1 – 11 : Chapter 1 ALMOST PARADISE : Good bye, WADATSUMI / He and a little witch of Tokyo Bay

 “Soon after the summer vacation started, I was taken to Ariake by my uncle. He was a university student and the parasite on my house.”

 “Ariake…, speed bayak race?”

 Ho’ori asked.

 “Yes. My parents don’t like gambling, so it was a secret tour. But uncle won the jackpot.”

 Her uncle, who had devoted himself to horse race until that time, overjoyed at the extraordinary dreadnought level result. Kohada said so and smiled.

 “That combination was chosen by me. And the result of that, we got superfecta!”

 “Superfecta of Ariake? How genius you are!”

 Kajime shouted from a heart making the eyes full-opened. Kohada smiled again and,

 “It was my first gamble. So, I simply chose the combinations making a good impression, by referring to a demonstration before the actual race.”

 “But it proved your good intuition! Hey, please give me hints, even a bit!”

 “Oh, hmm, I think the most important point is the moisture level of the face skins of racers…,”

 “Hey,”

 Ho’ori stopped them. “Kohada, I want to hear what happened after that.”

 “All right, sheriff, I know, I know, please don’t be hurry.”

 “And Kajime, minors gamble is illegal.”

 “Of course, I know! Sheriff. It’s a simple duty as a grandson. It’s just that I occasionally go to the garden as an attendant of my grandpa. Of course, I don’t bet, I just stay with him. His leg is not good, so, to me, enjoying gamble-manias-watching is the thing such as an appendix of nursing.”

 You are really stubborn…, Kajime said so, and,

 “OK, then, what happened to you, Kohada? I too want to hear the lucky story of you and your uncle.”

 “So, to my uncle, I became the goddess of good luck.”

 Kohada stuck out her chest and showed a proud smile. Of course, though her uncle had been not strict to the cute niece on daily lives from before, naturally, especially on that day, he had to surrender to the niece completely. He had become very generous, so,

 “Firstly, he took me to a high-class yakiniku-restaurant and he made my stomach filled up with delicious meats. Then, we went to Ginza and he bought cute stationery and a novel book for me. And, ultimately, he bought for me…,”

 “That microscope.”

 To the words of Tsubasu who was coming back while wiping the face, Kohada smiled with a mischievous face. The boy continued,

 “It’s the highest-quality model used in science high-schools. I can’t forget she was showing off proudly that new toy every day, every time, each time when I visited her room.”

 “I think sheriff too know that on a catalog. Made by domestic, the outer looks are just an ordinary binocular stereoscopic microscope. But it has high-quality digital zoom connected to the display, and a high-resolution video camera, and of course the high luminance backlight stage too! It supplied me with all of what I needed to observe microorganisms of the river.”

 “It’s a too expensive toy to be given to a kid, Sheriff.”

 “Hey, who can say so? You were also using like on every day! Your junior science prize of the last summer owed to me and to that microscope! Oh, do you remember? I remember your promise. You must bring me to that parfait shop…, Yes! I’m understanding, sheriff!!”

 Because the girl changed her own tone in a flash, Ho’ori also stopped his half-opened mouth and changed it to a tiny smile.

 “…Please, continue your story.”

 “OK. But when we came home, my uncle’s crime has been known by my parents. He was very scolded by my dad and was threatened to be banished from my house if he would make the same thing again. But for me, the day was one of the best days of my whole life. Of course, I too was scolded a bit. But I have been wanting a genuine microscope, not a toy, for a long time. So then, I believed the highest award of junior science prize of that summer was already mine.”

 “Hey, but at the fourth grade, your summer research was…,”

 Tsubasu seemed to be retracing his memory, and, 

 “Oh, I remember it was a collection of cicada’s cast-off shells. Wasn’t it?”

 “What a wonderful memorizing ability, you have! Are you my worshiper? or a stalker?”

