, no longer swallowing it down, but savoring the taste with gentle sips. It was not the answer she had been expecting.
“There will be no more problems with the Black Soul Angels,” I said, and marched toward the back rooms. The veneer of boyhood fell short of my stature.
* * * *
In the back room reserved for performers and girls in hiding was a row of mirrors. On any other day they were an altar to vanity in front of which beauty was constructed. What I found instead was the absence of reflection, and a window into a smoke covered plane that veiled life from what came after.
Perhaps I should have been afraid. Deep in primordial memory and in the farthest depth of my bones was the awareness of what was forbidden. Yet I remained calm, locked the door behind me, and sauntered to the threshold of the supernatural.
A figure appeared in front of me, and moved as I did. She was as tall as she was cool; slender, with femininity sharpened to a fine point. Her hair was natural, long and straight, with flat bangs sitting above her brow. The color shone a mix of silver and gold, and matched her uniform; her bow, her skirt, even her eyes.
She stared, suddenly independent of my own movement, and drank me in. Her face was painted for a war without end.
“Platinum Doll,” I gasped. Every facet of her woke new realisation of how restrained I was while wearing human skin, to all I could be on another plane. All I needed was my desire, of which I gave freely to the spirit lingering behind her.
“You know who you are,” the wolf said, but didn’t say.
“Your enemy lives,” he continued.
His words gave me pause. “I… am not a murderer.”
The wolf’s words cut into my soul. “You now exist above human beings. Life and death are yours to decide. That will be your greatest weapon in events yet to come.”
An ill-feeling swelled under my chest. I had never balked at the sight of blood, and violence was a language I spoke fluently, but to end a life carried finality and consequence for which I was not prepared. For all my hate, and for all my fantasies, it was the one line I dared never cross.
If the wolf sensed my nerves he did not say. Instead he vanished, leaving me to my reflection in an ordinary room. I stripped away the uniform and unbound my chest. The Platinum Doll was born, but on that night I was Queen Chiyoko and little more. That, I decided, was enough.
To be continued...
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