The jazz is thick in Puff's hips and it propels him forward into the night. Dark mysteries and limitless options branch at every intersection presenting a mother-load of sensual, libidinous options with elbow room for improvisation. He’s been here before and he can read the signs in any language. The streets of Shibuya are a glittering black snake rolling beneath his feet to a crackling tempo that switches time on a whim.
Easy. Flow steady, he tells himself, as he inhales the night and draws in neon through his fingertips. Shirtless and slick with sweat his muscles coil, roll and snap taut to the rhythm. His skin is a brilliant, glowing white and two rows of bronze studs run parallel to his spine. His eyes are black pits that absorb the light and he wears the savage grin of an Oni, a malevolent demon of ancient times. He flashes his canines, filed and wicked, at salarymen who slip in the beer and vomit to get away.
Puff aches for a challenge.
He rolls back a flap of skin on his wrist, pops a shunt of his own creation and whimpers as the Co2 cartridge goes cold in his hand. It disengages with a twist and he discards the spent capsule in the street. The skin around his shunt is raw from overuse. A fist of chemical pleasure, wild and electric, forms in his chest and within seconds he's riding a fresh wave of adrenalin. He flips the skin back into place, throws karate chops at the air, howls, and lopes down an alley whose dark mouth gapes with opportunity.
The narrow, cobbled lane is chaos. An unlit, grayscale kaleidoscope spilling weekend madness. Violent groping in the shadows, slit pockets, the stench of desperation and venereal disease. A hazard at the best of times. A flash of strobing light and young Japanese girl is frozen in time. She is holding a sign that says “Extra Virgin” and Puff stops dead.
“Impossible,” he says and rips the sign in two. With glassy eyes the girl watches the pieces settle into the grease of the alley. She’s fully chemmed and unresponsive, wearing hot pants, pasties and a pink collar that’s leashed to steel bars that cover the front window to seedy nightclub whose promising name, Laptop Judo, is written in sizzling, cursive neon.
A fist, a knuckled wrecking ball, flashes out of the darkness and connects with the side of Puff’s head. A splash of violent color fills his vision and he rolls with the impact, spins and dances back to clear his eyes and evaluate.
Street babble fades. Puff turns down the volume on the jazz and dials in his senses to enjoy the moment. A juggernaut steps from the shadows and Puff is in awe.
“You’re the biggest Mexican I’ve ever seen,” he says in admiration.
“Piss off, I’m Samoan.” The giant takes another swing but Puff is ready. He slips the haymaker and unloads: a stomping kick to the outside of the giant’s knee, a crunching elbow to the collarbone and short palm-heel to the nose that produces a crack and a spout of blood. When Puff steps away he finds himself holding the Samoan’s ear. More surprisingly, his challenger is standing and grinning wildly. Puff hears the compressed air of a spent shunt, and the tinkle of the metal capsule as it hits the cobble stones then the giant is on him.
Puff wakes to the blare of honking cars and the atonal, cacophonic drone of daily life. A stringy cat that looks like its been dipped in gravy then set to dry is licking caked blood off his chest. Puff does an eval and his clock mod tells him it’s just past noon. One eye is swollen shut and he uses his fingers to pry the other open. Another black sky. The sun is a thin gray disk suffocating in oily clouds. An endless, yawning maw of pollution and ash. The meager light is shocking and he sucks air through his teeth as a migraine flares.
A pain screams in his ribs as he sits upright and props himself against the street curb. Foot traffic and bicyclists flow around him. Damn, he thinks, I’m late for work. Wincing he pulls a capsule of Ease from a cargo pocket on his thigh, rolls back the dirty skin on his wrist, and clicks the capsule into his shunt. He leans heavily against the curb as the chem connects with his bloodstream.
He mumbles a slow count to fifty.
By twenty he notices the clouds parting to reveal a pale, blue sky. At thirty he feels a gentle breeze on his face and the cat is purring softly in his ear. By forty-five the street is sparkling and a dappled light dances across his splayed legs. By fifty he is floating and a playful bossa nova fills the air.