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File 133933327728.jpg - (1.10MB, 1147x765, in the beginning.jpg) [iqdb]
"Mng. Five more minutes."

Of course, there's nobody actually here waking me up, and my alarm clock isn't even set, so I'm really just talking to myself, but it's the little everyday things that are important sometimes, you know?

"Out of bed right this instant, young lady. It's a school day, you know." My grown-up voice needs some work. Is it actually a school day? I have no idea.

"Mmmng. I'll eat breakfast while I'm brushing my teeth. Gimme five more minutes."

"If you're going to have such a hard time getting up in the morning, then I suppose we'll just have to institute a curfew rather than letting you sit up 'til who-knows-when watching those cartoons of yours, hm?"

That's a low blow, adult me.

The ritual complete, I stretch hard, shoulders rolling backward until my back is completely arched up off the floor, then relax, letting the air leave my lungs as I hit the deck with a whumph. I sit up, take one last shake of the head to clear the cobwebs out, and then I'm ready to go, or at least as ready as I ever am.

Right, I had plans, didn't I? First thing I was gonna do when I got up was--

"...This is not my room." I say it aloud more out of surprise than anything else; the realization derails my train of thought completely, and I rub the sleep out of my eyes and wake myself up the rest of the way. The shock fades quickly, thankfully; it's not my room, but I do at least recognize the room I'm in as the...

...The something. The concept's there, it's just the word I'm missing. Uh, starts with an 'S', has like 8 or 9 letters, rhymes with... something...

"Nnngh." What is this, early onset senility? I can't help but laugh at myself. "I'm ninety-two years old," I croak in my best old-lady voice, "and my name's..."


...What is my name?

The sweat on my body is cold now. I look down, and I don't recognize the clothes I'm wearing; I jump to my feet, and nearly go straight back down as my head spins. I hold my trembling hands out in front of my eyes, and I'm still me, but who am I? The room is still familiar, but where is it? Address, phone number, age, all gone; my eyes dart over the room, and I can't even name half of the objects inside. My breathing has gone shallow, and my vision swims, but I can't remember can't remember why can't I remember--


Sanctuary. Starts with an 'S', 9 letters. Knew it'd come to me. This is the sanctuary, and what am I doing here where am I who am I?!

The familiarity of the room isn't comforting, any more; I spin, and my eyes catch on the ceremonial sword, hanging off the wall behind me, and I know how much it weighs, how it feels in my hand, even though I don't remember ever holding it, and I fall backwards, my heel catching against something as I pull away, and I reflexively clutch my head after it bounces off the cold wood floor, curling myself into a ball.

And the impact doesn't even hurt, but the tears come anyway just from the shock, that familiar old habit that they never quite managed to rid me of--

"stop that, you're supposed to be representing the shrine, sana--"

"No!" It's there, and then the moment I notice it, it's lost again, like trying to focus on the floaters in your eye, and I shout and grit my teeth and concentrate as hard as I can, but I know that all the trying in the world won't bring it back.

So I've got to focus on what I did get. The cold, hard truth finally starts to sink in, and the tears dry up with it. Little by little, my muscles unclench. My breathing slows. Eventually, I push myself into a sitting position, and then stand once more, remembering what little I can.

My name is Sanae Kochiya.

The rest is a blur.

I stagger across the room, tamping down the urge to start panicking again, and slide open the door, leaning heavily on the frame.


[ ] I need to get out of here.
[ ] I need to figure out what happened here.


Something short. I'll try to make it quick.
[x] I need to figure out what happened here.
[ ] I need to figure out what happened here.
Huh, Sanae protagonist. That's new, and this seems interesting enough.
[x] I need to figure out what happened here.

>Something short. I'll try to make it quick.
How short are we talking here? Like, do you have a rough idea of the number of posts?
[x] I need to figure out what happened here.
File 133944210265.jpg - (38.65KB, 400x512, reclaiming.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] I need to figure out what happened here.

My first urge is to get out of here, to start running and just never stop. This is... well, I don't really know what this is, except that it's my shrine, and seeing it like this feels like a hole in my heart.

I can't remember what it looked like before; the memory is just out of reach, like all the rest. Now, though, it looks like a typhoon hit: entire buildings, ripped off of their foundations and turned into splinters littering the courtyard. A... uh, one of those giant rope things, with the paper tied into it, wrapped around one of the trees left standing at -- shimenawa, that's it -- at the edge of the clearing. To my right, the torii that stood over the lake, now in the lake, split into two pieces right across the center bar and lying atop the water's surface. Household items lying in the grass everywhere, like someone picked up an apartment complex and shook all the loose items out.

