Part 5 of the "Tilt Girl" series.
When she was in middle school, Shinobu Mochizuki was told by her mother that she would go on to live a compartmentalized life, with worlds hidden from each other with secrets and lies.
Shinobu remembered looking up from her pyrex teacup perplexed; she had no idea what her mother was talking about.
You're going to be just like papa and you're going to do just fine, her mother said with a big, teethy smile.
Shinobu ran away from home not long after her mother confirmed the teenager's suspicions that both her father and older brother were gay.
Shinobu was hurt and she felt her world tilt, just as her house had tilted after the 3.11 earthquake.
She expressed her vision of the world by having her bangs cut at an angle.
After staying in friends' apartments for a while, she went to her brother's apartment near Tsukuba University, where he was on the gymnastics team. (She went there because she guessed correctly that she would have free access to her brother's refrigerator; Shinobu also wanted to ask her brother directly if he liked boys.)
When she arrived at her brother Yoshimitsu's apartment, she first made sure that he wouldn't call home to tell their mother that her little girl was there; she then marched into his closet and shut the door.
She stayed in her brother's closet for days at a time. When she finally worked up the courage to ask her brother if he was gay, it turned that he really was, just as their father was.
A part of her wanted to be near her brother, but another part of her wanted to get as far away from him as possible.
In the darkness of her brother's closet, Shinobu came to believe that something momentous was about to happen soon.
It's in the air, she thought.
As children, Shinobu and Yoshimitsu had always gotten along.
But, Shinobu never told anyone that she secretly felt superior over her older brother because Yoshimitsu was squeamish about blood and she wasn't. This could be explained by the fact that she was a girl and Yoshi wasn't; also, Shinobu loved blood.
Another secret: when Shinobu was nine, she caught a tiny bat that happened to land nearby when she was walking home from grade school.
She held it in her fist as it tried to squiggle away. Instead of letting it go free, Shinobu squeezed her fist with all her might.
She never forgot the sensation of the bat's warm blood streaming down her arm.
It was so sensual.
At first she thought there was something wrong with her iPhone; when repeated power-offs didn't change things, she realized that somebody out there was messing with it.
That somebody was trying to make Shinobu see an image of a man with the head of a fish.
Shinobu recognized the image as the cover of an old record by somebody named Captain Beefheart; she knew the record because a bassist girlfriend had once showed her a dog-eared copy. The image first appeared as icons on her iPhone; later, pictures of celebrities and politicians began morphing into the man/fish when Shinobu browsed news websites.
As a young child Shinobu was so enamored by the first Mission: Impossible movie that she developed an internal Ethan Hunt simulator that would turn on from time to time. The simulator turned her into the overconfident secret agent portrayed by Tom Cruise.
In the darkness of her brother's closet, the Ethan Hunt simulator said:
After showing himself virtually, he's going to appear physically.
Perhaps this was what allowed Shinobu not to be surprised when a man/fish really did appear in her brother's closet holding an aluminum flashlight.
When she touched his hand, it felt warm.
A question arose in Shinobu's mind: Do fish ever feel warm?
The Ethan Hunt simulator said:
Prepare for bullshit.
The man/fish knew details about her life, including her grades for her three years in high school as well as the dismal results of her college entrance exams. He even knew quite a lot about both her father and brother's affairs with other men. ("Wanna see your daddy fuck a fat guy half his age in the shower? We have a video shot in the same hotel where they made Lost in Translation.")
The Ethan Hunt simulator whispered:
He's going for "shock and conquer." Beware.
Shinobu decided to say "No" to anything the man/fish asked of her without listening to what he said. The man/fish rambled on and on about representing some organization of global importance and that she was a prime candidate to participate in some clandestine activity regarding the extermination of vampires.
The man/fish's words oozed bullshitness.
After Shinobu politely said "No" to anything the man/fish said for twenty-five minutes, the man/fish's language became abrasive, if not downright abusive. ("So, did your bitchiness come with your godawful haircut?")
Shinobu knew the man/fish would soon resort to extreme measures, possibly violence. She gripped her iPhone and decided she could, if needed, give him a jab in one of his eyes with the smartphone.
Instead of attacking her, the man/fish stopped talking and opened his mouth wide.
Hanging from the roof of his mouth was a tiny bat.
The bat was crying.
The bat's tears soon turned into blood, and soon blood was spurting out of the bat's eyes and ears.
He's just trying to play with your mind. Ignore it.
Shinobu did exactly that; after telling herself a straight lie ("No, I never crushed a baby bat to death when I was in grade school"), she went one step further and called for her brother at the top of her voice.
Yoshimitsu, who was asleep in his bed, jumped up and ran to his sister's aid.
When he opened the closet's door, Shinobu jumped into his arms.
What's wrong, Shinobu?
Everything. But I'm okay now.
Shinobu turned her head around; the man/fish was gone.
On the floor was his flashlight and herringbone jacket.
Shinobu cupped her mouth over her brother's.
I'm going to be the last girl you'll ever kiss, she thought, and tangled her tongue around his.
Shinobu always remembered the sensation of their spit dripping onto her toe.
A few days later, Shinobu went through the pockets of the jacket left by the man/fish.
One of the inner pockets held a Polaroid of her father when he was still a young man; in it he wore aviator glasses and a bomber jacket, very 1980's, Top Gun.
The Ethan Hunt simulator said:
Inside Shinobu's mind, Ethan Hunt's face and voice slowly morphed into her father's.
It wasn't until that moment that she noticed the resemblance between the two.
She began vomiting violently.
Because of her vomiting, Shinobu did not notice the tears that filled the eyes of her internal Ethan Hunt/Papa.