This it the tenth 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. 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).
This chapter assumes some understanding of the traditional Japanese festival called tanabata (七夕). If you are not familiar with it, I suggest this page for a good summary.
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 10: July 7 (evening)
A major river separates Saitama Prefecture from Tokyo. On the evening of tanabata, The Star Festival, there is a fireworks show on the bank of that river, not far from where I live. Considered to be a large-scale fireworks event, even internationally, each year many booths are put up on the grounds, drawing a large crowd of tourists. According to the weather report I checked earlier in the day there is supposed to be sudden showers at various places this evening––a considerably vague forecast–––but there isn’t any sign of clouds in the western night sky, making it a particularly clear evening for the season.
Shifting my gaze to the east, I spot an exceptionally bright star: Alpha Lyrae, known as Vega. Around this time of year it is also called the Orihime Constellation. However, I am not able to find the Altair star, which should be shining bright directly below it. Most likely Altair is hidden by the skyscrapers that line the other side of the river.
Tanabata is nearly over. In the legend, the Milky Way represents a river that acts as a dividing line separating two lovers. Its endless, unstoppable flow continues to form a borderline for all eternity.
Sitting on a stone wall near the river, I glance at the face of Sora beside me. The incandescent lights arranged around the event grounds cast a faint glow to her cheek.
“Like what if…what if right now, time stopped for everything except us. I wonder what would happen.”
“Yeah, assuming that time stopped.”
I’ve spent time seriously considering what would happen if time stopped. It was right around when I was obsessively reading and re-reading a certain story about time thieves by a German fairy tale author. Being an elementary school boy, I thought about various things––like if time stopped, then the tiny specs of dirt and dust that floated in the air would also freeze, so even if time continued to flow for me I probably wouldn’t be able to move, even a little.
“I feel like for such a long time, I’ve been thinking about what would happen if time stopped.”
When Sora grabbed my arm on the train platform that day, for an instant I had a very real sensation that time had stopped.
“If the flow of time stopped completely, then even if our consciousness remained we surely wouldn’t be able to move. We wouldn’t be able to speak either. Maybe we wouldn’t even be able to think.”
After saying that, as usual Sora’s expression darkens slightly as her eyes narrow. High in the night sky, the light from Vega glimmers. This effect is not due to a change in the brightness of the star itself. Instead, it is due to a change in the flow of air surrounding Earth. A difference in air density causes refraction of light, making light appear to glimmer to an observer.
“The flow of time…”
Is time actually flowing? Certainly, things like water and air have a dynamic characteristic that allows them to flow. There doesn’t seem to be much of a problem in considering the passing of time to work in a similar fashion to the flow of water or air. And if you watch an hourglass, you can even get the sense that the metaphor of time flowing expresses the real nature of time.
Yet, if you really think about it, what is actually flowing is sand, water, or air, not time itself. The idea of the present moment actually flowing into the past––such a thing is simply impossible.
“Hey Sora…do you think time really flows?”
I don’t know why, but tears glimmer in Sora’s eyes. A faint reflection flickers in those eyes, as if her upward gaze is directed at the flowing Milky Way.
“Time…I think that maybe depending on where we look, we can focus on the present or the past.”
Each of us is always carrying around past experiences. Regardless of what value that may have, we have no choice but to live while bearing responsibility for that. In that sense, a portion of the past always manifests in the present. What we call the present is not flowing into the past. Time is not flowing, but rather…
“Time is not flowing…but rather accumulating. Don’t you agree?”
“How…how did you know what I was thinking?”
The voices of summertime insects are faintly audible above the din of the crowd. There is no longer even a trace of tears in Sora’s eyes.
“I just somehow know what you are thinking.”
Following the gaze of Sora’s smiling face, I see several small balls of fire launched vertically in succession. Each one bursts after momentarily brightening our surroundings, and soon disappear into the night sky.
“Sound…I think there was probably something about the sound that made me uncomfortable.”
The launching stations for the rapid fire fireworks must be set up in several places, with a fixed distance between them. A few fireworks are shot up simultaneously, creating a dazzling display of splendor that dances across the night sky.
Indeed, the booming explosive sounds that come shortly after a series of colorful flashes paint the sky have a terrific force that shake me to the core. Sound is one of the elements making up the world, but it has a stronger connection to the past than light. And yet, the sound I am now hearing is clearly part of the present moment. Therefore, there is no way time is actually flowing.
“…like it will be drowned out by the sound…”
“What will being drowned out by the sound?”
“My voice…Nobody comes if I call for help. Nobody understands how I feel. A world with loud sounds is terribly lonely.”
Before the trail of light fades into the night sky, a massive firework called a “brocade” is launched. Brilliant lights exploding far above us expand across the sky. A split second later a great shockwave passes through the air and soon becomes a booming sound, causing ripples in the surface of the river before finally enveloping us.
“Someone really, really understands how you feel. So don’t worry.”
Saying only the word “Thanks”, Sora looks up to the heavens, her face turning a deep crimson.
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2019 by J.D. Wisgo)