n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
[livejournal.com profile] theun4givables and [livejournal.com profile] alien_infinity and I gave each other writing challenges! Mine was to do a cute, fluffy, HET pairing. I was specifically told that it had to be done "with the couple actually together instead of that 'almost but not quite' thing she does". Yeah, you got me.

This takes place in a future where Sam and Daisuke from my s&d stories are actually together. I really don't know whether this happens in my canon.



"Dinner's all ready." Daisuke smiles as I pull off my boots and sink into my favorite chair. "I kept it warm."

Ten years gone, and he's still my best friend. We're different, but the same - his hair tinged with gray at the temples, my body fleshier than before. He loves it all the same, savoring every curve.

"What'd you make?" I ask, not that it matters. After my travels, I'm always so hungry I'd eat my own arm.

"Do you even have to ask?" Daisuke sets a steaming plate, homemade macaroni and cheese with the crunchies on top, on the table beside me. He leans in to kiss me, pulling me to him. My arms wrap around him as I breathe him in.

"Mmmmm, my favorite." I break the embrace and turn to my food. "I'm starving!"

"Me or the food?" Daisuke asks. He picks up my shoes and puts them away.

"Both, obviously." It's hard to stop shoveling it in long enough to answer, but I manage.

So many years, and so little has changed. Daisuke's still the solid one, working steady hours and still making time to keep the house clean. He doesn't get mad when I jump out of bed at 3 am with a story idea that must be written right now. When I come home from my travels, there's always food waiting. Daisuke takes care of me, like he always has.

I'm not sure what I contribute, besides the crazy. A sense of adventure, maybe?

All I know is I never stop thinking about him while I'm gone. On every trip, I bring him back a souvenir. He keeps them on a special shelf, a tiny altar to our lives together. There's the rock I found in Cliffton and the strange glowing orb from a place that had no name. And of course, there's the very first thing I ever brought him back, a mangled green matchbook with the words "Sammy's - Est. 1911" printed on its cover.

Does a shelf of tiny knickknacks make up for all the things he does for me? Does it balance the equation?

Dinner finished, I stretch out and put my feet up. It's been a long day - or week, or however long it's been. Jumping from world to world tends to make you lose track of time. My eyes slip closed.

"Oh no you don't," Daisuke murmurs.

"Mmmmph, sleepy," I mumble, scooting over to make room for him.

Daisuke climbs onto the chair and gathers me in his arms.

"Now you can go to sleep," he says, planting a soft kiss on my forehead. "Sweet dreams, Sam."

"I love you, Daisuke."

Then I drift off, knowing it doesn't matter if the equation is balanced or not. It just works.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] theun4givables and [livejournal.com profile] alien_infinity and I gave each other writing challenges! Mine was to do a cute, fluffy, HET pairing. I was specifically told that it had to be done "with the couple actually together instead of that 'almost but not quite' thing she does". Yeah, you got me.

This takes place in a future where Sam and Daisuke from my s&d stories are actually together. I really don't know whether this happens in my canon.



"Dinner's all ready." Daisuke smiles as I pull off my boots and sink into my favorite chair. "I kept it warm."

Ten years gone, and he's still my best friend. We're different, but the same - his hair tinged with gray at the temples, my body fleshier than before. He loves it all the same, savoring every curve.

"What'd you make?" I ask, not that it matters. After my travels, I'm always so hungry I'd eat my own arm.

"Do you even have to ask?" Daisuke sets a steaming plate, homemade macaroni and cheese with the crunchies on top, on the table beside me. He leans in to kiss me, pulling me to him. My arms wrap around him as I breathe him in.

"Mmmmm, my favorite." I break the embrace and turn to my food. "I'm starving!"

"Me or the food?" Daisuke asks. He picks up my shoes and puts them away.

"Both, obviously." It's hard to stop shoveling it in long enough to answer, but I manage.

So many years, and so little has changed. Daisuke's still the solid one, working steady hours and still making time to keep the house clean. He doesn't get mad when I jump out of bed at 3 am with a story idea that must be written right now. When I come home from my travels, there's always food waiting. Daisuke takes care of me, like he always has.

I'm not sure what I contribute, besides the crazy. A sense of adventure, maybe?

All I know is I never stop thinking about him while I'm gone. On every trip, I bring him back a souvenir. He keeps them on a special shelf, a tiny altar to our lives together. There's the rock I found in Cliffton and the strange glowing orb from a place that had no name. And of course, there's the very first thing I ever brought him back, a mangled green matchbook with the words "Sammy's - Est. 1911" printed on its cover.

Does a shelf of tiny knickknacks make up for all the things he does for me? Does it balance the equation?

Dinner finished, I stretch out and put my feet up. It's been a long day - or week, or however long it's been. Jumping from world to world tends to make you lose track of time. My eyes slip closed.

"Oh no you don't," Daisuke murmurs.

"Mmmmph, sleepy," I mumble, scooting over to make room for him.

Daisuke climbs onto the chair and gathers me in his arms.

"Now you can go to sleep," he says, planting a soft kiss on my forehead. "Sweet dreams, Sam."

"I love you, Daisuke."

Then I drift off, knowing it doesn't matter if the equation is balanced or not. It just works.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
My palms sweat and my thoughts race as I walk down the hall. While I've run numerous groups in my two years working at the Rainey Institute, this one is going to be something else entirely.

They're going to eat me alive, I think. This isn't like running Grief Group or Anger Management. Any group leader can identify with those issues. How am I supposed to find common ground with these patients, though?

I enter the room to find my participants already there, awaiting my arrival. There are eleven of them - ten people and one robot - spread across four rows of mostly-empty seats. Here goes nothing, I think, taking a deep breath.

"Hi, everyone. My name is Sarah and I'll be facilitating this group today. It's my first time leading this particular group, so please bear with me and hopefully we can all learn together."

A dark-haired woman in the back row snorts. "What could I possibly learn from you? You're scared to death right now."

"This group will give you the opportunity to talk with others who have been in the same situation as you." I do my best to appear confident in the face of her scrutiny.

"Somehow, I doubt that." The woman shoots me a haughty glare, crossing her arms.

"Okay, then," I continue. "This is a support group for people suffering from Uncooperative Fictional Character Disorder. As I've never been a fictional character myself, I can't say I identify with what you all go through. But that's why we're here. In this session, you'll have the chance to talk about your feelings with other people who've experienced the same things you have."

Nine pairs of human eyes and one pair of electronic ones stare at me in stony silence. In one corner of the room, a man with shaggy white hair sits on the floor and picks at the torn knee of his jeans.

This is going swimmingly so far, I think.

"Um, let's all introduce ourselves. First names will suffice. Please also tell the group how you're feeling today and a little bit about why you're here."

More blank stares.

"Okay, I'll go first," I say, trying not to sound intimidated. "My name is Sarah and I'm feeling nervous right now. I'm not a fictional character, but we don't have any of those working here at the Rainey Institute. They picked me to run this group because sometimes I'm a writer."

With what I hope is an encouraging nod, I address the petite blonde girl sitting in the front row.

"Hi, my name is Sam?" It sounds like a question rather than a statement. She fidgets in her chair and falls silent. A young man of Asian descent with a long ponytail is seated beside her. He grabs her hand and gives it a supportive squeeze, and she speaks again. "Um, I'm feeling depressed and I'm here because I stared at my best friend's butt during an important plot point."

Sam's friend twitches and almost falls out of his chair.

"You what?"

"It... it was an accident," Sam mumbles. "I didn't know it was you." Her friend looks disappointed.

"Um, I'm Daisuke," Sam's friend jumps in before I can ask any more questions. "Right now, I'm feeling, well... kind of shocked. I'm here because I lived in a fantastical world for a year and a half and refuse to talk to anyone about what happened while I was there."

Sam keeps shooting Daisuke nervous looks when she thinks he isn't looking. Daisuke examines his fingernails.

Thanking him, I glance at the two young men seated in the second row. Both are well-dressed, one young and blonde and the other slightly older with dark hair and glasses. They are engaged in a furious make-out session and oblivious to anyone else in the room. I clear my throat, but they don't appear to notice. I'm about to move on to the next participant when a condescending female voice speaks up from the back of the room.

"The pretty yellow-haired one is Jazz and the perverted one is Savin. They're a couple of idiots." It's the dark-haired woman who called me out at the beginning of the session.

Jerking away from his partner, Jazz looks at the woman with alarm. Savin gives her a cursory glance, then resumes kissing Jazz with impressive fervor. Jazz continues to eye the woman for a moment, then shrugs and returns his attention to Savin.

Sighing, I move on. In the third row of seats, a group of four men in their teens or early twenties sit with a feminine-looking robot. I catch the eye of an olive-skinned boy with shocking blue eyes and blonde hair. He offers me a shy smile.

"I'm Kalen, and I am feeling... overwhelmed? I'm here because I committed an act of terrorism by sneezing, thereby turning what was supposed to be a serious story into a new genre called 'goofy dystopia'." Kalen nudges the robot, who is sitting to his left.

"I'm CallaBot. I have no idea why I'm here. Robots don't need therapy." She glares at me, eyes glowing as if lasers are about to emanate from them. Feeling a trickle of sweat roll down the small of my back, I do my best not to flinch. CallaBot turns to the large muscular young man to her left, who appears to be sleeping, and punches him hard in the arm.

"Wake up, numbnuts!"

"OW!" The brawny young man jerks awake with a shout. "Why'd you do that?"

"It's your turn, Shit-For-Brains." At least the fembot is glaring at him instead of me now.

"Um... hi? I'm Brendan."

"Name. How you're feeling. Why you're here. It's not rocket science, seriously." A young man with Mediterranean features and long dark hair stares at Brendan with a disdainful expression that rivals CallaBot's laser eyes.

"Shut up, Devin!"

"Whatever, you troglodyte."

"What?" Brendan looks puzzled.

"Exactly." Devin smirks.

"Can we get to the point already? This is getting boring." The dark-haired woman in the back row stands up. "I'm Jordine. I do what I want. Period."

Jordine points at Brendan. "This one doesn't follow orders."

Gesturing at Devin, she continues.

"This one cracks jokes at inappropriate times and loses his sense of humor at crucial moments. And the one next to him, Wes, thinks that real life is exactly like an episode of NebulaQuest, a fictional 'neurovision' show." She punctuates the word "neurovision" with sarcastic air quotes.

"How did you know all that? Are you some kind of mind-reader?" Wes is staring at Jordine with rapt adoration.

"Yes." Jordine doesn't even spare Wes a glance. She directs her piercing gaze to the white-haired man in the corner, who is still paying no attention to anyone else in the room.

"And this one." Her words drip with disgust. "I don't even know where to begin. He has a perfectly good proper name, but insists on being called The Straw Man instead, making all references to him awkward and ungainly. When his Author wants to write him, he's nowhere to be found. At times when the Author has a million other projects, he begs to be written, promising to behave, only to run away at inopportune moments. Besides all of that, he has no concept of time and his thought processes look like something Salvador Dali vomited up once."

Jordine glares at the Straw Man, who looks up, startled. He stares at her for a moment, whimpers like a kicked dog, and shrinks away. Sam jumps out of her seat and runs over to comfort him as Daisuke eyes him with open hatred.

"This is ridiculous." Jordine snorts, rising and making for the door. "I'm leaving. Have fun exploring your feeeeeeeeeelings."

Sighing, I look at the clock. Only twenty minutes have passed. What am I supposed to do with the rest of the hour?




Author's Note: Thank you so much to [livejournal.com profile] theun4givables, who allowed me to borrow her characters (Jordine, Jazz and Savin) for this story.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
My palms sweat and my thoughts race as I walk down the hall. While I've run numerous groups in my two years working at the Rainey Institute, this one is going to be something else entirely.

They're going to eat me alive, I think. This isn't like running Grief Group or Anger Management. Any group leader can identify with those issues. How am I supposed to find common ground with these patients, though?

I enter the room to find my participants already there, awaiting my arrival. There are eleven of them - ten people and one robot - spread across four rows of mostly-empty seats. Here goes nothing, I think, taking a deep breath.

"Hi, everyone. My name is Sarah and I'll be facilitating this group today. It's my first time leading this particular group, so please bear with me and hopefully we can all learn together."

A dark-haired woman in the back row snorts. "What could I possibly learn from you? You're scared to death right now."

"This group will give you the opportunity to talk with others who have been in the same situation as you." I do my best to appear confident in the face of her scrutiny.

"Somehow, I doubt that." The woman shoots me a haughty glare, crossing her arms.

"Okay, then," I continue. "This is a support group for people suffering from Uncooperative Fictional Character Disorder. As I've never been a fictional character myself, I can't say I identify with what you all go through. But that's why we're here. In this session, you'll have the chance to talk about your feelings with other people who've experienced the same things you have."

Nine pairs of human eyes and one pair of electronic ones stare at me in stony silence. In one corner of the room, a man with shaggy white hair sits on the floor and picks at the torn knee of his jeans.

This is going swimmingly so far, I think.

"Um, let's all introduce ourselves. First names will suffice. Please also tell the group how you're feeling today and a little bit about why you're here."

More blank stares.

"Okay, I'll go first," I say, trying not to sound intimidated. "My name is Sarah and I'm feeling nervous right now. I'm not a fictional character, but we don't have any of those working here at the Rainey Institute. They picked me to run this group because sometimes I'm a writer."

With what I hope is an encouraging nod, I address the petite blonde girl sitting in the front row.

"Hi, my name is Sam?" It sounds like a question rather than a statement. She fidgets in her chair and falls silent. A young man of Asian descent with a long ponytail is seated beside her. He grabs her hand and gives it a supportive squeeze, and she speaks again. "Um, I'm feeling depressed and I'm here because I stared at my best friend's butt during an important plot point."

Sam's friend twitches and almost falls out of his chair.

"You what?"

"It... it was an accident," Sam mumbles. "I didn't know it was you." Her friend looks disappointed.

"Um, I'm Daisuke," Sam's friend jumps in before I can ask any more questions. "Right now, I'm feeling, well... kind of shocked. I'm here because I lived in a fantastical world for a year and a half and refuse to talk to anyone about what happened while I was there."

Sam keeps shooting Daisuke nervous looks when she thinks he isn't looking. Daisuke examines his fingernails.

Thanking him, I glance at the two young men seated in the second row. Both are well-dressed, one young and blonde and the other slightly older with dark hair and glasses. They are engaged in a furious make-out session and oblivious to anyone else in the room. I clear my throat, but they don't appear to notice. I'm about to move on to the next participant when a condescending female voice speaks up from the back of the room.

"The pretty yellow-haired one is Jazz and the perverted one is Savin. They're a couple of idiots." It's the dark-haired woman who called me out at the beginning of the session.

Jerking away from his partner, Jazz looks at the woman with alarm. Savin gives her a cursory glance, then resumes kissing Jazz with impressive fervor. Jazz continues to eye the woman for a moment, then shrugs and returns his attention to Savin.

