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Chapter 12

In her sleep, she dreams about her past; remembering misplaced memories. Takashi is also dreaming the same dream, about their past. Their psychic ability has inadvertently connected their minds and allows them to share dreams. She woke up to the sunrise, eager to spend time with her boyfriend. She got out of her bed, not even bothering to make it up, and goes to the kitchen to make a small breakfast, she decides today, consisting of cereal and milk. She finished it while watching her regular morning shows on TV, the milk splashing around her natural pink-whitish lips. After she finished, she threw the bowl and the spoon into the sink and washed it. She turned on the bathroom lights, ready to take a shower, and goes back to get a fresh towel from her closet: it’s dark blue in color and made of 100% cotton. She took off her clothes and pants, and underneath she was wearing a black bra and white Hello Kitty underwear. She headed back to the bathroom, put the towel on the rack and saw herself in the mirror, some parts of it stained by water—the way they usually leave a dry mark on the mirror when you don’t wipe them after a while. She thought about what she had been through in her life and how it all doesn’t matter anymore. Her cupboard was full of typical bathroom objects such as toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, assorted hairpins and hair bands, and combs, etc. She unsnapped her bra and slips down her underwear before brushing her hair a bit with her hand. Her breasts are milky-white and upright. She ran her hands over and touched her nipples, cold from the cool morning air, and felt strange, a rush of chemicals and hormones in her brain. What a very human thing. This is the bad thing that mom told her about. This is what happens when you start to live alone with other young people hopped-up on alcohol, Methamphetamine, LSD, or whatever else drugs they use, and sex. She stopped. “It doesn’t matter,” she said with a smile, “it doesn’t matter. Be happy.” It was about 10:30 AM then and she didn’t wanna be late, so she quickly got in the shower. She pulled the handle and let the water pour out for a few seconds to let the heat sink in. It was a pretty cold day, what with it snowing and all. And she was off.

On the other side, Takashi woke up the way he usually does, with going back to sleep again before waking up again. He woke up at around 8 at first and decided that it’s too early to wake up. After a second snooze, he finally woke up at around 9:30-ish and quickly got up to go eat breakfast before meeting up with Olivia. He prepared his usual breakfast, cereal and milk—staple for every student it seems—and ate it with the TV on, though as usual, didn’t really watch it. Instead, he did stuff in his laptop. Usually he watches TV shows or old, childhood cartoons. He does turn around occasionally just to see what’s going on. He was so messy; his hair was still wacky from sleeping. After finishing, he went to the sink to wash everything up, neat and tidy. Contradiction? Yes, he’s a very strange person. Finished, he turned on the bathroom lights and decided to use yesterday’s towel—it was still good. He took off his clothes and threw them in the bed with the exception of his boxers, which he usually puts on the top of the toilet or on the towel rack. He pulled the handle and out poured the water from the showerhead, cold as snow; he waited for it to warm up. Of course, not counting the contemplations he usually has, the daydreams, the happiness, the hate, the people who looked at him with contempt, they all appeared in his mind. But he had to shrug that aside this time, he didn’t wanna be late. Strange… As they both finished, they dried themselves up and got dressed. She imagined where she would put the pile of make-up if she had one. She considered it, but decided not to. Technically, it is a drug, given it’s a legal one, and toxic to some degree. She never really needed it, or rather, didn’t wanna use it. She’s not the most beautiful person in the world, oh no, but she didn’t care anymore. It didn’t matter. A warm sweater on the inside and a thick, white snow jacket on the outside complete with snow pants. And let’s not forget the warm, pink beanie to wear on her head and cover her ears, and the snow gloves. She grabbed her phone and wallet and finally left her room to meet up with Takashi.

