Part 41: UPDATE 41
Takaaki Yoshimura / Katsuaki Yoshimura
Karuwari / Church at Irazu Valley
Persona / Shadow
A persona is a psychological mask one creates under pressure from the external environment.
Individuals suppress and hide their true feelings and desires, creating for themselves a public personality fit for society.
Such an individual must learn, adapt and change in order to survive in the world.
The world demands much of man, and man responds with action.
The shadow is also formed from that psychological pressure, the second part of man's dual nature.
Desires that are denied in everyday life are collected unconsciously deep in the mind.
Like the public persona, the hidden shadow also may be formed by the choices an individual makes in life, becoming another self.
The conscious mind continually struggles to suppress the shadow and lock it away in the unconscious, but when the pressure becomes too great it may break free in a furious clash.
Nonetheless, the shadow is an intrinsic part of the self and can never be cut away.
The shadow exists as a separate half because of suppression and denial. Only when consciousness becomes one with unconsciousness can one claim to have truly found oneself.
The Pale Lamb
Faintly comes the voice of a young girl.
The same dream since he can remember -- the bitter moaning of the dead and the painful cries from afar.
Fading in and out, the girl's voice seems to convey a warning.
--Please... Don't trust that woman...
Fragile white snowflakes fall in a soundless flurry.
The young boy looks up at the sky -- the light gray expanse filled with a million glittering crystals.
He follows the path of a single snowflake through the air, letting out a cold, desolate sigh.
Little by little, the white powder builds up on his ill-fitting black robe.
He does not notice the cold seeping into his small pale fingers.
The boy stands silently in the church graveyard filled with Mana crosses.
Dried, shriveled trees, cracks in the tombstones, a scene of utter desolation.
Were it summer the moonlight would reveal an array of wild colors, but now there is only the blanket of snow that covers everything.
He sees the backs of the villagers who have gathered.
They shovel dark earth, digging a grave.
(The priest... suicide...)
(Don't be stupid. There's no reason to think that. He hadn't been well for a long time...)
The villagers lower their voices, and he can only hear brief snippets of their conversation.
(...I heard a new Miyako was born to the Kajiros last night...)
(A new Miyako must mean a new priest...)
Startled by the sound of cracking ice, the young boy looks up.
There before him stands another boy, sharing the same face, the same form.
(That's the Miyata boy... They look so alike. It must be because they're cousins.)
(What are you talking about? They're brothers... twins. On the day of the landslide...)
The two boys stand in silence.
(Just like that, one of them became a priest, the other went to the Miyata family...)
(Well, they may look alike, but I can definitely see those handsome Miyata features... Oh, they're looking at us...)
The second boy stares at the villagers coldly.
They cease their whispering.
For a brief moment the boys' eyes meet.
Feeling a painful chill emanating from the other, the first drops his gaze.
For some reason he does not understand, this mirror image of his always exudes such a feeling.
His brother, separated at birth -- sharing the same face, the same flesh.
Do twins share dreams as well?
The young boy ponders a question deep within his heart -- a question he dare not ask.
"Your Holinesss, it is time to offer the final prayers to your father."
The boy wakes from his reverie and begins reciting the prayer.
"Those whom we have lost will continue to live in our body and our blood. The gates of heaven have opened, and his soul has been accepted into the stream of eternity."
The air fills with the low hymn of the villagers. Their chants echo off the surrounding cliffs, making the gathering seem like a great throng.
Earth begins to cover his father's face.
That face bears a relaxed and serene expression.
Perhaps it is the relief of leaving his spiritual burden behind at last.
Though he was revered and respected, he also carried an immense weight on his shoulders.
The shoulders the boy remembers, hunched in prayer in the cave beneath the altar.
When he thinks of that altar, hidden in darkness, his grief is overcome by a different emotion.
The truth about the darkness for which he must now take responsibility sends a chill down his spine.
(No! I'm afraid! I don't want to know! I can't do it!)
The boy dreads accepting the weight, the horror.
His body is pierced by fear and the biting cold. He shivers.
Suddenly, he feels the weight of a pale hand on his icy shoulder.
A gentle heat radiates from the fingers, and he turns to see the owner of the hand.
The warm, smiling face of the priestess looks back at him.
Nonetheless, the boy feel an inexplicable loneliness.
The priestess seems to be staring through him, her benevelont gaze fixed someplace beyond.
She places the hereditary Mana cross around his neck.
The villagers look at him expectantly.
"Do not be afraid. I will watch over you, forever and ever..."
The screams of the girl from his dreams echo in his head.
