Nakanaide

Nakanaide is the name I was given. It is the one word that defines my existence: it is my word. Like every word, it has meaning. One that I have to live by, that I have to realise. I want people to say, “your name fits you.” I want them to mean those words. I want them to keep saying those words. I don’t want to disappoint my existence.

On an afternoon missing even the wind, with the sun in full burn, was when I first realised my name. A friend from another temple had come to visit. We were placed in a chamber together, forced to sit on our knees. We were surrounded by candles and were not allowed to move until each had extinguished itself. The shimmering haze of heat was the only thing that ever moved even an inch. We both knew this was necessary. The screaming men of our temples said that to appease the alien creature known as God, we had to endure it. I have been told God lives 15,000,000 light-years away, sleeping inside of a dying star in the M83 galaxy. The burn scars on my head and the trouble I have walking were given meaning by this God. I do not know what God means, but to me the word means bad news.

My friend always brought an abandoned fish tank along with him. It once contained a pet as well. He placed it on his lap and allowed his tears to fall into the tank. On our eighteenth time inside the chamber, my friend simply stood up. Sad water spilled into the chamber and did not wait for the candles to extinguish themselves. The screaming men burst into the room and took my friend away. I did not want to disappoint, so I did not cry. We had never once spoken, but I had given my friend the name Saiken, which means ‘bond’.

I remember another time I lived by my name. I had been gifted a pet for a birthday. It was small and frail, and I loved it for those qualities. It would lick my face whenever it was happy or when I was sad. During the day, we would play in the woods near our house and stay away from that building for as long as our hungered stomachs allowed it. During meals, I held it dearly as the cacophonies crashed down on me. In the evenings, we would stay huddled and hidden and shivered together until day arrived. We did not sleep. The stomping on wooden floorboards and the angered voices of those who did not love kept us awake.

It was in the leafless season that we escaped into the forest again. The sounds of snow trampled underfoot gave both it and I a sense of joy. Our one-sided snowball fights and games of hide-and-seek had given meaning to the snow. I was very good at hide-and-seek and was always able to reunite with my dear pet, no matter how well it managed to hide. The last place I would ever find it was inside of a hunter’s camp, on a spit roast. I did not want to disappoint, so I did not cry. I had named it Hatenaku, which means ‘forever and ever’.

I once loved a woman. She took me away from the screaming men and the candle room. She carried me on her back to the first house I would call a home. A house does not have to be a home; my first house was not. To me, home means warmth. The woman taught me how to read, she taught me how to write, she taught me how to talk. She taught me about the words in the world and how each word has meaning. She told me her name was Hakuchuumu, which means ‘daydream’.

It did not take long for the screaming men to find us. Hakuchuumu spoke to me: “Do not cry,” and so I did not. I asked her the meaning of those last words, raising my voice like the lost child I was. All she did was smile, a word that still means nothing to me. The screaming men took me away from my first home and brought me back to my first house.

Nakanaide is the name I was given. It means ‘do not cry’.

Our planet has but one sky

Our planet has but one sky. When we look up at night, barely removed from the safety of our homes, we see more stars than there are houses in our village. The stars form shapes – supposedly, seven stars in particular represent an ancient hunter. The main square is designed with this legend in mind. Funnily enough, no one has ever cared to call it anything else than ‘The Square’; no one knows what the hunter’s name was. Our whole village is laid out like that, shaped like things we are familiar and comfortable with. The way houses seemingly slither up the hill where the mayor has their residence, I wonder what the astronomers opposite the sky would call it. We just call it ‘serpentous’.

Our houses are all shaped differently. The shape of my house is familiar and comfortable to me. It’s a place I enjoy to return to. It doesn’t have a roof, nor does anyone else’s. We are all astronomers here, you see. Everyone is an astronomer – how can you not be when the sky is above you and beautiful? We think of our favourite shape, then go to sleep. While we sleep, we dream of our favourite shape. Those in the village who find their perfect shape, become that shape. These are what we call houses. My house is shaped like love.

The sky is filled with one planet by day. We share the same sky with the astronomers living there, but they are a bigger part of our sky than we are of theirs. What they do up there, we can all see from here. When they leave the house, which all have roofs, they don’t rush to the top of the hill like we do. For astronomers, they don’t seem to be interested in looking at the sky much! They wear strange headgear and walk in chaotic streaks. They don’t say hello and tell one another what their favourite shape is when they pass each other on the street – streets that are all shapeless. Nothing they do has a shape, nothing they do has any real meaning.

