The sunset was breathtaking. The sun hung suspended in the air like a mystical blood-red orb for longer than usual and stretched its' final dying beams of light over the docks as God may stretch his fingers.

"Red sky at night, shepherds' delight;
Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning."

Ichigo Somotura paused to appreciate the beauty of the end of the day, as was his custom, and opened his can of beer. He was aware that drinking was not permitted by employees regardless of work hours, because the docks were a dangerous place to be whether you were drunk or not, what with all that heavy equipment. Accidents there were both alarmingly frequent and gruesome. But he consoled his guilty conscience (bubbling up again! As if he didn't go through this moral dilemma every day) by telling himself that there was no one around to catch him in the act. Besides, he reasoned, the sun was fast-setting. It would be dark before he realized it. And if he didn't enjoy this moment, who was to say it wouldn't be his last?

The air was warm despite the time. The gentle sea breeze caressed his face and toyed with his hair. This was the life. He inhaled deeply and couldn't help but smile. This was the only half hour or so of the day that belonged to him. He knew that the moment he reached home he'd have to face reality; that there were bills to be paid, mouths to feed, money to be made. Yui needed another school uniform. Aya needed to buy the groceries. And the baby needed something to eat besides leftover gruel. But here, at the docks, at sunset, he was at peace. This was life as God intended it. Ichigo could only be grateful for this small miracle, and pray that somewhere, someone else was taking in this breathtaking sight and being enveloped by calm. He inhaled the tangy air again.

And then he noticed something peculiar.

"Urgh!" exclaimed Ichigo, throwing his hands over his nose. "What's that smell?!"

Rising to his feet, he followed his nose and made his way over to warehouse seven, closest to him. The sun had mostly sunk into the sea so light was minimal; shadows were longer and more eerie.

And the air was foul.

As he wandered deeper into the building, night began to settle. Stacks of crates and steel containers loomed imposingly like giants over him, making him feel that much more afraid, that much more insignificant. It was now too dark for him to see. But that odor was still painfully obvious. In fact, it was stronger than before. He felt stupid for not thinking to put the lights on before delving this far in; but then realized that workers were not permitted inside the warehouses after hours. And the last thing he needed was to get fired. Especially with Aya's birthday coming up.

Deciding that his present escapade was proving to be both fruitless and stupid, Ichigo turned sharply in order to make his way back to the docks but collided into a stack of wooden crates instead. Then, as if in slow motion, the topmost became dislodged and crashed around his feet.


He had to get out of there. Fast. Before security turned up.

Ichigo tried to move forward but stumbled over something in his path. He cursed. Something was also dripping onto his face and he was afraid that it might be some valuable compound leaking from the crates. Reaching to touch his cheek, he smeared most of it away. He could barely make out how to escape with all that debris on the floor, so he fumbled in his pockets for a cigarette lighter. Some light was better than none, after all.

As the flame flickered to life and his panic began to subside, he realized something.

The compound dripping onto him was thick, gooey and black-red.

And that thing he had stumbled over in the dark had been a severed head.

Ichigo screamed.

Outside, it was a beautiful night.