Since we boarded our flight at night, most of us just slept thought the entire flight since takeoff. Well, we did spend a lot of time traveling to the airport with some breaks along the way, so this flight is long enough to sleep.
Announcement: “…are now arriving into the country shortly. Outdoor temperature is 85℉ or 29℃ with humidity of 93%. Please stow away or secure loose objects and fasten your seat belts when the indicator turns on for lading. Thank you for traveling with us and hope you would have a nice day.
During the landing, the plane declined downwards and felt a thud from below, followed by rumbling as the plane touched the ground and reduces it’s speed to a halt before the plane is towed towards the terminal so we could just enter the terminal via a bridge from the plane exit.
After clearing customs and collected our luggage, I exchanged my country’s currency for that country’s currency. Amount I received seems to be more than what I thought it would be after dividing by a hundred of my currency.
Saeko: Haruna, do you know which part of this country are we headed to?
I’m not exactly sure myself, so I had to look at the phone book and a recent map and found it to be a walking distance from a particular station in the western part of the country.
Hirano-san: Kobayashi-san, didn’t you say that you have been here before? You looked like you don’t…
I don’t know what made her say that.
Me: Oh, it’s just that I have not been here since I was still a child with my parents. Also, the train station here was completed only 3 years ago, so I’m not sure where it is. I normally got out from the airport via the bus terminal at the basement or the taxi stand just outside, Since we are in a large group, it would be easy to pay for the tickets for the train.
What I did not say was that the taxis costs a lot more than the other 2 modes of transport and that the buses do not go to where we are headed. Even if they do, it would be a lot longer than the train.
We found the escalators to the station near the shuttle to the other terminal. The station looks quite nice with use of natural light despite being underground. What I found odd was that there is a cordoned off area of the bridge over the station and that the fare gates was right in front of us when we got down the long escalators with no ticket machine visible. It turns out that it’s just behind the escalators and would be visible if we had taken the elevator. The ticket machine looks bulkier than what I remember it to be.
Kyousuke: So this is the machine, eh? So where are we headed to?
I scanned the map for the station and pointed at a spot on the left on the system map. Noticed that except for here and a new line that heads south-east towards the city center, most of the stations are unchanged.
Me: We are at the airport, so we take a train here to the main line 2 stations away and alight at this station. Our hotel, however, is at this station at the city center. You guys need not join me and go wherever you like, but be there on our last day. I won’t be sleeping there on the first night though.
After pressing some buttons and inserting some money, the ticket for all of us popped out, but this ticket seems to be hard to be a one-use card. Turns out that the printed side says something about returning it to the identical machine I bought from at any station within 30 days for “refund of deposit”. Except for me, Saeko, Mamiko and Hirano-san, everyone seems to be only be able to understand Japanese and very little of English. The Chinese-language words didn’t help at all. Speaking of which, I noticed that, except for English, the languages of singes used at the airport and the train station are different. Also, it irks me to have someone I know for quite a long time to speak to me in a language other than what I normally talk to them in.
We entered the platform with the card. Apart from the appearance, how to use the card to get through the fare gates are the same as back in our home country, apart from the gates being always closed instead of open when inactive.
The train we got on there seems to be a lot older than the station itself. In fact, it could be the same train model as when I took the train here a long time ago.
Along the way there, I noticed that, except for the signs and addition of elevators, the stations seemed to remain exactly the same as what I remembered it to be. There are also new buildings that have pooped up and old ones refurbished or demolished. Brings me back memories of my childhood friend here with our parents when we were kids and played together. It’s a shame he passed away in an accident with a truck just 2 months ago, which is why I am visiting his parents today and, and…
Izumi: Haruna-onnechan, what’s wrong?
Before I knew it, I was already crying. Other passengers were looking at us.
Me: Oh, it’s nothing. Something had pop into my mind…
The taught of his passing away at the site gave me the most realistic vision of what he might have seen: working with a doll that resembles very much like the one I saw shortly before I fainted, called a taxi as other modes of public transport are unavailable at that time, the driver of truck appearing to be drunk, the collision from the inside. However, the bright green flash happening during the collision seemed rather odd. Does that mean anything?
The train got crowded along the way and soon headed underground. Around the station where we would transfer if we are headed for the hotel, the large crowd has been reduced by a lot. I guess this is where the city center is.
