Volume 2 Episode 4 - Night Terror
Rune Lake, New Berengaria
Toma strolled down the street in the middle of the gay district of Rune Lake. It was late at night and he probably should have been in bed. However, this was the only time he could go out in this area comfortably. There were few people around and, given that it was dark, few people gawking at him. Most of the shops were closed, but he didn't mind. It was nice to get out in the cool night air for a change. He got tired frequently from the weight of gravity and sat down every so often. He felt he must be getting stronger though, since he wasn't getting tired as easily as he did when he first arrived.
On he continued walking without any particular direction in mind.
The nightclubs had already closed and there were only a few people left hanging around outside. As he meandered towards the roundabout, he saw several of the people getting into taxis to go home for the night. Toma continued walking with no particular direction in mind, counting the cracks in the sidewalk. It was a comforting exercise that helped him clear his mind. It wasn't long before he wasn't aware of where he was.
The stench of trash suddenly snapped him out of his concentration. He stopped and looked up, noticing that it was much darker and there were no people around anymore. He felt both foolish and a little scared. He'd never go wandering in a dark, deserted place on Tokkastria alone and there he knew he shouldn't do the same thing in Rune Lake as well.
He was about to turn around and head back the way he came when he suddenly felt a pair of arms grab him and drag him to the garbage-strewn area under the monorail tracks.
Creepy brunette: We've been watching you for awhile.
Creepy blonde: Such pretty ears!
The blonde guy stroked Toma's ears. Normally, he would have liked this, but now it felt disgusting.
Toma: Let me go, now.
The creepy brunette guy pushed Toma against the wall of the station and pinned his arms against the cold concrete. Toma struggled in vain but his arms were far weaker than the average human's.
Creepy brunette: Not until we see what's under those nasty black clothes.
There was nothing else Toma could think of. His only hope now was to yell and hope somebody could hear.
Immediately, the brunette slapped his hand over Toma's mouth.
Creepy brunette: We can't have that now. We're not done with you!
Toma struggled to open his mouth. When he got it open as much as he could, he bit down hard, sinking his large incisors into the brunette's fingers. He yanked his hand away from Toma's mouth.
Creepy brunette: OW!
Toma took this fleeting opportunity to run. He wasn't fast enough and the blonde caught him almost immediately. Toma struggled and kicked as hard as he could against him. The blonde was fast and dodged each one of his powerful kicks.
Toma: GET OFF ME!
It was sheer bad luck that a monorail train pulled into the station just as he shouted. It was too noisy for anyone on the street below to hear him. The blonde backhanded him hard across the face. Almost immediately, Toma felt something warm and wet dripping down his chin. It took him a moment to realize that he was bleeding.
Creepy blonde: Be a good bunny or we're going to have to hurt you!
The creepy brunette ripped off Toma's sleeve and covered his mouth with it, tying it around the back of his head.
Creepy brunette: Next time I won't be so nice. I don't wanna break those teeth of yours.
Together, they dragged Toma deeper under the monorail station. The trash and support columns shielded them from the view of just about everyone who might happen by. Toma felt alone. His only hope was to try to yell for help, but the gag prevented him from doing so. Desperately, he wriggled his jaw, attempting to shake it loose. It was luckily not tied very tight and fell off fairly easily.
Toma: SOMEBODY HELP!
The brunette quickly yanked the gag back on him. He pulled it tight this time and it chafed painfully against the open cut on his cheek. The next thing he knew, he was being thrown to the ground. Before he had a chance to collect himself, he found his arms pinned above his head.
Creepy blonde: After you.
Creepy brunette: With pleasure.
The brunette spread Toma's legs apart and began unbuttoning his pants...
It wasn't always easy to be half nekomi in a human world. Jaze often struggled with sleep. His human side was fine with long periods of sleep and long periods of waking. His nekomi side, however, frequently pulled him strongly, almost inexorably, towards frequent napping throughout the day. At night, sometimes he stayed home and played video games. Other times, like tonight, he went out for a walk.
Jaze's parents didn't like it when he went out to walk at night, especially after the clubs and bars closed. Though the city was generally quite safe, there was still the occasional mugging or other unsavory act that happened to people taken unawares at night. In order to get outside, he had to sneak past his father, who also napped frequently throughout the day, and then sneak back in when he was finished.
