BACKGROUND:  College student Hiroshi Karigari had a problem.  He 
was in love with a lovely tennis player at his school, Mari, but 
couldn't express himself to her.  So he decided to build a 
duplicate of her in the form of an android he named Marie.  Now, 
he has to pass Marie off as his little sister to keep up 
appearances, and things are only getting more complicated.  The 
ever-lecherous Tanaka, who also has a crush on Mari, has turned 
his eye towards Marie as well.  Can Hiroshi keep his secret?  Can 
he find true love?  Has he built it already?

Thoughts of the characters are encased in [brackets].

NOTE:  This text was produced without the consent of the
original copyright holders, and, while it is intended as
tribute, in some areas it is considered an illegal work.

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                           *     *     *

                     B O K U   N O   M A R I E
                          Music-Box Angel
                 Episode One: A Mind Beside Itself

      The anime (c) 1996 Sakura Takeuchi/Goro Sanyo/Shueisha/
                Victor Entertainment/Studio Pierrot.
           Licensed by Victor Entertainment, Inc., Japan.
             Released in North America by A.D.V. Films
                  under the title "My Dear Marie."
 For more information, contact A.D.V. Films at: info@advfilms.com

     Boku No Marie: Music-Box Angel (c) 1998 Matthew Johnston.
                        All Rights Reserved.

                           *     *     *

Friday, 7:13 AM.

     "Hiroshi!"  Marie called from inside the front door.  "This 
package just came for you!  And it's time to get up anyway!"
     Hiroshi Karigari rolled over as he gained consciousness.  
Before Hiroshi could stumble from bed, Marie strode into his room 
and dropped the small brown cardboard box on his bed.  Hiroshi 
grinned nervously, and stuttered a thank you.
     "He he he... oookaythanksyoucangonowgoodbye!"  Hiroshi shoved 
his cybernetic creation out the door, and slammed it behind her.  
Marie heard the door's lock click before she could turn around.
     "How rude," Marie mumbled and shot the door a withering look.  
"If he weren't my brother, I'd... I'd..."  Her thoughts caught up 
with her before she could finish her sentence.
     [You'd what?  What?  C'mon, Marie, tell me.  What would you 
do?]  Marie was silent.  [I thought so.]  Marie wondered how her 
own mind could mock her.
     "I'd do nothing."  Marie finally sighed.
     [That figures.]
     "Who *are* you?"  Marie asked herself, a little too loud.  
She shushed herself and walked back to the kitchen, waiting for 
her response.
     [Who are *you*?  Not this act you're putting on.]
     "Please, go away."  Marie turned to walk to the kitchen.
     Her other self chuckled.  [Can't.  You won't let me.]
     "What do you mean 'You won't let me'?  I'll let you.  GO!!"  
Marie covered her mouth as her other self continued to chuckle 
lightly.  She couldn't believe she was yelling at herself.  And 
yet, there she was in the kitchen, staring at the counter, 
wondering if her brother could hear her yell at nobody in 
     "Marie?  Are you okay?"  Hiroshi had heard, all right.  He 
was calling from the bedroom.  If she concentrated, Marie could 
pinpoint where in the room he was, but she didn't try.
     "...I'm fine!  Just watching TV!"  Marie yelled back a little 
too quickly.  She turned her attention back to her internal 
     "How do I get rid of you?"
     [I don't know.  You're the brain-box here.] 
     "I could just go back to sleep."
     [I'd be there with you.]  Marie was afraid she'd hear that.
     "But you weren't there last night..."
     [I was there.  You probably didn't see me, huh?  But I was 
there.  And I'll be there when you go to sleep tonight.  And the 
next night and the night after that and the night...]
     "I get it, I get it.  Sheesh."  Marie kept her voice to a 
grumble.  Somehow, she couldn't keep from talking.  No matter the 
statement, if she wanted to say it to the other her in her mind, 
she said it aloud.  It was becoming a little disconcerting.  She 
tried thinking to herself, and not her other self.
     [I'm thinking of a fork,] she began.
     [...and I'm thinking of a moron.]  Her other self 
interrupted.  [I could talk through your voice, you know, but I 
won't.]  Marie sighed in relief.
     [I'll save us both the embarrassment.]  Marie felt a little 
strange at that remark.
     "How do you mean?"  She held her breath waiting for a 
response, but her other self was quiet. Marie paused for a few 
more moments, then finally exhaled.
     "Finally, a little peace."

