Chapter Two: Decouverte

He was walking in a wasteland that stretched on past his line of vision and into a hazy, rippled skyline. The path he walked was made of dunes of soft, black sand that slipped and slid beneath his bare feet, and harsh, dry wind scraped against his body. He wore nothing, but was oddly unashamed.

He could sense that behind him lay everything he ever had been, and turning back was impossible. Before him walked a figure dressed in a long, black, fringed shawl, and its strings and strands scattered out in the desert wind. The figure carried a water gourd at its side, and left no footprints in the sand.

Finally, he was thirsty, and asked the figure for a drink. When it turned, he saw that the shawl was not a shawl at all, but dark waves of hair against smooth, dark skin, and the figure spoke sadly in a woman's voice.

"You may drink, but you might not like its taste."

A sound that he at first mistook for the grinding of metal against linoleum floors woke him. He sat up so quickly his head spun, and the room fogged into clouded black before coming into focus again. Silence hung in the room like a shroud. Cold moonlight poured through the window panes, lighting it like a scene from an old black-and-white film. A few minutes passed as he sat there, clutching the sheet to his middle. Just as he was about to dismiss the noise, the girl let out a low moan, which turned slowly into a wail.

He kicked the blankets off from where they were tangled around his legs and went to check on her, his feet freezing against the tile of the floor. When he reached the bed, he stopped short, static pin-needles of shock causing his head to spin.

The girl looked like she was trying to strangle herself with her own bedcovers. Her sheet was tangled and wadded around her waist and legs, and her body was shaking as she moved as though she was suffering from intense pain. He was afraid to touch her, her muscles looked strained enough that he imagined they'd snap if he or she made a wrong move. The sheets were cutting off her circulation, he could see the skin white and pale pink as the knotted fabric cut into her skin, but he couldn't seem to move his hands or the rest of his body to aid her. Her skin was wax-white in the dim light of the moon, and her face was twisted and fixed. In an instant, he suddenly felt that she looked like she was dying.

The faint, lightheaded feeling slipped away as quickly as though he'd been doused with ice water and he slapped a hand against the wall with the call button, although he realized it was more of an instinctual reaction than anything really helpful. The nurses must have heard the noise.

A soft, half-strangled sound turned his attention back to the bed. Her hand grasped his wrist with enough force to bruise, and he winced, trying to yank his hand back. Her eyes were wide open, glazed and dim, as if she was watching something that was far beyond the hospital room.

"…Save her."

He had to strain to hear the whisper. Her voice was hoarse and breathless, the kind of sound someone would make if they woke up with a severely dry mouth. Her eyes were still fixed on a point above his head, and he felt a thin wave of anger about the whole situation. "Who?" he demanded, "There is no one else in this room." The last sentence came out slow and forceful, a tone of voice used to talk to a babbling child.

The hand squeezed his wrist once more, spasmodically. "I need…!" And then she slumped, looking eerily like a puppet whose strings were abruptly cut. The sheets relaxed around her now that she was no longer flailing against them, and the marks they made against her skin showed up in faint bruise colors in the dim light of the room. He stepped back, and his fingers nervously went to his ring finger. He felt slightly alarmed when he realized he was wearing nothing there.

The nurses had shown up within a few seconds. They'd pestered him for information, made sure the girl was safe and in no danger of undergoing any other 'attacks', administered a dose of some strange medication, and hustled him into the bed. He quickly drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep, the rest of his night unplagued by the odd dreams he'd been having before. When he woke to the sounds of the girl bouncing out of the metal bed with the enthusiasm she'd slowly been gaining, he wondered if she had been having trouble sleeping, too.

When he'd been comatose, there'd been no reason to worry about the finer details and problems that naturally arose when a two members of the opposite sex shared a room. Now, with both of them awake and active, the staff had a few problems arranging things so that both of them had the privacy they needed for their morning routines. Separate bathrooms, for instance, became an issue, and the nurses had arranged things for the girl so that she could go to another bath in the morning and evening, while he kept the one in the room. She seemed to find it amusing, at least. She'd wrap a towel around her head, bring a robe, and announce that she was going to her bath house. The staff showed remarkable patience in their tolerance for this. In fact, they encouraged her when she slowly began to regain energy and a youthful exuberance that had been absent from her when he'd first met her.

