FOOTSTEP IN THE DARK
Summary: The more he is with her, the closer he comes to falling for death.
Note: This passage is pretty heavy on the gore side, and maybe a bit intense for those who are not good with that type of stuff.
He steps through the front door of his new home and scrutinizes the place with a bored gaze. Instantly, he is displeased.
When Sasuke’s mother had first told him about the house, she practically gushed about how timelessly elegant it is. “It has history, and the character really gives the place a charming atmosphere,” she had said while animatedly moving her hands around as if taking part in an interpretive dance.
He should have realized that all the adjectives she ended up using had been code for “old” and “musty.”
Looking around the expansive entryway that feeds into the living room, kitchen, and library, he notices that it appears as if darkness lingers in every corner. The only light filters through the small paned windows situated around the front door and illuminates the particles of dust that drift through the air. Peering into the living room, he can see maroon, damask wallpaper that peels at the edges as well as antique couches that look as if his great-grandmother might have owned them.
Sasuke looks up at his older brother who had just entered on scene, a large duffle bag tossed over his shoulder.
“Next time, we should have a say in the place,” Sasuke grumbles in response.
“If mother sees you complaining about her ‘dream home’, she might smack you,” Itachi chuckles as he inspects some of the aged furniture. “She fell in love with it and apparently the ‘bargain was too good to be true’.” He imitates their mothers excited voice, causing Sasuke to roll his eyes once again.
“I just wish we didn’t have to use furniture that probably has fifty years worth of dust mites in it.”
“Apparently it was all reupholstered a decade ago and is worth a lot now.” Itachi tries flipping a switch to turn on the large chandelier dangling above them, but with no luck. “I’ll let you have first pick of bedrooms,” he tells Sasuke while gesturing towards the upper floor.
Sasuke nods in response and watches as his brother heads towards the very modern looking kitchen, before making his way up the staircase. It is grand, with wide steps that curve around the circular foyer, each creaking and groaning under his weight.
Just like his mother to pick some place so obnoxiously over the top.
Once arriving on the second floor, and seeing six doors on each side of the hallway, he officially thinks his mother has lost it. After all, who could possibly need this much space?
Reaching the first door on the right, he twists the knob and swings it open, prompting the hinges to moan at the action. Peering in, he finds a bathroom that seems fairly modern with a minimalist design, much like the kitchen, complete with an open shower and a stainless steel sink.
He shuts the door and crosses the corridor to open the one across from it. A mirror image of the bathroom he just exits greets him.
He continues his self-tour, opening each of the twelve doors. He finds that the next two doors past the bathroom lead into the same bedroom.
He enters the third to last door and finds that it also shares a room with the last two doors, except from within the room, the center door is blocked with a large bookcase.
Deciding that this is as good as room as any, he sets his book bag on the ground. The room is furnished with the same antique looking furniture. A large bed with black sheets sits directly in the middle, a bedside table next to it and an old writing desk adjacent.
He walks through the room and exits out of the last door in the hallway.
I’ll probably just keep this one locked, he thinks before moving to inspect the window at the end of the corridor.
He looks out the dusty panes and notices a grove of trees as well as the corner of the neighbor’s house, but something about the window frame catches his eye. The same old wallpaper decorates the wall around it except for the areas directly above and below the window. He runs his hand over the bare area and feels grooves in the plaster as if something had been bolted into it.
He decides to ignore the little peculiarity and reenters his room.
His head snaps up at the voice as he realizes that he is no longer alone. There, sitting on the edge of his bed is a girl about his age. She appears to be wearing a thin cotton dress with white ribbons tied around the front, similar to nightgowns that women wear in old movies. Her hair is cut short, just barely coming past her chin and her eyes are wide and green.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?” Sasuke questions. Wouldn’t he have seen her in the hallway… unless, she has been in here the whole time.
“I’m Sakura,” she chirps happily, swinging her legs back and forth.
“What are you doing here?” Sasuke asks, more confused than anything.
“I just wanted to pop in and say hi,” she smiles and makes a hand gesture that references to his whole room. “Did you know that this place used to be an orphanage?” she whispers, as if sharing a secret.
Sasuke shakes his head, but thinks that it explains all the doors. When they converted it into a house, they must have knocked down some walls to create larger rooms.
“Well, it was.” She begins messing with the ribbons on the front of her shirt, untying and retying them. “Run by the esteemed Dr. Orochimaru and his medical assistant, Kabuto. They mainly kept teenagers, but there were some younger kids here as well.” She cups a hand by her mouth and goes back to whispering. “They say you can still hear-“
“Seriously,” Sasuke cuts her off, not sure what to think of this nonsense. “How did you get in here?”
She leaps off the bed, and Sasuke notices how petite the girl is, her limbs are skinny and almost appeared malnourished. She can’t be much taller than five foot, and he guesses that she just barely reaches the hundred pound mark.
“Well, be seeing you,” she says with a wink before walking past Sasuke.
He turns his head to stop her, not exactly sure what to do about a girl that possibly broke into his house in nothing but her pajamas, but she’s gone and all that is left in her place are bloody footprints that lead out, into the hallway.
Panicked, Sasuke rushes into the hallway and glances down it, only to find complete emptiness, no sign of the strange girl.
He turns to go back into his room, and finds the crimson colored footprints gone along with a piece of his sanity.
Sasuke awakens, his body jolting with a start.
He spins around, trying to pinpoint where the sound is coming from.
Climbing out of the bed, a flash of blonde catches his eye. There, in front of his bed, sits a hunched over figure with blonde spikey hair, his fist repeatedly hitting the air as if there is an invisible barrier.
