Today seems as though nothing has changed from yesterday. Tomorrow goes on and on in its tedium until you die. But even amidst this everyday normality, incidents are occurring. They are simply such personal happenings that they don't make the news. Let me write about the girl as a sample. She is a 17-year-old who attends high school.
She first noticed it on her way home, made late by her extracurricular activities. Somebody was following her. They walked several metres behind her, matching her pace. She could hear their footsteps. Finally, she steeled herself and turned around. No one was there. How did she feel when she learned that nothing was there?
"I thought, oh, it was my mistake. My friends said the same thing when I told them about it. It stays balanced like that. But I know better than anyone - there's absolutely no way I just made a mistake."
A lack of reality. A loss of realism.
A sort of madness that goes unnoticed if you don't notice it, advancing steadily.
But she did notice it.
"Are you able to truthfully look inside yourself? That ability is something we all lack."
A foul-smelling bar on the outskirts of town. It was at the counter of this establishment, run by an old lady who claimed to have been part of the nightlife business ever since the age of 15, where I met the man. He was an obviously suspicious-looking character, a self-proclaimed scholar and writer. The man spoke with a smooth voice. He claimed that what he had to say was incredibly meaningful and important, but at the same time would occasionally lament how meaningless it was. He wasn't especially drunk, but was silly and sounded deceptive. It was like he saw all of me. I thought about how many of those sorts of people there were these days.
"I'm borderline. We all are. You as well, of course. No one understands each other better than fellow borderline types do. You mustn't use words like "insanity" so casually. The younger generation are different, however. It is a very real danger that looms over them. Victims. Sacrifices. No one can stop the current now. It is under the control of a supernatural force. There are no alternate endings here. Why is that sort of compensation necessary? Why, for you and I, of course. Am I wrong?"
Perhaps he wasn't.
(Supplementary Rumour Review)
When you are experiencing a realistic dream, it isn't a dream. It's completely unlike a movie or a show on TV. When dreams are accompanied by a complete sense of realism, they are no different from reality to the dreamer. In each moment, they are experiencing the dream as real life.
She said that she had had a dream where she was a killer, slaughtering the people she knew one by one. A knife in her hand, she thrust and stabbed them with it. With that alone, the foreign object entered their bodies, their faces contorted in anguish, and they would let out mutters in strange voices. She repeated this over and over. She felt nothing. It was only afterwards that she realised how terrible it was. Then she let out a shriek in her confusion. However, she says, there are scarier things than this.
"I have way, way worse dreams than that. They start with something normal that gradually turns crazy, then finally gets all jumbled and hellish. They're so realistic that the whole time, it's like they're really happening. Then I can't take it anymore, so I start to scream. But when I wake up, I've forgotten it all. I only remember a tiny bit, things like that, and this feeling of being afraid of something. Forgetting is the thing that scares me the most."
The scary things she forgets lie sunken in the depths of her soul. The darkness there becomes gradually deeper, bigger. Some unknown terror grows within her. What if one day manages to escape into the true real world? That is the core of fear. Perhaps the darkness will peek out quietly from her mouth and the dream will become real life.
"But that's impossible, right? Impossible things don't happen in the real world. They're not like dreams. That's right."
But she was in possession of a knife, one which she had carefully hidden on her person so that no one would notice.
...Inside my dream.
Hinashiro has been quiet as of late, with no incidents or accidents. I wouldn't call it tranquil, though. There's no such thing as a truly tranquil and peaceful city. Perhaps somewhere a high-schooler is beating up an old guy, a middle-schooler is stealing people's passwords and posting slander online, or an elementary-schooler is calling a telekura. The adults themselves are surely using petty tricks to gain small pleasures.
That is, in general, the way in which the world works.
I met an interesting girl. Since I loiter about saying that I'm conducting research, or an investigation - whatever fits - I come to know all sorts of people. I can't stand people at all, and I find communicating with others to be a huge bother, but sometimes I meet people who take me aback.
While I was talking to the girl, I started thinking about dreams again.
To explain what it was the girl me simply, it's like this. People have dreams, but if you are properly able to grasp the unique and autonomous logical consistency that the dream has - that is, the worldview of the dream - it isn't scary. In fact, it becomes righteous power.
In any case, dreams are metaphors. They can be wild delusions, they can be insane, and then can even be supernatural power. Just how are you supposed to grasp them, then?
"You just have to believe," the girl declared plainly.
You just have to believe in yourself. That's all. Dreams are not something which comes from the outside world; they are things that are born from you. Even if they hypothetically were from an external source, as soon as they entered you they would become a part of you.
This external self-identifology (or so I have christened it) develops into the notion that despite stipulating yourself as a closed system, you simultaneously recognise others who engage with you as things of the same origin. It sounded like a load of bull to me, but she said, "Yeah, of course," and it sounded crazy persuasive.
These sorts of young kids are growing rapidly in Hinashiro, too.
