The bird has been following Sayuki for days now, when she leaves school, looks out her window at night and when she sits at the park with her friends. Every second she’s felt it’s eyes on her. Her mother used to tell her stories of cursed creatures following children who have been bad, then why was this thing following her? Is it cursed or is something else entirely? No matter what it’s here and she doesn't know what to do.
The owl is sleek and if you look at it right it looks almost silver and gold instead of brown. Its vibrant amber eyes are large as if it needs to be able to look at everything all at once. It screeches as she approaches, the street light it sits upon flickers, making her stomach churn as it glares, eyes seeming to glow like molten magma.
There’s no one on the street, no even the click of heels or light giggle of night time drunkards, just her and the owl. The world feels empty, purposefully so, like any other form of life had been temporarily chased away. The only noise is her breathing, the click of her feet and the owl ruffling its lovely feathers. She reaches a hand out and suddenly with a flash the owl sits on her arm, she screams backing up as if trying to escape her own arm. She shakes it but the owls claws just dig tighter into her arm.
“Halt my child!” A voice rings in her ears, filling the void of space.
“What the fuck! Stop, stop, stop what's going on!” She snaps, shaking her arm more only to the owl who then manuver it’s way to her shoulder. “What do you want from me?” She begs through clenched teeth, muscle so tense if she moves she may pull them.
“It is not what I want, it is what you want,” The voice rings velvety and steady as she shakes leaning heavily against the lamp post, clenching it like it’s her very lif force. “I am here to give you everything, the only thing I ask in return is loyalty,”
The owl flies from her shoulder landing on the pavement. Suddenly there's a light, it’s so bright as if the sun itself was exploding right in front of her. She stumbles back clenching her eyes closed as she waits for it to dim. She peels her eyes open to find what she can only describe as the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen standing in front of her. Her skin is dark golden tattoo’s winding up her bare arms, images of feathers and writhing snakes, the symbol of ouroboros wrapping itself around her long neck. Her dark silver hair braided with vibrant feathers hung at the ends. Her face is round, large eyes with long eyelashes and the most stunning shade of amber. Her arms are thick with muscles that tell Sayuki this woman could crush her without trying.
She puts a hand to Sayuki’s face, and she lets it stay there. Sayuki had never felt more energy and so much life, it’s as if existence itself was more real at this very moment. The woman towers over her yet Sayuki feels larger than she ever has, like the whole world is below them.
“What are you?” Sayuki whispers as her eyes water from the sheer brightness of the woman in front of her.
“I am anything you want me to be, an angle, a demon, a god or whatever other title you mortals insist on giving us,” if there was ever such a thing as a god this woman is as close as you can get, “and Sayuki I have been observing you for some time my dear, you are exactly what I am looking for.”
Sayuki wants to give this woman everything, she could ask for the air in her lungs and she would gladly give it, “What might that be my lady?”
“Loyalty, in turn I will give you powers that will make the things that lurk in the shadows afraid of the mere thought of you. You will be a god's creation, you will be my hostess.” Sayuki takes the woman's hands, they seem to warm yet also bitterly cold, like this plain can comprehend what she is meant to be.
“My lady are… are you certain? Surely there are people far more capable than me?” Her hands shake as the woman gives a light chuckle.
“You are exactly who I need, Sayuki, you have the energy and the power that this deal requires. So tell me will you run or will you accept the offer of not only a lifetime but of any lifetime?”
The woman looks at her, eyes so steady. She’s unwavering like she’s never said anything wrong in her life, Sayuki would believe it if it was true. Sayuki feels the power creeping its way down her throat just from standing in front of this woman, this is what power looks like so lord knows what it will feel like.
Sayuki bows her head, bringing the woman's hand to her lips. Her fingers look to be dipped in gold, nails long as talons and twice as sharp. Her hand burns Sayuki’s lips but she doesn’t mind. Finally she backs away, dipping down onto her knees staring up at the woman not blinking despite the burn in her eyes and the tears on her cheeks.
“I accept my lady,” The woman smiles, her teeth sharp like a snake.
“Yamikani, that is my name,” The woman gestures for her to rise “-you need to swear it to complete the bond ‘by all that I am and by all there will ever be I swear myself to Yamikani’ then I will claim you.”
Yamikani places her hands around the base of Sayuki’s neck, for a moment she’s afraid this has all been a trap that she would be dead in seconds, instead Yamikani nods for her to begin.