Each time his fists halts, a steady knock echoes through the room.
“Who are you?” Sasuke questions while reaching for the metal baseball bat that he stowed under his bed when he unpacked earlier that day.
The boy continues on, as if Sasuke had never spoken.
“Hey! I’m talking to you,” he yells louder, the repetitive appearance of unwelcome guests getting on his nerves.
“He can’t hear you,” a familiar feminine voice says sadly.
Sasuke looks up to see Sakura standing by the far door, the same white nightgown billowing around her.
“What are you two doing in my room?” Sasuke yells at her.
Her head bows silently and tears begin running down her cheeks. “It’s not by choice.”
“What do you mean?” Sasuke asks.
“I tried to tell you before,” she whispers before beginning to back out the door. “He’s coming.” Then she disappears in the hallway once again.
Sasuke is about to chase after her, determined to catch her this time, but a strangled cough from the blonde boy causes him to spin around.
His stomach drops at the sight. The boy lies on his back, a bloody hole torn through his stomach. His eyes stare up at the ceiling, blue and blank, blood dribbling down his chin. He coughs again and the crimson liquid spurts from his mouth.
“Sa-aku-ra,” he gasps out before the ragged moving of his chest stops and his head falls to the side.
“Sasuke?” Onyx eyes open to be met with a matching set. “Why are you sleeping on the floor?”
“I-tachi?” Sasuke as he sits up, already feeling the stiffness from falling asleep on the wooden floor. “Itachi! There was this kid and he died on my floor and the blood. There was so much of it.” He looks around on the floor, finding no traces of what happened the night before.
“Sounds like a bad dream,” Itachi says as he pokes Sasuke in the forehead a habit that Sasuke despises. “Anyways, breakfast is ready.”
He lets out a “hn” in response before standing up and following his brother downstairs.
In the kitchen, he watches as his mother bustles between moving boxes and cabinets, trying to get everything unpacked in the large space.
The room is a huge contrast from the rest of the house. Granite counter tops, stainless steal appliances, and cream-colored cabinets line the actual kitchen area while a large, round table establishes a dining area. The biggest contrast is the large windows that take up much of the wall space, each one open and blowing the wispy drapes around.
Sasuke thinks he catches a glimpse of pink behind one of the sheer curtains, but when he blinks, it’s gone.
“Here ya go, honey,” Mikoto Uchiha, Sasuke’s mother, says as she hands him a large plate topped with eggs, bacon, and some fresh tomatoes.
He sits at the table across from his father, who is reading the newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee.
“Did you know that this place used to an orphanage?” Sasuke asks, prompting his brother to pause from drowning his pancakes in syrup, while his father peers over the edge of his paper.
“Really?” Mikoto asks, “That’s funny, the realtor didn’t say anything about that, did she tell you, Fugaku dear?”
“No,” Sasuke’s father replies, “where did you hear about that?”
“One of the neighbor girls told me,” Sasuke replies quickly, the lie rolling right off his tongue. But then again, who’s to say it isn’t actually the truth?
“Which neighbor is that?” Fugaku says, an eyebrow quirked in curiosity, at the same time Mikoto says, “You met a girl? What does she look like?”
“I don’t know,” Sasuke tells his father, while rolling his eyes at his mother’s questions.
“Hm,” Mikoto hums in contemplation as she searches for the perfect cabinet for the nice dinner plates. “I guess it adds to the charm of this place.”
Sasuke stares at the blinking cursor in the search bar of his computer screen. Where should he even start?
Multiple results pop up, none having to do with his new home.
Konoha Orphanage Murder
No results, but it was worth a shot.
“Try ‘Sound’s Home for Children and Young Adults.’”
Sasuke jumps at her voice and almost sends his laptop flying across the room. From his place at the old writing desk, he turns to find Sakura jumping up and down on his bed.
He wants to ask her what she thinks she’s doing, but at this point has realized that he might was well be talking to a wall. So instead, he types in what she said and hits the Search button.
The first result is of an article “The Tragedy of Sound: The Unexplained Mystery.”
Already feeling uneasy about this, Sasuke clicks on the link. A large, black and white image of the house pops up. For the most part, it looks exactly the same except for a sign out front with the name of the orphanage written on it.
Scanning the article, he feels all color drain from his face.
“The esteemed Doctor Orochimaru, known for his opening of Sound’s Home for Children and Young Adults, was found dead along with all ten child residents.”
Sakura reads from over his shoulder.
“All the articles will tell you the same thing, that his apprentice Kabuto is suspected because he was never found afterwards.” She pauses, straightening her nightdress. “But none of them know the truth.”
“What is the truth?” Sasuke asks as he watches a piece of her pink hair come untucked from behind her ear.
She smiles sadly, “I don’t think you’re ready for it.”
Then she turns to walk away, and for the first time, Sasuke sees her back.
A large gash replaces most of the back of her neck, marred flesh and torn muscle visible inside of it. The entire back of her nightgown is soaked with blood to the point that it drips down her legs all the way to her heels.
She pads out of the room, leaving her usual footprints and humming quietly.
It is a week later when Sasuke sees her again. He had spent all day researching the bloody past of the orphanage.
80 years ago.
10 children ages 12-17 and the famed Doctor Orochimaru.
The majority of the deaths were caused by blood-loss from ghastly wounds, but there were a few that were especially gruesome: electrocution, drowning, there was even a decapitation.
According to all of the articles, all the blame was pinned on Doctor Orochimaru’s apprentice and assistant, Kabuto, who was never seen again after the incident. While the children all suffered horrible deaths, the doctor himself was killed by poison, most likely slipped into his food.
