I was fed up. This unending everyday life thing was gnawing away at me. I was angered by the empty boredom of it all, like having a debt collector standing outside of my door every day.
Sorry, but this is a personal story. At first, it was my cat's fault. The cat I own pissed on my apartment door every day, so it rotted, and I got into a fight with my landlord. That's why I moved here. But I can't stand anything here. More than anything, I can't stand myself as I gradually start getting used to this place. The world is full of depressing happenings. This is the same, no matter where you go.
A sign reading Lost Highway. I took the elevator down. A wall with graffiti on it. A familiar air of degeneration. A monotonous rhythm. It's the type of place that shitty people would come to. All anyone there talks about is boring complaints, sex, or drugs. This underground world does preserve one important virtue, however: peace of mind, for those who seek a place where they belong. That's what it provides. The issue of having a place where you fit in is an important one - even if it's a fake, transient one built on lies.
It was in this state, breaking down in the underworld, not dancing, not drinking, not doing drugs, not listening to techno, leaning against a wall thinking about my cat, when I saw the flames. Unbelievably, a woman was burning. The flames were terrible, yet beautiful. Then it spread to a man, and he was laughing.
Devil, devil, devil, I thought stupidly as I watched the man and woman burn. Then I lost my head and ran. That was what happened that night.
The incident was reported as the suicide of a woman by self-immolation, and the accidental death of a man who got caught up in it.
The woman was Kimika Takahashi. The man was apparently Sumio Tohba. The woman appears to have got into an argument with the man, then tried to commit suicide on the spot. The man, however, didn't try to run. I remember that much very clearly. He was laughing.
I'm just a guy who sometimes has his crappy writing published in erotic books and magazines he doesn't know much about, and it was a sheer coincidence that I happened to be there at the time. The scene I coincidentally saw, though, clings to the back of my brain and won't let go. It didn't feel very real. It was more like being shown an impressive painting.
For me, what happened at the Lost Highway was so inexplicable. I don't really know how to explain it. I feel like I've lost my mind. Let me write honestly. At the time, the flames looked like some sort of symbol to me. That was what made me want to investigate this case.
There must be a reason for the suicide. To me, though, involved from the very beginning as a witness, it doesn't seem like there is much meaning behind the reason itself. Or perhaps I'm just trying to find a meaning in something else.
His laughter won't go away. It clings to me. It follows me in my dreams. That impossible-sounding, loud, dry laughter. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! That everyday life I'd been so fed up with had suddenly changed form into something strange, warped and abnormal.
I wanted to figure out what it was. I was bored, at any rate. I was just irritated. Maybe I was attracted by something abnormal happening. Maybe I just wanted to believe that there was something lurking within the normality, and that I could be the one to expose it.
Or am I still just lost?
I pulled aside some patrons who had come to the Lost Highway and spoke to them about the self-immolation incident. I also learned some things in conversation by pretending to be a fellow patron. I will summarise and report several of those items here.
A woman who claimed to be 20, but to all appearances had to have been in high school.
Kimika came here a lot. Something's seemed pretty dangerous about her for a while. Wasn't she messing around quite a bit with drugs, too? Everyone who knew her thinks so.
Why do you think she killed herself?
Put some common sense to work and you'll figure it out. That Sumio guy was toying with her. There are loads of people who've seen him being violent. I don't know much about it, but I think she got rid of his kid or something?
What kind of guy was Sumio?
I dunno. Well, apart from the fact that he supposedly controlled this place, anyway. I've heard rumours about him being a perv, though [laughs].
A man in his twenties. He claims to visit the club roughly once a month. He usually frequents a different place.
Do you know anything about the woman who killed herself?
Wasn't she screwing a bunch of guys in retaliation or something? Maybe it was because she was lonely. Poor girl.
You think that's why she killed herself, too?
I'm not really interested, so I dunno.
Do you know a guy called Sumio?
Yeah, his reputation isn't the best. However he seemed on the outside, everyone, including the people who worked at the club, hated him. I don't know anything about the clique here, but something was up with that guy.
What do you mean?
