Stepping out of the train, a man with medium length snow hair, pale complexion, lavender glasses with a dark grey rim, white button up shirt, covered by a black coat attached with a hood and a grey and sky colored scarf, accompanied by raven dress pants and dress shoes. Right hand in his coats pocket, in his left, a small pile of three pieces of paper. Wrinkled as though played and folded with, time and time again.
“So, this is where you came. I have to say. It looks much more interesting compared to the other places you’ve been.” A small smile appears upon the strangers face, hinted with a touch of sadness.
“I better get started on my job. I only have so much time. This should be easy. How hard is it to find someone in Hellsalem’s Lot?” With confidence, the stranger folds the papers and tucks both hands in his coats pockets, striding out of the train station.
“It’s rather cold for it being March. Then again the weather has been strange for years now, not too much to complain about.” As he walked further away from the station, he noticed the abnormality within the city. Remembering when it first made headlines worldwide, of the chaos, confusing and freight it caused.
Hellsalem’s Lot a.k.a. Jerusalem’s Lot, previously known as New York city. A couple years back, a bright light appeared, swallowing the city people once knew. The event came to be known as “The Great Collapse” or “The Collapse” for short. In one night, a whole new world appeared and a white foggy mushroom shaped cloud appeared over the city, blocking just about anyone or anything from entering and the U.S. navy and military were too late to intervene. By then the city was gone and replaced by another. Soon treaties were signed to maintain the peace and balance of both worlds. Now, both humans and monsters coexist as much as possible with the craziness and abnormality going on twenty-four seven. Surviving and getting by have become the norm but the cities residents have come not to care but be fascinated by what’s happening as have the monsters or rather beyondians as they have been dubbed. It can’t be more normal than this in Hellsalem’s Lot.
Rather interesting. Who would have thought it’d be this peaceful? Well as peaceful as can be. The U.S. government doesn't really have a good record when it comes to confrontations. It also doesn't help that the city can run amok any moment. Biological guns, demons, deities and monster trucks that eat anything in their path; it’s amazing the city hasn’t fallen to chaos. I still can’t figure out why he came here. In the end he didn’t get to see for what it is now.
I can’t help it as I let out a sigh of annoyance and frustration. He is the reason why I’m here. He is the reason why I must do this task. He is the reason why I can’t refuse. I do everything for him but it seems he doesn’t notice, or maybe I’m wrong? I can’t think about this right now. I must find these people or else we might be in trouble, but where do I start? I was told that the “normal” people would be easy to spot but it seems everybody’s normal in this city or as normal as can be. I can only assume that the people know each other due to not many being to leave, I should probably start by asking around them. The city isn’t as big as it used to be, that should make this much easier.
As I continue walking, I get closer to an alley. As my approach gets nearer I hear a female voice: “Tell me now.” I can’t help but stop and look around. No one’s noticing. Why isn’t no one noticing? Is this normal?! The conversation seems to be loud…
“Go to hell! Like I’ll ever tell you.” A thud and a gasp could be heard. Did someone strike him? Or did he fall trying to escape?
“I know that you can translate this language containing the whereabouts of your teams hideout. Tell me or you’ll end up with several holes in your body.” She said rather darkly. Hiding from view I saw that the woman was about 5’9”, black hair in what seems to be a bob hair style and an ivory complexion. Clad in a black pants suit and suitable shoes for travel and profession (somewhat like dress shoes but more flexible) with a white button up shirt. Gun held in hand and pointing.
“Do it. I’m never going to tell you.” With the beyondian being snide, the woman pulled the hammer of her gun back.
“What’s the commotion?!” Having revealed my hiding spot I can guess they might want to know how long I was standing there.
“Leave. This doesn't involve a civilian.” She said rather blunt and annoyed. Having turned her head to me and her gun pointing at the beyondian. I can now see that her eyes are a light shade of purple mixed with gray. Quite beautiful, I noted. I hadn’t seen that color in what seemed to be eternity.
“I assume it does. I can’t even access my thoughts while resting with this commotion. And I prefer not to think of myself as a civilian.” I said rather irritated at being called a “civilian.”
“Beside it looks like you need help.” Walking up to them as casually as possible if that even is--well, possible, in this situation.
“I’m doing quite fine, so you can leave.”
“Listen to the bi-” She once more kicked the beyondians gut.
“I can probably translate whatever's on that paper.” Having had a lot of time comes in handy. I continued walking up to them until I was behind her. Standing about two-to-three feet from where she stood.