     "*What* are you listening to?"  Tanaka had to yell above the 
stereo blaring in the tennis club office.  Hiroshi instantly 
turned the stereo down, but not off.  Tanaka noticed something a 
little different about Hiroshi.  Nothing directly noticeable, but 
he was definitely different.
     "What am I listening to?  The greatest musicians on Earth!"  
     [Uh-oh.]  Tanaka realized what was wrong.  Hiroshi was 
confident about something.
     "This is Liquid Tension Experiment.  This is an opus to the 
intricate stylings of progressive composition and avant garde 
improvisation.  I was merely attempting to absorb, in the best way 
I could as a non-musician, the lovely webwork of music and rhythm, 
to drink, if you will, the milk of paradise."  Hiroshi laughed and 
mumbled happily.  "The milk of paradise.  Ooh, that was a clever 
reference.  Neil would be proud..."
     Tanaka cringed.  Hiroshi wasn't merely confident or 
enthusiastic; he had stepped across the fine line into zealotry.  
Hiroshi cranked the music again, and the piercing noise shoved 
themselves into his temples.
     "Heh... Yeah, well, Neil would be proud if you kept it to a 
minimum, okay?"
     "Oh, of course!  You're absolutely right!  Now that Neil's 
changed his style to the 'less-is-more' approach, he'd probably 
like it if I kept that type of reference to a minimum..."
     "Well, actually, I meant..."
     "Are you a Rush fan?  You didn't strike me as the type, but 
you know, they attract all types so maybe I'm just not being open 
enough.  As Neil says..."
     Tanaka gritted his teeth  'Oh no, he's not going to...'  But 
it was too late, he had already started.
     "Philosophers and Ploughmen, each must know his part!  To sow 
a new mentality, closer to the heaaaaaaart!"  Hiroshi belted the 
lyric out with conviction Tanaka had previously seen only in the 
truly weird.  But then, what was Hiroshi if not truly weird?
     "That's good.  Ooookay.  You can stop now.  Let's use our 
inside voices, shall we?"  Tanaka was edging towards the door when 
Hiroshi gasped and turned around.
     "I'm sorry!  I'll turn it off!  I'll turn it off!"  He 
hurriedly turned down the music.  "I didn't mean to..."
     "It's okay."  Tanaka had opened his mouth to say something, 
but the voice wasn't his.  It was Mari's.
     "Okay?!?"  Tanaka only mouthed the word as he struck a 
confused look.
     Mari saw the look, and made a point of not responding, 
turning her chin up as she passed Tanaka.  Tanaka backed away 
further, but didn't leave the room.  He had to see this, or he'd 
never believe it.
     Hiroshi had quite nearly curled in the fetal position in the 
corner.  The stereo was off, the CD in its case, and the case 
gripped tightly in his shaking arms.  Tanaka noted with a little 
guilt and a little malicious joy that Hiroshi was on the verge of 
     "What'cha got, Hiroshi?"  Mari cocked her head and smiled 
gently, but Hiroshi's expression of absolute fear didn't change.
     "N-n-no-no-nothing.  Nothing important.  Nothing worth 
hearing.  Nope, nope!  Nothing at all."  Hiroshi tried smiling, 
but could only come up with a strange grimace.  He leapt awkwardly 
to his feet and tried to will himself out of the room.
     "Are you sure?  You seemed to be enjoying yourself..."
     Hiroshi laughed for a long moment.  "No.  It's nothing, 
     And then he bolted.
     Mari caught him by the back of his shirt collar.  "Oh no you 
don't.  You seemed pretty happy playing that CD a moment ago.  Why 
