~Mother and Father
Matthew sat on the bed in his college dorm room, staring down at the black straw doll in his hand. Enma Ai watched him through the window, her red eyes seeming to glow against the darkness behind her. “The rest…is for you to decide,” she said softly.
Paul and Lucy had been dating for almost three months, and they were sure they were in love. When Paul entered the university 5 months ago, Lucy was dazzled by his fun and outgoing personality. Though Lucy had a boyfriend at the time, Paul began secretly revealing his interest in her. Feeling that she didn’t want to be tied down by that boyfriend anymore—especially when Paul was available—Lucy tearfully broke up with him, giving him some vague reasons, but nothing that would make him suspect she liked another guy. A month later, she started dating Paul.
Paul always met Lucy at the bench outside her dorms after their classes were over. Usually, as he approached the bench, Lucy would wave with a grin, excited to see him.
But today, she didn’t wave or smile.
What’s the matter with her? Paul wondered, frowning, Is she mad at me for some reason? He sat down on the bench beside her. She still hardly looked at him. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
A group of students passed on the sidewalk, talking and laughing loudly. Lucy looked up at Paul, biting her lip. “I think we should go talk someplace private,” she said.
Paul became even more uneasy. What could it be? he thought as he got up and followed her into her dorm building, Is she going to break up with me? He really didn’t want to break up, and as far as he could tell, he hadn’t done anything that would make her want to break up. They hardly ever fought. The only thing he could think of was that he had slept with her a while back. He wondered if she might have suddenly decided she was mad about that.
Lucy led him into her dorm room, closing and locking the door behind them. Paul vaguely heard her saying that her roommate had gone to the library, but he was too caught up in his anxiety to really listen. “So what did you want to talk to me about?” he asked abruptly, interrupting her without realizing it. If she was going to dump him, she had better do it quickly.
Lucy moved closer to him and lowered her voice to barely above a whisper. “I’m pregnant,” she said.
Relief washed over Paul. “Oh, is that all?” came out of his mouth, and a silly grin appeared on his face.
Lucy glared at him. “What do you mean, ‘is that all’?” she returned angrily.
Stupid thing to say, Paul rebuked himself, but the smile didn’t leave his face. His relief was rapidly turning into a deep, heart-warming happiness at the thought of having conceived a child. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that at all,” he told her hurriedly but earnestly, “I don’t mean it’s not a big deal, I just…” he cut this sentence short, deciding not to tell her that he thought she was going to break up with him. “But still,” he went on eagerly, his eyes lighting up, “This means I’m going to be a father, right?” He had always wanted to be a father.
To Paul’s dismay, this only made Lucy even angrier. “What is the matter with you?!” she demanded, “Don’t you see what kind of situation this is? We’re only college students; how are we supposed to take care of a baby?”
Paul’s smile vanished. “Well, I…I already have a part-time job. I could work more hours,” he offered. He was using that job to pay for his college expenses, but if need be, he could pay back his student loans after he graduated and got a good, full-time job.
Tears were forming in Lucy’s eyes, and she suddenly broke down sobbing. “Can’t you understand my feelings at all?” she cried, “This isn’t just about the money! I’m not ready to have a baby! I’m not ready to start a family! And what will my parents think if they find out?”
Paul hugged her, and she wept into his shirt. “We could get married,” he suggested cautiously, “Your parents wouldn’t suspect a thing, and I could take care of you. We could tell your parents that the baby was born early, when it’s born.”
“No, that’s not enough! I’m terrified, Paul! I can’t do this!”
“Don’t be scared,” Paul said with a reassuring smile, “I won’t run out on you like most guys would. You won’t be a single mom. I’ll be your baby’s father.” His confidence grew as he gave her these comforting words, and he felt more and more like this was what he wanted to do.
Yet instead of being comforted as he had expected, Lucy pushed him away and stood, staring at him with burning eyes. “You won’t be a father,” she said, emphasizing every word.
Paul’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?” he gasped.
“I’m going to have an abortion,” Lucy told him.
“What? No!” Paul cried, “Please don’t do that, Lucy. That’s my child too. We should…we should take a little time to decide first.”
“I’ve already decided,” Lucy said firmly, though she was shaking, “And I thought you would support me with this, but…but now…” a few tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I will support you,” Paul argued desperately, “But I won’t let you have an abortion. I want to keep our baby.”
“You only ever care about yourself!” Lucy snapped at him, “It’s your fault that I’m pregnant, and now you won’t even consider how scared I am!”
These words hurt Paul. “How can you even say that?!” he shouted back, “Haven’t I already shown you that I care about you by not leaving you?”