The staff somehow attributed it to his presence, but he doubted it. Most likely it was a natural progression, the healing process going on at its normal rate. Perhaps another person to engage in conversation (at, not with, he reminded himself) was a catalyst, but most likely it would have proceeded at a slower rate with the same result. He noticed that the staff here had an unusual way of going about their treatment sessions. Before Suzuhara-san arrived, there had been doctors questioning him, but they never seemed to have a goal. Their questions were either vague or painstakingly specific, his name, address, where he attended school. Then, his favorite color, what he felt had occurred before he arrived, and what his basic thought were about his roommate and the hospital they were in. This was always anteceded by a progression of pictures. The sessions hardly went anywhere, but the psychologists didn't seem upset or worried about this. In fact, it was almost as though they'd expected for there to be no progress before they'd even begun the questioning.

"You thinking about something important?"

He glanced up and into the look of amused tolerance the girl was giving him. The cafeteria was mainly empty this late in the morning, but one of the head nurses must have informed them that they'd be waking up late. He'd been escorted by a matronly woman in a sternly starched uniform, who watched him beadily as he ordered a cup of tea. Not in the mood for the food, he'd waved away the proffered tray. Apparently, this was not allowed. The girl had a tray with two breakfast tamago gohan on it, and his assumption was verified as she slid a bowl in front of him.

"C'mon, you're thin enough as it is. I mean, breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day and all, and it's not going to do you any good skipping it. You can't live off of thoughts," she plopped down in front of him and broke open her chopsticks. "And I think Suzuhara-san is going to have a session with both of us today. Separately, obviously. I think. I don't see why she'd do it with both of us together, because we're two separate problems. Unless you really believe that we're siblings, and I don't think we are, we don't really look like each other in the face."

"It's a close enough resemblance for the staff to comment," he shrugged, "If they really wanted to know, they'd do a DNA test. I think they're waiting for the treatments to take effect first and using that as a last resort, though. You're correct, our facial features and overall physical appearance isn't that similar. Even the coloration is different, fair-skinned and blue-eyed doesn't necessarily equate albinism," he reached out for the Styrofoam cup of the hospital's bitter, medicinal-tasting tea, and took a sip.

"Mmhm. Not that I'd mind, you know. Having a brother, or even a cousin. Although it's kind of weird that both of us, are, well, you know."

He made some sort of noise indicating that he did, indeed, know, and wondered why she felt the need to skip around the issue. "How is your schedule for the day?" he asked, idly snapping his chopsticks apart. He still didn't feel the desire to eat much of anything, but he presumed he'd have to at least make a show of eating if the girl was going to continue watching him like a hawk. He wondered why he didn't mind as much as he would if she was a nurse or a doctor.

"Mm. Not too crowded. They worked on me a lot last night, remember, and they don't want me getting 'overwhelmed'" the quotation marks settled into place with two motions of her fingers, "So basically they took out some therapy time on the schedule and let me have some time to rest and…uh…recreate. Not that there's much to do. They're supposed to have a game room, you know. I looked for the game room. If anything, I can at least play ping-pong. But all I see are hallways with door numbers for surgery or patient rooms and medicine cabinets. " She looked positively dejected.

"Have you tried asking one of the staff to assist you?"

She snorted. "Yeah, I asked one of the medical people a while ago. It's weird, but all their directions keep leading me in circles. Either the medicine they've been giving me is messing up my head, or this place is just built like a maze."