don't you play it now?"
     'Why do you curse me, oh Lord?'  Hiroshi tried to keep from 
breaking down completely.  After a few moments of mortifying 
silence, Hiroshi exhaled deeply.
     "Okay.  If you really want to hear it."  Hiroshi stepped 
slowly to the stereo, and removed the CD from its case.  "It's 
nothing really.  You wouldn't like it."
     "And who are you to say what I like and don't like?  Don't 
deny me an opinion.  I might just be the one to save you from 
Tanaka over there."  Mari turned in time to see Tanaka stifle an 
"Oh, please."
     Hiroshi sighed and reluctantly inserted the CD.  The first 
track began, and Tanaka covered his ears dramatically, but Mari 
remained as she was.  After a few moments, Hiroshi could have 
sworn he saw Mari almost smile.
     After three minutes, Mari leaned over to Hiroshi and yelled a 
question over the stereo.  "When does the singer come in?"
     "There is no singer!"  Hiroshi yelled back.  "Only the 
music!"  Hiroshi beamed inside.  If Mari could like the same music 
as he could, then maybe, just maybe...
     After a while, the music took a turn for the subdued.  Mari 
closed her eyes. Hiroshi prayed to every god he could think of,
and a couple he made up on the spot, just in case.
     A few moments after the song faded to silence, Mari opened 
her eyes.  "Well, I'm not sure what to make of it.  It's quite... 
intense, isn't it?"
     "I suppose,"  Hiroshi had a bad feeling about the 
     "Is all the music you listen to this intense?"
     "Not all.  Track two's lot softer, and I listen to Fates 
Warning, and they're pretty laid back."  Hiroshi mentally whacked 
himself upside the head for not choosing track two to begin with.  
Then he heard Mari giggle.
     "Fates Warning?  That's a little childish for a band name."  
Hiroshi had hoped that, at worst, only Tanaka would say such a 
thing, but it came from Mari.  Hiroshi's shoulders fell forward, 
his head fell forward, and whatever statement he had prepared to 
introduce dear Mari to his musical world disappeared.  He looked 
up one last time, expecting to see the couple chuckling as they 
sauntered out.  Instead, he saw Mari still looking at him.
     Mari was laughing, though her eyes seemed a bit nervous.  
"Well, you go ahead and listen to your music.  I... *we* don't 
care what you listen to, but keep it down a little, okay?  
Thanks."  Mari turned and left, Tanaka close behind.
     "Geek."  Tanaka barely breathed the insult before he left.
     "Geek?"  Hiroshi turned to the stereo, and ejected the CD.  
"Dammit!  Why am I cursed with such precious little in common with 
     And then it hit him.  Hard.  So hard, he reeled from it 
hitting him.  "Of course!"  Hiroshi's world faded, replaced with a 
poster-like scene awash with vibrant, epic colors.  "If I can 
write the perfect song for Mari, one that is the best of our two 
musical interests, I can bridge the gap between us.  And then, 
maybe..."  Hiroshi grinned.  "It's a flawless plan!  A wonderful 
concept!  Dare I say, my greatest ever?  Yes, yes I dare!"
     People walking by the tennis club office heard strange 
maniacal laughter from behind the door.
     The real world returned as logic entered his flawless plan.  
"But, I don't have a band.  I don't even know how to play."  
Again, inspiration lightly tapped on Hiroshi's temples.  "Maybe I 
could pro..."
     Hiroshi ran from the room too fast to even give a second 
thought to the fact that his CD was still in the stereo.

