This it the ninth chapter of a novel I am translating and publishing on this blog. See this post for the first chapter and more details about the novel.
I want to thank the author, Yuki Hoshizaki (星崎ゆうき) for giving me permission to translate and publish this chapter here, as well as Yeti san (from the site Shousetsu Ninja) for performing a quality check on this chapter. You can find the original Japanese text of this chapter here.
Because of the large amount of time it takes to translate a chapter, as well as my desire to focus on content that my readers enjoy, I consider this translation to be in a provisional state––in other words, if I don’t get enough positive feedback, I may stop translating this story. So if you enjoy it, please consider liking or commenting here, or rating/commenting on novelupdates.com (see this story’s page here, which has links to all the other chapters).
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 9: July 6 (afternoon)
“So from what you are saying…she must be, basically, a ghost…”
Even from far away I could immediately recognize Sora, sitting on the bench hugging both knees just like the other day. I hurry down the narrow road of the housing complex and climb over the low fence of the park, calling to Sora from behind.
“Sorry I’m late.”
When Sora doesn’t turn around, at first I think maybe she’s upset from having to wait so long, but it seems that she simply didn’t hear my voice. A pair of largish earbuds peeks out from the short hair covering her ears, and a pink cord stretches down to her shoulders. The moment I sit down next to her she hurriedly takes off the earbuds, as if surprised by my sudden appearance.
“Can I have a listen?”
Without waiting for an answer I grab one of the earbuds out of her hand and try putting it in my own ear. It’s the refreshing sound of a guitar strumming fluidly to a clean hi-hat rhythm. I close my eyes involuntarily, drawn to the catchy melody line sung by a smooth-voiced female vocalist.
I apologize as I give the earbud back to Sora, now staring blankly at me.
“I like that song.”
“Yeah, uh…actually, I didn’t mean to come here. But I thought that, just maybe…”
“Nevermind, it’s nothing. I’m…terribly sorry.”
I have so many things to ask her. But if my questions will only deepen her sorrow, does it even make sense to try asking them? If a fictional story is born out of the sharp distinction between the everyday and the unusual, I want to do the reverse––accept a story as nonfiction, as reality, by bringing the unusual into the everyday.
“You wanna go somewhere?”
When exactly did these feelings begin to grow within me? It’s only been a week since that horrible train accident––a week since I met Sora. But I feel as if this week has somehow brought about some great change, far more than is to be expected from the mere seven-fold repetition of 24 hours.
“Can we…can we go to an amusement park?”
“Amusement park? You mean right now?”
The closest amusement park is around 15 minutes from here by taking a bus from the terminal in front of the train station. These days the number of visitors has drastically declined, and there are even rumors of the park closing, but with a large number of attractions and a giant pool it’s one of the more popular parks in this area. Today is Saturday, so they should stay open until 7 p.m.
“Sure. I wanted to take a ride on the Ferris wheel and see the city from above.”
To be perfectly honest, as a person with a fear of altitudes and enclosed areas the Ferris wheel is my least favorite attraction in the park. Just being where my feet can’t touch the ground or in a tight space makes me very uncomfortable. It’s probably because of the lack of freedom.
“See the city from above…”
Perspective creates a different world for each of us. The fact that what you see and what I see are disjoint creates a uniqueness in the world we each experience. However, the farther we gaze into the distance, the smaller the difference in our perspectives becomes. How will Sora and I perceive the view of the city from up there?
“Yeah, from above…”
Maybe it’s all right to try losing some freedom once in a while. After all, with completely free control over our perspective we can never share the same world with someone else.
“Why would I lie?”
When I say that with a grin, a hint of a smile emerges on Sora face.
We return to the station and board a direct bus from the terminal to the park. Because of the late hour a bunch of seats are noticeably empty of passengers. We sit together beside the window on the backmost row and the bus begins to move slowly, engine growling.
