Won first place at iyfic contest, theme "Transportation."


Kagome felt rather peaceful that day on the ride home. It had been a regular girls' day out, and they had a good haul. She was particularly proud of the strappy little sandals she'd found, and had made a point of wearing on the way home, because they'd never do for her travels in the past.

The train passed through a tunnel, and oddly, the interior lights seemed very dim, so she could hardly see anything. She heard her friends gasp, but she was more bored and tired than anything. A little darkness just seemed mundane.

She felt something touch her cheek, and it was warm, human skin. "Cut it out, Yuka," Kagome said good-naturedly, hoping her friend wasn't too scared of the dark. But then they shot out into the red light of sunset, and Kagome realized that the train was empty save for herself and the person next to her, the one who had just touched her.

Kagome stared at the person very quietly for a minute, before saying, rather understatedly, "You're not Yuka."

And indeed, she wasn't. The woman in the seat beside her looked like an older, wiser version of herself, a reflection of her soul from ancient times. She smiled, and benevolence seemed to spread in the train car like the sun's warmth. "Sorry," she said, but she didn't look it.

Kagome opened her mouth to speak, but Kikyou put a finger to her lips. "You can't see them, but they can see you. Shift your perspective."

Kagome wasn't sure what that meant, but it seemed that if she looked at her surroundings askance, everything was normal again. People were there, and Kikyou wasn't, the way it was supposed to be. Her friends were asking, "Kagome-chan, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," Kagome said in the empty train. She couldn't manage to see them again, so she didn't know if they'd accepted that answer, but she rummaged in her bags for a notebook and pen, and wrote, hoping only Kikyou could see, 'Why are you here?'

Kikyou read the page, and answered, "I'm always here."

"What, on this train?" Kagome burst out before she could catch herself. She covered her mouth in embarrassment. This was bad. By the time she was home, her friends would all think she was crazy.

And maybe, they wouldn't be wrong.

Kagome scribbled furiously in her notebook. 'You died.'

Those words looked stark and ugly on the page. As she looked at them, she remembered the Kikyou she'd first met, the Kikyou made of clay and ashes. The stench of death had just clung to her and everything she touched. After the first ritual, Kagome herself had stunk of death for a week, no matter how much she bathed. She remembered lying in Inuyasha's arms, smelling death on him.

Kikyou had terrified her. She had felt a sense of horror that she was in some way part of her, like bugs crawling under her skin.

She looked at Kikyou now, and did not smell death at all, but some small seed of that terror lingered, though tempered with hard-earned compassion. The hard words on her notebook remained.

Kikyou shrugged. "Don't we all?" And she, very single-mindedly, leaned forward right into Kagome's personal space. Kagome could smell her breath, and it smelled just as you'd expect breath to smell, not wonderful, not awful. "Don't react," Kikyou told her.

And just like that, she kissed her.

At first, Kagome was all rage. She kept her face stonily calm, lest her friends see a thing. It couldn't have been a very good kiss for Kikyou, with Kagome doing her best not to react. But then, Kagome started to see something, and realized that Kikyou wasn't kissing her for romantic effect.

That something was light. Quite a bit of it, and bright. But it wasn't warm like sunlight or the light Kikyou had given off at her death.

Kagome looked down, and her heart started pounding fit to break a rib. Under her pretty, strappy sandals were train tracks.

And she knew what the light was, bearing down on her.

Kikyou stood next to her, her arm around Kagome's shoulders. "Ironic, no? This is how you're going to die."

Kagome looked down at the notebook, still in her hands. The words 'You died' stared icily back at her. Then terror consumed her, and she threw Kikyou's arm off her, and tried to run off the tracks. But everywhere she put her feet, the tracks seemed to be under them, like some warped and nightmarish version of reality.

Now she was scared in earnest, and tears were streaming down her face. The look she gave Kikyou was one of utter hatred, though Kikyou surprised her by looking almost sympathetic.

The light overwhelmed her, and she was kissing Kikyou again on the train. Kikyou pulled back and said, "But that's not today."

Kagome was drenched in cold sweat, panic still fresh on her. She choked back a sob and said, "I didn't want to know that."

"I hate to keep reminding you of the same things, but just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they can't see you," Kikyou said.

Kagome covered her face in her hands, brushing her bangs away from her damp forehead. "What does it matter? They all think I'm sick anyway. Let them think I'm crazy."

"Maybe it's that very kind of thinking that leads you to those tracks."

Kagome looked up at Kikyou in shock. "You're not saying it's...intentional?"

"Who is more real to you right now, myself or the people you've known since you all were children?"

"Well, it doesn't help that I see you instead of them at the moment."

"That's all in your perspective. If your mind were closed to me, you couldn't see me here."

None of this made sense to Kagome. "Perspective? How can seeing dead people be a 'perspective'?"

"Who isn't dead, eventually? That's what finally gets you, I think. Realizing that the only world that's real to you died hundreds of years ago. I'm no more or less dead than Inuyasha."

Kagome shook her head. "But you're here. I felt you."

"I'm not anywhere. I'm between places. Right now, you are also between places, going from one place to another."

"This isn't 'between places.' It's just a train. It's...it's a mode of transportation! I may not be stopping in the middle, but it's still somewhere, it's someone's somewhere. Look, you can see the city out the window!" She was standing up now and fairly shouting, making an utter fool of herself in the real world.

"Spirits work in funny ways, Kagome," Kikyou said. And then she said, "Don't react" again, and bent forward, and Kagome was about to tell her that this really wasn't funny and she couldn't keep kissing her, but Kikyou's kiss was only aimed at her forehead, and it was gentle. Kagome was even okay with it until she realized Kikyou's hand was on her breast.

"Come on, Kagome-chan," said the bitter voice of one of her friends. "It's our stop."

Kagome whirled around—the train was crowded, and everyone was staring at her where she was standing. Strangers looked uncomfortable, and her friends were a little scared. She thought Eri might have been crying. She looked down at where Ayumi was holding her hand rather firmly, and then around the train, almost desperately.

Kikyou was gone, and the doors were open.

"Your bags, Kagome," someone was saying, but they had to grab them for her in addition to her own. Kagome ended up being dragged out of the train by her hand like a child, looking bewilderedly about herself, and tripping in her nice new shoes.

By the time they were on the platform, Kagome's fear had given way to a deep sense of humiliation. Her friends would never look at her the same way again. She had the strong impulse to just run home and never have to look at them again. She found herself thinking that they weren't really her friends anyway, they didn't even know anything about her. Her real friends were on the other side of the well. They had fought and bled for one another, they had faced death. What could shoppingever be, compared to that?

Kagome watched the train depart, a bright point in the dusk, and a chill came over her. As usual, in her own, creepy fashion, Kagome thought, Kikyou had been trying to help.