     Several minutes after Hiroshi left, Mari returned to the club 
room.  She noticed the stereo was still on, and as she went to 
turn it off, she saw Hiroshi's CD still in the player.  With a 
quick glance behind her, she turned it on.
     Music blared for a brief moment, causing every internal organ 
to jump independently, and her adrenal glands to pump out a double 
dose. Her heart was racing much too fast as she cranked the volume 
knob down to a more discrete level.  Again, checking behind her, 
much more embarrassed this time, she clicked ahead to track two.  
A much softer song, indeed.  She closed her eyes and smiled.
     [Not too bad.]  She tried swaying her head a little to the 
beat, but got lost in three time signature changes that ambushed 
at the bridge movement.  She blushed and stopped swaying.  She
hoped nobody was looking.  [But still, not too bad.]

                           *     *     *

Friday, 6:38 PM.

     "Hiroshi?  Can I talk with you a minute?"  Marie flopped into 
a stray chair, one of many in her brother's workshop, and waited 
for her brother to respond.  Sparks showered from his micro-welder 
as he moved along the crease of two pieces of metal.
     "That should do for now. Now, what did you want?"  Hiroshi 
sounded busy, but not annoyed at her visit.
     "I've been hearing... voices.  In my head."
     "Hrm.  Is it random, or are they talking to you directly?"  
Hiroshi turned to put away his tools.
     "They, I mean she, talks to me.  Directly.  In my voice.  I 
mean, she sounds just like me.  Only in my head.  I mean... you 
know what I mean, right?"  Marie growled softly, then exhaled.  
"I'm sorry, I'm just a little confused."
     "Hmm.  Maybe there's a bug with that new multi-tasking 
routine I put in your last upgrade.  I can take it out, if you 
want, but you won't be able to think as fast."
     "No, that's okay.  I think she's gone.  I haven't heard her 
for a while now."  Marie looked down at her feet.  She noticed she 
was a little pigeon-toed.  "It was strange.  The last thing she 
said was so out of place.  She was arguing with me, and really 
being patronizing, and then she said that she could speak with my 
real voice if she wanted, but that she wanted to save us the 
     "So your tormentor has a little self-confidence problem, eh?"  
Hiroshi chuckled.  "Don't worry about it.  I'll debug the routine, 
and by this time tomorrow, you'll be back to normal."  He smiled 
and flashed a thumbs-up.
     "Thank you!"  Marie hugged her brother and skipped from the 
     [You *know* I won't go away that easy.]
     "You again?"  Marie kept her voice down, but contemplated 
speaking loud enough for Hiroshi to hear.
     [Don't try it.  It won't work.]
     Marie tried to speak up, but when she spoke next, it was only 
in a whisper.  "What did you do to me?"
     [I'm just keeping you in line, like a good sister.  You 
wouldn't want to bother your brother, now, would you.  I mean, 
he's awfully busy these days, what with that new project he's 
working on.]
     "New project?"
     [Don't tell me you didn't see -- I got the same picture as 
you.]  Her other self was smiling.  Marie could hear it.  [He's 
making something.  Another body, perhaps?]
     "Nonsense."  Marie was back in the kitchen, though she didn't 
remember walking upstairs.  "Why would he do that?"
     [Maybe he thinks you need more than an upgrade.  maybe a 
complete overhaul.]
     "An overhaul?"  Marie tried chopping some cabbage to keep 
herself from shaking.
     [Or, he's just making a new sister.]
     "New?"  The knife in Marie's hands fell to the floor, 
piercing her left slipper, and the toe underneath.
     "Ow!"  Marie winced and bit her knuckle.  After blindly 
reaching for the nearest towel, she wrapped her damaged toe. She 
was losing hydraulic fluid, though not very quickly.  After a few 
moments, the shutoff valve to her toe activated, and Marie limped 
downstairs to the workshop.
     "Maybe he can let me preview a new toe," she chuckled darkly.  
There was no response from her other self.  Marie crept downstairs 
to her brother's workshop.
     "Hiroshi?  Hiroshi, I hurt my toe.  Can you fix it?" She 
didn't like intruding, especially as often as she was today, but 
she had a legitimate excuse, even if it did give her a reason to 
investigate her other self's morbid theories.
     [Can you fix it?  Can you fix it?  I'm completely helpless 
and have to bug my brother for everything.]  The voice, which 
already sounded exactly like Marie's mocked her in a higher 
register whine.
     "Would you shut up?"  Marie seethed at the back of her mind 
as she gingerly descended the staircase.
     "Your toe?  Did the shutoff valve trip?"  Hiroshi was yelling 
from a corner in the room.
     "Umm, yeah, but the..."  Marie peeked around the corner of 
the staircase.  Her brother was hunched over something, soldering 
and watching a monitor of some sort.
     "...Then you should be fine for now.  I'm very busy, okay?  
Keep the weight off the toe for a while, and I'll look at it 
tomorrow morning.  And be more careful, okay?"  Hiroshi lifted his 
visor and looked towards Marie.
     Marie was too shocked to move.
     "Marie?  Are you okay?"  Hiroshi's voice sounded as much 
perturbed as concerned.
     "Yes, yes, I'm fine.  Nothing!"  Marie smiled a little too 
wide, shook her hands a little too nonchalantly, turned and ran 
upstairs, trying desperately not to break down and cry in hearing 
range of her brother.
     Once in her room, she ran and buried her face in her pillow.  
"What's going on with me?"  She rolled over in bed, and stared at 
the ceiling.  She couldn't feel her other self.  It felt a little 
different when she was around.  Like having two heads on one pair 
of shoulders, or being able to hear another person breathing in a 
silent room.  Warmer than usual.
     "What's wrong with me?"
     Marie cried herself to sleep.