“By all that I am and by all there will ever be I swear myself to Yamikani,” She repeated the phrase over and over her moth going dry, tongue getting lazy eyes drooping until finally Yamikani lets out a satisfied hum.
“You’re doing wonderful my dear girl, now there is one last thing to do, I am sorry but it will hurt.”
Suddenly the hands resting at her neck begins to burn, hotter and hotter until Sayuki begins to scream. She thrashes but Yamikani doesn't let go, swaying with her and whispering of how well she’s doing. Sayuki has burnt her hand, broken her ankle and nearly gotten her finger cut off but no pain could match the sheer magnitude of agony she was in for what felt like ages. Her whole body screams in pain when finally Yamikani loosens her grip hands falling away as the pain begins to ebb little by little as Sayuki falls to the pavement gasping as she hugs her knees to her chest.
“You’ve done so wonderful my little bird,” Yamikani whispers as Sayuki touches the skin around her neck.
“What will happen now?” Sayuki mutters throat hoarse from screaming.
“Soon you will see. I must leave now but remember-,” Yamikani bands down putting a hand on her shoulder sending a shiver down her spine “-I will be with you, you must remember this.”
Sayuki watches as the woman backs up smoke arising from her skin as she bursts into a large puff of smoke leaving Sayuki speechless as the lights of the street brighten, illuminating the world which now seems to swim back into focus. People appear from around the corner laughing and teasing, a car swishes past blasting irritating music. Life floods the street and before she knows it a jogger runs past her nodding along to something in his headphones. Everything feels normal yet undoubtedly different. What has she done? What would she become?
Her limbs feel light as she picks up her grocery bag and takes a step forward, like there’s something assisting her in walking. As she tilts her head to look across the road she feels as if nothing could touch her, as if her and the world were both northern sides of a magnet. People don't look at her differently or even much at all. To them everything is the same, she is a girl walking with a bag with popcorn, a comic and Sprite in it. She walks until she reaches her bike where she sets down the bag in the small basket Brandy had gotten her for her birthday last year before starting off back home.
She arrives home stomach in knots, she feels as if she just did something illegal like she committed some crime that she’d get locked up for the second she walks through the door. What has she done? She just made a deal with some other worldly entity, just like all the dumb people who die and get fooled in her nana’s old folktales. She curses herself as tears prick at her eyes.
She wants to brush it all off and act like she’s crazy, but the skin around her neck that still tingles and the scrapes on her knees from falling would beg to differ. Sayuki knows what she saw, she’s never had that vivid of an imagination, never been a day dreamer, in fact her dreams at night only ever got as exciting as going swimming at a skatepark. She should question her sanity, she knows that, but she also knows what she saw and what she felt.
She parks her bike at the side of the house leaning it next to the hose which they hadn’t used in years. The bag rubs against the skin of her inner elbow as she knocks twice before walking into the house. She slips off her shoes, placing them on the shoe rack before running fingers through her hair. The hall light is off, she flicks it on illuminating the hall, wooden floor gleaming the peeling flower printed wall paper becoming fully visible. The house smells of fish which is what they had for dinner just a couple hours ago.
She walks past the washer and dryer which sits across from the pantry where she unload the popcorn onto the shelf and the Sprite onto the floor before stuffing the plastic bag in the holder her mom bought at the farmers market from the craft lady. She treds into the kitchen where her mother stands, yellow rubber glover pulled to her elbows washing dishes apron still tied around her waist.
“I’m back mama,” Sayuki says, taking some of the dry plates and beginning to put them away.
“I could hear, your are no ninja my dear,” Her mother jokes as she scoffs despite being keenly aware of her lack of grace.
“Yo Saya, did you get my comic?” Brandy pops her head into the kitchen beaming as Sayuki pulls the comics from the stove top tossing it to Brandy who catches it with a grin.
Brandy’ s pretty girl and Sayuki’s pretty sure she knows it. She’s lanky standing a good four inches over Sayuki who herself certainly isn’t short. Dark ebony coils fall down past her dark umber shoulders tied back with a bright yellow ribbon. Her face is sharp and almost always has some beautiful done makeup look adorning it just accentuating her already pretty face.
“Thanks! I owe you a coffee okay?”
“Sure, popcorn in the pantry by the way,” Sayuki notes, sliding the bowls into the cabinet before turning back to Brandy who pumps her fist.
“You are literally the best fake sister ever!”
