Fiction: The Titan Through the Dust

An essay by Claire Gainsborough, as provided by Joachim Heijndermans
Art by Leigh Legler


You’ve seen it. Everyone’s seen it. Kids know of it from their school books. It’s been on TV, in movies, and in every history book published in the years after the incident of Singapore City. Hell, even if you’ve never seen the actual shot, you’ll know it from the ripoffs and the parodies and the references by college kids trying to be artsy in their projects. Cultural osmosis, I think they call it. It’s a hell of a thing, to have your work be absorbed by the current zeitgeist and spat back out, like a cheesy meme passed around on Twitter, to the point that everyone around the world will instantly recognize your photo on sight, even if they have never heard your name.

And I gotta say, with the passage of time, I don’t know how I even feel about the shot anymore. For one thing, it’s been nearly twenty years since I aimed that camera, pressed my index finger down, and made a piece of history in a split second of time. So yeah, that part’s cool. But you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone familiar with any of my other work. Last year I had a book collection of my travel photography published in conjunction with Nat Geo. Sales were so-so. Biggest complaint? That shot wasn’t in it. That’s all that people want anymore. Kagemura, on the most devastating day of my life.

Is this what Eisenstaed felt like when he shot that photo of the VJ day in New York? I doubt it, because even if that kiss was forced and all that, it still had some sense of beauty to it. A joy was captured in that scene. My shot? It’s beautiful in its own terrifying way. But I just see the carnage. Carnage in blood, rubble, and dust. Absolute carnage.

~

This morning I got an offer to do the photography at a wedding. It’s a famous couple. You know them, I guarantee it, but I signed an NDA before I even met with them, so I can’t say much about it other than that the money is blasphemously great. Had I accumulated any, I could have paid back my college loan debts three times over. It’s insane. And do you know what they called me when they rang me up? Claire? Of course not. I was “that Kagemura lady.” They wanted that style for their reception. As in, that exact style. Happiest day of their life, but shot in a sepia tone and with the sun partially blocked. I said yes, obviously, as the KSF needs the cash more than I do. My best guess is they just didn’t realize people actually died when I took it.

I’m tired of talking about the shot in public, to be honest. Because that’s all that people discuss when the topic of my work comes up. The technique. The type of lens I used. The other dumb crap. And it’s so … what’s the word I’m looking for? Dull. Yeah, that’s it. It’s dull. It’s technical jargon and people standing around printouts of it with glasses of champagne in hand, each of them trying to find something new and profound to say about the photo. In the end, it’s just words. Words about a picture I took in the spur of the moment as I was half-suffocated by ash and grime.

Nobody ever asks what it was like, being there when it all came down. I think that’s why they’re all drawn to the photo. It’s a way to get close, but not too close to the actual awfulness of it all. The Disneyland version of it, where they can see the horrible monster without having to think about what it can do and what it did.

I want to talk about that day. What it was like. This is what happened on that day when I shot The Titan Through the Dust. My opus, I suppose.

~

Do people take gap years anymore? Or is that just a rich people thing these days? I swear, every time I talk to a student who either has never heard of a gap year, or worse, mentions they couldn’t afford it because they have student loans to pay back, it just reminds me again and again how I was born with a silver spoon up my ass. I love my mom and my dads, who really did their best to pool everything two orthodontists and a lawyer could scrape together to get their ditzy daughter through college pain-free, but boy howdy did they shield me from the realities of the world. Might be why it hit me as hard as it did when the earth literally opened up that day.

Anyway, I’m off topic. Back to the event.

I’d just graduated with my BA in programming and game design. Yeah, that’s right. Claire Gainsborough, the one whose book your mom has on the coffee table and who shot that photo you owned the poster of, wanted to make a career for herself in video game production. The art critics either tactfully neglect to mention that whenever they praise my photo work, or somehow bring up the supposed influence that “Banjo-Kazooie” on the N64 had on my choice of angle and lighting. I don’t know if any of that is true, as I only played it for about a week and a half during a retro-game bender in college, but whatever. To wrap it up, I graduated the course and had my fill of screens and code and engines after four years, so I chose to take a year to travel. I wanted to see the world and snap some pictures along the way to fill up a scrapbook or a blog or something. I never expected to go down in the history books as the next Joe Rosenthal, which only happened after my photo began circulating around the net and Nadaria, my agent, hooked me in and began to tour my shot, helping me realize I had a knack for a good photo. Lucky me, falling into a career like that.

