I’ve never believed in fate. The whole concept is just infuriating! The idea that my actions aren’t actually up to me, that they were pre-planned or foreshadowed or whatever...it pisses me off just thinking about it! The only people who believe in fate are people who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions, people who aren’t happy with how their lives turned out. In other words, boring losers who aren’t worth my time of day.
For some reason, I was thinking about fate that morning on my walk to school, but after brooding on that subject for a while I shook myself out of that funk and started thinking about what to do next with the Brigade. While I’d never tell it to him in person, Kyon was pretty smart, giving me that idea to make my own club. It’d been less than a week since I started it, and I already had a weird cast of characters around me, and together it shouldn’t have taken us long at all to find something really weird.
Despite what Kyon might think, I usually try to hide my emotions in public, but I’m sure as I approached the school I must have had a huge smile on my face. That was when I first saw the ambulance, the police officers at the gate, and what must have been everyone at my high school in a crowd. I can still remember what I was thinking, as I started sprinting up to the gate. What was going on? Had a student caught some kind of advanced super-plague? Had a fight over a guy driven a girl to violence? Had someone jumped off the roof?
When I finally fought my way through the onlookers, up to the officers, I gave them my best smile and asked them what had happened. The officer who looked back at me looked like he was past middle age, I had no idea why he was still on the force. He gave me an annoyed look with his wrinkly face and told me, “Stay back. Find a teacher.”
I must have thought that sounded boring, so instead I looked around until I saw someone at least kind of familiar: that lame guy Kyon usually hung around with, whatever his name was. Didn’t we go to middle school together? Whatever. Anyway, I approached him and told him to spill the beans.
Only when I was that close did I see that he was really pale for some reason, and his eyes were kind of unfocused. “It’s Kyon,” he told me, his voice barely above a whisper. “He...he’s dead. Kyon was found in the classroom, he’d been stabbed.”
As that guy talked, I felt the bottom fall out of my stomach. I don’t know if I actually lurched from where I was standing, but I feel like I must have. It was a struggle to think, I remember that. All I could think was how insane that was. Kyon died? He was killed, murdered? My brain was doing its best to process that fact, struggling to latch onto something, anything, to feel, something to fill that terrible emptiness. Then, out of nowhere, some part of me thought, ‘Woah, isn’t that crazy? This’ll be a fun mystery to solve!’
The thought must have made me smile, at least for a second, because I felt my lips move, and I saw that guy’s face as he saw my expression. His eyes...he looked like he was going to deck me, like I was the scum of the earth. But he didn’t say anything, he just walked away. He left me alone. Alone with myself.
I don’t remember how I got home. School had been cancelled for the day, but I’d be back there tomorrow. The next thing I do remember from that day was sometime early in the afternoon. I was struggling to find something to do. I waffled between doing my homework, trying to find something watchable on television, napping...No matter what it was, I would be doing it, start to forget everything, then something would make me think.
‘Is Kyon done with his homework yet?’ ‘Should I find Kyon’s house, hang out with him?’ ‘This is boring, I should call Kyon and pester him.’ Every time it happened I dropped what I was doing and moved on to something else, until finally I had nowhere else to run.
It’s weird...I’ve forgotten so much of that day, somehow, but I remember what came next really, really well. I was on my laptop, surfing some online encyclopedia for weird incidents around UFO’s, and there was this one really stupid one. Like, clearly it didn’t happen, and I found myself wanting to email it to Kyon to see what he would think. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t, it just hit me.
Kyon was dead. Kyon had died and there was nothing I could do about that. And...and...even if it was just for a second, I smiled. I smiled because it was weird, out of the ordinary. What was wrong with me? He was my friend, he was my only friend and now he was dead and I was alone again.
I think I cried until I fell asleep. It’s a hard thing to look at your darkest impulses, and while I probably should have confronted them, I didn’t have the energy. I sobbed into my pillow and felt alone in a way I hadn’t felt since Kyon and I had first started getting to know each other. I was still a teenager, and when the walls came down and my hormones flooded my brain, I fell apart. Now, I look back and wish I could tell myself that the worst was still to come.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
I hate telling this story. Human beings, myself included (unfortunately), are constantly changing beings. As boring and normal as most of us are, we’re never the same person year-to-year, month-to-month. That’s why looking back at who I used to be sucks so much! All I want to do is go back in time and tell myself off, y’know? But that’s how everyone feels. The ‘you’ from ten years ago is someone you want to punch in their dumb face, but the ‘you’ from a decade in the future feels the same way about you!
Sorry, it’s just on my mind right now. Where was I? Oh, yeah...ugh. So, after sobbing into a pillow all night, I spent the next morning trying to pretend nothing was wrong and I hadn’t broken down. Because I guess acting like a child was just my forte, wasn’t it? Like I said, that younger me pisses me off.
If I’m being honest, I don’t actually remember the morning really well. I must have gone through my normal routine: get dressed, eat breakfast, head to school. The first concrete thing I really know happened that day was when I got to class, sat down, and was faced with the empty seat in front of me. I didn’t know why it bothered me so much, or I didn’t want to know. Really, what did his stupid back add to my day? But I knew that wasn’t it.
Kyon wasn’t there. Kyon was never going to sit in front of me again. I wore a scowl on my face, as class went on, barely paying attention to the lesson, while inside I was straining to keep myself together. The second the lunch bell rang, I bolted from my seat to head somewhere, anywhere, anywhere I could breathe. It was a good thing I’d built up a habit of doing that on lunch breaks: no one could tell anything was wrong with me.
Well, almost no one. I’d found an empty room, maybe a clubroom or something, I don’t know, but I was sitting in a corner. Sitting in a corner like a freaking kid, which I guess I was, but I wasn’t crying, at least not on the outside. Which was a pretty good thing, too, because less than a minute later the door opened and Ryoko Asakura came in, that concerned frown on her face, the same one she’d been throwing my way since the first week of class. “Weren’t you going to eat anything for lunch?” I wasn’t hungry, and I let her know with clipped words. She let out a sigh, like I was a misbehaving brat she was being forced to babysit who wouldn’t eat her vegetables. “What’s going on? You can tell me, I promise I’ll listen.”
Listen like Kyon did. I stood up quickly, walked closer towards her, but I didn’t know what I was going to do to her, even then. Punch her? Kick her? Tackle her? Was there anything I could do to her that would actually make me feel better? Yeah, go ahead, get in a fight, get kicked out of school. That’ll really show her, Haruhi . I was an inch away from Asakura when that thought, his voice, went through my head, and I stopped. Kyon was right. This wouldn’t help me at all. I took a deep breath, calmed myself down as much as I could, and walked away.
Once classes were done for the day, I started towards the clubroom, only to run into Koizumi walking in the opposite direction. Not wanting him to see me in a funk, I did my best to look like I had been feeling since he first joined the club: enthusiastic and bombastic. It almost hurt, forcing the energy when I was feeling so low, but it felt like something I needed to do, a line I didn't want to cross. “Hey, Koizumi,” I began, “where are you going?”
