By Aaron J. Miller

Go back.

Eri. n.

Waking up is difficult.

Really difficult.

It wasn't always that way for me, though. Suppose, for a moment, that you were listening to a song you love. It's some sort of ballad; it tells a story, but that story has a sad ending. Maybe rather than a song you've heard before, it's a repeat episode of one of your favorite TV programs instead. You know that episode pretty well. However, what happens in that episode isn't quite what you wanted. The result isn't right. Maybe, for example, you wanted the protagonist – a shy but strong and dependable boy – to choose to go out with that energetic-looking girl sitting by the window.

No matter how many times you watch that episode, no matter how much you want the boy to choose her, how much you want something to change, it doesn't.

It's just a recording after all.

The events that take place won't alter themselves; the fate they face won't falter for all of eternity.

Ah yes, miss? Sorry, but no matter what, that boy will absolutely refuse to choose you. Nothing personal, but you're simply not his type! I'd say "Better luck next time," and try to encourage your efforts, however... it really is futile. It's better to just give up now. Maybe, if some divine being descended and offered you another chance, you'd be able to make some alteration. Hey, if it means that much to you, why not make a change?

Alas, it's just a recording. Even if you edit the video to display the outcome you want, change the song to sing of the love you long for, insisting all the while it's reality... it's not. It's fake; just a lie.

Oh being an observer would be so very frustrating, right? You could never change anything that way.

Although, what if it's your story, your life, and not just some two-bit author's fiction? What if that divine being did descend and met with you, pitied you, and gave you a second chance? A chance to change yourself, a chance to change the world, a chance to change the outcome... Not just a second chance either, but a third as well. Even a fourth, and a fifth, ... as many chances as you wanted!

Even so, even trying your best the second time, the third time, the fourtieth time, the five-hundredth time, the six-thousandth time... even trying your best each time, earnestly changing the world, yourself, everything... but that fate doesn't change...

What then?

Well, at that point, or maybe somewhere else along the way, it becomes very difficult to wake up.

Takayuki. 2.

I woke up suddenly, thinking something might be wrong. To be fair, I suppose you could say something was wrong. My alarm clock hadn't gone off yet, which means I either woke up too early, or far too late. Hoping it wasn't the latter, I warily glanced its way in an effort to read the time without moving my head too much.

Before I could comprehend the digits displayed on its face, I heard my door opening rather suddenly. It was accompanied by—

"Big brother, wake up."

—a simple directive by my younger sister.

"Why should I?"

I had instantly decided to be difficult. Actually rather than "decided" it was more of a reflex. That said, it's not like my reaction is entirely unwarranted. After all, there shouldn't be any reason for her to wake me up. If my alarm had simply not gone off yet then I would want to sleep until I needed to be awake. If my alarm had not gone off at all, then at least let me sleep until I wake up on my own... then I can blame everything on my alarm. If someone else wakes me up though, then I have nothing and no one to blame but myself. That's cruel.

Anyway, let me repeat myself: There shouldn't be any reason for her to wake me up. However, she did. Rather, she attempted to. Therefore, she has a reason to do so. She has a reason that I need to be awake right this moment. I've comprehended as much, but I'm still sour. It's all such a pain.

"Why should you wake up? Because something is wrong."

"Oh? And what might that be?"

She scowls at me. "Hmph. Figure it out yourself if you're going to be like that. I've done my part."

"The hell was with that?" is what I would have asked her had she not walked off immediately.

A couple of moments later, as if in reply, my alarm clock sounded.

I doubt anything special will happen today.


Once upon a time, there was a crying girl.

"Would you like a second chance?"

She wasn't sure who or what asked it. She wasn't sure where she was. She wasn't sure of anything, except—


—her desparate cry.

Whether her voice could match the intensity of her heart was another matter altogether. It's not clear whether she made a sound that could even be discerned as belonging to her, even if those feelings did.

The being heard her clearly though. That being maliciously understood her wish, and cruelly granted it.

That girl was allowed her second chance.

Takayuki. 17.

I woke up suddenly. Whether the fault was with my alarm clock or my internal clock, it was a mistake which could not be forgiven. As I was beginning to fall back asleep, my alarm clock sounded.

Such an irritating tone.

