We’d been there, sitting, for three months before I really understood that Ayumu and I were no longer lounging around the television in Tarantula’s. The walls had given way to a massive desert, dunes rising like storm tides, some towering what felt like two hundred feet overhead, and night had been running on a perpetual loop since the two of us arrived. Ayumu hadn’t said a single word since I’d woken up from the intense dreams I can only assume he’d forced on me back at the nightclub, he’d simply rigged up a sort of tent, and sat there tending a small fire through the night. For whatever reason though, I felt no need to pick myself up, I had yet to grow hungry or thirsty, and my mind seemed content simply to occupy its time trying to interpret shapes in the clouds. Perhaps the most peculiar of all though, was the way Ayumu stared into the fire, through it, and the fact that every single one of those clouds looked exactly like Kika Gumi.
I hadn’t, in fact, thought of anything but Kika Gumi since back at the nightclub, to a degree that made it seem I might not actually be capable of thinking about anything else. It wasn’t a thing of fandom either, it went so very much deeper than that. Suddenly I found myself questioning the truth of my existence altogether be it not for the fact that Kika Gumi exists. It occurred to me after all those years that I’d spent almost the entirety of my life completely consumed by that strange little cartoon heroine. I’d spent every single day doodling her image on my textbooks during class, rushing home to watch the newest episodes – along with a constant slew of repeats given the show’s prolific twenty year run – every afternoon. I collected the action figures, even joined a weekend club down at the local toy store focused on the trading card game. When the series slumped in popularity, and US cable broadcasters stopped showing it altogether, I became an internet pirate overnight, never missing an episode, even if it meant having to learn a small amount of Japanese to navigate the websites I was required to visit in my search for more. What was worse, the more I thought about it all, the more I began to realize just how much that character looks like me. The same eye placement, same forehead, soft jaw line, she even had the same scar running horizontally across the length of her left eyebrow. She even sounded like me, in fact, I couldn’t even hear my own voice in my head after awhile, it was all her, but then again, I was starting to realize it always had been. If all my memories, and all my experiences had been lived out through a Kika Gumi lens, then what did that really make me in the end? It was right along that train of thought that I noticed the clouds had all formed up into hundreds of tiny, tiled Kika Gumi’s, all screaming my name in unison, all drawing their breath in hard at the same time, sucking me in, trying to eat me alive. That’s when Ayumu finally spoke.
“Tom?” he called out through layer upon layer of raging Kika Gumi heads, “Tom, I think it’s ready”.
“What’s ready?” I shot back with the force of a semi-deflated balloon, though I felt there were at least a thousand better questions that should have preceded that one, I was nonetheless happy someone had decided to come and rip me out of that waking anime nightmare.
“The fire,” he responded, “It took a little longer than I was hoping, and I apologize for the wait, but I believe it’s finally ready for you, Tom, come over here”.
I was more than a little wary at first, not sure if I could trust this strange mountain of a man any longer, not really even sure if he was a man, or if I was even alive for that matter. In the end though, I accepted that I didn’t have much of another choice at hand, I’d need a helicopter to pull myself out of that valley he’d brought me to, and besides, I was pretty sure I could see myself in the flames.
“What am I looking at here?” I asked.
“I think it’s quite apparent that you’re looking at yourself, Tom.” he said, reminding me just how cold Ayumu could make it feel, even sat right next to a blazing campfire.
He was right though, it was apparent, crystal clear to be honest, the flames licked up at the sky like waving strands of window, and Tarantula’s was in full swing just on the other side of the glass. What wasn’t apparent however, was who it was that was moving my body around in there. By all appearances, my body was by the campfire, not wandering around the nightclub, fishing through my things at random. I took a brief second to glance down at my lap, which sure enough was mine, with my thighs attached running a chain through my knees, and coming to a point at my feet. So how then could there be another? Who had cut and molded themselves in my image, and taken my place at Tarantula’s? Who would want to? Ayumu, sensing my existential crisis burning hotter than the fire beside him, leapt in to clear a few things up.
“I understand how confused you must be about all of this,” he said, “That’s why I wanted to ensure that my fire was working properly before I tried to unravel this whole situation for you. It’s important to have a clear view before trying to look out from within”.
“Where are we, Ayumu?” I asked.
“To put it simply, Tom, we’re inside you.” he responded, “I brought you here to help you realize your true potential, but I had to ensure that we defined all of what was here before we tried to build what comes next. I had to let you work through yourself, Tom, come to terms with what you are. I’ve been watching it all with you, and I believe you are beginning to understand”.
On breathing those cryptic words, Ayumu slowly turned his head with a gesture towards the flames, and the version of myself that was still ruffling through my many boxes, backpacks, and briefcases on the other side. He didn’t need to say it, I was trying my best to fight it those passed few months, but he was right, I did understand, and at that moment I knew who it was in my body.
