Chapter 1 - Nightmare

Fate

Falling into the nothingness,
It's just a world of darkness.
Craving for the happiness,
Trying to forget all the sadness.

How come life's such a pain?
What is there to gain?
Where's the rainbow after the rain?
When will life change again?
~Ger.

Yumi fumbled for her spectacles, then sat up and leaned against the wall, gasping, once again awakened by her nightmare. That dream that haunted her every night, it was of a vast empty land with souls that were distantly friendly and the shining pink blossom tree of hope and comfort disappearing upon her arrival. She looked around, it was pitched dark other than the minimal amount of street light from the street lamp shining through the curtains, no one seemed to be awake. Everyone was seemingly sounded asleep, undisturbed by their dreams. At that moment, an empty feeling started to eat into her as she watched her friends' serene faces facing her. I'm all alone in pain again.

Hope for a peaceful night used to be broken by that nightmare that had haunted her since her tenth birthday, when everyone was split into different classes. Being casted out of a warm and friendly class, she entered a new class where none of her friends were in. The cold shoulders and sarcastic comments that she had to face and endure since then, had her faith and hope in making a friend seem like a distant dream fading away.

Life which used to be a bed of roses became a bed of pricks instantly, causing her to bleed inwardly. There was nothing she could do with the single frail voice of hers. All that could be done was to tolerate and accept, to take in and eat up. It was no longer a matter of right or wrong, nor was it a matter of pride or dignity, it was a matter of stepping back or getting more hurled your way. With that, she could only abide to life's bitter pill, and watch the last bit of pride peter out under the constant exposure of gamma rays (a kind of ray that is more harmful than X-ray)emitted by Elanor, her classmate.

"Walls have ears..." A raspy voice whispered from the darkness without warning causing her to jump a little."Walls have ears..." it repeated, as other voices echoed it, engraving its words into her heart, burning a hole through.

"Shut up!" She muttered, covering her ears in hope that the voice would fade away into the nothingness.

It did nothing to help the situation, and instead, tears started welling up behind her lids as she hugged her legs to cover up her tear-streaked face, though obviously no one was looking. She was at a corner of the room, unnoticed by her other friends. Without someone to lend an arm of comfort, she felt like a lost soul, afraid and alone. You've been alone all this time, it's only normal that no one lends you a shoulder to lean against.

She huddled closer to the cold wall, hoping to blend into wall and disappear forever. Though it had only been two years, the pain clung onto her for six years, refusing to let go. The excruciating agony disappeared after some time, but it was soon replaced by the endless emptiness she would experience every time she felt alone or left out, it was as if sorrow had mutated from bad to worse under the constant manifestation of such a strong radiation.

Though it was supposed to be an occasion to celebrate the end of the year together, to remember each other and to talk about past activities that they had as a class, it only seemed to bring back unwanted memories. The chalet only reminded her of those four years of struggle, in which she was desperately trying The start of a drastic change in life, it was as if her life had taken on a roller coaster at ninety degree drop from a great height, a tough struggle it was to catch up with the change.

Life was not made better when Elanor decided to spread rumours about her to her already dying circle. From a bright girl who would smile cheerful whenever she met someone, she became a loner who would visit no other places than the library, sit at a corner and disappear into the fictional world of words. Sometimes, when the bell rings, she would be yanked out of her fabricated perfect world by the librarian and would have to leave for class for the remaining dismal hours of school.

Soon after, days became longer as majors were around the corner and the school was

Lunch was not any better, she would sit alone at one end of the canteen, hoping to be unseen and unheard by all the others, so that she could have at least a peaceful lunch. Nevertheless, Elanor would just have to appear out of the thin air to make her already miserable life execrable, topping it off with an acerbic remark, piercing an arrow through her frail being, causing it to bleed and weaken.

Her presence became zero, and every day of school was trepidation. From a bright and cheerful girl, the days of schooling drone such intensive pain and fear into her, that an introvert was born when she entered a new school. With the fear of being discriminated etched deep within her, she dare not stand up and be heard. Afraid of being prejudiced by her class, afraid of history repeating itself, she kept herself behind a wall of security, ensuring that no one knew her too well or was too close to her.

However, a pang of jealousy would often hit her hard when she watch her friends gather and chat. She only wished for a single friend who whom she could confine in, and open up to, besides the tree which was reduced to a miserable stump. She hated bottling up her emotions and thoughts, but she realized to her dismay that her ability to make friends had dissolved. It dawned on her that the Yumi she was touching, the Yumi she was looking at, was just an empty shell without any hope, despair, worry, or fear; it was just an endless void of nothingness, and she had changed, and mutated into a totally different being. The cheerful and optimistic Yumi was diming into history; she was no longer the Yumi she was before, or the Yumi she knew. Do I know myself anymore?

Though the tree in which she used to confine in had been reduced to a stump, though the shade where she could hide behind was gone, though the birds that would often sit on the branch and sweetly chirp had left, yet she would frequently visit and allow the gentle breeze and soothing smell of nature calm her. She could feel the presence of the tree and its fellow little companions each time she sat beside the stump of the tree. Though she knew it would no longer grow, yet she never sat on it for the tree was a friend she held deep respect and love for, it was a tree that brought her hope, a tree that was there for her whenever she needed it.

