Chapter 2:

Welcome Back to Winkstagram!

The Fall of Prince Hayashi

“Um hello?” Bookmark here

I snapped out of my thoughts to be greeted by the customer who walked in a couple of minutes ago. It was a middle age woman, whose hair was in a straight cut bob and a office outfit on. An old working woman, the most annoying customers in any store. The woman was buying two bottles of water, an ice pop, and a pack of cigarettes. I rung everything up, the beep of the machine the only sound in the air. Bookmark here

“That will be 2,520 yen ma’am,” I said. Bookmark here

She pulled a couple of bills out of her pocket and then went fishing in her pocket book for the change. Bookmark here

“Just to let you know, those cigarettes aren’t mine,” the woman whispered, dropping the change onto the table. “They’re for my friend.”Bookmark here

Sure they are. That’s what everyone says.Bookmark here

I shrugged. “Don’t worry, today is my last day so I won’t be telling anyone anything. And you're my last customer today.”Bookmark here

She took her stuff and gave me a fake smile, revealing the fact that one of her front teeth was missing. “Congratulations sir.” Bookmark here

I watched the woman waltz out of the store into the summer heat. The moment the doors closed after her, I took a look at the clock and couldn’t help but smile. I was now officially off the clock, which meant that my last day of work was over. Finally, I was free. Without a second thought I thre off my apron and stupid hat, placing both on the counter in front of me. I needed to go grab my backpack and a carton of milk before I headed out. Bookmark here

Opening the backdoor, I wasn’t surprised to find my boss sitting down on his mini desk. Did that tiny desk make him feel like he was actually working? He noticed my entrance and got up out of his chair. Nope, I was not going to let him stop me. I was going to grab my back, grab the milk and take my leave. Bookmark here

My locker swung open and I threw the bag over my back. The water bottles weren’t heavy at all, but the sound of liquid swishing around might have been a dead giveaway. I needed to leave right now. My boss turned to face me, an excuse already stirring in his mind. He just wanted a reason to keep me here longer without pay. I bowed my head, making sure it was a respectable amount for both me and my boss. I could tell he was glad about the gesture, although it held no real respect. Bookmark here

“I’ve had a wonderful time working here for the past three years,” I pulled my bag up higher on my shoulder. “I will be getting milk and leaving. My mother needs me.”Bookmark here

He sighed. “Are you sure you won’t-”Bookmark here

“I’ll be sure to come by every now and then.” Bookmark here

Giving up, my boss turned around, grabbing something behind him. I noticed it right away and felt joy rush through me. It was my pay. The last green envelope I was getting from this stinky convenience store. Did he give me the proper amount? I searched through the envelope and found that for once, my boss counted the right amount of bills. Bookmark here

For the last time ever, I said goodbye and let the door slam close behind me. Was this how freedom felt like? Like I was finally living my life in the matter of seconds. True to my word, I grabbed a small milk carton and gave the cash for the milk at the front. Of course, I still planned on not paying for the water I had stolen earlier. The stolen water bottles hurted no one in actuality. Not me, not the boss, and certainly not the customers. Once these bottles were in my bag, they were no longer apart of the equation in anyone’s eyes, since they lacked value. Bookmark here

Walking out the front door, I was hit with heat. That was one downfall of leaving this job. I wasn’t going to have a nice air conditioned room to waste time and get paid in anymore. My back was already sweating, in the mere seconds it left the comfort of the cool air. Bookmark here

Bzz. Bzz. Bzz.Bookmark here

Oh. My phone was ringing. I pulled out my phone and brought it up to my ear. “Hello Mom?” Bookmark here

I could hear her crack a smile at hearing my voice. “Souta? Is your shift finally over? Did you get the milk?” Bookmark here

“Yes Mom, I got the milk.” I started to make my way to to the station. “My shift just ended so it’ll be a while till I get back home. The train shouldn’t be that rushed today.” Bookmark here

“Okay, just take care on your way here. Just wanted to hear your voice. You know I love you Souta.” Bookmark here