"Or maybe there is no game room," he suggested calmly. "Perhaps this is a place designed for the care of comatose patients, and they are not fully equipped to handle conscious ones. There are very few patients here that I have seen roaming the halls, and the size of this building is relatively small, for a hospital." He did find it unusual, though, that they had yet to meet any actual people aside from staff members in the building, but he hadn't gone into that train of thought. It wasn't important to him, or at least not nearly as important as the hundreds of other questions, more related to his own past and self, that plagued him.

"You're kidding," she sighed, slumping into her chair. "I'm regaining my energy and all, and yeah, I think that it's great to have more time away from all the questions, but…it's kind of boring, just sitting around and reading. Not that there's anything wrong with reading or anything," she added hastily, either reacting to his brief glance at her or the realization that he spent most of his time with a book or a notebook, "But that's good for other kinds of people, and I like to be playing more. Playing, like…sports. Only, there isn't a gym or anything that I know of…"

"There is. I have physical therapy in it," he interrupted the never-ending flow of chatter.

"Oh," she said, momentarily taken off stride.

"It's not precisely built for recreational purposes," he elaborated dryly, "Mainly it contains machines made to help restore the muscles after deterioration, or to help those who have lost limbs."

"Well, that doesn't help me. Back to square one," she said, poking her rice dejectedly. "You know, they could have at least given me a basketball. I…I think I must have liked to play back then. You know, when I was…who I was before I couldn't remember. I know that I know how to play it, and I know I really like it…like to run, too, and play soccer, and do track, and exercise. I can do loads of exercises."

"I've noticed," he commented. He certainly couldn't help it. It was a little unnerving to have her constantly stretch her muscles, something she was doing routinely now. He'd assumed it was something they'd prescribed to her, not something she was doing simply for the joy of doing it.

"Yeah," she continued, her usual habit of talking- there was a person in front of her, and so she'd talk to them, even if that other person wasn't communicating back. It made him rather curious what would happen if he left a mannequin in his place as she spoke. "Maybe if I ask, Suzuhara-san can get me a basketball or something to play with outside. You know they have a forest out there? I saw it a while ago, after I was chasing after a butterfly- it's absolutely loaded with violets. I like flowers, which is kind of weird."

"Why would you consider that strange?" he asked, since the general opinion that females liked flowers and feminine things was common.

"I don't…I just have the feeling, you know, that I shouldn't. That I never liked things like flowers or dresses and make-up, or at least, I started not liking them really early. I really don't like dresses, though. I had a strange dream that I was wearing one, but inside it there were thousands of those little plastic, sword-shaped olive-holders that they put in fancy alcoholic drinks- I used to see them in the restaurants, I think, and they were all sticking into me."


"I know. I wonder what that could mean? I was thinking it just meant that I think dresses aren't comfortable."

"You should ask your therapist about it. She should be more well-versed on the subject of psychology than I am."

She gave this a small amount of thought before moving on. "Hey, I was thinking," she blurted, "Since we're, like, in the same room and everything, and we talk to each other a lot…I mean, I'd really like to call you something. Other than, um, you. It's awkward just talking to someone but never knowing their name."

"I don't know my name," he replied blankly. Not the most intelligent answer, but he was having a little trouble keeping up with her shifting mental gears.

"I know. I just think we should come up with names to call ourselves, so it doesn't feel so strange. Don't you feel strange not having a name?"

He did feel strange, but hadn't realized the oddness until after she mentioned it. It did feel unusual to be a person without a name to answer to. Without a label. He'd said the psychiatrist might be better versed in it, but he knew a few of the basic precepts of psychology and sociology. One the lessons drifted into conscious thought. The human mind was not limitless, but limited in scope. Or perhaps limitless in the amount of information it could carry, but limited in the way it processed it. The human mind needed labels, simply because not having them was complex enough that the mind would simply continue processing huge amounts of information eternally. Labels made things simple. Many became one. And now, everything, all the data he contained and was had no name to contain it.

"Perhaps," he acceded, "What would you call me?"

She pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I think….I don't know," she said, looking troubled. "I think I know a name for you, but it doesn't come to my tongue. 'M'. It starts with…or maybe an S. But I know it. Ma…no, Mi. Or Miro."

