InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Ghost of Christmas Present ❯ Small Medium ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Blanket Disclaimer:

Inuyasha, and the characters therein, are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. I am in no way affiliated with Takahashi, or VIZ Productions.


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Chapter two: Small Medium




The first time I'd ever done what I guess could be called a cleansing I hadn't really known what the hell I was doing, but just following my heart, with Inuyasha by my side, I'd taken my best stab at it. One night over the summer, I'd spent a night on the Queen Mary. That had been an experience and a half, let me tell you. With apparitions so strong that regular people without my gift could see them on occasion, it was only natural that I easily saw and heard them the entire time I was there. The children playing in the storage room weren't in turmoil I'd found out, and were honestly having fun playing at being ghosts, spooking the living. They'd made me laugh. I'd found out from the stately gentleman in first class that the only trapped souls not there by choice, because most of the ghosts there loved the ship and simply chose to remain there, were the two women who'd both drowned in the pool and a sailor who'd died in the engine room. After having some one-on-one talks with each them – I had not participated in one of the haunted 'tours' because I'd wanted the privacy – I had been able to get all three of them to a place of peace and acceptance. The women had even said, as they'd faded away with smiles on their faces, that they might be back again, seeing as the tourists might be disappointed by their absence. That had made me laugh as well.

Sango, Eri, Yuka and Ayumi had all asked me rather eagerly how it'd gone after the fact, and I'd delighted in telling them. Eri had then asked me if it'd be okay if she posted online, while keeping my identity anonymous, that she knew someone who could see and help ghosts, just in case any of her online friends knew anybody who knew somebody who had a friend who knew someone... You get the idea. She was trying to nonchalantly find me 'clients', without officially advertizing, because I'd explicitly stated I was still learning and experimenting and did not want to advertize myself. I did want to help the ghosts, however, and so as long as she promised not to say who I was online, and use herself as the contact instead, I'd given her my permission. It wasn't so much that I was worried about my reputation, worried about my future career. I did still want to become a therapist, and yes it was true that if word got out that I was also a medium it could potentially harm my reputation as a therapist, but I wasn't ashamed of my gift and I didn't want to pretend I didn't have it. I didn't want to pretend to be normal. If it came out later and bit me in the ass, so be it, but at that point in time I just hadn't wanted to be bombarded with a bunch of people reaching out to me when I still kind of felt like I didn't really know what I was doing. I needed to finish college before I took things too far because even if I never went to graduate school for my doctorate degree I was sure my psychology professor for senior year would have some cool insights I could learn from and use in the trade. I was like a medium intern at that point in time, was how I'd thought of it, and considering it an internship I was also doing it for free, despite Eri's protests that I should charge money. I'd told her I would if I decided to make it my official career, because after all, a girl's gotta eat and pay the bills, but in the meantime, while it was just one here and one there, I was considering it practice.

So-called 'clients' were few and far between, but they had popped up on occasion, and I'd always been eager to help. Only once so far had there turned out not to be a ghost involved, as I'd debunked some of the normal happenstances that'd been mistaken by the homeowners as ghostly activity. Despite not having any of the fancy toys they use on shows like Ghost Hunters, I still watch those types of programs and know how to debunk. The other times, it'd always turned out to be a legitimate haunting, and – miraculously – I'd so far always been able to help the troubled spirit find peace.

It was two weeks after the accident, and Eri and I had been sitting quietly together in our dorm room studying, when she'd suddenly given me 'the look'.

“Kagome...”

Hesitating to tell me, she'd bitten her lower lip, glancing away. I could see it in her eyes and knew what this was about, but she'd been nervous to bother me with it because of the situation with Kohaku. What could I say? I couldn't put my life on hold because my cousin was in a coma, and I especially couldn't leave tormented ghosts, and the families of said ghosts, to suffer just because I wasn't feeling up to it at the moment.

Sighing, I'd said, “Out with it Eri, who are they and how bad is it?”

