I have been tumbling in a kaleidoscopic dream for the past week. Now, instead of running around Tokyo together, we are talking in my dreams. My mind is bright and quiet.
It's just the two of us. For now.
The sun goddess settles into the glass chair in the center of my mind’s room. She crosses her legs and examines her glittering fingernails. She’s wearing an autumn-colored cashmere dress, stockings, and a pleased expression. I'm the one to break the silence.
“I knew who you were before you spoke."
“Did you, my Prince?”
“Your clothes were plain, but your eyes were on fire," I tell her. "Your statues and portraits always show you with a round face and small eyes. You wear ancient white robes, and you look like a chubby Chinese woman in a cotton bathrobe. See! You’re smiling!”
“Well, you’re completely right. The bathrobe look was very popular two thousand years ago.”
“But I knew it wasn’t right now. I knew if I met you now, your eyes had to be fiery, constantly moving, and gleaming. When I saw you, I couldn’t look right at you.”
She smirks at me. “I was standing in front of a spotlight at the time.”
“The world brightened when we met. You’re not just special.”
I have been special my entire life. I have been told I am descended from the gods. What that meant had eluded me, until I ran away from it all. Until I met this woman in an alley trinket shop.
“Not as special as you are, my Prince,” Amaterasu answers softly.
Dr. Hanyuda’s entire career is on the line. A Tokyo University degree will not save him. If he fails, forget his job, the Right-wing gangsters will set his home on fire and probably shoot his family. He will be thrown out of the best hospital in Japan.
“Give him the second dosage,” he snaps at the younger doctor across the hospital bed. The doctor fumbles with the bag, his hands sweaty. They’ve been in this room for two hours, and the patient’s condition is the same—a rocking chair on the edge of a cliff.
He pretends to think and stares at the ceiling, ignoring the bodyguards in the doorway staring at him.
Ironically, he’s praying.
“It doesn’t make sense. When did people start believing that you guys lived in mirrors and shrines?”
She shrugs, sunlight falling off her shoulders like dust. She brushes some off her lap. “When they wanted us to. Having a nomadic god is troublesome when you’re trying to raise gold and show your local authority. It was your ancestors who said I lived at Ise. I mean, Ise, honestly.”
“Sorry,” I apologize. “I’m trying to fix that.”
“I know,” she says sadly.
Dr. Hanyuda is shouting. The patient’s eyelids flutter, and Dr. Hanyuda’s heart stops. Like the prince’s.
Sweat drips down his back, his shirt soaked hours ago.
If he had known a simple depression medication (and others) would have such devastating effects, he would have strangled the doctor who prescribed it.
The depression medication isn’t a surprise. No one talks about it, but everyone knows that the Empress committed suicide two years ago. Apparently all the palaces and limousines can’t hide it. That wandering sadness. That lost smile.
Dr. Hanyuda adjusts a new syringe. It can’t hide the fact that you’re not allowed to have friends over without an advance guard. On your wedding night, priests will stand outside your door, scattering rice in a ritual no one actually believes in anymore. All for the descendants of a sun goddess that no one really believes existed.
Dr. Hanyuda grimly realizes that acne was the worst problem he had at seventeen. He slides the syringe into the patient.
It isn't just the two of us now.
“But it makes sense for you to be, well, people,” I say.
The god of getting lost, Awashima, leans over Amaterasu’s shoulder. He winks at me.
“Of course it does. We’re the most meaningful influences in your life, whether you know it or not. A man passed me yesterday on the street, and he never made it to his company party.” Awashima shrugs—the God Shrug, I call it. It’s five times more nonchalant than the careless rich person version. “He lost his way to the party, but he found his way home to his children.” Awashima walks around my mind room, examining the pictures on the walls. He flinches at the faded map on the wall. “Good thing I found you when you ran away from the palace, huh?”
“You were really lost,” he elaborates. “But this is what happens when you get lost. You find the important things. The things you never knew you were missing in the first place.”
“It was amazing, getting to see Tokyo with you guys.” I pause. “Where’s Awashima?”
Amaterasu shrugs and smiles at me. “Oh, he wandered off. Hope you don’t have any scandalous memories you don’t want him stumbling through.”
“Unfortunately I don’t.” I frown and look away from the brilliant woman.
A long silence pools between us. Then, “My father didn’t believe me,” I say in a small voice.
“I don’t understand. I thought he’d be happy. This is the great answer. We can’t find you because we’ve been looking for you in arcane rituals and ancient buildings that no one can actually enter! It’s ridiculous!”
The sun goddess doesn’t cry—she’s the sun goddess—but she turns away.
“I found you in a prism shop in Ikebukuro,” I whisper, my voice shaking. “I found you because I was the only one looking.”
“When you wake up, my Prince, if you can’t find us, promise me you won’t forget us?”
Three days. After two heart failures, four seizures, and a terrifying moment when the Crown Prince started babbling gibberish at the ceiling, Dr. Hanyuda is about to give up. They’ve come to the last combination. If it doesn’t work, he’s decided he’s moving to Brazil.
Dr. Hanyuda sits on a stool beside the bed, exhaustion tearing at his eyes. Then, the Prince’s eyes open like moldy curtains.
They’re hazy, groggy, and he’s pumped full of meds, but Dr. Hanyuda doesn’t even have to look at the boy’s stats to know.
He’s going to be all right. A lump forms in his throat.
The Crown Prince is going to be more than all right, he realizes as the boy looks around the room at his father, the bodyguards, and the doctors, his gaze drugged and sluggish. He’s cured.
“They’re gone,” the boy says brokenly to no one in particular.
Author's Note: "The Madness of Crown Prince Sazaki" was originally published on the now defunct Figment.com as a flash fiction serial. Now re-reading it and re-publishing it so many years later, it's surreal to me. I find it raw and angry, a story with a lot to say and not pulling punches... It seems like it was written by a different person entirely, albeit with a few inky fingerprint smudges to remind me that, yes, it was me. Thank you for reading it. When you have a free moment, leave a comment. —E.R. Warren, 2018