The Case of Yuki Amamoto
Well, I suppose I should begin...
I'm going to record all of your experiences on that island here. Of course, you're the only one who knows the whole story, so everything I'm going to write about will be no more than what I've heard from you.
If in the worst case scenario I say something that didn't happen or I've gotten the wrong idea, it isn't your fault. It's all my responsibility.
Naturally, I'm sure it was a horrible thing for you to endure. I'm sure you would rather not remember it, but I believe that the truth of that island should be told to someone in some form.
Maybe at the same time it will be for you, too...
The First Siren
It was August when you made the crossing to Yamijima, and yet the weather that day left you feeling slightly chilly... The first time you heard the name "Yamijima", you had no idea which characters it was written with. The first thing that came to mind was "Island of Darkness". For a while even after setting foot on Yamijima, this image of being enveloped in darkness didn't leave your mind. When you spoke of this with your father, he said with a laugh, "The 'ya' means 'night' and the 'mi' comes from 'beauty'... so it's Beautiful Night Island." That was how he explained it, but the "night" part still brings to mind darkness. The day you got on the ferry bound for the island, too, you had a vague image of living on an island shrouded in darkness in your mind.
Spending the night on the ferry, you watched the waves absentmindedly from the deck.
"What's wrong? Missing Tokyo already?" your father asked suddenly, standing beside you.
At your silence, your father soothed you preemptively. "Yuki... I understand how you feel, but have some patience," he said, looking you in the face, but I suppose you had already accepted this. There had never been any doubt in your father's plan to go to the island.
"I know. It's for Hideo after all," you answered with a smile, and your father watched the ocean with an apologetic look on his face. I'm sure you were feigning brightness to put your father at ease. "Hey, how about our new house?"
Narrowing his eyes as though dazzled, your father turned to you. You looked back at him, smiling. "You said someone from the publisher sorted it out, right?"
"Oh, yeah... It sounds like a pretty nice, detached house."
"Detached!?" you responded, surprised, and your father smiled innocently.
"It's even furnished, and apparently has a small garden. You would never imagine something like that in the middle of the city these days."
I imagine he saw through your fears. That was when it happened. From the deck on the level below where you stood, you heard the cry of your pet dog Osment. Looking down, you saw him bounding around on the rear deck. Naturally your father had no objections to taking Osment with you to the island, having lived with you since you were still in middle school. He was like a member of the family. You watched him running about on deck, seeming to enjoy himself, calmly, but you became uneasy when you spotted a small figure leap onto the deck chasing him.
"Hey, Hideo, stop that!" you called out reflexively. It was your beloved little brother, Hideo, who had run after Osment.
In response to your voice, he came to a stop and looked up at you. In a raised voice you shouted, "You shouldn't be running around like that! What if you have another attack!?" But Hideo, still young, apparently didn't understand your concern. Following Osment as he ran up onto the deck, Hideo ran away. "Hideo!" Ignoring your shout, Hideo vanished into the shadow of the deck.
A warm hand was placed on your shoulder. It was your father... Looking at him, silent and smiling slightly, you sighed and murmured, "I hope he doesn't get too carried away and get ill..." Looking in the direction in which Osment and Hideo had run off, you were startled by the sudden toot of a steam whistle and drew back instinctively.
"Hey!" your father said, pointing across the sea. In the distance you could faintly make out the silhouette of an island, and saw that it was gradually drawing closer.
"Is that...?" you murmured, half to yourself.
"Yeah. That's Yamijima."
As you listened to your father, you watched the slowly-approaching Yamijima intently...
Soon after, the ferry you were on alighted at a desolate harbour on the eastern edge of the island. The ferry, the island's only means of transportation, was the islanders' only point of contact with the outside world. As piles of baggage from the mainland were hurriedly unloaded, you disembarked the ferry.
All of the islanders who appeared at the harbour were old. The able-bodied youth had one by one headed for the city, leaving only the elderly behind in the settlement, something that can be seen all across Japan today. Not to mention that there are few young people in this day and age who would stay on an outlying island that is a ten-hour ferry ride away from Tokyo. There were actually extraordinarily few people living on Yamijima under the age of forty.
