So after playing all routes for a video essay, my mind wandered to various questions that leave me absolutely fascinated. I have probably overthought this but this is all based on two interesting opinions I developed.
1. Shizune's good ending doesn't feel like a good ending for Shizune. From my perspective she doesn't really learn from her mistakes unless the outcome is severe enough to shake her world, driving people away is a result of her blunt approach. In such a way that the good ending in theory delays a similar falling out as we see in her bad ending. That ending leaves her to reconsider the way she relates to people and potentially adapt and change.
2. There's no way Iwanako can be mentally sound after the experience with Hisao's heart attack... and his hospital stay. I don't think her letter is closure, an attempt at closure perhaps - whether it is successful is questionable. The letter seems inconsistent, an element of guilt - a seed perhaps. I explain it best in the plot of the story. Everything in life is causally linked, but how we seldom view the outcomes the same.
This story is probably never going to fit into canon, it's an intentionally complex with multiple storylines. Life isn't simple, you can't break it down into parts - life is a fluid experience. Trying to fight against what happens to you. Yet there is a point to this... what will family be to those born in the global age, when family can be a global thing.
I wrote this in prose since... I am used to that. Third-person limited omniscient point of view, and mainly present tense as well. This is organized into Movements. Since a jump around a lot I added dates to the various sections, I'll remove them later if needed.
For the sake of my memory I have moved the original events forward a few years, I like having set dates and comparing stuff to how old I am is a cheat of mine.Contents
Movement I - Status Quo Antemortem
Chapter 1 - I Hope Your Heart Runs Empty
Chapter 2 - Auntie Emi
Chapter 3 - Clubbed to Death
Chapter 4 - Depth Charts
Movement II - Familia et Coloris
Chapter 5 - Legacies
Chapter 6 - Going Down Swinging
Chapter 7 - Debriefing
Chapter 8 - Songs For The Deaf
Movement III - Liberum Cadens
Chapter 9 - Hands On The Bible
Chapter 10 - Gifts
Chapter 11 - Magic
Chapter 12 - The Hard Part
Movement IV - Rationis Compage
Anyway here's the first chapter, hope it's welcome here.
MOVEMENT I - STATUS QUO ANTEMORTEM
1. I HOPE YOUR HEART RUNS EMPTY
The train station is marvel of modern engineering, a glistening canopy of steel and glass arches above the six tracks and two islands that make up the station. Snow covers some of the glass, obscuring the azure canopy hovering over the city. A cold December day, the breaths of the commuters and friends awaiting passengers hover as the water condenses. Of note is a young woman covered in black clothing, like most of her generation strikingly western.
The young woman fidgets constantly with her glasses, popping her head up to look around as each train comes and goes. Swirling around her head is a cacophony of thoughts that have gathered over the seven years since the incident in the forest. Guilt, shame, and regret abundant – letting someone down, how do you live with it. One letter, two letters, six by now – she heard back a total of zero times until eight months ago. The boy she had loved would now visit her as a man, along side his wife and child.
He had married young, into a wealthy family. He was able to begin a new, but the young woman who had been this first domino to fall had not. Regardless this came as a surprise, she had moved into a new apartment late in February – being wrapped up in getting her central climate control working and making a good impression at her new job. She was almost free of her regret, at least until the bell on her Facebook lit up.
Hisao Nakai – the name that had rattled around her head for over half a decade – had sent her a friend request out of the blue. Out of curiosity she looked at his profile first, it was full of pictures of the face she remembered but there were people she didn’t recognize. A bespectacled woman in business like attire, with striking blue eyes to match her short cut blue hair. Every now and then a man with outrageous shirts and a sword would be in the pictures. Then there was the baby, as described by Facebook, “Hisao Nakai was with Shizune Nakai, March 5th” – Hisao’s description read “Celebrating Iwanako’s first birthday.”
