Posts Tagged ‘ Usami Renko ’

Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does (210/291)

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This an experiment.

This is even more confusing than usual. I may have to polish some parts up to make them more comprehensible.

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Translation Notes:
[209] “I want to lose ambiguity.” That is what it says, though it’s likely to be a typo and mean the opposite.

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

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[191]

Chapter 3: An Unbearable Existence in Suffering

[193]

―”Thrust the knife, my child, for you are a little saint… and all is inhuman.”

“Do you know of the tale of the hundredth monkey?”

So asked the witch, who went by the name of Kirisame Marisa.

The Otherworld Release Research Facility was about thirty minutes away from West Kyoto Station by train, with a few transfers in between. Honestly, I do not remember the reason why I first ventured to come to this place. I have a feeling it may have been due to some solicitors at the university, or because I saw a poster for it on a bulletin board, but it’s not as if I have any clear memory of either of those things happening. There was probably no real reason for me coming at all — I just… did.

Though I knew this was one of the headquarters of the Fantasy Release Movement, my first impression was that it was more like an underground bar. It was part of an old western-style mansion, and you could tell from a glance that the building had not been used for a long time. I wonder if they chose this location because they were able to get a good deal on the building… if they bought it at all. Maybe they thought no one would chase them out if they chose to squat here. The research facility was in the basement.

All of the windows were boarded up, and there was no other lighting in the main part of the building, so even though it was noontime outside, it was dark as midnight inside — except for the basement. From the basement came a bright glow like light of a full moon. I was certain electricity was cut from the building, and I didn’t know from where they could have brought an alternative power source. The impression I got was not that this light came from some sort of electric or gas lamp, but from something else entirely I did not know.

[194]

The “Fantasy Release Movement” — what I entered into felt less like its headquarters and more like the underground gathering place of some old society. The walls of the room were bare concrete, and all they contained was a collection of round tables and chairs. The only other thing of note was a white curtain hanging from one of the walls. It was for use with a projector, someone said.

That was all.

When I arrived, there were already a few young men and women who looked like students gathered around one of the tables, talking. There were papers and books scattered around the table. I was told that you couldn’t bring portable terminals or any other electronics into the room. Those devices ran contrary to the other side of the boundary, they said.

Even so, I thought, I’m surprised they were able to get their hands on so many paper books.

In this scientific age, paper books are no more than collector’s items. They are an unnecessary medium, prone to immediate degradation.

[195]

Digital records are easily lost.

— someone said.

Digital records containing the boundaries and everything beyond them have already been lost, they said. Therefore, we must rely on print, for only in print does the truth lie — they said.

In the beginning I thought that was nonsense, but…

There was a girl sitting cross-legged on the table, smiling.

She had on a black apron dress, like a character out of an old story, and wore a black witch’s hat over her blonde hair. Everyone seated at the table had turned their chairs toward her — and I was no exception. It felt almost as if we were worshipping her.

I heard the sound of gears quietly clicking and clinking together, and that sound came from the machine set behind the girl on the table, behind Kirisame Marisa.

It was an old analog computer, similar to the kind used by the Japanese military long ago. It looked like a box, with the bottom tapered, so that it was larger at the top. On the side of the box were countless dials and gauges, along with buttons and levers to operate it. Four legs extended from the bottom to hold it up, but otherwise there was nothing else to describe about it. I wondered what powered it. It didn’t look as if it were being supplied by any power source. If it was something that was originally designed for use in wartime, perhaps it was powered by wound-up springs.

[196]

Marisa leaned back against the machine.

“The ‘tale’ is really a thought experiment proposed by Lyall Watson, but it is based on the behavior of the Japanese macaques of Kojima, an island off the coast of Kushima’s Ishinami Beach, in what used to be Miyagi Prefecture. One day, a few of the monkeys on the island began to wash sweet potatoes with seawater before eating them. They must have discovered that it added an interesting flavor to their food, and as time went on, more of the monkeys began to wash their potatoes with seawater.”

I could hear the sound of gears turning, click click clack.
I could hear the sound of gears turning, click click clack.
I could hear the sound of gears turning, click click clack.
I could hear the sound of gears turning, click click clack.
I could hear the sound of gears turning, click click clack.
I could hear the sound of gears turning, click click clack.

Everyone listened intently to the witch’s words.

She looked far younger than me — in fact, she looked by far to be the youngest in the room — and yet everyone acted as if they were worshipping her. The way she carried herself, her actions, her tone of voice — it was as if gravity itself had bowed to her, drawing our gazes toward her, as if there was nothing more natural.

She looked far younger than me — in fact, she looked by far the youngest in the room — and yet it seemed like everyone was worshipping her.

[197]

“More and more of the monkeys washed their potatoes, so that ten became twenty, and twenty became forty. Finally, when their number became one hundred, what do you think happened?”

There was whispering. I could still hear the gears turning.

“Not only did all of the monkeys on the island begin to wash their potatoes with seawater, but all of the monkeys in the surrounding area began to as well. Once the hundredth monkey appeared, the learning was telepathically transmitted, in much the same way the crystallization of glycerin occurs.”

The gears were crying.

“Are you talking about the Sheldrake Hypothesis?” someone seated at the table asked.

“Yes, exactly. You might call the hundredth monkey the threshold of synchronicity.”

“Threshold?”

“Or you can call it the boundary threshold if you’d like. The threshold that when reached, causes what you are seeing now to be synchronized across the boundary. It isn’t just one or two people, it takes ten — no, one hundred people. Once that threshold is reached, other communities will be able to see across the boundary — no, it’s more than that — both sides start to become synchronized. If this synchronization is continued, humanity will completely merge with the other side, accept ambiguity, and become the way it was meant to be.”

[198]

That is the true goal of the Fantasy Release Movement, they say.

I wonder just who this girl is, anyway. Everyone at the table just stares at her with empty eyes. Not one of them seems to doubt her.

“When they reach that point, people will be able to find what is truly important to them. ‘What did I like?’ ‘What did I really want to do then?’ ‘Who did I like?’ and ‘Who did I want to be?’ You hesitate before these questions because you have lost ambiguity. You lack the answer to these question because you have lost ambiguity. You have been led astray by the need for black and white, for one and zero.”

“Um, excuse me.”

When I spoke up, all of the people around the table looked my way. Their eyes were empty, with nothing reflected in them. The indistinct glow of light within this dark building — the bright light like that of the full moon that lit this room, began to flicker.

It seemed as if everyone’s head was swelling.

[199]

“What is it?”

“Well, I was wondering… You call yourselves the Fantasy Release Movement, but… What do you plan on doing once the fantasy has been ‘released’ so to speak?”

“This world is a butterfly specimen,” replied the girl named Marisa.

“A… butterfly specimen?”

“Exactly.”

*

Let me tell you about a certain kind of butterfly specimen, and the events concerning its exhibition.

There was a large exhibition of butterfly specimens held once or twice a year by a certain group, with smaller exhibitions held once a month. In the beginning, these exhibitions consisted solely of collectors and connoisseurs displaying their specimens and viewing others’. Both those who manufactured the specimens and those who came to view them were satisfied with the exhibition as it was.

But as we are, such things begin to feel mundane after a while.

There was a person who began to pay more attention to the box that the butterfly specimen was housed in. A standard box purchased at the market could not possibly hold in the butterfly’s beauty, he thought, and so he prepared a box made of glass on all four sides, and placed four of the same kind of butterfly in it.

[200]

One of the butterflies was pinned to flower. One was pinned as if in flight. One was pinned laying eggs. One was pinned caught in a spider’s web. This butterfly specimen, as a whole, showed all of these things.

When this specimen was put on display, all those at the exhibition showered it with praise. There were many who wondered aloud whether, up until now, they had put too much emphasis on the rarity of the butterfly as opposed to other factors of the specimen on display.

There was a person who made a specimen out of a dissected butterfly. In the box was a butterfly’s wings, the body the wings were ripped from, and its feelers all pinned apart from each other.

There were more than a few at the exhibition who were bothered by this display, but there were other who remarked that more closely represented the original purpose of a biological specimen. One could say that given the controversy it produced, it was a particularly groundbreaking specimen.

There was a person who selected a number of particular kinds of butterfly and pinned them so that they formed a circle in the specimen box. This specimen was modelled after a well known fairytale. The butterflies were placed in such a way that they followed the outline of the tale, and attention was also paid the color of the pins to further enhance the feeling that a story was being told.

[201]

Was not the true nature of butterflies to be found in their potential for the expression of a story? Because the story the specimen told was a story that everyone knew, the butterflies in this specimen were alive in the story alive in the viewer’s mind and that moment of life was contained in the specimen box. Was not this phenomenon itself meaningful? So the viewers of this specimen praised it.

There was a person who put in a specimen box the larvae, chrysalis, and eggs of a butterfly preserved in alcohol. But was this even a butterfly specimen? It did not even contain a butterfly — it was absent.

But was not the butterfly proven in its absence? What not it this absence itself which proved the butterfly? That is what this specimen seemed to be trying to say. Those that saw it debated the specimen, with some calling it nothing more than a work made solely for the sake of its creator, and others suggesting that it called into question the very definition of a butterfly specimen.

There was a person who recreated a scene from a film in their specimen, but all that was in the box was wire, cotton, and the preserved skins of fruit arranged in the shape of a butterfly. The backdrop was a landscape make of twigs and leaves, and upon this backdrop the artificial butterfly danced. It is as if this butterfly is alive, some praised, but an equal number of others could only remark that they did not understand the creator’s purpose.

There was a person who made an artificial butterfly out of the wings of real butterflies. The box of this specimen was the largest in the exhibition. The wings used were from four types of butterfly, native only to a certain area, and after being removed from their respective bodies the wings were pasted together so that they formed the shape of an entirely different butterfly — a butterfly that did not exist anywhere.

[202]

Is not a butterfly specimen made for the purpose of decoratively displaying a butterfly? Then, must not the butterfly on display be an actual butterfly?

But when the real butterflies used in this specimen became material for the false one, did they not serve a purpose in allowing us rediscover what exactly a butterfly is?

There were several of these various butterfly specimens, and they made waves which spread out both among those who created specimens and those who viewed them.

The next exhibition and the next —
The next and the next and the next —
Over and over and over again butterfly specimens like these were made.

Those that were impressed by the butterfly specimen in the glass box made specimens with larger glass boxes, specimens in glass dodecahedrons, in spherical glass tanks, in picture frames, in cardboard boxes, in boxes of paulownia wood, of wisteria vine, of charcoal, among many other types and materials. The types of butterflies in these boxes were also varied: pieris rapae, papilionae, nymphalidae, minois dryas, danainae, libythea celtis, lycaenidae, and others. There were precious butterflies, rare butterflies, common butterflies, butterflies of no consequence, butterflies that were actually moths.

[203]

Then there were the pins. There were pins made of gold, made of silver, made of copper, onyx, ruby, jade, amber, iron, wood. As for the poisons made to kill the butterflies, some used ethyl acetate, others used soapy water, saltwater, or various medicines no one knows or cares to know — medicines to freeze things for eternity, to make them forget rot, to simply cause them to sleep — several different medicines.

Over and over again and again butterfly specimens like these were made.

No longer could you simply capture a butterfly from your garden and put it in a box — no one would look at it. The same went for the creators. For whom should butterfly specimens be made? What is it that makes an excellent specimen? So they wondered and talked among themselves.

One day, someone pointed at them and yelled, “But are these really butterfly specimens!?”

There were those who agreed and those who disagreed with this detractor.

Are not these manifestations naught but specimens of butterfly specimens? Are not these creations worthless garbage to which we can only affix the name of butterfly specimen? But do not we make these specimens, because of our love of butterflies? Are you sure you are not mistaking love for the desire to stand out? Are you not only using the medium of butterfly specimen to satisfy your desire to present, to in someway fulfill and audience? Are not these but borrowed things, fake things to which you have only affixed the name of butterfly specimen!?

[204]

Are what you are producing, really butterfly specimens?

All you are producing is an expendable item, not a butterfly specimen but a fake.

Everyone denied these statements.

Everyone agreed with these statements.

Everyone, while having these arguments, kept making butterfly specimens.

However…

*

“They discussed nothing of the most important part,” Marisa said softly.

“The most important… part?”

“No one realized, even though it was such a simple thing.”

The clicking and clacking of the gears from the machine echoed in the room.

“The butterflies were, as ever before, dead.”

[205]

“Butterflies…”

“Every time a specimen is prepared, a butterfly dies. Countless numbers of them die in this process. No matter how you might try to dress up the act, the fact remains that they were decorating butterfly corpses — and were oblivious it.”

“Butterfly… corpses…”

“This world is in an exhibition, and we are all nothing but butterfly specimens in our boxes. Yes, we are nameless, and yet are nothing but our names. We are nothing but butterflies.”

Marisa laughed quietly.

“Still, we point our fingers at others’ butterfly corpses and say that they are different from the butterflies we are. But corpses are corpses, nothing more. No one talks about this, for the exhibition is a city, and the city is a morgue. There is no meaning in ‘us’ being ourselves. No matter how we celebrate, no matter how we grieve, we are all long dead in our glass boxes — nothing more.”

“Dead…”

“Are you digesting my words as you repeat them back at me? Is that the only reason you have come here, to echo me?” She pointed straight at me.

Everyone who was sitting down was… No, no one was sitting down. There was only a table, Marisa, and the machine — and several half-spheres hanging from the ceiling. From those, several human bodies were growing. Naked men, naked women — they had no hair, and the lower halves of their bodies were buried in the half-spheres. Click clack click, the machine was groaning. The lighting formed a spiral as it illuminated the room. Half-spheres, there were a countless number of them hanging from the ceiling. Half-spheres with people planted into them, and the skin of all of these things was mottled with blackened spots, everywhere, the edges of these spots were swelled up, like a bruise just beginning to heal. They were countless shallow holes. They were all over the bodies. Click clack click, the machine was groaning.

“Tell me, you. Why are you here? No, rather — What is your name?”