Sighing, I move on. In the third row of seats, a group of four men in their teens or early twenties sit with a feminine-looking robot. I catch the eye of an olive-skinned boy with shocking blue eyes and blonde hair. He offers me a shy smile.

"I'm Kalen, and I am feeling... overwhelmed? I'm here because I committed an act of terrorism by sneezing, thereby turning what was supposed to be a serious story into a new genre called 'goofy dystopia'." Kalen nudges the robot, who is sitting to his left.

"I'm CallaBot. I have no idea why I'm here. Robots don't need therapy." She glares at me, eyes glowing as if lasers are about to emanate from them. Feeling a trickle of sweat roll down the small of my back, I do my best not to flinch. CallaBot turns to the large muscular young man to her left, who appears to be sleeping, and punches him hard in the arm.

"Wake up, numbnuts!"

"OW!" The brawny young man jerks awake with a shout. "Why'd you do that?"

"It's your turn, Shit-For-Brains." At least the fembot is glaring at him instead of me now.

"Um... hi? I'm Brendan."

"Name. How you're feeling. Why you're here. It's not rocket science, seriously." A young man with Mediterranean features and long dark hair stares at Brendan with a disdainful expression that rivals CallaBot's laser eyes.

"Shut up, Devin!"

"Whatever, you troglodyte."

"What?" Brendan looks puzzled.

"Exactly." Devin smirks.

"Can we get to the point already? This is getting boring." The dark-haired woman in the back row stands up. "I'm Jordine. I do what I want. Period."

Jordine points at Brendan. "This one doesn't follow orders."

Gesturing at Devin, she continues.

"This one cracks jokes at inappropriate times and loses his sense of humor at crucial moments. And the one next to him, Wes, thinks that real life is exactly like an episode of NebulaQuest, a fictional 'neurovision' show." She punctuates the word "neurovision" with sarcastic air quotes.

"How did you know all that? Are you some kind of mind-reader?" Wes is staring at Jordine with rapt adoration.

"Yes." Jordine doesn't even spare Wes a glance. She directs her piercing gaze to the white-haired man in the corner, who is still paying no attention to anyone else in the room.

"And this one." Her words drip with disgust. "I don't even know where to begin. He has a perfectly good proper name, but insists on being called The Straw Man instead, making all references to him awkward and ungainly. When his Author wants to write him, he's nowhere to be found. At times when the Author has a million other projects, he begs to be written, promising to behave, only to run away at inopportune moments. Besides all of that, he has no concept of time and his thought processes look like something Salvador Dali vomited up once."

Jordine glares at the Straw Man, who looks up, startled. He stares at her for a moment, whimpers like a kicked dog, and shrinks away. Sam jumps out of her seat and runs over to comfort him as Daisuke eyes him with open hatred.

"This is ridiculous." Jordine snorts, rising and making for the door. "I'm leaving. Have fun exploring your feeeeeeeeeelings."

Sighing, I look at the clock. Only twenty minutes have passed. What am I supposed to do with the rest of the hour?




Author's Note: Thank you so much to [livejournal.com profile] theun4givables, who allowed me to borrow her characters (Jordine, Jazz and Savin) for this story.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
Sitting on his front steps, the Straw Man rests his head in his hands. He hoped today would be a better day, but now he's not so sure. After the storm last night, he felt cleansed; now he's just exhausted. Already the fear is creeping back in. The darkness lies in waiting, never truly gone. More than anything he craves sleep, but he's afraid to close his eyes.

So tired. His eyelids droop. Maybe just for a minute.

A gentle pressure on his shoulder jerks him awake; he jumps. He doesn't remember the last time someone touched him. A face shimmers at the edge of his memory - brown eyes, black-framed glasses, wavy brown hair. It ripples and floats away as quickly as it came. In the periphery of his vision, the blackness inches ever closer.

Skin prickling with the feel of eyes upon him, he snaps to attention. Another face; this one doesn't disappear when he blinks. All sad green eyes and framed by pale hair, it persists in hovering near his own. She must a hallucination; no one comes here. Real or no, she looks at him in a way no one has in years, as if he still exists.

"You're... like me?" The words are out of his mouth before he's even sure what they mean.

"Not exactly." The blonde girl looks unfazed by the question. "But I'm sure as hell not normal."

He doesn't intend to touch her mind, but the surge of thoughts comes anyway. This time it's different. A screech like feedback through a bullhorn fills his head; he winces in pain. Through the noise, her name is all he hears.

Sam.

"It doesn't work on you," he says. He expects a look of confusion, but Sam just smiles.

"It doesn't have to," she says. "I'm just here to talk. You look like you need a friend."

Friend. He barely remembers what the word means. Before the broken man, he had no need of one.

"I just..."

The Straw Man trails off, unsure where to begin. It feels like a lifetime since he's just talked. The only time he speaks to anyone is when they need his help. These days, even those conversations are few and far between.

"I don't feel right anymore, ever since I met the broken man," he finally says. It's a start.

Scooting over, he makes room on the bricks, and Sam sits down beside him.

"I haven't felt right in ages," she says. "You get used to it after a while."

* * * * *

Sunlight slants in through the Straw Man's window. Basking in its yellow warmth, he curls up in his chair and smiles. Night will come soon, but for now he feels safe. Today he is him - mind clear and unburdened. The darkness from his dreams still lurks somewhere, but for the moment it isn't here.

There's a chair for her here now, right next to his. On the hard nights, it's a place to hide. Though it doesn't always stop the nightmares when they come to claim him, at least it's a place to go. Sitting in her chair, wrapped in the afghan she likes to use, it's easier to remember. Day will come. He's not alone.

A knock comes at the door. It's Sam; she's the only one who ever comes here unannounced.

"It's open," he calls out.

The door is always open for her.

Squealing on its hinges, it swings ajar. The Straw Man turns toward it, hand raised in greeting. Then his eyes widen in shock; it isn't Sam. In the entrance stands a haunted man, hair awry and eyes wild.

Hair rises on the back of the Straw Man's neck just before he's pummeled by a wave of thoughts.

I've tried everything to get Rachel back.

                            The writer is my last hope.

                                                 If I take her friend, she has to help me.

Then a hand is clutching his shoulder while another presses a cloth to his face. There's a sick-sweet smell like sugared gasoline. The Straw Man tries to fight, but the haunted man's grasp is firm. Air rushes in his ears and his vision is all wrong. Everything is both hazy and strikingly detailed. As his knees give way and the world goes dark, one last thought fills his mind.

I have to warn Sam.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
Sitting on his front steps, the Straw Man rests his head in his hands. He hoped today would be a better day, but now he's not so sure. After the storm last night, he felt cleansed; now he's just exhausted. Already the fear is creeping back in. The darkness lies in waiting, never truly gone. More than anything he craves sleep, but he's afraid to close his eyes.

So tired. His eyelids droop. Maybe just for a minute.

A gentle pressure on his shoulder jerks him awake; he jumps. He doesn't remember the last time someone touched him. A face shimmers at the edge of his memory - brown eyes, black-framed glasses, wavy brown hair. It ripples and floats away as quickly as it came. In the periphery of his vision, the blackness inches ever closer.

Skin prickling with the feel of eyes upon him, he snaps to attention. Another face; this one doesn't disappear when he blinks. All sad green eyes and framed by pale hair, it persists in hovering near his own. She must a hallucination; no one comes here. Real or no, she looks at him in a way no one has in years, as if he still exists.

"You're... like me?" The words are out of his mouth before he's even sure what they mean.

"Not exactly." The blonde girl looks unfazed by the question. "But I'm sure as hell not normal."

He doesn't intend to touch her mind, but the surge of thoughts comes anyway. This time it's different. A screech like feedback through a bullhorn fills his head; he winces in pain. Through the noise, her name is all he hears.

Sam.

"It doesn't work on you," he says. He expects a look of confusion, but Sam just smiles.

"It doesn't have to," she says. "I'm just here to talk. You look like you need a friend."

Friend. He barely remembers what the word means. Before the broken man, he had no need of one.

"I just..."

The Straw Man trails off, unsure where to begin. It feels like a lifetime since he's just talked. The only time he speaks to anyone is when they need his help. These days, even those conversations are few and far between.

"I don't feel right anymore, ever since I met the broken man," he finally says. It's a start.

Scooting over, he makes room on the bricks, and Sam sits down beside him.

"I haven't felt right in ages," she says. "You get used to it after a while."

* * * * *

Sunlight slants in through the Straw Man's window. Basking in its yellow warmth, he curls up in his chair and smiles. Night will come soon, but for now he feels safe. Today he is him - mind clear and unburdened. The darkness from his dreams still lurks somewhere, but for the moment it isn't here.

There's a chair for her here now, right next to his. On the hard nights, it's a place to hide. Though it doesn't always stop the nightmares when they come to claim him, at least it's a place to go. Sitting in her chair, wrapped in the afghan she likes to use, it's easier to remember. Day will come. He's not alone.

A knock comes at the door. It's Sam; she's the only one who ever comes here unannounced.

"It's open," he calls out.

The door is always open for her.

Squealing on its hinges, it swings ajar. The Straw Man turns toward it, hand raised in greeting. Then his eyes widen in shock; it isn't Sam. In the entrance stands a haunted man, hair awry and eyes wild.

Hair rises on the back of the Straw Man's neck just before he's pummeled by a wave of thoughts.

I've tried everything to get Rachel back.

                            The writer is my last hope.

                                                 If I take her friend, she has to help me.

Then a hand is clutching his shoulder while another presses a cloth to his face. There's a sick-sweet smell like sugared gasoline. The Straw Man tries to fight, but the haunted man's grasp is firm. Air rushes in his ears and his vision is all wrong. Everything is both hazy and strikingly detailed. As his knees give way and the world goes dark, one last thought fills his mind.

I have to warn Sam.

Dedication

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:46 pm
n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
My heart pounds with excitement as I hang up after the call with my agent. Not even bothering to put the phone down, I dial Daisuke right away. Even after all that's happened, he's still the only one I want to talk to.

Come on... pick up, pick up. His line rings and rings. Just when I'm sure it's going to voice mail, he answers.

"Hey, Daisuke," I say, voice trembling with excitement. Is it my imagination, or is there a long pause?

"Hey, Sam."

More dead air. I remember how we used to be able to talk for hours.

"Whatcha been up to?" I finally ask.

"Well, you know," he says, "I'm graduating from college soon, so I've been filling out job applications. Had a few interviews already, too. Sorry I haven't called. I've just been really busy."

"Yeah, it's okay." I will my voice not to crack.

That old lump rises in my throat. Things have never been the same since the year and a half Daisuke spent away. He's never told me what happened while he was gone. Not that he's the only one holding back - there's so much we've left unsaid. I sigh, forgetting for a moment that I'm still on the phone.

"Sam? You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm good. Hey, I just wanted to tell you. My book comes out next week."

"Sam, that's incredible! I always knew you could do it." It's the first time he sounds like him.

At least he's still in there somewhere, I think.

We make conversation for a few minutes and then hang up with a promise to see each on the weekend. Then I sit down at my computer and browse through old pictures. I wonder if I'll ever truly have my best friend back.

* * * * *

I'm sitting in the coffee shop we always used to go to. Since I got here early, there's too much time to think. Nervous, I swirl the ice cubes in my water glass with a straw. Then I smile, recalling all the times we sat here together in our high school days. Sipping fancy coffee drinks late at night, we felt so grown up.

The smile is still on my face when Daisuke walks through the door.

It's been months since I last saw him; his hair is short now, professional. That makes sense, I guess - he said he's been interviewing. He's kept up with his workouts, but otherwise he looks the way I remember from years ago. I can almost pretend he's the person he was back then.

I stand to greet him and he puts his arms around me. His embrace is awkward, nothing like the bone-crushing hugs he used to give. Then he pulls away and takes his seat across the table, looking as apprehensive as I feel.

"Hey, Daisuke," I say.

"Hey, Sam." He smiles, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes.

"How's it going?" I'm so awkward around him now it's painful.

"Had another interview today," he says. "I think it went well."

"What kind of place is it?"

"Small startup, but it looks promising. I'd have to move out of state, though."

My heart sinks. I force my face to arrange itself in a smile anyway.

"If it's what you want..."

"Sam - " His voice trails off.

"What, Daisuke?"

"Never mind," he says. "How's life as a published author?"

"Nerve-wracking," I admit. "What if it doesn't sell?"

"It'll sell, Sam. Your writing is amazing; you know I've always thought so. Who wouldn't want to read it?"

For a just a moment, the door is open. He's the Daisuke I know and love. I speak before he can slam it shut again.

"I brought you a copy," I tell him, sliding the book across the table.

"Is it signed?" His boyish excitement melts my insides. It's been so long since I've seen him like this.

"Better than that," I say. "Read the dedication."

I wait impatiently as he reads. After all the time I spent agonizing over it, I know the words by heart.

To my best friend Daisuke -

Thanks for always believing. You were there for me when no one else was, no matter the circumstances. Our lives are on different paths now but you're forever in my heart. None of this could have happened without you; I'm a better person for knowing you. May your life be filled with love, beauty, and adventure.

Love always, Sam.


Daisuke looks up, dark eyes shining. Then he's at my side, pulling me to my feet. He hugs me so hard I feel faint.

"Thank you," he whispers.

Without a word, I put my arms around him and hold him tight.

Dedication

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:46 pm
n3m3sis43: (Default)
My heart pounds with excitement as I hang up after the call with my agent. Not even bothering to put the phone down, I dial Daisuke right away. Even after all that's happened, he's still the only one I want to talk to.

Come on... pick up, pick up. His line rings and rings. Just when I'm sure it's going to voice mail, he answers.

"Hey, Daisuke," I say, voice trembling with excitement. Is it my imagination, or is there a long pause?

"Hey, Sam."

More dead air. I remember how we used to be able to talk for hours.

"Whatcha been up to?" I finally ask.

"Well, you know," he says, "I'm graduating from college soon, so I've been filling out job applications. Had a few interviews already, too. Sorry I haven't called. I've just been really busy."

"Yeah, it's okay." I will my voice not to crack.

That old lump rises in my throat. Things have never been the same since the year and a half Daisuke spent away. He's never told me what happened while he was gone. Not that he's the only one holding back - there's so much we've left unsaid. I sigh, forgetting for a moment that I'm still on the phone.

"Sam? You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm good. Hey, I just wanted to tell you. My book comes out next week."

"Sam, that's incredible! I always knew you could do it." It's the first time he sounds like him.

At least he's still in there somewhere, I think.

We make conversation for a few minutes and then hang up with a promise to see each on the weekend. Then I sit down at my computer and browse through old pictures. I wonder if I'll ever truly have my best friend back.