He let out a cough before answering, and I suddenly really looked at him. Koizumi's hair was kind of messed up, and there was a small stain on one of his jacket's elbows. On most people, that wouldn't mean much, but even though I had only known him for less than a week, it was clear even then that Koizumi was the kind of person that always kept his appearance in mind. There were even bags under his eyes, and his normally cheerful expression looked strained in a way I hadn't seen before. In short, he looked like a mess. A stab of anger flashed through me when I realized this: what, so this guy who barely knew Kyon can be all torn up and junk about him, but I can't?! It was a stupid feeling though, I knew that even then, and I stuffed it down further in my mind, where I would feel it less. “I'm quite sorry, Ms. Suzumiya, but unfortunately I cannot make it to any club activities today. Something has come up with my family, and it may take several days to properly sort out. I hope you can overlook this error on my part.”
Another emotion rose up, this time a pang of sadness. I had hoped that having the whole Brigade together would help my mood, but Koizumi had stolen that dream away. Of course it wasn't his fault, so I gave him a scowl and told him, “If it's absolutely necessary, then go ahead. The Brigade can hold for a few days without you, but I expect you to pay the club later, got it?” I got back a relieved smile in return, one which I returned almost effortlessly. Even back then, making my underlings happy gave me some shred of satisfaction, even if was more from pride than empathy.
When I entered the club room, Mikuru jumped from where she was sitting and looked at me with terror on her face. It wasn’t the first time she’d looked at me weird, but it was then that I really realized something: Mikuru was afraid of me. The thought slid through my mind, oily and putrid, but some small corner of my brain felt a little more powerful from that. “P-please don’t make me change clothes. I don’t t-think I can handle that right now.”
My first thought was some kind of speech about how it was when we were at our lowest that maid moe was needed to raise our spirits, and I almost started saying it, but her eyes, full to the brim with unshed tears, hit me like a punch to the gut. Rather than let her know that I’d changed me mind, I let out a chuckle, saying, “Don’t worry about that, Mikuru! I have something much better planned for today!” I was actually really excited to try braiding her hair, and I was sure she’d like it to, but the seconds the words left my mouth she squeeked in fear and flinched as though I’d thrown something at her. My immediate reaction was to scowl at her and mutter, “Nevermind, I guess you don’t want to have fun.”
With a stomp in my every step, a walked over to my desk with a huff and sat down in front of the club computer, turning it on so I could take my mind somewhere else. It was still booting up when I let out a huff of frustration. What was wrong with Mikuru? She was acting so weird! Why would she be afraid of me? What had I done to her? Memories of me stripping her out of her clothes so I could dress her like my own personal doll came to mind, thoughts that before had just made me smile with how cute she was, but now carried a completely different connotation. Had I been treating her like she didn’t matter, making her do things she didn’t want to? My first thought was to ignore that idea as stupid. Mikuru was the cute moe member of the Brigade, of course she had to dress up in fetishy outfits, even if she didn’t want to! That’s the trope!
But those half hearted justifications weren’t easy to swallow, not when I started really looking at them. The computer was up and running, and I found myself searching online about stripping people against their will, which led me to the entire subject of personal ethics. I don’t know if I’ve always been this way, but for a long time now I’ve hated people telling me what to do. My parents, teachers, the law, so long as I didn’t have an issue with it, why should anyone else, y’know? Just around my third article, as I struggled internally between shame and self-righteous indignation, I remembered what I’d done to get this computer. I’d framed a guy for sexual harassment, again without Mikuru’s consent (a word I was really only beginning to understand), and even threatened to spread lies that they’d raped her. The implications of it hit me, hard, and while some part of me tried to make excuses, the rest of me decided to just shut down the entire topic. I closed all the tabs, turned off the computer, and got up to leave. “I’m going home,” I said to the two other people in the room, and only as I grabbed my stuff to go did I realize that Yuki was sitting there as usual, an open book on her lap, some sci-fi crap. In a fit of anger at myself for what I’d been doing, at Yuki for seemingly not caring even an ounce for Kyon’s death, and at the universe for taking him, I slapped the book she was reading to the ground and stormed out. It wasn’t until I started getting weird looks from passersby that I realized I was crying.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
A couple of years ago, from now, not from when I’ve been talking about, I read this article about consciousness. Well, it was more like I watched a video about it online, but whatever, it’s the same damn thing. See, consciousness is that bit of you that makes you, you, y’know? Ugh, it’s actually really hard to explain this...okay! So, you know you’re you, and you can think, and you’re a person, right? But how do you know anyone else has that? They might say they do, but they could be lying, they could be following a program or making decisions at random or whatever. The only way to know that you have consciousness is to experience it. We only agree that everyone has it because we can’t even prove that we have it, so it’s only polite.
Of course, not everyone sees it that way. There are those solipsist freaks, who believe they’re the only real person in the world or something, the morons. How bored and stupid do you need to be to literally think you’re the only person in the world? But there are also people who’ve used this whole thing as a way not to see other people as people. Maybe it’s because they’re a different race, or they’re poor, or they like people other people say they shouldn’t like, but whatever the reason other people see them as less than human, like they don’t have their own consciousness. It’s easy to look at those people and call them out as awful jerks, because they are, but at the same time I know from experience that you can stop seeing other people as people without even realizing you’re doing it.
The next few days, hell the next week, it’s just a blur. I remember being really irate (I know, try to contain your shock), I didn’t talk a lot, and sometimes I had to go to the bathroom to cry for a while. I probably cried in the month following Kyon’s death than I had in the rest of my life combined. I zoned out through class, and the club after school was even worse. Koizumi didn’t attend at all, and every time I managed to track him down he gave me some fresh excuse, looking more and more disheveled with every appearance. “Ms. Suzumiya, my dog just died.” “Ms. Suzumiya, I have appendicitis.” “Ms. Suzumiya, a meteor him my home.” If he didn’t want to be in the club anymore, he could just freaking say so! Or maybe...he didn’t feel like he could...
Thoughts like those, the kind that also cropped whenever I noticed how little Yuki ever spoke, or how Mikuru looked at me like I was the scariest person in the world, I tried to avoid thoughts like those. I attempted talking to Mikuru and Yuki, but neither of them had much to say to me. I felt like I understood why more and more when, invariably, I spent my after-school time researching new ideas on the club room computer. Sure, I rage quit a few more times, but as much as I tried to reinforce what I’d been doing, to find some defense, I didn’t find anything. Instead, I learned more and more about what I’d been doing wrong.
It actually made me start looking at people differently. For a long, long time, ever since I’d had my big epiphany on how ordinary everyone and everything in my life had been, I’d been looking at other people like NPC’s in a video game. Sure, they probably had stuff they were trying to do, but I was the protagonist! If I wanted to make them do stuff, I could, it didn’t even occur to me to wonder what they thought about it. But now, I started wondering how Mikuru was doing in class, what Yuki’s family life was like, how Taniguchi was coping with losing Kyon.
Ten days after Kyon died, I walked up to the club room a little earlier than normal, having skipped out of clean-up duty and leaving it to Asakura, the smiling weirdo. They must have been counting on me not coming in for a while, because I heard voices at the door, and stopped to eavesdrop.
“...on your house? R-really Koizumi? Sh-she’s never going to b-buy that!” It was Mikuru’s high pitched squeak, but for the first time I heard conviction behind her words. She was sticking up for herself, pushing against someone else’s opinion. Sure, she was still stammering and I bet her knees were knocking like crazy, but she was doing it!
