The faintest amount of light made its way through the curtains of Kei’s dorm bedroom, slightly enabling one to view his slouched form sleeping upon his desk. His room was dull and void of anything that signifies his personality or likes, and it was only filled with the basic furniture and occasional college requirements that a student would need.
The only sound that resonated in that empty room were the soft and steady breaths that came from Kei’s slightly parted mouth. The silence was the perfect lullaby for Kei to fall asleep.
Such serenity was interrupted when the most annoying beeping erupted from Kei’s alarm clock, shocking him out of rest from the sudden noise. Kei breathed in and out and turned his head with wide eyes at the clock.
It was already 6:30. Kei groaned and rubbed his cheek groggily. He reached out with his other hand to turn off the machine. He needed more rest having slept at 3AM, but that wasn’t something that was really given to you during college. Kei used whatever will he had to sit up from his desk and go into the bathroom to get a shower.
Looking back at his reflection was a young man named Tokishima Kei. A psychology major in college, already in his second year. He was still nineteen years in age, but that didn’t stop the burdens of life to weigh upon him. He knew very well what this world had in store for its inhabitants. It was a plan not too merciful for humans.
His messy uncut hair brushed against his shoulders, its dark locks tangled into each other, and his midnight eyes faded away above the dark bags that resided underneath. If one didn’t know any better, they would think that he was the exact spitting image of a walking corpse… but wasn’t everyone like that nowadays?
Kei wasn’t like everyone, though.
His past wasn’t something that everyone was comfortable talking about, no matter how many times Kei had told them that it was alright. It was time to move on from it. No point in crying over spilled milk, you know? Even though he repeated this to himself every time it came back to him, for some reason it never decided to leave him be.
Soft arms slipped around him from behind, and then he could hear a voice that was engraved within his mind, “Good morning, Kei!” such a bubbly voice.
Kei shivered at her cold touch, but nonetheless kept his eyes locked onto his small sink. Slowly, the embrace was broken when he continued to make his way towards the bathtub slash shower. He had to ignore it.
Just ignore it. Ignore it. Where were his pills? Kei paused to scramble around through his mirror cabinet for the medication, and found it behind a bunch of other medical drugs. Quickly, he grabbed it and closed the cabinet only to see her in the reflection.
A 16-year-old girl stood behind him with a frown on her pretty pink lips, and a fading gleam in her bright brown eyes. She used her petite hands to tuck a strand of her short dark hair behind her ear in one graceful motion, the rest of it falling onto her left eye like bangs. Her hair was uneven, as if she had cut it herself without the use of a mirror.
A painful ache went through his heart, making Kei place his palm onto the area softly. Deep breaths. In. Out. Open the bottle.
“Are you going to drink those again?” the sound of her voice slipped through her lips like the silk dress that she wore upon her skin, and Kei had to hold in the sob that was building up within his throat.
In uncoordinated movements, he took the glass on the sink, filled it with water, and took one pill from within the bottle.
Kei saw her hand fall onto his arm, and then her worried eyes came within his field of vision, “These things aren’t good for you, Kei. You shouldn’t drink them.”
He didn’t listen to her. He swallowed the pill in one go while shutting his eyes. He felt the usual compress of the small object making its way down his throat, but the uncomfortable feeling had only lasted for a moment. Kei waited for a few more minutes to open his eyes, making sure that the medicine would take effect.
With shaky breaths, he opened his eyes and faced the mirror. She was gone. Kei gave out an airy laugh that contained more sorrow than joy. You’d think that after three years he would be used to this by now. Kei splashed water on himself and skipped his morning shower; he didn’t have time to clean himself up.
As he walked down the hallways of the dormitory, his mind was close to exploding. Don’t think about her right now, Kei. Focus, focus, focus. Ground yourself. Three objects… some books. A chair. A window. Four clothing. My blue shirt. Nike sneakers. A white dress—… a white dress.
Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.
Kei dug into his pocket to take out a small container filled with mini mint candy, and popped one into his mouth. Harshly, he grinded into the sweet until he reached its chocolate insides.
