Topic: Aether ~ A Story of Dreams (Non-Touhou)  (Read 1980 times)

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Aether ~ A Story of Dreams (Non-Touhou)
« on: January 31, 2012, 03:45:21 pm »
A/N: This is a novel originally written for Nanowrimo, and is very loosely based on the flash game of the same name.  However, it gradually took a life of its own that warranted far more time than a month to finish, and so here it is.  If I were to give a summary, it would be something like this: a boy, finding the world cruel and deceitful, journeys towards the stars to find his place in the world.  Well, enjoy, everyone.  Constructive criticism would be much appreciated.


Aether ~ A Story of Dreams

Chapter One

The field of paper flowers did not yield pollen grains as it should.  It stretched out from the reach of his hand to the horizon; small little paper windmills that stood up against the cold, dark wind, never questioning, never resisting, a worthwhile complement to the overcast sky that cast shadows across the land.  The monotony was despairing; the longer he kept his eyes on the rolling hills of anguish and uncertainty, the more he felt a despairing anguish in his long broken heart, but he did not feel any grand compulsion to turn away, nor to blink, for this anguish was all that he had, and all that he would ever have.  The world was one of a monochrome melancholy to him; everything was made of shattered glass and broken dreams, it had no color of any sort; no soul to speak of, hinting only at a dark foreboding.  It had no future, beyond the horizon would only lie more paper flowers, boring and monotonous in their pattern; the world he lived in was as hollow as a rotten eggshell, and all it took was for someone to land the hammer on its miserable existence.  He would praise that person, with happiness and laughter that only his vaguest fantasies possessed; that someone would be his hero.

The continuous screeching of dark crows, sitting on the barren tree behind him, became more prevalent as he stared longer and longer at nothingness, going in nicely with a muted growling of distant thunder from faraway.  They would inherit the earth like vultures soon, he thought, they would form a black cloud stretching for miles around one day, and strip the earth bare like a swarm of locusts, till little turned into nothing, and nothing turned into aether.  They were the scourge who were everlasting, slow and patient, lurking behind the clouds and within the barren forest of trees which had long lost their luster; people of his kind would gradually melt into a dark, concentrated heap of slime through their misdeeds and their emptiness, and then the crows would rise up to take what was rightfully theirs.  They laughed behind a thinly woven veil, mocking everyone for their foolishness and their inability to see the obvious, relishing every moment until their impending doom…

… and he felt that he had no other option but to submit in helpless acceptance; the world was dying, evaporating like cackling static.  And he could do nothing but watch.  The gift of sight was all that he was given, it felt as if he was the only one who could see through the facade of eternal want to view the broken earth for what it really was.  But he could not save anyone; the immateriality of his existence in human society was so great that people were deaf to his words, indifferent to his cries.  Only the crows could listen in their mocking silence, only the sickly air and the dying earth could respond to him with rain and the occasional breeze of warmth to comfort him.  All of these parties, however, knew that he was as powerless as any one of the many leafless trees that stood up in vain defiance against death, just not as foolish, and even he himself recognized this.  That biting feeling of hopelessness had long abandoned him after what must have been an endless tedium; he cast such heroic notions aside a long time ago in indifferent acceptance.  He no longer had anything left to do.

Vaguely, he wondered as to what it would be like to be one of them; to live a normal life and push toy trains along linoleum floors, to not pick up the smell of burning plastic and happily engage in activities that enrich the body but degrade the soul, to not feel that sense of harrowing emptiness so familiar to him.  Surely, would it not be a better life to live than being under this cursed affliction?  He gave out a deep sigh as he picked a paper flower from the infinite patch, slowly feeling its sharp edges and its cold smoothness.  He held it closer to his face to smell it, but his senses picked up only a dull nothingness; there were no pollen grains, no sweet nectar, just a grayish, paper windmill that just sat in his hand; five appendages and a distinct center, the perfect flower without the flower.  A spot of horror filled his heart for a short while, but like many times before, he suppressed it, and continued staring at the morning lily in his hand; it was a morning lily; a purple morning lily, somehow he knew, he remembered, from fragments of memories long disconnected, that it was a beautiful, purple, sweet-smelling lily.  He closed his eyes for a long while, the human in him secretly desiring that when he opened them again, he would see a beautiful morning lily; he would see the skies clear, the sun shine brightly down on everyone, vibrant butterflies dancing among colorful flowers and the sound of children’s laughter surround him.  Even if it was nothing more than a grand illusion, he wished to immerse himself in it once again; this was joy, he thought, this should be joy.  But all he could do when he opened his eyes was to throw the flower aside and stand up, holding back the tears jerked up within him. 