During the day, we go to the mayor’s residence on top of the hill and use their many telescopes to look at the sky. We’re supposed to look at the stars to find new shapes to dream of, but I often look at the shapeless astronomers. I peer at their covered heads and nauseating movements. How unpatternedly they walk. Fooling me into thinking they can move in a straight line before twisting and churning their blotty bodies to avoid colliding with another. I imagine their speech is burbled and terrifying.

They speak in seventy-five different tones per minute and cannot think about anything but repulsion. Their astronomy is slamming a pencil onto paper and scratching crude approximations of circles into their own skin. They are shapeless in every sense of the word. The mayor tells me nothing good can ever come of them. The mayor is right. They visited us once.

I was young when the astronomers opposite the sky came to us. They came in something we had never seen before. No shape we knew compared to it; it was vulgar and nauseating. Some of them emerged from that migrainous stain and started doing things to the village. Those actions in particular truly had no shape to them. People simply fell over.

The other astronomers turned them into something none of us had ever been before: shapeless. My mother held me close as one of them walked up to us. The way she held me, it reminded me of my favourite shape – love – so I went to sleep. When I woke up, the astronomers and their formless vessel had disappeared. I also had a house to call my own.

Traces

Everywhere I have my eyes wander, I see you. Well, not you in full corporeality. That’d be strange and it’d hold implications to how powerful you really are. I guess it’s more that you’ve left little pieces of yourself all around. Again, not literally; your body’s all intact. I made sure of that.

I notice you when I’m in my garden. Flowers are the only things I care about. Colours, aromas, life – they provide everything I need. I need to stay grounded, reminded of here. Your name is a flower. You said you loved the pink ones the most. You asked me what they were called, and I didn’t know. Neither does the flower. I don’t want to give it a name it won’t like. I was given a name I don’t like. You touched the flower and it left some of itself on you. You left some of yourself, too. I don’t go to my garden anymore.

I notice you when I’m at my beach. I had grown up there. I spent whole seasons throwing pebbles into the water. I was afraid of water, of what it might do to me. I still am. Drowning isn’t like in the movies. It’s a peaceful, solemn process, without resistance. I’d hate to have died like that. You and I met here. I was surprised you could see me, weren’t afraid of me. I showed you all the places I could remember where I once stood. We threw pebbles at the sea together. We left in the evening; you left footprints where you trod. I didn’t. The tides washed away those marks of you, but I know they were there once. They still are, in a way. I don’t go to my beach anymore.

I notice you when I’m in my home. I don’t know how long I’ve been here for, or how long you’ve been here for. You asked me about my birthday once. I think I’ve had 32, but I stopped counting after that. You said you were spending your birthday with me. I liked that. We sat near a tombstone engraved with a name I don’t like, and you ate the cakes you’d brought. I don’t eat. A breeze did wonders to how your hair looked for a short while. You left your basket here, and that was the last time you left a trace. I don’t go to my home anymore; it is our home now.

I still take care of you. Every day, I pick pink flowers from our garden and gather pebbles from our beach. I place them in our home, arranged in patterns we like. Your grave looks the nicest, I made sure of that. Everywhere I have my eyes wander, I see traces, reminding me that all of you is right here.

The nightly fool

Each mountain has a lord. This lord could be anything you see living out its simple life. It could be a shy fox, watching and hoping you leave its domain as soon as possible. Perhaps it is a nishikigoi covered in moss, swimming aimlessly in a pond at the basin of an unimpressive waterfall. Maybe even the low-hanging branch of a tree you brush aside to trot farther down a leaf-led path.

But the idea of the latter, that a branch could be something as powerful as an actual mountain lord eludes commoners and seekers alike. Everyone knows the lord of a mountain has to be something that’s alive – a discovery made after a dedicated many turned over and talked to quite the sum of rocks. But even then, an animal is considered much more alive than a plant!

Title and form are intrinsicaly related; they need to match one another. If title does not adequately suit form, a beholder of such will find it easy to ridicule. For instance, if a colossus of a man sporting a giant club and an impresssive musculature goes by the name of Bubbles, well, it would be hard to stifle a laugh, wouldn’t it?

On the other hand, if title outweighs form, then respect is nowhere to be found. I myself have once encountered a mountain lord who had taken on the form of a small white rabbit. When it demanded I flee the weakened mountain it governed, so its forests could heal in peace, I kicked it down a slope and set up camp. Not one of my finest moments, but I was desperate. I was searching for a herb growsome to only that particular mountain.

You see, rumour had it that wettening this maiban herb wettened with vitreous humour and incensing it, creates a smoke that grants its inhaler nightly vision! A goldmine, for sure, or so I thought. I had not thought through effective methods to capture the smoke, and my greedy hands did not make any effort to act with diligence.

