Disclaimer: I do not own "Cat's Eye." No profit is being made from this story.
Kisugi Ai frowned as she studied the image on the computer screen in front of her. It depicted a likeness of a human skull carved out of smooth black stone with deep red gems set into its eye sockets.
"That thing gives me the creeps" she commented.
Hitomi nodded. "Nee-san, that doesn't seem like the kind of thing that Papa would collect."
"It is unusual I know, but the Death's Head is definitely part of the Heinz collection" Rui replied.
"Well that's it then" said Ai. "If it belonged to Papa then we have to steal it back."
"Precisely" said Rui.
The Cat's Card was sent out as usual but to the sisters surprise there was no response from Inunari Station. Even Toshio didn't say anything about it when he came to the café that afternoon. Rui was concerned that it might be a trap of some kind but they decided to proceed with the heist anyway.
That night Hitomi and Ai crept through the darkened corridors of the International art museum. There were no cops, no guards, no resistance of any kind. The entire museum was as silent as a tomb.
"Onee, I'm getting a bad feeling about this" Ai whispered.
"Me too. It's as if they want us to take the Death's Head" Hitomi replied.
"You think maybe it's bugged? So they can track us to our hideout."
"Maybe. We'll have to inspect it carefully."
They soon arrived in the hall where the Death's Head was being exhibited. By now Ai was really on-edge. She found herself looking around anxiously, half-expecting something to jump out at them from every shadow. Meanwhile Hitomi inspected the statue but she couldn't find any trace of a bug.
"Let's get out of here. Something's not right" said Ai.
"I agree. This entire job feels wrong" Hitomi agreed.
They hastily returned to the getaway car where Rui was waiting for them. "How did things go?" she asked as they got into the car.
"Too good. There was no-one there, not even Toshi" replied Hitomi.
"That is odd" Rui admitted. "But at least there were no problems."
Ai couldn't share her sister's view. As they drove home she was unable to take her eyes off of the sinister object they had just stolen. Its red gemstone eyes glittered faintly and its rigid grin seemed to be mocking her somehow. She shuddered, wondering how their Papa could have ever wanted something so creepy. It couldn't be locked away in the repository quickly enough for her.
The next day in school Ai couldn't shake the feeling that something was amiss. She tried to pay attention to the teacher's words but the nagging feeling in the back of her mind persisted despite her best efforts to ignore it.
"Aggh, this is driving me crazy" she muttered. Unfortunately she spoke louder than she had intended.
"What was that Kisugi-san?" the teacher asked, annoyed at the interruption.
"Ah, uh, nothing teacher. Nothing at all" she replied awkwardly.
The teacher shot her a final look of irritation and then resumed writing on the blackboard. Just then…
A terrified scream filled the air, startling everyone. The students all jumped to their feet in alarm while the teacher jumped back and nearly tripped over his chair.
"Remain calm students. I'm sure this is nothing to worry about" he said unconvincingly.
Before anyone could respond the classroom door was thrown open and a man stumbled in. His clothes were tattered and bloody, his eyes were a blank milky white and his skin was a dull grey-green. Blood was smeared around his mouth.
The teacher froze in pure terror as the creature shambled towards him. In a sudden burst of speed it pounced, driving him to the floor. As he tried to struggle free its teeth closed around his throat like a rabid dog. The students screamed in horror at the sight. A second later their screams became even louder as more of the creatures came pouring in through the door, hissing and snarling as they attacked without mercy.
This… this can't be. Those things are zombies.
Ai managed to snap out of her terrified stupor as one of the zombies approached her. She drove it back with a solid kick to the torso that knocked it over onto its back. Several more zombies closed in and she fought them off with punches, kicks and elbow strikes, taking care to avoid their teeth.
But it was a losing battle. While it was quite easy to knock them down the zombies refused to stay down. They didn't even feel her blows. Ai looked around and saw that the classroom had been overrun. She was the only student left, her classmates having all been turned into zombies.
Can't think about that now. I've got to get out of here.
She took a running leap at the window and smashed through the glass. Fortunately they were on the ground floor. She instantly took off running as the zombies began clambering through the window after her.
Outside was a scene of carnage. Everywhere she looked there were more of the un-dead hordes stumbling around. In the distance she could hear screams of terror and car horns blaring.
"This can't be happening. This can't be happening" Ai repeated. Then it came to her. "Hitomi-onee, Rui-onee. I've got to warn them!"
She ran even faster, barely noticing the growing number of zombies chasing after her. Her only thought now was to get back to the Cat's Eye café and her sisters. She was so focused on this that she almost tripped over a motorcycle laying on its side on the street. Ai hauled it up and hopped on. She gunned the engine and zoomed away.
