Crafty's One-Shots (Dec 25, 2018: Project Blue Curtain [S9])

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Craftyatom
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Re: Dreamy

Post by Craftyatom » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:47 pm

Eurobeatjester wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:19 pm
One of the things I really loved in each of these was how you took subtle nuances from every girl's route or personality and cranked them up to eleven. It was fun to read how you interpreted the things you picked out - especially with Shizune and Rin and those are the two girls that are the most tedious to read about for me.
This was actually one of the most fun parts: thinking about how Hisao perceives each girl after his first week, and then finding bits of that perception that can be taken to the extreme. That concept is one of the reasons I originally decided to write this story, because it was so interesting to me.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:52 am
For later chapters the effect was not as great because I already knew what to expect, but that's unavoidable.
That's the main downside to this plot - you only get one big reveal out of the "dream" concept. I did work a little bit on making the second chapter feel a bit more real, so the reader might think the dream was just a prelude to a normal story, but it becomes pretty obvious what's going on partway through. On the plus side, the lack of "realism" limitations really opened up the opportunity for other plot points, so even though the reader knows what's happening, they can still be surprised, which I think worked quite well.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:52 am
Now there is only one question left to answer: Why is Emi the only one who is a psychopathic murderer? :lol:
Let me tell you, there were originally plans for much more psychopathy and murder. My first idea for the Hanako chapter involved her (technically) murdering Hisao. I considered reworking Misha's chapter to include a rather grotesque ending. Even Lilly's chapter had murder as a consideration. I ended up throwing those plans out for two reasons: first, I didn't want this story to turn into a bland melancholic gore-fest, and second, most of those ideas didn't really seem to fit their respective characters. The reason Emi still fit was due to Hisao's connection between her and his heart problems, due to him "speeding up" (and colliding with her in the hallway). She has the strongest link to his mortality within the first week, which made hers the best death chapter. In terms of "psychopathic", that's just the logical combination of her (perceived) incessant happiness and her (perceived) connection with death! :D
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Destroyer, Dreamy, and Project Blue Curtain)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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NoticeMeOppai
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Re: Dreamy

Post by NoticeMeOppai » Mon Nov 05, 2018 3:32 am

Really enjoyed this one Crafty, I liked how as the layers got deeper things got weirder and more dreamlike! As others have mentioned, the end of Emi's chapter was a bit disturbing and Misha's outbursts were an interesting take.

Edit: Removed a question that could have been seen as requesting.

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Re: Dreamy

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:47 am

Man this was quite a trip. Read one part of it per day for a week. My only comment about the writing is that I think there were more commas than were necessary in many sentences. But that's just a technical nitpick--the storytelling was excellent. The ending is kind of a bummer, but considering what I did with Hisao in my fic, I guess I can't be too upset about it. It's a hallmark of the piece's quality that by the end of it, I did want Hisao to find some kind of happiness or satisfaction. I think my favorite one was Lilly's scene where they are doing the massage and meditation. Not sure why, that part was just really cool to me.... maybe something about the amount of intimacy it conveyed without being overtly sexual (of course it did go there at the very end, but only briefly).

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S9 Submission: Project Blue Curtain

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:00 am

It’s the 25th of December, and you know what that means! It’s time for my contribution to the S9 - and boy, was it a difficult one this year. My prompt was KS between takes - all the characters are actors; this is a chance to see them when the camera's not rolling, for ProfAllister - not a particularly festive prompt, but one that I was happy to work with. In fact, one that I ended up doing lots and lots of work with.
ProfAllister wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 9:20 pm
500-1000 words minimum; no upper limit
Riiiiight... Let’s just say that I may have run a bit long: 20000 words over the minimum. I wanted to play around within the bounds of the prompt (especially since I wanted to surprise my victim, who probably knew that I had them), so I did a bit of world-building, and then I wanted to add a bunch of exposition and important events to immerse the reader, and I ended up with a massive, 8-part story.

On the plus side, my pace over the past few weeks was probably faster than ever before - the entire project averaged 1400 words per day (not including planning/outlining), and at one point I wrote over 4000 words in a single day! So while it’s been incredibly tiring, it’s also been really fun, and I’m proud to present the finished project: Project Blue Curtain!
  1. Timeliness
  2. Aftermath
  3. Pleasantries
  4. Follow
  5. Internal
  6. Ballast
  7. Revelations
  8. Reparations
Last edited by Craftyatom on Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Destroyer, Dreamy, and Project Blue Curtain)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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Project Blue Curtain: 1 - Timeliness

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:00 am

Project Blue Curtain

1 - Timeliness
I’m late.

That’s why I’m desperately sprinting across campus in my pajamas: because I’m late.

To be fair, since it’s warm out, my nightwear consists of shorts and a t-shirt, so it’s not like I’m running around in a onesie. Or lingerie. When I started here, they said that everything would be filmed, and given the length of the waiver I signed when I was hired, I don’t doubt for a second that they’d sell DVDs with fifty different angles of my ass in some lacy getup, given the chance.

Then again, so long as I got a cut of it, I’d be happy. I’m here to make money, after all. Each step reminds me of that fact - these prosthetics were the cheapest we could get fitted, each leg little more than a metal strip, a plastic fitting, and a silicone mold. Even then, they weren’t exactly a bargain. But I needed them, and Mom knew that. She knew how difficult it would be to live by myself in a wheelchair, so she made sure to buy me these before she went into the hospital.

The thought of her in a hospital bed bolsters me. She’s in good hands right now, but with her stuck there and Dad gone, I have to make a living somehow, and this crazy acting job seemed like a good fit. It paid decently, had low requirements, and preferred people with disabilities, so I figured, hell, why not. The benefits were good, too - of course, to receive those benefits, one has to meet with an advisor, and since there are 300 other 15- to 20-year-olds all wanting to meet with that same advisor, one has to schedule an appointment well in advance.

Luckily, one will be excused from classes if they have an appointment that day. Unfortunately, that fact may cause one to turn off their alarm and accidentally sleep in super late. On the plus side, while these prosthetics might be bottom-of-the-line, they’re actually pretty good for running. So I guess it could be worse.

As I reach the cluster of buildings on the other side of campus, I realize that the only route I’ve ever taken to the advising suite is through the academic building. This means that I can either take the slow route through those hallways and know where I’m going, or run around the outside but get terribly lost. Quickly deciding that I’d like the best of both worlds, I barge through the side door to the academic building and begin sprinting down the hallway.

It occurs to me that although everything is being filmed, this building is probably where the most stuff is filmed. After all, a show about high school students at a boarding school would inevitably focus on... Well, maybe the dorms. But classrooms are a close second. And now there’s going to be plenty of footage of a background character with no legs, dressed in her pajamas, rocketing past the classrooms. They never mentioned anything like this being a problem, though, so I’m probably fine as long as it doesn’t involve-

I barely have time to flinch before I run straight into something - someone? - that just moved into my path. I get to spend a good fraction of a second watching the world suddenly spin out of control before I come to rest, lying face-up on the floor.

I take a moment to examine myself. My head doesn’t hurt, and I don’t think it hit anything hard. I run one hand over my face, then look at it: no blood. I slowly sit up, and look down at my prosthetics, which are both intact. Three for three, I’ll take it. Content that I’m not in bad shape, I look up to see how my opponent fared.

Strangely, instead of one offending object, there are three people in front of me. Suddenly worried that I might have triple vision - which sounds at least 50% worse than double vision - I focus on each of them to make sure I’m not seeing things. The first one is a medium-height girl with long, dark purple hair. She’s leaning against the wall, hyperventilating, in what I assume is a textbook example of a panic attack. I look at her face to try and confirm that theory, and while she does look very panicked, I also notice that she has prominent scars down the right side of her face.

Before I can think too much more about this first girl, the second one catches my attention by loudly asking “Hanako, what’s going on? Hanako, tell me!” She’s tall and pale, with long blonde hair, and is covering her eyes with her hands. Actually, it looks like she’s rubbing her eyes, as if she’s desperately trying to get something out of them - which would explain why she doesn’t know what’s going on. Although her voice does sound urgent, it’s definitely not panicky. That, combined with her strangely aggressive stance, convinces me that she’s faring better than the first girl.

Well, triple vision is looking pretty unlikely right now, but I look down at the third figure just to be sure. It’s a guy, with scruffy brown hair, and a face that looks strangely familiar, but I can’t quite...

Oh no. I remember now.

They showed me his picture when I got the job. They had a whole spiel about his role, and how we were all supporting him. Specifically, “Any and all interaction with him must be performed in-character.” And, as much as my tiny role as a background character is open to artistic interpretation, I’m pretty sure that tackling the main character down a school hallway while wearing pajamas is rather far-fetched.

Oh, and there was another thing, wasn’t there? Right, “He has a heart condition.” And now he’s clutching at his chest. Even setting aside the whole tackling thing, killing him is definitely out-of-character.

Well, in-character or out, I’ve still gotta help him - after all, neither of the girls are in any position to do so. Ignoring the minor twinges of pain here and there, I crawl over to him to see what I can do.

“Hey, are you okay?” That was a stupid question, of course he’s not okay. And yet, to my surprise, he nods slightly, though his face is flushed red and his teeth are clenched. Well, if he thinks he’s okay, then... what do I do? Do I sit him up? No, that’d probably be worse for his heart. Do I try CPR? No, he says he’s fine, and I don’t know CPR anyways. I settle for putting one hand on his shoulder, hoping it’ll help.

Luckily, in the time it took me to make that decision, his condition has improved a fair bit. His face is taking on a more natural color, and his breathing is slowing down. He relaxes, breathing a sigh of relief and closing his eyes. When he opens them again, he looks at me, and seems perplexed. I look down, following his eyes, and remember that I’m not exactly well-dressed.

Okay, don’t panic. Just act natural. You do it literally every other moment of your life, and it can’t be that much harder just because the cameras are rolling. If I were out somewhere and ran into a stranger, what would I say?

“Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! Are you sure you’re okay?”

He nods again, then sits up next to me. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just a little shell-shocked.” He grunts, then stands up, while I do my best to hold onto his shoulders and make sure he doesn’t fall over.

Once he gets back on his feet, I step back, and notice that he’s still looking at my clothes. Right. I need an explanation for that. And why I’m so sweaty. And why I was running. Actually, wait a minute... “Sorry about that, I was just out running, and then realized I was gonna be late, so I rushed over here without changing, and, well...” I shrug, and shoot him an apologetic look. He opens his mouth to say something, but is interrupted when the blonde girl from earlier clears her throat.

In contrast to the aggressive, fight-or-flight stance she had earlier, she now seems to be completely calm. Both hands are wrapped around a long white cane, the type they give blind people, which she must’ve dropped earlier. Her eyes are closed, though it’s clear from her expression that if they were open, she’d be staring me down. The purple-haired girl is clinging to her arm, no longer hyperventilating, but still visibly shaken, even as the blonde one speaks so calmly. “Emi.”

“Huh?” How does she know my name? I know we’re supposed to use our real names, but we’ve never met before. How does she-

“I’ve told you before about running in the halls. You could seriously injure someone.”

Okay, right, she’s pretending to know me, that makes sense - after all, we’re supposed to have been at this school for a few years. Anyways, I can’t do anything but accept the blame. “I know, I know. I’m sorry...” At this point, I realize that while she knows my name, I don’t know hers. Luckily, by ending my apology there, it still seems natural.

“You don’t have to apologize, just make sure it doesn’t happen again.” As if I didn’t already feel bad enough about getting myself fired, now I feel worse about running indoors. Something about this girl just gives off an air of moral authority. I wouldn’t be surprised if she plays the head of the student council or something.

While I’m standing there feeling sorry for myself, the brown-haired boy talks to me again. “So... Emi, right?” I nod. “You’re a runner?”

I guess I did say that. Well, what does it matter, by tomorrow I’m sure I’ll be somewhere else, looking for a new job. I bounce up and down on my prosthetics, and grin. “Yup! ‘The fastest thing on no legs’, they call me.”

“Huh. Well, it was nice meeting you, Emi.” He thinks for a moment, then extends his hand. “I’m Hisao, by the way.”

I shake his hand, which is horribly clammy, but I smile anyways. “Nice to meet you too!”

“Anyways, I won’t keep you from your... whatever it is.”

Whatever it... Oh. “Oh! Right! Sorry, I gotta run. Bye!” I turn around and start running, but call out “Sorry again!” over my shoulder as I leave.

All things considered, that went pretty well. I mean, except for the part where I’m probably going to get fired. But I got away with wearing pajamas, and Hisao didn’t die. All in all, far better than expected.

As that thought enters my head, however, I round a corner and end up face-to-face with a pair of large men dressed in nurse outfits, who motion at me to stop. One approaches me, slowly, while the other hangs back, both of them wearing stern expressions.

“Emi Ibarazaki?” I nod, that’s definitely my name. “You’re coming with us.”

Well, it was good while it lasted. And besides, I’m sure it could be worse.

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Project Blue Curtain: 2 - Aftermath

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:01 am

2 - Aftermath
This wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to sit here and wait.