“It’s her isn’t it?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Of course it is, Tom,” he said, “In a way, it really always has been.
“How?” I asked.
“As I said before,” he started, “Kika Gumi was a real person, a hero, centuries before the technological wasteland in which we live today, but she had been living long before those days even, since the beginning of it all. She is more than a person, she is a force, an essential element of the cosmic soup from which our universe burst into reality. That cartoon of yours was simply inspired by the samurai leg of the myth”.
My head began to spin as he continued his diatribe, outlining the ways in which this mysterious “energy” had possessed the bodies of heroic figures throughout the entire course of human history. How it made vessels of the disenchanted, the lost, the nihilists that bore so much doubt in an actual purpose for themselves, or their being. How it made legends of them, one and all, and how it had come for me.
“You need to understand something, Tom,” he began again, “I can see things, things that others can’t, things that haven’t happened yet, horrible, violent things, Tom, and I have seen them. I have sat inside Ambrosia as well, just as I sit here inside you right now, and watched through her fire as well, she was in fact, one of the very first I was ever able to look through. She was a child then, with a weaker mind, one that wouldn’t know how to defend itself from such invasions, and I was in need of practice”.
“Why are you telling me this?” I said angrily, exhausted by his bush-beating around the facts that pertained to my current possession, “Why aren’t you telling me why I’m here? Get to the point”.
“Because,” he shot back, retaining his stoic demeanor, but with a wholly more booming sort of inflection, “I have done this recently with her, and I have seen things about this Yorke she speaks of. He means to hurt us, Tom, both of us, and everyone else at Tarantula’s. There is no hope beyond the sort of miracles Kika Gumi could provide us, and these are only available with your cooperation”.
“Cooperation?” the words fell in a mixing pool of emotions from my mouth, my head swimming in the esoteric thoughts the Zen giant was kicking up in my head.
“That’s right, Tom,” he said, “Kika Gumi has assumed control of your body, something I have taken the liberty of facilitating for her, a duty I have upheld since it was handed down to me by my father. I have brought you here for the good of us all, but I will not force you to stay, her spirit would never be able to assume full control of your body unless you accept its presence anyway, but there is very little time, and from the looks of it, my friend, she has taken quite well to her new home, and appears to share your appreciation for the show that bears her name”.
With another nudge of his bulbous head toward the fire, he drew my eyes back to the scene playing out in Tarantula’s, where I noticed that Kika Gumi – using my body as her own – had indeed been ripping through episodes of my beloved anime while she investigated the surroundings, and appeared quite drawn to it. While I had been busy trying to make sense of the situation with Ayumu, she had also apparently found my old Kika Go! Gumi cosplay garb, and was presently dressing me to match the cartoon hero. When I had first pieced together that costume, many years before, I’d been ridiculed by my friends for dressing like a girl, just as I had always been for watching one on television. Back then, I’d worn the costume with hesitation, just once, and only very briefly, though the gender of the character had never played a part in my enjoyment of it, I had allowed society to shame me for the very entertainment they had given me, and from then on had all but entirely hid my passion for the series. The way Kika Gumi pulled it on though, whether or not it was over the same frail torso, skinny arms, and hairy legs, oozed pure confidence, like those knee high socks, and that pleated skirt had been a part of my body since birth. I am, in every sense of the body and mind, a man, but as many questions as it may arise about old Tom Hannum, I’m confident enough in my own heterosexuality to tell you, at that moment, with Kika Gumi running the show, I made a damn proud woman.
“Yes, Tom!” I heard Ayumu cry out, “Accept her! Release your hold on the self, and let her take hold. Let Tom Hannum become what he was meant to be, let loose the hero of the people”!
His voice taper off into a loud ringing in both my ears as the flames leapt up from the logs laid in front of us, and slid their way through my eye sockets, filling me with a warmth, and a comfort I have never known before. Then I was there, back at Tarantula’s, watching through my own eyes as Kika Gumi ran my arms and legs, and the art raged all around me. The painters all painted, the dancers stepping in synch on the stage, the other comics rolling about the floor in fits of laughter together between one-liners, then the heavy oak door exploded into a hail of jagged shrapnel, and gunfire tore the place in two, like a jigsaw, straight down the middle.
[To be continued]
Copyright Wonder Void Studios 2018
Thanks for reading this new chapter of our ongoing serial Kika Gumi and the Prism Cult, I truly hope you enjoyed it. Be sure to follow us for a new chapter every Tuesday. Follow us on Twitter: @ItsMrGChris and @RinniKipp for all sorts of flash fiction, illustration, and news regarding our upcoming projects. With our webcomic So Fantastic! having just finished its 2018 run, we’ll be moving onto new projects in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for some announcements regarding those. Thanks again for the continued support, we’ll see you next time!