I’ve often thought about going back into video games, make a simple platformer or an RPG with cute cartoon animals who save the world. But I just can’t seem to muster the drive to sit down and do it. I mean, making video games? After what I witnessed and lived through? It seems so quaint … no, childish even. How do I imagine the fantastical anymore? How can I create the illusion of power, when I’ve seen what real, actual raw ball-busting power looks like in the flesh? Now that I know what it feels like as it walks past you, too large to notice something as insignificant as me? What the air around it tastes like as it marches onward? How can anything compare? Well, I guess only Team Ico got close, and maybe those “God of War” guys, but still–

Wait, wasn’t I talking about gap years? Sorry. I got way off topic.

~

So, my gap year. The idea was that I’d backpack through Asia. Had a whole route planned out. I’d start in Jakarta and see all the Indonesian islands one by one (which I did in three weeks’ time). Then it would be on to Singapore, then Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Krabi in Thailand, and so on up the peninsula and into the continent. My final stop would be in Wakkanai, the most northern spot on Hokkaido, Japan. It was going to be the experience of a lifetime. Just traveling, seeing the sights, taking selfies, and going out at night with whomever I met along the way. Food. Sun. Shots out of someone’s belly button. And maybe there’d be things that would go horribly wrong, and I would have had to wash dishes for a week to get my ticket out of there. Something I would vlog about and then do a book and the whole shebang. Then, twenty years down the line, they’d make a movie about it with someone who doesn’t look a thing like me, but is willing to look less pretty on screen for when the awards season rolls around. That’s where I was with my mind at the time. Just laughs, experiences and the idea of fame coming from my Asian trek.

I didn’t get that far, barely a quarter way of the journey. As you might guess, my third day in Singapore was the March the 23rd. The first Kagemura Ascendance. Day Zero.

What I did those first two days in Singapore is a haze for me now. I doubt anyone really remembers what they did on half their vacations down the line. But I’ll tell you this: everyone who was there can recall that day with near 100% accuracy. I guarantee it. What they had for lunch. Who they talked to. What clothes they put on that morning. All of it. Trust me on this one.

As for me? I was in the midst of an iced coffee and a croissant with an omelet and chives, which I’d told myself would be the only familiar food I’d eat that day (part of the whole “experience the local cuisine” thing I was going for). It was 10:32 AM on the dot, and breakfast was coming to a close in the dining area. I had my nose in my tablet … like, nose in the book, but I guess it doesn’t go in a tablet. Is there a phrase for that? Dang. I’m rambling. Sorry. I always ramble when that day comes up. It’s … it’s difficult to talk about this. But anyway, I was planning out my day, when my glass trembled. And when I say trembled, I mean it was flung right off my table.

That’s when it started.

~

It’s funny, but the camera I used that day? A hand me down. The most famous modern photographer, and I didn’t even go out and get my own equipment. It was one of my dad’s, my biological one, who had bought it for a summer trip he and my step-mom were going to take down to Tijuana. Then he won an even better one at a sweepstakes thing with the Shoprite around the block, so he gave me the Canon for my trip.

It’s never taken more than thirty photos, and twenty-eight of them are pics from the plane, the hotel, and the pool that was on the roof. The other two are from after the attack. The camera itself now sits on my mantle, still dirty and containing its original memory card. A conversation piece, really. I use better stuff for work.

I don’t know why I keep it. I’ve had to fish it out of the trash over six times, thrown out during my darker mood episodes that are common to people with survivor’s guilt (according to my therapist). Two other times, Carla, the lady who comes in every Tuesday to clean, pulled it out. She just put it back and never said a word about it. She looks out for me. Bless her heart. I should really be nicer to her. Like, to her face, instead of anonymously paying her daughter’s college tuition as I have been.

But yeah, the camera. It sometimes drives me batty. It sits there, reminding me of what I’d done. What I could have done. There are still days I desperately want to get rid of it. But then I would blind the last eye that saw them.

~

It was so sudden. There wasn’t any build up to it at all. A calm, serene morning the one moment, and then the earth broke open like a fresh baguette ripped in two. A horrible noise blasted past us, a sound wave of broken steel and ten billion nails against ten billion chalkboards, that threw us from our feet. Before anyone could react, the glass in all the windows shattered, broken by the pitch of the sound. That was the first roar, but I didn’t find that out until later.

I wasn’t hurt, but I could hear the people in the streets scream as the shards came down on them. While everyone else in the dining area ran for the nearest exit and the stairs, I leaped under my table, which might have been what saved me from what came after. Not a conscious choice. Just a habit I picked up from my time dealing with the L.A. quakes.

