Music-Box Angel 4... C&C is welcomed 
with open arms!  If you read, please send me a comment or two -- I 
just gotta know what y'all think!  ^_^

It's here!  It's here! I'd like to thank the Jim Nutley Trio (Jim 
Nutley, Eimii, and T.H. Tiger) for pre-reading and giving me good 
reason to properly edit my work.  ^_^



C&C is welcomed with open arms!  If you read, please send me a 
comment or two -- I just gotta know what y'all think!  ^_^

For the sake of convenience in this text format, the two Maries 
are known under different spellings.  Hiroshi's creation is known 
as Marie, while the human version is known as Mari.

Thoughts of the various characters are encased in [brackets].
Computer conversations are encased .

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.

OUR STORY SO FAR: Holy moley -- so much has happened. 
To too-quickly summarize, Marie has been placed in a perpetual 
sleep mode, and is currently dreaming.  Mari and Tanaka are at 
Hiroshi's, waiting in the living room for Hiroshi to emerge from 
his workshop.  It is currently late Saturday night...

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

                           *     *     *

                     B O K U   N O   M A R I E
                          Music-Box Angel
                  Episode Four: The Longest Night

      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:

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

                        All Rights Reserved.

                           *     *     *

     Marie sat patiently in her high-backed wooden chair, and had 
been doing so for very nearly an hour.  The white walls lacked any 
feature save that they seemed to pulsate slightly in synch with 
her breathing, even when she slowed and sped her breathing out of 
curiosity.  She didn't feel the same distance as earlier, though 
she still did not feel entirely in control.
     [At least I can move myself,] she sighed.  Marie wiggled her 
toes in her penny loafers.  She was in rather formal Western 
dress, but the interview she was waiting for was not so formal as 
to warrant a kimono.  Her clothes lacked color, save her shoes and 
her powder blue angora beret; she also wore a gray skirt and a 
white blouse.  On the whole, it was quite drab, though she hoped 
that the accents of color would help keep her in the running.
     A movement in her peripheral vision alerted her to a change 
in her environment.  She looked to her left, and saw a wooden desk 
with an empty leather office chair just beyond.  On the desk sat a 
micro-cassette recorder -- the same as the one Hiroshi used to 
record class lectures.  Marie could hear the speaker pop as the 
tape began playing.
     The tape played for an hour, during which Marie sat still, 
breathing slowly and smoothly like a sleeping child.  The only 
sound she could hear was the hiss of the apparently blank tape. 
The click of the auto-reverse startled her; after five seconds 
more of the hiss, a voice split the silence.
     "Name?"  The voice was Hiroshi's.
     "Marie."  Marie thought for a moment before continuing with 
the marriage interview.  "Marie Karigari."
     "I'll be the judge of that.  Age?"
     "Nineteen.  Well, actually, I'm only about a year old, but I 
guess I'm supposed to be..."
     "A simple yes or no will do."  The voice that interrupted 
Marie wasn't Hiroshi's.  Rather, it was Mari's.
     "What?"  Marie shrank back slightly, confusion filling her 
     "Are you a robot?"
     "...No."  Marie smiled at her half-truth.
     "Don't lie to me.  I know everything about you."
     "Then why are you..."
     Marie's protest was cut off by Tanaka's voice.  "...This is 
as much for your benefit as it is for mine."
     Marie paused.  "Oh.  I'm an android, though."
     "Did I ask if you were an android?"
     "No."  Marie replied sharply.
     "Then don't tell me you're an android.  Now, are you a 
     Marie refused to lose ground in the interview.  "No."
     "That's better."
     "What?"  Marie blinked.
     "Blood type?"
     "I... I don't know."
     "A simple yes or no will do."  The voice was Mari's again.
     "But that's not a yes or..."
     "...Yes or no, Marie."
     "No!"  Marie yelled her answer; her throat painfully closed 
as she choked on welled tears finally flowing.  The walls pulsed 
with her racing heart, and it seemed a pinkish glow, perhaps an 
unfulfilled red, emanated from the height of each pulse.
     "I thought as much."  When Hiroshi's voice finally spoke, it 
seemed colder than she had ever heard.  Even at his most angry or 
logical, Hiroshi always had a small spot of compassion in his 
voice.  This voice was his, but it lacked all compassion.
     "Hiroshi?"  Marie sobbed so slowly, each shudder felt like it 
would be the last, but was really only one in a series of final 
sniffles and shakes.  The walls slowed in their pulsing, though 
they brightened and darkened somewhat faster than when she had 
entered the room.
     "...Yes?"  Marie answered after she regained a little 
     "I'd prefer a more verbose answer, please."
     "Umm, I'm..."  Marie wiped her eyes and continued, her 
determination more intense than before.  "I'm loyal, and I care 
about you deeply.  I'm kind..."
     "What about Hibiki Kennou?"
     Marie furrowed her brow.  "Well... I suppose she's kind too, 
in her own way..."
     "No.  What about your fight with Hibiki Kennou?"
     "What about it?"  Marie scoffed.  She had long since given up 
on anticipating the direction of the interview, and was wondering 
if the tape was going to end soon; she longed for a little 
     "Can you say you're kind after fighting?"
     "Well, I..."  Marie was again interrupted.
     "...Well nothing!"  Hiroshi 's voice filled the now deep red 
     "But I'm not a..."  Marie could barely hear her voice above 
the thunderous hiss of the tape player.  Again, the walls throbbed 
     "...One!  A robot is to be demure, and never show her intense 
feelings for a boy!"
     "Stop yelling!"  Marie wished she was somewhere else.
     "Two!  A robot is to remain obedient and loyal to her 
brother, despite any feelings she has!"
     "But I didn't mean to..."  [Anywhere but here!]
     "Three!  A robot is to keep her brother in the back of her 
heart as the only true love she has, returning to his fraternal 
embrace should her feelings be hurt!"
     "But that's why I'm here!"  Marie announced desperately.  She 
tried to move her legs, but they refused her commands.
     "I know."  The room blinked, and returned to its stark 
whiteness.  "Your feelings were hurt deeply by a lustful boy.  I'm 
glad you've seen fit to return to the fold."  Hiroshi's voice 
gushed with pious compassion.
     "Yes, Marie?"
     "I... I lo--"  She mouthed the word, but her voice was 
silenced, as if she was trying speak in a vacuum.
     "A simple yes or no will do."
     "YES OR NO, Marie!  Answer quickly!"
     "Yes!"  Marie's tears again welled up.  "Yes!"
     "I knew as much.  Next!"

