… please… leave…
...monster… how could you…
… why… I beg you…
… never… hope we never... meet again…
Broken memories and voices from a distant past. Nightmares, she was used to them. They were lullabies to her tainted soul. She told herself she wanted to forget, to start anew, without the echoes of the past. And yet there she was, stuck in limbo, unable to move forward but too afraid to look back. She wanted to keep the regrets and guilt close to her heart, afraid that if she forgot them, she would become something she couldn’t recognise. Nightmares, she was used to them. In this comfortable darkness, she wondered if, one day, she could be like others, like those who walked under the light…
“What?” A deep and raspy voice answered the phone that couldn’t stop ringing.
The young woman looked at the time. 2:45 pm. Who the hell was calling this early?
“Why can’t you answer the damn phone?” A man asked.
“Why are you calling?”
“Do you know how many times I’ve called you?” The man nagged.
“Do you think I care?”
“Where are you?” The man asked. He had been trying to reach her for a while.
“Somewhere on Earth. Unfortunately.” The young woman sat on her bed, a bit dazed.
“Are you okay?” The man was worried, even though he knew how useless it was.
“Of course I’m okay! Why shouldn’t I be?”
“You cut contact and you left without…”
“If my memory serves me right, I got fired.”
“You ran away after - ”
“Anyway!” She cut him, “I believe I told you to call me only if the Earth was about to blow up. Is the Earth going to disappear in the next ten minutes, Charles?”
“Enough. I’m fine. Really. I don’t want to work. I also don’t want to talk to you, your kind, nor anybody that could breathe in my direction. Nothing personal, Darling. So don’t bother calling ever again.”
“Darling… When I left, I was clear, wasn’t I? There are no more ties, no karma left between us. Give it a rest. Tell them to give it up, too. I’m being nice right now. Let’s make sure I stay that way. You don’t want me to be upset, right?”
“Why are you so…” The man grumbled, “I’m worried about you-”
“I’m more than fine. I have a life to live, things to do, places to be, air to breathe. I’M FINE!”
She hung up and clenched the phone in her hand. She sat there, unmoving, for a long time before a frustrated sigh broke out. Why was it so complicated to live around people? Why was it so complicated to be human? She reached out toward the nightstand and grabbed a glass. Empty. She tried the bottle on the side. Empty. She grumbled a bit before leaving the bedroom.
Treading through this apartment was as difficult as usual. Mountains of empty bottles reigned over hills of dirty clothes and rivers of cardboard boxes. The dust had settled in and the air was stale. Pushing through the garbage bags with a rabbit slipper on her left foot that kicked away whiskey bottles, and a bear slipper on her right foot, she made her way to the living room. How long had it been since she last cleaned up? She didn’t even remember what day it was, nor the last time she ate. Why should it matter anymore anyway?
The living room was less dirty and messy than the rest of the apartment. The piles of clothes on the sofa were clean, or at least she thought they were. The mattress in the middle of the room was empty. The constant glow of the TV gave it a certain sense of desolation. Her lonely figure clad in old pyjamas stood in the middle of the bleak room. Black circles, empty eyes, and tired eyelids. She couldn’t help but complain. She was okay. She was just fine. It was just another dark and rough patch; it wasn’t the first and it wouldn’t be the last. It hadn’t been long since she’d started over; she just needed to give herself some time and take things slowly.
Why is everything empty in this house?
Why are the walls so close?
Suddenly, she felt trapped. She needed air. She needed space. Jumping here and there, she went to the window hidden behind thick black curtains. She parted them a little and reached out. As the sunlight shone on her hand, she realised how pale she had become. The bright light stung her dry eyes, making her frown. Standing in the shadows in a daze, she looked at the street below.
Summer had arrived early again this year. It was a hot and sunny day like any other day. Legions of tourists kept striding along the crowded streets of a suffocating city. Echoes of conversations and shouts spread through the air, which added a chaotic tempo to the shops’ music. The delirious crowd was full of life and laughter, the wave of bouncing bodies, the unbreathable sun, and joy in the air.
Stunned and bewildered, she stood there, her frenzied heartbeat being carried away by the crowd that soared and danced in this mad farandole. From her third floor window, she felt her breath shortened, chest crushing down her heart, and shivers spread down her body. Panic. Anguish. Despair, that made her feel so disconnected from the rest of the world. She stepped back further into the shadows. Away from the sunlight. She regretted opening even an inch of that window that had stayed shut for so long.
She wanted to hide. She needed to run away. She felt lost and afraid. More than anything, she felt angry. Angry for being this weak. Angry for being her. Angry... for being. She couldn’t help but let out a hoarse cry. She shook her head in an attempt to make her dark thoughts go away, but unshed tears still threatened to drown her.
She needed time. She needed to remember what she really was and figure out what she wanted to be. Time, her only wealth. It was all she had, anyway. She had told herself that she had lost everything, that she wasn’t part of the world nor was she worth it. Maybe… Just maybe…
She dragged her feet towards the mattress laying bare on the messy floor. Maybe if she slept some more, the dark thoughts would also be lost in nothingness. A nap. Yes, she needed a nap. Or an ethylic coma. She hesitated for a moment. The second option was incredibly tempting.
A smoky whiskey or dark rum?
She rummaged through the pile of empty bottles, through the empty cupboards and the warm fridge. But all she could find were more empty bottles and boxes. Not even the shadow of some dry ramen. She grumbled as she threw herself back on the mattress.
Forget it. Let’s give my liver a chance today.
The next couple of days went by in peace. She watched cartoons and animal documentaries until early mornings while eating take-outs and frozen meals. She went to the shop and bought enough liquor to open a bar; she even joked with the cashier. She bought useless stuff on the internet, saw movies she didn’t find interesting, talked to people she barely cared about. She enjoyed herself with people she didn’t even try learning the name, laughed with others, and at herself. She wandered out. Breathed.
There she was, walking under the sun, living. A seemingly normal life for a person pretending to be normal. But wasn’t that how life really was? Pretending to be happy, to be nice, to work hard, to feel alive. Those plain days were what she longed for. A boring life made of fake smiles to please others, half-heartedness in work, and hidden anguished and loneliness. Wasn’t it what she wanted?
Was it really what she wanted?
Was it what it meant to be human?
Being moulded by the expectations she had of herself and her notion of what a normal human was like? This kind of life…
Was it really what she wanted for herself?
To be walking under the uncomfortable light while surrendering her soul to the darkness?
It was exhausting... Truly...
Did you like it?
I'll post the rest of Chap 1 later this week
I'm launching a Kickstarter this week to fund the publishing of the book here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sunrhae/isekai-ran-an-unwanted-new-world
There're lots of great rewards and the opportunity to appear in the story