I'm sitting on a bed, absent-mindedly scratching a calico cat on my lap. The cat purrs and bumps his chin against my hand for more scratching. I have a peculiar feeling that there's something odd going on, but I can't tell what it is. I must have been thinking something just now, but can't remember what it was.
Raising my gaze, I can see that I'm currently in an unfamiliar room. How did I end up here? However, that in itself isn't the most unexpected thing. In the middle of the room there's a demure girl sitting on a chair, reading some book. How long has she been there? She's so quiet that I didn't even notice her before looking up. Is this her room? If so, why am I here?
I take another look around me. No, this doesn't look like a girl's room at all. Maybe we're both waiting for the owner of the room back? I should probably ask.
"Excuse me, miss…."
The girl doesn't say a word. Instead, she slowly turns her head and fixes her eyes on my chest. What does that mean?
Although the girl remains silent, I get the feeling that she tries to tell me something. What is she even looking at? Oh, there's a notepad hanging on a string around my neck. What is this, some sort of a prank?
I pick up the notepad and take a look at it. The first page contains an address and a name that I don't recognize. Then, after that there are more names and phone numbers, none of which looks familiar to me. I turn the next page. The handwriting is different, and the contents….
Your name is Kyon.
You have amnesia.
Don't panic. You are taken care of.
Huh? This is pretty bad news, isn't it? Talk about getting an answer you didn't ask for! The next lines look more promising, at least concerning my current companion.
Don't go outside on your own.
These are your friends and family:
I quickly scan the descriptions until I find what looks like the correct one.
The quiet girl with a book is Nagato-san. Don't bother asking.
I look at the girl sitting on the chair. She's reading her book again and doesn't seem to move at all. For a fleeting moment it feels like I'm looking at a human sized doll. Then she turns the page and the illusion breaks. However, the line in the notepad is so cryptic that it appears completely useless.
"Uh, Nagato-san? I'm sorry but what is it that I'm not supposed to ask?"
The girl turns her head in a slow, almost mechanical fashion, and looks directly at me. Her face is pale and spotless like finest porcelain, and her dark eyes have the unfathomable appearance of a dead calm mountain lake in winter.
The way she looks at me has a strange, piercing quality, as if she were looking straight through my forehead and into my brain. The unrelenting stare stirs up a budding headache at the back of my head. I don't know why but it makes me feel rather uncomfortable … as if I were trying to push against an invisible stream of water.
Perhaps the girl can sense my uneasiness. There's an almost imperceptible change in her attitude, and the faint pressure in my head disappears. She observes me quietly for another moment before turning her attention back to the book. Huh, what was it that just happened?
Well, at least that explains the note, doesn't it?
I'm sitting on a bed, scratching a calico cat on my lap. The cat seems to approve my effort, but I have a peculiar feeling that I'm not alone.
I look up and see an angel — or at least someone who should easily qualify for the job. There's a girl with the sweetest, most delicate face and long maroon hair sitting on a chair next to me. She's looking at me with her eyes full of compassion. If this isn't the Heaven then I'm not going to be the one complaining about the difference!
Then, suddenly, her expression changes and she gets nervous for no apparent reason. "You forgot again, didn't you, Kyon-kun?"
Who's she and what is she talking about? If I had seen that face before, I couldn't forget it in a million years!
The girl sighs dolefully. "Oh, I feel so useless! But it's okay…. Kyon-kun, please read your notepad again."
Notepad? Which notepad? The girl points a finger at my chest.
Huh, what's this? Pushing the cat to the side, I pick up the book and look at the first page. It doesn't seem to contain any useful information. Turning the next page…. What?! This can't be!
Kyon? What kind of a stupid name is that? Is there anything worth reading in this book? I browse through the list of descriptions until I find what I'm looking for.
The timid girl with long hair is Asahina-san. Don't upset her.
I look at this Asahina-san who's already fidgeting on her seat. I'm afraid to even ask what the note means.
"I've been trying to find something that I could tell or show you — to help you remember. B-but I can't think of anything that we didn't already try. I can't reveal any classified information even if it's certain that you wouldn't remember it afterwards." She wrings her hands in distress. "I'm so sorry that there isn't anything I could do for you, but I'm sure that you'll overcome this adversity. I'm absolutely sure of it, so please hang in there, Kyon-kun!"
I'm not quite sure that I understand what she's saying, but that doesn't matter as long as I can listen to her cute voice.
"We've been taking turns, staying with you so that you don't have to be alone. Suzumiya-san arranged this with your parents. We'll continue until you get better, so please don't worry."
To tell the truth, I'm already feeling better. There cannot be an ailment so severe that it couldn't be abated by Asahina-san's presence.
"Is that so? I'm so glad to hear that!" Asahina-san gives me a sparkling smile.
This attention from such a kind and understanding girl makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Just as I wonder how to proceed from here, there's a knock on the door and some boy steps in the room.
Asahina-san jumps up nervously and greets the intruder with a bow. "Oh, it's you, Koizumi-kun! Is my time up already?"
What? This is an outrage! Who's this guy and why does he smile so eagerly? I bet that he's here to steal my sweet, sweet Asahina-san!
The boy sweeps a lock of hair from his forehead as he looks appraisingly around the room. "Actually, I arrived half an hour earlier than promised. There is a developing situation that will soon require my presence. As it happens to be, I believe that it might be advantageous to take Kyon with me."
No, go away and come back in half an hour — or even better, stay away altogether! I'm not in a hurry and neither is she.
Despite my silent objections, the gracious little angel quickly apologizes and leaves me in the room with that smiling jerk. I feel cheated.
"I am sorry for this sudden intrusion." He spreads his arms in a placating manner, looking anything but sorry. "However, as I mentioned, there are pressing matters that cannot wait. Please be so kind and follow me."
Where are we going?
"You could call it a field trip. Specifically, it won't require any physical effort on your behalf. I would just like to show you something."
There doesn't appear to be anything worthwhile left in this room, so I grudgingly agree.
My current situation doesn't look too promising.
I'm sitting at the back seat of a car, reading a notepad. The car is driven by an elderly man I don't recognize. There's a suspiciously happy boy with me at the back seat. He seems to be mentioned in this disturbing notepad.
The smiling boy is Koizumi-kun. Ask him if you need something.
For some reason I feel grumpy and unwilling to talk with this Koizumi-kun. Why would that be if he's so helpful?
