Part 15~ Visitor

Kouichi had screamed at Mei for what seemed like hours after the incident in the bathroom. He made her swear countless times that she would never do anything like that ever again. Mei stayed quiet and motionless for the majority of the time. Eventually, Kouichi sat next to her on the floor against the wall, his arm wrapped around her, his voice nothing but a whisper, "I know you're hurting, I am too, but for the next couple hours we need to pretend we can handle this."

Mei nodded and leaned her head on Kouichi's shoulder, "I think I'm too tired to pretend."

"Then I'll pretend enough for both of us," Kouichi said.

They waited in dread for the next dead person to come.

Kouichi awoke first. Mei remained asleep with her head on his shoulder. He cut had split open again and dried blood caked the side of her face.

Thump

Thump

Thump

Thump

A deep pulsing noise filled the room. It was a constant rhythm. With each beat the room vibrated.

Thump

Thump

Thump

Thump

Mei still wasn't stirring. Kouichi smiled. Sleep deprivation was catching up with her. Maybe he could sleep...

Thump

Thump

Thump

Thump

Kouichi noticed the beat getting faster and more irregular. In the middle of the room, a figure of a ghost began to appear.

"Ikou..." Kouichi whispered. He had been there the first time Ikou Takabayashi had a heart attack, now Kouichi was watching his heart fail again.

Thump

Thump

Thump

Thump

The beating was loud and crazed. Kouichi put his hands over his ears. It felt like the beating was inside him. It was too loud and too familiar.

Thump

Thump

Thump

THUMP

The last beat. Ikou Takabayashi stood in the middle of the room. In his hand he held a still beating human heart. Kouichi looked at Mei. She was still asleep.

Ikou spoke, "Still talking to things that don't exist, eh?" he said jokingly.

Part 16~ Message

"Twenty beats," Ikou said, "That was how many it took for me to die."

Kouichi looked at his friend sadly. He was one of the only people willing to give him information and he died as a result.

"I know what you're thinking," Ikou said, "And it wasn't your fault I died. I would've died whether I told you about the calamity or not."

Kouichi nodded, still not believing him entirely.

Ikou smiled. "Everyone dies, its natural. But while we are alive we need to believe that death is always far away. It keeps us sane. It keeps us happy. My message to you is, people always remember the past better than it was, the present worse than it is and the future less resolved than it will be," Ikou paused, "Be optimistic, death isn't that bad, after all it only happens once!" Ikou said cheerfully.

Mei began to stir. Ikou laughed, "I guess strange people always find each other in the end."

Kouichi blushed. Ikou continued, "Take care of her!"

And with that Ikou vanished, leaving only the sound of a fading heartbeat.

Part 17~ Aftermath

Mei awoke just as Ikou left. She pushed her hair out of her eyes. She wore an incredibly soft expression.

"You missed it," Kouichi said, "Ikou Takabayashi was here." Kouichi said.

Mei nodded. She found a pen and the piece of paper. "We need to fill this in." she said.

人:3早苗水野メッセージ:中空の魂が感じないほど、あなたの魂が中空になる聞かせて近いあなたは死にあります。(Person: 3 Sanae Mizuno Message: Hollow souls don't feel, the more you let your soul become hollow the closer you are to death.)

人:4高林郁夫メッセージ:(Person: 4 Ikou Takabayashi Message:)

"What was Ikou's message?" Mei asked.

Kouichi told her the message, she wrote it down.

人々は常にそれがあったより過去の優れたを覚えて、それがなりよりも、それは、将来の少ない解決よりも悪い存在する場合、楽観的で、死は、それが一度だけ発生したすべての後に、その悪いことではありません。(People always remember the past better than it was, the present worse than it is and the future less resolved than it will be, be optimistic, death isn't that bad, after all it only happens once.)

Part 18~ Ponder

Kouichi lay in the middle his backyard. He assumed that Mei was inside, although he honestly didn't know where she was. She always seemed to disappear during the day. What am I going to do with Mei? Kouichi lets out a small laugh, What am I going to with myself? The more Kouichi thought about it the more he realized that it was only a matter of time before he did something dangerous and stupid. He had to keep himself in line. If he were to slip, Mei would lose the small amount of sanity she was desperately clinging onto. Mei had already used all of her strength up. She was strong all through the calamity, even when she didn't exist. Kouichi shuddered. He couldn't imagine how lonely that must have been. Mei was completely alone with her thoughts and the pain of just losing her sister. Kouichi shook his head. He would be strong for Mei. He'd shove all the confusion and sadness to a place he couldn't feel it. He'd deal with his feelings later. Like procrastinating on a homework assignment, he'd put it off to the last minute, right before his feelings bubbled up and destroyed him.

Part 19~ Visitor

An unemotional calm resided over Kouichi's bedroom. All emotions were put aside. They needed to be unfeeling and rational people. They needed to get through this. Almost immediately they heard footsteps walking around the room. Haggard breathing followed. Kouichi couldn't help but flinch. He knew whose death this was, and he didn't want to see it again.