Silencing it swiftly, I got out of bed and started my day.

Nothing special happened.

Takayuki. 19.

I woke up suddenly. Maybe my alarm clock hadn't gone off yet, or maybe I had just woken up too early. Either way, this can't be forgiven. Just before I could fall asleep again, my alarm clock sounded.

How annoying.

I muted it quickly, got out of bed, and started my day.

Nothing special happened.

Eri. 13.

"I love you."

Eri. 17.

"I love you."

Eri. 19.

"I love you."

Takayuki. 13.

She confessed to me. To be honest, she's not my type, and I didn't think I was hers.

Takayuki. 17.

"I'm sorry."

Takayuki. 19.

I can't accept her confession. I will not love Eri.


Once upon a time, there was a crying girl.

"Would you like a second chance?"

When asked this, she was able to answer without a hint of hesitation. Indeed, that was all the question was meant to assess.


The depth of her wish was shallow, but the intensity was clear.

This wish, too, will end in despair. Thus, the malicious being grants it without an ounce of remorse.

Eri. 137.

I've changed the starting conditions many times.

I've changed myself many times.

Anything is disposable, as long as Takayuki chooses me.

Everything is disposable, until Takayuki chooses me.

Takayuki. 137.

"I'm sorry."

Takayuki. 139.

She's crying.

Takayuki. 149.

I rejected her.

Takayuki. 151.

Before I managed to get the words out, she had already started crying.

Takayuki. 211.

I was called out to the school rooftop. This is either bullying or a confession, but I guess I'll see it through. Either way I'll have to put a stop to it.

I climb the staircase and head straight for the roof. To be honest I would've liked to grab a snack from the vending machine. A drink would've been fine too. Honestly I probably should have, but it's too late now that I'm standing here.

It's a girl in my class. Her name is Eri. Honestly, why did it have to be her? She's not my type, and I doubt I'm hers. Maybe I said something to one of her friends the wrong way and she wants to bully me.

She's turned away from me, but I can see her face a little bit. She looks sad about something.

I'm surprised to see that she's wearing an outfit that fits my taste perfectly. Though I wouldn't say I'm pleasantly surprised. This is creepy. Maybe she'll pull a knife out on me after revealing that she's been stalking me for a long time.

"Hey, Takayuki..."

She said that without turning around.

"... Yes?"

She begins turning toward me, and locks my gaze as the sun sets behind her.

"Did you know? Actually, I love you."

"I'm sorry."

I rejected her.

That sad expression didn't change. She was probably (rightfully) expecting my response.

"May I ask... what could I have done differently?"

What an odd thing to say after having been rejected. She's dragging this out, and, I'd really rather she didn't...

Not that I have anyone at home waiting for me.

She's even wearing the outfit I like. The outfit she wore.

She seems much more sincere here than her usual self, which I appreciate quite a lot.

There's really not much that she could have done differently. It will be a pain if she doesn't give up after this.

"Nothing. This was basically the perfect confession for me, however—and I really am very sorry to say this—we cannot be together."

That is the truth, and there is nothing she can do to change that. After having stated this in such a bitter manner, it would be cruel to suggest she try someone else.

Even though I have no pressing reason to return home, I still don't want to be here.

"I see."

A small smile forms as she looks down and away again.

"I'll see you tomorrow."

... Yeah, see you tomorrow...

I go back home.

Nothing special happened today.


The girl continued to cry, not that she was making a sound.

The being granting this wish really is, without a doubt, cruel.

Not satisfied, the girl decides to dream of that day once more. However, even if she manages to fulfill her wish in the world of a dream, it will not be granted in the world called "reality."

Viciously, the being wishes: "good luck."

Eri. 683.

It's raining. However, the rain will stop just before he reaches the rooftop.

I've taken to being a bit more like a director.

Basically, this is like a scenario, right? I just have to adjust it until it's perfect. There can be no flaw, even those which Takayuki isn't aware of...

I have to subliminally suggest that he should be with me!

Anyway, I've decided that if it rains in the morning, the results are better. Err, wait, what I mean is that if it rains the results are better. Even if the result is failure, there's still a degree of failure, okay? It's less of a failure so the results are better! That's what I think.

