I won't be able to update as fast as I used to. I have a lot of academic work to do over the next few months.
I won't bore you with explanations of why I've been gone so long. Instead I'll just get straight down to what we're all here for. I hope you enjoy what I've got in store this time.
It feels damn good to be back.
'A Different Place' (Title subject to revision)
>New Game Continue Options Extras
Good luck, Anonymous.
She haunts your dreams. You laughed when you first thought of that way of describing it. So cliché, so trite. You don't laugh much anymore. It's been nearly two years now, but still, every night, without, fail, there she is. At first it was amusing, a reoccurring dream about a beautiful woman? No problem, least of your worries in life. At least you get to see something while you sleep that you'd never have any chance of in reality. Then over time you came to realise it wasn't reoccurring, the dreams were different every night. The differences were small in the beginning. She would have a different expression, move an arm or tilt her head. If anything, the reliability of it became kind of comforting.
The drudgery of life, college, work, loneliness and boredom, carried on, but every night you would lie down and there she would be, waiting for you just beyond the wall of sleep.
She's beautiful. You can't help think that even now. She's so perfect, or near-perfect, that you couldn't think of her as anything but a construct of your own mind. No real person is like that, with everything just so. The way her long hair hangs down her back in a wave of pale gold. The smoothness of her unblemished skin. Her delicate, responsive, intelligent features. The way her eyes seem so alert, so full of mischief and vitality. Her dress, a strange mixture of Western and Eastern, purple and white, hugging her figure down the front but fanning out at the sides. The way she smiled at you for the first time, twirling that parasol over her shoulder. You became more and more captivated as the weeks turned into months.
Then one night, she spoke. "Hello." Even her voice, crystal clear and so soft. You could barely reply, even though you knew she was just a dream. "Who are you?" You asked, all those months ago. "I'm a monster." She said, giggling behind her hand. "You don't look like one." You said with near rapture. "Looks are deceiving." She said, with that amused lilt in her voice you would come to know so well.
She never stopped talking. You tried to cover your ears, to run away, to make her stop as she forced the secrets of the fabric of reality into your too-small skull. But wherever you turned away, she was always there, always a layer of consciousness deeper than the one you just left, speaking of impossible things in her soft, calming voice. Her 'lessons' would always leave you screaming as you awoke, groping for something to stem the bleeding from your nose, ears and eyes. Things running through your head you barely understood, the edges of your vision flickering with the fruits of her teaching. Sleeping pills made no difference, she was inside that chemical oblivion as well. Fighting sleep for days just meant more time with her when you finally gave in. Begging worked. She would change the nature of her lessons for a short while, teaching you abstract mathematics, biochemistry, quantum physics, things that would have made you rich if you could have made any sense of them upon awakening, if you could somehow fight the ever-present tiredness, the constant bleeding and the headaches.
But she always went back to her principal topic.
"What's your name?" You once asked her. "You tell me everything else, why can't I know about you?" "You can call me Yukari~" She said, smiling sweetly.
Stumbling from your bedroom, reeking with sweat, you make it to the table before you collapse into a chair. You just lie there for a long time, eyes closed, savouring release from sleep once more. Eventually you summon the strength to wipe your face with your sleeve, which comes away covered with the familiar bloodstains. That woman's ... Yukari's latest lesson tugs at your thoughts, threatening to make a wave of nausea rise up inside. You force the ideas away, down inside with the rest of her teaching.
Slowly, achingly, you make yourself some toast. Sitting at the table with a large glass of water, you wait for your digestion to settle before you pop open the tub of pills, extracting a whole bunch of them. Need to keep up iron intake with all the blood you lose every morning. You force them down. A few birds are singing outside, in the soft morning sunlight, accompanied by the ever-present sound of car engines. This city never sleeps, it doesn't have to. You open the window and take a deep breath, trying to resist the impulse to vomit.
You're probably schizophrenic, at the very least you're seriously disturbed. These days you feel like you're not going to last much longer, even though you long since ...
[ ] Went insane anyway. [ ] Blocked it out as best you could. It's not real, so you tried to live a normal life. [ ] Submitted to her teaching. After all, who could resist both her and whatever power she was offering? [ ] Fought against her. Get out of my mind, Yukari!
