I'm here again, that mansion, just like before.
What was it she said? "Take the hand of the dead and they may never let go."
Right before she…those were her last…
But, I just want to see her again, one last time, I know she's in here, she must be in here! She's alive, somehow, isn't she? Isn't she alive?
Yoichi Suda stood before that foreboding Edo manor once more shrouded in a twisting blur of achromatic haze that flickered like a timeworn projection reel running through its last showing. Snow fell all around the man; yet as it melted into his greying hair he noticed for the first time that it was not cold -as snow should be, but warm and electric.
The familiar sound of hammers striking against steel echoed through the fog and static, enough already to assure Yoichi he had arrived.
As though pulled by imperceptible spirits Yoichi's boots clopped up the weathered wooden staircase as though the man's aged body were fighting against his own will to enter. He stopped at the top of the staircase; something felt different about tonight, he had noted it the moment he had arrived here, he wasn't sure what exactly but somehow…he felt comfortable, almost like the mansion had dropped its hostility towards him and now welcomed him into its hearth.
He instinctively reach for his bottle of courage usually nestled discreetly in his jacket pocket but found nothing, it wasn't as though he felt the pain here anyway but the whiskey had become so much a part of his character it was almost aberrant to withstand it.
With a deep and sorrowful groan, the huge oak doors heaved open as though pushed outward by the spirits of the manor, welcoming him home. Yoichi tugged the flashlight from his pocket -it was there as it always was despite never having owned a flashlight in his life- and steadying his breath he dissolved into the darkness.
Already, even in the dusty darkness, from every decaying corner of the abandoned manor, Yoichi could hear it: That song, he could only make out one or two lines, or the odd word here and there, something about 'sacred marks', 'go to the other side' and the line 'Sleep priestess lie in peace,' was certainly a prominent lyric in such a haunting melody that could only have been sung by one or two young women. Shadows seemed to lurch and flicker everywhere around the pale mansion with every turn through its decomposing halls that Yoichi now retraced.
'What is this' He wondered, 'the fortieth, or fiftieth night now, that I've had this same dream?'
Some mornings he would wake in a cold sweat but couldn't even remember having the dream, but mostly, his memory would be as clear as the windows here evidently were not. But always, when he awoke, it would be there, it started as a bruise, he fell over a lot these days while drunkenly stumbling about the house, so he initially had passed over it for a simple injury that quickly cleared away. But morning after morning the bruise would reappear; then he noticed a pattern: intricate black spirals that took the form of the snake, thorny scales that burned his flesh as it slithered across his skin, tangling and winding it's way through a bush of holly that spread it's prickly branches from his back and around his neck, it was around that time that She started to appear, but just thinking of her made him shiver, he forced her out of his mind for fear he may invite her with his thoughts.
The corridors were all becoming so familiar now, like walking through his own house he knew every twist, turn and trick the mansion held in stock for him, as he rounded a corner he was now facing a long and crooked corridor than was lined along one side with stained partitions and sliding doors, then there before him, he saw his love: A beautiful young woman with long black hair, glowing white and silhouetted in a nimbus of spectral aura that wisped away from her like flames and smoke as she drifted away from him and down the hall.
Yoichi reached a hand to call her but found words impossible here so as rapidly as he could muster he stumbled after her. Strength was something he was evermore devoid of here, like his body was weighed down by the heavy atmosphere of the manor so much that he could only run as though in deep water, almost as though the floor was sliding away beneath him; it was frustrating but oddly soothing at the same time. Suddenly Yoichi felt something burn across his back, a familiar pain that stopped him in his tracks and caused him to cower until the pain subsided, as it subsided a high pitched whine rose into the air, something like the noise made by the flash of a camera. Yoichi could now feel something dark, heavy and opposing was behind him and cautiously he craned his neck around to see what had manifested.
"I don't want to see, anymore.' Came the tortured voice, a voice that belonged to the very person Yoichi had dreaded may appear tonight; it was her: a gray skinned woman with flowing hair the colour of coal, topless as the day she died to this world and every inch of her naked flesh engraved with a rich tapestry of tattoo ink, it reminded Yoichi of the willow pattern found on a weathered Chinese teapot he had spotted in his attic some weeks back. What exactly the tattoos conveyed, Yoichi had never cared to discover, for somehow he knew –without ever having been told or knowing anything of this woman – that if he were to even touch her or let her touch him, he might befall the same fate that had her trapped here and waiting for him, and if her wailing and sobbing was anything to encourage him, he knew that her pain was not something he could bear.
"So many voices," she said, as she floated down the corridor after him, "So much pain, please…let me sleep."
"No!" Yoichi begged with her, "Please! Leave me alone, I can't help you!"
"Etched in…" she continued, "over and over I hear them, their pain, always in my eyes."
"Please!" Yoichi pleaded, bursting through a door and slamming it shut behind him,
"I understand, I do really! But there's nothing I can do, please leave me alone!"
Yoichi backed away from the door but it was useless, the door tore open with a rush of blue flames and now facing her, Yoichi could clearly see a tangle of tormented souls writhing around her in a cloud of inescapable suffering. Then he did something he had not done before, he glanced into her eyes, and there in her stare he saw the suffering. Like a room full of hundreds of men, women and children screaming and calling out for escape, pleading for an end to this sorrowful existence, but what could Yoichi do? What could anyone do for that matter? How could he make it stop?
Before he even knew it she was right before him, with each narrowing of distance he heard and saw a little more, unable to turn away from the trance she had holding him there Yoichi was close enough now to embrace her.
"It is you." The female whispered in tortured disbelief, "You returned, Kaname."
With those words Yoichi broke from the spell as he realised she was now drawing her tattooed arms around him, a grasp from which he may never escape. He dropped down and threw himself to the side, hitting the warm wood with a hefty crunch yet now away from her clutch, as he scrambled to his feet and dashed down a nearby hallway he took one last look back to see her simply stood watching him as he escaped her grasp, but it was the look to her face that he remembered more than her shadow: for there was no malice in her stare, it was a look of utter sorrow. But then, if that was the case, what did she want from him? Furthermore, who was Kaname?