The Blank Slate - (Updated 12-26) A Christmas Council

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-28) Defining Work

Post by Blank Mage » Mon May 30, 2016 2:09 am

In honor of the Book Club's Rin month, and because I literally haven't written a Rin piece until now, I spent a half an hour writing gibberish that I think is very fitting for Rin. Rinberish, if you will. That sounds terrible. Nevermind.

Defining Work
----------------------

Nothing makes any sense.

People tell me I make the least sense of any of it, and by people I mean Emi, but Emi is most people to me, like the spokesperson for everyone else. If Emi says I'm weird, I don't think the rest of the world would disagree. Emi is very honest, after all. But if I think the world is strange, and the world thinks I'm strange, how can I tell who's right? What if no one is? Can both be? Who's deciding what's right in the first place? This game has no referee, and I'm not even sure what the rules are.

Nothing makes any sense.

I used to think I could just do whatever seemed right. I may not know the world's rules, but I can play my own game instead. That didn't work, though, because while winning a game you invented isn't hard at all, the only rewards are ones you give yourself, and anything you can give yourself is something you already had. So there isn't really any kind of 'winning', but you can always lose. I learned that too. You can forget, and you can wear out, and you can break what you have. You can always lose.

So I decided to play with someone else. Learn the world's rules, get some help reaching my goals. I can't reach very high, you know. Most people know. I'm Rin Tezuka, and you can see some of my problems even before you ask me what they are. Even if you did, I don't think I could tell you, because a lot of my problems are only problems to everyone else. Like having paint on your face that doesn't show up in a mirror.

I found someone to play with, and I thought I knew how to play, and now I'm alone in this room again, because he wanted something I didn't have, and couldn't give him. He thought I had it because he gave it to me, but I think I lost it. I think I lost a lot of things, but I don't know what they look like. I think he took them with him when he left. He didn't look happy about it, either.

Nothing makes any sense.

He never made any sense, either, but I didn't mind, because he was warm, and kind, and green like a forest in spring, and I think I should have been that for him, but that's not me. I'm dark orange, like rust. It's not kind at all, and certainly not warm. It's the kind of color I'd usually try to get rid of, so something better can take its place. I think his green might go well with yellow or blue.

I'm crying, and I don't know why. I think it's because I broke a rule somewhere. I wish he'd come back so I could try again. Maybe I've learned something. Maybe he can teach me. I just want to be warm again. I want to paint something bright and wonderful. I want him to be somewhere I can reach. If he'd just come back, I could try harder. I could paint something for him instead of Sae. I think I want to see him happy more than I want to be happy, because that would make me happiest.

Nothing makes any sense.

I stare at the blank canvas in front of me. I haven't painted it because I don't know what it's supposed to look like. Even if I painted him, it wouldn't be warm where it matters, because I can't give myself something I don't have. I lie back and stare through the window into the night sky. The stars are out. I remember Emi telling me wishing on falling stars was pointless, because they always disappeared before you could do anything about it.

...I look back to the canvas.

-------------

"Our next piece, again, has no title, as is Mrs. Nakai's habit. It's a surprisingly traditional work: the stars as seen through a skylight. A single shooting star can be seen, center frame, almost dividing the scene into further segments with it's length. It's obviously a very hurried work of hers, little more than a sketch of sorts, but the speed with which she completed the painting has left a number of fascinating nuances, variations in texture and style, and show a side of Nakai seldom seem in her more abstract works."

"This painting also brings an end to 'Tezuka's Spiral', the period in her early life during which her paintings became almost violently abstract, and marks the beginning of her 'Green Phase', which showed an interest in natural settings and forest scenery. As a stand-alone piece, this painting may not seem like much more than a basic still of a common ceiling, but I posit that it is perhaps the single most important painting Nakai ever put to canvas."

