Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Start of Book2 up 20160817)

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Start of Book2 up 20160817)

Postby brythain » Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:17 am

It's hard to say when this sequence first came to light. The files had been patched and overwritten several times, and their source was not very clear about times and dates and places. But I finally pried the thumbarray from his cold dead hand (just kidding) and here it is, one piece at a time, as fast as I can decrypt it. I apologise in advance for the confusing format—there are several voices in this thing, a lot of missing pieces, and Suzu herself.

Here is the decrypted sequence so far.
Book One begins with 'Dormant' (segment 1a) and ends with 'Futility' (segment 5b).
Book Two begins with 'Interregnum' (segment 6a).

Book One
1a: Dormant (May 2007—this post)
1b: Dormitory (June 2007)
1c: Dorm#use (July-August 2007)
1d: Dormancy (2008)
2a: Emergence (2010)
2b: Emergent (2012)
3a: Inertia (2017)
3b: Inactive (2020)
4a: Mortality (2022)
4b: Morbidity (2024)
5a: Fatality (2040)
5b: Futility (2045)

Book Two
6a: Interregnum (2048)

I think the sequence is compatible with 'After The Dream', a rambling messy collection of stories from that time, about many of the same people. Beyond that, I can't say. Perhaps one of the Old Ones might be able to tell you more.

In this post, below, is the first segment of the first episode of the files that form Suzu Suzuki's sequence. The three main characters appear to be those you'll find at the lower right hand corner of the 2007-2008 Yamaku 3-3 yearbook page.



Suzu 1a: Dormant
2007-05


Always cold, slowly rolled,
curling up, like a thief;
dry and veined, autumn leaf—
red and gold, turning old.
Who am I, who are you?
My father is the morning glory;
my mother tells another story:
in my eye, only dew.
For I love to make my words
take flight like a flock of birds.


These are words written and edited by the person known as Suzu Suzuki. My own name is not so important—you’ve probably never heard of me before, but my family name is Takagi and my given name is Isamu. I am bad at English, so you know it’s me when the text becomes plain and maybe ugly.

*****

It’s another day in the literary life of Suzu-always-sleeping. The man named Tokage is my friend, he is thunder to my quiet little river, he is lightning to my silent little snail. Wake up, he hisses like a serpent or the rain, wake up, you’re being asked a question. Wearily I raise my head and say, the answer, it is thirty-six and… maybe point six two five because that is five eighths. And I am right, and that is what I am.

He shakes his shaggy head, he claps his wings of stone, but he is not an archangel, he is not kami nor yokai, the spirit beings of our oceanic islands. He is just a tired friend who wonders how I get away with it, the belle of belles, the bell of bells, Suzu Suzuki. It’s not my real name, I don’t know what that is. But I am most me in English class, where only Riri the Lily, who is no more French than I am, can compete. And she sucks at wordplay because she is too serious about words.

This is serious though, this is mathematics, all clashing symbols and statements, equality and denominations. I can sense Natsume glaring into my back, but then she glares at everybody as if her eyes hurt and maybe they do. Maybe they duo. I clap my hands in my head, my own feathery wings, at my English joke. And I descend like a thunderbolt myself, falling into the shadow of my daily rest.

*****

Suzu raises her head feebly to Iwata-sensei’s red-eyed gaze, which sweeps over her and ignites nothing. “Thirty-six. Hmm.” We stare at her. “Point six-two-five,” she adds, whispering weakly, without defiance or pride.

She is right again, I sense. It baffles poor Iwata, our kindly but easily aggravated mathematics teacher. It baffles me, and I’ve known Suzu for years. Across the aisle, Miki whispers, “Show-off,” and rolls her eyes at me. I can tell she isn’t serious, though. She never is.

Behind us, silence. Misha hates math, and Shizune is excellent at it, as in so many other things—only Natsume scores higher than our Student Council president does. Poor Saki has gone on the supplementary list, and the back-row band is doing their usual good job of not doing anything and just absorbing the bullets.

“I don’t know how you do it, Suzuki. Maybe it’s osmosis. I should ask your form teacher.” Iwata sighs, takes off his specs, rubs his eyes gently. “Well, no point asking you to explain.”

Suzu is slumped across her desk, this time. Flat out. Math takes a lot out of her, unlike poetry. We would have made her chairperson of the Literature Club, except that I’d probably have had to run meetings for her, and I’ve always been crap at that kind of thing.

My friend’s always been weird and her mind dances around while her body sleeps. When we were first-years, she was the one who nicknamed me ‘Necromancer’. “What?” I protested. “My name is Takagi, Isamu Takagi,” I’d just told her a moment before.

“Haha!” she laughed, low, girlish, sleepy laughter rippling out of her. “Like the necromancer character from ‘Valkyrie Profile’.” I had no idea what she was talking about at all. It would take a long time for me to get her jokes, which seemed to be dancing, like her mind, across different languages and experiences.

Back in our little classroom, Iwata replaces his specs. I’m a lot taller than Suzu or Mori, my two neighbours in the front row, so I always get picked on. This time, he looks past me. “Mikado,” he growls softly, sounding like a small and unhappy bear. “How did Suzuki derive that answer?”

“Wahaha~ sorry Iwata-sensei, urm, I have only a little idea.”

I bet any idea she has is Shizune’s. When impatient, our class rep is known to give Misha answers in sign language just to keep the lesson going. And I know it’s happening now, straight after I hear the tap on the desk that signals Shizune’s impatience.

“Ah, haha Shicchan… I think it’s by dif-fer-en-tiat-ing and substituting and that gives you the… ah! Oops.”

Iwata shakes his head and writes out a stepwise solution on the board. It’s so clear that even I get it. Misha, thick-skinned as ever, says, “Yes! Yes! That’s what I was going to say!~”

When the class is dismissed, it’s a relief to us all.

*****

Gently he supports me, as if I am an autumn leaf, but this is only spring and I am still young and full of sap. I feel weightless, but I know that Mutou-sensei would say it is because I am displaced, the force of Tokage’s arm, his upthrust is equal to the task that my gravity imposes on him. I’m not making much sense, I have only enough to keep my legs moving because this is the wrong time of day.

Calpurnia clacks along besides us, her bonegrafted steel supporting her as legs ought to. I’m quite sure she too has a false name—we are all false because the truth would break us. See, for example, the Valkyrie ahead, who in my mind is Tokage’s counterpart, but blind: she tiptaps along the wall when she should be Odin’s shieldmaiden; she is tall and beautiful, so fearsome; she keeps her sword in the shape of a cane and her wrath hidden, reserved only for Mizune. And she calls herself Riri the Lily. What a jest!

How do I know all this? I am truly alive at night, that’s how. My endless diet of the cultured milk that is anime, manga, games and memes, mages and pages, myths and stories. I wish I could spend time in the library, but I always fall asleep there, among the magic beans, the scrolls and books, the wood and paper. I even terrify the ghost-girl, for all her dark glamour.

“Are you all right?” the Necromancer whispers. He does it all the time, as if I would suddenly turn sinister on him. It is a ritual to us both, so I reply, “I’m fine, let’s get something to eat,” and this mundane spell satisfies him and comforts his mind, which will then be charmed into the action of getting food for all of us in the cafeteria.

*****

Moriko grins at us as we stop by the stairwell. I’ve always been afraid that Suzu will collapse going down the stairs. It’s silly, since she’s never actually done that. But she has once fallen asleep on the landing.

