The darkness

The Darkness

As he stepped closer to the bar the floor beneath his feet groaned and splintered, cracking under the weight of his body. The dusty room felt cold and uninviting to the newly formed demon and as he looked around all he could see was decay and a deathly feeling of loss. Streaming light fell from the holes in the roof and the boards in the walls falling delicately over his features and shivering stumbled forward unsure on what he should do. Raising his hand up slowly he studied a mark, a tattoo black as the night and deep as an endless pit, a mark he would come to know as the debt to be paid.

Feeling the raised surface on his skin he rubbed it, scratching the skin, bringing a drop of blood to the surface. As it drips down silently to the floor it expands into a pool of dark matter sucking in the light, spreading slowly like a snake. Raising his head he looks forward the terror of the situation comes more clearly to his mind and for the first time he sees his face since the transition in the dusty mottled mirror behind the bar.

“So this is my fate, this is my reward for the life that was mine and then taken away by those who wanted control and power over others.”

Walking forward he looks towards the cracked mirror its reflection drawing him in, inviting him to gaze upon the features newly formed and yet without blemish. A soft skin that was not his own flesh, but made from those of the damned and the lost. Gasping in realisation, cold air strikes his lungs as if he had been hit in the chest and struggles to gain his breath.

“Is this what my soul looks like, Is this how those now look on me from the outside?”

Dropping his head he closes the lids of his black eyes, the silence becomes a deafening roar around him. The beat of his heart sounds louder than everything around like the thumping of a bass drum at a club and his pulse begins to races to the point of panic. Unknown to the demon the velvet blood starts to rise from the floorboards and falling to the floor it consumes and covers his body without a sound; slipping silently through from the world of death to the world of the living.

* The darkness surrounds me, the light no longer free, I can’t feel my body any more and time stops, everything about me stands still.*

He feels himself curl up into a ball with his arms around his legs, hugging himself to keep warm from the touch of the dark blood wishing he could see again if only for a minute, to see the faces of the people he once knew, to hold them close, to tell them he cared.

Time passes and then the cold was suddenly real, he could feel the rain fall down his face as he blinked into the downpour, the sweet taste of the water dripping onto his dry lips mixed with salty tears. Light comes back to his vision and the world steps forth in-front of him a ghostly grey dream suddenly come to the front like a dagger to the heart, a sharp and steel tipped death scythe.

Touching the metal bars of the fire escape with his fingers its icy embrace crippling, he froze; the memory of a time passed flashed before him momentarily, before returning to where it came from. Convulsing pain erupts behind his eyes a scene of all the hurt and loneliness appears like a cini film on the concrete wall opposite. Trying as he might he could not turn away, he could not help but touch the image of his memories so close but a faded recollection he could not quite make a connection with: almost like, like it was someone else’s life and not his own. A scene of the demon when he was younger sent to his room to be on his own with no food, no love, nothing to do, no friends; locked away and forgotten. No hope, no chance of a softly spoken word of comfort to look forward to and as he feels the cold he locks away his emotions to protect his heart convinced that this world is nothing but cruel and broken.

*How long has it been since I felt the rain on my skin, how long has it been since I listened to the gentle patter of rain falling on a window pane?*

The wind blew around the corner of the block of flats in down-town Tokyo; a bed sheet caught in the breeze wrapped itself around his naked body offering only a slight protection from prying eyes and the elements, whipping at his unprotected skin. Pulling it over his back and arms the young demon looks towards the light coming from the window above, his black hair stuck to his face and shoulders, matted and knotted together. From the window above a figure comes out from the dark and steps into the light his features illuminated from below by the small reading lamp on his desk. As the demon looks more closely he begins to make out his bright blue eyes, his face looking outside at the wall as if he was unsure of what he had just seen.

*How can I reach this angel, how can I feel his warmth? A light in the darkness, a cure for my blackened and twisted soul.*

As he looked down, his gaze momentarily stopped as the demon wept below, his eyes red with fear and pain drowned with sorrow he bowed to the ground, lost to the world, lost to his own fate reaching out cold hands numb and frozen by the wind. And, then as his heart missed a beat he was suddenly there in front of him:

“Take my hand…” a voice in his mind called out from the wind swept world he had fallen too only moments ago.

“I’m not what you think;” he said raising his voice above the noise of the storm. “My debt is not yet paid! How can I live when I still hunger for love and the pain of betrayal still boils in my blood?” he continued to talk to him as if the demon was talking to the world around him, his face searching for an answer that was not yet forthcoming.