Perhaps you felt something strange in the old people's slightly suspicious stares. But really, this was nothing more than their bewilderment and curiosity at seeing a teenage girl for the first time in so long. I'm sure you realise that now. But at the time, due also in part to the crows making a racket as they flew overhead, you were deeply afraid of the feeling you got from the island. Even still, you maintained your resolution because of Hideo, who walked along timidly as though clinging to you.
Your father, taking Osment by the lead attached to his collar to the edge of the ferry, suddenly stopped. Following his line of sight, you saw a slightly old model station wagon pull up, and a man who appeared to be in his thirties get out of the driver's seat. The man approached, waving and smiling. He was a tall young man, ill suited to this island full of the old.
"You're... Dr. Minamida, aren't you?"
Your father approached the man and bowed his head. The man called Minamida bowed politely, then smiled at you. "I am Minamida... I'm sorry for what happened on the phone."
Your father waved his hand in rejection, and lowered his head again. "My name is Shinichi Amamoto... Thanks for everything you've done for us." Then he turned to you. "Yuki, this is Dr. Yutaka Minamida from the clinic."
Having been introduced, Dr. Minamida looked at you and smiled. "Nice to meet you."
You bowed nervously. "...Thanks for looking out for us."
"Hey, Hideo, come say hello too..." you urged him as he tried to hide behind you. As you did, Hideo peeked his face out timidly to look around, but quickly turned on his heel and ran into the shadows of the harbour building.
With an embarrassed look on your face, you bowed your head to Dr. Minamida. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it..."
Dr. Minamida also looked concerned. In a fluster you turned around and chased after Hideo.
"Your case was handed over to me by the teaching hospital... I didn't expect such energy," you heard Dr. Minamida say from behind. His voice was lowered, but you heard him clearly.
"Yeah... I hope being here will help, even if only a little..." your father replied. Again you remembered the reason you had come to the island as you continued to chase Hideo.
Hideo appeared to be cowering in the shadow of the building. You took his hand and tried to tug him out. "Don't run so wild. What if you start coughing again...?" You crouched down and peered into his face, and Hideo shook free and ran off again. "Hideo...!"
Watching him jog back towards the harbour, you turned back to your worried father. Dr. Minamida and your father looked over at you anxiously, and you could feel the piercing stares of the islanders, which made you want to run away.
"Hideo, wait up..."
But you regrouped and somehow managed to catch Hideo, taking him back to the others.
Afterwards, you were driven by Dr. Minamida in his car to your new residence in the centre of the island. Sitting beside Hideo in the back seat, you watched the island's scenery flash by outside the window as you sped down a road cutting through the town centre. There was a row of buildings in a unique style you hadn't seen in Tokyo, surrounded by thick greenery that seemed to cover them up. Quelling your unease once more, you tried to imagine living on the island, when you heard Dr. Minamida speak.
"As you can see, there's nothing much on the island... Most of the islanders make their living fishing or farming, so we have no recreational facilities..."
Slowly passing before your eyes was what appeared to be the island's shopping district, rows of dried fish set out before buildings with narrow fronts, middle-aged women sitting beside them. You must have been painfully aware of their gazes as they stared into the car. You noticed the islanders standing on either side of the road, all watching you curiously. Feeling uncomfortable, you could do nothing but silently stare at the floor. Looking beside you, you saw Hideo simply staring intently out of the opposite window.
"I'd heard the rumours, but Yamijima... it's like we've left Japan," your father said to Dr. Minamida as he watched the scenery pass by, sitting in the passenger seat.
"Yeah... It looks like the influence of outsiders. A few centuries ago, an outsider who washed up in Japan lived here on the island..." Dr. Minamida explained, his expression hardly changing. It was true that the stalls set up away from the high street had many signs with English mixed in with the Japanese, and there was a lot of English and Russian in the graffiti scattered across the island. As you ruminated on this, Hideo, who had the whole time been facing away from you and looking out of the window, suddenly tugged on your sleeve. Seeing his confused expression, you understood what was wrong right away.
