Chapter 1:

Chasing After Thanatos

Chasing After Thanatos

It was a balmy summer night when my phone buzzed to notify me about a message. Unfortunately for me, my phone leapt from the counter before I could get to it, cracking the still-lit screen. Through the webbed glass, I saw it was my brother. We were never close, but we exchanged pleasantries around the holidays and shared pictures of things that caught our interest from time to time. That night he sent a single image of a bleeding sky. It came with a second message which contained only one, cryptic line: Tonight I'm meeting Thanatos and accepting his invitation.

One week and two days passed since my brother met with Thanatos and disappeared into the night. During that time I asked myself what the message meant. Why did he only send it to me? His friends didn't know anything. Our parents couldn't comprehend it either. Then I figured it out. I knew what I had to do.

It took some effort to bring myself here, but tonight I'd finally meet him—I could stop chasing after Thanatos.

"Miss Fujiwara... Miss Fujiwara?" The building manager tapped his bulky finger against the counter as he waited for my reply.

"Sorry, come again?" The buzzing and flickering of the fluorescent lights overhead combined with the balding man's tapping to create a grating symphony. "I've got a bit of a headache."

He stopped his tapping and pushed some papers toward me through the sliding window that separated us. "I should've had you do this while I was getting the key, but once you take care of these last few things I'll take you to his room... I'm sorry by the way."

"It's fine," I said, lying. "I'm sure this has been a lot for you to deal with too." I began looking over the papers.

"You're telling me," he said with a long sigh. "The police finally stopped coming by a few days ago and the media calmed down too." He paused, wrinkling his pudgy face into an expression of disgust. "Anyway, I left his room alone like we discussed over the phone. I can give you until the end of the day... sorry." His voice had a callousness that overpowered any sympathy that might have accompanied it.

"I understand." I slid the papers back to him.

He inspected each one carefully and nodded with a painted-on smile. "Alright, everything's in order." He thrust a hulking hand out to me, dangling a key.

I moved the vase of lilies I'd brought with me between us, its stark white contents standing out against my black dress. "Actually, I was hoping—"

"Right, I'll walk you up."

"No, I mean... Thank you, I'd appreciate that. I meant to say that I was hoping to see the roof as well."

He stopped his smiling. "I wouldn't recommend it."

I set the vase down again and dug around in my purse for my phone—which still wasn't fixed. I went to my recent photos with practiced ease. "That's the view from here, isn't it? I wanted to see it for myself." An uncomfortable silence formed between us.

He started to gesture with his hands and open his mouth but I didn't let him.


His mouth closed and he placed a hand back onto the counter, tapping with his fingers again. "Fine, but make it quick."

I nodded.

The building manager came out from behind his counter through a nearby door and waddled his way over to the stairs. "The elevator's out." It was obvious from how he was already sweating that he wasn't looking forward to this.

"It's alright," I said with a gentle voice as if I were attempting to coax an animal to trust me. "You don't have to trouble yourself."

He didn't even bother hiding his relief as he practically flung the keys at me and scurried back to his counter. "I'll wait here until you're done, but remember, you only have until the end of the day."

I gave my affirmations and started to ascend the stairs but stopped and looked back at him. "One more thing if you don't mind."

"What is it?" He scowled.

"Do you know Thanatos?"


"Than-a-tos." I said slowly, emphasizing every syllable.

He shook his head. "I think I'd remember a name like that... Was he a friend of your brother's or something?"

I almost laughed but kept my composure. "No, not at all... Never mind then." The puzzled look on the man's face vanished as I went around the corner of the stairwell.

I continued past my brother's floor and went straight for the roof. It would be getting dark soon and I couldn't miss my chance—I couldn't let him get away. The climb was effortless. It was as if my feet had sprouted wings, guiding me to my destination. But then I stopped at the rusting metal door. The barred window was so caked with dirt that it served no function. Once I took the key curled up in my hand and opened it I knew that there'd be no turning back. Thanatos would be waiting.

Fresh air rushed to my nostrils and ruffled the fabric of my dress as I left the musty apartment building behind. I took a sharp inhale and drank in the open air. I was early. Across from me a chainlink fence with the tattered remains of police tape waving in the wind, as if beckoning me closer, was all that separated me from the deep blue sky.

I approached the fence and knelt. I placed the vase of lilies on the weathered concrete and clapped my hands together in prayer, closing my eyes.

Anticipation welled up inside me as I knew that when I next opened my eyes, the ritual would be complete—I'd see Thanatos.

Orange and red blossomed in the sky as I opened my eyes. Through the interlocking pieces of metal, I found what I was looking for. I took out my phone one final time and opened my brother's last messages.

Sure enough, the photo didn't have this ugly obstruction.

I read the text again, Tonight I'm meeting Thanatos and accepting his invitation.

With a few taps of my finger, I turned on my phone's camera and pressed record. With my free hand, I slipped off my shoes.

All that was left was to climb the fence.

Squeezing my phone tight in one hand, my other grabbed onto the icy fence. My fingers curled around the flimsy feeling loops and I gave a subconscious tug to ensure I'd be secure. Despite appearances, I knew it would hold. Next, my foot found purchase in one of the larger gaps, the jagged metal ripping into my stockings. Then, before I knew it, I found myself at the top.

Thanatos smiled at me as I looked out in his direction. He looked at me with kind and understanding eyes, then motioned for me to come like a parent to their crying child.

Was I crying? The thought confused me. I never was much of a crybaby, but damp streaks ran down my cheeks and dispelled all doubt.

I guess I haven't all this time.

I wanted to avert my eyes but I pictured my brother's smile.

I knew he wouldn't want me to.

This is it.

My fear and trepidation quieted.

Taking in one long breath, I shifted to sit on the fence's edge, feet dangling in the sky.

How many times did you come up here, brother?

Thanatos waited patiently, his form hazy in the evening heat.

How many times did Thanatos ask you to come with him?

Then another thought...

Or was it you who sought him?

Of course, Thanatos didn't answer. He didn't need to.

I held out my phone with the camera lens facing the morphing sky. Streaks of dark purple penetrated the vibrant orange and reds, telling me my time was almost up.

Are you watching, brother?

With a steady hand, I released my grip and let the phone hurtle to the ground where it no doubt shattered on the pavement below.

Now we've seen the same sky. I'm sorry I never understood before.

I sat up there and waited for the evening to envelop me, watching Thanatos fade into the night.


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