Sunday, 5 April 2015

Teeth Marks

This story has been translated from Japanese into English by Saya

The Shibuya Station, Tokyo

This happened 13 years ago.
Today I still cannot make sense of what it was that happened to me. I just hope someday I can erase the whole incident from my memory.

At the time I had just arrived in Tokyo, and I was completely lost.
Holding a tattered old map of Tokyo which my grandfather had given me, I tried to navigate my way around the unfamiliar city.
The reason I had come to Tokyo was to look for a job.
Employment was scarce in my rural hometown and I had come to meet a distant relative who had promised to help me.
"I don't know about jobs, but I can rent you a cheap place to live,"
said the man, who was my uncle. I only ever spoke to him on the phone and my heart was filled with misgivings.
Looking back now, the sense of misgiving I felt at the time may have been a warning that something bad was about to happen to me.

By the time I arrived at the apartment I had been directed to go, the sun was about to sink below the horizon.
A stout old woman was standing at the gate.
"Welcome. You must be tired. Please follow me."
I followed her as she bid me, and walked into the gloomy apartment.
Not only was the building located in a maze-like area, but it was also elongated, extending to the back of the land, that the whole place gave off an air of an inexplicable oppressiveness. It was overgrown with weeds too.
In fact, what with the sun going down, I felt as if I were entering a deep, dark cave.

I became strangely afraid of the fly that had come to rest on the old woman's back, and clutching my luggage hard, I said in a voice louder than usual:
"Oh my goodness, it's the first time I've come to Tokyo, and it's so crowded!"
The old woman turned around and yelled, "Be quiet!!!"
I realised then that the person who I thought was an old woman was actually an old man dressed as a woman.
It was his sudden harsh voice that betrayed his sex.

I became depressed and felt the terror of the urban city life.
When I think back on it now, I realise that that was clearly abnormal.

My room was fairly large and I had no complaints about it except that it had a faint smell of blood.
But the rent in Tokyo was high, and even though the room was rented out at a discount, it still cost me 90 thousand yen.
It consisted of one 6-jo room,*1 and a kitchen with half-stripped floorboards. The water that came out of the taps was always murky.
Nevertheless, I was thankful that I had a toilet*2 all to myself.
But it was from the bottom of the toilet where the smell of blood rose most strongly.

A 6-jo room with tatami mats
The old woman - no, the old man's thick make-up glittered and the odour from it was making me nauseous. Then the old man went to wash off his make-up, and came back. He greeted me as if nothing had happened.
"Coming all the way from such a faraway place must have exhausted you.  I'm sorry that because of some urgent business,  I could not welcome you at the front door... A lady received you first, didn't she? How was it?"
"Was she beautiful?" Having said thus, the flabby old man stared into my eyes intently. Was it eyeliner? I saw some black smudges around the edge of his eyes.
"I cannot say..." Hearing my uncertain answer, the old man's mood obviously turned for worse.

The air-tight room was redolent of the strong, iron-like odor of blood, with the smell of my oily sweat and of the uncle's make-up all mixed up together.
That night, as I lay on the dusty, coarse bed*3 that had been prepared for me, there inside the room -

  I'm beginning to feel sick just remembering the whole thing.
  Should I continue with the story, or not....?

 -  inside the room, there were a number of things that kept moving. I kind of felt them .... or perhaps there were some faint sounds, or some rotting smell ....Anyway some things surrounded my bed.
But I shut my eyes tight and willed myself to sleep. I was exhausted.

Next day, I set out on a job hunt.
But no luck was forthcoming. I sat inside a coffee shop, feeling lonely and insignificant in the middle of a bustling city.
.......Then, my eyes were suddenly riveted on my own hand which was holding the coffee cup.

......................Teeth marks?

 The teeth marks were so faint as to be barely noticeable; but they were definitely there.
I probably made them by myself while half-asleep, I tried to convince myself.
As I looked at the hand with the teeth marks that seemed far smaller than the ones that would have been made by me, the coffee in my mouth turned as tasteless as water.
To be honest, all I wanted to do then was go home.

But the only place I could go back was that apartment.
Would I see the old man again?
Fearing a chance encounter, I quickly made my way back to the apartment and locked myself in the room.
The bloody smell was fading.... but the fresh odour of cosmetics was floating in the air.

That same night.
As I lay in the bed covered by saliva-drenched duvet,
I again felt many presences. Cats? I thought at first,
but in the warm, sultry air like that of a hot summer's night (it was actually not summer yet)
all I could do was lay shivering and sweating in the bed. 

