Maison Ikkoku and its characters were created by Takahashi Rumiko, and 
are used without permission.

				A Halloween fanfic
				by Scott Schimmel

	I awakened.

	This is the first thing I remember:  The feeling of struggling
upward out of the grey morass of the shadows of my dreams.  The dreams
themselves, I do not remember clearly; that, I suspect, is a kindness.
What transitory and obscure fragments I do remember are... not dark,
nor frightening, but nevertheless horrible.  Their chaotic images
throb within my mind in the same way that a broken bone, poorly set,
continues to pain one occasionally, since it never heals properly.

	Once on my feet, I looked about me in growing puzzlement, and
not a little apprehension.  The place I was in, I did not recognize at
all.  I stood in the corner of that tiny, stark room.  Opposite me was
a single bed, where someone lay sleeping beneath the covers; to my
right, a door, which was the only way to enter or leave the room.
There was very little else in that sterile space.  I felt disoriented,
weak, but I know now that that was not a product of the atmosphere.

	I was at a loss to explain my situation.  The room was
completely unfamiliar; had I, then, been carried here in my sleep?
But why?  Where was I?  Curiously enough, I felt no panic at these

	I was wondering whether I should awaken the sleeper in the
bed, but before I came to a decision, the door opened.  My husband
entered the room, accompanied by another man, who I did not recognize,
but who wore the long white coat of a doctor.  Smiling, I turned to
greet my beloved.

	He ignored me.

	I would have asked what was troubling him -- he had never
treated me in this manner before, even when he was most distracted.
But before I could, the other man, the one I did not know, gently
lifted part of the sheet away from the sleeper.

	I gasped and took a step back as my hand flew involuntarily to
my mouth.  The person on the bed was a woman -- a woman who looked
exactly like me.

	I didn't want to think about what that might mean.  Instead, I
merely looked at my husband, hoping that he would explain.  He closed
his eyes and nodded, and the doctor laid the sheet back over the

	"Kyoko," he murmured.  It was all he seemed able to say.  His
head hung, eyes screwed tightly closed; his hands clenched into fists.

	The other man stood uneasily, experiencing the mild
embarrassment of those who know that they are intruding in what should
be a private moment, yet he did not turn away or leave.  Because of
his job, he stood his ground and did as he had done many times,
offering the words that he already knew would ring hollow.  "It would
have been very quick.  She didn't suffer."

	He nodded, barely hearing.  "I... I'd like to be alone with
her... if that's all right."  At that moment, he was the lost, lonely
boy she had first met, grasping with all his soul at the slightest
offered hope.  Vulnerable.

	The older man nodded, as if he understood.  He departed,
leaving me alone with my husband in the sterile room.  By this time,
the suspicions that filled my thoughts should have been impossible to
ignore, yet I shrugged them aside.  I, too, had been known to grasp at
ephemeral hopes.

	I went to my husband's side, asking, "What is it?" and
inwardly cringing at my voice's tremulous tone.  But again he ignored
me, standing silent at the side of the bed.  Slowly, he pulled back
the sheet.  He reached down to gently brush a few loose strands of
hair away from her serene face.  Having done that, he stood staring
down at her, uncomprehending.

	I was about to speak again when he bent down and kissed her
lightly on the lips.  Falling to his knees beside the bed, he grasped
the woman's hand and held it tightly between his own.  First a single
tear trickled down his cheek; then a sob wracked his body, and soon
his earlier restraint disappeared as he cried for the first time in

	I wanted to comfort him, but when my hand touched his arm, I
felt only a strange sensation, like the aftermath of a mild electrical
jolt tingling in my fingers.  Almost as soon as I felt that, he seemed
to slide out from beneath my touch, although neither of us moved.  I
tried again, brushing the back of his neck.  He briefly looked up, but
didn't otherwise acknowledge my touch, any more than he had my
presence.  A sickly feel of dread clutched at my stomach, and I fought
to suppress it.

	"Kyoko," he wept, lowering his head once again.  "Why?"

	I stepped back.  A part of me marvelled that I wasn't in
shock, but I was too busy to dwell on that.  The phantom images I had
glimpsed in my dream rushed into my mind, and the ground seemed to
spin beneath my feet.  Concentrating, I tried to banish the nightmare
visions, to clear my mind...

	"YUSAKU!" I shouted, as loudly as I could.  I tried to clear
my mind of everything but him, making him my anchor, as he had always
tried to be.  With these thoughts, and with that shout, I was able to
force the images out of my mind, but he made no response.  I stood
absolutely still for a moment, then asked, in a small voice, "I'm
dead, aren't I?"

	He didn't answer.

		*	*	*	*	*

	We walked home in silence -- he said nothing, and I had no
reason to speak.  It was ironic, in a way; one of my childhood
daydreams had been the thought of becoming invisible.  It had seemed
the perfect freedom then, to be ignored by the world, unseen yet
observing.  Now, I found it wasn't as enjoyable as I'd thought it
would be.

