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awake, my heart is a fortress / in dreams i am vulnerable

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Your life, since moving home to Tatsumi Port Island, has been widely uneventful. 

 

You go to school - you’re a diligent student. You don’t sleep in lessons and you’re always top of your class after every test, though you can never remember studying all too much.

 

You wander around the mall after school - you swing by the arcade with Junpei and Kenji or belt it out with Yukari at karaoke. Once or twice, you swear you’ve snuck into Escapade, the local club, but for whatever reason you don’t have any pictures on your phone of it, even though it seems like something you’d want to remember.

The ghost of the ink from the stamp on the back of your hand still itches.

 

You go back to the dorms - get greeted by your mild-mannered upperclassmen, walk Amada’s dog, Koromaru, some nights, and slack off or mess around on your laptop until you fall into bed. 

 

At night, however, when you shrug off your headphones and the player whirrs softly as it shuts off, you seem to fall into an endless spiral of repeating dreams.

 


 

There is a doll sat at the end of your bed. You don’t know if it’s yours, or even where it came from, but the green-tinted moon reflects in it’s eyes wonderfully, until they’re two big spheres of emerald. 

 

The doll is dressed in shabby prisoner’s clothes, and you laugh inwardly that if you could see it’s feet hanging off the end of your bed, it might be wearing a child-sized iron ball and chain on it’s ankle. 

 

You stare at the doll. 

 

The doll stares back.

 

It’s mouth moves but you do not hear it’s words - in place are the scratchy, static cries of an angel caught in barbed wire - as if it’s voice were crudely erased from your memories.

 

Just as the screams reach a crescendo, you wake up in a cold sweat, pawing at your bedside table for the light of your phone. There is no doll in your bedroom.

 


 

After weeks of being plagued by dreams of dolls who go from sitting by you like a visitor to a dying man in the hospital and crying out in it’s horrid, scratched-out voice, to meeting you downstairs in the lounge, holding a contract that is written in a language you have never learnt, though the familiar strokes of your name in your scribbled handwriting sit along the dotted line at the bottom - they stop, suddenly. 

 

You can’t imagine why, though you’re grateful for the promise of undisturbed sleep.

The same night the dreams stop, you find a bright yellow scarf on a coat stand in one of the back rooms. 

 

It’s worn, well-loved, and when you grab it to dust it off and see if there’s a name written on a tag, it’s like a static shock courses through your hands. You can barely bear to touch it. 

 

Still, you turn it over delicately, slowly, dragging your thumb down the seams. There is no name written on it - in fact, there’s not a tag at all, or even a hint of one being torn off. You fight the urge to take it for yourself, because it feels like home, in a way that nothing has felt like home in years. 

It’s lemon yellow, with black stripes down the edges, and you can almost imagine how it must’ve looked when the wearer still wore it, bobbing and weaving in the wind, hiding a smile or a blush.

Long tails, not quite enough to block out the cold but enough that taking it off would be a harsh downgrade. Weaving with wires and earphones. 

 

You throw the scarf back on it’s hanger, and consider asking Kirijo-senpai about it, but decide that you don’t want to waste her time. After all, you don’t know her all that well.

 


 

The powers that be allow you only five nights of uninterrupted sleep.

 

It’s almost March, now, and you haven’t thought about the scarf since you left whatever storage room you found it in. 

 

When you go to bed, however, full of relief that you’re sure that the strange dreams have finally stopped, the scarf is the first thing you see. 

In the place of the doll at the end of your bed, there is a boy, and he looks like he’s about to cry.

 

The scarf is wound dutifully around his neck, though it’s looser, more disheveled than you think it should be. He’s never been one for being prim and proper, but at least he’s usually dressed up smarter than this.

You can’t recall his name, or even remember if you’d ever known it, but the boy smiles at you, and it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.

 

He smiles and smiles, your vision blurring in that strange way dreams do when you’re paying attention but not really, and the mole under his left eye becomes two and then twenty until an entire star map is charted across his skin. Constellations of Vega and Altair, the star-crossed lovers.

 

He beckons you closer, still smiling, and his scarf whips in a wind that should not exist in the confines of your bedroom.

 

The boy takes you in his arms, and you realise only too late that there is a knife clutched in your shaking fingers, and stardust and thick, crimson blood stains your arms up to your elbows. You scream and scream and scream until his black, angel wings unfurl prematurely, and you wake yourself up.

 


 

Life continues as normal.

 

You go to school, block out the bustle of life and people with your music, drop by the track team to see Yuko and Kaz, visit the bookstore, and hang out with your friends. You stay at the coffee shop until the late hours of the night, and take the nearly-empty train home to the dorms, where you tumble into bed and dream of killing a boy that, if you did not love already, you certainly do love now.

 

It’s cruel. In the way he looks at you, he treats it like you’re doing something that needs to be done, but as your fingers wind around his neck night after night and you feel him breathe and pulse and live under your palms it becomes harder to stomach. His scarf brushes against your forearm and it doesn’t hurt, not here.

 

Shaking, curling into yourself in the quiet hours of the morning after killing him yet again, you remind yourself that you’ve never known a boy like this, you’d never do something like this.

 

His eyes are magnificent blue, and turn up at the corners when he smiles, which he always does, even when his blood is under your fingernails and his heart is in your hands. 

There is a gun on your hip but you know better than to use it.

 

When you wake, one morning, the nightmare trickles out into your open hands and you gasp, whispering words you don’t know the meaning to.

 

“Thanatos, I love you. Don’t do this.”

 

Nobody replies.

 


 

It’s not like you can confide in your friends about these strange dreams - they’d think you were a real murderer, or at least crazy. You hope desperately that you’re not either.

 

Maybe, you think, if you’re lucky, the dreams will be over by spring.