“Well, then why won’t you support my decision?”
“Because I can’t let you kill my baby!”
“It’s as much mine as it is yours, and I have the right to abort if I want to! No one can use my body without my consent, especially not a non-thinking, non-feeling fetus!”
“I won’t let you do it,” Paul said through clenched teeth. He was growing angrier every moment, “I won’t let you do it!”
“Then our relationship is over,” Lucy told him furiously. She pointed to the door. “Get out.”
Paul stormed to the door, seized the handle and jerked on it. The door rattled but didn’t open. Remembering that Lucy had locked it on their way in, Paul sighed harshly and unlocked it. Then he wrenched it open and left as quickly as he could.
Stumbling into his dorm room, Paul collapsed in front of his computer, staring at the screen with glazed eyes. He had a ton of homework to do, but he couldn’t muster up the energy to do it, so he just opened Facebook and scrolled listlessly through the comments. Some of his friends had posted links to funny pictures, and he scrolled through those without laughing or even really looking at them. His mind was completely absorbed in his talk with Lucy. Things had turned out so much worse than he could have imagined. For an instant, he had been given a vision of being a father, but then it had just been cruelly snatched away. His heart ached for the little life which could be his own son or daughter. Could be—if only Lucy would decide not to have an abortion. But Lucy hated him now, and the more he thought about it, the more he began to hate her too.
The doorknob rattled, causing him to start out of his Internet-stupor and look up. It was his roommate, a foreign student from Japan named Masaya Kataoka. Masaya’s hair was dyed brown, and he always worked overly hard at his classes and homework as if he was trying to regain some lost honor. Paul and Masaya didn’t talk very much—mainly due to the fact that Masaya was continually focused on school—but they shared a sort of mutual understanding that they were friends.
Masaya bowed his head slightly in greeting to Paul then went over to his desk against the other wall, opened his computer, and started working on his homework. Paul sunk back down into his swivel chair and continued to scroll down his Facebook wall. He was looking at statuses he had already seen, but he didn’t really notice.
After a while, not looking up from his computer, Paul said, “Hey, Masaya…”
Masaya turned around in his chair. “Yes?”
Meeting his eyes, Paul cautiously asked, “Have you ever...hated anyone?”
Masaya looked like he hadn’t been expecting that question, and he turned uncomfortably back to his computer screen. He was silent for a few seconds. Paul had just begun to think that he was ignoring him when he replied, “Yes. There was…a man who slandered my father and ruined our family. I hated that man.”
“What did you do?”
Masaya looked at Paul again. He seemed embarrassed. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Of course I would,” said Paul.
“I summoned Jigoku Shoujo,” Masaya told him.
“I don’t know what that is. Is it some kind of satanic ritual?”
Masaya smiled slightly. “You could say so. Except, all I had to do was type the name of the person I hated into the website, Jigoku Tsuushin, which can only be accessed at midnight. Then Jigoku Shoujo appeared, and she gave me a black straw doll with a red string around its neck.”
“She? You mean ‘Jigoku Shoujo’ is a girl?”
“Yes, her name means ‘Hell Girl’ in English because she can ferry the person you hate to Hell if you pull the string on the doll.”
“Did you pull the string?” Paul inquired.
“Yes,” Masaya told him, nodding, “And the person I hated disappeared. But I got this mark on my chest.” He pulled down his shirt collar to reveal a black mark which looked something like a flame with a circle around it. “The mark means that I will go to Hell too when I die, because I sent that person to Hell. Paul— ” he suddenly looked into his friend’s eyes with concern, “—Is there someone you hate?”
“Then forget I said this,” Masaya told him quickly, “It’s not worth it, knowing you’ll go to Hell too. Don’t access the website.”
“I won’t,” Paul lied.
That night, after Masaya was asleep, Paul quietly opened his computer. He looked at the time. It was just a few minutes before midnight. Hurriedly opening Google, he typed “Jigoku Sooshin” into the search box, trying to guess how it would be spelled. Fortunately, he was close enough: the Google search engine said, “Did you mean Jigoku Tsuushin?” and the first option it brought up looked like the right place.
Paul clicked the link just as midnight struck and surveyed the website that came up. It looks simple enough, he thought, So I just type her name in here, huh? He clicked on the text box, but then hesitated, his heart pounding violently in his chest. It’s all right, he told himself, It won’t happen right away, only if I pull the string. I wouldn’t send her to Hell now anyway, not with my baby inside her. I’ll only do it if she kills the baby. And so he typed, “Lucy Wright” into the box and clicked “Send”.
