"I, I live among the creatures of the night

I haven't got the will to try and fight

Against a new tomorrow, so I guess I'll just believe

That tomorrow never comes."

-Laura Branigan, "Self Control"

The first thing Kazuko Saotome felt was the hard, damp concrete surface against her back. She opened her eyes, and her sight came back into focus to reveal two brick walls enclosing a moonless night sky. The next thing she noticed was the pungent aroma of wet garbage.

Oh wonderful, she groused. Looks like you woke up in an alleyway. Nice going there, Kazu-chan. Next week, why not really cut loose and make it a drainage ditch, or maybe the emergency room?

But that last one probably wouldn't be too much of a possibility. She was a Magical Girl, or rather Woman, now, as that white cat-thing had told her about a week ago. Since it was her duty to fight these despair-spreading monsters called Witches, she had the ability to heal herself from almost any injury. But the healing process still hurt like anything. She could feel it starting right now, in fact, around her midsection.

But that didn't make sense. She hadn't been fighting any Witch on this Saturday night; she'd just headed down to the bar, hoping to try her luck with Mitakihara's menfolk yet again and wet her whistle (even a Magical Woman should have some time for fun, she thought). In fact, the last thing she could remember was sitting at the bar, chatting with a cute guy who wanted to check her out, and…

And why was she lying in an alley right now?

Kazuko then noticed a wet yet sticky sensation around her private area and down her inner thighs. Hadn't her period ended about two weeks ago? And now that her mind had sharpened up a bit, the pain wasn't nearly as intense as her magical healing pain, nor was it like menstrual cramps. It seemed to pulse sharply, in and out with her heartbeat, and seemed to be centered around her privates…

Her eyes shot open as fast-forwarded images darted before her eyes. That cute guy laughing at something. Her climbing into a car, then being helped up a flight of stairs. The soft sensation of sheets against her back. At least three guys standing above her, hungry leers on their faces, then a sudden chill against her body as…

Oh SHIT…

Kazuko shot upward and rubbed a finger against her thigh. Even in the dim light of the alley, she could see the sticky liquid was dark against the night. She grimaced as she suddenly noticed the pulsing pain was also coming from her rear. And there was a sour-bitter taste in her mouth as well…

She was fortunately able to turn away from her lap as she vomited. She had had more than enough indignities for one night, and didn't need vomit dripping down her perky green one-piece.

There was a trash can next to her, which she only noticed after losing her dinner. Perhaps it would've been more considerate to make use of it for her regurgatory purposes, but Kazuko didn't care. So some minimum-wage street cleaner would have a little more work to do. That was what they got paid for, right? They had probably slacked off all through school and forsook college for pot, Jagermeister and video games, while people like her had pushed their way through cram school, college, and all the national teachers' qualifications for somewhat better living standards and a less nauseating job. She thought she had made the right (or at least the better) choices in life…

I…I wish more men would notice me…

Men. It was always the men who left her high and dry and hurting like this. Surely there had to be a Mr. Right somewhere over the horizon, someone who appreciated her intellect as well as her body, someone who shared her love of a good book as well as a wild night on the town, someone who maybe, just maybe, might like to go past petty one-night stands and settle down with a decade-old Christmas cake like herself. Of course it seemed like all those guys were taken, both among her fellow teachers at Mitakihara Middle School and on the dating websites she'd given up on. That left just the men like the street cleaners (it seemed Kazuko only ever noticed male street cleaners) and these other guys who had…

Screaming at the top of her lungs, Kazuko rose to her feet and kicked the trash can with all her strength, spilling its load out across the alley. Maybe that street cleaner would get paid extra now for this extra work. In this economy, that was a public service, right?

-O-O-O-O-

She didn't know where she was, and not just because she couldn't stop crying. All she could tell was that she was in the unfamiliar industrial part of town (perfect place to dump a used car, mattress, or woman), and her cell phone and purse were missing. Eventually, though, she came upon a lamppost casting an indifferent glow upon the sidewalk and a vacant lot. Kazuko yowled again and kicked it until her foot throbbed and the tears stopped and her chest seized its hitching.

Okay, okay. Deep breaths. I…I was…raped. But I can get through this. Just gotta find a police station, or at least someone who knows where the nearest police station is. M-maybe I'll move in with Mom and Dad for a little while, have a nice girls' night out with Junko. And there are all kinds of support groups out there. It's not like I'm on my own, and (her eyes stung, and she blinked back more tears)…I know it wasn't my fault…

I wish more men would notice me…

Dammit girl, you've always been the bookworm; you remember that story about the monkey's paw, don't you? Whatever the hell that little white…thing was, don't you know that miraculous wish deals never turn out well? Even if you were sloshed on two bottles of wine and a TV drama marathon when he showed up.

Just like how I was sloshed when he came up to me at the bar earlier tonight, and how he "sloshed" me up even more with that little "addition" to my drink, so to speak…

Kazuko steadied herself against the lamppost and gulped air to try to keep herself from crying again. Only weak, defenseless little girls cried, and that had made her an easy target for those macho asswipes. She wouldn't let herself get in that position again, especially not in this part of town.

-O-O-O-O-

"Y-you're sure there's no cops around, Sempai?" the teenage boy asked his leather-jacketed partner.

"Like I said, kid, the cops don't scrutinize this area too much unless there's some impromptu rave or something in one of these warehouses or if someone snitched, and they just made their hourly patrol 15 minutes ago." He took a drag on a cigarette, the glow providing the only light source between the two young men. "Their loss, of course. The hookers and dealers own this part of town. And if you wanna be a member of our gang, you gotta provide the woman for your first night." He gestured toward the short brown-haired, bespectacled woman leaning against a lamppost. "And there you go. Remember, if her pimp shows up, just try to haggle, but in his favor. We only have knives; those bastards got guns."

