I am now in the last stages of rewriting and proofreading all the material I have, and I believe that I will finally (!) be able to complete this thing by January. So, here's a little preview for you. If you like it, be sure to share this post with your friends, because I could always more fans. :)
It was a cool October night in Hiroshima. The leaves had begun to turn, the days had become shorter. It was cold outside. Inside the massive Hondori mall, a young woman named Keiko has just finished her shift in a small but upscale shoe store. Hondori was Hiroshima’s signature shopping mall; a unique construct in what was in many ways a typical Japanese city. Hondori did not consist of a single, large building; it was an entire city street that had been covered with a richly illuminated and beautifully decorated roof. It was always filled with shoppers on foot or on bicycles, and many tourists browsed through the varied shops. The small shop in which Keiko sold fashionable footwear to the wives of office workers who wasted away the hours in the nearby office towers was located toward the east of the long shopping street. She herself was now headed west, to the Hondori station of the Astram train line. The train would bring her to Ozuka, to the west of Hiroshima. Downtown Hiroshima itself was located on an island in the Ota River, but Ozuka was on the mainland. Ozuka station was only 8 kilometers from downtown, but the Astram line’s commuter trains circled the city: first the line went north, and then in one giant half-circle it came down again on the western mainland. Keiko walked briskly toward the train station, she longed for a warm meal, a warm shower and an even warmer bed. Tomorrow was Saturday, and she could sleep in. She smiled. In her hurry, she did not notice the tall, thin figure that was silently following her. This was not the first night on which she’d had a stalker; the creature had been watching her for some time. It had noticed her slender frame, her small yet perfectly shaped breasts, her elegant face, her graceful demeanor. It had noticed all these things from the safe anonymity that the crowds in Hondori afforded it, and it had grown hungrier each day.
It followed her to a small noodle shop. It waited patiently near a bike rack until a small bespectacled man handed her a bag containing soup. She continued on her way, hoping to catch the 9:21 PM train. The station had only opened a few months before, and she was glad that she no longer had to take a bus to get back to her apartment. The train saved her a lot of time, and it was usually on time. The creature followed her onto the platform, blending in perfectly with the myriad other travelers. Once a long time ago, it had preferred to approach its victims directly, fearlessly. These days, the police made it ever harder for it to satisfy its hunger, and it was forced to stalk its prey carefully. It had to be careful not to leave fingerprints. It had to be smart. But it also had long lost the nerve to look into its victim's eyes when the moment came; it needed drugs to calm its nerves. If Keiko had turned her head toward the creature, she would have seen the two enormous teeth it bared as it smiled at her. But she was looking in the other direction, hoping for the impeccably clean gold and black train to appear soon. The ride to Ozuka would take about half an hour, and she'd walk a few minutes from the station to her apartment. She saw the light of the train approaching and readied herself to fight for a seat with the other passengers as it slowed down in front of the platform. She waited for the hiss that signified the imminent opening of the doors, and pushed her small body inside. She found a seat, and after scanning the other travelers she closed her eyes, tired from a long, boring day at work. The creature, meanwhile, stepped into the very same wagon as her, but she still didn’t notice it. It was dressed in the smart businessman uniform that so many Japanese office workers wore: a black suit, a white shirt, and an unremarkable blue tie. It had a clean-shaven face, a shiny bald head, and was quite tall. It gave no indication that it was anything other than a typical Japanese office worker, at least not to the casual observer. Had Keiko given the creature more than a passing glance, she would have noticed that it never blinked. She also hadn't paid any attention to the ice chest the creature was carrying. It was filled up with ice cubes and was quite heavy, but the creature seemed to handle it as easily as if it were made of paper.
The train began to move, and the creature managed to find a seat. It bore no ill will toward Keiko, but knew that it would have to kill her. It was going to drink her blood and eat her heart. That's just the way things were. The way things had to be. Why Keiko? Why not someone else? Well, that was complicated. Back in the old days the creature could have simply taken a victim in the night, and no one would have suspected it. Life -and death- were easier back then. These days its need to be careful had driven it to seek out people who lived alone because it was easier to kill loners, and because no one would miss them for a while. It had to subdue its instincts, and perform clean kills. It had to be methodical, precise. This didn't prevent it from enjoying its victims in other ways, which was exactly why it almost always chose young women to be its plaything, but there was something else about Keiko, something that it couldn't quite understand, and that unsettled it. As the train pulled out of the station, the creature thrust its index finger into its inner jacket pocket. When it removed the finger it was coated with a fine white powder, which the creature quickly rubbed onto its gums. Soon the drug would be flowing through its veins, soon it would feel lighter... it wondered what Keiko's blood would taste like and, knowing that it still had some time before the train reached its destination it let its head fall back against the window. Its thoughts drifted back to a time before cocaine, before trains, before ice chests, before shopping malls, before, before, before...
