The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten (completed)

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Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:29 pm

Hisao Alone

Hisao’s gap year had become two, then five, then ten. Occasionally he’d wonder what he could have done differently, but then his break would be up - he’d stub out his cigarette, turn off his brain, and go back to work.

Work at the konbini was undemanding, and his high school English was good enough to communicate with the occasional tourist. Despite having picked up a smoking habit in high school, the job kept him on his feet; consequently he was perhaps in the best shape of his life.

It also helped that he chose to walk to and from work. To keep from getting bored he’d take differing routes; occasionally he’d pass an art gallery and he’d stop and stare searchingly long at the works on display, but never going in. He never took those routes home twice.

He seldom had issues with his heart - but then he seldom strenuously exerted himself. His doctor’s office had chased him to come in for a check up for a couple of weeks after he’d moved home, but he hadn’t bothered to return their calls.

Finally, predictably, one of his parents died - his mother, which surprised him. It had been over-work. A few co-workers and her manager showed up to the funeral as a formality; Hisao found he couldn’t even work up the outrage to be angry at them for being the cause of her passing.

His father took her death rather worse than Hisao did - occasionally Hisao caught his father, after coming home late at night on the next-to-last train, sitting alone in the living room - slowly going through an album of old wedding photos.

Almost a year to a day after his mother passed away, Hisao’s father’s heart gave out. Hisao elected not to have a funeral, instead asking mourners, if any, make a donation to a charity of their choice in his father’s name. For years afterwards he was reminded of his father’s passing by regular solicitations for donations that arrived in the mail - more and more every year as his father’s name and address was sold and re-sold to various charity mailing lists as a person who might have an inclination to generosity.

--
"So much to do, so little time."

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:29 pm

Aiko and Hisao I

Aiko had inherited her father’s analytical bent - and her mother’s stubbornness. After selling the house Aiko no longer felt tethered to her home town and resolved to find her father. It might be of no consequence - probably would be of no consequence - but his acquaintance was an omission that Aiko felt needed to be addressed for neatness’ sake, if no other.

Being resolved to this course of action Aiko realized that she knew almost nothing about her father. Her parents - her grandmother and grandfather - never mentioned him, and discouraged Rin from ever doing so. In quiet moments when her parents weren’t around, Rin would have whispered conversations with an unseen `Hisao`, as if he was there with her - knowing this, and that they had met in high school, was a start at least. In Rin’s belongings, stored in the attic, were documents with the name of her high school - Yamaku Academy; three points in a line pointing to her father’s identity - she hoped.

..

The librarian at Yamaku - an older woman, quite frazzled and easily startled - had not been as helpful as Aiko had hoped, but had been helpful enough. Seemingly over-worked and without any assistants, the librarian had just led Aiko to a small door marked `Archives` down the hall from the library, unlocked it, then ran back to the library without another word.

“Guess I’ll show myself out,” thought Aiko.

The archives room was daunting - much larger inside that than small door had suggested; dusty banker’s boxes full of records were stacked on metal racks up to the worryingly high ceiling. Fortunately a ladder on wheels rested near the door in case Aiko had need of it. “Let’s try not to fall - it’d be days before anyone would come looking for me - if ever.”

The ladder, records boxes, an empty table, and Aiko were all that were in the room. Aiko shut the door and proceeded to figure out the boxes’ undocumented storage plan.

Finding the box she’d wanted yielded to a little simple analysis - the boxes were arranged in chronological order, but by admission - not graduation - date. There had been no `Hisao` in Rin’s first year - on a hunch, Aiko looked in later years and found a `Nakai, Hisao` had arrived two years after Rin had - a transfer student, evidently.

The archive consisted solely of academic and administrative records. Medical records weren’t included in the archive - Aiko guessed they were stored somewhere else - but what was there was enough. She had a name and his parents’ address; she resisted looking at her mother’s academic records or Nakai’s - the former out of respect, the latter because she didn’t know if this was the right Hisao.

She didn’t feel up to just knocking on a stranger’s door in a strange city, although it was an option - so she started with an online search of his full name. Not a popular name - she’d found a few `Hisao Nakai`s on social media; some were abroad, but most were in Japan. Unfortunately they were all too young - or were using very badly out of date photos. From the clothing styles she guessed the former. “So much for the easy way out,” she thought, as she looked online to see what it cost to send a letter.

Finding the information she needed, and some stamps of the right denomination at the back of a drawer, she composed what she felt was a sufficiently functional message that gave very little away about herself:

“Hello - pardon my interruption. I’m looking for someone who may have known Tezuka, Rin, when they were together in high school. If you did, please contact me at the following email address.”

