By Gabi (Gabi@pinkfluffy.net)
The rain was heavy, not just a steady drumbeat, but rather the sound of
countless marching hordes drawing ever closer to his heels. He couldn't
remember where he'd come from or why he was there, wandering along that
lonely country road in the middle of such a heavy downpour, but at the
time, that didn't seem odd to him. He was simply there, nearly soaked to
the bone because he didn't have the presence of mind to fasten up the ankle
length slicker that seemed as foreign to him as the deserted road.
His slacks were soaked through up to his thighs, and the heavy woolen
sweater that he wore did little to turn water, seeming more inclined to
soak up water like a bloated sponge. He had no doubt that he probably bore
a striking resemblance to a drowned sheep, although he kept this
information to himself, and not just because he had no one to share it
He turned his face to the sky for a moment, and the water beaded and
bounced off of his glasses as he studied the clouds. This kind of rain was
unseasonable at this time of the year. He could find comfort in the most
mundane of observations. Science was comforting. Then the torrential rain
forced him to turn his eyes away from the heavens, even as he realized
ruefully that he didn't know what time of year it was.
He put his hands into his semi-dry pockets and bent his head to the rain,
knowing instinctually, even as he knew the rain was unseasonable without
knowing the season, that something was waiting over the crest of the hill.
He leaned into the wind even as his unfamiliar boots scrabbled for purchase
against unfamiliar stones as he trudged up the hill.
He stopped to glance up to the summit again and lightning gashed the sky,
illuminating clearly what he had totally missed before, or what perhaps,
hadn't been there minutes ago. But that was idiotic, for what he stared at
was the crowning iron spire of a weathered and aged cathedral. It was a
massive construction of pitted and whorled stonework, standing like a great
hulking shadow against the darkness of the night.
Something about the lighting of the storm, or lack thereof, had to be
responsible for his inability to see it before. It was the only logical
explanation. Something about the light had shifted, because now he had no
difficulty sighting the cathedral, because it was dark against the
twilight, against the shifting grays of the half-night. Yes. Something
about the light had changed, or the massive bulwark of stone had come to be
there in between the flashes of lightning. But once again, that was not
plausible, not acceptable. Gigantic stone churches do not just sprout up
like weeds while no one is looking. Still, despite the inexplicable nature
of the cathedral, he made for it because he felt any shelter was preferable
to weathering out this storm alone.
Up close, the cathedral looked even more forbidding that it did from the
road. It was a monstrosity of limestone and plate glass, all of which he
was sure was colored, but there was not enough light to confirm this. The
twelve front steps were smoothed and dimpled with age and the passage of
many feet. He avoided the worn in footprints ostensibly because they would
be slick from the rain, but honestly because something about them chilled
him, although he wasn't about to admit this to himself. He had no time for
childish superstitions. Yet even so, he picked his way up the side of the
The slight overhang of stone over the doors kept off some of the rain, and
he was almost tempted to make the best of it there, against the cool stone
wall, which was relatively dry. But a chill in his bones drove him onward,
to the heavy oak doors, intricately carved with a scene of the final
judgment. He could recognize the work, a piece by an Italian master whom
he couldn't quite remember. Ciotto? Perhaps Brunalesci? It was also out
of place. It had no reason to be here, in the middle of the countryside in
. . . and then he realized that he had no clear idea of where he was, other
than the fact that it was obviously rural and sparsely populated.
"Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark,
for the straightforward pathway had been lost."
He was startled by sound of the spoken words until he realized that he
spoke them himself. He hadn't meant to voice them aloud, although it made
little difference as his
own soft voice was almost lost against the cacophony of the rain.
Midway upon the journey of life. That was a startling thought for a boy
his age. A boy, a man, he wasn't particularly clear on the specifics, he
just knew he was someplace close to the age of sixteen. Mid to late
adolescence. It was somehow fitting that he should be standing in front of
these doors now, whether or not he was midway upon the journey of life.
There were times when he felt far older than he actually was, aged through
lost time, omnipotent yet blind at the same time. He knew all, yet knew
It was Socrates who had stated that to learn and understand, you must first
forget all you think you know, for it is your greatest hindrance. He
endeavored to do so now. If he went through these doors prepared for them
to lead him into the mouth of hell, then it would color whatever
observations he made. Someone or something was waiting for him on the
other side of those doors, and it was not necessarily Virgil. He had to be
prepared to accept it if it was instead Camus, or Heisenburg, or even God
He drew his breath in softly and then laid a hand against the door. It
swung in easily. It had to be very finely balanced, because he'd exerted
almost no force on it. He slipped through the space provided and into the
dimly lit interior of the cathedral, and as he did so the door swung
silently shut behind him. He turned just as it clicked shut and noted, in
the flickering candlelight, that the back of the door sported a carved
relief of the saints in paradise. Hell when you enter and heaven when you
leave. It was supposed to be the other way around. Somehow, this didn't
He turned his head to better take in his dimly ethereal surroundings but
his glasses fogged up from the change in temperature from the outside to
the inside. He impatiently took them off and tucked them into an interior
pocket and waited for his eyes to adjust. The first thing his eyes set on
was a polished wooden hat rack. Well someone had thought of everything,
hadn't they? He shrugged out of his slicker and the heavy wet sweater,
leaving his clad in his slacks and a mostly dry button-down shirt. He
tried to wring some of the water out of his shoulder length hair, so it
wouldn't drip down the back of his neck, but all he really did was get his
hands wet. Wiping them dry on his pants, he turned his eyes upward again.
