My world shatters into fractals, the scenery rebuilding itself around me into the form of my bedroom, and as I fall onto my bed, curled around my tablet, I hear it ring out for the second time today, for the second time ever, and rather than face what it has to say, I ignore it. The pain it brought to me with its previous message is still resounding, a maelstrom of emotions raging through me. Anger, regret, self loathing, and grief are a raging inferno engulfing me while ice cold knives of betrayal, despair, and helplessness rip through my back, with my heart as the only calm in the storm, the last bastion of hope sheltering the fragile pieces of love, tenderness, and resolve inside its solid walls.

Over and over, I relive my forgotten decade in my memories, chased by a hollow feeling that I have never known before. I want to forget. Forget it all. Go back to my dream. Never wake up. Never ever ever. Back to when nothing mattered. To when 'when' was irrelevant. To being untouched by time. I hate knowing that time is passing, that I am further and further from home, from father, from Earth, with each passing moment, but even more than that, I hate knowing just how long it has been, just how far I am. And so, it is done, time loses its hold on me, cast out by the gods that rule over this realm.

Ignored by Kronos and his agonizing gaze, I heal. My anguish slowly turns into a comforting melancholy, and as the typhoon gives way to calm winds, a path opens for other emotions to return to me.

I look once more at the source of the typhoon, the last message from the father I didn't even remember existed when I awoke seven years ago, about a life I couldn't remember living with him, a life that he forced me to forget. But, I forgive him, I understand why, and I take comfort in what he did for me, even if I don't agree, because it was his last gift to me


Letter

To Rin

From : Dad

There was just so little time left after you were born.

I don't know how much love I managed to pour into raising you after your mother died…

But your smile kept me going. (^_^)

I would have liked to come with you, but I couldn't.

I wanted you to forget everything and move on… I knew you'd be alright.

But you'll get lonely and remember.

I know you'll grow strong, and read this letter some day.

I really wish we could have spent more time together. I'm sorry.

You were so young back then, too young to understand what they meant. So let me repeat…

My final words to you.

I love you


"I love you too Dad, more than you could ever know. I'll miss you everyday for the rest of eternity. Even if those memories make me sad, I've got to go forward, believing in the future. Even when I recognize my loneliness, and am about to lose all hope, those memories make me stronger. I'm not alone, because of you. Goodbye." I grace this world with my first words in it, my final message for my father.

I pick the tablet back up, wipe my tears, and go to open the second message, only for my hand to freeze up an inch from the screen, unable to move any closer or retreat away from the message. What could it contain, is it a Pandora's Box just waiting to bring ruin and suffering upon me, or is it a Golden Fleece preparing to introduce joy and happiness into this isolated mindscape? Why wouldn't it be mentioned in father's message if he is the sender? How would someone send me something without going through father, and why would they circumvent him if their message was not malevolent?

I shake my head, dislodging my thoughts from that rabbit hole and focus on the present, and Schrodinger's message. Summoning up my resolve, I push past my uncertainty and open the message.


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"Hah hah hah! Hah," Smash! "Hah hah hah! Of course! Hah hah hah! Why wouldn't it? Why wouldn't the universe take my resolve and throw it in my face!"


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My hysteria forgotten with the return of that familiar ring, I retrieve my tablet from where it collided with the window in its flight, and watch with wonder as the cracks and missing shards in the crystal pane fix themselves, repairing the view of the world around me, the tablet in my hands forgotten in favor of the dreamscape through the window, until another ding reminds me of my curiosity


/ Open Attachment #1? Y / N

/ Rin: Y

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/ Dear diary, today I turned 6! All my friends were there, and we had sooooooo much fun! Shin told a joke that had me laughing for 3 whole minutes! Dad's friends never have fun, even when they play with me, they still look sad about something, but Dad tells me to ignore it. For my birthday wish, I wished that everyone could smile again! Misha gave me a new dress! Its blue and red and has candies all over it! My favorite gift is the one that Dad gave me. Its a brown bear called Kuma that Dad made all by himself, and he's soooo fluffy! I'm gonna love him and keep him forever and protect him from all the bad guys with my hugs, just like I'll always have Dad to love me and protect me with his hugs!

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The tears quickly return in full force, and I hug my tablet, but it doesn't feel the same. Its missing something, something vaguely bear shaped and made of lightly-worn plush.