They named their daughter after me? She thought, before crying – not tears of sadness nor tears of happiness, bittersweet tears that drive knives into your chest. Iwanako’s was equal parts honoured and slighted. He must have met her at the new school. She stared at the picture for a whole hour, doing nothing by stifling the balling that came with her tears. She should be happy for him, but naming his daughter after her? It led to questions. She accepted the request and sent him one message, “thank you.” A couple days later, Iwanako heard back – rebirth of a friendship. “How have you been?” he asked. Do I tell him everything?
“I have had a rough few years, but I am on my feet now.” Send.
While being confident now at 25, she entered a downward spiral after Hisao’s heart attack. She gradually pushed her friends away, happiness became rare compared to the ever growing doubts in her mind. The doctors gradually gave her med after med, SSRIs, Ativan, and sleeping pills. She was late for school, going out of her way to avoid any forest – to avoid seeing him down on the ground once more. It wasn’t enough, so she began to experiment with alcohol. Her grades slipped and kept on slipping.
It came to a head on the first anniversary of the incident. Iwanako skipped school altogether, opting to stuff some spirits in her bag just in case the Ativan in her pocket failed. She needed to face the forest, to overcome the visions they conjured in her head. Visions of a young man clutching his heart. A task easier said than done, for even before she entered the forest the spirits in her hand.
It would have been a sad sight had it not been class time. Iwanako stumbled around the snowy forest drunk, yelling at the trees between fits of tears. She circled round and round, occasionally stumbling on the roots hidden by the snow. She began to hate the forest more with each fall. Her yelling gradually -grew full of rage and obscenities, as if the forest had taken her Prince Charming away. Nobody could be blamed, but she needed something to blame. In a flash of anger, she threw her three empty bottles at the tree that he had fallen beneath, then a split-second decision saw her down her half-full bottle of Ativan, within seconds she laid unconscious in the snow. It was 11:20 AM, a snowstorm was about to hit the city.
The next thing she remembers is waking up in the strange bed, her hands handcuffed to the railing and the horrifying sight of nine fingers. Iwanako had lost her right ring finger in the interim. She looked up and saw IVs hanging above her. She was on the other side of the railing a year ago and now she was in a hospital. The monitor above her beeped, nurses rushed in to give her a sedative. Into the abyss she went again.
The next time she woke up her parents were talking to the doctors.
“Your daughter attempted suicide, thankfully there weren’t enough pills to kill her but the bottle still had enough to knock her out considering her blood alcohol levels. She was lucky, she nearly died of hypothermia – the police found her coat a hundred meters away. Exposed for fifty minutes, she developed frostbite on her fingers, we were able to save nearly all of the fingers”
“What?” her mother asked.
“Nearly all?” chimed her father.
“We couldn’t save her ring finger. Once she leaves the ICU she will be placed on the psychiatric ward indefinitely. We have serious concerns about her making a repeated attempt.”
I tried to be strong for so long.
The face she remembered pours of the train, but there is no sight of the bespectacled woman. Hisao has packed a lot all things considered, a backpack and a duffle bag. Iwanako waves frantically at him, Hisao nods and then turns to his left arm, a car seat. Iwanako’s hand freezes in mid-air, she looks around for his wife, but she isn’t here. Just Hisao and his daughter. Hisao finally approaches her, grunting as he lays down the duffle bag and the carriage. Before abruptly giving Iwanako a friendly hug. “Hisao!”
“Sorry it has been far too long, I should have reached out earlier. I apologize I never wrote back. I thought you were cutting me off, yet the letters kept coming.” Hisao shrugs. He’s wearing a casual T-Shirt and some jeans, an extremely boring outfit compared to what Iwanako is wearing.
“I’d… rather not… talk… about it.”
“What are you doing with your hands?”
“Oh, sign language. Force of habit. Shizune’s deaf, I would have told you in the messages but by the time I remembered I had forgotten to tell you I was running everything by her. Oh… Iwanako would you mind carrying Iwanak – that’s more odd than I thought.”
