Author's Note: This is an OC-insert/reincarnation story with my original character as the protagonist. As such, it will end up being very different from canon and the changed events will cause characters to act differently than they do in the anime/manga. This story requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, which is usually necessary for anything Naruto related anyway. Credit for the poem in the summary goes to Mary Elizabeth Frye. Please read and review!

WARNING: This story will contain depression, suicide, death, gore, etc. Continue at your own risk and be aware that this fic may or may not contain triggers. I'll try to remember to add potential trigger warnings at the beginnings of the appropriate chapters, but please remember to read safely!

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Naruto, or Konoha, or Minato, or Obito, or Kakashi (unfortunately), or Itachi, or Jiraiya, or any of those people. I do own me, er, Mirai. Yeah. Mirai.

I give you the first installment of Samsaric.

Prologue - Samsaric

[Samsaric—adj. 1: relating to the process of coming into existence as a differentiated, mortal creature 2: relating to the endless series of births, deaths, and rebirths to which all beings are subject]

I was sixteen years old, out with some close friends to celebrate my early—and hard fought—graduation from high school. I'd never been to the restaurant before, and even now I can't remember what the place was called. What I do know is that it was a sushi joint, and that I was there because I'd been told that I had to try the unfamiliar food. I had conceded only when they'd assured me that I wouldn't have to pick up the tab. So I'd sat and eaten a tuna sushi roll, because I'm not one to ever turn down free food.

The next morning the symptoms had shown up and one of my friends guessed it was food poisoning. We waved it off, not thinking it was a big deal. After all, the last place I wanted to go to was a hospital—I had enough bad memories of those, thank you very much—and my friend was convinced that I would be fine if I followed her generic treatment instructions.

That evening I died in a painful, vomiting fashion.

Bested by tuna.

I'm not particularly proud of the way I died, and I suppose that the cause of my death isn't the important part. What is important is the very fact that I stopped breathing. It wasn't actually too bad, and felt more like ripping off a very stubborn bandaid rather than the emotional and physical agony I had expected. I simply was there one moment and then I wasn't the next. So being greeted by the Dark wasn't so much of a release from pain as it was a hiccup in my day that resulted in me attempting to blink suddenly not-physical eyes and thinking huh?

Hey, now, I never said I was eloquent.

It was empty, nothing echoing in the black, but it was everything, rushing around me with a ferocity I'd never experienced before. Pounding, rending, screaming, but hollow. I couldn't feel, I couldn't see, I couldn't hear, I couldn't do anything. All I could do was think, and even someone that enjoyed doing it as much as me could only do it for so long before they snapped.

The worst part was that my nose itched.

I lived like that—for years, perhaps, or maybe it had only been for a few seconds—before the Dark had finally begun to infect me. My thinking became wild, racing from place to place with nary a thought to routine. Pattern was long forgotten, and my active, writerly mind touched from story to story to occupy myself, never starting at the beginning and never reaching the end. Flashes of TV programs and days out with my family chased themselves through my head. Seeing them made something ache, but by the time I registered the feeling my mind had already moved on.

I'll never forget the day—hour, second, year?—that I was finally able to concentrate again. The sensation was all too familiar—pain. It started small, a sharp itch beneath my skin—and I had skin again—and developed from there. Roaring, stinging agony burrowed inside me as something made it's home in my body, and it felt so wrong and foreign. I wanted nothing more than to scream, but I couldn't.

At least I could finally, properly, think.

Somehow, that hurt more than the ache layered under my skin. Because in that moment I realized that I'd spent forever away from my family, my friends, in the Dark. Something was pulsing around me, I was living somewhere, but it was not home.

It's okay, I told myself. You just got sick, that's all. You're in the hospital and you'll wake up and everyone will be there. This is just some stupid, drawn out nightmare, and it'll be over soon.

I wanted to flinch at the thought of a hospital—those white walls and scratchy blankets and loud nurses that seemed to make it their job to talk you to death—but my body wouldn't react.

That's okay, I thought again. You're just asleep. I paused. As a self-proclaimed psychology fanatic, something about that thought bothered me. Hold on . . . . If I'm super lucid and all, that means it's REM sleep, right? But during REM sleep, a person's body and mind are disconnected in relation to—

My intelligent (read: nerdy) rambling to myself was cut off as the world around me suddenly squeezed.

And in that moment I lost all coherent thought as I was twisted and turned and pushed and pulled. Something slimy, slick, oozed across my face and even though I had been aware that I had skin again, now I could actually feel.

And I hated it.

With a jolt that didn't translate in physical form, I realized I was crying. Because of the pain? Please. I was known at my dojo for a near freakish pain tolerance. As if I would cry because of a little—

Nope. Crying. Most definitely crying.

It took an embarrassing amount of time for me to regain control over my tear ducts and my wails turned to sobbing hiccups. And that was when my stomach lurched, almost like I was . . . moving? That didn't make sense. Unless, of course, my best friend had made true on her promise to use my bed as a skateboard the next time I was hospitalized. That was always a possibility.

No, there it was again. But it wasn't so much moving as it was staying still while everything around me swirled. The crying had returned full force, and I couldn't stop. Somehow, I didn't have the energy to even be ashamed anymore. Someone was screaming. No, that wasn't it. Everyone was screaming. Something oppressive beat down on me, red and angry, and the itch fought its way back to the surface with agony. My veins burned, the blood inside me boiling, and I wanted to scream. I did scream.

To this day, I don't remember stopping.

I would like to say that I took the discovery of my newborn body well, but that would be a lie, which is a habit I'm trying to break. Though that's a lie too.

