I wore my watch and set it to 12:00 AM. I then laid myself down on the bed with my back. I was already mentally and physically exhausted since the morning, then, with these things that kept happening to me. I just wanted to sleep.
But I scrolled my phone, to Chiaki’s contact.
I scrolled through my past messages with her. She was never the type to use any emoji in her text messages. All her replies are straight, forward, concise and clear.
I texted her. “Are you home alone now?”
After a few seconds, she replied. “No. My parents were home earlier today. Why?”
“Nothing, just asking.”
I looked at the clock hanging on my wall.
The first time around, I was devastated at both my parents’ death. I got a high fever, and Chiaki went over to take care of me. She went back home at 11:45PM to get her things, and some more medicine. Her parents weren’t home yet at the time. At 1:00AM, I only woke up and found her not to be around. With a blanket over me, I attempted to walk to her house.
Halfway through, I saw blood trails, left by car wheels on the road.
I followed it.
At the end of the trails was Chiaki’s lifeless body, lying face flat to the ground, in a pool of her own blood. She was lying there, all alone. There was blood flowing out of her mouth, but it had stopped.
I ran to her.
Desperately dragging my slow, stupid body.
I called out her name. I yelled it out loud.
The night was dead silent. The air was freezing. The street was cold. The sky was dark.
I wrapped my blanket around her, and hugged her in my arms.
She was not moving. Not breathing.
I wiped the blood from her mouth as I cried.
My tears dropped on her face as I screamed, like a baby crying for attention, calling for help. For help, that never came.
I was too wimpy, too weak, too much of a coward to say what I had wanted to say. I was fine with the way things were, and thought that they would last forever. I was too naïve, too foolish. And I only realized it until everything was taken away from me… I was too late.
That hour, that moment, my fate and my destiny had reached an end. One bad accident, stacking on top of each other, and it eventually crushed me that day. Everything was taken away from me. I felt like I could never replace them. I felt that I could never be happy again.
While the world around me continued to move on, I could only sulk and grab onto any memories that I had. Because that was all I could do. I refused to move on: it’s too bitter, too painful to do so.
That moment, I felt it, the first time ever.
It was strong. Lingering. Frustrating. Overwhelming.
“Do you want to come over?” Chiaki texted me.
I looked at my watch.
That was a horrible flashback. I promised myself that I would only use it to drive me, not to chain me down.
In my second time of repeating this, I didn’t manage to make it to Chiaki’s before everything restarted again. My third attempt, I wasn’t sick, and I messaged her to stay home. A burglar broke into her house that night. She fought him but slipped down the stairs and hit her head against the wall. The burglar ran in panic, and didn’t manage to steal anything. But her parents were only home after an hour it happened. At least, that was what I heard from them.
My fourth attempt, I saved her, by calling her parents to make sure that they were home earlier, mentioning there was an active burglar in the area. And, I personally went to stay with her until her parents returned.
Now, my last attempt.
“Sure,” I texted her back. “Since we don’t have any classes tomorrow, should I bring some novels over? Also, are your parents fine with me coming at this hour?”
There was a one-minute gap before she replied to me, “My parents are ok with it. But… they said if you’re staying the night here, you will be sleeping on the living room’s couch.”
I smiled. Her parents are protective of her, as always, even though we’d known each other for like 17 years or so.
“Ok then, I’ll bring some ‘Percy Jackson’,” I texted back.
“Ok. See you( ๑>ᴗ<๑ )”
I looked at her text again. An emoticon?
“Sorry,” she texted again. “Pressed the wrong button. :P”
Gosh, I didn’t know she was this cute.
After mentioning to my mother and my father about where I’m going, and my mother adding an extra scarf on me, I walked to her house. I arrived at 11:45PM.
She chuckled at my double-scarf looks, before welcoming me in, wearing her blue jacket over her pajamas. Her father and mother were already asleep, with only the light in front of her doorstep still on. The rest of her house on the first floor was dark.
We quietly walked to her room, first room to the left, on the second floor.
I stopped in front of her door; her room didn’t look much different than I remember. Maybe only smaller, since I last visited, in this timeline at least. Her room’s walls were still light blue, and beside a bed with a study table, there’s a four-legged wooden small table in the middle. On the left, is a bookshelf a bit larger than mine, filled with books and novels.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
“No… it just has been a while since I last visited,” I stepped inside and sat in front of the table. I then put the books on the table as I continued to curiously look around her room. My attention was caught by a dragon plush on top of her bed. I could identify it even if she’s covered the whole thing but its tails because I won it in the summer festival earlier this year and gave it to her.
I smiled. The long body shape of the dragon was too obvious.
“Why are you grinning at my bed?” Chiaki asked, as she placed two wooden cups of green tea on the table. She then grabbed the first Percy Jackson novel.
I coughed, “Nothing.”
She didn’t continue to ask me, and started to read her book, sitting in front of me. Upon flipping the next page, I noticed her small yawn as she tried to cover her mouth. Looking at her, I also yawned. She must have been ready to sleep when I texted her.
“Are you tired?” I asked.
“Mmmm,” she said.
“Then why did you still invite me over?”
“You sounded worried in your text,” she said, while still locking her eyes on the page she was reading. “… and the incident that happened this afternoon… I just thought maybe you needed someone to be by your side.”
She then looked at me. “Can’t I?”
“… Yeah, sure. You can. Thanks.”
She then resumed reading the book, while letting out a second yawn.
I looked at my watch.
If I don’t receive any vision within the next few minutes, that'd mean there will be no death around me. This has been proven on my fourth attempt in saving Chiaki’s life; nothing happened that night.
I reached for the cup and drank the tea she served. I couldn’t focus on reading books now.
I slowly sipped the tea, and checked my watch.
Just when I finished my thoughts, a dizziness struck me. No. An electric jolt ran through my body; I spilled the tea. And then, I felt the same sudden warping sensation trying to pull me through the grey shrine gate. The dreadful grey shine gate.
But it stopped when I was in the middle of the gate. I quickly grabbed the wooden posts of the gate, one hand each, and attempted to maintain my position.
Shrine gate, or torii, has a symbolic meaning of marking the entrance to a sacred space, separating the boundary between life and death. If I’m pulled in again, there will likely be death awaiting at the other side. I cannot let go.
The pulling then gradually increased in strength. I gripped the posts with my hands, as hard as I could. The whole area around me is empty, but the reflection of the gray sky on the ground, that almost looked like a calm sea. There is no one I can call, no other ways I could escape.
The invisible rope strongly tugged me again; I managed to maintain my position.
Then, it was almost like the rope was cut, as I fell into the sea.
I woke up.
Chiaki had already fallen asleep while holding her book.
I stopped the alarm, and took a sigh in relief.
I managed to prevent it this time as well.
Fourth death, evaded.
Day 2, completed.
I laid my back on the floor.
Next, is the fifth person. And then, one final showdown.
I sat myself back up and rested my eyes on Chiaki's sleeping face. She’d get a fever if she sleeps like this but I don’t really want to wake her up.
I slowly stood myself up, and firstly wiped away the tea stain on the floor with tissues from her study table. I then wrapped her blanket around her shoulders, and attempted to carefully take the book away from her hands.
“Shin,” she called out, as I was in the middle of slipping the book up from her hands.
I looked at her. Her eyes were still closed.
“Don’t cry, Shin,” she said.
I paused at her.
A drop of tear slid out of her right eye as she smiled, “I’m here.”
I continued to take the book away and put it on the side. Then, I laid beside her as she slept with her face on the table.
I closed my eyes. Tomorrow.
It all comes down to tomorrow.
New Years' Eve.