I didn’t have to wait long to figure out who she was talking to. “With all due respect, Ms. Asahina, you have no reason to judge me. I’ve been busy, spending nearly all of my free time cleaning up your messes.” Koizumi wasn’t raising his voice at all, but anyone could tell from his tone that he had zero respect for Mikuru.
After a short pause, Mikuru fired back. “My messes! You’re...you’re supposed to be the expert on Ms. Suzumiya! You’re supposed to know everything about her, from how she’s feeling to what she had for breakfast! H-how am I supposed to help with her? She doesn’t listen to a word I say!” The angrier Mikuru got, the more her confidence grew and her shyness ebbed away. It was like listening to a dog reciting Shakespeare. Wait, that’s really mean, sorry Mikuru!
“Haruhi Suzumiya has been outside the door listening to your conversation for the last thirty three seconds.” That was Yuki, and the room went dead quiet as she revealed what I’d been doing. I froze like a kid caught taking a cookie from the cookie jar. Though, really, who actually has cookie jars nowadays? It’s a dumb expression, someone should update it for the 21st Century.
Wait, no, that’s not the point. The point is, I was suddenly faced with the reality that my clubmates were up to something, something I had no understanding of, and it really sounded like they were spying on me. Why? I felt like they might murder me once they opened the door, and my fight or flight instinct started kicking into overdrive, I was either about to sprint to the nearest window and jump or punch whoever I saw first in their face. Nothing happened for like two minutes, or maybe it just felt that long, I don’t know.
What I do know is that when the door opened, Koizumi gave me a polite smile before walking away without a word. Inside, Mikuru looked white as a sheet and Yuki somehow actually looked scared, which was impressive because she hadn’t moved a single muscle on her face. “Hey, guys!” I said, trying to act like I hadn’t heard something weird and mysterious that was making my paranoia grow by the second. Yuki walked back over to her chair and picked up her book, while Mikuru turned away from me, pretending she was inspecting the clothes rack.
Deciding not to confront either of them with what I heard, I started heading towards my computer to continue where I’d left off the day before, with self-help guides and tips for apologizing. But halfway there, I decided to try applying what I had read so far. “Hey, Mikuru?” She jumped the second I said anything, and my first response was to get mad at her, but I took a breath and let that go. She had every reason to be scared of me, I reminded myself. Remember, be specific, be genuine. “I...this isn’t easy for me, but I want to say I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have undressed you all those times without your permission, and the junk I did to get the computer was wrong. It’s okay if you don’t forgive me, I’d understand that, but I want you to know I wish I hadn’t done any of that.”
Then I finished my journey to the internet, and my heart sank as I realized that Mikuru was gone, she’d just walked out. For like twenty minutes, I just surfed the web while Yuki read her book, both of us completely silent. I never liked quiet when there were other people around, it made me uncomfortable, so I broke it. “Yuki, you can go if you want, you don’t have to stay here with me.” I’d expected her to get up, put her book away, and leave me. Like Mikuru. Like Koizumi. Like Kyon.
Instead, she looked up from her book, met my eyes, and shook her head. “No. I want to stay.” Then she went back to reading. Honestly, I’ve got no clue why, but that hit me. It hit me really hard. For some reason, this girl who had barely said ten words to me was going to stay by my side, after everyone else had abandoned me. I had to move further back in my chair so the tears didn’t fall into the keyboard. I was still going to think a lot about what they’d been saying about me. When I walked home, I was looking around every corner to see if somehow Koizumi was tailing me, scared of every shadow. In my room, I started planning something, some way to figure out what was happening.
I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.
Looking back, I think my life would have been a lot happier if I’d kept my nose out of it.
Curiosity killed the cat.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
There are a lot of things that keep me up at night. More of them now then there used to be, but one of the less terrifying ones is this study I ready about. For some reason, there are people with issues so bad that doctors have to cut their brains in half just to help them. That sounds like some stupid ancient pile of crap that hurts more than it helps, but apparently it actually works. But the weird thing is, after separating the two halves of the brain, crazy stuff starts to happen.
Each half of the brain has its own mind, its own set of skills, and can answer independently. The only difference is the right side of the brain can’t talk, because that’s not where speech is, but it can still communicate other ways. It freaks a lot of people out, the idea that maybe there’s always been two people in your head, working together silently without you even realizing it, that you’re not one person but some kinda weird fusion of two separate people. Your average person can’t even imagine grappling with the truth that they aren’t who they think they are.
I am not an average person.
After overhearing that weird conversation between the other brigade members, I waited for a few days and started planning out my response. During that time, I acted like nothing was wrong, trying my best to emulate how I’d usually acted at school, though without harming anybody. Now that I had a better understanding of what I’d done wrong, I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes.
Once I felt like the other members of the Brigade were less suspicious, and when I’d calmed down a lot myself, I put my plan into action. That morning, I left for school early and taped a notice I’d handwritten a few days beforehand on the club room window. “No club activities today! Your chief has some special duties to attend to, so rest up because we’re going on a citywide search this weekend!” That done, I went to class, did my usual bored absorbment of information, but once the final bell rang I set off to the wing that held my club room, but to visit a neighbor.
When I opened the door, much more restrained than the last time I’d entered, all eyes were on me. It was to be expected, considering what I’d done to the geeks my first time there. The Computer Club President eyed me with a heavy mix of fear and hatred, and honestly? It still made me feel pretty powerful. But that wasn’t healthy, at all, so I just kinda squashed that down as best I could and took a deep, calming breath. I approached him, more than a little cautiously, and he sneered at me, though his knees were shaking. “What, are you here to steal more computers from us? Or do you need our expertise to pirate software for you?”
The first thing definitely sounded like something I might have tried, and the second one had never occurred to me until he said it, but once he did I immediately started thinking of all the games and books and movies and shows and...then I remembered why I was there and shut that train of thought down. I remember breathing in through my nose, out through my mouth, trying to center myself so I was less agitated. “Listen, I’m not...I just...I’m sorry. What I did to you, to all of you, to get that computer was wrong. If you want it back, you can take it, I’ll even bring it to you.”
Everyone in the room looked at the president, who was looking at me like I had to be making fun of him somehow, like there was some hidden trap that he’d step into any second, and in doing so fall into a deeper pit of despair. After thinking up a response, he hesitantly told me, “W-what about the work we did setting up the internet in the Brigade’s club room? That took us all working four hours to get done, how are you going to pay us back for that slave labor, huh?”
Up until that point, I had honestly forgotten about that part of the deal, completely. Blushing as all my planned responses fell away, I felt time dilate as I started furiously thinking of a response, until I finally latched onto something. “I’ll pay money!” That caught their attention, so I blazed forward. “I don’t have enough to give it you right now, but if I save up, I should be able to give you guys sixty thousand yen within a month or two.”
The number was something I latched onto quickly, I already had more than half of that, if I sold the bunny girl costumes I could make us the rest in no time. It definitely had their interest, and after they looked at each other a little, the president asked, “Could you wait outside for a moment, Ms. Suzumiya? I need to talk over your terms with my club.”
