Ghost Hunt belongs to Fuyumi Ono. I am just playing with her characters.


Echoes: A Ghost Hunt fan fiction

Chapter One: Living Dead Girl

My name is Taniyama Mai, and I am seventeen—almost eighteen—years old. I consider myself to be pretty normal. For some reason though odd things happen to me a lot. I seem to have a talent for attracting trouble. Perhaps my job is partly to blame. This latest mess certainly started on an otherwise normal day while I was on my way to work.

It was a Friday, and I was looking forward to the weekend. I had nothing particular planned but longed for time to spend alone without worrying about anything. School and work were stressing me out.

The muggy air caused my hair to droop almost as soon as I left the Shibuya train station. This was irritating because Michiru had styled it during lunch—her latest career decision was to become a hair stylist—and it had looked really cute when I left from school. Not that it mattered how my hair looked at work. It was the principle of the thing. Even if he never noticed, I still liked looking my best around my annoyingly handsome boss.

Crowds of laughing teenagers blocked the sidewalk and made it hard to walk down Dogenzaka street. Several of the smaller shops and restaurants in the Shibuya ward were having a "Summer Sales Festival", or at least they had strung banners up to that effect. There was music playing and the smell of frying food in the air. It even looked like some shops had hired street performers to attract more business. Wow. No wonder it was so crowded. Normally I would have enjoyed the festive atmosphere, but today it pissed me off. I didn't have time to play, instead I had to go to work.

I was already a bit late, and navigating the crowds was making me later, so my mood was far from happy. School had been exceptionally harsh that day. I had been called out by two different teachers for turning in sloppy work. My face still felt hot from the humiliation.

It was my own fault. I had forgotten those assignments and threw them together at the last minute. I had earned the failing grades, and deserved to be required to redo the assignments. I could agree with all of that. But was it really necessary to publicly humiliate me?

I am a third year high school student due to graduate in the Spring. My teachers made sure to remind me that I won't graduate without better grades. Loudly. In front of everyone in my class. My English teacher even did it in two separate languages when it became obvious I couldn't understand her the first time. No doubt she intended to emphasize my lack of competency in her subject. I can read English fine—well most of the time, if the words aren't too complicated—but for some reason it makes no sense spoken. I don't know why. Maybe my ears just can't process it.

And to think my coworkers always wonder why I don't mind missing school. Geez...

I was not paying much attention to any of the street performances as I walked along the sidewalk. I knew they were going on, but I was more concerned with working my way through the crowd. About half way through a bunch of giggling middle schoolers, I noticed a short man dressed as a Western style clown standing motionless. I noticed him because his costume was so freakish.

Maybe it's just cultural differences, but I don't understand why Westerner's like clowns. To me, the heavy white makeup and giant painted on smiles look sinister. I am not a fan of dark circled eyes or weird wigs. And what the heck is up with rubber ball noses? That is just weird. I don't get what is supposed to be funny or entertaining about them.

This particular clown had painted his face so it sort of resembled a giant smiling skull. He had a red ball on his nose and was wearing a blue frizzy wig. His clothes were odd as well. He was in a light gray business suit with a white shirt and a red tie that matched his nose. On his feet were what appeared to be scuffed brown hiking boots. He did not match the rest of the performers at all. Instead he looked oddly jarring—like some psycho salary man. Gah. Who would be entertained by that?

I avoided his stare and passed by. Or at least I tried to. The clown suddenly bounded towards me and grabbed my arm.

Crap!

Immediately I tugged my arm trying to make him let go.

"Found you," he said in a singsong voice while staring at my face. His voice was odd—gruff and high pitched at the same time. It almost sounded like two very different voices speaking in unison. "My sweet little Yurei-chaaan."

"...Eh?"

Yurei...?

"...My lovely laaadyyyy...who is dead...dead...deeaad...dead..."

He stepped closer with every repetition of dead until he was way inside my personal space. I backed away and tried to pull my arm loose. He was barely taller than me, which meant he was very short for a man, but he was freakishly strong. I didn't want him near me and he kept standing much closer than was polite. I backed up again to put some distance between us but was stopped when my back hit the wall of a shop.

Not good. Now the creep had me cornered.

"-- -- -- -- ghost?" he whispered in English and tilted his head to one side. His eyes were staring at me and something about them made me shiver.

...ghost?

I blinked at him and pulled again on my arm in an attempt to break his grip.

The names he called me were a bit eerie considering my job. Ghost was one of the few English words I could recognize when it was spoken. A ghost was the same sort of thing as a yurei.

Nothing about my appearance—I was still wearing my school uniform—advertised that I worked as a part time ghost hunter. It was probably a coincidence. It had to be, right? He was likely just some pervert who had a schoolgirl fetish or something. Ugh.

"Excuse me?!" I snapped at him sarcastically.

There was no way I was going to let some pervert intimidate me. And if I was consciously imitating a certain person's death glare while staring at the odious man, no one would ever know but me. I would have also raised one eyebrow in a complete imitation—it maximized the patented look of scorn—but I couldn't do it. I always ended up raising both eyebrows and then I looked silly and surprised. Totally ruined the effect.

