Sleepwalking

Anzu looked around at the other girls waiting in line with her outside of the theatre. This was the audition she was waiting for, she just knew it, and nothing was going to get in her way. It had been two hours since she arrived, and she was now only about forty hopefuls away from the registration table. She smoothed her dress and ran her fingers through her hair, worrying if her makeup looked all right. She had been in a rush this morning because her alarm had not gone off to allow her adequate time to prepare. Anzu's legs ached, but she knew she couldn't lean against the wall. She couldn't risk dirtying her outfit before performing for the panel of casting directors that were sitting inside right now, bored out of their minds as they watched the same few monologues performed over and over by girls who looked exactly the same as one another, whose only distinctions were their surnames, and sometimes not even those. Anzu closed her eyes and silently rehearsed her audition pieces, both of which she had taken from obscure plays by even more obscure playwrights. Just as she finished the final few words of her second piece, she heard another voice speaking aloud the first few. Her back stiffened and her face flared in anger. She had spent weeks poring over plays in the library to find that monologue, hidden away in a script that hadn't been checked out from the library in over twenty years. She looked around at the other girls around her, wondering how many of them were preparing the exact same monologue, each thinking that she was the most clever of the group for having found it. Anzu shook her head, trying to bring to mind another piece she had memorized. She couldn't use the same piece as someone else. She couldn't. In the world of performers, it was much a faux pas as wearing the same dress as another girl to the same party. Her eyes darted across the cityscape around her, trying to find something that would remind her of a long forgotten play she had watched. In the process, they locked onto a white-haired man carrying a tall stack of papers in his arms; no doubt he was one of the assistants returning from the paper store across the street with more copies of contracts for the line of girls to sign. She looked on as he hurried past, saw the crack in the sidewalk a split second before it caught his toe, watched as the papers in his arms resisted gravity and remained airborne as he plummeted face-first toward the ground. On instinct, Anzu leaped forward, her arms naturally moving into third arabesque. She turned the palm of her lower arm up and caught some of the papers between her hands as she landed, her feet closing together in fifth position. She bent forward to offer them to the man, but he was back on his feet in a split second, chasing after the papers that were being carried away on a soft breeze. Anzu waited for him to return, casting nervous glances at the line she had just left. Was it moving faster now? The two girls she had been between were only thirty spots from the desk, now fifteen…

The man finally returned, tightly grasping the papers, watching his feet carefully. He came to a stop and looked at her, smiling. "Thank you very much." He took the papers and bowed low, then turned without a word and walked right into the theatre.

Anzu stared at the spot where he had disappeared through the open doors for a moment, trying to wrap her mind around what had just happened, before going back to the line. She returned to the two girls who she had been standing between for two hours.

"Hey!" the blonde behind her exclaimed. "Don't cut!"

"But…" Anzu began.

"You left the line, now suffer the consequences.

"But…"

The girl scooted up a little closer behind the brunette in front of her, and the rest of the line quickly shifted accordingly.

Anzu attempted several times to convince someone to let her back in before giving up and sulking to the back of the line. What a terrible group of people she could potentially end up working with someday far into her career, that they would punish her for her kindness. She spent two more hours waiting, the line moving forward sluggishly once more, until finally she was back to the spot on the wall where she had been standing when the white-haired man first walked by. She clutched her résumé to her chest and began to go over her monologues in her head again, hoping that by now the panel had completely forgotten about the other girl having used the same piece. Anzu imagined how she would deliver the words of her first monologue with just the right amount of emotion and rip out the panel's hearts, bring them to tears, then turn around with the second and send them into fits of uproarious laughter. She forgave the girls who had not allowed her to return to her spot in the line, for they had given her the time to mentally prepare herself for this audition, which would undoubtedly be her big break. Anzu smiled and looked forward at the desk, just as a group of people carrying manila folders full of résumés walked out the door.

There was a sudden shift in atmosphere. The three men sitting behind the table out front stood and carried it inside, closing the doors behind them. One slipped back out and announced over the growing murmur that auditions were closed now. When the murmur grew, the other two came back out and shooed the girls away, their faces unapologetic.