"Oh... outsiders are people from other countries," you explained, and Hideo nodded, his face showing a vague expression that indicated neither comprehension nor a lack of it.
"For a time after the war, American troops tried to make this place into a radar base, so I suppose it might be due to that, too," Dr. Minamida added to your father. As you watched him in the rearview mirror, your eyes and Dr. Minamida's met momentarily, which must have startled you.
"Oh, here's the police station... It's the only one on the island." Suddenly, Dr. Minamida pointed out of the window. Looking over, you saw a middle-aged man wearing a police officer's uniform standing outside of the station all by himself. The policeman looked at you with a blank face and your eyes met and, feeling uncomfortable, you averted your gaze.
Continuing down the apparently unsurfaced road for a while longer, the car you were riding in came to a stop before an large old house.
"This is it." Dr. Minamida turned off the engine and pointed out of the window.
The house, which appeared to have been built several decades before, stood amidst a sea of vegetation that seemed to cover it up. Your father got out of the car first, followed by the rest of you, and stared fixedly at the house. The movers had already delivered your luggage and left it before the entrance in a pile. It was then that you noticed Hideo, still silent, watching the house intently. The vague unease you felt may have been right after all.
"Well, I'll see you later... I'll be waiting at the clinic," Dr. Minamida said, bringing you back to your senses. Dr. Minamida stiffly bowed his tall frame with a small bob of the head, then got into the car.
"Thanks very much... It was nice to meet you," your father said, bowing his head, and you accordingly bowed yours deeply. As you watched Dr. Minamida's car drive off, his honest-seeming mannerisms must have calmed you a little. Following your father, who headed towards the entrance as though prompting you, you held onto Hideo's hand and stepped inside...
The house's interior was dim, hardly any light entering. There was a large window in the living room, but perhaps it was at a bad angle, or maybe hidden by the trees all around, because even though it was the afternoon you had to turn the lights on. Still, though it was old the house was sturdily built, and didn't appear too damaged. Since no one had lived there in some time there was dust everywhere, but it could be taken care of with some cleaning. Brushing away the spider webs hanging here and there you opened the window in the hallway, a pleasant breeze blowing through the house.
Next you headed for the sink and turned the tap, ready to do some scrubbing. You must have been taken aback by the water that flowed out, dyed a deep red with rust. Even though it was only your imagination that for a second it looked like blood, it was not only that which struck you with a vague apprehension once again. For a while you stood there speechless, watching the red water, until finally it ran clear.
Pulling yourself together you filled a bucket with water and wetted a dust cloth, beginning to wash the table in the living room. Traces of tableware remained on the dusty table, and however hard you scrubbed the marks wouldn't fade even a little. At that point your father, who had carried in the cardboard boxes and begun to unpack them, passed through carrying an armful of books, and you called out to him. "Hey, Dad... Don't you think we should have at least bought some new furniture?
Your father set down the books and turned around, answering in feigned ignorance, "You think so? It should all still be usable... And it's not like we're going to be here forever."
As you listened, you gave up on the table and decided to try scrubbing the hallway. Picking up the bucket and about to exit into the hallway, you saw Hideo hiding in the shadows of a pile of cardboard boxes heaped carelessly in the corner of the room.
"Hideo! Don't mess about," you shouted instinctively. You could see Hideo's forehead through a gap between the boxes. "At least unpack your own stuff, okay?" you said, and left.
The hallway that connected the rooms was long and complicated, like a corridor. Only in the southern part did a slant of dazzling sunlight shine through. Getting down on all fours and fixatedly scrubbing the long hallway with the cloth, you seemed to forget all about your gloominess. But as you moved the cloth back and forth over and over, you were surprised by a millipede suddenly crawling out from the corner of the hallway, and overturned the bucket. Although unlike most girls your age you weren't the type to make a fuss over seeing an insect, with that timing, and at a size you had never seen before, it gave you a fright.
