Disclaimer: "Haibane Renmei" and all its characters belong to Yoshitoshi ABe, Aureole Secret Factory, and other people, distributed in the United States by Geneon/Pioneer entertainment. Bottom line: I don't own it, I'm just in love with it, and I am doing this fanfiction out of pure love – not for money.
Author's Note: The world of "Haibane Renmei" can be taken in a variety of ways (it's just that mysterious!) This story is based upon a theory I've seen in a couple of places: The idea that Haibane are children who have died – and that their cocoon dreams (from which they derive their names) reflect their deaths.
SPOILER WARNING. Please do not read this if you do not want to be spoiled for some aspects of the end of the anime. Though this is a prequel of sorts, this fanfiction deals with some aspects that are not revealed until the end of the series.
BEFORE WE HAD WINGS
~* Falling *~
The girl stood upon the balcony. She ran her hand along the metal rail as she listened to her parents argue behind her, inside the apartment.
"They don't care..." she said to herself. She disturbed a pair of crows that were perched upon the railing. They flew off with caws of protest.
"Your mother's nothing but a meddling old crow!" the girl heard her father shout at her mother. "I'm not sending her to live with that woman! No way!"
"Well, what do we do with her, then?" came the screamed reply.
The girl sighed again. No one wanted her. Talking to her grandmother helped her to feel better sometimes, but she could feel that even she didn't really want her around. She was nothing but worthless, a failure as a human being.
"I want to just disappear," she whimpered to herself. She looked down at the puckered lines on her arm. Her parents saw her after she did that. They only called her crazy. They never bothered to ask her why she would hurt herself.
"They don't even care that I'm out here on the balcony..." she quietly observed, "When I was little, they told me never to come out here alone. They trust me not to fall now."
She looked down onto the street. The cars looked like toys from this height. She looked out across the street and watched the city birds flying, in flocks, in pairs. None of them were alone.
"I wonder if I can fly like that," the girl whispered. "Yes. That's what I want to do. I want to disappear. I want to fly away from here. No one will miss me."
She braced herself and climbed over the railing.
~* Shortcake *~
There was no hope for the child, so the doctors said, outside of a miracle.
"They're lettin' me come home?" the boy asked his mother, who sat at his bedside.
The woman regarded him with a long, sad look. Something in her face, however, was glad. It was a bittersweet expression. She stroked her son's hair.
"Yes, they doctors said that you can come home."
"Does this mean that I'm better?"
Tears welled up in the woman's eyes. "No, honey..." she sighed. "The doctors just think that you'll be happier at home. Maybe..." her voice cracked with the words, "Maybe you'll even get better... if you're happy and around your father and sisters and I...at home."
The child's weak voice whispered a single word with a breath exhaled.
"Will you make me shortcake, mommy? Shortcake with berries? I miss shortcake."
"Anything... anything you want..."
He was indeed happier at home than he had been at the children's hospital. He could not run and play with his sisters as he once had. Still, it was great having them around. They'd both sit on the end of his bed and talk to him, or play simple board games, which they propped up for him atop his blankets.
Every evening, his mother made him shortcake. She topped it with strawberries and whipped cream. The child would become sick often, but he always tried to keep the spongy, sweet yellow cake down. After all, it was his favorite.
When he became too weak to lift the fork to his lips on his own, his mother gently spooned tiny portions of the desert into his mouth. It became one of the few pleasures that he could enjoy – the taste of sweetness in his mouth as he saw his mother's face looking down on him. She always looked so worried and sad. He did not want her to feel that way, not when he was so happy. It hurt to breathe and he felt weak all the time. His tiny body was filled with pain. Yet, when he ate his mother's shortcake, he could only think of how happy he was that she was there beside him.
~* Light* ~
"Looks like massive trauma here... possible head injury. Hurry up!"
Her mother was crying. Garbled voices swam above her.
"What happened here?"
"Hit and run. Passerby made the call, say the car just sped off. Bastard."
"My baby! No! Please, God! My baby!"
"Ma'am, you'll have to stay back."
A light shined in her face. There were shadowed figures above her. One of them held the light, shining it right in her eyes. She could see the large cracks in her glasses, gleaming in the harsh light.
"My little girl! No!"
"We're gonna get her help, Ma'am. Please, you need to stay back."
There was light before. There were the streetlights, the red light, and the green light. There was the light that said that it was okay to walk. She had run ahead of her mother. Then there was white light, twin white lights shining brightly, fuzzed with the rain in the air.
