Yachi was kneeling on the floor slowly putting her colouring pencils one by one into her rucksack, her lip wobbled with every pencil placed inside. Keiji kneeled down beside her and grabbed the pencils out the bottom of her bag, Yachi watched with curious eyes. “If you put the pencils in this pouch here,” Keiji says as he unzipped a small compartment, “they won’t break when you put other things in.” He offered her a small smile.
Yachi sniffled then shallowly nodded her head, “thank you, Akaashi-san.” Her eyes were shiny with unshed tears. Keiji finished with the remaining pencils, then looked down at Yachi’s face and saw the mess of tears making slow tracks across her red cheeks.
Keiji reached out his hands to hold her face, his thumbs softly wiping away the tears from her chubby cheeks, “you’re such a brave girl, Yacchan,” Keiji cooed at her. Yachi sniffled loudly then hiccupped a quiet sob. He brought his hands to wrap around her shoulders, pulling her in for a hug.
Yachi pressed her face into Keiji’s sternum, her body trembled as she tried to cry as quietly as possible. Yachi was tiny in Keiji’s arms and Keiji couldn’t help but to think of a baby bird as he held her.
Tsukishima stood behind them, his bag securely strapped to his shoulders, “I’ve finished packing,” he said awkwardly to Keiji’s back trying hard not to ruin the moment but the frustration was clear on his face.
Keiji rubbed a comforting hand across Yachi’s back once, then pulled himself and Yachi to standing, putting the filled rucksack onto Yachi’s back. “Thank you, Tsukki-kun,” he nodded to Tsukishima as he took his own bag from Tsukishima’s outstretched hand. “We’re leaving now,” he says as he shoulders his pack and takes a hold of Yachi’s hand, leading them both to the door.
Keiji sucked in a deep breath, his free hand rested on the door handle, “ready?” he asks, Keiji looked to see Tsukishima and Yachi both nod. His hand trembled as he tugged the handle down then opened the door in one swift motion.
Keiji was idly scrolling through the newsfeed on his phone, a couple articles caught his eye, a deadly virus outbreak in China, when the break room door knocks and opened. Keiji put his phone in his pocket and looked up to see his supervisor enter the room, “mind cutting your break short, ‘Kaashi? We just had two new drop offs.” Keiji stood up from the uncomfortable plastic chair and stretched his back out, feeling as well as hearing his joints pop.
“Yeah, sure, how old?” Keiji asked as he followed his supervisor out the room.
“Eight and Fifteen, so you’ll have fun keeping them both occupied,” his supervisor chuckled as he led them to the reception room.
“Oh joy,” Keiji deadpanned.
They reached their destination and Keiji spotted two blondes sat next to each other, the older of the two slouched over in the chair with his chin resting on his propped-up fist, looking for all he’s worth bored out of his mind, next to him is a little girl, her short legs swung back and forth as she stared down at her hands which were nervously playing together on her lap.
“Here we are,” his supervisor said and the blondes looked up at their arrival, “this is Tsukishima Kei and Yachi Hitoka, they’ll be staying with us for the week.”
Keiji and his supervisor quickly went over the paperwork together and then just as quickly he was left on his own with two bored looking kids. It was hard work working with children, but after a year of working as a glorified babysitter for rich families on vacation, Keiji thought he was starting to get the hang of it.
Keiji spent the next two days trying out every idea under the sun but was met with unenthusiastic compliance every time. Keiji felt bad for these kids, it was obvious that they were only taken on vacation out of obligation and then left to fend for themselves. Usually, parents would leave their children in his care for a night so they could go out drinking without worry, but Tsukishima and Yachi’s parents hadn’t shown their faces once since being here, leaving Keiji to speculate what their home life was like.
The trio were sat at a crafts table in one of the many side rooms of the resort Keiji worked at. Tsukishima was slowly making his way through his homework booklet (it was clear that they were taken out of school for this vacation what with it being off season, and really, the children should have been at school, but who was Keiji to judge?), and Yachi was colouring in her Hello Katey book quietly when Keiji had an idea.
“Have either of you two been camping before?” Keiji asked in the quiet room, Yachi jumped at his voice but had no reaction otherwise. Tsukishima sighed and put down his pen.
“No, we’ve not,” Tsukishima’s face was pinched, and Keiji could bet money that Tsukishima knew where his line of questioning was going. Keiji stood up, prompting the other two to pack away their things.
