Appearing in this work: Ginko.
Spoilers/Timeline: No timeline, vague spoiler-like things for Io, Suzu.
Word Count: 1,254
Rating: PG? I guess.
Summary: Ginko is trying to investigate a strange mushi.
Disclaimer: I own nothing save my crazy theories.
Author's Note: This was written for a fic exchange in the community mushishi. The title is supposed to mean 'illusion of darkness'.
Prompt: Trapped in an endless maze of nightmares.
Step… step… step… the sound of footsteps against stone, echoing slightly in the dark.
Step… step… step… how long had he been walking? He didn't know. Maybe an hour or two?
Step… step… step… it was strange. He couldn’t see anything, nothing at all, except the dark, yet his feet didn't stumble over any loose rocks, though he did kick them away occasionally. He didn’t run into anything, either. He was walking confidently through a place he had never been before, in total darkness. And he had no idea how he'd gotten here.
Step… step… st—Ginko tripped over something and went sprawling, unable to stop himself from pitching forward in the blackness. He caught himself on his hands; luckily, there wasn't anything sharp beneath them. It felt like he'd landed on powdery sand. After a moment he started feeling around on the stone, trying to find what had tripped him. He moved slowly, feeling oddly vulnerable—he was used to being able to see pretty well in the dark, and suddenly not having that very useful ability was strange. He felt his hands move over cold stone, loose rocks, small things that moved away from his hand quickly, and finally, something smooth and cool with a jagged edge. That was what had tripped him. He felt it carefully, where it was wedged into the stone floor… bone. It felt like one of the heavy ones, maybe a thigh bone. He couldn't be sure if it was human or not, thought it felt about the right size to be an adult man’s.
Either way, it stirred something in the back of his mind, the reason he was here. People, talking to him, asking him to… that's right, villagers in a nearby settlement. He'd stopped there for supplies, and to see if someone would put him up for the night. They had told him there was no food to sell—something about the game being scarce in this area—but they had also told him about this cave… system of caves, he corrected himself, grimly. They had said that every now and then, people would go to the caves. That these people couldn’t be stopped, and that they never came back. It had sounded suspicious to him, and now that he was more alert, he was certain this was the work of a mushi. It was an especially insidious one; the trance had snuck up on him, and he hadn't even noticed it.
Without getting up, he reached into his pocket for a cigarette and his matches. Lighting it, the match an almost-painful flare of brightness in the dark, he inhaled deeply. What was left of the mushi trance fogging his mind vanished. "That's better," he muttered, then got to his feet carefully. He still couldn't see… well, the villagers had thought of that, at least. He felt in his other pocket and pulled the candle they had insisted he take with him. Too bad he didn't have a lantern to put it in, but he'd make do.
The light from the candle was unnaturally dim in the darkness, but it was better than being completely blind. Ginko took a moment to look around the cave he was currently in before he walked on. Bones were scattered over the floor, human, animal… well, that would explain why there was so little game in this area. It looked like the mushi didn't care what it ate. Ginko saw snake, deer, bat, and a large number of rodent skeletons, as well as at least two human skeletons. All the skeletons in this area were very old. Probably the mushi had lived here for a while, and then retreated deeper into the cave system for some reason… Ginko frowned slightly, thoughtfully. He would like to know why the mushi had left this place. It might give him some clues as to what kind of mushi it was.
But he clearly wouldn't learn that by just standing here. Moving carefully, minding his step now that he didn't have the mushi's siren call telling him where to go, he moved deeper into the cave.
He found a chunk of stone after a moment and started marking his path by scratching an arrow deep into the walls, pointing back the way he’d come. He wasn’t sure he would be able to find his way out again later, if he didn’t.
In the semi-darkness there was no way for Ginko to tell exactly how long he walked along, occasionally marking the walls—though judging by the candle, it was probably about half an hour. He lit a fresh cigarette every time he finished his old one, not wanting to risk the mushi getting a hold on him again. He might not be lucky enough to get out of its hold the next time. He didn’t notice any other skeletons, though he couldn’t be sure there weren’t any; his candle wasn’t growing any brighter. If anything the light seemed to be getting a little dimmer, though he couldn’t be sure that wasn’t just his eye playing tricks on him.
Finally, the dim pool of light something on the wall just ahead of him. He moved closer, bringing up the candle to see what it was more clearly.
It was one of his arrows. “Did I just go in a circle?” he muttered aloud, around his cigarette.
There was a soft laugh, right behind him. Ginko froze for a split second then turned slowly. “Is someone there?” He couldn’t see anyone, but given the conditions of this cave, that didn’t surprise Ginko much.
A movement caught his eye further away, which did surprise him a little. He turned his head to look at whatever it was more fully… the silhouette of a person. They ducked behind something almost as soon as he looked at them, but he was left with the impression of green hair… he blinked, and slowly walked to where he thought he’d seen them. “That can’t be right…” The only person he’d met with green hair was miles from here… and she didn’t have that hair color any longer. “But it looked just like her… huh.”
Something touched his arm. He tilted the candle a little, causing hot wax to drip to the floor of the cave. He couldn’t see anything, but there was definitely the feeling of something touching his arm. The sensation moved up his arm, slowly… it felt like someone’s hand. Something brushed against the back of his neck, moving his hair out of the way to touch the skin… he finally decided, as the ‘hand’ moved to caress his chest, that it felt like someone was standing behind him, and… he moved abruptly, taking several steps to the side.
The ghostly sensations vanished, but soft, childish laughter took their place. He saw several darts of movement out of the corner of his eye, but he refused to look at them. Glancing down at his candle instead, he saw that he had been wrong. It hadn’t been a trick of his eye; the light really was dimmer than it had been.
“What… am I supposed to do now?” The despairing words were murmured in his ear. “…Suzu?” When had she said that?
The candle guttered in his hand as though a sudden breeze had sprung up, but the air was still as ever. He found himself holding his breath as the candle guttered again, steadied, and then…
…went out completely.
Mocking laughter filled the darkness.