There was a large crowd of shoppers around us and I heard giggles. It probably did look funny to see a schoolgirl frantically trying to get away from such a weird character. Never mind that he was freaking me the hell out. Surely he would stop harassing me once he realized there was an audience.

"Could you please let me go?" I said loudly in an effort to attract attention.

I scanned the crowd looking for someone to assist me. Perhaps this weirdo had a keeper nearby? I wondered if hitting him with my book bag would get me arrested for assault. It did have a few large books inside it.

Ehhh?

No one in the crowd seemed to think what was happening was odd. None of them were even looking at me or the clown. The laughing people around me didn't seem to notice my distress. It was like it wasn't happening right in front of them.

Why can't they see this?

Something about their odd non-reaction pushed me into panic mode. Something was really wrong with the situation.

"Let me go!" I yelled and pulled away from the clown with all my weight. I managed to pull my arm free, but he caught my wrist with his other hand and then slammed me back against the wall. My head hit it with a loud thud that brought tears to my eyes. No one in the crowd even blinked. There was no way this was normal. I tightened my grip on my book bag.

The clown's real lips grinned at me under the painted on smile, and he gripped my arm so tightly it hurt. He started singing something to me in English again. For some reason the peculiar song caused chills to run down my back. I didn't know what he was saying, and I didn't care. I needed to get away. Now.

I swung my bag at his head with my free hand hoping to distract him. The clown stopped singing abruptly and dodged to one side. I pulled hard on my arm in the opposite direction as he moved, and it made him stumble. Then I kicked him as hard as I could while he was off balance and he doubled over from the impact. My arm was released so suddenly that I tumbled backwards into the wall and then fell and scraped my knees. I scrambled to my feet almost instantly, but the clown still nearly managed to grab me again. Gah. Crazy or not, he was fast.

Fortunately I had managed to hold onto my book bag when I fell. I swung it into his face, knocking his fake nose off, and was able to dodge past him into the crowd. Even though I bumped into several people, none of them noticed me or the clown that was yelling something behind me. I blindly pushed my way past them until I had enough room to run away.

Despite the late afternoon heat, I ran like devils were chasing me. After a short distance, people started seeing me again. I could tell from their surprised expressions as I hurried by. I was too scared to slow down though. I ended up running the rest of the way to the office and didn't stop until I was standing outside the familiar door of Shibuya Psychic Research. I was still scared and upset, but at the same time I felt safer. Even if he had followed me, the clown couldn't hurt me here.

I leaned against the wall beside the door and tried to catch my breath. I was gasping and wheezing too much to enter the office without risking utter embarrassment. My heart was beating too fast and my legs felt weak. I looked down the stairs that led to the ground level of the building, but couldn't see any sign of the clown on the street or in the outdoor cafe below.

Well, at least I had a legitimate excuse for being late this time. I didn't really feel like talking about the clown though. How could I explain something as weird as that? I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes. I had no explanation for the latest oddity to enter my life.

It just wasn't believable.

People do not have the power to make an entire crowd blind. I knew enough psychics that I was sure of that. It took PK-LT?...PK something anyway...to affect living things. The most famous psychic I knew of with that power had only managed to do unsavory things to frogs with it. The amount of power needed to affect an entire crowd was beyond comprehension.

Even if the clown had that kind of power, and was somehow able to use it, I doubted he could use it and physically attack someone at the same time. Also anyone that strong would be famous. I had never heard of any famous psychics who liked to cosplay and attack women in their spare time.

So what had just happened to me?

Am I really awake? Maybe this is just a nightmare...

Sudden laughter on the street startled me into frantically looking in all directions. Of course nothing sinister was there—just happy people out enjoying a summer afternoon. Everything was so aggressively normal that I felt a bit stupid. I was also feeling dizzy and slightly sick from running in the heat.

Still... It seemed like the street was too peaceful. Like it was a mask hiding something.

Ahahaha. I really am an idiot.

I decided it would be easier to calm down inside the office. I would make myself some tea to settle my nerves. I needed it. My knees were still shaky, and my hands were noticeably trembling. I felt oddly fragile and didn't like it at all. I opened the S.P.R. door carefully so the bell wouldn't ring and slipped inside. If I was quiet enough, I could probably sneak to the bathroom and tidy up a bit before anyone noticed I was here. That would give me time to compose myself.

"You're late." The words were spoken instantly in a familiar cold voice.

My boss, Shibuya Kazuya or Naru as I had named him, was leaning against my desk in the reception area reading a book. He is not even a year older than me, but has been running S.P.R. since he was sixteen. Apparently he is a genius and graduated from school at some obscenely young age. Naru is one of those annoyingly lucky people who have been blessed with brains and looks—and he knows it. To say he is conceited is an understatement. I call him Naru because it is short for narcissist.

As usual, his slender form was dressed completely in black. His slightly messy black hair was a shade darker than his long sleeved shirt. How he managed to wear that much black on such a hot day and not die was a mystery. He didn't even look up from his book at my entrance. Naru was always like that. He had made the simple act of ignoring someone into an art form.

Geez...what a rude guy...

