a short story by Evan Chu, ’24

I’m not fully human anymore after that incident in the mall…

Tokyo, 1994
My name is Ishiki Matsui. I killed Yamada Hiroki, my classmate and only friend, but it was just a part of my job. He was my prey, and simply a part of my income. I am an assassin. I don’t feel any sorrow because I am the predator, working for anyone that can pay me enough. I have no dreams, no emotions, just the desire to kill.

It was following me… an unpleasant presence looms over, and binds me in place like a cocoon. Thud…thud… thud… The sound of feet dragged and echoed behind me like a string attached to me. I knew I was in trouble. I could feel his eagerness. I gripped my glock. Sweat formed in my hand, making the handle slippery. Then, he suddenly grasped me by the neck and bit.
As he drew warm blood from my neck, pain shocked through me in waves of nausea. “Matsui you owe me… for me to become normal again… sorry,” he whispered while jet black wings grew from his back, his eyes turning yellow, and red horns grew on his forehead. I tried to scream, it’s Yamada, I have no doubt it’s him. How could he be alive? I thrash and run away but my throat didn’t seem to work, my legs like rubber. He pulled me in, his face conflicted, his body anxious but hesitant, his eyes gleeful yet full of tears, and his mouth dripping with saliva, yet he bit his tongue every time he opened his mouth.

I don’t know what happened next because I had already fainted from the crisp, sharp pain.

I woke up in front of a Torii gate on the water. “So it’s night time huh,” I said absent-mindedly. Wait, how can I be lying on water? Is this a dream? I looked at my surroundings; nothing but water stretched endlessly on all four sides, except for the Torii gate that was in front of me. I feared of what stood behind the gate
“Who…” I asked, in a rasping voice.
“Ishiki Mastui, you are now my servant and slave, meaning you are damned in the human realm,” a voice thundered, “you are standing between the boundary of gods and demons and the human world I cannot cross. You will be summoned here every month to consult with me.” His voice echoed despite the ocean water.
“Why? What are you? W-why did yo-you bring-” I whimpered.
“Why do you ask? Well, it was simply for you to entertain me, and do my bidding. As for who, I will not tell you more than that I am an Oni, demon of many things.”
“I shall give you your first task,” the Oni continued, “you are to kill anyone who would say thank you to you…”
“What if I don’t?” I asked.
“Then let me ask: do you want to go back and live a shameless life? No police constantly tracking you… no more attempts at assassinating you… what a good life it must be!”
Shoot. I thought, he is using that as bait. I also fell into his cleverly weaved net. And if I do, I will just merely become his doll, internally contracted to serve him.

“There is no way I will harm normal human beings. I kill them to reap a reward, not for my own pleasure.”
“Then you will be shamed the rest of your long life. Remember, one wrong move, one misstep against me and dare to defy me… you will be cast back, but as the murderer you already are. Face the consequences, and work as my slave. It is your best option to be back to normal again. I know, I know deep in your mind,” he hissed, “that you feel guilty for what you do. But you would try and hide it behind your doll-like face.” Cold sweat gleamed on my face. How does he know? He’s been watching me… I am not on the top of the food chain anymore… he has been preying on me like an osprey to fish, waiting for the right moment to dive and strike. “You will be summoned here every month to consult with me.”
After that, I drowned, dropping like a stone to the bottom. I can’t breathe; I will soon be dead.

In an alleyway, the moments I had exchanged with the demon were a blur, except for my goal: “to kill anyone who would say thank you to you…” I don’t see any reason why the Oni would demand this but… do you want to go back and live a shameless life? His voice echoed, shameless… free. “Ugh, well that’s great—wait a second, what just happened to me? Indeed, my body feels lighter, as if I lost 10 pounds after ruthless exercise. My sense of smell has increased three-fold, and my eyes seemed to pick up every detail around me. I thought, what is going on? How can I have changed so much in this short amount of time? I then walked out of the alleyway, and straight into the streets of Tokyo. I just can’t seem to get used to my newly enhanced senses. I can smell all the garbage flowing from garbage cans like air currents. I can see car number plates one mile away, it’s too much…it’s too much to handle, I thought. “Uhh… shoot I’m getting a headache,” I said without thinking. I looked ahead, and saw a girl running across the red light, chasing after her ball that had rolled out. “Watch out!” I shouted. My shouts couldn’t seem to reach her. I ran desperately to reach her and get her away from the oncoming cars, and to my surprise, my running seemed to be enhanced as well. I grabbed her before she could get hit, and ran to the other side of the street. “Are you ok sir?” A man grabbed my shoulders, it sent a jolt of fear through my body, it’s him again! He came to haunt me! My head started to flare, as if someone was trying to stab something out from inside my head, I turned around slowly and met the man’s eyes and fell, collapsing on the ground. “Sir? Ah, I need to call the ambulance now!”

