PRICES GO UP AT THE GATE
1-3 Within the infinite dusk there was no heaven, no earth. Only the high, hollow sound of each falling drop of water. In every direction she could see the thin, crimson glow, the writhing shadows, the strange beasts galloping towards her.
Less than two hundred yards separated them. Their sheer size collapsed the distance further. There was a monkey amongst the menagerie, its mouth agape in silent, raucous laughter, its fur glistening in the red light . . . it was so close that with each leap and bound she could see the flex and draw of sinew and muscle.
She stood rooted, dumb and immobile. As much as she tried to avert her gaze she could only watch the cavorting menagerie. The smell of death was thick on the wind and it choked her.
I must wake up.
She had to rouse herself from the dream before they reached her. Even as she repeated the mantra to herself, she couldn't think of any way to do so. If will alone was enough, she would have done it already.
While she stood there helplessly the distance between them was halved again.
I must wake up.
A frantic desperation possessed her. The panic coursed through her body, crawled along her skin. She gulped for air. Her heart pounded, her blood thundered in her ears.
What happens if I can't escape?
In that same moment she felt a presence above her head. A crushing bloodlust descended upon her. Yet for the first time in the dream she found that she could move. She looked up at tawny wings, limbs of the same color. Scaly feet tipped with razor-sharp claws. She didn't have time to contemplate escape. An ocean roar filled her body.
She fled. She did not think about how to escape. Her body simply fulfilled the desire. She bolted and ran. Only afterwards did she stop to take in the landscape around her.
And the startled look on her teacher's face, the wide eyes of her classmates.
She was standing several steps back from her desk. It was the middle of English class. She breathed a deep sigh of relief, then reddened with embarrassment.
A beat, and a gale of laughter swept the room.
She had fallen asleep. The dreams had turned her into an insomniac. She often found herself nodding off at school. But the nightmares had never visited her before in the daytime.
Her teacher strode towards her. Youko anxiously bit her lip. She usually had no problems getting along with her teachers, but for some reason this one resisted. No matter how accommodating and subservient Youko tried to be, her English teacher remained stubbornly antagonistic towards her.
The teacher tapped on the desktop with the corner of the textbook. "I accept that a student will try to steal a few winks in one of my classes now and then, but this is a first, Miss Nakajima. Will you bring a pillow to school next time? I'd hate to think that our uncomfortable desks should cause you so much distress."
Youko bowed her head and returned to her desk.
"Of course, one has to wonder what you think school is for? Silly me, believing that students should do their sleeping at home. Then again, if you find your classes so tiresome there's no need for you to show up at all, is there?"
"I . . . I'm sorry."
"Or are you perhaps too busy at night to get any sleep at all? Is that it?"
The remark produced an eruption of laughter, some of it from her friends. Youko even heard a restrained giggle from Sugimoto.
The teacher casually picked at Youko's braids. "Your hair, it's naturally this color?"
"Really? A friend of mine in high school, she was a redhead, too. More so than yours, even. You remind me of her." She smiled to herself. "During her senior year, she ended up in juvenile court and had to drop out. Whatever became of her? Ah, it was such a long time ago . . . . "
Stifled laughter rippled around the room.
"So, are we ready to starting paying attention, Miss Nakajima?"
"In any case, you'd better stand there for the rest of the class, to help you stay awake." She sniffed to herself, quite amused at her half of the exchange, and paced back to the front of the room.
Youko stood by her desk for the remainder of the hour. The muffled laughter never did completely die down.
Her performance in English class was duly reported. That afternoon she was called down to the office for a grilling about her personal life.
The vice-principal was a middle-aged man with a perpetually furrowed brow. He said, "In fact, a number of teachers believe you might be engaging in some, ahem, extracurricular activities. Can you think of anything in that regard that might be relevant to your recent behavior?"
"No." It was neither the time nor the place to start explaining about her dreams.
"So you're staying up late, say, watching television?"
"No, I . . . . " Youko grasped for a good excuse. "I . . . my midterm exam scores, they weren't so good."
The vice-principle bit down on the bait. "Ah, yes, indeed. True, your grades have slipped recently."
"You of course understand that burning the midnight oil will only prove counterproductive if you can't pay attention in class."
"No, no, no, I'm not looking for apologies. Unfortunately, Miss Nakajima, people jump to the wrong conclusions about the most innocent things. They see the color of your hair, and, well, you know . . . . "
"I was thinking of getting it cut today."
"Oh?" He nodded in agreement. "It is harsh, I know. But as disagreeable as it might seem at times we're only acting in your best interests."
He shook her hand. "Well, that's all. You can leave."
