And what about that last oceanside house?
There was a glimmer of greed in the mans expression as he held the binoculars to his glasses, craning his neck.
Right through here, we have a beautiful property just past the scenic cliffs and bamboo forests, the realtor acknowledged, smiling widely and gesturing towards the narrow road that wound up past the lighthouse and cliff and into the vast green of the mountains.
Its prime seaside real estate, our Kaito House, complete with own generator, water supply, propane tank
gushed the realtor, But the tenant refuses to move out. One of those stubborn recluse types, you know. Westerner.
The businessman gave a curt, understanding nod, glasses flashing.
I know exactly what you mean.
A real waste, too, right past the lighthouse. Wouldnt sell out to that Monsanto corporation, either.
Really? the businessmans dark eyes narrowed in interest.
Oh yes! I come to talk to her but she doesnt answer the door anymore. Always sitting out back ignoring me! I offered her the highest price and then Monsanto came while I was leaving and I heard them offer nothing short of half a million in American dollars! You know what she say then? the realtor laughed derisively, her faux-pearl necklace flashing.
She tell them to get lost. She tell them shed sooner sell her soul than let them have house and dump chemicals all over.
Well, this has been most educational, said the man, handing back the binoculars. My company will get back to you on the purchase of land further south.
Thank you, Mr. Katashi, replied the realtor, enthusiastically baring her white teeth once more. Keep those, courtesy of Blue Heron Realty.
The businessman nodded and paused against the rusting iron railing, glancing down into the swelling waves. The realtor clicked away on her heels, and he was left alone. It was noon, and the docks were deserted, the fishermen all gone for the day. Swiftly he texted a message on his iPhone, and then raised the binoculars up to the distant house sprawling the cliffs, its curtains drawn closed. He smiled as he watched a car pass by.
The green Toyota Prius pulled away from the grocery store and wound its way higher on the seaside road. It accelerated with a faint rumble over the bumps and potholes, then screeched slower at perilous turns, as though the driver, absentminded, had only just recalled their danger. This was partly the case.
Goddamn deadlines should go- the tires slid and jarred and the woman snapped out several more choice words. And those pestering buggers dont have anything better to do than knock on my door every half hour. Cant they see Im trying to finish a book?
A harried sigh escaped her frowning mouth as she pulled into the driveway and off the lighthouse road, setting the Toyota to park and grabbing the massive paper bags to haul into the house. She sorted through the groceries and set them in their proper places, grabbed a laptop, and headed through the back door, which creaked ominously. The doorbell and the phone remained unhooked and sprinkled with a fine dusting of plaster.
But if the Kaito house was in need of renovation, the scenery was not. Beyond the jagged cliffs that spanned the shoreline, dropping off magnificently to the ocean below, there led a narrow path through the rocks and onto a thin strip of beach littered with boulders and sea-shells. It was there the woman headed now, sun glancing on light-brown hair rarely found in this part of the world, laptop tucked under an arm.
Lodging herself comfortably in the moss-covered boulders, a serene lull settled on the beach, and in the womans features, as she closed her eyes and listened. The waves gushed softly, advancing and retreating on the sand. The sea breeze was fresh and salty, and coaxed a genuine, relaxed smile from the woman.
She snapped open the laptop, and glanced through her e-mail. It was ironic, she reflected, that the remote Japanese fishing village she had chosen for its peace and quiet could carry a signal, could connect her to the internet, and return her to the old life in a heartbeat.
Dear Morgan Winters, read the particular e-mail. Its been a productive year since we found that isolated little village for you, but the editors are waiting to see results. Its been months since you were last published and unless you want to fade away into obscurity
Blah, blah, blah, mouthed Morgan, skimming.
We are growing concerned at your prolonged absence, and looking forward to reestablishing contact. Please pick up the phone so we can discuss the terms of your next deadline.
There was more, and it was signed with the agents name.
We are concerned? Yeah right
concerned for losing profit, you mean, Morgan scoffed, but then she added lightly, Well you just keep calling and I wont answer.
There was another e-mail, too, one marked officially and written far more dryly. Between the lines it threatened to have the unsafe Kaito house condemned if the tenant did not sell it to Monsanto.