     The sun was setting low when Marie finally saw Hiroshi, 
running across the schoolground to meet her.  He was yelling 
something, but she couldn't understand until he was a few meters 
away.  Between huff and puffs, he managed to squeak out an 
     "Sorry.  I'm.  Late.  Had.  To do.  Dishes.  Lasagna.  Nasty.  
Pan.  Arrgh..."  He collapsed in front of her.
     "Are you okay?"  She half-laughed the question, but her voice 
strained a little with concern.
     "Just.  Fine.  Lungs.  Imploding.  No.  Problem."  She hefted 
the skinny boy and helped him to their bench.  She bit her lip 
while he slowly recovered his breath.  She could practically see 
his heart pounding as he gasped, hands locked to his knees.  He 
didn't seem well, even beyond his physical condition.  After a 
couple of minutes, he finally caught his breath.
     "I... I have to leave tomorrow."  Hiroshi's voice cracked as 
he struggled with the words.
     "Tomorrow?"  [So soon?]
     "I gotta say good-bye."  Hiroshi looked up at her, then 
quickly back down at the concrete.  She thought she saw a tear 
welling up in his eyes.  She looked at the sky to avoid crying 
herself.  The stars were unusually dim.
     "Good-bye?  Where you moving to?"  Her concern was replaced 
by an overwhelming tug  of urgency, and she forced herself to look 
Hiroshi in the eye.  She turned his head with a shaking hand.  
When they both realized what she was doing, she pulled her arm 
back, but he didn't turn away again.
     "I don't know.  A new house."  He smiled a little.  She 
already missed his smile.  "It's big.  I saw it today.  You could 
stay over probably."  Her heart jumped a little.  "My room's 
pretty big.  And my dad says I can use the garage for my 
projects!"  Hiroshi smiled and flashed a thumbs-up.  She giggled, 
but it faded quickly.
     "Oh."  She had to say it now.  "Hiroshi?"
     "Yes?"  Hiroshi was just inches away.  Now was her chance.  
[C'mon, say it!]
     "I...  I..."  She looked at her feet, and noticed she was a 
little pigeon-toed.
     [Why can't I say it?]
     Hiroshi gulped and tried to speak.
     "Hitomi...  I..."  He got up and started to leave.  "I gotta 
go.  I'll come back soon, okay?"  He ran away as quickly as he had 
     "Hiroshi!  Wait!  Please!  Don't GO!"

     Marie woke up in a cold sweat.  Her other self was with her.
     "Hi... Hitomi?  Is that your name?"
     [Leave me alone.]  The voice had the tone of a guilty child.
     "What did I just dream?"
     [Just leave me alone!]  Marie felt Hitomi's presence fading.
     "Wait!  Don't go.  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to push."
     She felt her other self hesitating, her presence dimmer, but 
not gone.
     "Please.  Please tell me what I just dreamed."
     [Maybe later.  It's a long story.]  Hitomi sighed.  [I'm 
going to bed.]
     [I'm... I mean...]
     A long pause.  Marie felt Hitomi's presence growing cooler, 
then suddenly warmer.
     [Okay look, I'll try not to bother you, okay?  I'm going to 
bed now, so don't bug me, got it?]  With that, she was gone.
     Marie laid back down.  The fan in the corner pushed warm 
spring air through her room, trying desperately to cool things 
down.  The dream had caused her to generate quite a bit of heat, 
and she uncovered herself to let the tiny fan move the air around 
     "That wasn't my dream," Marie furrowed her brow at the 
thought of seeing someone else's dream.
     "But Hitomi's just another part of me.  An offshoot, renegade 
routine or something."  Marie rolled on her stomach to cool off 
her back.  "But I've never been to that place.  It doesn't even 
seem familiar."
     After a few minutes, Marie rolled over on her back again, and 
sighed hard.  "Come to think of it, I don't even remember what it 
looked like.  Hmph."  Marie flopped an arm over her forehead, and 
wondered if she would get any sleep at all.

                           *     *     *

Saturday, 2:52 AM.