Aiko was a very attractive young woman; as such, she hadn’t included a return postal address and had created a carefully neuter email account ID solely for responses to her letter - she didn’t need random strangers showing up on her doorstep. Of course, the person she was looking for may not have email, but that was unthinkably unlikely.

She held her breath before posting the letter - it had been over twenty years; what’s the chance this Hisao would even still be living there? He was, she hoped, a conservative person and not given to moving around a lot - and if he didn’t live there, perhaps his parents did - her grandparents, she realized with a shock. In any event, the letter would come back - or it would not. If it did, time to try another path - if not, well, she’d just have to see.

..

Some months later, still living at his parent’s - now his - house, Hisao opened and read Aiko’s letter almost by accident, buried as it was under a stack of junk mail and old bills. Its hand-written addressing and patterned envelope reminded him of similar letter, received so very long ago. He opened the letter and read it; a day later, he responded to the included email address:

“I knew Rin - we lost touch after she moved back to Osaka with her parents. Should I know you?”

He lit a cigarette and smoked it entirely, then hit `send`.

--
Last edited by Asoko_Desu on Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
"So much to do, so little time."

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:29 pm

Aiko and Hisao II

Aiko arrived in the cafe right on time and looked for the man in the picture he had sent - spotting a person with the the right kind of hair, she made for his table. “The picture was taken some time ago by the look of him,” she thought - but he was unmistakable.

“Tezuka, Aiko.” She bowed politely, introducing herself.

He stood and bowed - “Nakai - Hisao, but you knew that. How do you know Rin?”

“She ..” Now here, Aiko found the words hard to say; turning back was still an option - she could just run away - he didn’t look like he could catch up to her if she did, but she had inherited her mother’s stubbornness and wasn’t backing down now.

“She was my mother.”

Hisao’s face remained impassive.

“She only had the one child - me. Her boyfriend - Naki, Hisao, was the father.”

Hisao nodded almost imperceptibly. He sat down and she followed.

Hisao reached into a pocket inside his jacket and pulled out a small clear plastic envelope; inside it was a charcoal sketch of a young woman - probably a self-portrait. He placed it on the table.


“This was your mother.”

He said it not as a question - he had been convinced Aiko was Rin’s daughter from the moment she entered the cafe; there could be no doubt.

Aiko took a picture out of her purse - a school photo that her grandparents had kept and set it beside the photo Hisao had produced - the pictures were almost identical.

Hisao closed his eyes for a long moment.

“You said was your mother ..”

“Yes .. I have reason to believe she’s no longer alive.”

Hisao closed his eyes again. A muscle in his cheek started to involuntarily quiver. He put his hand to his neck; his breathing sounded strained.


“Are .. you ok?” Asked Aiko with some concern.

“Fine - I'm fine. It’ll pass,” he said hoarsely. Gradually his breathing returned to normal.

“What - if I may ask - became of her?”

“She .. left and didn’t come back. I was twenty when she left for good.”

He quickly did the simple math in his head - “four years .. gone.” A waitress came by with a glass of the cheap whiskey Hisao had ordered. He drained half of it in a breath and, not bothering to set the glass on the table, drained the second half in his next. He deliberately set the empty glass down.

Aiko paused, then plunged headlong, not sure of what to say next -

“We’d play - we were a lot like sisters. We’d draw and paint together. She didn’t so much - she had a lot of art supplies that she never touched, but she let me use them. She’d sit and watch me paint and give me encouragement.”

“How did you find out about me?”

“I knew Rin was my mother. My parents - grandparents - never hid the fact, but never brought it up either. When I’d ask about my father, they’d just say `Oh - he’s not around` and change the topic. Rin would speak your name to me in hushed tones; she appeared afraid of our parents hearing, so it seemed. She never told me your last name - you were always just `Hisao`; I had to scour the Yamaku archives by hand to find your family name and your address.”

Hisao nodded - that made sense. “Mind if I go outside for a bit? They won’t let me smoke inside ..”

Aiko nodded. Left with her thoughts, she sat back in her seat to take stock of the father she’d only just met.

Thin, stooped, stringy hands; medic alert bracelet, clean-shaven; thinning ash-brown hair with what remained of a lock in the middle that wouldn’t stay in place - a defect she shared with him. He had dressed in pressed but worn brown clothes so old they looked more grey than anything. They were ill-fitting, looking like they had been purchased by a much younger man.

She calculated that he had to be about forty-two years old, but looked older - closer to sixty. He carried an air of embarrassment; Aiko reflected that, as an older adult, being confronted by mistakes of his youth could cause some discomfort.

Hisao returned presently, smelling somewhat disagreeably of cigarette smoke.

“Tell me more about Rin.”

He asked simply, but with a feeling of immense emotional weight behind the question.

“My grandparents - her parents - raised me. She was there, but was sort of in the background, mostly in her own world it seemed. She’d go for long walks in the woods near our house - eventually staying away for days at a time.”

