Well we all shine on

Well we all shine on

Like the moon and the stars and the sun.

-John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, "Instant Karma"

A full moon rose in the east as the last orange hues of twilight hung in the western sky. A chill autumn breeze blew the leaves and litter through the gutters with an eerie skittering sound. No one was in the area as the car pulled up to the curb; no one saw the two twentysomethings get out and, tittering and giggling, head up the front walk.

"Wow, it is a lovely house, Shutaro-kun!" gasped the young woman with a bowl-shaped hairstyle. "Did it really cost so little?"

"Like I said," answered the tall, slicked-haired man, "the previous owners said they desperately wanted to leave it, though they wouldn't say why. I don't know what they were thinking, though. It's spacious, adjacent to an old shrine, and a quick commute to the office."

"Yes, it's a very, very, very fine house," answered the woman. However, she couldn't quite shake the feeling that she had seen it somewhere. Just déjà vu, I guess, she thought.

Inside, the two sat on the living room sofa and popped open a bottle of champagne.

"Mmm, oishii," breathed the woman. "But still…it doesn't seem…right doing it here. Your office is just so much more…private."

"Please, Shinobu-chan," answered Shutaro. "Like I said, this is just so much more comfortable. And Asuka won't be home for two days."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," replied Shinobu.

Just then a strange croaking, gurgling noise echoed through the living room.

"Wh-what was that?" gasped Shinobu.

Shutaro's right cheek twitched. "J-just the plumbing, I think. I'm planning to call a plumber." I'll also have to call an electrician about that heating problem in the weight room, he thought. It's always cold up there, even at the height of summer…

The two lovers continued billing and cooing as they made their way up the stairs. Yet still Shinobu couldn't shake the feeling that she had heard about this house way out in Saitama Prefecture sometime before, even though Shutaro had never taken her to his house.

She also couldn't shake a sensation of dread; that not all was well there. Even despite a few glasses of champagne and a glass of red wine over dinner earlier, Shinobu had felt a sense of tension almost as soon as they stepped in the door of this house. Though perhaps that was just some lingering guilt about her continuing affair with her boss. It wasn't entirely Inaba's fault that he worked such awful hours. Maybe this should be the last time, she told herself.

The cold hit Shinobu as soon as they reached the top of the stairs. She couldn't see any windows in the hall, but it felt at least as cold as it did outside. And even then, she didn't think that having every window on the top floor would make the hall this cold. Was there a hole in the roof or something?

"Brrr! Is it always this cold up here?" she asked Shutaro.

"You know, it sometimes is," he answered. "I'm not sure whether it's the insulation or heating, or…"

"Hello Shutaro-san. Hello Shinobu-san," said two girls' voices from down the hall.

Standing further down the hall stood the figures of two girls staring directly at them. Both were dressed in miko outfits. They were the same height, and both had purple hair and large blue eyes. But the one on the left wore her in a short pixie cut with a yellow bow. The one on the right wore long ponytails. The facial expressions of both were at once emotionless and stern.

Both Shutaro and Shinobu were frozen. Neither realized their jaws had dropped fully open.

"Come play with us," the girls said in monotone unison.

Images flashed before Shinobu's eyes. First was a scene of a normal teenage girl's bedroom. Except there were spatters and splotches of crimson on the walls, yellow bedsheets and numerous plushies. In the center of the room lay two figures, a boy and a girl, in a large red pool. She couldn't recognize the boy, but the girl had twin ponytails. Meanwhile on the bed lay the short-haired girl, still clutching a bloodstained machete in her left hand. A long, bleeding slice ran along her wrist. The vision only lasted a few seconds, but Shinobu was certain she would never forget one iota of it, coupled with what she was witnessing now.

"Forever," the girls continued. Shinobu noticed they had moved about a meter closer.

More visions raced past her eyes. Three Saitama Prefecture teens dead in murder-suicide; Small suburb rocked by domestic murder; Ryooh High School, Kasukabe Academy honor memory of dead students; Infamous house sold, shrine entrusted to temporary caretaker…

"And ever…" They had moved closer still.

"Sh-shutaro-kun…" Shinobu croaked.

"Th-this can't be real," he gasped. "They're just like pictures in a book. M-maybe we had a bit too much to drink tonight."

"And ever." The two girls' eyes glowed red. They had suddenly advanced to right in front of them.

"J-just like…p-pictures in a book…" stammered Shutaro.

A flock of crows then burst, cawing harshly, from a nearby tree, at the sound of two piercing screams.