Chapter 1:

The Child Left Behind

The God's Child

“I’m so hungry.” Rika moaned aloud, as her stomach gave yet another loud rumble. The young girl of seventeen sighed dramatically, adjusting her long, dark hair into a ponytail. Her chin rested on top of the broom handle as she absentmindedly swept the entryway of her workplace, a childcare facility meant for keeping kids while their parents worked. All of the parents had come and gone, taking their kids with them. But one child still remained.

“Hunghee! Hunghee!” A small child repeated gleefully as she turned circles around Rika’s legs.

“I know, I know Emi. You’re always hungry!” Rika laughed. With a big, red bow resting on a crown of her shiny brunette curls and big baby blue eyes, she was the definition of adorable and her unique features caused her to stick out amongst the rest of the children at the facility. Though almost two, she was still rather petite, making her cling to the adults rather than play with other kids her age. Even now while she continued her circling, one small hand grasped Rika’s jeans, preventing any major progress to be made with the sweeping.

Emi paused from her circling, blue eyes looking up at Rika expectantly. “Up! Up!’”

“Okay, okay! How about we look in the pantry and see if we can grab you a snack?” Rika suggested as she picked Emi up, blowing on her stomach in the process, much to the delight of the toddler. They left the facility’s reception area, entering the play room. “Don’t worry, I’m sure your guardian will be here soon.”

“You said that half an hour ago.” An annoyed voice called out from the corner of the room. Sitting squashed between a mini slide and a pile of stuffed animals with her sketchbook, sat Yuki, Rika’s twin sister. She set down her pencil, adjusting her glasses as she scowled at the clock on the wall. “It’s already past 6pm. Doesn’t your workplace have rules about parents who are this late?”

“I’ve already tried calling both her guardian’s number and the emergency number listed and didn’t get an answer.” Rika squatted down, passing a stuffed kitten doll to Emi as she made her way to a set of snack cabinets. “The only other option would be to call the authorities.” Truthfully, Rika had rather not resort to that extreme until she was completely sure no one was coming. “You know how small towns like to talk when the cops are called. They’ll be thinking a murder happened here!”

Yuki wasn’t amused. “Precisely why I hate it here.” She sat back down with a huff, resuming her drawing.

Rika frowned, wishing she had not said anything. Yuki’s dream was to go to study art abroad, out of Japan and someday make her own animated movies. It was a dream she had been passionate about since they were kids and one that wasn’t taken very seriously by the people of their hometown. Something Yuki had taken quite personally.

“Cat! Cat!” Emi repeated her favorite word, hugging the stuffed kitten against her pink dress. An image of a gray cat head was hand-stitched on the front of the dress.

“Here you go, Emi!” Rika said brightly, handing out a strawberry flavored snack bar and a sippy cup filled with water.

“Wa!Wa!Wa!” Emi squealed, instantly dropping her kitten toy and running over to eagerly sip from her cup.

“WaWa?” Yuki repeated, with a raised eyebrow.

“Water.” Rika answered, tearing the bar into less chokable pieces for the toddler. Yuki eyed the food enviously from her perch.

“Mind passing me one too? We are missing dinner after all.”

“Sorry.” Rika apologized sorrowfully. “I wish I could. But the rules are pretty strict here. All the food in the facility is strictly for the kids only. We’ll have to suffer a little bit longer.” Both pairs of stomachs growled in unison at this statement, as the twin’s heads dropped sorrowfully.

Emi, who was munching happily on her food, glanced sideways at Yuki, her curiosity perking. “Foo!” She exclaimed, holding out a piece of food towards the spectacled twin. Yuki stared uncertainly at the generous gesture.

“For me?”

Emi nodded, her curls bouncing happily. “Foo!”

Yuki blushed, hand reaching towards the child. “Aww thank you! That’s so sweet….” As her fingers were about to close over the food, Emi quickly pulled her hand back, popping it into her mouth with an audible crunch. “....of you….”

Yuki’s hand was still frozen in place as Emi giggled, a huge grin spitting her crumb covered face.

“YOU LITTLE BRAT!” Yuki screamed, fists banging on the floor as Emi squealed, running behind an amused Rika. Once behind her faithful protector, the toddler stuck her head out, blowing a raspberry at the fuming teen. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you manners!?”

