One of my kinswomen died suddenly. I have never seen her. She had four years-old daughter called Yuki. Girl’s father couldn’t rear her alone and asked my aunt to take care of her.
The girl refused to stay alone and kept always near aunt. This became a real problem. My aunt couldn’t go anywhere without Yuki. She was constantly needed to pay attention to. And even aunt’s own daughter started being jealous of her.
Once aunt said to me that she had to leave city for several days and asked if I could manage with little girl. I said I’d do it with pleasure. I lived alone and was quite willing to have such a society.
Several days later aunt brought Yuki to my flat. When she was leaving she pulled girl aside and said: “Yuki, please, be a good girl.”
So, when aunt left I tried to talk to Yuki and play with her, but girl was behaving very strangely. She had a teddy bear, which she held tightly under her arm and didn’t loose hold it even for a second. She didn’t smile and let fall no word. She was just silently sitting in the corner and looking at wall. I felt quite uncomfortable.
I tried to cheer her up somehow. I’ve just bought a new digital camera – so I decided to give my old camera to Yuki so she could play with it. When she saw the camera, her eyes burned like fire. I showed her what button she should push and she started walking about flat making photos of everything around. Her face lit with smile.
That evening I understood how it was difficult to bother with Yuki. Every time I tried to come out the room she started screaming and crying and calling me by name. I couldn’t leave her alone, as she started making loud noise. She even made me to bring her to the toilet with me and I experienced several awkward moments.
When it was time to sleep she refused to sleep in guest-room and insisted me to take her to my bed. I started reading tales to her and at last she fell asleep. That time I noticed something on her teddy bear. One of its legs was charred and blackened – as if it was burning. I interested what could happen with it.
In the middle of the night I was aroused with strange noise. I turned and noticed something was wrong with Yuki. Her body shivered and trembled, her eyes were wide opened, teeth chattered and tears fell down her cheeks. I cuddled her and asked what had happened.
“She is looking at me again”, Yuki muttered.
“Who’s looking?” I asked with wonder.
“The dark woman”, answered Yuki.
She said nothing else. I tried to explain to her that it was just her imagination, but she proceeded to shiver and cry. I had to make a push to put her to sleep again.
The next day Yuki was as fine as a fiddle. She liked to play with my digital camera. When the time to return home came, I said to her that she could take the camera with her. Yuki gave me a hug. Although she said nothing, I knew she was very glad.
I brought Yuki to aunt’s house and stayed to drink a cup of tea. My aunt thanked me for I had looked after girl, and we were talking for some time.
“Poor girl”, aunt said, “She said no word since her mother died”.
I was unable to contain my curiosity. “How did Yuki’s mother died?” I asked.
The aunt’s face got strange expression. “She died in fire…”
“How did the fire started?”
“Well…”, my aunt hesitated as if she didn’t want to speak about it. “It’s quite a sad story. She committed suicide. Yuki’s mother was very unbalanced woman. She wet her with gasoline and lit a match. She burned herself alive”.
”My god!” , I cried, “That’s terrible!”
“Yes,” – aunt nodded, - “Her family was shocked so much that decided to becloud real circumstances of her death and presented it as an accident. Only the close relatives were invited to funeral. Yuki was absent there. She doesn’t know her mother has died even now. She thinks her mother left for a long business trip. We had no courage to tell her truth”.
“Poor Yuki”, I whispered.
My aunt nodded again. “Poor Yuki”.
Several days later… Yuki died.
My aunt tried to wean her from being afraid of staying alone. She made girl to sleep alone in her room. Despite Yuki’s screams and crying she left her alone and fastened a door. In the morning she found breathless corpse of Yuki in her bed. Poor girl was dead.
Nobody could understand what had happened. Doctor was unable to determine the cause of death. There were no any marks on her body, girl had perfect health. She just mystically died and no one could explain it.
After Yuki’s funeral I returned to aunt’s house. Everyone was grieved and dull. Aunt gave me my camera back. I took it in remembrance of Yuki.
Its memory card was full of various casual photos made by Yuki. I started looking through them wiping tears from my eyes. There were photos of my flat, of aunt’s house, pictures of flowers, dogs, sweets… Common and silly photos that only a child can make.
So I came to the last photo. When I saw it my blood ran cold.
My hands began to tremble.
I wanted to scream but I couldn’t.
The timer showed the photo was made at night when Yuki died.
Here is that last photo: