"F--- off, bakayarō."
Her soft voice filled the silence of the room, made all the much smaller by the encroaching clutter. The once daintily patterned wallpaper now looked nothing more than sombre, pale and grey like the dust-laden miscellanea stacked high against the walls. Everything seemed to slump; everything was depressed. Including her.
Nobody answered her command, no-one was there to obey it.
Reality had come crashing down in the aftermath of her high. The flame of triumph was snuffed faster than that of the dragon she had chased, and left no hint of smoke to even remind her of its passing.
Lying in a heap she belittled that hopeful little girl.
"Baka! How could you think something like that?"
Only silence answered her, the room stoic though unaddressed.
She remembered the simple note that had a started it all, a compilation of meaningless names followed by a simple chord. It was her shorthand, true, but that, too, was meaningless.
Hitomi voiced her bitterness over and over.
"Any musician knows how to make a chord. That's all it was: a chord!"
She found something grasped in her hand, what it was was unimportant, and threw it at one of the few patches of bare wall. It struck with a heavy thud, loud compared to Hitomi's raspy profanities, and left a mushrooming cloud of dust where it fell.
"A trick of one of a back-up singer, you old fool," she wheezed from the tatami, the sole mat in her apartment. "Belittling you, scorning you, teasing and taunting you. She's probably still singing, too, insignificant as she is."
The former singer spat before letting the room sit in silence once more.
In the semi-darkness a vision of the note floated back once more, a ghostly spectre that hung before her eyes no matter where she looked or how tightly she shut them. She imagined that murderers felt the same sensation, the faces of their victims presenting themselves in lucid daydreams. Hitomi imagined that was the reason so many bodies were found brutally disfigured despite all the taboos regarding the desecration of corpses. That note had wanted her to become a murderess, even though it was an outright lie. So she'd killed it. If she were in the mood, if she were riding atop a sinuous dragon, she might laugh at the irony.
After she'd fallen out of the bout of giddiness brought on by the promises of the note and her encounter with the dragon, once she had fallen into that depression and realized her folly, she had burned the note. And she had burned it slowly, savouring it.
In fact, she had rolled it with tobacco, lit it, and smoked it, breathing in the lies it told about murdering falsified names and promises of fame.
A knock shattered the stiff silence of the room.
Hitomi heard, but did nothing. She did not jump, shake, or shudder. She did not widen her eyes or cry out in surprise. She did not even make to stand and open the door.
The muffled knock resounded again.
This time the woman merely rolled over, eyes now lazily focused on the offending door.
The knock did not sound a third time, but a noise from the hall still reached Hitomi's ears.
"Ebisawa Hitomi? I have something for you."
Low, male, and speaking with American English.
She remained silent, head spinning even from the minor change in orientation.
The voice from outside continued to speak, sounding as if his lips were a mere whisper from the door frame. "I'll just leave it at the door, then."
This was followed by the muffled thump of a dropped package, and then footsteps fading down the hallway.
A part of her wanted to open the door and see what had been left behind, but another knew that the only thing waiting for her was vertigo. So she lay there, chest expanding outward and slowly contracting back as she measured her breaths, an attempt to exert some form of control over her body.
The breaths became a metronome, measuring the silence into bars and stanzas. Hitomi drifted somewhere close to sleep, and filled the silence with unheard notes, melodies and harmonies and counter-melodies stretching through the still air. But inside her there was a new fire, the memories of the note inhaled as burning smoke. Her breathing became heavy, and she imagined she now vented that smoke trapped inside.
Grunting in discomfort, Hitomi spasmed in her sleep, her movements sending puffs of dust into the air.
If her music were real, then she'd be dancing. Without it, her convulsions were reminiscent of death throes, the dust like thick smoke from a doused fire.
When the movement stopped and the cloud of dust settled atop her she seemed at last defeated. But that was not the case. She merely slumbered, a dusty camouflage hiding her form amid her treasures.
Now, she was the dragon.