A UFO Lands at Kushiro

by MURAKAMI Haruki
translated by Christopher Allison

She passed five straight days sitting in front of the TV. The hospitals and banks collapsed, the shopping arcade was on fire, the trains and the highways were closed down, and she just stared silently at the TV. Sunk deeply into the sofa with her lips pressed tightly together, she made no response as Komura spoke to her. She didnft even nod or shake her head. It was impossible to determine whether or not Komurafs voice even reached her ears.
Komurafs wife was from Yamagata and had no family or friends in Kobe so far as he knew. In spite of that, she didnft budge from in front of the TV from morning to night. Judging by appearances, she didnft get up to eat or drink. She didnft even go to the bathroom. Aside from changing the channel with the remote control once in a while, she didnft move a muscle.
Making his own toast and drinking his coffee alone, Komura headed off to work. When he came home in the evening, his wife was just as he left her in the morning, sitting in front of the TV. Having no other choice, he searched the refrigerator and fixed himself a simple dinner. When he went off to bed, his wife was still there watching the late-night news. The walls hemmed them in silently. After a while, he didnft even hear the voices anymore.
On the fifth day, a Sunday, when he returned from work at the normal time, his wife had vanished.

Komura was a salesman at an audio specialty shop in Akihabara. He sold mostly high-end components, and earned commissions in addition to his salary. His clients were mainly doctors, affluent businessmen, and other rich locals. Hefd been doing this work for almost 8 years, and from the beginning the pay wasnft bad. The economy was thriving, land prices were rising, and money percolated throughout Japan. Everybodyfs wallets were stuffed with 10,000-yen bills, and it seemed like they were all looking for ways to spend them. He was selling top-quality stuff left and right.
Tall and slender, and always impeccably dressed, we were good with people, and had done quite well with the girls in his single days. But at 26 he had gotten married, and his desire for sexual thrills had vanished to an almost alarming degree. For five years after he got married, he didnft sleep with a single girl other than his wife. It wasnft that he didnft have chances. Passing relationships with girls he barely knew just didnft hold his interest much anymore. From then on, he always returned home from work right away, had a leisurely dinner with his wife, the two of them sat on the couch and talked, and then they rolled around in bed together. This was all he wanted.
From the time of his marriage, Komurafs friends and colleagues looked askance at this change. Compared to his fine features and noble bearing, his wife was nothing special. And aside from her looks, she wasnft particularly charming sexually either. She was taciturn and always had a disagreeable expression on her face. She was short, she had fat arms, and all in all there was something bovine about her.
But Komura, not really knowing the reason why himself, loved nothing more than the carefree, easy existence he had when he was together with his wife under one roof. He enjoyed being able to sleep peacefully at night. He was no longer plagued with the strange dreams that he used to have. His erections were hard, and their sex was intimate. He had no anxieties about death or venereal disease or the breadth of outer space.
But his wife was another story. She hated the cramped Tokyo lifestyle, and longed to return to her hometown in Yamagata. She missed her parents and her two older sisters dreadfully, and this feeling was heightened every time she visited home alone. Her family ran a successful ryokan, and her father doted on his youngest daughter to the extent that he gladly sent her money to cover the costs of her visits. Komura had returned home from work many times before to find a note from his wife on the kitchen table, explaining that she had gone back to Yamagata for a while. He never voiced any complaints about this. He just waited silently for his wife to come back. She would return after a week or ten days, her spirits noticeably improved.

But when she left on the fifth day after the earthquake, the letter that she left read gI am not planning to come back here again.h The reason why she didnft want to live there together with Komura anymore was noted briefly but distinctly.
The problem is, you never give me anything, his wife wrote. To put it more plainly, there is nothing in you that you could give to me. Youfre pleasant and kind and handsome, but living with you is like living with clotted air. Of course this isnft your fault alone. Ifm sure there are plenty of women who would like you well enough. Please donft try to call me. Dispose of whatever things Ifve left behind as you see fit.
She had hardly left anything behind, though. Her clothes and shoes and umbrella and coffee maker and hair dryer were all gone. It would seem that after Komura went to work, she packed up all her things and sent them off by UPS or something. The only remaining of gher thingsh were a bike she used for shopping and a few paperbacks. All the Beatles and Bill Evans albums had disappeared from the CD rack, leaving only Komurafs collection from his single days.
The next day, Komura called his wifefs familyfs home in Yamagata. Her mother came on the line and said that his wife didnft want to talk to him. She used a very formal tone with Komura. Wefll send the necessary papers later. Please sign them and return them as quickly as possible.
