Chapter 1:

Chapter 1: Time After Time


“Airi, please put that thing away.”

Airi Himura is a seventeen-year-old student attending high school in Japan. A fairly intelligent girl, Airi is known to get in trouble often for playing games in class instead of focusing on her work.

“Airi, I’ve already told you once. Please put that away.”

“Yes Anno-sensei.”

Airi flipped the switch on her handheld gaming device, which looked like a gray brick with a sickly green screen, and slipped it into her backpack, which was resting against her right leg. Her teacher, Mr. Anno, went back to giving his lecture on the history and cultural impact of celluloid animation.

Airi dismissed the lecture and began daydreaming about her game.

“If I go all the way back to Mt. Moon, I think there should be a moon stone somewhere that I didn’t pick up. Ah, shoot, I think I might have gotten it yesterday. It’s getting hard to keep track of these stupid hidden items.”

She swept back her red bangs from her face and stuck it in place with a black hair clip. She rested her cheek in the palm of her hand, staring at the clock, waiting for the school day to finish.

After class was dismissed, Airi hopped onto her bike and started out for the road before a voice called out to her.

“Hey, Airi! Wait up!”

“Makoto, what’s up?”

“You wanna hang out at my place? I got that fighting game that came out last year, finally. You know, the one with that pink puffball you like so much? I heard they added in a hedgehog.”

“Listen, I’d love to, but it’s Thursday. I have to go visit my grandpa today.”

“Oh, right. I forgot that was today. How is he anyway?”

“He’s seen better days. The doctors are surprised he’s lived this long. We’re not sure how much longer he has at this point.”

“Bummer. See you tomorrow then.”

What was that reaction? Her friend tells her that her grandpa is dying and all she has to say is bummer?

Airi quickly lost herself in thought again on the way to the hospital. She wondered what game she’d jump into next. There’s that hilarious role-playing game with the kid who has psychic powers, or maybe the one with the kid who fights with a giant key. Perhaps she’d go with a trading card game or that new MOBA with all of the different champions.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Airi quickly made her way to the room where her grandfather was staying. She was still daydreaming, her body moving itself on autopilot.

“Ah, Airi. So good to see you. How have you been?”

“Same as last week grandpa. How’s the gift I gave you for your birthday holding up?”

The old man reached over at a side table, hands shaking. He grabbed an egg-shaped keychain with a screen and three buttons on it, nearly knocking over a glass of water in the process.

“Got it right here. This little guy is being kept well fed, as am I.”

“That’s good to hear. Have you regained any strength?”

Airi asked the question in vain, already knowing the answer would be the same it had been for months.

“No, I haven’t. I don’t expect I’ll be around much longer. Though, the doctors recently said that at the rate I’m going, I should have at least another month left.”


“Don’t worry. I knew the day would come sooner or later. It’s a part of life.”

“Well, yeah, but I still wanted to make so many more memories with you.”

“Airi, we’ve made plenty of memories in the past seventeen years. I wouldn’t go back and change a second of it.”

“I would.”

“Oh? What do you mean?”

Airi looked down at the floor in sorrow, swinging her feet back and forth.

“Well, it’s just that I was such a little jerk to you as a kid. I’d always kick the back of your shoe when I didn’t get my way, or throw a fit when I couldn’t get ice cream. Just little stupid things like that.”

“You were just a little kid back then. Plenty of kids act like that when they’re that young. I don’t blame you for any of it.”

“Thanks grandpa.”

Airi’s grandpa started coughing intensely.

“You alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Just need a drink of water is all. So, any new adventures you’ve gone on recently that you want to tell me about?”

He was referring to the many video games Airi plays in her free time. The two spoke at length of her time as a bounty hunter fighting off space pirates, or her numerous kart races against her best friend Makoto.

“Well, I’m glad you made it out of there. Still, I don’t understand why he carries around such a large sword.”

“Probably so you can see it at such a low resolution.”

Airi looked up at the clock. It was already after five.

“Oh man, I gotta get home. I have to catch up on that show I like before the next new episode comes out. You know, the American cartoon with the kid who can turn into different aliens?”

“You sure can memorize a lot of different things. I wish my memory was as good as yours.”

“It’s just because I’m still young. I’m sure when I get older I’ll lose my memory too.”

“Speaking of memory, there’s something I want to give you.”

The old man reached out and handed Airi the egg-shaped toy from earlier.

“You’re giving this back? Why?”

“I’ve taken good care of that little creature in there, and you’ve taken good care of me. I want you to start taking good care of it too, so when I’m gone, you’ll still have something to remember me, got it?”

Airi began to tear up.

“Don’t talk like you’re not going to be here tomorrow. I don’t want to hear things like that.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you. You should probably get home before your parents get mad.”

