Next morning, I wake up at seven thirty as usual to jazz from my cell phone and do whatever warm up stretches I can manage. My body feels heavy and stiff as if there is an extra copy of me residing within, curled up like a child in fetal position. But after some exercise, I feel significantly lighter.

In the room, there's no natural light. It's an entirely enclosed space designed for sex and nothing else. In fact, it still feels like night time, lethargic and lulling - soft, barely visible colours swim along the edges; every now and then, it turns purple, then red. There is no more mood music, but in my mind I can still hear Bohren & der Club of Gore.

There hadn't been any more dreams during the night from what I recall. Yet, I begin to suspect I had again met with the girl on the hill without remembering it. After all, the brain operates at a different wavelength during sleep and dream processes are often incapable of registering deep into the temporal lobe as long term memories. It's entirely plausible that I had met with her in my dreams every night but happened to forget. Last night was the first time I had experienced anything so vivid and powerful - I had woken as if a physical force had transferred in from a different world through me. Something had wrenched me apart, like I was a conduit for a new reality.

Shirayuki had slept next to me, in my t-shirt, back to me the entire time. Perhaps she was upset. But it's clear she hadn't ceased to exist. I watch as her body rises and falls with each breath and the wrinkles of the fabric ripple like water. I feel an urge to reach out, to touch her hair and confirm for myself her physical actuality, but I stop myself.

I recall her words last night with absolute clarity. They settle like the first snowfall of late autumn. Slow and somber. Whatever was within me, struggling to escape, is still emerging. But now I no longer had the will to restrain it. Everything follows the flow of the universe. I would have to accept it eventually. And recognize my intimate connection with Shizuka. When everything is seen and done, I decide, I would see her again.

I call the number I had saved as soon as I've finished showering in cold water and brushing my teeth. Shirayuki stirs and rubs her eyes. I had hung up and called for a third attempt by this time, but no one had picked up.

"Who are you calling?"

"Someone who may have more answers." I say.

"They're not going to pick up yet," she says.

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know," she yawns, "it's not the right time yet. I just have a feeling. I just know somehow."

"Am I supposed to trust you?"

"It's up to you, but if I'm here for a reason, I think it's better to listen to a concept than yourself." She pauses. "I think they're going to send you a message today."



I check out of the love hotel and head to school, Shirayuki tagging along like a dogged haunt. I follow my schedule to the dot, even though there are no classes. If I am still abiding by Etiquette I would likely prefer to read and study in the Library and the cafe than do anything else. Since it's Friday, I would go for a drink with friends later. But I can't be so sure anymore. I feel like an entirely different person, living someone else's life. As if I'm shadowing an oblivious victim. Or as if someone had placed my soul into another shell. The separation of the two is too distinguished. When I think about my point of origin, the life I had shed like a snake sheds its skin, I seem to have no recollection of what I had been doing.

At around three thirty as Shirayuki had said, a message appeared in my inbox. I was in the middle of reading a biography on Jackson Pollock. I had chosen it at random but I was deeply focused, as it was that time of day, so the notification had taken a while to sink in, as if it resounded from a distant place. I was well immersed in the life of the artist - his entranced subconscious dance of drip painting, a complete meditative intuitive state of being, breaking standards and boundaries, space and negative space. Ultimately, changing the visual artscape of modern abstract expressionism. He preferred to work on unmounted canvasses on the floor, attacking them from all sides and flinging paint from various objects: buckets, spatulas, sticks, knives. No rules, no hesitation, no Etiquette to follow. In the post-war 1940s, the explosion of paint worked up his canvasses, while the world careened from the staggering horrors of the Holocaust in Europe and Japanese war-crimes in Asia, Pearl Harbour and the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their future generations, while American forces and influence came over Japan, and the Korean War erupted. When economies shattered, and civilians left ravaged to scavenge from scraps, society and infrastructure under reconstruction, new monuments in philosophical discourse and art movements were reached; from the ashes rises a new tower of Babel. A menacing structure that would gain an even mightier foothold on humankind. Yet, people are to remain unaware, only able to see from within one small sphere, oblivious to the multitude of parallels that exist simultaneously. Pollock was enraptured with dripping prophetic paint while somewhere else Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea. While a Jewish refugee struggled against his memories of tragedies that befell his family, the White House was renovated as Harry Truman poured troops into Korea.

I pick up my phone. Shirayuki looks up from a manga she's reading.

The journey begins.

It is yet from another number.

This time I text back. Hasn't the journey already begun?

But of course there is no response.

Espresso Love (A Dystopian Japan Novel) #Wattys2014Read this story for FREE!