"Now, moving on to our Renaissance-era artwork..."
Last edited by Blank Mage on Mon May 30, 2016 5:19 pm, edited 3 times in total.
And we're back.
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"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-30) Defining Work

Post by brythain » Mon May 30, 2016 2:19 am

That's excellent. I love stories about Rin's paintings. :)
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: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-30) Defining Work

Post by Blank Mage » Mon May 30, 2016 2:22 am

brythain wrote:That's excellent. I love stories about Rin's paintings. :)
Yay, a Senpai comment! I was beginning to think you guys didn't love me anymore, and then I realized how hypocritical that would make me, since I haven't yet commented on Molly's AtD arc, and haven't even started on 'Mistaking Identify'. But I'm GETTING to it, because I am on FIRE this week.
And we're back.
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"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-30) Defining Work

Post by Alpacalypse » Mon May 30, 2016 4:00 am

I think it's a wonderful piece of Rinberish (It's a word now, screw it).
I am the harbinger of your destruction... By herbivorous, mountain dwelling quadrupeds... fear me
---
I also write now, apparently. Since everyone else does it, I'm putting it here
---
I have also discovered that I'm a decent proofreader. Anybody with SPaG problems is free to PM me their work for a thorough analysis and/or evisceration. Depends on how I'm feeling.

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-30) Defining Work

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon May 30, 2016 5:04 am

Blank Mage wrote:Yay, a Senpai comment!
Hey, you've been here longer than brythain has :-)
I agree, a nice short. It did capture Rin very well.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-30) Defining Work

Post by Blank Mage » Mon May 30, 2016 8:31 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Blank Mage wrote:Yay, a Senpai comment!
Hey, you've been here longer than brythain has :-)
Yeah, but he's managed to write basically all the things.
And we're back.
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"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-28) Defining Work

Post by dewelar » Mon May 30, 2016 3:03 pm

Not bad. This might seem odd for me to say, but if anything this could have been bleaker. Still, it feels a good deal Rinner than most of the stuff I've read on this board.
Blank Mage wrote:Mrs. Tezuka
So, Rin ended up marrying herself. Perfect. Never change this.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 5-28) Defining Work

Post by Blank Mage » Mon May 30, 2016 5:21 pm

dewelar wrote:So, Rin ended up marrying herself. Perfect. Never change this.
Haha what I think you misread that or something what you said would be a stupid, stupid mistake, how stupid, ha
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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 12-26) A Christmas Council

Post by Blank Mage » Mon Dec 26, 2016 2:35 pm

Shizune - A Christmas Council

Overtime
Nakajima - <d.nakajima@indexcorporation.jp> Dec 24 (18 minutes ago)

Hey Hakamichi, you know the drill. Overtime's approved for the holidays. Not mandatory, but strongly encouraged. Let me know what your schedule is like as soon as possible.

-------------------------

re.Overtime
me - <s.hakamichi@indexcorporation.jp> Dec 24 (2 minutes ago)

No problem, I can show up. Enjoy your holiday, Nakajima, I'll see you Monday.

-------------------------

re.re.Overtime
Nakajima - <d.nakajima@indexcorporation.jp> Dec 24 (a few seconds ago)

You're a lifesaver, Hakamichi.

------------------------------------

Yeah, yeah, I know I am.

To be honest, I never had any plans to cancel... or rather, working overtime was the plan. I had asked Hanako about celebrating, but she didn’t seem up to it, which was about what I expected anyway. Glancing out the window at the gently falling snow from my slightly too-warm office is about all the Christmas I need. I'd rather be buried in busywork than stuck pretending to like people I barely know outside these walls. At least I'm spared the trauma of repetitive Christmas music, which I'm told is hated by all but the most die-hard of well-wishers. It might be playing right now for all I know.

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Christmas or anything, just... it isn't built for people like me, I think. Christmas is a time to deepen the bonds you rely on, to show your appreciation for people you love. Only I don't rely on anyone, and it's hard to cultivate a relationship when you keep everything strictly professional. But what are my options? I can't help people with their love lives when mine ended in high school, and it's not like I'm great in conversations to begin with.

So I'll stick to what I'm good at: helping people with practical problems with practical efforts. The workload doesn't observe Christmas, and neither do I.

----------------------

It's only when the main lights cut off that I look up from my computer, annoyed. My office is still empty, and the hallway through the window looks just as dark. It seems like some janitor just assumed the floor was empty. Not a big deal, but staring at a bright monitor in the dark is bad for my eyes, and I really need those.

