I HAVE NO DA–

THERE'S NO ONE IN THE PI–

UGHTER

CTURE

Water splashes into my shoes, soaking the socks underneath. The cold rush sends jolts up my aching leg. I'm shaking so much, I can't stop. No matter what I do, I can't stop shaking, and more water goes into my shoes, freezing my toes, making me feel so cold.

LOOK AT HER!

SHE'S RIGHT THERE!

WHY?

Hano is gone, I realize. No one can see her except me. That's an absolute truth.

I stop running. My limbs feel weak and I collapse against a cement wall. An empty feeling blossoms in my chest as one by one, my head is battered with truths.

No one can see Hano but me.

The Black Box is real.

I am a liar.

The look in their eyes was fear.

I–

I scream as a pulsing pain cracks through my skull. CENSORED. CENSORED. CENSORED.

"I don't WANT LIES. I WANT TRUTH!" I shout, crying hysterically. I punch the wall, the skin on my knuckles breaking, the dribbles of blood turning my hand red. But I don't care. This is something real. This is something that I know. Something that can't lie.

My fist has stopped. I didn't know it, but it had stopped after it started to bleed. I scrape my knuckles against the jagged wall and let it fall into my pocket. The papers, the answers, are once again in my fingers.

I rip them apart, screaming, and throw them into the water. YOU'RE NOT AN ANSWER.

Rain continues to fall on me, like a scene for a fallen warrior.

But I'm not a warrior. Just fallen.

Thunder rumbles in the sky, but no lightning comes. No flash. I stand there as my breathing relaxes and the pulsing in my head stops.

I thought I had pulled the curtains away. I thought I had finally found what I am, who I will be.

No. This is not what I wanted to be. I had pressed the curtains together, sewing them too tight.

How could I ever open them again?


Hours. Days. Nights.

I don't know how long I walked. Or where I was going. I simply walked. The blood had long dried, then dripped away with the rain on my face. The pain in my leg had calmed into a dull throb, so that I could walk instead of dragging. But I didn't care. I let it drag and limped through the flooded streets.

Streetlights began to turn on, casting an insipid glow. The rain melded with the glows, turning into gray sprays. And I was stained with the grays, turning me monotone, with nothing else to cling to.

Colorless.

In the dark mist, something unnatural appeared.

Something I hadn't expected...something that shouldn't have been there.

An umbrella.

I stare at it, because it's one of those umbrella you use in the sun or at the beach. A little ragged on the edges, its polka dotted layers provide a circle of shelter from the merciless storm. I step into it hesitantly, grabbing up what nerve I have left as my clothes start to drip. Several chairs are under the umbrella, surrounding a small round table. A gas burner sits atop of it, red in color with gritty grills.

I sank slowly onto one of the chairs. Just as slowly, I felt the rain in my clothes soak onto my skin.

I don't know how long I sat there. Or why I was sitting there. I simply sat.

At first, my head was a jumble; so many things had been going through it that I could only see flashes. And these flashes rushed past me, bringing more flashes, until it was just one entire white scene. I didn't want to see white, so I tried to turn it off, and just like that, there was nothing. It all vanished.

And before I knew it, I had been sitting there for so long that my clothes had stiffened, although the rain was still going. The umbrella really did work well. Not even the outermost chair was the slightest bit wet, although parts of the ground were pockmarked with drops.

"Move your hand, if you're not for burning."

I reflexively snatch my hand away, just as the gas burner lights up with an explosion of flames. The pile of heat gently softens and falls in amongst itself. A heavy, blackened kettle falls onto the grills, hissing as the moisture on its bottom burn up.

"Don't worry much. Most of the water's from the rain, but I reckon the bacteria and such will burn up with the heat. We'll cook it a bit longer, just to make sure."

The old man smiles at me, showing his cracked teeth. I smile hesitantly back at him, but stop as my lips reach a curve; the sinking feeling just returns and makes things a whole lot worse.

Sighing a little, the old man sits down on a chair, stretching his arms as he does so. I think he's homeless, because he's wearing very ragged clothes and has the distinct smell of congealing body odor. His face is covered with random patches of hair, along with a cheap hat that is pretty much just weak, thin fabric. He sticks a hand out and takes a palmful of rain, which he rubs on his gnarled fingers.

