Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#59—'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes')

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (27—'Sleeper') (20150623)

Post by brythain » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:54 pm

Some time ago, a guy named Luke got me writing KS fiction outside these forums. That's all I'll say about that.
Let me introduce you to an unnamed protagonist and a cyan-haired
femme fatale who might seem oddly familiar.



The Big Sleeper

I knew the dame was trouble when I had to ask her out. So I guess I have to tell you the rest of the story and here it is. I warn you, it’s like Las Vegas—it starts with a holy office and ends with a high-stakes game.

*****

After she stepped out, I slammed the door on her sweet ass and moved back behind my desk. It’s a sanctuary, and the hard stuff is just a short grab away. I had to think. There had to be a way to solve my problem.

Bang. Bang. She was knocking up a storm. Part of me wished I could knock her back up.

As another hole appeared in my pasteboard-thin walls, I yelled, “Yeah, you want back in, just say so!” Used my brains and moved off to one side, just as another bullet went through the space my mouth used to be around.

“You no-good piece of Styrofoam!” she was yelling back. “You extended-polymer cretin! Polymethylmethacrylate! Polycarbonate!”

I’m substituting chains of stuff for what she actually said. It’s hard to describe the chemistry between us otherwise. Her name is Suzu Suzuki, she’s a sleeper, and obviously, she’s a repeat polymer of the exotic type.

Gingerly, I approached the doorframe. She could see me coming a mile away, and since my room is only twenty feet deep, I knew I was in trouble. Except that she had no more bullets left in that six-chamber old piece she was brandishing in the smoky air.

“Gunsmoke,” I murmured, “does not become you.”

“Consider it a bonanza, rifleman,” she replied.

Suzu is petite, she has obvious functional groups but they don’t give much steric hindrance. Right now, she was volatile, and I was cautious. Her hair, as usual, was blue; given the tone of her voice, that wasn’t all that was blue.

“Will you have dinner with me?”

“Dinner? I want your guts for garters!”

“Aw, come on, lady, that’s a load of tripe and you know it.”

“Is that any kind of language to use on a lady?”

I briefly considered what she’d used on me (and my office). I decided that I wouldn’t press the point, just in case she decided to eliminate me.

“I’ll pick up the tab?”

“That’s better. Depends on where, though.”

“The Ponderosa?” Which is a steakhouse, with good meat, even though it reminds me of another kind of house with a different kind of flesh. It’s also on the 45th floor, so if you like shooting things up, you’re already mostly up.

She weighed that thought up in her mind, the steel vise of her eyes grinding it to bits and making up a solution.

“That’ll do,” she said acidly. But it had a cooler feel to it, so I guess her reaction was winding down.

“I’ll drive.”

“About that…” she said, looking a bit guilty. Her blue eyebrows twitched a bit. I hated that twitch, so I twitched back. I looked past her to the parking lot. My old Mustang was looking a bit knackered. In fact, it looked plain tired. With holes in the tires. Flat out.

“Aw, dammit, lady.”

We took her ride instead. Some foreign horse, very streamlined, lots of power underneath the hood. I drove: safer that way—she once fell asleep driving and totalled more cars than a traffic accountant at peak hour.

*****

“So, what was today all about?” I asked delicately after the server had disconnected from our table.

“Money, sex, power.”

The unholy trinity. I should have guessed. But I didn’t quite see how it applied.

“Uh, could you elaborate?”

“You’re not getting any of it.”

“Aw, lady, that’s plain mean.”

“Well, that’s the way it is.”

We sat in uncomfortable but companionable silence for a while. It was a pretty long while, since our food arrived while we were whiling away the time. It was so long and silent that I was thinking about writing a novel about hunting a white while.

“You see,” she said without preamble, “it’s all about my father’s fortune.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s a lot of money.”

“Do go on.”

“Someone’s trying to take it all. Or more than one.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I need to know, and I need to know it now!”

“Know what?”

Her steak was well-done, almost burnt. Mine was rare but not raw. I could feel a drop of the red stuff fall off the edge of my lip as she speared a little cube of hers like an Eskimo hunter making whisky on the rocks.

“Are you?”

“Am I what, lady?”

“One of those who might be trying to make off with the loot!”

To tell the truth, making off had not been on my agenda for the evening. Making up, first. Then maybe…

“Quick, answer!”

I had the feeling that she’d taken her time in the ladies’ room as an opportunity to reload. I didn’t want her to get us both banned from this place, and I’d rather a hot loin than a cold shoulder, when it comes to beef.

“Fine, fine…”

“Well?”

I looked out the window. This high up, you could see the sun set even after it had set. It looked like yellow Jello on deep blue Greek pottery.

“Uh, Suzu, do you promise not to fire that thing at me again?”

“No promises, polycyanoacrylate!”

There she was again, with the additional vocabulary. I worried about her. I worried about me. I decided to take steps. At worst, I’d only compound whatever existing offences I’d committed.

“Okay. Will you marry me?” I asked, offering her an heterocyclic ring.

“I thought you’d never ask!” she said, falling asleep in my arms.

And that is how I won a high-steaks game and we lived happily ever after.

The end.

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

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (27—'Sleeper') (20150623)

Post by Blank Mage » Wed Jun 24, 2015 7:40 pm

Er. What?
And we're back.
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (27—'Sleeper') (20150623)

Post by brythain » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:05 pm

Blank Mage wrote:Er. What?
Dunno, mate. Was just trying it on. I think it's an experimental Kenji/Suzu, but Hisao/Suzu might work too. :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (28—'True History') (20150701)

Post by brythain » Wed Jul 01, 2015 8:23 am

This little piece is all about the madness that living across parallel universes can induce.
Think about that the next time you save multiple games and then forget which one you really want to retrieve.
Thanks to Blank Mage for unwitting inspiration. :)



A True Brief History of Time

“It was very cold,” said the old man to his great-grandchildren.

“How cold was it, Great-grandpa?” they chorused. They loved the saga, and they’d all learnt the first part by heart.

“It was so cold that my nose almost turned into an extra tooth.” It was always here that he first inserted a variable figure of speech, and they always waited to hear it. It was always worth a laugh.

“I was waiting for the girl, and if I’d waited another half-hour, I’d have frozen to death!”

“Which girl was this, Great-grandpa?” they chorused again, knowing full well what her name had been. Iwanako, always, the shadowy figure of Great-grandpa’s first love. They had little fantasies about her, dark and brooding, the powerful Fate who had changed Great-grandpa’s life forever like a force of nature.

“Her name was Rika Katayama.”

Young Kenji sat up in surprise. This wasn’t part of the story. This came later. Around him, his cousins and second cousins stirred. They knew something was wrong too.

“Great-grandpa?” said the shy clear voice of his skinny cousin Miki.

“Shh. I won’t be with you much longer, best to tell you the TRUE story.”

“You mean it wasn’t true before?” This was his favourite big cousin Yuuko, who was meticulous about checking facts and got all jumpy if they didn’t add up.

“It’s always been true. I just changed the names a bit.”

The old man let the murmuring die down before he continued. They managed to get to the hospital where he’d lain for weeks as the simple operations became messy and the secondary infection almost killed him. This part, they knew by heart as well. Each horrible bit, with the ghoulish interest that only young children have. And then…

“She collapsed at the foot of my bed.”