She apparently has a sixth sense, too. It sounds like a type of empathetic ability. I understood it as a sort of power which responds to the creases in people's hearts, takes in and self-identifies them, emitting light and soothing them.
Then maybe she had casually done the same thing to me. Was it because I was taken in by her fraud that her words had seemed so persuasive?
I guess she got me.
"Oh, Miss M. I know her. She's a cheerful and curiosity-filled young lady. She has apparently started thinking more deeply about herself and others as of late, too, however. It's good to see her starting to come out of her shell."
This is something that was said to me by a suspicious-looking self-proclaimed scholar and writer I met somewhere in Hinashiro.
This M, a high school student, has several friends in which she places trust. A strong-willed senior who shows glimpses of an adult woman. Another senior, calm, cool and collected, who possesses an almost motherly compassion. A junior who has a natural optimism and interesting sensibility. Students who share the same sense of values.
Do you remember the incident that took place in the city of Hinashiro earlier, where a stalker committed suicide by biting off his own tongue? The victim in that case was the girl called M. These girls are also the ones who later contacted and attempted to persuade the middle school students who were involved in the serial death dives at the apartment complex.
These young girls' actions, which at first glance appear unconnected, may be tied together somehow.
The woman who (I think) was at the club during the self-immolation incident, which feels like the distant past now, is connected to the girls somehow, too. Not only that, but she appears to be the younger sister of one of the girls.
The incidents are occurring within this network of interconnected wires.
🔴 What's that?
◎ I'm going to use it to record.
〇 What're you gonna do with the recording?
◎ I'm using it as reference for something.
🔴 You're writing an article with it? I'll talk properly, if so.
〇 And just how are you gonna talk properly? That'd be a first.
🔴 Don't be meaaan.
◎ Loads of things have been happening in Hinashiro lately. I'd like to ask you what you think about it all.
🔴 Like, the whole world's gone crazy, huh?
◎ I was there when that thing went down at the Lost Highway.
🔴 Hmm, you were?
〇 That's where it all started. That... what should I call it, an air of restlessness?
◎ You think so?
〇 But it's always been like that here.
◎ Do you like Hinashiro?
🔴 Yeah. I have friends here and stuff.
〇 It's not a matter of like or dislike, is it? I live here. What'm I supposed to do about it? I don't mind going somewhere else to have a good time, but everywhere's the same.
🔴 Like somewhere way country?
〇 I'd like to go to the beach.
🔴 Summer break's over, though.
◎ Is there anything specific you find strange?
🔴 I do think it's weird. But it's melted into us.
〇 Melted in?
🔴 The ground over there, this wall - the bad things glue themselves to everyone and won't let go, I guess.
〇 Feels gross, huh.
◎ What? You mean you see evil ghosts and stuff like that?
🔴 They're not things that take form, not like people's souls.
〇 The hell kinda form do souls take?
🔴 Weird ones [laughs].
◎ If not souls, then what?
🔴 Figuratively speaking, I guess it's something like radio waves? Like, all matter has waves. Everything gets turned into energy. That sort of thing. The power of the place.
◎ If it's the city of Hinashiro itself and its people who create that place, you mean that it's us ourselves who're behind it?
🔴 You could say that, but there's something intermediary there. It's omnipresent.
〇 Look at you, talking like you get it.
🔴 I don't [laughs]. It's difficult to put it into words.
◎ Do you sense anything, like maybe something is going to happen again? There's a girl who says that.
〇 An esper girl? [laughs]
◎ Like something that might put an end to it all.
〇 Can an end be put to it? Doesn't it just go on and on forever? Then all of a sudden we're adults, and it gets dumped on the next generation.
🔴 Hey. I don't wanna put this on anyone else.
〇 What can we do? We're gonna be the ones who get the current grown-ups' problems dumped on us.
◎ Going around in circles, huh?
🔴 A vicious circle, maybe.
◎ Either way, that means the problem's just getting postponed.
🔴 And so while people are doing that, there's something whose presence is slowly growing. Amassing power.
〇 Something like the embodiment of evil?
🔴 Something like a kaiju. But I don't think it's necessarily something evil. Both the strong and the weak exist, though.
◎ And humans are on the weak side?
🔴 Humans are plenty strong, which is why this is happening.
〇 So it's the kaiju that's weak, then?
🔴 They always get taken down, don't they? It always makes me sad.
〇 I think you're sympathising with the wrong guys [laughs].
🔴 I feel super sad for the aliens in Independence Day [laughs].
◎ Aren't they the bad guys?
〇 But if you get attacked, you have no choice but to fight back. What were we talking about again?
🔴 People in the olden days got by fine enough with reverence and worship.
〇 Isn't that because those were gods?
🔴 It's the same thing. Devils and gods just have different faces.
◎ This is turning into kind of a magnificent story [laughs].
〇 She gets nervous when she's being recorded [laughs].
🔴 That's right [laughs].
