by Doug Wood
Based on the Toho films.
Used without permission.
This story contains adult language
that some readers may
After the kid had entered the broken-down house and the door
swung closed behind him, Sho leaned back on the hood of his
car, lit a menthol cigarette, and started to count out loud.
"One tamogotchi, two tamogotchi, three tamogotchi, four
Those members of his bosozoku, his speed tribe, who had
placed bets on the new kid watched the front door with a
growing interest usually reserved for championship sumo
matches. The pile of money laying on the roof of one of the
cars loomed very large in their minds. And so they eyed the
front door. And they listened to Sho's slow and steady
count. And they waited, some licking their lips nervously in
Or at least the few who were solvent did; those who didn't
have the money for such frivolous things as betting on
whether or not some snot-nosed punk would come running back
outside, screaming for his momma, just lounged around and
acted very pointedly as if there wasn't a care in the world.
One of the latter was showing off the new airbrush art on
the back of his leather jacket. A rather titilating image
it was, the idea for which had been borrowed from some indie
record label, of a blonde anime chick provocatively
straddling a guitar. Another guy was practising the finer
art of flipping open a butterfly knife. One had his head
nestled on the gas tank of his Suzuki GXR 400, his hands
partially covering a skull & crossbones decal as he tried
unsuccessfully to find a good position to catch a quick
snooze. Still another was bent over in front of the side
view mirror on his candy-apple red Nissan Turbo Coupe,
running a comb incessantly through the thick greasy-looking
pompadour of his hair.
Now that was something Sho could dig. He'd often spent hours
on his own 'do at home, standing in front of his bathroom
mirror trying to get every hair to lay just right...while
outside the door his sister bitched and moaned that she had
to take a whiz. He rarely got angry anymore when his ritual
was disturbed like that. It was simply a fact that there
were few people outside of his circle of friends who could
truly understand what it was like -- when it came to one's
hair, there was just no help for it. Such attention to
detail was necessary. Everyone in the gang knew it could
make or break your day.
An American rock song blasted in the background from a car
radio. The bass was turned up so high, the bondo on the
car's doors was vibrating and the fuzzy dice dangling from
the rearview mirror were dancing a mad jig to the beat.
Sho couldn't understand a single goddamn word the lead
vocalist was singing. Most likely he would flunk his English
class this year, as well as most of the other courses. His
schooling had been rather neatly eclipsed this year by the
demands of the gang. Strangely enough, though while he had
yet to find a compelling reason to reconsider his
priorities, he hadn't dropped out just yet either. That was
coming soon, though, he knew. All told, he'd already missed
three weeks of classes; and on those rare occassions when he
did grace the classroom with his sullen, tough-guy act, it
was getting harder not to look like a complete moron.
Maintaining that aura of aloof cool, which was so important
for his image, was difficult when half the class knew you
were an blithering idiot.
But foreign words or not, whether he understood them or
whether they were just monkey-chatter, it didn't detract
from his enjoyment of the song that was playing now. In his
opinion, music was at its best when it was a purely visceral
experience anyway. Questions of origin or deciphering what
the vocalist was singing -- that was all just picayune
bullshit; the music either moved him or it did not. And at
the moment, this particular song playing on the radio had a
juicy opening riff, a good slinky groove with a rock-solid-
steady beat, and there was something about a palm-muted
guitar that he'd always found sublime.
"...The ones love us best
are the ones we'll lay to rest
and visit their graves on holidays at best.
The ones love us the least
are the ones we'll die to please
If it's any consolation,
I don't begin to understand them.
We are the sons of no one,
bastards of young..."
Dead heat and humidity had settled over the eastern suburbs
of Tokyo that day, so much that the air had seemed
practically motionless, almost a physical barrier to the
flesh. The coming night promised some relief, but only a
little, and only if one's room had a top-of-the-line air
conditioner. Sho's did not, but that wasn't the only reason
he was hardly looking forward to going home. He unzipped his
beaten black leather jacket without losing count. Written
across the back in a broad flowing English script were the
words *The Junks*... which no one could read, being in a
foreign language, but that just made it even more cool.
Sho was a tall, lanky kid of barely eighteen, and he was
dressed much as the others were -- a leather jacket over a
white tee stained at the armpits, torn and faded jeans, and
the obligatory shit-kicking, steel-toed Doc Martins. His
hair was long in back and styled in an Elvis-like pile on
top that was as hard as a marble statue from all the gel
needed to keep it in good shape, especially in this
He had placed a bet as well, and if his pigeon lost he would
be very, very disappointed. But Sho had personally sized him
up; and although his parents and teachers all said he was
good for nothing, he'd always prided himself on being a good
judge of immoral fiber. This kid was a tough one, and once he
broke the haunted house record, the gang would be one step
closer to having a new member.
Of course, after the haunted house came the ritual beat-down.
No one had told the kid about that.
The house that served as their testing ground was old, just
like the neighborhood itself, and had stood empty for at
least as long as Sho had been alive, maybe even longer. It's
two-story, brick exterior had that run-down look that almost
made it look sad somehow when the light was settling behind
it. Once upon a time, maybe thirty or forty years ago, this
entire area must have been much nicer. Maybe even it had
been considered upscale, with the pretty little properties
all lined up in a row, surrounded by the comforting upper-
middle-class tranquility of brick walls and hedgerows and
trees and neighbors who actually gave a damn about how you
But not now. Now modern apartment blocks, as grey and
utilitarian and monotonous as the salarymen that called them
home, had replaced most of the single family houses
surrounding this lone hilltop, with its twisting ribbon of
cracked concrete and small hints of green among so much dead
brown. Those up here that so far had been spared the
wrecking crew were in various states of disrepair, standing
like a clump of wild poisonous mushrooms that no one dared
to touch. The house they were currently parked in front of
was not the worst; but even Sho, who had little
understanding of such things and even less interest, could
see that it wouldn't be long before it, too, was torn down.
Not that he really cared or anything, but such was progress,
"Twenty tamogotchi, twenty-one tamogotchi, twenty-two
Tetsuo, one of the younger members, idled aimlessly up to
his side. His butterfly knife made loud clacking noises in
the lingering humid air.
"Neh, Sho? Are we going to the rally down Tokaido Highway? I
heard it's gonna be huge. Like, 300 bikers, bonfires, booze,
drugs, chicks galore. Are we going, you think?"
Sho frowned, never taking his eyes off the front door. He
hated it when people deferred to him like that. But at the
present moment he was the only one to defer *to* -- the
bancho, their gang leader, had been running errands all day
for a low-level Yakuza thug whom he owed bigtime. In his
absence, Sho was The Man in The Junks. In reality, though,
he was only second-in-command of the gang, a position he had
inherited but not really aspired to. Whenever he thought
about it, he was reminded of a saying he had heard once,
maybe in school or something, one of the few things he
actually remembered, about great people rising to positions
of greatness. Yeah...that was Sho Yamaguchi, all right
--future high-school dropout and heir apparent to a gang-
banger and nascent mobster. Next up? Why of course! Todai
University! And then? Well, surely he was off to the
Ministry of Trade to dine on caviar and champagne with the
bigwigs. It made him want to puke just thinking of it.
"Piss off," he said angrily. "I've got the count...thirty
tamogotchi, thirty-one tamogotchi...we'll see...thirty-three
But before Sho could get any farther in his count, there
came the sound of his pigeon screaming. A moment later the
front door whipped open and the young man everyone had been
expecting stumbled outside in a hurry. Almost as one, The
Junks let out a large warcry. Some, especially those who
hadn't placed bets, were laughing uncontrollably as the
terrified teenager fell down the stairs and started crawling
away from the front porch through the mud and weeds. He got
on his dirty knees, a spreading darkness staining the crotch
of his torn jeans, and then looked with wide scared eyes at
the biker's laughing at him. Then he rose to his feet,
panicked tears streaming down his face, and fled away to his
left through the front yard. The kid fought his way
frantically through some pricker bushes, oblivious to the
cuts it caused, and finally disappeared through a gap in a
brick wall that bordered the property.
"Aw man, what the fuck?" Sho muttered under his breath. He
was so sure he'd had the kid pegged. How could he have been
wrong? Grudgingly, he reached for his wallet and pulled out
his money, which he then handed to another biker. To the wide
smiling face that greeted the thousand yen note, he added,
bitterly, "Bite me."
"Guess he just wasn't Junks material, huh, Sho?" the biker
said, with a tone that was barely respectful enough to avoid
a beating. Then he sauntered away to count his winnings.
Sho sneered at his back and said nothing. He was pissed in
more ways than one. The loss of the money was no little
thing, however he'd just get that back when he next ran into
the little puke who'd cost him the bet. But what really
ticked him off was that the punk had cost him face. He'd
spent all day talking up this kid and now he had made Sho
look stupid. Paying *that* back would prove more difficult
than merely opening a wallet. It would also be a lot more
painful and messy. No ritual beat-down this; just splintered
teeth and broken bones and blood.
Disgusted with himself for making such a stupid and unusual
mistake, he leaned back on the windshield of his car and
stared up at the sky. The dwindling daylight revealed a
bruised blue slowly fading to dusk, criss-crossed with many
whispy vapor trails. There had been a lot of military
activity since the news about Godzilla's attack on Hong Kong
had broke the week before. Sho couldn't even remember the
last time he had seen a passenger jet, one of those things
one never paid much attention to until it was gone. All
commercial traffic apparently had been re-routed so that the
JSDF could show off their shiny-new F-16's.
*Yeah, right,* he thought ruefully. For whatever good they
would do if Godzilla actually showed up. In his enlightened
estimation, they were just very expensive, jet-propelled
Still, he had to give props to the pilots for trying. After
all, who in their right minds would willingly strap
themselves to a metal tube filled with jet fuel to fight
against a monster like that? Shit, man, you had to be crazy
brave or just plain fuckin' crazy, just like those righteous
mothers back in the day, flying suicide missions against the
US Navy at the end of the Pacific war. Sho idly wondered if
the jet pilots going out on missions against the Big G tied
on Rising Sun headbands and took a ceremonial swig of sake
just like their WWII counterparts had. Although it made
sense to him in some bizarre way, eventually he just
shrugged it off. He'd never know for sure and really didn't
care all that much to find out. It was just a cool thought,
"Neh, Sho?" That annoying voice again -- it was Tetsuo.
"So...are we going, or what?" Somehow the knife flipped just
the wrong way and knicked his pinkie. He cursed loudly as it
clattered to the cement and scrambled to pick it up again,
sucking his wounded finger.
*Oh, there had been a nice addition to the Junks'
braintrust,* Sho thought darkly. He closed his eyes with a
tired sigh. "Tokaido's closed to everything but military
traffic. There's not going to be a rally tonight or anytime
Several members of The Junks sat up in surprise at that bit
of news and Sho couldn't help but laugh to himself. He
wondered how many of them even knew that Godzilla had
attacked Hong Kong, or the disturbing rumors, not fully
disclosed in the press but rampant on the net, that his
nuclear heart was running out of control. He wondered how
many would care if they did. He certainly didn't. He didn't
give a flying fig. Or a flying scrap pile, for that matter.
"Goddamn," Sho muttered. "Don't you guys ever watch the
"No...rally...?" Tetsuo said, very slowly, as if putting the
words together and then making sense of them had taxed his
brain to its limit. Sho snorted in derision; that was hardly
a surprise. Some-times he could almost imagine two tiny
pachinko balls rattling around inside the younger kid's head
and little blinking lights whenever they bounced off a
still-working synapse. But those were few and far between.
There was not a whole hell of a lot going on upstairs for
Tetsuo, no doubt to the bitter disappointment of his
parents, Sho suspected, as well as the eternal amusement of
his fellow bikers. The kid was a lost cause. Sniffing bags
of glue as regularly as he did could do that to a guy. Mess
up your head. Bigtime. Tetsuo Glue they called him, behind
his back. Mostly.
"No, Tetsuo. No rally tonight," Sho explained patiently.
"Godzilla's on the march again."
This announcement was met with a chorus of booing from the
other gang members. There was a loud metallic clacking sound
as the teen with the adept hands flipped open his butterfly
knife in a single fluid motion.
"Fuck Godzilla!" he said sharply. Brandishing the miniscule
knife like a sword, he started jumping around, pausing in
various poses that Sho guessed he had memorized from TV
samurai dramas. "If he fucks with me, I will personally mess
"Oh yeah," Sho replied, blowing him off with a middle
finger. "I'm sure Godzilla's just scared shitless of you."
The kid's banter was amusing, but not all that much. Not
anymore. After all, that kind of macho posturing was de
riguer for the gang -- they traded that crap with each other
as much as they traded threats with other gangs. But in
truth Sho'd heard it so many times, in so many different
contexts, it was all just not very interesting to him.
"Dude," he added, lazily, "if Godzilla even noticed you, he
would put such a massive hurt on your skinny ass, you'd be
reincarnated with a fucking footprint in your forehead.
You're nothin' but a goddamn horse's derve to the Big G, and
you don't even know it."
Despite his attitude, which they were all used to by now,
and his refusal to play along with them, a rather spirited
conversation began then, as various members of The Junks
debated what exactly it would take to kill Godzilla once and
for all. Sho listened for a few minutes until he grew bored
again and then rolled over on the hood of his car. He'd
heard all that bullshit before, and not just from the gang
-- his parents, his neighbors, his sister and her skanky
friends, teachers and students. Shit, man -- even his
girlfriend, Eiko, would sometimes get into it when he was
just trying to relax afterwards with a man's inalienable
right to a goddamn cigarette after a lay.
As much as he disliked pointless speculation, there was
nothing he could do to stop it. Where the Big G was
concerned, it seemed that opinions were like assholes
--everybody had to have one. Yeah...it was like some kind of
weird game people played where the wackiest ideas won. And
even half-wit juvenile delinquent gang-bangers who not five
minutes before had been laughing at some toad for pissing
his pants in fear, wanted to play, too.
His father, in particular, loved to prattle on about it. A
few nights before, on one of the rare occasions when he had
been home for dinner and not out carousing with his co-
workers, his father had looked up from his cup ramen. And
then just out of the nowhere, he had said, in a droning
voice honed from years of middle-manager abuse: "Perhaps if
they make a very big syringe and fill it with some sort of
atomic cyanide, that might do the trick."
Silence. His mother hadn't said a thing in response. She'd
just continued slurping the steaming noodles, nodding her
head approvingly. Since sitting down to eat, those words had
been the only ones passed around the table. Sho had looked
across at the slight, unassuming man as if he were a circus
Seeing the uncomprehending expression on his son's face
leveling off to scorn, his father had tried to explain: "For
the...um...Godzilla...you know? Irradiate...the...cyanide...
or...or...something to that effect."
"What the *fuck* are you babbling on about?" Sho had nearly
shouted. The comment had elicited his anger not only because
it was just about the stupidest goddamn thing he had ever
heard any human being say in his entire life, but mostly
because it had been a complete non sequiter. And perhaps as
well because the old man, who had not seen the dinner table
for weeks, instead of asking him or his Mother "How was your
day today?" had chosen to ask "How do we kill Godzilla
today?" After the outburst, his father, embarassed and
ineffectual, had shut up and gone back to eating his dinner
in a sullen silence.
Once when Sho had been watching a talk show on TV, with all
sorts of very learned types discussing much the same thing
as the gang was now, he'd nearly laughed himself into a
hernia when he'd realized that, aside from the technical
lingo, they sounded a lot like the hoodlums and stoners with
whom he hung out. The various G experts talked and talked
and talked some more. In their arch, grey academic tones,
they spit out what they knew and what they guessed and
suspected and theorized. And what it all came down to was
this: No one really knew any damn thing at all.
Although he had never figured out why, Sho had found the
insight strangely comforting in an odd sort of way. Maybe it
was because it meant they were all in the same boat, because
there was no magical formula for understanding that which
could not be understood. Or maybe it was just because he
didn't like very learned types. In truth, he hadn't dwelt on
it long enough to figure it out.
As the gang rattled on in the background, by now white noise
to his own thoughts, Sho wondered what Eiko was doing at
that exact moment. Maybe he'd blow off the gang and go see
her later. She was always good for a laugh...or a roll. He
started to muse on the scent of her cheap perfume and the
way her dark silky hair always spread out nice and evenly
when it hit a pillow, like a black laquered paper fan or
something, when he felt someone shaking his shoulder. It was
Tetsuo Glue again.
"Get a clue, Tetsuo." Talk about a kid who was thick in the
head, he thought. "No...ral-ly...to-night," he repeated
slowly for the benefit of the brain-damaged.
"I know that," Tetsuo Glue replied very softly. There was a
predatory edge to his voice that caught Sho's attention at
once. It was the same tone that they used to tag someone as
an easy mark. "Take a look."
Sho rolled over on the hood. The sight that greeted him was
so out of place, it took a few seconds to register what he
was seeing. An old woman was standing just outside their
circle of bikes and cars. Probably from the neighborhood
come to complain about the noise, he thought. But as he
opened his mouth to tell her not to get her panties in a
bunch, that they were in fact leaving soon, he noticed that
she wasn't even really looking at them. She was in fact
looking past them, at the house that the kid had so recently
run away from. So intent was her gaze that Sho wondered if
she even knew that they were there at all. Curious, he slid
off the hood of his car and sauntered over to her.
"Hey lady, you feeling all right?"
For a moment, Sho thought she was hard of hearing for she
didn't respond immediately. But then, as if startled out of
some private revery, she looked at him, really looked at
him. Her hand came up to her mouth in surprise as she
returned the gaze of the other leather-clad young punks. Now
that he could see her better, Sho thought his initial
assessment was wrong. She was clearly not from around here.
Her kimono looked too pricey for one thing, and her handbag
had a designer label. People from this low-rent neighborhood
didn't the means to dress that nice, and even if they did,
nobody would get so dressed up just to bitch out a bunch of
loud-mouth motorcycle toughs. Sho considered the handbag
again, which she clutched very tightly to her chest, as if
it were a shield or something. He suspected that there was a
lot more money in there than the measly thousand yen or so
still left in his wallet. And apparently that thought wasn't
his alone. He noticed the other gang members gazing intently
at it, as well.
"Pardon me," the old woman said. It seemed that in a glance
she had picked out Sho as the leader, for she bowed deeply
to him. "I must get through."
Tetsuo Glue tittered into his hand, as if to say "Not
without that bag, you're not." But Sho silenced him with a
stern look of reprimand. To the old woman, he asked: "Get
through to where?"
"Why...there," she said, simply, pointing at the house
Several members of The Junks burst out laughing at that
statement, the image of the scared fleeing teenager still
fresh in their minds. Scared maybe, yeah, but he had also
been young...and well, he had been a *guy.* The thought of
this little elegant old woman in her fancy kimono going
inside the house was just too much for some of them.
Sho almost laughed himself. He'd been in there just once for
his own initiation. Although he'd stayed inside long enough
to pass the test and eventually join The Junks, even he had
not set a record. And when he had emerged, he had been as
scared as anyone else. Just like every kid initiated that
way, he had been gleefully primed to expect ghostly visions
and disembodied voices and blood seeping from the walls, and
just about every sort of horror that could be imagined.
Of course, there wasn't really anything in there; he knew
that now. It wasn't haunted as everyone claimed it was. But
a creaky floorboard here, a cold gust of wind there...it
didn't take much for the imagination to go wild. And whether
the cause was real or not, fear was still fear. But at least
he could hold his head up and say he hadn't wet himself like
that kid earlier.
"Lady," he said with a snort, "I don't think you understand.
That there house is haunted."
The words seemed to strike some chord in her. But in
response to it, the old woman only looked at him. While the
other members of his gang were all still laughing at her
spoken intention, Sho was not. He found that he could not
laugh along with them, and although he wanted to, neither
could he look away.
For there was a palpable sadness in her eyes now, perhaps
etched in the very lines of her face. Never had he seen such
a thing before and never had he even suspected that so much
sadness could reside in the fragile pink shell of one human
being. And while it left him stunned, she wore that sudden
welling emotion as if it were another invisible layer to her
elegant flowered kimono. With nary a sign that the secret
burden she bore was too great a thing to bear -- as surely
he suspected it must be, for she was so small, so very alone
-- she stood there, neither proud nor resigned, but merely
And almost before the words could emerge trembling from her
lips, somehow he just knew what she was going to say.
"I know it's haunted," the old woman replied quietly.
"That's why I have to go inside."
