NARRATOR: "What's... going on...?"
NARRATOR: "As I slowly open my eyes, a bright, white light assaults my retinas. For minutes I just lay where I am, mindlessly staring ahead while my scattered thoughts coalesce in my slowly waking mind. Slowly but surely, the white begins to come into focus as a bare expanse begins to be drawn across my field of vision. It's only when the light fixture comes into view that my mind clicks that this is the ceiling above me."
NARRATOR: "Slowly levering myself up, I silently absorb through all my senses the details of the room I'm in. The smell and taste of strong bleach hang in the air, lending the impression of a place just slightly too clean to be natural. Inoffensive pale peach-colored walls, all perfectly painted without a crack, stain or imperfection. A single framed painting hangs on the wall, perfectly straightened. Like the walls, it's as boring and inoffensive as can be. My attention's grabbed by the translucent curtain waving across my vision, my eyes following it to the open window it covers. When I move my right arm to try to lift myself up and look through it, I feel the catheter dig in uncomfortably. It's only now, too, that I notice the cannula tubes winding around my cheeks and into my nose. After some fidgeting, I settle for just looking around the corner of the window."
NARRATOR: "Beyond the thick leaves of several large trees, I can see the greenery below, backing out onto a field. A customary island of green on the outskirts of the city. Judging by the sun outside, it's noon. Of which day, though, I'm not sure. So... I'm in a hospital once again. I let out a long, tired breath as I try to collect my scattered thoughts, my mind seemingly cast in a dozen directions all at once with as many emotions running through me. After slowly lying back down, I decide to start at the beginning; why I'm here. I cast my mind back, but I can't work out a smooth recollection of what happened. The events of last night... or whichever night it was... come back more as a series of snapshots than any cohesive memory."
NARRATOR: "Lying on my bed looking at the origami bird. Talking to Hideaki outside the Hakamichi residence. Running down the street, passing pedestrians and bumping into more and more of them. Falling."
NARRATOR: "Looking up at the searingly bright airport entrance, seeing Lilly's back as I lay on the ground... ... The silence of the private room suddenly feels overwhelming."
NARRATOR: "So that's it. I had my chance to correct my mistake, and I blew it. Whether I was at fault for neglecting my medication and disregarding to pace myself, or my body was for giving out so soon, it doesn't matter now. All that matters is that, once again, I'm alone. The pastel blue pillow yields with little resistance as I let myself fall back onto the bed, its starchy case, along with the starchy sheets, providing little comfort. Compared to the darkness of last night's events, the bright light of the room around me is striking. All it does, though, is emphasize how otherworldly places like this are."
NARRATOR: "Arrhythmia. A strange word. A foreign, alien one. One that you don't want to be in the same room with. A rare condition. It causes the heart to act erratically and occasionally beat way too fast. It can be fatal. “It was a miracle that you were able to go on so long without anything happening,” they said. And then, it did. My condition had taken away everything; my old school was of no importance any more. My home was reduced to a faraway place. Both my friends and my first love simply stopped visiting after a length of time. I became cynical and embittered. Distant and subdued. In my defense, no person could avoid that after such a thing happening to them, but nonetheless I left the hospital as a very definitely changed person."
n "Things changed. I made new friends in Hanako, Shizune and Misha. I found a new sense of “home” in my dormitory, a new interest in science and the world around me, and I found a direction to my life that I had never felt before. But I'd also discovered other things. The sense of isolation in Yamaku and its surrounds was not entirely unwelcome, the quiet giving a peace of mind I might not have found elsewhere, but it gave the area a feeling of being pushed out of the way, of being kept out of sight. People in the streets would sometimes glance awkwardly, or quickly turn their heads as they realized they were staring. Even if my condition wasn't visible, my uniform was. Even if it weren't, I was still different. I took seventeen pills a day, morning, midday and night. My scar, though hidden behind clothing, was still a permanent mark of my condition. And most of all, there was the very real possibility of death. A bad fall. An absentminded hard hit on the back. A simple sprint taken too far. Anything could have set my heart off, and several times I teetered on the edge of the abyss even with all the care I took of myself."
NARRATOR: "But that was fine. I could have lived with all that. Because there was one final thing I'd found, or rather refound, after entering Yamaku. Which was once again snatched away before my eyes. It's only now that I realize just how delicate my newfound sense of happiness was. Everything depended on her, the linchpin of my life since I first entered Yamaku as a sullen, confused and aimless transfer student. Lilly Satou was the one person I could depend upon above all others, and who reciprocated the love that I felt for her. But I failed her, and only realized it all too late. I thought that I could just set my life up and continue that way forever, but the real world doesn't work like that. I finally realized the meaning of those words, only to be struck down as I confronted my failure to do so in time."
