What Dreams Remember
by Naia Zifu

I screamed and sat bolt upright in bed, clutching the sweat-soaked sheets to my chest. Tears streamed down my face and my heart raced a mile a minute. I looked at the clock-- just four in the morning! I sighed and brushed my damp hair out of my eyes. It was clear I'd get no more sleep, so I may as well get up. Maybe a long, cool shower would help me forget my nightmares.

But they weren't really just nightmares, were they?

Every time I closed my eyes, I found myself in the middle of a war. But I wasn't quite myself; I was older, usually teen-aged, and clad--barely!--in the black leather fuku of a Star Senshi. Each dream took place in a different time, a different life. But there was always an enemy, always a battle, and night after night, the outcome never varied; I was repeatedly dreaming my own death.

I stepped out of the shower feeling cleaner if not a little better, dried and dressed myself in my red school uniform, and prowled the kitchen for a snack. I thought I was being quiet about it, too, until my father stumbled in a few minutes later wearing only her robe and slippers.

"You're up early," she said through a yawn. "Nightmares again?"

"Same as always," I replied. "I haven't had a good night's rest all week!"

"Poor thing! Are you sure you still don't want to talk about it?"

"I still can't talk about it," I insisted.

My father looked worried, but didn't push the issue.

"Well, when you're ready to talk, you know where to find me," was all she said.

But rather than returning to bed as I'd expected, she got out the cooking pots and started making us a proper breakfast.

I wanted more than anything to tell her my dreams, but I had always been bad at expressing myself verbally. And when it came to nightmares such as these. . . I wasn't even sure I knew the words to describe such horrors!

Last night's dream had been especially traumatic: Frightened people ran screaming through the streets as some huge, black, tentacled beast that looked like it had just crawled out of the ocean cut a path of destruction through the city. The three of us had to stop it before it reached the palace! I only got off a couple of shots, however, before it wrapped one of its tentacles so tightly around me that I could scarcely even breathe, much less move about. Then the thing hoisted me so high in the air I saw over the tops of most buildings.

"Star Serious Laser!" my partner's voice called from the street below.

"No!" the other protested. "That thing's blood is--"

But she was too late. Fighter's attack severed the tentacle easily enough, and I fell to the ground with a sickening thud, where I lay in a broken heap, scarcely able to move. But as if the fall itself weren't painful enough, I was covered in a thick, dirty-yellow substance which spurted from the creature's wound and burned, even through the tough leather of my fuku, just like acid.

I screamed and fell out of my chair when I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder.

"Kou, honey, are you all right?" my father asked.

I made no attempt to get off the floor, just hugged my knees tightly to my chest and sobbed. I could almost feel the flesh being eaten from my bones, just like in my nightmare!

My father knelt beside me and hugged me tightly, but I only cried harder as her touch exacerbated my imagined pain.

"Aw, Kou, I wish you would just talk to me," she cooed.

At least she still called me by my given name! Ever since the test results got back, my mother always called me--

"Maker, dear, was that you I heard screaming?" my mother asked as she ran into the room.

"I asked you not to call me that!" I yelled.

My mother seemed genuinely confused.

"Why wouldn't I call you that?" she asked. "It's your name!"

"My name is Taiki Kou!"

"Your real name is Sailor Starmaker," my mother said. "The test results confirm that fact. I know it's hard to adjust, but you've got to try to--"

"The tests were wrong," I insisted, though I knew otherwise.

"They tested your DNA, Maker; you were a hundred percent match. There's no room for error."

"You're not helping matters by forcing her, Mika," my father said. "Give her time! It's a big adjustment for her."

I couldn't take it anymore!

"Don't you care about my well-being at all?" I shouted. "If I become Maker, there'll be nothing left in my life but war! I'll never have a career or raise a family. I probably won't even live to eighteen! Is that what you want for me?"

"No, sweetheart, that's not what we want at all!" my mother insisted. "We're just so proud of your being a Senshi, and we wish you could be happy for it, too."

"And I'm sure it won't be as bad as you think," my father added. "You can still live a full life as a Senshi! It's not all war and death, you know."

But what did she know? She'd never been a Senshi! I'd hardly slept in a week for dreams and flashbacks of my past lives as Maker; that fact alone should qualify me as an expert in the lives of Sailor Senshi. More so, at least, than the perky young woman hired to teach us our own history and the skills required to be a Senshi. . .

