By Starzki

Chapter 1: Darkness Falling

I didn't see it coming. The irony of that phrase still makes me chuckle, but it was true at the time.

I can still remember with complete clarity the last image I saw before the blindness struck me. As far as things that I've seen since becoming a part of this group, it was one of the nicer images. Completely common and everyday, but nice. Inuyasha and Kagome (with Shippou on perched on her shoulder) were walking in front of me down the forest path. Sango was in my peripheral vision holding Kirara and, as always, walking beside me. I even remember how charmed I was at the confluence of images of that moment. The day was mild, bright, and clear. The bright red of Inuyhasha's clothing and his silver hair provided a wonderful contrast to the dark greens and blues of the trees and their shadows. Also, I always enjoyed seeing the easy affection between Kagome and Shippou. That day, they were being especially cute. Shippou was making a game out of fashioning different styles of hats out of Kagome's long hair and modeling them to make her laugh. And then there was Sango. I even remember thinking to myself, right at that instant, that with her pink yukata and green apron, that Sango could make the flowers jealous for improving on their beauty.

It actually took me a few seconds to realize that I had gone blind. Now, I also sometimes find it funny that I didn't notice it right away. I guess that I had nothing to compare it to and, even now, I can't remember the precise moment everything went black. What I do remember was that last image freezing in my memory, then slowly fading. It was almost as though a cloud was passing in front of the sun, signaling an impending storm. But it kept getting darker. I wondered briefly if it wasn't an eclipse before the realization that the darkness that was shrouding the world around me was due to my own eyes and not my environment.

I stopped walking, blinked a few times, and tried opening my eyes wider, perplexedly trying to right my vision. Nothing made the light come back. I began to rub my eyes vigorously with my hands. I rubbed to the point of pain, but blackness and void was all that I saw.

"Something wrong, Houshi-sama?" Sango asked from somewhere ahead of me. She had noticed that I was no longer beside her. I heard what I decided to interpret as worry and concern in her voice, even though I couldn't see her expression to confirm it.

"I can't see right," I answered. "I can't see."

"What's the hold up?" called Inuyasha testily.

"Houshi-sama said that he can't see."

I waved my hand in front of my face, trying to make out a flutter of movement. All I sensed was the fanned air as it breezed past my skin. Footsteps approached me as I tried rubbing my eyes and blinking my blindness away again.

"What's wrong?" asked Kagome as Shippou bounded from her shoulder to mine, startling me. I could feel his breath and warmth on my neck and cheek as he peered closely at me.

"I can't see," I repeated, detached, waiting for vision to return.

"Can't see: blurry, or can't see: pitch black?" asked Kagome. I felt more movement of air against my face and I assumed Kagome was passing her hand in front of my face as I had done before.

A weird feeling of unbalance overtook me. I felt alone, adrift, and oddly cold without my bearings. I reached out and fumblingly caught and gripped the hand near my face, needing an anchor to the reality I remembered. Things were suddenly confusing and frightening. "Can't see: pitch black," I replied, trying stifle the oncoming panic I felt welling behind my heart. Although I still felt adrift, the hand I held served to tether me to the present, to keep me from floating into the lonely darkness. Forcing my breathing to remain steady, I clasped the small hand between both of my own. "Is this you, Kagome?" I asked.

"No, it's me, Houshi-sama," replied Sango. I instantly felt a little calmer, my trembling muscles relaxing slightly.

"Thank you," I answered.

"Your eyes look okay to me. They're not red or anything. Maybe you're just tired," offered Kagome. "We'll take a break and maybe it'll clear up on its own." Without being able to read her face, I listened hard to her voice and thought I detected a forced cheerfulness.

I nodded, but I didn't feel optimistic. I didn't feel fatigued at all. Sango tugged my hand and led me away, toward the side of the path we had been following. On the third step, I tripped on a root and stumbled. Luckily, Sango was able to jerk me back to my feet before I fell flat on my face. My heart racing, she led me to a flat and dry place to sit.

Behind me, I heard Inuyasha grumbling under his breath in annoyance at the delay. As fragile and frightened as I felt at that moment, I took immediate offence. My temper rose, angered that he felt so inconvenienced by my serious ailment. I tamped down the feeling quickly, though. He and I were frustrated at the same thing and I refused to start snapping at my friends for something wasn't their fault.

I sat cross-legged and attempted meditation, tried to find my center, in the hopes that it was a spiritual imbalance that had stolen my sight. But every time I peeked through a slitted eyelid, only darkness welcomed me.

After an hour, I shifted uncomfortably and sighed. "I still can't see," I announced. "I'm not tired and waiting around is just holding us up."

"Are you sure that you should try moving around in your condition, Houshi-sama?" asked Sango.

"I don't know what else I should do. I don't think that staying here will help me," I replied.

