Dave was just about to put on his helmet when he suddenly heard a voice in the distance. Not being able to make out any words, he turned his head to where it came from, only to see the in the darkness barely visible outline of a girl running towards him at full speed, yelling something he didn't understand.
“DAVID!” she screamed, barely forming coherent words under her heavy breathing, “DAVID! Tasukete! TASUKETE!” Only then it dawned on him – that was Saya, his friend and longtime kendo training partner! She finally stepped into the light of the gas station, obviously out of breath, and stumbled. Thankfully he was there to catch her, otherwise she would have hit the pavement hard. She kept her face buried in his chest for a moment, grabbing his sleeves. That was when he noticed how much she was shaking. What was that poor girl going through?
She kept babbling in Japanese, of which he didn't understand a single word. “David! David...tasukete...onegai...tasukete, tasukete” she kept sobbing, “...onegaishimasu...”
Not sure what to do, Dave put his hand on the back of her head, trying his best to comfort her. “Whoa there...calm down. What's wrong? And...English please.”
Saya just stood there with him for a few seconds before she finally took a shaky step back, however, she still was clinging to his arms. “You have to help me!” she begged, still catching her breath, “My sister...she's in trouble, I need your bike to drive home! Please!” She kept looking at him, shaking, tears in her eyes. It took a second for the message to really sink in. Dave had always known Saya as a cheerful and strong girl – no, strong young woman. So seeing her like this was painful and unnerving. “Alright. Hop on” he said, offering her the helmet, “but I'm driving.”
“No!” Saya objected, “I can't drag you into this! It's dange-”
“I'm a cop, Saya! It's my job to help people, especially when it gets dangerous!” he interrupted her, hopping onto his bike to make it clear he wouldn't have any more objections. Time was of the essence here, that much Dave had gathered. Without any further word Saya climbed onto the bike behind him and put the helmet on as he started the engine. Once he felt her holding on to him he turned up the gas, speeding through the deserted night streets as fast as he dared with a passenger on board. He knew where the girl lived after having given her a ride home from training more than once, so he didn't have to ask for the way.
It wasn't long before they reached her home, a small building housing only a couple of apartments. They quickly got up from the bike, Dave was ready to storm the building, even though he was unarmed – then there was a stinging pain pain in the back of his head. Next thing he knew, Dave was down on the ground, his helmet being dropped in front of him. His vision was blurry, but he could make out the silhouette of Saya running up to the building, yelling about how sorry she was. He slowly blinked a few times, his mind clouded, before he realized she must have hit him with his helmet to knock him out and give herself a head start. He tried to get up, but a blinding pain surged through his head, keeping him from lifting his head too much. “Damn it, woman” he cursed under his breath before closing his eyes for a bit, letting the pain subside.
Suddenly he was awoken from his stupor by a loud, tormented scream. Saya! He jumped up, pain be damned, and made a run for the entrance. There were only two floors in the building, and down here all doors were closed, so he assumed she had to be upstairs. Each step stinging in his head, Dave hurried up the stairs, through the only open door he saw. And for a moment he wasn't sure if he had stepped into a bizarre nightmare world. The whole hallway was covered in thick, white strands of...what looked like oversized stretched out chewing gum. It was a completely unreal scenery. And amidst all that was Saya, kneeling and with her back to him. She was shaking violently, but at the same time completely silent. Not quite sure what to do, Dave hesitantly placed his hand on her shoulder, careful not to startle her.
Without a word she grabbed his hand and pulled herself up with his help. He couldn't see her face, since she left her head hanging the entire time, but even without that he knew tears were streaming down her cheeks. She burrowed her face in his chest, finally starting to sob, occasionally babbling something like “she''s gone”, “not again” and “all my fault”. Dave did the only thing he felt he could: he hugged her and the two of them stood there like that for a while. What followed was a blur in his memory: He drove her to his home, not wanting the let her sleep at her place after what they had seen there, and explained the situation to Claire once they arrived.
The three of them were sitting in the living room, each with a cup of tea in hand, Saya wrapped in a blanket. The couple had offered their unexpected guest a hot shower and a set of Claire's clothes. Now they just sat there in silence. Dave had explained the events of the night to his girlfriend while Saya was in the shower, so she wouldn't have to live through them again. She had suffered enough. Once Saya was done with her tea Claire led her to the bedroom, while Dave took notes of what had happened, now where his memories were still fresh. His gut told him he would need something like that.
Finally Claire returned from the bedroom. “Poor girl” she said as she set down next to him, “she didn't want to go to sleep at first. She's afraid of the nightmares, she said. But once I got her to lie down she was gone almost instantly. It must have been hard on her...”
“No kidding” Dave agreed, rubbing the back of his head. That hit had left an impressive bump he would carry around for a while now. “She went out of her way to keep me out of the house. I don't know what she expected, but she must have thought it would be insanely dangerous.” Claire just nodded in response, and the two of them sat there in uneasy silence, interrupted only by the sound the pages of Dave's notebook made as the girl went through the hastily jotted down notes.
Finally he stood up. “Well, better go to sleep too – I think we both need it. You can take the bed with Saya, I'll just stay here on the couch.” He made an effort to leave and get a blanket, but Claire grabbed his wrist, muttering a breathless “Stay with me!” Disquieted by his girlfriend's words, he turned around to face her. “O-of course – we both can fit on the couch. What's the matter?”
Claire's face was obscured by her hair, as she was still looking down at the notebook before her. Only now Dave noticed how the fingers she tightened around his wrist were trembling. “When you told me what you saw, some...something came back to me.” she started explaining, her voice weak, her breath quick and irregular, “It was...fuzzy at first, but there. Now where I've read it again, it's clearer. She looked up at him, and in her expression he saw many things: Confusion, realization, sadness, regret...but above all, a primal sense of dread.
“I remember something!”