Explained: A character or thing must be lost.
- The entity or object in question does not want to be found.
- The object or entity in question is lost due to a theft.
- The object or entity is of great significance to a person/group with no hope of being found.
- The entity or object in question is found.
- The object or entity didn’t seem important until it was gone.
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Void of Losing
A shade of what I once was. A darkness fogging my mind and a void takes home inside me. Who am I? Am I a Kind Saint? Giving everything I ever had mindlessly, just for the sake of helping others whilst my family and I live within poverty. Or, am I a Cruel Tyrant? Harming others by taking all I could so I can try, with the fullest of my power, to protect the people who wish to follow me. Does Kindness actually mean that giving everything away because of stupidity is a good thing? Does Cruelness actually mean that I am full of greed because I wish to guard all the people I care about? Which shall I choose to be?
Now the darkness grows and I am blind. The void took over my body as I lose memory of my past. I am now all but a living hollowed shell, with a history that shant be known. Who was I? Was I the Heroic Knight? Hired by a good king to go into the mountains and intrude in the home of a demonic beast. Once there, I am to save a princess who shall marry me upon my instant demand and then I shall steal the riches –In which I rightfully deserve– from the now dead lizard. Am I the Demonic Dragon? Who lays on a hoard of gold –in which I earned through my hard work of scavenging and collecting– sleeping as a king comes and takes away my home bit by bit, so he could dictate himself a divine power. When I wake I fight for what is left of my home, in fear of a slow death, for what was once my food and water is now gone. Or, am I the Helpless Princess? Who is deemed as nothing but a mindless figure, only to give pleasure to whoever I am to marry and shall never have a voice that will be heard by man? I would eventually meet a dragon, who would appreciate company and was willing to listen to my voice and talk to me like an intellectual instead of a woman, even though he will die because of my decision. Am I Honorable because I Murdered? Am I Evil Because I wish to protect what is mine? Am I helpless because I hold no voice? What past did I have?
The blinding darkness grows freezing cold as it began to consume me from the inside. There is no longer a growing void for I became it. As I continue to wander into the cold darkness I began to ask questions about my lost self. Where does my home lie? Am I in a Deathly Swamp? Swimming in the dirty, shallow waters, as fish of all sorts of colors swam around me. Covering the sky with oranges, reds, blues and greens were the dragonflies that majestically, yet powerfully, flew above me. Am I in a Lively Forest? Running through the simple, dull array of shadowed greens and browns as the light around me dims until there is nothing but blackness. Corpses of various animals could be seen in all directions and I take notice that I shall soon become a feast for the wolves, tigers, and flies that start to surround me. Am I in a Dry Desert? Walking upon the white sand dunes, which are blocking the nearby oasis from sight as I continue going along my way without knowledge of it. The more I walked in the unforgiving sun, the more spiked trees I saw; each green and shaped like a man, and each having its own fair share of sweet, sweet water. Or am I on a Safe Island Beach? I sit under a tree; the colors of this habitat show almost alien forms of beauty whilst the dangers are hidden alongside with my food and as I grow a deep thirst, which shall force me to drink the endless supply of water –I will have a slow but sure death from dehydration –should the island’s beautiful dangers decide not to get me first. Are the Swamps are deadly because of the hidden life under the mud? Are Forests lively because dark terrors capture all who dwell deep enough in it? Are Deserts dry because one must work for water? Are Islands safe because it is beautifully dangerous? Where shall I place my home?
Now I start to grow numb as I begin to lose my faith. I am now a void, discouraging myself from doing all that I wished to do. My clouded mind alters my personality more and more every second. My once blind eyes can see again as a grey mist surrounds me. Sounds could be heard from every direction and realization comes upon me. Something is missing yet I know not of what it was. Does this mean that it never held any true form of importance to me? Or, is it of importance but I've yet to realize it? Was it my identity? In which I would have lost within thought, only came upon the conclusion of good or evil. It is something that I could easily restart. In all honesty, it is something that never held any importance unless I grew fond of it. Was it my history? After all, this is something that many people would rather fib on to create good falsities so they can make themselves look better. Even if they decide not to make themselves look better, they are still capable of slandering the names of others with this new weapon. In the end, history is only how the successful decide to make it. Am I just lost? Without any sense of direction I would be wandering in a new lend, never to find my home again. I could just create a new home on the land around me, or find a home and claim it as my own. Without an identity, would I have a name to call my own? Without a history, shall I ever have a story to tell? If I am lost, shall I ever find my way back home? What is it that I have lost?
Still, nothing else comes to mind but that one question. I still feel hollow and incomplete as my body starts to freeze. I no longer have feeling in my body yet I still walk deeper and deeper within the mist. What once felt like minutes now feels like days. The only thoughts left inside my mind are questions. Now a sudden realization came as I understand that even if the object is not be of great importance, it was taken from me. Why? Was it to harm me? Making me feel unsafe by knowing that someone at any time could just come and take whatever he wished without me ever knowing. As I try to protect everything I had, my eyes can’t leave the things I own. Or, was it for Greed? Taking what isn't theirs to have, just for the pleasure of having whatever it is that they stole, and only to be used or sold by his unsuitable hands. He would play with what he has taken without remorse and would be careless with it and if it was sold, the item I have lost shall be sold to constant stream of people until it has completely shattered and thrown away. If it was to harm me, shall I ever be the same again? If it was for greed, what is the chance of me seeing it again? Why would a thief steal something that is mine?
Paranoia now consumes all but a relatively small portion of my mind. I may be able to see but still I am blind from the obvious in front of me. As I walk inside the cold, grey mist I begin to see a large object without any color of its own yet thousands of colors in it. “A Mirror? How strange.” I thought as I look at the mirror. In it I see myself. The color I once had is gone and now I hold more of a deathly look. I look closer in the mirror because the image in the mirror started to change. I then see myself in my warm, beautiful, and safe home; sitting on a desk with a feathered pen in hand and a large hand written contract lied on the table. I sign it as a deep laugh could be heard within the background. Why would this mirror show me this? Is it to show that the missing item was actually sold, yet I miss it? If so then I now deem it as a bad deal for I have gotten nothing in return. Is it to show that I did have an identity, a home and probably a history? If so, I wonder if it was a good one, or if I had any regrets before I came to forget about these things. Do I now desire the return of the thing object I sold? Do I really have a name, a past and a home? What is it that this mirror wished to show me?
Soon the mirror’s image changes back to me inside the mist. In it I see a shaded figure. As I turn around I saw the figure got startled by my sudden realization of its presence. Quickly it turned around and ran, me chasing not even a second after. The figure is trying to stay away from me with all its power. It refused to be captured. After a long game of cat and mouse, I suddenly slid down a cliff without foreseeing of its presence until it was too late. Once I landed to the bottom of the cliff, I looked up to see a sight that I couldn't believe. The figure was an exact replica of me, standing on the top of the cliff, laughing at me before it starts to run away. Why would I want to stay away from myself? Is it because inside I may loath who I am? Disliking the actions I have made, even though they were viewed as good by my pears. A secret hatred for the evil I have kept hidden inside me. Is it because I prefer solitude? My actions were never great or even known. My insipid personality prevented me from speaking up against the wrongs and justifying the rights of others. Or, is it because it wouldn't be necessary? I hold no regrets for the secret deeds that I have done for others. Even if some would shatter my name for the gain of power; I am still glad for whom and what I've became. Again I ask; what reason would I have, to stay away from myself?
It is now night, the mist shows it’s persistence on staying alive, for it still continues to stay with me. My heart is now aching for the emptiness to be gone. Days have turned into weeks and for my travels I found a castle. Its beauty was great and almost divine. I see to my left a man, dressed in all white and gold, his face hidden by his cloak’s hood and in his hands was gold, in which he threw around to all near him mindlessly. “Is this man a saint? Or is he a Fool?” I thought to myself before looking to my right. There I saw a man, wearing black armor with red spikes on it, sitting on a horse and looking powerful as he collected taxes, promising those he took money from that he shall one day find a way to help them all in their troubles while he hires more guards to guard the city from the bandits nearby. “Is he a Tyrant? Or is he a Guardian, trying to help all he can with what he has?” I thought to myself. Which would I rather be?
I continue to walk forward, into the castle. Directly after my first step inside it I could not believe what I was seeing. In front of me was a large room covered in pagan symbols and blasphemous portraits of a king, dictating himself a god. In the center back of the room was a black throne, made solely by poorly cleaned bones and golden fabric. Sitting on this dark Throne was a man, almost flawless in appearance and looking powerful. A Top hat was on his head as a pentagram was glowing red from the button on his hat. He looked like a good business man, yet with every breath he took let out a visibly cold cloud came, showing how cold he was in this world as he, the one who has all the power needed to make great changes in this world, would rather stay in luxury and take advantage of all below him until they all died away. Is this the true form of power?
Next to the King was a man, whose face was covered by a silver helmet, a golden cross on its forehead. He wore armor that was built to prove richness and even had diamond gemstones on it. In his Right hand was a spear, blackened with a blood red point as it still dripped blood from whatever it was he killed. The spear had skulls of humans on it and on the tip was a pentagram. He was the one who would willingly take all he ever could for the sake of pleasure.
