I Woke Up in a Light Novel or Giant Expanding Robot Bear Devil Prince and the Invasion of the Secret Legion Brigade Army
At school, morning lessons passed so uneventfully that it seemed she was in maths one moment watching chalk lines multiply on a blackboard like the equations they described, and the next the lunch bell had rung and she had been teleported to the canteen. An entire morning slid into oblivion in a matter of seconds. A huge global catastrophe that had passed entirely unnoticed, taking everyone’s memories with it.
I suppose time only exists when it’s being looked at. Like if you forget to press record when you’re filming something. A memory from her physics class tugged weakly somewhere at the back of her mind then gave up and began to pick its nose instead.
She wondered where the unseen morning was right now. Perhaps it had got lost, filed away forever in the wrong cabinet in whichever department these things were kept. Somewhere, someone was supposed to be going to bed, or chairing a committee on the International Space Station and found themselves instead sitting in Ichikawa-Sensei’s period 2 calculus next to Cannonball Nakamura.
The canteen was a hub of empty conversation, chatter and laughter echoing around it like the voices in a swimming pool, minus the option to descend into the water and drown everyone out.
‘Hey! You’ll never guess what Noriko’s doing in second recess.’ A bag covered in pins slammed down on the table. It was Sara. A living announcement platform for every piece of gossip in the school. Like a vending machine that only gave out empty wrappers and didn’t care whether you had inserted a coin or not.
She leant over the table, hands pressed flat against it. Her eyes were as wide as if she were reporting that a blaze was currently consuming half of the building and the local fire brigade had been replaced by schoolgirl fetishists from the neighbourhood sex offenders register.
The girls around the table looked up at her transfixed, the wide eyes appearing on all of them like bubbles blinking into being in some shaken up energy drink. All of them except Kaori, who continued pushing her cold rice balls around the grand central chamber of her lunch box.
‘Hey Kaori? What is it that’s more interesting about your lunch than this?’
The girl’s heads all turned to her. She could feel a strange mixture of emotions emanating from Eriko, who had spoken. Her face was slightly flushed as though with anger diluted by her own fear of expressing it. Eriko hadn’t said anything like this to her before. Perhaps she had thought about it though. A lot.
‘Yeah, I don’t know.’ She toyed with the rice balls a moment longer then looked up. ‘Don’t you ever feel that maybe it’s a waste of our time… I mean, not just that but… all of this.’ She looked around the canteen. ‘I don’t know.’ The horde of eyes remained on her like the gaze of a giant spider.
After a few seconds Sara spoke and they looked away. ‘15:00. Behind the maths buildings… ’
The girls leant in like snakes around a charmer’s pipe. She’d briefly interrupted a machine that couldn’t be stopped. Jammed the solid wrench of a thought into its machinery, which had briefly turned on her and now returned to printing out endless rumours and gossip. She wondered what would happen if someone took over that machine. Typed out fallacious rumours and sent them out into the real world. The man under the garden perhaps. Someone with motivations dastardly enough to want to unhinge the school, disturb it from whatever course it was undertaking. Would reality start to follow its reports? Sara would fall madly in love with the unsightly old janitor. Principal Ayase take up practicing samurai arts on the gym roof at midnight.
Maybe she could scrape a pass in biology…
Nope, too fanciful.
The image of the bald scientist pedalling for all he was worth under the ground kept coming back to her. She felt she had some idea, just a hint, but an idea nonetheless, its vagueness just a product of her distance from something much more tangible, of what it was he was up to. And it had to do with changing the course of that great creaking ark of reality.
Age is just the forgetting of youth.
Ok. Where had that come from?
Of course, there was also the fact that she’d just made all this up, that there probably wasn’t a man underneath the Hasakara’s garden and that really, things were very, very boring indeed. Mind numbing in fact. So boring that a perfectly normal schoolgirl might slip into the odd flight of fantasy in order to escape it, her poor malnourished brain clawing desperately at the walls of its cell. This was why seemingly normal people took up trepanation. But what use is a window in a cell with a blind prisoner. And do plants photosynthesise moonlight? Why was she thinking of the ark again?