This time, the unease was palpable and then vocal.

“Who did?”

Kenji looked around. Second cousin Akio was looking distinctly uncomfortable but very intrigued at this turn of events. Yet surely he had been following the story? It was still about Rika Katayama, whoever she was. But this wasn’t the Iwanako story at all, and it was indeed strange.

“Rika. Something was wrong with her heart too. We were two broken-hearted lovers.”

They digested this for a while. It seemed legitimate. Little pink-haired Misha piped up: “What happened next, Great-grandpa?”

“It’s lunchtime. But before you go, I’ll just say that the long hospital stay was for real, and next episode, I’ll tell you about Yamaku.”

Kenji sighed softly in relief. He could sense his other relatives do likewise. In all the years the old man had been telling the story, he’d never deviated. Even Mother said so, and she normally didn’t think much about stories.

As they broke for lunch, he wondered about one more thing: who had Great-grandmother really been? Would there be more new truth revealed?

*****

The old man sat still, meditative, austere in the bright sunlight. Before him, the fine white sand lay, a mirror of the imaginary sea.

It was afternoon, and slowly, the children were returning like a quiet tide. They crept over the ramparts of his sandcastle mind, like little hermit crabs. Each one has a different shell, he realized.

Shells within shells. He steeled himself in his warrior heart to tell the truth again. Yet, deep within him, he wondered: what if it’s -not- what I think it is?

They sat quietly around him, their post-prandial breathing shallow and unhurried. In the distance, he heard the murmuring conversation of his children and grandchildren, the two generations who had not heard the whole story because he had been ashamed to tell it.

But this generation? They knew a story when they heard one, and this knowledge would make reality seem less harsh—just another story. At this age, at this distance, everything was legendary. Everything was butterflies.

His eldest great-grandchild nodded gently from her place in the far corner, politely offering a gateway into their shared world. Brooding Shizune, always disinclined to speak. They had named her well.

“So, great-grandchildren, I said goodbye to my dark-haired nurse, who had cared for me so well, and who loved me more than I loved her.”

They’d not heard about the nurse before, he saw. Then again, they had, without knowing it. He remembered his decision, so many years ago, to keep Rika’s memory sacred and to start his story with the dark-haired nurse. He was too old to be sentimental, but he felt a wet prickling behind his drooping eyelids. Clearing his throat, he continued.

*****

“Hisao? Time for your meds!”

The old man stirred in the sunlight. Like a cat, he stretched. Like a lion, he scattered the children before him as they scrambled to move out of his way.

He blinked as they vanished.

After all these years, she was still beautiful to him, her white hair ruffled gently by the breeze. The sunlight came from behind her, but it was also around them, like a shroud of radiance, like a blanket against the cold.

“Lilly? Thank you,” he said, reaching out for the water and the little capsules that promised him life for a few more days.

She placed them in his shaky hands. He looked into her face. White and brown and gently ridged, old scars long faded but still visible, all on one side. Hanako?

He was about to apologize, but her sad face was full of understanding, and to say anything would have been futile. He nodded miserably, realizing that his memory was just another barrier between them, and yet she did not mind.

“How are the children?” he whispered.

“Children?”

Oh, were there none? He’d forgotten. He’d made it even more painful, then. He screwed his eyes tightly shut, feeling the echoes of that pain. How could a man hurt Hanako Ikezawa and not feel wretched? And what more, if that man were her husband of seventy years?

*****

“Great-grandpa?”

The old man opened his eyes. The practical one, dark Shizune’s twin sister Shiina, stood before him. Her mousy brown hair straggled wind-blown around her shoulders. Some day, she’d probably decide on something more flamboyant.

“Sorry, child. I must’ve dozed off for a few seconds. Where was I?”

“You were meeting the Head Nurse!”

“So I was. Yes. This was when I was new to Yamaku, yes?”

He saw a kind of relief on her face. “Yes, Great-grandpa.”

“Very good,” he nodded. “So, we continue.”

Around him, the children sat, listening. Young Kenji exhaled slowly. Today is not a good day, the boy thought.

“Of course, you know all about Emi Ibarazaki and how we collided in the corridor, right?” he asked deliberately, and was reassured by the nods and murmurs of assent from his audience. This was familiar ground. Canon.

“Well, we went to visit the Head Nurse, and it turned out that the nurse I saw was Emi’s mother Meiko. She’d transferred into the school just to look after her daughter…”

His voice trailed away as he registered the sounds of confusion from around him. What had he said? Meiko, the name was correct. She had indeed been Emi’s mother, and a registered nurse.

“Great-grandpa, was Mrs Ibarazaki the Head Nurse, or was she just a nurse?”

His wavering gaze managed to focus long enough to realize this was young Kenji. Who would ever name a kid Kenji? The old man knew there was a reason not to do so, but he couldn’t remember it.

*****

She cradled his head in her arms: Great-grandfather, his wispy white hair just barely covering his mottled pate, one of the anchors of her life. She remembered what Grandmother had told her: “Don’t judge him; he had a hard life, and then all those things happened. I judged him, and I regretted it. He didn’t know I was his daughter at that time.”

The old man’s breathing was shallow, inhalations that lifted his ribs, exhalations that barely moved the long hairs of his beard. She looked down at him, tried to imagine him young, failed.

The others gathered slowly around them, waiting for him to wake again, so that he could remind them of who they were. She looked at them, she who was eldest and named, as her mother and grandmother were, after the one who had been Hisao Nakai’s companion for such a short while. Young Kenji exchanged glances with her—she liked him, and they were second cousins, so it would be fine.

Their great-grandfather stirred and woke. As usual, the disorientation. She wondered whom he thought he’d married, sometimes. Not her great-grandmother, she hoped. If he ever thought that, it was normally a sad version of the story that emerged.

“Where was I?”

Dutifully, as the great-grandchild closest to him, she replied, “Hiding in the back corridor near the music room.”

“Were we having tea?”

She winced. “No, Great-grandfather. You were listening to something.”

“Ah. Not tea?”

“No.”

“Hmm…”

She realized she was holding her breath. It was normally at this part of the story that her venerable ancestor began to think that he’d forgotten. She always wondered what had really happened between Kagami Takahashi and Great-grandfather. In one of his more lucid moments, he’d said something about taking on Miss Takahashi’s burdens.

Somehow, that was why he’d forgotten Saki Enomoto — somehow, that was why he’d forgotten Great-grandmother. A tear escaped her treacherous eyelids. She smoothed back her honey-brown hair to hide it.

The water of her life fell off the tip of her nose and landed on Great-grandfather. Hisao Nakai started, shaken by the unusual stimulus.

“Yes. I remember. I’d had a fight with a girl with honey-brown hair. Can’t remember her name now. We were in love, and then she was angry, or perhaps I was angry, or both. And I could feel my heart going thud-thud-thud, and I thought I was going to die! So I felt my way along the corridor blindly, all the world red and black around me, and I found myself in this little tea-room.”

Young Saki turned away slightly so the other children wouldn’t see her face. It was to be a Lilly Satou story this time, she suspected, despite the lack of tea a few minutes before. Better that, than truth, for now.