"Haven't washed up in a while," remarks the old man, starting on his ears. "After a while, you get used to the smell and no one's there to tell you that you stink. Plus, you sort of get tired of washing or looking for something to wash with."

I look away, feeling as if my stare is pitying him, when really, I'm not. Because, how can I pity anyone? With what I've done, with what I'm still doing?

For the next several moments, all I heard was the tinkle of water, as the man washed his face, his hands again, and then dabbed a little on his hair. He sniffed and wiped his nose carefully, flicking what came out into the air, then washing his hands again. I didn't dare look at him, in case something showed on my expression. A bubbling started to rise from the kettle, beating into a melodic rhythm.

"You favor a color?" asks the old man, as he takes out a bunch of cups from his stinking coat. "Don't worry, I take good care to clean 'round and in my inner pockets. Course, if you're still a bit paranoid, I'll give it a good wash in the rain. Course, that'd probably be worse than hanging in my coat for weeks."

I pick a white cup with orange trimmings and he gives it a nice rub, until the brittle plastic squeaks. Steam pours out of the kettle all of a sudden, as if someone turned on a machine inside it. The bubbling is almost chaotic sounding now, ramming at the walls that surround it.

It sounds all too familiar.

The old man takes the kettle and pours a little in my cup. Then, he puts it back to heat up some more, while he swirls the water around and around. Then, he tosses it out and puts the cup back into my hand.

"Nice and sanitary, for you," says the old man, pouring hot water liberally now. "No tea or nothing. Just good ol water for a good old night, eh? Ah, guess I better turn this off."

I don't say anything. He pours a cup for himself after turning the burner off, and takes a loud slurp. I take the cup into my hands, feeling the climbing warmth. Soon, it reaches a painful level, but I keep my hands there, knowing I have control. I'm choosing to keep it there.

Suddenly, the cup isn't in my hand anymore. I look down at it, rolling around underneath me, my scalded hands trembling.

"Ah, that's a shame. Put that one over here, I'll take it. Here, ya go. Red one for ya. I'll just make it nice and clean for you."

The man repeats his cleansing process with a new cup, which he gives me, filled three-quarters of the way. As I take it, he says to me," You shouldn't hold it for so long. You'll burn yourself."

I nod, but hold the cup anyways. I lost it. My sense. Steam caresses my face, and I suddenly feel sleepy. A rebellious feeling rises in me, saying stay awake. It makes me take the cup and gulp it all down.

The old man just watches as I burn my throat, but he does help me gulp cool rainwater after. Pouring me another cup, exactly three-quarters of the way, the old man then proceeds to hold his cup out, one index finger holding the looped grip.

"C'mon, I guess I better show you how to drink properly. Now, you can do it this way, if you got the finger strength, but you should take it in both hands. Try to use the edges of your palm. Don't burn your fingers now. Take a small sip and just savor it." He drinks noisily.

I lift the cup to my lips and let the water dribble into my mouth. The heat races in, stinging me in the beginning, so that I immediately pull back. I blow on it softly, then take another sip. The cooled heat rests on my tongue, curling up into a comfort.

"Feels good eh?"

I nod, more truthfully this time.

"Nothing like feeling warm and listening to the sound of cold rain," says the old man, leaning back on his chair. "With me stuck between two opposites. You know?"

What's he saying? I don't understand him. I shrug absently and take another drink.

"I bet you're waiting, aren't you kid? Waiting for me to ask you how the hell you got so beat up?" asks the old man, his tone brusque, but light. He laughs hoarsely, his jumbled teeth shaking.

I don't answer. He stops laughing after a while, but his smile never leaves his face.

"Don't worry kid. I'm not going to ask. To me, I think strangers are the best kind of company. You can tell them whatever you want, do whatever you want, and in the end, they go away without a care. I don't have to fret over opinon, I don't have to try too hard. Nope, I don't have to do nothing, cause I'm not going to see them ever again."'

I stay silent. Strangers?

"I wouldn't know. I never talk to strangers."

"That's a shame. Real shame."

"No. It's not," I say, feeling rebellious again.

"Heh. I wouldn't know. I'm not you, am I?"

"Yeah," I say suddenly. "You're not."

"That's right. But, I'm a stranger to you right now. So, why can't I tell you nothing?"

"Why don't you tell me?" I say angrily. He's talking about nothing. Just like those morons online. Just like my parents. Just like Yui. Just like everyone else.