So, after a night of squeezing out my own eyes, burning whatever herb I could find, and making fruitless attempts to capture the smoke in jars to which I forgot to bring lids, it was then I realised what I’d wrought. The mountain lord did not lie when it told me the mountain was weakened. The dawn sun showed me through what little eyesight I had created an entirely poisoned forest. The smoke I failed to capture acted as a miasma to the trees and to my eyes. That mountain now stands naked, incapable of life at all. Its lord, the small white rabbit, only cries.

As for me, I spend all my time since in this here inn, sharing words of not-so-much wisdom to travellers such as yourself. Despite my loss of sight, nighttime is unbearably bright for me. What a cruel twist of fate! People around here call me ‘the nightly fool’, a title that certainly fits me. And while I cannot know for certain, I think I may just look the part.

The dollhouse

You are standing in front of a rather rickety-looking manor. The windows have been boarded up, a clear sign it has long since been abandoned. You’ve seen that in a movie once. Everyone died in that movie. Well, not really. People that die in movies don’t really die. Those people are endless.  But this is the first time you’ve seen such a symbol for yourself. This makes you happy, yes, it does.

You walk up a little stairs onto the porch. The wooden planks are rotten, they creek and crunch under your weight. They are hurting, because of your feet. Those feet have hurt a lot. That doesn’t bother you, does it? No, of course not. Why would it. Caring has never been your forte. Let’s move on.

Opening the door, you expect a flock of bats to come flying at you, like in the movie. What a disappointment that turned out to be. You’re a bit sad that nothing would come to greet you. Is the house empty? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe nothing wanted to welcome you. But don’t worry, you are inside now, and at the very least, nothing is mad at you. That means you are welcome here. That’s a first. Let’s move on.

The manor’s interior is forgotten, wasted, cinematic. The windows are blocked up on both sides; wooden planks on the outside, curtains on the inside. Despite the layers of dust, you can tell they’re nice curtains; the dust hasn’t quite covered the tassels yet. Tassels are nice, aren’t they? You wonder for a moment about what fabric the curtains are made of. Wonder. You are not an expert on textiles, so you conclude you don’t know. But that’s okay. No one is angry with you here. That’s a promise.

The entrance hall echoes a deep silence, auditorily and visually. Dust and cobwebs spread in uninvited patterns over the sofas and tables, the paintings and chandelier. Sad, how the showpieces of the lavish and lucrative come to fade into corny props if you leave them alone for long enough. A ray of light sneaks past the double-prisoned windows, highlighting tiny particles of dust as if they were snow. Isn’t that nice? What isn’t nice is that you forgot it was daytime. You are very forgetful sometimes. Never paying attention, or maybe you just don’t care. What do you care about? Let’s move on.

That ray of light leads to a mirror, as if aimed at it. It’s like a laser dot from a sniper rifle; you remember that from another movie. You have seen a lot of movies. You are very wasteful with your time. You could have been gardening, giving life to the earth using your hands, your ugly hands. No, that is a bad idea. Watching movies is good for you. Do not touch anything. Do not ruin. Stop ruining.

You find yourself standing in front of the mirror. Smudged and broken, it neither reflects any light nor does it dramatically reveal your face. Do you want to see yourself? You could, if you wiped the mirror. Wipe. You look in the mirror. The mirror is slightly cracked, the reflection of your face torn apart by a fracture. What a disappointment. You cannot see how you look. You do not know the specifics yourself, of yourself. You don’t mind that very much, you think. Think. Good. Let’s move on.

As you move through the many rooms – carelessly walking into pieces of furniture and knocking over a variety of furniture, mercilesssly trampling over dolls, you notice how quaint and victorianesque this house is. You read those words in a book once, and they seem applicable now. No. You did not read anything in any book. You do not read. You watch movies. You are so wasteful, that is a cause for anger.

Anger directed at you. Again, you were negligent, unattentive, disinterested in your surroundings. Do you not enjoy exploration, knowing, caring? Of course not. What other reason could you have for not noticing all these beautiful dolls? How you knocked them over? But do not worry, no one is angry at you. You are fine, cribbed, cradled. Protected. You are protected. Let’s move on.

You are interested in the dolls. I can tell. There have been so many throughout the house. There’s two on top of every cupboard, hands interlocked, kicking their feet to the melody of a soft and violent nursery rhyme from a nearby music box. There’s three on the table closest to you; two look shocked and cover their mouth with their moldy hands, staring at the dolls on the floor. The third one’s scorn burns into you, scorching your face. You feel red, ashamed.