When he looked up, he was up on a hill with a tree in front of him and blood-red light surrounding him. Enma Ai stood before him with red eyes, pale face, and straight, black hair. Beside her stood the young man, Ichimoku Ren, and the beautiful woman, Hone-Onna. Paul’s eyes rested on Hone-Onna for a few moments, but Enma Ai’s intense stare drew his gaze back to her.
“My name is Enma Ai,” she said, “You called me.”
“Jigoku…Shoujo,” Paul whispered, watching her in amazement.
“Do you really hate your girlfriend this much?” Hone-Onna asked in her smooth voice, “It seems that you loved her just yesterday.”
“I-I won’t pull the string unless she does it,” Paul stammered, “When she makes her decision, I’ll make mine, but I’m going to change her decision. I won’t let her kill my baby. I can’t.” His voice cracked as he held back a sob.
“What? Are you going to use the doll to manipulate her?” Ichimoku Ren guessed.
“Ichimoku Ren,” Enma Ai said, as though rebuking him.
“Yes, Young Miss,” the young man sighed. He kissed a golden coin hanging around his neck, and then bent down, turning into a very dark blue straw doll with a crimson string around its neck.
Enma Ai held the doll out to Paul. “Take this,” she said.
Paul snatched the doll away from her with trembling hands.
“If you really wish to take revenge you may pull the red string,” Enma Ai told him, “You make a covenant with me when you pull the string. The recipient of your revenge will be ferried straightaway to Hell.”
Paul stared at the doll, a sick feeling in his heart. He knew what she was going to tell him, but her words and voice made just as strong an impression on him as if he didn’t know.
“However,” Enma Ai went on, “Once the revenge has been dealt, you are required to pay the compensation. Two holes appear when you curse a person. Your soul will also fall into Hell. You will not be able to go to Heaven. You will be plunged into pain and suffering, left to wander for all eternity.”
“Wait—y-you mean right away?” Paul gasped.
“Well, that’s later, when you die,” Enma Ai said.
“Even so…” shuddered Paul. He felt like his knees were about to give way.
Suddenly, he was back in his dorm room.
“The rest…” Enma Ai whispered from behind him, “is for you to decide.”
Masaya awoke with a start, thinking he had heard the voice of Jigoku Shoujo. However, by the time he looked down from the top bunk, Paul was lying on his side in bed, facing the wall, apparently asleep.
The next day, after lunch, Paul found Lucy. “Please, can we talk?” he said. There was a desperate look in his eyes. He still had his backpack with him from class.
“I don’t have anything to say to you,” Lucy replied icily.
“Please, please, just give me one more chance,” Paul begged.
Lucy wondered if maybe Paul had changed his mind since yesterday. She had no intention of getting back together after how he had treated her, but at the moment, she didn’t have anyone to drive her to the abortion clinic, and she didn’t know who she could ask. She didn’t have a car of her own, and she was afraid of taking the bus, especially after the procedure was over. Perhaps, if Paul had changed his mind, he would be willing to drive her.
And so she agreed to accompany him to a nearby park. No one was there at that time of day, so they could speak there with relative freedom.
“What did you want to say to me?” Lucy asked with a dignity which distanced her from him. She wouldn’t let him get the upper hand.
“I wanted to see if you had changed your mind,” Paul mumbled. There was an awful tension in his heart as though he was prepared to give himself over completely to either anger or joy depending on her answer.
“Of course I haven’t changed my mind!” Lucy snapped, “I would have expected better of you, Paul! I thought maybe you had changed yours.”
“And I expected better of you!” Paul returned, feeling the anger beginning to overtake him, “I’m not the one who wants to kill our child!”
“You’re also not the one who’s pregnant!” Lucy spat, “And stop calling it a ‘child’! It’s not a child yet!”
“It’s my child!”
“It is not, and you clearly care more about it than you care about me!”
“Listen, Lucy,” Paul took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, “If you’ll only have the baby, I’ll take care of it. You won’t even have to worry about being a mom at your age. I’ll leave college for a few years if I have to. I’ll do anything, if I can just…keep…my baby.”
Deep down, Lucy wanted to keep it too, and she felt that desire rising to the surface. Then she regretfully struck it down with all her fears and all the reasons that she couldn’t do it. She wished Paul wouldn’t make it harder for her. “I shouldn’t have told you about it at all,” she muttered sullenly, “Then I wouldn’t have to go through all this too.”
“I don’t understand why you can’t even see it through to delivery,” Paul said.