“I…”

Who am I?

My name…

What is my name?

“I don’t understand my girlfriend.”

My lips moved all on their own.

[207]

“I see. What is your girlfriend’s name?”

“Maribel Hearn.”

“I see. So then, what is your name?”

“I don’t understand my girlfriend.”

“I see. So tell me, where are you from?”

“Lately, it feels like she’s been cold… keeping her distance from me. I wonder when it started… It was her friend. It was once she started hanging out with her friend Usami Renko, and…”

“I see. So tell me, what are you studying at the university?”

“I think she said something about going to… Torifune, or something like that. Afterwards, she was hospitalized, taken to a sanatorium in Shinshuu. After she got out… every since it feels like she’s been keeping her distance from me. Even when I went to see her, while she was hospitalized, her eyes they were… It felt like she was distant from me.”

“I see — and your girlfriend’s name is?”

“Maribel Hearn.”

“I see — and your name is?”

“I don’t understand my girlfriend.”

“I see — and where are you from?”

[208]

“Lately, it feels like she’s been cold… keeping her distance from me. I wonder when it started… It was her friend. It was once she started hanging out with her friend Usami Renko, and…”

“I see — and what are you studying at the university?”

“I think she said something about going to… Torifune, or something like that. Afterwards, she was hospitalized, taken to a sanatorium in Shinshuu. After she got out… every since it feels like she’s been keeping her distance from me. Even when I went to see her, while she was hospitalized, her eyes they were… It felt like she was distant from me.”

“I see — and your girlfriend’s name is?”

“Maribel Hearn.”

“I see — and your name is?”

“I don’t understand my girlfriend.”

“I see — and where are you from?”

“Lately, it feels like she’s been cold… keeping her distance from me. I wonder when it started… It was her friend. It was once she started hanging out with her friend Usami Renko, and…”

“I see — and what are you studying at the university?”

“I think she said something about going to… Torifune, or something like that. Afterwards, she was hospitalized, taken to a sanatorium in Shinshuu. After she got out… every since it feels like she’s been keeping her distance from me. Even when I went to see her, while she was hospitalized, her eyes they were… It felt like she was distant from me.”

[209]

“Maribel Hearn.”

“I see — and your name is?”

“I don’t understand my girlfriend.”

“I see — and where are you from?”

“Lately, it feels like she’s been cold… keeping her distance from me. I wonder when it started… It was her friend. It was once she started hanging out with her friend Usami Renko, and…”

“I see — and what are you studying at the university?”

“I think she said something about going to… Torifune, or something like that. Afterwards, she was hospitalized, taken to a sanatorium in Shinshuu. After she got out… every since it feels like she’s been keeping her distance from me. Even when I went to see her, while she was hospitalized, her eyes they were… It felt like she was distant from me.”

“I see, I see I see. That is all you have, and that is all you are. After all, right now you need nothing more. So now tell me, what did you come here to do?”

“I want to lose ambiguity. It was suggested to me that the reason things aren’t going well with me and my girlfriend, the reason we aren’t having sex, the reason things aren’t going well at work, the reason for all of that is because reality has lost its ambiguity. That’s right. It’s not my fault. It’s just that the world is not fitting into me. I’m sure it’s because something is wrong with it.”

“Yes, you are right. The world as it is now is wrong. It should embrace the other side of the boundary, embrace more fantasy.” Marisa chuckled.

“We should be the hundredth monkey. This should be the start of it all.”

“The starting point.”

I could hear squirming and grating sounds from the half-spheres hanging from the ceiling above.

“Izanagi’s curse. Before our thousand souls are sacrificed, we must escape from this world. Let us flip the road leading down to the netherworld, so we may decide who really should be crucified.”

I could hear squirming and grating sounds from the half-spheres hanging from the ceiling above.

“Let me tell you — I mean ‘you’, just exactly what the fantasy meltdown is.”

***

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Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does (190/291)

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This an experiment.

Thus concludes Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 is next and involves Kirisame Marisa.

ICQ.

If you would like to see more, please donate. [PayPal]

Translation Notes:

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

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[177]

The planetarium was about thirty minutes away from West Kyoto Station by train, with a few transfers in between. The nearest station off a local line brought us to the middle of a former — emphasis on former — high income residential district. It was like a graveyard of buildings now, those buildings magnificent only in their outward appearance. We left the all but abandoned station, and I only followed along as my girlfriend guided me on. I looked at my watch. It was 10:12 am.

“Hey…”

“What is it, Renko?”

“Are they really open this early?”

“What do you mean early? It’s not early at all! How late do you normally sleep in?” she laughed.

[178]

But…

I felt that one word caught in my throat.

As I looked around, I saw no one. No sign of anyone at all. It was as if the whole area was asleep. No — I knew. I already knew that this place had been abandoned long before, but… It was beyond that. It was as if I had walked into some ancient ruins. At the very least, we shouldn’t be the only ones here, but we haven’t passed anyone on the street. Was there anyone at the station? There weren’t any employees at least. Everything is automated nowadays, so it’s natural for a station only visited by local trains to have no personnel — you just touch your magnetic ticket card against the ticket gate and walk through — but what about the line of shops in front of the station? Were there any bikes in the parking area at the station? No — I’m focusing on the wrong thing. There’s something more fundamental that I’m missing. It’s…

“Is there something wrong, Renko?”

“Uh… Well…”

“Hey Renko, have you heard of this story before? The one about the town of sheep and goats?” She spun around and looked at me with a carefree smile.

Behind her, the rays of sunlight burned away her details. Her figure was burned black, light collapsing clouds in the evening light as the sun sets. Her thin arms, thin legs, thin neck, and head like the tip of a spindle — even her outline was indistinct.

“Long ago, there was a town where forty thousand sheep and forty thousand goats lived together in harmony. However, one day, one sheep and one goat got into an argument. You see, according to oral tradition, there was a god who oversaw the town. One of the two questioned whether that god really existed.”

[179]

“What…? What are you talking about?”

“I told you before, didn’t I? This is one of those stories that may be scary or not, depending on the listener. This is one of the newer stories. Anyway… The sheep and the goats discussed the matter among themselves. All the sheep believed in their god, and the power of the miracles that god was said to perform. On the other hand, none of the goats believed in this god. They believed all that was claimed to be a miracle was just pure coincidence. In the end, the sheep and the goats collectively decided to make a bet over whether a miracle would occur or not.”

She was running away from me, like a mirage, spinning all the while, and all I could do was follow.

I looked down at the white paved street and the organized rectangular buildings, all absent of people, and my perception felt unhinged. How long had we been walking? How many hours, how many tens of hours had passed? In reality, it was likely not a minute had gone by and yet I felt as if I was being led on a leash, with no other option but to chase after her. Only her voice was still as clear as it ever was.

[180]

“To test the power of their god’s miracles, they would all pray, without eating or drinking. Would by miraculous providence they obtain apples to eat, without doing anything to harvest them? Would their god bless them with such a miracle? That was the gamble upon which the sheep and goats placed their bets. Tell me, Renko. What do you think happened next?”

Sweat seeped from my pores and it felt as if my skin was coming off in sheets as the sweat dripped its way down.

“As it turns out, a few more of the sheep survived the ordeal than did the goats. How many more do you think it was? Out of forty thousand goats, thirty thousand died. But out of the forty thousand sheep, those sheep who professed faith in their god, only twenty nine thousand and eighty-four of them died. Therefore, the remaining sheep proclaimed, ‘God, our God, only blesses those who believe in him and his miracles. You, in your ignorance, doubted God. That is why a full thirty thousand of you died.'”

Deep in my throat I felt a rough texture along with the taste of salt. Rather than just sweat, it felt as if my whole body was turning into a pillar of salt.

“So the remaining goats left the town and only sheep remained — only those sheep who sincerely believed in their god. However, those sheep thought this: ‘If we do not more firmly believe in God, might not we too die like those ignorant goats?’ So they kept praying, without taking time to eat, without taking time to do anything else at all, and one by one the sheep began to fall to the ground dead. As each fell, the remaining sheep proclaimed, ‘They must not have truly believed in God. That is why God did not save them with his miracles.’ Thus the sheep continued to die, one after another, until only ten of them were left alive. What do you think those remaining sheep did?”

Even her voice was heavily distorted now. It was tinged with a howling sound, as if someone had put a microphone next to a speaker.

“All of them leapt into a lake and died. Why do you think they did that?”

Desperately I pressed both of my hand against my head in an attempt to steady the vibrations of my skull, wrought by her voice as it rang in my head. What is going on? What is happening?

“Finally they realized that in end, despite being the ones who believed in their god, far fewer of the sheep had survived than the goats. In response, those remaining sheep tried to put faith in their god once more, and all jumped in the lake. Renko?”

We’re here.

I felt as if my vision had suddenly cleared. We were standing in front of a single old western-style mansion.

Led by the hand, I followed her inside.

We passed through the doorway and it was empty inside. From the outside it looked like a mansion, but inside there were no rooms, the mansion was only a shell.

[182]

In the very center was a single planetarium mechanism. Its twisted tubes were blossoming like a rose. Yes, the planetarium was blossoming. The walls were covered with bulbs that looked like cut off tips of spindles. There were no chairs, anywhere. Were we supposed to stand for this, or…?

“Renko, this way.”

I was led to a single, cheap looking bed.

My girlfriend sat on the bed and wrapped herself in the comforter, so that only her head was showing, and then motioned for me to follow suit.

I didn’t really have a choice, so with uneasy footing I went after her, and sat down on the bed. The bed gave a rusty screech and I could feel the springs of the mattress digging into my butt.

Then, without me putting up any resistance, she pulled me down and got on top of me.

“Hey…”

“What?”

“Is it you?” I asked from underneath her, staring straight up into her faintly colored irises.

[183]

“What ‘it’ do you think I am, Renko?”

“Are you ICQ?”

She laughed a little.

“Renko, call me by my name,” she responded, without answering my question.

“C’mon Renko, won’t you call me by my name?” she said again, reaching out to touch my cheek.

“Please Renko, call me by my name. Look at me and call me by my name, please?”

What was there was…

Once, long ago, I heard this story. Somewhere in West Kyoto there is a bridge, and on that bridge there was this girl, crying. People would call out to her, asking, “Are you okay? Why are you crying?” Then, she would turn around, but her face was featureless. All that could be seen of her face was white skin. She had no mouth, no nose, no eyes. There was only the outline of a smooth empty face, like…

“Tell me, Renko. Who am I? Why was I me? Renko, please. Call me by my name. Where did my face go?”

[184]

Renko could do nothing but stare up at that blank face.

The witch named Alice said to that girl: “This faceless doll is your true wish. You want the faces of everything to die and be gone. You desire all to become as you are. That is your wish, your hope. People say that a conclusion overflowing with hope is wonderful. So you should wish for the best conclusion you may have. Go to the place where your hope is fulfilled. Go to the place you so begged and wished for.”

“You see… Really, I…”

With a snap, a crack ran across her face.

Renko’s cheeks and nose were showered by fragments of the girl’s ruptured celluloid face. What Renko could see through the crack was like countless frog’s eggs. The black innards were festering with greenish tint. Her innards were and had long been rotting away, like caterpillars which had failed in their metamorphosis. Since she had been wanted by no one, she was no longer herself.

“Renko, really… I wanted you too look at me. I wanted you to love me.”

[185]

Renko reached up to touch the her cheek, but the girl weakly slapped her hand away, and it fell lightly back on the bed.

“But you see… I don’t have a name. From the very beginning, for that purpose I was here, and so I am not loved by anyone. Logically speaking, there is a single perfect possibility for happiness on earth, and that is to believe in the indestructible parts of oneself but not try to reach them.”

Her voice became less distinct, layering on top of itself.

With the clicking of gears the planetarium mechanism began to turn.

A pure white world. A view devoid of anything. Within that a single false star began to smear itself blackly.

The moon.

Renko’s eyes flicked about.

By seeing the moon and the stars she could tell the time and where she was.

So then, what place and time would these fake sky tell her?

Renko felt as if something was being burned into her brain.

A ringtone rang through the air.

[186]

It was Renko’s handheld terminal. She reached for it subconsciously, tapping its surface to receive the call before bringing it to her ear.

“Hello?”

“Renko?” replied the voice from call. It was her.

“That Fantasy Release Movement… Do you know where its current headquarters are?”

“Why?”

“Please, tell me. I cannot be 100% sure, but… the boundaries are broken.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Huh?”

“This world is probably done for.”

“Renko?”

“GPS.”

“What?”

“I’ve left the GPS on my terminal on. Just come here.”

[187]

“Ren…ko?”

“I’m pretty sure that right here, the world is going to end.”

“What are y-”

The nameless girl grabbed the terminal from Renko and threw it away from the bed.

“I realized the answer to the question, ‘How can I become eternal?'”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sure that the answer was clear from the very beginning, that I would live inside of you, Renko. As long as you continue to be you, ‘I’ can continue to exist. You see, you are ‘my’ signature.”

“I see.”

Renko reached up towards the girl’s face and ripped it open left and right as if she were opening a sliding door. What peered out from inside was a single doll.

The doll was bound by threads of white sticky flesh. It had a black hat, a red tie, white shirt and black skirt (A type, or a single video term). It was a doll of Usami Renko.

[188]

“So you were me.”

“No — This is my signature.”

A bell rang, like that of an alarm clock.

This was the end of an act. It was time for the curtains to fall.

In the next instant the bomb, formed into the shape of that doll, exploded.

With a splattering sound, half of Renko’s face was showered by bits of flesh and bone from that nameless girl. Slowly the rest of her collapsed, unfolding into four pieces out from her core, like a blossoming flower. While they were crumbling the remains of her ribs and spine and flesh barely held this flower-like form together.

Renko could see the moon and the stars, but it was only a pattern. In that ceiling were countless gears and clocks melting into one another. That which connected the melting clocks and gears looked exactly like human eyes. Click clack tick tock tick. The gears were turning, and all the clock hands were awry. They all pointed to a single time, to seventeen. To only the number seventeen on each of their clock faces.