I mean, on the plus side, I have plenty of time to think about what sort of job I should get next. Maybe I was onto something earlier with the lingerie idea. I’m sure someone would pay big bucks for lewd pictures of a double amputee. How does one even get started in that business, though? Do you have to go through an agency or something?

Luckily, before I can think too much about that, someone sits down next to me. I have no idea who it is, since I’m still staring at my feet, trying to ignore the “nurses” sitting across the hall, as well as my impending doom.

“Hey, uh... you okay?” It’s a feminine voice, but not one I know.

I sigh. “Yeah. I think I’m about to get fired, but otherwise, not too bad.”

“Fired? Why?”

“Well, I scheduled an appointment today, but slept through my alarm. Then, since I was late, I sprinted across campus, including a shortcut through the academic building, but I accidentally ran into the one guy I wasn’t supposed to interact with, and then he started having heart problems...” I sigh again, then finally look up to see who I’m talking to.

She’s a relatively short girl, with relatively short red hair, and green eyes that look curious, but also terribly, incredibly tired. Her mouth is hanging open, probably in awe of what a horrible day I’ve had. “Wait... that was you?” Before I can ask what she means, she continues. “I thought I recognized your voice! You’re Emi!”

“Wait, what? You know my voice? What do you mean?”

“I was listening in earlier, when you ran into Hisao.”

“Listening in? How?”

She raises one eyebrow. “I’m on loop.”

“W-What?” Instead of answering my questions, she’s just trading them for new ones!

She looks confused at my confusion for a second, then gasps. “Oh, oh, right, you don’t... Sorry. Here, I’ll explain.” She sits upright and clears her throat. “Important actors in this show wear a special earpiece. It acts a bit like a microphone, but it also lets the Director speak directly to them, without anyone else noticing. Being in a channel with the Director is called being ‘on loop’.”

Well, that explains it. I think. I mean, it sounds surreal, but also sort of reasonable. “O-Okay.”

She shrugs. “I’m not really that important, though. I just wanted to listen in, so my boyfriend pulled some strings and got me an earpiece.”

“Your boyfriend?”

“Yeah, he’s actually pretty much the only reason I’m on the show. Well, that and my arms.” She raises one arm, and I realize that her sleeves are tied off at roughly where her elbows should be, as she’s missing her forearms and hands.

“Oh!” I chuckle. “I didn’t even notice, I was so preoccupied. I feel you, though.” I swing my legs back and forth, emphasizing my prosthetics.

She chuckles in return. “Yeah, I was surprised at just how many amputees there are here. I mean, it’s one thing to hear that they’re looking for people like me, but it didn’t really click until I got here and saw a bunch of girls comparing stumps in the common room.” This gets a proper laugh out of me, and she smiles too. “I’m Rin, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Rin.” I almost hold out my hand for a handshake, but catch myself. “I’m Emi.”

She grins. “I know you are.”

Of course, because she’s ‘on loop’, and they would’ve said my name. Actually, come to think of it, is that how the blonde girl knew it? She must wear one of those earpieces too, right? I’m about to ask Rin about it, but the sound of a door opening cuts me off.

“Emi Ibarazaki?”

Of course. I was so focused on Rin that I completely forgot why I was sitting here in the first place. I slowly look over to see who called my name, and recognize it as the man who hired me, who referred to himself as “the Manager”. He’s young, with a clean-shaven face and short purple hair. Actually, wait a minute, could he be related to that girl from earlier? No, that’s stupid, purple hair isn’t genetic. I think. “Yes?”

“Inside my office, please.” He motions into the door he just came out of.

As I get up and prepare to face the facts, Rin speaks up. “Hey, don’t go too hard on her, okay?”

“If it were up to you, Rin, I’d never go hard on anyone.” I guess they know each other.

She groans. “Yeah, but I mean it for this one, Nurse. She deserves some slack.”

“And that’s based on, what, the two minutes you’ve known her for?”

Rin opens her mouth to retort, but can’t come up with anything, and just pouts. With that conversation over, I step into the Manager’s office, and prepare for whatever awaits me.

Well, I wasn’t expecting this. It’s not an actual office - it’s more like a doctor’s office. In fact, it’s actually exactly like a doctor’s office. I sit down in one of the patient chairs, then cautiously ask “So... ‘Nurse’?”

He sits down on the rolling chair by a small desk. “Yeah, my role in the show is that of the Head Nurse. It’s essentially a management job anyways, so it fits.” Only now do I notice that he’s wearing a white lab coat, and a stethoscope hangs from around his neck. He smiles. “Funny you should bring it up, actually... But I’m getting ahead of myself.” In a split second, the grin is gone, and he’s giving me the most daunting stare I’ve gotten all day. “You fucked up.”

The word sounds strange coming from him. It doesn’t belong in his mouth. I can’t tell if that gives his statement more or less weight. Regardless, he’s correct, so I nod in affirmation.

“This entire place was at risk of collapsing. If you had gotten hurt, then sure, whatever, we can fix you. If Hisao had gotten hurt, that’s no big deal, we can fix him too. But if you had ruined the illusion - if you had hurt the show - then everyone here would’ve been in serious trouble.”

“I know. I know how much it means to them. I know because I need this job too.” I sigh. “Actually, ‘needed’, I guess, since I’m about to lose it.”

“Well...” He thinks for a moment. “Look, every cloud has a silver lining.”

I roll my eyes. “Right. Homelessness has its perks, I’m sure.”

He groans, then rolls his chair up to me. He places one hand on my shoulder, and looks me in the eyes. “Emi, listen. Today was almost a disaster. But, despite that, the Director thinks we’ve found something.”

Found something? “Huh?”

“He was impressed with the way you performed. You were in the worst situation we’ve seen, but you casually worked your way out of it , and even ended up making a positive impression on Hisao.”

I raise one eyebrow in suspicion. “You’re kidding.”

“No, seriously.” He chuckles. “I’m as surprised as you are, to be honest. The Director doesn’t give second chances often.” I suddenly begin to feel lighter, as if I’m not carrying my own weight anymore. If what he’s saying is true... “Your new position’s going to be a lot harder. But we’re willing to pay you more. A lot more.” Oh my god, he is being serious. Please, please still be serious. He smiles again. “What do you say?”

Only when I go to speak do I realize that I’m choking up. I swallow, take a deep breath, and then try again. “Yes. Definitely, absolutely, yes.” After wiping my eyes, I add, “Thank you so much.”

“Oh, don’t thank me, thank the Director, it was his call.” He chuckles, then snaps his fingers. “Speaking of which, we need to get you on loop.” He opens one drawer of his desk, and pulls out a small plastic package, which he rips open to reveal a tiny device attached to some clear plastic. “This is an earpiece. You’re gonna wear it at all times, and it will be on at all times. It will record your voice, and allow the Director-”

“To speak to me, right.”

He smiles. “Rin already gave you the rundown, I see? Then we can go straight to installation. Lean your head to the right, please.” I lean over, as instructed, and he places the device into my left ear. After a bit of pinching and prodding, he steps back. “Any problems?”

I shake my head. “I don’t think so.” I can feel it there, but it hasn’t affected my hearing, and it seems to be on pretty tight.

“Perfect. Now...” He types on his computer for a bit, then rolls away from the screen, letting me see it. “Please read the words on screen.”

I lean forward to get a better look at them. “Hello System, Login Emi.”

Immediately, I hear a ding in my left ear, followed by a synthesized female voice: “Welcome, Emi.

The screen blinks green, and the Manager types on it some more, then rolls back again. “Now these words, please.”

“Hello Director, this is Emi.”

There’s no ding this time, but another synthesized voice - this time a male one - fills my ear. “Nice to meet you, Emi.

Wait, but... “Is the Director a machine?”

I was asking the Manager, but instead, the same synthesized male voice replies. “No, I can assure you, I’m just as human as you are.

The Manager laughs at my confused expression. “You’ll get used to it.”

Before I can begin to wonder how I’m supposed to do that, the Director speaks again. “Anyways, Emi, we have a plan for you. If you’re up for it, that is.” I nod, then realize that he couldn’t hear that. Before I can say anything, though, he responds. “Perfect.” I guess he saw me nod, somehow. I know everything’s being recorded, but does that really mean he can see everything? I try to ignore that thought, and focus on what he’s saying.

To begin with, your image is now that of a runner. In fact, the fastest runner at this school, and not particularly humble about it.

Uh oh. “Uhh... I’m not actually a runner. I lied about that.” Crap, there goes my good first im-

We know. It shouldn’t matter, though. We just need to make Hisao think that you are. To that end, we’re adopting the clothes you were wearing earlier as the school’s gym uniform.

That seems like a bit of a stretch. “Is he really going to buy it when everyone just changes their gym uniforms? They’re nothing like the regular uniform’s colors, either - hell, this shirt is only pink because it got washed with a red sweater one time.”

Since he’s excused from gym class due to his heart condition, he’s never seen anyone at this school wearing a gym uniform, so he won’t even know they’ve changed. As for the colors, you’d be surprised how much nonsense people are used to putting up with. He likely won’t even notice.” He pauses for a moment, to see if I have anything to say, but I just shrug.

Anyways, since Hisao doesn’t take gym class, the Nurse is going to prescribe him a secondary exercise regime. He will be instructed to perform light jogging at the school’s track most mornings. In order to make sure he shows up, the Nurse will have a witness. Someone who shows up to the track every morning.

It clicks in my head. “And that someone will be me?”

Precisely. You will run on the track every morning, and interact with Hisao if he shows up, which we are certain he will. You will have to wake up early every day, but we can excuse you from afternoon classes in secret, if need be.

“Okay, I can do that.” For the amount of money I hope to be paid, I’d do more, but I’ll take what I can get. Still, the whole ‘running’ thing seems alien to me. “Won’t he notice that I’m not actually that fast?”

You don’t have to be fast, you just have to seem fast. And to a boy with a heart defect, everyone seems fast.” Well that’s depressing. “Anyways, that’s the plan. I’m trusting you to make it work, no matter what it takes. Don’t let me down.

I nod firmly. “I understand, sir.”

Excellent. Oh, and one last thing: the prosthetics you’re wearing now will become your running prosthetics. We’ve got a pair of more life-like ones for you to wear the rest of the time.

That catches me off guard. “Oh. Thank you, sir.” I say that, but feel a bit uneasy - I’m used to these, and they mean a lot to me. Well, it’s not like they’re going anywhere. In fact, it sounds like I’m going to be getting a lot more use out of them, if anything.

That will be all, then.” Just like that, the strange synthesized voice is gone, and the room seems very quiet.

I turn to the Manager - or, I guess, the Nurse. “Did you get all of that?”

He smiles. “Indeed I did. As a rule of thumb, if someone should be involved in a conversation, the Director has probably already added them to the loop. He’s surprisingly good at it.” He gets lost in that thought for a moment, then looks back at me. “Anyways, we’ll get those prosthetics, along with extra sets of the new gym clothes, to you sometime this evening, so you can be all set by tomorrow morning.”

Tomorrow morning? “Will Hisao even be there tomorrow? I thought you had only just come up with this plan!”

He shrugs. “I’m sure I can figure something out to get him there tomorrow. Even if he doesn’t, though, it’ll be good practice for you regardless.”

“True.” Only now do I imagine what it’ll be like getting up early every day... But if that’s how it has to be, then I’ll manage.

He stands up. “Alright, well, unless you have any more questions, I guess that’s it!”

“I guess so.”

I walk over to the door, which he opens, only to find Rin on the other side. “Listen, Nurse, just let me make her case, okay? Please, just this once?”

Before I can say anything, the Nurse laughs. “No need to, she just got a promotion.”

Her eyes go wide. “What?”

“Yup, she’s on loop and everything.”

Rin stares at me for a second, flabbergasted, before launching into a barrage of questions. “What? How? I thought you were a goner for sure! This is so exciting, tell me everything!”

Once again, the Nurse saves me. “Didn’t you have something you wanted to talk to me about, Rin?”

“Oh, right.” She looks indecisively between me and the Nurse for a moment before pushing past me into his office, then turning to address me. “Hey, I’ll see you in the dorms sometime tonight, okay? Then you can tell me everything.”

I smile. “Looking forward to it!”

With that, she begins talking to the Nurse, and I start the walk back to my room. I can’t help but wonder. What are my new prosthetics going to be like? What’s running going to be like? What’s Hisao going to be like? I won’t know until I experience everything for myself, but for the first time today, I think that it might all end up okay.

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Project Blue Curtain: 3 - Pleasantries

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:01 am

3 - Pleasantries
They weren’t lying about changing the whole gym uniform.

There must be ten exact copies of my outfit in the cardboard box I was given, right down to the color and styling. If it were an actual school uniform, that wouldn’t be too strange, but it’s just a light pink shirt and a pair of red shorts. Even more impressive is the fact that nobody knew that anyone here would need these until a few hours ago, and yet, here they are. I know that a lot of work went into these, and yet, I can’t help but shake the feeling that they were magically procured.