“Of course you don’t; you’re not a woman,” Lucy returned, “You can’t see that the pregnancy and delivery is just as big a monster to face as the idea of raising a child in college. If I don’t stop the pregnancy now, it will be obvious to everyone later, and giving birth is the most painful experience a woman can face. If you loved me, you wouldn’t ask me to do that.”
“But it’s not worth killing our child!”
“Stop calling it ‘our child’!”
“Is there nothing I can say that will change your mind?” Paul asked in one last ditch effort.
Lucy shook her head. “Nothing.”
That word rang like a death toll in Paul’s heart. He let his hatred fill him. “If that’s how it is…” he began, taking off his backpack and unzipping a side pocket. He took the dark blue straw doll out of the backpack, set the backpack down, and showed the doll to Lucy.
“What’s that?” Lucy asked. Momentary fear showed itself in her voice, but it quickly changed to anger. “Are you planning to curse me with that?”
“If I pull this red string, I can send you to Hell,” Paul told her angrily, “But I won’t do it unless you get the abortion. I won’t let you kill my baby.”
Lucy stared at him in horror and disgust. “I can’t believe you would actually think of doing something like that!” she exclaimed, “I thought I knew you!”
“Are you still going to get an abortion?” Paul pressed. His hands were shaking, and he tried to steady them, but he couldn’t.
“Of course I am,” Lucy replied spitefully, “I don’t even believe in a Hell. Maybe you do, but that’s just your opinion. You can’t manipulate me with your stupid voodoo doll.”
Paul let his arms fall weakly at his sides, trembling with helpless frustration. He hadn’t been expecting this response. “I’ll do it,” he mumbled, “I swear I will. And it’s real. I didn’t make this thing myself. Jigoku Shoujo gave it to me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lucy said, “And for the record, I think you’re scum.” And with that, she stalked past him, leaving him alone in the park.
On her way back to the girls’ dorms, Lucy wondered miserably how she would get a ride to the abortion clinic. She felt so alone, and so shaken by that incident with Paul. She had never imagined he would try to curse her. It was just one more fear and disappointment to be added to her list of anxieties. Her only defense against it had been to act cold and haughty toward Paul, but she felt like she was being crushed under his foot.
When Lucy opened the door to her room, she saw her roommate, Holly, lying in bed, absorbed in a thick book. Holly was an introverted, thoughtful, timid person, and she was an English major. In her homework and in her free time, she was always reading one of those “famous” books which are only famous among English majors.
Holly was the only friend in college who Lucy shared her secrets with. She liked going to the mall and hanging out with her other friends, but Holly was the only one she confided in. Holly shared secrets with her too, and they had been close friends almost since their first week of college. Lucy supposed their personalities had just clicked, but there was also something about Holly that made Lucy feel like she could trust her.
Since she knew Paul wouldn’t drive her to the abortion clinic, Lucy thought perhaps Holly would, but the only problem was, Holly was a Christian. She would probably be opposed to the idea of an abortion. When Lucy had told Holly that she and Paul had slept together, Holly had looked sad and had timidly told Lucy she had done wrong. Lucy had replied that Holly was entitled to her opinion, but she didn’t need to impose it on others. Lucy herself was more interested in New Age philosophy than Christianity. She liked the spiritual beliefs of the New Age movement, which she could easily hold without becoming judgmental of other people. Lucy felt that Holly wasn’t a judgmental person at heart, but her beliefs sometimes compelled her to be.
Quietly sitting down at her desk, which was close to the head of Holly’s bed, Lucy slowly began, “Holly…you have a car here, right?”
Holly put her book down on her chest and folded her hands over the binding, looking over at Lucy. “Yes,” she replied, “Do you need a ride to the store?”
“Not the store…” Lucy blushed. She wasn’t sure why she was feeling ashamed, but it was probably because Holly would think she was sinning. She thought of her other, more easy-going friends and wondered if it might be better to ask one of them, but the thought of telling one of them about her situation sickened her. She imagined one of them might laugh, or tease her, or even spread rumors. Holly was the only person she knew she could trust not to spread rumors.
Holly put a bookmark in her book and sat up in bed, looking concerned. “Is there something wrong?” she asked.
Lucy braced herself. “I need you to drive me to the abortion clinic,” she blurted out. Though she didn’t meet her friend’s eyes, she could see an expression of horror dawning on her face. She knew what Holly was going to say next.
“Lucy, if—if you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t get an abortion,” Holly stammered, “There…there must be a better option.”
“I’ve already been through this discussion,” Lucy muttered sullenly.
“You could consider adoption,” Holly suggested.