I wait for Mori to do the lock-unlock thing with her artificial legs. I’m a simple guy, no obvious problems, and I’m always impressed to see how my friends get down stairs. We’re not allowed to use the service elevators or ramps unless we’re wheelchair-bound. Ibarazaki breaks that rule all the time, running the ramps because she claims stairs are more dangerous to her.

Maybe I should describe us. Writers do it better in books, but here goes.

Suzu is a head shorter than I am, maybe about Hanako Ikezawa’s height, and she likes dyeing her hair some sort of sea-blue-green colour. She often seems smaller because she falls asleep and slumps a lot during daytime. She’s pretty but her hair is always in the just-woken-up state.

Mori is a tall pale girl with deep purple eyes. Her father is Indian, I think, but one of those light-skinned ones from the north. It makes her beautiful in a way that you don’t think is real. She’s too thin and walks a bit like a fragile stork, very careful with her artificial legs. She even sits that way, as if the metal goes all the way up her ass. Her hair comes in two long black braids.

Okay, me: I’m the tallest student in class, about 185 cm or a bit more than six feet, still growing; I tend to slouch, because I’m so tall with light brown hair and that’s really unusual for an Okinawa boy. The tall nail always gets hammered down, as Pa says a lot. I’m a bit slow and I get tired easily because of my health condition. I find it hard to sleep, so Suzu and I make a natural pair. Mori’s a bit of a loner because of her foreign looks, but I’m a monster too, so we monsters look after Princess Suzu and everything is good.

“Tokage,” she says, although she knows how to say my name right, “Are we in time for the veal cutlets? And curry?”

With my height, it’s easy to see that I can beat the queue in time to get at least one. “Should be,” I tell her, planting her in a seat and looking at Mori.

“Usual, me,” she says, unlocking her legs and sliding in next to Suzu. And that’s my cue to go get as much lunch as I can find.

*****

In the room the people come and go, talking of Eliot and Auden like Miyagi-san does when the mood takes her, like the warm gleam of the sun-goddess’s mirror. I’m drifting, away from my islands to other islands, perhaps towards gulfs that will draw me down into the cold deep… and Calpurnia rescues me with a word of warning.

“Hey, Suzu. Stay with us a while?”

Her hands are warm, her legs are cold, she wears the bottoms of her trousers rolled. And here she is, short skirts and all, the dusky lass who’s far too tall.

“Hey, Mori, I’m so sorry. It’s that time of day, and I need curry to wake me up.”

I favour curry, not curry favour. I am a tinker belle, I’ll spend the night wandering the waves like Ariel. Thunk. Ouch. My friend sighs and props me up, her long thin fingers firm on the other side of my thin blouse, my thin cold skin.

I smell the curry scent as Tokage brings the dishes, I smell the irony as Mori spurns the curry for the surimi ramen, with sticks of processed crabmeat that her father’s world had never seen. Then again, we are all Portuguese somewhere, the sonnets and doughnuts of foreign influenza.

“Ah? Suzu, we’re losing you again,” says big boy.

I sit up. It is time to eat. Suzu Suzuki, not her real name, is back in the land of the living. Am I not the chairperson of the Literature Club? Huh. I am not. Instead it’s… that person I shall call Makiyo, full of drama, a very sandy beach. I need to wake up, because sleepy eating is a recipe for reflux and other nasty things.

“Hey, thanks, Tokage!” He sighs at me, as is his habit. I know it’s not his name, but it’s a very cute alternative. And it reminds me of the video game growing old in my room, but nobody needs to know why.

The curry brings me back to life. I look at Mori, and on impulse, give her bony frame a hug. I love being alive. Everyone is so warm. Across the table, my other friend looks jealous. He’s not subtle, it’s honest jealousy, suppressed decently because he’s a good guy. One day I might love him for it. I give him a smile. It’s a good day.

Why is everyone looking surprised? I’m Suzu, I do this all the time. I think.

*****

I’m happy she’s eating. I’m happy it’s May and it’s getting warmer. I look at her face, smooth and sweet. If I had guts I’d maybe try to be more than a brother. But I’m big Isamu Takagi, slow and solid, not a master of romance. I smile back at her. One day, one day. We Okinawans can wait.

Is that right? On other days, when Suzu sleeps in daylight and I’m lonely, it’s always Moriko who keeps me company. She’s so elegant, so delicate. I’m scared to break her when I hold her hand while crossing the road. I think she likes me. This whole thing is like one of those Korean movies.

It’s time to eat. My head hurts, my heart feels funny. But my large bowl of rice with all the good stuff will cure everything.

A few weeks from now, everything changes. But we don’t know that! We’re innocent! Suzu is my friend, and Mori is my friend. That’s how it is until 4th June 2007.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Wed Aug 17, 2016 3:21 am, edited 28 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1a up 20140905)

Postby azumeow » Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:35 am

omgyissss.

I like it. The perspective switches are cool, and I can't help but be happy when Suzu's being a nerd.
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1a up 20140905)

Postby BaldBombshell » Fri Sep 05, 2014 7:06 pm

It took me a moment to realize that Calpurnia/Mori was Molly. Which in retrospect, makes sense.
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1a up 20140905)

Postby brythain » Sat Sep 06, 2014 2:41 am

azumeow wrote:omgyissss.

I like it. The perspective switches are cool, and I can't help but be happy when Suzu's being a nerd.

She's not only a nerd, but a rather... errm... interesting one. :)

BaldBombshell wrote:It took me a moment to realize that Calpurnia/Mori was Molly. Which in retrospect, makes sense.

Suzu's got this habit of naming everyone oddly in her head. Strange young lady... :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1b up 20140908)

Postby brythain » Sun Sep 07, 2014 10:04 pm

This is the second segment of the first episode of the Suzuki files.


Suzu 1b: Dormitory (T -17)
2007-06


Some lines will do
And some will not;
But this is true:
It’s all I’ve got.


It happened a long time ago, but there was someone to remember. Maybe what was remembered is still important, because as long as someone remembers, people are not forgotten. Even if their names are.

*****

It’s another night in the dorms and I’m alive again. Along my shelves are the little origami models of characters from the games I play. Each of those took me time, each of them is a symbol of some tiny victory over the gods of sleep. Next door, Mori’s put her limbs to sleep, and I don’t hear the sound of steel on steel any more, gently clashing like blades on a warrior’s belt.

When I’m awake, it’s different. Things are sharper. There is the meditative quietness that means Ikezawa is home, thinking her clever thoughts at her own unhurried pace; there is the corridor warmth that means Satou is reading, the whisper of her fingers over the studded pages made faster by the heat of tea. On the other side, Ibarazaki has nightmares if she’s not at her mother’s house; the sound of the shared bathroom tells me if Tezuka’s using it because she always leaves the door open. Inoue will be bitching to Ooe, while Ooe churns out yet another perfect lab report.

“Can’t sleep again, Suzuki?”

It’s Miura, in her worn cotton nightdress. It looks like something modified from a black judogi, a few sizes larger than would fit her comfortably. It must be warm in there. Not for the first time, I wonder what it must be like to be all muscle and toughness like Miki Miura. I am soft, supple like water, not hard as iron. She is dark and fiery, with eyelashes that can flutter like a heartbeat. Mine are like a moth’s antennae, and about as attractive.

“Hi, Miura, would you like some ramen too?” I’m polite and direct with her. She hates literature, hates math, hates anything that needs symbolic thought or textbooks. But she’s not a bad person, she knows I don’t sleep much at night but treats me as if I’m like anyone else.

