"My thoughts will follow you into your dreams."
Moving on takes patience.
It takes FOCUS and PERSISTENCE. It takes a lot of crying alone in bed, a lot of missed phone calls, a lot of bad days where sometimes he wonders if maybe everything would be better if he were just—
No. CALM DOWN. Breathe.
Moving on takes many things. Some of them, Omori's not sure sure if he can give. He has given his eye, given his truths, but it sometimes still feels like he's left too much behind in the other world. Bits and chunks of him forever thrown to the mental void. He'd lost so much of himself in four years. Telling his friends his secret had felt like giving away his shadow. And, however convoluted and twisted that version of him had been, he'd still protected it for so long. Had sheltered it from reality and let it thrive deep inside of him. It had felt like turning himself over to the gallows to be executed. When he'd stepped into Basil's hospital room he'd felt a blade hanging over his head.
And oh, how the blood had spilled.
Omori—because Sunny doesn't fit at all anymore, not that it ever really did—still remembers how they'd looked at him, how the horror had reflected clearly on each of their pale faces in a unique way, but it was all the same horror in the end. A day or two of reconcile couldn't mend murder. It couldn't fix the fact that Mari was dead. Couldn't fill the hole he'd created when he'd killed and hung her from that tree in the backyard and stared into her wide, accusing eyes. Devoid of life.
Maybe it'd been selfish to tell them. Maybe it would have been better if they all just kept naively believing that she'd done it herself. That it hadn't been murder between people who loved each other more than the world. How could something like that even happen? How did the guilt not eat him up inside every day until it spilled from his mouth like blood?
Even after all these years, Omori is not so sure himself.
The shadow has stopped following him, and now when he sleeps it's all black and no dreams, but Omori knows that the knowledge of what he's done will always carry on inside of him. Guilt is a funny thing. It doesn't matter if the entire world forgives you, if you can't forgive yourself. It doesn't matter that Hero sometimes sends him post cards from his charity trips or that Aubrey messages him text little bubbles of text on holidays. It doesn't even matter that Kel told him that it was okay, that his secret would be kept between the five of them forever. That they forgive him. That they know it was an accident.
But Omori has to live with himself.
And sometimes that's harder than just dying.
Memories are forgiving.
They leave out all the bugs, the dirt, the less appealing tidbits and replace it with a stream of golden sunlight and lush grass. Photographs are even worse. They only capture the best moments, the best smiles, the happiest people.
Sometimes Omori turns through Basil's photo album and wonders if it's possible for him to be as happy as he seems to be in the worn pictures. Occasionally he can even convince himself that they're all lie, that he was never happy, but deep down he knows that's not true. He knows because why else would he have filled his head, the deepest part of himself, with childish adventures of all of them together? Why else would he go to such lengths to brokenly fit together a replica of his childhood?
If everything had always been bad, then why does he yearn for the past?
No, the past had been good. Too good. Good enough that it clashes against the living nightmare of his present.
Omori doesn't dream.
Omori goes to school.
Omori gets good grades.
Omori doesn't take any music electives. His mom seems a little disappointed.
Omori doesn't dream.
Omori tries to forget. He doesn't forget.
Omori tries to forgive himself. He doesn't forgive himself.
Omori doesn't dream.
Omori tries to make new friends. His new friends aren't Hero. His new friends aren't Aubrey. His new friends aren't Kel. His new friends aren't Bas-
...And trauma is silly sometimes, isn't it?
It can hit you when you least expect it. Can hurt you where you thought you couldn't be hurt.
It nests deep inside your soul, curled around the most sensitive spots, and waits for something to innocently wander into its lair.
How OP is that?
Omori feels it all too much.
It wells up in his throat and then comes up different from how he thinks it should look in his head. It feels like darkness, hands, nails, are clawing their way up his throat and wrenching their way out of his jaw. It feels like they're slapping against the linoleum floor, like they're slithering up his legs, like they're on their way to choke the life from him.
When he opens his eyes he just sees a pool of vomit at his feet, speckled up the bathroom stall wall.
He doesn't know if he's disappointed by the sight or not.
