This is the seventh part of a serialized giant monster story published in weekly installments on this site.
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7. The Airport Prophecies
~ July 1966 – 9 AM ~
“Don’t wreck the car,” Rin Murakami, standing beside the driver’s door, cautioned. “I need it for a gig tomorrow.”
Emiko, seated behind the wheel, frowned at her sister. Why did Rin have to make everything difficult? “I remember.”
“Mom, don’t let her wreck the car,” Rin told the woman sitting in the Toyota’s front passenger seat.
“I could drive,” Tsuruko Murakami, mother of both girls, suggested, looking from one to the other. “I’d be happy to drive.”
“No, Mom,” Emiko insisted. “I’ll drive. It’s a long way to Osaka from here, and we have to get to the airport on time.”
“I’m sure we will,” Tsuruko said. “I have a strong feeling we will.”
“We will if I’m driving,” Emiko countered. “And don’t start in on that prophecy crap, Mom. It may fool the rubes, but I’m not buying it.”
“Neither am I,” Rin added. “And I don’t see why Dr. Shimura couldn’t just fly into Okayama in the first place. He could take a taxi to the institute from there, or you could pick him up and be home in an instant.”
Emiko sighed. “Our airport isn’t large enough to handle the big international jets.”
“Well, he could catch a connecting flight. I don’t know why you have to pick him up all the time.”
“I’m his assistant,” Emiko said irritably. Honestly, sometimes it seemed like Rin wanted her to drop out of college, too. But twins didn’t have to be alike in everything—and she and Rin were certainly proof of how different people who had shared the same womb could be.
“Don’t wreck the car,” Rin repeated.
“I won’t,” Emiko shot back. She rolled up the Corolla’s window and drove off. Rin stood at the curb outside the suburban Okayama house they shared with their mother, waving goodbye. Somehow, even her wave seemed sarcastic.
“I don’t know why you two are always fighting,” her mother said.
“We just don’t see eye to eye, Mom,” Emiko told her.
“You should be closer than any two people in the world,” her mother continued, as if Emiko hadn’t replied at all. “You shared everything as girls…”
“You don’t have to come on this trip, Mom,” Emiko said. “I can pick up the sensei myself.”
“Nonsense,” her mother replied. “It’s my car, after all, and I like to look after it. You’re still very young to be driving on your own.”
“Mom, I’m twenty.”
“Besides,” her mother said, rambling on, “I like a nice drive.”
So do I, Emiko thought, knowing that with her mother along, the chances of having one were close to nil.
“Did you only have one bag, Sensei?” Emiko asked Dr. Shimura, retrieving the well-worn brown suitcase from the luggage claim area.
The elderly scientist smiled at his pupil. “I like to travel light,” he said. “And I only had one bag when I left. Did you think it would somehow multiply while I was gone? Not a very scientific idea.”
Emiko gnawed at her lip as she picked up the case and began walking toward the airport exit. Though he never meant to, her teacher often made her feel foolish. “Some people buy souvenirs on a trip, Sensei.”
Dr. Shimura tapped his forehead. “The best souvenirs, Emiko-san, are memories. They are also usually the easiest to carry. I have quite a trove of them from this trip.” His happy face darkened momentarily. “Though not all are as light and pleasant as I would like.”
“Why?” Emiko asked. “What happened? Did the conference not go as well as you’d hoped?”
“The conference was fine,” Shimura replied. “It was something else … something I saw from the plane. I’ll tell you all about it on the drive home.”
“As you wish, Sensei.”
“Tell me,” he said as they walked through the parking lot to where Emi had left the car (and her mother), “did you see the meteor shower last night?”
“I—I missed it somehow.” She’d been inside at the time, plotting that evening’s civil disobedience—but no need to tell her teacher that.
“Not out harassing X-Base again, were you?”
Emiko’s heart sank. So he knew about her little campaign. She shouldn’t have been surprised—Shimura was a genius, after all—but she had hoped to keep her life at the university separate from her personal concerns.
“So, I guessed right, did I?” Shimura said, apparently taking her awkward silence as confirmation. “Emiko-san, I understand your concerns about the experimental reactor, but I have looked into the subject extensively. Both our government and the Americans have assured me that it will be perfectly safe operating within the parameters described.”
“But, can we trust them, Sensei?”
“I trust no one but science, Emiko-san. If working with me has taught you one thing, that should be it.”
They walked in silence for a time, until they reached the Toyota. Emi opened the trunk to put the suitcase inside.
