Cold Dreams

- Nuriko Kamaiji 9/21/03

I want to see her again.

I know the times have changed and the years have passed, like the falling leaves of summer, but still… I want to see her again. Even if it's only for a moment. I've missed her over the years since…

I wander back to her old home, where she lived with her little brother when they were both still young, before I lost her…

It shouldn't be this way, I try and tell myself but somehow my heart won't listen. Or at least what I have as a heart. I should be able to…my thought strays off, fluttering in the breeze like a broken string. The though reminds me of the empty space on my back. My thoughts ripple backwards…

"I want you to have it." I hand my guitar to her, holding it out gently in my hands. She stares at me in surprise, then she looks away the way she always does, her eyes holding something uncertain and so sad…

When she makes no response I decide to take matters into my own hands. Firmly, but gently I push the awkward instrument into her soft hands, holding it in her grip for a moment. Gingerly I release my hands, watching her as she continues to hold it. She holds it more tenderly than I would have imagined. Her eyes light upon it and she smiles, a small tiny small, and smile I know she saves for me. I don't know why but this time feels harder than the rest. I feel something tight inside me, tightening like a gear, beating my circuits faster.

"I'll miss you Jiro." That's all she's says. She's still looking at my guitar. I can't find any words to say to her. Ever since the…night on the Armageddon machine…machine…I find myself losing my thoughts once again. It's been happening more and more recently. Ever since I've…

Her voice interrupts my thoughts. "I can't keep this, Jiro." She's struggling with something, but I can't tell what. Even after these few years since I haven't yet become accustomed to reading the emotions she tries to hide. She has always been the most difficult for me to understand…Hattori tells me that that is because "she's my woman" but I still don't understand. This is my Mitsuko…how can I not understand her…?

"Jiro?"

Once again she interrupts my thoughts. Feeling slightly embarrassed, I try and smile at her saying only, "Yes you can Mitsuko. So you can remember me while you're away."

Her eyes gaze up at me, the soft brown of her eyes glistening quietly in damp wetness. I wipe a finger against her cheek to catch a stray tear. She seems startled, though from my action or her own openness I do not know.

It's been four years since we first met. So much has changed since then, me most of all. Ever since her father's return, she has been working on trying to focus again on her education. It was always she told me once, I don't remember when or where we were, that she always took so little time for herself, always so concerned about Masaru. But since her father's return and recovery, she's found herself with more freedom than she could have wished for. And she's finally gotten her wish. Or so she'd claimed. But she's standing here with tears in her eyes and I can't help wondering if she really is getting what she deserves. But I don't question her. I want to protect her and take care of her but I can't do that if I can't let her be herself. I won't be any better than the mad machine she once said I was.

So I let her go. I hold her as gently as I can before she leaves, her willingness surprising me yet nothing in me resists it. And she carries away my guitar as she leaves, holding it her arms like a lost treasure.

I find myself smiling to myself at the memories. How odd I always find it to find myself remembering…I find myself thinking of that old story Masaru told me that first night…the story of Pinocchio. I wonder if the small wooden boy ever pondered if he was truly a real boy because he had been transformed or if he had just finally learned what it meant to be human? I know I do. But the truth is I know, no matter what happens to me, no matter what I truly feel; I am not a real boy. I am as near to human as is possible for a machine but that's is still what I am. I know that now and the realization does nothing to ease the pain inside me I have grown so accustomed to over these last long years. I never realized it before, before Mitsuko stopped seeing me, before I lost track of her.

I wonder if I should feel angry at her, but I can't do that. I understand why she did it. It was what I never realized. I now had my human heart, my Gemini circuit had been fully reached but I still hadn't realized. I was still only a machine…a machine that dreams…and she was only human…

I find my way there easily. It may have been harder if Masaru had not found me first, wandering amongst the cities and woods. He had come looking for me, not because his sister Mitsuko had sent him but because he felt, as he had told me, that Mitsuko was just being stubborn and he didn't understand it. I loved her after all; she'd what to see me. His words surprised me, but his appearance surprised me even more. He wasn't a young boy anymore. He looked almost older than the last time I had seen Mitsuko. He was a man now. And I hadn't changed at all. Yes, I had grown in my struggle to live with my human emotions, but I had not aged at all. And I finally understood why Mitsuko had stopped seeing me…

She is staying in a moderately nice apartment. I can tell from the spacious but plain décor of the desk. I wander past, taking no more notice than a walking shadow on the wall. I make my way up the stairs. I don't know why I chose to take this way instead. It's as though I fear seeing her again. Can I really be that shallow I wonder? I refuse to believe that I am afraid of seeing her as she is now. Masaru's right. If I love her it shouldn't matter. And yet…

The unspoken thought nags at the back of my mind, as I stumble slowly down the hall that has her room number. I knock briefly, gently at her door. Nothing. No one answers. I lean my ear to the pale white washed door. I hear nothing. It sounds like absolute silence. Feeling a rush to my limbs, a new icy fear wraps itself around my heart. Quietly, quieter and more cautious than I want to be I open the door.

