Fic: When the Lost Come to Visit (Demora Sulu - gen)

Title: When the Lost Come to Visit
Author: igrockspock
Characters: Demora Sulu
Rating: PG
Summary: Her father never told her how he wanted to be remembered, so she does the best she can.
Notes: I've written about Obon, the holiday Demora celebrates here, as accurately as I can remember from what my older students told me about it in Japan. I apologize for any errors. This is for the prompt "when the lost come to visit" at where_no_woman's Halloween drabble fest.

Demora sweeps the short, narrow strip of exposed floor from the door to the bulkhead, then knocks the broom underneath each of the bunks even though she knows she won't turn up a trace of dust. Neither she nor her three roommates are here enough to get it dirty, and on their first tour of duty, the memories of their academy inspections are too fresh to allow them to make a mess anyway. That doesn't stop her from wiping a rag over the smooth metal surface of their single shared desk before she sits three replicated orchids on top of it. Their petals feel strange beneath her fingers, and the tiny offering feels pathetic when she knows the ritual calls for a whole garden. Next to them, she adds a replicated orange, the only food that he'd like to eat that also won't spoil and stink up the room during the ten days of the festival.

Crouching beneath her bed, she yanks open her storage locker and throws out socks and underwear until she finds what she is looking for - a battered tin lantern from her graduation trip to Morocco. It really should go outside her door, but as she lights the candle, she frowns at the tiny open flame. Hanging burning objects in the corridors is against regulation, and she knows she's not important enough to get away with flouting the rules just yet, no matter how minor they are.

"Sorry, Dad," she mutters, sitting it on the desk with a clunk. "I hope you can find me anyway."

She slides the metal chair out from under the desk with a squeak that sets her teeth on edge, then sits down to copy the Japanese characters flashing on the screen of her padd. The stiff, ivory colored paper wrinkles beneath her sweaty hands, and the ink smudges under her clumsy fingers. Still, she thinks the characters are recognizably her father's name, and the memorial inscription beneath them is like the one on her padd, even if she doesn't know what all the words say.

Propping the little card against the lantern, she rises from her chair and stands before the improvised altar, hands clasped formally in front of her. Her eyes water a little when she realizes she doesn't know what to say, but it seems right to say something, so she swallows the lump in her throat and begins.

"So, um, Dad, I know you were only half Japanese and you never lived in Japan or told me you were Buddhist or anything. But I read about this whole Obon thing, and it seemed like a good a way to remember you as anything else. You didn't exactly leave instructions for what to do when know..." She pauses. Say the words, she tells herself harshly. She'd been prepared for it her whole life, and she's old enough now to call it what it is.

"You didn't exactly leave instructions for what to do when you died," she says, staring at the little lantern now with a trace of defiance. "So I did this because the Japanese said it makes your spirit come home for a few days so that you could hang out in the after life and be happy knowing you were remembered."

She pauses again, opens the door, and sits a small silver wrench outside it. It's the signal she and her roommates use to say 'go away, I'm having sex,' which she is obviously not doing, but she doesn't want them to walk in here and find her talking to a lantern either.

"Anyway," she continues in a softer voice, tracing the characters of her father's name on the card she'd made, "I know this isn't our house, but I'm not there right now. And I know you loved us, but the house wasn't your home anyway. Space was."

Her eyes flick uncertainly around the room, resting on her bunk and the sliver of a window on the other wall as if they'll tell her how to finish this whole ridiculous ritual. They don't, so she continues on her own.

"And you died in space, just like you wanted to, so if your spirit or whatever is out wandering around, I figure this is where it is. So I put all this stuff out here so you could find me because I always believed you when you said your family was your home."

She pauses to wipe away a tear and swallow yet another lump in her throat. And also to roll her eyes, because this is pretty silly, trying to celebrate some ritual that she'd only heard of two weeks ago for a man who might not even have cared about it.

"Uh, I guess that's all. Just, um, come by if you feel like it and say hi."

She waits a minute. There's no sudden draft of cold air, no flicker in the candle flame to tell her that a ghost or spirit or whatever has arrived. There's just her, a moonfaced twenty-four-year-old talking to a desk, a candle, and an orange.

"I'm fucking insane," she whispers, flinging herself on the bed without bothering to take off her boots. She closes her eyes and thinks of his face as hard as she can, until finally it feels like he still is with her just a little bit. Not as much as she wants, but enough that she can survive.
Ngaaaaaaaaaaaah. *cries* *cries some more* *sniffles*

She is so real. And just...yes. *cries more*
Lovely, all the ways that we try, whether we succeed or not. Demora (and you) succeeds in her trying.
I just noticed you had a tag for Demora, who I've recently fallen in love with, so I had to click it and read this. And man, am I glad I did. My heart broke a little for her, and the whole ritual is so very real.