"Miro." It felt awkward on his tongue, as though it was missing something.

"Do you know," she said, "That a butterfly, after it makes its chrysalis, turns into some kind of liquid when it's in there?"

Michi-san, as she'd asked to be called, smiled her tranquil smile and crossed her ankles as she wrote something down on her paper. "Really?" she asked, and the tone she used sounded genuinely interested, as opposed to the monotone or the vague disinterest the others had used. It made it easier to speak to her, made her seem more open and human, and not a moving piece of the hospital itself. Even the way she sat was different, sedately, and almost regally. Like a princess on a throne…no, she wasn't overbearing or snobby, but she had something in her posture that was quietly regal. She put her in mind of a school teacher, or some other sort of older, more sophisticated woman. Which, of course, she was.

"Yeah," she said, "Some of the books we have in there are about animals, and one's about bugs. I usually don't like bugs, but after seeing the butterfly I wanted to learn more. Maybe to find out what kind it was. I saw a lot of different types of butterflies in that book, but nothing that looked like that one. And it reminded me of something, but I forget what." she nervously clasped the handle of the file cabinet that stood near the plastic chair she sat in, sliding it open a fraction and closing it with a faint click. "I think it was about school, so maybe I learned about them in biology class, if I had that. But I don't think it was, because it wasn't a bug it reminded me of. Does that sound weird? I kept thinking of a person. And it wasn't like I usually do."


"When I think of people, I can sometimes think of a face. But then, I can't really think about it later. Or sometimes, I remember pieces of a name. But then, I can't really remember the whole thing. Not the surname or anything, I mean. Unless that's what I'm remembering. But for this person, I remembered that it was a girl who liked someone. Someone I didn't like, and she got in trouble with him. It's kind of exciting to remember that much, so I'm trying to write it down. So I don't lose it later. Like what I've decided to call myself. I don't know what my name was, but I can call myself something, and that makes me feel better."


"There's something else. Another girl, but it's not the one I was just thinking about. She was different. When I try to think of her, I feel like she's an old friend of mine. I think we used to be best friends, really. She just 'feels' like it, if that makes sense. But the other one, the other girl, I mean…I don't know what to think. It's like we were lots of different things at the same time. Once, I woke up angry at someone, and I think it was at her. But I don't think, you know, I was angry because of something she did to me, or because she said something. I was angry because of…something else. Maybe something she was doing to herself?" her last comment came out slowly and hesitantly.

She released the handle of the filing cabinet. "When I dream, it's the worst. And I can never make sense of most of the things I dream. There's something, I think, getting very close. Not a person, or even….much of anything. But I can feel it coming closer, and I don't know it's there until I turn around and see it."

"And then I wake up and it's gone," she ended.

Michi-san leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes briefly, as though a ghost of a headache had come and gone. Then she opened them and smiled at her. "Don't worry. It's good to see that you're making so much progress."

The hallway was murkily lit by old oil lamps, and they lined the walls with monotonous efficiency. Light flickered and dimmed as he turned to make sense of his surroundings. He'd been in this same hallway before, but it was still terra incognita, as it were. He took a step forward, then another, and began to walk. Something immensely magnetic was summoning him down the hallway, and it was a strong force, an imperious tugging at his mind.

Faint red stains appeared on the walls, gaining shape and clarity the further he traveled. The images burned themselves into the walls in dark black-crimson, the color of a new scab. The image of a boy, then a girl, then another boy. Alternating pictures, ones that were incongruous to the stories told by the others, and some that seemed to fit as smoothly as a puzzle piece clicking in place. As he continued moving toward the end of the corridor, a dim line of light that indicated a partially open door, the walls seemed to melt. The effect was similar to someone pouring water down every wall, lining them smoothly with shining wet,.

Footsteps sounded, and a boy appeared just ahead of him. Seeing him caused a ring of something like pain, and something like hope, and something that reverberated agonizingly through him. The boy swung his hand and both walls spiderwebbed with the blow and shattered, raining fragments of sharp images…sharp memories onto him. Pieces of a life.

