Shougo Mikadono has come unstuck in time.
Shougo has gone to sleep a normal student and woken up on his wedding day. He has walked through a door a senile widower and come out the other side surrounded by 15 incestuous offspring. One moment he is at his high school graduation; the next, he is leaping in front of a car to save a childhood friend. Shougo has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and visited all the events in between.
Shougo has become an actor in the stage play of his life. He is a paranoid wreck because he never knows which scene he will relive next. Will it be when he saved Konoe from getting hit by that car? When he played with Miyabi at a hospital and had a wedding veil for some reason? When he spread mayonnaise on his toast one time just to see how it tasted? Or when he was brought into the teacher’s office one day for some after school discipline? Something old? Something new? What would happen if he changed something? Would it all just disappear?
He woke up in bed. On his right was Konoe wearing only a buttoned-up shirt. On his left was Miyabi wearing only an apron. Shougo had visited this memory so many times that the sight of the two desperately coming on to him left Shougo numb. What was the point of it? Konoe would eventually die during that tragic steamroller accident, and Miyabi was found one day dangling from a rope in a closet. Their deaths were always on Shougo’s mind.
“Guys just love girls who are naked under a button-up shirt, right?” Konoe asked.
“No, it’s got to be girls naked under an apron when it comes to newlyweds,” Miyabi said.
Shougo struggled to not vomit. He knew every word that would be said, every movement they would make. He tried to make a move once; he could see naught but Konoe’s crushed skull and Miyabi’s bloated, gray body. Now he simply lay there, unmoving, his eyes looking anywhere but at the two girls. Their deaths haunted Shougo so; he felt that there was something unnatural about them, something more to the circumstances, but he couldn’t figure out what . . .
Suddenly a flash of white. Shougo found himself holding a phone. It rang. Ikusu was on the other end.
“I think I figured out what voice changer she was using,” Ikusu said.
“What?” Shougo asked.
“You know . . . your sister,” Ikusu said. “She’s using an experimental model of cell phone that had a voice modulator. It was taken off the market because people feared it could be used for evil if put into the wrong hands.”
The wrong hands. Yes. Whose hands were those hands? Something itched deep in the recesses of Shougo’s brain. A name . . . just one name. An outline of a face. A voice.
“Onii-chan . . .”
Shougo rapped at his head. Something was there. He could feel it. But it didn’t want to float to the surface; it was buried too deep.
“Um, is something the matter?” Ikusu asked.
“No, no, it’s nothing,” Shougo said. Then another flash of white. When Shougo opened his eyes again, he was sitting on a bench next to Konoe. Miyabi stood in front of them, angrily tapping her foot. This memory again. The one where Shougo learned he had known both girls when he was a child and forgotten about it due to a tragic accident that left him hospitalized for an indeterminate amount of time. This revelation had stirred Shougo once upon time, but he had heard it so many times now that it barely registered. It seemed so fake, so forced, so contrived.
Shougo knew those memories were real, too, since he had also visited them many times over, but in a way they, too, felt fake. There was something about them that seemed too neat. The way the memories disappeared and reappeared so conveniently, and the way they seemed constructed to distract Shougo and bring him down. It was almost as if . . . as if . . .
“Oh, Onii-chan, are you finally catching on?” a voice said.
“What . . . ?” Shougo said. He looked up. The sky had darkened; clouds swirled ominously and then formed the outline of a young girl who peered down at Shougo. Her face was obscured, but she was instantly familiar. That voice stabbed straight through Shougo’s brain. He would recognize it anywhere.
“It’s you . . . IMOUTO!!!!!” Shougo shouted.
“That’s right, Onii-chan,” IMOUTO said. “I was wondering when you would notice something was wrong. I was starting to get bored. It’s not fun to play when I can’t do it in person.”
“Is all this fake?!” Shougo asked. “Did you . . . did you implant all these memories into my mind?”
“Some, but not all,” IMOUTO said. “I made all the fun ones up myself. Don’t you realize how boring your life is now? Come with me and I’ll spice it up!”
“You won’t make me bow down,” Shougo said. “I’ll get you eventually . . . IMOUTO!!!!!”
“I’ll be waiting for you, Onii-chan,” IMOUTO said. “Even if I have to wait 12,000 years.”
Another flash of white. IMOUTO was gone; Shougo was back in bed, with the near-naked Konoe and Miyabi by his side once more. What was real? What wasn’t? WHO IS IMOUTO?
Important questions, all. None of them answered. For now.