[My apologies to the obvious original authors, whose works should never be combined. -HJC]
"The Supernatural Phenomenon Research Club?" I read aloud the crude handwritten sign over the door, uncertain if I had deciphered it correctly.
"Well, not anymore!" Haruhi Suzumiya threw open the door. "See, there's nobody here!"
I tried to adjust my eyes to the gloom in the room. Other than the illumination from the hall, there was only a small glimmer from the far side, where the curtains did not quite meet. Under that far light hunched a figure that now looked up with enormous circular eyes. After a moment I realized that these must be glasses, worn by a diminutive figure, with the distances hard to judge in the darkness.
Haruhi stepped inside and felt along the wall. She flipped a switch, but the shadows remained unlit. "It's burned out?"
"Uh, excuse me," I said to the dweller in darkness, "do you know where the members of the Supernatural Phenomenon Research Club are?"
"They did not return." She whispered hoarsely, as if she had not been called on to use her voice for a very long while.
"They must have all graduated or something." Haruhi made her way carefully into the gloom, until she reached the curtains on the far side, which she threw open.
The shadowy figure flinched away from the light, and covered her face with a book. She wore the proper uniform for a freshman girl at our North High School, but she was so slight that she could have easily have passed for a junior high school student three years younger. Her short hair however was of a silver-gray hue to be expected from a woman many decades older.
I walked to within a few steps of the young/old girl and asked, "do you know when the club members will be back?"
"They did not return." She looked at me and blinked once. It was as if she expected that I had simply not heard what she considered to be a complete explanation the first time.
"So, you are the only remaining member of the club?" Haruhi asked her.
"Yes." The gray haired girl went back to reading her book.
"See, Kyon?" Haruhi turned to me. "The club will close if she doesn't get more members, so we're doing her a favor."
I took a moment to look around the room. Besides the huge fabric covered reading chair that the girl hunched in, with her legs folded under her, there were four folding chairs around a table and bookshelves along one wall. These were filled with what seemed to be very old books. There were titles in East Asian, European, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew scripts. Some of the books had patterns on their spines that may have either been strange icons or perhaps scripts for languages I had never seen before.
Everything was covered in dust. The school janitorial staff must not have visited this room for months, perhaps years. I looked down at the floor. I saw my and Haruhi's footprints from the door to our current positions, but no footprints leading to the girl's chair. How long had she been sitting there?
"So what is your name?" Haruhi asked the girl.
"Yuki Nagato," The girl responded from behind her book.
"Well, I'm Haruhi Suzumiya and this is Kyon. We'll be using this room from now on. We'd like to welcome you to our club."
Wasn't that the other way around? I thought, shouldn't we be the ones asking to join her club?
Haruhi waited in vain for Miss Nagato to respond to her invitation, then looked around the room. "Well it's a bit of a fixer-upper, but it is the only available clubroom so let's get to work." She stopped and looked up, "Strange."
I followed Haruhi's gaze up to the ceiling, past the cobwebs. The light fixture was lacking not only a cover, but also the light tubes themselves.
"Well, no wonder the lights don't work." Haruhi grabbed my necktie. "Come along Kyon. We'll find everything you need in the janitorial supplies."
Thirty minutes later, after standing on the table to replace the lights, I was using the mop and bucket Haruhi had borrowed to clean the floor. I had considered telling her to have me start by dusting so that I wouldn't have to redo the mopping after the dust had settled, but I didn't want to suggest to her additional tasks to assign back to myself.
"So Miss Nagato, what's that book like?" I asked the girl who had continued to read through all this.
She held the book up towards the sting of the uncovered florescents. The title seemed to be in Arabic or something.
I found her shoes under her chair, in the dust and covered in dust. I used the handle of the mop to scoot these out of the way so I could mop under her chair. I carefully avoided looking up her skirt as I did so, but she seemed to take no notice of my actions.
When I returned home, my grade school sister looked me over then remarked, "What's with all the dust Kyon? Have you been exploring forgotten tombs again? Just kidding. I know you never do anything interesting." She ran off to her room laughing.
Just once, I'd like her to call me "big brother" again.
The next day, as my class was washing up after P.E., a fellow classmate named Taniguchi asked me if I was still 'with' Haruhi.
"That's a new record then."
"What?" I looked up at him.
"Every boy at our junior high dumped her."
That was a bit harsh of joke, even for Taniguchi, so I decided to press the point. "Are you saying that she's a slut?"
"As far as I know she's never even been kissed. It'd be okay if she'd just close her eyes, but the look in them. It's no wonder half the boys ran away screaming. Then the next one would decide that the rest of us were wimps and ask her out, only to flee himself." Taniguchi shuddered with a classic look of mock horror.
"Yeah, yeah." I wiped my hands dry.
He'd been a joker for the few weeks I'd known him, but it seemed unlike him to insult a girl he had acknowledged to be good looking.
"When you get burned, don't go crying to Miss Asakura. She's the real wonder at our school and I'm going to make her mine."
