The moment our hands meet, they’re separated by the distant growl of thunder. We quickly leave the park and find the nearest street in the shopping district. What few people remain are vacating the area as the rain starts back up and crushing winds begin to sweep the area, tossing debris through the street and throwing small cars on their backs.
“It’s going to be bad if we don’t get indoors,” JC declares over the heavy rainfall. Frantic, we look around the deserted shopping district, and I spot a familiar coffee shop. I grab a hold of his arm and hurry inside the two-story building.
To my shock, a woman is tending the counter with no customers, smiling at us as we shake our soaked clothes. She greets us and asks if we’ll be ordering, so we clumsily order two black coffees.
After taking our drinks we climb a winding staircase to the vacant second floor, dripping water all the way. I pick a table near one of the large window panes, and we sit across each other as I take a look at the TV mounted on the wall behind JC.
A news station is reporting on the storm, relaying several flooded areas and accidents. Outside, the sky darkens as the storm worsens, vehicles flying around and windows shattered by flying debris.
“Do you think we’re safe?” I ask, watching the storm with a sense of detached concern.
“Well, if you feel like we’re not in danger, then we’re probably safe,” he answers, wearing a difficult expression. “It’s hard to say that you’re controlling the storm itself, but I think your unconscious control over the world should offer us some protection from the elements.”
“It’s creepy that I understand that,” I reply, taking a sip of my coffee.
“It’s no surprise,” he says with a grin. “You do seem to have a remarkable ability to adapt to your circumstances.”
“Thanks, but you’re one to talk,” I respond with a furrowed brow. “Have you done all this before, or are you just really well-prepped for this kind of thing?”
“Oh no,” he chuckles in earnest. “I’ve certainly never done this before, that much I know. Though, I can’t honestly recall what preparation I’ve taken, since I’m still piecing my memory together. I guess it’s just like I said before, my whole life has led to this. I suppose I’ve probably trained myself to respond accordingly.”
“We’re a little different there, since I’ve probably only adapted by necessity,” I mutter, gazing upon the storm with widening eyes.
“I take it you’ve remembered something, or are on the verge?” JC asks, holding his cup of coffee with both hands and bearing an upright posture that matches his polite smile.
“On the verge, I guess,” I reply, avoiding his eyes as my thoughts run wild. “I feel like I’ve been here before, and it gives me a bad feeling; like I’m being watched.”
“I see,” he mutters. “Considering our situation, we can’t rule out the possibility of being watched. Perhaps a trip to the deep dream world might help you remember something important. That is, if you think you can stomach it.”
“But it’s not like I can just go there anytime I want, right?” I ask, staring nervously at my coffee.
“Why don’t you try giving Mirei a call?” he says, his polite gaze burning through me.
“Ah, right,” I reply, pulling my phone out before glaring at him. “Can I trust you won’t do anything inappropriate?”
“Please, do,” he answers with a shy grin. “Your trust actually is important to me.”
“Sure,” I mutter, lifting my shaking hand. The second I hit the call button, I’m swallowed by static. The noise subsides as I slowly open my eyes. Despite blurred vision, I can see leather seats and windows tinted so dark I can’t see outside.
I try to move, and remember my recurring plight. My arms are tied behind my back once again, and my head feels like it’s full of hot air. My legs are free, but I don’t have the strength to move them- so I can only sit here and hang my head.
As I sit quietly and listen to the smooth sound of the car’s engine, several cuts begin to open across my body. As if a switch had been flipped, all my wounds open and begin leaking blood one after another. My arms, ribs, back, legs, forehead, mouth— there’s no doubt about it. All the wounds I’ve suffered in the last two dreams have followed me.
How was I able to fight the despair those times? How did I come back from the sense of helplessness? I wonder if it was my own strength, my obsession with securing my freedom. Or maybe it was something else, like the faint light I see through the divider. That’s right; that’s why I came here— for her.
Unable to lift off my feet, I put all my remaining strength into my upper body and fall forward, smashing my forehead into the window. The glass shatters, and I tense my throat as it falls into the frame. The remaining shards of glass sink into my skin, but I look forward despite the pain.
