You say you want to stay by my side
Darling your head's not right
Yami no Karada
He could see the light above him, flashing across the surface of the water as it moved. He was trying to lie still, but it was difficult to quiet his natural tendency to shift his arms, legs, and hands, though he knew that even the smallest motion robbed his body of precious oxygen.
He could already feel the weight on his chest, the sense of yawning blackness as his body gradually devoured the air in his lungs. He had done this before, countless times, had even timed himself and knew he had a few minutes left before his eyes started to flash colors and shadows at the edges of his vision. He didn't panic. He felt himself smile slightly, and shifted to a more comfortable position on the bottom of the bath. His hands came to rest loosely on his belly, and his fingers twitched, tracing strange patterns in the clear warm water.
He looked up again. His hair floated above him, long and unbound, soft and black. Like seaweed, growing towards the surface, towards the light. He had a tendency to twist his hair, and pull his hair, when people weren't around, and as it floated above him in a soft cloud he resisted the urge to reach up and grasp hold, play with it a little, just to see if it was real.
A ringing noise was starting in his ears. This was it, then. The ringing would turn into a clanging, and then a siren wail, a then into a noise at a pitch where it wasn't a noise, just a sensation, a beating of blood in his head, against his skull, a tearing in his chest, the small sharp claws of panic. Only he never did.
His back arched a little. Colors. That's what he wanted. That's what he was waiting for. They weren't real, of course. They were like the noises. They came at the edge when he was barely aware, when he could barely see, they became reality itself, the cries of a brain denied oxygen. They weren't visual things, they were feelings, each one came with a soft wet pain, a headache like the popping of a bone out of its socket, until the pain ran together and became the cloud of distance, of drifting, and he couldn't feel or see and he couldn't tell which way was up and couldn't feel his arms or legs or belly or face and everything was blindness and painlessness and blackness becoming white.
His fists clenched at his side and he struggled not to struggle, not to kick his legs. His throat worked, muscles spasming seeking atmosphere that wasn't there. Pain spread through his chest like an ink cloud in water . Soundless noise blossomed in his head, he clenched his teeth, forced his mouth closed. Breathe. The demand. Only he couldn't.
His eyes flicked, slightly, stopped, fixed, straight ahead, staring. Light above blurred, ran at the edges, became splattered with darkness. Someone spilling paint. Greyness pooled at the edges, flickered with blackness, and a narrowing, the world growing smaller.
Orange flashed, red, purple, yellow, unhappy colors, colors of pain. He tried to inhale, felt his body jerk as his lungs struggled against the closure. He could taste tin in his mouth, not blood but fear, real terror. Softness. He wanted to reach up, clutch at his hair, twist it around his fingers and pull hard but he couldn't because he couldn't feel anything but the choking pain in his chest, he couldn't find his arms, couldn't move, nothing was real but the pain, and the silver beating of his heart that was pulsing beneath the growing void inside him, a light that grew, became smaller, with each beat spilled a little outwards, a liquid like quicksilver, a poison to spread through his veins and make him heavy, infect his lungs, slide into his eyes, which were wide open but couldn't see beyond the blur of smeared light and pulsing color, into his lips that tingled and grew numb and parted a little because he could taste water, suddenly, seeping through the spaces between his teeth. He ached to breath and he could feel his mouth opening, jaw like a gate leveraged open, unsenuous and desperate. His chest bucked.
He shot upright, plunging out of the water and gasping for air at the same time. Water spilled off him, his eyes were wide open and the light blinded him, reality surged back, the coldness of the air on his damp skin, the white walls. His lungs worked, sucking in air. He leaned against the edge of the bath, panting, and water spilled onto the tiled floor. He gulped and swallowed. He always forgot how good it felt just to breathe. His head came to rest on his arm and he pushed his hair back, sloppily, knowing it always made him look a little bit elvish, exposing his smooth forehead and perfect ears.
The bursting, ringing, blue-black spots beat at him for a while, as he leaned with his eyes shut, shoulders and chest heaving. When the disorientation finally began to abate, he opened his eyes and stood. For a moment he was afraid he was going to fall, his legs felt weak and his head detached. Then it passed, he was fine, and he climbed out of the bath.
"Are you all done, Ken?" His mother called as he headed back to his room.
"Uh-huh. Just let me get dressed, and we'll go."
He opened the door to his room, and paused for a moment in the doorway. His lips thinned, slightly. Then he stepped inside, quietly shutting himself in.
The computer on the desk was on. He crossed and reached out, paused with one finger on the on/off button. The light reflected off his naked arm.
There were words on the screen.
I heard your voice over the net.
Daisuke stared at his computer screen.
Someone rapped on his open door.
"Oi! Motomiya! You comin' or what?"
"Uh...yeah," he answered the boy in the doorway distractedly, turning his head slightly but keeping his gaze fixed on the screen. With one hand he reached out and grasped the mouse, flicked up to close the window.
"I ever tell you how much I want that machine?" The boy, Shindou, asked. Daisuke shook his head.