His tongue still tingles with the crawl of phantom limbs. He stumbles over to the sinks and calmly cups a palm under the stream of water and brings it to his lips. It tastes foul in his mouth and he spits it out, ignoring the emptiness behind him in the mirror.
It's just him. No one else. Nothing else.
He doesn't know if that's disappointing or not, either.
He silently leaves the restroom and goes to the nurse. She calls his mom. She gives him a nervous look.
That night his mom finally takes the school's recommendation and books him an appointment at a local therapist.
Finally, Omori thinks and has another dreamless night of sleep.
CALM DOWN, she tells him. He can't stop crying, can't stop breathing too loud, can't stop sweating.
FOCUS, she directs him. Her glasses are large and blocky and make her look very smart, her office is small and comfortable and terrible, her voice is too soft and grates on his ears.
PERSIST, she motivates him. He comes back every week on Fridays after school. He leaves with red eyes and a little list of things he should do that week while they're apart. Therapy is harder than he thought it would be.
WRITE 5 THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY.
Omori stares for a couple minutes and then leaves the little piece of paper on his desk. To pass the time he does his homework. He does each math problem slowly, turns each page of his english assignment over at a glacial pace, falls into a hole of internet questions while doing chemistry. It doesn't do a good enough job because by eight he's back to sitting at his desk, staring at the note on his desk.
Back then it would have been easy to fill the list. He picks up his pencil.
WRITE 5 THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY.
He picks up the note from his desk and stares at it. Then he puts it back down and crosses out Mari, since she's dead after all. He can think that now without wanting to shut down, without wanting to die. He doesn't think he should count that as a win, despite what his therapist says. He moves to cross out Basil's name but stops himself. He picks up the note and smoothes the edges out again on the desk.
A shiver crawls up his spine but Omori lets the name sit at the forefront of his mind for another moment.
He hasn't seen Basil since that day in the hospital. That day they'd both been freed and condemned at the same time. As the words had fallen from Omori's mouth, had unstuck his throat, he remembers that Basil had smiled. Had smiled and cried at the same time, a thin line of wet trickling down his cheek and onto the hospital pillow. A part of Omori had been slowly dying, waiting for that smile again. A part of him had been revived in that moment after four long years.
And part of him wants to see it again.
Wants Basil's smile from back before. Wants it tear-free and vibrant again. Sunshine bright and flower soft. But that's him being selfish again. Basil owes him nothing. Never did. He'd done everything for Omori when they were friends but now they're no longer tied by friendship nor guilt.
Only memories tie them now.
And memories can fade. Can crack and warp and eventually vanish under the pressure of time.
Omori's scared. Scared of forgetting the exact shade of Basil's eyes, the scent of Mari's favorite perfume, Kel's favorite video games and the way his snores sounded at sleepovers, the way Hero's eyes crinkle up when he smiles, Aubrey's daring little grin before doing something reckless. He's so scared of losing all the moments they created. Of losing the only happiness he has left.
His therapist would probably tell him to find happiness in the present. To stop living in the past, to stop torturing himself with bittersweet nostalgia.
But Omori doesn't know how to go forward. Every step he takes is one further away from his friends. One foot further from everything he wants.
Omori takes a breath. He runs his finger over Basil's name.
Except, what if he walks back towards them? What if he goes back? What if he takes a train and finds Basil and—
Would Basil even want to see him?
He pushes the paper off his desk and crawls under his covers on the bed.
Omori doesn't dream.
Omori goes to school.
Omori gets good grades. His mom is proud.
Omori goes to therapy.
Omori slowly stops crying himself to sleep every night.
Omori doesn't dream.
Omori joins the band club. He doesn't play violin, but his mom still smiles and then cries when he plays guitar for her the first time.
Omori cries. But only sometimes.
Omori doesn't have new friends. It's alright.
Omori draws. His sketchbook fills with purples and pinks and bright yellows. It slowly becomes inhabited by dashing princes and zealous pink-haired ladies and strange small creatures and five brave adventurers.
Omori misses his friends.
Omori doesn't dre—
Omori dreams of Basil.
He dreams of a purple sky filled with bright constellations and stars made of kittens and a moon with a face. He sees planets pass by overhead and when he looks to his left he catches a shock of bright green hair.
