THORN 1: THE MAYFLY MACHINE (PART 3 - END)


The grandfather clock in the hallway chimed two times: two hours past midnight.

The truck had not arrived yet, but May decided to sneak out right then to discover what was behind the metal door in the basement. Besides, all the better that way; once the truck came, if she left her bedroom, she'd probably run into her mother.

A silent semi-darkness hung in the corridors. Only one out of five lights glowed past bedtime hours. May slipped out of her bedroom, garbed in gray pajamas. The thick carpet muffled her light footsteps. She tried not to hyperventilate. Her heart was thumping too hard she was sure anyone else could have heard it.

May had seen what her mother was capable of. She tried to remove the thoughts that haunt her mind—unpleasant answers to the question of what would her mother do to her if she was found out.

All I need to do was to go downstairs, to the basement, take a look, and then get back to bed like a good girl.

The metal door. But… what should I do if it's locked?

Lost in her musings, May turned a corner…

"May."

…only to hear Rie's voice call out of the gloom. Trembling, May looked up to see her mother at the opposite end of the corridor, closing the distance between them with calm steps.

There was something different with Rie: her eyes had an eerie red glow, her pupils were dilated and her expression was blank of any human emotion. She was dragging something. "You know I wouldn't forgive you now," she said.

To May's horror, the lady raised a hatchet glowing with ghastly red runes. The blade swung across her throat.

Again, May's quick dodge prolonged her life. The hatchet embedded itself on the wallpaper. Deep.

"AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" her mother cackled, an unearthly cackle in the dark. "So defiant! My lovely daughter! Time to reset! Blank time! Mommy is going to punish you with a blank time!"

As Rie's arms jerkily pulled the hatchet off the wall, May leapt down the staircase in huge bounds. She no longer knew what to do or where to escape.

Renounce the machine… destroy it…

The old man's last words rung in her mind but May had no idea what they meant. Besides, she was running in the opposite direction. Her mother was standing between her and the room upstairs.

Wait, Death hasn't appeared yet, right? I can survive this!

She reached the bottom of the staircase, her foot landing awkwardly. May nearly slipped, but she didn't stop. She couldn't afford to.

There was a frightening sound of splintering wood. Even as Rie chased after her daughter, the lady had slashed at the banisters with unnatural strength, sending fragments of oak flying.

May gasped with horror, not even slowing down. She bumped painfully against the front door, the rattling boom echoing throughout the silent mansion, but it was locked.

May turned around only to find herself face-to-face with a crazed Rie raising her hatchet. The glowing blade swung in a reddish blur. It cut through its target and embedded itself in the wooden door with a sound that was even louder than the girl's earlier collision.

Well, a tiny part of its target.

Locks of May's hair were caught in the swing. Ignoring the mild pain, she clumsily stumbled away. It was odd how, for a split second, she was glad that the blade was sharp enough to allow her to free herself.

May disappeared through one of the side passageways, into the mansion's right wing.

"May! May…! Mommy loves you May…!"

She didn't sound like her mother. She couldn't be her mother.

May ran, and ran, deeper into the pitch black darkness.

Her foot collided with something that felt metallic, she was swallowed whole, and a split second later, she was falling through the air.


May rubbed her backside. Luckily she was not injured—at least not significantly. A fall through an open trapdoor brought her into the basement.

The basement was as large as the ground floor, a dark maze of passages and hallways. May saw weak yellow light ahead and decided to head in its direction, her hands touching the wall. It was made of roughly hewn stone, like passageways of old castles.

The light came from a lone lightbulb hanging from a wire jutting out from a hole in the ceiling. Her hurried approach disturbed the air. The lightbulb swung like an impotent pendulum.

May's heart skipped a few beats. There, in front of her, was the iron door itself. It could be the only thing that stood between her and the answers to a century-old riddle.

She hesitated, no longer knowing whether to go on or to just stop and act the part of a meek and obedient girl again.

But will Mother forgive me?

A sudden realization crossed her mind. Even with her mother looking bent on taking her life, there were no signs of the Grim Reaper.

So no one is going to die tonight?

So… whatever I do, she won't kill me?

"Death…"

The whisper gave her rising hope a premature death.

As silent as a shadow, her mother was already standing there, the pool of light falling on the lady from the waist down. The red eyes glowed. Rie's thin arm poked out of the darkness as she rested her palm on the metal door.

May's willpower broke. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

"Shush, my child," Rie said in a comforting voice, capturing May in a gentle, but firm, hug. "Please don't be scared anymore."

"MOM DON'T KILL MEEEEE!"

"May… It's time for me to show you everything." Rie's voice was calm, the calming voice of a mother that May recognized. For once, May noticed that her mother was no longer holding the hatchet.

May sobbed on her mother's shoulder. "But… why? I don't understand! I don't… understand…" She succumbed into wet tears, defeated, frightened, and confused. Nothing had made sense.

"May, I promised you, so I'll show you what lies behind this metal door." Rie released her daughter. May was left standing, pale, with shaking knees.

The door opened with a firm shove. Pale white light spilled out followed by cold white mist, momentarily blinding the girl.

Her sight cleared and she saw what was inside: white corpses, some of them stacked over one another, their limbs splayed out like white lilies on metal tables. Rie walked into the freezer and yanked her daughter's hand, comparing it with one of the corpses' hands.

5655 and 5654.

Another dead hand showed '5653'.

They were all her. They were all corpses of May Hayakawa, the very same blonde hair, the very same faces and fragile frames, just with paler skin.

"This is May 5654, that is May 5653, 5652, and so on. You, are May 5655!

"The Mayfly Machine was a perfect cloning machine. When my May died, 110 years ago, I used the machine to create a perfect copy of her, complete with her memories. Unfortunately, cheating Death only makes him chase her all the more, so none of you all, my pretties, lasted very long.

"But… I can make another May, and fill the new May with memories from the previous May's 'update' session, so you never knew that you actually died! Ha! Mayfly, how apt. Mayflies only live a day, you know?"

May froze as the truth hit her with devastating impact.

What… am I?

Her knees collapsed and her eyes turned expressionless.

Before May could think of running, with a sudden motion and inhuman strength, Rie slammed her daughter's head on one of the table's sharp corners. The clang was deafening.

May wanted to scream and deny everything, but she couldn't. Pain overwhelmed her, and her sight turned blurry. Something warm spread out, wetting the back of her head.

"The truck is coming to take you all away, May, Mays!" And Rie hugged the 5655th May in a warm embrace. "I'll do whatever it takes to make my beautiful daughter live on…

"I love you, May… I love you."

Death appeared and swung his scythe.


Hello, May Hayasaki here, aspiring author with a century of experience! I appeared to have gone through another of my 'blank times' yesterday. Again! And, as I expected, today, the number etched on my palm is 5656. It used to be 5655. I wonder what happened?

Still, I should be glad that I'm still alive. What's a little amnesia and misfortune compared to the fact that I'm still here, breathing? Besides, life is full of questions and mysteries like that.

That's right! I still haven't bought Bump yet!

"Mom, can I go to town to buy manga?"

"Sure, May," my mother smiled sweetly. "Just don't forget to 'update' yourself at the machine!"

Aw… can anyone ask for a better mother?


THORN #1: THE MAYFLY MACHINE END