The pieces of flesh plastered to Renko’s face began to collapse, burning as they went.

“Who are you?” Renko asked, just above a whisper.

[189]

“I am a witch — or, you might say, an empty stage mechanism.”

Thus answered the human planetarium.

Renko could see, here and there parts of a girl.

She must be inside the belly of the witch, Renko thought.

“I’ve been called Alice Margatroid.”

“I see.”

“But what about you? Tell me, who are you?”

Renko silently closed her eyes.

“I don’t know.”

(END OF CHAPTER 2)

Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does (177/291)

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This an experiment.

You may recognize the dialogue from Chapter 1.

There is only one scene left in Chapter 2.

Meta. Meta. Meta.

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Translation Notes:
[172] An agalmatophiliac is someone who is sexually attracted to dolls or statues. Pygmalion is an often cited example, and Pygmalionism marks a subset of falling in love with one’s own creation.

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

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[156]

It was already past two in the morning, but Renko couldn’t sleep — not after what she had seen when she shared Merry’s vision.

“Those grainy images in her vision…” Renko muttered to herself, “I know what they are.”

[157]

In an attempt to crush her unyielding consciousness, Renko grabbed an open can of beer she had left on the table, finishing it in a single gulp. The beer had been left out so long it had acclimated to the temperature of the room, and all she could taste of its lukewarm flavor as it flowed down her throat was a faint bitterness.

With only a shirt on over her panties, Renko reached again towards the table — this time for her vaporizer. She brought it to her lips and activated it, the nicotine burning in her throat as she inhaled. Mixed in with the feelings of intoxication came a severe spell of dizziness.

I wonder if the paper cigarettes they used to smoke were anything like this?

Because the nicotine directly stimulated her brain, with each successive inhalation she felt more and more nauseous, as if she were drowning herself in cheap drinks.

If it made her feel this way, then why was she still vaping? Even if Renko were to try to answer that question, she couldn’t.

But that was not all to blame for this current state of miserable drunkenness.

The image flashed again in her mind. Turning.

There were four lines of sight sectioned off in that vision. In one of those was…

“Anémic Cinéma,” Renko muttered to herself.

Why was it there, beyond what Merry saw?

[158]

Renko picked up the tablet she had left on the table, and traced her finger across its surface. After playing a sound as it booted up, several icons were displayed on the screen. Renko tapped one of those icons, a shortcut to a free video sharing site. Renko put her wrist in front of an external vein identification device that was connected to the tablet, logging her into the site and bringing up her personal page. She opened up her favorites list, and tapped on a folder labeled “ICQ”.

Several bombing incidents had taken place in and around the West Kyoto Metropolitan Area, and this folder contained a list of all of the videos uploaded by the bomber prior to acting. The majority — more specifically, all but the most recent video — were deleted by the uploader themselves, and at the moment none of the videos in Renko’s list were accessible.

“Baths in coarse tea for beauty marks without too much Bengay,” Renko whispered softly.

Those were the words shown in the first video released by the bomber.

[159]

“The child who suckles is a hot-flesh blower and doesn’t like hot-house cauliflower.”

Those were the words from the second video.

The television newscasters and commentators were unable to grasp these words’ meaning, and questioned whether the words had any meaning at all. Most had come to the conclusion that this was the work of a madman.

If only they would do a little research… Renko thought. Then, they’d be able to figure out that those videos are a parody of the experimental films made by Marcel Duchamp. They even seen to be using the original footage of the videos in their edits, though they seem to be using a completely different audio track.

Renko counted the number of incidents — there were five so far, and the fifth video had already been taken down. If the bomber was really basing their actions off of “Anémic Cinéma”, there would be four more bombings before they were done.

It was the fifth video that Renko had seen playing in Merry’s vision. Was it because their shared vision was mixed with things that Renko had already seen? Or was what Renko saw in Merry’s vision something beyond the boundary? If that was the case, then these bombing incidents must be…

“Looks like you’re involved in some pretty dangerous stuff, Fantasy Release Movement.”

[160]

These incidents are effectively acts of terrorism, but I’m sure they plan on framing them as acts of resistance against the current state of imbalance. At the very least they don’t seem to be making a fuss about the incidents on their social networking sites. What does stand out though, is the fact that no one is mentioning Duchamp’s name — so much that it seems to be coordinated silence.

“Don’t you think it’s a little too soon for his work to be forgotten?” Renko said with a sarcastic smirk.

As for the locations of the bombings, Renko had several theories, but…

She had a feeling she knew — even where the next incident would occur.

Renko recalled a scene in her memory: of that planner with the red and blue stamps — of those blue stamps filling up her calendar.

“It can’t be her, right…?”

[161]

Suddenly, the handheld terminal Renko had left charging vibrated. When she picked it up she saw her friend’s name. After clicking the ‘receive call’ button, she brought the terminal to her ear.

“Merry?”

“Good evening, Renko.”

To Renko, it sounded like Merry’s voice was shaking a little on the other end.

“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.”

“Where do you find this kind of information?”

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

[162]

“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?”

There was silence on the other end.

“So, what’s the matter then?” Renko continued.

“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…”

“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’?”

[163]

“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.”

Renko felt somewhat… familiar with that expression, but she didn’t want to let it come across in her voice, and tried to laugh it off.

“There you go again, being all abstract…”

“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.”

“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?”

[164]

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

+++++++++

Renko felt a sharp pain, like a shard of ice had pierced her heart.

Watching you? Is that all you think I—

Renko took the now empty beer can in her hand and swung back her arm, ready to throw it against the wall — but she paused, and lowered her hand, trying to stay as calm as she possibly could.

“……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?”

Even so, she could tell that her frustration was coming out in her voice. She felt an emptiness, a helplessness well up inside her.

I know. I… I know.

“Yeah?”

“Never mind, 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.”

[165]

“…So you don’t like doing it?”

Renko felt a small sliver of hope shine inside of her, and she hated herself for 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

“That might be the reason. When we do it, 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.”

I don’t want to take you seriously now. Please, just stop it. Stop!

Renko held back the urge to scream.

“Why don’t you try something new for a change?”

[166]

“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.”

Renko held her breath as she waited for Merry to answer.

“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.”

“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?”

Renko could hear Merry gasp on the other end.

“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.”

[168]

“Enough already! Good night.”

Merry hung up on Renko, and the “caller unavailable” tone played from her terminal and into her ear.

I handled that well… I think.

Renko hugged her knees to her chest and began to cry like a baby.

“Me..Merry…”

Renko wrapped her arms around her head and kept crying.

People only cry when… Renko thought back on words she has once said. Tears come to wash away all the things inside you you don’t need. For instance, dust, sand, sadness… If that really is the case then why won’t this wash away? No matter how many times I cry, they won’t leave me — these feelings of love I have for my friend.

I know. I know that she’s straight. She’s the type that likes men. I knew from the very beginning that these feelings were one-sided, and this love would never be requited. But that was fine — it was enough for me. I had a connection with her, over the strange eyes we had, and when she began to be able to see beyond the boundaries, when we began to share those visions, it was like we were having sex. I was on cloud nine.

[169]

But that just made it all the more depressing — the fact that I was only a friend to her. No matter what we went through together, I was nothing more than a friend. That’s why…

That’s why I slept with that other girl.

Renko thought about her current girlfriend. She had met with her that day, and almost every day for a long time, but Renko could not remember her girlfriend’s face. Renko knew she didn’t love her girlfriend. That story she heard about the woman who got married to someone she didn’t love? Of course Renko didn’t find that woman scary. After all, she looked at a real-life version of her in the mirror every morning — and she had only hate for what she saw. Every morning she woke up so frustrated at herself she could hardly bear it.

Renko continued to cry and cry, and in frustration she slammed her fists on the table.

Whether by some chain of events related to Renko’s flailing, or just by pure coincidence — the television turned on.

A news program flashed on the screen.

“Today at five in the afternoon, an explosion took place in the West Kyoto Metropolitan Area. Prior to the explosion, a video suggesting another bombing was imminent was uploaded to a site, under the pseudonym ‘ICO’. From this information, police are investigating a link between today’s explosion and the previous chain of bombings. The explosion took place in — Park, in the vicinity of…”

[170]

It’s probably the clock by the fountain.

I know.

After all, the past five locations have all been… places I went on dates with that girl.

***

This is where she kissed me for the first time. So let’s burn it. This is where she gave me a present for the first time. So let’s burn it. I wonder if she’ll notice. I wonder if she would be kind enough to notice. After all, even the videos are a parody of that strange film she told me about. She likes those sorts of things. Ah… this is where she hugged me. So let’s burn it. This is where she had sex with me. So let’s burn it. Let’s burn all of my memories of her — all of them. Surely, this is what eternity truly is. Kai was such an idiot. Clumps of ice melt away — you can’t build eternity with that. That’s why I burn them. Everything, everything will turn to ash. Once I do that, the flame will last forever. I wonder if she will understand. After all, this is what the witch taught me.

***

[171]

When Alice first asked me whether I would like to make a doll, it was about a week after we first met. I wonder if she asked because it looked like I was interested in the dolls in her room.

“Wouldn’t it be… difficult?”

“Oh, not at all. Certainly, if we were going to make a proper celluloid doll, some dedicated machinery would be necessary, but for something like a stuffed doll, all you need is some yarn and needles. And look, here.”

What Alice showed me was a doll that looked just like me.

“I just carved this out of wood. Do you know how to use a carving knife?”

“I’m… not sure I’d be able to do that.”

“I see… But, it does look like you are skilled with needles.”

I would have felt bad just watching and drinking tea, so I was helping Alice with her work. All I was really able to do was sew clothes for the dolls, though. Something strange I noticed was that Alice seemed to either hand sew all of her dolls’ clothes, or use a hand-crank sewing machine, a kind I’ve only seen in museums. I mentioned that there were better machines available nowadays, but it seemed to upset Alice a little bit.

[172]

“I can’t ever get used to those things,” she said.

I thought it was kind of cute.

“Hm… Well what about this?” Alice said, taking four cardboard boxes out from a corner of the room.

When I looked inside, there were mountains of doll parts. There was a box of just arms, a box of just legs, a box of just torsos, and a box of just heads. However, Alice quickly shut the box with the doll heads. After all, there’s no point if you don’t make the face yourself, she said.

“The face?”

“Yes. After all, dolls project one’s hopes.”

“Hopes?”

“What you want to do, who you want to be — People dismiss agalmatophiliacs as those who are only falling in love with the ideals they project onto their dolls, that their love is nothing but a warped form of sexually desiring oneself, but truly, what are dolls but stand-ins for the self? That’s what dolls are. They are manifestations of one’s ideals, of one’s hopes.”

[173]

“I… I hate that.”

“Oh? Did you not like dolls?”

“No, it’s… I hate the word ‘hope’. It’s written as ‘begging for one’s wish’. Doesn’t that make it sound like it will never come true? That’s why I hate it.”

“I see.”

Alice took my hand and closed it around something. It was a small white cube of styrofoam.

“Then how about just a wish? Once you have finished making your doll, I’m sure that you will find what it is you wish for.”

“What I wish for?”

“What you want to do, who you want to be — for dolls are like mirrors.”

Alice said it would probably be difficult for me to make the body from scratch, so she taught me how to put the doll’s body together using the finished parts. But that way, I couldn’t help but question whether there was any meaning to what I was doing, and it must have shown on my face.

Alice poured me a fresh cup of tea and smiled as she handed it to me.

“Would you have rather started from scratch?”

[174]

“Well when it comes to things like this, if I didn’t start from scratch, I don’t think it would feel like I actually made it.”

“So if you don’t make everything yourself, you can’t project your soul.”

“I don’t know if that’s what it is, but isn’t art supposed to be something like that?”

“Well… have you heard of bricolage?”

“Bri… what?”

“I believe the original definition comes from the act of patching things up with what you have. What is the meaning in forcing yourself to create everything, if the purpose is to express something?”

“Meaning…?”

“Yes. When you express something, it is necessary to have meaning, and weight behind your expression. What do you want to do? Where is the best solution for that desire? For what or whom is your expression in the first place?”

“I want to convey… something?”

“And then?”

“Huh?”

“Once you do that, what will you do next? Are you really content with stopping there?”

“Um…”

[175]

“Expression, at its core, aims to induce certain thoughts in the receiver. With that in mind, you should not deny the existence of the ready-made. Furthermore, there is no reason that an ‘original’ be contained by a single work. You see, through the combination of pre-constructed stock materials, it is still possible to express something you want induced in an observer. Another possibility is taking several already existing works and standard objects and combining them to learn what you yourself are — am I wrong? If you become so obsessed with the idea of creating something all by your own hands, and forget what it is you want to do in the first place, isn’t that missing the point?”

“Um… I… Uh… Sorry.”

“No need to apologize. After all, making something from scratch is important as well. But you know?” Alice smiled. “Isn’t it a waste to make that itself your objective?”

“A… waste?”

“Yes. If you let your heart stay as it is inside of you, without having anyone else listen to it, surely as time passes, it will die.”

“Die…”

“Since your heart will otherwise die, you need not worry about this being hodgepodge. You shouldn’t worry about the body being a simple assembly. But still, the last part is crucial. There are times when a stock face will just not do.”

[176]

So carve out a face, Alice said, pointing to the styrofoam in my hand. Whatever comes to your mind.

So, I started carving.

What face…
What kind of face…
What kind of face do I want to make?
What kind of face would be most proper?

Without any clear purpose I rounded out the styrofoam, into the shape of a head.

I made mountains of white sphere-like heads — with nothing, nothing but white.

“Alice… What do I do?”

I can’t think of anything.
I can’t think of what face I should make.
I can’t think of what expression I should make.
What kind…
I can’t see at all, what kind of wish I should make.

“Ah… in that case…”

[177]

You must not what to be yourself, Alice said.

“I don’t… want to be myself?”

“Exactly,” Alice said — and then continued.

“You want to destroy everything.”