I dunno, but he was weirdly charismatic. Used to do things like hold events like some sort of witches' sabbath in the back [laughs]. I hear they're gonna do a sucide event or something next. Makes you wonder what's going through their heads [laughs].
Everyone close to the club refused to comment. Some were even clearly trying to threaten me. Scary, huh?
A woman of around 20.
Everyone around him ended up getting caught up by his twisted mind. Sooner or later, someone was going to have to put an end to it. He'd reached his limit. Being dumped by him was the same as being loved by him. She didn't get that. But a woman like her had to provide the chance for an end to be put to it. In every age, the fool kills the hero. He was the hero. The king of a shut-away world.
I think Sumio knew it all - how much he was loved, and how much he was hated. That he was going to die.
Were you here at the time?
I'm not sure. I knew, though, so it doesn't matter.
Were you one of the women who followed him around?
Not at all. We weren't even acquaintances. I just got that feeling from him.
He was laughing when he died. What do you think about that?
I don't think anything about it. He must simply have thought that death is the final answer. He's still drifting, though. He can't be saved. That takes power. The opposite of his power. Please, go away. My head hurts.
A man in his early twenties.
What do you think about the self-immolation incident?
It's over, isn't it? So is this place. The rule's been unleashed.
You don't know his rule?
What sort of rule?
The rule that the strong can't save the weak. The weak must mimic the strong's strength and fight.
Did you know the woman who killed herself?
The antithesis [laughs]. Not that it matters now. Dying is meaningless. Somebody's just dead. All that's left is the reality that they're gone. You should come to your senses soon, too. Quit doing these boring interviews.
What stupid stories. I felt like I were scavenging through the ashes. Was that the meaning of the incident? The shit had just returned to the shithole. Fuck you!
Let's switch up the mood. Feeling like something heavy's weighing down your shoulders? Shake it right off.
In case you're thinking that all of the reports on the self-immolation incident are boring and samey, this talk show reporter set out for you. It's not like there's anything else interesting happening, anyway.
These guys are the clowns of the great modern era, tricksters and magicians. Be grateful. They catch even the most trivial of details, thrusting their cameras and microphones every which way and turning mundane places into a virtual world.
The self-immolation in the early morning one day was linked to the accidental collision of a bike and truck.
Young people assembled at the studio answered questions through the screen with pixellated faces and using voice changers.
"If you're gonna kill yourself, you might as well go big, you know? It's kind of crazy to do it like some sort of performance or something."
"It's not a good thing to drag other people into it. I've gotta say that [laughs]."
"Even if you have a grudge against them?"
"If you have a grudge against them, you could just hand out flyers or something. Or like, draw the guy's face on t-shirts and write "REALLY BAD GUY" on them and give those out, whatever [laughs]."
"Like, don't let it get you down so much."
"But there are loads of suicides there, right? Have been for a while now. Everyone says there has to be something up."
"Ugh, it's awful."
"And like, this might not matter or anything, but there's some sort of big fuss about who's getting physical with each other or whatever. Stay clear of all that, yeah? What's so interesting about any of it, anyway?"
"The adults don't get it. I guess it's inevitable."
Don't get what?
"They don't get our world."
"It's a generational thing. Even being a year apart from someone makes it totally different for us. Makes you wonder what they're thinking, huh?"
"Yeah. The bike girl was 18, right? She's from the Showa period."
Ah, so it was the youth who were the magicians after all? These days, people from the media are messed with, given the slip and smokescreened. That includes me. This is what they get for pretending to be surprised by these boys and girls' views on life and death. We were all thinking the same thing anyway.
The following postcard was read out on a late-night radio show.
"It would be so much simpler if you could delete your entire existence with a single switch. If you just flicked the switch, like on a light, darkness would come. And it would be over. Your heart and body would both be gone without a trace. That's what I wish for."
Right? Your thinking is probably correct, in this world. Adults might consider it a dangerous thought to have, but it's far more pragmatic than living on and being hurt by the vague things you cling to.
Even still, the talk show reporter tilted his head in confusion. "Why are they so eager to laugh things off? It makes you wonder if maybe these boys and girls' very sense of values is what created the breeding ground that gave rise to this sort of tragedy."