The truth is, the moment I realized that I was small and distinctly baby-like, I started screaming again. And crying. And wailing. And praying to whoever was out there that this was a joke, because what else are you supposed to do? Essentially, my caretakers had barely a week to enjoy my tight rein on my tears before I let all hell break loose.

My vision was shot to hell and I couldn't see worth squat, but I could hear the mutters of the people watching me as I shrieked all day and night. Good, I thought vindictively. Someone has to suffer for making me a midget again.

Between my screams and sadistic pleasure in the discomfort I caused, I left myself little time to think about what this actually meant. I was a baby, I'd been born. I was somewhere that was not home. And there were people that were not my family. Sometimes, I would be silent long enough to let that hit me, and then when I cried again it would be quiet and painful in more ways than just my burning lungs.

It was one thing to come to terms with the fact that I had died—I had accepted that long ago in the Dark. It was another thing entirely to realize that Sophie Cooper, the person I had once been, was dead, but I was alive.

I had always struggled with handling feelings. I tended to bottle my own emotions up inside and refuse to confront them until they finally exploded in my face. Unfortunately, at that time there wasn't anything for me to do but face up to what had happened. That didn't mean it was easy. My wails died off into pitiful whimpers and eventually into nothing as I gave more and more time to my grief, storing it, living it, and then letting it go. I was always good at that, letting things go. Sometimes I found it easier than I probably should have.

It was when I finally let go that I realized I wasn't alone.

My vision was starting to be more than a mass of white. Things were blurred, uncertain, but colors were available to me now. Above me was white—a ceiling—and below me was white—a bed—to my left was white—a wall—but to my right . . . . The smudge of bronze and yellow was small, but so very close. I didn't think much of the new colors . . . until they moved.

A wail split the air and for once it wasn't mine. My heart wrenched in my chest, constricting in the painful way only kids could cause. He—she?—was crying. I tried to reach out, but my arms jerked helplessly in response. Please don't cry, I pleaded inside my head. It's okay sweetheart.

Of course, the baby didn't stop.

My natural response rose to the surface before I could stop it. The first few notes came out in a squeak and I winced internally. But the screaming faltered and, encouraged, I continued on with my off-key, childish humming. As a musician, and the daughter of a man who spent two decades in the music industry, I was ashamed of the sounds. But the baby next to me calmed, so I didn't stop until I managed to lull myself to sleep.

As someone who'd had every intention of going into the field of pediatric therapy, I would have previously said I knew child development inside and out. But nothing could have prepared me for the fact that I couldn't keep myself from cannibalizing my own foot.

See, the truth is that teething is a you-know-what. To make matters worse, I had nothing to chew on; no toys, no blanket, no nothing. Hence the toes in my mouth. I had no idea where I was—the concept of reincarnation really threw me for a loop—but had these crazy people really never heard of a chilled pacifier? I felt like Chuck Norris wished dishonor on my gums, or something equally gruesome.

It was hell.

That was another thing. So I, along with the baby I assumed was my sibling, had been born. That was a fact. But I was yet to receive any information that hinted at my—our?—parents. Instead, we were bottle-fed and surrounded by those-who-hardly-speak. They wore blurry grey outfits with white over their faces. There were colors on their masks, delicate lines, but my eyes were still too weak to make out details.

My brother was the only thing keeping the boredom from driving me insane.

At that thought, I rolled over to look at him. I was just close enough and my vision finally developed to the point where I could make out his more identifying features. The mop of gold was actually the brightest, most angelic hair I'd ever seen. Below that, he peered at me with giant, azure eyes. Something was on his cheeks and I squinted hard before shrugging internally. Probably dirt.

Those eyes got my attention again, staring at me in confused wonder. My brother. The thought hurt. Sophie's brother was a brunet with a buzz cut and severe video game addiction. But that wasn't fair. That was . . . Sophie's brother. This bright-eyed baby . . . . This was my brother. And that realization made me do something I hadn't done ever before in this life.

I smiled.

My caretakers spoke rarely and when they did I recognized a precious few words at first. It was distinctly Japanese, that much I was able to tell from my anime obsession. After that, I discovered just how hard it was to learn a new language. But I had nothing better to do with my time, so I spent most of my waking hours mulling over the few words they said. Speaking was still beyond me—I could barely crawl, let alone control my delicate tongue—but I managed to pick up some words.

The woman holding me cooed softly, her mask lined with purple and grey. I'd come to know her as Neko, one of the more talkative caretakers. As I drank the formula she was feeding me, Neko began to speak. I only understood a few words but was able to deduce the majority of what she was saying. Context clues were wonderful things, and the only reason I was able to advance at all in my new language.

I caught the words baby, adorable, and Mirai, the last of which I'd come to realize was my name.

When I finished eating, she carried me over to the crib and I was able to look down at my brother. He was so cute! But the moment I began smiling, it turned into a frown. Just what were those on his cheeks? Were those . . . scars? Why did they look familiar?

Neko started speaking again. Brother, cute, and twin. My brain was working twice as fast as usual as I tried to remember where I'd seen those marks before. She was still talking. Mine, sweet, and Naruto.

My gaze snapped up to her and I stared. Did she just say . . . ? The marks, the Japanese, the name. This couldn't be happening, could it? After all, stuff like this only happened in bad fanfiction and crazy dreams. Was that it? Was I really dreaming? I managed to jerk my thumb up to my mouth, securing it over the one lone tooth I could call my own at the moment. And I bit down with all the strength my baby jaws could muster.

I was bleeding, my hand hurt, and this was very, very, very real.

Chapter End

Question: What's your guilty pleasure when it comes to (Naruto) fanfics?

Today's suggested fanfic: Better Late by Ariana Deralte.