“Take it now, you don’t have long…” and the angel above lifted its wings and pulled the limp demonic form from its resting place and through the window and safety, a welcome dream in a nightmare world not of his own making. Carefully laying the limp form of the demon down on the bed the young man pulls over the bed covers and begins to dry him off and whispers gently in his ear. “It is better to conquer your own monsters than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”

As the weight lift a little from his mind and content that he is safe the demon falls into a deep sleep and the room fades from his view the clock on the wall the only thing he can hear apart from the breath and body heat from his winged saviour somewhere close to him…

As his mind clears deep dreams take over, a white light fills his vision and he finds himself on a hill covered in white grass gently blowing on the breeze. Picking himself up off the ground he stands up and stretches his body and wings as if he has just woken from a long nap on a lazy summers day the sun beating down with warmth he has never known before, illuminating his dark skin.

Shielding his eyes he looks up towards the sky but instead of finding a blue colour he only sees white light fading away to the horizon in front of him like a whiter shade of pale, the world about void of colour, the only sound a gentle whisper on the wind as he reached the top of the hill.

“Let me tell you a story.” The figure said abruptly as the demon turned to face what he could only describe as an angel standing in front of him and as he smiled it rested its hand on his shoulder and guided him to sit down on a nearby rock.

“Once there was only the light and the dark, once…” he continued tilting his head to one side “there was not even good or bad”. “But there was no life, no joy. The light asked the dark if there was anything more and the dark said that there was only the void as it had always been. The light wanted more and felt the need to light up the dark and just as the possibility was thought of, the world was born as the light touched the dark with an outstretched hand.”

“Even the single thought of something more meant that there had to be existence, and that is how we became into being.” A slight smile escaped his lips as he revealed the last fact to his captive audience. Looking into his eyes the demon was held in awe as the wind blew through his long white hair.

“Simplistic, yes… but it was how it had to be and we were born out of the chaos that followed.. “

“Tell me your name demon” he questioned the black form that sat patiently on the hill.

“I, I can’t it’s not possible to know the past unless the debt is paid.” And he looked down at the ground and sadness flashed again through his mind. Moving closer and leaning over the angel continued “Contemplate your sadness; climb the hill that seems so far out of reach.”

The demon thought for a long while and time passed for an eternity and looked sad that he could not remember his previous life, that the blank feeling that something is lost and cannot be recovered..Looking up towards the angel he lifted his head feeling the tender touch of his hand under his chin, focusing on his eyes their lips met for a split second a feeling that he wished could last forever.. “Ryio”… he screamed at the top of his voice as the breath escaped his lips and he woke in a cold sweat covering his body, the sheets damp and clinging to his body like a bad nightmare..

He sat up panting deeply; out of breath, a mixture of pain and fear etched on his face, the kiss of life given by the angel, by the person now standing over him, by the only person he could care for.


Two minds

Opening the curtains he lets the light from the early morning flood into the room its warm embrace softly caresses the demons skin as time passes by. Blinking as he wakes he looks back into the light holding up his hand to shield his vision from the sunshine. He pushes the covers off the bed, moves to the window a mixture of delight and expectancy of what was waiting for him outside, a world new and free or a world of cruel bonds.

The young man’s face turns a deep shade of red as he stands dead still looking directly at the demon as it stands naked by the window. Sensing a shift in the mood the demon realises that he is again among humans that are not used to displays of nudity and especially not that of an unknown demon in his room all alone. Undeterred and unashamed, edging nearer he looks fascinated with the marks on the demons body and looking down starts to trace a line across his skin with his fingers. Touching the black inky lines and following them up, he reaches his face and studies his features as the light of day reflects in his dark eyes the red sparkle of the pupils and pulls him in.

Grabbing his hand he pulls him away from the window and over to the cupboard door flinging it open to reveal a large closet full of every colour and style of clothes imaginable. Staring back into the demons eyes he smiles and pushes him forward and tentatively he takes it as his cue to try on some clothes. The mixture of old and new was confusing to the demon and he felt out of his depth and excited all at once, able for the first time to choose exactly what he looked like. Feeling the soft fabric between his fingers he picks out a black net t-shirt and pulls it over his head stroking it with the back of his hand and then reaches for some tight dark jeans that only just fit on and sits awkwardly on the floor. As he looks up he can see the young man leaning up against the door sending a message on his phone and not wanting to miss out he picks out a pair of scuffed leather heels from the pile on the carpet and pulls them quickly on.

