It was in moments like these that I wished everything was just a dream. The warm scarlet droplets of blood dripped off my skin like liquid sin and stained my clothing upon contact. The mouth that uttered a foreign language had uttered its final groan as the lifeless form conjured the last of its strength to leave its dying imprint on me – an eternal reminder that this was not a dream and that my old life could now be considered a dream. The only time I can ever recall my 'old life' was in fits of nightmares and a yearning for normalcy and for people that were once very dear to me. I can no longer remember their faces as the years went by – not when everyday was a struggle in this new life. It wasn't always like this – memorizing the faces of the people that died before me. How it turned out this way confuses me every day, but I learned to accept it. That in order to adapt to this frightful change was to roll with the punches and do what I can to survive this second time around.
What is meant by the second time around is that I have died once. In my old life, that is. I was an obscure anthropologist that made enough to get by financially while studying the field that I love. The study of culture; human evolution, language, society, and just about anything that distinguished humans from other species. The human skeleton and evolutionary adaptations had always been fascinating to me; I just never thought I used such knowledge to add to that skeleton collection. I have inflicted that knowledge upon living beings – I have created death by my own hands.
I had seen everything. I can say that now. Not because I have lived the moment of death and still continue to feel it each day that I remember it, or the fact that I felt blood cascade across my naked skin that was uncovered by my school uniform. I have seen everything in such a way that this 'second life' conflicts with everything I had previously known about humans. I never knew that reincarnation would fit into that equation. It was a concept that was frequently evaded in the field of science, but yet I'm living it every day as my body continued to breathe. I wasn't too sure if I could call it my body even after fourteen years of living in a foreign host and a foreign country. Yet every thought I made was my own, and every twitch of a limb or finger was my own, and any physical contact or pain was distinctly my own. Yet it was still so hard to believe at the time. That was until two years ago when I met more people or beings like the one crumpled at my feet.
Its skin melted and hissed as it evaporated. The form that now laid there was not human. No deformities can explain the characteristics exposed before my eyes. Yet I couldn't resist the plethora of information that its skeleton could offer. The first time the thought occurred to me to even dissect such an abnormality was enough to send me through nightmares every night for a week straight. Yet with each restless night, I couldn't prevent the gruesome curiosity that perturbed me enough to dabble into a field of supernatural information that had been foreign to me before. Like the beings before it, I took its body to dissect like a mad scientist.
I felt like Jack the Ripper – except instead of humans, I conduct it upon demons.
I really couldn't tell if what I was doing was right or wrong anymore. The thought that killing these demons could be heroic in some sense was what motivated me to conduct these biological experiments. However, killing for my own knowledge alone without any heroic intentions could also be wrong. It could just cancel each other out, or I could be no better than the demons I had killed. Either way, there was no turning back now. I was in too deep.
I stored the necessary organs and limbs in glass jars and tossed what wasn't needed into the dumpster that I would later light on fire.
I suppose I was no better than the modern day murderer.
It wasn't long before the remains started to smoulder and I was running away from the scene like a hoodlum who had just committed an act of vandalism. I didn't find it necessary to cover my identity as it was well known who I was often associated with – my twin brother. Most would say that I was the light to the darkness. If only they knew that it was the other way around, no matter how much of a delinquent he may be.
In my haste, I failed to acknowledge the silent observer in the next alleyway, or the way his hair shone vermillion in the sliver of sunlight that shone down on it. In that split second I glanced looked over, he vanished in a flicker of movement similar to that of a predator slinking out of view of its prey. Yet he did nothing but frown, not moving even as the officials scrambled to extinguish the flames. It was as though he blended in to his surroundings like a chameleon.
Once it was time for him to move on, he walked past the scene like a common civilian bearing groceries and glanced upon the scene with a look of practiced curiosity and a sense of calm that not even the officials spared him a glance. It was as though he did not exist in their dimension – which may have been true in a sense. It was a well-rehearsed role he played in society. Be one with the crowd, and no one would have guessed that he were any different from them. However, that assumption was definitely a contradiction with his true nature – one that is hidden within a separate personality, a separate entity that resided within his body next to his soul. It was always sleeping, but always made itself known with its haunting whispers like a visitor that wouldn't leave.
He made note of the uniform the mysterious girl had been wearing, and sent one last glance in the direction she had run off into. In his retreating thoughts, he wondered how far her knowledge of the demon world ran and whether it only skimmed the surface, or if she was completely submersed that she could no longer be reached. It was normally the average human mind that would be driven insane upon contact with the demon world – whether it was encountering a demon in soul or body, or witnessing the world itself, assuming that they'd still be intact. It was something he had to look into for himself judging by the duffel bag full of stored demon parts is definitely enough to warrant interest.
He made one last mental note to visit Sarayashiki Junior High before disappearing in the direction towards the hospital.
By the time I made it home, my hair was far beyond crusted with blood. My hopes of inconspicuously tying it into a messy bun to receive a pass from my mother's scrutinizing eyes had been crushed the moment I felt the blood flake away against my fingers. No matter how drunk she may have gotten, she always had the eyes of a hawk for detail when it came to my brother and I. Normally, I would bypass her attention with ease seeing as I was the more responsible one, but lately she seems to have been more curious and inquisitive as the days went by. Perhaps it was her mother's intuition kicking in, something I couldn't help but roll my eyes at. No matter how old I become, in this life and the old, I could never quite seem to be able to pass off as an adult.
I opened the door to our apartment and nonchalantly kicked off my dress shoes and undid my tie with a relieved sigh. The air that rushed around the surrounding skin was a nice calm before the storm upon the scent of tobacco and alcohol had flooded my nose all at once. Home sweet home, I muttered sardonically as my first step into the living room caused a bottle to roll across the floor – alerting the inhabitant of my presence.
"You think you have the balls to come back again when there's still school, Yusuke?"
"It's Yuri, mother." I corrected patiently, having gone through the same scenario every day.
"Don't be turning into your brother now, Yuri. Having one brat playing hookie is bad enough as it is…," Atsuko carried on with her rant, but I was already retreating into my room. Normally, if I were any normal teenager, I'd feel like a badass or scared shitless that I had just walked out on my mother. But after the first few months of trying to convince her otherwise had giving me just enough material to turn my balls into steel.
"I had a free block this afternoon, so I chose to go home." I recited for the hundredth time, each time sounding as bland as the last.
"Your brother says the same thing, Yuri. One or both of you has to be lying to me!" Atsuko yelled for the last time before someone had knocked on the front door and the sound of a bottle smashing had gained her attention with ease. All I heard was the long line of cussing and the sound of stumbling for the longest time and managed to tune it out as I unzipped my duffel bag and examined the contents with a disturbing fascination. I was like the entomologist who had an odd fascination with butterflies and made it a life goal to collect every specimen known on the plant, except instead of butterflies, it was demons that I sought after. The bones, the structure, the DNA and all other bundles of information that each specimen I brought in would beat the system of what I previously known about science and its limitations concerning the supernatural.
I needed psychological help, I thought with a sigh as I quickly zipped the bag closed and shoved it into the safety of my small, makeshift cabinet right before the door ripped open. A struggling Atsuko collapsed into the room with a red face full of distraught, and tears cascading down her face as she babbled incoherently in such a way I had never seen before. I felt my heart stop painfully once I managed to decipher what she had been trying to cry out to me, and I managed to string together the two words that rang out continuously within the last minute.
'Yusuke' and 'dead.'
Yusuke has died.