*****

The old man remembered the tea-room well. In particular, he remembered one day on which his entire history hinged. The scene began to play in his mind.

He fumbled his keys, but eventually managed to pry open the door. His cramped little room was a mess, with bits of paper and plastic wrappers strewn about. It was just a bit of carnage from planning a little surprise for the light of his life. He heard the all too familiar tolling of the school bell signalling that the school day was officially done, thus letting the throngs of students out into the tight hallways. He hadn’t been in the habit of skipping class, but today was an exception. He grabbed the delicately wrapped parcel on the table and hastily shut the door behind him. If he rushed a bit, he’d be able to catch her just in time.

And he had. He tried to remember which room it had been: surely it had been the tea-room. But images of the library, the music room, the art room, the science lab, the… too many rooms at the Yamaku campus. Too many… but in his mind, the warm sunlight and the clear blue sky through the tea-room window shone brightest of all.

The tea-room it would be, he decided. He looked at his many great-grandchildren and continued: “The sun made her hair gleam with a light that was purer than the colour of gold. When I looked at her, I saw that, and windows into the sky.”

He turned to the girl nearest him. What was her name? She looked very familiar, somehow. She was looking to one side, as if she saw somebody behind him. As his gaze swept across the room, he saw nothing else but rapt attention.

“But she saw nothing at all, for my very dear Lilly had been born blind. It was then that I realized that my choice of gift, the beautiful porcelain doll, had one problem—she’d never see the lovely blue of the doll’s skirt, that matched her eyes.”

*****

Kenji opened his eyes wide and stared at the old man. Had he heard aright? His great-grandfather was telling the story all wrong! The doll, he remembered that doll—wasn’t it the one Great-grandmother had passed down to Kenji’s grandmother? It now sat on Kenji’s mother’s shelf. But Great-grandfather had given a music box to Lilly Satou, surely.

He looked across at cousin Saki, whom he quite liked, and wondered what she was thinking. Her face was hidden in shadows, her lovely face with the demure lines and flashing eyes. Maybe in a few years’ time, when he was old enough, he’d tell her how much he liked her.

Then he remembered. Great-grandfather had once said something about saying you loved someone before you forgot, or before people made you forget, or before someone experimented with reality and broke it. Something like that.

*****

This happened in June 2007. It was an experiment that affected only a small population. Nobody really noticed. Ten years later, there were small patches of reality instability in the Tohoku region of Japan. The locals got used to it. The foreigners didn’t care. All they knew was ‘Fukushima’.

Mutou took a quick glance at the class working on that day’s assignment before returning his analytical gaze back towards the scientific journal on his desk. [Kiemer, K., Gröschner, A., Pehmer, A. K., & Seidel, T. (2015). Effects of a classroom discourse intervention on teachers' practice and students' motivation to learn mathematics and science. Learning and Instruction, 35, 94-103.] Bah, what do psychologists know anyway, they’re not even scientists! … Hmm, but I am, and who better to test a hypothesis than a real scientist? Mutou’s eyes lit up as the gears of an experiment started churning in his head.

It was an old problem, as far as Akio Mutou was concerned. There were ways of testing the many-worlds hypothesis, and it was an important thing to test. Firstly, choose the subject with the fewest entanglements.

A gleam in his eye, he looked at the class seating plan and circled ‘Nakai, Hisao’.

In his mind, he tried to visualize the thinking of that philosopher with the unpronounceable Eastern European name—Terekhovich, or something like that. Mutou wondered how people with names like ‘Vladislav Terekhovich’ managed to introduce themselves at conferences without running out of breath.

Back to the subject. He’d already observed Nakai’s interactions with Hakamichi and Mikado. But surely, in some other universe, he’d interacted in other ways. Hmm, again.

Mutou suddenly wondered if what he was doing was unethical. He felt uneasy, but scientific curiosity kept nagging at him, an itch unscratchable, a fear of being intellectually unsatisfied forever.

You didn’t need expensive equipment like a Large Hadron Collider to do this kind of experiment. You only needed a will trained by the best in the business, the kind of will that could eye-strike Shinichi Nomiya across a meeting table and reduce bluster to whimper.

What if… he whispered in the direction of Nakai’s bowed head … Saki Enomoto were to bump into you as you walked out alone and went down the corridor to get me an ammeter from the Physics Lab?

What if… he whispered in the direction of Nakai’s bowed head … Emi Ibarazaki were to bump into you as you walked out toward the cafeteria with Hakamichi and Mikado?

What if… what if… — Mutou felt inspired. He found himself doodling a little multidimensional star, a flat representation of a snowflake with 196833 dimensions.

*****

The old man stretched and yawned. He kept seeing the great-grandchildren in his dreams. But of course, there’d been no great-grandchildren. He felt the customary tears come to his ancient eyes, but he’d learnt long ago that such tears were transient.

As far as he knew, his drunken fling with Lilly’s sister—what was her name again?—had borne no unexpected fruit. After that, university, a failed marriage with no children, a lifelong career as a physics teacher. Such strange physics, too! He hadn’t expected Mutou-sensei to have had such an impact on his life.

Focus, he told himself. Happiness comes in the tiny, well-chosen moments. There is only one reality. You can make it happen. Somebody should be happy, in the end.

*****

On the other side of the doorway leading out into the well-manicured Zen garden, young Kenji looked at not-so-young Saki. “I love you,” he said.

She blushed. “You’re far too young to say such things. You’re only sixteen, going on seventeen.”

“Well, you’re not twenty yet.” Boldly, he kissed her.

Their great-grandfather lay silently dozing outside on the balcony beyond the gleaming white plain of raked sand. They wondered what he was dreaming about.

=====
alt index
Last edited by brythain on Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (28—'True History') (20150701)

Post by Alpacalypse » Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:05 am

Wat. I mean, it was nicely written and all, but wat.

I dun get it. :?
I am the harbinger of your destruction... By herbivorous, mountain dwelling quadrupeds... fear me
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (28—'True History') (20150701)

Post by Sharp-O » Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:05 pm

brythain wrote:The Big Sleeper

It's got a noir feel that I love but is clearly some bizarre reality with it's own unique, scientific lexicon. No set-up just bam! Right into a day-in-the-life story. I dig it. 8)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (28—'True History') (20150701)

Post by Blank Mage » Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:33 pm

Hang on, I'll comment once I finish my flowchart, and piece together some kind of skeletal timeline. I... think... actually, when the hell are we? I need more yarn for this poster board. There's a pattern, I'm sure of it!
And we're back.
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"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (28—'True History') (20150701)

Post by brythain » Fri Jul 03, 2015 3:49 am

Blank Mage wrote:Hang on, I'll comment once I finish my flowchart, and piece together some kind of skeletal timeline. I... think... actually, when the hell are we? I need more yarn for this poster board. There's a pattern, I'm sure of it!
All will be revealed, sooner or later. All. What a wonderful threat! Or thread, I forget which.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (29—'Swim') (20150708)

Post by brythain » Wed Jul 08, 2015 5:45 am

Readers may find that I've drawn much obvious inspiration from my fellow writers :)
Perhaps more important, the title is drawn from Flann O'Brien's 1939 masterpiece of similar name.
O'Brien was really Brian O'Nolan. His other book, 'The Third Policeman', is also a masterpiece of subversive humour.



