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Your name is Fujisaka Wasure. Age 27. Gender female. Do not panic if you realise you don’t remember your name.

 

It was unpleasant, to say the least, to wake up to this message scrawled upon my forearm, in terrible handwriting, in what looked like black permanent marker. My head was spinning, I searched my mind in a frenzy, only to come up blank.

 

That was right. I didn’t remember my name.

 

I pulled up the nightgown I was wearing. There was another message—an accompaniment to the first one.

 

You forget everything within 24 hours. Sleep is the trigger. Beware of sleeping pills.’

 

I picked my way out of the bed, stared around the brown-walled room. Unfamiliar. So unfamiliar, the atmosphere itself seemed to be going for a chokehold on my neck. The sky shimmered bright outside, the yellow curtains undulated in a gentle breeze, I walked to the closet to pick out some proper clothes.

 

I changed in the mirror. And that was when I noticed the third message. Written on my back in tiny print.

 

‘You can trust Nakamura Yuri.’

 

I picked my way outside.

 

Down the stairs of red carpet, the large windows that let in generous amounts of sunlight, more vases of fake roses, and then finally a living area. Where a woman sat watching a TV perched on a clean, white cabinet. She turned as she heard my footsteps. ‘Good morning, Fujisaka.’

 

‘Wh—Are you—’

 

‘Nice to meet you, Fujisaka. For you, this is our first meeting, right? Then nice to meet you again, Fujisaka Wasure. My name is Nakamura Yuri.’

 

Nakamura Yuri. Her name I embedded within in my mind. The one I could trust.

 

‘Don’t worry if you’re confused. It’s natural—natural for you at least,’ she passed her hand through her long, tumbling hair. ‘It’s fine. I’m here for you.’

 

Within her eyes gleamed something that comforted me. Her voice was soothing, like a breeze carrying the salty smell of the sea. As I thought that, the wind picked up, danced through the open windows and caressed my cheeks. ‘What am I supposed to do?’ I asked.

 

‘You have a job interview at 2 o’ clock,’ she informed me. ‘Just that. Don’t miss it. Your CV’s on the table. The address’s written in your phone.’

 

Her voice was firm now, insistent. I nodded instinctively.

 

I read my CV later, of course. Reading it like it was the only biography of myself I had left. Nothing clicked. Nothing had me swimming in déjà vu. I looked through it, memorised it, and told myself that was who I was.

 

My name is Fujisaka Wasure.

 

I flipped to the last page. It was a blank page, save for a page number and a tiny footer. I held it close to my face, read the text rendered in tiny print.

 

‘Library. Nine o’ clock.’

 

Something clicked.

 

So I turned to Nakamura Yuri, and said, ‘I’m going out for a bit.’

-----------|----------

My phone had no password.

 

It struck me as extraordinarily dangerous, but having to write down all of my passwords on my body every night must be a pain. I swiped through the home screen—a bare, empty one, with a background picture of a wave, azure with white foam, swirling upwards. No personality. It looked no different from those new phones displayed at the corner shop there, empty and expressionless.

 

I found the GPS, navigated my way to the library one way or other.

There was nobody at the library, not this early in the morning, not on a weekday. I was vaguely aware that I shouldn’t be here, that I should at work, carrying out my job to earn my paycheck. Like all adults should be doing.

 

My fingers brushed dust of the spines. Then I picked one out, based on something like instinct, one with a cover featuring a sea, a shimmering sheet of bright blue, stretching out towards infinity until it merged with the sky. I flipped through the copyright page, the author’s note, to the first chapter.

 

‘The sea was a friend. Yet also an enemy. That I thought, reaching my hand out, towards the lands beyond the horizon dyed crimson and gold by the setting sun. When will the sea return her, when will the sea calm and let us out of this accursed land, we wonder in our sleep, with every beat of our heart and every pulse of the waves crashing upon rocks.’

 

I had the book checked out.

 

‘No, you can’t, Fujisaka Wasure.’

 

The librarian was a guy. A guy that scared me, because he looked at me with a knowing glint in his brown eyes. ‘I mean, you’d just forget all about it tomorrow and leave them at your place, wouldn’t you?’ he politely pushed the book back at me. ‘I’m sorry, borrowing is not permitted for you.’

