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10 April 2008 @ 11:00 am
Obliscence and the Plane of Experience (the Rememory Remix) [Mushishi; Ginko; G]  
Title: Obliscence and the Plane of Experience (the Rememory Remix)
Author: Oyce (springgreen)
Summary: "We, amnesiacs all, condemned to live in an eternally fleeting present, have created the most elaborate of human constructions, memory, to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrieveability of its moments and events." - Geoffrey Sonnabend
Rating: G
Fandom: Mushishi
Spoilers: Through volume 3 of the manga and episode 12 of the anime
Original story: Five Places Ginko Wishes He Could Revisit, by qwerty (xsmoonshine)
Notes: Thanks so much to etothey for the beta and to the original author for actually writing in this tiny fandom!



The mountains were as he remembered: thoroughly unremarkable and no different from the many other mountains he had visited. The trees were still green; the summit was still wreathed in what might be mist or smoke, only without the mushi-paralyzing properties Ginko so valued; and all Ginko could comment on was the thankful lack of a giant snake perched on the summit.

The village, on the other hand, had changed. More houses, more people, more cleared land; fewer greetings, fewer smiles, fewer gatherings in the streets. More notably, there was the change that had brought him here -- people remembering experiences that were not theirs.

But he found upon arriving that there was yet another change, one that he hadn't anticipated.

The retired mushishi he had first lived with, Yasushi, was dead. He had not been driven mad by the whispers of memories, as some had, but had instead succumbed to one of the many mushi in his menagerie. He had fossilized slowly, the transformation starting from fingers and toes and working its way inward until the creep of stone had reached his torso and killed him. The villagers led Ginko to Yasushi's grave so that he might leave an offering of fruit or burn a stick of incense, and they were horrified when he asked if he could exhume the grave.

"Maybe he should ask the new mushishi," someone suggested, and the others were glad to acquiesce, passing the decision on to someone hopefully more qualified and less disgusted.

The new mushishi, Sadako, turned out to be a woman in her late fifties, and she was hardly new, having worked in the village for nearly a decade. It seemed as though the villagers enjoyed complaining about eccentric mushishi and their tangles of mushi, but not enough to relinquish the status of having one in residence.

"Ah, it's you," she said in greeting, blowing a cloud of smoke in Ginko's face, as if he were a recalcitrant mushi. "By all means, dig up the body and examine the stone limbs. Take a toe if you like. But the memories are much more interesting than a simple Ishinari mushi, aren't they?"

"Sounds like you've already been investigating," Ginko said, sitting.

"True," she said, "though the company of another mushishi is always welcome. It'll keep me on my toes."

For the next few days, he wandered about the village interviewing people. The memories were largely harmless, and Ginko found himself more fascinated by the tales than by the trail of the mushi. A past lunch of small pieces of salmon sashimi mixed with salty bubbles of roe and rice, instructions for creating a perfect azure blue glaze that gently dripped into gray, a steady hand cleaning out earwax as the afternoon sunlight filtered through paper-covered windows -- all possible glimpses of what someone had found important, long ago.

Other memories were not so harmless. Ginko had dredged up the body of a young boy who had drowned, convinced that he was a fisherman, and several other villagers had been completely incapacitated by memories so strong that they had turned into voices.

At night, Ginko and Sadako sat by her hearth fire, smoking and sharing stories. Today was a better day: Ginko had listened to the recollection of an inherited kimono, the man's voice catching when he described how the fabric by the seams had nearly been worn away, and Sadako's interviewee had shown her family how to write a waka, despite never having read before. And both had visited the same area of forest that several other villagers with memories had, a promising clue.

The work was familiar and comforting, and having another mushishi around to talk to was less frustrating and more enriching than he had imagined. He found that the changes to the village were more superficial than he had thought. Sadako was not Yasushi, but then, the villagers treated her with the same mix of respect, trepidation, and eye-rolling. He was no longer a child, but they pampered him all the same. And as the villagers grew accustomed to the two mushishi's attempts to decipher the mysterious happenings, people slowly began to creep out of their houses and stand around gossiping again.