Now, for a while, I didn’t have a clue what was going on outside. There weren’t any tremors after the initial quake, but from the sounds, I knew it had to be bad. I just stayed where I was, in case someone came to get me. No one did. In fact, the first sign that things were weird was the sudden collective silence. There were some loud astonished gasps and some incoherent yelling, but it didn’t sound like anyone was in a panic.

Then came the second roar. And with that, hell was unleashed on the city.

There are reports of what happened in the initial strike as it emerged. I’ve read them all, but they don’t mean anything to me. Just a list of factoids and hypotheses about its tunneling ability and how long it laid dormant underneath Singapore, a sleeping giant upon which we just built a city. What I could gather from them was that, just by coming up from its resting place, it took out three of the adjacent buildings in an instant. After that, it stumbled about for a bit. While it wasn’t like it was immediately attacked, something must have set it off in a real bad way, because what it did next is what hit the building I was in.

But back to the massive tremor that knocked everything over. At the time, I thought it was an earthquake, which is why I leaped under the table. That theory went out the window the second a purple beam of pure heat ripped across the city skyline and shredded through buildings. The Summer Palms hotel I was in lost its top eight floors in one swoop. If anyone screamed, I didn’t hear it on account of my eardrums shattering (still have the tinnitus as a souvenir).

I think I may have hidden under that table for a good ten to fifteen minutes before I crawled out. Dust was already coming down like snow in December, but I could feel the rays of the sun hitting me. The roof was gone. Not broken. Not damaged. Gone. Rendered to dust.

As I look back now, I’m surprised as all hell that I didn’t panic. Somehow I kept myself level, waited for a couple of minutes after the heat blast took out the top floors, then just grabbed my backpack and ran for the exit, nearly tripping over people that just lay there in the path. Were they dead or unconscious? I haven’t the foggiest, as I was too busy trying not to get trampled by the others who made their way down. But I remember cursing myself for going out to breakfast in flip-flops that day, since they made my escape three times harder. I tripped and fell down a flight of stairs, bruising my knee and scraping my arms. It hurt, but I forgot about the pain when another beam blasted overhead. I saw its purple light ripping through a cloud of dust, but the sound from within was that of steel melting, foundation crumbling, and screams silenced in an instant. I didn’t think about it, or at least I tried not to. I just ran down the stairs with one thought on my mind: escape. Run like hell and try to make it out on the street. Maybe there would be somewhere I could hide. Find an ambulance or a cop I could hitch a ride with. Be anywhere but a demolished building that could topple down any moment.

Then the stairs collapsed right out from under me.

~

Hours had passed when I finally woke back up, though I didn’t find out about that until later. When I came to, there was nothing but darkness around me. Engulfed in panic, I shrieked and flailed my arms wildly in an attempt to break free, thinking I’d been trapped. Technically, I was, but it wasn’t rubble I was stuck under. Three men, two women, and a potted plant had tumbled on top of me and shielded me from the debris. There were other people, who all laid there as limp ragdolls, with not a single sign of life among them. I remember I started sobbing, even though no tears were coming out of my eyes. For a bit, I stumbled in the semi-darkness to try and find a way out by touch, which I did eventually. Bad news? It was blocked with rubble. No way out but either wait for help or dig. I seriously considered just waiting it out. Help would come soon, and I wasn’t in a bad place. Then the earth shook again. So I dug.

Like a frightened mole, I burrowed my way through the dirt with ferocious speed till my fingers bled. I credit my adrenaline for giving my 125 pound frame the strength I needed to get out of there, even as I hacked up my lungs in the process. It wasn’t until that first beam of light hit my face that my heart finally stopped trying to leap out from my chest.

Wasting no time for comfort, I dug out a hole large enough for me to fit through. I pushed my bag out and followed suit, writhing like a worm after a rainstorm. I stumbled and fell twice, scraping my knees again, but I’d done it. I’d made it outside on the street, although I still couldn’t breathe for shit, with the massive dust cloud seeping right into my nostrils and lungs. My eyes narrowed in an attempt to keep the dust out of them. None of it mattered. I was deaf, dumb, and blind, stumbling through a cloud of dirt. Every exhale was a cough. I could feel the blood in my lungs and tear ducts. I knew with absolute certainty I was going to die. But I still kept going.

It was then that I remembered the bottle of water in my backpack. I scrambled for it blindly, overjoyed to find it unbroken. With some sloppy haste, I pooled some of it into my hand and splashed it in my face. A reprieve. Water had never felt that good on my skin. And with that, I got my sight back.