She looks mournfully at the battered aluminium pot I’ve just filled with hot water and some stock from my collection of little plastic sachets. “Nah, gotta lose weight to beat the no-legs thing… ah, fuck it, knock me up.”

That’s Miura. She’ll use colourful language at the drop of a French cap, act like she’s lost control, then train extra hard for the next two days. She hates meeting other people’s expectations. I grin in sympathy, but she avoids my gaze, suddenly embarrassed.

Something thumps low down and behind us, like a giant rat. Eeeeh. I hate rodents. But I recognize the thump, the sound of one foot slapping. So does Miki, it seems. We both turn round to face the latest spectre of the night.

“Smells nice. Can I have some?”

It’s Rin Tezuka, wet red hair and big murky green eyes, in maroon undies and a large white shirt, also damp. Doesn’t anyone eat regular meals around here? No, I didn’t think so.

“Sure,” I say brightly, grabbing another packet of instant ramen, stripping the wrapper off, and throwing the noodle block into the pot. “Could you toss me the spring onions? And two eggs?”

Miki grimaces and reaches for the fridge door before Rin can demonstrate her amazing barefoot egg-tossing skills. My armless friend snags the spring onions instead, yanking them from the bag behind the door and slapping them into my hand. I break the eggs that Miki passes to me into a bowl, stir in a dash of paprika and some chili flakes. Then I chop the onions into little green discs of sharp flavour. I’m not a good cook, but you need to get enough into you to survive a night’s gaming.

It strikes me that this is a ballet, three hands at a table with six legs. But you need four hands for a proper game. And now… there are five. I start a little as I turn to face my audience of two and notice a third at the entrance to our little kitchenette. “Who is the third who walks always beside you?” go the lines I remember from Miyagi’s English literature elective class, sending a chill down my spine. How can anyone not look at Rika Katayama and not feel uncomfortable? She is, if anyone is, a legendary figure of Gothic dread.

“Hello, Katayama. Would you like to join us?” I say, wondering all the while if my supplies will last till shopping day on Friday. It’s unusually crowded for two-thirty in the morning.

“Ah, this junior lady would not impose herself, respected senior. However, one observation should be made, that the scent emanating from that pot…”

I sigh and grab another bowl and set of chopsticks. “Perhaps the junior lady might want to share in our repast? Said junior would have to help in the washing-up at the last.”

Rika smiles, and I half-expect to see fangs appear. If she weren’t so pale and gaunt, she’d be a lovely girl. I don’t think she’s shy, just very restrained. “My thanks, senior lady. It is an honour to share a meal with my seniors.”

It’s almost like a cue. Everyone starts talking.

“You’re interesting. I like your hair. It is not easy to paint that colour. White but not white. One of the best things in my collection. I almost had a new one for my collection today. I thought he had something wrong with his tackle, but I don’t think he thinks so.”

“The new boy who got yanked around by Hakamikado again today? Poor guy looked kinda lost… I felt like lending him a hand, but he turned pale when I reached into my bag and took it out.”

Suddenly, my mind’s off my gaming session. It happens, the sudden turn that changes the discourse. Nakai, the new guy in our class. He’s rather cute, with a tragic air about him, some Byronic hero who is mad, bad, and dangerous to know—but pretending to be otherwise. Mori is already in love with him, or perhaps the idea of him. She is easily swayed by the new and trendy, whether it’s in gear or guys.

“So, you’ve actually talked to him?” I ask casually, about to prime the one-girl rumour mill that is Miki Miura. “What do you think?”

“Nah, I just winked and waved my stump at him, and he flinched. He was embarrassed to look at it on his first day, I could tell. It hits the new ones bad, they think to themselves, fuck me, I’m in a cripple school, what does that make me?”

Interesting. I feign surprise. “You could tell all that from five minutes and a wink?”

“Hey! Just cos you’re awake only five minutes a week in class, doesn’t mean things don’t happen, y’know.” She acts offended, but she’s grinning. I detect a trace of apologetic twitch in her eyes, so I guess we’re still friends.

“He thinks I’m a man. I like his scarf. The colours are alive. Maybe if they walked over to Hisao Nakai, things would be better. He helped me paint a bit.”

“Who’s ‘he’?” says Miki bluntly and not very usefully. Sometimes, with Rin, you can’t tell what’s going on. It’s like listening to half a conversation. Best to just wait and let it unfold, or not.

I snatch a glance at Rika. She’s perched on a stool, daintily picking at her ramen while we gossip. I have no doubt she retains every single word we say; I’ve not known her to forget anything I’ve ever let slip in her presence. Some day, that might be very bad, or very good.

“The half-blind person. Setou Kenji. Kenji Setou. I think I’ll just call him scarf-boy. I collected him once.”

That’s right. Rin collects people; she, like Rika, seems to have a library of some kind in her head. If I had one, it’d be popular media and cynical English literature. And the bad habit of saying things I can’t understand while people understand them the wrong way.

That’s why I like Isamu ‘Big Sam’ Takagi. He doesn’t mind when I misname him Tokage, which means ‘lizard’, instead of the more appropriate ‘tall tree’. I like him because he’s patient and kind and pretends to be slow and dumb when he’s not, just to make me feel smarter.

“I think he’s somebody’s last chance, that’s what I think,” says Miki unexpectedly. It echoes my thoughts so perfectly that for a while it’s Sam she’s talking about. Before it’s not.

I feel Rika listening intently, I feel Rin’s tightrope balancing, and I feel for a moment disoriented. “Whose last chance do you think he is? What if someone’s actually his?”

Maybe Miki’s never had to think so hard before, but I swear she strains so hard that her brain clockwork makes a click and her neck muscles pop. As if to confirm this, she turns her head, puts down her chopsticks, and flips her ponytail pensively. “Maybe he’s Hakamichi’s last chance to be human. Ha!”

I’ve no reply to that, and as the conversation dissolves into food and cleaning up, I find I’ve no strength to get back to gaming tonight. Maybe I’ll just catch up on my ‘Heaven’s Will’ manga, where I’ve been thinking how Kenji and I would make a great ghostbusting team.

*****

Men are dumb, dangerous, always lost and therefore looking for something. Most of the time, they need a woman to help them find it. They are at their most dangerous, I think, when they have a woman who can’t help them find what they’re looking for. Thus it was, between my father—who hailed from north of the Vindhyas—and my mother, the lady of Tohoku. My parents met for a first time in California and a second time in an English-language class in Tokyo, as if their romance were a side-plot of some British comedy that had overstayed its appointed time.

Then came the time, my father said, for a husband to be found for me. It is a custom not uncommon to the Japanese, and so my mother agreed. Little did she realize that it involved a lot of negotiations, many involving in-laws who knew little of each other’s culture. Both sides had been unhappy with my parents’ spousal choices to begin with, and this made it worse. All I knew was that my ancestral fatherland was a land of five rivers, turbans, and an undying warrior spirit—most of which my father had forsworn. Mother was intrigued by the last, but unwilling to embrace the culture.

Finally, the time arrived for me to meet my husband-to-be. Unhappy, in a land foreign to me, I was soon to be made even less happy. An accident, one of the fifteen thousand a year on India’s mighty and ancient railways. And there I was, legless from above the knees. Mother was appalled, furious. Father was aghast at the loss of face. I would have guessed the other way round, but I was wrong.

Much joy was had when a place was found for me at Yamaku. I still visit mother during the long holidays, but I think my father lives in California now. All that is fine with me, except that every night, as on this night, I keep replaying the scenes of my life in my head, wondering if in any alternate universe I can imagine, I am a happier person.

