Through the darkness there was an awareness of something heavy pressing into her thighs. Trying to move in pulse after aching pulse, feeling to a place past the hips where the numbness began, Eve’s fingers brushed up against something heavy, immovable. Bunching muscles against a barrier of nonfeeling, straining to roll out from what was pinning her. A lurch and a snag, a delicate balance of gravity and inertia––then a sense of flight as the weight dropped on sound-dampening carpet. She took no notice of her liberation as she waited for some human sense of give. Nothing––no semi-coherent groan, no half-awareness of hitting rock bottom. Reaching into memories that did not quite cohere, she found a submerged recollection of last night. Ken. The love hotel.
Eve swung her legs over the side of the bed, nerves exploding in a painful reawakening. Waiting for the jagged edges to subside, she worked to bring focus to the pale shape on the floor. Attempting to stand, her knees flattened and buckled, and she dropped against the carpet. The texture of the fibers on her cheek was synthetic, the smell faintly antiseptic. Reaching arms behind, she felt for the hard edge of the bed frame. She brought herself achingly into a seated position, gaze pinching in on itself to a pale form on the floor. A sinking sensation in her stomach, far worse than fear––realization. Holding her breath for a sickening moment as the half-naked torso came into focus, the soft line of the chest leading to a head cocked at unnatural angle. The mouth open as if about to speak, eyes lifeless. Grasping at Ken’s wrist, she felt for a twitch, a pulse––nothing.
Eve worked her way to the thin yellow line that must be a door. Finding the knob and twisting it, she emerged into an empty hallway. As her legs regained sensation, she registered something hard and sticky along the hem of her dress. Fighting back urges to scream and retch. Get a hold of yourself, she repeated silently, wiping the blood down the sides of her dress. Need to… Halfway down the hall, she caught sight of herself in a mirror. It wasn’t her––it was some blood-splattered survivor who had descended into the subways and come out barely alive. Eve stumbled back down the hall and through the still open door, feeling her way along the wall. Her nostrils flared, a particular scent she registered only as death cutting through ancient layers of antiseptic and musk.
Eve ran cold water in the sink basin and rubbed her face and arms. She slipped off her dress and rinsed the stiffened fabric over and over. The areas that were still wet, responsive to rinsing––where Ken’s body had lain on her––gave way to edges of hardness, where blood had pooled, thickened, encrusted. It was not going away and she did not have time… wringing out as best she could, Eve stepped back into a thin cloth that stuck against thighs and stomach. A return of nausea––she knelt at the toilet basin and heaved without anything coming up. The throbbing in her head increasing, a fractured awareness through a fog––drugged––I’ve got to get out––
Eve looked around for her purse, cell phone––she should’ve placed them on the side table. There was nothing, just endless carpet leading to Ken’s inert form at the base of the bed. Confronting his too-wide gaze again she could not turn away. No time, I’ve got to–– She backed out of the room, not letting his gaze break until it was physically gone.
Back into the hallway, down four flights of stairs, Eve skirted the main lobby and found a side door. She pushed it open, blinking in the sudden sunlight. All around her the usual Tokyo workaday bustle, at odds with the nighttime scene she had expected. She wandered down the street without knowing exactly where, averting her eyes as she passed salarymen in dark suits. Through Roppongi crossing and past the Hyatt Regency, down a street that grew narrower and quieter, residential––past the reinforced walls of the Chinese Embassy and the guards who stood stock-straight, not even glancing at her. To a smaller intersection, a police station and a park. Here she hesitated, glancing around for the first time. She knew this place. Ari–– Arisakura Park. Her feet were leading her left and as she hurried past a tennis club and luxury condominiums it struck her that they knew exactly where she was going.
Eve found the house on the quiet, sloped street past the Korean embassy; semi-traditional, with a small boulder-indented garden. The only thing unusual about it from the outside the large number of well-used shopping bicycles on the walkway. She turned the handle of the front door. Finding the entrance hall empty, she slipped off her shoes and made her way down a dark, narrow hallway.
Arisugawa Park, by Damon Shulenberger. All rights reserved.