He finishes with his phone message and thrusts his hands into the back corner, pulling forward a leather jacket with red detailing on the edges and a red silk lining at the back and hands it to the demon. Feeling for the holes he pushes his arms through and lets it slip over his back, the silk felt soft to the touch and for the first time he felt warm. A short chuckle escapes his lips as he covers his mouth with his hand trying to stifle a smile. An expectant look crossed the demons face and as he turned to show off his new outfit to him spinning around on the spot. Looked him up and down his face shows an approval and holding up his finger to beckon him forward as he backed up towards the bedroom door.

As the pair ran out of the room and through the kitchen his mother shouted at the demon “He can’t talk you know”, but he just flung open the front door and waited for the demon to catch up in the hallway. A wry smile crossed his lips and as he turned and they both walked together down the building concrete steps and out onto the street. Outside the sunshine was blinding to the demon and he had to blink, a number of minuets’ passed before he could see properly again and take in the street scene around him. The bustle of cars and bikes on the road in front of him captures his view as his senses get flooded with sounds, feelings and colours of modern Tokyo city and he looks about in wonder as if he is looking to the stars for the first time seeing their brilliant light shine.

Taking a look up at the sky he turns gently around and realises he is free to do as he wants again, free to feel life on his own terms, no restrictions, no rules. Tapping him on the shoulder and taking his hand in his own he pulls him down the busy road and off into a side street.

Hot steam streams into the street from the kitchens below and the sweet smell of food reaches his nose and making him feel hungry for something to eat, his stomach groaning. A paper delivery man comes into view on his bike and waves to the boy as he passes by heading for the main street and his first stop for the day. A lady and her son hurry along, walking on their way to the school campus. The demon sees him dressed in a smart uniform the mum trying to straighten up the clothes to make them look presentable but the son protests at all the fussing. Looking about a woman stands in a darkened doorway talking on the phone, her tone seems to be angry and he pulls him past quickly. Recognising him the lady shouts something back he can’t quite make out and he makes a rude gesture in return. Neon lights flicker on in a local shop as the shutters go up and the customers duck underneath in a hurry to get something to eat before work takes them to the office.

Running headlong into the heart of the city he looks all around, the demon surveying the scene before him, a vast shopping area with lots of fashion shops and boutiques opening out with a central fountain at the middle. Sensing that he is more exposed than usual he tries to hide his face as people stream past in quick succession but no one stops to look too closely at his strange features.

“Is this a place of dreams? Places where I can be accepted as normal or do people just not question That I’m different to them, or do they think me a freak of nature or simply a man in a costume?” With no time to think the demons heart began to race as he was pulled inside a big glass fronted building of a fashion house the reflection from the doors staring back at him. Huge stairs in front wind up to a private mezzanine and with a sharp shove gets pushed down onto a big black leather sofa. Feeling a bit dizzy from all the running about and lack of food the demon feels sick and reaches forward and grabs the waste bin next to the desk in front of him. As his body rejects the contents of his stomach he felt tears fall down his face from the pain he felt within slightly scared at what might happen next.

Panting heavily he sees the young man reach for a control that sat on the desk, and as he presses a button on the remote he waits for the blinds to come up from the windows around the room. Light floods in and in anticipation and the lack of food temporarily forgotten he steps over to the view outside. Pressing in hands to the glass on the window he looks out over the city and takes in the panoramic view all around him. He can see out over Shibuya and out further to the heart of the city and its landmarks their glass buildings stretching into the clouds far in the distance and the people below seem like little dots.

As he comes up behind him as he looks out the scenes around take his breath away as he feels a gentle kiss on his neck the warmth of another body holding him close an embrace that lingers. Reaching around behind him he pulls the young man close feeling his love up close and the intoxicating smell of his scent in his nostrils makes him gasp for air. A hand comes up to caress the side of his face and spins him around until they face each other the warm breath steams up the window and they slide down and fall as a heap on the floor still in an embrace just lying there content to hold one another.

And…. time passes as the world carry’s on around them, people go to work, children go to school, home-maker’s visit the shops, taxi drivers speed around the city taking important clients from one building to the next and nothing changes or matters enough to be of note apart from the steady breathing of two young men laying in each other’s arms…

As he awakes he stretches his arms out and the demon starts to rouse from his sleep and lets out a simple yawn and a smile happy to see that his companion is still with him. The city worked and the new couple slept now, the sunlight was fading, dark shadows starting to fall between the tall buildings and the reds and pinks shimmer of the office windows. The demon wakes rubbing the sleep from his eyes and blinking looks over and smiles for the first time and the light crosses his face as the sun goes down. As the blood rises in his body the demon moves closer and studies his face moving his face close wanting more to happen, wishing for that kiss the one that will make all the pain go away.