Some nights, I hear Emi moan in her sleep and I laugh a bit, sorry to say. She can run like the blazes, I’ve seen it. It’s not so funny when people come up to me and say, “Mori, you must be great friends with Emi,” as if a common loss of limbs is what should forge eternal friendship. How can one say to such idiots that Emi is a Pistorius amputee, while I am sadly more a posterior amputee?

Tonight, I hear my dear friend Suzu go in and out of her room, the noisy ghost that she is. I envy her, frankly. She doesn’t have to go about like a stork on metal stilts. I used to play hockey, you know. These days, there’s a hint of bitterness when I think of those days. These days, those days. It was only five years ago, really. I wonder if any man would find me attractive now? I suppose Isamu does, but he can’t suppress his shivery little thoughts whenever he sees me play with my kneejoints.

*****

Mori was making eyes at him, I know it. New boy, tall, has that lost look she seems to admire. Well, Shizune and Misha are doing us all a favour by bringing him on tours round the school. He has an untrustworthy look about him. I’m being bad and Pa would laugh at me for being so simple, but what the hell does he have to look so lost about?

It’s not like he’s got some sickness that will kill him before he’s fifty. Me, I’ve got that. I can even tell you what it is: sickle-cell anaemia with moyamoya syndrome. One day, my brain will go poof. I’ll be dead, or some stroked-out vegetable. A tall, big radish with water for brains.

Downstairs, I hear Kenji Setou throw something against the wall. I pity the new guy for one thing. The whole empty half-floor below on Level 1, and he gets Setou opposite him. Maybe they’ll kill each other. Damn, that is an unworthy thought. Pa would frown.

I grab my pillow tightly and tell myself, “In the morning, you’ll still be alive.” Then I think one nice thought for Suzu and another one for Mori, and I sleep.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 02, 2016 12:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1c up 20140911)

Postby brythain » Thu Sep 11, 2014 12:32 pm

This is the third segment of the first episode of the Suzuki files.


Suzu 1c: Dorm#use (T -17)
2007-07 to 2007-08


“You might just as well say,” added the Dormeuse, who seemed to be talking in her sleep, “that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe’!” — with minor apologies to Rev C L Dodgson.

Life passes by very quickly sometimes. The illusion of time is all that varies its pace. Once upon a time there were three friends who lived in a treacle well, as the Dormouse told Alice. For me, they couldn’t really have been friends all the time, even if they did stick close to each other.

Sometimes, I realize I dream what really happened. Sometimes I hear my friends’ voices, and discover that they’re only echoes of my own. Perhaps what I think I heard them say was only what I imagined them saying.

*****

“I do not particularly have a crush on Hisao Nakai,” she says, I feel in a mocking way. I am a bit crushed. She’s teasing me and I don’t think it’s fair. “In fact I do not think he knows I am even in this class, since you can draw a line from Misha to the door, and that is the line he follows either with Shizune, or in order to escape them both.”

That’s the downside to Moriko. She’s full of words. She can drown you with them if you give her one chance. And I’m only a too-big Okinawa boy who’s no good with his mouth. I want to kiss her to shut her up, but that’s silly. It only happens in movies. I glare at her. “You can like whoever you want, Mori.”

“Of course I can, you poor, lost boy. If ever you want to find something you have lost, come and see me for a good time. I am telling this to you, not Nakai. Think about it if you have two brain cells to send signals between. Or wake up the princess if you want, she needs to wake up a bit because I am tired of doing classwork assignments for her.”

“What?” mumbles my sleepy other friend, “Who’s doing assignments now for me? You wake me up, I’ll do them happily.”

“Yes, I am sure you will do them all happily; you hardly know what is going on anyway. Thank the gods I can just look out of the window and enjoy the sunshine while the rest of you think your silly little thoughts.”

She turns her skinny, stiff, upright back on us. I want to say that’s not what friends do. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I did wrong. Suzu’s gone to sleep again and I don’t know what to do. So many things I don’t know. But I’m Big Sam Takagi, and I’m known for being slow and tough. So I say nothing and do nothing.

*****

Yes, Sam, I was beautiful once, but now I am Moriko Kapur with the stilted gait, halfbreed of flesh and steel. Isamu, you probably need someone with real thighs and calves, even plastic ones or latex—some buxom farmer girl or fisherman’s daughter or tacky Tokyo love-doll.

Is it not obvious? I am angry, I am sad, I am unhappy. I will be so glad to graduate from this place. There is nothing for me here, even if there might be nothing for me elsewhere. Sam makes eyes at me, but that is because I am tall and have exotic looks, and perhaps because I come from a social class that is both much higher than his and yet ‘other’. His gaze sweeps adoringly over me, then settles for a brief accidental moment on the metal of my loins, and I see him flinch.

He likes me, but how can he… he will never, ever love me. After two years of this, I suppose I should have learnt sooner. We have been friends, and more than that was never going to work. What a fool I was, and what a fool he is. He will probably end up with Suzu, which would certainly be good for both of them. Well, let us cut the man loose, as they say.

My back turned towards him, I whisper something that only he will hear. Mikado is, as usual, making too much noise for anyone else to notice, and Suzu is asleep. I open my lips. “Forget it, big boy. I never had a crush on you.”

It is a lie and yet truth. On one bright June morning, I saw Lilly Satou in her dark blue pajamas kissing Nakai goodbye. I’ve nobody to kiss goodbye, because I thought I loved Sam, but that’s unlikely to happen.

It takes me a full day before I pluck up enough courage to apologize to him. What I have done was unnecessarily cruel, and I seldom let my black moods escape like that. I have hurt him because I wanted to see if I could, and that’s not a very nice thing to do. He was hurt; I regretted it the moment I saw it, and only pride stopped me from apologizing on the spot.

*****

It’s in the middle of Mutou’s class that I wake up for a while. It takes me a long time to get up to speed, but not as long as you might guess. I apply a little bit of sleepy guile and listen until I understand what’s going on, more or less. That’s when I realise that my tall tree, my Tokage, is sad and grey. The stork has brought him grief, has built a nest in his branches and flown away.

Did they not understand each other? Did one not feel the other’s pain, and the other feel the first one’s fear? So Calpurnia, not shy nor humble. What does it take to bring out daggers in the hall? For poor Nakai was but a catalyst, passing through without knowing what he’d missed.

There’s a rare afternoon I’m awake. Feeling guilty, me. I find my way carefully down to the medical centre and tap gently at Chief Nurse’s door. I think I sound like a kitten scratching at a catflap. Scritch, scritch… meow.

“Come in!” says the light baritone voice we have all come to fear, trust, and think snarky thoughts about.

I open the door and find Kaneshiro-san leaning against his desk, as if he’s been waiting for me. His secret life must consist of ambush after ambush, clandestine set-ups waiting to be triggered by unwary third-year students. “Errm, hi,” I whisper tentatively. “Was supposed to see you, and that was a couple of days ago.”

“Suzu! More like a week, young lady! How have you been? Any of that nasty cataplexy?”

“No! I mean, no. Been falling asleep in classes a bit, though.”

“Aha! Well, that might be Mutou-sensei’s fault, I suppose. Regular check-up, and we’re done. How’s your man-mountain doing, by the way?”

My man-mountain? I think colossal thoughts, and from those to a scholarship of Rhodes, and… oh, he means Takagi. Very Big Sam. “He’s as big as ever, but not mine exclusively, Chief Nurse.”

