qdesjardin: (Default)

SCENE 13 – Fiat Lux

"How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold?
Maybe I'm just too demanding
Maybe I'm just like my father too bold
Maybe you're just like my mother
She's never satisfied
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry.."

There in the distance, far above horizons known to anyone, is the floating city of Lux. Amidst the dimly red skies of the North Pole, the white domes are aglow – clusters of them, like lanterns perpetually adrift in the sky.

This is where the train's skyroad leads to, and if you peer closely, an intricate series of skyroads connect the domes with one another, with transport cars carrying gnomes who are super busy for the night, and guidance balloons along their paths (they signal the state of the tracks).

Utena and Shinji have their mouths agape outside the Conductor's car.

"Wow!" Shinji goes, while Utena clutches the train railing with apprehension. Even if this is all but just a dream of hers, she would have never imagined Santa Claus to live in such a scene reminiscent of what you'd find in the deep oceans. It shows how much she doesn't actually know about the jolly old man who's supposed to grant any wish a child makes on Christmas Night, no matter how small or extreme.

"How come nobody's ever been able to find this place out?" Utena asks the Conductor, standing right behind them.

"Ahh, it is trade secret," he says. "If I told you, even a middle-schooler like you could spread the news to anyone not incredulous to our existence! You do have one curious mind Utena.."

"I just.." A beat. She wants to say everything that's weighing in her heart, the deep trauma of her soul – how everything she loved has been ripped out her being, and just holding on to the nobility of being like the prince who rescued her from despair – that is what keeps her going.

She wonders if the Conductor could see it in her eyes. The pain she's kept buried for years, leeching out every once in a while, when no one else is around, she'd cry and find it beautiful for some reason that always escapes her lips.

In the end, she just says: "I've always liked learning," with an eager smile to placate any worries.

"Oh.. and that is why you scored a 37% in one of your math quizzes?" the conductor goes off-handedly.

("Sucks to be you!" Wakaba goes, jeering at Utena's piss-poor mark. "Wee-hehehe!")

"Hey.. how'd you know?! I was caught up in those rose duels, I never got the chance to study ever!" Utena is taken aback by the Conductor's mentioning of a personal detail.

"It seemed like you had a lot on your mind.. that's all.." the Conductor says. "I won't pretend to say I know which thought it is, for my ESP powers are failing me this time of year. But I do confess, it is not a healthy habit to allow personal anxieties to get the best of you, Utena-sama. A heavy heart, it inevitably closes itself off from receiving joy - everyone is feeling joyful about Christmas, and you should too! You're one of the rare few in this world who's hand-picked to see the Wizard of Oz!"

Even Utena couldn't resist smiling from the Conductor's enthusiasm, and as she glances at the approaching domes, feeling the wind rushing, ripping over her hair, she feels her gut swell about what these domes have inside.

"You want some tea? Hot chocolate?" Shinji asks from inside the conductor's car – apparently he is fiddling with the Conductor's magic drinky-making machine, which can produce any delectable drink the imagination can conceive, but all Shinji can think of at the moment is how chilly he feels in just his pajamas (he should've worn his bathrobe) and being nice to Utena. Oh, and also the friendly Conductor too.

"How about some black tea?" Utena goes.

"I do not like tea, but I do like the coffee," the Conductor says.

So Shinji makes them black tea and coffee, and he passes the foam cups to each of them, while they seem busy admiring the way all the clouds are layered all around, silhouetted by the domes, as if God hadn't yet formed the world coherently. It looks jarring for the eyes to see, really.

"What else is out there?" Shinji whispers, adding nothing to their conversation.

/

Back in the passenger cars, Stevie is playing with a stuffed Garfield (Santa Claus edition!), making the orange cat do the Spider-Man crawl over the windows. He's having an awful lot of fun seeing the cat defy gravity – just like the floating marbles out the window.

"Oooh, aren't you having fun!" Nanami decides to join in Steve's playing. She was bored of 50 rounds of pattycake with the girls, and wondered how that little geek could keep himself so entertained.

Seeing past the Garfield on the window, the domes remind her of those luxury pearls she's wanted for herself – ever since she walked by the display case one winter's night, where she was window shopping by the boutique district down Roppongi (with Keiko and buddies), and saw a beautifully carved mannequin, in an understatedly elegant black dress that made her think of those older women in those erotic thriller stories she'd read about, with a circlet headdress that made the hair sheen, and.. those pearls, that adorned her neck – completing the whole picture.

She imagines herself dressing up for her big brother Touga, taking him out on a night where her wildest fantasies will come true, a candlelit dinner – take his mind entirely off the Student Council and his worries, and be the only person there for him. A night they'll both surely remember.

But the entire thing.. let alone the pearls, costs the equivalent of $10,000 CAD. And though the Kiryuu family is rich, there's no way they'll let her have it; especially when she's still at a young, budding age.

She made a secret wish, written to Santa Claus, that she'll give her whole being just to be good for the rest of the school year, if she could have a chance of having that outfit, and to spend that one special day with Touga..

"Hey, you just went limp-eyed on me!" Stevie goes. "What's the matter, are you thinking of what you'll be telling Santa on his lap?"

"Why, yes I am.." Nanami goes.

"Ooh, lemme guess, you want a.. uhh, ermm.. Ken and Barbie dollset!"