Taking out his hand he takes his finger and touches the demon on his lips dragging the tip down and causing them to rub in a downwards motion that seems to capture the mood of the night. Closely studding each other they turn in unison to see a figure walks up the steps and stops at the top and pulling back the cuff on his suit holds out his watch and taps the glass face as if to say times up. Laughing the demon and the young man get up and both decide at the same time to make a run for the exit pushing past a startled owner and shoppers on the lower floor and out the door and onto the pedestrian area. Holding out his hand, he beckons the demon to take hold and follow close as they fly down the road the cherry blossoms falling onto them and getting caught up in their hair and clothes.

Turning into the park area the sweet smell of flowers catch their senses mixed with a fresh crisp damp air made more potent by the sprinklers watering the plants. Running out of energy the young man spins around and they embrace as a busker starts a new song, the battered and well-worn wooden body rings out perfect notes carried by the wind. The warm air and melody amplifies their already hot bodies and the demon pushes his hands through the hair, feeling the soft black silk flow through his fingers. A moan escapes his lips as the demon starts to lick the tender skin of his neck and shoulders and the world falls away around him the noise of the traffic and people fading into the background and the only focus is the sound of their breathing. As abruptly as the couple came together the world came back into being as a crowd formed around them, people stopping from their daily business and shopping thinking it was a show put on for their entertainment. A strange looking creature and a young man; moving gently to the music as if it were a magical dream or a ballet in a mystical story, a fable of old where love overcomes all.

And for just a second it did, a recognition, a connection that spanned more than time or distance, a look of understanding that needs no words, a tale that needs no explanation or ending. As those gathered near begin to clap they step down from the grass hill and back to the path and run out towards the city again leaving puzzled faces looking for an answer. The streets become narrower the twists and turns begin to baffle the young demon and he gets lost in the moment happy to be led along and down into a club with a big black door. Unable to read the sign above he steps in side and they find a seat towards the back of the room. The atmosphere seems to be charged and the other people expectant in some way all whispering to each other like a show was about to start. The young man leans over and kisses the demon on the lips before getting up and walking up nervously onto the stage.

Taking hold of the microphone it whistles and whines in his hand before a sweet song escapes his lips, the audience gasping at his sudden ability to talk again since he lost his father and brother three years ago. The room slowly fades around the edges and the music starts to drift along like a poem on the wind. The colours of the lights and the smoke mix to produce a dreamlike state and now his focus starts to blur and dim for the demon. Something moves in the room and a figure stands in front of the demon and grabs the colour of his jacket and shouts his name “Ryio”… “Ryio” … The last words he hears are those from his lover as the blood rises again from the floor and he fades from the world of the living, back to the world of the dead.


Napkin

As the sunlight returns the dusty wooden floor begins to warm and Ryio opens his eyes blinking as they start to adjust. Lifting his head slightly he begins realise he is back where he started and wipes the dirt and blood from his face as best as he can. As he gets to his feet he notices that his clothes have been folded neatly on a stool in the corner of the room and as he walks over his eyes are drawn to a bowl of water resting on the bar. A echo of a song drifts on the breeze.

“Surely there is no-one else here in this desolate land?” he thinks aloud to himself. As he moves to the bowl he looks deeply at his reflection in the water and sees the black inky eyes looking back to him a face he no longer knows. Dipping his hands into the water he splashes his face.

“Will I ever get used to these dark cold eyes that show no emotion? How could I have sunk so low to be cursed with these features?” As his head moves up he dries the skin and tries to remember anything from his previous life in a hope that he can hold onto a small part of himself.

“My name… my name is Ryio…. My name is Ryio” “Yes you could say that” a voice came from behind and Ryio spun around to find a young man standing by the stool with his clothes in his hands. “and it looks to me like you found the water I left you. I would suggest putting these on before you disappear again.” As he looks back he tilts his head and smiles pointing to the clothes “Turning up naked can be a bit of a hassle I think.”

“Who are you? And how do you know me? What is this place you have banished me too?” Ryio replies before stretching forward and shaking the stranger hard by the shoulder’s.

“Well you could say I’m a friend, and… maybe a foe to, but always I am the one thing you can’t ignore for long.” And his face reflects a deep thinking that Ryio can’t quite grasp. Thrusting out his hand the stranger continues” You don’t have long, put on your clothes and wait for the darkness; it’s time for you to go.”

“NO, NOOO, no more dark” he called back holding his head in his hands as a flash of pain erupts in his mind and drops to the floor. As the blood rises from the floor, the room spins and disappear like a whirlpool sucking him down into the black void again.

