When She Says Osuwari, Sit - Chapter 1

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When She Says Osuwari, Sit

by qlippoth

Libraries: Alternate Universe, Drama, InuYasha

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Inuyasha fanfiction. AU. Hojo, a high school teacher, hires a teenage student to watch over the Higurashi temple. But what's the secret? And can the boy survive it? OC,M/F(KagxOC),Lime dark & demented

“When She Says ‘Osuwari’, Sit.”
By RD Rivero
June 8, 2006
 

Noguichi was not comfortable.  To be sure, he was cool and calm and, until he heard that sound, he had been passing the time in a contemplative, Zen-like state while reading “The Golden Pavilion” by candle-light.  And it should be added that it was not a shock:  he what it was, what was happening and what would be happening.  It was just that until that moment the idea existed only as an abstraction – now, now that mere, human word was transformed into reality, the weight of its consequence was a thing too much to bear.

Suddenly, as if a switch were flipped, the house attained a new and terrible dimension.  With the alarm and with the silence that followed, at last the place could not be distinguished from a tomb.

Once the solitude of the living room provided a welcome escape out of the world; now the quiet of the autumnal scene magnified the dread of the situation.  The windows all about were bare though shut and lent the chamber the light of the sky – the after-glow of the evening sun, its orange-red rays long since withed into blue-gray twilight.  It could have been beautiful, even romantic, were it not for the macabre nature of the other features that the intrusion magnified: the disuse and decay, sheet-covered furniture, the mounds of dust and spider webs that quivered with newly-caught victims.

One physical discord was followed by the next as the oppressive queer motif could not be denied any longer.  From the moving shadows and the creeping darkness to the whispering of the air, cold and bitter, that vented through his hair every now and then, it was too late, far too late, to be normal.  To return the way it was.  Every thing, every where transitioned into a state where the wildest form of evil was possible and any thing could be happening any time.  The most personal and intimate things could not be trusted as even the very clothes he wore, that costume, felt heavy and alien and itched in very, uncommon ways.

Noguichi stood and the chair beneath creaked a reply.  It creaked earlier when he sat upon it and when he shifted about it as he thought and read.  Then he did not care; now, of course, just the sound of his heart and his breath filled him with portents of doom.

“But it’s just a house,” he told himself aloud.

And it was just a house, abandoned and thought to be haunted.

But what were his teacher’s words?

“It is haunted but by forces that are very much human.”

He struggled to find the cause of the fear.  It was not the twilight, not the ghoulish forms of the covered-up furniture, not the rats and the spiders, it was not the house.  It could not have been the tangible stuff of life for those things could be seen and felt – they were real and, then, could not have been a threat.  The fear – yet – was formless:  it was the idea of what haunted the house.  The notion of torture and abnormality allowed to exist within its walls and infuse itself into its atoms.

He had not noticed the corruption of it until that instant when the sound, like a magician’s spell, transformed the spirit of the house and revealed the bottomless nature of its inhumanity.

Out of the chair, he walked from the living room to the hallway.  He tread with his arms wide open for it felt oddly comfortable to move that way within that outfit.  Cloaked by the still and murky air, he wished to fly across the threshold instead of lurching through it.  And there, as the sound above returned and echoed below, it seemed as if the architecture emotionally-allied itself with his position of terror – as if nature too rebelled with horror against the intrusion – for at once as he advanced step by step the floorboards quivered as though afraid.

The rumble persisted and was punctuated with a moan and a weak, dull groan.  It was followed by a low and abrasive scrape – his heart skipped a beat – it was so normal, so ordinary, that he recognized it immediately.  It was the racket of a person crawling out of the bed.

He shut his eyes and gulped – all that while he hoped it had been lie yet it was true, all that time he had not been alone – he clutched at his clothes that hung from his shoulders like a weight attached to his neck.  He wanted to speak, call ‘Hello?’ or ‘Who’s up there?’ but he remembered the instructions were to be quiet no matter what.  Rather, to calm his nerves and spurn him onward, the teenager recalled one of the motivations of the jobs:  “Seventy-five hundred yen a day, seventy-five hundred yen a day,” he whispered within his head.

