FRAMES (version 2)
Thank you to everyone who gave me notes on this piece, here is the edited, expanded version of FRAMES, with changes according to the notes given to me. Thank you.
A man screamed.
The missiles whistled toward us, where we stood at the foot of the huge robot. They sparkled in blue and green and black ooze peeled from the skin of the large projectiles. As the missiles crashed into the ground, I felt my heart leaving my chest, lurching forward onto the ground. The crash blew us all in different directions. One of the scientists on the project, Dr. Narita, lifted me up under one arm as I tried to regain my senses. After the first wave of explosions subsided, deafening and blinding, I realized I was still alive. The world was moving around me in slow motion and there was nothing but a high-pitched ringing in my ears.
Dr. Narita, uncle’s superior, was still dragging me through a row of soldiers who were beginning to turn their weapons on the craters where the missiles crashed. Black ooze gurgled in the crater. They knew what was coming out of them. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.
In the distance, I could see him running toward the colossus. Tetsuo ran nimbly toward the leg of the mecha-frame, where a service door swung on its hinges. Despite the falling debris and dust, he ran with his head down.
Our time was up.
As he made his way toward it, I knew it would be the last time I ever saw him and I realized in that moment, that Tetsuo Koga was the love of my life. For as small and annoying as he was, the orphan boy had been a great help in finishing the robot giant. To my uncle and the other scientists, he was invaluable, crawling throughout the mecha-frame, testing and cleaning. Tetsuo, the orphan boy, would be all I would ever know of love.
I got my footing and Dr. Narita pushed on ahead of me. “Come on!” He yelled. The ooze began to move and as the large bubbles burst open, swarms of spores exploded from the pooling craters dug out by the missiles. The soldiers pulled their gas masks down. Monks, scientists and other civilians ran alongside us, hoping to find an entrance to the nearby bunker. Everyone screamed and panted, running wildly.
Within seconds, some monks had fallen to their knees, screaming in agony and one soldier was yelling. His muffled voice suddenly became clear as the gas mask came off, “It burns! It burns!” The other soldiers turned their guns on him as a bladed tentacle exploded from his head. It grew long quickly and began cutting the soldiers down as more spore swarms exploded from the ooze and large tight-skinned creatures climbed from the crater. Gunfire rang throughout the fields. It was too late, the two monks exploded into large slithering creatures that chopped some of the soldiers in half. Their bodies dragged behind as tentacles pulled them forward in a deadly fashion, like huge snakes.
I turned to see as the airlock came shutting behind me. The soldiers shot into their own as large creatures climbed out of the craters. Dust settled into the red mist of blood. I was the last one inside. I knew there were others banging on the door from outside, but I couldn’t hear them.
It was silent inside the airlock chamber. It was designed to withstand the crash of the alien missiles, based on schematics taken after attacks on New York, London and Washington DC. It was uncle’s design.
The bunker sat at the foot of the robot Frame, one of three skeletal mechanic frameworks to be inhabited by the Yokai, the mischievous ancient spirits that had once lived in our woods. When science had failed and militaries had failed, our people had resurrected the idea of prayer and the monks called upon the Mononoke to help us fight the mysterious aliens that killed our people.
The night before, there had been great celebration as the final Frame had been finished. Its internal processes were fully functioning and the monks had prayed for months around its feet for the Yokai to show themselves. The monks lit fires and prayed with great laughter to awaken the spirits of the Yokai. The hulking robot frame sat like a large toy, leaned over itself where the helicopters had set it down. Its arms and legs were skeletal, like an unconstructed building. It had not been designed to be controlled by human hands, but rather to be filled with a spirit. The small lights along its white metal arms blinked like a runway in the darkness.
There had been word that attacks would be falling upon Japan within days and there had been a sense of urgency about everything. After the ceremony, Testuo walked alongside me through the field near the machine. His arms were tight and muscular from carrying cable and climbing within the Frame. They asked him to help because he was so small and nimble. They could send him anywhere within the twenty meter structure with a walkie-talkie and he’d be there within moments.
