He takes a small, tentative step into this world that she calls her mind. There is a flower-scented breeze and the grass is green and the little girls in the flower field are frozen and –
Genjutsu, his mind hisses, but how can there be illusion in this mind? Sweet, innocent, naïve Sakura –
And then the tomoe of the Sharingan spin, and this immaculate, painstakingly crafted façade shatters.
"Ring around the rosies
A pocket full of posies
We all fall down…"
Now the children are moving, but their eyes are lifeless and their teeth are no longer pristine, stained sanguine.
The smell of blood is in the air, and one by one the children collapse, painted crimson lips curled into empty smiles.
We all fall down, the wind whispers, echoing the haunting chant.
One lone eye widens. Sakura, his student – is this really her mind?
The breeze, tainted by the metallic scent, moves a lone swing in an empty playground. The children have all disappeared, and a single figure sits perched upon the swing.
Pink hair covers her eyes as she rocks back and forth and sings quietly to the bundle in her arms in a clear, girlish voice.
"Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetops
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
Down will come baby, cradle and all…"
The bundle slips from her hands and she watches, uncaringly, as it hits the ground with a sickening thud. Claret liquid stains the cloth, and without a word she turns and disappears.
Kakashi-sensei, Kakashi-sensei, the wind whispers, encircling him and marking his hands red.
Is this really her mind? Who is this stranger, who masquerades as his beloved student?
But you never taught me, Kakashi-sensei, her voice tells him with an audible pout. Sasuke is your student; you do not know me.
And it is true, and when he sees Sasuke lying in a pool of blood and body parts, he is disturbed but not surprised.
What shocks him is the girl standing over Sasuke's body with a knife in her hand and flesh in her mouth. She is the mirror image of his not-student, sans the writing that is blurred on her forehead.
"Who are you?" he demands weakly, for she is the source of this horror-filled conscience. Her mouth cracks open to reveal stained teeth, chewing – something.
"Kakashi-sensei, don't you recognize me?" she laughs, and that clairvoyant sound sends chills down his spine.
Behind him, bells toll a mournful knell.
"Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells at Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells at Shoreditch.
Pray, when will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I'm sure I don't know,
Says the great bell at Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head…"
Sasuke's head slides away from his body. She picks it up and presses a kiss to his cold lips. With a giggle, she disappears, taking him with her.
Take care of my body, she tells him softly, tugging playfully at his clothes and mask and hair. Or I may have to come out and play with you…
He shivers and wonders how he has missed this troubled spirit. How long has she been like this? He cannot know.
"Oh, Kakashi-sensei," she sighs. She is the wind and the blood and the ground and this is who she is. "I have been like this for far, far too long."
The children are back, playing with jerky movements, as if in the memory of one who has not seen real children play for a long time and cannot recall them perfectly.
He watches and listens in morbid curiosity, waiting to see with what nursery rhyme she comes up next.
"Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
She has a knife, knife, knife
Stuck in her back, back, back
She cannot breathe, breathe, breathe
She cannot cry, cry, cry
That's why she begs, begs, begs
She begs to die, die die…"
They chant together, as if they are one instead of many, and fall like puppets on a single, severed string. They scream and claw at themselves, echoing her agony.
He sees Sasuke and Naruto charge at each other, he sees her bitter tears at night, and he sees his own face, twisted and disfigured.
Abruptly, he jerks himself out of her mind. She blinks at him and smiles innocently, but behind those emerald eyes he can see the remains of that hellish world. Why hasn't he noticed it before?
Be careful, Kakashi-sensei, she whispers. Or I may come out to play…
- - -
Nursery rhymes are so fun to distort and twist, but some of them don't need any manipulating…