The boy dreaded the prospect of dealing with a pimp, but as far as he knew, joining this bosozoku gang might be the only very slim way to let his sister get out of the female gang that often collaborated with this one. He was flunking most of his classes and on a slow boat to nowhere; she had graduated high school with flying colors and was now majoring in physics and minoring in political science. Only her old bosozoku flirtation (as well as their family's Yakuza connections) was giving her trouble with the university administration. Perhaps it was his fate to eventually wind up in prison or dead by police bullets or a rival gang's knife blade; he didn't want the same thing to happen to his sister. Especially since he occasionally overheard her recently talking some loopy stuff about magical girls and witches; hopefully the stress of studies and bosozoku harassment weren't getting to her (she had once been a big fan of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, but only when she was little).

Besides, it had been a while since he'd been with a woman, and this one certainly looked cuter than the average corner girl.

"Ahem," he coughed as he approached the still-shuddering Kazuko. "So, umm, ma'am…do you…"

Kazuko turned toward the youth, and her eyes narrowed into a glare while her mouth curled into a coy smile. "Oh, I think I know what this is about. You're looking for a good time, aren't you?"

The youth grinned sheepishly and reached behind his head. "Y-yeah, as a matter of fact. How'd you guess?"

"Well, this part of town does seem like the kind of place where ladies of the night come out to play. And where all the cockbrained thrill-seekers like yourself go to seek them out. That's all you…strutting peacocks think we are. Cheap thrills and good, dirty, brainless fun. Just a pair of legs with a nice warm hole to lose yourselves in." The tears had resumed, but Kazuko didn't care at the moment. "But I guess it doesn't matter, eh? We're all just…whores-to-be, right?"

"W-whoa, I'm sorry. I thought you were…I mean…look, I dunno if you're drunk or high on some shit, but we can call you a cab or some…"

"Oh, but isn't this how you like your women?" she snapped, her face twisting into a hideous sarcastic smile-parody. "Drunk or high or whatever and ready for anything? A-and even if she is, heaven forbid she not cook your eggs properly the next morning, assuming you let her stay for breakfast. Those are all that matters, right?" She reached toward the young man's crotch. "You just can't stand it when she cooks your eggs wrong, eh? Well, stuuuuud, this lady's gonna make sure your eggs are well-done! Eat up!"

Just as men can only quiver at descriptions of the pains of menstruation and childbirth, women can only tremble at descriptions of the testicular squeeze. Unfortunately, the young man's last sensation in life was not that horrible pain, but an even worse one, known to both men and women; that of being burned alive.

The young man's voice went into a pitch much higher than he ever thought it could reach as the flames quickly spread over his body. He dropped to the ground and started rolling as he had often been taught, only to be engulfed in still more flames emanating from Kazuko's open hands.

The gang leader's libido evaporated with the newbie's howls. He'd heard the story of the slit-mouthed woman and other supernatural urban legends repeated ad nauseum like most Japanese teens, and he'd seen countless media of genre-savvy skeptics finding out the hard way that those legends were true (at least in their fictional universes). But right now he didn't have time to consider the ramifications this new vision of reality might have on his daily life; right now the only thing on his mind was running like hell.

"Oh, don't run! Don't you wanna git daaaowwwn too, boy?" she said, blasting a fireball toward the leader.

-O-O-O-O-

As the two young men lay there smoldering, Kazuko dropped to her hands and knees. Her formerly magenta Soul Gem dangled from her necklace, almost completely faded to black. She probably should've killed another Witch that night, but surely just killing those two assholes couldn't have drained that much energy from it. Why was she suddenly feeling so weak and drained?

What didn't that little weasel tell me? Why…why couldn't I meet someone nice?

She collapsed on her stomach and started crying anew, not even trying to stifle her sobs. Had it really been so much to ask? She remembered The Monkey's Paw of course, and she had been drunk at the time, but had it really been such an affront to whatever God was listening to hope she could someday meet someone who would love her mind as much as her body, who would like a date at the library or art museum as much as a karaoke parlor, and wouldn't mind too much if his eggs were just a little bit runny?

Apparently so, if her reward was to lie here on a cracked sidewalk among the oil refineries and vacant lots, still sore and bleeding and eventually wake up in the drunk tank (can't wait to see what the school administration will think of that news), it was too much to ask. And now she was a cold-blooded murderer to boot. She had always thought of herself as nonviolent, unable to even conceive of how people could be driven to kill other people. But now, of course… Was that line really so thin? Was it really so easy to fall through the cracks? If some crankhead wanted to have his way with her and then keep her quiet permanently with a knife, she wouldn't complain.

Before her Soul Gem finally burst, Kazuko muttered, "Just…a whore…"

I kinda think Kazuko was the biggest Woobie of the "Muggles" in this series, so I've been wanting to do a story about her lately, especially after reading ncfan's "Those Rainy Nights" (in my favorites). Plus I don't think the Witch Roberta has gotten a backstory yet. (I dropped some hints about another Witch; can you guess which Witch (sorry)?)

There is a theory on the series Wiki that Kazuko may have contracted on one timeline, and they also claim Roberta was of course Kazuko. I know rape has become overused in fanfiction, but I tried to handle the subject as sensibly as I could; plus, don't you think Roberta's imagery very strongly suggests either sexual abuse or at least chauvinism?

PS: I wrote this in one sitting. The idea just kinda came to me at once and I wanted to get it out quick as possible before it faded. Whew!