Happy to step out of the spotlight, for the first time ever, I left the room and did my best not to try and eavesdrop on the whispers being blocked by the thin wall. None of this had gone like I’d expected, but they hadn’t flatly refused to see me, and it seemed like they were listening to what I had to say, so that was something. “Come on back inside,” came the nasally voice of one of the members, the one with a dark hair in a bowl cut and glasses I think, they all kind of blended together.
The club had gathered around their leader, who was sitting on the far side of the room on top of a desk, doing some kind of pose where he held his head in his hand. I couldn’t help myself from rolling my eyes, they were such dorks! After letting out a long, melodramatic laugh, he finally actually looked at me and said, “We’ll take the money, but you can keep the computer. We’ve replaced it already anyway, and it’s a rare thing to see Haruhi Suzumiya apologize.” Dropping the dramatic persona for a second, he continued, “Seriously though, we appreciate the apology. So long as you don’t try to pull anything like that again, we wouldn’t mind collaborating with the S.O.S. Brigade sometime.” He and I nodded at each other and I turned to leave, but just before I could leave the room, he tentatively added, “Oh, uh, and I’m sorry about what happened to your friend.”
A week before, hearing that probably would have sent me into some kind of depressive downward spiral, but despite the short amount of time I’d grown quite a bit, at least emotionally. I actually somehow managed to turn back and smile at the guy. “Thanks, that means a lot.” It didn’t, but it was the polite thing to say.
That done, I walked over to the S.O.S. Brigade clubroom, carefully, quietly, but there was no one inside. Of course it wouldn’t that easy. Methodically, I searched the school, but I didn’t find anyone. Then, somehow, an idea called out to me, a place outside of school they might have gone to. Looking back, it might have been something more than that, but I try not to get into the weeds with that sort of business. It didn’t take too long to get to the cafe where the Brigade had met, where we’d planned out our first search of the city, our only search of the city. At the time, it felt like it had only just happened, but also like it had happened in some long forgotten era, one in which my best friend was still alive.
Sure enough, I spotted Yuki through a window, sitting at a booth with two other people. Luckily for me, it was a warm day and they’d opened the windows to carry a breeze in, so I was able to sneak closer to overhear the conversation she was having. Well, it was Yuki, so it wasn’t really her having it. It sounded like the meeting had only recently started. “-reciate the fact you were able to meet with us, I really am, but I’m a little offended you weren’t able to give us more forewarning over the direction things have gone.” That was Koizumi, and he sounded like he was in full ass-kissing mode, like when he talked to me.
There was a giggle in response, light and airy and weirdly familiar sounding, but at the time I couldn’t exactly place how. “Itsuki, I’m sure you know quite well that this isn’t what happened for me, it’s a deviation in the time plane. We’re still trying to figure out how the interface was able to stop Ms. Nagato, but laying the blame at my feet isn’t helping anyone.”
Already confused by the weird terminology, the last thing I was expecting was for Yuki to chime in, her usually monotonous voice lightly colored by some emotion I couldn’t place. “It was due to my lack of direct oversight and failure to overcome the dimensional barrier that Ryoko Asakura was able to terminate Kyon. The fault lies with me.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Forget all that sci-fi stuff, Ryoko killed Kyon? And Yuki was involved somehow?
“Ms. Nagato, that isn’t how I wou-” Koizumi stopped mid-sentence, his face paling as he saw me striding towards them and sitting down at their booth, next to Yuki. I must have looked as furious as I felt, because Koizumi looked like he was about to run for the hills and Yuki’s eyebrows were raised, which was by far the biggest change in her facial features I’d seen up to that point. The third person sitting at the table looked familiar, though I couldn’t place how at the time. She looked like she was anywhere from in her late twenties to her thirties, absolutely gorgeous with the face of a model and the curves of manga character. She was wearing a white, buttoned-up blouse had her long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, and overall she gave me the impression of a corporate manager or something.
She too was looking at me like I was about to murder her, and my voice must have definitely cemented that impression when I growled at them. “Explain this to me, right now.” I didn’t yell it, I didn’t scream at them, I just demanded what I wanted from them. Pretty egotistical, to be sure, but I was out of my mind with anger at the time. When none of them started talking, I clarified. “I heard what you said. Asakura is the one who killed Kyon, right? You’re all playing the blame game, trying to figure out who screwed up and let it happen. Explain that to me, right now.”
Looks passed between the three seated people, until it was Yuki and the woman eyeing Koizumi, who audibly gulped before facing me. “Ms. Suzumiya, there’s a lot to explain, so you’ll need to be patient with me. Before I start, I should introduce you to our guest. This is Mikuru Asahina, but not the one you know. Instead, this Ms. Asahina is the future self of the one in our club.” It sounded insane, but for some reason I immediately believed him. It was like things clicked suddenly, like blocks disappearing as a line filled up in Tetris. Of course this woman was Mikuru, she looked just like her, except older and somehow even more beautiful. Seeing comprehension written on my face, Koizumi looked like his confidence was coming back to him, and he smiled, gesturing at Yuki and continuing. “I think Ms. Nagato should explain her side of things first.”
“Actually,” the Mikuru from the future cut in, giving Koizumi a smile so sickly sweet that it was also clearly hiding some less pleasant emotions. “That’s not how things are going to go this time. You had the benefit of going last when we explained ourselves to Kyon, but this time you’re going to start, Koizumi. It’s only fair, don’t you think?” My mind started racing, as I realized that whatever was going on, Kyon had known about it, to some extent. I started to feel kind of indignant, was everyone in on this stuff except me?!
Not looking happy with the pronouncement Mikuru had given him, Koizumi complied nonetheless, and I marveled for a second at how different this Mikuru was. I’d heard my Mikuru try to talk back to Koizumi, and it hadn’t sounded that confident and controlled, not in the least. Shaking his head and letting out a sigh, Koizumi locked eyes with me and began. “Three years ago, I woke up one day and suddenly knew I was different. I awoke an Esper, and I knew right away exactly how to use my powers, what they were for, and who gave them to me. I have the ability to enter small parallel dimensions, which we call Closed Space, that spring up here and there. Inside Closed Space I have significant powers, which I use to stop the dimension from growing so I can protect the world you and I know. The person who gave me these powers was you, Ms. Suzumiya.”
I took all this in, but stopped the second he told me I gave him these powers. For some reason, I didn’t doubt that he had these powers, or that Closed Space existed, instead I asked him, “How did you know it was me who gave them to you? How could I even do that? I don’t remember giving anyone superpowers! Are you able to use any of your powers in the normal world?”
Apparently he’d been expecting to be buffeted by my questions, because he had answers ready for all of them. “I just knew somehow, Ms. Suzumiya, in the same way I knew how they worked. As for how you did it, we’ll get into that more later. I don’t have any powers outside of Closed Space, aside from the ability to enter Closed Space.” Done with those questions, he continued with his general explanation to me. “Now, I’m not the only one who woke up that day an Esper, and it didn’t take long before we got together and organized. After all, it was easier to deal with Closed Space as a team, and we were curious how a middle school student had irrevocably changed us all.