"This is just conjecture," he says, putting a finger on his temple, "but it would appear to be that your emotions aren't affected by amnesia. In other words, when something happens that makes you angry, you will soon forget the incident, at least consciously. However, the part of your brain that controls feelings still remembers it.
"That way, you end up feeling angry for a reason. It is just that you cannot remember the reason itself." Koizumi-kun extends a hand, palm up, like offering a thought for consideration.
So … did we just have a fight, then?
There's a nefarious edge to Koizumi-kun's smile when he looks at me. "A direct confrontation would be out of question. After all, we are on the same side, here. However, this doesn't exclude the possibility that you perceived a slight where none was intended."
What are you talking about?
"Please don't bother yourself with that at the moment. Those suspicions would be completely unfounded, anyway. Maybe we can discuss the issue at a later time, when you get your memories back?"
I can't believe that I'd even want to remember such long-winded talk. The human mind can only store a limited amount of information before flowing over like a shishi-odoshi. I don't intend to fill mine by memorizing completely useless ramblings.
Despite acting very nonchalantly, he keeps staring me in a curious way. What's with that look?
"I was just thinking. Have you ever heard the words 'carpe diem'?"
"Nope. What's that, a boy choir?"
Koizumi-kun seems to find the reply highly amusing. "Not as far as I know, but I am intrigued that you came up with that answer. It is an old Latin aphorism which means 'seize the day'. In other words, it is a maxim that touts the virtue of living in the moment.
"Furthermore, I could also claim that it is something that Suzumiya-san has been trying to teach you for some time. Arguably, right now you are very much living in the moment. Indeed, although it may be involuntary, it would be quite hard to live more in the moment than you currently do."
Is there a point to this, or do you just abhor silence?
He raises one finger. "I am coming to it. As I said, on the surface it might look like you are now living just the way Suzumiya-san would hope to see you. As far as I am concerned this should be a desirable condition. However, based on the evidence the very opposite would seem to be true."
Which evidence are you talking about, and what does it matter what some Suzumiya-san wants?
"I'm afraid that I can't answer that question in a way that you could easily understand. However, this is exactly the reason for why we are here. You will soon have a chance to see the answer with your own eyes. We are almost there."
The car pulls over and we step out to the sidewalk. I don't recognize the neighborhood, but it appears to be a suburb. Koizumi-kun guides me to a small park that is devoid of people this late in the evening. Or possibly this early in the morning.
Koizumi-kun stops in the middle of the park and turns to me. "The next part is a bit awkward. I would need you to close your eyes and hold my hand. This is only for a couple of steps."
Are you serious about this? This is— I don't know what this is, but in any case I don't like it.
He puts a hand over his heart as if trying to convince me of his earnest intent. "My apologies. Of course, you don't have to do it. However, it is the only way to get some answers. Besides, it would be a wasted opportunity to walk back now, since you have already come this far."
I look at this Koizumi-kun and try to see whether he's trying to pull some elaborate prank on me, but he appears to be dead serious. Oh well, I must admit that all this secrecy is making me at least a bit interested. Is there a surprise party waiting behind the bushes?
"Quite excellent!" He gives me a hand and smiles encouragingly. "Now, if at all possible, please remember that you don't have to be worried about whatever you will see. You are completely safe, and it will be over soon enough."
I close my eyes as requested, and we take a few steps. I almost expect to be greeted with flashing lights and confetti. Instead of that the world becomes darker and colder, and the distant hum of the city fades out. Suddenly it's dead silent, and even the air feels stale, as if we were in a deep underground cave.
"You can open your eyes now."
I find myself at a park that looks rather gloomy. All the lights in the neighborhood seem to be turned off. There's a smiling boy standing next to me, but otherwise the place looks devoid of people.
The boy waves his hand in a wide arc, as if presenting his home to a visitor. "As I said, there is no need to worry. It might be helpful if you think of this as a dream that will vanish before dawn."
I'm not worried. So what if it's dark? It's probably just a temporary power failure, anyway.
"And now, would you turn around?"
I look in the direction indicated by my companion. Now I'm worried! What on earth is that thing?!
"It would take too much time to give an extensive explanation. It should be sufficient to say that this is something that happens when things don't go the way Suzumiya-san wants." The smile on the boy's face has become a grin like that of a hungry wolf.
"However, I must also point out that the situation is somewhat unusual. This is the second successive night when the celestials just stand there motionlessly instead of wreaking havoc. It is as if they felt depressed, or possibly guilty."
I'm still trying to figure out what I'm looking at. There's some giant blue ghost thing looming in the distance, silently towering over even the tallest buildings. Nothing like that should have the right to exist!
"I will now have to leave you alone for a short while. Please stay here and enjoy the show while it lasts. I will be back as soon as possible." The boy gives me a courteous nod before adding a final remark. "Remember, this is just a dream."
As if things weren't weird enough already, the air around the smiling boy starts to glow with a deep crimson hue. He vanishes into an opaque ball of red light that rises from the ground and zooms away at an incredible speed. This play has just officially broken the limits of comprehensibility and proceeds at warp speed towards constellation Absurdus!
I give up even trying to understand the whole thing, and just watch as several glowing red lights swarm the blue giant like angry bees. Suddenly, the giant breaks into pieces and disintegrates in front of my eyes. For a moment absolutely nothing moves. Then, in a kind of a silent implosion the entire world shatters and shrivels away.
I'm standing at a small park. I don't recognize the neighborhood. It's either late evening or early morning, but the place looks empty. What was it that just happened? My brain tries to make sense of the jumble of images that just flashed past my eyes but quickly capitulates in front of a task as impossible as the gifts of Kaguya-hime.
"Oi!" A smiling boy is walking towards me through the park. He looks like he was expecting to find me here.
Do we know each other?
The boy gives me a friendly wink. "As a matter of fact we do, at least most of the time. Please read the notepad that you have around your neck."
Which notepad? Oh … why am I carrying this thing?
"To be honest," he continues in a rueful tone, "I was secretly hoping that this experience might refresh your memories. However, you are clearly too intrepid to be swayed by my cheap dog and pony show. There doesn't seem to be anything that I can do about it. But if that is the case…."
He makes a small flourish with his hand as if to punctuate a question. "I wonder what will happen if this state of things becomes permanent. Would an external intervention occur by any chance — and which faction would be the first one to act?"