Bowing slightly again in her formal manner, as if she were
bidding farewell to some dignatary or sensei instead of some
street punk who only moments before had been speculating
about the contents of her purse, she carefully stepped
around him. Through the tough tangle of bikes and cars, she
passed with short, quick steps, and then entered the front
yard. As the young men watched in complete silence now, she
walked up the warped stairs, crossed the shattered porch,
and opened the door. She hesitated only a moment before
disappearing inside. When the door finally closed on her
bright kimono and obi, Sho felt the cracking of something
long forgotten and hardened in his heart.
At first, everyone seemed too stunned to say or do anything.
The silence lasted about a minute and then there was a mini
riot. Guys started swapping yen like they were traders on
the Nikkei, offering odds on how many seconds she would last
before she came running outside with her kimono hiked up
around her knees to keep from tripping.
Sho shoved off the hands with money in them that came flying
up to his face. He prided himself on his ability to judge
character. Now perhaps that punk earlier had broken his
streak...but this time...this time placing bets on that old
woman to come running outside seemed not such a sure thing
to him. She had come here with a purpose in mind, that much
he could tell, and somehow he doubted she would leave before
that purpose, whatever it was, was done, no matter what the
consequences might turn out to be. And he had a sudden
terrible insight that those would prove high, indeed.
Once again however, perhaps out of long habit, perhaps
because he was at a loss what to do, Sho started to count
again. "One tamogotchi, two tamogotchi, three tamogotchi..."
And then, like a premonition of the terrible things to come,
the night before she was to speak to her nephew about his
plan to destroy Godzilla, Emiko Yamane had a dream.
It was a familiar one, an old and unwelcome caller. She had
been haunted by it many times in forty years. Yes, it was
true that the dream had occured with greater frequency when
she had been younger and thus closer to the days that had
given birth to it. But it still happened, even now, as an
old woman approached the end of her life with as much
dignity as she could muster, at an age when her mind
sometimes misplaced the names of people and places that she
had known for years.
On some warm nights her unseen beau would come to her in the
dark. And Emiko would toss in her sleep at his untender
ministrations, sweating and moaning beneath her breath, as
she was forced to remember. A dreadful reunion, it was,
recalled with an excruciating clarity that seemed to mock
the dimming-gray passage of time.
As on this particular warm night -- once again, the dream
--and thus once again, she was there to witness the end of
her nation's long collective nightmare, standing on the deck
of the naval vessel as it lay anchored in the choppy waters
of Tokyo Bay.
Beside her, looking beaten and haggard beneath his dark hat
and the relentless sun, stood her father, Doctor Yamane. Two
weeks before this moment on the ship, although still
intellectually-active and alert for his years, he had been
an old man. But now a mere fourteen days later, he was older
by far than that fleeting amount of time should have made
him. It shown in his eyes, this new old age that had crept
up on him like some silent predator, and it shown in the
newly-formed wrinkles of his face, and by the hair which had
been grey, but was now shot all through with bleached
streaks of white.
As the boat rolled beneath them, this now-very-old man
swayed uneasily against the motion, but Emiko knew it was
more from exhaustion than anything else. How long had it
been since he had had a decent night's sleep? Or any of them
for that matter? Or the city of Tokyo even? She tried to
recall exactly how long it had been, but it was difficult to
remember. The way that days passed into nights and back and
forth had ceased to bear meaning, but had seemingly merged
into one long, never-ending nightmarish downward spiral from
which no one had been allowed to wake. Such a terrible
strain had it been that by now, on this the last day, Emiko
could not even be sure *what* day it was.
And once again, both she and her father watched pensively as
the two divers were fitted into their deep sea gear, the
collars and helmets ugly in their bulkiness and the metal
dull gray in the light. As one of the helmets was gently
positioned over Hideo Ogata's head, Emiko wondered if he was
scared. If he was, then it was a fear he refused to show. In
its absence was that familiar firm look of determination,
the one that had always secretly set her heart beating fast.
Sitting on the chair next to her fiance, the other member of
the two-man team, Daisuke Serizawa, happened to glance up at
her before quickly looking away. In his one good eye, she
had seen nothing but a strange melancholy that troubled her
for some reason she could not say.
And quiet, oh he was far too quiet, even for someone who
always felt more at home surrounded by test tubes and lab
equipment than other people, he was too quiet by far. Since
the anguished moment in the basement lab when he'd agreed to
use his device against the monster and then destroyed the
research that had created it, he had barely uttered a word
And perhaps in hindsight, that should have been warning
enough. Perhaps, yes, it should have -- she knew Daisuke
Serizawa well enough to know when he was holding something
back. But counteracting her natural concern was the sheer
exhaustion of the past few days. Taking care of the wounded
at the hospital, mourning the deaths of friends, looking
after her Father -- Emiko was as exhausted as any of them.
And so she did not perceive what should have been obvious,
and so his true intentions went unknown even to the very
In her bleary state of mind, if she even questioned
Serizawa's silence or his strange, fevered insistence to be
outfitted for the dive alone, she supposed he was
uncomfortable being the focus of public scrutiny. Or maybe
despite his many reassurances that destroying the research
was the best way, he'd still found room in his heart to hate
her, even just a little bit. After all, that choking grey
smoke that had risen from the small fire had represented
years of hard work, a vision once so bright with hope, but
now dulled and tarnished by reality.
She'd felt terrible enough already without wondering if what
she suspected was true. And so she never approached him, and
she never asked to know how he really felt. Of course, she
should have known better; she should have known there was
more to his silence than a guilty conscious could imagine.
Perhaps they all should have, but they didn't. All of them
were just so tired.
After the oxygen hoses and radio wires had been attached and
checked, and the pump was running loudly in the background,
with a final wave, they were lowered off the side of the
boat into the deep blue water below. The last thing she saw
as their iron diving-bell helmets sank beneath the murky
waves was the cylinder itself, possessively clutched in
It seemed so odd to her, so out of place, that all of their
hopes should be contained within that dreadful thing of
chrome metal and glass. No one knew what it was capable of
besides her and Serizawa. No one knew of the terrible forces
it could unleash in the wrong hands. No one knew that it was
not something to which prayers should be offered, but only
fear and mortal dread.
A couple of meters below the surface, the two divers
disappeared like phantoms, as the ocean enveloped them in
its greedy depths. And even after forty years had dulled the
edges, thankfully easing the burden of the memory of that
day, for the Emiko of old-age, dreaming fitfully on her
futon, the terror began all over again.
She hovered near the railing, paying out the oxygen hose
and radio cable for Hideo's suit. Behind them, the radio
operator strained to hear any sound above the crackling
static; he was the only way of knowing what was happening
down below. With every meter of their slow descent beneath
the waves, the moments of silence between his relaying of
their tinny words to those waiting high above seemed to
stretch to breathless eternities, apprehensive eternities in
which she was sure that the worst had happened.
Finally his voice called out over the deck: "They've reached
The relief that greeted that announcement from those crowded
around the railing was a palpable thing. Emiko looked at her
father with a wide smile, but his face was still grim. He
glanced at her and then shook his head -- there was still
too much danger to start celebrating. As he had told her
before they'd left the port, just reaching the ocean floor
was the easy part. Deploying the weapon and then returning
to the surface -- that was where the greatest danger to
their lives lay.
As if to prove that point, the radio operator suddenly
grimaced and removed the headphones with a jerk. "Damn.
Feedback," he said aloud to no one. "One of the cables must
have broke..." After a moment, he replaced the headset.
"Wait...I'm getting something."
With his eyes closed tightly in concentration, he listened
as if the voice were faint. Then he stood up quickly.
"Pull!" he cried out. "Start pulling!"
The command sent a shiver down Emiko's spine. Something in
the back of her mind told her that it had all gone wrong,
that they were both dead. The minutes stretched endlessly
until a ghost appeared and then broke to the surface,
bobbing up and down in the water with the over-inflation
needed to raise him. Emiko strained to see who it was, until
the helmet turned to the ladder off the side of the ship,
and she saw the number one painted white on the wet grey
Hideo. It was Hideo. She nearly collapsed from the relief
that washed over her body like the waves washing over his
Several members of the crew had to assist him in climbing
back aboard. But by the time, his feet touched the deck, it
was clear to anyone that he was absolutely frantic. He
gestured impatiently at the locking mechanism of the metal
helmet, and when the hands that sought to help him did not
move fast enough to his liking, he tore at the rubber seal
with his fingers, until the helmet was lifted from his
flushed and sweat-soaked face.
Hideo nearly screamed at a crewman. "Why did you raise me?"
The crewman looked perplexed. "But you signaled!"
Hideo was barely containing his fury toward the smaller man.
"I did no such thing! We had only just sighted the monster,
when you started pulling me up." He paused, his eyes
suddenly growing wide with understanding. Emiko caught his
glance, and all at once she knew that which Serizawa had
hidden from her...from all of them.
Hideo started for the edge of the deck, where the tethers
and cables to Serizawa's suit were still lying over the
side. "Raise him! Serizawa's still down there! Raise him
Several crewmen pulled on the tether, but it gave too
easily. "There's no tension!" one of them shouted.
"Then pull him up by the oxygen hose!"
"If we do that, it might sever from the suit!"
Down below, bubbles began to rise to the surface of the
water. There were just a few at first, like that which was
released by the valves on the helmets when they had been
under. But soon more and more began to burst to the surface,
until the roiling water looked like it was boiling. Emiko
saw that and felt her heart constrict -- the agitation of
the water was just like the beginning of the reaction in the
fish tank in the basement of Serizawa's house had been.
Fists balled tight in frustration, Hideo strode over to the
radio operator and roughly tore the headset from his ears.
"Serizawa! Serizawa!" he cried into the microphone. What's
going on? Serizawa!"
There was no speaker attached to the radio. The reply, if
any was to be had, would be fed directly into Hideo's ears.
And when it finally was, the growing look of helplessness
and sorrow etched on his face was enough to convey their
meaning to the entire crew. And when the line went dead a
moment later, they could see that as well, for it was as if
someone had just shot him in the heart.
"Serizawa!" he screamed futilely, at nothing. "Bring him up!
But the cable and the air hose were pulled easily to the
surface, with weight no more than the resistance of the sea
to drag them down. A somber mood descended over everyone as
the end of the oxygen hose, clearly sliced through with a
knife yet still being fed from the pumps, jumped out of the
hands of the botswain's mate. No one could bring themselves
to approach it. Silently, they could only watch as it
flopped to and fro across the deck like a dying fish, until
someone mercifully cut the power to the pump and the hose
went limp at last.
Emiko felt tears coursing from her eyes as she stumbled
across the deck and fell into Hideo's arms. In his eyes, she
saw what she herself felt -- that she should have known
Serizawa had planned this all along. But while she saw this,
she also saw no comfort forthcoming. It was as if a door had
slammed down between them. As his own tears came at last, he
whispered in her ear.
"He wanted us to be happy."
She wanted to die. At that moment, she wanted to fling
herself over the rail, to feel the boiling, transmuted water
flay the skin from her bones, to pass away unfeeling in its
dark blue embrace. But instead, she merely sank to the deck,
weeping. Simply because she was too weak-willed to do what
she knew she should have done.
And there she would have stayed forever had her father not
come over and picked her up. Doctor Yamane glanced quickly
at Hideo, but even he could not hold that gaze for long. And
yet the old man did what he could, what he thought was
right. He held his weeping daughter, steadied her, and then
whispered words into her ear. But to her they were words
that made no sense, words like "It's all right," and "He did
what he thought was best."
Emiko wanted none of his pitiful attempts at comfort.
Instead she wanted to break away, to batter him with her
fists, because he dared to say such things that meant
nothing to her. But she could not. Both because he was her
father, and because he could not know the terrible truth she
knew. Or that Hideo knew. Cowards that they were, they could
say nothing, not even to each other.
But no one was given much time to dwell on such things then.
Suddenly, the water off port began to convulse violently,
sending the ship lunging from side-to-side. Blue and white
it was at first at the nexus of the roiling turbulence, but
then with no warning, a deep crimson bubble erupted from the
depths with a roar of trapped air, a tortured gusher rising
red and white into the blue sky high overhead. Those near
the railing were immediately spattered by the red misty foam
as it washed over the side of the ship, their faces
instantly transformed into dripping masks of gore as they
recoiled in surprise.
Emiko choked back a scream and, horrified, averted her gaze,
both from them and from the tortured ocean behind, so like a
living thing writhing in pain. A moment later, as an awful,
dark-metallic stench wafted over the deck, hammering their
senses, her stomach tried to revolt and she nearly retched.
It was blood that bubble had been. And still it rose to the
surface, that blood, as if pumped up now from some unending
fount of horror and spreading out as thick as a glistening
oil slick across the turbulent waves. Soon, as if the entire
ocean had been transmuted before their unbelieving eyes by
some vengeful god, the water all around the ship was filled
with the crimson signature of the monster's unseen,
thrashing agony somewhere far far below the surface.
Even her father could barely stand the sight of it. As he
held her, he buried his face into her shoulder, trying to
comfort as much as he sought it himself. Then suddenly, he
pulled back. "What is that?" he said, looking with startled
curiousity down at the deck.
At first she didn't know what he meant, but then she felt
it. Vibrations were rising through the hull of the ship, a
steady pulsing wave that rose through the soles of her shoes
and up her spine, making her teeth chatter in sympathy. The
others crowded around them, looking confused, felt it as
well. And then finally she understood.
Down below, separated by fathoms and fathoms of water, that
which they could not hear with their ears, they *could* feel
with their bodies -- the mournful cry of the monster's dying
pain. And even as she wondered over such a thing, she could
feel that it was growing in intensity, almost as if it were
To starboard, the turbulence suddenly increased, rocking the
ship back and forth, until Emiko was sure they must capsize.
Never did she take her eyes of that churning water. As much
as she wanted to look away, she could not.
Finally, the monster broke the surface, pummeling the waves
wildly in its insensate pain, trying vainly to lash out at
whatever it thought in its primitive consciousness was the
source of it agony. But it could not understand -- there was
nothing to strike out against. No unseen enemy was
responsible for flailing the skin from its bones. The dark
depths of the ocean, once the creature's home for time
immemorial, had simply rejected it. The ocean, once its
soothing blue lover, had expelled it like a miscarriage.
Oxygen, yea, the very stuff that it needed to live was its
only enemy now.
The water was boiling and bubbling like acid. Chunks of
flesh began to drop off from its hands and fingers in wet
gibbets of sinew and blood, leaving only the stark white of
bone to grasp ineffectually at the unflinching blue sky
far above. It reared back its head, but the sound which
emerged was only a faint echo of what it had been. As they
could see through the melting flesh of its throat, it had
nearly no vocal cords left to form such a blood-chilling
noise anymore. And from somewhere deep within, there came
the sparks and flashes of the terrible coalescing blue-white
energies -- it's heat ray, not its only weapon of death, but
by far the worst, the source of so much human suffering.
Emiko held tightly to her father's chest, bracing for the
the white death that would melt the flesh from her body. But
a heartbeat passed and then another and it never came. The
monster's skin was too tattered and frayed to contain or to
focus those incredible nuclear-powered energies anymore. And
so the light they had learned to dread only leaked out of
the holes of its throat and shown through its chest like a
burning lamp as seen through a sliding shoji screen door.
At this point, the dream veered radically from what had
actually happened. Although at the time it had seemed that
the creature's surface writhing had lasted forever, the
truth was it had lasted a mere ten seconds. And if the dream
had mirrored that reality, then perhaps she would not have
been so tormented by it. But, with the logic of dreams, it
did not, and so the true horror began all over again.
Instead of sinking below the surface, to waste away its
final moments unseen, the creature's agony was only
extended. It snapped and bit at the phantom enemies, roaring
in its futile yet undying defiance, clawing at its burning
skin, leaving great weeping gouges in its chest and its
neck...and finally its face.
It clawed at its face uncaring, and soon there was an awful
popping sound as one of the eyes was punctured, dribbling
like blackened jelly out of the socket and down its ruined
cheek. If such a thing was possible, the monster only seemed
to scream even louder at its self-inflicted wound, the sound
spiraling up and up until it mercifully left the range of
Emiko could not stand anymore. She wanted to run for the
interior of the ship, to hide in its cool dark, to fill her
ears with something to keep the terrible sound at bay. No
human being should be forced to watch such a horrible
And then at that moment, the creature suddenly stopped its
wild thrashing...and it looked at her. Not merely in her
direction, that of the ship, the closest object in the
water. But *at her.* As if it knew her somehow. With that
empty socket now blinded, still that blackened space seemed
to *see* her. And now the strained roar emerging from its
tortured throat seemed to be trying to form words...to
speak. To her.
"No," she whispered.
"It can't be...it's not possible."
She spun around to flee and realized for the first time that
she was now alone on the deck of the ship. Where had
everyone gone? But she did not have to wait long for an
answer -- the charcoal shadows blasted into the
superstructure, their arms thrown up in futile warding
gestures, told her what had happened. They had been
vaporized by atomic fire. Her Father. Hideo. Everyone. They
were all dead and she was alone at the mercy of the
creature. Her eyes grew wide and her hands rose quickly to
cover her mouth to stifle a scream.
As the monster reached for her, she looked up into that
ruined face, that hollow eye, and realized that it was
changing. No longer Godzilla, but not yet the other thing
into which it was changing. And she realized that she knew
this face, that hollow eye, and his name was...
But she couldn't say it. Instead, like every other time
before when she had had the dream, she woke up screaming.
The bedroom was dark and warmed to a near cloying
suffocation with the stench of her own fear-sweat. Past the
open window, the sheer curtains moving listlessly in a faint
breeze, she could just make out two shafts of light
aimlessly crisscrossing the sky somewhere far away. With the
sound of her heart pounding in her ears and the orphan
fragments of dreamstuff flitting just outside the range of
perception, the old woman she was started to tremble.
Something terrible was approaching. What exactly, she could
not say, but of that she was certain -- it was coming. And
it was near.
It took many hours before Emiko could calm down. Sleep would
not come again that night, so she sat by the window instead,
waiting for the first light and considering the implications
of the dream revisiting her on the eve of her meeting with
But by the time the doorbell rang late that same afternoon
and she'd let her nephew inside, some semblance of control
had been restored. And more importantly than that, through
the return of that awful dream, she had gained a new sense
of purpose and resolve. Of the many things in which she
believed, chance and coincidence were not among them. Even
as Ken sat down to eat some watermelon she had sliced up
earlier, she started in on him.
Sho had stopped counting a long time before, at least long
after it became apparent to anyone who would cop to it that
the old woman was not coming out of the house anytime soon.
And no one quite knew what to say to that.
The members of The Junks were spread around him, some guys
sprawled on the hoods of their cars and some in the street,
lying against the tires of their cars, as if they were at
home in front of the TV or something. Yet where there had
been laughing and horsing around before, now there was only
a long uncomfortable silence. Something had just happened
here, something that went against the natural order of
Gang legend had it that about five years before, a punk by
the name of Akira, one of the toughest and craziest mothers
ever to cut a swath through the neighborhood, had once spent
a night in the house on a dare. Although the others probably
thought it was crap, Sho could believe it. Around these
parts, that kid had been so feared by people and so crazed
with his own fearlessness, it had been his own undoing.
But what had happened now was different. This was some old
woman, for god's sake, not some loony toon who was taken to
task by the local Yakuza when they deemed him a loose
cannon. This *now* should not be. But it was and it was
unsettling in some fundamental way they could only vaguely
"Maybe she ran out the back?" Tetsuo Glue offered quietly.
Several other gangbangers nodded at that, some murmuring
their assent. It was as good an explanation as any.
"Naw. Naw, that ain't it. She probably scared white as a
sheet...probably dropped dead right on the spot," someone
else said with authority. "I heard shit like that happen,
man. You betcha."
But this time no one said anything to reaffirm the
explanation. The idea that the old woman had freaked and run
out the back was pure bullshit, because they would have
heard something. Yet although they were willing to believe
just about anything to save a little face, it was stretching
it a bit too far to say that she had died from fear. And
such gross exaggeration only served to remind them that they
all looked pretty damn stupid. Again the entire gang lapsed
into uncomfortable silence, each trying to decipher how an
old frail woman could make fools of them all.
"This is boring," one of the kids finally said. "Shit, man,
who gives a damn about some crazy old fuck anyway?"
Another guy with long hair jumped up on the hood of a car.
