Everyone Will Be a Fish with No Name Someday
The protagonist of this piece is named Hyooya. He believes he is a dementia patient and has been undergoing treatment for more than ten years. He visits a female doctor once a month and spends about two hours talking with her or the record keeper about the notes he has written or recently taken, showing her the pictures he has taken. When Hyooya started going to the hospital for treatment, the recorder was working in the administrative department of the same hospital. It was toward the end of the summer when the recorder was having a meal in the hospital cafeteria, Hyooya was sitting across from him at the same table. A month later, they met again at the same place. Another month later, they met again at exactly the same place in the same cafeteria, and both felt that the other was strangely meticulous about time and place.
The following week, Hyooya’s doctor, the female neurologist, came to the recorder and told him that Hyooya had talked about the recorder during his treatment. She said that he had made a strong impression on him and that he had memorized the recorder’s name from his nameplate. Since he continued to talk about the recorder during the examination, the doctor asked the recorder to sit in on the examination and record the conversation. According to her, the recorder was also showing early signs of dementia at that time. However, unlike Hyooya, the recorder had no subjective symptoms at all. She thought that the recorder could be aware of his own symptoms by being present in the clinic and interacting with dementia patients.
The following is a chronological reconstruction of Hyooya’s memory based on his notes and what he said during the examination. They are not in the order in which he spoke, but are edited according to the time line of what he talked about.
Based on this record, the doctor believes that Hyooya had developed dementia in 1990 at the latest, and does not deny the possibility that he had developed the landscape fluctuations and time axis shifts characteristic of dementia before that time. As in his case, dementia patients do not seem to lose all of their memories. Recent memories are not retained, but past memories and scenes are vividly preserved. In this record, dementia is a symptom in which the connection between the landscape and the time line becomes uncertain and the patient is unable to identify where in his chronology, including the future, the memory of the landscape is stored. Some patients have symptoms and others do not. As the disease progresses, the patient may not know where he or she is in the time line and may not know who the people around him or her are.
The record also distinguishes between scenes and sights, using scene as a synonym for mental landscape. Sights are scenery without emotional involvement, and scenery and sights together are called landscapes. A scene often used in daily life is similar to a scene. According to his doctor’s findings, Hyooya was obsessively interested in “Nviniism” (derived from convinience, meaning convenience or expediency), of which he believed himself to have once been a member, and even harbored hostility toward it. It is thought that he had been observing the “Nvini” for many years, pursuing the commonalities between their ecology and the symptoms of dementia patients, including himself. This is why there are many descriptions of “Nviniism” and “Nvini” in the following.
Part 1. Hidden Nvini
[The location of the first part is a city on the island of Japan, and the time period is around 1980. Hyooya speaks passionately based on his observation notes about Nvini. Supplementary explanations by the recorder are included in [ ] to distinguish it from the part spoken by Hyooya].
The electronic sound of a train departing rings out at a rumbling volume from above the station platform. There are two entrances to the platform, with stairs and escalators leading to the upper and lower floors. A crowd of people running up each of these stairs and escalators, spurred on by the electronic noise, sprinted toward the station’s stopped trains. A boy carrying a bag half the size of his body, a man holding a huge musical instrument, a woman shaking her breasts, a mother pulling her child by the hand, a screaming child being pulled, a person who looks out of breath, and a pale-faced office worker all rush to the train just before it departs.
The Moving Temple of the Train
Once on the train, people read the day’s newspaper or their favorite books and sink into their own inner selves. Those who converse with each other speak a language that only they understand, and secretly rejoice in what those around them do not understand. Or they put on earphones with music, a popular trend at the time, to shut themselves off from the outside world. To the people around them, the sound coming out of the earphones is nothing but noise, but they put up with it. Passengers on this train are not allowed to have a hostile attitude toward others. People who have become accustomed to suppressing and not expressing their feelings toward others have developed a peculiar method of defense that separates them from others in order to protect themselves.
[According to Hyooya, it was the Nvini religion, an irreligious sect, that encouraged this development. Nvini temples were established in any area where the train network was spread out, and it was not uncommon to see several in a row. This is because, like other religions, the Nvini sect had a number of influential sects, and in urban areas, temples of different sects were located in close proximity to convenient train lines. Incidentally, the “temples” referred to by Hyooya are not shrines, temples, or churches surrounded by a stern atmosphere. It is a building similar to the coffee shops and small supermarkets that originated in North America and swept the island of Japan in the late 20th century. His observations follow].
Small branches of each denomination were located in railroad stations, supplying people with mass-produced newspapers and magazines on a daily basis. Through these printed materials, the people believed that their spiritual worlds would be ceaselessly enriched. In the same branch office, small solid food and liquid beverages are sold as protection (gofu). Vending machines, or money-offering boxes, were placed throughout the station and almost everywhere else, and people received canned beverages and cigarettes in return for their small donations. Although these acts are considered religious, they are so ingeniously integrated into daily life that people are unaware that they are acting in accordance with their faith. They simply assume that they are faithless and have nothing to be ashamed of.
People get on the train during rush hour and remain standing. There were no seats in the car, which was a refrigerated freight car with glass windows. The people were leaning against each other like stems of plants in a jungle, barely falling over. The temperature inside the car was kept low, so low that it was chilly even in summer. Inside a large refrigerator, the people are silent and swaying like algae at the bottom of a lake. The train shakes violently before and after it comes to a halt, and the people are jostling with each other. Here and there in the first car, a man and a woman, a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, rest their bodies against the swaying of the train and repeat clumsy caresses. Around them, a group of horses stand there, struggling against the shaking caused by the train’s shifting gears and the shaking caused by the train’s curves. They are all in physical contact with each other, but do not seek any relationship beyond that of being next to each other. Fearing the loss of peace around them, they are absorbed in the world of the books, newspapers, and magazines in their hands. Those who do not have reading materials look blankly at the posters on the ceiling and sides of the car or at the scenery outside the window. Inside the car, the noise leaking from the earphones and conversations among several people are heard, occasionally interrupted by deafening broadcasts.
The train is a large box-like temple built of stainless steel and glass. For Nvini, the train was the temple itself. Therefore, he respected the train operators and gave them great authority. One was the driver of the first car, who controlled the train, and all the cars connected to it moved on the rails at his will. The other was the conductor in the last car, who preached endlessly through the hospital broadcasts, not in the cars. People thought they were barely listening to the occasional broadcast, but their behavior was unwittingly dominated by the daily sermon.
Ball games on the train
In car No. 3 in the early afternoon on a weekday, one red and one white ball the size of a softball were rolling irregularly on the floor of the car body as the train swayed. In the long, horizontal seats on either side of the train, old men and women sit against the window sills, their bent backs resting against the sills. No one is standing. They are no longer able to stand and support each other against the swaying of the train. There are doors in the center of the box-shaped car, on both sides of the train in the direction of travel, where there are no seats. A wheelchair is parked between the two doors with its brakes on. A dark-skinned old man in a wheelchair was the referee for this ball game.
[Hyooya was watching the game from car No. 2 and said he was impressed by a man of about 70 years old with a white head and beard and a friendly smile on his face.]
Depending on which side of the train they were seated, the old men were divided into two teams, one red and one white, and they were absorbed in playing with two balls and their own ball game. When the ball came close to their feet, they would rush to get their feet off the floor, and some of them would almost slide off their seats. If they fall off their seats or if the other team’s ball touches their feet, a point is deducted and the other team scores a point. When the ball of their team comes close, they kick their legs toward the referee’s wheelchair, but it is a very difficult task. Each time they raised their legs, they and their team members let out a cheerful yell. Points were scored when each team’s ball touched the wheels of the referee’s wheelchair, and the number of points scored by both teams was posted on the wall.
In this ball game, the players could not participate in the movement of the ball at all, except for kicking the ball of their own team that came near them with their feet. The movement of the ball depended on the swaying of the train, and the movements of the old men depended on the movement of the ball. The train line was a huge loop with many curves and ups and downs. When the train started or stopped, or when it went around a curve, the two balls would roll violently, and their excitement reached its peak. When the train was stopped, they stood all over their seats and shouted loudly. What made their enthusiasm stand out were those who continued to sleep without participating in the ball game. They, too, belonged to the red and white teams, depending on their seating position, so when the ball came near their feet, their neighbors would rush to lift their legs. They seemed to find the action funny.
During the stop, no one boarded the No. 3 car. The car was filled with a peculiar heat that rejected other passengers, and although there was no rope on the door, there was a white paper hanging over the door to mark the boundary and exclude other n’vini. The old men had nowhere else to go but to immerse themselves in a red-and-white ball game. They are only neighbors, so once they get off the train, they are strangers to each other. The difference between the two is that they are reclining people and elderly caregivers, but both are still subject to the operation of the train and its swaying.