“I don’t need to consider adoption,” Lucy retorted, “Paul wants to raise the baby.”
“Then why don’t you let him?” Holly asked, a hopeful smile appearing on her face.
Lucy rounded on her angrily. “Holly, I’m going to have an abortion, all right?” she snapped, “Now are you going to drive me or not?”
“Oh…” Holly lowered her eyes.
“I need at least someone to support me in this,” Lucy pleaded, “Just one person, please. I’m so sick of arguing about it.”
“But, Lucy, abortion is murder,” Holly whispered.
Not even Paul had used the word ‘murder’, and hearing Holly say it really hurt. Lucy broke down crying. “I thought I could trust you,” she sobbed, “Now even you’re calling me evil! I never asked for any of this to happen to me! I just want this nightmare to be over!”
“I’m sorry, Lucy,” Holly said, and she started crying too, “I…know you’re in a really tough spot. I’m sorry.”
“Just drive me to the clinic,” Lucy begged, “I know this goes against your personal moral values, but you won’t have to feel like you’re responsible for the abortion. I’ll have an abortion anyway. You’ll just be giving me a safe way to get to the clinic and back. Please, Holly, I don’t want to take the bus. That would be awful!”
Holly nodded. “I…I suppose…”
“Then you’ll do it?” Lucy asked eagerly.
Holly didn’t want Lucy to take the bus. She agreed to do it.
Lucy called an abortion clinic, and the date was set for Friday evening.
Paul spent the next few days in a state of constant agitation. He realized that he didn’t actually know how he would be able to tell if Lucy did it. She probably wouldn’t tell him. Every time he saw her in the halls or on campus, he would think, Has she done it yet? What if she has? and watch her out of the corner of his eye, trying to discern any kind of subtle change in her countenance. There had to be some way to know whether she had done it or not.
If she does, he swore to himself, I will pull the string. He began to hate her more just for making him go through all this anxiety. Frequently, he would finger the straw doll in his bag, though he always kept it out of sight. He wished he could take it out in his dorm room, but he couldn’t even do that because he didn’t want Masaya to know he had accessed Jigoku Tsuushin.
During these days, Hone-Onna kept watch on him in his class buildings, posing as a teacher’s aid. She pitied him, but she pitied Lucy even more.
Friday evening came, and Lucy found Holly in their room, praying over her Bible.
“Come on, let’s go,” Lucy said.
Holly looked up from her Bible, and Lucy saw that her face was tearstained. “I don’t know if I can do this,” she whimpered, “I don’t think it’s right.”
“Holly, of course it’s right,” Lucy replied, fear coming into her voice, “I’m not going to miss this appointment. If you won’t take me, I’ll go down to the corner and wait for a bus.”
“No, please don’t!” Holly jumped up from her desk. “I’ll take you.”
They walked out to Holly’s car. Dark clouds were gathering above the city, but the lamps along the streets and sidewalks kept the ground well-lit. Lucy just hoped there wouldn’t be a thunderstorm before they got back. It was a long walk to Holly’s car, but both girls were silent the whole way.
Holly plugged in her MP3 player and turned on her car’s engine. The MP3 player was on a random shuffle. As Holly pulled out of her parking spot, Lucy sat back in her seat and listened to the song’s guitar intro. A man started to sing:
“I thought that I heard crying coming through my door,
Was it Rachel weeping for her sons who were no more?
Could it have been the babies crying for themselves?
Never understanding that they died for someone else…”
“Turn that off!” Lucy shrieked.
Holly jumped, almost running off the road, and she hurriedly reached down and pressed the “next” button on her MP3 player. The song changed to gentle, instrumental music with recorded birdsong. “I’m sorry,” Holly said shakily, “I didn’t know it would be that song. Really, I didn’t.”
Everyone and everything is against me, Lucy thought, turning her head and looking out at the passing city lights. She felt lost and afraid. In just a few hours it will all be over, she told herself. After the abortion, everything would be better. The nightmare would be over.
Holly pulled into a parking spot in front of the clinic but stopped almost a foot away from the curb as though she didn’t want to get any closer to the place than she had to. She was staring down at her lap, and Lucy noticed that her knuckles where white as she grasped the steering wheel. “Are you really sure you want to do this?” she whispered.
“I’m sure,” Lucy replied, and she jumped out of the car before she could change her mind. Her heart was pounding, and she grew more anxious with every step. She entered the clinic.
The first place they sent her to was a small room where a counselor waited for her. The counselor was an elegant woman with black hair partially tied up in a short ponytail.
