It had rained for three days; a relentless thundering that battered at his windows like a hundred howling demons trying to pluck him from this life. In those three days Takeo had made four attempts to leave the flat. The first, a panic fuelled need to escape.After the woman on the stairs had come to his door his tiny apartment no longer felt safe. Arming himself with the curtain rail he’d unhooked from the window, he unlocked the door with trepidation. He’d crept his way to the bottom of the stairs before he noticed the rain water pouring in through the front door. The lobby was flooded, water reaching up to the skirting boards around the walls and still rising. Taking a careful step forward he had plunged a foot into the freezing water, the current had felt strong against his unsteady limb. As he moved toward the front door it had become painfully obvious he wasn’t going anywhere. The water level was way above the top of the door; the flood squeezing up against the glass, forcing it’s way through the cracks in the frame in high pressured streams.
He had stood blankly for a while, gazing into the swirling murky water at his feet. He had no way out, no way to escape from her. Everyday she had come to his door, she twisted and turned the handle, she shuffled about in the corridor buthad yet to break through.
He was becoming cut off from the world. His flat grubby, food dwindling and all the while an ever increasing sensation of panic had balled itself up in his chest. For days he had sat in front of the television, flicking channels. Nothing had changed, not one programme or news report gave a hint to his predicament. The news reporter shuffled papers and gazed out at him with a vacant expression and a fake smile. Everyday was the same; Sunday 27th July on repeat again and again. Sometimes a little detail changed here and there, the presenter’s hair colour, the make of the laptop that sat on her desk, the time. Takeo had recorded everything, combing back through every episode of a cheesy drama, weather reports, chat shows, pausing at every little moment that had changed. He’d fall asleep only to wake the next day to find everything erased.
The sweet, balmy air of the mid summer came rushing in through the lofty curtains that did nothing to block out the sunlight streaming in masses through his window. Takeo’s eye opened just a crack to the blinding, deathly glow of the sun, making him wince. His mind swirled lazily across bridges of thought that took him far away from his heavy reality. It was the fifth day.
Not a sound had been heard from outside the flat in the longest age. No one from above or below seemed to be going about their business; the ever floating stream of life was his alone to contemplate. Throwing his covers from his bed with a groan he sat up and staggered into the bathroom, his body unwilling to comply. He tripped a couple of times over the rubbish that was building up on the floor. The orange juice carton he had finished on the second day rolled with a hollow sound across the floor, spilling its last drops upon the parched surface. He relieved himself in the yellowing toilet and stumbled back through the room to lean against the doorpost. Passing a hand over his bloodshot eyes he stopped dead as he heard a rustling, the rustling of bed sheets.
Peaking through his fingers, heart pounding like the drum of a jazz player he inspected his bed. The woman, that white, ethereal devil that he had been barring from his flat for almost a week was lying in his bed. Her naked skin shone with a milky hue in the half light of the morning. The blanket gathered around her petite waist, drawing across her silken hips and for just a moment Takeo lost himself in the beauty of her. She filled him up, occupied his mind, arrested his sense and stole the very breath from his lips.
A sudden moment of clarity hit him as her dark, cold eyes met his trembling gaze. She couldn’t be here, the door hadn’t been unlocked in days. Rubbing his eyes with a vigor and pressure that made them burn he opened his eyes wide; she had vanished. The sheets lay, thin and flat against the mattress. Creeping forwards he reached out a hand to gather a fist full of the fabric, tugging it back to feel the space, still warm from her perfect body.
Leaning heavily back against the wall Takeo pressed the button the top of his mobile phone for the hundreth time, to flood the screen with a bright white light. No messages, full signal, not a single person had tried to contact him. He’d made calls to his mother, his boss, his colleagues every single one of them answered, but only static, distant breathing or background sounds leaked into his ears from the harsh speaker.
A dark, grey hue had settled itself in the skin of his face; dark circles under his eyes screaming out for sleep. He walked, slowly and silently to the window, the thick pile of carpet muffling the sound of his heavy, tired footsteps. Pressing his head against the cold glass he felt his pupils expand and retract with the changing light. A soft creaking on the stairs outside the flat made his eyes flicker to the left, just catching a glimpse of shadows under the door.