Here we go with the sentimentals out of nowhere. Bookmark here

“I love you too, Mom.” Bookmark here

My mom dropped the call first, and I slipped my phone back into my pocket. I hated technology, sure, but in the end this was still my phone that I paid for. It was a decent phone. Modern enough to not cause teasing, my not super popular as to call unneeded attention. Bookmark here

After my first year of working, my mental health finally got to a stable level. I had avoided tech for a whole year at that point. However, if I wanted a normal life, I couldn’t stay away from reality. So I snuck out the house and brought this phone. At the store, I choose a clear case with a small star in the middle. It was simple, stylish, and enough to just pass by. Then I came home and showed my parents what I brought. Bookmark here

As I thought, the train station was rather empty. It was a modern building, with the set up similar to an airport. People coming, people going. There was rarely ever a moment that it was empty. Till today at least. Stepping though those station doors my feet echoed in the empty room. Only ten people were buying tickets now, which was nothing compared to the hundreds in the morning and at night. Bookmark here

I walked up to the closest cashier and leaned against the counter. I passed her 300 yen for a ticket, and she gave me my ticket. I was a regular here now, so even the cashier knew that I would get the same ticket back home every time. I got my ticket and went down to the platform where my train was departing from. It was outside, and a couple of other people were standing near me, all of them awaiting the same train as me. Bookmark here

My parents were super shocked about my new phone. It seemed like something in their parent intuition said not to make a huge deal about it in front of me. They both put in their numbers and for the next three months acted like the phone didn’t exist. They were worried I’d fall again. That this phone would meet the same fate as my old one. Rather than adding an emotional burden to my fall, Mom and Dad decided to take the objective approach. They only started to feel comfortable calling me after I called my Mom one day, asking her to pick me up from the station one day. Bookmark here

The sound of the train wheels echoed in the distance, the thumps sounding like steps down the hall. As the train grew closer, the sound got louder. This used to bother me, especially when we first moved to Onomichi. Now, it was like a sign. A sign that my waiting was soon over. Bookmark here

My parents knew that I was waiting for life to pass me in Kumano. My depression was palpable, and it came in the form of restless nights and slow movements. Everything around me moved so fast and I wanted to spend my days in bed. It was after spending a week at home in my bed that my parents decided enough was enough. My family packed up our bags to go to Onomichi. I condensed all my games, all my clothes, and everything else that defined me into two small hand bags. My parents rented a truck, and then in the matter of three days, we were gone. Bookmark here

The train pulled into the platform, the doors finally opening once it came to a halt. Only a couple of people left the train, dispersing like water flowing away from the stream. Once everyone who needed to go had left, I hopped onto an empty train cart and took my seat near the window. The milk carton sat on my lap, with it already warmed up to room temperature. The train cart was a little warm, but nothing compared to being outside.Bookmark here

I threw my head back against the railing and sighed. The first time I went on the Onomichi train was a day after moving. Turns out that moving meant a day at the mall and Mom took that as a chance to ride the train. It wasn’t this exact cart back then. Yet, the aura was the same. A hot summer day, with no one around on the train. So….I threw my old phone out the train window like it was a gum wrapper. It slipped out my hand on instinct. The moment my Mom realized what happened, I could hear her frail scream echo behind me. Bookmark here

Imagine if I threw my new phone out the window? How pissed would Mom be? Bookmark here

Maybe it was the new feeling of freedom that was making me walk memory lane today. Ha. The past three years I’ve spent avoiding everything and all it took was quitting my job to open up my past again. With one hand I pulled out my phone and placed it on my lap, next to the milk. Bookmark here

Was it time? Was it finally time to move on?Bookmark here

If not now, it would be never. In the comfort on my own home, I could never do this. But here, with the pressure from the heat and the taste of freedom….I had a chance. A chance to finally send my past off before enjoying the rest of my summer in Onomichi as a university student. It was time to open up my old social media accounts.Bookmark here

