Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four
Murai hadn't been to school for one week.
That morning I was having trouble getting up, and the curtains weren't open. When I realized this, I had a sad premonition.
I got out of my futon and walked around the house. The floorboards were cold against my feet. I heard nothing but the low hum of the refrigerator in the deathly quiet. Suddenly the kitten meowed. It sounded like a child that had lost its parents as it wandered around the house, its voice full of anxiety and confusion. I knew that she was no longer here. The kitten must have been searching for Yukimura, unable to find her. This was the first time it had ever been truly separated from its owner.
I sat in a chair. This was the table where Yukimura listened to the radio at night. I sat there and thought of her for a long time, silent.
I knew this day would come. And I predicted that I would be plagued with the sense of her loss. I understood all of it. I would just be going back to what it was like before. I could close the windows and lock myself away in my box-like room, just as I had intended in the first place.
If I had done that, I wouldn't have been feeling this kind of sadness.
It's painful to be connected with something. If I hadn't met anyone, I would never have felt envy, jealousy, or rage. If I had never grown close to anyone, I would never have experienced the pain of parting from them.
She was murdered. What had she really been thinking as she lived here after that? When I thought that she might have cried in despair at what had been done to her, my chest grew tight.
I'd always wished I could give her part of my own lifespan. If it meant she could live again, I wouldn't mind dying. As long as I could see her and the kitten happy, I'd ask for nothing else.
What was my life worth, in the first place? Why did she have to die, instead of me?
It took me a long time to notice the strange envelope on top of the table. I sprang forward and took it in my hands. It was a simple yellow envelope. It was addressed to me in her handwriting. From: Saki Yukimura.
I opened the envelope with trembling fingers. Inside, there was a single photograph and a slip of paper.
It was a photograph of myself and the kitten. I was laid out alongside the kitten, sleeping, an expression of perfect happiness on my face. It was maybe the most peaceful face I'd ever seen myself make in my life; a face I'd never seen in the mirror; a face that she saw through her unique filter.
I read the letter.
Sorry for taking a picture of you sleeping without asking. You just looked so cute, I took it before I realized what I was doing.
It's the first time I've been able to write this well. It's kind of weird. I felt like we'd developed some kind of communication between us, so I didn't think a letter was necessary. The next thing I knew us two and the kitten were living together, nestled close.
But I have to go soon. I wanted to be with you, and with the kitten, forever, but I can't do it. I'm sorry.
You probably don't know how grateful I am to you. I'm already dead but every day was really fun. I'm glad I met you. God is wonderful to have given me such a great gift. Thanks. We didn't always know what one another was thinking, or understand each other. We just had each other at our side. That was enough. I am dead and I had no one to rely on, but that made me happy. And plus, you didn't peek into my room or change it around.
The kitten died, didn't it. It's so sad. It might not realize that it's dead yet. That's how I was - I went about my daily life, without realizing I'd been killed. But the kitten will find out sooner or later that its dead, too. And I think it will leave you as well. But I don't want you to be sad when that time comes.
I don't think I'm unhappy; I don't think the kitten is either. There are a million things in this world that make you want to give up hope. There are times that you'll wish you had no eyes, and no ears.
But there are things so beautiful they make you want to cry, millions of them, in this world too. I've seen things so wonderful that I can't breathe. I'm thankful that this world exists, and that I got to be a part of it - even though it was only a small part. I always felt that way when I steady the camera and release the shutter. I was murdered, but I love this world. I can't help loving it. So I don't want you to hate it.
I want to tell you this: look at the photo I put with this letter. You've got a great expression on your face. You're a part of this limitless, beautiful world too. So doesn't that make you one of the things that I love with all my heart?
The kitten wandered throughout the house, but never found her; it twined itself around my feet. After a pause I called out to it, happily, thinking I'd try to cheer it up.
Summer break had begun and there was no need to go to school. I thought I'd clean and do the laundry. But first, I would open up the curtains and the window, and let in some air.
I stood on the porch and looked at the garden, where the plants were shimmering in the sunlight. The limitless sky, the tall clouds and the sun swept over my head. The tomatoes in the vegetable garden were red and sparkling with beads of water.
Half a year ago, she lived in this world.
She walks down a small, long road to nowhere in particular, a camera hanging from her neck. On either side are wide pastures, the whole of it green. The wind is warm and sweet, and invigorates her. Her steps are as light as air, her mouth open in a natural smile. There is an boy-like innocence in her eyes, and she lifts her head high; she is waiting for the adventure that is set to begin. The road continues far ahead. The blue sky and the land stretch on until they touch.
I thanked her from the bottom of my heart: we didn't have very long, but thank you for being by my side.