Chapter 13:

Hopes, and Dreams: Part II

Second Chances

“I want to be a teacher!” the boy with a bow-haircut shouted. Then, he stopped saying anything and peered into my eyes with his sparkly eyes.Bookmark here

I continued to look at him as he looked at me. He didn’t continue, and looked like he’s anticipating for me to say something.Bookmark here

Oh. “Umm… why?”Bookmark here

“Because teachers are cool! They teach people when they raise their hands, they can solve every problem that we can’t, they pat us when we do something good, they praise us if we help each other, they teach us how to plant trees, they high-five with us when we get good results. And most importantly, when they talk about our problems to our parents, our parents would listen!”Bookmark here

Right… My primary school teachers were also awesome back then. “Ok, who’s next?”Bookmark here

“Me next! Me next!” a bald-headed boy shouted out.Bookmark here

“Hey! Emilia raised her hand first,” a girl interrupted the boy.Bookmark here

Emilia? I noticed a girl had her right hand half-raised, with her blue eyes looking at me.Bookmark here

“Then if you let Emilia share her story first, that’d make you a gentleman, right?” I looked at the bald boy.Bookmark here

“Yes! Of course! Emilia, you can share first!”Bookmark here

“…Thanks,” Emilia said, with a voice that sounded like a whisper.Bookmark here

She looked at me, waiting for my question.Bookmark here

“So, what do you want to be, Emilia?”Bookmark here

“I… umm… want to be a…”Bookmark here

“A?”Bookmark here

“A police officer,” she added.Bookmark here

“And who inspired you?”Bookmark here

“My… my…”Bookmark here

“Your?”Bookmark here

“My father.”Bookmark here

She then stopped talking, but only stared at me.Bookmark here

I took a deep breath. I wish I had more patience.Bookmark here

“It’s ok, Emilia,” I said. “I know you’re nervous. I was nervous when I had to present my ugly drawing in front of the whole class when I was a child. Our theme was monsters. And, the whole class laughed at me, even the teacher. You know why?”Bookmark here

“Why?” she asked.Bookmark here

“I drew a circle with a smile, and called It a slime.”Bookmark here

She chuckled.Bookmark here

The class representative laughed out loud.Bookmark here

“So…” I said, heightening my voice to cover over his laugh. “Most of the time, there’s no right or wrong. It depends on how you see things, or how you express yourself. So, you do not need to be overly worried about what others think of you. So, with that being said, let’s go for a quick round.”Bookmark here

“Emilia,” I looked at her. “You’ll be leading. Share with us your story.”Bookmark here

She nodded her head slightly. “My… my father, he’s a policeman. He has a small guard house that people can go to. Our neighbors always go to him when they lose something… cat, dogs, wallet, or when they see suspicious people in our neighborhood. They always relied on my dad, and my dad has never rejected them. Not once. So, many nights, my dad would come home late. And after a heavy sigh, he’d always smile and cuddle my mom and I at the front door. I… I love him, and my mom. So that’s why I want to be a kind, reliable police… to protect them.”Bookmark here

The rest of the children, and I started to clap after she finished her story. She got embarrassed and hid her face with her friend’s hug.Bookmark here

“Me next!” the bald boy shouted, and without waiting for me, he started. “I want to be a spy! Spies are so amazing; they jump and fly around, they can shoot bad guys, they are mysterious, they have many friends around the world, they drive stylish cars, wear stylish suits. And, and, no one can order them when to sleep!”Bookmark here

“Spy is not a real job,” the other kid complained.Bookmark here

“You’re not a real job!” he yelled back.Bookmark here

Oh gods, that kid looked like he’s about to cry.Bookmark here

“Ok, ok, calm down,” I said. “Let’s move on. Anyone else?”Bookmark here

A child sitting at the very back raised his hand. Unlike others, he didn’t have his bag with him.Bookmark here

“Umm… I want to be a doctor. My father said only doctors can save my mother. I haven’t seen her for a long time. She was always in the hospital, and my father was always too busy to bring me to visit her. Our teacher said doctors can cure many, many diseases. So, I will study hard. And when I grow up, I will be a doctor, and make my mother feel better.”Bookmark here

A girl with a cap raised her hand up. “I want to be a pilot! My mama always complained about how boring our life is, and she wanted to go to Hawaii. But ever since papa left us, she always worked late and is not home all the time. So, when I become a pilot, I can always spend time with her, and bring her to travel the world for free!”Bookmark here

