I sat alone at the schoolyard. There was no wind. There was no sound. As if the whole world had just gone silent and still. In my head, I pondered everything they told me.
It was all such insanity, yet I knew they were not lies. Afterall, I have seen with my own eyes that horrible place and paid the price for it. Yet still, desperately, I want it all to be fake.
For all of this to be nothing more than a bad dream, so I can wake up.
"Please... please let it all be a nightmare." I pleaded as I hesitantly pinched myself.
It hurts. And I'm still here. Sitting alone, underneath a starless sky in a world of silence. I did not wake up. I'm not asleep. All of this...
"Why did this happen to me?" I weakly mumbled as I pulled my legs up and buried my face in them. What am I supposed to do?
TAP TAP TAP
I turned my head towards the sudden sounds of footsteps coming towards me.
"H-hey." Hideyoshi nervously waved to me from a distance. He stopped in place the moment he saw my disgruntled face.
"Umm... I just want to check up on you to see how you're doing."
"I want to be alone." I replied bitterly.
He stood there in silence, keeping a distance, as he continued to stare at me.
"Well?" I cried out, irritated.
"Huh? Oh... OH! Okay, I'll get going then." He jumped as he quickly turned to leave.
I let out a heavy sigh. I did not know if he had no tact or just plain stupid.
"Wait!" I called out to him, but he ignored me and kept walking. Picking up a small pebble from the ground, I tossed it at him.
"Ow!" He cried out in pain as it hit him right on head.
"Oh my god, I didn't mean to! I'm sorry, I was only trying to get your attention." I apologized as I ran to him.
"Really could have just tapped me on the shoulders." He chuckled while rubbing the bump on his head.
We sat in silence. Occasionally he would look at me, as if expecting me to say something.
"Staring at me like that, it's embarrassing. Can you please stop?"
"Sorry, but I won't know what you'll be saying if I can't read your lips." He replied with a smile on his face.
"Read my lips?"
"I can't hear anything. So, I had to pick up lip reading. It took some time but now as long as I can see a person's face, I can understand what they're saying."
"Oh... is, is it because of...,"
"All three of us lost something when we got infected." He answered sadly. "I can't hear anything. The Prez, he lost his nervous system and can't taste, smell, or feel anything.
While Mitsuhide-senpai, well... he lost his physical body."
"His entire physical body?" I asked, surprised.
"Yeah. He's a being of electronic data. He can only survive if he's in a phone or some other outlet.
While it makes him invaluable when it comes to many aspects of our club since he can transverse the electronic network, he's basically trapped in a little world of his own.
Unable to escape, unable to break away. It might be why he's so aggravated all the time." He explained.
"I see..." I felt a ping of guilt. Compared to me who just lost an arm, senpai was...
"Ah, but of course it doesn't excuse him from being like that. Mitsuhide-senpai is an asshole, through and through." He mused.
"Heh..." I caught myself laughing slightly. "You three seem to be pretty close. Have you known each other for long?"
"Hmm... Yeah, pretty much. Not that I had much of a choice..."
"I joined the club shortly after my "incident". It was awful."
I fixed my eyes on him, listening closely.
"How so?" I asked.
He was quiet for a moment, before finally speaking again.
"When I first awoke, I found myself in a dark room completely devoid of all sounds. I did not know if it was me or the world that had gone silent.
It was terrifying, to not even be able to hear my own heartbeats."
"Then, when they tried to explain to me everything, I..." He voice suddenly got low as he continued to speak, "I was so angry, yet I did not know who to blame.
At first, I directed it to the club. I thought it was all their fault that this happened to me. And I hated them. Every last one of them..."
He was shaking, as if he was struggling to hold himself together.
"But, that was a long time ago." He suddenly relaxed and smiled at me.
"Do... do you still feel that way?" I asked hesitantly. For a moment, he was silent as he stared off into the distance before turning back to me again.
"I really wish I could say no, but I would be lying." He answered. "To tell the truth, every day is a living nightmare."
I kept quiet as I heard his response.
"Ah... I shouldn't have said that. Umm, it's not really that bad. At least in Artificial, we don't have to worry about basic needs or anything like that.
As Mitsuhide-senpai said; it is in a sense, paradise." He struggled to laugh off what he just said. "Also, I do enjoy the time being with the club.
Even if it does get frustrating at times, especially having to deal with senpai."
"I see..." I responded meekly.
We once again sat in silence. I did not know what to say to him. For him to suddenly open up to me like that. I wonder to myself all that has happened to me.
Compared to him and the others, it seems almost trivial. Yet...
"I'm sorry, about what happen. With what senpai said." He suddenly apologized.
I looked up in surprise.
"Why are you apologizing?" I asked, a little perplexed. Hearing his apologies, I felt even more guilty.
"Huh? I mean... I just, well..., I just think what he said was a bit too much and... umm..." He was fidgeting as he tried to explain.
"I really don't want what happened to be your impression of us. Or for you to come to hate us."
I can see on his face, nervousness. He did not seem to be lying or have any ulterior motives yet...
"You guys, saved me, didn't you? You knew nothing about me, yet you saved me. And even after I said those things to all of you, you came after me and even apologized. Why?"
He remained silent. As if he did not know how to answer. I squeezed my legs tightly. He is no doubt just trying to be nice and trying to comfort me, I shouldn't be poking at him like so.
I shook my head as I mentally slapped myself.
"Umm... I... will you listen to me? I mean, will you read my lips? No, it's fine even if you don't at all." I asked nervously, still tightly hugging my legs.
He stared at me attentively, not saying a word as he waited for me. It was a little embarrassing, but I took a deep breath and began to speak.