N’vini and Pagans
All N’vini have a multiple pass that serves as proof of identity. This pass was given to those whose parents were born and raised in the area where the train operated, and who themselves were born in the same area, and was required to enter the precincts of the station. Those from outside the area had to donate a certain amount of money to the N’Vinh Temple to obtain a primary pass in order to enter the precincts and use the moving temple of the train. Holders of the primary pass need only insert it into a reader when passing through the gate at the train station, but holders of the primary pass must pass through a special gate manned by an official. Thus discriminating against the infidels, but once they pass through the gate and enter the station, there is no distinction. Once inside the station, however, there is no distinction between the two groups.
[Hyooya often goes in and out of trains and Nvini temples, and he observes them with great interest. He seems to pay particular attention to Nvini’s attitude toward pagans.]
Nvini and pagans do not mix. It is easy to tell that they differ by skin color, body odor, hair to body shape, language, clothing, etc. So those who are considered infidels are surrounded by the majority N’vini and subjected to their gaze. In order to repel them, the infidels defend themselves by talking loudly and forming cliques. The N’Vini are no different, but because they are in the majority, they are oblivious to it. In the fourth car, several young Asian men and women stood a short distance away from the people. They had the same color skin and dark hair as N’Vini and a long torso. One group spoke with a strong tone of inflection, while another group spoke with soft highs and lows, but both were loud and drew the stares of the people around them. The N’vini are sensitive to anyone who is even slightly different from them. Even the same N’vini would feel the stinging gaze of the average person reading a newspaper with illegible text.
The same was true for South Asians and Africans, whose differences in skin and hair were obvious at first glance, but Nvini’s attitude toward Westerners was different. Although they could not understand the language and had the same body odor as the South Asians and Africans, their attitude toward the Westerners was somewhat frightened. His sense of the alphabet was also pious, and the letters of the alphabet were everywhere. Many of the N’Vini’s clothes and personal belongings were also originally Western in origin, but they were no longer considered foreign. On the other hand, the hieroglyphics used by many Asian peoples were woven into the fabric of the N’vini faith and used in all printed materials. Naturally, their culture is also incorporated, but Nvini is unaware of any of it. They were proud of their uniqueness, emphasizing their difference from the pagans.
Like a moving temple train, the N’Vini temple does not outwardly exclude outsiders or pagans. The main purpose of the temple was to satisfy the material, spiritual, and physical desires that could be obtained through money. People’s desires, including those of pagans, were corrected and minimized from an early age, both materially and mentally, and they were allowed to enter temples as long as their desires were within the limits of what money could cover. All one had to do was pick up the desired offering from the displays on the temple grounds, undergo a digital processing ritual, and pay a donation. This simple ritual satisfied people’s desires. No words were needed for the series of rituals, and in a negative sense, N’viniism had the hyper-linguistic nature that is a requirement for a world religion. The temple complex was always filled with bandoneon music and sermons, and the congregation repeatedly sought refuge in their own religion in several languages spoken by the majority of the sect’s adherents.
Car No. 5 was called the “silent car,” which prohibited eating and drinking in the car, as well as talking and making noises. There were no in-hospital announcements like in other cars, and earphones with music were not allowed. The empty carriages were filled with the low, metallic sound of the train’s wheels colliding with the rails and the squeaking sound of the motor. All the doors and glass windows of the cars are double-paned, and the doors do not open even when the train is stopped, so the electronic sounds of the platform and outside noises hardly reach the car. Passengers boarded and disembarked through the coupling with the adjacent car No. 4 or No. 6. There were two doors at the coupling, about one meter apart, and one of them was always closed. One of the doors was always closed to block the sound from the adjacent car. No printed materials are allowed, no words or pictures are allowed on the walls, and no videos are allowed. No matter how crowded the other cars are, there are almost no passengers in this car. The few people that I could count were all sitting in their seats, following the scenery outside.
As long as you are in this car, you will not be excluded simply because you are a pagan. However, it is rare for anyone to stay in a noiseless car for a long time. Most people move to the next car after a while. They cannot stand the quietness of the car with no notices, no printed materials to read, and no broadcasts. One of Nvini’s characteristics is not so much tolerance as insensitivity to sound. It is not only the broadcasts from the hospital or the electronic noises of the platforms. The train itself makes a huge noise, and the ground around the rails shakes as it passes. The residents of the neighborhood were also Nvini, so they, like the passengers in the train, did not express their displeasure at the noise and tremors. They did not care if the hospital announcement repeated the same sermon before and after the trains arrived and departed, or if the same melody was played loudly and repeatedly from above the platform.
[This sensory paralysis made people feel that the absence of any stimulation was torture, Pinyin says, claiming that they regarded him as an anomaly because he was so nervous about noise that they could not understand it. He always took the noiseless car, and he would look at the people on the station platform and laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation from the car, which was almost inaudible when it was stopped. He also says that the reason people can’t stand the silence of the soundproof cars is because they are immersed in the sounds and images that come from the TV on a daily basis.
Car No. 6 was filled with a mist of cigarette smoke and the smell of yani filled the car. Cigarette butts littered the floor in places and scattered as people walked near them. The walls of the car were covered with posters describing the benefits of cigarettes, with a warning about the harms of smoking in one corner. The smell of yani smeared on everything in the car and the whole place looked yellowish. A no-smoking symbol was prominently displayed on a wall, but the yellowing made it difficult to see. Incidentally, all the cars were non-smoking except for car No. 6.
In the first place, no matter what warning signs or markings were there, the passengers in this car did not care. Even if there is a notice on the station platform warning passengers not to throw away cigarette butts, they do not obey it. They were illiterate in the sense that they could read and understand the warning text but would not carry it out. This is related to the poor linguistic communication of the Nvini. They were extremely reluctant to communicate, and they themselves narrowed their territory and lost their awareness of the outside world. Cigarette butts and trash accumulated not only inside the stations but also around the railroad tracks and along the roadsides. People did not think nothing of defiling places other than their own homes and properties, and so everything outside of their own territory became a dumping ground. The area by the railroad tracks, where people did not alight, was especially dirty because it was outside everyone’s area.
The manufacture and sale of cigarettes was regulated, but this did not apply to the N’vini temple, where cigarettes were always on the shelves. Since cigarettes were obtained in return for donations, there was no sense of guilt. There were many smokers, both men and women, in Nvini. This was based on the principle of convenience, and smoking made them feel as if they were thinking about something. People around them were forced to breathe in smoke they did not want to while feeling discomfort that their health was being harmed. And that’s not all. They were also tolerant of car exhaust, factory soot, and, most importantly, radiation. They were tolerant of car exhaust, factory smoke, and, most importantly, radiation, because their very lives were built on these things, and eliminating them would mean losing the conveniences and comforts of life. Cigarette smoke and noise will eventually disappear, and radiation, which will never disappear, is invisible. What is invisible and has no form cannot be captured.
Even outside of temples, people could obtain cigarettes by making a small donation to a vending machine. They threw away cigarette butts just as they threw away empty cans after drinking and left their finished newspapers and magazines in the car. As the years passed, cigarette butts and garbage accumulated around people. Even when it became visible and smelled strange, they did not try to change their behavior.
[The Hyooya, who had hostility toward the N’vini, including smokers, also seemed to harbor feelings of anger toward the pagans. He also believes that smoking cigarettes was a religious rite for many non-religious groups].
The Altar of Television
[N’Vini seems to have installed televisions everywhere. In homes, cars, train and bus cabins, airplane cabins, airport terminals, school classrooms, hotel rooms, and hospital beds, there was a television set in every home, large and small. Even during hospitalization, unless the patient was in very critical condition, he was anxious if he did not hear what the TV was telling him about social conditions and what the priests were saying].
People prayed to the TVs embedded in the walls of Car 7. Because the N’vini religion is a non-religious sect, a kind of pantheism (panentheism), there were many different objects of belief. It could be said that there were as many gods as there were believers. Televisions were invented to house these deities in small boxes, and electronic devices made it possible to worship all kinds of deities. People listened to the sound from the TV and watched the images without looking at them, not only when praying but also at other times. There were especially popular deities who often appeared on the screen. Newspapers and magazines published a variety of articles ranging from symposiums on the ungodly to scandals. Nvini would read the table of contents of the magazines displayed on the walls of the train, and would obtain and read them at temples and branch temples. People not only worshipped these deities, but also made them into familiar figures with whom they shared their joys, sorrows, and pleasures. Televisions were equipped with multi-channel devices that allowed people to choose the channel of their choice. This act of choice was left entirely to personal likes, dislikes, and moods. Nvini called this religious freedom and praised it. Newspapers and magazines were allowed to cover and publish the movements of the gods as part of their freedom of expression. Nothing was more important to them than to feel that they were acting freely.