 

‘I’ll write a note to myself to return them. I promise.’

 

‘You said the same thing a few months back. We never found those books again.’

 

‘Then what am I supposed to do—’ I glanced at his name tag. ‘—Hiraoka Mikoto?’

 

He grinned, his teeth were pearly white—unsettling, even. What is a walking toothpaste commercial doing in a library? I commented on it; he suppressed his laughter. ‘Good job, Fujisaka. You pass.’

 

‘Pass what?’

 

‘The past hundred-or-so days, you’ve always commented on the teeth.’

 

‘I’m deeply unsettled that I’ve said the same thing so many times before.’

 

Hiraoka turned to another woman at the counter. ‘Cover for me, can you?’

 

She held up a thumbs-up without a word, her eyes firmly glued to the screen of her phone.

 

We burst out of the library to a storm brewing. Dark grey clouds rolled their way in, and as Hiraoka opened his mouth to say something, an earth-shaking clap of thunder blotted out his words. I asked for him to repeat.

 

‘The weather really changes at random these days.’

 

I caught up to him, and finally asked the obvious question: 'Where are we going?'

 

‘Nowhere in particular, actually,’ he stopped in front of an intersection. ‘I find that walking around provides a great atmosphere for talking. A lot better than talking in the library, that is.’

 

‘Is that so.’

 

The lights turned green, and people started walking. Like a wave washing over rocks, the flow of people that intersected with each other on either side. Hiraoka turned to me, ‘You might want to walk faster. You don’t have much time left.’

 

‘Don’t make it sound like I’m going to die.’

 

‘You are going to die,’ he stated.

 

‘Care to run that by me again?’

 

‘I meant it figuratively.’

 

‘Jeez, don’t scare me.’

 

‘I mean it. As night falls and the world falls to a slumber, the ‘you’ that is here right now will die. I don’t know if you’ve grasped it yet, but this is what this disease of yours means. Every day, you die and are reborn again. Every day, there exists a different ‘Fujisaka Wasure’ that walks with us. You have just been born this morning. And this night, you will die again.’

 

Silence for a few steps.

 

‘Don’t talk all high concept like that.’

 

He burst out laughing again, his white teeth flashing in the sun. ‘Of course. Of course. Sorry, I guess all the books I’ve read have gotten to me,’ he laughed. ‘On another note, what makes you want to check out that book? That book about the sea?’

 

Lightning flashed somewhere above. I closed my eyes, and I almost could see it—the sea in the pictures. An endless reach of blue; white foams swirling upon thin, soft sand; and when the sun set upon it, it would dye the world red and gold.

 

‘Because the sea sounded nice.’

 

He gave me a look, a look like he understood everything about me, a lot more than I could ever comprehend. ‘Is that what you want? The sea?’

 

‘What do you mean?’

 

‘Would it please you, Fujisaka? If you were to head out to the seaside now, to see the ocean now?’

 

‘…Maybe it would.’

 

He drew to a halt. We were in somewhere I didn’t recognise now, a small road lined on both sides by shops. Most of which had their shutters drawn, and had faded signs hanging above the entrance. But in front of us was a shop that was bright, and open. An udon shop.

 

‘Have your lunch here.’

 

‘Is there no other choice?’

 

‘Someone is waiting for you inside. You might not want to make her mad.’

 

‘Why am I doing this again?’ I asked.

 

‘Because you truly do not want to keep that person inside the udon shop waiting.’

 

He gave me a quick nudge. The udon shop, with menus plastered on the glass and the faint smell of soup wafting from the interior, actually looked rather promising--welcoming, even. I was hungry, I realised. So that was what the grumble in the stomach was about.

 

‘Well, before that, one final thing.’ He reached into his pocket, fished out a piece of paper. ‘A parting note.’

 

I flipped the paper over, and a wave of déjà vu washed over me. I pulled up my sleeve instinctively, comparing the handwriting on my arm to the one on the paper.

 

The same.

 

‘You are free to do anything.’

