A drop of water falls out of the night sky. Hitori finds himself tied to a chair in the middle of a lake. Water seems to be black in color, hiding any secrets it preserves. The lake is surrounded by forest on all sides. The only source of light is the half moon shining directly above the chair. How is the chair staying afloat? He wondered. A soft voice whispered in his ear, “Do you remember?”. He looks over his shoulder just to realize that nobody is there. As he turns his head, a pale young woman stares at him and goes – Do you remember? Petrified to the core, his frightened screams echo into the night.
Gasping for breath, Hitori wakes up from the dream. His clothes are stenched with sweat. “Fuck”, exclaimed as he climbed out of the bed. It had happened again. He was seeing the same dream in succession for nearly two months. For some reason, the girl in the dream seems familiar. He tries to recollect with futile results. It seemed normal. He couldn’t even remember his childhood memories at this point. Washing every last bit of toothpaste out of his mouth, he walks toward his workspace.
Next month, he’ll turn 35. Scraping together meals as a freelance artist, he survived on small commissions of local businesses and the occasional comic. Sitting on an old wooden chair, he begins planning the day. The dingy apartment had little room for sunlight and air circulation, especially during noon. He usually left the apartment late morning and work in cafes until evening. He had found a new uncrowded café recently. It was a bit farther away than the others. But they were just noisy and packed during this time. There’s no harm in trying a new place out, he thought.
The train tracks stopped over the bridge. The café was located roadside under the bridge. The décor chimed when walked through the door. The cafe was almost empty, with two other people sitting on the other side of the room. He located a corner spot next to the windows and brought out his sketchbook. The strange dream popped into his head as he looked out the window. What did the lady look like? He recalls the dream again. On a fresh, blank page he begins sketching out the girl in his dream.
The waitress approaches Hitori to take his order. “What will you have?”, said the middle-aged lady with a sweet smile. That’s when she noticed his sketch. She let out an uneasy gasp. He looked at her with startled eyes. “Do you know her?”, he asked. She pointed to the girl and said – “She’s dead”. His heart sunk into the depths of his body.
It was blazing hot in the graveyard. He looked around to find the third row. That’s what the waitress had said. Apparently, her name is Akari. Scouring around for the gravestone, he finally sees the one. The plaque was covered in dust and the grass had grown too long. Nobody seemed to visit it at all. As he wiped off the dust, he saw what was written on the plaque – Akari Sato. Isn’t my name Sato? Blitzing pain shot through his head. Perhaps he finally remembers?
“Run away Hitori. Father will kill you”, shouted his sister. “Onee san”, said the boy as tears gushed down his cheeks. “Run!”, she screamed again. He ran with as much pace as those little legs could pick up. As he looked back, his father hit her on the head with the iron rod. The last sight he saw was her head hitting the rock-hard floor. The high-pitched buzzing of cicadas surrounded the afternoon atmosphere. “Onee san”, cried out Hitori as warm tears flooded his eyes. For a moment in time, he was that young kid again.