You know, words aren't supposed to be like dragon dancers. They don't suddenly start making sense just by having more crammed in the same sentence.
"I guess that we can worry about it later, should that possibility come to pass. In the meanwhile…." The boy shrugs and flashes his most charming smile. "The car is waiting. Shall we go?"
I don't have any idea what is going on here, but I've got an uncomfortable feeling. My mind couldn't be more muddled even if the One Hundred Demons had just paraded through it.
This weird notepad doesn't help with lifting the mood, either.
I'm playing a video game when someone kicks a door open without warning. The loud noise disturbs my concentration at a crucial moment, and my game character meets a gruesome fate. Oh boy!
"Yo-hou! Sorry for being late!" An altogether too cheerful girl enters the room.
Couldn't you have waited for a few more seconds, or at least given a warning before barging in like a SWAT team? I just lost a game because of you.
I turn around and see another, much younger girl sitting on a bed with a struggling calico cat in her tight embrace. She cheerfully welcomes the person who just arrived before talking to me again.
"You've been playing that game for three hours already! You die every time when you try to get past the big turtle. It's not funny any more."
Who are these girls, and what is this — a conspiracy? I know that the level is challenging, but I don't remember playing it for hours.
"Just listen to her!" chides the intruder, wagging a finger at me. "I can't understand how you of all people can have such a bright and sensible little sister. She will surely grow up to become a respectable member of society, unlike some other people that I happen to know!"
This looks like a conspiracy all right. I'm being tag teamed by these two girls. Anyway, I have a sister? When did that happen?
What's the little girl talking about? I follow her gaze and notice a notepad hanging on a string around my neck. Why am I carrying a notepad?
Huh … is this some kind of a lame joke? The notepad contains a lot of useless information, but after a while I find something that seems to be related to my current circumstances.
The girl with a yellow headband is Suzumiya-san. She is not your girlfriend.
Then, further down….
The little girl with a ponytail is your sister. Be extra nice to her.
Feed the cat.
I get a distinct impression that the 'extra nice' part is written by someone much younger than the author of the rest of the list.
So, I have a sister, a not-girlfriend and a cat. Only one of those must be fed. Is that really everything I should know in this situation? I'd like to have some stern words with the author of this notepad.
The girl, who should probably be this Suzumiya-san, continues like a homeschool teacher.
"It's time to dust off those cobwebs of your mind! Grab your jacket! The weather is good, so let's go already!"
Let's go where? I don't particularly feel like going out right now. Anyway, if I'm being asked out by a girl, she could at least have the decency to be my girlfriend.
"What's this?! Would you rather stay inside playing some stupid video game than obey your Brigade commander when she gives you a direct order?!" The fearsome girl effortlessly pulls me up from the floor and pokes my chest with a finger to punctuate her words. "Let me tell you what, you've got exactly ten seconds to get that lazy butt of yours out of this room, or there will be stiff penalties!"
I don't remember enlisting to the army. Anyway, this Suzumiya-san clearly isn't someone whose orders can be simply ignored. If I'm like a ball in a pachinko machine, then the path of least resistance seems to go directly through that door. Oh boy!
I'm drinking mint tea at a coffeehouse. I have this odd feeling that just a moment ago I was pondering some thorny problem. However, no matter how hard I try, I can't remember what it is. Oh well, whatever.
My train of thought is interrupted by the realization that I'm not alone. There's a girl sitting at the same table, staring me with an annoyed look on her face. What's this? I don't know who she is and when she arrived here.
Could this be a blind date, and I just forgot her name? Is that what I was trying to remember? Oh boy, it looks like I'm in trouble no matter what I do. So, I can just as well admit it and ask her.
The girl immediately answers as if she already knew what I was going to say.
"No, this is not a date!"
Is she some kind of a psychic?
The girl frowns and stirs her soft drink with a straw. "I can't understand where you got that obsession, but it's annoying for sure. I'm here trying to help you, but it doesn't mean that you should start indulging your fantasies. Don't try to deny it, I can see it from your face!"
Then my face must know something that I don't. I don't think that being chided by what appears to be a high school girl, no matter how pretty, is the kind of fantasy material I would prefer to indulge.
"In any case, since I outrank you it's me who asks the questions. If you can't answer properly there will be penalties! Do you understand?!" The girl points at me with the straw in her hand.
No, I don't understand what's going on, but admitting that in this situation might be written off as a suicide. To save myself from such trouble, I just nod.
"First question! What's the name of your Brigade?"
Huh? What kind of a question is that? I haven't been in the army.
"Wrong! You are a member of the SOS Brigade and you are bringing dishonor to the entire Brigade by forgetting that fact!"
I'm quite sure that I'd remember if I had ever been a member of some brigade.
Ignoring my objections, the girl pushes forward with her weird quiz. "What do the letters 'S', 'O' and 'S' in the name of the Brigade stand for?"
Wait, I know this one! What was it again … save our souls?
"Wrong! They stand for Save the world by Overloading it with fun Suzumiya Haruhi's Brigade!"
That doesn't even make any sense! Who makes these questions?
"What is the purpose of the SOS Brigade?"
Didn't you just say it? Something about saving the world?
"Wrong! The purpose of the SOS Brigade is to find aliens, time travelers and espers, and have fun with them! You are hopeless!"
Okay, I get it. I finally get it. This must be some candid camera show, but for some reason I can't see the camera team anywhere. I'm starting to feel annoyed as I glance around the shop.
"Pay attention! Last question! Who am I?!"
I'm just about to answer that I've never seen this crazy governess before, but as I turn to face her the words die in my mouth. I thought that she was angry, but the expression on her face reflects a completely different mood.
I'm suddenly overwhelmed by a terrible sensation that I'm standing on the brink of abyss — and one wrong word will send me hurling to the depths of despair. What's so special about this girl that the question feels like a matter of life and death? What have I missed? I try to think about what she just said, but the words slip away from my grasp. My mind is completely empty. She keeps staring me with those large, dark eyes filled with the same emotion that's consuming me right now.
I can't think of anything. I'm too afraid to even breathe.
I don't know how long we stare each other over the table. Finally, she seems to give up waiting for an answer and breaks eye contact with a loud sigh. The rift under my feet mercifully closes. I realize that I'm sweating. What was it that just happened?
The girl hastily finishes her soft drink and stands up, thrusting her hand in front of my face. She's holding a receipt.
"Penalty! You pay!"
