Chapter One: Contact
Trigger Warning: Attempted sexual assault and murder ahead. It's not really graphic, and he doesn't do much but point a gun and hold her down, but still - warning!
My brain is fuzzy and I feel lightheaded, in a good way. My best friend for life, Jenna, calls out to me from her car as I make my way up the walk to my apartment. The pavement before me wobbles in my vision, or maybe that's my body weaving in a happily inebriated state. Jenna's words flow around my head like the wind, twisting my long, curly, blonde hair with her tone. She wonders if I'm going to make it to my door. I wave at her and she grins, laughing at me.
"See you later, bitch!" she yells, starting her white Mazda. The engine drowns out her next words, but she repeats herself, leaning out of her window. The streetlamps make her wide, pale face more translucent as she shouts out to the apartment complex, "Let's make babies Tuesday!"
Giggles bubble from my chest and I double over, wondering where she gets her ideas. Finally I manage to choke out a reply from my laughter, "I love you, silly! We'll make all the babies you want!"
Jenna grins again and waves at me as she pulls out of her parallel parking spot, and drives away. As she disappears into the moonlit night, I can hear her laughter on the wind. I turn and face the path to my apartment door and dig in my purse for my keys. They are sharp and complicated in my drunken hand, but under the streetlamp I find my house key. I unlock the door labeled "103" and push it open, squeezing my body through the gap quickly so my cat doesn't escape. I flick on the light as I shut the door behind me, and see my cat, Roosevelt, curled up on the back of the couch. He mews as I drop down on the couch beside him, asking me for a snack.
"No Teddy," I mumble, feeling heavy. "I don't care if you do make a good LOLCAT, I'm tired."
He tells me that I shouldn't drink so much, among other snarky cat things.
Suddenly, my phone rings. This is odd because it is two in the morning, and sane people are asleep at this time of day. Figuring it might be Jenna checking up on me, my arm extends over the coffee table and picks up the receiver. "Hello?" I ask.
The person on the other end hangs up, leaving an annoying dial tone ringing in my ear. I check the caller ID, but the number was blocked. Getting a bad feeling, I frown and look at my door. Did I lock it when I came in? I swing my legs around and get to my feet, leaning on the couch. I hear a dog bark outside, and I suddenly know without a doubt that someone is out there. The inebriation wears off instantly as my adrenal glands kick into gear and pump adrenaline through my body. My heart races and my blood pressure rises as my sympathetic nervous system activates my survival mode.
I lunge at the door.
Before I can twist the deadbolt, the door flies open and hits me hard. I am knocked into the wall with a loud thunk, and before I can scream there is a hand over my nose and mouth. My assailant holds me down by my face and shuts the door behind him. I open my eyes and see a vaguely familiar brown-haired man leaning over me. His expression is serious and shifts his weight so that he sits on my stomach. His free hand disappears behind him, and when he brings it around again, he has a .9 millimeter pistol and he puts it to my forehead.
"Hello, Alice," he says. "Remember me?"
I shake my head. I do not know this man, although he does look familiar. My body shivers in fear.
The man frowns, and I can see that it makes him angry that I don't know who he is. "You and I met at a bar about a month ago. I bought you drink after drink, but you wouldn't give me the time of day." He smiles. "I followed you for the past three weeks, plotting this. I wanted to take you home that night, Alice. I wanted to make love to you. You have such a pretty face."
I twist in his grasp, but he only puts more of his weight on me. "Don't do that, love," he says, cocking the gun. "I might accidently shoot you before you hear my offer. Would you like to hear it?"
I nod, cringing. I know what he is going to say.
"If you promise not to scream, and do a good job, I might let you live, Alice. Let's get down to business, shall we?" He leans forward and removes his hand from my mouth. I keep quiet, knowing that screaming is pointless. He smiles. "Good girl. What I want from you is your body, plain and simple. As well as the effort."
"I don't want to," I say, voice shaking. "Not even with a gun in my face."
He frowns. "Do you think I won't kill you? Is that it?"
I can feel my eyes pricking with tears of terror as I realize that I am going to die tonight. The man is dead serious about blowing my brains out onto the rug. He shifts again, closer to my face this time and his mouth hovers over mine. My body is shaking – quaking – in fear. I think of five-hundred ways to escape this situation, but none of them are possible or feasible. I hope that someone will burst in and save me. I wonder if that isn't too silly to hope for.
The barrel of the .9 millimeter is pressed harder into my forehead.