Anzu's heart sank as she was carried down the sidewalk by a sea of woeful girls, some crying, some yelling obscenities at the men guarding the doors. Just like that, her big break had been taken from her, all because she had the simple decency to assist someone who needed it. She vaguely wondered who he had been as she walked home, head bowed slightly, and if it had really been in her best interests to help him.

:::

"Would you like any condiments on your sandwich?" Anzu asked the customer as she sat the huge, greasy hamburger down in front of him.

"I'd like to put some condiments on your sandwich, if you know what I'm sayin', babe." The customer offered a lecherous wink, at which Anzu scowled in response before turning on her heel and going back to the kitchen.

She simply could not handle all the perverts who frequented Burger World today, not after the disappointment she had suffered yesterday at the audition. All she had really wanted to do was sleep in and then take a nice, long bubble bath. Unfortunately, she had to keep up with the rent on her apartment, which meant working today, miserable or not. Anzu took a deep breath and counted to ten, hoping to avoid losing her composure. She had always known that the life of a performer would be far from easy, and was determined to not let it get to her too much. With a shake of her head, Anzu put on a smile and walked back into the dining area. She scanned her tables, and found that one had been occupied since she left. As she approached, Anzu noticed that he had long white hair. "Hello sir, how can I help you today?"

The man turned and looked up at her with his large, dark eyes. After a moment, they flickered with recognition and he smiled. "You could start by joining me for lunch. I'm sure it's about time you took a break, anyway."

The retort Anzu usually reserved for such propositions stuck in her throat.

The man continued to smile up at her without a hint of malice as he awaited her answer.

"A-all right." A few minutes later, she sat across from him in the booth, awaiting a burger.

For a while they sat there in silence, the man occasionally taking a sip from his iced tea. He never took his eyes off of Anzu, and while it did make her uncomfortable, it wasn't because she detected any lust in the stare. It was more complex than that, as though he were appraising her. "My name is Bakura. Bakura Ryou."

"I'm Mazaki Anzu," she replied. "It's nice to meet you, Bakura-san."

"But we've already met before, of course." He tilted his head. "You never came in for the audition."

Anzu looked down. "Yes well, I lost my place in line."

Bakura frowned. "They didn't let you back in? How inconsiderate. You were the only person who even looked my way when I fell. It's their loss of course." He took a drink of his tea. "I'm sure they could all have used inside contacts back there."

"Inside…contact?"

He interlocked his fingers and rested his chin on them. "I'm the lead male in one of the movies that was represented at the audition."

For a moment, Anzu was rendered speechless. "Th-then why were you—"

"Carrying that stack of papers? The director and I are close. They were copies of résumés from actresses he had liked. Personally I found them all to be rather bland, but he insisted, so what could I say?"

"Why was he looking for an actress at the cattle call if you've already been cast?"

"Uh…" Bakura rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, we did have a leading lady—Wong Vivian was her name—but she walked out on us after a couple days of production, saying contract be damned. We're in a bit of a hurry to finish filming before our set is demolished, so we figured a cattle call was the best place to find a replacement."

"Did you find one?"

"Well…the director has a favorite, but I disagree, and I do have a say since casting will also depend on her and my chemistry." Bakura looked up at Anzu from under his eyelashes. "If I say we have no chemistry, she's tossed out."

Anzu broke their eye contact. "That makes sense. I mean, that's why reading together is necessary before casting is done."

"He's also open to suggestions, if I happen to find someone I think would make a good co-star."

Her heart fluttered for a moment. Perhaps her break wasn't as far off as she thought.

"You wouldn't happen to have a copy of your résumé right now, would you, Mazaki-san?"

Anzu's mouth went dry. "No. I…I haven't printed any more out. I mean, I didn't expect—"

"Mazaki-san, you should always expect to need a copy of your résumé! That's one of the first things you learn as an actor!" Despite the chastising words, Bakura's tone expressed that he was merely teasing. "But for someone as kind-hearted as you, an exception can be made. We could meet at your place sometime to look over it?"

