The scene before me made me doubt my own eyes.
My flat was situated next to an area of the city where love hotels were rampant. Honestly, I had been enticed by the cheap rent and signed the lease almost right away. The flat was furnished and relatively fashionable――but the location wasn’t good. Living in a place like this and often walking through the love hotel district had the unexpected side-effect of causing one to lose their natural sense of aversion to such areas. But as I was still single, I figured I wouldn’t feel guilty even if I happened to run into someone from work.
That’s how I felt anyway…
Yet on this particular day, after I finished work and ate my dinner, I had some beers to help me relax and started home in high spirits at around midnight. I decided to take a shortcut and ended up choosing a route that goes right through the thick of the love hotel district. I don’t usually come this way unless I’m returning home after eating out, but it does get me home a few minutes quicker.
What if I run into someone from work…?
Every time I take this route, that thought crosses my mind. Though, in actuality, I didn’t believe it would ever really happen. That’s why, watching a particular couple intimately linking arms and chatting away, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Department head Hisaki and Kamoda…?”
I had told myself that I wouldn’t feel guilty if I happened across someone from work here, but for some reason I ended up hiding. I could only smile wryly at how pathetic it was of me to jump like a startled rabbit and hide.
…There was no doubt the two I was observing walk along the other side of the street was my boss, Hisaki, who had recently left her forties behind to start her fifties, and my co-worker, Kamoda. As I’m twenty-eight this year, Kamoda should be the same age if he hadn’t played around in college and been held back a year. Still, their age difference was like that of a parent and child.
Incidentally, the place they had just left was one that bids you adieu with the words “I’m glad you had a pleasurable time.” I checked the place again just to be sure, but there was no mistaking it.
If…if I hadn’t experienced the event which happened at my job today, I might have been able to lock away the scene before me deep inside myself. Putting aside age and standing, I’m not the kind of guy that likes to quibble over who one chooses to love.
However, recalling what happened at the company today, and overlaying it with the scene playing out before me, I started to feel a murky, choking sensation rise up inside me. I felt stupid for having been unable to recognize the scheming.
…Today at work, HR had made an announcement. Kamoda, whose business performance was severely lacking, was being promoted to manager. The one responsible for his raise was the department head, Hisaki. There were a lot of people in the company besides me who were confused as to why Kamoda had been selected. Of course, I don’t want to believe this was the reason. It’s just, trying to tell myself they’re unrelated was…impossible.
Carrying these inexpressible emotions, I entered into a narrow alleyway I never take. There was a high chance that if I stayed on the main road without entering the alley, I would be discovered by Hisaki and Kamoda. As I said before, I wouldn’t feel any kind of guilt at being seen myself. Still, I felt that avoiding contact here would be in my best interest.
…If I ran into them head on what would happen? Would Hisaki try and placate me? What would Kamoda do? He has a rather nasty personality. Worst case, he might come and try to crush me. …No, the opposite is also possible. What would I do if he got on his hands and knees and began begging me to forget what I saw? Would I even be able to accept that…?
…Thinking along these lines, I figured any of those patterns was going to turn out to be a huge hassle. So I ended up hiding. It would be best to play this card I had just been presented with, at the most appropriate time. And, I’m sure that time wasn’t now.
Darkness permeated the back alleyway, making it difficult to walk. These sections of the love hotel district were not well kept, and this alley, in particular, was so full of trash, crates and boxes that it became nearly impossible to find decent footing to proceed.
My home would be just on the other side of this alley. But, as I jumped in here from the well-lit street, my eyes weren’t adjusted to the darkness yet. Even so, I didn’t have the nerve to just wait for my eyes to get used to the dark, so I continued carefully making my way forward. Eventually, I completely forgot what it was that had driven me to pick my way through here in the first place. Maybe it was the beer? I maintained my careful pace through the alley.
Then, it happened.
Barely a few steps in front of me, the paved surface of the alleyway started to emit a pure white light out of nowhere. It wasn’t like some specific object had started to emit light, but more like the ground itself had suddenly become a powerful light source. After walking through the alley, my eyes had finally started to grow accustomed to the dark, but with the advent of this light, I was utterly blinded.
My own voice sounded pathetic and uncool. The volume of light led me to believe I had somehow detonated a bomb. I had never really considered wanting to choose my place of death up until now, but if possible I would have liked to avoid dying in a back alley of the love hotel district, surrounded by garbage.
I panicked, and twisted my body around, trying to avoid whatever was happening as quickly as possible. However it backfired, and I lost my footing to the boxes and wares around me. In the end, I slipped and fell forward in such a way that I appeared to be diving for first base.
I heard the sound of an unfamiliar man’s voice. It also felt like I had slammed headfirst into some kind of unknown object. Blinded as I was, and unable to understand what was happening around me, I had the sensation of floating, and at the same time sinking.
Just like that… while releasing an uncharacteristic scream, my consciousness snapped and I fell into darkness…
End of [000 – The Fall 1/2]
I have just started translating this series, and so far, I have found it to be quite refreshing and very enjoyable to read.
I hope you find it as enjoyable as I do, and we can experience this journey together!
I would hate to die in an alley surrounded by garbage too…what about you? lol