Night 7, 26th of October
Long time no see. This is Director Shibata. The last column ending up being left unfinished. I'm sorry for the wait for those who were interested to read what happened next.
What I'm going to talk about now is related in part to the ending, which we were making at the time, which means that it includes spoilers, so I held off until publishing this until now, but today I can finally tell you about it.
The ghostly phenomenon itself was trivial, but considering the timing with which it occurred it felt quite unpleasant to me. Now, if you would lend me your ear for a little while...
The large apartment I had moved to to escape the ghostly phenomena occurring at the company dorm was a neat, newly-built apartment seven and a half tatami mats in size. On my preliminary inspection it had been a pure place with no sense whatsoever that ghosts might be present. Many things happened later but, as it was a new building, the place was immaculate.
My room is mostly filled with bookshelves (the books inside them are all special, too), and in the middle is a space where I sleep, surrounded by them. Right beside the place where I sleep, there is a round air passage from which the air expelled by the air conditioning can escape. You might all have one in your own rooms, too. If you have I'm sure you'll know this right away, but they're the type that's round that create a small opening when rotated.
That night, around 3:30 AM, I lay in my futon with my eyes closed, thinking things over and unable to sleep. As I turned over and faced the vent, without any warning, I heard a voice from inside.
"Let's go for a swim..."
I felt as if my face had been petrified. Opening my eyes, I looked over at the vent. The voice had definitely come from inside, and from the sound of it the person had spoken from outside my room with their mouth pressed against the vent.
Stiffly I continued to stare at the vent as time passed slowly by. I was certain that I had heard the voice. It was a woman's voice, low and distorted. When I say woman, I don't mean a girl but something closer to a 30-year-old woman. I felt as though I had heard it somewhere before, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't remember where...
It was unbelievable, but what if someone was pressing their mouth to the wall of my house in the middle of the night and speaking? The thought of that, too, was quite unnerving. But what kind of a woman would be talking into a vent at this time of night?
If she moved even a little, I should be able to hear something. I strained my ears and stared at the vent for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, but it didn't seem like the woman on the other side was going to move at all. Right above the vent there was a window. If she stood up, even though there was a curtain covering it I should have seen her shadow. But no matter how long I waited, nothing showed on the curtain.
Eventually, probably after 4 AM, the sky began to brighten. I could hear the sound of the bike carrying the morning newspaper pass busily by my house. Taking advantage of it, I boldly stood up and opened the window.
It was faintly light outside. There was a wall right next to my room, with a narrow pathway that would just barely allow one person through. No one was there. Who had the voice belonged to...?
This was actually right around the time when we were making the game's ending. At the end of Fatal Frame 3 the protagonist, Rei, comes upon a large black sea. It is the shore at the end of our world, the black lake at the border of this world and that. On the other side of the sea is the afterlife. In the ending the sea opens, and the dead cross over it to the other shore. At the time, that is the scene we were making.
I think the voice was probably a voice calling me to the other shore. When I think about it that way, it seems quite meaningful. At the time, half of me was probably mentally there already.
That voice still echoes in my ears.
With this, "the things that I can finally say" are done. They may continue, but for me, these "unbelievable things" are already starting to meld into my daily life. I doubt I will have another chance to use them again for a while, but I intend to keep gathering them up.
Thank you for reading this far.
While I have the chance, there's one more thing.
This isn't a ghostly experience or anything like that, but a dream I had one day, but I felt like I had to write it down so please, if you have the time... (This, too, contains spoilers, so please only read if you have made it to the ending.)
I went back to my childhood home for the first time in a long time. Wearing unfamiliar ceremonial attire, I was attending a ritual that resembled a funeral. I wasn't told whether the ritual was a memorial service or someone's death anniversary, but in any case I went to an old temple and joined in. The service had already begun, relatives in attendance, and a priest was chanting sutras. Embarrassed at my late arrival, I sneaked to my seat.
The service proceeded in an oddly subdued manner. Nobody spoke a word, their heads downcast, and the only sound was the low echo of the priest's chanting. When the sutras were finished, the priest lightly cleared his throat and said to all of us, "Well, then, please move to the assembly point for the main service."