     [So it's over,] Marie felt an emptiness unknown to her 
before.  She also felt a level of certainty in her life that was 
on the whole not unpleasant.  At least Hiroshi had made a 
decision.  She chose to block from her mind the result of the 
decision, or the fact that she was now without a master, and would 
live out the rest of her days as a mercenary, providing her 
services for money or other considerations.
     Marie blocked all this out, yet was keenly aware of the 
blocking.  It was a feeling she knew could only make sense in a 
dream state.  With a disquieted sense of relief, she stood 
obediently and turned around.

                           *     *     *

Saturday, 11:42 PM.

     Hiroshi reluctantly stepped to the top of the stairs and 
entered his living room.  The silence pressed down on him, forcing 
him to breath through his mouth for a moment before he gathered 
himself.  He saw Tanaka and Mari sitting where he and Mari had sat 
earlier that afternoon.  So much had happened since that ill-fated 
conversation, where he sat in his chair, smug in his false 
confidence, hoping to God he would quit messing up.  But, it 
seemed, God wasn't with him, neither at this moment, nor that 
earlier one.
     "Have a seat."  Mari's voice seemed pleasant enough, even a 
little quiet or concerned; he couldn't be sure which.  She was 
motioning to the couch she was resting on.  He stepped 
mechanically to the other end of the couch and sat gingerly, as if 
to keep the cushions from moving at all.
     "Is she going to be okay?"  Mari definitely sounded 
concerned.  Hiroshi dared not look at her directly.
     "I'm not sure if there's much I can do right now," he sighed.  
"No matter what I do, I can't change any of her routines."  
Hiroshi realized who his audience was and paused.  "Should I go 
on?"  He looked at Mari and then to Tanaka, who had fallen asleep 
in the recliner.
     "Please do."  Mari nodded.  "I'm not sure I'll catch all of 
it, but I'd like to know."
     "Well, apparently, the Hitomi routines have protected 
themselves and aren't allowing me any access to the drive.  Aside 
from a full reset and reformat of all systems, there's nothing we 
can do but wait for Marie to fix herself."
     "Can she do that?"  Mari's concern pulled at Hiroshi, and he 
had to clear his throat or face the prospect of breaking down 
right there.
     "She has the ability to reprogram herself.  In theory, if she 
can isolate the proper routines, and recode them, she can fix 
     "Why can't you recode her routines?"
     "I only wrote her initial routines -- the kernel routines 
that controlled basic behavior models and the basic libraries of 
language and body control..."  Hiroshi looked at Mari, who looked 
back at him with a glance that made a little bell in the back of 
his head chime.
     "Do you want me to start over?"
     Mari nodded pleasantly.
     "Do you want me to speak like other humans?"
     Mari nodded again, and again did so pleasantly.
     "Okay.  Basically, I created her mental skeleton.  She's been 
adding the muscles and nerves and tendons, and probably a little 
fat to those routines through her actions and deductions.  And her 
memories.  But she also has the power to be her own surgeon.  As 
long as the skeleton isn't disturbed, she muscles and tendons and 
fat can be cut or changed, or toned up though I'm not sure if 
that's a such a great metaphor because it *is* all mental and she 
technically wouldn't be able to expand more than her maximum 
parameters and I'm getting off on a tangent again aren't I?"
     "Okay.  The short of it?  I'm pretty sure she can fix 
herself.  She's quite a persistent person..."  An unspoken "but" 
hung in the air between them, unwanted by both.
     "...But she's not really a person.  She's a robot."  Mari 
knew she had to say it sooner or later.  Hiroshi also knew, but 