Sasuke leans back on his desk chair, anxiously running his fingers through his messy hair. It is a lot to absorb, his house being a place where so many murders took place.
He’s about the call it a day, when a link at the bottom of the webpage catches his eye.
Hesitantly he clicks on it, not knowing what to expect.
The first picture is of the house, similar to the one he saw earlier, except in sepia with a group of people stand in front of it. They are standing pretty far away, so it’s difficult to make out faces. However, he can immediately point out the doctor and Kabuto. Doctor Orochimaru stands tall and proud, his hair long and dark, and an unsettling smile on his face. Kabuto wears a pair of spectacles and his arm rests over the shoulders of a girl.
Sasuke does a double take, though he can’t make out her facial features, her height and build resemble Sakura’s. The only real difference that he can pick out is that her hair is long, coming to rest to just above the waistband of the skirt she wears. She frowns as if unhappy with Kabuto’s touch.
Another arm is intertwined with hers, and Sasuke realizes that it belongs to the light-haired boy next to her. He could be the one that was making the knocking noise, Sasuke realizes, though it’s hard to tell without the gaping hole in his stomach.
Sasuke clicks on the arrow that takes him to the next picture.
It’s of Doctor Orochimaru, but he’s lying on floor of what appears to be his office.
Father’s office, Sasuke realizes, recognizing the shape of the room.
The doctor’s eyes are shut, but his mouth is still twisted into that creepy smirk, it gives him the creeps, so he clicks to the next picture.
His blood runs cold and his heart skips a beat. The picture is of a body, and Sasuke immediately knows that it belongs to Sakura. She’s face down, a large wound covering her neck and blood blooming over the familiar nightgown. Bloody hand and footprints surround her body, along with a black-handled axe that seems to be what caused the gash in her neck.
The caption under the picture reads, “Sakura Haruno, the oldest female resident at 17. Cause of death is multiple blows to the back of the neck with the axe seen next to her. She was found near the upstairs window, presumably trying to escape.”
“I knew the windows were barred.”
Sasuke turns to find Sakura in her usual place on his bed.
“They had been since Kabuto first brought me here, but in those last moments, I was foolish enough to hope that they would somehow come unbolted.”
“Sakura,” Sasuke says her name for the first time. “What really happened?”
She shakes her head back and forth. “I’ll show you sometime soon, but not now.”
He brings his laptop over to the bed and sits down next to Sakura, glancing at her neck wound quickly before clicking to the next picture. He doesn’t get a chance to look at it however, because then the knocking starts.
He glances at the clock and realizes how late it has gotten. Every night, consistently, the knocking starts at 2:30am.
He looks up to find the boy, in his usual hunched over spot next to the invisible wall.
“Why does he do that?” Sasuke asks Sakura, his eyes never leaving the blonde’s hunched over form.
“It was our code,” she replies with a sad smile on her face. “One knock means ‘Are you there?’ Two slow ones mean ‘Goodnight,’ and two slow plus two fast mean ‘All’s clear’.”
“What do two fast and one slow knock mean?” Sasuke asks.
“Danger,” she says beneath her breath. “It means that the Doctor is performing his experiments.”
Sasuke takes a moment to digest what she’s really saying. Experiments? What kind of messed up orphanage was this place?
“Why can’t he hear me like you do?”
“Because he’s trapped.” Sasuke watches a lone tear run down her cheek. “He doesn’t realize he’s dead, yet he knows he’s not alive.” Her voice breaks. “I know that I’m dead and have accepted that I’m stuck here.”
They watch silently as the boy continues knocking, his labored breathing the only other noise.
“I have to go,” Sakura says as she rises from her spot on the bed and heads towards the door. “You know enough now that it’ll only get worse. Stay out of the hallways at night.”
A couple minutes later, Sasuke watches as the boy falls to his back, his chest just barely moving. A piercing feminine scream cuts through the silence and Sasuke finds himself glued to his spot on the bed.
Then like all the times before, the boy gasps out “Sa-aku-ra,” before his head falls to the side.
Glancing down at the computer to screen, Sasuke finds an exact replica of the sight before him, except in the picture a solid wall with bloody knuckle prints sits next to the boy’s body.
“Naruto Uzumaki: Oldest male resident at 17. Cause of the gapping wound in his stomach is unknown, but investigators believe that Uzumaki dragged himself up the stairs only to die in his room. Investigators are puzzled as to why Uzumaki would do this when he was much closer to front door before his very tedious climb; they suspect that the trauma of the wound drove Uzumaki to insanity in his final moments.”
“Sasuke, you’ve been cooped up in your room for the past week,” Mikoto says one night at dinnertime. “Maybe you should go explore the neighborhood or something.”
“How much do you know about the history of this house?” Sasuke counters as he pushes the pasta around his plate absentmindedly.
“What is with all your questions?” she asks getting annoyed at her son’s strange behavior. “That’s the fifth time you’ve said something about it since we moved. Why won’t you eat your dinner? It’s your favorite.”
“Mikoto, stop pestering him,” Fugaku says quietly.
“Oh honey,” Mikoto says as if realizing something. “Is it because you’re missing Suna? You’ll make new friends once school starts, I’m sure of it. In the mean time, you should make the best of it. Konoha is a beautiful place with lots of kids your age.” She glances at the clock on the wall and exhales in annoyance. “Where is your brother?”
“That boy hasn’t been acting like himself for the past couple of days,” Fugaku says before taking a bite of pasta.
