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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ghost Under the Umbrella

This story was previously a comic I had drawn when I was in my second year of high school. Back then, it was called Soul Collector.  

Chapter 1

Tokyo, 2034

Pollution corrupted the charcoal-tainted sky of Tokyo as a lone schoolgirl made her way home to the apartment she shared with a strange man. Black, simple glasses framed her narrow face and her dyed hair just brushed her shoulders. Ignoring her schools strict intolerance of hair dye, each and every day she attended with neon pink and green streaks to compliment the mousy brown. Either side of her skinny form, high walls closed her in, forcing the girl to keep her eyes averted from everywhere but the filthy and leaf-strewn pavement. It was un-naturally cold for late September and surprisingly she wore nothing but her high-school uniform—mini skirt and all. On her legs were long black nylon stockings. Holes and ladders riddled the back, but she didn’t mind at all; being a care free girl - not bothering to follow set rules or unspoken truths, the girl wore two black garters that clipped onto the tops of her socks. Many people have called her promiscuous, but Amaya Kuroikiryo simply wore them for fashion purposes only. After all, it’s rapists that cause rape, not short skirts and garters. Shivering with her hands thrust deep into her pockets, the girl had an expression of somebody who couldn’t care less. The wind howled down the narrow alleyways and bounced off those towering sky scrapers that you just can’t seem to get away from in Japan.
A crumpled and deceased skeleton-leaf skittered briefly over her Mary Jane, causing her to stomp on it in a sudden temper. Still keeping her dark eyes trained on the footpath despite how nauseous it was making her feel, she growled under her breath. All around the 16 year-olds slender form was nothing but miles and miles, acres and acres of grey, grey, grey. Nothing but grey. Pollution had taken over and everybody lived in constant fear of contamination. Living in the big city was fun, huh?
Puffing out an icy breath, she sighed and continued on her way, head in the clouds. As she increased her pace, she became painfully and disturbingly aware of an odd muffled noise coming from above. Whipping around and throwing her dark head back in annoyance, she was very surprised to see nothing but more of that prison-like barbed wire and telegraph poles. Great. So I’m going crazy now?
Amaya liked to be alone. She loved solitude despite how creepy her surroundings were. She never used to be that way… The girl lived with her parents in Nagoya about five years ago; times had changed - maybe for the best, maybe for the worst. Amaya was still trying to make up her mind. No other girls at her school walked the same way home as herself, but Amaya had a preference to keep as far, far away from them as humanely possible. Even if it did mean going down many dangerous back-streets where druggies and winos liked to lurk.
The tower blocks were so tall, that if you were to cock your head and glance up at them, you would become instantly sick. For miles and miles, all Amaya could see was the urban, graffiti-riddled streets, slightly elevated by the low ground she was standing on. Candy wrappers and cigarette stumps brushed over her feet as she stopped, peering around once again for the source of her discomfort. Poker face shattering, anybody could now see that Amaya was feeling very lost and frightened. She liked to put on airs; pretending to be all tough, lying that she doesn’t care, isolating herself from everybody that simply wants to help, Amaya wanted everyone to know she’s best to be left alone. But not today. Paranoia was gnawing at the back of her mind. A seed of doubt was planted there not long ago by the heavily discreet chuckling she had heard a minute previously. Wishing feverishly for company, the girl felt herself slip into feeling endangered by her surroundings. Tokyo in the year 2034 wasn’t the place to be for anybody in their right mind.
It was 8 o’clock in the evening. So just why did she feel so frightened? Perhaps it was the horror movie she had forced herself to watch when school was done? In all honesty, that movie had sucked. It was like a incredibly boring and un-imaginative business man had written it! Amaya couldn’t believe she had to pay as much money as she did to go see that rubbish, but, man, times were getting expensive. She could hardly even afford the tiny apartment she lived in and every night she would eat fast food from a nearby takeout service. Nobody in those times could afford to make home-cooked meals for themselves and their families.