[Hyooya, who laughed at them, was underestimated by N’vini and was not taken seriously by him. He himself attributes this to dementia, but the real reason may have been his harsh criticism of Nvini.
It was dusk on a summer day. As soon as the train stopped at the station and the doors opened, a group of children waiting on the platform rushed into the train, passing through the crowd of people trying to get off. They were playing a game of fighting for an empty seat. Two children who were trying to get into one seat at the same time started arguing with each other, and a scuffle broke out. The people around them just looked on from a distance and did not get involved. In another part of the room, a child was crying, shouting that there was no seat. No matter how much the parents tried to soothe them, the crying did not stop, but as soon as a woman nearby gave up her seat, the crying stopped. The children knew that if they kept crying, they would find a seat, and the people tolerated it. Among the Nvini, children were spoiled beyond necessity. They were considered the purest of believers, and they behaved as if they owned the place, even in crowded cars. They moved from car to car, chattering in high-pitched voices and bumping their bags on their backs against people. They were like little animals slithering through the trees, appearing in every car except the ball car, the noiseless car, and the smoking car.
The children sometimes behaved almost paroxysmally and uninhibitedly. They would sometimes be the only ones of their age in the car, for example, in the afternoon during the summer vacation. On such occasions, they would frolic around like dogs that had had their collars taken off. While at school or at home, they are not allowed to do anything on their own. They acted according to what was written in their textbooks, reference books, and comic books, and they did not waste time on the train. This was a hidden rebellion against such constraints. When they were at home, they often turned to the TV. This was because cartoon characters appeared on the screen. On the other hand, children were more explicit in their exclusion of outsiders. They showed no tolerance for those who were different, even from their own generation. Group behavior known as bullying was widespread. On their way to and from school, they threw trash, spit out gum, and threw away empty cans that they had swallowed. The empty cans rolling around on the floor of the car resembled balls in a ball game played by old men.
In car No. 8 were elementary school children and their parents. All of them had dignified faces, but their heads were round and expressionless. They carried bags of the same color and shape on their backs, making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. The children are usually clustered in groups of two or three, either talking in high-pitched voices or moving their mouths around after taking out their snacks. Some children are absorbed in playing games.
[According to Hyooya, Nvini believed that rounding the cranial bones would make them smarter. Every parent hoped that their child’s head would improve, and children were given a rounded head shape through group training at school, where they spent most of their day. Parents were not satisfied with this and sought out a variety of head-shaping techniques. Children were also trained in institutions called tutoring schools and preparatory schools, and they happily attended these institutions on school vacations. Hyooya apparently disliked the N’vini children and left the following note:]
The angular shape of their heads was detestable and people despised them and shunned them in the train cars. In crowded train cars, a pointy head was considered a threat to other people. Therefore, people tried to shape and round their heads when they were boys, when their craniums were soft. As a guide, reference and knowhow books were published in large numbers, and every small temple had a publication that suited the sect. Children believed they had to do so for the very reason that all their peers were doing the same.
Red Ball Clock
The N’Vini favored group ball games such as baseball and soccer. Most of the boys belonged to baseball or soccer teams. On weekdays, they practiced from early in the morning, and on weekends, they played exchange games with other teams. On game days, family members and others would watch the games. The enthusiasm with which they cheered was no different from that of the old men’s ball games. Television broadcasted group games on a daily basis, and every religious channel regularly reported the results of baseball and soccer games. One of the reasons for the popularity of ball games has to do with the fact that the ideal body in Nvinism was a sphere. Like the ancient Greeks, the N’Vini found exceptional meaning in the sphere. The sphere symbolized divinity and Nvini unity. The spherical shape of the female breast and buttocks was favored, and the two spheres of the male genitals had exceptional significance.
The N’vini were a non-religious sect with no doctrine, but at the core of their thinking were ideas related to the design and operation of railroads. It was how to reach the destination quickly and how to work efficiently. Many cases of depression suffered by N’Vini in his later years indicate a low immunity to inefficiency. They cannot tolerate more inefficiency and less movement. Their conception of time is also related to the railroad. At every station, a red ball clock was placed in a conspicuous place, and people hung their heads to it. The time on the ball clocks placed in Nvini temples and train stations was considered to be the main source of time. Trains operated by the minute, and even the stopping position of the cars was determined at each station. People decided where to get on and off the train at the platform in order to get on the train at a certain time every day. Therefore, certain cars at the same time of day were crowded with almost the same passengers. People rushed to the train just before it departed in order to get on the train as soon as possible, and they were satisfied when they could get on that train. Pagans, who found such a lifestyle eerie, called the N’vini religion a religion of worship and scorned it.
Not only daily activities, but also lifelong activities were determined according to age, and most people from the age of six to eighteen attended schools, preparatory schools, and other institutions. Many attended institutions for several more years or even a decade. After that, they would work in a variety of occupations, and marry people of the opposite or same sex to form a family. In the sense of a faith rooted in daily life, Nvini had an important element that ritualistic religions did not have. However, the life of an Nvini was like a timetable, and it was also a harsh society in which those who dropped out would not be able to return to the same train. The greatest fear of the people was to be expelled from the moving temple of the train or the Nvini temple.
Part 2. traffic with the other world
[The second part of the story takes place about two years after the summer of 1990, and the place is considered to be North America. Hyoya (Hyoya) repeatedly spoke of his experiences in the city of H. The way his mental images intersected with the scenery he saw from the train window clearly indicated symptoms of dementia. The recorder, while recording his story, seems to have been under the illusion that it was his own experience. In the second part, Hyooya’s monologue is placed in [ ] to distinguish his writing style].
Train running through the valley
Hyooya, who was stationed in the city of H, commuted from his apartment in the suburbs to his office in the city center by diesel train every morning. During the morning and evening commuting hours, four-car trains operated with three trains each up and down every 30 minutes, and most of the sections were single-track. The double-decker cars had spacious four-seat box seats lined up on both sides of the aisle, just like long-distance trains on the island of Japan. It took about 30 minutes from station Y, where Hyooya boarded the train, to station W, where the train terminated, and there was only one stop along the way, so the number of passengers using the train at the same time was almost constant every morning. There were no passengers standing in the aisle or by the door. Many of them had almost fixed seat positions in the morning, so it was as if the passengers at the first station got reserved seats. The train headed south through the valley along the Goh River, passing through suburban residential areas until it reached the lakefront city center; after the Y station, the valley scenery continued almost continuously until it entered the city center, making me forget that I was on a commuter train.
For about two months after I started taking the train, I never got tired of looking at the scenery from the train window every morning. It must have been the transition from summer to autumn. The colors of the wildflowers that appeared and disappeared in the valleys changed daily from moegi (moegi) to light crimson and light purple. I watched the train pass by, trying to capture these scenes, even if it was only for a moment. As the days passed, I began to memorize bits and pieces of the terrain that appeared and disappeared on both sides of the train. There were a few places in particular that caught my attention, and when I passed through them, I would always have a particular mental image in my mind. There is one railroad crossing along the way, and the train always sounds its whistle a little before the crossing. On the west side of the crossing, on top of a small hill, there was a row of brick entrances and huts that looked as if they had been painted greenish-blue. Whenever I passed through there, I was reminded of the mining town surrounded by mountains in the Chugoku region where I spent my childhood. I had lost most of my childhood memories, but the scene of leaving that mining town when I was five years old remained in my mind. When the train whistle blew and I saw the small hills, I could always picture those mountains.
[The people standing on the small platform, the mountains looming in the background, the steam train whistle blaring, the whistle echoing uninterruptedly, bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee….
Thus, a special relationship was created between the scenery along the Goh River and Hyooya’s mental landscape.
An old man and a female passenger
On a late autumn morning a few months after commuting by train, an unfamiliar old man was sitting in Hyooya’s reserved seat. Judging from his gray hair and the white beard that covered the lower half of his face, he must have been around 70 years old. He had a stout body, one of the larger ones among Caucasians. He was sitting with his back to the direction of the train, his forehead pressed against the window, watching the scenery go by. Having no choice, Hyooya took a seat on the opposite aisle side of the same box seat. From that position, she observed him diagonally in front of her. But soon, he was so attracted by the mysterious charm he exuded that he could not move. That morning he arrived at the W station with hardly a glance out the window. After all the passengers got off at the station, the conductor poked him on the shoulder and he finally came to his senses. The question never left his mind, “What was that state of forgetfulness?
