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.