Anzu inhaled sharply. "Um…we could meet at the library tonight, if you like. I don't have a printer of my own, and I would have to print off another headshot after work as well." She couldn't believe he had actually suggested meeting at her apartment like it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Okay. How about at seven? I'll bring the director along too!" He began to slide out of the booth.

"Where are you going?"

Bakura looked to the side. "Eh heh…well, I actually don't eat red meat. I'm going to buy some salmon and rice at the market. Goodbye, Mazaki-san!" He waved as he left the restaurant.

"So…he came here to talk to me?" Anzu murmured under her breath. The thought brought a smile to her face as it finally sank in that her good deed was not being punished after all. Completely erased from her mind was any consideration of how he had known where she worked in the first place.

:::

The computer at which Anzu sat came to life with a loud hum in the mostly deserted library that evening. She wished that Bakura had asked what time she got off work so they could have met several hours earlier; the empty library gave her the creeps. She pushed her flash drive in with a click that thundered in her ears. The clacking of the keys sounded like the hooves of horses galloping down a cobbled road. Anzu opened up her résumé and sent it to the printer, which fired up with the buzz of a charging laser from a sci-fi movie. Anzu stood and walked to the printer. As she waited for her résumé to print off, a chill went down her spine. Convinced there was someone behind her, she glanced over first her left shoulder, then her right, but found no sign of anyone—or anything—else's presence. She relaxed and reached out to take the warm sheet of paper as it slid onto the tray. Anzu took a copy of her headshot out of her purse, and attached it to the résumé with a paperclip from her pocket. She spun on her heel to return to the computer. She stumbled backward in shock, losing grip of her résumé, sending the printer screeching back several inches on the table.

For when she had turned, she had come face-to-face with Bakura, so close that she had felt the warmth of his breath on her face a split second before falling back. He reached out and snatched the résumé from mid-air. "What a lovely headshot," he commented. "Although, Mazaki-san, you should really get it done professionally when you have the money."

Anzu was too stunned to reply. Where had he come from? And how could he have pretended not to notice the reaction he had elicited? She took a few long breaths to slow her racing heartbeat.

A polite frown settled on Bakura's lips. "You don't have any acting experience, Mazaki-san. Just years of dance training." He looked up at her, confusion written in his eyes. "Why were you auditioning at the theatre then? It was clearly advertised that the only jobs offered would be roles in films."

Anzu opened her mouth to reply, but just then she noticed a man approaching them.

He was a small person, probably almost a half foot shorter than herself. Styled bleach-blond bangs framed his face while the rest of his magenta-tipped black hair rose into the air behind it. His tight black clothes and golden bangles were much flashier than the school uniform she remembered him having worn years ago.

"Yugi-kun?"

He looked directly up at her with the large purple eyes she remembered well. In them was a spark of recognition. He blinked a few times. "A-Anzu-chan?

Bakura looked from one to the other and smiled. "You two already know each other? That saves me the trouble of introducing you then! May I ask how you know each other?"

"Anzu-chan and I were classmates in high school."

"Is that all?" Bakura asked. He leaned down a bit and tilted his head. "You seem awfully familiar with each other for having just been classmates."

Yugi shot Bakura a glare. Anzu noticed that the tint of his face was taking on a faint pink as he said, "We took the subway home together sometimes."

"Yugi-kun, how do you know Bakura-san?" questioned Anzu.

Bakura straightened up and looked at her. "I did say I was bringing the director to meet you."

"Wh-wha…?" Muto Yugi, her former classmate, a director? She couldn't think of a time during high school when he had even expressed a vague interested in film, aside from the pornographies he got from the rebel Jonouchi Katsuya that he thought he was cleverly hiding in his book bag.

Ignoring her surprise, Bakura handed Yugi the résumé and headshot. "What do you think, Yugi-san?"

Yugi took a glance at the paper. His uncertain expression made Anzu's stomach drop. Just because they had been classmates at one time clearly didn't mean that he would instantly hire her. Her spirits sank even lower when he murmured, "I don't know…"

"Of course, I've put you on the spot, and you need more time to think it over," Bakura said, taking Yugi by his upper arm and beginning to pull him toward the exit. He looked over his shoulder at Anzu and smiled, never once breaking stride as he said to her, "It seems that we are all on a first name basis, so if you don't mind, I'll call you Anzu-san, and I insist that you call me Ryou-san! We'll call with our decision within a few days! Goodbye!" The last sentence was uttered as they disappeared between bookshelves, leaving Anzu behind with nothing but the hum of machinery to keep her company.