"Not that, but you're vaguely on the right track." What good does it do to tell him about a grown-up-related thing? "You know, why don't I try guessing what you want for Santa to do for you?"

"Alrighty, but you'll never hit the mark in a million years."

Nanami grumbles. "Humph! Try me!"

Stevie grins. His eyes seem to beam especially behind his glasses. "I want to meet Albert Einstein and Kurt Godel and all the great minds of history and ask them what the speed of an unladen swallow is!"

"African or European?"

"Ohh! So you do have some genius on you, Miss Smartypants!"

She's seen a subtitled copy of Monty Python's greatest hits, thanks to her older brother's collection and taste in art. Nanami smirks at her little victory. Nothing is ever beyond her wits!

"Hey, do you know what these glowing things are?" she wonders, notioning at the globes. "I've never seen those before."

"Hmm.."

A lot of the kids are now peering over by the windows, their eyes awestruck by the fantastic scenery.

The train is zooming in, faster and faster, past the globules – then it is all enveloped in a tunnel, the air currents howling as beams of light rush by the windows in a constant rate. The lights of the train dim and recover in breaths, and the train lurches upward, making everyone feel like on a zooming roller-coaster that's climbing up to a precipice.. except a weird feeling occurs where it feels like the center-of-gravity has shifted to accomodate the change of slope.

And then the tunnel ends, and what everyone on the train can see is the multi-faceted, breathing city of Lux. Where all the buildings seem comfortably constructed upon all the possible slopes and beams, like crystals that have grown upon tree branches, branching out in perpendicular directions.

This is what is inside a snow globe.

qdesjardin: (Default)

SCENE 12 – Vista

"Mein Gott!" The Conductorhas stumbled along the coal, and storms into the cockpit –interrupting the goodly moment the two kids are sharing. "There is absolutely no kissing in the cockpit, not while the train is still running!"

Utena and Shinji break their kiss, with a bit of saliva left on her lips. Her heart is still thumping like a drum, and she's embarrassed about having been seen in a moment of intimacy.

"Utena Fraulein!" the Conductor goes, danubing towards her. "Are you trying to distract the boy? I will assure you that there will be consequences if the train gets derailed off schedule! That will be no goodly."

"I was looking for Shinji," Utena says. "When you took him away because he had no ticket, I think that's 'no goodly' too."

"Passengers without their tickets, whether it is due to mishaps or the what-not – they still deserve the journey, and so I bring them up here so they can help make the train run smoothly. It is like having customers serve as busboy and dishwasher when they don't have the money on them, ja? To be throwing people off is not in the Christmas Spirit making."

"I'm just glad he's still here safe and sound," Utena says.

The Conductor glances at the cockpit gauges, making sure well is in order. Then he says, "I see you have been growing attached to him. I know the feeling. It is love in motion. It always is a beautiful thing, love, when it blossoms, especially in a cold season."

"Have you ever loved?" Utena says, feeling her kiss with Shinji and the warmth chuckling within her once more.

"I have loved, and I am still loving," the Conductor says. "The woman I love.. she is on the verge of dying."

"Right now?" Shinji goes.

"Yes, right now. She is terminally sick – she had fallen down the stairs and bumped her head, and when I took her to the emergency room, the doctors pointed out that she was just about to fall victim to a new, strange sickness that lay silent inside her. If she woke up, it would take her in a week. So, with all the money I had, I asked them to put her into cryostasis."

Utena holds her breath for a second, and then asks, "Cryostasis..?"

"Yes," the Conductor goes. "Utena Fraulein, you are from December 1996?"

A beat.

"And Ikari Shinji, you are from Tokyo-3, December 2015?"

Shinji nods. Is Utena from the past? "What are you trying to tell us?"

"You mengs have never heard about the cryogenics? The maschine which freezes the body into hibernation, in order to borrow time to save its life? It must sound like something from the Science Fiction readings to you, ja?" the Conductor goes. "Utena, Shinji, I am someone who comes from December of 2034. A different time from yours. A time when you are able to better save the people you love from Death, with the cryogenics maschines. From disease, old age, and bodily grievances. And I serve as the conductor on the Boreal Express, with the promise that Saint Nicholas will provide a miracle to my woman – a chance to save her from the sickness. Perhaps many others too who will fall to it."

"If Santa could save your lover," Utena says, her loss erupting up from her, "why wouldn'the save my Mom and Dad?"

"Utena.." the Conductor goes, "I am truly sorry. I only know that when St Nicholas had personally come to me, I was kneeling where meine Liebe was in one of the maschines, resting my head on the glass, still seeing her angelic face looking at me, and I felt my face resting in someone's lap all of a sudden. I saw, it was St Nicholas himself, in his red outfit, and all Time itself was frozen, except for me and him.

"He felt for my plight and said that while he cannot save people after they die, he can yet spare a miracle for me and my love, that we will be able to love each other again. I only need to complete my duties for the Boreal Express without problem."

The Conductor holds his head down in solemn thought. "I wonder if he will keep true to his word. I have already given much of myself for my love – I cannot bear to tear my heart away from her. He said that it would do me, himself and the Christmas Spirit good – with this train, it will be the first time St Nicholas is able to bring a large amount of people to his realm, Lux. I suppose he chose you two and the rest of the passengers for a reason. You must be on his goodly list tonight."