Emi’s smile disappeared at this question. as her head tilted in confusion. Rika patted her gently, pulling Emi into her lap. “Emi isn’t really around her mother much.” She explained, fixing Emi’s tilting bow. “I don’t know the whole story. All I know is that the person who usually picks her up is like a temporary caretaker. Her father supposedly passed away right after she was born and her mother works abroad.”

“Must be nice. I can only imagine how exciting it would be to work abroad.” Yuki grumbled, fingers running through her hair. Unlike Rika, Yuki found long hair a hassle and unnecessary, so kept it cut short. “All there is is trees and bugs here.”

“I’m not so sure.” Rika replied, rubbing the top of Emi’s head affectionately. “I’m sure she wishes she was here to be with her daughter.”

“Hmmm.” Yuki hummed, glaring at the clock again. “Can’t you call your boss? This is ridiculous! You’re a high schooler! You shouldn’t be working this late to begin with.”

“I don’t usually, but my boss’s mother collapsed suddenly and both my senpai's have college exams coming up.” Rika explained, kind of regretting asking her twin to keep her company. She felt a lecture coming on. “I was the only one who could really close up the facility.”

“Even so, you should really stop taking so many work shifts!” Yuki exclaimed loudly, causing Emi’s eyes to water. “This is our last year of high school! You should be focusing on your grades. How else are you going to get into any school?”

“Rika! Rika!” Emi wailed, small fists banging on Rika’s shirt.

“I can do both.” Rika replied, moving Emi away to calm her. She shot her sister a what she hoped was a confident smile. “Trust me, I’ve got it all handled!”

Yuki's expression still hindered on disbelief and concern. “Fine, but please explain to me why I have to be here? Unlike you, I never volunteered to waste studying time on watching the bane of society.”

At this question, Rika’s smile fell, making way for an embarrassed blush. “ Well...the thing is….the building…well it’s pretty old… and used to be a church….and...well….” Her stuttering slowly turned into an inaudible mumble as she squatted to the ground.

Yuki watched the display with resigned annoyance. “Let me guess….you’re scared to close up by yourself, so you wanted another adult here.”

“Well….yeah.” Rika replied sullenly as Emi patted her back.

Yuki sighed, massaging the bridge of her nose. “I swear, you and your ghost stories…”

“It’s not just that! Churches are just creepy in general!” Rika exclaimed, standing up suddenly and causing Emi to tumble on her bottom. “They're big and always so quiet! And when you walk in everything echoes in a creepy way! And don’t forget, churches are where funerals take place! It gives me the chills just thinking about it!”

“You do realize you're scared of a place that most people would consider holy ground, right?” Yuki questioned skeptically. “Also I’ve never seen you act this way when we visit the temples at night.”

“Temples are different!” Rika explained as if it was common sense. “Temples have a peaceful aura to them and at a temple I don’t feel like I am constantly being watched like in a church.”

“Christians would say that’s the eye of God watching you.”

“God, huh? I wonder if God allows ghosts into churches?” Rika pondered.

“You’re questioning something that doesn’t even exist.”

“What? God or ghosts?” Rika asked, head tilting curiously.

“Both!” Yuki growled, popping Rika on the head with her sketchbook.

“Hey!” Rika exclaimed, rubbing her head. “You really don’t believe in any of them?”

Yuki crossed her arms over her chest. Rika couldn’t help but feel a tad bit of annoyance when she did this, for it made her already large chest pop out even larger. Though twins, there were some things that just weren’t fully identical. Chest size was one.

“There is no scientific evidence of either one of these things being real. So no, as of right now I don't believe in them. I’m assuming you do?”

“Hmmm...good question.” Rika said, glancing out the window at the setting sun. “Like you, I can’t say I’ve ever really seen evidence of either. But I do think it’s kind of fun to believe in something mystical out there, don’t you think?”

“Not when it forces me to have to babysit you on a school night!” Yuki rebuked, smacking her twin again.

Right at that moment, the lights above them began to flicker. Both twins glanced up at the same time as the lights went out completely, surrounding them in darkness. Their screams of terror echoed through the building.