His rudeness helped me though. Irritation chased away some of the weird fragile feeling that had been bugging me.

"...Mai?" he said with a frown. I supposed he wanted me to apologize for being late. He was never interested in excuses, which sucked because I really had one this time. Damn. He looked grumpy—probably due to tea withdrawals. Naru was totally going to think I was making this up.

"Umm...yeah...I-I ran into..." I started with the intention of telling him about the clown. My voice sounded strange and wobbly so I stopped mid sentence. The weird fragile feeling was abruptly back.

He sighed and closed his book with a snap. "I expect you to be on time. Even an idiot should be able to manage that."

Naru looked at me then and I glanced away towards the floor. I didn't feel up to dealing with his intense gaze. I wished my knees would stop shaking. Being late for work was so trivial compared to being attacked that I had an odd urge to laugh. Loudly. For a long time.

Get a grip, Mai.

"Ah w-well...there was this w-weird...um...c-c-clown..." I said and then stopped when my voice wobbled again. I sounded like I was about to cry. Or laugh. Once that odd laughter started, it wouldn't stop. I bit my bottom lip trying to get some sort of control over myself.

Crap...I will not have hysterics in front of him. I refuse.

Naru was suddenly standing right in front of me. When had he moved? Had I zoned out or something? He had a look I couldn't decipher in his dark blue eyes. I was completely shocked when he reached out and grabbed my left hand. It was the same hand that had been grabbed earlier by the clown.

"Eh?!" I couldn't help squeaking in surprise. My cheeks warmed in the involuntary blush I always got when he was too close to me.

W-wha-what?

His hands were gentle as he stretched out my arm and pushed up the sleeve of my uniform a bit. This uncharacteristic behavior was seriously freaky. What the hell was he doing?! Maybe I had hit my head and was hallucinating. Maybe this entire day really was just a bad dream.

"N-Naru?" I managed, looking up at him in confusion. Damn. He has pretty eyes. They are a blue so dark that sometimes it looks black. Other times they almost look gray. At the moment they were a lovely stormy blue that looked like it might change at any moment to a different color.

How embarrassing...I'm so easily distracted. Even at a time like this.

Those eyes weren't focused on mine though. He was staring intently at my arm and frowning. I looked to see what was so interesting and gasped when I saw the marks there.

A black and purple hand print completely encircled my arm above the elbow—it was a terrible bruise. Little bloody marks showed at the finger tips like nails had dug into my skin. Another hand print circled my forearm, slightly above my wrist. That one was shaded closer to gray than purple. And then there were little purple and black dents—finger marks?—and more scratches along my entire arm. This obvious and, now that I had noticed it, painful proof of the clown attack shocked me.

It didn't even look like my arm. I stared at the horrible bruises and started to shake. I had never seen bruises so bad that they turned black before. Never seen bruises that really looked like hand prints either. I didn't enjoy seeing them on my own body.

"Mai, who did this?"

I couldn't stop staring at my arm. The clown had hurt me—marked me. What if he came after me again? My dizziness returned and I swayed slightly. Oh God. I felt like I was going to be sick.

"I...I told you. A w-weird...c-c-clown...He said...I was...d-dead..."

Did that odd scared sounding voice really belong to me?

"A clown? Where?"

"What happened, Taniyama-san?" someone else asked at the same time.

That was a different voice from Naru's. Ah. Lin-san must be here too. For some reason I was having trouble focusing my eyes. All I could seem to see was my arm, everything else was a big blur. I did try to answer him though.

"He told...m-me...I was a g-ghost, a yurei...n-no one could...s-see...me..."

Lin-san said something else to me then, but I didn't catch it. My head was hurting and the room seemed darker. I could feel my heart beating in my temples. Gah. I was so dizzy. I hoped I wouldn't throw up. Vaguely I saw Naru say something to Lin-san, but for some reason I could only hear a weird buzzing sound.

Then someone—something?—giggled behind me and I froze. I was so scared I couldn't even breathe. Wait...was that the same laugh I had heard...before?

"Found You!" a horribly familiar high pitched voice whispered in my ear. Its icy breath tickled my cheek. I screamed and flinched away. This had to be a nightmare. Nothing evil could get into the office. The clown could not be here.

No.

My knees collapsed as I turned. I would have fallen, but someone caught me. I saw something that looked like gray smoke trying to manifest in the air. The smoke was the same color as the suit the clown had been wearing. There was a sharp whistle and a ball of white light smashed into the gathering ectoplasm and scattered it. My vision blurred and the entire room seemed to tilt. With the warping of the room came a darkness that seemed to shimmer like millions of black snowflakes. Someone warm held me close, but it wasn't enough to stop me from sliding away into the dark.


8/14/08 EDIT: I decided to move all my author notes to the end of each chapter--just an aesthetic thing. I also went back through and fixed a few things. There were some extra commas and repeated words/awkward phrases that I cleaned up a bit. I still feel like this is the weakest chapter but it gets better from here on out--really.

AN: There are no real spoilers in this chapter, but this will eventually contain them from all novels. This is your only spoiler warning if such things concern you because of how I am now doing my notes. So again...NOVEL SPOILERS AHEAD. :)