Then I wished I hadn’t.

~

There’re these two paintings by Goya. They get brought up and compared a lot in the art books that have my photo in them. Pose and lighting and all that. I do see it. And yet (and I’m going to be completely honest here), I’d never seen them before I took that picture. But I see their point when the comparison is brought up again and again between The Colossus and my photo. Goya couldn’t have known what it would be like, to see a massive behemoth waltz across through mist and smoke. But he nearly got it. Out of all the paintings, he came the closest. Because he got the dust right.

The dust. That’s all I could see that day. The dust. After the first few buildings collapsed, the dust shot out over every inch of the city. It became a cloud. No, not a cloud. More of a ghost. A specter. A second monster, a mollusk of granite and ash and human remains that fell down on the city like a sheet of pain and tears. The bride of the beast, a herald to its approach and a silent mourner, standing vigil in the wake of its terrible walk. I remember the dust more than Kagemura itself. The creature was just a flash that passed by, shone its giant eyes down at the little people screaming for their lives below, then stomped off.

There’s a second Goya painting. Saturn devouring his Son. This giant titan, the most ghastly dude you can ever imagine, is ramming this little kid into his gaping maw, all on account of a prophecy that proclaimed his children would bring his downfall. He eats a child to preserve his own future.

Goddammit, Goya. Get the hell out of my head.

~

Dust. Nothing but a giant cloud of dust as far as the eye could see. I felt like I’d walked into a grey-brown fog, and the city that had been there a few hours earlier was now a “Silent Hill” level, but a lot hotter. With the towel from my backpack, I made a mask to cover my nose and face, while I blocked my eyes with my hands, peering through my fingers. For some reason, I also took out my camera, the Canon, and just held onto it. I’m not sure why. Maybe as my last testament? Was I that certain of my death?

Now, I had no idea what to do next. Where was I walking to? To safety. Where was that? I didn’t have a clue. There were faint sirens that came from every direction. Muffled screams beyond the dust clouds. And me in the middle of it all.

I picked a direction on pure instinct and just booked toward it. Me, missing one flip-flop and with half a bottle of water, a towel, and a camera, shuffled in the direction to what I’d assumed was away from the danger. My foot got cut up on the rocks and debris, but I managed by some miracle to avoid any glass shards. Here and there I’d see what I thought were bodies, but to keep myself from completely losing it, I tried to block them out.

Then I heard it again, even with my fuzzy hearing and blood-soaked ears. The sound that had announced its attack and shattered all the glass. The sound of hell. The roar. I turned around, trying to see where it was coming from, which seemed like from all directions at once. Destruction in surround sound. Each breath was a hurricane. The beat of its heart was an earthquake. While I couldn’t see it through all the dust and debris, I knew it was close. Hell, I didn’t even know what “it” was at the time. The sounds were just unexplained noises. I still thought it was some kind of a bomb at the time. That’s what I assumed the source of the heat was. I tried to rationalize it all. Terrorists. A war. Or an accident. Gas pipes. All these rational explanations for all that horror. Something to just make a little sense of it all.

And then I saw it. For real this time, as it stepped right over me. I couldn’t comprehend what I was looking at. But in that moment, like a reflex, I aimed the camera and pressed the button.

~

A few weeks ago, in an interview with Time for the tenth anniversary of the Singapore attack, I told them that I’d only seen Kagemura the one time, back when I snapped the picture. That’s actually not true, and I should apologize for my lie. I’d actually seen it twice. The second time was about seven years after Singapore, during the three-year hiatus when they couldn’t locate the creature anywhere, during my trip to Switzerland. Yeah, you’ve seen the story. You know where this is going.

I was in the midst of climbing to the top of a mountain whose name I can’t remember, because who cares what mountains are called anymore when actual titans now walked the earth? I climbed it because I hated skiing and I wanted to get away from the world and the aura of sorrow and fear it had wrapped itself in since the monster began to walk across the landscape. Stupid me.

I saw it in the early morning, lit up by the early sun’s rays as it breached the dew that descended from the Alps with its massive frame. It was actually more bizarre to see it there. A giant crab/dinosaur/eel that keeps going in and out of the Chinese sea wasn’t that out of place in that area, if you know what I mean. But in Switzerland, among the green hills glistening with dewdrops and the sturdy pine trees that formed a carpet of bark and needles, it was as if Heidi suddenly got a weird last chapter. It was more alien than ever out there. Especially since it didn’t do anything.

