Authors Note: Sorry this one was written in one day! It may be a bit rushed.
Episode Five: Brandy and Vodka
We cross the bridge back over the estuary. Its wide expanse seems too barren and foreign to me. The forgoing tide has left behind a flat desert; veins of water dribbling up from the hungry mouth of the waves. I have not been to this part of the city yet, so I cannot help but let my eyes be captivated by the surroundings.
The others are completely disinterested; it is nothing new to them. They live time forwards and have already seen what is fresh to my backward eyes. The woman produces a half empty bottle of amber liquid from under the leather seat. The light is dim in the vehicle but it still seems to glint with its own golden lustre. June is eyeing it hungrily as his mother lines out a series of empty glasses on a makeshift board to her right. She hands me one of the glasses, it is full. She hands June another, empty. I cast my eyes into the bright solution; its surface wobbles and ripples with the wheels of the car. If not for this perhaps I would have seen my reflection.
June's mother gives a disappointed glare as June swigs his cup in an entire mouthful, feeding his glass. He grins and leans over to the bottle and lets the liquor slide back in as so to pour himself another. I poke my tongue into the cup that I had been handed to try it. I instantly sour away as I forcefully swallow the small sip that I took. It burns the back of my throat and makes me want to gag and cough. I have to prevent myself from spitting it out. It is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted.
June and his mother both take their cups to their lips simultaneously, sipping slowly like professionals. They conclude by holding their newly full cups up together in the air. June shoots me a nervous glance that turns his smile hostile.
“And to an everlasting friendship.” He states confidently, nodding once at the woman and then to me.
“To a safe and happy journey!” She then announces in an upbeat tone. There is a small pause as she fumbles with twisting off the cork. She then takes the glasses from me and June, emptying them into the bottle as she speaks.
“Oh come on June, it’s an occasion worth commending! Let this not be a sad moment but rather a celebration of good will and farewells.”
June laughs and gives her a sly smile. “Mother! It is hardly past morning, surly you are not suggesting we share a drink at this hour.” His tone is so drenched in a joking sarcasm that it will never dry.
“You know what?” Says the mother as she puts away the bottle, “We should celebrate with a toast of departure. How many years has it been between you two now? Thirteen? Fourteen? And many more good ones to come.”
The taste is still bitter in my throat. I have nothing to say.
In fact, I am bored. Very Bored.
“Are we there yet?” I ask. In response to this the two had just let laugh as if I had told an uneasy joke.
My timing has been quite coincidental, as we happen to pull into a drive the next corner. At the end of it stands a magnificent house, a manor of sorts, and although the architecture of the main building is vaguely Japanese, the garden and the smaller buildings around it are very western and extravagant.
I am the first to get out of the car; very eagerly. There is a great lawn stretching out just to my left. It is fringed with trees and flowerbeds and is so long that I can’t see the end of it. I suddenly have a desire to run; I have so much energy built up inside me. Sitting is boring.
June is talking to a man who has started unloading cases from the trunk of the vehicle. He is panting and grinning. I don’t wait for my opportunity to pass me; I leap out onto the expanse of green and sprint.
It doesn’t once cross my mind what I am doing or why; just the idea of running along this new area is... exciting. I follow the lawn, the drive getting smaller and smaller and the lawn getting longer until it veers enough that the starting point is now completely obscured by trees. The cool rush of air feels good on my face. I slow to a jog and then stop. I am a little tired, but it’s more needing to catch my breath than being unable to run any further; my legs still feel alive. The lawn slopes here and ends on a thin river. There is a red bridge which crosses to the other side where the back of the main house awaits. I am surprised to see June appear behind me. He is once again panting, much more than I. I can hear his breath loud and dry. He is not used to running.
“Just follow me, or the lawn. Just be quick.” he commands between gasps. I eye him up and down for the first time since the train station. Once again I take note of his height and how he is taller than me. I can’t help but feel intimidated by this, after all my own mother and Kaho are both far below me; having to look up at someone makes me afraid, makes me feel like I am at his mercy.
“Akira... what are you doing? We have to get to the car or we will miss the train.”
He already caught the train. That has already happened. It would be useless telling him; he wouldn't understand and I would never hear his response. June starts jogging backward.
“There you are!” He calls out to me when he is a few meters away. I let him gain a bit more distance before I decide to follow him.