Everyone began to stand up, forming a line that headed outside. No one said anything, the air solemn. After leaving the shrine, everyone moved onto the road and entered a house. The house was that of U, a relative of mine. Maybe it's the anniversary of the death of someone related to this family, I thought as the procession continued.
Mingling with the line, I realised something. Needing to say something, I casually asked, "Um... It looks like there are living people and dead people mixed together in this line. Shouldn't we separate into different lines?"
Everyone simultaneously looked at me. There was a moment of silence. Had I said something bad?
"Oh, you're right," an old, bossy lady called K murmured as if to herself, and the row suddenly split into two. The living were on the right, the dead on the left.
"Well, then, which were you?" old lady K asked me. That's right... which was I? I... I...
After troubling over this for a while, a woman appeared from my left. To me it looked as though, rather than having come out of the line, she had appeared from out of the shrubbery on my left. It was old lady M. I call her an "old lady", but she was the age she had been when she died, so would have been about 30. I was still in middle school then, and all I remember of her is how much fun it was when we used to play together all the time. The lady, her face slightly downcast, opened her mouth slightly and began to speak.
The voice was a small whisper.
"Why... Why did I die? Why... Why... That's all I've thought about since then..."
Old lady M had died when she was even younger than me. The news of her passing had come unexpectedly. It was caused by an illness that shouldn't have been an issue in the modern era. Not only that, but she was so young and had just found happiness and should never have died, everyone would optimistically think...
After muttering this to herself over and over for some time, M asked me, "Hey - you don't know why you're alive, do you?" Unsure how to respond to the sudden question, I stood there blankly. "Then... come over here."
Old lady M slowly reached out her hand, her movements like a film set to slow motion.
"Uh, I..." Why was I alive? Was there some kind of reason for it?
Her white hand slowly, slowly stretched out towards me. Slowly, slowly. Right - why was I alive? I didn't know. I had no idea why.
I loved M. So why not join the left hand row? Just as her white hand was about to grip onto mine, an intense chill ran through me and I let out a sudden shout.
"I-I...! I'm alive because you are dead. Your death is the reason that I'm alive!"
...Even I had no idea what I was saying. It made no sense. Even in the heat of the moment, it was a nonsensical thing to say...
M suddenly looked as though she had noticed something, and her hand froze. Then, like a film in fast forward, I watched in disbelief as she went into the thicket.
I awoke from my dream to the sound of an old woman somewhere roaring with laughter.
If I had let her take my hand, would I never have awoken? Or was it just a normal nightmare? I don't know.
I do, however, vividly remember those last words that I shouted. They had felt so odd - I had said them, but hadn't been thinking them. After thinking over their meaning for some time, a long while later I encountered a tanka poem.
One death is that of the many perished who reside inside the deceased, who are dead and gone for eternity.
From Ama no Tsubaki, an anthology by Kyoko Inaba
It was a simple reality that if I had died, the time I had shared with old lady M would be known by no one, as if it had never happened. That would mean that M would die completely.
When a dear friend died and I wondered if their death had been my fault and I considered following them, I remembered the dream and this poem. Through them, I feel like I flipped my reason for dying into a reason for living.
When I realised this I wondered, when we were making the ending, if the ending of this Fatal Frame, dealing with the dead, might turn into a story in which the pain of the person who lost someone dear to them and survived won't go away, but even still they realise that their loss is their very reason for being alive and decide to live on.
For Rei, the game's protagonist, the pain of living will never go away, but she realises that losing Yuu is reason for her to live, and though she wants to go with him, Rei's lone death would kill both a living person and all of the dead inside of her, though this part of Yuu's message is thrown at the player without being explicitly spelled out.
I wanted the players to realise it for themselves, rather than a character in the game saying it outright. I think there are a lot of different ways to feel about the ending, and hope that the players feel them all.
In any case, I wanted to talk about this dream somewhere. Here I will conclude my mutterings to myself of what I was thinking as the game was made.
Well, then - farewell.
Project Zero director Makoto Shibata