When most people face something traumatic, they decide to block it from their mind. Any mention of it, any sign of whatever hurts, they bury deep inside them. However, it doesn’t go away that way. For me, burying my social media experience was harder to do with each passing day. It wasn’t something I could hide from anymore. Everyone and everything used social media now. Whether it was a necessity, a joy, or an obligation. I didn’t want to hide anymore. I didn’t want to be the loser anymore. I never wanted to be the odd one out, and with this holding me back, I would never be able to break open my shell. Bookmark here

With my free hand, I opened the one app that caused me the most pain. The one app where most of my bullying occured. Bookmark here

Winkstagram Bookmark here

My hand started to shake just looking at the app. My hear was racing, the speed of it matching the speed of the trains wheels. This was hell in an app. It was where I was shamed multiple times, called insults, and was seen as a weirdo by everyone. Bookmark here

Everyone? Aren’t you forgetting someone? Bookmark here

….Sure, there was an outlier or two. Although, no matter how much they cared, they always cared about themselves before me. So I don’t think that counted as caring. Instead, they held the same amount of emotion for me as a random fan seeing an artist they love pass away. For a second you feel bad, and the next moment you continue your life.Bookmark here

“Let me just…” I opened the app and was welcomed by the sign in page.Bookmark here

Welcome to Winkstagram! Stay connected with your friends and make many more! We have more than 1 billion users, so come join us!Bookmark here

It looked completely different than before. The company was focusing on a modern look, which meant simple colors and a simple layout. As if simple was the solution to all the issues that Winkstagram caused people like me. Bookmark here

“1 billion miserable people,” I said, typing in my old username. As for my password, it was simply just my BS4 gaming account password. Bookmark here

The mind of a middle schooler sure is simple. Bookmark here

The loading symbol popped up, and with it, my anxiousness resurfaced. What if something horrible happened? Like someone from my past has followed me to Onomichi? Or what if my account got hacked? Maybe I should quit the app now so it doesn’t log-Bookmark here

Welcome back! We missed you Souta_Fuji134!Bookmark here

My screen filled up with notifications, most of them from Winkstagram themselves. Taking a deep breath, I pressed on my messages. Bookmark here

30+ messagesBookmark here

I already knew that most of them were from my old school bullies. They hadn’t changed their account names, so I deleted all of those without even looking at the message. It was better to save myself the trouble and to delete them. No doubt that they were all negative anyways. Then, there were people who I didn’t know who had messaged me. Some of those were negative too, no doubt twin accounts of the other people whose messages I had just deleted. The moment I saw “Hey” or “You” I deleted the message at once. Bookmark here

No one wanted to say my name when they were calling me a creep.Bookmark here

Maybe this was useless. After all, I could just make a new account. Nonetheless, something inside of me needed to clear everything from this account to truly move on. To press “delete account” without feeling like I was simply running away from everything. Bookmark here

Message from: Kota_Prince_Hayashi178Bookmark here

Hayashi? Bookmark here

I pressed on his message, and it opened up:Bookmark here

Kota_Prince_Hayashi178: Souta, can you talk to me for a minute? It’s something serious and I need your help. Just...message me back ok pal.Bookmark here

Hayashi messaged me? Bookmark here

Despite my efforts to move on, Hayashi was the only person who I kind of worried about back in Kumano. Our relationship was….complicated. I shook my head and let myself smile. How was he doing after three years? He always wanted to be an engineer, so was he going for that degree still? Where was he? Maybe I should invite him over to play some games? Bookmark here

Intoxicated with nostalgia, I pressed on Hayashi’s account profile and was greeted with an empty Winkstagram page. The only thing left was Hayashi’s profile picture and a black square post. Maybe Hayashi deleted this account? I pressed on the black square post. Bookmark here

Likes: 607Bookmark here

Comments: 20Bookmark here

With grief in our hearts, Kota Hayashi has was found dead in his a couple of days ago. He was found in his bedroom in critical condition. Although his parents rushed him to the hospital the moment they found him, it was too late. The cause of death was determined to be suicide. We lost an angel today at Kumano High, and we hope everyone can give Hayashi’s family some space. Bookmark here

Rest in peace HayashiBookmark here

“Hayashi….” I muttered. My heart started racing as tears rushed to my eyes. “He...killed himself?”Bookmark here

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