The daylight arrived as such intricately woven threads of gold. Takuto’s eyes shot open, polished amber in the first rays of dawn and burned with an everlasting flame. Something familiar filled the sky, bouncing from each scattered sheet of paper on the white tiled floor. Something he hadn’t seen in a long time, playing tricks through the glass panes above his eyes.
Sunlight. It sauntered in, igniting every gap to vivid warm hues and flowing through the leaves adorning his window.
Slowly, his body registered the thin sheets underneath him, as well as the patches of cold through his suit. He could almost seep into the colorless floor, blending in with his surroundings. However, a heavy breath escaped his chest; there was no use in pinching himself.
The mourning replaced his thoughts, nothing it dragged along separating it from any other. But the day that brought it to his doorstep invoked a sense of familiarity, hidden beneath the ignorance he wished he could cling to further.
Takuto raised himself from the floor. The sun had spread a blanket of mist the dusk had left behind. The crickets had ceased their chirping and made way for the birds to begin their calls. Golden light cloaked the room, but faded as Takuto composed himself. A hum left trembling lips; it was a wondrous sight for anyone lucky to witness.
For a moment, he considered the thought that another person had awoken as early as he did. However, whilst he turned away from many windows where the light seeped in, he forced the thought away. Even if there was one, they were just as lost as the dreary townsfolk lost in their own happiness.
The heels of his shoes made soft thuds on the tiles, beats of gentle applause of each step. The people entering and exiting the hub of his laboratory were aimlessly wandering, all waiting for their turn of on each floor to be evaluated. But the functions of his hub became distant, a mere fading voice in the back of his head.
The streets were much different. The heels of his shoes became loud pounds on the cement. It accompanied commands, ordering him to return to his dome that rested at the peak of the laboratory. He shook his head once more, his hair falling from its slicked back form and covered the corners of his glasses. His arms curled around his figure, biting down on his lip to stop himself from calling out the voice in his head.
The people who passed by him paid no mind; going about their days as if he were a nameless stranger with a happiness far beyond his reach. They all took solace in a perfect yet illusory world, yet he continued to soldier on alone, facing the true world, fraught with pain and sorrow. His own sleepiness had worn off, and he had come to his senses by the time the sun fully appeared from behind the towering buildings.
Its light reached a gravestone that had sunk into the soft soil, giving it the appearance of shrinking. The engraved words, faintly weathered by months of rain, sat above the level of the ground cover plants that sprawled over the dirt.
Takuto planted himself in soaked soil, unfazed by the stains on his white suit. ‘There was no celebration to attend’, he reminded himself. There was merely a fiancé, and the place of where a woman’s life should have never been marked by stone, something so cold and immobile. ‘Perhaps a tree with a chime in the branches could do you more justice, or a simple song sung into the wind.’ Takuto found himself smiling at the thought, his eyelids falling for a moment. However, a frown formed over his smile. ‘Each day I try, but I cannot feel your skin next to me.’
No words left his lips, but if there were, it would have been all bones and broken glass. It would have been like in his dreams, sliced with scissors upon waking up. Takuto weaved his hands through his hair like a noose, sighing as he opened his eyes to meet the gravestone — ‘Dreaming is a pastime not a place.’
It all happened as his watch silently ticked. With every day, every hour, and every minute, the clock inched closer to death of the day. Lost in his morning routine, its ticking held no more significance than a sunrise.
Takuto’s body had only stopped trembling whilst he raised himself from the soil. Now, only his hands quivered. He hoped the world would let him at least feel his hands and feet while it stole the breath from him. Takuto perched his tongue on his cracking lips, feeling a sense of sorrow. He was slipping away from the arms of the world, and he was no longer feeling his fingers there.
The people marched on, going about their daily lives engrossed in happiness underneath the golden light. Takuto watched them smile, exclaiming in joy at the day’s newest blessings, embracing themselves as they bustled about. Slowly, the streets were far less compact as most of the people had gone home to rest. All was now quiet.