Hone-Onna asked Lucy some questions, and Lucy told her what had happened. However, she didn’t mention the fact that Paul wanted to keep the baby.
“So you don’t think you would be able to take care of it?” Hone-Onna asked gently.
“I don’t,” Lucy said.
“And you’re certain you want to go through with this?”
“Please, Ma’am, don’t try to stop me like everyone else. I’m sick of arguing.”
“No, I’m not in a position to try to stop you,” Hone-Onna replied. I’m never in a position to interfere, she thought, looking at Lucy empathetically, Poor girl, you don’t realize what it will be like to lose a baby. She was thinking of her friend, Kiyo, from 200 years ago.
After filling out some paperwork which did not require her name, Lucy sat down in a waiting room with some other women. Most of the other women were nervous and silent like her, but the one sitting next to her laughed at her terrified expression and asked carelessly if this was her first abortion. She turned away without replying.
After it was over, Lucy stepped outside into a cold drizzle. She felt terrible, but not the same kind of terrible as before the abortion. No, this was much worse. She felt empty. She felt like a piece of her soul had been torn from her.
She felt like a mother who had lost her child.
Hardly conscious of her surroundings, she stumbled over to Holly’s car. The windows on the car were rolled down, and as she came closer, she thought she heard crying. Standing next to the door, she looked in through the window and saw Holly with her face in her hands, sobbing heedlessly. “Why? Why did I let this happen?” she wept, “Oh, God, it’s my fault! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!”
Lucy opened the door and got in, closing it behind her. Quickly, Holly looked up. “L-Lucy…”
“I saw his hand,” Lucy said dully, “When they sucked him out of me…I saw…his hand.” Suddenly, all her emptiness converged into one, violent stab of pain, and she let out an awful wail. “Oh, Holly, what have I done?” she cried. This was much worse, so much worse than the pain she had experienced before the abortion. Before this, she hadn’t believed in a Hell, but now she did, and it opened wide before her, accusing her mercilessly, showing her her guilt. “I want my baby back, I want him back!” she sobbed, collapsing into tears.
Holly leaned over and hugged her friend, burying her face in Lucy’s shoulder. “It will be okay, Lucy,” she whispered, but her tears were soaking Lucy’s shirt.
“How? How can it ever be okay after this?” Lucy demanded.
“Jesus forgave you,” Holly replied, “And He forgave me too. And God saved your baby—I know He did.”
Fresh tears welled up in Lucy’s eyes, and she believed what Holly said. These tears were of a different kind. They were tears of gratitude, and of release. All at once, her guilt was gone, though the pain of a bereaved mother still remained. Leaning her head against Holly’s, she wept freely. For a long time, the two girls cried together as the rain fell down from heaven. It was as though God wept for them as well, and wept for the child who had been lost that day.
The next morning, when Lucy woke up, she felt a heavy responsibility to go apologize to Paul. It’s the only right thing for me to do now, she thought.
But this situation was Paul’s fault. Why should you apologize? asked a sly, quiet voice in her head.
Yet this voice was overcome by Lucy’s new self. She felt as though she had changed completely since last night. No, she couldn’t blame it all on Paul. If she went and apologized to him, maybe things could begin to heal.
Climbing down from the top bunk, she took her phone off the dresser and sent a text message to Paul: “I want to talk. Meet me in the park in half an hour.”
When Paul got the text from Lucy, a violent emotion struck him which was half fear, half hope. Why does she want to talk? he wondered, I thought she had decided not to talk to me anymore. Could it be that she changed her mind?
Grabbing his backpack, he sprinted to the park as fast as his legs would carry him. When he got there, he sat down on a bench and waited, sick with anticipation.
About 20 minutes later, he saw Lucy coming down the sidewalk, and he stood up abruptly, leaving his backpack on the bench. He wanted to run to her to find out what she was going to say, but fear rooted him to the spot. His heart was pounding with hope, and he kept telling himself that she wouldn’t want to talk to him unless she had changed her mind. He began to regret getting the doll from Jigoku Shoujo.
As Lucy reached him, he breathlessly blurted out, “So did you change your mind? Are you going to have the baby?”
Lucy looked mortified at this question. She trembled and bit back tears. “No, Paul,” she replied in a quiet voice, “I came to say…I’m sorry.”
Paul was immediately angry. “Well, you can’t say you’re sorry if you’re still planning to go through with it!” he exploded.
“That’s not what I mean,” Lucy said, shuddering, “I’ve already had the abortion, and I’m sorry, Paul, I’m so sorry. I was wrong.”
