Hilltop Timekeeper

Toko Hata

“There’s this episode where Basil and his friends see Sailor crying in his house,” she continued with a trembling voice. “They ask him what’s wrong, and he tells them ‘I don’t want to live in this wretched place anymore.’ So, Basil offers to find him a new home, but he just refuses, saying ‘I hate my situation, but I don’t want to leave.’”


“…Oh?”


“Back then, I hated Sailor because of this episode. Like, Basil was trying to help him, but he just pushed him away. But when I read it again yesterday, I could kind of relate to Sailor,” 


After saying that she plunged her face into the book once more. I didn’t know whether to be sympathetic or surprised. What was there to be sad about? The fact that she could relate to a character she hated?


Wisty continued to sniffle. For a second, I thought of wrapping my arms around her but dismissed it immediately.


“But people’s perspectives change when they grow, you know?” I replied, trying to make this lighter.


The sun had finished its art routine; it was beginning to sink, tinting our silhouettes with a cold shade of navy. I pulled my knees close to my chest, attempting to shield myself from the remnants of a bitter winter. I couldn’t feel more awkward.


“...I don’t know, I just realized, I would never be able to see the story from Basil’s eyes anymore. That part of me is gone. It makes me feel so... empty.” 


Wisty’s voice sounded desperate. I didn’t know what to reply. We spent so much time together, but there were hardly any times when I could relate to her. 


“Yeah…” was all I could say in the end.


Another silence. A cold gust managed its way into my coat, and I shivered.


“I’m sorry I called you here. I know you’re busy,” Wisty suddenly apologized.


I flinched. Had she sensed my uncomfortableness? 


“No, no! It’s fine! It’s your last day, after all…”


“I just… thought of a final favor to ask you,” she whispered with a cracked voice. “I want you to keep this book for me. I want to leave it in this town.”


“…Why?”


Wisty’s face went red. “I’m so disappointed with my change in perspective, but in a few years, that probably won’t even matter to me anymore. I would read this book and think, ‘Oh, I remember being sad about not having a child’s view anymore. How edgy!’ I don’t want that day to come. If you keep it, I wouldn’t have those thoughts. My time would stop in this town.”


Everything that made Wisty unstable were things I could never understand.


But at the same time, perhaps those were what made me admire her.


Even though the conversations made me uncomfortable, I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Maybe this book would help me remember the times we spent together. Plus, if something as little as this could help her— I didn’t have a reason to say no.


“Okay. I’ll stop the time for you,” I answered.


Wisty handed me the book and I held it close, feeling my own heartbeat thump against the ripped papers. The sky was now completely still, its darkness deepening far into the ends of the galaxy. 


Nothing moved. Time had stopped on the hilltop.