One Thousand Mornings: Chapter 2: Rebirth
A taxicab eased up to the front gate of a rather exquisite house. Chiasa crawled out the back seat of the vehicle and stood in front of the house gate, looking down at the nameplate which was fixated at the mouth of the walkway. She slowly worked her hand over to the handle and pushed the gate, opening up her path directly to the front door of the house.
Stepping out of the cab behind her, Yuhna was curious as to where she had dragged her to but decided to take the backseat for just a bit longer. As she approached the front gate, she glimpsed down at the nameplate which read Fukumori. No place like home, she said to herself as the two of them stepped through the entrance.
Making their way down the narrow pathway, Yuhna gazed at the beauty of the garden that surrounded it on both sides. Who’s been keeping it in such good condition? It was a heavy thought, but ultimately she moved on before conjuring up an answer. As they stood in front of the door, Chiasa reached down and tried her luck with the door handle, which was surprisingly unlocked. With a slight push, the door crept open revealing the inside of Chiasa’s old family home. They stepped into the genkan and gawked down the extending corridor ahead of them. Without further ado, the two of them removed their shoes and made their way inside the house.
It was a modern home but had a traditional feel to it. Calligraphy encased in picture frames lined the walls throughout the house and almost every corner was emblazoned with some sort of traditional ornamentation. Anywhere from antique pottery and incense burners to old Chinese scriptures and jewelry. Expensive, to say the least, Yuhna thought as she confirmed in her head the answer to Chiasa’s affinity for philosophy. It appeared her father had a thing for spirituality and religion, which made Yuhna the more curious as to what it was Chiasa had come here in search of. As she navigated her way through the home, one thing became increasingly evident. The house was spotless. Kept in commendable condition much like the garden out front. She began to wonder if Chiasa had been making regular trips to the house since she’d moved to Tokyo; and if not, then who? They continued down the narrow hallway which led to a single door. There was nothing particular about the door itself, aside from a nagging sense of isolation from the rest of the house. Chiasa gripped the handle and pulled the door, but it wouldn’t budge. “Locked from the inside, perhaps?” Yuhna cautioned. Chiasa then leaned in close and got a strange sense that there was a presence on the opposite side, but after yanking at the door once more, she finally gave in. Making her way back towards the end of the hallway, she glanced around the home.
The sudden sound of a door opening took her out of her element and drew her attention towards the back of the house. “It was just a bit jammed,” Yuhna informed as she stood in front of the open doorway. Quickly heading back down the hallway, Chiasa brushed past Yuhna as she stepped through. Following behind, Yuhna panned her sights around the room. It became obvious that she was in the bedroom of a young schoolgirl. The uniform hanging on the closet brought back memories of her own middle school days.
As if right on que, Chiasa finally opened her mouth to speak. “The countless hours that I spent sitting in this room all those years ago. Imagining what my life would be like in five, or even twenty years in the future; and here I am, almost ten years later sitting here doing the same thing.”
Yuhna stared off towards a picture sitting on the dresser. A young Chiasa flanked by three others. Her father, her mother, and her brother were all standing in the photograph alongside her. Returning her gaze towards the now much older Chiasa of the present, she noticed her reaching for something off the shelf. A red sheet of origami paper. “You take what you’re given in life, and you choose what best to do with it. Sometimes the results are just as shitty as the hand you’ve been dealt,” Yuhna said as she stepped over towards the family photograph. Looking down upon it she continued, “We’re like babies still trying to figure out how to walk. We only learn to stand on our feet once we’ve been knocked over a few times.” Chiasa passed her eyes over Yuhna with a rather quiet glare. “You sound like you know a thing or two about that,” she then replied. “I’ve had my life to live, that’s for sure,” she followed with a chuckle. “Believe it if you may, but I know how it feels to let someone you care about slip through your grip, only to live your life fighting for the chance to redo that one moment all over again,” Yuhna then calmly concluded. She shifted her eyes over towards Chiasa who was looking back from the corners of hers; now sitting down at the edge of her bed. Not a single word passed between them as they both looked away from each other. Yuhna navigated her way back over to the doorway and readjusted her demeanor. “Did you come here looking for something, Chiasa?” she a asked diligently. Chiasa held the piece of paper up towards her as she stood there looking at her with a straight face. “By the way… what is this?” she asked as she took the paper from her. “Someone sent it to me in the mail the night I got back from Kyoto. Something about it stayed in the back of my mind the entire time, but I couldn’t understand what it was about this piece of paper that bothered me so much. Until it somehow just all came flooding back to me.”
