The pair of eyes staring at him was crystal blue—
And full of tears.
“Who are you?” A familiar, dear, yet unrecognizable voice said. “Who are you?”
He tried to answer, in vain. He couldn’t say anything even though he could feel his very soul wanting to embrace whatever—whoever was that. Wanting to love, wanting to keep, wanting to—
“Please, tell me who you are.”
The voice cracked and the tears kept flowing.
He tried again to say the thing that mattered the most. He tried again, and again, and—
“My name is…”
And the world burst into a myriad of colors.
Ah, the very moment that the rain will stop
In the place rainbow born and dies
And where the end of this life lies
I’ve always been insisting there was something that I’ve been longing for
The concept of fate, of destiny, was one of the very few things Mikleo never seemed to understand but could never escape from.
A force that ascertained the future, something inevitable and ultimate. A predetermined course of events that one would have to go through as life went on. A natural order, something the cosmos prepared for every soul it nurtured.
Mikleo didn’t understand, possibly would never completely did, but he remembered with clarity the day Zenrus explained to him about the possibilities and the impossibilities of weaving threads.
They had been sitting on a tatami floor that day, the three of them; a younger version of himself, his adopted sister, and his grandfather. The night was young, a moon peeking from behind the clouds with twinkling stars adorning the nonpolluted sky. There was the sound of streaming water, of bamboo hitting a rock, and of threads being woven together. It was calm and Zenrus began talking.
“Mikleo, do you know why we weave?”
Mikleo remembered he had been puzzled, saying something because it had been a tradition. Something he simply accepted as what the shrine priests do. Besides, it was fun and the results were always pretty.
Zenrus and Lailah had chuckled at that before his grandfather brought his hand to the top of Mikleo’s head and began caressing his hair. His hand was warm, the gesture comforting. Zenrus then told him that Mikleo wasn’t wrong, but not totally right either. There was a bigger purpose, a bigger point.
Zenrus smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “We weave to tell a story,” he started. “A story of life. The colors each an event, a character, and the patterns a place. With these threads, you tell how something happens, how it ends. How it’s you, how it’s a life.”
Then he paused, looking at the moon.
“Mikleo, do you believe in Fate?”
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* · blue . ✫
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The first color dropped into the world the day that two souls switched places. Then it bled, turning the pristine canvas colorful, like a mirror of the sky before the sun dipped into the horizon.
The next day, Mikleo – one of the fortunate souls – woke up to Lailah’s sitting by his futon.
He blinked his eyes, thinking he might be seeing things, then blinked several more times before he decided that he wasn’t still dreaming. Lailah was, in fact, looking at him unblinkingly for a couple of seconds, leaning way too far into his personal bubble, until she suddenly backed away slightly, head tilting to the side and still looking at him. This time, Mikleo could read the worry underneath her skin.
“Good morning,” he greeted, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He let out a huge yawn as Lailah blinked and her expression cleared.
“Morning!” she chirped in reply. Her voice then turned soft with concern as she followed it with, “Are you feeling better today?”
Mikleo paused before his forehead creased to a frown. “Yes?” he answered questioningly.
“Slept fine, then?”
Lailah seemed to sense his confusion because she smiled at him. “That’s good. You were behaving strangely yesterday, so I thought you caught something again,” she explained, totally missing how Mikleo’s frown just got deeper.
Behaved strangely? He didn’t recall doing anything out of ordinary yesterday even if he had to admit there was dull thud in the back of his head when he tried to make his brain remember what could possibly worry Lailah. It came up empty and oddly blurred.
He had a long history when it came to getting sick easily, but he also couldn’t tell he caught anything the past few days. Other than his head which he shoved away as a normal headache, he felt physically fine.
Lailah didn’t wait for his answer. She stood up and went to the door, telling him to prepare himself for school then come down to eat breakfast.
He did just that; taking a bath, putting his uniform, making sure he didn’t forget anything in his bag before he went to the mirror to put his long silver hair into a ponytail by a blue ribbon—one of the very first things his grandfather helped him weaved. Satisfied with his look and preparation, he went down to eat with Lailah and Zenrus.
