I opened my eyes.
I notice myself standing in front of my house on a sunny day. My overly-friendly neighbor walked his dog past me, without greeting me. So, this is definitely some past memories or something.
“Come in,” a voice came out from the main door of my house.
I opened it.
“Come,” the voice resonated from the kitchen, just right ahead. There were a pair of feet lying there, like someone had collapsed in the kitchen.
I walked to the kitchen, until I could get a closer look at the body.
It was me.
From my first death.
My face fell flat to the ground, and there were some bubbles at the edge of my mouth, just like I remembered. Same shirt, same posture. The clock in the kitchen has stopped moving.
But, a little girl with double ponytails was standing next to my body, looking at the current me. She crossed her arms.
“Hello, Shin,” she said.
“God of Fate, Moirai?” I asked.
“Eh, Moira would do just fine. Are you not surprised with my form?”
“Well, there was a saying that the devil dressed himself as a little girl to make deceiving people easier.”
“So now I’m the devil, huh?”
“What do you want from me, Moira?”
She half-grinned. “I want you to wake up, Shin. It’s time.”
She grinned. “For your soul to return to its original body.”
“You had enough fun, now it’s time to go back.”
“My body is at the shrine.”
“Ho ho ho, surely you jest. You can’t be kidding me. You really believe all those things?”
She slammed the table. “They are fake, you fool. All your own imagination for you to comfort yourself. Hell, I’m also your imagination. Your real body, is lying on the hospital bed for four years already. No, wait, the bell rang. That’s five years, Shin.”
My heart started to beat faster than usual as I looked at her. “You’re lying. I was there at all those moments. I met Reaper, I talked with Hideki, I hugged Chiaki, I bought gifts for my parents. I saved them. Five of them!”
“Human’s imagination really knows no bounds. No, you didn’t save them, fool. Why do you think you refer to yourself as ‘them’? Plus—”
“That was not what I meant, that was because—”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, shut up,” she sealed my mouth. “Let me finish.”
“You remember in this timeline, what happened before you woke up? People calling your name? Every single time you woke up to people calling you, they were not your friend, or family. They were the nurses, the doctors beside your patient bed. Because you were hyperventilating, you were so deep into a coma that your body doesn’t function properly anymore, your heart was failing. It was shutting down, Shin. For more times than I can count already.”
She chuckled. “Your conviction was so strong that it fooled your own body. I gotta hand it to you—that’s amazing. Well done, Shin. Even the doctors are surprised by it. You might be able to break the medical field advancement if you continue.”
I tried to speak but no voice came out of it.
“I’m not yet finished,” Moira said. “Still think I’m lying?”
“Remember every time when you had ‘vision’, when you felt yourself being pulled through the ‘gray shrine gate’? You made up those things based on the pieces of your memory. Those weren’t real, they were just there for you to convince yourself that the whole invisible string thing really happened. That, you were fighting some sort of god.”
She pointed at me, “Oh, you had an electric jolt through your body every time that those ‘vision’ things happened right? When you were ‘pulled’ through those gates.”
She laughed, “Those are when the doctors tried to revive you with their defibrillator, silly. They were trying to wake, and pull you from the edge of death. And you yourself, subconsciously linked it to the shrine gate that separated two realms. All of which you learnt in your university, Shin. That’s how you linked them. That’s how you knew.”
She walked in circles around me. “But you’re stubborn, Shin. No, no, you were very stubborn. You made up these whole elaborate stories just to keep yourself from not waking up, so that you’ll forever be indulged in your dream. In the life you’ve always wanted. A good friend, loving parents, a cute girlfriend.”
“No,” she clapped her hands. “They were all gone five years ago, Shin. You are all alone now, and you always will be.”
I tried to recollect my thoughts, all of my thoughts jumbled and started to overlap each other.
I took a deep breath. Is it true? Could it be?
“Phew,” she said. “You’ve done well lying to yourself so far, Shin.”
My breaths become heavier. It felt like all of the memories crumbled down before me. I felt like I can’t differentiate them anymore, that they exist and do not exist at the same time.
I felt like I lost the grip of the reality that I clung so dearly to.
“It’s time to face the bitter truth,” she added.
Are they really fabricated? The memories, the warmth feeling, the pain and the sadness I felt piercing my heart, did I really lie to myself that made them so real, so heartbreaking? All, just to assure myself, just to be able to live in my little world?
I wouldn’t know. I couldn’t have known.
I slapped myself.
Think clearly. Analyze, like you always do. Have you met Yui before, prior to those three days? I’m not sure. Have you ever heard Chiaki telling you about Yui's past? No, Chiaki wasn’t that type. So, how did you know her past already? Is it possible you made it up, so that it matches Hideki's past? I’m not sure. Is it coincidence, or fictional?
She unzipped my mouth. “You may speak now.”
“Reaper,” I said. “Is he also fake? And those 10 children?”
“Reaper is just a figure of your imagination,” she continued. “To enforce your so-called supernatural ability to time travel. Those children were probably just some stories you made up to make sure the logical sense of your world gets to be perfected, to be realistic to you.”
“That’s a lie,” I said.
“If those are all that I needed, I wouldn’t have to create a background story for him, for me to connect with him. That’d just be nonsense, and far-fetched if my only objective is to keep myself here.”
“No, it’s not, like I said, you needed a strong grip for you to stay in your dream. Your connection with those 10 children, and with Reaper in between, made it felt much more realistic. You’re just trying to think of everything you can now, this just shows how desperate you are to stay in your little dream.”
“Yui. She wasn’t a pivotal person in my dream; with or without her, I could still live my so-called happy life with others. But no, I talked with her, I understood her, and I created a bond of friendship with her.”
Moira clicked her tongue, and snapped her finger.
I was brought to a hospital room, a patient resembling me was lying in the bed, with tubes out of his noses, and a ventilator beside him. He has a watch, the same as mine. But he just laid there not being able to move, only his chest expanding and contracting up and down.
“This is you, Shin.” Moira said. “The real you.”
“You’ve been suffering with those tubes and fluid coming in and out of you for five years, Shin. Geez, I can imagine you not wanting to wake up.”
“Those occasional chokes you had,” Moira continued. “Those are when you were struggling to breathe.”
“Those chuckles, and smiles, and tears,” she added. “Those were because you couldn’t speak.”
“And, Chiaki’s parents were the one responsible for your hospital bill, Shin. They were the one found you attempting suicide, and called an ambulance. They felt empty after the death of their daughter, so they tried to take care of you instead.”
My legs gave in.
This can’t be true.
All those I’ve done.
Was it for nothing?
“Shin, it’s always better if you return to your body sooner.”
I need to calm down first, and think.
“You’re only delaying the inevitable, Shin.”
Reaper. What did he say to me during our last encounter?
“Shin, go back to your body.”
What did he tell me to remember?
“Shin. Go back.”
I stood up and slapped Moira.
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