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nutmeg #28: ashes to ashes

Author: Marika Kailaya
Title: even if it was just a dream
'Verse: Nagekawashii; MeYu
Challenge: Nutmeg: 28. ashes to ashes
Toppings/Extras: N/A
Wordcount: 1233
Rating: PG-13
A/N: N/A

If you've attempted suicide enough times (and failed enough times), they make you go to therapy. If you are immortal, it is bound to happen sooner or later. This is a civilized world full of civilized human beings and they all just want to file the best paperwork they can.

The week after a full bottle of methadone and the contents of Kobayashi Meguru's stomach are washed out, the most famous novelist in Japan settles himself into the office of a therapist his husband picked out for him.

You know. Just to make sure everyone believes he's human. Just so that the flaps of the butterfly's wings don't wipe out too many permanent records, don't wash away too much history. Just in case (he has to live forever).

He bares himself in spite; he steals one of Yuku's t-shirts to show off the violent blue veins and patterned white scars along his arms and the names carved into his neck. He pulls his hair, growing so long now, back from his face, and sits in scuffed red sneakers in a comfortable chair in a warm room, cracking his swollen knuckles.

There is a space heater at his feet and inspirational paintings on the bland white walls.

He leans back. The black text on the vividly colorful paintings is leaping around and rearranging itself inside his head. It all smears together. He tries not to look, but when he turns his gaze downwards he finds patterns in the carpeting and makes out fox-eared shapes and shadows. His stomach churns.

"Kobayashi-san," the therapist says, smiling towards her computer monitor, typing in his information. She is a tall woman and wears a grey sweater with large brown buttons, her hair knotted against the back of her neck. "It seems like this is the third time you've done this. Do you want to talk about why?"

"It's the third time on record," he corrects her. His voice sounds distant to his ears. "I was born into this world nearly forty years ago and I have been trying to die ever since. Do you know what a gun tastes like?"

She shakes her head. "No. Do you?"

"Oh yes," he says, and he smiles, and it's enough to make her glance at him, stop typing for a moment. "Although I have never tried to kill myself with one. I am terrified of guns because of the number of people who would use them on me. Humans. And others. They used to hunt white foxes."

She clenches her jaw, types that in.

"My husband loves guns, though, it's a problem."

"What's going on in your life, Kobayashi-san?" she says, looking at him, and then looking down at his hands. She is already realizing she doesn't want to look him in the bright blue eye. He wears thick glasses with black plastic frames but there is something wrong, something alien, in the way he looks at her, that transcends whether or not he can see.

"Today? Today I had tea, and then a full bottle of wine of my favorite vintage to celebrate my first ever psychiatry expedition, and then I laughed over what might happen to you, and then–" He touches his scarred hand to a red bruise on his cheekbone. "–then my husband tried to convince me to stop being crazy, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and then–"

She stopped listening at 'what might happen to you'. What is going to happen to her? She doesn't type anymore. He is still smiling. She is aware, suddenly, of how white his scars are, how they seem to pulse in her vision. She blinks.

"What makes you want to die, Kobayashi-san? Is it your husband?"

He pauses, and unfolds his hands. "No. If he dies I will...I...will... Have you ever just wanted to die, Shimokawa Erika? Have you ever wanted to go back to a life when you were happier, or more innocent, before everything went horribly, horribly wrong?"

He does not know her name.

She doesn't think any of the staff know her first name.

She shakes her head back and forth to clear it. "I believe everyone who suffers from depression has felt like that, wanting to go back in time, feeling like they've made mistakes that have led them this way." The temperature rises in the room, noticeably. She looks towards the heater. Nothing's wrong with it. "It's important not to live in the past–"

"Oh, no," he says, sighing. "No, I am afraid you have made a mistake, my dear. I am being literal. I have made no mistakes, I am a product of circumstance and it has made me insane, and I am sorry." His hands are glowing, she thinks. His hands are on fire. They're generating the heat. No. Wait. What? "I don't want to go back in time. I want to die. I am so sure that if I die I will be able to forget several lives I have lived, and several deaths I have died. I will become clean again. Ashes to ashes, an old god to a fox child." She needs to write this down. She needs to record this, he needs treatment and not only for depression, he is delusional and there are burns appearing on his fingers and blood begins to pound in her head. "I will be whole again. I will not have lived through any of this, if I can only wipe out my existence in this realm. I will not have lived these centuries like this. If I die, if my husband dies, will we become small and unnoticed again? Will we still be together and will it be worth it if we aren't? I am asking this."

He is shouting.

Then he stops.

Shimokawa Erika has done nothing wrong. But she looks up and he stares into her eyes and she begins to sob, unable to look away. She doesn't know if the screaming in her head is outside it, too. He lifts his hands and they burn as brightly as the glass shattering inside her skull, as the universes falling to shiny sharp pieces in her memory–in his memory. Not hers. Not hers.

"Can't go home today," he says, "Yuku will be so angry. So sad. So sad."

And the burning is gone, and the screaming is gone, and the war is over, and he has left, quietly and unassuming, a battered man in battered sneakers, whistling as he walks. He does not stop at the front desk. They barely notice him. The records are being wiped.


"Your therapist killed herself," Yuku remarks.

Meki does not look up. "Yeah, I thought she might."

"Why?" Yuku asks him, setting down the newspaper. "She had a family."

"I don't think I meant to," Meki says, and puts his bandaged hands over his eyes, beneath his smudged glasses. "I don't remember it."

"Well," Yuku says dryly, "you failed to come home for two days, and our son was distraught."

"You could've found me if you tried," Meki points out.

Yuku thinks on it. "Didn't want to. I thought if you were going to end the world, might as well let you."

"We are old," Meki murmurs, closing his eyes. "Will it take an apocalypse to kill us?" Then, "Send condolences, to the family."

Yuku stands. "Very well, my love."


Runaway Tales



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