The past few days had provided the same relentless torment; eyes at the peep hole, shadows on the floor, creaking and visions but now something all the more terrifying crept uninvited into the claustrophobic room. A whispering, barely distinguishable burrowed it’s way into his ears and lodged itself deeply into his brain. As it increased in pitch and fervor Takeo pressed his hands to his ears but it did nothing to stifle the voice. It seemed inside of his, part of him and the rolling , pitching gabbling of a voice talking impossible fast was enough to make him scream out in fear and pain. Crouching down into a squat he listened to the voice and rattling door handle as it twisted violently in its frame.
“What are you?” He screamed out. Everything abruptly stopped and silence filled every corner of the room with a eerie and empty presence.
He steadied himself, placing his sweating palms on the cold floor. As he began to steady his ragged breathing the sound of someone calling his name came to him faintly from somewhere outside of the desolate flat. He clawed his way across the floor, frantically pulling himself back to the widow ledge where he hoisted himself up. The sun poured in, streaking his face with a warmth that bathedand calmed him. Closing his eyes he listened; his eyes flickered; he could see the blood moving around his eye lids. He heard it again, short, sharp, half formed but definitely his name. Peering out through the muggy window he scanned the street far below.
Sitting in the middle of the deserted road was an animal, a dog, brown with black strips and flash of startling white across the nose. It looked familiar, a distant memory flickered in his mind; something stirred. The animal gazed towards him, unfaltering; a giant grin on its face that seemed to fill with friendly recognition. He reached out a lethargic hand across the room to the front door, his feet carrying him with surprising certainty.
Pelting down the stairs he pitched over the last couple of steps and pulled open the front door. The dog still sat in the center of the street, motionless but it had turned to face him.
“Takeo!” It shouted in a half bark as he crept towards it.
“Kerī?” He whispered a little hoarse from days of silence. The dog stood, its huge tail swishing to and fro rigorously in the breeze. Takeo made to walk towards her, but a few cold drops of rain splattered onto the top of his head startling him enough to make him look up. The freezing water trickled down his forehead in rivulets making him blink rapidly. A great rushing noise tumbled down from the sky along with a torrent of rain that lashed at his unprepared and upturned face. Turning away from the heavens he searched for Keri in the thick downpour that clouded his eyes; she had gone. Running out into the middle of the road Takeo turned in rapid circles, desperate and distraught.
Maybe he hadn’t dreamt it all. Maybe he was mad, hallucinating. In spite of himself a large stone of despair began to settle itself in his chest, drawing the very breath from his lungs and pushing all hope from his body until he was utterly deflated. Weeks of crippling loneliness and fear descended on him and poured into the racking sobs that shook his small frame. Crouching on the hard tarmac his anguish mingled with the rain, creating new currents across his face. The well of despair opened up within him, spilling its tar across his soul, crushing his chest with the weight of grief. Would there ever be a way out of this hell?
Tilting his head back as far as it would go, he allowed the tears to roll down his face. Fear chocked him as his eyes widened with horror as a face filled his vision. He opened his mouth in a silent scream as the woman, this terror towered over him, her ghoulish breath clawing at his face as she breathed down upon him. Scrambling backwards on his hands and rear he clawed at the pavement beneath him. She seemed to lean endlessly towards him, her face still as close as it had been before, impossibly close and demonically deadpan in the icy rain. As she began to growl gutterly in the back of her throat andTakeo thought that his life was surely forfeit her eyes flickered from his face to gaze at something behind him.