You manage to hold the vomit in, forcing yourself to take another deep breath. Have to keep up the semblance of sanity, have to stay whole and healthy. You've never found yourself unable to concentrate on Yukari's words, but you like to make sure anyway, in case one day you wake up having missed a 'lesson', leaving gaps in your knowledge. Maybe you're completely insane, or maybe there's a woman in your head teaching you the secrets of the universe. When it all began you thought only of the possibility of insanity, that you were probably going to spend the rest of your life in a mental institution, waking up every morning to find your face stuck to the floor with your own blood. The concepts she spoke of every night, there was no way to test them, no practical application. You were just going mad.
Then she taught you language one night. Spanish at first. French the next day. Russian, German, Hindi, Arabic, Old Norse, Italian, three different types of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Dutch. You could feel the sheer weight of information inside your skull when you finally begged for her to stop.
And the languages all worked. True, you couldn't use them for much, barely able to drag yourself out of bed every day, let alone find work as a translator. But they worked, there was proof that something was happening, something real.
"Go to the East." She said that night. "The east?" You asked. "Eastern Kyoto." "Kyo-to? Is that in Japan?" Yukari giggled. "Eastern Kyoto, Tokyo." "You ... you want me to go to Tokyo?" You asked, dumbfounded. "Why?" "That~ would~ be~ telling~" She sang as you awoke.
So now you stand in a place you can't call home, in a city you barely understand. Yukari never told you why you were supposed to come here, her lessons over the last few months have been even more uncompromising than usual. You're exhausted.
You stretch your limbs, feeling a little better as the cold morning air rushes in through the open window.
[ ] Get out the door, head to University, you have to keep up your reason for being here. [ ] Go shopping, reward yourself with some nice food. You deserve it. [ ] Fuck it, stay home and be lazy. You're tired.
You go through your morning routine, starting by carefully washing your face. The blood every morning doesn't bother you any more, but it wouldn't be good to go out in public like this, you're not sure how other people would react. All diseases cause a degree of revulsion in otherwise kind people. Nobody likes the sick, the infirm and the wretched. As you grab your bag, your wallet and your phone, you try not to move too fast, to push yourself too much. Need to take it slowly, keep yourself in once piece. As you leave your tiny apartment, you lock the door behind you. Just as you turn the key, you hear a sound you haven't heard in a long time.
It's your phone ringing. Not your cellphone, but the landline, inside.
Nobody calls you on that. In fact, you don't think you've ever given the number out to anyone. Not that you know anybody to even give the number to. As you reach up to unlock the door again, the ringing stops. "Huh." You say to yourself. "Probably just telemarketing." You forget all about the ringing phone as you step outside, letting the morning air wash over your face. That feels good, clean, crisp. You make your way to the underground station, nodding good morning to neighbours who you barely recognise, weaving your way through the thin crowds of people. Tokyo sure is a strange place. It feels good to lose yourself in the anonymity of a city, even if the Japanese still treat you as an outsider. You can't help shake the feeling that you'd be like that wherever you ended up. Some people in this city get even funnier looks than you though. You're reminded of that as you pass a bunch of ... women ... girls ... something, wearing very over-elaborate dresses, chattering at each other in high-pitched voices.
The underground is quiet, seeing as you always manage to miss the morning rush hour. Not many people in the carriage. You breath a small sigh of relief at this as you find a seat, you always feel ready to collapse after a crowded journey.
"-ukari!" You jerk awake, sniffing loudly, eyes wide. You fell asleep, how long was it? Your hands instantly go to your face, but they come away bloodless. Must have been only a few moments. You glance up and down the carriage, nobody saw your strange wake-up ritual. You ... "What did you just say?" She's staring right at you, sitting in the seat across. A girl, kind of plain-looking. "What?" You ask, stalling for time. "What did you just say, that name?" She asks, voice all in a hurry. You barely notice what she looks like, mind racing.
[ ] Ignore her. [ ] Lie, make something up. [ ] Tell her the truth. "Yukari. Does it mean something to you?" [ ] Freak out, this isn't right.