Speaking of magic, these new prosthetics, delivered to me in the same box, fit like a dream. More importantly, they actually look like legs - they’re the right shape and color and everything! The box came with a few pairs of shoes, which is good, since I didn’t own any. Thoughtfully, it also came with many pairs of thigh-high socks, which should do an excellent job hiding the seam between the prosthetics and my skin, for an even more realistic touch.

While I’ve been going through all this, however, I’ve noticed people looking at me. This box was delivered to the common room, and I figured I’d just open it on one of the couches and take a look, which turned into a prolonged prosthetic try-out. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I’ve seen people point and whisper. Evidently word of my run-in with Hisao earlier has gotten around. As such, I’m not terribly surprised when someone comes up and talks to me.

“Well well well, look who it is!”

I look up from my box of goodies to see a pair of familiar faces. It’s the blonde and purple-haired girls from earlier, though the blonde one looks a little different for some reason. I decide against getting up, as I’m still getting used to these new legs, but I return the greeting. “Oh, hey, I remember you two! I never really got your names, though.”

The purple-haired one scoffs. “You don’t know who we are? Ha!” I chuckle at her joke before she continues. “I’m Hanako, and this is L.”

Upon hearing that name, however, the blonde one interjects. “Lilly, please.”

“Nice to meet you, Hanako, Lilly. So I take it you both have a big part in the show?”

Hanako puts her hands on her hips. “Seriously, you should know my part in the show already.”

This feels weird. “Oh, uh... Okay. Can you fill me in?”

Instead of replying, she looks over at Lilly. “L, who am I?”

“You’re the Director’s daughter, and one of the leads in this new show of his.”

Her mention of the Director catches my attention. “Oh, the Director is your father? Tell him I’m thankful, he-”

“You had better be fucking thankful!”

I barely have time to process that sentence before she continues. “He created this entire show just to find me a handsome suitor, and you nearly ruined it!” She presses her fingers against her temples and clamps her eyes shut, as if fighting off a headache. “I have to wear these disgusting fake scars, and L has to wear her stupid blurry contacts, all to try and find me the perfect man - and it was almost all for nothing!”

She looks back at my currently bewildered face. “Anyways, watch your fucking step. If you mess with me again, L and I will make your life even more miserable than it already is.”

With that, she turns and leaves. Lilly stays for just long enough to nod, as if calmly agreeing to what Hanako said, before following her. Personally, I’m still trying to comprehend what just happened - it hit me like a slap in the face. Hanako is the Director’s daughter, and she’s using this show as a way of finding a boyfriend? That still doesn’t seem right, even now. Before I can confuse myself with it again, however, Rin sits down next to me on the couch, catching my attention.

“Hey, Emi! How’s it-” She stops. “Are you okay?”

Evidently I look just as surprised and confused as I feel. I reply, but my voice is a bit shakier than expected. “Do you know a girl here named Hanako?”

Rin purses her lips. “I know of her. She’s on loop a lot. She also has a bit of a reputation.”

“Well, she just yelled at me for almost ruining ‘her’ show.” It occurs to me that Rin can’t make air quotes like I can, which feels sadder than I’d expect it to be.

“Ouch, that sucks. But it’s all just stupid drama, so it’s probably best to ignore it.” Her eyes light up again. “Which should be easy to do, because you just got a promotion! Come on, girl, give me the details already!”

She’s right, I should just forget about it - I should be celebrating, not worrying. “Well, I talked to Nurse, and at first he was really serious, and told me I had really fucked up. But then he said that the Director was really impressed with how I had handled it, and that they wanted to give me a bigger role.”

Rin smiles. “Awesome! So, what does this ‘bigger role’ involve?”

“Well, they said I was going to become the school’s fastest runner. Which is weird, because I haven’t actually exercised in forever, but they said it wouldn’t matter.”

“Nice, nice. So that’s what these are for?” She points to the box full of clothes I had been rummaging through.

“Actually, uh, these are the new gym uniforms. They said they wanted to make what I was wearing the new official gym uniform, for whatever reason.”

Rin scrunches her face. “But they’re completely the wrong color.”

“I know, right? But hey, whatever works. They said Hisao wouldn’t notice. Oh, speaking of which, they also said I was going to start running with him every morning, which seems weird, but...” I trail off, as Rin is giving me a strange, incredulous look. “What?”

She blinks once or twice, then scooches up next to me, and speaks quietly. “You have no idea how lucky you just got. I had to fight to get ten freakin minutes of Hisao’s time earlier today, and you just got handed, what, an hour every day?”

I don’t really get it. “I mean, yeah, I guess. But why does it matter? Like, I’m getting paid more, which is nice, but besides that, who cares about the time they spend with him? Is it just because it gives you more screen time, or what?”

“Oh, sweet summer child.” Rin smirks. “Listen, what’s the most important part of high school?”

I have no idea. “Uh... Grades?”

She laughs. “No, no, I mean what do students care about?”

“I guess... Hanging out and gossiping with friends?”

“Okay, and, what do they gossip about?”

I shrug. “Stupid high school relationships?”

“Bingo. High school is all about romance. Or at least, stories about high school are.”

Really? Just like how Hanako said she was looking for a ‘suitor’, Rin wanted time with Hisao because of... romance? I mean, more power to them, but there’s a problem here. “I don’t care about that, though. I barely even know Hisao.”

Rin rolls her eyes. “Well duh, none of us really care about the romance itself. But if you get chosen to play the love interest, that’s big money, and a lot of screen time. You basically become the second most important person on set.”

Suddenly, it clicks. “And the one who chooses the love interest is...”

“Exactly. The guy who actually falls in love.”

Of course. Whomever he falls in love with is probably set for life. So obviously every girl here would be doing their best to spend some time with him. It strikes me as rather sad, actually - if anyone here really did like him, they’d probably take it slow, and get buried under all of the girls vying for every second of his time. He’s almost guaranteed to end up with someone who’s just in it for the money.

While I think about this, someone else walks up to us. “I’m sorry, did I hear a pretty lady talking about love?” Surprised, I look up at him. He’s wearing the boys’ uniform, including the green jacket, but also has a bright red and yellow striped scarf around his neck. He has dark, unkempt hair, which matches his dark irises. Also, in the breast pocket of his jacket is a pair of glasses that are so thick they look opaque.

I was surprised when a random boy came up to us in the girls’ common room. I was surprised that he was wearing a scarf in this weather. I was surprised at how nice his eyes looked. But what really, really surprises me is when he sits down next to Rin, wraps his arms around her waist, and pecks her on the cheek.

She giggles, then squirms a bit, managing to turn around and face him, before she leans forward and kisses him on the lips. And keeps kissing. They’re really getting into this. Just as I consider getting up and leaving them to it, they finally pull apart.

He speaks first. “So, how did your first scene go?”

Rin, a smile plastered on her face, shrugs. “Pretty well.”

I decide to remind them that I’m still here. “Your first scene?”

“Yeah, I just ‘met’ Hisao earlier today, after meeting you. That was the ten minutes I was talking about earlier.”

“I knew it would go well!” The mystery man - who I can only assume is Rin’s boyfriend - puts his hands on her sides, then slides them down to her hips. “After all, who could resist this hot bod?”

Rin gasps, but is still smiling. “Kenji!” She bursts out giggling, and the feeling that I shouldn’t really be watching grows more intense.

In one last ditch effort to justify staying here, I remember that Rin had mentioned her boyfriend before. “So, Kenji, I hear you helped Rin find this job?” I’m careful not to imply that he helped her get it - she might not take kindly to that suggestion.

He takes his eyes off of Rin and looks at me, which is a good start. “Oh, yeah, I’ve worked with the Director for years. He mentioned that he needed sexy disabled girls, and I happened to know one, and that was that!”

Rin giggles even more, her cheeks now a bright red. I’m about to give up and leave these two to their own devices when something occurs to me: Kenji knows the Director. “So, uh, do you know anything about the Director’s daughter?”

His face instantly goes from a contented smile to a serious frown. He looks over one shoulder, then the other, then leans forward, speaking in a hushed voice. “I met her once or twice when she was younger. Seemed like a nice enough girl at the time, but she changed after-” He stops, then sighs. “Look, she’s got a few screws loose. The Director still loves her, though, and tries to keep her happy. She’s one of the few people who has some sort of control over him.”

Well that’s terrifying. The girl who just came and yelled at me has ‘some sort of control’ over my boss. At least I was too surprised at the time to react to it - that could’ve ended badly. “Thank you, Kenji. I only ask because... I’m afraid I’ve gotten on her bad side.”

He grimaces. “You certainly didn’t make a great first impression. I saw the look on her face in that footage.” I should be used to everyone knowing what I did today, but it still feels weird. “That said, you’re not in too bad a position, because the Director likes you, regardless of how Hanako feels.” He chuckles. “I mean, seriously, the guy’s in a league of his own. Creating a show like this? The money, the technology, the concept? He’s a visionary. So long as you’re not on his bad side, you don’t really have anything to fear.”

I nod. “Thanks again, Kenji.”

Well, that’s something. I was worried before, but things seem clearer now. Sure, I might be at odds with Hanako, but the Director runs the show. All I have to do is stay in his good books, and I’ll be fine. Luckily, I know exactly how to do that: follow the directions he’s sending into my left ear.

Suddenly, I can’t wait to show up at the track tomorrow morning.

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Craftyatom
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Project Blue Curtain: 4 - Follow

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:01 am

4 - Follow
Despite my best efforts to get to sleep early last night, I still feel tired this morning.

To be fair, I’m not used to waking up this early. It’s unnatural. Besides, I got to sleep in so late yesterday that my body simply wasn’t ready to go to bed early, regardless of my scheduling. But I have to be at the track early. It’s part of my character, and that character’s going to pay the bills, so I had better get used to it. I’m still not sure about the whole ‘love interest’ thing - it sounds like the strangest promotion possible. Hanako can have it, because honestly, I don’t care.

After getting to the track and standing around for a few minutes, the Director speaks to me. “Hisao is on his way now. Jog slowly around the track until he arrives, then break off to talk to him.

I take a deep breath, then begin a very light jog. It feels easier than I expected - this track surface is really grippy. I almost want to go faster, but then I remember that I’m supposed to be saving my strength. After all, Hisao is going to expect me to be fast.

Speak of the devil, he appears near the bleachers, looking even more tired and unenthusiastic than I feel. He sees me, and I wave at him before leaving the track and jogging over.

“Good morning, Hisao!”

He seems a bit surprised that I remember his name. “Oh, hey...” He clearly recognizes me, but the fact that he trailed off makes it obvious that he can’t think of my name.

“Need some help remembering my name?”

He blushes. “Sorry. I-I remember that it’s short.”

“No big deal! Here, I’ll give you a hint.” I close my eyes, point towards him, and speak in a stuffy voice. “I’ve told you before about running in the halls, Emi!”

He chuckles. “Right, Emi. How could I forget an introduction like that?”

I laugh as well. “Yeah, sorry again about that.”

“It’s fine, I guess.” The conversation stalls for a second, but he picks it up again. “So you’re Nurse’s spy?”

‘Spy’, huh? I gather that this probably has something to do with how the Nurse got Hisao to show up today, and the Director confirms that. “Yes.

“I sure am!”

“Hmm. I’ll be honest, I was expecting something else.”

I pout. “What were you expecting?”

“Honestly, I was ready for someone with a clipboard to watch me the entire time.”

I scoff. “No way - I’m here to train myself, after all!”

“Oh, right, the, uh... the ‘fastest thing on no legs’, right?”

I had completely forgotten about that, but it brings a grin to my face. “Exactly! You’re just some much-appreciated company.”

He shrugs. “Fair enough. Shall we start?”

“Well, we have to stretch first.” Ah yes, the stretches. I’ve never really been one for stretching - that said, I’ve never really been one for exercise, either. Last night, however, I was instructed to meet up with a tanned girl in the dorms who is apparently an actual runner, and she gave me some tips. I was expecting advice about running technique, but instead, I got a lecture on the importance of stretching, and a demonstration of what must have been twenty different stretches. Hopefully I can still remember some of them.

He groans. “Really? I’ve always hated stretching. Can’t we skip it?”

I gasp, then recycle a line I heard from the runner girl last night. “Of course not! Stretching helps to prevent cramps, improve the efficacy of your workout, and even ward off tendon and ligament injuries!” He looks a bit overwhelmed at that, though, so I lean in closer and tell him the truth: “But I hate stretching too. And I don’t even have to stretch my legs!”

He smiles at this for a moment, then seems to force it away.

I find a nice flat patch of grass, then start on the long list of stretches, skipping any I can’t quite remember. Hisao follows my lead, but constantly averts his gaze every time I look back at him. Evidently he’s not quite comfortable around me yet.

When we finally finish, I stand up. “Alright then, let’s get going!” I turn towards the track, and start the same slow jog as before. Hisao follows, and after a few long strides, ends up running next to me, so we continue along the track in formation. He seems to be doing fine to begin with, but starts to deteriorate quickly.

