Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does (56/291)

I reserve the right to remove this translation without warning.

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Mostly plot building and foreshadowing in this block, but I still hope you enjoy it.

If you catch some grammatical mistakes, please tell me. I will fix them.

Progress:
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[35/291]
[56/291]

This an experiment.

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Translation Notes:
I have absolutely no knowledge of French, so I base my translations of those sections on both existing translations (when it’s (in)famous text) and the Japanese translations of the French text given in the book. (I’m not using automated tools or anything.)

Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does

[5]

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: A Night of Unpleasant Rain – 7
Chapter 2: March of the Saints – 95
Chapter 3: An Unbearable Existence in Suffering – 191
Chapter 4: An Emptiness Devoid of Color Contrast – 257

[15/291]
[35/291]

[36]

Maribel Hearn had a boyfriend. He was a year older and they took a seminar together.

Merry ran her fingers along his naked chest as he slept, listening to him breathe as she lay beside him in bed.

It had been months since the last time they had sex, Merry thought absentmindedly. It wasn’t as if they loved each other any less… at least that was how Merry reasoned with herself about it. There was no way for her to see inside her boyfriend’s thoughts and she knew that, but all the same. Their relationship felt like a loosely tied thread slowly coming apart under its own weight. Merry couldn’t really put her finger on the circumstances, but inside of her the meaning and value of having sex felt as if it was slowly being filed away. Looking back now, Merry thought, even the last time they had sex she had felt some sort of distance between them… though she wasn’t sure.

Merry continued to think about this as she traced her boyfriend’s chest, which was by no means muscular, but not twelve minutes went by before she was tired of both.

What happened that day at noon. The thing with the human library. Renko.

Merry tried to remember. She tried to tie everything together, but her efforts were fruitless.

[37]

Merry closed her eyes and looked on at the darkness that remained, watched as it rolled around behind her eyelids. She waited, but the curtain of slumber would not fall for her, not one bit. She couldn’t sleep. Instead she felt her pupils constrict, and her eyes attempt to focus.

Lately this was getting to be more an more of a problem.

Merry shut her eyes more tightly and readjusted herself, wrapping her arms around one of her boyfriend’s. His arm was thin. His biceps probably weren’t any bigger than hers.

Moments later, without really thinking about it, Merry had reached for her portable terminal device. Rolling over to one side, she started it up, and bluish white light from its diodes faintly filled the room.

Merry opened up her address book and flicked through its contents. There were the names of her classmates, of her parents, the names of people from high school she still kept in touch with… and the name of her one and only friend.

“I’m connected with all of these people, so why is it that she is the only one I can call my friend?”

I used to have more, she thought. There were more, in the past, when I was in elementary school, middle school, high school… Out of all of the people Merry had contact with, there was only a small percentage that actually had the contact information of. Out of that smaller number, there was an even smaller percentage of those that she saw on a daily basis, and…

Merry closed her eyes.

[38]

Merry brought her terminal to her chest and rolled onto her back. Behind her eyelids, she watched the burned afterimage in her eyes swirl about. She watched as outlines were drawn, and she watched as they frayed apart. She watched them connect, swell and disperse like a surging tide, come apart and together again. As her eyes moved, the movements slowly became more disjointed. There was no rule or sense to it that Merry could find. Normally she wouldn’t give any thought to it, but on these sleepless nights it bothered her. She opened and closed her eyes, as if she were blinking in slow motion, but she could not call sleep to her as time wasted away.

Merry turned her terminal screen back on. Not three minutes had gone by.

Merry slipped out of bed and put on a shirt and some track pants before walking to the window. The apartment had an eleven tatami mat layout, about 18 square meters, and its outward facing wall was entirely made of panelled glass.

Merry pulled back the curtain and stepped barefoot out unto a small veranda. While the night that lay across the sky was a night somewhere between spring and summer, it was enough for her to feel a chill across the soles of her feet as she walked onto the veranda’s rough concrete surface. A 2 am breeze brushed lightly against her cheek.

About fifty years ago, regulations were put into place to protect the night sky. After 8 pm, artificial lighting was limited by lux, and so the city streets Merry looked down upon revealed themselves as small variations of the color of a thick coffee brew. Merry watched as the streets of West Kyoto slept, and she thought they resembled the library. She was reminded of the words that human library, that self-proclaimed witch had spoke to her.

