She lies curled in a metal frame bed, in a room filled with rows of beds like the ones she lies in. They stand around her, empty, untouched.
The other children will not go near her.
The grown-ups will not admit that they fear her too. They used to try to talk to her, meaningless babble, petty lies. But she only looked past them with empty eyes that made their blood run cold for reasons they couldn't understand.
Now, they murmur about 'lost causes' to each other and leave her alone.
But even in this empty room, she hears them.
Whispers, screams, shouts, laughter, tears, someone's fallen down in the playground outside, shrieking even though it doesn't hurt much; they just want to be heard, and she knows all this even though she doesn't want to. She only wants them silent, wants them gone, wants them dead.
It's such a simple wish; too simple for the world to comprehend.
So she lies on the thin sheets, in a room so empty it echoes around her, staring at the doll in her hands. She can't even remember who gave it to her anymore; maybe her mother or father before they left her, ran from her and their fear and inability to love her, love each other.
It stares back at her with its white porcelain face; black eyes, red lips, old fashioned robes. People tell her it's pretty; she doesn't know, doesn't care. She only knows that it is silent. So she stares at it. The doll has no heart, no love, no hate, does not sing and cry, does not dream. It is the only thing she has ever come close to loving.
Someone slams a phone down, and she feels their bitter petty viciousness pour through her veins, howcouldhedothistoME i'llpaythemBACKiswear - her fingers clench around the doll.
She is so intent on its blank painted face, she does not hear the boy come.
"Are you dead?"
Startled, she sit up, finds herself staring at a boy with long hair and thoughtful dark eyes. He stares back but she discerns nothing in his gaze.
"Not dead after all... The spirits were not lying when they told me there was a girl who could hear them." He murmurs, then seats himself on the bed behind him to continue his study of her.
"Go. Away." Stop staring at me, she wants to add, but realises -
She cannot hear him.
Her doll falls, forgotten, from her hands. He meets her gaze and smiles.
"What is your name?" He asks, leaning forward, curious. When she does not answer, he steps towards her. She does not flinch, only glares.
He reaches to touch her cheek. Her hand rises to strike; his hand moves to catch it instead, and his smile grows.
"Go away." She tells him through clenched teeth, and twists her wrist from his grasp. She does not care who he is after all; he is only one of them, just another person. What difference does it make that she cannot read his heart? In the end, he -
"You hate them too, don't you?" He says quietly. "I don't have to read your heart to know that."
She stares back, silent.
"You want them all to die."
Something in her eyes flickers then; acknowledgement, kinship, hate, it doesn't matter what, because this is something they understand.
"So do I. I want to cleanse the world of humans, before they destroy it, destroy people like us." He steps towards her, but does not try to touch her again, only smiles. " I'm Asakura Hao. You have power I need to be Shaman King and do that. Together, we could build this world anew. Will you come with me?"
He is no different from them, she thinks, no different at all, for all he says, but he understands her hate, he would cleanse the world of the people she bears such all-encompassing hate for.
And she cannot read his heart. The room is silent around her, even as she stares back at him, stares into the tiny flame that burns in his eyes.
He understands this silence too.
The room was empty. The woman stood, bewildered, as she stared at the rows of neat, untouched beds - except for one, with crumpled sheets and a tiny doll lying discarded by the pillow.
"I... I'm sorry," she said, turning hastily to the old woman beside her, trying to hide her confusion. "She's always here - we try to make her go out, play with the other children, but she refused to, and there was all that trouble when we made her... so we left her for... for the time being, maybe one of the teachers managed to persuade her to go out today... I'll go check, Mrs Asakura..."
The old woman ignored her flustered excuses, simply stalked past her into the room itself until she stood by the messy bed.
As if she could still hear the hiss of a flame, see a young boy's terrible smile, lingering in the cold, empty air before her, she frowned.
The rumours about Kyouyama Anna must have been true after all.
And she'd only been minutes too late.