Tokyo Demons: Book 3, Epilogue
A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #037 back issue.
Kadoyuki gripped the small cardboard box against his stomach as he hobbled up the stairs. The stone steps were steep, cracked and dimpled from years of outdoor weather; the edge of his crutch jammed against an unnatural edge and caused him to wobble on his good leg.
A haze of images flashed across his vision–layers of legs walking up and down the steps before him, a young woman with a black eye sprawled across the stairs and weeping softly. She wheezed a plea for someone to help her, her voice a ghostly pitch in Kadoyuki’s ears.
He blinked hard, and the solid form of the stone steps bled through the stack of semi-transparent figures. The woman’s cries faded, melting behind the bustle of city noises and the softer white noise of drifting thoughts.
Kadoyuki swallowed, wishing he’d slept more the night before.
A police officer rushed down the steps beside him, briefly pausing to ask Kadoyuki if he needed help. Kadoyuki could hear the clatter of panicked thoughts in the officer’s head, including number codes Kadoyuki didn’t understand yet, so he politely declined and continued his slow trudge up the stairs.
When he finally made it through the double doors, a rush of air conditioning tingled the sweat trapped under the band of his cap, reminding him of the strengthening June sun. He hobbled to the front desk, rested the box on the counter, and wiped his brow before bending in a half-bow.
“Excuse me,” he told the officer behind the counter. “I’m here to deliver this.”
The policewoman paused from clacking at a keyboard to glance at him. Her eyes rolled to his small cardboard box–the bottom still damp from the ground, the top covered in his scrawled kanji–boarded up over a plastic container that waited like a bomb inside.
“Oh,” she said in realization. “Detective Nakajima told me to expect you.”
Kadoyuki bowed again, rubbing at his eyes. He squinted against a faint sting that didn’t feel like sweat; he pulled back his fingers and blinked against his blurry vision. The dirt from the shrine’s grounds was still smeared into his fingers, crammed dark and deep under his broken nails. He blinked his watering eyes until whatever soil he’d gotten in there spilled down his cheek.
“Young man?” the woman asked. “Are you all right?”
He wiped the wet track from his face and looked up, his hand dropping to his side.
“Yes,” he said evenly. “I’m delivering this as evidence for case one three two four zero zero.”
The woman clacked the keys on her keyboard again. “The case against… Hm. I can’t tell you his name, since he’s a minor.”
“Touya Kamishita,” Kadoyuki said thinly.
The officer nodded a confirmation. “I’ll put this in evidence lock-up with a note for Detective Nakajima, thank you.” She lowered a hand on the cardboard box before lifting her fingers again in surprise. “Oh, that’s right! She wanted me to give you something.”
The officer swiveled in her chair and plucked a flier from a plastic holder bolted into the wall behind her. Her eyes ran down the glossy paper–folded into vertical thirds–adorned with brightly colored photos of smiling police officers. She held it out to Kadoyuki with both hands.
“You seem a little young,” she commented, not unkindly, “but that’s all right. It’s never too soon to start thinking about–”
“Thank you,” he said, cutting her off as he took the flyer with his non-crutch hand. “She mentioned it.”
The officer finally took the box, and he waited until it disappeared safely behind the counter before he bowed his goodbye. He folded the flier without looking at it, slid it in his pocket, and hobbled back for the door.
It took him a full half-hour to get to the nearby train station, his movements slowed by his exhaustion. The long night still dragged on him, his thoughts smearing after too much time spent staring at his digital clock in the dark. Had he slept an hour? Maybe two? He couldn’t remember, and he could barely focus with the clouds in his head. The slower his brain moved, the more the visions piled up in front of his eyes, and he had to punch through ghostly futures as he slid his rail pass at the turnstile.
But the deed was done, he reminded himself as he trudged with the crowd rushing the doors. He didn’t have to deliberate over it anymore. He knew it was only the beginning of legal hell he would probably be subjected to, but he’d made his choice. He could deal with the repercussions.
He could deal with anything.
He stepped through the doors last, feeling them whoosh shut behind him. A young woman sitting on a chair noticed him, and she stood to offer him her place…but he shook his head and politely declined, gripping a nearby pole for support as the train swayed to a start.