Maybe I should've experimented with this sooner? After all, I got rid of her early on. If I just keep tweaking the starting conditions, everything should be fine!

Okay! So! Why should it rain at the beginning of the day? There are two reasons for this. First! If I set the mood to be depressing at first, then my confession will have an even more uplifting result! The sun that shines as I proclaim my love for Takayuki will be a double effect, showing absolute warmth! The sun rays will boost the natural effect of my love. Second! Two words: "Vision," "control." There's nothing to see in the rain, so there's no reason to look around. There can't be any distractions that way, right?

Yeah I know it's stupid, but I've tried a lot of things now. What do you expect?

Takayuki. 683.

The sun is peeking through the clouds. If anything, it's mocking me. As if to jest "Surely life will be worth it if you just accepted."

This may be rather sudden, but Eri is currently pushing me down on the rooftop. Her tears are falling, much like the rain was until just a moment ago.

This situation is bizarre, and I'd rather it were over with. If she's planning on killing me, maybe she should. That would be better than this.

Rather than killing me, though, she's just holding me tightly.

What a pain.


The girl was crying still. No sound could be heard.


Her wish was forcibly making her relive a tragedy.

The being granting her wish would never ask her what it should.

The being granting her wish would only ask if she wants another chance.

Crying, miserably, she answers without speaking. She yells with the same intensity as always, without making a sound.

Her wish, cruelly, continues to be granted.

Takayuki. 2-1.

She ran off just like that. What a pain. She told me something was wrong and wouldn't answer.

My little sister annoys me.

She should just disappear already.

(Do I really think that?)

She should just disappear...

(Is that really how I feel?)

Anyway, a girl confessed to me today. She wasn't my type, and honestly I didn't think I would be hers.

I rejected her of course. It may have been rude, considering she showed up at our house and confessed to me straight away. Couldn't she consider the setting? That's just weird.

Oh well. I guess that's what my little sister thought was wrong.

I suppose if I were to summarize this day, it would be that nothing special happened.

Takayuki. 3.

She ran off just like that. What a pain. She told me something was wrong and wouldn't answer.

My little sister irritates me.

She shouldn't be here.

(Is that true?)

She should go away...

(Is that really how I feel?)

Whatever. I get ready for the day and head out.

Later on, but not much later on, a girl who isn't my type confesses to me.

To be clear, I'm not gay; I do like women. That girl though, she could never be my type. It was odd, she asked for advice while crying. I told her how she could be better for the next guy. For one thing, her approach was all wrong. Eri, she just confessed straight away when I entered the classroom. She probably didn't think about what would happen if she got rejected, or how awkward the rest of the day would be.

When I returned home, I found that breakfast had apparently been made and a note was left. I don't eat breakfast, so maybe that's the thing that was wrong this morning. The note wasn't in my little sister's—Sayoko's—handwriting, so it was probably left by Eri. It's an easy conclusion to make, since there are no other candidates.

To summarize today, nothing special happened.

Eri. 953.

I've been losing my composure lately... just a bit!

Actually maybe it's better to just say I've been a bit more clumsy lately.

This time for sure I won't mix up the order!

Okay, I learned pretty early on that confessing early doesn't work! However, she has been erased and I've learned that waking him up directly results in a bad end, but maybe... Yeah, I should've thought of this before! I know what I'll do.

I hate to say it, but I'm nearing my limit, you know?

Takayuki. 953.

I woke up suddenly, thinking something might be wrong. To be fair, I suppose you could say something was wrong. After all, waking up to realize you've been handcuffed to your bed isn't an ordinary morning for most people.

I congratulate those of you who are now unsure of what that not happening is like. However, that is not my play, thank you. I am most definitely not into being tied up or held captive, even if a pretty girl who suits your aesthetic perfectly is the one doing it.

Incidentally, my classmate Eri is the one doing it. This must be a prank of some kind. I wouldn't say that we're friends. If anything I'm pretty sure this makes us enemies, though she happens to have the upper hand at the moment.

"Ah, good morning Takayuki!"

She smiles at me. It's a radiant smile.

"Okay! Let's just go ahead and get straight to the point."

She leans down and presses her hands to my chest, moving them slowly up to my neck, and finally to my face. Leaning in, she says slowly.

