by Jon Peters

I’m burned. Eyes on fire.

4 a.m.

Sleep deprived, overloaded on coffee and nightmare fuel.

It began on the 30th of December.

I was taking my evening walk in East Shinjuku, Tokyo. I left my flat at 6 p.m. Took the stairs down to street level, grabbed a coke from the vending machine, the sounds of jazz music and the smell of herbal tea drifting into the alleyway.

I unlocked my yellow bicycle from the railing and pushed off into the narrow street, passing a multitude of karaoke bars, American pubs and backdoor eateries. I hooked a left at the corner, following a woman in a black coat and top hat. She carried with her a large shopping bag from Eve’s, an upscale glassware store located two blocks north of my apartment. She was moving fast for someone carrying such a delicate bag and I wondered why the hurry.

I glanced behind me as I heard a rush of noise and saw throngs of people coming toward me from the northern block of Shinjuku. At first, I just chalked it up to Tokyo foot traffic. The dinner hour. The flow of our city can be gorgeously fast during the feeding hour.

That’s when the alarms sounded. Trying to get an anchor on the situation, I sped up toward the square ahead where I saw a gathering of people. Earthquake? But I didn’t feel any tremors. I stopped near the APA Hotel. There must have been a thousand people. Never seen a crowd so big. Everyone was talking at once, looking to the sky, cell phones in hand.

That’s when I heard the roar. I thought it was a plane falling out of the sky onto my head.

And then the ground shook and fire bellowed across the sky. A tram screeched to a halt on the street adjacent to me, passengers leaping out of the car to see the commotion for themselves.

An orange inferno emerged from the fog of the buildings. The ground began to tremble. Alarms rang in desperation.

I’d come to Japan three years earlier, sick of America. I found my rejuvenated spirit through the busy neon nights and peaceful culture of beautiful East Shinjuku. Now, my years of efforts to absolve my soul of its nihilistic existence were dashed within a single chaotic second.

I made my way through the smoke and chaos into an alley, following the sad siren song from a karaoke bar. Poor saps were having so much fun they had no idea their lives were about to end.

I was able to make it back to my apartment, coughing, gasping, eyes watering, an hour later. By then, Japan was fighting for its life.

The world was fighting for its life.

Monsters are real.

And I’m fresh out of cigarettes.