“Ow! Sorry. Sometimes I see things that aren’t there.” He grins, unrepentantly, before continuing, “Actually, you should tell him to keep up with the light running. I might be able to find him a student coach.”

My mind fills with reasons why it shouldn’t be Emi Ibarazaki. Everyone knows that she’s Nurse’s pet: twin-tailed twin-turbines, fastest thing on no legs, unbearably chirpy in the mornings. Not Big Sam’s type at all. Also, Moriko hates her. But, as usual when I’m not at my best, I’ve misjudged the way things are going; unless I’m awake, I’m no match for Master Schemer Goro Kaneshiro and his secret files.

“I’m thinking your classmate Miura might be a good fit. They’re both tall, she’s kind to big oafs like Takagi, and Takagi’s naturally protective and won’t treat her like just another guy.”

There’s too much going on here. Is there an agenda? More than one gender? What does he seek to engender? My mind tends to go that way. “I’ll ask him to come and have a chat with you?”

“Great! Wonderful! Now let’s take a look at your vitals.”

*****

More days pass. Mori’s so distant, as if she’s fading away, not talking to anyone unless it’s absolutely required. The day after she lashes out at Sam, she apologises profusely. She makes a curry bento for him. Then she locks herself up in her room after that, cries a lot, and won’t even open the door for me.

Meanwhile, Sam goes running. After school, in the afternoons, with and without Miki. It’s as if he’s trying to get away from something, as if he is hunted, haunted. And I am alone, seeking solitude in quiet rooms, where I’ll not hurt myself, nor feed on my sense of discomfort, nor have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

If not that, it would be the Literature Club, where that awful waffle from 3-5 is now chairperson, always trying to make my lovely subject into some kind of technical disassembly project. I flee, both hunted and haunted, into quietness, where I can be sleepy little me.

One day, in such a place of silence, I have a visitor. I don’t notice her at first, for her presence is masked by soundless feet, ghosting across the ground, and I have stupidly left the door open.

“Hello, Suzuki,” says Miyagi-sensei softly. My resultant jump would have broken world records, except that the sleeping sideways lurch is not a competitive sport.

“Ga-ha!” I cry, although mumbled and bumbled, it sounds rather odd. I stand up, almost tumbling, which would be humbling. “I mean, argh! Sorry, Miyagi-sensei, I was asleep.”

She accepts my sketchy half-bow and returns one of her own. “That’s fine. I was just wondering if… I seem to have misplaced my class representative and she’s normally in the tea-room next door. Or with one of your classmates, Nakai or Ikezawa.”

“Um, haven’t seen Satou anywhere recently.”

“Ah, one more thing; we haven’t seen you at Literature Club for a while either, Suzuki.”

I feel a kind of sympathetic disapproval radiating from Rei Miyagi’s stern but pleasant face. “Very sorry,” I blurt out, meaning it, because she’s always been kind and fair.

“It’s all right. If you need time to catch up with your studies, take it. This weekend should give you ample opportunity to do some work. Don’t waste your talents!” She nods, smiles, and vanishes like a neat little corridor ghost, the raindrop sound of her plain black shoes tiptapping away into the distance long after she’s gone.

And that’s the weekend of the big Hokkaido scandal, of course. Not so big, but for us scandal-starved denizens of the zombie third year, it is huge. A short time’s passed since Nakai came to Yamaku; yet now he lies in the Valkyrie’s slender arms. Her armour has been breached. I hear the piteous cries of other third-year men englamoured by her charms.

*****

I run because it’s all I have. My blood is thin. I’m large and weak, and everyone is smarter than I am. But Miki I can treat like a lady, even though she doesn’t seem comfortable with it.

“Takagi,” she says, “lift your legs.”

“Takagi,” she says, “don’t slouch.”

“Dammit, Takagi,” she says, “smile a bit.”

She’s pretty, I guess. Her eyes are very black, very nice. But I miss Mori, and Suzu’s never to be found. I can’t wait for the summer break, so I can go back to a simple life.

*****

I have made all the apologies you would think I should have made. Isamu Takagi is acting like a bereaved husband, and Suzu Suzuki is hibernating in some hidden room. I thought I had friends. It appears that I have few. Japan is after all a racist country, and it is most cruel to those who are visibly halfbreeds.

Too bad, I suppose. I find in myself a great sympathy for Lilly Satou. If I were her, I would decamp to my motherland. As it is, my motherland hates me and my fatherland brings evil memories to mind. Half a woman, half a life, and nobody to talk to about it. Bother.

Mori Kapur, get a life, I tell myself. But there is no life to get.

*****

Three weeks is forever, they say. On this clear night, I can see ‘forever’.

In Sendai, they celebrate Tanabata from the sixth day to the eighth day of the eighth month. On that night, the cowherd and the weavergirl, separated by the will of heaven, get one chance to meet. For some strange reason, neither cow-eyed Nakai nor flaxen-haired Satou is to be found that night. Or at least, not together. The rumour mill grinds until it halts, but the flour is tasteless and the product is coarse. There’s no meal to be made of this.

What will I do in the summer break? I’ve no plans, and now, no friends. Home to tiny Mito it is then, to natter with my sisters and argue with my parents. I feel sad because it feels that all my years in Yamaku have lighted fools the way to dusty death.

I’m looking at my cheerful yellow yukata, before I shut my wardrobe door. My mother said it was for Tanabata, if I’d someone to wear it for. Sadly, I have not worn it out of love so far, and next year I’ll be here no more.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1c up 20140911)

Postby BaldBombshell » Thu Sep 11, 2014 11:19 pm

I am now filled to the brim with Mollyfeels.
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1c up 20140911)

Postby brythain » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:22 am

jamesmcknulty wrote:Cool i like the story of it. The execution is good!

Thanks, man! I was a bit doubtful about how well I handled the material; glad to hear a positive opinion!

BaldBombshell wrote:I am now filled to the brim with Mollyfeels.

Aww. That girl has a story worth telling, actually. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 1d up 20140915)

Postby brythain » Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:16 am

This is the fourth and final segment of the first episode of the Suzuki files.


Suzu 1d: Dormancy (T -17)
2008


There are so many words of –mancy
Though not so many catch my fancy
Each is divination from the Greek
But not one will find me what I seek.


Three years I was in that place, harmless and flaky. And at the end, like most of my life, what came was unexpected and unsought. But there it was, fait accompli, accomplished fate. The doors had closed, it seemed.

Maybe the best way to think about what happened next is to show you some letters/emails I managed to collect.

*****

Dear Sam-the-Lizard,

Have you been doing well? For me, the party’s over, and I’m on the train back to Mito after graduation. Six months passing, plucking the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun. My memories are scattered and it feels as if my times are done.

In front of me is my battered laptop, one of the last souvenirs of my years at Yamaku. Stuck to it is a list written in Kaneshiro-san’s clear, unmedical hand—a list of my new meds, and things to do to keep my sanity and my balance. I’m going to have to learn to live by clockwork, following the same routine every week.

Ibaraki University isn’t very big nor very famous, but it will be an education. I was never a very clever girl, just a magpie building a nest of words and texts. But here I’m welcoming you to my nest. My doors are still open.

Before I get home to my sisters and my parents and whatever animals they’ve accumulated, I’m writing this so that you’ll always know I’m your friend and I never wanted you to go away sad. But things happened, and my friends are all far away from me now.

Sam, you were very patient with us. You watched out for me, you picked me up when I was down, and there was that time you picked me up when I’d fallen asleep in the garden. You helped Mori a lot, you tried to meet her needs and it’s a pity you were both so very different in the end. If it’s any consolation, I think she did love you and not anyone else. If you’re still waiting, if you can wait a while more, and another while after that, maybe she’ll come back to you.