Behind the King was a large picture. In it was the heroic knight, the same one next to the king, who was slaying what seemed to be an ugly, painted, green, evil dragon. Its eyes looked sad in the picture as its hand was pushing what seemed to be a beautiful princess away from the knight’s strike. Behind the Dragon was its hoard of gold and a small library of books. Behind the Knight was a city that was so close to the Dragon’s home and around it was death. Everything was taken by force from him, stolen thanks to the knight.
Above me was a girl, whose face was hidden by fabric, blue and pink was her dress. She was looking at the painting and a tear fell and landed on my hand. The desire to have a voice heard again longed in her soul. Under her dress was leather armor. Wishing to leave home for a life where even her quiet voice would be heard, for only her voice what the one that spoke truths.
Which of these three stories do I which to be?
The King stands up and a smile grew on his face. “ Ahh… Just the man I wanted to see. I wanted to thank you for what you've given me.” Said the man, his smile grew more sadistic and a chuckle came out shortly after.
“And what did I give you?” I inquired due to being confused and aggravated, for now I know who has taken what is mine from me.
A loud laugh came from the king and a scroll was held tightly in his hand, sealed with an elegant red ribbon. “ Isn't it obvious?” The king threw the old scroll onto the ground as it rolled towards me. Once it stopped rolling it opened revealing the contract I signed. The door opens as the Saint and the Tyrant walks inside. The Princess suddenly appeared on the ground, next to the Knight, his hand holding hers tightly as she subtly tries to resist his desires. Without warning a Dragon walks into the castle, His dark blue scales gleamed majestically as his golden underbelly shined gracefully in the light. I was scared at first, but then it started to turn into a human. To my surprise we both shared in the same appearance. Looking around the Princes slapped the Knight as she holds the Dragon’s hand. The Knight, the Tyrant, and the Saint all took off their head gear simultaneously; all of them looking identical clones of me.
As I continued to read the contract, all the pieces of this complicated puzzle began to combine and now the picture is making sense. What was taken was my soul. I was tricked into giving up the most precious I could ever own, always believing that it was nothing. My soul is now stolen by this devil king, only to be sold to my new Lord, God and Savior, the demon’s God for whatever he pleasures on doing with it.
With a quick response I asked, “Where is my soul? I demand it back and to give back whatever I gave you!”
The King laughed again before Replying to my question as though it was a joke. “Can you not tell? You are in it, and it is in the palm of my hand. The deal was made. You made your choice, and now you lose everything.”
My world shattered around me. The empty space within me grew heavy as I yield into the acceptance that I have lost. The Image is complete and has even grown into a bigger picture. There is no hope of finding my soul, for I was the one who let it go. Never shall I see its beauty, whether it was bright or dark it would still shall be quite the sight to see. Even though I can never find it, I am still within my soul and now I know the exact location it is in. In hell, soon to be polished and used for my new god’s throne. Deep with I know that, should I ever find my soul, it will be tainted enough by the demons of hell to the point where it shall refuse me and hide further away from me. For I have sold it to a greater evil instead of taking care of it.
Still, I know that even if it’s forever lost, it is a part of me. Even if I accept what has happened, I shant forget who I am and what I've done in this world. Even if my new god controls me, I shall speak about my beliefs against this great evil, even if it is blasphemy to him. Even if I lost my memory, I shall always have a story to tell. Even if I forget who I am, I know that I can find myself again. Even if I lose my home, I know that there is always a place waiting for me. So now I ask, “who is the true power of my life?” If not I, then who? Don’t we all influence each other’s lives? I see that everything is truly intertwined with the other. Now I see that I shall never lose everything.
((Manager's Note: The following is based off of Lord of the Rings.))
It came to the creature Gollum and in the limelight, he sat. His large, deep eyes watching the water, waiting. His pupils searched for something, something he wanted. His small yet powerful legs stretched out and he slowly made his way towards the water. His years in the dark had strengthened his skin. It no longer held the colour of sunlight, the sound of trees, nor did it recall the feeling of grass. The creature's skin was rough and hard, giving it perfect features for the cave it lived in. His hands were adapted for the perfectly silent movement he provided as he sculled towards the surface of the water. An uneasy breathing stopped as the creature got to the water's edge. There were silence for a short while. Two eyes followed a shadow that moved slowly in the dark water, turning and twisting among the rocks. Yet in a swift movement, the liquid shifted and the creature Gollum was once again perched in the limelight.
In that sudden movement, the creature's large and unearths hands had reached into the water, pulling the scaly animal from its home and dragging it to the top of the mound. Gollum looked down at the being he had in his hands and traced his eyes along every inch as the fish began to flap its tail and head around. It gasped for air as a coy and foul grin appeared on the rotting mouth of Gollum. He lifted the creature to his lips and quickly bit in. Blood filled his mouth, followed by the salty flesh of the fish he'd so easily caught.
Gollum soon picked up his ears, listening to a rumbling sound echo from beyond his cave. The creature frowned and crept quickly yet silently from his rock and onto the small boat he had crafted himself. He lay down and began to pull his hands threw the water, creating ripples with each stroke. He made his way across the expanse of water, watching as the lake lapped the rocky shores of his cave. Once across, he pulled himself onto the rocks, pulling his tiny boat with him. He crawled across the rocks, listening as the booming echo grew louder and louder.
His ears could vaguely hear what was causing the noise to disturb his most secret of caves. He crept along the tunnel, looking about as his large eyes scanned the darkness for movement. It was alien as Gollum continued through the rocky caves, searching for the cause of the booming. He reached an opening and looked up. Above him was the Goblin King's empire. He watched as, thousands of goblins scaled the sides of the cave, more easily than he did. His eyes followed them as they congregated around one location. It was shouting that was causing the echo to pass through his cave. He watched as goblins are knocked from their bridge, as a small group of larger creatures forced their way to freedom. He was almost mesmerised when something else caught his eyes. Something was falling. His irregular breathing almost squealed as a goblin fell from the cave above.
Gollum turned and scurried down the cave, gripping his his hands and pushing away with his feet. He leant down in the darkness and waited. His breathing almost purring. He watched as the goblin screamed, falling and plummeting down towards his cave. Goblins knew to avoid the darkness below, yet the foul smell Gollum created was all the knew. He was their thief in the darkness, their burglar.
The goblin landed with a thud and Gollum felt elated. Goblin was always tastier than fish. He crawled forwards, hazardous at first. He made his way towards the injured being, unaware of the second pair of eyes that watched his prey. He climbed above the creature and pulled it over. Just like the fish, the goblin began to squeal. The unearthly hands soon found a rock and raised it above head height. There was a foul glow in Gollum's eyes as he smashed down the rock on the goblin's skull. A foul nose followed along with the sudden stillness of the broken creature. Gollum smiled and began to pull the creature through the tunnel and back to his cave.
He yanked and tugged, trying to outmatch the heaviness of the goblin with his own strength. He gripped his prey's clothing and pulled him down into his cave. After further struggling, Gollum threw him out onto the rocky shore of his cave.
It was in this moment that the fact of Middle Earth changed. The One Ring slipped from the pockets of the creature Gollum and it perceived its chance of freedom. There it lay in the darkness, waiting for a more likely creature to arrive and deliver it to its master. It was that moment, that it awake after hundreds of years in the dark. It's message shook the foundations of the earth and whispered its name along the wind, giving way for the darkness to creep back into the world.
Gollum pulled his prey and meal onto his boat and eagerly set out for his rock once more. He lay low, forcing the limp body to remain on the raft with his powerful legs. Fish darted from nearby, each having a innate feeling of fear as the water rippled with each stroke. Gollum reached his own shore and leapt free of the raft. He breathed giddily and once again began to tug the meal free and onto his rock and home. He grabbed the cloth of the creature and heaved it up onto the small rocky cliff he called home.
Another noise then caught his ears. He dropped low and crept round in the shadow of his rock. Something was moving on the shore opposite him. He growled quickly and stalked onto his boat. His movements were even more silent than his hunting of the fish.
"Filthy goblins, coming into our homes." He spat, watching the figure as he rowed himself to the shore opposite. It was only as he got close did he notice what it was. Not a goblin, precious, not a nasty goblin. Not an orc's either. Not an elf nor a dwarf. Nor a nasty man. He silently moored his boat and crept round onto the higher rocks above the creature. What is it? What's is it? Precious, what's is it? Kill it and eats its heart, we must.
Gollum immediately jumped down, rock in hand and attempted to smite the intruder before he had time to speak. Gollum fell and rolled on the rocks, watching as the man stumbled back. He watched as a sword was drawn from the sheath and glowed in the dark. Nasty Elf! It's a nasty Elf, precious. It's got an Elvish sword. The sight of such a blade only made Gollum more angry and he tried once more for an attack, only to be stopped as the Hobbit encouraged a diplomatic solution. "A Hobbit, we don't know what a Hobbits is?" He sniggered, creeping round to look closer at the creature. "But its wants to play a game with us? A game of Riddles. Oh, we likes that game don't we precious? Of yes, we does."
The two riddled for a short while only until Gollum realised the answer to Bilbo's final riddle. "You tooks it?! The thief tooks it from us! He tooks my precious, he tooks the precious." A foul coughing left Gollum's mouth and he growled and leapt forwards, chasing after Bilbo as he ran.
