Chihiro Ogino flipped to the next page in her book. She sighed and wiped the sweat from her forehead. It was the first week of summer vacation and she was spending it inside reading a book. She sat cross-legged on her bed with her hair up in a ponytail. Chihiro’s favorite thing to do was read. She spent every day after school reading book after book. She loved to be transported to other places and imagine that it was her.
It had been six years since Chihiro crossed over to the Spirit World; Six years since she met Haku; Six years since she saved the Spirit World; Six long years had passed since she let go of Haku's hand and walked across the stretch of grass and into the Human World.
The house that the Ogino’s had bought was boarded up when they arrived. Confused, they called the agency to get an answer. The house had been off the market for 35 years. The owner’s never showed up on move in day and they were forced to resell it. It was then sold to a family who accidentally started a fire inside. One of the family members passed away and the house was put off the market. Chihiro knew at the time why this strange time skip had happened, and it was amusing to watch her parents try and figure it out. Her father thought it was the aliens. Her mother just yelled at the agents and told them that she would sue them for not doing their job.
They found a house closer to the woods and happily moved in. Chihiro was glad to be even closer to the woods but Chihiro’s father insisted that she stay inside. Being the way she was though, she constantly snuck out to walk through the woods and visit the statue in front of the Spirit World entrance. The first time she visited the statue, she tried to walk through but it was just woods on the other side. She figured that it wasn’t time for her to go back yet. She knew that it would call her back one day. So instead, she would sit and talk to it until it was time to go home. It would just stare blankly at her, but he was the only one that she could talk to about her problems at school, and the adventures that she once had.
When Chihiro returned home, she didn’t tell anyone about the Spirit World. At first, she didn’t want to tell them. She wanted the experience all to herself. But as time went on, she was also losing her memories of her time there. With every passing day she forgot a little more about the Spirit World. She would try to remember it but every memory was becoming fuzzy. The details were blurred and the faces were blank. She couldn't figure out what was happening or why it was happening.
Her last memory slipped away one night while she was dreaming. The last glance at Haku's face before turning around and running toward the Human World was her last memory. She woke up with an aching pain in her heart. She knew there was something forgotten but she couldn't figure it out. Eventually, she didn't even think about what she had lost. Everything had disappeared. She dreamed about the Spirit World often, but didn't realize that she was recalling actual events.
After Chihiro lost her memories, she listened to her father about staying inside. She had no reason to leave.
Chihiro had a habit of writing down her dreams that she remembered in a notebook. The notebook contained written descriptions and small doodles in the margins. She loved reading her entries and attempting to come up with reasons why these strange creatures were appearing in her dreams. She even borrowed books from the library that explained dreams, but none of them satisfied what she was looking for.
Chihiro’s parents had been concerned when her attitude adjusted so abruptly after their short stop at the tunnel. They noticed she was more calm and polite, and rarely threw tantrums anymore. They made her see a therapist but Chihiro kept everything to herself. After her memory loss, she would explain to her therapist about the dreams she was having. They gave her medication and told her she just had a vivid imagination. Chihiro’s parent’s did not let her go out with her friends much, they thought they had a bad influence on her, so one by one her friends stopped asking to come over and she was left without many people to talk to at all.
Ryuu however, never left Chihiro’s side. She had met him the first year she started going to her new school and they had been friends ever since. Ryuu walked her home every day and they spent countless hours together. He was Chihiro’s best friend.
The day before, on the last day of school, they were silently walking home together when Ryuu stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, “Chihiro I need to tell you something,”
“Yes?” Chihiro turned around to look at him. His face looked puzzled and a little red, but Chihiro thought nothing of it.
“I just, I don’t know. I’ve been wanting to tell you something for a while but I never knew if there was a right time to tell you but…”
Chihiro knew what he was going to say and it was what she had feared for a long time. She didn’t want their relationship to change and she was afraid for him to even bring it up. She had briefly had crushes on boys, including Ryuu, but something just didn’t feel right. There was always something holding her back that she couldn’t quite figure out.
“Oh no!” She interrupted, “I have to get home! My mother said if I was late today she wouldn’t let me see you tomorrow,” she lied and started to walk away, “I’m sorry, you can tell me some other time! I’ll see you tomorrow!” She ran off leaving Ryuu behind on the sidewalk, feeling let down and embarrassed.
Chihiro reached over to her desk and grabbed her cup of ice water. She took a sip as she continued reading. A strong wind suddenly blew into her room and leaves flew in. One flew into to her face and she picked it off and looked at it. Her gaze wandered out the window. Her chest suddenly tightened, and she had the urge to go outside.
Chihiro closed her book and set it back onto her shelf. She opened her closet and changed into a loose purple shirt and jean shorts. She took out her ponytail and brushed her long brown hair. She took the top half and secured it behind her head with a colorful hair band that she had possessed for as long as she could remember.
She slipped on a pair of sneakers and tiptoed to her door to see what her parents were doing. She turned the corner to see them on the couch watching the television. She rolled her eyes and went back to her room. She climbed through her window and headed out toward the forest.
Chihiro felt nervously excited, but she wasn’t sure why. She entered the forest behind her house and kept walking. She found a rocky path and decided to follow it. She hadn’t been out in the woods for years and she couldn’t remember why she had gone out there all the time in the first place. Was she looking for something?
She groaned in annoyance, “Why can’t I remember?” she asked herself angrily. This void in her memory had been on her mind so much lately. Nothing made sense. The last memory she remembered before the void was driving rapidly through the forest on this road and stopping abruptly. The next thing she remembered was her sitting in the car again heading out of the forest. She tried concentrating on what happened between, but nothing appeared in her mind. It was just blank. She groaned loudly.