* * * * *

I'm sitting in the coffee shop we always used to go to. Since I got here early, there's too much time to think. Nervous, I swirl the ice cubes in my water glass with a straw. Then I smile, recalling all the times we sat here together in our high school days. Sipping fancy coffee drinks late at night, we felt so grown up.

The smile is still on my face when Daisuke walks through the door.

It's been months since I last saw him; his hair is short now, professional. That makes sense, I guess - he said he's been interviewing. He's kept up with his workouts, but otherwise he looks the way I remember from years ago. I can almost pretend he's the person he was back then.

I stand to greet him and he puts his arms around me. His embrace is awkward, nothing like the bone-crushing hugs he used to give. Then he pulls away and takes his seat across the table, looking as apprehensive as I feel.

"Hey, Daisuke," I say.

"Hey, Sam." He smiles, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes.

"How's it going?" I'm so awkward around him now it's painful.

"Had another interview today," he says. "I think it went well."

"What kind of place is it?"

"Small startup, but it looks promising. I'd have to move out of state, though."

My heart sinks. I force my face to arrange itself in a smile anyway.

"If it's what you want..."

"Sam - " His voice trails off.

"What, Daisuke?"

"Never mind," he says. "How's life as a published author?"

"Nerve-wracking," I admit. "What if it doesn't sell?"

"It'll sell, Sam. Your writing is amazing; you know I've always thought so. Who wouldn't want to read it?"

For a just a moment, the door is open. He's the Daisuke I know and love. I speak before he can slam it shut again.

"I brought you a copy," I tell him, sliding the book across the table.

"Is it signed?" His boyish excitement melts my insides. It's been so long since I've seen him like this.

"Better than that," I say. "Read the dedication."

I wait impatiently as he reads. After all the time I spent agonizing over it, I know the words by heart.

To my best friend Daisuke -

Thanks for always believing. You were there for me when no one else was, no matter the circumstances. Our lives are on different paths now but you're forever in my heart. None of this could have happened without you; I'm a better person for knowing you. May your life be filled with love, beauty, and adventure.

Love always, Sam.


Daisuke looks up, dark eyes shining. Then he's at my side, pulling me to my feet. He hugs me so hard I feel faint.

"Thank you," he whispers.

Without a word, I put my arms around him and hold him tight.

Artifice

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:45 pm
n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
"Did you find a date for Prom?" I ask Daisuke. Digging into my frozen yogurt, I ignore his pained expression.

"I already told you," he says, "I don't want a date for Prom."

"But it's your senior year! Won't you feel like you missed out if you don't go?"

"Not really," Daisuke says. "School dances are pointless anyway."

"You just think it's pointless because you don't have a date," I tell him. Daisuke looks at me funny for a minute, like he's trying to figure something out. Then he laughs.

"Hey, if you're so interested, why don't you go?"

"I don't have a date either. Besides, I'm not the one graduating this year," I say, looking away. All of a sudden, I don't like the direction this conversation is taking. I swirl my plastic spoon through my yogurt, trying not to think about Daisuke going off to college and leaving me here, minus one best friend.

"Is there even any yogurt in there, or is it all Oreos?" I tease, pointing at his paper cup with its mountain of cookie crumbles, gummy worms, and other assorted sugary toppings. Changing the subject is easier.

"What's wrong with Oreos?"

"Nothing," I say, "except this is a frozen yogurt place."

"Hey," Daisuke says. "Do you want to come over after this? We can play Rock Band or whatever."

"Yeah, sure," I reply, breathing an inward sigh of relief. Sure, Prom is in a month and graduation isn't long after. For now, I'd rather not think about that. Why ruin the time we still have together?

* * * * *

Taking my yearbook off my bookshelf, I flip through the pages of photos. This isn't idle nostalgia - I've got a plan. If Daisuke won't ask anyone to Prom, I'm going to do it for him. Now all I have to do is find the right girl.

"Hmmmm," I say to myself, "no cheerbunnies... this girl looks too fake... and her nose is too big."

This is harder than I expected. For one thing, I don't really know that many girls in Daisuke's class. For another, no one seems good enough for my best friend. Maybe I need a new strategy.

Common interests? I wonder, chewing on my nails. He's in band.

Turning to the group photo of last year's band members, I examine every face. My eyes fall upon a petite girl with a halo of orange curls. She's the only one with a real smile, as if she's actually happy instead of just cheesing it up for the camera.

She's the one, I think. Daisuke deserves someone genuine.

I unzip my bookbag and pull out a spiral notebook. Opening it, I tear out a page and begin to write. Phase one of my scheme is complete; I've found a girl for Daisuke. Now all I have to do is make her love him.

* * * * *

Two weeks later, I'm sitting on my bed, listening to music. My phone rings and I grab for it. It's Daisuke's ringtone. Excited, I press the button . Maybe my plan has worked and he has a date!

"Hey, Daisuke," I say, hoping I sound normal. My heart is pounding in my ears.

For a moment, Daisuke doesn't say anything. He's silent for so long that I start to wonder if we've been disconnected. I'm about to hang up and call him back when he finally speaks.

"Um, Sam?" he says. Is it just my imagination or does he sound kind of pissed off?

"Yeah?"

"Do you, by any chance, have some idea why Kathleen Sullivan threw a bunch of notes in my face and called me a 'fucking psycho' in front of everyone in the band room?"

"Um... well... uh..." This isn't good at all. I fumble for words. "She did that?"

Dead silence. My mind races and my heart feels like it's going to jump into my throat.

"Come on, Sam," Daisuke finally says, his voice cold. "Quit playing dumb. The handwriting on those notes was yours."

"I'm not playing dumb! I just don't know what to say."

"How many notes did you send her?" he demands.

"Just one a day," I tell him. "I wanted her to know you were really interested."

"Sam, what the hell?" He's practically yelling now. I have to hold the phone away from my ear.

"I didn't mean to - I mean, um... I just wanted to help you enjoy your senior year and - "

"Sam?"

"Uh, yeah, Daisuke?"

"Could you please not 'help' me anymore? Like, ever again?"

"I'm sorry... I just - " My voice trails off as I realize I'm speaking to no one but empty air.

* * * * *

My stomach does backflips as I climb Daisuke's front steps. He hasn't spoken to me all week and I can't say I blame him. I can't give up, though, so I take a deep breath and ring the bell.

He has to forgive me sometime, right?

When he opens the door, he stares me down and doesn't speak. At least the door is open, though. I stick my foot inside before he can change his mind and slam it shut.

"Daisuke, I... um, here." Digging in my pocket, I pull out a folded piece of notebook paper.

"Another note? Seriously?" His expression is thunderous. It's a good thing I have my foot in the door.

"No, come on, please... just read it."

Daisuke takes the piece of paper and unfolds it with a reluctant sigh.

"Dear Daisuke, I just want you to know that you're my best friend in the whole world and I am so sorry I messed up. All I wanted was for you to find a girl who is real and makes your last months here really special. I know you're mad but I'm going to write you a note every day until you forgive me. Love, Sam."

When he finishes reading, Daisuke just stands there, saying nothing.

Great, I think. I knew this wouldn't work. He's still mad.

Then he grabs me and hugs me so hard I feel dizzy.

"What the hell?" Why is he hugging me like that?

"How am I supposed to stay mad at you, Sam?"

"Uh... I guess you're not?"

I'm never going to understand him, but if he's happy, I am too.

Artifice

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:45 pm
n3m3sis43: (Default)
"Did you find a date for Prom?" I ask Daisuke. Digging into my frozen yogurt, I ignore his pained expression.

"I already told you," he says, "I don't want a date for Prom."

"But it's your senior year! Won't you feel like you missed out if you don't go?"

"Not really," Daisuke says. "School dances are pointless anyway."

"You just think it's pointless because you don't have a date," I tell him. Daisuke looks at me funny for a minute, like he's trying to figure something out. Then he laughs.

"Hey, if you're so interested, why don't you go?"

"I don't have a date either. Besides, I'm not the one graduating this year," I say, looking away. All of a sudden, I don't like the direction this conversation is taking. I swirl my plastic spoon through my yogurt, trying not to think about Daisuke going off to college and leaving me here, minus one best friend.

"Is there even any yogurt in there, or is it all Oreos?" I tease, pointing at his paper cup with its mountain of cookie crumbles, gummy worms, and other assorted sugary toppings. Changing the subject is easier.

"What's wrong with Oreos?"

"Nothing," I say, "except this is a frozen yogurt place."

"Hey," Daisuke says. "Do you want to come over after this? We can play Rock Band or whatever."

"Yeah, sure," I reply, breathing an inward sigh of relief. Sure, Prom is in a month and graduation isn't long after. For now, I'd rather not think about that. Why ruin the time we still have together?

* * * * *

Taking my yearbook off my bookshelf, I flip through the pages of photos. This isn't idle nostalgia - I've got a plan. If Daisuke won't ask anyone to Prom, I'm going to do it for him. Now all I have to do is find the right girl.

"Hmmmm," I say to myself, "no cheerbunnies... this girl looks too fake... and her nose is too big."

This is harder than I expected. For one thing, I don't really know that many girls in Daisuke's class. For another, no one seems good enough for my best friend. Maybe I need a new strategy.

Common interests? I wonder, chewing on my nails. He's in band.

Turning to the group photo of last year's band members, I examine every face. My eyes fall upon a petite girl with a halo of orange curls. She's the only one with a real smile, as if she's actually happy instead of just cheesing it up for the camera.

She's the one, I think. Daisuke deserves someone genuine.

I unzip my bookbag and pull out a spiral notebook. Opening it, I tear out a page and begin to write. Phase one of my scheme is complete; I've found a girl for Daisuke. Now all I have to do is make her love him.

* * * * *

Two weeks later, I'm sitting on my bed, listening to music. My phone rings and I grab for it. It's Daisuke's ringtone. Excited, I press the button . Maybe my plan has worked and he has a date!

"Hey, Daisuke," I say, hoping I sound normal. My heart is pounding in my ears.

For a moment, Daisuke doesn't say anything. He's silent for so long that I start to wonder if we've been disconnected. I'm about to hang up and call him back when he finally speaks.

"Um, Sam?" he says. Is it just my imagination or does he sound kind of pissed off?

"Yeah?"

"Do you, by any chance, have some idea why Kathleen Sullivan threw a bunch of notes in my face and called me a 'fucking psycho' in front of everyone in the band room?"

"Um... well... uh..." This isn't good at all. I fumble for words. "She did that?"

Dead silence. My mind races and my heart feels like it's going to jump into my throat.

"Come on, Sam," Daisuke finally says, his voice cold. "Quit playing dumb. The handwriting on those notes was yours."

"I'm not playing dumb! I just don't know what to say."

"How many notes did you send her?" he demands.

"Just one a day," I tell him. "I wanted her to know you were really interested."

"Sam, what the hell?" He's practically yelling now. I have to hold the phone away from my ear.

"I didn't mean to - I mean, um... I just wanted to help you enjoy your senior year and - "

"Sam?"

"Uh, yeah, Daisuke?"

"Could you please not 'help' me anymore? Like, ever again?"

"I'm sorry... I just - " My voice trails off as I realize I'm speaking to no one but empty air.

* * * * *

My stomach does backflips as I climb Daisuke's front steps. He hasn't spoken to me all week and I can't say I blame him. I can't give up, though, so I take a deep breath and ring the bell.

He has to forgive me sometime, right?

When he opens the door, he stares me down and doesn't speak. At least the door is open, though. I stick my foot inside before he can change his mind and slam it shut.

"Daisuke, I... um, here." Digging in my pocket, I pull out a folded piece of notebook paper.

"Another note? Seriously?" His expression is thunderous. It's a good thing I have my foot in the door.

"No, come on, please... just read it."

Daisuke takes the piece of paper and unfolds it with a reluctant sigh.

"Dear Daisuke, I just want you to know that you're my best friend in the whole world and I am so sorry I messed up. All I wanted was for you to find a girl who is real and makes your last months here really special. I know you're mad but I'm going to write you a note every day until you forgive me. Love, Sam."

When he finishes reading, Daisuke just stands there, saying nothing.

Great, I think. I knew this wouldn't work. He's still mad.

Then he grabs me and hugs me so hard I feel dizzy.

"What the hell?" Why is he hugging me like that?

"How am I supposed to stay mad at you, Sam?"

"Uh... I guess you're not?"

I'm never going to understand him, but if he's happy, I am too.

Gobsmacked

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:43 pm
n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
I've been walking for over an hour when I reach the village with the wooden sign labeled "Cliffton". My climb down the ravine and back up again has left me filthy and drenched in sweat. The people on the other side offered nothing but jeers and sneers - no news of Daisuke.

Passing the signpost, I enter the village. It's made up of small thatched huts and rutted dirt roads. One of these houses must belong to the traveler who helped me the last time I was here. My gut clenches with nervousness at the thought of knocking on random doors to look for him.

The people here can't be any meaner than the ones on the other side, I think. Besides, there's really no other choice.

Dust is whipping through the air. It settles for a moment and I notice two men standing not far from me. Only one is facing me, but I recognize him in an instant. It's the traveler! He's talking to another man, tall and well-built with long dark hair. His back is to me and I can't help staring at his rear.

"Really, Sam?" I mutter. I'm supposed to be finding Daisuke, not checking out strange men.

At the sound of my voice, the traveler's companion turns and looks my way. Our eyes meet and my stomach does an odd flip. And then I'm too busy screeching with joy and launching myself at him to be embarrassed, because it's Daisuke.

I throw my arms around his neck and he squeezes me so hard I can't breathe. It doesn't matter. Everything about him feels different, but I don't care about that either. He wasn't this muscly before, and he smells wrong, too - I guess they don't have his aftershave in Cliffton. Still, it's him and I don't want to let go.

He breaks the embrace and steps away. I feel self-conscious in his presence for the first time I can remember. No wonder I didn't recognize him at first. When I left him here, he was thin and his hair was short and spiky. Now it's past his shoulders, he's tanned, and he's put on at least 20 pounds of muscle. This place has apparently been good for him - he looks great.

"Um, Daisuke? How long has it been since I left?"

* * * * *

I'm crouching behind some trees in front of a small house. In the distance, I can hear the rush of a river. Apart from Cliffton, this is the first world I've visited more than once. Until today, I didn't know why.

The man with the bright white hair is sitting on the front step, head in his hands. He calls himself the Straw Man, and I've been watching him for weeks. Most days, his step is light and carefree. Today, he looks like the world is on his shoulders.

I'm at his side before he looks up. He's really off his game today. I lay a hand on his shoulder and he jumps. He isn't used to people coming here. Gray eyes wide, he looks at me.

"You're... like me?" he says.

"Not exactly. But I'm sure as hell not normal."

He winces as if he's got a headache. "It doesn't work on you."

"It doesn't have to. I'm just here to talk. You look like you need a friend."

