Her name was Madoka. She is fourteen and has short pink hair she keeps tied in twin pig tails by ribbons tied into bows. He has never met her, and yet every night Tomohisa Kaname dreams of her.
It started in the spring. It happened only once or twice every couple of weeks. His two-year-old son Tatsuya had made drawings of a girl with the same hair he called “Madoka”. He’d brought it up with his wife Junko. She had the dreams too. They both decided she was probably just a cartoon character they had both seen while watching Tatsuya. And that should have been the end of it.
Then the dreams became more frequent.
They were becoming more frequent for Junko too. Even when they didn’t talk about it they both knew the other had had the dreams. They had never met this girl and yet they could both recite her favorite food, biggest fear, even her first words! And for some reason neither of them could get her off their minds. Even when completely focused on some task, the mysterious girl was lurking beneath the surface of their minds, always waiting to surface again.
He decided to ask their friends who had children Middle School.
“Hello, how’s Sayaka doing? That’s good. By the way does she by any chance know a girl named Madoka? Pink hair? No? No, that’s probably not it. No, it’s nothing important. Have a good day.”
“It’s good to talk to you too. Does Hitomi know anybody named Madoka? It’s nothing to worry about, I was just wondering. Don’t worry everything’s fine.”
Nothing. Sayaka and Hitomi were both about the right age, so he’d hoped the girl had been a friend of theirs. But they didn’t know of any such girl. Sayaka had apparently mentioned a friend of hers saying the name once, but that wouldn’t make any sense. Tomohisa didn’t know this friend so that can’t be how he saw the mystery girl.
A strange thought wormed its way into his mind: How did he even know either of their familes? Junko was drinking friends with their homeroom teacher but they’d watched the two girls at their house when both were still in elementary school. The Kanames didn’t know their families from work, they didn’t work out or have fun at the same places. They had several they knew like that, most of them parents.
The dreams occurred every night. Now both Kanames would often wake up in the dead of night and lie awake. They had checked every possibility, they had even just asked Tatsuya who was two.
“Tatsuya who is Madoka?”
“That’s right Tatsuya, Madoka,” he pointed at the picture Tatsuya had drawn, “who is she?”
“Madoka is Madoka!”
What were they expecting? When the toddler was your star witness it was probably time to throw up your hands and give up.
But the dreams didn’t stop. The memories didn’t stop. Junko and Tomohisa Kaname both sat up in their bed, unable to sleep. They had never met this girl. They were positive they hadn’t met her. And yet they both knew her as well as they knew each other. Had they both gone mad? Was it a sign? What did it mean? Who was she?!
JUNKO AND TOMOHISA KANAME.
They both started and leapt out of bed as a pale brown mist swirled in the middle of the room. In the center a tall man wearing a burlap sack and a hangman’s noose materialized. His body was completely in shadow…no…his body was shadow. No discernable details or features on it, just the dark outline of a body, with a burlap sack covering the face. It had two eye holes cut into it, but behind them they could only see darkness. The rope attached to the noose floated around him like it would if the man had been wearing it underwater.
“Please tell me I’m hallucinating from alcohol and sleep deprivation”, Junko said not taking her eyes off the ghost.
“Are you hallucinating a ghost wearing a burlap sack and noose haunting us?” Tomohisa replied.
“Then I’m hallucinating it too!”
“Who are you? And what are you doing in my house?” Tomohisa asked the ghost.
I go where I am needed. Tonight, I am needed here. I am called many things. You may call me “The Hanged Man” if you wish. Your dreams trouble you and in turn they trouble reality. You fear you are going mad. You are not.
They do not hear the words. Rather they appear in their minds. Not so much spoken as inscribed. Junko stepped up and glared at the Hanged Man.
“Are you responsible for these dreams?” she asked.
“Then what are they?”
Allow me to show you
The Hanged Man reached his hands out to them both and pressed his finger against the couple’s foreheads. Their minds were filled with images of a glasses wearing girl with long black hair braided into two pig tails tied off with purple ribbons. The girl walked with her head hung low.
This is Homura Akemi. She is alone and friendless. This has driven her near despair. It has made her easy prey for the monster known as a Witch.
“What does this have to do with our dreams?” Junko demanded, “she’s not the girl we’ve been seeing. I’ve actually met that girl. I see her sometimes when taking Tatsuya around town.”
She is not the one from your dreams. Nevertheless she plays an important part in this story.
The world around the girl changed to a bizarre mishmash of various images and colors, filled with bizarre creatures. They move to kill Homura Akemi. Before they can two girls dressed in frilly outfits save her. One was a blond wielding muskets. The other wielded a bow and had pink hair. The girl from their dreams.
These are what are referred to as “magical girls. The one with the bow is Madoka Kaname.
“Wait a minute, Kaname?” Tomohisa asked, “like-“
Like you, yes. She is your daughter.
“Wait daughter?” Junko asked, “but the only child we have is Tatsuya! We never had any other…”
Watch. All will be explained.
They watched the girl, Madoka, befriend Homura Akemi. They watched both of the magical girls die at the hands of an enormous Witch. They watched Homura make a wish to become a magical girl in exchange for getting the chance to try again.
Again and again Homura tried to save her friend. Again and again she failed. She learned that all magical girls were being tricked by the creature that gave them their powers to become the monsters they fought. She became hard and cold in her unending fight. Finally on her last attempt…
Madoka clenched her fist, “I wish I had the power to erase Witches. All of them. Past, present, and future!”
Her wish overwrote all of reality. For the most part, the new reality is a whole because she existed in this new reality as the entity erasing the Witches, she made it so she was never born. Close bonds such as yours…they create a weakness in the fabric of time. This weakness could let through…dangerous things. This weakness can be healed by understanding. Now if you desire I can allow you to forget.
“Forget?” Junko asked wide eyed.
The two shared a glance. They nodded.
“We want to remember,” Tomohisa said.
As you wish. You will not remember this visit, though your sense of understanding will remain.
“Wait! What about the Akemi girl. Will we remember her part in this, and what she did for Madoka?”
While he was unsure, Tomohisa could have sworn he saw the twitch of a smile under the Hanged Man’s hood.
You will. She remembers you daughter too. Goodnight Mr. and Mrs. Kaname. Sleep well.
The Hanged Man traveled through the nether realms. Keeping a close eye for future threats as he returned to Shadow Hill. The place he patrolled. The place he protected.
“Why did you do that?”
He turned and looked at the girl wearing a long flowing white dress that shown like the stars and had eyes that glowed golden with near unimaginable power. Some who saw her would see an angel. Others a goddess. He saw little more than a child.
“Why did you let them remember? They were happy before. If you stopped the dreams and made them forget then they’d be happy again. Now they’ll remember what they lost. That will only bring them sadness.”
You are wrong. You may be powerful but you still have much to learn. While it will bring them pain they will also have the happy memories alongside it. Some pains are worth enduring for the happiness that will come about because of it. Why else do you think your friend Miss Akemi has never wanted to lose her memories of you?
The girl looked taken aback. The Hanged Man turned to leave.
“W-wait! Have you done this for others? Did any of them choose not to forget?”
The Hanged Man turned his head toward her.
No one forgets Madoka Kaname. No one.
And with that he left the cosmic powered teenage girl to her thoughts.