At Swim, Two Birds

I am sitting quietly here in my room, with the air-conditioning on in an unseasonably hot April morning, and the spirits of the ancient world surround me. Strangely, they look a lot like cat-girls.

One of them says, “By light of sun and salt of sea—listen, author-san, to me!”

Of course, I am compelled to listen, just as I am compelled to tell this particular cat-girl, “Oh, come on, Suzu, why’d you say that? I would have heard you anyway, cat.”

She miaouws and comes over to rub her head on my lap. It’s an astonishingly strange feeling, an indescribable sensation.

(See how he doesn’t describe it? We with paws and cuteness have chosen a human mediator well. Clever little human.)

“A voice said, ‘Listen!’ and I am listening. I shall rub your fur until it’s glistening.”

It’s not a bad attempt, even if I do say so myself. However, I am quite intrigued by the sultry look that Suzu-cat launches in my direction before she flumps bonelessly in the shadow of my knee.

“Write about the swimming pool thing, I think it is such a cool thing.”

I laughed gently and set to work, because cat-spirits have this way of persuading you to do stuff. And Suzu, who falls asleep so easily in the warm sunshine, but comes alive for fresh fish, is so very adorable.

*****

Emi is not at her Emi-est. Emi is not comfortable. I’m watching Emi, because I’m Rin. What am I doing as Rin? I don’t know. Maybe the cat-girls know. It’s uncomfortable. All the body parts are wrong.

I am beginning to remember my way into this body. I’m Rin. I have no arms, and it has been that way forever. I have no idea what I would do with arms. Perhaps I could use them as extra legs or brushholders or something.

There are two people over there who, if not completely my friends, are almost completely my friends. Just as I find I’m almost completely Rin, now.

I easily conceal my sudden smirky joy as I realize why they’re here, in this chlorine-stinking subtle azure-lighted world of wet air and dissolute human stink. I’ll join them, but only after they’re well and truly in the drink.

Carefully, I check my costume. Suzu did a good job with the cap, and everything else seems to fit right. I always feel a bit swollen though. It’s curious, when I look down, how different my nipples seem behind tight black swimming costume as opposed to loose white uniform shirt. They’re a different colour, but also differently rubbery. So strange.

Emi sits down at the edge of the pool and takes a quick look down again at the unwieldy pair of flippers attached where her running blades should be. “Are you sure about this, Hisao? Maybe we should go back to running…” Hisao’s devious smile all but confirms that she isn’t getting out of this. Emi decides to bring out the big guns and begins to put on the most pitiful pout she can muster. She’s halfway to pitiful before yelping in surprise as Hisao shoves her into the pool.

I can’t resist it any longer, and I laugh. Emi is all pink, and her lovely brown and gold swimsuit makes her look like something warm and energetic in a cold and placid world. Hisao has turned all pink too, and it clashes with his red trunks. I’ve always wondered why they call them trunks. I look at his tackle. Wow, he must have an elephant in there, a big brown one.

Sputtering, Emi flippers up from the deep like a tiny but divine imperial personality. “Hey!” she says, sounding loud and clear although a bit shivery, like the light of a winter sun. “What are you doing here, Rin?”

Hisao mutters something like, “I’d like to know too.” However, he’s turned away from me so that I can’t stare at his tackle any more, so I can’t hear him properly either.

I feel like saying, “I’m doing a body part audit to make sure my people collection hasn’t been compromised.” The only reason I don’t say it is because I learnt how to say things like that from Kenji, who is my very good friend even if he thinks I’m a guy, and these two are not very fond of him.

Instead, I tell them the truth. “Nurse got me into swimming years ago to build leg and back strength. Normally I only do it at night, or early in the morning when Emi’s at the track.”

“So why are you here in the afternoon, Rin?” says Emi, squeaking a bit more than usual now that the cold is really getting to her. I notice that Hisao is in a position to make her a lot more comfortable, but he isn’t. Then it dawns on me: the problem –is– with his tackle—he’s afraid to use it or draw attention to it!

I’m about to say that when I realize I haven’t answered Emi, and Emi tends to keep asking till you answer her. So I continue telling her the truth. “Nurse told me Hisao had taken the bait, so I came to watch.”

“What? You came to watch him push me into the water? Nakai, you just wait till we get to the track. Tezuka, I thought we were friends!!!” The last part is a wail, the kind of sound Emi makes when she feels the world is unfair beyond belief.

“No,” I say calmly, “I didn’t come to watch him push you into the water. That was a surprise. I just told Nurse that I thought it would be interesting if you both took up my kind of exercise programme. Then we could swim together. Also, I would be able to paint a different Emi and a different Hisao.”

“Wha-a-at?!” both of them say at the same time. They sound as if they’re embarrassed as well as amazed, maybe a bit guilty. The colours swirl around in my eyes — pink and bronze and a kind of purple.

“Yes. The kind of Emi and Hisao you would be when you finally got to see each other without proper clothes on.”

To my delight, they go all kinds of wonderful colours. Frantically, I catch the butterfly shades in my mind before they all escape.

*****

Yuuko scanned the empty tables of the Shanghai. For a Sunday it was pretty quiet: just old Mr and Mrs Itanaka and a couple of kids from Yamaku winding down before classes the next day. She looked towards the booth at the far end to catch a glimpse of scruffy brown hair. Hisao must have been waiting there for an hour at least. A third cup of coffee she’d brought sat idly by as Hisao continued staring out at the street. The sound of the bell ringing snapped Yuuko back to attention as she attempted to steel her nerves to serve the incoming guest(s).

She thought her nerves had stabilized, but they threatened to unsteel themselves when she saw who had entered the little café. What was he doing here? And with her, of all people? She stifled a squeak and tried to resist the urge to run into the pantry and do a quick inventory of stores.

“W-welcome to the Shanghai!” she tried to say brightly and loudly as she’d been taught. It came out as a half-hearted whisper, made even softer by bowing to face the floor.

“Aha, you won’t trap me so easily this time, feminist boss!” said the nasal voice she had once known so well, and loved so fondly. Her heart missed a beat as she looked up to see the familiar garish scarf flutter as its owner turned his back rudely and exited the Shanghai.

That left his unusual companion. “Hello, Yuuko. Don’t mind me. Don’t mind him either. He has too many colours, so he doesn’t mind himself.”

“Rin? Are you having a meal by yourself then?” From Yuuko’s past experience, Rin only ever ate with Suzu Suzuki or Emi Ibarazaki.

“Yes. By myself and with Hisao over there. Kenji told me to ‘exfiltrate Hisao from this lair of male-oppressing feminists’. I’m not sure what he meant, but he was some kind of yellow and orange when he said it.”

Yuuko felt angry first, hearing the usual Kenji nonsense from Rin’s lips. Then she felt sad. He should never have stopped taking his drugs. It was all her fault—she had asked him why he was taking so many pills, and then he’d just stopped.

Slowly, as her nerves settled, the more rational side of her emerged. “Rin, doesn’t he know you’re a female too?”

“I don’t think he does. He thinks I’m male and I’ve infiltrated my own dorm.”

Suddenly, it was all too much. Yuuko could imagine old Ninagawa in the back room getting ready to fire her for not treating the customers properly. She could also imagine Kenji going slowly crazy in his room, with his puppets and his charts, because of her.