Once again, the driver, no more than a swarm of shadow, flees out the front window, and the phone sitting on its seat blares out: “Mary! Is that you? Are you there?
“M…hm…” I struggle to reply through my pierced vocal cords.
“You did good finding me so quickly! It must have been so hard on you!”
“You’re… crying…” I mutter, lifting my head to free my throat from the glass.
“Huh? Oh, I’m fine,” she answers, trying to mask her sobs. “It’s you that’s in danger, right?”
“You’re hurting too, aren’t you?” I say clearly despite my burning throat. “You’re battling your own dreams, aren’t you?”
“I’ll come for you,” I interject. “Where are you?”
“I don’t know, it’s really foggy, and I don’t feel like myself,” she answers weakly. “I only feel fully awake when I’m here in this room, with the shadows all around me.”
“…what room…” I mutter weakly, noticing the phone’s display reading 3:10.
“It isn’t the same place I’m at in your world,” she answers, the fear in her voice growing more prevalent. “I feel like I’ve been in some big building, and …Mary, I feel guilty. I don’t know why, but I feel like something bad is happening because of me.”
“I don’t know,” she says, unable to hide her sobs. “I don’t know what I’m doing but I’ve been kept busy, and I’m scared.”
“I’m scared too,” I answer, the strength in my voice depleting as the car begins to careen off the road. “If it’s scary, we should help each other… right?”
“Ah? Oh, that’s right,” she answers timidly as I look to see the display at 3:30.
“Listen,” I reply, my throat finally losing all feeling. “I just remembered something about myself. You see, I became a model so that I could become important enough to be needed. I had to become important, so that I couldn’t be used again.”
“Used…?” she asks in a shudder.
“When I was thirteen, I was kidnapped and transported by a bandit group. They were a bunch of sadistic criminals who made games out of hurting me. They couldn’t allow me to die, so I just had to put up with constant torture until I arrived at a hospital. I was put to sleep, and when I woke up, they told me they’d taken half my heart out. I was moved again and set free in Shibuya. I didn’t remember my hometown, my parents or anything. Just that I'd been used. All I had was what they gave me— a hundred thousand yen and an ID card with the alias: Mary Ogden.”
“That's... awful...” Mirei finally responds, crying.
“Of course, they warned me not to go to the police. So, I got a small room at a hostel and started researching what I could do to become important and powerful, so that it would be hard for them to use me again. Eventually, I became a model. So, Mirei… are you proud of me for digging up those memories?”
“Mary… I’m so, so sorry,” she sobs.
“By the way, my name is actually Mary Reid…” Before the crying girl can answer, static noise cuts her off, and I awake in the cafe.
“Are you okay?” JC urges, grasping my limp hand, while I clutch my chest. After the surge of pain calms, I look up at his worried face.
“I’m… fine, now. Thanks.”
“Was it a painful dream?”
“It was,” I answer, staring at him blankly. “But I remembered a lot.”
“You did?” he mutters, jaw agape. Before I can answer, my attention is drawn to the TV screen behind him. The lower-third reads “Famed Model Takes Credit for Natural Disaster” while a reporter awkwardly stands on a windy street.
“Reports are indicating that a well-known model based in Shibuya has come forward to take credit for the anomaly currently plaguing the prefecture. The true cause is unknown despite analysts’ best efforts, but- oh, it looks like the woman that has reportedly come forth has stepped out of her firm’s building to speak with the public. We’ll be switching over to—”
Another voice begins shouting over the heavy rain as the scene cuts to a crowded plaza in front of a large building. “I’m here on scene outside the Dansen Emporium, and despite the dangerous rain and wind gusts, a large crowd has formed in hopes of confronting the woman that has taken credit for the anomaly. And now, here she is, stepping onto the building’s forefront.”
The crowd goes quiet as several men in black suits escort the slender woman who stands tall, her long black hair whipping about. JC looks at me in utter disbelief, while I can’t even process what I’m seeing.
“Hello, my name is Mary Reid,” she declares. I’ve come out here to announce to you all that I have created this storm; and to tell my enemies who intend to take my freedom away— you are now at my mercy.”