had been hoping for later.
     "She's an android.  A robot is really just a computer with 
the ability to move in the real world.  Marie is obviously much 
more than that."  Hiroshi's voice remained low, almost solemn.  
"In fact..."  He looked Mari in the eye, and saw tears welling.  
Her expression was unreadable.  Hiroshi cleared his throat again.  
"In fact, she may be more than just an android."
     "She's not human..."
     "...That's relative."
     "Relative to what?  She's a doll!"  Mari whipped her head 
away from Hiroshi's gaze, and cupped it in her hands.  "You made 
her.  You *built* her..."  She finally lost her voice to the tears 
that trickled between her fingers.
     Hiroshi aborted a reach for her.  "I never intended for Marie 
to be..."
     "What?  Be what?  Alive?  Sentient?  Tell me Hiroshi!"  Mari 
turned to him again.  Her hands still covered most of her face, 
but her eyes pierced him, and he was taken aback.  Hiroshi 
desperately wanted to speak, but the pressure in the room kept him 
from speaking.  He sighed as he breathed through his mouth.  He 
finally averted his gaze and moved forward to the edge of the 
     "I want to see her room."  Mari seemed devoid of emotion.  
Hiroshi blinked at the change of subject.
     "Did you hear me, Karigari?  I said, 'I want to see her 
room.'  Are you going to take me there, or am I going to have to 
go there by myself?"
     "Why?  Yes!  I mean, yes, but why?"
     "I want to see some things."
     Hiroshi stood and lead her to Marie's room.  She stepped in 
immediately and went through, inspecting Marie's possessions 
carefully and objectively.
     "Kind of bare," she noted aloud.  "Did she pick those clothes 
out herself?"
     "Most of them, yes."
     "I thought so.  I'd never wear anything like that."  [Because 
I could never pull it off.]  She moved officiously to Marie's 
desk.  A number of books sat, neatly stacked, next to a number of 
     "Interesting selections."  She pointed to the books.  "Did 
you give them to her?"
     "No."  He stepped to the desk and took a look at the titles.  
"Oh my."  A copy each of 'Frankenstein,' 'The Key,' 'I, Robot' and 
'Catch-22,' each worn from repeated reading, lied stacked off to 
one side, away from direct notice.  Mari had already moved to the 
girl's diary when Hiroshi finally noticed.
     "No!"  He nabbed the diary from her.  "Not this."
     "Why?  What's she got in there?"  Mari's voice could have 
killed Hiroshi in any other situation, but he stood firm.
     "I don't know."  Hiroshi's tone darkened.  "But it's her 
diary, and you shouldn't be in it.  How would you like it if Marie 
read *your* diary?"
     Mari blushed and looked at her feet.
     Hiroshi nodded for emphasis, and squeezed the diary in his 
     Mari turned away, and stepped slowly to the door.  Hiroshi 
took the opportunity to slip the diary carefully into a drawer. 
The air thickened again as he waited for Mari to fully exit the 
     "She's nothing like me, you know."  Mari turned at the 
doorway.  Her voice lilted across the room.  [She sounds almost... 
relieved?]  Hiroshi pondered.
     "What?" he finally asked.
     "You didn't know anything about me when you made her, did 
     "You even messed up physically.  Now that I think about it, 
that's a little insulting.  I mean, you didn't even have the 
decency to make her the same size as me!"
     "That wasn't my fault!  Do you know how much guesswork was 
involved?  I think I did pretty good considering the conditions 
under which I had to work.  I mean, I never saw you without 
your..."  Hiroshi blushed.  "...You know."
     "I know.  And you're not the type who would look in my diary, 
so I shouldn't blame you for being wrong about everything."  Mari 
almost smiled, but turned away, and walked slowly and silently 
downstairs to the living room.  Hiroshi followed a good three 
paces behind.