"Say. That's a good question," he notes, a truly confused look in his eye.

A silence buffets onto us for a while after that. We sip and refill, then sip some more. The rain doesn't let up a bit, but now I can sort of see what the old man is talking about. The noise of the rain is so varied, with so many different sounds, but it seems to repeat over and over. Complex and simple at once, something entrancing.


A white landscape stretching beyond what the eye can see. I gaze at it glumly, almost in boredom. It is all too familiar.

The black box is there, in front of me.

It stands there, taller than ever, with those blurred words on its front, and its whole existence seems to mock me.

But strangely, I don't feel any anger for it anymore. I walk towards it calmly, feeling my boredom changing not to rage, but to...

Nothing.

"We are strangers," I say, touching its black surface. The blurred words ripple and the black box creaks. It starts to sink, slowly into the white, until the final drop of it vanishes.

I stare at the rippling ground. My knees bend and I find myself touching the ripples, feeling them underneath my fingers. Something...there's something I want to know.

A deafening boom echoes around me as black walls crash out of the ground, encasing me once again. I look at the polished mirrors, holding truth behind it. I touch the black glass and it flashes, hundreds of decaying corpses behind it, screaming the same thing.

Look at me.

"I am...I am seeing you," I say quietly, keeping my hand on the glass, so that the blackness does not return. But, the longer I look at them, the more distant their eyes feel, as if they are turning away from me. What light they have trails away, leaving behind truly dead corpses.

"Wait...wait! I want to...see," I say, feeling desperation well inside me. "PLEASE!"

The glass shatters under my hand, but nothing comes out. Instead, the walls release me from their prison, sinking into the white again. I reach out for them, my hands scrabbling to hold onto a bit of black. But they slip out of my fingers, teasing, saying no. And they all go away, just as the black box.

What do you want from me?

Why can't I do anything?

Must I do nothing?

I sit there sniffling, but not crying. Because they're not telling me anything. I don't get it.

Why does everyone tell me nothing?

I bend my head and try to quell the questions, but they come out anyways, just as painful. But they have no form. They drift away, just as quickly as they appeared.

"William."

A hand is in my face. I look at it, feeling warmth from it. An offering of something I don't know. I look up and see Hano, smiling at me. Shaking, I take her hand and she lifts me up, with unexpected strength.

"William!" she shouts ecstatically, as I lift into the air, flying away from her. I try to reach for her, to say something, but I stop. I let the world take me away, from Hano and the white place, breaking me from my trepidation.

And I find myself doing the one thing I had tried to run away from.

Nothing.


When I wake up, the rain is still going, although it has dwindled into a sprinkle. I rub my eyes tiredly and look over at the old man, but he is gone. Instead, where he is sitting is a black umbrella, torn in several places. I get up and look around for him, but I cannot find him.

I take the umbrella and open it, creating my own dry circle, that I can drag around. I take a step forward and realize what I have to do.

I have to get home.

As I start to walk, the thoughts of where is your home and how do we get there are swallowed by a strange idleness. As if I'm stuck between two things with equal force that I have no control of.

I stop and turn around, now understanding. But, when I turn, there is no table anymore. No umbrella. No chairs.

Instead, a wall looks back at me.

I stand there, confused, utterly confused. But as I begin to take note of my surroundings, I find where I am.

I'm in my neighborhood. Back home.

The umbrella is still in my hand, giving me shelter from the rain. I take it and rest it on the wall, knowing someone else will need it. And I can see in my mind, the old man still standing in the rain, holding that heavy kettle to the sky. Soaking it with an undeniable force.


When I get back home, the door is unlocked. I enter, expecting my parents to be there, to fret over where I have been.

But my mother is in the kitchen and my father is watching television.

I look at the clock and find that it is hardly eight. I take off my shoes just as my mom says,"Oh, William. Are you back?"

"Yes. I'm home," I say, going up the stairs. There's no questioning. No attack on me for coming so late.

I take off my wet clothes and stick them in the laundry bin. I take a quick shower, rubbing away the little blood left on me. As I inspect my lip, I find that the cold rain had kept the swelling to a minimum. I brush my teeth and use the bathroom, then go out.

I just feel weary.

I open the door to my room, shock crawling up my spine before settling down.