 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
 

“It used to be a temple,” explained Hojo.  The history teacher drove slowly though the streets of the neighborhood he knew so well, so intimately, and related facts of the people and places almost like a guide entertaining a tourist.

Noguichi himself was distracted by the sights.  The area was unfamiliar though typical, with its tight alleys and apartment buildings.  Children played baseball while adults hung laundry about balconies.  It was autumn but the air was warm and the trees were green – fragrant, soothing scents clung about like a fog.  And he was so caught up by the freshness of it that he did not notice until too late that the man already parked the vehicle.

“When the old man died we removed the signs and shut the temple.”  Bouncing the keys in his hand, he alternately looked at the boy and looked at the entrance.  “Business was always sparse and by the end it was non-existent.  Anyway, we decided it would be easier for everybody involved if we did it this way.  And we didn’t want to risk a visitor stumbling into a place he did not belong.”

Noguichi nodded and stepped out of the vehicle.  Hojo followed.  The two – the man in a black suit wearing glasses, the teenager in red jacket with a fair and flawless face – ambled from the curb to the wrought iron gate.  The elder of the two produced a new set of keys and spoke to the younger:

“If you accept the job you’ll be given a copy of these keys.  You’ll need it as you’ll have the place to yourself most of the time.  Actually.  All of the time.”

Beyond the gate, that was locked as soon as they entered through it, the student stood by the ancient stonework under the un-kept foliage while the teacher lingered about the cage-like frame watching bystanders stroll by and police cars drive away.  Suspicions were not to be raised, he explained; the environment ought to be watched, he added.  Hojo helped Noguichi through the maze of uneven steps and entangled vines, from the street to the temple, a fifty-foot ascent.

“Looks like a ghost town,” Noguichi commented at the plethora of run-down sites within the walls of the holy-place.  “Is that what scares the neighbors?  Is that what keeps them away?”

“Keh, its look adds fuel to the fire, of course, but that attracts kids.  One of the reasons it must be watched all of the time.”

Nearing the house proper – the most modern and run-down of the complex of structures – Hojo added:  “I don’t want you to do any menial-labor out in the temple.  No up keep or repair work is needed outside the house.  Inside it, if you want to clean, that’s your call since you will be living there.  Just please don’t contribute to the mess, you know what I mean, Noguichi?  I’ve seen your locker.”

The teenager smiled and shook his head.  “I’ll behave myself, teach,” he said.

“Also, I didn’t say it before but I’ll say it now.  On top of the seventy-five hundred yen a day there’ll be an extra five thousand yen a week for you to buy groceries and supplies.  You’ll find the basement is well-stocked anyway – that’s where the kitchen is nowadays – it’s the only, electrified part of the house and it’s where the light can stay on at all times.”

“Is that where it happened?” the youth asked, pointing to the shed beside the house.  The shed near the trees.

“Keh,” the man answered, bowing his head and clutching his keys.  “The old man never forgave himself for what happened.  And for what we allowed to happen later.”

“Teach, is that what all this is about, really about?  Just an old man’s wishes?”

Hojo laughed.  “Just tradition?  A twisted, dark tradition?  I suppose.  Once he covered for her.  Now we cover for him.”

 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         
 

The stairs were carpeted by the dust except along the locations where the tread of visitors over the years forged a path through the darkness.  Keeping his arms wrapped tight across his chest, he ascended at a pace mechanical and cool.  Averting his eyes away from the floor, he looked up into the second floor and its veil of shadow.  He was more interested with the mystery above that he could not see than with the reality below that was palpable to the myriad of the senses – those terrible, dreadful things that from nightmare escaped to crawling about his feet.

His feet were naked and exposed and felt everything.

“Seventy-five hundred yen a night.”  Unbeknownst to Noguichi at a point along the climb the mantra that had been mental only somehow, someway, vocalized itself.

He stopped half-way – the air was stale and acrid and he needed a moment to catch his breath – it was then and there, while he rested, that he was seized by a notion that heretofore escaped realization.  The environment within the house of Higurashi was so over-the-top, so funhouse, that it lent itself to parody.  Surely it must have been a joke and something very simple, something very stupid awaited him upstairs.