If not, there’s always me. I still don’t have anyone I know as well as I know you. That’s not the strongest way to build a relationship, but there’s affection, and it’s a good start if we ever need one. Please take care of yourself.

Yours,
Suzu-Scarecrow


*****

Dear Suzu,

I am fortunately doing well. I trust you are well also. Sincere apologies for taking so long to reply.

Did you know Mutou-sensei is an Okinawan too? He also is tall for an Okinawan. He is actually a very cool teacher, and he made me sit down with him and his good friend Kaneshiro-san to give me some good advice. That is why I’m going to Meio University to learn how to be a nurse.

He also said if you love someone you will take care of them and you won’t let them go. But if they go, they go, and you just have to wish them well. When one door closes, another opens, but sometimes not.

I wish you well. (Also I wish Moriko well.)

Yours sincerely,
Takagi (Isamu)


*****

Dear Isamu,

I trust you are healthy and fit. It is extremely cold where I am, but in a few months it should get warmer. I deeply apologise for not replying to you sooner. Please excuse my inability to write proper Japanese letters; I blame it on my ‘barbarian’ half.

I really appreciate it that you left me one last letter, despite the fact that it was through Mikado’s kind services. She was very inquisitive about its contents, I could tell, but left me alone when I told her I needed privacy.

Taking a deep breath, here is what I have to say. I do believe that I did love you, and maybe I still do. What I did believe was that you could never bring yourself to really love me back. When you teased me about Nakai, and then shortly after started running with Miura, I decided it was over, whether it had started or not. Clearly, I was badly wrong about many things.

And so here I am on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, and even if you are in Okinawa, that is just too far away. Perhaps we shall have better luck than Nakai and Satou, but I doubt it.

All I can wish you is a long life—that you will live long enough to achieve your dreams. Stay healthy, and never let people think poorly of you.

Yours very sincerely,
Moriko.

P.S.: I do think that if anyone loves you, it would be our friend Suzu. She dreams about you, you know. Maybe you could visit her on the mainland one day. MK.


*****

Dear Moriko,

I am glad that you are fine and that you received my letter. We can all wish for warm weather in the days ahead.

Some things are nice to know early, and some things bring sadness late. Maybe in life there are only so many chances. I hope there may be a chance to meet each other again in future.

I wish you well and also success in your studies.

Yours sincerely,
Takagi (Isamu)


*****

Dear Suzu,

Have things been going well for you? Now the weather is warmer, and the papaya season has begun. Soon, mangoes and dragon fruit.

I have been thinking about life. It is not easy for me, you know me quite well. Learning to be a nurse helps you think about that kind of thing too.

If it is not too much trouble, maybe we could get together during summer break just to catch up. A narrow window, but only if it’s not too much trouble.

I wish you much happiness in your work.

Yours sincerely,
Isamu


*****

Dear Sam,

I can’t wait to find out how you have been. It seems like ages since graduation even though it has only been a few months. The weather here is also warm, but of course we’re seeing different fruit.

It’s not ever too much trouble to share time with a friend. Especially if that friend is you, Big Sam. Let’s plan our break properly. Would you consider revisiting Sendai with me for the August Tanabata Festival?

Wishing you all the best for health and happiness.

Yours,
Suzu


*****

I’m sitting next to my battered laptop again, listening to rain and family. Then I see an email from ‘Brave Lizard’ <takagi.isamu@mail.meio-u.ac.jp>. He’s replied!

As my three sisters squabble in the corridors, I turn to the wardrobe that we share, and I pause. A yellow yukata, now long without wear; will it bloom gracefully, or will it despair?

=====
prev | next
Last edited by brythain on Tue Sep 23, 2014 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 2a upd 20140923)

Postby brythain » Tue Sep 23, 2014 9:52 pm

This is the beginning of the second episode from the Suzuki files.
Two years after graduating from Yamaku, Suzu looks at her family and thinks of her future…



Suzu 2a: Emergence (T -14)
2010


Well, he’s gone again, and that was short as he is tall. Why can’t life be more than watching shadows as they fall?

I’m a dolphin, diving deep into black water from bright sun, into that sleep from which nothing may emerge unscathed, if ever. And he, he was secure, dependable, he’s gone. Who else is there, then, for me?

It’s not like he’s having an affair. My brave Tokage might love somebody else, but she’s an ocean away, and years have passed. But along the way, he’s decided he doesn’t love me. If I were awake, it would hurt more. As it is, it hurts less, and less, and less…

In the littleness of a single red bean, there am I.

*****

“Ai, Suzu, it’s not so easy, you know.”

Why is it so hard to focus? It’s daylight, but it feels like I’m underwater. It’s daylight, which is why I feel under the sea. Is that Isamu? Yes, it is, my big tall strong rock of a boyfriend, my lighthouse as I try to find a way home.

“What’s not so easy, dear?”

“Nothing.”

I sigh, my air leaving me like the air from a balloon. I don’t know what the problem is, except that maybe our hours don’t mix. To solve that, my Takagi-san has switched his sleeping schedule. Except that he can’t quite manage it some days, and sleeps at the wrong times, and stays up watching horrible Korean political drama-romance things instead.

And so this summer break isn’t proving as happy as I thought it’d be. I’m quite sure we can be happy, though. It’s been two years since our Tanabata celebrations in Sendai, but I still remember Sam’s big shadow over me during the fireworks display, and his pleasure at seeing my mango-yellow yukata.

*****

You can’t take it any more, I say to myself. Where has it all gone wrong? Weren’t we friends? In some waking world, we were. We went out on dates, we had meals and bought things for each other and even made love. It wasn’t all just a dream, was it? I wouldn’t be able to function if everything were just a dream.

And I remember his big shadow, so big.

It’s easy to remember my sisters’ names. My parents liked Greek mythology, so they named us after the nine muses. But they never got to nine, may the gods be worshipped forever, and so we are five. Manami is eldest, ‘Lover of Beautiful Things’, a crazy woman with an obsessive mind; me, I’m just ‘Bell’, because I was supposed to be ‘Sweet Singer’, but something was wrong with me.

I’m a sleeper, a narcoleptic, a sailor on the seas of the Dreaming. I see differently, I see strangely, and I can’t work at a conventional job, because I am not conventional at all. It is terrible to be seen as being lazy in Japan.

I remember his warm presence, and he’s gone back to Okinawa.

“Suzu,” he says, over a simple pork cutlet rice-bowl dish in an empty restaurant, “It’s not that I don’t love you.” Meaning, of course, that he has considered exactly that. “It’s that we are going to be apart most of the time while I’m in university.” Which we are, of course, both of us; and it’s a small sea-distance away only.

“Sam,” I reply, “Moriko’s in San Francisco, and you still talk to her. In your dreams, because I heard you. I’m over here. It’s not far.”

“You are always so far away.”

And like that, that’s that. For now, maybe, but now is such a long time and I’m so tired. As always. Again. He’s half a world away.

*****

Second sister looks in concern upon me. Wakana means ‘Harmonious Musician’, and she tried that for a while, but she’s better at calligraphy and traditional painting. “Suzu,” she says, “You need to eat.”

It’s so easy to decide that you want to sleep instead. No more eating, no more thinking about someone you love, who doesn’t love you back. No more wondering if Hisao Nakai felt this way when his beautiful friend went away forever. No more wondering why one should bother to wonder about someone who was your classmate for nine months.

