Author's Note: You may NOT reproduce this work without my permission. Six Thorns in Sanity is a collection of short stories with a twist. They are not supposed to be related to each other unless stated or hinted otherwise.

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the characters and real life people are all unintentional. The views expressed in this work of fiction are not really representative of my own beliefs. The words and actions of characters in this story are not an endorsement of any political or personal ideals, nor are they meant to be interpreted as indicative of the beliefs of any other persons or organizations.


"You would've died long ago if not for this machine, May. Just, remember that Death still holds grudges. Always remember to 'update' yourself at this machine. No matter what happens, you will live on."


THORN 1: THE MAYFLY MACHINE (PART 1)


Like her name, May Hayasaki's background was a mix between the West and the East. She lived in a mansion that looked like it survived the last century at the outskirts of a town in Japan. For such a big residence, she lived alone—with the exception of the woman she called mother.

A girl born of mixed blood, May had dark brown eyes, pale blonde hair that made her look like a doll, a pale complexion, and a delicate frame. Indoors or outdoors, she would sport a frilly dress that would look out of place anywhere except at her home. In the contemporary world, people who saw her would've thought of her dress manner as cosplay. But she had learnt through enough experience that she should not be bothered by what others thought.

The time and era might change, but mankind's tendency to fear the unknown was an evergreen trait. She knew that they had always thought of her as a cursed child or a witch—or both. It was a widely spread rumor around the town that she was child of the Devil and that misfortune followed her like a dog would follow its master.

Well, it was not an entirely wrong guess, she thought as she got herself dressed in front of the mirror. She looked like the fourteen-year-old she was, biologically, but her age was far greater. She remembered events of the last century like it was yesterday, and she had not appeared to have grown a year older since. She remembered that her 124th birthday was due in a fortnight.

'Remembered' was the key word here.

She had a strange form of amnesia. Once in a while, she would go on with her day as usual, but whatever happened next, she forgot. The next thing she remembered, she would find herself waking up the next morning with no memories whatsoever of yesterday's fit of memory loss.

She tied a violet ribbon round her hair, concerned at the realization that the 'blank times', as she would call it, had been particularly frequent these last few days. In the last fortnight, nine days ended up with the 'blank times'.

But there was another thing that worried her: her diary was missing again for the third time this week.

She had tried writing a diary for the last 110 years, but it didn't help much. It seemed that whatever happened during the 'blank times', she didn't write in her diary when it did. Often, even when she carried her pocket diary with her at all times, the diary would turn out missing right after the 'blank times'.

Then there was the number on her left palm. It increased every time the 'blank times' happened. Right now it was 5655, yesterday it was 5654.

She remembered nothing that happened after yesterday's afternoon, when she decided to sit against the mansion's outer wall reading a book while savoring the summer breeze. Today, she had found herself back in bed. Looking out through the window, the section of the wall where she sat yesterday before losing all thoughts had crumbled into a pile of rubble. That didn't bode well.

These kinds of questions bugged her every day. The blank times started to happen when she was fourteen. 110 years had passed and she was asking the same questions as the ones she had asked a century ago.

For example, she remembered, once, twenty years ago, she went to board a bus. But all that she remembered was the morning of that day, before she left home. The next day, she found herself back at home with no memories of what happened afterwards, but the newspaper she picked up spoke of a terrible bus accident that killed twenty-two. Maybe she did board that bus, but misfortune befell her and as a result, all those people aboard were doomed.

She also remembered the time when she befriended a girl. It was a chance encounter, yet the next day, when they promised to meet, the 'blank times' happened again. The day after, May woke up back in her mansion to the news of her friend's unfortunate demise in a fire that wiped out her entire family. May cried for days after the incident, but after eighty years, she had all but forgotten the girl.

But these incidents were just two examples out of many. They made her realize that she really was cursed in some way. So naturally, she had learnt to avoid contact with other people as much as possible.

Then there was the matter of people calling her a witch, or a devil's child. The first one was close enough. It was not her but her mother, Rie. She was a magician. But asking her mother if she was really a devil's child only resulted in an upset silence. Rie would then break the silence by scolding her and telling her that her father died when she was little. She even showed her a black and white photograph of the man, which was very rare given the era he was supposed to be from. He was a British officer, she said.

May sighed, having finished with her reminiscing and dressing up.


"Mother, can I have a walk outside? The latest issue of Bump should be out today, I've been waiting a whole week!"

The one-hundred-forty-something-year-old mother smiled wistfully. "You sure have childish interests for someone more than a hundred years old." Like May, she looked a lot younger than her age. Deduct 110 from the number and one would get a rough idea how she looked like. She claimed to be Japanese and would look like one if not for her blue hair, which only strengthened her image as a rumored witch.

"But Mother, manga is for all ages, the poor and the wealthy, the intellect and the uneducated, everyone!" May made the 'everyone' gesture with her arms.

Rie Hayakawa chuckled. "Didn't you buy it already yesterday?"

"Eh? I did?"

"Oh, yes, sorry, the 'blank times', I forgot." They locked gazes. "I'm sorry, May."

"Oh, you mean that magazine on my bedside this morning? I bought that? That was Banban, not Bump!"