 “…On that day, who enforced me to spend valuable time for gathering the cast-off shells, who made me give up all of the last day of that summer vacation, who brought me around everywhere in this town?”

 “Who did such thing?”

 “You did!”

 “There was something bad, related to that microscope. So Kohada needed to change the theme of the research against will. I guess it was the reason. Wasn’t it? What happened?”

 “You really have great detective eyes, sheriff. Contrary to that, Tsubasu, he, despite being with me almost all the time, never noticed my change. He seems to be lacking in friendship. His mind is dull like a rusting fishing hook.”

 “I think he is already a genuine friend of you, even if he didn’t work together with you for a long time to gather cicada’s cast-off shells.”

 “Really?”

 “Hey, you are lacking in the mind to thank me!”

 “…Anyway,”

 Kohada changed the tone again, and,

 “As sheriff said, surely, I decided to use the new toy thoroughly for the big study of that summer vacation. It’s an idiot not to use that, despite it being there. Even if that is the cursed heritage of gambling.”

 “I think so too. …What studies did you plan?”

 “To make a list of all zooplanktons living in this river.”

 “Oh…, it seems too colossal plan to do within the one vacation.”

 “I was fearless.”

 “You are so still now.”

 Looking at the girl who smiled and shrugged, Ho’ori also returned a smile to her, and,

 “Because of that, the night river met your research. Wasn’t it?”

 Kohada nodded with a serious face.

 Almost all plankton have nature that they are attracted by lights. So, in this hour, the surface of the night river, which flows through the center of the city and being lighted by illuminations of the buildings, can gather many planktons as same as fishing-light of a vessel to be lighted to lure fish. So, there was no reason not to use this nature for hunting plankton. Adding to that, because some planktons living on the bottom also come close to the surface of the water only in the nighttime, the night work is essential for gathering rich variety kinds of plankton. At that time, though she was a little girl, Kohada already knew that of course.

 “But, though I understood my needs, at the same time, was never forgetting the rule too. …Kids must not go to the night river.”

 “What’s going on, if you go with adults?”

 “Yes, I wondered so too. I thought if I go with an adult, it will be no danger. So, I decided to make the uncle go with me.”

 Exactly, that destination was around here…, She said and looked around on the tidal flat. In her story, at that hour it had been a high tide, so here too had been the bottom under the water. There was not any dark atmosphere at all here now. Under the burning sunlight, kids are playing while making joyful shouting here and there. Adults are coming and going on the canal riding on their bayaks. That was exactly the peaceful scene on the water.

 “Well, though I didn’t know whether my uncle could be classified as an adult because his soul was simple than mine. But I had no way except using him if wanted to go to the night river.”

 Had gotten scolded by Kohada’s parents severely and the new good luck had been confiscated almost all as living expenses which he had accumulated since the beginning of his parasite life. So the young man was in the middle of very deep melancholy when Kohada ordered him to perform the role of a science assistant. However, he had the principle that he must behave as a good uncle, a nice guy, to his niece, so he had to receive the order to accompany her, even if it was an unwilling duty.

 Plankton hunting is worked with pulling a very fine net under the surface of the water. This net has a shape like a delta cone and the thing which was made for only this purpose. For this reason, Kohada’s uncle proposed that they two would sail onto the night river by riding one bayak together and hunt planktons like dragnet fishing done from a boat. But,

 “I rejected that.”

 Kohada said. If they chose the idea, the role assignment must have been that Kohada would be pulling the net in sitting on the rear carrier while her uncle would take pedaling. But,

 “Somehow, I didn’t feel wanting to do so.”

 “Why?”

 “On the rear carrier, if I sit facing uncle’s back, my back will be unguarded. I couldn’t accept the possibility that something will appear from the dark water surface and will smile at my back from the outside of my view before I know. But…, but if we get on the bayak as back to back, the other possibility will increase. In short, it’s the possibility that only I will find something unpleasant onto the water surface behind us. Can you understand this feeling?”