The next night, instead of handing over a bowl for dinner, Sadako passed Ginko a cage containing a sparrow, its feathers translucent white, one eye sealed shut, the other an unnatural green. For the first time in a very long time, Ginko choked on the smoke of his cigarette, and his breath was not the only thing that had caught.

"What have you been keeping from me?" Sadako asked conversationally as she passed him a bowlful of rice porridge.

"I haven't," he replied, and he yelped as she tipped the hot porridge over his pants. "Truly!" he insisted, struggling to remove his rapidly cooling pants without showing too much skin to Sadako. "I've looked like this since I can remember, and in twenty years of wandering, I haven't found anything that looked like me. I just assumed I was born this way." He lifted his bangs and showed Sadako the eye that contained nothing but darkness.

The night after, Sadako handed over a scroll. "Yasushi's records," she explained.

"That would have been helpful before I went traipsing about for more birds. I now hold you responsible for two pairs of ruined pants."

"Pants are trivial," Sadako said with a sniff. "Did you find anything?"

Ginko held up the cage, now with four birds. "Each missing an eye." He did not need to say, "Like me."

"Ginko," Sadako muttered. "No, not you. Read the scroll."

He unrolled it and nearly dropped it, the faint whiff of cat piss making his eyes water. "Outside," Sadako said. "This is why I never went through Yasushi's records. That, and because he enjoyed writing up cases while partaking of hallucinogenic mushi byproducts."

About a third of the way through the scroll, Ginko came across the mention of the mushi named "Ginko," and to his surprise, he found a crudely sketched image of his younger self below the scrawled notes. It had been written a few months after he had been rescued from Yasushi's mad influence, and it seemed that even a retired mushishi retained his connections in the small community of people dedicated to the strange beings. Yasushi could have been more flattering with the sketch, but at least Ginko now had an explanation for his coloring, if not for his first memory of wandering for days in the dark. Unfortunately, Yasushi's notes were brief and limited mainly to the cause of the bleaching.

When Ginko woke the next morning, he found Sadako standing in front of a cage that only contained three birds. Odd, he thought, and Sadako went over the cage door to check for potential escape methods. The morning after that, there were only two birds left.

"Show me your eye again," Sadako said. He did, and she nodded, satisfied at something. "I stayed up all night watching the cage. The bird that disappeared ended up opening its closed eye, and the darkness in it flowed out. The bird eventually dissolved into that darkness. I vaguely remember reading about this when I first moved here and was foolishly and diligently trying to make my way through Yasushi's notes. I'll let you do that today. I'm going to go and try to find more birds."

Ginko sighed, not particularly happy about being left with more stinking scrolls, but too discomfited by the image of himself transforming, ink leeching from a brush into clear water, flesh and memory and self flowing away, to make a sardonic comment.

Sadako returned with no more birds, something Ginko was very thankful for. Unfortunately, his own news was not good at all -- he had discovered the name of the darkness, "Tokoyami," and how it was related to the Ginko mushi, but nothing regarding preventative measures or a cure. Both he and Sadako sat in front of the fire, slurping the soup he had made as a means to avoid conversation. He was an excellent mushishi -- he thought this with no arrogance -- as was Sadako, but she had no solution to offer him, and he was out of bright ideas.

That night, he lay in bed for hours, experimentally cracking open his left eye, wondering if this time, this attempt, would be the one to precipitate his own dissolution. Dread weighed heavy in his chest, and he imagined that he could not breathe. He had always believed that mushi were to be respected and treated with caution. Even when he had nearly been overwhelmed by Yasushi's zoo of mushi when he was still young and not yet a mushishi, he had never feared them, though he had occasionally feared for his own life. The mushi were creatures like him, who struggled to live and eat, and it was not their fault when humans got in the way. Ginko had just thought if the human were him, it would be a quick death, not a long, slow lingering.

He suddenly sympathized with Yasushi, who had been forced to slowly watch his own body betray him, cold stone replacing living cells, and found himself reevaluating the many people he had helped, all of whom had made decisions that seemed incomprehensible and irrational at the time. He told himself he would not panic like them, but it was too late, and he was already hyperventilating.

