She of Memories Past and Fading
Chapter 6:: Suffering and Death
I called Hatori to my rooms today to see if my hypothesis is true. Are my memories of Arisu's death truly suppressed? I must find out if Hatori can help me in this matter or not.
I am sitting quietly, staring out my open window at the birds again, and he is sitting on his knees near the low-rise traditional table in the middle of the room, watching me with hidden curiosity. I have yet to tell him of what I want from him this day.
Slowly, I gather my thoughts and decided on the wording of my question. Wording is everything you know. If you put even one word in a sentence that does not belong, it can cause a world of a difference in meaning to people.
"Hatori. . .do you believe that memories can be suppressed by horrific events?" I ask, though my lips and mind feel numb as I continue to stare longingly out the window.
His head pops up to look at me in a questioning motion, his one good eye blinking. I remain silent, ignoring his questioning gaze to watch the birds as the flit close to me then turn away again.
He takes his time in answering me, something I do not take a liking to, but it does add to dramatic effect, even if there is no one else but us two to witness it.
"Yes," a simple answer at first, then he adds on to it an explanation. "It's been proven that humans can suppress unwanted memories of the past that may disturb them." His voice is firm, and I can tell that he is learned at least slightly in this area.
I tilt my head upward and to one side slightly so that I peer back at him out of the corner of one eye in an eerie way. "And do you think that humans can recall those memories on their own?"
"It is possible. . ." He says slowly, obviously thinking something over. For a moment, I feel a smirk coming on for I know that he is catching on to my motive. Yet it matters not to me and I clear the smirk before it even touched my lips. "It can happen, if something relating to the incident is presented to the said person. Yet it might be highly traumatic. . ."
He enters the last bit in a warning tone and I jerk my head sharply toward him to show that I do not appreciate his opinion at the moment. "Hatori, what would you say if I told you that I wish to know what happened in my suppressed memories?"
His mouth opens slightly in shock and I smirk lightly, turning my head fully toward him. A flicker of candlelight gives the mind the idea that his eyes are wavering when truly they are not. Their depths flash briefly as the truth sinks in on him and his mouth parts again to speak. "You're suppressed memories. . . ?" He questions, regaining his composure.
I do not move my eyes from his. There is no need to confirm it, Hatori might be blind in one eye, but he is not deaf in one ear. "I wish to know what happened the day of Arisu's death. . .the day the shone shown brighter than any other day of the year."
I know his surprise is not at my words, but the fact that I have spoken the name that I had so long forbidden anyone else to mention. Are you confused Hatori?
I decide to answer the question he is afraid to ask of me. "Why do I wish to remember how Arisu died?" I know that my eyes have taken on a sadistic glint and that my lips are curled into the same sadistic-looking smile. The depths of my eyes sparkle with a cold knowledge that would freeze a pond in the middle of the summer.
"Arisu was my everything," I know that my voice is irregular and that I probably sound like I've lost my sanity, but I do not care. He wanted my reasoning for this, and he will hear it, no matter how it chills him. "I want to know what happened to my Arisu that was so horrible, I could not bare to keep it alive in my memories of her."
I want to laugh, to let out the tension in my chest and throat in a scream of laughter instead of tears. I refuse to cry any longer for that woman. I must know what happened to her. I must remember.
My mind is no longer my own as I watch him through wide gray eyes that I am quite aware must appear purple in the dim light of my quarters. "I must know what happened to her."
My voice is small and feeble now, but I will not allow him to feel that I am in any way weak this day. I must know what is locked so securely in my mind! What is some small part of me trying to hide from the rest of my being that is so horrific?
Hatori is watching me warily, knowing what I must be seeking from him. Yes, Hatori, I plan on using your power for my own gain, whatever that 'gain' may be in the end.
I smirk darkly at him, raising my chin a little to give off a pompous and conceited mood.
"Will you assist me, Hatori?"
My voice is steady now, I'm glad that I have regained control of my pitiful emotions as I look across the room at him, forgetting my winged friends outside the window.