--Please, don't trust her...
Doubts flood into his mind. He feels as though he is forgetting something important--
But it escapes him.
(Forever and ever...?)
The priestess whispers in his ear.
"Do not let yourself be consumed by evil ideas. Listen to me. There is nothing to fear. Trust in me, Father..."
Her soft, reassuring words soothe him, gently stealing away his former thoughts.
His nightmare dissipates, sinking deep below his conscious mind, as though it never happened.
--What must I worry about? While the priestess is by my side there is nothing to fear.
--I need only do what is expected of me.
The boy's concerns melt swiftly away.
Already he is deaf to the cries coming from the dark.
He looks around. His mirror image with the cold eyes is nowhere to be found.
The Black Sheep
The short winter day has ended, and the sky is an inky black.
The last glimmers of daylight are reflected only in the thickly piled snow.
The boy is on his way home.
Brushing snow from his shoulders, he passes beneath a gate bearing the sign "Miyata Clinic".
He opens the door on which is hung a paper stating "The doctor is out" and enters an empty waiting room.
As he passes before the hallway mirror he pauses.
Staring at his reflection, he feels a strange and disquieting thrumming in his chest.
This face -- eyes, ears, nose, mouth, chin, they all have a copy.
--A stranger with an identical face. Does he also have the same dreams?
The same dream as far back as he can remember, of a girl calling to him from the darkness.
In the deepest shadows, he hears her sighs and pleas.
--Please, listen to my voice... I'm begging you... Someone hear me...
He sympathizes with her loneliness. The boy knows what it is to feel trapped.
--Surely, a twin must have the same dreams...?
He climbs the stairs to the second floor and stands in the hall before a private room.
Taking a deep breath, the boy drives his prior thoughts from his mind and opens the door.
"It's Shiro. I'm home."
His ailing mother sits up in bed.
Her hands as smooth and white as ever, she looks still like a young girl.
With her small features and deep black eyes, the way she stares at him reminds the boy of a tiny bird.
"Thank you for attending the funeral in my place..."
Upon speaking, her eyes fall to the snow on his shoulders.
"It must have been freezing. Here, give me your hands..."
She heats his hands with her own.
His body stiffens with discomfort at her touch, but she does not seem to notice.
"Shiro... What was your impression of the new priest?"
"... He performed the rites well, and received the Mana cross of his ancestors."
"I see. Then you must also become a great doctor..."
For some time the boy has been staring at the scraps of paper at his mother's bedside.
It is a letter, torn apart in a fit of rage.
His mother follows his gaze and whispers to him.
"How many times have I told you not to go along with those naughty girls? You mustn't let vermin near you. I'm so ashamed. And that new young priest is such a good boy."
It was a letter from the girl who always watches him. The image of her kind and gentle face forms in his thoughts.
A dark, burning hatred begins to bloom inside him.
--That hatred sparks memories from his childhood.
His beloved doll, clutched in his arms wherever he went. For some reason, it brought the boy comfort.
One day his mother took it and flung it from the second story window.
It caught in the branches of a tree, exposed to the wind and the rains, bleached and decaying.
His mother would force him to look at it from the window every day and whisper.
"Look at that. It's your fault. Because you cared about it more than your own mother...
You must love your mother, Shiro. Forever and ever and ever..."
She grips his shoulder tightly.
"Become a good doctor and make your mother happy... Children who don't please their mothers get thrown away.
Well? Say something."
She squeezes tighter, her nails digging into his shoulder.
".... Such a stubborn child. That other one is a good, obedient boy. But he belongs to the church.
Instead the Miyata family received a wicked boy like you."
The words, her curses, ring in his ears.
He is the rotting doll. Bound, restricted. Disappearing into oblivion...
His features harden even more at these thoughts.
"You must still be cold. Let me warm you up."
She draws him close to her body.
The boy buries his face in her chest -- the sickeningly sweet smell of his mother filling his nose until he almost chokes.
Intense disgust mingles with a strangely pleasant feeling, making the bile rise to his throat.
He pushes these emotions deep below the surface, covering them with the mask he wears every day -- the mask of the Miyata Clinic's heir, and a good son.
"I need to go. It is time to study."
Before his disguise can crumble, the boy leaves his mother's sick room.
He passes soundlessly down the hallway past the director's office.
His father must have returned first, but he was not in the sick room. He must be at his desk.
The boy's inner turmoil and memories of the coolness of his father's gaze darken his mood further.
Beyond his mother's insane obsessions, the boy knows his father sees him as an obstacle to be removed.