Calming down, you mopped up the water that had spilled all over the place from the bucket, when you noticed dirt clinging to the wall panels. Like some kind of dark black stain, however you scrubbed with the cloth it wouldn't come off. Your hand stilled, and you stared hard at the stain. Touching it with your finger, for a moment it felt warm.
Naturally, this was just your imagination, but the blackened stain certainly did seem like a mass of blood splatters. Then you heard the sound of Osment barking coming from the garden, and came back down to earth. Osment, usually so calm, was barking madly. With a bad feeling, you ran in the direction of the voice.
Opening the entrance door, you saw Osment in the garden staring up at the sky, letting out a loud howl.
Then you noticed a young woman stop before the gate and smile at you. Timidly, you called out to her.
"Is there something I can...?"
The woman smiled a smile that looked plastered on. "Oh... I live next door. My name is Satomi Yamaguchi." Naming herself, the woman pointed towards a house on the other side of the plants. "Was that Dr. Minamida's car I saw just now?"
"Yeah..." you replied, confused.
"He told me that someone new was moving in next door, and that I should look out for you." The woman called Satomi said, nodding and falling silent after having said her piece, then grinned again as she looked at you. "Moving must be a lot of work... Why don't I help out?"
As you were wondering how to reply, she hurried towards the entrance. "I heard you don't have a mother, so... It must be hard on you, all by yourself?" she said, and you finally let down your guard a little, smiling wryly.
"U-um, Ms. Yamaguchi..."
"Call me Satomi."
Overcome by Satomi's enthusiasm, you showed her inside the house.
Leading Satomi, you returned to the luggage-filled living room, seeing your father laying out some kind of document on the table in the back room and talking on the phone. Looking around her, Satomi asked in a low voice, "You've finished most of the scrubbing, right?"
"Yeah... Oh, but I wanted to put away the dishes, so I need to wash them..."
Looking around you, you indicated a cardboard box full of plates. Satomi briskly unpacked the box and began to wash up.
"I'm sorry for getting you to help like this..." you said, standing beside Satomi and helping her to wash.
"It's fine, don't worry about it... We're neighbours, after all." Satomi smiled a carefree smile. Perhaps your father went into the living room, because his voice as he spoke on the phone got louder.
"...Well, the house is bigger than I thought it would be, it was quite a surprise... It doesn't get much sunlight, but it helps to have all this furniture set out."
Satomi turned towards your father, and so did you. "...Yeah, as soon as the manuscript's done we can talk over e-mail... There are lots of things I want to get started checking out today," your father said, and you saw that it was a map of the island he had laid out.
"Is your father a novelist?" Satomi asked suddenly.
"Oh, no... He's a non-fiction writer, I guess..."
"He researches a lot of things... He writes for a magazine."
"Hmm... What kind of magazine?"
"Uh, this one called 'Atlantis'..." you explained, and Satomi stared at you blankly. You smiled wryly and went back to washing up.
"But... why did you move to a place like this?" Satomi questioned, this time her expression slightly meek.
"We thought the climate here might make my little brother better..."
"I see, that must be hard for you... If there's anything you want to know about the island you can ask me." After nodding with a serious face, Satomi smiled faintly.
"You might not know this, coming from Tokyo, but neighbours being friendly to each other is very important on small islands like this."
Nodding meekly, Satomi's face became serious once more and she continued.
"And we don't go out much at night... The area around the pylon in the forest is particularly dangerous, since there are wild animals around."
You turned her words over in your head. Suddenly, Satomi's hands stilled and she stared you right in the eyes. "Oh, and... one more thing: you mustn't go outside when the siren sounds," she said clearly and fell silent. Unsure quite what she was saying, you returned her stare.
"The siren? What's that?"
"Nothing much. I guess you could say it's a superstition on the island, or a legend... But anyway, it's pretty important to the islanders, so..." Satomi said no more, beginning once more to briskly wash up.