     "Sometimes, I amaze myself so much, I just have smile."  
Hiroshi grinned maniacally as he stepped back from the workbench 
to sit in his favorite swivel chair.  A small silver box, 
intricately embossed with an infinitely complex fractal design, 
lay open and pristine on it, bathed in fluorescent light.  he re-
examined of the lid, and admired his handiwork. Plotted as 
intricately as the fractal design were the following words:  'For 
You, My Ideal.'
     "Now, all I need is to properly program this music-box 
mechanism with the perfect song, finish the final assembly of the 
mirror and box, and my Ultimate Gift will be complete."  Hiroshi 
picked up a tiny black box, and connected it to his computer.  
Also connected to his computer was a MIDI keyboard, which rested 
precariously on a stack of magazines.  Tentatively, he pressed one 
of the white keys.
     The note that blasted from his computer's speakers rang like 
a sinking ship's klaxon.  Hiroshi and his chair, fell backwards to 
the floor with a small 'oomph' and a larger 'clank'.  The keyboard 
slid from the stack of magazines to land on Hiroshi's shin, 
followed by 16 copies of "Popular Science."
     Ow!  Owowowowow!"  As he picked himself, the chair, and the 
keyboard from the floor, Hiroshi noted that he'd have to actually 
read a little of the keyboard's manual before trying that again.
     "Or better yet,"  His grin returned as another idea pricked 
his brain.  "That's it!  I'll start tomorrow morning!"  With 
ambitious and happy thoughts filling his brain, he skipped off to 
bed, tripping only once on the way there.  As he passed Marie's 
room, he stepped quietly, and peeked inside through a crack in the 
doorway.  His creation was lying on her back, eyes closed, 
breathing smoothly.  He smiled.  All systems seemed normal for the 
     "Sweet dreams, Marie."  He barely mouthed the words as he 
backed from the door and slipped to his bedroom.

                            *     *     *

     Marie sighed when she heard her brother's words.  She thought 
about sitting up in bed, and telling him about her dream, but she 
bit her tongue.  She had asked too much of him already, and she 
knew how he hated hearing about other people's dreams.
     Hitomi's presence in Marie's mind was strangely cool, between 
there and not.  She was asleep, Marie guessed, and had been for 
hours.  Those hours passed too slowly, and Marie quietly made no 
progress in deciphering her dream.  She only wished she could 
sleep like Hitomi.  For whatever reason, Marie could not go 
willingly into another dream.  It was too strange.  She had been 
the dreamer, and yet, she hadn't even been in the dream.  She 
didn't like that feeling, and she wasn't going to get any sleep.  
     "Hitomi?"  Marie's whisper was barely audible, even with 
Marie's exceptional hearing.
     No response.
     "Hitomi?"  Marie's voice, while still a whisper, had the tone 
of a child calling for her mother.
     [Now what?]  The voice sounded very sleepy and more than a 
little annoyed.  Marie almost said 'never mind,' but thought that 
would only make things worse.
     "What did I dream?"
     [How should I know?]
     "Well, it was *your* dream."  Marie realized what she just 
said, and felt something dark wash over her.  "You're already 
dreaming for me.  How long before you take over completely?"
     [Don't go weird on me just because we shared a dream.  I told 
you I was gonna stay out of the way.  I don't want you seeing my 
stuff any more than you want to.]
     "Then will you tell me one thing?"
     "Who are you?  Why are you in my head?"
     The voice sighed slowly and deeply in the back of Marie's 
mind.  [You sure you wanna know?]
     After a long pause, Hitomi spoke again.  [Fine.  But if 
Hiroshi finds out about this, you're dead meat, okay?]
     "He won't find out."
     Hitomi shrank back a little from her previously aggressive 
tone.  [Do you swear?]
     Marie chuckled a bit.  "Umm, sure.  Yeah, I guess so."
     [Yes or no.  You can't say 'I guess so.'  Say you 'swear on 
your mother's grave.']  Hitomi's voice was very serious.
     "Okay, then.  Yes.   I swear on... my mother's grave."  The 
words seemed a bit awkward as she whispered them; she wondered if 
Mari could be considered her mother.
     [Okay.  Go back to sleep.  I'll meet you there.]
     "But I can't..."
     "Just close your eyes, okay?"  Hitomi's presence cooled 
     And Marie slowly closed her eyes.