"I broke two mirrors, and only one of them is yours." that voice said. The time was frozen, and his lips did not move, though the voice sounded clearly through the halls. "You must find which of which belong to you."

He ran through the ruins, slicing his hands on the slivers he touched.

"A metaphor," she said, snapping him out of the brief daze he'd been in. He focused on her expression, serene and professional, and clasped his hands together, lacing his arms around his crossed legs. It was the pose he felt most comfortable with, and he needed some amount of it as he sat in the room so clearly devoid of personality, listening to this stranger dissect his mind. He wasn't sure if it was more upsetting that he had to submit to these endless sessions that clearly accomplished little in the way of recovery, or that he indisputably needed the therapy. Or perhaps it was the fact that it was his brain that was malfunctioning, and not any other part of his body. The thought of his mind becoming so unstable, becoming untrustworthy…it was frightening. Genuinely disconcerting.

"A metaphor," the woman repeated, "the mind so loves them. Are you familiar with the theories of Carl Jung?"

He nodded, but made no verbal reply. Psychology was too vague a science for his taste, and the theories never interested him.

Perhaps it was her voice that repelled him, or simply her personality. Aloof, detached, and almost pervasive. She was like a pin hidden in a coat sleeve, scratching the surface of his skin.

"Such an intriguing man." she mused, "But it is Freud's book 'The Interpretation of Dreams' that I speak of when I tell you this. What he theorized was this: the ultimate meaning of all dreams is wish fulfillment, the mind reaching to display what it would like to take place. However, the two opposing sides of the mind 'ego' and 'id' prevent it from being so easily and blatantly depicted, and the wish is therefore disguised in symbol. Nightmares particularly are signs of the minor warfare between the clashing sides of the mind. It fits this situation well." she smoothed her dress out, with a casual slide of her hands across her knees, and shifted her position. "Your wish is obvious. You want to regain your memories, but there is a logical or emotional part of you which, for some reason, has decided that some, or all of these memories are to remain hidden. The dreams you've been having are subconscious desires to solve that conflict."

"The boy," he said, suddenly. "I knew him."

"Yes," she said, "Although I wouldn't think too deeply about it. All people in your dreams are manifestations of your own mind. Perhaps you subconsciously decided it was convenient to know the boy, and so, in the dream, you did."

"No," he said sharply, slashing his hand in a dismissive gesture, "I recognized him. Even out of the dream, I know I have seen his face before." This in itself was unusual, for the boy's general appearance had seemed to be as hazy and tenuous as the flickering lamplight.

She seemed to consider this. "What do you think the dream means?"

He sat back in his chair, already grown tired of the conversation . "I don't believe it has any significance. In essence, dreams are a natural and logical process of the brain, a complex shuffling of files, perhaps. They're a manifestation of the mind's attempt to incorporate the sensory data into the memory. The central brain is engaged with transferring and decoding the procedural data stream…" he trailed off, "It has nothing to do with symbolism, and little to do with my lost memories. Those may very well have been wiped, unable to be accessed once more."

"Do you always refer to yourself as a computer?" she questioned, then smiled as he started slightly. "Don't be upset, I was only teasing. If you truly believe that your mind operates much like a complicated and sophisticated piece of equipment, then how do you explain your own interest and yes, recognition of the boy in your dream last night? It was an emotional moment for you, wasn't it? Even after you awoke. And as you said, the sense of familiarity continues. Do you think that boy could have been someone special to you?"

"I don't know." he said, clenching the sides of the chair.

"I see. Following your theory, it may be that your mind has retrieved a store of hidden 'data' and is now incorporating it into conscious memory. Does this sound like an adequate explanation?"

He looked away, towards the window overlooking the grounds. "I don't feel that I need to fully explain myself. I still do not believe that these meetings are providing any aid with my condition," he said, finally. Impatient, and growing more uncomfortable by the minute, he focused on the unchanging landscape of the hospital's lawn. He thought he saw a vague flicker of yellow.