:::

Anzu sat on a bench in the subway station, purse clutched in her lap. She had been preparing for an audition earlier that morning. She had just finished swiping a pale peach eyeshadow onto her lids when her cell phone had begun vibrating loudly on the dresser beside her, sending an odd sensation up her spine and causing her to shudder. Even though she hadn't recognized the number, she'd answered.

"Good news, Anzu-san!" Bakura—no Ryou he'd said—said. "Yugi-san has decided to cast you as Mari! Please meet us at the subway station at one this afternoon!"

"Which one?" she'd asked. There had to be more than a dozen stations in Domino alone.

"The route we're taking starts from the subway you used to take to school with Yugi-san. See you then, Anzu-san!" With that, he had hung up.

Anzu glanced at the clock on her cell phone, which read that it was twelve fifty-seven. She'd held the phone to her ear for a few seconds after the telltale click, wondering uneasily at how Ryou would have known what subway she and Yugi had taken to school before it dawned on her that Ryou may not have known, but of course Yugi himself would have. She had shaken her head at herself for being so ridiculous, turning to the mirror and grinning. "Guess I'll have to change," she'd told her reflection. The pink, form-fitting dress she had put on that morning she'd bought specifically for this audition. She'd removed it with a smile, the tag she had so cleverly—and uncomfortably—managed to stuff into her bra showing plainly as she'd hung it back up on its hanger, ready to be returned to the department store; she might not have been a professional, but she knew the tricks to saving money as a struggling performer. Anzu glanced around at the subway station, wondering if Yugi and Ryou planned on being a little late. She stared ahead at the entrance, glancing down at her phone every few seconds. She jumped to her feet and raised her purse when she felt a hand on her shoulder; she lowered it when she saw it was just Yugi, who was stepping back with his hands in front of himself. "Oh, Yugi-kun. I didn't—"

"Isn't she perfect for the role?" asked a voice in Anzu's ear.

Her mouth went dry and her body froze.

Ryou stepped around, the same polite smile on his face as always. "That's a lovely expression of terror you have. Absolutely perfect for Mari. Well, we'd better hurry if we don't want to miss the train." He turned and headed for the platform as the rattle of the subway approached, growing more deafening until it came to a stop.

Yugi took Anzu's hand and pulled her forward, breaking her stupor.

Anzu blinked, and smiled down at the concerned expression on Yugi's face. She had no idea why she was so uneasy around Ryou. So maybe he was a little strange, but that didn't make him malevolent, right? There were plenty of strange actors, many of them the idols that Japan adored so much. She shook off the edgy feeling and stepped onto the subway just as the doors closed with a snap. She followed Yugi through the crowd of other commuters, packed so closely that there was very little room for movement indeed. They earned several glares, especially when they took the seats on which Ryou had been languidly reclining. Anzu hunched her shoulders; she felt terrible for having taken these seats from people who might actually have needed them. "Ba…Ryou-san, why are we sitting? We can't be going that far."

"We aren't," he admitted as he held his palm out to Yugi, "but it's easier to show you this now." He closed his fingers around the ream of paper that Yugi gave him. "These are the first few scenes of the movie, Anzu-san. You don't have time to read them right now, so just put them in your purse." He stood and grabbed the rail above just as the subway came to a lurching halt. "We're here."

The three of them emerged from the station in what Anzu recognized as the historic district of Domino. The buildings here were not as tall as the rest of the city, save for one that rose above the rest, toward which they appeared to be walking. At one of the lights, they dashed across the street just before the light changed.

Ryou looked back at Anzu. "I'm very impressed, Anzu-san, that you can run in those shoes."

She looked down at her feet, on which she wore her three-inch platforms. "These are nothing, to be honest. Put me in heels and it's a whole different story."

