Chapter 1:

You Are Not Alone, Mari

It Only Took the World Ending for Me to Finally Get a Love Confession


Mari woke up to the sound of the morning news playing on the TV downstairs.
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"Extreme weather this spring .... Record-breaking heat waves .... Experts predict increasing frequency in severe natural disasters due to intensifying climate change.....
Political tensions continue to rise .... More border disputes expected ...... will likely lead to the destruction of …."Bookmark here

Mari slowly got out of bed and started getting ready for school. Bookmark here

"Aliens might actually be real – the United States government recently released a report on previously unreleased sightings of UAPs – Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – which is what they are now calling UFOs .... more and more countries have been releasing reports of strange, unexplainable sightings to the public. Many are coming to the conclusion that humans are not alone in this universe." Bookmark here

Humans are not alone? That's funny, Mari thought, as she looked around at her cold, empty house. Bookmark here

All the picture frames had been taken down and packed away, leaving behind telltale square spots on the walls. The living room furniture was covered in a thin layer of dust, untouched by her family for quite some time. The silk flowers that decorated the coffee table seemed to be drooping – there was no life in this house, not even fake flowers could flourish here. Bookmark here

Sure her mother and father were both sitting at the kitchen table, taking up physical space, but they may as well have been in different dimensions with the distance that was felt between them. Their haggard faces stared at the walls blankly, only moving occasionally to take a sip of tea. Bookmark here

The air felt stagnant and heavy with malaise. Even at full volume, the television struggled to penetrate the unrelenting silence in the house.Bookmark here

Mari had never felt more alone in her life. Bookmark here

"Crap. I'm late for school," Mari muttered, her words reaching no one. Once out the door she began to sprint, gasping at the fresh air filling her lungs and breathing new life into her. At home it felt like she could never quite get enough air, no matter how deep a breath she took. Bookmark here

Despite running late, Mari decided to take the longer route so she could feed the stray cat that was always wandering near the trees. Upon hearing her footsteps the cat faithfully emerged from behind some shrubs, shrewdly watching Mari.Bookmark here

“I know, I know,” she sighed, reaching into her bag for an Inaba Churu tube of tuna puree and a small dish. Mari carefully squeezed the contents of the tube onto the dish. She set the dish down on the ground, placing it an arm’s length in front of herself. The small orange and white cat stared at Mari with a reproachful look, backing up into the brush.Bookmark here

“Alright, fine. Have it your way!” Mari pushed the plate closer to the cat and farther away from herself, “You know, you’ll never get adopted by a nice loving family if you refuse to let humans get close to you.” Bookmark here

The cat slowly crept out from the shadows and mewed softly before lapping up the food, satisfied with its distance from Mari. Now that it was in the sunlight, faint pink scars could be seen all around the cat’s muzzle. Mari felt a strong desire to pet the cat and reached out her hand, but then she slowly brought it back down. As a matter of fact, Mari’s hands were covered with their own scars and semi-healed scratches from previous attempts to approach the willful cat, after which she had come to the conclusion that the cat had likely been abused by its previous owners or had experienced some kind of severe trauma from humans. Bookmark here

“I don’t blame you for not trusting us, but you can’t stay like this forever,” Mari said quietly as she stood up and brushed off her clothes. Upon finishing the food, the cat quickly retreated back into the bushes, its yellow eyes just barely visible in the shade. Bookmark here

“You act like you don’t want it, but—” Mari’s voice broke, “… I know you need love too.”Bookmark here

“Stupid cat," she whispered to the small orange and white creature as it stared back at her from the shadows with its unblinking eyes.Bookmark here

“Crap, now I’m really late.” Bookmark here

Mari took off once again towards school, her surroundings turning into a blur of familiar scenery and sidewalk. Just as she was about to reach her destination, her left foot hit a dip in the pavement and she came crashing down into the ground.Bookmark here

"AHHH OUCH!!! Owww — ugh," she cried out. It hurt so bad Mari had to fight back tears. She looked down at the source of the throbbing pain - her left knee was swollen and oozing blood out of a large gash. Bookmark here

This time she made no attempt to fight the tears that began streaming out of her eyes. At least no one is here to witness this humiliating event, she thought. Bookmark here

But when Mari looked up from the ground she saw a figure standing in front of her. Bookmark here

Someone had been standing there — watching her the whole time. Bookmark here

Mari felt her face redden with embarrassment as her eyes registered the figure. He was a tall, lean boy with windswept white hair and soft green eyes that were looking right into hers. He was breathtakingly beautiful, ethereal even. If there was such a thing as a perfect face, he probably had it. She had never seen anyone that looked like him before, but strangely enough he was wearing what looked to be her school's uniform. Bookmark here

"Are you okay?" the boy took a step towards Mari, he had a surprisingly deep and mature voice that sharply contrasted with his delicate features. He began reaching his hand out to help her. Bookmark here

Mari took a breath, bracing herself for the pain, and jumped to her feet. Bookmark here

"I'm fine!" she shouted, "Get away from me!" Bookmark here

Mari ran past the boy, wincing as she tried to shift her weight to her uninjured leg. How embarrassing. Though she knew he was only trying to help her, she couldn't help but misdirect the anger she felt at herself and the situation onto him. Why did he have to be there? WHY did this have to happen? AND WHY did he have to be so good-looking?? Bookmark here

Ugh, was he shouting something at her? She couldn't make out the words. Bookmark here

Just leave me alone, she thought, as she sprinted away faster. Bookmark here

"Oh," suddenly Mari realized what he must have been shouting as she found herself in the middle of a road with a giant truck speeding towards her. She didn't have time to dodge or brace for impact. She barely had time to utter her last words and process that these would be her last moments. Bookmark here

"Oh crap," Mari’s words were swallowed up by the sounds of the roaring truck and blaring horns. Bookmark here

Everything went black.Bookmark here

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It felt like something was pulling Mari. Like she was being pulled by some unseen force, deeper and deeper into darkness. It scared her. Somehow Mari felt that the deeper she was pulled in, the more permanent this darkness would become. Some instinct inside her told her to fight against it, that she must not let it win. She struggled as hard as she could to resist the pulling sensation, but it was far too strong. Bookmark here

Just as Mari was descending into the darkness of what felt like permanent unconsciousness, she felt warm arms wrapping around her. They lifted her up and out from the cold, infinite darkness. Bookmark here

A ray of brilliant light beamed through Mari's vision, though her eyes were still closed. The radiance grew brighter and brighter until she was completely bathed in soft white light. Mari suddenly felt a rush of emotions bursting through her. They were feelings she could barely recognize or identify, things she had not felt in a very long time. Bookmark here

Was this hope? Bookmark here

It felt warm and comforting. Bookmark here

It felt like everything was going to be okay. Bookmark here

Suddenly she heard a voice.Bookmark here

"You are not alone, Mari." Bookmark here

Mari opened her eyes and gasped at what she saw. Bookmark here

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