"Your roommate shows signs of great improvement."

Or the way she moved forward, like a hawk seeking out prey. Her relentless questioning. Her eerie grasp on his own personality.

He kept his gaze set on the pane of glass on the opposite end of the room. "Then her situation is not the same as mine, and can be treated differently with more success. My memories are irretrievably gone, and I have accepted that reality."

She laughed at that, surprising him. It was a low, throaty chuckle, sending needle-pricks of angry heat down his neck. "Have you? You are stubborn. You seem to be completely convinced in your incurable state, and will hear no other explanation or solution to the problem you face. In fact, you seem very persistent in making every argument against the suggestion that your condition is temporary. In short, you are in denial." Sunlight caught her face, setting her expression in shadows and angles.

Responding to an accusation of denial with another denial was clearly not an intelligent thing to do. "My hour is up," he noted in a colorless tone. His hands were still gripping the handles of the chair, and he released them as he stood.

"So it is," she noted, not bothering to stand up. She moved the pen erratically across the paper attached to her clipboard, and he wondered fleetingly what sort of notes she'd detailed of him. Suzuhara-san's gaze flicked upwards in his direction, as though she'd heard the faint echoes of his thought. "Your personal theories on your mental processes aside, I'm assigning you a journal in which to write your dreams. Please be sure to write in them directly after you awake, so they will be fresh in your mind. I've given one to Ten as well."

He didn't allow his surprise at her knowledge of the girl's assumed name to show. "Very well."

"She said you have a name, too. Would you like to share it?"

"It isn't mine."

"All the same, I'd like to hear it."

"Miro," he said shortly.

"I see," another scritch of the pen against paper.

He turned to leave the room, not sure if he felt relieved or disconcerted at her lack of response. At the threshold, she stopped him with a simple call to wait. He turned, impatient to leave. Something was wrong with the room, or perhaps it was her presence that made him feel as though he was developing acute claustrophobia. Rational sense dissolved under the endless monotony of the session.

"Miro, I'd also like for you and your friend to compare your journals," she said, setting the pen down. "It might prove helpful."

As the door closed, he caught a glimpse of her clipboard, lying face-up and shining in the pale light reflecting from the open window. He couldn't make out any writing.

"I don't understand why you're always so edgy after you see her," she mumbled through her hand, genuinely confused. She was lying on her stomach in her messy bed, the blankets wrapped around her waist and feet, a fan blowing her hair, chilling the back of her neck and her bare toes. Her right thumb was holding the page of yet another book on butterflies, her left hand was propping up her chin, her fingers spread over her mouth.

It was probably around eight o' clock, not that she checked up on their clock very frequently. It was dark outside, the sort that hovered around early evening, velvet slate blue, smudged with the faint green of daylight at the edge of the horizon. After spending much of the day in relentless pursuit of something to take her mind off of everything, she still hadn't managed to find a single lousy basketball. She counted this as a stupendous failure. She needed it, in a strange and possibly unhealthy way. She felt that it would be reassuring somehow to feel something familiar, to do something as common and everyday as play basketball, even if it was on a hospital parking lot where she was pent up because of a mental condition.

Tomorrow, she'd go running. Maybe with all the wind in her hair and the burn in her muscles and the ground giving way in front of her, she wouldn't have time to need to be lost in memories she didn't have.

She focused back to the subject at hand: Miro, doing his version of pacing or growling. He sat rigidly in a chair, working relentlessly on something in one of his notebooks. She'd seen the inside of one of them once and hadn't made any sense of the numbers and words inside. "I thought I was good at math", she'd said, puzzled, which had actually made him smile. She hadn't minded the joke being at her expense.

When he didn't respond to her comment, she shifted position, crossing her arms in front of her. "I think she's better than the one we had before. What was his name again? I can't really remember most of those people, anyway. They were all so…bland. But she's really nice. Or at least, she actually listens to what I'm saying. You know? She has this way of looking at you."

