Disclaimer: I own nothing. Characterisation leans heavily on Naruto; plot and writing style leans heavily on Colin Falconer's Anastasia; themes and stuff come from Hamlet, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Glass Menagerie, Romeo and Juliet, A Streetcar Named Desire and Moulin Rouge. Please review!
A Naruto FanFiction
To be, or not to be: that is the question.
You know how, when you're young and the prospect of it seems so far away, you always wonder what it would feel like?
To die, I mean.
I used to think about it all the time. Not because I was unhappy – because at that time, I wasn't – but because it seemed like something from a fairytale, something far away that no-one knew about or understood. When you're young, five years old, such mystery is irresistible. At least it was for me. I used to lie on my bed or under the clouds, stare at the sky and think, what would it feel like? Where would I go?
No-one ever seemed to know. And no-one ever seemed keen enough to want to find out, either.
I used to plan it out, too, my own death. I wasn't morbid – I wouldn't put it that way – but when you're childish, and bored, and sheltered and cosseted and distanced from pain: it's natural, to think curiously about things you have no experience of. It's like how sometimes, rich people feel the strange need to prod into the lives of poor people, just to see what it would feel like not to have hot food to eat and a bed to sleep in for a night. Death wasn't scary to me back then: nothing was, ghost-stories and the like aside: and death was different to ghost-stories, because death was real in the way that Lego and Playstation were real, and therefore made sense somehow.
I used to envision myself as some great knight, riding forth on a white stallion with sword and shield, vanquished at long last by a fire-breathing dragon after an epic battle; or perhaps a great explorer setting off to charter new worlds, standing at the prow of a tall ship and vowing never to desert, even as the waves roiled summit-high and the lightning flashed. Those were my light-headed, empty-minded dreams of childish heroism, where death was not really death but a way of penning one's name into the legend books. Painless, easy, guaranteed. My name would be remembered forever.
All those elaborate plans – all those days of dreaming, warm and loved, viewing death through a haze of intrigue and glory and romance. Perhaps I'd watched too much TV. I guess I'll never know. At any rate, when Father died a year later, the haze disappeared like dew in the sun.
Death became real. Real in the way that Lego never could be. No longer far away – oh no, Death came so close that I could picture it every morning when I woke up, burning like smoke behind my eyelids. No grand heroism for my Father: just a white cross, Minato Uzumaki, plastic roses because we couldn't afford real ones every day. A tiny square in the ground, like so many others, the man that had been so alive and his smile so vivid now a fistful of grey ash, indistinguishable to the dust my Mother vacuumed off the carpets every week.
I suppose that was what really brought me down from the clouds, changed me. It was as if I'd never been the wide-eyed boy lying on his back on the front lawn, staring at the skies and wondering at Heaven. Just one year, and it felt a lifetime away.
And then Mother went too.
It came as a numb shock at first – so soon? – but they told me it had been suicide, she'd driven her car off the bridge into the river. There had been eyewitnesses: they'd seen her, Kushina Uzumaki, her red hair tied up in the bun it always was, her hands on the wheel and her eyes calm, cutting sharply to the right as if she was merely stepping off the curb. They'd dived in to try and save her but she'd already drowned. When they pulled her out onto the road her hand was clutching the cross around her neck.
I wondered for a long time after that. I wondered and I fell apart. My life was splitting at the seams and I couldn't, no matter how hard I tried, seem to be able to hold it together. It was like diving: once you take that step off the block, you fall, and nothing can stop you until you hit the water. Only with me, I hadn't taken a step off anything. My parents had made the decision without me, and pitched me off the blocks all the same. I don't blame them – they tried, in their own way, to give me what they couldn't have – but I suppose they fell short of it, failed themselves more than they failed me.
Maybe Mum thought she'd help me more by dying, and leaving me her life insurance, than by staying alive. It didn't make sense to me – it still doesn't – but Dad's death had changed her, made her brittle, like glass: beautiful, cold, fragile. And if you smash glass hard enough, you can almost pretend the shards are diamond.
I suppose that was what started me in my new job: the emptiness. You know that feeling, when it's as if air is slowly expanding in your chest until it pushes against your ribs? As if you've just suddenly gone hollow, gone numb?
That was me. I decided that I didn't care about myself anymore. That year, I froze.