Corrupted and ruthless was the state of the world, it had long forsaken him; it would never forgive him and it would carry on tormenting him… the morning lily was a patch of garbage, a painful representation of the Earth that had been tarnished and trampled on.  The sight of it was so repulsive, so discomforting, that he felt that an intangible part of himself die away as he let go of the flower through reflex; everything in life was a disappointment to him, they had to be cast away to the dark wind that plagued the earth and be forgotten.  Suddenly, he violated the principles that he upheld ever since he saw the ugliness behind the facade, his impression of strength; hardiness in indifference, seemed to collapse, he showed his emotions that he had locked away and cried.  He could not save anything, he felt, he was just as useless and insignificant as the people he despised, as the people who simply did not know what was happening to them.   The squawking of the crows started to fade in yet again; he could actually see them flying towards him, and for the first time, they seemed to be in a kind of frenzied anger; a stark contrast compared with the mocking quality their laughs had not long ago… he could see their malevolent red eyes, sharpened and angled, staring back at him with a kind of intangible ferocity as they bore their claws and their beaks and started to strike and bite him.  But he neither moved nor resisted, half of him was indifferent while the other half was numb with cold fear, not of the crows, but… he could still see the flower in his hand, wilting into dust at his touch, night fell over the planet but still, he slept in indifference, attached to the values of the past; he was horrified at himself, that was what he was scared of, that he was a pawn to the crows themselves as well, and that he had been deluding himself with the correlation between defiance and indifference.  No such thing, no, he had to…

The dark wind hit him with full force; eventually, he could not take any longer and fell prone to their assault.  But he was only very vaguely aware of this; the same blank expression of horror was still plastered stupidly on his face.  He was still fighting with himself, in fact, and the truth was that… they were winning.  Any sense of urgency that would have prompted him into motion was quickly doused with cold brazenness, and any attempt to get his bearings, to focus on his senses and take control, was similarly rejected.  He suddenly felt a great pain erupt from his chest, he saw them pierce into his skin, he saw the colorless twilight turn into a curtain of the night, a bleak starless night.  He tried to scream, but he felt his consciousness fade away… he saw them clasp his heart between their beaks, and then...

The momentary feeling of sadness and despair seemed to disappear immediately, however, as disappointment was something he had contended with for many painful years, and darned right if it was going to make him weak again.  He patted the dust off his pants; he viewed the fir tree for a moment, seeing its barren branches reach out towards the sky.  A pair of crows circled around in the sky; he viewed them with a certain fondness, to cease contact with a world he hated for the moment and take flight.  He walked away from the field and beyond the tree.  There was no need for emotion in such a frozen world; indifference was all that he was permitted to feel, after all.  He walked for an indeterminate distance (it did not matter to him), back to his house, past the wrinkled pair of repugnant demons that argued incessantly, speaking gibberish and slobbering and panting and baring sharp teeth, and dived into his bed, ready for sleep, his only comfort, to whisk him away into sweet unconsciousness.

With every moment like this, the young boy withered further and further, marking a slow, awful transition from a vibrant lily to a paper windmill.  There was nothing left for him to live for, nothing left for him to care for in a mute world of effectual silence, and when such occasional occurrences appeared, the crows simply took them away from him, they blinded him, deafened him, they made his blood as black as venom.  Whether or not he was the one being disillusioned, he began to die a slow death, unstoppable by any means, as his soul rotted away into nothingness, revealing a sad, empty shell of a person who only knew how to watch.   