Iwanako stifles a laugh and looks down at the infant. The girl’s dark blue eyes beam up at her, a light blue cap covering whisps of hairs.
“She looks like her mother.”
“I know, but I get in trouble when I suggest that.” Hisao chuckles, slightly.
Iwanako gently picks up the carrier, “I am parked a block down.”
Walking into her room she was startled to see her roommate lying down with piles manga around the bed. The girl was roughly the same age as Iwanako, with flowing purple hair – obviously artificial. She wore a cream turtleneck with long sleeves with pyjamas underneath.
“Hello!” Iwanako’s greeting, well intended but too sudden for her roommate.
“Ple- please don’t st- startle me.” the girl turned towards the wall to avoid eye contact.
“Oh, sorry. My name’s Iwanako. I’ve been assigned to the room.”
“They warned me a new girl was coming.”
“To make me prepared,” the girl sighed and rolled back towards Iwanako, “people scare me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry… may I ask your name?” she hoped this would break the tension.
“People here call me Sorano, but it’s really just Sora.”
They call her empty? So, what am I?
“I cut myself,” Sora abruptly announced, catching Iwanako defenceless, “what are you in for, something to do with the finger?”
“I uh… got drunk in the forest where I gave my boyfriend a heart attack. How did you know the finger-“
“Anyway, I tried to kill myself and got frostbite.”
“Dramatic.” Is all Sora said before grabbing a random manga. She said she was scared of people, but Iwanako suspected it went the other way around. Still, having a human contact for the first time in two weeks was something.
The next day Iwanako woke to the sounds of crying, opening her eyes she saw Sorano sitting on the floor with her sleeves rolled up. Running fingers along the myriad of scars that formed ridges on the inside of her arms. Trying to go back to sleep Iwanako rolled over, but never went back to sleep. Instead, she grabbed her blanket and went up to her roommate. Gently she draped the blanket over Sora’s shoulders, and then gave the girl a soft hug.
“I’ll call you Sora.” She hadn’t been there for Hisao, perhaps being kind to Sora could make up for that in some fashion.
So began a daily routine. Counselling was done through group therapy, each group being organized into the age brackets that defined the sub-wards. Iwanako and Sora were members of the youngest group, aged 18-23. They were joined by six other young adults – all with nicknames. There was Takeshi, who had dissociative personality disorder; Osamu, a brilliant student with severe paranoid schizophrenia; Hoshi, a young woman who believed she was an alien; Kohaku, a convicted pyromaniac; Naoki, who had severe impulse control and may or may not have attempted to molest Hoshi; and Atsuko, a defiant girl who was only diagnosed when she attempted to rip stitches out after she was in a car accident.
“We would like to welcome Iwanako, yes,” the doctor leading the session urged.
“I already know she’s a bitch.”
“Naoki!” shouted Sora.
“She’s here to kill all the boys.”
“No Osamu, that’s in your head,” Atsuko chimed in, “still afraid of the mechs? Those are in your head too dingbat.”
“We’ll call her Shonenkira then,” Takeshi said before he got up to leave, he walked to the door but found it locked.
“What did I say about using our real names.”
“Names are arbitrary, you don’t need one.”
“Screw you Naoki, rapist.”
“I agreed with you.”
“Naoki, shut up.” Takeshi muttered before bursting into laughter.
“Iwanako why don’t you share something about yourself, something special.”
“I had this friend, he was really sweet… I think I gave him a heart attack.”
“So Shonenkira fits, interesting.”
“Katsuro!” evidently Takeshi’s real name, “what did we say about bullying other patients.”
“What did we say about bullying other patients, oh my I forgot.”
The session devolved into bickering, with breakthroughs here and there inevitably being derailed by Atsuko or Katsuro/Takeshi. Iwanako was grateful to have Sora as her roommate, Hoshi would be tolerable, but Atsuko would be a nightmare. That night Iwanako stared at the ceiling panels for an hour before she woke up Sora with a fit of laughter. Her mind drifted back to the counselling session, and how Atsuko and Katsuro sounded like a married couple with all the banter.