“Our parents spent their retirement hiking around the countryside looking for her - they knew her preferred haunts from the little trinkets she decorated what they called her `nests` with, almost as if she was a magpie.”

“If they found her, they’d bring her home and clean her up - she’d never object - but they couldn’t keep her in a cage and soon she’d be off again. They would put food out for her in a latched metal box so animals won’t get at it - sometimes Rin would take it, sometimes not.”

Hisao bent forward as Aiko spoke - as if under a crushing weight, unable to meet her eyes.

“One day she just .. stopped coming. I don’t know what became of her. My grandparents died about a year after that - they were quite old; they’d had Rin late in life - I think she was unexpected.” Aiko fell silent - there was more to tell, but she was babbling now she realized, as she would when she felt badly out of her depth - as she did now.

Aiko could see that Hisao’s shoulders were shaking - after a moment, she realized he was crying. More out of instinct than sympathy, she extended her hands to him - the delicate hands of an artist. Hisao realized that Rin’s hands would have looked like these - had she been born with any - and he was wracked with fresh tears.

“It’s ok .. you don’t have to ..” Aiko really had no idea what to say to this man - her father, but a stranger - utterly consumed with grief in front of her. This was deeply uncomfortable for her - she would have withdrawn her hands, but he held onto them gently; to pull away would have been unforgivable.

Hisao sobbed openly, tears falling on his shirt and staining it a darker colour, almost like its original brown. Hisao raised his face - his lips drawn back in profound sadness, showing teeth stained by decades of coffee and smoking. He wiped his face on his sleeve, letting Aiko’s hands go; the moment was over and she no longer felt the need to flee.

“I am deeply sorry,” Hisao said, bowing in his seat. “You did not come here for this - I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer you; this is all I have.” He seemed at a loss for words to express his emotions, almost making no sense - as if he hadn’t used words to describe emotions in a very long time.

“I.. I should probably get going,” said Aiko, shaken. Hisao nodded, expressionless.

“I’ll be in touch - ok? I have your email address, I can email you ..” Hisao knew she probably would not - he nodded again and watched as she collected her purse and jacket and left without looking back. He watched her red hair disappear into the night and thought how like Rin’s hair it looked. He looked in the direction she had gone long after she had left.

Aiko did, however, email Hisao one more time - she sent him her address in Osaka and invited him to come by if he was ever near. Hisao had received a communication like this once before and he knew it communicated only politeness - not sincerity. He did not respond.

--
Last edited by Asoko_Desu on Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
"So much to do, so little time."

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:30 pm

Last Winter

Time had passed and Hisao felt it was time to put his meagre affairs in order. He didn’t affect minimalism, he just didn’t have a lot of possessions - not much more than he had as a student at Yamaku. He did have a box of Rin’s artwork that he’d saved - some had been destroyed in a water leak, but many remained untouched. These he packaged up and shipped to the address Aiko had provided to him - they hadn’t been returned so he assumed she was still living there. He found an invitation to a Yamaku reunion from years and years ago tucked in with Rin’s art - obviously he hadn’t gone; what would he say? What could he?

He looked at the row of dark brown glass pill bottles lined up on his desk, mostly empty; all dusty. They hadn’t held his attention in quite some time.

Hisao prepared for bed. There was no need to turn the lights off - he seldom bothered turning them on as a rule. He got out of his clothes, hung them up, lay down and pulled a threadbare cover over himself; he took one last look out of the window at the sky, then closed his eyes.

With his last thought before sleep, he wondered briefly whatever became of Iwanako.

--
Last edited by Asoko_Desu on Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"So much to do, so little time."

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:30 pm

The Years the Locusts Have Eaten

Carried by the wind,
Dandelion seeds pass over.
Katawa shinju.

--
"So much to do, so little time."

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:31 pm

You Should Have Seen the Other Guy

As Aiko got older, she’d occasionally search for Rin as her grandparents had before her. Aiko never discovered the nests and haunts that her grandparents had described, but she did discover the bones of a human, long dead.

The body appeared to be that of a man; it was - had been - wearing worker’s clothes, now mostly in tatters. That the person hadn’t been reported missing suggested they had been an itinerant labourer. The body had been cleaned of flesh by the birds and insects, and the bones washed clean by the rain of many seasons.

The body lay awkwardly - one of the legs was folded at one too many angles. Aiko nudged the body with her boot and it was clear the femur had been snapped neatly in half.

“What were they doing out here? Did they trip?” Aiko wondered to herself, cooly noting that there wasn’t anything around like a rock that the person could have fallen against and injured themselves on, or anything that they could have fallen from.

Aiko offered a silent prayer and left.

--
"So much to do, so little time."