Tetsuya hated early mornings with a passion.
"Procrastinating is of no use," his wife said without an ounce of compassion. He smiled at her as she handed him his armor. They'd been married eight years now, and he was as much in love with her as he'd been back then.
"I know, Emiko, I know. Asano wants us all to be there early, so I've got no choice. I'd much rather stay here with you... " Emiko glanced at her husband. He was handsome, his thick black hair framing a face that at the age of 26 had lost none of its boyish charm. She hated for him to leave her so early as well, but he was right: he didn't have a choice. His daimyo, or Lord, had declared war on a rival, and as his master’s soldier he had to go into battle. ‘Why do we always have to do these things early in the morning?’ he wondered as he drank some water. He splashed the remaining water on his face and then he opened the thin bamboo door that separated his humble dwelling from the world outside. His look fell upon the courtyard right in front of his hut; usually it was bristling with activity, farmers selling or trading their wares, warriors bragging about their exploits, women gossiping… but not today, and certainly not this early. The sun had yet to rise. Presently the courtyard was overfilled with soldiers; samurai, who illuminated their gathering place with torches and waited silently and patiently for the arrival of their master. Tetsuya left his home and mingled with the other samurai, each of whom was accompanied by his most prized possession: a magnificent sword. A few quiet greetings here, a few nods of the head here, time to find a good place to stand, and then daimyo Asano was there: a short, stocky man, maybe about 45 years of age. He wore a scar on his face, in witness from a past battle. His armor was far more exquisitely detailed than Tetsuya's. His sword was the biggest here, truly befitting his station, for a daimyo was a rich man who owned a lot of land and employed the samurai who lived on his property, and he never let them forget that he was their master and benefactor. The samurai, in return, protected his lands and his people from rival daimyos. Daimyos often fought each other for more land or political advantages. In theory they were all citizens of the greater Japan, under the control of His Majesty, the Emperor; but he was just a figurehead, a boy of barely 7 years, and the real power lay with the Shogun, the Imperial War Lord.
Asano stepped onto a small platform in the center of the courtyard, and addressed his warriors: “Men! Samurai! Our honor has been insulted! A daughter of our clan has been violated” – Tetsuya knew that she had not in fact been violated, she had merely decided to see someone from another clan, but the truth didn’t matter when a lie could be exploited for political or financial gain- “and it is our duty to avenge this infamy! We will begin at once! We will march toward Akinakano, encircle the main houses, and assault the town from all sides at once!” The perhaps two thousand men assembled in the courtyard of Hiroshima Castle erupted into cheers and began the trek toward the forest, from which they would stage their assault.
About an hour and a half later Tetsuya glanced over at his friend, Shigeru. They were in position on the far side of the village they were about to attack. Their force numbered about 800 men, and Asano had remained with the main force of about 1200 on the near side. The daimyo would signal them when it was time to commence their assault.
“Nervous, Tetsuya?” Shigeru inquired.
“No,” Tetsuya lied.
Shigeru smiled knowingly. Soon their lives would be on the line, and no matter how well prepared they were, no one could ever foretell the outcome of a battle. They had an advantage now, in the darkness, but once that was gone the enemy would fight back.
The signal came, a burning arrow splitting the night with its fiery glow. Tetsuya, Shigeru, and the rest of their force lunged forward, swords drawn. They were a fearsome sight, with their facemasks sculpted to resemble wild beasts and demons. Their tough leather armor protected them from the simple weapons of the villagers, but Tetsuya felt uneasy as he ran toward the first row of houses. Too often he had lost friends in battle; too many times the blood of boys who were barely old enough to kiss a girl had been spilt. ‘Why do we keep doing this’, he asked himself under his helmet as he ran. ‘Why can’t we all just live in peace, there’s enough land here for everyone.’ He knew the answer: because the daimyo had ordered it. Of course his power was merely based on people’s beliefs that he did in fact have power; if people stopped believing then he would stop being their leader… but alas, the masses always swam with, and not against the stream, and if they perceived the majority to follow the daimyo then they would, too. His thoughts were rudely interrupted by a villager who had appeared out of nowhere; he had undoubtedly been awakened by the commotion of hundreds of armored men running through the narrow streets. The man was dressed in the simple garb of a farmer, and was wielding a pitchfork. He screamed at Tetsuya and his comrades, and Tetsuya skillfully danced around him, turning his back towards him, and plunging his sword into the man’s neck in the same movement, neatly severing his head.
The battle had begun.
I'd appreciate any comments and suggestions!
I'd appreciate any comments and suggestions!