                           *     *     *

     Marie was in a kitchen -- not her own, but one with a sheen 
of slightly noticeable technology.  Technology that wasn't 
presently available.  She noted that it could have been her own, 
but that Hiroshi wouldn't be so utilitarian with his work.
     She chopped the broccoli methodically, removing the bushy 
tops from the stalks and placing them neatly on a platter.  A 
creamy dip of some sort sat comfortably in a crystal bowl in the 
center of the platter.  Marie looked for a moment, and realized 
she desperately wanted to become that dip, but that she couldn't.
     "After all," she mused.  "I probably have more in common with 
the broccoli than the dip."
     "Marie!  Is the dip ready?"  Mari's voice, deepened with age 
and smoothed with success, floated into the kitchen.  Her 
commanding tone, however, was not lost by the distance between the 
kitchen and the living room.
     "Coming, ma'am!"  Marie hoped she had yelled loud enough, but 
not so loud as to be considered assertive or intrusive.  She 
looked again at the dip, her idol, and proceeded to the hallway 
that ran between the kitchen and the living room.
     The hallway was endless, but Marie knew that she couldn't 
stop walking, or the broccoli and dip would never make it to Mari 
on time.  Lining the wall were still frames -- photos of events 
Marie had never seen.  Each seemed to be taken the merest of 
moments after the previous one.  They were in black and white, and 
while they weren't always in focus, the gist of the situation 
became apparent.  It was a wedding, and she was helping with the 
     "I've got to get this to the living room before everybody's 
gone!"  Marie took a skip, and took off running as she landed.  
The hallway blew by, and the pictures blurred in the rim of her 
     "There's got to be a faster way!"  And then she remembered 
the broccoli's powers.  She tossed a piece in her mouth and 
chewed.  Soon, she was running at the speed of light, and the 
hallway melted away.
     She stopped at the edge of the living room, caught her breath 
quickly and stepped in, ready to serve the guests.
     "Marie!"  Hiroshi was the first to greet her.  He was just 
removing his shoes at the doorway.  His hair was graying at the 
temples, and Marie noticed a tiny bald spot in the back when her 
bent over to put his shoes away.  Behind him one step was Hitomi, 
also removing her shoes.
     "It's been quite a long time," Hitomi smiled, and dimples 
appeared in her ever-so-slightly chubby cheeks.  Her hair was 
curled and cropped neatly about her head, which made her look 
older than she was.
     Marie tried not to drop her platter in shock.  "It's 
wonderful so see you again," she managed.
     Mari and Tanaka stood from their couch and smiled.  "Come in, 
sit down.  Marie's been preparing a wonderful dinner for us.  When 
will it be ready?"  Mari turned, still smiling, to Marie, who 
     "In about thirty minutes, ma'am."  She weakly smiled.
     "Wonderful!  That'll give us just enough time to catch up a 
little.  I mean, it has been nearly 10 years!"  She turned again 
to her guests.  "And how's little Junichiro?"
     Marie dropped her platter.  Mari turned first, then Tanaka.  
But it was Tanaka who flew into the rage.
     "If you think you can waltz in here after what you tried to 
pull last time, and then have the gall to steal a kiss, you've got 
another thing coming!  Why don't you go try to hit on Mari?  Why?  
Because you're a complete loser, that's why!  I want you out!  
Out!"  He reached for the coffee table and picked up a mug.  
"OUT!"  He threw the mug at the retreating Marie.  It hit her on 
the head.  Hard.
     "What the hell are *you* getting so worked up over, you 
little tramp!  Don't tell me you were saving yourself, cause it 
won't get any better than me, babe!"  Marie snickered and turned 
from the living room entrance and stepped right up to Tanaka.  He 
had at least a three-inch size advantage, but Marie knew better -- 
she knew the power she had.
     "Listen up, you moron!"  Tanaka was shaking, his face red.  
"I gave you a goddamn order and I want you to follow it, got it?  
Get the hell out before I kick your ass!"
     Tanaka pulled back to slap Marie, but the android ducked out 
of the way, rolling to the floor, trying to cover herself in the 
dip.  Tanaka leapt after her, and the pair rolled around the 
floor, grappling for control.
     "Ha!  I've got control now!"  Marie managed to clasp her 
fingers around a piece of broccoli.  She tossed it in her mouth 
and chewed triumphantly as Tanaka shrank back in horror.
     "Not that!  Anything but that!"  He ran and hid behind Mari 
as Marie laughed maniacally.