Since this is a very important matter, Ifd like to think about it a little first, Komura said.
gNo matter how much you think about it, it wonft change anything,h she said.
Thatfs probably true, Komura thought to himself. However long I wait, and however much I think about it, things will never return to the way they were. This he understood all too well.

Shortly after he had signed and returned the papers, Komura took a week off from work. Having heard something about the situation, and February generally being a slow time of year anyway, his boss approved it without protest. His expression said that he wanted to say something, but he didnft.
gKomura-san, I hear youfre taking a vacation. What are you going to do?h Sasaki, one of his colleagues, asked him during lunch break.
gI havenft decided yet.h
Sasaki was about three years younger than Komura, and still single. He was shortish, had closely-cropped hair, and wore glasses with round metal frames. He talked a lot, had a big nose, and quite a number of people disliked him, but Komura, with his laid-back disposition, had never had a problem with him.
gYoufre about due for a nice relaxing trip somewhere, donft you think?h
gYeah,h Komura said.
Sasaki wiped the lenses of his glasses with his handkerchief, and then looked closely at Komura to see how things stood.
gHave you ever been to Hokkaido before?h
gNo,h Komura replied.
gDo you want to go?h
Sasaki narrowed his eyes, and coughed. gWell, to make it plain, I have this little package that I need to get to Kushiro, and I thought that it would be great if you could take it for me. If you can do this, there would be a round-trip ticket in it for you. Ifd also take care of arrangements for your accommodation.h
gA small package?h
gAbout this size,h Sasaki said, making a box about ten centimeters on each side with the fingers of both his hands. gIt isnft heavy at all.h
gIs it work-related?h
Sasaki shook his head. gIt is totally unrelated to work. A 100% personal matter. Ifm afraid that if I ship it by mail or UPS or something, it will suffer from rough handling, so I thought that if possible, it would be best if I could get somebody I know to take it there personally. Ifd do it myself, but I donft have the time to go all the way to Hokkaido.h
gIs it something important?h
Sasaki curled his lips, and then nodded. gBut itfs not fragile, nor is it dangerous, so there is no cause for concern. Itfll be fine with the rest of your luggage. You donft need to worry about getting stopped at an inspection station either. It will cause you no problems at all. I donft want to send it through the regular mail just for my own peace of mind.
It certainly was very cold in Hokkaido in February. But as far as Komura was concerned, either hot or cold was fine.
gSo who will I give the package to?h
gMy little sister lives there.h
Komura hadnft given any thought at all as to how he would spend his vacation, and making plans himself was a pain, so he decided to take up Sasakifs offer. He had no reason not to want to go to Hokkaido. Sasaki called an airline and made a reservation for a seat on a Kushiro-bound plane. It was for two days later.
The next day at work, Sasaki handed Komura a small box wrapped in brown paper. From handling it, it seemed to be made of wood. Just as Sasaki had said, it weighed almost nothing. Over the paper, it had been wrapped repeatedly with thick, clear packing tape. Taking it in hand, Komura stared at it for a second. He tried shaking it lightly, but nothing happened, and there was no sound.
gMy sister will go to the airport to meet you. Your accommodations have also been taken care of, of course,h Sasaki said. gPlease stand at the gate with the box in your hands in plain view. And donft worry. Airports like that one arenft very big.h

When he left his house, he wrapped the box in a heavy shirt, and stuck it deep in his bag. The plane was much more crowded than he had expected. What in the world are all of these people doing, going from Tokyo to Kushiro in the middle of winter, Komura wondered, turning his head.
The newspaper was filled with stories about the earthquake as usual. Sitting in his seat, he looked over every inch of the morning paper. Since power and water service were still off in many places, a lot of people were homeless. The miserable plights of thousands of people were spread out before him. But to Komurafs eyes, all of those details were strangely flat and lifeless, and had no depth. All of the tones were dull and far away. The only thing he could think seriously about was the ever-increasing distance between him and his wife.
He would look at the newspaper stories mechanically for a while, and then hefd think about his wife, and then return to the newspaper stories again. Wearying of both his wife and the small print in the newspaper, he closed his eyes and fell asleep for a little while. When he awoke, he started thinking about his wife again. Why was she always watching the news reports about the earthquake like that, so seriously, morning to night, without eating or sleeping? What in the world did she see there?

