Aug 13, 2022, 11:55:54 PM
“Bleh!” Natumi burted out as she stuck her tongue out and widened her eyes. She threw up the victory sign and two rabbit ears appeared over Catherine’s head as she clicked the shutter.
“Seriously, Natsumi!” Catherine said, her face a mixture of a smile and grimace. Why, oh why, did Natsumi always feel the need to do this?
Catherine tapped the screen to bring up the selfie they had taken together. It was meant to commemorate, well, a dawning Tuesday morning, after a long night of patrolling the park looking for a god-knows-what — a yokai, yurei, or a corgi with devil horns.
Catherine made a face and gave her a side-eye glance. “We’ll do it again, and this time...” She ran her gloved hand down Natsumi’s back pressed tight against the curve of her body and gripped her rump and gave it a squeeze. Natsumi’s face contorted like a fish blowing a kiss and she released a gasp of air. Catherine pressed her closer until they were eyeball-to-widened-eyeball. She narrowed her eyes, and looked the several centimeters down at Natsumi’s eyes. She spoke with a deeper, huskier voice and whipped her with her words, “…no more faces.”
While Catherine disciplined her verbally, her other hand deftly operated the phone. Oh, she intended to keep the image, but it wasn’t worthy of a Pictogramme post.
Natsumi’s surprised face soured and her lips twisted into a frown. Brat, Catherine thought. Natsumi leaned snug against Catherine and slid up against her breast riding her dress up and making the leather creak and squeal. She stood on her tiptoes (in her ten centimeter heels) and huffed hot air from her nostrils at Catherine’s cheek.
Catherine’s eye fluttered from the gross air puffed at her and the annoyance of this short girl trying to lord herself over her. She eyed her camera and angled the phone higher above them and turned her head to three-quarters. “On three… smile,” she said. “One…”
Catherine ran her hand roughly back up Natsumi’s back and gripped her shoulder. She pushed her down (or tried!), but Natsumi strained against her on tippy-toes. Catherine watched as her calves trembled.
“Two…” Catherine said. You idiot.
“Oh excuse me!”
The out-of-the-blue voice startled Catherine and she bobbled her phone. Natsumi fell into her and the two of them crashed to the ground. Catherine took the full brunt of the fall and Natsumi landed safely on two — shall we say — airbags that broke her fall. She laid there head-in-Catherine’s-chest, her tussled chocolate hair ticking Catherine’s nostrils.
“Oww,” Catherine said with a croak.
“Ugh,” Natsumi moaned and only turned her head to the side to get more comfortable on her new pillows.
“Get off,” she said trying to sit up but Natsumi played dead weighing her down. A second thought popped into Catherine’s mind. Her phone! She pushed Natsumi off — somethings were more important after all. Her phone was her life. She glanced around her.
“Oh! Hello! Are you looking for this!? I caught it before it hit the ground!”
Catherine glanced up at a woman standing over them. She was a heavyset lady wearing a black cardigan over a lovely green blouse. She had on a pair of well-fitting pants over her curvy frame and she wore sensible shoes, a pair of sneakers meant for walking. Around her neck was a camera and hanging off her shoulder a backpack with a water bottle attached to the side with a carbiner.
“Yeah,” Catherine got her feet back under her — it was much harder with the thirteen centimeter platform boots but she lifted herself up only to find herself caught on something. Catherine remained frozen in a strange crouch and looked down to see Natsumi’s index finger crooked into a hook around the golden ring of her dress’ bottom zipper. “Natsumi, don’t pull that!” She refrained from mentioning that it might snap and such a wardrobe mishap was not something she needed, and she also didn’t need Natsumi knowing that lest she wanted to have to deal with a new set of childish behaviors. She plucked Natsumi off the ground and stood her back on her own feet. Catherine brushed herself off and extended her hand for the phone. “Thank you, um--”
“Oh, my name’s June,” the woman said.
“Catherine.” She reached out and gave the woman’s hand a gentle squeeze which Catherine knew she would enjoy (because everyone enjoyed that).
June’s voice trembled a bit as she spoke, “A, are you girls cosplaying? I’ve never really seen cosplayers before.”
“Uh… well” Catherine looked down.
“Oh yeah, that’s us,” Natsumi said throwing her arm around Catherine.
“What anime are you playing at?”
“It’s a hen—“
“Precure,” Catherine blurted out. She elbowed Natsumi. “It’s Precure,” she glared at her.
“Yeah, if I were five or a forty-five year old man I’d love that one,” said Natsumi.
“I don’t know if my kids know that one, but they watch so many different shows.” The woman turned and looked across the park’s open field. She smiled. “The morning is nice and quiet, and there’s nobody around! I can’t believe we’re in the middle of the city.”