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:32 pm

Epilogue

Two bright motes of light drift together on a velvet field of blackness.

“Dude - what the fuck was that?”



“What??”

“Seriously - what were you thinking. She’s stuck where she started and he’s actually gone down a level. Her we can help, but him .. he’s out of our department entirely now.”

“I know - I know. I fucked up. We got most of them though ..”

“We’re not playing two out of three ain’t bad - `gotta save ‘em all` is the goal.”

“Gotta `catch ‘em all` is the saying.”

“I don’t give a fuck what the saying is. The enemy got one neatly between our goalie pads - we’re not going to lose another.”

“OK, big talker - what’s the plan?”

The first light dimmed a moment, then brightened.

“This one - here.“

“That one? He’s half a planet away?”

“And your point is? We inspire him just so .. and he’s on the board!”

“What if they’re not compatible?”


“That was the problem with the other one - too compatible. They just sat there together, bringing out the worst in each other. This one is .. different.“

“I don’t see it .. but I don’t have anything better to offer, so .. let’s go for it.”

“And go for it we will - we’re going to need to call in some favours, but it’ll work; I don’t want to lose either of them.”

“Do we ever? Want that I mean ..” The second light sounded slightly hurt.

“I mean I really don’t want to lose them - we owe it to her, and frankly, him too - although pulling him way out of his comfort zone is probably not a bad thing.”

“Not a bad thing at all, looking at it twice. OK - let’s do this.”

The lights separate at high speed and are quickly out of sight. Our view turns to grey, then mist, then a brand new day.

-

Exeunt Omnes

--
"So much to do, so little time."

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten

Post by Asoko_Desu » Mon Jan 23, 2023 3:39 pm

And with some trivial formatting changes, I can say this work is finally completed - very glad to step away from it.

Look after yourself - mental health isn’t a joke; if you’re not struggling - even if you are - there’s probably someone near you who is. We're here to look after each other, if for no other reason.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

--
"So much to do, so little time."

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brythain
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten (completed)

Post by brythain » Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:09 pm

Good story. Inspires some very interesting and complicated thoughts!
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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Lap
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten (completed)

Post by Lap » Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:32 pm

That...was like being off my meds. You capture the Depression mood/mindset very well. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure I'll ever re-read it, it hits too close to home.

The epilogue kinda came out of left field; not sure it's really necessary for this piece. Feels like it belongs to some other work. It takes the story from the slice-of-life to the fantasy genre.

Pleasantly few SPAG issues, but one note in Leaving View:
Without resistance, but also without inclination, Rin took her mother’s hand and followed her out of the tall grasses.

“We’re getting too old for this.” Rin’s father commented to no one in particular.

“I know dear, but if we don’t come for Rin, who will?” Rin’s mother responded as if Rin wasn’t there, although she was lightly holding her mother’s hand.
How is Rin holding her mother's hand? With her teeth? With her foot, and hopping along on the other?...

Scarred Muse Hanako and Rin.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
One-shots

Asoko_Desu
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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten (completed)

Post by Asoko_Desu » Wed Jan 25, 2023 10:33 am

Thanks for taking the effort to read it - and for the feedback!

re: Depression - I feel your pain; I’m not unfamiliar with people suffering from mental illness - the disconnection from life; the hopelessness felt by those trying to help them, engendered by the sometimes intractable nature of the problem.

re: Epilogue - this was an effort to tie this back into the broader universe of Infinitely More, but I agree - it is awkward; perhaps that’s why I left it as an easter egg (that said, easter eggs are probably better suited to VNs).

I had hoped it would tie `Years` to Two Body Problem, but it’s a weak connection at best. Let’s blame trying to tie them all together on my need to find order in a chaotic universe. I’ll probably leave it as for now - I hate deleting things once posted. Don’t know why - just one of the quirks that makes me special :)

re: SPAG - Thanks :) I do believe we all need editors so thanks specifically for pointing out the awkward wording about who was holding who and how - I’ll tighten that up once my pain meds kick in :)

re: “I’m not sure I'll ever re-read it” - same. It was something that insisted on being written, but it was physically painful to do - I do mean literally. Not sure what demons I was trying to exercise (my demons like being taken on long walks), but now at least I’m able to solve the equations in `Two Body Problem` without distraction.

--
"So much to do, so little time."

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Re: The Years That the Locusts Have Eaten (completed)

Post by Asoko_Desu » Wed Jan 25, 2023 2:11 pm

brythain wrote:
Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:09 pm
Good story. Inspires some very interesting and complicated thoughts!
Thank you brythain - I always value your opinion!

(sorry to have missed your comment earlier - my day wasn't going as I'd hoped.)

Now back to making things happen on my side of the screen ..

--
"So much to do, so little time."

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