The Samurai Movie

We see Natsume in Akiko's arms. Akiko is kissing her on the open mouth as Natsume writhes her bare hips. Neon. Neon. Everything's gone. A beach at twilight. A girl is singing as she rolls a hoop down a dark street. Poppies, the dust of poppies. Suns and the dust of suns.Why shouldn't you be dazzled by all the suns. At once, all the galaxies whirling. Dust and fire, and train tracks in the bleakness. A road going west, a road going east. Once upon a time in grief.


Natsume bends at the waist to switch on the tv. She laughs. It's a samurai movie. A one-armed man missing one eye in a woman's white kimono is cutting down black clad ninjas with a sword. I remember this show, she says. She sits on the bed smoking her cigarette. Akiko watches her. Then she watches rain streaming on the glass. She shivers. Is it cold in the hotel room? No. Something is wrong. She tosses aside the sheet and dresses quickly, pulling the things out of her gaping luggage bag. Panties, jeans, a sweater. Natsume is laughing.


So, Akiko asks, her mouth in Natsume's black hair. Her eyes shut. Natsume's mouth and fingers on her skin, thrillingly. Does he pay you money? This Junichiro of yours? This yakuza? Natsume doesn't stop what she is doing, which is kissing Akiko's pale skin and stroking it with her fingertips. Licking the stiff nipples. Searching for the places that will make Akiko thrill and moan. Careful not to touch the black thread stitched sword cut that had widened her eyes when Akiko turned from stripping down and stood in the brilliant lamplight naked.

Ah. Ah.

Finally, she nods a little and says, Hai.

So that's it. Natsume is not only a flight attendent but also call girl.

Later, Natsume in a toneless shallow breathy voice describes how she met Jun in a milk bar when she was only fourteen years old and he took her to a love hotel in Shibuya and she let him do everything to her, everything he wanted, everything you could imagine, everything. She was in her schoolgirl uniform. He was brutal and passionate. He bit her a lot. It hurt but she liked it. They've been seeing each other since then, off and on. Sometimes he takes her away to other places. Once by train to Osaka. Once even to Hong Kong where he had some business for the Yoshimori clan. Ah, Akiko says, so you knew he was yakuza. Natsume giggles. Yes. He told me. That first night. I saw his tattooes. He's proud of it. He's full of himself, like men. You know?

Does Jun have other women? Akiko asks.

Natsume expells a long shuddering breath. Yes. I'm sure of it.

Akiko thinks, Jun. The Yoshimori clan. She remembers the hard, handsome face, the cut of his dark suit. She imprints it in her mind.

Tattooes of what? she asks. Natsume giggles. Demons. Dragons. Then Natsume parts Akiko's knees and crawls between them and Akiko gasps for breath, arching her back, and she feels herself begin to orgasm. It's a long, rippling, desperate one, with Natsume sucking and licking her hard. It ends in a kind of dark explosion behind her eyelids. Akiko grips Natsume's head with her fingers, twisting the dark hair, and lets out an urgent cry then a curse. Natsume takes her mouth away and bites Akiko's thigh, laughing. They twist together in the sheets. Hah, hah, hah, Akiko says, catching her breath.

(Oh Molly. Oh Molly. It's just a dream. It's a dream we're both having. We're sitting on the beach. We came down here by a train. We're looking at the light on the water. The sky is colorless and cold. It's autumn. Here at the beach nothing happens. People come here in the summers and it's loud and vibrant. But today it's just still, bleak, and cold. Even the gulls seem listless, saddened by the shortness of the days, the eternal cold evenings.)

It's raining in Tokyo. Neon lights up the streets brighter than day. You blink into the blinding rain.


You dream that you are on the ferry to Kamijima. A bright cold day in autumn. Gulls are screaming. The engine starts, chattering, with a stench of diesal fumes, and the ferry gives a lurch in the water. The water is boiling green white and the fumes stream over the deck and make people cough. The boy with bare dirty feet is untying the knots, tossing slack rope onto the deck, the coils thudding. You sit on a bench in a space that seems to have cleared for you magically, hugging yourself against the wind in that leather jacket. You're back. After the strange rainy night in Tokyo when you wandered the streets, rode the subways to escape from the killing team sent by the Organization. It's a dream, like any other dream.


Go into the bathroom, Akiko says suddenly. Natsume turns her head, still smoking, her mouth open. Quick. Do it now. Lie flat in the bathtub. Natsume looks at her for an instant longer then without a word gets up and runs into the bathroom, her pale behind wagging. Akiko tosses the bedclothes so that they fall in a formless heap and walks to the door and stands against the wall to the inside of the hinges, holding Ogata's kodachi in her left hand. She stares at the knob. She stares at it for a long time, without blinking. The tv is still on, hollowly. Tange Sazen, the one armed one-eyed samurai, is killing ninjas by the dozens. The reflected picture blinks on the windows against streaming rain. Akiko draws breath deeply into her Hara. She feels her skin and her fingertips thrill. Alive with pulse.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Is she crazy?

