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One Hundred Stories
By Kaoru Kitamura
Translation from Japanese
“I don’t want to go to bed,” Mitsuko says as she shakes her head like a spoiled child.
What she really means is, “I don’t want to fall asleep.”
Either that or possibly, she is afraid. There’s a chance that if she lies down, questionable things might be done to her.
Anzai is a guy like any other. If he’s with a young woman until morning, of course he’d begin to feel romantic urges. However, the circumstances are wrong for that. Until a short time ago, Mitsuko was tormented by nausea. She was staggering on her feet. Anzai isn’t the sort of brute who would force himself on a girl in such a state. Moreover, he had been ordered, “Hey, you, send her home,” by a senior classmate. There is also that to consider.
Normally, he would have long since gotten into his futon and have been snoring loudly by now. But the thunder and lightning had complicated things.
Seeing as Anzai and Michiko took the same road home and because Anzai was the sort of person who, as they say, wouldn’t hurt a fly, he had been entrusted with the drunk first year student. However, a subway announcement had kept repeating that due to a lightning strike, a certain line was suspended and they couldn’t promise when service would resume. It was the line to Mitsuko’s apartment.
Mitsuko had laughed, her voice unsteady. And with a hand on her chest, she had said in pieces,
“Please… let me… rest… at your place…”
Generally, this would have been a time to call a taxi. But Anzai, who was still a student, didn’t think of small details like that. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the money either. Anzai was a so called “rich boy.” He simply wasn’t that adaptable to unusual situations. All he had been able to concentrate on had been helping the first year.
So, he had brought Mitsuko to his conveniently located, one room apartment.
Anzai said, “Can you help me out and be quiet while you’re here?”
Mitsuko silently entered the room and sat down on the floor, hugging her knees. She began to look sleepy.
Her head drooped once.
The movement resulted in her quickly lifting her head. She looked around and asked, “What happened to me?”
Strangely enough, she seemed to wake up from her drunkenness all at once. Her voice had changed. It wasn’t Mitsuko’s usual tone. There had been candid fear in it.
Anzai was half hurt by her words and half strangely excited. Mitsuko had on a summer-like, sleeveless short black dress with a white lace blouse on over it. It was a nice combination. The pattern of the lace, which looked like frothy waves rolling onto a beach, plainly showed the black underneath as well as the color of her soft, feminine skin.
Even compared with the other psychology groups on campus, there weren’t a lot of girls in Anzai’s club. As a result, they gave the attractive Mitsuko the royal treatment. Still, she almost never showed her face at their drinking parties. But something had gotten into her this time and she had bought new clothes, participated tonight, and had stayed until the end with regrettable results.
He made her coffee. Michiko asked what time the first train was. She didn’t look well.
“I want to stay up until then,” she kept repeating, staring up at him with big eyes.
“You’re going home on the first train?”
“Everyone will know you stayed over somewhere.”
“I don’t care.”
“Are your parents going to call or something?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“You better come up with a good alibi before you talk to them.”
Michiko nodded silently.
At any rate, she was going home on the first train and she had decided not to sleep.
Anzai felt like a babysitter. Okay… If this is how we’re doing this… he thought aimlessly. And then, something he had read flashed into his mind.
“—Want to play One Hundred Stories?”
“You’ve never heard of it? So you light a hundred candles. Then you tell ghost stories. Each time you finish a story, you blow out one candle. When the last story ends and the room is completely dark, they say a real monster appears.”
“Don’t girls like scary stories?”
“Completely dark…” Michiko whispered.
She seemed to come back to herself then and said, “But do you actually have one hundred candles?”
“No, I don’t. But more importantly, if we tell a hundred stories, that’s fifty each. That’s too hard. Let’s make it simpler.”
Anzai had given up on sleep. The problem now was how he would spend the time until morning without getting bored.
“How would we do it?” Michiko asked suspiciously.
“We’ll turn on every light in this room and in the bathroom and the shower. And then, every time we tell a scary story, we’ll turn off one light. That’s how we’ll do it.”
Michiko nodded her head in understanding.
“What about the curtains?…”
“Right. It won’t be pitch black at the end if we don’t shut them.”
What a perfectionist, Anzai thought. But while he found it a bit of a nuisance, he still stood up and reached for the curtains. He saw the light of the streetlamps as they disappeared from view. The two of them were in a completely closed in space now.
They turned on every light in the apartment, from the lamp on the desk to a flashlight in Anzai’s hand. The apartment was now a bright box.
“Okay. I’m the one who came up with this, so I’ll go first.”
Anzai told a story he had read in a book about a demon cat. Then turned out the light in the shower.
Michiko frowned—She was either acting or under the influence of alcohol—and told an old story about a mountain which that she had heard as a child. Then she slowly stood up and turned off the room’s overhead light.
The depth of the darkness gradually deepened.
Mitsuko was a better storyteller than Anzai had expected.
“But when they opened the shutters, there was no one was there.”
After she finished her umpteenth story, Mitsuko let her gaze wander away.
Anzai said, “The one over there is the only one left,”
Apart from the flashlight, the only remaining light was the glow from the open door to the toilet.
However, Mitsuko said, “The VCR…”
Anzai looked and indeed, the numbers on the display were glowing over in the darkness.
“You want to turn that off too?”
Anzai thought she was going a little too far but he still had no choice but to get up and pull the plug out from the outlet. The game had been his suggestion, so he couldn’t complain.