"And only by combining your powers were the three of you able to defeat Sailor Remus, free the princess, and save the world from being conquered by hostile Senshi. It's important to remember that--" I raised my hand, and the teacher called on me, "Yes, Maker?"

"That may be true, but you're glossing over one important fact," I said. "Remus wasn't the only Sailor Senshi to die that day."

"Who told you that?" she demanded.

"No-one had to; I saw it myself," I replied. "We beat Remus, that much is true, but only at the cost of our own lives."

My friends looked distraught.

"Is that true?" Yaten asked. "Did we all really die that day?"

I nodded. "And yesterday's tale of the great, tentacled sea beast? You forgot to mention it had acid for blood. I was burnt to death that day, and my skin still hurts just thinking about it!"

Our teacher's face blanched and she fumbled for a response.

"W-well, I. . .uh. . .maybe we should take a little break now," she said. "You may go outside for the rest of the period; I think we've all had our fill of history for the day."

The three of us shuffled out in a sombre mood and sat, slumped, on a bench at the edge of the playground. None of us made a sound for several minutes, until I noticed the tear stains on Yaten's skirt. She whimpered a bit as I put my arm around her shaking shoulders and pulled her into a hug.

"I don't wanna be a Senshi anymore, Taiki," she whispered. "I don't wanna die!"

"I know, I know," I said soothingly, stroking her silky white hair. "I don't want that, either, Yaten. None of us do."

"What kind of a world do we live in," Yaten sobbed, "where they send children off to fight and die in a war?"

"That won't happen," Seiya asserted. "I don't know where you got that crap, Maker, but I don't believe a word of it."

I cringed at Seiya's use of that name; it was the first time either of my friends had called me that. I had a hard time accepting my Senshi identity, and my friends' adherence to the old names was one of my last remaining footholds on my normal life. I hoped that was just a one-time use for provocation; I wasn't ready to give up my old identity yet!

"I could tell by the teacher's reaction," Yaten said, "Taiki's telling the truth. They're trying to hide the real danger from us; probably afraid we'd leave the program if we knew."

"We can't drop out; this is what we were born to be!" Seiya insisted.

"Says who? I certainly don't feel like Healer. I don't even remember her! Everything I know I learned from class, but now that I know that's a lie, how can I trust anything they tell me?"

Seiya shook her head. "That doesn't mean anything. Teacher says we aren't supposed to remember them yet. They won't even seem real to us until we become them."

"I remember Maker," I admitted quietly.

"Really?" my friends asked. "What was she like?"

"She was strong, brave, loyal, beautiful; everything a Senshi should be."

"She sounds wonderful," Yaten said.

"Yeah," Seiya agreed, "so what's the big trauma?"

I hesitated a moment, unsure whether I could or even should try to explain my problems to them. But when I looked into their eyes I saw not just playground friends, but the Senshi who fought and died with me countless times over the millennia. We three had been friends for as long as there were stars in the sky! There's no room for secrets in such a relationship.

"I've barely slept a wink all week," I confessed. "Since the day we went in for those tests, I can't close my eyes for a minute without having nightmares!"

"You poor girl," Yaten said, hugging me, "no wonder you're so scared!"

"Only they're not just nightmares," I said, "they're memories from my past lives as Maker."

"So what do you see?" Seiya asked anxiously.

"Death," I replied quietly, "always death. Our teacher makes it seem safe to be a Senshi, like it's all a game, but I know better. From what I've seen, a Senshi's life is nothing but war and death. I just don't see the point of it all."

"The point," Seiya said, "is to defend our planet and our princess. I'd rather go out like that than die in my sleep a grey-haired old lady!"

"Well, unlike you, Seiya, some of us would prefer to live," Yaten retorted.

"But even when we die, we live. The souls of Sailor Senshi are immortal. When these bodies die we'll get reborn into new ones, and the whole thing will start all over again."

Yaten made a face. "And I thought Taiki was the morbid one of us!"

"Seiya's right," I said. "But we still shouldn't be in a rush to get our current lives over with. Especially you, Seiya; too many people count on you for you to die so young!"

"And who knows if the three of us will even be friends in the next life?" Yaten said. "Since I met you guys, I can't stand the thought of life without you two as friends!"