"She's just some crazy old bitch!" he shouted angrily.
With that, there followed a lot of grumbling and swearing.
No one much liked the strange turn of events this night, and
so they put the blame the only place they could. "Let's take
off, man," a biker said. "I've got better things to do than
sit here pullin' my pud, watchin' some stupid house!"
"What do you think, Sho?" Tetsuo asked. "You wanna stick
around?" Unencumbered by any sort of spine, his opinions
were happily informed by the majority. And even then he
always deferred to the one in charge of any given situation.
Sho stood where he was and took it all in. "You guys take
off. I wanna see when this crazy bitch comes out."
The others looked at him askance, until one of them offered
a twisted little smile. "Yeah right, you just wanna peak
inside that purse, doncha, Sho?"
Sho smiled back a half grin that seemed to say "You've seen
right through me."
Everyone started to laugh as they got into their cars and
hopped onto their bikes. Some of them were shaking their
heads. Sho could almost hear them thinking: *this* was why
he was the boss when the real one wasn't around, because he
was one heartless motherfucker who would sell his
grandmother if he could smell a profit in it. And maybe, in
a way, he thought, they were right.
Tetsuo Glue ran from car to car, frantically trying to get
in one as they all peeled out, leaving him coughing dust and
hearty laughter. Finally the doofus managed to hop on the
back of one of the bikes and waved happily at Sho. And then
they were all gone, screaming down the darkening blacktop
with short pipes and even shorter tempers.
Sho kept grinning until he was all alone. But then, as he
looked hard at the house once again, it melted away. He lit
another cigarette and took a few deep drags, blowing some
lazy smoke rings. With no wind to stop them, they drifted
far before breaking apart and dissipating. When the last one
disappeared, he figured it had been long enough. He stubbed
out the butt on the bottom of his shoe and then interlaced
his fingers and cracked his knuckles. Then he slid off the
hood and started ambling toward the front yard.
The warped steps creaked loudly under the weight of Sho's
boots. On the last one, he hesitated. The paint on the
railing was flaking badly and some of the spindles were
either gone or snapped in two, the jagged stumps sticking up
like broken teeth in a diseased gum. As he looked around the
porch, he noted that the faded wooden floorboards were
sunken and cracked in spots. Off to his left stood a gaping
hole of darkness where a few of them had simply snapped in
two, whether from age or termites he didn't know.
But in truth, it wasn't the fear of his weight making the
rotted wood collapse that had stopped him. Suddenly it just
seemed that the short distance between that last step and
the front screen door, hanging loosely on its rusted hinges,
had gotten very long, very long indeed.
It had been nearly two years since he had entered this house
that last time. Just a punk of sixteen he'd been then,
hesitant and torn. Torn between knowing which of two things
frightened him more -- the gang who had given him this task,
or going alone into the house that he had secretly feared
most of his short life. In the end it had been both a sense
of his own toughness, his pride, and the threat of violence
from the gang that had decided him. He knew very clearly
what would happen if he chickened out.
All of them had been hooting and hollering like wild
animals, pelting him with trash talk, pounding the tops of
their cars in anticipation of his screams. "You got the
balls?" one of them called out to him. And it turned out he
had, for he did go through with it and passed the test. Or
at least one of them. But only Sho knew how close it had
Kids growing up in this neighborhood had traded stories
about the house in the way others might swap baseball cards
or something. The most popular tale was that the place had
been the scene of some gruesome, unspeakable tragedy. This
neighborhood folklore had been related with quiet, ominous
tones at all the slumber parties, with no light save for a
single flashlight, and the children all huddled together in
their sleeping bags. Someone had commited suicide there. But
not just *a* suicide or even a *double* lover's suicide,
which was pretty standard melodramatic stuff for TV or
books, but a *triple suicide.* For a kid, *that* was some
seriously messed-up stuff. Triple suicide. Yeah. Messed up,
*One day, the husband came home,* the old story went, *and
found his wife in bed with another man. They had been so
ashamed that the lover had pulled a gun out and shot himself
-- BANG! -- right in the head, right there in bed next to
the man's wife. Then, without even hesitating, she had
apologized to her husband for humiliating him, took the gun
in her own hand, and -- BANG! -- shot herself. Then the
husband, crying and riddled with grief, had pried the still-
smoking gun out of his wife's stiff cooling fingers and --
BANG! -- he shot himself. And that's how the police found
them, all of them, lying in one big pool of their own blood
-- DEAD! And to this day, if you go into that house alone at
night, you can hear their ghosts moaning and crying in pain.
And sometimes they appear, still covered in their own blood
after all these years. And if you're in the house when they
do...they'll GRAB YOU!*
At that point the kid telling the story, a flashlight turned
up beneath his chin turning his face into a the black and
white mask of some ghastly abomination, would reach out and
grab the arm of the person sitting next to him. That had
always provoked one hell of a scream, if the storyteller was
good enough, and allowed the others to nervously laugh away
their fear. The first time Sho had heard it -- how old had
he been? Eight? Nine? -- he and some friends had been over
somebody's house, having some kind of stupid seance complete
with a Ouiji board. He had been the one so grabbed at the
dramatic end of the tale, and it had given him bad dreams
for many nights.
Of course now it only made Sho want to laugh, thinking of
all the stupid things that kids will do to keep each other
amused. Silly stuff when he stopped to think about it.
Stupid. Silly. Kid's stuff.
And yet why was he hesitating now? Why did it feel that
going up that last step to the porch would be the hardest
thing he had done in his life?
*I know it's haunted,* she had said. *That's why I have to
*That's bullshit,* Sho thought dismissively. *This place is
as haunted as my fucking closet. There ain't nothin' in
there. Those were just stupid kid stories. There ain't never
been nothin' in there...*
Nothing in there...save now for an old woman whose sad face
seemed incapable of lying. An old woman whose words and
resigned tone of voice carried the same conviction as
someone saying "Tomorrow the sun will rise in the east." An
old woman whose eyes suggested that the ghosts of which she
spoke were as real as longtime friends she had come to
And so he hesitated, as he had when he had been sixteen.
When it had been *his* turn to go into the house. When it
had been his turn to prove that he'd had the balls to join
the gang. Yet enough of that childhood trepidation had still
lingered that the fear of what might lurk inside had been
very real. Of course he hadn't wet himself like that kid had
earlier, but going in hadn't been a cakewalk for him either,
that first time all alone in the all-encompassing dark, with
the air so dry and stale it must have been as close to the
inside of a coffin as a *living* human being would ever
But actually getting up the courage to cross that threshold
into that dark unknown had been only the beginning. Staying
in there long enough to satisfy the gang, that had been the
trick, the true test of his mettle...especially with those
eight-year-old's doubts playing in the back of his mind the
entire time, like an old scratched 78 skipping to the same
spot in his subconscious over and over again.
But Sho was no longer eight years old, or sixteen for that
matter. Two long years of gang life had hardened him enough
to overrule the archetypal fears of childhood. In that time,
he had seen and done things that would make people cringe
from him if they but knew.
And when he took that last step, it was with a determined
grimace, and then a purposeful stride across the low-
groaning porch. He opened the screen door slowly, but the
rust-covered hinges still shrieked out loud, as if
complaining about all the use they had seen this night. And
then he stepped inside.
Despite himself, he was slow to close the door behind him.
In the waning pie-slice of light floated a stately parade
of dust globules like tiny lethargic families. As he closed
the door completely, the sudden movement of air made them
scatter before they disappeared back into the darkness. He
stood in the foyer for a few moments, letting his eyes
adjust to the lower light level, while an awful musty
stench pirated his senses...dust, decay, rot, animal feces
all rolled into one terribly pungent combination.
It was just like he remembered....maybe even worse. But as
bad as that might have been, it was nothing compared to the
overpowering sense of the sheer silent years of empty
waiting that had collected quiet within. As tangible as the
dust and the smell it seemed, that feeling pressed down on
him like some colossal weight high above.
There was a soft shuffling sound off to his right somewhere.
Sho turned, walking in that direction with his hands held
out in the gloom before him to warn of any obstacles in his
path. And then he paused, remembering the lighter in his
pocket, and chided himself. He wasn't a kid anymore; he
didn't have to grope blindly through the darkness as he had
that first time.
The sound of the lid flipping open on the Zippo, the sharp
grinding of the flint into life, seemed to molest the
silence, echoing very loudly. Hopefully not loud enough that
she had heard. He didn't want to startle her or anything. He
waited until he heard that soft shuffling sound again, and
then with the flickering orange light to guide him, he
silently followed a brief hallway until it came to a set of
stairs. Out of nowhere it seemed, a breeze guttered the wick
until it went out.
Fortunately, Sho didn't need it anymore to see. The landing
upon which he stood opened up into a wide room with a
shattered bay window off to his right. There was still
enough light in the dying sky filtering through that he
could make out its dimensions. A living room or something
similar, he thought. At least it seemed that big enough to
be one. There was some kind of mess over in one corner, all
black and melted and charred around the edges. Probably from
a fire...maybe vandals or vagrants had set it, he didn't
As Sho's eyes tracked from right to left, finally he caught
sight of her. She stood with her back to him in the corner
opposite that unknown pile of burnings. Even in the half-
light her kimono stood out, the color of the elegant flower
pattern dulled a bit by the dimness of the room, yet still
vibrant in some soft-spoken way he didn't understand.
The old woman seemed to be holding something in her hand,
stroking the thing almost reverently with a finger. And
although he could not be entirely sure, her shoulders seemed
to be shaking, as if she was caught in the grip of strong
emotion. Suddenly she turned her head as if hearing some one
call her name. The movement was so fast and unexpected that
Sho took a step back. When he did, a floorboard creaked
loudly under his foot. The old woman spotted him instantly,
standing there frozen on the steps. Her breath sucked in, an
audible hissing sound that seemed to disturb the very
For a second, Sho was sure she was going to start screaming.
She had that startled, scared look that he recognized so
well. It was always the same, whether from some kid who'd
just pissed his pants or some old woman standing in dust and
darkness. And who would have blamed her if she had screamed?
*Shit, coming in here was stupid,* he berated himself. But
since he couldn't back out now, there was nothing left to do
but calm her down as best he could before she did scream,
and someone passing by thought she was being raped, and
called the cops.
"Hey...lady...chill out," Sho said. As feeble as the words
sounded in his own ears, it was the only thing he could
think of to say. "I just...I just wanted to see if you were
"I'm glad you came," Emiko said to her nephew. "I know how
busy you've been lately."
"Well, you're my aunt. Of course I would," Ken replied
amiably between bites of watermelon. He was thin and rather
short for his age, dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans
that made him look as if he were about to go out and play
baseball with his friends, instead of hunched over a
computer doing research for G-Force. The soft lines of his
face still held the shadow of his quickly-receding
adolescence and put her in mind of the painfully-shy,
introverted child for whom she had often babysat.
He smiled at her and adjusted his glasses. He did not say
anything about the phone call she had made the day before,
when she had all but begged him to come talk to her. Perhaps
in hindsight, it hadn't been the most prudent thing to do,
but such had been her desperation to talk to him now that he
was a part of G-Force. He would know if the rumors were
"I apologize for calling you like that," she said now, with
a slight bow of her head. Her voice was uncommonly soft.
"Did I interrupt anything important?"
"Well," Ken said, shifting his gaze away to something across
the room, "Miki and I and some of the research staff were
discussing a few things. It was a bit...awkward."
Seeing him look away like that, Emiko knew that it had been
more just awkward. Probably it had been extremely
embarrassing for him. Maybe even he had felt exasperated at
being disturbed or angry with her, although he would never
say as such.
"I see." She nodded her head. "Please understand that I
would not have done it if I felt it wasn't urgent. However
I'll be more considerate in the future. I won't call you
Ken looked up, startled. "No, no, that's not what I meant.
It's just...I'm new there, you know? And perhaps my thesis
on Godzilla's physiology brought me to their attention, but
I'm still a little afraid some of them still might not take
me seriously considering my age and inexperience."
Despite herself, Emiko smiled. "Them? Or...her?"
Ken looked down at his feet. He started rubbing the back of
his hand the way he always did as a child when someone was
very close to discovering something he was trying to hide.
"Her? Uh, w--what do you mean by that?"
For a moment, Emiko forgot why she had called him and
instead delighted at his discomfort. Ken had always been so
serious, so focused about everything that it was easy to
forget how young he really was. Even now that he was in
college and attached to G-Force, as he began to stretch into
important scientific circles, to grow into an adult, there
was still a part of that shy little boy she had known hidden
"I mean, Miki Saegusa," she said, smiling. "You're working
closely with her, are you not?"
Dumbly, Ken nodded, the slightest hint of a blush rising to
"So what is she like in person?" Emiko asked. "Is she what
you always imagined her to be?"
Miki Saegusa had been Ken's first crush. She recalled
clearly the day when he had came over after school and she
inadvertantly discovered his affection. A piece of paper had
fallen out of his notebook as he sat down at the desk in her
father's former study. There in colored pen had been drawn a
perfect heart shape with both of their names in the center.
At first Emiko had thought it was just some girl at school,
but when she pressed him about it later, he admitted the
truth. Then with a stern and serious gaze, he had begged
that she keep it a secret. And with equal solemnity, for the
matter of first love was a serious thing and not to be taken
lightly, she had agreed. At least until he'd left. Then she
had broke down immediately and couldn't stop laughing. And
now, a few years later, Ken was working with her. Strange,
Emiko reflected, how these things turned out.
"Miki is..." he began after a moment, his voice filled with
something like awe. Then he paused and almost laughed.
"Doctor Miki Saegusa is a respected member of G-Force. And I
am not thirteen years old anymore." He looked at her and
smiled. "Aunt Emiko, Miki's a wonderful person. Very
dedicated. Very focused on her beliefs. I don't entirely
agree with her point of view, but even in the short period
of time that I have been there, I have learned to respect
her a great deal."
"Ken?" Emiko tilted her head and smiled again. "I'm
surprised that you would say such a thing. Why I do believe
you're growing up."
"Well, maybe a little," Ken said, laughing in an embarrassed
way that showed for all of his new-found maturity, he still
had a way to go. "Uh...speaking of G-Force, I don't mean to
be brusque, but I do have a lot of work waiting for me
there. So...why did you want to see me, Aunt Emiko?"
The playfulness left her voice as she was suddenly jerked
back to the real reason why she had called him. The memory
of her dream the previous night surged to the forefront of
her thoughts and she had to force it back to keep her voice
"Ken," she said, "now that you are a part of G-Force, I have
a very important question to ask you." She paused a moment
to collect her resolve. "The other day, on TV, I saw some
scientist talking about Serizawa, talking about his work.
And I've been hearing things. Rumors. Are you going to
use...*it* against Godzilla?"
Emiko could see by the sudden look of surprise on her
nephew's face that she didn't need to clarify what she meant
by *it.* He didn't need to be told; he knew exactly what she
"The Oxygen Destroyer," he said at last.
The words sent a shiver through her body. She had long
wished never to hear them again, not after what had
happened. But like many things, it was a wish that in some
ways she had always somehow known could not be kept. Perhaps
in some better place than this, maybe. But not in this
world. She sat forward stiffly, clasping her hands together
in her lap and commanding them to lay still, despite their
"Are they planning on reviving it?" she said softly, fearing
the answer. "Are they going to use it against Godzilla?"
Ken put down the piece of watermelon and wiped his mouth
with a napkin. When he was done, he looked at her with such
an expression of seriousness, she almost quailed beneath his
*Oh yes,* she thought, with equal amounts of pride and
sadness. *He is no longer a child.*
"Aunt Emiko," he began, "we have no choice. We must use it.
The danger from Godzilla is far greater than you can
imagine. Far greater than we are willing to admit to the
media. If word ever got out about what our researchers
suspect will happen if his condition continues to
deteriorate, the world would be thrown in chaos."
"But Ken-chan, Serizawa knew the danger, too," she said.
"Rather than letting that terrible thing fall into the
wrongs hands, he took it to his grave with him. To revive it
now...doesn't his sacrifice tell you something?"
Ken sighed. "No one can deny Serizawa's sacrifice. No one
will say that it *isn't* wrong to revive his research. But
the greater wrong would be to do nothing when a potential
answer was right in our hands. We simply have no other
choice now. I understand what you are feeling, but it has to
be done. For the greater good, it has to be."
"For the greater good," she said sadly. Such a simple phrase
it was. Such an all-encompassing rationale. Didn't anyone
ever tire of it? Didn't anyone ever learn what it really
meant? "If you can say something like that, Ken, then you
don't understand. Not really."
He looked at her strangely. "Aunt Emiko?"
Emiko got up and started walking around, her eyes distant
now. "Because if you truly knew what it meant, then you
would never have considered using it in the first place."
She looked at him and smiled. "But I suppose it isn't your
fault. Those stories must seem like ancient legends by now."
Distant and unreal, she thought, and remembered her dream,
how she had woken up in a panic, sweat-soaked, the air
saturated with the stink of her fear. And she wished,
secretly, silently, but not for the first time, that such
were the case for her as well. Sometimes it was so tiring,
she just longed to forget. But it was not to be. She had a
responsibility, a duty to perform. And while it did not seem
fair that it had fallen to her of all people, at the same
time she would not have trusted it to anyone else.
She sat down next to him and took his hand in her own. "But
they aren't legends, Ken-chan. They were real and they
happened. You speak so easily about using forces that you
don't understand, but there was only one person who truly
knew what was at stake. What he did then, he did for the
greater good as well."
"Aunt Emiko," Ken began, but she cut him off. How she loved
him, had always loved him. When it had become clear to her
that she was never to have any children of her own, she had
transferred all that potential love to him as well. In this
world, it was too precious a thing to let go wasted. She
knew that her words were hurting him. But this was too
important; he had to *hear* her, he had to *hear* what she
was saying, no matter how much pain it brought.
"Serizawa's death should tell you all you need to know about
what you are attempting. Of course it is unfair to hold you
to a complete understanding of something that happened
before your were born. But ignorance won't exonerate you or
the others if things go wrong. And they will, Ken, they
will, if you use the Oxygen Destroyer this time. Serizawa
will be angry. Very angry. He won't allow it. He will stop
Ken opened his mouth but no words would come. Finally he
could only look away from her eyes, her penetrating stare.
"That's...that's not a fair thing to...to say," he said,
sounding shocked and frustrated and tired. "You just don't
understand what's at stake. Everyone is in danger. There's
no other choice."
"We all have a choice, Ken-chan," she said, squeezing
tightly on his hand. "I want you to promise me that you
won't use it." She nodded toward a framed photograph on the
large bookshelf across from them. Serizawa, one eye forever
darkened, stared back at them there, dour and melancholy in
stark black and white, as if in some way he had briefly
glimpsed his final fate in the flash of the camera's bulb.
"I want you to promise *him* that you won't use it. It's
what he wants."
For a moment, he seemed torn, wavering, almost on the verge
of giving her what she so wanted. And Emiko allowed herself
that same moment's sense of satisfaction. His hand began to
tighten on hers and she knew the words were soon to follow.
Ken had always been a good boy at heart. He would do the
But then the doorbell rang loudly behind them. And as she
turned to look, he withdrew his hand. And the moment had
"I wonder who that could be?" she said, getting up.
"It's...probably Yukari," Ken said quietly.
Emiko glanced at him. "Why would your sister come here?"
"I called her." He looked away, as if ashamed at what he had
done. "After you called me."
"I see," she replied, and couldn't keep her voice from
sounding wounded and disappointed. She walked over to the
front door and quickly glanced through the peephole. Yukari
Yamane waited patiently outside, dressed in her usual
modern, business-like way. She wore a tan coat and skirt and
a white blouse, an expensive-looking ensemble cut to show
off her trim figure and long legs. Despite her herself,
Emiko managed a warm smile as she opened the door.
She caught her niece with her hand rising to the doorbell
again. Yukari looked surprised for a moment, but quickly
recovered. "Good afternoon, Aunt Emiko. May I come in?"
"Of course," Emiko replied. "Ken is already here. Would you
like something to eat? I sliced some watermelon earlier."
"No. No, thank you, Aunt Emiko," Yukari demurred, as Emiko
knew she would. As a TV reporter, her niece was always
watching her figure, concerned about her appearance before
the great red eye of the camera.