“I know,” Mikoto says sadly, “It’s not like him to act so moody and distant, maybe we should start having family movie nights again or something.”
Just then, the front door slams and the heavy footfalls are heard from the foyer.
“You’re family’s sweet.”
Sasuke glances up to see Sakura sitting on the kitchen counter.
“Don’t worry, they can’t see me.”
Sasuke gives her a questioning look as a silent way of asking why that is.
“I’m not sure exactly,” she replies, apparently understanding the message. “I think you might just be better attuned to the spirit world than them.”
Just then, Itachi enters the kitchen and glares at the table.
“Pasta again?” he mumbles before turning to leave.
“Itachi, wait!” Mikoto calls out, standing from her seat.
“We need to talk, son,” Fugaku adds as he sets his eating utensils down.
“You’ve been acting strangely,” Mikoto walks around the table towards Itachi. “Is something wrong? You can always tell us anything, we’re your family.”
She moves as if to hug him, but Itachi slaps her hand away. She stands back, shocked that her son would treat her that way; Itachi has always been a kind and caring child, he would have never dreamed of hurting her before.
“Itachi!” Fugaku yells. “How dare you treat your mother that way!”
Itachi stares at his hand for a moment before looking around the room at the stunned faces of his family before turning to leave once again.
“I-I’m sorry,” he stutters. “I’ve been feeling restless lately. I will retire to my room for the night.” Then he rushes out of the room, the creaking of the steps signaling his course upstairs.
“Itachi, I’m not done with you!” Fugaku calls after, before following him.
“Sasuke,” Mikoto says, before bringing a hand to her temple. “Will you do the washing up tonight? I’m suddenly not feeling well.”
Sasuke nods as she walks away, pretending to not see the tears running down her face.
He turns to find Sakura staring at the doorway, a curious expression on her face.
“Your brother’s never acted like this before?” she asks, eyes still vacant.
“Never,” Sasuke replies as he gathers the dishes from the table.
Her gaze turns to the vase of roses that his mother had cut from the bush in the garden. “I have a bad feeling.” With that said, she leaps off the counter and walks out of the kitchen.
“When does your school start?” Sakura asks one sunny afternoon as she lies across his bed.
Sasuke has gotten used to her sudden appearances and doesn’t jump at the sound of her voice anymore… very much at least.
“Not for two more months,” he responds as he puts the finishing touches on a certain drawing he’s been working on. “Why?”
“Will you tell me about your days?” she says while making a frame with her fingers and peers at Sasuke through it. “Like all the drama and gossip.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know,” she smiles as she rolls over onto her stomach, and Sasuke thinks that her perfect teeth and upturned, petal lips are such a pretty contrast from the gaping wound in her neck. “The family that was here before you had a daughter that would always be on the phone talking about ‘who’s dating who’ and ‘what so-and-so did at the party.’ She was in the room right next to yours.”
“What happened to that family? Did you talk to any of them?” Sasuke asks, instantly curious.
“They were gone within a month. They had a young son who found the false wall that led to the basement.”
“What basement?” There was no basement in the house, that he knew of at least.
“That’s where Kabuto and Orochimaru would run their little ‘experiments,’ nobody knew about it until that boy found it. I tried to keep him away, but he couldn’t see or hear me like you can and ended up stumbling across some nasty things.”
She sighs and her emerald eyes pin Sasuke where he is. “The realtor freaked and had somebody come and fill it in with cement. They didn’t try to sell the house until ten years later. You’re the first family since then.”
“What about families before them? Could anybody else see you?” He couldn’t be the only one, right?”
“There was only one other person, about thirty years ago. A fortune teller or something.” Sakura makes a motion with her finger indicating that she thought the lady was crazy, which is rich coming from a ghost. “She lived here peacefully for about a year before she tried to contact all of us spirits with some sort of thingamajig. I don’t know what she saw, but she hung herself that night.”
“Oh my god,” Sasuke says in shock. How many people died horribly in this f***ing house?
“Anyways,” Sakura begins, seemingly unfazed by the conversation, as she peers over his shoulder. “Whatcha drawin?”
“Uh,” a blush burns on Sasuke’s cheeks as he turns the sketchpad towards her. “You.”
The picture is a rough pencil sketch of her looking backwards towards him. She wears a pair of jeans and a sweater with sleeves that reach down to her palms. No gash tarnishes her slender neck and her hair hangs down to the small of her back.
She smiles as she looks at the picture. “I always thought I looked better with long hair.”
“Then why’d you cut it?” Sasuke asks. He had given her long hair on a whim, inspired by the picture of her standing in front of the orphanage.
“It wasn’t a choice.”
Another one of her sad smiles. Sasuke doesn’t know what possesses him, but he has the urge to kiss her, to touch her, to do something. So he reaches forward, and she pulls back.
“Soon,” she whispers, before jumping up and walking out the door.
“Is today your birthday?”
Sasuke turns around to find Sakura standing behind him in the bathroom. He never actually sees her appear or disappear, simply one second she would be somewhere and the next she would not, or vise versa. He’s not sure whether some glowing light engulfs her, or if she simply evaporates in the air, but he figures that he prefers it this way. It makes her seem more real.
He takes the toothbrush out of his mouth and spits in the sink.
“How come you don’t have a reflection?”
She jokingly pouts. “I asked you first.”
“Fine,” he sighs, “Yes, I turn eighteen today. How’d you know?”
“Wow, you’re an adult.” She giggles and Sasuke feels his stomach flutter. “I’m not a tangible thing, so there’s nothing for the mirror to reflect.” She takes her hand and sticks it through the sink, passing right through to the other side. “See? And to answer your second question, I was downstairs this morning and overheard your parents talking in their bedroom.”