Nodding vaguely, still not completely satisfied with her explanation, you continued tidying up...
Taking a break from cleaning, you again introduced Satomi to your father, and after she left took Hideo to Dr. Minamida's clinic. The clinic was a little way from the high street, about a fifteen minute walk from the house. When you arrived at the clinic your father, who had gone with you, told you he was going to have a look around the island and left. It was to write a report on Yamijima for research, right?
After a brief examination, Dr. Minamida wrote various things down on a chart. He smiled at the two of you. "Alright, how about we stop here for today? Why don't we just see how things go for a while?"
"Okay..." You nodded with a smile.
Hideo, who had been staring intently at the ground, grabbed onto your arm. Looking at his face, you said, "Hideo... I need to talk to the doctor for a bit, so could you wait outside?"
Hideo nodded silently and left the examination room.
"Don't go too far, okay?" you called out to him as he left, then turned back to Dr. Minamida. He smiled cheerfully, watching you. You laughed, embarrassed, and murmured, "I'm kind of relieved... Hideo is afraid of doctors. But he seems to have taken you to."
"Really? That's great," Dr. Minamida said in a flat voice, and looked back at the chart.
"Doctor... Will he really get better?" you asked, anxious once more. "He had another fit just a while ago..."
Dr. Minamida intercepted and soothed you. "Hey, don't worry so much. This isn't Tokyo. Let's give him time to get better... Time passes differently on this island."
Calmed down a little, you regrouped and said softly, "...I'm worried. I'm not sure whether things will go well here..."
"I see... I know the people of such an isolated island can be introverted and cold to outsiders, but they're not bad people, and I'm sure they're already starting to like you, Yuki."
"I hope so, but..."
"It's fine. You can talk to me about anything," Dr. Minamida said brightly, and patted you on the shoulder.
Afterwards, going around the front of the clinic you became panicked when you couldn't see Hideo anywhere.
"Hideo... Hideo!" you called loudly, but there was no response. Searching around desperately for him, you continued down the road leading to the centre of town.
"Hideo! Where did you go..."
Walking for a while, you found yourself at the edge of the shopping district. You saw the row of foreign-looking stalls you had seen earlier from the car.
That's when you realised that something was amiss.
Looking around the area, the middle of town that should have been full of people passing by, you became anxious when you saw that no one was around.
In a panic you ran around town, searching for Hideo. But neither he nor anyone else was anywhere to be seen. You peered into each of the stalls one by one. You couldn't sense a single human presence from any of them. In the storefronts you saw figures of characters you had never seen before, a mysterious insect, strange knick-nacks and old-looking records, all of which looked like a jumble of rubbish at first glance. From a radio that had been left on somewhere you could hear an old pop song playing. It sounded like an old song called 'Azteca Queen'.
"What's going on... Where is everyone?" you instinctively asked yourself, frightened.
At another stall was a tea cup and a half-eaten meal. A lit cigarette had been left in the ashtray, smoke rising from it. Everything seemed like people had been there only moments before, and that they had simply vanished. Confused, you looked around you again. You couldn't sense a single person.
"What's going on...?" you murmured to yourself again, turning the corner...
Leaving the shopping district, you found yourself at the point where the path separated into the road to the harbour and a hilly road heading up into the mountains.
"Hideo!" you shouted once more, but as usual there was no reply. Perplexed, you decided that your father must have gone to the harbour to conduct research there and began to search along the mountain road. After ascending a little the road levelled out, but the trees thickened and soon you found yourself wandering around the forest. Although the sun was still directly above, the forest was rather gloomy.
You called Hideo's name over and over, peering into the gloom. Suddenly you heard a rustling from deeper inside the forest. Sensing something moving, for a split second you saw a shadow appear to cut between the trees.
Chasing after it, you pushed your way inside the forest. Continuing on for a while, suddenly the trees opened out, and you found yourself standing before an old, abandoned house.
"Is that you, Hideo? Don't mess about..."