Maybe it would be Mr. Hojo and his friend, with a video camera rolling, waiting for the moment to pounce and laugh at him for his foolishness.  His gullibility!  He should have known it when he saw the outfit.  He should have guessed it that instant.  Damn it, he thought, what length to go to pull a practical joke. 

It was only a question of what type of joke it was.

Maybe it would be one of those productions that always made its way onto the internet.  Already he pictured the website: catering to men – for it was almost always men – favoring the weird, exotic fetish of Asian Boys dressed like Samurais.  Yours is the right build, the right face, he remembered Mr. Hojo saying – and speaking rather too excitedly.

“So your teacher’s a perv, kid, didn’t you know?” Noguichi said through a tone that was too low to be his own.

He should have asked for the money up-front but it was one of those things he did not think about until too late.

At the top of the stairs, amid the realm of oblivion, he stopped again.  The onyx, featureless visage of the hallway was like a wall through which human eyes were not meant to penetrate.  Yet everywhere everything was peaceful as if shadow and darkness were the natural elements of the upstairs world.  It was like a tomb above ground.  How many years was that place unlit?  Was it ever lit?

But standing there, still and motionless, his eyes caught the faraway, distant glow of blue-gray light – his eyes ached as he strained to focus.

It was the light of the setting sun, ever more lifeless and dull.  It was coming through a window, through a door ajar at the other end of the passage.  He saw that the doorway itself trembled though caught in the wake of the draft emanating out of the parted-glass.  There was a gust and the window rattled and the door swung – the stiff, cold breeze hit his face and grated his hair – his heart skipped a beat at the unexpected intrusion of that air into the alternate universe he had been forming of the house and its owners.

He tightened his grip around his chest and shivered as another sound emerged:  that of a doorway within the bedroom opening.

It was followed by the closure of the bedroom door itself which extinguished the only light visible upstairs.

“It’s now, it’s now,” he whispered.  He walked across the hallway, crashing into a length of newly-spun spider web.

When he reached the door he held its knob and paused again.  His heart raced and his body trembled with an awesome, almost erotically charged nervousness.  If he stayed back, there would be no harm for it.  Always at any time he had the power to call Mr. Hojo and tell him he was not up for the task – yes, it could have been like that, that simple – he had his cell and his teacher’s number and the man’s house was not far from the temple anyway.  It would have been easily over and done-with.  But if he continued onward – if he opened the chamber and entered – no matter what awaited behind the doorway everything would be different.

Noguichi did not want to think his teacher was a pervert.  But he did not want to believe the alternative.  What he was told existed inside the bedroom.

Without thought, by its own volition, his fingers griped the knob and his hands opened the door.  He peeked through the crack.  It was the bedroom as it had been described and it seemed to be empty.

 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
 

“Seventy-five hundred yen a day,” said Hojo after a sip of the ice-cold glass of soda.

Noguichi tapped a bundle of fries into the tub of ketchup.  His wide eyes were distant and unfocused.  “Seventy-five hundred yen and how many days?” he asked bringing the fries into his mouth.

“I don’t know.  It depends.”  The vocal traffic of the WacDonald’s had been loud with that lunch-time high school crowd but, then and there, the din quieted and Hojo felt and looked oppression.  Nervous.  Cautious.  He stuttered as he continued:  “It depends on you, kid.  On your ability to handle it.  The house looks like it’s been abandoned and it’s been, really, for a long time.  And it’s gained the reputation about the neighborhood that it’s haunted.”  Through his glasses he stared squarely at his student.  “It’s a lot to ask of anybody – to stay there day and night – and there are other, aspects, of the job that will be difficult.”

“How many others have you asked already, teach?”

Hojo smiled.  He enjoyed talking with Noguichi.  The student could be informal when the situation allowed it and the teacher needed that relaxed-feel for what he was telling him was not easy to say.

“It’s imperative that the house is watched.  Always.  It can’t be left alone for a moment.  Oh, there must have been, ten, twenty boys I’ve asked over the years.  Keh, when I was young I volunteered myself.  I would be doing it still but the way we’ve arrange it, at any given time at least one of us two must be free and working full-time.  I must have told you guys a million times it’s money that makes the world go round.”  And here he mused more for himself than for his student:  “Were it five hundred years ago it could have been different.”