He told a ghost story about a highway that he had heard from a friend and, as if in retaliation, unplugged the refrigerator. There was a small light that glowed when it was on. However, Mitsuko did not even smile a little. When she told a story about the sad fate of a school desk, Anzai stood up and turned off the light in the bathroom.
The darkness was so extreme by now that it felt as if they were drowning in it.
While pointing the yellow light of the flashlight at Mitsuko’s feet, Anzai said,
“Only this one’s left now,”
Mitsuko shook her head slowly. The movement was difficult to see.
“There’s the phone…”
Her words made him uneasy.
However, Anzai didn’t particularly understand why he felt that way.
Since the darkness had grown considerably deeper, even the tiniest lights were noticeable. Just as Mitsuko had said, he could see a strawberry syrup colored light where the phone was.
Growing frustrated, Anzai quickly told an anecdotic story and pulled the phone cord from the outlet. Then he said, shaking the flashlight,
“This is the only one now,”
Mitsuko slowly turned her head and said, “That’s right,” with satisfaction and sat down. Anzai gave her the final light from his hand.
“We’ve told a lot of stories tonight, but the truly frightening tales are the ones we don’t understand. There are more things that can’t be seen than things than can be. It’s the truth. And if that’s the case, couldn’t you say that we ourselves are frightening?
You definitely can’t see your own forehead or chin or the back or top of your head, right? Doesn’t that frighten you? Even though you’re closest to yourself, you can’t see any of that at all.
And that’s not it. You disappear when you sleep. You don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t know what’s being done to you. Think about it, just for a second. If you turned into a fish while you were sleeping, you would have no idea. Or what if you grew horns and turned into a cow? What if you turned into something else even more unthinkable?
This is a story about a girl like that. Nothing happened when she was young. She didn’t notice anything particularly strange about herself. But one day, she was told she had to start sleeping alone.
She wasn’t allowed to go on any overnight school trips. She couldn’t join any clubs that went to training camps. In general, she was told she wasn’t allowed to stay overnight anywhere outside of the house. Yes, her father made the rule.
How could anyone be alright with that? At first, she just thought her father was being strict. She rebelled.
When she was in high school, preparations for the school festival ran late one night. So her father went as far as to come to the school himself. It was so embarrassing. She couldn’t look her friends in the face. She shut herself in her room and refused to come out for days on end. During that time, her father’s face grew so thin it looked as if his cheeks had been scraped out with a spoon. He said he would tell her everything.
He told her that there was a certain legend passed down in their family. During the night when she is deep in sleep, her body changes into something else.
The girl was disgusted. “You’ve forbidden me from staying out overnight all this time just because of some stupid story?” she yelled. She asked what it was that she supposedly turned into. However, all her father knew was she turned into “that thing”. He had only ever heard it moving around in her bedroom through the wall.whatit
“So, if that was me,” the girl said, “If it was me, didn’t I stay at Mom’s parents’ house sometimes when I was a kid?”If
“It is something that happens to women in this family when they become adults,” her father answered. “It doesn’t happen to the men. In my generation and your grandfather’s, there were only sons, so there wasn’t a problem.”
Then he said something even more frightening. Her father himself had once thought that the legend was ridiculous. But when he had realized that his daughter was no longer a child, it had felt as if a needle of ice had been laced down his spine. This can’t happen, he had thought. He had told his wife to move their daughter into another room. He wished he had only persuaded her into doing this by saying, “We should raise our child to be independent.” However, he had been upset and had told her the legend.This can’t happen
The girl’s mother had laughed it off and then—that very night—she had lost her mind.
“That’s why I’ve done all this,” her father said, his face full of torment.
It was certainly an unbelievable story. Was he saying that she turned into some sort of Medusa in the middle of the night? No, having snakes for hair would certainly be horrible, but it was still something she could imagine. Compared to the bottomless depths of unknown terror, snake hair was a reassuring thought. At this point, the girl was ready to give up anything to find out the truth.
Of course, now there are video cameras. The girl put a camera in her room and went to sleep with the lights on. But it didn’t work. Surprisingly, just after she had fallen into a light sleep, she got out of bed and turned the camera off. No matter how many times she tried, the same thing happened. A person’s instincts for self-preservation are powerful. She shook at the realization that she had done such a thing while unconscious. The girl began to believe her father’s words.
How had the women in her family who had come before her dealt with this? Had they never let their husbands see them sleep? People said that before the war, her family had been prominent in the area. So there must have been men willing to marry into the family even while knowing the legend. But the girl lived in the modern world. How was she supposed to live her life now? Most of the time, she was just a normal girl. But there was an unknown monster hiding inside of her.
Knowing that, the girl can’t help but be terrified of going to sleep each night.”
When MItsuko finished the story, she turned the flashlight off.
That was a good story, Anzai thought. Using his knowledge of psychology, he felt it would be very easy to figure out the metaphor that was in the tale.That was a good story
Mitsuko gave a long sigh of relief, wrapped in the pitch black darkness where no one’s eyes could reach her. Anzai started to say something to her but all he did was sit there, strangely unable to make his mouth move. He could hear the sounds of her quiet breath. It sounded as if she had fallen asleep. Anzai felt his body go stiff at the breath. The darkness seemed to be getting deeper where Mitsuko was.
He knew he should move, but he could not. This is ridiculous, he thought. He tried to laugh but his cheeks only grew taut.This is ridiculous
Something moved… where Mitsuko was.
Dawn still seemed a long ways off.
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