Sighing herself, in relief, she'd launched into recapping the e-mail she had received that morning, from a married couple haunted by the ghost of their deceased daughter. The girl had died in a car accident... No wonder Eri had been afraid to tell me about them at first. It'd happened a little over a year ago, and at first when they'd started to see a few little oddities here and there, or heard the occasional noise, they'd chalked it up to either the house settling or simply their minds playing tricks on them. The activity had spiked like crazy when the woman had, at first happily, discovered she was pregnant again. Now, they feared for the safety of their unborn child, fearing the jealous wrath of their deceased daughter, who has since made her presence quite clear. They'd already tried talking to her themselves, telling her how much they loved her, but that she needed to move on. They'd told her how they would always miss her, and that they weren't replacing her with the new baby and that she would always be in their hearts, even promising their second child would grow up knowing of her, that they would keep her photographs out, not erasing her from their lives. So far their attempts to appease her had failed. She was a small child, and, apparently, she was throwing a temper tantrum.

I'd had my work cut out for me.

That Saturday I drove over to their house, with my trusty ghost sidekick by my side, of course. I'd spoken with the mother over the phone the evening before and had arranged the whole thing, including insisting I wouldn't take any payment from them because I was just a college girl with a gift trying to help a friend of a friend. I could see Eri's point of view, especially since at some point I would need to get some kind of a job to start paying back my student loans, but at that time I just hadn't wanted to risk them thinking I was trying to scam them or in any way take advantage of their pain. The way I saw it, doing it for free eliminated that suspicion.

The woman greeted me at the door, thanking me for coming over, thanking me for being willing to help them, and as I'd started to reply that it was my pleasure and that I sincerely hoped I could help them I was stopped short by the sight of a frowning little girl standing in the living room, giving me the cutest child equivalent to the evil eye I'd ever seen. I couldn't help meeting her gaze head on, which immediately had the child's expression morphing from dissatisfied to downright shocked.

“Was your daughter wearing a pink top with butterflies on it and light blue jeans?” I'd asked the mother then, still looking at the seven-year-old only I could see.

The woman had gasped, nearly falling to her knees before her husband had appeared out of nowhere to grasp her arms from behind in a supportive embrace. There were plenty of photographs of the girl with her parents in frames around the living room, but none of her in that particular outfit that I could see from my vantage point. With the parents immediately knowing I was the real deal they'd asked me then what I wanted them to do. I told them, much to their obvious surprise, that I didn't do the whole dog and pony show of holding a séance. No candles, no sitting around in a circle holding hands, and I didn't 'channel' Inuyasha, either, who was standing right next to me clear as day to both myself and the little girl who had since shifted her attention to my gentleman companion.

“You're like me...” the girl had said in awe, pointing first at Inuyasha and then at herself.

“Yup.” he'd answered.

“And she can see us?” she'd asked him then, pointing at me.

Inuyasha glanced sideways at me and I decided to take the reins.

“I can also hear you.” I answered her, leaning down a little to be more eye level with her, and she blinked at me in surprise again.

The parents watched, mesmerized, without interrupting, as I'd proceeded to ask the little girl, Emily, what was the matter. Like a good therapist I listened, letting my patient do most of the talking, except for inserting the occasional “And how does that make you feel?”

Turns out, she hadn't been jealous of her pending younger sibling, after all. She had only been trying to get her parents' attention, but like most 'normal' people they could rarely see or hear ghosts unless the ghost was the one who put forth an abundance of effort. She'd been able to do a few things to get their attention from time to time, but frustratingly, they had brushed off such happenstances. A picture frame falling off the wall? Must have been a small earthquake. The sound of her voice? Well that was just their imaginations, their grief, playing tricks on them. Even telling them both that she was still there in their dreams hadn't done the trick, either, because they'd still convinced themselves it had only been a dream.

All that had changed with the new baby, and indeed Emily had, at first, been afraid that they would forget about her. She had really put forth the effort to get their attention, then, but then they'd gone and assumed she was throwing a fit about the baby, when all she'd wanted to do was let them know her spirit was still with them, since they were always talking like she was gone. She didn't mind having a younger brother or sister, she just didn't want to be ignored. Then to her horror, once they'd realized she was there they had started asking her to leave, to 'move on' to wherever it was she was supposed to move on to, when she wanted to stay at home. Why were they trying to send her away? It was like they didn't love her anymore. Didn't want her anymore.

Poor Emily. The whole thing had been one big misunderstanding. When they'd asked her not to hurt the baby she had screamed, just trying to speak loudly enough for them to hear her, that of course she wouldn't hurt her new brother or sister, but all she had managed to achieve was draining the lights, or sometimes popping a lightbulb in her frustration, and her parents had automatically taken those reactions to mean she was angry. The only thing that was making her angry was them assuming she was angry!