Horror and grief hit Paul violently, leaving him breathless. His baby was already gone. It was too late. The hatred he had been building up for the past week suddenly converged and came down on Lucy all at once. “It’s too late for that!” he roared, striking her in the face and clenching his fists, “How dare you! How dare you have the abortion and then come crawling back to me to apologize! You should have listened to me in the first place! I offered you everything! I was ready to give you whatever support you needed to take care of the baby, and you threw it back in my face! And now, now you want to apologize?! You think I can forgive you now? Damn you! This is unforgivable!” Spinning around, he unzipped his backpack and stuck his hand in, searching for the dark blue straw doll. He was going to do it. He was going to pull the string. He hated her with all his heart, and all he wanted now was to send her to Hell.
Feeling the straw doll in his hand, Paul grasped it and yanked it out of the bag. He froze, staring at it in astonishment. Instead of a dark blue straw doll with a red string around his neck, he was holding a regular, pale straw doll with no string. What happened? he wondered, his breath stuck in his throat, Is it possible for this to expire?
Just then, he heard Lucy shriek behind him. He spun around, and his eyes met the staring, red eyes of Enma Ai. “Do you understand what happened?” she asked softly.
“I’m sorry I took so long to pull the string, now give me another doll, please, I need it!” Paul babbled.
“That’s not it,” Enma Ai interrupted him.
“Well, then, what did happen?” Paul shouted, “Why can’t I use this anymore?” He held up the doll in his clenched fist.
“The person you requested the doll for cannot be sent to Hell,” Enma Ai replied.
“What?! Why not?”
“That person confessed her sins, and they were forgiven her,” Enma Ai said, “I cannot ferry anyone forgiven by God, to Hell.”
“Who the hell are you?!” Paul demanded, “I hadn’t expected the Hell Girl to be a Christian!” He sneered the last few words.
Enma Ai shook her head. “I am not a Christian. I am unable to follow Christ,” she responded, “But the person you requested cannot be sent to Hell.”
Rage burned more and more intensely in Paul’s chest. He suddenly struck Enma Ai with his fist. She staggered a few steps to the side, but did not otherwise react. “Forget it! I’m done with you!” Paul spat. He threw the doll on the ground at her feet. “You know what…” he growled, clenching his teeth and shaking with anger, “If you won’t send Lucy to Hell for me, then I’ll just do it myself!” Shoving Enma Ai out of his way, he pulled a Swiss army knife out of his pocket and advanced toward Lucy.
Lucy screamed and stumbled a few steps backward, but Paul caught her before she could run. Enma Ai watched, silently, expressionlessly, unable to intervene. Seizing Lucy by the back of her neck, Paul plunged the blade into her throat. She died before she could even scream again. Paul dropped her body and the knife heavily on the ground. Blood covered his hands.
From around the corner of a classroom building, Matthew had witnessed the murder. His hands were shaking as he clutched the black straw doll and pinched the end of the red string. “You stole her from me…” he shuddered, “You stole her from me, and now…and now…no, this can’t be forgiven! It can never be forgiven!” And he pulled the string. The doll was torn from his hand by a gust of wind, vanishing in midair, and a deep voice filled his ears: “I hear and grant this revenge.”
When Paul turned around, Enma Ai had vanished. “Damn her, what do I care?” he muttered to himself. He didn’t want to look at Lucy’s body. He felt like he should be satisfied now that she was dead, but instead his soul was in even more turmoil.
Just then, he heard a moan behind him.
Spinning back around, he gasped, his eyes widening in horror. Lucy, her face gray and lifeless, was half-crawling toward him, one hand outstretched, gargling and moaning, with blood spilling down off the hilt of the knife which was embedded in her throat. Her hand wrapped around his ankle.
Screaming, Paul shook her off and fled blindly, as fast as he could go. He didn’t look back or close his eyes for fear of seeing her again. When he came to a classroom building, he wrenched open the door and ran inside, letting the door fall closed behind him and continuing to run. What the hell was that? he wondered, No, she…she must’ve not been dead yet. But what am I going to do now? I wasn’t thinking about hiding the evidence. I should go back and at least get my knife. He stopped in the middle of the hall, but didn’t turn around or take a step. He didn’t want to go back. His heart was racing with terror.
There were footsteps in the hall behind him. Turning, he saw an old man in a suit walking toward him down the hall. A teacher! he thought with a gasp, and he quickly hid his hands behind his back. They were still covered in blood. He was afraid that he might have left blood on the door when he opened it. Maybe he left drops of blood on the floor too. Moving a few steps to one side, he turned and stared at the motivational poster on the opposite wall, hoping the teacher would just walk by him.