It might as well have been an order instead of a question, for he and I both knew that he could not deny me this. I am Head of the Sohma household; no one may defy me in my lands.
Hatori makes a face, looking troubled briefly about my request. In his silence, I notice that there are silent shadows creeping about outside my quarters. Hmm, so, Shigure and Ayame have come to their friends' aid. How touching; though I do not plan on hurting him. I chuckle inwardly at them, they must truly think of me as some monster.
Though I do not disagree with them on that matter, I am a monster. Everyone in this accursed family is a monster. We are all doomed; there is no escaping our curse.
I look to him with a beseeching look in my eyes. "Well, Hatori? Will you assist me in this?"
He swallows and I see a muscle in his mouth twitch with displeasure before he nods solemnly. "Hai, Akito-san."
I smile at him; a true smile, not a smirk. For some reason, I feel relieved that he has agreed to help me, though I know he is afraid of the consequences.
"Good." I say in a pleased tone. "How do we go about this then?" I sit back, still smiling pleasantly at him in a slight effort to lighten his mood. Secretly, I watch the discreet movements of Ayame and Shigure outside of my doors with wary eyes.
Hatori gets to his feet, the swagger of his body as he stands speaks of weariness and the desire to deny me this favor. Slowly, he walks toward me, and I am aware of time seeming to slow as I try to capture this last moment in my mind for future thought. His heels give a muffled thud when they hit the tatami mats, his clothing whispers against each other and against his skin as he nears. His breath has caught and he is breathing shallowly as he comes close to me. "Are you sure you want to do this?" He asks in a only slightly warning tone.
I nod solemnly, finally letting down my guard enough to give him a weak and frightened smile. My heart is hammering with anxiety in my chest. "Yes. I am sure."
He gets down on one knee, one arm draped over the knee as he reaches the other out and places it on my face. The feeling of his palm is warm against my skin, and I smile again as I feel the pads of his fingers tighten. Just before he is about to reach out with his powers, I let out a final troubled breath, my lips moving of their own accord in the form of words. "Thank you, Hatori."
I can feel a shock go through him at my words, but he has no time to stop what he has already done, and I feel something click in my mind and suddenly an overwhelming emotional pain fills me.
Memories come surging back, ones that I knew existed, ones that were too old for me to truly remember, and finally, a series of dark ones that make my mind scream even before I have truly looked at them closely.
I let out a petrified scream and Hatori pulls his arm away as if I was poisonous. My hands fly to my head and I let out another yell and I curl in on myself. Some part of me that still clings to the outside world watches as Hatori's eyes waver, holding his hand that had released my memories in his other hand. His muscles are stiff and taut, and he looks frantically horrified as he watches me through his only good eye. Ayame and Shigure bust in not much later after hearing my screams and rush to him before coming toward me. I look to Hatori, though my mind is currently occupied by other things, I feel one final, calm thought enter my mind. Oh, Hatori, don't look so frightened, the look really doesn't fit you.
Ayame and Shigure are in my line of vision now, blocking Hatori from me. But that's just fine, for my world is slowly fading to black. . .
"Hurry! Hurry, it's Ms. Arisu!! She's in trouble!" A man that I did not know stood in the center of the bisection of hallways, shouting orders and pointing to younger men and boys that hurried to do as he asked.
In the shadows stood two men that had been overlooked by the frantic man that was yelling. I stood near them, also shrouded in shadow it seemed, for no one noticed me at all.
Several times I heard someone calling out for me, but I was too frightened to move from my spot. I had never liked large, rushing crowds like this, they confused me and made me nervous.
The two men behind me were speaking in hushed tones, and I cocked my head to the side just enough so that I could hear their voices more clearly over the roar of the shouting and tramping. I did not want to let on that I was listening, so I kept my eyes straight ahead in a precarious manner, letting my eyes follow men and women as they rushed through the halls, ignoring me and the men speaking. Still, I could only catch a few spoken words between them, and none of it made sense until. . .