“Emi! Emi! Where are you?” Rika crawled on her hands and knees, trying to feel for the small toddler in the pitch blackness of the room. She was right next to her just a minute ago! Did she wander off while they were talking?

“Hold on, let me grab my phone.” Calmly, Yuki pulled out her phone, the light from it almost blinding. Quickly, she turned on her flashlight, scanning the room. Rika crawled closer to her and together they followed the light. In the darkness, the normal cheerful room seemed eerie. As the light flashed over the pile of stuffed animals, their eyes seemed to glow with a sinister air that gave both girls the chills.

“Rika?” a small voice called out from the back of the room.

“That’s Emi!” Rika exclaimed, grabbing Yuki and running forward.

“Wait! Let me shine the light first!” Rika paused, allowing Yuki to move ahead, her light shining forward. There, standing in the doorway that leads out to the playground area, stood a frightened Emi, clutching a stuffed kitten doll tightly to her chest.

“Oh thank goodness!” Rika sighed in relief, as she held her arms out. “Come here Emi!”

But something strange was happening behind the small girl. The air seemed to shimmer as if they were staring at the rippled surface of water. A low hissing sound seemed to vibrate around them, echoing in the high ceiling of the old church. Rika felt a cold sweat form on her body. Something strange was happening. She could tell Yuki felt it too, for the hand holding the phone had started to shake, making the light sway.

Suddenly the space behind Emi was no longer empty. Before their very eyes a white serpent of monstrously proportions appeared out of thin air. It’s head hovered over the toddler, giant white fangs dripping saliva that fell short of hitting her. The young girl was still unaware of the danger she was in. She was too busy looking at the puddle of saliva on the ground in front of her. Before Rika could even think, she was running forward, straight into the beast as it’s jaws opened up to devour Emi.

“RIKA!” Yuki’s blood curdling scream vibrated through the room, but Rika hardly heard it as she dived at Emi, both of them rolling out of the way just as the snake's fangs came down, missing her leg by a hair.

Rika quickly lifted her head, ignoring the pain of the fall. The snake’s fangs stood embedded into the wooden floorboards, it’s massive head struggling to free itself. Seeing it distracted, Rika worriedly examined the toddler in her arms. Luckily she was unharmed, her hands clutching Rika’s black shirt tightly, her head buried in the fabric. “Hold on tight, okay?” Rika whispered, her arms wrapping around her protectively.

She felt the reptilian’s eyes watching her as she quickly ran past. “Come on!” Rika ordered, grabbing her sister’s arm pulling her along as she dashed out of the play room and into the entryway. They ran outside, where the sun had completely disappeared behind the mountains that surrounded their town, causing darkness to fall.

“Here, take her!” Rika ordered, disattaching Emi off of her and onto a baffled Yuki. “Both of you head down the road and find help! I’ll try to keep that thing locked up!”

“Wait what?!” Yuki exclaimed frantically as she tried to hold on to a squirming Emi. “Are you insane? Did you see that thing! No way am I leaving you here with it!”

“My job here is to protect Emi! And it’s my fault you're even here tonight!” Rika argued. “It’s better for both of you to get to safety as soon as possible.”

“ can’t….CAN YOU PLEASE HOLD STILL!” Yuki screamed in frustration as Emi’s struggling intensified, large fat tears rolling down the child’s face as her little arms tried to reach for Rika.

“Rika! Rika! Waaaahhh!” The child was panicking, reaching out for the only familiar person she knew.

“Emi please!” Rika pleaded, willing the toddler to understand the danger they were in. “You have to be a good girl and go with Yuki.” The young child only shook her head frantically, her tiny hands grabbing hold to Rika’s shirt and refusing to let go.

A loud rumble split the air and both girls turned at the same time as something heavy rammed into the locked doorway, splitting the wood. It was unmistakably the snake, trying to ram itself through.

“This can’t be happening.” Yuki’s hands shook, her own eyes starting to tear up. “Rika we need to…..” But speech escaped her, as her sister’s hands forcibly pushed her off the road and into a dried up ditch.

“Hide!” Rika whispered, before running off with Emi clutched to her chest. She sprinted across the road, heading to the playground that stood opposite to the facility. A loud crash issued behind her and she knew the daycare’s doors had finally given in.