“One of you makes the money and finds the boys?  And the other one?”

Hojo laughed.

“It seems like fetishism?  It’s important that the volunteers be boys, teenagers like you.  Yours is the right build, the right face, Noguichi, and I trust you.  I’ve known you since grammar school let alone high school.  I’ve followed and guided your career, so to speak.  You’re strong and inventive and can handle it.  I know you can handle it.  You’ll survive because you know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined.”

“But aren’t there other ways to handle the problem?  What about universities?  Hospitals?”

Hojo was about to reply when another student tapped his shoulder.

Noguichi was usually a calm and patient boy, very mature for his fifteen years of age.  But as he ate his ketchup-soaked fries, as he gazed nonchalantly while his teacher talked about his latest history assignment, he was filled with an attitude of impatience that colored with seriousness his otherwise-sweet and effeminate features.  Time was passing and patience was thinning – and he wondered, rather all too cynically, why Mr. Hojo was taking that much time explaining such a little assignment.

“It’s, it’s just easier this way.”  Hojo continued just at the moment his student was losing his reserved.  “The family is old and proud and though it’s hit hard times and it’s a heavy, undue burden, we want it to be this way to avoid the public scandal.  We can’t afford any better protection.”

“Protection?”  He sighed.  He was out of fries and out of nuggets.  To be honest, as much as he respected Mr. Hojo, Noguichi was skeptical of the story.  It was so bizarre, so outlandish, it could not have been real.  Maybe it was that cynical, see-through vision of his that his teacher referred to as one of his best, most desirable qualities.  Anyway, even if were real, there must have been a thousand other ways to handle the problem.  Logical ways!  As opposed to the methods that had been proposed.  “Haunted houses can protect themselves, can’t they?  Assuming houses can be haunted.”

“It is haunted but by forces that are very much human.”  The teacher’s lunch remained in its paper, cold and unopened, and he pushed it away.  “Life?  Death?  Limbo?  I don’t know what it is anymore.  It’s just a different state of being all together.  Keh, when we think of hell, we picture demons from beyond antiquity.  The truth’s that there are things about this world that are just as monstrous as anything conjured up by the devil’s dreams.  And they’re just as real and as human as any of us.”

“But how, exactly, is it protected?”

“By placating it.  Noguichi.  It’s surprisingly simple what it needs.”

 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         
 

Atop the bed, the pillow looked indented and felt warm.  White, long hairs were upon it and upon the mattress, its sheets, its blankets.  The largest of the covers was warm, too, and was half on the bed, half on the floor – the telltale evidence that a figure, yet unseen and unheard, had aroused itself out of the bed and had walked, crawled into the bathroom.

And at that revelation Noguichi was startled by the sound of water running through faucets.

At last it was undeniable that he was not alone.

He peered through the bathroom’s fully open doorway.  He saw the sink first; second the mirror above – it was smashed and its pieces were scattered within the basin.  Then there was the toilet.  Then there was the shower.  The shower!  He blinked but it did not go away, it would not go away.  Beneath the vaporous spray of the shower head, battered by the random splatter of the water, very obviously and clearly, there stood the silhouette of a form.  It was there, real, existing wavering like a mirage through the spray within the shower stall.

Was it just an hour ago that the world had been normal?

Even after what Hojo said, all throughout that adventure there had been more than a few opportunities to back out of the affair.  But what about now, he asked himself.  What about now, seeing what he was seeing?  Was it too late to turn away or was it possible to resist still?

And would his teacher understand?

Noguichi had been cocky earlier when he gave his word and promised his commitment to try the task a few nights.  To test the water, so to speak, before a final decision would be reached.  He could not let himself down – as a matter of honor he was duty-bound to give it a try no matter the inhuman, eerie strangeness of what he encountered along the way.

At the threshold between the bed and the bath rooms, he sat.  Rather, he crouched low to the ground and rested his weight upon his knuckles that he placed before his body between his legs.  He looked like a dog and again – for a moment – he thought of the sanity of secret, hidden video cameras and the normalcy of fetishism complete with grown mean pleasuring themselves at the sight of him engaged in that submissive position.  If only that train of thought were true, tangible fact, it would have proved to be less of a perversion than what awaited.