Other than the intense look Zenrus gave him when he entered the room, breakfast went without a hitch. The food Lailah made was always delicious, warm. The TV was displaying news about an upcoming meteor shower and the village’s speaker was droning on about an upcoming mayor election.
Zenrus stood to turn off the speaker’s connection in their house and they finished breakfast with small talks.
After that, he waved goodbye before making his way to school.
Outside, the sun is out; the sky is clear. It was a nice day in his small hill town. He hummed softly when he walked out of his house, shoes crunching softly on the gravel, and saw Edna and Zaveid waiting for him. A pair of eyes watched him with a fixed, intense gaze, while the other pair was beaming at him.
“Yo, Mikleo. You look better today!” Zaveid exclaimed in place of a greeting.
Mikleo faltered in his steps before he soldiered on until he could walk side by side with his friends. “What do you mean I look better?” he questioned back, his hold on his bag’s strap tightening as he watched the familiar scenery around him. “Lailah also wondered about the same thing when I just woke up. She said I was acting strangely yesterday, but I felt fine. I am fine.”
The two stopped then turned to look at him almost eerily in sync.
He drew his shoulders up in defense in response to their incredulous stares. “What?” When they didn’t immediately answer him, he demanded, “Why are you guys looking at me like that?”
Edna was the one who answered it. “You didn’t remember?” She eyed him assessing. When he just gaped at her, she soldiered on, “You forgot our names, Meebo. You also didn’t seem to know where your first class was, your seat and your locker.”
Zaveid backed her up by nodding vigorously, his expression solemn. “Yeah, man. You were super weird. You didn’t even know your own name.”
Mikleo gaped some more. “I did what?!” he almost screeched in disbelief. Okay, maybe he actually did screech, a little bit.
Edna marched on mercilessly. “Your hair was a bird's nest and you wore your uniform wrong. You looked confused all day as if you didn’t know what to do with yourself.” She squinted at him. “We chalked it off as you having a bad day, but now I’m not so sure anymore.”
Mikleo had to stomp down the gigantic urge to bury his face in his hands then groan loudly. He couldn’t imagine what a mess he made of himself based on what his friends said. Instead, he tried to school his expression into something resembling a thoughtful pinch as he clawed the blurry edges of his consciousness for some help.
After a beat, he said, “Ugh, now that I think of it, I had a strange dream last night.”
They gave him twin pairs of worried eyes that he was kind of tired seeing. The day barely even started and already things were weird.
“What do you mean?” asked Edna.
He pinched the bridge of his nose, bracing himself because he just knew what he was about to say wouldn’t help him made them any calmer. “I dreamed I was living another person’s life.” Before the two could say anything, he hurried to add, “Well, I am not really sure… Maybe I really was just tired.”
True to form, they grew even concerned instead.
“It’s because you overwork yourself again, isn’t it?” Zaveid accused, arms folded atop his chest. “We know tending to the shrine takes a lot of work, especially with the ritual coming up, but you have to take care of yourself too!”
“But he actually didn’t look physically ill yesterday,” Edna said. “I mean, he seemed more like he had a concussion more than anything.
“Wait, yesterday?” He interrupted, confused. “What day is this?”
“Tuesday?!” He gawked.
They gave him those incredulous looks again before turning to each other.
“Definitely a concussion.”
“He’s overworking! You forget things when you are tired.”
The two kept bickering as they began walking again. Meanwhile, Mikleo almost tripped on thin air because his mind just couldn’t grasp over the fact that he apparently missed a day. The last time he remembered, it was Sunday. How could it be Tuesday already?
Their school’s gate was within sight when suddenly Edna turned around to jab her pointed finger at his chest. “You. Promise me you’ll tell us, Lailah and Zenrus if you ever feel too tired or anything.”
Zaveid was quick to agree again.