He was having a more difficult, (yeah that’s good), time. He procrastinated a bit and took a bit of time to decide what to wear. Of course it was winter and snowing and there was really only one thing to wear. He doesn’t care about being fashionable. He had it all ready in front of him, and yet he was still thinking. “Ah, I’m gonna be late. Just… Whatever,” he said to himself. He wore the snow clothes, grabbed his phone and wallet and tissue, just in case, and change, and he finally headed to the door. He stopped in the middle, cause something crossed his mind again. Indecisiveness is a bitch. He went back and forth reaching for the door and turning around and then again and again. Oh, come on, he thought to himself, just hurry up and make a choice. Finally, he decided to just leave it at that, it was almost time. Olivia was all ready to go, waiting in the basement for him to show up. He ran to the elevator, but it was still on another floor taking its time. “Oh, come on,” he said. He took out his phone to look at the time and notice that he was already late. “Shit,” he exclaimed. Ping! He heard the quite loud sound of the elevator arriving at the floor. He breathed a sigh of relief, entered, and quickly pressed the button to go to the basement. As the door closed, he remembered his old lecture for philosophy where his lecturer explained “The Elevator Rule” or “The Rule of the Elevator”. It’s funny because ever since that lecture, that rule comes to his mind almost everytime he goes to the elevator. The rule states that when a person is alone in an elevator, he/she can do whatever they want, stand wherever they want or do a little dance if they want, he remembered, but if there’s another person with you, you must stand, at least, about 5 feet away. I don’t really remember how far you have to stand actually, he thought to himself. Ping! The sound was heard again as the elevator reached its destination floor, amplified a bit since he was inside the source. He stepped out and scanned the area. The level was a pretty small, square area with a door in the corner leading to big room for gatherings and parties. He checked that room and there she was, sitting at the table. He breathed a sigh and approached her. “Hey, Liv,” he spoke. “Oh, hey. Finally,” she played around. “I know, I’m sorry. I was being my usual stupid self,” he explained. She hugged him and said with a smile, “It’s okay. Let’s go.” He smiled back, thinking of all the stupid things he’s done, yet this beautiful woman was still there with him. She understood him and therefore accepted him, even though he probably didn’t really accept himself yet. She’s a psychologist after all. They left through the back door, not the one that leads to the brick pathway. It was cloudy out, and lightly snowing. It was Christmas time, a time for joy. Well, they associate that with Christmas. They both smiled from the bottom of their hearts. No other time like it. They held each other’s hand and gave each other a warm smile before heading off. “Uh, so where are we going?” he asked. “Not sure yet,” she replied, “we’ll figure it out as we go. Let’s just enjoy the moment. Kay?” “Yeah, okay,” he replied. They walked through the asphalt, now covered in snow, making that crunchy sound you get when you walk on snowy pathways. It was very cold out; the thickness of their own breath as they exhaled was a testament to that. The sun was shining a few hours ago, but it had already gone. This path took them through one of the parking areas for the building; so many spaces were present and covered in inches of snow. A car passed by as they walked through, stopping in front of its intended parking space, only to find it occupied by the cold, white substance. The guy driving was obviously frustrated at the sight. “I’m so glad I don’t drive. I don’t have to deal with permits and parking spaces and gasoline,” he commented. “Well, it’s a choice. You don’t like to drive?” she asked him. “Not really. I have tried it and it’s okay, I guess. But I don’t really like it,” he explained. “Oh, that’s okay,” she accepted, hugging him. The aroma of the asphalt road would usually be so intoxicating, especially after a period of rain.

The path lead to a small bridge under a canopy of trees; insects roam free around this area, creepy little things. They passed through unscathed. Over to the left was the university, but he didn’t wanna go there at the time. Instead they went through the small garden, also leading to the bus stop. It’s nice to just forget everything sometimes. It was just the two of them, together, and nothing else. This world was hell, but they didn’t have to live there. They lived in their own world, their own place. Heaven. “Tengoku,” he spoke. “What?” she asked. “Huh? Oh, nothing. Tengoku. That’s Japanese for Heaven, or rather, paradise,” he explained. She smiled. On a hot summer day, the trees would provide shelter from the sun. Underneath the canopy, it was beautiful. The exit was in front of them, near the calm, clear lake, frozen solid by the cold, and beyond that, the path to the bus stop: another boring 5 minute walk.