He yelled and made a leapt towards him. Bilbo was lucky to have missed such an attack as he turned the corner and made his way out into the tunnel once more. Gollum screamed and followed after him. He turned the corner and followed the path as it wined down the rocks and deeper into the mountain. Above him was the echoing once more. It was louder as hundreds of Goblin's scurried after Bilbo's companions. Gollum, however was oblivious to the cause of the racket but he knew preciously who'd taken his ring. He hurried after Bilbo, darting into a tunnel that lead down too paths. He sneered and smelt the air. One smelt foul yet the other smelt damp and normal. He smiled his foul smile and continued after the foul smell.
He chased as fast as his legs would chase and he soon found Bilbo, wedged between two rocks. "We've got him now, precious. He's trapped with nowhere to go." He laughed a little and watched as Bilbo managed to slip between the rocks. During the struggle, Bilbo's waistcoat snagged a rock, causing his escape to pause for a moment. After one quick tug, he was free. Gollum screamed in anger and leapt after him again. He hurried down one tunnel, following the foul smell until it suddenly disappeared. Gollum growled and hurried further down the tunnel. He looked left and right, searching for the blue glow the Hobbit caused. He soon saw the light and growled even louder. "Nasty Hobbit has escaped!" He spat, sprinting down the tunnel and towards the exit. The thundering noise from above grew stronger but this time was no so loud. He ducked behind a rock as thirteen figures darted past. He watched one man, clad in all grey stopped and edged each of the others past him. His eyes traced back to behind Gollum for a moment and before he too left the tunnel. Gollum lifted himself from behind his rock and looked out along the tunnel, waiting for Bilbo to reappear.
There was nothing for a long while. No movement. No sounds. Just the sound of Gollum's ragged breathing. He sneered and lumped down on the ground. It was then that he felt it. A breeze. A breeze from the rocks. He made a leap forwards. His hands reached out for where Bilbo's foot should have been. His fingers traced the edge of it before falling short. Gollum fell forwards into the dust and watched as his precious disappeared on the finger of a thief.
"Precious!" He yelled, anger and sadness on his voice. It was not the only one to usher such a word into the world. Hundreds of miles away, another being, without form, murmured the name of the Ring, knowing that judgement was at hand. Yet, the Ring had no perceived to be found so soon. Instead of waiting in the dark, a Hobbit had stumbled across it. It had been something the Ring did not expect.
The notice in the local newspapers said:
"Aruno, Yazaki, age 19, died in an accident."
But that short notice changed the lives of three girls,
Nishika Mayuki was reading the newspapers from her boyfriend's hometown, where he went to spent his winter holidays. Mayuki stopped at the picture of her boyfriend, then read the word "died" and burst into tears in the middle of having a coffee with her friends. Yoko, one of them asked: "Mayuki-chan what is wrong?" Mayuki just showed the paper and the two other girls fell silent. Mari was the first to speak up: "Mayuki-chan. I think the best is that you head for your apartment. Everyone form class knew how you and Aruna-kun loved each other. Yoko-chan please contact Watari-sensei and let her know. I will escort Mayuki-chan back home." Mayuki just nodded, shrouded in despair. "Why? Why? Why?" her mind repeated, fallen deep into sadness of her sudden loss. Although it took only ten minutes by tram the return home stretched into days in Mayuki's mind. Her world fell apart and her mind was colored in shades of gray. The plan to marry at the end of summer, to live together with Aruno, it all disappeared. When she came home Mayuki changed her clothing, automatically, and headed for bed in which she spent the night crying, finally falling asleep with the first rays of the Sun.
She was woken up when Yoko and Mari came to visit her, with a load of sweets for Mayuki, around noon. Mari asked if she could use the kitchen and make a lunch for them all. Mayuki nodded from her bed. Yoko told her that Watari-sensei understood how Mayuki felt and notified the other professors at the university about Mayuki's absence. Yoko also mentioned that there will be a commemoration service for Aruno tomorrow and that Mayuki should come to. After a light lunch Mayuki cried, with Yoko and Mari exchanging in which give her a shoulder to cry on. As night over took the day they had a light diner and said goodbye. Mayuki feel into a restless sleep...
Yazaki Wari was there when the whole incident happened and it run trough her head again and again. The small kid running after her ball, the car coming in, her looking at Onii-san rushing to save the kid. Her tears were mixed with his blood on that day and from that time she couldn't stop crying after him. He was her kind, smart and cool Onii-san, but now he was just a corpse, a empty shell of what once was a breathing human being. Wari shut herself in her room and refused meals, to sad to even feel hunger. Again and again she looked at the picture of her and Onni-san together with mom and dad at a theme park in Tokyo on the day that Onii-san got accepted into university. Wari run trough the memories of Onii-san that she held so dear in her heart, but nothing quenched the sadness in her heart. Onii-san, her column and support was not here anymore. Then, around four in the evening the door rang and a familiar voice talked with mom, it was Arari-chan. Soon the sound of footsteps came from the staircase an only a few moments later Arari knocked on the door and said: "Wari-chan, it's me Arari. Open up." Wari sprung for her bed and opened the door, let Arari enter and closed the door, locking it so no one else enters. Arari spoke, after sitting down next to Wari: "Wari-chan, why are you doing this? You are hurting yourself and your family. It was not your fault. Don't you think that Aruno-san would do the same in your situation?" At those words Wari knew what she should do, one one last time she burst into tears one more time, only to be held by Arari until all her tears have flown out. With her sadness brought down Wari and Arari joined Wari's mother and father for dinner, after which Arari left and Wari went to sleep.
The next day Wari was busy helping with the preparations for a traditional ceremony for Onii-san and didn't have time to cry out her heart. The ceremony was to be on the 18th and a funeral will be held on the 20th, which given enough time for relatives and friends to gather for it. That made Wari quite busy but it was for Onii-san so she didn't regret doing it...
Felicia Redwood couldn't get stop thinking about that day when the knight risked his life to save her. For some reason she couldn't remember how it all ended no matter how much she tried, it always ended with her rolling into a nearby bush and then nothing until she saw a paramedic checking if she was alright. With determination she snuck out of her room into her dad's study, which was now empty since Mister Redwood was on his work, and turned on the computer which was there. Felicia soon remembered everything about the incident. It was a display of bravery, but with a tragic end. Felicia decided to attend the funeral…
The commemoration for Yazaki Aruno was a nice and beautiful display of how much he meant to everyone. The headmaster held a speech:
"Yazaki Aruno was a student that anyone would want to have. Smart, atlethich and kind to everyone around himself no matter if it was a friend or a total stranger. Yazaki Arano was ..." Mayuki couldn't bear herself to listen anymore and silently left for the bathroom but was intercepted by Yoko and Mari which stopped her from doing something that she would regret later and gave her strength to at least stay in the hall. Finally she was called to the podium and only a slight push form Mari got her moving forward. Mayuki spoke: "You all know what Aruno-san meant to me. I don't think that words are needed to convey that. Thank you for this. I think that now I can accept that he is dead. Thank you." And Mayuki quickly retreated to the closest exit followed closely by Yoko and Mari. The afternoon she spent crying over Aruno and fell into a restless sleep.
The next day Mayuki headed to buy some black clothing for Aruno's funeral back. After getting those she returned to her room and packed her luggage, took the metro and tram and finally richens the airport. She landed in San Francisco late at night and was picked up by Aruno's dad. As soon as she put down her things and changed into pajamas she fell asleep in her bed.
Wari did her best to avoid crying during the ceremony and somehow made it trough without tears. The ceremony was small with only Wari, her mother, her father, cousin Karo and grandmother Nami. But the ceremony made Wari understand that Onii-san was gone and will never get back. With the ceremony over she run into her room and drenched her pillow with tears for a few hours, but returned to help mother and father prepare for the funeral.
The next day Wari was busy with preparations for the funeral until around five in the afternoon when Arari came to get her. Although Arari had to almost drag out Wari our of the house the two headed to a nearby sweet shop and Arari treated Wari with a nice number of sweets while trying her best to cheer Wari up with silly stories from school. Finally three hours and a mountain of sweets later Arari accompanied Wari to the door of the Yazaki house. After a long hug Wari said: "See you tomorrow." Arari ended: "Yeah tomorrow." Wari entered the house, run upstairs and changed into a pajama, returned into the kitchen to put something into her stomach and went to bed early.
On the morning of the 18th Felicia comforted their parents and said: "I want to attend the funeral of Aruno Yazaki!" After a short conversation Felicia's parents agreed. That afternoon Felicia and her mother went to buy some black clothing for both of them and returned at the same time as Felicia's father. After finishing her homework Felicia went into her room to think about what to say about Aruno who she didn't know at all. As she scribbled down her speech fallen and Felicia eaten dinner together with her parents and afterwards went to sleep.
The next day went normally for her. Nothing special happened. "But it will be tomorrow what counts," she thought as she fell asleep...
20th, Aruno's funeral
The funeral came. On that day three girls meet up.
The first loved him and wanted share all with him, but he died.
The second knew him her whole life and looked up to him, but he died.
The third was saved by him and was responsible for the fact that he died.
It was by the casket that they spoke up.
The first talked about passion, future and love.
The second talked about dependence, past and love.
The third talked about bravery, sacrifice and being alive.
Three messages they threw into the casket.
The first of deep passion.
The second of devotion.
The third of salvation.
In the cover of a car the three cried their tears.
The first for the future which is never to come.
The second for the past that has been long gone.
The third for the dream that is smashed to none.
And as their cries become one those three spoke.
The first of lost hope.
