It was 10PM in Miyamaedaira, a residential area in Mitaka near the Soga Forest.
I wonder if Akinao-kun is studying about now...
Tanouchi Midori's large eyes shone like the heroine of a girl's manga, her slender face framed by short-cropped hair. Even though summer vacation was about to end, her skin was still white and smooth. It looked like vacation was going to come to a close without her getting a single chance to get into a bathing suit.
I doubt any other 17-year old out there has had a summer this boring.
Midori looked out the window with glazed eyes. She had been taking her college entrance exams lightly, thinking that even if she blew them off for a little while, she still be able get into a decent liberal arts private school. There should have been a little bit of time to go to the pool. The reason that she didn't end up going was out of duty to her boyfriend, studying to get into Tokyo University's engineering school.
"Maybe I should give him a call."
As she stood up, she thought she heard something.
"Eh?" Midori looked at her stereo. She would accidentally leave it on, but the power was off this time. As she tilted her head in confusion, she heard it again but much clearer--a voice echoing in her head.
Come, come to me...
"Who's there!?" Midori looked around the room, a stern expression on her face. The voice again sounded in her head.
Midori's body turned toward the direction of the voice. An inexplicable sensation of ecstasy, difficult to resist, urged her onward.
A glassy-eyed expression on her face, Midori nodded. Her family was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. They all had an eerie, lifeless, dreaming expression on their faces. This did not trouble Midori in the least.
"Come on, Midori!" Midori's younger brother, in the third grade, had his hand on the door as if he couldn't wait any longer.
"Are you going to go in your sandals?" Midori's mother asked.
"Good point." Putting on her favorite heels, Midori left the foyer after her brother.
None of the family knew where they were going. But the voice in their heads told them there was no need for doubt.
A pair of sweat arms grabbed Yukiko's waist in a Miyamaedaira apartment.
"Come on, not where it's bright!" Crying out in embarrassment, she pushed her boyfriend Tooru away. She had only met him two weeks ago on a trip to Okinawa. They never tired of holding each other all day long.
I get the sense I could love him forever...
She was a 20-year old college student. Tooru was still a high school student and a little irresponsible, but he had a very bright personality and always made her laugh with his jokes. But more than that, Yukiko liked his handsome looks.
"OK, I'll turn out the lights." Bowing to her wishes, Tooru flicked the light switch. Then he immediately grabbed her for a kiss.
I love you…
As Yukiko thought the words, another voice echoed in her head.
"Did you say something, Tooru?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing!" The two looked at each other, perplexed. The voice sounded again.
There was something hard to resist in that voice. The two stood up simultaneously.
An endless procession of people traveled from Miyamaedaira toward the Soga Forest. The procession numbered at nearly two thousand.
At 10:15 PM, Officer Nimura, on dispatch in Miyamae, saw the first member of the group approach.
What the hell is going on?
Looking at the massive crowd, Nimura scratched his head in confusion. Mothers led their children. Couples walked hand-in-hand. There were even a few salarymen in the line, still in their suits and ties, looking like they had stopped for a drink on the way home from work. Each one of them was just an ordinary citizen. But there was a strange air about the crowd that gave any onlooker the shivers.
"It doesn't look like they're here for some sort of event..."
Watching the procession, Nimura realized that not a single person in it was speaking. Feeling there was something wrong, Nimura contacted the station and asked them what to do.
The response he received was less than helpful.
"At this time of year they're probably going to a Bon dance or something. Don't bother the station with trifling matters like this!"
Irritated at the dispatcher, Nimura grabbed the arm of a salaryman at the end of the procession. "Excuse me! Where is everyone going at this time of night?"
The man did not respond.
Nimura immediately realized he was not being deliberately ignored. The man's glazed eyes looked forward without focus; it was as if he did not notice the police officer next to him.
Nimura spoke to the boy in front of the salaryman, a student. But there was no response from him either. The group simply proceeded to walk forward like a pack of lemmings. After a few moments of indecision, Nimura decided to join the end of the line.
He walked a little less than an hour. Residences became more and more sparse. As the street lamps became further spaced apart, a deep fog enveloped the unusual procession. The fervor in the mob's eyes grew ever more insane.
"They're heading to the Soga Forest...?"
A bizarre stench assaulted Nimura's nostrils. It was a musky, rotten smell. Nimura unconsciously gripped his police baton and stopped walking. Two meters ahead in a fog too thick to see through, the footsteps of the people became ever more distant.
Gradually, Nimura was overtaken by a creeping terror. When he finally started walking again, it was less out of duty as a police officer and more that he did not want to be left all alone in the middle of the fog. Stumbling and tripping, Nimura ran ahead, nearly running into huge larch trees several times.
The fog cleared ever so slightly. In contrast, the strange smell became stronger. Right as he caught up to the end of the line, Nimura let out a sigh of relief and hid in the shadow of a large tree. He watched the people form a large circle. From somewhere in the middle of the circle, he heard words of being chanted like a sutra. As the voice became audibly louder, the crowd of people prostrated themselves on the ground.
When Nimura saw what was in the center of the ring of people for the first time, he had to use all his resolve to suppress a cry. A completely naked girl was tied up on an T-shaped cross that glowed with a dull silver light.
Is she a doll? Her beauty seems so perfect…
That was the first thought that popped into Nimura's head. But her face, twisted in contortions of pain every so often, supported the fact that she was a real human. The girl was encased in a veil of a clear, jelly-like substance. Nimura observed that the veil occasionally writhed like a living creature.
Is this for real? Are they shooting a movie here or something?
Nimura knew all too well that he was trying to make excuses to try and hold terror at bay. His entire body was rooted to the spot, frozen. The sound of his breathing assaulted his ears, deafeningly loud.
What the heck is going on...?
How long had he been waiting there? An hour?
As the jelly rippled around the girl's head, two red lights started flickering, almost ornamenting her hair. Strapped to the cross, the girl tossed her head around. Nimura realized that she was stuck inside the body of some sort of mysterious creature that could only be described as a gigantic amoeba.
That otherworldly creature was expanding rapidly. The two red points of light glowed brighter and brighter, before becoming two glaring demonic eyes that darted over the area. The gelatinous substance had already engulfed the entire cross the girl was tied too, and was still getting bigger.
Nimura noticed a man clad in a black robe standing behind the cross. Even from a distance, the lines on his face clearly delineated the features of a foreigner. The strange sutra-like incantation he had been hearing was coming from this man.
Suddenly, the incantation stopped. Silently, the man raised his right hand to the heavens. As if on cue, the innermost ring of people in the circle stood up, tore off their clothes, threw them aside, and started advancing toward the cross in the middle. The amoeba pulsated and engulfed their naked bodies. When it did, their expressions were those of pure ecstasy.
The ring started to fall apart. Irritated that disrobing was taking so long, they all jockeyed to be first to be absorbed into this otherworldly creature's veil--young and old, man and woman. The girl tied to the cross had already become completely obscured by the mob. People climbed over one another, and Nimura thought he heard the dull sound of bones breaking. As the people that had made up the ring transformed into a massive mountain of bodies, lights ran through the membrane of the amoeba.
A low, rumbling roar seemed to spring from the very depths of the earth, severing the last bare thread of Nimura's sanity. All the strength flowed out of his legs, and he fell to the ground on his backside. Unable to stand even if he tried, Nimura let out an incomprehensible wail as he desperately started crawling along the ground, trying with all his might to get away.