“I will. Bye grandpa. See you next week.”

The old man smiled as the girl exited the room.

A few hours later, Airi was sitting up in her bedroom on her computer watching videos while taking care of the digital pet her grandfather had given her. The small cluster of pixels moved on the tiny screen as she pressed the tiny buttons just below it. All of the sudden, the screen shut off.

“Ah man, it probably needs a new battery. I hope I didn’t accidentally kill the thing.”

After a bit of rummaging in one of her desk drawers, Airi finally found a replacement battery. After replacing it, she hit the button on the back of the device to power it back on. She jumped a bit when the screen lit up again. It displayed small text saying “Set Time” and a set of numbers, all set to zero. She tried entering the current time, but the screen kept flashing “ERROR” instead of returning to her pet. She tried to go to a time a few minutes ahead of the current time, but she got the same result. Frustrated, she set the clock for a few hours earlier and hit the confirm button.

A sudden white flash engulfed Airi, her bedroom disappearing around her before she snapped back into the world when a voice called out to her.

“Airi? Airi! I said put that thing away. I’m trying to teach my class.”

It was her teacher, Mr. Anno. She was back in class earlier that day, but instead of holding her gaming device, she was holding the egg-shaped toy her grandfather had given her.

“Ahem, as I was saying class, this 1996 mecha anime…”

What had just happened? One moment she was in her room watching funny internet videos, the next she was back in school.

After class was dismissed, she grabbed her bike and was getting ready to head home before a voice called her.

“Hey, Airi! Wait up!”

It was Makoto again.

“Hey Makoto. Wanna go to your place and play that fighting game?”

“Wait, how did you know I bought it?”

“You told me yesterday that you bought it, remember? It was right after school before I went to see my grandpa.”

“That’s impossible. I just bought the game yesterday after school. Also, don’t you usually visit your grandpa on Thursday?”

“Yeah, I do. Yesterday was Thursday.”

“Are you, feeling ok Airi? Today is Thursday. Yesterday was Wednesday. Remember, we played dodgeball during gym class?”

“No, you must be remembering wrong.”

Makoto turned her phone screen towards Airi. It read “2:25 PM Thursday.”

Airi stepped back in surprise. It really was the same day. She pulled the egg-shaped toy out of her backpack and looked at the screen. “REDO COMPLETE.” She stared at the screen in confusion. What in the world did that mean?

“Hello? Earth to Airi.”

“S-sorry, I got distracted.”

“I’ll say. Shouldn’t you be getting to the hospital?”

“Hey, I know I’m acting weird, but…”

“Not for you, idiot. For your grandpa?”

“Oh, right. See you tomorrow.”

“Right… Oh, and by the way, let’s go to the arcade tomorrow after school.”

After arriving at the hospital, Airi couldn’t help shake the feeling of deja vu. She stumbled into the room where her grandfather was staying, still dazed and confused.

“Ah, Airi. So good to see you. How have you been?”

“Same as last week grandpa. How’s the gift I gave you for your birthday holding up?”

The old man reached over at a side table, hands shaking. He grabbed a stuffed panda bear, nearly knocking over a glass of water in the process.

“Got it right here. This little guy is being well kept, as am I.”

“Wait, what about the digital pet I got you?”

The old man looked at her in confusion.

“What digital pet?”

Airi once again reached into her backpack and revealed the egg-shaped toy.

“This. I got you one just like it for your birthday, remember?”

“My memory has been going recently, but I vividly remember my birthday. You got me this cute little panda, remember? Unless you bought that for me and forgot to give it to me.”

“No, I must have been thinking of my friend's birthday.”

Airi was lying. None of her friends had a birthday recently. How could this have happened? It’s as if she was reliving the same day again, but this time the egg-shaped toy was in her possession, and her grandfather had a stuffed panda in its place.

“Is something wrong Airi? Are you feeling ok?”

“Yeah grandpa, I’m fine. It’s just a headache.”

“Perhaps you should leave early. Go home and rest.”

“You’re right. I should go lay down. Bye grandpa.”

Airi thought to herself the entire way home. What was going on? She was reliving the same day over again, but things were slightly different. Did this have something to do with the egg-shaped toy?

As she laid on her bed staring at the device, two words repeated through her head endlessly, the same two words still displayed on the screen. “REDO COMPLETE.”

Later that night, Airi was awoken by a faint beeping sound coming from the device. She tiredly glanced at the screen and displayed on it were the words “RECHARGED. SET TIME.”

“Again? Really?” Airi said. She grabbed her phone to see what time it was. It was just after midnight, Friday. “Ugh, I’ll deal with this after school. I’m going back to bed.”

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