Another girl with curly hair raised her hand next. “I want to be a businesswoman, like my mother. She said all men are useless, and we girls can only depend on ourselves if we want to succeed in our life. She always has a cool business suit on, and always helped me with my homework after she came home. She’s my role model, I want to be just like her!”Bookmark here

A boy with a plastic bracelet suddenly stood up. “I want to be a hero!”Bookmark here

He made a superhero posture. “Heroes save good guys from bad guys. They punish people who do bad things, and most importantly they are always courageous. They never give up, they are never afraid of challenges, and they always think of many ways to help others. I wish I could be like them.”Bookmark here

Emilia’s friend, the girl who spoke for her then raised her hand up. “I want to be a lawyer, like my father. He’s a public prosecutor and he’s solved many cases, helped many innocent people. He would also spend time with me, teaching me how to differentiate right and wrong whenever he has time. I also visited his law firm a few times before. He took me there on the weekends!”Bookmark here

“We want to run a bakery together,” one of the remaining children said, wrapping his arm on what I guessed is his twin brother. “Our father and mother had taught us how to make bread yesterday, and we also learnt some new recipes. The neighbor always praised our bread, and their comments put a smile on our faces. So, when we grow up, we want to become bakers just like our father and mother!”Bookmark here

“Yeah!” his twin brother added.Bookmark here

I nodded, all of them had told their stories. “Alright now—”Bookmark here

Suddenly, I heard a loud knock from my back.Bookmark here

Knock.Bookmark here

Knock.Bookmark here

Reaper. I looked at him: his face still hidden, but he raised his scythe, and knocked the ground with its end again.
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The children started to walk past me without saying anything, lifelessly herding towards him.Bookmark here

“Fun time’s over,” Reaper said, with a much coarser voice than I’ve heard before. “Time to go.”Bookmark here

“Wait!” I shouted, as I tried to grab the class representative’s small arm. But my hands went right through him.
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My heart started to beat faster, and faster.Bookmark here

They all turned their back on me, and started to walk further away from me, being led by Reaper.Bookmark here

I attempted to rush forward but I couldn't. “Where are you taking them? Reaper!”Bookmark here

“… To where they are supposed to be.”Bookmark here

He continued to lead the children, without any hint of stopping.Bookmark here

One by one, they started to disappear from my sight, into the darkness.Bookmark here

I cannot, I couldn’t move. “Wait… just wait for a minute. Reaper. REAPER!”Bookmark here

My legs started to tremble as they went further and further away from me. “No, the stories. Their future… their parents. You can’t do this, you can’t, REAPER! EMILIA!”Bookmark here

I shouted Emilia’s name, again and again. Because it was the only name I knew. I didn’t care to ask about their names.Bookmark here

“EMILIA!”Bookmark here

Just as she was about to disappear from my sight, she stopped and turned to look at me.Bookmark here

She was crying, with a smile on her face.Bookmark here

She waved at me. “Thank you.”Bookmark here

No... No! “EMILIA!”Bookmark here

In a snap, I was back at that playground. Bookmark here

My hand was reaching out in front of me, at nothing.Bookmark here

I kneeled down. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t say anything. I took deep, deep breaths but still couldn’t calm myself down. Bookmark here

A few lines of tears dropped from my eyes. “DAMN IT. DAMN IT ALL!”Bookmark here

“Shin? What happened suddenly?” Chiaki ran and kneeled in front of me.Bookmark here

I looked at her, and those children behind her. An unspeakable pain grasped my breath away. I only shook my head.Bookmark here

She didn’t ask any further, and just wrapped her arms around my neck. She pulled me closer to her.
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Then, Hideki joined in without another word, hugging me from behind.
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And Yui, right behind Chiaki.Bookmark here

It still pained me, but I chuckled. "I'm sorry, I—"Bookmark here

"I've got your back, Shin. I've got your back." Hideki said.
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Hideki then signaled the children and they came in horde to surround us, creating a hugging circle as they giggled.Bookmark here

I took a deep, shaky breath.Bookmark here

Is this how it’s going to end?Bookmark here

What could I have done? Tell their parents that I made a contract with Grim Reaper, and it led to their children’s death? Tell them I met their children in my dream? Give them empty hopes? Leap back in time and let those 10 passengers die?Bookmark here

Their hopes, and dreams…. Bookmark here

Gone.Bookmark here

What should I have done?Bookmark here

What should... I have done?
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