This is the second half of the first chapter of the novel titled “Cube City” (立方体都市), which was originally written in Japanese by Ikkai Inubousaki (犬吠埼一介). I’ve gotten the author’s permission to translate it into English and put it on my blog.
Thanks much to Yeti for doing a translation check and proofread of both parts of this chapter.
If you liked this chapter, please leave a comment here (or vote for it on my survey here) to help me decide what to translate more of.
Chapter 1: “Cube City” (Part 2)
Sometimes I took a taxi and went outside Idea City. The importance of seeing the big picture shouldn’t be underestimated. Don’t you think that knowing this kind of thing makes me the perfect fit for Idea City? Schroedinger can’t ride in the taxi. Pitiful little cat. The car stopped at a hill, a rare sight normally nonexistent in a world of paper.
It’s funny how a little elevation makes the strings of words upon paper look completely different. Enraptured by the view, I carefully rechecked the words laid down so far, their power almost magical. In theory, the Erasers shouldn’t be able to come out this far, but with the author being an idiot (like the other day), you never know.
In this world, only once words are joined do they take on real meaning. That’s because it is I who organizes the author’s thoughts, viewing the world outside his head through a rotating eye of light. Recent trends are important. Very important, you see. Trends and tactics. The author has chosen the power of ideals as his tactic against the outside world. He thinks in terms of logic, reason.
But that means me, right? That cat thinks he is hot stuff because of the impressive sentences he forms on rare occasions, but his words are utter nonsense–nothing more than the pawprints of a cat. Pitter, patter, pitter-patter, meow. P-poppycock! Stop it already. Leave my well-ordered world alone!
Where am I, you ask? Right around the center of the world. This place is my little secret, so don’t tell anyone. If you do, the cat’s pawprints will be all over here in no time. This is where the world of stacked up paper is folded outside of the author’s head. Usually the letters are never aware of its existence. However, I found it. I get the feeling that here I can get my hands on the letters to spell “a different viewpoint”.
I joined the letters, laid them out one by one. The Fortress of Ideals is constructed by degrees. You know, I am really good at this. But there is no food here. Nowhere to live, nothing to wear. I won’t survive long. Alright, I guess I should just make some food, a place to live, clothes, and then a fence to enclose it all. These all appeared in Cube City, instantly.
In the blink of an eye, the Fortress of Ideals became a massive castle. Sure, it’s only a castle made of letters, but when viewed here from the center of the world it’s quite convincing. I’m sure you’re fascinated. Even the world outside the author’s head should be like this. All answers are provided, in perfect precision. Not a single inconsistency. That cat ran off somewhere.
The ground shook, along with my confidence. Woah, what was that? The Erasers again? It’s a little late. It can’t be them. In any case, I went to Fickliana’s room without a moment’s hesitation. I was relieved to see she was still there. How strange. She seemed disturbed by something. I wonder what. Did something happen to her? Heck, I’m only Suregio, how would I know? (See translation note #1)
She was gently caressing a cloth she had woven herself. Her downcast eyes avoided me. Huh? Is that cloth really that great? Well, my castle is pretty great too. Just see for yourself. The author’s head is filled up with the castle I’ve created. It’s completely packed full of it!
Fickliana suddenly began to cry. My fortress wavered, the air tingling from the shock. Somewhere, the cat called out. I felt like I was on top of the world, but this was no time for that–my girlfriend, Fickliana, was crying. I took her hand and tried to look her directly in the eyes, something I almost never do. She’s the only thing I can’t figure out.
I remember the day we went to that place together. The story is really going to work out this time! I tried to convince her passionately as I gestured, or should I say filled up my body with the letters for “Going to work!” But she only shook her head slightly, even though we both knew negative thoughts like that would only excite the Erasers.
A secret place at the center of the world of paper, known only to me. It is starting to rise up. I haven’t told anyone, even Fickliana, about the magnificent view from there. Being here for so long, I think she understands what the eye of the lighthouse watches. Her words are soft. When I touch them, their tenderness mesmerizes me. Cat, keep your dirty paws off her!
The ideals have finally begun to envelop the world of paper. They’ve piled up, higher and higher. I no longer need to stand in the center of the world. I ran around freely amongst the bundles of paper in the author’s head, leveraging–that’s right–my power of certainty that’s been built up systematically. Is this still not enough to make the sun rise?
By the way, I’m curious what happened to that cat. I haven’t seen him around lately. Just as I was thinking that, he appeared. He flashed by, as always. Stop moving like that. If you’re going to walk, walk in a straight line, OK? Stop leaving pawprints all over. And what’s with that tail? It’s all bent. That’s why you’re nothing but a worthless cat. Jeez.
I’ve tricked the author and managed to take control of this world. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise though. I’ve left a mark only I can see, on the lighthouse along the coast with a view of the ocean. Because I can know about the world outside his head that the eye of the lighthouse watches. I’ve started seeing that cat again more frequently these days. How truly unpleasant. Cube City doesn’t need cats.
Without warning, my confidence wavers once again. Taken aback, I rush around and check that the world is still in one piece. Upon the thin paper stands a structure formed from neatly lined-up strings of letters. The stack of paper has already become considerably thick, and nearly as tall as it is wide. The papers have grown to a cube. What do you think? Pretty amazing, huh?
Consider this. Even though much time has passed outside his head, the Erasers still haven’t shown themselves. The author is utterly relieved. And I think I’m safe now. From what? The Erasers, obviously. Fickliana is still acting weird. I can’t trust the cat either. But that’s nothing new. They’ve hidden that soft cloth from me.
I inspected Cube City as I pleased, paying no attention to Fickliana or the cat. Have I forgotten to write anything? Did I leave anything out? I’m very thorough, you see. I’ve never left the author’s head, but if I keep on doing what I can, I’m sure morning will come. I’ll watch the sunrise with her and apologize to her then.