His usual route took him from his home, through the nightclub strip, and then to a subway station two stops from his house. It was the last part of his walk that he didn't care for. The subway station was a little-used one behind the far more popular monorail station and in a fairly dark area. More often than not, he was the only one there when he arrived.
Jaze quickened his pace towards the subway entrance, striding under the monorail tracks just as a train was entering the station. Jaze approached the subway when he heard a frightened cry.
Voice: SOMEBODY HELP!
It came from underneath the monorail station. Jaze quickly ran across the street towards the voice. As he got closer, stumbling over trash, he could hear other voices in the night. After rounding one of the support columns of the station, he found two guys standing over someone else on the ground. They didn't see him.
One of the guys had the person's arms pinned down and the other was unbuttoning his pants. The figure on the ground struggled against the two guys, but it was obviously a hopeless situation for him. Jaze didn't have to think hard about what to do. He acted.
Jaze leaped at the brunette and sunk his sharp claws into his back. Startled, he jumped, throwing Jaze off.
Creepy brunette: AAA! What the hell...
He didn't have time to say much. He turned to find out what attacked him and he was just in time to see a flurry of claws careening towards his face. They latched on and dug into his flesh once again. The blonde had already let go of the arms of the figure on the ground and hesitated for a moment, not sure whether to run or to help his friend. In the end, he decided to run away, but Jaze saw him and took off after him, leaving the brunette behind, bloody and disfigured.
Jaze: You're not getting away that easy!
Jaze leaped into the air again and tackled the blonde. He swiped and slashed at him until he was also covered in blood. He would have liked to have tied both of them up and deposited them at the police station, but he felt that it was more important to find out if the victim was okay. He left the blonde behind, who quickly picked himself up and ran.
When he arrived at the site of the attack again, he found the brunette had also run off, leaving behind a solitary figure, curled up against the wall of the monorail station and shivering.
Jaze: Don't worry, they're gone now. Are you okay?
Jaze walked closer. What was difficult to see before in the darkness became clear as he got closer. First he noticed the large, silver earring hanging from a very long, black ear. Jaze suddenly stopped, hardly able to believe what he was seeing.
Toma turned his head slightly, still shivering with fright. He'd already pulled the torn sleeve off of his mouth and it lay next to him, soaked with his own blood. A thick, bloody streak covered his chin, trailing from his cheek, and mixed with the tears pouring down his face. Jaze was startled every time he saw Toma unexpectedly, but now it was different. Now, there was nothing scary about him. Jaze couldn't imagine him as a savage beast, biding his time in preparation for his strike. Now he was a person like any other, now scared and vulnerable. He walked closer and kneeled down next to him. Slowly and carefully, so as not to startle him, Jaze put his arm around him. Against his expectations, Toma didn't flinch. He seemed to relax a little.
Jaze: Toma, are you okay?
Toma nodded weakly.
Jaze: Did they... um... get anywhere with you?
Toma shook his head.
Jaze pulled out his handkerchief and looked around to see if there was a hose or spigot anywhere nearby. He found a spigot not far from where he stood. Turning on the water, he wetted his handkerchief thoroughly and took it back to Toma.
Jaze: Here, you can clean your face up with this.
Toma slowly reached out for the handkerchief and took it. He scrubbed the bottom of his face with it until all the blood was gone. Jaze pulled out a tissue from his pocket and placed it on the cut on Toma's cheek to keep it from bleeding further.
Jaze: I should call the police.
Jaze started to stand up, but before he could, he felt a tug at his shirt.
Toma: Please don't.
Jaze: Why not? Those guys have to pay for what they did!
Toma: I'm fine. But I don't want to be in the middle of an interplanetary incident. The media will be all over it.
Images of tabloid headlines and Toma's picture splattered all over the newspapers began to appear in Jaze's mind. He realized that he wouldn't want that any more than Toma did.
Jaze: Well, I suppose I could call in an anonymous tip about some weirdos running around with bloody faces later tonight.
Jaze: What do you want me to do for you? I could take you to my place, if you want.
Jaze knew even before he made the offer that his dad would be beside himself with fright and indecision if he suddenly showed up with Toma. He also knew, however, that his dad would hold himself together, mostly, during that time.
Toma: Can you just take me home? I'd rather not have anyone fuss over me right now. Dad keeps an extra townhouse not far from here, but he almost never uses it.
Go to Toma's house? Alone? Jaze wasn't completely comfortable with that, though he didn't see any way he could possibly refuse.
