Chapter 1:

Trench Coat, Sleeves Hanging Loose

Medial Space

“And this next story you wouldn’t believe, hell, I couldn’t believe it myself. A young girl, found dead on the pavement early this morning, right outside of Shibuya Station. Yup, that’s the second this month. We managed to get word from a local who claimed to have been the first to spot her. She’d been described as having multiple stab wounds running down the length of her back and… at this point, need I really say anymore? That’s right folks, looks like there’s a serial murderer loose in Neo-Tokyo.”

Those words couldn’t come at a more inopportune time. I don’t often take days off, and when I do it’s usually because I’m forced to. As it stands, whenever it rains there’s much less foot traffic around the city. Whenever there’s less foot traffic there aren’t as many people to see. For me, that means no point in going out and I can finally relax a little. I was looking forward to spending the day in the apartment, getting my rain-enforced time off. I should really be happy about this whole ordeal, not sure why I’m this reluctant to leave. I wouldn’t usually call myself the lazy type.

I tried my best to ignore the thought, give myself a few more minutes of peace and quiet but that damn radio kept droning on. Yeah, yeah, I’ve got it, a girl murdered outside of Shibuya Station, Orson must’ve said it about twenty times over by now. Normally I’d have just tuned into another frequency but the only other thing you could get these days was noise.

“Stupid piece of junk, if I could just throw you out you know I would, don’t you?” 
It responded only in Orson’s useless chatter, he started to get into a wild theory about the murders, bordering on conspiracy. There he goes again, I guess it’s about time I leave anyways, save him the embarrassment.

The couch screeched a sigh of relief with my weight shifting up as if all it took was a couple of months ignoring the thing for it to somehow get accustomed to being of no more use than decoration. Not only that but I hadn’t exactly been keeping it clean either. Repaying me for my negligence, it spat off a cloud of dust into my room, only illuminated by the dim neons covering my walls and one bulb in the center of the ceiling. That thing seemed to grab more attention than the radio. Probably just because more people recognized it.

I liked my apartment. It was comfortable and not too clean, unlike some of those government buildings in the new ward, it just seemed to me they were trying to cover up the rest of the city’s grime with those things.

My room was made up of a kitchenette, a bathroom, a couple chairs around a small round table (inhabited by a dozen books and an empty bowl) and my mattress propped up in the corner. I needed to prop it every now and then or else it would start growing mold, especially with how humid it got in the summer. Off to the side and right next to the front door was my closet, I kept about two nice outfits in there and nothing else. The rest of my clothes got to live with me.

I didn’t want to ruin a nice outfit in the rain but at the same time I’d realized how poor of an idea going to a crime scene in a torn shirt would be, I suppose it’ll be a dress-up day. After changing I grabbed an umbrella and made my way out through the front door, it locked itself behind me. The building I lived in was pretty old but had supposedly been through a few renovations, surely only enough to keep up with most people’s bare minimum. I wouldn’t be surprised if before the auto-lock doors were installed new residents had been leaving them open all day.

Almost completely lost in my thoughts I’d managed to walk right by an unfamiliar face, only noticing a few steps after he’d passed me. The halls were narrow enough that I could’ve brushed right by his hand without any problems, and now I’ve gotta pull this dumb stunt. I blamed my foggy head and got on with it, reaching down to the floor to pick up an ID card that wasn’t there, quickly turning around and flagging the man down.

“Excuse me! Did you drop this?” I asked, coming up behind him and purposefully brushing my hand against his. Nothing.

“What? What’re you talking about?”

“Ah, never mind.” I showed him the face on the card to be someone else’s and then apologized with a smile and a shallow bow of the head, he huffed out in annoyance and walked off. Thank god he didn’t bother with me any more than that. I placed the ID back in my pocket along with two other ‘dropped’ cards, the ones I used for women and children and got on my way.

Once I’d stepped outside I could really get a feel for how hard the rain was coming down. Wouldn’t I just love to be sat back in my room right about now? I opened my umbrella and got it all fired up for a beating with a little pep talk, then I trudged out into the downpour. My willpower didn’t last long though, I’d immediately stepped my foot deep into a massive puddle, which had seemingly only existed to spite me.

It would be in my best interest to make the visit fast and get things over with, Shibuya Station wasn’t all that far and I’d be able to make the round trip in less than a couple of hours if I was quick about it. Something inside me kept saying that I love the rain so I should be happy about getting to go out in it but that’s never how liking the rain works. I like the rain similar to how people like a movie. Watching it, not being in it.

* * *

The train wouldn’t stop right at Shibuya Station so I had to walk a fair bit to get there. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but the city was still filled with people going about their days, even in the rain. I had started to wonder where I got the idea of spending rainy days indoors. It felt more than just natural to me, almost as if it had been ingrained as an important rule for survival. Well, it probably had. If I’d ever gotten rained on without a warm room, shower and change of clothes waiting for me then I’m sure I could have gotten sick enough to kick the can. Or wait, was it a bucket? Old idioms never get any easier to remember.

The crowd in front of the station was a bit bigger than I was expecting, though I did recognize a few of the faces and with any luck, I wouldn’t end up stuck here much longer than I had guessed. Making my way through the crowd and carefully brushing my hand against exposed wrists, forearms, necks and the occasional cheek when necessary, trying to get to everyone as quickly and unnoticed as possible. It took about ten minutes to finish checking the crowd. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Always nothing.

Disappointment is usually what followed but this time I was almost pleased, content enough to call it a day. Though before I got the chance to run off, I spotted a woman standing inside the crime scene that I hadn’t recognized. A long beige trench coat laid over her shoulders, the sleeves were hanging loose and her arms were folded against her chest. She seemed to be someone of authority, since she was talking to a couple of the local department’s police officers, most likely a detective. The cops were disagreeing about something with her, that much was apparent from their body language.