"I just..." He trails off, then tries again. "I don't feel right anymore. Ever since I touched his mind. The broken man." There's no distrust in his gaze. Though he's got to be at least a few years older than I am, his eyes are clear and childlike.

"I haven't felt right in ages," I say, sitting down next to him on the bricks, "You get used to it after a while."

* * * * *

The sun is setting and a late spring breeze is blowing. Daisuke and I are sitting in his backyard the way we have so many times before. It's not the same, though - nothing is anymore. He's barely here even though he's sitting right beside me. I'm pretty sure I know what he's going through but I don't know how to help.

"I think I made a new friend today," I say.

"Really?" he says. He's staring off into space, a million miles away. I don't know why I bother.

"Yeah, in one of my stories. Isn't that weird?" That gets his attention. His dark eyes flash with anger I wasn't expecting.

"Great, another reason for you to be gone all the time."

"It's not like you notice when I am here anyway," I point out.

"I always notice, Sam. I'm just not ready to talk, okay? How long did I wait for you to tell me about your power?"

"That's completely different. You wouldn't have believed me." I look away, and my voice is barely a whisper. "You didn't believe me, Daisuke."

"Am I supposed to apologize for that again?"

"No!" I practically yell. This is not how I wanted this conversation to go at all. "I just... I just want my best friend back, okay?"

Daisuke looks at the ground and says nothing. He hasn't cut his hair since he came home. It falls in front of his face now, a black curtain hiding his eyes. Just one more thing between us.

* * * * *

He calls himself the Straw Man, and we've become friends. Sometimes we sit by the river, and other times we feed ducks at the park. He doesn't talk much, but I don't mind.

It's raining as I knock on his door. He steps back and waves me inside. Something's different - a second overstuffed chair in the living room. He's made a place for me. It's a thing I haven't had in what feels like forever. The simple gesture brings tears to my eyes.

"You didn't have to do that," I say.

"I wanted you to feel welcome. It's been so long since I've had a friend."

Just like that, I'm crying. Friends are a touchy subject for me these days.

"Daisuke?" he asks. I nod.

"He won't talk to me anymore. It's like he's mad and I don't know why."

The Straw Man says nothing for a long time. The silence stretches out before us but it doesn't hurt. He doesn't have to say a word.

"If I could touch your mind, I could help you find an answer," he finally says.

"It's okay," I tell him. "Just talking is enough."

* * * * *

It's almost fall, and the evening is cool and breezy. Daisuke and I are sitting on lawn chairs behind his house like always. The air is clean and crisp. It would be a lovely night, if we weren't having the same tired conversation for the millionth time.

"You haven't been around much lately," he says. I sigh, knowing this isn't going anywhere good.

"Yeah, I've been traveling a lot."

"Traveling?" he snorts. "Is that what you're calling it now? Like it's your job?"

I don't have anything to say to that. It seems he's always angry at me these days.

He breaks the silence. "You're going to see him, aren't you?"

"Why, are you jealous?" I shoot back.

"I just don't get why you're always visiting some guy who barely even talks."

"Like you ever talk to me anymore either," I mumble under my breath.

"What?"

"What's the point in sticking around here anyway? You never talk to me. I hate it here."

"I'm here, Sam."

"Yeah," I can feel the bitterness creeping into my voice. "Only you're not anymore. Not really."

Daisuke doesn't respond. He studies his fingernails intently.

"Come on, Daisuke. How long are you going to punish me for... for whatever I did wrong?"

"You never even considered what I wanted, Sam." He's glaring at me, eyes hard just like the rest of him now. "It's always about you and your power."

"What are you talking about?" I'm genuinely shocked.

"When you came rushing in to 'save' me..." He looks away.

"What was I supposed to do - leave you there?"

"It's just..." His voice trails off and he won't look at me. "Maybe I was happy."

"You're not like me, Daisuke. You have a life here."

"I had a life here, but that was a year and a half ago. I had a best friend, but even before I left, I was losing her," he says quietly. "Why do you think I wanted to go with you so badly?"

"Daisuke, I'll always be your friend." I get up and wrap my arms around him. His body stiffens but I don't let go.

* * * * *

It's a stormy night, and I'm sitting in the Straw Man's living room. Raindrops beat against the roof; it's a soothing sound.

"Daisuke finally talked to me," I say. "But it only made things worse. I don't know what to do."

"Be his friend, Sam."

"I'm trying! He won't let me." For the millionth time, I dissolve into tears. I hate this.

He looks at me with a gentle smile. "Keep trying."

Suddenly, he flinches and goes pale. He looks like he's going to be sick.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

The Straw Man takes a deep breath, nods slowly and holds up one finger. Wait.

He watches me for a while, head cocked, listening to words I can't hear. Emotions flicker across his face, as if he's having an inner debate. It seems like hours before he finally speaks.

"He loves you too - he's just not ready to admit it. Give it time."

Gobsmacked

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:43 pm
n3m3sis43: (Default)
I've been walking for over an hour when I reach the village with the wooden sign labeled "Cliffton". My climb down the ravine and back up again has left me filthy and drenched in sweat. The people on the other side offered nothing but jeers and sneers - no news of Daisuke.

Passing the signpost, I enter the village. It's made up of small thatched huts and rutted dirt roads. One of these houses must belong to the traveler who helped me the last time I was here. My gut clenches with nervousness at the thought of knocking on random doors to look for him.

The people here can't be any meaner than the ones on the other side, I think. Besides, there's really no other choice.

Dust is whipping through the air. It settles for a moment and I notice two men standing not far from me. Only one is facing me, but I recognize him in an instant. It's the traveler! He's talking to another man, tall and well-built with long dark hair. His back is to me and I can't help staring at his rear.

"Really, Sam?" I mutter. I'm supposed to be finding Daisuke, not checking out strange men.

At the sound of my voice, the traveler's companion turns and looks my way. Our eyes meet and my stomach does an odd flip. And then I'm too busy screeching with joy and launching myself at him to be embarrassed, because it's Daisuke.

I throw my arms around his neck and he squeezes me so hard I can't breathe. It doesn't matter. Everything about him feels different, but I don't care about that either. He wasn't this muscly before, and he smells wrong, too - I guess they don't have his aftershave in Cliffton. Still, it's him and I don't want to let go.

He breaks the embrace and steps away. I feel self-conscious in his presence for the first time I can remember. No wonder I didn't recognize him at first. When I left him here, he was thin and his hair was short and spiky. Now it's past his shoulders, he's tanned, and he's put on at least 20 pounds of muscle. This place has apparently been good for him - he looks great.

"Um, Daisuke? How long has it been since I left?"

* * * * *

I'm crouching behind some trees in front of a small house. In the distance, I can hear the rush of a river. Apart from Cliffton, this is the first world I've visited more than once. Until today, I didn't know why.

The man with the bright white hair is sitting on the front step, head in his hands. He calls himself the Straw Man, and I've been watching him for weeks. Most days, his step is light and carefree. Today, he looks like the world is on his shoulders.

I'm at his side before he looks up. He's really off his game today. I lay a hand on his shoulder and he jumps. He isn't used to people coming here. Gray eyes wide, he looks at me.

"You're... like me?" he says.

"Not exactly. But I'm sure as hell not normal."

He winces as if he's got a headache. "It doesn't work on you."

"It doesn't have to. I'm just here to talk. You look like you need a friend."

"I just..." He trails off, then tries again. "I don't feel right anymore. Ever since I touched his mind. The broken man." There's no distrust in his gaze. Though he's got to be at least a few years older than I am, his eyes are clear and childlike.

"I haven't felt right in ages," I say, sitting down next to him on the bricks, "You get used to it after a while."

* * * * *

The sun is setting and a late spring breeze is blowing. Daisuke and I are sitting in his backyard the way we have so many times before. It's not the same, though - nothing is anymore. He's barely here even though he's sitting right beside me. I'm pretty sure I know what he's going through but I don't know how to help.

"I think I made a new friend today," I say.

"Really?" he says. He's staring off into space, a million miles away. I don't know why I bother.

"Yeah, in one of my stories. Isn't that weird?" That gets his attention. His dark eyes flash with anger I wasn't expecting.

"Great, another reason for you to be gone all the time."

"It's not like you notice when I am here anyway," I point out.

"I always notice, Sam. I'm just not ready to talk, okay? How long did I wait for you to tell me about your power?"

"That's completely different. You wouldn't have believed me." I look away, and my voice is barely a whisper. "You didn't believe me, Daisuke."

"Am I supposed to apologize for that again?"

"No!" I practically yell. This is not how I wanted this conversation to go at all. "I just... I just want my best friend back, okay?"

Daisuke looks at the ground and says nothing. He hasn't cut his hair since he came home. It falls in front of his face now, a black curtain hiding his eyes. Just one more thing between us.

* * * * *

He calls himself the Straw Man, and we've become friends. Sometimes we sit by the river, and other times we feed ducks at the park. He doesn't talk much, but I don't mind.

It's raining as I knock on his door. He steps back and waves me inside. Something's different - a second overstuffed chair in the living room. He's made a place for me. It's a thing I haven't had in what feels like forever. The simple gesture brings tears to my eyes.

"You didn't have to do that," I say.

"I wanted you to feel welcome. It's been so long since I've had a friend."

Just like that, I'm crying. Friends are a touchy subject for me these days.

"Daisuke?" he asks. I nod.

"He won't talk to me anymore. It's like he's mad and I don't know why."

The Straw Man says nothing for a long time. The silence stretches out before us but it doesn't hurt. He doesn't have to say a word.

"If I could touch your mind, I could help you find an answer," he finally says.

"It's okay," I tell him. "Just talking is enough."

* * * * *

It's almost fall, and the evening is cool and breezy. Daisuke and I are sitting on lawn chairs behind his house like always. The air is clean and crisp. It would be a lovely night, if we weren't having the same tired conversation for the millionth time.

"You haven't been around much lately," he says. I sigh, knowing this isn't going anywhere good.

"Yeah, I've been traveling a lot."

"Traveling?" he snorts. "Is that what you're calling it now? Like it's your job?"

I don't have anything to say to that. It seems he's always angry at me these days.

He breaks the silence. "You're going to see him, aren't you?"

"Why, are you jealous?" I shoot back.

"I just don't get why you're always visiting some guy who barely even talks."

"Like you ever talk to me anymore either," I mumble under my breath.

"What?"

"What's the point in sticking around here anyway? You never talk to me. I hate it here."

"I'm here, Sam."

"Yeah," I can feel the bitterness creeping into my voice. "Only you're not anymore. Not really."

Daisuke doesn't respond. He studies his fingernails intently.

"Come on, Daisuke. How long are you going to punish me for... for whatever I did wrong?"

"You never even considered what I wanted, Sam." He's glaring at me, eyes hard just like the rest of him now. "It's always about you and your power."

"What are you talking about?" I'm genuinely shocked.

"When you came rushing in to 'save' me..." He looks away.

"What was I supposed to do - leave you there?"

"It's just..." His voice trails off and he won't look at me. "Maybe I was happy."

"You're not like me, Daisuke. You have a life here."

"I had a life here, but that was a year and a half ago. I had a best friend, but even before I left, I was losing her," he says quietly. "Why do you think I wanted to go with you so badly?"

"Daisuke, I'll always be your friend." I get up and wrap my arms around him. His body stiffens but I don't let go.

* * * * *

It's a stormy night, and I'm sitting in the Straw Man's living room. Raindrops beat against the roof; it's a soothing sound.

"Daisuke finally talked to me," I say. "But it only made things worse. I don't know what to do."

"Be his friend, Sam."

"I'm trying! He won't let me." For the millionth time, I dissolve into tears. I hate this.

He looks at me with a gentle smile. "Keep trying."

Suddenly, he flinches and goes pale. He looks like he's going to be sick.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

The Straw Man takes a deep breath, nods slowly and holds up one finger. Wait.

He watches me for a while, head cocked, listening to words I can't hear. Emotions flicker across his face, as if he's having an inner debate. It seems like hours before he finally speaks.

"He loves you too - he's just not ready to admit it. Give it time."
n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
I'm standing in front of a gaping ravine. It's the same one I climbed down just before I saw Daisuke for the last time. For a moment I'm filled with relief - I've finally made it back. If I can just get back down there, I can bring him home. The descent will be much harder without the traveler to help me, but I'll manage.

As I reach for the coil of rope that's tied to my belt, I notice my hands.

Am I dreaming?

The world begins to dissolve around me; I scream in disappointment.

* * * * *

I open my eyes to sunlight filtering through the blinds. Rolling over, I pull the covers up to block it out. Then I remember, and I tear my hands free. Staring at them, I try to swallow the rising panic.

Not dreaming.

Ever hopeful, I glance at the clock. 8 am. I rub my eyes and look again. The glowing blue numerals are implacable. Still 8 am.

I'm sorry, Daisuke. I've failed you again.

Hot tears sting my eyes and I bury my face in my pillow. Ever since I left him in the story world, I've been trying to get back to that ravine. So far, my failures have been spectacular. Writing myself back into the story hasn't worked - with each botched attempt, I've lost a little more control. The last time was the worst. Even the memory makes me shudder.

I am floating in an immense blackness. Though my throat tenses with ripping screams, no sound reaches my ears. The air is thick and viscous; it fills my lungs and chokes away my voice. My body convulses in silent agony. I'm drowning again, like the swimming pool on the day I lost Daisuke. A calm steals over me and my muscles relax.

That's the last thing I remember. Since then, I've stopped writing. The injuries I've brought back from the story world seem real enough. What would happen if I died there? I want more than anything to save my best friend, but I can't do that if I'm dead.

Waves of dizziness wash over me as I sit up and get out of bed. I'm not sure when I ate last. Food isn't appealing, but it's a necessity if I want to keep going. I'm about to head for the kitchen when the flashing light on my cell phone catches my eye. Some days I forget to charge the damn thing. I don't get many calls since Daisuke's been gone. Today, though, there's a text message waiting. It's from Daisuke's friend Andrew.

Hey Sam, you seen Daisuke lately? He hasn't been returning my calls.

It's like I've been punched in the stomach. Breakfast forgotten, I crawl back under the covers and cry.

* * * * *

The vast blue sky stretches out before me. Below it is the ravine. I'm standing in front of it again, looking down into the tangle of stunted black trees. The climb will be treacherous, but I've done it before. I can do it again.

At least I finally made it back here. I can save Daisuke.

Then I remember. I look down at my hands.

Am I dreaming?

The scenery begins to swim and fade, but I catch myself.

Wait! Stay in the dream.

I rub my hands together, focus on palm meeting palm. The swirling grayness resolves once more into a landscape. The sky brightens to a too-deep blue and the dust swirls in my face. Once more, I'm staring into that damnable ravine.

I did it!

Triumph washes over me, and the color bleeds out of the world. Just like that, it shimmers and disappears.