The bus stop had 4 or 5 waiting areas, all under the grayish metallic canopy. Thankfully, there weren’t a lot of people waiting; the area is usually quiet during the weekend and holidays. The bus they needed to hop on will stop at the fourth one, so that was where they headed. It was still as dirty and grimy as it ever was, even with the snow. The wooden benches were relatively cleaner. They sat themselves down and awaited the arrival of their bus. As usual, Takashi tried to relax and enjoy the scenery. He’s always able to find something...special, even though it’s probably the same environment. He turned to Olivia, smiling, thinking that he had something even more special now…something worth living for. She turned to him too and smiled. “What’s up?” she asked. He said, “It’s nothing. I mean, you know, it’s obviously not nothing, but it’s…nothing. That didn’t come out right, did it?” She laughed softly. “I’m sorry, I’m…strange, remember?” he said. “Yeah. I love that about you,” she replied. Then she gave him a hug and kissed him on the lips. “What are you so worried about?” she asked him. “I don’t know,” he answered, nodding his head sideways. “Well, we’ll get there,” she told him, optimistically. “Hahaha, sure,” he laughed.

They could finally see the bus rolling in from the other side, ready to make its turn to the stop. The roads were pretty snowy. The tires of the bus had been fitted with special snow chains in case of slippery roads. As it came in, it braked and adjusted its course into the side of the stop. From the window they could clearly see that the bus is fully packed. Fortunately for them, almost all of ‘em got out of the bus at that stop, leaving just a small few left and a whole lot of breathing room. “Oh, thank God they all left,” he said with hypothetical tears of joy. They boarded, escaping the cold winter air, and found two empty seats. The final person entered and the driver closed the door and stepped on the gas. They could hear the roar of the engines, the crackling of the gears, and feel the vibration of the bus as it headed off. Once again he thought about stupid and nonsensical stuff…about the “bad” people back at the accommodation. How they’re in their own group and “above” everyone else. They promote happiness yet they hardly smile and if they do, it’s not a genuine one. He thought that it’s strange how humans interact. They’re very stereotypical, or rather discriminative, he contemplated, they see us as something lesser. It’s interesting how they interact with each other, like everything else doesn’t matter. How they change themselves so others will perceive them as not them. They don’t care. Well, they don’t care about anyone who doesn’t “fit” into their group or into their category. People these days rarely do what they preach. “Hey! I thought we agreed that you’d stop doing that, remember??” she reminded him. “Yes, yes. I’m sorry. It’s really hard,” he said. “Why does it have to be hard?” she asked, smiling, with an uplifting mood. “I know that’s your personality, it’s who you are. Just remember, don’t let it bring you down.” He let out a sigh, smiled and said, “I know. But I have you here to remind me. And we still don’t know where we’re going.” It didn’t really matter where they were going, “It doesn’t matter, as long as we’re together,” she said holding his arms, lying on his shoulder. “Just tell me we’re not going to that chicken place again. It’s good, I like it, but I just don’t feel like it right now,” he said. She didn’t really feel like that either, though she already had an idea of where to go. In that time of year, it was best to be indoors and stay warm. The heater in the bus sure does that job well, keeping everyone warm and cozy. “Let’s just go to the city, eat in the mall where it’s warm,” she told him. “Hahaha, sure. But I thought we were gonna enjoy the snowy day?” he inquired. “There are plenty of ways to enjoy this day,” she told him. Well, she was right. It is true that how you enjoy your day is measured by how happy you are on that day and who you spend it with, not by what kinda frivolous activities you will do. And on a cold, snowy day when the white substance rains down upon the world, spending the day inside where it’s warm sounds like a pretty good day. Unfortunately, the bus didn’t stop directly at the mall rather it stopped on the street near it where they still had to walk, but it was nothing too troubling. They walked past a number of small shops selling food and clothing. The high winds brushed past on an already cool day, chilling them to the bone. They increased their walking speed to quickly reach the shelter of the large building.

