6 – A First Memory
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I walked around a large home with a haze around my mind. After taking a while to make my way down an empty hall, I looked at my hands. They were small and stubby. It wasn’t that I was in a large home; I had shrunk in size.

A door slid open, and a woman walked out with a clothes basket. She looked down at me, but I couldn’t make out her face.

“Kiko, mommy’s busy right now. We’ll play later, okay?” she said to me gently. I nodded to show I understood.

Kiko? Was that my name?

The woman left, and I began to wander the house some more. It was a beautiful-looking house. The flooring was covered with rather nice mats, and the wooden architecture had a striking appearance.

Was this my home?

I didn’t have much more time to ponder—sounds of horses galloping soon echoed in the distance. I made my way to the door with great effort. No matter how much I struggled, it felt like stones were tied to my tiny legs. However, I couldn’t stop; something didn’t feel right, and I didn’t understand why.

A loud neigh echoed through the house. Shouts and cries followed it. Echoes of running and destruction poured in. I fell right by the front door as the horrifying noise berated my ears. My small hands shakily covered them in an attempt to stop the sounds.

A moment later, everything became quiet. I looked up, and the door slid open. Two men were covered in plated armor. They held swords in their hands, and their faces were covered with fanged Oni masks.

One of the men grabbed me by my hair and lifted me off the ground. My head suddenly felt larger than normal and it seemed like I could look at it while looking at the men. He held his sword up, poised to strike when the other stopped him.

“Wait,” the man in a smiling Oni mask said. “She is fairly young,” he added.

“Your point?” the man who held me replied gruffly. His mask looked more twisted and sinister. Both men’s voices sounded distant and contained an echo that made it difficult to understand them.

“The mistress lost a daughter to disease lately, and here we have a suitable replacement,” the smiling Oni said.

“We were ordered to kill all; she is included in all,” the twisted Oni said curtly.

The smiling Oni rubbed his chin. The two of them had suddenly looked less human and more monster as the conversation went on.

“We should at least take her back and present her to the mistress. We’ll kill her on the spot if I'm wrong,” the smiling Oni said.

“She will seek vengeance for this,” the twisted Oni replied. He had not loosened his grip on my hair.

“Don’t worry about that; she’s young and won’t remember this in a couple of years!” the smiling Oni replied chipperly.

The twisted Oni let go of my hair, and I fell to the ground. I rubbed my scalp which seemed to return shrink back to a normal size. He put his sword back in its sheath and shook his head.

“I won’t be responsible for what happens,” he said as he walked out.

The smiling Oni gently picked me up off the floor and began to carry me outside. I wish he had had the courtesy to blindfold me.

I was surrounded by buildings that had been set ablaze. Smoke poured into the sky. People lay on the ground in scarlet puddles that made it appear as if heavy rain had come through. The world had turned red, and the sky had turned black. I shuddered at the cruel sight and hid my face in the smiling Oni’s armor. He patted my head gently.

I looked back out once again. This time I spied a familiar person. She lay on the ground with the rest; the basket of clothes tossed out on the ground hid her face from my view.

Was she my mother? Is there no way I can ever know?

I was seated on a horse while looking at the woman on the ground. The smiling Oni noticed my stares and gently turned my head away. He offered me a drink of something, possibly some kind of elixir. It had a burning sensation that matched the state of the town. Then everything went dark.

I sat straight up from a lying position. My breathing was heavy, and my body was covered in a freezing sweat. I panted for a moment as I looked around the dark room. Everything was fuzzy for a moment as I wondered where I was.

Once my breathing steadied, I remembered. I was in a house in the world between worlds. Casey had shown me a bed, and I turned in for the night.

I clenched my fists tightly and stared down at my hands. How much of that was a dream, and how much was memory? Who was I?

The thoughts echoed in my mind. I couldn’t settle any of them.

After a shake of my head, I laid back down on my bed. I shut my eyes tightly while trying to ignore the thoughts. They didn’t go away, and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I was afraid to go back to sleep.

I ended up staying frozen in my miserable state until the morning came.

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