"Make a decision, Alice," the man says, losing patience. The game isn't fun anymore for him; he's bored.
I don't want to die.
But I don't want to do anything with him.
I meet the man's eyes and tell him to pull the trigger. He smiles, and that's the last thing I know.
Dying is done before I comprehend it, before my life can flash before my eyes, like the rumors say you see. I see nothing. I feel nothing. I am nothing. I float aimlessly, lonely, like a cloud in the sky. I feel no pain or fear. I am safe in the nothing.
Then, suddenly, I feel a change. I am being pulled somewhere, somewhere with substance. I don't fight it because I'm curious to where the pull will take me. Maybe it's heaven. I wonder if they'll let me in. Surely I haven't been too terrible.
Gradually, I feel heavier and I'm being pulled down…down…down, and I can feel my feet again, and they touch something solid. I open my eyes and see that I am standing in front of a tree. The bark is almost golden in the sunlight, and I look up curiously, and up and up because the tree is so tall. I turn and see greenery and brush around, and a nearby bush seems as tall as me. I wonder if there are giants in heaven.
I look down at my hands and see that they are tiny, like a young child's. I examine the rest of my body and find the same sorts of things. My chest is flat, my torso is straight instead of curvy, and my legs are thin and short. I am in my childhood's body. No wonder why everything was so tall around me. I am eight years old again. I wonder if everyone is a child in heaven.
I hear more children playing in the distance, beyond the little grove I'm standing in. Tentatively, I make my way through the brush and around the trees, unsteady on my little legs. My mind is used to taking longer strides, I think. Then the children come into view and I see that they are playing on a large playground. I stop when I see parents sitting on benches, reading books, or talking to each other, or just watching the children play. I look at them all carefully, and see that they are curiously all Asian.
One boy stands out though. He is holding a yellow ball and frowning. His hair is a truly vibrant red, and when he looks up, I see that his eyes are forest green. He looks out of place on this playground, like me, and I wonder if he knows anything about this heaven. Maybe he can tell me why I'm eight years old when there are adults here.
I approach him carefully, afraid to scare him off. As I move toward him, I notice that he holds his body like a tightly coiled spring, but his face is bland, yet observant. Something about him standing there with the ball gives me a wicked sense of déjà vu. I feel like I have seen him before, in his current position, and as I look harder, his out-of-place features look very familiar. Where have I seen you before?
"Hello," I say. He looks up at me, expression mild and unchanging. He says nothing. I smile at him like I'm handling a crystal wine glass. "Can you tell me where I am?"
"Asaka," he replies, eyeing my blonde hair and blue eyes. He watches my expression turn confused. "Near Tokyo," he adds.
I am in jaw-dropping shock for a whole minute, but I do not show it on my face. The boy's features jump at me again when he moves closer, examining me. "Are you all right?" he asks, curiously. "You're very quiet. Are you lost?" His tone is unconcerned, and I suddenly think that it doesn't suit his character. But…what character is that? "You're obviously not Japanese," he goes on, eyeing my curly blonde hair again. "Are you from Europe or America?" He isn't asking out of concern at all. He is merely curious, and although I'm a little offended by it, I know that I can use it to my advantage.
"What's your name?" I ask, ignoring his questions.
He frowns, looking a bit miffed. "Minamino Shuichi," he replies. He raises an eyebrow. "And yours?"
I feel my eyes widen as I recognize the name. The human name of the character of Kurama, from Yu Yu Hakusho is standing right in front of me. I died and fell into an anime? I turn my face away because I can't hide my expression. I am amazed, shocked, and terrified all at once. At the moment, Kurama is perhaps eight or nine, like me, but he is still deadly. I must be very careful, or else I'll be killed.
But if I did die again, would I come back in Naruto or Bleach? What sort of phenomena is this?
I school my features into a calm expression and turn back to him. "My name is Alice," I say. "I'm eight, and I'm not supposed to be here."
Kurama frowns, stepping closer. I watch him close his forest green eyes and lean in as he inhales the air around me. I realize he is checking to see if I'm human, but I still give him a curious look. His expression is unreadable as he straightens up, but he doesn't look hostile. Finally, he asks, "Where are you supposed to be?"
"Heaven," I respond.
His face is doubtful as he reaches out to touch me. His hand lands solidly on my shoulder, as if he is testing to see how tangible I am. I wonder if he does not trust his sixth sense at this time – or if he has much of one yet to begin with. Surely he must. His voice is smooth as he says, "You are fully human, and you are not a spirit. How are you here?"
