Flame in the Dark

Chapter 2

Rei woke up, when rays of sunshine burst through window panes and fell down on her sleepy face. The girl noticed with a relief that her cold was not as bad as the day before and she didn’t have a fever, but in exchange a throat ached her. She sat down on the bed combing hair glued by sweat. She felt weak, perhaps after the medicine or after the night-time fight of her organism against the illness.

She remembered events which she witnessed a few hours earlier, a complete confusion prevailed in her head, she didn’t know whether what she saw had happened really, whether it was only a feverish sleep. She went to the window and stuck her neck out of it taking a deep breath. Air was cool, but it was possible to sense that the consecutive day also heralded hot weather. Rei stood in it a longer moment, but soon she decided to go to the bathroom in order to take a long, morning shower.

The girl mused about the way she will start searching tracks which can help her solve the riddle of her strange dream and the necessity of the arrival at the small town. Water was flowing on her slender body and raven-black hair working on her refreshingly.

After leaving the room, Rei went to the restaurant on the ground floor. The local was of average size, with few tables and white columns placed between them. The pots with climbing plants were placed by windows and wooden scaffoldings prepared specially for them stood nearby them. There were only a few guests inside, older couple and the bald man reading the newspaper.

Rei stopped in the door reminding herself of her meetings with this man the day before. When she sat down by the table, the bald man looked at her from under the daily again. The girl ordered the food and while waiting for it she was looking around the room noticing that the mysterious man ate nothing but only read some paper. She felt embarrassed, she thought that he had tracked her.

After finishing the breakfast she decided to go to the city to hang around a bit all over places which aroused the curiosity in her the day before. The bald man waited five minutes, and then he put his newspaper back and also moved toward the exit.

Rei walking by the old hovel stopped for a moment. She tried to spy an older woman which she met during the first night in the city, but without the success, Masanori told the truth, the place was abandoned many years ago. After a few minutes of the walk black-haired girl came to the café familiar to her. She realized that Masanori had been sitting there at one of tables. The boy waved to her.

“You’re on time, Rei-chan!” He said gladly.

“On time? And we arranged to meet?”

“No. Namely not directly, but we have always met exactly about 9:30 when we were children, don’t you remember?”

“No, nothing has changed since yesterday”. The girl replied sitting down on the chair next to the boy. “Are you feeling better?” Masanori asked.

“Yes... a bit better, but a throat aches me”.

“It’s great. Did you sleep well? There was terrible hot in the night...” Words of the boy puzzled black-haired girl, she didn’t know how to answer.

“I think so... I had fever and very strange dreams. They were so terribly real, I don’t know what to think about them”.

“Tell me about them”. The boy suggested.

“They were very intense, I dreamt that I woke up and I wanted to shut a window. When I looked out outside, it turned out that under my window some bizarre caravan, procession had been walking. It was compound of people dressed in colourful circus dresses, clowns, acrobats, short men, mistakes of the nature... you know for example bearded lady or thee-legged dancer... it was terrible... a singing of small children and somebody repeating my name accompanied the procession... or at least it seemed to me...”

Boy hearing the story of Rei went pale. He put the tea on the table.

“Rei, did you take the sleep pill as I asked you?”

“Yes... and what’s this has got to do with it?”

“Unimportant... did something more happen? Do you remember some more details?” Masanori asked. “No, I had some other frantic dreams, but I don’t remember them as well as this one”. The boy sighed and came back to drinking his tea.

“You reacted strange when I told you about the dream...”

“No, but I know what could be the cause of this dream”.

" Yes?”

“Probably some sounds coming from behind the window. You heard something in sleep and the brain thought uncanny history up, next time you’d better close the window, ok?” Rei corrected hair. What she heard a moment ago didn’t have any meaning for her, but she decided to say yes.

“Ok, I’ll remember”. The girl moved from the chair and at that very moment she noticed that the bald man from the hotel was sitting behind her and was reading the same newspaper.

“Damn it!” She told quietly, so only Masanori could hear her.

“This bald coot. He lives in the same hotel as I and he walks after me everywhere...” The boy looked toward the man discreetly.

“What does he want from you? Perhaps it’s some pervert?”

“I don’t have a clue, it’s already starting to really irritate me!” Masanori rose from the table showing Rei by a gesture of the hand to do exactly the same. Together they entered the interior of the café. The boy came up to the young woman who was working inside smiling widely.

“Hi, Shiho! Can you do something for me?” He asked.

“Always... and who’s this?” She asked pointing at Rei. Shiho was a woman with black hair tied into the pony tail, she was over 20 years old. She was quite pretty, but not as much as Rei Hino.