Finally inside, within the warmth of the building heaters, they took off their thick, hot snow jackets, revealing their turtlenecks. “Finally made it,” she said. “Yeah, a few more seconds and the winds would’ve killed us,” he joked. “Hahaha,” she laughed. They tied their jackets to their waist and resumed their journey—finding a place to eat should be easy in this maze of shops and stores. He wasn’t really picky on anything that day, so anything goes. As for Olivia, she was particularly leaning towards Asian cuisine at that time. He suggested and asked her if she wanted to go to a Japanese restaurant. There was a very nice Sushi place around there somewhere if he recalled right. “Yeah, sure. I could go for some Japanese,” she agreed. “Great. Now just a matter of finding it,” he told her. She laughed playfully at him while remarking that he doesn’t know where it is. “I know where it is, it’s just….” he mumbled. “Haha, let’s find a directory,” she said. “No, wait. I remember. It’s…it’s on the third floor,” he insisted. As he was talking, she had already gone to the directory near the escalators. He ran to her; she pointed to a part of the map and said, “There it is. Fourth floor, which is the top floor.” “I was getting there,” he said with a high tone. “Haha, come on,” she said, slapping his chest. They could’ve taken the elevator, but they didn’t. Escalators are…more traditional. And it’s slower; they could talk to each other more. For him, it also allowed more observations and contemplation. And, as usual, he did so: just a simple and general observation of people and their interaction in society. His eyes moved around quickly, watching everyone. Observing how they walked, how they talked with their friends and family, how they stood, how they dealt with small everyday obstacles or problems, etc. It’s surprising how much you can tell about a person based on their body language. As he did this, he remembered what she told him about this. So he shrugged it off his mind and tried not to think about it. He tried not to be so judging. “Baby?” she said as they reach the second escalator. He smiled and said, “You were right. I just did my usual…thing…again, but then I remembered what you told me. I’m trying really hard right now not to observe and judge,” he explained. “That’s good,” she said with a smile. “Yeah, well, it’s who I am though. My personality,” he tried to understand himself and accept. Of course, he didn’t really wanna do that, but he wanted to understand why people—humans—are the way they are. He’s had a not-so-pleasant childhood. But of course, other “normal” people will think and say that that’s “normal”, he thought. Why can’t they accept me for who I am? They have to look at me like I’m some kind of monster, just because I’m being me. I don’t understand. Do they get their kicks from doing that to other people? To their own friends?? He then looked at Olivia and he then remembered what’s important. It doesn’t matter how they look at me. What matters is how she looks at me, as me. And if this beautiful girl, who can actually stand being with or near me for more than 3 seconds, can see me like that, then so can I. They’re the ones who’re REALLY suffering. Let them stew in their own hate and anger. I just wanna be happy.

Once again, yet again, she had to remind him to stop overthinking everything. He told her that he was just thinking of how beautiful she is, and that he doesn’t mean just her looks, but her soul as well. He had to stop thinking of how unworthy he is and start accepting. She smiled and said, “Thank you. Now, can we resume our journey? Cause I’m really hungry,” she asked. He laughed and pointed for her to lead the way. They still had two more floors to go. Each floor was a circular pattern with a huge gap in the middle, other than the ground floor; it was a pretty standard layout for malls. When they reached the fourth floor, there it was in front of them. It was looking good too. She quickly grabbed his hand and rushed to it, really hungry. Obviously, the theme was very Japanese, with those wooden bars with shutters surrounding the restaurant, making up its frame. A combination of Hiragana and Kanji is splashed big on the sign next to a beautiful drawing of a Sakura, the cherry blossom. Fortunately, there was no one waiting in line, they seemed to have a full house though. The waitress at the front, wearing a black, traditional Japanese kimono with drawings of flowers on them, bowed and greeted them, “Konnichiwa.” They also bowed and greeted her. “Uh, table for two, please,” Olivia said with a smile. “Hai, right this way,” the waitress replied. She gave both of them the menu and directed them to their table. They entered and passed beside a small garden area with a small waterfall flowing inside. The restaurant itself wasn’t that big, but it was big enough. “Hai, here is your table. When you are ready to order, I will come back, okay?” she told him. “Hai, arigatou,” Takashi said doing a small bow. “Iie. Douzo,” she said. “What did she say?” Olivia asked. “Oh, it’s just a reply we usually say after someone says thank you. It’s like, ‘No, that’s alright.’ Douzo means…kinda like ‘please.” But in this context, it means like, ‘Please, go ahead’,” he explained to her. “Okay. Now let’s figure out what we wanna eat,” she said. “Oh, I already know what I want,” he told her. “Hmmmm, what I should I get?” she asked. “Uhh, I don’t know. What do you like?” he replied. “Well, what are you getting?” “Uh, I’m getting a katsu curry with rice.” “Ooooo, what’s that?” “Oh, well the one I’m ordering is chicken. It’s really good. They also have pork and beef curry, I think.” “Oh, I love chicken. Yeah, I think I’ll have that too.” “O-kay.” He signaled to the waitress, gesturing that they were ready to order. She nodded and turned around to grab a pen and paper before walking over to them. “So, what will you guys have today?” she asked. He ordered the katsu for both of them with a side of miso soup, green tea, and water. “Hai, thank you very much. Please wait a moment,” the waitress told them. She grabbed the menu and left; and now for the waiting game.