As it was too late to go back he remained where he was, squatting down and looking up at the glass door of the tiny shower.

Beyond the stall was a square, frosted window whose light revealed tantalizing suggestions of the mass that was the shape inside.

After minutes of that figure just standing there and of him just crouching there, without a trace of movement between them, the flow of the water ceased.  The shower door opened.  Instinctively he bowed and remained still and quiet.  Later, after too many moments of nothingness, he looked and his heart raced – fear coursed through his throbbing, aching body – the figure, masked by the shadows and darkness, was as unmoving and formless as ever.

No!  It was not lifeless mirage for as his eyes adjusted to the dying, dim light what appeared to be a hand seemed to be indicating that he ought to be approaching.

 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         
 

Mr. Hojo and Noguichi walked the crowded streets of Tokyo, either unaware or unconcerned about the bystanders overhearing while they conversed with each other.

“Really, what you have to do is simple.”

“Seems more than a bit convoluted, teach.”

“I admit it’s because I am not telling you everything – yet – but it is simple.”  They crossed Macarthur Avenue from the sunny to the shady corner.  “Mostly, you have to watch.  There’ll be interaction, too, but never never never be the one who initiates the interaction.”

The teenager knit his brow:  interaction with what, he wondered.

The teacher noticing the student’s bewilderment continued:  “You must adjust accordingly with what happens to you and not the other way around  Even if it goes against your will you cannot resist, you must be totally submissive.”

Noguichi laughed.  “You make it sound like I’m going to be raped or something.”

“Or something,” Hojo repeated under his breath and he was thankful that the momentary lapse of judgment went unheard.  “The illusion that it controls what’s happening is key and cannot be disturbed.”

By the apartments of the five-hundred block, with the high school and its throngs echoing behind them, they stopped to think.  Mr. Hojo produced an electronic organizer and gave it to Noguichi.

“It contains instructions that must be practiced.  Instructions about movements and vocalizations.  You’ll have plenty of time to study all of the details.  It stirs rarely nowadays; it awakens maybe twice a week.”

The boy skimmed the titles of the files:  movement and posture, grunting and the forced yet limited vocabulary.

“I know as much about ancient, Japanese customs as the next student, but I admit none of this is familiar to me.  It’s like you want me to mimic an animal?”

The man was hesitant but sighed and spoke:

“What you read there are my notes – I was the first to do the job and I did it for the better part of four years.  I know it appears to be overwhelming; give it time it will be second nature.  Keh, after all of these years, every now and then, I catch myself moving and speaking that way.”

Hojo sighed and smirked – and placed the instrument into his red jacket’s inner pocket.

The two snuck, momentarily, into the lobby of a building and shared a cigarette.  Hojo stayed by the bulletin board and pretended to read the notices.  Noguichi lingered about the mailboxes and wondered why the apartments were listed in the Romanji alphabet.  Meanwhile the tenants filed past them in to and out of the building – most of the people were forgettable, ordinary citizens except for a female, male couple, they looked like twins the way their heads were closely shaved.

“The costume is crude and just for texture.  It’s the postures and the words that are important.  Think of it – think of it like a song and dance – like Kabuki.  It’s just a role that must be played to amuse it while it languishes about this world.”

 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         
 

Not wanting to fail, he stood and lurched into the bathroom.  He kept his eyes transfixed upon the figure so much so that as he passed by he did not notice the features of the tiny, cramped chamber.  He stopped only at the moment his legs hit the sides of the toilet.  There he remained not more than a yard from the figure that he saw clearly now even through the twilight.

His flesh throbbed, his heart pounded at the horror of it:  it seemed to be a mass of hair with torso and limbs attached.  The hair itself was several feet long and white from the scalp to the tip – it was wet and clung onto the body like a stringy-shroud enveloping and cloaking the bulk of its features.  The skin, too, devoid of light for years was as white as a geisha’s.

Kabuki, he thought.