"I love you."

"Sorry. I'm not really a morning person."

I respond reflexively. That wasn't really a rejection, but I'm tempted to provoke her.

"Also, not that it really matters but, an answer in this situation won't have any meaning."

"I know!"

A bright response. That's my honest opinion, she's incredibly cheerful.

"Even if you won't say 'I love you' to me, even if there is nobody that you love anymore, I can at least keep you to myself for today, can't I?"

Indeed. My hands are somewhat literally tied; there's nothing I can do here except accomodate her request.

Maybe she'll kill me. If she decides to do so, it would be nice if she hurried up.

"Oh! I guess I've spent quite a while with you but really... you were never there. You always seemed to lack presence."

It makes sense that she'd be the stalker type, considering she knows where I live.

"Hey, I don't think you remember but... you saved me once."

I doubt I did anything that noble. If so I doubly doubt it was of my own free will.

"Sorry. That's meaningless to me."

Her response is a smile. It gives me the impression that she knew I would say that.

"Even though that's the case, I still want to save you."

Save me? Now that's rich. Not rich enough to pay for happiness though. Yeah I'm overplaying this. Compared to her I'm pretty happy.

"Thanks but that's not possible. How were you planning on doing that anyway? By forging a relationship with me as though that's what I needed?"

Her expression falters just a bit.

"No. If you'd agree to it, that would make me feel better. However, I know I can't ask that of the person who saved me."

"I did not save you. That's rather apparent, wouldn't you agree?"

"That's not true. After all, it's thanks to you that I'm here now!"

I'd rather not be thanked for something like that. Also, if she's going to kill me she's taking too long.

"Hey, you're probably planning on killing me I bet. I'm a rather busy person, as you can tell, so if it's not too much trouble could you hurry up?"

She doesn't seem amused by this. That's the goal.

"You sure say cruel things, don't you?"

It can't be helped. I'm not a morning person, after all.

"I'm not going to kill you. Didn't I already say I'm going to save you?"

"You can't do that, so the only option is to kill me. After all, this is probably a crime. You know what they say, *'if you're going to commit a crime, then don't get caught'* or something. Can't get sloppy now, leaving the evidence alive."

"If you would report the crime and follow through with it, then I'll have succeeded in saving you, right?"

She's right. I doubt this makes sense to you, but that might save me. I don't want to be saved though. I'd prefer if it would all just come to an end. I suspect today, too, will be nothing special.


She was crying.

It's an everyday sight, and she wasn't unique in any way. Everybody cries. I knew that even back then, back when we were still in elementary school.

She was crying.

People cry for a variety of reasons. Things like not being able to get that toy you wanted, or maybe you were just given a shot and it still hurts. The world is a big and scary place, why wouldn't you cry?

She was crying, but she didn't make a sound. She didn't want to be noticed. She didn't want anybody to see her crying. Quietly, silently, she cried but...

I ruined that. I crushed her small wish just by seeing her. I crushed her wish just by hearing her. She wanted to disappear. She didn't want to bother others. She wanted never to be seen, never to be heard, never to be known.

I saw her crying alone in the rain. Just like that, I fell into her world, and I fell in love.

We were growing up together.

We made it through elementary school.

We were learning together.

We made it through middle school.

We made it through high school, and college, and lived happily ever after... is not the kind of story this is. To be clear, she's dead.

I killed her.

She was crying.

She was crying so softly, and she didn't want to be seen. I saw her. I saw her pain.

If there were a way she could live happily ever after, I would have granted it. However, that would be impossible. There was no cure. Rather than dying from that, she wanted to die from me, by me.

It was her first selfish request, so I would be sure to grant it.

I was alone again. In a sea of petty despair, I was alone. My own crying is nothing compared to hers. The crying I hear from others is nothing compared to hers.

She told me to stay here, but there's nothing but wave after endless wave of cheap emotions. I don't want to be here. This is another selfish request, but I have no right to reject it now.

She told me to wait, that something special would happen one day.

I am crying, and my cry means nothing.

I looked into nothingness, seeking an answer. All too late, an answer had come.


He loved another girl, but she died from some incurable disease.

However in a cruel twist of fate, and this really was rather mean of fate, a cure had been found shortly thereafter. Many patients had made full recoveries.

