Takeo, Maikeru and Keri strolled down the streets of Tokyo, the yawning expanse of pavement abandoned to the early hours of the morning. Lights sparkled and flashed from the thousands of windows and glittering LCD displays attached to the many buildings.
“So.” Maikeru mused, his hands in his pockets. “Got any thoughts on your next soul?”
“I didn’t realise we were in a rush. I have got all eternity you know.”
“You might, but I have things to attend to.”
“Like what?” Takeo asked, dubious that the Shinigami could possibly have something to fill the afterlife with.
“Someone has to do the admin work for the Aramageddon. Judgment day doesn’t run itself.”
Not wanting to get sucked into another odd conversation about Maikeru’s role in the underworld Takeo closed his eyes to focus on summoning a demon.
“Do you even have a victim picked out?” Maikeru asked, a hint of skepticism in his voice.
“I’ll find one when I’ve got the demon. Just let me … ah, I think I’ve got one!”
Takeo heard his summon pop into existence and before he could recover his strength and open his heavy eyes he heard Maikeru say “well, this is just stupid.”
“What?” Takeo mumbled, forcing his eyes to open a crack.. “Don’t tell me I summoned something totally useless.” White light flooded his tired eyes and he raised a heavy hand to rub at his face.
As some semblance of sense crept back into his addled mind he stretched out his hands that were lying by his side. Something soft and warm grazed across his palm, springy to the touch, he was on his back. Sitting up, startled he opened his eyes wide and looked about him.
“What … what the hell?” He whispered, confused. He gazed around the bedroom of his old flat, dazed. Putting out a hand he touched the solid wall to his left, feeling its cold pressure to his fingertips. Everything was the same, like nothing had ever happened. Shaking his head he couldn’t seem to shift the solid images of Maikeru and Keri from his mind.
Standing on shaky legs he made his way across the carpet, the thick pile working its way up between his toes. As he shuffled into the bathroom, tousling his own hair in confusion as he came to a halt in front of the wide, oval mirror and checked his reflection. His once gaunt face was now pink and flush with the light of life. He only wore a pair of old boxers, the same ones he had on the night before his death. Had he really died?
“Maybe, I dreamed it.” He whispered, turning his face this way and that in the light. Everything seemed so real, touch, smell; running into the kitchen with anticipation he wrenched open the fridge. Grasping the first bottle that he came to he took deep, grasping gulps of orange juice, the substance leaking down his face to drip from his chin.
Taking himself into his living room he flopped onto the sofa and closed his eyes as a warm beam of sunshine hit his face. It must have all been some horrible trick of the mind, although it still felt real nothing could compare to this sensation, the hard sensation of reality.
His beeping phone brought him out of his stupor, reaching over with his right hand he picked it up from its usual spot on the coffee table. Pressing the little button on the top of the device the screen lit up in a white light. Unlocking the device he scrolled through his message inbox, nothing new showed. The last message, from his mother the day before still sat proudly at the top of the inbox. No new emails either, his social media sites all as dormant and dull as they had been the previous day. Scrunching up his face in confusion he shrugged. Flicking the touch screen back to the main menu he made a note of the date, Sunday 27th of July, the day before he died in his nightmare.
Tossing his phone to one side he sat up on the sofa. He couldn’t shake the dream, if that’s what it even was from his mind. It had seemed so, so real. Takeo rustled in his seat, he thought about calling his mother, if he heard someone’s voice he might be able to rationalise this new reality. Shaking his head slightly he stood up, how could he want to justify ‘this reality’? What other reality was there? One in which he was dead and hunted the souls of the population of Japan? He scoffed at himself out loud and made his way to the computer that sat in a corner of the room. Today, he thought to himself, he would take it easy and try to get his mind off the hyper real dream he’d had. Hell, today he wasn’t even going to dress himself.
Takeo spent the rest of that day in front of his computer. Distracting himself had proved easier than he could have hoped for when he had the internet at his disposal. Before too long darkness had filled the room save for the ethereal blue glow of the screen. Unable to bring himself to sleep, just in case his dreams returned to him he sat glued to the spot until his eyes could no longer take the strain. He finally drifted off at three am, still at the computer, his forehead typing endless h’s into the google search bar.
The new day dawned bright and rosy, stirring Takeo from his well-deserved slumber. He lifted his head from the keyboard, groaning as the keys popped from their grooves in his face. He wiped at the trail of drool that had snaked its way down his face and attempted to flatten his disheveled hair.
Glancing across the room his eyes focused on the clock on the window ledge, the bright green 10:00 shone across the room at him. That’s kind of late for a Monday he thought to himself slumping back in his desk chair. As his brain kicked in he started himself from his seat and leapt to his feet.
“Aw crap!” He yelled as it dawned on him he’d missed his nine am start at work. Throwing on any clothes he could lay his hands on, he grabbed his keys and threw himself out the front door.
