- Good Morning:A Postdisaster Palm-of-the-Hand Story
That night, I was tired in a way I’d never been tired before. I was so tired my very flesh seemed too heavy a burden to bear. I wanted to shed myself, throw myself away.
I knew it was an exhaustion that had built up over time. I’d rest and rest, but still it would accumulate. My very existence was its source, so there was no escape.
I didn’t feel like doing anything—I was hungry and knew I should eat, but I didn’t make dinner and instead just sat listlessly at the table. I’d always sat at the table when I was tired, but this time, sitting at it like this, knowing that from now on I’d only ever sit at it alone, it seemed to spread uselessly in all directions, leeching my vitality. Weighed down by fatigue, I’d pick up around the house but it would still seem cluttered and unkempt; I’d clean, but the mud and smell of rot seemed never to disappear.
The sunset that should have bathed the room in glowing red had at some point sunk away, leaving only darkness. Its afterglow was absent even from the window facing west, and it was as dark and quiet as the bottom of the sea. How long had I been sitting here?
Right then, there appeared a tiny light outside the window, traveling [End Page 55] right to left, glowing the pale yellow of a baby chick. In that moment, my heart leapt and raced within my chest. I rose from my seat and stood at the window.
Another light appeared. I looked to my right, the direction from which it had come, and saw a line of small, eggshell-colored lights moving in a procession. They twisted and turned in gentle curves, like a snake festooned with bulbs.
It was a procession of the dead!
Fighting to keep my sudden high spirits in check, I walked cautiously out the front of the house. My neighbors had warned me that the souls of the dead sometimes came back. I’d never seen anything of the sort myself, but I’d nonetheless always sensed their presence and believed the rumors. And now, finally, I’d get to meet them!
The lights turned out to be egg-shaped lanterns roughly the size of my head, drifting along like fireflies about chest-high.
I approached the lights and said my name aloud to identify myself. I called out—“Hiroshi? Masayuki? Itsumi?”—but no one answered. The lights just kept moving, unperturbed.
Take me with you, I thought feverishly. This isn’t where I belong, it’s not right that I’m the only one left here, please take me with you, take me where I know I’m meant to be. Gripped by an intense impulse, I slipped into the space between two lanterns and began to walk, keeping pace with the procession.
It was an extraordinary feeling. The streets were laid out to intersect at right angles like the grid of a Go board, yet the lights meandered independent of them, taking me along too, despite the ground still supposedly beneath my feet. The night was jet black, and all I could see was the lantern bobbing before me; it was too faint to illuminate anything else, and I followed it as if it were pulling me along by the hand.
Perhaps because my eyes were gradually adjusting to the faint illumination, I began to see that the egg-shaped lanterns were carried by dark figures, shadowy as the kuroko who manipulate bunraku puppets. The figure before me was small, like a child. Looking behind me, I found myself staring into the eyes of a young woman who looked slightly older than me. Her face, lit by the ivory illumination of the lanterns, stirred a feeling of nostalgia within me even though I didn’t recognize it. Her expression remained unchanged as I looked at her, yet I felt nothing unwelcoming in her demeanor. Thus reassured it was all right to have joined the procession...