Chapter 1:

Lingering doubt

Dive into the Night

Someone… is calling my name.Bookmark here

I could feel a soft breeze caress my face as I slowly opened my eyes. As I looked around, I found myself in a small park. A number of large trees lined the perimeter, providing natural shade from the bright summer sun. The field of perfectly-cut grass gently swayed against the wind.Bookmark here

A nostalgic sight.Bookmark here

Still I wondered why I was there. I didn't recall ever making plans to laze around at a park, regardless of how pleasant this atmosphere was. It did cross my mind that-Bookmark here

“Hey!”Bookmark here

I looked forward and saw what seemed to be a group of small kids playing in the sandpit. They appeared to be drawing something in the sand. Some of them were looking in my direction, were they the ones who were calling my name earlier?Bookmark here

“Come on Leon! We don’t have all day!”Bookmark here

Yeah, they’re calling me alright. Did I know them? They were yelling in my direction and there doesn't appear to be anyone else at the park. That's weird, normally the park would be filled with people on nice days like this. Bookmark here

I brushed that thought aside as I decided to go see what they wanted with me. As I pushed myself off the bench I was sitting on, I landed on the ground with a thud. That did not feel right either, the distance between the bench and the ground felt a bit too far. I brushed off the dirt and began to walk towards the group. I could feel my legs moving, but it was as though I needed to put in extra effort to move.Bookmark here

As I finally reached the sandpit, I also managed to make out what they were drawing in the sand. It appeared to be a map of sorts, listing out various locations each with their own drawing. At the center of the drawing were six uniquely shaped rocks. As I looked to the boy on my right, I realize that he and I had the same height. Strange. He was much shorter than me from the bench. As I turned back to get another look at the drawing, one of the kids spoke up.Bookmark here

“I told you I thought everything out! We might even discover something no one has seen before! Hey Leon, you agree with me right?”Bookmark here

Hey, hey. I didn’t agree to anything here, you’re the one putting words in my mouth.Bookmark here

I looked up to give my reply but as I did I realized that no one was standing in front of me. The gentle breeze from earlier was gone, replaced by a chill that quickly ran down my spine. Turning to the boy beside me, I realized that he was not a young boy anymore, but now a young teen. As I prepared to question him, I was shocked to discover the first words out of my mouth were not my question, but instead his name.Bookmark here

“Kelvin, are we missing a person?”Bookmark here

He turned towards me with a look of confusion.Bookmark here

“No, it’s only the five of us today.”Bookmark here

“Oh right, my bad. It’s just that, weren’t we talking about an adventure of some sort?”Bookmark here

Kelvin continued to look at me with a slightly puzzled expression, as if I was asking a question that should have been common knowledge.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, the trip we wanted to take after graduation? I thought we all agreed we’ll figure things out after we finish uni. No point in rushing things since none of us know how the future will work out.”Bookmark here

We? Who were we in this situation?Bookmark here

The world around me became enveloped in darkness, Kelvin and the other boys faded into the void without another word. Behind me I could still hear someone talking.Bookmark here

“I’ll talk to you about it again when we play tomorrow, bye Leon!” the voice trembled as it spoke, sounding somewhat … sad.Bookmark here

I turned around, but there was nothing but darkness. The world fell completely quiet, yet all this time I felt as if there was never anyone else here but me. I closed my eyes and fall back into the darkness. It’s cold, but somehow comforting. Bookmark here

“I’m sorry. I just can’t remember who you are,” I replied to the void as I felt my consciousness fading to black.
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***Bookmark here

Leon Chen opened his eyes, he stared at the ceiling as he realized he was back in his bedroom. The morning sunlight leaked into his room from the gap in the curtains. He turned around and grabbed his phone off of his nightstand. 8:25 AM. He put the phone down and stared at the ceiling again.Bookmark here

Damn, it’s been a while since I had a dream like that. Leon pondered to himself. Well, no point in lazing around longer just because of a bad dream.Bookmark here

Leon got off his bed and quickly began his morning routine.Bookmark here

After he was finished, Leon quickly got changed before he decided to check the day’s weather on his phone. Thirty degrees with clear skies all day, it was a perfect June day. He checked the house once more before walking outside. The sun was already shining high in the sky. Leon puts on his sunglasses before getting in his car.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Arriving downtown, Leon parked his car and began to walk down the street. He checked his phone again as he looked around, making sure he was at the right place. Leon continued down the street until he spotted his destination: Café 39. The sign above the store was adorned by the café’s mascot: a blue-haired girl in a mech suit.Bookmark here

After entering the building, Leon takes a quick look around. The café was spacious and nearly spotless, the white and silver décor paired with blue accents matched the mascot’s colour scheme. A person in the corner of the café spotted Leon and gave him a wave, Leon proceeded over to the table.Bookmark here

“Hey Kelvin, were you waiting long?” Leon asked as he sat down.Bookmark here

The same Kelvin from Leon’s dream, now much older in his mid-twenties. He is dressed light for the summer weather.Bookmark here

“Nah, it’s probably only been about three minutes since I sat down,” Kelvin replied. “Man, you’ve been arriving earlier and earlier. Maybe next time I’ll be the one who’s late!”Bookmark here

They shared a laugh before the waiter arrived at their table. Leon and Kelvin ordered their drinks before continuing their conversation.Bookmark here

“Hey listen, real sorry for asking you to come meet me on such a short notice, and thank you for taking time out of your day to come by.”Bookmark here