     Marie appeared in the school playground she was in when she 
last dreamed.  This time, however, without the pushing sense of 
urgency she had felt before, she had a chance to take in the 
     The playground was entirely concrete and asphalt, save for a 
small sandbox on the far end.  She was standing in front of the 
bench she sat down with Hiroshi before, a squat bench made of two-
by-fours spaced out by thinner pieces of the same type of wood.  
It was clearly made for someone smaller than she, and was quite 
weathered.  In fact, the whole playground seemed in disrepair.  
The monkey bars were covered in rust, and were disintegrating 
completely in patches.  The swing set had more broken seats than 
good ones.  The slide tilted severely to one side; one foot on the 
bottom of the slide hid in a deep hole in the asphalt.
     She turned around and saw a girl sitting on the bench.  If 
Marie had been built to be six years younger, the girl would have 
been her model.  The girl looked at the ground, apparently lost in 
a rather melancholy thought.  She wore a school uniform, and the 
left pocket of her sweater had 'Hitomi' emboridered in red.
     "Hitomi?"  Marie's voice startled herself as much as the 
girl.  Hitomi shrank back for an instant, then stood on top of the 
bench.  She barely reached Marie's height, even with the extra 
boost from the bench.
     "Yeah?"  Hitomi frowned.
     "Where is this?"
     "This,"  She panned an arm around her body for effect.  "This 
is Yamada Elementary School.  This is where I live now."
     "I'm not sure I understand."  Marie looked across the 
decaying playground for an apartment building, or house or 
something more suitible for living.  The field of view, however, 
faded before the edge of the grounds, as if a sunset-colored haze 
had covered all of reality save this little bubble.  The sky above 
and to the horizon was clear, though a little off from what Marie 
knew to be reality.  The colors were overly vivid in spots, and in 
others almost non-existent.  The stars were unusually numerous and 
bright, and the moon floated too close to the setting sun, much 
larger than the disappearing light.
     "That's a surprise."  Hitomi hopped off from the bench and 
started marching towards the swingset.  "Like I said, it's a long 
story."  She sat down on one of two good swings, and pushed 
herself back.  She let herself swing, and eventually come to a 
stop before she spoke again.
     "I didn't have any friends in school.  I guess the others 
were afraid I'd tattle on them to my dad or something, 'cause he 
was the president of the parent's association, and had a lot of 
influence.  My great-grandfather financed the school's 
construction, and my grandparents helped build it.  My parents 
finance the music program at the school.  You see what I'm getting 
     "I can understand all that.  I'm sorry."  Marie was sitting 
in the swing next to Hitomi twisting side to side a little.
        "Don't be.  I'm over it now."
        Marie looked to the bench.  "How does Hiroshi fit in all 
     "A few days after school ended, he knocked on my door.  He 
told my mother that he was looking for someone to play with.  I 
think my mom felt sorry for him, so she let him in."  Hitomi 
pushed back a little, and let gravity swing her for a few moments.  
"Here, it's easier if I just show you.  Watch."

     Marie blinked as her swing became a piano stool.  She was in 
a mansion, but all the details were out of reach.  If Marie looked 
at nothing in particular, everything looked fine.  But, if she 
tried to focus on a specific object, it became obscured, like 
staring through a frosted pane of glass.
     Hitomi sat next to her, playing a song Marie didn't recognize 
on a huge black grand piano.  Hitomi was trying hard, but was 
still hesitating at some notes.  Hiroshi walked into the room 
through a vaulted doorway to the left, Hitomi's mother right 
behind, pushing him along.
     "Hitomi, dear?  I'd like you to meet Hiroshi Karigari.  He 
was wondering if you'd like to play with him."  Hitomi's mother's 
voice sounded like Marie's, but augmented to reflect an apparent 
20 years' age difference.
     "I don't wann..."  Hitomi was cut off by the severe look on 
her mother's face.  She had Hiroshi by the collar to keep him from 
running away.  And he was trying to.
     "You can stop practicing and play with Hiroshi on the school 
grounds.  That sounds fun, doesn't it?"
     At the thought finishing practice early, Hitomi perked up.  
"Umm, yeah.  Okay.  C'mon, Karigari, let's go outside and play."  
She leapt from the bench and grabbed Hiroshi's hand as she ran 
from the room and out the door.
     Marie was sitting on the schoolyard bench again.  A few 
meters away, she saw Hitomi and Hiroshi playing.  Sort of.  Hitomi 
was chasing Hiroshi around, trying to push him down.  That image 
faded, replaced by the pair swinging.  Marie could hear Hiroshi's 
agonized pleas for mercy as Hitomi pushed Hiroshi higher than he 
thought safe or sane.  Soon, this image was replaced by Hitomi and 
Hiroshi swinging next to each other, then to Hiroshi gently 
pushing Hitomi.
     They were talking more than swinging, but Marie could only 
hear the occasional gleeful laugh from Hitomi, whose apparel had 
changed from a shirt and slacks to a long skirt.  She stood to 
walk towards the pair, but they disappeared.  She heard their 
voices behind her, but she couldn't turn around.
     "So what's that star?"  Marie could hear Hitomi smiling as 
she coyly asked her question.
     "Which one?"
     "That one.  Look, here, follow my arm."
     "That big one?"
     "Nonono, not that one, the small one next to it, silly."
     "Where?  I don't see any..."  A long pause.  A few stray 
papers rustled along the asphalt, and the stars faded.  After a 
time, they returned slowly to their original luminance.
     She heard Hitomi giggle.  "Never mind," she whispered warmly.
     Marie heard Hiroshi exhale with a stifled groan.  Then she 
heard a thump like a sack of flour hitting stone.