Immediately, I had explained to the parents everything from her perspective, and how she hadn't actually gotten upset or jealous until she'd feared that they were the ones who didn't want her anymore, who didn't love her anymore. The mother had fallen to her knees that time, weeping, begging Emily to forgive her, promising over and over again that she loved her and that no, they didn't want to send her away because they didn't want her anymore. The father chimed in then, explaining to his little girl that they wanted only what was best for her, that she shouldn't feel obligated to stick around them if it would only make her sad to watch them continue living on while she didn't, while she couldn't really participate in life and their activities. They wanted what was best for her and if moving on was it, so that she could either go to Heaven or be reincarnated or whatever was destined to happen to her soul, then so be it. They only wanted her to be happy; they didn't want her to feel trapped or miserable.

Emily had cried herself, then, and damn it all, relaying to her parents what she was saying had made me cry in turn. While the three of us living humans hugged it out Inuyasha took advantage of the moment to pull Emily aside and teach her a few ghost tricks of the trade, giving her advice on how to best go about tapping energy when she needed it, or how to best get a living person's attention. He'd sacrificed himself for her sake, then, not that it was really that much of a sacrifice. He'd simply told Emily how to drain him of his own energy, just like Kikyou had always used to do vindictively just to make him shut up and go away. I'd watched, fascinated, as Emily's apparition had almost seemed to absorb his, until Inuyasha's form had faded away. He'd turned to meet my gaze before disappearing completely, a reassuring smile on his lips as he'd winked at me, before then turning into a kind of smoke that had drifted off as he lost all substance, even the smoke dissipating until there was nothing left. I wasn't worried. I knew what had happened, and I knew his consciousness was still around, somewhere...everywhere. Just like what had currently been happening with Kohaku, this was only temporary, the only difference being that Inuyasha had no living body to go back to when his consciousness regathered itself. But in that moment I knew his charity had been successful as I heard Emily's mother gasp, and she and her husband quickly pulled away from me to stare, in shock, as they too now saw the apparition of their daughter standing before them.

“I love you both...so much...” Emily said, and I knew they had both heard her when I saw their reactions to it.

She must have faded away to them then, because her mother had desperately cried out “Wait!” but had then buried her face in her husband's shoulder.

“She isn't gone.” I immediately assured them, as I could still see her, even though she was now partly transparent even to my gaze. That had taken a lot of energy for her to pull off.

Her parents told her again that they loved her too, then, and that they were so very sorry this had happened, that she had died. She'd assured them in turn, through me, that she didn't blame them and wasn't angry about her death. She just didn't want to be forgotten. She didn't want to be born again, to have new, different parents. They were her family and she would wait for them, so that one day, they could all be together again.

“Thank you... Emily had said to me, then, her voice sounding far away now, her energy for the moment nearly spent.

She told me she could see it now, the connection. She was now like Inuyasha, like Kikyou had become, a ghost 'at peace' who could come and go as she pleased. She would go, but she would always be back to check in on her family. She would be around, watching, but she wouldn't disturb them. If they wanted to get in contact with her they could reach her, she would be listening. If they wanted to speak to her, she would hear them. She also said she wanted to meet her younger brother or sister once he or she was born. Relaying that last part, the parents had nodded their deeper understanding. Young children were sometimes more sensitive to such things. If and when their second child began speaking of playing with their seemingly invisible older sister, they would know it was true. I'd smiled at that, grateful these parents were so wise. This child, at least, would never be told it was only their imagination, or that they were lying. I was also relieved they were okay with my diagnosis, as it were, since I'd more or less informed them that their daughter, while 'at peace' now, would still be haunting them off and on. They hadn't wanted me to get her out of the house in so many words, they'd only wanted me to help her move on, and she had moved on...and was merely choosing to pop back in on them from time to time in between watching over them from above. To know that she was going to wait for them and watch over them, they were actually pleased with this news.

The mother had pulled me into another hug on my way out the door, and had then proceeded to shove a check in my hand. I'd tried, politely, to refuse, but she'd waved me off.

“Nonsense,” she'd said, “you deserve it. You've earned it.”