I don't spot the culprit as I make my way to the main light switch for my level, but as I expected, it's off. I switch it back, and the fluorescent lights flicker back to life. After a moment's consideration, I turn off most of them via their individual circuits; I only need my office to be lit, after all, and I'd hate to waste energy. Satisfied with this new arrangement, I make my way back through the darkened halls to my little oasis of light, open my door, and step into the Student Council room, where Misha sits drumming her pencils on the table.

...There's a second of perfect confusion as my brain struggles to factor this, like a car shifting without a clutch. Misha, true to form, interrupts before I get the chance, hands flying into the overly-zealous sign I've come to expect from her. Or that I used to expect from her.

[Shicchan! It's been forever~! But~! Welcome back to the Student Council! We missed you, and by we I mean I, 'cause I'm the only one here, but now it's we again and I'm super stoked!]

This... this is supposed to be my office. This is not ten years ago. Misha is my age now, and this isn’t a thing anymore. She doesn’t even dye her hair like that these days.

I glance back to the window and see that we are, in fact, several stories above the streets of Tokyo, as we should be. My office has just been replaced by some weird imitation of my past, complete with a weird imitation of a pink haired friend I've since fallen out of contact with, dressed in a school uniform I haven’t worn in a decade. Totally normal.

Oh hell, I fell asleep, and now I’m having some kind of bizarre stress induced flashback nightmare.

Misha seems to have heard that, somehow, as she gives an eager nod, her hands flying back into action.

[I’m not a nightmare! That’s so~ rude! And I wouldn’t have to do this if you answered your phone! So you get dream Misha, and there’s no getting out of it!]

[But whatever! That's not important! Today, Shicchan, I'm gonna help you figure out the meaning of Christmas, and you're gonna be way happier in the end!]

Oh God no.

Misha holds up an accusatory finger, scowling at me before continuing.

[See, that's exactly the kind of thing you shouldn't be thinking on Christmas! You should be thinking "Wow, this is going to be super fun and educational at the same time!" It's killing two birds with one stone, only not killing birds, because no one should kill birds on Christmas. Or ever!]

[But whatever that's not important either! Shicchan, I can't believe you're sitting around doing paperwork for Christmas Eve AND Christmas! I mean, I can, that's actually exactly what I'd expect from you, but that's not cheerful at all! What gives?!]

Indignation fills in for logic as I fire back at my guilt-trip-made-flesh, the absurdity of the situation momentarily forgotten, my hands signing it out of habit. I guess the human psyche is kind of predictable.

[I'm not cheerful, Misha! I'm not miserable either, I'm just the same as always. It’s not like I can decide how cheerful I ought to be on a day-by-day basis.]

[I know~ that! Cheering yourself up is really tough, that's where other people come in! Ugh, this is hard to explain. Look, the way things are going, this is probably gonna be how your Christmas is every year, and you're going to be missing out on a ton of stuff because you're too stubborn to let other people get near you!]

[Wha... you... listen, you, it’s not that I’m not letting people get close, it’s that I’m not forcing people to be close. Even if I did make an effort to be social, I’d just stand in a corner with a notepad, and it’d make everyone in the room feel guilty and awkward. It’s fine this way, they can include me when they want to, if they want to. That’s it.]

[That’s not good enough, Shicchan! You’re too cynical! You should have more faith in people! They might feel guilty or awkward at first, but then they’ll get used to it, and maybe they’ll even pick up sign! You won’t get anywhere if you aren’t willing to start somewhere.]

[What am I supposed to do? Drag Hanako out of her room against her will? Show up wherever I want and demand people cater to me? Misha, we’ve done this before, and all it got us was a broken friendship and a reputation for being slave-drivers. At best, I’d be in the same position I was in back at Yamaku, and at worst I’d break someone else’s heart. You of all people should remember what happens when people get attached to me.]

Misha bristles at my retort, fists clenched at her side before she launches into an even more heated tirade.

[At best you'll figure out how to break down these stupid walls you've built, and at worst you'll help someone break down theirs! You think you're the worst thing that happens to people, but the truth is the worst thing is when you just up and leave them to fend for themselves while you focus on your own stupid job! I'm really lonely, Shicchan you idiot, and here you are doing paperwork!]

Tears are forming in her eyes, and her signs lose composure as she finishes her sentence. My own hands falter as I try to explain.