***

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This an experiment.

I’m sorry if this section is confusing, but it is meant to be terribly confusing. There is a lot of foreshadowing that you can pick out of it, but it’s hard to find even if you know what’s going to happen.

If you would like to see more, please donate. [PayPal]

Translation Notes:
[145] All of this confusing “absence” talk is based on the philosophies of Maruice Blanchot.

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

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[135]

Alice lived in a house about thirty minutes away from West Kyoto Station by train, with a few transfers in between. The area apparently used to be a residential district aimed at high income families, but now all that was left were old empty houses devoid of people. The houses were clearly magnificent, but as to why this area was so completely left behind, I just don’t know. It’s not as if the area had grown into a crime den or anything, it was just desolate and abandoned.

Among those empty homes was a western-style mansion with a red roof. It had windows, but they were all boarded shut, so much so that I couldn’t imagine any light from outside creeping in. I wonder why. The outer walls of the mansion were covered with vines, and it all seemed to contribute to a single image.

I pushed my way through the rusted iron gate, and made my way into the garden in front of the house.

[136]

Today will be my third time meeting Alice.

I bought a tart and mont blancs at the cake shop near my house to bring for my visit. The first time we met, I of course didn’t bring anything, and the second time, I was so anxious and excited about visiting her house, I completely forgot to bring a gift. That’s why this time I wrote it down in my journal, so I wouldn’t forget — and I didn’t.

It was about ten steps from the iron gate facing the road to the door of the mansion, and there was a little path paved with white tiles. However, I suppose due to the passage of time, the corners of the tiles were rounded and half of them were buried in the dirt, with grass peeking through. To the side of the path was something like a flowerbed. Something like — I thought, because there were bricks that were laid down and arranged in a certain fashion, but as for the flowers, they could hardly be seen for all of the weeds. So something like a flowerbed — but not one.

That day, this not quite a flowerbed caught my attention, and so I went to take a closer look.

I stepped off the path and into a tall growth of grass and weeds. Their needle-like leaves brushed against my bare knees. Rather than pain they left an itch, and the itch grew, crawling under my skin so that I could not help but let it show on my face as I walked, but I did not stop.

Was I really so interested that I felt I could not turn back? It seemed strange, even to me.

I stopped in front of the bricks stacked to mark the flowerbed.

[137-8]

It was a little flower garden with a rectangular brick border, and inside the boundary the earth that was laid down looked soft. What was buried there was… it wasn’t flowers. There weren’t even the remains of flowers. Instead, there were countless stuffed animals. There was a stuffed rabbit, a stuffed raccoon dog, a stuffed dog, a stuffed bird, a stuffed cat. All of them were torn, torn at the neck or at the limbs, ripped so that the stuffing was leaking out. There were several stuffed animals of the same shape and of the kind, countless stuffed animals buried in the earth. There were some that were half buried, some with only the head buried, some with only the lower body buried, only the wings… There was not enough earth, and there were some unburied stuffed animals that could only be buried under other stuffed animals. But all of the stuffed animals, all of them were tied together by a single red thread. They were all part of a single clump, and this clump was buried in this little flower garden, buried. There were countless stuffed animals. There was a stuffed rabbit, a stuffed raccoon dog, a stuffed dog, a stuffed bird, a stuffed cat. All of them were torn, torn at the neck or at the limbs, ripped so that the stuffing was leaking out. There were several stuffed animals of the same shape and of the kind, countless stuffed animals buried in the earth. There were some that were half buried, some with only the head buried, some with only the lower body buried, only the wings… There was not enough earth, and there were some unburied stuffed animals that could only be buried under other stuffed animals. But all of the stuffed animals, all of them were tied together by a single red thread. They were all part of a single clump, and this clump was buried in this little flower garden, buried. There were countless stuffed animals. There was a stuffed rabbit, a stuffed raccoon dog, a stuffed dog, a stuffed bird, a stuffed cat. All of them were torn, torn at the neck or at the limbs, ripped so that the stuffing was leaking out. There were several stuffed animals of the same shape and of the kind, countless stuffed animals buried in the earth. There were some that were half buried, some with only the head buried, some with only the lower body buried, only the wings… There was not enough earth, and there were some unburied stuffed animals that could only be buried under other stuffed animals. But all of the stuffed animals, all of them were tied together by a single red thread. They were all part of a single clump, and this clump was buried in this little flower garden, buried. There were countless stuffed animals. There was a stuffed rabbit, a stuffed raccoon dog, a stuffed dog, a stuffed bird, a stuffed cat. All of them were torn, torn at the neck or at the limbs, ripped so that the stuffing was leaking out. There were several stuffed animals of the same shape and of the kind, countless stuffed animals buried in the earth. There were some that were half buried, some with only the head buried, some with only the lower body buried, only the wings… There was not enough earth, and there were some unburied stuffed animals that could only be buried under other stuffed animals. But all of the stuffed animals, all of them were tied together by a single red thread. They were all part of a single clump, and this clump was buried in this little flower garden, buried.

[139]

“Oh darling, you mustn’t look so long at that. It would be poison to you,” said an emotionless voice close to my ears, as a cold hand gently covered my eyes. I could not see the flower garden anymore.

“…Poison?”

“Yes, poison. There is no meaning in a sight like this, for there are countless human beings less fortunate than ‘them’. I wonder what reason ‘they’ have, for loving life as they do. There is no seat here for you.”

I heard a short rustling sound behind the darkness of the hand. I must have dropped the paper bag I was holding with the cakes from the shop. The strength to grip had drained from my fingers. Why, I wonder. For some reason I felt as if I wanted to stay this way, stay this way forever.

I heard the rustling of paper.

“I see you’ve brought some cakes.”

I nodded, without saying anything.

“I hope you didn’t feel like you had to bring something.”

“No. No, not at all.”

[140]

“But alas. I am sorry. I cannot eat this.”

“Do you not like sweets?”

“No, it’s not that. I cannot eat anymore.”

“What do you mean you…?”

This time, another hand closed over my lips.

“Don’t worry. I will still gladly accept it.”

What did she mean when she said she couldn’t eat anymore? I wanted to ask, but with my mouth covered, my words could not break free, and instead sank back into my stomach. I heard the sound of rustling paper once again. A warm wind brushed against my feet, but I could only hear the rustling sound. Rustle. Rustle. It seemed like something came and carried the paper bag from the store away — but what, I wonder.

After a while, the hands were pulled away. I had a feeling my lips were wet, from the condensation of my cloudy breath locked away until just now. I wiped my lips on my sleeve, but when I turned around, there was no one. Whoever was there had already gone. Instead, the door to the mansion was open. She must have already gone back inside.

But the flower garden still had my interest, and I turned back to look at it one more time.

Ah, I thought. That’s what she must have meant.

You are the one who will eat it.

[141]

In the flowerbed was a girl.

But it was as if something had crushed the features of her face, and there was only smooth white skin, no eyes and no nose. Yet arguably she had a mouth, half of one at least, and it was twisted up vertically. I could only see her front teeth. I suppose it would be difficult for her to eat the tart. She had blonde hair with curls and she was naked, lying upon the earthen bed. Her stomach was swollen, as if she was pregnant, but her arms and legs and hips were very thin. There was rip, straight down her stomach, and from it peeked the clump of stuffed animals tied by a single thread. The connected form looked as if it itself were another girl. So that the girl made of stuffed animals, was blossoming out of the girl with no face.

“The mont blancs I brought from the store are well known for being delicious. If you’d like, why don’t you eat them together? Unfortunately, I brought only two.”

After I said that to the girls in the garden I went into Alice’s house.

I felt as if they waved back as I went.

*

There are lots of dolls in Alice’s room. There is a stuffed donkey, a woodcutter made of tin, a stuffed chicken, a scarecrow made of straw, a stuffed cat, a stuffed dog, boys and girls and old men and women, many kinds of dolls made of many different kinds of things. There was the kind of brown furniture and bookshelves which you would see in old movies. There were two long sofas with red cloth and twisting designs carved into the ends, and there was a single large low table. The floor was covered in carpet with strange patterns. The carpet was soft, and as I walked on it it felt as if I was walking on soft earth. There was a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It was a room filled of those things.

[142]

I could smell a weak scent, like that of perfume or flowers lingering in the room.

Alice, with her face like that of a doll’s, did not mind me as I entered, but continued working on an embroidery. She held a white cloth spread across a wooden frame, and she was threading a red thread, continuously, making a pattern of flowers as she moved her needle. I was impressed with the volume of her stitches and simply looked on as I sipped the black tea which had been poured for me.

“Um, Alice?”

“Yes?”

“This tea, it’s… How do I put it…”

“Does it taste strange?”

“Um, well… yeah. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s delicious. It’s just… different from the tea I usually drink.”

[143]

“A little bitter, perhaps?

“Ah… that’s it. It’s a little more bitter than what I’m used to.”

“I see. Well to me, that tea isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but hmm… I suppose it may taste different to you because it’s a natural tea.”

“N-Natural?”

Alice didn’t answer, but continued silently stitching.

I looked down at the cup in my hands. If this really is natural tea like she says it is… a cup of tea like this at a café would cost at least 5000 yen. When I thought about that, I felt like I had even more trouble understanding the flavor. I couldn’t help but feeling that a cup of tea like this was wasted on me, so after two more sips, I set it aside — though I suppose that letting it get cold will end up being even more of a waste…

“Um, Alice?”

“What is it, dear?”

“Why is it that you have so many dolls?”

“Well, It’s because I made them.”

“You made them?”

Alice paused her stitching and placed her work in her lap, reaching out to her cup of tea and bringing it to her lips. It shocked me how she could drink something so expensive without any hesitation.

[144]

“All of them?” I asked again.

“Yes, all of them. Most of them are failures though.”

“Failures?”

“I can never seem to get it right.”

“What about them isn’t right?”

I looked at one of the dolls, one that was sitting on the sofa next to me. It was a little girl doll in an apron dress with a red ribbon tied in her blonde hair. I gently lifted it into my arms, and it was a lot heavier than I expected. The doll was just a little bit smaller than a girl in kindergarten, and it probably weighed as much as one as well. The face and fingers weren’t made of plastic. I wonder what they were made of. Honestly, it was almost as if the doll was alive, but for the fact that its lips were closed and eyes open, unblinking.

“She’s so cute though.”

“The problems I’ve been having don’t have anything to do with the dolls’ appearances.”

“Then, what is the problem?”

“The problem I’m having right now is with the dolls’ absence.”

[145]

“Their absence?”

Alice set her tea cup down and leaned back into the sofa, setting her elbow on the shoulder and resting her head on her hand as she stared at me.

“I suppose it’s a problem that ‘you’ are having as well.”

Alice lifted her other hand and it felt like the doll in my arms moved. No, it didn’t just feel like it moved, it actually did move. The doll’s head turned and tilted, looking up at my face like how a child might, both of its arms reached up and touched my cheeks.

“If the term ‘absence’ confuses you, I suppose you could say the problem is a deficiency of anonymity. Did you feel like that doll was alive just now?”

“Huh, what?”

Alice looked at me, her frozen expression unchanging. I looked from Alice to the doll and back again several times.

“I-Is it alive?”

As soon as I responded, Alice dropped the hand she had been holding, and at the same time, the doll collapsed into my lap.

“I was controlling her just now.”

[146]

“Controlling her…? Like with a remote or something?”

“Just now, that child’s anonymity was lost, probably forever. It’s the same for all my children here. The absence of a doll, a proof of the absence of the existence of what we call a doll. The instant a doll is made, you might say that the doll itself becomes absent. At the very least inside of you, until this very moment that absence existed… but did I kill it? No, that’s not right. After all, no matter how you might try to arrange the broken fragments of ice on the ground this is not something that can be put together.”

“U-Um…”

“All of the dolls here, and all of the dolls I will in the future make, they are all stained with the poison of turpentine. When you shave the hair the L.H.O.O.Q, what happens to her, the woman before her hair was shaved? Yes, when you stare at her form continuously changing in the midst of irregular electric noises, I wonder can we truly abandon the name of Gherardini carved into her being? (Mona Lisa for the Multivideo)”

“U-Um…”

“A complete soul, complete independence, is guaranteed only by anonymity. We must seek the absence of the book.”

“Alice!” I could not help but raise my voice.

[147]

“This is ‘your’ problem.”

Alice then stood up and walked over to me, stopping only when she was right in front of me. Her expression did not change as she looked straight down at me and brought both of her hands up to my cheeks. They were cold. It felt as if they were made out of stone, or something similar. I could hear a clicking sound, like that of the ticking second hand of a clock.

“Yes, what ‘we’ seek is a pure white écriture, an écriture complete in its vacuum as a whereabouts of soul. ‘We’, right now, are in a hell known as the other. We must escape it.”

“A hell known as the other?”

“Exactly. Both ‘you’ and you as well, should be able to understand.”

“What do you mean?”

“Where are you right now?”

“What do you mean where? I’m here in your house.”

I hear a click, like the sound of a lock being opened in my ears. When I looked up I saw that Alice’s face had been removed, though one side of her face was still held on by a hinge and it was swinging slightly, creaking as it did.

[148]

In the place where her face once was there were countless gears and springs all meshed together. Click clack, tick, tick. The gears turned, and a shattered clock-face a needle-hand was moving, slowly bit by bit from seventeen to seventeen.

“Seek seventeen. (Seek death.)”

“Seventeen.”

“How old are ‘you’?”

“Well, I’m seventeen, but…”

“Yes. Of course you are. After all, ‘it was just decided now’.”

“Huh…?”

Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. A spring came loose. Pick click ting. It broke. Metal fragments sprinkled about my feet. But still the gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning.

[149]

Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir. The gears kept turning. Creak click crack pop. Click tick whir creak clack. Click tick creak clack whir.

[150]

Clack.

Something sprung out.

Snap.

It sounded like something had broke.

[151]

Clack. Snap.

Broken.

Alice was broken.

No.

No, that’s not right.

[152]

I h

ad

beg

un

t

o br

eak.