“Well, that settles it, we’ll go camping for a couple days, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and come back just before you have to leave.” Keiji was already getting a mental checklist prepared, “there’s a lake nearby that we can go swimming in and we’ll have the campsite to ourselves so we can be as loud as we want,” Keiji glanced at the other two and realised he was talking to the quietest kids on earth, “or we could just stargaze in silence?” Tsukishima raised an eyebrow at his comment but didn’t say anything, and Yachi never talked so he wasn’t surprised that she continued to do so.
After clearing things with his supervisor and packing enough supplies to last a month, because they were growing kids and Keiji could admit to himself that he had the appetite of a small country, they finally set off.
The hike up the trail through the forest took an hour, Yachi was by his side and Tsukishima trailed behind dragging his feet, he was met with no complaints so Keiji didn’t ask him to pick up his speed. They made it to the small clearing and Keiji began to set up their tents, each having a tent to themselves as there was no one else to share with, and Keiji could tell that the half-siblings weren’t that close. Setting up didn’t take long but it was still quite late in the day and Keiji decided to get a campfire started so he could sort out dinner.
Keiji held up two cans of food, “we can have pork and beans or vegetable soup tonight, your pick.” Keiji waited to be acknowledged, Yachi was sat next to him staring and Tsukishima was a couple metres away poking the ground with a stick. Keiji sighed, he could already tell where this little trip was heading, visions of awkward silence for hours on end sent a shiver down his spine. “Pork and beans it is then.”
They ate in silence, and Keiji was glad he neglected to bring the acoustic guitar to sing campfire songs to. “It’s getting dark now. How about we call it an early night, and we’ll start bright and early tomorrow morning?” Keiji was met with more silence, he guessed their lack of protest meant they were as excited as he was to be left alone.
It didn’t take long for them to get ready to sleep, Tsukishima was already in his tent by the time Keiji finished helping Yachi, closing up her tent he spoke loud enough for them both to hear, “if you need anything don’t hesitate to wake me up,” Keiji didn’t wait for a reply, knowing what his answer would be, and got inside his own tent.
Keiji had packed four power banks with him and there was an electrical outlet near the outhouse, so he wasn’t worried about his phone losing charge as he read late into the night on it. There was no service at the camp grounds, it being too deep in the mountains, so Keiji had made sure to save a whole library’s worth of books on his phone before they left. It had been a few hours since he made the decision for them all go to bed when Keiji heard a noise, it was the sound of someone trying their hardest to keep quiet while they cried.
Keiji couldn’t tell who of the two it was.
The rest of their trip played out the same as the start. They sat around the lake in their bathing suits as none of them wanted to swim, they ate their food quietly as Keiji tried his hardest to start a conversation but was met with one-word or no answers at all, they stargazed in complete silence like he had predicted back at the resort, and when they went to bed at night Keiji stayed up listening to the quiet sobs, still trying to figure out who it was.
Keiji sighed as he began to dismantle their tents, well that idea was a complete bust. It had been complete torture feeling every minute pass painstakingly by, and Keiji could bet that the other two felt the same way. With their belongings packed away and their bags shouldered, the trio made the hour-long trip back to the resort.
Keiji was at the lead, Yachi just behind him, and Tsukishima even further. They had trekked through the forest trail and eventually made it to the edge of the resort by midday. Their feet crunched on the asphalt of the tennis court that was on the bounds of the resort, it was empty but Keiji wasn’t too surprised with it being off season. They made it further into the resort past the biking trails and the swimming pools when Keiji realised he hadn’t seen another person since they made it back.
Keiji could feel the beginnings of anxiety in his stomach when they reached the hotel and it was completely silent.
Keiji made to grab Yachi’s hand and looked over his shoulder to Tsukishima, “stay close Tsukishima-kun, please,” he called out and Tsukishima hurried closer, his eyebrows knotted together in confusion. They walked further into the hotel, the hallways eerily quiet, and made it to the ‘day-care’ without bumping into a single soul.
Keiji set down their bags and told the other two to find something to do while he made a call. He looked at his phone and frowned when he saw it was still out of service, he restarted it but there was no change. Keiji walked over to the reception desk and tapped the number of his supervisor in the keypad of the corded phone, he waited with the handset pressed to his ear, and watched Tsukishima reading a book and Yachi drawing pictures, the phone rang several times before ending with the dial tone. Keiji huffed out a sigh, his anxiety spiking, and tried again.
It was on the fifth try when Keiji saw movement out of the corner of his eye, he quickly turned and saw a man’s figure with his back facing him, out in the hallway through the glass doors. Keiji let out a breath of relief and put the handset down on the receiver, he recognised the uniform. Finally, someone he could ask to tell him what the hell was going on. Keiji walked towards the glass door when the man turned around and Keiji stopped in his tracks.
