Chapter 1: Be Kind, Rewind.
―“If I could say one thing to my younger self, what would it be?”
Among other questions, found themselves lingering through his mind as he searched the backroom. It was as if he held his thoughts in a reality of their own, completely lost to the outside world.
Rather, he was attempting to tune out his surroundings to the best of his ability
He was a young twenty-four-year-old ex college student working toward getting a promotion at the video rental store he worked for.
Described by some as a person who would perfectly fit the “social butterfly” stereotype.
What he lacked in overall build, he made up in his appearance. Him having blonde medium cut hair that came off as unkempt due to him never really having enough energy to properly take care of it.
From a far enough distance, a random passerby may have even thought him to be homeless due to his fashion choices, yet he seemingly took pride in them. His go-to outfit being an olive-green cargo jacket with four pockets in total, a worn red newsboy cap, and his signature glasses that displayed his most defining trait.
Beyond his glasses lie eyes that withheld years worth of pain. His corneas red due to his terrible sleep schedule, and his pupil’s glowing a vibrant lavender hue.
Doctors searched to no avail for a proper explanation as to how he could have been born with naturally purple eyes. The only confirmed case before him belonging to the former golden age of film actress Elizabeth Taylor
Ultimately chalking up his condition to a potential confirmation for the second ever case of the long mythicized “Alexandria’s genesis.” A supposedly rare genetic mutation that is said to only be found in the most perfect of human beings.
Yet just by looking at him, anyone could tell that he was far from that sort of description.
- “Maybe I’d warn myself not to work retail.”
He asked himself, knowing this would only create more problems. Having only decided to take up the job a year prior after a family friend offered to help him pay off college loans
“Yeah, then I’d probably have to move back into gramps' place permanently.”
“Knowing him, he’d probably flip if he found out just how much money I owe.”
“I respect the guy but he was always hard on me when it came to
the pettiest of things.”
Referring back to times in his primary through secondary schooling days. Hiro recalled how his foster father that he had subtly dubbed “Gramps” as a sign of disrespect had enforced rules that would potentially make even the strictest of parents seem carefree.
Examples of such rules being: never to stay out late after dark, not to go into the fridge without permission, and to always keep a bowl of salt by the windows and doors at night. The most peculiar of these rules however left Hiro with one of the most important mysteries of his early childhood.
- “Never to go inside of his room.”
He sighed, his immersion quickly breaking the moment an unruly customer began to raise his voice.
It was one of his regulars, a stout man by the name Mamoru Oda. This very customer had been a thorn in Hiro’s side for months. Whenever he visited the store, the staff always knew that trouble would soon follow.
Such as the time when he had attempted to pepper-spray one of Hiro’s co-workers over them, putting up a display of a popular movie character's redesign.
Yet, something was different about this customer today. He seemed confident for once in both stature and in the way he articulated his commands. Carrying with him the exaggerated swagger of someone who actually had a decent enough social standing.
“Can you hurry it up already?”
“My date expected me at her place half an hour ago!”
Hearing the oh too familiar voice weirdly brought a smile to Hiro’s face as he recalibrated his mindset to better suit the situation.
He turned to face the customer, offering him a forced smile.
“We’ve been over this Oda”
“If you’re too much of a hipster to sign up for a streaming service, it’s not really our problem.”
He spoke softly, carrying the box of DVDs out to the front counter.
These comments appeared to offend the customer, but he had no time to respond as Hiro began to counter with a tirade of his own.
“Besides, do you really expect to hold a relationship when the only thing you bring to the table are cheap JAV flicks?”
“She’s going to think you’re a total creep dude.”
Hiro says mockingly, offering the customer a smug grin
“W-what no, you’ve got it all wrong!”
“I thought I called up here earlier telling you specifically what I wanted!”
There’s a small pause as the customer begins to become aware that the store has fallen silent. This was clearly a setup by Hiro, an attempt to get the customer to show his true colors in front of witnesses.
His fellow customers stood patiently listening in on the conversation, silently judging the man.
Though despite knowing continuing would only make things worse, he still felt the urge to attempt to defend himself.
“I don’t know what type of game you’re playing”
“Just give me my damn movie already!”
He demands, now grabbing at the store clerk's collar.
This sudden abrasive act however didn’t phase Hiro in the slightest. Politely moving the customer away from him he warned.
“It’d be wise to not touch the employees' sir”
“With all these nice people here, it’d be a real shame if they had to witness a murder.”
The way he spoke was soft, his face now devoid of any emotion. This very expression struck fear into the raging customer who now reasonably loosened his grasp on him.
“In all due respect, all this talk’s holding up the line”
He states, reaching into the box of DVDs.
“I do remember someone calling earlier but in all honesty my guy..”