I remember back home, watching TV after the typhoons, and this memory doesn't disappear when I focus on it. Is that what I look like, right now; one of those people the camera angles in as they look out over the wreckage and start to cry?

...Oh, I am crying.

I let go of the door frame and ease myself down the steps, out into the wreckage. For all the chaos that surrounds me, the sanctuary, the building that I just came out of, is basically immaculate; a few scratches here and there, a little chunk taken out of the stairs, but it doesn't look any worse than it did when we started this whole--

There, and gone again. I curse myself quietly, gingerly stepping through the mess at the foot of the stairs onto solid earth. It's rained recently, and set to rain more still; I can smell it in the air and feel it in the ground beneath me. The junk littering the area is all wet, too, the wood soaked through and the household stuff--

--soaked through?

I survey the yard again hurriedly, and now that I know what I'm looking for, I see it everywhere. Some of the lumber is speckled with fungus, rotted far beyond what a single evening would do. I can see a few animal nests, clearly carved out around the wreckage. One of the fallen trees is nearby, and when I tap it gently with my foot, it splits wetly, the insects decomposing it from within visible through the hole.

How long have I been out?

I feel the panic start to rise, and sink into a crouch, steadying myself against a particuarly large chunk of what was once a wall and closing my eyes.

"Come on. You're okay, you can do this." Even the sound of my own voice has that same familiar unfamiliarity that everything else does for me now. It feels like I'm remembering an old friend, trying to match the voice to a face, more than it feels like it's really me. I wrap my arms around my knees and sit back, not really caring that my butt's getting wet in the damp earth.

And that's when I feel it. I don't hear any twigs snapping underfoot, or even so much as leaves rustling, and I can't see eyes peeking out from amidst the fall foliage; all that's hidden from view now anyway, behind this hunk of trash. Still, I can feel the presence, a few dozen yards away at the edge of the clearing, and I am certain:



--is watching me.

[ ] Investigate. Danger or not, anything is better than more of this... place.
[ ] Ignore it, and stay here. I have bigger fish to fry.
[ ] Leave, now. I've got to find myself before I'll be ready to deal with anyone else.


I'll try to update again today if circumstances allow. It doesn't look like I'm going to be able to do more than 2 updates tops on weekdays, given my current rate.

Any estimate would be just that. At present, it feels like somewhere around 50-75 posts, but these things always expand in the writing, so I may be off by a little or I may be off by a lot.

[x] Leave, now. I've got to find myself before I'll be ready to deal with anyone else.
Ah, amnesia. Is there a better plot device?
[x] Investigate. Danger or not, anything is better than more of this... place.

Knowing is half the battle and all that.
[ ] Investigate. Danger or not, anything is better than more of this... place.
[x] Investigate. Danger or not, anything is better than more of this... place.
File 133956632858.jpg - (749.31KB, 1024x685, that `wet leaves` smell.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Investigate. Danger or not, anything is better than more of this... place.

My entire body tenses at the sensation, and I drop closer to the earth still, leaning closer to the piece of wall separating me from the watcher. I don't even really understand how I'm sensing the presence, just that I am, and that sitting still and concentrating tells me that they're just beyond the trees, crouched low to the ground and intent on my position.

Part of me wants to run, to get out of here and find someplace less stressful to work all of this out, or at least somewhere where I can pretend this isn't happening to me for a few minutes. As much as my heart wants it, though, I know that if I'm going to understand what's happened here, it'll be through others before it's through myself, and if that means starting here, then that's what I'll do. Slowly, warily, I raise my head above the level of the wall, peering out towards the forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of my little stalker--

--and as the presence disappears, I realize with a start that they're running away now, just like they always used to, back when--

Before I even understand what I'm doing, I'm off, vaulting the low wall from a standing start so smoothly you'd think I'd practiced it. The sensation of being watched is gone now, and my sixth sense of the watcher's location with it, but my other senses pick up the slack; the sound of twigs breaking underfoot feels like fireworks going off in my head, and I change direction when I hit the tree line, all my attention focused forward on my pursuit. Every rustle of leaves, every broken branch, every startled animal left in my quarry's wake tells me a story, leads me ever closer. The half-dead autumn underbrush tears at my clothes, thorns scraping at the skin beneath, and low-hanging branches smack at my face and shoulders, but I don't feel any pain, and I don't slow down, and for the first time since waking up, I feel confident, excited, alive.