"Basil," he says and his voice sounds rough and quiet but its still there. He hasn't spoken in so long. His words carry in the otherwise silent air. The boy next to him turns to face him and Omori is momentarily caught off-guard by the striking blue eyes that stare back at him. Basil's eyes, no matter how many times he sees them, always shock him.
"You came back," Basil smiles and it looks too stiff, "I knew you would come back for me, Omori. I was waiting here for you to come save me."
Omori feels a lump form in his throat.
"No," he whispers and folds an arm over his chest like the limb will somehow keep his heart from pounding out of his ribs, "I already saved you. You don't need me to save you."
Basil tilts his head to the side innocently, "then why are you dreaming this?"
Omori blinks. This is new. His past dream versions of Basil had never asked that. He doesn't respond but dream Basil continues anyway.
"You must want to save me," Basil smiles faintly and plays with his flower crown, "or maybe you just want a reason to see me."
"I—" Omori tries to say something but emotion clogs his throat. Tears sting his eyes.
Basil's hand catches his, warm and unsurprisingly soft, "you don't need an excuse to see me. You don't need a reason or anything. You don't need to wait for me to contact you first. You can just—" Basil's face fractures, his eyes wide and pleading, and Omori is momentarily torn between running away and pulling the other boy into a hug.
He's done running.
Omori lurches forward and wraps his arms around Basil's small body. Holds him close and tight like that will stop the boy in his arms from breaking apart. A chip of Basil's skin peels away, leaving a star-filled hole.
"Omori, I never did tell you."
"Tell me." Omori pleads and he hears the desperation in his own voice. He knows how this always ends. Knows it ends with blood and Basil's head at his feet.
Basil stares at him, a large crack cleaving his face in two, and Omori feels tears start to slip down his face. He tries to hold Basil's face together but the fractures keep spreading, keep deepening. There's no stopping them.
"Ask me about it out there. Ask me. I can't tell you here because we don't know, Omori. Please—"
Basil shatters in his arms. He crumbles to dust at Omori's feet and is blown away by a soft breeze into the purple cosmos around them.
Omori wakes up.
Omori doesn't consider himself brave.
He's never been one to take the lead. He let his friends do that. He let Mari do that. He never had to make hard choices or decide what to do or take care of the complicated stuff by himself.
Maybe that's why he's so scared, standing outside of Basil's house.
The lawn looks more or less the same, which is comforting and unsettling all at once. All the flowers are potted and grown perfectly in a row. The house feels like it's stuck in time.
He hesitates for a long time in front of the door, his fist half-raised to the wood as though waiting for someone to give him the final push forwards. Maybe if he waits long enough a breeze will do it for him. Maybe it will start raining and he'll have to knock or leave. He waits. And waits. He has traveled three hours to stand in front of this door and now he can't take one step forward.
Eventually the door opens without him having to knock at all.
Omori expects Polly, or maybe someone new, but instead he's faced with a ghost from his past.
No, a person from his past.
Basil stares at him, his face sheet-white like he's seeing an apparition too, and then he starts shaking.
"No, no, no. I— Why am I seeing you again? I stopped seeing you a long time ago," Basil stutters, his face ragged and haunted, and Omori realizes that to his old friend he might literally seem like a bad spirit come back to haunt him. He considers leaving for a brief second before he shakes the thought away. Instead, he swallows and opens his mouth.
He can't think of what to say after that—words were never his forte and what can he even say after a year of radio silence—but Basil goes shock-still anyway. His bright, blue eyes take in Omori again. Then again. And then he tentatively reaches out and touches Omori's wrist like he can't quite believe he's real.
"You're actually here?" He whispers, mostly to himself, but Omori nods anyway and puts his hand on Basil's. He sees Basil's shoulders relax and then his entire body seems to collapse a little on itself. He sways and Omori has just enough time to stumble forward and catch Basil in his arms before the other boy tips sideways. Basil collapses against his chest, all heavy weight, and begins to cry. His hands ball in Omori's shirt as hot tears soak through the cloth and stick damply to Omori's skin.
