The day seem to pass by slowly today at the park. I lazed atop a sturdy branch overlooking a rather murky lake. Ah, I am so bored.
"You can't play with us!" "Freak!" "Home-wrecker!" "Liar!" "Monster child!"
My ears picked up the tauntings of little children bullying a frail boy nearby. I intently watched them from the tree. The meek boy just squatted down cowering in fear as they hurled insults at him.
Words were not the only things thrown at him. Some even dared hurting him with small stones. Unconsciously, I clicked my tongue in disgust.
Strangely, the frail child reacted and peered up at the tree. Our eyes locked. Flustered, I hurriedly put on my mask which was on top of my head and darted to the top.
Did he see me? As though he heard my question, his eyes fell back to the floor as his thin arms tried to shield himself from the bullies attack. I breathed a sigh of relief. It's impossible to see me anyway.
From the cover of the tree's foliage, I watched the situation unravel further. It was not long when a cleaner ran to his rescue. Angered, he flailed his rake at the children and ran towards them.
"You there! What are you doing?" His loud voice bellowed. Frightened, the bullies stopped what they were doing and ran away.
The cleaner considered pursuing them but alas decided to check on the bullied child. "Are you okay?" Realizing that the children had gone, he slowly stood up and brushed himself off.
I was surprised that there were no tears on his face at all. Just empty, expressionless eyes. The cleaner watched him intently as he gathered himself.
"I'm okay. Thank you for your help," The young boy thanked the man and continued on his path. Confused, the cleaner can't help but scratch his head.
"What a foolish child. He is clearly not okay. How can he not even notice the blood flowing from his wounds," Curious, I quietly tailed him from behind.
First, he went to the washroom. Assessing his state in the mirror, he instinctively pulled a couple of tissues and pressed them into his wounds to slop the bleeding. He didn't even wince. Just plain, unfeeling eyes stared back at his reflection.
I wonder how long this has been going on for him to be unreactive to things, especially pain. Next, he dabbed some moist tissues on it to clean it up and fished a small tube of anti-septic from his pocket. Ah, he came prepared. This is his normal, huh?
From the doorway, I continued watching him. "You know, you look like a pervert if you keep staring at me like that," The child's voice filled the washroom.
I gasped. He noticed me. How can that be? He looked up and our eyes met the second time. I held my breath. My mind contemplating whether to approach him or not.
"Ah, I didn't know you had such sharp senses," A familiar voice replied from behind. The cleaner walked pass me and approached the boy. I took this opportunity to get away.
Days, weeks and months passed. I didn't see that boy again. That day, I swore when that boy saw me, I felt my heart almost jumping out of my chest.
I was both excited and scared at the thought of it. I waited and waited for the boy to somehow return back to the same spot but to no avail. Till one stormy day.
As usual, I was lazing atop the branch overlooking the lake. I noticed the sky turning overcast and it was not long before rain poured down from the heavens. I was lucky that the tree I was on had a large foliage and protected me from the weather.
Not that I need any anyway but it always seem to attract a lot of interesting individuals and encounters. Just name it. A love confession, a lover's quarrel, a lost child etc. I quietly lay in wait.
It was not long before a teenager ran towards the tree seeking shelter. The person had long hair but donned what looks like a male school uniform.
The person tucked his long side hairs to the side and pulled his hair up into a messy bun. He looked familiar. Particularly his eyes. Ah, it finally dawned on me that the small frail child had grew up.
Time really flies by so fast for them. He looked around the place as though recalling something. He even looked up the tree which I was in but luckily I was hidden pretty well in the foliage so he didn't notice me.
A small smile crept on his face. Tired and waiting for the rain to pass, he plopped himself down by the foot of the tree and leaned his head on the bark.
Suddenly he jolted from his position and fumbled through his bag. A lipstick and a small eyeshadow palette came into view.
What was he doing with a bunch of cosmetics for women? Does he have a girlfriend? Question after question began to fill my head.
I watched him intently as he applied the lipstick and eyeshadow meticulously with the help of a pocket mirror. No doubt, just calmly applying it. I never seen this before. I was itching to ask him all sort of questions.
After putting on the cosmetics, his hands unknotted the messy bun and began to let it fall around his shoulders. He looked really beautiful and I cannot help but be captivated by this mysterious beauty.
His square chin and protruding Adam's apple clearly indicated he was a male but his entire countenance has changed to become something more feminine. With his hair now framing his relatively small face, I was enthralled.
He then fished a kind of fabric from his bag and began to wear it fearlessly. It was a skirt. A school girl's skirt. After transforming himself, he sat there with his pocket mirror simply admiring himself, though rather pitifully.
His eyes had a deeper colour of gloominess and yearning. Does he want to become a girl? Oh, I never met someone like him before. I crept skillfully down the tree and hid behind the opposite side of the trunk.
Suddenly my curiosity turned into panic when he pulled out a swiss army knife to his neck. His eyes now squeezed shut with tears streaming down his face. I tried rushing to his side to stop him.
Picking up on the sudden change of movement, he tensed up. "Who's there?" I peeked from behind the trunk. His panicked eyes softened and stared at me silently.
"Finally, I can clearly see you. Though you have a mask on this time," He calmly said to me as he placed the knife down. I gasped. He saw me before in the past. It was not just my imagination. This person can see me.
"I've never met anyone who can see me before. I'm so happy," "So, please, don't kill yourself," I can't help but express my true feelings to this individual. He flashed a sad smile.
"You are not afraid of me?" He quietly asked. I tilted my head in response. "I mean look at me. I'm clearly a guy who is wearing make-up and a skirt," "Aren't you disgusted?"