“My girlfirend, Rei”. Masanori replied without the moment of the thought. Shiho said hello to new friend.

“Hello, I’m Shiho Chitose”.

“Rei Hino, but I’m not his...” The girl wanted to clear up the misunderstanding, when Masanori hushed her up.

“We don’t have much time! I want to take Rei to the forest behind the café, to this part closed for guests. Can you let us go?”

“Yes, no problem. Go to the back”. The girl replied with the smile stuck to the youthful face.

Rei and Masanori entered the forest through the back door of the café. The black-haired girl was made mad, she waited for a moment when the waitress would disappear behind the closed doors.

“What are you thinking!” She shouted.

“Your girlfriend? How long do we know each other? 5 hours? Perhaps 6! How can you put such things around to people!” The boy tried to cushion the situation, he wanted to touch Rei and calm her. She knocked his hand off with a fast move and walked away from him.

“Rei, listen to me... I had to tell her this because I wanted her to let us go. After all you wanted to escape from this bald pal, right?”

“But why didn’t you tell her the truth?”

“About the baldy who is tracking you? You don’t know Shiho, she was ready to come up to him and to fight him off the café. It’s better she heard the lie, she didn’t ask for something what had been obvious for her...” Rei calmed herself, she took a deep breath.

“Ok, let’s say I believe you. Now what?” She asked.

“Nothing, walk and admire what is around you”. Masanori announced calmly.

Black-haired girl noticed that she had been in the center of thick coniferous forest. Plenty of trees grew here and the place was bathed in the darkness and pleasant coolness despite very sunny weather. The birds were singing in branches, it seemed that the place had been located in the very heart of wild areas, the closeness of the city wasn’t noticeable from there.

Rei listened intently to sounds floating from every side recognizing the mountain stream’s noise in them. She ran in its direction. Soon she was on a rocky bank of small river, which noise resounded through surroundings. The girl kneeled down by it soaking her hands in cold water. Masanori soon joined her.

“Do you like it?” He asked.

“Yes...” Rei replied.

“Is it also a place in which we met as children?” She asked gladly.

“No... actually I discovered it a few years ago. But I’m pleased that you like it”. Black-haired girl got up correcting hair in which some lost web was entangled.

“The bald man will probably be waiting for me in the front of the café“. She said with undertone.

“He can wait. If we go along the path to the north we’ll leave the forest in completely different part of the city. And let the bald man sit beneath the café“. Masanori announced laughing.

“I want to sit here for a while”. The girl stretched her arms sitting on the stone.

“What are you doing in life?” The boy asked sitting down next to her.

“I study. The history and the ancient literature as major and religious studies as minor. Apart from that I’m looking after the temple of my grandfather. I don’t have much time for other things”.

“I understand. The trip to our sides is a rest from all of it for you, am I right?” Rei was puzzled and was thinking how to answer the friend. The truth was that she arrived here because the dream ordered her.

“It’s exactly as you thinking, I had to cool down a bit. And you, what are you doing in life?”

“I have a break from the school, but the next year I’m going to Tokyo U, electronics”.

“You shouldn’t do it, the break will make you lazy...” The girl announced smiling.

“When I saw you for the first time, I had a feeling that a mysterious aura had surrounded you. I’m wondering what these sheets of paper for which you came back to the abandoned house were”.

“Sheets of paper... ah you mean them... these were ofuda, my homerwork. As you see even on the holiday I must do a bit of work”. Rei quickly invented a reply. The boy went quiet, it was apparent that he had wanted to change the subject of a conversation.

“Rei, do you have somebody?” He asked with a hesitation.

“What?”

“Do you have somebody in Tokyo? Do you go out with somebody?” Masanori became silent and prepared for the girl’s outburst of the anger. He was surprised that her the verbal attack never came.

“No... I don’t have... I already said that I don’t have much time, also for my private life”. Rei answered calmly, simultaneously getting up from the stone. She turned toward the path leading deep into the forest.

“But I don’t think you want to listen about my life which is rather little exciting. Let us better walk to the city, or else this guy will guess that I’m here and he’ll find me”.

“Ok, as you wish”. The boy replied seeing that his friend became sad when he had asked about her private life. He promised himself that he would never bring this topic up again. Soon, they both were on the footpath trampled down by the people from the small town.

“And you, do you have somebody?” The girl asked surprising her companion.

“No...” Masanori replied seriously and then he added joking.

“I knew that my princess from the childhood would come back to me”.

“Whatever...” Rei replied hastening her steps.