                           *     *     *

Sunday, 12:25 AM.

     "Excuse me, Mari,"  Hiroshi felt he had to break the silence.  
The two had been sitting exactly as they were on the couch, 
listening to Tanaka snore.  "If it's not too personal, may I ask 
what you're thinking?"  Hiroshi didn't like the notion of Mari 
thinking too long without him being able to defend himself.
     "I don't know.  This is all... it's too weird to even think 
about."  She looked at him.  Her eyes were still strange, but 
somehow softer now.  "Why did you make her?"
     "Well, I..."
     Mari interrupted.  "I guess I should ask, why did you make 
her like me?"
     "Because..."  [A confession?  Now?  I can't...]  Hiroshi's 
mind raced for alternate reasons, but they all seemed a little 
     "Because why?  Don't tell me you picked me 'just because.'  
Let me guess."  Mari's voice became wistful, "You picked me 
because I am your ideal girl>"  Hiroshi gasped; Mari continued.  
"But you never had the courage to ask me out directly, so you made 
Marie to be your companion."  She smiled and looked at Hiroshi.  
"How was that?"  Her voice seemed a little out of place given 
their previous conversation.
     Hiroshi hung his head and sighed.  "Sounds good to me."
     "Yeah?"  Hiroshi hoped she would change the subject.
     "What is a 'Hitomi' routine?"
     "Huh?  Oh, that.  It's a long story."
     "I've got time."  Mari turned her body around so she faced 
Hiroshi; she sat cross-legged with her elbows on her knees and her 
chin cupped in her petite hands.  "So, you might as well get 
started, because the conversation's going nowhere until you tell 
     "Okay..."  Hiroshi took a deep breath.