 Tsubasu laughed at her at the deep of his nose, so his shin got kicked by the tiptoe of the hard-type beach shoe. Of course, it was Kohada’s avenge. Ho’ori glanced at the boy moaning with tearful eyes, and,

 “I feel probably I can. And, then?”

 Then, because of this reason, after all, Kohada decided to work from an esplanade on the river shore, by throwing and pulling the net connected to the rope. So, her uncle was forced to throw the net into the mainstream of the river many times desperately, and of course, was forced also to pull the rope in all his power each time. Even if it could be said ‘a tiny net’, the number of actions itself was probably hard for him. Of course, also his cute niece cheerfully cheered him just by words. That was a minimum scale dragnet fishing by one manpower.

 “Gathering itself succeeded easily than my prospect.”

  Kohada said.

 “Every time I looked into the net, very tiny living things were being gathered on its bottom. In some parts of them, there were even glowing things by themselves.”

 Turning the inside of the net to outside, the girl and her uncle dipped it into the water of a bucket and released the blessing of the river into the small world. Then, ultimately, into a medium-sized glass bottle that had a wide mouth, Kohada transferred the tiny but large crowd together with the water. Finally, she closed a metal cap tightly and,

 “As to that night, everything was completed by that.”

 Kohada breathed deeply and looked up Ho’ori again.

 Making the butler carry both the bottle which had been filled up with the water and other bulky tools, Kohada got home triumphantly as a successful girl or a promised scientist. Of course, despite this great success, she had never forgotten the danger of the night river which the kids were believing in. But…, even if so,

 “hmm, in practice, even if they are strongly insisting on that, the danger of the night river might be the thing on such degree, after all…, in short, an exaggerated fear stemming from the dark. Thinking so, after that work I felt my mind getting released rapidly.”

 Kohada of now smiled a little while seeing far.

 “When I reached home, it was that mum just finished preparing the dinner. So, I received the bottle from my uncle and went to my room in a hurry, put it on my desk, thrown an oxygen stone into it, and…, then I forgot it perfectly.”

 After going down the stairs she greedily enjoyed fried chicken which was one of her mother’s best recipes as if battling with her father and uncle. Then played a video game with uncle, did homework in the living room, watched a mystery drama on TV with mother, took a bath, watched a comedy show on TV while drying hair, and then, until she went to her own room, and until dived into the bed, and until being caught by the dream,

 “I was completely forgetting the bottle. Because I planned to start that great scientific study from the next day.”

 After lying on the bed, she fell into a deep sleep in a moment without even recalling any of today’s events. And almost midnight, suddenly, she was awakened.

 “Cause I felt I heard a sound.”

 “A sound?”

 “Like, ta-tam. It was like, at the beginning of a festival, someone made sounds with a ko-daiko (a traditional small drum of Japan). It was a very small sound but had a peculiar lighter tone and rhythm.”

 After opening the eyes she was still keeping to stay in the bed without any action for a while, but then, she noticed that the inside of the room was being faintly bright, even though she had turned off all lights before getting into the bed. And almost at the same time, she noticed also that the source of that strange light was on her own desk.

 “In my room, I can see the top of the desk from the bed very well even lying posture.”

 Saying so, Kohada showed the layout of her room by drawing the picture onto the mud with a finger.

 “Something on my desk was giving off a dim light. So, I stood up on the floor, got closer to the desk. Before stood front of the desk, I understood that the bottle was glowing. No, the water. The water itself in the bottle was giving off luminous bluely. For that, I could even read the title of some books put on my desk. That gradually became brighter and brighter, and when I stood at the front, I couldn’t help narrowing my eyes, because the bottle that was being filled up with the water and plankton was very bright as if bluely burning. …And, it was noisy a little.”

 “Noisy?”

 She nodded and continued to talk.

