From Anime Junkie by Kyle Hemmings
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. His work has been published in Matchbook, A-Minor, Wigleaf, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. His most recent ebooks are Down Moon Girl, You Never Die in Wholes, and Tokyo Girls in Science Fiction.
Illustration by Sarah Turner.
When he first learned he could fly, Pigeon-boy blushed at the thought of hand-me-down wings. Yet he learned to dance on street corners, laugh mid-stream at the thought of being lighter than an idea. Then he was hired to carry messages between lovers. The distances increased & Pigeon-boy grew breathless. Sometimes, he delivered messages to the wrong lovers. The notes read I love you, still, or walking on air. Some receivers at the wrong destinations died in air-tight bliss. When this happened, the world grew smaller. One day, a morning where everyone carried some form of artificial sunshine in their pockets, or paper planes released from the sweaty palms of air controllers, Pigeon-boy delivered a note that read: I don’t love you anymore. He fell from the sky. A girl named Yuki took him home, brought him back to life with her songs of flight. From then on, Pigeon-boy was wiser with air-time, more cautious about his fly-ways. He circled & landed only within her. In total, they never touched ground. Whenever she breaks open a Chinese cookie, the message is always the same – When the world is cold, stay indoors.
For 17 earth years, Kat’s nocturnal dreams have not turned her into a boy. Nor does she believe in chromosome 5 or the circadian tragedy of her pocket-size life. Her dreams are greyscale, and in all of them, her prince is a superhero rendered impotent by the lack of light. She wakes up sucking her own finger or believing she is a fruit bat. But today, the faces in her deck of cards predict otherwise. Buildings will still fall and hobo dictators will still rule on street corners, but she will find love. His nickname is MeatHead, a lowboy under clouds, all autistic heart and slow on arrivals. He sits at the back of the class and she does not turn or tell him later that she holds his breaths in the palm of her hand. She spots him after school, staring at his own absence in store windows. One day, she enters the store and climbs next to the manikins. Facing each other, they press their noses against glass. They blow little clouds that don’t live for long. They pretend their finger pads are touching. She whispers to him again and again: I want to get pregnant. She smiles, imagines herself big as twin castles. He slinks away and is deaf to the world of noise. She sleeps with him and keeps his glassy blue eyes under her pillow. In her dreams, castles are underground and voices are pitch black. But she saves the prince from falling.
The boy Tsukiko wants is made of paper. After five false starts, lines too thin around the edges, she cuts along the outline. His eyes are too big for her to contain herself. She names him Mamoru and her head is daffodil-May-Pull or May-Pole. Outside the long summer streets, she imagines children with runny noises and explanations meant to elude adults made of starch and dime-store talcum powder. She opens the window, pitches Mamoru to the silent applause of air, just so she can run down five flights of stairs to catch him. This paper boy, she thinks, has got a soul. It’s the only reason he can float. But she’s jealous of other girls, girls not like her, girls made of paper but with no souls. They will tear up Mamaru, shred him, and toss him to the garbage where he will die under pretentious love letters, never sent. Tsukiko holds Mamaru by the light and pokes a hole through him. It’s the only way she can conquer her fear of darkness, of losing him, of forever being a light sleeper.
The Girl Who Loved Watari
He was blind in some ways, prone to early morning fogs, susceptible to classic Trance and lock-down cyborg thought. Still, she loved rolling in his honey under the sheets, those times when he forgot he was made of cold metal – stuck him with all kinds of tweets about love. She knew it was one way. He hinted at how he was ruined by machines disguised as mothers and older sisters, that he couldn’t get too close – he would only self-destruct. She tattooed a rabbit on his naked arm. He was muttering something about the fall of Tokyo and how he would be one more useless body of cogs and flat-headed screws under a heap of shorn instructions. She said she believed in rabbits and so should he. Sauntering to the closet, her body, a warm glow of gooseflesh in early sunlight, she said rabbits were a catalyst to forever. With schizoid glare, as if speaking to not-her, he stated that it was because they hide underground. She inspected his face as if searching for signs of her own life. She couldn’t understand why she loved him, only that as a child, she slept with broken dolls, her lips pressed against their hard blue eyes.
Months later, after the earthquake, she nurses a drink at the Vanity Lounge in Roppongi on Halloween night, talking to a girlfriend dressed as a furry animal, one with big warm eyes. She says a rabbit has died. The girlfriend’s sticky fingers smell of apples. The girl without rabbit ears still wants honey.
Whenever speechless clouds settle in her eyes, Miko goes shopping at the community center for low-cal peanut butter. In her apartment, she does Pilates to make her hard to intruders but soft enough to dream of babies. She is in love with a boy named Masaomi, an installer of computer firewalls, an anti-spammer who tells her he fights strange monsters. You mean viruses, Miko once said with the smile of rain streaking across her East Village window. Since meeting Masaomi at The Knitting Factory, Miko sometimes mistakes strangers in a storm for parent duplicates. Sometimes they follow her home and stand next to her bed, staring, saying nothing. She hides her head under the sheets. She pretends to hug Masaomi. Sometimes she cries over what is happening inside her body, a subtle force or an unnamed waterfall. Masaomi tells her that in the darkness, there are portals to other worlds, monsters who take normal shapes during their day jobs. A Starbucks addict on street corners, Masaomi says these monsters have been with us since childhood – they wore the faces of parents, teachers. In an abandoned building on Loisaida, Masaomi reveals that he is an assassin of Miko’s fears. They hold each other still on a creaky second-story floor, while the night rushes past them and through the city. Tonight, he whispers, there are no monsters. Miko wants him to marry her despite her constant feeling of being air-lifted or homeless. She imagines waking up to Masaomi, who will have last night’s peanut butter smudged against his lips. She imagines an imperfect love in the core of the city. She wants to marry him because someday a monster with hard-drive memory will corner her and she will be out of time.