When darkness overcomes the heart, Shonen Batto appears

A grinning boy with a golden bat offers shallow salvation.

When the golden fox retreats, smile fading, what will they do?

The radio plays records of the moon's past.

And then…

Silently, the body falls. Heedless of the crimson spilling into the bath, the knob creaks loudly under a limp hand. Stained pink, water overflows and spreads across the floor.

In the apartment down the hall, a computer screen throws a stark glow over the face of a young girl. Tears streak her face.

It's not my fault reads the conversation window. Don't blame me.

The girl clutches a stuffed cat.

?X?

Driven into a corner, the mouse must fight or perish.

Weak minds need a crutch to fall back on.

The golden fox with a silver smile lurks in the shadows.

How will they fare?

The record spins unhindered by the lack of a needle. Blinking lights surround piles of unlabeled discs.

"Must not think about him," repeats the crackling voice through speakers mounted next to a computer screen. "Must not think about him"

The young girl watches curiously, knees drawn up to her chest. Silently, the stuffed cat follows the scratch on the record as it travels round.

Abruptly, there comes a jolt. It knocks the record from its groove, sending the disc spinning away across the floor. The stuffed cat smiles.

"They're fighting again," murmurs the girl, seemingly to no one.

Slowly, the sounds of altercation float through the vents and into the room. The girl sighs and retrieves the record, frowning at the way it tilts. A new crack runs across the middle of its black, grooved surface.

The stuffed cat smiles.

?X?

Years ago…only two, though it seems longer…a strange force swept through Tokyo. The police say it was a child who attacked randomly, beating his victims with a metal bat. They said it was a boy named Kozuka. Even though he himself was killed by the attacker. Even though the attacks continued after his death.

The police called it suicide.

We know better.

"It wasn't suicide," said the broadcast late at night. "Kozuka was murdered."

"He can appear in front of anyone who's been driven into a corner…anytime, anyplace. He's still at large," the broadcast said. "Shonen Batto is still out there on the loose!"

Not everyone could hear the broadcast. Only those who had the Frequency. And there are only two recordings of it out there.

Pardon; one recording of it.

?X?

The girl leaves her apartment the next morning to see a stretcher being wheeled out of apartment 504. A white sheet covers the figure it bears. The girl stares as she passes.

And the stuffed cat smiles.

"They say it was suicide," whispers a haggard-looking housewife to her neighbor.

"But he was such a nice young man," murmurs the neighbor.

"I heard he was in debt," whispers another housewife.

The girl glances at them and continues on. The man in apartment 504 killed himself, and that was that.

She takes the stairs. The paramedics are using the elevator, and anyway, she likes the alone time. The stuffed cat in her arms lolls its head, eyes following the stripes of light on the ground.

A flutter, and the girl trips. Steps fly by, and she finds herself at the door to floor four. Blood trickles after her.

The stuffed cat, eyes unblinking, lands with it ear in the thin trail of blood leaking from the girl's leg. She gasps and snatches it up, but already the scarlet stain has begun to spread.

"No..." she sighs, wiping as much blood away as she can. She sniffles, struggles up. Her leg dribbles blood, but she simply dabs it with her handkerchief and continues on.

?X?

A cat watches sightlessly the comings and goings of the moon.

What does the radio say to her?

When the fox emerges from its cold burrow, where is the dog who will drive it back?

And then...

"Kurogame!"

A ruler cracks against the desk. The addressee stares unblinkingly at her teacher, eyes empty.

"Sakura Kurogame, are you listening to me?"

"Yes, sensei," she answers distantly.

"What did I tell you about bringing that cat to class?"

"I will put it away. I am very sorry."

Sakura stows the cat in her bag. She turns back to the notebook on her desk and starts.

Grinning up at her from the mass of Kanji and hiragana is the figure of a young boy with a baseball bat.

Noticing her expression, Sakura's classmate and friend, Yumi, approaches her after class. Sakura ignores her. Yumi's questions pass through her as though she were nothing but air.

?X?

Shonen Batto. A boy with a golden bat. He comes when someone is cornered and looking for a way out. One person as well as many. He offers shallow salvation, a convenient exit for the weak of spirit.

My neighbor committed suicide last night. But how can that be, when I saw the wounds? There was no razor, no gun. We know better.

They're already looking for suspects. The police know, but they're trying to keep it hush-hush. They know he was murdered.

My neighbor and his wife didn't get along.

?X?

Sakura watches calmly, knees drawn up to her chest as she sits in a rickety chair in the cafe. Around her, people argue. Blaming each other. Tension simmers under cup after endless cup of coffee from the sticky front counter.

Her stuffed cat stares at her from its place on the table. It questions her.

Sakura takes the cat and stuffs it in her bag. She stands. And leaving her cold coffee on the table, Sakura leaves the cafe.

She passes a security guard on the street. He is reminiscent of a detective who resigned just after they caught Kozuka. Sakura gives the man a nod, then averts her eyes. He scares her.

The man watches her go.

?X?

Those with weak minds and desperate souls call to him. They want him back. Even though they know deep in their psyches that it would mean risking complete destruction.

Some people are weak.

People like me.

But I'm different. I know I am. I can see him. I watch him struggle to gain a corporeal form.

Shonen Batto. Tell me what to do.

I'm tired of this filth I see. The weak ones who would do nothing to better their situation, who would rather complain about their misery than fix it.

Tell me what to do.

?X?

Sakura places the record on the phonograph, needle-less arm over the oily black disc. Eerily, the broadcast begins anew. She has found the other copy.

"Must not think of him," it hisses, and the voice echoes.

"Sorry," she giggles. "I appreciate your effort, though."

The stuffed cat smiles.

(Author's note: Damn. It's been a long, LONG time. I'm terribly sorry about the lag between fics. I've had a lot on my plate since I wrote last. But you don't want to hear about that, do you? At any rate, I wrote this one awhile ago. I hope you like it enough to not be angry with me for the ridiculously long interval between updates… ::Raven:: )