I didn't know any of that at first though. He seemed shy, and honestly, that's not really my type. I prefer outgoing personalities!

Accidentally, one day, I learned about his past. It didn't really matter that much to me at the time. Sure, it seemed sad and all, but who cares? The past is the past, but the future is something else altogether! Your past doesn't need to control your future, that's something you can do. Right? Right!

Really, how pathetic.

Without warning, my mom was diagnosed with that disease. She's okay now, but while she was sick it was super scary. Complication after complication arose, but she made a full recovery thanks to that cure.

I started to think more about him, about Takayuki. He went through that with the one he loved only to lose her at the end. Maybe it's wrong to be thinking more about Takayuki than about the girl who actually went through it and died, but I guess I can relate more with him, or something?

Everything Takayuki did started to make more sense. I was able to see why he was so closed up... it was like nothing mattered to him, and I got that.

I tried imagining what I would be like if I had lost my mom. Would I even be able to keep going to school like I am now? I somehow doubt it. My dad, who I would have to live with, would probably force me to. I can't say the prospect of that would make me happy at all.

Takayuki had nothing, and that made me sad.

Takayuki had nothing, but really he was very kind. He never showed malice toward anyone, he never showed hate or spite toward anything, he was so kind. He was so... sad. It was as though everything was closing in on him. That's what I thought anyway. Isn't that what you would feel too?

One day, he saved me.

Takayuki. 1.

I woke up to my alarm clock. It makes an irritating tone as always.

I get ready and walk downstairs. I see my little sister in the kitchen freaking out over something.

"What's the matter?"

Unusually I take interest in what's happening.

"I spilled hot coffee all over my cell phone..."

She complained about her own problem. It's a petty problem that she can fix on her own. I'm not being insincere when I say that... she really can fix it on her own.

"Guess you'll have to get another one then, huh? Tough it out."

She pouts, as though I was supposed to fix it. Ignoring her, I leave. Breakfast is a waste.

It's been a year since then. Will something special happen today? Somehow, I doubt it.

I make it to school in time, and classes start as usual. The teacher is writing something on the blackboard. As I'm writing down notes I probably won't read, I drop my mechanical pencil. While picking it up, I noticed that a classmate was looking at me. That's Eri. She turned away quickly. I resume taking notes.

School's over. Time to go home.

I recall that my little sister had spilled coffee all over her phone. She probably got a new phone by now, so I decide to get her a gift. I'll leave her with that.

In the convenience store I look at a variety of coffee mugs. I find one that seems appropriate for someone who just spilled coffee all over their phone. It has text that reads "Caution! Hot." Normally this would be stupid. Actually, it just is stupid. Oh well, she can have it. Maybe it suits her sense of humor. I buy it and leave the store.

As I'm leaving the store I hear something coming from the back-alley. That classmate from earlier is getting mugged or something. I'm going to kill myself later, so I might as well help her. Maybe they'll do the job for me.

I don't really remember what happened, but somehow I think she survived.

Eri. 1.

I had messaged Sayoko, that is, Takayuki's little sister. I was thinking that today, I would maybe ask him out. I think that maybe she's the only one he has left now, so... maybe it's silly, but I just wanted her approval.

She seemed pretty okay with the idea. Actually, that girl is ridiculously smart. Her IQ probably rivals Sherlock Holmes! ... Wait, I wonder if Mr. Holmes is still alive. Maybe they could have a brain contest of some sort! Or something. I'm not really sure what Mr. Holmes does... Well anyway.

Right right, I was trying to say that she probably figured out that I liked him long ago. Maybe even before I knew. Hmm, come to think of it I guess IQ doesn't really have anything to do with that, does it? It's probably more of a girl thing.

As for how I knew Sayoko's messaging address, I actually knew her for a long time. I hadn't learned that she was Takayuki's little sister until recently though. We weren't all that close until after she told me so, but we would still talk occasionally.

It's not weird to be close with an elementary schooler if you pretend she's your own little sister, right?

... Right?

H-Hey I'm a girl too, you know? It's not weird!