 

‘What—’

 

‘It is a parting note, as I said. Or you could even call it a message of the dead. The Fujisakas from past days, past lifetimes, of sorts.’

 

‘But— what about—’

 

‘I’m fine. The library orders lunch for its staff. They taste terrible, but at least it’s better than what they serve in here—’ he pointed at the udon shop.

 

‘What. Did. You. SAY?!!’

 

The door burst open with a furious vengeance, and there stood a young woman, probably about my age, in a cooking apron and with her hands at her waist. ‘Well damn you too, Mr Library!’

 

‘I don’t like udon and that is final,’ retorted Hiraoka. ‘Plus, you’re scaring Fujisaka.’

 

‘Fujisaka will have my udon and that’s all I care about.’

 

‘Is there any room here for refusal?’ I asked.

 

‘No. There isn’t,’ the woman reached forward, grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the shop. ‘Welcome again, Fujisaka Wasure. You don’t remember my name. Of course you don’t.’

 

I was forced into a seat. Abusively. A menu was slammed down in front of me. ‘You can order as much as you want. The expensive things preferably. You’re rich, after all.’

 

‘I’m rich?’

 

‘Of course you are. How else do you think you have been able to sustain yourself? Years and years on end without a job. Never running out of money. Lucky kid you are.’

 

‘Oh yeah, I have a job interview at 2 o’ clock,’ I remembered. The CV was still in my hands, a reminder of what Nakamura said.

 

‘Don’t miss it.’

 

And the note in my hand. ‘You are free to do whatever you want.’

 

‘Yes, yes, a job interview,’ she sighed. ‘I’m always here, running this damn udon shop on my own without any help, and what does she say? She has a job interview somewhere else in some big company. Good grief.’

 

She slipped into the seat opposite me, angry eyes glaring straight at me. There was a name tag attached to her chest. ‘Watanabe Kiyomi,’ I read.

 

‘Thank you. Saves me the introduction. It’s tiring having to do this day after day.’

 

‘Is it tiring to deal with me?’

 

‘Of course it is, idiot. Reintroducing yourself every day, drilling you on the same basics every day, every single day—imagine doing it yourself now, Fujisaka. Just imagine it.’ She paused, to give me time to imagine. ‘Tiresome, isn’t it? You’re the embodiment of tiresome, Fujisaka.’

 

The words left a bitter feel somewhere in my chest.

 

‘But then that means you’ll come to the Kiyomi Udon Shop every day, so I suppose it isn’t so bad after all, huh? She pointed at a random item on the menu. ‘Will this udon do for you?’

 

‘Y—yeah.’

 

She headed into the kitchen, and came back with a bowl filled to the brim with udon. Placed it in front of me. ‘Now, we can talk.’

 

‘Talk about what?’

 

‘Where you want to go.’

 

‘Why is it that I have to go somewhere?’ I asked, voicing out the constant confusion. ‘Why can’t I just stay here? Get a job or something?’

 

‘Well, if that’s what you want, then sure, sure. Go ahead.’

 

Her voice fell to deadpan.

 

‘Okay, okay,’ she said after a moment of awkward silence. ‘Let me put it this way. You only have one day. This one day. Doesn’t that make you sad?’

 

‘Maybe it does.’

 

‘Then that means you need to live out this one day, to the fullest.’

 

She reached for the container at the side of the table—the one containing the chopsticks. She grabbed a pair and began clicking them together. ‘Hiraoka likes to talk in a roundabout way, dont'cha think?’

 

‘Yeah, he does.’

 

‘So let me cut to the chase. You like the ocean, don’t you?’

 

The moment she mentioned the ocean, I could almost hear it again: the cries of seagulls, circling the sky with wings spread open; the splash of waves upon the white sand, and onto a pair of feet sunk into the surf; coconut trees swaying and their huge leaves rustling together like a melody.

 

‘So go there.’

 

She fished out a piece of paper—a larger one this time, and pushed it across the table.

 

‘A letter from the dead.’

 

‘Huh?’

 

‘Just read it.’

 

I flipped it over, glanced over its contents—it was the paragraph from this morning, the opening lines from the book. And then below that—

 

‘I wanted to go there. The sea. But—’

 

 

‘But we never made it. None of us did.’