Taking the stairs two at a time and he reached the bottom with a thump. Sunlight streamed through the glass entrance door to the building, pooling the corridor in a warm and inviting glow. Takeo moved rapidly towards it still muttering to himself and sniffing the clothes he’d retrieved from his floor. He put out his hand to close it around the steel door handle when something made him stop dead in his tracks. A small movement caught his eye, reflected in the shimmering glass of the door. He screwed up his eyes a little, trying to make out what it was. He stiffened as he made out the vague form of a person, someone behind him standing at the top of the stairs. A cold dread snaked its way across his body, he hadn’t heard any footsteps behind him; he knew the old floorboards creaked with the slightest bit of weight. Giving himself a little mental shake he turned around slowly, unwilling to relinquish his hold on the door handle. Whatever it was couldn’t be any worse than what he’d seen in his dreams the other night.
He leapt out of his skin as his eyes fell upon a woman staring at him, not at the top of the stairs as he’d first though but at the bottom, no less than two feet from him. She was tall, slim and imposing. Her white face seemed to almost shine it was so pure, her dark eyes seemed to sink into her head slightly and her black hair clung around her cheek bones in a short, jagged bob. Her thin frame sported a striped, long sleeved top that seemed to hang from her shoulders as though on a coat hanger and a tiny pair of jeans. She was bare foot and a few toes were painted in chipped red.
“Hello.” Takeo said a little uncertain. “I didn’t see you there. You made me jump.” He grinned at her but her face did not move. She remained silent and still as stone, tearing his nerves apart with her eyes.
“I’m late for work. I’m going to …” He petered out, her unblinking eyes disturbing him. As he went to push on the door, still unable to turn his face away she parted her lips to speak.
“You don’t want to go outside. It’s raining.” Takeo frowned and scoffed a little.
“If it is then it must have come from nowhere. It was bright sun …” He stopped in his tracks as he turned to gaze out of the door. Water streamed almost noiselessly across the clear panes. Outside he could see water beginning to pool in the street. Clouds filled the sky, they could almost burst with the pregnant swelling of water that fell upon the window.
Pushing his face up against the glass his breath caught in his throat, his mind unable to comprehend what he was seeing. Whipping around he caught the eye of his unmoving companion.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or not. I have to go to work.” He reasoned, the confusion lacing his voice.
“It’s Sunday.” She muttered in a half voice, her tone surprisingly deep and matter of fact.
“No, it’s definitely Monday. Monday the 28th. I checked yesterday.”
The woman said nothing, she simply blinked in the face of his rebuff. Unable to take the pressure of her stare Takeo took his phone from his pocket, his fingers stumbling over the power button.
“See” he began. The luminous screen displayed the date, Sunday 27th July, clear and definitive. Almost dropping his phone in disbelief he looked up with a questioning expression to the woman, she gave no response.
Shifting uncomfortably on his feet he stumbled over his words, “I – I should head back upstairs. Make a few phone calls. Call my – my mother.” Takeo couldn’t take the uncomfortable silence anymore and began to make his way up the stairs. He could feel the woman’s cold eyes following him, twisting in her head to peer at him as he stopped on the landing. He couldn’t help but gaze back over his shoulder and take another look at the figure that watched him with such an intensive gaze. She had moved noiselessly forward and now stood two steps up the stairs, still watching, still silent. Swallowing back a ball of dread Takeo hurried forward, not even trying to disguise his anxiety and launched himself into his flat.
It was still raining, the water suddenly splattering up against the glass with such ferocity it reminded Takeo of dozens of pounding hands, hands that were trying to force their way inside. Turning on the computer he threw himself into his seat, leaning over, his face close to the luminous surface. The moment it booted up his eyes flickered to the date and time displayed in the corner of the screen. 10:30 27th July. Hurriedly opening up the calendar Takeo searched for the day, Sunday. Pushing himself away from the computer with force he stood, confusion and disbelief pulsing in time with his quickened pulse.
“I must have read it wrong yesterday.” He muttered to himself, putting his head in his hands. Through his cold fingers his eyes fell upon the front door. A small shadow passed underneath the frame, feet scuffled across the hardwood floor. He silently thanked god for the automatic external lock that had been recently fixed. Taking tentative steps forward his hands fell from his face. His curiosity getting the better of him he crept up to the peep hole. Taking a few shaking breaths he looked down to see the shadows still visible under the door, spilling across his own feet, but unmoving. Time seemed to slow as a new sound reached his ears, he looked down slowly, a sense of fear building like a giant gnawing pit in his stomach. The door handle rattled a little as it slowly twisted and turned left and right. Placing both sweating hands on the wooden door frame he peered through the little glass hole and felt a bolt of cold dread spear him through the chest as another eye gazed intently back at him.