[Misha... I can't be there for you forever. You don't get it. The longer I string you along, the more it's going to hurt eventually. You're going to find someone who loves you, who really loves you, someone you can spend the rest of your life with. But that's not me.]

I gesture back to the hallway outside.

[This is who I am, and this is what I can do. I can help people with their workload, I can support people with clear goals and tangible efforts. I'm not qualified to help people outside of that. Least of all you. I'd let you down, and you know it.]

[...Yeah, I know it. That's okay, Shicchan. Well, they say if you love something, let it go, right? I'm getting there, and so are you. See you around, Shizune. I hope you find someone, too.]

She turns away as she says this, my half-formed apology broadcasting to no one, and I reach out to her, suddenly struck with remorse, but she's gone, and my office is as it was.

I stand staring at where she was, now just a window outside, the usual scene and nothing more. I swallow around the lump forming in my throat, fiercely rationalizing my decisions, before I'm interrupted again.

Pitiful. I expected you to be blunt, but that was simply excessive.

It's impossible to mistake my father for anyone else, even if he doesn't have a 'voice'. Somehow, his words just seem obvious, even though there shouldn't be any way for me to 'hear' him. I whirl back around, my emotions inverting from regret to anger now that a target has presented itself.

He’s standing in the doorway behind me, with his ridiculous katana and his equally ridiculous shirt. He looks the same as he did the last time I saw him, which was thankfully some time ago. If this wasn’t a nightmare before, it certainly is now.

[Oh, don't you start with me.]

His face shifts from his default anger to a more active one, his grip on the sheathed katana tightening a little.

I don't take orders from you, but your refusal to accept the wisdom of your elders is noted.

I turn away, signing at no one, hoping that closing my eyes will somehow blot him out. Dream logic, hopefully.

[No. No, nope, I'm not doing this. Just wake me up now, I am not going to sit here and be lectured on the spirit of caring by you.]

It doesn’t work, unfortunately, as his words just seem to appear in my consciousness despite my preventative measures.

You are and you will. Rejecting even help freely given by one such as myself. Disgraceful.

My eyes snap back open, the scene is unchanged, and my patience is exhausted already.

[You're the furthest thing from altruistic I can think of, and that's including myself. At no point in my life can I remember you doing anything charitable without bragging about how amazing you are. You are literally the worst thing in my life, and the only reason I'm even explaining this is because this is the first time you can even understand what I'm signing, something your real world counterpart couldn't be bothered to do. Obviously I’m stressed enough that I’m even having this weird little episode without you in it. So pack your garishly Hawaiian shit and leave.]

Opportunity knocks, and you insult it's impeccable choice of dress. Typical. Shortsighted. But futile, as I'm not so easily discouraged. Now come along, we have things to do and neither of us want to be here.

[...Fine. I can't wait to see how you're going to paint yourself as less of an asshat.]

I reluctantly follow him outside, into the darkened hallways of my current company. I spend the short walk fortifying my anger, countering predicted accusations and crushing strawman points. If my imaginary telepathic dad can hear me, he makes no comment. Eventually we come to a stop outside room 1999.

We’re here.

[This is a broom closet.]

Yes, daughter, I’ve come to you in a dream to show you brooms. Now get in there.

I glare at him, hoping against hope he disappears this time, but he just glares back. Eventually I give up and walk through the door. I’m not surprised to see my living room from almost two decades past, just frustrated that I still have to play along.

Before me, an elementary-school-Shizune sits on the floor amidst a sprawl of presents, while a far younger Hideaki busies himself gnawing on one. A younger version of my father is staring from the couch, and soon enough his older duplicate steps out from behind me to join him.

Oh God, there’s two of him now. Please let this end.

This was the first Christmas since your Mother died, he says wordlessly.

[And you decided to take me to this one? Good choice.]

He gestures to the presents my younger self is preoccupied with.

She picked out half of these at least, you know. Before she died. She always did like to plan ahead for Christmas. And New Years, and Golden Week, and everything else. She was always thinking of you and Hideaki.

If he’s hoping for an emotional response with this, he’s going to be disappointed.

[Yeah, she was a great parent. I guess this explains why every holiday after this point was barely celebrated. Good job stepping up to that plate, Dad.]