At first it was my work-related curiosity that drew me to her, and then I began wanting to see what changes lay in store. It wasn't as though I had felt anything special or stimulating. It was the very fact that she was a neutral presence that somehow caught my interest.
The recorded tape ends midway through. This is due to the trivial and personal reason that midway through, she became uncomfortable with being recorded the whole time. You may think of this as nothing more than an interview of a completely average high school girl.
I'd like to start with your bio.
"17. High school second-year. Want me to tell you stuff like my blood type?"
Yeah, your hobbies and things like that [laughs].
"I don't really have any hobbies [laughs]."
You don't go out or anything?
"Well, sometimes. Normal stuff like going to karaoke or clubbing."
You enjoy karaoke?
"Yeah, I guess so. My singing is perfection. If you treat me, I'll give you a special demonstration."
That's amazing. You're really that confident about it?
"Songs are the soul. It's about whether or not you've got heart. I'm currently in the process of training my heart so I can make my big debut as a singer any time now."
Wow. Debuting as a singer?
"I wouldn't mind making my gravure debut for a magazine, either, though. Wanna use me?"
If you wanna do gravure, you'll have to at least put on a bikini. Still up for it?
"Hmm... Then please pay me upfront so I can go visit a salon."
I'll think about it. What about clubbing?
"Only sometimes when they do events that sound fun, I guess. I take my friends and seniors with me."
"Yeah. My dancing is perfection."
You say that about everything.
"Yeeeep. You're not great at this whole quipping thing, are you?"
Ah, my bad.
"Well, I've got a big heart, so I'll let it slide."
How kind. Do you have a boyfriend at the moment?
"There was a guy I was dating."
You broke up?
"He died. Oh, this is for real, by the way."
"I should've just said no comment [laughs]."
Well, alright, let's go with that. Has there been anything really interesting you lately?
"It's all been crappy stuff recently. I did go to the club the other day, though."
"Afterwards I had this terrible ringing in my ears, and I could even hear inaudible things."
What do you mean by inaudible things?
"At first it was these awful, strange noises, but then after a while it sounded like someone talking. Things that people were thinking. Like, you can't get away from me, or, go to hell, or, screw you."
Auditory hallucinations? Did you do drugs or something?
"No, dummy. But is that what auditory hallucinations are?"
From what I've heard, there's a type of auditory hallucination where your hearing becomes crystal clear and you can hear everything, and a type where all you can hear is noise.
"I feel like both have happened to me. Not good, huh?"
What about the things people are thinking part?
"I was like, wow, is that really what they're thinking? But I don't know if it's really real. Also, there was a time before when I got lost inside the school and couldn't get out. Can you believe that? I just came out of class like usual, but I was walking down hallways from totally different places."
What's that all about?
I don't know for sure, but I get the feeling from listening to you that you're a martyr.
"What's a martyr?"
Like, people who're given roles by a bunch of people. Like being put in charge of cleaning.
"Ohh [laughs]. I don't like that, though. I really feel like I'm being watched. Like everyone's leering right at me. I wonder why? I'm just living a normal life."
Do you have any idea who it might be?
"Nope. None. Nada. I hope it's not some perv, but that would be okay. There are some weirdos who just want to look. But it's okay if you just ignore those types."
"If it's that, then I'm practised, too. I'm not living like a show-off."
Yeah. But it's something else.
"That's why I can't even imagine it. I love TV dramas, but sometimes I wonder if it's like one of those."
Dramas? Hey, hold on a sec. The tape's about to run out...
It was a few days after this that she went missing.
Mika Kishii, Yukari Hasegawa, Chisato Itsushima, Arisa Kahara... Rumi Tohba and Yayoi Itsushima are somehow involved with this group of high-schoolers. Yayoi Itsushima might be Chisato Itsushima's sister.
I managed to make contact with the girls. Arisa Kahara plays the role of diplomat within their network.
Arisa Kahara and Chisato Itsushima appear to have sixth senses. Chisato Itsushima's abilities seem particularly heightened. She has power enough to be able to commune with things other than humans. What about Yayoi Itsushima, then, her maybe sister?
Nothing that sounds like an unusual incident has occurred, but something is clearly progressing. I don't know what it is. It happens quietly within everyday normality, so I can't clearly single it out as a phenomenon.
Maybe I just hadn't noticed it until now, and it's been happening between the girls for ages.
What's happening? What's going on?
Mika Kishii is missing. It doesn't look like she's been home. There are no traces of her having to her club's training camp, either. Her parents are abroad on holiday.
Apparently, the last person to see Mika Kishii was Arisa Kahara. It sounds as though she was on the train speaking with Mika Kishii, and at some point fell asleep. Upon waking up, she found that Mika Kishii was gone. Arisa Kahara says that around that time, she spotted a boy who didn't look quite normal.
The subway they were riding on stopped at Hinashiro Station for an hour and 40 minutes due to a rail accident that occurred at Shimokita.
Unconfirmed information. Ryo Kazan might be missing, too.
The boy... is it the boy from back then?