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Re: Aether ~ A Story of Dreams (Non-Touhou)
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2012, 03:17:57 pm »
Chapter Two

I looked at you with great depth of longing but failed to grab you as you fell.  This is the mistake that I shall be forever guilty of, the failure to save you from the clutches of the world.  It will be sad to see you shrivel into something horrible through your concealed depression, your empty, hollow self; once small but brimming with wonder, now not even an eighth of what it used to be.  After all, we used to hold hands, and you used to wear glasses, and we would roam around the fields of daisies and lilies, trying to chase butterflies as soon as they ceased contact with the petals.  Those were fields of dreams, and those were the days where the world was bristling with color, blazing with a vague wonderment that would ignite even the coldest of hearts.  You used to read, and not many liked to read beyond necessity; you intrigued me with your elegant quotes from obscure books, the meanings of which seemed beyond my understanding.  But you knew what they meant, and you knew so much more back then than you know now.  As you started to wear contact lenses as opposed to glasses, and as you paid less and less attention to daisies and more towards lipstick and cosmetics, the crows turned you into something I didn’t want you to become.  I saw you die when you gave your last half-hearted goodbye wave to me; giving a promise so fragile that it broke as soon as you made it, but I doubt you remember your own death; the last few days that you spent with me were so bland and artificial that they were not worth treasuring even to me.  We then ceased to know each other; or rather, you ceased to be you.  I remember that on the day you left, I rushed towards you with tears running from my eyes, wanting to hold you in a tight embrace so as to save you as much as I can, but when I opened my eyes, all I could see was a withered tree with a cold bark, crows on its branches.

And the next day, the already wilting flowers disappeared and turned into parched soil.  I feel my blood turn black with poison as you disappeared, and at present, I could see you dissolve into a cesspool of shadows.  Perhaps you were suffering deep inside as they ate you alive; perhaps you harmonized willingly to the perceived melody of whatever the majority claimed was great, the only thing I could do in order to allay my sadness was to believe in the earlier.  If there’s anything I have learnt from my days on this doomed planet, I would have learnt that the fantasy of the minority deep inside; the blind, poetic hope of the untouched remnant, was completely and utterly false.  For you were just as prone to falling as the next person; the aura of innocence was one that could be easily stepped on, trampled, destroyed through repeated attack, and that was what happened here. You did not recognize me as you walked past; you left me in the lurch; you left me alone to die, after all.  The blonde dreadlocks that hanged beside your cheeks, the thick-rimmed spectacles that you used to wear, your favorite novel, which you used to read; these things have left and will never remain.  The story of a man’s fall from grace; his objectives in life reduced from serving a divine entity to the hoarding of gold guineas by the shredding of hopes and dreams; it enchanted you so.  Those were the first words I heard you say, sitting on a rock, not directed at me but to yourself, that anyone who had to be forced by some evil entity to forsake his life and turn into the miserable wretch depicted by the book was the poorest person in the world.  There was more to the tale but you were no longer there to read it; you contradicted yourself, really.  We knew each other for a relatively short time anyway.

… you ran your fingers through the golden coins, and as your raised your hands, the coins fell down onto the floor with a satisfying clatter, eyes fixed in dazed wonderment.

I’m a bystander now, perhaps.  You disappear into a dark corner with your so-called friends, without once ever acknowledging my existence.  You look pretty as always on the outside; through the cosmetics and the lipstick, I see what you once were, but that makes it more painful, very simply.  The waft of cigarette smoke filled the air as I walked in the opposite direction, feeling a sense of disappointment and despair, but never crying, for there were no such things as genuine tears here nowadays.  We both died for different reasons and in different ways, but we end up being the same thing, hollow beings with little substance.  It’s just that you find comfort in many of your kind, while I take comfort in the form of a dream… fleeting in its appearance as I appear and vanish whenever he manages to sleep. 

Your laughter filled the air like a sweet fragrance that I could not perceive.  Not innocent laughter, from our early days, but the ironic laughter which masked venom behind a thin veil, which grew more prevalent and odorous as you drifted away.


Gradually, the scene made way for a tree atop a hill, the starless sky as a depressing backdrop to an already depressing subject matter.  It was almost as if I went back in time, catching a gleaming jewel of the long past, only to watch it pass ethereally through my wrinkled hands and vaporize into smog and smoke.  I step towards the tree and no longer hear the cold rustling of the grass against my feet; I glance over the cliff and am unable to see the river stretch out towards the horizon, nor the stars glimmer brightly in the night sky.  Nothing had changed in the year that had passed, her tombstone stood still in the night, none the more aged than when it first appeared.  It was just me and her, no distractions; no irrelevant deceptions.