Before he gets too much worse, the Director issues a command - one that surprises me. “Pretend that his pace is boring you, then run on ahead. Don’t go to full speed yet.” Oh well, evidently this part of some kind of plan, so I may as well give it a go.

I look over at Hisao a few times, step ahead once or twice before falling back into line, and purse my lips in an attempt to look frustrated. Finally, when I’m sure he’s watching, I turn up the heat, and pull away from him. I’m not sprinting, but I certainly couldn’t keep this pace up for more than a few minutes.

Long before that, however, the Director speaks again. “Look back at him.” I turn around to see that he’s actually gaining on me - he has a determined look on his face, but it’s somewhat overshadowed by the intense red of his cheeks, as well as his almost frantic breathing.

Full speed.

I smile, then put my head down and sprint. It feels nice to go so fast in front of someone; I can see why people enjoy it. Maybe I really can get used to this routine.

Just as I think that, however, I hear a ‘thud’ behind me, and spin around to see what happened. Hisao is lying face-down on the ground, clearly in pain.

“Hisao!” I turn around and sprint back to him, realizing that this is the second time I’ve made him collapse in as many days. Forget whether I want it or not, I’m pretty sure Hisao could never think of me as a love interest now - I’m just a danger to his health.

Just like yesterday, I kneel down next to him as he rolls over onto his back. I remember that I’m not supposed to know about his heart condition yet. “What’s wrong?”

He grunts, then shakes his head. “It’s... I’m...”

He takes a few more deep breaths, then closes his eyes and grits his teeth, which worries me further. I’d really rather he didn’t die. It’d cause too many problems.

Luckily, after a bit of clutching at his chest, his breathing stabilizes, and he relaxes a little.

Take him to the Nurse.”

“We should get you to the Nurse - can you stand?” He nods, but has significant difficulty getting to his feet. I grab one hand of his and help pull him up, and he ends up leaning on me. After only a second, though, he takes his weight off of my shoulder, to my surprise. He looks like he needs all the help he can get, but for whatever reason, he’s not about to accept it. “Alright, come on.”

When we get to the Nurse’s office, I use one hand to fling open the door, while the other makes sure that Hisao doesn’t collapse. “Nurse!”

He’s at his computer, doing some kind of paperwork, and although he looks a bit surprised at our entrance, he gets up slowly. “Good morning, Emi.” He raises an eyebrow at Hisao’s presence, though. “Hisao, what are you doing here?”

Hisao doesn’t really look to be in any shape to reply, so I launch into a fast-paced monologue that seems fitting for an energetic runner, while trying to avoid admitting anything. “Hisao showed up to the track like you said he would and we stretched and started running but after a while he fell over and started clutching at his chest and I thought he was gonna die but then he said he was okay but I thought we should probably get him checked out anyway because-”

“Woah, hey, calm down. Hisao, what happened?”

I purse my lips, doing my best to look frustrated at being cut off. Luckily, Hisao seems able to speak now. “We were running, and then my chest started hurting. It felt better after standing around for a bit, though.” The Nurse raises one eyebrow - Hisao certainly doesn’t look ‘better’. Still, he continues. “I assume it was just a flutter, not a big problem.”

The Nurse sighs. “When I suggested ‘light exercise’, I meant it. You still have to be careful.”

“I was careful, I just...” He trails off.

“Just what?”

After a few seconds of looking sheepish, Hisao finally replies. “I just... I was racing Emi.”

This catches the Nurse’s attention - and he turns to look at me. “Emi, is this true?”

I open my mouth, but don’t really know what to say. I fidget a bit, putting on my best innocent look and wringing my hands. “It wasn’t... I mean, it wasn’t, like, an actual race race, we just sort of...” I avert my gaze, and clasp my hands behind my back.

The Nurse sighs again, and prepares to give me a proper lecture. “Emi, I’ve told you before about interfering with the limits of others. Hisao here has a bad heart, which makes it incredibly dangerous for him to participate in hard exercise! Getting him to race you is one of the most bone-headed things-”

“Actually, I started it.”

Hisao’s statement stops the Nurse in his tracks. The look of frustration leaves his face, replaced with a look of astonishment. “You WHAT?”

Looking every bit like he’s accepted his fate, Hisao explains. “We were jogging at a regular pace, but then Emi pulled away to run on her own, and I... I tried to catch her.” I’m a little surprised that he’s taking the blame so readily, but I guess he’s just telling the truth.

The Nurse takes a second to process this, rubbing his temple and muttering to himself. Finally, he gives us both the most disappointed look I’ve ever seen. “You’re both atrociously irresponsible. The odds of so much ineptitude in a single room are astronomical, I’m sure.” He sighs again, then motions to Hisao. “Come on, let’s check your heart and make sure nothing’s going to explode.”

They go about various medical checks, the Nurse still looking disappointed and Hisao still looking dejected, while I stand in the corner and try not to make eye contact. Acting ashamed is surprisingly easy, because I do feel a little guilty - Hisao isn’t an actor, so whatever happened to him, it was real. I mean, I know they mentioned a heart condition, but I didn’t think I’d be exploiting it. And for what - a plot point? Some good footage? It feels kind of wrong. Then again, if that’s what I need to do in order to pay the bills, all I can do is grin and bear it. Or in this case, frown and bear it.

After the Nurse has done what he needs to, he directs Hisao to rest on a small bed in the back of the room. Once Hisao lays down, the Nurse pulls a privacy curtain across , so that the bed is hidden from us, and vice versa. He points at one of the chairs, which I sit in, and starts to give me an earful.

“I know that it’s easy to think of a new student as a new opportunity. Everyone wants to offer their support and friendship when someone transfers in. However, it’s pertinent to make sure that you know their limits, especially at a school like this. You knew that I had concerns about Hisao’s health, and yet you ignored that, and roughed him up.”

I nod sheepishly, then start to tune out. I don’t need to listen to all this - it’s just a way of keeping the illusion up for Hisao. As soon as my mind starts to wander, however, the Director speaks into my left ear.

You did well, Emi. I know it may have been difficult to watch Hisao in pain like that, but you accomplished some important goals today. He views you as an excellent runner and a reliable acquaintance, just as intended. It also emphasized his own frailty, and the stark difference between you two. Finally, it familiarized him with an emergency situation, without putting him in any actual danger.

Without any actual danger? It seemed pretty dangerous to me. I raise an eyebrow at this, and the Director picks up on it. “You’re worried he was in danger?” I nod, acutely aware that I can’t say anything, as it would interrupt the Nurse’s chastising. “You needn’t worry. Hisao doesn’t actually have a heart problem. He has a remotely controlled implant that lets us change the state of his heart. By the same token, however, it prevents any serious injury.

Well, that answers that question, but opens up a bunch of others. An implant? Wouldn’t that be expensive, and difficult, and dangerous? When did they get the chance to put it in without him noticing? Surely it wouldn’t make sense for him to be fine one day and having heart attacks the next? I’m about to ask myself whether it’s even legal, but then remind myself that this entire show’s legality is, as far as my common sense is concerned, questionable at best. I end up just nodding, to show that I understand.

All that said, the most important part of today is only just about to happen. Say that, to make it up to him, you’ll make him lunch today, and meet on the roof of the school.

Huh? I’m a bit overwhelmed by what I just heard. Before I can think about it any more, though, the Nurse finishes his monologue.

“Now, go and apologize to Hisao.”

I nod dutifully, then get up and walk over to the back of the room, stepping around the curtain. Hisao isn’t asleep, but only just - he looks pretty damn tired. I’m beginning to feel a bit tired too, what with getting up so early this morning and then going for a run. Ah well. “Hey, uh, Hisao?”

“Hmm?”

I put on my best sad face, then give it a go. “I wanted to... apologize. It was foolish of me to drag you into something dangerous like that.”

He shakes his head. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t know about my heart. I should’ve been able to control myself.”

I’m surprised that he’s still taking the blame, even when it’s just the two of us talking. Surely he can’t think this was all his fault, right? Putting that to the back of my mind, however, I remember what the Director said. “Still, I want to make it up to you. So I figured I’d make you lunch.”

He looks a bit confused, but doesn’t say anything.

“It’ll be good, I promise! Just meet me on the roof of the school building, okay?”

This surprises him. “The roof?”

“Yeah!” I search desperately for reasons to use the roof. “It’s so nice out, the roof is a great spot for lunch!” No more than any other flat, open area on campus. Forget it, I just need to reel him in, so I put on my best pleading face, as if I might cry if he says no. “I really want to make it up to you, so come on, please?”

“Okay, sure, I’ll go.”

“Perfect! Today at lunchtime! I’ll be waiting!” With that, I turn around and leave, nodding to the Nurse as I go past.

Over the next few hours, I shower, change into my school uniform, and get delivered a trio of ‘home-made’ box lunches. I don’t know why there are three of them, but I’m told to take all three, so I do. Worst case, I’ll have to eat two of them - I did work up an appetite earlier.

The Director leads me to a staircase that looks very off-limits, and says that this is the way to the roof, where I’ll take Hisao at lunchtime. After that, I’m told to simply wait out in the hallway until lunchtime, and catch Hisao as he leaves his classroom.

It’s a boring wait, but eventually, the bell rings, and the classrooms empty their contents into the hallway. I manage to pick out Hisao, and wave to him with my free hand. “Hisao!” He perks up at the sound of his name, and manages to make his way to me. As he approaches, I gently tease him. “You didn’t forget about my promise, did you?”

“Nope.” He says it matter-of-factly, which kind of deflates the conversation. I was hoping for a playful back-and-forth, but I guess not. Next, he makes things even worse by looking down at the lunches I have in one hand. “Why do you have three lunches?”

Luckily, I figured this might happen. “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll see. Now c’mon, the roof’s this way!”

We journey to the weird uninviting staircase, then climb the stairs until we get to the top. The door out onto the roof looks like it should have a padlock on it - in fact, it probably did until a few minutes ago. Regardless, I open it up and step outside.

I’m expecting to see a few more students up here, but it’s desolate, save for a few run-down benches in the middle. As my eyes adjust to the sunlight, however, something catches me by surprise.

“Hey.”

I jump, and squeal a little. I spin around to face my assailant, but instead I find Rin. She was standing in the shadows, so I completely missed her in the sun’s glare. “Rin! You startled me!”

She just gives me this unnerving look, and then Hisao speaks. “Emi, you know Rin?”

Oh crap. Am I supposed to know Rin or not? Before I can worry about it, Rin jumps in. “Emi, you know Hisao?”

I giggle a bit at their opposite questions. “Yes, Rin, I made him lunch.”

Rin stares at the floor. “Aww. I thought you were going to make me lunch.”

“Uh...” Wait, that’s what the third lunch was for. And so I should’ve known Rin would be here all along. Which means I shouldn’t’ve been surprised that she was up here. Whatever, just keep going. “Don’t worry, I made you lunch too.”

This seems to confuse her. “Then what are you going to eat?”

Now I’m kind of confused too. “I made myself lunch as well.”

“But that’s three lunches.”

I nod slowly. “Yeah. I brought three.” I hold them up for emphasis.

She raises her eyebrows, as if the thought had only just occurred to her. Instead of saying anything, however, she just turns around and waddles over to one of the benches. I guess she takes ‘in-character’ pretty seriously. I’m about to follow her, but am told to do otherwise: “Notice that Hisao is out of breath.

I turn around to look at Hisao, and sure enough, he’s still a bit exhausted, though he tries to look more composed once he notices me looking. We just came up the stairs - they must really be riding that implant hard. I decide that ‘notice’ probably means ‘mention’. “Hey, are you okay?”

He nods, as expected. “Yeah, Im fine.” Another poorly-masked deep breath. “Totally okay.”

I frown. “You’re out of breath.”

For a moment he’s surprised that I picked up on it, but then he just sighs, and looks at his feet. It’s kind of sad, so I decide to step in.

“Hey, this is why you’re running in the mornings, right? It’s okay if you’re not in great shape right now - what matters is that you’re trying! As long as you keep up your regime, I’m sure you’ll improve!”

This has the intended effect, as he smiles a little. “Thanks, Emi.” He walks over to where Rin is sitting, and I follow, mentally patting myself on the back for that one. Not only does he seem a bit happier, but he’s more likely to show up to the track every morning, too.

We sit down, and I distribute the lunch boxes. Hisao seems entranced by his food, and throws some into his mouth as quickly as possible. After savoring it for a bit, he nods. “Wow, Emi, this is really good!”

I grin. “Thanks! I really enjoy making them.” I’m about to dig into my own not-quite-home-made lunch when I notice Rin. She’s eating... with her feet. I mean, she’s using utensils, but she’s holding them with her feet. It’s a sight to behold, and she’s more flexible than I could ever have imagined. I try to avert my gaze as quickly as possible, though; I shouldn’t be surprised, because I’m supposed to know her already. I think.

Luckily, Hisao is even more amazed, and I giggle when I catch him staring. He quickly tries to change the subject. “So, how did you two meet?”

Uh oh. Wasn’t prepared for this one. Luckily, Rin fields it. “Together, we’re like a whole person.”

