Waking Up in Wonderland


Halo Eight: Mirai-Sensei:

December 12th, 2005.

The therapist looked over her notes in the office. For months, she had tried to get Noriko to open up to her during their sessions every week. In the beginning, getting the girl to talk was like pulling a brochure out of the mouth of a hungry goat. Her guardian came to Mirai-sensei for help after the girl's therapist vanished. Because of that, Noriko refused to speak at her about what was wrong with her.

"Noriko-chan," the twenty-nine-year-old therapist said at the end of August. "I want to help you, but I can't if you won't tell me what's wrong. Now, talk to me." Noriko still refused. Still, Mirai-sensei wouldn't give up.

"Why wouldn't you talk to me?" she asked in December that year. The girl looked up at her with worn eyes.

"Can't…" she mumbled.

"Why not?" Mirai-sensei pressed. The eleven-year-old looked her deep into the eye.

"Do you know what happened to Koda-sensei?" she asked. Her current therapist gave her a puzzled look.

"No?" she asked. "What happened to her?" Noriko's whole demeanor changed. Her sweet brown eyes went blank. Her tone of voice dropped into one of a possessed child.

"She has disappeared," Noriko hissed. Mirai-sensei paused with her pink pen on her notes.

"Disappeared?" she asked. "Why?"

"She heard something that she was not supposed to," the child's voice dipped as she spoke.

"What did she hear? Did it have something to do with your nightmares?" Mirai-sensei asked, intently. Noriko fought to return to stop herself from saying anymore. She tightly shut her eyes.

"Please forgive her!" she pleaded. "She doesn't know what's she's prying into!" Mirai-sensei nearly rose out of her chair by this point.

"What is it, Noriko-chan?" she asked. "Tell me why you are like this! Tell me!" The girl fell back into her trance and parted her lips to the truth.

Noriko went home hours ago, but Mirai-sensei can't shake the child's words from her mind as she looks over page after page of notes from this afternoon's session. This was nothing like the girl that she had tried to talk to since August. Noriko in August was more timid, withdrawn, almost to the point of being soft-spoken. This Noriko seemed so cold, so distant, almost not human to say in the least bit.

The more Mirai-sensei read, more the paranoid pressure began to crack in her mind. The words about her client's nightmares replayed themselves in moving pictures in her head. The woman shut her eyes to make them stop, but the images grew even more vivid, as if she was living in the action herself.

"Fukiishi-sensei!" she heard someone yell back in reality. The woman whirled around with such a yelp. The head therapist of the building stood in the doorway, staring at her. He gave her a long, concerned look.

"You're still here?" he asked. "I thought you've gone home by now." His employee gave him a long blank stare.

"Huh?" she asked. Mirai-sensei looked down at her watch. Six minutes to ten already. The therapist looked around.

"Oh…" she mumbled. She looked down at her notes. Her boss gently put his hand on her shoulder. Mirai jerked her head upwards. The man shook his head at her.

"You're just really tired," he said. "Go home." His employee didn't speak for a long moment. The woman finally nodded.

"Yeah," she said. Mirai-sensei began to pack up her things around her desk.

"No, no," her boss said. "Just leave your notes. I'll get them myself." His employee nodded again.

"Okay," she said. The therapist moved away and walked out the door.

"Have a good night," she heard behind her.

"See you tomorrow!" she called back. The woman made it all the way to her car when her cell phone rang. Hm?, she thought. Who's that? Mirai-sensei reached into her purse and drew out her phone.

"Hello?" she asked.

"Come quickly," a childlike familiar-sounding voice whimpered on the other line. "I'm scared. So cold… So cold… Please come get me. Hurry." The therapist looked oddly at her phone.

"Noriko-chan?" she asked. "Is that you, where are you?"

"Akuma ga watashi o shutoku sa sete wa ikenai!" the voice cried. Then, the other line went dead.

"Noriko?" she asked. "Hello? Hello?" Mirai-sensei lowered her phone. She shook her head to herself. It's just a stupid prank call, she thought. It has to be. The woman got into her car and headed for her apartment.

However, she ended up driving the opposite direction, away from town. Her mind didn't focus on the actions that she took after she received that phone call. She didn't even remember turning the car in the opposite direction, driving for close two hours in the empty streets, pulling up to the parking lot of the abandoned apartment complex, and walking into the lobby. Mirai-sensei's senses only returned when she heard the elevators doors slide closed behind her down the hall. The poor therapist looked around.

"What the heck…" she mumbled to herself. "This isn't my apartment." An icy prickle crept down her back. She turned to walk back to the elevator. The woman held her sweater to her as she kept walking. The words over the phone and the feeling of someone watching her refused to die down.

Why would Noriko-chan even be calling me like that?, she thought. Mirai-sensei never accepted calls from clients after she got off of work. That was just one of her general rules. She even explained that to Noriko and her guardian on the first day that they met. The therapist shook her head to herself.

It had to be a prank call, she thought. It had to be! Too bad she couldn't really convince herself of that.

Suddenly, Mirai-sensei froze when she heard a loud crunching-sound. She whipped around just as fast.

"Hello?" she asked. A low death rattle noise drew her attention to the side hallway. Mirai-sensei didn't even get time to scream out as a blackened hand reached out to grab her.

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