× FINAL DAYS to Kickstart the Before You Go graphic novel!

A monthly digital magazine of comics, prose and audio

Lost password
Affiliate Partner with Hiveworks

Tokyo Demons Book 3: Chapter 5, Part 1

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #025 back issue.

TokyoDemons3_Chap5A_illus

Touya drove through the half-filled streets of Mitaka, his gloved hands shaking on the steering wheel.

He tried to blink away the heavy layers of future that swam before his eyes, bunching up in thick clouds on the asphalt road. The car in front of him was masked by a dozen other semitransparent cars overlapping in five meters of street. When he tried to switch lanes, his blind spot was a haze. The stoplight flashed all three colors in a spastic rhythm.

A car on a side street–present? future?–burst through a stop sign in front of him. Touya slammed his foot on the breaks; he was thrown in his seat as ghost cars zoomed past him, through him. A high-pitched screech outside cut through the cacophony of muffled sounds from the future.

He panted, glancing into his rearview mirror as a car honked behind him. The solid-color vehicle swiped around him and drove past, the driver angrily glaring through his window.

Touya swallowed. The last thing he needed was the police pulling him over for a traffic violation, especially since he’d lost his damned wallet (and the forged driver’s license inside) two weeks earlier. He tried not to dwell, again, on everything he’d lost in that wallet as he shifted gears and let the car slowly roll back into movement.

He reached the drop spot in minutes. He roughly parked on the side of the road, threw his door shut behind him, and jerkily walked around the perimeter of the old brick building that housed a shop closed for the season. Ignoring the hazy, chatting people who walked around him in future loops, he opened the thin blade of a pocketknife with trembling figures.

For the past two weeks, he’d known what he’d left here–every yen, every drop of backup medicine. But now, with his manic mind and traitorous body, he no longer trusted his own memory. He forced the panic to the pit of his stomach and shoved his knife into a loose brick.

He pried out a small chunk of wall, revealing the deeper hollow hewn out behind it. He carefully pulled out the wrinkled vinyl bag and its precious contents he’d previously tucked into the small space.

He unzipped the bag and sprinkled the contents onto the grass. He ignored the wadded-up money and documents, the bottles of Nick Marshall’s pill and liquid antagonists that Touya still had plenty of back in his car. Touya snapped on his long-dormant Core mobile phone, the GPS already destroyed, before pawing through all the contents to find what he actually needed.

Two tiny vials of Pitch mocked him from his gloved palm.

A wave of doom rushed through him, expelling a gust of air from his lungs. He’d quadruple-checked his notes. He’d stared at those numbers, adamant, trying to use sheer will to morph the hazy memory of his Go Bag into the final requirements of his detox.

But it had failed. He needed five vials to survive his detox, and he only had two.

Before the despair could consume him, his Core phone beeped. He weakly flipped the phone open and scrolled through the endless list of missed messages, his eyes scanning for some unexpected point of hope. Before he could even finish, the phone beeped again, and a special red-text alert filled the tiny screen.

Touya froze.

It was the Death Siren. The alert he had once fantasized about every time he opened his phone, forgotten in his new reality away from Core.

Ito was dead. His heart racing, Touya rammed his thumb into the “accept” button.

A phone number and a long code flashed across the screen. Already on his knees, he scratched the code into the dirt beside the sidewalk. He selected the phone number and pressed “call”; the fuzzy rings through the receiver raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

The line clicked. “Hello, Narushima Bank. How may I help you?”

Touya swallowed the acid pooling in the back of his throat. “Th-this is Touya Kamishita,” he croaked. “I have a code for a new account…?”

“Ah, of course. May I have that code, please?”

Touya read off his shaky handwriting from the dirt. The woman on the other end clicked on a keyboard, periodically asking him for personal information. Touya relayed the fabricated answers Ito had drilled into him in junior high.

“Here we are.” The woman paused. “Oh. Well. I have your new account here, Kamishita-san–”

“Is there a safety deposit box?” Touya interrupted.

“Hm? No, this is–”

“Does it have any documents?” Touya interrupted again, his voice sharpening with his panic. “Some sort of note for me when I opened it the first time.”

“No, sir. I just see an account balance here.”

Touya’s heart dropped to his stomach. He dumbly stepped on his scribbles in the dirt, one hand falling against the brick of the building.

Money. Ito had left him money.

Not control of Core and the Pitch.

Touya’s final plan–his doubtful backup of a backup of a backup–had fallen through. He’d been right to assume that that conniving, paranoid bastard wouldn’t leave him with the one thing that could set him free. Maybe Ito had known Touya wouldn’t continue Core in his absence. Maybe Ito had predicted Touya’s betrayal after years of coerced obedience.

Or maybe Ito had just assumed the rest of Core would never obey Touya.

“Sir?” the woman asked over the fuzzy line. “Would you…like to know the balance?”

Touya didn’t reply. He just closed his eyes.

“Sir… There’s two billion yen in this account.”

Touya snapped the phone closed.

He shoved his belongings back in the vinyl bag and returned to his car. He turned on the ignition, shifted the car into first gear, and gripped the steering wheel.

…But he couldn’t get himself to pull his foot off the clutch. After a long moment of stasis, he shifted the car back into neutral.

Ito’s money was worthless. Touya didn’t even know who now ruled Core and held the drugs. The two emergency vials of Pitch would buy Touya time, but not freedom from the deadly detox ravaging his body.

He had eight days to live.

His rickety, overworked mind spat out fragmented plans like a dying factory machine. The pieces of insight rolled out on a worn conveyer belt–perfect in shape, broken within. The predictable chug of his carefully controlled mind made him sick in the chaos around him.

His plans, his control, wasn’t working anymore. He stared out the windshield with blurry eyes, unable to even fend off the rush of visions that zoomed through the empty street around him.

He tightened his grip on the leather wheel.

And flashed back to the sensation of his hands closing on weak flesh, crushing the thin windpipe and the raspy breath he would never hear puffing in his ear again.

Touya smashed a fist through the driver’s side window.

The searing pain exploded white through his brain. As he panted in the new clarity, his gaze falling on his shredded glove and the blood-splattered glass that tinkled out his window and onto the concrete, his ears and eyes were suddenly wiped clean of haunting time. He sat in his new reality, alone in a tiny car, the deafening absence of the future allowing his mind to fall into the past.

“…”

He slowly dropped his head against the steering wheel.

Proceed to Chapter 5, Part 1, page 2–>