Wanyuudo stopped in front of Paul, stretching his mouth in a smile. “Oh, Paul,” he said, “I was looking for you.”
I don’t even know this teacher! Paul thought angrily, Why would he be looking for me?
“I wanted to talk about your grades,” Wanyuudo went on, “It seems that you’ve failed a class.”
“You must be talking to the wrong person,” Paul returned rudely, “I don’t even know you, and I’ve been doing great in my classes.”
“Hmm…” Wanyuudo rumbled pensively, “No, I don’t think I’m talking to the wrong person. You failed Forgiveness this semester.”
Confused, Paul opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He had no idea what the teacher was talking about, but terror gripped him at the thought that maybe the teacher was trying to imply that he had seen the murder.
“It’s true, sir!” shouted a voice, and a young man with black hair came out of a nearby classroom. “He’s a murderer! I saw him murder a girl who was asking his forgiveness.”
Paul’s gut tightened with fear. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he shouted, “I did nothing of the sort!”
“Oh, didn’t you?” a woman’s voice purred in his ear. He felt long hands clutching his wrists, forcing his hands out from behind his back. He tried to resist, but whoever was behind him was stronger, and his bloody hands were revealed. He stared down at them in shock, seeing that the bloodstained knife was back in his hand. Didn’t I leave that knife behind? he asked himself.
Wanyuudo nodded slowly. “Yes, it appears you are a murderer,” he said.
“Murderer!” Ichimoku Ren exclaimed.
“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” Hone-Onna asked softly.
Paul tore himself away from her and faced all three of him, the knife still clutched tightly in his hand. A wild light had come into his eyes. “Why should I be ashamed?” he returned feverishly, his gaze moving rapidly from one of them to the other, “I did nothing wrong! It’s all Lucy’s fault; she’s the murderer! She killed our own child! I brought balance to the situation! I brought justice!”
“That’s what he says, Young Miss,” said Ichimoku Ren.
Paul thought he felt something on his chest. Looking down, he felt a chill of horror. Blood was running down from his throat, soaking his shirt. He felt a presence beside him and turned to see Enma Ai standing there, wearing a black kimono with flowers on it, her red eyes seeming to stare into his soul.
“You!” he choked, and coughed up blood.
“O pitiful shadow, bound in darkness,” Enma Ai said, “Looking down on others and causing them pain…a soul drowned in sin and evil…” She paused, and the silence was heavy around them. Her eyes widened slightly. “How would you like to taste death this time?”
She lifted her right arm, the sleeve of her kimono hanging down from it, and darkness and flowers filled Paul’s vision.
When Paul opened his eyes, he was lying face-up in a small, wooden boat, staring up into dark clouds. Four perpendicular slits of pale purple light tore through the clouds and shone down on the dark lake that the boat was gliding though. The silent lake stretched as far as Paul could see, vanishing in fog, and there were glowing, square, paper lanterns floating in it. All the lanterns were moving in the same direction as the boat. Paul scrambled up into a sitting position and saw Enma Ai standing there, steering the boat.
“Where is this? What are you doing?” he demanded.
“I am ferrying you to Hell,” Enma Ai replied.
“Why?” Paul exclaimed, trembling with fear.
“Another person requested to send you to Hell.”
Paul clenched his teeth and stared down at the bottom of the boat. “Well, at least I’m going to see Lucy there,” he muttered.
“You aren’t,” Enma Ai said simply.
Paul looked up sharply. “What do you mean?” he snapped.
“Lucy didn’t go to Hell,” Enma Ai said. She turned her face up toward the dark clouds, and a scene appeared behind them, shining through them.
Paul gasped. It was Lucy, and she was playing with a little baby. A brilliant glory was shining onto them, and though it was only reflected off them—though it was darkened as it filtered through the clouds—Paul shrunk back from it. He was forced to look away. The scene vanished from behind the clouds.
As soon as he managed to collect himself again, Paul glared up at Enma Ai furiously. “That was my baby, wasn’t it?” he exclaimed, “Why should she get to be with him and not me? She was the one who killed him! It’s not fair!”
“It is fair,” Enma Ai said.
“How? What principle dictates that she should go to Heaven while I get sent to Hell?”
“I already told you,” Enma Ai replied, “She confessed her sin, and God forgave her. You did not admit to your sin.”
“That’s because I didn’t sin!” Paul insisted, “If this is how God acts, then I hate Him as much as I hate Lucy! I would rather be in Hell than with a God like Him!”
“And you will be,” Enma Ai said, “For all eternity.”
She sailed the boat under the arch, and he was gone.