"He can't save people after they've died.." Utena goes.

"If this is a time-travelling train," Shinji goes – but the Conductor interrupts him.

"Its abilities are limited to the night of Christmas Eve," the Conductor says. "You were supposing I could travel to any day and bring back Utena's parents before they've died? No, that is impossible; tonight's train route is designed to accomodate only those on the list, each in a given time and place."

Utena sighs. It feels like her hopes have been dashed to little pieces, and she'll never get to see her parents, not now, not ever.

"Do not despair, Utena Fraulein," the Conductor says, beginning to smile. "Love can often work itself in mysterious ways – your parents must have really loved you, and they will continue to love you even after they're gone. You'll remember it, even if you might forget."

"As long as you breathe, it will never die. Even if you might forget it, or lose grasp of it, it will never die."

Then Utena notices her feet are shuddering, before she feels something vibrating in her gut – a lump of coal is doing the jiggly dance on the floor; the train itself seeming to rumble.

"Nein.." The Conductor peers his head out the window. "Nein! Alarm!" He rushes over to press the big red button on the cockpit, which sounds an alarm throughout the train, making two engineers pop up from under the tender.

"What's the matter?" the first engineer says.

"It is a proxy!" the Conductor tells. "It's coming from the left side, get yourselves into armaments, bitte!"

"Right-o!" they go, and they clamber up over the tender car and disappear.

"What's going on?" Utena asks, as her sense of anxiety grows.

"A proxy! It is Jack Frost! Belsnickel! They are badly, vengeful spirits who linger about, forever cursed and tied to Winter season! They make it colder than it needs to be, spreading the coldly, bitter air from place to place as they feel like it! St Nicholas has told me about them – they may ruin the journey faster than you'll know!"

The Conductor heads over to the intercom panel, and makes an announcement to the passengers. "Attention everyone! We will be encountering turbulence. I advise you to quickly return to your seats, fasten your seatbelts, and above all else remain calm. I will tell you when it is over." He brushes his forehead from sweat, before he pushes forward a red lever marked Throttle – you'd feel a forward tug like when the elevator dips downward, as the Boreal Express accelerates.

"Once we get to Lux, we'll be safe from them," the Conductor explains. "And the faster we can get there, the better. Hang on little ones, it will turn out to be a roughly ride."

The train's shuddering grows more and more intense. Shinji clings onto Utena's arm, while out the window you can see amidst the moonlit clouds a whirling dervish of unholy whiteness – the whiteness of frosted, caked-over hard snow; the kind of snow that feels more prickly and cold than fluffy. It's gliding towards the train in a glide so hauntingly graceful, a dancer using the wind currents to propel her very movement.

Eventually you can see her clearly. Her flowing white hair that seems to merge with her drooping, snow-radiant cloak. The blossoming cloud where her feet should be. And most of all, her face; the melancholy mask she always wears, where red tears seem to almost flow from her eyes.

"Mein Gott..!" the Conductor exclaims.

She stares at you fiercely, chillingly, with a coldness that penetrates into you.

That is, before a loud burst erupts from one of the cars, and the proxy jolts from being hit – tumbling like a kite that's been torn mid-air, before continuing towards the train as before.

"Shoot her, shoot her!" the Conductor goes.

Utena and Shinji are peering through the window, frightfully awed at the beautiful sight of the proxy, being hit, enduring every blow as if it were nothing compared. Then the proxy wails – the Siren emitting a pitch that would tempt you into a fascinated paralysis. A beautiful, unearthly song that infects you with its sadness.

The eruptions stop.

The axles of the train chug the the train wheels forward in tandem, not noticing that the people in the cockpit have become frozen and inanimate. All they hear is the song that drowns them, uniting them into her sorrow, their blood coagulating into frost.

take me
someplace far away from here
to a true elsewhere

take me there

(The angel weeps.)

It is only after a few moments of pause from the song, that they regain their composure, and see that the proxy is floating just right beside the train's cars, from the back forward, inspecting the petite souls within – all the children must be frightened.

"It's.." Utena says, the tears outpouring from her uncontrollably. It's indescribable, what she's just heard – as though if she could talk with the proxy about her own sadness, she would be speaking to kindred, a lost soul like herself – she'd be preaching to the choir about what is heartwrenching. And perhaps.. perhaps, in one way or another, just to be able to make that connection would satisfy.

"I have to get to the proxy," she says.

"What? Did its singing make you bonkers?!" the Conductor goes. "It will kill you!"

"The proxy isn't a monster; she's hurting like I am," Utena says, a determination gnawing inside her. "I gotta try and help her, I have to try."

Shinji is also feeling that this is so. "Utena!" he goes, as she's about to climb the tender. "I'll go with you."

"Okay."

So Shinji takes Utena's hand, and she leads him over the pile of coal.

"You are out of your minds!" the Conductor shouts, amidst the noisy winds. "Scheisse, that is not courage, that is asking for your funerals!"

On top of the train cars, Utena teeter-totters with Shinji. The railtracks behind seem to extend away dizzyingly in mid-air, where if you glance down at the clouds below, it seems like you can fall forever into the all-encompassing sky. (You'd better watch out.)