Barely an hour from the airport, we arrived at the station. Knowing how quickly the trains would leave the doors open before closing them at each station, I helped Saeko to push Mamiko in her wheelchair out of the train and then proceeded to the elevator. There’s a problem: The station platforms are narrow and the able-bodied people were crowding at the elevator and had to wait some rounds before we could get on. Everyone else who took the escalator down and were waiting for us on the other side of the fare gates. I could sense the Hisakawa “twins” complaining about this.
Outside, I met up with dad’s university friend and his wife. They are the parents of the friend I was thinking about earlier.
The Father: Oh, Haruna! Is that you? I haven’t seen you since you were a young girl with your parents. I see you brought your friends along.
Me: Well, most of them will be heading to the hotel later, so you need not worry about accommodation
The Father: I see. I anticipated you bringing some of your friends along, so I had prepared a mini-van to my house. I parked it over there.
The car park was a short distance away as we talk about my childhood days or the times he spent in university with dad. My group of friends didn’t know what we were talking about as they either didn’t understand the language we spoke in or used a slang and names of places in the country they don’t know about.
We soon arrived at their house. Even though it has not changed since the last I was there, it now looks smaller. Though their type of house might be common in developed countries, it forms a small percentage of the houses with the rest being apartment buildings I see everywhere. I also heard that it now costs 20 times more due to land constrains.
Some time in the early evening, someone who seems to know The Father and Saeko turned up. Saeko seems to know that the conversation involves me and suggested everyone else, except Kyousuke (as I requested), to leave and meet up at the hotel tomorrow. Well, they were bored hanging out here anyway. Strangely, Mamiko, Saeko’s “twin”, is among those who are leaving.
Strange Man: Hello sir, Mister Itsuki Hisakawa, Miss Haruna Kobayashi. I’m Doctor Tan, a colleague of The Father’s son.
Wait… Didn’t I hear him call Saeko as Mister Itsuki Hisakawa? Am I hearing things? I seem to be the only one confused on what he just said. And what’s with the degree of formality in this conversation? I’m not used to having my name called formally.
Dr. Tan: Ah, Ms. Kobayashi. I see that you were one of the many people affected who has their mind modified to think that the Ms. Saeko Hisakawa you know here as the girl who is one of the top scores in your school. However, until May this year, this person was a boy who was a nobody at the other school in that area. I believe your friend’s oldest cousin who did not come along here is a student of that school and would know Hisakawa too.
Saeko: I think you meant my girlfriend I met last year, Ms. Kotomi Miyazawa. I think she would be shocked to find out what I have become now. She’s already shocked enough that I haven’t been to that school and no longer living at my former house since my change. I think I might pay her a visit after the holidays during the preparation of her school festival. As for the children Aiko brought along? I already know they are Kotomi’s younger siblings: I pretended not to know that and that her popularity at her school is too great to hide her personal info. I was happy when she herself chose me of all the guys. Ha ha. Too bad about my sex change later on though.
The Father made a loud cough. Seems that Saeko got carried away.
Saeko: Oh, and Haruna, what Dr. Tan just said is true: I was a guy before May, where a device I was working then turned me into a girl and made everyone that knows me who does not work at my company think that I was born a girl. Was surprised at it myself at first, but we are still childhood friends. Haruna? Haruna? You listening?
The knowledge that my memory had been modified and that my childhood friend was a boy not too long ago gave me a huge shock, but something tells me that there is more to come. Oh, wait. Something’s odd about when it happened…
Me: Don’t you find the time it happened to be about the same as the time the other childhood friend passing away?
Dr. Tan: Now that you mentioned it, it does seem to be that way. I will look into this if only I could get hold of that doll. However, I’m here to tell something else. Something that involves you and your childhood friend’s accident. The Father, can you listen on this too?
Me: Huh? Why am I involved with his accident? What did I do?
Dr. Tan: We did some research and found something interesting. Even though the accident itself is isolated, we found out that your wishing for him to be with you back in February triggered this to happen and caused you to loose control of your body and become frozen stiff until the person you wished entered your body and him taking control, which didn’t happen until the day after his accident.