There was no fire that day. There were no screams. It wasn’t even loud. A complete one-eighty from that day in Singapore. It just lurched forward and slowly made its way past the hills and mountains, cloaked in the haze that was the mists of Switzerland. Wrapped in a cloak of morning dew and fog, rather than fire and dust, it looked beautiful this time around, as it rested itself against the mountainside. Had I brought my camera, I would have gotten my second Pulitzer. Yeah, I sound like a cocky bitch, but I’ve got the royalty checks and the big gold coin on my shelf next to my Pikachu change jug, so I’d like to think I have the cred to back that statement up.

Now, how do you react to something like that? I was on vacation in Switzerland for God’s sakes, with uncomfortable hiking boots and two walking sticks in hand. I expected it all to just be pine trees and purple cows from those chocolate wrappers. Nothing weird, and certainly not it. But there it was, among the Alps without a care in the world.

For years, I’d imagined how I would react if I ever ran into Kagemura again. I thought I’d scream insults. That’d I’d raise hell as jet fighters bombed the shit out of it. Or that I’d at least flip it off, should it happen to look my way. But no. I did nothing. I just watched it for a while as it stumbled slowly around, pushing clouds aside by merely exhaling. After about ten minutes or so, it moved out of sight into the fog. I could hear its steps, as the tremors became gentler and gentler. Just like that, it went away. Then I went back to the hotel, listened to the other guests freak out about the giant prints across the landscape, had my tea, got a book from the book-swap shelf, and called it a day. Stayed there until they evacuated us all.

I’ve never told anyone else that story. Lucky you.

~

Illustration of a giant monster looming over ruined buildings.

It stopped for a moment, as a thunderous rumble emitted from its throat (think a lion growl, but a billion of them at once), then tilted its head back to let out a deafening roar. And me? I took aim, clicked, and took the photo that defined that day and the rest of my life.

Seeing it that first time, my mind went blank. The words “what” and “the fuck” and “is that?”. A giant lizard-like thing waltzed right over me. One wrong step, and I’d have been jelly on the pavement. But as soon as it passed me, I could barely make it out anymore through the dust. The only part I got a good look at was its long, almost chameleon-like tail, which ripped through the buildings like a whip as it twisted. All I could make out was its silhouette, partially illuminated by the purple glow from its eyes. I’m not going to lie: it was beautiful. For a moment, I completely forgot how terrible everything was. There was just me and it, a skinny girl in shorts with a camera, and a creature unlike any the world had ever seen. It stopped for a moment, as a thunderous rumble emitted from its throat (think a lion growl, but a billion of them at once), then tilted its head back to let out a deafening roar. And me? I took aim, clicked, and took the photo that defined that day and the rest of my life. Like I said before: a split-second that neither I nor anyone else will ever forget.

You know what question I get asked the most? Whether I took any other shots of Kagemura later. Do they seriously think I went and ran after it? Do I look like Jimmy Olsen? It was thirty stories high, and that was back before it was full grown! No way did I risk my life like that.

But there was a second picture I took on that “fateful” day (as they call it in the history books). It was right after Kagemura made its way through the main street, right through those four buildings. And it was the only one I took with the intent for people to see it. No one did. Or if they did, no one cared. Everyone was in such awe of the best picture taken in the history of humanity, they neglected the picture I took of humanity.

It was a girl. She must have been around fifteen or sixteen, though she looked decades older. Her skin had been turned a smeared dark grey, with soot and ash clinging to her body. Her mouth was agape, gasping for air as strands of spittle clung to her chin. Then, without warning, a deep, bone-chilling wail escaped her. I stood there, frozen and coated in the same grey goop that rained from the sky, unsure if I should approach her gently or just grab her and try to find shelter. It was then I noticed she held something in her arms. At first, I thought it was a doll. But what teenager carries around a doll, especially in a disaster zone.

When it clicked for me, I nearly puked on my feet. I stood there, dry heaving bile and what little I had in my stomach out on the street, while this young girl wept for the charred body in her arms. When I regained my composure, I … I just stood there. I watched the woman cry with wild abandon. I could have approached her. I could have helped her. Shared my water or taken her by the hand and tried to find help with her in tow. But what did I do?

I raised the camera and snapped a photo. The second I took that day. And no, I have no idea why I took it, instead of anything else I could have done. But it was something real. Something human in a sea of unknown horror. And I approached it like the tourist I was.

A part of me likes to think I was going to help her and the child in her arms. Or do anything. Anything! And maybe I would have, if Kagemura hadn’t turned around.