The girls were now completely immersed in conversation, a conversation that involved more than one person, unlike the one currently taking form in her head. Their faces were like printers and other anomalous electronic devices, whirring and blinking, receiving information from one another, then regurgitating it back in slight variations of itself. Like a nest of little vultures feeding each other what they’d already eaten.
She looked back to her lunch box and the little trails of sauce left behind by her rice balls. Like those moving stones in Silicon Valley. It suddenly looked less appetising.
The day passed much like this. It was like her brain wasn’t tuned in. Everything took some effort to hold onto. She felt that if she relaxed it would all slip by her, the sky melt into the courtyard, the shouts of the other kids whisked up into the songs of birds, like paints before they had dried. It was her job to hold it all together, or she’d vanish along with it. It was quite an incentive. The mind is nothing without perception. Like the world was a little climbing frame to prop up whatever was apprehending it. These nuggets were really wasted on herself. Her brain, that little plucked chicken, had now graduated from solitary confinement to solitary lecturer in the auditorium of her head.
Last period was double science. Great, double watching boys see what they can make explode. What is it with boys and explosions? At least no PhysEd. She couldnt handle it today. Running around in a skimpy outfit, having to show off just how underdeveloped her body was compared to Naori. It was a real morale booster watching her pretending, ‘oh, I didnt notice’, every time her top slipped.
Even her bag sagged wearily as the bell rang for the end of the day.
‘I’m sorry bag.’ She said, slumped over her desk. ‘There’s really no reason you should have to suffer on my account.’
Her bag said nothing. Obviously sulking.
She suddenly stiffened as she felt a pair of hands over her eyes.
‘Eeeeehehehehehehehehehe, guess who!’
Beneath the hands her eyes resumed the sigil of unimpressed-ness. This one was powerful. It would leave horizontal imprints burned into her palms like stigmata.
The hands vanished and a small girl skipped around her table and bent over so that her face was only inches away. She had silver glitter on her cheeks and a plethora of coloured braids in her dyed blonde hair. Kaori spent most of her school life trying not to stand out, to avoid being conspicuous in any way so that the bitchier girls would leave her alone. It seemed like Tamiko did the exact opposite and somehow achieved better results. No one said anything about her behind her back. It was like she’d gone so far beyond conspicuous that she no longer registered on any scale of recognisable human life. A scolding expression formed on her heavily blushed face.
She wagged her finger. ‘Chichi! It’s Chichi! Why won’t you call me that??’ She folded her arms and looked to the side pouting.
‘Because its not your name?’
Chichi looked at her sidelong. Then she was talking a hundred miles a second and pulling at Kaori’s arm. ‘Hey, hey! You coming to Shinmaru? Hey, hey! Kaorikaorikaorikaori—’
‘I’ll catch up with you.’
‘I won’t be long. You can wait for me by the photo booth.’
‘Wuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu… you said.’ She made a face now like she’d been betrayed in the final battle of the Great War.
Kaori was pretty sure she hadn’t said she’d come. She tended to remember things like that. You know, actions which she had very recently taken.
‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!’ Chichi held her fingers up either side of her face like horns.
Kaori didn’t know what this meant but it somehow seemed appropriate.
She does have a good sense for these things.
Kaori tried to speak but every time she opened her mouth she was met with the impassable waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
People were starting to look. Even if they did look away when they saw it was just Chichi.
It seemed she had little choice.
Chichi skipped alongside her as they walked out of the school. Within minutes Kaori was smiling. Absolutely furious but smiling. This was Chichi’s ability. Alongside razing whole cities or vaporising planets it may not seem like much, but believe it not, the ability to make someone smile is more powerful than any of those things.