* * * * *

By now it's automatic; my hands come up in front of my face.

In the dark, I focus on their outlines. Though I already know I've failed, I glance at the clock. 5 am. I look away and then back; the numbers taunt me. Still 5 am. Bitter disappointment creeps up into my throat like bile.

I always dream of the ravine now - ever since I stopped writing.

Stretching, I get out of bed and brew a pot of coffee. My hair hangs lank and greasy in my eyes, and I brush it away. I consider a shower, but decide it's pointless - I never see anyone these days anyway. Instead, I sit down at my computer. Opening my email, I see a message from a member of the dream forum I frequent.

Hey Sam,

I hear your frustration. You want to master lucid dreaming right now, but just remember it takes time. The fact that you're already remembering to look at your hands in the dream is a great sign! Doing those "reality checks" is the best way to tell if you're asleep or awake. Recognizing that you're dreaming is the beginning of lucidity. You've even managed to extend the dream state a bit by focusing on a physical action. Now you just have to keep at it!

Try not to be so hard on yourself. Pushing too hard will just hold you back. Remember, you've got the rest of your life to learn this!

- Dave


The words are meant to be encouraging, but they bring me to tears. Maybe Dave had the rest of his life, but I don't. I have to master these techniques now so I can adapt them for use in the story world. If I do that, I can save Daisuke - and if I can't, it's not worth doing anything else.

* * * * *

I'm standing at the edge of the ravine, just like a million times before. Behind it stretches that great expanse of too-blue sky. Without even thinking, I lift my hands and study them.

Dreaming again.

This time, I catch myself before the realization distracts me. I rub my hands together. Colors remain as brilliant as ever. The landscape does not blur or fade.

Yes!

Joy overtakes me; I'm finally getting the hang of this! A single moment of happiness is all it takes for me to lose my grip. The scenery fades away before I can stop it.

* * * * *

I wake to the quiet of my room once again. It is dim but not black; the sun must be coming up. My hands are in front of my face. I look at them and my heart sinks.

So close, but I failed again.

Choking back tears, I look at the clock. The blue digits flash a silent accusation. 6:13 am. Knowing there's no point, I close my eyes and re-open them. 6:07 am.

What?

I turn away and back again. The clock says 4:18 am now.

Still dreaming.

I'm rubbing my hands together, trying to stave off the rush of emotion. The scene changes. It's that damned ravine again, but I don't even have to check my hands this time to know I'm still in the dream. Taking deep breaths, I concentrate on staying calm.

Try something else now. If it's a dream, you can fly.

I don't give the fear a chance to take over. Instead, I back away from the chasm so I can get a running start. Then without another thought, I charge toward the ravine. When I reach the edge, I spread my arms and leap.

For a moment I'm falling. And then...

I'm airborne. There is no way to describe this feeling. Something is welling up inside me and I don't have words to explain what it is. I'm suffused with joy and light. The air is rushing past me and tears are streaming from my eyes. I've never felt so free.

I am in control.

Daisuke, I'm coming to find you.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
I'm standing in front of a gaping ravine. It's the same one I climbed down just before I saw Daisuke for the last time. For a moment I'm filled with relief - I've finally made it back. If I can just get back down there, I can bring him home. The descent will be much harder without the traveler to help me, but I'll manage.

As I reach for the coil of rope that's tied to my belt, I notice my hands.

Am I dreaming?

The world begins to dissolve around me; I scream in disappointment.

* * * * *

I open my eyes to sunlight filtering through the blinds. Rolling over, I pull the covers up to block it out. Then I remember, and I tear my hands free. Staring at them, I try to swallow the rising panic.

Not dreaming.

Ever hopeful, I glance at the clock. 8 am. I rub my eyes and look again. The glowing blue numerals are implacable. Still 8 am.

I'm sorry, Daisuke. I've failed you again.

Hot tears sting my eyes and I bury my face in my pillow. Ever since I left him in the story world, I've been trying to get back to that ravine. So far, my failures have been spectacular. Writing myself back into the story hasn't worked - with each botched attempt, I've lost a little more control. The last time was the worst. Even the memory makes me shudder.

I am floating in an immense blackness. Though my throat tenses with ripping screams, no sound reaches my ears. The air is thick and viscous; it fills my lungs and chokes away my voice. My body convulses in silent agony. I'm drowning again, like the swimming pool on the day I lost Daisuke. A calm steals over me and my muscles relax.

That's the last thing I remember. Since then, I've stopped writing. The injuries I've brought back from the story world seem real enough. What would happen if I died there? I want more than anything to save my best friend, but I can't do that if I'm dead.

Waves of dizziness wash over me as I sit up and get out of bed. I'm not sure when I ate last. Food isn't appealing, but it's a necessity if I want to keep going. I'm about to head for the kitchen when the flashing light on my cell phone catches my eye. Some days I forget to charge the damn thing. I don't get many calls since Daisuke's been gone. Today, though, there's a text message waiting. It's from Daisuke's friend Andrew.

Hey Sam, you seen Daisuke lately? He hasn't been returning my calls.

It's like I've been punched in the stomach. Breakfast forgotten, I crawl back under the covers and cry.

* * * * *

The vast blue sky stretches out before me. Below it is the ravine. I'm standing in front of it again, looking down into the tangle of stunted black trees. The climb will be treacherous, but I've done it before. I can do it again.

At least I finally made it back here. I can save Daisuke.

Then I remember. I look down at my hands.

Am I dreaming?

The scenery begins to swim and fade, but I catch myself.

Wait! Stay in the dream.

I rub my hands together, focus on palm meeting palm. The swirling grayness resolves once more into a landscape. The sky brightens to a too-deep blue and the dust swirls in my face. Once more, I'm staring into that damnable ravine.

I did it!

Triumph washes over me, and the color bleeds out of the world. Just like that, it shimmers and disappears.

* * * * *

By now it's automatic; my hands come up in front of my face.

In the dark, I focus on their outlines. Though I already know I've failed, I glance at the clock. 5 am. I look away and then back; the numbers taunt me. Still 5 am. Bitter disappointment creeps up into my throat like bile.

I always dream of the ravine now - ever since I stopped writing.

Stretching, I get out of bed and brew a pot of coffee. My hair hangs lank and greasy in my eyes, and I brush it away. I consider a shower, but decide it's pointless - I never see anyone these days anyway. Instead, I sit down at my computer. Opening my email, I see a message from a member of the dream forum I frequent.

Hey Sam,

I hear your frustration. You want to master lucid dreaming right now, but just remember it takes time. The fact that you're already remembering to look at your hands in the dream is a great sign! Doing those "reality checks" is the best way to tell if you're asleep or awake. Recognizing that you're dreaming is the beginning of lucidity. You've even managed to extend the dream state a bit by focusing on a physical action. Now you just have to keep at it!

Try not to be so hard on yourself. Pushing too hard will just hold you back. Remember, you've got the rest of your life to learn this!

- Dave


The words are meant to be encouraging, but they bring me to tears. Maybe Dave had the rest of his life, but I don't. I have to master these techniques now so I can adapt them for use in the story world. If I do that, I can save Daisuke - and if I can't, it's not worth doing anything else.

* * * * *

I'm standing at the edge of the ravine, just like a million times before. Behind it stretches that great expanse of too-blue sky. Without even thinking, I lift my hands and study them.

Dreaming again.

This time, I catch myself before the realization distracts me. I rub my hands together. Colors remain as brilliant as ever. The landscape does not blur or fade.

Yes!

Joy overtakes me; I'm finally getting the hang of this! A single moment of happiness is all it takes for me to lose my grip. The scenery fades away before I can stop it.

* * * * *

I wake to the quiet of my room once again. It is dim but not black; the sun must be coming up. My hands are in front of my face. I look at them and my heart sinks.

So close, but I failed again.

Choking back tears, I look at the clock. The blue digits flash a silent accusation. 6:13 am. Knowing there's no point, I close my eyes and re-open them. 6:07 am.

What?

I turn away and back again. The clock says 4:18 am now.

Still dreaming.

I'm rubbing my hands together, trying to stave off the rush of emotion. The scene changes. It's that damned ravine again, but I don't even have to check my hands this time to know I'm still in the dream. Taking deep breaths, I concentrate on staying calm.

Try something else now. If it's a dream, you can fly.

I don't give the fear a chance to take over. Instead, I back away from the chasm so I can get a running start. Then without another thought, I charge toward the ravine. When I reach the edge, I spread my arms and leap.

For a moment I'm falling. And then...

I'm airborne. There is no way to describe this feeling. Something is welling up inside me and I don't have words to explain what it is. I'm suffused with joy and light. The air is rushing past me and tears are streaming from my eyes. I've never felt so free.

I am in control.

Daisuke, I'm coming to find you.

Disappear

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:40 pm
n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
The sky seems almost too big; it's the deepest blue I've ever seen, dotted with wisps of puffy clouds. I'm standing before a gaping ravine, its bottom obscured by gnarled black branches. On the opposite side of the chasm is a stand of trees - their leaves are a brilliant green.

I stretch and inhale deeply. The air is so clean and pure it stings my lungs.

Other than the canyon and the vivid colors, what I find the most striking is the silence. No birds wheel and call in the sky, and if there are people here, I don't see them. Not even the crash and bang of machines disturbs the quiet.

I'm trying to decide whether it's peaceful or creepy here when it finally hits me.

Daisuke was supposed to be here too.

* * * * *

Daisuke and I are stretched out on lawn chairs in his back yard. There's a nice breeze, and it's like old times - or it would be if he'd just stop nagging me. Ever since he found that matchbook in my pocket, he's been begging me to write him into one of my stories.

"Please, Sam?" he asks, his brown eyes plaintive.

"Daisuke, I already said no," I mutter, looking away.

"Come on, it'd be fun!"

"And by fun you mean incredibly dangerous?"

"You always seem to make it out okay." He's pouting now, as if that will change my mind.

"That's pretty funny, considering how often you have to come to my rescue."

"Well, if I were with you in the first place..." he says, his voice trailing off.

"I'd probably just drag you down with me," I sigh.

This power is a gift, but it's also torn my life apart. Though I wouldn't give it up for anything, I'm not about to let it hurt the one friend I have left.

"I'll be fine, Sam," he insists. "We'll look out for each other, just like we always do."


* * * * *

Though I call Daisuke's name until I'm hoarse, the only response is the hollow echo of my own voice. Suppressing the urge to panic, I sit down on the rocky ledge. Plumes of dust swirl up from the ground beneath me, pale against the too-blue sky. I hug my knees and contemplate what to do next.

Maybe he didn't make it here at all. There's no way for me to find out unless I go home too. Since I can't return from the story world at will, this possibility is out. Besides, what if he's here somewhere? I don't know what would happen if I left without him - the possibilities are enough to make me shudder.

Before I've come up with any answers, I hear rocks falling in the ravine below. I look down to see a person emerging from the knot of branches. For a moment, I'm filled with relief, but as the figure continues to inch upward I can see it's not Daisuke. Instead, it's an older man with dusty brown hair. He's climbing up a rope I didn't notice until now.

My palms are slick with nervous sweat as I watch the strange man's slow ascent. When he heaves himself over the lip of the canyon with a loud groan, I want to pepper him with questions. By the time I've waited for him to catch his breath, it's too late. He's cursing under his breath and muttering about "rude bastards" and "xenophobes".

"Excuse me?" I say.

Startled, the man straightens up and looks at me for the first time. "And who might you be?" he asks with an accent I can't place. Dressed in a long leather coat, gloves, and pants so covered in dust it's hard to determine their original color, he is studying me with great interest.

"I'm Sam," I tell him, offering my hand.

"Not from around here, are you?" he says, taking my hand slowly. He holds it limply, as if he's not sure what to do with it. "Lucky for you, I'm not like the people on the other side. A ruder bunch I've never met in my life!"

"The other side?" I ask. I'm not really interested, but maybe this man can help me find Daisuke.

"My whole life, I've wondered if there were people on the other side of the ravine," he says with a bitter laugh.

"I could hear their whispers the moment I walked into their godforsaken tavern. My hair, my clothes, my accent - hell, even the way I walked - were different, foreign. A deaf man could have heard them snickering behind their hands, but I ignored them until they began openly mocking me. When they started buzzing about the 'vulgar' way I drank from my straw, I'd had enough. I gave them what for and walked out."

"They don't sound very pleasant," I agree, doing my best to feign interest.

"Pleasant? Hell, I've seen warthogs with better manners," he snorts.

Nodding, I look at him with what I hope is a sympathetic gaze. Drawing a deep breath, I steel myself to ask the question before he rambles on for another ten minutes. Before I can say a word, though, he speaks again.

"You know, it's a damn shame I didn't warn that other traveler about them. He looked even more out of place than I."

* * * * *

"How's your research going?" Daisuke asks as we sit at a table in our favorite diner. Though my burger is cooked perfectly, it tastes like sand in my mouth. These days, everything in the real world seems muted somehow.

Since I know he'll never let up until I give in, I've begun testing the limits of my powers. The matchbook proved that I could bring items back from the story world, but I need to know if the reverse holds true. My first experiments were with paper clips and fruit, but now I've moved on to bigger and better things.

"It's looking pretty promising," I say, with more enthusiasm than I feel.

"Really? Tell me more," he says, excited as a kid on Christmas morning.

"I caught a tree frog in my parents' back yard," I tell him. "He's my first live test subject, and he passed with flying colors."

What I don't tell him is that my frog experiment was preceded by weeks of sleepless nights. Tossing and turning, I dreamed of tiny hopping creatures trapped between worlds. On one memorable night, every time I closed my eyes, visions of exploding frogs danced behind my lids. If the idea of hurting a frog scares me this much, how can I put my best friend at risk?

"So... is it time yet?" he asks breathlessly.

My heart sinks. If it were up to me, it would never be time. There are too many things that could go wrong - and if they do, I'll never forgive myself.

"I still think this is a really bad idea," I say, "but I'm as ready as I'll ever be."


* * * * *

My descent into the ravine is so slow it's painful. Sweat pours down my face, stinging my eyes and blurring my vision. My arms tingle and ache with the effort of supporting my weight. The coarse rope tears at my ungloved hands and it's all I can do to keep my grip.

I'm grateful for the traveler's reassuring presence. He's climbing down a few feet ahead of me, ready to catch me if my hands should slip. I ask him why he'd want to go down into the ravine again when he's only just made it back up. He barks his bitter laugh.

"If the people on the other side didn't like me," he says. "I can only imagine what they'll think of your friend."

It feels like we're hanging off of that rock face for an eternity. Finally, we reach the tangled branches that conceal the bottom. They tear at my arms as I push my way through, but I barely notice. All I care about is finding Daisuke.

I'm worried about the climb up the other side, despite the traveler's assurances that it's "easy as a summer's breeze". When we get to the bottom, I see there was no need for concern. While the cliff I've just scaled is steep and perilous, the other side can barely call itself a hill.