Ahem! Anyway! School had started and classes were in session. I wasn't really sure when the best time to confess would be... should I wait until the end of school? Maybe lunch would be fine? As I was thinking about that, he dropped his mechanical pencil and went to pick it up... ah. He saw me staring at him! I didn't even realize it myself... he looks away naturally as though nothing happened. ... Right, definitely not asking during lunch break.

It's the end of school now... Maybe I should have told him I wanted to talk earlier... what should I do now?

Umm, right so... this isn't how it sounds but, I'm following him home. I-I'm not stalking him! I'm just following him at a distance... then I'll just say I'm there to play with his little sister! Y-yeah!


He walks into a convenience store. That's not where he lives, of course. I know his family was actually pretty well off. (No I'm not after his money, I promise.) I decide to wait inconspicuously in the back alley.

Soon after, I was attacked by some number of thugs. I tried screaming, but one of the thugs was holding my mouth shut, I couldn't even bite back. His grip was impressively strong... It's late, the sun is setting, and this isn't exactly a safe neighborhood. I should have just gone inside the convenience store!

I'm about to be assaulted, but Takayuki notices what's happening. My memory is blurry, but he tried so hard to protect me...

He really did save me, but... now there's a pool of his own blood covering the asphault and a broken coffee mug laying over the top of it. The thugs had run off somewhere. He was no longer breathing, and there was nothing I could do.

So I screamed. I screamed as loud as I could.

My heart screamed out, and asked me a question.

"Do you want a second chance?"

I cried and answered as loudly as I could, without making a sound.

Of course I want a second chance!

Eri. 953-2.

No matter what I tried, he always ended up dying. At first I thought that was a rule, that it would happen if I failed. That wasn't the case though... after some number of iterations I learned that he would kill himself. I thought that maybe he was lonely, that maybe nobody understood him. I tried changing the scenario as much as I could. What if I had confessed earlier? What if it had been raining? What if Sayoko weren't there?

Why could I change all of these things but not his fate?

Through all of these iterations, he's continued to reject me. It's my fault, but I would ask why. I wanted advice! How could I change to suit him? How could I change for the person who I love, for the person who saved me? What could I do?

I didn't realize what he was having me do at first, but I gradually learned... he was making me dress like his dead girlfriend. He was making me act like she would. He was still hurting because she was gone, and he couldn't take it anymore!

I couldn't stand that... I couldn't stand it! Why did I have to change myself? But... this wasn't his fault. Especially not today. I remembered. It took me too long, but I remembered... today was the day she died.

He blames himself for her death...

At this point, I just want him to live.


I'm just going to force him to not kill himself. If he's tied up, he won't be able to kill himself. Well, he's handcuffed to the bed, and I'm sitting on top of him, but that's not the point.

I just want him to know I love him!

(Is this really love?)

Takayuki just needs to know I love him!

(Is this really still love?)

Takayuki. 953-2.

At some point she had fallen asleep on top of me. There wasn't much I could do, considering I was handcuffed and all. Though I want to die it's not like I'm a fan of pain, so I'll just wait here until she wakes up.

She was crying in her sleep.

It's weird though. She should be wide awake. There should be tons of adrenaline pumping through her body right now. Yet, she's laying on top of me, sleeping.

It's not much, but today... it feels like something special happened.

I close my eyes and go back to sleep.

Eri. 953-3.

At some point I had fallen asleep. When I next woke up, I saw Takayuki there, sleeping. He looked peaceful and yet somehow... tiring.

How long has it been? Undoubtedly, he would save me every time, sacrificing himself in the process.

Undoubtedly I would cry and live in this dream every time.

No matter how many scenarios I imagine, I can't seem to find a single one where Takayuki lives.

He wakes up and looks at me slowly. I had removed his handcuffs, so he's now able to move freely. He just sits there though.

"I could hear you screaming."

What? I don't think I scream in my sleep...

"I could hear you screaming silently."

He looks directly into my eyes and says:

"It's alright."

... ?


Ah. He really is... kind.


The crying girl looked up.

She was no longer screaming, and she was no longer wishing.

Her wish would no longer be granted, because it didn't need to be.

The boy next to her was dying, slowly, in her arms.

The heart really is too cruel.


The crying girl, unsatisfied, decided she would grant her own wish. The crying girl, unsatisfied, woke up.