The second of memories.
The third of illusions.
15th, tenth anniversary of Aruno's death.
Three woman stand in front of the grave of Yazaki Aruno.
The first is Fallborn (Nishika) Mayuki, now 29 years old, and a mother of two beautiful children which once loved the man which rests here.
The second is Yazaki Wari, soon Nashano, 26 years old, and five months pregnant, who is the younger sister of the man which rests here.
The third is Felicia Redwood, now 20 years old, currently studying law to become a judge, she was one once saved by the man which rests here.
The three speak in unison:
"We all lost something on that day ten years ago and can never get it back, but since we are humans we have to move one and live our lives. Rest in peace Aruno."
And the three went their separate way until the next anniversary...
What Nothing Can Replace
I took a deep breath. This was going to be difficult. But… there was no reason to worry. There was no way they could discover what was lost. And even if they did, there was nothing they could do about it.
I was a normal girl, sixteen years of age. I was of slim build, and I had my black haired tied in a ponytail, because it fit my style. As any girl, I was going to school. Yes, the school was here. I had successfully managed to confirm class and year using my own notes from different note-books, even managed to find a useful printed schedule for where I was to be next and an online map of the school ensuring I was not going to be getting lost. That was the first step. The easy one, but a very vital to get right. Due to it I now knew where to go. I had managed to memorize the schedule and roughly where in our studies we were currently using those notes. Thankfully, I wrote a lot in the past. Now to get this underway.
Currently, I was walking on the outside of the corridor towards the classroom where I was headed. Girls and boys of different ages are spread out across the school, some studying, some lazing about, others walking to their set locations. I know none of them. I wonder how many know me? There seemed to be at least one or two girls who gave me a friendly look. Do I know them? … I will find out. I will find out the hard way. But find out I will. It will only be difficult the first few times and then I will have learned. Meaning that this time, the absolutely first time, would be the absolutely most difficult one. Alright, I just need to…
The classroom. There was a number of minutes before class starts. Physics, I believe. A few students were spread out beside desks and on their seats. Did we have seats? I didn’t know. The girls over there, the boys over there? No idea. I lazily walked over to the wall and leaned on it, a fair distance from anyone else, waiting for class to start. I attempted not watching anyone directly. I didn’t know what group I usually hanged out with, after all. Soon enough, however… a number of girls over there started shifting their eyes toward me periodically. Soon enough another girl came into the classroom and walked… straight over to me. A slightly taller girl with shoulder-length straight brown hair and a somewhat reliable look. Must be someone I knew. Perfect, now I merely have to follow her to rejoin my group of friends.
“Hello, Aria.” She said, stopping beside me and fixed her eyes on me.
“Hi.” I looked back and answer with a light smile. Everything nice should be accompanied by a smile, right?
“You didn’t come yesterday. Were you alright?” She asked, seemingly worried. I sighed silently, and responded without lying.
“My mom was hospitalized. She tripped in a staircase. I was visiting her. Now I temporarily live alone until she gets better.”
Another brown-haired girl, with somewhat shorter hair with a more innocent aura had apparently come within hearing-range as she suddenly exclaimed “Oh, I am so sorry to hear that! Are you alright? Will she be alright?” A blond girl with an annoyed expression approached from right behind her. “Tsk. Bad timing. We would have had use of you in our game…” Before I knew it, a small group of girls had gathered in my corner. I answered their questions with as much truth I can muster while silently making an effort to recognize each one. These had to be my friends. So, these girls… I know all these girls. Yet, I don’t. How come humans say each other’s names so rarely? It has both helped and made things more troublesome… How come I had no school-photo-book at home?
The teacher came in. Only way I knew the glassed man was our teacher was because he was significantly older than the rest. Just as he came in, everybody hurried to very specified seats. Damn. We have fixed seats. I stayed motionless, allowing people to walk around to their seats. When everybody had sat down, I would have less of a chance of picking the wrong seat. Soon, I was the only one standing. Making sure to not take too long to seem suspicious, I sat right down at the first spot I found. Right beside the blond girl. … And immediately came the question.
“… Why are you sitting down here?” The blond girl asked at once, annoyance present in her glare. … It was impossible, huh? I tried to force back my pained look. As I thought, this was going to be difficult.
“I felt like sitting here. There should be no problem, should there?” I asked, trying to seem natural. Yep. One-way ticket to delinquency. I just simply had to overcome this trial to return to normal life.
“Aria, please return to your seat. You are not exempted from the rules.” The teacher’s word was final. Ouch. This wasn’t good. So I relocated… trying to walk in a controlled fashion without showing my doubt. … And I had to relocate a number of times, each time the receiving more confused looks from my classmates and annoyance from the teacher and those who wanted class to start. Finally, I managed to end up on what was apparently my seat right beside the first brown-haired girl… Oh, and now that I could see her note-book on the table, her name was apparently Sasha…
“Hey, what was the reason for that?” Sasha whispered to me with a worried look.
“… Don’t worry about it. I won’t do it again.” And that, that was the truth. Because now I knew my place, literally. Sasha… one down. … Thirty-something to go?
Alright. The lessons were as I could have expected them. I knew my physics, this was no problem. None of the other classes were any problem either. School… was not my obstacle. So, now I merely had to survive the social bit. Blend in with the rest. It couldn’t be that hard.
“Oy~ Aria~ Can I have your help with my physics-homework in the afternoon~?” A guy, overly goofy in his grin, tall and with a slightly wide frame looked at me hopefully. I carefully resisted raising my eyebrow. He wants my help with homework? A guy like him asking a girl like me? Did we have a special relationship of any kind? I was disgusted by the thought of it. If we were, I’d so be breaking up with him as quickly as possible. In any case, now was not the time for that. Everyone was assuming I knew the things I knew, so I should not ask. Alright. Answer.
“Sure. If you’re having problems, I can help. At the library later today.” I tried to sound as friendly as possible. The guy’s expression twisted in some mixture of chock and joy while looking at me, and several girls and boys stared at me in confusion. Oh, god, no. My sleeve is instantly grabbed and I’m pulled around face to face to Sasha.
“Are you insane!?” She whispered almost loudly, looking at me in some mixture of doubt and anger. What had I done now…? “Why would you allow that… that leech to get close to you!? … Actually, nevermind that. Wasn’t there something you had to do today!? Have you forgot!?” … Wow, the glare. I swear I couldn’t have been the only one to hear that whisper. I felt rather powerless. Leech? I had no idea. So, I was supposed to do something today? Well… um…
“What if I have?” I ask, as innocently as humanly possible. Sasha’s only response was a stare of disbelief. Ooooooo… kaaaaaaaaay… So, did I say something I shouldn’t have? Did I ruin a friendship forever? Damn, that went fast. Sasha quickly turned around and walked resolutely out. I decided not to follow, because… uh… delinquency! Perfect explanation! … Damn, this is hard. In any case, I needed to fix the confused looks looking at me throughout the classroom. I turned slowly and asked out loud…
“Anyone else want to come? We can arrange a study-session, so we can all have our homework completed in time.” There was a moment of silence, in which people didn’t seem to have heard, the guy who had asked suddenly seeming disappointed it wouldn’t be only the two of us, and then…
“… I’ll come merely to make certain you’re not alone with that guy.” “Yeah, me too then.” “I’ll come!” “Count me in.” “I’m good to go!” And a few others that nodded or waved approvingly. Alright, I fixed something while lost something else. Now, what was I supposed to do today? I never knew.
From there, the day went pretty smoothly. I learned the names of plenty of my classmates without them knowing any better (I had them all sign a list of attendance just because), an angel from who knows where from another class came across me in a corridor and asked if I was ready for tennis-training the day after (who-hoo, god bless muscle-memory) and I managed to avoid most awkward situations of knowledge I should know but didn’t. Apparently I’m better at homework than I once was according to some of those I helped, but no matter. And fortunately as far as I could gather I was not in any relationship. Thank you, higher powers. That night, I could go to bed with a smile that I had successfully completed the first and most important day quite successfully. Well, except that glaring opening of an error with Sasha. … But hopefully, that wouldn’t be a problem. … Right?
… Knock, knock. Someone was knocking on my window. I was the only one in the house, I was the only one the knock could be intended for. Hey, it was the middle of night. Why this now? I was in a rather embarrassing pajamas here, already in bed. … Ergh. So I pull up and open the windo-
“Hello, Aria.” … A guy. A guy with orange hair, a charming smile, an impressive build and eyes directed dedicatedly at me. A guy I am positively sure I have never seen before, just like any of my classmates at school. Coming in at this late at night. I quickly worked through the implications as I stared in surprise. … Oh, GOD, NO.
“Your mother’s at the hospital, right? So then, I thought I’d keep you company. If you let me in, I’ll…” The guy started pulling his legs up to scissor his legs up through the window, and-
“No.” I said blankly. “No, no, no, no no no nononono…” I pushed his legs back out. My expression must have looked absolutely horrible. The feelings going through me was some mixture of embarrassment and reluctance. Damn it… a GUY, sneaking it at THIS hour. WHO AM I!? Of course, he lost his smile and started looking at me with questioning eyes.
“But… didn’t we agree to this date? I thought you…” … Oh, gosh, me. I must have been in for the time of your life. Too bad I wasn’t me anymore. Me must have been mentally prepared, I sure am not.