Like plunging into the Arctic Sea: at the start you struggle, you fight, clawing up at the surface. You want to breathe. But after a while you stop, because you are so cold, and because you are so tired, and because it doesn't seem to matter how hard you fight, the coldness won't go away. You forget what it was like to be warm, and you give up. You let go. And then the light closes over your head and you don't need to fight anymore, because everything is over, and you don't even need to breathe.
No more light.
No more warmth.
No more pain.
That night, when I was eighteen and I'd had my job for a year or so, I came home from the hospital knowing that I wanted it to end. It's hard to explain how, one day, you just know that you don't want to live anymore: that it would just be easier to stop. That you can't – won't – stay. That night, I had money in my pockets and I thought, I don't want to do this anymore, stand around in the streets waiting to be bought, to be taken home and slept with and paid. I was tired of clawing at a surface I couldn't see, a light I would never reach.
So I went to the bridge.
People say it's hard to decide if you want to die or not: they're wrong. It's not hard. It's as easy as falling. I climbed up onto the railing with the moonlight striking down and the doctor's letter in my pocket and I stared at the water, the black water, for a long time. I looked up at the stars and I thought, If I die, maybe I'll go to Heaven and be closer to those stars. Maybe I can reach them. And then I remembered how dirty I was, and how pure they were, and I knew that I would never reach them.
Not now. Not ever.
So I took out the money. And I threw the notes away – into the water, watched them drift, watched them sink.
And I thought, There goes my sin. Now I am clean again. Now I am pure.
And then I climbed up, my feet on the railing and my hands on the high girders, and I let myself hang there. I looked down and the starlight sparkled on the surface of the water. I could feel my Mother's silver cross against my neck and I thought to God, Catch me. And then I let go and the wind carried me down like a leaf, and for a moment – a brilliant, beautiful, breathless moment – I thought that I could fly.
I went to the bridge that night because I wondered if anyone would miss me.
I still think about it, now, wondering what things might have been like if I hadn't been a selfish jerk and gone to the bridge. Whether I would ever have changed. Probably not. I would have gone on being the iceblock that I was, Sasuke Uchiha with a fortune in the bank account and nothing much else, another rich kid blundering his father's company, driving a Porsche around the block. People measured me by the number of credit cards I had. The labels on the clothes I wore. The money in my account, numbers to me but livelihoods to them, the only thing that kept food on their tables.
I realised that night that I was just a tree, a young tree with leaves and branches and fruit, and the only people that hovered around me were there for the things I could give them, the things they could harvest away. And I knew that once everything ran out – once I was old and the fruit didn't taste so sweet anymore – they would leave me with nothing, cut me down and sell my wood and pull out my roots, and then they would move on.
I hated them that night.
So I guess that was what made me get into my Porsche, roll up the windows, drive out to the bridge. I thought, I'll show them. What will they do once I'm gone? Once I burn the tree, slash it, leave them nothing, not even the wood? I was like some vampire, furious and hating the light, but jealous enough of those that loved it to want to tear the light away so they could feel my pain as well.
I wanted to die because I wanted others to die with me. Sink my teeth into their throats, not because I needed their blood, but because I wanted to watch the suffering in their eyes.
Because I knew that no-one would care, otherwise. This way, they would miss me because, by dying, I had ruined their lives.
When I reached the bridge, it was late and the moon was out. I shut off my car and rolled down the windows to feel the breeze. It was good – I felt hatred, and it was good to feel something. I got out of the car and left it there, and after a while, I threw my keys into the river.
And I thought, There goes everything. There goes the false compliments, the fawning, the lies. There goes their sin.
And then I hoisted myself up onto the railing, watched the cold water. There were white things floating on the surface, like stars. I stared at them. They were banknotes.
I looked to the left and there, twenty metres or so, someone else was standing on the bridge railing. I watched as he spread his arms, a shimmering silver bird about to take flight. And as he let go, I knew what he was doing, and suddenly I thought: No. I cannot let you jump. I cannot let you die.
Not now. Not ever.
And as he fell, the moonlight in his hair and the black water down below, I did the most stupid thing possible.
I let go, and jumped in after him.
I used to wonder a lot about what my Mother would have felt, what would have gone through her mind in those last few moments, when she was waiting for it to end.