Slowly you made your way towards the house, opened the door at the entrance that seemed like it could collapse at any moment, and stepped inside amidst a flurry of dust. Passing through the first door you came to right beside the entrance, you looked around inside and automatically stopped. The messy room was overflowing with unknown junk. And then your eyes fell upon graffiti scribbled on part of the wall. "DOG... LIVE..." was written there in what looked like red paint.
Coming back to your senses, you once more called, "Hideo..."
Walking around carefully, hearing a crunching sound beneath your feet you stopped again. Looking down at your feet, you saw countless shards of a broken mirror scattered across the floor. Glancing up at the wall, you saw all that remained of the mirror, a few shards clinging to the frame. Again, you looked around the room. Dust danced clearly in a thin beam of light shining in through the darkness from outside. Placed inside the room were many mirrors. Then, you heard small footsteps nearby.
"...Hideo, are you there?"
Slowly you proceeded inside, the floor creaking beneath you, but didn't see Hideo. You sighed deeply. There didn't seem to be a door or hallway connecting to the room ahead, and you thought you had come to a dead end. As you turned to go back to the entrance, you bumped into a dresser beside you. The dresser teetered, then fell to the floor with a loud crash. The sound of a mirror shattering echoed throughout the room. You drew back, looking down at the broken mirror.
It was then that you noticed a notebook with a faded red cover lying among the mirror shards. Curious, you picked it up. Half of the notebook had been torn away, and it had no back cover. Turning it over again, you saw "Research notes, 1976" handwritten on the cover. On a page roughly mid-way through was written "definition of 'siren'".
Forcing down a bad feeling welling up within you, you skimmed across the page.
① A device invented in 1819 by French physicist Cagniard de la Tour, which produces noise by rotating a disk with a hole in the centre. It is used as an alarm, as a signal, and to announce the time.
② A sea beast of Greek myth that has the torso of a woman and the lower body of a fish. Their beautiful singing is said to lure in and ruin sailors. The base for the mermaid legend.
Did you notice the slight tremble in the hand holding the notebook? "Siren..." you muttered, flipping to the next page.
"The wind blows, the siren sounds."
"A second siren sounds across the island."
The letters gradually grew more frantic, turning into scribbles, more like a list now than sentences.
"Siren sounds on the island," "Islanders fear dogs," "siren - from the pylon?" filled the page. Turning over the page you saw a page with "siren, siren, siren..." scrawled repeatedly all over it, and your breath caught.
"2 Aug., late night. Mass power cuts, followed by third siren and transformation of islanders." was written on the final two pages of the notebook. Turning the page again, all you saw was "the siren", and the rest of the pages were missing.
Your body trembling from the eerie words, you simply stood there silently, unable to speak. Suddenly, you heard a shout from behind.
"What are you doing here!?"
Startled, you reflexively stuffed the notebook inside your pocket. Turning around, you saw a bearded man who looked like a homeless person standing in the entrance to the room.
At his strange appearance you automatically shrank back.
"The siren..." he muttered, slowly drawing closer. On guard, you watched him closely. Suddenly he broke out into a run and grabbed your arm. "You mustn't go outside when the siren sounds...!" he shouted.
Unable even to scream, you tried to shake free of the man. He wasn't holding on all that tightly.
"You mustn't go outside when the siren sounds...!" he shouted again.
"Let go of me!"
You finally managed to break free of his grasp, and ran outside.
Rushing out front of the abandoned house, you looked behind you again and again, keeping an eye on the man trotting after you as you ran through the forest. Running desperately, you finally lost sight of him. At last slowing down, you looked around you as you caught your breath. From the forest, you heard a metallic creaking sound.
Led by the intermittent noise, you eventually made it out of the forest, finding yourself in a wide open meadow. In the centre of the meadow stood what looked like a tall tower. Looking closer, you could see that it was a windmill, decaying as though abandoned. Perhaps it had been the faint sea breeze blowing through what few sails it had left that had created the noise. The sound, coming and going, sounded like the cry of a giant.
