Chapter 10:

Between My Dream and Reality

White Wings Café

The overwhelming tide roared, its waves rising and falling as it pulled my body in every direction. Above me was a closed ceiling with a singular hole. Much like the ooze in my World of Glass, the waves also left me stuck in place. It was free-flowing enough for me to drift on top of it yet if I were to move, the tide quickly pulled me back down. This didn’t mean slight movements couldn’t be made, however. An arm raise, the twitch of a finger, and a single glance in any direction—these were all possible if I struggled hard enough, though only for a moment.

Sometimes, people do dumb things while being fully aware of the consequences they bring. For example, if you are willing to rest for those “few extra minutes” before school and end up missing your first train, you should be fully prepared to be late for class. If you didn’t study for an important test under the assumption that you’ll ace it due to everything on it being “common sense”, a failing mark is something you’ll simply have to accept.

In my case, each time I flailed about, I found myself once again set with my back against the water, arms and legs spread out, and eyes set on the lone light which shined down on me. If I were to stick my hand through the hole etched in the ceiling where the light was coming from, I was certain that it would go right through.

Time felt non-existent within the depths of the ocean. Other’s words, and even my own— everything seemed so far away as it faintly echoed throughout my skull. It was a state between the complete and utter awareness of being conscious and the floating, slowed-down feeling that awaited when you lulled yourself off to sleep.

Within this tide, not once had it ever felt like I was in control. Not a single time. Yet, I knew all the same what the meaning behind it was.

Unsurprisingly, I had gotten sick again.

The light above flickered as two voices broke through the soft ambience of the water.

“You’re only pushing away the inevitable,” the first voice said. They sounded frustrated as if this hadn’t been the first time they’d gone over this. “If you’d simply stick to what you’ve been told to do, any and all future distress can still be avoided.”

The second voice’s words were short, cold, and defensive. “There’s nothing to be avoided in the first place. ”

“Are you foolish? Everything in there is one gigantic mess right now and if things get any worse, you’ll have no choice but to—”

“It won’t get to that point!” The second voice screamed. The lights went out and I let out a yelp of my own. The voice hesitantly continued, “It won’t. Ever.”

There was a lull in their fighting for a moment as the sound of buzzing rang in my ears. The lights flickered again. Once. Twice. No, three times before ultimately turning back on.

The second voice’s tone lowered as they spoke. “If you simply do as you’re told…” they said, unable to hide the venom in their voice. Saying that they sounded disgusted would be an understatement. “That’s nonsense. You don’t get it. Luckily for you, I’m the most selfish person there is, so I guess you have no choice but to deal with it, huh?”

The first voice sighed as their argument continued. However, I couldn’t make out their words as the sounds of waves began to pick up again. This moment of peace wouldn’t last as a large and circular sphere began to make its way from the left side of the ceiling and eventually eclipsed the light above. Finding myself in the pitch dark again, I held my breath as that distinct high-pitched buzzing now echoed throughout the room.

A spark of red and orange illuminated everything in its entirety. The baby blue walls with dark purple trim, a single large window along each wall which showed a static image of the blue sky, and the white rims on the edges of the water that were akin to that of a swimming pool.

Something crashed through the lone hole in the ceiling, breaking parts of it off. The temperature rose as the ball from earlier plummeted before crashing into the watery depths below.

For a second, there was nothing but deafening silence.

Bubbles rose to the surface and surrounded my body. Each time one of them popped, a burst of hot air blew toward me. With each second that passed, they only appeared more and more frequently until finally the water that was keeping me afloat evaporated altogether, leaving behind a white misty smoke that engulfed everything in its wake. I plunged face-first toward whatever awaited down below.

The fall was not a long one. Although I was coughing up a lung due to all the smoke, I quickly found myself against soft grass. Granted the ability to move again, I sat up and rubbed my eyes. Once everything had settled and even though I was out of breath to begin with, what was in front of me was breathtaking nonetheless.

That recurring dream which began on April 5th— The dream of a dying forest that was supposed to be consumed by the hellish fire which blackened the sky above. That very same forest now stood before me, as healthy as the day it came to be. Skinny and tall trees that towered over me with their light red branches and teal leaves. Baby blue shrubbery with green berries littered the area. In the distance, the bells from the larger-than-life castle sang their lovely melody as purple and blue confetti fell from the sky.

Everything had a watercolour pastel tint that was similar to a fairytale. Bright and vibrant with some parts looking as if they hadn’t been coloured in to begin with and others looking as if they were sketched in with a marker. Looking at my own body compared to the atmosphere of this new world, I stuck out like a sore thumb. As much as I didn’t want them to, they reminded me of the storybooks Mother used to read to me before bed on some nights.

I felt eyes on me. Or rather, a lack thereof.

In front of me sat the featureless being from my dream, laying against the tree across from me with her hands behind her head. My heart sank into my stomach. If it was possible for both of those to sink six feet under, I was certain it would have already happened.

Regardless, my tongue still stayed where it was supposed to, so with clenched fists, I blurted out, “Just what or who the hell are you?!”

At the sound of my voice, the being’s entire body perked up. She responded but in an unintelligible language. I shivered and moved backward on my hands.

The being tilted her head to the side, a loud pop resounding as she moved too far to the left. Readjusting herself, she raised both arms and smacked her hands against the bottom half of her face. What could be called her “skin” stretched and pulled as she scrunched her hands together, as if it were a malleable clay.

Once she removed her hands again, lips were now the only feature present. It was as if she had ripped the top and bottom lip off of two entirely different people and stitched them onto herself.

