We’re celebrating Claire De Lunacy’s First Blogoversary, and I’ve invited some very gracious and awesome friends to contribute to this mess, sharing their words with you, my beloved readers. Through June 10th, there will be a new post from a different guest each day, culminating with a new, full-length short story by yours truly. I hope you enjoy my guests’ work as much as I do, and I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens during the NEXT year.
[Today’s Guest Blog comes from my charming Tweep Mari Kurisato. Her short story, “Flight,” is set in the same world as her upcoming short story “Lurker,” to be published in M-Brane SF Magazine later this year.
Mari Kurisato is a 32 year old recovering hikikomori (shut-in) digital illustrator, Twitter addict, and unpublished novelist, working on her third novel. She lives at home with her wife and cat somewhere in the US. She has an irrational crush on , and considers her personal deity. Despite her pen name, she is not Japanese. Her website can be found at http://www.marikurisato.com]
The young woman whipped through the air, large black feather wings angled sharply behind her. Thermal drafts helped Sumiyo rocket upwards through blue sky of the Realm. The cold wind stung her face, and strands of her black hair snapped about in the breeze, but it didn’t hurt her at all. Here she had nearly infinite power, and was respected by nearly everyone else who lived in these lands.
She banked on her right wing, hung in the sky a moment, and stretched her perfectly muscled frame, before allowing the gravity to tug her body back towards the trees below. She plummeted towards the forest. Sumiyo rolled and flexed her shoulder blades at the last moment. Her great wings whispered against the leaves of the tree canopy as she swept away just above the aspen trees.. She inhaled a great deep breath of warm fragrant air into her lungs, and sighed. She didn’t want to go home.
A small golden sphere like a miniature sun appeared in her vision, and tinkled like a cat’s bell. She frowned as she sped along inches above the treetops, her shadow dappling the green and yellow leaves. She thought about swatting it away, but the glowing sun bell would only get more insistent, and not even she was that powerful.
Sumiyo rose into the air and scanned around for a place to land before settling on a high, jagged blade of red granite that over looked the valley. She braced herself, and whistled the log out tone.
The brilliant and warm world slithered away into cold darkness.
Leaving the Realm was always hard, not just because of the mental fuzziness of the Sensemit cable Sumiyo pulled from the port at base of her skull. (She hated the popping sound.) Her office was dark except for the glow of her thirty inch touchscreen computer where the small golden sphere sat on screen, chiming.
She touched the glowing ball; it chirped and unfolded into a video mail from Koichi Yanagata (Mr. 770 he called himself.) He appeared on the video screen and squinted a moment before speaking.
“Kurimotosan. Something has happened with Kajiyama. She has-”
Sumiyo slapped the pause button onscreen at the sound of that name. Her. Ryoko Kajiyama. The memory of the incident came to her mind’s eye in great detail, as if created digitally in brilliant colors and sharp focus.
Two years ago, Sumiyo and Ryoko were standing on the top of a brown spiral staircase in the alleyway behind the ladies’ bar Kinswomyn, in Shinjuku. Ryoko looked amazing, with long brown hair and pale blue eyes, dressed in a form fitting red cocktail dress with a flared hem. But Sumiyo hadn’t noticed. They were both drunk and arguing.
Ryoko had later told the police that Sumiyo had slipped backwards and fallen by herself, and at the time Sumiyo didn’t remember anything.
But after that night she never saw Ryoko again, and she still had nightmares about Kajiyamasan’s grinning face as she looked down at Sumiyo falling over the railing.
Doctors said she had been relatively lucky. The T10 spinal fracture had sent fragments of bone into her spinal cord. Though she had only fallen about twelve feet, she could have easily broken her neck and died, instead of being just paralyzed, they said.
Cold comfort that, thought Sumiyo as she sat staring at the frozen face of “Mr. 770” onscreen. She leaned forward in her wheelchair and tapped the play button
“has finally been formally charged in the murder of Mika Anzai. Kajiyama committed suicide last week.” Koichi said, with the empty look of a Bunraku doll. He continued, his voice flat. “I know you haven’t been out of the house since you returned home from the hospital, but I think we should meet and talk about what has happened. I’ve enclosed an RSVP for coffee if you like. I think you should talk about what happened between you and Ryoko.”
The screen returned to the text layout of the email, and Sumiyo sighed, her breathing ragged.
So, Ryoko committed suicide.
Sumiyo took a deep breath, or tried to, but breathing outside the Realm was harder, and her breath was harsh, her lungs felt full of water and she was tired besides.
That was just the psychological side of things, she thought to herself. She set the Sensemit cable down on the desk The creaking of the wheelchair and her breathing matched the sounds of her Prime Realm computer’s constant humming. She rolled herself across the room, the lights coming on as they sensed her movement. The door at the other end of the room slid aside silently, and out in the hall way the two story arched windows splashed rainbow hued beams of light across the marbled floor bathing it in fiery patterns of color. The hall was large enough for a three lane street, and a carpet of deep scarlet ran the length of the hall in the middle, a river of red against the white stone floor.
Two years ago she and Ryoko had walked that length of carpet holding hands, much to the disapproval of the house staff at the time.
Now the carpet was ribboned with light from the windows, and Sumiyo squinted a moment until she could see the outline of Tokyo’s skyscrapers and the Tokyo Tower rising above Minato. Two years ago, she would have taken a car to the base of the Tower and walked around it just as the twilight of the sky faded to night just to watch the lights of tower.