Slowly he regains consciousness and Ryio’s eyes start to clear again focusing in the dark surroundings. His clothes are neatly folded on the floor beside him and reaching out he pulls them on glad that he has not got to steal any from washing lines. As he does so something familiar strikes him, but he can’t quiet place the feeling he has been here before. Walking forward he knocks a fizzy pop can off the stage and listens as it rattles down the aisles skipping and jumping before it stops completely.

From the front row a steady clap around the theatre as a man stands to his feet. “Oh bravo, bravo… but how I wonder did you just appear in front of me like that?” poking his finger into his lips he considers his words in a whimsical fashion.

Jumping forward he studies his new toy “And oh my, what a specimen aha” and pinches him on the ass as if to provoke a response.

“Ahh no that won’t do, you don’t have any flowers in your hand. I think you need something to brighten up those sad features of yours.” And with a blink of an eye he pulls out a red rose and places it in a bewildered Demons button hole. “humm so adorable and utterly toxic at the same time. And it reminds me of a song …”

“I’m addicted to you don’t you know that your toxic” and he laughs aloud in a half crazy manor. The demon jumps down and stands face to face with the demon.

“What is your name?” he asks. “Close your eyes, give me your hand darling” and he takes his fingers gently between his own. “And that is the question of the day! And one I can answer just before I take you to lunch. Come here my demonic friend.” And for the second time Ryio is pulled towards the door and out onto the street.

“Say my name, sunshine through the rain” and he points with Ryio’s fingers to the rainbow in the grey and cloudy sky above the buildings. “So the answer to your question is complex and just by your looks I can’t really tell how to decide on if you are good or bad, friend or foe, blood or skin, death or…. Life…” and with that he opens a door to a café next to where he is standing and beacons him in bowing softly as Ryio walks tentatively in.

As he surveys the scene around he can see it is no normal café and the tables and chairs are all worn and rough, the lights flicker and hum in the dimly lit room. “Welcome to my abode my lovely one” he announces to all that would listen and prods in in the ribs as if to hurry him along. ” Please find a seat with someone that takes your interest, the world is full of interesting people if only they would open their eyes and truly see what they are.”

Without a word he moves towards the back of the room and picks out a lady sitting with a young man on a leather sofa. At first it seems like he is asleep but as he looks more closely he can see that he is meditating as the lady moves her hands up and down searching for the damaged part of his body. “There are many kinds of magic here some more believable than others but we respect each others beliefs and work together for the whole of the group to benefit.” “You could call this little cafe of ours a haven of sorts.” and he props his walking cane up on the bar.”Waifs and strays, waifs and strays my lad. A bit like you from the look of it.”

He picks up a bottle of scotch from the bar he seems to be considering something important.” You know the older I have got the more cynical I am of how the world works. Sad isn’t it but quite true.” and he down the double shot in one go. “So what can you offer? What can you provide for your short time in our world?”

As the demon looks towards the man he senses a mixture of feelings flowing from him. A wish that he could be free and a feeling of hopelessness of his own limitations. “I can offer only my own body for I have nothing else. The world that was before is now gone and the memories taken from me.”

Then we shall, no, we must consult the book of dreams but it will cost you something precious” he answered looking up and down at the bookcase at the back of the room, throwing issues of encyclopaedias onto the floor at his feet.” Ahah ” He exclaimed as the demon came closer studying the embossed emblem on the front cover.

“Oh yes the design is most exquisite. A demon rising from the ashes some say or an angel in disguise looking for a dream of a human.” and he exhales a breath. “But no one knows for sure.”

“Before we start I must warn you that the book is very ancient and no one really knows its true purpose. It is possible that you will gain something you know or loose something you need but always you will get a blessing of some sort.” With that he holds out the book. Touch the cover and free your mind, the rest will follow.”

Touching the cover he feels the raised surface for himself, and then his mind goes blank, a darkness descends and his body feels heavy like stone. He opens his eyes and blinks sunlight warming his body the cold feel of rough stone under his feet. Time has passed and the humans placed a statue on the bridge for good luck, touching it’s forehead as a test of nerve to get favour and good luck in their own live. The stone rubbed smooth to the touch as the fame of the statues charm spreads across the prefecture.