When that Monsanto Corporation sees the role I cast them in, theyll regret ever attempting to blackmail me
Morgan grinned, exiting out the server and beginning to type into her word document.
The ocean breeze on her face, the steady beating of the waves, the glimmer of the sun on the sea all created the ideal conditions for writing. It was many hours later, back stiff from sitting among the boulders, sun setting brilliantly over the waves, that Morgan headed back up to the house.
The lilac-colored Kaito house stood in the shelter of the cliffs beneath the lighthouse on its own outcropping of rock. It was the only piece of land north of the lighthouse not owned by the Monsanto Corporation that had begun to dig its claws into the coastline. Unbeknownst to Morgan, the realtor and the fishing village, Monsantos waste disposal plant had been operating at full capacity for a month, and had during this time dumped in excess of several hundred tons of toxic waste into a landfill that had leaked straight into the ocean.
The effects were becoming pronounced, however, as the bubbling sludge washed up on the beach, and the fishing nets produced fish that were listless and immobile. A strange odor began to waft south to the village, too, and the chemicals leeched deeper and further out to sea, until the imbalance stirred a reaction. At least, that was what the locals said.
Morgan still refused to believe in their magic. Local superstition, she thought savagely into the beating rain that threatened to flood her house. Utter nonsense.
And in the sheets of rain that whipped against the cliffs and roof, there came a heavy knocking at her door. It was a struggle to open it just a crack in the wind, and so when Morgan attempted to peek out and insist she was busy, the door flew open and nearly caught the nearest-standing man on the nose.
The businessmen entered her house without hesitation, all dripping in their black and white suits, all smiling impassively, all flawlessly polite and insistent. Morgan shut the door with some effort and rounded on them, but they had trooped a wet trail to her sitting room that looked out on the billowing ocean, the enormous windows shivering beneath the onslaught of the rain.
What are you doing in my house? said Morgan abruptly, still shocked at the mens audacity. There were five of them, standing there and still smiling unnaturally in their extremely disconcerting manner.
We just wanted to discuss your insurance with you, said the leader smoothly. My name is Hachiro Katashi, he strode over to the window and glanced appraisingly at the storm outside. And I have a proposition for you.
Far out at sea, the swells and buffets of the waves began to gently rock a vast, heavy tanker labeled Monsanto Oil Co.
Many miles deeper, in a luminescent little submarine cruiser that had finned its way from local legends, a very mythical creature indeed was cursing humans to a vicious and early end, speeding through the water and toward the source of the cursed imbalance, yet again
So youre saying
trailed off Morgan, scowling and drawing back the curtains as a bright bolt of lightning pierced the steel-grey sky. What youre saying
Weve received all licenses and the oil tanker is on its way, confirmed Katashi. Very soon our waste processing plant will be upgraded to full manufacturing status, and we will begin to expand into the village. But first, he glanced around the Kaito house with unmasked disdain, Were going to get rid of this place. Ill offer you a hundred thousand for the shack.
You should take it, good offer, urged another of the businessmen, sipping Morgans green tea. Wont get another offer that good.
I have no plans on selling at this time, said Morgan. If I change my mind I will let you know.
Its not a question of if, but when, spoke up another businessman.
Morgan tore her eyes away from the ocean, where the outline of the oil tanker had appeared, buffeted by the waves, and something colorful had flashed momentarily by, much closer, nearly beneath her window.
Really? And why is that?
Because soon, said Katashi impatiently, this place will be uninhabitable. Once we begin full-scale manufacture, well evacuate the area. Were trying to give you an edge here sell while you still can.
Ill think about it.
Are you deaf, lady? I heard Westerners were stubborn, but this is unreasonable! Sell the Kaito house and go back to New York!
Im glad we had this talk, Morgan replied sardonically, turning her back to the window once more. Now get out of my house. Ill sue you to hell and back before I let you take my house and turn it into a toxic dump!
The businessmen filed out as Morgan shooed them through the front door and into the forbidding darkness of the storm. Despite the fact it was noon, the sky was black and grey with heavy clouds.
Hey! yelled Katashi suddenly, arms over his head against the rain, squinting through water-beaded glasses. Whats happening to our tanker?