"Maybe a priestess in a nearby village will know what to do," offered Kagome.

I nodded. Then, I realized that I couldn't see anyone react to my nod to know if they saw me. So I said, "Yes, good idea." I realized that so many of my unconscious gestures were predicated on the reciprocated non-verbal behaviors of others. They seemed so utterly useless to me now.

"The nearest village is over a day's journey from here at the pace we're going," said Inuyasha. "Can this wait that long?"

"Yeah. And how are you gonna walk, Miroku?" asked Shippou. "You can't even see where you're going."

"No. You're right Shippou," I said.

"You can ride Kirara," decided Sango and the rest of the group made small murmurs of agreement. Riding Kirara would cut down travel time and save me from running into things and tripping.

"Alright," I consented. I heard the whoosh of Kirara's transformation and fumblingly made my way toward the sound. Sango held my elbow and guided me onto the giant cat's back. Sango took her usual seat in front of me. I noticed the smell of her hair, like clover and sunshine, and decided that being blind wasn't all bad, if it made me notice things like that.

But then Kirara bounded into the air and I experienced the most terrifying vertigo of my life. The wind rushing past my face and howling in my ears as we raced into the sky threw off every sensory landmark that I had been relying on. My dangling feet craved the firm ground beneath them. I gasped and faltered in my balance on the youkai's back, twitching forward against Sango, then so far back that I thought for sure that I would fall. I felt that I was falling, anyway. I was under water or within the violent winds of a tornado. It was how I feared my death would feel when the Kazaana grew and would overtake me one day: Blackness and violent winds tearing me apart from inside and out.

I had taken my usual position on Kirara: my staff in front of Sango's waist, my hands gripping the staff on either side of her hips in the only embrace she would allow me. But, in my sudden panic, I dropped my staff and began to clutch at whatever might stabilize me within the void and confusion I was experiencing. I grabbed handfuls of Kirara's fur with my right hand and Sango's shoulder, along with a fistful of her hair, in my left. I heard both the cat and Sango hiss in pain.

"Please," I gasped out with forced calm because inside I was screaming. "Land, now." It was as though steel bands were constricting the walls of my chest and preventing my heart or lungs from working properly. My pulse raced like I had just sprinted a mile at top speed and I tasted the sour bitterness of terror at the back of my throat.

Seconds that ticked by far too slowly to suit me brought us lower and to the ground. I slipped off of Kirara in an undignified heap. I pulled myself up onto all fours with my forehead pressed against the ground between my hands. Trembling and weak with relief, I couldn't bring myself to stand. The black I saw seemed to whirl and bubble, yet never differentiated in color or texture. The darkness around me was viscous and stuck to my hands and face, cold and tingling and promising abandonment and sorrow.

I heard Kagome rush up. "Miroku-sama, are you ok?" she asked with pity soaking her voice. I was too ashamed of my behavior, my position on the ground, to answer. Truthfully, I wasn't even sure if I could talk. I was still too worn with terror to make my muscles physically do my bidding.

I heard Sango shift and step lightly next to me, above me. She must have waved the others off, allowing me to gather myself with what little dignity I could muster. I managed to move to a sitting position with my face in my hands, my head swimming with dizziness and nausea. The rings of my staff jingled sweetly. Shippou had retrieved it and offered it to Sango and I heard her thank him softly.

A minute later, I had stopped trembling sufficiently enough to stand. I groped the air before me to assess my surroundings. My hand knocked against the staff that Sango was offering to me and I gripped it tightly. A strong hand on my elbow signaled Sango at my side again. "Did I hurt you?" I asked softly, ashamed. Strands of her hair were still twined around my fingers from when I had accidentally yanked them out.

"I'm okay, Houshi-sama. I should have realized what a bad idea it was. It's hard enough to ride Kirara with all five senses working perfectly." Then, she announced to the rest of the group, "We'll have to walk."

A/N: Apparently, I lied the last time when I said that "Support" would be my last Inu fic. But people were way too kind and embarrassed me into writing the other idea I had. So, for those who reviewed: Thank you. And you only have yourselves to blame for me assaulting the Internet with another one of my stories.

Origins of this story (if anyone cares): It started a couple of months ago, I was out running when I suddenly I couldn't see huge chunks of vision. I live in a major city and was three miles from home and couldn't see cars going by at intersections. It was a little scary and very confusing. It turned out to be only tunnel vision, the prelude to my first migraine, but it weird and kind of freaked me out at the time. Then, I started reading Jose' Saramago's Blindness (interesting book, very disturbing in the middle, but it gets better). The word "grope" was used a bit. So I got to thinking of my favorite monk and all the "what-ifs." Hence, this story.

Now, I've reread and re-edited this chapter so much that I've lost all perspective on it and need some feedback. I could definitely use all of the constructive criticism that people could give me. Thanks!