He commented on how he liked how they try to make it authentic. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves quite peacefully. He heard a family of four laughing and talking to one another, and on the corner table, a couple, almost like themselves, chatting and exchanging opinions and thoughts. He smiled; for once everything was normal again. Normal as in quiet, the quietness in his mind. “What do you think of the world?” he asked. “Ummmm, I don’t really think anything,” she answered. A surprised look hit his face, as it wasn’t the answer he was expecting. “Okay,” he said. Not long after, surprisingly, their food arrived. Olivia remarked how it was surprisingly fast. Usually it would take quite a while for the food to come out. “Japanese people are very fast,” the waitress said. “It’s true. They eat very fast too,” Takashi added, half-joking. She laughed. The waitress put the teapot on the table first before serving the plates. After finishing, she asked if they need anything else before she leaves, to which they reply that they didn’t. “Very well. Itadakimasu,” she said. “Itadakimasu,” Takashi replied. “Well, let’s eat.” “Okay. What was it? Itarakimasu?” Olivia mistakenly said. “It’s ‘tada’,” he corrected her. “What?” she asked. “Nevermind.” “What is it??” “You just…it’s ‘itadakimasu’, not ‘itarakimasu’.” “Well, I’m sorry for not being Japanese.” “That’s why I said nevermind,” he said with a guilty look and a high voice. “Well, you shouldn’t have corrected me then,” she said, acting high-class. He stared at her with a “What the hell just happened?” look. “Uhh, I’m sorry,” he said, bowing. “Hahaha, it’s alright. I was just kidding,” she said. “Thank you for that,” he replied sarcastically. “Oh, let’s just eat,” she ended the conversation. She remarked on how the food smells really good and how it looks very good. He poured the tea to his cup and asked if she wanted one. She nodded and handed it to her. They both have a quick drink before diggin in.

She took that first bite and her face swelled up with happiness. “Omg!! This is so good,” she commented with a mouthful of chicken. Never has she tasted anything so good and delicious other than the quarter chicken from that chicken place near the hospital, which is not really a comparison. This is Japanese-style food and that was, well, western food. As she took each bite, with a spoonful of hot rice and curry, she lit up, making quite awkward faces. He smiled, happy that she was enjoying the food. It was part of his culture after all. They spent a good few minutes eating the meal. They didn’t even spend a lot of time talking. As they started to finish, they took their last bite, that oh so good and saddening last bite. “Omg. That was amazing,” she continued to point out, “please tell me we can do that again.” “Hahaha. Sure, sure,” he told her. The sun showed itself again outside, dimly, but enough for its radiant light to shine through the restaurant window, lighting the place up. Although they knew it was momentary, they took in the sun’s light as it created shadows and heat once more. “That feels so nice,” she said. “Yeah. Too bad it’s not gonna last. So you ready to go?” he asked. “Yeah, let’s go,” she replied. As he was about to signal to the waitress, the entire room suddenly shook as if an earthquake. Their table shook violently, as do the others, knocking off the cups and glass and plates off, shattering them. The lights started to flicker and they could hear a static buzzing sound like from a radio, and they could faintly hear a man’s voice inside. Strangely, no one seemed to be worried or even noticed the rumbling.