The ceilings and windows were lost in shadows as the only light came from
spidery gilt candelabra, placed here and there along the walls. The aisles
of pews seemed endless, heavy oaken benches that looked as if they'd been
carved out of a single slab of wood. A few feet in front of him the smooth
stone floor stopped and a thick velvet carpet began. His eyes followed it
all the way through the endless sea of pews to a distant raised dais.
He couldn't make out what was on the dais, but there were considerably more
candelabra there. As if to make it abundantly clear which direction he was
supposed to go, lying neatly on the ground in front of him was a piece of
paper with a hand inked on it. The hand pointed one unwavering finger down
the softly lit heavy velvet trail and to the dais it eventually led to.
Here was his Virgil, a flimsy piece of cardboard from an unknown print
shop. Ruefully, he tucked it into his shirt pocket and then sat down on
the smooth stone floor. Out of deference to the building, no matter what
country they were in, he took off the heavy, muddy boots, and stood again,
somehow feeling infinitely more connected to what was happening, with only
a thin layer of stocking cloth separating him from the age-old building.
Without stopping to once again ponder what he did and did not know, he
began the walk to the dais.
The air was musty, old, as one might expect from such a place, but it was
not a smell of mildew, as many old places have. There was something
unusual in the air. It smelled of solitude, and loneliness. It smelled of
Over the must there was a faint air of incense, although no censers we lit.
It was a permeating smell, a smell that fixed a time and place. He knew
that later, even if he forgot everything else, he would still remember the
smell of unlit incense and the strangely smokeless candles.
After hours or minutes, he could not say because he had no watch and time
seemed to bend and flow in strange patterns in this place, he drew close
enough to the dais to see what it elevated. Behind the altar there were
three ebon coffins, spaced out asymmetrically on the thick red carpet. Two
of them took up much of the space, as if they'd been placed there first.
The third seemed almost an afterthought, shoved over to the side of the
dais as it was.
The primary coffins also appeared to be firmly closed and ready for burial,
while the third, smaller coffin lay open, as if still expecting mourners.
He could not see what was in it from his low vantage point, but he
suspected that it was this that the heavens wept over. Folding his
slender hands behind his back, he continued on, unwilling to turn back.
He took the steps by the altar slowly, deliberately and advanced on the
open coffin with the same slow caution. The other two coffins were closed
and they both had heavy wreaths of roses on them. He wondered why he
hadn't detected the scent of the roses earlier and then realized that it
was because the roses on the caskets were silk. Artificial and beautiful,
they were eternal, never to wilt and go blown like a garden-grown rose. Of
course, something cannot live for eternity if it has not lived in the first
place. The roses on the coffins were as eternal and passionate as stones,
and he began to wish that he hadn't noticed they were synthetic in the
The third coffin matched the others, except in size, and bore no adorning
flowers, making him once again wonder if mourners for this coffin had not
yet been by. Perhaps there were no mourners for this coffin and it was
like he, solitudnal and alone.
It was then that he noticed the lock of pink hair that hung over the side
of the coffin. He approached dispassionately and surveyed the coffin's
contents without blinking. There was a child in the coffin, a little girl
with pale rose hair and porcelain skin. She looked so sculpted, features
tiny and elven, that he could almost believe that she had already been made
up by the mortician. He knew this couldn't be true, as he could still
detect the even rise and fall of her chest.
She looked as if she were clad in her Sunday best, a navy black dress of
mourning. She was such a little girl, perhaps not even eight years old,
and she was sleeping in an open coffin. There was a child's stool nearby,
so he pulled it closer and sat on it, folding his hands over his bent knees
even as he quietly observed the silent girl.
The quiet was deafening. Somehow the massive stonework muted even the
violence of the storm outside, so all he could hear was her breathing, and
his own. When she spoke, it was both unexpected and eerie.
"What do you want?" her voice was soft and childish. She didn't move, and
her arms still concealed her face, so the words came to him slightly
"So you're not asleep?" he answered her question with his own.
After a long pause, she answered, "No, I'm dead."
He examined the silk lined elegance of the ebony coffin she lay in before
he responded dryly, "I am afraid I have to disagree with you on that count.
You're still breathing."
"That doesn't matter," she was firm in her child's logic, "I'm dead."