I can’t believe she just said that. I get it, but it’s stupid. Surely the Director didn’t sign off on that one, right? Hisao looks confused, so I try to explain away some of the weirdness. “We were assigned rooms near each other because between us, we have a full set of limbs. That way, we can help each other with stuff!”

Hisao seems to accept this, but Rin goes one further. “Emi helps me get dressed in the morning.”

I blush, and laugh nervously for a bit. Hisao, evidently also feeling a bit embarrassed, averts his eyes. “I see.”

As I focus on eating my lunch, I realize that Rin probably planned all of this. She wants Hisao to remember her, and this entire conversation has certainly been memorable. Even better, she probably just got him to imagine her naked, with me helping her into - or out of - her clothes.

God, that’s weird. Just like everything else here. Rin can do what she wants to try for that promotion - I’d much rather stay on the sane side of things.

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Project Blue Curtain: 5 - Internal

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:01 am

5 - Internal
I can’t believe I’ve been sitting here for the past four hours.

It’s the day of the festival, and I was told last night that I’d be walking around with Hisao today. That makes sense, since he’s been eating lunch on the roof with me and Rin most days, so we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. Rin in particular was over the moon about that fact, certain that he’d only be eating lunch with his future beloved, though I’m not quite convinced.

In addition to lunch, the exercise every morning hasn’t hurt - literally, he hasn’t managed to hurt himself again, which is a good. But it also means more time spent with him, which has contributed to my place as Hisao’s ‘keeper’, as it were. If the Director needs someone to fill some time or introduce a concept, I’m the go-to.

So I figured, sure, I’ll wake up early, and spend the day enjoying the festival with him. Even though the Director specifically said that I should make sure neither of us eats anything too unhealthy, it can be fun nonetheless.

That’s ancient history by now, though. I got up pretty damn early, to make sure I’d be dressed and ready by the time Hisao showed up. But he hasn’t, at least not yet - and it’s almost noon. Apparently, he’s sleeping in, and I’ve just gotta wait until he drags himself out of bed. I can’t even go around and have fun on my own, because I’m supposed to be ready at a moment’s notice.

Finally, however, my call comes in. “He’s in line for food, just outside the boys’ dorms.” I get up and start walking over, trying to put my frustration behind me and work up a smile for him.

Luckily, when I do find him, he gives me a good reason to be angry. “Hisao, what is that?”

I point at the plate of deep-fried food he’s carrying, and he looks around nervously. “Uh... It’s my breakf- I mean, lunch. My lunch.”

He’s given me an opening, and I’m sure as hell gonna take it. “Breakfast? You mean you only just woke up? It’s almost noon!”

He groans. “Yeah, I slept in. It’s been a tiring week.”

Okay, that’s true, but I still have to get this out of my system. “Come on, Hisao, you need to develop healthy habits! Exercise is just one part - you should stick to a diet plan, and follow a normal sleep schedule, even on days off!”

By now he’s looking at the ground in shame. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I’ll try to be better about those things in the future.” I was expecting a bit more resistance, but he just caved - then again, I guess I got what I wanted out of it. That is, until he asks me a very strange question. “Why do you care so much about my health, anyways?”

“Because I care about you!” I find myself surprised at the words as I say them. I guess I do care about him - it hurts to see him suffer, just like anyone else. Still, I get the feeling that I should qualify it a bit more. “I mean, you’re new here, so you need some guidance!” And? “And the Nurse told me to keep an eye on you!” And? “And it’s always nice to make new friends! Speaking of which, you could use someone to show you around the festival, right?”

He seems kind of surprised. “I mean, if you’re okay with it, then sure.”

“Perfect! Toss that blob of grease out, and let’s go find something fun to do.”

He stares at his plate longingly as he reluctantly deposits it into the nearest trash can, obviously sad that he never got to taste it. After that, however, he closes his eyes for a moment, and when he opens them, they look motivated. He comes back to me, and we begin our trek around the festival.

The first stop is Rin’s mural. Ah yes, the mural. I was surprised when I found out that Rin was a painter, both in character and out. She asked if she could paint a big chunk of wall on campus, and apparently nobody was opposed, so she made it a thing. Then she asked me and Hisao for help with it, so we fetched paint and mixed colors and generally just tried to ignore that it looked somewhat unsettling in its unfinished state.

As it turns out, it still looks unsettling in its finished state. I mean, it’s a good painting, it just looks like a good painting of... one of the levels of hell. Not a really deep one, mind you, just level two or three. Regardless, it’s better than I could do, and I have hands. “Hey Rin! You finished the mural!”

She looks at it, then back at us. “Hmm. I guess so.”

Not quite what I was expecting, but Rin’s been doing her best to act oddly obsessed with the mural, so I’m not too surprised. One day at lunch she said something about sleeping out here, which was a bit of a stretch, but would certainly show a stupid level of dedication. “I think it looks good! Right, Hisao?”

He’s startled by being put on the spot. “Oh, uh yeah! It’s... interesting.”

Rin stares at the mural some more. If she could rub her chin, I’m sure she’d be doing that now. “It’s not quite what I wanted, but it’ll do.” After a pause, she adds, “I don’t really know what it will do, though.”

Unsure how I’m supposed to answer that, I decide to steer the conversation towards festival talk. “So Rin, have you eaten?”

“I assume so. I doubt I’d still be alive otherwise.”

“No, I...” I sigh. Her character really can be annoying sometimes. “I mean, have you eaten today?”

She thinks for a bit. “I’m hungry, so probably not.”

“Well, then, why don’t we get something to eat?”

After some more thinking, she agrees. “Alright.”

We walk around for a bit, looking for something to eat - everything looks pretty good, but it’s more difficult to find something healthy. I personally wouldn’t mind a lot of the junk food they’ve got on display around here, but I have to stick to the healthy narrative. No way Hisao would let me pig out after the earful I gave him earlier. I’ll have to keep that in mind going forward.

Eventually, we find some relatively simple food, Hisao buys enough for all three of us, and we sit down on the grass to eat. We dig in immediately, and as I chew, I take in my surroundings. I realize that there are a lot of people here - far more than usual. At any other school festival, that would make sense - parents, relatives, friends, alumni, even random townsfolk would stop by to see a festival.

But here... are they all actors? I mean, obviously they’re only here for a day, but how much were they paid for that day, if at all? Are they just random passersby who, like Hisao, have no idea what’s really going on here? Just more pawns for the Director to play with?

The moment I think that, his voice sounds in my head, though it’s not addressed to me. “Once you’re finished with your food, Rin, excuse yourself to head back to your mural.

Her expression doesn’t change, but I have a feeling that she’s not incredibly happy about that decision. The Director is basically telling her to get out of the frame, and for what? So that I can amble idly around the festival with Hisao for the rest of the day? It still seems strange that so many girls, Rin included, have worked so hard to try and get in Hisao’s good books. And yet, Rin is being told to leave, and I haven’t seen head or tail of Hanako and Lilly since we met.

No, I’m the one still hanging around with Hisao. Why?

I can’t come up with a decent answer before we finish our lunch, at which point Rin says she has to go back to her mural, as instructed. And so Hisao turns to me.

“So, what now, festival guide?”

I chuckle at that title. “Well, we walked by a lot of games earlier while looking for food. Want to try some of those?”

He smiles, for what I believe is the first time today. I’ve noticed, after seeing him at lunch for the past few days, that he isn’t exactly the ‘bright and sunny’ type, so it’s always an accomplishment to see him happy. “Sure thing. Lead the way!”

We spend hours just walking around and trying out various games. I notice that there are actually quite a lot of stalls set up, many with intricate construction or features. They clearly got a company in to set this all up, and yet, I believe it’s supposed to be a student-run festival. I wonder briefly what explanation they have for that, but eventually decide it doesn’t matter.

As time passes, the sky grows orange, then red, then dark blue, and finally, some stars come out. I’m more than happy to keep going around the festival with Hisao, but the Director cuts me off, albeit not in the manner I expected. “There’s going to be a fireworks show. Take Hisao to where you ate lunch earlier, then look towards the front of the school.

That’s unexpected, but I guess it adds a nice ending to a good day. I get Hisao’s attention, then mention it to him. “Hey, there’s gonna be some fireworks in just a bit. We should find a good spot to watch.”

“Fireworks?” He looks surprised. “Aren’t those kind of expensive?”

I chuckle. “Yamaku has some really wealthy benefactors.” Ain’t that the truth.

He shrugs, and follows me to the spot we ate lunch at. I sit down, looking in the direction the Director mentioned, and Hisao sits next to me. The grass is cool, dry, and comfortable, and I feel content to sit there and watch the night sky, irrespective of whether there’ll be fireworks. Instead of a trail of light followed by a bang, however, what interrupts my stargazing is Hisao’s voice.

“Hey, Emi?”

“Yeah?”

“I, uh... I wanted to tell you something, and this seems like a good chance.”

That seems strange. Whatever he wants to say, he’s kind of nervous about it. “Okay, sure. Go for it.” I turn towards him, and find him staring back at me.

“I wanted to-” He pauses for a bit, averting his eyes, and I start to wonder when the fireworks will actually go off. It would be kind of awkward if they cut him off. “I wanted to say thanks.”

“Thanks?”

“Yeah. You helped me with exercising, even when my heart acted up, and then you had lunch with me every day, and you’ve just been a really good friend. I was having a lot of trouble adjusting, and you made it a lot easier. So thank you.” He sighs, and looks up at the sky. “Sometimes, I don’t even know if I deserve all of the things you’ve done for me.”

That tugs on my heartstrings, hard. I feel a desperate need to try and help, so I instinctively lean towards him, putting one hand around his shoulders. “Hisao, you do deserve it, I promise.”

After a moment of thought, he smiles at me, and puts his arm over my shoulders as well. “Thanks. Again.”

Within a second of that line, there’s a whistling sound in the distance, and the first of a long series of fireworks streaks into the sky. There’s no way that was an accident - the Director definitely timed that. Somewhat disillusioned with the display, I look back at Hisao, his eyes transfixed by its brilliant colors.

Suddenly, something else blooms inside me, building on my desire to help him, and the pleasure of seeing him smile. I notice the warmth of his back through his shirt, and the way his body moves as he breathes. Time seems to slow, and I kind of want it to stop altogether. My stomach, uncertain, feels full of butterflies. And the moment I realize what I’m actually feeling, it worries me.

I’m an actor. I’m supposed to leave my character’s emotions on the set. But there’s no denying it: whatever thoughts are racing around in my head, they’re real. Worse, it seems fitting - Hisao’s emotions are real too, after all. Everything he just said to me, he truly believes. He’s bared himself to me; how could I not feel something?

As quickly as the wonderful feeling of being with him arrived, it departs, forced out of my head by my worries about it. I get the feeling, however, that those worries will persist for quite some time.

I’ve spent a whole week feeling sorry for the actor who isn’t acting, but now, I’m the one whose feelings are terrifyingly real.

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Project Blue Curtain: 6 - Ballast

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:02 am

6 - Ballast
I don’t even know what tune I’m humming, but as I wash my hands, I find myself unable to stop. Looking into the mirror in front of me, a huge smile is stuck to my face, and I just shrug and let it be, still humming to myself.

Today was my first date with Hisao. I was nervous this morning, both because it was going to be a pivotal moment for the show, and because I didn’t really know how to handle it. I was supposed to be Hisao’s fake girlfriend, but ever since the festival a week ago, I kept feeling like it was real. Well, after today, my feelings make a lot more sense.

We got some food, we talked, we held hands, and then... we kissed. And it felt like a dream. After all of that, I kind of stopped caring about whether we were in a real or fake relationship. Whatever it is, I’m happy with it. More than happy; I’m almost certainly in love.

On top of that, once I got home, Mom called, and I was actually able to say that things were going well. I could tell that she knew how happy I was feeling, and it was contagious. Just being able to talk to her, and get excited about the future, felt amazing.

And so, as I try my hands and leave the bathroom, I keep humming - until I step out into the hallway, and see who’s waiting for me.

Stood between the door to the bathroom and the door to my room are Lilly and Hanako, the latter with a grin on her face, which tells me that something’s up. I’ve tried my best to avoid these two recently, but I guess I’m not hard to find.

That said, I feel more confident today. Hisao’s kiss, the call from my mother - they’ve inspired me. Whatever these two throw at me, I’ll still have a job, and a family, and some sort of boyfriend.

“Well well well,” Hanako begins, “look who it is. Are you done cleaning Hisao’s saliva out of your mouth?”

I guess we’re not even pretending to be courteous today. I clench my fists and begin walking towards Hanako, hoping I’ll be able to scare her off, but Lilly steps between us. Her stance is aggressive, ready to fight. “If you plan on hurting Hanako, you’ll have to deal with me first.” I stop, confused, and she continues. “I’m really quite good at this sort of thing, so I’d advise against it.”

Well, as much as I’m sure she’s bluffing, I am too, and it looks like she’s called me on it. I groan, and cross my arms across my chest. Just like that, Lilly steps back, and Hanako smiles. “That’s why we pay her so much.”