It would not be long until the commotion would begin again. It would not be long until the sun had set and all would be calm once more.
It would not be long until another day was lost and he would remain in the pedestal his mind created. An overcast had covered the sun, turning the day dim and somber.
Yet, amidst the fading commotion, no sound reached his ears. Although he could touch the glass he was encased in, silently watching as the world flowed on by, he couldn’t feel the people through it.
There he stood in front of the door, the divide between him and the world beyond. Takuto had returned to the hub, trapping himself within his messy room at the peak of the laboratory, his neck crooked and his body stiff. His palm glued to the doorknob, deeming it impossible to part with it. He remained in a daze, frozen and unflinching. It was the stillness that he had come to know throughout his patience, waiting for someone to barge through those doors and free him. He stayed that way for a long time, staring down at his feet that met the gap beneath the door.
How long became another distant thought, accompanying the many others he was forced to bury for his extreme ideals. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years held no meaning to Takuto. They were all the lines etched into the gold accents of the door. Each one, no matter how many, all lead to the same destination.
Takuto mustered the strength to straighten his back and detach himself from the door, his nails leaving yet another line. He approached one of the many windows that formed a dome over his head, and peered down upon the empty streets of the city. He reached to touch the glass, faintly, his heart still beating. Above them all were the stars, and even so, his gaze still drifted to the cemetery. Those same stars, he could see in the corner of his eyes, would shrink alongside him in the winder. Looking to the horizon, Takuto found a comforting sigh. His hand left the glass, and he turned away; soft gold light danced in the shine of his eyes like how the stars danced in the sky.
Takuto laid amidst the scattered research paper, he allowed himself to sink in the coldness that embraced him. Today, he alone would watch the sun set in the distance; Maybe, he had never really noticed how beautiful it was.
He let his eyes flutter shut, his heartbeats growing louder, more frantic. It had terrified him for the first time he had heard the echoing thuds, the sound ringing through the walls of his mind. The beat skipped at some points, the only anomaly that occurred in each pattern his body produced before stopping to become an endless sound that lasted until he closed his eyes. But the beats hadn’t reached that point, not yet.
The beats drowned out the silence that followed after Takuto’s head ceased another train of thought. Takuto pursed his lips, his expression dropping as he buried his face in his arms.
The faint glance to his watch merely reminded him that time was malleable; a substance that could be twisted by anyone who desired to. Where he laid now, with the hatred of the gods bearing down on him from above and the fading hope and rebellion of the people he believed he had saved shaking him from below. He bent time to suit his whims, to challenge a fate he could never accept, and he landed in this sickening pattern. A loop where even a thief could never steal its core.
Takuto had once wondered what would have happened if he had never messed with time in the first place. If he rejected the offer of a god as blind in ignorance as he was. If he had never taken all the dreams of the people around him and doomed reality to years of blissful suffering. If he had died alongside his fiancée before he could save anyone he thought who needed it.
He also had wondered what happened to those thoughts. If they all became buried alongside his own hope. If they became as distant as his many ramblings in the papers strewn around him, to the point they were erased from his mind.
For all he messed with time, Takuto had never gained an inkling of how it functioned.
“Maybe,” he eventually whispered, the faint wisp of his voice absorbed disappearing before it could bounce from the windows.
Maybe the next day he wouldn’t visit her grave, and receive the comfort he desperately needed. Maybe he wouldn’t bury himself in his research, and enjoy the fireworks festival happening in the day after. Maybe he would forget his duty sworn to him, and get to see the world expand.
Maybe in another time he could forget the pain he laced, forget the feel of his body twisting and breaking in grief. Maybe he could forget how the unfamiliar, scary feel of his calloused hands, or his golden mask, grew more familiar than his own skin.
Takuto laced his fingers together, squeezing his hands as he let his eyes slide closed tightly. A heavy breath in, a heavy breath out. The watch on his wrist grew heavier and heavier, yet he resisted the urge to toss it away. He could wait, he had the time.
And then suddenly, his surroundings grow silent.