"Kyaaaa!" Mei screamed in pain.

Kouichi jumped back, startled.

"It felt like someone stabbed me in the ribs," Mei said, still trying to recover from the blow.

"Gaaaaah!" Kouichi screamed.

He could feel the knife pushing into his skin. The pain as the serrated edges plunged into his body was unbearable.

With every blow from the invisible knives, a shower of blood poured from the ceiling. The smell was sickening.

Part 20~ Message

The blows alternated between Kouichi and Mei. It seemed as though they were the only ones that could hear each others screams of pain. The blood smothered their faces and cloaked their limbs.

Kouichi was the first to vomit. The pain combined with the stench of blood was too much. Mei followed in suit.

This horrific process of stabbing pains, blood and vomit continued for what must have been hours.

As the process was coming to a close., Kouichi and Mei heard their old sensei's maniacal voice.

"This is what happens when you take the pain of others!"

More stabbing. More blood.

"It results in nothing but pain for yourself!"

It screamed.

The room was engulfed in darkness. Mei and Kouichi frantically searched for each other.

The darkness finally cleared with the sound of their sensei's fading laughter.

Mei and Kouichi lay trembling on the floor, their eyes wide with fear.

Part 21~ Aftermath

"We have to tell someone." Kouichi whispered desperately.

"What?" Mei asked shocked.

"We can't handle this one our own." Kouichi responded.

"We can't tell anyone, Kouichi. Who would believe us?"

That silenced Kouichi. He knew for a fact no one would believe them.

"But," Me began, "We can't handle this." Her voice shook as she talked, "How many more people have to die?"

Mei was using all of her energy to keep herself from losing it. You could see the strain written all over her face. The stress was becoming too much, Mei vomited.

Kouichi did his best to comfort her, but he was on the brink of breaking too.

Mei gasped to catch her breath.

"I have something that might make this easier," she breathed.

Mei rustled through her bag of things. She pulled out a modest bottle of vodka. Kouichi's eyes widened, "How is vodka going to solve anything?" he said, slightly irritated.

"It's an escape. Lets you not think for a couple of hours," she replied, staring deeply at the bottle. She twisted the cap off slowly.

Escape, Kouichi thought. The word sounded so comforting. "I'll be right back," Kouichi said.

Kouichi returned with two paper dixie cups. Mei skillfully poured the vodka into the glasses. Taking her cup, she tipped back her head and drank its contents. Kouichi watched as a small shudder ran through her body as she swallowed. Slowly, Kouichi began to drink his own cup. His eyes watered and he gasped as the alcohol burned his throat.

"Have you done this before?" Kouichi asked.

Mei nodded, "Once."

Kouichi seriously doubted this was only Mei's second time drinking. Several shots later, delirium sat in. Kouichi now knew what Mei meant by "escape". Suddenly everything felt softer around the edges. The world seemed slightly happier. You could laugh at anything and it would make it ok.

"Kouichi-kun," Mei said lazily. Kouichi was surprised, outside of a school setting, Mei rarely used honorifics.

"Kouichi-kun," Mei said again, expecting an answer. Kouichi sighed, how many shots had Mei done?

"Yes, Mei-chan?" he said, playing along with his drunken friend.

"Kouichi-kun, you're going to burn yourself out, ya know?" Mei said, taking sloppy sip from the bottle of vodka.

"Ya know why, Kouichi-kun? You're dealing with even more sad things than me!"

Mei flopped over so she was lying on her back with Kouichi looking down at her.

"Ever since school ended, I haven't heard you once mention Reiko-san."

This struck a nerve with Kouichi. He had killed Reiko, his beloved aunt, with his own two hands. The memory haunted him, but he hadn't really thought about Reiko recently. After school ended, Mei's mom had been killed. After that, the dead one's had started visiting them. He hadn't had time to think about much of anything.

"Aw, Kouichi-kun! Don't look at me with this sad eyes! See it's happy time!" Mei said as she fisted the now almost empty bottle in Kouichi's face.

Kouichi couldn't help but smile. Mei acted like a little kid when she was drunk.

"Kouichi-kun," Mei began, quieter this time, "I really appreciate you stopping me. Ya know, coming in before I cut my eye out. In fact, there's something I've been wanting to say to you- Hic!" Mei began laughing hysterically at the sound of her own hiccups.

Kouichi laughed along with her. After she regained some control of herself she crawled into Kouichi's bed and fell asleep almost instantly.

Kouichi looked at me. With both of her eyes closed, you couldn't tell she had a glass eye. She had a smile spread across her face. Even if it was only because of the liquor, Kouichi was happy to see Mei smile.

Kouichi lay down on Mei's sleeping mat. The last thing he could remember thinking was that her sleeping mat smelled exactly like her hair