Amaya glanced at the smoggy sky.
There it was again! That same laughter! Stop laughing at me, you loon. I know I’m funny-looking and all, but still. Far more attractive than you will ever be! She was almost certain that laughter could be one of her classmates taunting her from afar.
Giving her surroundings one decidedly final, furtive and doubtful glance with both eyebrows raised in speculation, the school girl marched on her way, taking a sudden detour. Soon enough, after about ten minutes of winding herself down some many flights of stony staircases, trekking through a deserted subway station and wading through murky puddles, Amaya found herself to be completely and utterly lost. Her lips curved into a smile. Hey, I bet That Guy won’t come to find me. He’ll already be so mad that I’m late home, that he’ll really hurt me when I return. I should run away now, while I still have the chance.
Inklings of both hope and fear raced about her mind - the girl wasn’t sure which one was worse. Both were pretty pathetic in her opinion! If she were to return home now… then maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright… That Guy wouldn’t be mad. He wouldn’t be sad. He wouldn’t be angry enough to teach me a lesson. If I go home now like a good girl, I can get off as lightly as possible. What’s it to be girly-o?
The conflicting feelings made her stomach feel although it wanted to explode; the butterflies within wanted to be set free, but Amaya was determined to keep them bottled up inside along with the rest of her hopes and dreams. They were to be put on hold for this moment in time…
I really shouldn’t have seen that movie…
Shadows raced above her line of vision. Being only 5’’4, Amaya couldn’t see what was concealed just above her head. Speaking in tongues, hissing, spitting and jeering were what Amaya came to call ‘the demons’. Ever since she was eleven, ‘the demons’ followed her around; all begging for attention, all pleading to be saved from Hell. She didn’t care if people called her insane for talking back to these creatures - they were just so real to her. That Guy couldn’t see or hear them, but when the two were tucked up in bed together, Amaya would amusedly watch ‘the demons’ shriek and writhe in pain and fear, all of them making herself feel more and more powerful by the minute. Amaya couldn’t control That Guy, but she could certainly keep a leash on ‘the demons’.
Placing her hands on bony hips, Amaya rolled her eyes and looked around again. She half wanted to yell at ‘the demons’ to stop laughing, they were supposed to scream in pain, not laugh at her! Could it be? No, that’s stupid! For a fledgling of a second, the girl was sure that ‘the demons’ could be gaining power, trying to overthrow her and gain her authority over them. Her stomach growled. She was hungry, tired, frightened, cold and completely lost. Even worse, she was now broke.
Amaya’s calculating mind whirled as she threw back her head to see her demons. All five were lined up on the electric wires, their charred and smoky bodies curled up like a felines. Each and every one bore either two or three curled horns to their bony heads. Their sick teeth were on full display as their black lips were drawn back in a snarl, fetid breath coming out in toxic clouds and drool dripping down their chins to collect on the pavement next to Amaya. Choked, wheezy giggles erupted from the beasts’ clenched-closed mouths as the girl stared up at them in an expressionless daze, her hair swaying in the icy cold wind.
Don’t be fooled into thinking she’s surprised to see these monsters. Amaya had a rather fanciful imagination and often she would run wild, imagining what these beasts were supposed to signify. Every once in a while, she would sit in bed and wonder why nobody else could see ‘the demons’. Was she crazy? Not exactly. Her reality is just different from yours.
She shuddered violently as one of the demons puked up blood along with all it’s usual saliva. Somewhere inside that deep red fluid, maggots writhed and squirmed, rejoicing in all the sticky, gooey wonders of a sinner’s blood. Amaya knew that if she were to be wicked, then she would turn into one of those beasts herself when she dies. That was the way of life. You be good, you get re-incarnated. Be bad, and you are damned for eternal torture and torment in Hell.
After a while those beings faded away into the sickly haze of urban life, leaving nothing but smog and a wide-eyed girl in their place. She blinked twice, not quite believing her eyes. Never before had ‘the demons’ become so real.