“No, I don’t want to. Not when mom is hospitalized like this. I’m tired, and I don’t want the guilt of taking advantage of her injury on top of it all.” … That… that should be true enough, right? “I-I just want to sleep. I’m sorry…” … He stared at me after my confession. Then, he regained his little charming smile and…
“I’m sorry to hear that. I understand. Then I shall retreat silently into the night to return when the time is right. … Though can I have a good-night kiss first?” … He smiled hopefully. … I don’t even know his name. … D-damn it… I hesitated, looking into his blue eyes…
… Way to go, me. You really set this life up for you, didn’t you. Good grades, above average family-income, popular at school, a charming boyfriend… I have everything, don’t I? Well… I guess otherwise I wouldn’t be… me… I couldn’t help but smile as I lay in my bed later at night, heart pounding in my chest, hand out over my mouth touching my lips as I couldn’t stop thinking about that one boy I had never seen before who just… happened to be mine… This was just too perfect, wasn’t it?
The days went on. Soon, by quickly acquiring a list of my classmates I was able to remember them one by one. My friends, Sasha, Cheri, Elisabeth, some more… Actually relearn what I already should know, but in any case. I soon also could learn the name of my boyfriend via my mobile-phone’s contacts and by helpful games with my friends… (“How’s it going with you-know-who?” “Who? I won’t know unless you ask clearly…” “Oh, you know… Matthew…” “… Oh, him… Heh-heh…”) Also, I learned in-time that I was a member of the nearby tennis club, so I came to practice. It went better than I thought it would, my body remembering what I didn’t in there. For a number of days, everything was settling in just fine~! I was forgetting things here and there and needed to be ‘reminded’, but the times where I lacked knowledge grew fewer and fewer. I was rediscovering myself. This was great!
“… So, Sasha, why did you call me here…?” I asked, as I stood inside the currently empty library together with my friend. She seemed somewhat mysterious currently. I had no idea why. The brown-haired girl looked straight at me, the dark-blue afternoon sky shining through the window behind her…
“Aria. Do you remember the first thing I said to you, first time we met, back in elementary school?” … Um. No, I don’t. Uh…
“… I’m sorry. I hardly have any memories from so far back…” I say, hoping to wave the matter off.
“We didn’t meet until first year of high-school.” … … … … … … … … … … I took a moment to register that I had been tricked. Damn. Um, damn. … Damn. … It… it was of no consequence. There was no way she could recover what was lost.
“… I’m sorry for deceiving you all.” I said. There was no way around it now. I looked apologetically at Sasha, who glared at me demanding an answer. “I lost my memories. It had something to do with my mother tripping. I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to…”
“I’m sorry too. I am not going to allow you to continue talking.” Sasha picked up something from her pocket, her eyes fixed at me. I felt a shiver grow within me. What… what? That… no, wait… that badge…! … Sasha’s eye-color changed as her demeanor… and spirit… changed completely.
“I am Deborah Holliman of the Crystalline Inter-dimensional Police Department. I have temporarily taken control of the body of Sasha Glynde to complete this mission. Gregory Dalph. You are arrested for illegal dimension-jumping and for the possession of Aria Shearer. Let the girl have her body back, old man.”
… They… they discovered me. How…? No…! This was impossible! I should have gone off the radar! How was it possible that they… no, this was too convenient. How could the best friend of the one I possessed be in contact with the Crystalline!? The people of this world shouldn’t even know they exist! … Unless they could somehow detect roughly where I jumped… and then ask around…
“I see your confusion, however the solution is very easy. We discovered the traces of where you had appeared after you got lost, and then we simply searched the nearby schools for people who recently forgot where to sit during class. You old people…” Sasha’s eyes narrowed in an expression of light disgust. “… have far too strong an attraction for school-youths for your own good. Give yourself up.”
I couldn’t give myself up. Not after this. I had found the most suitable and fortunate soul to live my new life though, and this… no. This couldn’t happen. I quickly jab forward, gritting as I tap into my inner powers usually used by our kind. Telekinetic fists were aimed for the body of my friend. Seemingly realizing what I was doing, she pulled up protection, but I hadn’t grown old in one body for nothing. The no doubt young officer in an even younger body couldn’t match my speed. She was hit, and flung into the war with a yelp where she then fell down and didn’t move. … I had held back. I couldn’t kill Sasha, friend of Aria’s, friend of mine. So… I needed to flee. Flee if I needed to keep my life. My life as Aria. My life with good grades, healthy background, nice boyfriend and everything. A life with promise. I needed one.
So, I ran outside. As fast as my girly legs could carry me. But… unfortunately, Deborah was obviously not the only officer out to secure me. As soon as I left the building, the bright light of their stunning blasts shot at me from all directions, myself chocked by their speed before being stunned and Aria’s body fell motionless in front of the school… My body… The one I was going to live such an adventurous life with…
“We thank you for your aid, Sasha.” The officer told the girl.
“I only did what came naturally, mam.” The brown-haired girl with shoulder-long hair responded. She didn’t need to use ‘mam’, really, but…
“Thanks to you, the lost prisoner Gregory is once again in captivity and Aria has recovered her original body. We wouldn’t have been able to get so close if we hadn’t been allowed to use your body. The Crystalline thanks you for your assistance.”
“Ah… I really didn’t do that much. Really… I just called a friend and talked about how Aria’s personality seemed to have changed and you guys picked up the conversation and sought me out because it matched the occurrences when a person possesses another. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have got involved at all.” Ah, so it WAS possible to embarrass her. Good. That meant she still was as innocent as before. Deborah lifted up her badge and looked into it, as it records what she said.
“It appears Gregory made Aria’s mother trip and hurt herself while committing the possession. He’ll be spending a while in a dimensional prison. Aria may be a bit shaken, but she’ll return to her normal self soon enough. If you need anything, call this number.” The dimensional officer put down a paper with a number on it, smiling gently at Sasha. “I will now take my leave, since I am no longer required here. You may return to your mundane world. If you wish, you could call us and ask to be hired if inter-dimensional crime-solving sounds exciting to you, but that’s a decision for another day.” Deborah chuckled as she stood up and looked down on the girl. “I wish you good luck.”
… And then, she was gone. No awesome special-effects, just… gone. No sound, no flash, just gone. Left in the chair, Sasha silently bent forward, picking up the note with the number… Oh, what a pretty number. One could call it any second and contact the Crystalline. How fun. In a bed on the other side of the house, Aria was currently sleeping, her black hair spread over pillows and her expression soundly asleep, the original personality of the innocent girl back where it belonged.
Sasha stared at the number, feeling the paper crumble slightly in her fingers. … Then, she began to giggle. A soundly amused little giggle, echoing through the house in the night, never seeming to quite stop.
That went surprisingly well.
Where is it goddammit? Where is it? Nick thought as he tore through the forest, his feet disappeared into the bed of fallen leaves on the ground with each step. The soles on his feet groaned for him to slow down and his thighs burned from the desperate, lolloping run he had maintained for what seemed like an hour now. He paused for a moment beneath a pine, its branches now absent of needles let through broken bars of moonlight as he turned on the spot, looking this way and that and clutched at handfuls of his brown hair. Can’t have gone far, can’t have. No, no, no, it’s here. It’s... well, it’s somewhere. There? He paused, a hand lowering in a tired gesture in the vague direction of the endless rows of trees before him. No, maybe... He turned to look behind him. No. Fuck! Nick kicked at the ground and sodden leaves and pine needles erupted into the air and scattered in a rustling shower on the forest floor. He had been running for so long that the whole exercise seemed futile. Jesus, he couldn’t even remember why he was running in the first place. His hand grasped a handful of his t-shirt as he sagged to his knees and panted in hoarse bursts. He could feel the thumpthumpthump of his heart through the fabric and, yet, that wasn’t all there was to the gesture. There was a sense of emptiness, of something lost. The sensation reminded him of jigsaw puzzles assembled when he was young, the hours he would dedicate to the venture only to find a single a piece missing. He would kneel there on his bedroom floor and stare at the gap in silence, not blinking, perhaps not even breathing. He would scowl at that vacuum as if the missing piece would somehow materialise, as if the universe would take pity on the poor boy that could not complete his jigsaw and work a little miracle. But there were never any such miracles. The young Nick would even breathe a deep sigh before sending the pieces tumbling through the air with a few swipes of his hand. The older Nick, the Nick of now felt the cold wind on his face, its touch exaggerated by the layer of sweat that had formed on his forehead. The same unintelligible rage welled up in him now; that same anger at a foiled solution, of an incomplete puzzle.
Except he resisted it now.
He sucked the cold air into his lungs and breathed it out in a cloud of vapour. Once, twice, three times just as his Dad had taught him. Nick wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of a hand and lurched to his feet. Can’t be far now. Maybe if I try to remember where I last saw it then, maybe, I can work out its general direction. He turned to face the way he had come and retraced his steps. All about him was quiet except for the rustle and occasional crunch of his footfalls. Nick came to a stop in a small, irregular clearing in the trees where he had last saw it. Whatever it was. The whole venture had been hampered by the simple fact that he never knew what it was he searched for. He knew he must, the necessity of his search spurred him on, gave him a near endless well of energy to draw on but it was without a single goal, a target. He did know, however, that he’d know what he was searching for when he saw it. Nick turned on the spot a few times, trying to get his bearings and to see if anything he could see would jog his memory.
