RECOMMENDED FOR MATURE READERS
Thunder silenced the closing door. Like a gaping maw the apartment breathed warmth, inviting me further into the shadows.
Rain followed me inside, dripping from my skirt, saturating my hair and pulling the strands into waves. I slipped off my sandals, lined them against the wall, and stepped onto the wood with stockings cushioning my feet.
Past the kitchen was snoring; my stepsister, most probably drunk and lost on the way to her bedroom. Mom and her husband did not bemoan the nights I spend away from home, so why should her escapades be met differently?
She moaned with my passing and was silenced when I reached the final door, drawing it shut.
I peeled away the uniform, dropped it into the hamper, and collapsed onto the futon. Drops from my hair ran a chill down my flesh, but I did not wipe them away. Say what you will of the cold, but after a lifetime one can find comfort in it.
In the darkness were shapes made clearer when I closed my eyes. Through them I could divine the nights as they passed, blood and smoke, the hands of fate rolling dice in the streets of Tokyo.
“Platinum Doll,” I hissed. Who was he? An angry boy playing pretend.
Silver and grey stood together, the wolf by his side offering counsel. What half truths they must have shared; what misguided desire must he have scented. Then, to bring it to others as well, a gang of three, maybe more.
Turning my head did not shake the vision. Even when by the Doll’s side Grenier followed me; through the world of humans, demons and devils, and even into dreams.
Steps creaked against the panel and stopped by the door. Then a voice whispered a name that wasn’t mine. “Haruto?”
I said nothing.
“Haruto,” she said. “I know you’re in there.”
Did she really expect me to answer?
The door slid open a crack through which she pushed herself. “Are you awake?”
I laid still as death.
She pressed further into the shadow, a mere touch from my bed. “You didn’t answer when I called you,” she said.
Words hung from her mouth, but did not fall. All the same her meaning could not be avoided.
“There’s leftover tuna minomo in the fridge,” she sighed. “Try to get some rest. You have school in the morning.”
Lightning cast her silhouette in the doorway, followed by thunder that shook the window by the balcony. She vanished when it passed, sliding the door closed so she might return to her husband.
A child reached out, but I held her back; she was not Haruto, either, and mother would never acknowledge her.
Reaching to the desk I removed a penlight and a notebook. I shone the light and turned the pages, passing over the marks until coming to a leaf half filled. On the final line was a bundle of four missing the notch to make it complete.
Two hundred and twenty four evil souls out of one thousand; two hundred and twenty five and six had fallen into the hands of another. They could never be reclaimed.
In the rain I heard them still, bickering like children.
“Why her? Why Chiyoko?”
The wolf echoed in the night; “the contract I have made with her is not unique. Like her you will all have the opportunity; collect one thousand evil souls and you will be imbued the womanhood that was once denied.”
Two, three, a potential four other dolls; Grenier had set the stage. How many players would he set in this game? For how long would he delay my prize?
In the shapes behind my eyes I could see him most clearly; the Platinum Doll, dressed in his uniform, face painted for war, and his spear hungry after its first taste of demon blood. Though his power was new he was growing into it. In him lay a vision of savagery that I could not allow to linger.
The pledge was made under my breath; “you will show them, Yamaguchi Genkai. You will show them in blood.”
Rolling in bed I pulled the blanket over myself. It was time for sleep.
To be continued…