The Warrior

December 2019

Takeshi smiled to himself as he approached the house, unchanged but somehow foreign in its familiarity. When he set his boots outside the door, he noticed a pair of shoes he didn’t recognize. Men’s shoes, much too large to fit either of his sons. Of course they would have grown after so many months, but not this much. He’d begun to unstrap his sword, but confusion stopped his hand. Confusion gave way to a dark dread which sapped the joy from his veins and squeezed his stomach like a fist around a dagger.

Hand on the hilt of his sword, he stepped forward through the doorway. He took slow, cranelike steps, shifting his weight across the sides of his feet as he’d been trained to do on ambushes. 

The layout had changed. The chairs and tables had been moved around, as though some invader were making himself at home, adjusting things to his liking. The first floor was empty, but Takeshi heard a muted thump of movement through the ceiling and made his way upstairs. 

His stomach sank. An unfamiliar tapestry hung across the doorway of the room where he and his wife slept, devoid of their family crest. How long had this gone on? Had he been forgotten? Assumed dead in battle? Perhaps his letters had never made it home. But surely they knew to expect a message if such a thing happened.

He heard a chuckle — a man’s voice — behind the curtain. His vision darkened at the edges and the room around him turned a deep red. Gritting his teeth, he unsheathed his sword and stepped into the room, the blade thirsty for blood. On the bed before him, eyes wide and stark naked were — two unfamiliar people. He stopped mid-step. He looked around the room and realized he didn’t recognize anything. Even the smell was different, and the wood smelled newer than how he remembered it.

Then it dawned on him. Horrified and ashamed, he sheathed his sword and bowed deeply as he stepped back out of the room, where he walked back down the stairs and out the front door and put on his boots. Head low, face cherry red, he rounded the corner to the next block and shuffled down the street to his house.