As she sped through the city she saw even more signs of devastation. Shop windows were smashed and broken glass was strewn over the streets. Abandoned vehicles were scattered across the roads, forcing her to decrease her speed so she could weave around them. Fires were burning, sending plumes of oily black smoke up into the sky.
"Kami-sama please let my sisters be okay" she said, trying to stay hopeful despite the dread growing in her heart. "They'll be fine" she said to herself. "The café is right across the road from Inunari Station. They can hide in there. It'll be…"
Her words froze as she saw Inunari Station. It was a blazing inferno, flames crackling from every window, the walls blackened and charred. Ai brought her bike to a halt with a screeching of tires and stared in dismay at the doomed building. She spared a thought for Toshio, the chief and Asatani, along with all the other police officers who had worked there. Hopefully at least some of them had made it out. Right now though she had to focus on Hitomi and Rui.
Her heart sank as she hurried up to Cat's Eye. The window had been shattered and the interior was in utter disarray, with spilled drinks, broken cups and toppled stools littering the normally immaculate café.
"Hitomi-onee! Rui-onee!" Ai called. They had to be all right, they had to be!
Then she saw it. There on the counter was the Death's Head, the statue they had stolen last night. Its jewelled eyes glowed a deep blood red.
"You! This is all your fault!" she yelled, pointing at the sinister sculpture. "I knew something was wrong from the start!" She picked up a stool and brought it up over her head, intending to smash the evil statue into pieces. But then a low growling reached her ears. She dropped the stool and turned, desperately hoping that her suspicions would be wrong…
Ai's worst fears were confirmed as decaying, corrupted versions of her sisters clad in tattered, bloodstained rags lurched out of the shadows and approached her, their grasping hands reaching out with their fingers curled like claws. Frozen with horror she stood still as they drew near, their milky eyes empty and lifeless.
No, no, no, not my sisters, please anything but this. Not my sisters…
Only when their cold fingers closed on her did she begin to scream…
"Ai! Wake up Ai!"
She sat up with a start, her heart pounding. As her disorientation faded she realised that she was in her bed. Hitomi and Rui were hovering over her with worried expressions.
"Are you all right Ai-chan?" Hitomi asked. "We heard screaming."
"Onee-chans!" Ai cried as she threw her arms around her big sisters. Hitomi and Rui hugged her tenderly, whispering comforting words into her ears and gently rubbing her back. After a few moments of this she calmed down enough to let go of them.
"Oh Ai, did you have a bad dream?" Rui asked.
She nodded. "Uh-huh."
"Would you like to talk about it?" Hitomi suggested as she sat down on the bed. "That might help."
"Okay. It started with us planning to steal this really creepy statue…"
Hitomi and Rui listened as Ai told them all about her nightmare. When she had finished Hitomi said, "My, that does sound scary."
"It really was."
Rui sighed. "I told you not to watch horror movies before you went to bed" she chided.
"Sorry" she said self-consciously. "And I'm sorry I disturbed you both."
Hitomi smiled fondly and ruffled her hair. "You don't have to apologise Ai. We're your big sisters. We'll always be here for you."
"Will you be okay to go back to sleep now?"
Before Ai could answer there was a soft meow. Tiger, her pet tabby kitten, jumped up onto the bed and started nuzzling her side while purring soothingly. She giggled and picked up the kitten.
"Yes. I'll be fine."
"Okay then. Good night Ai."
Hitomi and Rui left the room, turning off the light as they left. Ai settled back down and was soon sleeping soundly. Tiger kept a watchful eye on her for a bit then eventually curled up and went to sleep too.
The next day Hitomi and Rui were in the strategy room studying the television screen. After last night they had decided to let Ai sleep for a bit while they started making plans. They could bring her up to speed later.
"Morning" Ai said cheerily as she strolled in. Hitomi and Rui both turned and smiled, glad that their sister seemed to have fully gotten over her nightmare.
"Good morning Ai. Did you sleep well?" Rui asked.
"Yep. Like a log. It takes more than a bad dream to put this girl down."
"Then you're ready for our next job?"
"Good. This is our target" Rui said. She stepped aside so Ai could see the television. On-screen was a black stone statue. Ai tensed as for one horrible second it seemed like her nightmare was coming true. Then she realised that the statue was a bust of a smiling, kindly-looking woman and she relaxed.
"Are you okay Ai?" Hitomi asked.
"I'm fine" she said quickly. "Although I won't be watching any horror movies before bed again."
Her sisters chuckled.