Disclaimer: Are disclaimers even really necessary, or do people just do them because it's a sort of fanfic tradition? Well, I don't own Black Rock Shooter.
This story is sort of a cross between the OVA and anime, in terms of other selves. Back in the OVA, Dead Master possessed Yomi, so I wanted to write something kind of along that vein. Written after episode 4, before episode 5.
Also I spent way too much time trying to think of a summary for this story, and then I gave up and wrote this lame summary instead. Summaries are hard.
Yomi was a good girl.
She worked hard. She got good grades. She was quiet, polite, she minded her own business and people liked her. She took care of Kagari, she braided, and was careful to not step on any toes.
So whenever she heard that voice in her head, she pushed it away and ignored it. No matter what it said, she ignored it. When she was a child, playing with Kagari, she knew the voice told her to do Bad Things, and Yomi was a good girl who would never do a Bad Thing.
She ignored the dreams - she ignored how, sometimes, whenever she closed her eyes she would see flashes, crazy and wild, of chains, and checkerboard, and floating skulls.
This was all the voice's fault, Yomi knew, and if Yomi ever listened...if she ever gave in...
But it wasn't worth thinking about; Yomi would never give in. Never.
This was why Yomi didn't like to go to sleep. She dreamt too much.
The first time she heard it was a little after she read The Little Bird of Many Colors. It had been a bright, sunny day, and Yomi and Kagari were having a picnic. Their parents were under the shade of a tree, talking and eating and drinking wine (Yomi had a sip once, and it didn't agree with her), while Yomi and Kagari sat apart, next to the river. Kagari was staring at the picnic basket, her face aghast.
"These smell awful," she said, staring at the basket as though it was some sort of horrid creature. Yomi had laughed then.
"It's just tuna salad," she said as she unpacked.
"Tuna salad is gross," said Kagari, hugging Mary tightly to her chest. "Is there any dessert?"
Yomi looked inside. There were brownies and cupcakes under a red and white checkered handkerchief. For a moment, Yomi debated the merits of telling Kagari this. She didn't especially want Kagari to gorge herself on sweets and neglect her lunch. Yomi had been brought up with the knowledge that dessert always comes last, and she stuck to that rule.
"You ought to eat your sandwich," Yomi said.
Kagari frowned. "I don't want to."
"Kagari," said Yomi, "tuna is good for you."
"I said I don't want to!" Kagari's high voice cracked on the last note. Yomi winced - whenever Kagari got like this, she would cry. Kagari was a tremendous cryer. Nonetheless, Yomi tried again.
"It's good, really," she said, putting a hand on Kagari's shoulder.
"No it's not!" With that, the floodgates opened. Kagari started to cry loudly, tears running down her red face. Yomi, a little panicked, rubbed Kagari's back and held her hand.
"There's dessert after," she said. "There's cupcakes and brownies, and they'll taste a lot better after you eat the tuna." Yomi could hear the parents come over, and, worried, she redoubled her efforts, smiling at the bawling Kagari. "If you really don't want to eat it, we can split one." Yomi figured that eating half a lunch was better than eating none at all. To her left, she heard the vague noise of a camera snapping. She ignored it. Parents were weird.
"There's dessert?" Kagari asked, her voice thick, apparently hearing only the words 'cupcakes' and 'brownies'.
Yomi nodded. "But, you can only eat it after you eat some of the tuna."
isn't she annoying?
Yomi blinked and snapped her head up, looking around. There were her parents, and Kagari's, smiling at the two of them, as though this was some kind of big joke. Yomi's mother was holding a camera, was talking to Kagari's mother, chuckling over something. Kagari's tears were beginning to clear, the girl wiping her eyes with her sleeve. Yomi frowned. What was that voice?
she should just shut up
"Did you hear something?" Yomi asked Kagari.
Kagari shook her head, still wiping at her tears. "No..." she looked at the picnic basket petulantly. "Aren't we going to split?"
