Chapter five: Guard dog
The ship is shining.
I didn’t even realise it was dirty before but it looks like it just came off the factory floor.
Dana stuffs a rag down her pants pocket and pulls up her goggles again “They have a wash street, it’s quite ingenious.”
Elizabeth just stares with an open mouth “It looks amazing. Where’s the wash street, can I see?”
“Sure it’s this way.”
Besides me, Himowa chuckles as the two ladies walk off. “Well, the ship is in good hands at least.”
“That certainly.” There’s silence for a bit and I can’t help but spill what’s on my mind. “Hey, uhm…did you remember Elizabeth has her birthday coming up?”
“Yeah, in about a week right?”
“I want to give her a gift but I have no idea what.”
“I see, well I didn’t exactly bring much to give, with the whole fleeing for our lives situation.” She leaves the sentence hanging meaningfully. I wait patiently for her to go on. She sighs “We can probably figure something out but I need time to think.”
“Thank you.” I take her hand. We enter the ship together.
I make some tea while we wait for the two nerds to come back.
It’s dark outside yet I keep staring into it from the comfort of the parlour. Surrounded by large windows it’s the best vantage point.
I set down a steaming pot of tea. A single cup next to it.
“I’m going to bed,” Himowa tells me, she sounds as tired as I feel.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“In a bit. I just made tea.”
She squints her eyes at me “Well, don’t make it too late okay?”
I nod but I don’t mean it.
I look out over the parking lot, we’re sitting ducks out here.
Who knows what monsters lurk out there?
If not the kashuya, then surely this place has its own gangs, its own troubles.
It’s own crooks.
I keep my gun close. It makes me feel a little bit better.
Dana said inside the ship I could have it, so I’m not breaking the law.
If someone gets in here I reckon I’m allowed to shoot them.
It almost feels like a dare.
I take a sip of strong black tea in the hopes it can fuel me through the night.
Tomorrow we’ll be in the air again.
In the air, we’re safe but here?
Am I being paranoid?
But I’m rather safe than sorry.
I gotta keep them safe.
I drink my tea, it’s stone cold by now but I don’t mind.
I blink, my head swimming with fatigue and visions of dragons.
I shake myself awake again and reprimand myself for being tired.
I reach for my cup, then for the pot.
I could go back to the kitchen.
Make more but there would be no one keeping watch.
Best to just power through the rest of the night.
There’s someone in the hall but it’s the middle of the night.
I can feel the soundless footsteps.
That absence of sound.
I get up.
Keep my gun close and meld with the shadows, entering the pursuit.
The steps are light, matching my target’s.
In the corridor.
I yell his name
He looks back.
Then starts to run.
I chase him through the corridor for what seems like a lifetime and then he opens the door to the cockpit, darting through.
Not so fast!
I jump after him.
Then come down hard onto a cold marble floor.
I stumble, fall to my knees.
This isn’t the cockpit.
“Ah there you are, took you long enough. Get up, no need to bow.”
His voice is amused, light…almost kind?
But no matter what cadence he puts on. The voice chills my blood and fills my feet with the desire to run.
“Yeah?” He sound surprised at my confusion.
He grabs my arm, yanks me upright and wipes the dust off the golden embroidery decorating my coat “Did you get the thing I sent you out for?”
“What thing?” What is he talking about? How is he alive? What’s going on!?
“You know, the thing.” He points at my coat and I check my pockets. There’s something in there, wet, slimy and lukewarm.
I pull back my hand slick and red.
I realise I don’t want to know what’s in my pocket.
Yet it’s in my hands now. A mass of pulsating flesh expelling blood from a thick aorta.
“Perfect. Thank you, Hui.” My brother snatches the heart from my grip and sets his teeth in it making satisfied noises as the blood drips from his chin. “Excellent work as always.” He mumbles in between bites.
I want to throw up and run away but the dragon band around my arm constricts around my arm as if it can read my mind.
And telling me not to even think about it.
He wolfs down the last bit and then licks his fingers with a sigh. He steps towards me.
I step back on reflex yet his arms wrap around me and he pulls me close “I’m so proud of you Hui.” He tells me. “Your transformation from rebellious teen to an upstanding member of the kashuya clan has been an inspiration for us all.
“No,” I mutter.
“Hmmm?” he lets go of me, looks me in the eyes and I can’t quite figure out if his expression is one of concern or intrigue.
“This is all wrong.”
“You mean to tell me you didn’t pull the old man’s heart straight from his body?”
As he tells me that a memory flashes in front of my eyes. One of blood and violence and the old man begging for his life.
Cutting into the corpse’s chest.
Stuffing the thing into my pocket “No I did, it’s just-” something’s off…
Hashiro smiles “Which is exactly what I asked you to do. It serves him right.” He strokes my hair lovingly, slicking it in red and I wonder what I was thinking about just now.
“Because he tried to steal you away from us Hui.”
My head feels misty “Right.”
“And no one steals from the kashuya.”
My arm hurts I think my fingers might be dying “Uhu…”
“And you’re part of the kashuya Hui.”
“Yes, I’m part of the kashuya.”
I drop my gun.
Then tear open my eyes and almost fall down to the floor. startled by the sound.
My heart feels heavy, my stomach is queasy.
I want to cry.
I want to puke.
I’m not part of the Kashuya. I tell myself.
I pick up the gun and check the body for scratches.
This gun shot Hashiro dead.
I should know that!
So why did it feel so real?
The gentle scratchiness of golden thread at the tips of my fingers.
The slippery bounciness or raw heart meat.
Without wanting to that false memory of Yobu and me drives itself into my brain again.
The thought alone makes my stomach twist and convulse.
I head down to the washroom.
Hang over the sink for a bit, expecting the worst but all that spills onto that precious porcelain are tears and snot.
After who knows how long I slide down to the tiled floor.
Cry some more.
Then when the tears run out at last I drag myself upright again.
Head back to the parlour.
And wait for the day to start again.