Two young women wearing overcoats of identical color and design called out to Komura when he got off the plane. One was very pale, about 5f 7h, and had short hair. From her nose to her swollen upper lip, she looked strangely slow-witted, giving the impression of a short-hair ungulate. The other one was about 5f 2g, and with the exception of her nose, which was much too small for her face, she was not a bad looking girl. Her hair was shoulder-length and straight. Her ears stuck out slightly, and she had two moles on her right earlobe. Her ears were pierced, which made the moles very noticeable. Both girls looked to be in their mid-twenties. They escorted Komura to a coffee shop in the airport.
gMy name is Keiko Sasaki,h the taller one said. gThis is my friend Shimao.h
gNice to meet you,h said Komura.
gHi,h Shimao said.
gI heard from my brother that your wife passed away recently,h Keiko said meekly.
gNo, shefs not dead,h Komura corrected her after a moments pause.
gBut Ifm sure thatfs what my brother said when I spoke to him on the phone the other day. eMr. Komurafs wife just passed away.fh
gNo, wefre just divorced. Shefs still alive, so far as I know.h
gHow very strange. I canft imagine mistaking something so important.h
A pained expression passed across her face as if her mistake had hurt her personally. Komura added a little sugar to his coffee, stirring it quietly with a spoon. Then he drank it in one gulp. It was thin and didnft have any flavor. The coffee didnft have any substance itself, but acted as a sort of signal. What in the world am I doing here, Komura puzzled to himself.
gBut I must have mis-heard. I canft think of any other explanation,h Keiko said, regaining her composure. Then she took a deep breath and exhaled lightly through her lips. gIfm sorry. That was very impolite of me.h
gDonft worry about it. They might as well be the same thing.h
While the two of them were talking, Shimao smiled slightly, looking silently at Komurafs face. It was almost as if she was smitten with him. From his expression and body language, it seemed that he was aware of this too. The three of them sat there silently for a moment.
gWell, first things first. Ifll give you the package,h Komura finally said. He opened the zipper of his bag and extracted the parcel from inside the thick skiing shirt. I should have had it in my hands the whole time, Komura thought to himself. That was the sign. I wonder why they know so much about me?
Stretching out her arms, Keiko accepted the package on the table top, and gazed at it blankly for a while. Then she tested the weight, and just like Komura had, held it next to her ear and shook it a few times. She smiled at Komura, as if to show that everything was fine, and then stuffed the box in her large shoulder bag.
gI have to make a phone call. Will you excuse me a moment?h Keiko said.
gYes, of course. Go ahead,h Komura replied.
Pulling the bag up onto her shoulder, Keiko walked over to a distant telephone booth. Komura followed her with his eyes for a while. Fixated on her upper half, she seemed to glide machine-like from the waist down. As he watched her peculiar manner of walking, he became strangely aware of some scene from the past worming its way into his mind.
gHave you ever been to Hokkaido before?h Shimao asked him.
Komura shook his head.
gItfs really far away, huh?h
Komura nodded. Then he looked around. gBut being here, like this, I donft really feel like Ifve come from far away at all. Itfs strange.h
gThatfs because of the plane. Itfs too fast,h Shimao said. gEven though your body is moving, you hardly realize it.h
gI guess thatfs it.h
gDid you want to get far away?h
gI suppose.h
gBecause of your wife?h
Komura nodded.
gBut no matter how far you go, you can never run away from yourself,h Shimao said. Staring distractedly at the sugar jar that sat on top of the table, Komura looked up at the girlfs face.
gYeah, youfre right. Thatfs true. No matter how far I go, I can never escape myself. Just like my shadow. It will always come too.h
gYou really loved your wife, didnft you?h
Komura evaded the question. gSo youfre Keikofs friend?h
gYeah. Wefre partners.h
gWhat kind of partners?h
gAre you hungry?h Shimao said, not answering but replying with another question.
gI donft know,h Komura said. I kind of feel like Ifm hungry, but I kind of donft.h
gThe three of us ought to go get something hot to eat. If we eat something warm, wefll all feel a lot more at ease.h

Shimao drove. The car was a little four wheel drive Subaru. Judging by its condition, it must have had about 160,000 miles on it. There was a big dent in the rear bumper. Keiko rode in the passenger seat, and Komura sat in the tiny back seat. Shimao wasnft a bad driver, but the noise in the back was deafening, and the suspension was fairly poor. The automatic transmission jolted, and the air conditioner only worked intermittently. If you closed your eyes, it gave you the distinct impression that someone had put you in a fully automatic washing machine.