"I-I said ..." You start, looking the girl over. She is very plain, though not unpleasant to look at. Ankle-length black skirt and a plain white shirt under a long brown coat. Shapeless. Her face is the most interesting part of her, she's quite pretty, though the little black hat looks a few decades out of place. "I said a name." You say. "Yukari." Her eyes widen in surprise, her mouth hanging open. You gulp, feeling yourself starting to sweat. Maybe this was a bad idea. "I ... er ..." You say, glancing up and down the train carriage. Your stop is next, you should get off, you shouldn't have said anything. "Hey." The girl says, reaching over and gently placing her hand on your knee. "Relax, I don't bite." She flashes you a half-grin. The warmth of her hand through your trousers is a shock. It's been a long time since somebody else touched you. The sensation jerks you back to the moment. Maybe she knows something, or maybe it's just your flesh talking. "Does it mean anything to you?" You ask. "Yukari?"
She bites her lip in thought and slowly nods her head. "It does, yes. Or ... it might, depending on where you heard it." She smiles at you, obviously trying to put you at ease. It's working. "That's ..." You struggle for words. What on earth are you going to say? "I mean ... I-" Abruptly, the girl takes her hand away from your knee and offers it to you instead. "I'm Renko." "Hello Renko." You say, awkwardly taking her hand. "What ... um ... I mean-" She grins at you again and tightens her grip on your hand, pulling you to your feet. "What?" You say on reflex as she lets go of your hand again. You stumble next to her as the train comes to a stop. "I think this is our stop." Renko says. "Our stop?" "Mmhmm. You're going to the University, right?" She tucks a loose strand of dark brown hair behind her ear. She really is very attractive, in a simple sort of way. "Want to walk with me?" She asks.
[ ] Go with her, she seems nice and it's been so long since you had a friend. [ ] Go with her, mention Yukari again. Find out what she knows. [ ] Refuse, take another route. You don't want to risk anything. [ ] Lie, stay on the train.
"Yeah, okay." You say, nodding. Renko smiles at you again, leading the way off the train. You follow her through the underground station and back to the surface, quiet all the while. She seems relaxed, throwing you a couple of glances, but you're unsure what to say. It's been a long time since you've talked to someone casually, just a conversation, never mind the fact that she seemed to recognise the name 'Yukari'. Maybe she didn't recognise it, maybe she's just a weird girl who likes picking up people on the underground.
You turn the idea over in your head, discovering that you don't really care. It's just nice to have something breaking your routine, something other than the constant flow of nonsense in your head, something to distract you from the tiredness, from the weight of your eyelids. "That's better." Renko says as you emerge from the station, side-by-side. "What is?" You ask. She looks at you, sidelong. "Being back outside. The underground is too stuffy." She turns to face you as she steps in front of you. "Don't you think?" You just nod. "Yeah, outside is nicer." "Come on." She says, voice gentle. It almost feels like she's coaxing you onwards. "Um ..." Her expression changes slightly, a concerned frown making it's way onto her face. "It's alright, we can talk about it later." By 'it' you know she means Yukari. You nod, managing to smile back at her. "Okay." "Good." She says, grinning again. "Now come on! Walk with me, I can tell you about ... about ..." She glances around, looking for something, until her gaze settles on you again. "About food, I think." "Food?" "Yes, food!" She says, raising her voice a little. "You look like you haven't had a good meal in weeks! You're like a rail!" She grabs your arm, nearly marching you down the street.
She's right of course, you never have the energy to cook.
You spend the journey to the University talking with Renko. Your voice starts to feel rusty and worn-out after a little while, but you endure it for the sake of conversation. You feel like you haven't talked this much in months, probably because you haven't spoken to anyone but yourself. It feels so normal to talk about food. To let the topic go where it will, to question and listen, interrupt and laugh, to skip the small talk altogether. Eventually though, you reach the grey towers of the University buildings. Renko stops short and cocks her head at you. "Have you got somewhere to be right now?" She says. "Sort of, why?" You ask. "There's somebody you should meet. If you're going to be busy, then I can give you my phone number." "Wha ..." Renko raises an eyebrow, grinning. "Not like that, silly."
You feel yourself blush a little. Dammit, girl! You're completely out of practice with these things.
[ ] May as well go with her now. [ ] Go to class, but get Renko's phone number.
Sorry if I slow down a little. This is the first time I've had internet in a month.