Utena wonders if she should shout at the proxy from this distance, if it can hear her, or if she should come closer to it before drawing attention to herself. The proxy is lingering by one of the cars at the back, peering through the windows.

Then the engineers pop up onto the top, just in front of Utena and Shinji. They're holding what looks like sawed-off shotguns, wearing bandoliers around their waists.

"Hey, you two!" the first engineer goes. "You should get inside quickly!"

"I.. don't shoot at it," Utena says.

"What are you talking about?" the second engineer goes. "That proxy's going to derail us if we don't off her quick."

The proxy hovers from one car to the next, gazing from window to window and allowing her fingers to brush over the surfaces, leaving a streak of beautiful, well-formed ice in her wake, as though she is just waiting for something to blossom from the frozen waters.

"It's not attacking the train," Utena goes.

"Not yet it isn't," the first engineer goes. "It looks like it's finding a sweet spot to hit, and I'm sure as hell ain't about to let it do that."

At a loss on convincing those engineers, Utena decides to brush by their figures, zipping Shinji along at hand – almost knocking away their weapons. ("Hey!" one of them shouts.)

She runs and runs, until she can see the proxy's weeping face upclose. It's stopping by a certain window, its attention caught by something.

"Hey!" Utena yells at the proxy, but the proxy doesn't seem to notice. It punches through the window and its arm stretches beyond proportion as it reaches inside – rummaging for what, Utena doesn't know until she sees its arm pull out.

The key it holds seems to glow under the moonlight.

"Hey!" Utena calls.

The proxy regards Utena and Shinji. "My love has left it behind." You still hear traces of that beauty in its whispering voice. "Now I can rest at last." It smiles.

Then a crack erupts – the key in hand breaks into two, and something pierces through the proxy's breast and icy blood pours out like a drinking fountain that is bleeding. Such a grotesque thing to see.

"Gotcha!" the second engineer glees. "Right in the heart!"

Then the most horrific, pained wailing you would ever hear – that once soulful song wavers into discord and screaming, and everyone must cover their ears lest it make black holes of their hearts and send them into despair.

The proxy consumed by its injury dawdles behind the train's pace and falls down into the abyssal sky, disappearing away as a vapour into non-existence. Its melancholy lingers even after its presence has gone, and the only consolation to Utena who has gone all this way is that the proxy has reconciled itself with its lost love, in its last final moments.

What about Utena herself? Such a fate seems to be more preferable than to endure the entirety of Living with an irreconcilable loss, to never know that love as she's first felt it, to grow up and become an adult in that material world filled mostly with vapidity and emptiness, a world that would never truly fulfil. One moment goes after another and you see people come and go in the familiar grey places, reminding you all too much about the most beautiful things that cannot exist anymore, but you hope for them anyway around the next corner, and that hope grows fainter and fainter as you grow old, until you all but forget what it is that you've been hoping for. But you still feel the impulse to hope.

qdesjardin: (Default)

SCENE 11 - A Parable

"A young man journeys down an endless road in the company of many others. The road leads across rocky plains where nothing grows and the sun's fire burns from morning to evening. Nowhere is there shade or coolness to be found. And huge dust clouds are stirred all around by a harrowing wind. The youth is driven forward by an incomprehensible frenzy and tormented by a scorching thirst. Sometimes he asks himself or one of his companions about the goal of their journey. But the answer is uncertain and tentative. He himself has forgotten why he ever set out on his journey. He's also forgotten his native land and the journey's final destination.

"Suddenly one evening, he finds himself standing in a deep blue forest. Dusk sets in and all is quiet. Only the evening wind sighs through the tall trees. He stands amazed but also anxious and suspicious. He's all alone, and he realises his hearing is weak – his ears having been inflamed from the merciless light of day. His mouth and throat are parched from the long pilgrimage. His lips are cracked, pressed together around curses and harsh words. So he doesn't hear the ripple of flowing water and doesn't notice its reflection in the dusk. He stands deaf and blind at the edge of the spring, unaware of its existence. Like a sleepwalker he wanders unaware between the sparkling pools. His blind skill is remarkable and soon he's back on the road again in the burning, shadowless light.

"One night, by the campfire, he's seated by an old man who is telling some children about the forest and the springs. The youth recalls what he's been through, but faintly and indistinctly as from a dream.

"He turns to the old man and asks, 'Where does all the water come from?'

"'It comes from a mountain whose peak is covered by a mighty cloud.'

"'What kind of cloud?' the youth asks.

"The old man answers, 'Every individual carries inside hopes and longings. Everyone shouts out their despair or bears it in mind. Some pray to a particular God. Others address their cries to the void. This despair, this hope, this dream of deliverance, all these cries, all these tears are gathered over thousands and thousands of years and condense into an unmeasurable cloud around a high mountain. Out of the cloud, rain flows down the mountain forming the streams and rivers that flow through the great forests. That's how the springs are formed where you can quench your thirst, wash your badly burnt face, cool your blistered feet. Everyone has at sometime heard of the mountain, the cloud, and the springs, yet most people anxiously remain on the dusty road in the blazing light.

"'Why do they stay there?' asks the youth in great astonishment.

"'I certainly don't know,' replies the old man. 'Perhaps they've convinced themselves and each other that they'll reach their unknown destination someday, if not the next.'

"'What unknown destination?' the young man begs.