“What did?” an inquisitive Yuhna asked while analyzing the paper. “My father was always strangely fond of these things.”
“And someone who knows about that sent you this piece of origami paper as a what, some sort of message? A reminder?”
Chiasa stood up from the edge of the bed and walked over towards Yuhna. “It’s not that someone sent me a piece of origami paper, it’s that they sent me the exact same one my father used to keep.”
“And how do you know that?”
She reached for the paper in Yuhna’s hand and caressed it between her thumb and index fingers. “Feel that?” she asked, “I’ll never forget that feeling.” Yuhna brushed her fingers against the surface of the paper once again, this time paying close attention to the feel of the texture. She too could feel something unique about its material. Like a mix between wax paper and plastic, but with a slight grit to its surface. “That’s unusual,” Yuhna then stated. “Yea, he probably manufactured it himself,” Chiasa followed. “You can fold it and unfold it and it won’t leave a crease,” she added. “My father always gave it to me as like a sort of totem I guess you could say. He said it would keep me calm; allow nature to flow naturally and even out any tension. It was always some shit like that I guess.”
Yuhna flipped the paper back and forth a few times before looking at Chiasa. “It’s just a piece of paper.”
Chiasa walked past Yuhna, snatching the paper out of her hands as she stepped into the hallway. “You sure you didn’t just stop by to reminisce?” Yuhna asked as she turned to face her. But before Chiasa could say anything, Yuhna found herself distracted by a picture taped to the wall.
Yuhna stepped towards the photograph and leaned in closely. A girl with long hair that draped just below her shoulders, with the top half pulled back into a tight ponytail stood beside a young Chiasa. They were standing on a narrow road with a backdrop which bore an eerie resemblance to that of Minato. Probably within the city of Kamiyacho, with the Atago Shrine not too far off from where the photo was taken. Yuhna strangely felt familiar with the location, although she couldn’t quite remember why.
Chiasa stepped up beside her and squinted at the photo. Her eyes rapidly pacing back and forth as she tried to absorb everything at once. “Junior High School was always a blur to me. At times I get a rush of memories flooding back in no particular order; other times, it’s like I wasn’t even there.”
Yuhna scrolled her eyes to the side and gave Chiasa a blunt glare. Chiasa stepped back and grazed her eyes over the entire wall. It was the only picture hanging there. She felt like she was observing a piece art on display at a gallery. It was more than just a picture on a wall, there was a feeling of intent. Some sort of objective at play; but even more so, the photo invoked a malicious sensation in her gut. Although, she couldn’t understand why. “This is… almost painful to look at,” she said tentatively. Yuhna stepped towards her as she pulled the photograph from the wall.
Closing the space between them she continued, “Who is the girl standing beside you?” Chiasa looked straight at her before taking a second look at the photograph. She closed her eyes as she mulled deeply. Her thoughts began to snake its way into full view as she began to picture a dimly lit room. From afar she could see the silhouette of someone stepping towards her slowly. She thought to move, but her body was held stiff in place. Was she shackled? Or maybe she was just too afraid? The shadow began to make its way closer. She looked down at its hand which was holding onto something that was difficult to make out at first. As she focused harder, it began to appear more clearly. It was small and red, with a shape resembling that of a butterfly. Almost like origami.
Chiasa snapped back to reality and quickly stepped away from the photograph. “Yea, I know who she is,” she answered firmly. “It’s Neneka, an old friend from middle school.” Chiasa took a deep breath as she brushed her hand through her hair. “I haven’t spoken to her ever since I left back to Kyoto.” Yuhna looked at the photo closely, “You two look awfully alike,” she conferred. “Yea, I know,” Chiasa retorted, “my father liked to call us spiritual twins. Always yapping about how it was unimaginable to find two people so alike in so many ways.”