Yomi bit her lip. Maybe it had just been her imagination. "Uh...yes," she reached back and grabbed a wrapped sandwich. She unwrapped it carefully, the plastic clinging to her fingers. The odor of tuna wafted up to her nose and Kagari made a noise of disgust. Despite herself, Yomi felt a twinge of annoyance. Kagari was always like this. She could be so hard to get along with, really.
don't you want to hurt her
Yomi's eyes widened and her hands froze. That voice was so clear and distinct. She whipped her head around, looking. Her parents and Kagari's had gone back to their place under the tree. There was no one around except for Yomi and Kagari. The two of them were alone on the picnic blanket. Yomi swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. Guiltily, Yomi thought back to her earlier vehemence against Kagari. When the voice whispered that in her ear, in that moment - that one frozen space in time - Yomi did want to hurt Kagari. But...Yomi was a good girl. She never wanted to hurt anyone, least of all her best friend. Kagari could be difficult at times, but Yomi still cared about her a lot. Yomi would never...
Her hands, numb, tore the sandwich in half.
like tearing her throat
When Yomi ate the sandwich, it tasted like dust.
That night, Yomi huddled in her bed and stared up at the ceiling. Yomi was still young enough to be troubled by thoughts of monsters, and thoughts of monsters were what was in her mind now. That voice she heard earlier, at the picnic...it said bad things. It made her think bad things - things that she never thought before.
Yomi stared at her hands. They looked harmless. Normal. There was no way her hands, so innocent in the moonlight, could hurt someone. There was no way. But when Yomi blinked, for one instant, her hands were claws; claws with long fingernails, claws that were black and metallic, claws that could tear, could hurt. But that vision was gone before Yomi could fully see it. Her hands were normal now. Shaking, Yomi tucked them under the bedsheet - she didn't want to see.
When she closed her eyes, she was falling, down and down like Alice in Wonderland, but instead of going down a rabbithole she was going down an endless black and white checkerboard pit. Black chains surrounded her, jingling faintly. Around her were small skulls, teeth grinning, eyes glowing green fire.
Yomi's eyes widened. The voice was a lot louder now, echoing around her. Yomi flailed in midair, limbs useless.
The voice sounded warm, almost friendly. It sounded pleased, as though it just had the last cookie in the cookie jar. Yomi slapped her hands against her ears and screwed her eyes shut, but she could still hear the voice echoing in her head.
Who are you? Yomi thought.
There was a brief pause. The chains stopped jingling, the skulls stopped their slow rotation around Yomi. Yomi, however, was still falling, tumbling down further and further into the pit. She was so far down. When she looked up, there was no opening - only a mass of criss-crossing chains, closing off the exit. Occasional cracks of light shown through, however.
The voice sounded amused, somehow, as though Yomi had said a particularly funny joke.
you're a clever girl
I'm sure you're smart enough to find out
There was contempt in the voice, so heavy and cold that Yomi's eyes shot open and for an instant she saw nothing but green fire. Then, her vision cleared, and she was in her room, and it was time for school.
After that night, however, the voice was quiet, much to Yomi's relief. Soon, as time passed, it left her mind altogether. Looking back on it, Yomi could laugh. It was nothing but a bit too much sun, that's all. It was a hot day, and Yomi had been reading a scary book the other night, a book about ghosts that haunted a house on a hill, so the voice, strange as it was, was probably nothing. Sun-touched, that's all. That was a phrase the doctors on TV used on the gross dramas Kagari would watch sometimes. Sun-touched.
Funny then, how it was another sunny day when the voice returned. Yomi and Kagari were in school, Yomi's feet kicking lazily under the desk as she paid attention to the teacher's words. Kagari, sitting at the seat next to her, was already distracted, doodling on her page. Yomi wondered how she was going to tell her that she would be moving to Germany soon. Her stomach churned unpleasantly at the thought. Kagari would not take it well, but there was nothing to be done. It was for Yomi's father's job, and Yomi's parents had patiently explained to Yomi that she would still be able to talk with Kagari. There was the phone, of course. There were letters, wouldn't that be fun? There was video chat too, on the laptop, so they could still see each other. And of course, there would definitely be vacations back to Japan during breaks.
Yomi allowed her attention to drift a little from class as she thought about how to go about breaking the news to Kagari. During school would be too soon. Better to tell her at home, when Kagari was happy and sated with dessert. Yomi mentally checked down a list of sweets she had at home. She didn't have much of a sweet tooth, so most of the desserts at Yomi's home was reserved for Kagari. There was ice cream...cake...cookies. And it was a Friday, so the rest of the day stretched out peaceful and lazy and free. Maybe a movie, one of the gross ones Kagari liked so much. With popcorn...
