Hello everyone. I haven't posted a story on here in a good long while. I honestly never thought I'd ever have the time to commit to one in my adult life. But this plot has been rattling around in my head for years, and now, with COVID-19, I finally have some spare time. I don't know if I'll be able to finish it, who knows what the future may bring, but I'm going to try. As always, reviews are welcome, and constructive criticism is appreciated.
Once you meet someone, you never really forget them. It just takes awhile for your memory to come back to you.
Chihiro awoke in a cold sweat, the tendrils of a dream seeping away from her. A young voice promising her something, a pale hand slipping away from her own. She grasped for it, palm reaching toward her white ceiling as if beckoning the fleeting images to return to her, but in an instant they had withered into nothing more than a damp patch beneath her neck and a vague sense of loss.
Slowly, reluctantly, she sat up in bed and squinted her eyes at the bright morning light streaming through her window. The young woman glanced involuntarily at the massive five needle pine with the small stone houses littering its base that marked the entrance to the dense forest at the bottom of the hill beside her house. She didn't know why it was always the first thing she looked at, why she felt compelled to check it every morning as if she expected someone to emerge from the woods the moment she laid eyes on the narrow dirt road winding into its depths. Nothing of any particular interest lay beyond it, she knew. She had checked hundreds of times.
As a child, she had been drawn to that innocuous path like a moth drawn to the destructive warmth of candlelight. She couldn't count how many times she got lost looking for who knows what among the trees and undergrowth, until her parents had banned her from entering altogether. But still she longed to wander into it, past the squat stone guarding the opening of a tunnel partially hidden by vines and towards….what?
There was nothing beyond that tunnel.
She didn't know why she should expect anything different, but she couldn't help but feel a crushing disappointment every time she'd emerged on the other side of the darkness to find only a small, dead meadow, and a pitiful dried up rock bed where a river had once flowed.
It had been years since the last time she had gone to that sad, empty place. But she still dreamed of it, along with bits and pieces of a strange and wondrous nightmare.
Sometimes she would come across something in her day to day life that would tickle her memory, slamming her with Deja vu so strong it would leave her gasping. A simple wooden bucket in the corner of her new school became filled with unfamiliar red and gold tokens. Wide eyes and small arms peeked out from beneath the coal inside her father's grill. Jade beads around her mother's neck transformed into haunting, glassy green eyes.
Everything had started right after they'd moved to the little blue house at the end of the street. Her mother and father refused to think of that time, the mysterious lost time which Chihiro privately dwelled on whenever her mind started to wander. Because, on the very day they were supposed to move, they'd walked through that tunnel in the forest, and came out three days later. At first, they had thought someone had played a vague practical joke on them, but it soon became clear that, somehow, during the five minutes they had explored the mysterious forest path, they had all been declared missing persons.
Part of the reason Chihiro's parents were so reticent about the issue was because of their daughter's own drastic change in personality during that time. Chihiro couldn't recognize the change in herself, she didn't feel any different, but according to her parents, she had quite suddenly become a humble, hardworking, brave, and unerringly polite child when it seemed only minutes before she had been quite the opposite. At first, her mother joked that her daughter had been abducted by aliens. But it wasn't until much later that Chihiro recognized the distant, unfamiliar glint in her mother's eyes when she did something out of character. Like Chihiro wasn't really her daughter.
But it wasn't only Chihiro who had changed. As her mother grew more distant and withdrawn, her father became brusque and angry. Disagreements broke out where there had never been any before. Always masking a tension that none of them could name, but was slowly tearing them apart at the seams. But strangely enough, all of them shared at least one thing.
The entire Ogino family suddenly couldn't stomach the taste of pork.