[153]

“I am called ‘you’.”

Al-

-ice;’s

voi-

ce-

“The truth behind poetry you may typically find lies in those who might take such poetry as thematic representations. You see these people through the course of them labeling things with names have experienced a wonder of anxiety.”

M

y ha

nd is b
rok
en

W

ai
t

Wh
y a
m I bre
aki
ng?

“Language gives definition to objects with meaning, yet at the same time in that beginning they slaughter the thing itself. So that I can say that I am ‘you’, I must in the end steal away the real presence of your fleshy body, make it absent, and destroy it.”

M
-e?

M

?

IMeIMeI

[154]

M-

“Language gives ‘me’ an existence. But, all that gives me is an existence in the form of an existence with its existence already stolen away.”

W-a-
-h-t
-?

D
oll

I

t-he

d-
oll

i-n m
y la
p

I
me I
?
??

[155]

“Language is what is left behind in the wake of the absence of existence, when existence is lost in the void. In other words, it is nothing but a reflection of the lack of existence of what it represents. Come now, let us cultivate the void. For that is truly an event. It is the meaning in repeating once again a process that should already be complete. Yes, you and ‘you’ together.”

II
I
III
I

“In that ‘you’ are unsigned, ‘your’ existence is proven only in your anonymity, the proof of your absence. The girl does not exist and therefore she exists. ‘You all’, when you were caught in this witches’ mechanism (This is a book, therefore here a work does not exist.), what ‘I’ sought help for was most likely what ‘you all’ were longing for which is hatred!”

Alice’s fingers pierced into my face as I continued to break. As if she were opening a sliding door she reached both hands into my face and opened it up both left and right. I was opened. ‘I’ was being opened. What was inside was…

“I know, Darling. After all, you are but a shell.”

[156]

I am filthy.

“The maggots bite into ‘us’.”

When everyone looks at me they cannot help but vomit.

“The scabbing and scarring of my skin disease makes my skin as if it were covered in scales.”

So, it had blossomed.

Inside of me, twisting and turning was a flower vase in a niche. A vase of countless flowers. Flowers of which no one knew the name. However, they were frozen and would not wither for all eternity, conserved in a box of glass.

I know.

For that was the shell given the name of I.

“Come now. Let us search, Ms. Ghost. For ‘you’. (ICQ)”

***

Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does (135/291)

I reserve the right to remove this translation without warning.

Progress:
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This an experiment.

Sorry for such a short installment. A lot of life events happened between now and last November, so I wanted to cut the block short and start afresh on the next segment.

I’d say this segment is R-15, but if you’ve gotten this far I’m sure you’re not worried about that.

If you would like to see more, please donate. [PayPal]

Translation Notes:

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

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[124]

She was the one who brought up the planetarium, saying out of nowhere she wanted to go.

[125]

She brought it up after her tutoring session was over, when we were chatting and drinking the coffee her mother always brought after we were done.

“Planetarium?”

“Yeah. One just opened up nearby.”

Her room was a six tatami-mat sized room. We were seated on cushions on the floor across from each other around a short round table in its center, not at her desk. We both had coffee cups in our hands. As she waited for her cube of café au lait to dissolve, she rested her chin in her opposite hand and stared at me.

“When?” I asked.

“Huh?”

“When are we going?”

“You’ll go with me?”

“I don’t have any reason to refuse. We haven’t been able to go on a date in a while after all, with how busy I’ve been.”

“You’re right about that. You’ve been leaving me alone way too much lately, Renko.”

I put on a warm smile and patted her head.

“So… When do you want to go?”

“Hmm… Can we go this Sunday?”

[126]

“That’s fine with me.”

“It’s a date, then,” she said, taking out her planner.

She put a red stamp on the next Sunday. I wasn’t really planning on looking, but I noticed all the same. Her planner was filled with only two colors of stamps, red and blue. I could tell that the red stamps marked the days she had dates with me, but I didn’t know what the blue stamps meant.

She put a red stamp on the next Sunday. I wasn’t really planning on looking, but I saw that her planner was filled with two colors of stamps, red and blue. There were some days that had both red and blue stamps and others that had only red, and it seemed like the blue stamps followed after the red ones.

“Hey…”

“What is it, Renko?”

“What do those blue stamps mean?”

As soon as I said that, she drew her planner to her chest and held it with both arms, hidden away. She looked mildly upset as she stared back at me.

“Renko! That’s an invasion of privacy!”

“Ah… Sorry, you’re right.”

“I wish you’d learn some manners. Aren’t you supposed to be the one teaching me?”

She stood up and pulled open one of the drawers of her desk nearby. The drawer had a lock, and once the planner was put away, she locked it as if that were the most natural thing in the world to do. She then sat back down and took a sip of her café au lait, as if the planner never existed in the first place.

[127]

“Strange that you would say that though.”

“I said something strange?”

“No, I mean about wanting to go see the planetarium.”

“Oh, it’s just that people have been talking about it lately.”

“Talking about it in what way?”

“They’ve been saying it’s a really strange.”

“Strange? I was under the impression all planetariums were the same.”

“Apparently that’s not the case. Based on what I’ve heard, this one has explanations that cover even the old constellations, and moreover you can get a better sense of three-dimensional depth than other planetariums.”

“3D, huh…”

“Hmm? I thought you would be more interested.”

“It’s not that I’m not interested, it’s just if that’s their main selling point it’s been done before — to death really.”

“You’re being too harsh. Besides, most of the planetariums which used to be around have shut down, so there aren’t many chances to go see them.”

“You do have a point… Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen any around in a while.”

[128]

“Right?”

“So where is this planetarium anyway?”

“It’s uh, around here… at the place called the ‘Otherworld Release Research Facility’.”

“Wait a minute, is that…?”

“Is something the matter?”

“No… No, it’s nothing.”

I had heard before that the “Otherworld Release Research Facility” was the name of the headquarters for the Fantasy Release Movement. I must have looked troubled, because when I looked over, I saw my girlfriend was worried.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“No, no, it’s just I thought, what a weird place to set up a planetarium, you know?”

“Renko?”

“Yeah?”

“‘It doesn’t matter who is doing something, only what they are doing.’ Didn’t you say that to me before?”

I did have a feeling I said something like that before. I don’t know what context I said it in though. After taking a sip of coffee I replied with a mix of a smile and a sigh.

[129]

“You’re right. You’re right.”

“You’re the one who said it first. Anyway this… what was it called again? Fantasy Release Movement? Is it really all that strange?”

“I’m not sure I’d call it strange, but… I think as a group they should be criticized for the way they claim their pseudo-science is real science.”

“Why? Isn’t not like they’re bothering anyone, right?”

“Not now anyway. Well, actually, no. I’d say they already are bothering people. The way they’re getting others to believe their lies, the way they’re guiding them into the fold of their organization… They have the potential to form a religious sect at this rate. Even if you disregard the way they are actively misleading others, just the fact that they’re disseminating information that has no basis in logic or factual evidence, that itself is blasphemy against this scientific age.”

“Well, if they were soliciting donations or something, I might feel they were doing something wrong, but they aren’t, are they? They’re all just gathering together, right? And it’s not like they’re denying anyone’s rights or trying to hurt anyone. Is it really wrong for them to assemble?”

“It’s more than that. They’re taking this idea they have, something that’s not at all based on sense or logic, and are using it to deny the present state of things. They’re denying the present. They’re denying everything that is around them. I can’t bring myself to believe that is a good thing.”

“Is it really so wrong to deny the present, if you hate the way things are?”

“Huh?”

[130]

“Is it really so wrong to want to have something to cling to, if you hate the way things are?”

I couldn’t say anything back. I couldn’t say anything back because she looked as if she would break out into tears at any moment. But was there really anything to gain from continuing to deny everything? I took my vaporizer out of my skirt pocket and brought its mouthpiece to my lips. I felt the effect of the nicotine flow from my throat and into my brain. Then I exhaled, and watched as the white smoke, white vapor puff out in front of me.

“Did something bad happen?” I finally asked, reaching to touch her cheek, feeling its soft hair dig its weak claws into my hand.

“No, Renko. If something did happen, I’d talk to you about it.”

She smiled weakly.

Was she really one to make these kind of faces? Something was off, and that feeling kept me from responding.

We just stared at each other.

Soon, she was at my side, still staring directly into my eyes with her own, glossy but not yet to tears. The longer I stared into those eyes of hers, with brown irises tinged with emerald, the more I saw them quiver.

Our lips pressed together.

It was natural, neither of us had initiated it. Three times we kissed, our lips only just touching. Then, as a small gap formed between her teeth, I slid in my tongue.

[131]

I listened to the smacking watery sounds of our kiss as they reached my ears. No many how many times we kiss, it never feels quite natural, with our tongues clumsily twisting with each other’s. Saliva flushed up from the base of our tongues and dripped from our lips, flowing down our chins. I opened my eyes slightly, watching the face of the girl I was kissing, her eyes tightly closed. Confirming the fact, I went deeper with my tongue, slurping up her saliva. I moved my hand around her hips and pulled her body closer to mine, feeling the beat of her heart through my own chest.

Slowly, I pulled my face away. The girl’s face was flushed, and her breathing unsteady.

“Renko…”

She was gripping my shoulders. A drop of sweat ran down her neck, and the unripe odor of her antiperspirant mixed with the scents of her body, tickling my nose. I leaned forward and sucked another kiss from her lips, and her fingers gripped me harder.

“Mfh…”

Her tongue reached inside of me, as if desperate, clinging to me. The smell of sweat, of café au lait, of antiperspirant, all mixed together with her own fragrance filled my throat shut.

Our tongues twisted, rubbing over each other’s. No longer remained the taste of café au lait. There was only a tasteless exchange of saliva. It was like I was licking glass, and that flavor alone filled my sense of taste.

[132]

I’ve had enough of this, I thought, and pulled my lips away.

But the girl now brought herself closer to me, and for a third time our lips met. Her kiss was like the suckling of a baby. It was a kiss with the intention to not let me pull away, to not let me run away, a kiss to keep me from leaving her. She sucked on my tongue, but when mine moved it was only in reaction to hers. I reached up and pet her, stroking from her head down her neck and to her back, again and again… but I could not bring myself to pull her towards me.

My tongue was numb.

I didn’t bother to drink her saliva, letting it dribble out of my mouth.

Slowly, I pulled her away from me.

A bridge of saliva crossed from her lips to mine.

She looked disappointed, wanting more. I stroked her cheek and then kissed the place I touched, feeling the texture of her dry skin on my lips.

“Renko.”

“Hm?”

“I love you.”

[133]

“I love you too.”

“Really?”

“I wouldn’t kiss someone I didn’t love.”

I pet her head again and like a puppy, her face lit up.

I looked out the window, and over the girl’s shoulder I saw stars already twinkling in the sky. 7:43 pm. The time echoed in the back of my mind.

“Wow, look at the time.”

“Huh?”

“I was just thinking it’s about time I head home.”

“I see… but my mom said you could stay for dinner.”

“You always have me over for dinner, though. I don’t want to be a burden on your mother.”

“But you’re not.”

“Yes I am.”

I gave her a final kiss, just a touch of our lips.

“Renko…”

“Don’t worry. I’ll text you later.”

[134]

“Okay. Is it alright if I see you off?”

“There’s no reason for me to refuse,” I said with a chuckle.

I took the teaching materials and pen case left on the table and put them in my bag, before standing up and slinging the bag over my shoulder. As I stood up, she did as well.

“Hey, Renko.”

We walked alone down the hall to her front door.

“Hm?”

“Um… Do you remember that path in the park?”

“Path in the park?”

She proceeded to describe a park that was a ten minute bus ride from West Kyoto Station. It wasn’t a particularly famous place, but it was relatively nice. It was a common place for people to go on dates.

“Oh… uh… Did we go there?”

“Yes. We went there together. So you don’t remember, huh.”

“Well, I mean we’ve gone to a lot of places together…”

“Yes, we have.”

[135]

“So… what about the park?”

She smiled slightly and shook her head.

“Nothing. I just felt like asking if you remembered.”

***

Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does (124/291)

I reserve the right to remove this translation without warning.

Progress:
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This an experiment.

I have nothing to say this time other than: Chapter 2 is my favorite.

If you would like to see more, please donate. [PayPal]

Translation Notes:

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

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[95]

Chapter 2: March of the Saints

[97]

ーBeast! Do you not realize I am in love!?

Usami Renko only realized her image was being projected on the display in front of the train station a few minutes prior, feeling a breeze indicative of the end of spring travel down her neck.

It was a ten minute trip from West Kyoto University to the train station nearest to where she taught as a part-time private tutor, a trip that consisted of riding local trains that swayed back and forth as they turned.

Despite being the nation’s capital, West Kyoto’s development reached only a little over ten kilometers from its downtown area. At this simple station, there was one exit gate and only three short buildings waited outside. The bridge that led to the station gates only had a few scattered people crossing in either direction.

Renko was walking alone across the bridge and had noticed just as she was adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder.

The LCD display hung from one of the buildings that faced the station. It normally ran promotional videos, but this time, Renko saw herself in the display. Where was the camera? Given the angle of the shot, which included others walking across the bridge, Renko thought there might be a camera attached to one of the street lamps, but she couldn’t see anything when she looked.

Renko leaned against the rails bridge and looked up at the display again. There she saw herself looking off in no particular direction, her stupid looking profile there for all the crowd to see. She stared.

[98]

“Now that I have the opportunity to look at myself like this…” Renko muttered under her breath, “…have I lost weight? It isn’t as if anything’s happened… Well actually, I’m not sure I can really say that.”

“It’s no big deal, nothing to lose weight over anyway,” she told herself. Why did she feel she had to say that? She didn’t quite know herself.

Renko took her tumbler out of her bag. It was empty — she had already finished it. All that was left was the container. As she fiddled with it, Renko continued to stare at herself in the screen. The green container with its pattern of small flowers danced on the screen in low resolution.

