Chapter 3 (Convincing a friend)
Zack glanced down the hallway. Who’s coming to visit me at this hour? He rose and clambered to the front door on shaky legs.
“I’m coming.” He unlocked the deadbolt and pulled the door open.
The blinding sunlight bit into his eyes and magnified the hangover. His head throbbed.
“Who is it?” Shinji asked.
Andrew turned to regard Zack with a smile parting his bright red beard. “Are you just waking up?” He laughed, and his fat belly jiggled like a futon having the dust beaten out of it.
“Yes?” A friend from college. Zack cocked his head. “Why?”
“Wonderful.” Shinji’s voice dragged over the vowels as if he were rolling his eyes.
Andrew stepped into the entryway and removed his shoes. White patches littered his blazing red hair, showing the wear and tear of his life before coming to Japan. Was he really twenty-six? He should have never taken that night-shift job at the asylum. “It’s already past noon.”
“Yeah, morning time.”
Andrew chuckled then tugged on his purple shirt’s collar. The lights in the hallway caught in his clear blue eyes and made the dark freckles on his face stand out. “Why do you look so haggard?”
“Let’s sit down first. It’s a long story, and I’m still hungover.” Zack turned and shuffled back into the living room. He picked up two cheap wooden chairs and sat them beside the wall that separated the living room and his bedroom.
Andrew froze as soon as he exited the hallway, his mouth agape. He turned left to look into the kitchen then right to peer at the fridge and small table before returning to stare at the half-cleaned mess sprawled across the living room. He used his hand to close his mouth and swallowed. “This must be some story.”
“Yeah.” The hangover tapped at the back of Zack’s skull, and the throbbing pain worked its way past his temples, settling between his eyes. He dropped into one of the seats and squeezed the bridge of his nose.
“Wouldn’t it be better to clean while we talk?”
“I need a moment.”
“Don’t take too long. If Sena decides to come back early —”
Zack’s face fell into his palms. His lips quivered, and tears dripped to the floor. The pain from his hangover faded while the agony of loss clutched his heart.
A hand rested on his back and rubbed at his shoulders. “What’s wrong?” Andrew’s deep voice felt soothing.
Some of the tension fled Zack’s muscles. “B-b-broke up.”
“Relax. Take a deep breath and tell me what she did this time to make you break up with her.”
“What? If you’re so distraught, just call her, say you’re sorry and take her back. You don’t always have to wait a week before getting back together.”
“No.” A suffocating pressure squeezed Zack’s heart. His chest ached, and more tears pelted the floor. Why did it still hurt? Why did he still care about Sena?
“Come on, you —”
“She broke up with me.” Zack’s voice cracked.
Andrew gasped. “You’re serious?”
“Yeah. She’s living with her parents until I can find a place of my own.”
“I’m so sorry. What happened?”
Zack sat up and wiped his eyes. “Well, after I came home from the teachers’ dinner the other night, I was exhausted. I apparently left the toilet seat up before going to bed in my Armani suit.”
“Oof. You know how she feels about that.”
“I didn’t even realize I’d done it. It was just after midnight when I got to Nishi-Funabashi station, almost the last train, and trudged home in a daze.”
“So, she broke up with you because you left the toilet seat up?” A chuckle burst from Andrew’s mouth.
Andrew glanced to the mess. “Did she break your TV, and you finally hauled off and hit her?”
“Give you a new scar with that black steel butcher knife?”
“If you be quiet, I’ll tell you.”
“Ha!” Shinji said, “Serves you right.”
Just shut up. Zack took a deep breath then recounted his fight with Sena. “After I called her a bitch, she broke up with me.”
Andrew nodded. “Ouch.”
“From there,” Zack said, “I apparently got really drunk. I met some girl and threw up on an old man … well, his hair was gray, but he sounded as if he were twenty years old.”
Andrew laughed, slapping his knee. “That’s a good way to punctuate this whole situation.” He glanced to the mess again. “Is that how your TV got destroyed? Drunk fit of rage?”
“No.” Zack swallowed. “That happened just moments before you got here. I have to explain this next part in order to get to that last part.” How should I start?