After going through the tangle full of webs and vermin, black-haired girl and her acquaintance reached to the asphalt route leading to the city centre and from there, straight to the hotel. Heat was unbearable, so the girl decided to travel the road which was not giving a single square centimeter of the shadow as quickly as possible.

“I could at least take a sunglasses for us”. The boy said.

“You could think about it”. Rei announced.

Her throat ached her more than in the morning, probably from the longer conversation or from the temperature difference between the forest and the sunny road. She decided to finish the meeting and have a nap for the entire afternoon. She wanted to get well as soon as possible and to start exploring the town using her extraordinary abilities.

“I have to return to the hotel. I’m feeling bad again and I must lie down”. She announced.

“Ok, I hope that it’s not my fault”. The boy asked.

“I don’t know, but thanks, you showed me such a pretty place. I liked it. I’ll certainly go with you there when I cure myself from this terrible cold”.

“Thanks that you came. See you”. Masanori said diverging in the direction of his house. Raven haired girl was left alone on the path.

“It’s your fault, Rei...” She thought clutching herself by the throat.

After a few minutes she was in the street from which one could see the window of the hotel. She remembered her strange dream, horrifying procession of colorful figures taken alive from some ghostly circus. Ardent wave flooded her, disease returned and it reminded her of its existence.

Rei noticed small object sparking in rays of the sunshine lying on the pavement. Interested, she went up closer, crouched down by it to see it more precisely. It turned out to be a small golden bell with red big ribon. In front of black-haired girl’s eyes a figure of the dwarf dressed in the colorful dress with the gold bell hanging loosely on his neck appeared. Her eyes widened and the tide of chills hitting her body united with the wave of the heat. Her night phantom wasn’t only a hallucination, it really happened.

The girl put the bell to the pocket and quickly moved in the direction of the hotel. Going through the reception desk she noticed that bald guy was nowhere to be seen. She was relieved thinking about the Masanori’s surprising idea and the trip to the forest.

Coming into the room, she put the bell on the bedside table and reach for the ofuda. She threw the magic paper at the gleaming object simultaneously pronouncing words of the spell and verging in the contemplative trance. Ofuda shone with delicate glitter and was entirely consumed by the fire appearing from nowhere. The bell waved and dissolved into thin air leaving after itself only the ash from the burnt sheet of paper.

“What the hell is going on here?” Rei asked herself. She observed the blank space in which a moment ago the strange object lay.

Led by the impulse which she wasn’t able to understand she ran up to the window. When she tried to open it, it turned out that it had been impossible, the window was jammed. The girl sat down on the bed, she felt faint and the throat started to hurt her even more.

“I’ll take a nap and we’ll see what happens later”. She thought putting the head on the pillow.

The dream came quite quickly. Rei dreamt, that she was a little girl and together with small Masanori she walked through coniferous forest behind the café. She walked slowly after the boy who was talking about something, but she didn’t understand his words, she wasn’t interested in them, because she was too busy with watching the nature surrounding her.

At some point, she noticed the shape flashing between trunks of trees in the distance. She ran in its direction in spite of Masanori’s outcries who asked her not to turn aside from the path. Black-haired girl could not keep up with the strange figure which quickened the pace. She was tired out and breathless, hot sweat covered her. She inhale the air into lungs with an effort and the dry throat burnt her as if an intense flame turned up in it. However she knew that she could not stop her pursuit, that she absolutely had to catch the enigmatic person.

The forest became more and more dark and colder and black-haired girl felt more and more exhausted. Paradoxically the escaping figure was much more visible relative to the darkness as if she radiated some own, internal illumination. Rei noticed that it was the girl with curly, bright hair in the same age as Rei in the dream. She could hear the laughter of the child reaching her from the depths of the forest, from thickets, from behind the back, from everywhere around. She offered her a helping hand, she tried to call her by the name which she didn’t remember, but the throat rebelled against her entirely.

The mysterious apparition disappeared, she dissolved into thin air the same as the bell found on the pavement a few moments ago in the real world. Rei reached to the enclosure and having found the hole in it she got to the area of some forest clearing. As it turned out she was in the funfair. illumination on wooden attractions and on the large devil’s wheel gleamed with different colours lightening the darkness of the forest like fairy lights. Voices, laughters, conversations sounded everywhere around, but the girl could not notice a single one person from whom they could originate.

