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To Glorify my Platinum Soul

To Glorify my Platinum Soul Ever since Jilli could remember, she loved to perform. When she was little, someone had bought her a Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker CD, and she would spend whole afternoons choreographing routines and costume changes to the lilting melodies. Yet even those happy memories were tainted. Because where Jilli saw amusement, her mother couldn’t help but see opportunity. “All my life I wanted to be a singer,” she told her at age eleven, gazing fondly at the posters sticking out of the moving box stamped with transcontinental labels. “I was so close to getting signed. Just one more year and I would have made it. But then you came along and... well, that was the end of my aspirations, I guess.” She didn’t blame Jilli, Jilli knew that, but she wondered all the same if her mother would have been happier had she never been born. They had just moved back to Japan to be closer to her mother’s family, in a small apartment, just the two of them. Jilli went to the local public school and Jilli’s mother worked at the hundred Yen store down the street. Jilli didn’t have a father, and her mother never spoke of him. All she knew for certain was that he wasn’t Japanese, he couldn’t have been. Not with the blue eyes she’d inherited from him. And the older she got, and the more she saw her classmates with their large homes and nice clothes, she began to realize just how difficult she had made life for her mother. Maybe that’s why she agreed to audition for an agent. And then two after that. She was beginning to think she was a disappointment as her mother shook her head and lit a cigarette. But then they got a call one afternoon and the third agent said ‘yes’. Well, you know what they say: third times the charm. Welcome to the world of idols, Jilli, we hope you enjoy your stay. Spoiler: she didn’t. Eventually, Jilli was signed with a group that was even stranger than is usual of the idol industry. It posited itself as a ‘school’, complete with grades and graduation. The idol industry had always been a little intense on making the girls’ real lives match up with their image, but this group was the real deal. They had an actual school. And so Jilli became an idol. But it was never fun and games. You could say that that was when her childhood ended. Far too early. Maybe that’s why she became so fucked up. Maybe that’s why it all ended in insane ramblings and a chair smashed over a girl’s head. Multiple times. Now she was stuck in a different boarding school half-way across the world, one run more like a prison than the assembly-line she was used to. She wasn’t sure which she preferred. At St. Adelaide’s, they weren’t constantly pushing you to be more, do more, be our perfect Barbie Doll. But at least at the idol school all of the fucked up shit happened right in the open, not all behind closed doors that no one talked about. Now life was calmer, simpler, if a little boring. St. Adelaide’s didn’t make Jilli feel outright paranoid like the idol school had, but it did make her worry. Jilli worried a lot these days. She worried about her friends and all their strange quirks. She worried about Mike the new kid and his increasingly nervous behavior. Most of all she worried about Doug, what they did to him, and why for the life of him he refused to tell her what was going on. She knew she had no more right to it than anyone. It wasn’t like he was her boyfriend or anything, though they had fooled around on occasion. But still, that was something, wasn’t it? She had a right to be worried about her friend (with added benefits). It wasn’t as if she really actually liked him that much or anything. At least, that’s what she told herself. Not that she really believed herself even at the best of times. Jilli had done a little poking around here and there about what went on in Doug’s ‘sessions’, but every time she did she felt like she was trespassing. If Doug wanted to tell her he would. He must have a reason for keeping it from her. Little did she know that she would experience it first-hand. They came for her in physics, in the middle of a particularly droning lecture. By then she was so used to the white coats barging into the classrooms to take someone that she barely paid any attention until the one with the clipboard called: “Jilli Nakajima?” That was unexpected. The whole classroom froze, Jilli included. In fact, her entire body seemed to suddenly transform into a large block of ice. They her never called for her. Flashes of Doug’s blank face, his empty eyes, his fumbling movements, crossed her vision. In that moment, she came upon the realization that she wasn’t so sure she wanted to know what went on here. “Jilli Nakajima?” The psychiatrist repeated, glancing back and forth over the heads of the students. “M-me?” Jilli finally managed to thaw her lips enough to get the word out, and pointed to herself, hoping in vain that there was some mistake. The psychiatrist peered down at her clipboard, then back at Jilli. “Yes, you. Come with us. You’re wanted for a session.” She stood up, acutely aware of all her classmates’ eyes on her. There should have been whispering, or giggling, but there was just dead silence. If Jilli, who was arguably one of the more stable students at St. Adelaide’s could get taken in for a session, then no one was safe. Hesitantly, Jilli followed the two psychiatrists out into the hall. They moved to put her between them, as if preventing her from bolting. She wondered just how many kids had actually tried. It was always strange, walking through the hallways when class was in session. They were so eerily quiet, and about twice as long as usual. The slightest noise—Jilli’s heartbeat, the clunk