Friday, 7 January 2011

Lights Brought the Future - Pieces of Japan Finale

1st January 2010
Disneysea, Tokyo, Japan

Staring across the mass of water that lay before, into the array of lights at the other end, imagining the footsteps of the shuffling exiting crowd, my breathing slowed; a stark contrast to the extended exhilaration of the day.

From the thrills of freefall in the Tower of Terror, to the constant ringing of "Compass of my Heart", to the screaming descent of Journey to the Centre of the Earth, to the tinge of Curry Popcorn still ringing atop my tongue - we had probably covered the quintessential rides in Disneysea with maximum efficiency and had gotten the  most bang for our Starlight-pass-buck, putting us in a more than apt position to cap off the amazing journey.

Disney is probably as close as to perfection that artificial beauty gets - the golden lights in the distance sparking amidst the dark winter sky, highlighting more than the silhouette of its Venice-inspired architecture; the Magical Kingdom's reach is far, sometimes even reaching into the inner chambers of one's soul, invoking a sense of almost subconscious reflection with its beauty.

I stood in place, in time, staring at the lights, thinking about the events of the day, and much beyond.

Atop the fort stood a man, peering out into the same direction, dressed in a surprisingly thin jacket for the cold winter night, the man stood still, admiring the sight that lay before him; even though it was mostly man-made lights, but queerly, amidst all that, the ill-equipped man failed to do the touristic act of whipping out a camera to capture the sight before him in eternity, while almost ironically, the shutter next to me was sounding non-stop. He stood there motionless, as if waiting for something, for someone - someone to meet up or catch up with him, just admiring the beauty.

Piqued with curiosity by his motionless gaze, I slowly crept up behind and beside him, hoping to gain his vantage point of the sights before. As I stood beside him, I subconsciously noticed that we were of rather similar height. After standing there for a few seconds, with nothing but silence between us, I couldn't help but do the instinctive but taboo act of turning to look at him.

In almost the same time, he turned and stared straight back at me, as our gazes met - when I noticed that his eyes looked exactly like mine, as my focus drew away from his eyes, I noticed that he looked just like me.

Shocked into silence, I stood there speechless and not knowing how to react.

"I know, I know," he said, with a voice that sounded exactly like mine, "I knew you would react this way. Your next question would be, 'who am I?' and knowing you, or me, the 'why' would naturally follow."

"In short," he continued, "my answer for you is.... Second Chances. And what better time for Second Chances than the turn of the New Year right?"

"Don't ask, just use your eyes to follow the lights of the buildings at the opposite end, c'mon!".

Still in semi-shock, my eyes followed the lights along the ups and downs of the rows of buildings, tracing their angular shapes further and further into the illuminated-horizon, as lights my eyes started to lose focus, blanking out into a blinding screen of white for a moment, before the warm-yellow tinge started to restore itself in my vision, as I tried hard to centre my vision of the row of lights that stood before me.
Second Chance
Oddly, the lights yellow lights within my vision had mysteriously realigned themselves, and didn't take those angular shapes any longer, instead being neatly arranged into two neat rows.
I turned and looked around, and to my shock, I saw myself standing in the middle of an isolated street, dead quiet in the night save for the sound of some vehicles from a distance, surrounded by rustic traditional Japanese houses, as the gentle sound of flowing water trickled from a canal by my side.

Guessing from the architecture around me, I garnered that I was somehow still in Japan, but as my mind was about to make a logical guess on the exact location, I found that my index finger was used as a make-shift bookmark among the pages of a "Lonely Planet Japan" in my hand. Opening the book, I read the words:

Shirakawa Dori. Some claim it to be the most beautiful street in Asia, particularly during the Sakura Season. Looking around, I was entirely absorbed by the peace and tranquillity that surrounded me. My body hardly fatigued from the long hours of travelling via flight and bullet train, and all my initial apprehension of the initial thought of pack-and-jet subsided as I stood under the barren branches of approaching Spring.

It was February, and I was back in Japan again, except this time alone. And yet, while slightly disappointed by the lack of the company I had grown so fond and accustomed to, there was a different kind of emotion to the loneliness - one that left a lot of room for reflection, and soul-searching, especially amidst some of the most beautiful sights that the island had to offer.

Feet firmly planted on the ground, and giving it a good shuffle against the concrete pavement, the reality of the situation sank in, as the association with a Lone Wolf came into my mind - seeking, reflective and majestic.

Book in hand; I walked down the beautiful street, as the blinds got more blindingly bright the further I walked down, till I could no longer see what was in front of me...