[39]

“Books are caskets…
“In a way, you could say that a library is a city…

The rectangularly structured city streets, with their low rectangular buildings, in each of them were people. In each of them are people, separately. But under the curtain of night, everyone was the same, everyone in their boxes.

However they laughed, however they cried today, all of that existance was now buried, and to Merry that made her feel terribly alone.

Merry rested her arms on the veranda railing and looked down at the terminal in her hands. There was a single droplet on the liquid crystal display, and it twisted and warped the light coming off of the screen. It took Merry a while to realize that she was crying. Once she realized she was crying, her tears turned to sobs, which turned to wails gushing out from her uncontrollably. She couldn’t understand why she was crying, but she knew that she was sad. It felt as if there was a mass of leaden wool in her chest, stopping up her heart, and this feeling ran rampant through her. The night filled her with sadness.

Merry balled up and continued to cry, softly.

[40]

By the time Merry came to, wiping her tears on her sleeve, she had completely lost track of time. After wiping her tear stained terminal screen, she turned it back on, went straight to her address book and selected the name of her friend.

Would she answer? Merry sniffled and brought the terminal to her ear. After a few rings…

“Merry?”

“Good evening, Renko.”

“Don’t you think it’s a little late for ‘good evening’?”

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. I couldn’t sleep either.”

“What makes you think I couldn’t sleep?”

“Isn’t it normal to think that when you get a call at this time of night?”

“Well isn’t that something? You, talking about what’s normal.”

“Well statistically speaking, the median status of someone who calls at this time of night with the voice of someone who has clearly been crying is that of insomnia, as several studies on this subject confirm.”

[41]

“Where do you find this kind of information?” Merry replied, a slight smile forming on her lips. Above all else Merry felt comfort in these words, which showed her friend understood the state she was in.

“What, you don’t know? There was a paper published about it at the 2034, uh, Human Engineering something something Conference.”

“You’re making that up, aren’t you?”

“No, no. It’s just that it’s late and so I need a buffer to trace back over my memories properly… probably.”

“You need to qualify that with ‘probably’, even though you’re talking about yourself?”

“What we know least about is ourselves. Talking about the animals we call ‘humans’ as a whole I mean.”

“I agree.”

“Well isn’t that unusual, coming from you?”

“…”

“So, what’s the matter then?”

“Well… I’m just a little emotionally unstable right now, I think.”

“I see. Well, I guess that’s often the case with sleepless nights.”

“I guess so…”

[42]

“Are you having trouble with your boyfriend?”

“…We’re not having sex.”

“Come again?”

“I mean, it’s been months now since the last time we did it.”

“So does this mean you’re ‘sexless’?”

“I… think so. Probably…”

“You don’t like it?”

“I don’t think it’s that, it’s just…”

“Just?”

“It’s just that I feel like my body and soul are separated when we do it.”

“There you go again, being all abstract…”

Merry could hear what sounded like a snicker on the other side of the line.

“Ever since I’ve been able to see these strange things, I feel like my sense of reality has bottomed out.”

“Some kind of change is to be expected. After all, for humans, sight influences us more than any of our other senses.

“You think it’s as simple as that?”

“Absolutely. It is also true that I haven’t ever heard of a case where that has had a direct effect on one’s physical sense of touch though.”

[43]

“You and me both.”

“So that’s the reason you chose to rely on your friend in the middle of the night?”

“I’m not ‘relying’ on you, it’s just…”

“Just?”

“I just wanted to believe that there was someone out there watching me.”

“……What kind of nonsense is this now?”

The tone of Renko’s voice had changed slightly from before. Was there a trace of… anger?

“Renko?”

“Yeah?”

“Nevermind, it’s nothing. But I wonder, what should I do?”

“About what?”

“My boyfriend.”

“Well I think your boyfriend is partly to blame. He’s got this beauty lying next to him every night and doesn’t lay a finger on her? He must be out of his mind.”

“Is that supposed to be a compliment?”

“Just trying to make you feel better.”

“Well, thanks.”

[44]

“…So you don’t like doing it?”

“That’s not… I don’t think that’s it. Like I said before, I just don’t feel like I’m myself. When we do it, it’s… I feel like something’s off, something’s not right.”

“You think it’s a problem with your sexual sensitivity?”