I'm getting closer, I know it now; a flash of deep red that doesn't quite fit with the falling leaves, then a glimpse of straw-blonde hair disappearing behind another trunk, then a thin, pale hand pushing off of a bush, and my throat tightens as I break left around a great oak where she broke right.

She'll continue for a few more steps -- I take a sharp turn right -- and when she hears me coming from this direction, she'll turn right to build distance -- I turn my shoulder and plow straight through the large branch jutting out into my path -- and before she has a chance to change direction again, we'll both hit the small clearing up ahead and--

--I see her.

Her lips, painted the same dark crimson as her dress, open in shock, and those pale, gentle hands come up to shield her face from view a moment later. As her sudden stop kicks some dead leaves from the forest floor up into the air, a breeze catches them, lifting them towards her--

--and then she's gone.

My momentum carries me a little further forward, and I keep moving even after I've reached the spot where she should be, but the fact registers in my mind immediately: she's not here any more. No visual cues, no sound, not even the sixth sense that I felt her with in the first place. She's just... gone.

I turn around in a semicircle, continuing to scan the forest in vain, as the wind kicks up more leaves around me.

"Where... How...?"

"Don't go back."

"Aah!" The voice is right in my ear. I spin on my heel, lashing out in pure, terrified instinct, but my hand hits nothing. I spin left and right, but again, there's nothing; I didn't even feel a presence, even when I heard the voi--

"They'll be waiting for you."

I turn to face nothing once more, my mind reaching a fever pitch as the wind whistles through the trees, kicking up little whirlwinds of dust and leaves into my face and--

--the leaves?

"Who are you?! Come out!" I can sense it now, the power that I felt before, that I thought had disappeared, emanating from the plant matter dancing around me, and as another one flutters past my head, I hear her voice again.

"You need to hide."

I'm snatching at dead leaves, now, and when the sudden wind vanishes, sending them back down to the forest floor, I go with them, clutching huge handfuls of wet leaves and squeezing them between my fingers, as though I could wring the girl out of them by hand. Even after the power is completely gone, and the forest has returned to normal, I remain there on the ground for a while longer, grasping at nothing, letting my mind spin.

I don't know how she did that, or, for that matter, how I followed her this far. I don't know how I sensed her in the first place, back in the shrine. I don't know who she was, or why she was running, or why she told me what she did, or if I can trust her. I don't know if I never knew any of this, or if I understood everything before yesterday, before I woke up with my memories gone.

And, above all, I don't know if I could get back to where I was even if I wanted to, now. With the adrenaline from the manic chase through the forest dying down, the only clue I have to the direction I came are the disturbed plants I left in my path, and in a forest this thick, that isn't much to go on. I know no directions or landmarks, or even what the place I came from was called; all I have to navigate by is the sun, just beginning to turn the sky red with its setting, and the top of the mountain in the other direction, still visible above the trees from where I am now.

East or west, up or down. Either way, it's going to be dark soon.

[ ] East, up the mountain.
[ ] West, down the mountain.


Okay, scratch that, once a day during weekdays it is. Sorry about that; I'll try to make it up to you on weekends.
[x] West, down the mountain.

There'd be more to hide in there than upwards.
[x] West, down the mountain.

Upwards is a dead end.
[X] Down the mountain.
[x] East, up the mountain.
Why? Because.

I should say that arbitrary choices we have no way of knowing the result of like this are generally not appreciated by most people.
[x] West, down the mountain.
File 133976376627.jpg - (646.18KB, 1754x1240, splish splash.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] West, down the mountain.

Before I really know where I'm going, I find myself following the sun down the mountain. I still honestly don't know what I'm going to do about anything, whether or not I'm going to trust the disappearing girl, but if nothing else, I'm more likely to find people and a safe place at the bottom of a mountain than at the top.

Unless the people I'm supposed to 'hide from' are down there waiting for me.