The businessmen looked around, and so did Morgan. Out at sea below, a strange scene was unfolding. The immense oil tanker was being flung out of control, heading on a perilous course to the offshore reefs.
As they stood on the low cliff with the ocean foaming before them and the rain lashing down harder, they saw the tanker careen closer to the jagged shoals of the sandbar, traveling with unnatural speed for so large an object. The thin silhouette of a person appeared, swimming from the Kaito houses beach and toward the approaching tanker, but it was indistinguishable in the rain and distance. And then, taking Morgans breath away, the tanker collided with the sharp rocky reef, and with a faint rumble that carried across the ocean, the hull punctured through.
Katashi screamed at his men to get in the car.
Wait! Theres a person down there! yelled Morgan, eyes wide, but the businessmen shut the car door in her face. Paralyzed by shock, Morgan watched them drive away. Below, the figure seemed to rise until it stood atop the waves and turned toward the tanker that was oozing a black, inky film of oil over the turbulent sea. A strange stillness seemed to settle on the scene, as the waves calmed, an ominous lull interceding the storm.
The water turned glassy clear and still beneath the upturned hands of the figure, who was still fairly close to shore. Long red hair buffeted to and fro by a fierce wind, the figure made an elaborately graceful gesture with its long arms and, as though it were saran wrap, the dangerous black oil lifted and peeled from the surface of the water, retreating into the tanker.
Morgan tore down the narrow path to the beach, barefoot with rain still soaking her hair and cardigan, never mind the uncomfortably wet jeans. The figures back was to her, but down on the beach she could see it was really balancing on what appeared to be dark mounds of water boulders, perhaps? And its arms were shivering with the strain of herding back the oil. Blotches of it were being left behind, staining the water darkly. A slick patch was near the figures feet, another washed up on the sand. Morgan stared, perturbed, and in complete wonder.
And then, without any warning at all, the tanker exploded. The sea gushed up to contain the blast as the figure raised its arms in what was probably frustrated disbelief, and the entire coastline went up in flames. The shockwaves exploded into a burning tsunami off shore, and an immense wave of oil and water, thankfully unlit, overtook the figure and nearly got Morgan, who scrambled back at the last second.
You! she screamed, finally snapping into action and out of shock. Hey! You alive?! Hello?
But the figure was gone. Morgan caught a glimpse of orange hair and a black-stained hand lolling in the waves. Panicking, bare feet slipping and sliding over the pebbles and sand, she raced into the water. The figure was not very deep in, and in her frenetic state the writer grasped the hand and pulled desperately, catching hold of the collar of the figures jacket. Whoever it was, Morgan was grateful they were so lean.
Come on, she gasped out, pulling an oil-stained arm over her shoulder, dragging the figure from the water. The long, wavy mane of orange hair covered their face completely. Slowly but surely, Morgan dragged the figure up the path into the now-flooded Kaito house.
Come on, lady, Ive got you.
. . .
Cleaning up oil was hard work. Once in her house the man, as Morgan now realized, seemed to have lost consciousness, and did not bear witness to the writers chagrin when she realized the Kaito house was ankle deep in seawater.
Morgan eased the figure into her bathtub and poured a warm bath, clothes and all, adding shampoo. Outside the storm raged, and she was grateful for her water heater and generator. The oil seemed to detach easily enough from the mans vaudevillian, nautically striped jacket, and attach just as easily to Morgan. Maintaining a steady stream of murmured comfort interspersed with swears, she dragged the now clean man onto her soggy couch.
Drying you is going to be a problem
she murmured, taking out several towels. What the
The mans hair and clothes should have been soaking wet, but he was quite dry, and seemed to be feverish. Morgan swept an inordinate amount of hair away and uncovered a long nose, a faintly lined face, a fair amount of make up. His forehead felt warm, so she positioned the man on the couch his too-long, stick thin legs still drooping over the end and dangling in the water that flooded Kaito house and after tucking a blanket around him, left him to rest.
Now then, Morgan stepped back to survey her work. The mans mass of red hair twitched as he breathed, legs ankle-deep in the water thanks to her short couch, black cotton blanket thrown hastily over the stranger. Right, you rest, and Ill be back with help.