"We've always been friends, Yaten," I reassured her, "and we always will be, no matter the incarnation."

Yaten smiled, tears of joy in her eyes, and hugged us both.

"I'm so glad!" she cried. "If we can be friends forever, this death and rebirth stuff might not be so bad after all!"

And for the first time, it was becoming a bit less scary for me, as well.

"Teacher's calling us back in already!" Seiya cried. "Hurry up! Don't wanna be late to warrior class! Fun fun fun!"

"Yeah," Yaten said sarcastically, "sweat and sore muscles, wouldn't miss that for the world!"

"Last one in is a rotten fish!"

And with that, Seiya took off at lightning speed.

"Isn't that supposed to be 'egg?' " Yaten corrected, but chased her anyway to avoid becoming one.

I hurried to catch up to my friends, but was met at the door by our school's guidance counsellor.

"Maker, could I see you in my office for a moment?" she requested.

I glanced up the hall, but my friends were long gone. I sighed and brushed a few stray wisps of hair from my face.

"Looks like I'm the 'rotten fish' of the day," I muttered as the counsellor dragged me away to her office.

"Now tell me, if you can, how you feel about Maker," she said.

Was that a trick question?

"I. . .like myself very much," I answered cautiously. "Why do you ask?"

"So you think of yourself as Maker already?"

I shrugged. "Not really, but everyone else does. And with conclusive DNA proof, it seems pointless to argue."

"Then, how would you describe your feelings on Maker as opposed to just Taiki Kou?" the counsellor asked.

"I don't like how you said that, 'just Taiki Kou,' " I said, "as if being myself isn't good enough. I like being Taiki Kou!"

"And Maker?"

"I like her, too, but if I had a choice I'd prefer to stay Taiki."

"Because Maker gives you nightmares?"

"You like putting words in my mouth, don't you?"

"I just heard you've had nightmares since you found out," the counsellor began, "and then there were those wild tales you kept spinning in class. . ."

"They're not wild tales!" I snapped. "They're true, I saw them myself!"

"In your nightmares?"

"In hypnosis!"

But the counsellor didn't believe me.

"You weren't in hypnosis," she said. "We don't do hypnosis. You don't need it-- you'll remember everything once you transform."

I wish someone had told me that before! Had I known it was unnecessary, and all the trouble it would cause, I would never have agreed to hypnosis in the first place.

Like any red-blooded Kinmokuseijin kid, I was always nervous around doctors and needles. I didn't want to go through with the testing, but everyone from my parents, to teachers, to my own best friends insisted I had no choice in the matter. So I tried to be brave while the doctors examined my physical health and extracted blood and tissue samples for disease screenings and DNA testing. I didn't even know there was a psychological component to the test, so when I was placed in a small room with a stranger who asked for intimate details of my life and all my innermost feelings, I resorted to my usual coping method; I shut down
completely. The more, and more personal, questions she asked, the less I was inclined to answer them. Finally, after an hour of trying and failing to coax my secrets from me, the therapist had one last idea.

"Maybe we should try a little hypnosis instead," she suggested.

"So you can do whatever you like to me and I'll have no memory of it later?" I assumed. "No thanks!"

But the therapist assured me, "It's nothing like that! Hypnosis will just relax you and make it easier to answer questions, that's all. I can't make you do anything hypnotized that you'd be opposed to normally."

"Except answer your invasive questions."

"You'll remember everything you said afterwards," she promised. "And if you really are a Senshi, it may help you remember your past lives and real identity."

The lure of uncovering past lives and my alleged real identity was all the convincing I needed to agree to the treatment. But all I came out with was a mind full of jumbled thoughts and images I couldn't make much sense of. I could recall hundreds of deaths, thousands of battles, but out of order and in varying clarity. My past was more like a half-remembered story than events that had really happened to me. . .until that night, when I nodded off reading and had the first of my vivid death nightmares.

"You poor thing. . .you really have been through something, haven't you?" the counsellor finally realised. "If you're telling the truth about your hypnosis, whoever performed it must've done an awful job!"

"And I suppose you'd prescribe counselling?" I guessed. "More invasive questioning to fix problems caused by the last therapist's invasive questioning?"

She shook her head. "I'm not trained for that kind of therapy-- most girls your age have such petty problems, I wouldn't know where to begin on a situation like yours!"