Wrenching his head round so hard that he pulled all the muscles in his neck and shoulders his gaze found Kerī. She stood a few feet from him, her legs planted wide apart in a stance that could only suggest that a fight was about to take place. Baring her teeth she lowered her head a little, the bright yellow of her fierce eyes just visible under the hood of her forehead. The woman stretched back, straightening herself but towering high over Takeo. Raising her arms above her head she stretched, like the willowy sillohuete of an arrow, the loose fabric of her clothes billowing around her as the wind came charging in from all directions. Takeo half scrambled, half rolled away to the left as the colour of the woman’s eyes began to mist over into a startling, pure white. From his new vantage point at the side of the street he watched, open mouthed and aghast as Kerībegan to bound with a new found vigor and strength towards the demon that had plagued his dreams.
In a sudden and swift motion the woman clapped her hands together. The sound that rang out echoed like a death toll across the empty street, shattering a few windows in the closest buildings. Takeo saw Kerī’s gaze switch rapidly from left to right as great waves of water rushed towards her. Swirling dizzyingly fast the white foam threw itself violently up into the air in a great whirlpool of powerand came crashing down upon the little dog with a thwack. The water screeched with rage as it wrapped itself around her small form in a death like vice. The demon slowly began to lower her arms, swaying a little from side to side, her whole body rocked in motion with the water that she controlled.
With a blast of light and power the water suddenly broke; a jet stream of hot liquid thrust its way upwards into the sky, hissing as it hit the cold pavement with a slap. Kerīstood atop the swirling mass of foam and bristled the fur on her back til it stood up on end, intimidating and sharp. Digging her claws into the mass of water she launched herself forward with an unprecedented speed. She weaved under and over the masses of liquid that charged and crashed around her, the demon beginning to sweat and shake under the strain of the fight.
The little dog pelted forwards, her fur rippling out behind her as she hit the demon in the chest with a fierce head butt that knocked her backwards with a stifled cry. Skidding slightly out to the left, the water slippery under her feet, Kerī scrabbled at the ground finding her grip against the tarmac. In one swift motion she had leapt across the yawning expanse that separated the two foes and landed neatly but heavily on top of her victim. She growled deeply as the demon hissed and writhed beneath the weight of her body. Barking shrilly she pounced with snapping reflexes to grab the monster by the throat and pull the head from the body in one clean, smooth motion.
Takeo slumped to the floor, clinging to the lamppost that he had been propping himself against.Kerītrotted towards him, her usual grin plastered across her face, the demon’s head swinging from her mouth. Not a drop of blood had been spilled, the mouth of the creature still moved up and down, silently cursing his protector. Reaching out a hand he ruffled the soft fur on the top of the dog’s head as the world began to spin and shift, turning black before his eyes he hurtled through dream into reality.
“You are one of the worst Soul Hunters we’ve had in at least ten thousand years.” Maikeru said, exasperated as he helped Takeo sit up on the cold pavement.
“What happened? How did I get here?” He mumbled, bewildered, his mind still numb from the shift in reality.
“Well, let me see. You barreled in, summoning demons all over the mortal plane. Chaos ensued, gateways to hell opened, we had a minor judgment day. Blood and death and shit reigned for about twenty minutes before the Hell Hounds put an end to the party. We had to wipe the memories of half of Tokyo! Before we had time to blink you were spread eagled on the floor, drooling and senseless. I’ve never seen anyone direct their own Kitsune summon at themselves. Stupid.”
Takeo scratched at his head where a small scab was forming over a cut on his crown.
“It’s a shape shifter, she can mould a reality around you, sculpt it in your mind until you immerse yourself in that vision. Mainly she presents herself as a fox but it will transform itself into some tempting form of a woman for the right victim.” Maikeru eyed Takeo suspiciously as he blushed under his black hair as the image of the naked woman flashed into his mind.
As his senses fully returned to him he sat up. Feeling a heavy, burdening weight on his back he twisted slightly to glimpse the hilt of a huge sword, sheathed in red leather, glimmering gently in the morning light. He remembered, their visit to The Blacksmith, the forging of the sword, the birth of Itano, the provider of light. He got to his feet, cracking a few joints as he went, he had his purpose, Itano’s creation went hand in hand with his own rebirth into the world of demons. He had had his first taste of hell, his first enchantment, his first summon. The sense of helplessness and fear still sat in his heart, spurring him on, kindling a spark of revenge.