“Maybe? But I don’t think that’s quite right either.”

“So you feel pleasure, but it isn’t leading to any emotional satisfaction?”

“That might be the reason. When we do it, it’s like my spirit is

“It’s like… my soul is separated from my body, like a ghost. It’s not as if I can see anything, but… No, that’s not right. I can see. I can see my boyfriend. I can see the room. I can see everything properly, but it’s as if I’m observing everything from the outside.”

“Sounds serious.”

“You aren’t taking me seriously, are you?”

“Of course I am.”

“Well… if you say so.”

Silence found its way into their dialogue. Unlike before, Merry felt as if she was being left behind. It wasn’t as if she could say so though. She was afraid that if she did, something between them might end.

“Why don’t you try something new for a change?” said Renko, breaking the silence.

[45]

“Something new? I’m not trying any of that weird fetishistic stuff.”

“That’s not what I mean. Like, what if you try sleeping with someone else?”

“You’re saying that’s not fetishistic? No, I don’t want to do anything like that.”

“Are you sure? The basic idea is that by breaking down the status quo, you might be able to find something new.”

“But still, I don’t want to have sex with another man.”

“Who said anything about another man?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, you could do it with a woman.”

Merry gasped slightly before answering.

“Renko, you… always come up with the craziest ideas, don’t you?”

“Is it really that crazy though? To be honest, in this day and age… the idea that sex is an act only to be shared between those of opposite sexes, I think, is the one that’s more behind the times.”

Merry knew same sex marriage had been legalized nationally a number of years ago, and she understood why Renko would bring up, “this day and age” to argue her point. The nation had already come to a conclusion on its solution for declining birthrates. Instead of continuing to pressure the population to have more children, which had not yielded results, the government had changed direction. If there was not going to be enough children, all they had to do was make sure their nation could survive indefinitely without them.

[46]

The nation was aging. Everyone agreed. After reaching a certain level of development, it was impossible to continue an endless series of economic booms. Just like people, just like other animals, a nation will age.

All that was left was to wait for a slow descent unto death. With that in mind, everyone had accepted death, and focusing only on how to die in the least painful way possible. Every nation on earth had come to the same conclusion. Rather than material sufficiency, emotional and psychological satisfaction was more important.

There was no need or pressure to get married to someone of the opposite sex, to have children. To do that, “for the sake of our future” was laughable. There was no need to engage in romance. If you could die together with someone you truly loved and cared for, that was enough. Renko’s words truly were a product of the present age. However…

“I… guess you’re right. But still, I wouldn’t want to have sex with some random stranger.”

“So you’d be fine with someone you knew?”

“Better than someone I didn’t.”

“How about having sex with me?”

[47]

Merry gulped, completely taken off guard.

“R-Ren… ko?”

“……I was kidding.”

“T-That wasn’t funny, okay? You almost gave me a heart attack.”

“Why?”

“The thought of having… of having sex with you is just… I’ve never thought of anything like that before.”

“That makes sense I guess… Well, I mean, it just sort of came out. I wasn’t really thinking.”

“That’s not something you say without thinking.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Please do… But, come to think of it, I feel a little better now. Maybe because of your bad joke?”

“Behold the wonders of Ms. Usami’s Shock Treatment! Pretty effective, don’t you think?”

“I’m afraid of the side-effects.”

“What kind?”

“I’m not telling you.”

“As the founder of this treatment I’d like to pin down its various effects and virtues.”

“Enough already! Good night,” said Merry, hanging up before Renko could respond.

[48]

Immediately afterward, Merry looked up, sensing someone there. It was her boyfriend.

“Did something happen?” He asked.

“No, nothing. I just couldn’t sleep.”

“I see.”

The lights were already on in the room. Had she really been that concentrated on her call with Renko to notice? Because of the yellow tinted back light, Merry couldn’t see her boyfriend’s face. It was indiscernible in the shadows. Neither could she really make out what emotions might lie behind the vague tone of his voice.

“You’ll catch a cold like that.”

“…Right.”

Feeling that she was being pressured to, Merry went back inside.

On the glass table next to their bed, there were two steaming mugs. They must have just been poured. Merry sat down on the floor by the table and took one of the mugs in her hand. It was filled with a yellowish white liquid. When she brought it to her lips, she could smell the sweet scents of honey and milk. She took a sip and felt the hot milk flow down into her stomach, the heat from it spreading throughout her body.