“I was sleeping!” Sora whispered before throwing a comic at Iwanako. This only elicited more laughter, for this first time in a ye0ar she was smiling. Sora turned on her lamp, casting light on Iwanako’s beaming face. “What’s so funny?”
“Atsuko and Katsuro are perfect for each other.”
At first Sora’s face is frozen, before she breaks into laughter too.
“I can see it.” Sora lowers her tone, “I don’t need to be here can I go now.”
Iwanako joins as Atsuko “Takeshi, you’re a moron if you didn’t need to be here you wouldn’t.”
“Like you need to be here.”
“I ripped an IV out last week, clearly I need to be if I have no rational explanation.”
“Rational explanation, she’d say that. Her name’s really Miho.”
“Really, she doesn’t seem like a Miho.”
“Iwanako!” Hisao waves a hand between Iwanako and the photo. A photo from Katsuro and Miho’s wedding last May. Miho is being hoisted on the shoulders of Iwanako and Sora, probably three drinks into the reception. “Who is in the photo?”
“I don’t recognize anyone.”
“I left school about a year after you did.”
“I’d rather not talk about it. I guess I found new friends like you did... Where are you going?”
“To make dinner,” Hisao performs an about face, “Iwanako – I guess we can call her Nako for ease – Nako’s asleep in the spare room. I figured this was the least I could do for the inconvenience.”
“No, you don’t...“
“Plus, it will take my mind off things, win-win.”
Iwanako refuses to push forward on the topic, they are back at the beginning. People can change in seven years. Hisao is a confident young man now, no longer a shy boy. Iwanako has been through highs and lows, just finding stability this year. Sounds like Shizune changed too, or maybe didn’t… in either case questions need to wait.
“Do you have any wine? Gonna cook one of Lilly‘s recipes. One of Shizune’s cousins, best cook I know despite being blind.”
“Yes, top left shelf Hisao.” I keep it as a reminder not to drink…
“You heartless bastard, they’re dead!”
“I can’t hear you over the yelling of the only girl here without daddy issues. Well, Iwanako has boyfriend issues… but you get my point.”
“TAKE THAT BACK!”
“You can’t have daddy issues if your dad was killed in a car accident.”
“I’LL KILL YOU!”
Amidst the argument between Katsuro and Miho, nurses had swarmed the sub-ward’s common area. They wrangled with the incensed girl before knocking her out with 4 CCs of Ativan. All the while Iwanako and Sora observed their first attempt at matchmaking unravel. They had invited their prospective couple to join them at the table, everything went well until ten minutes in when Katsuro began to pry into Miho’s past.
“Maybe,” Iwanako whispered into her companion’s ear, “they are too much alike, like magnets with opposing polarity.”
“Nerd!” Sora retorted, earning her a playful swat, “he likes her.”
“How do you know that?”
“She is the only person he asks questions of.”
“But he’s so rude!”
Iwanako was dejected, but Sora’s optimism reassured her. Just why are we doing this? Entertainment? It seems sick to play with people’s lives like this. But still it is fun, I almost forgot where we were for a second.
“I guess you aren’t Shonenkira anymore Nako… Susaidogaru is all I can come up with.”
“didn’t attempt suicide.” Iwanako and Sora said in unison.
“Besides that’s a terrible nickname,” Osamu said from across the room as he turned towards the busy table, “Pirugaru is better, less characters.”
“Damn Osamu, that’s good.”
“She must be on mind control pills.”
“No, Osamu don’t ruin this.”
The patients’ rooms were a mute grey with a tinge of blue, like arctic sea water. Iwanako’s side still lay barren, but Sora had a bunch of her sketches taped to the wall.
“They don’t trust me with sharp objects,” was Sora’s explanation.