First order of business is to get the water pump going, Morgan grunted and managed to kick the mechanism into action in the backroom. The buzz permeated the house. She set the tea kettle on and began to check the radio transmission when suddenly there was another knock on the door. On the couch, the figure stirred.
If thats Monsanto Im going to kill them
Morgan opened the door. An old lady, wrinkled and soaking wet, was looking out from under a moss green raincoat, clutching a cane.
Obaa-chama! I was just going to go check on you! Come in, please come in.
The old woman obliged, voice croaky. Morgan-chan, my house is flooded completely. Theyve called off evacuations and the skies are clearing, but what happened?
Kaito house is flooded too, Morgan glanced around, But Ive fixed up the pump so itll be good as new soon. Those Monsanto morons came up here bragging about their oil tanker and their rights to pollute the coastline, but their precious tanker crashed and the oil spill caught fire. They ran away, of course.
Who-who is that? gasped the old woman, staring wide-eyed at the occupant of Morgans couch, who had shifted slightly, hair obscuring his eyes.
I found him in the water. He was trying to contain the oil-spill somehow. Ive got no idea what kind of technology he had up his sleeve
but the whole thing exploded and he was dripping in oil and looked to be drowning. I dragged him up here to wash him off before he was burned alive.
Morgan-chan! What have you done? the old woman had paled and was staring from the man to Morgan with surprise.
I only saved an innocent person from dying a painful death courtesy of Monsanto, Hana, Morgan replied somewhat crossly. Now can I get you some tea?
Dont you see?
What are you talking about? Is he sick? I was going to ask you what sort of tea to make for him youre good with those herbal remedies of yours-
Morgan, you must let him go at once!
Morgan glanced at Hana, surprised. In her urgency the old woman had dropped her suffixes.
What do you mean? I saved him.
Dont you see, child? Hes a wizard of the sea! A dangerous creature that hates humans!
Morgan stared at Hana, then burst into laughter.
I am not kidding, girl! Put him back into the sea where he belongs!
Well hes in no danger of drying out here, Morgan managed between chuckles, panting. Come on, Hana, why dont you stay for tea and help me nurse your wizard back to health? He was blasted pretty hard and if the road wasnt flooded I would have taken him to the hospital by now.
Hana was shaking her head hard and backing away, however.
What was I supposed to do? Hana?
But the old lady had fled. Morgan turned around with a flustered sigh, and found the man sitting up on the couch, leaning back and soaking his legs in the water. He ran a hand tiredly through his hair, still trembling faintly, and Morgan approached him.
Hey there, you almost didnt make it, she said. Can I get you some hot tea or water?
Water, whispered the man, voice hoarse. Morgan rushed into the kitchen and poured a glass, noticing the sun had finally peaked out, though the waves were still breaking viciously near the house. She took steaming tea for herself.
Here, she said, handing it to him. He cast her a sharp glance from beneath the hair, took a sip, and promptly spit it out, coughing.
I need seawater you foolish girl, he rasped, wheezing.
Morgan laughed. Youre joking, right?
The man turned his head and dark sea-blue eyes on Morgan, narrowed with displeasure.
Morgan shrugged, raised her eyebrows, and dipped the cup demonstratively into the water on the floor before giving it back, watching in amazement as the man downed the entire glass.
Tell me what happened, he demanded, voice returning to a low and smoother pitch, if the tone was gruff.
Before you finished doing whatever you were doing to clean up, the tanker exploded. Whole reef pretty much caught fire, though its burned out now. Most of the oils burnt away, too. I pulled you out before you could drown, though.
Meddling humans couldnt leave well enough alone
he muttered under his breath, then added, I was in no danger of drowning.
Perhaps not, but you would have burned to a crisp when the fire reached you, Morgan retorted. Now is there anything else I can get you, ah
dono? Im Morgan.
Not unless you can give me my elixirs to restore my power, said the man, pointedly ignoring Morgans inquest into his name.
Oh, said Morgan, smiling wickedly. Ive got something much better.
And laughing at the mans confused frown, she slipped a bottle of sake from the kitchen.
Ah, he said, recognition dawning on his features, Alcohol.
Morgan didnt need to offer twice.
Easy there, save some for the starving writer!
