Thursday, 21 December 2017

June 24, 2040, smoking in the dark

There was a night here. It wasn’t long, and it really wasn’t dark enough to merit being called night.

Urufu said it was a filthy habit, but Yukio had seen him smoke occasionally. Apparently he was a heavy smoker reformed.

Reformed. Only you would use an expression like that, Urufu. Transitioning into this world and a body that had yet to taste a cigarette.

In a few days Yukio would do the same. He and Kyoko.

What will it feel like? He drew a lungful and watched the tip of his cigarette grow brighter. With a flick of his finger he twisted ash from it and stared into the night.

A little closer to the shore someone spoke silently. Yukio strained his ears to hear better. Eavesdropping didn’t make him feel ashamed at all. Not any longer.

A few days more. After that almost everyone he knew would be gone. Or rather he would be gone.

Those aren’t words. Not even in Swedish. Then he understood what he was listening to. Someone sobbing.

One of the kids drinking too much? Yukio killed his cigarette and began walking down the hill to find out.

Halfway to the sobbing sounds he stopped in his tracks. It was Kuri. Well, he guessed she counted as one of the kids drinking too much. So you’re remembering what you did? What you both did. Because that was the problem. Both of them. Urufu and Kuri. So much effort spent scarring each other in an attempt to protect the other. And so many others hurt because of that.

Urufu might be his best friend still, but Yukio refused to place all blame on Kuri. For being so brilliant both had behaved like first class idiots.

Why, you two? Why make it so difficult? The question brought his thoughts to Kyoko. What’s so hard about falling in love with a wonderful girl and then stick to her no matter what?

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Prologue, 2014

Christina tugged her coat tighter around her. Last week in June and an already miserable attempt at summer surprised her by reaching an atrocious low.

The invitation to spend a weekend at a resort had been a welcome break in days filled with work, and as Chag’s Swedish main office ground to a halt after the Midsummer’s celebrations, just like most business in Sweden did, she decided she could afford herself a little luxury.

Afford referring to time. She had all the money she could ever wish for and none of the pleasures she once dreamt came with it.

I’m growing old.

Their last collection was a failure. She knew that. Only murderous marketing kept the numbers up, but she would have refused to wear most of it as a teenager herself.

And yet I gave the green light. Damn! Her fault. The collections were her responsibility. Billion Dollar Empress and corporate management be damned. Chag did fashion. Christina bloody Princess of Scandinavia Agerman did fashion. If she didn’t, who else would?

For once she had kept the axe hanging despite demands that heads rolled. At least this time she wouldn’t place the blame for her own mistakes on anyone else.

She was so lost in thought that she almost missed that trees had given way to grass. With trunks no longer protecting her wind caught in her clothes and she had to grab her coat with both hands.

A bit further ahead a cabin hugged the mountainside. It almost looked like it had been dug into the very bedrock.

Then a freak gust of wind tore at her hair and Christina let out a surprised shriek.

Of course we’ll have a Summer’s storm on top of all! This June’s breaking every bloody low score yet. She grinned and grimaced. Somehow the abysmal weather made her laugh, but as the wind grew stronger she decided it wasn’t the time for mirth.

Woods or cabin? Cabin!

Just as she made her mind up the wind caught strength with a sickening roar, and for the first time she felt fear running through her. Out here she was totally unprotected.

She dropped to her knees and started crawling towards he mountain side. Out of nowhere windy weather had turned into a hurricane and she couldn’t see anything at all.

Her world turned white.

One moment gusts of wind tried to rip her coat to shreds, the next her coat was gone.

So were the rest of her clothes, and any remnant of wind as well.

Christina stared at bony fingers. Then she stared again.

She vaguely remembered that hand. It was hers, but not hers any longer.

Standing up she felt earth welling up between her toes, and she looked down.

What the hell?

Naked wasn’t anything special to her. She spent fifteen years of her life without any privacy. Ten of them without any privacy even away from cameras.

Naked and young, very, very young, however, was.

The ugly me? I had forgotten! What’s going on?

Then the sound of engines grew closer and she stood staring in the direction from where they came. From the sound she guessed she’d see the vehicle in a few seconds.

She was surround by mountains seen nowhere in Sweden.

A flash of a thought begged her to do something about her nakedness, but years of experience firmly shoved that thought down into the nothingness it deserved. She was naked. She had no clothes around her. There was nothing to do about it.

When the military looking car popped over a crest a little later she decided to cover her private parts with one hand and her breasts with the other. There was something called modesty after all.

Feeling her breasts under her hand she discarded that idea. There weren’t much to feel anyway.

Whoever drove the car cut the engine, and in the distance she heard another vehicle driving somewhere unseen to her.

The doors opened and two men emerged.

Excuse me, but could you please tell me where I am?” she said to the one closest. English. English would do almost anywhere.

You have arrived in Japan. We will take you in,” he answered and offered her a blanket he had been carrying. “There are clothes back there as well,” he added.

Christina wrapped the blanket around her. The flimsy cloth partially covering her body strangely enough made her feel more naked than before and she averted her eyes from his.

What’s going on?”

Sorry, mz. We’ll drive you to a facility where you can get some privacy and change into better clothes than those we have here.”

That didn’t answer her questions at all.

We’ll answer your questions there as well.

That had to suffice.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Midsummer’s day, 2040, midnight

Midsummer’s day grew to a close, and while the last two days had mostly been filled with memories experienced and memories shared, some beautiful, some horrible and some just nostalgic, these very two days laid themselves to rest among other memories.

Christina grimaced.

We were so young back then. Even I were much younger than I understood at that time. Experiencing a second youth had been much more than going through the motions. She had been young once again, young and unprepared for the new life ahead of her. So many mistakes, so many regrets. Ulf, I hurt you so much. How could you ever forgive me? Did you ever really forgive me?

There would be reasons to remember again soon. Three more days. That was all they had. After that some of the would be gone, would transit to the downstream world. Not all of them. At least not now, and Christina suspected a few would live and die in this world by choice.

To become a teenager again sounded less appealing the older you got. To accept that you wouldn’t be treated like an adult, to actually partially regress into adolescence.

Better now, sure. Much better now when the dirty infighting was gone, if it was gone in the downstream world as well. That was the risk with transiting. You didn’t know exactly what that world would be like. Almost the same as this one, just like this one was almost the same as the one she left quarter of a century earlier. But there were differences, differences that tore her life apart because she tried to grab control over it.

Christina stared into the night sky and glittering stars. They shimmered through tears welling up in her eyes.

Ulf, even if you can’t for real, please pretend you’ll forgive me! U-kun, I wish I could call you that again.

She choked down feelings of misery. I lost the right to feel sadness back then.

Christina looked back at choices she had made. Some made her proud, some surprised, and the one she recalled most clearly right now, just disgusted with herself.

How could you ever fall in love with someone like me?