Frustrated, and cut off from my room, I try to end this conversation as quickly as possible. “So, what’s the deal? Did you come here just to talk about my kissing technique, or what?”

“No, I came here to tell you not to get your hopes up.” She grins. “You seemed so happy, and I couldn’t bear the thought that it might all come crashing down on you.”

I raise one eyebrow. “You’re kidding, right? You’re still after Hisao?”

She scoffs. “On the contrary, he’s used goods now. Who knows what he’s picked up from a scrawny stray like you? No, I’m completely uninterested in Hisao now - but that means he’s useless to me.” She turns to Lilly. “L, what do we do with useless things?”

“We get rid of them.”

“Exactly!” Hanako looks back at me, a wicked look flashing across her face. “Haven’t you thought about the endgame? What happens at the end of this year, when Hisao is supposed to graduate and go to university?” She leans forward a bit. “Surely you didn’t think you could just live happily ever after with him, did you?”

“N-No!” I know full well that things can’t stay this good forever. But I just want-

“Poor little thing. Well, that’s why I’m here to educate you.” She stands upright, as if giving a presentation. “Hisao obviously can’t go back to the real world after all of this. Luckily, he doesn’t have to! His implant, as you know, can cause heart flutters on demand. But that’s not all - if we set it to max, it can fry his heart completely!”

That takes a second to sink in. Of course they wouldn’t let him back into the real world. Of course his implant can cause serious damage. Of course those two things could be connected.

“So, I’m just saying, have fun with Hisao, while he lasts. With a heart like his, you just never know.” She shrugs, but maintains her shit-eating grin. “I guess if you’re lucky, he’ll die in your arms. What a season finale that would be!” She laughs, then turns around and walks away, and Lilly follows.

In only a few minutes, I’ve gone from ecstatic to downtrodden, all thanks to Hanako. Perfect.

Before I can begin to feel sorry for myself, however, I decide that it won’t help. If I really want to keep Hisao alive, I need to be doing things. I need to figure out how to stop that implant, and then how to get him out of here. First things first: I need information on whatever they put in him.

Luckily for me, it doesn’t take long to find the person I need to talk to - Kenji is in the girls’ common room with Rin, who appears to be in absolute bliss as he scratches her head. Unfortunately, I have to interrupt. “Hey, Kenji?”

“Oh, hey Emi. What’s up?”

“I had a few questions about the Director, and the show.”

With one hand still on Rin’s head, he uses the other to pat the couch. “Sure thing, have a seat and ask away.”

I sit down, then try to figure out what I need to know. “So, uh... At the end of the school year, what happens to the show?”

Kenji rubs his chin with his free hand. “You know, I hadn’t really thought about it. They can’t really keep Hisao on.” He shrugs. “I guess they’ll find someone else for next season - either that, or change the entire show.”

Uh oh. “And what about Hisao?”

“I don’t really know. I mean, he obviously wouldn’t be on the show any more, but I have no idea what they’ll do with him. I assume they’ll just have to spend a few days explaining that the past year of his life has been a lie, and then... who knows.” That answer, while a nice alternative, doesn’t comfort me much. Before I can respond, though, he adds, “Well, of course, the Director knows. He has a plan for everything. No way he doesn’t have one for this.”

Of course. The Director. The genius behind it all. It’s terrifying, but I think he’s my enemy now. I daren’t say that out loud - I know he’s listening - but it’s a terrifying thought. “Okay, then, I have one last question for you.” I just hope it doesn’t give away what I’m thinking.

“Sure, go ahead.”

“Hisao’s implant. Can it be... disabled?” Kenji gives me a strange look, as if he’s sizing me up. “I mean, you know, if there were an emergency, or a freak accident or something - could it destroy his implant without, you know, killing him?”

After a few more seconds of staring, Kenji sighs. “Unfortunately, I’ve never really had to deal with the implant, so I just don’t know.” Well, shoot. If Kenji doesn’t know, where am I- “But I know someone who does.”

“You do?” Suddenly, there’s hope again. As long as he doesn’t say ‘the Director’.

“Yeah. One of the girls here was heavily involved in developing the tech for this show. Knowing her, she could probably draw the implant’s design from memory.”

Perfect. This is exactly what I was looking for. “How can I find her?”

He smiles. “Give me a second.” He looks away. “Hello System, Lookup Misha.” After a few seconds of listening, he relays the information to me. “She’s in her room, 272.”

I only just got used to being “on loop”, so this ‘System’ thing is still completely beyond me. Plus, Kenji probably has special privileges, since he knows the Director. Regardless, I have the information I need. “Thanks, Kenji.”

“No problem.” I get up, but he catches my attention again. “Oh, and Emi?”

“Hmm?”

He smiles, just a little, and nods. “Good luck.”

With that, I head for the stairs, and repeat the room number in my head a few times. 272. ‘Misha’. I just hope she can help.

I’m not even close to being out of breath when I get to her room - I guess all those morning runs have done me some good. I take a deep breath, then knock on the door.

“Just a second!” The reply is muffled by the door, but it’s clear that someone - a girl - heard me knock. I manage to hear some strange sounds, and a yelp, but after a few seconds, the door is opened just enough for a girl with bright pink hair, done up in strange little tornado shapes, to stick her head out. At first she looks worried, but once she sees my face, she smiles. “Oh, hi Emi!”

By now, I’m used to people knowing my name. Luckily, this time, I have a guess at hers. “Misha, I presume?”

She giggles a little. “Yup, that’s me~! Or, at least, that’s what everyone calls me. So, uh... what’s up?”

“Well, I was hoping you could give me some information. Specifically, about Hisao’s implant.”

I didn’t think her face could brighten up any more, but it does, and it’s almost dazzling. “Oh, of course! I pretty much built the thing, so I’m sure I can answer any questions~!” Before saying any more, however, she seems to realize how strange a position she’s in. I expect her to open the door wider, to let me in, but instead, she slides one leg through it, then the other, then her chest, which takes some work, and finally, her other arm, all without opening the door more than a few inches. She then closes it completely, and smiles at me as if nothing had happened. “So, how can I help?”

Looking at her now, I have no idea how she fit through that gap. I also have no idea why she did it, but I guess it doesn’t matter right now. I have more important questions. “So, uh, this implant. Could it kill Hisao? If, you know-”

“Pfft, of course~! With the battery we put in that thing, it could kill him twice, even if he hadn’t exercised that week and it was cold out.”

I’m not really sure what those last two modifiers have to do with anything, but I guess my question was answered. “Okay, and who could make it do that?”

Misha rubs her chin a bit. “Well, the Director, obviously. And then, if he wanted to, he could give someone else that power, but I’m not sure if he has. Oh, and of course,” she shoots me a grin and places one hand on her chest, “I could, in a pinch. It wouldn’t be that hard to rig something up for it.”

As she says this, the door opens behind her, and a short girl with dark blue hair and glasses, dressed in a school uniform, walks out. Misha jumps at this, then laughs so loudly that it almost hurts.

“Oh, hey Shizune!” As she speaks, her hands move in strange patterns. “What were you doing in my room, huh?” Another bout of laughter follows, before she gasps. “How rude of me! Shizune, this is Emi, and Emi, this is Shizune.”

Shizune waves unenthusiastically. “Hey.”

“Shizune’s my assistant, so she’s around my room a lot, ha ha! And of course we have class with Hisao, so Shizune pretends to be deaf and mute, and we have to speak in sign language!” Misha finishes with a flourish of her hand, and Shizune simply nods.

Well, that explains the hand motions. And, from what I’ve seen of her, Shizune fits the role pretty well. They both seem kind of weird, though. But I don’t care about that right now. “So, the implant... can it be disabled?”

This question catches Misha off guard. Her face cycles through a wide range of expressions before she finally answers. “Well, I guess. No system’s perfect, try as we might. If you threw enough radiation at it, it’d fry itself pretty quickly.”

I sigh. That wasn’t what I was after. “I mean, can it be disabled without hurting Hisao?”

She doesn’t have to think as long about this one. “Yeah, I guess. Easiest way would be to strap him into a proton beam therapy unit. At least, I think so. I’d need to run tests before I could say for sure.”

“You mean there isn’t a command you can send to shut it down?”

She raises one eyebrow. “Of course there is. That’s a basic safety feature.”

“So... anyone with control over it could disable it?”

“Well, yeah, I guess. But the Director has those controls, and I’m not sure why he would want to disable it.”

Suddenly, there’s the only piece of information I wanted. “But the Director’s not the only one, right? You said before that you could rig something up to send those commands, so couldn’t you do this too?”

The idea seems novel to her. “Well, I guess, technically, yes. I’d need some of the Director’s data, though, so it’d probably be easier just to ask him to do it. And then he probably wouldn’t want to do it. So... sort of no, sort of yes?”

She’s on the fence, but I’ve heard everything I need to. Hisao’s implant can be disabled. He can survive without it. All I need is some of the Director’s data, and Misha’s help to ‘rig something up’. Or, failing that, a proton beam thingy, which sounds like science fiction. The Director’s data can’t be that hard to obtain, once I know what I need. The biggest obstacle will be getting Misha to go along with this plan. I can’t change her mind right now, but I know where she lives, and I know which class she’s in. I’m sure I can convince her, if I give it my all, but it’s going to take some time. So, for now, “That’s all the information I need. Thanks!”

She smiles again. “No problem, glad I could help~! You know, it’s not often I get to talk about this stuff nowadays - I’m always either acting, or fixing something, or sifting through the raw recordings. There are literally hundreds of terabytes of data being pumped onto the local server every day, it’s, it’s just...” Her eyes unfocus, and her mouth hangs agape for a second, before Shizune pokes her in the stomach. “Oh! Right, sorry. Anyways, nice meeting you, Emi~!”

I smile, trying my best to make it look genuine, despite the very strange circumstances. “Same! I’ll see you around, okay? You too, Shizune!” I point at the small girl, but she just nods. Misha, on the other hand, waves her hand high above her head until I’ve turned the corner and gone out of sight.

I know what I need to do. Misha is my target, and I’m going to charm her socks off. I’ll steal whatever data she needs from the Director, then she’ll use that to put together a device that can disable Hisao’s implant, and then we can-

Emi.

I’m so surprised that I jump a full foot in the air. I’m used to being on loop, but I wasn’t expecting to hear from the Director right now. “Yes?”

Please come and see me in my office. We have a lot to discuss.

Uh oh.

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Project Blue Curtain: 7 - Revelations

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:02 am

7 - Revelations
Well, you know, it could be worse.

Am I gonna miss Hisao? Yeah. But I’ll still be here, right? And Mom, she’ll be around too. You know, I bet that in a few years, I’ll look back at this and laugh. I landed an acting job, then got a crush with the guy my character was dating - that’s hilarious!

And then he died at the end of the show. Sigh.

I guess there’s no point stalling it. As I approach the door labeled “Yamaku Director”, I take a deep breath. This is going to be difficult. But I’ll manage, somehow. Just like when we lost Dad.

After a few seconds of psyching myself up, I open the door and step inside, to find that it’s not at all what I expected. It’s not even an office, it’s more of a waiting room. Across from me is another large door. I guess that’s the one, not the one I just went through.

As if confirming that fact, it clicks as I approach, and I find it unlocked. After a few more seconds, I open it and step through, ready for anything.

And yet, I’m still surprised. The room is cool, humid, and dimly lit, with soft yellow lights mounted along the walls. In the middle is a large wooden desk, with various items placed neatly on top of it. Behind the desk is a massive swivelling chair, which is currently facing away from me. I assume the Director is sitting in the chair - not just because it’s the logical place for him to be, but also because more than twenty different large screens are mounted on the wall behind it, all pointing at whoever’s in that chair. It’s unmistakably him.

I clear my throat. “Mr. Director, sir?”

Emi.” It’s the same synthesized voice I’m used to, but instead of going directly into my left ear, it comes from behind the desk. That can’t be his real voice, can it?

Never mind, not important. “You, uh, wanted to see me, sir?”

There’s a short pause, and I expect the chair to spin around suddenly, revealing some sort of monster, but it remains still. “Yes. I realized that I hadn’t yet talked with you in person. You ended up getting information from others, when I should’ve been the one telling you.

This is it, then. “So... Hanako was right? You’re really going to-”

No.

His answer catches me off guard. “No?”

No. Or rather, I don’t know.

That seems strange - didn’t Kenji say that the Director planned everything? Even from my own experience, it’s unlike him to simply not know something so vital. I get the feeling that he’s just telling me what I want to hear. “Isn’t that one of the first things you’d figure out, from the very beginning?”

It was. That’s why what my daughter said wasn’t completely a lie.” There’s another pause, which I guess is him thinking. It’s strange to not be able to see him while he talks. “When planning the show, we considered many possibilities. Could we wipe the main character’s memory? Could we hold him back a year, possibly with another injury? In the end, we decided to simply tell him the truth, and offer him freedom, on the condition of cooperation.

The follow-up seems obvious. “And what if he didn’t cooperate?”

