Theme: "hey, you know…"

Title: Bury the Dead

His life has played out with the careless nonsense of a good slasher movie, the kind you take your girl out to just to get her to unconsciously grab your hand during the most gruesome moments.

The T.V. went and gave its version of what happened, showcased pictures of the murdered day and night like the Smithsonian with the Hope Diamond. Bereaved family members begged them to stop, and if Kyouya hadn't seen most of the bodies beforehand he would have been begging along with them.

Thirty recognizable bodies total from the condominium: three of the Six Spirits, the deteriorated remains of Nema and Master, Mio, twenty-four teenage corpses. One hundred eighty-four suicides and murders of seventeen-year-olds total in the country. Two hundred forty-seven proven cases of murder committed by seventeen-year-olds.

Religious fanatics shook their heads, saying the end-times were here, and Kyouya laughed as the press tried to shut them up, knowing with a black certainty how right they were. He kept watching the screen, all its numbers like death-kisses. They faded into faces, then back to numbers, then finally to blood and Bible verses, a sour taste in his mouth.

- -

He had no idea how she ever managed it, but Tsukiko had gotten herself a job as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant half a mile from his apartment. He met her there on accident, about to order a hamburger when he saw her at the register.

"Kyouya," she said in surprise, then, "it's been awhile, hasn't it? If you'll wait my lunch break's in just a minute… if you want."

He nodded, though he didn't have anything he really wanted to tell her other than how odd it was to see her in something besides that school uniform, caked with blood and sin.

She left the counter with her order on a tray—a strawberry milkshake and fries—then sat across from him at the table, looking sadly at him.

"You quit school?"

He nodded.

She poked the straw in the paper cup before she responded, hesitant.

"You ought not to have done that... you did lots better than me in school—I suppose just about everybody did—but so many kids are quitting these days, it's really, really terrible..."

"Well, considering I won't be around to see how terrible it gets I figured I might as well quit."

"Don't say things like that." Weak smile. "Of course you'll be around."

He tried to grin but it was nothing but a mockery on his lips.

"Tsukiko," he said, "save the pity for when I'm dead."

"Kyouya! That's so morbid! Don't—don't say things like that…"

"Oh, come on, Tsukiko, you're as morbid as I ever was." And he knew he should stop there, because he felt the stares of people from the other tables, on edge, darkly curious. So as a compromise he said the rest softly, just to say it. "We used to deal death like playing cards. I'd say we've both gone up a little since then."

She stopped chewing on the straw, looked straight at him.

"What are you talking about?"

"What do you think I'm talking about?" He waved his hands around absently. The sane part of him demanded that he shut up now before he damned both of them to mental institutions.

He stared at her face, from the black bangs that framed it so badly to the blank, mild brown eyes. And suddenly, he understood.

"You made yourself forget, huh?"

Tsukiko frowned.

"Forget? Kyouya, I don't know what you—"

"Your lunch break's probably over now," and he stood from the chair, picked up his tray. "I won't keep your boss waiting."

- -

One thing that he could count on from the horror flicks was that the survivors would always go on with their lives until the sequel. La-di-dah, lackadaisical, carry on, all sanity close to intact. The demons were exorcised, after all.

The demons were exorcised but he couldn't move on. He had six months left to live as the only one left that remembered.

He tried to put it into twisted perspective, make it right, make it fit. Throw in poetic justice if God's judgment wouldn't work, throw in the Diabolo's if poetic justice turned a deaf ear. His mind wasn't unstable enough to block the memories, there were no personalities to run through and over in an attempt to remove any of the blame.

In the end he found his punishment sufficient.

finis