"The old man shrugs his shoulders. 'In all probability, the destination doesn't exist. It is an illusion, made by deception or imagination. I myself am on my way to the forests and springs. Once I was there when I was young, and now I'm trying to find my way back.'

"The next morning, the youth sets out with the old man to seek the mountain, the cloud, the forests and the rippling springs."

qdesjardin: (Default)

SCENE 10 – Awakening

The hiss and hiss of steam, and the whir of gauges. The blaze of a furnace, smelling like an empty barbeque. Utena feels someone pull her by the arm, one tug, and another – as she feels the coal rocks beneath her roll with the motions. Her cheeks feel the metal flooring.

"Wake up!" That is Shinji's insistent tugs feels like the alarm clock announcing a new day. "Utena, please, wake up!"

So opening her eyes, there is Shinji, leaning over her – his face verging on being intimately close with hers. He lets out a sigh of relief, and she can just taste his breath, and it stirs something in her.

The rocks are whooshing by on the sides in this claustrophobic tunnel, and behind Shinji are the levers and illuminated gauges of the train engine.

"You're alright," Utena says.

"The conductor figured that the train could use another assistant," Shinji goes, pulling Utena up. "I'm checking the gauges – making sure the steam pressure doesn't fall too low, while the assistants are having a break. If it does, I add some more coal into the furnace. Utena, how did you wind up in the tender?"

"I was looking for you. I thought he'd thrown you off the train, and I saw footsteps leading to the front." She wonders if she should mention the mysterious girl.

"I thought.. I wouldn't matter to you or anyone," Shinji goes. "I've already exhausted your kindest generosity as it is. I just want to tell you.. thanks for rescuing me."

Utena blushes. She is just happy to have found him, and her heart is fluttering now that it seems that they're alone wonders if he is noticing this – if she's embarrassing herself, or if he might be feeling the same way too, more or less.

Shinji offers her a handkerchief, notioning at her face. "You're covered all over." He's right; the silk robe Utena's wearing has been blemished with charcoal soot (Nanami's going to throw a fit!), and some of the soot is on her hands. Utena generously wipes her hands and face, before handing it back to him.

"Thanks," Utena says, smiling brightly.

The train whooshes out of the tunnel into a very opaque, electric mist – a mist that is hanging outside awareness. Suddenly the train passes through that, and it is seemingly flying in mid-air in a space of pink clouds scattered all over like bubbles, as far as the eye can see – you would look around for the light and you'd seea moon much bigger than usual; it is a kind of moon which you'd usually find in storybooks, a moon which radiates especially with the fervour of the sun.

An alarm goes off. Shinji rushes to the gauges and sees that it is the steam pressure gauge which is rapidly falling. "Oh no! Utena! Help me shovel the coal!"

But another voice chirps in, "It's not the coal, it's the air pressure that's different – you've got to pull the dampening rod!"

That is one of the engineers, popping out from underneath the tender car, and he is clambering up to the cockpit where Shinji is at a loss figuring out where the dampening rod is.

"Here, you pull this," the engineer goes, pulling what looks like a red rod beside the furnace, and suddenly the hissing of the steam seems to drown away. "There. That keeps the fires burning, since we're now in airspace. And since the air inside isn't equalised with the outside anymore, if it needs more fuel, you'll have to pull the rod back to be able to open the furnace door – and wait for a bit as the air equalises again."

He notices Utena. "What's she doing here?"

"Oh.. that's one of my friends," Shinji goes. "She um.. the conductor brought her here."

"I see. Funny, we weren't told about having another visitor." The engineer inspects Utena, up and down. "You weren't playing around with the coal, were you?"

"I got a little lost," Utena says.

"You'd best watch yourself. Everything here is a delicate instrument, and one accidental press of a button at this point could send the Boreal Express whizz-bang. Got it?"

"Gotcha," Utena says. "How are we flying in the sky all of a sudden?"

"We aren't – the railways are built just like that to bring us there without having to resort giving wings to the train engine."

The engineer checks the rest of the gauges. "Alright, everything seems tipsy-turvy, so I'mma finish getting my shut-eye. Peace out." He disappears under the tender.

The wind whirls and danubes all over.

"Is this.. where Santa lives?" Utena asks.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Shinji says. "Once we arrive, if we get to meet Santa, what do you suppose you want to ask him for Christmas?"

A prayer, an unanswered prayer. "Why he never brought my Mom and Dad back to me when they died."

/

This was to be her tomb. Her new cradle. The darkness was a welcoming parent, who held the most kindest compassion for her,and she embraced it fully as she lay inside the casket, resting her head on the soft silky pillow. She would be like a dying animal, who after giving up all hopes for living, would find a quiet, lonely placeand bury itself under the leaves, and eventually die. Yes. And the soul would drain out of the body, to meet with those faces long lost in time and memory, once more in a place where love could still endure. Are you stroking my cheek? Are you whispering in my ear? Are you with me now? May we never leave each other.

She wondered how long it would take for her to die. If she died, who would really miss her? Her grandparents, who would soon die? Her friends, who would forget her as they grew up? Spike.. who would never know about her fate? In the end, Time erodes all things, and that is the bittersweet truth underlying reality. Eternity is just wishful thinking, and Eternity is what she'll embrace.

She deserved to die.

(And will there be love for her afterwards?)