Sensible Wakana, prim, proper, industrious and caring. She’s going to be married first, I know it. She makes me feel bad, the same way Manami makes me feel better. But I love this second sister of mine, because her presence means somebody cares for me even when I’m not awake. And so I wake up for some miso soup, the salty taste of kelp and bean paste trickling down my throat.

I look at her, ponder her plain brown hair, her delicate but undistinguished features. “This one is very grateful to you, elder sister,” I say. I reserve formality for people I respect.

She frowns back. “This one would rather you ate and stayed healthy, younger sister. Else this one would have to carry you to the kitchen for supper more often. And cook extra meals.”

“You could do that for me instead!” says wicked Shiori. My third sister, ‘Weaver of Poems’, works hard but is bitter about life. She hates being third, with crazy brilliant Number One and careful conscientious Number Two before her. “You should just let Suzu be, if she wants to sleep, let her sleep.” And she loves torturing me, because I am a bit younger and a bit shorter.

I caught her making eyes at Sam once. If I could know fear for big and gentle Isamu Takagi, I would have feared for him then. She would have made him eat his own liver, because that is what she does to people. She is never happy, and she doesn’t like others to be happy either. Maybe she should have been named ‘Teller of Tales’ instead.

The door opens and closes. The weary sound of someone dragging their feet over the threshold, and then dumping a folded blazer in a quiet corner, rustles around the walls. “Father, Mother, good evening. Sisters, good evening. Gah, lousy day.”

It’s my baby sister. Asuka, ‘Tomorrow’s Perfume’, is beautiful. The boys swarm after her in droves even when she is tired and stinky and has no makeup on. Her eyebrows are dark, well-defined. She has sexy eyes and hates every moment of that, because she doesn’t think people take her seriously, aged sixteen. Dad wanted to call her ‘Iware’, and everyone laughed—who wants to be called ‘History’? Then it was ‘Aware’, and nobody laughed—who wants to be called ‘Melancholia’? Mum put her foot down, and then her other foot.

Asuka comes over, her white and navy blue uniform rumpled and grimy, and hugs me, only me. For some reason which I don’t understand, I am her Big Sister, and all others are just sisters. “Sune! You’re awake!” she says, using her pet-name for me, and stuffing her head into the space between my left ear and my shoulder.

Shiori sniffs behind us. I take extra pains to hold my sweaty not-so-little sister warmly, just to show Number Three Sister how a big sister should behave. “Suki,” I whisper, touching my cold cheek to her sticky one.

She steps back, grinning. “Sorry, sis, I’m all filthy! Will give you a proper one when I’m clean.” She nods at the rest, then saunters upstairs. I look around, from beneath my droopy eyelids. Manami’s ignored Suki completely, while a small smile is fading from Wakana’s lips. Shiori just looks disapproving. I pity the man who marries her.

Later in the night, when I’m more awake, I wander down the corridor, listening to Dad’s late-night computer keyboard tip-tapping from the study, Mum’s loud but somehow feminine snoring from the master bedroom, Manami’s quiet cursing as something fails to go right in her postgrad studies. Wakana is silently asleep, as is Shiori. Asuka’s door is open, so I knock softly and stick my head in.

Little sister has fallen asleep at her tiny laptop, unruly black hair all over her table. I wander over to her, brush some of that hair away from her porcelain features, and kiss her goodnight.

Without opening her eyes, Suki mumbles, “Sorry, Big Sister. Sleepy… too much homework.”

I look at the screen: multiple chats going on without her, bits of half-written essays and resources called up from the Net to fuel those essays. Poor thing. High school in Japan, it’s a tough life. I pull back the coverlet on her bed and turn back to her. Gently, I usher her across the short gap between desk and bed. She stumbles and falls sideways, but retains enough half-consciousness to adjust her body as I tuck her in. “Sleep,” I say, “and may you have a better day tomorrow.”

"Five by five, Sune," she whispers. Then, she’s out like a light. I sit down at her machine and put her windows and notes in order for her. I wouldn’t do her work for her, of course. But in the shallows and the depths of night, anyone might get lost. If I can mark the way, then I’m not only sailor, but pilot. Can Suzu the snoozer ever be responsible for someone? My not-so-little Asuka is my responsibility, if nobody else will be.

When I’m done, I wander ghostly like a cloud back to my room to get my own work done. Manami’s room has gone dark. Dad’s tip-tapping is slower now, as fatigue builds. The house is quiet, and no daffodils are to be seen anywhere as I float by.

I need to think of what to do with my life. My own culture thinks me useless, but I cannot think of myself like that. But from another culture, also dying away, I have heard this:

Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore;
Let the work not delay, time and the arm not waste;
Let the clay be dug from the pit, let the saw cut the stone.
Let the fire not be quenched in the forge.


Can that be me? Can I open my eyes? Here stands Suzu, awaiting the sunrise.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:45 am, edited 3 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 2a up 20140923)

Postby Serviam » Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:54 am

With due respect for Suzu's condition, I imagine it would be a challenge to chronicle a narcoleptic's memoirs.
"What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else."
- Tom Clancy summing up l'état in a nutshell

In order of completion:
Lilly > Hanako > Rin > Emi
Currently on: Shizune
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 2a up 20140923)

Postby brythain » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:05 am

Serviam wrote:With due respect for Suzu's condition, I imagine it would be a challenge to chronicle a narcoleptic's memoirs.

She keeps singing her memoirs to me. Half-asleep. And sometimes, in no particular order. With rhymes.
And she has four sisters. It's driving me insane.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 2b up 20141013)

Postby brythain » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:29 am

This is the second part of the second episode from the Suzuki files.

Suzu's just graduated from Ibaraki. But what is she going to do now?



Suzu 2b: Emergent (T -12)
2010


She looks up at me with big trusting eyes, but I know that’s only evolutionary advantage in action, only the same thing you see in manga and anime, the human love of the wide-open look. I can imagine in her mind the thoughts that sprout, “From you is all good food, feed me, let me show you that you need me.”

And this is true, because all humans are like that too. I look around the bare apartment in this small town, a short walk away from my parents and four sisters and other relatives. I would think my mind bigger than all this, yearning to be free, except that I know the mind is a small thing and that there is infinite complexity even in a small town. Otherwise is arrogance.

Yet, Big Sam is not around, and I am left with little Inari, just the two of us, me with my straggly long blue hair—sometimes showing its black roots because I have so little time—and she with hers. And so I feed her, because that is what I do, and I look for work, because that is what I should do.

*****

I have four sisters, I am fourth of five; only two seem to think that I’m alive. Wakana is my second eldest, and she drops by with food, drink, whatever she thinks I might need, even if I don’t need it. It’s much appreciated. Sometimes, she gives my not-so-little-anymore baby sister Suki a lift home from school, and I get to see both of them when they stop over at my place.

Tomorrow is a holiday, so tonight there are three of us, and Inari. This time, it’s Suki’s turn to pick the entertainment, and she’s saddled us with white pizzas and some anime thing about magical girls. Or at least, that’s how Wakana puts it, although she’s game for just about anything that isn’t disgusting. This particular show is a favourite of mine, and watching vids with my sisters on a cold and lonely night is much better, much more pleasant, than a game or a visual novel on my own.

This show’s about moral choices, really. If you could change the world, would you do it, and for what? What does it mean to love someone, or to decide not to exist, just so somebody else you might not know can continue on? I hold warm Inari on my lap and think about how difficult it is to answer such questions.