The next day, the old man did not appear, even though he got off the train at the next station and looked around the next car. Since that day, the scenery from the train window no longer accepted Hyooya’s mental image. The Goh River in late autumn reflects dull yellows, reddish browns, and oranges on the surface of the river, subtly changing the color mix as it moves downstream. Such a scene no longer has any effect.
The morning after the first snowfall of the year in the valley of the Goh River, a woman was sitting in Hyooya’s reserved seat. As he had done with the old man a few months earlier, he sat diagonally in front of her. Her dark-skinned face was fascinating with its boldly folded legs, but at the same time it made him feel somewhat pious. Like the old man, she leaned her left shoulder against the window frame and followed the scenery as it passed by. As he watched her, he took her lips in his imagination.
[On a sweltering late summer evening, we went out to a wooded area near our house. As he looked at the moon over the trees, he suddenly felt the urge to embrace someone and gently placed his lips on the trunk of a sawtooth oak tree. Above, the branches and leaves of the trees shook like black paper cutouts].
Staring at her lips brought back memories of the boy. Places similar to that thicket were scattered along the Goh River. As I watched her face reflected in the car window, moving away from me, I felt as if I had really taken her lips. Beyond her face, I could see the reflection of a small pond. Before I met the old man, this pond reminded me of a certain lake.
[I went to a lake on the western edge of Tokyo. I could see the azure waters of the lake among the pines and broadleaf trees. They entered an abandoned house in a secluded part of Nakanoshima, and as they looked out the rain-dust-stained windows at the lake, they blended into the landscape and found themselves enveloped in a jet-black evening. On the ride home, she pressed her shoulder against the window and let her tears fall.
The woman in front of her and the woman at the lake overlapped. That morning, Hyooya did not think about the old man; he got off at the W station and followed her for a while, but eventually lost her in the hustle and bustle. The next day, the woman was sitting in the same seat. He was a little tense because he had taken her lips yesterday. As he saw her more and more often after that, he was less bothered by the afterimage of the old man and hoped that the Goh River valley and his mental images would intersect as they had before.
[Hyooya saw the record-keeper as an old man and the doctor as a woman. The doctor was a dark-skinned man in his late thirties, and the recorder had gray hair for a man in his late fifties. During the monologues, he always seemed extremely nervous and spoke in halting English while staring at the doctor.
Monologue of a dementia patient (1)
One morning, about a month later, the previous train was about 30 minutes late and left Y station after the time of the train that Hyooya usually takes. Most passengers boarded that train, but he boarded his usual train, which arrived even later. Looking around the almost empty train car, he saw her sitting in her usual seat. Naturally, he sat in the same box. Neither of them spoke a word until the next station. As soon as the train started moving, she spoke to him, as if to confirm that no one had boarded the train from that station. She spoke in English with an Indian accent.
What are you always thinking about when you stare at the window?
For a moment, Hyooya flinched. He was a kind of stalker for having stolen her lips, even though he had imagined it. He thought he was going to be questioned about it, so he braced himself. Even though he touched her lips, she must have been a setup to bring out his mental image. Thinking this, I looked out the window for a while. She, too, fell silent as if to say, “You’re the one who will talk next,” and put her shoulder against the window frame. Outside was covered with snow, creating a silver world like a shadowy painting. Trees with only branches and trunks glowed black, and the snow covering the top half of fallen trees emphasized the blackness of the trunks. Shrubs poking their heads out from under the snow were yellow with reddish brown tints, shining as if dusted with gold dust. A huge willow tree was spreading its flexible reddish young branches, signaling that spring was near.
Yes, she must be seeing the same view. I thought so, and instead of answering her questions, I began to talk in halting English about the mental images the valley scenery evoked in my mind.
[When I was in high school, we had a canary at home. Early every morning, I would go to a nearby field to pick the canaries. One morning, when I went to feed them as usual, I looked at the cage and saw that the bird was lying on its back. I gently touched it with my finger, but it did not move. I was so upset that I thought I had killed it. I had been thinking about the meaning of life and had decided that birds had no reason to exist. Although I had given the bird a boxelder every morning, neither the bird nor I thought there was any reason for it to live. That is why I did not even cry when the bird died. I grabbed the bird’s warm body in my hand, careful not to wake the rest of the family, and ran outside. I followed my usual path and entered a wooded area where I usually stop. The limp bird was wet with the sweat of my palms and rainwater, conveying the fresh feel of the creature. I laid it gently at the base of the tree and began to dig a hole with a piece of wood that had fallen nearby. Like a criminal, he dug frantically, frightened of his surroundings, but he never seemed to get anywhere. Gradually, the rain became worse and drips ran down his face. By the time he had buried the bird and covered the soil around it, he was soaked to the skin. That morning, I did not return home, did not go to school, and just kept walking.]
This is the kind of mental image that stuck with me in the wooded areas scattered along the Goh River. When the train entered the city center, I looked at her after our conversation and saw that her eyes were filled with incapacitating tears. Perhaps embarrassed at having spoken one-sidedly, when the train arrived at the W station, Hyooya walked quickly away.
Monologue of a Dementia Patient (2)
The next morning, she was in the same seat. Her bag was on the seat directly across from him. When Hyooya stopped beside the box, he took the bag and invited her to sit down. He sat down directly in front of her and turned his face toward the window with his head down. After the Y station, the scenery changed to a valley. After a while, there was an open riverbed, and the Goh River meandered greatly and intersected the railroad tracks. This was connected to the city of A in the northeast. On this day, he spoke one-sidedly and haltingly.
[The river runs through the outskirts of A city, and you can see the rolling mountains in the distance. I rode my bicycle to the river and wandered among the reeds. I didn’t need anything else but to watch the setting sun reflect off the surface of the river. In the winter, I walked fearlessly over the frozen stagnant water. In the spring, they would sit on the sandy banks of the riverbed and watch the river flow by. It was not on the ground, but at the bottom of the sky. Just lying on his back and looking at the sky, he lost track of time. The sound of the river flowing by, cars passing on the bridge, grass swaying in the wind, cows breathing as they huddled on the bank, larks soaring up from the reeds, birds flying in formation in the sky at dusk…
As a transfer student, Hyooya was isolated. The banks of the 洒 River were a safe place where he could be alone. He was only a passerby, having spent only two years in both H-city and A-city. Although the time spent in the two places were far apart, the landscapes were connected. While Hyooya was talking, she kept looking out the window. When she finished, she looked at him fondly. The next day, she took the seat across from him. As before, he spoke without being asked. It was around the time he was ten years old.
[One summer night I was home alone. At midnight, it began to rain heavily with thunderstorms, and no one from the family came home until late at night. Unable to sleep under the covers, he had to stay awake and wait for the thunder to go away. Gradually, the lightning grew closer, and the flashes like welding sparks and the thunderclaps that cut through the air became more and more intense. The shutters of the house were closed, but a white flash came through the skylight, and at the same time the thunder roared. It was torture for a boy who feared thunder. With each flash of lightning, the garden and the fence would briefly float in the pale blue light. This added to the boy’s fear. When the power went out and it was pitch-dark, I took a candle from the altar drawer, lit it by hand, and put it on the table in the living room. The flame of the candle was steady at first, but soon began to flicker. The wax accumulated around the wick under the flame, and the unstable flame flared up. Then the shadows jumped and danced with the movement of the flames, which amplified his fear. When the boy’s mother came home late at night, she spat out the word “liar” at him, and he crawled into the futon, sobbing.
She was trembling slightly as she listened to Hyooya’s story. When he finished speaking, she looked relieved.
That evening, Hyooya took the last train down from W station at 5:30 pm. He rarely took the train on his way home from work. As was my custom, I went to the second floor of the same train car as in the morning and found her in her usual seat. The window seat across from me was not available, but the seat next to her was empty, so I gave her a quick nod and sat down. It was winter and after five o’clock in the evening, darkness enveloped us and we could hardly see anything along the Goh River. Even as the Y station approached, Hyooya did not feel like getting off the train. Most of the passengers got off at Y station, but they continued on to the terminal station.
They got into her car, which was parked in the station parking lot, and drove for about an hour in the dark along an unpaved forest road. Her house seemed to be in a hollow, but I only have a vague sense of it. It was a small wooden house, a common sight in the suburbs of H City. She parked her car near the house and went up to the wooden terrace, opened the front door, and invited Hyooya in. The house was dark and cold. While she built a fire in the fireplace, he stood by and watched. When the flames started to burn briskly, he finally became accustomed to the darkness of the room and his body warmed up. As he listened, he could hear the bandoneon playing a quiet Argentine tango tune. She invited him to the next room. It was a studio-like room with a table in the center scattered with photographs of various sizes. They all appeared to be landscapes, and some were quite old.