But in the end I could not bear it any longer. On an impulse, I pulled my hand out from under the duvet in the dark, and grabbing the duvet, swung it at the black masses to drive them away.
I wanted to ascertain that it was only my imagination. But the back of my hand knocked down something cold, and it seemed the thing crashed into the wall and then rolled back to the floor.
I felt a chill steal through my body the moment my hand came into contact with the object. The sensation was the same as the one I felt when, a long time ago, I struck someone's cheek in a fight.
As the black mass stopped rolling, I suddenly recognised it as a human head. Then the head suddenly cried, "Where is this!!" with a deep, guttural voice.
Before I knew it, I lost consciousness.

When I woke up the hordes of heads had disappeared. I was soaked in sweat, so I took off my shirt to wipe my body. Then came a shock.
My whole body was covered in teeth marks.... It wasn't that I made them myself half-dreaming; as a proof I had a teeth mark on my cheek which was so deep that it nearly bled.
The teeth marks also varied in size, raging from small ones to large ones.
I was gripped by an urge just to run out of the room screaming, but I didn't forget to shave my face first.

The old woman or old man did not turn up, but I was becoming cornered with each passing day.
My behaviour was clearly bizarre at the time.
For one thing, I still continued to sleep in the same room.

My weight had dropped by more than 10 kg and I had become so pale that it scared people off.
Perhaps for that reason I could not find any works at all, and each and every day I went home exhausted from job hunting that yielded no results.
The teeth marks did not disappear but continued to spread to my entire body; one of the interviewers at a job interview asked me, "What happened with all those teeth marks?" but I couldn't come up with any plausible excuses and ended up just saying, "It looks like I've been bitten," making the man laugh.
He probably thought that my girlfriend did it or something.

But I was reaching my limit.
I started hallucinating, and to hide the teeth marks I would even wind gauze around my entire body.
Despite all that I would still take a walk around outside and did strange things such as shouting loudly "Good morning" to a total stranger.
I think I was starting to lose my sanity.

That evening, I found a bottle of an energy drink with a note from the uncle that said "for you" inside my room.
I was so exhausted that I drank it up in one gulp without hesitation.
Soon I fell into a deeper sleep than usual.
When I opened my eyes in the middle of the night, my head had become very clear.
I realised with certainty that those 10-odd numbers of black masses that were haunting and gnawing at my body were abnormal.
This was no time to feel scared.
Well, of course. So far, I thought I had been dealing with the situation in a relatively calm manner, but I suppose I was on the verge of breakdown.
When I sprung up from the bed, I felt the black masses roll away on the tatami floor in the dark room, and disappear into the kitchen.

I roared, "Wait!!!" in the kind of voice that I had never used before, and went to the kitchen.
And I somehow felt the shadows running away to the toilet, so I rushed after them to the toilet.
The toilet was Japanese-style*4, and it was pitch-dark inside.
I tried to turn on the light but it wasn't working, so I rummaged through a storage box for a torch.
Giggling, I directed the torch towards the toilet.

The light illuminated some urine and excrement in the darkness. My strained eyes caught sight of maggots squirming in them.
Then I saw numerous rotting, glassy-eyed heads and white skulls all staring up at me - all drenched in my urine and excrement....


I screamed, and somehow grabbing my hat, kicked the door open and shot out of the room in my underwear, with such force that the door nearly broke.
There was someone behind the door.
I turned around and found my uncle in woman's clothes, with a master key and a saw in his hands, sprawling on the floor.
"Don't open the door so suddenly!!"
He shrieked, and I became so furious that I picked up the stones lying around me, and started hurling them at him.
The uncle screamed and crouched on the floor.

Soon I realised that what I was throwing were not stones but human heads.
One by one, the heads bit into my uncle's body.
Probably because his meat was being bitten off and chewed to pieces, he kept screaming.
I became terrified and ran out of the apartment.

Since then, I have never been in touch with the uncle. He has never contacted me either.
I hope those heads were just ghosts.
If they were not, that would mean that the whole time I was living in that apartment I always had the urine and excrement for ....*5

13 years have passed since the incident, and the memory is fading away.
But one set of teeth marks on my neck did not disappear for a long time.
They were probably teeth marks left by the head that I struck.

*1 6-jo room: jo (畳) is a traditional unit used for measurement of rooms. One jo is equivalent to the size of one tatami floor mat.
*2 toilet: In Japanese houses, bathtubs and toilets are often in separate rooms. 
*3 coarse bed: The words in the original text were coarse futon. A futon is traditional Japanese bedding consisting of padded mattresses and quilts pliable enough to be folded and stored away during the day, allowing the room to serve for purposes other than as a bedroom. (Wiki)
*4 Japanese-style toilet: that is, squat toilet (see Wiki)
*5 He trails off here and doesn't say what he means by urine and excrement.
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