The woman only stared at me before letting a out a ‘tsk’ and handing the paper to me. “... Against my better judgment, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.”
“Look at this touching scene. You can’t translate it that now you’re begging some random stranger to help you.” The beyondian said as I took the paper from her hands and took out my mini notepad from inside my coat. He sure is digging his grave. “How pathetic that the invisible werewolf has fa-”, he was once more silenced by her deadly kick to his gut. I think he might be unconscious now, not that I don’t mind. Still, I heard her say viciously: “Keep talking and I’ll gut you.”
I take a look at the paper and begin to scribble things down. Such a stupid and obvious location for a hideout. I’m surprised they didn’t just take a look sooner, though hiding the location by using the language was genius, I’ll admit to that. Holding the paper out to her I said: “Here. It should be easy now to find it, right?”
With a blink of her eyes she took the paper back from me. “That’s it?” Tilting her head with confusion.
“Yes. There wasn’t much to it.” I could only say with a smile holding back laughter.
“You don’t want money?” She inquired.
“Money? I got enough to last me the days I’m staying.” I said with the smile still painted on my face and she blinked with confusion.
“You are rather odd.”
“I hear that often.” Having said that we only just stared at each other, allowing an awkward silence to join us. “Can you help me in return? It’s a small favor.”
Breaking the silence between us.
“You see, I came here looking for three people--four to be exact. The last one has no connection to the previous three other than a worried family. Right now I’m concerned about the first person. They’re supposed to be a man who works at a restaurant. Thing is, I don’t know the name, besides how both he and the restaurant look like from these pictures given to me.” Pulling out the picture from my pocket and the extra one form the inside of my coat, I hand them over to her.
“The restaurants not far from here. If you keep walking you’ll find it in about fifteen minutes. I don’t know much about the woman or the man you’re looking for. ”
“I got a good enough start, saves me time. That’s all I need. Thank you.”
The woman stared at me before scoffing and disappearing. Well, for normal people she would disappear but for those like me, they would have seen her elegantly move through the air and appear on a building opposite of where I’m standing on the street.
I couldn’t help as a smirk appeared on my face, turning into a smile and finally a small laugh.
“Chain Sumeragi. It’s a good thing you didn’t introduce yourself to me. Would have been a bother to reveal who I am. Thank you, you already helped me find one person of interest. And two to go.” he muttered, knowing no one could hear. . “Now the restaurant was just down the route I original took before the commosition. I really should stop getting side-tracked, but I guess it came in handy today. ” As I begin to walk out of the alley, I whistle a tune to no one but myself. I wonder what the next person would be like. Supposedly they were informed of my arrival ahead of time. A smirk creeps out of the corner of my mouth, I’d have to put that to the test.
Luck isn’t something that just happens coincidentally, it is a blessing, a gift and few have it. That’s what he always used to say. If it is a gift, it must be really rare and it seems all four of them possess it but don’t know. A tiny laugh escapes my mouth and interrupts my whistling. It really will be interesting for what's to happen next.
*~15 Minutes Later~*
She really wasn’t joking when she said it would be fifteen minutes before I found it. Seems empty, the less the better.
As I step closer and open the door, I hear the bell above the door go off, signaling I’m here. I also hear... kids? As soon as heard I the giggling and laughter of children, a woman perhaps around 5 foot 7’’, dressed in all purple, even the skirt and slip-ons, save for a pink apron that reads “Best Mother In The Universe”, pale complexion, loose yellow hair and hazel eyes, comes from what I suppose is the kitchen.
“Welcome, stranger. Do you want anything to eat or wish to rest first before ordering?” She said with a smile of innocence.
With a smile of my own I reply, ”Neither. Do you happen to know of a man named Allen Fijimoto? I was told he works here.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, why do you want to speak to him?” As she said this, her hands moved to cup together on her stomach. There on her left ring finger I saw what confirmed what I heard. She was married.
Just as I was about to response we both turned our heads when we heard him. “Honey, go play with the kids. I’ll handle this. It’s just business, don’t worry.” He was dressed in a light blue dress-up shirt with a navy tie, vest and dress pants, accompanied by tan dress shoes. Being around the same height as his wife. Short dirty blonde hair in a messy style and green eyes, hands in the pockets of his pants. His wife seemed reluctant to go at first but soon left to keep an eye on their kids. Leaving us two alone.
“It’s nice to see you again, Riku.”