“After studying the phenomenon, we discovered that Closed Space, and the entities we fought within it, were closely tied to your emotions. Whenever your emotions becomes more turbulent, Closed Space appears. I specifically transferred to North High on assignment, to better be able to observe you and to possible help calm your emotions. As for how you’re able to do all of this, it’s clear that you have the ability to alter reality, though so far only subconsciously. You wanted to meet an alien, which is why Yuki Nagato exists. You wanted to meet a time traveler, and so appears Mikuru Asahina. You wanted to meet an esper, and lo and behold I awake with abilities beyond my understanding.” My complete confusion as to what he was implying must have shown on my face, so he added, “Some in my organization believe, what with the vast power you have over our world, that you are its creator, its God.”
Now, I’d spent the last several years of my life at that point on an ego trip so powerful that I’d begun completely dissociating from other people and my ethics had shriveled into nothingness. But even coming off of that, hearing that I was some sort of god sounded like someone had just said that Japan was the largest country in the world, or that Taniguchi was a sex master. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, as older Mikuru scrunched up her nose and took over the conversation. “That is the view of the Organization Itsuki works for, however, so far as we can tell they are the only ones who believe in that theory.” She said it in the same patronizing way people talk to three year olds, and a twitch on Koizumi’s face made it clear that he hadn’t failed to catch that subtext.
Thinking over everything else he’d said, it suddenly made sense to me why he’d been absent so much, and why he’d appeared so run down in the last few weeks. I’d been an emotional wreck, and that must have meant more Closed Space for him to deal with. It was a weird thing to have to absorb though, that every time my teenage hormones sent my emotions flying, other people had to pick up the pieces for me. I didn’t like that at all, and it made me wonder about this supposed power I had. Then there was what he’d said about Mikuru and Yuki. My attention focused on Future Mikuru again. “So, you’re a time traveler? Is the you in the club also a time traveler?” When I pictured time travelers, I’d imagined cyberpunks in leather or English people in blue boxes, not big boobied teenage moe girls too shy to order food by themselves.
“Yes,” she said with a nod, her cute face becoming more serious as she addressed me. “Both myself and the Mikuru Asahina you go to school with are from the future. We’re both agents of a group that works to keep the timeline consistent, which involves combating the actions of other time travelers and the effects of time travel itself. Three years ago from this time, there was a time quake that permanently disabled our abilities to travel any further past that date, and at the center of the quake we found you, Haruhi. Unsure as to how a young Japanese girl had caused such an enormous temporal event, we sent an agent at the bottom of the ranks to observe you from afar, that being the Mikuru Asahina you know, though that cover didn’t last long.”
Remembering how I’d picked her out for being super cute with huge boobs, and subsequently forced her to join my still-unformed club to add ‘moe’ factor, I couldn’t stop myself from blushing. “I’m sorry about that,” I said far too quickly. Switching mental gears, I decided to grill Big Mikuru for some more answers. “How far in the future are you from? I mean, both of you...you know what I mean.”
About a second or so later, she replied, “That’s classified,” with a completely serious face.
“Where’s your time machine?”
“That’s classified.” This time, the response was even quicker, almost automatic.
“Have you tried looking for me in your time, in the future?”
“That’s classified.” Slower again, like the first time.
“What are other time travelers doing that you’re trying to stop?”
“That’s classified.” Immediate, like she didn’t even have to think about her answer.
Realizing that, what with the magic of time travel, I had no clue how old either Mikuru was, I asked, “How old are you?”
Smiling pleasantly at me, the older Mikuru gave me a wink and replied, “That’s classified!” as cutely as she could. I didn’t know if she realized it, but I’d noticed something about the way she’d answered my questions. Sometimes it seemed like she was actually thinking of something before answering, like a normal person, and sometimes her responses came so quickly that it felt totally unnatural. It wasn’t until a few months later that I actually puzzled out exactly what had been going on. Freaking time travelers and their weird mind technology...
Feeling like I was pretty much done with future girl, I faced Yuki, who turned her expressionless face to mine. “So, Yuki, does that make you the alien then?” It was weird, because she was definitely quirky, what with the deapan act and the fact she basically just read books, and how she barely ever talked to anyone. But an alien? That just didn’t feel right to me. When I looked at Yuki, I saw a girl lost in her own head and indifferent to extending herself beyond that.
“The term ‘alien’ is only marginally applicable to my being. This body is organic and physically indistinguishable from any other member of the homo sapiens species. I am a humanoid interface designed and created by the Data Integration Thought Entity.” The words just came flowing out of Yuki like crazy, but at that point I was mostly keeping up with them. “The Data Integration Thought Entity is not a physical life form like those found on Earth or other planets, and is instead comprised of many data organisms which exist non-corporally. It is through humanoid interfaces that the Data Integration Thought Entity is able to communicate with human beings.
“The Data Integration Thought Entity has the ability to manipulate existing data, however, auto-evolution, the creation of new data, has eluded it since its formation. Earth was already under inspection due to the intelligence detected among humans, and three years ago an explosion of new data originated from this planet, and more specifically, from the human known as Haruhi Suzumiya. You hold the answer to auto-evolution, and because of this I was made to oversee your observation.” It was a hell of a lot to take it, but I felt like I mostly got it. Yuki wasn’t an alien, necessarily, more like a puppet that ghost alien things were using to talk to us, except she was kind of also her own person. “I am in charge of overseeing Ryoko Asakura, another humanoid interface, but I was unable to stop her from ending Kyon’s life.”
With those words, suddenly my exuberance at learning all of this, at discovering that the people I’d recently started letting into my life were the exact type of crazy weirdness that I’d wanted to find for so long, that I was somehow special and weird and could do crazy stuff, all of it fell away. The crushing paranoia, grief, and despair that had abated came back to me in full force, and I had to physically will myself to keep from crying. So Ryoko, who was also an alien, killed Kyon?! And Yuki is her boss? I needed answers! “Why did she kill Kyon?!” My words came out a little too loud, but luckily the place wasn’t packed enough for that to have been an issue, though it certainly made Koizumi and Super Mikuru jump.
Yuki looked at me with that usual blank expression of hers for a few seconds before answering my question. “Ryoko Asakura is a member of the Radical faction, and as such viewed taking action and observing your reaction to be a superior approach to my own, which was and is to observe without overt influence. She believed that Kyon’s death would lead to a significant event, but while you have created large amounts of data in the time since her murder, none of it has led to significant details regarding the process you use to make it.”
A pit formed in my stomach, and I actually felt my vision go a little blurry. “Kyon...Kyon died because of me?” Extra Mikuru and Koizumi made some supportive noises, but I couldn’t hear them. Unable to stop them now, the tears filled my eyes and trailed down my cheeks. It was my fault. Desperate to hear more while dreading what the answers would be, I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Why is Asakura still alive then? Is she just going to get away with this, scot free?”
