DQ's Utena Shrine

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Reaching
Part Two: For the Shadows

The Duelist smiles at me with white shining teeth that are not sharp and yet like fangs. She points her sword at me in a mock salute. "I will destroy her. I will destroy the power of miracles."

Vaguely standing between us is the image of a woman in a long fancy dress, eyes glittering with hope and defeat. Her eyes are green, I think, and sad.

The Duelist lunges, and my sword never moves fast enough, her blade always avoiding my parry, and I see burgundy rose petals fly before me. The force of her stroke knocks me over, and with the sound of metal clattering I make contact with the ground. I can see the Bride collapse to her knees, and the Duelist walks over to her, grabs her by the collar, pulls her up, and plants a kiss upon her mouth, deep, passionate, and harsh. The Bride relents willingly to the kiss, and limply falls to her knees once more when the Duelist releases her. The Victor pulls her sword hand back and then swiftly plunges the blade into the Bride's chest, and, turning even before her victim finishes crumpling to the ground, she saunters over to me.

The Duelist places the point of her sword at my chest, and I know she is preparing to thrust, pausing only long enough for me to see her eyes gleaming with bitter contempt. They are the coldest, cruellest eyes I have ever seen.

They are my own.

*****

Twin relationships are the
capricious, heartless lies of desires
propagating endlessly in the
interval between two mirrors.
Ah, man does not exist.
Ah, within the darkness
Ah, the sound of the waves

Even light casts shadows, making a pair out of me and me.
Isolation outbreak, that's the reason making a pair out of me and me.

"Following this theory, the antagonist in a nightmare represents the dreamer's own fears and repressed desires. Some believe this figure, commonly referred to as the Shadow, is the self-destructive aspect of the dreamer's psyche. However, this is not necessarily the case. This chapter decribes how the Shadow tries to force the dreamer to face his or her unrealized urges and needs, which can ultimately prove helpful to the dreamer when trying to understand oneself–yes, Takatsuki-san?" Yumiwara-sensei raises a grey eyebrow at me as he sees my hand go up. He is a middle aged man with kind eyes and hungry cheeks.

"I'm sorry, Sensei, but if your Shadow is trying to kill you, I don't see how that's helpful."

Yumiwara-sensei gives me a patronizingly patient smile. "If a Shadow is 'trying to kill you,' it's more likely it is trying to 'kill' something within you that you are afraid of, or something you dislike within yourself. If you come to terms with your fear, the Shadow may cease haunting you. Oftentimes, you can begin doing this in the dreamscape itself. People who dream they are being chased force themselves to turn around and see what they are running from." He smiles. "Often they see nothing at all. But regardless of what they see, the courage you gain from facing your Shadow you may use to harness when facing your fears in the conscious world. However," the psychology teacher adds, "killing your Shadow outright does not often help. That is, according to this theory, an act of repressing the fear your Shadow represents, and your Shadow will eventually reappear in a different form." Sensei checks his watch. "Read chapter 4 and write out your answers to the questions at the end–thoroughly. I look forward to next class." Promptly after he finishes his speech, the bell rings.

Kyoko, who sits behind me, whispers to me as I stand up and pack my books into my satchel. "This dream unit is really weird, don't you think?"

"Mmm," I agree. "Though it's interesting, at least. Not like the 'parts of the brain' unit at the beginning of the semester."

Kyoko comes to stand next to me as we start to leave the class. She's a girl a little taller than me (but who isn't?) with straight black hair and unremarkable dark blue eyes, and she's one of the few people who's decided I'm still cool enough to hang out with after my humiliating break-up with Ruka-sempai. She leans closer to whisper to me. "Why is Arisugawa-san staring at you?"

I glance over to the side of the room, where I see a pair of brooding green eyes meet mine and quickly flicker forward. She walks out of class ahead of us, orange coils of hair bouncing forcefully against her back with her stride. I haven't spoken to her since my little torrent of insults last week, and of course she would never willingly approach me.

"She's probably trying to scare me," I shrug. "That's what Jury-san does, or so they say."

"Did you do something to piss her off?"