“Likewise, Allen.” For a minute or two we just stared at each other, both smiling but in truth it was most of not wanting to talk to one another. “I was told that you were informed of my arrival ahead of time and yet you failed to greet me first, instead it was your wife. While I don’t mind, you certainly have fallen, haven’t you?”
“Cut to the chase. I’ve got a family to be with right now.”
“Not the same attitude I remembered from our last meeting. You seem less... threatening. Is it because of your family?”
“If this is the reason why you came” he said gruffly, “then you can leave.” He really hadn't changed. How did that pleasant woman ever fall in love with a man like this?
“We both know what this is about. You are one of three candidates. I’m merely going to all of them to see whether or not they are suitable. And it seems like you might be it, but I won’t make a quick decision.” I finish, all with a smirk taped to my face.
“I decline.” I recoil slightly, but the smirk stays on.
“And why so?”
“As you can see, I left that life behind and settled down. I now have a family worth protecting than some” his hand gestures to the side “person who only brings misfortune.” The smirk disappears, just as I decided to drop the act. A void emotion paints my interior and washes on my face.
With venom laced into my words I bite back, “Misfortune? Must I remind you that he’s the reason you’re still alive. The person who gave you a home when your family died and took under their arm when no else wanted you, and, NOW you now decide to break the oath you made to him!?”
He swallows what saliva he had in nervousness, and fidgets where he is seated. “I’m not breaking his oath. I’m just stating, I don’t want to get involved. I will always fight for him but I won’t endanger my family. You must understand.” He gives me a weak grin. The grin of a coward who knows he escaped chaos, but would be all too happy to brag to about it.
With a belated sigh, I can only agree on the compromise. “Very well. I won’t pursue you. But at least answer me this. Does your family know?”
His gaze drifts to the doorway. Where in the other room, his family is playing with no worries. He’s silent for a moment, tentative in thought.
With a nod of understatement I rise from my chair to leave, but I stop to face him and say one more thing.
“Remember that oath. You can pass on the tradition or you can let it die with you. Either way it won’t make a difference.”
With my handle on the metal frame of the glass door, I hear him croak out a “See you around.”
As I leave, hands in pocket, I can’t but wonder if the next person will be just as conflicting as Allen. Time can change people. What a pain, at least that makes one less person to pick from. On to the third person. Let’s see, if I remember correctly I might have passed the building as I was coming here. Why didn’t I just go there to begin with?
*~15 Minutes Later~*
Here it is. Seems very run down, but it looks like a quiet place. The complex is located on the rather peaceful side of town. Wonder why that is?
Stepping to the double doors outlining the entrance and placing my right hand on one handle I find that it’s locked from the outside. There’s a voice com on the left of the entrance. Guess the only way inside the building is to be buzzed in. Moving towards the com I begin to search for the apartment number. The security is rather good than I expected, then again this city isn’t so safe either.
I find the number and press it with my left pointer finger. A voice answers.
“Who is it?”
“Long time no see. I’m doing fine, what about you?” Silence
A laugh escapes my mouth. I don’t think she’s changed, in personality perhaps not, appearance…. most likely. Still, it’s nice to know some things stay the same.
“Can I be let in? I’d rather not wait until it rains first—if it happens to, that is.”
“Of course! It’s nice to chat with family. Take the stairs, the elevator is in repair at the moment.” And with that I lift my finger, ending the conversation and the buzz goes off. Opening the door, I step in and and begin to climb the stairs in front of me. Third floor here I come.
*~1 Minute Later~*
The effort took a lot less than expected. I drudge the lines through my head one more time. Well I’m here, let’s get this over with. I guess she’ll greet me with a hug. Always caring about others, I should have taught her to put herself before others at times. Caring can be a weakness. Yet, surprisingly, she made it a weapon. I bowed my head and chuckled. How does he find these people?
Walking over to the door on my right, I see the number #12. Yes, this is it. I knock and hear the sound bounce off the walls until it quiets down. Awaiting the response I prepare myself for her “deadly” hugs. I guess I really did miss her hugs, but I’ll never tell her that or else I’ll never hear the end of it. I hear feet bouncing and thumping as they race to answer the door and just as it began it stopped. The door opens and a purple blur jumps onto me. Knocking us both to the ground, my back will surely be hurting later on.
“It’s nice to see you again, but could you please get off of me?” Hands laid out straight and my back stinging from impact. It feels like her squeeze got tighter over the years.