“Oh, come on. Why are you even apologizing?” Leon replied, casually brushing off Kelvin. “Not like I’m doing anything right now.”Bookmark here

“Weren’t you finishing your program this year?” Kelvin asked, slightly puzzled. “With everything returning to normal I would have thought this would have been a packed summer for you.”Bookmark here

“Yeah… about that,” Leon paused for a moment and sighed. “Something messed up at my school and they’re not offering the course I need this year, so if I can’t find a replacement I’m stuck here for another year. Hell, and it gets worse.”Bookmark here

“Oh boy.”Bookmark here

“There’s rumours going around that some of the departments might even go on strike this year.”Bookmark here

“God, you have my condolences. Leave it to the universities to mess up the simplest of things.”Bookmark here

Leon prepared to go into another rant, stopped only by the arrival of their drinks. After a couple sips, the duo continued their conversation.Bookmark here

“Hey you still talk with the other guys?” Leon asked in between a sip of coffee. “How are they doing?”Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, everyone’s still doing great, if just a bit busy.” Kelvin replied. He looked out the window, pondering for a moment. “Well Daniel’s somewhere classified, but I guess it's safe to say his fighter pilot training is paying off. Jin and Darren are both overseas. Jin’s finishing his studies while Darren is helping out with his dad’s hotel chain.”Bookmark here

“That’s good to hear,” Leon says reassured. “I’m glad everything is working out,” Leon took another sip of coffee before he continued. “So, what about you? I would assume you already booked a flight to Berlin.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I- wait,” Kelvin stopped mid sip. “You remembered?”Bookmark here

“Honestly I think there would be something wrong with me if I didn’t,” Leon chuckled. “You literally would not shut up about how a European tour would be the first thing on your list once you were free.” Bookmark here

“Yeah I know, but- “Bookmark here

Kelvin’s expression turned somewhat melancholic. Bookmark here

“I know you said you were down to come along; I just feel bad having booked everything already now that I know your situation.”Bookmark here

“Hey, you got nothing to feel bad about. Sometimes this is how things end up. Right now this is your trip, own it and just enjoy yourself,” Leon finishes his coffee. “Besides, we still got the group trip don’t we? Sure everyone’s busy right now, but I’m sure it’s something we can worry about some other day.”Bookmark here

“You’re right," Kelvin smiled. "Thanks Leon.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Leon spent the rest of the afternoon walking around downtown catching up with Kelvin. Eventually they decided to part ways.Bookmark here

“Sure you don’t want me to drive you?” Leon asked.Bookmark here

“Like I said, it's fine. I’ve already taken up a lot of your time. Plus, it's not convenient for you to drop me off in one direction and then drive back an hour in the other direction.”Bookmark here

"Alright fine, but you better send back some souvenirs or I'm flying to Berlin and finding you myself!"Bookmark here

Leon waved Kelvin goodbye before he got back in his car. 4:41PM. After looking at the time, Leon drove to a supermarket to refill on groceries for the week. Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

9:30 PM. After taking a soda out of his fridge, Leon sat down in front of his PC. He checked his email, nothing new from his school. There was an email from his parents, pictures from their trip to Hawaii. Leon leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling as he pondered.Bookmark here

I don’t want to play anything, nor is there any work for me to do. Maybe I’ll just draw something.Bookmark here

Settling on drawing, Leon took out a drawing tablet from his shelf and turned on his drawing program. He opened his browser and loaded up a podcast as he put on his headphones. After a short jazzy intro, the podcast started proper.Bookmark here

“Everything that lives will end one day. If life is the mother to all living things, then perhaps all things will return to the father at the end,” the voice spoke with a smooth low tone. “With that, I welcome you to my podcast, my children.”Bookmark here

There was no avatar or camera feed for the podcast, it only had a skull-shaped logo and the name of the podcaster: Shinigami Sensei. Leon began to work on his drawing as Shinigami Sensei continues to talk.Bookmark here

“Yes, one’s life is not defined by a single path. At the same time, you should not just stand at the crossroads. Even if your path forward is not clear, the worst one could do is stand still.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Leon yawned as he stretched in his chair. He looked over his art project. Bookmark here

Well, that’s the line art done at least. Bookmark here

After he saved his work, he opened his browser again. Bookmark here

Guess I’ll post this as an update.Bookmark here

Leon closed the drawing program after his work finished uploading.Bookmark here

“I will not take up anymore of your time, as we have already exceeded two hours today. Your time is precious, but never have the belief that your life depends on every second. After all, we will have all the time in the world when I eventually meet each and every one of you. I give you my thanks, dear listeners."Bookmark here

As the podcast’s jazzy outro began to play, Leon looked over at the clock on his monitor: 12:03 AM. He took off his headphones and turned off his PC.Bookmark here

“Thanks Sensei, I guess I do have plenty of time to finish that.”Bookmark here

---Bookmark here

Leon laid in his bed as he stared at his ceiling again. All of the lights were already turned off and even his curtains were closed. Leon then reflected on his conversation with Kelvin.Bookmark here

Everyone is moving on. They’re taking paths that they chose for themselves. So, why can’t I?Bookmark here

Leon sighed in frustration.Bookmark here

Just what have I been doing for these past couple of years? Have I really been so fixated on a silly little promise that I ignored all of my own desires?Bookmark here

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As a myriad of questions cluttered his thoughts, Leon slowly found himself drifting off to sleep.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.