I shrug. "I don't know. I was murdered, and then I was floating, and now I'm here." His face is curious again, and I explain a little, not everything, but enough to keep him interested. His interest is vital, and so is his human mother's. I need a place to stay. I also cannot let him know that I know who he is. "The man who killed me shot me in the head," I say, pointing to my forehead.
Kurama nods, but I can't read his expression again. He seems like he is just considering a minor detail, and I remember at this point, Kurama doesn't care much about children. I wonder how many he has killed, and I feel sick to my stomach. After the wave of nausea passes, I realize that I'm hungry, and it's chilly out. "What month is it?" I ask.
"It's October," he replies. "Is it the same as when you died?"
"No," I say, "it happened in June. I might have floated for awhile though."
He nods again, considering my words.
I hear his name being called. We turn and see Shiori approaching us, eyeing me curiously. She is a pretty woman, and I can see that she smiles a lot – or she tries to. It must be hard to have a son like Kurama, though. Her brown eyes are warm and welcoming against her medium-toned skin. She is young now, perhaps in her late twenties, and she smiles at me making me feel like she immediately loves me. It is a strange feeling, but not unlikable. I feel my whole heart open up under her smile.
"Who is your friend, Shuichi-chan?" she asks, kneeling so that she is eye-level to me. "She's very cute."
I give her a solemn look, not willing to leave my fate in Kurama's hands. I do not trust him yet. "I'm Alice," I say. "My mommy and daddy got into a car accident. The policeman said…" I sniffed, thinking about my parents finding out about my murder, thinking of them crying, knowing that we would never see each other again. My tears I cried then were real, even though the story was backward. "The policeman said that they won't come back. He said they went to heaven." I cover my face and sob into my tiny childish palms, crying for the world that was forever gone from me. I feel Shiori pull me against her instinctively and then I'm crying into her coat.
Shiori doesn't say anything and only holds me tightly until I get my tears under control. "Do you have any other family?" she asks, "Any cousins or siblings or grandparents?" She is wondering if there is anywhere else more appropriate for me to go before she makes her decision.
I shake my head. "Nuh-uh. Mommy and Daddy didn't have brothers and sisters. I don't have grandparents."
She frowns. "Where are you from? Do you know where you were born? Or your family name?"
"I don't know. We move around a lot. My family name starts with a 'tuh' sound," I say, wiping my eyes. "I don't know it. We flew on a plane yesterday and came here," I add.
She frowns again. "So you don't have a house here. Do your parents have a house at all?"
I shake my head. "We move around a lot," I repeat. I glance at Kurama, and see that his expression is bland. As soon as Shiori looks over at him too, though, his face immediately looks saddened. I wonder if he will come to resent me. The last thing I was is for him to be my enemy. The very last thing, in fact.
Shiori sighs and takes my face between her hands, smiling slightly. "Alice-chan, would you like to come with me and Shuichi for awhile? At least until we can figure out where you're from." She smiles. "If you have family somewhere, it wouldn't be right to keep you from them."
I nod, still solemn, but inwardly relieved. I am betting that at some point in the week ahead that Shiori will take me to the surrounding police stations, and ask if any of them are looking for me. They will say no, and won't know about any foreigners dying in a car accident. Perhaps if I drop here and there comments, I can make my fake parents out to be tangled up in some government conspiracy, which is why their deaths would be covered up.
Shiori lets go of my face and takes my hand in one of hers and Kurama's in her other. I can feel him looking at me and I know that he is suspicious. He knows that I've omitted something out of my story, because no normal eight year old could come up with something as elaborate as I've told Shiori. Kurama, the clever demon that he is, will lie in wait – waiting for me to slip up. But I won't let him do that. Kurama may be patient, but I am not, and I need him to trust me. The only way to accomplish that is to be honest as soon as possible.
I give him a friendly smile behind Shiori's back.
His suspicious expression doesn't change.
For the record, I based the killer off the predatory stalker type. For them, following and stalking their victims is like foreplay, and sexual assault is usually the ultimate end/thrill/thing. From reading this, I think it would be the first time this guy had ever done something like this, because he doesn't go through with the rape, but kills her instead. So maybe he could be a combination of predator and revenge stalker. I'd like to say the murderer was well-researched, but honestly, I just pulled him out of a hat. Alice needed to die.