"This is so frustrating!" She yelled, "It doesn't make sense. Something had to have happened in between!" She hit her hand against the tree next to her in anger. She sat down on a root and put her hands on her head in defeat.
She looked beside her to see a little stone statue that looked like a tiny house. As Chihiro was examining it, she heard thunder in the distance.
She looked up as she felt the first raindrop hit her nose.
"Of course you would!" she yelled at the sky. It responded by raining harder. She tried to cover her head with her hands and stand closer to the tree but it started to pour. She moaned and started running to find cover. In the corner of her eye she saw something huge and red. She turned her head to see a tunnel. "Thank god!" she sighed with relief.
She ran towards the building and saw another strange statue standing in front of the entrance. She slowed down and came to a complete stop. She stood, soaking in the rain. She looked down slowly at it and it stared right back at her. The details were worn but she could still see its face.
("Slow down you're going to kill us!")
"What?" She whispered as her eyebrows furrowed. Her head shot up towards the tunnel and she ran in to it.
"I swear I've seen that statue before but I can't remember." Chihiro continued running until she reached the middle of the tunnel. She looked around and saw that there were benches on each side. She decided to take a seat for a little while to catch her breath and get dried off.
Chihiro suddenly heard the distant sound of a train.
("Do you here that?"
"It sounds like a train."
"We must be near a train station."
"Come on, let's go check it out.")
Chihiro stood up and walked to the other end of the tunnel. As soon as she got to the opening, she gasped.
The sky was perfectly blue and it wasn't raining anymore. She looked, confused, into the sky and then back down to the land in front of her. The wind was blowing gently and the grass was a perfect shade of green.
"Wow. This place is beautiful." The wind picked up a little bit and a couple leaves hit the back of her head. She turned around to look at the tower that stood before her.
("I knew it. It's an abandoned theme park. See?")
Chihiro stared at the building and then back behind it. There was nothing but grass going on forever.
"That doesn't make any sense! I just came out of the woods!" She started to walk quickly back toward the tunnel but a strong wind picked up and blew in her face. She could hear a soft, deep sound that seemed to come from the building in front of her. She was suddenly nervous to go back in.
("Did you hear that building? It was moaning."
"It was just the wind.")
Chihiro shook her head. She didn't know where all of these weird thoughts were coming from, but this place was beautiful and she wasn't going to ruin it.
Chihiro ran through the grass twirling and jumping. She felt like a kid again. She stopped abruptly. "I’m so glad that I’m not a boring brat anymore,” she said to herself, “This is so much more fun!”
("Anyone can see you're a lazy, spoiled crybaby. And you have no manners!")
Chihiro wrinkled her eyebrows in confusion at the thought.
She started walking again. She jumped across a stream filled with big rocks, and ran up a flight of stone steps. She stood on the top of them and looked out into the distance. She got a sudden ache in her heart like she missed something dear to her. She looked beside her like there was someone there, but there was no one. She looked down as a tear welled in her eye.
She shook it off and turned around. She then smelled something delicious. She walked quickly up the hill and into a small town. Cute, colored little buildings lined the streets. She walked through and came upon a store with food on the counters. She walked in, gaping at what was in front of her.
("Come on, you guys. You can't!")
Don't eat it. Her instincts told her.
Chihiro sighed in disappointment, "It looked so good though. But it was probably put out there for someone else." Chihiro kept walking.
"It seems like there's no one here. Why was there food on the counter then?” She asked herself quietly, “They must be somewhere nearby." She started looking around for other people, "Hello, is anyone here?" Silence. "Hello!?" Chihiro started to get nervous.
She soon came to a large set of steps. "Maybe they're up here," She started to climb. As soon as she got to the top, she gasped.
("That's weird...It's a bath house.")
On the other side of the bridge, was a huge bath house. "Why does this seem so familiar?"
The light had started to fade from the sky and Chihiro looked out at the sunset, "Wow!" She ran to the side of the bridge to look at the brilliant orange and red sky.
("You shouldn't be here. Get out of here. Now!")
All of the sudden Chihiro's heart began hurting again and she started crying. She knelt down on the side of the bridge and put her head in her lap.
"What have I forgotten?" She sobbed. "I know I’ve forgotten something important. It hurts."
("Will we meet again sometime?"
"I'm sure we will."
"Promise. Now go. And don't look...")
Chihiro quickly looked up and gasped in shock. She hadn't really looked at the person yet.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I almost took your food, I'm so sorr-"
She looked the boy in the face. He had shoulder length green hair and large green eyes. They pierced through her and she knew that she had looked in them many times before. She had longed for those eyes for many years.
("Don't be afraid. I just want to help you.")
("And don't forget, Chihiro. I'm your friend."
"How did you know my name's Chihiro?"
"I've known you since you were very small.")
("Meet me at the bridge. I'll take you to your parents.")
("I've tried everything to remember mine."
"You can't remember your name?"
"No. But for some reason, I remember yours.")
("I've got to go now, but I'll be back to help you soon. Just stay out of trouble."
"Thank you, ____, you're a good friend.") Think Chihiro, think. Chihiro stared into the boy's face and he smiled. Her heart was beating loudly in her chest.
("You did it, Chihiro! I remember I was the spirit of the Kohaku River."
"A river spirit?")
("Keep quiet! I don't want my sister coming up here. Ow! A paper cut!"
"____ we're falling!")
Chihiro stood up and looked at the boy's clothes. She stared at his face, his hair, his hands, his eyes, (HAKU!)
"Haku?" Chihiro said slowly. The boy nodded his head while smiling.
Haku tilted his head, "Chihiro."