She didn't feel the impact. She woke up laying on her back, her head and her chest hurting. Her arms and legs felt numb. Light was all around her, bright, white light. She was enveloped in it, all this light, shining down on her. The stranger shined the little flashlight in her eyes again. She wished he would stop it. It hurt.
~* Air *~
She was so excited! This was her first trip on an airplane. She had just gotten a new travel bag just for the occasion. She was to visit her father across the country, and was old enough now to be let on the plane alone. A flight attendant seated her. The little girl was overjoyed to get a seat by the window.
She was proud. She felt like she was grown up, going on this trip by herself. Oh, the rush of the plane taking off! It felt like she was on a roller coaster!
She watched the clouds outside the window. She looked down upon the land below. It looked like relief map. All the buildings looked like little model houses – like game pieces. She'd always wanted to fly... this was so neat!
The plane rocked and she heard a rattling sound. Everyone looked toward the back of the plane. The girl was filled with sudden fear. The look on everyone's faces was that of uncertainty, then of terror.
The girl clutched her travel bag as everything vanished in flames, noise, and light. The plane became a streak of fire across the afternoon sky.
~* Sleep *~
The girl yawned. Her father held her hand, careful to avoid touching the IV in her arm.
"You're tired," the man said. "Maybe I should go, let you get some rest."
"Daddy..." the girl protested. "No. I don't want you to go. Not yet."
"Okay. I'll stay."
"I wish I wasn't so sleepy all the time..." She yawned again.
"I know, honey. The drugs make you sleepy, but they keep you from hurting too much."
"Read to me daddy, please?"
The man picked a book up off the bedside table. It was his daughter's favorite. It was his favorite, too, when he was young. Its cover was worn and its pages were dog-eared and yellowed with age. He opened it to the place where they had left off reading last, though this was at least the third time he had read this particular book to the girl.
She ran her index finger along the sentences, reading aloud as he turned the pages. She was remarkably literate for her age. The child could not get enough of books – having them read to her, learning letters for herself. She yawned again, and her eyelids grew heavy.
"Honey, I'm going to let you rest now, okay?"
The man left the room, leaving his daughter to sleep. He was unaware that when she slept and dreamed, that she dreamed all too deeply.
~* Water Fish *~
"I'm going to beat you!" she laughed. She ran ahead of the other girls and past the boys that were in her group. The sun shown brightly on the shore of river, turning its sands to glitter. Stars danced upon the water. It was a great day for swimming.
The girl loved summer camp, though she was always getting into trouble with the camp counselors for getting into fights with the boys. It wasn't her fault that they were jealous of her. She could out run them, climb trees faster than they can, and higher into the branches, she could outdo them in sports, and she could out swim them.
She thought of stripping off her bathing suit to go skinny-dipping, just to annoy the head counselor, but thought better of it. Besides that, she had a pair of shorts on over her suit. She needed the pockets in it. She carried her grandfather's watch in her pocket. It never left her side. It was broken, so she didn't mind taking it into the water with her. It wouldn't matter if it got wet. It wouldn't rust so long as she dried it off well after she swam. She thought she might try to fix it someday. For now, it never left her side. It was the last gift he gave her before he died.
She chased the birds that were pecking about for food on the shoreline and laughed as she watched them fly away. Filthy scavengers.
She was the first to get into the water. She jumped off the sandy shore an arching dive. She laughed as the cold of the water hit her, tickled by the refreshing waves. She swam out to the middle of the river.
The girl dove under, down into the darkness of the water. Life was no better than this, swimming, floating, feeling the current play against her skin. She patted her pocket.
It was missing!
She quickly looked down. The watch had fallen out of her pocket and was sinking down, down, down, into the dark waters.
She had to rescue it! She couldn't loose that watch. She was going to fix it someday. She promised herself that. She promised her grandfather that. The girl dove down after the shining object.
Something dragged her down. She fought against the current of the river, reaching out into oblivion for the watch. Her lungs felt like they were on fire. She kicked toward the surface.
Her head hurt. Precious bubbles escaped her nose and mouth.
She pumped her legs and clawed toward the surface, the watch forgotten now. She felt herself being dragged down, her limbs becoming heavy. The world of water grew fuzzier. She felt herself being pulled down, down, down into the darkness.
