A Little Black Box
One cloudy afternoon, a kunoichi lounged on one of the two swings in the playground.
He watched, fascinated, as the stone tumbled up and down the length of her arm of its own volition. No strings. No mechanisms. No chakra.
He gasped when it vanished into thin air, only to reappear a second later, stuck to her forehead and framed by pink locks. As if it was meant to be there.
It was... perfect.
He did not know the words to articulate his thoughts, only that it was perfect. It stole his breath away.
The kunoichi repeated the mesmerizing motions several more times.
The stone crawled down the side of her face. Weaved in and out of her fingers. Dropped straight down, only to come to a complete halt just before hitting the ground, then snapped straight back up into her waiting palm as if compelled by the unseen force.
And just like that, she was done.
She pocketed the stone, stood up and left the playground. Only her footprints in the sand remained.
But his heart was still pounding from what he'd just witnessed, even after she was long gone. Even after the sun set and the dunes lost their color.
So he dared to return to the exact same place as yesterday, at that exact same time...
There she was again, just like before. The stone danced against her skin, just like before.
His breath was stolen away once again.
He didn't know her name. He didn't know where she came from.
But every day she would sit down at that same swing, heedless of the weather. Every day she would perform small feats with a stone that, to him, weren't so small.
And every day, he would watch her from a safe enough distance, on the other side of the playground.
To him, she represented all of the mysteries of the universe. It was as if he was standing on the very cusp of reality and something else. Like he was witnessing a hidden truth of life known only to her, a hidden truth which he barely understood.
He wanted to understand. The kunoichi. The stone. The mystery. The allure was just too great.
And so each day, he moved closer to her. Closer than he dared.
Emerald met jade.
The kunoichi paused, stone in hand.
The boy froze, too.
He had taken a gamble, a leap of faith, and entered her periphery.
Call it crazy. Call it foolish. Call it hopeful.
In his singular pursuit of mystery, the boy had stepped out of his comfort zone and made the first move.
Memories of previous attempts at contact with other individuals flashed through his mind's eye. His heart wasn't strong enough to withstand another rejection. But deep inside, he had this desperate hope, a plea, that the mystery he had focused all of his attention would be different.
The kunoichi brightened. She fingered the stone.
She was giving him a smile.
With trepidation, he asked her what she was doing.
She invited him to sit and watch with an expression of mischievousness and warmth.
He did so, and she obliged his request. Once more, the stone danced to an unknown rhythm right before his eyes.
There was nothing to fear. He was still free to dream, to wonder, to marvel. And he was glad.
There was no more hesitation on his part.
From then on, both swings were occupied in the afternoons, heedless of the weather.
For a short time each day, the kunoichi made him breathless, made his heart pound. He was immersed in something that he could only describe as... magical.
Still, the seasons changed, and all good things eventually came to an end.
She was leaving, but he still had yet to crack the mystery of the stone. He was only a child, much younger than her, so he could not hide his disappointment in himself and his frustration at the situation.
Life marched on, and time was slipping from his fingers like the grains of sand beneath their feet. And there was nothing a child like him could do in the face of such power.
The kunoichi bent down so they were eye level, and held out the stone for him to take.
He shook his head stubbornly. He knew that if he took that stone, she would be gone. And who knew when he could see her again? The future had never felt so far as it did now.
She blinked at him.
If he weren't so distraught, he would have felt proud to have been the one to make her breathless this time.
But then she smiled at him again, less forced than earlier. More longingly and infinitely more pretty. It suited her, he thought absently. Especially like this, under the moon beams, she was even more mysterious and alluring than ever before. A splash of color against the muted sand dunes.
She leaned forwards.
Jade eyes widened at the tender, feather-light touch of her lips on his forehead.
I promise that I won't forget you.
In a stunning moment of clarity, he understood the meaning of his existence. It was as if he knew where forever, heart, and soul lie. An acute throb of pain pierced his heart as both unbearable happiness and unbearable sadness melded into one.
His fingers clenched her hand, which still held the stone.
He knew that they couldn't always be together. Despite his dominion over sand, even he could not control the sands of time.
Bit by bit, his anxiety melted away, replaced by something else.
And everything around him faded to black, until all that was left was the feel of her soft lips...
He did not know how long they held this position. Nor did he know when he closed his eyes. But when she pulled away he was not the same boy he was before. Nothing in his life was the same as before.
As if unable to help herself, she leaned towards him again. This time, her arms wrapped around his frame.
That night, they abandoned the swings.
Sitting together underneath the slide, they talked for a long time.
When the first rays of sunlight spilled over the dunes, she separated from him at the playground entrance.
Later that same day, he sat alone on his usual swing.
The stone was in his hand.
I promise that I won't forget you, either.