No snow had accumulated at Kushiro. There were just forlorn mounds of dirty slush on either side of the road, like words that had lost their purpose. The clouds were coming in low and, although the sunset still showed through a small gap, it was almost completely dark. The wind pierced the darkness with a sharp whistling sound. There was almost no one walking on the street. In this desolate landscape, everything appeared frozen except the traffic signal.
gThis is one of the few places in Hokkaido where hardly any snow accumulates,h Keiko said in a loud voice, turning around. gSince wefre close to the coast and the wind is so strong, most of it blows right by. But it does get unbelievably cold. So cold it will take your ears off.h
gDrunks who fall asleep in the road are always freezing to death,h Shimao said.
gAre there bears around here?h Komura asked.
Keiko turned to Shimao and laughed. gDid you hear that? eBears.fh
Shimao also tittered.
gI really donft know much about Hokkaido,h Komura said as if to excuse himself.
gTherefs one interesting story about bears around here,h Keiko said. gWouldnft you say?h
gIncredibly interesting,h Shimao agreed.
The conversation stopped there, however, and they didnft say what was so interesting about bears. Komura didnft ask either. Before long, they came to their destination. There was a big ramen shop by the side of the highway. They left the car in the parking lot and the three of them went into the shop. Komura had a beer and a hot bowl of ramen. The shop was dirty and deserted, and the tables and chairs were about to fall apart, but the ramen was really good, and after he had finished eating he felt much more relaxed.
gIs there anything in particular that you want to do while youfre in Hokkaido?h Keiko asked him. gI hear that youfll be here for about a week.h
Komura thought about this for a little while, but he didnft come up with anything.
gHow about an onsen? Do you like going to spas? Therefs a small, country onsen nearby.h
gThat doesnft sound bad,h Komura said.
gIfm sure youfll like it. Itfs a nice place. And there arenft any bears.h
The two girls looked at each other and laughed that funny laugh again.
gIs it O.K. if I ask you something about your wife?h Keiko asked.
gGo ahead.h
gWhen did she leave?h
gIt was five days after the earthquake, so it must have been more than two weeks ago now.h
gWas it somehow related to the earthquake?h
Komura shook his head. gI donft think so.h
gIn spite of that, I wonder whether they are somehow connected,h Shimao said, tilting her head slightly.
gIn a way unknown to you,h Keiko added.
gThere are things like that,h Shimao said.
gThere are things like what?h Komura asked.
gLook,h Keiko said. gI knew somebody who had something like that happen to him.h
gYou mean Seiki?h Shimao asked.
gYeah,h Keiko said. gThere is this guy named Seiki. Hefs about 40, lives in Kushiro, and is a barber. This guyfs wife saw a UFO last fall. She was driving her car all alone on the outskirts of town in the middle of the night when she saw this huge UFO land in the middle of a field. Boom! Just like eClose Encounters.f A week after that, she walked out. They had never had any problems at home or anything. She just disappeared and never came back.h
gJust like that,h Shimao said.
gBecause of the UFO?h Komura asked.
gI donft know why. Then one day, without leaving a note, her two elementary school-age children went somewhere,h Keiko said. For the whole week before they left, the only thing they would talk about with anyone they saw was this UFO. Almost completely non-stop. Itfs size, how clean it was, that kind of thing.h
What they were saying finally sunk into Komurafs head.
gIn my case, there was a note,h Komura said. gAnd we donft have any children.h
gMaybe there is a better example than Seiki,h Keiko said.
gThe children are important,h Shimao said, nodding.
gWhen she was seven, Shimaofs father left home,h Keiko explained with a knitted brow. gHe ran off with her motherfs sister.h
gJust suddenly one day,h Shimao said with a smile.
Silence descended.
gI bet Seikifs wife didnft leave home, but was taken away by the aliens in the UFO,h Komura said trying to smooth things over.
gThatfs a possibility,h Shimao said gravely. gThatfs what a lot of people say.h
gOr maybe she was eaten by a bear when she was walking down the street,h Keiko said. The two girls laughed again.

When they left the store, the three of them went to a nearby love hotel. Between the love hotel and a stone work studio that made grave stones there was an alleyway, and Shimao pulled the car into it. The love hotel was an odd building that had been made to look like a European-style castle. Tri-corner red flags stood on top.