I laughed in response. Taken aback by my reaction, he blushed as he tucked himself into a ball and tried to avoid meeting my gaze.
"Disgusted?! Far from it!" "I think you are the most interesting and beautiful creature I've ever seen," "In actual fact, shouldn't you be more afraid of me?" I questioned him back.
We stared a long while under the shade of the tree. "Well, I've seen some scary stuff before and indeed you did scare me at first, but you seem friendly when I saw you the second time," I chuckled a reply. Friendly, huh?
The first person who can see me in a long while said that I am friendly. It feels nice to be noticed. As my eyes began to tear up, I realized I've been lonely this entire time. I mean, I have always been alone but I never noticed it until he came along.
As the rain continue to fall, we exchanged our stories and recounted the past where we met under the same tree. He told me his aspirations, his worries and spoke of a world beyond the lonely tree by the lake.
It was not long before the rain slowly began to settle down and the teenage boy switched out of his skirt back to his pants. He then began to wipe off his makeup.
Curious, I asked. "Why do you switch between the clothes and make-up? Why not just go out like this? Isn't that who you really are?" He stayed quiet. Instead of replying, he asked in return.
"Can I see you again?" Startled, I just casually nodded. His face brightened and his lips curled into a cherry smile. "Great! Till next time! I promise," He waved goodbye and went off his way.
Days, weeks and months passed. I waited and waited for him to return and fulfill our promise. I didn't even get to know his name. My heart grew heavier and an unsettling feeling began to overcome me.
One night, I heard a voice call out to me. "Hey, mask-person! Are you here?" I peered down the branches of the tree and saw a mysterious lady calling out to me.
I crept down to examine closer. She looks quite aged and I don't recall encountering this woman. Until I saw her eyes. Physically, it was the same pair of eyes the child and teenage boy had. However, something changed.
"You look pretty different," I replied in response as I came out from the shadows. Upon seeing me, she greeted me with a warm smile. "What took you so long? I missed you," I followed up.
For that moment, it was as though time had stood still. We exchanged our stories and I found out that she finally identified himself as a female. She met someone who was not afraid of her and is able to accept her in her entirety.
After struggling with herself and the world around her, she finally was able to express her true self. She was finally happy and at peace with herself. That's what changed in her eyes. Her gaze.
It was hope. She has begun hoping for a better future for herself albeit the struggles and difficulty she faces. I can't help but be a bit tearful as I smiled gently at her.
The cowardly frail boy has blossomed into a confident and hopeful woman. Humans are so interesting. The child who I thought was so foolish has become my main source of engagement.
Like flower petals, I know they will fall someday, and yet, I am still entranced by them. So, who is the foolish child now? A dry laugh escaped my lips.
"Well, you, look the same as always," She chuckled after examining me from head to toe. Well, I am not human to begin with. Time, age, gender has been a trivial thing to me.
"Hey, I never got to know your name," I asked just before she took off. "You know, I've always hated my name because it was so gloomy but ironically, it made me stronger," She replied as she reminisced back on her past.
"So what is it?" I questioned her again. She paused awhile. "Zetsubou," "How about you? What's your name?"
"Its a secret!" I replied childishly. "Then, can I see your actual face behind the mask?" She asked again. Her eyes expectant. "Nope, it will be troublesome if you were to fall in love with me,"
Flabbergasted, she broke out in laughter. After several tries and several more denials, she pouted and mouthed the word unfair. With that, she left and I never met her again till one day, a deep unfamiliar voice called out to me.
"Hey, err, mask person? Are you here?" It was an middle-aged man with a young child by his side. His eyes searched the canopy of the tree for me but I knew he cannot see me.
"Why in the world am I speaking to thin air? This is so ridiculous," he grumbled to himself. Instead of being in the branches, now I was in front of the duo. My curiosity peaked when I noticed the child staring at me.
She gawked in my presence. "You aren't scared of me, are you?" I crouched and whispered quietly to her. She vigorously shook her head in response. This girl strangely also received her mother's talent.
Her eyes. It looks familiar to someone I know. The man watched the child reacting to nothing. "Mirai, is there something here?"
Without hesitation, she pointed directly at my face. Clearly not seeing anything there, the man tightened his grip on the child. He cleared his throat and braced himself.
"Anyway, my wife asked me to visit here on her behalf. My name is Kibou and this is our adopted daughter, Mirai. I'm here to thank you for saving her that rainy day. We are grateful for that. Without your presence, she would not have found the courage to live with her true self and have Mirai,"
Ah, she has passed on. A part of me ached listening to his words. I miss her. I miss her company but I know we will never meet again. Perhaps, I already knew the moment she left that last time.
I smiled at both of them. As a reply, I slowly lifted up my mask to plant the most softest peck on Mirai's forehead. "Thank you for visiting me and relaying this message," I whispered my last words to them.
A gush of wind rustled the leaves on the tree. "Mirai, is the mask-person still here? Did it say anything," The man asked the young girl at his side.
Unable to process the mask person's actions and overwhelmed by its words, the young, clueless girl could only cry.
Days, weeks and months passed yet again. Mirai visited the same place again and again but can never see the mask person.
Did she lose her special sight? Perhaps. Did I finally moved on from my seemingly immortal life? Perhaps. Did I want to prevent from feeling another heartache? Perhaps.
One thing for sure is the tree that used to be rooted in place overlooking the lake got uprooted to make way for industrialization. What was left was just a memory shared between an individual in despair and a masked supernatural being called fate.