Ashes To Ashes

Ai is really starting to bring me down.

She’s been reminiscing about the bad old days, and her usual sunny disposition has clouded right up, sending waves of anxiety and sadness all the way to me in Tokyo. I’m sure it’s worse for those connected to the Bodyweb, since she’s the radiator that keeps everyone warm.

I really try hard not to think about past Varants, since all of the failure and loss can’t help but bring me down, above and beyond the mess that is my relationship with Miranda.

Ai’s last blog post was really hard to take, since one of my first memories was of that night near Fairview, when both her father and I died.

Of course, I was gone for only a few seconds, after Miranda awoke to her powers over Matter and reduced me to a pile of dust. I like to think that I had some sort of significant after life experience in that closet, but to be honest it was like the world just blinked itself into darkness and silence, only coming back after Ai brought back my spirit, and forced Miranda to bring back my body.

Ai’s father, on the other hand – I really don’t like to think about that, but it haunts us all.

Jenny pushed all of our minds, and forced us to come out to the living room to see his body, all bloody and broken and still.

Well, actually it was S.OS that was controlling Jenny, or for that matter the Nameless – it’s hard to pin agency and motive on actions, so I try to make it simpler by just relating what I saw.

It was Jenny that forced Miranda to remake his body, using Ai’s memories as a guide. Every last drop of blood seeped out of the carpet and his clothes, and his chest and neck knitted together so completely that there wasn’t even any scars, or a hair out of place.

Aurora transmuted the knife to an energetic radio burst that jumped out the roof.

Then Helena and Cassandra folded his body back to the bedroom, and we made it look like he was just sleeping soundly.

In fact, these are all Ai’s memories from after the fact – Jenny forced us to forget what we had seen, to forget our newly manifested powers, and just return to our happy-go-lucky kid mindset. It worked for everyone but Ai, since she was not beholden to the firm grip of S.OS and the Nameless.

That’s not to say she hasn’t been manipulated by their schemes and anti-logic – in fact, I would say that over the centuries she’s gone way past Stockholm syndrome, and is an active participant despite her best intentions. She’s so use to the cloying whispers and boundary shoving that it doesn’t take much of anything to get her going in the wrong directions.

Not that I’m one to talk. I didn’t have to follow Harumi’s not-so-subtle hints that the answers I sought were in Satomi’s apartment, but that didn’t stop me from using the key she gave me to investigate.

It’s been well over a week, and I still don’t want to talk about it. I don’t even think I’m going to talk about it now, except to say that I’ve been had.

We’ve all been had, and the entirety of Variant 237 has been one, big trap by S.OS and the Nameless. I played my part down to the letter, not even knowing that I was being expertly manipulated, starting with my job at Circle X.

I don’t know why it wasn’t more obvious – Circle X only existed in Variant 0, and that down-home convenience store became corrupted due to Sasha and S.OS each pulling it in opposite directions. Sasha wanted to use it to change the world, and S.OS wanted to use it to burn it to ashes.

At the first Point Zero, Ai put on a huge show, changing everything that came out of that part of Minnesota into something else. Fairview became St. Cloud, and Circle X eventually re-configured itself into Target (still with the same general iconography, but none of the menace). The Nameless put on another show of accepting this punishment, all better luck next time.

Now, Circle X is back, as a Japanese convenience store, that just so happens to be where I’ve worked for the past dozen or so Variants – just long enough to get comfortable, and to yearn for some excitement, escape.

Masae, 99% Natural and Die Database were tailor made to get my attention, a sort of idealized, romantic vision of what I had always been looking for, and like a rat in a maze I rejoiced when I found that cheese.

The sad thing is none of the girls knew that anything was up – in their minds their lives just fell into place due to fate, or luck. I know Satomi felt that, and I now know that she was so terribly wrong.

Fuck. My repressed memories of hiding in that closet when I was 8 are all rushing back.

My cheeks are brushing against rubberized rain coats and wool sweaters, and all around my feet are well-worn athletic shoes. I want to hide so completely, but deep down can’t wait to be found, to be acknowledged, to join with Miranda as “it”.

I couldn’t wait to be found, and at the moment I was, my being exploded and filled the shoes below me with heaping handfuls of dust.

How come I can’t remember the White?

How come I had to come back to this endless cycle of pain?

I still don’t have the answers, but one of these days I’ll be ready to pose the most important question.

Click to continue RGA

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