“The Data Integration Thought Entity has not yet come to a consensus on this issue. The Radical faction is being supported by the Compromise faction, while the Innovators and Thinkers are both for some form of punishment. The Moderates have yet to be swayed in either direction.” I didn’t want to hear anymore political alien nonsense and rose from the booth to leave without another word. None of them called out to me, and I was glad, I didn’t want to talk to any of them anymore.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it, as I went home. So, I had powers. I made Koizumi and a bunch of other people Espers, I created new dimensions whenever I got upset, I caused a time quake, and I held the potential to make some alien culture be even cooler than they already were. Because of that, all these people, who I’d thought were my friends, who I thought I’d brought together because it was what I chose to do, were always just there to keep tabs on me. Then my class president killed my only friend in the world because she knew it would devastate me. It was too much. I wasn’t a god. I wasn’t special. I was a kid, I was a teenage girl who was having enough issues not going insane with hormones and all the extra energy I had, and suddenly I had someone’s death on my hands.
And I remember thinking, that if I had my way, there was going to be one other person dead because of me. This time, it’d be on purpose.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
It probably won’t surprise you, but I’ve spent a lot of time since my first year of high school researching philosophy and theology. I mean, according to some people, I’m kind of a theological reality, though I still think that’s a load of crap. One of the things I keep coming back to is the Anthropic Principle. It’s this theory, though honestly calling it a theory gives it more credit than it’s worth in my opinion, that means a lot of different things depending on what you’re relating it to. In general, it’s really tautological. Things happen in movies the way they do because if they didn’t there wouldn’t be a movie, that sort of thing.
But with philosophy, the whole thing gets weirder. Apparently, the theory states that the reason human beings exist is irrelevant, because there have to be human beings for their to be a universe. After all, we can see that the universe is there, so we have to exist. In a way, the universe exists because human beings need to be there to witness it. Like I said, I think the theory is bunk, but it makes me think about why things exist. About why I exist. About why I am the way I am.
That’s probably been the most frustrating part of my life since learning the truth: why? Am I good at sports, and school, and everything else I try because of my powers, is any skill I have actually gained through hard work, or is it some magic or whatever? Or is it less like I granted my own wish, giving myself everything I wanted, and more like I have those qualities because of what I am? I have to second-guess every good thing that happens to me, every success, because I have no idea if I actually earned it or if I just made it happen with my powers.
Stuff like all of that was on my mind a lot in the days after I eavesdropped in the cafe and was told everything. I tried to act normal at school, but all my free time was taken up with a few new projects. The first one was probably the most important: reigning in my powers. I mean, it was easier said than done, considering I’d apparently been using them for three years without even realizing it. But now that I knew what to look for, I could really see it happening. Anytime I wanted something, not even really badly, sometimes just casually, I would get it. I’m thirsty but out of money? There’s a soda already dispensed in the machine. I’m excited about the melon bread they’re serving at lunch today? I get the last one, and it’s twice the size of the others somehow. In retrospect, I can’t believe I’d never noticed how everything just went my way through so much of my life. Putting a stop to that meant controlling my desires, tempering them to a more realistic level. It was hard, really freaking annoyingly hard, but after a few days I managed to keep the coincidences to a more reasonable level, which to me was a success.
My second project was to help Koizumi, and his whole Organization too. They’d been helping me with my stress and anxiety for years without me even knowing, and in the process they were saving the world from that Closed Space stuff I was making. Well, I wanted to stop doing that. All I had to go off of, though, was that it appeared whenever my emotions went out of whack. Looking back at all the temper tantrums I’d thrown, I had to wonder how close the world came to destruction because I hadn’t gotten my way. The solution here was emotional therapy. Sadly, my parents didn’t take my requests for a therapist very seriously, so I was left with what therapeutic techniques I could find online, lots of deep breathing and introspection. I’m in a near-constant state of mania, so getting myself to sit still and quiet my thoughts is harder than it would be for most people. It took about four days of practicing, but I finally managed to pick up some stuff that worked, and once I did I was able to start pruning my emotional baggage, so to speak. This project was pretty great because it stopped me from putting the world in peril and actually made me feel better on a day to day basis, I really recommend self-care to anyone and everyone.
The third project though? That one wasn’t going so hot. “Hey guys! How’s your day been?” I asked as I entered the clubroom, smiling brightly and what I hoped was warmly. Everyone was there that day: Yuki reading her book, Mikuru in her regular school clothes making tea, and Koizumi was sitting at a table, looking a lot better than he had before. The alien in the corner didn’t acknowledge my greeting, but that was normal for her. Koizumi gave me a smile, but it looked faker than ever before, I had no idea what he was really thinking or feeling. Mikuru was more obvious, jumping in fright and looking at me like I was about to kill her.
She’d reacted the worst to me learning the truth, probably because she hadn’t been present when it happened. Well, in a way she was, but that was Super Mikuru and time travel is confusing. From what I could tell, which wasn’t a lot considering she clammed up whenever she knew I was listening, Mikuru was really pissed off that Koizumi and Yuki had a meeting with her superior where she wasn’t invited, and the fact they’d all told me everything made it even worse for her. I’d tried being nicer to her, to try and smother her fears about me, but it hadn’t worked at all.
After trying and failing to start a conversation with her once again, I turned my attention to Koizumi. “My day has been lovely, Ms. Suzumiya. Would you be up for a game of draw poker? Just you and I?” I nodded, after all, it wasn’t as if I had anything better to do, and sat across from the esper as he pulled a deck of cards and started shuffling. Once he’d dealt out five cards to each of us, I looked at my hand, which was pretty kickass on its own, and almost missed as he asked me, his tone conversational, “Closed Space has been appearing less often these last few days. I’ll draw four cards.”
Koizumi tossed four cards into the center of the table and drew four more, and nodded to me, as it was my turn to make a decision. “I’ll keep,” I said as I flipped up my cards. “Straight flush. I’ve been trying to improve myself lately, lots of emotional therapy and stuff. I’m glad to hear it’s actually doing something.”
“I never doubted you’d take such an action,” he claimed, flipping up his own cards to reveal a pair of fours with assorted junk. “This round goes to you, Ms. Suzumiya.” I took the deck, both our hands, and what he’d thrown away so I could shuffle it, taking care to do so seven times, since I heard that was the only way to really make a deck of cards random. “These last few days have been busy for me nonetheless. As I’m sure you guessed, many of my associates were disconcerted to hear that you’d discovered the truth we’d been keeping from you for so long.”
Anger coursed through me, unbidden and not entirely unwelcome. I didn’t stop myself from vocalizing my thoughts aloud. If anyone could take it, it was Koizumi. “Oh really? The group of folks I gave magic powers to got pissy that I learned they’d been spying on me, been invading my personal life? Well boo hoo for them, I feel so sorry for their hurt feelings.” For just a moment, a flash of irritation touched Koizumi’s features, but after he smoothed that over and opened his mouth, I cut him off. “Koizumi, I appreciate a lot of what you’ve done, but you need to stop playing this part. Stop trying to tell me what I want to hear, because what I want right now is for you to stop lying to me.”
The teenage boy froze at my words, and even with the anger tinting my thoughts I wondered if I’d gone too far. Then, he gave me a dazzling smile and gave a mock bow as he rose from his chair. “I think you’ve won our game, Ms. Suzumiya, there’s no way I can hope to beat you.” Really? After one hand? Is he a sore loser or something? “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go speak with some friends of mine.” Something about the way he’d said that made it clear that no one in the room was a friend of his.