“I would have preferred that call to have been a mere prank.”
“I mean really, you must be pathetic if you’re trying to watch something like this”
To everyone's surprise, Hiro pulls out an all black DVD case with a sticky note attached to it. Written on the note is only a symbol representing a circle with a slash through it. The title written in a bold red font under it, “Loli conquest.”
“You’re probs going to say something along the lines of “I can explain” right?”
He notes, keeping that same expressionless demeanor as he watches the customer tremble with fear trying to mutter out his next words.
Oda could feel the eyes of his peers tearing through him the longer this conversation continued. This is his boiling point.
“I’ll be speaking with your manager!!”
The customer shouts as he makes a beeline to the exit, shoving his way through the crowd.
“I’m sure she’ll be happy knowing we have another pervert to ban from the store!”
Hiro triumphantly taunts the man, going so far as leaning over the counter in hopes that his words reached him due to the growing distance between the two men.
However, during these events; Hiro is unaware of a nearby danger lurking literally just around the corner.
“I’ll gladly take the next customer”
He spoke softly, yet the moment when he opened his eyes his words got caught in his throat. There before him is his boss, an elderly woman of short stature looking up at him. “How long has she been here!” He thought to himself as he began to think of possible ways to talk himself out of the situation. Though mere seconds passed, what felt like a century to Hiro is halted the moment the old woman began to speak. With a solemn voice, she finally uttered the phrase he had feared.
“Hiroshi my boy..”
Many hours have passed and Hiro now finds himself seated in a booth amongst two young men around his age.
The two appeared to be classmates of his. Their names being Kazuma Sakurai a spunky white-haired amateur video game developer only a year younger than him and the oldest of their friend group Kentaro Takano being 25.
Kazuma and Kentaro were among the few people that Hiro had held dear. Going as far as considering the two to be his best friends.
Tonight the group decided to meet up at the popular soul food restaurant known as “The Soul House” in an effort to help cheer their friend up having caught wind of his recent termination.
This was a place they would frequent throughout the years, using it as more of a hang-out spot than anything. Tonight though, the restaurant is surprisingly empty. Not a customer in sight other than the main group. The only other signs of life being the workers cleaning neighboring booths and the chefs closing down the kitchen.
They preferred it this way, having opted to meet up there near closing time as a way to have privacy.
“I must really be worthless after all”
Mutters Hiro as he takes a swig from his drink, clearly in a drunken stupor.
“What gives her the right to fire me!?”
“I was just doing what was right for the store and finally giving that guy
a piece of what every other worker has just been dying to say”
“Sometimes it’s just best to stay silent bro”
Says Kazuma as he callously takes a bite of the loaded cheeseburger he had smuggled into the restaurant.
“And here I was thinking Ol’ Ken here was the buzzkill of the group!”
He laughs, nudging the young man cutting into a pork chop to his left to try and get his attention. This action however went in the opposite direction of how Kazuma expected it to.
Calmly, Kentaro raises his steak knife toward Kazuma’s jugular.
“Wonderful sentiment, but you should really choose your words carefully”
“Hasn’t your mother taught you it’s rude to make comparisons..”
Kazuma however isn’t phased. Kentaro and he since the infancy of their friendship had more so a brotherly rivalry with each other. Kazuma always saw light in the darkest of situations while Kentaro always coolly remained the one who’d jump headstrong into them without letting his true emotions be known.
“Easy there bro, you know it’s all love”
“Besides, do you really want to stress out Hiro over here worse than he already is?”
With a sigh, Kentaro showed his agreeance to that statement by lowering his knife slowly. Shifting his attention now to Hiro.
“Kazuma may be an idiot but he still brings up a valid point.
“Could it be that this isn’t just about your job..?
“Could it be that you're still not over your ex?”
It is as if he saw right through the countless excuses that Hiro had made as to why he hadn’t been that talkative. Kentaro suggesting this however helped Kazuma put together his own ideals in a more articulated way.
“Yeah, now that I think of it Ken’s right”
“You can’t seriously be this bummed out over Suzume right?”
He asked, setting down his burger. Finally deciding to give his friend his undivided attention.
His excitement made him oblivious to how disrespectful his constant prying came off.
“She’s been gone for like eight years, kinda hard to believe you aren’t over her yet”
“How many times do we have to go over this..”
Hiro mutters, slamming his fist into the table. Exhausted by the onslaught of embarrassment they just brought upon him with what to him felt like a mini interrogation.
“How I feel has nothing to do with her and I’d appreciate it if we could go one conversation without someone bringing her up!”
Now leaning back in the booth, Hiro diverts his attention to the ceiling fan above him.
“Woah, just take it easy man.”
“You know it’s all love, didn’t mean to upset ya.”