                           *     *     *

     The world blinked, and Marie was sitting on the familiar 
bench at the edge of the school playground.  The concrete and 
asphalt reflected the heat from the summer sun's rays in her 
direction, and she reflexively wiped the gathering sweat from her 
brow.  In the middle distance, just beyond the swings but closer 
than the slide, two children played.  Marie heard them laughing as 
they chased and caught and chased again.
     "Hiroshi..."  She wanted so badly to call out to him, but he 
seemed so happy.
     "You want to be there, don't you?"  Marie looked up to see 
Mari standing behind her, also gazing into the distance.  She put 
her hand on Marie's shoulder.  "For once, we're both in the same 
boat.  I only wish it wasn't the sinking one."  Mari barely 
     "Do you know Hitomi?"  Marie asked her model as she took a 
seat on the bench.  The heat was oppressive, but it didn't seem to 
daunt the children.  Their play increased in fervor -- their 
chases became longer, their runs faster.  When one caught the 
other, the grappling was more furious and care-free, as if they 
were rolling in the softest grass instead of cracked concrete.  
They seemed to be without a single worry.  Marie wondered why she 
felt such the opposite; she wondered if what she was watching 
could come from the same mind as her own thoughts.
     "Hitomi Yamada, born August 22, 1977 to Keiko and Ichiro 
Yamada.  Raised by both parents, had a relatively comfortable 
childhood in a wealthy home among the arts, where she learned to 
paint and write music.  However, she was infamous for her anti-
social behavior, and received counseling every Sunday at 10:00 AM.  
Hiroshi came to play every Saturday at ten and every Sunday at 
noon.  Their sessions usually lasted until an hour after sundown.  
Subsequently, they would return to their respective homes.  
Hiroshi would then work on his various projects, and Hitomi 
would..."  Mari paused.  "Engage in tasks unknown."
     "What about the kiss?"
     "Unknown."  Mari stared intently on the two children, who had 
stopped chasing, and were now lying on their backs.  Marie looked 
up, and saw innumerable stars nonexistent a moment before.  The 
sky seemed no less dark, but the stars still shone as if it were 
     "Why is she with me?" Marie finally asked her model.
     "The routines that make up the Hitomi entity reside in 
libraries and routines embedded in your systems.  If that's what 
you meant to ask."  Mari smiled nervously and turned to Marie.  "I 
hope I'm not startling you."
     Marie was concentrating on the two kids, who had maneuvered 
closer to each other.  They seemed to be holding hands.  "Uh, no.  
I'm fine."  Her voice had that tired and airy quality of mental 
     "How do I fix all the problems she's causing?"
     Mari didn't answer, and Marie was ready to stand and leave 
the scene when she finally spoke.  "Why don't you ask *her* that?"
     "But how?  She seems a little preoccupied in her own dream 
world."  Marie pointed an arm to the pair of giggling children.  
"I'm not in control of these dreams."
     "Don't be so sure."  Mari smiled and walked away.  Moments 
later, she disappeared from view at a distance Marie knew was too 
close to lose sight of a person at, but still too far to see 

                           *     *     *

Sunday, 1:49 AM.

     "And when I wrote her a letter to tell her how the move went, 
she never wrote back."  Hiroshi finished his tale finally.
     "After all of that, she never wrote back?"  Mari was leaning 
forward, intently absorbing the story.  This was not her first 
question, though; a number of questions (many "Why?" or How?") 
crept into Hiroshi's narrative, between words.  These basic, 
sometimes childlike inquiries tripped Hiroshi up, so much so that 
he would have to start over at the beginning of a thought after 
answering her question.
     "Not once."  Hiroshi's voice trailed off.  He wasn't looking 
at her, but Mari could see his eyes shimmer a little in the light 
dimly pouring from the single lamp behind her.
     "And you never found out why, right?"
     "Nope."  He turned to her and smiled a little.  "See, I told 
you it was a long story."
     Mari checked her watch and chuckled.  "And you were right.  
Though I *have* heard longer."  She smiled and gently put a 
graceful hand on Hiroshi's shoulder.  She could feel his muscles 
tense up, and heard a sharp intake of air.  She saw his eyes 
clinch shut, and she momentarily considered removing her hand, but 
she remained firm.  [Don't be afraid.]  Her determination paid 
off; soon, his muscles relaxed, and he exhaled.
     "Marie will be okay, right?  I mean, she can regain control, 
     "I think so.  Like I kind of said before, she has the access 
rights to erase Hitomi's routines, and if she can, she should be 
     Again, a silent "but" hung between them.  Mari finally 
finished the thought.
     "But what if she can't?  What if Hitomi won't let her?  What 
kind of 'access rights' does Hitomi have?"  Hiroshi's shoulders 
tensed again.
     "Given the situation, I'd have to say she has the same rights 
as Marie."  He quickly added, "But she might not know she has 
     Mari was quick to agree.  "You're right.  Marie has the upper 
hand.  Really, it's just a matter of time before she fixes 
     "...Right?" she added in a whisper to herself.  Or maybe it 
was to the deity or angel or whatever that guarded over good 
little androids in their sleep.  Or maybe it was to anyone who'd 
hear her.
     "I'm going to go downstairs and check on her."  Hiroshi 
stood, and in a moment of boldness quietly announced, "There's a 
guest bedroom down the hall to the left.  You can stay there 
tonight if you'd like.  Or I can call you a cab."
     "We'll see.  Right now, I think we should check on Marie."  
Mari stood and led the way downstairs.  Hiroshi followed, only a 
step behind.