"Sunny..." He mumbles through tears and Omori doesn't know what to say to make everything better. He helps Basil to his feet and gets them into the house, securely closing the door behind them. The living room is almost exactly how Omori remembers it, save for a new table cloth and some new kitchen appliances. He toes off his shoes and then walks with Basil to the couch, letting them both sink into the worn cushions.
Basil's still clinging to him and Omori doesn't want that to stop almost as much as he wants to know why Basil is crying. Almost. He pulls Basil back a little and wipes his friend's red and blotchy face with his jacket sleeve.
"Are you okay?" He asks and it sounds like such a trivial question. Of course he's not okay. Neither of them are. Not really. But Basil sniffs, takes a few shaking breaths, and then nods.
"I'm sorry. I just. I never thought I'd see you again and—" Basil's eyes water dangerously but he wipes them quickly, "I didn't expect you to visit me."
Omori feels guilt gnaw at his insides but he swallows it down, "I had to be away for a while. To get better." Not that he was all better. But he was a little better. Better in some ways that counted. Better enough to face Basil.
"I see. T-That's good. I'm glad you're doing better," Basil's words are all wobbly and Omori squeezes his friend's hand again in reassurance, "I'm sorry for. For being like this. I promise I'm not always like this just—"
Omori shakes his head, tries to offer some kind of reassurance.
"I just missed you." Basil finishes and Omori feels himself freeze. He feels his heart melt into something molten and watery. For the first time in a long time his skin feels warm for once. It feels like blood is actually running through his veins the way its supposed to.
"I..." Omori chokes on his words. I missed you too. He tries to get the words out but his throat is sealed again.
He pulls his backpack from off of his shoulders and takes out his sketchbook. Basil watches him curiously through watery eyes and his expression lightens a fraction when Omori lays the sketchbook in front of him on the couch. Basil always did like looking at his drawings.
"Can I open it?" Basil asks, his voice hushed, and Omori nods. Basil reverently glides his hand across the nondescript, black cover and then opens it. On the first page is a sketch on their treehouse. It's colored brighter—drawn with pink and purple and blue colored pencils—but it's still easily recognizable. Basil smiles faintly and turns the page. The next drawing is of six people sitting around a picnic basket. The colors are vibrant and fantastical but Basil can still recognize who the characters are meant to be. He trails his finger over the character with green hair—the one with a flower crown in his hair—and glances up to meet Omori's eyes. Omori simply nods and Basil's smile widens. He slowly turns through the pages of the sketchbook, taking in each drawing carefully.
He pauses at a drawing of a garden. All of the flowers are elaborately detailed and in the center of the field stands the character with green hair next to one with black hair.
"This is beautiful," Basil says and he sounds a little choked up.
Omori watches his face flicker between a myriad of emotions before it settles in a relaxed, comforted look. "You always did remind me of white tulips, Sunny."
Omori smiles faintly at that too. Basil used to compare them all to his favorite plants a lot. Omori leans forward and points to the sunflowers in the background before looking back up, making sure Basil knows he hasn't forgotten any of what Basil had told him back then.
A single tear slips down Basil cheek before Omori wipes it away again with his thumb. Basil looks up and they both stare at each other for a moment. Their foreheads are almost close enough to touch.
"I...I'm not really much of a sunflower anymore, am I?" Basil finally glances to the side with a self-deprecating smile.
Omori turns Basil back to face him and shakes his head. He shakes it again more adamantly.
Basil would always be a sunflower in Omori's eyes. Would always be everything wonderful and bright.
Omori gives the drawing of the garden to Basil.
Basil gives him a smile full of light.
That night Basil finally tells him. Tells him the secret he's kept bound up and hidden inside his chest all this time.
And Omori cries. But it's the good kind.
Omori goes to school.
Omori gets good grades.
Omori takes the train to visit Basil on the weekends.
Omori smiles. Sometimes.
Omori starts drawing more. Basil really likes his drawings.
Basil takes new pictures. Omori really likes Basil's photographs.
They fall asleep together on Basil's couch.
Omori dreams. Sometimes they're scary, sometimes they're happy, sometimes—when he's lucky—they're of Basil.
Basil smiles. More often.
Omori has a friend again. It's Basil. Maybe Hero, Aubrey, and Kel are still his friends too.
Basil starts going to school again.