"Oh, what's that about me?" Our class representative Ryoko Asakura was standing next to us in her PE outfit.
I must not have heard her approach, over the distant noise of the other students. Taniguchi seemed flustered, so I made an excuse for him. "My friend Taniguchi here was just commenting on your amazing running time, Miss Asakura. Perhaps he'll ask you out to tea sometime?"
"You are too kind, Mr. Taniguchi." She smiled and bowed, then turned to me. "But it's nice that you're getting along so well with Miss Suzumiya. She seemed so alienated from the class."
Well with an introduction speech that asked to meet with creatures from out of time, from other worlds, or with strange abilities, who wouldn't be?
"Excuse me please," I bowed and left them.
On my way back to the classrooms I considered the other strange story that Taniguchi had told me about Haruhi, that she had been found babbling deliriously one morning in the middle of a giant chalk drawing she had made in the quad at their junior high. I knew she was a little unusual, but it was unlike Taniguchi to slander somebody so. I suspected that he was the one boy she had dumped, and that this had left him with a bitter feeling towards her. I just wished that our brief friendship had warranted some honesty from him.
After classes I sat in the slightly more livable clubroom and did my homework while I waited for Haruhi to show up. Miss Nagato had flinched again when I had turned on the lights and then ignored my greeting when I noticed she was there. She was reading another book. This time the cover title was in German, or a related language. How many languages did she know? She must be one of those reclusive kid geniuses you read about from time to time. Perhaps she was junior school aged, of normal height for her age, and just a few grades advanced.
But one thing bothered me. Her shoes had not moved from the spot I had shoved them to the previous day. She still sat in the big chair with her legs folded under her. With the padding on the chair that looked to be a fairly comfortable position for one so small, but didn't she ever go home?
"What were you doing in here, before we came in yesterday?" I asked her.
"I was taking a nap."
For what, months, years? I didn't ask the questions whose answers I was unprepared to accept.
Haruhi arrived, dragging in a girl who was slighter than herself, even though she was wearing a sophomore uniform. "Our newest member, Mikuru Asahina!"
"Where did you kidnap her from?" I asked.
"I found her wandering around the school in a daze." Haruhi turned to her captive and asked, "what sort of after class activities do you have Mikuru?"
"I'm a miko in training."
"Well quit that and join our club!"
"I can't! It's our family shrine!"
"Very well, just bring your miko outfit tomorrow so you can save time by changing here."
"And why do you want her to do that?" I asked.
"It's these giant boobs!" Haruhi reached from behind to grab Mikuru's bosom. "Can you imagine what sort of evil spirits it must attract to have them spilling out of a miko outfit?"
"You are the only evil spirit here," I said as I pried Haruhi off Mikuru. "Now stop that. Sexually abusing a miko is bound to get you cursed."
I bent down to where Mikuru was sobbing on the ground and helped her to her feet. "Don't listen to Haruhi. You do not have to join, if you just don't have the time."
Mikuru sniffled as she looked around the room until her gaze settled wide eyed on Miss Nagato. "There's something I need to take care of here."
"See!" Haruhi patted Mikuru on the back. "She's fine with joining, fine."
Haruhi then announced that we would be called the SOS Brigade.
I recognized the international distress signal, and thought it quite fitting.
I had just taken my seat in the classroom the next morning when Haruhi said from behind me, "I found out why Yuki wasn't attending classes."
I turned towards her. "Yes?"
"The school had her records mixed up with another student of the same name who started here a decade ago, and then mysteriously vanished in her freshman year. Can you imagine that, they're still working on the same records they had then, and they haven't even changed the school uniforms in all this time."
"Well, isn't this the sort of mystery you formed the SOS brigade to solve?"
"What mystery? It's just a bureaucratic mix up. They didn't even have a residence on file for her, so she's going home to your house tonight."
"Don't worry, I've already cleared it with your mom. You're excused from Brigade activities today so you can get her settled in."
Miss Nagato followed me home silently that afternoon. I had to turn back a few times to make sure that she was there, because I didn't even hear her footsteps. By the time we got to the station she seemed to be lagging, so I had her ride on the back of my bicycle, in the same fashion that Sasaki had, the previous year, until they locked her up.
Nagato's hands were cold on my shoulders.
I opened the door to my house and stood aside for Nagato.
My little sister ran out. "Are you Yuki?"
Miss Nagato nodded.
"We're going to be roommates from now on! You can call me Little Sister, big sister Yuki."
"Understood." Miss Nagato blinked very slowly, like a frog.
"Oh, you poor thing." My mother grabbed Miss Nagato and hugged her tightly. "To lose your entire family in a fire and be left with just the clothes on your back. Let's go shopping to get you a few things."
"Can I come along too?" My sister asked.
"You don't mind, Yuki?" My mother asked the creature she held.
I had seen Haruhi pull scams in person, but to make this sale over the phone? She had a brilliant career in telemarketing ahead of her.