“Sorry, it’s just been so long. I couldn’t help myself.” She said while getting up and giving me a hand.
“It’s ok, Ava.”
Ava Dranger. She’s about 5’6”, almost same height as Allen. Dark glowing skin, curly black hair with purple highlights. All dressed in black, jeans, tennis shoes, and her long-sleeved shirt with violet lines going down from the shoulders. I’ve got to question her on her choice of color. While black is formal, it can take on a more, ‘edgy’ look, if not handled right. Then again, it might just be this age we’re living in. Chivalry and formality are a dying breed, such a shame.
“What brings you here?” Her arms crossed in front of her.
“Can you guess?” A smile playing my words.
“.... He’s here?” Her voiced laced with the seriousness of the situation. “And I’m one of the candidates, right?
With a nod of my head, both her questions are answered. I can’t help but smile. This seems to be truly interesting. Haven’t witnessed this in so long. Maybe he knew what he was doing when he came here. Did he plan this ahead of time?
“Any more questions or are you just going to yell and ramble on, just like Allen?”
“Ha! Like I’ll ever. Allen has always been like that, surprised he even got married. But onto the question,” her gaze turned serious, “I’m indecisive. I’m always moving. I can’t stay put and you know that. I’m still keeping the task I was given by him and completing it, even if it takes years, but I won’t reject a favor for him.” Her gaze shifted to me. “In the end it’s your choice not mine, right?” I nod slightly, content with her answer. It’s understandable, she’s been active these years. She’s always been that way since she was a kid, though I never did approve of her way of living.
“Very well, but may I ask? Why are you here, in Hellsalem’s Lot? Doesn’t seem like the place you’ll visit.”
“...True, but I don’t mind. The weirdness makes it seem normal. I feel,...content, if you know what I mean. We never had a normal childhood and maybe that’s why Allen’s here and why I’m visiting. I never regretted the path I took and I’ll continue to do so until it kills me. ”
My smile gone and the stoic stoniness masking my face before had returned., “Hmm. Very well, I got the answers I need. Hope we meet again, this time sooner. Make sure not to get killed. Something tells me this city is on the verge of chaos.”
“I can’t make any promises but I can try to see you sooner. I do miss home and Allen probably does too but he’ll never admit it. We both know that.”
“It’s nice seeing you too, have a good day.” As I descended down the stairs, I stop and whirl to her: “And make sure to get the job done. NO mistakes, you got me?”
“Yes, as always. You have a good day too, Riku.” And with that she closes the door and I continue on.
Why must I feel this now. That something might go wrong and I can’t do anything. I promised to protect him but how can I when I’m not there? Ugh, I need to clear my head. I saw a bar not far from the station when I first arrived, I’ll head there, it might calm my nerves. Maybe help me make a final decision. I better be careful though, this city isn’t safe as one might think even at night. I need more vacation time.
*~19 Minutes Later~*
I’m getting slow or is it the city itself? I don’t want to bother right now, I just want to relax. Stepping up to the dark painted brown oak door, I put my left hand and pull. The bar smells rather clean and the pink lighting makes it seem calm. Stepping in and closing the door, the warmth of the building embraces me. The bar is thriving with empty seats, a good place to sit. The booths and tables seem to be full of beyondians, chatting and simply drinking away. Walking up to the bar I sit and tap the table to get the bartender's attention letting my right arm to rest at a ninety degree angle.
“What would you like, sir?” Voice sounded distorted and faint but understandable. The beyondian had a shell shape head with a line in the crown going up and down in a crooked direction. The bottom was semi-flat, with the head dipping in the middle where talons on either side of the bottom head meet and the mouth in the middle, located on the top of the neck where both skull and spine meet. They’re wearing a tuxedo with a dark red bow.
“What do you have that makes people forget and relax?” Hinted with sarcasm.
“It’s too dangerous for humans to consume. We only offer them to those that can handle the effects it causes.” He smiled apologetically. My eyebrows perked up. They actually have something like that? I made a mental note to get my hands on it before I left, or at least the recipe.
“Very well, then give me a shot of the beyond scotch that was mentioned to me.”
“Good choice. It’s the number one drink around here.”
“Is it? Is there a reason why? Don’t answer that, please. Had enough questions and answers thrown at me already, don’t need anymore.”
Pouring the glass of scotch in front of me, they leave when it's deemed full. Grabbing it with my left hand and bringing it to my mouth, I could already smell the strong scent it emits.