of the psychiatrist’s heels—echoed down the vacant expanse. Maybe that was why he heard. Because just as they were rounding a corner, Jilli saw him standing in a doorway. Doug watched her pass, a wretched expression etched into his features. He wanted to help, she could see that, but the reality was that either he wouldn’t, or he couldn’t. Though the thought was awful in its own right, Jilli found herself hoping it was the latter. She tried to hold his gaze as she passed, but he glanced down at the floor and began walking in the opposite direction. Feeling even more miserable than before, Jilli allowed the psychiatrists to lead her to an elevator. This was the one that students were not allowed to use, and Jilli had absolutely no idea where it went. The inside was large, and metallic, and she shuddered as she glimpsed several large dents in the walls. Only human desperation could have caused something like that. The lead psychiatrist swiped her keycard in the console and pressed a button. Jilli’s heart did a somersault as the elevator jerked downwards and they fell below the school. Of course there were rumors of secret basements and tunnels beneath St. Adelaide’s, but what school didn’t have those? Jilli had never believed them. Now she saw the whole row of buttons labeled B1 through 6 and realized that it was even worse than she’d heard. Much worse. After a minute of silence, only interrupted by the hum of the elevator, they came to a sudden halt, and the door slid open with a hard whine. The hallway before her was dark and lined with heavy, metal doors. Of course, she had never been under any false pretenses, but what she was about to walk into was like no psychiatry session she’d ever heard of. The psychiatrists forced her down the hallway, before stopping in front of a door with no discernible difference to any other, unlocked it, and pushed Jilli inside. “The Director will be with you in a moment,” one said, before they shut the door in her face. Jilli began, quite without meaning to, to tremble. All she could do for a solid minute was stare in utter horror at the now shut aperture. What was happening? What were they planning on doing with her? Was this... was this what Doug had been dealing with for the last two years? After a minute she couldn’t stand still anymore, and turned to face the room. It had padded walls. That was, of course, the very first thing that she noticed. Then, she saw the break in said padding that contained a long, thin mirror. There was no way it was there for her to simply look at her reflection. No doubt there was someone on the other side of that mirror, probably watching her right now. There was nothing in the way of furnishings besides a singular, wooden chair placed in the corner. Jilli faced the padded room, and proceeded to do nothing but shake like a leaf for several minutes before there was a crackle, and a speaker hidden somewhere under the foam came to sudden life. “I’m sorry for the wait,” came a sickeningly familiar voice from the speaker. “You are Jilli Nakajima, yes?” Jilli nodded. “I am the Director. I’ve been meaning to talk to you personally for a long time. But alas, I’m afraid I’m only one woman, and I’ve been oh so busy. In fact, I’m sorry to say that you may have to wait a little while longer before I’m ready to see you. Tell you what: I’ll play a little mood music to keep you occupied. I think you might... recognize it.” There was another crackle, and silence for a moment that seemed to last forever. Then, with a click, a song came on, and Jilli stopped breathing as the upbeat, poppy beat hit the room. She knew this song, knew it like the back of her hand. It was her song, the first one they’d ever given her lead vocals on. Even as she listened to the opening instrumentals, muscle memory made her almost begin the choreography. “I’m so far away from all I know,” her own voice sang back at her. “But life is ever near. Everything is new and changing, but I can find love right here!” She hadn’t heard Japanese in so long that it sounded strange to her ears. “Doki! Doki! Doki! Make my heart beat faster!” The other girls in the quartet joined in. Sakura, Mimi, Kyoko. Sakura was the cooler, older sister she’d never had. She’d introduced her to fun, boys, and maybe a bad habit or two. Mimi was the baby of the group, the “Princess of Moe” as the tabloids loved to call her. She was the one who always made them smile when rehearsals were long or someone was feeling down. And Kyoko... well, Jilli didn’t like to think about her. Jilli thought that any second her knees were going to give out on her. This song had been a first for Jilli, but it had also been a last, the last song she’d ever performed. She shook her head, backing up into the padded wall. The music was so loud, Jilli couldn’t hear herself think. And then suddenly, it stopped, right in the middle of the chorus. Jilli breathed out the air she had been holding. With surprise, she found that she was shaking. “My apologies,” came the Director from the speaker again. “I’m sure that song brought back some memories, didn’t it?” Desperately, Jilli tried to change the subject. “You’re not going to come in here and talk to me face to face?” “I’m afraid my appearance would be rather... confusing for you,” the Director admitted. “But we’re not here to talk about me. You seemed rather... distressed about the song.” “It did bring back some memories,” Jilli begrudged. “Like the night of your breakdown?” Jilli stared at the mirror, and frowned at whoever was on the other side of it. “Yeah, so what?” “Would you like to talk about it?” There seemed to be a creeping undertone of frustration in the Director’s voice. “You haven’t told anyone about that night, have you? And you resent Mr. Bailey for keeping secrets from you.”