Yukari was as different from Ken as night from day. And
although Emiko adored her as much as her nephew, would do
anything for her niece and knew the reverse was the same,
the truth was they had never gotten along as well with each
other as they might have. Partly that was due to a
difference in temperament...Yukari had always been
independant, even as a child, always strong willed. She had
never been one to follow orders lightly. Inquisitive and
questioning, she'd mapped out a future before entering high
school and never wavered from her course even if it brought
her into conflict with her parents...or her aunt.
But Emiko knew that was only a part of the reason for the
distance between her and Yukari. The other portion was her
fault entirely. Ken knew about what happened, but only
second-hand -- he had been too young then to be fully aware.
Yukari, however, had been thirteen in 1984, and she had
witnessed it all, as her loving and quiet Aunt was
transformed before her terrified eyes into a raving madwoman
They had never talked about it much, save for a few
inadequate words after it was all over, when Emiko was
herself again. She had tried, but it was too painful, too
shameful a thing for her to bring up, even months later. And
as a result the distance between them, already vast, had
only grown insurmountable.
Things had improved between them in recent years, she had to
admit, after Yukari grew up and the memories receded into
the back of her mind. But that which still lingered, like a
slick coating of something that could not be washed away no
matter how hard one tried, would always come between them
and their relationship would never be a close one because of
"Aunt Emiko?" Ken said, standing up as his sister entered
the room. "I have to speak with Yukari. If you don't mind?"
"Oh." Emiko looked between them awkwardly. "I'll just clean
up here then. You two go ahead." She walked over to the
table to collect the dishes, while Ken took Yukari into the
nearby study. With a final backward glance, he closed the
door behind them.
Emiko stared at the door for a moment more and then went
into the kitchen. She walked over to the sink where she
washed the dishes clean, sending the watermelon seeds and
the ripe green rinds into the garbage disposal. She plugged
up the drain and flipped the switch. The vibrations ran
faintly through her fingertips, while she stared out the
kitchen window into the backyard.
There was a tree back there, an elm with a pale, almost
flesh-colored trunk. It was not a large one, for the yard
itself was not that large to begin with. But the lowest
branch was still thick and sturdy enough that it had once
supported a swing a long time before. As she stared up into
its canopy of thick leaves, she could almost imagine she
could still see the grooves that the ropes had burned into
the bark, grooves that had long since healed or simply been
concealed by time.
This had been her father's house, which had been willed to
her upon his death. She had been born in this house, and she
had long since become resigned to the fact that she would
die here as well. Only for a brief time had she been away,
with Hideo after they had been married. Just a moment it
had been, a moment of happiness out of time. Just a moment
in which a bright flower might bloom.
But then the flower had wilted, for it's seed had been laid
in poisoned soil, and such fragile things could not survive
for long. And she had returned here, to the house of her
father, the house of her birth, as a small part of her must
have always suspected she eventually would. There were some
things in this world it was impossible to escape from,
especially the Past. Tenacious was its hold, merciless its
Had Ken understood all that? Would it inform his decision?
She wiped her hands on a dish towel and then, hesitating a
moment, she walked over to the wall next to the refrigerator
and pressed her ear to the wall.
The sound of their voices was unintelligable, muffled
vibrations nothing more. But Emiko knew them enough to know
what they must be saying. And when she began to make out the
sounds, discerning patterns of speech and intonation, it was
not with her ears, but her bones, her heart, that she began
"I didn't know what to do," she imagined hearing Ken say.
"Aunt Emiko sounded so frantic over the phone. I thought
maybe she was...you know...having another episode."
"Shh," she imagined Yukari replying softly. "Listen...I
called her doctor before I came over. He knows that she gets
very agitated whenever Godzilla reappears. When I told him
about her odd behavior lately, he said he would look into
"Do you think...? Ken began in her mind, but he was cut off
"Honestly? Ken, I don't know what to think anymore," Yukari
replied, and then she sighed deeply. "Godzilla threatening
to blow up the world. The Oxygen Destroyer. Aunt Emiko
calling at all hours of the night and day. Sometimes it
feels like the whole world's come loose all at once. And I
have this terrible feeling that the worst is yet to come."
"Well, don't let it get to you too much," Ken said
reassuringly. "G-Force is working on a solution."
"And that's supposed to calm me down?" Yukari said, in that
sarcastic tone she had developed as a teen. "According to
Aunt Emiko, the cure you're proposing might be worse than
"Aunt Emiko is..." Ken began, "...she is kind-hearted.
"She has to realize that the past has it's place," Ken said
with finality. "Right now, we have to do whatever we can to
ensure the future. If that means we have to use the Oxygen
Destroyer, then so be it. And if this Serizawa that's she on
about doesn't understand that..."
"Then that's just too bad for him," Ken's firm and somehow
cold voice echoed in her mind. "In this situation, we can't
afford to be sentimental about the past."
And in her mind, there was a brief pause before Yukari
Emiko stumbled away from the wall, clutching her throat in
horror. She wanted to say something, anything to make him
understand. But that would have been stupid, because it
hadn't been Ken speaking, only fears harbored in secret for
40 years. But even if the whispered conversation had only
been in her mind, she knew it was true all the same. Perhaps
the words were not the same, but the sentiments were there.
The situation was dire, hadn't he said that? And the
solution right there in their grasp. Under the
circumstances, there was no time to be anything but
In the living room, she heard the door to the study open.
Quickly, she composed herself and stepped out of the
kitchen, smiling warmly. "Would anyone like some dessert?"
Ken did his best to avoid her gaze. "I'm sorry, Aunt Emiko,
but I can't stay. There's an important meeting tomorrow
morning, 0800. I have to go over some research, double-check
some findings. I'll...talk to you both later when I have
"Ken?" Emiko said, following close behind him to the door,
nervously ringing her hands. "Did you decide? About what we
Ken paused. He ground his teeth for a moment, and then his
jaw became set and firm. "Yes. But that decision was never
mine alone to make. I'm sorry, Aunt Emiko. We all just have
to be brave."
"Brave?" Emiko said in disbelief. "Brave? Tell that to
everyone who will die if you go through with this! You stop
one monster, you'll only be unleashing another, even more
horrible one! Serizawa knew that! That was the message of
his death!" She grabbed a tight hold of his arm, too tight
for he winced. But she was beyond caring. "Reconsider, Ken!
There's still time! There's still time to find another way!"
"Aunt Emiko," Ken cried, trying to pry her hand from his
arm, "you're hurting me! Please, I've told you we have no
Yukari was up off the sofa in a moment, coming between their
struggle. "Both of you stop this!" With Ken's help, she
broke Emiko's grip and got them apart.
Ken cradled his wrist, the pale flesh already bruising
purple from the marks left by her fingers, and looked
helplessly at his sister. "Yukari say something. Make her
"Auntie, you shouldn't strain yourself," Yukari said,
holding her still-struggling aunt. "Remember what the doctor
Emiko balled her fists in frustration. "I am not having
another breakdown!" she said, her voice rising. "Don't you
dare dismiss me because of something that happened over ten
"...about your hyper-tension," Yukari finished softly,
looking uncomfortable. "I was only thinking about your
heart, Aunt Emiko. That's all. Just your heart."
Emiko brought her hand up to her mouth, but it was too late.
The words had come out and there was no way to take them
back; her desperation had gotten the better of her. Perhaps
Yukari and Ken *had* only been thinking about her heart
condition. Perhaps what had happened in 1984 had never even
crossed their minds.
But not anymore, Emiko thought to herself helplessly. No,
she could see it in their eyes now, as they traded awkward,
silent glances. Concern for one thing had been replaced by
the doubt that she knew what she was saying at all. And
because of that she knew the struggle to make them
understand had been lost.
Perhaps it had been a futile attempt from the very
beginning. Perhaps neither of them could ever understand.
Even though he was no longer a child, Ken was still too
young. And Yukari, she was a journalist, a modern woman.
Perhaps it was simply impossible for either to recognize
what she knew so intimately -- the debt their future owed to
the sacrifices of the past.
It was funny in a sad sort of way, Emiko thought. For while
they believed they had learned what the past had to teach
them, they hadn't really learned anything more than finding
different names for the same old stupid ways. Maybe it was
even worse -- *they* thought they had triumphed over it.
*They* thought that the stupidity of their ancestors had
Irony within irony within irony...oh it was such a grand
circle they wove, a dance of such complex and magnificent
proportions between humanity and the gods...until someone
realized that it was also a snake feeding on its own tail.
And by that time, it was always too late.
Ken left immediately thereafter. Yukari stayed, trying to
calm her down, to soothe her with kind words. But the dream
Emiko had had that morning was still too new, the
afterimages still present whenever she closed her eyes. And
no matter what was said to placate her, a new and altogether
terrible understanding had settled now in her heart. And
with that came a purpose from which she would not be
Maybe Ken was right in some way. Maybe desperate measures
called for desperate actions. But he was also wrong,
terribly wrong, if he thought the ghost of Serizawa would
allow him to escape unscathed. Sins such as the one he was
contemplating could never be allowed to go unpunished.
Something had to be done...someone had to do something...to
placate the wrath of the spirits.
By the time Yukari left, it was late afternoon. Emiko waited
long enough to be sure she was gone. Then she went into the
bedroom and quickly changed her clothes. In the family room
once more, she tipped forward the picture of Serizawa, took
those things she felt she needed from the secret place
there, and left.
The train ride took an hour, although oddly enough, later on
she could barely recall any details. When it finally pulled
into the station and she stepped off onto the platform, the
day was racing over the horizon behind her. She looked up
slowly, almost fearfully, from the cracked concrete and the
black-shoe-clad feet of her fellow passengers, to the houses
and buildings beyond the station at street level. And her
heart caught in her throat and she simply stopped moving, a
rock in the stream of commuters flowing obliviously around
A hard, orange glare illuminated the hilltop, her ultimate
destination in this eastern suburb. The light cascaded down
upon that gentle rising sweep of trees and shingled rooftops
and the winding road leading to its summit like the stoney
gaze of some god. Near the top overlooking all below, she
could just make out the familiar red brick facade of the
house from which she had fled in tears so many years before.
Standing on the platform of the train station, it looked so
small, so insignificant with distance, and yet she knew that
was deceptive. No matter how many years had passed or how
many miles separated them, it had always loomed large in her
The edges seemed to blur effortlessly, dissolving away the
years, until it seemed for a moment that she, too, was
melting with it. An old woman Emiko was. But now, as if
through some strange alchemy of the sun's fading warm
illusions and her own longing, she was young once more. As
tears rose to her eyes, trembling with emotion to be free,
she covered her mouth and held them in check by sheer force
All around her, the flowing trees and the few slatboard
houses that had withstood the trial of time recalled places
and events that she'd thought forgotten forever. And even
the faces of strangers exiting the train flowed into those
of long-dead friends, calling in soft voices of remembrance.
For one bright and endless moment, as memory held her dear
to its gentle bosom, there seemed to caper all the myriad
possibilities of youth again, just within her outstretched
grasp, still fresh and still waiting to be plucked from that
ripe succulent tree.
But then someone bumped into her from behind, and she felt
fear in the brittleness of her bones, and the cold that no
summer sun could ever seem to chase away completely. And
then she knew it was a lie, all just a lie. A mirage.
Nothing but a mirage caused by the rising waves of heat and
the stifling humidity and her own longing for what could not
With a heart humbled now, but no less determined than when
she had left, Emiko turned for the exit and followed the
last dregs of the commuters shuffling home.
Once on street level, she gained a better appreciation for
all the changes that thirty years had wrought. It was no
longer the gentle place of rural pastures and dappled lanes
of leaves and light she recalled from youth. Where there had
been flowing summer meadows of golden blooms, now there were
strip malls and apartment buildings. And where there had
been dirt roads running to sparkling creeks lost far back in
the dark woods, there now rose four-lane concrete overpasses
pulsing with noise and movement and dank, turgid canals that
faintly reeked of sewage.
Those weren't the only changes she noted, only the most
obvious. In some fundamental way she could not understand,
even those who now called this place home appeared different
somehow. Instead of moving to the rhythms of nature, the
older people she passed on the street seemed spurred to
quick steps by the silent alarm of internal clocks, and
faster still the young men and women, some with dyed hair
and over-large white socks, willing slaves it seemed to the
ever-changing verities of fashion.
As if she had come to the wake of a dear friend, Emiko was
filled by the need to weep. Thirty years, she thought
helplessly, and now this place looked just like any other
suburb, a mirror image of those to the north and south and
east and west, complacent in its faux urbanity and quietly
devoid of any identity.
It saddened her to see the old ways passing before her very
eyes. How could it not? She had lived them, had lived by
them all her life, and they were important to her. Yet at
the same time, she understood that all things must pass
eventually. Nothing could last forever. The old always gave
way to the new, and that was simply how it had always been.
And the feelings of one old woman were never a consideration
in that endless cycle. Nor should they have been.
But if the Past gave way to the Present because that was the
way of things, that did not mean that it should be forgotten
and not respected. It was not some set of old clothes to be
cast aside so casually. It was the Past; and such was its
strength -- and undying anger -- that it always bore an
impact on the Present, and hence the Future.
But there was little time left to stop and consider such
foolish things as the loss of something that mattered only
to some old insignificant woman. Instead she just kept her
head down and walked and tried with all her might not to
think unfairly of progress as a kind of vandalism.
The road leading up to the summit of the hill was two lanes
of gray, faded asphalt. Lining it on either stood rows of
trees tens deep. The interwined limbs of the lush, midsummer
oaks formed a natural tunnel of green and shadows. Sunlight
shown through from above along the road, patches of a
strange kind of clean rot on the dark. The shrill voices of
buzzing cicadas filled the wood like the screaming of unseen
Ironically enough, one thing had not changed in thirty years
-- there was still no sidewalk. So for her own safety, Emiko
had to tread close to the berm and the battered guardrail.
Although the slope was a gentle one, she tired all-too
quickly these days. And after a few minutes of walking, the
grade, no matter how gradual it was, began to wear her down.
Soon enough she was more than just shadowing the guardrail
to her right, but clinging to it with both hands, using her
arms to ascend as much as her legs.
So intent on this action was she that the young man
thrashing through the overgrowth off to her side didn't
arouse her awareness until he punched through a dense nest
of bushes and jumped over the guardrail in front of her.
Emiko gasped as the young man turned to look at her and he
at her. He was a lean little creature, all tight muscled and
dangerous. Breathing hard from his exertions, his taut body
seemed coiled with pent-up energy even standing as he was,
loose-limbed and caught off guard like something found
sleeping beneath an overturned rock. His face was covered in
scratches and cuts, some of them so deep that the blood
flowed freely down his scalp and cheeks, although he seemed
not to notice any discomfort. His dirty sweat-stained tee-
shirt had been smudged and shredded by his passage through
the dark tangle of green, revealing more cuts and scrapes on
his pale flesh.
She took a hesitant step backward at the sight of this
apparition. Had he been following? Was he a mugger? If that
had been his intent in surprising her, the young man made no
move to betray it. Instead he circled around and past down
the slope, eyeing her through bangs and blood, moving in a
wide arc of suspicion some whipped dog might make, as if
*she* were the one to be feared.
In a shaft of dying orange light, he paused, and Emiko could
make out what hadn't been obvious at first glance. He was
scared and he had been crying. His eyes were all red and
puffed out. A tendril of snot hung down from one nostril to
his chin. The jeans he wore were as torn as his shirt and
stained darkly wet near the crotch.
He wiped the runner from his nose and then suddenly asked:
"You goin' up there?"
He was so much younger in the light, little more than a
scared baby with a dirty face. Not knowing how to respond,
Emiko merely nodded silently.
A nasty little smile broke out on his face then. "Well good
fuckin' luck, you bitch!" he shouted and almost lunged at
her. But then, cackling like a lunatic, he turned and
started running down the hill.
"I don't give a fuck!!" he sang in a thin high voice that
grew fainter with every step. "I don't give a fuck! I don't
give a fuck at all! At all! At all!"
Emiko watched in shocked silence as his shadowed figure
leaped and cavorted uncaring of who might see him.
Pirouetting and dancing as he went, like some mad marionette
twisting on unseen strings, toward the bottom of the hill,
the young man suddenly paused, a comical expression on his
face. He cupped his hand to his ear as if hearing a secret
voice call to him. Then he hurdled the guardrail,
disappearing into the dense foliage that bordered the lane,
and was gone.
Emiko stared at where the young man had been for a few
moments, shaken and disquieted now. Doubt and uncertainty
over what she was doing nagged at the back of her mind.
Nervously, she looked up the hill to where the road curved
sharply around to the left and continued up to the unseen
summit. If she reached that point, there would be no turning
She looked back down the hill.Through the tangle of trees,
she could just make out another train pulling into the
station in the distance, going back the way she had come.
But there was no one there on the platform waiting to get
on; and after a brief pause, the train departed, empty.
The old woman sighed deeply. The point of no return had been
reached the moment she had made her decision and come here.
She turned and continued up the hill, rounding the corner.
On the last leg to the summit, she stared at her feet the
entire time, willing them to keep moving.
Somewhere near the top of the hill, a sidewalk began, and
she exited the road. She paused for a moment, breathing
heavily, the collar of her kimono soaked dark with
perspiration. As she stood there, a strange sensation seemed
to weigh down on her head. Like a piece of metal drawn by a
powerful magnet, her gaze rose from the ground before her
The house was a dark silhouette against a glaring orange
backdrop, trees and bushes running riot all around it,
framing it, but not softening its rigid unnatural lines. It
was hardly the same one she had last seen through the rear
windshield of a taxi going down the hill. Even then, when
she had been fleeing from it, perhaps even fearing it, the
house had been a pleasant sight, with a nice manicured
landscape and well-maintained exterior. At least in that
regard, it had hidden its crime well from the outside world.
Now it just looked beaten and grotesque, like some hideous
malformed creature squatting on its muscled haunches,
patiently waiting for prey to wander by. The roof over the
porch was sagging, the shingles ripped away in spots,
leaving gray patches such as might be seen on a mongrel with
a bad case of mange. The windows were covered in naked ply
wood. Even the brick of the walls seemed stained with
something, discolored, as if the guilt that had been born
and festered in its massive red heart had come through to
the surface at last.
But even though the house's pain could now be seen by all,
it had still served its master well. It had held onto its
secrets for long enough that no one who looked upon it now
would remember. All who knew had passed away in the fullness
of time, and now none were left but Emiko.
"Hey lady, you feeling all right?"
She didn't realize that she had continued walking until she
almost ran into one of them. They were spread around the
outside of the front yard like hyenas around a fresh kill,
young men in black leather jackets and tight humorless
smiles and flashing red eyes. They lounged on their hot rods
and their bikes, and if any of them suspected that the world
around them was readying itself to burn to nothingness, they
did not show it.
The predatory look in their young eyes, Emiko knew it
instantly for what it was. Reflexively, she clutched the
purse tight to her chest, and thought whatever money she had
brought they could have. That she would give that freely.
But not the purse itself. The incense sticks were in there,
and the other things, the offering of peace to the dead.
Those she would protect with her life.
She addressed the young man who had spoken to her. Although
his bearing was alien to her, that he had spoken first
suggested he was the one in charge, so she bowed. "Pardon
me. I must get through."
One of them giggled. Had she said something wrong? She
glanced around and wondered at what an odd sight they were.
They were all dressed like hoodlums from a 1950's movie,
from the black leather jackets to the pompadour hair-styles.
Or more accurately they were like charicatures -- the
hairstyle, in particular, was outrageous in its proportions,
not the way the real thing had been. But then she supposed
that that was what time did to things -- it distorted, made
them unrecognizable to those who had lived and lost them and
to those who found them again.
The young man who had spoken to her first looked at her
strangely. "Get through to where?"
At first Emiko did not understand what he meant. Wasn't it
obvious? They were in her way after all. But he did not know
who she was or what her purpose held. "Why...there," she
said, pointing at the house behind him.
She was a little startled when they all burst out laughing
"Lady," the leader said. "I don't think you understand." He
hooked his thumb behind him. "That there house is haunted."
Emiko stared at the young man as he laughed with the others
and something shook inside of her. For just a moment, just a
momentary trick of the light, she saw another face
superimposed upon his. In the way that he laughed, the way
his eyes shone with amusement, even vaguely in the silly
looking clump of hair that brushed over the side of his
face, she thought she could almost imagine someone else
standing in the young man's place. He had been so handsome,
so young then. All of them had been.