Looking up at the windmill silently, you heard laughter coming from the other side, and looked around.
Carried on the wind, the voice gradually began to sound louder. Taking a look, you saw Hideo standing directly beneath the rotten windmill, his back turned to you. In front of him crouched a girl in red, and they seemed to be happily talking about something.
"Hideo! What are you doing here...?"
Becoming aware of your voice, the girl jumped to her feet. Her red clothes, wrapped tightly around her even as far as her head, like a hood, the girl watched you with a sad look on her face.
Sensing a strange power in her gaze, you stood there stiffly without speaking. Hideo looked over too, watching you, his face serious. The girl watched you for a while, then left slowly without saying a word. You were left standing there, unable to do anything but watch her move away...
Left in a state of shock by the several bizarre experiences you'd had since arriving on Yamijima that day, you took Hideo by the hand and trudged down the path out of the forest. You didn't remember exactly where you walked, of course. The island was small, after all, so even though you were lost you were in no trouble. In spite of this, you must have felt crushed by fear. All that kept you going was your need to protect Hideo.
When you came back to yourself, you had left the forest and finally arrived at a street scattered with houses. And then, you heard the faint sound of voices coming from somewhere. You stood still and pricked up your ears. You couldn't hear them clearly, but they seemed to be singing some kind of song.
Cautiously, you followed the voices. Hideo came along silently, still holding your hand. Finally, you found yourself in front of an old, circular building. It wasn't all that large, but it must have been one of the biggest buildings on the island. The craftsmanship of the windows was in a western style, conflicting with the surrounding scenery. The singing was definitely coming from inside. Steeling yourself, you opened the front door and peeked inside.
Inside the building was a wide, hall-like corridor with a high ceiling. The singing got louder, assaulting your ears. Focusing your eyes, you stared into the dimly-lit interior. The light in the hall flickered. Against one wall was a table with what resembled an altar set on top, covered with candles. The light was coming from their flames. It looked like some kind of worship hall. In the centre was a large group of people, singing as though intoxicated and dancing, and seeing them made your breath catch. Most of the islanders appeared to be in a trace. It seemed as though they were performing some kind of ritual.
Maybe the town was empty because everyone was here... That's what you thought, right? The size of the crowd in the worship hall certainly did seem as though every islander was there, such was the energy in the room. What surprised you even more was the person dancing feverishly at the centre of the crowd - it was Satomi.
Desperately trying to suppress your voice, you watched them intently. You gradually began to catch snippets of the lyrics, and listened to them sing as you hid yourself in the shadows.
toutoki kagami no naka ni koso
makoto no kotowari awaren
kagami wo nozokitaru
inu wa kami e to tenjitari
shouja wa aku e to tenjitari
kawaranu mono koso wa
hatenaki inochi wo sazukarishi
kono yo no kotowari koyuru mono
we offer up our reverence
in the sacred mirror
appears the true way
look into the mirror
dogs become gods
the living become evil
those who do not change
are granted eternal life
beings who surpass the laws that govern this world
They repeated their song over and over, their bizarre party showing no sign of drawing to an end. Taking Hideo's hand, you quietly left the worship hall so as not to be noticed.
Afterwards, finally arriving in a part of town with which you were familiar, you passed by the clinic on your way home. Your father arrived home after the sun had gone down. Late at night, as you were ironing Hideo's shirt, you again heard the strange song from earlier and froze.
"kagami wo nozokitari... inu wa kami e to tenjitari... shouja wa aku e to tenjitari..."
Coming back to your senses, you realised that Hideo, playing in a corner of the room with his alphabet blocks, had been humming the song the whole time.
"Hideo! Stop singing that song!" you shouted automatically. Hideo stared at you silently. Perhaps having heard you, your father appeared from the back room.
"What's going on?"
"Nothing..." you said calmly. Looking at him, you saw that your father had a video camera in his hand, and had put on his coat. "Are you going out?" you asked.