With that, he left, leaving me to parse out my new mix of anger and guilt. It was right about then that Mikuru brought me some tea, and then stopped just as she looked like she was about to walk away. “I-I’m sorry I never told you.” Those were the last words she spoke to me that day, I didn’t feel like striking up a new conversation, especially with someone as touchy as Mikuru. My third project had been learning more about my brigade members as people, and trying my best to befriend them. Like I said before, project number three was hitting some snags.
Language is important. I don’t just mean the words we choose to say to other people, though actually yeah, that’s really important too and I could probably do a better job with that, but that’s not what I mean. More like, the language you speak is important, communication is important. I was reading, some linguists think that the language you know, the language you think inside your head, actually shapes the way you think.
Say Person A speaks English, and she sees a light blue something and a dark blue something. English breaks blues up into different kinds, but they’re all just varieties of blue, so Person A would kind of group those somethings together. But Person B, she speaks Russian, and in that language light blue and dark blue are their own separate colors, as different as red and yellow, so the two somethings aren’t similar at all, they don’t stand out together the way they do to Person A. And that’s just in color, there are languages out there where there’s no left or right so they have to use map directions, or languages with lots of tenses, or all sorts of stuff.
The point is, if language, that thing we use to talk to each other, actually shapes our brains, the way we think and see the world and everything, then what does that mean about our minds? How malleable are they? Sorry if that’s a weird conversation topic, but I read a lot about the mind, and perception, and stuff like that. Having the ability to shape reality to your whim without even realizing you’re doing it sort of makes the field mandatory reading.
Over the next week or so, my plan to tie myself in more with the SOS Brigade continued at a snail’s pace. One particular day, it was just me and Yuki in the club room, and I caught her attention so she’d set down her book and talk to me face-to-face a little. “Since you’re kind of an alien, I was wondering if you would answer some questions I had.” She didn’t say anything, which I took as a good sign. If she didn’t want to talk to me, she’d just say so and go back to reading. “Since you’re an information based lifeform, do you have a gender? Or did you just choose a female body at random?”
In her low seemingly monotonous voice, Yuki gave me an answer. As was her usual, it was quite the answer. “Unlike biological organisms, the Data Integration Thought Entity does not a sex as it does not reproduce in any way you are capable of understanding. Gender, as a sociological construct created by humans, was only recently introduced to the Entity, and as such, few of us have investigated the concept with much interest. The biological sex of my body was chosen to match your own as a way to make observation in the hopes of discovering the secret of auto-evolution more likely. I have no preference in gender, so you may refer to me using any pronouns you wish.”
For as long as I had known Yuki at the time, which really wasn’t very long, I’d gotten used to her being the closest I’d ever seen to someone who was completely mute. It was only after she was allowed to talk to me about space and aliens and my powers that she would start occasionally going on these rants that I was only able to really understand after running them through my head a few extra times. Once I got that she was essentially sexless and agender, but didn’t mind me calling her a ‘her’, I had another question. “So if your kind of people are normally non-corporeal and everything, do you have any senses outside of that body? How do you observe the world around you?”
“The term ‘sense’ only applies to organisms inhabiting a physical form,” Yuki explained. “Where a human being’s retinas take in refracted light from a piece of wood and denotes to the brain that it must be brown due to the input it received, a data organism can see all the information of the wood independently: mass, density, volume, and the fact that it reflects some wavelengths of light while absorbing others.” They continued like that for some time, Yuki answering all my questions without complaint.
When I felt like I had my fill of data alien stuff, I asked one last question. “Do you enjoy coming to the club, reading books, that sort of thing? Is there anything I can do to make you happier?” In response to my query, Yuki just stared blankly at me for several seconds, giving me that same feeling as when a computer is working really hard to solve a problem, like the spinning circle thing? Then, she went back to her book without saying anything else.
After all that practicing, I’d finally gotten the hang of completely turning off my power, as best as I could anyway. Once I’d done that, the next step was learning how to use them on-command, and that was stressful as hell! I’d practice with small stuff, like willing cold soda’s into existence in my fridge or changing the color of a dress in my closet. I’d just stare in that direction, focusing my mind like I saw psychics do on tv, but nothing would happen!
After way too much trial and error, I figured out what I was doing wrong. See, I was trying to will things to change, actively, and apparently that didn’t do much of anything. No, if I wanted to shape the world to my whim, it had to be done confidently, without effort. That’s confusing, right? Let me explain. Instead of trying to summon a soda like I was a wizard casting a spell, I just started thinking about how it was likely my mom, seeing how I’d been struggling lately, bought me a soda and put it in the fridge for me. Knowing her, she’d even put a little note on it with a cute message. Once I’d thought through that a few times, thinking about how likely it was and how my mom would totally do something like that, I just walked over to the fridge and bam! Soda. With a sticky note attached that read, “Thought you could use this, Love Mom” and a little heart.
This one day, I was leaving the club room and saw Koizumi heading out of school for the day, so I sprinted over and caught his attention. “Hey!” He turned to face me, and I couldn’t see any lingering resentment from the last time we had a conversation. More than anything else I wanted to dissect the whole thing, explain where I was coming from, that sort of stuff. But I was getting the feeling that Koizumi was the kind of person where the more you tried to introspect with him, the further he’d pull away. So I took a different tactic. “I was wondering, what do you do for fun? I mean, when you’re not being my lackey or working with your esper friends.”
Koizumi laughed in a way that made it seem like an attempt to disarm me, idly scratching his cheek with one hand like he was embarrassed. “I’m not sure what to say, Ms. Suzumiya, but I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands. What little leisure time I have I spend reading.”
There was something I could use. “Really? What kind of stuff do you read?”
“It’s pretty boring, actually, but I mostly read philosophy. Right now I’m rereading Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals . Have you heard of it before?” I shook my head. While that guy’s name rang a bell, I didn’t really know much about his philosophy. With a smile that looked a lot more genuine, Koizumi started explaining Kant’s moral system to me as we walked out of school and into the city. I’m not going to even try and summarize what he told me, I’ve tried reading Kant half a dozen times since then and I still don’t really get him. But watching Koizumi explain something he was passionate about to me really gave me a better sense of who he was under the mask, I think.
It was a Friday when I approached Ryoko Asakura during a break, she’d gone to the bathroom and was on her way back when I’d cornered her. “Hello, Haruhi! How are you doing today?” she asked me with a cheer that inflamed my rage even higher. I’d been practicing with my powers, mastering them as best I could, readying myself for this.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t kill my friend,” I told her through clenched teeth, quiet enough so most people couldn’t hear her. More important than getting my mojo working was figuring out what to do to her. Considering she was like Yuki, I had a good feeling that kicking her ass would be nigh hard as hell. Even if I did kill her, the Entity she worked for could just make a new body for her, she could alter the data to hide her death, there was no point. But there was another way to win. I focused my mind, picturing a scenario.
With Kyon dead, nothing had gone the way Ryoko’s faction had wanted. They hadn’t discovered the potential for auto-evolution, and now all the other factions were eyeing them as failures, fools who’d failed completely in their objectives. Slowly at first, the data beings in that faction left for greener pastures, until now, at this moment, there was no one there at all. There were now only four factions in the Data Integration Thought Entity, and with no faction to control her, Ryoko Asakura was dead weight. A flicker of fear went through her blue eyes, just for a moment, and then they went dark. Ryoko’s body fell to the floor, like a puppet whose strings had been cut, and I knew it had worked. I walked away from Kyon’s murderer, and felt a terrible pride that I’d avenged him.
