Nothing can be won here.
Rio scarcely knew she thought these words, having said them to herself so often. Yet it was undeniable. Death crawled after her, trawling Pacific waters, seeking to extinguish her beacon. She responded the way she always did.
Run. Hide. Get away.
But money was growing scarce. She feared being unable to start her life anew, on another far-flung shore.
Christ. Isn't this ocean big enough?
She pondered facing down her demon, but after abandoning her sōpurando in Sendai and saying goodbye to her staff of mizu shōbai girls, what little she had going for her on the island she now called home wasn't worth the fight. She had first hid from Death in the Philippines, to be close to her homeland Japan, but the throngs of people there made it hard to prevent Realities. So she hopped around Micronesia—the Caroline Islands, and then even tinier Cook Island.
It was never enough. Death was unrelenting. She tried Fiji next. It seemed to have worked, so much so that she relaxed and let down her walls. Maybe here, she could even make a friend or two.
She was wrong.
On a local ferry from Taveuni to Savusavu, Rio stood on the forward deck and watched the sea grow black. Nothing she did could prevent it. Disgusted more than afraid, she flicked the stub of her bidi cigarette into the roiling doom before heading in topside, to search the sixty-odd passengers for the Other who was causing the chaos. She found him easy enough, when his Reality placed her below decks in an engine room.
"Greetings, sōpu sōpu girl," the man said through a razor tooth smile.
He wore silver manicas on both arms, running tight from his wrists to his elbows. They wrapped around the sleeves of a purple peacoat, the color of raisin wine. His shoulders sported leather pauldrons, boiled black like sin. They smelled of putrid fat and flesh, of effluence and animal dung. At his feet lay a pool of diesel, dripping from a rusted tank. Oily rags and other debris lay piled in dark corners, reeking of flammable fuel.
"This is a safety hazard," he said.
Rio stifled a retch. She pushed her round red glasses further up her nose, to better focus a death-ray stare into the man's blue eyes. They burned like electric light.
"I will kill you where you stand," she said with resolve.
"Ho ho!" the man's voice boomed, echoing off steel walls. "Baka on'nanoko!"
Rio blinked and stepped back. The man took a step forward, bending to glare at her face. He spoke in measured tones.
"Do you know what this is?" He gestured at the fuel tank. "It's the auxiliary generator. It turns on the instant power is lost to the ship, to keep it from foundering." He tut-tutted at the filth piled in every corner. "All it would take is one spark in here to cause it to burst into flame."
Rio took in her surroundings. There was no space in the cramped room to engage in hand-to-hand combat, and the man was too large for her to win at grappling.
She took to begging for mercy. "Please. There are women and children on board."
"And you too, stupid little girl!" He leaned in very close. "Do you know how much I wish you were dead?"
Rio grit her teeth. "I've killed worse than you."
The man stood up tall. "Hundreds!" he agreed. "Maybe even a thousand! And what has it gotten you?"
He plucked the answer from her mind. Nothing. Nothing and nowhere.
"I am millions strong!"
With that, the motor on the ferry ground to a halt. All the lights on board went out, leaving the room dark. As Rio's eyes adjusted, the man faintly glowed.
The auxiliary generator roared to life, making a horrible sound. The man raised his arms above his head, to clutch his silver manicas. His glow concentrated there until, as he released his grip, sparks flew between the sleeves.
"Stop it!" Rio screamed, her feet frozen to the deck plating.
The noise from the generator drowned out her demand. The man's laughter then drown out the generator.
Rio turned and ran. "Remember my name!" the man hollered. He stuck the words deep in her brain.
Rio found her way topside, dodging maintenance men who were working their way downstairs to repair the ship. On deck, attendants directed passengers to their muster stations, in case of an emergency.
Rio wasted no time. She grabbed a life preserver from a bin beneath a nearby bench and, without even putting it on, dove off the back of the ferry. Within seconds, it exploded. Minutes later, it sank in the sea, leaving oily goo and pitiful cries for help that quickly faded. In another half hour, Rio was aboard a rescue ship, seemingly the sole survivor.
"There was one other," someone said to her about the recovery. "He's on another vessel."
"Do you know his name?"
"Arius, I think. Arius somebody."
Rio had to run again. Using her mind, she visited a distant shore that beckoned with the safety of a thousand searchlights.
Maybe hundreds of thousands. How can one person be so mighty?
It must be a trick. A scheme cooked up by Death to get her to run further. Still, if it were true, Death could never blacken so much pure white light.
Back at her apartment, Rio gathered up the few things she still owned. Their number dwindled each time she ran, so much so that her entire life now fit in a single suitcase.
She called a nearby airport. "Konnichiwa? Hai. When is there a flight to The United States?
- Upright. In the Den.
- Sci-Fi Action Adventure, propelled by a little Romance.
At times the sun gets lost behind
The rain inside my head.
But sun remains.
Rain goes away.
And I find you instead.
We don’t need rainbows,
You and I.
We don’t need pots of gold.
Just you and me
Just one more time.
Just you and me's enough.