Amaya was about to turn heel and leave before she noticed something odd out the corner of her eye. As usual, the wind blew daggers into her sides, the leaves not exactly caring if they stuck to her face in a sudden breeze; but as Amaya’s Mary Jane skimmed the pavement, before she could so much as breathe, her eyes widened, the breath got stuck in her throat, and like an explosion, it hit her.
A man leapt down like a wildcat out of nowhere and landed on the telegraph wires in one swift, almost graceful movement. His long white hair streamed down and out like performing ribbons in the crazily windy day, and his inky black eyes pierced like razors against a stony grey backdrop. Albino skin waxy and mask-like, he could have been a ghost for all Amaya knew. Smartly dressed in what Amaya knew as a business suit, or funeral wear, he looked although he were in mourning. He appeared in his late twenties or early thirties, his thin lips were in a tight-lipped half-smile, and his face was angular and almost androgynous. He was stunning in a sexless way, Amaya thought, still amazed at how he stood on those wires without being burnt to a crisp and turned to goo.
For a while the two stared each other down, the silence reaching unbearable, the curiosity burning up a storm inside Amaya’s brain. Time passed. Amaya could see her reflection in the wet pavement, fresh ripples forming on the already saturated floor. Rain joined wind, and eventually the two were soaked to the skin, Amaya’s white blouse sticking like a second skin to her chest and arms.
Eventually she plucked up the courage to confront the stranger, ‘Who are you?’ she asked, just managing to keep the trembling from her voice.
He spread his arms wide as if in greeting and smiled sickly. ‘I am Lucifer,’ he said, ‘Lucifer Gosutoshushu.’
If Amaya weren’t so frightened, she probably would have scoffed at what he just said his name was; after all, who had a surname of Ghost-collector? Is that even a surname? Amaya couldn’t quite put her head around it.
‘And you are Amaya Kuroikiryo,’ he added with a slight twitch of his mouth. His androgynous face went back to being sober, although he meant business.
Another long moment passed. The derelict warehouses and factories in the background served as a tempting get-away to Amaya despite how much she despised them in the past.
‘Are you scared?’ he asked, almost innocently if it weren’t for the glint of malice in his eyes.
Before the girl could even draw breath to answer, he was airborne once again, and like a cat, he landed on his feet. A lump formed in Amaya’s throat. The abandoned warehouses were screaming to her.
Now they were on the same level, Amaya could realise how ridiculously tall he was, he had to be six foot four at least! Too intimidated for words, too powerless to make a run for it, Amaya shut up and stayed put. If he were somebody dangerous, the girl knew she would be an easy target for somebody like Lucifer. The keys in her pocket served as a friendly reminder that she wasn’t entirely defenceless. She wrapped her fingers around the cool metal of her flat keys until her knuckles turned white.
‘You’re not thinking of perhaps attacking me with those, are you?’ Lucifer said with a smug smile. His clipped, nasally tone was unnatural for these parts, as was his other-worldly aura and insane get up.
With a flinch and a rigid shake of her head, Amaya denied everything he asked with eyes like saucers and a complexion like snow.
‘Ah, I’m so glad,’ he said, sarcasm overriding his tone, ‘What ever have I done to deserve a key through my eyeball?’
His attitude was really starting to irritate Amaya. Questions circled her mind like angry hornets at a picnic. What was he doing here? Who is he really? What does he want? Why is he talking to me like we know each other? She searched the database of her mind but could still not place any answers.
Usually Amaya would be feisty towards someone so rude. Not today. She could hardly spit her words out.
‘U-um, w-what do you want with me?’
The stranger loomed over her, a giant in comparison to his more petite counterpart. Amaya stepped back to avoid direct confrontation. Or close combat. Anything goes. Lucifer knew he was making her extremely uncomfortable and took great pleasure in doing so.
Almost although he had never been there in the first place, the man disappeared into the shadows and increasing darkness, leaving a confused girl behind in his wake. She blinked twice and felt herself growing faint. Leaning herself against a street lamp, she took a while to steady herself, steeling herself to get back to That Guy; wondering what on earth she did to deserve what just happened. Onlookers (as rare as they are) must have been surprised.
Twice in one day? This just keeps getting worse.

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