 No more, there was no need to try to listen to it carefully. At first, the sound was very small like an auditory hallucination, but gradually, it became bigger than her heartbeats and started to be conveyed as regular unique rhythms.

 “Sheriff, do you know toys that stuffed animals beating a small drum? The toys for babies. It’s the things such as a monkey or a bunny moving with battery, beating drums. The sound made me remember such toys. Yes, it sounded as if someone adjusted such toy’s sounds lower and lighter, and elegant. Like, tam, tam, ta, tam, tam, tam…,”

 Kohada pleasantly sang like tracing her own memory.

 At that moment that she swung her own head as comical and innocently showed a gesture like beating drums like the toys for a baby, somehow Ho’ori felt chills on his whole body.

 (What’s this…?)

 But the girl continued talking without change.

 Standing by the desk and the bottle, Kohada tried to look at that well. And she couldn’t take her eyes off the scene in front of her anymore. Until that moment she had not thrown away yet the possibility that luminescence microorganisms like noctilucae or vargula hilgendorfii were making that brightness, but after all, it wasn’t. Though she didn’t know whether it could be said as “as she expected”, anyway, as she expected, after all, the water itself in the bottle was shining in palely luminous. The brightness like a whisper seemed to be making own viscosity higher, slimier, and more slippery. That was swirling at the inside of the bottle smoothly and slowly. And in that,

 “Everybody was dancing!”

 “Everybody?”

 “Of course, every plankton! They were dancing making a circle!!”

 The girl seemed to be gradually recalling that excitement. Her voice tone got higher and higher.

 Micro creatures, all of the micro-living things in the universe. Copepods making a show off long-long hairy tentacles were drawing a circle in light steps as if cutting water. Swimming ostracodas were jumping and hopping pleasantly and freely. Diatoms and gymnodiniums were making their own ruts wider and wider in carefree, contrary to that, radiolaria being moved by tiny currents were dancing sharper and more delicate. Zoea and megalopa were taking joyful rhythms while snapping with their tiny claws. Even many fish eggs were dancing by vibrating at just the first point of each. All of the micro-living things in the water were certainly dancing. On the ethnic melodies like the thing which is played in a Japanese summer festival, on the lightly up-tempo and the cheerful rhythm they were dancing drawing a big circle together with all of them. They seemed to be being filled up with the greatest delight and excitement. They sang about everything while showing the biggest thank for the pleasure of being as aquatic life of the earth. They were comfortably dancing while tasting the water itself as the melody. Those were exactly the melodies inherited from ancestors. Tam, tam, ta-tam, tam, tam, tam. tam, ta-ta-tam, ta-tam, tam, tam…,

 “Hey, you really said you could watch plankton by naked eyes? Do you know a thing called ‘microscope’?”

 Tsubasu asked in a laughing tone.

 “But, I could really watch them!”

 Kohada sounded her nose and twitched the tip of it.

 It was for an instant or for some minutes? She herself also had not known how long time she had been straining her eyes to that. But anyway, suddenly, she was startled to notice that she herself also had been unknowingly joining the big circle and dancing together with the micro creatures while sharing the big pleasure. Her body was getting smaller and smaller, and she was tightly feeling the surface tension of the water by her whole body. It was the feeling as to be pulled and to be being pushed at the same time, but it was not bad. She imagined compression suits made of the world itself. That seemed to let her motion more smoothly. The girl and the rhythm of the drums were calling to each other deeply, the ancient melodies being awaken seemed to be spring out powerfully also from her inside.

 The beginning ocean. The source of life. The music of the life of the earth enriching the inside of the bottle. The lightning as ‘the chance’ sparked out. Letting the hair stream in the current as if drawing funny patterns to the water, she was dancing delightfully and haphazardly. Shaking the body, swinging the waist, dancing with laughing, laughing with dancing…,

 “Tam, tam, ta-tam, tam, tam, ta-ta-tam…,”

 And then, suddenly she noticed again.

