Sunlight shines through a window too high for you to see out of. Outside, the world you cannot see, the world exactly the same as yesterday except without you in it. The TV is still on, has been on, and by all accounts gives you the sense that everything’s going just fine without you. You want to turn your head to see, but can’t do any more than open and close your eyes. Dried tears make an itchy crust on your cheek that rests on the floor.
You go back and forth on whether or not you want to listen to the sounds of the TV behind you. You drift in and out of paying attention to it much like you drift in and out of consciousness. It’s all the same anyway; someone talking about the weather you can’t see, a kidnapped child is lost and found, a kidnapped child is lost and found dead, the prime minister talking about politics you don’t understand, sports.
The light from the window slants across the room like a pendulum, and goes dark. You feel thirsty.
It is perhaps some small consolation that while you are uncomfortable, you are not in any pain. A split second of it had been all you were forced to endure as you landed wrong on the floor, and as the time oozes by, you begin to believe that it’s more than you deserve. Neither the house phone nor your own phone has made a sound. No one has knocked on the door. No one is looking for you.
No one is going to find you.
You’re not sure how to process all of this. Normally, when confronted with something so scary and frustrating, you lash out physically, running around or screaming or hitting something or at least gritting your teeth and clenching your fists. Noisy. Messy. Taking up space. Conveying to the world your opinion on the situation you’ve found yourself in. But now you are silent; motionless and barely breathing. Splayed out haphazardly on the floor like a doll, left behind in favor of a more exciting toy. Even your heartbeat seems softer, slower, than before.
Light from the window slowly creeps across your face and into your eyes, forcing you to squint. Closing them only barely helps. In the corners of your eyes, whether or not your eyes are closed, you start to see strange, frightening shapes you begin to believe might be ghosts, black ghosts that loom over you and make terrifying chittering sounds, or, even worse, they sound like your own screams.
It is when their presence in your field of vision becomes consistent that you begin to wonder if you’re going to die here. But you’re so thirsty, so thirsty, that thinking about anything else for any length of time is surprisingly difficult. You imagine that you can move your mouth even enough to swallow, and close your eyes in frustration.
You’d give anything, you decide, for there to be someone in the room with you. Even if they couldn’t help you, if there was just someone there. Someone to talk, someone to see you, someone with hands that could touch you so that for just a moment you wouldn’t feel so cold. So that for just a moment you wouldn’t feel alone. But no one’s there, and you clearly have nothing to offer any higher powers that could send someone to you, or someone would have come.
Behind you, an interview takes place on the TV. “So tell me, what’s it like?” a cheery voice might say, “to be so useless, so unnecessary, so unwanted by society that even after two or three days no one notices your absence? Not even to look for you at home?”
I’ll bet Mom regrets having me, you think to yourself instead of answering. She’s never said it in as many words to you, but she says it with every increment of inattention she sends you, with every time she forgets to expect you at home or calls you by the wrong name. Your old man’s regrets however are laid out much more cleanly and concisely on your back from the last time you saw him, although you can’t feel them anymore.
You’re thirsty, and you dream of a storm blowing the roof away and raining water into your desperate mouth, and of strangers pressing wet kisses onto your dry lips that you drink down greedily. You dream of one, just one, of the classmates you’re friendly with, who you’ve exchanged phone numbers with, to come find you lying there, or even just to give you a fucking call. It doesn’t matter who, just someone, anyone, PLEASE!!!!!!
The black shapes in the corners of your eyes shudder and creak like a rotting building. Your vision is getting blurry. You’re so thirsty.
On the TV behind you, a man whose face you can’t imagine congratulates a number of students for achieving high scores on some national exam that you might have taken if you’d had any hope of amounting to anything. Names that mean nothing to you get read out. “…Keiichi Satou, Keiko Tanaka, Ren Takahashi, Kei Nagai, Yuuko Nakamura…” Helpless, angry tears stream out of your eyes. This would never happen to any of them. Their life-stories would never end with them lying alone, motionless, on a cold floor.
It’s hard to breathe. You stay asleep for longer and longer periods of time. Every time you wake up, you’re surprised. You can’t make out the shapes of the window and the magazines on the floor anymore, the world reduced to colored blobs with light slicing across them. A pendulum counting down to the end of your life.
Let me die already, you think, an exhaustingly coherent thought emerging from the sea of feeling cold and thirsty, of wishing there was another body lying next to you, of not wanting to die alone. You know you don’t deserve any of these things. Useless, as useless as your parents, as useless as your frozen limbs. Your head hurts.
You begin to doubt. Are you even really still alive? Are you really still breathing? What if you’d actually died, and everyone who dies remains conscious of the world around them and you’re going to feel like this for the rest of eternity? Will it end when your body decomposes? Maybe your mind is decomposing too. Maybe minds decompose quickly.
You’re so thirsty.
You wake up suddenly, sitting up before your eyes are completely open. The shards of the lightbulb that had fallen with you lie on the floor near you, glittering faintly in the moonlight. The magazines are scattered every which way. You stand up, feeling surprisingly steady on your feet. On autopilot, you stack the magazines neatly and sweep up the broken glass, careful not to miss any small pieces. The TV, still on, continues to emit dim background noise.
Distantly, through the window, you hear a car drive by and not stop. Silence, except for the TV.
You scream, and run over to the TV, lifting it up and pulling it away from the wall without bothering to unplug it, before throwing it through the window. The glass shatters, and you distantly hear the TV landing on the street below. But you’re still screaming, clawing at your own face.
You run into the shower, turning the water on as hot as it will go until it burns you and you lower the temperature slightly, holding your mouth open under the stream of water and gulping it down. You want to peel off your own skin. You settle for tearing off your clothes, dropping them on the shower floor and scratching at your newly exposed skin. If you close your eyes you can pretend that your own hands are someone else’s, that the water falling on your skin is tears from people crying for you.
Sinking to the floor and leaning back against the shower wall, jerking off feels like shooting up, an overdose of sensation after days of drought. Even when you’re past the point of overstimulation, you keep going like some clockwork contraption, before you suddenly decide to peel yourself off the floor and walk into the kitchen. You leave a trail of water behind as you don’t bother to dry yourself, and the chill feels almost like a crowd of people biting you. Right now, you like it.
The kitchen looks like a disaster zone when you’re done with it; overturned containers and spilled ingredients as you make what must be four separate meals and lots of snacks, eating about a third of all of it and lying on the floor when you can’t eat anymore. You manage to crawl back into the bathroom just in time to throw up into the toilet, upheaving everything you’ve just eaten. It is here, kneeling, covered in floor grime and gripping the porcelain, that you finally cry. The taste of salt mixes with the taste of bile in your mouth, and you find yourself incapable of supporting your own weight. You shiver and moan, and wish that someone, anyone was there. I’ll give you whatever you want, I’ll hold your hand, I’ll let you hit me, I’ll fuck you, I’ll play princess with you, I’ll wash your back, anything anything anything I don’t want to be here alone please don’t leave me here alone.
Your throat is raw from sobbing and your eyes burn when you finally drag yourself off the floor and go brush your teeth, rinsing your mouth carefully and studiously ignoring your reflection. You drink a glass of water, and then methodically clean yourself in the shower, drying and dressing yourself afterwards this time. You don’t bother cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, but you do make yourself a cup of tea and some rice, eating slowly so that you’ll keep it down.
Looking at your phone, you see that it’s been almost a week. You sip your tea and ruminate on the reality of the situation, that dehydration if not the head trauma must have killed you. You’re no doctor but you know that much.
You have no reason to panic. No one noticed you missing. No one noticed you dying. No one noticed that you’re an ajin.