Chapter 2:

Seat of Marble

The Hollow

It neither spoke nor breathed. It simply was suspended in the air, no limbs peaking from beneath the robe or sleeves. Dark shadows flickered like flames from a fire, from the hood, the sleeves, and the bottom of the robe. The air around the figure seemed to writhe with a chilling silence.Bookmark here

A picture perfect shinigami, god of death, stood before Kiseki, on a backdrop of dense, grey-silver fog, slowly rolling and coiling.Bookmark here

Kiseki swallowed a ball of fear crawling up her throat. She felt a bead of sweat roll down the side of her neck. Instinctively, she reached up to wipe it away with her hand. But her arm did not move.Bookmark here

She looked down and saw that she was seated on what looked like a white chair made of marble. It was cold to the touch, the chill seeping through her jeans. And on the arm rests, her arms were clamped down with equally white marble-like restraints. They felt cold. Kiseki tried to wiggle her arm out of the shackle but it was very much solid and looked as though it was one with the rest of the chair. Perhaps it really was also made of marble.Bookmark here

Her legs were equally locked in place. Her ankles felt like they were trapped in ice, which told her that they were restrained in the same manner as her wrists were. Her torso was also clamped to the back of the white marble coldness, locking her in place. As she awkwardly jerked her knees and elbows around, the figure remained silently floating, as if observing her.Bookmark here

Finding herself unable to move her body at all, Kiseki felt the fear rise up and wash over her, a heavy woolen blanket. And the fear made her voice quiver.Bookmark here

“Wh- where, am I? Who, who are you?”Bookmark here

Her voice echoed, as if they were in a cavern, and was not dampened and lost in the thick swirling fog.Bookmark here

Silence followed Kiseki’s words and she swallowed once and looked at the face of the hooded figure. Or where she thought the face was. When she heard a low male voice respond, not aloud, but seemingly straight into her mind, causing her to flinch. She looked up but no mouth had materialized from the shadows of the hood.Bookmark here

Welcome to my game.Bookmark here

“My… what… ‘your’ game?”Bookmark here

You have been chosen as a player. You are tasked with surviving as long as you can.Bookmark here

“Surviving? What… what do you mean?”Bookmark here

This is a game of life or death. Kill or be killed.Bookmark here

“Kill… A killing… game…?”Bookmark here

State your name, player.Bookmark here

Kiseki’s mind was a whirlpool. A player. In a game. A game of life and death. Where you had to kill to survive. This was no run of the mill console game or computer game. It was a real, flesh and blood game where Kiseki was a player and not on the other side of a screen. Images of video games that Kiseki had played before, flashed across, behind her eyes, attempting to illuminate the blankness that was crawling over her mind, panic attempting to cope by shutting down her body.Bookmark here

Player, your name.Bookmark here

The blankness was shattered by the low voice. It pierced the whirlpool in Kiseki’s mind and she snapped back to senses.Bookmark here

“My… name?”Bookmark here

Yes, your name.Bookmark here

Without hesitation, much to her own surprise, Kiseki opened her mouth and the words tumbled forth like a water from a pitcher.Bookmark here

“My name is Kiseki Matsubayashi.”Bookmark here

At her response, the voice stood silent for a moment. Then, there was the sound of something crackling. Kiseki blinked then watched in frozen awe as she watched a piece of yellowed paper materialize before her. It looked like it had been taken from an old book, the pages worn with age, the paper smelling strongly of dust. As the paper formed, the crackling ceased. But then, an invisible pen began writing something on the paper.Bookmark here

It was Kiseki’s name. And it was in her handwriting.Bookmark here

Kiseki’s awe melted away and was replaced by fear. How did her handwriting end up on that paper without her touching it? Why was her handwriting there? The small writing that her friend once said looked like chicken scratch, that writing that was all too familiar to her, now looked like a foreign language. Like it was a piece of manuscript placed in a glass case at a museum.Bookmark here

As her mind raced, the letters of her handwriting began to move and shift on the page. A soft, faint rustling could be heard. As the letters continued to move and blur, the rustling grew louder, until it stopped like it had been switched off. And before her, on the paper, there remained a single word. Kiseki stared at the word on the paper.Bookmark here

“Ki… Kiyashi.”Bookmark here

Player Kiyashi, welcome.Bookmark here

“My… my name isn’t Kiyashi. My, my name is Ki-“Bookmark here

No sooner had those words left her mouth, something caught in her throat and dissolved, never making it past her lips.Bookmark here

“My name is… Kiyashi.”Bookmark here

A rattling breath escaped Kiyashi’s lips as her name rung in her ears. Her name. What was her name? Another name? Did she have one? It felt as though the fog rolling around on all sides had crept into her mind. It grasped those questions and wiped them away, leaving Kiyashi wondering what the feeling of loss she had just felt a moment ago, was.Bookmark here

Player Kiyashi, best of luck to you.Bookmark here

The voice spoke again, echoing in Kiyashi’s mind. Then there was a sound like a piece of heavy cloth rustling. Like a curtain being drawn at the beginning of a theatre show. With that sound, the hooded figure, the floating paper, the fog, and the white marble chair all disappeared as if wiped away. Kiyashi felt her limbs go slack like she was a marionette whose strings had been cut. And the darkness rushed in and enveloped her.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.