"I'm going out to film the nocturnal animals... I'm just going a little way into the forest," he answered after a brief hesitation.
"Okay... I hear it's pretty dangerous around the pylon so be careful, okay?"
"I will. I won't be back until dawn so don't wait up."
You gave a slight nod and looked down at Hideo's hands. Amongst the words he had formed with his alphabet blocks you could see "DOG" an "LIVE". Reminded of the graffiti you had seen on the wall of the abandoned house that afternoon, a chill ran down your spine.
"Are you feeling alright, Yuki?" your father said, perhaps sensing your unnatural stiffness. Regrouping, you nodded.
"Yeah... Hey, about this island..." you began, but thought better of it.
"What about the island?" Your father remained meek.
"Don't worry... it's nothing."
Your father seemed a little curious, but put his hat back on and headed for the entrance. "Alright, I'm off. Don't forget to lock up."
You watched your father closely as he went...
After almost an hour had passed since your father left, you thought to call your friend, and picked up your mobile phone. Pressing the call button, you heard the trilling of it dialling, but suddenly it cut off with a "beep". Looking at the LCD display, you saw the antenna icon vanish and be replaced with "out of range".
"It's not working..." you said to yourself, nonchalantly heading for the kitchen. Suddenly your eyes fell upon what lay outside of the window and, seeing a figure there your breath hitched.
Satomi stood right outside your window, staring straight at you. Your body stiffened, and you gripped the chest of the blouse you were wearing tightly. As you finally felt able to speak, the lights in the kitchen began to flicker with a crackle. Instinctively looking up at the ceiling, you saw the lights not only in the kitchen but in the whole house go out simultaneously. The sound of the fridge's motor also cut out, and you were left enveloped in silence and darkness.
"A power cut...?"
Feeling your way along the wall for the switch you flipped it over and over, but the lights wouldn't come on.
"No way...!" you muttered, and suddenly the mobile phone in your hand emitted a shrill ringing.
Incredulous, you stared at the LCD screen glowing in the darkness. The number shown on it wasn't one you recognised. Answering the phone, you heard the roaring sound of the wind and the intermittent, stifled voice of a man.
"Huh?" you said without thinking, pressing the phone to your ear.
"Come... here..." said the male voice.
"Hello? Where are you calling from?"
But the voice simply continued to repeat hard to hear words.
"You... around... siren..."
Hearing the final word, "siren", you froze again.
"! Hello...? Who are you!?"
Without an answer, the person on the other end hung up.
Silence fell once more. The only sound was the dripping of water from the tap into the sink, echoing in the dark. Then, as your eyes gradually grew accustomed to the darkness, a loud siren suddenly sounded, seeming to pierce the silence.
You couldn't believe your ears, but you could definitely hear the ear-piercing siren sounding in the distance. Filled with panic, you were brought back down to earth by a crash coming from the entrance. Looking towards the living room, you saw Hideo vanishing.
You searched desperately for Hideo. It was then that you noticed the breeze caressing your cheek. Taking a good look at the entrance, you saw that the door was ajar and wind was blowing inside.
You ran outside. A fierce wind blew, carrying the reverberating sound of the siren from far away on it. Osment, who had been tied up in the garden, howled enthusiastically, staring into space. Hit with a wave of anxiety, you ran around the house, searching for Hideo.
As you did so, you saw Hideo standing in the middle of the crossroads a little way from the house. Hurrying over to him, you enveloped him in a hug.
But Hideo tried to shake free of you, pointing up at the sky. Looking up in the direction he was pointing, you realised that he was indicating the towering pylon in the centre of the island. Staring silently at the pylon for a while, you finally came back down to earth and took Hideo's hand, going back inside the house. Hurriedly you locked the door and crouched down.
The siren continued to peal outside, and Osment continued to bark. Unable to take it any more, you covered your ears tightly and cowered. Hideo looked down at you, standing completely still with a stiff expression on his face.
How long passed after that? Eventually the siren stopped, and Osment quieted down. But even when dawn came, your father didn't return...