Mikleo sighed before shaking his head fondly. His friends had this habit of making him promise something like that every time he felt even a little bit tired. He understood where they came from considering his record (he passed out once from overworking and they never let that go).
So, seeing Edna’s determined expression, he relented.
“Fine. Do you want a pinkie promise?”
They smiled, finally.
(Or more like beaming accompanied by a belly laugh in Zaveid’s case.)
When he came home later in the day, the first thing that greeted him was Zenrus’ unreadable face. He was sitting in the porch, looking up at the sky as if having a full conversation with it that no one else was privy to. Mikleo said a small greeting, not wanting to disrupt him, but his grandfather turned to him before he could escape inside the house.
“Don’t forget to go to practice later with Lailah.” For the ritual, he didn’t say.
Mikleo nodded obediently.
The second thing that greeted him after the short walk upstairs, then changing his clothes, was the realization that something was wrong with his room. Particularly the row of bookshelves he had filling one side of the wall. He had been too occupied in the morning to get a closer look at just how messy his books were. It was as though someone had rummaged through it and forgot where to put things back so they either put them in the wrong place or just stack them on the floor in clustered piles.
Frowning, he went to tidy it.
A knock on his door almost made him jump. He didn’t know how many times had passed, but Lailah was there and she had an eyebrow raised as she looked at him.
“We are supposed to start practicing fifteen minutes ago, you know,” she said in lieu of a greeting.
Mikleo would’ve felt guiltier for being late had he been less occupied racking his brain for any kind of memory regarding the state of his room. As it was, he distractedly told her about the books and asked her whether she was the one who did it.
“Of course not. Most of your books are about history or ancient relics. I don’t even remember the last time I borrowed one.” She tilted her head, adding, “You know this. Why? Did something happen?”
Then who? Zenrus was out of the question and that would only leave himself—
Mikleo pursed his lips. “No. Nothing.”
Unconvinced but knowing Mikleo as she did, Lailah left him to prepare after that.
Mikleo was just putting the last book to its place when something suddenly fell. It was a note in unfamiliar writing.
It said, “Who are you?”
Mikleo frowned harder.
The room was bathed in moonlight when Mikleo arrived. In the middle of it, Lailah’s movement was graceful, like flowing water and chiming wind. But it was also full of orders, a tradition, meaning to carry a weight of the purpose of the ritual. It was a dance not exactly art intending for the eyes, but also to touch the soul and please the heavens.
When Mikleo tried to mimic her steps, the flicking of her wrists, he had to close his eyes and felt. Lailah always reminded him the ritual was something born out of devotion and habit and the essence of his own as the priest of the village’s temple. It was a duty to behold and behold it was.
Just like any other time they practiced, Lailah began her story. Of the twilight. Of the moon. Of the soul. Of the fates.
Of kataware-doki and the gate opening when the sun dipped down to let the stars shine.
It was something their village was known, their story and history. Something everyone here remembered to heart and so, while Lailah’s voice drifted around in echoes of a period of time where the lines between the world blurred, Mikleo imagined the sky bursting with colors.
When the time for the ritual came, Mikleo thought the moon was edging to blue, as if dropped into the ocean first before taking its place in the night sky. It was the same color as the flasks where their kuchikamikaze would be contained. The ceramic they were made of glinted around the fire of the ritual, showing around its neck where in ancient tongue Lailah’s and Mikleo’s names were carved.
Then they were walking down the hill with their ritual costume bundled in their arms. Lailah continued her mused thoughts, but this time about their village. About the people, the atmosphere, the calm, and then she asked about Mikleo’s dream.
Mikleo in return asked her how she felt about being a shrine maiden all her life. About his dream of getting out of the town for college because this village, although beautiful and filled with wonderful people, was still too small, too narrow. He wanted to experience the world more.
Lailah just smiled serenely at him.
“It’s fate,” she said.
Mikleo still wished that he was born anywhere but here.
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Mikleo woke up to the sound of a phone beeping insistently, annoyingly—an alarm.
Wait, alarm? Since when did he have an alarm?