Keiko got the key from the front desk, and the three of them took the elevator up to the room. The windows were tiny, and the bed was ridiculously big. Komura took off his down jacket and hung it on a hangar, and while he was in the bathroom doing his business, the two girls adroitly drew water for the bath, adjusted the lights, checked the thermostat, turned on the TV, examined the room-service menu, tested the bed-side switch, and inspected the contents of the refrigerator.
gI know the people who run this hotel,h Keiko said. gSo we got the biggest room available. While itfs really a love hotel, it ought to be OK. Itfs OK, isnft it?h
Itfs OK, Komura said.
gI think this is a much better idea than those tiny, foul-smelling business hotels by the train station.h
gI guess so.h
gThe bath is full, so why donft you get in it?h
Komura did as he was told. The bath was so big as to make a person feel a little uncomfortable in it alone. Probably all the people who come here take baths in pairs.
When he got out of the bath, Keiko wasnft there. Shimao was drinking a beer and watching TV alone.
gKeiko had to go home. She had and errand so she excused herself. She said she would come and meet you here tomorrow. Hey, I was wondering if itfs OK if I stay here for a while and drink beer?h
Itfs OK, Komura said.
gI wonft disturb you? You donft want to be alone or anything?h
You wonft disturb me, Komura said. He opened a beer, and while he dried his hair with a towel, he watched a TV show with Shimao. It was a special news report about the earthquake. They kept repeating the same images as ever. The buildings leaning over, the collapsed highways, the tears of an old woman, confused and misdirected anger. When the commercials came, she switched off the TV with the remote control.
gWhy donft we talk about something?h
gWhat should we talk about?h
gThe bear you two were talking about in the car,h Komura said. gThat interesting story about the bear.h
gYeah. The bear story,h she agreed.
gYou donft mind telling it?h
gNot at all.h
Shimao got a new beer out of the refrigerator and poured it in their glasses.
gItfs kind of a dirty story. It wonft bother you, will it?h
Komura shook his head.
gSometimes when I tell it some men get bothered by that.h
gIfm not like that.h
gThis actually happened to me personally, so itfs kinda embarrassing.h
gIf itfs OK with you Ifd like to hear it.h
gItfs OK with me if itfs OK with you.h
gItfs fine with me.h
gOK. So, three years ago, when I first started at junior college, I knew this guy. He was a college student, one year older than me. This was the first guy I ever had sex with. We went hiking together one time. This mountain way up north.h
Shimao took a sip of her beer.
gSince it was fall, there were bears around. Bears gather their food for the winter during the fall, so itfs pretty dangerous. Sometimes people get attacked. Three days earlier, a hiker had been mauled, and was very seriously injured. So the people there gave us bells to carry. These bells were about the size of wind chimes. They said to ring the bells as we walked. Ding ding. If we did this, the bears would know that there were people coming, and wouldnft come out. See, bears donft really want to attack humans. While itfs true they eat lots of different kinds of food, they concentrate mainly on vegetables, and itfs almost never necessary for them to attack people--only when they come across a human in their territory, which surprises them, which pisses them off, so they attack defensively. So if you ring the bells--ding ding--while you are walking, they will do their best to avoid you. Understand?h
gI understand.h
gSo the two of us are walking up this mountain path ringing our bells. Ding ding. As we are doing this, we come to a place where there is nobody around, and he says suddenly that he wants to, umm, have sex with me. I wasnft totally against the idea, so I said efinef. We went off the path a little ways, and entered this thicket where no one could see us. We spread out a picnic blanket. But I was still worried about the bears. Wouldnft it be terrible if, in the middle of having sex, a bear attacked us from behind and killed us? That would be an awful way to die. Donft you think?h
Komura concurred.
gSo we took the bells in one hand and had sex, shaking the bells the whole time. All the way from the beginning to the end. Going eding dingf.
gWho did the shaking?h
gWe alternated. When one hand got tired, we would switch. When that hand got tired, wefd switch again. It was really strange--having sex and ringing these bells the whole time,h Shimao said. gEven now, sometimes when Ifm in bed with someone itfll pop into my mind, and I just burst out laughing.h
Komura laughed a little.
