Hold Me Tightly

Jason Langlois

Nabiki Tendo didn't believe in this kind of nonsense. Curses and ghosts and the like. It was all stories told by boys to get the scared little girls to clutch to them and squeal. Boys always liked to be held on to, it gave them a chance to cop a feel.

Still, she couldn't deny the shiver that ran up her spine when she was told the legend of this place. The Fraternity leader's voice was low, the flashlight over his face, except for his chin, cheeks, and eyes, giving the latter an unearthly sparkle. "Our sister has pledged to join us," he droned, his voice a scratchy whisper, "and so must pass the final Test. The Test of courage before the supernatural." She had watched him, unable to take her eyes away from the gleam in his, as he spoke to the gathered crowd, a crowd that seemed, to her, unusually quiet despite the copious amounts of alcohol that had been consumed that evening. Through the corners of her eyes, because she didn't dare look around, she could see the solemn faces of her sponsor and her sponsor's boyfriend.

Solemn, and scared.

"Our sister now faces the Test, our final Test." The leader's face broke into an incongruous smile, dropping the act and the beam of light from his face. "Sorry, I just can't go on!" Nabiki relaxed. "OK, up you go."

It was a statue they were standing before, right in the middle of the large cemetery on the campus. Nabiki had asked why there was a cemetery on campus, and her sponsor, her roommate Amiko, had only shrugged. "Easier, I guess." Then she grinned.

Amiko wasn't grinning now. She was nervous, but said nothing. Nabiki looked up at the statue, grey and featureless, seated with arms stretched out before it, as if waiting to cradle a child. This and the inscription on the pedestal, "Died waiting, Died alone", made most people assume it was a statue of the person in the grave.

But Nabiki didn't believe in that kind of thing.

"What's the story behind this? I mean, sitting in a statue's arms all night, that doesn't seem like much of an initiation ritual to me..."

Instead of the amusement she'd expected, the fraternity leader rounded on Amiko's boyfriend. "You didn't TELL her?!"

"C'mon, Timoru! The last one ran away like a child!"

Amiko poked her boyfriend in the chest. "I told you, she's different. She's not like anyone else." She looked and winked at Nabiki, but the Tendo girl's shrewd eye caught that Amiko's eyes didn't quite meet her own.

"She should have been told!" Timoru turned, smiling apologetically. "Legend has it that long ago, before this was even a college, the daughter of a wealthy man was betrothed to a samurai. But the samurai, being a warrior at heart and not a husband, fled, and, in another hand, sent a letter back that he had been killed in war so that he could be free. The father believed the letter, but she didn't, recognizing the distinctive way he'd write his own name. She came out here daily to wait. One winter, she'd been struck down with a sickness and died on this spot, sitting in this position. Her father buried her, commissioned that statue, and left the land. They say, now, that whoever walks by can hear the remorseful weeping of the girl, and whoever dares to sit on the statue meets with death..."

The leader's voice lingered, broken a few seconds later by Nabiki. "Oh, please..."

"I told you she wasn't like the rest," smirked Amiko.

"Bite me."

"Not tonight, I have a headache."

Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Get a room." She turned then to the leader. "So all I have to do is sit on the statue for one night? What if the police see me?"

They won't," the leader smiled grimly. "They never come here at night."

* * * * *

Nabiki was not nervous. Not in the least. Nope. No way.

She had been feeling increasingly "not nervous" since the other three left. Amiko had looked very scared despite her assurances that Nabiki would be just fine. The look on her face wasn't exactly reassuring.

She'd already spent an hour on the hard stone lap. She stood to stretch, turning to look at the "face" of the statue, which had been worn from time and nature. As she was half way through her turn, a chill swept through her. She completed the turn in a rush, and gasped.

The eyes of the statue seemed to be glowing bright red.

She blinked, almost backing off of the pedestal, and looked again. The eyes were fine. Nothing but chipped and worn stone, just like the rest. She could tell the features had once been reminiscent of a beautiful woman.

"But you're just an ugly, warty thing now, aren't you, dear?" Talking to the statue eased her mind. She sat down, then turned around and stretched out, leaning her back against one of the outstretched arms and propping her feet on the other. She could only imagine she looked as if she were cradled in the arms of the statue, and laughed. "Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is just how it was when I was a baby. Except my mother wasn't an ugly, chipped thing like this."

She closed her eyes. She wouldn't even be joining this fraternity/sorority mess if it wasn't for the contacts she'd gain just by being affiliated with them. Like scary stories, she didn't believe in sororities. Leave that for Akane.

The stone against her back was warm. It flitted through her mind that it didn't fit, on such a cool night, that the stone should be warm, but she wasn't complaining. She began to drift off, a slight smile floating to her face. "Good night, you ugly old hag."

Deeper she dropped into sleep, and she began to feel as if she were enveloped in warm arms, holding her comfortably. Her minds eye turned to her mother, cradling her, warm and affectionate, her face in shadow.

Then she leaned forward, stone faced with glowing red eyes, and squeezing her tight in hard arms, too hard, so hard she couldn't breathe.

So hard she couldn't scream until the blackness came and wiped out any need to.

* * * * *

Amiko was the one who discovered her the next morning. It took her boyfriend an hour to calm her down.

Together, they went to the cemetery, still early. The frat leader was already there, staring in mute horror.

Nabiki Tendo's body lay, eyes and mouth open in a terrified, silent scream, laying in the arms of the statue. She looked as if she had simply died of terror.

Except the marks on her arms indicated she had been held very tightly.