For some reason I'm feeling absent-minded. However, if there was some distracting thought in my mind earlier, it's gone for good. Don't they say that ignorance is bliss? I'm going to go with that for now.
I'm at a coffeehouse, standing by the counter to pay my bill. However, the total is surprisingly high. Did I really order this all? I'm about to ask the waiter when—
"Just pay it already and follow me!"
There's an unfamiliar girl next to me, watching me critically and tapping her foot. Where did she pop up from? Does she mistake me for someone else, since at least I've never seen her before?
I put the money on the counter and the girl grabs my arm, dragging me out of the shop. Whoa! Who are you, my girlfriend?
The girl creases her mouth like a duck. "No, I'm your sister. You couldn't get a girlfriend even if your life depended on it!"
Hey, isn't that a bit harsh? Anyway, since when do I have a sister?
"Of course I'm not your sister! You shouldn't believe everything that people say!"
You are or you aren't, could you decide already? But if you aren't my sister, then does that mean that you are my girlfriend? I feel confused.
The girl ignores my questions and raises a hand. "That way!"
That way what?
"We're going for a walk. I won't hold your hand through the whole city, so start marching!"
I don't seem to have much of a choice, do I? And anyway, when did I join the army?
I'm walking through a park. There might be a good reason for me to be doing this, but I don't seem to recall it right now. Still, I'm not too worried about my temporary lapse of mind, since everything looks very peaceful and soothing. It doesn't feel like I'm in a hurry, anyway.
The weather is brisk. Falling leaves create little whirlpools on the walkway. Pale sunlight sparkles on the surface of the river that flows gently alongside the path. It's a perfectly fine autumn day for a walk in a park. However—
There's just one curious detail that vies for my attention like a puppy that wants to play fetch.
A girl is walking by my side. I steal a quick glance in her direction. She doesn't look familiar to me, but she's definitely keeping me company. Coincidentally, she also looks quite pretty despite the distressed expression on her face. What a peculiar situation!
I'm trying to act casually, but she still notices that I'm watching her. She gives me a quick glance before turning her head away again. We keep walking in silence.
What's this, a blind date?
"You really don't remember, do you? Important things, everyday things — it's all the same to you. You don't remember anything at all." Her voice is surprisingly melancholy.
I'm sorry. This is embarrassing, but I feel a bit disoriented.
The girl sighs. "Just read the notepad. I'm bored of explaining it over and over again."
Which notepad? Oh, I see. What's this thing doing around my neck?
On the first page, there's an address and a name that I don't recognize. Then….
What? This is pretty shocking! How long has this been going on?
"This is the fourth day. It's Sunday, by the way." The girl, who should be this Suzumiya-san mentioned in the notepad, grimaces as if the simple fact tasted particularly bitter on her lips.
Four days? I can't remember any of it. In fact, I don't seem to remember anything else, either. Beyond this sunny walkway at a park, everything fades into an impenetrable fog.
I read the notepad again. Most of it doesn't make any sense. The only sentence that seems to be directly related to my current situation does a particularly good job at not making sense. So good, in fact, that I can't help asking about it.
"Uh, Suzumiya-san? Thank you for looking after me, but there's one thing that I don't understand. Why's the only thing worth writing down that you aren't my girlfriend? Do I really make that mistake all the time?"
She stops and I feel compelled to do the same. Suddenly it's very quiet around us. She examines my face closely for a while, as if looking for some sign. What's this mood? Her eyes are bright enough to contain entire universes in them. I firmly believe that nine boys out of ten would be quite happy to call her their girlfriend in this situation!
Finally, she turns her head away and says something unexpected.
"Would it make any difference to you?"
Huh? The annoyed tone in her voice is gone. She sounds completely serious, even bashful. Anyway, what do you mean by that it wouldn't make any difference? I'd think that there's a rather big difference in whether a boy and a girl are dating or not.
She bites her lip while musing over the thought. "We already see each other almost daily and do all kinds of fun things together. Wouldn't it be the same way if we were going out?"
I admit that this certainly looks a lot like a date.
"I've been having a great time ever since we met. Most of the time. When you aren't being actively unhelpful, anyway." She shoots an accusing glance in my direction. "But always when there's something really interesting— I wonder why you resist everything as if it were the end of the world. Is it so hard to admit that we're having fun?"
"You've been complaining less these last few days … but on the whole it isn't a big improvement. Before, you didn't want to do things, and now you just can't." She sighs, with her eyes still fixed at some imaginary point in the horizon.
"Koizumi-kun claimed that you're the same as usual, that you just don't remember things. But if that's so, then where does the difference in your attitude come from? If I didn't know you better I'd think that you've got some shady secret you're trying to hide from me."
Can't help you there, miss. I'm quite sure that there wasn't anything like that mentioned in my notepad.
Ignoring me, the girl stands still for a moment before speaking again.
"But … that's really beside the point, isn't it? In the end, no matter how grudgingly, you always do what needs to be done. Why does it have to be so difficult, then? When you're like this—"
For some reason, she starts to sound quite agitated. "I mean, why do you have to keep asking that question now? What's wrong with your head? Of course I'm not your girlfriend! That's totally impossible! Do I really have to tell you the reason why it's so?!"
I'm taken aback by this outburst. There's a reason?
The girl takes a deep breath as if gathering resolve, and then suddenly turns around, facing me with the intensity of a Type Ia supernova.
"Because you would never ask me out!"
She stares unflinchingly in my eyes like one of the ancient Furies. Never mind the damned notepad. The expression on her face tells me everything I need to know.
A note to self: the 'me' who doesn't have this amnesia must be a total idiot!
I'm watching the mesmerizing twinkle of sunlight, shining through the foliage of cherry trees at a park. It's autumn. Leaves are falling down and dancing in the chilly breeze.
I don't know why it's so, but somehow this scene seems to reflect the internal landscape of my mind. It's as if the leaves were memories torn away from their proper place and blown around like confetti before disappearing in the mist.
It's like … an old and worn out movie skipping track in the projector, the image becoming jittery before breaking into disjointed frames.
A sudden feeling of loss comes over me, but I can't tell what caused it. Did I just forget something important? I try to remember but the attempt fails, and that makes me feel quite melancholy. What's with this uncomfortable mood? Is it related to the change of seasons?
I feel lonely, but surprisingly enough I don't seem to be alone. There's a girl standing by my side, though she doesn't look familiar to me. Did she just arrive, or has she been standing there for a while already? I can't tell, but somehow her presence makes the feeling of loss even more poignant. What a weird circumstance!