Maybe she thought about Dad, and his smile, the way it lit up his face all the way to his eyes. Dad could call out the Sun with that smile. And then he would say, Kushi, let's go out tonight. Let's take Naruto out for dinner. And we'd all laugh, and fuss about getting ready, and no-one would say anything about the empty pantry, or how we couldn't pay the rent next week, or how Council had sent us a letter taking away our electricity because we hadn't paid the bills for a year.
Those sorts of things didn't seem to matter when Dad was there.
Without Dad, those sorts of things became nightmares. The neighbours would pound on our windows and tell us to mow our lawn, the grass was growing into their garden. Kids would come in the middle of the night and doodle with spray cans on our fence, not scared to write their names, because we couldn't do anything about it anyway. Drunks would pass out on our front step and Mum would go out to them, give them some water.
When I threw myself in the river that night, Mum and Dad were all I could think about. I saw their faces in the sky and as the water sucked me under I thought, I'll never see them again. They've gone up, to Heaven. And I'm going down.
But for some reason, I didn't mind.
The water closed over my head and for a moment I reached out my fingers, touched the surface of the air. The air rippled like mercury. I smiled.
And then I went under, and still the mercury was there, and I could see the moon out beyond it. And I thought, This is what it feels like. This is what it feels like to die. I finally know, now. And I stretched out again to touch the mercury – just one more time, just once – but the light was too far away, I couldn't reach it.
I thought of Mum and Dad again. And I whispered to the water, I'm coming. My fingers went to the cross around my neck. And when I closed my eyes again, I could still see their faces, and they were smiling at me.
He went down fast, like a stone, disappearing beneath the surface. I'd splayed myself out as much as possible, intending to float, but realised halfway down that that would be extremely stupid. How do you find anything when you're floating? Like fishing for squid on the surface in a rowboat. He would sink, I knew that much, if only because I knew he'd want to sink.
I hadn't thought much about what I was doing, and the moment I hit the water I realised that. I'd kept my eyes open but I didn't remember where he'd fallen. I began to wallow around, yelling nonsense, trying to keep my head above the current. He didn't reply, but I suppose I'd never expected him to. I was wasting time. I heaved a breath and pulled myself under.
The world is strange underwater.
I'd never thought about it until that night, but it's terrifyingly peaceful under the surface. You drift, and if you don't need to breathe, you just keep drifting. The water is cold at first but it gets warmer, or maybe your body gets colder, either way. Everything is suspended, even time. It's beautiful.
Everything is beautiful in the dark.
I pushed down lower, still searching. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't nothing. I'd thought that, somehow, I would find him the first time round. I didn't.
I went up, heaved another breath. The stars winked at me and I pulled myself down again.
The second time was easier, if only because I was more serious. I found him somewhere about four metres down out of sheer luck, because the moonlight didn't reach that far, and the only reason I'd found him at all was because he had a chain around his neck. In the water, the silver was like a tiny sliver of moon, catching the nonexistent light and flashing it back like a beacon.
I caught him under the arms and he struggled. I didn't let go. My lungs needed air and I kicked up, him flailing against me, trying to break away. We fought for a while, in the strange awkward way you can manage only when underwater, and then he gave up.
Just like that, he gave up and went limp.
For some reason, that startled me. I thought of glass, delicate glass, and the next time I caught him under the arms I was almost afraid that I would break him.
When I felt the arms around me, I thought, No. I squeezed my eyes shut and I thought, No. No. And I fought, because I couldn't see Mum's face, and I couldn't see Dad's face, I couldn't see anything but darkness.
And I felt robbed, somehow. Cheated. Like I had already paid for something, only to have it taken away from me at the last moment. And I felt the cross against my palm and I thought, God has abandoned me. He didn't catch me. He didn't let me die.
For the first time that night, I felt like crying.
And then I looked up and I saw the face that the arms belonged to, with the moon shining behind it, and I knew I was wrong. Maybe it was the lack of air, maybe it was the water, maybe it was the coldness, I don't know. Maybe it was all of them at once. Because when I saw that face, I thought, God has given me an angel. He's given me an angel, and I'm going up to Heaven.
So I stopped fighting. For the second time that night, I let go. I let go, and I closed my eyes, and I let that angel pull me back towards the surface, and back towards the light.
A/N: Okay, love, hate, undecided? Review, please. This Fic is weird, admittedly, but to be honest with you I wouldn't have it any other way. It feels right. I hope you liked.
PS. Don't be fooled: Naruto will not be overtly... girly. Sorry. He is a male, he was born male, and I intend to keep it that way. :P