[49]

“Hey, Mary.”

“Mary”, of course, referred to Merry. That was the way her boyfriend called her name. Not only her boyfriend, but everyone in her classes referred to her the same way. It was the more common, normal, shortening of her name.

“What is it?”

“Do you mind if I turn on the TV?”

“Go right ahead. …You don’t normally ask though. Is there a reason why?”

“Not really, I mean. I dunno.”

“I just thought you might be bothered by the noise,” her boyfriend muttered as he reached for the remote.

As electricity flowed through the television screen, it lit up with a color bar code. According to the clock hanging on the wall, it was three o’clock in the morning. It hadn’t felt as if Merry had spent a long time talking, but it seems that she had been out on the veranda for quite some time.

Flicking through a couple of channels with scheduled programming, Merry’s boyfriend left the television on a news program.

“News at this hour?” Merry thought, but she realized that she never really watched TV this late, and it might not be strange at all.

[50]

There were channels upon channels available nowadays, a far cry from the past, when only a dozen or so channels was the norm. So it wasn’t all that unusual to have dedicated news stations which ran the news all day long, even at this hour. Due to the nature of the programs, the station sets did not have be changed more than a handful of times, and the station itself didn’t require a lot of funds to keep running. Cost effective, Merry thought, as she stared at the female newscaster with her perfect makeup reading off news items in a detached and disinterested manner.

“At 5 o’clock, yesterday evening, an explosion occurred in a district of West Kyoto. Immediately before the incident, a suggestive video message was uploaded to a public video site by the suspected culprit, with the handle name ‘ICQ’. Police are investigating a possible connection between this incident and a series of similar explosions. This most recent explosion occurred on the grounds of *** Park, where…”

This wasn’t Merry’s first time hearing the news. On her way back from classes in the afternoon, just as Merry was thinking that the grounds were a lot busier than usual, she heard people talking about an explosion that had happened near campus. When this series of explosions first started happening, everyone was making a big deal out of the incidents, but now they were so common that they didn’t feel quite as real anymore. Of course, everyone was still cautious, a little bit on edge. There was no telling when you might be caught up in one of the incidents yourself.

However, given that Merry didn’t know anyone, or knew anyone who knew anyone caught up in any of the explosions, she had to admit she felt a strange sense of safety. Even if another explosion occurred, she was sure that she herself would be alright.

Merry stared absentmindedly at the screen, as she continued to drink her hot milk.

ICQ.

[51]

Merry didn’t know what it meant. No one knew who was behind the incidents, or what their motive was. It was always an empty flower shop, an empty cafeteria, an empty merry-go-round in an empty theme park, an empty something. The culprit always picked a place where there were no people present, and the explosions were all on a small scale. Otherwise, no one knew what linked the places together. They seemed almost random. However, before every single incident, there was always a message from the culprit uploaded to a video site. The police still had not pinpointed the source of the uploads. Merry thought it strange that the police hadn’t been able to do that, but she wasn’t really familiar with the methods behind such a search.

“Hey,” Merry said hardly above a whisper.

“Hmm?”

“I wonder what this person is trying to accomplish.”

“Well… have you seen any of the videos the culprit has uploaded before, Mary?”

“I haven’t. By the time the news outlets report on the incident the videos have always been deleted.”

“If that’s the case, I’ve got one of them saved on my terminal. Would you like to watch it?”

“…When did you get your hands on that?”

“I ran across it by chance. If you can call it that. I’m not the one who downloaded it.”

[52]

“By which you mean…?”

“I got it from one of my friends. It’s the video that was uploaded before the third explosion, if I remember correctly,” Merry’s boyfriend said as he stood up to get his tablet from where he had left it on the table.

After turning it on and scrolling his fingers across the surface a few times he stopped.

“Here it is,” he said, holding the screen out in front of Merry.

The video playback program had already been started and Merry found herself looking at a pitch black screen, as a melody she had never heard before began to play.

“What is this music?”

“It’s ‘Parade’.”

“Parade?”

“It’s the name of an old ballet, this is the music used in that ballet. The composer… was it Satie? Yes, it was Erik Satie.”