“You won’t find it, you know,” said a voice behind him.
As he spun to stare in the direction of the voice, he became vaguely aware of movement almost as if a shadow had passed over the corner of his eye. Nick turned his head toward the movement but saw nothing. “It doesn’t want to be found.” The voice was male and yet with a female softness around the edges and seemed to shift seamlessly between light and deep tones. Almost as if the words were spoken by a small child at the end of a long tunnel.
“What?” Nick asked the night. “Who are you?”
The shadow drifted just out of sight again.
“Who, am, I?” The voice said with a deliberate enunciation of each word and sound as if each was alien to it. “What an interesting question.”
“At least stay the fuck still!” Nick shouted. “Jesus!”
“Are you sure?” The voice came from over his shoulder. Nick turned towards the sound but stopped short.
A porcelain mask shrouded in a black cowl peered over his shoulder, frozen in a look that only vaguely hinted at amusement. Nick collapsed to the ground with a yell and scrambled across the ground, sending a shower of wet leaves and pine needles as he went. “I did ask if you were sure.”
Nick wasn’t sure if voices could carry a smile but that one sounded like it wanted to.
“Who, what, I-” Nick closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, trying to quell the shaking in his hands and knees. He wasn’t quite as frightened as he thought he was but now that the initial shock was passing he was surprised to find himself relatively calm. Scratch that, he wasn’t calm, he was damn well pissed off. “Who the hell are you?” He demanded, opening his eyes. Where he had previously stood was the shrouded shape of a tall man with no discernible feet or hands and only the porcelain mask was exposed.
The figure swayed to the left, just a little before seeming to stretch until its lower half disappeared beyond the reaches of Nick’s sight to the right and then shot out of sight like a rubber band all in a blink of an eye. Nick jerked his head one way and then another as he scrambled to his feet but saw nothing.
“You ask me as if I know, as if anyone has anything more than the most fleeting of grasps of their identity,” the voice seemed to be coming from multiple directions at once and was accompanied by the fluttering of its cloak as it moved amongst the trees. “Do you wish to know a name, my purpose or what I am, in myself? Do you even know? It’s the sort of question that you people ask without thinking, almost as if it were part of a ritual practised for centuries. First you ask them who they are, then where they are from and what they do that gives them purpose, that justifies their existence within your mind. You ask all of these things as if they matter, as if they will give you an insight into the lives and existence of others.”
Nick rubbed his face with his hand, in a show of exasperation rather than disbelief.
“That isn’t an answer.”
“Very well,” the voice sighed, settling behind him. “I have no identity that is my own, no purpose given or taken and I am from everywhere and nowhere.”
Nick turned to stare into the eyes of the porcelain mask that towered over him. The figure was perhaps twice his own height and was bent double to peer into his face.
“I’m looking for something,” Nick said.
“Oh? What does it look like?”
“I, I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember,” it repeated.
“Yes, but it’s important. Something, I don’t know,” he paused, gathering his thoughts. A frown of concentration fluttered across his face and then was gone. “Something vital.”
“Vital,” the figure echoed.
“Do you always do that? Repeat what other people say, I mean.”
“Perhaps,” Nick scowled into the black depths of the eye sockets of the porcelain mask before him. He could have sworn that the lips twitched into a fuller smile. “So you seek something important vital but you cannot remember what it is. How very paradoxical.”
“Well if it was truly important then you would know everything about it, how it looks, how it smells, how heavy it is. If you’re ignorant of something then surely it doesn’t really matter to you.”
“How can you be so sure? You’ve set off into a strange place with vague intentions. No wonder you’re lost.”
“Who said I’m lost?” Nick asked.
“We would not be speaking if you knew where you were. I,” it paused, tapping the chin of its mask with a black finger that was there and not there. Its very existence seemed to be brought into question with each breath of wind. “Find lost things.”
“I thought you said you don’t have any kind of purpose,” Nick said, unable to take his eyes away from the flickering hand.
“It’s not a purpose, per say. I don’t feel compelled to find lost things, I just do. It’s an unintentional bi-product of my very existence.”
“Then you must have the thing I’m looking for,”
“But you don’t seem to be able to describe it so how can I possibly know,” the figure explained with a shrug. “Besides, who says that it’s lost?”
“True, but don’t parents always assume a missing child is lost? Or a pet that has run away is also lost? Perhaps what you seek has left you and knows full well where it is going and what it is doing. It is you that is lost and is experiencing loss.”
Nick rubbed his chest absently while he thought it over. He looked down at his hand to discover that it was lost in shadow, as was the rest of his body.
“It’s dark here,” said Nick absently.
The figure cocked its head to one side, studying him. Again that vague suggestion of the mask’s lips twitching came to Nick but he ignored it again.
“Indeed,” it said. “I think I may know where the thing you seek is. But you must be prepared for its refusal to return with you. All things are their own master, you cannot own anything. The stone used to build Notre Dame has outlived its architect and will continue to outlive all of those who think of it as their own.”
“I understand,” Nick said, his hand dropped to his side.
“Good,” said the figure. It straightened to its full height and look around. “The thing you seek is that way,” It raised a flickering arm to point in the vague direction to the right of them. “Look for a moonlit clearing, it will be there.”
Nick had turned to stare off in the direction of the figure’s pointing finger and when he turned to thank the stranger he found himself alone.
He set off at a trot, his rested legs humming with renewed energy. The trot turned into a sprint and the sprint turned into a mad run, arms flailing and head lolling about as exhaustion resurfaced and took hold.
Nick ran for what seemed like an hour before he glimpsed the first sliver of silver light shining through the branches ahead. He slowed to a halt as he came to the clearing, a perfect circle cut in the canopy and almost completely clear of fallen leaves and pine needles and right in the centre was a pool of water. The surface shone in the silver light and reflected the night sky above and the bare tops of the pines around him. He fell to his hands and knees and crawled to the rim of the pool and peered over the edge.
There it was. He had found what he was looking for. He lifted a hand to touch his mud smeared face and watched as his reflection echoed the action. Nick smiled as he dipped his hand into the water and began washing his face with the silver water. He raised his face to the sky and smiled at the moon.
Doubt and panic flickered into life in his eyes as he stared up at the moon. Nick scrambled to his feet and jerked his head left and right frantically, searching, searching. Where is it goddammit? Where is it? He set off at the same lolloping run into the forest.
A shadow flickered into life above the water’s surface. A masked face cocked its head to one side and then shook from side to side before stretching out of existence.
_____A mind is a fragile thing. Its definition and composition are based solely on the outside forces acting upon it, as opposed to any independent adherence or coherence. It is not self-sustainable or immune from any inner taint. It is constantly on the verge of destroying itself, kept only in check by the solid reality surrounding it.
_____And when that disappears, when the mind is left to its own devices, there is very little to do but wait for the inevitable.
_____And the inevitable result of this is complete disintegration.
_____I am Caryn, and I am incomplete.
_____I have been trapped here for seven years. Eight years? The exact number escapes me. Time is fickle in the blackness, and difficult to measure.
_____My crime, the reason for my imprisonment, was inconsequential, a simple grab for power. I expected defeat of some sort, though most likely in the form of death. The judges decided mercy was the better option.
_____Each year I despise their mercy more and more.
_____I am disintegrating.
_____Not physically, of course. They make certain to keep me healthy. I wake to bread. Sometimes I wake to floods with which to wash myself. With which to fight off pestilence.
_____Very rarely I will receive a slab of meat. I assume that such a delicacy marks some sort of event. My day of birth, perhaps? Or maybe the anniversary of my imprisonment? For all I know, it could be given to me at random. Every few months, every few years. It’s impossible to tell.
_____But I like to imagine it is a yearly event, and that is how I count the time. For I cannot use the stars, the sun, the moon. I cannot count the days I cannot see. There is no light down here, and I have been rendered blind.
_____And with my blindness has slowly come madness. In my black prison, there is nothing to see. Nothing to touch. I am left alone in the void. My mind is left to its own devices, and with nothing to feast upon, it turns upon itself. My moments of lucid thought continously grow shorter and more erratic.
_____Moments such as these, which had previously been taken for granted, are now hoarded and treasured. I must take advantage of them, in the hopes that by embracing organized thought, it can become as contagious as its opposite, and I can remain sane.
_____It is a futile hope, but I hope it nonetheless.
_____And in my hope, I curse. I curse the judges who put me here, but myself as well. Myself more than any other. I had thought I could pay any price, that I had had nothing of value anymore. That my life was inconsequential, my possessions non-existent, and my mind a reflection of both.
_____I was wrong.
_____Only by losing it could I realize that it was, indeed, a loss.
_____And in return, I had received nothing. My grab for power, while technically successful, had been rendered useless.
_____What use is the ability to control light when I am trapped in a world full only of shadows?
_____For that was what my gamble had been. Risk everything for even more. What power I could have had, what acts I could have accomplished, had I remained free.
_____I could have ended wars. Started wars. Created lives and souls and remade the world into my own image. For the world is how we perceive it, and it is perceived with light. Our light. The light of our souls, so often overlooked.
_____So often forgotten about.
_____And now I curse myself for something beyond my imprisonment.
_____I had been so stupid. So ignorant. So blind. Light is in everything, light creates everything, and everything creates light. Especially the soul.
_____And is not my soul still intact? My mind may be cracked and shattered, my body may be thin and fragile, but my soul is separate from them both.