"Amazing, right?" a familiar voice rang through my head. "I know, this island does mysterious things to you, haha. Awe-inspiring sights, a little bit of pilgrimage, and a little bit of history; are just the perfect ingredients for a second chance, don't you think?"

"You feeling warm?" he asked me.

Still unable to answer, I shook my head at the obvious answer, my hand naturally clasping my jacket tighter to my body as I sensed the approach of a chilly wind. Puzzled at his question, I looked at him with bewilderment.

"Then why are you perspiring?" he asked me.

A sudden realisation of droplets rolling down my forehead dawned upon me, as I raised my hand to try to dab the beads of sweat off, but somehow, despite the cold winter's night, I just would not stop perspiring.

A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead and into my blind, causing a temporary irritation, as I tried my best to blink it off, only to have the situation aggravated by the dry, cold wind that was blowing across my face.

Unable to stand it any longer, I moved my hands to my eyes and tried to rub them through my gloves. A sense of relief came over me as the edges of my knuckles met the corner of my eye, but that's when I realised that my gloves were off...


In fact, so was all my winter wear, and my entire top.

I was now in an all-too-familiar space, surrounded by the four walls that have literally held me in since childhood, but yet, something was amiss, the usual furniture was missing, and all that was left was my bed and my wardrobe, both covered with a glossy, wet, black sheen of paint, with me looking down at them.

I found myself atop a ladder, with a paintbrush in hand, with its tip dipped in a dark-grey shade of paint. I tried to raise my arms to move the paintbrush, but the soreness and aches of the muscles gave a biting realization of reality.

Not having slept for almost a continuous period of 18 hours, the clock struck 7.30am as my arms continued to move up and down along the wall, while my mind yearned for something a lot less torturous and monotonous.

"Almost there, almost there. I just got to finish this for once and for all," the voices in my head willing my body to go on. Putting the final touches to the wall, I laid the instruments down and headed for a much-needed shower, one that signified the end of 3 weeks of hard, manual labour; I task I had yearned to do for over 10 years, and hope not to do for another 20 if possible.

But as I re-entered the refreshingly monochrome space after my much needed bathe, I stood at the doorstep, looking in and nodding to myself, seeing that it was good,; and more importantly, a space I was proud to call my own.

I laid down on my bed, with my hair still wet, my body automatically shutting down as I fell into a deep sleep, feeling my senses shutting down one at a time, when the last thing that I felt was a drop of water, slowly rolling down my forehead and onto my eyelids, my hand subconsciously raised to wipe it away...


When my eyes open, blinding golden light was shining through all again. I was starting to get the idea of what this was all about, as I couldn't help by give a sly smile, upon knowing.

He knew that I had reached my realisation, and gave me a cheekier smile back - one that reminded me of when times and life was a tad simpler.

From the Fort, I looked down, and saw her, probably still oblivious to the fact that I was missing, finger still trigger-happy on the shutter, as the little Minnie Mouse ears atop her head dangled with each clumsy movement she made to get a better angle.

I looked at him, and slowly broke out into my sly smile...

"Oh, you want to know about that..." he said, hesitating briefly. "Yeah sure, why not?" he said, after 2 seconds of thought. "I can tell you though, the word is: Patience."

"Popcorn?" he said, stretching out a long box of popcorn at me.

With the tempting taste of Curry-flavoured Popcorn still etched in my mind, I reached into the box, but couldn't feel anything. Puzzled, I dug my hand a bit deeper in but still to no avail, when I lowered my head to peer into the darkness of the box, seeing something at the corner of the box, as I reached my fingers in to grab it....


Feeling something solid between my fingertips, I inched it out of the box, only to find that a familiar golden brown French fry was in my grasp instead.

Chatter from all angles filled my auditory senses, as I picked up the familiar words of "Module, grades, and lectures". I looked around, to see myself surrounded by young faces, none of which looked familiar, while some of them stared back at me with a slight sense of wonder, as I stood out like a sore thumb amongst them in my chic office attire.

I was back at my Alma Mater, with my laptop on in front of me - fries in one hand and my other on the mouse in front of me, as trees on screen moved towards me against a black background. Dragging and Dropping, bugging and debugging, while my other hand continued to circulate the fries to my mouth.

My phone rang as I answered it, hearing her familiar voice on the other end. "I'm done, Vampy!" she said semi-excited.

"Ok," I responded, as I finished up and packed my stuff, heart full of anticipation as I walked down the stairs, ready to see her countenance again after nearly a week. Dance had come into her life in full swing, adding to an honours year of oddly-timed modules; our weekend schedule had been dramatically affected and compromised over the months.

