Excerpts from the Novel

 

 

The water was cool, 
a refreshing touch
dancing up our toes.

I heard a loud splash and felt a wall of cold water swallow me.

I turned to a giggling Uchida Aoi. I smiled roguishly.

Suddenly, I put my hand in the water and gave some right back at her.

She screamed when she was dripping wet too.
In revenge, she unleashed a tsunami at me.

Instead, laughing, I rushed over, 
wrapping my wet arms around her 
and tackled her into the water.

With a crash we plunged, squealing.

Summer meant no cares in the world.
Summer meant happiness.
That's what I always thought.

 

The sun flashed by, scattering its rays through the windows.

In a few minutes I was speeding through the deserted hallways. 

The windows were only source of light,
a merciless light, searing my flesh,
every time my shadow flitted past.

Thousands of memories flooded back. 
I could see Aoi and I on the rooftop together 
eating our home made lunches. 
I could see my friends laughing and joking. 
I could hear the voices of the students. 
They were echoing, echoing through the dark stairwells,
filling empty classrooms with chairs in disarray.

 

Wrestling,
my arms'
strength
ebbing
away.

Bruises,
blood,
pain,
knotted
seized
muscles.

Head
swimming,
world
spinning.

I watched with weary eyes
as he got up and ran,
sprinting down the street,
sidewalk squares rising up 
like a coming tide,
cement stretching between us,
shifting and slipping him away,
faster than ever.

Down the street he went,
past a grove of trees,
weaving around an elderly man,
behind cinder block walls,
and rickety Japanese houses. 

He ran and ran.
Going, going, gone.

He was the one running now.

I heard a deafening thump.

I heard a scream. Was that me?

The car screeched.

My chest hurt.

The world spun.

He breathed out at last and looked at me with painful eyes.

“It was my fault for not noticing.

I was too absorbed in my own world,

chasing after my dreams

like she had said.

Constructing my future, or our future.

I did not once ask her how she was doing.

A week later,

after calling and emailing

numerous times,

I went to her house

wondering where she had gone.

No one answered the door.

I thought they moved.

I thought she had abandoned me

all of a sudden."

 

 

She was still shivering

when I came back with the towel 
and some medicine I found in the cupboard.

"Here, sit up." 

I heaved her up with my arms,

but she curled up into my shoulder,

tears of discomfort streaming from her eyes.

"I brought you some medicine."

I watched her mouth and heard her voice tremble.

 

 

“She said life is about two things:

getting up when you fall,

and helping the next person to stand.

 

She left me with a pair of earrings.”

 

 

She pointed at her ear.

 

Like honey,

the grassy field in front of us

turned golden,

lit ablaze with vibrant color.
The grass began to

sway back and forth

counting to a beat,
dancing with the wind.

I stood there, wide-eyed like a child in awe.

Spring.
Spring has come.

Around us passengers came and went,

flitting by temporarily.
A bustle of soft voices

and quiet hush of politeness.
The tapping of cell phone key pads

and rustling of book pages.


The commute was a

transient purgatory,

while heading into

something new,

something more.


Destination: unknown.

 

Train stations were always busy.


There were still

business men in suits

hurrying home,
high school girls

carrying shopping bags

laughing and flirting,
old men attending to station shops.


In a station

you can always find

people of all kinds,

minding their own business.


Always the same faces, the same routines.
Even on Christmas, train stations never changed.

It was Christmas Eve, wasn't it?

For a moment I lost myself in this unchanging world.
It was as if life was normal again.
This norm I used to have.
Nothing ever changes.
Every day the same.
Everything safe.
And sound.

Patients slowly wandered

through the halls, like lost spirits.


There were exchanges

of brief and polite nods,
little reminders

that there was still a kind of

humanity and soul.


Without these slight gestures,

it might as well have been in purgatory.

With the cake in my arms I felt like I was on a procession down the long halls.

“The sugar!” she cried.

I passed her the sugar I carefully measured. It's got to be right this time.

She took one long look at it and burst out laughing.
I stood there incredulous, staring at her.

She put her hand over her mouth to stop her giggling and looked at me with wide eyes.

“What you gave me, “ she giggled again, “is salt.”

 

 

“Let's take a picture.”

“Eh, why?”

“We don't have any pictures together!

Can you believe that?”

She grabbed my arm and leaned against me,

raising her cell phone up high.
We smiled and froze for a moment. Snap.

Captured for eternity.

“Alright, how bout all of us now?” 

Airu waved at everyone.


“The memories shall start now!”