“You spy in my parents bedroom? Pervert,” he mutters under his breath with a teasing grin.
“Not in their bedroom, just outside of it. I can’t go into anywhere I never went when I was alive, and I can’t leave the premises of where I died. That’s why I can go through the sink, but not the furniture in your room.”
“Really?” Sasuke asks, receiving a nod in return. He always figured that she ghosted around outside when she wasn’t with him.
“Anyways, I think your mother said something about a special breakfast for you, so I’d head downstairs.”
With that, she exits the bathroom.
In the entire month he’s been living in the “Haunted House,” Sasuke has been picking up on more and more of the “spirit world” as Sakura calls it. Instead of hearing the knocking and then seeing Naruto, the blonde boy appears first crawling through the bookcase, where his bedroom door used to be. A trail of blood always follows behind him from where his injured stomach drags on the rough floorboards.
If he walks down to the kitchen for a late night snack, the sink will be filled with water and the sound of somebody choking can be heard. If he goes to the bathroom, crying resounds off the walls. If he looks out the window, he’ll notice the porch lights flickering.
By far, the worse thing is the sound of Sakura’s scream being cut short at the same time every night.
One time he asked about why she screams and she shrugged him off once again, but when he asked about the disappearing bloodstains, she answered him simply.
“Just like the screams, flickering lights, and water, the blood doesn’t belong to your world. You’re just seeing and hearing echoes of what used to be here. Though the rest of your family isn’t, which is a bit odd.”
He has tried approaching his parents about the strange occurrences, but each time they send them away with a “Give the place a chance.”
However, he’s grown closer to Sakura. Though she’s dead, she makes pleasant company.
Today, he leans back against his headboard, doing nothing in particular on his laptop while Sakura is draped over the foot of the bed.
“Kabuto cut it,” Sakura says after a long period of silence.
“Wh-what?” Sasuke asks, taken off guard by her words. He shuts his laptop and sets it on the nightstand, looking at the strange, dead girl lying on his bed.
“My hair.” She runs her fingers through the short ends. “He always talked about how peculiar and interesting it was, and one night he called me to the lab and chopped it all off with a pair of scissors.”
Sasuke remains silent, taken aback by her sudden openness.
“It was two nights later when Doctor Orochimaru went on his rampage. He was the one that murdered everyone, even Kabuto; that bastard’s buried under the rose bushes outside. Naruto was one of the first; having been called to the basement, then it was little Moegi who had gone to get a glass of water. Everybody else was a sleep, completely unaware of what was happening until it was too late.”
“Sakura…” Sasuke trails off, not knowing what to say. An apology didn’t seem fitting and he is not quite sure how to deal with her when she acts so serious. “You don’t have to tell me this,” he ends up saying.
“No,” she sits up to stare him straight in the eyes. “I can show you.”
Then she leans forward and Sasuke thinks that she’s going to kiss him. But when her face gets close to his, she goes right through. Her whole “body” enters his, and his eyes forcibly shut.
“Relax, Sasuke,” her voice echoes in his mind.
Then he opens his eyes to the sound of knocking.
“Naruto?” the voice comes from his throat, raspy from sleep but distinctly belonging to Sakura. Feet swing over the side of the bed and land gracefully and soundlessly onto the wood floor below, pale, feminine feet with little scratches on them.
It is then that Sasuke realizes he’s a passenger in Sakura’s body.
Sakura looks up and in the small mirror hanging on the back of the door, Sasuke watches as her eyes widen. Then, the little, white nightgown she dons becomes all too familiar.
Sakura glances over to the wall, which was not there before Sasuke shut his eyes. A scream echoes out in the hall and Sakura moves to her door, opening it.
Glancing down the darkened corridor, Sasuke sees the house as she did in her last few moments. A thick blood trail leading down the hall, into Naruto’s room. She begins moving towards it, and Sasuke thinks she’ll peer in the room and see her dying friend, but she doesn’t get a chance.
A tall figure, masked in the shadows of the hallway emerges from the door across from Naruto’s. Water and blood drip down the front of his shirt, and the moonlight illuminates his pale hands wrapped around the black handle of an axe dragging behind him.
“Come here, little blossom,” a voice sings out as the man moves towards her.
Sakura gasps and falls backwards to the ground, scampering away from the man. He steps into the light, and Sasuke sees the gold eyes, the creepy smile.
It was two nights later when Doctor Orochimaru went on his rampage.
Sakura is able to scramble to her feet and instantly runs to the window. She pulls on the large iron bars frantically, hoping beyond hope that they’ll break free.
The footsteps behind her stop, and slowly, she turns her head to peer over her shoulder.
He raises the axe, and a familiar scream rips from her throat before it is cut short with the heavy blow. She falls to the ground, unable to move, barely able to feel. An enormous pressure hits her again, and then everything goes dark.
Sasuke’s eyelids fly open and he pants heavily, trying to gulp down all the oxygen in his vicinity.
Sakura leans over him, her green eyes seeming to search him for something.
“Now you know,” she whispers, “now you know what I and all the other ghosts in this place, have to relive every single night.”
Sasuke sits up and Sakura leans backwards to give him room. It’s then that he notices the tears running down her cheeks. He brings a hand up to wipe them away, but it goes right through her.
“Why now?” he asks while pulling his hand back in frustration. “Why show me all of this now?”
“I’ve been feeling odd lately,” she replies as her palms wipe away the moisture from beneath her eyes. “I feel like I’m fading, I don’t even know what day it is anymore.”