Pausing mid-eyeroll, Jilli’s chest constricted. “How did you know that?” “I know everything,” was the simple reply. “Tell me: what was it that made you finally snap? Was it the crowds, the rabid fans? Or was it the industry itself? You wouldn’t be the first girl to break under that pressure. Or was it something entirely personal? Hmm? I’m ever so curious.” Jilli’s heart began to beat faster, and her vision swam as the walls began to close in on her. That voice seemed to come from everywhere all at once. It was the room, the walls, watching her from every direction. “I...” she stuttered. “I don’t know.” “You don’t know?” The Director asked, after a pause. “I don’t think that’s true. Maybe you don’t think you know, or maybe you’ve been repressing those thoughts so much that you don’t consciously know, but deep down, I’m sure the reason is there somewhere. Perhaps I’ll play the track a few more times and that will... jog your memory.” She had to give her an answer, any answer. “No, wait—“ Jilli began, but then the speaker crackled to silence and the J-pop sensation drowned out the rest of her words. She tried to scream something, but the music was just turned louder, so that she couldn’t even hear herself think. The first few times through weren’t so bad. She kept her mind free of those nagging thoughts and tried to ignore the rhythm pounding itself into her skull. If she could just wait out the noise and give the Director some bullshit answer then she was done, right? So she counted the ceiling tiles, and the sections of padding on the walls, and the knots in the wood of the chair. “I want to stay with you (Doki! Doki!)” Her mind began to wander as she followed the spiral pattern of a particularly large knot, the music began to drill a hole in her mind. Was Kyoko slightly off there? Of course she was, that bitch. She’d probably done it on purpose, just to spite her, just because they’d given Jilli the lead instead of her. No, stop it. Jilli commanded her palms to stop sweating and clenching into fists. It didn’t work. Just a little longer, and she could get out of here. “This is the place where I belong.” That was the part where she reached her gloved hands into the crowd, and they all reached back, adoring her, worshiping her. She’d always loved that costume. It made her feel sexy, and grown-up. But not slutty, not too much skin was shown, of course. Heaven forbid the idols develop sexual confidence. “Everything I need is right here!” And speaking of which, why the hell were the agencies so fucking... repressive? Would having a boyfriend, or a life outside of singing even, really have been so terrible? Did all the rabid fans really need their idols to be absolutely clean and “pure” in order to worship them? Maybe part of it had been her growing up in America, the land where even porn stars were worshiped, but that was one thing she’d never understood. “Make my heart beat faster.” Like when the agency had found out about Sakura’s boyfriend from back home, they fired her. Why? Sakura was one of the most popular singers they had! “Doki! Doki!” That was her last show. The three remaining singers of the quartet would be shuffled into other groups, just like that. No say, no nothing. Like dolls on a shelf. “Doki! Doki!” “Guess what?” Kyoko whispered in Jilli’s ear just before the lights came on. “I did it. I told.” And midway through the second verse Jilli grabbed a chair—one of the metal folding ones—and smashed it over her head until her eyes were puffed shut and her whole face was a mass of bruises and the chair wasn’t enough and Jilli kicked and punched until security pulled her off. “Doki! Doki! Doki! Doki!” How could you how could you you bitch you fucking bitch you don’t deserve to breathe how could you do this to all of us use us and dress us up like pretty little dolls with string make us dance and smile for you until you throw us away. She realized that she was no longer screaming at Kyoko. The concert hall was silent. Mimi was crying. Jilli was led off the stage and into a black van and the next day she was on a plane back to America. Strings cut. Just like that. Just like Sakura. “This is the place where I belong with you.” “Doki! Doki!” The track ended. Jilli didn’t know how many times it had played. She lost track a long time ago. Even though it had stopped, that cursed word still echoed in her ears. Heartbeat. Her heart was beating. That was in her ears too. In time to the music. “It wasn’t fair,” Jilli muttered. The first note of the track played again, and then stopped. “What was that?” the Director asked, the speaker squealing. “It wasn’t fair,” Jilli was shaking. “How they used us and controlled us and threw us