Kazuma states, rifling through his pockets for his wallet. Hiro’s outburst had snapped him back to his senses and knowing he was in the wrong he decided it was time to leave before the situation could snowball into something far worse.
“Me and Kentaro are going to go ahead and head back to our dorms before it gets too late.”
“Would be a real pain if the guards refuse to let us back in again!”
“We still kinda owe ya for letting us crash at your place last month”
“So if you need us for anything don’t be afraid to ring us anytime”
Pulling out exact change, he sets it on the table and he and Kentaro begin to exit.
Hiro however remains silent, ignoring their departure completely. Opting to instead allow himself to once again get lost in his thoughts. Oftentimes he would dissociate, thinking back on simpler times to help distract himself from the struggles he had faced in the present.
This time would prove no different as he began to question his friends' statements.
“Has it really been eight years..?”
“I don’t still have feelings for her, that’d be ridiculous”
“Besides, I’m sure she’s happier finally being able to see the world..”
He tells himself as he begins to recall memories of her.
It was his first day at Kanno elementary, a primary school located in the Hyogo Prefecture.
Seven-year-old Hiroshi Jun had just transferred here after being placed in a foster home. Still a bit shaken over seeing the deaths of both of his parents mere months prior, Hiro was hesitant to form bonds here. Yet all that changed that fateful day when he first entered what would come to be his home-room.
Unknown to him, the instant he did his fate had become entwined with another students.
Her name is Suzume Fusho, while her name roughly translates to wounded sparrow she could more easily be compared to that of a small dog seeking attention.
Throughout that first week of classes, she’d hound him constantly in attempts to introduce herself. Though he initially ignored her, he got to a point where her persistence proved too much for him.
“What do you want from me!” “Can’t you tell when someone just isn’t interested?”
“What do you even see in me anyway?!” “I’ve made literally no attempts to talk with you before this yet you still follow me around like a lost dog!”
Hiro demanded in an attempt to get a worthwhile answer from her only to be greeted by a response that confused him.
She simply looked at him and flashed him an almost dopey smile.
“I just want to be your best friend”
She wouldn’t admit it, but she knew about his situation having been the daughter of their homeroom teacher. She had overheard a phone call that her mother had with Hiro’s foster father one night and realized that the two shared things in common. Although she had a preppy personality, Suzume herself struggled making friends at that age. Eating either alone or with her mother most days during lunch. She saw a little bit of herself in him and wanted to do what she could to prevent him from bearing the same pain she hid behind that dopey smile.
Hiro was taken aback by this, her words seemed so genuine and he didn’t quite know how to process them.
“It’s not that easy you know!” He refutes, angrily grabbing at her sweater. His tone quickly changes however when he sees her still holding that same smile. The grasp he had on her quickly loosened as he realized his actions. “I’m sorry.” He states repeatedly in an attempt to apologize.
Without another word, Suzume wraps her arms around him, hugging him tightly.
His face flushed a bright red, her sudden action coupled with his previous act of aggression had overloaded him with a mixture of embarrassment and anxiety.
Yet, he embraced it, grasping at her right arm tightly, he thinks.
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt if we give it a try..”
A much older Hiro now in his second year of high school tears his way through the halls of his high school desperately in search of something. Students and teachers alike look on in confusion as he makes his way up the stairs leading up to the rooftop. Ramming the doors open, he sparks a noise loud enough to shoo away the birds sitting atop a nearby satellite. There standing mere meters before him is a young woman who could easily pass as someone younger had she not been wearing her school uniform.
“I came as soon as I heard!”
“You can’t be serious about moving!”
She remains silent, clutching at the fence in an attempt to hold in her true feelings.
“What happened to our plans to go to the same college?!”
“What happened to “best friends for life”??”
“Were you even planning on telling anyone??”
He reiterates “Were you even planning on telling me?!”
“It’s not that easy you know…”
Her words pierced the silence, she had referenced the same exact line he used on her all those years ago. Turning to face him, she reveals to him that that same dopey expression she offered him throughout the years was now dressed with tears. She was attempting to stay strong for his sake but his words made them too hard for her to handle.
“If I told you, there's no way you’d understand.”
She states as Hiro looks on speechless.
“Do your best to forget about me okay?”
A day has passed since his boys' night out and Hiro finds himself doing menial chores inside of a messy apartment complex.
“Man this blows!”
“I can’t believe I was gullible enough to get guilt-tripped into house-sitting”
“Talk about a predator. He finds out I lost my job and expects me to come running so I can house-sit.”
Come to find out this is just an excuse so he can go on a month-long vacation with some hag half his age he met off a dating app?!”
Remarks Hiro as he wipes the sweat off of his brow with a loose rag.
“I’d have flat out refused but 5000 yen a night is too good a deal to pass up..”