When she notices my quizzical look, she quickly turns her head away. What's that supposed to mean? Is she just shy? Why are we standing here like this?
There's a moment of silence while I try to sort out the heap of questions in my mind. Then, without looking back, she speaks in a dejected tone.
"I'll take you home. Just follow me and don't say anything."
Huh? What did I miss?
Ignorance isn't what it's cracked up to be. If you were in my shoes right now, you'd be bound to agree with this conclusion.
I'm sitting on a bed, in a room that is most likely mine. I'm reading this cursed notepad. If the frayed edges are anything to go by, I've been doing that a lot as of late. There's also a girl in the room. According to the notepad she should be Suzumiya-san, who isn't my girlfriend. What a stupid thing to write down!
Suzumiya-san is sitting by the table, drawing doodles on paper with an air of absent-minded pensiveness. She doesn't appear to be interested in talking. I can't really blame her for that. It must be frustrating to talk with someone who forgets everything right after it has been said. In such a situation, there isn't any point to it other than idly exercising one's vocal chords, is there?
As I am dwelling in these somber thoughts, the door opens and a younger girl walks in. I check the notepad again. Right, this should be my sister. She stops in front of my visitor to relay a message.
"Are you going to eat dinner with us, Haru-nyan? Mom wants to know if she should cook more rice."
"I must go home for dinner." Suzumiya-san checks the clock on the table. "But, it'll be Yuki's turn after me. Tell your mother to cook as much as she wants. Yuki will surely eat everything she's given!"
Having completed her official task, the little girl turns her attention to me. It's odd to think that I have a sister, but I can't remember her when she's not in front of me.
"Say, Kyon-kun. Are you feeling any better?"
No, I don't think that I am.
"I already fed Shami. So, you don't have to do it for a while."
Duly noted. I don't know who's Shami, but I'm happy to hear that there's one less worry I don't know anything about in my life, at least for now.
"Will you play cards with us until dinner, then?"
Looks like my sister had some vested interest in feeding Shami, whoever he is. However, I don't really feel like playing right now.
"Well, honestly it isn't too fun, either. You never remember the rules. Yesterday, we changed the rules on each round, and you still didn't notice that you got all the punishments!"
A furtive glare from Suzumiya-san suggests that my sister isn't too good at keeping secrets. Though, if I can't even remember it then I don't really mind either way.
My sister keeps kicking the carpet casually while mulling over a thought. "Say, Kyon-kun. When will you remember things again? I forget things all the time, too, and Mom chides me for it. But it doesn't matter. I still do my best to remember!"
After having said what she apparently had on her mind, my sister leaves the room without waiting for an answer. Suzumiya-san looks like she wants to say something as well, but in the end she just huffs discontently and rests her chin on one hand. A heavy atmosphere of melancholy fills the room. Suzumiya-san keeps watching me with a sullen expression on her face. Mine isn't probably any happier.
What's with that look?
"I wonder if you've really been that unhappy with your life." Suzumiya-san twirls a pencil haphazardly while she talks.
What do you mean?
"Perhaps it's indeed some unconscious thing. Even if you can't remember it right now, you might actually prefer not knowing anything, and instead just live in carefree ignorance. Knowing you, I wouldn't be too surprised if it was something like that."
Might be. I can't know what I don't know.
"And you don't have any idea how much worry it causes to everyone. Your family, your friends … and me. It's my responsibility as the leader of the Brigade—" She twists the pencil until it breaks. The snapping sound startles both of us. "Uh … because of what happened, it's my responsibility to see that you get better. So that's what I'm doing!"
What was it that happened? How is this girl related to my current situation? Why is she feeling responsible for me? I suspect that she wouldn't tell even if I asked.
I read the useless notepad again, in a futile attempt to understand this mystery. However, there isn't anything worth knowing in the notepad. My attention is drawn to the last line of handwritten text at the end of the short list.
Don't bother writing down anything else. You'll just forget what you were looking for.
Are these few pages all that's left of my life? Even if I don't have a proclivity for bouts of self-pity, this is a rather lamentable state of affairs, isn't it?
"Can I see the notepad?" Suzumiya-san extends her hand in my direction.
I doubt that she will find anything interesting in there, either, but I won't mind if she wants to try.
Curiously enough, taking the notepad off feels almost as awkward as if I was stripping myself naked. If that's all I've got left, you better give it back when you've read it.
She goes through the deplorable notes one by one. I can see her eyes growing darker with each passing line. After the final page she suddenly turns her back to me. What's with that reaction? I can guarantee that there's nothing worthwhile in that list. Most of it doesn't even make any sense.
I spend an idle moment wondering whether there's a shrine to the God of Sense somewhere, and what kind of offerings I should be considering if I wanted to pray for a small favor.
But still … there's this persistent, odd feeling I cannot quite put my thumb on. I don't know why, but it's related to the girl sitting in my room. What was her name again? Well, that's not the important part, is it? The important part— The important part is that even if she isn't my girlfriend, she's still here trying to help me. Doesn't that mean that she cares about me? Doesn't that make an entire wish tree's worth of sense?
Even if she isn't my girlfriend, I want to remember her. But I can do that, can't I? Even without the notepad, I can remember her as long as I don't turn my eyes away!
She finally turns around and looks at me. Her eyes glisten as if she had just been crying. Why would she do that? Anyway, because I don't dare to turn my gaze away from her, it means that our eyes are now locked with each other. It's not possible that this fact wouldn't affect the atmosphere between us.
"The last note … that's what you wrote on the way here, isn't it?" Her voice is uneven, almost choking.
"After what happened at the park … you kept reading the notepad over and over again. You were looking for something that wasn't there, because you didn't write it down before you forgot. But … you tried to remember. You really tried."
Uh, what did I forget?
She examines me carefully, as if looking for some answer from my face. A moment passes in silence, until she comes to some conclusion.
"If it's like that…. Would it be possible — even if you couldn't remember it later? You wouldn't object to it, would you?"
Object to what?
She drops the notepad on the table and takes off her headband. Wait, how am I going to recognize you without it?
"You know, Kyon, I once had this odd dream."
She gathers her hair and ties it into a ponytail. I don't know why she would do that, but I must admit that she looks even prettier now.
"I had been having a hard time and was really unhappy with my life. But then, that dream made me realize something important."