Through my fading sniffles and sobs, I venture into the world outside of my room. Past the upside-down waterfalls, under the floating mountain, I walk, the landscape slightly blurred through my tears, the brown sky and the grey dirt blending together on the horizon, searching for anything to fill the bear shaped whole in my heart.

In the never ending and ever changing landscape, it is easy to get lost without my tablet, and so I return to my room empty handed, only to find him there, in all his small dopey brown furred glory, wrapped up in an orange bow with purple polka-dots like the day I got him, complete with a note reading "I love you Rin, Happy Birthday. From Dad"

I stand there stunned, unable to comprehend how Kuma came to this place, and why he came here rather than come to me while I was off searching for him. The waterworks begin anew and I tackle my new old friend, hugging him close and never letting go, his comforting hug a perfect reflection of the first one that I ever gave him, only with our roles swapped. His fluffy arms enveloping and protecting me from the world rather than mine protecting him, bringing me into the sweet comfort of sleep.


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"Yawn….." For the first time I can remember, I wake up with a smile on my face I can only assume was caused by the now fading memory of my encounter with Morpheus during my visit to Hypnos's realm. I sit up to stretch like always, when I feel something poking into my… which side is which again? What did dad tell me to do in order to figure it out when he taught me to tie my shoes? Wait, did he? I can't remember that. Oh right, I wrote a 'R' and 'L' on my slippers, so that would make it my… left thigh. Another new occurrence, and an odd one at that, considering the only things hard enough to feel like this are my tablet and the furniture, but I can clearly see the tablet buzzing on the floor by the door next to the formerly broken window, and I don't have any furniture small enough to only poke me in the thigh when I'm sitting on top of it on my bed.

Hold on, go back to the window. Is that a crack!? In the window!? *Slap* Focus Rin. One anomaly at a time, don't get distracted by every little incongruence between today and the last seven years. So what if I had my first dream in seven years, I can remember things past seven years ago, there is a hard object poking into my thigh that should not exist, and the self repairing room has not fixed a small crack in the window during the time I have been staring at it, when yesterday it fixed a shattered window in an instant.

Calm DOWN Rin. Breathe, in… and out…. In ... and out…Alright. Let's tackle these in order of increasing difficulty. So, back to the mystery object poking my thigh. Let's see… Oh no.

Oh my gosh. I am so sorry! I AM SO SORRY KUMA! I DIDN'T MEAN TO SIT ON YOU! I-I-I'm s-sorry. I promised to protect you from all the bad guys in the world yet I can't even protect you from myself. I am a horrible friend, I don't deserve you. The first thing I do after seeing you again after seven years is cry on you and then sit on you. Please forgive m-


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Startled, I look over at the tablet and it's lit screen.

Yes, yes, I'll get to you in a moment tablet. Let me just finish my conversation with Ku- Wait. He's gone. Where is he? I had him in my arms just a moment ago… Does he hate me now? Is that why he ran away?

I look up and glance around, hoping against everything that he hasn't left the room, because even with tablet, he would be nearly impossible to find once he gets far enough outside of the room.

Oh there you are. Why are you with the tablet? You look so silly with the tablet on your lap, it's just as big as you are you silly bear… Alright, alright, you win. I'll pay attention to the tablet, but I need to do some other stuff first… Yes, yes, I promise I'll get to it soon, don't you worry.

Now that Kumo and the tablet are put on hold, I can focus on the anomalies again. Next up is the window, and lets just check once more that I'm not just imagining it… Nope, I'm sure the crack is real. So I step back, and just stare through it, watching the sky move through the world. I watch the window into this world of Phantasos's creations, and the tiny crack maring its otherwise clear surface, waiting for it to repair itself like it always has before, knowing that it won't, but searching for some reason. But through the cracked window, something is different than through the other windows, I can't tell what, only that it feels foreign.

Now, back to Kuma and tablet.


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/ Dear diary, today Dad came home looking sad. He said that he got fired, whatever that means. He tried to explain it to me, saying something about not being able to go to work anymore, and we had to move out of the house. I don't know why he is sad though? If he doesn't have to go to work he can spend more time with me! And our house is too big for just us so it takes soooooo long to clean and sometimes it reminds him of Mom, which makes him sad, so leaving the house means he can spend more time with me and he won't be sad anymore! I tell him, and he smiles at me and agrees, but still sounds sad, so I tell him about all the new friends we can make after we move, all the new foods we can eat, and all the new places to visit!