From a bystander’s perspective, it would only seem as if Kei was just stopping in the middle of the hallway staring at nothing, but in reality Kei’s heart was pumping fast, his body was starting to sweat, and his eyes were unable to focus on anything.
Why does this have to happen every morning? Why to him? Was it there? Was it its doing? No… no, no, no, no. Ground yourself. Ground yourself. Ground yourself. A—A… A bag. A window. This wasn’t working! Breathe in… breath ou—
Kei snapped out of his mind the moment he heard his name. That voice. He knew that voice. He turned around to see who it was.
It was Stephen. No, no it was Teff. The ginger haired male looked at him with worried eyes, as if he knew what he was going through just seconds before. “Kei… are you alright?” he placed his hand on his shoulder.
Stephen Hoffenberg, or in his preferred name: Teff. He is known as the resident sunshine on campus, because he was friends with almost everybody. He was an all-out lovable person. His red curly hair fluffed up on top of his head, its short length allowing you to see the extra piercings on his ear aside from the one on his right brow. His extremely pale skin didn’t do well with the sun’s light, but the thousands of freckles littering his skin complimented his appearance. Another thing more flashier than his colorful and baggy clothes, was his bright sunny smile.
He was here. Yes. He wasn’t trapped. Immediately he calmed down enough to say, “Yeah. Yeah, I’m alright. Thanks, Teff.” He gave him a crooked smile.
A sigh came from Teff’s mouth, “Come on, let’s get to class. We don’t want to be late again, right?” At that Kei nodded and adjusted his small sling bag on his shoulder, his eyes glazing once again.
Things weren’t always this way. He used to be normal.
Normal, huh? Kei had already forgotten what that felt like. Although, sometimes he would be able to forget everything, he just needed a simple trick to do it. Kei glanced at Teff who was sitting right next to him. He was staring at the professor with a bored expression that would sometimes would switch to confusion. It was somewhat adorable.
“Pssst! Kei… I don’t understand this part.” Said Teff.
“Kei, I don’t understand this part.” Said she.
That was déjà vu. Teff was not what you would call dumb or average, but he did sometimes have his faults. I guess that made Kei the smart one. Same situation as back then. Kei ignored her voice that was starting to whisper in his ears, and focused on teaching Teff.
Same as every day. The usual routine: Wake up, consume the first dosage of pills for the morning, head to school and meet up with Teff in the dorms, attend classes, and most likely get dragged around by Teff in search for a new restaurant to eat in.
“Dang that was boring! Right, Kei?” and yes, they were searching for another restaurant. More like Teff was the one searching.
Kei huffed to catch up with Teff who was looking around the busy streets with sparkled in his eyes, and said, “I guess so.”
“What do you want to eat this time? I’m thinking French fries and burgers.”
“Teff, I’m pretty sure you just ate that yesterday. Why don’t you go for something healthier?”
Teff scoffed and made an X sign with his arms, “No way, bro. Fried chicken and French fries are food worthy for a king such as I. I am not having anything el— DUDE!” he grabbed Kei’s shoulders and started swinging him back and forth, “Dude, look!”
Kei annoyingly pushed him away, “What?” In the direction that Teff was pointing, he saw a handsome guy. “What about him?”
“He is hot!”
This was another thing. Teff was gay. One hundred percent. Kei didn’t really mind it, but sometimes he just couldn’t relate to his best friend.
“Yes he is rather pleasing to the eye, now shall we go over to that normal looking restaurant over there?”
“Yessss… what beautiful eye-candy.” Kei sighed and dragged Teff away by his hand before he can start the great flood with his drool. All the while, the other sobbed the loss of his aesthetic drug.
Looking around, there were a lot more people than usual. It made Kei feel a lot calmer. No one would be stupid enough to grab him in this crowd. The sun was out too. Lost in his thoughts, Kei made the mistake of glancing at a dark alleyway…
Kei suddenly slowed his walk, his fingers losing their grip on Teff’s hand. The change in strength alerted Teff.
“Kei?” Teff looked in front of him, and tugged Kei to turn around. This way he would be able to get a better look. Teff’s eyes widened by a fraction when he noticed the other starting to shake. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was already have past one, and immediately grabbed Kei’s arm to drag him to another area.
