Chapter 1:

Stagnating Melancholy.

Celluloid: The Magic beneath us


        NARRATOR (V. O.)
A long time ago, in a land not far away, people felt a sense of loneliness lingering within their hearts.


He slowly nudged his head to the side, but no matter how he looked at the words, he still felt numb to their impact. “Something … is still missing,” he said gently. Something he was unable to grasp.

“You’re being too hard on yourself, y’know.” A woman with short black hair sat down on the chair right next to him. A gust of heat from the opened window accompanied her motion. The heavy curtains drifted in the currents of a salty sea breeze that was unable to cool the room down substantially. Same went for the fan that constantly nodded back and forth, tilting at windmills. Damned was the god of air conditioners who denied his work since the last week. “What’s it, you’re looking for, now?” she asked further and looked at him with kind wrinkles extending from the edges of her eyes.

Takurō Kanōya did not know how his longing could be satisfied. He sighed lightly. “I … appreciate how it turned out technically,” he said, “but a first sentence should feel more grandiose and concise, y’know? That’s more like … a rather undefined blur.” It was hard for him to find the right words to describe the feeling. Even the ones he deemed worthy to come across his lips did not fully capture the essence of what he wanted to express.

“Vagueness is okay … sometimes.” She pulled his laptop into her direction, reading across the lines yet another time. “A story is a transformation; a journey to overcome the hurdles of life … and at the beginning we rarely know how to get over them, y’know.”

He noticed his brows pulling into a thoughtful scowl. The woman looked up at someone who had stepped behind Takurō.

“Sensei!” A girl said. “I’ve finished my character outline, now. Can you take a look when you’re ready?”

Takurō turned around to her as well. His look probably told her a lot more than he wanted to. For outsiders he always appeared like he heaved the weight of the world on his shoulders.

His eyes were a little too sad, his smiles too gentle, his words too soft. When he actually pondered the effect increased to levels that made even the ones knowing him worry.

The girl rolled her eyes. “It’s the beginning of your new screenplay again, yah?”

He nodded.

“Idiot! I said you don’t need to have another whole existential crisis ‘bout it. It’s hella amazing, f’sure!” Nera Ikaritake was a vibrant girl and gifted with great skills in writing amazing characters. She was the literature club’s current vice president—a sophomore.

It was almost a given, that she would become president once Takurō, left high school at the end of the current year.

Takaitsu-sensei stood up from her chair. She smiled at him once again, her blue eyes looking exceptionally kind. “If you feel like facing a wall, it might sometimes be best to take a step back. Maybe you’ll find a door.”

He blinked at her remark and watched after them, as they went to the back of the room. It felt like facing a wall indeed. Whatever words he used; they were unable to capture the emotions he tried to convey. With every step his screenplays turned more and more into a nightmare of endless iterations that led nowhere satisfying.

Takurō exhaled a long breath and looked at the words on the screen of his laptop once again. Did he really think this was even remotely good yesterday?

Why couldn’t he capture the scenes in the same way his favorite movies portrayed them? Where was the realness, the beautiful ugliness hidden in the wilderness of life? He loved the gentler tunes of indie and arthouse cinema, not the flashy superheroes that saved the universe on a whim. There was something warm, relatable, and beautiful to the little fights and dreams of everyday life, burned on 35mm celluloid film.

Something about these kinds of movies made Takurō fell less alone and misunderstood—like there was something out there it was worth fighting for: A world for the strange and mythical creatures like he was—a world for the side characters of life. He just had to find it.

A knock on the door pulled Takurō out of his daydreaming. He looked to the front of the room.

“Hey, everyone!” A slender girl happily skipped into the room, instantly gathering all the attention. Even the most concentrated of Takurō’s clubmates paused their work to look up at the girl. She waved with a few papers in her hands. “’xcuse me for the intrusion. I have a few documents for the cultural festival.”

Takurō noticed his spine straightening out. He stood up and quickly walked over to her. “Kukai-san!”

Her eyes lit up. She gave him a broad smile and threw her long, pitch-black hair behind her shoulders. “Kanōya-kun.” They met halfway, as she handed him the papers. Kukai jumped up excitedly. “I’m already sooo thrilled to see what you guys will show us this year! Y’all are just hella creative!”

Takurō looked across the papers quickly. “We … uh, we’ll give our best, f’sure.”

She smiled once again, her eyes in a deep amber focused on him. Just on him. Rakuko Kukai was well know at the whole school, not just as vice-captain of the women’s volleyball team. It was impossible to not gauge at her graceful features, her expressive eyes or to overlook the blacks of her long, silky hair.

Takurō had been lucky enough to be in her class during his first year, even to sit close to her and chat a bit on occasions. After the switch to the second year and the third year as well, he was not as lucky. They were still on friendly terms, but never had to do with one another, so things died down.

Kukai becoming head of the planning committee for the upcoming cultural festival had been the only ray of light by now.

“After last year was a bit chaotic, we’d like to have a better thematic structure in the cultural offerings, y’know,” Kukai explained. “But it’s not that strict, so don’t worry, now. Just make sure to fill out this form and return it to me until the end of summer break, yah?”

His eyes were still glued to hers. “Sure …”

Kukai was unattainably beautiful. She was the polar opposite to him: a main character—vibrant, flashy, and always the center of attention. Even if Takurō pretended he could have mustered the courage to tell her about wanting to know her better, there was no way she would return these feelings.

She was meant for another main character—someone who was stronger than Takurō, and braver—some strong superhero.

Nevertheless, this conclusion did not spare Takurō from the impact of her immense gravitational force. More often than not, his head tried convincing himself that there was still a slight possibility, when reality remained more and more disappointing.

Kukai looked to the back at the room, where Takaitsu-sensei was standing and gave her a court nod. “Sensei.”

“Kukai. Welcome back.”

With her deeds done, she walked back to the door and waved across the room. “Until then, everyone.” One look at Takurō. “Bye, Kanōya-kun. See y’all.” With a last wink she was gone.