In that case, we thought, it would be best to simply kill him. Otherwise, he’d either end up in an asylum, or manage to send us all to prison.

I clench my fists, and my voice wavers in anger. “And you were willing to kill him for that? You never thought that the possibility of murdering a teenage boy was a big problem?”

Not back then, no. But things have changed. That is both why I needed to talk to you in person, and why it took me so long to do it.

I cross my arms. “Alright, if you think you’ve changed, then let’s hear it. Convince me that you’re not the same guy who wanted to write Hisao off.”

This time, he responds immediately. “To do that, I will have to start with the man I was, a decade ago. I was a successful movie director, responsible for a number of famous blockbusters. I had a job I loved, more money than I could ever need, and most importantly, a loving family. I would have given anything for them. And, when the moment came, I tried to.

There was a fire. It caught us by surprise, in the middle of the night. By the time we knew what was happening, there was no way out - just a wall of flames. My wife and I decided that there was no other option, and we threw ourselves over our daughter, hoping that, at the very least, she would survive. And sure enough, she did, albeit with heavy scarring on one side.

Wait, but that means... “Hanako’s scars are real?”

Yes, though she’ll never admit it.” Another long pause. “Although she survived, her mother did not. Worse, Hanako took it very badly. Something about the loss of her mother, or maybe the scars on her skin, changed her completely. At first she just seemed depressed, going through the process of grieving. As we tried to help her, though, she just kept pushing back. She was belligerent, harsh, even cold-hearted at times.

I should’ve done more to help. Maybe she would’ve listened if I had talked to her more. But I was in no position to deal with her problems - I had too many of my own. My wife was gone, my daughter was losing her mind, I couldn’t sleep without nightmares full of fire, and to top it all off, my injuries were far worse. Instead of just burnt skin, most of my body needed some form of repair.

It occurs to me that I still haven’t seen the Director’s body. I haven’t even heard his real voice. I had always assumed that was just for effect, but suddenly it makes a lot more sense.

Unwilling to show my face, let alone continue my career, I became a recluse. I left my daughter in the care of many highly-paid nurses, and sat in front of a computer all day. I spent several years posting on forums, scrolling through imageboards, and generally just trying to make myself comfortable until my body saw fit to finally give in. I just wanted it all to end. Both for Hanako, who was now a stranger, and for myself, in hope that I might see my wife in heaven.

That all changed one day, when a particular post caught my eye. A story concept. On the surface, your average high school romance. The twist? It was a school for the disabled. It was a perfect fit for someone as broken as me. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. Hanako could fit in instead of standing out. Audiences would eat up the tragic backstories and wholesome characters. And it was the perfect fit for a crazy idea of my own. Project Blue Curtain.

I’ve never heard the name before, but I can tell what he’s referring to. “An actor who wasn’t acting.”

Precisely. The most real, unfiltered emotion possible. A story that people could believe, because the cast believed it too. It took a few years of radical design and hard work, but I loved every minute of it, and in the end, it all came together. We found a suitable candidate, paid off enough people to draw him into the illusion, and made sure everything was recorded. And if he had to die, then it was just another cost, to be balanced with revenue.

I’m surprised at how sorry I feel for him - and for Hanako, in fact - but I won’t let that distract me from why I’m really here. “So you dreamed up this whole place while neglecting your daughter, kidnapped a high schooler, recorded everything, and were ready to kill him. You’re not making a very compelling argument for yourself.”

Like I said, things have changed.

“WHAT has? You keep saying that things have changed, but you won’t say what!”

You, Emi. You are what changed.

I stop for a moment, caught off guard. “M-Me? What do I have to do with any of this?”

From the moment you fell to the floor after running into Hisao that day, I felt like I recognized you. The way you talked, the look in your eyes, the fiery motivation mixed with empathy and kindness. You reminded me of my wife.

My face wrinkles in disgust. “If you think, even for a second, that-”

You misunderstand. Nobody could ever replace her. I don’t need someone like that in my life. What I needed was a reminder of who she was. Not only did you display the qualities of hers that I had forgotten, your relationship with Hisao reminded me of what people should be like. Over the past decade, I had forgotten what it really meant to be human. You are the one I have to thank for teaching me again.

I want to argue. I want to not believe him. My instincts keep telling me that it’s not right, that I should keep fighting until I have what I want - but no new, violent words come to mind. As much as I want to dismiss it all, I also want to believe him.

Before I can think through that enough to reply, he continues. “But that alone will not satisfy you. You’re not here to talk about the past - you’re concerned about the future. So, if you step closer to the desk, I will do my best to quell those fears.” Uncertain, but curious, I walk up to the large wooden desk, getting a better look at the screens behind it in the process. Most of them are camera feeds, but some are full of numbers, or what I assume is code. Before I can look at them too closely, however, the Director utters a few magic words. “System, Hard Standby Central, Release Code 2464.

Immediately, the soft yellow light in the room disappears, replaced by dim red lights, reminiscent of exit signs in a building at night. Likewise, all of the screens from before turn black, without even a single sign of life between them. Just as my eyes start to adjust to the darkness, the large chair behind the desk begins to turn, and I get my first real look at the Director.

His frame is about what I expected, but the flesh on it is clearly different. He’s skinny, but in a strange way - some areas are almost normal, but others look like little more than flesh and bone. In addition to this, even in the low light I can see the extent to which he’s been scarred. It’s easier to find dark, rough patches than it is to pick out areas where his skin is healthy. He’s completely bald, with some scarring on his scalp. The most distinctive feature, however, is a mask over his nose and mouth. It looks like a regular oxygen mask, like in hospitals, but with extra bits added on - a few wires here, some small gadgets there - and it emphasizes his eyes, which look strong, if a bit tired.

As I’m taking it all in, he unexpectedly reaches up, placing one hand on his mask, and then pulls it to the side, revealing his mouth and nose. They don’t look too badly damaged, but it’s hard to tell, and I worry for a second. That worry is only exacerbated by his voice, which is little more than a whisper.

“Emi.”

My eyes wide, I respond automatically. “Yes?”

“You want...” He takes a breath from his mask. “You want Hisao to live?”

I nod, and realize what’s going on. He turned off the machine. Nothing’s recording. Not even his voice synthesizer is turned on. This is just between us. “Yes, sir. I do.”

He blinks, and after inhaling from the mask once more, speaks again. “You want to live with him?”

It’s phrased simply. His meek voice doesn’t offer much chance for emphasis, and his short breaths won’t support eloquent phrasing, but the point is clear. I’ve been wondering about it for a week, and worrying about it all afternoon. But finally, finally, things might be looking up. My eyes feel heavy, and my throat is tight, but I have to respond. “Yes. Very much, sir.”

“Then I will make it so.” With that, he places the mask back on his face, turns back around, and after a few taps of a keyboard, the room’s lights and screens come to life again.

I almost feel like crying. Maybe this is finally it. Maybe things are finally looking up for me - for us? “Thank you, Mr. Director, Sir.”

No, Emi, thank you.” It sounds like he means it, even though it’s the same computerized voice as before. Something about it seems more sincere, now that I know who’s behind it. “Oh, and please take the small envelope on the desk.

I look down, and see a tiny pocket-sized envelope, which I’m certain wasn’t there a minute ago. I pick it up and turn it over - on the back, it simply says ‘Blue Curtain’. It clearly has something to do with the show, but... “What is it?”

Something useful. Keep it with you, unopened, at all times. It will come in handy one day, I promise.

Well, there’s yet another mystery. But that’s okay. I learned a lot today - this will just have to wait.

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Craftyatom
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Project Blue Curtain: 8 - Reparations

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:02 am

8 - Reparations
I should get up.

I kinda need to use the bathroom. I’ll have to go eventually. But, at the same time, I really don’t want to get up. Hisao is so warm. His chest, with an old scar running across it, rises and falls slowly in slumber - and I can’t blame him for being so tired. I’m pretty tuckered out as well.

Still, as much as I just want to snuggle, my body demands otherwise. I carefully roll off of him, then grudgingly sit up on the side of the bed. I start by feeling around on the floor for my prosthetics. Once I put them on, I can begin the search for my clothes. I don’t need them all, just enough so that if anyone sees me, it’ll be weird instead of outright illegal.

Panties and a t-shirt will have to do. With a bit of a groan, I get up, step through the door to the hallway, quietly close it again, then walk towards the bathroom. My head’s still pretty sleepy, and I do my best to keep it that way - in a few minutes, I’ll be back in Hisao’s bed again, and I’d rather be able to fall right back to sleep when I do.

Once in the unfamiliar bathroom, I find the first stall, step inside, and sit down. Luckily, nobody else seems to be up at this hour - whatever hour it is - so I don’t have to worry about avoiding anyone. Or at least, that’s what I think until I hear the bathroom door open again.

My first thought is that it’s Hisao, and I consider saying something, but then realize that it could easily be anyone else who lives in this hall, and that saying anything would give me away. It’s probably better to remain quiet until I know more. Unfortunately, what I learn isn’t very pleasant.

“Hey, slut!”

It’s Hanako. I haven’t seen her since I spoke with the Director, more than a month ago. I was hoping that he had managed to rein her in, but apparently not. Still, with my brain reluctant to wake up any further, I decide to remain quiet. Maybe she’ll just go away if I ignore her.

“Come on, finish cleaning Hisao’s filth out of your cunt already!”

Eugh. I’m suddenly very glad that Hisao used protection. Regardless, it sounds like Hanako’s not about to leave any time soon, so I finish up and step out of the stall.

Surprisingly, Lilly is nowhere to be seen. Right now, we’re the only ones in the bathroom. It occurs to me that, as a result, I could probably fight her, but I’d really rather not. I just want her to go away.

“So, Emi, how does it feel to-”

“Can you just fucking not? I’ve already spoken with your father, and he’s on my side. All you can do is stand here and annoy me.”

My rebuttal catches her off guard for a moment, but then she develops an unsettling grin. “Well, I thought we could be civil, but evidently not. Oh well.”

While I try to figure out how she could possibly consider her earlier comments ‘civil’, she takes out a small black device, fiddles with it until it beeps, then looks at me. When I continue to look confused, she bursts into laughter.

“You’re completely oblivious! You have absolutely no idea what I just did!”

I sigh. “No, I don’t. Feel free to enlighten me.”

“It’s a killswitch!” Her grin grows wider. “Hisao’s killswitch, specifically.”

Adrenaline floods my veins, but within a second, I realize I’m overreacting. “Yeah, sure. Like I said, I talked to your father, and he vowed not to kill Hisao.” My voice wavers a little, but I try to ignore it.

I expect her to deflate, realizing I’ve called her bluff, but instead, she closes her eyes and clasps her hands together. “Oh Daddy, I’m ever so sorry. I know that you wanted all of these back, but I was afraid that Hisao would hurt me! I told you I had lost it, but instead, I kept it, just in case.”

My heart rate skyrockets. My fists clench. She’s lying, I tell myself. She has to be. But I remember that it beeped. It did something. And if anyone could keep one of those things hidden from the Director, it would be Hanako. I want so badly to just shrug it off, but it all seems to fall into place. And Hisao, who I was sleeping with only a minute ago...

“Please, Daddy, I’m so, so sorry.” She opens her eyes and smiles at me. “But not as sorry as poor little Emi.”

That’s it. Damn the consequences. If Hisao really is dead, then I won’t let it go unpunished. And if, by some miracle, he’s still alive, then at least I will have put this smug bitch in her place.

I charge forwards, lowering one shoulder, and hit Hanako square in the chest. The impact carries her backwards, into the bathroom door, which swings open as she hits it. She lands flat on her back in the hallway, with me on top of her. Looking down at her face, she’s absolutely terrified. Perfect.

I raise my right arm, ready to deliver the first in a long series of blows, but it catches on something. Before I can look up to figure out what it is, I feel myself being lifted off of Hanako, before getting thrown down the hallway and landing hard on the floor myself.

I look up just in time to see Lilly leaping onto me. I don’t even get a chance to react before I feel her twist my arms behind my back, as her weight pins me to the floor. I struggle vigorously, but remain held in place - she’s not only stronger than she looks, but heavier, too.

As I realize that there’s no easy way out of this position, Hanako gets up, obviously in a bit of pain. I consider it a momentary victory, but before long, she’s towering over me, her smile mocking me once more.

“See, I told you there was a reason we paid her so much.” She chuckles, then squats down to get closer to me. “I bet Hisao would’ve loved to spend his last moments with you. Oh well.”

As if I wasn’t angry enough already, her taunts only make it worse. I seethe for a few seconds before realizing that I don’t need to move in order to get back at her. “Hide behind your daddy’s fucking money all you want, it can’t fix those scars!”

It works, and her smile disappears. “W-What?”

“What, you thought we couldn’t tell? It’s obvious that you’re overcooked trash, just like your father!”

It feels incredible to put that much venom into my words, especially when her lips quiver, and she starts to stutter. “Sh-s-st-sh-SHUT UP!” She shakily swings one leg forward, kicking me in the shoulder.