I placed my hand on the contorted bark of the old, barren willow, looking down with a sense of great reminiscence; a glimmer of color seemed to emanate from the downtrodden bark as I caress your face, but it disappeared as soon as I took notice of it… a dark hemisphere seemed to surround us under close guard, as if the nightmares and the phantoms knew what was happening and decided to watch more closely; as if any tinge of emotion would threaten their very existence, and had to be contained at all costs.  I could feel a venomous chill in the air taking shape and form; a dark wind blew across the fields, atmosphere deathly cold, foreign shadows crawling beneath the trees, threatening to penetrate into my heart and soul, like a malignant cancer of the mind.  What I felt was not necessarily pain, but rather, a kind of pressurizing discomfort, the gradual decline into the slow death that claimed her soul, as she looked over the cliff a year ago, reaching out to the stars and trying to grasp them.

But what really happened that night, when the grass was green, the moon was full, and the stars were shining light and bright?  There was little presence of the shroud that seemed to converge around my position, it was as natural as it should be; the tall buildings of the cities and the neon lights were so far away, towards the horizon, we saw them as spectators, and they seemed to portray a benign sense of innocence as they flickered and moved, as if they were fun to watch for hours on end..  The river gave off an azure glow in the darkness as it led off into the sea, where the lighthouse roamed within the darkness of the nightscape, and where the waves made their silent crashes onto the rocky shore.  The friendly croaking of the crickets; the sight of fireflies gathering around the great tree with its branches stretching out to sea, near the craggy cliff, performing their ceremonial dances as they prepared to die bright and happy each day, all of these contributed to an atmosphere awash with wonder, full of the affinity that nature could exhibit so wonderfully and simply, calling out for us to extend that cohesion towards one another.  We were nine and young, we played with the twigs and the branches, we climbed the great oak tree without hesitation, with a fondness for its trunk, we picked morning lilies as purple as velvet and sniffed them, laughing at each other when one of us had an uncommon reaction; her face usually sweetened while mine usually soured… we placed our school bags at the bottom and usually forgot about them until we were well on our way home, we folded mathematical symbols and scientific jargon into airplanes and threw them over the cliff; this was our life, our haven, our escape… and they took it away; I couldn’t even bear to turn back, for there would be no remnants of the time we spent together; whether it be twisted steel or parched ground behind me, I didn’t want to see it; a dark wind blew across the land, the smell of rotting flesh presented a stark contrast to sweet fragrance, and everything was so sad that my heart was numb towards feeling.

I wonder, did the shadows eye upon her as they gazed at me, beneath the trees and the flowers?  Did the ghosts and phantoms crawl close to the ground, closer and closer to her as she looked upon the stars and stretched out her hand to them, trying to catch them as childishly as many times before; while I sat on a grey rock, watching her from afar with a vague sense of affection as the full moon cast its great, feminine glow, did they murder her like a thief in the night, stabbing her heart and taking her away?  For there was no greater misery than watching her walk back from the craggy cliff, her eyes as dull as a monochrome monograph, her hair no longer as lustrous as before, the way you walked towards me was different; first the clumsy movement of a marionette on strings, then the seasoned movement that seemed strangely uniform; no longer was there a skip in your steps, your skin was pale.  I felt my blood turn black with poison and my heart make scattered breaths of agony when you stood in front of me, a plastered and hollow smile on your face, the time-honored deception device that fooled both the blind and the experienced, the resource from which awkwardness and dishonesty burst forth; we agreed on this a long time ago, didn’t we?  Like one of her earlier books showed me, the evil men always smile, but you are a different person now; as you reached out your hand to me to give a handshake, I imagined a little bit of her inside your hollow shell, screaming out to me; we met with a handshake, we shall part with one too.  I gripped your hand with downtrodden eyes, trying to hide my tears by remembering her and trying to smile genuinely to her, one last time.  It was cold and clammy, lacking the warmth of blood and spirit; she died as you strangled her and suppressed her; the strings tightened.  I then looked at you; you pulled your handshake away whispering an empty goodbye, you walked away without saying anything more, and my hands still held the book that she wanted me to take care of, cover picture showing the teardrop fall into the lake; how the magical instant seemed to dominate both the senses of sight and sound…

