Psamurai #15

I Wish I Had an Evil Twin

Hunter was hacking against a bundle of stubborn bamboo with his katana. With each hit, the sword would bounce back and he would go in for another slash. After about twenty aggravated strikes, the outermost bamboo began to show signs of minor abuse. Kazekiri paced around him shaking his head and exaggerating his disappointed grunts.
“Let’s go, white boy, I thought you had superpowers,” he said and clucked his tongue.
“Reflexes and perception. None of which help with cutting through your sticks.”
“If you actually knew how to use a katana this wouldn’t be so hard.”
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better, actually.”
“And you still suck. Again. Use your legs and hips like I told you.”
“Miserable old codger,” Hunter flipped a switch on the hilt and the blade lit up with energy. He raised the blade above his head and sliced through the bundle, “There.”
“Without turning your katana into a toy.”
“Look, if I have the tools…”
“You rely too much on gimmicks. If you can’t use your sword without gimmicks don’t use it at all,” Kazekiri picked up a butter knife and handed it to Hunter, “Here. That’s more your speed.”
Hunter flung the knife at a picture his sensei hung of himself on the wall of the dojo. It pierced the image between the eyes.
“Lucky,” Kazekiri said. “Now back to the lesson.”
“I have somewhere to be,” Hunter sheathed his sword.
“Band meeting.”
“Of all the excuses I’ve ever heard...”
“My girlfriend was attacked by a Seraph bounty hunter that seemed to know who she was.”
“And you caught a fish this big,” he held his hands out.
“I’d love to stay for more abuse, but…”
“You’re lazy, I get it.”
“That’s the stuff,” Hunter said over his shoulder as he left the dojo.

Ian was deep in thought, staring at the ground as he walked, nibbling the edge of a half unwrapped bearclaw. His head was suffused with a Byzantine three part invention for flute, harp, and cello. His hard soled shoes, hitting the pavement, provided the metronome. The flute and harp discussed all the reasons why Sophie could have called the team huddle in such an anxious state. The cello droned out a repetitive ground about how he didn’t feel like going. If he'd wanted emergency meetings he could have stayed at Vyxco. As he walked with his head bent low in thought, he watched the feet of his fellow pedestrians. He began to notice they were stopping. He looked around to find they had all stopped and taken out their phones, snapping pictures. The focus of their attention was a tall man who looked as though he had stepped off the Mothership circa 1977. He wore a cowl, like a falcon’s head over his braided hair. The falcon’s beak rested on his forehead. He stomped over to Ian in his platform moon boots and glanced down at him, the falcon’s eyes twinkling.
“Judging by your attire and body language, I assume you're here to confront me as some sort of challenge,” Ian said, unsheathing his flutes.
“Yeah, Piper,” the man said in basso profundo. “That’s one way to say it.”
“May I ask who’s issuing this challenge?”
“If you want to know my name, Dexter, just ask for it.”
“I’m asking if this is personal or if you were put up to it.”
“Both. I’m getting paid for it and I’m gonna enjoy it.”
“And you are?”
“And I am Horus.”
Ian stepped back and waved his flute in a circle in front of him. A melody lilted out. Horus swept his hand and held a ball of vibrating air in his palm. He tossed it back to Ian, staggering him. Ian’s head spun and his focus wandered to the point where he had forgotten about the last few moments. He saw Horus standing there grinning, but couldn’t seem to recall who he was. It wasn’t so much that his memory was gone as it was the concentration required to regard it was recalled.
“Why is that guy dressed like my father in his youth?” Ian thought. “Do I know him? Where am I? Wait. Is this what it’s like? I’ve never been affected by my own music before. Until, this guy. Horus,” Ian’s head cleared and he fell into a defense posture.
“That was unexpected,” Ian said to Horus.
“I can see that,” he laughed and started rubbing his hands together. They made a buzzing sound that grew in volume the faster he rubbed them. The buzzing grew into the wailing laments of a thousand chainsaws cutting into steel.
Ian’s ears screamed. He stuffed his fingers in them but couldn’t dampen the jagged waves rattling his eardrums in painful, arrhythmic beats. The crowd of gawkers seemed unaffected. All at once the sound stopped.
“Oh God,” Ian thought, “Am I deaf?” He looked at Horus.
Horus was flailing at a red flannel bathrobe with a sword who perched on his shoulders, smacking his head with the hilt.
“Rauw oo eeih,” Ian heard Hunter say from atop Horus.
Ian held his hands to his ears and shook his head. Hunter made shooing gestures. Ian ran for Bart’s.
“Well now I have something to talk about at the meeting,” he thought.