When I entered the darkroom in one corner of the room, I could smell the pungent odor of acetic acid in the red light. The solid photos hanging down were all scenes along the Goh River. Suddenly I felt very fond of her and gently embraced her. She was no longer a sawtooth oak, but a woman with a plump body. After leaving the darkroom, I picked up the photos scattered around the room one by one and looked at them as if I were on a commuter train for the first time and was drawn to the scenery outside the window. All were in black and white, and the older ones were sepia-toned. However, the usual view of the Gou River and that of the photographs could not possibly be the same place. What Hyooya knew was the semi-natural landscape of the suburbs of the city, while the one in the photograph was the wild nature itself.
At a simple dinner, over a glass of wine, she spoke exclusively. It was the first time they had talked like this. On the train, Hyooya spoke one-sidedly, and there was no way of knowing how much of what he said was conveyed to her and how she understood it. When she spoke once, he did not respond to her words, but rather he gave a one-sided monologue. They were sharing a dining table. She must have been in her mid thirties. She was born in a small town along the Goh River and spent her childhood there. Later, when a highway was built along the lower reaches of the river, she moved to the northern part of H city with her parents who loved the nature of the Goh River. Her family ran a dairy farm. She spent her college years in the city and stayed in the city to live with a friend from her college days, but they broke up a few years later and moved to this house. He has been taking pictures on weekends in search of the nature left in the H-city area for several years.
After getting off at the terminal station, he seems to have been away from the real world while driving through the darkness for a few hours. The blackness of the wooden house and surrounding trees, the old furniture in the dimly lit room, the brick fireplace, and the black-and-white photographs scattered around the studio all seemed to pull him away from reality. Although he had no fear, he felt uneasy as if he was gradually being separated from the real world. He knew that once he was trapped in this sensation, he would not be able to escape for several months. I can be aware of it now because I am still on the border of the real world, but if I am completely trapped, I will not be able to be aware of it. We are supposed to be familiar with the situation, but when we are put in it, we cannot escape. A sense of detachment from the real world can occur with love. The euphoria of having a dark-skinned woman lying beside you is mixed with the fear that one day it will fall apart. For the next three months or so, I would take the evening train to the terminal station on weekends and stay at her house. The season is transitioning from winter to spring, and even though the ground is covered with snow, the mellow yellow of the willow branches and the pale red of the shrub branches tell us that spring is near. Trees were stretching their dark brown branches as hard as they could, as if their roots were growing upside down toward the sky.
Reunion with the Old Man
One morning at the beginning of the week, Hyooya took the first train alone. Normally they go to work together, but she was on vacation that day, so she dropped him off at the station and went back home. I had gotten used to the first station, and among the people waiting for the train on the platform, there were a few familiar faces. Passengers were getting off the buses connected to the train service and spread out on the platform. The train was running a little late and there seemed to be more passengers than usual. For a moment, I thought I saw the old man among them. Although we had only met a few months before and sat in the same box seat on the train, I was filled with a sense of nostalgia. As I made my way through the crowd toward him, I saw a train entering the platform with its whistle blowing. As usual, the train stopped without regard to its stopping position, and people began to crowd around the doors of the train.
I approached the door of the car where the old man was, taking care not to lose sight of him. He boarded the train with ease, and several of us followed him. He sat down in the same seat he had taken a few months earlier and remained still, his eyes fixed on the window. Paiya sat diagonally in front of him and observed him from the same position as before. Then, as if the attraction had been a lie, she was enveloped in a calmness like the surface of a lake without waves. What was this calmness, even though the person to whom I had been so drawn was right in front of me? Who was this man who had filled Hyooya, who had been fascinated by the scenery along the Goh River before meeting the old man, with an unexplainable attraction that made him feel uneasy? After meeting him, in his unstable state of mind, he met a woman, and Hyooya became integrated into the landscape of the Goh River in a different way than before. There is no doubt that his relationship with her kept the old man away. If that was the case, he was confused as to what was this tranquility that the reunion had brought.
The old man had deteriorated noticeably, and had become very depressed over the past few months. His expression as he gazed out the window was different from the last time he had been there, as if he had fallen ill. When contrasted with the early spring scenery along the Goh River, his emaciated appearance was quite noticeable. This is one of the cruel aspects of the spring season.
Before I knew it, the train had entered the dimly lit premises of the W station. There was not a soul in the train, only the old man and Hyooya were left. He stood up and walked slowly down the aisle to the platform. Hyooya followed him as ordered, but lost sight of him in the crowd of commuters. He vanished without a trace, so suddenly that one might have suspected it was an illusion.
The old man who passed away in the other world
After meeting the old man again, Hyooya was struck by a different kind of anxiety. This anxiety drove him away from her and made him take the subway instead of taking the train. It was not that there was any emotional tension between the two of them, but rather that he was unilaterally distancing himself from her.
One morning, when Hyooya was getting off the subway at the W station as usual, she bumped into a man who was getting on the train with great force and almost fell down. When he regained his balance and looked up, he saw the old man standing in his way. He was caught in the gravitational pull of the man again. He was pushed back into the subway car and followed him to the museum station. I sat down alongside him in front of the museum and looked up at the sky for a while, but as soon as it opened, I followed him into the museum. When we arrived at the dimly lit domed hall surrounded by Buddhist murals, the old man stopped walking and stood motionless in prayer in front of the central statue of Buddha, which reminded me of the Yungang stone Buddha. The silence of the cave-like atmosphere made me feel as if I was in the 89th century, when Buddhism was at its height. After a while, tears began to well up in Hyooya’s eyes as he gazed at the Buddha image, and then they were replaced by sobs. When I was a boy, I had a similar experience at my maternal grandfather’s funeral home.
[My grandfather was especially fond of me among his grandchildren. Perhaps it was because my mother was his youngest daughter. Sometimes he came over to our house to weed the garden and cut the Japanese cypress on the hedge. It was also with my grandfather that I went to City A to take the high school entrance examination. It was the last trip on a steam locomotive. When the train entered the tunnel, soot came in, and my grandfather rushed to lower the window frame. The smile on my grandfather’s face, the sooty wooden window frames, the white shirt sticking out of the cuffs of his school uniform, and the sound of the train whistle all remind me of these images. My grandfather, who grew up in a rural village in the countryside, disposed of his fields when he was young and moved to Tokyo with his wife, where they were attacked by pickpockets in Ueno Station and lost all their possessions. My grandfather, who was at his wits’ end, began by selling bananas, and after moving from one plant market to another in Ueno, he settled on the lucrative business of selling plants and fresh flowers. When he went to the bathtub with them, he would scrub their backs with a tortoise-shaped scrubbing brush. No matter how hard I tried, he never said it hurt. He often scolded me with a laugh, but I laughed too. I feel a connection between my grandfather and the old man in front of me.]
It had been quite some time since I entered the museum. When I regained some composure and looked around, the old man who should have been in front of me was not there. Just like when I lost him in the crowd at the station, he disappeared without a trace. When he turned to the front again and looked up at the statue, he saw an unbelievable sight. There was an old man standing like a follower of the huge Buddha image. Rubbing his eyelids, he looked again and saw that it was a standing plaster statue of a practicing Buddhist monk, who definitely looked like him and was smiling gently. For a moment, I was reminded of my first encounter with him and the feeling of having stolen the lips of a dark-skinned woman. As I bowed my palms to the monk, I could see the old man and the woman walking away from me.
Part 3. drifting people and schools of fish
[The third part takes place in 230, on the same island of Japan as the first part. Most of the descriptions are taken from Hyooya’s (Hyoya) notes, but there are a few descriptions that are not well understood, perhaps because the recorder’s time line stops in the year 220. In the latter half of Part III, the boundary between him and Hyooya becomes blurred in the recorder’s consciousness, disrupting the style of the record].
Reunion with the old people
It was the morning of a cold day in January or February. The Globe Station, located in the center of the capital of Japan, was crowded with people as usual. Everyone was walking with their palms facing down, and when they bumped into someone or something, they would raise their heads. Stopping at the wall of the aisle, I found the movements of the people to be somewhat mechanical and robotic. For a moment, I thought I saw an old man in a wheelchair refereeing a ball game. No, it might have been the old man on the train running along the Goh River. Whether they were the same person is also uncertain. No, it could have been two people.