… the ensuing silence was so deep that I could hear the water in the grassy pond sleeping, the plants around me withering; I could smell the evening fragrance of lilies and daisies fade away as the fireflies started to fall without replacement.  No longer did she, lithe and pretty, grace the hill, the stars twinkled and faded into the background, the great tree suddenly seemed old, sickly, barren as it seemed to bend over by some invisible force; the grass became more and more brittle as I started running down the hill, and I heard not rustling, but the quiet cracking of broken blades of grass; they seemed to give a dull brown glow as I ran further and further down, I could see a weak but present red afterglow cast over my surroundings, as red as the eyes of the crow; she was the hill, I realized, she gave it its curiosity, its sense of wonderment, complex theories that gave simple conclusions, she was its very embodiment, linked through both heart and soul, and when I tired myself out and couldn’t run anymore, and looked back, the sight of smoke and smog in the midst of cars met my eyes; the deafening noise struck a deep chord within. I was on the sidewalk, wearing my schoolbag, walking back from school, it seemed.  It was afternoon time, the distant ringing of the school bell for six-graders and above reminded me of the friendly croaking of the crickets, but when I looked through the opening in the buildings, the hill was no longer there, and there was no longer anyone beside me.


I started shedding tears in the heat of my thoughts; utter resentment at the inevitable spread of this disease and my inability to stop it; the demons and shadows that surrounded me, long forgotten in my line of thought, seemed to be held back by something so sweet and reflective as tears, and they engaged in gradual retreat to give me silence…  To salvage the hill from the scraps of dreams and nightmares was a gift that I was empowered with, a consolation for fading away from the real world into the illusionary, and even then, it was a corrupted farce in face of the real thing.  This was where it was permanently locked away; their vision of the world was mechanical, uniform, emotionless, giving favor only to the routine and nothing else.  And slowly, day by day, I found it harder to gather their dreams and experience them, for many have long since stopped dreaming as they sleep, unaware of what they are missing, able to yearn for grassy fields and open plains only as some distant fiction seen in advertisements and posters.  My world of dreams have, as a result, become pale as well; there are no longer any quirky curiosities of interest; all I could see now were barren, whitewashed trees in a field of endless snow as I wait patiently for my end, against the backdrop of an endless sky full of seagulls.

I know she used to dream.  So did I; we had the hill, the sky, the sea, the river, the tree, the lighthouse, the stars, and the fireflies all to ourselves, and never will I forget those privileged days.  But only I held those dreams and feelings now; they would find me and dismember me one day, and that memory would die with me, with no one else to share… I heard static cackling as the dream fizzled hazily, as the fabric of the sky started to break apart.  I embraced her one last time, saying goodbye; the world blanked out by the sudden onslaught of white as he awoke into slumber, ready for another school day and lessons on the nature of electrical currents.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 12:31:20 pm by Affinity »


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  • ... but I have promises to keep.
Re: Aether ~ A Story of Dreams (Non-Touhou)
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 01:51:59 pm »
Chapter Three

Star light, star bright, tender is the night!  The trinity of me, him, and she goes deep into the hearts of the nameless, so much so that 'they' have supposedly, in 'my' view, gone in eternal sleep!  What is this inane pessimism; what is this easy cynicism that have infected them so and plunged them into a world black, white and red?  It's probably the weather that makes them toss and turn in their open-eyed slumber and wake up close-eyed in terrifying fever.  And what a fever they have, by which the smiles of others are turned into a misshapen turn of the mouth, and the concern by which others have shown them are transformed into a glaring exhibit of veiled intentions and black-hearted mystery... it is indeed a sad affliction, this long-winded nihilistic cynicism of theirs.  One wishes to pierce their starless wizardry and see the night sky for what it really is, to reveal to them the sleight of hand still present in this world.  After all, this rather profound but misguided wisdom isn't really that airtight; 'I' said that 'I' couldn't cry because there were no genuine tears anymore but hey, 'I' indeed cried at the end!   So stupid!  Regularly do they lose themselves in empty wordplay in the most unimpressive of ways; it is my job to show that their contradictory ramblings and wayward feelings (which they have denied more than once, no less), point not to the depth of their tragedy, but rather, the inherent falsehood in their world-view(s).