I stood there in the rain watching, curious how this might play out, and sure enough, the argument began to escalate. Before I knew it, the woman had thrown an arm up in the air in exasperation, I noticed then that she was wearing a pair of black leather gloves. No exposed skin. She yelled a few select words that I couldn’t quite make out at the two cops before storming off along the puddle-ridden sidewalk, leaving some angry splashes in her wake.

I should follow. I rushed over towards where she seemed to be headed, she dipped into a tent, one that opened on the other end of a thick crowd. I would have to push through. It was a larger hurdle than I was expecting, trying to contend with this many people pushing and shoving wasn’t exactly pleasant.

“Coming through, excuse me—in a bit of a hurry.”

No one seemed to respond to my plea and I only barely managed to squeeze myself between what must have been a married couple with how far apart they’d been standing. Unceremoniously emerging on the other side, I nearly tripped on someone’s foot coming out from the crowd, stumbling forwards and barely catching myself from falling on my face. Thanks for the help.

Not too pleased, I was met with another large crowd waiting at a crosswalk and no one else in either direction. She must be in there somewhere. The reason for the crowd seemed to be a long row of black cars and in between them a limo, not something you see every day. Might even be the first time I’ve ever seen a limo. Before giving myself time to stare, I looked around again to see if I could spot the detective anywhere. No luck. I suppose I’ll be checking everyone in this crowd too then.

Right as I’d begun to reach out for the first person’s bare hand, I felt a cold pressure against the back of my neck. Without so much as a second to realize what was going on, my stomach flipped and gravity began to sway. My eyes were already starting to lose focus but my vision blurred even further when I tried spinning my head around to catch a glimpse of who’d touched my neck. All of my surroundings were getting mixed together like wet paint on a canvas, the more I moved my head around, the more each colour merged with its adjacent until I couldn’t distinguish one from the next. The noise of rain and crowd had also been drowned out into an unclear wash of sound until I’d been left only in silence.

Before I knew it, I was standing in a pitch-black void, or sitting, or floating. I wasn’t sure. The only part of my body that I could still feel was my stomach churning in circles as the gravity around me seemed to push and pull in whichever direction it so pleased. Any attempts to make a noise or call out seemed futile, I was using the better part of my energy just to keep myself from puking up this morning’s breakfast. This was nowhere near as pleasant as I remember it being.

Suddenly as if in response to that thought, a new swirling of colours filled my vision. They all emerged from a singular point as if it were far off in the distance, yet at the same time much too vivid to be any farther than a few feet from my face. Cyans and pinks, purples and greens, a few yellows and reds splashed in here or there. Each colour worked together to form shapes spiraling around the center, they seemed to be made of some undeterminable liquid, one which was as fluid as water yet as opaque as paint. Spinning around each other in perfect form and somehow keeping from mixing together, the movements reminded me of something you might catch synchronized swimmers performing. It was hard to call it anything other than beautiful.

Though just as suddenly as it had begun, the spinning jerked to a stop, allowing each colour to mix with one another into one messy ball. Along with the spiral stopping, I too felt myself beginning to mix back into what I could only assume was reality, a shifting of forces as I felt the suddenly familiar pull of gravity. First in my eyes, then my stomach, my breakfast sinking back down to where it should’ve sat the whole time. I slowly regained the feeling of my feet on solid ground, looking down to where they would normally be and seeing only the dark void, my vision clearly hadn’t come back yet.

The messy ball of colour in front of me had seemed to set itself in motion, fanning out into a large circle; no not a circle. It was turning itself into a sphere of muddied colours, slowly surrounding me. The process had nearly distracted me enough to miss a silhouette appearing at the origin of the colours, it was a woman only a few meters in front of me. Her body was all that I could make out, long legs, slender waist, hints of long hair hugging her sides. The silhouette then turned and began to walk away, carefully placing each foot in front of the other as if one misstep might throw her fate to the wind.

The colours slowly filled in around her, clearing up from their vague muddied look to the view of a downtown crosswalk through a wall of water. I stood there stunned for a moment before physically taking a step forwards, pushing myself through the fluid I’d been sleeping in and rejoining my body with closed eyes, opening them to the damp half-wet view I’d been so abruptly torn away from a few minutes ago.

After being taken away from and then plopped back into the middle of the city, certain things jumped out at you. The massive screens towering overhead that I’d somehow learned to ignore: the surprising density of smog in the air; the rumble of trains underground; the busy passengers of said trains walking and talking their way to the stations, chatting and gossiping about politics; the safety of the city in general or the recent murders; and then on top of all that, what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Neo-Tokyo was a massive place and for me to expect to find someone else like me… It was a small miracle that I’d finally done it. Right then the crowd started to cross the street. I never did see who touched my neck. Wait.

A small burst of energy shot through my whole body. I very much needed to find her. Frantically whipping my head backwards to see if she’d disappeared behind me, inspecting each individual person that I could spot, quickly sorting everyone into my own mental ‘not applicable’ category. It didn’t take long to grab the attention of a couple of confused onlookers, concerned glares silently questioned if I’d gone insane. I won’t lie though, I really didn’t care (neither about the glares nor potentially having gone insane).

Switching my focus back to my front, scanning across the crowd that I’d just been standing in, a small sliver directly in front of me magically opened up amongst the sea of people. Right there, framed by the jackets, umbrellas and stumbling pedestrians, I’d spotted a familiar figure. It was the detective. The first thing I’d noticed was her gait, carefully placing each foot in front of the other. Next, I saw her trench coat, sleeves hanging loose.

Joe Gold
Joshua Lundquest
Soft & Wet