"Say goodbye, Utena," her Papa said, before he took her home.

"Goodbye.." Utena whispered.

Then she heard the door open from the distance, and some faint footsteps. She didn't stir. It must be those caretakers looking for her after she'd run off from the funeral rites. Their voices were young though. She could hardly hear what they were saying – their footsteps approached closer.

"Are you sure she's here?" a boy said. "She isn't in that coffin, Touga, please, let's look someplace else! We're not allowed in this room!"

"We have to look everywhere.." another boy said.

"Touga, what are you doing! Don't open it!"

Utena saw the first ray of light enter the coffin, and it grew more brighter as the coffin lid was opened. She saw the boy with red hair haul the lid away, with a loud and heart-shuddering thud when it landed.

"Leave me alone," Utena said, turning her face away into the pillow which absorbed her tears. "I just want to sleep."

"She's been hiding in a place like this?" the first boy said. "Who would've thought..?"

"Miss, everyone's been looking for you all over," the red-haired boy said.

"Are you going to tell them I'm here?" said Utena. She wished he'd put the lid back on; she was shrivelling under the light.

"Do you want me to?" the red-haired boy said.

"No. Because I belong here. I.. deserve to die."

"I.. see." the red-haired boy said.

"You don't deserve to die!" the first boy yelled. "Nobody deserves to die- because you always, always will have good things that come to you in the future! Believe me!"

"I'll never leave this coffin," Utena said. "I don't want to live anymore when everything I'll ever love will die. It's sickening. I'll never see anyone anymore, or come out into the sun anymore. It's alright now. You don't have to worry anymore, I'll be happy.."

When her parents' coffins had been lowered into their graves, Utena stood and watched, and all she could ever think about was when they'd given her the new skates, and she held them in her arms. And that memory of seeing her Mama, long ago, and she was held in her arms, and she could see her face in the night, as the moonlight shone through the windows. And everything was alright, she was content, and it was wonderful.

She would never see her Mama or Papa again, and that lock was turned in her heart when she'd bury away those memories, so they won't torment her anymore with that loss. Even so, they still come to her in her dreams and sometimes when she was awake, she could just hear them tell her, now and then, in her heart, "I'll always love you."

/

"I miss them so much," Utena cries, clutching onto Shinji with dear life. "When it's Christmas, I get so.. sad.. I feel I'm about to suffocate, and the only relief is to scream from out the very depths of my heart. But I can't. Because no one would want to hear me scream. So I cry alone into the pillow, holding onto it as if it would hold me too, granting me respite from the pain. And sometimes it isn't enough. It still hurts."

"I know.. how you feel," Shinji says, looking at her with the same look he had, when he stood outside, about to let the train pass him by – her eyes bearing sadness as his does also. "I'm sorry. I've lost my mother too, when I was little, and my dad.. my dad wouldn't give me anything for Christmas. I'm not good enough for him, I never was. I wish I could help bring your parents back somehow – if Santa will listen to me. I wish I could help take away all that pain and sadness.. I wish I could.. just.."

He loses his grasp of words; he's always wondered what it's like to kiss someone, maybe Asuka, and already it's so much more than he'd expected. He'd thought a kiss is reserved for romance, but a kiss too could heal the deepest wounds and bridge the loneliness between two souls.

The moment is just overwhelming, almost unbearable.

Utena can just taste his breath again, this close, and a mad fire is gnawing at her, setting her alight. "Shinji, I don't want to be alone anymore.. will you hold me?"

He is already willing; the look on her face is wonderfully sweet, the look of someone who has finally found another after so long, and she inches her lips towards his, wrapping her arms around him – they kiss, breathing each others' air, at first timid and hesitant and clumsy, and then resolute and poignant.

The haunting taste of love, and they hold each other in a long, passionate embrace, wanting it to never end. Utena just feels like her heart is also being kissed, and it starts pouring out of her, those emotions, and she holds him tighter, feeling his tongue in her mouth.

Their eyes are wide shut, blind to the world, aware of only each other. All Utena hears is his breathing and moaning, and all she feels is the warmth of his skin. When they long for breath and pull away, Utena sees him again, and she begins to cry, happily for a first time since a while, and her tears drip down her face and onto her chin.

(so vivid)

And Shinji, still retaining her taste, presses her towards him once more, in a hug that he should have had in his lonesome little life but didn't, a hug where he rests his face on her neck, her neck damp with hot sweat and thumping pulse, and feels an intense blush come across himself as he feels her living heartbeat alongside his.

qdesjardin: (Default)

SCENE 9 – Reminiscences III

In that cold and chill evening, the river ice was damp and hazy as the sky grew faint, and Utena was skating in her new pearl shoes, with the graceful glide in the skates as they skirted the surface. She wondered about what it must have looked like for Spike, that field of his dreams. Oh, she could only imagine with the sunset – the sunset she was living in seemed all too dreary and hazy under the winter clouds. If it were summer otherwise, the sun would be vivid in the blue sky.

She recalled one summer in this field where she went on a hot air balloon, and it felt like the basket was lifted by a giant, invisible hand, and when her papa carried her up, she saw the panorama of everything below – the people who were tiny, the flowing river, and the other distant places all over.

Is that what it was like, that sort of magic Utena felt in Spike's words?