 All hair and all vellus of whole body stood up at the moment and she was brought back to the real world in an instant. Of course, she was at the outside of the bottle. But, at the same time, she felt herself being in the bottle yet. The water pressure of the deep sea was enclosing and pushing into her from every direction. She felt unpleasant ringing in her ears. The water in the bottle was not shining, from the beginning. Like the abyss of a sea trench, the world was dark and being closed…,

 The girl found out that molecules of smell were dragging out and spreading into the dark from her every hole of the own body. She shuddered. But it was a vain effort to try to suppress it. It could not stop even though she desperately wanted to stop it. In the deep sea, a girl’s body smell is too thick to make her existence secret. Furthermore, this smelling viscous liquid covering the fresh young skin was glowing pale bluely in the dark. She was being too noticeable in bad meaning. Her skin and herself were fresh excessively. The young girl was being too noticeable in the dark.

 So, because of that,

 “Someone was watching at me.”

 Someone was watching at me…, Kohada repeated.

 “Like me who was watching planktons in the bottle from the outside, that eyes were watching at me from the outside. Someone was at the outside of the bottle holding me as the world and was watching at me who was being carelessly lured by the smaller world, being alone in the dark room. That was watching I’m dancing. Someone was watching such me.”

 At then, I noticed I wore only pajamas. Kohada said so. Of course, there was no reason that she was wearing a life jacket.

 “Unknowingly, I was very tired. Because I was absorbed in the dancing with micro creatures.”

 Nowhere was a guarantee that she can surface off again, even if now this girl would be taken away to the deep by tide currents.

 “And, then, that eye seemed to notice that I noticed to it. I felt that the thing like a shadow of a slender man was laughing at me. There was no voice and no sound. But without a doubt, it was pulling both edges of its mouth up like a half-moon. At behind me, against me.”

 That was a smile looking down at a smaller existence. That was the laugh against a simple noticing without any power. It seemed that the disgusting smiles were being reflected on the surfaces of many bubbles which were rising up in the dark. Now, Kohada was being convinced of the ill will of this sightline from her heart. This was a trap. The evil trap.

 “I couldn’t anything except covering over the bottle with a cloth and to get into bed.”

 But even in the bed, she felt she herself was still in the deep water. So, she couldn’t breathe fresh air yet, endured it desperately yet…, but gradually, the air leaked out from her mouth, after some seconds, the big bubbles forcibly opened the tiny lips from her inside, pitilessly floated up one after another. The girl couldn’t do anything except following them with the eyes from the deep bottom. And then, all power went out from the whole body…,

 “Everything became dark.”

 The next morning, the time she awakened, the world was behaving like a very ordinary sunny comfortable morning. So, she got out of the bed and stood keeping silent, held up the bottle as if nothing happened, got out of her room. And she went downstairs, drained the water to the toilet. After finished a series of work, the girl washed the bottle easily on the porch and dumped it as recycling resource.

 “…This is the true reason why I think the night river is not good. I believe that it’s dangerous really.”

 Saying so, in a serious face Kohada finished the story.

 “Since that, on the river, I always keep wariness, even summer noon.”

 “Hey! This is a pretty big one!”

 Kajime shouted. He had already restarted his hunting. His shout was showing huge excitement. The three persons looked toward him and saw the scene that a big mud shrimp, which had almost 15-centimeter in length, was pulled out from the hole by the boy. That was tightly holding a decoy. Immediately, as well as the friend did, Tsubasu also shouted joyfully and started to run toward him. But, Kohada only cast a glance at the excited boys, had the sightline back to Ho’ori soon.

 “After all, even now, I don’t know what I felt in that night. But I’m surely understanding that we must not get connected to that even if a bit. Yes. Somehow, I believe in this feeling very clearly. So, …sheriff, I…,”

 Her eyes being fixed on Ho’ori’s face were being filled up with the conviction and the warning.

 “I never recommend the river of night.”

Ⓒ2016 Takagi Tokio

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