It hurts, but I relish the sensation. I realize that we’re balancing on a jagged edge - just one push, and we’ll fall into madness. Will I survive? I hope not. That way, maybe I can see Dad and Hisao again. But I won’t know until I try. “But at least neither of you look as bad as your mother’s rotting corpse.”

I can see every muscle in Hanako’s body clench, and immediately I know that I’ve won. She can try to hold on, but it won’t be long until we both plummet. I relax, and try to enjoy the show. I’m distracted, however, when the door to my left opens. I stare, astonished, as Hisao emerges, wearing only his boxer shorts. “Emi, is that-”

He freezes. In fact, all of us do, though for different reasons. He’s just caught us all out of character. I just realized that I still have a reason to live. Lilly has been pretty stationary this whole time. And Hanako is the first to speak.

“WHAT!?” She pulls out the killswitch, and fiddles with it some more, until it beeps again. Hisao remains standing. She tries again, but still nothing. Frustrated, she throws it at Hisao, and he flinches as it bounces off his arm. “NO! NO! YOU SHOULD BE DEAD!” Still shaking, she pulls something else out from the waist of her skirt, and advances on Hisao while brandishing it.

I suddenly realize what it is, and what she’s doing - she’s going to kill Hisao the hard way. Desperate not to lose him after all of this, I try to warn him. “Hisao, run! She’s trying to-”

Before I can finish my sentence, Hanako’s arms are held behind her back by Lilly’s powerful grip, and the weapon I had been so worried about falls to the floor. It takes me a second to realize that Lilly is no longer pinning me down, and I start to get up.

Hanako, incapacitated, continues to yell at Hisao. “YOU FILTH! YOUR WORTHLESS FUCKING HEART!” Lilly presses something into Hanako’s neck. “YOU CAN’T LIVE RIGHT, YOU CAN’T LOVE RIGHT, AND- and, and y-ya-YOU CAN’T, can’t... you can’t...” She goes limp, slumping onto Lilly. And suddenly, the hallway feels very quiet.

Lilly picks Hanako up with surprising ease, then slings her over one shoulder. She stares at Hisao for a moment, then sighs. “I must say, Hisao: you have very strange dreams.” With that, she turns and leaves, carrying an unconscious Hanako with her.

Carefully, I get to my feet, and almost instinctively approach Hisao. I put one hand on his chest, to make sure I’m not dreaming, and then grab him in a hug. I feel like I should be crying, but I just feel exhausted. Hoping to right that, I look up at him. “Hey, we should get back to bed.”

I expect him to object, because he looks like he couldn’t sleep if he wanted to, but his reasoning surprises me. “You’re bleeding. Let’s get you cleaned up first, okay?” Sure enough, a small trickle of blood is running down my left arm. I feel like objecting, it’s basically nothing, and I just want to go to bed and worry about it in the morning, but the look in his eyes tells me that he won’t take no for an answer.

We go to the bathroom, and he treats the wound. The cold water wakes me up a bit. We go back to his room, where he insists on applying some antiseptic. The stinging from that wakes me up even more, and so by the time we lie down in bed, neither of us really feel tired. I realize, as we lie there, that we’re still dressed. Well, in some loose sense of the word. I consider rectifying that, but Hisao speaks before I get the chance.

“Emi?”

“Hmm?”

“That... That wasn’t a dream, was it?”

“I...” I don’t know what to say. It clearly wasn’t. We’re both wide awake. He’d know I was lying. And yet, saying anything else would break the illusion. This whole show is built on the fact that he doesn’t know. On the plus side, I now know that he won’t be killed for finding out, but even so-

Tell him.

The only reason I know that voice is real is because it manages to surprise me. Evidently the Director is choosing for me - deep inside, though, I think it’s the same decision I would’ve made, eventually. “No. It wasn’t.”

His eyes widen a bit, but then he narrows them in confusion. “But then... That doesn’t make any sense. Lilly could see, and Hanako...” He trails off, but we both know what he means. She was completely different.

“Yeah. It’s... It’s very complicated.” I know that he won’t take that as an answer, though. “How about we take a walk? It’ll be easier to explain that way.”

“A walk? Won’t we get in trouble for being out after curfew?”

I’m confident that the Director will make sure we don’t run into anyone. “We won’t. I’m certain.”

Hisao seems unconvinced, but cautiously agrees. We get fully dressed, then head downstairs and outside, and start walking in whichever direction seems like a good one. It’s a bit chilly out, since it’s so late, but I take his hand, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.

After what feels like a long silence, but is probably only a few seconds, I start my explanation. “This is going to sound kind of crazy. It... It is kind of crazy. But it’s the truth, and you deserve to know it.”

I look up at him, and he just nods in response. He’s ready to listen. Whether he’s ready for what I’m about to say, we’ll just have to find out.

“There was - is - a famous movie director. He wanted to make a new type of TV show, one that could really draw in an audience. He wanted an actor who had the most believable, realistic emotions possible. An actor that wasn’t really an actor - just a regular person.” Hisao looks confused, and I sigh. Here it comes. “You are that person, Hisao.”

This surprises him. “Me? But I’m not...” He searches for the right word. “I’m just a normal guy.”

“Exactly. This school is just a set. The students, the teachers, the nurses - all actors. Everything else is fake, but you’re real. You show real emotion, because you think it’s all real.”

He takes some time to think through this, but luckily, it doesn’t seem to bother him that much. “You mean that my life... is a TV show?”

“For as long as you’ve been at Yamaku, yes. Maybe a bit longer, but I’m not really sure.”

He chuckles. “Well, you’re right, it does sound pretty crazy. I mean, it certainly doesn’t feel like a show.”

“Yeah. A lot of people do a lot of work to make sure it doesn’t. Not for you, at least.”

He gives me a look of concern. “Are you sure you didn’t hurt your head?”

“Look, I know it’s hard to believe, but so was what happened back there with Hanako and Lilly, right? The reason they didn’t seem like themselves is because they aren’t - every time you’ve seen them before, they’ve been acting. Lilly isn’t even blind - she just wears blurry contacts.”

He rubs his chin. “I mean, yeah, that was really weird. But this is almost weirder.”

I sigh. I really should’ve thought about this conversation before I had it. Of course nobody’s going to believe that their whole life is a lie without some serious evidence. I can’t even use my earpiece as proof - saying that I hear voices in my head every day probably wouldn’t make me seem less crazy. I consider trying to show it to him, but that would be difficult, and I doubt it would be very convincing. Luckily, it’s still useful. “Give him the envelope.

I had almost forgotten about that little envelope. I still keep it with me, tucked into one shoe. I guess now is the time. I kneel down, slip one shoe off, and retrieve the small paper rectangle. When I give it to Hisao, he looks at it strangely, then sniffs it. After a few seconds, though, he chuckles. “Oh, right, of course.”

“Huh?”

He holds up the envelope. “It doesn’t smell like feet.”

Smell like... Well no, obviously not. I roll my eyes. “Just open it, already.”

He tears the paper on one side, then pulls out a folded piece of paper. As he unfolds it, however, his eyes go wide, and his jaw drops. “No way. That would be...” He closes his eyes for a moment, then looks at it again. “That’s impossible.”

“What is it?”

“It’s... It’s my first heart attack.”

Only now that I look at it a bit more do I realize that there’s something written on the back. “Turn it over, there’s more.”

He turns it around, and I can see now that the side he was looking at is a photograph. Two figures, standing in a snowy field, next to a tree. I’m not really sure what that has to do with heart attacks, but it clearly means something to Hisao. Apparently the words on the other side are meaningful too, as he reads them hurriedly. “No way. 4 p.m, just like...” He looks at me again. “That director, who did all of this - can you take me to him?”

“Yeah, if you want. He’s in the administrative building.” Although I don’t think he’s fond of unannounced guests, this is probably an exception he’s willing to make.

“Alright, then.” We start in that direction, but the cool night air bites at me again. I go to take Hisao’s hand, but he pulls it away. Confused, I look up at him for answers, and he sighs. “When you said that everyone here was an actor... That means you too, right?”

Oh no. “T-To begin with, yes. At some point, though, I realized that I wasn’t pretending to love you anymore.” He doesn’t object to that answer, but he doesn’t seem happy with it, either, and his hands remain at his sides. Neither of us say a word until we near the administrative building, and Hisao voices a concern.

“Won’t the building be locked, since it’s the middle of the night?”

As if answering his question, the doors make a loud ‘click’ as we approach them, and sure enough, they open easily. Puzzled, Hisao looks to me for answers. I just shrug. “He’s expecting us.”

I take Hisao through the door labeled “Yamaku Director”, then the one behind that, and he looks around in awe. The soft lights, the cool humidity, and the array of screens are all just as strange as the first time I was here.

And, just like that first time, a synthesized voice, emanating from the large chair in the middle of the room, speaks a single word. “Hisao.

Hisao is surprised, as he’s never heard that voice before, but he manages to reply. “Yes?”

Emi has already given you the general overview. I want to provide some specifics, and answer any questions you might have.

“O-Okay, go ahead.”

There’s no hesitation in the Director’s voice. “As you may have gathered from that picture, your first encounter with this project began on that day in winter. The girl who confessed was a plant, and we chemically induced unconsciousness, so you could be taken to our facility. We gave you an implant which would mimic the symptoms of arrhythmia on command, then spent a few months testing things to make sure you were ready.

Your friends really did come to visit you, but we began to turn them away more and more, until we stopped allowing any visitors except your parents, who were involved. The girl who was with you for your heart attack was the hardest to stop - she had to be forcibly removed from the premises once or twice. After that, however, it was only a matter of time before you could be transferred to Yamaku, where everything in your new life would be recorded.

Hisao seems rather distressed. Not enough to start acting on it, but certainly enough to worry me. The Director has been rather blunt so far, which isn’t helping.

All of this was just for a show. A crazy idea from years ago. A project I couldn’t stand to let die. And for that, I want to be completely clear: I am sorry.

The words catch both of us by surprise, and Hisao speaks. “What?”

As the show began, I was only focused on a few narrow heuristics. I wanted particular things out of this program. But as it progressed, and I watched the way you were progressing, especially with Emi, I began to second-guess myself. Suddenly, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake, and that my prized creation was indeed an abomination.

The turning point came when my daughter - Hanako - tried to convince Emi that you would be killed at the end of the year. Emi frantically began to look for a way to defeat your implant, and thus free you from this place. Eventually, thoroughly impressed with her motivation and tenacity, I called her here and spoke with her. She made me promise not to hurt you. And, thanks to her, I understood why I shouldn’t.

Hisao looks at me, bewildered. I blush, and avert my eyes for a moment. When I look back, he’s holding out one hand to me, and I gladly take it. Just like before, it drives away the cold.

I set out to capture raw emotion. It was only after seeing that emotion, in the places I least expected, that I realized why this project couldn’t continue. The emotions themselves were the very reason I couldn’t capture them. And, once more, I am sorry that such a realization required you to sacrifice so much. However, I am willing to try and make things right. To that end, I have a question for you, Hisao.

Hisao nods. “Go ahead.”

Are you willing to remain on the show, until this school year is complete? You would have to act, at least in public, as if you still knew nothing about all of this.

Once again, Hisao and I are both caught off guard. He opens his mouth to reply, but stops, and rubs his chin. After a bit of thinking, he asks his own question. “If I say no, then what happens?”

I would let the both of you go. The show, and its actors, would have to make do with whatever it already has. I can't guarantee that I’ll be able to help you once you leave, though.

“But if we stay, you’d help us?”

Correct. I would ensure that you both have more than enough money to live off of for the next few years, and that you could get into a university. This would also be preferable for the other actors, many of whom are relying on the continuation of this show as a source of income until the end of the school year.

Hisao closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, then opens them again. “In that case, I only have one more concern.” He turns to look at me, and squeezes my hand. “Emi, are you up for the rest of the year?”

I smile, and squeeze his hand in return. “Of course.”

“Alright then.” He looks back at the chair behind the desk. “Mr. Director, sir, I’ll gladly take you up on your offer.”

END.
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Destroyer, Dreamy, and Project Blue Curtain)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

Downix
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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Dec 25, 2018: Project Blue Curtain [S9])

Post by Downix » Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:11 am

Dude! I am absolutely speechless. Well done! Bravo!

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brythain
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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Dec 25, 2018: Project Blue Curtain [S9])

Post by brythain » Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:27 am

That's a classic, needs a thread of its own to do it justice. Bravo. Quite the thriller.
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)

ProfAllister
Posts: 471
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:49 pm

Re: S9 Submission: Project Blue Curtain

Post by ProfAllister » Tue Dec 25, 2018 8:02 am

Craftyatom wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:00 am
Project Blue Curtain
To say that I'm happy with the result would be a gross understatement. This was pretty phenomenal. Doesn't hurt that The Truman Show is one of my favorite movies.

Can't help but point out there were some timeline issues (most notably that Hisao's lock-in scene with Emi comes on the second run), but overall, an excellent job, and delivered on everything I was hoping for the prompt. Thank you very much.
Current Project: Misha Pseudo-Route

Discord ID: ProfAllister#9754

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