CHAPTER 132 REWINDING I take in a breath, and grasp Aeris' hilt tightly as I stand at the designated start point. I wonder what will happen? Should an etranger even try something like this? Well, I shouldn't have tried many of the things I've done since I've been here... so it’s way too late for such meaningless platitudes. 'Are you ready, Aeris?' I ask. 'Ano... I know Aeris is supposed to face fear like a good spirit... but... Aeris is only five years old! What if I lose my memory?!' She makes me feel kinda guilty saying that... though her perception of time is as screwy as usual. "Well, we don't have to go, you know. Aeris is perfect just the way you are." I say as I pat her hilt again. There is a brief pause, and then she giggles. "Elijah-sama is weird! You need to be stronger and stronger! That's why Aeris was born, right? It was interesting... and before I realised, I was there and wanting to help you. And you need power... right, so... it’s okay. You need to face fear head on and kiss it!' 'Right you are.' I chuckle. She's such a good girl. Spirit. Whatever. Right, well, if she is determined, I guess I have no excuses. I look back at the anxious looking girls and nod, giving them a thumbs-up. And I step forwards. Not much happens. A very slight shiver down my spine? I might just be imagining it, though. It’s rather anticlimactic, though. I start to walk. Suddenly, I am sat in the back seat of a car. No. Actually. Not me now. A younger me. Outside the factory. My grandmother is there, partly crooked out the driver seat window, her puffing fag smoking a column of black tar. I remember this. Waiting for my mother to finish her job, we would pick her up from the textile plant. Bizarrely, this mundane scene is my earliest memory. I was scrawling a strange curled shape on my spirograph, and it occurred to me, for some reason, how similar this scrawl was the columns of smoke identically coming from both the factory columns, and column stuck in my grandmothers crooked hand. This was some time after my third birthday, I think. It’s weird that this is what I remember, rather than the third birthday party, but that’s how it was. I keep on walking. My father, ruffling my head. A rare spate of shore leave for him from the merchant navy. I had just made him a disgusting cup of tea with hot water from the kitchen tap. He tolerantly drunk it anyway. I keep on walking. My good friend Patrick, us making a weird field base in a ditch with reeds that we scavenged. Me and him drifted apart in the college years, but for most of my school life we were inseparable. I keep on walking. I'm nearly seven, and I'm now trusted to be left alone at the weekends. So, I watch the Saturday morning cartoons. My love of these would eventually draw me to anime. Then I'm in the garage, playing the Atari ST. I love the primitive strategy and action games the most, all of them on dodgy pirate floppy discs my mother acquired. I didn't know different at the time though, and this was the beginnings of me, the semi-pro gamer. Memories fly by, fly through me. And then. They are gone. Things that shaped who I am, I realise the circle of unravelling is taking them. Each one I pass; each one I acknowledge. As I do, as I see my past choices, I turn at an intersection, and then the memory is consumed entirely. Gone. I walk faster. These things helped shape me, but they are not the final product. I go through my teenage years, university, my early years entering the workforce and the civil service after a brief spat in sales. Each step gets tougher. It is akin to walking against a snowstorm, this gradual unravelling. Finally, I reach the most recent events. Though it has been merely a few weeks, it has felt nothing but action, and that is the truth. I have found such wonders and treasures here. I realise that I need to hold on to something. If this unravelling consumes everything, there will be nothing to remake. I feel all the memories slipping away. Everything starts to turn to nothing. I take hold of the most recent events, cycle them over and over and keep them mine. Other things slip away ins... Who am I, again? I am me. What am I? No... that is irrelevant... I must not stop. I must press on. It will destroy me if I stop. But why. Why press on? I feel I must at least know this much to proceed. But I proceed regardless whilst questioning. Hesitation is worthless. Why do I fight? For this world? No... even though I have come to care for its inhabitants to a degree by proxy, I am not truly 'classic hero' material and probably never will be. For the girls? Ultimately... no... I don't. Doubtless that would be wonderfully chivalrous... and they are really great for me and I'm blessed by them, but I don't fight for them directly. For winning... being stronger, better? Nope, no way. Imperfection is a wonderous thing. If everyone was all about winning all the time, everything would be horribly cut-throat. Ah... you know what... its surprisingly simple and selfish. I like to see change. I like to watch myself have a difference. Being a hero and fighting... to me, these are means to an end. In my old life... well, it’s not like I disliked being a civil servant, having content days with constant work, having assurances of steady pay and pension. But as jobs go, it’s one of the most static, stagnant places imaginable. The rules and processes changed slowly and only with difficulty, and for someone who adores new sights and variety, I guess part of me would always feel dissatisfied. Ah! I get it... Yes, this is all making sense now. This process, this unmaking, it is destroying, rendering to nothingness. It is void. It is a test. You're there, aren't you, Thanatos? What you saw in me. It's this, isn't it? You hinted at it before. I can be a harbinger of change for you. Very well. We can find a mutual deal. There is a peal of hearty laughter. I take my final step. And I am disintegrated. ------ Back after that delay. Sorry about that, dealing with last week took a bit of a toll on me, and then I had to rewrite this chapter twice.