Laughter and voices can be heard over the gentle sound of water below and as his vision returns he finds himself on a bridges pillar and jumps down onto the stone path slightly unsteady on his feet. “

And so we meet again young demon, but maybe not so young as before I think. One year has passed since we last met and you still look the same as ever. One thing has been returned to you and one year has been taken as payment. ” Looking a bit uneasy the strange man shifts uneasily on his feet shifting this way and that. “The book has written that to look forward you must look back to your old friend. Seek out the one you can’t remember for the answers are with him now. The book also has given me an address for you to visit tough I cant say it will give you any luck. Most of the words were jumbled up as if …” and he paused for a moment” as if someone didn’t want you to know. It’s most unusual of the book and I’m at a loss to its meaning, but know this the work you do now will live on and when you return to the void those you touch with your kindness won’t forget”

The the sun starts to began to fade behind the trees, its light showing the long shadows of evening as the park emptied and became quiet. Turning to the river he wandered to the edge of the bank and reached down to feel the cold water flow over his hands.

“So what have I gained?” Ryio asked himself, and at that moment a face appeared in the water the ripples spreading out to reveal the features of a man he once knew. “S Sato” how could I have forgotten his face? The man I once cared for so deeply. The man that stole my dreams. The man that took my love and created a hole in my life to painful to bare. “Sato” are you still here? Will I find you at the bridge again where we broke up? And with that he made the water ripple again not wanting to see his own face reflected back.

“Well I have played my part young Ryio” and he spun his cane around and struck the grass as to emphasise a point. ” I must leave, but here is, my departing gift. The location of the bridge you need to go to to find your friend.” Sighing he continued..”Remember time passes on and you may not find the answers you want.. Good bye young demon and good luck.” With that he turned and walked off humming a tune to himself the sun casting a long shadow down the path as he dissipated into the distance through the trees and out of sight.

As Ryio looked down at the address written out for him he thinks back to the times when they were there together after school, looking down at the boats and fish below.


Skin

For the next hour Ryio walked around the streets of Tokyo in a daze the brightly coloured lights of one district fade out as they are replaced by the smells from the restaurants of the next. Taking out the napkin once more he feels a panic rise in his stomach as the realisation that he might see his friend once more and the emotions that will inevitably come from that next encounter. The high-rise towers pass away into the distance and the smaller dwellings of Area11 and the bridge starts to appear in front of him, It’s red bulky pillars jutting up into the deep blue sky like a big scratch on a piece of skin.

Looking forward Ryio studies the road crossing in front of him and looks around trying to see something he can remember but the signs on the businesses but they don’t seem to make any sense. An echo of laughter comes from around the corner and a group of guys emerge onto the corner of the street and jumping on each other’s backs for a ride. Ryio looks about and realises no one else is around and he looks a bit out of place standing in the middle of the road in odd looking clothing. One of the men points towards him and he knew at that point there was no going back or running away. He had to do this he thinks to himself, and now seemed the best time to get it over with. One of the men looks over and regards him while the others fall about and carry on their way across the main street beckoning for the other to follow them. As he turns to leave Ryio feels like he needs to talk to the man but the time passes and he jogs up to the others catching a glimpse before he disappears around the corner.

Running up to the end of the road he peers around the edge and sees the guys disappear into a back road, as he follows he crouches down behind some large steel bins keeping out of sight.

“…and another thing Sato, you can’t blame me for being jealous of all the girls that seem to follow you around like a lost puppy.” “Why is that Thomas are you saying that you want a kiss?”

” ahh no way Sato, that’s too gross”

“Come here Tom, Sato loves you all, you know it”

“Ähhh get off Sato”

“Oh Thomas, Thomas my boy, you know I’m just kidding you and I have only eyes for one but with each day it gets harder and harder to remember his face.”

“Sato?”

“Yes”

“If he came back again now do you think he would remember you?”

“Honestly? I’m not sure, I would like to think so but relationships are not always so clear cut and don’t end up like a romantic male manga story.”

Sato punches a door at the end of the road before turning and kicks a fizzy can away in frustration. “Damn it I just don’t know what to do.” He kicks it further away down the road and it comes to a stop just past the bins where Ryio is hiding and he runs to pick it up. As he turns to face his friends he looks down and sees Ryio staring back at him, a dark figure with strange markings and striking eyes following his own. “Erm guys, let me catch up with you later. I have some stuff to do but I will buy you all a drink at the club later.”

“Promise! Cross my heart and hope to..” but his voice just trails off before the finish of the sentence.

“Yes ok.. whatever Sato, I will hold you to that” his friends replied and they disappeared into the door at the end of the road. “Later…”

“S..S..Sato” Ryio said gently as he looked up at his childhood friends face. Sato looked puzzled wondering why this strange monster knew his name and why it looked so odd as he sat down in front of him.

“I can’t understand you. Who are you?” He asked the demon but all he can hear is a faint whisper in return.

“Show me your skin” he asked as he studies the strange markings on Ryio’s arms. As he reaches out Sato pulls him closer and for a moment there eyes lock together in a stare. A flash of another time hits Sato and he jumps back in fright.