You look over to the lecture halls, then back at Renko. There's no contest. "You're ... more interesting than class would be." You say, frowning as you realise how weird your words sound. You start blushing again. "Wh-what I mean is, I d-don't-" Renko cuts you off with a soft laugh. "I know. It's okay." She says. You relax again, letting out a sigh and smiling back at her. "I'm kind of awkward aren't I?" She nods sagely, but says nothing in response, just reaches out and pats you on the shoulder. "Shall we go?" You nod.
Renko leads you inside one of the less used buildings, up three flights of stairs and down a corridor. The inside of the university all smells the same, but you can never quite put your finger on it. This time there is another smell, one that's not so bland. At first you can't work out what it is, but then you realise how close you and Renko are walking. It's her. She smells nice. Not perfumed, or sexually arousing, but just nice. Clean clothes, shampoo, freshness. You smile to yourself, watching her as she walks. "What are you amused at?" Renko asks you. You shake your head. "Nothing." You say, feeling better already. Eventually she stops outside one of the doors, turning to you. "So who's this person you want me to meet?" "Nobody special, just a friend of mine." Renko says, her voice less amused than it has been so far. "Just ... stay calm, alright?" You frown. "What?" "You heard me." She says, giving you a reassuring look. "There's nothing to freak out about. I promise." "You don't have to be so blunt about it, I'm not that skittish." You say, feeling a little hurt. Renko takes a deep breath. "I didn't mean it like that." She says. "Just ..." She opens the door and gestures inside.
You walk in after her.
"Renko! You're late!" "I'm sorry, but I met someone." "Hm? Hello!" "He's a little shy." "Hi!" "This is Mary, she's-"
But the words trail off in your head. You're not listening to them any more. You barely take notice of anything but the woman in front of you, sitting at a table, surrounded by open books and loose papers. That woman, the way her hair falls down her back in a wave of gold, the way her eyes meet yours, her skin, her voice. Even the way she's dressed. Oh god ... oh god ... It's Yukari ... it's-
[ ] Focus, it's only a resemblance. She's not Yukari. [ ] She looks like Yukari, but Renko said you have nothing to freak out over. Calm down. [ ] "Yukari?" [ ] Cry in confusion. [ ] Run away.
Well, okay, I suppose we can let Yukari sprout the cock and make love to us. She'd better take care of us through the pregnancy, though, and she's not allowed to slack off on helping with raising the child.
"Yukari?" You mutter, barely opening your mouth. You blink and swallow, throat suddenly dry. "Yukari?" Louder this time. The woman in front of you just looks at you for a moment, then turns to Renko. "What have you been saying?" She asks, voice angry. Renko holds her hands up. "Nothing! I just saw her-" "Yukari?" You say again, taking a step forwards. "Is it ... is it you?" The woman, Yukari, looks between you and Renko, then closes her eyes and sighs.
You've never seen Yukari do that, not with that look on her face. You swallow again. She looks like Yukari, but not exactly. Facial structure is the same, but her hair is shorter than Yukari's. Her eyes are a slightly different colour. Her clothes aren't anything like Yukari's once you get a good look at them, she seems to be wearing a much more shapeless dress than Yukari does, just plain purple. But her expression is the most jarring thing, you've never seen Yukari look like that. "You're-" "She's not Yukari." Renko says, stepping over to you, giving you a weak smile. "But she looks-" "Yes, I am aware that I look like Yukari." The girl behind the table says, having gone back to her books. Renko turns back to her. "She didn't mean to be rude, Mary." Renko frowns. "I think she might know something." 'Mary' looks up at you, frowning with curiosity this time. "Know something? Yes!" Recognition comes into her eyes, lighting up her face. "How do you know Yukari? Where did you hear the name?" "Mary!" Renko says suddenly, voice harsh. "Look at her, she's ..." Renko glances at you and smiles in a sad sort of way. "She looks tired, I think she needs some help, not an interrogation." Mary stands up, slapping her hand on the table. "But-" Renko just holds her hand up, closing her eyes. "Slow down Mary." "Yukari." Mary says, ignoring Renko's protest, staring at you. "Tell me! What do you know!"