The large bus sways, passing skillfully through the narrow roads that weave throughout the residential area. I glance at Sora sitting next to the window and discover she has apparently fallen asleep. The gentle swaying of the bus can certainly make anyone sleepy. The sunlight streaming in through the window gives a transparent glow to her short-cut hair.
When the bus suddenly makes a wide turn, Sora, who was in the midst of a deep sleep, leans over onto my shoulder. Through my long sleeve uniform I feel her body’s warmth, hear her barely audible breathing. There is undeniably something real to her existence.
“Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.”
Had Goethe said that? Or was it Nietzsche?
Soon after we leave the residential area, a large Ferris wheel comes into view outside the window. The rail making sharp turns as it zigzags through the air is part of a roller coaster.
“Sora, we’re here.”
Awakened by my voice, Sora slowly raises her head. Her cheek is red from being pressed against my shoulder.
“Oh, I’m sorry…so very sorry!”
“No, it’s no big deal. But your cheek’s all red.”
“Cheek? Oh, please don’t look at it!”
Saying that, Sora hurriedly covers her face with her bag. The present moment quickly dissolves into the ever-changing flow of time. This might be why the camera was invented. Because in any era, in any situation, there will always exist moments that we want to capture.
We get off the bus and walk towards the ticket counter in front of us. After purchasing two tickets we head into the park, the sun sitting low in the sky. No sign of anything like yesterday’s sudden shower, we pass through the deserted amusement park towards the Ferris wheel’s entrance.
“You know, I’m not a ghost.”
A few steps in front of me, Sora looks back as she says this. Her skirt flutters in the wind blowing into us head on. Lit from behind, Sora is only visible as a silhouette, making it impossible to read her expression.
“Yeah, you’re not a ghost.”
“You’re really not going to ask anything about me?”
Knowing the truth is not always best. There’s got to be many situations where not knowing the truth offers hope for the future.
“I’m so sorry.”
Sora, now facing forward again, mumbles this without turning back.
“Why are you apologizing?”
Sora continues walking slowly towards the Ferris wheel without answering my question. The Ferris wheel towering before us prides itself on being one of the tallest and largest in Tokyo. At its zenith it offers a view of not only the residential areas in the suburbs; it also permits looking out across the cluster of skyscrapers in the heart of the city.
Finding ourselves at the front of the Ferris wheel a moment later, we follow the staff member’s instructions and wait for the next gondola to arrive. We are the only ones in line, probably because the park is about to close.
“Mizuki, are you afraid of Ferris wheels?”
“Huh? No way!”
“Are you being honest?”
“Of course I am.”
“Right, it’s cramped and high up so naturally you…”
“What did you say?”
The door of the gondola before us opens. The speed of the gondola is a little faster than I had imagined. If we don’t act fast we’ll miss it.
“Mizuki, let’s get on!”
I remember what Sora said the first time we met. “You don’t remember me, do you?” I wonder if we had actually met somewhere before that. Even Daiki doesn’t know about my fear of heights and cramped spaces.
The doors close, and I start to panic when I feel the sensation of gradually ascending. I do my best to keep calm and avoid looking down.
“Wow, you can see all the way to…”
Sora leans towards the window, gazing at the scenery outside. Inside the gondola––now shifting with Sora’s every movement––I struggle hard to avoid breaking out in a cold sweat.
“Is the view nice?”
“Yeah, Mizuki, it is. Thanks. I haven’t seen this kind of view in a long time.”
“Hey Sora, tomorrow there’s a fireworks show near where I live. Do you think maybe we could…”
I guess the wind is getting stronger as we approach the top. The gondola’s back and forth rocking gradually increases. Is my rising heartbeat now caused by the height and tight space…or by the glow in Sora’s eyes?
I imagine myself floating in the waves of a dark ocean, alone. The starry sky above is startlingly beautiful, yet the ocean below is endlessly deep. In a way, it’s like being very high up. If I was a transparent jellyfish skirting the fine line between fantasy and fear, what sort of world would I behold?
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2019 by J.D. Wisgo)