He scowls, and I allow myself a savage smile in response. I’ll admit, this is pretty cathartic.

I wasn’t prepared for this. It had never been my job before... to know you, to know how to communicate with you. When it suddenly fell to me, I realized I didn’t know the first thing about raising a child. Only how to support one.

Unaware of the conversation, my younger self tears into a present, scrabbling at the paper to reveal a wooden katana in a cloth scabbard, which I unsheathe eagerly. The ghost of my father smiles at that, a little hollowly. Here in the present, I’m unmoved.

[You could have learned. You could have tried. You had nothing but time, and your fortune was made long before she died. You didn’t even pick up sign, and the first chance you got you dumped me as far away as you could.]

I did, actually. I spent over a year learning sign. I was never much good at it, and when I wanted to try, I didn’t know how to start. You hated me by then anyway. There was nothing left to say.

[Bullshit. You didn’t even bring it up. You didn’t learn a goddamn language in secret.]

What does it matter? You wanted to know how I would make myself less of an… asshat, was it? This is my excuse. I didn’t know how to help you with your problems. All I knew was how to achieve clear goals with tangible efforts. Anything outside that-

[Fuck you. This is different and you know it. I was your daughter, and I had lost one of the only three people in the world who knew how to talk to me. Don’t even fucking act like this is the same as Misha and I. We don’t have a healthy relationship, and having to ignore her like this makes me feel like shit, but it’s the only way she’ll move on with her life. You were supposed to be my father. I was counting on you!]

I would have made everything worse. What was I supposed to do? Drag you out of your room against your will? Show up wherever-

[Fucking stop it, you don’t get to say that, I was your fucking responsibility and you know it! I was a child, I was YOUR fucking child! Take me back to my goddamn office! TAKE! ME! BACK!]

My eyes squeeze shut, hot tears carving paths down my cheeks, burning pain in my arms as I sign at the scene before me as though to banish it, and when I open my eyes…

Brooms.

I’m yelling at brooms.

I take a moment to collect my thoughts, wipe my eyes and clean the fog off my glasses.

Deep breaths, Shizune, deep breaths. Stop crying in a broom closet. You are an adult. Count to ten, get your shit together, and head back to your office.

…Not for the first time, I walk down the darkened hallway, pausing at the door and hoping against hope my workspace is on the other side. Bracing myself, I open it.

...Well, it’s my desk, so that’s a start, although Hanako is sitting behind it, which is a bit unusual for this hour. And this prefecture. She stops toying with the Newton’s Cradle I keep on my desk, a quick look of embarrassment on her face as she pulls her sleeve down over her scarred hand ever so slightly. It’s a pretty convincing copy, but I guess my subconscious would know.

It’s a little disorienting, actually, and for a second I have to wonder if I’m still asleep or if I’m just in some sort of weird fugue state. Hanako waits patiently for me to start the conversation, hands folded in front of her, apparently enjoying playing the part of middle management for a moment.

I sigh, resigning myself to the situation, and break the ‘silence’.

[Are we still doing this, then? The whole ‘learn about Christmas’ thing?]

Hanako nods apologetically.

[Yep. But we’re getting there, and I think the hardest part is probably over.]

[My father is an asshat, though. I’m not wrong on that one.]

She shrugs a little, her look telling me it’s not an argument she has a stake in.

[He didn’t know what to do with you, and he made some bad calls. He’s a bad father, I think, but maybe not a bad person. Neither are you, but one of you has to be the one to reach out, you know.]

[Can we talk about something else? Like anything else?]

Hanako’s brow furrows a little, clearly unhappy with my attitude, but lets it pass anyway.

[Let’s head back home, then.]

Hanako (or the Ghost of Not-Dead Hanako, or whatever,) walks past me to the door, holding it for me.

If I was disoriented before, this definitely isn’t helping; the darkened hallways have been replaced by a darkened living room, where another Hanako is lying on the couch, eyes closed, apparently asleep. She’s dressed in the same casual clothes my ‘tour guide’ is wearing, the same outfit she was wearing when I left this morning.

Ghost Hanako walks past me, joining her double on the couch just as my Father did earlier. (At least this version doesn’t fill me with rage.) She looks up at me, and back at herself.