“I’m guessing he wasn’t the type of guy to leave things up to coincidence, now was he?” asked Yuhna, but Chiasa just simply shrugged her shoulders as she re-approached the exit.
“I need to go back into the basement. Check if my father left anything behind,” she explained. “And this is supposed to help you find Yuki? You have no idea if any of this is even related,” Yuhna argued. Chiasa then paused and turned to her before saying, “It’s something.”
Yuhna followed Chiasa down another long corridor that led to a single door at the end of its hallway. Chiasa approached the door and wrapped her fingers around the knob; then slowly, she pulled the door open.
Through the doorway, they were met with a set of stairs leading down into a dark abyss, and without hesitation, Chiasa began making her way down. Cautiously following behind, Yuhna asked, “When was the last time you came down here?” to which she replied, “I haven’t been back in this house since we left back to Kyoto when I was in middle school.” Yuhna was enamored but continued walking as the stairs slowly illuminated itself with lights built into the base of every step. The glow stretching from beneath their feet resembled that of a dimly lit walkway passing through a garden at night. An almost serene feeling seeping into the atmosphere. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, Yuhna wasn’t surprised to find nothing but a vacant space in front of her. “I guess that answers that,” Chiasa deflatingly uttered as she too panned her marble eyes across the uninteresting scenery. As Yuhna stepped forward and took another look around, the sound of the door hinges creaking as it began to swing shut made her crane her neck towards the top of the stairs. Just before Chiasa could follow suit, a familiar voice called out to her from behind.
“Took you long enough,” the voice whispered as Chiasa slowly turned towards its direction. Her body nearly shivering from the flood of anxiety that filled her. All the while, Yuhna stared straight up at the top of the staircase watching as the door slowly closed itself. “I see you’ve finally begun to remember,” said the voice from afar. A voice that sent chills through Chiasa’s spine; a voice, that was none other than her own father’s.
Yuhna took a step backwards and looked over his shoulder towards Chiasa. “Do you have any idea what you expect to even find?” she asked, but Chiasa kept walking without voicing a word to her. “Chiasa,” she called out; but she thrusted her hand behind her, fanning Yuhna off. “Shhh!” she uttered as she drew upon every ounce of herself to try and stay focus. “Do you hear that?” a perturbed Chiasa asked. “Hear what?” Yuhna returned. With her eyes so shot open that her face had begun to waver from the strain, she followed, “It sounds like my father.”
Yuhna stuttered a bit, and then replied with a calm voice, “Am I missing something here? Because I don’t hear anything.” Unwavering, Chiasa desperately crept around the basement floor chasing after something that apparently only she was aware of. “That’s not your father,” Yuhna firmly pointed out. “I know what I heard,” Chiasa replied. Feeling mislaid Yuhna took another look around the room, only to reconfirm that there was nobody there. Chiasa, however, wouldn’t settle; she had clearly heard her father’s voice. Attempting to reason with Chiasa and snap her back into focus, Yuhna continually called out to her, but each time she ignored her all the same. Fed up with her disobedience, she walked up behind her and placed her hand on her shoulder. “You’re killing me,” she argued, only to be fended off by a barrage of shoulder shrugs and arm swings. “Be quiet!” Chiasa cried out as she pushed her away from her.
Yuhna clasped her hands onto her shoulder as she forced her steady. As Chiasa furiously turned around a striking pain unexpectedly pierced through Yuhna’s head. Noticing her discomfort, Chiasa asked her friend if she was alright. The pain then suddenly subsided, and as she regained her composure, she confirmed that she was okay. Nonetheless Chiasa was unconvinced, clearly noting her uneasiness.
No longer able to hear her father’s voice, she began to question whether she’d ever heard it at all. Yuhna asked Chiasa to explain what it was that her father was apparently saying, but following a short pause, all she could say was that she wasn’t sure. Only making things seem more bizarre.