Yomi wanted to pamper Kagari a little before telling her the unfortunate news.
At break, Yomi put her books away and got up to face Kagari. The girl was facing away from her, however - was talking with some other classmate about something.
That was rare. Kagari was the kind of girl who kept to herself most of the time. Despite that, she was popular in class, though she herself didn't know it. Unlike Yomi, who most people stayed away from, Kagari was the kind of girl who drew people to her. Looking at her, Yomi couldn't help but to feel a little envious...
you want her to herself
Yomi froze. Was that...no. It couldn't be. She shook her head, once, firmly. She was a little tired, that's all. Though...Yomi didn't want Kagari all to herself. It wasn't like she was hogging Kagari or anything...it's just that, they were best friends, and...and...
Yomi closed her eyes and took deep breaths, put a shoulder against the voice and pushed it away. All of a sudden, she felt weak and dizzy, her head pounding.
"Yomi?" Kagari's voice. Yomi took another steadying breath and opened her eyes, seeing Kagari before her, confused. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," said Yomi, her voice unconvincing even to herself. "Um...what did that girl want?"
Kagari glanced back in the direction of the girl and shrugged. "She wanted me to help her with something stupid. I told her to go away."
Yomi winced. Kagari had never tempered her words. Despite that, however, no one seemed to mind. In fact, her harshness only served to increase her popularity. Not that Yomi minded. Really. It was good to see Kagari making other friends...
no it's not you want her to yourself
Shut up, Yomi thought to herself. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Leave me alone.
this is who you are
it's not, it's not, it's not
don't deny it
Yomi put her hands to her ears again and squeezed her eyes shut, her breaths coming out in short fast spurts until she felt a hand on her shoulder. Yomi instinctively grabbed the hand tight, eyes snapping open. For a moment all she saw was checkerboard, and she was falling, falling, and standing before her was
(someone with claws and horns and an evil, evil smile)
Kagari, bewildered. The other classmates were looking at Yomi strangely too. Yomi's eyes darted from one end of the classroom to another, before she shook her head violently again. "I need to go," Yomi mumbled to Kagari, and with that she was out of the classroom, almost tripping over her feet as she ran to the bathroom. She could barely think, could barely hear - her head hurt, so much, and she could hear her heart, loud and thumping and quick, pounding in her head, and her arms, her legs, were tingling.
She burst into the bathroom, which was gratefully empty. She put her hands on the faucet, shaky, and stared down at the drain. Her breaths were choked, wheezing. In her head, laughter echoed, round and round.
it's just a matter of time
No it's not, Yomi thought, harder than she ever did before. It's not. It's not.
you really are perfect
Yomi's eyes were wild, almost animal, in the mirror. She looked pale, and small, and very young. Shaking, she took off her glasses; she didn't want to see. She placed them on the lip of the sink and lowered her head, bowed over the sink drain.
one day you'll understand, yomi
Yomi felt a primal shudder rack through her body when the voice whispered her name. A whimper escaped her lips, and Yomi realized with a start that she was crying.
you're still too young
plants need time to grow, yomi
you understand that, don't you
Yomi didn't, not really. She was just a kid. She might know more words than most, might read more than most, but when it comes right down to it Yomi was just a kid, and she didn't like this - not at all. Unaware of what exactly she was doing, Yomi had sunk down to her knees, on the dirty bathroom floor, wiping her eyes, shoulders shaking with the force of suppressed sobs.
you're a smart girl
Yomi left school early that day, the school nurse examining her and gravely declaring her to be suffering from some stomach distress, probably ate something that didn't agree with her. Kagari, eyes wide and frightened, followed her home.
"What's wrong, Yomi?" she asked, for what seemed like the millionth time. Yomi felt, briefly, a flash in her mind. Her teeth gritted against each other, her hands clenched into fists. Violence swept across her mind, but then it passed, leaving Yomi feeling sicker than ever.
"I feel bad," said Yomi, holding her stomach. Her eyes felt very dry. "I'm sorry, Kagari. You didn't have to come along with me." The words were rote and learned.
"I want to," Kagari said, stubbornly loyal. "We're best friends. And I didn't want to stay in school anyway, it's boring."
