Author: Guede Mazaka
So one day you pull your knife out of the boy’s ruined throat, riffling through his wallet and scratching that one knee-sock you pushed down before you got bored and slashed him, and a big black gleaming car pulls up behind you. You think salaryman, groping sweaty hands and wrinkled old stupid lust, and you think flip skirt and stab low, and you’re wrong because it’s a porcelain woman, too hard to be scratched with your knife. Because it’s a beautiful kitsuné dressed up in sharpest Parisian fashion twisting the blade into her hand, tapping its point under your chin while your blows just ghost around her. Because her lips are red as the blood you haven’t yet licked off your hands and they have the same shine and they smile at you.
In the car you find the wet bar and go a little crazy, but that’s understandable. It’s the good shit, high-quality alcohol and you’ve already started feeling your liver hiss away under the deluge of cheapass penny stuff that’s all you can bribe out of men. You’re waiting for when your breasts go from slight innocent curves beneath your school blouse to full swollen promises. And then you’ll get enough alcohol to dull the buzzing, the ringing, the mad cacophony that drums at you and fills your hands with blood while it parches your mouth with a thirst that nothing seems able to satisfy.
You haven’t gotten through a whole day of school since the third year, when the teacher asked you to stay after and then pulled down his pants. There were scissors on the desk—
--she smiles indulgently, coolly at you and she hands you a sheathed blade, a real blade, a real true wakizashi that vibrates longingly in your hand and you eye the driver but she cuffs you on the side of the head. She says no, and for the first time, you feel shame. You’ve disappointed.
But she doesn’t take away the sword, doesn’t kick you out of the car and instead you finish that ride. You walk into a long pillared traditional hallway that seems to go on and on and on, and you hope it does because her skirts are whispering ever-so-softly and her hand is sometimes light coolness on your cheek, the top of your head, and her feet step without making a single sound. She’s death drifting through the hallway, you think, and you want to go her rounds with her because suddenly it feels like this place has always been waiting for you. And she says that, she says she’s been looking for someone like you and her voice isn’t loud and harsh, isn’t amplified through a bullhorn, isn’t accusing. Not like you give a shit, but your ears are normal and they don’t like hearing rough noises any more than anyone else does.
And the two of you walk past room after room where you glimpse fine china and plants clipped into graceful shapes like the way blood arcs in the air and racks of swords that make your fingers envious though they are already curled around the smooth smooth sheath of the knife you’ll have till you die. You are wide-eyed and wondering because this is the world behind the world, the shadow beneath the light and you’ve been scrabbling at the dirt, kicking and punching walls forever trying to figure out how to get in and suddenly you’re simply…walking. You smile at her and you want to know a name but you’ve forgotten your tongue in all the flash and red and white, white like her teeth and her skin.
White like the clothes of the woman in the courtyard below, when you two walk above on the balcony. She’s smoking, gaijin gold hair clouded unclouded by the gray curls of her cigarette, and she’s missing an eye but that doesn’t make her aim any worse when another blond woman walks in and she accidentally knocks a pot into deadly shards at her. But the second woman dodges like nothing, like liquid sunshine, like arrogant grace and you want to be that so hard it hurts.
The hand touches your shoulder and you two stop, watch a little longer.
The women below aren’t fighting but they are, words that you don’t quite understand winging razor cuts through each other. And one-eye is pacing, smile growing ever wider and looser as her anger whirls her faster and faster and then she lunges but the other woman knocks her aside, blow curling around cheek like the hardest of caresses. So one-eye steps back, lip curl bitter like tea leaves, and they both move into shadow that blends everything together.
You move on. You pass above another courtyard, and there a man and a woman are sparring, friendly, without any of the drive and growl and meaning that you saw before. They’re watching their blades, not each other, and they stop short of cutting, and they laugh and snicker like there’s nothing to life but the laughing, like you can’t do anything but drift if you want to stay sane. You’ve tried to laugh like that, but it always comes out wrong and the fear rises in the other person’s face and then you have to slice, fast, before you lose them.
You watch here a moment, too.
And the laying of hands on each other soon turns into laying against each other, easy and slow and meaningless, and they’re still laughing but you hear the difference. Too loose, too uncaring, someday the blade will take them and laughing will do nothing to stop it, telling themselves it means nothing to them won’t help. Because death always means something to two people—the dead and the living, and if they don’t care about living, don’t care about how dark moves against pale and blades drop to the ground, don’t care about the marks they drop everywhere, then there’s no reason. They’re madder than you, and they’re stupider, and still you wonder about the way the woman’s breasts swell rich chocolate into the man’s mouth.
The next courtyard shows three: the women from before and a man, coiled and dry-skinned like an old evil snake waiting in the garden. He raises to the touch of one of them, sees but cares not about the other skulking about the edges, her face a cynical mask over her hunger, and you can see the breaks stamped on there. You can see all it would take is one little fingernail sliding into one, maybe yours because your hands are so small still and—
--not yet, says the fingernail tapping your cheek. Not yet, not for you, but it’s all right because you are being pulled on into a last courtyard, and it is cut beautiful in its spareness, starkness, and it has no one yet.
It has someone now, when you and she go down into it and you stand tentatively across from her, not knowing how to oppose something you want to get to so badly. But she knows, she’s been watching longer than you and she’s smarter and her hands shaping your stance are so gentle it hurts more than when she sends you flying into a pillar. But you’re used to bruises, you can wait out bruises. You can wait till you’re good enough, till you’re better than those other people and till you’re good enough that she’ll come to watch you in the courtyard, and then you’ll smile and you’ll go to her and your hands will be good so they’ll not leave a single trace on her perfection.
That’s how you’ll beat them all. You’re crazy, and so you’ll do the crazy thing and touch what should be and touch not what shouldn’t be, and you’ll care about what you care about and not give a shit about everything else. You’ll be crazy.
She likes you. You don’t need sanity for that.