“Ahhh! Where are my manners?! Where would you like to sit, honoured customer?” she squeaked.

Rin looked at her curiously. “You’re an interesting cherry-blossom colour. I’m sitting with Hisao. I need to tell him about his tackle. And also, that Emi’s not coming. Her legs have got infected from running with wet stumps or something.”

The thought of it overwhelmed Yuuko. It just sounded disgusting. It didn’t revolt Yuuko personally; it filled her with vicarious pain, the sense of how much Emi might be suffering. She hated to see people suffer.

With the only graceful action in her repertoire, Yuuko crumpled gently to the floor in a dead faint. Rin looked at her carefully and decided she was alive but sleeping. Odd. She’d never thought Yuuko would have anything in common with Suzu. Ah well, time to go have a closer look at Hisao.

*****

I finish outlining the story on the thin rice-paper. Suzu cat-girl stirs, yawns, then looks up at me with one eye. Lithely, she rolls off my lap, letting the blood back into my thigh. In a half-crouch she looks at me, then sniffs at the paper.

“Hmmm… a good story, though not enough fish. It otherwise meets the terms of my wish. I like the part about Yuuko acting like me—well, only superficially. Overall, your Rin is not quite Rin, I would say. Yet a lot like Rin, in her way.”

I smile at her. She’s really cute, and she knows it. She winks at me, then licks her paws a bit before swaying her bum at me and walking off four-footed.

=====
alt index
Last edited by brythain on Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (29—'Swim') (20150708)

Post by OneManArmy77 » Wed Jul 08, 2015 7:43 am

brythain wrote:Rin looked at her curiously. “You’re an interesting cherry-blossom colour. I’m sitting with Hisao. I need to tell him about his tackle. And also, that Emi’s not coming. Her legs have got infected from running with wet stumps or something.”
Well, some things never change. Poor Emi: gets tossed in a pool and now has to go back to the wheel chair. As usual though, nicely done and very interesting use of the prompts!

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (30—'Risk') (20150715)

Post by brythain » Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:57 am

As Rin once said, underpants show a person's soul. However, Kenji thinks differently.
It's a risky business, all round.



A Game of Risk

Hisao had spent quite a while thinking of how to get his unlikely friends together in an activity all would enjoy. Chess? No, only for two, and if they played Transfer Chess—what some people called Bughouse, which he couldn’t understand at all—that would be four. But without Lilly, there’d be five of them…

Then, a moment of inspiration, based on a deeply buried and slightly unpleasant memory, flashed into his head. Oh yes. Very much ‘yes’. He knew something about the fifth column he was about to introduce, and if he knew anything at all, this would be a very entertaining game.

*****

Hanako took a long look at the strange board before looking back up at Hisao. “W-what is this?” Hisao let loose a small chuckle. Then he explained that they were going to play a game of Risk. The rules followed, and by the end of his tutorial, his girlfriend had figured things out. She'd always been a fast learner.

An hour later, a light rap on the door followed by a the illusion of a pink-haired rhino trampling into the room announced that their guests had arrived.

“Hi, Hicchan and Hanachan!~~”

Behind her, Shizune adjusted her glasses before showing the glint in her eye that screamed she wasn’t taking prisoners today.

*****

Kenji steadied his hand before unlatching the final lock on his reinforced steel door. He stole a quick glance down the hall before doubling back to grab his ‘fempocalypse survival bag’ and then quickly slipped out from the safety of his well stocked shelter. Carefully locking his fortress of solitude from enemy invaders, Kenji started walking with a purpose. The fate of the mission, nay, the world was at stake.

It had been good of his neighbour to deliver the warning. The fate of the world, by proxy. Oh yes. Very much ‘yes’. Kenji Setou had played Risk a lot before, and he played in a way that would trumpet his philosophy to the entire world. It was regrettable that so few would play the game with him any more. And here was a chance to defeat the evil feminist dictator and her sidekick—he wasn’t sure which was which—forever. At least, by proxy, yes.

*****

[Host announces rules] signed Shizune Hakamichi, unable to shake her Student Council President persona even in the quiet of the old tea-room. In her favour, it had to be said that the old tea-room had once been the Student Council office in bygone days.

“Hisao gets to say what the rules are!~” beamed Misha.

Kenji muttered darkly to himself, to keep up appearances. Secretly, he was pleased that Hisao had managed to show how he had suborned the tea-drinking part of the feminist conspiracy. Ha! He has replaced the blonde in a very obvious way! Big point for us already, he thought as he pulled out his bag of dice. Only the hexahedra, today. No fooling. But they were special hexahedra.

“Today, we use the variant where everyone gets to choose a territory to start from. In the first round, start countries must have at least access to water and two vacant territories between them and any other person’s choice. In the second round, you must pick an adjacent territory to your first. After that, you can choose whatever you want. Turn order each set-up round depends on the roll of dice.”

Hanako hated playing games with Shizune. Her class representative always seemed to want to make other people feel inferior. But Hisao had claimed that this game would balance that tendency out a bit. She’d talked it over thoroughly with him that morning, while she was learning to play the game. She wondered, however, what Kenji was up to. Hisao had said Kenji was a ‘secret weapon’.

Well, she’d see what happened. Playing against Shizune was terrible, but with other people, maybe it’d be better? She liked the look of Madagascar. Or Argentina. She giggled to herself. It was next to Brazil.

*****

Five players made for an interesting game, Hisao mused. Kenji had rolled a high five, had promptly attempted to high-five his right-hand neighbour, and planted a palm in Misha’s bust, both of them shrieking simultaneously. Then he’d placed an army in Japan, of course. Misha had gone for Indonesia, claiming she liked the colour.

Shizune had made a face, and after Hanako had grabbed Brazil and he himself had chosen Madagascar, she’d placed an army on Iceland and glared at everyone as if to say, “When I get ten bonus armies a round, you will fear me.”

*****

Shizune scribbled a note and shoved it in front of Kenji. Misha looked hurt, since she was between them and could very well have translated. [Why so secretive, Shicchan?] she signed.

[None of your business. Yet.]

Kenji looked down, as if someone had poured ants on his dice. The note, on yellow paper, read: [How come you never throw a 1 or a 6?]

He grinned manically. His black armies had rolled out of Japan and down into Australia. Misha’s defences had consisted of single or double armies arranged in pretty chains along the Indian Ocean, and the rest of her armies had been dumped into the Middle East, because, as she’d said in both sign and voice, “They look nice right in the middle! It’s like me translating for everybody!~”

Hanako pondered that grin. She’d learnt to read upside down from a young age, because people would write things she couldn’t quite read, and she’d been too shy to ask. She saw Kenji’s reply: [I am a man of the people, feminist elitist flamingo!] Why a flamingo? she wondered.

Meanwhile, she consolidated South America and found her way into the United States. She had a tacit agreement with Hisao to let him have Africa. That wasn’t really cheating, was it?

*****

Misha sat on the tea counter, humming to herself, translating whatever she felt like translating. The sun was setting, and it looked absolutely beautiful. All that pink light! And of course, purple and gold.