away.” “There.” The Director seemed satisfied. “That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now: listen to me carefully.” Jilli tried, she really did, but the room spun and jolted around her and her ears were ringing. How long had she been here? “I think you have a real chance at this school to take control of your life. You could have yourself a real kingdom here. This has been a very successful session. Now, before the next one, I want you to think of one way to regain control.” The next one? Jilli tried to stand, to open her mouth to protest, but her legs gave out from under her. There was going to be more of this? There couldn’t be. The Director was an evil bitch. How could she do this? It wasn’t fair. How could Jilli get back control? Her mind skipped back and forth over this thought like a broken record as the psychiatrists entered and drug her bodily from the room, down the dark corridor, up the elevator. They propped her sitting in a corner of the hallway and left. Just like that. ...Regain control. Jilli had probably only been there for a minute when a head of shocking white hair peaked around the corner. “D... Doug,” she managed to choke out. He knelt beside her, his mouth tight. “Oh, Jil...” she heard distantly through what sounded like several pillows. “What has she done to you?” She opened her mouth to speak, but words wouldn't even begin to describe what had transpired. Jilli could only focus on not blinking for fear of seeing hungry crowds dancing across her vision. “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s over now,” Doug noticed her struggle, and grabbed her hand tightly. “Here, le-let’s get you someplace that’s not the crusty-ass floor. Come on.” He half-guided, half-lifted her to her feet. Jilli tried to take a step forward, but her legs quivered and wouldn’t bare her weight. “Easy, Jil,” Doug said, “let me help. I don’t think anyone would expect you to walk after twenty-four hours of that shit.”

“Twenty... twenty-four?” Jilli’s eyes widened. She’d missed a whole day? Doug laughed bitterly. “Yeah, time sure flies when you’re having fun, huh?” “F... fuck off.” “There! That’s more like the Jilli I know.” Slowly, Doug and Jilli ambled down the hall like some psychotic three-legged race. Gradually, Jilli was able to hold some of her own weight again, but she still leaned on Doug for support. He was solid, and warm, and didn’t even complain when her fingernails left small, red marks on his arms from where she’d gripped too tightly. Jilli wondered if she had gone unconscious for a minute, because she suddenly realized that they were back at the dorm. The dark, musty lobby hadn’t gotten any more attractive while she had been gone. “Where’s your key?” Doug grunted as they plodded up the stairs. Her mind blanked for a moment, before she stuttered. “M... my bag. I... don’t know... where...” Maybe left back at the classroom, or in the elevator, or in that horrible place. She’d dropped it at some point, but she couldn’t remember. “And your roommate?” “...Play practice.” Doug sighed. “Right, we’re going to my room then. Not like you haven’t seen it before, I guess.” They managed to get all the way down the hallway and into the room, though it took a second for Doug to get a hand free and into his pocket for the key. Mike must have heard the commotion, because he poked his head out of his room as soon as they stumbled in. “Whoa... what’s going—?” he began. “Not now, Mike.” Doug cut him off, pushing open the door to his room. “I’ll fill you in later.” “Is there anything I can do to, uh, help?” “Everything’s kosher,” Doug said. “Thanks though, bro,” he added before promptly slamming the door in his face. Without asking, Jilli collapsed onto the bed, and the tears which had been held back only by necessity now began to stain Doug’s bed spread. It wasn’t pretty crying either. Her powerful sniffles and sobs filled his small room. Doug sat down and, after a moment, wrapped his arms around her. She squeezed him back so tightly that if she’d had half a mind she would have worried that he was suffocating, and sobbed. “I’m sorry,” Doug whispered. “I’m so...” his breath hitched. “Sorry. I should have done something, I should’ve... I knew where they were taking you but I... I couldn’t stop them.” He ran his hand over the metal band wrapped around his wrist. And here Jilli paused in her tears. He couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t stop them from doing these horrible things to her, to him, to everyone else. But maybe... maybe they could. Jilli could have a real kingdom here. In a small, dark corner of her mind, a plan was beginning to form.

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