CHAPTER ONE — TAKEN
In the time of Iris
from within their sleepless cocoons
came a strange new world
Creeping slowly under the thin sliding door, the bright red blood began to take on a darker brownish hue as it edged closer to the little girl. Mineko tried to twist and turn, anything to keep the warm fluid, thicker than water now, from touching her tiny fingers. The weight of her sister, an arm wrapped tightly around her body, stifled every movement the frightened six-year-old tried to make. She wanted to scream at the top of her lungs, but the hand clamped over her wet mouth prevented any sounds she attempted to make. Instead, she squeezed her scared brown eyes shut as tight as she could get them. Her dripping tears mixed with the sticky blood that had finally reached her soft and delicate hand, staining the tips of her fingers a vivid red. What she could not do was stop her ears from hearing the last terrible screams that erupted from the outer rooms. The pleading and screaming, amid anguished guttural cries, came from the household servants and her loving family as they were brutally slaughtered in cold blood.
When the angry men had burst through the yellow-painted front door, sixteen-year-old Ayameko was busy brushing her little sister’s straight, ink-black hair while softly singing a child’s lullaby. In a desperate attempt to defend his family, their father rushed towards the men, pulling a slim dagger from the sash around his waist as he ran. His yelling of strange words in protest at the intruders, words that Mineko had never heard before, was followed by a vulgar gurgling sound as the assassins sliced their tachi through the air, and his thick neck. The deafening high-pitched scream came from their mother’s pink lips. Steel swords carved deep across her belly, ending her life with a thrust through the chest. She landed, mouth wide open, on the polished teak floor with a dull thud.
Jerking Mineko up by the arm to her sock-covered feet, Ayameko yelled at her startled sister to run, run faster, as she pushed her through the doorway into an empty adjoining room. Tripping over the finely-woven straw mat covering the floor, they tumbled down, Ayameko kicking at the door with her bare feet until it slammed shut. Mineko gasped for breath as she shook with fear. They could hear the crying and futile begging coming from their playful, twelve-year-old twin brothers, Hiroki and Harue, through the thin walls of the large home. Coarse laughter sounded from the large men as they ran their long knives into the siblings’ rib cages, piercing their hearts and lungs, then tossed them aside like rag dolls onto the overturned and broken furniture. Blood dripped from open mouths and chest wounds, spreading across the floor to intermingle as one.
Dragging Mineko into her lap as she rolled quickly from off the top of her, Ayameko slid them both backward until they were flush tight against the pale far wall. Pulling and squeezing her into a protective hug, she whispered, “Hush, Mineko, hush” in her tiny sister’s ear.
The splintering sounds of teak and maple wood furniture, along with heirloom vases and pottery as they shattered, could be heard echoing down the halls. Startled squawks of the two caged Java Sparrows, gifts from their father’s travels to the China mainland a year ago, screeched out above the killers’ mocking taunts.
The bloodthirsty men burst through the paneled door to where Mineko and Ayameko were huddled together on the floor. Gleaming tachi swords held high, and fresh human blood splattered across their ō-yoroi, their leather battle armour. Mineko let out a shrill scream as loud as her childish voice would allow.
Ayameko did not.
Copyright © 1975-2020 RG Dillon. All Rights Reserved.