Suddenly all noises died away and they were replaced only by the swoosh of the wind among the branches of the trees. The small girl felt excruciating loneliness and sadness of the place which now seemed to her completely abandoned. The lone sounds of some melody started reaching her ears, she moved in their direction as hypnotized. The melody became louder and the girl recognized in it the known circus motive accompanying clowns entering the circus arena. The eyes of the girl saw the carousel carrying big figures of horses lighted by flashing fairy lights, revolving to the music. When Rei was closer it turned out the girl with long, curly, golden hair was sitting on it. She turned her head in the direction of Rei, smiling to her.

“Rei-chan. Join us”. She asked. Terrified black-haired girl turned around with the intention of the escape. In the next part of the dream she wasn’t a small child, but a young, adult girl. Someone’s hands caught her, they immobilized her body. Rei tried to fight with them, to break free from their hug, however without any success, since her enemies were too strong and she was too weak.

Members of the procession which she could see in the previous night surrounded her: fat bearded lady, short men painted colourfully, acrobats and fire-eaters, three-legged dancer holding the dog with two heads. The girl tried to scream, but the shout could not leave her mouth.

The girl woke up suddenly, simultaneously inhaling the air into lungs. She sat down on the bed clutching her head. She had a fever, breathed with difficulty and she was very sweaty. The throat ached her the same way as during the dream.

“Damn nightmare”. She thought clenching her fist. She knew that her dream hadn’t been natural and somebody sent it to her trying to tell her something. Raising her head the girl noticed in astonishment that there had been a dark night, and she had spent almost all day long in the bed instead of one hour.

Getting up, she looked at the watch on which the glowing numbers were seen: 19:11. Rei recalled that exactly at the same hour in the previous night she had witnessed the horrifying phenomenon. She went to the window trying to open it, but without a success. Somebody caused that she couldn’t watch the night-time show that time.

The noise of sung children’s rhyme and laughters of persons with sex difficult to determine came through the pane. The inside of the room had been lightening up by red flames of fire-eaters every couple of minutes.

The girl decided to act and to face up apparitions which were tormenting her. Going to the exit door she felt poorly and dizzy and the belly started aching her. On the corridor, she ran up to the big window which also turned up to be closed. Children’s laughters filled the entire space, but they were as quiet as whispers coming from a distance.

Rei was watching colourful shapes moving along the street through the dirty pane trying to notice the girl with golden hair from the dream among them. She was sure that she could hear her name said by the choir of voices. She ran down the stairs to the main hall, but it turned out that the front door had also been closed and in addition the receptionist was nowhere to be seen. The girl stopped in order to rest.

“Damn...” She swore holding her aching belly. She wandered in corridors trying to find some other exit from the building which wouldn’t be locked. She thought that the problem with the door and windows could have supernatural cause and prepared the ofuda in order to throw it. Suddenly she felt someone’s presence behind herself and she instinctively turned around.

“Don’t leave these walls!” She heard a firm voice. The bald man in a red short-sleeved shirt and white trousers was standing before her, the same man who had been walking after her for two days.

“Who are you?” Rei asked surprised. She reached inside her pocket looking for her transformation pen.

“I don’t recommend it. You’re in awful state and you wouldn’t have a chance in the direct fight against me. And apart from that the virus which you have inside is preying on the magic”.

“Virus? Magic?” The girl was very surprised that the man knew about her secret.

“Who are you?! What do you know about what is happening behind windows?” She shouted.

“Little, but enough to know that you cannot go there now”. The bald man announced quietly.

“Go with me to my room. I’ll try to answer all your questions”. He added. Rei hesitated whether she should do what the stranger had asked her, in one thing he was right - she was barely standing.

“Better let us hurry up. The influence of what is happening on the street is the greatest here”. The bald man urged the girl.

“Ok. I’ll go with you”. Rei agreed and the man told her the way to his room. The interior of the room was furnished identically as every other room in the hotel, black-haired girl didn’t find anything what could tell her whom the secret man was.

“Sit down.” The bald man asked her. The girl sat down in the armchair, clutching her head burning from fever. The man took the bottle of whisky and two glasses out of a bedside table. He poured one glass for himself looking at Rei.

“No, thanks...” Black-haired girl answered clutching her belly.

“I have a stomachache... now I will swallow rather nothing”. She added.

“Please yourself, your loss.” The bald man said sipping from the glass.

“The virus is spreading over your entire organism, we’ll have to act more quickly”. He added.

“You promised that you would answer all my questions, so who are you?” Rei asked.

“You know me. It’s me who sent the dream about this place to you”. The bald man announced calmly.

The girl was surprised, but she didn’t say a word listening to him.

“I’m called Dale Arthur Knight. I’m the international hunter of demons. Following the track of one of these sons of a bitch I reached all the way to Japan. I thought that I’ll be able to deal with him quickly, but unfortunately I miscalculated”. The man stopped in order to drink the Whisky.

