Chapter 10:

The Third Death(s)

Second Chances

11:54AM.Bookmark here

Hideki’s phone rang a few seconds ago. He went to pick it up.Bookmark here

Suddenly, I heard a familiar whistle.Bookmark here

Again?Bookmark here

“Yooo Shin! How have you been?” Reaper asked, sitting in front of me, where Hideki had just left to take the phone call.Bookmark here

I took my phone out, and placed it in my ear. “Don’t sit where he was.”Bookmark here

Reaper slid himself a bit to his right.Bookmark here

“Why do you keep showing up? Do you want anything else from me? If not, leave me alone.”Bookmark here

“Oh, come on, Shin!” he complained. “I haven’t complained about you messing with deaths again, and you are already being so cold to me.”Bookmark here

“Deaths? The 10 passengers?”Bookmark here

“Yes. I told you many times before, Shin. You shouldn’t mess with these things, especially not in strangers' lives.”Bookmark here

“But their fate had changed, didn’t they? My father would have been the only casualty in this timeline.”Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s the problem!” he shouted. “Now there are 10 lesser deaths in this timeline!”Bookmark here

“That’s none of my concern, and I don’t think it’s your job to worry about it either,” I said. “You only lead them after they pass away, right? So, wait for your new order or something.”Bookmark here

“Shin, shin, shin,” he said. “You know me too well. That’s why I’m here. Because of the order. God of Fate’s order.”Bookmark here

“Wait, what are you talking about?”Bookmark here

He remained silent and only grinned at me.Bookmark here

“Answer me!”Bookmark here

“When there’s death, there will always be death, Shin.”Bookmark here

“REAPER!”Bookmark here

He then vanished without a trace.Bookmark here

I looked at the time on my phone.Bookmark here

11:58AM.Bookmark here

I suddenly felt dizzy, as my head hit face down on the table. An electric jolt ran through my body, and the warping sensation came again as I passed through the grey shrine gate.Bookmark here

I found myself standing in front of the cinema. Same cinema. Same street. The display board on top of the cinema showed “12:00AM”. A bus carrying primary school children came charging into the street. The driver has lost consciousness, as the teacher tried to handle the steering wheel, honking to alert people.Bookmark here

Within a few seconds, it crashed into the cinema entrance. The entrance doors were completely decimated, as some bodies were lying below the debris. People started to shout and ran to help. I heard my mother and my father calling out my name, desperately yelling for my attention.Bookmark here

No.Bookmark here

NO!Bookmark here

The vision then stopped, and I woke up.Bookmark here

My watch beeped.Bookmark here

Beep.Bookmark here

Beep.Bookmark here

I dropped my phone and dashed out of the shop’s door, past Hideki, mustering every ounce of strength I have, trying to make it there. As I stepped on the street, the bus stormed across me, heading straight towards the cinema. I ran, and shouted.Bookmark here

“No, no. Stop, STOP!”Bookmark here

But someone pulled my arm back before I could get closer.Bookmark here

After a second, the crashing sound resonated in the air. The whole entrance collapsed onto the roof of the school bus, sending a wave of smoke and dust to us. One of the small debris flew past me and scratched my left temple on my forehead.Bookmark here

I started to bleed, but I froze.Bookmark here

Everything became silent. Bookmark here

Muted.Bookmark here

This can’t be happening. There was never a bus before. There was never… a bus before.
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My heart started to beat erratically.
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I tightened my fists, as my breath became heavier and heavier. I need to check it for myself. I need to confirm it. I don't believe this.
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“shin”Bookmark here

I heard a voice vaguely calling me, but I just don’t care anymore.Bookmark here

“Let go,” I said.Bookmark here

“shin... are you ok… oh god, you’re bleeding” she swiped away my hair, immediately took her tissue out to clean the blood, and put a plaster on the scratch.Bookmark here

“shin, snap out of it”Bookmark here

“shin”Bookmark here

I looked at her and him, standing in front of me. Tears flowed out of their eyes, as they looked at me worriedly. Both of them were holding my fists, in between their hands. They desperately called my name, waiting for my reaction.Bookmark here

The background noises faded in, one by one. I heard my watch beeping; I heard the bus’s constant honking; I heard people running steps; I heard people screaming for help; I heard people coordinating the rescue; I heard people crying, sobbing near me; I heard him and her, calling for my attention.Bookmark here

Him, and her.Bookmark here

My father, and my mother.Bookmark here

I took a look at them again, to snap myself out of my thoughts.Bookmark here

“I’m ok,” I said, as I wrapped my arms around them. “I’m ok, I’m ok.”Bookmark here