	I looked at Yusaku, beside me.  His face was blank, his
emotions again controlled -- it surprised me, sometimes, how someone
as fragile as he could be so strong.  But his eyes were flat and cold.

	"Promise," I'd said, "Please...  Even if just for one day...
live longer than I do."  It had been necessary to me to ask that of
him at that time, but he'd given that to me without reservation.  He'd
kept that promise, but those eyes made me realize what it had cost

	I thought I should be hysteric with emotion, but it seemed
that that part of me had died with my body.  I felt a vague regret, a
slightly sharper concern for Yusaku, and mild irritation that I did
not feel more... but that was all.  The ghosts of real emotions for
the ghost of a real person.

	Those, too, were ephemeral.  Walking alongside Yusaku down the
hospital's corridors, I had discovered that, if I moved any
appreciable distance away from him, my world would quickly become even
more tenuous.  At no more than a few steps, my shadow emotions were
overcome by that tranquil neutrality, a deadly seductive lethargy of
thought.  A little further, and I was struck with a sudden sense of
disorientation.  I hadn't dared go any further than that.  Yusaku was
my anchor, it seemed, in more ways than one.

	I felt much better when we arrived at home.  I learned that I
could wander the grounds of the building at will, without the usual
emotional apathy or vertigo I felt upon separation from Yusaku.  It
was small consolation, but it meant that I wouldn't need to constantly
shadow him.  It pained me to feel thankful for that, but I couldn't
bear to watch him grieve, powerless to do anything to offer him

		*	*	*	*	*

	I hadn't gone to the funeral; it had seemed too ghoulish.
Many of the others had come to visit, to pay their respects, and that
was difficult enough.

	First had come Coach Mitaka and his wife, Asuna, who was in
the advanced stages of pregnancy with their fourth child.  Given that,
I was surprised by the depth of the Coach's sorrow -- but I was
gratified to see the comraderie he and Yusaku shared.  Was it only
because of me that they had not become great friends?  But then, would
they have ever met, if it hadn't been for me?

	Next came my parents and his, along with his grandmother.
Nearing a century, the old woman remained as vigorous as ever, doing
her best, as always, for Yusaku.

	The other tenants who had been at Ikkoku-kan visited, but not
all together.  The three Ichinoses came; Kentaro-kun had become a
ronin, much like Yusaku.  It wasn't hard for me to draw parallels
between the two.  Akemi, who'd had a soft spot for Yusaku after all,
and the Master of the Cha Cha Maru paid a short visit.  Even an
unusually restrained Yotsuya-san, who for perhaps the first time
showed a hint of real consideration for Yusaku.

	Then there were the others:  Ikuko-chan, now a college
student.  Yusaku's friend Sakamoto, uncharacteristically quiet, and a
few of his college classmates, the puppeteers.  Even Kozue-san came
one afternoon, in the absence of her husband; I think that that was
the hardest for him.

	I knew that the memories caused him pain, but he refused to
forget.  He'd left all my things just as they'd been when I'd last
used them, disturbing nothing.  And slowly, he went on with his life,
or at least, lacking his old enthusiasm, went through the motions.

	I'd worried at first that he wouldn't want to go on without
me, that he would follow me into death as he'd followed me around half
of Japan years ago, when I'd thought I had lost him forever.  Indeed,
it seemed that he would, and I was at a loss how to prevent it.
Finally, one morning, I returned from the kitchen, where I had been
trying unsuccessfully to do something to prepare his breakfast.  I
found him kneeling on the floor, comforting our daughter, who was
crying in his arms.

	Watching him so intimately, unobserved, reminded me why I had
fallen in love with this man.  He was kind, thoughtful, gentle; and, I
knew, he would go on living, for Haruka.  And perhaps, in time, for
himself.  I hoped he would; I didn't want to see him repeat the
mistakes I'd made.

	I watched; it was all I could do, now.  He continued to hold
Haruka until she fell asleep in his arms, just as she had when she was
a baby.  He gently laid her on the futon, then buried his face in his
hands and wept.

	I stood and left him to cry in privacy.  It felt wrong to
watch such moments.

		*	*	*	*	*

	It had been three months since my death, I think, though the
days and nights blurred together, making me uncertain.  Yusaku had
finally stopped crying himself to sleep every night.  I had lain
beside him most nights, although I had no need to sleep -- in fact, I
could not, any more than I could touch him.  These things were for the
living.  It was probably a mercy, considering those first dark dreams
from which I had awakened into my new existence.