When I got to the clubroom later that day, I found Mikuru already there, in her normal school outfit and making some tea. She jumped when I entered, and I took a deep breath as I approached her. “Hey, Mikuru?” She turned to face me, her body trembling a little. “Since we’re the only two people here right now, is there anything you’d want to do?”
If anything, giving the floor to her seemed to just make Mikuru more nervous. “Oh, u-um, I’m not s-sure Ms. Suzumiya.” One eye went to the rack holding the bunny girl outfit and the maid costumer, and she flinched. “M-maybe it’d be okay if we just talked?”
I was fine with that idea, so I led with, “What can you tell me about the future you come from, Mikuru?”
“That’s classified,” she told me, instantly reminding me of Super Mikuru as she did it.
It was then that I had a better understanding that there really were some topics Mikuru just plain couldn’t talk about. Trying to skirt around them, I tried, “So, do you have any siblings? What’s your family like?”
That didn’t seem to be on the restricted list as far as conversation topics went, because Mikuru was able to stammer out, “No, actually I d-don’t have any siblings.” Then she smiled, that sweet Mikuru smile that at the time I’d barely ever gotten to see first-hand, usually only from a distance. “Family structures are a little different in my time, but I do have a mother and father. I miss them a lot, actually.”
I nodded. “I can see that, I’d miss my parents too if I was stuck in the past.” I was about to ask a follow-up question, but the door opened and Koizumi and Yuki both entered. My alien friend gave me a look that told me she knew what I’d done, but I couldn’t tell what she thought of it. “Gather around, everyone!” I shouted, and my club members approached me as I’d commanded. “I know things have been...rough lately, to say the least. I was thinking, since the weekend starts tomorrow, we could meet up at the cafe and have a fun day together! We wouldn’t be searching the city or anything, just spending the day together as friends!” The looks I got in return were...reserved, that’s a good word for it. Dropping my energy level a little, I told them frankly, “This isn’t a command or anything. You guys don’t have to show up if you don’t want to, I won’t even be mad. Only go to the cafe if you actually want to hang out.” My message delivered, I headed home for the day. I’d gotten rid of Asakura, I’d set the stage for my club-friend plan, and I had just one last thing to do. The following morning, I was going to test the limits of my powers.
“So, how’ve things been without me?” The question was so nonchalant. Kyon was turned halfway around in his chair, not the one by the window but his original seat, right in front of mine in the middle of the classroom.
I debated giving him the really sappy, emotionally honest answer, but that was never how we’d talked with each other, was it? “Oh, things have been great.” Holding up a hand and counting off events as I said then, I continued, “Let’s see: I had an emotional breakdown, learned I have super powers and all my friends are paranormal and never wanted to be around me to begin with, and made it so the bitch who killed flicked off like a life switch.”
The smile Kyon gave me...it was that one where he was treating me like a person. Where he looked at me and saw me, the way no one else ever had before. “Sorry I couldn’t be there to help, but the blood loss put a hamper on the whole ‘being alive’ thing.” I didn’t like that smart comment at all, so I reached out and twisted his wrist without looking at him, causing him to wince in pain. “Ah, geez, sorry!” With that apology excised, I let go. “Sorry, I can see why that’s a sore spot for you. So, what, are you bringing me back to life then?”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Wow, just gonna cut to the chase? Honestly, I don’t know why I ever bothered with you.” I looked out the window instead of at his dumb, compassionate face. Outside the classroom was not the normal exterior of our school, but instead a grayscale landscape of shifting architecture that made no logical sense. The room we were in wasn’t an exact match to the real one either, with an almost circular perimeter that somehow felt too small and too large at the same time.
None of that surprised me in the slightest. After all, this was a dream.
Unlike what I’d done to Asakura, pulling off what I wanted couldn’t be done while conscious. After all, there was no logical train of events that could lead to Kyon being alive, not unless I wanted to introduce resurrection magic or the zombie plague to the real world. No, if I was gonna bring back Kyon, it was going to be through undoing his death entirely. I’d need to dream up a world that fit what I wanted, then make it a reality. So, a few articles on lucid dreaming and here I was, sitting across from my first friend, ready to bring him back.
“I’m actually really happy you know everything now,” he told me, smiling at me like nothing was wrong. “I almost spilled the beans a few times, but I was pretty sure you’d think I was nuts, or trying to prank you.” Then he let out a sigh, and looked out the window with me into the nonsense world outside it. “I really appreciate this Haruhi. It’s nice, being able to talk to you again...one last time.”
That caught me off-guard, and I laughed in a way that tittered a little on the end, the kind of laugh that would make anyone hearing it question my sanity. “Wh-what are you talking about Kyon? You know what I do, you know what I’m doing. I won’t...I can’t let you stay dead. I’m making a new world, one with you in it!”
He wasn’t looking at me, and that made it all even worse. “Haruhi,” he started, his voice too damn calm, “You can’t do that. What about everyone else?” I didn’t understand, I couldn’t understand why he was asking these questions. “Nagato, Ms. Asahina, Koizumi, you’re just going to leave them behind?”
I felt like he didn’t understand, and my fear and anger rose in my voice in my yelled response. “No!! They’ll still be there, I won’t leave anyone behind!”
But now he was looking at me, directly staring into my eyes, and I couldn’t break away from his piercing gaze. “How do you know? Will the club members in the new world be the same ones we know, or recreations you made yourself out of whole cloth? How do you even know I’m the real Kyon, and not some daydream you’re forcing into reality?”
“Goddammit Kyon!” I shouted, and I rose from the desk, reaching out to snatch his tie in my hand and hoist him up to stand with me. It was a familiar scene, me tugging Kyon around by his tie, but last time I didn’t have tears running down my face. “Do you want to stay dead?! Do you want to leave me alone again?! Do you hate me that much?” The last question was pushed out of my mouth on an exhale, quiet and raw and painful.
I hated how Kyon smiled at me, then. I hated how he leaned towards me, relaxing my grip on his tie in the process, and kissed me on the lips. I hated how good it felt, how much I’d been yearning for it with my stupid teenage hormones. I hated how it ended, with Kyon breaking away to look at me and tell me something I already knew. “Haruhi, you need to move on. Grow up.” Then, he said three more words to me, but whatever they were I’d forgotten them once I woke up. Looking at my tear-stained pillow, I knew it hadn’t worked. Even when I got what I wanted, I still lost.
Later that day, I met up with the rest of the SOS Brigade, none of them aware of how close I’d come to ending this world for the sake of a stupid crush. There were no tear tracks on my face, in fact Mikuru gave me a stuttering compliment on how I looked. It was the first day we all spent together outside of school, as actual friends. Do I wish Kyon had never died? Yeah, obviously. But whatever that Dream-Kyon was, he’d helped me accept the fact that I couldn’t bring him back.
Anyway, if I have to end this with a lesson it’s this: Be confident. Be fearless. But also know that you’re a human being, even if you’re not. And that means you can either own up to the awful stuff you do, and learn from it, or you can ignore it. Don’t ignore it.