His expression changed for a brief moment, a flash so quick that Anzu didn't have time to register what his face might have said. "How interesting," Ryou said before continuing forward.

At last, they reached the tall building. As they walked inside, Anzu noticed a sheet of paper taped on the inside of the door, facing outward. "What did that paper say?"

"That the building is condemned," Ryou replied casually.

"What?"

He turned and smiled. "It's the perfect setting for the film. It used to be a luxury hotel, established right after the end of World War II. After it became really popular, there was a string of inexplicable, violent deaths. Several people fell from the stairwell, a maintenance man was cut in half by the elevator, and there were at least six different cases of deaths in the rooms. The hotel earned such a bad reputation that it was closed. There were some prospective buyers who wanted to market it as a haunted hotel, but they all died before they could make an offer. The building has been unoccupied for so long that it's fallen into disrepair, and the structure is outdated. The city has decided to tear it down before it falls on its own." Ryou came to a stop behind a large, cushioned chair, which appeared to be in far too good of shape to have been sitting in an abandoned hotel. "Have a seat, Anzu-san."

She did as Ryou said and watched as he and Yugi sat together on the couch on the other side of a glass table, which was suspiciously free of dust.

"We've done a little cleaning up in the places where we plan to shoot and live," Ryou said, as though reading her thoughts.

"Live?" asked Anzu.

"Oh right, we hadn't mentioned! Well, Anzu-san, this hotel is set to be demolished in just three weeks. So, in order to finish the film before that, we'll be working long days and sleeping in the hotel. Anzu-san will have her own room, of course."

"So…where is the rest of the cast? And the crew?"

"Well," Yugi began, speaking for the first time since they'd met at the station, "this is an experimental film, actually. You and Ryou-san are the only characters, and I will be the director and cameraman."

Ryou placed a document in front of Anzu. "Take all the time you need to read the contract, Anzu-san. Sign your name with this," he held out a pen, "only when you're ready."

:::

"This is where you'll be sleeping for the duration of our shoot," said Ryou as he turned the key and opened the door of room 107. "I hope you like it."

Anzu gazed at the room in awe. Every hard surface sparkled, every cloth surface looked soft and new. Her bed was dressed in burgundy sheets and a heavy cream-colored comforter. She pushed down and found that her hand sank satisfactorily into the soft mattress. "It's wonderful!" she said as she dropped her suitcase to the floor and fell back onto the bed.

Ryou smiled. "It's a full suite. Look in here," he said with a beckoning gesture.

Curious, she pushed herself up, struggling for a moment with the comforter, and followed him through the door that she had assumed led to the bathroom. "This is…"

"Your very own dressing room, Anzu-san," Ryou replied.

It was clearly originally designed to be the living room, as Anzu could tell from the large cushioned seats arranged in a circle on the heavy rug. But now one wall held a suspension rod weighed down with various articles of clothing, underneath which were several pairs of shoes, heels of various heights and styles.

Ryou took down a plaid skirt and a simple white button-down, then stooped and picked up a pair of black stiletto Mary Janes. "There should be several pairs of stockings in the dresser beside the mirror. As long as they match this, I don't mind which pair you choose. Is something the matter, Anzu-san?"

Anzu couldn't tear her eyes off of the shoes as Ryou handed them to her. They looked like a tragic fall down a flight or two of stairs just waiting to happen. "N-no. Nothing's wrong.

"I know you said you have a hard time in heels, but I had already picked out the entire wardrobe for Wong-san, and since the two of you are the same size, Yugi-san and I decided it would be best not to use any more of our budget on costumes."

"You picked out the entire wardrobe, Ryou-san? You know, you certainly seem to have a lot of control over this movie for Yugi-kun being the director."

"Well," Ryou said, "the truth is…well…" He turned and went to stand in front of the mirror, looking into the eyes of Anzu's reflection. "I wrote the script."

"W-wow." Although she only knew the contents of the first few scenes—Ryou had explained that it was common for horror actors to memorize their lines only minutes before shooting in order to keep them from becoming comfortable with the scene—Anzu had been impressed by the masterful dialogue between Mari and Hitoshi, the character Ryou would be playing, subtly foreshadowing future events in ways that she could not understand clearly until she had read the words several times over. "So…is this your first movie?"