The figure spread its hair with its arms and exposed the nakedness of its body – preserved by that quiet, eventless existence it was, effectively, the body of a fifteen-year-old not a thirty-year-old.

Noguichi blinked and staggered aback.  It unsettled him – no – it disturbed him the way his body reacted.  How, despite the twisted and perverted depravity, the round, firm breasts and the swollen, moist vagina – just the sights of those things – still aroused him through the fear.

The figure reached outward and laughed as the teenager inched backward.  Her flesh was soaked and her hair seemed to be like a spider’s web attached to her skin.  Slowly though not carefully he eased away further but she caught him and touched him.  Teasingly, lightly, she felt about his cheek then clutched against his clothes and pulled him toward her.  Naturally he wanted to resist but at that juncture recalled the instruction and let himself be drawn closer and closer into the figure.

When they were near enough to each other her tugging of his body ceased.  Then she discovered an obsession:  she was fascinated by his neck while he was nervous about her attention toward it but his trepidation was moderated by his arousal.  Her exploration of his upper-body was insatiable.  It was not complete until she peeled off his jacket and shirt, leaving his chest and back exposed – those articles of his outfit dangled, limp and lifeless, by the obi around his waist and felt like a yoke that with her wet, cold skin and hair fixed his body into position.

She kissed his cheek and he shut his eyes for at that moment, at that instant, the face was revealed.  Yet it was not physical ugliness that repulsed him – indeed, the face was beautiful – it was the realization that it was a sick, perverted over a whole, new order, infinitely more grotesque and deviant than any fetishism known to humanity.

And what he hated most was his body’s seemingly-involuntary response.  He had been aroused before, now at the physical, intimate contact he felt himself stir.  Could it be a reaction to the naked woman figure or to the fear of it – or to both?

He sensed she waited for a kiss and, after a pause, he kissed her.  She hugged him.  Though he was afraid he touched her anyway suggesting a hug with tentative, semi-embraces.  All the while she grabbed onto his buttocks and pressed his lower-body into hers.

Noguichi realized what contact his stiffness was making with her wetness and gasped – it was a level of intimacy he did not know of.

The figure released him from the hug yet kept her hands busy roaming and exploring about his exposed flesh:  his chest and back, his shoulders and arms, all of which were showing signs of muscular tone and development.  Strangely, neither the neck nor the ears escaped examination.

She released him completely and noticed the fullness of the tent of his pants.  She teased his twitching through the rough and course fabric of his clothes.  Knowing what she was doing, she tugged the obi until it was undone.  His jacket tumbled off; his shirt – the upper-portions of a kimono – and his pants collected about his knees for his legs were spread.  His genitals were exposed and though he was not afraid, he was not comfortable – he had had only one experience with a girl up to that point and neither she nor he had been naked.

He sat at the edge of the toilet; he worried that he acted without prompt but it did not disturb the figure.  She knelt and spread his legs apart further – his genitals hung off the edge of the seat and she cupped them.  She stroked his penis and palmed his scrotum; she was very loving and gentle with her affection, the way she teased his gonads and foreskin, as if she had been utterly familiar and caressing his private parts for years.  The play continued along that line of that rhythm-less, random manner until the last, dim rays of light were exhausted – and when the bathroom was as pitch as a tomb, she kissed the tip of his penis and released the hold of her grip.

She tickled his scrotum and the two giggled like there was nothing wrong with what happened.

While he sat, she slithered out of the bathroom into the bed – she crawled over the floor half snake-like spine-twisting, half ape-like knuckle-dragging, for the years spent in bed in the room weakened her strength and ruined her balance.

Noguichi stood and recollected his clothes.  There was no light in the bathroom and he could not refasten his costume.  Instead he walked out of that shadowy chamber into the next dark chamber with his jacket and shirt clutched by one hand and his pants kept against his waist by the other.  His penis stood exposed through the folds of the fabric, sensitive and erect, wondering if not hoping she might be moved to bring him to orgasm.

He sat at the edge of the bed and was shocked by the feel of her hand upon his neck, his back – and then he smiled.  After all, it was just another human being and not a ghost or a demon.  It was just a woman, a very lonely woman.

Now he kissed her and she shut her eyes – he rubbed her shin and she fell softly but heavily asleep.