Throughout the 2000s, all wheelchairs became motorized, even replacing light cars in the cities. In the 1930s, wheelchairs were not a particularly unusual sight, as many people everywhere were riding around in them with ease. Normally, I would not have paid any attention to them, but I noticed an old man in a wheelchair who looked exactly like the man I had seen some 450 years earlier. However, there was no way that he (or she) could still be alive half a century ago. I tried to dismiss it, but something kept me from doing so. While I was thinking about it, I was drawn by the strong attraction of the old man, and I followed him. I looked at his appearance and face and tried desperately to pick up the fragments of my memory, but I could not remember. I told myself that it had been so many years that a 20-year-old young man had become a 70-year-old man, but I could not help wondering what had made me think that they were the same person.
In the summer of 1980, the old man in Car 3 of the moving N’Vini Temple was in a wheelchair. In the late fall of 1990, the old man I met on the train in the city of H walked with a wide legged gait. The man in front of me now is dressed in black, both top and bottom, and his gray hair is as prominent as it was then. If they were the same person, they would be over 100 years old, but at first glance, they look much the same as they did in the past, around 70 years old. At first glance, however, they appeared to be around 70 years old, much the same as they had been in the past, only they lacked their former vigor and looked very gaunt. I followed the wheelchair, wondering if it might not be the same person. People marched down the underpass of Grove Station, their shoes making a sound like military boots, bumping into wheelchairs, passing by them, and being sucked into the escalators like a herd of small animals. When the group of people disappeared from sight, the campus quieted down for a moment, and the sound of the motor and shoes of his (her) wheelchair echoed quietly. He (and others) rode up the long escalator. The wheelchair is firmly engaged in the escalator, keeping it stable and level, and he (and others) are carried along without moving.
When the escalator reached the top step, the wheelchair was released smoothly. As they passed through the gate leading to the ground level, a high-pitched electronic beep sounded, frightening them. He (and others) know that all gate entries and exits are recorded. The inhabitants of the island of Japan, including the short-stay pagans, are not allowed to escape this control system. Every movement of people on the island was monitored. Once on the ground, he (she) went through a long corridor to a skyscraper across the street that resembled Gaudi’s architecture. The station is barrier-free from the inside to the end of the building, so the wheelchair user does not have any difficulty in moving around. The wheelchair quickly entered the building protruding from the ground floor. In one corner of the huge warehouse-like space, there were tables and chairs, as well as a counter, with shelves of various goods, leaving room for both people and wheelchairs. It is a typical architectural style of the Nvinist temples that spread throughout the islands of Japan from around 2,000 years ago.
Near noon on a winter day, the Nvini temple is crowded with men and women, young and old, walking around the shelves and praying. In the late 2000s, temples began to handle not only the desires of the people, but also finance, mail, and even funerals. For example, the simplest funerals were those in which the coffin was placed in a thick plastic bag with other items from the temple, placed in a truck, and carried to the riverbed where it was submerged in the river’s current. Pagans were similarly transported by truck and cremated at a waste disposal facility along with oversize garbage. The temple also made the arrangements. Many murders were committed under the guise of river burial, which had the detrimental effect of increasing the number of missing persons. People lived in anxiety, but rarely did they fear it. They do not see the negative aspects of convinience. On this day, he (she) put two packages of food from the shelves of the temple into the side bag of his wheelchair, bowed to a dark-skinned woman standing near the entrance, and walked out the door through which he had just entered. At that moment, an electronic beep sounded again. Again, the entry and exit were recorded, and the amount of money donated was deducted from the number of dots he (or she) owned. From his birth to his death, all of Nvini’s activities were recorded and preserved along with the number of dots.
[It seems that the number of dots was considered to be a number that was deeply related to people’s destiny, far more so than the number of points in the early 2000s. Part of it was called economic power, which was also thought to be related to the length of one’s life span. Vending machines, which serve as money boxes in the Nvini religion, are also related to the number of dots. The Nvini believed in the number of dots, even though the record keepers thought it was just a superstition. What they had no way of doing was to deal with the increase in the number of suicides. Many of them commit suicide because of a sudden drop in the number of dots.]
Suicides increased in both urban and rural areas, especially among the elderly. The high suicide rate was undesirable for any religious denomination, so the priests tried to reduce it somehow, but there was no way to stop it. Whenever someone commits suicide somewhere, the temple center, which oversees temples in each region, is contacted, and a priest from the nearest center attends and performs an autopsy. However, this is not the case with train suicides, which are the most common type of suicide. The first cars of subways and trains were equipped with sensors and a netting device with a lid, similar to a russell truck in areas with heavy snowfall. When a person was found lying on the tracks or in a ditch, the device would immediately activate, scoop up the body, and cover it with a lid. At the same time, the area around the accident site is washed with a highly concentrated high-pressure cleaning solution. The body is then transported to the nearest station, where a priest will confirm whether he is alive or dead. In all cases, no life-prolonging measures will be taken. While it may be said that the wishes of the deceased are respected, in the case of the railroads, the main reason was to minimize train delays caused by the accident. In the past, it was not uncommon for train service to be suspended for an hour or more due to the time required to examine the accident site. Although the processing time has been greatly reduced, it has not been without problems. The reason is that the system eliminated the need for on-site inspections to determine whether a person committed suicide or was killed by another person, and thus became a breeding ground for criminal activity.
Inside the temple center
He (and others) entered the temple center of the area, which has a N’Vini temple on the lobby floor. There are nine levels, from zero, ten, and twenty, including the lobby, to seventy and eighty plus. Each tier has floors from zero to nine (zero to nine plus for the 80 plus tier), and Nvini goes to each age tier. A guardian can accompany the nvini to the zero and tenth floors, and caregivers and guardians can accompany the nvini to the other floors as well. The elderly went in and out of the 70th or 80+ level of the center, depending on their age, but priests who had served for three years or more were free to go anywhere they wished.
The building is vaulted from the lobby to the top level, and looking up from the lobby floor, it appears as if one is at the bottom of a huge deep well. The building has a three-dimensional shape based on a demographic graph of the area, and the exterior of the building was regularly renovated in response to demographic changes. The circular lobby is flanked by a series of doors for each level of the building, and the congregation enters through the doors that lead to their respective levels. When standing in front of a door that does not belong to one’s hierarchy, wind pressure pushes both the person standing and the person in a wheelchair back to the center of the lobby. The floor of the lobby is a checkered pattern of alternating black and white squares, the same as in the salons of the Argentine tango. It is the same as the floor of the dome at Globe Station.
Each floor of the building has a space reserved for people of a certain age. It seems that he (they) were also nvini and could go to the temple and the lobby floor as well as to the level of their age. His (and hers) level was the fourth floor of the 70th level. Except during the night hours, it provided a place for devotees to work, study, and play to earn dots. The building’s interior was always kept at a constant temperature and humidity, cool in summer and warm in winter, so there was no sense of seasonality. People wanted artificial conditions of constant temperature and humidity.
[In the year 30, the majority of people on the island of Japan were Nvini, interprets Hyooya. The number of Nvini temples continued to increase throughout the 1970s and seems to have reached saturation by 1920. Vending machines were placed in remote areas where there were no temples or in plain residential areas, and they served not only as money dispensers but also as temples to worship the local people. The inside of the vending machine was also kept at a constant temperature.]
It is not only temple centers and Nvini temples that are without seasons. Trains, of course, and subways run in tunnels under the road, so passengers do not see the outside scenery and cannot even feel the outside air. It was the elderly who needed a comfortable environment the most, and it was a matter of life and death. Several hundred people had space on the fourth floor of the seventy-story building. Reflecting the demographics of the time, the space was larger than the other levels. When people were born, they were given a three-dimensional code based on their genetic information. This code could be used to identify all living creatures and people on the island of Japan, so that people did not need personal names. The elevator doors that line the perimeter of the lobby are also monitored by biometrics. The old men went to this building every day and silently stared at their palms, hardly speaking to each other. People’s holding spaces were on cyber and could be operated with the fingers of their hands. Once in their own space, they were given daily tasks, most of which were performed in the palm of their hands. In return, they received a trivial number of dots.
There was always a revolving door on each floor of the temple center. After a person wishing to commit suicide passed through the door after being confirmed by a priest, there was a platform on the outside for jumping off. The purpose of this is to bring back those who have not yet decided to commit suicide while the revolving doors are turning, but few people ever return. The place where suicide victims fall is the river that flows around the center, which has a deep, unfathomable valley. The bodies of those who fell were preyed upon by carnivorous fish, and only the thick bones sank to the bottom of the valley in the muddy current. The fish, which usually ate only pieces of plastic, devoured human flesh.