"Only about twice a day. Let's go." He stood, slapping his hands on the desk in a decisive manner.
"You getting any more of those weird messages, by the way?" Shindou asked as they headed for the Quad. Daisuke shook his head.
"No," he lied. "Must've been some kind of prank or something. He narrowed his eyes at the bi-color-haired boy. "Maybe it's been you all along."
Shindou laughed. "Oh come on, I know as much about computers as, uh…."
"Someone who doesn't know very much about computers?" Daisuke inserted tiredly.
"Yeah! Anyway, whoever did it has to be some kind of crazy stalker-fan type, and I'm really not looking to get into your pants.
Daisuke made a face. The thought of he and Shindou together that raced briefly across his brain was enough to make his stomach do flip-flops, in a breakfast-losing kind of way. Shindou was so much like him it was scary--people regularly commented that they could be brothers. Daisuke couldn't imagine ever being drunk enough to, er, check out Shindou's assets.
So to speak.
"Anyway," he said hastily, changing the subject, "How long is this thing supposed to last? I still have to get together the rest of the stuff for tomorrow's show. Kyouyama's letting me borrow all her Ringo Urami stuff, and--"
"Ringo Urami? You're really going to play that?"
"And I need to put the finishing touches on that mix I said I'd do for Yagami's party tomorrow night."
"You're a very busy man," Shindou agreed.
"I thought you were going to help. At least lend me your old Back Drop Bomb stuff."
"If I can find it. Hey, isn't that Miyako?"
Daisuke looked. They'd reached the center of campus faster than he'd realized, and he stopped when he saw the tall girl heading towards them.
"Hey you bums. I thought you weren't showing up at all tonight."
"And miss this? Besides, I have my public to think of," Daisuke said, in the face of Miyako's predictable eye-rolling.
"Why do we always have to come out here and support Ishida's damned band, that's what I wanna know," the girl, who, in an attempt to go punk, had dyed her hair a viciously natural brown, groused as she fell into step beside her two shorter friends. Daisuke shrugged.
"It's an excuse to get out. Besides, they don't suck too bad. Sure, the rhythms are weak, the lyrics hackneyed and the lead singer looks like a refugee from Westli-"
"Spare me, oh master critic of all modern music in Japan and the world over," Miyako interrupted, shooting Shindou a glare when the boy stuck his tongue out at her in his friend's defense. "Just because you have a net radio show--"
"Campus net radio show," Shindou corrected.
"Doesn't mean you need to bore the rest of us with your indie elitism, you crass boor."
"Well, I thought you'd appreciate a little sarcasm directed at someone prettier than you--" Daisuke began, then broke off with a yelp as Miyako attempted to attack him. He scrambled around Shindou, though the the other boy offered only minimal protection, , turning in place to see where Daisuke was as he ducked and dodged. Miyako shot a spate of acid curses in his direction, but they lacked any real malice, and after a few seconds of swiping she gave up, muttering imprecations against all short men. Daisuke snorted.
Yamato's band was already into its first set when they finally arrived. Students milled about in the purple twilight, and cigarette smoke wafted toward the heavens. Daisuke bummed a smoke off Koushirou and Miyako lectured him briefly on the evils of tobacco.
"A true veteran of American college chat rooms, our Miyako," Daisuke said, blowing smoke into the air.
"At least American college students care," Miyako said irritably.
"What do they care about?" Koushirou asked, not raising his eyes from his computer screen.
"About...issues, and stuff. Important things. Things that affect their lives. Japanese kids...they don't even get involved."
"I guess." Daisuke shrugged.
"It's true!" Miyako gestured sharply as the strains of Yamato's guitar washed over them. Koushirou looked up briefly.
"He really has improved," the dark-eyed boy said. Miyako grunted.
"Gimme a smoke," she said.
"It seems like only yesterday he knew exactly two chords, and used them with skull-shattering finesse," Koushirou continued, as he lit Miyako's cigarette.
"I see chivalry isn't compeletely dead," Miyako said with a smile, then gestured at Daisuke. "You know in America there are hardly any places you're allowed to smoke indoors anymore? Can you imagine a teachers' lounge that doesn't make you choke water when you walk in?"
Daisuke shrugged. Miyako sprawled on the grass and began counting stars.
"Listen, if this stuff was so bad for us, I'm sure the government wouldn't distribute it," Shindou said reasonably. Miyako grumbled a bit longer, but when no-one seemed to be interested in continuing the thread of the argument she fell silent. The evening deepened around them and they were joined later by Hikari, Taichi, and a handful of Miyako's friends, who fawned over Daisuke a bit until the boy, blushing in the heat of Miyako's lewd remarks, excused himself to the bathroom.
Ducking inside the nearest building Daisuke found it dark and empty. The windows were open all down the hall and it smelled of autumn, smoke and burning. He shivered, drew his jacket closer around his body and began to walk, footsteps echoing loudly in his own ears.