[I’m going to be a little blunt, Shizune; I’m pretty miserable right now.]

She says it as though she’s referring to someone else, a perfectly neutral statement of fact. It still hurts to hear, though, and I halfheartedly apologize. Hanako gives a sad little smile at that.

[It’s not your fault. It’s mine. It’s always been mine, you know. I’m a coward, Shizune. I blame Lilly, I blame Hisao, I blame the bullies, I blame the fire, but at the end of the day I’m the only one who does this to myself.]

I go to interject, but Hanako stops me with a look, the barest hint of anger in her marred features.

[Don’t make excuses for me. I didn’t have to let you go to work today, you know? I could have stopped you. I could have said ‘actually, Shizune, I would like to attend New Years at the Nakai’s.’ ‘Let’s go visit a shrine this year’. ‘Let’s just hang out and watch a movie’.]

She glares at herself on the couch.

[But I don’t say any of that, because I don’t want to get in your way. I tell myself it’s because that would be selfish, but that’s just another excuse, isn’t it? We both want more from our lives, but we just can’t imagine anything better for ourselves.]

[Shizune, don’t let me lay on the couch this year, got it? And don’t sit behind your desk, either. The people around you may be looking for a reason, just like you are. You’re not as alone as you think you are. None of us are.]

I really don’t have anything to say at this point, but apparently the armchair works even in this dream, so I sit down across from the two Hanakos.

Ghost Hanako gives a silent little laugh, looking back down at her double.

[I wonder if she’s getting a visit from the Ghost of Shizune Present for the same reasons. You’re probably better at this sort of thing.]

She pushes a pair of imaginary glasses up the bridge of her nose, her expression suddenly severe and her signs militant.

[Hanako! This kind of attitude is simply unacceptable for an author of your caliber! How can you write about love and acceptance and then fail to apply those concepts to yourself? That should be a basic skill! Now get your coat, go outside, and be a better person!]

She breaks character as a fit of laughter takes her, but I’m unamused. Soon enough, Hanako takes the hint.

[...sorry, sorry. That was all I had to say, so I’ll go ahead and send you along.]

I huff, arms crossed.

[I’ll allow you that much, magnanimous benefactor that I am. I’ll be sure to bring this up with Real Life You when I get the chance.] I drop the act, my signs becoming more casual. [Can I wake up now?]

Hanako averts her eyes, looking innocent, and I sigh heavily.

[...Fine. I’ll just let myself out.]

[Yep. See you in a bit. Try to be patient with me, will you? I’ll get it together soon, I promise.]

[Never doubted you, Hanako.]

I wave to the two of them, opening the front door back to where I left my office.

It takes me a moment to notice the differences. It’s still my office, true, but the desk seems worn, more paperwork has accumulated in my absence. The rug’s color has faded, and some of the buildings outside have different billboards slanting down their exteriors. Behind my desk is a blonde woman in business attire, a little older than me, who glances up from a file on the desk as I enter.

[...Misha?]

She gives a small shake of her head.

[Not anymore. It’s just Shiina now. Shiina Mikado.]

[...The Shiina from before, or after?]

She gets up from my desk, her signs more gentle and subtle than I remembered them.

[What difference does it make, Shicchan? I’m always Shiina in the end. Misha is just a character I play when you’re in the audience.]

I gesture to the office around me.

[And this is my future? Same building, same office?]

[Different post, though.]

Misha- Shiina points to the plaque on my desk, reading Shizune Hakamichi - Corporate Director.

[Ooh, nice. How long did that take me?]

[Eighteen years since you joined the company. It’s a very nice position for someone as young as you.]

[And here’s the part where you tell me how miserable I am, right?]

Misha sighs. [Nope. You’re fine. See for yourself.]

The door opening behind me catches my eye, and I instinctively step out of the way as an older Shizune marches through the door, passing myself and Mis- Shiina as she takes her place at the desk. I look pretty good, but I’ve aged faster than I probably should have. I guess twenty-four years of stress aren’t great for my skin. If my math’s correct, I should be-

[Thirty-eight], Shiina interrupts.