--If only he had never been born, never part of this bitter discord -- he knows himself outside the bonds of familial love.
The boy feels a sudden pang of longing in his heart, but he suppresses it quickly.
He reaches into his pocket and withdraws a small ring of keys. The stolen keys to the basement.
Step by step he approaches the forbidden entrance.
As he opens the door the odor of chemicals and decay assaults his nose.
In the dim light beyond a row of iron bars he sees what appears to be a hospital ward -- from inside comes the sound of something slurping.
--He feels something watching him.
The boy focuses his eyes on the shadows just beyond the bars. A black form is moving.
He aims the beam of his flashlight, illuminating the shape in the gloom.
An old woman clothed in filthy rags crawls on her hands and feet, scampering toward him on her impossibly thin, animal-like limbs.
Her bloodshot eyes fix on him, each moving independently.
She opens her mouth.
From the space between densely packed rows of sharp teeth comes a gust of fetid breath and a steady drip of sputum.
The chains on her legs clatter as she approaches. She lets out a low, harsh sound, an unnatural smile on her lips--
Overcome with fear and disgust, the boy cowers.
--What is this thing? Why is it here? What is it for?
He imagines he hears another sound.
His mother's high, mad laughter seems to echo through the emptiness.
"Shiro... you're different from the priest. If he is the light, you must be the shadow.
Study hard and live for the day you that take over the Miyata Clinic. Dirty your hands. Stain them with blood--"
The boy clasps his hands to his ears, trying to shut out the curse.
Suddenly he feels a sharp pain.
The old woman has reached through the bars and sliced into his arm with one long, talon-like nail.
Crimson blood begins to flow.
He has awoken at last.
From the darkness comes a voice -- the voice of that girl.
--Listen to me.... Seek me out.... Put an end to this eternal world....
With the girl's voice, deep in his mind he sees a shining pair of figures, wrapped in light.
--Is this to be my role...? Why mine and not his...?
The boy picks up a scalpel that has fallen onto the floor and stares into the darkness.
The outlines of an idea begin to come into focus.
Vague fragments of consciousness glimmer and disperse.
Suddenly I recover my sense of self. I am "me".
I feel as though I dreamt of a memory long past.
The funeral of the former priest, and the moment I first wore the Mana cross around my neck.
The other me who watched that day -- the younger brother who is my other half.
--Farewell, big brother.
Yes, in that moment it was finished. I extinguished my other self.
The sound of a gunshot, and darkness swallowed "my" consciousness.
"I" vanished -- Must have vanished.
What am "I"? What does it mean to refer to "myself"? --
From that day to this one "I" did as expected of me as though I had no notions of my own.
Though I was aware of both a world of light and a world of dark, I lived as if the light was the only path.
Perhaps this is a punishment for complacency, like an egg guarded by a mother hen, content enough in her warmth never to hatch and leave the nest.
Now the egg is hatched, the mother hen is gone, and I feel the unsteadiness of a newborn chick.
By myself, I confront the loneliness of this vast, open world.
A desolate wind blows.
I concentrate, enduring though my consciousness threatens to fade.
In this way I come back to "myself" -- This is my punishment. Punishment for shutting out my other half.
--What is this place?
I look about with hazy vision.
Where am "I"? Is this where the real "me" belongs?
It is unclear. I only know that I will stand alone for the first time.
I look for some way to prove that I am "myself".
I try to pick myself up -- but find that my arms have no strength.
The will to move burns inside me, but there is nowhere for me to go.
Suddenly, a queer splintering sensation plays at my mind.
One by one, I focus concentration on the sensation of my fingertips. I try to feel my nails raking the earth beneath.
--What...? What is this...?
An indescribable fear floods through me.
The deepest dregs of my subconscious rise to the surface.
The forbidden, endlessly squirming things concealed in the cave beneath the altar.
Entwined, blending together, writhing in chaos, their cries of agony echoing in the darkness.
Tangled, trembling.... reduced to formless wretches--
"I" let out a rasping breath.
--No.... How can this.... be?
"I" have reawakened in unfinished form, as a thing unable to be called human.
I am cursed with life eternal, a pitiful misshapen lump of flesh.
I try to scream in despair.
But my attempts only set the mound that is my body quivering. Not a sound is released.
A wind from nowhere sets to fluttering a piece of plastic stuck in the crumbling debris.
From somewhere far away comes a noise like rolling thunder that rumbles through the earth.
It is an omen of the end of the world.
The eternal cycle is broken, and in the midst of infinite chaos the pitiful lambs are doomed to wander forever.
Until the day the world begins to play a new melody.