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Mom? What is a Mom? Why was dad sad about her and why did the house remind him of her? I still can't remember much, and the more I do remember, the more I feel is missing. I'm afraid of it too. Why did I forget, and why was everyone so sad all the time, and why am I all alone? I'm so confused. I wonder what my house looked like? Was it big, was it purple? I bet it was the biggest house in town and was purple with rainbow polka-dots and blue stripes! No, wait. If it was, I would never want to move away from it, so that can't be it. Unless that is what my new house was!

… No, that can't be it either. The new house is supposed to be smaller than the old one. Maybe I had a big room with purple walls and rainbow polka-dots and blue stripes. I wonder what my rooms looked like? Are they anything like this one? Did Kuma have his own room? I'm sure he did, he is too regal to accept anything less than royal treatment for both of us. Absolutely. He is the Alfred to my Bruce, the image of a perfect Englishman and the most skilled butler in the world.

… Who is Bruce? Bruce Wayne? Bat Man and Robin? Why does he have two first names, and why would a bat and a robin hang around with a man? And what is an Englishman… someone from Britain? Does that mean that Bat Man is actually Batman and is someone from Bat? I'm just getting confused. And sidetracked. Bad Rin. Bad. Stay focused… Superman? Aquaman? Joker? What in the world… nevermind. Ignore it Rin, ignore the tangents.

It's time to bring Kuma on a walk outside! The window looks a little more cracked, I wonder what's… Focus Rin. You're taking Kuma on a walk, not investigating the window. Gotta be careful though, don't want to get his fluffy fur dirty, that would be a tragedy…


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The walk is over, but something felt off about the landscape, almost as if it was too perfect? It didn't look any different, besides the usual shifting and changing of the landscape of course, so I'm probably imagining it…

I realize that I should investigate the window now, and I put Kuma down first so he doesn't get hurt by the shards of glass on the floor. I haven't had someone to talk to in seven whole years, so I talk to Kuma, just like I remember doing when I got him and whenever I needed to vent my sadness and frustration before Dad got fired, hoping that by talking to him I can sort through my feelings and thoughts.

"I remember the last time that something like this happened, Dad got really mad at us and then we had to go and talk to Hitori-san next door to ask her to help stitch you up. Hitori-san was such a nice old lady, if a little loopy sometimes. She told the best stories though, I remember this one that she told Shin and I that had us laughing for days. I think it went like this… I'm sorry I can't tell it like she used too. I wish I could see her one more time and hear one more of her stories."

I stop in my tracks, blinking tears from my eyes and just stand there, shocked by what I just said to myself and the scenes that flashed through my head. I saw an elderly woman, relaxing in a rocking chair, pouting tea for me and Kuma as she regales us with tales of her youth and of the mysterious yokai and their past mischiefs. The scene fades and a new one takes its place, the sewing machine hums in the background as Hitori-san hunches over a table with Kuma, tightening the new stitch in his back bit by bit, and then the world turns, focusing for a split second on a small photograph surrounded by lit incense, a photo of my mother and my father, a month before my birth, before a large arm that could belong only to Dad turns the view back on the exhausted Hitori-san and the newly whole Kuma on her table and I lean in, hug her with all my might, and she says something into my ear that I miss over the humming of the sewing machine and the scene fades once more. The new scene is of a withered old woman that bears a striking resemblance to Hitori-san, lying in a hospital bed unable to move and in a sleep that toes the line between the domains of Hypnos and Thanatos, watching silently as she rouses from her near-torpur and beckons me closer and says to me,

"Dear Rin, oh Rin, it is almost my time, but please come closer, and let me tell you one more story before I must go, one not of mischief or past adventures, but one of life, love, and most importantly of all, loss… " but the scene begins to fade before she can even begin, and as it does, the rhythmic beats of the heart monitor changes at the last second to a flat line the instant before it becomes inaudible, replaced by the also fading tortured wails of a young girl…

A new scene starts to appear, and as soon as I recognize the cross I shake my head, banishing the surfacing memory before it can show me any more of the scene, even though I already know what the scene was, knowing I was not ready to see that, to see her, in that box. She was as much my mother as Mom was. I grab Kuma, and curl up in a ball, wrapping myself around his bulky frame as if I'm a vine and him a tree, ignoring the broken glass stabbing into my back and the noise of the world around me, a world that is slowly transforming from the Garden of Eden into the Pits of Tartarus.

