Tokyo Demons: Book 3, Chapter 6, Part 1
A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #028 back issue.
Touya knew he was being followed.
He felt the heavy certainty of it in the pit of his stomach, but he couldn’t see any evidence in his layered world. Waiting didn’t work, parsing his visions didn’t work–no matter what he did, he couldn’t tease his shadow out into the open. He spent too many hours crouched in an alley, watching endless future figures pass by in the hopes that one would prove to be an enemy. No member of Core, no gangbanger, no Yakuza ever slipped up and showed himself poking around after Touya. Was it the Church? Was it Kiri? Touya had made an enemy out of everyone in Tokyo, and he had no guess as to which group would come after him first.
But as he fruitlessly tried to expose the tail he wanted to shake, he started to wonder if he was imagining the entire thing. His delirium was getting worse. The uncontrolled futures were starting to blur in his swimming vision, smearing into an indistinct layer he had to pick off the present like scabbing skin. His sweaty tremors had stopped responding to Nick Marshall’s antagonists; now Touya had to double, triple his dose just to stay on his aching feet and stave off the tunnel vision. He lurched through the fatigue, his limbs heavy even as his thudding heart tried to burst out of his ribcage. He could feel the life draining out of him.
His buzzing Core phone was an endless wave of silent screams in his pocket. Every time he flipped it open, he saw the panicked text messages, the pleading for the new Core leader to reveal himself and claim his place. No one had stepped forward to dole out the Pitch. The messages turned into dire warnings of mass detoxes, but Touya was uninterested in their rudimentary methods of finding the new leader.
Touya could already guess who it was.
He’d gotten his bloody list from the murdered bureaucrat in charge of inventory. Now Touya knew which Core members had been dead or in jail at the time of Ito’s death, which narrowed down the list of possible heirs to the stockpile of Pitch…to a single person, as far as Touya was concerned.
And, unsurprisingly, Touya’s candidate wasn’t home when Touya broke in.
Touya took anything of value from the abandoned walk-up apartment and moved on. He didn’t have time to reflect. He didn’t have time to second-guess his assumption about the theoretical new leader of Core–he could only focus his dwindling strength on figuring out where the asshole was hiding. In four days, without the Pitch, Touya would be dead.
Once again outside, the sun burned his eyes; he squinted and faltered. How long had he been in that apartment? It had been the first hint of dawn when he’d broken in, right? The sidewalks outside the building had filled up, and bodies brushed past him as he stood dazedly on the pavement. As he blinked and watched smeared ghosts shift with the afternoon crowds, he realized just how badly he was losing his sense of time.
A middle-aged woman grunted as she passed him. “Stinks,” she muttered.
Not sure if she was present or future, Touya’s head swiveled on his aching neck. He caught a reflection of himself in the glass of a nearby building.
He was starting to resemble a genuine vagrant. His dirty clothes sagged off his hunched frame, his hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat. Amidst the rips in his shirt, he saw smears of old blood from the murdered bureaucrat…blood that still flaked off his ragged leather gloves and scuffed shoes.
For a fleeting, disorienting moment, he felt like a boy again. Staring at his once-pristine clothes in the reflection of a building…as he slowly starved on Tokyo’s streets.
Before he’d met Ito and made his Faustian pact. Touya’s upper lip curled, somewhere between a smile and a snarl.
Of course he’d come full-circle. Of course he was teetering on the precipice of complete freedom or agonizing death. That was how he’d always operated, even before fleeing his family–walking that line between complete control and utter destruction. Maybe Touya had tried to change his life, with his new identity, alliances, and careful plan to detox in that penthouse…but with that ruined, he was back in his original place, balancing in the overlap of dreams and nightmares. He’d survived this once before and he could survive it again.
A cloud passed over the sun, dimming the glare in his glass reflection. Touya took the chance to rub his sweaty face with the back of his glove.
He turned to the street, his eyes watering…
A teenager stared at him from the other side of the crosswalk. He was semi-transparent and wavering–like a vision of the future rippling in time, or a hallucination dancing on the edge of Touya’s mind. A boy in a leg cast, a crutch on his arm, and wearing the soft cardigan and blue jeans he had died in.
Kado stared at Touya through the crowds and mouthed a single line.
Touya couldn’t breathe. A transparent bus suddenly stopped in front of him, blocking the vision of Kado; Touya ran across the street, bursting through the vision of the bus but tripping over the front bumper of a present car that screeched to a halt. His side glanced off the lurching car before he rolled to fall hard on the concrete.
Touya scrambled to his feet, car horns blaring and people screaming around him in the haze of overlapping time. He stumbled one step closer to the vision before a construction worker grabbed him in the present and dragged him back to the opposite sidewalk.
“Are you drunk, Nii-san?” the man barked. “Get out of the street!”
Without thinking, Touya clawed a fistful of the worker’s uniform and threw him.
The heavyset man’s feet were torn from the ground; he sailed into the side of the building like an old ragdoll. As the man slid to the sidewalk, Touya panted, the construction worker doubling and focusing and doubling in his vision.
Tense murmuring suddenly enveloped Touya. He twitched and turned from the groaning construction worker; people on the street had stopped to stare at him, pointing and talking in hushed tones. Someone yelled something.
Touya stumbled backward. The world became a smear of sights and shouts, of rough present and echoing future; when he wrenched his head back to the crosswalk, he could no longer parse the vision of Kado from the overlap of countless ghosts.
Touya staggered away at a run, forcing the bile back down his throat. When he finally fell off the crowded sidewalk and into a dirty alleyway, his knees scraped through his ripped pants on the concrete. The alley was darker, but thick visions still filled his eyes and his ears and his head, crowding him in an endless, lingering nightmare.
Kado was dead. Touya had felt the boy’s life end in his clenched grip.
Kado was dead.
Touya had already suspected that he was seeing more than just endless, suffocating futures. He was hallucinating. He was losing his mind. A mind that tried to assure him that he was being followed, although he saw no evidence in present or future…
A mind that had made Kado appear on a future sidewalk, alone, mouthing a silent sentence to Touya across space and time.
“I can’t save you anymore.”
Proceed to Chapter 6, Part 1, page 2–>