I have sewn Torii back together and now must move it forward.
She woke. Above her head danced scores of tiny, pale lights. They danced silently around her, turning her face a ghostly pale green. The lights shone on the grass papered walls and on the smooth weave of the mats that lined the floor. Lights glimmered all up and down her coverlet.
The room was empty but for the lights and the girl. The lamp burned still in its corner and outside the window, the mist had moved further up the mountain. Above the mist, the white stars shone in the dark sky. Little lights were bobbing amid the branches of the cedar tree close to the open window.
The girl’s large, heavily lashed eyes were cloudy and glazed. She blinked slowly, her head tipping to the side as she watched the lights in wonder. The sweat had dried on her face and the pain had receded from her back. She felt numb, as if she were floating in phosphorescent sea.
Her bandaged chest rose and fell as she breathed deeply and slowly through her half open mouth. A little glowing light hovered for a moment over her lips. The girl took a breath and the light slipped in with it. She felt warmth at the back of her throat and swallowed convulsively. The warmth spread into her stomach and dissolved all the way to her fingers and toes.
The master of the house felt the slight ripple and change in energy. He lifted his head from where he sat cross-legged, bathed and newly dressed, in the upper room. He uncoiled himself from the ground and moved with incredible swiftness out of the room and down the stairs, causing the lamps to flicker and bend as he passed.
He slid the door to the girl’s room open and all the glowing lights blew out the open window on the tide of air, like dandelion spores in a spring wind. The creature knelt down beside her bed, his eyes wide with consternation. Gently, he placed the palm of his hand against her throat, keeping the curving tips of his claws away from the thin skin.
Immediately, the girl felt light headed. She felt as though she were being pulled up from her very roots, as though her muscles longed to separate from her bones. She closed her eyes against the strain.
The creature released her abruptly, an expression of horror on his face.
“What have you done?” he asked in dismay. His voice was deeply pitched, resonant in the cool air and precisely articulated.
The girl faced the growing realization that this was not a dream. Her eyes were focused now, and wide open in shock. Her hands flew up to her chest, they curled up under her chin as her eyes flew around the room and then back to the pale, inhuman face that was leaning over her with its goat’s eyes.
“I cannot draw it out,” said the creature, accepting the inevitable. He leaned back on his heels and lifted his eyes to the open window. The golden eyes shut for a moment. He put his hand to his forehead, took in a long, slow breath and let it out. There was now a long, arduous road that stretched out before him; he saw it clearly.
The girl struggled up onto her elbows and the creature opened his eyes again.
“No,” he said sternly. “Lie still.”
The little girl looked up at him, her head tipped on the side, her breathing quickened by awe. It was not surprising to her that she saw a living piece of terrible wonder kneeling beside her, and speaking.
The creature appeared very large to her, but she confusing its presence with its physical size. It was just slightly larger than an adult human, but it gave off so much heat and energy that it appeared much larger than it was. She could feel its presence like heat on her cheeks, like a heaviness in her lungs. The slanted, golden eyes radiated a fierce, feral energy.
The creature was the incarnation of strangely cast shadows, of the wind that came out of the dark sky, of opaque water under the surface of smoothly rippling light. This creature was well known to her; she had simply never seen its face before.
“I’m Gilly,” she whispered, her voice hoarse.
The creature sighed deeply and looked at the child, his eyes turning rueful. “My name is Tenshio. You lie in my house, in the mountains of the O-nishi shrine. But no more talking,” he said. “Go back to sleep. Later, there will be time enough, and more, for questions.”
He leaned over her and firmly shut the window, closing out the blue twilight.