Suddenly, without warning, they both wake up back in the train. Olivia raises her left hand to shield her eyes from the blinding light emanating from the window. Takashi groans and stretches his arms, softly and inadvertently hitting Olivia on the side. “Hey,” she says. “Oh, sorry,” he apologizes. He gets up, also being blinded by the sunlight. “Argh!” he shouts. It’s always like that when you wake up, with your eyes needing time to adjust and all. They can hear the constant buzzing of the intercom and Sergey’s voice, speaking through it. He’s asking, for the 10th and final time, for them to wake their ass up and come to where he is. Apparently there’s something he needs them to see. They struggle for a few minutes, trying to fully wake up, which they don’t really wanna do. Yawning, “Urrrgghhhh. What does he want now?” she asks. “I don’t know, but we better go, I guess” he reluctantly says. As soon as he said that, he realizes what he just said. Just wanna fall back down. Just wanna fall back down… that sentence repeats throughout his mind. But eventually, they reluctantly get up and head for the door, with one last yawn before opening it. Going through the hallway, they stop to look out the window; it seems that they’re in an open field, stretching as far as they can see. “Where are we?” he asks.

They then continue towards the pilot, which is about five compartments away, still haven’t fully awoken yet to notice anything strange. Sergey stands with his men at the wrecked compartment, staring at the sky. “Finally, you are here,” he says, still looking up. “Yeah, yeah. What’s up? Are we almost there?” Takashi asks. “No, we are still 3 hours away,” Sergey explains. “Then why did you wake us??” Olivia asks, still tired. “Look up,” he says. When they do, they can’t believe their eyes. Thousands of floating, squid-like creatures fill the endless sky. But they don’t seem to notice them and the train, or if they did, they’re not doing anything about it. “Holy shit…” Takashi says, fully awake now—well, sort of. The creatures begin to jerk about and spew out a sort of black liquid resembling ink and it starts filling most of the sky with its darkness. The sunlight’s nearly blocked by it, although it’s still able to get through. “Sergey,” Takashi says, “what the hell’s going on?” “I honestly do not know,” he replies, “Viktor--“ “Yes, sir.” “Is the radio working?” He quickly runs to the pilot to check, and finds that the radio signals are being scrambled. “Shit!” he exclaims. He hastily runs back, holding on to the seats after nearly tripping as the train bumps up and down on the tracks. “It is not working, sir. The signal is being blocked by something,” he reports. Sergey nods and says, “They are scrambling our communications. Clever. Are the short range radios working?” Viktor quickly grabs his walkie-talkie and turns it on to hear static, meaning that it works. He tests it just to be sure. Sergey and the others could hear his voice on theirs, so it’s definitely good. “So what do we do now?” Olivia asks. “Well, for now we should just keep going. They are not really hindering us other than scrambling our radio signals, which we do not really need right now. So we continue,” he explains. “Okay,” she nods. Sergey and his men return to the pilot while Takashi and Olivia go back to the cabins.

They sit down on one of the seats with a table. “So what do you wanna do now?” he asks. “I don’t know. I don’t really feel like sleeping anymore now, haha,” she answers. “Yeah,” he says, putting his hands on the table, “you know, it’s strange. I’ve been remembering my life, you know, getting these flashes and memories. I don’t know.” “Me too,” she says calmly. He tries to contemplate the meaning of all this, but then again, he remembers what she said too. He laughs. “What’s so funny?’ she asks. “I also remember what you told me,” he answers, “that I shouldn’t think too much and enjoy life. Do you remember that?” She smiles and answers, “Yeah, I do. And it’s still true.” He smiles back to her. They both then look out the window and see the squid creatures hovering in the sky. He looks at her again and reaches to her hand. “Hey, we’re gonna get through this. Okay?” he says, “you and me, together. And of course with Sergey and Viktor and Valentin and the others, hahaha.” “Well, based on what I remember about our old life… Yeah, I think we can handle this,” she says. They hold each other’s hands as he promises to never let anything happen to her. “I thought I was the one who’s been protecting you, haha,” she says. “You have,” he says, “thank you.” “You’re welcome,” she replies. Always keep smiling.
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