Corporate Shizune’s fingers fly across the keyboard, hammering out a scathing email to someone before setting herself to work on the stack of papers to her left. I notice she has bracers on, apparently to either guard against or alleviate carpal tunnel.

[This is your Christmas, by the way. You never started a family.]

That hardly surprises me, so I don’t bother denying or justifying it.

[And neither did I], Shiina finishes.

I glance up at her, suddenly concerned.

[Oh, I’m still alive, don’t worry. I just… never really recovered, I guess. I’ve been in a few relationships, but none of them ended well, and I never had children. You still send me really nice gifts every holiday, along with a lot of other people in your contacts list.]

In front of us, Corporate Shizune drums her fingers in familiar show of impatience. She texts someone, then resumes her work. Through the window, a company across the street turns off their lights for the night.

[Hanako’s in the same boat,] Shiina continues. [Being able to write from home didn’t force her to push her boundaries. Once she became self-sufficient, she moved out to her own place, but she spends most of her time shut in. The only person who really talks to her is her editor, although they’re on good terms. She’s still miserable this time of year, but you don’t know that. You sent her a brand-new laptop just yesterday, after all.]

[Lilly and Hisao still invite you over every year, you just never attend. You don’t want to make them uncomfortable, after all. As for the rest, well, you never made that many friends in college or at work.]

[So what, I just don’t help anyone ever? That’s my horrible future?]

Shiina shrugs, walking behind Corporate Me while she explains.

[Not exactly. You help tons of people. You help everyone you know, in fact, and a lot of people you don’t. You donate to charities, you actively support more causes than I can count, you’re a vocal proponent of some very progressive changes in company policy and media. Literally vocal, you coded your own custom text to speech program, which made you kind of a celebrity around the company.]

[You sleep pretty well at night, all things considered.]

Corporate Shizune taps a stack of files against the desk, straightening them before placing them neatly into the outbox, and reaches for another stack from it’s twin on the other side of the desk. Behind her, more lights in a building across the street blink out of existence, leaving the street a little darker than it was.

[And you spend every year pulling overtime, then going home to a dark house, where you eat the most expensive pre-made food on the market. One day your funeral will be attended by strangers. That’s your future. It’s not horrible. It’s not anything. It’s just… practical and uneventful. So no, no dramatic scene where you claw at your tombstone, no one stealing your bedsheets. This is it. Just paperwork.]

I tap a stack of files against the desk, straightening them before placing them neatly into the outbox.

[Get the idea?]

I reach for another stack from the inbox on the other side of the desk. On the table, my phone rings, unheard and unanswered.

[Merry Christmas, Shizune.]

I tap a stack of files against the desk, straightening them before placing them neatly into the outbox.

The lights cut out.

My head snaps up, a sharp gasp as I struggle to see through the dark. My office is empty, and the hallways through the window look just as dark. I shudder uncontrollably, holding myself for a moment while I catch my breath. My computer wakes up as well, a document half-finished bathing my desk in white light, an impatient blinking cursor awaiting my input. In the corner, the date and time tell me my holiday has officially started as of three minutes ago.

I save changes and close the window, sitting in the dark for a few minutes while my breathing slows.

I open a new window.

--------------------------

Merry Christmas - <s.hakamichi@indexcorporation.jp> Dec 25 (a few seconds ago)
To Hanako <silentaria90@docomo.ne.jp>

I think I'm taking off early, I'll probably be back in an hour or two. I know this is sudden, but… do you want to visit a shrine this year?
Last edited by Blank Mage on Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
And we're back.
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"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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Blank Mage
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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 12-26) A Christmas Council

Post by Blank Mage » Tue Dec 27, 2016 4:03 am

Huh. You know, all these lines looked longer before I ported it over from the google document.

When did I forget how to format these things
And we're back.
-----------
"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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Rhodri
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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 12-26) A Christmas Council

Post by Rhodri » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:25 pm

You know, during this time as activity on here dwindles, it always good to see more stories being released and one that provides a rich mixture of emotions. Nice one.
"She also ties you up to a chair. You're gonna like that. Chairs are good. Chairs are your friend."

BeeFhGhost, Jan 15th 2012.

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Re: The Blank Slate - (Updated 12-26) A Christmas Council

Post by FISCHERWMT » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:34 pm

thank you for your Christmas story

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