Dear heaven, it has been two years, hasn't it? I wonder where the time went because it certainly doesn't seem like it's been so long to me. I'll be needing a cane before I realize it. Those of you still reading must have the patience of saints. My hat, if I wore one, would be off to you right now.
This is roughly half of chapter 8, not the whole thing. (I'm attempting to schedule a comeback for June, but y'all have been waiting long enough that you deserve something now.) On the diamond in the rough scale, the chapter is still a piece of coal. I still have some plot kinks I'm trying to work out and some fragments/sentences/paragraphs to clean up (this excerpt may change a bit as well).
Criticism on what is currently here is more than welcome, however.
What happened to me?
She felt heavy, so very heavy. Weight seemed to be pressing down on her eyes, her skull, her whole body, and awareness was definitely overrated when compared to the peace of oblivion. Red glowed on the backs of her eyelids, and she whimpered, forcibly lifting her head and turning it blindly. Her chin scraped across the ground and she winced, but her eyes stubbornly refused to open. Kagome pushed down the panic that threatened to surge within her at the discovery that she could not open her eyes and rolled onto her stomach, bracing her hands against the ground and attempting to rise.
Something's wrong. It shouldn't be this hard to move.
The air itself seemed to resist her struggles, encasing her in an oppressive, viselike grip. Her teeth ground together painfully as she forced herself to her knees. There was a source of light and heat somewhere nearby. Maybe someone could help her. As if in response to her thoughts, the air's grip lessoned and she staggered to her feet. Her ears strained in an attempt to compensate for her blindness, but there was only the sigh of the hot, gentle wind that brushed against her cheeks. The air itself seemed like a sentient being, whispering wordlessly in her ear, and it was important, so very important, that she understand what it said. As she waited the whispering expanded to include a slow, steady beat. Her brow furrowed as the heat and the red blindness and the noise came together into one synergistic sensation.
Like a pulse. Like a heartbeat. Being in the womb must be like this. Back in the beginning. Like life. On the border between life and death.
But was it within her or outside of her?
Without her volition, memories of a long ago summer trip to Okinawa surfaced in her mind. Exiting the airport terminal at Naha and walking straight into what felt like a wall of water-choked air, each gasping breath like drowning, Papa laughing at the way she wilted in the face of the humidity and hoisting her flagging body up onto his shoulders, being carried through air as warm and wet as blood.
She imagined her father crouched flat on his feet, one hand outstretched to help her up, but his face was blank--not lacking emotion but lacking features entirely. Time had been both kind and cruel, dulling the pain of loss but slowly eradicating the memories of what had been lost, and Kagome had stopped being able to remember what her father looked like years ago. And what did it matter? There was no more Papa to come to her rescue. Papa was dead. Dead. Was Kagome dead too? No, Kagome could not be dead because the mere thought of it filled her with terror. The dead could not be afraid. The dead had nothing to fear. Kagome was afraid. Kagome must be alive.
"But where am I?"
Her hoarse whisper broke the stasis almost as if the air itself had been waiting for her to gather enough strength to move and to speak. Something shattered, and the red warmth vanished as if a crack had appeared in the very fabric of space itself that let the chill of oblivion swirl in.
Kagome curled her arms tightly around herself and shivered, the air suddenly grown cold, sharp, and biting. The shock of the sudden temperature change should have made her eyes fly open, but they did not. She tried, tried as adrenaline surged through her body and turned shivers into the first quivers of alarm, but her eyes opened slowly and with difficulty. It was as if her body had become a foreign thing.
It was cold, so cold, the short skirt of her uniform far too inadequate. Wind tugged at her hair and clothes and swirled around her feet. Which seemed very strange as it was so dark she'd swear she was locked in a closet. Opening her eyes had made very little difference in what she could see and quite frankly the backs of her eyelids were much more comfortable than this strange landscape with its strange dark shimmer, a pulsing of something sentient and larger than herself.
And there was someone else with her. She just knew it. How, she could not say, except there was a prickle of sensation that raised gooseflesh on her skin. Someone was watching her.
No answer though something more solid moved among the shadows. A shadow among shadows, a darker scratch on the deep. A figure approached, tall than she and broader. A male.
"Who are you?"
He had long flowing hair that curled about him like a living thing because of the wind. As he came nearer, she realized he was wearing loose clothes in a bright color, a color she might recognize if it wasn't so dark.
Kagome backed away. "Please! Say something!"
But he was silent.
He reached for her and she lunged away, but his hand closed around her wrist. He had not seemed to move at all.
His sleeves were voluminous, the cloth flowing across her trapped hand. Red. Red like fresh blood.
Pain erupted along her side and she looked down. Warmth dripping down her leg Pulse heavy and slow, slower than it should have been. Intense awareness of the blood pumping through her veins.
His hand around her waist tightened, pulling her to him. She was too weak to resist and could only stare at their linked hands. Before her eyes, his short, squared off nails grew longer, pointed and sharp, pricking against the delicate skin of her inner wrist.
The light pain set loose something inside of her. Betrayal. Betrayal of the worst kind. Deception. Death. She screamed, panicked, writhing and twisting violently and beating his wrist with her free hand.
"Monster! Let me go! Let me GO!"
Pressure at the back of her scalp, his other hand in her hair, twisting through it and pulling her head back, claws scraping delicately across the back of her neck. Gentleness in those hands that stroked her hair and skin and no intent to harm, but a gentleness she could not appreciate in her terror.
She went limp, sobbing, terrified and injured, weakening each second. He stepped closer, and she did not resist. His hand slid down, claws barely brushing against her skin and leaving no marks. Almost like a caress. Fingers entwined with hers, he curled their joined hands toward her side.
Light shimmered around them, tossing her quick flashes of long white hair sliding over red cloth. White? He stepped closer still, looming over her, still cradling her head.
She felt warm, safe.
His eyes glowed golden in the darkness like two lamps with molten gold cores. Pupils dark and dilated, ringed in molten gold.
They were beautiful. And strangely familiar. She knew those eyes. But from where?
"Who are you?"
He ignored her question. "Don't die yet."