He could not bear to be in the darkness, so he got up from the futon, lit a candle, and sat in front of the bird cage, masochistically wanting even now to know how the process worked. As the sun slowly rose over the mountains, coloring the ever-present mist purple, then flame orange and shell pink, Ginko watched as one of the birds opened its missing eye, watched the soot-black well of a socket dissolve, watched as the bird slowly, slowly seeped away. The rays of the newly-risen sun could not light the patch of night that was once a bird.

When he turned to blow out the now-unnecessary candle, he found Sadako watching him.

"I dreamed of you," she said.

"I'm touched."

"I wouldn't be. It wasn't particularly special. It was merely you, wandering through the darkness, chanting your own name. In fact, I suspect I have finally experienced the displaced memories that have been plaguing the village."

He nodded, uncomfortable. His earliest, most mysterious memory had appeared here, where the rest of his life seemed to be determinedly unraveling, and he was too skeptical to believe in coincidences.

"I must have encountered the Tokoyami, been subjected to the light of the Ginko, and somehow made my way out, taking the name of a mushi for my own," he said. "And it's too unlikely to believe that somehow, one of the first places I lived after forgetting everything ended up infested by a mushi who inflicts my oldest memory on you, particularly when the Ginko and Tokoyami mushi reside here as well."

Sadako was still; she must have come to the same conclusion. "I believe an unknown effect of living on the edges of a region inhabited by the Ginko and Tokoyami is that the Tokoyami eventually releases the memories it has taken. If you stay, you may be able to find them again. Of course, you may also end up insane."

And because she was offering him a past and a home, Ginko knew she had missed one key fact. "No," he said. "The Ginko and the Tokoyami didn't appear here. They must have come here with me, during my time with Yasushi."

"You can't know that," Sadako argued. "The Tokoyami could have been brought in by the birds."

"Yes, but not the Ginko, and the Ginko is what creates the Tokoyami. And you forget -- the Tokoyami here is one that knew me from before I was Ginko." He knelt by his futon and began to gather his things. "I've forgotten as well and overstayed. You should advise the villagers to move further away so that the memories plague them no more."

"But what of yours?" she asked.

"No matter. It has been missing these twenty-odd years; going on without them won't kill me," he said. "Well, no more than it already has." He found this funny, though he suspected Sadako did not.

That afternoon, he left, noting with satisfaction that the village had already begun preparations to move.

He only looked back once, as was his habit. The mountains were as he remembered: verdant and wreathed in clouds, home to mushi both harmful and harmless. It was only he who had changed.
 
 
 
qwerty: huggles! love!xsmoonshine on April 20th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
Oh wow, Mushishi! Thank you for writing in this tiny fandom too, remixer person! And thank you for writing a wonderful story at that! ♥

I like all the strange and interesting mushi you came up with, the expanded Ginko backstory, and the idea about the memories leaking back into the world.

Hope you have a happy Remix!
springgreenspringgreen on April 26th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked! Also, haha, I cracked up when I saw my assignment was you ;).
qwerty: huggles! love!xsmoonshine on April 27th, 2008 12:41 pm (UTC)
Hee, I wondered! I figured it had to be a Saiyuki fan who got me - we animanga sorts are kind of thin on the ground. Thanks for remixing! ^_^
EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY ANNOYANCE: Mushishi - to see the unseentelophase on April 27th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
Beautiful! :D
springgreenspringgreen on April 27th, 2008 03:59 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Rachel M Brown: Autumn: small leavesrachelmanija on April 27th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
I love this! Hallucinogenic mushi byproducts! Fowl of doom! Smelly scrolls! Little details of Japanese village life!

And I love the melancholy of the conclusion: maybe Ginko could find his memories, but only at the cost of going crazy and drawing mushi from all over. And that Ginko is still trying to learn even when he's at the point of death.
springgreenspringgreen on April 27th, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
Yay, you like! It evolved a great deal from "voices of outer space" ;).