“Sato can you understand me now?” Ryio asks reaching forward again. “Sato I need to know you can hear me!” Looking down at the ground Sato wipes his eyes with his hand and looks back towards Ryio barely able to believe what he is hearing.

“Yes I can hear you now. But.. I .. I can’t believe it is you. Why have you come back now after all of these years Ryio?” He sighs and pulls him close flinging his arms around him.

“It’s been too long. Please stay with me a moment” Ryio reaches out to hold the side of Sato’s face with his hand.

“Sato, I don’t know why I’m here and most of my memories are gone but I could not forget you.” As he looked down at the floor he remembered that time was short.

“Do you trust me still?… Sato… do you love me?” Looking back into each other’s eyes they move forward and their short breaths give way to the need for contact.

As their lips touch there is a release of energy that both one of them expected, and with their eyes close they don’t see Ryio’s skin glow just for a second before it fades away again. “I can think of nothing better than being here with you Ryio, although crouching behind a bin isn’t very romantic. Let’s catch up with the others in the club.” And with that Sato pulls the spaced out demon up from his resting place and off towards the club door. As they both enter the club they are greeted with a large bouncer who checks Sato’s ID and frisks down Ryio. “It’s ok they know you are with me. They won’t give you any trouble.” He calls back as the music gets louder Ryio feels a little out of place as they enter the main part of the club, and sensing his discomfort Sato puts his arm around him and points towards a private area where the rest of his friends are sitting together.

Siting down next to the other men they all look towards Ryio who was now feeling uneasy about so many eyes on him. As the murmuring calmed down Sato called out “Quiet everyone. This is Ryio and he will be staying with us for a while. Show him some respect in your own way whenever you can. I won’t forgive anyone who hurts him.” As if in unison they all got up and bowed towards Ryio before getting back to drinking and laughing together. Moving closer to Sato, Ryio whispered in his ear. “You don’t have to do that. I’m just a normal guy.” And his smile beams back with warmth that was almost a glow. Looking slightly startled he hugs him back.

“Have you seen yourself recently? You are anything but normal and to me it has been like a gift from god having you back here, although I still don’t understand.”

Kissing his gently on the cheek he takes time to pull back. “Stay with me tonight. I don’t want you to be alone again, and we can explore our body’s together.” Thomas looks over and sensing that they want to be alone prods the others to make an exit leaving them staring back into each other’s eyes. Ryio sinks down making himself more comfortable into his old lovers chest and starts to relax.

“Sato?” He asks “When did you realise you liked men, when you liked me? I remember when you were younger you always denied and ridiculed anyone who was different. I remember you saying to your parents that you would one day marry someone who was beautiful.”

“What changed?” Reaching over and taking a shot glass left by one of the others he downed the contents and paused for a moment.

“It was you Ryio. That night when we got drunk and you said those things. It kind of made sense to me. I don’t think that I knew what love was before then. Sure I had girlfriends and such but I didn’t connect with them at all. It was just… just pretend living, like I suppose most other people expect you to do when you start to grow up and become an adult. It’s a set pattern that your life is planned out already and that you will get a house and start a family.”

Sato looked back at Ryio and sighed. “But that night with you in my arms I couldn’t help thinking that I was finally in control and that I could really do what I wanted to and love who I liked. Kind of a revelation you could say.” and he rubbed his fingers through Ryio’s hair.

As Ryio closed his eyes the music started to fade away and it sounded to him more and more like a lullaby. Coming around with a start he realised that everything had stopped and as he opened his eyes everything had changed. Sunlight streamed in from a broken and caved in roof. Gone were most of the inside seating he had seen before and everything was covered in dirt and grime. As Ryio stood up stunned with the sudden change of scene and a plume of dust fell to the floor as he moved. Spinning around he could see that everything had gone and so had Sato but it seemed almost that he could still feel his fingers running through his hair and the slight scent of his perfume on his neck.

Moving towards the back of the dark and ruined club a faint echo of music could be heard on the wind. A single voice softly whispering a melody like a cry for help or a faint try for hope. Ryio pushed open with some difficulty the backdoor he came through what he though was just moments ago and blinking looks out. Gone were the shops and roads, gone were the street lights and cars, gone where most of the things that he could remember and all that was left was a few piles of rubble and a forest of trees, plants and grass growing from the ruins of the land.