Then a thought hit her; oh no..! Why didn't Utena think of it earlier – she'd forgot to ask Spike what town he was moving to! She wanted to slap herself for that. Now she might never get to see him again..

"Utena, I will remember you always."

Her skates skirted the edge of the river, and came to a stop.

It was Faye, sitting down by the riverside, idly observing the people skating on the bank, her breath spilling out visibly – she looked quite plain compared with when she was skating with Spike, but still her unpolished face showed a hint of that beauty. She glanced at Utena. "Hmm? Is there anything?"

Utena gulped; for a moment she forgot what to say as her throat choked up. Then, "Do you know where Spike's going?"

Faye perked her head. "Who..? Wait a minute.. are you Utena?"

"How do you know?"

"He mentioned you a few couple times. A girl, with flowery pink hair, and beautiful eyes. That's you, I suppose. You're really cute."

Utena blushed at her remark.

"Did he tell you he was leaving for.. what'cha call it, painting?"

"Which city is he going to?"

"I think he said it was Victoria."

"Where's Victoria?"

"It's by the west side of Canada," Faye said.

That ripped at Utena, and made her wither inside. Spike was her first love, and Utena knew somehow that love wasn't just anything that could be found around the next corner, and now he would be gone forever from her life, and it was just too utterly, heartwrenchingly unbearable. So Utena began to cry, for herself,for her pain. It was dark now, and the winds were picking up, the drifting snowflakes catching on her cheeks.

And then she felt a tender hand on her cheek.

"You love him, don't you?" Faye asked.

Utena didn't say anything; she just gave the slightest of nods. So Faye gave her wristwatch a peer. "It's 6:25," she went. "Spike will be boarding the train to the airport at around 7:00. Are your parents around?"

Utena didn't seem to understand – then it dawned on her what Faye was wanting to do. Her tears abated, replaced by a spark of anticipation in her eyes.

"They're at home. They're expecting me back by nighttime," she said.

"Well, okay." Faye brushed aside her snow-sprinkled hair. "I was hoping I could talk with them about it beforehand.. I just don't want to keep your parents waiting for you."

Utena paused. Suddenly there was a great anxiety blossoming – Faye was right, Utena didn't want to make her parents worry. She felt pinned to a great crossroads. It was her once-in-a-lifetime chance, her only chance – just to see Spike one more time. And if she missed it..

"We'll barely make it in time as it is," Faye said. "Weather report says there'll be a huge snowstorm tonight. The traffic's going to be slow."

If Utena missed her chance, she'd never be able to forgive herself. It would torture her forever.

"I want to see Spike," Utena said at last.

Faye nodded. "Alright. Come with me, I'll drive you."

Thus, Utena dawdled after Faye's hurried steps to the parking lot nearby, every footstep feeling woozy to her – where Faye found her grey car covered with a layer of snow. "Damnit.." She unlocked the doors for Utena to get inside, got into the driver's seat, and started the car's engine – so the heaters could warm the inside.

"I gotta wipe the windows, it'll only be a second," Faye said. "Just hang tight for me, okay?"

"Sure." Utena found the seatbelt a little tight for comfort, and the inside smelling like beef noodles and cigarettes, but nothing compared with Faye swiping away the snow with a brush – nothing compared with the anxiety of going to the train station, with this stranger, with telling Spike goodbye once they've arrived. Faye almost seemed like another, a haphazard, more way cooler mother to her; the thought of it was sorta tingly.

Once Faye had the windows cleaned (you could just see how the snow was falling in spades) – she got back into the car, and drove it out onto the streets.

The orange lamplights came and went, lighting the seats in bursts with shifting shadows. Snow and fog polluted the outside like layers and layers of curtains overlaid one another. Each second passed - the windshield wipers swishing left and right - and the air felt more and more like an invisible cage, shrinking around Utena, choking her beating heart. Utena's parents would take her to the train to see family friends on the other side of the city – she'd been to the station before, but in this weather she could hardly recognize any landmarks that gauged for her how far away that station was.

The car clock read 6:37 PM.

"How do you know Spike?" Utena asked, breaking the silence.

"Besides being skating partners? Hardly. We've met with the same coach, but otherwise, I work as a seamstress usually. I make dresses. Cool, eh? Did you get to see me dance in the events?"

"I was very jealous of you," Utena admitted. "You were so pretty on TV, and you got to skate all those moves with him."

"I'll take that as a complement. Also, did you see my butterfly wings? They were my idea. I made both our outfits. It was great."

Suddenly, the car skidded to a stop. There were a line of cars congested on the road ahead. You could hear the announcement echoing, "Due to heavy snow and car collisions, all transport is currently being delayed. We are terribly sorry for the inconvenience and we ask you to bear with us while waiting." It didn't seem like they'd be moving anytime soon, this way.

"Damn," Faye said. "You better hang on Utena, because I'm about to make a detour." And before Utena wondered what a detour meant, Faye swerved her car all the way to the right, going off the road and suddenly careening down a hill, the car rumbling as it half-skids, and its tail end swerving sideways, until the car wound up at the bottom of the hill, where it happened to be the edge of a neighbourhood.

It felt like a much more intense sled ride. ("This is Captain Faye speaking, I hoped you enjoyed the brief turbulence.")

Then Faye drove the car onto proper road, a cul-de-sac, and drove her way out onto the main streets again.