"I'm sorry, it doesn't matter how many times you say it, it's not going to
be true while you're still breathing. You can't force your will on reality
through mere strength of belief. You can't make something that's not true
true just by saying it often enough."
She reflected on this for several minutes in silence and he continued.
"Adults may tell you that you can make your dreams reality, but I'm afraid
that's not so in this case."
The silence held on for another long minute, and the she responded, "Well,
if I'm not dead, then I want to be dead."
"Dying is often painful," he observed absently, taking his glasses out of
his pocket and thoughtfully cleaning them on his shirt.
"I don't want to be dying. I want to be dead, " she explained as if he
simply wasn't catching on, "Death doesn't hurt. I've seen. It's quiet,
"Well, you can't get to one without going through the other," he murmured
and then put his glasses back on.
"So they hurt a lot before they died?" she asked softly and he could only
surmise that she meant the occupants of the other two coffins.
"I don't know," he responded honestly, "It's possible."
He watched her quiver, and knew, although he couldn't see her face, that
she was probably crying.
"Why is it that you want to be dead?" he asked quietly, one slender hand
tucking the long hanging piece of rose colored hair back into the coffin
"My parents. Those are my parents. They're both dead. I should be dead
too. I should have died too."
He turned to look over his shoulder at the silent coffins before speaking
again, "So you are all alone."
"They're dead and I want to be with them. Wouldn't you want to be with
your parents too?"
"I don't remember my parents," it was an honest answer, even if it did
avoid the heart of the question.
"My parents are dead," he said flatly, glancing up into the shadowed depths
of the ceiling.
"But I thought you said you didn't remember them," she sounded confused,
but at least she wasn't crying any more.
"Do you remember your parents?" he asked abruptly.
"Of course I do. You're not making any sense," she was starting to sound a
little cross with him. Well, that was better than the flat dejection she'd
started out with. Even anger is better than apathy.
"As long as you can remember your parents then they'll always live in your
memories. Even if you somehow managed to will yourself to die right now,
you'll live in my memories," he spoke slowly, trying to dull the edge of
his constantly icy tone.
"Then your parents are dead . . . " she connected it all up quietly.
"Because I can't remember them," he finished for her, the level emotionless
of his voice having neither raised nor lowered once throughout the
conversation. Soft and cold. He was soft and cold.
"So if I die, then my parents will really be gone," she was thoughtful.
"That is the logical conclusion, yes."
"So memories are like treasures then," she seemed to be puzzling this out
in her greater value system, "They're treasures of the people you don't
have any more."
That sounded remarkably kindergarten in sentiment. Still, it was
comforting in it's own way.
"I suppose so."
"What do you do when you don't have any memory treasures?" she asked
softly, "Isn't it lonely?"
It was his turn to be silent for several minutes, and when he spoke, his
voice sounded strangely vulnerable, not the way he'd intended at all, "Yes,
it is lonely. I suppose when you don't have memories of your own, you have
to find new ones or make some up."
"So I'm one of your new memories?"
He got control of his voice quickly, and answered in the same mechanical
tone that was his byline, "I suppose so."
He rose from the child's stool and turned from the coffin, putting his
hands in his pockets, "So, are you going to get out of the coffin?"
She was silent for several seconds before mimicking his voice surprisingly
well, "I suppose so."
He turned his head so he could just glimpse the rose of her hair in the top
of the coffin.
"But I'm going to stay here a while and remember first," her voice was soft
and thoughtful, "To make sure that I never forget them."
The silence was no longer eerie. It had become their companion during
their disjointed conversation. He enjoyed it for a spare minute or two
while she lay there quietly.
"What are you going to do?"
The question caught him off guard, but for some reason, he felt he owed her
"I suppose I'm going to keep going forward."
She seemed satisfied by this, at least to some degree, "But you will always
He turned back to face the coffin and found her sitting up. She'd
apparently been looking at his back for some time. For one long second,
their eyes locked, deep, pale blue met a faded, dry maroon, and then they
both turned away.
"You suppose so?" she asked softly, the barest hint of a smile, playing
around her small mouth.
He chuckled dryly and nodded.
"And I'll always remember you too."
His pink hair seemed to have an almost ivory cast to it in the flickering
candlelight. He brushed it out of his face and then turned to leave.
"Wait, before you go, tell me what your name is, so I can remember that
too!" she cried after him.
He paused, but did not turn back, preferring to master his emotions where
she couldn't see. At least he had held onto his name.
"N-Nemuro," he coughed as he spoke, but she still apparently caught it.
"Thank you, Nemuro-san. I promise I'll see you again."
He nodded once, curtly, and then continued on his way. She rustled about a
little and then laid down in the coffin again, to wait and remember. He
simply kept going forward.
Outside, the rain had stopped.
Second of such in two days. My, I'm feeling creative. This fanfic was
based my wondering what would have happened if Nemuro had met Utena while
she slumbered in her coffin. After all, just about everyone else gets to
meet her :P
Anyway, comments appreciated.