She walks to me as she speaks, pulling me up from the bed. What is she talking about? Why does she keep holding my collar and looking at me with an expression like that? This sudden change in the mood gives me an odd idea….
"Yes, I could say that ever since my life has been much more interesting. Thanks to…."
Wait, don't tell me you're thinking of what I think you're thinking—
Are you sure you're not my girlfriend?!
Maybe it's because my mind is temporarily distracted by something quite unexpected. Maybe it's because she's leaning against me like that. Maybe it's this sudden sense of dizziness that strikes me from who knows where. What I know is that I try to take a spontaneous step back to keep my balance — but the bed gets in the way.
This precarious situation can only have one end result. With unusual clarity, our current position relative to the dimensions of the bed somewhere behind my back is drawn on my mind's blackboard as we fall. Below the sketch, someone has hastily scribbled the words not enough room.
Head, meet headboard.
It was the middle of November, a Thursday to be exact. On the outset of it, there didn't seem to be anything particularly remarkable about that immaterial piece of trivia.
My life had been slightly more peaceful — and as nearly normal as it was possible, considering the circumstances — after the events leading up to the Culture Festival and all the trouble related to that. However, that would prove to be just a deceptive moment of calm before the arrival of the next storm that was brewing right beyond the horizon. And, as usual, the cause of that storm was the uniquely unrestrained girl sitting behind me in the class 1-5.
It was clear as day to anyone bothering to pay attention that Haruhi had been in her best mood the whole day. She was positively beaming at full power like a nuclear reactor rapidly approaching criticality. Such a blatant display of exuberance managed to lull me into a false sense of security when it should have done the exact opposite. My bad. Let me say it right here: I really should have known better by that point, but what's happened stays happened. When I realized what was going on it was already too late to run.
That moment of reckoning came during the last period of the day, when Haruhi apparently couldn't contain her curiosity any more. I felt a mechanical pencil poking my back, followed by a whispered sentence that caught me like floodwaters engulfing an unwitting mole in its burrow.
"Say, Kyon, did you find any good ones?"
The sinking feeling in my stomach was so intense that I felt sick. With those seemingly innocuous words, a particular episode from the beginning of the week started to play on my mind's screen.
"I can't believe that we missed it!"
This angry wail came from none else than the self-nominated and utterly peerless leader of the SOS Brigade, Haruhi Suzumiya, whose outlandish ideas had been the bane of my peaceful existence as an ordinary high school student ever since I had arrived at North High. The reason for my perpetual apprehension was that reality seemed to have an uncanny — one could even say supernatural — tendency to bend to her will. That in itself wouldn't necessarily have been so bad if it hadn't been just this particularly troublesome girl.
She had been sitting behind Brigade chief's desk, fiddling leisurely with the clubroom computer, and undoubtedly managed to find something weird. Whatever it was, it had then promptly mutated into something even weirder in her intractable mind. I had no idea what it could be, but was afraid that I very soon would. Unfortunately, I was right once again.
"Um … what did we miss? Is it something serious?"
This was asked by the official SOS Brigade mascot, Mikuru Asahina, whose exquisitely brewed tea I had been placidly enjoying until that very moment. She stood by the desk in her maid costume, holding a tray against her bosom and looking so genuinely worried that any normal boy would have felt an almost irresistible urge to console her right there and then. That she was also a time traveler from the future was a fact only known by a select few, and in any case that particular piece of information didn't have anything to do with the events that were unfolding.
"Halloween! We missed Halloween!"
Wasn't Halloweed celebrated at the end of October? We were already too busy shooting the movie for the Culture Festival at that time, so we couldn't have spent time on yet another goofy festival even if we had wanted to.
Haruhi's death-ray glare made it clear that such a display of philistinism wasn't tolerated at the clubroom. "There's always time for important things! It's just a matter of setting your priorities straight. Anyway, I refuse to let this opportunity pass! It doesn't matter if it's a bit late as long as proper traditions are observed. Therefore I decree that we'll have our own Halloween event this week!"
What do you mean — that we should wear silly costumes and go from door to door asking for candy?
"Of course not, that would be a total waste of time. We'll have a special Halloween party right here at SOS headquarters!"
"That is a most excellent idea," applauded the person who had until that moment focused his attention to the shogi board on the table between us two.
Oh no, don't encourage her! The boy with the impeccably refreshing smile, currently acting like Haruhi's ideas were the best thing since cup noodles, was Itsuki Koizumi, the official mysterious transfer student and Brigade Vice Commander, who was also secretly an esper assigned by his organisation to keep an eye on Haruhi's antics. However, I'd like to point out that none of these implausible facts has anything to do with this story, either.
The obvious duplicity of Koizumi's flattery was lost on Haruhi, who went on to declare without any sense of common decency, "Of course it is a great idea since it's mine! Let's see, we will need a couple of days for preparations…. Are you all free on Thursday? Mikuru-chan? Koizumi-kun? Yuki?"
The last person mentioned was a quiet and impassive girl reading a thick hardcover book in some foreign language. A stoic bookworm sitting in her designated corner like a Greek statue, Yuki Nagato was actually the sole member of the Literature Club whose clubroom Haruhi had usurped after founding the SOS Brigade. That she was also an alien interface sent by some extra-terrestrial data entity to observe Haruhi was, again, completely irrelevant to this whole episode.
"I don't even ask you, Kyon, since I happen to know that you never have anything better to do."
And that Kyon would be me — Brigade member number one, the all-around errand boy and the only completely normal person in the room. If you wonder what I was doing in the middle of aliens, time travelers, espers and reality altering girls then I'll readily share the feeling of bafflement with you. For reasons only known by gods of fate and possibly herself, Haruhi had chosen me and that's that!
"So it's decided then, we will have the event on Thursday after school. Since there's much to do we should assign the duties properly. Mikuru-chan, you'll help me with the catering!"
"Koizumi-kun, can you take care of the decorations?"
"It would be a pleasure to do so." The esper struck a theatrical pose of apparent deep contemplation before continuing, "Should they be specifically themed according to the American Halloween tradition, or will any comparable items from other cultures do?"
What did I just say about not giving her any more ideas? At the rate Haruhi is already gaining momentum, she just might reach a geostationary orbit in short order.