To my surprise it opens easily almost as though…I push the thought aside and make my way in slowly. I don't know why I'm treating this as though there's an old enemy lurking in those back rooms. Perhaps I really do fear seeing Mitsuko once again. But…

Struggling off my irrational fear I try and walk normally to the back room, pushing the door ajar as I peer into the room. She is asleep at the bed.

I find as I look at her from where I stand half hidden behind the door that she really has not changed as much as I thought. Her hair is perhaps a bit longer than I remember and her features look harder, worn more by the hard life she demanded of herself. But as I continue to watch her I begin to notice that she has indeed aged. There are small lines around her eyes and tightness to her skin. It does not look as smooth or soft as it once was. There are even faint glimmers of tiny pale strands in her hair, though I'm not sure if it's the light or not.

The room contains only one window, which is shut and covered improperly, allowing a small sliver of pale morning light to trickle down upon her sleeping form.

And then I begin to notice the small signs of her illness. Her skin is paler than I remember, her body perhaps a bit more delicate than I recall. Under her eyes are light grayish marks, as though she has not been sleeping well but I know that's not it. I watch her chest rise slowly as she breathes. Somehow that's seems like such a miracle to me. To find her here, still alive breathing so gently.

I find myself feeling a strange sense of contentment I have not felt in years. Simply watching her is enough I realize. Whatever I had been afraid of is gone. Perhaps I was afraid she would be gone…and I just wanted to see her one last time. That's all I wanted.

To my alarm she starts to stir and before I have a chance to think of what to do, she opens her soft brown eyes on me. I realize that this was what I was fearing. Not that she had aged, or that she might not still be living, but that she would see me. See me as I am, see me as I have always been. See me as I once was. I know deep down that I am ashamed to come to her like this, just as I was before while she has aged and suffered so much. It doesn't seem fair…

She smiles at me. She doesn't say anything, just smiles. It's my smile she gives me. Her eyes look tired. I don't know what to say and before I have the chance to form whatever words are hovering on the tip of my tongue; she rests her head back down closing her eyes. I heard her whisper as she breathes out, a breath that lingers in my ears.

"Jiro…"

I take a step into the room and stop once I have. Her chest does not move anymore. I stand there, my heart confused as to what I should do next. My reason tells me that I should try and contact Masaru, but I was never very good at listening to my reason.

Instead I kneel beside her bed. I watch her, half-hoping that she will suddenly start breathing again. I feel with a pang, that there were still so many things I wanted to say to her, so many things I… But there is no one now to hear those words. And as I reach out a touch her steadily growing cold cheek, I feel a pain beginning to grow. It's not empty or alive or sad really…It's just there. And so am I. As I kneel there I know that I've lost more than just Mitsuko…I've lost something more than that and it hurts so much. Is this what it means to be suffer as a human?

I find no answers for myself, nothing except the pain. So much loneliness, so many tears, the both of us were so sad, so strangely lost. But at least together…and as I think this I realize what it is that makes my heart ache so harshly.

Together we could only have been for a little while. Together we could only have stayed for a short while. She is just human. And I…I am immortal. I remember another tale I heard about a beautiful princess who slept for a hundred years, while prince after prince came for her only to die. But still the princess continued to live. I wish that I could sleep forever and wake up with Mitsuko beside me. But I know that that's just a fairy story. And I am no enchanted prince. I am not even a real boy not really…I could never have shared everything with her because she was made a creature of flesh with blood flowing in her veins…while I…

And as I kneel there I feel the pain increase and give a sharp cry and then the tears begin. The tears for the choices we made, for my beautiful love, my beautiful mortal love now fading away into eternal sleep. I think of all the tales I have heard of magical immortal faeries and I think I can understand their pain. Because no one wants to last forever…not even a machine…