My stomach is in knots as I charge up the slope. What if Daisuke isn't here? Worse yet, what if something horrible has happened to him?

As I crest the hill, I see him. He's standing a few yards away, shoulders slumped and hands jammed in his pockets. Though he looks dejected, he seems to be in one piece.

Maybe he had the common sense to stay away from the locals, I think.

"DAISUKE!" I screech, forgetting that my throat is still raw from the hour or so that I spent yelling for him earlier. Then I'm running toward him.

Our eyes meet and his face lights up. Any sign of worry disappears without a trace.

"Sam!" he calls out. "I told you everything would be okay!"

* * * * *

"Tonight's the night, Sam!" Daisuke is all but vibrating with anticipation.

I pace the floor of my parents' basement and wish I could share his excitement. These days, it's hard for me to feel enthusiastic about much of anything that goes on in the real world.

We've been planning this for weeks, but I'm still nervous. If it were up to me, we wouldn't be doing it at all. I try one last time to talk him out of it, knowing before I even begin that it's futile.

"You know I can't really control this, right?" I say for the millionth time. "When it's over, I have no idea where we'll end up."

"I know, Sam," he says patiently, "I've seen what happens after the story ends, remember?" This is true. Daisuke knows better than anyone the toll that these trips take on me.

"There's a chance it won't even work at all," I remind him.

"Your trial runs have been very promising," he says.

"There's a big difference between a frog and a person, Daisuke."

"I have faith in you," he says, grinning. "Relax, Sam. It's going to be fine."

I can tell by his smile that he knows he's already won.


* * * * *

I am surrounded by blue and there is no up or down.

For some reason, I'm holding my breath and my chest is starting to hurt. I exhale, try to suck in air, but there is none. Something thick and cool flows into my lungs, heavy as smoke but smoother as it burns its way in. Around me, bubbles rise.

My body is on fire. I'm sputtering and flailing and gasping for breaths that won't come. The world is spinning. I can't make any sense of it.

Water.

I force my body to go limp. After what feels like forever, my face breaks the surface. Sunlight pierces my eyes. I'm coughing so hard I think I might black out or throw up - it's almost impossible to keep my head above water. My eyes adjust and I see a concrete wall not far away. It's hard to move but I force myself to swim to it. When I finally reach the wall, I cling to the rough concrete like a lifeboat.

My arms are rubber. I can barely find the strength to pull myself out. Another fit of coughing overtakes me and I crumple to the ground. The pavement feels like warm sandpaper on my skin but I have no desire to move. After several minutes, I recover enough to look around. I'm back in the real world and it seems as dull as ever.

When I first began taking these trips, returning to the real world was confusing. It took minutes, sometimes hours, before I remembered where I'd been. The memories would come to me in flashes, fragments that didn't always fit together. Though the physical act of coming back is as painful as it's ever been, I remember everything now.

Every time I return, the "real world" feels a little less solid. It's as if the worlds I write are reality now and this other place is the imaginary one.

I hope this isn't reality, because Daisuke isn't here.

Disappear

Sep. 10th, 2012 01:40 pm
n3m3sis43: (Default)
The sky seems almost too big; it's the deepest blue I've ever seen, dotted with wisps of puffy clouds. I'm standing before a gaping ravine, its bottom obscured by gnarled black branches. On the opposite side of the chasm is a stand of trees - their leaves are a brilliant green.

I stretch and inhale deeply. The air is so clean and pure it stings my lungs.

Other than the canyon and the vivid colors, what I find the most striking is the silence. No birds wheel and call in the sky, and if there are people here, I don't see them. Not even the crash and bang of machines disturbs the quiet.

I'm trying to decide whether it's peaceful or creepy here when it finally hits me.

Daisuke was supposed to be here too.

* * * * *

Daisuke and I are stretched out on lawn chairs in his back yard. There's a nice breeze, and it's like old times - or it would be if he'd just stop nagging me. Ever since he found that matchbook in my pocket, he's been begging me to write him into one of my stories.

"Please, Sam?" he asks, his brown eyes plaintive.

"Daisuke, I already said no," I mutter, looking away.

"Come on, it'd be fun!"

"And by fun you mean incredibly dangerous?"

"You always seem to make it out okay." He's pouting now, as if that will change my mind.

"That's pretty funny, considering how often you have to come to my rescue."

"Well, if I were with you in the first place..." he says, his voice trailing off.

"I'd probably just drag you down with me," I sigh.

This power is a gift, but it's also torn my life apart. Though I wouldn't give it up for anything, I'm not about to let it hurt the one friend I have left.

"I'll be fine, Sam," he insists. "We'll look out for each other, just like we always do."


* * * * *

Though I call Daisuke's name until I'm hoarse, the only response is the hollow echo of my own voice. Suppressing the urge to panic, I sit down on the rocky ledge. Plumes of dust swirl up from the ground beneath me, pale against the too-blue sky. I hug my knees and contemplate what to do next.

Maybe he didn't make it here at all. There's no way for me to find out unless I go home too. Since I can't return from the story world at will, this possibility is out. Besides, what if he's here somewhere? I don't know what would happen if I left without him - the possibilities are enough to make me shudder.

Before I've come up with any answers, I hear rocks falling in the ravine below. I look down to see a person emerging from the knot of branches. For a moment, I'm filled with relief, but as the figure continues to inch upward I can see it's not Daisuke. Instead, it's an older man with dusty brown hair. He's climbing up a rope I didn't notice until now.

My palms are slick with nervous sweat as I watch the strange man's slow ascent. When he heaves himself over the lip of the canyon with a loud groan, I want to pepper him with questions. By the time I've waited for him to catch his breath, it's too late. He's cursing under his breath and muttering about "rude bastards" and "xenophobes".

"Excuse me?" I say.

Startled, the man straightens up and looks at me for the first time. "And who might you be?" he asks with an accent I can't place. Dressed in a long leather coat, gloves, and pants so covered in dust it's hard to determine their original color, he is studying me with great interest.

"I'm Sam," I tell him, offering my hand.

"Not from around here, are you?" he says, taking my hand slowly. He holds it limply, as if he's not sure what to do with it. "Lucky for you, I'm not like the people on the other side. A ruder bunch I've never met in my life!"

"The other side?" I ask. I'm not really interested, but maybe this man can help me find Daisuke.

"My whole life, I've wondered if there were people on the other side of the ravine," he says with a bitter laugh.

"I could hear their whispers the moment I walked into their godforsaken tavern. My hair, my clothes, my accent - hell, even the way I walked - were different, foreign. A deaf man could have heard them snickering behind their hands, but I ignored them until they began openly mocking me. When they started buzzing about the 'vulgar' way I drank from my straw, I'd had enough. I gave them what for and walked out."

"They don't sound very pleasant," I agree, doing my best to feign interest.

"Pleasant? Hell, I've seen warthogs with better manners," he snorts.

Nodding, I look at him with what I hope is a sympathetic gaze. Drawing a deep breath, I steel myself to ask the question before he rambles on for another ten minutes. Before I can say a word, though, he speaks again.

"You know, it's a damn shame I didn't warn that other traveler about them. He looked even more out of place than I."

* * * * *

"How's your research going?" Daisuke asks as we sit at a table in our favorite diner. Though my burger is cooked perfectly, it tastes like sand in my mouth. These days, everything in the real world seems muted somehow.

Since I know he'll never let up until I give in, I've begun testing the limits of my powers. The matchbook proved that I could bring items back from the story world, but I need to know if the reverse holds true. My first experiments were with paper clips and fruit, but now I've moved on to bigger and better things.

"It's looking pretty promising," I say, with more enthusiasm than I feel.

"Really? Tell me more," he says, excited as a kid on Christmas morning.

"I caught a tree frog in my parents' back yard," I tell him. "He's my first live test subject, and he passed with flying colors."

What I don't tell him is that my frog experiment was preceded by weeks of sleepless nights. Tossing and turning, I dreamed of tiny hopping creatures trapped between worlds. On one memorable night, every time I closed my eyes, visions of exploding frogs danced behind my lids. If the idea of hurting a frog scares me this much, how can I put my best friend at risk?

"So... is it time yet?" he asks breathlessly.

My heart sinks. If it were up to me, it would never be time. There are too many things that could go wrong - and if they do, I'll never forgive myself.

"I still think this is a really bad idea," I say, "but I'm as ready as I'll ever be."


* * * * *

My descent into the ravine is so slow it's painful. Sweat pours down my face, stinging my eyes and blurring my vision. My arms tingle and ache with the effort of supporting my weight. The coarse rope tears at my ungloved hands and it's all I can do to keep my grip.

I'm grateful for the traveler's reassuring presence. He's climbing down a few feet ahead of me, ready to catch me if my hands should slip. I ask him why he'd want to go down into the ravine again when he's only just made it back up. He barks his bitter laugh.

"If the people on the other side didn't like me," he says. "I can only imagine what they'll think of your friend."

It feels like we're hanging off of that rock face for an eternity. Finally, we reach the tangled branches that conceal the bottom. They tear at my arms as I push my way through, but I barely notice. All I care about is finding Daisuke.

I'm worried about the climb up the other side, despite the traveler's assurances that it's "easy as a summer's breeze". When we get to the bottom, I see there was no need for concern. While the cliff I've just scaled is steep and perilous, the other side can barely call itself a hill.

My stomach is in knots as I charge up the slope. What if Daisuke isn't here? Worse yet, what if something horrible has happened to him?

As I crest the hill, I see him. He's standing a few yards away, shoulders slumped and hands jammed in his pockets. Though he looks dejected, he seems to be in one piece.

Maybe he had the common sense to stay away from the locals, I think.

"DAISUKE!" I screech, forgetting that my throat is still raw from the hour or so that I spent yelling for him earlier. Then I'm running toward him.

Our eyes meet and his face lights up. Any sign of worry disappears without a trace.

"Sam!" he calls out. "I told you everything would be okay!"

* * * * *

"Tonight's the night, Sam!" Daisuke is all but vibrating with anticipation.

I pace the floor of my parents' basement and wish I could share his excitement. These days, it's hard for me to feel enthusiastic about much of anything that goes on in the real world.

We've been planning this for weeks, but I'm still nervous. If it were up to me, we wouldn't be doing it at all. I try one last time to talk him out of it, knowing before I even begin that it's futile.

"You know I can't really control this, right?" I say for the millionth time. "When it's over, I have no idea where we'll end up."

"I know, Sam," he says patiently, "I've seen what happens after the story ends, remember?" This is true. Daisuke knows better than anyone the toll that these trips take on me.

"There's a chance it won't even work at all," I remind him.

"Your trial runs have been very promising," he says.

"There's a big difference between a frog and a person, Daisuke."

"I have faith in you," he says, grinning. "Relax, Sam. It's going to be fine."

I can tell by his smile that he knows he's already won.


* * * * *

I am surrounded by blue and there is no up or down.

For some reason, I'm holding my breath and my chest is starting to hurt. I exhale, try to suck in air, but there is none. Something thick and cool flows into my lungs, heavy as smoke but smoother as it burns its way in. Around me, bubbles rise.

My body is on fire. I'm sputtering and flailing and gasping for breaths that won't come. The world is spinning. I can't make any sense of it.

Water.

I force my body to go limp. After what feels like forever, my face breaks the surface. Sunlight pierces my eyes. I'm coughing so hard I think I might black out or throw up - it's almost impossible to keep my head above water. My eyes adjust and I see a concrete wall not far away. It's hard to move but I force myself to swim to it. When I finally reach the wall, I cling to the rough concrete like a lifeboat.

My arms are rubber. I can barely find the strength to pull myself out. Another fit of coughing overtakes me and I crumple to the ground. The pavement feels like warm sandpaper on my skin but I have no desire to move. After several minutes, I recover enough to look around. I'm back in the real world and it seems as dull as ever.

When I first began taking these trips, returning to the real world was confusing. It took minutes, sometimes hours, before I remembered where I'd been. The memories would come to me in flashes, fragments that didn't always fit together. Though the physical act of coming back is as painful as it's ever been, I remember everything now.

Every time I return, the "real world" feels a little less solid. It's as if the worlds I write are reality now and this other place is the imaginary one.

I hope this isn't reality, because Daisuke isn't here.
n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
This entry is an unofficial intersection with the awesomely twisted [livejournal.com profile] alien_infinity, whose entry can be found here - it may be advisable to read hers first.




I don't know where I am or how I got here. There are bright lights in my face and they're blinding me. Something whooshes by me, so hot and heavy that it almost knocks me down. Horns blare.

Car.

My brain is sluggish, weighted down.

"HEY, LADY! GET OUT OF THE WAY!"

Another enormous whoosh of air follows the shouting voice. I lurch away from the headlights and horns, tripping as my feet hit the curb. I fall onto the sidewalk, scraping my hands and tearing the knees of my jeans.

Oh god, not again.

My head is spinning and I'm sick to my stomach. Sitting on the pavement, I clutch my knees and take huge gulps of the night air. The memories are like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of me.

* * * * *

I'm surrounded by a curtain of heavy gray mist. A great crash rips through the air - I think it's thunder until the fog parts to reveal an enormous black egg. As I watched, figures begin to emerge from it - dark, human-shaped creatures with wings the color of blood. Though I can't make out any features, even their shadows are so terrifying they steal my breath.

* * * * *

A siren is wailing not far away. Blue lights wash over me as a police car pulls up to the curb. The officer steps out; he is tall with white hair and a kind face. "Do you need some help, miss?" he asks.

I open my mouth to speak, but no words come out. My chest is tight; my heart jackhammers against my ribs. I'm breathing in ragged gasps. My hands are clenched into claws, fingers tingling. I start to wonder if I'm going to die right here on the sidewalk.

"Miss? Do you need medical assistance?"

I'm drowning. The cop's voice is tinny and distant. I nod.

"Try to stay calm. I'm calling an ambulance."

His radio crackles and I hear him speak into it. Then he's sitting beside me on the pavement, telling me to try and take deep breaths.

Riiiight, I think, if it were that simple, I'd have been doing it all along.

He's still speaking, and his voice is low and soothing. My breathing starts to slow and the crushing pressure in my chest begins to ease. All the strength drains out of me; my limbs feel impossibly heavy. I slump forward and rest my head on my knees.

More sirens. Strong hands grasp my shoulders and lift me to my feet. Everything is a blur. There are voices, but I can't make out what they're saying. My eyes are closing; I just want to sleep.

* * * * *

I'm crouched in the corner of an immense room with walls of alabaster. At one end of the cavernous space is a throne with a man perched atop it. The man is draped in a ridiculous furry purple cloak and gold robes and wears a crown dripping with gaudy jewels. On the other side of the chamber, a slender girl with a dark brown ponytail and blue eyes stands, straight as a board. The bejeweled man studies her with almost clinical detachment.