[ ] Say nothing, this is intimidating. [ ] Renko's right, you like her idea better. Slow this down. [ ] Answer Mary, tell her the truth. [ ] Ohgodohgodohgod. Run away.
You honestly have no idea what to say. This 'Mary' is more than a little intimidating and you really don't feel comfortable talking about Yukari yet, let alone with someone who looks like her. What the hell are you supposed to say? 'I wake up bleeding every morning'? 'You look like the person who I dream about every night'? "Uh ..." You take a step back, on instinct, gulping, hands rising in front of you. "Hey." Renko says softly. "Mary's just stressed. She'll apologise." Renko turns back to Mary, speaking through clenched teeth this time. "Won't you Mary?" "What?" Mary says, sounding offended. "Come on Renko! This is the first lead we've had in months!" You look between the two girls, both of them on edge now. You feel yourself edging towards the door again, palms sweating. The atmosphere of aggression is really too much. "Stop!" Mary says, noticing you moving. "Er ..." "Actually Mary, you've missed your chance this time." Renko says, turning back to you and rolling her eyes. "I'll see you later, when-" "What?!" "When," Renko continues calmly. "And only when, you're being less rude." Renko steps towards you and gently takes your arm. "Come on, let's go." Over Renko's shoulder you can see Mary's livid face. The resemblance to Yukari only makes her scarier. "You, you absolute ... fucking ..." Mary says, incoherent with rage. "Bye~ bye~" Renko says, whisking you out of the door before you can utter any protest.
Renko doesn't say anything again until you're outside once more. She doesn't let go of your arm either, but you're too shocked and confused to complain. She looks angry, but also worried. She takes a deep breath upon reaching the open air again. The sun has warmed the air a little by now, but the day is still cold. "Renko?" You ask. "You okay?" She closes her eyes for a moment, then looks at you, smiling again. "I should be the one asking you that. I'm really sorry about Mary." You shake your head. "It's okay, but I don't understand what's going on." "Neither do we." Renko sighs. "That's why Mary's got such a short temper these days." "You don't ... sorry, I'm so confused." You say, rubbing your eyes. The usual tiredness is starting to hit you as the nerves drain away.
"I can explain things to you." Renko says, shrugging. "Not as well as Mary can, but I think she needs some time to clam down right now." "Okay." You say. "She was ... frightening." You admit. Renko cocks her head at you. "Because she looks like Yukari?" You laugh nervously. "Yeah, mostly that." Renko reaches over and pats your shoulder. "Where do you feel like going?" "Huh?" Renko grins. "To talk. I'm curious how you know the name Yukari as well."
[ ] You can't skip class any more, get Renko's number and tell her you'll talk later. [ ] Head to a cafe, you need to sit down. [ ] Your place. You're in over your head already and you want something familiar. [ ] Let Renko decide.
"Can we head to a cafe? I could do with a drink." You say. Renko nods. "Sure, I know a place nearby, come on." You spend the walk in silence, already tired. Your legs ache a little and your eyelids feel heavy. Normally you'd be coming out of a lecture by now, you're not used to the break in your routine, no matter how welcome it is. Renko leads you inside a warm little coffee shop, a couple of blocks away from the university. At this time of the morning it's mostly empty, the only other customers are a few university students hanging out between classes. You and Renko take a seat in a booth near the back of the place. You can smell her again, sitting so close. Renko doesn't order anything but you get a large cup of coffee. Should keep you going for a while.
"Heh." Renko tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear as you sip at your coffee. "What is it?" You ask. She looks almost embarrassed. "Well ..." She glances around at the empty tables. "I'm glad it isn't busy." You just nod, smiling. This kind of conversation is best kept private, but why should Renko be embarrassed? She doesn't give you a moment to ask her. "So." She leans back, getting comfortable. You can feel her leg brush against yours underneath the table, but you don't flinch. This girl really does radiate calm ... or maybe you're just too tired to get worked up again. "Do you mind me asking?" She says. "Asking what?" Renko rolls her eyes playfully and grins. "Oh, maybe ... asking if you're single." You feel your face turning red. "Wha-" Renko bursts out laughing. "No, silly! Asking about Yukari." "Oh." You hide your face behind your coffee cup as you drink. "O-of course y-you can." You can't help but feel Renko said that just to throw you off. "Seriously though." Renko leans forward, expression concerned again. "This is a difficult subject."