War had made a small young man out of him. It had me too.
“Remember when we were little and you pushed me into the koi pool?” He asked me in the quiet of the night.
“No.” I lied with a smile.
“You were so much taller than me then.” He said.
“I still am!” I countered, laughing quietly. I grabbed him by the arm and turned him toward me. “See?” I was only centimeters taller, if at all. We laughed. We’d grown so close over those months, I would run paperwork from the scientists to the engineers and water and food for the monks, while he climbed inside the Frame.
Each day we’d each lunch together and talk about pretty girls, cartoons, baseball and the thought of a world without war. I was going to become a scientist like uncle. Tetsuo was to become a monk perhaps. He liked the meditative silence of it all.
As I stood there face to face with him, I forced a kiss to his smile. It was part fear that we’d both be gone, but mostly love for him. The shape of his lips moved from a smile and pressed against mine for a moment. He was my only real friend. I could not feel that for any girl, no matter how pretty. The kiss melted away from us and he looked at me, his eyes wet and dark and he turned away quietly. He walked into the dark where he went unseen until morning.
“Takashi!” Uncle called out as I stepped down into the dark bunker. My ears were still ringing The red lights flashed through the hallways. “Are you ok?”
“Yes, uncle. But Tetsuo…”
He interrupted me. “Yes, I know! Come see!” He cried with a laugh.
As we ran into the large computer center, military men were screaming at scientists who calculated and looked at blue-glowing screens.
“Look!” He pointed at the large screen that hung over the large communications center.
The robot body that had been designed to look like a samurai warrior was missing an arm. One of the missiles had hit it directly in the first wave. A voice called from the screen. “No Yokai can save you.” It was Tetsuo’s voice, wavering into some strange larger man’s voice. “I am Futsu-nushi-no-kami, most ancient of all.”
Uncle reached down and punched in a code on a small monitor and a different image appeared on the large screen. The small practice module in the heart of the Frame had a seat in the middle. Flowers and incense lined the seat. A camera pointed directly at the seat and there was Tetsuo, with a light pulsing softly from his chest. His hands worked quickly as he unhooked the cables from the module’s chair and plugged them directly into his skin. The cables moved around him as though invisible hands were helping him.
“I am much too ancient.” The voice said again. “Even your godskin will not hold me. Though this powerful heart, held in the chest of this child – it will be my home. He who has called me here to protect those he loves.”
Tears flooded down my cheeks. The monitors stayed on but the scientists started calling out to each other. “We have no control of Frame one, sir!” They would yell to each other with their hands in the air, “what is going on?”
Uncle smiled. “Tetsuo told me he prayed every night.”
“Yes.” I gurgled as my head fell to my chest. I thought of him walking into the darkness after our single kiss. He had gone again to pray there inside the heart of the Frame.
“He is very brave, Takashi.” He turned to me quietly. Then to himself he said quietly, “I believe he may have changed everything for us.”
Men screamed at each other. Uncle and I watched as Tetsuo Koga ceased to be. Futsu-nushi-no-kami melded with him and in the monitors, we saw his eyes become bright with light. The Frame stood up, inhabited by the old God and the child, my love.
It reattached its arm and blue haze swirled around it as the old god constructed itself within the body of the robot. It lifted the heavy metal sword at its side. The grass and weeds around it pulled up around its feet as it left the ground and it swatted the large alien creatures that crawled around it.
From other cameras, we could see that other Frames from nearby providences began to follow, inhabited by lesser gods.
That was the last time I ever saw Tetsuo Koga. That was the day that the alien massacre of Earth became our War.
I never loved a woman. I grew to know war as my song and my life. As four star General, I followed Futsu-Tetsuo-nushi-no-kami across the solar system pushing back the alien creatures in great Faith.
I never became a scientist and he never became a monk, but I never stopped loving him.