Did they really not realise that if they weren't laughing things off, they wouldn't be able to go on living? For these boys and girls, who wish for the ability to end it all by turning off a switch, telling them not to laugh is as good as telling them to flip the switch.
Let's cut it with the seriousness. If we're really going to think seriously, we should come up with a method of conquering our fears.
It's not that death is scary. The scariest thing is what causes it - the reality of painful, gloomy, meaningless deaths that is thrust upon us.
But don't we all really know that?
Who was Sumio Tohba? Was he just a swindling asshole or a psychotic criminal? A charismatic man, or a perfectly normal youth? However much testimony we gather, it seems as though this will remain unclear.
He was 19, a university student. As has already come up several times, his relationships with women were immensely complicated.
It is certain that he released unique, gigolo-like pheromones. Most of the women who were obsessed with him seemed even to revere and extol him.
As such, it seems a fitting end that his death came at the hands of one of the many women who were torn between loving and hating him. Those of the public who know somewhat of the facts of the case must recognise this, in reality.
But even still, his death and the circumstances surrounding it are mysterious. "Sumio's a scary guy," said a woman who knew him, as if still afraid of him even after his death. I'm no longer sure whether or not this is just a wrong impression. The claims of those who were involved with Sumio Tohba are just too wild.
Sumio Tohba and Kyoko Kazan's deaths come as part of a set. Everyone knows that now. I learned of Kyoko Kazan's death on the news, and witnessed Sumio Tohba's death with my own eyes. However, these things occurred almost simultaneously. I've finally started to figure that out.
I'll avoid talking about how these lovers' deaths came to synchronise, since it would involve too much speculation, but it seems certain that Sumio Tohba had some sort of fixation with Kyoko Kazan that he didn't feel towards the other women.
Was Kyoko Kazan's death a suicide, an accident, or murder? I don't know for sure. Murder? That might be a delusion in and of itself.
Are you aware of the story that a human head was found inside a paper bag at the Lost Highway? It shouldn't have been picked up by the news yet. It is just one of many rumours, after all.
I tried asking sources connected to the case, but was unable to obtain any information.
The rumour, however, is well-known amongst regulars of this club. The police are said to have discovered it on the night of the self-immolation. I have heard another rumour, too, saying that Kimika Takahashi's body was found without a head after she committed suicide by burning. The story suddenly takes an occultist turn here.
In that case, it seems like it would basically add up if the head they found were to belong to Kimika Takahashi, but the regulars deny this. They say that Kimika Takahashi's head is missing, and that the one found inside the paper bag belongs to someone else.
Whether it's delusions, rumours, conjecture, misinformation or the truth, you can probably tell how strangely large the things different people's imaginations create.
For sure, it is very peculiar. As of current writing, it is even unclear how much of the truth the police have released, and how much they are still hiding. The more I look into this case, the more people get in my way and slow me down, and the deeper the darkness grows.
But these gloomy incidents will soon be forgotten. With no definite factors, they will simply be discarded as the simple traffic accident and accidental involvement in a suicide by self-immolation that they appear to be on the surface.
More than anything, the darkness that hangs over them is strange and profound.
(Supplementary Rumour Review)
This is a hypothesis.
A quadrangle between an elder brother and a younger sister, an elder sister and a younger brother. The elder brother and sister are lovers, and the younger sister and brother are dating.
But what if it were the elder brother and his younger sister or the elder sister and the younger brother who were truly in love?
It's true that this four's relationship grows ever more warped the closer they get. These mixed emotions will surely cast a complicated shadow over them all.
If one corner of the quadrangle can no longer bear it and is crushed, the already twisted shape will be unable to retain its form.
"So the older sister who has feelings for her younger brother is sleeping with the older brother of the woman her younger brother is dating? That sounds like hell. I've never had an order that complex," Ai, a girl from an image club, told me with a laugh.
I scratched my head. It was so adorable to hear a wholesome girl dismiss it so simply as "hell".
Now, it all feels like a dream. If someone were to declare that it had never happened in a plain voice, I feel like I would simply say oh, I see and nod.
