He walks on the desert sands, almost running, with nothing but the cold night air, and the heat of his fears for company. He has no idea where or what he is running from. All he knows is that his mind is almost no longer his. He is fighting a battle he knows he cannot win, and he has no idea what to do.
‘Is my Mum THAT BIG?’
Mary’s voice, taunting him, haunting-
‘I love you Chris. I still do even-’
‘-after what you did. I did it ’cos I loved you.’
-letting go, no matter what he tries.
‘I loved you, and you killed me with my love.’
“BUT I DIDN’T DO IT!!!” he screams. He falls down on his knees on the grass and looks up, and he sees a full moon, and It’s face is in the moon, It’s face IS the moon, and the moon is It’s face. And he cries out, he SCREAMS, for release, but the grip on his heart is tighter than ever and he shouts into the cold-
“LET ME BE! LET GO OF MY MIND AND MY BODY!!”
-night air, and It sneers down on him from the moon, and he realizes that he is seeing the face of pure evil, and the blackness swoops down on him and he slams his hands on the rocky ground in anguish, the sharp rocks cutting into his palms, drawing blood. The cold night air carries the wailing of the dead and he looks up and they are all scattered across the meadow, like scarecrows of the living dead, whispering-
“I love you Chris I love you so much you killed me with my love you killed me with my fears”
“my fears you took my fears and made them real and they killed me you exposed my soul my-”
“soul my mother is that my mother my heart my fears snakes dogs naILS SPIDERS MY LOVE FOR YOU CHRIS MY MOTHER DOGS YOU KILLED ME CHRIS!!!”
-until he thinks his head will burst from the pressure and the pain.
And the face of Evil blooms in his mind, and It smiles and It’s smile is vile and it whispers to his heart, “You are mine Chris. Forever mine. Mine to use as I please. You are my instrument of Retribution with which I shall decimate the army of the Heavenly here on earth. I own you. You cease to exist as a person from now on.”
And his mind is wiped clean.
He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. The demons cavorted in the shadows, and the darkness was bright. He sat up, the sheets sliding off his chest to his waist. The cool draft woke up Lillian beside him, and she stretched like a cat beside him. “Sweetie, why are you awake?” When he didn’t answer, her head cleared some more as the evil seeped into her nostrils and she shook her head, trying to clear it. And then she saw his back-was it rippling?- and the bad dreams that came out from his pores threatened to choke her.
Gagging, alarm in her voice, she asked “Chris! What is going on?”
And then he turned, and her eyes widened in the darkness, because Chris was no more. Instead, before her was her nightmare, the end of the world, and his eyes were blacker than the darkness. She opened her mouth to scream, and his hands shot out and gripped the sides of her head and he squeezed. Uncomprehending, she questioned him with her eyes, but then she felt the blood thump thumping in her head and her ears and his face was rotten eggs stretched over a black void and she tried to scream but she couldn’t, she just couldn’t, and he squeezed and squeezed and squeezed…
He stopped squeezing when her eyes popped out of her head.
In his dojo, behind his house. The skylight above let in the rays of the full moon. Mark knelt in the centre of the room on the tatami mats, the moonlight slanting across his face as he performed the Kuji-kiri.
It had been a while since he’d come in here to train. He sometimes wished he had no idea of what he was doing, what he was capable of…what he’d done. But it was his power, his to keep, to use…
Who was this Ninja? What did he want?
Mark closed his eyes…
…and he is on the top of the Kinshoukyoyama, looking intently at the face of and listening to the voice of his teacher, Sensei Takeshi Yoshiro. “You must find your way home Ryuu-san,” his sensei says, calling him by the name he gave him. “Trust in yourself and in your training. Follow the path. Getsumei No Michi.”
“But Sensei,” he asks, a little worried, “How possible is that? How do I find my way home? I was blindfolded on the way here, and I didn’t walk here either. I have no idea what part of the mountain we are on.”
Sensei Takeshi smiles. “Ryuu-san, I know your heart. It is pure. It will get you home. Follow the path, and you will never lose The Way.” He turns to go. “Remember Kokoro.” And with that he disappears into the night mist.
The night calls, and Mark centres himself. The beating of his heart, the chirping of the crickets, the waterfall about a mile away…
The ebb and flow of chi, Getsumei No Michi, and he walks the path, the beating on the membrane of time, Kokoro, the heart of all things…
Present-day Mark reached out and beat the membrane of Time, and he tapped into kokoro. Chi, all around him, one endless ocean of energy, and he was suspended within. Indistinct faces, background chatter, none of that-
-mattered. No, nothing mattered but nothing, and he just let himself be, nothing was important, and the membrane continued vibrating…
…and he felt him/her. His/her Chi was dark and powerful. Consumed by hate, his/her Chi was like foul air.
Mark opened his eyes in the darkness.
A couple of miles away, Stanley Etim opened his eyes.
He was not alone.
James opened the door marked ‘PERSONNEL’. Two female officers were at their desks opposite each other, trying their best not to look bored. He could have requested access to Jerry’s file, but he didn’t have that level of clearance and he didn’t want to leave a trail. His mind kept on telling him to quit it, to just let it rest, that every man had his demons. But he had to know. He was just wired that way. He needed to be absolutely sure that his partner was clean.
The officers saluted him, and he waved their salutes away, requesting access to the paper records for the officers. When asked why, he made up a lie on the spot. He still had to sign.
Well, no turning back now.
This will probably turn around to bite you in the ass, you know.
Well, he wasn’t really one given to much thinking anyway. The quicker the better. He waited while one of the ladies got up to get what the file he needed. A while later, he walked out with Jerry’s file clutched in his hands.
In his office, he called up Boma Williams’ file on his system as he studied Jerry’s file. Nothing but a lean bio and his stellar work history. Nothing on his past. No mention of family. Boma Williams file came up. A very full file. Career criminal and smuggler extraordinaire. No murders. But it seemed like he knew whatever happened in the city of Port Harcourt; one of the big boys. Nothing new on him though in recent times.
He’s my cousin. Jerry’s face swam in his face as he recalled his incredulity at this information. If Jerry was cousins with Boma, who was to say that he was not benefitting from Boma’s ‘work’?
If you find out anything, what next?
He hadn’t thought that far. However, James couldn’t work effectively with Jerry unless he knew the truth. He had to clear all suspicions, for personal reasons.
He had to know.
He reached out and picked the ringing cell phone, answered it.
“What is the situation?” the voice on the other end asked.
“I told you not to contact me, that I would contact you when it was all over?”
“Listen to me. I pay you. Therefore, I will call you whenever I want, got it?”
He inhaled, exhaled, slowly, calming himself. “Got it.”
“Good. Now, why the torture on Kabiru? I paid for assassinations, not torture. That stunt of yours will raise extra questions.”
“Don’t fret. It will soon be over.”
“It had better be. Get this over with, as soon as possible.” The voice on the other end terminated the call, and Stanley dropped the phone back on the bedside drawer. He stood up and stretched, his muscles rippling beneath his skin. He walked to the corner of his bedroom and sat cross-legged in the shadows. He let his eyes become adjusted to the darkness, and then he slowed his breathing. He let his mind work on what he’d felt before.
Someone else had beat on Kokoro. Another adept was around.
Who was he or she?
What ryu was the person from?
What was the other Ninja doing here?
He began chanting.