Youko replied with a perfunctory bow. "Excuse me," she said.
Behind her a man raised his voice.
1-4 He said, "I have found you."
His presence was accompanied by the faint scent of the ocean. The vice-principal stared in amazement. When Youko glanced over her shoulder the man confirmed, "It is you."
She guessed he was in his mid-twenties. Everything else about him was breathtaking. He was wearing a long slicker like a cloak about his shoulders. His hair, an astonishingly golden sheen, curtained a marble-like face and reached to his knees.
She had never seen him before.
"And who are you?" the vice-principal demanded.
The stranger ignored him and instead did something even more astonishing. He knelt at Youko's feet and bowed his head low to the ground. "That which was sought has been found."
"Do you know this person?"
Youko shook her head. "I don't, I don't."
While they stood there in confusion the man sprang to his feet. "We must go."
"Miss Nakajima, what is this about?"
"I don't know!"
Around them, the handful of remaining teachers and office personnel exchanged curious looks. Youko cast a pleading, helpless look at the vice-principal, who drew himself up to his full height. "Young man, you are trespassing on school grounds. I must ask you to leave this minute!"
The stranger's face was a mask of indifference. He said cooly, no enmity in his voice, "It is none of your concern." He surveyed the office with the same eyes. "Do not interfere, any of you."
The imperial register of his voice had the immediate effect of leaving them speechless. He turned his gaze on the equally amazed Youko. "I shall explain to you later. But we must leave now."
"What are . . . ?"
A voice, close by, interrupted her question.
He lifted his head as if his name had been called. "What is it?" he asked into the thin air. Concern darkened his face.
From somewhere and nowhere the voice echoed again. "The enemy is at the gates."
A fierce expression replaced his impassive countenance. Nodding in comprehension he took Youko by the wrist. "Forgive me," he said, "but this place becomes dangerous."
"There is no time to explain. They shall arrive any second."
Youko shrank from him, filled with an inarticulate dread. "Who's they?" she cried.
She was about to ask again when the disembodied voice said, "They're here."
The window nearest Youko exploded.
She closed her eyes, heard a shrieking howl, the fragments of glass raining down around her.
"What was that!?"
Youko opened her eyes at the sound of the vice-principal's voice. Everyone in the office crowded to the windows. A cold winter wind rushed in from the broad river just beyond the school grounds. Carried on the breeze was the strong scent of slaughter and the sea.
Glass littered the floor around her feet. Despite being closest to the window she was untouched.
"How . . . ?"
Before she could make any sense of the situation, the stranger addressed her. "It is as I warned. Something wicked this way comes." He took hold of her arm. "Follow me."
A desperate panic overcame her. Youko struggled but the stranger simply dragged her along. When she tripped and staggered, he slung his arm around her shoulders. The vice-principal stepped in front of them.
"Are you responsible for this?"
The timber of the stranger's voice took on a stone cold menace. "You are irrelevant. Stand aside."
"Not before you explain yourself, buddy. What are you doing with Miss Nakajima, here? This some kind of gang thing?" He shot an accusing look at Youko, "What have you gotten yourself involved in?"
"I don't know what you're talking about!"
"And him?" he said, gesturing to the man.
Youko saw the far more terrifying conclusions drawing together in the vice-principal's eyes: they were in this together. "I don't know him! I swear!"
She twisted away, jerked her arm free of his grasp. At the same time, from above and beyond them, the voice called again, this time with greater alarm.
The people in the office glanced at each other, as if to discern the source of the voice.
The stranger scowled at Youko in obvious frustration. "Must you be so obstinate!" Before Youko could react or reply he dropped to his knees and grasped her feet in supplication. "Your Excellency, I pledge to you my eternal fealty." He spoke quickly, his eyes not wavering from hers. "I ask you to accede."
"Is not your life precious to you? Say that you accede!"
Too stunned to coherently consider what he was asking, and overwhelmed by the intensity of his words, Youko found herself nodding despite herself. "I accede," she said.
What he did next left Youko completely dumbfounded.
A beat--and a chorus of voices arose in objection. "What's with you two? Are you nuts?"
Thunderstruck, Youko watched as this man--whom she had never seen before in her life--dropped his head in worship and touched his forehead to the instep of her foot. "What are you . . . " she started to say, but was cut off mid-sentence.
Her senses reeled. She felt something coursing through her. Her vision momentarily went black. A low rumble like an earthquake shook the room. The courtyard outside the windows fell into muddy shadows.
"Nakajima!" the vice-principal shrieked, his face apoplectic with rage. "What in the devil is going on?"
Single and Happy - But Still looking for love
wow... thanx for the hard work!
High School is bullshit