Me?  I'm me!  There is no need to contribute to this air of useless complexity; that's all that's needed to be said.  And I'm talking to you of course, because I loved you so and loved you too much.  Now, as to why he sank into a vague despair, it was due to the fickle movements of the heart and human emotion, which have been so since a long time ago.  He stood beside the empty fountain and felt nothing... he simply put too much stock into the stubbornness of his own feelings, you know, and thought the past an anchor by which all things are judged.  But the fact is that at the age of fourteen or more, when puberty strikes the non-endowed, there simply isn't any more time for episodes by the swing, no more of those vague, poetic scenes where people look over the cliff and ruminate over the future of their lives.  Here in the moment, the here and the now; the present is where it's at and he simply didn't provide it.  It was inevitable that she would eventually leave him be in the past and go on with her life, like you did with yours.
How could she do it any other way, in the face of so much pressure, not just from without but from within?  How could I reconcile the gravity of my loss with the social construct of adolescence?  The boundaries of her life certainly enveloped more than just his childish idealism, so how does he, detached from reality, have the right to criticize her for following the natural course of her growth in this society?  But weren't the times I spent together with her a kind of natural bliss and soft-hearted joy?  Weren't the conversations we had somewhat deep and profound, to the point of memory?  She may have found him interesting in the past, and she may have enjoyed her time with him, however short it may be, but it certainly wasn't that special in the long run; he may have exaggerated past events and thought a quote from Silas Marner (which had nothing to do with that moment, by the way) a paragon of higher thought; a brush of the hand a lifetime bond.  I stared at the book she gave me, the book which she left in my arms as she walked away.  I threw bread crumbs to the pigeons for old time’s sake, in the shadow of barren oaks and wilting flowers, half-expecting the wayward grace of her merry heart. How sad.  Also, much more so, how does he have the right to extend his rather bitter but personal experiences with her to the whole world and ramble about crows and paper flowers?   He took comfort in numbers and dates, remnants of a romance long past.  Doesn't this portray the same selfishness that he accuses the world of having? He went to the school library every day without fail, in fear of the kindness and tact of others.  Doesn't this show at least an equal amount of disrespect to those who have lived their lives to the fullest, even in this most morally corrupt of generations?  He went home to weep and hide his discontent; winter had come to purge his memories and he would not let them take it from him. 

Anyway listen to me, and me only; yes, puberty and her growing sexual attraction to more masculine characters is all there is to it; an everyday tragedy plainly caused by middle school culture and biological yearnings.  Time will pass him by as he attempts to solve the puzzle of his past, but little does he know that the solution has and always has been the present, regardless of whatever bias he decides to interpose into the truth of the matter, or whatever ‘hill’ he decides to place between two buildings of any given material.  And… that’s pretty much the gist of what I wanted to say, I guess; life sometimes goes on without you, and you have to roll with the punches and get on with it.  Wait, wait, wait for a better opportunity and start anew, while taking lessons from the past, and who knows, maybe the future will be bright and happy and stuff like that and you won’t regret anything!  This is all conventional wisdom that everyone should take in, including you, so please just forget about him and move on.  It’s not as if you have lost anything… yes, yes, I assure you that he will be okay in the end despite you not doing anything to comfort him at all; losers can only stay as losers for so long before they get tire of their stupidity and learn the appropriate life lessons.  As I said before, I think you are definitely in the right, and I’m glad that makes you feel better, one should definitely not feel guilty for something she did not do!