“Please stay safe!” She prayed, hoping Yuki would stay hidden. She kept her gaze focused ahead, worried that if she looked back her courage would fail her. She held Emi as close to her body as possible, trying to stiffen her crying. “I’m sorry Emi.”glanced behind her, expecting to see the snake pursuing them. But to her surprise, nothing was there.


Rika arrived at the playground, huffing for breath as her eyes darted around the area. A children’s play gym caught her attention and she quickly dashed under, planting herself as far in as possible. The toddler in her arms was still crying, tears leaking onto Rika’s chest as she whimpered fearfully.

“Shhh, it’s okay Emi. It’s okay.” She murmured gently, rubbing her back as she tried to calm her.

“But is it really?” Rika wondered, ears straining to hear any movement. A few light posts had flickered on automatically, casting a little light on the playground. From her position, Rika still couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Was it possible this was all just some strange hallucination?

“Mama.” Emi whimpered, lifting her head up to gaze at Rika with sorrowful, blue eyes. “I want Mama.”

“I know….I know…” Rika whispered, pulling her close. “We’ll see Mama, but we have to be quiet, okay? How can I make her understand?” Her fingers brushed against metal. Curious, Rika tugged and pulled out a gold necklace that was placed around Emi’s neck. The chain was ordinary enough, but the pendant attached was diamond shaped and had a bright red ruby attached to the center. Strange symbols circled the gemstone, looking like some sort of foreign alphabet. What is Emi doing with jewelry like this?


She heard it. The sound that instantly caused her body to freeze in terror. Her hand instinctively covered both her and Emi’s mouth. Not only could she hear it’s hissing, but she could hear it’s scales shifting the soft mulch covering the grounds of the play area. And yet it still wasn’t visible?

“Where are you?” Rika wondered, eyes straining to locate the monster. How could a serpent that large be so difficult to find? A sudden shift in the air, made her blink in confusion. She squinted at the spot where it happened, right under the light of a lamp post. As she stared at the spot, she found herself astonished as the white scales appeared in the light, part of the snake’s body still invisible.

“It becomes visible when light hits it!” Rika wasn’t sure if this discovery helped her or made the beast even more terrifying. “Think Rika! What can I do?” With the snake being invisible, she had no idea where it’s head was or how near it was to their hiding spot. She could shine her phone’s flashlight on it and discover its location, but that would also mean the snake would notice them. She could either keep hidden and hope for the best or find the snake and try to outrun it and find help. Neither option sounded appealing.

The thought of just sitting there and waiting for their death sounded by far the worst option to Rika. If the snake discovered them, there was no way she could escape fast enough with Emi. But she also didn’t know if she had the strength or stamina to outrun the beast, especially while holding a small child.

The more she thought about it, the more she realized how bleak their situation truly was. Tears slowly filled Rika’s eyes and her grip on Emi tightened as she fought back her own sobs. She felt a tiny hand reach up and pat her on the cheek.

“Okay, okay.” The small child whispered, continuing to pat the older girl’s face.

“Oh Emi...” Rika’s facade crumbled and she could no longer keep the tears from falling. Here she was feeling sorry for herself and this girl who’s hardly been alive over a year is trying to comfort her. Her body shook as she clutched Emi close to her, her body shaking with grief. “ I should be the one being strong! It’s my job to take care of you. And yet….” She knew there was no possibility of her beating that thing.

I’m so sorry Emi.” It wasn’t fair. Why did something as precious as Emi have to die tonight? A child who’s done nothing wrong! A child that’s barely started her life? It was like a cruel joke. The more she thought about it, the more Rika’s resolve hardened. No matter what, she couldn’t let a child’s life end this way. Alone, frightened, without her parents to comfort her. Just some random high schooler with no talent or future waiting for her.

“No.” Rika thought bitterly, “ No god would be that cruel.”

Gently, Rika pushed Emi’s hands away from her, trying her best to smile confidently. “Emi listen. I need you to promise to stay here, okay? Stay here and don’t make a sound, alright?” Rika whispered, praying for Emi to understand.