At supper Miss Nagato ate very little and slowly, while my sister talked to her about the random things she found of interest.
I slept poorly that night, waking to jump at shadows. In the morning I fell out of bed as my alarm clock rang. I looked to my door. My sister did not burst into my room, as was her habit, so I made my way silently to her room and carefully opened the door.
There was a sleeping bag laid out next to my sister's bed, but it had clearly been unused. I looked over to her bed where my sister was uncurling herself from Miss Nagato's arms.
"Why didn't you come wake me?" I asked.
"Oh, sorry. We were up late last night while big sister Yuki told me stories."
"Why didn't I hear anything?"
"She whispered them, you dummy! She didn't want to bother anybody else."
As Miss Nagato rose, I saw that she was only in her bra and panties and quickly made my exit.
After breakfast we three walked together for a while, with my sister holding Miss Nagato's hand, which she reluctantly let go when we got to her school.
"Have a good time at school today, big sister Yuki, and you too Kyon."
Miss Nagato rode behind me on my bicycle in silence for a while then I decided to strike up a conversation. "My sister seems to really like you."
"She is interesting."
"Sorry about peeping in like that this morning, I just wanted to see how you two were getting along."
She said nothing so I stretched for something to say. "I only caught a glimpse, but have you ever considered how you might look without your glasses?"
"Poorly. The refractive indices of water and air differ."
Was that meant to be some explanation for how the eye worked?
In the clubroom after classes, Haruhi announced that our operations required a computer and so led us three to the nearby computer club room. She threw open the door and pointed to one of them, "You are the Computer Club President, correct?"
"Yes." He stood. "What is the meaning of this?"
"The SOS Brigade requires a computer." She grabbed his necktie and stared into his eyes in a manner to which I myself was all too well accustomed. "Provide us your newest one."
"What are you people?" His eyes passed over Mikuru, Miss Nagato and myself, before getting trapped in Haruhi's gaze. "We can't just give away the computers we've worked so hard for."
"You will." Haruhi leaned in closer and followed as he took a step back.
"No. No." He backed into a corner and slid down.
Haruhi bent down at the waist to follow him, and jerked on his necktie to get him to look up at her. "Well?"
"Take what you like! Just leave me alone!"
Haruhi released him and he dropped his head to his knees, with his arms crossed over his head. The rest of his club remained in their seats. They looked at Haruhi, then flinched away as she scanned the room.
Haruhi pulled a list from her pocket and said, "let's see, which of these match to the newest PC models. Hmmm. Okay Kyon, detach this one and bring it to the clubroom."
"No, not the newest one!" The computer club president complained from his corner.
"Yes?" Haruhi looked over at him.
"Okay! Take it. It's our gift to you." He collapsed again and sobbed loudly until we left the room with our loot.
Later I pointed out that our clubroom did not have Internet access so Haruhi paid the computer club another visit and they were soon stringing wiring for our connection. They flinched from her gaze as they hurried to complete the task.
That evening as we were preparing for bed, I walked into the only bathroom in our house and stopped.
Miss Nagato was shampooing my sister's hair. Each of her fingers moved independently, twitching to unheard, unworldly music.
"Kyon, you pervert!" My sister screamed, "stop staring at me!"
"Oh, sorry." I left and closed the door.
That night I watched the shadows in my room as sleep eluded me. I think I finally nodded off for a bit then startled as I noticed my door was opening. There was a figure in the doorway that closed the door behind itself and then crept silently through the gloom. From the outline and size I assumed it must be Miss Nagato. The only sound was a slight creak from my chair as she turned it around to face me. Then sat down in it.
"You are awake." She stated it as a comment, not a question.
"Yes." I turned my head towards her. From the small amount of light entering through the window I could see that she wore only her bra, glasses and presumably panties. I admit that I had entertained the possibility of sneaking a mostly naked girl into my room at night, but I swear that my fantasies had only been about human girls. "What do you think you're doing in a boy's room in the middle of the night? What if my parents find out?"
"What is your concern? Is it that? Do not worry. Our kinds are biologically compatible, and you seem to be suitable, but there is no time for that at the moment."
"Oh." Suddenly she had spoken more than she ever had before. What was this, was she coming on to me?
"What is your assessment of Haruhi Suzumiya?"
Was she trying to judge my feelings for the other girl to weigh her chances? I considered saying something along the lines that unlike Haruhi I'd only consider dating humans, but I didn't want to insult her into making a fuss in my room. "she was the strangest student I had ever met." I left the "until I met you" part unspoken.
"Acceptable." She stood next to my bed and put a hand to her glasses. "We do have a few hours until your sister awakes. If you like."
"No! I need to get some sleep. It's a school day tomorrow."
"Very well, over the weekend then." She walked to my door and closed it silently behind her.
I lay there watching that door for what seemed like a long time before I dozed off.
In the morning when the alarm clock awoke me, I considered the conversation of the previous night to be all a dream, until I looked over at my desk chair. It was exactly in the spot where Miss Nagato had left it.