This is the 14th 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 would like to thank the author, Yuki Hoshizaki (星崎ゆうき) for giving me permission to translate and publish this chapter in this blog. You can find the original Japanese text of this chapter here.
If you enjoy this story, please consider liking or commenting on this post, or rating/commenting on novelupdates.com (you can see this story’s page here, which has links to all the other chapters). I’m more likely to continue if I get positive feedback.
This story is difficult to appreciate fully if you haven’t read the other chapters (or have forgotten them), so I recommend reviewing the other chapters if needed.
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 14: July 3 (morning)
In the end, it seems that I had been conscious for a while in that gymnasium. Of course, I didn’t have any memory of passing out onto that cold, brown-colored floor, nor did I remember being laid out onto that uncomfortable bench in a corner of the building. Apparently a member of the emergency medical staff, who just happened to be passing by, told Mizuki’s mother that I had probably just fainted and would wake up after some rest, so they carried me to the bench. When I glanced at the large digital clock installed on the wall of the gym, it was already past 9 p.m.
I’m sure that the time must be exactly the same in that other world.
I know the moment when these two worlds began to diverge from one another. The universe is a collection of details, such that a change to a single piece affects everything, resulting in a completely different result. I learned at a young age that the world is composed of such experiences.
“This good luck charm is endowed with a great power. If you so desire it, you can see the universe from one of several different perspectives.”
On the day my father died, my grandmother sat beside me, her eyes swollen from crying, and handed me a pink cloth purse. I’ve never peeked inside it, even once, but my grandmother always called it her “good luck charm.”
“Sora, when life is going truly terrible, grab hold of this very tightly and make a wish. You must take great care of this charm. And because of the great power it possesses, you must never use it without good reason.”
There was something about my grandmother’s serious expression when she said this that made me a little scared of the charm. But I would discover soon enough that what she spoke of was no mere myth.
It happened when I was in elementary school. The world around me looked slightly different from the previous day, but I couldn’t tell what had changed from a glance. It felt like a color had been somehow removed from the world. I didn’t know exactly what color had disappeared, but I knew the lack of depth around me was because of the missing color.
In the midst of that color-deficient world I encountered my father, who was supposed to be dead. But my father’s memory didn’t contain anything about my existence. It wasn’t that he didn’t recognize me, but rather that he had never known of me to begin with. This signified that the memories of those in the world in my mind were very different to those of the world I was experiencing.
It wasn’t until later when I learned of the word “parallel universe”, but as I stood before my father who knew nothing of me, I got the feeling that I now understood a little about the power of this good luck charm, what it was trying to show me, and what significance that had, and my mind went blank. Those feelings soon transformed into unbearable fear, and after squeezing my eyes closed for a long time, I suddenly found myself lying under the eves of the shrine.
“What looks different is surely just the little things. But you see, Sora, there is one major difference. To explain using a difficult term, I could call it ‘fate’…Or maybe, yes that’s it, the flow of time…”
Perhaps this world itself is like a story. I don’t think the universe can be cleanly divided into fact and fiction. Rather, many parallel timelines intricately overlap and interleave with one another to form reality. We can only view the universe from a specific point of view, leading us to misinterpret it as the one and only reality.
This good luck charm, and the power it contains, must not be taken lightly––I was certain that I fully understood that, and yet…
It might have been a little before it was time to leave for school. Even in this world, there was no indication the old wooden buildings of Joyo High School were going to be renovated. At odd times I would realize that my Grandmother’s statement “What looks different is surely just the little things” was not entirely wrong. As I took in the summer sunlight, I passed by a sign with the words “Construction site of future school buildings.” As you might expect, I didn’t have the courage to enter from the main gate.
I wonder what would happen if I came across the version of me from this universe. I asked my grandmother about that once. But by that time, she had already started showing signs of senility, and she simply repeated a single phrase over and over again, without answering my question. “You must not make careless wishes. But once you have wished, that wish will be granted, Sora.”
When I entered the school building’s back entrance, I cast a glance at Mizuki Aiba’s shoe box. A pair of black leather shoes had been tossed haphazardly into the dark brown cubby; he seemed to have already arrived.
“But once you have wished, that wish will be granted…”
Near the end of her life, when my grandmother was stricken with dementia, she repeated those words each time we met. Before I knew it she was no longer able to recognize me, and then, two years ago, she passed away.
“But once you have wished…”
I caught sight of a few of my classmates passing through the hall, but nobody even says a word to me. I don’t belong in this world. On the other hand, Mizuki is definitely alive. As for the result of my wish, that is enough to satisfy me.
I quietly took a deep breath at the entrance, where all was still except for a pervading sense of alienation. The faint scent of wood seemed to warm my chilled soul ever so slightly.
Hearing my name suddenly called out, I turned around in surprise.
Standing before me was Chisato Yamamoto. She was the oldest daughter of my mother’s younger sister, making us cousins. Her family was responsible for the priests of the shrine in Chichibu City, Saitama, what you would call a shrine family. Back when I lived in my Grandmother’s house Chisato often came to play with me, and we were close friends from an early age.
“Sora…is that you?”
Chisato knew about my existence. In this different world, people either knew nothing of me, or only a trace.
“Chisato, hey I am…”
“Is it really you, Sora?”
“Um, yeah it’s me, but…”
Chisato dropped the bag she was holding and suddenly rushed to embrace me. In my arms Chisato trembled as she wept.
Still embracing Chisato as her crying intensified, I picked up her bag and led her towards the edge of the construction zone.
Some distance away from the old school buildings stood a single wooden bench. Behind the bench was planted a large cherry tree whose thick green leaves blocked the sweltering rays of early-summer sunlight.
“You’re not a…ghost, right?”
“No, I’m not. But I’m not the Sora Itoko from this world. Chisato, I think you might sort of understand.”
“Yeah, kind of…hey, Sora you know that you already, three years ago…”
“Oh, that’s what happened…”
The version of me from this world was already dead. That’s why there were only traces remaining of me here.
“It was from leukemia. Sora, you caught a cold, which grew into pneumonia…”
Embracing both knees, Chisato looked down and her shoulders began to tremble slightly.
“It’s my fault…”
“It’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself.”
I think will is about tendency of action. Even if something like responsibility surfaces from the context of such a tendency, such a thing as true responsibility does not exist in the first place. To say somebody is at fault…this world isn’t only made up of events which can be explained in terms of individual responsibility.
“We had the same blood type.”
We were cousins, and we might have had similar antibodies. In other words, if the version of myself suffering from leukemia had undergone a bone marrow transplant from Chisato, it might have improved things.
“I was really scared of being admitted to the hospital for the tests and bone marrow extraction. So scared…that I wasn’t able to decide right away. But they said that the bone marrow transplant might help you, so I thought about it for a long time, and finally agreed to it, but…”
“Even the medical procedure was scheduled…but then Sora suddenly developed pneumonia and…it was all so sudden…I couldn’t believe it was all really happening…”
“It’s OK, Chisato.”
“Sora had to have been so much more scared than I was…if I had only been stronger, this wouldn’t have happened…”
I couldn’t do anything but embrace her tiny, shivering body. Eventually she raised her head slowly and looked up at me with teary eyes. “Sora’s grandmother still lives in Chichibu,” she said.
Just as learning something new requires forgetting something, I think there is always strength created along with weakness. Things aren’t necessarily black-and-white, but if the future is created from an accumulation of experiences then I think there must be something out there to give us hope. Like a new story that begins with the words “what if…”
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2020 by J.D. Wisgo)
[Note: black and white photograph of a Japanese shrine from Pexels.com]