A squadron of jets dived toward it. Missiles flew. More fire. The creature roared, snarling at the little men in the little metal birds. Like flies, they nimbly dodged its claws as they unloaded volley after volley right into it, so for a moment, I thought they might actually hurt it. But another purple light dashed through the dust, ripping those jets to shreds. It was then I saw that those beams came from its mouth. Its mouth! Do you have any idea how insane that looked at the time?

I turned to the woman, holding the body. She must have been about my age. The girl in her arms couldn’t have been more than ten. She screamed as Kagemura turned around and made its return down the street. As in right toward us. I looked at her, my legs frozen in place. She reached out at me. Then the second step hit the earth, which nearly knocked me off my feet. That’s when I snapped to. That’s when I did what I did.

I wish I knew their names.

~

I don’t have any copies of Dust in my home out for display. I don’t want that to be the centerpiece around which I’ve build my life. All the stuff I have for that one, the books and posters and trophies and accolades, are packed into storage boxes up in the attic. The only thing of that day I have out are these two photos on my nightstand. A photo of a young woman, cradling her little sister’s body, while the shadow of a woman falls on them. The second is a selfie of me, with ash caked into my hair and a stream of tears leaking down my cheeks. I took it after I made it to a rescue center to let my mom know I was okay. I’m alone in it.

I survived on my own. I’d ran for what felt like hours, alone. I dodged boulders of cinderblock and concrete and rebar, alone. I was even showered with empty bullet shell casings from a helicopter strike, all alone.

I could’ve taken her by the hand. I could have stayed with her. But I didn’t. No, I ran. And I became famous and rich for a photo that the smallest drone can take way better nowadays (which they have, as you can see on the Kagemura Tracker Stream). Yeah, good call Claire. Awesome choice.

My shrink tells me not to blame myself. But did she ever see Kagemura in the flesh? No. All of my exes, who just couldn’t deal with the moods and the night terrors, told me I couldn’t have done anything to help her, which is clearly bullshit meant to make me feel better. My agent always sends me clips of Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting (“It’s not your fault”) whenever I send him drunken e-mails at three in the morning about how awful I am for surviving, which in all honesty make me feel so much worse.

No matter what I do. No matter how much money I give away or pump into the Kagemura Survivor Fund or places it’s stomped through I visit to drum up aid, her face never goes away. Who was that in her arms? Did she love that child? Was it hers? A sibling? Or just a kid she tried to save, because that’s the kind of person I imagine her to be.

And if you’ll excuse me, I can’t breathe right now.

~

There are nights, the ones where I can’t sleep, that I just stare at my phone at the KTS. I see its face in full hi-def. Cracked, green-purple skin. Mad, almost insane eyes that look like those of a crazed crocodile, with rows of teeth like an angler fish. I still can’t believe this is the same thing I saw in that dust cloud. There’s no beauty to it. Just rage and pain, lashing out at the world as it marches wherever the winds take it. I’d say I know what that’s like, minus the lashing out and the laser breath. Sometimes I envy that part.

I hate Kagemura. I absolutely hate it. It has become everything that my life revolves around, whether I let it or not. But it’s also the only one who was there in that street. Would it remember me? No, that’s insane. I dunno; I’m rambling. Sorry.

I want to like myself. I did at one point. But now it’s gone. And I tell myself the Titan on the other side of the dust is to blame. But no. It was the cowardly twenty-two-year old who ran. No one forced her. She did that.

Now, when Kagemura shows up on screen, all I see anymore is a reflection, staring right back at me.


Claire Gainsborough, B.A., is a graduate of the School of Greater Design in Pasadena, CA. During her gap year, she survived the Day Zero event of the first Kagemura Ascendance in Singapore. After her trials, she became the most renowned photographer of our modern age, among the highlights being her works “The Titan Through the Dust,” “The Royal Wedding of the Prince and his Husband,” and the “Tezuka in Blue” series.

She currently lives in Colorado and can be contacted through her agent in New York.


Joachim Heijndermans writes, draws, and paints nearly every waking hour. Originally from the Netherlands, he’s been all over the world, boring people by spouting random trivia. His work has been featured in a number of publications, such as Ahoy Comics, Asymmetry Fiction, Gathering Storm Magazine, Hinnom Magazine, and The Gallery of Curiosities, and he’s currently in the midst of completing his first children’s book. You can check out his other work at www.joachimheijndermans.com, or follow him on Twitter: @jheijndermans.


Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.


“The Titan Through the Dust” is © 2019 Joachim Heijndermans
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler

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