Confused, he wiggled his arm out the blanket he was tangled in before sweeping it around, searching for the culprit of his ruined sleep. The noisy thing had to be somewhere close to him for the sound to be that grating to his ears. But instead of a fruitful attempt, he fell down with a big thud to the cold, hard floor.
Like doused in water, that made him jolt awake even more. His futon was not that high. There was no way he could have fallen like that. Or at all. The least he could really do usually was roll until he smacked his face into the door. So. What the hell?
Mikleo then frantically looked around for the phone to turn off the infuriating alarm, almost pumping his fist in the air when he finally could see the rectangular device laying innocently a bit to his right, only to find out it was not his phone. Sitting up before gawking at what he saw; plain desk, walls covered in drawings he could never hope of making, unfamiliar bookshelves and a dresser, Mikleo realized next he was not in his room.
A trip to the bathroom revealed he was not even in his body.
Staring back at him from the reflection in the mirror atop the sink was a teenage boy with huge eyes the color of a grassy meadow. The tuff of hair making a mess on his head, displaying a case of bed hair, was brown and thick and totally much shorter than his usual. The reflection also showed someone very, very handsome.
Mikleo almost screamed. Almost. (Thankfully he didn’t.) Then he remembered he was not Mikleo anymore and then he wanted to faint. But he didn’t, because he was still Mikleo deep inside. Just not his body.
‘Alright, breathe,’ he coached himself. This dream might be surreal and too vivid for his liking, but there was no point in panicking. He summoned the calm Zenrus drilled into him as a part of his priest training.
‘Besides,’ looking up to his reflection once again (Lord, when will the guy staring back at him stop being so devastatingly handsome?), he began thinking, ‘well, perhaps this could actually be fun too.’
With that new resolution to just go with the flow, Mikleo got up from his crouching position on the sink to get out of the bathroom. He took his time drinking the sight of the unfamiliar stuff cluttering the bedroom before he noticed the closed door on his right. Tentatively, he turned the knob and let out a breath when nothing jumped at him
He looked around the apartment, finding it mostly bare and empty. He wondered if the owner didn’t have a family.
Suddenly, the phone began to beep again. He rushed back to the bedroom and sighed in relief when he didn’t have to do any acrobatics falling in search of the noisy device. He swiped his thumb on the screen (wow, no password) and was immediately greeted by a message notification from a contact named ‘Rose’.
‘A girlfriend, maybe?’ Mikleo couldn’t help but think, only to banish that thought not a second later.
The message he just opened went like this:
“SOREY! GET DOWN HERE BEFORE I COME GET YOU MYSELF. I SWEAR I WILL DRAG YOU TO THE TRAIN BY THE EARS! I DON’T WANNA BE LATE BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO SELF CONTROL AND ARE OVERSLEEPING AGAIN! DIDN’T I TELL YOU TO STOP READING UNTIL AFTER MIDNIGHT YOU NERD”
At least from that, he knew this person’s name was Sorey. And that he was apparently a nerd.
(Mikleo didn’t mind. He thought it was cute even and besides, he was a fan of books himself. He could relate.)
But this Rose person seemed like she would totally go through with her words. Not wanting to be dragged around anywhere by his ears, Mikleo decided to start preparing himself. The room was tidier than his own, but it was unfamiliar. Stumbling around in search of the dresser, he then tried putting on what he thought might be the uniform. He spied a bread prepared on a table (he couldn’t guess how it was there but was thankful nonetheless), he then set to go to the train station. Wherever it was.
He arrived in one piece only because of the miracle that was google map (he at least knew what a google map was). Almost immediately, Mikleo was then shoved abroad a train by a red-haired girl who then proceeded to chew his ears off all the way to the school. He automatically assumed she was Rose. There was no way she could be anyone else.
Mikleo tried to pay attention to what she was saying, really. But it was proving to be hard when he looked around and couldn’t help himself but to gawk at the scenery around him.