‘We never made it there. But you might be able to.’

‘The Fujisaka that is alive and breathing now.’

‘Carry on with our wishes.’

 

‘Do you know what you want to do now?’

 

----------|---------

 

The train for the seaside departs at 2 pm, according to Watanabe.

 

It was 1:50 pm now. And outside it was raining. Torrents upon torrents of rain. I bought a ticket at the station, with whatever money I had left after paying for Watanabe’s udon. There weren’t many people at the station, the skies rumbled darkly as the speakers blared announcements about delays on various train lines.

 

‘Fujisaka.’

 

With a jolt, I turned, and there stood Nakamura Yuri, a can of coffee in one hand, an umbrella in the other.

 

‘I—I—’ I tried to make up an excuse.

 

‘No worries. Really,’ she held out the coffee. ‘You want a drink?’

 

I accepted, feeling the bitter taste of coffee scorch its way down my throat. ‘I’m sorry for missing—’

 

‘Yeah, yeah, I know. There’s no way we can make it in time even if we rushed there now. We’ll just have to give it up now, don’t we?’ her soothing voice washed over me, as if convincing me it was alright, it was all fine.

 

‘Then—’

 

‘It’s still a pity, though. Undeniably so. You’ve always been unemployed for so many years, you know. So many years.’

 

‘Is--that so.’

 

‘I wonder when I’ll have to finally retire. When the years will catch up to me, and we’ll lose our final source of income. I don’t suppose the pension can cover for both you and I, isn’t that right?’

 

Something she’s saying isn’t right, a thought occurred to me. Something. But my mind was hazy, like I’d just woken up, or—

 

‘Nakamura Yuri,’ I asked. ‘Who are you again?’

 

‘Well, here’s the thing,’ she continued. ‘I’ve raised you up all this time, paid for your education—although that was short-lived, and I had to buy you a degree—’

 

‘Huh?’

 

The train zoomed in, rattling the tracks. It squealed to a halt, before the doors opened with a puff of steam.

 

‘But you’ve just gone ahead and done whatever you want. Whatever the heck you want. Without considering the consequences. Because you’ll never remember them anyways.’

 

I took a step back—and stumbled. The ground was spinning.

 

The note on my thigh flashed before my eyes, like a dying message: ‘Beware of sleeping pills.’

 

‘I’m pissed, Fujisaka. As your mom, I’m pissed like you wouldn’t believe.’

 

I ran for the doors, forcing my eyes open.

 

‘So please come back with me. Stop associating with those people.’ She grabbed hold of my arm, squeezing tight, an iron grip. ‘Don’t tell me that you want to live your one day to the fullest. Because what’s the point if you have to rely on people for the rest of your life?’

 

The train was about to leave. And—

 

‘That’s why I never managed to make it to the sea, isn’t it?’ I snapped at my mother. ‘Every day, you came and—’

 

She smiled. Peacefully. ‘Please.’

 

‘You hate me, don’t you?’

 

‘I don’t, Fujisaka. I’ve always loved you. I’ve always wanted the best for you.’

 

‘Then I’ll figure something out.’

 

I ripped myself free from her grip. Strength ebbed within my veins.

 

‘I’ll get a job. Somewhere, somehow, with someone I want to work for. I have only one day, and I’ll always want to live it to the fullest. Today I want to see the sea. Tomorrow I’ll want something else. But you don’t have to hold me back like this, Mom. I know what I’m doing. And before the ‘me’ that’s in front of you dies tonight, I want to see the ocean.’

 

I ran into the train, just as the door closed. Another puff of steam, and I was on my way.

 

A few hours later, as the train rolled into the seaside town, I could see it. The sea, shimmering in the sunset. Stretching out into infinity. 

June 04, 2020 07:44

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3 comments

A. Y. R
13:08 Jun 09, 2020

This was so suspenseful! I was hooked on every word! You did a really fab job at building up the tension!

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Haruko Otonashi
13:46 Jun 09, 2020

Thanks!

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Barry Litherland
13:22 Jun 11, 2020

This was an absorbing, disturbing and powerful tale. It has a strange, haunting quality. I loved it.

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