"They say Arisu-san is dying."
"Aye, is that why they be needing that boy? And all of those other people? Those men and women that all have the strange colored hair and eyes? The ones what always keep to themselves?"
"Yes, rumor has it that they are the ones what be cursed."
"Even the boy?"
"Aye, the boy too. But he isn't cursed like they are. Nay, he will be the one that will take the full weight of the curse after Arisu."
"But such a small boy! How could he possibly- at such a young age-!"
"Hmm, that's what I think. But he is the one, there is no other."
Their words fell on me like a load of bricks, stunning me completely. No, not the part about my being the one to come after Arisu, I knew that already, it was their first words.
"They say Arisu-san is dying."
But that wasn't true! My Arisu. . .my Arisu had promised she would not leave me, that she would never leave me! And my Arisu did not go back on her word! She would never lie to me. . .Never.
My heart skipped a beat and before I knew it I had torn from my spot, dashing between people's legs, knocking them over, tripping over my own frantic feet, and making a mad dash for where I knew Arisu would be.
People poured from every hallway and doorway, but no one seemed to be going down the long hallway to Arisu's quarters. I overlooked this in my frantic manner and raced for the door, sliding to a halt in front of it. I didn't stop to catch my breath, though my heart was giving erratic palpation's that were warning me to stop, and my lungs and throat burned with wind-fire.
Still, I paid no heed to any of this in my frantic state of mind. The only thing that I knew at that time was that Arisu was in trouble, even possibly dying, and I would not let her be alone. With this in mind, I flung open the door and found to my horror that Arisu was indeed not alone.
The sight before didn't register at first, for all I saw was large, black, writhing shapes that hissed on the tatami mats. The air smelled putrid, like musty animals, and in the midst of all the hissing I could hear pained breathing. Sharp, short sounds that sounded more like gasping screams that actual breaths.
As soon as the door slid open enough, and the light from outside poured over and around me, I saw eyes flash from the darkness at me. Yellow, pale and sickly, all huddled near the flailing sheet.
Forgetting my fear of the unknown creatures, I ran from the doorway to the sheet and kneeled at her side, tears in my eyes. I grasped her hands in my own and she seemed to calm immediately, as if understanding who was with her. Tears poured down from my eyes as I peered at her sweaty, pale face. She looked clammy and sick, and it was then that I first peered into the eyes of a dying woman. Her tiny fingers, always so weak, clasped mine in an effort to comfort as her half-lidded eyes saw my weeping face. One hand reached out toward me and she stroked them away gently, smiling softly at me the whole time. She opened her mouth, and words started to form, though her voice was so raspy and labored, that her sentences would be left unfinished for periods of time for her to try and suppress some pain that wracked her frail form. Her eyes were sad, and a single tear slid down her cheek.
"Akito. . .Akito you. . .must be strong. . .Promise me. . .promise that you'll be. . .strong. . ."
I think I squeezed her small hand too tightly at her words, but she did not wince visibly so I only increased my hold as I bent my head over her. "B-but I-I can't Arisu-san. . ." She said helplessly, trembling. She took several long, deep breaths, but said nothing. "I can't go on without you, Arisu; please – take me with you!!"
I begged her; my eyes flooded with so much water that her form was a blur of color. She 'shh-ed' me in a comforting way, though there seemed some urgency in her tone as well as her eyes moved to the writhing figures about her that I had forgotten. "No, Akito. You cannot come with me." She was speaking sternly, though her voice was raspy and her eyes were lost in waves of pain. "You are too young to go where I am going."
I sniffed, rubbing with one hand at my eyes. "I-I don't care." I sobbed loudly. "You promised we would always be together, Arisu. Please, I don't want to be alone again." I clung to her hands as tight as I could, trying to push some of my young strength into her if it meant she would be with me a bit longer.