When he arrived at Ueno, the future was dancing across his eyes; when he hobbled up the sidewalk toward the church, it was a sea of layered figures bunching up on the sidewalk. He stopped, panting slightly, and dragged two shaking fingers across the denim on his thigh.
His brain tried to drag those images like his fingers–spread the visions horizontally, like stacked cards smeared across a table. Four dimensions, three dimensions, pulled from depth and laid out in a row. Two dimensions, arranged carefully on a line.
A car zoomed past him on the sidewalk, the loud rev of the engine breaking his concentration. The visions wavered and folded in, overlapping once more.
He sagged on his crutch and rubbed his eyes.
He was just tired–it wasn’t always this bad. He silently thanked God for the ability to sleep, which seemed to reset his brain in the present and soften the layers of the future. He would always have that, and Touya never would.
A voice called his name. Kadoyuki tilted his head up and peered through time.
Adam was waving at him, something dark in his hand. He stood several meters away, turned toward the broken double doors of the church that opened directly onto the sidewalk. As Kadoyuki clomped closer, the sun glinted off the smashed stained glass behind Adam’s shoulder; colored light flickered across the bandages strapped under Adam’s tank top.
“Welcome!” Adam said in bright, terrible Japanese.
Once closer, Kadoyuki could see that the man held a hammer; his other hand was braced against an unpainted doorframe around the splintered wood of what remained of the doors. He quickly hammered in the half-dangling nail pinched between his fingers, then lifted that hand to flash Kadoyuki a thumbs-up.
“Early,” Adam attempted in Japanese. “But okay. You here, uh…”
“You are alone?” Kadoyuki clarified, but in English. “Friends are not here?”
Adam nodded. “But okay,” he repeated in Japanese.
“I will wait,” Kadoyuki tried in Japanese, and Adam seemed to understand. The man dropped his hammer into a messy toolbox beside a pile of lumber on the sidewalk.
To Kadoyuki’s surprise, the man gripped the brim of Kadoyuki’s cap and lifted it. Kadoyuki tilted his head up, his wide eyes meeting Adam’s own.
Adam raised his eyebrows in a question. “Hot?” he asked in Japanese.
Kadoyuki felt sweat drip down his neck from the cap shifting on his head. He swallowed and lowered his face, rustling his damp bangs.
“Tea? With ice?”
The hat was tugged back down over his forehead, then released as Adam’s shoes shuffled away.
Kadoyuki leaned his back against the broken doorway, a rush of air expelling from his lungs. He released the crutch in his sweaty grip and shifted his weight to his good leg.
He closed his eyes. For several seconds, he silently recited a prayer, listening to the quiet thud of his heartbeat slow in his ears. When he opened his eyes again, he leaned his head back to gently scrape against the wood of the doorframe.
Layers of time swayed before him–bustling people and zooming cars, swooping birds and falling snow. He rubbed his mouth and tried to focus on the closest layer, pulling it into wavering relief against endless backdrops.
It was Sachi. He was semi-transparent, lingering at a nearby crosswalk and checking his watch. He called behind him, but Kadoyuki couldn’t quite make out the fuzzy words through levels of time. As Sachi waited for the light to change, Ayase appeared beside him.
She had a bag in one hand, a hairclip uncharacteristically drawing the hair back from her face. She fiddled with the clip, which drew a small slap from Mitsuko, who was suddenly stepping up behind her. Mitsuko’s other hand was clasped with Jo’s; she dragged Jo along as he tried to pay attention to Kiyoshi, who made wild arm gestures while excitedly explaining something.
The traffic light flickered, and Sachi walked across the street ahead of everyone. He called out an apology for being late and jogged for the double doors.
Ghost Sachi picked his way through the broken doorway right beside Kadoyuki, close enough that his hand passed through Kadoyuki as he gripped the doorframe. Kadoyuki watched, his eyelids drooping, as the semi-transparent hand piercing his chest slowly withdrew, then flicked up to nudge Sachi’s glasses before the boy disappeared into the church.
Kadoyuki took a deep breath. He gripped his crutch, lowered his head, and felt his mouth curve into a smile.