[53]

A strange and lively sort of music sounded from the tablet’s speakers. Then, shown on the screen was a single picture. A picture of the Mona Lisa with a white frame. On the white part of the frame was written, “L.H.O.Q.Q”, and that was it. That picture, and the music continued for a few minutes. Then, the visual changed. A circular plane was rotating. It was something Merry felt she had seen before. Something burned in the back of her brain. That. In the restricted section of the library it seemed as if… but wait, no. It wasn’t that. Merry felt a burning sensation deep within her brain. In her throat she felt as if there were masses of cotton with thorns stuck in her throat. Merry tried to wash the feeling away she drank the rest of her hot milk in three large gulps. That spinning circular plane. On it was a spiral. A spiral dancing, spinning in such a way that it disrupted her depth perception. As it spun, words appeared on the screen. A place and time, and the letters ICQ, and the words, “Si je te donne un sou, me donneras-tu une paire de ciseaux?”.

“If I give you a penny will you give me a pair of scissors?” Merry’s boyfriend muttered.

[54]

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Who knows… I can’t help but think they wrote it without any particular meaning in mind.”

“Huh.”

The video ended after four minutes and thirty three seconds, leaving the words, “Se il vous plait arreter de Vexations (We have a duty to stop the vexations)” at the very end.

“I wonder what it all means,” Merry wondered aloud.

“Who knows? It doesn’t seem like they’re doing it for kicks, nor with any political motivation. The police don’t seem to have any idea either.”

“I bet…”

“But…”

“Hmm?”

“But you know, I kind of get the feeling I understand.”

“Understand what?”

“What the culprit is thinking.”

“What do you mean?”

Merry’s boyfriend took a sip of hot milk and let out a sigh.

“I can’t say for sure, but I’d bet they’ve just grown tired of the world.”

[55]

“Where did that come from?”

“I mean, doesn’t everyone feel that way at some point or another?”

In response to that question, Merry thought to herself, “No, not everyone.”

“I bet they just want to run away.”

“From what?”

“You see that, I don’t know… Everyone, I think everyone wants to run away from some thing or another. I think that’s what they’re trying to say. After all, they’re calling themselves ‘I seek you’…”

“I seek you?”

“I-C-Q. It’s a play on ‘I seek you’.”

Merry hadn’t realized the meaning until then.

“I hear that there used to be a communication application with the same name a long time ago.”

“So that’s what it meant.”

“Of course, I still have no idea why they’re calling themselves that.”

“Well if you did, that would be scary, wouldn’t it?”

“Why is that?”

[56]

“After all, the only one who knows that is the culprit, right?”

“Hmm… I suppose you have a point.”

“Now don’t tell me that you’re the one behind all of these explosions.”

“Of course not. I’d never go to all that trouble. It seems like a huge hassle.”

“A… hassle?”

“Yeah.”

As Merry looked at the slight grin on her boyfriend’s face, she thought, for the very first time… that she probably, really did not love him anymore.

***

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    • arimareiji
    • August 16th, 2017

    Greetings. (^_^)/

    If your feelings about commissions have changed since the About post was last updated, and either you’re no longer doing them or this amount is insufficient, my apologies.

    Would you be willing to translate Negima’s cheerleader character songs ( https://www.animelyrics.com/anime/negimagi/ponpon.jishttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFHtqI_vit4 ) and
    ( https://www.animelyrics.com/anime/negima2/yell.jishttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIeS-RWfM7Q ) at $20/song or $15/hour*, whichever is higher?

    I’d be happy to provide any character context that helps in translating, and I’d love any exposition you think is interesting (like the obsolete English “Hooray” becoming フレ, heh). Also, I’d be completely happy whether you’d like to post them publicly or keep them private to stay under the copyright cartel’s** radar: Either way is fine. And I understand if you’re too busy but could do so later (even if it takes a while).

    If this sounds okay and it’s okay to email you to arrange prepaying, please let me know?

    * – Imo this should be the very minimum for any skilled worker – I’m libertarian socialist, as weird as that probably sounds‡. I wish I could pay more, but my employer isn’t lib-soc. (^_~)

    ** – I completely agree with copyright’s intended principle, protecting the artist and nurturing creative work. But imo, the current cartel has perverted that intent to the exact opposite effect.

    ‡ – Imo, popular governance is already a desperately-needed brake on corporacracy. Heaven forfend that we finish transitioning to Roman-style oligarchic Empire. (>_<)

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