                           *     *     *

     Marie recognized the surroundings instantly.  She was at the 
Cafe Pierrot.  The cafe was empty, save for one man, whom she saw 
peeking through the kitchen door, and one waitress, who placed a 
large platter of yakisoba noodles in front of the android.
     "Enjoy your meal!"  The waitress smiled and walked to the 
kitchen.  Marie looked across the table, and saw Hitomi sitting 
across from her, smiling.
     "Are you gonna eat all those yourself?"  She clicked a pair 
of chopsticks deviously in her hand.  Marie leaned over her plate 
     "Yes, of course I am!  They're a gift from the man back 
there."  She pointed to the pair of eyes behind the door.  "The 
cook, I think."  She grabbed her chopsticks and prepared a bite.  
"You'll have to get your own."
     "Fine!  I will!"  And the waitress brought Hitomi a plate of 
noodles.  "I bet I can eat more noodles than you!"
     Marie bristled at the challenge.  "What are the stakes?"
     "The winner gets to date the cook back there."
     "And the loser?"
     "And the loser will have to eat herself."
     "That's weird."  Marie cringed.  "Where'd you come up with 
     "Ready, get set, go!"
     Marie didn't wait for any sort of logical reply -- the 
contest was on!  As both contestants ate with appetites voracious 
enough to scare even the heartiest of eaters, the cook prepared 
dishes -- elaborate arrangements, simple platters, and ornate 
meals.  All sorts of cuisine was gobbled down by the fierce 
competitors.  Soon, it became apparent who the winner was going to 
     "Don't give up now, Marie!  I was just getting warmed up!"  
Hitomi mocked as Marie attempted one more bite, but couldn't 
muster the will to chew.  Hitomi laughed wildly and continued to 
eat.  When her plate was finished, Hitomi reached for Marie's 
plate, and finished that.  Then, she ate her chopsticks, munching 
them like so many sticks of Pocky.
     "I've never been so hungry in all my life," she noted as she 
licked her fingers.  Marie was looking at her hands, contemplating 
what it would be like to eat her own body when a series of 
crunches brought her back to the situation across the table from 
     Hitomi had eaten her own hand, and was working on the arm.  
There was no blood, no gore.  Rather, she seemed to be turning 
into a noodle.  One long noodle, strung elaborately to form her 
body.  She slurped it happily, and she spoke between bites and 
     "I guess you won, in the end."  Munch, chew.  Her left arm 
was gone.  "Could you tell Hiroshi to check up on me now and 
again, in the real world?"  Sluuuurp, gulp.  Her leg on the same 
side was now also gone.  "That is, if there is a me in the real 
world."  Bite bite bite.  Her right arm disappeared.  "I mean, 
there's a you in the real world."  Chomp grind grind.  Her other 
leg.  "And I don't mean you, I mean Mari.  So there's a Hitomi out 
there for me to be like, right?"  The words trailed off as her 
head, floating in mid-air, disintegrated into a self-ingesting 
     The cook smiled from behind the door.  Marie stood, fatter 
than normal, a little too full to properly walk, and waddled from 
the cafe.  As the door opened for her, she closed her eyes.

