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20. Nightmares at Home
~ Okayama – July, 1966 – Midnight ~
Rin Murakami limped out of the Toyota Corolla and up to the modest, single-story traditional home that she shared with her mother and her twin sister. The army had been kind enough to transport the car to Okayama, and Rin felt glad to get it back home in one piece. Emi hadn’t made the trip with her, though; her sister had “more important things to do.”
Just what I get for thinking she actually cared, Rin thought. Bandages wrapped her right wrist and left ankle. She could walk now, and maybe strum guitar, but that hadn’t made the aches go away. Rin clutched at the bottle of painkillers that the base medic had given her, but she didn’t want to use them. She’d seen more than a few musicians slip down the rabbit hole of prescription drugs. Rin Murakami didn’t want to become one of them.
Still… If the pills might make her pain—including this incessant headache—go away…
Maybe just one, she told herself as she leaned against the doorpost and pried open her home’s front door.
“Is that you, Emi?” Tsuruko Murakami called from somewhere inside.
“No, Mom. It’s me,” Rin replied. “Thanks for asking.”
“Oh, Rin!” her mother said. “I’m so glad you’re home! You look exhausted.”
Rin plopped down on the bench near the door and pulled off her red high-tops, being careful to hide the bandages on her wrist and ankle from her mother. The home’s wooden floor felt cool and smooth beneath Rin’s feet. “I had a tough day. Maybe you heard about it on the news.”
Tsuruko, carrying a tray with tea and biscuits, shook her head. “You know how bad news upsets me, and after that rescue ship sank… Well, it was just awful. I haven’t had the radio or TV on all day. I would have been worried about where you were if Emiko hadn’t called. Would you like some tea, dear? It’s fresh.”
Rin shook her head. “I’m beat. I think I’ll head straight to bed.”
“Well, if that’s what you want,” her mother said. “You should call your friends, though. They were looking for you.”
“You know, the ones from your band. They sounded worried. Weren’t you supposed to play a ‘gig’ with them today?”
You mean the friends who left me behind to get eaten by a sea serpent? Rin thought. She supposed she should be happy that the rest of Surfer Go Go had survived, but at the moment, she just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm. So she said: “We played.”
“And how did it go?”
“We killed ’em.”
Tsuruko smiled. “I’m so glad. Well, if you don’t want any tea, I suppose I’ll go to bed as well.”
“You do that, Mom.”
Tsuruko turned toward her bedroom, then turned back. “Oh! Do you think Emi will be home tonight?”
“She’s working late with that egghead guy.”
“You mean Dr. Shimura? He’s such a nice man, don’t you think?”
Rin couldn’t really say. Once they’d gotten back to Okayama, everything had been a blur of scientists and soldiers and reporters—and, of course, medics for her. “Yeah. He’s great,” she said, not meaning it.
Tsuruko pursed her lips and frowned slightly. “You know…” she said, “I have a feeling there was something else I should tell you, but I can’t remember what it was.”
“I’m sure it’ll wait until morning.”
“I suppose it will.” Tsuruko smiled again. “Well, good night, dear. Let me know if you need anything.”
“I will, Ma.”
“And don’t forget to call your friends.”
“I’ll call them tomorrow.”
Rin decided to take two pills instead of one. Then she gave herself a long soak in the tub. But at the end of it, she still felt like she’d been hit by a truck—and to make things worse, she had to re-wrap her wrist and ankle when she got out. That proved tricky without assistance.
“It’s been a hell of a day,” she muttered as she crawled into her futon. The quilt felt warm and soft, comforting.
Despite her exhaustion, sleep refused to come.
She tossed and turned, uncomfortable, though the painkillers swept away the aches in her body.
Even with her eyes closed, Rin couldn’t shake the day’s images from her mind: the massive serpent rising up from the ocean … the panic and confusion among the concertgoers … the chaos backstage … fleeing with Rika … the strange, screaming sound the monster’s hide made when it moved … the tormented face in each of the serpent’s scales … those horrible fangs … and the blood … all the blood and death…
Rivers of blood, flowing all around her … an ocean of blood.
The storm crashed on all sides, her warship tossed from one whitecap to another.
Thunder boomed, and the Mongol soldiers clung desperately to their tiny vessels, but the waves and the wind showed no mercy.
The typhoon—the kamikaze—swept down from heaven. It thrust the invaders beneath the raging waters, and held them there until not one remained alive.
Their dying screams echoed in Rin’s ears, louder even than the crash of the waves. A hundred thousand drowned faces stared up at her, their terror-filled eyes pleading for mercy.
But the pitiless wind and the rain and the waves dragged them down into the deep and crushed them into nothingness.
Thunder crashed, and Rin sat bolt upright in her bed, ears ringing.
Rain pelted the rooftop of her home, making a soft hissing sound, like scales over sand.
It’s coming! The monster is coming!
Her heart pounded.
No, she told herself. You’re dreaming. You’re only dreaming.
But something was wrong. She wasn’t alone in her room; someone else was with her in the darkness.
Lighting flashed again, and she saw someone standing near the door. The shoji screen had been pulled aside just a crack, and a lithe form lurked near the entryway.
“Mom?” Rin asked, peering into the darkness.
The figure near the door did not answer.
“Mom, what in twelve hells are y—?”
“The beasts will rise again and wreak their terrible vengeance across the land,” the figure said in an ethereal monotone. It sounded like her mother, and, yet, somehow it didn’t.
“Born of sea and fire and blood, they cannot be forestalled, cannot be satiated, cannot be destroyed until their enemies have been wiped from the face of the earth.”
Rin slipped out from under her blanket and rose; the night air raised goosebumps on her bare skin. “Mom, what are you—”
Again lightning filled the room. And in that momentary blaze of brilliant white, Rin saw her mother’s eyes; they had neither irises nor pupils. Tsuruko Murakami’s eyes were as white and pale as the belly of a dead catfish.
“Mom…?” Rin shivered uncontrollably, her head pounding in time with the thunder. She felt as though she was going to vomit, but fought it down. Was her mother in some kind of a trance? What was happening to her? What was happening to their family?
A crash of thunder so loud that the whole house shook.
“They are divine wind and cleansing fire,” Tsuruko said, her voice cold and distant. “They are vengeance. And they will not stop until all have perished.”
Thanks to Steve, Doris, Chris, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.