She spoke to me.

Mother. Father.

If you heard me say this, you’d probably think I was insane.

But, I couldn’t help but notice how she sounded like both of you.

Much like a record with way too many scratches, the voice she had would sometimes skip ahead and other times repeat a phrase or two. It was as if she was trying to get used to her newfound voice.

“Tell me, why is it that you hold yourself back from achieving greatness? Is it blatant stupidity? Or perhaps blissful ignorance.” She extended her arm out just as she did many times before. “To attempt and imitate something that you are incapable of is a fool’s errand. In other words, do not try and be something you are not.”

“Greatness?” I asked, “You’ve got the wrong girl, I’m not imitating anything.”

“With the innate ability to bend reality in order to indulge yourself as much as you see fit, the entire world is at your fingertips. It is your domain, your plaything.” Her index finger cracked. “Why is it that you don’t allow yourself the satisfaction of a better life, a world of your creation?”

I huffed and put my hands in my pockets. Of course, this was about Apparitions. What else would something like this be about?

“L-Look, alright? I’m not in charge of what my subconscious does or thinks and even if I miraculously was, I don’t think I’d be able to call it a subconscious anymore. I have no control over anything that goes on.” She tilted her head to the other side. I gritted my teeth together. “I’m not even going to humour you for a second, you’re being ridiculous. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“One’s reality is a gaze into the innermost recesses of the heart. It is a clear-as-day reflection of one's opinions, feelings, and sense of self.” She clicked her tongue. “To hole yourself up in a pure white room within your head speaks volumes about your character. Or rather lack thereof.”

The being shot up and began to inch her way toward me. Despite each footstep being slower than the last, I still couldn’t move. As she got uncomfortably close to my face, her lack of eyes piercing right through me, she leaned over and spoke. “Tell me, after that shop of yours opens, what happens afterward? What are your plans a year, no, 6 months from then? Can you even answer that?”

Not once had that thought ever come to mind. I kept my mouth shut and glared at the dirt below.

“Maybe it really was three people who died in that fire. Acting as you are now, you’re nothing more than a hollow husk of a human being. One without true dreams or ambitions,” they spat,“ Once you embrace that, only then will you shine brighter than everyone else.”

Mentally, I was frozen. Her words were the only thing I could focus on.

That buzzing from earlier returned, resonating louder than ever within my ears. The tips of my fingers throbbed with each heartbeat. I wouldn’t cry. I couldn’t cry. That wouldn’t be proper of me. In between my shallow breaths, I stared up at the sky as my eyes welled up with tears, my face feeling as though it was on fire. My vision blurred.

I tried to blink the tears away, but what awaited me when my eyesight cleared again was my bedroom, slightly obscured by a single yellow note plastered on my forehead. Nothing of that land of fairytales remained, and that thing had vanished without a trace. Good riddance.

Slowly peeling it off of my face, the note was covered in hearts and exclamation points. It read,

“Hey there, dear! You’ve been asleep all day today, just as your fever was starting to go down too… Just in case you wake up in the middle of the night, breakfast, lunch and even dinner have been safely tucked away in the fridge just for you.

Remember, it’s our duty as students to get better as fast as possible so let's power through this!

Yuu. “

My face felt wet and I was out of breath. To my left, Yuu had also sprawled out on her side of the futon, a large white heat compress pushing her bangs upward as it lay on her forehead. It was as if she couldn’t decide whether she was hugging her pillow or doing her morning stretches. The rain beating down upon the window from outside, I freed my hand from underneath the cover that tucked me in from the neck down.

Checking the time and date on my phone, it was 9 pm on a Thursday. Three days had already passed since Yuu had tackled me into that puddle and I genuinely couldn’t remember anything. Like always, my only memory was of that room. Ever since I was little, this was what getting sick was like for me. I just hoped that I didn’t cause too much trouble for Aya and Yuu this time around. That last part was definitely new but judging by how I didn’t feel even the least bit groggy, I assumed that it wasn’t a dream either.

Before I could finish my thought, my phone rang and it was no surprise to say it was my aunt again. Luckily, with how much experience I had racked up, I could safely say that I’ve been getting better at this poor excuse for a game. I sat up, wiped my face, and cleared my throat before answering.

“Hoshino residence, Shiro speaking—”

“Oh my gosh, long time no speak, sweetie! You always sound so dead and tired, so I hope you’re holding up well.” Her tone was condescending as always. “Since family helps family, I’ll give you a little tip: when talking to someone, make sure to at least sound interested.”

“I’m fine.”

“How’s school? Do you still sit by yourself at lunch? You should really be more outgoing, get out of that small shell of yours. You’re nothing like me and Aoi were. “ She laughed.

The last time my Mother talked to her sister about how worrying it was that I sat by myself was when I was in my 1st year of elementary school.

“It’s definitely fun. Did you need something? It’s pretty late so I think I’m going to be heading to bed soon.”

The conversation was dead on arrival. She didn’t know a lot about me, and I didn’t know a lot about her. I didn’t want to. There wasn’t anything to talk about in the first place. From the other side of the call, a few other voices murmured before she continued.

“Right. So, I’m actually going to be nearby your little town for a trip in the coming weeks! I have an inn booked and everything. Surprise, I’m going to give you a little visit! “

I was so used to her phone calls ending with her asking for something, that I had never thought that a round of this game would end in any other way. While a bug like this was unexpected, it definitely didn’t make me feel better. Not in the slightest. My stomach sank to the very bottom of my shoes.