Then there’s the dolls laying on the floor, tears flowing from their out of disbelief you would knock over their chairs, their seats, sanctuaries. Their eyes are missing, as you made them fall out of the circle of life. They welcomed you and you killed them. How typically violent and disappointing of you.

But you only imagined that. How silly, that you would think dolls were anything but will-less and emotionless. That you would believe for a moment you could feel the consequence of your actions, the anger of your victims, because you cannot. You cannot feel. No one is angry at you. Let’s move on.

You should go upstairs. That’s the one place you haven’t explored yet. But don’t explore that. You cannot explore what you already know. Upstairs is the one place you are welcome. Go up. Do not stop and wait for a description, for what consequence your action may have had. That is over. There will be no more of that; you have proven incapable of learning. You are full of violence. You are violence. You are in a hurry. You should hurry and come up here.

Did you know? The dolls you trampled and the ones you traumatised with your brutality, they are spirits of children that were never born into this world. Raised without love or wisdom, their only emotion is a primitive sort of cruelty. They are not unlike you. But they were raised, nonetheless. Not perfectly, far from it!, but sometimes it is all a parent can do. What vessel better suited for depressed spirits than a doll?

Scared and lonely, worthless without acknowledgement, doll and child go along hand-in-hand. It was silly to expect dolls could ever grow independent, uncontrolled, masterless, but to think you did not realise you were home, realise you crushed your siblings until informed shows you just how terrible a parent I am. But do not worry.

No one is angry at you. Not even me.

This is our house

This is our house. Pleasant piano music plays in the background. We don’t know where it’s coming from, but we don’t care. We are in love. We dance to piano music every night. You always lead our dance.

It’s not a big house, but we don’t have many belongings, anyway. We sold most of them to move in here. You even had to sell the statuette you loved so much – you know, the one your mother gave you? Right before she passed away? It was of a beautiful human, made entirely out of jade. Its expression was very stoic and cold, but that’s to be expected of a statue. Kind of reminds me of you, actually. I don’t mean that. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

Five days have passed since I made that terrible remark, and you haven’t spoken to me since then. I think you’ve forgiven me, though. I mean, we still dance every night, and you lead everytime.

Sometimes I miss my old alembic. I had to sell my valuables, too, you know. There’s this space on my desk where it used to fit so perfectly, its perfect glass painted with the reflection of my research. I complain about it every day, but you never respond. I miss your voice.

Not that I care much; I still get to use this desk. You built it for me for my birthday. Besides, I filled up the space with my diaries. Every day I write about you. I love writing about you. More text about you means there’s more of you. I love you.

I work from this nice desk most of the day. When I feel overworked, I look behind me and see your moveless self. The bed sheets hide most of your body, but they accentuate your uncovered arm and face. Your hair has such a nice glow to it. Your skin may have become gray and dry, but you’re still perfect to me.

I put a window above your bed. I felt you weren’t getting enough sunlight; you stay in bed all day. You only get out when night has fallen, because that’s when we dance; that’s when you lead, and I follow. I keep telling you to be more active, but you don’t respond. You never respond. We just dance. You don’t talk a lot. You don’t talk at all. I love you.

But I’m getting distracted. I have to focus on my research. I’ve lost track of the amount of time I’ve spent working, the amount of animals I’ve dissected, the amount of loaves of bread I’ve eaten. You don’t cook for me, and I don’t know how to cook. Bread is all I eat, but I’ll manage.  I don’t care about my own body. I only care about yours. That’s the reason why I’m doing this, that’s the reason I’m doing all this research, instead of dancing with you. Don’t worry, we’ll dance when it’s nighttime. We’ll dance all night, and you lead. You always lead. I will follow.

It’s been another two weeks since my last diary entry. I feel tired, ill, and scared. Your dancing is getting sloppy. I can tell you’re having trouble leading me. Are you sick? Don’t you love me anymore?  No, of course you love me. You have to love me.

My research is making progress! Instead of experimenting on animals, I’ve started experimenting on myself, and the results were amazing! I lost my arm, though. My favourite arm, my right one. I used to stroke your face with it. I hacked it off – it hurt a lot, but not enough to stop doing it -, and I managed to give it a life of its own. It tried to strangle me. That’s understandable, that’s okay. I ate it afterwards. I’m so hungry.

But this is good news! When my research is complete, you’ll be able to get out of bed by yourself. Maybe you’ll even stop decaying! Then we can dance ALL day! I lied when you said you always led our dances. I’m sorry. I’m the one who leads. You can’t.

This is our house. Pleasant piano music plays in the background. It used to be your favourite song. I play it for you all day. I miss you. We are in love. I miss you.

I love you.