"Oh," said Yomi. She didn't feel very talkative today - all she wanted was to go home and crawl into her bed and...but...if she did that, she might go back to the checkerboard world again.
And Yomi didn't want to go there again, never ever. She didn't. If she closed her eyes- if she went to sleep- she might, she just might...
"Kagari," said Yomi, her voice whispery, "do you want to sleep over?"
Maybe if Kagari was with her, she wouldn't have the nightmares.
It worked for a while. After Yomi told her about Germany, Kagari wanted to sleep over practically every night anyways. Lying there with a quietly sleeping Kagari, Yomi stared up at the ceiling, tried to stay very very still. Tried to make her breathing quiet, so quiet, in case the voice sensed by hearing, though Yomi knew that made no sense. She didn't know where the voice came from, or what triggered it, but she had what she had.
With the knowledge of Yomi's immediate departure, Kagari would spend a lot more time with her than before. Yomi didn't mind. Kagari was her best friend, and she had fun playing with her. Yomi tried to teach Kagari how to braid bracelets too, but the girl wasn't very good at it. She would stare at the needles, face puckered sourly as she tried to wrestle the strings into cooperation. Watching her work, Yomi felt a clenching in her heart. She didn't want to leave for Germany, not really. What would Kagari do without her? The girl followed Yomi around practically everywhere she went, like a lost puppy. Kagari needed her. The memory of the picnic flooded back into Yomi's mind. Without Yomi around, who would take care of Kagari?
Still, it wasn't like there was anything Yomi could do about it - she couldn't very well change her father's job, so she held her peace. She was, after all, a good girl.
The weeks slipped by, and the voice was quiet. This time, however, Yomi was watchful for it. She didn't allow herself to forget, like last time. She remembered its words
(plants need time to grow)
and each time she did, she felt a primal shudder go down her spine. She remembered the heart pounding nausea back at school. She remembered the tingling. She remembered, worst of all, the sight of that person with horns and claws - a human made monster, grinning insultingly. Its face was nothing but a green blur in Yomi's memory, but the horns and the claws told enough. It was something bad - something that wanted evil things.
Yomi sucked in a deep breath whenever she remembered, and there would be the faint, mossy, dirt smell of the graveyard in her nostrils. She was wary now, and on guard. The next time the voice comes along, Yomi thought, she would ignore it. It didn't exist - it was all in her head. What was in her head wouldn't be able to hurt her.
(But what if it can hurt others?)
The weeks rolled by until the day of the flight to Germany. Yomi had to get up early to catch the flight, so when she walked out into the sunlight, it was with sleepy eyes and a slow step. Still, she was excited; Germany was a brand new place, after all. She was sad to leave home and her best friend, but she could still go back to visit, and there was the phone and letters and everything. Though that wasn't much at all, hardly a replacement for actual companionship, Yomi didn't want to whine about it, or be sad all the time. She was a good girl.
She smiled up at the chauffeur as he helped her luggage into the car before getting into her seat, buckling her seatbelt and looking out the window at Kagari's house. It was early, Yomi thought. Kagari was probably still asleep; it was the weekend, after all. Still, Yomi felt that painful clench in her heart again, and looked down. With Yomi gone, Kagari would probably make more friends with the rest of the people in her class. Not that that mattered too much...Kagari should have more friends. She was the kind of girl who would be popular, if she would just let it happen.
But then, where would that leave Yomi when she comes back from Germany? For a brief moment, Yomi saw a clear vision of the future - her returning home and knocking on Kagari's door, Kagari answering it, staring at her blankly and coldly, the way she would stare at people she was uninterested in. In the background, inside the house, there would be the sound of laughter; other people's laughter. Yomi would stutter a nervous 'hello', Kagari would scowl at her, angry at her interrupting, and then, and then-
No, Yomi told herself. Her hands were clenched tight into fists. Stop it. Stop thinking like that. That was the kind of thought the voice would make her have. Yomi wasn't the voice. Yomi was good. Plus, Kagari and Yomi were best friends. They would stay best friends, there was no way Kagari would abandon Yomi. Absolutely no way.
The car pulled away from the sidewalk, slowly. Yomi felt the engine rumble under her seat. Then, Yomi heard a voice - faint, but there. It sounded like Kagari, and Yomi gave a little start.