“How is his breathing?”
“Normal.”
“Report on heart rate please.”
“98 beats per minute, otherwise everything is green.”
“Good, please administer the injection.”
“Yes sir!”
“Inject oxygen! Slow down his resting heart rate!”
“Yes sir!”
“What in the world is that?”
“What is it, Takumi?”
“There is another organism growing here?”
“Looks like it is growing at a fast pace! We need to remove it now! Get th-”
“Sir, I need suction!”
“Move it, quick! We don’t want to lose any unnecessary blood!”
Pound, pound, pound, I can feel my heart beating faster. “How unfortunate, looks like you can’t endure this at all, Ishiki.”
“Yamada! Why are you here? I killed you!”
“What a cruel thing to say to your friend. Anyway, I’ll be around… see ya.”

3 Days After.

The early sun was bright, with no visible clouds in the sky.
“Good morning Mr. Matsui, are you feeling better today?”a plump looking doctor asked sitting beside my bed.
“Ye-yes, but what happened to me?”
“Ah, well let me introduce myself first. My name is Tanaka, and I was attending your surgery three days ago.” I must have looked shocked, because he laughed a bit and said “Don’t worry son, you’ll be discharged from the hospital in no time. Everything’s fixed.” Huh, I thought, I kinda like this doctor.
“What happened? Why did I need surgery?” I asked.
“Well, it’s hard to explain but, um… there were two little horns growing on your head, and I thought that was quite strange so…but hey, look on the bright side! You are ok now, huh son? Anyway, I’ll let you go back to your routine, but really, and I don’t want to say this, but I have to thank you! I know this is strange but that was a first for me. I will note the phenomenon and possibly even publish a book about it—so thank you!”
Thank you… thank you… My body wouldn’t listen, kill anyone who says that, now be a good boy and obey. That’s a bad word, remember that, okay? It felt like I was being pulled by strings. My brain refused, but my body insisted I kill. The knife slipped from my coat like a sword through paper, smooth, without a sound.
Slit.
Croak.
Thud. Dr. Tanaka hit the floor unmoving, eyes wide in shock, “Matsui!…” Tanaka choked, blood spreading from his neck. The knife fell beside him, covered in blood. “I thought you looked like him! I know you are a murderer……you little monster …even had horns growing out of you…how fitting …you little demon! You know nothing but to kill people…” His eyes filmed over.
I killed a person once again, this time with no real purpose, but for me to survive.

1 month later.

I was on top of the World Trade Center—just as the most recent order told me to go. The winds buffeted past me, and a figure appeared behind a cloud of mist.
“Ha ha ha,” The sharp voice echoed. “Good boy! You completed my task! You are such a good boy! You will kill again for me, will you?” he thundered.
One step, two steps, thunk, thunk, thunk…the sound of feet stepping on concrete echoed around the forest. A cold breeze swept past, making the hairs on my back stand up.
I saw him then. He stepped out from the shade. He was not an Oni, but what appeared was an elegant being, with traditional dress draping down to his feet, silky, seemingly made from the moonlight itself. His hair was pure radiance, flowing, unaffected by earth’s gravity, the outline of his whole body shone with silver light, as if there was indeed a second moon.
“Well? Kneel, mortal.” His voice was as crisp as the night breeze, his eyes made of molten silver and bearing down on me like a heat lamp.
My knees buckled and I kneeled. I wouldn’t dare to look at such a perfect being without getting burned to cinders. “Gods, oh no,” I managed to whisper.
“I am Tsukuyomi no Mikoto, Kami of the moon, one of three noble children, and casted out by my hateful sister, Kami of the sun. It is my duty to regain my place amongst the gods, even if it means I have to kill mortals, because 1,000 are worth less than a throne on the heavens, am I right?” he said easily, like water flowing out of a stream.
“You want me to kill 1,000 innocent people? I can’t even do that! I mean, I kill for a reason…,” I pleaded.
“Oh do you? You see, I accepted my fate, and decided to use the blood of the 1,000 to regain my position. But I do have a reason to choose you, Matsui. You kill with no hesitation; you have no emotions whatsoever!” Tsukuyomi shouted. “I want to change that, I want you to find pleasure in killing… I want you to beg for more! That’s the way you should be! You are my slave, and you should work for me no matter what I say …say goodbye to your Yamada… I sent him to say goodbye to you myself… because you are not human anymore; you are just a tool to do my dirty work!” He howled greedily.
I never thought the god of the moon could be like this; this was the elegant god I used to admire everyday I passed by the temple and prayed to him everyday after school. “You know,” he said, his voice back to the smooth cold tone, “I can let you go and be with your friend Yamada again.”
“Really?” I jumped at the opportunity without thinking.
“Yes. Will you do it?”
“Yes… I will.”
“Good, now go kill 1,000 people for me.”
“… I will.”
“Good boy.”
Horns grew from my forehead, my nails lengthened, my eyes gleamed red. What I was imagining as the Oni was not the elegant being that stood in front of me, but myself.
I was no longer human anymore…
I cried.
I ran and jumped off the edge of the building.

“Sometimes the most alluring orange is the most ghastly at the same time, and the more you eat it, the more you forget what other oranges taste like. ”