Inside it is dimly lit; many of the rooms seem to lack windows or else have their curtains drawn, the only light is natural, seeping from between door frames and windows. The man named June takes several of the suitcases up a wide staircase. It is far more grand than the one in my own house. He seems to be busy and doesn’t mind me. I feel myself sulking into the shadows, feeling strange and awkward, not sure what to do. I should have stayed outside and enjoyed the air; the freedom.
I follow into the room where I think he has gone. The room is empty of life but there sits the suitcase which he had been carrying, sprawled out on a huge western bed. The room itself is a marvel of curiosity; papers scattered everywhere, brown, white, cream. They are notes and drawings, photographs and documents. There are at least a dozen notebooks that I can currently see, each wearing a unique jacket. In the corner of the windowpane is a perfectly formed spider web, black dots swing to and fro, unraveling their art. This room is the opposite of my own. Save the recent mess I made, my room is barren and plain. A collection of straight lines, while walls, and screens. This room is made of the forest; carpeted with paper leaves.
One bright smudge of colour catches my eye. It is a calendar made of thick washi paper, decorated in traditional Japanese art. One date is circled; the 30th. I hear a cry of profanity and I jump. It is followed by a crash. June emerges from a small door, perhaps a wardrobe or a bathroom, unfazed by what I have just heard. I point to the calendar.
“What happens on the 30th?”
In response to this he blushes briefly then gives the answer to my question.
“I’ll be twenty; my mother still circles my birthday.” He informs, trying to laugh it off, “she should know I’m not a child anymore. And you know this already.”
“So are you named after the month you were born?”
“Akira how many times have I told you this story! It’s really true you are losing your memory. My mother expected me in July but I came a few days before anticipated, so thus I was named.”
I will keep that in mind.
June’s mother is very accommodating. I find out that her name is Katsuko. She gives me breakfast-- western food. I have never tried it before; it is very sweet and syrupy. I do not favour it. Morning creeps up on us fast and it is not long until I find the house silent and the sky dark. I am afraid of the silence. Every move I make echoes into nothingness and every step shudders glass. I am in a strange house with strange people; for the first time I long for familiarity, my mother, Kaho.
After a while of sitting still, trying desperately hard not to disturb the pristine silence, I make my way to the only place in the house that I know will accommodate me. Light spills from beneath June’s door. I knock, then realising how stupid it would seem to him, push it open and enter. He has his feet up on the desk and is leaning back like he owns the world; his large leather chair seems to contain his whole body. He swirls around a cup that looks similar to the one we had in the car, but this time it contains clear liquid. On the desk is a short bottle of similar drink. Almost empty.
“Where are you going.” He says as I enter. My body freezes up instinctively. His tone and his voice make me feel like I have committed a crime of the worst kind. It is not a question, but rather a smooth statement of accusation. It mixes a twist of guilt into the contempt I hold toward him.
I open my mouth to say something, announce my desire to go home, but instead he spins around slowly; his chair rotating just above its three pronged legs. His face seems twisted and strange, almost possessed and ragged. He roughly grabs me by my shirt and pulls me into his face. I struggle and try to fight back but he holds tight. He smells bitter but clean; like the summer breeze mixed in with a chemical solution. I try to turn my head away to avoid being so up close in his face, but he won’t relent his force. When he speaks it is a hiss in my ear, the skin on his face smooth but rough at the same time.
“Don’t forget me.”
“What?” I half shout as I attempt to pull away. This time he releases my shirt but takes a firm grab on both of my arms.
“I know why… it’s because you have never met me.” He seems to be speaking to himself, as he directs his words at the floor and they are half mumbled. “Why is this happening..” His eyes flick up and bore into my head, evoking a new wave of fear.
“Akira what is wrong with your mind? Why are you doing this to me… why are you disappearing?” He sounds strained. Desperate.
“Why!?” His voice is raised. He gets up out of his seat and tackles his arms around me. It is tight and suffocating. I yell. What is he going to do!? He is going to kill me. Instead he buries his face on my shoulder and chokes on words I can’t understand.
I hate him. I hate him. I hate him! From where he stands he blocks the door; the only way out. I want to get out. I notice the window is open askew, wavering in the breeze. I hurry over to it and so does June, following closely, his hands still irritating my skin. To much of my surprise he seems to help me climb out. It is confusing until I consider that in his mind he is helping me in.
“Akira!” He exclaims, his face now bright and tearless. I ignore him and drop down, snapping the stems of flowers. Snap and break. Beneath my feet. Crunching leaves.