Oh. Of course. She had been reading.

Hano is sleeping on my bed, curled up like a cat. The book Fairy Tales is lying next to her, opened. I walk over and start to put the book away when I see the story.

The Story of a Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was

I put the book away, a thought lingering in my head. I adjusted Hano so she did not wake up sore, and pulled the blanket tight over her little neck. She snored softly, perhaps because of a bit of congestion. I would have to give her some medicine tomorrow, just to be safe.

Knock knock.

I turn my head towards the door, my heart beating fast from surprise.

"Come in."

My dad enters the room, looking haggard as always, but jovial in a way.

"Hey, not sleeping yet?" he asks, closing the door behind him.

I mumble something that sounds like a no and he comes and sits next to me. We just sit there for a bit, and I grow more and more uncomfortable. It's like a pressure...almost like the noisefeeling in the dark...but a different kind. I just sit and look at my hands and my dad doesn't do anything either. I look at him and he looks at me, as if waiting for a cue. And I understand all of a sudden. He's waiting too. Like me.

Well he shouldn't. Parents are supposed to take the lead. Right? I look back down at my hands and feel the pressure go away, meaning my dad has turned his head too. No. Parents are just older kids.

"Hey, dad?"

"Yeah?" he asks, a little fast.

"If...you met a runaway child...what would you do?" I ask, voicing the thought in my head.

"Take her back, of course,"he says, faster than last time. I stare at him glumly.

"I mean what would you really do. Don't tell me what you should do."

My dad stops at that. He stops and suddenly, he looks unsure. And it makes me feel sad for him, so tired and unsure. He sighs really hard and relaxes into the bed, his eyes closed.

"I'd take care of him," he says, looking at my ceiling."Or her."

"Why?"

"Because. There's a reason a kid runs away. And usually, it's a good reason. It's hard to believe...but adults sometimes don't take a kid's perspective," my dad says. He glances at me and smiles."Or maybe we can't admit that our perspective is just wrong. Truth is...I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if my parents felt like this. Not knowing everything but stumbling along like a child." He gives another sigh and touches his forehead."I mean, I don't want you to not trust me...but I make mistakes. You know."

"Yeah. I do," I say quietly. I know.

"Everyone does," continues my dad, his fingers still tapping on his head. And you can tell he's feeling uneasy,confiding in me like this. I look at him and feel something like gratitude. He had never revealed his burdens to me. Hints maybe...but never full out. And not many parents did, in my experience. They thought they were different.

Isn't that what I felt? I'm different from Hano? She's a child...one that can't be seen too. Is she so different from me? I keep sitting there, looking at my hands, but my head is showing me the images of Hano smiling, looking sad, making mistakes, telling me about herself. Her invisibility to mine.

Is it ok for me to take what I want from her?

If she doesn't want me to know about her, is it still ok to try?

If she hasn't told me...do I need to know?

And I find out that I did care. Whether or not I didn't before, now I did. I wanted her to be happy. I laugh to myself, thinking I had done all those things tonight...only to have my dad come out and tell me a real answer. I lay down on the bed, feeling Hano's hand next to my ear.

"Are you ok? You came pretty late," notes my dad. "Where'd you go?"

"I went for a walk. Just to clear my head," I say, truthfully. We stop talking after that, but my dad seems to understand. He gets up after a bit, then goes out, saying he's going to sleep. I say good night, then sit there for a little while longer.

It's hard. Life that is.

I get up and turn off the lights, crawling into bed next to Hano. I wrap my arm around her, feeling her warm breath against my cheek. And I feel a strange feeling stir in my heart. I pat her again on the head and she murmurs gibberish onto my face. I give her a quick hug, then turn away.

As I start to fall asleep, the light from outside streams in from the window. It covers just me and Hano, as if protecting us. A maternal glow. And I stare back at it, thinking.

It's too late for a half-blue.


Free will, as defined by present terms, is the theological concept of choice. The debate is whether we as humans have choice or whether our actions are predetermined by some higher level of being.

Free will exists only as long as there are options, and as such, free will will continue to exist, for options are held before us, favorable or unfavorable, in any which way, as our conscious and surroundings allows us to interconnect various options for various problems. Rather they be logical or illogical is another story.

I stood in a strange place. I had come to many places, but none had looked like this. I can't describe what it's like, because there's no frame of reference. Everything is so different, so...not used to. To explain, I'd have to make up words. Or find lost words.

