How many stories like these have been carved deep into the sand that you thought would never wash away?
And deeper yet, etched into the fresh cracks lining the veins of your heart–
And for ever two roads you can take, you give a part of yourself to the empty tales, the broken promises, and the fragmented memories that I have left to you – to chase after something that has long since vanished from the world.
So tell me.
Will you choose to continue on this journey?
She stands alone at first in the dream, clearly silhouetted against the blank expanse of white. She remembers vaguely that she’s been here before. Seen something like this before. Was it in another dream? Something unfamiliar stirs in her heart. Perhaps, in a book?
That must be it.
Blink, and suddenly there’s a book in her hands – thick stacks of yellowed parchment bound by worn leather. Her fingers tremble slightly as she gingerly pries the cover open and turns to the first page. Her heart stops.
The spread displays an ink drawing of a man and a woman dressed in traditional garb standing underneath what appears to be a magnolia tree. An ink drawing that she remembers watching come to life under her own brushstrokes, firm and resolute – not like her hands that are shaking violently now, as her vision blurs and a choked sob escapes her lips.
She remembers – like the moments before death – fragments of her memories, bits and pieces flashing before her eyes and she wonders, idly, if she’d ever see the man in the drawing again.
Wasn't he here the entire time?
The book is gone, and the man standing before her is like a ghostly apparition, with long, silvery white hair and colourless robes that nearly blend into the white background. He regards her with a blank stare, but behind the ice is a familiar pained wistfulness. He stands there, silent and cold and unmoving, until she can’t take it anymore. She blurts out unthinkingly:
“Why didn’t you say anything to me?”
Her voice is hoarse; she can imagine she hasn’t spoken like this in a long time. She is ashamed she can hear her own desperation, the biting accusation against someone who’s suffered far more. She meets his gaze levelly, defiantly; unable to say what she knows he wants to hear. He is silent, emotionless. A moment feels like a thousand years and yet more fragments of memories piece together, telling her what he cannot in words.
At last, he speaks. “You are afraid of me.”
“That’s not true.”
A trace of amusement passes across his face as he watches her unchanging expression, but the burning intensity in her eyes falters. If, for a moment, he can give up everything just to believe her words…
Maybe, just maybe, they can start all over again.
But her words are merely out of kindness. He remembers when his hand brushed her cheek tentatively and she’d flinched, but as she smiled nervously in apology, she couldn’t hide the fear in her eyes. He remembers when they stood underneath the Hino tree and promised their lives to one another and when they met again in autumn, when he told her it was better to forget everything, because he'd brought nothing to her but pain.
He remembers and he can tell she's starting to remember again, and he knows that it's time to let go.
That’s right. It's better for her to just forget everything.
So when you said, “Then, let’s start over again.”
When you said, “Let me find you again.”
He, the one who’d sacrifice the world to keep her safe, felt his resolve crumble and the barriers he'd wrought in his heart came crashing down.
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