“Sakura?” Sasuke says hesitantly as he watches the petite girl close her eyes.
“I’ll be alright,” she whispers before curling up on the side of his bed, seemingly asleep.
When he wakes up, she’s gone and the morning light filters through the curtains. Groaning, he throws an arm over his eyes to block out the sun.
“Good morning, sleepy head!”
He moves his arm to find Sakura leaning over his bed, her eyes shining much more green than usual.
He groans again turns his head to the side, that’s when he notices it. In the mirror on the far wall, he can see her back. No blood stains the little nightgown, and smooth, flawless skin covers the back of her neck.
Sasuke sits up so quickly that his forehead bumps into Sakura’s, and the slight pain causes him to wince.
Sakura lets out an “ouch!” and Sasuke stares up at her.
“I touched you!” he says before slowly bringing a hand up to cup her cheek. Surprisingly, it comes into contact with the soft surface of her skin. His other hand touches her pink hair, like he has wanted to do since first seeing her, and thinks that the feeling resembles that of goose down.
Wispy… soft… real.
“Am I dreaming?” Sasuke asks as he pulls her down on top of him, feeling the warmth of her body over his.
She giggles and shakes her head.
“Are you alive?” he asks hesitantly, and her smile dims.
Another head shake.
“It must be today then,” she mumbles to herself.
Sasuke looks up at her curiously, not sure what to make of the situation.
“On the anniversary of our death, those of us who are aware of our situation get to materialize. I don’t know why exactly.”
She nibbles on her lip and Sasuke can’t help but pull her closer.
He knows it’s stupid and impossible, but he can’t help himself from leaning closer and touching his lips to hers.
She seems shocked at first, but responds, moving slowly against him.
Even though it is slow, hesitant, and over far too soon, it is easily the best kiss that Sasuke has ever had… also the weirdest. Maybe she’s dead and maybe it can never be, but Sasuke has fallen head over heals for Sakura Haruno, the dead girl haunting his house.
A pretty blush colors her cheeks, and Sasuke can’t help but smirk up at her.
“Wow,” she says quietly, “that was my first kiss.”
She lies down next to him on the bed and runs her hand over his face. She traces his messy hairline, running her fingers through the silky locks, her fingertips outlining his sharp cheekbones, softly following the bridge of his aristocratic nose. His arms wrap around her hips, securely her to him, and Sasuke thinks that he can get used to this feeling.
She tucks into him perfectly, her thin body molding against his, and they just lay there in silence, feeling each other.
“Why couldn’t we have been born in the same time period,” Sakura whispers as she tucks her face into his chest, memorizing Sasuke’s scent.
He doesn’t respond, thinking the same thing himself, instead he brushes his lips over her forehead and watches as her face turns the same color as her hair.
Embarrassed, she buries her face in his neck, trying to hide. Chuckling causes his chest to rumble, sending Sakura into her own fits of giggles. Sasuke just watches the joy in her eyes as he smoothes her hair, loving the feel of the strands.
Her smile falters slightly as she pushes her body up so that she is eyelevel with him. As if unsure, she slowly moves towards him, and kisses him. She begins to pull away, but Sasuke secures her in place and deepens the action. His tongue prods against her lips, and she opens her mouth as invitation.
Tasting her, touching her, loving her. It’s almost too much.
She hums happily against his lips, and Sasuke makes a mental agreement with himself that he will not be leaving her side today.
“Can I meet your family?” Sakura asks as she runs her foot up and down his. “You know, for real?”
“Hn,” Sasuke says, neither accepting nor rejecting her request. He settles for ghosting a kiss on her upturned nose.
“I’ll be a girl from the neighborhood who comes down to stay with her grandmother during the summers,” she nuzzles his cheek with her nose.
Then, rising from the sheets, he nods towards the door. Sakura looks at him as if confused, her hair mussed from his constant attention.
“If you’re going to come to dinner, then I’ll need to get you some clothes.” He heads towards the door. “Stay here.”
Quietly shutting the door behind him, Sasuke heads down the hallway intent on making his way downstairs to his parents’ room. However, a loud noise from his brother’s room causes him to stop.
“Tomorrow,” a voice hisses from behind the closed door, but the rest of the sentence is muffled, so Sasuke finds himself leaning his ear against the aged wood.
“-starting to notice,” the voice continues and Sasuke recognizes it as a man’s, definitely not Itachi’s. Still muffled, he can only catch bits and pieces. “…can’t escape… anger… do it.”
The door opens and Sasuke jumps back from it in shock.
“Sasuke?” his brother inquires, looking down at him. Lately, Itachi has had deep circles under his eyes, as if he hasn’t been getting much sleep. At first, Sasuke assumed that he had been hearing the deaths as well, but when he asked about it, Itachi responded with a look that made him feel crazy.
“Is there somebody in there with you?” Sasuke asks as he tries to look around the tall form of his brother.
“No,” Itachi replies curtly before shutting the door in Sasuke’s face.
When he reenters the room, Sakura is no longer on the bed.
“Sakura?” he calls, panicked that she turned back into a spirit. He jumps slightly when his wardrobe door opens and the girl peaks her head out. “What are you doing in there?” he asks as she steps out.
“Your brother came in, so I hid,” she says before launching herself in his arms.
Sasuke catches her, surprised at how light she is and sets her back on the bed.