                           *     *     *

     "Good morning, Marie."  Mari was smiling, sideways in Marie's 
view.  Marie realized she was lying down.  She sat up, and saw her 
room.  "Is it you, Marie?"
     "Yeah, it's me.  I had the weirdest dream.  Well, actually it 
was more than one, but they were all so weird."
     "I bet."  Mari flopped down at the desk chair beside Marie's 
     "Where's Hiroshi?"
     "He's sleeping," Mari yawned in reply.
     "What time is it?"
     "About four in the morning."
     "I have to see him!"
     "Could you let him sleep a little longer?  He's been working 
awfully hard..."  Mari looked behind her, out the door of the 
bedroom.  She half-expected to see Hiroshi leaning against the 
door frame, smiling like some young Musketeer.  He'd say, 'It was 
nothing,' and laugh warmly...

     "Mari?  Are you okay?"  Marie's words snapped the girl back 
into reality.
     "Huh?  Wha...?  Yeah, I'm fine."  She looked back at Marie 
and smiled.  "I guess I'm just a little too tired myself."
     "I'm sorry I caused so much trouble..."  Marie began to 
apologize, but Mari pressed her finger to Marie's lips.
     "Don't say it.  You weren't any trouble at all.  It wasn't 
*your* fault this all happened."  Again, Marie looked back, and 
again half-expected to see Hiroshi leaning against the door-frame.  
She'd see him and say, "It was all *your* fault for programming 
her with those long lost memories in the first place!"
     "I think you'd better get home and get some sleep, Mari."  
Again, Marie's voice dragged Mari back from the edge of dreams.
     "You're probably right.  Can you get up?  I need to wake 
Tanaka up and get home.  And I need you there to keep him from 
knowing too much."
     "What are you planning?"
     "Just a little show and tell.  Don't worry -- your secret's 
safe with me.  But when I'm actually awake, we'll need to talk.  I 
mean really talk."  Mari stood weakly and gathered her strength as 
Marie dressed behind her.
     "Shall we?" Mari smiled after a long minute.
     "Let's."  Marie nodded purposefully.

     Tanaka was still sleeping in Hiroshi's armchair.  Mari 
wondered how he could have slept through her arguments and 
conversations and confessions.  Then she smiled when she realized 
he'd never have to know about them.
     "Tanaka!  Wake up!  It's time to go home!"
     "What?  Where?  Marie?"
     "She's right here.  You passed out.  It must have been *all* 
*those* *drinks* you had.  Marie and I decided to let you sleep it 
off, but it's time to get going, so we gotta go.  So get up!"
     "But I saw Marie... robot?"  Tanaka managed to slur the words 
out through hours of sleep and a slight hangover.
     "What?  You must have been hallucinating.  See, she's right 
here."  Marie waved timidly.  "So, let's go, loverboy, before you 
fall asleep again!"  And they were out the door in moments.  Mari 
winked at the android before she closed the front door.  Marie 
managed another weak wave good-bye.

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

I'd like to apologize for the lateness of this episode -- my time 
is spread out more thinly than during the summer.  Expect episode 
5 to come out in another two weeks, maybe sooner.

I'm taking more time to edit than with the previous two episodes.  
I know I'm a better editor than I've been lately.  So hopefully, 
this episode will be free of technical errors.

Okay, time for references and such.

Hibiki Kennou:  For those of you who haven't yet seen the anime, 
Hibiki Kennou is a character featured in episode 2.  She and Marie 
had a knock-down, drag-out fight in the most traditional sense.  
She is still alive and wandering about in the universe (much like 
another Hibiki of greater fame)...

Ages:  I'm working under the assumption that 1996 (the copyright 
date of episode 1 of the anime) is Hiroshi's sophomore year in 
college; Marie is supposed to be both 18 and a younger sister, 
thus making Hiroshi at least 19.  Given that Hiroshi and Hitomi 
are the same age, Hiroshi was also born sometime in 1977 (Hitomi's 
birth year).

Dreams:  The recycled footage in the second dream is very 
intentional; I've had dreams where similar things have happened.  
Don't ask me why, but... ^_^  The other dreams seem to be rather 
common thematically, but I didn't look up exactly what they were 
supposed to mean.

Names:  Junichiro is a reference to the author of 'The Key,' 
Junichiro Tanizaki.

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