[Content warning: car accident]
She had had her seatbelt on, but it hadn’t been enough. The sudden impact had thrown her forwards before snapping her back hard against the seat. Fragments of glass and electronics had come flying towards her from the front of the car, and she felt a sticky sensation from all over her body that her brain calmly labeled as bleeding cuts.
Her parents slumped limply in their seats. She couldn’t see their faces, but the way their arms and shoulders hung slack told her they were in a bad state, and she couldn’t think of trying to find out anything further.
Her right hand didn’t seem to be moving properly, so she reached down with her left and pushed, pushed, until the seat belt came free of the buckle. She made an effort to lift herself up to she could look out the windows. The refrain of one of her parents’ songs rang plaintively through her head. “Help is on the way. He-elp is on the way!”
There was no one on the sidewalks, so she twisted around further, trying to look out the back of the car. There she found the couple that had been out walking, staring and watching. Her eyes met the shorter figure’s gaze, even across the half a block between them. She felt like his face was being burned into her brain.
A jolt went through her veins, but she didn’t have the energy to swing around quickly. Instead she let herself slide back down on the seat, and turned to look out the window. Where there had just been no one, there now stood an older girl with hair the same vivid blue as her own, wearing a black dress and a white blouse underneath. The other girl’s eyes were also the same shade as Freddie’s, and she felt a shiver go up her spine, even as her vision wavered.
“I finally made it here,” the girl said, seemingly to herself. “I finally made it.” She glanced into the front seat of the car and Freddie saw her eyes cloud over. “That was all it took, in the end. And in the end there were so many ways it didn’t have to happen.”
“Then why did it?” whispered Freddie. She meant for it to come out angry, to force the older girl to pay attention to her, but a whisper was all she could manage.
The girl turned her head, looked at her with those eerily familiar eyes—
“It didn’t, and it did. When you look back it looks like a line, but it’s really just another branch in the forest. That’s the secret of Miracles.” She closed her eyes. “I wish there was time to tell you all of this.”
Freddie felt a jolt at that. “I want to live,” she whispered, forcing air through her vocal cords.
The girl stiffened at that, her eyes still closed. “Do you really? Even at the cost of your life?”
The words were odd, as if the other girl were reciting something.
A part of Freddie’s brain had to laugh. What did it mean to live at the cost of your life? Unless it meant others might be hurt? Which meant—
“Mom? Dad?” she asked.
The other girl opened her eyes again, slowly shook her head.
A sigh escaped Freddie’s mouth, and she had to clench her chest to keep from losing all her breath. “Then yes.”
“Thank you,” the other girl said quietly, and Freddie didn’t understand why she was being thanked, and then all of a sudden the ache was gone, the sticky feeling was gone, and she was seeing the car from the outside—there were two cars—eight cars—
The world exploded into Fragments, and Freddie fell, down, down.
And then stopped. And without exactly knowing how or why, began to climb up into the past.
(You can listen to the song in Freddie’s head here.)
And thus ends “Determination”, tying up most of the loose ends and leaving a few for you all to speculate about. I’m not sure it’s a satisfying ending; in fact, I’m leaning towards feeling generally unsatisfied even for myself. Nevertheless, it finally, finally delivers on the premise I set out in the very first post:
This story’s inspired by that visual novel Umineko: When They Cry, as well as Matt Gemmell’s Changer. Lady Erica is in fact supposed to represent a specific character from Umineko, but I’m hoping to keep the story independent of that universe. It’s my own take on how that power might work, and might not match up with what’s canon there.
Oh hey, I had forgotten about Changer. It was just okay, honestly, even though I like Gemmell’s short-form writing a lot.
The lesson I’m going to take away from “Determination” is that just because something’s clever doesn’t always mean it’s worth turning into a whole story, especially not stretched out over the span of ten months, and especially when the protagonist is a side character in that idea. That said, I’m still glad to have written it.
So what’s next in writing (besides all these Psycho-Pass posts)? Well, I’m still working on Morning Glory, which means both first-pass editing and bringing chunks of it to my writing group. Besides that, I also have ideas for a few short pieces based on Kimi no Na wa, of all things. Given everything else I have going on, that’s probably quite enough.
Thank you for reading.