I shrug again. "I guess so."

"I'm glad I'm not in your shoes."

I raise an eyebrow at my companion, seeing her eyes follow the Council Treasurer as she disappears into the crowded hallway. "You know, I don't think Jury-san is as scary as everyone says she is. She's been mad at me a few times over the years, and she hasn't killed me yet." I try to smile and look brave. I'm not sure I entirely believe myself.

"You're very brave, Shiori." Kyoko raises an eyebrow at me like I'm insane (although at least she is smiling).

I laugh. "You really think so?" I look at the crowd ahead of us, trying to catch a glimpse of those curls. "Let's just hope I stay that way if I have to face her."

*****

She walks by outside as I am eating my lunch. I'm by myself today, because Kyoko wants to impress someone she has a crush on. Not that Kyoko's particularly interesting conversation anyway– although I shouldn't think that. She is a nice (if ordinary) girl.

The sun is warm and the wind is cold. I can't taste my food much.

Nearby, proud footsteps wax and recede and then grow louder again.

Jury's just been pacing around the schoolyard during lunch. She carries a bento-box wrapped in a white cloth loosely in her hand, as if she's forgotten it's there. She does that thing when she wants to talk to me: she walks a few steps in front of me, then tilts her head downward and back toward me so I can just barely see her face as she speaks.

"Have you been sleeping well?" She's either taunting me, pretending to be concerned, or she is really concerned. She always does this, as soon as I'm certain I've done something to drive her away, she'll do something to show something approximating compassion or care. Perhaps it's simply in memory of our old friendship.

How do I answer her? Push her away? Pretend we are friends again?

"Do I look that bad?" I ask, wiping my face for fear that bits of rice ball are clinging to it, wishing I could brush away the circles under my eyes.

She allows herself to laugh briefly. "No... although you do seem tired. You mentioned in class..."

"Everyone has nightmares sometimes, Jury-san."

She just barely nods. "True."

I wonder what her nightmares are like. For a moment, I wonder if they are exactly the same as mine. A sudden image explodes in my mind, for a moment blocking off all external senses: I am standing over her, pulling a sword out of her chest, the way I remember doing with Ruka-sempai, except that she is in great pain. I can hear her gasping for air and feel a great, frightening surge of sadistic joy in response to her agony. I blink, reassuring myself I'm awake, I'm sitting outside eating my lunch. I feel myself shudder, trying to shake it off.

"Are you all right?" She turns her head a little more so I can see beyond her massive curls, and she actually does look worried. She must have seen me tremble.

Arisugawa Jury, I don't think I will ever understand you.

"I'm fine." Here I am, lying again. It's just a simple little meaningless lie, yet every time I lie now, I see Ruka, naming me for the liar I am. It's a very good and very painful and frustrating deterrent. "With a good night's sleep, I should feel a little better." At least I hope so.

"I hope so," she says quietly, and walks away.

The mixture of her concern and her avoidance of me only makes me angry.

Why, Jury? Why do you care?

*****

Tonight, when she stabs her, the Bride screams in pain. I try to tell her to fight back, but no sound escapes my lips.

 

Yet I wake myself up, crying out.

I crawl out of bed. I'm wide awake, cold and sticky with sweat. I'm sick of these dreams, and I'm sick of not knowing what to do with them. I've started writing them down as recommended by one of Yumiwara-sensei's suggested readings, but all it seems to do is help me remember them more without helping me figure out what to do, how to change it. Our class textbook is educational analysis, not a self-help book, and has no answers on how to deal with specific dreams. It's just lots of general theories, none of which seem to quite apply to me. Sometimes the dreams seem more like memories than dreams, but of course I've never fought in the Duels myself.

Have I?

I am afraid of so many things, I doubt I could ever stand up to my Shadow. And even then, what would I do? I'm not supposed to kill her?

But what else do you do with a sword in your hand?

I grab my room key; it's on a long chain that I hang around my neck afterward, and the cold metal prickles againsts my skin. I shuffle out into my dorm hallway. In my mind, I can hear my mother bitching that I'm going somewhere in my pajamas with no shoes on and what will the world think of me if they see me like that, but who is going to see me at 2 a.m.?

