A Chuck Wending prompt – RANDOM SONG TITLE STORY CHALLENGE
Song title: “Do I wanna know?” by Arctic Monkeys
I ducked under his arm and bolted for the door.
He had me, and yanked me back. Right away. I had no chance…
He dragged me to the farthermost corner of the room. His grip in my hair was so strong. Much stronger than I expected. And he was incredibly fast. I didn’t even see him moving. I thrashed helplessly, but was pulled back so fast and so easily, as if I had no weight at all. The stammered “gomen nasai” jittered from my lips, dropped into the liquifying day, without visible effect.
Why won’t he let me go?
The hotel room was a mess. Furniture turned over, pillows ripped apart. As I entered with my keycard, he had me by the throat. With a knife, or a dagger of some kind. I saw that my things were neatly folded, my suitcase closed. No robbery then – What did he want?
I tried to talk to him, but he didn’t answer. I figured he didn’t speak English, so I tried Japanese, but couldn’t remember any useful phrases. Nothing. My mind was blank, for once.
It was darkening. I had encountered a lunatic asian man, with a knife, in my own hotel room! What was it with this hellish week? Gosh, my bad-luck-powers were back. First my almost-car-crash, two days ago, then the metro stopping for hours, with no reason between two stations, and now this!
He made me sit down on the floor, near some grocery bags. He must have brought those with him. Why was he here? Why not in someone else’s room?
„What do you want from me? Why won’t you let me go?!“ I barked the question into the solid silence around. His iron gray figure loomed over me. His pale face shone, like teeth in a withered skull lit by the moon. As if for the first time, he looked at me, looked so sorrowful. Why was his face so familiar? Almost instantly, I felt sympathy for him – which was weird, because he held me hostage. Maybe not so weird, I remembered the Stockholm Syndrome. I had to be careful with my mental state, I needed a clear head, not a mesmerized potato on my neck.
„Because…“ He spoke very gently and carefully. „You are possessed.“
„WHAT?! Are you crazy?!” I slapped both hands on my mouth. Where was my mind? I shouldn’t have said that to my captor. “There’s no such thing.“ I continued a little vary of the consequences. I expected a blaze of anger. I waited for the glint of rage in his eyes. I waited. I waited.
He pulled out three little folded paper cranes, from the inner pocket of his jacket. Balancing them on his palm, he showed them to me. The cranes arranged themselves, shifting into position, with their beaks pointing at me. That was… strange… “How? …How did you do that?”
“You did. Not me.” He observed the movements for himself. I did? That was impossible! I did nothing. The man pulled out more of them, and placed them on the floor, the bed. All the same, identical origami cranes made of copy-paper. They balanced themselves wherever they were put and peeked at me. I swallowed hard. They moved on their own! How?! Thermal waves pulsed through my guts, I felt them in my cheeks too… The bottom of my stomach plummeted into oblivion, and dizziness leaked from where it was hiding, to kick me in the teeth. “Try to stay calm. This won’t make it any easier for you.”
The night grew stronger. The sky withered to black. Storm clouds hid the stars. No moon either. Easier for me? I sat slack-jawed, with my back against the wall, staring at the white birds. Then I looked at the man. Easier? For me? He was younger than I thought, barely a grown up. Brown eyes, dark wiry hair, jeans and a knitted pullover. His too big leatherjacket had seen better days. It was patched on the elbows.
From another pocket, he pulled out a pen with a brush on the tip, and wrote something on his palm. He showed it to me. “I can’t read that. I can’t read Kanji.” He painted his other palm too. After holding it to my face, I shook my head. “No idea.”
“Well, sorry. This complicates my work. I wasn’t expecting, that you can’t read.” He scratched his chin. I could read! I told him a bit offended. “That’s no good. I can’t write Romaji. Not good enough. The symbolism of your world is not what I’m used to. And a mistake is not an option. It is too much at stake.”
What? At stake? How was that even linked to me? Romaji and Kanji, with me, being held here hostage?! That man was bonkers. Completely! I wrecked my brain. How could I escape?
“You know, there are three things I must know, before I let you go.” I was all ears. Three things? “Form, truth and regret.” He continued absent mindedly, and walked up and down between the paper birds. “What do you remember? Were there any strange events lately?” I nodded. What were those things he wanted? Did I have to discuss philosophy with him? Truth? And what did he mean with regret? “So please tell me.” He inquired most interested.
I swallowed. “…Why is that important?” I had to play for time. Maybe someone noticed that something was wrong, at the clerks desk. Maybe not. I had to get to the phone, and call for help. I massaged my temples, exhaling sharply. I had somewhat of a plan. “Fine!” The dizziness crept back into my eyes. Why was it so hard to focus on a thought? I felt like dreaming, when trying to read and couldn’t, cause the letters crawled away. “I had a nearly car crash the other day.” He seemed keen on hearing it. “Can I move around a bit? It helps concentrating.” He gestured that I could, so I got on my feet and started walking around. First in small elliptical figures, near him, then in larger ones. The paper beaks followed my every step. Must be something magnetic… “I was driving from Shibuya to Chiba. I was shopping, and the car was full. It started raining half way. I knew it was going to, but the power of the cyclone surprised me.” He cocked his head, listening intently. Nearly at the phone now. “The traffic had slowed down. I guess, everyone was careful.” Two more steps. “Suddenly a truck crashed, from the other side into the flow of cars. The truck exploded. I guess you saw that on the news.” He shook his head. I reached for the phone.