Jaze: Take you to your place? Well, I um...
Toma rose to his knees and started crawled closer to Jaze. Jaze leaned further and further back as Toma came closer.
Jaze:Wha... What are you doing?
By now, Toma was straddling Jaze's outstretched legs. Jaze had leaned back as far as he could go without falling completely over onto his back.
Toma: I haven't thanked you properly yet.
Toma continued inching forward until their lips connected. For what seemed like ages they kissed, locked in embrace, until Toma finally released him.
Jaze: Okay, I'll take you home.
Toma: Thank you.
Jaze: Can you stand?
Toma: Yeah, no problem.
Jaze and Toma rose slowly to their feet. Toma felt weak and didn't really feel like moving, but his desire to go home was stronger. Jaze asked Toma where his townhouse was. Toma replied that it was on a small island in the middle of Rune Lake, which had no public transit access. Jaze suggested getting a taxi, and Toma agreed. It was a short ride across a bridge and they arrived in less than five minutes.
Toma directed Jaze to the townhouse furthest to the left, next to the seashore at the corner of the roundabout. They went inside together. Jaze marveled at the decor of the house. Lush carpet lined the floor and felt springy under his feet. The walls were covered with various types of artwork in styles he'd never seen before. There wasn't much furniture aside from some shelves with a variety of knickknacks, some low tables, and legless chairs. It seemed clear that tokki preferred sitting on the floor.
Toma leaned groggily against the wall, clearly exhausted.
Jaze: Let me help you to your room. Where is it?
Toma: Just down the hall.
Jaze helped Toma down the hall. The bedroom was different than the rest of the house in that it seemed to have been used. The carpet wasn't quite as soft and springy and the bed covers were rumpled from use. Empty juice bottles were on the desk and the trash was filled with fruit peels.
He helped Toma into his bed. As his head flopped onto the pillow, he let out a great sigh, happy that he was now safe. Jaze sat on the edge of the bed next to him.
Jaze: Are you going to be okay?
Toma: Can you stay here until I fall asleep?
Toma looked away as he said that. Jaze felt sorry for him. He was clearly embarrassed for having said it, probably feeling like a little kid who thought a monster was in his closet. Nevertheless, he had no intention of refusing such an innocent request.
Jaze: Of course.
Jaze stayed up, watching Toma as he drifted off to sleep. Once he was sure he was asleep, he tiptoed quietly out of the room took out his phone. He tapped out a message saying he was staying at a friend's house that night and would go to school from there in the morning. After that, he slipped quietly back into Toma's room and curled up on the floor. In moments, he fell asleep as well.
The Next Day
Rune Lake, New Carpathia, Rune Lake High School
For Adell, Mitani, and Kaoru, the day started out quite normally except for one thing. Jaze was late. And Jaze was never late. Toma wasn't there either, but it wasn't unusual for him to be late. Nevertheless, they were worried.. They watched the clock constantly as their first period came to an end.
Teacher: Okay everyone, for your homework tonight, I want you to simplify equations 1 through 12 on page 104 to be handed in on Thursday.
And then the bell rang. General bustle ensued with students returning their supplies to their bags and moving about the room. Adell, Mitani, and Kaoru immediately huddled together.
Kaoru: Any idea where Jaze is? He's never late!
Mitani: Toma's late too, but that's normal anyway.
Adell: Think they had a date last night? Hee hee.
The door to the classroom slid open. Nothing that ever happened in the history of New Carpathia could have prepared any of them for the scene they were all now witnessing. An alien spaceship could have crashed across the street at the same moment the sushi restaurant was burning down in the middle of an earthquake and nobody in that room would have noticed any of it. Even the teacher gaped with her mouth hanging open. There in the doorway stood both Toma and Jaze, holding hands. Jaze looked his usual, jovial self and Toma even had a slight smile on his face.
Jaze: Ms. Addams... Sorry we're late. I had a hard time getting Toma out of bed this morning.
Nobody moved. Nobody breathed. The only sound was the faint hum of the air conditioner and muffled noises from other classrooms full of students doing the things they'd normally be doing right now. Toma had eyes only for Jaze and he reached up and scratched the back of his neck. Jaze looked around at all the blank faces staring at him, whether in genuine or feigned puzzlement, nobody knew.
Jaze: What? Do I have a booger on my face?
End: Short Stories Volume 2
All city images from SimCity 4.