A big city. He was in a city. Everything was modern and—
‘This is way too real for a dream.’
Fortunately, Rose walked him to his class. She only frowned once noticing his strange behavior before she waved cheerily at him as she walked to her own class.
The class itself went by without too much fuss. Other than forgetting his name was Sorey and not Mikleo, he could even say he enjoyed it.
Rose texted him again at lunch. Apparently, her and ‘Sorey’ agreed to go to ‘the café Dezel worked at’ (who’s Dezel?) after school. Mikleo tried to quell down his curiosity and not read their message history. Quick as he could, he sent her a yes than shoved his (Sorey’s) phone into his (Sorey’s uniform) pocket.
But, when school ended and they arrived at the café and Rose ordered for them both almost immediately, he couldn’t take it anymore. Whispering, he asked Rose if they were… dating.
To which Rose replied with a booming laugh she almost toppled down her chair.
“Sorey, what?” she gasped in between laughs all the while wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. “I know you have been acting weird all day, but now this? Did one of your thick books fall on top of your head so now you have amnesia?”
Mikleo didn’t know whether he was blushing out of shame or out of indignation. Wasn’t that a sensible question? Why didn’t this dream come with a manual anyway?
After what appeared to be another minute but felt like the entirety of forever, Rose finally breathed normally again even if the mirth in her eyes refused to dissipate. If anything, she looked even more entertained at his apparent struggle at understanding why anything was so funny.
“Look,” she started, “I never really tell you this directly because I thought you already know but—Sorey, I’m not straight. As in, I like girls. And you like… actually, I don’t even know you are interested in anything other than those books. So. Us? No-no.”
He could only blink at that. Fortunately, their order arrived and from then on, since he had already decided that this was just a dream (a bafflingly vivid dream, but a dream nonetheless, he reasoned to himself), Mikleo tried to enjoy it as much as he can.
If Rose noticed the stars in his eyes when he tried the fruit pie that was supposed to be his (Sorey’s) favorite, she mercifully spared him from another bout of loud laugh and just looked on amusingly.
Suddenly, his phone began to ring. It was an incoming call from a contact named ‘Alisha’.
“Uh, who’s Alisha?”
Rose, in the middle of sipping her tea, choked.
“What?!” she spluttered. “I was kidding when I said—Sorey, are you okay? Alisha Diphda is your best friend? Other than me, of course.” She then diverted her eyes before mumbling, “Alsoshesmycrushbutwearenottalkingaboutthat.”
Mikleo ignored the last part (for the time being, that was) and hurriedly went to accept the call. The voice that answered him was calm and soft, although the masculine manner this Alisha used when speaking had Mikleo raising his eyebrows in surprise.
Basically, she was calling to tell him he was late for his part-time work. Mikleo didn’t even get a word in before Alisha urged him to come soon.
After the call ended, he turned to Rose who had been eyeing him strangely again. The words he was going to say would absolutely be of no help if he wanted her to stop looking at him like that, but he said it anyway.
“Um, so do you know where I work?”
Rose stared at him long before sighing. “You know what, let me walk you there.”
Alisha was apparently also his coworker and the daughter of the restaurant owner where they worked at: Hyland.
Thinking about work, it was beyond hectic and entirely foreign. People told him to do things he was supposed to know to do but didn’t, then barked when he forgot his own name or too busy puzzling over how could he be this tired in a dream. As a result, he kept messing up here and there. He might even get a few dozen complaints if it wasn’t for Alisha. The girl didn’t even bombard him with questions over his lateness or poor performance, concerned like Rose or otherwise. She just swooped in out of nowhere to get him out of trouble like a particularly shining guardian angel. Mikleo decided almost immediately that he liked her.
After what could perhaps be counted as eternity, his shift finally ended and with it came a text from his schoolmate.
“Are you done with work yet?” the text said.
He replied it with: “In a few minutes, why?”
Her response came not long after, telling him that she was apparently still nearby (she had been working on an assignment with a friend who lived around the block) and because he was acting strange today (“yes I’m worried, you doofus”), she wanted to walk home with him.