     Marie turned around the first moment she was able, and saw 
Hitomi alone on the bench. The girl was looking at the ground 
again, in the exact position as when she first appeared in the 
dream, lost in deep thoughts of some sort.  Marie sat down next to 
her and looked up at the sky.
     "Was it your first kiss?"  Marie's voice was unusually quiet.
     "And after that he had to leave, right?"
     "Eventually, yeah."  Hitomi looked towards the place where 
Hiroshi had appeared in their previous dream, but he didn't come 
running this time.  Marie's curiosity bested her inhibitions 
again, and she continued her subdued interrogation.
     "How long did you two go out?"
     Hitomi looked at the stars, but did not answer.
     "...to play.  On the schoolyard, I mean."  Marie winced at 
her less-than-expert recovery.
     Hitomi smiled.  "Every day for a month and a half."
     "And then?"
     The smile faded to melancholy as she looked at her feet 
again.  "Nothing.  You saw the end of it.  Not much of an ending, 
but that's life I guess."
     Marie looked at her mental companion for a long while.  
Finally, she summoned the courage to ask the question she had 
wanted to ask from the beginning.
     "So, why are you in my mind and not somewhere in the real 
world?  Why are you... why is all this even here?"  Marie wanted 
to take back the words the second she said them.
     "Who says I'm not real?"  Tears welled in Hitomi's eyes.  
"Who says I'm not really Hiroshi's first love?  I am!"
     Marie reached out for Hitomi, and tried to touch her lightly 
on the shoulder, but she jerked away.  Sparkles of light fell to 
the ground, where they were soaked up by the dry concrete.
     "Leave me alone, okay?  Just go away!"

     Marie was awake before she could respond.
     "So much for that question."  She sighed and waited in bed 
for the sun to rise.  [Two hours to go,] she noted soberly.

------------     --------     ------     --------     ------------

This draft of episode one was originally the second draft of 
episode one and the first draft of the first half of episode two.  
However, once I added the final scene of the revised (but short) 
episode one, I realized it would either have to be scrapped or I'd 
have to add what I had of episode two to the end.  As a result, 
this episode may be longer than future episodes. Here's the skinny 
on some of the references and such, in case you wanted to know.

Liquid Tension Experiment:  A supergroup of sorts, with Mike 
Portnoy and John Petrucci of Dream Theater on drums and guitars 
respectively, Jordan Rudess of Dixie Dregs on keyboards, and Tony 
Levin of King Crimson on bass.

"...Closer to the heart...":  The song quotation is from the Rush 
song of the same name.  The Neil mentioned is Rush's drummer and 
lyricist, Neil Peart.

Fates Warning:  A Connecticut-based progressive metal group.

Yamada Elementary School:  I have no idea if it exists or not.  I 
didn't go by any particular school for reference, though its 
design was influenced by the school in "Only Yesterday."  I know 
very little about Japanese school (I read and then lost my copy of 
Maiko Covington's essential essays on Japanese high school), an 
oversight on my part, I admit.  However, I don't think I've 
presented any situation that directly conflicts with the Japanese 
school schedules.

My take on the characters is, unavoidably, a little different from 
the anime and the manga.  This is mostly because the anime was too 
short IMHO, and I haven't read the manga yet (I can't even find 
it!).  As always, feel free to give C&C, both on the technical and 
creative (though I ask you focus more on the technical and plot 
holes, though plot holes may fill as the story unfolds).  If you 
have any advice on handling school schedules and what-not 
associated with my school settings, please feel free to tell me.


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