I wander outside, the sharp coolness of the air striking the fog over my brain, although weariness fights for dominance. I make my way toward the big fountain in the residential quad. It's always lit, even at the dead of night.

I can hear the water from here; it is smooth and soothing, and maybe it will eventually talk me into going back to sleep.

It's not till I'm quite near the fountain that I realize someone is sitting not far away, alongside the granite statues that line the pool. The cold night is biting into my toes; maybe I should turn back.

She turns her head at my approach. The lights from the fountain bounce off orange curls. "Shiori..." the startled sound slides off her lips.

"I'm sorry. I didn't... I was just having trouble sleeping." I hope that I am drowsy and drained enough from my dream, so that there is no energy inside me that could allow me to tangle with her tonight. Just let me be here until I have the strength to move, and I will let you be here.

As I move to sit on the fountain's edge, I see her slowly relax as she lets out a deep breath. I look down at the waters and dip my index finger in them, drawing kanji in the water that slip away into nothing-ripples even as I glide my fingers off the surface. My name. Jury's name.

"Nightmares again?" She asks after a few moments. I'm not really looking at her, and I don't think she's really looking at me. We let the falling waters carry our words back and forth to one another.

"My 'Shadow' and I aren't getting along," I say, recalling the term from Intro to Psychology.

"What's she like? Your Shadow?"

"She's a Duelist. A fencer." The silence between us electrifies. "She's not you," I add to clarify.

"Mmm," Jury says unenlighteningly.

"What about you? Bad dreams?"

"Bad thoughts."

"Mmm," I reply. More water-filled silence passes by. Of course I want to know what they are, but I don't dare ask. There's a remote possibility that she'll tell me.

"Shiori?" Her voice is softer than usual, and reminds me of when she was maybe thirteen. Three years ago. So much can happen in that time.

"Yes, Jury-san?"

"Thank you."

"Why?"

"For saying those things to me last week."

"Why?" That has me off guard. "I wasn't... I shouldn't have..."

"Because you spoke the truth. Your truth, anyway. And I realized, I hadn't thought much about your perspective; I just made a lot of assumptions... just like you assumed I was in love with Mitaro."

There's a strange sensation in my heart, sort of as if it's being wrung out to dry. I can't think of what to say, and my rationalizing side blames it on sleepiness, although my heart says there's more. The thought flashes through my mind: what other assumptions have I made that are wrong?

An accompanying flash: I once felt like I knew her more than anyone in the world. More than myself. Did I ever really? Why don't I know her now?

Who are you, Jury?

After a few more moments of quiet, she speaks again. "One thing... I never... viewed you as an object."

"Back then... I would have believed you." Actually, I think I believe her now, because for some idiotic reason I still trust her like I did when I was younger.

Yet, part of me insists upon being suspicious of more. Because I don't understand what else she could feel for something like me. And I hate her for being so weak as to be weakened by me for any reason.

"And you don't now?"

"I don't know who you are, anymore, Jury-san. I don't know what to believe. Sometimes I think you've changed beyond recognition." A brief, surprising laugh hmphs its way out of my mouth. "Sometimes I think you haven't changed at all."

She responds with her own brief chuckle. "You know, Shiori... I think the same thing about you."

I am speaking without thinking (again) because I am too tired to think. "Maybe we should try to get to know each other again." The words flowed out of a bloom of hope that fades as soon as I finish speaking. Of course we can't get to know each other again.

I hear her stand, or rather the sound of her robe softly rubbing against her legs and the fountain behind her. "Goodnight, Shiori," she mutters in a low voice. I slowly turn my head to see her back receding into the shadows left by the moon. It seems that's all I ever see of her lately.

"Damn you," I whisper to her and myself and the water's lullaby.

[Part II Notes: The song quote is from "Earth as a Character Gallery" (a.k.a. Shiori's Duel Song) and is someone's fan translation of lyrics by J.A. Seazer. The song is copyright the Utena people.]

Go to Part I ++ Part III ++ Part IV ++ Part V

 


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