Taking it a drink from it, a rush of electricity goes threw me and I feel exhilarated. I must also remind myself to take some back along with its recipe, too. What to do, what to do? I must make a choice and fast, but how do I make that? Then I also have that woman I need to find and report to her family back in Japan to get some cash. At least I got many things done today, I call that a win.
“Relaxing or simply having fun?” A voice breaks the silence. That voice was all to familiar. It must be Chain. Her voice interrupting my thoughts, and drink suspended in mid air, centimeters from my mouth.
“Is it important, and is there a difference between the two? Either way you’re enjoying yourself.”
I don’t turn to look at her. Precious silence drains away, as I formulate an answer.
“..... I found some info on that woman you were looking for.” A pause. A high probability that she still doesn't trust me.
“You did?”, his voice holds a thin line of surprise. “You didn’t need to. I was going to make that my adventure tomorrow morning.”
“Consider it payback for helping earlier today. I rather not live being in dept.”
“That makes both of us. And thank you, for the help. But... what is the information you found?”
Out of the corner of my eye I see her move to sit down on my left. She orders the same drink as me yet she didn't say a word, the bartender moves silently along the bar, already preparing a drink. I took note: she must frequently come here. Her blazer’s gone and she doesn't’ care. She must be a freespirit, there can’t be no other answer but with the solemn look in her eyes, it looks like she might be an old soul too. Her front faces me and I face towards the bar, and she doesn't seem discouraged.
“Her name is-”
“Sara Yokoyama. I know. Tell me something I don’t.” A smile creeps on her face, it looks mischievous to say the least. Almost sadistic.
“She worked at a bakery located near the center of the city. Her coworkers describe her as happy, loving, caring, and encouraging. Though they also did say that she was rather quiet.”
“Is she still working there or did she change profession?”
“Neither. A couple months back the building was collapsing due to shocks from a explosion at a bank robbery which made it to them a couple blocks down. She tried saving as many people as she could and stayed behind. Everyone got out but her and the building collapsed. ”
“Is she buried or waiting for family to come?”
“I see.” A beat passes in silence. “At least she died a hero, now I just got to explain this to her family. I’ll come claim her corpse and get her cremated for transportation back to Japan. Should cost less,” she shrugs.“I hope that's the case.”
“Why are you doing this?” She asks. “Going out of your way to help others.”
“It’s not so much helping but trying to survive.” I put my drink down on the table but I don’t let go. “Yet you aren’t worth understanding that matter either. I help because, help was given to me when I didn't have any. I was lucky, not everyone has it you know.”
Her head tilts to the left, encouraging me to explain further. “I remember once being told, ‘Luck isn’t something that just happens coincidentally, it is a blessing, a gift and few have it.’ At the time I found it to be nonsense, but now I find it to be true. ”
“Oh?” Her smile gone but still listening to my words.
“Sometimes to have luck you must give up what makes you happy or what isn't necessary.” A sad smile appears on my face as I recall the laughter that now echoes in my head. Her gaze now somewhat serious. Searching, is the right word for it. As if trying to read me. No, that isn't right. It’s as if she's trying to read my soul.
“Because hope and luck appear from surprise and despair. To let go means another adventure awaiting.”
“You talk as though you have experience.”
“Don’t we all?” She only smiles and nods with understanding.
“Now, why is a woman such as yourself still roaming the city at night. It doesn’t seem safe.” A laugh escapes my mouth as she gives me a threatening look. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Calm down.”
After having talked last night, we left our separate ways. I managed to find a motel and booked a room for one night, at the moment I‘m walking back to the train station. Thankfully I’m not hungover. The city still shrouded in darkness, awaiting the suns kiss. Looking up, the sun's rays break through the clouds illuminating the city below. Though warmth greets the day, it’s still a bit cold. What a fun and interesting adventure. They never begin out this way and I’m glad for it.
A laugh escapes my mouth. My decision was made by itself. Luck sure has its way and I’m thankful for it. The answer was facing me this whole time and this city is in for a whole lot of chaos.
Chain Sumeragi, I hope you’re ready, because you are the one to take on this task. I trust you will complete it and have fun along the way. It's going to be a handful but I assume you’ve handled much worse.
Stepping into the train station and boarding the train I take one last look. It’s going to be a while before I come back. Taking a seat in one of the booths, I stare out the window as the train begins to move. The city running backwards as the train zooms forward. Yes, this is going to be fun.
And I’m looking forward to it.