Now she couldn’t even leave her apartments in the Mori Tower. The scars on her face drew too much attention, and she couldn’t force herself to even step outside. Not that she had too, when he died, her father left her the residence and a sizable inheritance.
Though she felt guilty at the emotion, as she looked out at the harsh pale blue sky and the menacing razor straight edges of the buildings she felt grateful that she could afford to stay inside. She couldn’t be out there anymore. The one time she tried, people stared at her. Sumiyo could feel the pressure of their gazes even if she wasn’t looking at them directly. It was as if they were glaring at her in anger at what she had done. It had been her fault after all. She had been so careless.
She had never even made it out of the building
Her father would have frowned upon her choice to remain in her apartments all the time, but he hadn’t seen her like this. He died five years ago, and back then, she was fresh out of high school and taking university entrance exams hoping to pursue a degree in economics at Todai.
That seemed forever ago.
The weeks after her father’s death were a blur of paper work, and Sumiyo found herself buffeted by the hurried rush of it all. She sold her father’s shares in his company, a move that shocked her cousins and the national press but ensured she never needed to work again.
That was when she met Ryoko Kajiyama at a coffee shop. Also forever ago. Ryoko wove herself into Sumiyo’s life easily, because she asked for nothing other than friendship. At least at first. As time progressed, it became something deeper. Taboo. They had to be careful about it, but even though Sumiyo knew her house staff disapproved they didn’t quit their jobs in protest. For awhile, Ryoko and Sumiyo roamed Nichō getting drunk together and staying up late, living careless lives when the sun went down.
In the daytime Ryoko worked as a financial manager for a Chinese owned financial services company in Aoyoma and Sumiyo spent time in Ginza shopping, or surfed the net. When she discovered 2.ch, an internet forum, she found out about the Realm, though at the time she didn’t get into it, because it seemed like a waste of time.
How wrong she had been.
Sumiyo never admitted that the night on the spiral staircase was anything but an accident, and yet, the nightmares of Ryoko grinning at her as she feel seemed too real, too detailed to be just a fragment from dreams. It wasn’t until she read the threads on the 2ch. forum about the death of Mika Anzai that Sumiyo knew something about Ryoko’s polished personality was off.
She met Mr. 770 there, as she followed his account of what might have happened to Anzai. Mr. 770 knew she was a Realm Player, and they began chatting online as Sumiyo helped his new avatar gain more power through quests. They spent time together, talking about the Mika Anzai suicide turned murder case, and a few weeks ago Koichi shared with her his suspicion of Ryoko’s involvement. After that, Sumiyo withdrew from Koichi, spending her time in the more wild parts of the Realm where he could not follow her.
And now Ryoko was dead, by suicide.
The grin on Ryoko’s pale face as Sumiyo fell played through her mind again. It was so real.
The sun slid across the sky as Sumiyo sat there, staring at the skyline, shadows moving over the tiles and carpet.
Now Koichi wanted to meet with her to talk about it? He knew she was a recluse, a hikikomori. Sumiyo sighed and asked Hayashi to prepare a dinner for her before going back into her room and closing the door.
She dove from the red granite ridge, her black Angel’s wings beating the air with thundering cracks, like huge flags in a storm. A new avatar had ventured into her valley, a tenth-season warrior who must have thought this place would yield easy treasures. Sumiyo had seen him just as she returned, and so had the Scarlet Chimera jumping through the trees, chasing the terrified warrior. The new avatar was running as fast as he could for the river.
The Scarlet Chimera leapt from an oak tree, tearing it apart with a crack, and the dragon’s head shrieked, a gout of liquid fire splashing the forest floor just behind the warrior. The beast flung the trunk of the oak it had destroyed at the warrior, striking him hard. He fell, and then Sumiyo slammed into the Scarlet Chimera from above.
The creature screamed as it clawed at Sumiyo for purchase, but the woman grabbed the dragon’s head and whispered the simple spell. Suddenly the beast squealed in terror and fell apart, blood and ash in Sumiyo’s hands.
Sumiyo drifted to the warrior’s body on the floor of the forest, and threw some silver dust upon his misshapen form. The dust caught fire and bathed the warrior in golden light, and he screamed in pain as he resurrected.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Sumiyo said to the new avatar as he stood up, his armor ruined.
“Neither should you, Kurimotosan.” said Koichi as he took off his ruined faceplate. “Will you join me for coffee?”
Sumiyo simply stepped up into the sky and soared away, her speed breaking the sound barrier.
Sumiyo thought Hayashi was having a stroke when she asked her head staff to ready the car. Sumiyo had dressed herself in a blue blouse and white slacks and was waiting by her private elevator. Hayashi looked dumbstruck. Sumiyo repeated the request.
“I’m sorry this is so sudden, but today is the day, and I definitely don’t want to be late. Please?” Sumiyo said. The older woman nodded (smiling,) and agreed to drive Sumiyo herself.
As they rode the glass elevator towards the garage, Sumiyo looked at the blue sky above the city skyline, trying to project more confidence than she felt. She was trembling. As she gazed at the Tokyo Tower to the east, a lone crow flew past the glass elevator, black wings extended, drifting. Hayashi clicked her disapproval, muttering about “pests,” but Sumiyo just smiled, remembering.
Now was the time to fly for real, she thought.
[It’s me again. I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did – clearly, Mari is a talent with many great things ahead of her. Take a moment to stop by her site, won’t you?
Coming up this weekend: the Blogoversary fun continues, with a pair of short stories and another excerpt from my book Cleo and Meander. Stay tuned!]