Brandy’s been calling her ‘fake sister’ since they were eight years old, before she actually started living with them, before her parents kicked her out. They met when her parents asked Sayuki’s to drive her to church since they no longer had any interest in going. Ever since her and Brandy have been practically fused together, they were best friends at school and practically siblings at home since Brandy spent a lot of time at her house. As time went on Brandy’s parents didn’t like that they’re child was spending so much time doing “girly” activities, slowly trying to wean her off of them. When she told them that she was a girl that was that and that night Sayuki was at her house helping her gather her things. She’s lived with them for almost three years now and Sayuki wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Hey, you want to watch a movie?” Brandy asks, rummaging through the pantry for the popcorn.
“As long as it’s not one of your stupid romcoms I hate those things, you need to watch respectable things like animated kids movies!” Sayki teases as Brandy scoffs.
“Sayuki be nice to Brandy, it’s not her fault she has bad taste,” Her mother jokes, making Brandy gasp.
“Insulted by the two people I thought I could trust, I’m shattered!”
“Oh shut up and bring the popcorn over!”
After making popcornSayuki nestles herself in the center of their brown L shaped couch surrounded by pillows as Brandy tosses her the pain meds she forgot to take before she went to the store. Everything feels so normal as she mindlessly flips through movies to watch. It feels almost surreal, doing something so mundane after talking to some other worldly entity then making a deal like that. Now as she sits trying to watch a movie about a talking cat with boots and PTSD she can’t help but feel like an idiot, how could she have done something so stupid? She didn’t ask any questions, she was so sure when that woman was standing in front of her as if her presence had given her some sort of rose tinted lenses making everything seem more appealing.
Throughout the movie all she could think about is how stupid she had been, her stomach twisting as her brain spins webs of possibilities. Her mother notices patting her knee and asking if she’s doing alright, she whispers out a dumb answer about just being really tired since school just got out. Her mother clearly is confused by this answer but just nods and tells her she’ll cut up some pear tomorrow morning.
Once the movie is done and they thoroughly gush about it Sayuki retreats up the stairs followed by a yawning Brandy who’s rambling about animation and color theory like the art nerd she is. The floorboards creak lightly, the house is well over sixty years old and while Sayuki loves the more old fashioned vibe of it the constantly creaking floors can get a bit irritating.
She pushes her door the rest of the way open while her knee begins to click, making her wince. Her bed is shoved against the wall right below her window. Book shelves are pressed against her walls sloppily loaded with books, her Hello Kitty collection and other trinkets. Her desk was just an old vanity that her father took the mirror off of, which houses her laptop and a collection of pens and pencils. Her bed is only partially made with the comforter bening only half on the bed while the two blankets under it are properly laid out.
She walks over to her dresser pressed to the wall next to her closet. She picks up the cotton pads and her make up remover. But as she looks into the mirror her eyes immediately drift to her neck, where a huge tattoo sits gleaming at her. She screams despite herself, patting the skin pulling at it as if that might make the snake wrapping around the base of her neck disappear. Her breathing grows heavy as the world begins to sip, she steadies herself grabbing the edge of her dresser gripping it tightly trying to ground herself.
“Saya are you okay I heard you scream?” Her father ducks his head in rubbing his eyes.
“Mhm, sorry dad I uh… a moth scared me sorry,” She mumbles her mouth dry as she stares at the snake wrapping her neck. “Dad I don’t… look different to you do I?” She turns to face him and he squints adjusting his big round glasses.
“No? Are you supposed to?” He asks nervously as she shakes her head.
“No, I just thought my hair might look weird,” She lies as her father shakes his head.
“Your hair looks fine sweety,” He gives a small smile before yawing and closing her door.
She turns back to her mirror, it’s the same ouroboros symbol that Yamikani burned into her flesh. Each scale is delicacy knit into her skin, it’s a bright shade of gold contrasting against her tawny skin. She continues to glance at it periodically as she pulls her hair back into a braid for bed. Perhaps she is going crazy, her father can’t see the mark and neither Brandy or her mother made any comment, is she just hallucinating?
You’re not hallucinating, though i’d understand why you think so, the voice rings clear in her head just like it had on the sidewalk.
Like that’s meant to make me feel better, there’s a voice in my head? She counters, only to be met by a chuckle.
Compelling argument, but trust me dear once you unlock your potential you will not think yourself insane, The voice chimes making her roll her eyes as she pulls on her pajamas.
Thanks creepy cryptic voice I feel so much better now, She settles down in her bed flipping open her new book.