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Okay, so I was reading 'Ghost Hunt' over the last week. Being at least a little insane, I decided to look up some of Ono Fuyumi's other work. Having liked 'Tokei Ibun', I decided to try out 'Shiki'. Let's just say that was the stupidest decision I've made in a while.


Her baby was gone.

Itachi was his father's son: the heir, the genius, the family pride and joy. But Sasuke had always been hers. A second son was superfluous and unneeded as long as they had Itachi, so Sasuke had been hers to love and coddle and keep.beside her. He'd been Mikoto's gift from the world, to make up for losing her family and never leaving this dead-end town and having to marry Fugaku.

And now he was dead.

It hadn't seemed that bad at first, just a summer cold, just a slight illness that was going around. Everyone knew someone who had gotten sick. He had gotten tired and listless, and she had spent the day making his favorite tomato soup and playing out the voices of Momotaro. But then the anemia had set in and Ozaki-sensei had ordered him into the hospital and then . . .

Why had the world taken her baby away?

There had been too many deaths this summer, so they had buried her little boy without the customary rites. The temple had at least sent a kaimyo. Fugaku had heard about what the new funeral parlor director had done, and refused to let any member of his family be subject to that humiliation. So now everyone else had gone to bed and she was sitting here drowning in sake, listening to the branches scratch at the roof, wishing she had died too.

"Mama?"

Kami-sama, she could almost hear his voice.

"Mama, please let me in? Please, it's so cold out here."

She knew he was dead. She knew she was dreaming. But she got up and opened the door.

And there he was. Still in the little Western suit they had buried him in. Tiny and little and looking so lost.

The world had never been so right.




Mikoto had drawn a bath, gotten his nightclothes, and prepared the garden shed. Sasuke was hers, she wasn't going to allow Fugaku or Itachi to take her little boy away from her again. She tried to think about what she knew about situations like this. She'd helped Muroi-kun with his research for his books plenty of times. She wasn't absolutely sure what had happened, but she thought it mostly resembled a Western shiki, a vampire. The shed was a good place, with a sturdy roof and no windows. Shisui had used it as a dark room for his photography hobby before moving to the city, so it even had curtains to prevent any light from leaking through the door. If she recalled correctly, there was even an old ice box that would serve in place of a coffin.

That took care of where Sasuke would sleep. Now that Shisui had left, no one else went out there except her. But how would she feed him? She wouldn't have minded letting him feed off of her. But Fugaku and Itachi were already getting alarmed about the other deaths in the village. She couldn't afford to show up with suspicious bite marks, even ones slight enough to resemble bug bites. She'd never been the type to attract mosquitoes; even with the time she spent in the garden it wouldn't make sense for her to have bug bites when Fugaku and Itachi did't have any. While Sasuke splashed in the tub, she tried to think of a solution while washing dishes.

"Mother?"

"Itachi!" She almost dropped a plate on the floor in shock. "What are you doing up?"

"I needed a drink of water." Her elder son never was one to show his emotions. Looking at him, one would believe it to be a day like any other day. You would never have realized that they buried his little brother today. She felt a rush of hate for Itachi, but quickly buried it. "Mother, are you alright?"

She filled a glass and passed it to him, giving a smile that bore a more than passing resemblance to a grimace. "No . . . I need to stay awake. I keep thinking he's just lost and will knock on the door any minute now to be let in."

"Sasuke's dead. The dead don't come back to life." If it hadn't been for the past hour, she would have hit him. As is, her hands tightened around the knife she had been washing.

"Itachi . . ." His eyes widened.

"Mother, you're bleeding!" She looked down. So she was. She had been so angry, she hadn't even noticed. "I'll get the bandages."

"No, I'll take care of it myself." He looked dubious. "Just go back to bed Itachi. I can't sleep anyway." He twitched (on someone else, it might have been a frown), nodded and turned away.

She grabbed a clean glass from the cabinet before looking for the first aid kit. This could work.

"Mama?" Her little boy had finished washing up and looked a little sleepy. The night was going to be over soon.

"Ne, Sasuke-chan, are you hungry?"

He nodded, rubbing his eyes. "May I have some tomato soup?"

She passed him the glass, half-filled with red liquid. "Try this instead. It will be good for you." He drank it and smiled at her, flashing sharp canines.

"It's good! What is it?"

"Ah, I'll tell you later." She reached down, and took his hand into her bandaged one. "Let's sleep out in the garden tonight, okay? Since it's so nice out."

"Okay! Will you sing me a lullaby?"

She laughed softly. "Odoma bon-giri bon-giri, bon kara sakya oran-do, bon ga hayo kurya, hayo modoru . . . "




"How could you?" She wasn't screaming. She wasn't shouting. She had gone so far past, that she was whispering. "I had everything under control. We could have been happy."

Itachi just looked up at her blankly. The blood running down his face almost resembled tears. But she knew better. Her elder son have never truly cried in his life, not since he was a baby. He wasn't her baby now. "You couldn't have kept this from him forever. And once he knew what he was, what you really were doing, he wouldn't have been happy. He would have hated himself."

"He trusted you!" That was the part she hated most.

"Better it was me. Better it was someone he trusted, someone who did it while he was asleep, who made sure it wouldn't hurt." For a second his facade broke, just a moment's worth of despair shining in his eyes. "You know what they're doing out there. This way he went peacefully, with no pain or terror. He never even knew what had happened."

She brought up the gun. One of the other villagers had had it. It had been found in one of the abandoned houses, one that didn't have any Shiki in it. She had intended to put it in the safe for security until everything had died down. It wouldn't have done any good against the Shiki, so no one had objected. "You should have died instead."

"I know." She shot him. One bullet, right between the eyes. Looking down at the dead bodies of her children, she raised the gun again.

"Mikoto! I heard a gun shot! What's-" She never heard the end of Fugaku's sentence.




The lullaby Mikoto sings to Sasuke is the Itsuki lullaby. In English:

I will be here until Bon Festival,
After Bon Festival, I will not be here.
If Bon Festival comes earlier,
I would return home earlier.

It's tough finding Japanese lullabies that don't involve strangling the child.

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