“Especially after recent events..”
He sulks, recalling his recent termination from the rental store.
“I just wish there was more to do around this place than cleaning all day”
To say that the state of the apartment was in utter shambles before Hiro arrived is an understatement. For an old man, Hiro’s foster father lived as if he were a prepubescent teen who just got their first debit card. The floors were littered with an array of different snack foods, dirtied clothes, and trash bags full of things that Hiro didn’t even want to imagine.
After a mere hour, which to him felt like more. Hiro had managed to make the place spotless. The only obstacle remaining however is his foster father’s room.
“Gramps did say to make sure the place was spotless.”
He thought to himself, deeply considering whether or not cleaning that room as well would benefit him. Weighing the possibility of the old man finding out and what could come from it.
“I’m sure he won’t be upset if I take a quick peek just this once.”
Flicking on the lights to the bedroom, Hiro is pleasantly surprised by its interior.
In a stark contrast to the other rooms, Hiro's foster fathers looked as if no one had lived in it for months. The bed perfectly made, the floor free of clutter, bowls of pure white salt by the door and window, and the outdated CRT television sitting atop the desk surprisingly still powered on with a box simply labeled “VHS '' to its side.
“I honestly expected more, this is kind of a letdown.”
He remarked coldly as the buzz of the television drew his attention over to it. More specifically to the box beside it.
“He always was telling me not to come in here and I never for the life of me knew why.”
The box was surprisingly in good condition. Aside from the top being covered in dust, it had appeared as though the exterior was taken care of. Either that or it hadn’t been opened for quite a long time.
As he began to open the box, he thought of the possibilities of what it may contain. More specifically, what type of films it stored.
Having worked the past year in a rental store Hiro had adopted the personality of a critic. Believing its contents could have potentially held a rare movie or some he had never heard of before. Then again, maybe he wanted to use this as an excuse to expose the old man for being some sort of closeted pervert if he ended up finding a “non-savory” flick mixed in.
He exclaimed as he dug through its contents. They were better than he could have ever imagined. Inside are an assortment of foreign films still in mint condition.
“The Human Centipede..?”
He asked himself unsure of what the plot of said film could possibly entail.
“Can’t say these companies aren’t creative with their names at least..”
He laughed to himself as he continued to analyze the titles, in hopes of finding something fresh to watch.
“I’m honestly surprised the old man’s this much of a movie collector”
“If anything I would have pictured him being the type to have a collection
of weird doujin instead”
One film in particular stood out from the bunch, immediately catching his eye the moment he saw just how worn the box art is.
“The Melon Maiden’s prince..?”
He asked himself as he began to inspect it.
“Sure looks like this movie’s seen better days..”
He states a bit skeptical, deciding to inspect the box for any indicator of what the film may be about.
The cover art isn’t anything special, just showing two women with their hands interlocked in front of what appeared to be a melon field. Though both women were the same in appearance, the two were differentiated by their expressions. While one looked almost sorrowful, the other looked happy.
He had never even heard of this film before so it is easy to misunderstand what type of genre it’d ultimately fall under.
“I’d usually toss this aside since I'm almost positive it’s just some crappy rom-com but it’s the middle of the day and I deserve a break after spending a good chunk of it cleaning this sorry excuse of an apartment.”
Carefully removing the tape from its sleeve, he inserts it into the television's built-in VHS player. With a click, the screen goes blank.
“Just my luck, I find something I'm actually interested in and this outdated piece of crap decides to die on me..”
This would be a problem if he hadn’t remembered his go-to method of fixing problematic tvs at his old job.
Without a second thought, Hiro delivered a gentle smack to the side of the television. Luckily enough, this trick ended up working. To his delight, the static returned.
“Just another benefit of being “rent-a-flix’s” former employee of the month”
He gloats, knowing full well that this was hardly an achievement due to the very few staff members that the rental store had.
“Guess it just goes to show that certain tricks are timeless-”
But before he could finish that thought, an alarming site catches his attention.
The television had started to short circuit. Smoke began to seep out of its ventilations as the sparks flew. The bowls of salt that rested at the entrance of the room and by the windows had turned a deep black color. In the middle of the screen, the static began to reform, spiraling into a small vortex.
Hiro is speechless, unable to process what is happening.
“What the hell is going on?!” He thought to himself confused as he tried to distance himself from it.
Yet his attempts soon were proven to be futile as the force the vortex exerted began to pull him ever so closer to it. He tried desperately to prevent this, going as far as hugging one of the beds front facing legs. Despite his efforts, the force was too strong for him to fight off for long. In a matter of seconds, he was flung toward the screen. Leaving nothing of his behind in the room except for his red newsboy cap, which now rests right in front of the television.