Mount Fuji was drawing near outside,
its shadowy form was blurry from the distance,
ominous yet serene. Around the mountain,
green plants and rising landscape were its worshippers.
All under its presence, under its protection.

It was the greatest symbol of Japan.
We could even see its mighty shape

from Tokyo on a clear sunny day.
Watching over japan for all eternity,

it was something that never changes or moves.
Something strong.

One day, we will be just as strong.

Built up from the trials and obstacles we face,
shaped and honed, weathered from life.
Yet we still stand and fight on for the future.
For others, for ourselves.

“Alright alright. Which ones do you want?”

The stand was small in size

but the counter was full of multi-colored dango dumplings on skewers.
Green, red, white, yellow, colors of all sorts,

little puffs of steam dancing above them.

“The green tea and red bean ones please!”

We were on the Philosopher's Walk.

On one side a steep drop met with the canal below.
On the other side were little wooden houses here and there.
Somehow, this narrow path was the most unspoiled of all Kyoto.

The cherry blossoms above were starting to open up,
pinks and dark reds broke through the green.
Like the wings of some heavenly creature,
they embraced all those underneath.

There was only peace and quiet.
Birds and the crunch of our feet on the ground.

I couldn't tell her that I didn't hear anything this time.

That I thought I had lost my dreams and my soul.

As if answering my thoughts,

“I think she's just saying to soak in the moment.”

I opened my eyes. To the countless stars above.

“Don't worry about tomorrow,”

She hummed, “just gotta live on here today.”

I looked at her.

Her delicate features soft with the glow of heavenly light.

She smiled up at the sky.

“Make memories with people you love today.”

 

“You've sure become quite the philosopher.”

She laughed quietly. “And you sure sound like you need a philosopher.”

 

“Do you believe in the red thread of destiny?” she said softly.

I could feel her gaze on me.

“Hmm?”

 

“You know they say when we’re born,

we’re born with a red string of fate,

tied to us. This string connects us to our soul mate.

If you follow the string,

you will find that person.”

 

There was the sound of cicadas nearby, the only reply.

A feeling that the deeper

into the night we went,
the more mysterious

the world became.

Without a doubt, gradually,
we would be transported

into another world.
The underworld.
Where shadows

and illusion became alive,
the main populace of the darkness.

It was this eerie feeling

that kept us up.

Waiting for more.

What did the shadows

have to say?

The multicolored lights blazed around us now,
the lobby darker than ever.

We could only see
between the moments of darkness
and the flashes of blinding intensity.

It was rather late at night and the music was cranked up extra loud.
Every beat vibrated through the floor and walls, up our legs and into our heart.

Something made us pause near the bar.
The dance floor was crowded, figures huddled close,
grinding together with a repetitive rhythm.

A strange force pulled us nearer.

The tempo became embedded in our soul.

 

With a word,
with just a name,
the perilous world around us,
the false landscape we had created,
this impenetrable bubble,
crumbled,
like the devastating fall of a great nation.
Of a great kingdom.

Like the dull
pounding of a
warhammer
in my frail
worn down
skull.
Threatening to
shatter my
heart
into a million pieces
to give way finally,
the release of the dam
we had created
in the past
few days.

I was swept away into a land of dreams, 
a perfect world, a peace that never shatters. 
Hand in hand, our souls dancing

on the light breeze of music.

I couldn’t help but smile. 
It sweetly sang to me a song in Aoi’s voice.

“It’s a song I wrote on the piano.” 

“The one I was working on.” 

She told me softly. 

"Yes, I remember."

“I put it in this music box

so you’ll be able to hear it all the time.”
 

My heart swelled
with powerful passion
churning rivers
of hot liquid magma
that I could not withhold
any longer.

All the unspoken.
Was finally said.
With each word,
the winds of change,
the flow of time,
had finally touched
our world.
Change had transformed
all that we knew.
Our world was now
complete.

I couldn’t do anything.
I didn't know what to do.
I was threatened into inaction.
What could I do?
For the girl I loved.
For the people I loved.
I was helpless, hopeless.
Weak, vulnerable.
It was me.
It was all my fault.
Because of my flaws,
others had to suffer.
Stop this.
Stop this.
Stop this.
God, stop this now.
Turn back time.

How I long for those times.
When everything was simple.
When I was still just a child,
an innocent boy,
you were an innocent girl.

We would hold hands every day,
kiss under a tree,
listen to music,
and sing to the sky.

No one else would matter.

Miles away,
the quiet beep of a machine.
Steadily, peacefully.

In this world,
nothing could ever disturb
the eternal peace.

Yet ...
something stirred.

Unfocused blue sapphires.
After months of slumber.