“Sune,” says little sis, using my nickname, the name-not-mine, “How’s it feel to be a graduate at last?”

I see Wakana shoot a warning look at Suki, marking the discourtesy. But I don’t think it’s discourteous, it’s just the way she is, young and sharp and pretty.

“I feel jobless. Unwanted. Silly. Actually, very silly.” Clearly not what she’s expecting, from the pained surprise on her face.

“Why so, big sis?”

Tears lurk, hot like brandy behind my eyes. I hold my breath. Let it out slowly, like the sad ghost of an expiring reptile.

“Have a degree, but nobody wants to employ a narcoleptic. They think it won’t look good for their company, someone always sleeping on the job. Even though that’s not how it works. Even though that’s not me.”

“Can anyone you know from Yamaku help?” says Wakana, now willing to talk because Suki’s broken the taboo.

“I don’t know. The Hakamichis are known to help in job placement, but I’d rather not end up a slave to a Family enterprise.”

“If I’m ever not employable, we’ll both borrow money from Wakanechan and live together until we die of loneliness, big sis!”

I laugh at my beautiful little sister. Some day, she’ll break somebody’s heart. Or remake somebody’s heart. You never know. Those eyebrows are quite lovely.

Wakana doesn’t laugh. She looks thoughtful. “Why not find a job that lets you choose your hours? One where you don’t need to work with people or machines on a regular basis?”

“Well… that would certainly help,” I say, drawing the words out to express irony.

“You could be a computer game reviewer!” says Heartbreaker.

“Believe me, I’ve tried.”

And failed. Some games take more than six hours to play through, and then I find myself lacking the desire to continue. My whole life seems to have spent itself in wanting to find somewhere safe to curl up, while being normal at other times. I’m tired. My drug regime makes me ‘normal’, but I don’t feel like me.

When our evening is over, we clear up and Wakana brings Suki home. I sit in the clean, bright desolation of doubt, waiting for Big Sam who is not here, playing with Inari who can’t talk to me, wondering if that’s all life is about.

*****

It’s hard to believe it, but hard-bitten and obsessive Manami, Number One Sister, is a doctor. She works at Accident and Emergency in a big white building, ruthlessly weeding out the real cases from the not-so-real, clearing her caseload in efficient minutes, but spending a huge amount of time on those who need it.

I stick my nose into her clinic, only to have a nurse try to chase me out. It’s early morning, and I’ll be fading as the sun rises, but I need help. And Manami, obsessive, crazy fusspot that she is, is good at that.

“What!” she says, looking up and waving a sharp finger at me. “Are you! Doing here! Stay outside!”

Obediently I slink out to wait at the rows of plastic chairs that are the holding area for A&E. Her hospital has 500 beds, and it’s often crowded. Sometimes you see foreigners, because it’s called Red Cross Hospital, and that sounds familiar to them. Today, at this time, none.

Manami comes off her shift today at 6 am, sunrise or so. I wait, I doze, I try the machine coffee, and it is not too bad.

A stiff prod into my shoulder wakes me up. “Guh…” I say, not sure if I was dreaming, but certain I was drooling.

“Su-chan. What is. Up.”

I wonder briefly, as I have before, what her patients think of her. But her manic eyes are fatigued, she has no makeup on, she is tangle-haired old Manami who hardly remembers friends or family. And who is also my eldest sister.

Suddenly, it all comes out of me. “I need a job, Eldest Sister. I’m tired of being a parasite. I’ve tried to resist the darkness but I have no more light.”

Her eyes burn through her fatigue and my sleep. Her adamant fingers seize my upper arm. “C’mon Su-chan. Breakfast. Now. Talk.”

She is restless, she always is. She makes funny movements, she walks so fast that everybody must think she is a blur. But they greet her respectfully, she is Dr Suzuki, and her lightning-fast nods bring smiles to people’s faces. Nobody loves me as much as they love her, I think. But she makes no time for them at all.

The canteen is warm, clean but not antiseptic. It’s human, not sterile. Eldest Sister gets food, returns money as if a croupier at a casino. Bread. And more coffee. Everything is a little sweet, but not too sweet.

“Need nurses. Want to train?”

I will probably kill someone if I fall asleep on the job. It’s not that I fall asleep without warning, mostly. But there is risk, and she knows it.”

“No, I cannot, you know I…”

“Then. Why see me?”

“Because you know how to get things done, Eldest Sister. And you’ll be fierce with me if I waste your time.”

“Yes. What you need. Is something… stable. In shifts. Uses brains. Hmm. Not sciences. Was joking about nursing.”

“Why not sciences?”

“You. Humanities. Somehow graduated. Can you? Read people?”

“Um…” Can I read people? Her eyelids twitch, her restless gaze carving me up and down and sideways. “I think so.”

“Observant?” Her stethoscope twitches, hanging half-out of a big pocket.

“Why?”

“Give me a CV. I’ll find. Something. For you.”

“Eldest Sister, this one is greatly thankful…”

“Enough. Need a lift home? I’ll drive. Where’s Inari?”

“In my bedroom.”

“Alone?! Seriously. Lacking in judgement. Hurry up.”

She waits just enough time for me to gulp the cooled coffee and grab what’s left of my bread. She’d cleared her breakfast in seconds, I realize.

People seem to scatter around her on the way to the car park.

*****

“Hi Sam!”

His big face looms at me out of the screen, my Okinawan boy, a ghost in the machine.

“Hello Su. Can’t wait to be back on the mainland with you. How’s the job market?”

“Awww… job market, well, there isn’t one. But Eldest Sister is helping me find a job that will suit a social anthropologist with cultural ideas. I’m doing the story of my life now…”

“Ah! You’re so complicated, dear.”

“That I am. When are you heading back?”

“A month, maybe?”

“That long?” I make a disappointed face. “Inari misses you.”

“She misses biting me, more like. I miss you both.”

After the conversation is long over, I’ve slipped into that halfness between life and death, dream and world. I sit in the bathroom, meditating on the pot. Inari looks at me curiously, but… I can’t even tell if she’s real or not.

*****

It’s in December 2012 that the letter gets to me. I think I went for an interview. They tested my brains. They gave me a map and asked me look for the trains. Or maybe it was drains.

I have a job. Crazy Manami has done it again, she has a friend of a friend of a friend. Starting in January 2013, I’ll no longer be floating somewhere in-between.

Suki is very happy for me and it saddens me when I have to tell her I can’t tell her more about my job. Except that it’s a secure government job. I don’t know what they see in me. Serious Wakana nods, satisfied that I will be safe. Shiori sneers. I smile at her.

When I’m home, I call Sam.

“Big Sam,” I say, my voice trembling, “I have a job! I start work in January!”

“Suzu! I am so happy for you! I’ll be with you for a while from 14th December. We can celebrate. Yes?”

“Yes!”

Near my feet, Inari uncurls. With her quiet poise, she sits up and begins to lick her paws, pink tongue on white and grey smoke-fur. We are all happy. We will be a family soon again.

=====
prev | next
Last edited by brythain on Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:44 am, edited 3 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 2b up 20141013)

Postby Serviam » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:38 am

Classified government job...nice.

It's not TRDI, is it?
"What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else."
- Tom Clancy summing up l'état in a nutshell

In order of completion:
Lilly > Hanako > Rin > Emi
Currently on: Shizune
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 2b up 20141013)

Postby brythain » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:39 am

Serviam wrote:Classified government job...nice.

It's not TRDI, is it?

Well… I could tell you, but then Kenji would have to shoot me. :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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