Digimon copyrighted by Bandai/ Toei Animation.
The children grow, while we stay the same. –Tailmon.
The sky of the real world was dreary. The clouds hung dark and heavy, but the rains simply refused to come. The smoke stacks belched greasy smoke into the sky above the digidestined. None of them spoke, though they grouped together as a subconscious means of supporting on another. And yet, their togetherness made it all the more clear that there was someone missing.
The family came out holding the ashes. Sora approached them solemnly with a bouquet of tiger lilies carefully chosen for colors closer to pink and violet than red. She had been the first to stop crying, but now the tears returned, traversing the lines and wrinkles that marked the many years since the adventure that had brought them together in 1999.
She held out the lilies in her trembling hands. "For Mimi."
Tachikawa Mimi was not the first chosen child to die, though she was among the first to die of those complications born of old age. The very first death of a chosen child was debatable. Some asserted that Oikawa was the very first, but most agreed that his death was non-standard. After all, he had used what remained of his life to restore the digital world. The first normal death had come forty some years ago, when the original chosen children were still in their late twenties. A teenage boy from Greece had died while he and his partner were trying to save their friends from collapsing buildings during an earthquake. He ended up buried under rubble himself. His partner managed to dig him out, but had no idea what to do beyond that and the boy had died in transit, leaving behind a wailing Drimogemon. After the boy's funeral, the forlorn digimon had gone back to the digital world, never to be heard from again.
At first, digimon had reacted to this sudden awareness of their partner's mortality much the same way humans would. Some became angry, others gave up entirely. Most became clingy with their partners and hostile to strangers. They understood that all things died, but for them, it was a harsh reality to accept. Until they themselves died, they would be forced to carry on without their partners, and a digimon could live…forever, if they were careful. For some time, human-digimon relations were strained. It took the irrepressible forward march of time before digimon came to accept it. Around the world, digimon partners became docile again, content to love and watch over their beloved partners to whatever end would come.
Strangely, the change happened almost overnight.
Hey, hey, did you hear?
The sky of the digital world was nothing like that of the real world. It was almost oppressively bright, but Palmon stared into the sky anyway. Her leaves were wrinkled and dry and brown near the edges. She couldn't remember how many days it'd been since she laid down in the grass and began to wait.
Eh? Isn't that just a rumor?
All she could remember was the last time she saw Mimi. She was lying in her hospital bed; a shadow of her former self that Palmon would have immediately turned from if not for that energetic spark in her eyes and the cowboy hat resting in her lap. Those things irrevocably linked her to the Mimi Palmon had waited for as a child digimon.
All you have to do is…
Mimi's mind had started to deteriorate shortly after turning sixty-two. At first it seemed like simple senility, but by the time she was sixty-four, it was obvious something was wrong with her. By sixty-seven she was under hospice care. She wrote her will when she was sixty-five, and died before her sixty-eighth birthday.
I don't know. It seems kinda…
Palmon saw her two weeks ago, though the memory remained so fresh she could believe it might have happened just that morning. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, Mimi had not forgotten Palmon at all as she worsened. Certainly, she could not remember isolated events, nor their happy days together baking sweets and tweaking recipes, but never once did Palmon receive the empty gaze of failed recognition. A gaze she had turned on her son several times. It had created a quiet envy in the boy, and an even quieter selfish, guilty pride in Palmon.
It's so easy…
She had been with Mimi longer than anyone but her parents. While even the chosen children grew apart to create their own lives, she had remained at her side, close to her always, and Mimi's unfailing recognition was her prize. And she selfishly guarded the memory of the last time Mimi spoke to anyone.
"Palmon…" she had slurred. Clarity or no, her speech was slow and horrible in the effort it required. "How did your experiment go?"
Palmon's vines clenched. It never got easier to do this…To recall exactly what Mimi was recalling and know she was mentally residing in a period of her life she no longer physically inhabited. Palmon's experiment had occurred decades ago, in the name of their first cookbook.
"It went well..."
It hadn't. Palmon had been clumsy and spilled an entire shaker of cinnamon into the mix.
Mimi smiled brightly. "Really? We'll have to taste it and take it down later. Oh,I bet it'll be delicious."
It hadn't. Mimi had tasted that cake and she had been unable to taste anything else for days afterward. Palmon had been extremely careful with her spices from then on.
They sat in silence for a while after. Palmon had gotten used to those; had come to cherish them. When Mimi said nothing, Palmon could pretend anything she wanted. That Mimi's stay in the hospital wasn't permanent. That she was improving. That she was dying of some kinder disease.
"Take my digivice, Palmon."
It was a strange, clear request.
No answer came. The silence resumed, only to be interrupted when Mimi suddenly burst into tears.
"I can't leave!" she bawled. "Palmon never said goodbye to me!"
Palmon didn't know if she had a heart. Certainly, she had nothing in her chest that beat, but at that moment something inside of her seemed to pull in two different directions, and it ached terribly. Mimi occasionally recalled feelings and instances that made sense in the current situation, as if she were trapped in her past, trying to communicate with the present by choosing what pieces of it she could.
"I'm here," Palmon said, her voice breaking in time with the heart she didn't have. "I'm here, Mimi."
Mimi was genuinely surprised, and genuinely happy to see her through the tears. It was the exact same expression she had used when Palmon had come running after the bus, shouting her apologetic goodbye. She reached out and embraced Palmon with what strength her frail, bony arms could muster, and cried into her petals. Her sobs were loud, sloppy words that made no sense, and Palmon had cried as well. She understood. Somewhere in there, between the holes corroding everything she was, Mimi knew she had to say goodbye.
Before Mimi let her leave, she placed her hat over Palmon's head. "Until we meet again, then."
Palmon used to wonder if her partner's memories were re-written when they so blatantly deviated from the way things had happened. She knew better now. She took the digivice and nestled against Mimi for the last time.
"I love you, Mimi…"
The old woman who had once shared battles and the adventure of life smiled distantly at her, but did not respond.
Palmon rolled onto her side, and curled into a fetal position around her beloved partner's last cowboy hat. She could almost feel her petals further dehydrating as the weight of their years together compressed her, forcing out what little water she had left.
What have you got to lose…?
She wept quietly, until the tears ran dry. She had absolutely nothing to lose. She would lay here and await the miracle from the digivice buried beneath her. If it failed, it didn't matter. She would die of starvation, and go back to primary village. Without Mimi to find her and give her some link to her last life, she would be reborn emptied; free of the memory of her long wait for her one and only partner, and free from the anguish born of helplessly watching her die.
It didn't matter which happened. Not a bit.
She closed her eyes and waited.