		*	*	*	*	*

	It had been a year since my death.  I knew this only because
of the date printed on the morning newspaper; time held little meaning
for me, now.  My days, when Yusaku was at work and Haruka at school,
were all spent the same way:  I wandered the building and its grounds,
and I remembered happier times.  In doing so, I always felt at peace;
boredom was never an issue.  Perhaps I lost that along with my other
emotions, when I died.  My nights, I spent with my family.

	Yusaku had his rituals, too.  Every morning, before he left
for work, he stood for a moment before a picture of me.  He kissed his
finger, pressed it to my photographic lips, and murmured, just as he
had when I was alive, "Itte kimasu."  As often as not, he would begin
to cry silently, wiping away the tears with the back of his hand.

	When he spoke to the photograph, I would reply, just as I had
when I was alive, and blow him a kiss.  He couldn't normally know, of
course, but I liked to do it.  It made me feel a little less distant
from him, and I felt the need to remain as close as I could.

	I say "normally" because I had discovered another little
anomaly.  One morning, I had happened to be standing near Yusaku while
he shaved.  In the mirror, I saw his eyes suddenly grow wide.  He'd
abruptly turned, looking directly at me, a mix of shock and desperate
longing plain on his face.  He'd stood still for a moment, searching,
before his expression had changed to one of bewilderment, and he'd
shaken his head and slowly turned back to the mirror.

	Why he had caught a glimpse of my reflection -- if that was in
fact what had happened; I could think of no better explanation -- I
didn't know.  But it became clear that he had, particularly after the
same thing happened several more times.  After that, I decided to
avoid mirrors while he was there.  It seemed unnecessarily cruel to
continue to haunt him so.

	It was only a little bit of extra effort; I'd already begun to
avoid mirrors, even when he wasn't there.  My skin had taken on the
pallor of death, my eyes had faded to an indeterminate grey-brown
shade, and my hair was a dull, limp mass of matte black.  My
reflection was one more reminder of my state, a reminder I didn't
particularly want.

		*	*	*	*	*

	It had been over two years since my death when the morning
ritual changed.  Yusaku gazed at my photograph for much longer than
usual -- several minutes, I thought, though it might have been hours
or seconds.  He picked it up and continued to stare.  For a moment, I
thought he might cry, for the first time in months.

	But he only brushed an imaginary speck of dust from my frozen,
smiling face.  "I'll always love you," he whispered.  "You know that,
don't you?"  The plea was plain in his voice.  I wondered why.

	"Yes," I answered, though I knew he wouldn't hear.  I stood
behind him and rested my hand on his shoulder for as long as I could
before, without moving, we seemed to slide apart.  If I could only
touch him, only for a moment...

	He carefully set the picture back down, as if he feared it
might break, and left for work.  That day, as I wandered the halls of
our home, I thought about the present rather than about the past.  I
found no answers.

		*	*	*	*	*

	It was only a few days later that the answers were provided.
Yusaku had returned from work and begun to cook dinner -- something
he'd become noticably better at in recent years, even if he was no
gourmet chef.  Still, that evening's effort was elaborate for him.
When he laid out two places on the table, even though Haruka was
staying with a friend for the night, I realized why:  We were going to
have company.

	She arrived not too long after that -- a rather short young
woman, looking professional in her blouse and skirt, with her short
haircut and glasses.  Yusaku smiled as he invited her in, and I felt a
pang of jealousy, but it quickly passed, to be replaced by curiosity.
This woman was familiar, somehow.  I must have met her during one of
my few excursions with Yusaku outside of our home, but I couldn't
place her.

	The young woman thanked him and stepped into the room, where
the table was laid out.  "Is there anything I can help with?" she
asked nervously.

	He laughed.  It was something he'd begun to do more often,
recently, and it made my heart glad to hear him.  "That's all right,
everything's almost ready."

	"I didn't know you could cook," she mused.  Her lips curled
into a tiny smile of delight at the discovery.

	"I sort of had to learn."  He paused, and shook his head.

	Her eyes widened at his words, and she was quick to apologize.
"I'm sorry.  I didn't mean--"

	"It's all right.  I just... changed a little, really.  It has
been quite a while since we last met."  He continued to smile, but his
voice was subdued as he remarked, "I think you've changed more than I
have.  It's still hard for me to believe...  You became a teacher."

	She glanced aside and answered, "It was because of you."
Yusaku stared at her in astonishment as she calmly continued, "I tried
to forget, for a while, but I just couldn't.  The more I thought about
it, the more I felt drawn to... to everything.  So when the time came
for me to decide on a major..."

	"You didn't do that just because you thought you could be with
me?" he pleaded.

	She shook her head.  "I couldn't forget you, and it eventually
inspired me.  I thought maybe, if I could see..."  She trailed off and
shrugged helplessly, not meeting his eyes.  "It's something I would
have done, once.  But it's only a coincidence that we met again, that
I'm with the same school."  She looked back at him and smiled sadly.