Shimao clapped her hands a couple times. gOh, thank god! Mr. Komura is capable of laughter.h
gOf course,h Komura said. When he thought about it, though, it had been quite a long time since he had laughed at anything. When was the last time?
gHey, is it OK if I take a bath?h
gGo ahead.h
While she was in the bath, Komura watched a comedian with a loud voice, who was hosting a variety show on TV. It wasnft at all interesting, but Komura couldnft tell whether this was the showfs fault or his own. He drank another beer, and opened a packet of nuts from the refrigerator. Shimao was in the bath for a long time, but finally emerged wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around her, and sat down on the bed. She took off the towel, and climbed cat-like in between the sheets. Then she looked Komura straight in the face.
gSo, when was the last time you had sex with your wife?h
gThe end of December of last year, I think.h
gNot since then?h
gAnd there was no one else?h
Closing his eyes, Komura assented.
gItfs just my opinion, but I think what you really need right now is a complete renewal of you spirit, and to enjoy a more unaffected life,h Shimao said. gI mean, donft you see? Tomorrow there could be an earthquake. Or aliens could take you away. Or you could be eaten by a bear. Anything can happen, and nobody knows until it does.h
gNo one knows until it does,h Komura repeated her words.
gDing ding,h Shimao said.

They tried coupling a number of times, but after repeated frustrations, Komura gave up. This was the first time this had ever happened to him.
gYoufre thinking about your wife, arenft you?h Shimao asked.
gYeah,h Komura said. But to tell the truth, the only things in Komurafs head were images of the earthquake. Like a slide show, one would appear and then vanish. Another would appear and then vanish. Highway, flames, smoke, a mountain of rubble, cracks in the road. There was nothing he could do to disrupt that noiseless stream of images.
Shimao lay her ear on Komurafs naked chest.
gThere are just some things like that,h she said.
gYou shouldnft worry about it.h
gIfll try not to worry about it,h Komura said.
gWhich means of course that youfll worry about it. Men being men.h
Komura was silent.
Shimao pinched his nipple lightly. gYou said your wife left a note for you, didnft you?h
gI did.h
gWhat did she say in it?h
gShe said that living with me was like living with clotted air.h
gClotted air?h Shimao said, craning her neck to look him in the face. gWhat does that mean?h
gI think it means that therefs nothing inside.h
gThat you have nothing inside?h
gProbably so. But I donft really know, though. I mean, what in the world does it mean to have nothing inside?f
gYeah. And while youfre at it, what does it mean to have something inside?h Shimao said. gMy mom loves to eat salmon skin, and she always says it would be great if there were salmon that were just skin. So itfs like there are also cases where having nothing inside is better. Right?h
Komura tried to imagine a salmon made entirely of skin. But hypothetically, if it existed, wouldnft itfs skin be exactly what was inside? When Komura took a deep breath, the girlfs face rose up and then sunk down again.
gLook, I really donft know whether youfve got anything inside or not, but youfre pretty cool. I think there are lots of women all over the world who would like you if they got to know you.h
gShe said that, too.h
gYour wife said that in the note?h
gHmm,h Shimao said peevishly. Then she lay her ear back down on Komurafs chest. Her earrings felt like some secret foreign body.
gBy the way, that box that I brought with me,h Komura said. gWhat was inside it?h
gAre you concerned about it?h
gI wasnft worried about it until now. But for some reason it just started to bother me.h
gJust now.h
gI just noticed it, suddenly.h
gWhy did it start to bother you all of a sudden like that?h
Komura stared at the ceiling and thought for a moment. gWhy, I wonder?h
The two of them listened to the howl of the wind for a little while. The wind was blowing right by, from some place that Komura didnft know to some other place he didnft know.
gOh, that,h Shimao said in low, conspiratorial voice. gThat was what used to be inside of you in that box. Without knowing it, you brought it here yourself and gave it to Keiko Sasaki with your own hands. So youfll never get your insides back.h
Komura raised up his body and looked down at the girlfs face. The small nose and the moles on her ears. In that deep silence, the sound of the huge beats of his heart could be heard. As he bent his body, his joints creaked. For one brief moment, Komura felt himself at the brink of some overwhelming violence.
gThat was just a joke,h Shimao said when she saw Komurafs complexion. gIt just popped into my mind, so I said it. It was a thoughtless joke. Ifm sorry. Donft worry about it. I didnft mean to hurt you.h
His spirits soothed, Komura looked around the room and then buried his head again in the pillow. His eyes closed, he heaved a deep sigh. The vastness of the bed came to him like the sea at night. The sound of the frozen wind could be heard. His bones shook with the violent beats of his heart.
gDo you feel at all like youfve come a long distance yet?h
gI feel like Ifve come quite a long way,h Komura said frankly.
Shimao raised herself from Komurafs chest and drew a complicated design with her fingers, as if she was casting a spell.
gBut youfve only just begun,h she said.