They embraced my hug, and only nodded.Bookmark here

So, this is what I heard in my vision.Bookmark here

They didn’t make it to the movie. Why?Bookmark here

I looked at a box on the ground in front of me. “Hokkaido Egg Tarts,” it read.Bookmark here

I sighed, with relief.Bookmark here

“Those egg tarts…” I asked.Bookmark here

“Egg tarts?” my mother looked behind her. “Oh no!”Bookmark here

The entire box had been stepped on, with the yellow fillings and the crusts all meshed together like clay and compressed on. They looked almost like a pizza by now.Bookmark here

“Your mother,” my dad said. “She was scared they would have sold out the egg tarts by the time we finished the movie. So, we went to buy first. A long line of people was already waiting. We knew we weren’t able to make it back for our movies, so we settled on 12:30 PM's movie slot.”Bookmark here

“And then,” my father continued. “We saw you standing here when we arrived.”Bookmark here

“But the egg tarts are now…” my mother said.Bookmark here

“As long as Shin’s ok,” my father said. “We can always buy those again.”Bookmark here

“Right,” she said, as she hugged me tightly.Bookmark here

“Dad, help, I cannot—breathe—” I reached out to my father.Bookmark here

“This is what you get for worrying your mom,” he said.Bookmark here

I took a deep breath, as I looked at the crash site.Bookmark here

My mother’s fate had already changed in this timeline when I saved my father. This third death… it has already been averted, exchanged… with other people’s lives. The first time it happened, my mother was walking alone outside the hospital to calm herself down, when a brick on top of the nearby construction site fell on her head. It caught her unguarded, she didn’t hear the workers shouting at her until it’s too late.Bookmark here

An accident, they said. Like my mother was just another number in their statistics.Bookmark here

I calmed myself down, as people still continued to rush past us, trying to secure a clear path for the ambulance to arrive, for the paramedics to access the situation, for the fire fighters to begin removing the debris, for the local police to investigate what really happened.Bookmark here

I suddenly got the urge to look behind me.Bookmark here

Hideki was standing there all that time, holding my phone on one hand, the gift I bought on the other hand. I smiled at him, he smiled back.Bookmark here

“Mom, Dad,” I said. “That over there is my best friend I met in university, Hideki.”Bookmark here

I pointed at Hideki with my thumb.Bookmark here

My mother waved at him, and he approached us.Bookmark here

“Very nice to meet you, Shin’s mother and father,” he said. “I’m Hideki and your son’s always been taking care of me for the past year. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to stop him from getting closer to the crash site just now. I tried my best.”Bookmark here

“My, what a polite boy,” my mother said.Bookmark here

My father shook Hideki’s hand. “Thank you for stopping my son in time. If you weren’t with him…”Bookmark here

“It’s my duty, Shin’s father,” he said. “He saved my life once; I’m just returning the favor.”Bookmark here

My father looked a bit shocked but he continued to awkwardly shake his hand.Bookmark here

This scene gave me the impression that two children are playing a game of “let go first and you lose”.Bookmark here

My mother also went to hug Hideki, when I received a call.Bookmark here

Chiaki.Bookmark here

“Shin? Shin! Where are you right now? Are you ok?” she asked, a bit panicked, on the other side of the phone. “Why are you not replying to me? Why is it so noisy there? Shin? Shin?”Bookmark here

“Calm down, Chiaki,” I said. “I’m fine, I’m fine. A school bus hit the cinema here; the authorities are gathering for rescue.”Bookmark here

“Is there anyone there with you?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, Hideki’s here. He’s fine too. And my mom, my dad, they just arrived here. They are safe, too.”Bookmark here

I heard her let out a sigh of relief sigh.Bookmark here

“Do you want me to come over?” she asked.Bookmark here

“No, it’s fine,” I said. “But I don’t think we will attend the afternoon classes anymore. Maybe I’ll go to Hideki’s place for a while before heading home.”Bookmark here

“Where?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Where what?”Bookmark here

“Where’s Hideki’s place?”Bookmark here

“I’m not sure of the exact address, why?”Bookmark here

“I’m going there as well.”Bookmark here

“But you still have classes, right?”Bookmark here

“I don’t care… Wait, on a second thought, it’s the final class of the year anyway. Fine, I’ll head there afterwards. Send me the address first.”Bookmark here

“Ok, fine,” I said. “But be careful on your way there.”Bookmark here

“I will.”Bookmark here

“And one more thing, Chiaki.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“You sounded cute when you panicked earlier.”Bookmark here

She hung up the phone.Bookmark here

“I’ll bet that was Chiaki, with the grin on your face,” Hideki said.Bookmark here

“It was, and apparently we’re having a party later at your place.” I replied.Bookmark here

“What?” he asked, with awe. “Really?”Bookmark here

“Really. Let’s call it our last party of the year.”Bookmark here

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