She’d finally been kicked out of the game by Hisao and Shizune contesting the Africa-Europe border. Shizune had cut south from the Ukraine but failed to defeat Misha in Asia and Hisao had seized the Middle East as an insurance policy.

All these warlike narratives! She only played because Shizune did. She’d learnt how to play many games because of Shizune. Her thoughts drifted to a time many months ago, and she stopped them right there. Then again, now that Hisao is happy with Hanako, maybe Shicchan might need some comforting? It brought a weak smile to her face.

Something caught her eye. Her friend was signing furiously. [He’s cheating. I don’t know how, but how can he roll three 5s again and again?]

“Errr… Shicchan wants to know, Kenji, how come you keep rolling fifteen?”

“Tell Madam Chairman that her reign is at an end. Besides, I’ve been rolling anything from nine to fifteen mainly today. I can count too. Bwahahaha!”

Somehow, that ‘b’ sound at the beginning made it sound rather sinister. Misha winced and signed back: [Shicchan, Kenji says he’s rolled a lot less today as well.]

Why was Hisao laughing?

*****

The black tide had spread. It looked like crude oil oozing out of the Middle East and dripping all over Africa. Hisao’s last ditch effort to escape Kenji’s armies had given him a clear choice—striking at the massed armies in Brazil was obviously less useful than striking up into the spread-out blue line of Europe.

Shizune ground her teeth silently together. Stupid Kenji. Clever Kenji. He’d adopted a strategy she herself had used before. She’d lose this. She could see it coming. The fistful of armies she’d put into Greenland would be her backstop, but there weren’t enough armies left in the little bits of Europe. Hisao should just have been obliterated by Hanako two rounds ago, but instead, Flowergirl had stomped her way across the west coast of North America and into Kamchatka.

*****

It was time for forfeits. Shizune was sulking at the window, gazing into the evening. Misha was pouring tea for everyone. Hanako sat back, the happy runner-up. Hisao just smiled. He hadn’t minded being second to drop out. Watching Shizune fight her brave but futile battle to retain Europe had been like watching a Kurosawa epic, but with imaginary Norsemen.

Kenji, on the other hand, was looking at the forfeit list aghast, the paper right in front of his thick glasses. “What? The winner receives a kiss from all losers of the opposite sex? That’s a cheap victory! I should have lost! Hisao? What’s the meaning of this?”

He looked closer. “And it says here that Misha only has to pour tea for everyone who drops out after her. Which is all of us, and she’s already done it. She doesn’t have to kiss anyone? How is that fair?”

Misha laughed. “I’ll kiss you, Kenji!~ But only if there’s no garlic involved. Although I don’t mind garlic sausage!~”

Kenji shuddered as terribly colourful and salty thoughts ran through his mind.

*****

Much later, Hanako and Hisao had finished locking up the empty tea-room and were strolling back to the dorms. It was dinner-time, but not late enough for the guards to be patrolling actively.

“Y-your place or mine, Hisao?”

“Mine perhaps? I think I’d rather not go anywhere near Shizune tonight.”

“O-oh. I don’t know though. She looked like she didn’t mind k-kissing Kenji after all. But your place is fine.”

*****

Kenji knew what would be going on in Room 119. He didn’t mind. Hisao was a manly man after all. He’d set the stage for a thorough victory over the feminist conspirators. The epic battles Kenji had fought to rescue his friend from the pincers of Ikezawa and Hakamichi had been in vain, but he had avenged Hisao by defeating both of them.

Hisao had won Ikezawa fair and square, it looked like. Kenji Setou, friend and champion would stand guard, the lone avenger, while Hisao enjoyed his night. He looked at his hexahedra, the rigged dice in his fist. They only rolled 3, 4 and 5. The truly excellent would defeat him, the pathetic would never do so. They represented him, the everyman rising just a bit above the average. Dice, they revealed much about the soul of the player. These dice, they were him.

Then there came a knock on the door.

He wondered. Did Hisao need protection? Perhaps he could get his neighbour to test out some of the new protectives he’d filched from the convenience store.

A rustling sound. Kenji’s senses went to full alert. He looked at the gap between his door and the floor, where he’d placed old carpeting to prevent intrusion by miniature robots. A sliver of yellow paper showed.

Gingerly, he picked it up with the tweezers he normally used for microchips. There were words on it, in familiar handwriting. A chill ran down his spine. [This is Shizune Hakamichi. May I speak to you for a while?]

The feminists had regrouped! His pulse racing, he almost failed to notice the second piece of paper.

This one said: [I am alone. And I’m not angry that you beat me at Risk.]

Kenji belted down some whisky and wiped his lips. What was this? Dazed and confused, he found himself opening the door. After three locks, he knew he could still remain safe. Three more locks went down. Why was he opening the door?

A tiny little voice in his head said: Maybe you’re lonely?

Rubbish! he replied to it. But he found himself unlocking the last bolt.

*****

Carefully and silently, Hisao opened his door with skill and noiseless ease born of much practice and lubrication with WD-40. He could’ve sworn that Kenji had spent a lot of the night making really strange noises, stranger than his usual noises. The thick extra insulation around and in his neighbour’s door always made it hard to tell.

“I-is there anyone out there?” Hanako whispered. She was already dressed. They both knew the guards went off for breakfast at 6 am.

“No, I don’t think… hold on.” Hisao shut the door quickly and looked out through the spyhole. “Oh my,” he whispered. “Kenji, what have I done to you?”

“W-what?” Even Hanako could hear it now—the sound of a happy man whistling. But surely that wasn’t a reason for Hisao to slump like that against the wall?

Gripped by sudden fear, she asked, “H-Hisao? Are you all right?”

Wordlessly, he gestured to the spyhole. She rushed over and looked through it, then joined Hisao in helpless silent laughter.

Arm in arm, the feminist dictator and the protector of manhood were strolling down the corridor into the light of the morning sun.

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

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (31—'Ghosts') (20150722)

Post by brythain » Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:02 am

This one is a bit off the reserve, I suppose. But when prompted, I write.


Ghosts

A huddled mass of students talked absentmindedly as they waited for the blue and pink pair to address the crowd. With a well-practised flourish, Shizune silenced the crowd with naught but her hands, and began.

“As you know, Japan doesn’t usually celebrate Western traditions, right?~” started Misha as she carefully tried, and failed, to capture the gravitas Shizune had painstakingly tried to convey in her signing. “But this year, student council is proud—very proud!~ —to announce that Yamaku will be celebrating Halloween! We will be distributing pamphlets about this strange Western tradition to your class representatives later today.”

It wasn’t as if they hadn’t known about Halloween. Japan had been importing such strange Western customs, in often quite deviant ways, for decades. Some of those had just been victims of bad translation, of course.

Nevertheless, much of the student body was enthusiastic about this break from the usual routine. The staff were split, a small minority embracing this whole-heartedly, a slightly larger group assenting cautiously, and a majority choosing to distance themselves from the whole thing.

Later, in a darkened room, two students met. They hadn’t really been friends for long, but stranger things have been known to happen.

“What do you think, Miss Katayama?”

“This one humbly thinks dark thoughts, esteemed senior,” said the tall, thin young lady with the long silver braid.

“Dark? I suppose so. Darker than usual?”

