Chapter One: The Stranger

The Higurashi Shrine was peaceful at this time of year. There were only a few visitors, among them a foreigner with obvious European heritage, and the Shrine grounds were quiet. The foreigner carried about him such a sense of thoughtful confidence that even the garrulous old family patriarch that guarded the shrine did not approach him, but watched from afar.

This stranger, and he smiled to think of himself as a stranger in a land where his name and heritage were unknown, carried an informative pamphlet and an old-fashioned pen in one hand; he wore a large canvas bag slung over one shoulder, which had two spare pens clipped to the edge and contained, among far more valuable possessions, several pads of paper. To the curious eyes that watched him, he would appear to be only a student, or perhaps a writer seeking inspiration.

He wandered slowly about the grounds without any destination in mind, pausing here and there to look idly at whatever detail caught his eye. For a long time he lingered before the great Goshinboku tree, peering up into the leaves as if the tree might have some answer for his unasked questions.

He had come to the shrine on a whim - because of a feeling, a sense of distortion, a prickling in the blood that told him that this was where he needed to be. And yet try as he might, he could not find the source of that feeling.

As if in response to his increasingly frustrated thoughts, his bag squirmed of its own accord and a small yellow duck poked her head out to peer up at him. Her tone inquisitive, she seemed almost to ask, "Quack?"

"There's a story here, Duck," her companion murmured thoughtfully. "We just have to find it."

Note: This story is being written using prompts from the LiveJournal community fanfic_bakeoff, so each chapter will be 300 words or fewer. This chapter is based on March 2011's Secret Ingredient: Distort.