People staring at their palms
People spent most of their time, except for sleep, looking at their palms. When walking, waiting for the train or subway to arrive, on the train, riding the escalator, sitting on the toilet seat, eating, killing time, etc., people always looked at their palms, whether they were at home or out and about. They never stopped looking at their palms when driving a car or riding a bicycle. When they walked, they turned their palms toward themselves and bent their elbows 90 degrees. Throughout the station, people were warned not to walk while looking at their palms, but no one obeyed the warning. Finding their own personal space in the data stored in their palms, including photos and videos, and spending time reading their favorite news or comics or playing games became the daily routine for most people. Many people were involved in accidents while walking, and people were constantly falling from station platforms onto the tracks.
[By the year 30, smartphones seemed to have undergone a revolutionary change and became known as smart phones. Unlike in the 20s, the palm of the hand itself apparently performed that function. It is hard for doctors and record-keepers to imagine, but Hyooya sometimes made movements that seemed to be the case during his examinations. He would operate the phone as if it were in his palm, even though he was not holding it in his hand, and would explain it enthusiastically].
When he rubbed his left palm with his finger, the smartphone screen would rise in his left hand, and when he rubbed both palms together, the screen would appear in both hands. The screen size can also be enlarged or reduced. The bottom edge of the smartphone touches the wrist, and the entire screen appears to float above the palm of the hand. The screen is always kept at a comfortable angle for viewing, and the angle of the screen can be freely adjusted by holding up or deflecting the fingers. The resolution of the screen is much higher, and you don’t have to look into the screen as much as before. To turn off the smartphone screen, simply rub the palm of your hand again. Since it feels like a part of your body has become a smartphone, there is no need to worry about misplacing or dropping it, and it will automatically disappear when you fall and touch your palm. The device uses a weak electric current based on the metabolism of the body, so it does not require a battery. The camera lens function is housed in the fingernail of the index or middle finger, and the shutter is on the fingertip of the same finger, which is lightly pressed with the fingertip of the thumb. The microphone and speaker functions for recording are also located on the fingertip, and input is done by voice or finger. For voice input, you can bring the palm of your hand near your mouth and whisper, and you can also input text by writing letters on the palm of your hand with the fingers of the opposite hand. You can scan a text or image written on a separate sheet of paper by simply holding the palm of your hand over it. When washing hands or bathing, the screen can be turned off and it becomes just a palm. Just imagine an old smartphone screen projection-mapped onto the palm of your hand.
However, as smartphones have become more and more popular, people have become more and more self-enclosed and less willing to listen to the opinions of others. People who thought that what was projected on a part of their body was themselves looked only at their palms. They were able to take pictures and videos at will, and this made their voyeurism even more sophisticated. People with a combination of autism and smartphone addiction, who have no regard for their surroundings or others, abounded in the streets. The situation has become commonplace, similar to the situation in the early 2000s when a new type of coronavirus infection raged around the world and people were banned from leaving their homes. Family conflicts, including those between parents and their children, increased, and many parents were killed and their children abused. More and more people were busy protecting and justifying their own interests, and incidents of bullying and murder became commonplace in workplaces and schools. Furthermore, the number of prohibited phrases increased, free conversation was restricted, and the words people uttered became empty.
[In the years after Corona, the wearing of government masks became mandatory and was once used by the ruling class on the island of Japan as a means of speech containment, but it became the norm.]
With the spread of smartphones, the incorporation of irreligious groups by the former ruling class quickly accelerated. In the late 20s, both old TV and old newspapers were replaced by smartphones, and the high-rise buildings that housed these old media became useless and were transformed into temples and church centers for non-religious groups, including the Nvinis. The presence of spaces resembling former coffee shops and convenience stores on the ground floor of the center is a remnant of this transformation.
Blurred Gender Differences
The number of priests has increased along with the rise of the non-religious sect. In the past, most Nvinist priests were male. Later, after criticism from other irreligious groups, the number of female priests was increased, and by 2005 the ratio of male to female priests was almost equal. The figure of 50% women was important because numbers play an important role in Nvinism, which has no doctrine. Even before the number of female priests increased, the number of pagan priests, both male and female, had increased rapidly. In 20, pagans were incorporated within the system, but this does not mean that N’Viniism was tolerant of pagans. Since there was no explicit doctrine, they would only accept them when outside pressures increased and became uncontrollable, and they had no choice but to accept them.
[According to Hyooya, there seems to have been a major change in public hygiene and the sexual attitudes of men and women by the year 30, following the Corona disaster of 20].
Toilets in public restrooms are Western-style, with one placed in each semi-private booth. The semi-private rooms have only a two-meter-high partition between the left and right booths along the wall, with no top and no door. There is no water tank, just a toilet seat. The user sits on the toilet seat in the booth facing the wall, not against the wall as in the conventional type. There is no door behind the user, but only an aisle with enough space for two people to pass each other. From the aisle, the user’s back and buttocks are visible. Most of the users are staring at the wall with their palms facing it. When someone sits on a toilet seat, the ventilation fan and light in that booth are activated. Men sit on the toilet seat even when urinating, so there are no urinals for men only. Separate public restrooms for men and women are no longer necessary.
[By 30, agriculture on the island of Japan had turned to organic farming, and the excreted feces and urine were instantly dehydrated, powdered, and reprocessed as compost. With the elimination of flush toilets, water tanks have become useless. Come to think of it, even in urban areas, before flush toilets became widespread, people used to use manure tanks. The shift to dehydrated toilets was prompted by the Great Japan Earthquake that hit the entire island of Japan one after another at the end of 2008. In the 20th century, toilets and bathhouses on the island of Japan were separated by sex. Going further back, it is said that men and women bathed together in local hot springs and therapeutic bathhouses, and that common bathhouses were also mixed before the nineteenth century. In the latter half of the 19th century, according to Pinyin, mixed bathing was considered uncivilized under the influence of pagan teachings, and gradually became a separate practice. It is not so difficult for those who have experienced mixed bathing to move to separate bathing, but those who have become accustomed to separate bathing are quite reluctant to return to mixed bathing. In the 2000s, people rapidly lost their sense of sexual shame, but it took time for mixed bathing to take root among them, and there were regional differences in its spread. According to Hyooya, “It was a transitional period at that time.]
The old people used public bathhouses every day, but their comings and goings were also monitored. Men and women, young and old, sat naked in a large open space, washing their bodies and washing their hair. Some men and women were sharing a small bathtub. Imagine a herd of animals bathing in the savanna. After all, humans are animals, too. Even in the bathhouse, they do not talk much. Sometimes the sound of children crying could be heard. Perhaps the people wanted to be free from the palm of my hand. Having been accustomed to a constant temperature and humidity, they were pleasantly stimulated by the hot and humid baths. More than that, nostalgia for the nineteenth century must have been strong.
[Hyooya also makes an interesting observation about Nvini’s romantic feelings.]
Nvini was allowed to have free love affairs between men and women, women and women, and men and men. What seems peculiar is that not a few of these love affairs took place in a moving temple. Attachment was formed when a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man, were in close contact with each other during rush hour. Although many people believe that romantic feelings are born from sight, such love is not common on the island of Japan. As is the case with some insects, love is born from the sense of touch. Even those who do not believe in romantic feelings generated by the sense of touch may still be able to associate sexual love with the sense of skin. However, contact between couples who have developed romantic feelings is only skin contact, and does not lead to immediate sexual intercourse. It may be difficult to understand for those who fall in love from the sense of sight, but in tactile love, the love is complete just by being in contact with each other. It is similar to the pseudo-romance one experiences when dancing the Argentine tango.
[According to Hyooya, the island of Japan was in the temperate zone throughout the latter half of the 20th century, but the temperature and humidity rose sharply in the 20s, and by 30, the climate became subtropical.]
The old men went to a nearby temple center every day. There, cut off from the outside world, they retained their former temperate environment. The problem was the interval between when they were in their respective residences and when they entered the train or subway station on the ground to go to the Nvinni temple or temple center. In fact, many of them were so tired from going back and forth between the temple and their residences that they collapsed along the way. When they collapsed, they were not cremated, but were carried by truck to the riverbed and washed into the river. It was the same as the simplest N’vini funeral.
Tidal waves and tango
[There was a plaza in the temple center where the elderly attended that was used by local residents, and Hyooya would often come here to join the milonga circle that turned in the opposite direction of the clock, with many people dancing].
The entrance and exit on the ground floor is a revolving door, and the building has a five-story atrium from the second basement floor to the third floor above ground. Every night, old men would gather in that plaza from nowhere and dance the Argentine tango until dawn. Not only N’Vini but also pagans were there. The tango music echoed through the space where there were no noisy children, no conversations or phone calls.
[The old men also went to the seaside, sometimes with an irresistible longing for the sea. They would go to the nearby seashore to listen to the roar of the tide and experience the waves lapping repeatedly against the shore. One day, at dawn, a large group of short, familiar people approached the beach where Hyooya and the old man were standing. One by one, they came up to the beach, and were swept in by the waves. They all wore expressionless smiles and invited Hyooya and the old men to go somewhere. While the old men hesitated to accept the invitation, dawn broke and they vanished without a trace. That day, when they returned to their tents, they could not sleep and felt paralyzed.