This was true.
Catherine shared a look with Natsumi. They weren’t alone. Not by a long shot.
There were things all around them. Floating, golden glowy schools of fish. Cosmic moon jellyfish that blooped through the open air as if they were in the depths of the ocean. There was the strange snail-like yokai shuffling along the sidewalk enthusiastically calling “good day, sir!” into the wind. Another even stranger stick-like monster walked in a herky-jerky fashion on its spindly legs like a scurrying spider. None of the yokai, space fish, or whatever bothered anyone (i.e. human). They were going about their business existing in a completely separate plane of reality that only tangentially at times intersected with the physical, meat-space dimension of reality.
Catherine was new to the sights because of a glowy caterpillar stuck in her back of her brain (Thanks, Natsumi!), but the sights of the ghouls were becoming commonplace now that the girls had gone out for more than a few weeks on their witching-hour patrols.
Catherine watched as a large glowy fish swam through some tinier space fishes and gobbled them up and pooped sparkles over June’s soft, straight head of hair.
“Yeah,” Catherine said. It was difficult not to trail the fish with her eyes, but she tried (as hard as possible) to keep her gaze focused on June. “It’s nice. How long are you visiting?”
“Today’s day two of a week long trip. It’s been a dream of mine to come back to Japan!”
“Well, welcome back!” Catherine said. “When were you here last?”
“Oh, it was ages ago now. I was teaching English out in the countryside. Lived there for a year. It was too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and I was homesick all the time and never fully enjoyed my stay. Twenty years gives you some perspective on that though and I told myself I had to come back alone and experience the country and people again with more mature eyes. You know?”
“I know,” Catherine nodded. “I moved here a few years ago myself. I wanted to experience life somewhere different and I stayed.”
“If only my eighteen year old self could understand that.”
“Anyway, this is really nice and all, but so,” Natsumi said. “Can we help you?”
“I didn’t know how to best approach you two. I figured…” she glanced at Catherine, and Catherine understood. They were both foreigners in Tokyo, it would make sense for June to approach her and speak to her.
“Don’t worry I get that a lot.” Catherine said. Mostly from men, she added only for herself. So, June was a breath of fresh air. She felt like she could talk with her all day and enjoy her company freely. “I’m glad you’re enjoying Japan.”
“There’s so much to see. It’s like a feast for the eyes, you know?”
“Where are you going now?”
“I wanted to see Sensoji, but I’m a bit lost you see and my wi-fi died, so I was wondering if you could point me to a nearby, uh, train station and maybe the way there.”
“Of course,” Catherine pointed. “There’s a station over there by the end of the street.” She saw the woman’s map and took it from her. It was nice being useful to someone who was thankful for it. Catherine pointed out where they were and the direction and train lines she would need to get to Asakusa for the temple.
“Thank you! You’ve been a big help!” June began to walk away.
“Um!” Catherine blurted out.
June glanced back and then at her hand. “Oh! Your phone! I’m sorry!” She hurried back over.
“Actually, you could do us a favor,” Catherine said. “Could you take our picture.”
Catherine helped her turn on the camera and gave her some shooting direction. At last she grabbed Natsumi and dragged her so that they had a good position with the sun behind the camera.
“Say cheese!” June said.
“Cheese!” Natsumi said.
As Catherine spoke, she felt a strong slap against her butt and exhaled a surprised breath of air.
“Thanks!” Natsumi darted over and took the phone. June waved goodbye and set on her merry way to the subway station. Catherine frowned and loomed large behind Natsumi glaring at the photo. She was certain Natsumi saw her reflection in the phone’s glass.
“What!?” Catherine snatched her phone away and saw the notification that the photo had been siphoned into the tubes of the Internet. She sighed and tapped over to her Pictogramme account and sighed deeper. And there was the picture with Natsumi cropped out. The photo was of Catherine alone, her eyes closed and face contorted, and her lips opened in an italized ‘O’. It had already gotten plenty of likes and comments and she was getting new subscribers by the second. It would be a shame to delete it and lose all that viral interest, but she hated her goofy picture.
“Come on, let’s go dummy,” Natsumi said.
“Why are you like this?” Catherine retorted.
“We gotta find your dog. You know I thought of a good name for him.”
“Don’t, no more.”
“Horny,” Natsumi said. “Get it?”
Catherine snerted. The corgi did have horns. She covered her smile with her hand. “That’s dumb and juvenile. You’re dumb and juvenile.”
“You still think it’s funny.”
Catherine coughed. “I do not.” Her voice and countenance betrayed her. She looked away as they walked across the open field filled with nobody but cosmic fishies and strange ghouls going about their early morning.