Me: What do you mean? I can move my body normally by myself and I don’t sense anyone invading my body right now…
Saeko: Well, you might recall that you were in class but suddenly find yourself at the bathroom of your house with thunderstorms outside some months later. Between that day and the day after the incident, it seems that your childhood friend did take over your body, but was indirectly forced into by you. As you were still unable to control your body, he is now able to do so. As me and Aiko noticed, he doesn’t seem to know what to do what to in your body and that you are unable to communicate with him, despite residing in you. As Ms. Nagisa Sasagawa, your friend, pointed out to us that the rumors spread worldwide that he posted an entry in his blog after his death. We checked his blog and we did indeed see that post. It was too weird for a dead person to post this without someone else doing it or doing it in advance, but the way the post is structured is possible only if he posted it himself. Here’s the post.
Saeko used the nearby computer and headed to the website in question.
Sunday, 22 May
For the past two weeks, I have been through a lot of things. A lot of work was given to me, along with tight deadlines. The boss is very particular on punctuality and accuracy. As a result, I work so late into the night that the trains and buses had stopped operating for the day and had to take a taxi home. We were researching on a strange looking doll that appeared out of nowhere in front of me some months earlier.
One night, when I was in a taxi on the way home, something (which I later found out to be a speeding truck) was sounding the horn at us as it quickly got closer. Then, I heard the sound of a crash and, the interior of the taxi I was in rapidly closing in on me at the same time. It was then I saw a beam of green light shining from the inside of my bag.
The next thing I knew, I had woken up at a hospital of a distant place in the body of a girl, whose father is a university friend of my father, whom I had known since childhood. She had apparently fell into a coma since February. Incidentally that was roughly when the doll appeared.
The way I am now is a huge shock for me as my surroundings are completely different than where I was. Earlier today, a friend who was present when I woke up, helped me to send to the house after being discharged.
For privacy reasons, I shall not reveal who or where I am now or what I will be doing from now on apart from (trying to) living on as my childhood friend that I met via our parents.
Dr. Tan: On the day Ms. Hisakawa got cloned, she made notes about you and suggested his and your minds are to be merged together but did not intent to actually do it. However, later that day, she got cloned, whom you know as Mamiko. Saeko’s clone later went out with her friends and on the way to work from there, she got hit by someone whom we believe is linked to an organization wanting to steal out company secrets for evil doings. Fortunately, Aiko, the daughter of the director at our company headquarters, was the first to find Mamiko. They found the clone’s copy of what Saeko had written earlier and started working on it without waiting for her.
Saeko: That was before I even knew I was cloned and didn’t believed it myself until the day you came with me, during which, the merging of your minds had already happened. Until then, I was clueless as to why everyone was looking at me as though they saw a ghost.
Dr. Tan: Anyways, in order to remotely merge my colleague’s mind and yours, they waited for the time to make it look like lightning had struck you. They didn’t wait long for a stormy day to arrive and you being out in the open at the risk of being struck. That explains why you can now move your body because your minds are already merged. In fact, the you that was talking to us a while ago could in fact be your childhood friend that thinks and behaves like you. However, it seems what has happened from after your body began to froze until your minds merged seems to have been erased, but the knowledge gained by both of you in that time still retains.
I couldn’t believe what my ears told me. Seems too far-fetched to believe, but does explains a lot of what happened to me. Seems that the people like Saeko is just as shocked on what happened to themselves.
The Father: You mean that the Haruna that has been talking to us could be by my son?
Me: And that I forced his mind to enter my body?
Dr. Tan: Well, it’s a possibility. Other possibilities include her original self or the both of them at the same time without themselves realizing it as they are now one. It’s also possible that the mind of the original Haruna had seized to exist and your son’s mind is now thinking and behaving exactly like Haruna. As for Haruna’s question, think of it as an escape pod. As you know, the accident itself was not caused by the doll. The doll merely transferred his mind into yours shortly before he was crushed to death by the impact. What could have happened if it were not for that doll? Sent to heaven, reincarnate, into nothingness, who knows? Just some of the mysteries of life after death.
I was too shocked on what I had just learned that I started to cry. Kyousuke comforted me as I did. Kyousuke is right: he might have proposed to me before the merger and blamed myself for causing all of this to happen. If my mind is gone, then what is this me in my body now? If not, who exactly was I?
After dinner, The Father let me sleep in his late-son’s bedroom on the thought that he knows me from a long time ago or that I could be a reincarnation of his son. I am too depressed to care about everything else and headed to bed a lot earlier than I normally do. How many times have I cried today? I lost track of that, but I seem to be still crying even as I thought about it.
I can hear Saeko panicking about her clone disappearing into thin air. She seem to be on the phone talking to the group who went to the hotel earlier.
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