"I know it's haunted," she said, speaking not to the young
hoodlum who blocked her path, but to that other man who had
not deserved his fate. "That's why I have to go inside."
Quickly, lest her emotions get the better of her, she bowed
deeply again and then darted around him. Through the tangle
of cars and bikes to the front yard, she passed, and then to
the porch. Up the steps she climbed, being careful of the
broken ones, and crossed to the door. It was ajar, but she
did not question it. Hesitantly, she pushed it open and
Despite all her vows, when the door closed behind Emiko,
tears sprang unbidden to her eyes. It had been thirty years
since she'd last set foot inside this house. Now it was old
like her, like some tragic joke to which no one had bothered
to tell her the punchline. For a moment as she stood in the
threshhold, Emiko's resolve faltered. Perhaps, she thought,
it had been a mistake to come here again. Every brick, every
floorboard, every stained and torn tatami mat seemed
suffused with memory and potential meaning. They pressed in
upon her now, filling her with a kind of overwhelming
claustrophobia, as if she had entered a deep cave beneath
the earth instead of some delapidated old house that bore no
meaning to anyone on the outside world save her. Emiko moved
down the short flight of stairs to the living room, her geta
making hollow sounds on the cracked boards where the
carpeting had frayed to nothingness. Dust and the ancient
stench of mildew filled the air. In what had been the living
room, a pale and wan light filtered through the broken bay
window, a tree limb hanging half in and half out of it.
Glass crunched loudly beneath her feet. In one corner she
noticed a pile of dark rocks. The blackened wall behind the
loose ring they formed seemed to indicate that someone at
one time had tried to start a fire.
Perhaps it would have been better if it had been allowed to
burn, Emiko thought. Perhaps then the ghosts that filled
this place would have found some rest at last.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something glinting in
the half light. As she drew close, she saw that it was a
discarded photo frame. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she
bent to pick it up and turned it so. The glass was cracked
and cloudy, the fake gold peeling like torn paper, and the
photo of someone's memory long since gone, turned to dust
just like everything else.
She ran her still-wet fingers across the cardboard backing,
drawing tracks of moisture in the layer of grime that
discolored it. And in some way she couldn't understand, it
was as if the wetness had turned back the years but for a
moment, and it seemed that she could almost see the three
faces smiling out at her...herself, her father, and her
husband, Hideo Ogata.
Despite her vows, the tears came again, and this time she
feared that they would not stop. Why? she asked herself for
the hundredth time. Why was it necessary to come back here?
She looked at the empty photo frame again, saw the ghost
images of the three smiling faces, and grimaced, remembering
that there should have been a fourth there -- a ghost of a
man who had died long ago and had suffused her every waking
moment ever since.
Doctor Yamane, Hideo Ogata...and Daisuke Serizawa. Three
men. The triumverate of all her happiness in this world and
all her sorrow.
It was a voice, it was the wind. Yet when she turned to see
who had spoken her name, there was nothing. The house was as
empty as her dreams had once been full. But, whether she
wanted to or not, there was no time to consider such things
-- just then the sound of the creaking floorboard drew her
attention to the landing. She turned and her breath caught
in her throat. Someone was standing there, in the shadows,
looking at her.
The figure hidden of darkness took a step forward, and just
as quickly she took a superstitious step backward. One more
slow step brought the left half of its face into the angled
shaft of muted light streaming through the window. The other
side was still concealed to her scrutiny. And in the
illusion of darkness and light, of fear and remorse, it
looked so like a scarred face and eyepatch that for one
terrifying instant, Emiko thought it *was* him, truly come
for her after waiting patiently all the long years alone.
But the hesitant young-sounding voice that spoke then was
not that of the man she remembered from so long ago. And in
the way a wine glass could be shattered by the resonance of
a certain pitch, so was her momentary illusion shattered now
by that difference.
"Hey...lady...chill out," the young hoodlum said. "I
just...I just wanted to see if you were okay."
Sho's words hung trembling in the stagnant atmosphere of the
abandoned house. His voice was almost unrecognizable to his
ears, sounding flat and unreal, as if the sluggish, dust-
filled air had stripped it of resonance and refused echoes.
Now as the old woman stared back while he stood on the
broken stairs leading down to what had been the living room,
he began to wonder: would she or wouldn't she scream?
Despite his initial attempt to reassure, the longer he
waited for her to respond, the more sure he became that she
was going to freak after all. And really, now that he
thought about it, why should he have expected any less? What
reason did she have to believe anything that he might say?
He was a complete stranger, and in a gang, no less.
Truthfully, he'd have been more surprised if she *didn't*
But just as the moment passed, in which a reasonable person
might have expected a calm reply, just as he braced for a
truly ear-splitting cry, the old woman seemed to relax. The
scared look on her face receded and her startled, rigid
posture visibly softened.
"I see," she replied. "I thank you for your concern."
Sho let out a long slow exhale. He hadn't realized it, but
he had been holding his breath the entire time. "Cool. Man,
you...you really had me going there for a moment."
"I'm sorry," she said. "You just startled me. I thought I
was alone in here."
"Yeah well, normally you would be." He sat down on the top
step, pulled out a cigarette and lit it. As he took a deep
drag, he looked around again. "There aren't too many people
who come in this place willingly, y'know? I gotta say, you
kinda surprised me out there."
"I surprised you?"
"Yeah. Sorta." He flicked his ash. "I mean, it's not every
day somebody walks up the hill and says they gotta get
inside this place. Especially not...well..." He waved his
hand up and down. "Y'know, someone who looks like you do."
She glanced down at her kimono, smoothing it out. "Is
something wrong with the way I look?"
He shook his head. "No, there's nothing wrong with it. It's
just that you're a little over-dressed for this kind of
Looking at her now, Sho couldn't help but compare this old
woman to his Mother. For one thing, she was the only person
he knew who had a kimono as fancy as this woman's was. But
whereas his Mother's had been already old when her parents
had purchased it at a second-hand shop for her wedding
nearly, this one looked brand new. The colors of the flowers
spiraling around on the dark blue material were vibrant and
so distinct in their detailing, he could even make out the
golden yellow stamen of each bloom nestled within the pink
petals and the dark green veins on every leaf.
But there was more than just the newness of her kimono and
its obvious expensive. She wore it differently than his
Mother. Whenever a holiday arose or some other special
occassion, and his Mother dug out her ancient kimono from
the moth-balled chest, where like some kind of pirate's
treasure she kept it hidden, she always looked lost somehow
inside of it, as if she were suddenly unsure of how to move
around. Ungainly, yeah, kind of gawky in a way.
Not at all like this old woman standing before him. Instead
she looked...and he had to grope for the right word...she
looked *elegant.* Sophisticated perhaps. The way the women
always looked in old costume dramas or period movies set
five hundred years in the past. Not like his mother, not
even like Eiko, who had once said she would never be caught
dead in one of those things.
The way this old woman wore her kimono suggested breeding,
he supposed. Perhaps she had learned how to wear it so
effortlessly when she had been younger, no doubt along with
various lessons on tea ceremonies and flower-arranging and
all the other crap that women *had* to know if they wanted
to be considered good wife material, and which to a degree
were all still important, but not the only things anymore.
Hell, Sho thought scornfully, if it came down to that he
honestly doubted his own girlfriend could even *make* tea.
Not even if he provided the teabag, a kettle of water,
turned on the stove, and then drew fucking diagrams for her.
Eiko was a fun girl to hang around with, no doubt about
that. But there were times when she could be really dumb
about things that everyone else seemed to take for granted.
Sometimes he snapped at her, but usually he didn't give a
shit. It wasn't like he had placed a whole hell of lot of
expectations on their relationship to begin with. Bottom-
line, Eiko was a great lay. What more could he ask for?
"I'm a...Sho," he said, a bit roughly. "My name's...Sho."
The old woman smiled at that, as if with some small secret
pleasure he did not understand. After all, it was just his
name, nothing more special than that. And yet knowing it
seemed to satisfy her in some way, and the edges of her eyes
"My name is Emiko Yamane," she replied quietly. "I am
pleased to make your acquaintance, young man."
For just an instant, Sho was taken aback. He had never been
addressed in such a way. Nobody was ever pleased to make his
acquaintance. Feared at times, hated perhaps, even looked
upon with some sorrow for what might have been. But never
pleased. He began to open his mouth, to say something more,
but then closed it abruptly when he realized that he just
did not know how to reply to such a greeting. It was as if
someone had said "hello" to him in a foreign language he did
When he didn't reply, her eyes wandered around the room. "It
was much nicer forty years ago," she said softly.
Sho looked at her strangely. Was she apologizing to him
about the state of the house? Why the hell should she care
what he thought? And yet, odder still, he found himself
nearly apologizing to her.
"Lotta homeless people sack out in here these days," he
said. "There's a blue tent city in the park down the hill,
but it's usually full this time of year. A lotta them wander
up here to spend a night. If they keep things cool and the
neighbors don't complain and the cops don't roust 'em, they
might spend another. None of 'em stays past that though. The
house's reputation kinda precedes itself, y'know?"
"I see," she said. "I suppose that would explain the
delapidated condition. Still in a way, it's good. It's good
to know that someone finds some small comfort here."
That was pretty weird reasoning, but he just let it go.
Something occurred to him then -- the other implication of
her words. He sure as hell wouldn't have been so forgiving
if he found out a bunch of bums were living in his old home.
"How do you know it was much nicer way back when?" he asked.
"I used to live here...'way back when,'" she replied, with a
slight smile. "It was a long time before you were born."
His eyes widened. "No shit? What was that? Like, before the
war or something?"
Emiko shook her head. "Not *that* long ago." Then an
irritated frown creased her brow. "How old do you think I
am, young man? For your information it was after. In 1955."
Sho looked down. "Sorry. I didn't mean to...I didn't mean
anything by that."
She glared at him for a moment. Then she gave a little
laugh. "I wasn't being serious." Stooping down, she placed
the thing she had been holding gently back on the floor.
"For ten years, I lived in this house with my husband. And
before that, I knew another man who lived here, as well. He
was an old family friend." Her foot went around in a little
circle. "I used to come here all the time. Some of my
fondest memories, in fact, are of this very room."
Sho snorted at that. "You gotta be shittin' me," he said,
A thick layer of dust covered the floor and whitish mold ran
rampant in the corners. At some point someone had smashed
through one of the walls, ripping away the plaster in a
single great gouge to reveal shattered lath underneath.
There were several indentations spread out around the room,
vaguely spherical, as if someone had just gone utterly
insane and started bashing their head into the wall. A
ragged, torn couch lay in the center of the room, its
cushions eviscerated, the yellowed stuffing coiling on the
floor like dried entrails.
The accumulation of abuse seemed like it had transpired over
centuries instead of a mere handful of years. And he had a
difficult time imagining a place in such a state of
disrepair as this being the home of people, let alone fond
memories. He simply had to trust that what she said was
true, that it had been much nicer when she was young.
But even then it would have been obvious to anyone that
whatever good had once existed here, it was gone now,
fleeing with the long years it had waited. All that was left
now in this hollow vessel of what had once been were shadows
and the memories of long-lost echoes.
"So if it was so nice," Sho said, "why did you leave?"
"Because..." She paused. "Because...sometimes a place can be
'lived-out'." When she saw the look on his face, she laughed
slightly. "I apologize. I am an old woman and sometimes I
He shook his head. "That's okay. I mean, I don't mind.
Listening, that is."
The old woman regarded him with a wry expression. "How old
are you again? No one likes to listen to old people talk,
especially not young people like yourself."
"Well, I'm not like other people. I do like listening," he
replied simply. "I mean...y'know...as long as they're cool.
As long as they've got something interesting to say and they
ain't just bitching about the way things used to be. Geez, I
hate that crap. Total tune-out."
"That bothers you?"
"Hell yeah," he snorted. "Don't go raggin' on my world. I
mean, I didn't make it the way it is. And I think it's
pretty okay, all things considered. I mean, it's still here,
right? It's still in one piece."
Emiko pondered that. "So does that mean you think I
am...cool?" When Sho nodded that he did, the old woman
laughed, but lightly. He took no offense...she seemed to be
laughing at herself. "I don't believe anyone has ever
referred to me as...cool."
Looking at her bemused expression, Sho suddenly thought to
himself that this Emiko had been very beautiful once upon a
time. And in some strange way she was beautiful still. He
had never before thought of an old woman -- and she had to
be his grandmother's age at least -- as being beautiful. But
little by little he realized that she was. Maybe it had
something to do with her eyes, the way they seemed to dance
in the dim light. Or maybe it was the way the edges of her
mouth turned up just before she smiled. Or both, or neither,
or a quality indefinable, some deep inward thing that she
exuded like an aura, a passing ghost of who she had been at
one time. Whatever. It was an altogether odd and somehow
uncomfortable realization, and truthfully he did not know
quite what to make of it.
"So you left because it was...lived out," he said. "All
right. Well, I guess I can dig that shit. But man, just
looking at this place now, why would you even want to come
back? Why today?"
"I didn't have any choice," she replied softly. "They're
going to use it again, they're going to revive the Oxygen
Destroyer and use it against Godzilla."
Sho stared at her hard. For just a moment, it had sounded
like he was listening to his father again spouting one of
his stupid ideas like it was one of the most obvious things
in the world. It sounded crazy, but somehow he didn't think
she was. This Emiko was a lot of things, interesting,
intriguing, maybe a bit strange, but not crazy. "Oxygen
Destroyer? What the fuck is that?"
She hadn't heard him. She just kept talking, but with a
sense of urgency that hadn't been there before. "I don't
blame them for not understanding. It was so long ago, no one
really remembers anymore. But while the situation is
extreme, certain rituals must be observed. Precautions must
be taken or else the ghost will be angry."
Sho sat down on the step very confused. However his built-in
bullshit detector hadn't gone off just yet, so he was
willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. She was
straining it, though.
"Look, lady," he said, "why don't you slow down a bit.
You're not winning any converts here by not making any
Emiko paused and then nodded. When he was sure she wasn't
going go off again, he said: "All right, let's start from
"Have you ever heard of a Doctor Serizawa?" she asked.
Sho searched his memory, but only wound up shaking his head.
"No. Can't say I have. Who was he? Like, somebody famous or
"Once upon a time," she whispered softly. Her eyes seemed
wounded somehow, as if by not knowing the name, he had hurt
her in some way.
Irrationally, he felt the need to apologize again, but that
would have been pretty stupid. So what if he didn't know who
this Serizawa guy was? So what? After all, there were a lot
of things he didn't know and he didn't feel guilty about not
knowing them. So why should this be any different? Truth
was, though, it was different and no amount of
rationalizations could hide the fact. And that he felt
different because of it. He wished that he did know, so that
she wouldn't be hurt by his ignorance.
"Tell me," he said. "I want to know. I want to know it all."
And so she told him and he listened intently. As the story
unfolded, he knew instinctively that she was holding back
something. But that was okay; it was her story and she could
tell it any way she wanted, he supposed. And after all, what
cause could a total stranger have to feel offended about
that? Still...it did seem as if she *wanted* to say more,
and maybe she would, later. But right now, a part of him was
amazed she was indulging him in the first place.
When the old woman was done telling him as much as she was
willing to let go at that moment, he sat there on the steps
for a long time in silence. Three cigarette butts rested
atop a mound of grey ashes between his boots, that being the
amount of time it had taken her to tell the tale.
"So," he said at last, "this Serizawa drowned in Tokyo Bay?"
He lit another cigarette. "Yeah. I think I remember hearing
that. Musta read something about it somewhere. School maybe,
or maybe my old man mentioned it to me. But..." He snorted.
"You gotta understand, lady. I ain't the brightest when it
comes to school and history and shit like that."
Sho looked around the living room with new eyes, trying to
see it as it must have been. Smooth white walls and nice
furnishings, very classy stuff. Bookshelves packed with real
books and not just dog-eared manga or old magazines that
somebody forgot to throw out. Pictures on the walls showing
that Serizawa with high dignataries and other scientific
types. Shit, maybe he had even known fucking Einstein for
all Sho knew.
And slowly, through the mere knowledge of a name, a person,
a friend long since dead, he began to understand what Emiko
had meant when she had said that some of her fondest
memories had happened here. Sho could see it, if but a
little bit, how this blackened place could have once been
full of light. And he felt sorry for her, for the feelings
this place must have evoked in her now. She must have known,
or at least suspected it would be like this, when she had
set out from wherever it was she lived now. But still she
came anyway, filled with that strange sense of duty he'd
thought he sensed. He wondered, if their roles were
reversed, would he have come?
"You said something about somebody wanting to use the Oxygen
"My nephew, Ken," she replied. "He's only a few years older
than you, I'd guess. He is working for G-Force now."
"No shit? Only a couple of years older than me and he's
working for G-Force? He must be one smart mother, huh?"
"Yes. He wrote a paper about Godzilla's physiology which
brought him to their attention. Have you heard about what's
Sho nodded. "They think the big G's gonna blow up or
"Yes," Emiko replied. "And to stop Godzilla before that
happens, they want to revive the Oxygen Destroyer again."
She shook her head. "I recognize the need. I really do. But
in their desperation to find an answer, they don't fully
grasp the danger he poses to their plan."
"What do you mean?" Sho asked, but he had a pretty good idea
exactly what she meant. Hadn't she said as much already? As
he looked around the room again, a stray gentle draft of cold
air, like a breath, like someone was standing close behind,
breathing down on him, made the hair on the back of his neck
rise. "You said before this place was haunted. That was just
bullshit, right? You didn't really mean it...did you?"
Suddenly, almost as soon as the words emerged from his mouth,
an awful sensation was born in his gut. A feeling that he was
being watched by something he couldn't see.
Emiko looked at him silently for a moment. "What do you
"I think I'm asking you," he replied, somewhat curtly. The
question might have seemed dumb to her, but he wasn't
screwing around. And he despised games, despised when people
didn't take him seriously. And while he would never cop to
it, the whole freaky situation was starting to play on his
"You know what they say about ghosts?" Emiko said
thoughtfully. "They say that ghosts inhabit places where
they left regrets behind in life. And this place holds
"I don't understand," Sho replied. "Holds many what? Ghosts
Emiko smiled sadly. Her voice fell to a mumble as she looked
around the room once more.
"What?" Sho asked. "I didn't get that."
She looked back at him. "I said, is there really a
difference? Ghosts and regrets. Aren't they all the same?
Memories of what was and the future they could have led to.
And the way they were wasted. Because we were too caught up
in ourselves. Too stupid to realize that the tomorrow we so
easily took for granted was nothing but a dwindling light."
Sho looked at her oddly and then shook his head. Sometimes
she made perfect sense and other times she sounded like
Eiko. He didn't know quite what to make of her then.
"So now you're here," he said. "What are you going to do?"
"I have to placate his spirit," Emiko said. "I have to ask
for his forgiveness and his understanding."
"And what if...*he* doesn't?"
"I don't know. But I still have to try. It's only right."
She paused and looked at him self-consciously. "It must seem
silly to you. That I would come all this way, just to offer
Sho was silent for a moment, considering everything that
she'd said. Finally he took a deep drag on his cigarette,
exhaled slowly, and then put it out with the heel of his
boot. "Well, I'm not gonna bullshit you, lady. I don't
understand half the stuff you told me. But it's obviously
important to you, so whatever. Who cares if I don't get it.
You gotta do what you gotta do, I guess."
Emiko smiled at him. "Thank you. For being honest."
He inspected the pile of ash on the steps and absently poked
it with a finger until it looked like a miniature volcano.
He glanced up and down, gaze partially blocked by his
pompadour of hair. "If you don't mind the company, I'd like
to stick around and watch."
"Certainly," Emiko replied. "Actually I'm glad that you
showed up. I might need some help."
He slapped his thighs and stood up. "Well, what do you have
"In the basement, there was a laboratory," she explained. "I
have to get in there."
Sho hesitated slightly. Fortunately she had turned away and
didn't notice. "Where is it?" he asked.
She walked across the room to a wide hallway in the rear of
the house. On the right, the hall went around, forming an L-
shape, with the remains of a window at the far end and a
couple of doorless jambs on the left and right of the bottom
of the "L." To the left of the hallway stood a gullet of
dark. The fading light illuminated only the first few steps
of the staircase leading down to the basement. Beyond that,
details vanished in darkness, and it might as well have been
the wide-open throat of some toothless monster.