It looked as if Kei was shivering, but the weather wasn’t even close to cold. Kei started to look through his bag, “I—need… I need my meds.” Where were they? He could already feel his heart starting to beat faster. His breathing was slowly growing erratic, “W-where are my meds? I-I can’t find them!”
Teff looked around frantically until his eyes came upon a park. He looked back at Kei to see if he would be able to last a few more seconds, but by the look of his eyes… it didn’t really look too good. Teff placed a grin on his face and said, “Kei, are you there, bud? Let’s go to that park over there, okay?”
“Kei! You know I hate it when you pluck leaves right off the branch! Apologize to the tree right now!”
“No! Nonononono! I don’t need that! I need my m-meds.” Kei… Kei… Kei… “Teff! I can’t find my meds!”
People were already starting to stare, “Kei come on, let’s go.” Making their way through the park, Teff sat Kei down on a bench right in front of some kids playing on a playground. “Kei… Kei, calm down. Here.” Teff took a bottle of medication out of his own bag. “Drink it now.”
Again with that? Why must you always run away from me?
Kei shook his head rapidly and fell stiffly on the hard bench. He closed his eyes shut and bit his lip, holding his arms up as if to protect him from something. His head was hurting so much! He couldn’t focus on anything. The world was spinning and it felt like he was falling from the sky.
Teff was panicking a bit now. He couldn’t just shove the pill down his throat! He sucked in a sharp breath and tried to get Kei to sit up, but at his touch the other convulsed in a rather violent flinch. “Shhh… Kei, it’s alright, it’s me.” Teff said in a soft voice to prevent Kei from being scared. “Look, I have the extra bottle of pills you gave me. Just drink one, alright? Here, look.” He managed to coax Kei into opening his eyes long enough to realize that it indeed was what he needed.
Kei grabbed the pill without hesitation, his shaky hands almost dropping it onto the ground, and downed it without the use of water, causing him to choke a bit.
“Slowly, Kei! Swallow.”
Kei latched onto Teff’s shoulders for support as he shut his eyes, waiting for the medicine to take effect and waiting for her voice to leave her head. He breathed in and out. Calming breaths. Calm breaths.
“What’s around us, Kei? Come on, talk to me.”
Slowly he opened his eyes, “A tree…”
Teff held his arms, making sure not to move any further, because any wrong movement could trigger another negative response. “Yeah, what else?”
“There’s a lamppost.”
“Mm hm, and there’s me. Now come on bro, let’s go and eat. We can go to whatever restaurant you like. Are you cool now?” Kei did another round of breathing exercises, and nodded slowly. “Alright, let’s go.”
“U-Um, is it alright if I stay here?” asked Kei.
“Uh…” Teff uncomfortably looked around their surroundings, and then faced Kei, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. You can just get take out. I want to eat here.” Kei made himself comfortable on the chair and took off his sling bag to have it rest on his lap. Kei was amused when he saw Teff look back at him multiple times before disappearing completely on his way to get food.
Kei popped a mint candy into his mouth and twisted it around his mouth for a while, waiting for it to melt into chocolate sweetness. A calming sense flooded his senses when he felt the cool minty air flood through his mouth.
Looking around, this place was nice.
Plant life were everywhere, the sun was out and the weather was nice, there was wide-open space to run around in, and there were people here and there. It was good. Much better. Definitely, something that Kei preferred.
It was dark, the only light being a weak flickering bulb attached to the ceiling. The floor was wet, and there was barely enough room for him to move around in because of all the junk lying around. There was only one chair in front of him, a chair occupied by another. Suddenly, he felt a presence behind him… all of the sudden he found himself dropped onto a pile of hard metallic tools.
Yes. This was definitely better. Much, much, better.
Kei closed his eyes and threw another piece of candy into his mouth, but when he opened his eyes, he came to meet a bright brown pair of orbs. He had barely enough time to gasp before those pink lips formed a smile, and placed themselves onto his right cheek.
In another blink from himself, it was gone.
“Don’t ignore me.”ns 220.127.116.11da2