• Hikari skipped down the narrow path. "To grandma's house, to grandma's house, to grandma's house we go!" she chanted to herself, carrying her basket and peeking beneath the flipped up hood of her red jacket. Red riding hood was an admirable enough character to imitate and she could actually do it properly now that her little brother wasn't here. He had to stay home sick today, which she guessed was all right because the sky looked like rain. Her little brother did hate the rain. She kept skipping along, chanting the little rhyme to herself. It wasn't a rhyme really, but she didn't know that. She wasn't going to grandma's house either. That would be impossible to walk to and her mother said the cemetery was not a place for little girls to go alone. So where could she be walking to? It was only the bus stop to get home from school. The basket held her half-eaten lunch, and a backpack was not necessary for her in kindergarten. So, Hikari skipped along the path alone, her stop out of the way of the other children's homes.

    Hikari had paused in her chanting to find another verse of the old fairy tale to sing. Her basket swayed from side to side as she swung it with unnecessary force.


    Hikari paused in her deep thinking and looked around. She could have sworn she'd just heard a cat. Her basket stopped swaying and Hikari slowed, letting her hood fall to her back. It would allow her to hear better and it wasn't raining just yet.


    She spun, coming to a stop in the direction she thought the sound was coming from. Setting her basket down on the ground, she crept closer to the sound.


    It almost sounded human to her. That was odd. Cats didn't sound human. They weren't supposed to. There was a bush currently in the way of her seeing the source of the sound. She took a few steps closer


    It sounded piteous now. The cat must be hurt. "Here kitty kitty" Hikari said softly as she neared the bush. She set her hand on it and began to lightly push the branches aside when a scaly, cold hand shot out of the bush and grabbed her wrist. She started to scream and found a different hand pressed against her lips. This hand was new. It smelled of leather. The hand on her wrist burned like fire. That one was different, less human.

    "Don't move, child," a gruff, but warm voice said from somewhere above her head. She turned to look and see who had captured her mouth, her wrist forgotten for all it was burning. The leathered hand stopped her. "Don't move." The voice repeated sternly. She obeyed, using her eyes to gaze about her. Before she could identify the hand gripping her wrist, she was met directly with two gleaming orange eyes. Orange. What an odd color for eyes. Why orange. And they swirled too...Hikari felt her body begin to shake. Her wrist burned fiercely under the one's grip and her head felt trapped between the other hand and something else, probably a leg. The edges of her vision blackened and all that remained was the orange eyes, the swirling eyes, the pretty eyes. The pain in her wrist spread, seeping through her arm, creeping up her shoulder, and making its way through her vital organs and her main arteries. Hikari's shaking grew worse. Faintly she heard the sound of someone mumbling urgently, like when a teacher said a curse word he didn't want the students to hear him say.

    Her vision blackened completely, the lovely eyes, brilliant as diamonds in firelight, disappearing like her surroundings. She whimpered a little. The pain spreading through her body lessened and was replaced by a subtle warmth. Her wrist now ached though. Whatever was around it was digging deeper, melding itself with her body and bone. It hurt and she opened her mouth to cry out again. Surprisingly, it was not covered and a high, piercing scream was let out into her black oblivion.

    With a force she had never felt, she was flung, the blackness still dominating her vision, to the right, or maybe the right, she couldn't tell anymore. She heard a scream, louder, higher, and more grating on the nerves than her own. Her wrist was pulled away from her body and she heard her joint creak in protest. Then it was torn loose from her arm and consciousness, leaving the fiery pain in its place. She felt the thing behind her head, a leg if that was what it indeed was, heave with effort, as if throwing off some unseen force. Hikari's vision swam, bright dots coming in the place of the blackness. Real, warm pain seeped through the fire the original hand had left. She again faintly smelled leather. Her wrist sent short stabs of pain up her arm, unlike those from earlier. This was natural. She understood the difference.

    She heard a sigh from the unseen one above, a sigh of relief. She was lowered to the ground and felt a warm sensation on her forehead. The ground was welcome and Hikari did not open her eyes to reclaim the world of sight that had been stolen from her. She let her body lay limp, comforted by the warm glow her head was bathed in, and slipped into a deep, wonderful sleep, even her tattered wrist forgotten.

    "Thank you again sir," her mother's voice floated towards her, breaking the barrier her dreamless sleep had created. Golden, orange, beautiful eyes floated into her vision...

    "It's my pleasure ma’am; just tell me when she get's better all right. I'd hate to think I was too late."