It was 6:56 PM when the station came into view. Faye didn't want to lose more time looking for space in the station parking lot, so she left her car by the curb instead and hope no one would notice.

After getting out, Utena could hear the departure bell ringing from the station. Faye led Utena by the hand and they both ran as fast as their legs could carry them, into the station entrance. They passed by the passengers ordering their tickets by the booths, running through the hallway and up a flight of stairs to the platform where the Eastbound train was.

The wind was very strong there, and the train's passengers couldn't wait any longer to get on board. By then, Utena and Faye were out of breath, having to stop themselves for a rest. Utena looked up from her knees, and she managed to catch glimpse of Spike amongst the passengers, before he mingled inside.

The departure bell rang one more time.

Utena summed up the last of her energy, and hurried after that train car which held Spike. "Wait..!" she panted, brushing by someone. "Wait.. wait!"

And briefly, when she managed to advance ahead of the train – she saw his face, staring out the window wistfully at the place beyond places.

Then all too briefly, his eyes connected with hers – Utena wanted to stretch Time itself to make it last.

Then, Utena slipped. A patch of ice on the platform, and she'd slipped – falling onto her tummy. It hurt. Moreso because it felt like she'd been torn away from that moment.

When she looked up, her breath huffing out, she saw the train fade away into the darkness, amidst the electrical poles standing bare, and the tracks that led to a place so inaccessible, out of her life's reach.

Goodbye.. Spike.

A bittersweet smile hung on Utena's lips.

/

"Utena, I'm sorry I didn't bring you to him any sooner," Faye said, as she was driving Utena home. "I should have driven faster, what with this freak snowstorm and everything. I'm sorry.."

"Don't be sorry," Utena said. "I managed to say goodbye to him. Spike saw me through the window, because after all, you helped me get to the station. Thank you."

"Really?" Faye was awestruck. "I thought you'd wanted a better goodbye, one where you'd get to talk with him."

"Just seeing him one more time was enough. I'm happy, Faye."

"Always glad to know that. Ahh.. being part of someone's happy ending pleases me."

Utena had told her she lived just near that field they'd left earlier ago. Faye drove her car down into the neighbourhood streets, where Utena uttered which direction to go. All the Christmas lights were up on display through people's windows – shining like bright, colourful beacons in the night.

It was 7:40 PM, and the feeling of coming home made Utena realise just how hungry she felt – her tummy was grumbly. She hoped that there would still be some dinner leftovers, and that she wouldn't get into too much trouble, just from wanting to see Spike before he left. She hoped she would be able to explain to her parents what had happened.

Faye's car was coming across Utena's modest home, the lights shining upon the facade. The Christmas tree in her window made Utena feel warm; it had quelled her envy of not having one like the others, and it had the lights and decorations too – a shining star atop the tree such that Santa Claus could see from up there.

Upon parking her car near the driveway, Faye asked, "Do you want me to come in with you?"

"Please do," Utena said, and they both went over to the front door, where Utena rung the doorbell. "My mama and papa really enjoyed watching you – I'm sure they'll be delighted you're here!"

Nobody seemed to come though. Utena tried ringing again, and once more, and once more.

"Huh," Faye said, her face looking uncomfortable.

"There's a secret key under the doormat," Utena said, and used the secret doormat key to enter inside.

It was very strangely, eerily dark inside her house – the only light being from the lit Christmas tree.

"Hello?" Faye said, protectively grabbing Utena's hand.

"Mommy? Daddy?" Utena shouted.

It was also very quiet too, and yet you could just smell the steamy scent of pork dumplings – Utena's tummy made her wander to the kitchen, where she turned on the lights and saw that on the dinner table, there were dumplings in the bowls – halfway eaten, and lukewarm when Utena tried taking one for herself.

"Utena?" Faye said, coming into the kitchen. "Utena.." The woman went over to her, taking her by the shoulder.

A paralysing shiver began to overtake Utena, as the realisation came into her that.. her Mom and Dad had went out to look for her in the field.. when she didn't come back home, and when they couldn't find her..

Utena began to stagger, as a weakness took over her limbs, stumbling into Faye's embrace and smelling the jasmine upclose from Faye's neck.

The phone rang. Usually either her Mom or Dad would pick it up, and talk about boring, dull things with people – but this phone call was different. The phone was high up on the counter; it was hard for Utena to reach for it, so Faye picked up the receiver.

"It's.. for you Utena," Faye mumbled, handing the phone to her. The phone felt heavy in Utena's hands, and she was half-expecting it to be her mama, her papa. "Hello?"

"Is this Utena Tenjou?" It was a strange, unfamiliar voice, having the kind of tone strangers have.

She'd wanted to pray to Santa Claus to restore her parents' lives, after they had died in a crash, chasing after her missing person. She didn't care anymore about getting presents, now or ever again. She only had one wish, to make Mama and Papa come back to life.

In the darkness, she prayed and addressed Santa in hope. She prayed until she felt weak from prolonged hunger and thirst, and she prayed until sleep yearned over her eyes.

She wished so badly that they would come back, come back and hold her and tell her it's alright – so badly it made her heart contort. She prayed forever in the night, her voice growing weaker and weaker. Until the Darkness and Coldness ultimately enveloped her.

Eventually, she never prayed at all.