He stroked her hair and it exposed her cheek.  He ran his finger up from her face down to her breasts.  It was a slight, innocent feel of their outlines, more or less, but t led to the feel of their nipples.  And it threatened to lead to worse.

“You’ll survive because you know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined.”

He shrugged it off and sighed.  Maybe next time she awoke the play would be extended.  He covered her with a blanket and left the bedroom.

 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         
 

At ten that night Noguichi was again disturbed while reading ‘The Golden Pavilion.’  This time it was not from an inhuman shriek but by an ordinary knock.  Without a second thought he leapt out of the chair into the foyer and opened the door.  Behind it, framed by the coldest, deepest night, was a man:  his voice was familiar though his visage was not.

“Forgive me, but you must be Master Higurashi,” the teenager stuttered with a nervous, quick bow.

“And you must be Noguichi?  At last, I meet you.”  The man bowed too and upon the rack placed his black coat by the boy’s red jacket.

Higurashi, who was not much older than Noguichi, was armed with a hand-held Xenon lamp.  Its rays were bright and strong and by contrast it seemed as if the candle-light had been extinguished.  By its glow he saw the teenager was still costumed, still dressed in the red and white outfit.

“I hope you don’t feel like a piece of meat when I say this – but it’s true, Hojo’s right – you fit the build.  Even in the light of day you look exactly like what he would have looked.”  He grimaced and nodded approval realizing only too late that one, single detail was amiss.  “Ah, a part of the puzzle is missing.  Hm, come with me.  Come.”  With the lantern askew, held by the hand, he lit the distance and suggested – non-verbally -- that the boy follow him into the depths of the house.  “You know about the basement?  I bet by now you’ve explored the house.”

“I have, yes, I have,” Noguichi confessed almost as if to crime then added:  “and I swept the floors a bit here and there.”

“I see,” he said, more mechanically than formally while he breezed through the living room:  he noted its dust-free chair and table with the books and candles upon it.  “Did – did it happen already?”

“Yes, Master Higurashi.  It did.  And I think it went well.”
“You mean you weren’t scared?”

Souta smiled; he tended to be informal with males of that age, having known many, too many, teenagers since boyhood.

“You think you want to stay?”  He led the path from the living room to the kitchen.  The doorway into the basement appeared out of the void as though it were a portal into a dimension beyond.  “You think you want the job – for a while?  A little while?”

“I can do the job, I know that now.”

“That’s good.”  He dug into his pants and fetched his keys.  “You think it’s weird, don’t you?  Weird and sick and perverted.  It is what it is, ever since it happened my sister developed a fondness for teenage boys.  Well.  For one, particular teenage boy.  Who he was, I don’t know, maybe he was imagined, maybe he was real.  Or both.  Like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ where the fantasy characters were based on the real characters.  Still, the details she spoke about didn’t make him to be human.”

“Pardon me, Master Higurashi, but she used to talk?”

“Yes, oh, yes.  She used to talk.  She used to be functional.”  Jiggling the keys he stopped to search the right words and weigh the right sentences.  “She was fifteen and fell into that well.  Hojo must have told you.  She fell into the well and remained inside for days.  No body knew it; no body knew where she was and what she was doing.  At last, when Grandpa and I found her, we feared she was dead – if only she were what she would have been spared – anyway, we raised her with ropes and pulleys.  We took her into the hospital.  There the doctors discovered the brain damage.  The epileptic seizures.”

Higurashi Souta opened the doorway and flipped the switch just beyond the frame.  Below, with a flicker and a hum, the cellar awoke into a world of fluorescence.  He turned off his lamp and started his descent.

Noguichi followed closely, his arms crossed and folded upon his chest, within the long, red sleeves of the costume’s haori jacket.

“When she awoke she told Grandpa and me all about her adventure in the Feudal Era.  And about this special, demonic boy named Inuyasha.  My sister was not lonely, certainly she was not lonely, but she was kind and loving.  Accepting.  She was a romantic and I could tell, even then I could tell, she was in love with Inuyasha.  A boy who existed only in her warped and shattered mind.”