Ryou shook his head. "I've written and played large roles—both on and off screen—in several popular fringe films on the occult. It started as nothing but a hobby, but after my second film I met Yugi-san, who had a few directing credits already. Together we've established something of a cult following ourselves. If you would like, we can watch some of the films during our down time on set?"

"Sure!" Anzu was curious to find out just what Yugi had been doing since graduation, as well as learn more about her strange co-star.

"Well, I'll see if I can find my copies of a couple of favorites. But for now, let's get into costume, shall we? We start filming at noon. And," he added as he started out of the dressing room, "when you finish getting into costume, put on a robe to protect it while I do your hair and makeup. There should be one in the bathroom." With that, he left Anzu alone in her lavish temporary suite.

:::

Anzu backed away slowly, step by step, eyes trained on the space in front of her. "Don't! Don't!" she screamed as tears formed in the corners of her eyes. "What are you?" she demanded. The heel of her shoe missed the edge of the stair, sending her plummeting backward. A pair of arms wrapped around her waist from behind; she twisted her head to catch glimpse of her savior. "Hitoshi," she breathed in relief. "I'm so glad."

Ryou looked into her eyes with concern. "What happened, Mari?"

"I-I'm not sure," she admitted as she relaxed into Ryou's arms.

"And…scene!" Yugi called. "Anzu-chan, that was great!"

With Ryou's help she straightened up. "Really?"

"Spot on," Ryou assured her over his shoulder. "I think I saw the delivery man through the window. Shall we check?"

Together, the three descended to the first floor of the hotel. Sure enough, there stood a man in the uniform of a local sushi restaurant, looking doubtfully through the glass doors, eyeing the condemned notice taped to them. His expression noticeably brightened as he turned to leave.

"Anzu-san," Ryou said, "I found two of the films. Would you like to watch them tonight?"

She nodded, smiling. The general success of the day had put her into a good mood, and she was ready to smile after the terror she had been portraying since early afternoon.

"There's a television in my suite's living room, if it wouldn't bother you to eat there."

"Of course not!" she replied.

"What are we watching?" asked Yugi, casting a glance in Ryou's direction.

Ryou smiled down at him. "Anzu-san wanted to see some of the work we've done since becoming partners in show business."

Yugi looked down; his shoulders hunched just the slightest bit. "Oh."

Anzu looked at him curiously. What could have elicited such a response? Surely Yugi wasn't embarrassed of their work. After all, Ryou had said that they'd gathered a following without stooping to conform to large industry producers. She brushed aside his reaction, reasoning that he was just being modest, as always.

They entered Ryou's room and made themselves comfortable as Ryou put a DVD into the player.

"Who's that?" Anzu asked through a mouthful of sushi. She pointed to the dark-skinned blond on the screen beside Ryou.

A wistful look came into Ryou's eyes. "That's Ishtar Malik. He was my favorite co-star for a long time. I even wrote a few movies just for us. Both of the ones I picked out, in fact, were for him."

The way Ryou spoke about Ishtar sounded almost as though he'd…loved him. Anzu contemplated asking, but before she could, he cut in with a line so laced with melancholy that there was no need.

"He left me to return to Egypt about a year ago, and we haven't spoken since."

They spent the remainder of the movie in silence. It drew to a close with a graphic ritual scene in which Ryou's and Ishtar's characters murdered a woman with long blonde hair and a voluptuous figure using nothing but their bare hands. Although the gore made her sick to her stomach, Anzu was so amazed by the effect that she could not look away. She wondered how improper it would be to ask the budget of the film, and decided that it would be akin to asking a lady her weight.

As Ryou said, the second movie contained the same stars. This time though, it was about a falling out between close friends, who surrendered themselves to devils in order to hunt each other down. The dialogue was so natural that Anzu felt almost as if she were watching a twisted home movie, like those they claimed to produce in the United States. In the end, it was Ryou's character who triumphed, ripping off the other's head and leaving it to stare blankly into the camera.