Shinji made a clicking sound. “By not?”
Andrew is my best friend.
“He won’t believe you.”
Yes, he will. Zack scrubbed his tongue across his teeth. Besides, I have magic to prove it to him.
“You should not involve the Blind in our affairs.”
No. His eyes work just fine. I think you’re just being racist.
Shinji groaned. “Fool, the Blind are those who cannot see our power.”
Why can’t you just fucking say it plainly and not use these stupid ass code words?
“It would take too long to say.”
Anyways, I’m still going to tell him.
Andrew coughed. “Are you going to continue with your story or just stare at the wall like a cucumber?”
Zack’s stomach grumbled. How long had it been since he had eaten anything? “Sorry. Discussing how to proceed with Shinji.”
“Another voice you created to deal with Sena’s abuse?” Andrew ran his fingers through his thick beard and scratched his chin.
“Yes and no.”
Andrew arched an eyebrow.
“Shinji is a voice, but I didn’t create him.” Zack stood and fought down the nausea while his head spun from the sudden motion. “Help me get this mess picked up. Then, I’ll cook some lunch, and I’ll tell you how a ghost decided to call my body home.”
Andrew croaked out a laugh then rose to his feet on shaky knees. “That’s … a good joke.”
Zack grabbed the bottom half of the broom and went to sweeping. “Not a joke.”
A long moment later, Andrew grabbed the dustpan. He looked up at Zack and swallowed while a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead. Was he hot? Or nervous? “Okay. I think I’m ready to hear it now.”
As they cleaned the living room, Zack recounted his time in the graveyard and how he came by Shinji. Once they had vacuumed, wiped the floor with a wet rag and taken out the trash, Zack cooked some karaage — Japanese fried chicken — and piled them onto two plates.
“So, how do you know he’s real?” Andrew took one of the plates and licked his lips. “And you still haven’t explained what happened to your TV.”
Zack grabbed the other plate and returned to his seat. “Magic.”
The plate nearly fell from Andrew’s grasp. Two of his karaage tumbled to the floor. Thwap-thwap. He shook his head and rushed to pick up the hot pieces of chicken. “Magic?”
“Yep.” Zack found his spirits up, and the depression clouding his mood cleared.
Andrew poked Zack in the chest. “You should start kickboxing again. Without Sena telling you no, it wouldn’t take you any time to get back into the ring since you’re still built like a septic tank. Rock-solid and full of shit.”
Chicken flew from Zack’s mouth as he chuckled. “Good one, but I’ll show you when we finish eating.”
“No, you will not,” Shinji said in a condescending tone.
I will. Zack found his left foot tapping and stopped it. With or without your help.
“I doubt it.”
Zack ignored Shinji and stuffed his face. He and Andrew finished eating then washed the dishes.
“You had better not do it.” Shinji huffed. What was he getting so worked up for?
I’m going to do it. Zack cracked his neck and stretched. The greasy chicken had reduced the hangover to a murmuring whisper. The headache nothing but an aftertaste. “You ready?”
Something akin to hunger filled Andrew’s eyes, and he nodded like a kid on a pogo stick. “Let’s do this.”
Zack peered into his mind and found the black hand. Move. Move! Move? Using the white hand he had seen earlier, he clutched onto the black hand and shoved it towards the well of energy. Now —
The black hand froze in place. “Eh-eh!” Shinji’s voice sent a ripple through the golden energy as if it were water.
“You are not going to flaunt our powers in front of the Blind.”
I’m not going to flaunt them. Zack gritted his teeth and pushed with all his mental might.
Shinji grunted, but the black hand slid closer to the golden ball of energy. “I do not care how strong you are, you will never force me into the Ecstasy Well!” The black hand twisted, and Zack’s white hand dove into the Ecstasy Well.
Thump. His heart pounded against his ribs, and he was back in the handicapped bathroom. Still deep inside the woman, Zack stood and pressed her chest against the wall. He squeezed her tight ass as he worked her from behind, each stroke more heavenly than the last.