She smiled serenely and turned her head from me, closing her eyes as another wave of pain took its toll on her. I watched her with horrified eyes. "A-Arisu?!" I screamed her name, half-afraid that she had left me.
Her fingers moved slightly in my palms and I calmed. She 'shh-ed' me again, pressing one of her hands to my lips. Her eyes opened again as her head lolled back in my direction. "You do not want their attention, Akito." Her voice was small and fading.
"Arisu?" I asked in a quieter tone, lowering my head closer to her.
Her hand that I did not have clasped in mine rose and she pointed to the writhing figures all around us. "They are listening. . .do not speak too loudly, my Akito. Yelling attracts their attention. . ."
I stopped, catching my breath as I realized that I had overlooked something. A dark aura seemed to slip through into my mind, and I shivered visibly once before I turned my eyes slowly upward. I could feel dread creep into my heart as I peered into the yellow eyes of some unknown creature who's warm, rank breath seeped from large nostrils and blew at my face, blowing my hair aside from my face.
I know my eyes widened, and my knees took a firmer grip on the floor and I continued to stare into the eyes, my fear clenched in my throat. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out, I was barely breathing for fear of this creature that I could only see the outline and eyes of. Still, it looked angry and in such pain that was beaten only by Arisu's. I shuddered and grasped Arisu's hand tighter. "Arisu. . ." I said in a small tone, my eyes still locked on the fiery yellow ones. "Arisu. . .what. . .what are they?"
'They', yes, 'they', for though my eyes were only locked on one, there were others writhing and watching, squealing and making the noises of pained animals.
Arisu's tired eyes turned toward me, and I could see that she was passing away from me. Something inside of me pulled and more tears welled up to see her in such pain. Oh, my Arisu, why can't I help you, share your burden?
"They are those that hold the curse. This is. . .what happens to the members of the Zodiac when the full bearer of the curse is dying. They can no longer hold. . .a human form. . ." Her words were sporadic, but I had pretty much gotten the idea between her labored fragments.
I squeezed her hand tighter at her words though. For some reason, the idea that she was dying had not hit me as hard as it should have yet. And hearing her tell me this in such simple words felt like my heart had been wrenched out. I was out of tears by then, but my tiny body still shook from spastic convulsions.
I opened to my mouth to speak, but it snapped shut in horror as I felt scaly skin slide over my legs, and heard the scuttle of something behind me. The animals were all around us now, and I couldn't help but squeeze her hand so tightly I was sure I would break it in my fright.
I was aware of how fragile she was suddenly, and tried to lessen my hold, though it proved a futile matter. "Arisu. . ." I squeaked in a frightened voice. Fright for her, and fright of the monsters.
Suddenly, the shoji door, which I had left partially open, was flung back with a tremendous force. I turned with a start to see a tall, gangly man standing in the light, one arm still thrust out in the direction of the door.
He had a hard look in his eyes, and I was only slightly surprised by the orange hair on his head. I couldn't avert my startled eye from him as he came forward, hands clenched into fists at his sides. He spoke no words to me as he entered, nor did his eyes turn my way, still – I felt an air of hostility coming from him directed at me.
Arisu did not seemed at the least frightened by him. "The Cat. . ." I heard her voice come out as whisper-soft. So low was her tone that I wasn't even sure I had heard her. . .maybe I had imagined it. . . ?
Still, as I turned with a questioning look on my face toward my ever-suffering mother-figure, I saw that there was some strange emotion flickering in her dulled eyes. Tiredness, hope, and apprehension reigned as the most supreme as her gaze lingered on the man who continued to come closer.
I felt my breath became shallower, and I looked to my panting friend for support. Her eyes did not meet mine though, not even when the strange man knelt beside me and took her other hand in his did she turned her head in my direction.
Suddenly, as his warm hands closed over her small, dainty one, I saw a flash of rejection, and terrible outrage in her eyes. Her hands increased their hold on mine in my hand, and I wondered if she was wasting too much energy in this act, for she also appeared to be weaker. "No!" She screamed at him, trying to twist her hand away.