The man was stooped over but it was clear as day that it was blood running down from the man’s mouth, dribbling down his chin, and staining the entire front of his shirt.
Keiji took a step back when the man noticed him, he saw the man push his body against the glass door instead of using his hands, leaving smudges of blood on the glass, and slowly the door pushed open and the man was inside the room with them.
“Are you alright, sir?” Keiji didn’t recognise his face and couldn’t read his name tag from where he stood. Keiji took another step back when the man began to stumble like a drunk towards him with outstretched hands. “I can find someone to take you to the infirmary if you could wait just a moment?” Keiji glanced back at his wards and saw they were staring at the commotion with wide eyes. Keiji was turning back around when the man had reached him and grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and hair, Keiji tried to yank himself out of the man’s grasp but instead he stumbled over his feet and fell on his back with a yelp, the man following after, falling on top of Keiji with all his weight.
The wind was knocked out of Keiji and the weight on his front made it difficult to catch his breath, he wheezed and tried to struggle out the man’s grip when he heard clacking. Keiji’s eyes snapped up to the man’s face.
The man’s jaw was audibly chomping, trying to take a chunk out of Keiji’s face. Keiji looked into the man’s eyes and gasped when he saw how milky and dead they looked.
Keiji jabbed against the man’s chest trying to push him further away, but the grip to his hair was becoming painful and the man was straining with all his strength to get his face closer to Keiji’s. Blood from the man’s mouth began to trickle and drip onto Keiji’s face, the anxiety from earlier became full-blown panic as Keiji thrashed and desperately shoved the man’s snapping jaws away from his throat.
A loud thwack emanated the room and the man slumped down immediately. Keiji breathed heavily as he scuttled from underneath the man’s body, blood smearing down Keiji’s form in his wake, and looked up.
Tsukishima was stood next to Keiji with a golf club held out in front of him, Tsukishima’s grip on the club loosened and it clattered loudly to the floor.
“I killed him,” Tsukishima whispered, his eyes were blown wide in panic.
Keiji scrambled to his feet, “no, no, Tsukishima, it’s not your fault, he was attacking me.” Keiji gripped Tsukishima by the shoulders, he was trembling and hyperventilating in Keiji’s hands.
“I’m going to go to prison, I’ll get a life sentence and then I’ll die in prison,” Tsukishima wheezed out shuddering breaths, “and mum won’t take me back now, I’m a murderer!” his voice cracking with the effort to get his breathing under control. Keiji struggled to calm Tsukishima down, not knowing what to do. Just as Keiji opened his mouth to speak he heard Yachi scream from across the room.
Keiji whipped around to see Yachi, she was huddled underneath the table pointing to the glass door, Tsukishima pulled out of Keiji’s grip and made a beeline to his sister. Keiji slowly turned his head fearing what he would see.
Two figures were pressed up against the glass door, their faces torn to shreds, exposing fatty tissue and bone, blood oozing from their wounds and smearing across the glass. Keiji quickly grabbed the fallen club, “Tsukishima, grab the bags!” He yelled as he backed up towards the children, not taking his eyes off the figures. Keiji heard cracking and looked down to see the man from earlier was slowly starting to get up, his body twisting awkwardly with the effort. The blood drained from Keiji’s face as the man stood back to full height and the people at the door managed to figure out how to get in.
The back of Keiji’s knees hit the table and he quickly scrambled to stay upright; the golf club was in a death grip in his fists. “Ts-sukishma, do you have the bags?” His throat strained to ask.
“Yes,” Tsukishima's voice was just as hoarse.
“Yachi, stand up for me please,” Keiji's voice was deathly calm. The group of shamblers were slowly making their way across the room, Keiji could hear Yachi crawl out from under the table, as soon as she was on her feet Keiji picked her up and ran full speed towards the back corridor that led to the employee offices, the golf club was pinned against Yachi’s ribs as he ran. He could hear Tsukishima running behind him, the groans from the others, and pressed up to his ear he heard Yachi’s squeaking breaths.
They reached the door to the corridor and Keiji crashed into it, he held it open with tremoring hands for Tsukishima to enter, then slammed it close. Luckily the door had a lock on the inside and Keiji quickly twisted it, not a moment later he heard the full force of a body slam up against the door followed by more loud thuds.
Keiji felt wetness on his neck and saw Yachi’s body wrack with sobs. Keiji squeezed her closer, running his hand up and down her back with the effort to calm her as well as himself down. “What the fuck is happening?” Keiji wanted to reprimand Tsukishima’s use of profanity but thought now was the most appropriate time to let it slide.