Her blue eyes seemed to bore into Rika, filled with questions and emotions that would be impossible for her to put into words. Instead she nodded with a quivering lip and pulled at her necklace. Wordlessly she handed it to Rika. Rika almost expected Emi’s hand to jerk away at the last second, the game she always liked to play. But the toddler did nothing as Rika’s hand clamped over the ruby pendant. Rika wondered if she was giving it to her as some sort of good luck charm? When she tried to push it back, the child shook her head viciously.

Rika gazed down at the beautiful pendant, hoping she would have a chance to give it back. She grasped it in her palm tightly, wanting all the luck she could get. “Okay, it’s now or never.”

She sighed, grabbing her phone and getting ready to dash. She wanted to take one last look at Emi, but felt like if she did, she would never leave the girl’s side.

“Let’s do this!” Rika yelled, getting into a runners crouch and propelling herself out of the play gym. Switching her phone’s light on, she frantically started waving it around, scanning for the beast as she screamed. “Hey snake! Come get me! I’m over...EEEP!”

Rika quickly jumped to the side as the snake’s head suddenly appeared beside her. The only thing separating them was a swing set. The snake hissed, jaws opening up to reveal two deadly fangs posed to strike.

“AHHHH!!” Rike screamed, as she quickly shifted backwards. She felt a jolt of pain as her back made contact with metal. Glancing back, she saw she had backed herself into metal rings of a ladder that lead up the playground’s main slide set. Instinctively, she started climbing just as the snake came down, it’s head hitting the bars just as she reached the platform. The whole structure shook with the impact, causing Rika to cling tightly to one of the poles.

“That was close.” Rika sighed, her heart thumping hard against her chest. She shot the flashlight down, but to her horror found the snake had disappeared again. “What! No! Where is it?

She clung to the railing of the play set, holding her light up to scan the area down below. It didn’t take long for her to locate its scaly tail coming into view as her light went past. A cold chill ran through her as she realized the snake was heading straight to the direction of the climbing gym Emi was hiding in.

“NO!” Rika yelled, both feet coming up on the railing. Clenching her phone with her teeth, she used both hands to balance as she braced herself for what she was about to do. “I know this is insane. And I know I’m crazy for doing this…. But….” An image of Emi’s smiling face appeared in her mind, easing any lingering doubts and causing a warmth to spread through her chest.

“But I can’t just give up!”

With that, she pushed herself into the air. Time seemed to slow down as she hovered, looking down at the serpent which was now paused over Emi’s hiding place, it’s head looming over a small figure that crouched outside the gym.

Rika’s eyes widened at the realization of what was about to happen.

“LEAVE HER ALONE!” Rika screamed, landing in a roll and pushing herself over Emi’s body as the snake’s head struck down. She gasped, as both fangs grazed Rika’s side, splitting her white shirt and making two clean cuts into her flesh.

Instantly, fiery hot pain exploded in her body causing her to gasp in agony. Forcing herself to look, she could see steam rising from the wound as the snake’s saliva seemed to blister away at flesh. The snake itself was rearing up, getting ready for another strike.

“RIKA!” Emi’s scream cut through Rika like a knife. The sound made her flinch. She hated that she caused so much agony for the poor child.

“I’m so sorry Emi….” Rika knew the next strike would be fatal. She closed her eyes, hugging Emi to her chest so she wouldn’t see death approach. “I wish I could protect you.”

As the words left her lips, a sudden red light flashed from around her neck. It was so blinding, the snake paused in it’s strike, shrinking away as its whole body shimmered into visibility. A strange warmth seemed to be filling Rika’s body, blocking away the feverish heat that came from the snake’s wound and giving her new energy. Both Emi and Rika stared in wonder as Rika pulled out the source of the light, Emi’s ruby necklace.

Before either could question what was happening, the symbols around the pendant glowed gold and a burst of red flames erupted from the gemstone. “Ahhh!” Rika screamed, pushing Emi away as the flames surrounded her and started to eat away at her flesh. But instead of pain, power seemed to fill her as she felt her body morph into something entirely new…..

As the fire subsided, a girl no longer remained. Instead there stood a giant, pure white wolf with fangs bared and ready for battle. 

Real Aire