"Yes," he said quietly, "I've noticed." She looked at him, a little concerned. It sounded like there'd been some undertone in his voice, but she couldn't tell what it was. His expression didn't give anything away, but it was usually set in 'neutral'.

"She said she's going to find me a ball or a game or something. Isn't that nice," she continued, yanking at the strands of her hair as she spoke, "That was yesterday, when I was talking about my daydreams. Remember I told you about them. They're like, I fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon, or maybe they're more like hallucinations. But they're not memories, sometimes they're just these weird pictures, and once I thought I was in another hospital room. But I also had this dream I was talking to her about…because she asks us a lot about what we dream about. I think it's part of the way she does her treatments and everything." she glanced at him again, and wondered why his expression was steadily becoming more fixed.

"It was strange. Usually there are people, or buildings, or scenery. But in this one, it was just me, alone, in the dark. And suddenly, there was this thin crack of light, and another, and I knew I was looking at a door. It started getting clearer when the dream went on, maybe my eyes started adjusting to the light or something, but I could see what kind of door it was. It was huge, and wooden, and it had a big, bulky, old-fashioned lock. And it was barred. In the dream I knew t was there to hold something back, something I was really afraid of, but I wonder why there was all that light behind that door. Now…now, I think it was like the sun was locked away behind it."

"Or you were locked away inside it?" he finally spoke up.

She paused. "Or maybe that," she said. "Is that what you think it means?"

"I don't think it means anything," he said, and turned back to his notebook.

Somehow, she knew she wouldn't be able to get him to talk for at least an hour. He was odd, or maybe the word was brooding. But she'd always pictured brooding to be the adult form of pouting, and he didn't do anything resembling a pout. He slipped into long periods of silence, where his mind seemed so far removed from where they were, she could sometimes imagine his brain ticking away in outer space while his body remained firmly on Earth. She didn't tell him that, because she knew he didn't have any imagination. Either that, or no sense of humor. It was most definitely a failing, as far as companions went.

His dry way of speaking made her want to make him sound interested, or speak with some kind of underlying emotion in his voice. Sometimes, she succeeded. Sometimes she didn't. But on some days,. When she was tired enough and miserable and frustrated enough, times when the relentless attempts to keep herself occupied didn't work, when she felt like she was locked away in a white and empty prison, and would stay there forever…times when she'd lay on her bed, sweat-sticky and ready to scream, he would sit in the chair beside her bed. He'd say nothing, he'd make no move to touch or comfort her, but he'd sit there and watch her. She sometimes wondered if it was his way of letting her know she wasn't the only one who was screaming.

He took the gourd she offered him and looked at it for a long while before bringing it to his lips. The faintest taste of it made him jerk it away from him, dropping it on the sand. It rolled on its side, but no liquid spilled out.

The woman watched him, her expression veiled by her hair, and she told him softly that she knew it was not time for him to drink. She told him that another would drink of it before him, long and deep, but that the drink was different for everyone, and for him it would be bitter.

"What is it?" he asked.

She simply turned and walked away. Her footprints were shaped like


He turned on his side, breathing heavily, as though he'd been running, or drowning instead of sleeping. The moonlight showed the silhouette of the girl, outlining her in faint threads of silver-blue. She was also breathing oddly, a sound like choking, or hoarse, strangled laughter. Triumphant, and fearful. "I remembered. I remembered her name. She watered so many roses. They were everywhere, even inside of her. Anthy. Her name was Anthy."

A finger-light touch of cold brushed his spine.

Somehow, he knew he'd heard the name too.

Sarasusamiga: If you're still hanging on, that is. I apologize for the slow to update status of this story.

-Thank you for your correction of the word 'contagious', and Utena's writing 'her' name. Now you know which name she was writing: 'Ten'. There's a reason for that, but I'm sure you can guess it.

-Michiko Suzuhara is not a character from any other known universe.