~* Flower *~
The preschooler danced in the garden. She twirled her skirt and looked up at the clouds. She loved coming out here, to her aunt's house, even though it was in the city. The front yard was small, but her aunt had turned it into a beautiful garden.
The little child loved picking the flowers. She tried to put them in her hair to make herself look like a princess like those in the storybooks her mommy read to her. She loved the flowers. There were always flowers blooming in this garden, no matter what time of year it was. It was Spring now, so it was especially lovely.
The girl found a dandelion. She found another, and another. She picked them and made a little bouquet. Her auntie told her that dandelions were weeds, but she thought they were pretty. She knew her aunt wouldn't mind her picking them, as she didn't want them in her garden anyway.
Cars rolled by in the street beyond the garden gate, thunderous in their sounds. Wheels rolling on pavement, the "thrumb-thrumb" of someone's boom box, the backfiring of a muffler.
The girl's aunt said that she had planted the garden as a way of achieving peace in this loud, dirty city. The girl looked out across the street as she heard something unfamiliar, a sound like firecrackers as two cars rolled by.
She did not feel the stray bullet that struck her.
~* Ice Lake *~
Ice hockey – his favorite sport. He strapped on his skates and called his friends and they all gathered at the lake in the park.
The old man who lived at the edge of the park warned him that the ice was too thin today. Bah! What did he know? It had been the coldest weather in ten years. The boy and his friends had been skating on that lake all winter, and he had been on that lake almost every day of every winter of his life, since his father had taught him to skate when he was four years old.
He pulled his hat down over his forehead. It wasn't a winter hat, so it did not do well to protect his ears from the biting cold, but he didn't really care. He always wore this hat. It was his lucky baseball cap. It went everywhere with him. It only left his head when he bathed. He even slept with it on.
He skated out to the middle of the lake and called for his friends to follow. They needed to set up their goals after all. He swung his hockey stick over his shoulder.
The ice groaned. One of his friends shouted to him to skate back. He cried out as the ice cracked beneath his feet. He felt the water roll over him in a frigid wave, pain stabbing his legs like daggers of ice. He flailed his arms trying to grab hold of something. His lungs felt like they had shut, slammed like a door. He gasped for breath as he felt his fingers slip on the edges of the ice.
~* Pebble *~
The tears felt cold on her face as she walked along. The night was cool, but not frigid, save for the wind that whipped at her hair, tugging at the edges of her jacket. She had trusted him, only to be betrayed. She had trusted them, and they only repaid her with cruelty.
Whenever she opened her heart to anyone, she had it run over. She felt like she had been flattened, crushed, been run over and torn apart. No one understood her.
She lit a cigarette. She was far too young to smoke, or so they said. She'd been smoking for close to a year now, stealing cigarettes from her mother's purse when her mother wasn't paying attention.
It wasn't like her mother paid attention to anything, anyway, least of all her.
She wanted to not feel pain anymore. She wanted desperately not to care. No one cared about her. She didn't want to care about anyone anymore.
She watched the moonlight glint off the pebbles as she walked along the rail. She always came to the railroad track whenever she felt lonely. Some would call her a girl from "the wrong side of the tracks". She didn't know about that. What was the "right side of the track" anyway?
"I want... to disappear..." she whispered, talking to herself. "I want to become like one of these pebbles... unfeeling. No one would care if I went away. No one would care if I just walked along these tracks forever, right out of town."
She heard a low sound behind her. It was a train's siren. She saw the light of a freight train in the distance approaching her.
Normally, she would have gotten off the tracks. She found herself lying down on them instead.
"I just don't... care anymore," she whispered as she felt the track beneath her body rumble and heard the train siren growing ever louder.
For anyone who has not guessed which section is for which Haibane, or perhaps if you haven't seen the series in a while and are a little fuzzy, the order is: Rakka, Shota (that little boy Haibane in the second episode who really liked shortcake), Hikari, Kuu, Nemu, Kana, Hana (the little girl Haibane in episode 2 who showed Rakka how to use her wings), Hyohko, and Reki. (Well, the Rakka and Reki ones should be pretty obvious).
I apologize if anything is amiss. I wrote this fanfiction in a fit of fire-hot inspiration and toward the end, it was getting to be bedtime for me... so I started to get a bit foggy-brained.
I also apologize if this is a little too morbid. It seems like every fandom I become really involved in, I need to write at least one morbid story for.
~Shadsie, 3/2004 ~