Fifty bucks? I'd been there less than an hour. Score!

Making sure the woman had my cell number, I'd assured her she could contact me again at any time, if something seemed off and she wanted me to speak with Emily again. I also bit the bullet and told her that if she knew anybody else who was involved in a haunting she could contact me as well, or give that person my number. I made sure she understood that I wasn't a psychic, not in any way, shape or form. I could simply, for whatever reason, see and hear ghosts much more easily than the average person, making it much easier for the ghost to communicate with me. But the ghost had to already be there; I didn't summon – honestly, I didn't even know how – and if the ghost didn't want to talk to me then there was nothing I could do about it. She assured me she understood, and thanked me one last time before I headed on my way.

Easiest fifty bucks I ever made! I'd thought during the drive home that perhaps I could do it like the people who do 'free' car washes, not officially charging a fee but accepting donations. No harm in that, was there?

Despite my happiness for that family, it hadn't really helped me to forget about my own family's situation, not that I'd wanted to forget. Checking in with Sango that evening, she'd confirmed there was still no change to Kohaku's condition. I'd momentarily thought about stopping by the hospital on my way home but had ultimately decided against it since I hadn't had Inuyasha with me at the moment and I was feeling especially vulnerable without his presence by my side. Getting ready for bed that night, I'd cranked the space heater in my bedroom, letting the disembodied Inuyasha drink up. I heard his voice murmur “Goodnight... before sleep claimed me.

~o~o~o~o~o~

Sunday was uneventful, Monday more of the same, except I was back in my dorm room and had the distraction of schoolwork to occupy at least some of my thoughts. Eri was pleased to hear how my Saturday had gone at that family's house although she'd refrained from squealing in joy like I knew she would have had it not been for Kohaku. Not really a religious person, I'd decided it couldn't hurt and had taken to praying at night for Kohaku's recovery. There were some things Inuyasha wouldn't really divulge with me, not because he didn't want to or couldn't trust me or I wasn't allowed to know, but because he'd said he couldn't really explain it properly in a way I'd understand. I'd decided to take his word for it and what little bits he had tried to explain, or show me in a dream, had led me to understand that while religious texts written by man were simply that, there was a higher power in charge of everything. There was somebody who would hear my prayers.

Looking back on it, it was the night before Christmas Eve when maybe, just maybe, those prayers had finally been answered.

Suddenly, in the middle of the night that Tuesday night, while Inuyasha and I had been sharing a nice, pleasant dream about sipping hot cocoa by the fire in a ski lodge, Inuyasha had suddenly bolted sitting upright from his laid back position on the couch, and he would have spilled his hot chocolate all over himself if the cup had not conveniently winked out of existence in that moment.

“What is it?” I'd asked, worried.

Then suddenly, the nurse from the hospital was standing on the other side of the room.

The shock of this sudden change of events had me bolting wide awake, and glancing at the clock I'd noted that it was just a couple of minutes past two in the morning on Wednesday. My sleep addled brain didn't immediately make any connections there, but remembering my dream I'd whispered quietly for Inuyasha, careful not to wake Eri. I suddenly felt a wave of cold consume me, chilling me to my very core. He didn't like making physical contact with me in the dorms since I didn't have my space heater and so it was harder for him to draw energy without making the room ice cold in the process; he was drawing energy from me instead of the air around us so that Eri wouldn't feel the drop in temperature.

Suddenly, there he was, kneeling by my bedside.

“Kohaku...” he murmured quietly, and I immediately threw my blankets off despite my chill, frantically whispering “Bathroom!” as I got up and exited the room in my pajamas. A trip down to the bathroom would give us some privacy to speak without disturbing Eri, and he could use the energy of the lights to fuel himself. Knowing it was about Kohaku, I raced down the hall for the nearest restroom like I was about to pee my pants.

Entering the room to thankfully find it empty aside from myself, I actually did kind of have to pee but that was the farthest thing on my mind as I asked him to tell me what'd happened. The lights flickered eerily for a moment, plunging me into total darkness a few times, until after the last time they went off when the light came back on again I was suddenly no longer alone, Inuyasha and the nurse ghost, Mary, both standing before me. Mary gave me a sad look while Inuyasha sought and held my gaze.