"Down there?" Sho asked. When she nodded, he pulled out his
zippo and lit it. Even then he still couldn't make out the
bottom. But it did reveal something else -- the stairwell
was full of cobwebs, the strands covered in thick brown
dust. Emiko gasped, but he shook his head.
"Nothing to worry about," he reassured her. "Even spiders
have more sense than to stay here."
Together, they slowly descended the stairs, careful of
broken steps. Sho held the tiny flickering orange flame out
before him and burned away the cobwebs with a continuous
sweeping motion. There was a loud sizzling sound as they
caught fire, parting like old curtains on a theater stage.
When they reached the bottom, Sho swept the light around. It
was a short hallway, maybe five feet long. To his right
stood a wooden door, the paint peeled and flaked.
"Is that it?" he asked. "The laboratory?"
"No," Emiko replied. "That's the laundry."
Sho looked at her. "I don't understand. There's only one
door down here. So where's the lab? Is it inside the laundry
"Turn around," she said. "It's opposite."
But when he did, he saw only a smooth seamless wall. "Lady,
there's nothing there."
"The doorway was bricked up a long time ago," Emiko
explained. "Then he covered it with plaster and painted it
to match the existing wall. He made it that way so that no
one would ever suspect it was there. Whoever lived here
after I left probably never even knew."
"My husband," Emiko said, smiling almost apologetically
"Ah. I see," Sho replied, but he didn't really. "So...do you
have a crowbar or something?"
Emiko looked surprised and shook her head. "No. I didn't
think to bring one. I don't even think I own one."
"Well, what about a flashlight?" Sho replied, growing a
little exasperated. "Lady, you do realize that the
electricity has been shut off, right? It's gonna be dark in
there. Did you at least bring a flashlight?"
Emiko only looked embarassed. "I only brought these." From
her purse, she produced two sticks of incense and held them
up so he could see. "For the prayers I wanted to offer."
Sho looked long at them and then almost burst out laughing.
"Okay. So let me get this straight. You came all this way to
bust into the basement, but you didn't bring anything to
knock down the wall, and you didn't bring anything to light
it up *if* you somehow got inside, which you couldn't have
done because you didn't bring anything to knock down the
wall in the first place."
Shamed by his sarcasm, she said softly, "I guess I didn't
think this out very well. You must think me a fool."
Sure, he did, but then again he did not. For someone like
him, who had engaged in more than his fair share of breaking
and entering, figuring out the nagging little details like
how to bust in would have come second nature. But for some
old woman to whom obeying the law came as easily as an
involuntary function like breathing? Stuff like that would
never even cross her mind. In fact, he would have been more
surprised than he was if she *hadn't* gone into it half-
"No, I understand," he said at last. "Spur of the moment and
all that. If you'll hold on for a minute, I should have a
flashlight and a crowbar or a tire iron or something in the
A small smile played across her face. "So you'll help me
"Well, I guess I got no choice now, do I?" he retorted
shortly. "Otherwise you're never gonna get in there." He
placed the still-lit lighter on the stairs. "It's getting
hot so you'd better not touch it. I'll be right back."
He started up the stairs and hurried outside to his car.
Inside the trunk, he found what he would need. When he came
back down a few minutes later, she was sitting on the steps,
staring quietly at the place where she'd said the doorway
had been. In his hands was a crowbar, a hammer with a nail-
claw end, a big lantern-style flashlight and a regular one,
which he handed to her.
"Hold it on the door," he said. Then he stripped off his
black leather jacket and handed it over to her, which she
draped across her lap. He ran his hand along the plaster, so
dry and ancient, the tips of his fingers were quickly
colored white. "You're sure it's behind this wall? Right
here, in this spot?"
"Positive," Emiko replied quietly.
"All right, then." With the claw end of the hammer, Sho
bashed at the plaster with a grunt. Despite its age, it did
not give easily, as if reluctant to reveal the secrets lying
behind it. He tried harder, sinking the hammer deep, and
then prying loose huge chunks of chalky debris. Soon his
arms and hands were covered in fine white specks of dust.
He paused to wipe away the sweat on his brow. "Damn," he
said, "this is gonna be harder than I thought. In the left
pocket of my jacket, there's a pack of cigarettes. Could ya
toss me one?"
Emiko groped for the pack and pulled one out. She held it
dangling from her thumb and forefinger as if it were a
rotted piece of meat. Sho reached for it and then lit up,
taking a deep drag. With the cigarette clenched between his
teeth, he started in on the plaster again.
"Watch you don't breath the dust," he said, taking another
puff. "Stuff'll fuck up your lungs."
Emiko nodded and put her hand daintily over her mouth and
After a few minutes of bashing at the plaster with the
hammer to loosen it, he turned to the claw end again and
started prying away chunks where it had cracked. It was hard
work and by the time the brick beneath was exposed through a
three-foot wide hole, his tee shirt was so soaked by sweat
the waistband of his jeans was damp. Even worse, for him at
least, his hair was a total mess. The pompadour had wilted
within ten swings, like a flower too big for its stem. The
pile of dusty debris had turned his boots white. He paused
to wipe the sweat from his face and looked back at Emiko.
She was sitting serenely on the steps, his jacket on her lap
to keep the dust off her kimono.
"Don't let that leather get too dirty," he said. His breath
came with a labored wheezing sound. "It's a fuck to clean."
On some level, he supposed he chose the words deliberately
to shock her, to remind her that she was lucky he hadn't
beaten her over the head already and just stolen her purse.
But if his words had had their intended effect, she didn't
show it. In fact, it appeared that the old woman hadn't even
heard him. She was just staring in front of her with this
strange look on her face. It looked to Sho like she was only
halfway there, her mind someplace else entirely. And for
some reason he couldn't name, he felt small and petty for
having spoken so bluntly.
"Sorry," he said, surprised at himself for even thinking it.
"Hang around with the gang long enough, you just talk trash
all the time eventually."
"It's nothing," Emiko replied, with a kind little smile. But
whether she was forgiving him or telling him obliquely that
his foul mouth meant nothing to her, he couldn't tell. And
it left him feeling even smaller. "May I ask how you become
a part of that gang?"
For a moment he was startled. It was a simple question and
straightforward, yet for some reason, it bothered him. He
reacted almost as if the words were an accusation. Which was
ridiculous; he could tell she had not intended it that way,
that there were no hidden meanings or criticism. She seemed
genuinely interested to know. But that knowledge did not
ease his sense of discomfort. If anything, it made him feel
worse somehow. Still that feeling, so alien, made him want
to blow her off, and when he answered, his voice was harsh.
"There was a fucking casting call down at Toho," he said.
"What the hell do you think?"
"I don't know," she replied, calmly. "I know very little
about street gangs."
"Hey. First off, we're not a bunch of punk street hoods,
okay? We're a *bosuzoku*, a speed tribe. There's a big
"I didn't know that," she replied, tilting her head. "How
"Well for instance, we've got rides, y'know?" he explained.
"Cars and bikes? No street hood's got a ride. When they go
to bust some heads, they gotta take a train, or hoof it, or
maybe get mommy and daddy to drop them off. We've all got
our own rides. So...so we're different, understand?"
She nodded her head. "I think so. Yes, I do." She paused.
"So being in a *bosuzoku* gang has its benefits?"
"Hell, yeah," Sho replied instantly. "My car out there?
Couldn't have afforded that if I wasn't in the gang."
"How is that?" she asked.
"Get paid for running errands for people." He took another
swing at the plaster, harder this time. A new cloud of white
dust blew up around him. "That sort of thing."
Emiko merely smiled. "Either you run a lot of errands or
they pay extremely well. What sort of errands pay so well?"
Sho shrugged. "I don't know. Somebody just drops something
off at my house, gives me a name and an address, and I
Emiko looked thoughtful. "I wonder what you deliver that is
worth so much?"
Sho glanced at her through wilted bangs. "You wanna know
something? I never ask, lady. It ain't none of my fucking
business. I'm just the errand boy."
He was content to leave it at that. Whether he knew or cared
really wasn't the issue; in his circle, being curious about
such things was frowned upon. Dangerous. He did as he was
told, and if he ever wondered about it, he just kept his
mouth shut. Sometimes the pat on the back or the cut of the
money seemed as dependant upon not thinking too much as
doing the job right. He'd picked that up real quick, after
seeing a few nosy couriers getting the shit kicked out of
them for taking a peek at what they were delivering.
But if one followed the rules, it was a nice simple
arrangement. Quite lucrative. And he was very good about
avoiding questions that might get him into trouble.
And so he did not tell her about the time that he delivered
a package wrapped up in white muslin, small but strangely
heavy for its size. And he did not tell her how a week later
on the TV, the face of the man who had exchanged a wad of
bills for the bundle had flashed on the screen during the
news. Or how he had been wanted by the police for
questioning in the murder of a local grocer.
Sho's cut for that particular delivery had been nearly 50000
yen, a little more than five hundred dollars. He'd paid off
his car with it.
Suddenly he didn't feel like talking about the gang or his
errands anymore. There was something about the way she asked
the questions that made him feel uncomfortable. And besides,
it did not seem right to be discussing such things with a
lady who was so obviously used to the finer things in life,
to whom courtesy was not merely a word, but a way of life.
And more importantly, what they were on the outside seemed
like a million miles away from here, from this cramped,
cobweb-filled hallway in the basement of some abandoned
house. This place supplied its own questions, questions to
which he decided suddenly he had worked hard enough to hear
"So," he said, letting the hammer fall to his side, "are you
ready to tell me now why your husband bricked this up in the
She seemed to consider that for a long time before replying.
"One day, I arrived home from a day of shopping and I found
Hideo down here with mortor and bricks. He was already
halfway done. I pleaded with him to stop, but there was
nothing I could say that would make him see reason."
Sho hefted the hammer again. "So...what? He just, like, woke
up one morning and decided it was a nice day for bricking up
a doorway? That's pretty fucking weird, don't you think?"
"He didn't 'just do it'," Emiko replied absently. "I mean,
it wasn't just a spur of the moment thing. He had been
building up to it for a long time before that day. Yes, you
could say it took him ten years to finally get up the
courage. He did it partially for me. But by then it was too
"What the hell does that mean?" Sho turned, took aim, and
let loose big swing at the wall. Mortar fell in a fine dust
as the blow bounced off. He took the shaft of the hammer in
two hands, lined up, and swung again. This time there was a
good, thick, meaty feel to the impact as one of the bricks
splintered in half and shifted a bit. This was going to be
the hardest part, he thought. It was going to take some real
effort to break through the wall.
"I think," Emiko began, "that I have forgotten some of the
specifics. Maybe it was at a press conference right after
Godzilla was first sighted on Ohta Island. A reporter asked
how such a large creature could have survived undetected for
My Father, Doctor Yamane, had answered by saying, "The
earth has many deep pockets, abyssal regions that contain
secrets we have yet to discover..."
It's funny in a way, but it was only years later when I
realized that Father might as well have been speaking about
the human heart. For just as he had surmised the terrifying
creature had lain hidden for millenia in some unexplored
recess within the ocean, so too was it true that the human
heart contained those same deep pockets. The birthplace of
our love and happiness, the silent spring of our sadness
and despair. Some of them are so profound that no one could
ever hope of mapping their impenetrable depths in the span
of a single lifetime.
But by the time I understood that, it was too late to ask
him about it; he had been dead for many years. I could only
marvel at such a profound insight and let that secret
knowledge ease some of the pain and lessen the burden of the
guilt I felt was my due. Yet even then, I still had to
struggle with the knowledge that *had* I known earlier, it
probably would not have helped in any way. You see, I
believe very strongly in Karma. I think things happened the
way they did because they had to be that way. It was simply
the price we were fated to pay.
Hideo Ogata and I were married six months after the death of
Serizawa. But after the euphoria of the moment had passed
and we settled down into our new lives together, it didn't
take six months for me to realize that although I had taken
his name, somehow I had lost his heart in the process.
It's still difficult for me to describe the feeling of those
days. After the death of Godzilla, a great sadness blanketed
the city, as real as the dust and debris from the
destruction he had wrought. Men and women, young and old --
their faces were full of it. So many had suffered because of
what had happened. So many suffered still. But within the
melancholy was a seed of hope.
People pulled together out of shared sorrow and helped each
other. As they began to rebuild their homes and businesses,
a sense of starting over ran through everyone like
electricity. And the city rose again like flowers after a
fire has stripped the land clean. I'll never forget that
feeling and the immense pride I felt to be a small part of
It was during this time of great sorrow and hopeful
possibility that Hideo and I were married. The city was
being reborn, its people as well. And what is a wedding but
a kind of re-birth?
It was a beautiful ceremony -- half traditional Japanese,
half Western, which had somewhat come into vogue during the
Occupation. Or course it was frantic and exhausting, too,
switching out of a multi-layered kimono after the
traditional portion had been performed and into a Western
wedding gown -- which in truth I did not entirely understand
how to wear.
But it was worth all the sweat and frustration when I
finally walked down the aisle on my Father's arm to the
strains of that foreign music. Hideo stood at the alter in
his black tuxedo. He looked at me as if he had seen an
angel. I remember the look in his eyes as he lifted the veil
and leaned in to give me a kiss.
We didn't go anywhere special for our honeymoon, just a hot
spring resort a train ride away in the mountains. We didn't
have much money and there was still too much left to do in
Tokyo. I worked at the hospital for a time, doing volunteer
work in the children's wing. Hideo was kept busy by his own
job and in his off-time he did a lot of volunteeer work as
For a time we lived with my Father, not in my old room but
in the guest bedroom downstairs. My old bedroom was now
Ken's, the boy from Ohta Island whom my Father had adopted.
At times it was awkward and uncomfortable but we made do the
best we could. But it wasn't for very long -- a few months
later, we learned that Serizawa had bequeathed his house to
us in his will.
The news came nearly a year after his death. Why had it
taken so long to find out? I never found out. But I suspect
it had to do with his research...and his final request that
it be destroyed. When we moved in, one of the first things I
did was to go down the stairs to his lab. It had been
stripped clean. I never went in there again.
Moving in to Serizawa's house was like getting reaquainted
with an old friend I hadn't seen in a long time. I wanted to
honor him but at the same time I knew that I had to make it
my own. I did not want those terrible memories to sour my
relationship with Hideo. Serizawa had given us this gift
because he wanted us to be happy. And we did our best to
keep our friend's dying wish.
Still we had a difficult time getting settled. Serizawa
hadn't been a negligent homeowner -- there weren't any major
repairs to be made. But it had been a year since anyone had
lived there. Even when he was alive, he'd been preoccupied
with research much of the time and some upkeep had been
ignored. The roof needed some minor re-shingling and the
garage had to be re-painted. The hedge surrounding the
property had grown out and the back yard garden had become a
tangle of weeds.
The interior was the same. It was pleasant enough for a man
who often spent days brooding over a single physics
equation. He could have hardly cared if the paint in the
bedroom clashed with the the hallway or if the curtains
framing the picture window in the living room were ten years
old and about to fall to pieces. But it did matter to me. So
while Hideo tackled the exterior, I went to work on the
inside, trying to turn it into my dream home.
Perhaps it was just the jitters of being newlyweds and new
homeowners at the same time, but we had a lot of accidents
the first few months. Some were just silly things, like when
one of the stairs broke when we were carrying something up
to the bedroom, or when the paint bucket Hideo had placed on
the ladder tipped over, covering him in white paint, or when
I tried to pound a nail into the kitchen wall to hang a
cloth calender and instead punched a hole the size of my
fist. After the mess had been cleaned up, Hideo and I always
Some accidents weren't funny however. Although neither of us
were hurt, they could have led to serious injury. While
Hideo was repairing the roof, he slipped reaching for the
bucket of nails -- he could have sworn he'd put it in easy
reach. The roof was wet from a passing shower, and he slid
down all the way to the edge. The only thing preventing him
from falling two stories was when his feet hit the gutter.
He lay there, breathing hard, for a few minutes and then
went back up to finish the job.
I had my own scare. I was trying to replace the curtains in
the living room using an old step stool I had found in the
pantry. It looked big enough. Either I was shorter than I
thought or the stool was, but I had to get on tiptoes and
stretch as far as I could to get the hooks over the rod. I
must have lost my balance. The next thing I knew the stool
had slipped to one side and I was falling into the picture
window. Somehow I grabbed the molding on the side and
stopped myself. But it had been close -- another few inches
and my face would have smashed right through the glass. We
didn't laugh over that.
But after a few months living there, all those things faded
away. We had made it our home, and in it Hideo and I were
well and truly happy. But it didn't last though.
One night, perhaps two years after Hideo and I were married,
I had this terrible dream. I dreamed I was on the boat
again, the one that took us out into Tokyo Bay when Serizawa
was going to use the Oxygen Destroyer. It was a picture
perfect memory of that time -- at least until the end when
it suddenly changed and became something else. Something too
horrible to name.
I woke up sweating and crying. I looked about the room. For
a brief, terrible moment I had no idea where I was. It
didn't look like my home, it didn't *feel* like my home.
Everything I had chosen and placed with care -- the
furniture, the curtains, the photographs, the knick-knacks,
even the color of the paint and the border going around the
ceiling -- nothing seemed to belong there. It felt like the
room rejected them.
I lay there in the dark, feeling my heart pounding in my
chest. Then I reached over to Hideo's side of the bed,
calling to him softly. I wanted to feel the warmth of his
arms around me. I wanted to be reassured this was real and
not a part of the dream. But I found nothing there. Hideo
was gone. I reached over the nightstand and turned on the
table lamp. His robe was gone from the door hook where he
always put it before coming to bed.
I put on my nightgown and went looking for him. The house
was very dark and eerily quiet. I crept down the stairs
cautiously, trying to avoid the spots on the steps that
creaked. I still hit one or two, groaning loudly under my
weight. For some strange reason I could never avoid all of
them. Hideo and I had lived there six months and I should
have memorized them by then. It was like they were playing a
cruel game with me -- moving from one side of the staircase
to another. It even seemed they moved up and down...one
night the second step would creak, the next it was the
fifth, and so on. Sometimes when I stepped on a spot, the
sound it made was like quiet laughter.
I went through all the downstairs rooms and couldn't find
Hideo. I looked out the sliding door into the backyard
garden, hoping that he hadn't gone out there. I didn't like
the garden very much. No matter what we did to get rid of
the weeds, they always grew back. It was a constant battle,
week after tiring week. Once I had spent an entire afternoon
out there, sweating in the hot summer sun, pulling weeds one
by one by hand. When I had gone through the whole thing, I
looked back at all I had accomplished -- only to find more
weeds back where I had started. I was sure it was just the
heat playing tricks on me -- I probably just missed them
somehow. But after that day I never truly trusted it again.
I was about to go out there when I heard a soft shuffling
sound from down the basement steps. I went over and peered
apprehensively down the stairs.
It was even darker in the basement. I didn't want to go
down. I was always leery of those stairs -- they were very
steep and there was no handhold to steady yourself, just
smooth concrete as if it had been hewn out of solid rock.
And the sound of the second floor stairs was nothing
compared to these. They made high-pitched shrieks like
something was trapped under them, being crushed every time
someone passed. I hated laundry day -- so many trips up and
"Hideo," I whispered softly. "Are you down there?"
There was no response. I was about to leave when I heard
that shuffling sound again like a foot being dragged across
the floor. It was unmistakable -- someone was down there.
And then I had a horrible thought -- the basement stairs
were treacherous -- what if Hideo had fallen, broken his leg
or his back? I ran for the kitchen, got a flashlight, and
hurried back. Terrified by what I might see, I flicked it
Hideo was sitting calmly on the bottom step in his dark robe
and pajamas. He didn't even react to the sudden light. He
just kept sitting there. He moved his foot, the slipper
making that sound I had heard.
"Hideo?" I whispered again. "Are...are you all right?"
Hideo didn't respond. I started down the steps. The animals
trapped beneath the boards, if that was what they were,
screamed in protest. At the bottom I shined the flashlight
into his face. Still he didn't react, like he didn't even
know I was there. He was looking at something. Concerned, I
sat down next to him and shined the light at what had
captured his attention so thoroughly.
It was the door to Serizawa's lab. We had padlocked it after
I had gone in that first time. The lock was hanging open.
There were several footprints in the dust before it,
indicating Hideo had gone inside. I was surprised. We had
never really talked about it since moving in, except that
first time. There was no need to -- we had an unspoken
understanding. Serizawa's lab was a sacred place that was
best left alone.