Like a Saturn V rocket on the way to the Moon, Haruhi pulled a flawless Hohmann maneuver. "You are right, we can't discriminate against any monsters based on their country of origin. Ten points to you! Instead of Halloween this will be the Great Yokai Party of the SOS Brigade!"
Hey, you changed the script already!
Haruhi wagged a finger in my direction like a grade school teacher reproving a child who's particularly slow on the uptake. "Don't get stuck with insignificant details, Kyon! This way we can give our own obakemono the attention they are clearly entitled to, as well. Koizumi-kun, feel free to bring anything from other countries, like those Mexican day of the dead skeletons … what were they called again?"
Koizumi put a finger on his chin, as if pondering a matter of critical importance, before suggesting, "I believe those are known by the name calavera." Cut the act, will you? It's not like Haruhi's reward points are redeemable at any reputable business establishment, anyway.
However, my misgivings were for naught at this stage. Haruhi's eyes were already shining with the intensity of an industrial-grade laser cutting its way through solid steel. "Right, make sure to bring those if you can find any! Yuki, since you like reading you should find the best ghost stories for us, but only the scariest and most extraordinary will do! Bonus points for finding anything that has happened in our own neighborhood!"
Hearing this, Nagato just nodded almost imperceptibly. Since she's an alien, I wonder how her criteria for scary and extraordinary would match those of the rest of us.
Anyway, all this commotion seemed to leave me without any direct responsibilities. Was I getting a free ride for once?
There was a disturbing glint in Haruhi's eyes as she crossed her arms with an air of supreme authority and announced, "Of course not! I reserved an absolutely essential task just for you. I'd love to do it myself but I'll be too busy preparing the snacks so you must provide us with the costumes!"
As for how this ignominious conversation was related to my current circumstances…. Let me put it this way, and the issue should become as conspicuous as a sharp blade suspended above one's head.
This is what happened after the meeting: I actually went through the effort of finding the nearest costume shop and bought three sets of costumes. For the remaining two, I couldn't find anything that would have agreed with my already depleted wallet. Since I was running late for dinner I decided to leave them for another time.
This is what didn't happen after the meeting: that another time never came since I managed to forget the whole thing! The already purchased sets were in a bag under my bed, but even going home to fetch them wouldn't save me now since I was still two costumes short of a full party.
Koizumi's theory, which he explained in private after the meeting, was that Haruhi had deliberately given the task of acquiring the costumes to me because she wanted to see what I would choose for each member of the Brigade. As if I weren't aware of that on my own, he also pointed out that Haruhi trusted that I would eventually complete the task despite complaining about it. I knew from previous experiences that failing to meet her expectations would usually spell trouble of cosmic proportions.
As a direct consequence of the facts I just stated, I was now in deep trouble and couldn't think of any way out of this predicament.
The mechanical pencil kept poking my ribs. How was I supposed to find a solution if she distracted me like that?
The bell rang to announce the end of the period, indicating that my time was up. I didn't even get a last wish!
Haruhi must have sensed that something was wrong. When I didn't show any signs of vacating my seat, she impatiently grabbed my collar and pulled.
I felt sullen and didn't yield. Another mistake. Once again I had underestimated the stupid strength of that girl and fell backward with my chair, hitting the back of my head to the corner of her desk. There must have been a sound to it, but for some reason I couldn't hear any.
It was as much the unexpected jolt as the sharp pain in my head that made this involuntary grunt escape my lips. I felt dizzy and irritated enough by the brash recklessness of that girl to lose my usual sense of self-restraint and snapped at her.
"Haruhi! Why can't you just ask like normal people?!"
I opened my eyes … and was hit by an overwhelming sense of confusion. "What the…?"
I was in the classroom with Haruhi. No, that wasn't it.
I was in closed space with Haruhi. No, that wasn't it, either. And why did that thing even come to my mind just now?
I was in my own room … in my bed even, lying in an awkward position with my head pressed against the headboard. And, as if that wasn't bewildering enough by itself…. Haruhi, her hand still grabbing my collar, was slumped on top of me. Her face, red as beet, was at most an inch away from mine.
On a second thought, 'awkward' doesn't even begin to describe the scene I just outlined. No matter which way you looked at it, there didn't seem to be any chance of mistaking it for one of those dreams.
It looked like the risqué undertones of the situation didn't escape the person currently pinning me down with her body, either. For once, even Haruhi was too stunned to say anything.
Uh, why are we in my room?
"Say it again!" Finally finding her voice, Haruhi hastily pushed herself in an upright position. For some reason she seemed to be terribly agitated.
Say what again?
"Say my name!"
"What's wrong with you, Haruhi? Since when are you so fond of hearing your own name? Ah, scrap that … rather, what did you just do?"
"I— What do you mean?" she asked in a peculiarly sharp tone all of a sudden. So, she knew that she had just done something weird. Even I could tell that from her face.
I mean, we were at school, and you pulled me down…. And now, we're here?
"That's what you remember?"
What else is there to remember, then?
Haruhi's face was that of a sphinx who had just forgotten the riddle she was supposed to ask. Seemingly lost in deep thought, she completely ignored my question. "An intensely emotional memory, huh? But then…!" She paused, eyes wide, as if having just realized something astonishing.
What are you talking about?
She kept staring me with an oddly uncharacteristic half-smile creased on her face, looking like she was temporarily unable to choose the proper expression. I don't know why, but it made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. This is Earth calling planet Haruhi, anyone there?
Then, just like that, she snapped out of that inscrutable mood and jumped on her feet with remarkable vigor.
"It's nothing, nothing! Anyway, I gotta go now!"
She took something from the table and danced triumphantly out of the room, humming 'Stairway to Heaven'. At the door she turned around and pointed a finger at me like a gun.
"Don't think for a second that you can shirk your responsibilities by doing something like this again. The party will be held tomorrow evening, without fail. I won't tolerate anything less than 200% effort from all Brigade members, including you!"
She flashed me a magnanimous smile like a parting royalty, and then she was gone. What was it that just happened? How did we get here? Was it something that Haruhi did? When had she tied her hair into a ponytail, and why? Her behavior didn't make any sense— Well, even less sense than usual, in any case.
The back of my head was still hurting from the hit. Now that I thought about it, for some inexplicable reason my face felt all … tingly, as well. Anyway, I couldn't possibly let such useless thoughts linger too long in my mind. The saving grace in the situation was that the party had been moved from today to tomorrow … that is, Friday, right?