Another quake. What the hell is he doing? Has he no respect for Suregio, who has worked so hard to construct Cube City for him all through the long, long night? What’s he so worried about? Maybe Fickliana has done something. I wonder what has become of the cloth she made. Why did the author allow that cat to live?
I ate with Fickliana–and saw her smiling face–for the first time in a while. I guess her weaving was proceeding nicely. For some reason, this cheered me up a little. Maybe since there is a single Idea City, only one of us can exist. This doubt formed in my mind for an instant, then disappeared.
Lately, the eye of the lighthouse has begun observing all sorts of things. I’m terribly busy, more than ever. I’m so desperate that I’m even willing to ask a cat to help out. For me, Suregio, a man of letters, that’s humiliating. Terribly humiliating. But after thinking about it, I realized how valuable his presence had been. (See translation note #2 below)
I got into an argument with Fickliana. It was about the world outside of the author’s head. She told me to give up the well-designed structure that I, Suregio, have worked so hard to create. I can’t believe she actually asked me to induce the Erasers to come. “What was this long night for anyway?” she said with a grin, asking me to resolve things via rock-paper-scissors. Was she crazy?
Even the author didn’t create a structure of this scale just to show off. All of my hardships represent his worries, his suffering in the outside world. I can’t believe Fickliana, knowing all of this, would say such a thing. The cat darted across the room as our argument heated up. Oh boy, I can’t live like this. She narrowed her eyes and slowly opened a drawer.
Suddenly, a ripple passed through this world of paper. Was is it the Erasers? With such a great impact, something must have happened outside the author’s head. My confidence is nearly shattered by the severe earthquake. If that happens, there will be little Suregio can do. My power will be lost. I have to at least save Fickliana. We are one person, as two.
Fickliana finally withdrew something from the drawer. But there was no time to see what it was, so I just grabbed her hand and started running. Cube City, which had prided itself on its majestic appearance, has transformed into something bizarre, despite my efforts to pile up hundreds of sheets to create sufficient height. In an instant it has become practically unrecognizable.
Schroedinger, who had been calm up to now, is now suddenly jumping around like crazy. What is that stupid cat planning? This idea is now totally doomed; something terrible must have happened in the outside world. And yet, the Erasers don’t seem to be coming while we lie low and wait.
Another shock, and the letters are thrown into a jumble. No, that’s wrong, they’re actually being sucked up. The paper ground has disappeared. Nothing is left of it. We seem to be on top of a square board of some sort. Fickliana, the cat, and everyone else has their eyes opened wide in surprise. Whatever happened to the massive strings of words? Is the lighthouse still standing?
Idea City–inside the mind of an unsuccessful author. The eye of the lighthouse spins around and around. Using the mark I made as a guide, I pass through the changed landscape, returning to that place. In this city, where quakes continue relentlessly, the lighthouse continues spinning. Why, Why? This is the one place that should never change. I look up at the lighthouse.
The lighthouse standing before me seems the same, yet different from what I remember. This building is the very eye of the author. It now peers at something different, with a new kind of light. The light extends to the far reaches of the ocean, illuminating a world of darkness. Then a similar light emerges from there. The two lights cross.
Bravo, bravo! The lighthouse now illuminates the sea with a brightness, a power of the likes I’ve never seen. I feel a massive amount of information flowing in from the outside world. By now Cube City has been destroyed. In the background the only sound remaining is that of the massive earthquakes. Ahh, the long night continues.
Fickliana takes the soft cloth she brought from the city, which was hidden away somewhere, and gently places it over my shoulders. It is a handmade sweater, just my size. I run my hand across it, captivated by the texture. But when I turn around to hug her, she’s gone. Somehow this doesn’t surprise me.
At the base of the lighthouse a dog appears. It’s such a small thing. But, strangely, the feeling that I’m just what you need exudes from him. At the same time, his weird coat of fur looks soft and warm to the touch. Actually, it’s identical to something that a girl I liked long ago had woven for me.
The dog barks, and dawn breaks. He narrows his eyes and stares into the brightness. Countless rays of light extend from where the lighthouse had been aimed, negating the darkness. Such a beautiful sight for a dog like me. The long days of being confined to the unending night of Cube City, weaving together strings of words, are finally over.
The cat dashes by. He is Schroedinger’s cat, a friend of mine who lives with me inside the head of an unsuccessful author. He’s a cat, but I’m actually a dog. Anyway, it’s such a beautiful sunrise. The story is complete now, right? I can easily find my way around thanks to the pawprints Schroedinger has left for me.
The light beaming from the lighthouse’s eye is bright enough to illuminate the darkness, driving away the night. Of course, it’s only the night inside of the author’s head. Across the sea, countless beams of light spin constantly, around and around. I’m sure you can see it. While savoring the warmth, I proudly preen my precious fur. Cat, you’d better not get it all dirty!
I just realized something. Isn’t that the sound of the Eraser mob departing? I’m laying here, face down, on the newly built ground. I’ve been through this sort of thing many times. This is true frustration and true happiness. These days, I’m living as a human. The Erasers spared me from erasure. Now is my chance to live, all for the sake of love.
- The first sentence in this paragraph is “地震が、自信を、揺るがす” which literally means “(The) earthquake shook my confidence.” However, the words for “earthquake” and “confidence” are both pronounced jishin hence this is a play on words that is difficult to render in English.
- This paragraph makes reference to the Japanese expression 「猫の手も借りたいところ」 which means literally, “I’d like to borrow a cat’s paw,” and is used when someone is extremely busy. Here it is sort of a play on words because he is literally looking for a cat’s help.