* * * * *

I open my eyes and blink against the glare of harsh fluorescent lights. The world swims into focus - bright white sheets and sterile machines. Everything feels hazy and unreal. A young woman with blue eyes and dark hair pulled into a ponytail smiles at me. Though she doesn't look much older than me, I recognize her as Dr. Weston. She hands me some water in a paper cup.

The questions begin.

Do you know your name?

Yes! An easy question. "Sam. Sam Jenkins."

Do you know why you're here?

This one is harder. I'm not sure what happened to me. The last sane thing I remember is being in my dorm room on a quiet Friday evening. My roommate Kat was out and I was sipping a cup of coffee that was mostly cream and sugar. I sat down at my desk to write. After that, nothing makes sense.

The doctor with the ponytail is watching me, waiting for an answer I don't have. I shake my head.

Is there someone we can call?

Oh! I know this one. Without hesitation, I give her Daisuke's number.

He arrives twenty minutes later, eyes sleepy and hair sticking out at odd angles. I wonder idly what time it is. He leans in and hugs me hard. I'm aching all over, but I don't complain.

"Nice hair," I tease him after he breaks the embrace. He doesn't look amused.

"Are you going to tell me what happened this time, Sam?"

Shit! I haven't given much thought to what exactly I'm going to tell him. He's my best friend, and I should be able to tell him the truth. The only problem is that the truth makes me look delusional.

"The doctor said I had a panic attack," I hedge.

"A panic attack? Was it related to - " He doesn't finish. His eyes are big and scared.

"I still haven't told anyone about that," I say.

"Are you going to?" he asks.

"I don't know what to tell them," I say, choking back tears. "Daisuke, I think I'm losing my mind."

He grabs my hand and squeezes it, and I want to tell him everything.

"They found me wandering in the street," I say. "I don't know how I got there."

My words catch in my throat. In my mind's eye, I see myself telling him about the demons in the mist. I was in another world, I say, and then all of a sudden I was in the middle of the street. I imagine his eyes going hard as he looks away.

"The last thing I remember is being in my room," I lie, and leave it at that.

* * * * *

The girl fixes the man on the throne with a defiant stare. Then her gaze shifts downward to a carpet of iridescent glass eggshells. Lifting her head high, she steps forward onto the shards of glass. Streams of crimson drench the ground beneath her bare feet, but she appears not to notice. In no time, she's reached the other side, crossing a river of her own blood to get there.

* * * * *

Knock knock knock. The rapping of knuckles against my door rouses me from a thick and dreamless sleep.

"Samantha, it's time for your meds!" says a disembodied voice.

"It's Sam," I grumble without even opening my eyes.

The light flicks on, and I lift my eyelids just enough to see a young male nurse who hands me a cup of pills. Without asking for water, I knock them back so he'll leave. When he's gone, I groan and bury my face in my flimsy institutional pillow. Since I've been here, it feels like I've done nothing but sleep - but I'm still exhausted.

Despite what Daisuke says, I know I can't come clean to Dr. Weston. Talk of acid trips and winged creatures that hatch from eggs will only earn me another admission to Rainey Institute. Even though it's probably where I belong, I don't want to go back there. My memories of my last stay at the psychiatric hospital are a blur of pills in paper cups and sleep filled with too-real dreams.

Kat came to see me on my first day at Rainey, armed with a bag of my clothes, a mylar balloon that said "Get Well Soon" and a batch of homemade brownies. Though I did my best to feign interest in her breezy chatter about things back at school, her easy smile soon grew strained. She bit back questions while I chewed my nails, knowing I'd never answer. She left after thirty minutes - there was nothing more to say.

She never visited me again. None of my friends did, except Daisuke.

He showed up for visiting hours every day, despite the fact that I wouldn't tell him the whole story. The first day, he bombarded me with questions, but I stared at my feet and didn't respond. After that, he stopped asking - I think he was afraid of the answers. So am I.

I remember sitting in group therapy while a girl named Mary monopolized the entire session. She told us she was at Rainey to hide from a group of scientists and politicians who were stalking her. "They're out to get me," she said, "because I know The Truth."

Though she couldn't tell us what The Truth was, They had taken control of everything in her life to prevent her from revealing it. Her friends, her family, and even her cat - all were working for Them. She heard Their voices on her radio, saw Their faces on her television, read Their words in her books.

Shuddering, I wonder if this will be my fate as well. I look around the room for something to distract me. My eyes fall on the pencil and paper one of the nurses brought me. Since my laptop is still back in my dorm room, it's the only way I can write.

Writing. That's it. The realization is a devastating blow.

These "episodes" I've been having - both of them happened when I sat down to write. I found myself somewhere I did not remember going, assaulted by vivid memories that couldn't be real. What if I'm traveling to worlds that I've written? It sounds impossible, but if it's true I can prove it. My fingers tremble as I reach for my cell phone.

* * * * *

With steel in her eyes, the girl faces the bejeweled man. He speaks to her, his countenance impassive, and she kneels upon the razor-sharp shards. Though her posture is one of supplication, her face shows no fear. The man appears to listen for a moment, and then his features contort with senseless rage. Armed men appear from the ether and drag the girl away.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
This entry is an unofficial intersection with the awesomely twisted [livejournal.com profile] alien_infinity, whose entry can be found here - it may be advisable to read hers first.




I don't know where I am or how I got here. There are bright lights in my face and they're blinding me. Something whooshes by me, so hot and heavy that it almost knocks me down. Horns blare.

Car.

My brain is sluggish, weighted down.

"HEY, LADY! GET OUT OF THE WAY!"

Another enormous whoosh of air follows the shouting voice. I lurch away from the headlights and horns, tripping as my feet hit the curb. I fall onto the sidewalk, scraping my hands and tearing the knees of my jeans.

Oh god, not again.

My head is spinning and I'm sick to my stomach. Sitting on the pavement, I clutch my knees and take huge gulps of the night air. The memories are like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of me.

* * * * *

I'm surrounded by a curtain of heavy gray mist. A great crash rips through the air - I think it's thunder until the fog parts to reveal an enormous black egg. As I watched, figures begin to emerge from it - dark, human-shaped creatures with wings the color of blood. Though I can't make out any features, even their shadows are so terrifying they steal my breath.

* * * * *

A siren is wailing not far away. Blue lights wash over me as a police car pulls up to the curb. The officer steps out; he is tall with white hair and a kind face. "Do you need some help, miss?" he asks.

I open my mouth to speak, but no words come out. My chest is tight; my heart jackhammers against my ribs. I'm breathing in ragged gasps. My hands are clenched into claws, fingers tingling. I start to wonder if I'm going to die right here on the sidewalk.

"Miss? Do you need medical assistance?"

I'm drowning. The cop's voice is tinny and distant. I nod.

"Try to stay calm. I'm calling an ambulance."

His radio crackles and I hear him speak into it. Then he's sitting beside me on the pavement, telling me to try and take deep breaths.

Riiiight, I think, if it were that simple, I'd have been doing it all along.

He's still speaking, and his voice is low and soothing. My breathing starts to slow and the crushing pressure in my chest begins to ease. All the strength drains out of me; my limbs feel impossibly heavy. I slump forward and rest my head on my knees.

More sirens. Strong hands grasp my shoulders and lift me to my feet. Everything is a blur. There are voices, but I can't make out what they're saying. My eyes are closing; I just want to sleep.

* * * * *

I'm crouched in the corner of an immense room with walls of alabaster. At one end of the cavernous space is a throne with a man perched atop it. The man is draped in a ridiculous furry purple cloak and gold robes and wears a crown dripping with gaudy jewels. On the other side of the chamber, a slender girl with a dark brown ponytail and blue eyes stands, straight as a board. The bejeweled man studies her with almost clinical detachment.

* * * * *

I open my eyes and blink against the glare of harsh fluorescent lights. The world swims into focus - bright white sheets and sterile machines. Everything feels hazy and unreal. A young woman with blue eyes and dark hair pulled into a ponytail smiles at me. Though she doesn't look much older than me, I recognize her as Dr. Weston. She hands me some water in a paper cup.

The questions begin.

Do you know your name?

Yes! An easy question. "Sam. Sam Jenkins."

Do you know why you're here?

This one is harder. I'm not sure what happened to me. The last sane thing I remember is being in my dorm room on a quiet Friday evening. My roommate Kat was out and I was sipping a cup of coffee that was mostly cream and sugar. I sat down at my desk to write. After that, nothing makes sense.

The doctor with the ponytail is watching me, waiting for an answer I don't have. I shake my head.

Is there someone we can call?

Oh! I know this one. Without hesitation, I give her Daisuke's number.

He arrives twenty minutes later, eyes sleepy and hair sticking out at odd angles. I wonder idly what time it is. He leans in and hugs me hard. I'm aching all over, but I don't complain.

"Nice hair," I tease him after he breaks the embrace. He doesn't look amused.

"Are you going to tell me what happened this time, Sam?"

Shit! I haven't given much thought to what exactly I'm going to tell him. He's my best friend, and I should be able to tell him the truth. The only problem is that the truth makes me look delusional.

"The doctor said I had a panic attack," I hedge.

"A panic attack? Was it related to - " He doesn't finish. His eyes are big and scared.

"I still haven't told anyone about that," I say.

"Are you going to?" he asks.

"I don't know what to tell them," I say, choking back tears. "Daisuke, I think I'm losing my mind."

He grabs my hand and squeezes it, and I want to tell him everything.

"They found me wandering in the street," I say. "I don't know how I got there."

My words catch in my throat. In my mind's eye, I see myself telling him about the demons in the mist. I was in another world, I say, and then all of a sudden I was in the middle of the street. I imagine his eyes going hard as he looks away.

"The last thing I remember is being in my room," I lie, and leave it at that.

* * * * *

The girl fixes the man on the throne with a defiant stare. Then her gaze shifts downward to a carpet of iridescent glass eggshells. Lifting her head high, she steps forward onto the shards of glass. Streams of crimson drench the ground beneath her bare feet, but she appears not to notice. In no time, she's reached the other side, crossing a river of her own blood to get there.

* * * * *

Knock knock knock. The rapping of knuckles against my door rouses me from a thick and dreamless sleep.

"Samantha, it's time for your meds!" says a disembodied voice.

"It's Sam," I grumble without even opening my eyes.

The light flicks on, and I lift my eyelids just enough to see a young male nurse who hands me a cup of pills. Without asking for water, I knock them back so he'll leave. When he's gone, I groan and bury my face in my flimsy institutional pillow. Since I've been here, it feels like I've done nothing but sleep - but I'm still exhausted.

Despite what Daisuke says, I know I can't come clean to Dr. Weston. Talk of acid trips and winged creatures that hatch from eggs will only earn me another admission to Rainey Institute. Even though it's probably where I belong, I don't want to go back there. My memories of my last stay at the psychiatric hospital are a blur of pills in paper cups and sleep filled with too-real dreams.

Kat came to see me on my first day at Rainey, armed with a bag of my clothes, a mylar balloon that said "Get Well Soon" and a batch of homemade brownies. Though I did my best to feign interest in her breezy chatter about things back at school, her easy smile soon grew strained. She bit back questions while I chewed my nails, knowing I'd never answer. She left after thirty minutes - there was nothing more to say.

She never visited me again. None of my friends did, except Daisuke.

He showed up for visiting hours every day, despite the fact that I wouldn't tell him the whole story. The first day, he bombarded me with questions, but I stared at my feet and didn't respond. After that, he stopped asking - I think he was afraid of the answers. So am I.

I remember sitting in group therapy while a girl named Mary monopolized the entire session. She told us she was at Rainey to hide from a group of scientists and politicians who were stalking her. "They're out to get me," she said, "because I know The Truth."

Though she couldn't tell us what The Truth was, They had taken control of everything in her life to prevent her from revealing it. Her friends, her family, and even her cat - all were working for Them. She heard Their voices on her radio, saw Their faces on her television, read Their words in her books.

Shuddering, I wonder if this will be my fate as well. I look around the room for something to distract me. My eyes fall on the pencil and paper one of the nurses brought me. Since my laptop is still back in my dorm room, it's the only way I can write.

Writing. That's it. The realization is a devastating blow.

These "episodes" I've been having - both of them happened when I sat down to write. I found myself somewhere I did not remember going, assaulted by vivid memories that couldn't be real. What if I'm traveling to worlds that I've written? It sounds impossible, but if it's true I can prove it. My fingers tremble as I reach for my cell phone.

* * * * *

With steel in her eyes, the girl faces the bejeweled man. He speaks to her, his countenance impassive, and she kneels upon the razor-sharp shards. Though her posture is one of supplication, her face shows no fear. The man appears to listen for a moment, and then his features contort with senseless rage. Armed men appear from the ether and drag the girl away.
n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
I wake to the feeling of cold rain against my face.

For a moment, my brain refuses to process what is going on. I roll over and try to clutch my pillow so I can go back to sleep. It's the tickle of slightly damp leaves on my skin that alerts me to the situation at hand. There is no pillow. There is no bed. I shouldn't be sleeping here.

No matter how many times this happens, it still comes as a surprise.

I open my eyes and sit up slowly. I'm in a vacant lot, overgrown with weeds. My head is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my stomach feels like it's eating itself from the inside.

What the hell happened last night?

Something twists deep inside me and I lean forward, retching. I am rocked by wave after wave of dry heaves. When it's over, I collapse onto the wet ground, sweating despite the chill in the air. It's a gray morning, but even the small amount of light that filters through the clouds is too bright. I moan and throw my arm across my eyes to block it out.

Memories hit me like a slap in the face, images that don't make sense.

* * * * *

I'm sitting in a smoke-filled bar with walls paneled in dark wood. The marble-topped tables and leather chairs were probably elegant once, but now the tables are marred by cracks and the chairs are pocked with burn marks. There's a book of matches on the table in front of me. Its cover is green and the words "Sammy's - Est. 1911" are printed upon it. I grab the matchbook and jam it into the pocket of my jeans.

Nearby, four men in jackets and ties argue vociferously over a game of pool. At the table next to me, a man in a tan coat and fedora stares off into the distance with a moody expression. He's chewing a cigar and nursing a glass of brown liquor.


* * * * *

There's a large bump on my head. I rub at it absently as I contemplate whether I should call someone to come and get me. My head is beginning to clear a bit, and I recognize the vacant lot and the street it abuts. In my current physical condition, I'm not sure if I can manage the 30-minute walk from here to my parents' house.

My parents would pick me up, but more likely than not, letting them see me like this would be a ticket straight back to the hospital. LSD-induced schizophrenia, the doctors said, she's not responding well to medication.

There aren't a lot of other people I can call. Most of my school friends have stopped talking to me. Even before I took the medical withdrawal, they avoided me. I may be crazy, but I'm not blind. I saw the furtive glances, heard the way their conversations stopped when I entered a room. It's been months since any of them called or came to visit.