“I cleared told my mom that you were coming to dinner and I grabbed you a pair of leggings and some boots.” He picks the items up from the floor, having dropped them when she leaped and shows them to her. “My mom’s pretty tall and I figured your dress would pass as normal clothes. You’ll probably have to roll the leggings up, but my mom has so many clothes and shoes that she shouldn’t notice the boots.”
She pulls the items on and examines herself in the mirror.
“How do I look?” she asks teasingly.
They sit around the dinner table, except Itachi who left shortly after sitting down, and the room is filled with Sakura and Mikoto’s chatter. The Uchiha woman had instantly took a liking to the dead girl, even hinting at Sasuke needing a girlfriend like her. Fugaku remained his passive self as always.
“So, you’re only here during the summers?” Mikoto asks.
“Yeah, I live in Ame, I just come down here to help out with my grandmother.”
“That’s too bad,” Mikoto replies. “It would have been nice if you and Sasuke went to the same school.”
“Yeah, it would be fun to go to school with each other.” Sakura sends a wink at Sasuke before excusing herself.
“She’s very charming,” Mikoto says after directing Sakura to the bathroom. “Though she doesn’t seem to like my cooking.”
“Yeah,” Sasuke says quietly.
“You know, long distance relationships don’t typically work out well unless you are both very committed to each other.”
Sasuke shoots his mother a withering glare.
“Don’t you look at me like that, Sasuke Uchiha.” She points her fork at him threateningly. “Never, have you ever brought a girl home, not even that one girl that you dated for almost a year.”
Sasuke shakes his head as his mother continues giving him unwanted – and frankly, unnecessary – relationship advice.
Being a ghost, Sakura doesn’t really have to use the restroom, but feels the need to wash her face.
Mikoto is such a beautiful woman and very motherly as well, accepting Sakura even though she knows so little about her, not even saying anything as she pushed the food that she can’t eat around the plate.
This was a mistake.
Sakura thinks as tears burn in her eyes. She should have never asked Sasuke for this, she should have stayed away from the family that she can never be a part of and remained the orphaned, dead girl that she is.
But she is selfish and couldn’t pass up the opportunity of feeling normal.
Turning off the water and drying off her face, Sakura stares at her reflection. Gaps in her memory have started forming.
Have her eyes always been green?
Has she always been this short?
How old was she when she died?
She doesn’t know what the lapses mean, but she figures that it cannot be anything good.
Make it worth it. She tells herself before exiting the bathroom, only to run into a strong chest.
“I’m sorry,” she says, quickly moving out of Itachi’s way, but his hand shoots out and grabs her arm before pinning her to the wall.
“What are you doing?” he spits out and Sakura could have sworn that she saw his eyes flash red.
“I was just washing my face,” she replies trying to remain calm.
“That’s not what I mean, little blossom.” The change in his eyes is distinctly visible now. They remain bright red and the tone of voice shifts to one that sounds all too familiar for Sakura. “What are you doing in this world?”
“Orochimaru,” she realizes as she watches Itachi’s tongue come out of his mouth and flick across his lips in a way all too familiar. “I won’t let you harm this family too.”
She tries to make her voice sound strong, but her yelp of pain as Itachi’s grip tightens around her wrist ruins the effect.
“Learn your place, girl,” Itachi snarls.
He blinks rapidly and his eyes fade back to the dark color that resembles his brother’s. He looks at his hand and in shock pushes away from Sakura.
“Please forgive me,” he states, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I have not been myself lately.”
Sakura watches him as he rushes away, her eyes swimming in sympathy.
It seems as if she is not the only one losing herself.
“My mother is quite taken with you,” Sasuke murmurs as he strokes her hair. After dinner, when his parents had retired elsewhere, he and Sakura had snuck upstairs and resumed their position on his bed.
He lays on his back, with Sakura curled up in his arms, half lying on him, drawing geometric symbols over his shirt with her finger.
“I’m fading, Sasuke,” she whispers.
His hands come down to cup her face, and turn it so that she looks in his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“I’m drifting away, I’m forgetting my past, who I am, what happened. It’s all leaving me.”
Her eyes close and she begins humming a sad, haunting tune. “Soon enough, I’ll be just like Naruto and the others.”
Sasuke allows that to sink in. He knows that their relationship is dysfunctional, but he never imagined something like this. Having to hear her die every night, calling out to her, but his voice never reaching. Her humming stops and he thinks she fell asleep, so he runs his fingers up her back, tracing all of her vertebrae and her soft skin.
“Sakura?” he begins, there is still a way that they can be together, forever. “Sakura?” he asks again, shaking her lightly.
Slowly her head rises up, and her eyes are filled with confusion. “Is that my name?” she asks.
“Yes,” Sasuke breathes out his reply, not believing this. “Yes, you’re Sakura.”
Her eyes widen and she jumps up. “Sasuke, you need to get out of this house!”
“Whoa, wait a minute,” he rests his hands on her shoulders.
“No, you need to get out, you need to move somewhere else,” she starts breathing quickly as if hyperventilating. “He’s coming back, he’s coming back.”
She begins looking around as if in a panic.
“Sakura, calm down.” Sasuke’s at a loss, he doesn’t know what she is talking about or why she is suddenly hysterical.
“I love you, Sasuke, and you need to leave.”
He pauses and stares at her, shocked, then he decides to voice the thought he had just a moment ago.
“What if I never leave?” he whispers.
“What do you mean?” she asks slowly, in a way that makes him think she already knows.
“I could d-“
“Stop, stop right there,” she says sternly, frowning at him. “You are not killing yourself. You are not going to be trapped in this house, reliving your death everyday for me. Don’t you dare ever suggest anything like that ever again!” She yells the last part, tears streaming down her face.