Well, so long, we shall part with a smile and a wave, but with the irreplaceable mark of friendship that can only be gained through the exchange of views and opinions.  Perhaps our gestures may seem fake to him, but aren’t all of these conditioned in the process of taking the path of least resistance in life?  The world may be cruel and harsh towards the average person, and I acknowledge that there’s much fakery and deceit here and there.  But it is up to him to realize that there is hope and salvation yet beyond the shadows of doubt, and that there is room for genuine love and friendship in this dark, utilitarian abyss of life.  One forgets and one forgives, and then forgets… this is the secret behind her wayward grace, and my unspoken advice to him is to simply do the same; reach out into the darkness, and look for the many candles waiting for you in the distance.  I know this is boring, but it’s better to evangelize about these than to preach the gospel of a finished world.  Star light, star bright, tender is the night… after all.  And hopefully after braving through the dark, thrashing fevers of the soul can he look back and realize that the words he had spoken were not that of some master seasoned in all aspects of life, but merely that of a precocious adolescent who had lost his faith in the world solely because he was dumped by his one-time girlfriend. 


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Re: Aether ~ A Story of Dreams (Non-Touhou)
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2012, 04:28:55 pm »
Chapter 4

Wearily, he wandered through the streets at night, bruised, invisible and pathetic.  His eyes subconsciously leaped from building to building in a diseased state, searching for… he had forgotten what he was searching for, and why he was searching for it… a vague longing yearned within him, and how elusive it was.  But there was nothing to see in such a monochrome world; it was all disappointment after disappointment, erased from memory and replaced with a comfortable eerie blankness that swept him through the night… but still there was this fleeting sense of something missing which haunted his every step, periodically jolting him out of his dullish, midday reveries.  What was it that he was searching for, and how would it go about searching it; this question he met with a disinterest compounded through repetition.  At times, he felt as if he was hallucinating, lurching forward into a sepia-tinted setting of the city, which seemed much like wrinkled paper dipped in coffee and left to dry … only to find himself stepping back into a world of black and white, a lull in his senses, a momentarily overwhelming impulse to resign in painless acceptance.  In this drunken manner did he stagger down the street, under the indifferent streetlights and the crows that watched silently from the rooftops, his vision screwed from the intermingling of past and present.

It started to drizzle.  Cars whizzed past him in search of a destination.  People in shadowy cloaks all seemed to be in a rush, nonchalantly pushing him aside in their idolatry of time.  The buildings surrounding him all seemed to stretch up high into the sky, distant and foreboding.  The city smog was thick in the air, accompanied by the play of blaring car horns and footsteps making splashes in the rain.  All in all, the scene was one of restless movement, exuding a sort of adrenaline-induced high that bombarded him from all sides.   These forces, subconscious as well as hormonal, exerted their full pressure on the boy, and only with great difficulty could he see frazzled materializations of some distant memory; parents walking their son to the library, or maybe a bicycle by the window sill… flickering moments of treasured beauty vulgarized by their present spatial replacements… but soon enough, the sights and sounds of city nightlife edged him out of his melancholic daydreaming, and he had no choice but to assimilate into the flow of pedestrian traffic, eyes cast downward with an irritable restlessness… had the world really lost that which he was looking for in the process of change, or was he the one who lost the ability to see it…  Loud blaring music boomed out of the speakers of the nearby nightclub… the groan of this grand urban machinery resounded through the land, fraying his nerves and drowning out all thoughts, shattering them and hurling them every which way.  He felt that he had dwelled on the question of the present many times before, but for some reason… a howling laughter erupted, accompanied by the clinking of glasses… he could remember neither the lines of thought he had embarked on, nor the conclusions he had arrived at, and the more he tried… a rodent ran across the sidewalk and into the sewers… the more he did not want to remember.  A remnant of his wide-eyed idealism from long ago whispered to him the need to help others in spite of their flaws… he tried to take in a breath of fresh air but the waft of cigarette smoke entered his lungs, causing him to cough profusely… to realize that it was no good being alone, but… the continuous wailing of ambulance sirens pulsated in his eardrums; the red backlights of congested cars stretched upslope into the horizon, candles lighted in worship of destructive consumerism, flickering in the aimlessness of their wayward wanderings  … his heart pounded and pounded in response to the mounting claustrophobia, his face grew pale with overwhelming nausea, and soon enough, he broke through the crowd into a back alley, dazedly stumbling forward as far as possible before finally emptying the contents of his stomach onto the cracked pavement, disoriented and confused, lost in the city bowels; a prone figure amidst the falling rain. 