She moaned, moving her hips in tune to his rapid thrusts. “I’m coming.” Her entire body quivered. “I’m! Coming!”
The world righted itself, and Zack gasped inside his apartment. A thick, white glob of liquid akin to the Shadow floated around his right hand. “Is this why you called me a Light Artist?”
Andrew blinked. “I didn’t call you anything. Last thing I said was let’s do this. Did you not hear me? It was only a few seconds ago.”
Only a few seconds? Zack bit into his lower-lip. But that vivid dream of fucking that girl felt like it lasted for more than ten minutes.
“Ecstasy Dreams only last a fraction of a second,” Shinji said, ”despite how long the image carries on.”
That’s the second time you’ve called it that.
“Technically, it is not a dream but a rehashed memory of the event which filled your Ecstasy Well.”
Zack’s jaw dropped. Are you saying I fucked some girl in the bathroom last night?
“If that is what you are seeing when you draw on the power, then yes.”
Wow. A lump caught in Zack’s throat, and heat raced along his skin. Had it always been this hot? Sweat clung to his shirt and soaked into his silky boxers. Is there any way to turn it off?
“Yes. Though, it takes practice.”
“When you draw on the power, focus on the reality around you. Anchor your mind in this world. Being angry or frustrated helps, but it is not necessary.”
Thanks. Zack waved his hand through the Light, and it moved with his fingertips. It didn’t have any real substance to the touch, but his skin tingled with each encounter. “Can you see this?”
Andrew walked around Zack with narrowed eyes. “No?”
“No,” Shinji said as if he were an echo.
“What is it?” Andrew scratched at one of the white patches in his hair.
“The raw power called Light.” Zack swished it around and created an oval like Shinji had done earlier. “Though, Shinji used Shadow to break my TV.”
“There are two types of power? Really?”
“As far as I know. Shinji’s kind of being a dick right now because you aren’t able to use magic.” Zack painted an exact copy of the Piece Shinji had made with Shadow.
The Light dissolved back into goo, and the total mass shrunk. Zack scratched his scruffy chin. He needed to shave. “Well, apparently, I can’t use the same pictures with the different powers. And it costs me a bit of power when I fail to make a successful Piece.”
“What do you mean pictures?” Andrew asked.
“I have to take the Light or Shadow and paint it into a picture. Then, the picture creates the magic. Or something like that. I’ve only seen it used once.”
“How about you try a beach picture? You like the beach.”
“Good idea.” Zack painted a beach with animals. “The magic effect has to be part of the picture. Shackles seemed to be the main part of Shinji’s Shadow Piece.”
“How about a sword?”
Zack ignored the sarcasm coating Andrew’s voice and added a sword to the beach. The Piece wavered as if something would happen before falling apart. Using the sword as a focal point, Zack tried several more images with Andrew rattling off every stupid idea that came to mind.
No fruit, and the Light floating around him had diminished to a fist-sized blob.
A scowl crossed Zack’s face. Why won’t you help?
“Because,” Shinji said in a smug voice, “I do not like letting the Blind know more than they should. They gossip more than the Fat Asses.”
And because he can’t use the power and is fat, you won’t help me?
“I never said anything about his weight.”
You just — Never mind. Zack closed his eyes and cleared his thoughts. He moved without thinking. A forest background with little animals running through it. He took the last of the Light and dragged a glob of it across the top like a laser beam. “I guess —”
The Piece spun in the air then became white smoke. It wrapped around his right hand and turned into a white glove.
Zack swallowed hard. The thought, Release, entered his mind, and a blinding Beam of white energy poured from the white glove. The Beam ripped through Sena’s fridge and the wall behind it.
Sunlight streamed in through the hole along with the clanging sounds of construction. The hole expanded a few inches as if on fire, revealing his computer desk. Burn spots singed the top half of his laptop, but it didn’t appear to be too damaged.
Thud. Andrew fell to his butt and stared at the hole with drool running down his chin. He slurped. “Y-y-y-you really have m-m-m-magic.” He gulped.
Zack grinned before helping his friend up. “Now I just have to figure out what I should do with it.”
Next: Chapter 4