As I walked towards her at the bus stop, I was all-smiles, having learnt to fully accommodate to the changes and learn to make the best of the time together, as I knew that we had probably entered a different phase of the relationship, one that was less wilful, and more assured; one that could was durable enough and yet malleable enough to withstand changes to lifestyle, and eventually life.

"Where do you want to go darling?" I asked her, as I reached out for her hand.

She responded with an answer and a shrug, reminding me of her rule of not showing ANY affection within campus.

Stupid perhaps, but I took little heart to it, as she walked on in front of me, her image getting blurrier and blurrier and she continued to step forward while I had seemingly become more stationary....


"Yup, all's gonna go well in that aspect, man. Don't worry about it," he said, as I looked down at her still scurrying about, but suddenly turning around, and looking a bit lost.

"I probably need to go soon," I said to him, "but just one more thing that I really need to know."

"You mean about THAT thought?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied.

"That's gonna be huge, you know.... but yeah, why not right?" he said, almost nonchalantly.

"Close your eyes, and reach out your hand," he told me.

Not questioning anymore, I did as I was told...


A cold metal surface touched my palm, as I grasped it within, feeling the familiar shape and texture of a metal door handle, and a white door that stood before me.

Somewhat forcefully, I pressed down on the door handle and stepped through the door, into an empty room and stood in the silence. But gradually, that silence was broken, as I heard a familiar voice uttering the words "Good Morning" and other familiar voices faintly in the background. The voices grew louder and louder, and more audible, but just before they were audible enough to decipher who they belonged to, they disappeared and silence filled the room again, where a mysterious white door just like the one before had appeared at the other end of the room.

Stepping towards it, I did the same thing again, and stepped through the next door, into the next room, and stood in the silence. Again, I heard the same words, and I heard the increase in volume, only this time the increase in volume seemed to be amplified. But still, before I could make out the identity of the people speaking, it stopped, and another door appear.

I did the same, and went to another room, where the same events occurred again. After going through the same thing for about 20 times or so, one room at a time, over and over again; I was finally able to make out the owner of those mysterious voices - they were the voices of some of the students.

The moment I had this figured out, another door appeared, but this time a golden one. As I opened the door that led to another room, a pot of gold and a mirror awaited me at the other end of the room. I first approached the pot of gold, which was hardly full, and went on to pick up a few gold coins from the pot. Realizing the authenticity of the gold, I grew excited and wanted pour all the gold out to count the number of coins.

Pouring them out onto the floor, I started counting them, and when I had tallied the final amount, I reached for the pot of gold to put the coins back in, when I realised that the pot was filled with gold coins again, roughly the same weight as before. I poured out the coins to start counting them again, and I realised that the coins were exactly as before. But while this never-ending pot of gold was strange, the even stranger thing was that I couldn't put any gold coins back.

Believing the mirror to be equally enchanted, I approached it cautiously, my mind wondering about the possible enchantments within. But as I stood in front of it, it seemed to be nothing more than an ordinary mirror. Making gestures in front of it just to make sure, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. But as I stopped to look at it for a while, I realised that the reflection within had taken on its own will, its own soul; doing as it pleases. But when I rose to perform an action again, it followed suit. A strange object indeed.

A little label was attached to the handle of the mirror, in which read the words: "Choose."

I placed the two objects on the floor, knowing fully well what each of them meant to the decision that I had to make soon, and after much contemplation, I reached out my hand to pick up the pot of gold. Stepping through the door that I came in from, and the 20 before that...

"So, that's going to be your choice?" he said to me as I found myself back at the top of the Fort.

"I think so," I said, "I think it's time for a change; for a little bit more stability in my life you know, after the last couple of years."

Through a smile that hid a tinge of sadness, he said to me, "I guess you're ready for that. It's never going to be like it used to anymore you know? You're going to have to.... grow up... I guess..."

I paused for a moment, before I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "I know", assuringly.

"Then I guess you're all set for the New Year then?" he said, rhetorically.

"Yup, I guess this is where we have to part ways," I told him.

"Yeah, it's been one helluva ride," he said, with a forced chuckle. "One last question though."

"What?" I asked.

"Can I use your camera?" he asked. "You know I've always been dying to grab a photo with THAT camera for the longest time now, right?"

"Haha, I know." I said, as I tossed him the camera.

I slipped back down the Fort and behind her, only to find that she was not playing with her camera anymore, but instead, just staring out into the lights across the mass of water that lay before us. And I could only what the lights led her to see in her year ahead....