A spark of electric fire shot up to my hand. The phone electrocuted me! Pain raced up my arm, made my fingers cramp into claws. Distantly, I heard the ringing of the phones in the next room to the left and right, and down the hallway. They all rang in unison. The man looked at me amazed. “Please, don’t stop. We’re nearly there.” I held my hand to my chest. What was going on? The ringing continued. Even in this room. I wanted to pick up. I needed help here! Needed it so badly- The cranes gawked at me. I felt my heart drop. What was happening? Between my ribs, the galloping rhythm gained speed and volume. I could have sworn, he heard it too. The whole hotel did… What was happening to me?
“The truck hit traffic some hundred meters before my car. I saw that people were on the phone behind me. I figured they were making an emergency call. And I had a first aid kit at hand. So I got out of the car, and ran up to the accident, to help.” My throat tightened. “Then I saw it, the truck had gasoline loaded. The driver was dead, the way his head…” The man stood up and came closer. I staggered back, knocked the bed aside. “It.. It. I looked for other hit cars. There were so many… And… It smelled like burning hair.” The phone kept ringing.
Next thing I knew, I was on the floor, cringing to the touch of a finger on my cheek. I wheezed. The finger was wet. I curled up into a ball. It was his pen, not his finger. “Do you remember more?” He asked, pointing at my burnt hand. It looked largely singed, charred and stiff. How could that be? Why wasn’t my hand moving? It was only a spark… I shook my head. I’ve had enough. No more! Please.
“…I don’t want to… Please, I don’t…”
“How did you get back here?”
“Metro.” The answer fell out of my mouth, even before I had the chance to stop it. The man stood an arm length away from me. Was that pity in his eyes? He squatted beside me, sat down, legs crossing.
“Why not by car?” His hand folded around the sheath of the dagger. Suddenly that didn’t bother me at all. I could only look at the paper crane on his shoulder.
“I couldn’t find it. I looked everywhere. It was gone, someone must have drove it off.” I stared at my black hand. “Someone stole it from me. With my everything inside. Money, phone, cards, keys… Everything!” I had to go to the police tomorrow, and press a charge.
“Did you lose something else too?” I looked back at him baffled. Something else? Before I entered the room, I missed – something. Something else… I knew, it was weird. “Was it your kage? I mean, your… shadow?” Something missing… My captor pulled out the blade. This time I recognized it. It was a broken Japanese sword. A damaged katana.
“I had this feeling. Being more alone than usual.” The edge the blade glowed in the darkness. It radiated warm and golden, like a lit candle. Rustling filled the room, the origami birds moved erratically. A hand full flew off, with beating wings. He furrowed his brows watching the cranes.
“Tell me. How does it feel?” His eyes locked back on mine. “To be a walking corpse?” WHAT?
The impact of his last sentence knocked the breath out of my lungs. What? Walking corpse? “What did you say?” I exhaled the vocals and consonants. My tongue felt sluggish.
“How does it feel to be a walking corpse?”
“I’M NOT DEAD!”
“Prove it.” He demanded. How? “Prove, that you’re alive, and we have no business. I let you go.” How? I boggled. “When did you eat the last time?” I swallowed. I couldn’t remember.
“Dunno… I’m not hungry. That doesn’t mean anything.”
“Your hand. Observe. You are a doctor, aren’t you? Look at that burnt hand of yours. Do you think a spark can do that?” – “No.” That can’t be… I stared at my black rigid fingers. I tried to move them once again. Nothing. I’m not dead. I’m not.
“Did anyone talk to you, or answer you?” I shook my head, unable to open my mouth. They didn’t even look at me.
But this is Japan, people don’t look at each other. I’m not dead. A white wave rolled over me. It washed away the solid ground I stood on. I’m not dead. “You made the phones ring in every room, every day – for the last three months. After changing the phones, the cables, not one technician knew what was going on. So the concierge called for me. To find out. And your room was vandalized, every time when someone slept in it.” He gestured to the paper cranes. “Took me a month to fold them. There are exactly thousand of them.” The origami bird settled down. I’m not dead. “And there is the thing with your shadow. You don’t have one.” I opened my mouth, but the words refused to get out. They were stuck somewhere inside. I’m not dead. I felt my heart bulge. The acidic burn in my throat ascended to my eyes. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. “I’m sorry, for what happened to you. Wasn’t your fault.”
“But the room, and my things?” I pointed where my suitcase was. It had vanished. The furniture stood where it used to stand. Nothing was broken, nothing ripped or overturned. How could that be? I’m not dead. The face of the man came into my field of view. So sad. So unbelievably gloomy. A blood drop clung to the tip of the dagger. “My everything?” He shook his head.
A crane landed on the dagger sucking up the red. Where the breast of the bird would be there now was a crimson dot. In a blink all other birds were in air. The spotted one too. They gathered. I tried to move, but couldn’t. They buzzed like a beehive. Something threatening radiated from the paper mass in mid air. The man stood back. I’m not dead. The hum picked up volume. Suddenly it sounded like someone speaking. In a very deep voice. Definitely. Someone spoke, repeated words over and over again. The static charge grew. The hair on my neck stood on end.
The birds levitated in an oval shape couple of feet away; the crimson dot in the center. With a shriek they darted my direction. The white of the paper irradiated, glowed pearly. The glint grew to a blinding white beam.