	He nodded solemnly, and I could see in his eyes that he'd
understood what she had tried to say.  He made no response, but turned
and entered the kitchen.  Soon, he returned with the plates of food
he'd prepared, and began to serve.

	She hadn't moved until he'd returned, and neither of them
spoke.  Each felt too awkward to pursue that conversation.  As she
ate, she glanced around the room, and her eyes fell on the photograph.
My photograph, which stood on the table beside the phone, near the
door, eternally smiling.

	"Is that... kanrinin-san?" she asked finally.  She must have
felt compelled to break the silence.  As soon as she had spoken, I
could see that she regretted asking the question -- such a painful
one, with such an obvious answer -- but Yusaku didn't appear to
notice.  His lips trembled slightly while he nodded, and I thought he
might break down in tears.  He didn't; he actually managed to smile,
although it was a sickly, painful thing.

	She saw it too, and I saw the sorrow in her eyes.  She stood
and moved around the table to his side.  "I'm sorry," she murmured.
"I'm so sorry, I never realized..."

	"It's... it's all right.  It's not your fault," he managed.
His smile grew just a little more genuine.

	She seemed to take comfort from that, but she continued
nevertheless.  "I never really realized how much you loved her.  Maybe
I just didn't want to admit it."  She looked into his eyes.  "It must
have been... very hard," she finished reluctantly, as if realizing how
little that said.

	He nodded, turning away as he did.  "Two and a half
years... it hasn't been easy."  I watched his hands clench into fists
on the table, and he turned back to face her.  "I'll never forget
her."  He stated it, not with the melodrama it would once have
carried, but simply, as a fact.

	"You don't have to," she said.  "I know I can't replace her.
I wouldn't want to, not any more.  Now that I know..."

	"Yagami," he breathed.  She smiled, leaned against him, and
kissed him on the cheek.  His arms went around her, and hers around
him, and they held each other.

	"I love you," she said, and he drew back, gazing into her eyes
with something like wonder.  "Godai-sensei," she added with a
mischievous grin.  Then she leaned forward, and her lips met his.

	For the first time since my death, I felt a pure, undiluted
emotion.  I was so filled with happiness for Yusaku that I wanted to
cry and laugh at the same time.

	I think I did.

		*	*	*	*	*

	I awakened.

	I had never been able to fall asleep since my death, but I
thought I must have, since I awakened.  It was very like the first
time, but for the fact that, mercifully, there were no dreams; none
that I can remember, at least.  Instead of the horror of my previous
awakening, I felt only peace.

	My surroundings certainly inspired that serenity.  I lay on
the shore of a lake; its surface was calm, as smooth and as reflective
as a mirror despite the warm, gentle breeze that was blowing from the
west.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and as I dipped my hand into
the cool water, disturbing that perfect surface, the sunlight glinted,
creating a constantly shifting mosaic of blue and gold.  I played my
hand through the lattice of reflected light, marvelling at its
fractured, chaotic beauty.

	I knelt there at the lakeside for a time, enjoying the
sensation of the water against my hand and the play of reflected light
across my body and clothes.  Here, as when I had walked the halls of
my former home, I never tired.  Finally, prompted by an unknown part
of myself, I stood, stretched, and started to walk along the grassy

	Soon I came upon a man who sat gazing out upon the water.  At
his feet, sharing his patient meditation, a large white dog lay.  I
recognized in both the same familiar, awkward strength -- and the same

	"Soichiro-san!" I cried.  The dog barked eagerly; the man
turned away from the lake and looked up.

	"Hello, Kyoko," he said, smiling gently at me.

		*	*	*	*	*

	This is the last thing I remember, I say, smiling at my little
joke.  I am sitting beside him now, watching how his mouth moves to
shape the words he speaks; searching his eyes and finding there the
same knowledge I had always seen in them.  And the same love.

	"So young Godai has managed to overcome even a grief that
profound," he muses.  "That's what kept you there, you know.  His
grief, and yours."

	I am struck again by the similarities between the two men I
love; the understanding that lies at the core of each.  "I'm happy for
him," I say, wiping away a single joyful tear.  For Yagami, as well, I
add silently; as troublesome as the girl had been, I'd found that I
couldn't help but like her.  "That he didn't take as long as I did,
that he can go on.  So much time lost..."

	He nods, understanding, as I knew he would.  "And he will be
happy, and your daughter?"

	I pause to consider that, and give the only answer I can.  "I
think they will be."  I feel a pang of sorrow, regret for all the
things in Haruka's life that I will never see, that I can never be a
part of.  But, like Yusaku, she will go on.  Her father will teach her

	Soichiro nods, then stands and offers his hand to help me to
my feet.  "Let's go home, Kyoko," he suggests.  The dog barks, as if
agreeing, and frolics about his legs.

	I smile, nod, and take his hand.  Even after I stand, I do not
let go.

	Together, hand in hand, we set out for home.