Sticking my nose in was all well and good, but further in there were several heavy curtains hanging, completely preventing the screen from being illuminated. I was completely at a loss. I could sense the presence of something evil, but couldn't get a grip on their tail. Yeah, this is a metaphor. I guess it has a sort of literal meaning as well, though.
About Kimika Takahashi, the dead girl. I never really had any intention of writing about her, but I felt as though coming to the conclusion that she was simply a pitiful little girl wasn't quite right. Thinking of it now, maybe she is a symbol herself - of this world, as a victim. Calling her a wrong-doer would be utterly ridiculous.
As I sat drinking a beer, not feeling at all like writing this article, my phone rang.
"You've gotta play it cooler than that," the woman on the phone said.
Hahaha. So it was the high school girl from the telephone club the other day.
"I don't like that kind of thing," I replied.
"I'm up on the roof right now. I'm on break."
It wasn't even lunchtime yet.
"You can't forget, you know?"
"That something's not right. That this has all just begun."
"How do you know?"
"It's a small world, and the balance is being disrupted. You were writing about the quadrangle, weren't you?"
"Yeah. But stop talking in riddles."
"That's not it. You just don't get it, do you? Everything has a trigger. If one thing slips out of balance, bigger things gradually start to collapse, too."
"Maybe you're right. But there's nothing I can do about it, is there?"
"Not you, mister. You just have to feel it. Then it won't be as bad."
"Won't be as bad? I won't be?"
I didn't respond, simply letting out a sigh.
"Oh, lessons are about to start. Well, bye, and good luck. I'm expecting things from you."
And with that, she hung up. I stared at the beeping phone for a while.
Was she a victim too, I suddenly wondered? Was she really seeking help? I felt so. After all, isn't everyone seeking help?
What about Kyoko Kazan? What about Sumio Tohba? What about me? But the number of cases in which someone is able to save someone else is very few. You need to have the determination, a relationship between the saver and the savee, as well as a hell of a lot of luck.
There is a mighty power belonging to someone in this world trying to prevent that. Someone...
Tch, I guess even my own head is festering now.
"Not you, mister. You just have to feel it. Then it won't be as bad."
"Won't be as bad?"
A refrain. The laughter of Sumio Tohba, enveloped in flames, still echoes somewhere inside my head. Please, I think. Make it not be as bad.
But if this is the beginning, there's no way things will take a turn for the better that easily.
Kimika Takahashi's suicide by self-immolation was planned as a double suicide, catching Sumio Tohba in it, from the start.
But Tohba showed no signs of resisting. The reason why he accepted the flames enveloping him is completely unknown.
I've obtained testimony from several people stating that there was definitely something mentally abnormal about Sumio Tohba. Most seemed to think that it was paranoia.
So was he in a state of confusion at the time? Personally speaking, that certainly wasn't the face of an average person I saw. Was it triggered by the death of Kyoko Kazan?
Or is it possible to think that it was Sumio Tohba who drove Kyoko Kazan to her death? That's what my intuition tells me.
Who does the human head that was supposedly found in a paper bag at the Lost Highway belong to? I'm not sure where the rumour originated from, but the information that it exists appears highly trustworthy.
What about the mystery of Kimika Takahashi's body?
If the rumours are true, that would mean that not only was there a suicide, but somebody added a grotesque crime on top. Just what sort of case is this?
The name of a new woman has come up regarding the people surrounding Sumio Tohba: Yayoi Itsushima. No idea what her story is.
It seems like Ryo Kazan, the younger brother of Kyoko Kazan, had come to this club on the day of the incident. I managed to get the testimony of a former classmate of his. I've also heard reports that he was seen talking to Rumi Tohba near the entrance. Seems like there's a possibility that Ryo Kazan was talking to the aforementioned Yayoi Itsushima inside the club, too.
Did Ryo Kazan and Sumio Tohba meet up?
This is all so vague, and there are too many things being hidden. Something's lurking within the incident at the club that stops me from behind able to dismiss it as simply a suicide by self-immolation and someone being dragged into a double suicide. These relationships just keep getting more and more complicated.