…but the flow of time seemed to decelerate and accelerate against his favour; the relief that should have come with the disappearance of nausea passed over in an empty blank.  Instead, an instinctive sense of self-consciousness replaced it and caused him woe; muffled laughter kept out of earshot, amused whispers under their breaths, sounds of contempt and disgust arising out of his memories to assail him… a sentence half-uttered, before the inevitable burst of laughter and the dispersal of interest, or perhaps it was his posture, hunched back and pathetic, that spurred people on to continually insult him; what new mistake had this careless dimwit done now, what new prank did our gullible… nausea kicked in, he looked down towards the street, and as was half-expected, a lone, dark figure stood there, amidst the neon lights and the bustle of the crowd, casting a long shadow upon him; he backed away upon seeing the malevolent eyes, exuding malicious intent… awkward stiffness seemingly mixed with calculated geniality, a hollow smile; all of this seemed to recall an image of a marionette with strings, infused with some sort of arcane significance which aroused fear deep within him… what else could he do but  run in face of the present… where else could he escape to other than the sanctuary of the self, the bastion of the past… the past where all things sweet and homely were abound… the past where all things were innocent and free from malicious intent…

…he regressed further and further into the past as he ran, his vague sense of yearning from earlier replaced by fear and hatred, and by the time he emerged from the dark alleyway he emerged a markedly different person, assimilating effortlessly into the flow of pedestrian traffic, eyes cast downward as they drifted from moment to moment, without any unifying element to hold these freeze-frames of time together; discomfort and relief loosely woven into a tenuous patchwork, rising and falling with the whims of distracted children. Just as the hungry look forward to a meal at some restaurant; just as the bored look forward to an action movie at some cinema, life could almost be described in such parameters, problem and dissolution, conflict and avoidance, trivialities upon trivialities.  He regarded this observation with sarcastic indifference as he walked home on the path he had always walked, ignoring the barren trees and the tainted birdsongs, trampling over the field of velvet morning lilies, past his two parents who probably wanted to scold him again or something, and finally stopping at his bed, the cradle of his existence, Again with the sweet unconsciousness and the carefree dreams, and never again, for better or for worse, would he truly awake from his perpetual slumber.  Acknowledging this, the flock of crows that had kept watch over him left his windowsill for the last time, convinced that this boy, who had lost all thread of his search, was no longer a threat to their aspirations.


At this point of the story, the boundaries which his life could not overstep were already circumscribed around him.  There was pretty much nothing left except for a rather mundane daily routine of school and sleep, all against a somber and depressing backdrop which could not possibly abate until the moment of his death (or in his view, the death of the world).  The narration, if this situation were to carry on, would probably be limited to a sob story on how utterly sad and lonely he was, or a commentary on how human relations have become nothing more than an aesthetically pleasing artistic construction, or a monotonous litany on how rampant modernization had eroded the quintessence of our humanity, and so on and so forth.  However, since all these opinions do not count for anything even under the confined scope of his life, owing to his great timidity and general apathy to the world in general, they do not really amount to much more than childishly repugnant rambling; a cross between an inexperienced cultist and an adolescent afraid of growing up.  Given that he would allow no one to change him, and that he would never have the strength to change anyone else, any further attempt to elaborate on his misgivings with the world must be labelled as superfluous.

Basically, he is to stagnate in a world that had grown around him, and he is to forever chase after the past in fevered, repetitive bursts of unspoken arguments and pseudo-philosophy, trapped within the stranglehold of his own perspective.  Thus there is nothing more for him to say, or at least, nothing more for us to listen to; the person he was directing all the above to was already long gone, and we would be left to sift through the ‘barren oaks’ and ‘paper flowers’ in want of anything interesting to convey.  Words, especially unspoken ones, fade away and lose their meaning with time, and the same goes for people with lives unlived, pleading to the malleable past of which only they could hold testimony to. With this, the story shall come to a close; issues left hanging such as where and when he meets his end are generally a matter of large irrelevance and not worth pursuing.  It is up to the reader to come to his own conclusions as to whether there is a greater tragedy at work here or not, but as far as the story concerned, such sentiments are irrelevant; the point here is that life is full of unfinished sentences, and his life is another mere example of the norm, an unfinished question tailing off into an ellipse…

~End of Part One~

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