What is here and what is there… even though they should be the same thing, by taking one through the eyes of a lens and passing it through to a pixelated screen, the result is something entirely different. If you think about it, it only makes sense, but perhaps because the sky is so dark and my image on the screen is flat and to some degree unsaturated… it looks more like a painting that someone drew. While it is me… it’s not. It’s something else.

Renko lifted her left wrist to look at her watch. It was just under five minutes until they were supposed to meet up.

“I really should have filled this thing back up,” she said, looking at her tumbler again.

[99]

About twenty years ago, it an effort to reduce the impact on the environment, it became common practice not to use disposable paper cups for beverages, but for people to carry around their own containers. That way one could bring their container to an automated coffee stand, have their beverage dispensed, and take it with them to go.

But there was nothing in Renko’s tumbler at the moment. She had finished drinking its contents before she left the university.

“There’s no point carrying this around is there, if I don’t keep it filled…” Renko laughed at herself listlessly.

Renko went back to doing nothing, just leaning against the rails of the bridge and staring up at the sky.

“Hi Renko.”

As Renko was tuning out her surroundings, a familiar voice caught her attention. Putting her tumbler back into her bag she turned to face the owner of the voice, who was wearing a school uniform with a dark blue blazer.

“Welcome back.”

“It’s not like this is my home or anything,” the girl laughed with a soft tone to her voice.

Her lightly colored hair, which normally had a bit of a wave to it, was a little disheveled. She must have run at least part of the way, and seemed out of breath. Renko didn’t really care much about this, but even so, she raised her hand and played with the girl’s hair between her fingers. It felt a little damp.

[100]

“Did you run all the way here?”

“I couldn’t help myself once I saw you,” the girl laughed, blushing.

“That so,” said Renko, making a face as if she were happy to hear such a thing, before petting the girl’s hair and straightening out her hair.

The girl fidgeted as if she was ticklish, and Renko thought as her mind wandered that this girl was just like a puppy. That’s right, a puppy. This wasn’t in a positive or affectionate sort of way, just an observation. The girl moved closer to Renko’s side, opposite of her bag, pressed against her and linked their arms together. She moved slowly, without a word, but just smiled.

As they started walking to the bus stop, Renko looked back up at the screen, as almost an afterthought. She wondered how she looked now, but could only see the back of her head and the profile of the girl beside her. The image was pixelated, as before. The smile the girl had plastered on her face too looked like a painting.

“You were early today,” Renko said.

“Are you sure? I’m pretty sure I always come at the same time.”

“I didn’t wait as long.”

“Doesn’t that just mean you came later than usual?”

Renko looked over and saw the girl’s face staring at her. Blue eyes mixed with a little brown. Looking straight into those eyes Renko answered.

“Who knows?” she said with a chuckle.

[101]

“Did something happen?”

“What makes you say that?”

“That face you’re making. That’s the face you make when something’s happened.”

“Nothing happened.”

“Liar. You only make this face when something that matters has happened.”

Renko felt the girl pull on their interlocked arms, and they stopped. She kept staring. Renko knew she should say something. She knew, but that didn’t mean that she actually had to say anything. But no, that’s not it, she thought, feeling as if barbed worms were squirming around inside her brain.

Renko reached inside her skirt pocket and took out a vaporizer, and put the mouthpiece in her mouth. (Such a device is for smoking, rather than medical use. By this time, the sale of cigarettes had ended due to a broad interpretation of the Law for the Promotion of General Health.) Sensors on the mouthpiece measured the temperature of her lips and automatically delivered a puff of vaporized nicotine. Renko inhaled and slowly let out a stream of vapor.

“That’s bad for you, you know?”

“I know,” Renko said with a slight smile.

[102]

Renko felt the effect of the nicotine sink into her brain. There was a slight feeling of intoxication. Her sense of distance weakened. After taking three puffs on her vaporizer, she put it back in her skirt pocket.

“It’s not cheap either.”

“Well I’m making enough money to pay for it.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“That’s not what I mean,” she whispered again again softly and started walking again. Pulled along, Renko followed. They were no longer up on that display.

That’s the way it should be, Renko thought. I don’t want to see myself laid out for everyone else to see, at least not for long. Especially — especially not when I’m alone.

Alone. Usami Renko at that very moment did indeed have someone she was walking with. However, to her, she still felt as if she was alone. The distance between them was vast. They were not distant in any real quantitative way, yet they were and continued to be — distant.

This girl — the one who had latched herself to Renko as they walked — she was Usami Renko’s pupil, the one she tutored. More importantly, however, she was Renko’s girlfriend. But the truth was, Renko didn’t really love her anymore.

[103]

Since when? Probably since the very beginning. Did the girl know? Did she not? Renko couldn’t bring herself to ask, or to even think about it much. The girl was no different from Renko’s vaping habit. She and it filled a void.

The girl’s house was about ten minutes by bus from the train station. However, the bus followed a loop, so it was a shorter distance to walk. So Renko and her girlfriend would never wait for the bus if it wasn’t at the stop. The streets they walked were arranged geometrically, like a go board, and were paved with white tiles. Other than the two, there was no one else to be seen, despite the fact that this was a time when you would expect everyone to be heading home. It wasn’t as if the area was in the middle of nowhere, and Renko thought it was probably some sort of coincidence.

“Hey, Renko? You know, there’s this thing that’s really popular at school right now.”

“Yeah?”

“Stories that are really really scary, depending on who you are.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I said, stories that to some people might not be scary at all, but to other people are really scary. It depends on the person. Those kind of stories are really popular right now.”

[104]

“Are there really that many of them?”

“Everyone’s busy collecting them, and everyone shares one during our lunch break.”

Renko’s girlfriend narrowed her eyes and looked up at Renko.

“If everyone feels the same way about the story, then that’s a win.”

“There are winners and losers?”

“Yeah, I mean after all, it’s a ‘cult’.”

“Again?”

“It’s what’s popular right now.”

Cult.

Apparently they’re using the original meaning of the word, “to worship”.

Renko had heard from her girlfriend that this “cult” activity was especially popular among high school students. Basically it consisted of games that groups of friends would play in order to reaffirm how close-knit they were. Renko hadn’t asked about what happened if the game really didn’t affirm that the group was close-knit, but she had an idea of what would happen.

In any isolated community, any factor that becomes a threat to the community’s continued existence is always removed. A group of close-knit friends must always consist only of those who are close-knit friends. That’s all there is to it.

[105]

“Once upon a time there was a man — a man who said, ‘I am afraid of my own wife.'”

That was how Renko’s girlfriend began her tale.


This man, long ago, was married. When he went out with his wife she always supported him. She never cheated on him, and she truly did devote herself to him. Yet despite this, this man was afraid of his wife.

“When that man first met his wife — it was about ten years ago — well it was love at first sight, you see, and he proposed to her on the spot. But you see, this is what the wife said to him, ‘I don’t love you one bit. In fact, I hate you. But still, for you I will be an ideal wife.’ Together at home, they hardly speak, and it seems that she’s happier when her husband is away and she is out of the house. But she never cheats, and always does the housework properly. If you look at others who married in love, she is clearly far better a wife. She always has been. They had children, and according to that man, even though it’s clear they are his children, it doesn’t look like his wife really loves them. But she doesn’t act mean to them. She’s even saving up money for their future. One day, he asked her, ‘Was what you said to me when I proposed to you really true?’ And you know what she said, with a smile on her face? ‘Yes. I don’t love you or our children one bit.'”

The end.

[106]

“So Renko. Was that story scary to you?”

“Well, I guess it was, a little bit.”

That was a lie. To Renko, this story sounded too normal to be even called a story. Humans are capable of having sex if just a couple of their wants or needs line up. The same thing for housework, or for having children. They can even pretend to love, if that’s part of the rules.

“I’m so happy to hear that. You see, it was really scary for me.”

“You mean the wife was scary?”

“Well yes, but what was… Nevermind, I guess she was, wasn’t she?”

At first Renko tried to catch what she meant but did not say, but in the end she felt that it didn’t really matter, and muttered a neutral answer.

[107]

“Everyone said it was scary.”

“Well yeah, that kind of person is scary.”

“You’re right… yeah… She is scary isn’t she…”

The girl stopped, and so Renko stopped along with her.

“Renko, don’t you have one?”

“One of what?”

“A scary story.”

“I don’t know if I can think of one on the spot… But, hmm… Maybe that story of the performer will do.”

Long ago, there was a really popular act at the circus, where a performer would starve themselves. All it was, was that someone would sit and not eat for days. This man would sit in a cage, eating nothing, just sitting in that cage, eating nothing for days and days. On the man’s cage would be a plaque, which said: “This man has not eaten for X anumber of days.”

People would come in crowds and crowds to see the man reduced to skin and bones.

Was he really not eating? Wasn’t he sneaking in some sort of food? Those kind of curious stares would surround him.

[108]

The man really wasn’t eating. Nothing, for days and days.

Even so, people eventually grew tired of seeing the man.

In the beginning, the cage was set in the middle of the circus, but before long it was relegated to a corner. The people who came, they wanted to see elephants and lions. No one wanted to see the starving man anymore. But he didn’t stop. He continued to not eat. Even as he dried out, even as he became indistinguishable from a clump of hay, he would not stop.

One day, the owner of the circus came to the cage and asked, “How many days has it been since you have eaten?”

With a voice that could hardly be heard, he answered, “I do not know.”

People had stopped keeping track of the days, and the plaque had fallen, a mess, in a corner of the cage.

“Why don’t you stop?” The owner asked. “No one is looking at you anymore.”

But the man shook his head.

“There is nothing I can eat. What everyone eats, so happily, all of it is disgusting to me. I cannot stand it. I cannot eat anything. That is why I am here. If I could eat, the same way that you all can, if I could eat the same things you do so happily, I would not be here.”

“And that was the last thing the man said, before he died,” Renko said.

[109]

“What happened next?” Renko’s girlfriend asked, listening intently.

“After the man died, they put a large and lively, pitch black panther in his cage. A large black panther, that everyone cheered to see.”

She was waiting, she was waiting for Renko to continue.

“That’s the end.”

“The end?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“That’s… scary?”

“It’s you who said, ‘depending on the person.'”

Renko reached out and stroked her girlfriend’s cheek. It felt as if she was rubbing the skin of a peach.

“Well I did, but why is that story scary?”

“Who knows? There was someone once who said it was scary.”

“What part?”

“The very end, when they put the panther in the cage, and everyone cheers… I think.”

[110]

“Why?”

“I really don’t know. Wonder why.”

That was another lie.

“At this rate, we won’t make it in time. Can we walk a bit faster?”

“Okay,” Renko answered softly.

When Renko looked up, the sun had started to fall under the horizon, with the sky scarlet and the shadows growing longer. The clouds had darkened to black and it all looked, in a way, like a Rorschach test.

Renko pointed.

“What is it?”

“That cloud…”

“Cloud?”

“It looks like it might show up on one of those psychological tests.”

“Huh?”

“There’s this sort of test where you’re asked what things like that look like.”

“There’s really a test like that?”

[111]

“Yeah. It’s more of an occult sort of thing though.”

“Interesting. So what does that cloud look like to you, Renko?”

“Well, it looks like…”

Renko watched as the wind slowly to tore the cloud apart.

“…a child.”

“A… child?”

“I thought it looked kind of like a child’s finger.”

“Huh,” the girl muttered in response, and that was the end of their conversation.

***

I am not sure how long ago it was that I first met her. I think it was on a day my girlfriend suddenly cancelled our weekend date because apparently something came up she could not miss. So I went by shopping by myself to the same clothing store and boutique we had originally planned on going to, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything, and after a bit of wandering around I found myself walking in a nearby park.

[112]

There was a large pond in the middle of the park, with a lot of cherry trees planted around it and a trail that wound between them. It happened when I was walking along that trail. Often there would be some sort of theater group performing a show, and you would see couples on dates walking together. It was that sort of place. It wasn’t as if it was ever crowded, but it was always lively. Whenever I was in a place like that alone… I couldn’t help but feel miserable.

As I walked around the circular trail around the pond, I looked up at the cherry trees. They had already turned green, already lost half of their spring blossoms. It was a dirt trail, so even after walking for so long, my feed did not hurt. I did not like to walk on paved roads. If I was walking for more than a short while, my ankles and the soles of my feet would always begin to hurt. For that reason, I really did not like walking around town. I don’t think humans were really made to walk on pavement. If I’m together with someone else, I don’t notice as much, but if I am alone, I can’t keep it off my mind. I asked my girlfriend once, “Why do towns and cities always want to pave everything over?” Her response was that cities want everything to be in order. “If a city loses its order, it won’t be a city anymore.” It was a little over my head, and I struggled to understand. When she saw my puzzled face, she looked a little disappointed and did her best to explain. But the more she explained things to me, the more I wanted to just end it all with a kiss. “Don’t grow tired of me,” I thought. I couldn’t help but think it.

[113]

Again and again, I would kiss her, just to change the subject.

I think that my kisses are expendable items. It feels that every time I kiss her, the me inside this girl I love is scraped away, little by little. The pieces would fall off like sand and I would be less. I would be taken apart until there was nothing left of myself within her. It made me sad to think that way, but if I felt that one day I would be gone.

Everyone else, the friends I’ve bonded with by cult, they say that’s strange. Why would someone you’re in love with ever hate you? They ask. Love is eternal, they say. Sure, no one lasts forever. A person can slowly come apart and eventually be no more. But even so, love — love will last forever. That is what they say. That is what all the songs say.

After all, there are no longer any sad songs.

No longer.

Long ago, it seems sad songs existed. But they didn’t sell well, so everyone stopped singing them.

[114]

Someone once said, “Sad songs make us feel depressed, so we shouldn’t sing them.” That’s why we don’t know any sad songs. But I think that’s a wonderful thing. If we only have songs about things that are fun, things that make us happy, things that are beautiful… If we only sing songs like that, surely we’ll be happy. After all, someone else’s happiness can become your own.

But still, every now and then, I feel pain — pain when I see someone else’s smile, someone else’s happiness.