The stink of burning made the air thick, suffocating. Claustrophobic. He passed a window. Trees grew on the slope of the hill and their leaves rustled in a faint breeze blowing from somewhere, and he could hear Yamato's guitar wafting on the air, crawling over the foliage. Distance distorted the sound and swallowed up the older boy's voice, making it difficult to hear anything but the chords pitched so high they made the listener's skin crawl. The keening wail penetrated the walls and gradually killed all other sensation, and Daisuke found his footsteps slowing as he walked, slowing until he stopped walking altogether, and stood motionless by another window. His shadow fell on the moonlight that bathed the floor.
He drew a careful breath.
There was someone here.
He could feel it, in the cold. A presence, the sound of someone else breathing. The impossibly quiet noise of a heartbeat. Or perhaps not the sound at all, but the sense. Cold hands close by. Not touching, but close. Hovering. Fear, and wanting. Need without touch.
I miss you.
He turned. The hall was empty.
"Ken?" he said, then wondered why.
Noise screamed across the table, rattled the glasses, shook the plates, even though they didn't move. His hand jerked sharply and smacked into his own glass, spilling water everywhere.
"Ken!" His mother shouted from somewhere.
He leapt to his feet.
"Sorry,I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" he fumbled for a napkin, could feel his hands shaking. The noise didn't stop, it died a bit then came back full force, pitched into a wail, a terrible screeching sound that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He clapped one hand over his ear and struggled to sop up as much water as he could with the other until the noise turned into pain and he dropped the napkin and leaned against the table with his eyes squeezed shut, panting.
His mother's presence was quiet, stabilizing. He opened his eyes and looked down. She was holding one arm and her eyes were full of concern.
"Are you alright?"
"I-I'm sorry," he said again, looking down at her hand grasping his arm. He could feel his palm pressing into the side of his head, not against his ear at all, but against his temple.
"Does your head hurt?"
"Mhm…no," he said after a moment, drawing his hand away. The noise was gone. He wondered suddenly if it had ever been there. He became aware of the sound of water dripping off the edge of the table onto the tiled floor. It was on his shoes and down his legs now. He shivered.
"I think you'd better go the bathroom and clean up. I'll take care of this," His mother continued, turning slightly as a waitress began to head their way. Ken nodded dumbly and moved past her, awkwardly, as though he'd forgotten how to operate his own body.
In the bathroom he paused, standing in the doorway. He could hear a sound again, not unlike the one from before, but quieter. Faint and almost musical. Almost pleasant even. It sounded a little like someone singing, quietly, a low male voice that he almost recognized.
"A love song," he heard himself say.
He walked into the room.
The mirrors were small and round and he leaned against the sink, stared into the glass at his own face. He barely recognized it anymore. His hair was still long, longer than before, in fact, and hung nearly to his shoulders. He would be twenty-one soon, and then it would be time to decide once and for all what he wanted to do with his life.
He knew he was hearing music now. It was quiet, not like before; he recognized the strains of a guitar and could almost make out the words. Had he heard this song before? Who was singing it anyway? It sounded familiar…he shut his eyes and stilled his breathing, straining to hear. What were the words to this song? He knew them, he'd heard them once, a long time ago.
"Miss you," he murmured.
I'm coming for you.
He let his legs fold, lowered himself to sit on the floor, eyes still shut, touched his throat with his fingers. He felt warm inside.
I miss you.
I love you.
I won't ever let you go.
He was half asleep when a sharp noise drove into his head. His eyes flew open. Someone was knocking at the door.
"Ken? Ken, are you okay?"
He stood, unsteadily, brushing his legs off.
"Yeah. I'll be right out."
The music was gone now. The silence hurt. He let his hair fall in his face and felt tears sting the corners of his eyes. Silence was ugly.
"Are you okay, Ken?" the woman asked again.
He breathed deeply.
"I'm fine, Mama," he said quietly. "I'm fine."
Daisuke walked into the room and turned on the lights. He'd stupidly left the window open and the room was frigid, colder inside than it was outside. He cursed under his breath and crossed to the window.
Paused and looked down.
"Oh hell," he breathed.
He was leaning over the desk and the computer hummed quietly beneath him. The screen cast a faint blue glow on his arms and his jacket.
I miss you, it said.
He stepped back, away from the window, away from the desk. He swallowed and ran his hands through his hair.
I miss you.
Then the words flickered and vanished from the screen. Daisuke's hand shot out to the power button, but froze in place when his eyes locked on the screen, on the words that appeared in a new window, white text against a black background. His hand started to shake. He heard a noise in the doorway but did not look up, didn't look around, as Shindou came into the room and said his name from somewhere very far away. He couldn't move and he couldn't think, just stared at the words on the screen until his eyes began to burn, and then he blinked and stinging tears gathered in the corners of his eyes.
"Daisuke are you alright?" Shindou asked. But Daisuke couldn't answer. His eyes remained fixed on the screen even as he lowered his arm and stood away from the desk. His lips parted, mouthing the words that were there. Only he couldn't hear himself speak.
I'm coming for you.