She reaches across the table and places her hand on your arm. Why is this girl so forward? It's so confusing.
"So." Renko says. "Where would you like to start?" "Start? Oh ... er ..."
[ ] Tell Renko how you know the name 'Yukari'. Everything. [ ] Tell her, but leave out the physical details, the bleeding and the pain. [ ] Lie, Make something up. (Write-in the details please). [ ] Ask her about Yukari, what does she know. [ ] Ask her about Mary, why does she look like Yukari.
You take a deep breath. This is making you nervous like nothing before. You've known Renko for what? A couple of hours? But you still don't want her to think you're insane, a diseased freak. Her hand on your arm feels so good. Such a simple gesture, but right now it means the world to you. She's so kind, treating you like this, you almost feel like you've known her for ever.
No, come on, you're not that pathetic, not that needy.
"I suppose you'd like to know how I know Yukari." You say, looking back up at Renko again. She nods gently, smiling reassuringly at you. You swallow. "Er ... I dream about her." You start, looking down. "It started nearly two years ago, I-" Renko interrupts you. "Sorry, but I need to ask something." "Hm?" "Do you dream about her in the sense that she's in your dreams, or you dream that you are her?" You shake your head. "I don't dream about being her." Renko nods, frowning a little. "Go on." "She ... she teaches me th-things. S-stuff I ... I d-don't." You can feel yourself beginning to break down. Speaking about this is hard. You swallow and wipe your forehead. "I d-don't understand w-what-" "Hey." Renko says, rubbing your shoulder. "Relax." "You're going to think I'm crazy." You say. Renko shakes her head. "I won't. I promise." "Okay." You say, taking another deep breath. "She teaches me things, things I don't want to know and I don't understand." You say all in one go. "It ... hurts, inside." You tap your head. "Too much information." "About what?" Renko prompts. "About everything, but mostly ... reality, physics I guess." You pause. "Although sometimes I suppose it's more like magic." Renko squeezes your shoulder. "I ..." You continue. "I wake up bleeding every morning, because of the things she's taught me ... I don't understand why. I don't understand what's happening to me."
"I know." Renko says. You look up at her. "I know." She repeats. "You ... you know what I'm talking about?" You ask, breathless. She leans forwards. "I know you're not crazy. Yukari is real. I don't know why she's inside your head, but we can find out." Renko seems utterly serious. "I want to help you." You smile, involuntarily, almost hysterically starting to laugh. You manage to clam yourself before you lose it completely. This ... the last two years are real? This girl you've never met before is telling you she knows about the woman inside your head. If you weren't separated by a table right now you'd probably hug her. You can feel your eyes starting to tear up. "Relax." Renko says again, giving your shoulder a squeeze. "I think that's enough for now. I don't want to overwhelm you." She smiles. You shake your head. "I want to know what-"
A loud ringing noise almost makes you jump out of your seat. "What?" You say. Renko seems as surprised as you. It rings again. "Is that your phone?" Renko asks, pointing to your bag. "It's not mine." "Oh." Feeling embarrassed, you dig into your pocket and pull out your cellphone, hastily wiping your eyes on your sleeve. You never bothered to change it from the default ringing sound, nobody ever phones you anyway.
'Unknown Number' flashes on the screen.
The phone rings again in your hand. "Going to answer it?" Renko asks. "Nobody ever phones me." You mutter.
>Her hand on your arm feels so good. >If you weren't separated by a table right now you'd probably hug her. Still sounds male to me. Why was it even put up to vote? I get the feeling she's just going to be a lesbian anyways.
If I must explain myself then I will. Originally I was toying with the idea of writing a female protagonist. I intentionally left out the gender in the first couple of posts, because I hadn't decided. Then I used 'he' and the question was brought up.
>>61879 I see. I just looked for the 'dammit girl' line, and to me it looks like the protagonist is saying 'dammit' to Renko and referring to her as girl, and I can't even find the instance of 'he' used (searching for 'he' whole words only, ' he' and 'he ' all bring up nothing relevant.
Well, if you really want to have a female protagonist, then have a female protagonist. Not everything has to be left up to the voters.