Black Cat's City (Schippeitaro)

I wrote this in high school as an exercise to be a post-modern adaptation (I know 🙄) of the Japanese fairy tale Schippeitaro. I think I tried to make it as grungy as possible, which maybe doesn't work in its favour, but hey, it is what it is.

Black Cat's City

Lachlan Marnoch, 2009

Hey, you. Yes, you. Don't look at me like that. Come over here. I haven't seen you around before. Enjoying your stay in the city? Hah. Of course not. Who could enjoy such a filthy, worm-ridden hole as this? This city has gone to hell these past years. Drugs, crime, gangs. The gangs control everything. Steel wool couldn't scrub clean this city’s soul.
              It wasn't always like this. Hard to believe, isn't it? Well, it's true. It all started when he came. Panther, they call him. The city's own Black Cat. He started out small-time, but soon he had control over everything. And everyone. This whole town lives in fear of him. He has his fingers in everything. He has followers, many of them. They all wear grey, whiskered masks.
Oh, and he has his little rituals. Once a year, he sends two of his men downtown to find a girl for him. And not to share dinner and a show with, either. They put the girl inside a large cask, to be taken to the Panther. The girls always come back the same: bruised, bleeding, and stark, raving mad. Heaven knows what he does to them. But the rest of us can pretty well guess.
              Yes, I see the horror in your eyes. Why don't the cops do something? I can tell you why. There isn't a single cop in this town that ain't on the Panther's payroll. The ones who refused his cash, who kept trying to lock him up, turned up in the river with a knife in their respective backs. Fear is his tool. He's as difficult to pin down as his namesake. Oh, and people have tried, believe me.

Yes, here, have a quarter. Now piss off.
              Where was I? Oh yeah. I remember that boy, Asian kid, just come over from Japan looking for work. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, he was. Thought he knew everything about the way the world works. He didn't know squat. He had ideals. He thought that justice should prevail, that good will out, all that kind of horseshit. No sense of where he belonged. Which, for most people, is under the Black Cat's little toe.
              He was horrified at what was happening here. He stood up to the Panther. Dumb as hell thing to do. He tried to raise some resistance, find people who agreed that the Panther's reign of terror deserved to end. Oh, and he found some, foolish idealists who had no sense of self-preservation. I remember one, went by the name of Schippeitaro. They all called him Black Dog, the one to bring down the Cat. Pfft. Deluded, the lot of them. No-one can bring down the Black Cat. He and that Japanese kid worked day and night to find a solution. They believed that if they killed Panther, the rest of his network would crumble. Cut off the snakes' head. They went over his every movement, trying to track him down. And, funnily enough, they did. Me, I think the Panther let them find him. Had a little game with them. And so the Black Dog became the Mouse, the Cat's food.
              Schippeitaro was the one with the street smarts, who knew how to handle a knife. He and the kid ambushed the two men sent down to find a girl, slit their throats. They weren't afraid to get their hands dirty for the so-called "common good." Pah. Anyone who's lived in this town long enough knows there is no such thing. Anyway, Schippeitaro hid himself inside the cask that normally carries Panther's girls. The kid and one of their other forward-thinking followers put on the men's clothes, including the masks, and took the casket, now with the Dog inside, straight to the Black Cat. They planned for Schippeitaro to leap from the cask when Panther opened it, and kill him before he could react. As though that could succeed. See, Black Cat didn't climb to the top of the gangs with just his brain - though I'm sure that played a role. He was quicker with a knife than anybody for miles around. He had reflexes like his namesake. And, on top of that, I think he was expecting them. He has eyes and ears everywhere. So when Black Dog leapt from the cask, the Panther was quick to react. Without much effort at all, he disarmed Schippeitaro, flicking his knife away, and took it for himself. As the Japanese kid and their other accomplice watched in horror, he butchered Schippeitaro with both his own knife and the Dog's. It would have been a horrific sight. You can bet your bottom dollar Schippeitaro didn't die quickly.
               And when he was finished, he turned on the kid.
               I kept a newspaper clipping from the time. Here, take a look.


A head-on collision occurred on High Street on Sunday, killing three young men. One was Schippeitaro, also known as Black Dog, a well-known local resident and long-time supporter of justice. The other two bodies remain unidentified. This tragedy has affected many people close to the known victim, and his family and those of the unknown bodies remain in our minds.

          Garbage. All of it. And everyone believed it, swallowed it like so many spaghetti meatballs. The fact that no-one questioned the story, despite the obvious lack of flaming wreckage on High Street, shows just how much control Panther had, still has.
          This is well and truly his city.
          No-one can change that.
          So if you want a long, fulfilling life, I wouldn’t stay in this city much longer.