It's surprisingly easy to push the unwelcome thoughts out of my mind by focusing on just walking, and that's what I do. The incline here isn't steep enough that I can feel myself descending the mountain, but the forest provides a sign of my progress; the trees get thinner, and I can't have been walking for more than a half hour before I'm in a field rather than a forest. I can see the treetops stretch out before me from here, blanketing the entire trip down with the same colors as the setting sun that hangs above them now. You never got to see sights like this, back in--

"..." I shut down the despair at another memory slipping through my fingers by resuming my pace, and it's not long before I'm beneath the canopy of trees I just saw from above. This stretch of forest never gets quite as dense as the other, though, and the trees are sized down to match, which means no high-stepping to clear roots or dodging overgrown branches that jut out into the only path of travel. All in all, a pleasant walk.

Until the river.

It's fresh, clear water, not flowing too fast, with a short, rocky shore that quickly gives way to the beautiful forest surrounding it. The sort of place you'd expect to see on a postcard before you saw it in real life. Despite my weariness with my whole situation, I'm genuinely happy to have found something like this out here.


"This is..."

Amnesia? Fine, okay. Strange, pale disappearing women who give cryptic warnings? Hey, why not.

But hiking down a mountain in a wet skirt and underwear?

"...the very worst."

Part of me just wants to give up here; sit myself down and wait for night to fall and get eaten by a bear or something. I consider just taking the long way around, traveling downriver until it gets shallower, but decide against it. Following a mountain river isn't going to be the quickest route to anywhere, and I don't have much daylight left.

Of course, there is a solution to the problem of getting my clothes wet, but...

"Ah, fuck it."

My cheeks flush involuntarily at my own foul language, even spoken quietly to nobody but the trees. Well, this is off to a splendid start.

I act quickly, before I can somehow manage to talk myself out of this, and hike my skirt up to just above knee level, bunching the folds up in a single hand to keep it from falling again. My other hand sneaks underneath and hitches around the elastic, and I take short, wobbly steps, one leg after another, to work the underwear down my legs until they're low enough that I can just step out of them, along with my shoes, and let my skirt fall again. Eyes darting left and right like a thief in the act, I hurriedly stuff the offending garment in my...

...sarashi? Really?

I don't even care anymore. I just get it out of my hands and, picking up my shoes as well, turn my attention to crossing this river and putting this behind me once and for all.

...Which, of course, if I'm going to accomplish my goal of not soaking my clothes, is going to require that I pull my skirt up above my waist anyway.

"...You're an idiot." Fueled by some unhealthy combination of shame, frustration, and indifference, I just reach down and hike the thing up in one go, trying to ignore the simultaneous warm flush spreading over my face and cool air hitting my lower body as I tie it off just above my bellybutton. A few seconds and a brief hiss as I adapt to the cold river water later, and I'm too far submerged for it to matter, anyway.

The riverbed is slippery with moss, and I take short, careful steps, holding my arms out when needed to keep my balance. I feel some sharp rocks down there, too, but I don't think my feet are getting cut up too badly. More troublesome are the little fish and bits of flotsam that brush past my legs underwater, nearly startling me into losing my balance the first few times they pass. I'm used to them by the time I get to the middle of the river, though, and barely even flinch when something big enough to be someone's supper swims past on its way up the river.

...Or not. It's still there when I take the next tiptoe forward, and looking down though the clear water, I can see the outline of a great gray-blue boulder or something blocking my path. Keeping my eye on the thing as I go, I carefully sidle around it, watching as--

--ack fish. This one, I'm quite sure of; I can see it just below the surface, pausing stunned for a moment, as though it was just as confused about our sudden meeting as me, before zipping off, leaving a small trail of bubbles in its wake. I reorient myself to the boulder, preparing to--


I look down at the rock again, and it's bigger than when I last looked.

The bubbles rising before me are getting more violent now.

A clammy sensation brushes against my inner thigh.

Something pure black breaks the surface; too stringy to be an animal and too thin to be seaweed.

And I stumble backwards, the puzzle finally assembling itself in my mind, as a mottled pink hand and an arm in a gray-blue sleeve break the surface after the head of hair. I barely have time to process the body's existence before it's floating towards me, drawn in by the current. I feel myself slipping as I instinctively scramble away, and my arms fly out in a desperate attempt to regain balance.

And regain balance I do, but at the cost of movement; the corpse bumps my stomach headfirst, not swaying my stance, but sending a shiver of revulsion through my whole body as the wet, slimy hair touches me, somehow colder than the lake around it. I have no particular desire to touch any part of the corpse, but I don't really want to move with it grinding against me, and so I reach out to the thing's shoulder with the hand not holding my shoes, gently pushing it against the current away from me--

--and as I touch it, the head jerks clear of the water with a splash and a wheezing gasp, a pair of deep blue eyes flying wide open to gaze directly into mine, no more than a few feet away.