_____My soul still casts its own light, and the judges were not fast enough to rob me of my prize.
_____I close my eyes, and open them anew, and suddenly the world is bathed in white. Where previously there had only been shadows, now everything burned with my rage. My indignation that I should have beenlocked away for so long, so needlessly.
_____And I shone brighter than ever before. I was the center, the core, the creator, and I demanded freedom.
_____I laughed. I laughed at the judges who had so blindly thought me trapped. I laughed at those whose false conviction had convinced even me, who could see all, that escape was impossible.
_____But now I could see, and I drew in the light. I hoarded it, stole it from my surroundings, and turned the world black once more.
_____Then, with a scream of joy, of rage, and of pain, I unleashed my light at the wall. I unleashed a sun in a single moment, a single beam, and with it sent every destructive thought I had gathered throughout my seven years of imprisonment.
_____The wall held. Impossibly, it held. The light did not shatter it, did not offer my freedom. Instead, it betrayed me. It rebounded off the wall of my prison, and struck me.
_____I fell back with a gasp, winded, but not wounded. I had caught the light just in time, let it turn to sparks dancing across me as opposed to a spear punching through me.
_____And with the dancing sparks, a dim memory returned to me.
_____A memory of attempting this same thing, this same escape, only to discover that the judges had not been blind. That the judges, through all their devious plotting and scheming, had created the perfect prison.
_____A prison of mirrors.
_____Mirrors crafted so perfectly that there was no flaw for my light to exploit. No weakness with which to shatter them.
_____I began to weep. This had happened before. Seven times before. Or was it eight? And each time I had forgotten. The madness had taken it from me, and had slowly twisted me until I would try again and again.
_____I was trapped.
_____As the sparks of light slowed their dance and faded, so did my memory. No matter how hard I grasped at it, it fell through my fingers, and left my mind to devour itself.
_____I began to scream at the void in helpless fury. Was it not enough for me to be imprisoned? Must I also be constantly fed the same futile hope again and again?
_____The last sparks faded.
_____A thick slapping noise sounded throughout my prison. Curious, I groped around blindly until I encountered something warm and soft.
_____The eight of its kind. Or perhaps the ninth? Time escapes me.
_____After all, a mind is a fragile thing.
The phone was ringing for the third time this evening, but Jonathan ignored it. He had something else on his mind at the moment. He was working on it for a while now and had started over several times. His garbage can was filled with crumpled sheets of paper, letters that weren’t good enough. He shook his head, crumpled another piece of paper, then tossed it at the garbage can. It missed and fell the floor. Jonathan ignored it and started over on a new sheet.
Mom, dad, I’m sorry. It’s just... I couldn’t take it anymore. The constant bullying, the calling names, the screaming. It’s just too much. I don’t want to feel like this anymore, like some kind of piece of dirt that nobody cares about.
For as long as I can remember, everyone but you has hated me. Right from the very first day I went to school the other kids said that I was some kind of gnome, that I should go to a school for four-eyes and made it clear that nobody would ever be my friend. Since then it only became worse and worse, going from name calling to shoving to physical abuse, and as far as I can see it’s not going to get better.
Please don’t be mad at me, and know that this is not your fault. I love you.
Jonathan sighed and put down the pen. There. The letter was done. Now there was nothing left do to. He stood up, walked towards the bathroom, then froze as he put his hand on the door handle. Was he really going to do this? No, don’t hesitate now. If you don’t do this now, you might never find the guts to do it again. He took a deep breath, then opened the door to the bathroom. Ignoring the phone that started ringing once again, he locked the door behind him.
Linda put the phone down with a worried face. It was nothing for Jonathan to not answer the phone. She turned to her husband. “Paul, did Jonathan say that he was going somewhere tonight?”
Paul looked up from the newspaper he was reading. “Uh, no, not that I know of. Why do you ask?”
“He hasn’t picked up the phone all night, even though we always talk every evening.”
“Don’t worry, dear, he’s probably just out to see some friend. Or maybe he’s just too absorbed in his homework or something.”
“Yes, you’re probably right,” Linda answered. The logical answers of her husband didn’t take away her sorrow though. It was strange, it was almost as if she felt like something was wrong. She shook her head. “Paul… I’m scared. Jonathan never just goes away without telling us. What if something happened to him?”
Paul, who had returned to his newspaper, sighed and looked up once more. “Now you’re just being paranoid. There’s nothing wrong, Jonathan likely just forgot to tell us about him going away tonight. Besides, he’s 21 already; let him make his own decisions about when he calls us.”
“But…” Linda’s mind refused to come to a rest.
Paul closed his eyes for a second, then folded the newspaper and put it down on the seat next to his. “Darling…,” he said in a calming tone as he stood up. “Come over here.” He calmly walked over towards his wife, then gently wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t worry… “
Linda let out a sigh and put her arms around Paul’s neck. “I know, I’m just being overly worried. It’s just that… I can’t help but feel this way for some reason."
Paul gently stroke his wife’s back. “I know… Why don’t we go out somewhere? Maybe that’ll take your mind off this.”
She nodded. “Okay. Where do you want to go?”
Jonathan was silently sitting on the bathroom floor, holding a razor blade on his left wrist with his right hand. He was shaking in a combination of fear and anxiety. Just one cut, then it would all be over. But… why couldn't he get himself to do it? The voices of his tormentors started playing in his head once more. Coward. You can’t do anything right. Why don’t you just go away? …Fine, he would go away. He closed his eyes and, with a sudden quick movement, moved the razor across his own wrist, inflicting a superficial cut. A burst of pain shot through his arm as blood slowly poured down onto the bathroom floor, tainting the light blue floor tiles with a crimson red. In a pain-induced reflex he dropped the razor blade on the floor and pressed his hand on the fresh wound. For a few seconds he was frozen in this state, then suddenly snapped out of it and removed his hand from the wound to pick up the razor once more. With his heart racing, he slowly moved the razor blade back to his wrist.
He took a deep breath, squeezed the razor with his right hand, then moved the razor across his wrist once more. The bleeding increased, causing Jonathan to feel a strange combination of fear and joy. He knew that soon, everything would be over. No more bullying, no more name calling, no more… He would be free. He moved the razor up one last time, then slowly moved it down again, causing a deep cut into his flesh and severing an artery. A strange happiness filled Jonathan’s heart as bright red blood rapidly flowed out of his body and onto the bathroom floor. As his consciousness started to fade, a smile adorned his face…
The next day Linda tried to call her son once more, but each time the answering machine kicked in. After trying three times without any luck, she turned to her husband. “No answer again. Paul, I’m really getting worried now. Can we please go over and check on him?”
“But Linda, darling,” Paul answered. “Didn’t we go over this yesterday? There’s no reason to worry just because Jonathan didn’t call.”
“Yes, but now it’s been two days without any reason as to why he didn't call, and... I just have this horrible feeling that won’t go away. Please, Paul.”
Paul sighed, then nodded. “Fine, if it’ll make you feel better, we’ll go there. Just let me grab my coat.” With that, he got up out of his chair and walked towards the hallway. A few minutes later, the two were driving to Jonathan’s apartment. It wasn’t much and the rent was mostly paid by his parents, but it still allowed him to slowly learn to be able to take care of himself. For most of the ride Linda was quiet, yet her face betrayed the sorrow inside her.
Without looking away from the road in front of him, Paul broke the silence in the car. “Is it that bad?”
“Yes. I don’t know why, but…”
“Well, we’re almost there. Then you can talk to Jonathan in person. Taken that he is home, of course; we didn’t exactly plan this visit.” He didn’t mention that she was getting him worried now too, knowing that this would only make her feel worse.
Shortly afterwards, the two arrived at Jonathan’s apartment. From outside, they could see that the lights were turned on.
“So he IS home,” Linda mumbled. “But why didn’t he answer the phone?”
“Maybe he just got home again?,” Paul suggested.
“That makes sense,” Linda admitted as she walked towards the outside door. After searching for a bit, she found the bell that was connected to Jonathan’s apartment and rang it. …No answer. Linda looked at her husband, getting more scared with the minute.
“I don’t know,” Paul shrugged. “Maybe he just forgot to turn the lights off when he left?” Another logical suggestion, but Linda wasn’t buying it anymore. By now her heart was sure that something bad had happened. She sighed, then started digging through her purse in an attempt to find the spare keys Jonathan had given them before. After finding them she opened the door and, without waiting for her husband who barely managed to catch the door before it fell into the lock again, started to run through the halls and up the stairs of the apartment complex towards Jonathan’s place; Paul tried his best to keep up with his wife. Once they arrived at the right floor, they could see through the windows of the apartment that the television was still on. Jonathan himself, however, was nowhere to be seen.
No longer waiting for her husband’s explanation for this, Linda quickly used her key to unlock the door and entered the apartment. “Jonathan? Jonathan!,” She called out. “Are you there?” Still no answer. She headed towards the living room, her heart pounding in her chest due to sheer fear. “Jonathan, please, answer me!,” she cried as she looked around. Then she noticed the papers on the desk and in the trash can next to it. For some reason, she felt herself being drawn to it. Even though she knew that she shouldn’t read Jonathan’s mail without his permission, she picked up the letter… then turned white as a sheet as the meaning of the letter hit home. She dropped the letter, finding herself unable to move.
“What’s wrong?,” Paul asked, now getting scared himself too.