“But, Sensei,” she said, “what if something goes wrong?”
Shimura frowned. “No man can see the future, Emiko-san,” he said fondly.
“I can!” her mother’s voice chirped from inside the car. Tsuruko Murakami rolled down the passenger side window and poked her head out. “Sometimes, that is. If the cards are right, I can see the future. And sometimes, I even have visions.”
“Ah!” Shimura said, apparently startled by her mother’s sudden interjection. “Mrs. Murakami, isn’t it?”
She climbed out of the car and offered him one white-gloved hand. “Yes. Dr. Shimura, so nice to meet you.”
He took her hand and shook it, and also gave a slight bow. She returned the gesture.
“We met once before, at a parents’ night function at the institute,” she said, “but I don’t expect you’ll remember.”
“I make it a point always to remember a lovely woman,” he replied.
Was Emi imagining it, or did her mom actually blush at the remark?
“How is your horoscope business going, Mrs. Murakami?”
“Oh, very well,” her mother said, smiling. “It keeps me very busy indeed.”
What was this now? Shimura, Japan’s leading scientist, asking about horoscopes? Could he possibly believe in such things? Or was he just being polite?
Dr. Shimura made to open the rear door of the Corolla, but her mother hopped out of the front. “Oh, no, Dr. Shimura,” she said. “Sit in front, please. I insist.”
He bowed. “Thank you, Mrs. Murakami,” he said, climbing in the passenger side.
She laughed, as though she were a girl once more. “You must call me Tsuruko,” she said.
“Very well,” Dr. Shimura replied. “And you must call me Akira.”
What was going on here? It was as though Emiko had woken up in some strange universe with people who looked like her mother and her sensei, but acted as if science and mysticism weren’t diametrically opposed to each other. She felt as though her whole world was turning on its head.
“Very well, Akira,” her mother said, batting her eyes at the scientist.
“We should get going,” Emi told them, climbing into the driver’s seat. “If we want to get home at a reasonable time.”
“Yes,” Dr. Shimura agreed, closing the passenger door and settling into the seat.
Her mother got in the back and slid into the center of the car.
So she can poke her head in front, Emiko thought. She started the engine and quickly backed out of the parking spot. Then she slipped the car into gear and pressed the pedal to the floor.
The Toyota accelerated quickly into the airport traffic, Emiko deftly weaving between the other vehicles.
“Take it easy, Emi,” her mother cautioned. “Your sister needs this car in one piece tomorrow. Remember?”
“I didn’t know you had a sister,” Dr. Shimura said. “Is she in college? What school does she attend?”
“She decided not to attend university,” her mother put in.
“My sister dropped out,” Emiko added, fuming. “She thinks she’s a rock and roll star.”
“Well, the world needs the arts as well as science,” Dr. Shimura said.
“Turn on the radio,” her mother suggested. “Maybe they’ll play her new record.”
“Mother,” Emiko said, “no one ever plays Rin’s records.” But she turned on the radio anyway, to avoid more badgering.
“What is her group called?” Dr. Shimura asked, seeming genuinely interested.
“Surfer Go Go,” Emiko replied. “But no one’s ever heard of them.”
The radio, in fact, wasn’t even playing music. Instead, they seemed to be going on about some kind of sea disaster.
“Oh!” exclaimed Dr. Shimura. “That must be the catastrophe I saw from the plane.”
“What happened?” Emiko asked.
“The fishing fleet was caught in some terrible … upheaval. I had the pilot send out an SOS, in hopes any survivors might be rescued.”
“That must be the rescue ship they’re talking about,” Emiko said. “They say it’s leaving port from Tottori right now.”
“That ship is doomed,” said an eerie voice from the back seat.
Emiko was about to scold her mother for playing at prophet again, but what she saw in the rearview mirror made her blood run cold:
Tsuruko Murakami sat bolt upright, her body stiff, her face pale, and her pupils rolled back so that her eyes were totally white.
“What’s that you say?” Dr. Shimura asked. He seemed to have no idea that anything was wrong.
“The ship is doomed, and so is X-Base,” a voice very much like her mother’s said. “There is nothing anyone can do.”
Dr. Shimura turned, puzzled, but as he did, Emiko’s mother blinked and shook her head. By the time the scientist looked at her, Tsuruko Murakami seemed completely normal once more.
She smiled at him. “Isn’t it a lovely day for a drive, Dr. Shimura?”
Thanks to Edward, Christine, Vicki, David, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.