When Motoko opened her eyes and looked towards her bedside clock it was past two in the morning. Frantically she pushed aside the futon and rose up.
She was only wearing her nightclothes. Ever since her daughter Shiori had collapsed, Motoko had been like this, having not changed out of her night clothes, sleeping in the tatami room next door. Shiori was set to sleep in the tatami room. The single sliding foor to the room was still open. By the light there in the tatami room she could see Shiori in the futon that had been laid out.
She had overslept. Even though she'd asked her mother-in-law Tomiko to wake her to switch shifts at two o'clock. Entering into the tatami room, she saw Tomiko sleeping at Shiori's bedside. Motoko sighed for some reason.
"Mother-in-law, we will switch now, so please get up and go to bed."
She lightly shook Tomiko but Tomiko who was lying with the zabuton seating pillow as a pillow did not respond. Motoko let her be for the time being and looked to Shiori's face.
Shiori's lips were parted as if in a small gasp. Her small face was poorly colored, the color of aged and faded paper. Her long eyelashes were firmly set shut. The sheer innocence of that sleeping face pulled at Motoko's heartstrings. She was so young, so helpless, and yet so very dear.
She reached out to gently pat her small head. It seemed like her fever had gone down. At first relieved, Motoko then noticed something strange. Was not her breathing just a little too quiet?
It couldn't be, she thought. It's my imagination.
To dispel her groundless fear she held out her hand beneath Shiori's nose and waited. She didn't feel an exhale.
An unvoiced shriek caught in her throat. A breath she couldn't expel stopped her up.
With probing fingertips she neared the eyes. Lightly tapping her face, she shook her body.
Motoko turned to Tomiko.
She shook Tomiko, pounted at her chest. Tomiko herself had quite the peaceful breathing in her sleep.
"Mother-in-law! Wake up!"
Motoko's shaking of Tomiko became gradually more violent. She grasped at the nape of her neck and shook with all her might.
"Why are you sleeping?! Why didn't you wake me?!"
Tomiko barely opened her eyes.
"Wake up, will you! How can you sleep so care-freely! I told you I would switch places with you and to wake me!"
Tomiko's voice was sleepy. With no signs of recognizing anything as out of the ordinary, she once again closed her eyes sleepily. Motoko's breath stopped. The hand still shaking her did not relinquish any of their force as they slammed Tomiko's head down into the zabuton.
"Wake up! This is no time to be half asleep, you, Shiori is--because of you!"
Still gripping the nape of her neck, Motoko lifted Tomiko's head up and bashed it into the zabuton. Tomiko groaned, her face scrunched, but she didn't resist nor even scream. The only one screaming was Motoko.
"You old crooone, you let Shiori die, didn't you!"
Motoko threw Tomiko aside and gently embraced Shiori's body. She broke down screaming Shiori's name.
Tomiko sat up dumbfounded. She stared dubiously at Motoko and her granddaughter. Tilting her head, she sluggishly scratched at her neck.