He held her tightly though, his hard gaze never wavering from her frantic eyes. He did not answer her at first while she tried to regain her hand in a futile manner.
Arisu's arm eventually went slack, tired from an over-expenditure of nearly non-existent energy. Her eyes blinked closed slowly, and came back open. There was a strange kind of fear shining in them, and she reminded me briefly of a wounded deer.
Finally, after a small lapse in her fight, the man kneeling beside me spoke. "Arisu, its time."
She nodded slowly, and I felt forgotten, set adrift in a strange world. Her eyes fluttered and drifted shut, and I felt her grip on my hand slacken. I could tell she was leaving me, and I felt a sinking feeling hit me suddenly I wished to cry with renewed tears, but none would come. I was drained and tired.
I let her hand slide from mine onto the covers of the futon, bending my head slightly. I wasn't ready to lose her yet.
The man looked on at her mournfully for a second before he slowly, too closed his eyes. He looked older then, the determination gone from his features as he sagged slightly, seeming to lose himself.
I opened my mouth to speak, but somehow I knew my words were lost on them. I could only watch, with startled, wide eyes as the man before slowly started to change. His orange hair ran down his body and grew in great clumps, like fur, and he slowly was shrinking, his features and body changing.
I pulled back slightly from him as his clothing caved in around his now tawny, orange-furred self. Arisu's hand lay on top of his slim yukata that now lay in a heap on top of a small, barely distinguishable form.
Presently, an orange cat's head stuck out from under the clothes, and one paw crept out, touching the forgotten hand of Arisu, who lay breathing shallowly in her futon. I looked to her in fright, for as soon as the cat had touched her, I had felt something inside of me give my heart a stinging feeling. Gasping, I clutched to my chest with one hand. What was happening?
Arisu's breathing became shorter and shorter, and what little color was left in her cheeks and body was drained. She was leaving me. I let out a scream, my whole body jerking with pain. Unfortunately, my display brought unwanted attention, and the animals swooped in around me.
I felt their skin and breath again me as they crowded too close. My mind and body screamed as one, denial lacing my every motion as I fought to get to Arisu. I wouldn't let her die- not alone! I would make it to her and then. . .and then. . .
Pain seared through me until I wasn't sure what I had intended the sentence to finish off as. What did I think I could do for her? Gasping for breath, I thrashed against the pain, letting out another mournful, animalistic howl before I felt my world going black.
"Arisu. . .you promise. . ."
I woke with a start, sitting straight up in my futon on the tatami mats of my own room. A room that had once been Arisu's, and had once been the room of the curse bearer before her. I grimaced as my head swam, cold sweat running down my body and making me feel like I needed a bath promptly.
Staggering to my feet, I walked toward the rice-paper screen doors and slid them open, revealing my own private garden. Resting one shoulder against the column that supported the roofed path-way that winds around the entire building, I leaned there for a few seconds, trying to regain my composure.
My breathing grew shallow after a moment, and I turned my head toward a songbird that it flitting away from my person at a rapid pace. As it becomes nothing but a tiny speck in the sky, I feel myself growing envious of the bird again.
'Arisu. . .why did you have to break your promise. . . ?'
Well, that's the end. And for an extra – it's long! Eheh. . .
I hope you all understood that, for there's very little explaining I could do right now if you didn't. I do tend to get confusing at times, and if you see a problem area, please do inform me so I can fix that right up. grin
Thank you, all of my supporters, from the bottom of my heart. I'm sorry that the series took so long for me to complete, and if it seemed repetitive at times. (I have a habit of doing that without intention at times too) You guys are the ones that really pushed me to finish this group of little one-shots. I feel slightly heartened that people like it just to hear about Arisu-san. I was afraid people would mistake her for some may-sue or Tohru wannabe or something. sweatdrop It's nice to see that you guys understand.
smile Well, it's time for me to go. Thank you all once again, and I hope you enjoyed SOMPAF!! Ja'ne!