Rika Katayama looked into her senior’s deceptively mild eyes and wondered, not for the first time, what death might mean to someone else. “Some darknesses seem absolute, senior lady.”

“You know I’ve tried to cure you of this excessive formality for two years now, yes?”

“This one regrets that a lifetime of training is so difficult to subvert.”

“I think you use it as a coping mechanism, Miss Katayama.”

“If this one’s respected senior would like to, she might use this one’s given name. But ‘Miss Katayama’ tends to provoke reflexive courtesy, Miss Enomoto.” The ghost of a smile floated fleetingly across Rika’s lips.

“Oh, very well. For today, it’s Rika and Saki.”

“Rika acknowledges this honour, Saki Enomoto.”

“Hmph. So, what do you think about the Student Council’s new love of odd Western traditions?”

“The Western concept of the spirits of the departed seems somewhat impoverished, most excellent Saki.”

“Stop…” Saki peered carefully at Rika across their table in the old music room. “You’re actually joking, aren’t you?”

“Rika doesn’t know what a joke is, some say. But Saki is indeed most excellent, respected, revered and esteemed. Rika will put all that to one side and stop tweaking the senior lady’s claws.”

Saki laughed softly. “Back to the question.”

“It is indeed an impoverished concept. They are ‘ghoulies and ghasties and long-leggedy beasties’ as the class representative of 3-2 once muttered to herself.”

“The Princess actually said that?”

“Back to the question, Saki. Rika thinks that Japan’s own local spirits and demons are more than a match for these vestiges of old European night-terrors.”

“And what of death?”

“If I might speak personally? Death comes to all of us, in every land and nation and hut and mansion. We make our peace as best we can. I might live long, or not at all. You have an expiry date coming; I have a death row that stretches out ahead of me. We’re both young, and won’t live to be old.”

They’d had this kind of conversation many times before. Halloween? It meant nothing to them, except yet another reason to sit in the mostly abandoned music room and think about the remaining life left to them.

“Ah well. Shall we go into town later in the evening? I think I need a new dress or two.” Saki twirled a long strand of her chestnut hair and frowned. “And perhaps get my hair done.”

“Rika needs some new brushes, a whetstone and also something done to her hair.”

“That’s settled then,” the older girl smiled.

The door opened. A strangely innocent face framed by long auburn hair looked around the edge.

“Oh, hello! I’m so sorry for intruding.”

“Not at all, Kagami, we’re always glad for real music and pleasant company.”

“Ah, very kind of you. Um…” the redhead looked down at her hand. “Saki Enomoto, spinocerebellar ataxia; Rika Katayama, hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Right?”

Saki winced. She noticed that Rika’s eyes were closed, as if to say she wanted to not think about such things at all. Kagami Takahashi, on the other hand, was just being herself—without repetition of facts, she forgot things. She had to write them down before sleeping, so that when she lost her memory, she’d have something to regain it with on waking.

Wait. Something wasn’t quite right.

Rika opened her eyes suddenly in the gloom, her wine-dark eyes glowing a startlingly brilliant crimson as the sun set outside. “If this one might inquire? What is that which esteemed senior lady Takahashi is carrying in her hand?”

“My violin case of course… oh! Yes, this. It’s a little handheld display with computer files in it. Kenji Setou was kind enough to set it up for me. It has little pictures of all my friends on it, with all I need to remember.”

“Setou? He did that for you?”

“Ah, yes. It was a trade.” Kagami blushed faintly. “He wanted a recording of my music because he liked the way I played. When I gave it to him, he muttered something about feminists being too kind and ran away. The next day he gave me this. It has all the details, even your medical conditions and all.”

“Where did he get the pictures and details from, Kagami?”

“This one would also like to know.” Rika looked at the little display. “That is terrifying. It has this one’s rather underendowed bodily statistics as well.”

*****

Hanako booted up what she thought of as ‘the old toaster’ in the Yamaku library. Sometimes, Yuuko ran out of book recommendations, so it was only natural that the younger girl had learnt to take her curiosity online.

After humming loudly for several minutes, Hanako navigated to a search engine before gently tapping in a select few keywords. An observer might have been able to watch as the usually shy girl contorted her face into a weird mixture of shock, horror, and curiosity.

“W-what? Noooooo…” she muttered to herself. “It can’t be true. B-but it is!”

She turned the monitor off. She turned it on again. It was still there. She cursed herself for being silly. Of course such actions wouldn’t remove the blight. She had to do something about this. She felt like screaming, but one didn’t scream in a library. She’d have to run up to the roof and hope somebody like Ibarazaki or Mikado wasn’t already up there. And if it were Kenji Setou, she might push him off the roof.

“Ummm. We’re closing soon. Did you find what you were, ah, looking for? My ex-boyfriend, he’s good with computers, he told me about the pictures.”

Hanako sat up in shock and pulled the power plug. The computer let out a hissing sound and the monitor softly said ‘bung’ and shut down.

“Ah! Ivegottagodosomething!” she said, and jumped up.

Yuuko leapt back and collided with a magazine rack. Magazines cascaded down all around her. She sat down in the mess and began to cry.

“Sorry sorry sorry sorry!” yelped Hanako, and ran out of the library. She felt so bad about Yuuko, but, but, but… blindly, she headed for the rooftop.

It was early evening, and the stars were coming out faintly in the purple sky. Pausing to catch her breath, she leaned against the roof access doorframe and looked around for signs of other people.

He was there. Torn between the desire to run away again, and the desire to do something about what she’d seen, she took a step towards his exposed back, then stepped back into the shadows.

Too late. He’d seen her. Kenji turned around.

“Aaah! It’s you!!”

“K-Kenji! Why d-did you do it?!”

“Do what, toilet-ghost-girl? Don’t come near me, it’s not Halloween yet!!”

She heard a bottle grate against the gravel. He’d been drinking? She remembered the taste of his whisky. She’d regretted drinking it. She took a deep breath and let loose. An objective observer would have noted that she hardly stuttered.

“I did a search. There are p-pictures of us, manga-type pictures, all over the Internet! With details! Very personal details! And f-fantasies! Is this ‘Raita’ person your alias? How could you do this to us? Everyone knows you have pictures in your room, or puppets, or something. But this??”

“Hey, calm down. I didn’t do it. I’m not Raita. Besides, it’s a gang called 4LS or something. They want to do a game about people like us.”

“W-what?? We’re not a game! We’re real people! Why are you working with them??”

“I’m not!”

Forgetting herself and her fears, Hanako found herself two steps away from the alarmed boy. His thick glasses flashed as the night security lights came on at eight o’clock.

*****

The Head Nurse stood in the Principal’s office. It had been a long night. The principal had just got in, and was preparing to address various people.

“So, Kaneshiro. What can I tell the staff and students? The parents, the press?” said Yamaku’s chief administrator.

“It has to be handled delicately, sir.”

“Delicately? This is a major disaster. Except that we can use it to abort that stupid Halloween idea. What are the facts?”

“Sir. Kenji Setou, legally blind and with a heart condition, was apparently pushed through a weakened chain-link fence on the roof of the academic block. His assailant was most unexpected.”

“No, I am sure he wouldn’t have expected it.”

“Sir, it was Hanako Ikezawa. She was angry at him about something, and somehow plucked up the nerve to shove him very, very hard.”