Reluctantly, I dig my phone from my jeans pocket and dial Daisuke's number. He's the only one who bothers with me now, and even he will barely look at me half the time. I can't say that I blame him. Once upon a time, I had a scholarship, a talent, a future. Now I'm in and out of hospitals, disappearing for days only to return ranting about stories no one believes. He blames himself, but it feels like he's angry at me too.

When he showed me the tiny squares of white paper in the plastic bag, I was skeptical.

"Come on, Sam," he urged me, "You're a writer. This could open doors to whole new worlds inside your mind. Can you really resist that kind of opportunity?"

I couldn't.

The trip itself was wonderful. Colors breathed and the world pulsed in time to the electronic music playing on the stereo. We lay on lawn chairs in Daisuke's back yard and stared at the sky, talking about everything and nothing. I expected to feel fear, but mostly I was lost in wonder. There were so many tiny details I had never noticed about the world before.

Time bent and stretched like the blue globules in Daisuke's softly glowing lava lamp. After nearly twenty-four hours, I slipped into sleep on a bean bag in his room. When I woke, the world seemed brighter than usual and reality felt oddly fluid. The feeling faded over the next few days until I was my normal self again.

Life in the real world resumed. Everything was fine... until the episodes started.

* * * * *

A curvy blonde girl in a skintight red dress approaches the man in the fedora. He looks her up and down and smiles appreciatively. The girl speaks to him, gesturing wildly with a look of panic on her face. Though I can't make out what she's saying, it's clear that she's asking the man for help.

Just then, shots ring out. For a moment, my feet are rooted to the floor. A few feet away from me, a waitress shrieks and throws her tray aside as she runs for cover. The tinkle of breaking glass and the matchbooks flying in all directions galvanize me into action and I dive under the table.

There is a flurry of motion in front of me. A pair of legs in charcoal gray pants and black and white wingtip shoes rushes past. I hear more gunshots, this time very close. A woman's voice screams out, "Johnny! NO! JOHNNY!"

"THAT'LL TEACH YA TO MESS WITH MY DAME, YA MEDDLING SONUVABITCH!"


* * * * *

The first episode happened about two weeks after the trip. I was sitting in my dorm room in a nightshirt and some fuzzy slippers. All of a sudden, inspiration struck - an updated version of Hansel and Gretel leaped into my mind, fully formed. I ran to my computer and began typing.

I barely got past "Once upon a time" before the world as I knew it disappeared. My yellow-painted cinder block walls and particle board desk were replaced by a great black forest with a humble woodsman's cottage by its edge. As I watched, two small children crept from the house; the younger, a girl, was crying.

It was over almost before it began, but each episode is longer than the last. Afterward, it takes a little while before all of my memories return. I have no control over where I reappear and at first, I'm a bit confused. That first time, they found me dazed and wandering half-naked near a busy street. Since then, I've learned my lesson and write fully clothed.

If I just stopped writing, I could stop the episodes entirely. I'd be normal again; I could go back to school. I could have a life. Maybe I could even have my best friend back. The problem is that I don't want to stop. Even though no one will believe me, what's happening is more than some drug-induced mental illness. The acid was the trigger, but it gave me a talent I'd be crazy not to use. The things I write become real now.

Of course, no one believes me, not even Daisuke. Unlike the others, he listens to my stories, but he just gives me that sad look and shakes his head.

* * * * *

The woman is crying hysterically and screaming Johnny's name. I think it's the blonde girl in the red dress. There is a pool of blood spreading on the floor in front of me, presumably Johnny's. I start to feel dizzy and realize I've been holding my breath. I let it out with a whoosh.

The shiny black and white wingtip shoes appear in front of me. A moment later, a man's red and angry face comes into view. "What have we here?" he asks.

I jump up, meaning to make a run for it. In my haste, I've forgotten about the marble tabletop above me. My head slams into it hard and my vision begins to fade to gray. I crumple to the floor and the world goes dark.


* * * * *

Daisuke's shiny black Ford pulls up at the curb. By this time, I'm soaking wet and shivering so hard it hurts. I struggle to my feet, waiting for my legs to decide whether or not they're going to hold me. They conclude they'd rather not support me and I sit down hard on the sodden ground.

Daisuke is at my side in an instant, helping me up and gathering me into his arms like some sort of broken doll. I try to push him away, embarrassed.

"I'm fine. I can walk," I say, as if he's not going to notice that I'm swaying like a drunk.

"Really, Sam?" he says, his voice too gentle. "Come on."

He guides me to his car, and I collapse into the front seat. This car is his baby - tinted windows, custom rims, and leather seats. I bet he's going to be mad later when he sees all the mud and grass I'm getting everywhere. For now, he just sighs and cranks the heat up. He digs a blanket out of the backseat and drapes it over me. By the time he gets into the car, my eyelids are already starting to droop.

"Where are we going?" I ask as he pulls the car into the street.

"You're in no shape to go home right now. I'll take you to my place," he says.

I mumble something that's probably unintelligible and drift into sleep.

When I wake again, I'm alone in Daisuke's bed, wearing a clean T-shirt that isn't mine. The door opens slowly, and Daisuke appears with a bowl of soup and a sandwich. My stomach growls and it's all I can do not to lunge at him and grab the food from his hands. Who knows how long it's been since I've eaten?

He sits on the edge of the bed as I attack the food.

"Feeling better?" he asks. His expression is strange, unreadable - not the usual pitying one I'm used to seeing lately when he meets my eyes at all.

"I will be once I finish eating," I say, pretending I don't notice. We're both silent for a few minutes as I continue to shovel food into my mouth.

"How long was I out?" I ask, once the plate and bowl are clean.

"About 8 hours," he replies.

"8 hours? I hope you didn't have plans," I say.

"I had a date," he says.

"Shit, Daisuke, I'm sorry - " I start, but he cuts me off.

"Don't worry about it," he says, "What are friends for?" He smiles, but his eyes look far away.

"Daisuke, I know you think I'm crazy," I say.

More silence.

"Sam, can I ask you a question?" he finally says.

"Sure," I reply.

"Where did you... go... this time?"

"Are you going to believe me if I tell you?" I ask.

"It's just..." His voice trails off. "It's just that I washed your clothes, and I found something in your pants pocket." He holds up a green matchbook. It's a little worse for wear, and on its cover are the words "Sammy's - Est. 1911"

I tell him my story. And for the first time in months, he really listens.
n3m3sis43: (Default)
I wake to the feeling of cold rain against my face.

For a moment, my brain refuses to process what is going on. I roll over and try to clutch my pillow so I can go back to sleep. It's the tickle of slightly damp leaves on my skin that alerts me to the situation at hand. There is no pillow. There is no bed. I shouldn't be sleeping here.

No matter how many times this happens, it still comes as a surprise.

I open my eyes and sit up slowly. I'm in a vacant lot, overgrown with weeds. My head is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my stomach feels like it's eating itself from the inside.

What the hell happened last night?

Something twists deep inside me and I lean forward, retching. I am rocked by wave after wave of dry heaves. When it's over, I collapse onto the wet ground, sweating despite the chill in the air. It's a gray morning, but even the small amount of light that filters through the clouds is too bright. I moan and throw my arm across my eyes to block it out.

Memories hit me like a slap in the face, images that don't make sense.

* * * * *

I'm sitting in a smoke-filled bar with walls paneled in dark wood. The marble-topped tables and leather chairs were probably elegant once, but now the tables are marred by cracks and the chairs are pocked with burn marks. There's a book of matches on the table in front of me. Its cover is green and the words "Sammy's - Est. 1911" are printed upon it. I grab the matchbook and jam it into the pocket of my jeans.

Nearby, four men in jackets and ties argue vociferously over a game of pool. At the table next to me, a man in a tan coat and fedora stares off into the distance with a moody expression. He's chewing a cigar and nursing a glass of brown liquor.


* * * * *

There's a large bump on my head. I rub at it absently as I contemplate whether I should call someone to come and get me. My head is beginning to clear a bit, and I recognize the vacant lot and the street it abuts. In my current physical condition, I'm not sure if I can manage the 30-minute walk from here to my parents' house.

My parents would pick me up, but more likely than not, letting them see me like this would be a ticket straight back to the hospital. LSD-induced schizophrenia, the doctors said, she's not responding well to medication.

There aren't a lot of other people I can call. Most of my school friends have stopped talking to me. Even before I took the medical withdrawal, they avoided me. I may be crazy, but I'm not blind. I saw the furtive glances, heard the way their conversations stopped when I entered a room. It's been months since any of them called or came to visit.

Reluctantly, I dig my phone from my jeans pocket and dial Daisuke's number. He's the only one who bothers with me now, and even he will barely look at me half the time. I can't say that I blame him. Once upon a time, I had a scholarship, a talent, a future. Now I'm in and out of hospitals, disappearing for days only to return ranting about stories no one believes. He blames himself, but it feels like he's angry at me too.

When he showed me the tiny squares of white paper in the plastic bag, I was skeptical.

"Come on, Sam," he urged me, "You're a writer. This could open doors to whole new worlds inside your mind. Can you really resist that kind of opportunity?"

I couldn't.

The trip itself was wonderful. Colors breathed and the world pulsed in time to the electronic music playing on the stereo. We lay on lawn chairs in Daisuke's back yard and stared at the sky, talking about everything and nothing. I expected to feel fear, but mostly I was lost in wonder. There were so many tiny details I had never noticed about the world before.

Time bent and stretched like the blue globules in Daisuke's softly glowing lava lamp. After nearly twenty-four hours, I slipped into sleep on a bean bag in his room. When I woke, the world seemed brighter than usual and reality felt oddly fluid. The feeling faded over the next few days until I was my normal self again.

Life in the real world resumed. Everything was fine... until the episodes started.

* * * * *

A curvy blonde girl in a skintight red dress approaches the man in the fedora. He looks her up and down and smiles appreciatively. The girl speaks to him, gesturing wildly with a look of panic on her face. Though I can't make out what she's saying, it's clear that she's asking the man for help.

Just then, shots ring out. For a moment, my feet are rooted to the floor. A few feet away from me, a waitress shrieks and throws her tray aside as she runs for cover. The tinkle of breaking glass and the matchbooks flying in all directions galvanize me into action and I dive under the table.

There is a flurry of motion in front of me. A pair of legs in charcoal gray pants and black and white wingtip shoes rushes past. I hear more gunshots, this time very close. A woman's voice screams out, "Johnny! NO! JOHNNY!"

"THAT'LL TEACH YA TO MESS WITH MY DAME, YA MEDDLING SONUVABITCH!"


* * * * *

The first episode happened about two weeks after the trip. I was sitting in my dorm room in a nightshirt and some fuzzy slippers. All of a sudden, inspiration struck - an updated version of Hansel and Gretel leaped into my mind, fully formed. I ran to my computer and began typing.

I barely got past "Once upon a time" before the world as I knew it disappeared. My yellow-painted cinder block walls and particle board desk were replaced by a great black forest with a humble woodsman's cottage by its edge. As I watched, two small children crept from the house; the younger, a girl, was crying.

It was over almost before it began, but each episode is longer than the last. Afterward, it takes a little while before all of my memories return. I have no control over where I reappear and at first, I'm a bit confused. That first time, they found me dazed and wandering half-naked near a busy street. Since then, I've learned my lesson and write fully clothed.

If I just stopped writing, I could stop the episodes entirely. I'd be normal again; I could go back to school. I could have a life. Maybe I could even have my best friend back. The problem is that I don't want to stop. Even though no one will believe me, what's happening is more than some drug-induced mental illness. The acid was the trigger, but it gave me a talent I'd be crazy not to use. The things I write become real now.

Of course, no one believes me, not even Daisuke. Unlike the others, he listens to my stories, but he just gives me that sad look and shakes his head.

* * * * *

The woman is crying hysterically and screaming Johnny's name. I think it's the blonde girl in the red dress. There is a pool of blood spreading on the floor in front of me, presumably Johnny's. I start to feel dizzy and realize I've been holding my breath. I let it out with a whoosh.

The shiny black and white wingtip shoes appear in front of me. A moment later, a man's red and angry face comes into view. "What have we here?" he asks.

I jump up, meaning to make a run for it. In my haste, I've forgotten about the marble tabletop above me. My head slams into it hard and my vision begins to fade to gray. I crumple to the floor and the world goes dark.


* * * * *

Daisuke's shiny black Ford pulls up at the curb. By this time, I'm soaking wet and shivering so hard it hurts. I struggle to my feet, waiting for my legs to decide whether or not they're going to hold me. They conclude they'd rather not support me and I sit down hard on the sodden ground.

Daisuke is at my side in an instant, helping me up and gathering me into his arms like some sort of broken doll. I try to push him away, embarrassed.

"I'm fine. I can walk," I say, as if he's not going to notice that I'm swaying like a drunk.

"Really, Sam?" he says, his voice too gentle. "Come on."

He guides me to his car, and I collapse into the front seat. This car is his baby - tinted windows, custom rims, and leather seats. I bet he's going to be mad later when he sees all the mud and grass I'm getting everywhere. For now, he just sighs and cranks the heat up. He digs a blanket out of the backseat and drapes it over me. By the time he gets into the car, my eyelids are already starting to droop.

"Where are we going?" I ask as he pulls the car into the street.

"You're in no shape to go home right now. I'll take you to my place," he says.

I mumble something that's probably unintelligible and drift into sleep.

When I wake again, I'm alone in Daisuke's bed, wearing a clean T-shirt that isn't mine. The door opens slowly, and Daisuke appears with a bowl of soup and a sandwich. My stomach growls and it's all I can do not to lunge at him and grab the food from his hands. Who knows how long it's been since I've eaten?

He sits on the edge of the bed as I attack the food.

"Feeling better?" he asks. His expression is strange, unreadable - not the usual pitying one I'm used to seeing lately when he meets my eyes at all.

"I will be once I finish eating," I say, pretending I don't notice. We're both silent for a few minutes as I continue to shovel food into my mouth.

"How long was I out?" I ask, once the plate and bowl are clean.

"About 8 hours," he replies.

"8 hours? I hope you didn't have plans," I say.

"I had a date," he says.

"Shit, Daisuke, I'm sorry - " I start, but he cuts me off.

"Don't worry about it," he says, "What are friends for?" He smiles, but his eyes look far away.

"Daisuke, I know you think I'm crazy," I say.

More silence.

"Sam, can I ask you a question?" he finally says.

"Sure," I reply.

"Where did you... go... this time?"

"Are you going to believe me if I tell you?" I ask.

"It's just..." His voice trails off. "It's just that I washed your clothes, and I found something in your pants pocket." He holds up a green matchbook. It's a little worse for wear, and on its cover are the words "Sammy's - Est. 1911"

I tell him my story. And for the first time in months, he really listens.

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