A few days after their trip to the beach, the elderly men invited the women priests on the same floor to go to the temple center late at night. It was after 1 a.m. and no trains or subways were running, but the dome of the Grove Station was lit up with twinkling lights. However, when they arrived at the lobby of the temple center, the 70-story door that was supposed to open just as they stood in front of it did not even budge. This had never happened before, and the old man was almost crushed by a vague feeling of anxiety. A few moments later, a deafening, angry voice echoed from the dome’s ceiling. It sounded more like the roar of an animal than a human voice, and the eeriness of the sound made the old man and the women priests unable to stand still.
After a few breathless moments, the sound of an Argentine tango song suddenly came on loudly, as if someone was singing in the sky. It was as if someone was singing above them. The old men and the priests must have been in the lobby of the temple center at the time, or maybe it was the dome of the Grove Station. Either way, there was a different kind of solemn tango music echoing through the air. Several times I headed for the door on the 70th floor, but each time I was pulled back and made to step away. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get close enough. The old man and the priests were so upset that they ran out of energy and sat down in the center of the lobby. When they looked around, they saw hundreds or even thousands of other people gathered there.
It was at that moment that the old man, who had been chasing Hyooya, came to the center of the lobby. Near the door of the 70th level, where the old man Hyooya had been chasing had always boarded, there was a sudden darkening, and another door seemed to open, inviting them in. The door was not the usual sliding type, but a revolving type. People who had been sitting in the center of the lobby made their way toward the revolving door and were sucked in one after the other. When the revolving doors stopped, a huge elevator that could have held several thousand people slowly and quietly descended into the depths of the earth. It is said that those who go to the bottom of the earth can never return to the surface, but this did not matter. Whether it was a sliding or revolving elevator, once the doors opened, there was no choice but to get in, and such compulsion seemed to work on everyone gathered in the lobby. It was the habit of Nvini or the infidels to rush toward the train doors.
Funeral Circuit Train.
[Where am I? The boundary between the recorder and the recliner was blurred. The visible landscape is the same as before, yet something is different. The music was familiar, yet somehow uncertain and unreliable. It looks like the Temple Center and like the lobby of the Grove Station. What is certain is that the giant bright square is filled with old people, or should I say men and women, young and old, and many pagans of different skin colors. All are uniformly expressionless and smiling].
Hyooya must have followed one old man and observed the behavior of him and the people around him, but at some point it began to happen that one person would appear to be more than one person and then return to being one person again. This illusion gradually increased, and he sometimes suddenly lost sight of the elderly people he was supposed to be following, which made him feel uneasy. Sometimes he would suddenly feel dizzy.
[At the same time, the recorder was suffering from similar symptoms. His job of preparing records of Hyooya’s treatment was not going as well as before. He began to feel a sense of closeness to Hyooya, whom he had previously viewed as a single patient. Perhaps the record keeper’s dementia had progressed and she felt closer to him. There were times when I felt like I had lost something somewhere, but I didn’t know what it was or when or where it happened].
Late at night, when a milonga was being held in the lobby of either the Temple Center or the Grove Station, where tangos were danced throughout the night, a circular train was moving slowly over the single-track rail line. The headlights illuminated the rails and sleepers, which were overgrown with invasive weeds and littered with trash on both sides of the track. The driver moves the train along the two rails, and the conductor preaches to the empty car. In the pitch black darkness, the train is moving slowly, as if it is about to come to a stop.
Gatterdotton, Dutton-gutton, Dutton-gutton, Dutton-dutton, Gutton-dutton, Dutton-gutton, Dutton-gutton
Standing in the middle of the railroad crossing, looking at the red spherical lights shining at the very end of the train, I see Nvini and the infidels dancing like a mirage between the crossing and the train, entangling and recomposing themselves. A cliff looms in front of the train, and the entrance to the tunnel, illuminated by the train’s headlights, can be seen in the distance. The end of the rails meander and descend like a river.
[Something’s not right. The recorder, who is supposed to be recording his world of memories, not Pinyin, feels as if he is looking at the scenery. That can’t be happening. Couldn’t this circular train be the elevator that was behind the revolving doors, with a capacity of several thousand passengers? If so, where did the people on board go? Where did the old men and women, the young men and women, the children and priests, and Hyooya, who must have accompanied them, who boarded the elevator through the revolving door, go?]
A school of fish with no name
A few years after the scene of the revolving train, nobody talked about Hyooya anymore, and he became a forgotten man. And yet, only the recorder could not escape his spell. Just as Hyooya could not resist the pull of the old men, the recorders were trapped by his strong pull and could not move.
When he went to the bridge where Hyooya’s tent was located, he found that the flood of 2008 had washed away his tent and furniture without a trace. We went to the lobby of the temple center and the temple he attended on numerous occasions, but no trace of Hyooya was left behind. The recorder spent more and more time in temples and churches of various non-religious denominations, including N’vini. In early summer, as I looked out through the glass window while operating my phone at the counter of one church, a strong wind was swirling and shaking the branches of the street trees violently. Above us, black clouds were flying at tremendous speed. Something ominous might happen. But as long as we were in the church, there was nothing to worry about. The non-religious group would accept anyone.
“Welcome, are you a member? ……Yes, sir. ……Are you finished? ……With your card, please… …please touch…… excuse me……Your membership is renewed every two years.”
A young female priest, with a pagan accent at the beginning of her words, is repeatedly exchanging mechanical words with a convert. It is indeed a very lean exchange. Incidentally, many of the people who are asked whether or not they want to join the church are there only to observe. The repetition of this same line is unbearable to the ears of the recorder.
Huey-pooh, pooh-pooh, pooh-pooh, pooh-pooh, pooh-pooh, pooh-pooh, pooh-pooh.
As I approached the door to leave the church, an ambulance approached with a loud siren and pulled into the lot and stopped. Two paramedics unloaded their tanker and disappeared somewhere, returning a short time later with an elderly man on top of the tanker. For a moment, I thought I recognized him, but I couldn’t be sure. He tried to approach the tanka, but could not make out who the pale-complexioned man was.
After leaving the church, the recorder began walking along the riverside path. He walked for an hour, trying to remember the old man who had been carried away in the tanka. He sat down on a riverside bench to take a break and fell asleep while looking at the muddy surface of the river (kawamo). After some time, he was awakened by the sound of a fish jumping up and falling into the water. When I looked at the surface of the river, I saw a fish(uo) with the face of Hyooya, with an expressionless smile on his face. A moment later, I realized. The person carried away in the tanka was one of the old men he had been chasing.
Hyooya must have been on the circular train. That was N’vini’s funeral rite. They must have been dropped from the train into the river, where they were fed to the fish. I finally understood the meaning of what he had once told me, that people buried in a river burial become fish. And when he learned that he had become a fish, his incapacitating tears flowed out and turned into sobs.
I wondered what kind of world Hyooya, who had become a fish in the river, was living in. Is the river quiet or noisy? Do the fish crowd around the human carcass and make waves? Does the man with the expressionless smile live in fear of the flood, as he did when he lived in a tent by the river? The recorder looked at him as a fish, and was somehow relieved to see the expression on his pointed face. Since that day, we have gone to the same riverside spot every day, often sitting on a bench and staring at the surface of the river.
I wondered why Hyooya, who disliked N’vini so much, continued to obsessively observe him. Who was he to live angrily surrounded by N’vini and the infidels? Is he now a fish, swimming against the current of the river, struggling to stay alive? Is he resting at the bottom of the river? It seems that he had the following exchange with Hyooya, who had turned into a fish, but it is not certain.
The underwater life is neither gloomy nor inconvenient. It is bright and clear beyond your imagination. Various lights shine in from various directions and sparkle. The water always beats with an endless flow of water. The fish dance the Argentine tango to the colors, sounds, and swells. There is also a milonga every night. There’s no hurry, but come here as soon as you can.
Yes, I would like to stay here for another ten years or so, but they probably won’t listen to my wishes anyway, so maybe I’ll see you soon.
I would like to stay here for another ten years, but they won’t listen to my wishes.
He repeatedly called out Hyooya’s name. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of fish were struggling, jumping, and bumping into each other, forming a muddy black current that was swirling counterclockwise. Such a scene came to the recorder’s mind. This was the tango dance of the fish. The moment he was convinced of this, he was swallowed up by the whirlpool without a second thought.
Ten years have passed since then, but I have never heard of anyone who saw the recorder.