Bart squinted through his thick glasses at an otoscope he had jammed in Ian’s ear. He removed it and repeated the process on the other ear.
“Oo oaugh ee eye,” Ian heard Bart say.
He shook his head and Carl raised both thumbs, smiling.
“What happened to you?” Cheryl mimed and exaggerated her speech.
“I happened upon this man,” Ian shouted.
Cheryl mimed turning a knob.
“I happened upon this man,” Ian said, much quieter. “Called himself Horus. Flamboyantly dressed. He seemed to able to manipulate sound. My powers were useless. He issued me a challenge and said he was being financially compensated.”
“That sounds familiar,” Sophie said.
“This town was much nicer before the costumed people with powers came along,” Cheryl said.
“I know, right?”
Sophie walked over to Ian. She mussed up her hair and mimed swinging a sword.
“He was fighting with Horus when he told me to flee,” Ian said. “He seemed to be doing fine.”
“While we’re waiting for Hunter,” Cheryl said to Sophie, “Why don’t you fill us in on your new friend?”
Cheryl handed Ian a tablet. As Sophie spoke the tablet relayed back text.
“Some crazy Seraph lady attacked me in the park. She said she knew who I was and, like Ian’s nemesis, she said she was being paid for it.”
“Don’t leave out the best part.”
“She had this anti-magic ability.”
Ian pulled his head up from the tablet and looked at Sophie and Cheryl.
“This can’t be coincidence.”
“That’s the only way I can see this,” Cheryl said, “Somebody is hiring our evil twins.”
“When do I get an evil twin?” Carl asked.
“Let’s hope never,” Sophie replied.
The sound of Hunter’s flip flops could be heard shuffling against the concrete steps into the basement.
“That guy was real character,” Hunter said. He leaned into Ian, “How’s the ears?”
“He’ll be okay,” Cheryl said. “What’s your take on the dude who attacked Ian?”
“Bootsy Collins with a bird on his head. Did Sophie tell you about Ursa?”
“Here’s to interesting times.”
“Here’s to being targeted. Feels like we finally made it.”
“I could deal with not having an arch nemesis for a little while,” Sophie said.
“I’ll see what I can dig up about these guys,” Cheryl said. “Shouldn’t be too hard to find a Seraph and seven foot Egyptian god.”
“I’ll see if I can contact Ray, maybe he knows something about the Seraph.”
“In the meantime, everyone keep their heads on a swivel and if you run into your Mirror Mirror versions, call it in.”

Carl sat under the buzzing fluorescent lights of his garage, huddled over his drill press. From behind him he heard what sounded like a demure clearing of the throat, like someone wanted to get his attention, but didn’t want to startle him. Standing behind him, he saw a small Japanese girl, no older than 13 or 14, dressed in full Harajuku gear. Her black bob was streaked with magenta and her clothing made her look like an unemployed rainbow. Her dress bristled with tiny, keychain sized stuffed animals.
“Hello?,” he said, “Can I help you?”
「こんばんは, カールさん,」 she said as she launched the suspended engine block at Carl.
“Wednesday?” Carl caught the engine and grimaced at the black haired waif standing in his garage.
“No hablo.”
Carl waddled over and tried to usher her out. As his arm came into contact with her shoulder, it was knocked back, as if it was slapped away. He gave her a little push toward the open garage doors. He felt as though he was shoved in the opposite direction by a ghost. He looked at Ichika and she giggled in a coy stance.
“Alright, then,” he grumbled and grabbed her by the arm. His arm snapped back.
She leaned forward and belted out an open mouthed laugh. Carl wound up and let a haymaker fly. She clasped her hands under her chin and pouted. As Carl’s strike landed, his fist was met with an equal force, throwing him back. She waved her finger at him.
「いいえ,悪い男,」 she said.