NARRATOR: "The surroundings I'm in now are all too familiar. It's as if Yamaku was but a dream, and I'm still recovering from my first major heart attack. Maybe that's why I feel so tired. It feels almost as if I've lived the entire last few months of my life in the space of minutes. The weight of my eyelids closes my eyes, my physical and mental exhaustion letting me offer no resistance. Unintelligible mumbling from ahead of the bed stirs me out of my sleep. With my eyes still closed, I can focus and make out someone, presumably a nurse, bidding farewell to a doctor. As I open my eyes, I notice the door closing in my peripheral vision. The doctor stands reading some notes off a clipboard held in his hand, carefully looking over the pages. After consulting his obviously very important documents, he looks up and notices my gaze. It's now that I notice something slightly odd about his expression and general disposition, but I can't quite put my finger on it."
DOCTOR: "Ah, I see you're awake... Mr. Nakai."
NARRATOR: "His quick glance to my bed end, to verify my name, shows that his documents obviously didn't have it written on them."
DOCTOR: "I must admit this is a bit unfortunate; your parents visited just earlier while you were asleep. I could notify them you're awake now, if you'd like."
HISAO: "Um... thanks. That would be good."
NARRATOR: "I give a somewhat dazed reply, most likely the one he'd expect, before really thinking about what I'm saying."
DOCTOR: "Not a problem. If you have any questions you'd like to ask, I'll be happy to answer them. That is, unless you'd prefer to rest; the anaesthetic's still going to be affecting you a bit, I'm afraid."
NARRATOR: "The anaesthetic... of course. That'd be why I felt so strange the first time I woke up. I slowly shake my head, not wanting to dislodge any pipes or cause myself any more discomfort than necessary. The doctor politely puts down his clipboard in response."
HISAO: "I guess my main question is... what exactly happened?"
DOCTOR: "To put it simply, you've unfortunately had another heart attack. While not as severe as your first, you were very lucky it occurred so close to a hospital. After being stabilized, you were taken to the operating room. What followed was keyhole surgery in order to insert a temporary pacemaker. All in all, the incident happened two days ago, with emergency treatment being carried out very soon afterward. Since then, we've kept you under close observation while you were asleep."
HISAO: "Will I be all right? Are there any lasting problems?"
DOCTOR: "Compared to the procedure carried out for your first heart attack, this was relatively minor. While you will have to undergo surgery once more in a few days' time to remove the pacemaker, assuming there are no complications, there should be no lasting implications."
NARRATOR: "He continues talking, the subject shifting to a repetition of facts about arrhythmia and my medications that I already know for the most part. I start to nod and feign interest, while my mind drifts. I begin to think about how perfectly hung the inoffensive painting hanging on the wall behind his shoulder is, and how neat and sterile the surroundings are, even including the doctor himself."
DOCTOR: "If my mumbling bores you, you are quite welcome to say so, Mr. Nakai. Lord knows, I lose track of myself sometimes."
NARRATOR: "He gives a short chuckle at his self-deprecating joke as I grimace awkwardly, having been rather badly caught out. The doctor's chuckle sounds different from that of the nurse at Yamaku though, come to think of it. As I ponder why, I realize why the man in front of me feels just that little bit “off”. His smile is neat and sterile. He delivers his little joke perfectly, with a customary inoffensive chuckle. It is like, rather than talking to the man whose name is neatly printed on the nametag pinned to his lab coat, I'm merely interacting with an actor reading off a prerehearsed script, every action having been choreographed beforehand."
NARRATOR: "I suppose he has to be this way though, being a doctor. He has to keep his neat and sterile smile when chatting to the girl with cancer slowly spreading through her body, when reassuring the woman who'll surely die from childbirth, and with every other terminally and critically ill patient. That little bit of distance. That little bit of aloofness. It makes me wonder if I've been too harsh, especially considering it's a disposition far from being adopted only by people in his profession. After all, the one I loved kept that same distance from others herself. Looking up to the doctor again, I realize I've been in thought with my head bowed for some time."
DOCTOR: "I understand you must still be tired. You've been through a lot, and as I mentioned before, the anaesthetic would still be affecting you. If you don't mind, I'll let you get some rest and tell your parents you've woken up for you."
HISAO: "I think... that would be good. Thank you."
NARRATOR: "He gives a curt nod before picking up his clipboard and making his way to the large white door in the corner of the room, closing it behind him with a thud. In the end, I'm alone again. Lilly's gone. Akira's gone. Hanako would be traveling, and even my parents have already left the hospital. Four pale peach walls, one white ceiling, and a single open window to look out towards the world outside. It's hard to think of the future when the past is crowded around you, claustrophobic in its neat, sterile, starchy, bleach-smelling grip. Lost for what to do or focus on, I content myself with sleeping the time away as if this were all just another dream like Yamaku had been."
Next Scene: Under a Bright Sky