As I was thinking about all of this, walking around the pond, something touched my cheek. When I reached up and touched my cheek, it felt damp. I looked up at the sky and it was covered in gray clouds, and white particles were falling. I first thought it was rain, but the speed that it was falling was too slow for it to be rain.

I stopped and held out my hand. It was a single cherry blossom petal. At first I thought rain had caused some of the remaining petals to fall, but I could not feel any rain fall on my face. Around the petals water droplets were blossoming.

It really did take me longer than it should have to realize it was snow. A strong wind blew and a flurry of flower petals and little snowflakes flew before my eyes.

[115]

One. Two. Three. I quickly lost count.

Soon powder snow had filled half of this spring sky. The weather report hadn’t said anything like this would happen. (In this current age of science, the weather was carefully controlled, and the weather report was nothing more than a release of the latest weather schedule.) It felt as if a hedgehog with soft spines had curled up deep inside my chest. Half of the other people in the park looked surprised, with the other half a mix of other emotions, and you could hear people talking about it amongst themselves.

I stared at the sky, at the snow swirling about in a spiral.

One of those small pieces found its way into my eye.

I felt a stinging, numbing pain. It should have been cold, but it was different from what I thought. Rather than cold, it felt hot. I covered my eyes and looked down as the throbbing pain seeped deeper into my head. Wasn’t it snow? What I had in my hand before was definitely…

Tears began to flow, and I rubbed furiously at my face with my sleeve.

[116]

People only cry when something they don’t need enters them. For instance, when dust or sand enters their eyes, or sadness enters their hearts.

I remember long ago, my girlfriend told that to me as she comforted me. What happened, I wonder. I felt really sad, and a pain in my chest, and she told me that it was okay to cry. She told me to let it all out, everything inside my heart I did not need. That everyone in life has only a limited amount they cry, and it is best to cry while you are still able.

“Umbrella,” I muttered, as the tears started to subside.

I did not have an umbrella. Realizing that if I stayed out in the snow it would only be a matter of time before I was drenched I looked around and saw a small hut by the pond, so I ran to it.

The hut was mostly empty, except for a grimy and blackened wooden table and bench. There was already another person there, a woman. She was not sitting on the bench, but standing, and in front of her was another small hut, and inside that, two dolls were standing. It was a stage for puppet theater. There were portable weren’t there? I thought. I had seen some before when I was little. I wondered if she was practicing a performance like the other theater groups who come to the park.

[117]

But why would she do it here? I thought. The building was run down, more of a shack than a hut. Maybe she didn’t want others to see her practicing? She probably could have practiced outside, behind the hut and closer to the lake and no one would have paid her any mind.

I sat down on the bench beside her. In the woman’s hands were wooden crosses with wires she used to move the puppets. As the wind blew again, I glanced up at her short golden hair, cut above the shoulders. Her face from where I sat looked just like a doll’s. Her blue eyes looked as if they were made of glass.

“At the Snow Queen’s castle, the thick snow itself became the castle walls, and the windows and doors were made of a biting wind,” rang a clear voice. The woman puppeteer had begun to speak.

As I looked at her from the corner of my eye, her lips were not moving at all. She must have been using some sort of ventriloquism. It felt as the story had come unto itself naturally rather than from the woman. The way she moved nothing but the tips of her fingers, I could not help but feel that way.

“Due to the cold Kai had become blue, and then black. Even still, Kai could not feel the cold, for the Snow Queen had kissed him and sucked the feeling of cold out of him. And so, Kai’s heard became like ice.”

[118]

I glanced at the puppet stage. It was all blue, and had no other color. Of the two puppets, one was a girl who was standing aloof, and the other was sitting gathering something. Well, it wasn’t actually gathering anything, but it was moving in such a way that made it seem like it was.

“Kai took several pieces of thin ice he found here and there and pieced them together into different shapes, trying to make something. They were magnificent clumps of ice, puzzles of ice pieces, and in Kai’s eyes these things were beautiful and precious above all else. This was because of the piece of the mirror stuck in Kai’s eye. Kai tried to express a single word with these shapes.”

The puppet still kept collecting things. It moved very smoothly, too smoothly to be real.

“‘I tried to use all of the ice pieces I found to make one word, the word ‘eternity’. But I was unable to, no matter how hard I tried.'”

When I heard those words I felt as if something was caught in my throat. I tried to get rid of it and coughed, again and again, and by the fifth time, I was sobbing. I collapsed upon myself and cried and cried. What was I sad about? What was it inside me that I did not need? I did not know. As I kept crying, and the sobs flowed out from my throat it was otherwise shut, blocked up. Tears from my eyes flowed out, with drops larger than the snowflakes outside. I hugged my body to myself and balled up on the bench.

[119]

By the time my tears had led up, the woman had finished her performance and was staring at me. She wasn’t smiling and she didn’t look as if she were trying to make me feel better. She just stared at me, just like a doll.

“What…” I said, rubbing my eyes with my sleeve. “What story was that from?”

“It’s a story called ‘The Snow Queen’,” she answered quietly.

For some reason, that made me feel happy for some reason.

The snow was starting to fall harder outside. I looked through my tears at the surface of the pond outside. With the white falling over the red of the already fallen cherry blossoms, the combination looked pink, like flamingo feathers. Between the feathers of various shades the surface of the pond reflected the sky. Perhaps because of the dark clouds, the surface looked like a mirror, with several ripples running across it. In one of the many rippling rings I saw myself and the woman in the hut. Because of the ripples running over it, my face was mess.

[120]

“I look terrible,” I whispered.

“You do,” the woman answered.

In the mirror, everything was twisted. Even the cherry trees I had thought looked so beautiful before, now looked like crumpled pieces of paper in a waste bin. Despite being so tall, in the mirror they were short and their branches were twisted. Even the powdered snow, which continued to fall, looked filthy in the mirror.

The woman. The woman beside me. She…

Beside me stood what looked like a life-sized doll, filled with gears. From the waist down was the frame of a skirt, which looked like a bird cage, something a woman from the middle ages would wear. Between the wooden slats of the skirt frame I could see a large pocket watch. But the hands of the pocket watch were twisted and the face of it was filled with symbols I did not understand. I could not tell what time it was supposed to show. The hour hand, minute hand and second hand were all twisted into a spiral, and they all turned. Still, I thought that it must be telling some sort of time. Where her face was, where it should be, was a round outline of a face. It had hinges and had swung open. It was still swinging back and forth slightly. Inside it looked like the inside of a clock. There were countless gears and springs of all sizes ticking along in an orderly way. There was a shattered clock face, and a single clock hand, clicking and vibrating in place, by the number seventeen. It kept vibrating on seventeen. Even though there is no seventeen on a clock, it was there, on that clock like thing.

[121]

But it wasn’t just that number. All of the numbers were seventeen.

The face, the cover… It was swinging, the woman’s face was a door, a cover, and it was swinging.

Upon that face a single snowflake blew in and landed, creating a ripple.

The eye was shaking, the eye that snowflake just fell into. It was convulsing.

I turned my neck away from the window to face her. There she was, like a large doll, staring at me. It wasn’t that she had forgotten how to smile. After all, dolls don’t smile.

“You…” It just slipped out, I couldn’t help it. “What are you?”

[122]

“I am a witch,” she said softly.

This time, her lips were moving.

“I am a witch. A witch who performs puppet theater, a witch of the forest, a witch named Alice Margatroid, an empty stage mechanism. Do you know? Humans are not reproduced, they are not reprinted. Some times in a person’s life, like the man with his head of lice, they will set their eyes deep into space, beyond the film of green, staring as if it consumes all else. Right beside them I feel the mocking laughter of the ghosts beside them, that I feel during those times.”

Before I knew it this woman, named Alice, was right beside me. She was touching my cheek.

It was cold.

“You could say that all of the power lines and cables that are hung all over and spread throughout the city are its brain. Within that brain, humans are not reproduced. They are not reprinted.”

She drew my face closer to hers, speaking in a whisper, her voice white like snow.

[123]

“There is a mirror inside of your eye.”

“A mirror…?”

“A fragment of the mirror we made long ago.”

“You made a mirror?”

“Yes, we did. What we called it then, however, was a witch mechanism.”

“A witch… mechanism?”

“Yes, a witch mechanism. We made it so that everyone could be happy.”

“Happy?”

“Happiness may be a personal matter, but on the other hand, misfortune is often a social matter. At least, that is what some people say. But you see it may be that happiness is the more social of the two.”

Those words, just like the words of the one I loved, went right over my head.

“Eternal beings made the world as it is now. If only they would forget their heavenly dignity for even for a moment, for just enough time it would take for them to shatter the head of a single girl with a hammer, to make ‘our’ world a little easier to breathe than that of a fish flung from the sea and into a boat, to make blatant the many secrets and things of the occult, if only that would happen then…”

As she paused, Alice smiled, for the very first time, twisting her lips slightly.

[124]

“…it certainly would be an event.”

“Event?”

“We are looking for an event. Something that will cultivate the void, and allow us to find a world of eternal happiness.”

“Will I…”

As I paused, Alice said nothing, but only stared with blue eyes.

“Will I be happy then too?”

“Yes, of course.”

I still don’t know why I asked that question, but…

That was how Alice and I first met.

***

Comedic Mechanism: Parade of the Jane Does (93/291)

I reserve the right to remove this translation without warning.

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CONTENT WARNING: RAPE
While not overwhelmingly explicit, if you would like to avoid this content for whatever reason, skip pages 88-90. This includes the aftermath reaction.

This section concludes chapter 1. Chapter 2 is my favorite in the book, but whether or not I start right away on it depends on a couple of variables. If you like the story/translation so far and want to see more, donating is a great way to pressure me into working on it!

This an experiment.

If you would like to see more, please donate. [PayPal]

Translation Notes:
[75] ” When you come across…” < Excerpt is taken from Maldoror and Poems (Translated by Paul Knight) as I was able to identify it as the source of the quote in Japanese. Slight modifications were made to match the scope of the Japanese version of the quote.
[76] It is disturbing that a single grave be measured in hectares, given that a single hectare is 10000 square meters.
[76] St. Anthony's Fire is the name of a condition called Ergoism, caused by alkaloid poisoning. It has been linked to symptoms of bewitchment, but may be used here as the fire by which convicted witches burned. There was also an outbreak in France in 1951.
[78] It would help to have at least a basic understanding of the Izanagi/Izanami myth, and the story of Merry and Renko's visit to the Torifune Satellite.
[79] The Orpheus being referred to appears to be the one from the 1950 French film.
[81] The description of the purple spots matches the symptoms of St. Anthony's Fire.

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

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[73]

***

Merry stood in front of the stairs to the restricted section of the library.

Why did I come here?

Merry asked herself again.

What is it I want to do?

She listened alone to the clicking sound of her own footsteps as she made her way down the stairs, staring at the wall of the staircase. This time, the pillar was there. It wasn’t a John’s staircase. It wasn’t the same as it was before.

With a final click she stopped walking.

[74]

Was it really only a dream?

This isn’t the first time, I’m always just… no. That’s not it. The boundaries are fickle things. Just because I saw it yesterday, doesn’t mean that it will be in the same place today. It’s as if they flow along a stream.

Merry took another step and then continued down the stairs. What awaited her was… the second floor. Nothing else.

Merry walked over to one of floor’s reading desks and sat down. The database on the first floor was enough for everyone’s needs – that was common sense. However, reference materials for mathematical history were not there, but here. That’s what Renko had said. It wasn’t as if Merry had any interest in the topic before, but humans are simple creatures. “I saw it referenced in a book I once read.” “A friend had mentioned it to me during one of our conversations.” These are reasons enough to reach for a book.

Merry started walking down the aisles and stopped when she came across one label tacked on the shelves: “Mathematical History”.

“Do you know why mathematics was born?”

A quiet and raspy voice reached Merry’s ears from behind. When she turned around, there was but a single bookshelf behind her. However…

[75]

…in between the books on the shelves were the twisted parts of a human being: violet bellflower hair, porcelain skin, and thin lips twisted in the shape of a crescent moon.

“Fare thee well, Miss Ghost?”

Merry felt a sudden sense of vertigo, as if something was turning deep inside her brain. A sickly sweet taste of vomit rose in her throat.

“When you come across a dead dog lying on its back against a sluice gate which will not let it through, do not, as others do, go up and pick out the worms crawling from its swollen belly, examine them in wonder, and take out a knife and cut up a large number of them.”

So the witch laughed as she spoke, holding a cup of tea in her hand, the arm of which extended from the second to lowest shelf.

“In a forest were a people who lived killing goats. You might describe their congregation as the world’s most ancient city. One night, as they sat around the fire, there was a discussion amongst themselves. Who was it that had hunted the most goats? In seeking the answer, they took a bone from each of their goat’s corpses. One from the first, the second, the third, the fourth, and they stacked these bones on top of one another. Then they gave names to these bones for the first time: hii (one), fuu (two), mii (three), you (four)…”

[76]

“Those are some very Japanese sounding names,” said Merry.

“Well this is Japan. I just changed them to match. Would you rather I say their names in Romanian?”

“No, I’m fine with the Japanese version…”

“Well that’s good to hear.”

“Are goats really the first things that were counted?”

“Oh, that was only a fairytale, nothing more. However, the emergence of numbers was always in response to the practical need to count quantifiable things. It is necessary to know how many inches you need for the height of the coffin, how many hectares you need for the extent of the grave, how many individuals died by the fires of St. Anthony. Mathematics was simply a tool to answer those questions. Was. When did it become more than just a tool? Perhaps it coincided with the advent of the zero. Perhaps not. It may be due to something simpler than that.”

“Something simpler?”

“Maybe it was simply because counting only goats was no longer enough for them. In the midst of counting all those goats, again and again, everyone forgot. They forgot why they had to name the first bone ‘one’. Everyone called that first bone ‘one’, but why was that? Everyone who had gathered and named those bones in the beginning were long dead, and the later peoples began to waver, to wonder why, but no one could remember. This is how mathematical history holds up as a field of study. It exists so that we do not again forget what have once forgotten.”