"Then why am I still here?"

"Those dreams you keep having. . .they are true, to an extent," the counsellor began, "but there's a reason you're supposed to learn your history in class first; you have to have an unbiased perspective. What, to you, seems like a nightmare memory of a senseless death could become an heroic sacrifice that saved the planet, when put in the proper historical context. We can't always trust our own memories, Maker, especially those recovered by unreliable means like hypnosis."

I shrugged. "Death is death, no matter the context."

"But there's more to a Senshi's life than war and death," she said. "You just haven't seen it yet."

"So everyone tells me. But what do they know if they've never been Senshi?"

"Well, I've never been a Senshi, but I attended school with some," she said. "In fact, I counted the last Maker amongst my most valued friends."

"Y-you knew me. . .before I was Taiki?" I stammered. "I can't bel-- When? How did I-- What was she like?"

"You look just like her, of course," she said with a warm smile, "tall and pretty, with the same gentle eyes. . . But the Maker I knew would never become so withdrawn and cynical. She was such a popular, outgoing, happy girl, always smiling, always ready with a joke. . ."

"Popular? Outgoing? And cheerful?" Yaten said as I related my tale on the way home from school. "That doesn't sound like you at all, Taiki! Are you sure you're the real Sailor Starmaker?"

"Funny. Disposition's not entirely in the genes, Yaten," I replied. "Upbringing also plays a part."

"Well, in your case, that explains a lot!" she quipped.

"Maybe now you'll change your mind about the Senshi," Seiya said. "See? I told you not everything's death and violence!"

"No, not all death and violence," I admitted, "but not all fun like you expect, either!"

"There will be fun," Seiya declared. "I'll make sure of it."

"So how come you're the only one who gets to remember everything?" Yaten asked.

"Because I'm the smart one," I teased. "Your inferior minds just can't handle it!"

"You just keep begging me to hurt you today, don't you, Taiki?" Seiya growled.

At least she'd called me "Taiki" that time! Even in a threat, that was an improvement over her earlier behaviour.

"Don't worry, once you transform for the first time, you'll remember everything," I said.

"But you didn't have to wait!" my friends protested.

"And I have death nightmares every night. Is that what you want?"

"No," they replied in unison.

"Then don't be in such a hurry to know everything," I advised. "Don't be like me; do it the right way and wait. It'll happen on its own when the time is right."

Seiya laughed. "You sound like my dad explaining the birds and the bees!"

"Birds. . .and bees?" I asked innocently.

My friends stopped so suddenly they almost fell over on their own momentum.

"You know," Seiya said, "what happens when two people really love each other?"

"Yeah, haven't you had the talk yet?" Yaten chimed in. "It's how babies are made!"

"You mean cloning?" I asked. My friends just laughed at me. I flushed and said sheepishly, "Well, that's what my father told me!"

"Your family is so repressed, Taiki!" Seiya said. "It's a wonder you ever got born at all!"

"At least this makes us even about the Senshi thing," Yaten said. "We'll have to get together over snacks sometime and trade information."

So when we arrived at my apartment building I said as casually as possible, "Well, here we are! Anybody want to come in for a snack or something?"

"Can't today, gotta go pick up my sisters," Seiya answered. "I told them we'd hit the zoo this afternoon."

"I gotta run, too," Yaten said, "or I'll be late to my pedicure!"

Seiya stared agape for a moment and said, "You're lucky I got no time to pounce you today, rich girl!"

Then, with a quick good-bye wave, she was off.

"I love doing that to her," Yaten said with a fake evil laugh. "Rain check on that snack, though, okay? Bye!"

I never did find out if that pedicure was for real or not. . . But left alone with the knowledge my father had lied to me, I had bigger questions on my mind.

"Mother!" I called as I stormed through the apartment. I was determined to find the real answer once and for all! "Mother, where do babies really come from?"

©2001/2006 (revised HTML version) Naia Zifu all rights reserved.
Three Lights are SM characters I don't own rights to, but Taiki's parents and anyone else I might have forgotten appearing, are my own original characters. As always, I'm not trying to make money off anyone else's ideas.
Here we are, another chibi Lights fic :-) . Not planned, but it came about after a few weird dreams of my own. It's not as
kawaii as the first, but I hope it's well-liked anyway!