The credits rolled, leaving Anzu shaken and awestruck. "Yugi-kun, Ryou-san…those were amazing. I mean, they aren't really to my taste, but…" She couldn't find words to express how grateful she was to be working with such fine artists.

"Well, I suppose we had best be getting to bed, had we not?" Ryou said with a smile.

Anzu nodded, amazed and a little frightened that such an outwardly pleasant man could hold such visions of horror in his mind.

:::

Anzu slowly drifted up from the dark haze of sleep into mildly aware wakefulness. She kept her eyes closed, hoping that she would return to sleep soon enough. But as she lay there in the abyss of her mind, she felt warmth near her face that surely didn't belong. She tried to fight her curiosity for a while longer, but there was something tugging on the back of her mind that absolutely refused to let go until she had checked. So, she cracked her eyes open just a little. She screamed and rolled out of her bed. Anzu cowered there, legs tucked in, head bowed. She heard the lock on her door rattle and hunched over further.

"Anzu-chan, what happened?" The familiar voice coaxed her out of hiding, and she peered over her bed at the figure of Yugi, silhouetted in her doorframe by a flickering light from behind. "Anzu-chan…" he said as he jumped over the bed and crouched beside her.

Ryou entered the room, carrying a candle. "Is Anzu-san all right?"

"I-I'm fine," she murmured, unsure whether she was telling the truth. "I just…woke up and saw something. A face."

"Well," said Ryou, "this hotel is haunted. In fact, I believe this suite alone has been the place of three separate deaths."

Yugi shot him a glare over the bed. "Will you be okay, Anzu-chan?"

She nodded slowly. "Yeah. A-after all, ghosts can't hurt me, right?" She offered a weak laugh as reassurance. "Let's just all go back to sleep and forget about it, okay?" Anzu watched as Ryou left without another word, while Yugi lingered in the doorway for a moment before exiting. She lay in her bed with her eyes closed, wishing desperately that she really could forget what had just happened, but it never left her mind sufficiently to allow her to sleep.

:::

"Cut!"

Ryou pushed himself to his feet. "I'm going to use the restroom, if you don't mind, Yugi-san," he said before disappearing around a corner without gaining any motion of approval.

Anzu slipped off her shoes, a pair of one-inch heels that were just small enough to cramp. As she rubbed her feet, Yugi took to the floor beside her.

"Anzu-chan…" he began.

"Yes Yugi-kun?" she asked, not looking up at him.

"What exactly did you see last night?"

She paused and met his gaze. "I…I'm not sure. It was too close for me to make out much. All I remember clearly is that it had very dark eyes."

Yugi twirled his thumbs together. "Anzu-chan…I don't think you saw a ghost. I think—"

"I'm back!" Ryou announced. He held out a hand to Anzu and pulled her up before resuming his place on his back, limbs twisted out at odd angles.

Anzu barely caught the flash of a glare her co-star shot Yugi as he returned to the camera; the look sent a sharp chill up her spine.

:::

Anzu stood before the full-length mirror in her room, adjusting the white camisole beneath the pale pink net t-shirt so that her bra wasn't showing. She smoothed her skirt to her thighs and pulled the ribbon that held her knee-high stiletto boots to her calves. She made one final twirl in front of the mirror, tripping mid-spin as a knock on the door startled her. "Come in!"

Yugi entered. "We'll start filming in about thirty minutes."

"Yugi-kun!" Anzu walked as quickly as she could in the boots and knelt before him. "What happened to your neck?" Although it was partially obscured by the studded choker he wore, Anzu could make out a purple bruise on his neck. She reached out and brushed a finger against it, causing him to flinch. "I'm sorry!"

"It's fine, really. I was sleepwalking last night, and I ran into the dresser. It was some wakeup call, that's for sure. Being short is pretty inconvenient, you know?"

"Yugi-kun, that doesn't look like—"

There was another knock, and Ryou walked in, holding a few sheets of paper in his hand. "Anzu-san, here's the last scene! There isn't much for you to memorize besides scream and run!" He sat the script down on the dresser. "Yugi-san, let's go over the camera angles before we start shooting, all right?"

