Chapter 1:


Telling the Bees

Mitsu finally accepted that they were all fakes.

He'd traveled from Okinawa to Hokkaido and swaths of areas in between in search of a medium with actual power, and just like his friends and family had warned him countless times, not even one of them had possessed any kind of means to help him, no matter how much he emptied his wallet.

It wasn’t simple naivete—not at 30. It wasn’t even a particularly strong belief in the occult. He just wanted to tell his late wife something so badly, he had to keep trying. Besides, he wasn’t easily discouraged. There were so many mediums out there, surely at least one of them was the real deal.

At least, that was what he thought—until now.

The man he was seeing currently was the last “reputable” medium he could find, and he too was a fake.

After so many failed attempts, Mitsu now recognized how sinister the mediums really were. Death was their occupation, and misery was what kept them fed. They were predators—sharks that preyed on the most vulnerable. He was done feeding them.

Going by the look on the unshaven medium’s face as he clutched his prayer beads close, he knew he wasn’t convinced.

“I’m sorry, the spirits aren’t being very cooperative today. If you’d like, maybe if you stop by next week they’ll—“

Mitsu raised his hand. “No, no need,” he said with a tired smile. “Thank you for your time.”

And with that, Mitsu made his way to the beaten cash register at the front of the small shop, placed a bundle of bills on the counter, and grabbed his coat.

Winter had been mild the last couple of months, but today he felt bitterly cold as he tried to blink the dryness from his eyes. His beloved Kei car beeped as he pressed the unlock button on his keys. While it wasn’t a car normally meant for racing, he enjoyed competing in the Kei car races at the Suzuno F7 Track. In fact, he met most of his close friends through racing. The reward for winning was hardly much— it probably wasn’t as exciting as watching race cars blister down the track, either—but Mitsu found it fulfilling all the same.

After settling behind the wheel, he found himself tracing the frayed edges of the butterfly steering wheel cover his wife—Sakura—had bought him for his first race. He still remembered how she had walked up to him right before the start of the race and handed it to him, covered in strings of crisscrossing ribbon. “So you have a piece of me with you when you’re racing,” she’d said with a bright grin.

The guys at the track teased him about it initially, but he’d just proudly told them it was something his wife had gotten to support him, and they’d quickly shut up. Out of everyone in his friend group, he was the only one whose wife supported his racing.

He rested his head on the steering wheel and closed his eyes for a moment. Despite putting most of her day-to-day things away in a storage unit and returning other precious mementos to her family, there were still little reminders of her in his life no matter what he did.

If he could just give her his final message, he thought he’d be able to move on and maybe—maybe he’d stop thinking of her when he passed her favorite brand in the shampoo aisle, or when he turned on the TV after work and the cooking show they used to watch together was on.

Maybe living his normal everyday life wouldn’t hurt so much.


Mitsu nearly stumbled as he toed off his shoes at the entrance of his empty apartment. He had gotten off work early to see the medium, and his head was throbbing just thinking about the amount of work he would have to make up. Thankfully, he knew it was nothing a good expresso couldn’t fix.

As Mitsu pulled the coffee grounds from the kitchen cabinet, he asked his voice assistant to play some light music for him. The ritual of choosing the grounds he wanted, measuring them, and putting them in the machine was just as soothing as the smoothness of the coffee itself.

After pouring the right amount of water into the coffeemaker and turning it on, he sat down at the kitchen bar while he waited for it to be done. Mitsu tapped the email app open on his phone and winced upon seeing the dozen or so work messages that had accumulated in his inbox in just a few hours. He hadn’t even taken a full day off, and yet he felt like he had a small lifetime of work to make up.

Mitsu groaned and put his phone face down on the counter. There was no sense worrying about it now, so he decided to change and get comfortable. He couldn’t stand the smell of incense clinging to his clothes and clogging his nose any longer.

Mitsu took the short trip down his hallway to his half-open bedroom door and nudged it all the way open with his foot. He breathed a sigh of relief as he pulled off his shirt and chucked it into the hamper. The heater was warm enough in the apartment that he decided he didn’t need to bother with a shirt, so he just opted to change into his favorite pair of white sweatpants. A joke gift from his wife, the sweats said BOOTY on the back in bold pink letters. They were surprisingly comfortable, so much so that Mitsu secretly loved wearing them around the apartment, much to his wife’s amusement.

Hearing the jingle that signaled that his coffee was finished, Mitsu returned to the kitchen with eager hands. He stirred the cream in the coffee carefully as he sat down on his plush leather couch, trying his best to move slowly so that he wouldn’t spill it. Mitsu blew on the surface of the coffee once before taking a careful sip. He hummed contentedly, allowing himself to sink into the cushions and listen to the soft piano melody playing from the speaker.

If there were any space left on the coffee table, he would have stretched out his legs, but it was too cluttered with all his books on myths and legends to even try.

He reached over and picked up his favorite volume, a book of ancient folklore about bees. He’d always been a bit of a geek when it came to mythology—particularly Celtic myths—and after Sakura died, he’d taken to reading through them again. Tears filled his eyes as he stared down at the cover. Myths had nothing to offer to him, except an intense longing. He’d lost count of how many times his heart had begged to wake up to a world where he could reach her again.

He tossed the book back on the pile with a shaky sigh and set his coffee aside. He scrubbed his tears away with his arm.

He was so exhausted.

He still couldn’t  get used to the feeling of having the bed to himself, and it left him tossing and turning all night.

Mitsu wished that sleep was the answer to his fatigue, but he knew what he really needed was a thrill—a rush that could defog his mind in an instant. 

Luckily, he knew just where he could get one.