“Jonathan!,” Linda screamed, now entering a state of full-blown panic. “Jonathan!”. Her eyes darted across the room. Was there any hint as to where he might have gone?
“Linda, calm down. What’s wrong?,” Paul asked as he picked up the note his wife had dropped. After quickly skimming it, he knew the reason for Linda’s despair; Jonathan was going to – or maybe already had – commit suicide. His mind started to race. What could he do? What should he do? What should he have done before? He covered his face with his hands in a hopeless attempt to calm himself down enough to think logically.
Meanwhile his wife had found the locked door to the bathroom and, jumping to conclusions, started to push and pull on it with all her might. “Jonathan, are you in there?! Jonathan!”
Paul turned towards his wife’s cries. “Is he in there?,” he asked, slowly falling in a state of panic too.
“I don’t know, but the door is locked,” she answered, not stopping with her attempts of opening the door for even a second.
“I’ll go and find something to open it,” Paul exclaimed, then started to randomly rummage through the room. Something, anything at all; it didn’t matter what it was, as long as it could open the door. …A knife! That would work. He quickly returned to Linda, who was now down on her knees and sobbing against the bathroom door. He showed her the knife, then asked her to step aside for a minute so he would have the space he needed. “Come on, work, damn it!,” He shouted in frustration when the door didn’t immediately opened up.
“Hurry up!,” his wife cried out as tears flowed down her face.
“I’m trying, I’m trying!,” he answered. Suddenly the knife seemed to catch and slowly the lock was twisted open. As soon as the lock was completely released, Paul threw the door wide open, revealing the grotesque view inside.
A tormented scream pierced the silence of the evening.
The cobblestones were cool against her bare feet. She anxiously awaited, amidst a throng of other youths, for the travelling pawnbroker to open up shop and display his wares.
It was a gypsy-styled wagon, made from aged oak and carved yew. Silent windchimes and florid dreamcatchers hung lightly from the rafters, framing the closed casements. A sturdy mule stood stoicly to the side, tied down with a thick harness. From time to time, he would whinny, give a kick, or bend down to munch up the oats hanging in a basket on the side of the wagon. Other than that, no sound or movement came from the pawnbroker's stall, and the children gathered round were growing impatient, thinking maybe he wasn't going to come out tonight.
The girl, almost thirteen years old, fiddled with a small copper coin in her pocket. She was a petite girl, a little shorter than average, yet delicately slim. Her blond hair was nor long nor short, hanging loose and just barely brushing her shoulders. She wore a thick cotton skirt and a yellow blouse.
When she'd heard news of a pawnbroker, she'd come as quick as she could, carrying her single coin. She'd already searched across the whole town, looking for the perfect gift, and now she hoped only to find one from elsewhere.
Suddenly, the wagon's door flung open, and the pawnbroker walked out. He was a lanky man, with long arms and a flamboyant, lumbering gait. He had dry, ratty black hair trailing out from beneath a patched-up top-hat. A long grey coat stretched down to his knees, worn and torn well past his prime, and he carried a sturdy cane—topped in bronze—in the crook of his left arm as he waved with his right.
"Greeting, childrens, youths, and what-have-you!" he pronounced, grinning mockingly. "Come forth and rob me silly!" With that, he knocked out a couple panels from the side of his wagon, suddenly displaying a dazzling assortment of toys, trinkets, jewellery and oddities.
The children, some as young as four and others now adolescent, swarmed forward. Whenever a child reached out to snatch something from its silken cushion, the pawnbroker swiftly swung out his cane and tapped them on the fingers. From time to time, he would let out a foolish, mocking cry, like "Back ye boggarts!" Then a kid would come up, point out something, hand over some money, and the old man would hand it over. After a good quarter hour, the crowd began to dissipate, leaving only one or two stragglers to gawk and trade.
The girl had not moved from her spot since the man had come out, instead standing a good yard back and swaying lightly from side to side as she fiddled with her coin and peered over at the items.
The old man, seeing her standing uncertainly from the side, came up to her.
"'Ello, there, lassie. See something you like?" he asked, kindly.
"I… I… I dunno," she responded, dejected.
He considered her wryly. "Perhaps I should ask something a little clearer. Looking for something?"
She paused, nervous, then let loose a sigh. "I'm here for ma brother's birthday, see. He's pretty ill, see, and he lost this old pocketwatch my Da gave him. It didn' work, o'course, but it meant a lot to him, and I wanted to get him somethin' real nice this year, to, y'know, make him feel better." She broke off for a moment, then continued hastily. "I looked in every store in town, and now here, but I just can't find somethin' that fits, an' all I've got is one lousy copper. I—" She choked off a sob, wiping a tear from her eye and turning to the side. "I just want to make him happy."
The old man stood there for a moment, watching her, then grinned. "Wait here, I got just the thing." He rushed into his wagon, cuffing a boy on the way. Some frantic moving of objects and the scrape of opening drawers could be heard from outside, and he hustled right back out, holding something at his side.
He showed it to her. It was a small box, delicately carved with images of clouds, fairies, and leaves, made from what seemed to be maple wood. "This here box is magic." At her disbelieving glance, he shoved it in her arms. "I'm serious, lassie. If you don't like the word, call it lucky. Y'see, this box helps you find what you really want. Carry it around for a little while, and soon enough, you'll have something for your brother, trust me." He scratched his head. "Look, I'll make you a deal. If you lend me that copper coin, I'll lend you the box. Give me back the box, I give you back the coin. What've you got to lose?"
The girl looked at him for a moment, trying to gage his sincerity, then looked at the box. Reluctantly, she accepted.
"Good, good," he muttered, taking the coin. "Trust me, you'll have it in no time."
As she turned to walk away, he called out again. "Hey! Girl! Wha's your name? In case I need ta find ya or somethin'."
She shouted back "Monica!" and then ran off.
— ~ <> ~ —
Walking by the northside river, Monica stared at the box. How was a box supposed to help her find something for her brother? She'd already searched the whole market. Where else could she go?
She began to think that perhaps the old man was toying with her, manipulating her gullibility. If so, she should go right on back there and give him back this damned useless box.
Just as she turned to retrace her steps, a large man pushed her aside as he ran past. She stumbled to the ground, flinging out her arms to dampen her fall. The box flew out and tumbled right off the edge and into the river below.
With a cry of despair, she saw it float quickly away with current.
Leaping to her feet, she sprinted in the same direction, dodging through the thick mass of merchants and peasants. If she lost that box, not only would she not be able to get her copper coin back, but she'd have nothing to give her brother.
Monica stayed level with the floating box for a while, but soon it passed too far ahead of her and she lost sight of it. Stumbling to a stop, she panted heavily with her hands on her knees.
There was no use, of course. The river went on for miles, passing out of the bounds of the city and out to sea. Even had she managed to keep up with her, how would she retrieve the box from the surging waters?
With all energy torn from her, she sluggishly meandered home.
— ~ <> ~ —
The soft blades of grass beneath her light form gentle pricked the back of her neck as she lay face up to the sky. Her breaths came slow, shallow. Tomorrow was her brother's birthday, and she had nothing to show for it. Despite her efforts, the only thing she'd accomplished was the loss of the only money she had left.
She thought dimly of the old man, who'd told her this box would help her. But it had not—it only worsened the situation. Not that she could blame him. After all, it was she who dropped it in the river.
She let loose a puff of air. She'd better go ahead and tell the man of what happened. He'd probably have expected her to return earlier this afternoon.
Pushing herself to her feet, she brushed off her skirt and began walking.
It did not take long. It was not a rather large town, and she lived fairly close to the marketplace, where the pawnbroker had parked his wagon earlier that day. After only a dozen minutes or so, she came upon the wagon with its donkey, in the same spot she'd seen it before.
Mentally preparing herself, she was about to knock on the door when a voice called out from inside. "Monica! Come in."
She opened the door and entered.
It was a small space, with a bed taking up one wall and shelves full of random trinkets and antiques filling the other. The old man was sitting in the back, fluffing his pillow and humming a low tune. When Monica stepped in, he turned an gazed at her for a moment, then with a wide grin, motioned her to sit.
"Back rather late I see. Have any difficulty?"
"I—" she started, then taking a firmer hold of herself, continued. "I lost the box. It fell in the river."
His grin did not waver for an instant. "That's fine. Not a problem."
She was puzzled. "What?"
"I don't care about the box, really. I was lying of course. It isn't magical. It just gave me an excuse to get you to leave for a little while. You see, I was never the type to leave a customer unsatisfied."
Out of his pocket, he pulled out a weathered copper pocket watch.
"I just needed a little time to make the real merchandise." He handed it to her.
"It's beautiful!" she exclaimed. Like the box, it bore images of clouds, fairies and leaves, etched in miniature scale onto the old copper.
"Why thank you. Glad you liked it. I made it for you." He reassessed that thought, and said, "Or rather, for your brother."
"How can I repay you?" she asked, suddenly worried again.
"You can't. That's not the point." He pushed her to the door. "Get out and go to bed, now, young girl." She staggered out the door. "Goodbye, Monica," he said, before closing the door.
Monica stood there in awe, for a moment, then rushed home, eager for the next morn to come. Two days later, when she returned to thank the old man for his generosity, he, his wagon, and his donkey were gone. All that was left was a small maple wood box, sitting on the ground in a small pool of water.
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