Whenever she closed her eyes, an image of the tree and its branches, its leaves and some flowers, and birds which would merrily sing would appear instantly in her mind, reviving the comfort it brought to her. The constant efforts put in to keep a steady appearance made it seem as if she was bored about all the games others were playing. She would often bring a book to disappear into, just to avoid jealousy and loneliness would not surface and cause her to breakdown.

Soon, the final year exams came, she thought the tormenting teasing would stop temporarily, but things did not change for the better or end. After the first day of exams, when everyone was streaming out of the school hall, she realized that her bag was emptied and books were scattered all around. Elanor watched in pure pleasure as Yumi picked up her books one by one and loading them into her bag.

"Yumi~ so sad, others have all left, but you're still here cleaning up after your mess! You're so pitiful!" Elanor shook her head in disgust as she gave the arrogant comment before turning and walking away with her friends.

Though offended, she chose to take in the harsh comments. That was the last straw which broke the camel's back, from then on she locked herself in a glass bottle, and kept everyone at an arm's length. She had enough of the pain, and it was going to end in just a few weeks time. Many a times, she would convince herself that the pain would end in a few more weeks. I'll proof that you may be looked down upon me now, but I'll stand out the most at the end of the day.

Her hard work and determination paid off as the results for the final year exams was released. She topped her class easily, with an aggregate of five marks higher than the second position. News travelled fast and no sooner, the whole class new about it. It came as a great surprise to many as Yumi was known to be mediocre in academics and no one had expected her to top the class. Doubts of the truth caused her to be the topic of discussions in her class.

This achievement brought about a temporary change of attitude among her classmates, and it seemed as if she was an overnight star. From an unknown weakling condemned by surrounding friends, she instantly became a millionaire film star, hardly having a fraction of peace and silence. Finally able to step from behind the shadows to join in the fun that she used to only be able watch, she could taste the warmth of the class.

She also received several cards from her classmates, congratulating her on her academic achievements. These friendly petite gestures that they thought as nothing, actually touched her heart. Though she could still feel a distinct barrier surrounding her, restricting her from immersing herself entirely into the joyful atmosphere, with the genial faces of her new friends, gratitude accumulated within her. Slowly, it grew, and by the day of the graduation ceremony, which was a month away from the last day of school, pain of parting stung her badly as tears streamed down her checks. After all, I actually do want this day to stay… I actually do want this life to continue… I actually do want to remain in this class. I actually do…

"Come join us in this game of Uno!" Aiko's voice rang in her head, the image of her snapping my book close and pulling me over to join her circle of friends. "Yeah, join us… Come join us!" Other familiar voices reiterated, breathing warmth into her. At that moment, she felt that life had returned to normal for real, and it would last forever. She thought the remaining days of school would no longer be a dreary routine, but it was obviously not the case.

She realized that joining the circle was not all as easy as it seemed, one had to face up with reality, and those people would do anything to demerit the loner as much as they can verbally. It was a torture for Yumi to see that she had caused Cheryl to become a loner, and yet she still had to pull others' impression of Cheryl down to negative. Each time she denigrated her, a string sewn to mend her heart would snap, and her pulse would quicken. Please ignore what I've just said. Forgive me, please forgive me. The plea for forgiveness would vibrate through her bones, as thoughts of being an enemy of the victim consumed her. She would then comfort herself, A loner for a loner, at least it's not me.

Watching the loner who was now taking over her role, she really hoped to recruit her into the circle, as she knew the feeling of being an outcast. However, to keep the minimal amount of friendship between she and her new friends, she had to act oblivious to the presence of the loner and hostile whenever she met her, when in actual fact, she did want to acknowledge her presence and invite her over to join her.

Been there done that, she could only stand it for two weeks. "She's so easy." Elanor quipped. She could remember the air in her tone, and the overflowing pride she seemed to hold.

That was the last straw which broke the camel's back, "Have you had enough of bullying? Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of the victim? What if you are the victim one day?" Yumi hollered at her with fury coursing through her veins.

"Oh, so you've not changed I guess? Still the same old Yumi from the gang of loners?" She replied with an acrimonious tone that sent creeps down Yumi's spine.

That marked the end of her strained relationship with the bully of the class. She have had enough, and she was not about to give up her rights in life just to accommodate to such a ruthless and proud person which irked her. Being a loner felt a lot better than bad-mouthing another classmate who was going through what she had gone through. A few days later, they made a pact, to be best friends forever and never to forget one another. The first time loosening her wall of security and allowing herself to take in a deep breath of fresh air, Yumi thought life was really going to change and that she was going to have a friend to hang around with for the rest of her life.

How naive it was for her to believe so! Like a bubble it was, their friendship popped with just a light touch by Elanor. "Hey Cheryl, come join us! Leave Yumi alone, she's stupid, there's no point hanging around with her." The tremendous efforts she had put in to that only friendship amount to nothing with just those words of Elanor that shot numerous arrows through her mending heart, tearing it once again.

You just know when to interfere don't you? You just want to see when I get admitted to a mental asylum right? But I'll show you that this will all get back to you one day. Unfortunately, you don't get to bully others all your life. She thought hotly, taking her seat and drowning her anger and sorrow with mouth after mouth of water.