Yomi put her hands against the window, tried to peer outside. She saw Kagari running after the car, faint but there. She looked so small, in her pajamas, holding Mary. Yomi noticed with alarm that Kagari wasn't wearing shoes. That was bad; she would hurt her feet.
"Kagari," Yomi said, though Kagari couldn't hear, and then she saw it. Her eyes widened and it felt as though her internal temperature plummeted to ten below zero. The car - coming in from the side, right where Kagari...would...
Yomi couldn't move, hands placed on the windshield. She couldn't breathe, even - her throat felt stoppered. The car was approaching and there was laughter echoing, round and round, over and over, in her head, laughing and laughing and laughing.
maybe you won't have to go to germany after all
Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.
this is what you wanted, isn't it
Yomi couldn't even close her eyes. Kagari had stopped running, was turning slowly to the right.
there's no way she could leave you now
There was the sound of screeching, loud and obscene. Yomi could hear her parents' voices, raised high in alarm as they looked back. But most of all, what she heard the loudest even though it was so far away, the sound Yomi knew would echo in her head over and over, never going away, for the rest of her life
you wanted this
was Kagari's scream.
Yomi began having blackouts shortly after the accident.
To be precise, they weren't exactly blackouts. She would be at school, for example, trying to concentrate on work while her mind was preoccupied with Kagari in the hospital. When she closed her eyes, she would see, once again, that other world that she was by now sick of. The checkerboard world had begun to take on a greenish tint, lately. Yomi wasn't sure what that meant. Still, she wouldn't be able to 'wake up' from it - before, she could have opened her eyes while the images flashed in her mind, but it seemed as though the displacement into the world was stronger now. The voice was stronger too. It was an almost physical presence, curling in her gut like a snake. She could practically feel it sitting in her stomach, spreading slowly, like vines and creeping ivy, throughout her system.
(plants need time to grow)
It made her sick. Her dreams were troubled now. She would always, always be falling. Her feet never touched solid ground. The voice never showed itself, either - it only laughed around her. The skulls grew steadily in size, and in the distance, far down in the pit, Yomi thought she saw the movement of many skull-gray heads. The exit, far far above her, seemed to be sealed off more and more as the nights passed. Chains would be added, slowly, subtly. The cracks of light grew smaller and smaller by the day.
Yomi feared the night when she would look up and see nothing but blackness and intertwining chains, like a ball of snakes, the light and exit gone.
The blackouts, however, were the most troubling problem. They happened slowly, at first, and then accelerated, as though some force behind it was learning - became more and more skilled with it as time passed. Eventually, slipping into the blackout, the transition, was as smooth as closing her eyes. Occasionally Yomi would surface with her seatmates at school looking oddly at her, a touch of fear in their eyes. Once, the teacher had taken her aside and told her, gently, that if she was so upset about Kagari's health, she could take a break from class.
Kagari. When it came to Kagari, her condition was shaky. The days immediately following the accident was a haze in Yomi's memory - nothing but panic, the trip to Germany called off, Yomi's father constantly stressed as he worked out his job situation. Kagari had been hurt bad - really bad. Yomi had overheard the words, foreign and frightening, 'fracture' and 'compound' and, worst of all, 'might not be able to walk again'.
Those were the days the blackouts at school occured the most - the days when Yomi's life was like a fraying string, bits and pieces of it falling away, unable to be put back together. She became withdrawn and pale, spending all of her time, rereading obssessively and without reason, The Little Bird Of Many Colors. It was easy to slip into the colorful book, back to a time when life was simple and easy, the days before that fateful picnic.
However, eventually, as it always did, the world righted itself. It started first with the news of Kagari's successful operation. Her bones were set, on the mend - with luck, she would be able to walk again. The blackouts at school faded. Yomi's father secured a job position in Japan, and the Germany position went to someone else. Slowly, the world began to spin on its normal axis again.
Or so Yomi thought.
The golden sunlight filtered in through the blinds, casting parallelograms of light on Kagari's sheets. Yomi was sitting on the chair next to the bed, braiding a red bracelet as she talked to Kagari about inconsequential things - things like the book she had been reading lately, what she learned at school, life's everyday rhythms. Kagari, however, was toying with her sheets, glancing out the window - clearly distracted.
