ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
It's so unnaturally quiet in this room. There's a sheet over my face, my body; I hear voices speaking in hushed tones across from me. The loud buzzing of a saw shocks me out of the torpor I've been in since my body was taken from the accident site. The goddess in my mind has been silent for a long time now and I'm worried that she might have left me.
"I have not left just yet, Noah."
Jeez, will you announce yourself or something you almost scared me to .to .
Dammit, that's not funny, Iwa-san, I mutter petulantly.
There goes that musical laugh of hers again, flowing inside me like summer rain. A random thought about what she really looks like pops into my head out of nowhere.
"You will get to find out for yourself soon enough. For now, however, you need to concentrate."
"You need to leave this body behind and it would be best if you do it now."
Why now? Why not later? What's going to happen to it?
"I do not think you would like to be inside it at the moment. Now hush and concentrate," the goddess insists. The voices that were across the room are moving closer. I can hear the metallic clatter of instruments on a tray, the drag of rubber wheels on bare linoleum.
A click, a hissing intake of breath, the sounds of whirring machinery; they are all coming from somewhere next to me in this cold and lifeless room.
"The deceased is a female of mixed Asian-African American descent, approximately 28 years old, height, 5 foot 6 inches, light brown eyes, no apparent scars or birthmarks anywhere on the body other than the injuries sustained in the blast," drones a man's voice, presumably the coroner's. He continues to catalogue the various external attributes of my body in a professional, dispassionate tone.
"It is time for you to leave now, Noah," Iwa-san's voice whispers in the ear opposite the doctor. "This could be unpleasant for you, if you decide to linger any longer."
Now that is the understatement of the year. Suddenly, I feel warmth flooding through me, a tingling, itchy feeling that's like nothing I've ever experienced before. I try to focus on that feeling, to capture it in my memory; I doubt I'll ever have the pleasure of knowing the touch of an immortal again. The next thing I know, I'm floating out and over the table, until I am standing upright beside my body. It's freaky, but I'm not afraid. I'm more curious than anything else.
"You might change your mind in a minute, Noah-san."
What makes you say that? I asked with piqued interest.
I finally see what she means. A tall, swarthy man dressed in bright green hospital scrubs picks up a long handled autopsy saw, and presses the green button a few times to test the small circular blade attached to it. It seems like every move he makes is torturing me with its slowness, forcing my eyes to follow his work. Light from the fluorescent lamp above his head glints dully off the scalpel blade as he slices a Y shaped incision into my chest. Blood spurts briefly then pools where the cuts are made. It's only when the coroner picks up the electric autopsy saw once again that reality hits me.
I'm dead. I'm really truly dead.
Screams of horror pour from my mouth before I can stop them. My hands are shaking uncontrollably; I'm begging him to stop, yelling that he's hurting me. But he can't hear a word I'm saying and I certainly can't feel the pain. I can feel the muscles around my mouth contort in a rictus of shock and anguish.
A pair of arms suddenly reaches around to cradle me; my hands reach up to claw them away, only to feel them draw around me tighter.
"You should have listened to me," Iwa-san said in quiet admonition. She placed a butterfly kiss on my forehead and I felt my eyes grow heavy. "Mou, daijoubu. Rest now." Then all was blissful silence and the damp blanket of sleep.
It seems like I've been asleep for hours; when I finally awake, my head feels leaden as if someone packed it with buckshot.
"Did you sleep well?"
My eyes focus and refocus, trying to make out the figure kneeling beside me. I'm sure that look pretty stupid, laying there with my mouth gaping open. She is beautiful, this Iwanaga-Hime. Long, jet-black hair flowed over her smooth alabaster shoulders; her hands were long and graceful, like a dancer's. Her eyes were so dark, that I thought they were like bottomless wells. She had a marvelous blend of Maggie Cheung's incredible body and Joan Chen's elegant face. I don't know what picture I had in my head when I envisioned the goddess-princess but it was nothing like the person that sat beside me.
"Is there something wrong, Noah?" she asked with a small frown of concern.
"No! No, just " I stammered, feeling the heat rising to my face. "Well, you're a lot more hot-looking that I thought you'd be."
Iwa-san laughed out loud and I'm pretty sure I turned the colour of a ripe tomato.
"Sorry," I muttered. "But it's true."
Her laugh eventually slowed to just a few giggles. "That is all right. What would you think if I told you that, in my country, I am considered very ugly?"
"Oh yes," she replied with a sigh. "I was even sent back to my father by the man he had chosen for me to marry because he thought I was too unsightly to bear his children."
"I always wondered why my mother left Japan. Now I know why. You people have a weird sense of what's beautiful and what's not."