I turned the light back on Hideo's face. I was about to ask
him why he had gone inside -- when I noticed that his eyes
while open seemed to see nothing. They were unblinking, flat
and distant. I ran my hand in front of his face but if he
saw, he gave no indication. He was still asleep with his
eyes wide open. He had never mentioned to me that he
sleepwalked. It was a little unsettling to sit there next to
him, he trapped in a waking dream, knowing that he had no
idea I was there.
Suddenly Hideo put his finger to his mouth. "Shh," he said.
"Don't...don't...don't...you'll wake her up. She's got
nothing to do with this. This is between you and me...what?"
He paused, looking intently at the door. He tilted his head
as if listening to a voice I couldn't hear.
"Okay," said Hideo. "Okay...yeah...she *is* involved. But
not *that* way. Your argument is with me, so leave her
alone. Don't...don't...stop yelling. I didn't want
that...no...no...no...I really didn't want that to
Hideo clenched his fists and started beating them on the
sides of his head. He rocked back and forth as if being
tormented by something or someone. He jumped up, startling
me, and shook his finger violently at the door to Serizawa's
"You get out of my house!" he shouted at nothing. "You hear
me? Get out of my house and never come back!"
I had seen enough. I had heard that sleepwalkers are never
to be woken, but I couldn't sit back and watch anymore. I
grabbed Hideo's hand, turned his face toward mine, and spoke
-- softly but urgently -- trying to wake him as gently as I
Eventually Hideo turned his head. He looked right at me. I
almost smiled at the relief I felt -- until I saw his eyes
were still distant, still clouded by the dream. Whatever it
was about it held a stronger grip on him than I did.
"I hear him, Emiko," said Hideo softly.
I felt a chill run over my skin. "What?" I said, confused
and scared. "I don't understand."
Hideo took one of my hands in his and squeezed tightly.
"I *hear* him," he repeated. "When I close my eyes at night.
In my dreams. I *hear* him, calling out to me, asking why I
left him there. He wants to know why I didn't try harder to
While Sho had listened intently to Emiko's story, the
cigarette in his mouth had burned down to the filter, become
a long drooping ash. Unaware of this, he reached up to flick
it and burned his fingers. He dropped the cigarette with a
yelp, the ash spreading across his sweat-stained shirt. He
brushed it away quickly before it burned a hole. He looked
at Emiko, who was smiling now.
"You'd be a big hit around a campfire, lady," said Sho.
"That has to be the creepiest fucking story I have ever
heard. So you're husband was having an argument with that
scientist guy, Serizawa, in his sleep? Too fucking weird.
What happened then?"
Emiko sighed. "Eventually Hideo went up to bed. When he woke
up, he remembered nothing of what he had done. I never told
him. I spent the rest of that night drinking coffee in the
Sho snorted loudly. "Hell yeah. I don't blame you. I
wouldn't want to sleep next to him after that all that
Emiko's face clouded over at that but Sho didn't notice.
"So...like...what happened after that?" he asked.
"Many things," replied Emiko. "But I'm a little tired and
I've probably said too much already. How far along are you
on the door?"
Sho was disappointed. All his life he'd heard rumors about
this house and now he had one of the people who had been the
cause of them sitting right in front of him. He wanted to
know more. He wanted to know the truth behind the rumors.
But it was her story to tell or not as she pleased. He
wasn't going to push it. Maybe she'd be more open if he ever
got through the damned door.
He checked out the hole and cleaned away some of the debris
that had collected there. Then he spit into his hands,
grabbed the crowbar, and started hammering away at it again.
The hole in the brick was about two feet square when Sho
swung his crowbar a final time. Instead of chipping or
loosening a chunk, the whole remaining section just
collapsed, falling inward with a loud rumbling crash.
"Look out!" Sho cried, seeing it was going to give way. He
turned away from it and put himself in front of Emiko,
sparing her from the worst of the massive cloud of ancient
dust that erupted from the now open doorway. The passageway
was quickly enveloped in a gray mist. Despite his effort,
both of them couldn't help breathing in the crap and soon
were coughing and sputtering.
"God damn," Sho muttered, eyes watering as the dust began to
settle. He grabbed the flashlight from his waistband and
pointed it at the Emiko. "You okay, lady?"
Emiko was bent over, her hands up to her mouth. Small silent
spasms shook her body, but then she nodded silently and
looked up. When he saw her face...the dust that covered it
made her look like a kabuki actor or something...he almost
burst out laughing, until he realized that he must look
pretty much the same.
Seeing that she was okay, Sho turned the flashlight onto the
pile of crumbled brick. The collapsed section of wall now
revealed an old wooden door. Stepping carefully over the
still-smoking debris, he checked for a doorknob but wasn't
surprised to find a hole where it had been. The hinges were
caked in rust and corrroded. The door wasn't going to reveal
its secret easily.
"Can you move it?" said Emiko behind him.
"I don't know," he replied. "You'd better step back again."
Sho put his shoulder to the door. It was awkward, trying to
get leverage when there wasn't any decent footing. He tried
shoving and his boot only slid back across the brick dust.
Then he tried putting one foot over the brick into the
little gap between it and the door, but he had to place his
boot sideways and it put him too close to use his full
weight. He pulled it out, scratched his head, and then
thought, *Aw fuck it...*
He kicked out at the door. It held but the vibration knocked
rust off the hinges. He kicked again and this time the top
plate snapped in half and broke off from the door. He
grinned and started bashing away at it until he heard the
satisfying sound of the bottom hinge breaking too.
"Watch out," he said, taking a few steps back. "One more
ought to do it."
Sho took a flying kick at the door. Something in the locking
mechanism snapped, and then the door slowly fell backward.
It made a huge hollow banging sound when it hit the floor
and a little cloud of dust erupted from the three sides.
Sho grinned at Emiko, wiping his face with his arm.
"Man...I haven't worked this hard in..." Sho thought for a
moment and then laughed. "Shit...I have *never* worked this
hard at anything, period." He waved his arm inside. "Well,
it's your show now, lady. After you?"
When they entered at last, it was as if they had broken
through to a Pharoah's tomb. Everything had been perfectly
preserved. There were several floor cabinets and wall-
mounted ones, tables and a few wooden chairs. A counter ran
along two walls, forming an ell-shape. There were more
cabinets above this, some of the doors still open as if they
had been ransacked and left like that. There was even a sink
and a tall curved faucet that had some shine when the
flashlight passed over. Only the layers of dust and a strong
musty odor said thirty years had passed in darkness.
Emiko walked around the big empty room in a silent daze. Her
geta made soft echoing sounds. The sound seemed to
eventually sink into the walls -- as if they were sucking
them up like some precious food that had been long denied.
She looked at everything, seeing it not as it was but as it
had been so long ago.
Curious to know if the faucet still worked after all these
years, Sho went over to the sink and tried to turn the
handle. It was really tight at first but eventually it gave.
There was a gasp of trapped air escaping and then a trickle
of red sandy powder fell out into the basin. He shut it off
and checked the cabinets above but they were all empty and
he closed them with the crowbar.
"There was an aquarium here," Emiko said softly. She was
standing in front of an empty space in the floor. "This is
where I saw it for the first time. This is where Serizawa
demonstrated his device for me."
"What was that like?" asked Sho.
But Emiko just shook her head and moved further into the
room. "I don't want to think about it."
Sho nodded. It must have been horrible. He wiped his hand on
the counter and blew away the dust on his fingertips.
"Wish we could get some light in here," Sho said. He ran the
flashlight along the wall until it came to a light switch
box. "There ain't no fucking way that thing still works." He
walked over and flicked the switches one after the other --
"Serizawa had his own generator down here," said Emiko,
watching him. "Everything in this room ran off it. It's
still down here. You'll see a door around the corner. That's
where it is."
"I seriously doubt that will work either," Sho replied.
"Probably runs on gas. But what the hell -- it's worth a
He walked down the counter until he reached the end. There
was a recessed portion of the room. It held a desk and some
storage lockers. He was very tempted to open them up and
check inside. Once when he'd been younger, he'd come across
an employee locker room in an old abandoned building. When
he opened one of the metal lockers to see if anything was
still there, he found the greatest girl-on-girl porn
magazine he had ever seen in his entire life. He still had
it under his bed. He idly wondered what 1950's porn looked
like, but then thought it probably sucked.
The door to the generator room was not as difficult to open
as the door leading in. This one gave with only a mild
shove, creaking loudly. Inside the narrow room was a bulky
war-era generator so big he had to wonder if they hadn't
built the house around it. He couldn't figure out any other
way they could have gotten it down the stairs and wrestled
Sure enough though, it ran on gas. Sho popped the cap on the
tank and took a sniff. It was bone-dry but even if it hadn't
been, he wouldn't trust it not to blow up in his face if he
tried to start it. The thing was just too old. He turned
around to go when his flashlight caught something lying in
the corner behind the door. An old deckbrush-type broom
rested against the wall and just below, a bucket. He knelt
down and peered inside with the light. There were some rags
in there smelling faintly of turpentine. He took one out and
ran it under his nose -- yep, definitely turpentine. Then he
eyed the broom and had an idea. He put down the crowbar,
grabbed the bucket and broom, and walked back outside.
"Did you find anything?" said Emiko.
Sho shook his head. "It's there but even if I had gasoline,
I wouldn't turn it on unless you want to turn this house
into a rocket."
"What are those?" Emiko pointed at the broom and bucket.
Sho grinned. "The next best thing."
He placed the broom on one of the tables and snapped off a
two foot section of the handle. Then he wrapped a couple of
the rags around, tied them off, and got out his lighter.
Emiko watched this puzzled, until the rag started to burn.
As the torch flame grew bigger, half the room was suddenly
lit up in a flickering but steady orange glow. Sho found a
place where he could wedge it and then went back to make
Soon there were no shadows. Emiko and Sho stood in the
middle of the room.
"Betcher real glad I came along," he said, grinning.
She smiled and nodded.
He shifted the torch to his other hand. "Well, we got maybe
twenty minutes before these things go out," he said. "You
think that's enough time to do whatever it is you came here
"More than enough," replied Emiko.
"All right. Well then, I guess I'll just wander around and
let you do your thing, okay?"
"Thank you, Sho...for everything."
"No problem, lady."
As Emiko went through her purse, pulling out incense sticks,
a burner, and a framed photograph, Sho checked out the rest
of the lab. Although he seriously doubted it was possible to
get so lucky twice in a lifetime, the first thing he wanted
to check out were those lockers in the other room. He found
a place to hold the torch and then rubbed his hands together
in anticipation before the first one.
It opened with a loud creak of rusty hinges. But he was
disappointed to find nothing in there, not even a lab coat.
Still, there were four more. He was bound to find something
of interest even if it wasn't a porno book.
The second one took a little doing. The latch was rusted in
place and he had to grasp it with both hands. He grunted,
putting all his strength into it, almost lifting the entire
row of lockers, before it finally gave. But the only thing
inside was a metal coat hanger. Still three more to go and
this time he played eeny-miney-moe before picking the fourth
locker door to open next. However this one wouldn't budge at
all. He shined his flashlight through the vents but
something was blocking the way. Whatever it was, the door
wasn't going to open with it there.
Well, he thought, he'd just bust through the side of one of
the other ones. He picked the last one, the fifth one,
grabbed the handle and was surprised when it opened with
ease. He swung it wide.
There was a hole in the back of the locker. And now he could
see why the fourth one had been blocked -- the whole side of
the locker had been caved in, wedged against the door. The
metal didn't look bent so much as...rended...like a giant
claw had just sliced it into pieces.
Then there was the hole itself -- it was really just the
opening for a deep shaft like something from a mine. The
orange glow from the torch glistened off the perfectly
circular wall, reflecting off small ridges that went back
and back in a spiral pattern. It was so deep he couldn't see
the other end, if it even had one, a hundred yards, maybe
more. The darkness past the light's reach just stared at him
like an unblinking eye.
Whatever had made the shaft, it was almost big enough for
Sho to climb inside on his hands and knees. He swiped his
hand along the smooth surface to see what it felt like. He
winced and pulled it away with a startled gasp of pain. In
the glare of the flashlight, long thin lines of blood
appeared across his fingers. The cuts weren't that deep, but
they sure stung like hell.
"Fuck me," he hissed. "The inside's like goddamn slivers of
Sho felt the hair rise on his neck. The noise had been so
faint it might have been the sound of his blood rushing past
his ears. He looked down the shaft at the eye of darkness
and listened closely, trying not to breath too loud. For a
long time there was nothing. Maybe it was an echo, or just
his imagination playing tricks with him. He blew it off,
wiping his hand on his jeans
Oh no. That was no echo and he sure as hell hadn't imagined
it. Something was back there in the darkness, something was
moving in the deep. Was it a rat? Some kind of animal? He
glanced at the hole again -- pretty big fucking rat, he
thought. And what kind of rat could turn rock into glass? He
felt his body going cold all over even though he was
Oh shit oh shit oh shit, this wasn't good. This was not
good. He leaned in close, slowed his racing heart, closed
his eyes, and stretched his hearing as far as it would go.
In a moment he thought he heard something...feather-light,
the daydream pitter-patter of tiny running feet. And
That was louder. That was definitely louder than before.
Whatever it was, it was getting closer to the exit of the
shaft. pitterpatter pitterpatter pitterpatter pitterpatter
-- shit, it sounded like a dozen feet. How many were there?
Sho didn't know and quite frankly didn't care -- he was not
about to stick around to find out. He just hoped Emiko was
done doing whatever bullshit seance she had come to do
because they were leaving whether she had or
*did-a-SSSKKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE -- *
In the shaft, at the edge of the darkness beyond which Sho
couldn't see, something large moved. He remained right where
he was, not moving, not breathing, just watching it watch
him. It was too far away to make out what it was. It took a
step forward, craning its head as if sniffing the air. One
of its feet scraped along the edge of the glass. The sound
was like fingernails screeching down a blackboard. The long
shaft amplified the sound many times and when it reached
Sho, he thought his head was going to explode. His eyes
rolled up, his body shuddered -- but he endured and did not
It sounded like a question. Or maybe confusion. Maybe it had
come to investigate the sound and now wasn't so sure there
was anything there. Sho did not move. It's head bobbed back
and forth for a few minutes -- but eventually it seemed to
give up. It turned around in the tight space -- Sho counted
four legs on the one side -- its feet making that tiny
pitter patter sound again. And then it moved beyond his
sight back into the darkness.
Sho waited until he was sure it was gone and then exhaled.
Fuck this -- that was no goddamn rat. He was getting the
hell out. Quietly, he got up to leave
His testicles suddenly shrunk down to the size of walnuts.
He looked back and saw it coming at him, darting back up the
shaft, not pausing this time but really hauling ass. It
moved through the rings of orange glow with all the speed of
a strobe light, the pattern almost entrancing, the pitter
patter pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter getting
louder and faster.
*did-a-SSSKKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE -- *
The sound broke his trance. Scrambling back outside the
locker, he fell on the floor with a muffled thump and kicked
the door shut with a boot. He started scuttling back the way
he had come like a crab, finally getting to his feet and
running back into the main room.
Emiko was still there, praying over the incense sticks she
had placed on the table. In the flickering light of the
torch, the man in the photograph -- the man with one eye --
seemed to grin insanely at them. She looked up at the sudden
commotion as Sho skidded into the room, saw the look of fear
on his face, and her eyes went wide.
"Run!" he gasped. "Something's coming!"
Confused, Emiko just stood there. Sho grabbed her arm
roughly -- if he had to, he'd carry her out. She looked up
at him questioningly, a little of his fear seeping into her
"What -- ?" she began, but then a loud crashing sound
The creature skittered out of the shadows gathered in the
far corner of the room. It was about the size of a full-
grown Akita, but its eight crab-like legs carried it easily.
The feet, glistening black and almost needle-like at the
tips, made flat, echoless clacking sounds on the cement.
"Holy shit," Sho whispered, taking a step back. "What the
fuck is that?"
He glanced toward the old woman, but she had not moved, and
her face did not seem to register any of the sudden
primitive fear that had seized his body. Instead what he
found there was a sad, knowing that had seemed to change the
color of her eyes. It was as if she had half expected this
little horror to be waiting for them when they got inside.
"The Oxygen Destroyer," whispered Emiko.
Sho didn't take his eyes off the thing. "But...I thought you
said that oxygen destroyer crap was just some kind of
science experiment. You never said anything about it being a
It circled them. Sho kept the old woman behind him as he
turned to match it. It was some sort of dung-colored crab-
thing with a large wide head on a long neck. It's beady
little eyes glowed in the dark, a luminescent yellow. It
opened its mouth and something extended outward from it --
like a tongue, Sho thought. But then it clicked several
times and he knew it was another set of jaws.
Sho looked for something to defend them but there was
nothing. The torch was behind the table, wedged into a gap
in the counter. The crowbar -- he had no idea where he'd
left the crowbar. He reached into a side pocket and pulled
out his knife. When he flicked it open, the thing screeched
at them. The knife looked pathetic in his hand but what
choice did he have -- it was all he had on him.
"Listen, lady," said Sho softly. "I'm going to draw its
attention and when I do, you go for the door and get the
hell out of here."
Emiko gasped. "You can't fight it by yourself."
"Don't worry," he said. "I ain't planning on staying. You
just go when I say so, okay? Pull up your kimono and run
like you never run before. Don't look back. I'll be right
"Okay," she mumbled nervously.
The crab-thing had circled around until it was between them
and the door. Emiko would have to go around the table to get
to it. Out of the corner of his eye, Sho saw another table
on the right across the room. That's where he'd have to draw
the thing for her to have any chance to escape.
Suddenly Sho leaped in that direction, waving his arms.
"Come on, you ugly son of a bitch!" he shouted. "I'm over
here! Come on!"
Emiko ducked behind the table as the crab-thing tracked Sho
to the right. It didn't move from its spot but turned to
keep him in view, its feet making little clicking sounds.
*did-a-chit...did-a-chum* It's mouth opened and closed, the
small pointy teeth chattering. Drool spattered the concrete
as the exo-jaws extended and then sucked back inside. Where
the saliva pooled, the floor started to bubble and smoke.
Sho was almost at the table now. He kept on goading it.
"Come on! Follow me, you piece of shit! Follow me, you
Chittering, the crab-thing started to move toward him. Emiko
watched it closely, her face low to the table, and then
slowly shuffled to the far corner. The door was a straight
shot down between the back of the table and the counter.
Sho was trying to watch both of them at the same time. He
kept waving his arms and yelling and everytime he did, the
thing moved a little closer to him and away from Emiko. She
just needed a couple more feet for a safety cushion -- and
that's when Sho saw her tense up. He knew she was going to
make a break for it but too soon, the thing was still too
"Wait...don't...!" he tried shouting, but it was already too
late. Emiko bolted for the door. The crab-thing caught the
sudden flash of movement out the corner of a glowing yellow
eye. It made a loud screeching sound and lunged around
quickly to block her off. Emiko had gotten less than half
way down the table when she skidded to a halt. She started
backpedaling in horror and then slipped to the floor.
As Emiko lay there on her back, her eyes going wide, the
crab-thing tried to get to her. But it was hindered by the
narrow space between the table and the counter. It screeched
again and started to push its way through, knocking the
table aside a few inches at a time.
Sho cursed and ran around the other end. He scooped up Emiko
roughly by the arm and almost carried her back around. One
of the thing's legs came down on the table and it splintered
in half with a loud dry crash.
Sho didn't wait to see what it would do next -- he just
dragged Emiko back to the recessed part of the lab and flew
around the corner as large pieces of wood shattered on the
wall. He ripped open the door to the generator room, hurried
inside with Emiko still in tow, and then slammed the door
shut behind him.
Emiko leaned against the wall, breathing hard. "I'm sorry,"
she gasped. "I'm so sorry...I just got scared..." She
Sho suppressed the urge to tell her to shut the fuck up. He
needed something to bar the door. He still had his
flashlight. He looked around and saw the crowbar leaning
where the broom had been. He grabbed it and wedged the tip
tightly into the space between door and jamb. Then he
stepped back next to Emiko.
Barely a moment later, the orange light coming under the
door was blotted out. Something heavy thumped the wood. The
crowbar shook but held. It wouldn't for long, though. And
even if it did, he doubted the wooden door could withstand
the impacts. He quickly looked around the room, trying to
keep the rising panic he felt in check.