Or, at least that was what I thought until I saw the calendar. Huh, it was Sunday evening already? Three whole days had just disappeared in the blink of an eye! Was this some time traveling trick again? And … what did the mysterious sign on my door mean? Which notepad? If anyone knows what's going on here then this would be a good time to fill me in.
Oh boy! If this particular story has any plot at all, then there's big enough a hole right in the middle of it for a jumbojet to fly through!
It was Monday morning and I was walking up the familiar hill standing between me and my fledging quest for higher education. This Sisyphean task felt, if possible, even more tiresome than usual. By all accounts, weekends exist to let people relax, but somehow I had just lost mine to a mysterious party trick. Shouldn't there be a rebate or something, at least?
I was just pondering the black hole in my recent past when someone called me by name.
I turned around to see Taniguchi, ambling along like a person without a single worry in the world. He seemed to be positively surprised to find me here.
"So, you're back on your feet? You really scared the whole class senseless last week."
"You certainly did. I'd never have thought that there can be so much blood coming from a small head wound. All the girls were screaming like crazy. You should've seen that — it was better than in the movies!"
I don't have absolutely any recollection of such an occurrence.
"That doesn't surprise me at all. Man, you looked, like, dead!"
Taniguchi made a face that was probably meant to illustrate his point. Keep it to yourself, buddy. Such a gesture only makes you look even more stupid than usual.
Unfazed by my evident lack of enthusiams, he patted me on the back and continued, "Man, I've always told that Suzumiya is bad news! Maybe you can now see the undeniable wisdom in my words, huh? I was on the duty with Kunikida and had to clean up the blood afterwards, so I'd say that you owe us one."
Taniguchi kept jabbering as we walked, but I failed to pay attention to his words of wisdom. Instead, I tried to fit this latest piece of information to the puzzle. I touched the back of my head gingerly and noticed that there was still a sore spot left. Oh well, it was kind of my own fault, wasn't it?
But, I didn't forget this time. My thoughts wandered to the items I had crammed to my school bag in the morning.
"Costumes, huh," I said half-heartedly to myself, still amazed by how much trouble such silly things had managed to cause. Because of this, I had called Nagato yesterday evening, after Haruhi had left.
"Suzumiya Haruhi has informed me of the situation," was the laconic reply to my inquiry about what had just happened.
This didn't quite allay my fears, so I had to ask, "Is that bad?"
Nagato was silent at the other end of the line. Realizing that my question was somewhat ambiguous, I added, "I mean, did Haruhi just learn something that's about to cause the end of the world, or something like that?"
"There are no indications of Suzumiya Haruhi wanting to alter the current timeline."
"Ah … is that so?"
Faced with the unshakable calmness of the alien interface, I made a mental note that I should also talk about this with Koizumi, or even Asahina-san. Since neither of them had contacted me after the incident, they were either unaware of it, or, like Nagato, didn't see it as an immediate threat. However, if they did indeed know something, I was willing to bet that I would find their explanation easier to follow.
The only person I should exclude from this consideration was Haruhi herself. I didn't know why she let it just slip like that, and didn't even intend to find out. Whenever something weird happens, it is my solemn duty to avoid drawing her attention to it. If I ever started thinking otherwise, I should get my head examined!
Anyway … when it came to the reason why I had called Nagato in the first place, she agreed to bring the same witch costume that she had used before. She could also have brought a yukata, claiming that it's the costume of a yuki-onna, but I was actually glad that I didn't have to suggest that. I don't know what she would have thought about the idea. At least she was already used to being a witch.
Well, that was one costume less to worry about.
I took the path of least resistance myself. Ladies and gentlemen, this old and slightly frayed bed sheet with two holes for eyes now presents you the ghost of Kyon, take it or leave. Considering that it was late Sunday evening already, that was about the best I could do without suddenly acquiring a set of implausible crafting skills.
As for the things that I had bought from the costume shop, I must admit that I was actually quite eager to see how they would be received.
A pair of false teeth and some rice powder would bring us Count Koizumi the vampire. I was willing to bet that his trademark smile would be more eye-catching than ever! Should he want a formal black suit to go with that, he'd be welcome to bring one of his own. This should be a reasonable request since I wasn't given any money for the task in the first place.
The kemonomimi set had been a real find. In my mind there wasn't any questions about who should use it. With her long hair, matching the set in color, Asahina-san would be the perfect foxgirl! She could even keep her usual maid uniform on top of that! The mere thought of laying my eyes on such military-grade cuteness was almost too beguiling, considering my current circumstances.
Then, I had something special just for our formidable Brigade chief.
It was entirely possible that I would sorely regret this later on, but I just couldn't resist buying Haruhi a hideous oni mask with fangs and horns. A loincloth would be optional, but I was going to give the mask along with that old baseball bat from the club room. An oni with a kanabo — even she would have to admit that the image was fitting!
On a second thought, when given such a costume she just might make a face even more hideous than the mask. Well … if she absolutely refused to wear it, then she could come dressed as herself! Just think about it! Here we had a girl who could kick you all the way to the next Sunday if she wasn't happy with you. If that's not scary then I don't know what is!
End of The Deconstruction of Haruhi Suzumiya
Author's Notes: This is a rewrite of my first ever Haruhi story, intended to address some shortcomings in language, style and characterization. I sincerely hope that you find the changes agreeable.
The original motivation in writing this piece of fan fiction was to see whether I can write a concise, self-contained story in the same style as the light novels. Back then I thought that the result was adequate, but as time went on I became progressively less satisfied with it — hence the rewrite. Ideally, this might suggest that I've learned something new on the way.
Then, concerning the themes of the story…. I felt strongly that Haruhi and Kyon — and to a degree the rest of the SOS Brigade — were epiphanic prisoners of their self-made masks, and wanted to write a piece of fiction where the masks come off. However, that presented a technical problem for a story told from Kyon's point of view, as Haruhi wouldn't take off her mask in front of Kyon, other than by accident. Thus, amnesia is here used as means to an end instead of an end to itself.
Anterograde amnesia is a rare but real mental disorder and its symptoms are largely consistent with what Kyon was experiencing. Any application of artistic licence was based on concerns related to the plot, and the author owns all inaccuracies with apologies to anyone concerned.
The Japanese idiom oni-ni-kanabo, literally "demon with a club", means "to be stronger than strong", i.e., invincible. I can't think of a good translation that would retain Kyon's original idea in English.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has supported me along the way. You know who you are.