I was floating in water, but I didn't feel wet. You don't really feel wet when you're underwater because everything is wet. My clothes clung to me, utterly sodden and weighing me down. My socks felt so out of place that I felt compelled to open my eyes, reach down, and rip them off. Yes, my eyes were closed as if I was sleeping encased inside of a waterbed; although I could tell instinctively that I was floating freely within a much larger body of water. Not a river; there was no current. A large pond, maybe, a lake, or even a tank. Did it really matter?
I'd been like that for a while, drifting without purpose. I should have been sinking down into the depths, but somehow I was perfectly buoyant.
I took a deep breathe. The crisp taste of fresh water flowed over my tongue and down my esophagus, splitting off into my windpipe. I nearly choked, but somehow I found that I could breathe in this water. It was no different from air except for its obvious substance.
I opened my eyes and to my surprise they did not sting when the water penetrated the gaps between my eyelids. The ocean around me seemed endless in all directions. I floated there for a moment, making an attempt to orient myself. The only clue was the ceiling of water above. A faint light reached down toward me, somehow very close and unimaginable far away all at once.
Once I found my bearings, I was surprised to find there was something I'd missed. Well, some things. Everywhere and in every conceivable direction there floated these strangely transparent, perfectly geometrical cubes. They freely roamed the water. They moved with no conceivable rhyme, nor any sort of reason. I could do nothing but watch in a sort of stunned awe as they slowly drifted about. Soon, I spotted a pair of cubes set on a collision course. When they touched, they erupted into a brilliant array of colors, all neon like the ones you see all over the cities after dark and just before dawn.
The display was so bright that my eyes hurt, but I just couldn't look away. Even as the neon rainbow faded and the cubes drifted apart from each other, my eyes were glued. I felt drawn to the cubes. I wanted to see if I could produce the same effect.
I searched around and located the nearest cube, which was conveniently position directly below me. I began to swim straight toward it. The act of swimming was somehow calming. I took comfort in each stroke and kick that brought me that much closer to the cube, my goal.
I slowed myself closing in on the cube. I felt a sort of apprehension. I'd been so enthusiastic seconds ago, but the fact that I had no idea exactly what these cubes were dawned on me only now. What would happen if I dared to touch just one? It could just as easily send a debilitating shock coursing through my body as light up in the same way those other two had previously. I didn't really know what kind of reaction the cube would give me.
Oh well, only one way to find out!
I allowed my momentum to carry me as I reoriented myself to touch down on the cube feet first. Color exploded from the cube. I was forced to avert my eyes; the brightness tore at my retina. The first neon blue burst was burned into my eyelids. It wasn't long before I opened my eyes again, slowly this time to allow them to get used to the flashing display of colors. It refused to end this time. As long as I touched the cube, it would emit this same neon signal.
Slowly my eyes grew used to the blaze of color. I could gaze at it more easily, but it began to hurt my eyes, like the sun did if you stared directly at it on a clear day. I had to look away. That was when I spotted her.
Another cube bobbed in the distance. It flashed endlessly as mine did, but instead standing atop it was a girl my age. I couldn't help but feel that she looked terribly familiar. The plain white dress she wore wafted around her like another creature entirely. Her raven black hair spilled over her shoulders and spread out like a wave behind her, as independent a creature as her dress. Her face, I could not see. Her back was to me.
Vaguely, I wondered what she looked like. Would she turn around for me? I took a single step forward, but froze. In that instant she did turn her head to look at me, as if to indulge me. It was almost like I'd projected by curiosity into her mind. She twisted just far enough for me to get a good look at her face and into her deep brown eyes.
Kasumi? No. Not Kasumi. This girl didn't look exactly like her, more like how I would have imagined she would look now: older and more refined. This girl couldn't be Kasumi. After all, that was impossible. The events of five years ago flashed across my mind. Kasumi had been gone for so long now. This girl could not be her.
All of the sudden, the face that so much resembled Kasumi swiveled away. The girl leaped from her cube only to land on another one, now flashing, farther off. She was running away from me.
In an instant, I forgot my logical reasoning that this girl simply could not be her. "Kasumi!" I cried out to her. She did not react. She didn't even glance back at me. I refused to waste any time thinking about it. I jumped from my own cube to chase after her. I couldn't stand the idea of her getting away from me.
Cubes raced by me on both sides as I struggled to trail after her. I leaped from cube to cube and swam in combination to keep up my speed, ignoring the mesmerizing rainbow displays I left in my wake. But I never got any closer. Kasumi was always one step ahead of me. She always knew my next move and the one after that. Not only was she faster than me, but she was smarter than me too. It was like she was playing with me, only humoring my pathetic attempts to catch up with her. It was like she could disappear at any moment.
And then she did. One minute she was there; the next she was gone without a trace. I kept my momentum up, swimming desperately in the same direction. Eventually, I just stopped. I saw no more use in continuing. She was gone. No point in chasing after something less than a ghost.
I touched down on one final cube. The neon flashing that resulted no longer grasped my attention. I found myself instead staring at one spot, the spot where Kasumi had disappeared. Again.
But that girl, she wasn't Kasumi. She couldn't be. Kasumi had vanished without a trace more than five years ago. The chances of her still clinging to life were less than slim to none. I knew that. The girl had to be someone else, not Kasumi. She simply looked a lot like Kasumi or how I imagined Kasumi would look. My mind had been playing tricks on me.
That was what my mind told me, but at the same time another voice argued: That girl, she was Kasumi. How could there be a doubt? She couldn't be anyone else aside from Kasumi. Kasumi was alive; I saw her, but she ran away from me. That thought cut me more deeply than I expected.
Then it occurred to me. This was a dream. Just a stupid dream. None of this was real, only an illusion. I thought I was supposed to be done with these dreams. I got over losing her years ago. It would end soon. I would wake up.
But I couldn't just wait. I began to swim upward, straight up at that ceiling of water. If I break the surface, I reasoned, I'll be free of this world. I swam higher and higher, but the ceiling never got any closer. How could it be so close and yet so far away? Even without breaking free of this alien world of endless water as I'd envisioned, I eventually got my wish. I woke up.