She leans her head on his chest, clutching her shirt in her hands. Her shoulders shake as she begins crying, and he instantly embraces her.
“You need to leave,” she whispers between sobs. “He’ll kill you too.” She slides to the floor, and Sasuke comes with her, until they are on their knees.
“I’ll speak with my family soon, okay?” he tells her, burying his nose in her hair and breathing the light scent that he discovered this morning.
She nods and he picks her up before setting her gently on the bed.
“It’s time,” she whispers softly, and her voice sounds distant.
“What do you mean?” Sasuke asks and Sakura holds up a hand in response. It does not appear translucent, but it is not quite solid. Testing it, he tries to interlock their fingers, only to go right through. “No,” he says quietly.
He stares at her and watches as the rest of her body begins to lose its solid outline.
He grasps her around the waist and begins kissing her. He puts everything he has into the kiss since he knows it will be the last.
Then, she is gone and he’s left alone in the expansive bedroom, crying out for her to come back, as her scream echoes in the distance.
She did not come back the next morning.
She did not come back the in the afternoon.
She did not come back at night.
Dark eyes fly open at the sound of Sakura’s voice. He glances around and finds her leaning over him, her hands resting on the bed.
“Sakura! You’re still here!” he exclaims reaching to touch her face, but his hand passes right through and he is left with the gut clenching reminder that she is dead.
“You need to run. You need to run now!” she shouts as she points to the open door. “Get out! He’s awakened, Itachi is possessed! You need to leave!”
He takes a moment to figure out what she is saying.
“Run!” she screams, “the window!”
Sasuke slowly tumbles out of his bed and enters the hallway. There, standing at the foot of the stairs is a dark silhouette, and Sasuke is hit with an awful sense of déjà vu.
This scene is too familiar.
Moon light streams through the window, a tall from shuffling towards him, with dark hair hanging down, an axe dragging along the ground, leaving a trail of blood in its wake.
It is almost exactly like the vision Sakura showed him or her own death.
He begins trying to open the window, only to realize that there is no way to do so. There are no hinges or handles. It’s just a solid pane of glass.
Itachi steps into the moonlight, and Sasuke notices that his eyes are glowing red, even more shocking, the handle of the axe is black. An evil smirk splits his face in half and blood splatters across his forehead and cheeks.
Is that the same one that killed Sakura?
He breaks out of his shocked state in an instant, forcing his mind not to linger on whose blood might be coating Itachi’s body.
“Come her, brother,” Itachi calls, but his voice is not his own.
“Itachi, why?” Sasuke asks, pounding against the window, begging it to break.
“We must join them,” he lets out an inhuman chuckle and continues down the hall.
Sasuke dashes back into his room and grabs his baseball bat. He barely acknowledges Naruto, who his executing his usual knocking routine.
Spinning around to enter the hallway once again, Sasuke finds his brother blocking the doorway. He instantly runs to the other door, only to find that it’s been locked from the outside.
Then, a hand grabs the ends of his hair and pulls him back.
“Your turn, Sasuke,” Itachi smiles as he raises the axe over his head.
This is it. Sasuke thinks, bracing himself for the blow, but it never comes.
Looking up, he notices Sakura standing in front of him.
“No!” she yells at Itachi, “You can’t have him too.” Then, she steps into the elder Uchiha’s body.
Itachi lets out a blood-curdling scream and grasps at his head.
His voice comes out, morphed as if multiple are using it to argue with each other.
Then, in a voice that clearly belongs to Sakura, he shouts.
“Run! Use the window! He sabotaged all the other exits!”
He glances at Itachi one last time before running to the window. Swinging the bat he shatters the glass, creating an opening big enough for him to slip through.
Before jumping to safety, however, he glances in his room and watches as Sakura is pushed out of Itachi’s body, her spirit glowing brightly.
She turns to him, a large smile on her face as her spirit begins to evaporate. First goes her fingers and toes, then her whole body becomes streams of light. “Thank you,” she whispers before disappearing.
Two years later, Sasuke opens his eyes, finding himself in a strange white room. He looks around him and almost has to shut his eyes again due to the hazy, bright light. It is then that he notices a familiar pink-haired girl hovering over him.
“Sasuke,” she chokes out. “Do you know what happened?”
He’s in a shock. He hasn’t seen Sakura since the night Itachi was possessed by Orochimaru.
After she had disappeared, he was able to jump out the window and get help from the neighbors. When the cops had arrived at the house, they found his parents dead and Itachi missing. Since then, he had been living on his own off of his inheritance. He is in college now, studying law.
People have passed through his life, their faces blurring together. Though he survived that night, he felt more dead than alive. His family was gone, the one girl he fell in love with was gone, all the light in the world… gone.
The last thing he remembers is driving to a lecture and then, nothing.
But with Sakura here, looking down at him, it is as if somebody has resuscitated him, breathed oxygen into his body and shocked his heart into beating once again.
“Am I…” he hesitates to say it. “Am I dead?”
Sakura smiles sadly, a tear running down her face. He reaches up and wipes it away, and at there touch, instantly knows the answer.
“Yes,” she whispers, covering his hand with her own. He notices her usual white nightgown is long gone, along with any traces of blood. Instead, she wears a wispy dress that seems to float around her, even from her seated position.
He rises from his spot on the ground, and Sakura comes up with him. She points in the distance, and all he can see is ever expanding white.
“Your family is that way,” she explains before slipping her hand in his and guiding him forwards. As she giggles and leads him towards a golden light in the distance, a new warmth spreads through him, calming him for the first time since the incident.