As I travel in this place, I see something familiar at last. Or something I can recognize. It twirls in this place, acting as a catalyst, or a center, or perhaps it is the place.

Looking at it, I start to remember what I had started to lose.

As it circled with everlasting motion, I saw this thing that could not run out and I knew what it was.

It was determination. A resolve. A call for action.

To get something, you had to work for it. That's what people have been told. That's what I've been told. And I saw now, the truth of it.

How a person can work at something his entire life, filling himself with experiences and thoughts.

How a person can keep something his entire life, hiding it underneath scarves and scarves of material, just to see it for themselves.

I continued to orbit around the center, feeling something coming closer and closer.

It was not the black box anymore.

Nor was it Hano, coming to save me again.

It was not Yui, with her strange halfness, her worry and her ignorance.

It was not my parents, with their own secrets, that they do not reveal in their hopes of comfort.

It was not Hano's parents, those who have forgotten the secrets they should have kept.

It was not Raquelia, the heroine who had entertained me for so long, that I cannot remember when I had learned of her existence.

It was not Ise Keiko, the cold girl who saw through my lies, then gave half-truths of her own.

It was not the official at Fuyu, who had weakened himself to the point that he could no longer stand on his own, instead adhering to regulations blindly.

It was not the old man, who had guided me back on my trail, whilst staying a stranger to me.

It was the figure, that had so long ago touched my face, pulling me away from the burning red sea that had suffocated me. It turned to me, so that I could see its visage clearly.

And I saw a blur.

I laughed then. The laugh came from deep in my belly, as if it had been hiding there for so long. I laughed and laughed and I couldn't stop. My hands found themselves clutching my sides and tears were streaming out of my eyes. It was delirious, this happiness, this psychotic joy. And I kept on laughing, falling down onto wherever I was, still holding my shaking body. I gasped for air, but the laughter pierced through, resounding loudly in this empty place. And the figure looked down at me, chuckling silently.

Then, the figure put its hand to me. I tried to control myself, but I couldn't and the figure had to wait. But soon enough, I felt all the butterflies come out, and I could grasp its hand. The figure pulled me up, strong and powerful, then looked me right in the eye. We stood facing each other, equal in every aspect. And I put my hand out to it, shaking its grip tightly.

"Good day, stranger. It has been nice spending time with you," I say to it. It nods at me, then bows its head. And bit by bit, the figure dissolves, pieces of itself tearing away and floating away into the center. I turn to it as bit by bit, the center starts to take form.

An enormous twine of black, multiple strips coiled against each other, stretching to the infinite beyond.

I walk to it, step by step, and place my hand on its rough texture. And the black wire pulses, as if saying to me Good day.

"It's time we depart," I say cheerfully. The place goes quiet for several minutes. Then, one by one, the strips of twine fall apart, crashing onto the now colorless ground, like heavy trees. I wait as each one peels away, until only one faint wire is left.

And I touch this one, sending a wave of red through it, so that the colorless land is filled with a vibrant scarlet.

I pull the wire away, looping it in my fingers, and watch as it floats down into my hands. And from the top, the burning red sea tumbles down, drowning me again in its expansive torrents. But I do not struggle this time. I do not go against it.

The water does not take away my breath. Instead, as I smile, the water blooms into a beautiful blue, turning into the sea and the sky. I feel the cool wind against my face as the water recedes, washing through my clothes, then my ankles, and finally setting at my feet.

Soft sunlight touches my face and I can now look at it, without fear of being blinded. My toes curl against the refreshing ocean, gritty sand underneath.

I knew you black wire. But I knew you too much. Therefore, I will put you away, just for a little bit. I need to travel with the red wire again, just a little bit. Hano is still a stranger to me, but I accept that. I'm sorry, but I want to live.

To live and only to live.

I take off my glasses and rub them with my shirt. Then, I drop them onto the sand, walking back into the water. And all that was left was the shallow footprints of a human being.


A/N: Well, this is the end of Black Wire, for now. There is a second part planned, but I don't have the motivation to go through with it right now. As you can see, I sort of waned off at the end, because I wanted to fit so much in. Hopefully, this will be explained more when I come back to it. But for now, say hello to a good old Hiatus.

-Penlifter.