Fiction : Prologue to ‘The Last Scentsei’.


Itabashi Suburb, Tokyo, 2049.

The silk scarves they had used to construct the ceiling panels of their little makeshift tent were just translucent enough to allow someone to see the little lights affixed to the garland and which were hung from the ceiling of the room. The tent itself was a fairly simple construct consisting of different pieces of fabric which were suspended on a wire frame, fabricated from bits and pieces found in the nearby streets after the markets and shops closed down for the day. Colourful scraps of delicate tissue had been carefully sown together to increase the overall size of the canvas, and the ensemble looked like one of those paintings from the past made by a famous Dutch painter in which he had mixed all kinds of colourful blocks together. From inside the makeshift tent, the lights looked exactly as they were intended to : like the billions of stars that illuminated our skies in the galaxy. The improvised shelter was a little enclave of sorts, a hideaway they could get in to escape the world around them. Even though the canvas was paper-thin it shielded anyone inside from the would outside as if some kind of magic spell had been cast on it.

The little girl inside the tent, – she couldn’t have been a day older than seven -, was lying down on the floor mat, her head resting on the older woman’s stomach. The woman was slowly caressing the girl’s hair in a soothing, repetitive motion. The woman was in her late thirties but looked a lot younger. Her jet-black hair and delicate, pale complexion bestowed upon her an air of sophistication, refinement and intelligence. Her regal features where supplemented by a statuesque figure and sharp jawline, all of which only accentuated the most beautiful aspect of her face : her striking emerald blue eyes. If a thousand ships had launched for Helen as she had once read in a forbidden book, then there wouldn’t be enough wood in the world to build the necessary ships for her. The little girl resting her head in her lap was a miniature version of the woman, even slightly more beautiful if it were possible.
“Never forget, Kaori-ko,” the woman whispered while both were staring at the lustrous lights above them, “people will try and take a lot from you in this world. They can lock you away, burn down your house, cut down your trees, and so on, but there’s one thing they can never take from you.”
“What’s that?” the little girl asked.
“The stars in the skies. If you make them yours, if you declare that they belong to you, then nobody can take that away from you. Ever. They will always be there for you, waiting for you, watching you from above. They will guide you in the darkest of times, when you feel abandoned by everyone and everything the stars will be there for you and show you the way.”
The little girl reached her arm out towards the tingling little lights which reflected in her big, pearl-like blue uncharacteristic blue eyes.
“Never.” the woman reassured her while planting a kiss on the girl’s forehead.
“Because when we leave this earth after our time is up, that’s where we go. We become stars. Every person who has ever walked on this earth represents a little star like that.”
“So that we won’t forget them when they’re gone?”
“Exactly.” the mother smiled.
“And you’ll be here to protect me from all those things too, right?” the young girl asked meekly.
“Always. And if not in presence, then I’ll be looking out for you from above.”
“Like the stars?”
“Like the stars, Kaori-ko. They represent every generation that’s ever lived. If you ever feel lonely, look at the stars at night and remember that you are always surrounded by everyone who’s ever been here.” They laid there for what could have easily been an eternity until the sudden thudding of footsteps echoed throughout the stairwell adjacent to the room. A moment later, a man in his early forties entered the room with a look of panic across his face. He had handsome features, and the first signs of white whiskers near his temples. He was holding onto a box the size of a large book with his left hand, and once he was inside the room he carefully locked the door behind him.

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