The man reached the base of the stairwell and turned left.  He set the lamp upon a table; he pulled-up a chair and offered it.  The boy climbed it and sat with what would have been an unorthodox style to anyone’s eyes other than Higurashi’s:  for upon the chair Noguichi squatted like a dog sitting upon its haunches.

“Afterward, we noticed she’d come and go, vanishing for days.  Grandpa knew but didn’t understand; he covered the absences with one excuse after the next and that, in time, lured Hojo into the inner-circle of the Higurashi clan.  I, of course, because of my age I didn’t know and I wanted to know.  I followed her and saw her enter the well.  Again and again.  She’d gather supplies like food and water and she’d enter.  She caught me watching but she wasn’t mad – no – and it became like our, little secret.  I believed the stories, you understand, I fell for the tales, too.  I really did think she was going into the past through the well.”

While Noguichi listened Higurashi produced a pair of items:  a book and a box.

“But it didn’t take me long to realize it wasn’t time-travel.  It was seizures and trances; it was speaking in tongues and acting out fantasies like a sleepwalker.  And it got bad.  It could not be controlled – not by the strongest medicines, not by the most radical surgeries – it happened elsewhere, everywhere at home and at school.  Grandpa and I blamed ourselves.  He and I – and Hojo – we, shut, the well.  Mother confined Kagome into her room.  I still remember it, like it was yesterday, I watching her sitting in front of my sister’s door, that was chained and locked, while from inside the bedroom could be heard her struggling through the seizures.  Day by day that scream drowned – it muted – while her body weakened until, at last, not as much as a whisper was sensed and her trances became like sleep.  It was not possible anymore to say what she was; it was a new and different state of mind.  Not quite dead and not quite alive.  Mother, too, didn’t survive – she’s with Hojo’s family now – she’s lost within catatonic states of her own.  She couldn’t deal with it.”

He eased the book toward the teenager.

“It’s Kagome’s journal.  She called it the ‘Narakunomicon.’  Can you imagine the madness of it?  Demons and war-lords and that semi-entity Naraku who lurks within humanity’s vile heart.  Hojo read it; he said it should be burned and I agreed.  But it’s all that’s left of my sister.  Still, it contains Inuyasha’s description and without that knowledge Kagome cannot be placated.  Like that costume of yours, it’s Inuyasha’s costume, Mother sewed the outfit.  It was supposed to be for Hojo – but – Hojo loves my sister too much and if he had had it his way he would have been with her all of these years.  And there would have been two monsters haunting this house.  It was a compromise to hire teenagers to wear the outfit.  Which reminds me,” he said, tapping the box and sliding it toward Noguichi.  “Grandpa and I created this and it’s the most important part of the puzzle.”

The boy took the box and shook it – an object within rattled.

“Anyway, you must feel like a piece of meat.”

“I don’t, Master Higurashi, I don’t.  Truth is, I like quiet places where I can be alone.  Where I can read and daydream.  Mr. Hojo’s covering for me with my folks and school.  And Kagome, your sister, she’s – easy – to get along with.  Surprisingly so.”

“I’m glad you feel that way.  Yes.  It is a simple job.”

Noguichi opened the box; Souta smiled, almost laughed.

“A necklace?”

“If you don’t wear it she gets confused.  She starts to explore around your neck and chest.  Hojo said it always made him feel uncomfortable.”

The youth nodded while he examined the blue and white rosary beads; the necklace lifeless within his palm.

Now to be certain, Noguichi knew it was profoundly sad and wrong, all of it.  But was it unforgivable to be placating someone’s wishes?  And a part of him, deep down inside, a part of him envied Kagome.  Indeed, if it could be arranged that he could be free of the world and its responsibility, just for the time to be alone with his thoughts, he would have taken the job free of charge.

“According to the Narakunomicon, Inuyasha was a half-demon, and every twenty-eight days he transformed into a human with black hair and black eyes.  Well, into a teenager, who looked just like you.  It was always important to keep the lights off – not that I think she sees at least not the way we see – but you, you, even in daylight you don’t break the illusion, so to speak.”

Noguichi wrapped the rosary beads around his neck.

“Just remember this, when she says ‘Osuwari’, sit.”

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