“His soul...he's left his body, Kagome. Kohaku's ghost is out.” Inuyasha explained, Mary having already told him what'd happened in the time it took me to get to the restroom.

I gasped at the words, my knees shaking.

“No...”

I stumbled, and instinctively Inuyasha moved to catch me, but even though he could occasionally touch me he never had that much substance and after a split second of feeling his hands upon me the feeling disappeared as I passed right through him, feeling those weird icy tingles I love so much as I crashed to my knees on the floor, too distraught to find any pleasure in our brief tingly moment of contact.

The lights blinked again, and for an instant I was alone in the bathroom, then they blinked once more and Inuyasha was kneeling before me, his hand tangible as he rested it on my shoulder, his eyes seeking mine. Mary was gone.

“He isn't dead. He hasn't died.”

“I...I don't understand.”

“His body is still alive. Right now he's a projected soul. If he passes on and the doctors save his body he'll become what you people call brain dead, but that still won't mean he's dead.”

“But...but if he becomes brain dead,” I questioned, “then doesn't that basically mean he's dead?”

Inuyasha shook his head.

“It depends on how much physical damage has happened to the actual brain. If there is too much damage then yes, the soul should not return, if it were to be locked away trapped, unable to do more than think and dream. In those cases, if the spirit is lucky enough to have been freed when the damage occurred, then even if the body is still alive they should just accept their death and move on, and eventually, the living will turn off the machines and let the soulless body die. So long as the body is still alive, however, there is always a chance, always a choice. Kohaku has to want to live again.”

I nodded my understanding to that. You did sometimes hear of the occasional, rare miracle. The person in a coma for years that suddenly wakes up. For the people who had significant brain damage, I could understand why they would choose to accept death, choose to move on, even if the rest of their body had been saved. Inuyasha had kind of explained it to me once, the connection between the brain and our soul and why there is in fact a trinity of mind, body and spirit. He'd said to think of the brain like a complicated control panel, with all of the various knobs, buttons, switches and dials our person, our soul, sitting at that panel must operate in order to control our bodies. If the panel gets damaged, some of the buttons broken, then that's like when people have a stroke or some other type of brain injury that impairs them. Because the control panel got damaged, they have limited control now, but really, deep down inside, the person sitting at that control panel is unharmed, the soul is unharmed.

Inuyasha told me in that moment, alone in a bathroom in the women's dorm at two in the morning, that Kohaku's scattered consciousness had collected itself, but instead of going back inside his body as we had all hoped he would do, he had emerged outside of it instead, as a ghost. No longer was he just having a vague out-of-body experience. Now, with his body still alive, and his consciousness aware, this was similar to what people called astral projection.

Astral projection was another thing that was real, though rare, Inuyasha had told me once. In a way we all did it in our sleep, in our dreams, even though our dreams also took place inside our own heads. But ghosts can go into the dreams of living people if the living person's soul is open to them. It's like being in a place, yet not being in a place. Our souls don't leave our bodies when we dream, but it's like if our body is our house, and the spirit realm is outside our house, then when we dream we've opened a window, and so while we're still safe inside our home we are letting the fresh air in, and can hear the birdsong. Somebody on the outside can approach the window and speak to us through it, if we let them. That's how connected we are to the other side in our dreams. Astral projection takes it a step further and we've actually opened the front door, venturing outside, but yet we still live at home and don't wander too far away from our property. There's nothing wrong with our house and we intend to return there after we're done exploring. We also must keep to the path, aka the earthly realm, because in order to maintain the connection between body and spirit one couldn't venture between dimensions, truly going into the spirit realm. That would cause the body to die. Truly dying was like when our house got destroyed, and we no longer had a home to go back to. Then it didn't matter if you kept to the path or not because you were homeless either way. These were all analogies Inuyasha had used to help me understand. In that moment, he'd explained what Mary had said to him, that Kohaku's spirit had stepped outside. His house was damaged, yes, but not damaged beyond repair. It would take time and energy to repair it, though. To Kohaku, the 'outside world' was looking mighty appealing. He hadn't stepped off the path, yet, but if he did then his connection to his body would snap, and his body would die without our modern medical intervention.

In that moment I'd instantly realized that it was now my job to help him see that staying home and making the needed repairs was the right thing to do, rather than walking away and letting his house fall into ruin.

I needed to get to the hospital, now.