Fair enough. What could Iwanako put on her wall? A class photo? Nobody had reached out to her, even her parents were ashamed of her. Maybe Sora could draw something for her. Hisao maybe? No… too awkward. A fish in a stream. I took Sora three days to get the crayons she needed to colour the fish. She insisted it be coloured, despite Iwanako’s assurances that the sketch would work as is. All she wanted was something to make her feel at home.
When Sora was finished Iwanako became awestruck. The colour composition was amazing, the sockeye salmon had detailed scales, Sora brought to life the shimmering water in blues, cyans, and greens. The usage of crayons on a desk brought out a unique texture. Having shut so many people out, letting Sora in was a breath of fresh air. Iwanako still felt hollow from all the meds, but there was something there, she wasn’t empty. So as Sora tried to gauge where they would tape it, she cried tears of joy.
“Is it bad?”
“No… no… it means a lot. I’m not lonely anymore.”
“I made a friend…”
Iwanako stands in the corner as Hisao sets the table. He whistles and hums, clearly taking pleasure in such a mundane task. The knife lets out a dull ring, the placemat insulating it from the glass of the table. Silverware on abstract black-and-white placemats, illuminated by simple hanging light fixtures. All reflective of Iwanako’s tastes, modern, sophisticated, western. The city lights look like stars from her windows, blinking in and out as more and more of the elderly go to bed.
“Where did you get these placemats?”
“Work.” Iwanako mutters, it doesn’t seem important. But when she looks up Hisao is staring at her, waiting for elaboration, “I’m a fashion designer… well that’s the goal. Been working with a company run by my friend’s adoptive mother, they offered me a job late last year. Getting to move back to my hometown, couldn’t pass- it up. I run one of the local stores.”
“A manager, never saw that coming.”
“People change, what do you do?”
“I was taking my practicum to be a teacher, until the baby showed up. Stay-at-home dad… even though I am not at home now.”
“Shizune doesn’t look after her daughter?”
“She is on the board of her dad’s company, hell I have barely seen her in six months and most of that was spent fighting. Flights to Inverness, London, Seattle, and Vancouver. Always ‘I have business Hisao’ or ‘I’m too busy to spend time with Iwanako’ – she was the same way in the student council… that was years ago.”
“So, your honeymoon period has worn off?”
“You could say that, but this is the third time she’s tried pushing me away.”
“So, the other times?”
“End of high school and two months before our wedding.” Hisao says he places the last utensil down.
Awkward silence fills the air, Iwanako turns to the floor. It sounds like Hisao married into a tricky situation, Shizune sounds difficult to say the least. Yet she has money… and he wanted to be a teacher. Katsuro and Miho were different as well, they hated each other at first but they have been happy since. Hisao brings out dinner…
“Fisherman’s pie, Lilly lives in Scotland now… actually went to school at Yamaku as well, being blind all. She really balances the Japanese side with her Scot.”
“My mother-in-law lives there as well… long story. I guess all my family lives in Scotland now.”
“Dead, dad had a heart attack – same defect I have – five years ago, mom developed aggressive breast cancer shortly before Iwanako’s birth – got to meet her granddaughter at least. That is life, abrupt.” A frown appears on Hisao’s face, his emerald eyes stare blankly at his reflection.
“Are you thinking of the forest?”
“No, I really don’t think too hard about it, why?”
“You seem down, like in the hospital.”
“I have seven more years of memories to be down about.”
Iwanako cannot help but blush, she was worried Hisao would resent her for putting him in a hospital. Instead, he began again, he even named…
“Iwanako? Why name your daughter after me?”
“Think of it this way, if you had never confessed to me I would never have wound up in a hospital, and therefore never have met Shizune, my daughter owes you her existence.”
“I don’t think it works that way… I merely triggered your heart attack – who’s to say you would never have met Shizune if you had a heart attack while playing soccer.”
“She said the same thing at first, still it felt right.”
Hisao laughs, “this is where you say thank you or I'm honoured.”