Kiko hurried home...she should have phoned, but her phone was dead. Her father would be worried, even though she was only at Mari's house.
'Hello, honey, can I ask you a question?'
Kiko stumbled to a stop and looked up at the woman who had just stepped into the path. She was a pretty woman, in a very expensive suit. Kiko stepped back, slightly, when she noticed the woman's surgical mask, as she didn't want to catch what she had. She shook her head started to step around the woman. 'Sorry, Miss, but I'm in a hurry.'
'Please, I will only keep you a moment.' The woman's voice was soft, and pleasant and she kept pace with Kiko.
'Oh, alright...' Kiko stopped and looked at the woman. 'What's your question?'
'Do you think I'm pretty, honey?'
Kiko blinked at the woman. 'Sure, I guess so...'
The woman seemed to smile behind her mask. 'Just one more question, honey...' She reached up and pulled her mask off. As the mask fell away, it revealed a raw, still bleeding, wound....she'd been cut from the corners of her mouth, all the way back to her ears. 'Do you still think I'm pretty?'
Kiko clamped her hand over her mouth, but not quickly enough to hide her horrified scream.
The woman sighed, and frowned, the skin below the cut pulling away from the top, ever so slightly, and reached into her pocket. 'Oh, honey, I was afraid you'd say that.' She stepped toward Kiko, as she pulled something out of her pocket.
Kiko didn't even try to hide her scream when she saw it was a box cutter, caked in blood.
'The serial killer the police have dubbed the Kuchisake-Onna, has claimed another victim. Identified as 8-year old Kiko Sando, her body was found--'
Emiko frowned and turned off the TV. 'Ugh, that's creepy. I can't imagine it...the poor kid.'
'Eh, don't think about it.' Yukiko leaned over and rested her chin on Emiko's shoulder. 'You going to Honda's party tonight?'
'I guess so.' Emiko shrugged. 'Walk there with me?'
'Can't. Have to help Honda get his place clean. God, he's such a slob.' Yukiko looked over at the clock and jumped up. 'See you there!' She hurried out the door, pausing only briefly to grab her coat.
'Yeah, see you...' Emiko sighed and headed toward the bath. 'If I don't meet the Kuchisake-Onna...'
But, by the time she was on her way to the party, she had completely forgotten about the story.
'Miss, can I ask you a question?'
Emiko started at the voice, and turned, to see a well-dressed woman with a surgical mask, at the side of the path. She shrugged, distracted. 'If it's quick, I'm in a bit of a hurry.'
'Do you think I'm pretty, Miss?'
Emiko froze. Wasn't that what the Kuchisake-Onna was supposed to say in the stories?
'Miss?' The woman simply looked at Emiko, her voice remaining calm and pleasant.
'Uhm. Yes.' Emiko didn't know what else to say... She waited for the inevitable, and struggled to calm herself.
The woman pulled off her mask, and smiled slightly, the wounds opening as her mouth moved. 'And now? Do you still think I'm pretty?'
Emiko took a deep breath and tried to remember what the correct answer was. God, all the stories are different...if she chose the wrong one.... 'Yes. Yes, you are.'
The woman tilted her head. 'You do?'
'Yes.' Emiko straightened. 'Yes. I think you're pretty.'
The woman smiled, and leaned in, taking Emiko's hand, and kissing her on the cheek. 'Thank you.' She turned and stepped away, fading into the darkness, leaving Emiko standing alone, her heart pounding.
'Oh, God, oh God, I can't believe it, I survived...' She reached up and touched her cheek, where the woman had kissed her, then frowned. It was slick. Pulling her hand away, her fingers had been partially coated in blood. 'Oh, ick.'
'Hold it right there!'
Emiko turned toward the voice... Policemen. Three of them. Weapons drawn, and pointed at her.
'What's going on, offi--'
'Drop the weapon!' The same officer who had addressed her before cut her off.
'Drop it, now!'
Emiko suddenly noticed a cool weight in her hand, and looked down. A box cutter, caked in blood.
'Final chance!' The cop raised his gun higher.
'This is a mistake!' Emiko dropped the box cutter, and raised her hands. 'I didn't do it...there was a woman, she...' She trailed off as the police approached her. She sighed and let them arrest her. She'd have to argue her case, later.
Emiko sat in her cell, and sighed. 'I really didn't do it, you know.'
The guard didn't respond to her, but he nodded to the guard who came to replace him.
'Hello.' The replacement guard leaned on the door.
The guard looked over his shoulder as the other guard left, then opened the door to the cell.
'Ah, you're letting me out?'
'No.' The guard opened the cell, then stepped inside, closing the door behind him.
'I don't understand.' Emiko frowned, and edged away from the guard.
'Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ken Sando.'
'Sando? Oh...the little girl. OH!' Emiko looked up, her eyes wide. 'I didn't do it! Believe me! I'm very sorry about what happened, but it wasn't me!'
Sando shook his head and pinned Emiko against the wall, his arm across her neck. 'And if I don't believe you?' He reached into his pocket.
'I don't know, but it's true. I didn't do it!' Tears streamed down Emiko's face, as she tried to look at Sando's other hand.
'No, I don't think I believe you.' Sando held his hand up in front of Emiko's eyes. She trembled and wept as she saw her reflection in the flat of the razor blade.
'It wasn't me! I didn't do it! It wasn't meee--' Her protests were cut off by a scream as the blade cut into her cheek, and the flesh tore.
It was a mercy when her world went black.
As Emiko slowly regained consciousness, she looked around, trying to process where she was. It looked like a hospital room. Her hands were bound to her bed by leather restraints.
'Yeah, I didn't notice until it was too late.' She heard Sando's voice through the door. 'She must have smuggled the blade in under her tongue, or something. I don't know if she was trying to kill herself, or what.'
Emiko tensed, weeping, then blinked as one of the restraints slipped open, freeing her hand. She unfastened the other, and sat up. She brought her hand to her face...she was stitched up, but he'd sliced her mouth open on both sides, all the way back to the ears. 'I can't believe he did that. It wasn't me! I just met her... And I was so pretty....' She trailed off. Why had she gone there? Her looks were unimportant, in the scheme of things. But it was true. She had been pretty. Very pretty....
She climbed out of the bed, and wandered over to the window barred, of course, looking out. It was dark out, and her face was reflected in the window. She wept, and turned back to the room.
The guards came into the room, and stopped.
'Where is she?'
The guards searched the room, but it was empty. There was no sign of how she got out, but no sign of her, either.
Emiko wandered through the park, unsure how she got there.
Her hand, in her pocket, turned a scalpel. She was unsure how she'd gotten that, too. Or the surgical mask she was wearing.
She turned down a path, as she heard the giggling of some young people.
'I'll see you, tomorrow, Yurika!'
One of the young women Yurika, Emiko assumed, turned a corner and came to an unsteady stop in front of Emiko. 'Oh, hi. Sorry, I didn't see you there.' Yurika giggled.
'It's OK, miss.' Emiko smiled behind her mask. 'Can I ask you something?'
'Yeah, sure.' Yurika swayed slightly, where she stood, and smiled at Emiko.
'Do you think I'm pretty?'
The young woman blinked and giggled. 'Sure, you look pretty...'
Emiko smiled more broadly, and reached for her mask.
The Kuchisake-onna is a favourite story of mine, so, for halloween, I wrote a story about her.