My wails resonate with the glass of the window, breaking it further, causing more shards to dig into my back, all stabbing into my heart, and in between sobs, I give a dark, self deprecating chuckle at the irony of it all, sarcastically praising Apollo for his magnificent use of symbolism, and in my respite from pangs of grief ask out loud like a madman:

"Oh mighty sun, do you have any more wonderful things to add? Perhaps a touch of dramatic irony, a moral, or perhaps sing a mocking ballad to me while shooting flaming arrows at the vicious bear that holds me captive here? Hahahahaha hah… hah."

Clearly, I was not only not going to get an answer, but the sun god clearly felt bad enough about his ridicule that he left me in Artemis's care and protection. "DING!"

Ah yes. It wouldn't have been a visit from Apollo without a parting gift to the damsel he "comforted," and so I let go of Kuma and crawl over to the tablet, and look at its screen.


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/ Dear diary, today I said goodbye to Hitori-san. It was raining out, but lots of other people who I don't know came to say goodbye too. When it was time to leave, I ran away from dad to give Hitori-san one last hug with Kuma, but the box was already closed, so I just lay on it and cried, even as Dad brought me to the car and drove us home. I already miss her so much. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts so bad. Everytime I look out my window and see her house, it hurts some more, as I all I can see is the past, when Hitori-san was still around. Kuma says he hurts too. I wish she stayed even just a little longer, so she could tell me what she was going to say, and so I could properly say goodbye to her. It hurts so bad, dad says it will get better and hurt less as the memory fades but I will never be able to forget, I won't let myself, even if I have to feel this forever and ever, I won't forget about Hitori-san.

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Oh joy. Why can't they ever leave? Why, Mneme, must you always bring Algea Lupe and Algea Ania when you visit me? Can't you ever bring your wonderful sisters with you, or even just bring Penthus in the Algea's place? It hurts so much, and yet I feel nothing, just a hollow ache in my chest, the only feeling not consumed by the void of grief I find myself in once more. They say that if you stare into the void, the void stares back at you, and yet I could care less, if it dulls the pain, it dulls the pain.

I know that this isn't healthy, that I may go mad from not coming to terms with grief, from not moving on, but I could care less. Who could even call me mad, Kuma and I are all alone after all, and he would never say such a thing about me. So why should I care? Perhaps insanity is just what Dr Rin ordered? No, what would dad think if he saw me going insane from his messages? I can't do that to him, let him think it is his fault that I can't handle my own emotions. I have to be strong. For Dad, for Hitori-san, and for myself. Who knows, maybe I'm not going to be alone forever?

*yawn* Well, I guess it is time for sleep then. Goodnight Kuma, goodnight tablet, goodnight photograph of Hitori-san…


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It's a new day, a new adventure, a new attachment from the tablet, and a new chance for my isolation to end! Good morning Kuma, what a snazzy tie you have on! It looks just like Dad's favorite tie! Good morning tablet, no more sad messages for today, alright? Good morning Hitori-san, will you tell me a story later? Good morning Mr. sun, Mr. and Mrs. Cloud, Ms. River, and Sir Non-Euclidian-Rock-That-Is-Blocking-My-Window, how are you all doing today? Wonderful, I too am having a good day so far!

What's that Sir Non-Archimedean-Non-Euclidean-5th-Dimensional-Rock-That-Is-Blocking-My -Window, you want me to call you 'Lidian'? Absolutely! … Oh, Ms River, what was that, you want to know about the new photograph on my wall? I don't know what you are referring to … I called it Hitori-san? No, that's ridiculous, Hitori-san is a person, not a picture on a wall … No, I'm not ignoring reality, but have you seen Kuma's new tie? … No, I don't know where it came from either Mr Sun … Yes, yes, yes, I'll stop talking to myself Mrs. Cloud, I do, in fact, know that you don't exist, but I've been so lonely lately. Well, I should probably go make sure Kuma isn't getting his tie dirty, so I guess I'll talk to you later Lidian!