Mikleo gave her an affirmative even though privately, he knew her true reason for asking to go home together was because she wanted to meet Alisha again.
(He remembered fondly how her face was the color of her hair just this afternoon when she walked with him to Hyland and Alisha gave her a smile. It was also fascinating how she power-walked away after shaking her head furiously in response to Alisha’s offer of free lunch.)
Lucky for Rose, turned out her Alisha wanted to walk home tonight. He immediately invited her to go with him and Rose.
Mikleo thought it was cute seeing the two girls talking and smiling sweetly at each other. They tried to involve him of course, but they mostly kept asking about what was up with him today, why was he acting weird, ‘are you sick, Sorey?’—so he diverted their attention to each other instead and stay silent as much as he could.
And just like that, the day is almost over. The dream would come to an end, he would miss this. But, looking at the silent apartment, he still thought that this was all too real to be a dream. He finally entertained the idea of them actually switching bodies, of this being a reality.
Did that mean Sorey was in his? Experiencing his life?
Mikleo let his eyes wander around one more time before noticed Sorey also had a mini library in his bedroom. It was tucked in the far wall, less kept than Mikleo’s. But after taking a quick look, Mikleo realized it had more variation than his own.
He chose one book at random, mulling over taking another one, when all of a sudden the memory of the ‘who are you?’ note flashed through his mind.
He took a pen then wrote his name on Sorey’s palm. He reasoned that there was no way Sorey would miss it if he wrote it there. When he was done, his eyes caught sight of a bound leather book on top of the desk. It was some kind of a journal, well-kept. At first, he was doubtful whether to invade Sorey’s privacy. In the end, though, blaming it all on his unbridled curiosity, he decided to take a quick look anyway.
Mikleo successfully refrained from actually reading everything, content on jumping from one page to another and seeing how Sorey’s handwriting depicted his emotion when writing quite clearly. Mikleo could tell he was happy, or neutral, or upset just by looking at the curved letters. When he reached the last page, he was suddenly struck by inspiration. Smiling, he set to write down today’s event there.
Half an hour later, satisfied with his own note, he fell asleep.
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When Mikleo woke up the next time, he was in his own body. He thought that maybe it was a dream after all.
He sat up then, about to go to the bathroom and prepare himself for another day at school when—
His eyes were forced to open wide from surprise when he noticed that his room was full of post-it notes. There were colorful papers sticking into almost every corner of his room, especially the bookshelves. The books tacked there were all labeled with writings certainly not his own. Mikleo also noticed that he had more books than usual.
He was still standing there gaping at his own bedroom when Lailah poked her head from the door.
“Are you okay?”
He really wasn’t, but he lied anyway.
“Do you know where I got this?” he asked instead in a failing attempt at diverting his sister’s attention. The book he was gesturing at her was one he had never once laid his eyes on before, yet somehow managed to wiggle itself between his possessions.
From her raised eyebrow, Lailah knew what he was playing. Mercifully, she decided to play along. “From that library you found behind the shrine, right?” she hummed.
“A library? Behind the shrine?” Mikleo didn’t know such thing existed after all the years he was spent living here. Smartly, he didn’t gape some more until Lailah cheerfully told him to go down for breakfast when he was ready.
His sister finally out of sight, Mikleo finally let the panic settled in. He almost wanted to turn his room upside down to find out just what else managed to pop into existence without his knowledge when he all of a sudden noticed that his journal was on top of his desk. He always made sure that this particular thing was hidden in his drawers, so seeing it opened to a page full of writing that was the same as the ones in the post-it notes, Mikleo felt his breath hitched. Some pages even had drawings of his village.
He went to check his calendar next and, nearly like a joke, he realized that yet another day passed by without him realizing it.
That was why, when night came and before he succumbed to Morpheus’ arms, Mikleo wrote on his own cheek:
“Sorey, is that you?”
The next time he woke up in his own body, looking at the mirror, his answer was on his forehead.