"Aaaaaaaaugh!" Any sense of restraint is gone now, and my first move is to spin and run at full speed, water be damned, making my second move a face-first splash directly into the river. I flounder to regain my feet, but a cold, heavy weight on my shoulder sends me scrambling, and my head dips below water as I try to surge forward to the shore that looks so far away now.

And then my feet go completely out from under me, and it's all over; I flap my arms, but it only seems to push me deeper under, and all I manage to do with my legs is flip myself over, looking up through the clear water at the evening sky. My mouth opens at some point, and I feel my lungs trying to suck in water, and all my flailing just pushes me deeper, and I can't see the sky anymore through the disturbed water--

--and then with a 'whumph', there's something on top of me, there in the water, and I'm grabbed, pulled in tight by a pair of iron bars locked in place behind my back, and then with another 'whumph' I can breathe again, and my entire body goes limp with relief, taking heaving, choking breaths over its-- over her shoulder.

"Okay. Oookay now. There you go, now you're alright." I can hear her whispering gentle, comforting nothings into my ear, but I don't have the strength to respond for a long while, and after a few minutes, she removes one arm from behind my back to lead me to shore with the other one, her strong, tight grip keeping me safe from any more slips or falls.

I half-sit, half-collapse onto the shore with a wet plop, throwing my drenched skirt (the knot keeping it up around my waist undone in the struggle, mercifully) out to cover my outstretched legs and propping my upper body up on my arms... and the 'corpse' comes to sit on my lap, of all places, her legs stretched out past my torso as she smiles in my face. Honestly, she still looks a little like a corpse to me; her skin tone has gotten a little more lively, but those wide, dark eyes and the wet hair plastered over her cheeks and forehead don't do her any favors.

"So, uh, hi!" She's a perky one, for someone who just came out of the bottom of a river and prevented a drowning death.

And not of a sense of personal space, as she puts her hands on my thighs and leans in even closer than she already was.

"Who're you?"

[ ] "...Sanae." This girl just saved my life; I owe her far more than an introduction, but it's a start.
[ ] Say nothing, yet. If what the blonde girl said is true, it may not be safe to say anything of what little I remember.
[ ] Struggle. She's on top of me; what is she trying to do?!
[ ] Pass out. My body's had just about all it can take of this for one day, I think.


A little bigger this time, since I missed yesterday. I don't intend to go any larger/slower than this unless the plot demands it, but speak if you have a opinion on update speed or size.

It was easier and more rewarding than flipping a coin. I'll try not to make a habit of it. Judicious application of meta-knowledge might have given you a clue as to likely encounters in either direction, of course, but that's neither here nor there.
[x] "...Sanae." This girl just saved my life; I owe her far more than an introduction, but it's a start.
Wow, a genuine anemia option, in this day and age!
[X] Say nothing, yet. If what the blonde girl said is true, it may not be safe to say anything of what little I remember.
If she was not playing surprises with us, we wouldn't have started drowning. What else "funny" can she have in mind, especially if the name "Sanae" will ring a bell.
[x] "...Sanae." This girl just saved my life; I owe her far more than an introduction, but it's a start.

It may have been accidental.
[x] "...Sanae." This girl just saved my life; I owe her far more than an introduction, but it's a start.
[X] Pass out. My body's had just about all it can take of this for one day, I think.
[x] Struggle. She's on top of me; what is she trying to do?!

Accosted in a river by a corpse while naked and then physically restrained? Nopenopenope....
[X] Say nothing, yet. If what the blonde girl said is true, it may not be safe to say anything of what little I remember.
[x] "...Sanae." This girl just saved my life; I owe her far more than an introduction, but it's a start.
[x] "...Sanae." This girl just saved my life; I owe her far more than an introduction, but it's a start.
[X] Say nothing, yet. If what the blonde girl said is true, it may not be safe to say anything of what little I remember.
[X] Say nothing, yet. If what the blonde girl said is true, it may not be safe to say anything of what little I remember.
Murasa is that you?
[X] Say nothing, yet. If what the blonde girl said is true, it may not be safe to say anything of what little I remember.
And polite sage included to not give false image of update.
Another to the scrap list, then?
I guess I'll say it. Glasnost was writing this.
I'm giving up hope of him ever regularly updating again, same as Patchwork.

Blame IRC.
Well, that's what he said, anyway.
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