A band of wild cats ran together past him and through the grass into the forest he stares in disbelief at what has happened. Then he hears the music again and tries to listen to where it is coming from. Turning left and right he starts to run forward hoping that the sound will get louder as he gets closer. Stumbling forward and tripping up on some branches he clears the forest and falls down into a grass clearing. Regaining his senses from the fall he parts the grass in front of him and can see some flashing lights just a few meters from where he tripped. Pushing himself upright he gently stretches up and takes a deep breath. Standing just in front of him is a strange demon like creature and as he turns to see Ryio he presses a button on what looks to Ryio like an old fashioned jukebox.

“Oh I like this old music” you know the demon said. “Remind me… of a better time! Don’t you think? “But you.. oh yes you on the other hand have trouble remembering those times now don’t you?” And he nods turning fully around and walks towards him.

Ryio’s mouth was aghast at the spectacle of the strange creature in front of him. Wiping his chin and rubbing his eyes he re focuses before standing up to take a better look. The demon was a strange mix of well defined muscle, tailored clothes and a cheeky grin that kind of rubs off on a person but not in a bad way.

Looking the demon up and down he can’t help but think that this wasnt some chance encounter.

“Well my lad” the demon said “That is the question isn’t it?” and he makes a huffing sound in a sort of smug manor.

“It’s almost … almost like I can read your mind! would you not say?” and he starts to rub underneath his shirt like he is trying it on.

Ryio now used to things not making sense was starting to see something familiar about the demon this time and noticed the dark blue eyes staring back at him looking at his figure and maybe even undressing him with his thoughts.

“So this is the link you see” and he holds out and grabs Ryio by the arms “the one thing that binds you to this place, wherever it is.”

The demon draws closer with his face almost touching Ryio’s “It kind of makes me nostalgic you see like those D&D misfits who never quite made it home, and…” and he pauses to rub his face “and… if the writers had just written one more episode they might have just been able to get home. And for the record, I… liked the unicorn the best”.

“But…” and he decides to sit down on a small white rock amongst the grass. “well this isn’t really an anime, is it? and well to tell the truth you’re stuck here just like me. So the question is do you have what it takes to defeat me or are you the one that will redeem me?

From one demon to another are you ready to listen to the words of those around you or is your brain still too damaged to know your real situation?” he turns his head in a theatrical way. “You have always hidden your feelings by ignoring those around you. So for you this is all new isn’t it?” and he strokes his cheek with his long black nail.

Ryio settles down on the long grass seeing no need to be standing and feeling quite out of place.

Something rattled in the back of his mind like it was trying to escape the darkness. Something that needed to be seen and yet like a name forgotten so hard for him to recall.

Fire

Ummm… well where do we go from here?” and he cocks his head to the side. And with that the demon hums a tune to the music flipping a cane around to an unseen pattern of choreography like he belonged in a jpop boy band.

“To truly understand what to do you need to understand yourself isn’t that right?” a long talon finger scratches inside the demons ear.

“I would ask you to dance but you don’t dance. I would … ask you to sing but your voice has changed to much for thaaatttt…. I would ask you for sex however I don’t think you could get it up for me… so what do you do? what do you feel? where are you going?” and the calm of the glade was replaced by a faint clang of a train crossing.

“But no really a train here? your right let’s hop on… MINDTHEGAP !!! “ and he falls headlong into Ryio almost knocking him over and the fall down onto a seat…the world whizzing past them from the window of the locomotive, blurred city lights and half seen adverts that fade one into another.

“Eww sweaty office workers and cheap deodorant is not the smell I like in the evening.” holding his nose he pinches it before puffing out his cheeks.

Laughing out in a boisterous manner he whispers from the side of his hand “The world of work isn’t great is it. Have humans evolved or become slaves to the trappings of life that don’t actually make it any more enjoyable?”

“Don’t worry love, I won’t cause a scene and yes you are her right now, I think…. but your here anyway sooooooo…..” and he grins and licks his lips.. “That human is mine though” he points a firm finger towards a cute looking college guy. “Let’s ruffle him up a bit shall we?”

Jumping up he walks over and nods towards the student getting uncomfortably close and grabs the loop handle above his head. Ryio tries not to take any notice and pretends to look out of the window. “Of course it’s not impossible to show someone you are here, watch me hook this stud of a man.”

As the train lunges over a crossing track the demon falls pathetically over the student. “oh excuse me, I seem to have lost my balance and inadvertently knocked you over.” and with that the demon grabs his belt and licks his face.

Glancing over Ryio sees the student stumble back towards the side of the carriage as the demon plumps himself back down in the seat.

“So as you can see although said sexy college guy has no idea what just happened as he can’t believe it, so I disappear again leaving him to regain his composure.” flipping out a lollipop from his top pocket he proceeds to suck and lick it with vigour.