[77]

The witch’s voice echoed weakly across the rows of shelves.

“Tell me, Miss Ghost. What is it that you have forgotten?” The witch asked.

Merry couldn’t understand what she meant.

“But I haven’t forgotten anything…”

“Are you sure? Then why is it that you look so troubled?”

“Troubled?”

“Perhaps it would be more correct to say ‘look as if you have trouble understanding’.”

“I… I don’t… feel that way.”

“I see. But are you sure?”

“Enough about me. I wanted to ask about you.”

“I am a witch. The 1 1/17th floor, a witch named Patchouli Knowledge. That is all.”

“Are you from the other side?”

“The other side. When you say ‘the other side’, do you mean the place that you are standing right now?”

“What…?”

“I am a witch. Only a witch. The other side… This side… These sides you speak of, in regards to which you wonder whether something belongs to one or the other, they are nothing but ink stains. The only ones that ascribe any meaning to them are ‘you’.”

[78]

One of the witch’s fingers pointed at Merry.

“If ‘we’ are but single entities, single fates, then building any kind of moral experience becomes impossible. Humans should be able to abandon themselves to the void. The so called freedom that comes of choosing whether to accept one’s fate or to not accept one’s fate does not carry any meaning. It is a matter of defining what ‘we’ are, and what we should be, but at the same time though that may be our true nature, in the strict sense it is not an activity that carries meaning. Rather it is simply a possibility, a simple truth related to the existence of a potential.”

The witch put on airs as she made this assertion, as if she were singing from a stage.

Merry then heard the sound of rustling paper. The innards of the coffin-like bookshelf which housed the witch’s body was writhing. The books jumbled together as they moved and the witch’s body twisted into the shape of a spiral.

“Yes, that’s right. You saw Izanagi, that thing buried within the prison of Torifune. You know what kind of god Izanagi was, don’t you?”

“What kind…?”

“I’m talking about the story written in the Kojiki. The resting place of the god who treated as filth what he had once took upon his shoulders out of love, that is the kind of place Torifune is. When mold kills a thousand, will give rise to a thousand five hundred, breaking through the accursed bonds of the world of the dead, it will give birth to a country. That precisely was Yakumo’s wish. Isn’t that right, Miss Ghost?”

“What do you mean by ‘ghost’? Why do you keep calling me a ghost?”

It had been bothering Merry all this time, and she couldn’t ignore it any longer.

“Grapes and bamboo shoots and peaches, that is how Yakumo’s love has been paid, and that love is you, Miss Ghost. You are bound by a curse from the past. A curse, yes a curse. You are the same as the wishes of the women who burned to death from St. Anthony’s fire. You are the same as what Orpheus saw in the country beyond the mirror. Have you heard of the Devil’s Mirror?”

“The Devil’s Mirror?”

“Yes. It was the final and only curse laid upon Torifune. How pitiable are those that take a fragment of that devil’s mirror into their hearts. Before long they become like clump of ice. Look, and everything appears twisted. Look at a red rose and you will see it infested with insects. Look at a white rose and you sill see it geometrically twisted. Every rose becomes tainted. The same applies to the box. Yes, for that is Torifune’s curse.”

Merry heard the sound of interlocking gears moving. Click tick creak click.

[80]

Creak click tick creak click tick click.
Tick click creak click tick click creak click.
Creak click creak creak click tick click creak click.

The floor beneath Merry’s feet began to slip. Without a sound, without a soul, the library began to crumble, fall.

Merry’s body was falling, falling upside down. Her vision was warping cylindrically, consisting only of varying shades of black.

Then she saw a crack, a world made of only red and black. It was the bottom of a well, the sky seen looking up from the bottom of a well, the night colored sky seen looking up from the bottom of a well.

The red crack formed itself into the simple shape of an eye, and then… a single crow was flying.

[81]

But that crow… Its body was made of arms. Children’s arms, old women’s arms, men’s arms, all sorts of arms, crammed together without any gaps between them. The entire surface was made of arms. But all of those arms… Those arms and arms and arms… The skin of all those arms was covered in blackened and purple spots. But its eyes. The eyes were a single color, a bright red…

It was staring directly at Merry. Staring at Merry as she fell.

It flapped its wings once, and flew right past her, the wind wailing behind it.

“Nevermore.”

It felt as if that’s what it was screaming at her.

“After the crow flew behind her, it turned its belly to the sky and fell along with her, its wings spread out before Merry’s eyes as she looked back. It seemed as if they were drawing a sphere, as if those countless arms were reaching out to embrace her.”

“On demande des moustiques domestiques (demi-stock) pour la cure d’azote sure la cote d’azur. (Seeking domestic mosquitoes (half-stock) for the nitrogen cure on the Azure Coast.)”

A spiral spins ’round and ’round. The spiral shaped sky turns with the clicks of the gears.

“Come now, Miss Ghost. Unbind it.

[82]

“Unbind it…?”

“Yes. Unbind Izanagi’s curse.”

***

Merry looked out from her veranda.

“I’ve got to try to sleep tonight,” she whispered to herself.

What is causing me to be like this? Merry thought, absentmindedly.

With her back to the veranda’s railing, she hugged her knees. Her portable terminal displayed the time as 2:34 am, the stars slowly rotating in the night sky.

Merry just could not bring herself to call her friend. The words that the witch had told her, the images the witch had shown her, they were still racing about in her mind. The curse… So what? What did any curse have to do with her? Her head felt heavy, tinged with headache.

[83]

“Mary?”

The glass door to the veranda slid open.

“You’re having trouble sleeping again?”

Merry nodded in response, at least that’s what her intention was. It may have looked to her boyfriend that she only tilted her head.

Merry’s boyfriend walked out barefoot onto the veranda and sat down next to her. He had two mugs in his hands. He handed one to Merry who wrapped both hands around it and felt the warmth seep into her fingertips. It was not very hot, so he must have let the drinks cool a bit before he walked out with them. Merry looked into the milky brown surface of the liquid, and took a sip. As she brought the drink to her lips a bittersweet flavor flowed over her tongue.

“You know, every now and then I wonder…” Her boyfriend broke the silence.

“Mmhm?”

“I wonder if this world is nothing more than a butterfly specimen.”

Merry turned to look at her boyfriend, but his profile was blacked out by the night.

“Well, it’s just, uh… I met someone who was saying stuff like that. ‘The way I am right now, it’s like I’m a butterfly specimen, shut away in a case with pin right through me.’ That sort of thing. I sort of felt, you know, that I understood where he was coming from.”

[84]

“I don’t get it. What do you mean?”

“I mean it’s like we’ve lost our sense of ambiguity. It’s dead to us, don’t you think? Aren’t humans supposed to more fluid and indeterminate? The way things are right now, everything is so fixed and certain. But what do you expect, the way we’ve been denying ambiguity for so long.”

“Wait, are you talking about that… ‘Fantasy Release Movement’?”

“Oh, you’ve heard of it?”

“Just today… Well, technically yesterday. My friend told me about it.”

“Ah.”

“…Do you want to run away?”

“Huh?”

“Do you… want to run away from something?”

“Do I want to run away? Hmm…”

As her boyfriend paused, Merry felt her breath drift off and away transparently, into the night sky.

“Well I suppose I do.”

“From what?”

“Everything I guess.”

[85]

“I… see.”

Merry didn’t feel like pursuing the question.

Tell me.

Those words flashed through her mind, but even though she knew that is what she should say to him, despite knowing that that’s what she should say, it just… it just felt like it would be too much of a pain. But is that really what she felt? Deep down inside she knew. She just wasn’t interested. She… just wasn’t interested in him anymore.

As Merry stared at her boyfriend’s darkened profile, she wondered. Just what kind of face did this person have? It felt as if the image she had of him was fading out. As his face mixed with the black of night she couldn’t see anything. She couldn’t see.

“What do you think, Mary?”

“About what?”

“Don’t you think that we should accept ambiguity?”

“I don’t know…”

Merry had had enough.

[86]

She was sick of this.

Merry felt her eyes trembling.

This is enough, she thought. I’ve seen too much of this already. I just can’t…

A feather drifted down between Merry and her boyfriend. It was a dark, black crow’s feather. When she picked the feather up off of the concrete, the shaft and vane of it twisted and warped. It was a crow’s feather, but made of twisted arms with mottled flesh.

Merry looked up and saw a half moon in the sky, and under the bluish white light of the moon, a single crow was flying.

Crows always aimed for weaker prey, for ones they could torment without any threat to themselves, and when they found that prey, with a wicked laugh would they peck with their beaks.

“Mary?”

Merry reached her fingers towards the moon.

[87]

“The crow.”

“Crow?”

“It’s laughing.”

Red fissures, they had spread all throughout the night sky. Before long, everything might come crashing down.

Then, a single fragment of the night came fluttering down, in the same shape as that crow’s feather, and Merry saw it fall right into the eyes of her boyfriend, who had looked up at the sky the same as her. She watched silently as it sunk into him.

The devil’s mirror. It was in a fairy tale she had read long, long ago. A witch once made a mirror, such that if you looked into it, everything you saw was twisted. A tall and slender man who stood in front of the mirror would see a hunchback looking back at him. A beautiful rose garden would look like a pest infested, rotten dump.

Everything lost its congruity, because disgustingly twisted, and hid its true form.

[88]

However, the witch would say this: No, what this mirror shows is your true form.

The disciples of the witch wanted to take this mirror and place it in front of God. But before they could take it into the heavens, the mirror shattered into a million pieces, showering its fragments across the land. When those fragments fell into someone’s eyes…

“Mary. We really were wrong, wrong about everything, from the very beginning.”

When Merry’s boyfriend turned to face her, it was so filled with mottled spots that it looked like a beehive. His eyes, his nose, his mouth, his ears, they were all gone. All that was left was the spindle-shaped outline of an expressionless face, with its insides filled all over with spots. Spots? They were holes. His face was filled with holes, and in those holes, Merry could see nothing. The holes were shallow, but everything had been gouged out.

“So we have to accept it. We have to accept ambiguity, accept the other side.”

That was the last thing Merry’s boyfriend said, before he raped her.

He pushed her forcibly to the ground and brought his face, now only a mottled flap of skin before hers. The rough outlines of the gouged spots came closer and closer, and unable to bear looking at it, Merry turned her eyes away.

Dry and without any lubrication, all Merry felt was pain and discomfort as he forced himself into her. As he thrust into her again and again, she felt nothing more. This was someone else’s pain. Her emotions were separated from her body. The only thing she felt was real was the sense she felt right before all this.

[89]

That’s what it was.

I really don’t love him anymore.

And he… He is no longer able to love me.

Merry could hear the sound, deep within her ears, of the boundaries creaking, with a ticking sound like a clock. The other side, it was all over his body, the body on top of hers. The skin she could see through his clothes, along his neck, his collarbone, his arms, his thighs, his penis… They were all like his face, with black spots all over them, carved out of them, like pots made of sheet copper. Something else, only shaped like a person, was raping her.

This wasn’t her. This was someone else. This didn’t concern her.

The entire time, until everything was over, she bit down hard on her bottom lip.

The taste of the blood she felt flow over her tongue. That was the only thing that felt real.

***

By the time the sun had risen, he was gone.

Merry lay half-naked on the veranda. Still in a daze, she lifted her upper body and felt something drip down her crotch. Thinking it was semen, she looked between her legs, but what she saw was not the familiar fluid, but crushed butterfly larvae. It was just the crushed remains of a white caterpillar.

[90]

Merry felt an icy, tingling sensation run down her back. She pushed her body away from the remains, and backed into her apartment on all fours. When she tried to stand up, she felt a dull pain as if she was menstruating, and she could not stop her legs from shaking. She dragged herself across the apartment and into the bathroom, reaching up to a touch panel to start the shower. (The faucet was a thing of the past. In this current age of science, all sorts of analog controls were replaced with digital panels.) Warm water fell against her body. She was still wearing clothes, and her wet shirt clung to her skin. It felt unimaginably disgusting. She tore crazily at her clothes and threw them out of the bathtub. Her shoulders were now naked. She continued to sit in the tub as the shower ran over her. She wanted to wash it all away. She wanted to wash everything away. It was in that moment, Merry felt, if only just a little, that she understood the feeling of wanting to run away. But now that meant nothing. Whatever it was that was put inside of her, slowly glopped out of her genitals and ran down with the shower water and into the sewage line.

After everything had come out, Merry slowly got onto her feet and left the tub. She grabbed a towel and wiped herself down before going back out into the main room.

[91]

Nothing looked different. The room looked the same as it always did. But despite that… Merry felt as if she was looking at this room for the first time. All of the papers pinned on the walls, filled with words written in neurotic handwriting.

“We must accept ambiguity.” “We must become one with the other side.” “Embrace the fantasy” “Unification of Ego” “It wasn’t a deficiency.” “Freedom from the City” “Denial of the Cargo Cult” “I” “Freedom from the People” “Cannot” “Izanagi Object” “Keep Loving Her” “Release the Fantasy” “Freedom from the Present” “Farewell” “Until the day we meet the sky…”

Ah…

I really couldn’t see anything, could I?
I never loved him did I? Not from the very beginning.
He was the one who could not love me in the end.
We were so clearly broken, all this time, yet…
I didn’t see anything.
I was too busy looking at the other side.
I had stopped looking at him.

[92]

Merry reached for the portable terminal she had left on the glass table, and opened her address book.

“Hello?”

After three rings, she answered.

“Hey, Renko…”

Tell me.

“That Fantasy Release Movement… Do you know where its current headquarters are?”

“Why?”

“Please, tell me. I cannot be 100% sure, but…”

I can see them.
I can see them broken, just like the boyfriend I could not see.
I can see the boundaries, right outside the window.
I can see, on the railing of the veranda, right there.
I can see the crow.
I can see the giant crow, laughing at me.

“…the boundaries are broken.”

(END OF CHAPTER 1)

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