EAST is EAST, WEST is WEST, page 2 (cont.)


When the flight begins, he keeps astride with us. His powerful legs are suited to this, aren't they? He may be enslaved to a desire of me, but the strength of that feels like a yoke on my shoulders, Dori. His eyes are on me the whole time. I feel them...I'm right, then, you see him looking at me too? He is indeed a most noble one. In the past he might've been a samurai; had some ancestor of his been the first Englishman we met, we might have never accepted those silly Portuguese in their suits like big red fish. Look there! He's leapt the stream clear across keeping up with us!

Looking down, you can see the heat at the center of the earth under the wrinkles of her skin. The quiescent dragon we live on the back of is very quiet today. Should he awaken, we would know it first. You can tell that he is of a flesh with the dragon, the way he's keeping up. He's as strong, as obdurate as granite. I do love him very much.

His arms are so strong, so smooth around me. It's beautiful feeling him against me. I think it's surprising that he is a gaijin and still is willing to follow a butterfly he knows to be his beloved... I'd always thought that the gaijin had no poetry in them. He loves me as well, you know. Oh, it's true. He's completely devoted to me. Remind me to show you the bracelets that he bought me last night. Something strange about him? Not that I've noticed... he seems to be perfectly normally a human.

There was the night he took me to a cafe, not so long ago. I think he was a bit afraid of me still, then. He and I said little to each other, but you know the law that states that we may only drink the nectar of flowers?

I cheated a little, had an infusion of jasmine blossoms, and he drank cream and coffee. There can't be anything supernatural about someone who drinks coffee. He sat there holding my hand under the counter where no one else could see it-- oh, we do know about the joy of having something that nobody else can see, don't we, Dori? Well, he and I just sat there, almost like two strangers from two different worlds, only if someone had looked closely would he notice that we were holding hands. He's just normal folks.

Two strangers from different worlds. Maybe, but maybe not so different as you'd think. See now? He throws himself up the side of Fuji-yama chasing us-well, chasing me. I think he really thinks that our queen in the floating kingdom will release me to him. The poor fool. He'll be a good replacement for Yoshi... I've missed him so much, Dori. I've missed Yoshi ever since he was slain and his head was left on a pike in front of the Edo palace to warn us off. I pray someday to forget that pale lifeless face, the exact color of his blood. that color doesn't really seem to exist elsewhere in nature, you know. I think it's what Westerners call opalescent. I don't understand why the blood of a Japanese vampire should look like opals, but there it is.

He fell just now... he slipped on the rock. But he isn't being left behind: he's just getting up, the dark red trickle running down his face. When was the last time that someone came up the side of the mountain to try to win one of us? Was it really as long ago as Yoshi? Goodness.


We're almost through going home... I'm surprised that he's followed us here. I was sure that a gaijin would fall on the rocks. Yes, I c an admit that, now that I've won the bets up to this point. A million or two yen still makes me giddy with wealth, you know. I've never adapted to this... inflation, I think it's called? Yes. a million yen or so seems like more than it would take to buy the Emperor.

As we pass through the Torii at the hidden peak of the mountain, you and I and the others, we slip back into our human forms... There really are too few of us, you know. It'll be good to get some new blood into the clan, even if he's just a filthy gaijin. I turn and watch him walk through the gate. Why do I feel a certain dread at the way his hands flex when he looks at me? They are flexing maybe like they see something that they know and want. I think that he thinks that he owns me.

I keep wondering that too, but Dori, he drank coffee. We can't drink coffee. And yes, look there on the inside of his neck. He's bleeding just a little bit from his shoulder, I know, but look: he bears the mark of my feeding there from the last few nights. If he were one of us, he would have healed already.

I have to hold his hand now. You know how they are. They climb all the way up the side of Fuji-yama in the time it takes you and I to fly it, but then are afraid when they get here. Such a paradox of strength and weakness, these humans are.



"Who is this human?" the queen is asking. Do you think I could get away with not answering? No. Me neither.

"His name is Alexander McAllister, Majestrix. I bring him here with me." I bow to the queen.

"Why have you bought him here? He is not one of us." "Oh, but I am." Oh, no, Alexander has spoken. I told him not to speak. He will get himself killed for that! I will hide my head now... I loved him so! It's not fair, Dori. He's dead now. I can still watch him move, hear his voice, and yet I know he is dead as soon as Majestrix decides it.

"You are... gaijin. You may not be one of us, Maku-are-sta." Majestrix is so ancient she can't even say his name without breaking it down into the syllables! I will not be silent. She can't hear me, so it's not disrespect.

"I am no less one of you than is Hiro. He is, the case could be argued, one of mine." Alex's face shifts into a smile now. He's enjoying this? These Americans have such strange senses of humor. "You see, he has my blood in him." Oh, Dori, don't look so surprised. I told you I had fed upon him.

"This doesn't seem to substantiate your claim, Maku-are-sta-san. He is one of us. You are a human, we are... you would call us faerie." "I know all about you, Majestrix. Your people, your history. I know about the place in the snows of Hokkaido that you bathe in and the silence that is there, and I know about the hot springs outside Maebashi that you use to melt your wings flexible before you return home so none of your people know you snowbathe. Look on me, old woman, and know me for what I am."

His green eyes stare into Majestrix's for a long time before she turns away shuddering. "I see, Maku-are-sta-san... so you will take Hiro?"

"I need him, Majestrix.. I will try to replace him for you, if you wish. But I am weary of being clanless, and would have others of my kind for comfort." Alexander, my love... I didn't know you were an only child! I am forbidden only children! Oh, you have doomed me now more than I ever could have thought...

"Take the fool, Maku-are-sta-san. Get him out of my sight before I do something to him that he has earned... and do not return here again." Majestrix gives the short bow she uses to denote the end of an interview.

Then she turns away from him and to us all, though gazing solely on me. "Yoshitori, you are clanless from this day forward. Go with your gaijin. Get out of our home. You will die without it, and so much the better. Guards, escort this landless beggar from my court." Dori! Dori, do something! You know I'll die in the cold out there! Dori, answer me! I don't want to leave...

All too quickly, though, you and I are hustled out of the gate. "I hope you're happy now, Alexander. You've killed me now, as surely as if you'd stuck a knife in my heart. I'll grow old, and die, and my soul will roast in the deepest hell for trying to steal an only child from the world." Alexander, why are you laughing? Tell me, damn you. Tell me why!

"Yoshi... don't I seem a bit chill to you? Isn't it odd that you only see me at night? You bugbrained fool! and maybe they tossed you out of your clan, but... well, I'm the last of my clan. Care to join?" I stand there at the foot of Fuji, speechless, as you laugh more loudly and expose the sharp canines I thought that all these strange new gaijin have... someone has outbetted my hand for once.


This story originally appeared in SINS of COFFEE, Issue #10, 1994.