A look of satisfaction crossed the mans exaggerated features as he set the bottle down with a pleased sigh, eyes closing. Morgan took the chance to admire his blue eye-shadow and caught the flash of a gold earring.
If you dont mind me asking, who the hell are you?
The man glanced at Morgan appraisingly, with a hint of irritation. I, he said finally, rising to his full height, am Fujimoto, human. Now whats this you said about the oil burning away? He strode over the water to stand at the wide window overlooking the ocean, which was still smoking and hissing angrily. The black residue, however, was nearly gone.
Monsanto wont get away with this, said Morgan grimly, also surveying the damage. Weve got them for good this time.
But at what cost? remarked the man, Fujimoto, quite softly. Then there was another knock on the door.
What now? Morgan scowled, making for the door.
Abruptly Fujimoto also turned away from the window. You should not have brought me here, human, he said angrily.
Oh? You suicidal now? Honestly! I save someone and not a single thank you! What? she snapped, straight into the face of the local police.
Megan-san, we heard you witnessed the accident earlier today? said the officer, ignoring the writers tone. We are heading out to sea to investigate and require your presence aboard our vessel to confirm the sequence of events.
You want me to go out to sea with you? said Morgan blankly. Behind her, Fujimoto leaned over her shoulder, a long nose sticking out from beneath a mess of hair.
Yes, he demanded, Take us out to sea now.
I see you made a friend, said the police officer amiably, squinting at Morgan. Finally stopped playing the recluse?
Thats irrelevant, officer, sniffed Morgan uncomfortably. And my name is Morgan, not Megan. Do you require my presence?
Yes, please come with me.
Morgan turned back to Fujimoto, who not only ignored her but pushed her out of his way to follow the police officer. He jumped from puddle to puddle on the way to the dock, where the officer instructed them to board the towns fastest fishing boat.
Morgan caught Fujimoto turning his long nose up at the small vessel.
Come along, now, said the policeman, And tell me what happened.
So for the third time that day Morgan recounted the entire story of the tanker, omitting Fujimoto completely, as the boat made its way through the fumes and toward the wreckage.
While they were speaking, Fujimoto stood beneath the splash of the waves on the bow of the boat, cutting an impressive, if extravagantly colorful figure.
Never in all my days seen the ocean as cooperative and clear after a storm, the policeman was saying. Feels like its egging us along impatiently.
Fujimoto looked impatient too, and out of temper. When Morgan approached him she got an earful.
idiot humans and the mess theyve caused.
They had reached the tanker in record speed. The ruined hull rested, smoking, along the contaminated reef. Several familiar men in business suits waved up at them from the remains of the deck.
Hey! We knew youd come!
What happened here, Katashi-san? called the police officer.
Crashed our motorboat into a piece of the hull, shouted Katashi. Mustve been a motor malfunction! Terrible waste of oil
How about terrible impact on the environment? Huh? snarled Morgan. The policeman let down anchor and threw a rope ladder out to the stranded men.
Morgan, what a pleasure to see you again, said Katashi, climbing aboard.
Likewise. Now I can hold you accountable for all the trouble youve caused.
Katashi clicked his tongue irritably and said, You know Monsanto works very closely with the local police
harboring a foreign immigrant is illegal.
I assure you, no loophole in the law is getting you my house, Morgan said firmly.
Shame, thats such a shame. I thought about leaving you and your eccentric friend here, but no one would know if there were to be an accident, Katashi laid a faint inflection on the word, taking out a cigarette, and you never made it back to shore. Then the property would automatically be transferred to the government, who would be flattered to fund Monsanto.
Are you threatening me? asked Morgan, quite calmly, eyes searching toward the police officer who had retreated into the cabin with a pair of businessmen.
Wouldnt dream of it. I was just citing the local law which doesnt favor intruders.
Why you murderous, despicable
Morgan sputtered, but Katashi waved a hand casually at her. Immediately, two businessmen took her by an elbow each.
Morgan punched and kicked fiercely and did a fair amount of damage before she was unceremoniously thrown overboard and landed, with a splash, into the murky water.
Katashi lit his cigarette and flicked it over the side of the boat. A trail of flaming oil wound back to the tanker. Katashi glanced around, puzzled.
Did anyone see where her friend went?
. . .