“The demon joined this place up too much, he took root in it, he have been here for years and became the part of this world. Normally this isn’t possible for these suckers, unless somebody takes advantage of their help and invite them to his reality. Something like this had to happen here...”

“What about me? Why I’m needed here” Rei asked.

“A person who was present during waking the demon up could be helpful in sending him to oblivion”. The man replied looking straight in Rei’s eyes.

“You must have mistook me for somebody else! I’ve been here for the first time in my life and only because I had the strange, prophetic dream, which you supposedly sent to me! I arrived becasue of you!”

“It seems to me, that somebody messed your memory very much...” The bald man announced. Rei recalled Masanori and his story about the fact that they were good friends in the past. What Dale Knight said could be the truth what frightened the girl very much.

“When I met with the demon for the first time, I looked to his mind and I saw the three of children in it: two girls and one boy. The aura of the magic was circling around one of them, so I could establish contact with her present version and send her the invitation to this place. It had to be you. And by the way, what’s your name?”

“Rei, Rei Hino...” The girl replied.

“Ok, Rei... I feel the magic living inside you, perhaps you’ll be useful to something more than just being the bait for the demon...”

“Who is the demon which you’re chasing? What do you know about him? What was this procession which I could see last night? Why did you track me?” The girl asked questions. After a moment she went quiet clutching her head. Dale was by her very quickly, his hand touched her burning brow.

“Fuck, probably 40 Celsius...” He replied frightened.

“When did you start feeling bad?”

“I don’t know, a throat ached me right after the arrival. I thought that it was the fault of the downpour on which I got soaked, but now I can see that I’m feeling I lot worse...” The girl announced touching the belly.

“What symptoms do you have?”

“Sore throat, fever, I’m weakened and I’m poured in sweat, I had terrible dreams and now a stomach is aching me”.

“I sense that there’s a very dangerous virus preying on the magic in you which is slowly destroying your body. You’ll lose your mind when it reaches the brain, girl. I stopped you before from using this object which you’re holding in the pocket, because you wouldn’t survive it... Do you remember when you could become infected, did you meet the strange person?”

Rei had been puzzled for the longer moment but in the end she remembered that illness had caught her right after the meeting with the old lady.

“I’m not sure...” She replied after the minute.

“Were you in the contact with somebody from the procession?”

“No... I could see them only from the window... But the next day I found the bell on the street which belonged to one of clowns. I carried it to the room and when I tried to use my spells on it , it simply dissolved into thin air”.

Knight’s eyes became round from terror.

“You touched their object?!” He asked drinking the glass of Whisky to the bottom. Rei got up from armchair.

“Where are you going?” Dale asked.

“My stomach aches me, I have to go now”. Rei answered heading towards the door. Knight barred her way.

“I must take care of you, in the morning there’ll be too late you too. Sit down on the chair!”

“But...”

“Sit on your ass!” The girl unwillingly did what he had asked her for.

“Wait here, I’ll help you right away”. The bald man announced coming to the green rucksack in the angle of the room. He took the jar with strange liquid out of it, Rei was sure that substance was glowing with internal brilliance. The man ran up to black-haired girl giving her the container.

“Drink it! It’s bright water, thanks to which I was invisible to the demon, but the fuck with it! I got you here and it’s my fault that you’re in such a state now! Drink as much as you manage!”

Rei put the jar in her mouth and started drinking. Wonders never cease! The substance was tasty. The girl decided to come back to her room, but suddenly she felt that all stamina was flowing away from her body. She lost consciousness falling on the floor, fortunately Dale Knight caught her saving her from the fall.

The man put the girl back to the bed, and then he picked up the key to her room which fell out of the pocket in her trousers. He decided to carry her to her own bed so her organism could fight with magic illness in the peace there.

Going up the stairs to the top floor, he looked at the window behind which the last persons of bizzare procession were walking. He laid the girl on the bed and he came up to the window which he managed to open with an ease. He stuck his neck out of it, simultaneously taking the revolver from behind his belt.

“Fuck off from her!” He shouted to the short man, which was strolling around the dark street. The guy looked at him smiling crookedly. The bald man aimed at him the weapon.

“Say your boss, that he can fuck himself!” He shouted pulling the trigger. The bullet coated with inscriptions in some strange, forgotten language was fired from the gun. Short man was hit with the bullet, fell down on the pavement and died turning into the swarm of colourful tapes.

Bald man feeling satisfaction shut the window and headed towards the exit.

“Sweat dreams”. He said looking at Rei and then left the room.

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