There it is. The knob turns a little. Was there a click? It turns more. Whoever it is, they have a key. Then the door eases open a half inch, an inch. Akiko makes her breath silent yet she does not stop breathing. She relaxes deeply. This is a secret of the warrior, the way of the bushi Omitsu taught her. You must not tense up before a fight or you will lose it. And now a black cylinder appears in the gap between the door and the frame. It's the long suppressor of a gun. As Akiko watches, it pokes delicately into the swimming light and shadows from the TV screen. The door opens a little wider and now whoever is holding the gun has most of the wide bed in his field of fire. A brief thudding rattle and the bedclothes jump. Akiko flattens herself against the wall, her cheek pressed into her black hair. Another two second burst muted by the suppressor, just a little smoke and no flashes. Silence. Down from a torn pillow is floating in the air. A samurai lets out a scream as Tange Sazen cuts him from shoulder to groin. The door opens, bouncing on Akiko's shoulder, and the gunman steps into the room holding his machine gun low, followed quickly by another man with the same model of weapon. They're both in black rainslickers and black plastic rain hats. They fire two more short bursts each at the bed, the mattress jumping as it takes the rounds. A stench of burnt cotton. As they move into the room the first man turns his body toward Akiko. She doesn't let him see her. She whips the blade from its scabbard, steps forward and slashes his throat. Before the other man can react in any way at all she has severed his head at the top of the spine. His twitching body pitches forward onto the carpet, while the head falls with a thud and rolls under the bed. The first man fires a burst as he goes down but the bullets explode on the wall. Akiko leaps backward to keep from being blinded by the bloodspray, slapping the door shut with her elbow. Silence. She crouches. Listens. Nothing, but the pumping then trickling of blood, and air escaping in a long hiss from the cut throat of the first man. The stench. That ugly stench. Akiko shuts her eyes. She clears her mind again by steadying it in the Hara. Everything is brilliant. Tange Sazen is running across rooftops. It's raining in Tokyo. She sheathes the kodachi and sticks it into the waistband of her blue jeans, pulling the sweater out over it. Can this be all of them? She locks the door, puts on the extra sliding bar lock on top. Then she bends and wrests the machine gun from the hands of the first man. She checks the clip. It's almost spent. She searches the pockets of the rainslicker and finds two spare clips. These she tosses into her luggage bag, followed by the gun. She gets the other gun and spare ammunition and tosses those into the bag also. She goes to the bathroom and knocks softly. Natsume? Yes. It's Akiko. Silence. Then: Wh-what happened? We've got to go. Come out. Get dressed. Okay? Silence. Okay. The lock turns. The door opens. Natsume appears, demure, wild-eyed, still naked. Follows Akiko into the room in the flickering blue tv light. Lets out a little cry. Akiko hears another brief spurting trickle -- in her terror, Natsume has urinated onto the carpet. Ssh, says Akiko. Your clothes are over there. Put them on now. Quickly. Quickly. Here's a towel. She tosses Natsume a towel. Natsume fumbles, drops it and has to crouch to pick it up. Wipes her thighs and between her legs. Drops it on the floor. She's crying in short gasps like a little girl. She dresses in jerky, inept movements. Akiko zips the calfskin bag shut. She's already been in and out of the bathroom for her toiletries, stepping around the rich blood soaking into the carpet. She tossed Natsume's lipstick tinged half smoked cigarette into the toilet and flushed it. Wiped down the sink faucets and the sides of the sink and tub with a wet towel to get rid of stray fingerprints. Snatched up the plastic bag from the trash can containing her cut hair, which she tied and put into her luggage bag. She now takes her dark, slim leather jacket from a wing chair and wrestles it on. She glances at the tv screen. Night. Deep shadows. A single stone lantern. Tange Sazen is lurking in a pine grove outside what looks like a temple. Watching and waiting, his face drawn in a smirk. Akiko remembers seeing this one with Ogata, when she was about ten years old. It's a fascinating realization. She's the same little girl. Just arrived from San Francisco, distraught and trusting and calm, knowing only a few words of Japanese. The same.

These two men she cut down, just now -- they were both Japanese. Yakuza? No. Probably not. She could search for tattooes but doesn't want to touch the corpses, nor take the time. A kill team. Right? The Organization, then.