“Ikezawa? She jumps ten feet when a cat meows at her.”

“Well, there was no cat in sight this time, boss.”

“Stop being funny and give me the rest.”

“The concrete at the edge of the roof, fortunately or not, had been eroded by acid rain. A length of the fence detached from the roof, both of them went off the edge, but the fencing acted like a giant concertina and both trampolined slightly before the fence gave way two floors below. They dropped another six feet, wrapped in lengths of fencing, before landing on Mutou’s car. They were discovered unconscious in each other’s arms and the guards at first drew the wrong conclusion before noticing the metal netting all over the place and looking up.”

“Are they alive, Nurse?”

“Yessir. Setou was almost dead for a while, but they managed to restart his heart. I don’t think we should let Ikezawa know about that. They’re both stable at the general hospital, critical care ward.”

“Thank the gods. Any news from the students?”

“Shizune Hakamichi has issued a statement through her spokesperson, boss.”

“She would. That one, I think she wants my job. Anything else?”

“No, not at all.”

“Thank you.”

“Thanks, boss.”

*****

The Nurse strolled back to his office. Everyone had been very lucky, and perhaps nobody more than he. Where the hell had Setou managed to get hold of the Nurse-Emi dialogues, Raita’s work and all that nonsense? Not to mention the peculiar edits to the source material that made him look so perverted.

He sighed as he entered the safety of the medical centre. It was 4 am. He reached up and switched on the lights just as he heard the voices. Saki Enomoto, Kagami Takahashi, and Rika Katayama were sitting around the room.

“What are…” he began.

“Hello,” said Saki pleasantly. “We were just about to have a talk with you about life, death, ghosts and patient confidentiality.”
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Blank Mage
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (31—'Ghosts') (20150722)

Post by Blank Mage » Wed Jul 22, 2015 3:47 am

I feel bad that I haven't commented on anything lately, but I feel like you crossed some kind of Metaphorical Event Horizon somewhat recently. With the exception of Risk, I've been worryingly lost for a while now...
And we're back.
-----------
"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (31—'Ghosts') (20150722)

Post by brythain » Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:13 pm

Blank Mage wrote:I feel bad that I haven't commented on anything lately, but I feel like you crossed some kind of Metaphorical Event Horizon somewhat recently. With the exception of Risk, I've been worryingly lost for a while now...
Haha! Take the stories at face value, please. They're Alt-Dreams — different visions of the world of KS as seen mostly through an 'After The Dream' sort of lens.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Location: East Asia
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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (32—'First Base') (20150727)

Post by brythain » Mon Jul 27, 2015 12:28 pm

This is a sequel to Alt-Dream #30, 'A Game of Risk'.
What would logically happen if Shizune ever got her hands on Kenji's extensive database?
This story is not the story of that happening. :)



First Base

The students of Yamaku all stood outside, lined up like prison inmates in their PE kit. Today’s game was a Third Year-wide game of kickball, or kickbase as it was known in Japan, but it could have just as easily been torture from their facial expressions.

In front of the assembled throng, Shizune and Kenji wrapped up their final round of rock-paper-scissors. All was silent before Misha announced that, sadly, Shizune had failed to outplay her legally blind adversary.

As the winner, Kenji would have first pick. He smirked before pulling out the thick dossier of candidates he kept just for emergencies like this. How difficult could it have been? he mused. There were fewer than a hundred or so students in the 2007-2008 graduating year. Any sufficiently dedicated fool could have compiled this dossier. But I am special, and only I have done so.

Shizune was glaring at him as he unpacked and unfolded his masterpiece. He didn’t care, although the sunlight reflecting off her glasses was irritating. Feminist wiles, using good Japanese sun to overcome a man’s mental prowess? He had the antidote for that. He took off his own glasses and looked down into the labyrinth of power with the naked eyes of the shaman—for Oda Nobunaga himself had played kemari, and Nobunaga had been the hero of his age.

He had first pick. And he knew whom he would choose: Emi Ibarazaki. Best to have the most dangerous woman on Earth on his own side. Such a weapon could not be permitted a place in the Hakamichi arsenal. Shizune was dangerous enough; after all, she was the only feminist who had access to his sanctuary.

*****

They sat in the late autumn light, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, comfortable in their companionship on the empty bleachers. The shaman’s gaze reached the far horizon, unseeing in its serenity. His partner’s gaze seemed oddly vulnerable, for she too had taken off her glasses.

He squinted down at the little yellow note that had suddenly appeared in his hand, then lifted it up to his nose to read the large, clear writing. [What made you think we were playing kemari, not kickbase?]

He grinned. [It’s the traditional way.]

Scribble, scribble. He loved to watch her thin fingers move.

[Well, you had a good win. What made you think of fielding Taro Arai anyway?]

He scribbled back with the little black-pencil stub they were sharing: [Did you know he used to catch fish that his father threw at him?]

[You know a lot about our schoolmates.]

[I do. It’s my job. A man must know his companions and the people of his association.]

[Where did you get that from?]

[Not telling. You’re smart enough to find out.]

She grinned at him, her dimples filling his limited view. They filled his heart too, but he wouldn’t give her the pleasure of knowing that yet.

[Would you like to be my second vice-president?]

[Can’t Hisao do his job, then?] he wrote back, feeling a little sad that his good friend was being backstabbed by the feminist leader.

[It’s not that. He just wants to be a Student Council member. Paperwork, buying food and drinks, simple things. He has no vision.]

[Legally, neither have I.]

She laughed, with her curious gurgly chuckle. He’d come to love that sound. Then the corners of her mouth dipped as he looked on in concern.

[I need someone who knows people well. I’m not a very people person, I’m afraid. And Misha is very unhappy with me for some reason.]

[Do you want Misha to be happy?]

[If you can do that, you are truly a shaman, my knight of pizza boxes.]

[It’s all about the right information.]

[What do you mean?]

He smiled and kissed her gently on the cheek. He knew why Misha was unhappy, and he had just the solution. The wise general made his enemies join together, so that they could not hide separately.

*****

Yuuko quietly leafed through the long stack of returns to the library. Another copy of Shakespeare, something about rollercoaster design, a traveller’s guidebook about Tokyo, another four books in Braille about the history of tea… and a package? For a frozen moment, she stood there, realizing that it was addressed to her.

Yuuko plucked the heavy brown envelope out from the bin, but not before dropping it on the ground. After quickly reaffirming that she was indeed alone in the library, she picked the envelope off the ground and pried it open. A letter on fine pink stationery and a bubble-wrapped rose sat inside.

She read through it, then sat down, her rebellious heart thumping in her too-tight chest. Shiina Mikado? Who… ? Oh. Oh!

Yuuko closed her eyes. Experience had taught her that love could be a trap. Then again, she hadn’t quite been able to find true passion in her previous relationships. But she was a staff member! This would be wrong in so many ways.

Grimly, she realized that if she accepted the confession, it would have to wait till graduation. Could she wait that long?

In the gloom of the early morning light, she looked out through the glass door of her library, her sanctuary. There, leaning against the lockers and haloed against the hallway by that same light, she saw the girl with pink drills and short skirts waiting.

She wondered at such a strange twist of fate. She wondered if Misha would wait that long too.

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

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