The eternal goddess chuckled musically from behind her hand. "Do not forget that you are half-Japanese. I am sure your mother passed on some of our cultural quirks to you."
I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye, noting for the first time that she was stark naked. "I sure hope to hell not. Because if everyone there has as little trouble running around in their birthday suit as you do, I'm in deep trouble," I grumble. Iwa-san had the good grace to blush at my comment. As much as I respected the lithesome deity, I doubt I could concentrate on anything with her sashaying around nude.
"Very well." Her eyes clouded over briefly and a misty haze gathered around her, flowing over her body like milk. After a few minutes, she sat before me completely clothed in a blue yukatabira that looked like it was made of silk. A brief thought of how the blue complimented the darkness of her eyes flitted through my mind and I was tempted to reach out to feel the magical fabric. "Will this suffice?" she inquired.
Rolling onto my side, I heave myself into a sitting position to get a better look at my surroundings. "So where are we now?"
"We are still in the hospital but " she paused uncertainly. "We can not leave here just yet. You have some unfinished business that you need to attend to before your journey into the alternate histories can begin."
I quirk a curious eyebrow at her. "Oh? And what business might that be?"
The raven-haired goddess waved her hand and the room shifted. We were back in the morgue, sad to say. I was prepared to see my body again, I was even prepared to see it in tiny little pieces but I wasn't prepared for the sight before me. My parents were standing beside my corpse, my father briefly nodded to one of the mortuary techs, who turned and left the room.
The room seemed to tilt and spin at the sight of okaa-san. Her soft almond-shaped eyes were red and raw from crying; my father had his bear-claw sized hands on her shoulders, softly massaging them while he muttered words of comfort in a rumbling undertone. She stood ramrod straight while staring into my lifeless face.
If I know my mother, she'd hold all her emotions in until she was alone. I never once knew her to cry in front of anyone, not even my father. She really held onto that famous Japanese stoicism with a firm grip; all pride and steel. Dad said that, when her family threw her out of the house after they learned about her affair with him, a gaijin which was the most unpardonable sin, she left with her head held high. She never shed a tear over what she had lost. Not then, not ever. Of course, it got much worse once she had me. I was considered a konketsuji or a mixed blood child which made it tough for us all the way around.
"Kirue?" My father took one of my mother's hands in his and gently squeezed. "Ikkimashou."
Kaa-san returned the gesture with a sad smile. "Will you give me a minute, David? I want to say goodbye to Noah. I can't just leave her like this. You understand, don't you?"
"Of course," he replied. "I'll wait for you outside. I'm sure she already knows how I feel."
Her eyes followed him until he went through the door, then she leaned over to touch my face.
"Ara, Noah-chan. What am I going to do with you gone, my only child? Don't worry. Soon you'll be a kami and you'll be wandering around the house again, getting into trouble like you always did," Kaa-san paused as her voice cracked a bit, then continued. "Odaiji ni... Itsu made mo, anata wa watashi no kokoro ni aru." ("Be well, and know you will always be in my heart.")
Gotta love my mother. She's lived in the States for 25 years and never quite managed to latch onto English that much. She always said the language too inadequate to use for expressing her true intentions.
I am a complete wreck by this point, shaking and weeping silent, ghostly tears. I want so much to hold my mother again, to tell her that I'm sorry for dying. I'm so pissed at myself for being at the wrong place at the wrong time that I can feel myself shaking with rage.
"How can you just stand there and see her in pain?" I ask the passive goddess standing beside me. "How can you just stand there and do nothing?"
Iwa-san turned to me, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "Kirue-san is not in pain right now, Noah. But no one, not even a god, can take away the emptiness of losing a child."
Her words sound reasonable enough to me in my head but nothing can stop the tide of overflowing guilt rampaging through me. "And what was I supposed to do? What can I do as a freaking ghost?" I yell.
"You can look on this and remember. Remember that life is a gift and that every second, every waking moment, is a drop of water in an endless sea of those who drift in and out of your life. Everything you do affects them, not just yourself. Knowing this, feeling your parents' grief; these things may help you in the journey ahead, to make the choices that will alter your existence from this moment on."
Her words hit me like a blast of ice water. I have to say, she certainly has a way of sobering people up. This is a lot of responsibility and I'm not sure I'm ready for it.
"No one ever is," the dark-haired woman replied as if she read my thoughts. "But as coincidental magic is never purposeful, you do not have many options." She shrugged her shoulders noncommittally. "Either you find a solution to sealing this rift by choosing the life you wish to lead or you will cease to exist."
I blink a few times in shock at the harshness of her matter-of-fact tone. "Eh, not helpful, Iwa-san."
"My apologies. Your language makes it hard to convey subtleties."
"Thanks," I mutter drily.
To Be Continued
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