"I wish I could go outside," she said. "I'm tired of this room."
Yomi smiled. "You'll be out of here soon. The doctors said your legs are healing."
Kagari looked at Yomi and smiled, weakly. "Yeah..." her voice was soft.
Yomi opened her mouth to say more, reached out with her hand to Kagari's, but then she blinked-
Careless. Careless. Stupid. Yomi looked around her, at the increasingly cracked checkerboard, at the green light that infiltrated the entire place. There were more chains over the exit now. Yomi squeezed her eyes shut and opened it again, but she was still falling. In the distance, however, she heard voices - one that sounded eerily like her own. They echoed in the pit. Beneath her, the gray skulls watched.
"But...the outside is scary, isn't it?"
That sounded a lot like Kagari. Yomi's gut flipped.
"Yeah...you were hurt really badly, Kagari. Maybe it's better to just stay inside..."
The realization was dawning on Yomi. Nausea rose in her body and she covered her face, taking shuddery breaths. Where was she? What was this place? Why her?
"And you watched all those dramas...the doctors aren't always right..."
"...what do you mean?"
"You might not even be able to walk...and even if you could, you might get hit by a car again."
"Isn't it better to just...not walk? That way, I can protect you."
What was she saying? Wake up, Yomi thought to herself, the voices roaring in her ear, washing over her brain and consciousness. Wake up, wake up, wake up wake up wakeupwakeupwakeupwakeup-
Yomi gasped as her eyes flew open. Breathing heavily, she leaned forward and put her hands on her head. She was sweating, cold. Her body felt heavy and sluggish - as though there was some other presence in it, occupying the space, weighting down her limbs. Slowly, however, sullenly, it left, draining out of her body until Yomi felt she could move again.
Kagari was staring at her. "Yomi...?"
Yomi passed a hand over her face and shook her head. "It's...it's nothing."
"What was all that about me not being able to walk again?" Kagari's voice was shaky. Yomi recognized that voice. She was about to cry again. "Do you really want me to..."
"O-of course not!" Yomi said. "I wouldn't think-"
"So then why did you say it?" Kagari asked, hands clenching into fists on the bedsheet, glaring at Yomi.
Yomi couldn't answer. She opened her mouth, and said nothing. What could she say? She blacked out? She was possessed? Things like that didn't happen in real life. Those were cheesy things in scary movies and books. There was no way this could be happening to Yomi, except for the fact that it just did. But Yomi couldn't tell Kagari that, she wouldn't believe her.
Kagari looked down at her hands, slowly unclenching them. "So that's what you really think."
That one sentence jarred Yomi out of her trance. "No...no, it's not, I don't-"
"Go away," said Kagari.
Though the doctors found nothing wrong with her legs, Kagari couldn't walk. It was something in her heart, Yomi's mother had said to Yomi's father - a phrase Yomi overheard and was never able to forget.
Kagari had changed now, too. She stopped going to school, started spending all her days indoors, with Yomi. Her hair grew long and tangled, her golden eyes dull. She watched her gross TV shows all the time now while Yomi braided.
Yomi was a stress braider; it was an outlet. The rhythm of it was soothing, and she liked how it followed simple patterns. When you come right down to it, braiding is repetition. Repetition is safety. Repetition got Yomi's mind off of the voice, and what she did. This was all her fault. Because of her, Kagari was like this. Because of her...
but now she's all yours
Yomi dully ignored the voice. Even the dreams she ignored, until she stopped remembering them, though she woke up with a faint tinge of panic every time. The blackouts stopped, as though all it wanted was that one moment in the hospital where it destroyed everything. She just braided, over and over. She imagined herself to be collecting colors, like the bird.
Yomi still did not understand what exactly the voice was, and she wasn't inclined to tell anyone else. If she told people about it, they might think she was crazy. She might be taken to this place called the 'asylum', and she wouldn't be able to leave because everyone would think she was out of her mind. And she wasn't. It was just the voice. That voice, those dreams, the blackouts.
It wasn't Yomi. Yomi was good.
An immense hopelessness filled her. She couldn't even fight the voice. It was too strong, too powerful. Yomi felt stretched and tired, like a doll that had been played with too many times. During the day, she listlessly drew, over and over, the little bird.
A year slipped by, then middle school. Yomi went. Kagari didn't.