"What are you looking for?" asked Emiko.
"What the fuck do you think?" Sho replied testily. "I'm
looking for another way out of here!"
Another thump on the door. One of the boards splintered.
"Don't bother," said Emiko. "There is no other way out."
Frustrated, Sho kicked the generator. It made a hollow
clanging sound. "Well, that's just fucking GREAT then, isn't
it? We can't go back out there, not with that goddamn thing
waiting to pounce on us. Why the hell didn't you tell me
about that...that...whatever the hell it is!"
One of the boards split in half. Sho saw one of those freaky
yellow eyes flash inside. *did-a-chit* it crooned. There
wasn't much room to manuever, but he managed to pull her
Emiko glanced up at the ceiling. It looked like she was
about to cry. "I didn't know. I had no idea such a thing
could exist. His anger...his anger must have created it. He
must have sent it here as a warning."
Although Sho didn't ask who "he" might have been, he didn't
have to. He wasn't sure he believed it. But whether he did
or not, the thing out there was real regardless and it was
hungry. He had to think of something fast.
"Climb up on the generator," Sho said suddenly. "We'll get
up there and when it breaks through the door, I'll try to
jump over it. After I get outside, I'll draw it away and you
can get out and try for the door again."
Emiko nodded and tried to climb up, but she was too tired.
Sho leaped up easily and took her hand to pull her up. The
crab-thing hit the door again...and this time the wood near
the bottom exploded inward. One of its needle-like feet
flicked inside and snagged the hem of her kimono. It pulled
back suddenly and Emiko slipped out of his grip and fell
down to her knees. She looked up at him fearfully.
"Sho," Emiko breathed. She held out her hand. "Help me..."
Sho hesitated. Years later he would remember with utter
clarity the look of absolute terror in her eyes, and his
stomach would clench painfully. All he had to do was reach
out, take her hand, and pull her back. But he was paralyzed
with a fear so primal, he could not even move the five
inches that separated them. He hesitated. It was only a
split-second of time and it was just long enough.
The appendage snagging the hem of her kimono suddenly
retracted. And Emiko was sucked out through the hole in the
door as if she had been ravenously inhaled by some dark and
Sho cowered atop the generator. He rocked back and forth,
his knees drawn up to his chin. He'd wet himself. Emiko had
screamed for a while and then the sounds had faded. They
hadn't cut off, just faded as if with distance. The crab-
thing had probably dragged her down the shaft from which it
had come, probably taken her to its lair where it
He hadn't moved. And it wasn't just because he couldn't move
-- that was okay, he didn't want to anyway. He just wanted
to stay there in that quiet dark place. There was something
comforting in the dark. And the quiet. Eventually he
supposed he would move, but right then staying where he was
seemed like a really good idea. And it was just as long as
he didn't remember her eyes.
He wondered why he had followed her inside. What had he
hoped to accomplish? She was just some crazy old woman
mumbling a bunch of supernatural crap. Who cared about
people who'd died forty years ago? What the fuck did it
matter if some asswipe named Serizawa had drown at the
bottom of Tokyo Bay?
And this house -- Sho wished it had burned down when that
bum set fire to it years ago. It would have been better if
it had just gone up in flames, the goddamned thing was an
eye-sore anyway. What good had ever come from this place?
Only bums ever used it now, bums and street punks using it
to vet new recruits. This was his second
time in here and...
Third? No. Not third. This was his second time. That first
had been a dream, just a dream, only a dream, caused by the
seance, the seance that had taken place at his (...this...)
He'd been eight years old. All of them had come through a
broken window in the back. They set up the board in what had
been the living room. Only a candle held back the darkness.
One of the older boys told the story of what had happened,
the rumor of a triple suicide. He got scared. The dark and
the weight of the dead air was too much for him. He started
crying. The others laughed at him, taunting, calling him a
Momma's boy. They poked and pushed. He backed off, still
crying, further away from the light, the only light. He
lunged for it. A bigger boy pushed hard. He twisted,
turning, off balance. The stairwell loomed like an open
sore. He screamed, he fell, into darkness.
He lay unconscious at the bottom of the stairs for hours. No
one came down to see if he was all right. They thought he
was dead. He stirred, got up, feeling the throbbing in his
head. He looked around, wondering where he was. Then he
remembered and the fear that touched him was like the fear
now, so strong, so all-encompassing that he couldn't move.
And then over the pounding of his heart, he heard it. How
low had the sound been?
Had he heard it through his bones?
Coming through the wall, at the bottom of the stairs?
His breath caught in his throat. Warmth spread across his
lap. Something was on the other side of the wall, making
those little scratching sounds. It was digging through from
the other side, but weakly now, as if someone had been
bricked up a long time before, without food, without water,
without air...dying a slow horrible death.
The next thing he knew he was standing outside in the front
yard. He had no recollection of how he had gotten there. He
didn't care. He went home to sleep and the next day he found
all the kids who had been in there with him and kicked all
of their asses one by one. The last one, the big kid who had
pushed him down the stairs in the first place, Sho used a
baseball bat on him. He broke the kid's arm and when he was
writhing around on the ground in agony, Sho spat on him.
Okay. So what? Sho thought now. Second time, third time, who
gave a damn about how many times he'd been in the house? He
had no intention of moving. It was safer where he was. It
was safer and that's all that mattered. He pulled his knees
up tighter and started to cry.
When Emiko woke up however long later it was, she was
staring at a ceiling of glass. She lay on her back for a few
moments, her eyes slowly adjusting to the lower light level.
Then with a groan of pain, she rolled to one side and got to
her hands and knees.
She had no idea where she was or how she got there. The last
thing she remembered was being pulled, kicking and
screaming, from the generator room by the crab-thing. Her
head had knocked against something hard and she'd blacked-
out. She vaguely recalled a tunnel of dull orange light
flashing by and her head repeatedly bouncing over something.
Now she was here, wherever that was.
It was a wide room or compartment hewn out of the rock,
about thirty feet wide and ten high with a dirt floor. The
walls glittered faintly like glass. There was no light, but
she had no trouble seeing. A strange luminescence was
trapped in the glass. It seeped out, giving everything a
dull blue tint. There was a stale odor in the motionless air
that caused her stomach clench up painfully.
The room was a juncture point in a huge underground hive of
some kind -- there were openings all around in the walls
that seemed to lead to narrow tunnels. The crab-thing must
have dragged her through one of them and left her there. But
which one? And where was it now? Why hadn't it finished her
She crawled over to one of the openings and cautiously
looked inside. It was impossible to see anything past the
first few feet. There was no way she could find her way
through the darkness. She'd probably just get lost or worse,
run into that thing again. Maybe it was even watching her
now from one of the other openings. Maybe it was just
Emiko rolled over against the wall, breathing hard, trying
to think. She should probably just stay where she was. Sho
was probably looking for her -- if it hadn't gotten him,
too. Tears rose in her eyes then. What if he was already...?
If he was, then she was partly to blame. She had asked for
his help in the first place. She should have told him to
leave, she should have done it by herself.
But then...she would have never gotten in by herself, would
she? And so what if she hadn't, she wondered. What had she
really hoped to accomplish anyway, offering prayers and
incense to a dead man. Silly old woman, silly stupid old
woman -- had it been worth the price of a young man's life?
Her hand brushed against something. In the dim blue light, a
bleached skull grinned at her. She uttered a short scream
and crawled quickly away toward the center of the room. Her
hands and knees kicked up little puffs of dust that seemed
to hang in the air much longer than they should have.
Gasping for breath, she looked around for another opening.
He skin crawled at the sound. She looked around slowly and
saw two tiny yellow eyes staring at her from across the
The crab-thing moved out of the hole and sat there. It
watched her intently, its tiny mandibles making soft
clicking sounds as they opened and closed. The exo-jaws were
nestled snug and moist inside. One of its yellow eyes closed
for a moment, and she could have sworn for all the world it
looked like a man with one eye.
Her body trembled at a sudden epiphany. She had said that
his anger had made it, that he had sent it as a warning. Now
she wasn't so sure. What if...could it be...
Emiko leaned forward, stretching out her hand.
"Serizawa," she whispered softly. "Is that you?"
The crab-thing's eyes went wider. The speed of the clicking
"Serizawa...please...if it's you...please...let me know,"
she begged. "I came here to ask for your forgiveness.
They...have to use it again. They know it's wrong...but they
have no choice. Please give them your blessing. Just this
one last time..."
The eyes narrowed to glowing golden slits.
*did-a-SSSKKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE -- *
The crab-thing screamed at her, the sound piercing her
eardums. She fell to the floor in agony, covering her ears
as the echoes hammered into her. When she could look up, the
thing's head was bobbing up and down. It made a low sound
deep in its throat as if it was laughing at her. It moved
Lying on her back, she began to shuffle away from it. She
couldn't tear her gaze away from those tiny yellow eyes. Her
mind kept repeating over and over -- it wasn't Serizawa, it
wasn't Serizawa! But if not him, then who? Who had sent it?
The crab-thing suddenly lunged forward and it was on top of
her, looking down at her face. The needle-like feet pierced
her kimono, pinning her to the ground. It stooped, the
mandibles opening and closing eagerly in anticipation of
its imminent feast.
Emiko tried to push its face away, but it was too heavy and
it slowly pressed downward. She was looking right into its
yellow eyes, utter fear tightening her muscles. It wasn't
Serizawa, she knew it wasn't him -- but who? And then she
"Hideo!" she screamed, feeling her fingers beginning to
slip, the dripping jaws now scant inches from her pale
throat. "Hideo, I beg you to stop this!"
As if actually understanding the words, the crab-thing
paused a moment, and, like a dog catching a distant sound on
the wind, cocked its head inquisitively to one side.
*did-a-chit* it seemed to ask. *did-a-choom* And then,
still perched on her chest, it exhaled a little puff of
white gas into her face, an odor that was utterly foul, a
smell as rancid as an open sewer...
-- or the stench of cordite discharge, the report had been
soft, not at all what one might expect, not the loud booming
sound of movies or TV shows, but something soft like a toy
cap gun --
...little yellow eyes stared at her, set high on a craning
neck, in a dull red crab head, like a deep fading sunset...
-- or the pooling blood that seeped into her kimono,
stained her knees a sticky pink, as she knelt weeping over
the crumpled body she had found, a tiny hole in the side of
his head --
A sudden scream of rage cut through her senses.
"GET OFF HER YOU GODDAMN UGLY MOTHERFUCKER!"
Sho shot forward from the darkness, the crowbar held high
above his head. His eyes were wide and crazed as he swung a
vicious, whistling arc in the air. The first blow ripped
through the side of the crab-thing's head, gouging out
chunks of glistening flesh and spewing green blood across
the room. It spattered the wall and the glass bubbled and
The creature squealed in pain and scuttled backward. The
second blow struck the long neck, a solid meaty thud that
nearly turned it completely around. Scrambling for purchase
on the dusty floor, the crab-thing tried to face its
attacker to retaliate.
But Sho was possessed -- he was everywhere, screaming
incoherently, swinging the crowbar in wild raking arcs of
blackened steel, landing blow after blow. The keen edge of
the crowbar sliced right through the soft space between the
chitinous layers of armor and the crab-thing howled like a
Some of its venomous blood spattered on his hand. The smell
of blistering flesh made him want to puke. But Sho gave no
thought to the pain -- to relent now meant death for both of
them. And so he kept swinging again and again and again,
rage and fear giving him strength.
He struck at one of its legs and the crowbar got lodged in
the fleshy space where it connected to the trunk. Without
thinking, he rammed his boot down and screamed as he pulled
with everything he had. The crowbar ripped free, taking a
huge chunk of flesh with it. The long leg fell to the floor
Shreiking under the endless assault, the crab-thing quickly
backed off across the room. Where it's blood fell, there was
a bubbling smoking groove. Sho struck it mercilessly, until
they got to one of the circular openings. The creature
darted for the safety of the darkness, leaving Sho and Emiko
alone in the still-echoing chamber.
Sho listened to the blood rushing past his ears, to the rage
still boiling in his veins. And then when he was sure it had
gone and wasn't circling back through one of the other
tunnels, he collapsed to his knees and started weeping
uncontrollably. The crowbar fell from his numbed fingers.
"Sho," said Emiko after a moment. "Sho...are you hurt?"
He shook his head.
Emiko crawled over to him. "I can't believe you..."
He didn't look at her. "I ain't never been so scared in my
fucking life," he said, breathing hard. "I thought...I
thought we were both gonna die."
His shoulders shook from the sobbing. She put her arms
around him and held him. She began to rock back and forth as
if she were trying to soothe a baby.
"But we're alive," whispered Emiko. "Thanks to you, we're
alive. It was a very courageous thing you just did."
Sho wiped some snot from his nose. "Really? I didn't feel
too fucking courageous when I was up in that room pissing my
pants after that thing pulled you out."
She shushed him and patted his head. "It's okay. You came
for me when I needed your help and that's all that matters.
You did a good thing, Sho. A good thing."
He sniffed. "Can't say I've done much else that was good.
The thing's I've done...the people I've hurt...I can't take
any of that back."
Emiko pulled back and looked deeply into his eyes. "No, you
can't. You can try to make up for it. And some will forgive
you and some never will." She was smiling. "But there is
good in you," she touched his chest, "It's always been
there. It's just been sleeping for a long long
time...waiting for you to wake it up. But if you forget, if
you fall back asleep, you'll lose this chance. Time won't
wait for you to make up your mind."
"All right," Sho nodded. "Let's get the fuck out of this
It took nearly an hour to get back up to the lab, slipping
and sliding. They had to crawl on hands and knees and by the
time they made it back, both their hands were covered in
cuts. Sho found his jacket, ripped a handkerchief in half
and wrapped her hands up as best he could. Then with a final
look around the old Serizawa lab, they went up the stairs
The temperature had dropped in the time they had been inside
the house and a cool breeze was blowing from the east. It
felt good on their sweaty skin. Sho closed the door behind
them and they made their way out of the yard to stand by his
car. Emiko turned to him.
"Thank you," she said softly. "For helping me."
Sho didn't know what to say at first. "Do you think it
helped at all? Do you think that the spirit, or whatever the
fuck it was, is at rest now?"
"I don't know," she replied. For a moment, it looked like
she might say something else, but then she just shook her
head, and repeated -- "I don't know."
Emiko didn't seem to mind that. In fact, to Sho it seemed as
if it was something she had in some way expected. But he
couldn't accept not knowing for sure. There had to be some
way of telling.
"Then why the hell did you...did we...have to go through all
that if we have no way of knowing if it done any good?"
"Because it was something that had to be done," replied
Emiko simply. "No one ever said that we would know whether
we succeeded or not. This the debt we owe to the dead. We
have to respect that. We have to respect their wishes."
"But...what about the...the monster?"
Emiko smiled sadly. "Yes. Yes, they are still out there. But
not the monsters you're thinking of. Not that thing in the
Seeing the confused look on his face, she laughed. It was a
terrible thing to hear, full of irony and resignation.
"No, there are no monsters," she explained, with a soft and
subtle knowing. "There is only you and I...and them..."
She turned, sweeping her hand across the broad and darkened
suburban vista. Here and there, alone or banded together in
huddled masses, orange streetlights and white porchlamps held
the night at bay.
Sho had never noticed them before. There were so many, they
glittered like clusters of starlight made of human hand. But
then as he glanced up to the sky, he realized that they were
merely a pathetic imitation of the majestic constellations so
very far above.
"Why would we need monsters," he heard Emiko say, a voice
disembodied now, speaking as if from a great distance. "When
we make such perfect misery for ourselves?"
He turned to look at her, just as she bowed deeply in his
direction. He felt stunned and yet oddly at peace for no
mortal reason he could name.
"Thank you again for helping me," she said, rising up. "It
was a pleasure to meet you."
Sho swallowed hard and returned the gesture. Then she
started away, walking back toward the hill.
Surely, it was a trick of light, but with each step, Emiko
seemed to be getting smaller--not merely receding in the
distance, but shrinking in upon herself somehow. And she
staggered now as she walked, as if unsure of her footing, or
weak. Sho watched her until she turned a bend in the road
and vanished. Utterly. Almost like she had never existed in
the first place.
Suddenly that calm feeling vanished as well and he felt
angry. Almost cheated. What had they accomplished? After all
that, what had they received for their efforts? A torn and
bloody kimono. A ruined leather jacket. And a night lost, a
night gone that could never be regained. A night that could
have been spent out with his...friends...or with...Eiko. Or
maybe...maybe he could have just stayed home. That wouldn't
have been that bad, would it?
His family. His mother, his bratty sister. Maybe even his
Dad had come, instead of out drinking with his co-workers.
But that could never be now. No, for the night had just
vanished, like a...
Like the ghost of someone loved and lost. Like the ghost of
lingering guilt for things done that couldn't be changed, no
matter how hard one tried to take them back.
She was so small. So *tiny.* How? How on earth could she
bear what she knew?
But his experience was too shallow and when no answer would
come he only got angry again. Screw her, Sho thought. Screw
her, screw that Serizawa freak, screw the oxygen-destroying
bullshit, screw Godzilla, screw the whole screwed-up world!
Sho got in his low-riding Nissan, slamming the door harder
than was necessary. When he turned the key in the ignition,
the engine roared to life and then strobed beneath the hood,
throbbing with too much pent-up energy. Like himself, it too
seemed to want to get away from all the weird crap that had
befallen him this night.
But before he could pull away from the curb, to find
something or someone to help him forget that this night had
ever happened, Sho looked at the abandoned house, again, for
the final time. He thought of the secrets it contained and
the memories of lives lost and consumed. And he shivered at
the thought of the little crab-thing scuttling through the
darkness and dust of past days.
And finally his thoughts turned to Emiko, that sad little
old woman and the secret wells of courage she possessed.
Courage to which no biker-punk he knew of could ever hope to
Sho slammed the hotrod into gear and then paused. He stared
out the window, but the headlights were still off and it was
dark. There were no streetlights. He couldn't see a thing on
the road in front of him. Not that there was much to see out
there anyway. Or more accurately, he thought sadly, nothing
that he hadn't seen too much of already.
Suddenly frustrated, he pounded the steering wheel with
the heel of his hand. He pounded and slapped until he cried
out in pain and tears. When he could take no more, he held
up the throbbing hand and stared long at the angry curving
red mark that was sure to form a blood blister by morning.
But he knew whatever injury he might inflict upon himself,
it was as nothing compared to the pain she had felt...and
that she felt still.
After a moment of indecision, he uttered a deep resigned
sigh. Then he slammed on the gas and spun the car around
in a broad arc of screeching tires and smoke, the gravel
spewing out in a dark fountain behind. He gunned the car,
and the straining engine's throaty roar sounded like the
biggest goddamn monster he'd ever heard. And he followed
the road down to where the old woman had gone. Maybe she
could use a ride home.
And then Sho smiled. And he laughed. And he thought that
this surely was one fucked up world he lived in. Because
no matter where he went, he never knew what was going to
be around the next corner.
Remembering, Sho turned on the headlights to illuminate
the unknown road ahead.
About a month later -- after Emiko had gone back to her life
and Sho to look for a new one, and after Godzilla had melted
away into nothingness -- a construction crew drove the steep
tree-lined road to the hill's summit, to finally begin the
long-overdue process of tearing down all the delapidated and
The Serizawa house was one of the first brought down that
fine day. While the sun lingered high overhead at noon, a
silent golden witness to its demise, a backhoe struck the
first blow. It pierced the roof over the broken-down porch
and tore it asunder with a single stroke. The sound as it
fell was like the screech of some mortally-wounded animal.
The rest of the work went quickly. And in little less than
two hours, the place was a smouldering ruin, just a fading
memory, rising with the dust into the clear blue sky. The
debris was then shoveled into a dump truck for the long trip
to a garbage fill.
A few days later when the land was swept clean of the past,
a large billboard was erected on the hillside, overlooking
the city. In bold kanji easily discernable to anyone below
who bothered to look up, though few ever did, it read:
COMING SOON! MODERN HOMES FOR A BRIGHT FUTURE!
Excerpt from The Replacements' "Bastards of Young,"
copyright 1985 NAH Music.
Sho and his gang were inspired by the book "Speed
Tribes" by Karl Taro Greenfeld.
Destroyah's "dialogue" was adapted (or shamefully
ripped off) from Stephen King's "The Dark Tower 2:
The Drawing of the Three."