Yugi nodded and the men left together.

Anzu stared after them for a moment. Something about Yugi had seemed…off. He was certainly much calmer than he had been yesterday. She picked up the script and read through it; as Ryou had said, there was little dialogue, and the action was generally vague, aside from one final, simple action at the bottom of the last page: Mari dies. Anzu's mind pictured the graphic deaths of the characters played by the unnamed blonde woman and Ishtar. She wondered where the gore props were. According to the script, at the very least they would need to attach a blood pouch to her left leg. "Well, maybe Yugi-kun edits in the gore after production." Even as she said them, the words rang false in her ears. She tried to cast off the feeling of unease, instead reading through the script until Ryou came for her. As they took the stairs up two flights to the floor where they would be shooting, Anzu asked, "Where is the blood that we'll be using for my leg?"

Ryou gave a sidelong wink. "I have to save a few surprises for the final scene, of course." He offered no more explanation than that.

The shooting began, and Anzu felt more in-character than she had for the entire film, so overwhelming was her uncertainty. And yet, there seemed to be nothing wrong. "Hitoshi!" she cried out, stumbling away from Ryou as he ambled mildly toward her, twirling the collapsible knife in his fingers. "Hitoshi, this isn't you! Stop!"

"I have no idea what you mean, Mari," Ryou said. "This has always been me. You've just been too blind to see it." He smiled, lowering his chin and showing off pointed white canines. "You may as well submit to the fate you stumbled into, my dear." Ryou raised the knife, allowing it to catch a glint of light. "So hush and smile for me one last time, would you?" He plunged the knife downward.

Anzu gave an involuntary cringe, bracing herself for the jab of the tip of the knife before it folded in. Ryou pulled the knife back, covered in blood. She had to restrain herself from vocally acknowledging what she had expected—a blood packet inside the knife, which would burst when it collapsed. Odd though, that there would be blood pooling around her leg now. In fact, quite a lot more blood than she had thought could possibly fit into the hilt of the knife. Anzu's mouth went dry. The blood bubbled forth from the place where the knife had hit her—cut her, she finally realized. No sound came from her throat; it was as though the cut had somehow obliterated her voice box. She moved as quickly as she could now, which was not fast in her restrictive boots. She pulled at the ribbons, attempting to loosen them enough to remove the abominations—chosen by Ryou himself, she remembered—so that she could move freely. But the effort only slowed her down, and all too soon her right leg went completely numb and she dropped heavily to the ground. She looked up, terror in her eyes.

They were met with Ryou's gaze: deep, dark, and dangerous. He gave a polite smile, completely out of character, although as he wasn't facing the camera it surely couldn't have made any difference.

Anzu turned her eyes to the camera and screamed, hoping that it sounded even remotely like the word help.

"No one can save you, Mari." Even as he advanced on her, Ryou played exactly by the script. It was as if he had predicted exactly what she would ask and how to respond. "The world is sleepwalking through life. It couldn't handle such atrocities if it were ever to exist in a state of wakefulness."

"S-sleepwalking…"

"I was sleepwalking last night, and I ran into the dresser." Even in this state—whatever it was—Yugi had tried to warn her of the danger she was in around the dresser, or rather, the costumer.

Anzu dragged herself forward. "You're crazy," she managed to sob out, not caring that she also was falling into the lines predetermined to accompany her death.

"I am aware of that."

"Get rid of these demons holding onto you!"

"I have no demons, Mari. I am simply maladjusted to this society." He brought the knife to his lips and licked it, slowly and sensuously.

Anzu drew in a final ragged breath as she reached the top of the stairs. She glared up at Ryou as he casually sidled up to her and knelt at her side. "You're disgusting."

"I can't help myself, Ma—" his words cut off into a cry of terror as Anzu wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him backward, sending them both tumbling down the stairs.

The last thing she saw before slipping into darkness was a final glare of pure venom from those deep, seemingly kind brown eyes of her terrifying co-star.


Well, this was quite the adventure! I-I swear it's Ryou! Crazy, craaaazy Ryou!

As always, reviews are much appreciated!

(Forty-seven words from being 7k *sob* xD )