    The eyes were blocked from her, then grew large and faint in the background of the thing blocking her sight. They rushed towards her, prepared to swallow her whole. The hand gripping her mouth had freed her. Hikari opened her mouth and screamed.

    Footsteps rushed towards her room and Hikari finally opened her eyes. She looked around her. A clean, white bandage lay around her wrist for a reason she could not identify. A damp rag fell from her forehead onto her lap as she sat up quickly, looking around more. It was her room. The eyes were not here. She was safe. But... eyes? Eyes from where? What had happened? How was she here? What had happened to her wrist?

    She could not answer the questions and didn’t have enough time to think further. Her mother, breathless, came into the room, followed closely by a man dressed in a traveler's clothing. A pair of leather gloves hung from his belt.

    Her mother briskly walked towards her, her face lined with concern. "Are you all right dear? What made you scream? A nightmare? You had a pretty bad fall, from what this nice man tells me."

    Hikari's eyes wandered to the man again. He was...familiar. But that didn't matter. "I fell?" she asked in a barely audible voice. "But... the eyes? What are the eyes?"

    "The eyes dear? There are no eyes. You’re safe now. That was just a dream."

    Hikari nodded and yawned, fully convinced that her nightmare was the nothing her mother seemed to say it was. "All right. What about brother? Was he ok? I didn't fall on him did I?" She looked anxiously at her mother's face, having just realized the possibility herself.

    "He's still in bed --"

    "What? I did fall on him? I didn't mean to. . . Honest. . . "

    Her mother lightly pet her head. "No. He was sick this morning. He didn't go to school because the weather looked dreary. Remember honey?"

    "Dreary..." Hikari repeated softly, looking to the window in her slightly bare room. Sure enough, the sky was dark with storm clouds, and the window showed signs that it had rained. It was odd. She didn't remember any of this.

    "She probably hit her head. Her memory of today will come back eventually. I've heard about this. She should stay in bed a few days. Especially with that wrist."

    Hikari's ears sang back as the man spoke. His voice was soft and nice and warm. She raised her arm to look at it. It didn't hurt too much. She must have sprained it or something. Hikari set her arm gingerly back onto the bed. The man walked into the room and to her mother.

    "I really should be going now ma’am. I would like to reach my destination before dark, and the rain has so kindly stopped for a while too," he said with a kind smile. Her mother flushed slightly and backed up a step.

    "Yes, of course, thank you again mister..." she faltered, obviously not knowing his name.

    The man seemed not to hear her and supplied no name. He turned to Hikari and set his hand on her head. "Get some rest, child, and get well." His hand moved to her forehead, feeling her body temperature. "Although you seem to be doing a good job already. Well, goodbye little one," he patted her on the head once and turned, getting inches from her bed.

    Hikari breathed in, catching a familiar scent: leather. Her eyes opened wide. "The eyes! You! You saved me from the eyes!"

    The man quickly put another few inches in between them, a startled expression flashing its way quickly across his face and then disappearing with a pitying smile. A kind smile, but a pitying smile. Her mother had recovered herself and spoke softly.

    "It's all right Hikari dear, the nightmare is over now. You're safe. Yes, he saved you, but there were no eyes, just a tree. It's all right dear."

    The child stared at the man, her mother’s words floating around her head then disappearing, unheard. She knew. He had saved her from the eyes. The man pat her on the head again, still keeping a bit of distance, as if unsure of what she would do. "Get some rest child." He turned to her mother. "I'll show myself out, no need to go away from her now."

    He turned and walked out of the room, leaving behind him an empty feeling in Hikari's chest. He knew, and he didn't say. He had saved her from the eyes. What were the eyes? She turned to her mother with a pleading glance. "Mama. The eyes! He saved me from the eyes. They hurt! They were real!" A tear fell heavy on the blanket below her, echoing throughout her body. Hikari let the tears flow.

    Her mother's cold hands pressed her softly into her warm bed. "Go to sleep now dear. It's over. Just rest up so you can go to school next week with your brother."

    "No! The eyes! Listen to me! The eyes!"

    Her mother put a hand over her mouth and Hikari's eyes widened, her memories returning. But these hands didn't smell like leather. They were the sweet scent of the perfume her mother used when guests were around and the scent of soft soap and kitchen. She relaxed slightly, but her tears did not stop. "It's all right, go to bed dear. You'll feel better in the morning."

    But Hikari knew this wouldn't be true. The eyes would come back. And no one would help her. No one would listen about the eyes.