"Sounds all the same to me," Rie concluded with a sigh. "I used to remember those days when you used to read high literature."

"I still read them, Mom! These days, everything is computerized: ebooks, PDF!"

"Oh yes, just to remind you," Rie suddenly switched topics, "the truck is coming tonight, after midnight. Don't look, okay, it's carrying my… work items, as a witch! Ha! There are things that can curse you by just seeing, you know!"

"Eh? Um… right."

The mystery truck came at the end of every month. May was curious of what could it possibly carry, but her mother forbade her from finding out. She got a peek out of her bedroom window almost every time, but it only looked like a normal moving truck.

"You still have your monthly allowance, right?" Rie asked suddenly.

"Eh? Ah… um… I… I lost them yesterday."

"No you didn't. Check your bedside drawer. I put them in there last night."

May skipped happily up the curved staircase, but then Rie called after her, "And don't forget! Update yourself at The Machine!"

"I will, Mother!" May answered without looking back.

"And eat your breakfast before going out!"


May counted the money inside her purse, which smelled like it had been recently washed. Except for the purchase of Banban during the 'blank times', it was not even a yen less than she had remembered. She left her bedroom once more, to the adjacent room bearing a plaque that read 'The Machine'.

At the hallway lined with thick red carpet, she paused. She had known for a long time that The Machine held some connection to the 'blank times'. Every time she used it, or to use the term her mother did, 'updating' herself, if she ever experienced a 'blank time', her last memory would be sitting on the machine.

It reminded her strongly of save checkpoints in video games. Every time the player reached the checkpoint, if he exited, all progress until the checkpoint will be saved.

Her mother told her once, "Well, May, among other things, this machine is the anchor that tethers your memory from being lost when your 'blank times' happen. If you don't 'update' yourself, your memory will be lost forever. Isn't that scary?"

She didn't need to be told twice. But you know mothers; they'd tell you to do what you already know needs to be done, many times.

May opened the door slowly. It creaked ominously, revealing a room with little light, but she was already used to the routine she had adhered to since 110 years ago.

The Machine looked like something out of a science fiction movie. It consisted of a chair with a velvet seat fused with something like a metallic box with dials and wires at all the wrong places. From the box, pipes led to three cylindrical glass containers whose height nearly brushed the ceiling. One contained bubbling thick red fluid. The other one contained a liquid colored a ghastly yellow. The last one was filled with some kind of thick creamy paste.

May seated herself on the chair and took a metal helmet connected to the machine by thick wires. She had noted with mild amusement that the tiny inscription on the helmet said:

THE MAYFLY MACHINE: MADE IN HELL (Just kidding)

Her mother once told her that she got the machine from a merchant in Romania.

"Yes, I'm deeply indebted to that boy merchant. You would've died long ago if not for this machine, May," Rie said. "Just remember that Death still holds grudges. Always remember to 'update' yourself at this machine. No matter what happens, you will live on."

According to Rie, it was The Machine that made it possible for May to be still alive until the present day. Otherwise, an accident long ago would've killed her. She nearly died at that time, when she was fourteen, but then the merchant came and offered the machine to her mother at a fairly reasonable price. What was the price mentioned, her mother wouldn't elaborate. That machine was the secret behind her long lifespan of 124 years without getting biologically a year over fourteen. Her mother didn't need the machine, though. Rie claimed to be a magician who had her own means of extending her lifespan whilst maintaining a youthful appearance.

May was not sure how the machine worked, but the important thing was that it did. She spoke tentatively, "Mayfly, update."

A brief jolt of electricity spread from her head to the ends of her limbs. It didn't hurt at all.

And it was done. She took off the helmet and made her way outside.


The mansion was empty and dreadfully silent. But May didn't mind. She had been living in that kind of atmosphere for a long, long time. True, she would need a walk or some time outside once in a while, but other than that, she was content, especially these past few years.

Technological advancements had provided her with the entertainment she needed without her having to leave the house. She had a laptop and her room got a wireless internet connection, so she was only occasionally bored. Despite being born in the last century, her mother was not one with outdated mindsets. She was fast to embrace the introduction of new technology as long as it made her daughter happier.

May still remembered how, once upon a time, the realization that she couldn't have any friends would often send her into a fit of depression. However, with the introduction of online social networks and writing websites, the lonely feeling had lessened a bit. She was a talented online author, and the praise and attention the online crowd gave her made her happy.

"You seem very knowledgeable of classic literature," a fan using the alias KTR commented once. "How old are you actually? Forty?"

She had replied, "Your guess is really far off, I'm just a girl on her way to adulthood! :3"

Yes, the guess was very far off. It was off the mark by 86 years.

But today, May had something else in mind instead. She was going outside.

The girl made her way along the corridor and down the steps to the floor below, where the cavernous entrance hall greeted her with cheerful sunlight seeping in from the outside. The front doors were open and the curtains over the windows had been drawn back. She felt like a princess descending the steps.

She wondered how her mother could maintain the mansion alone. Rie never asked for her help even once but every morning, May would find the place sparkling clean. Despite the lack of people in the mansion, it was hard to find a dusty place in there. Heck, she had never even seen her mother vacuum or sweep the floor.

May stepped out into the sunlight.