Mysterious Spacial Rift

by Juza Unno (Translated by J.D. Wisgo)
“Mysterious Spatial Rift” was first published in Science: Hopes & Fears [Volume 1: Selected Stories]: Juza Unno: The Father of Japanese Science Fiction, available on Amazon here.

My friend Hachiro Tomoeda is a peculiar fellow. Sharing with you a few dreams he’s told me about is the quickest way to give you a sense of just how peculiar he is.

Hachiro loves talking about his dreams. These tend to be extremely odd and surprisingly detailed, but as someone who rarely dreams myself, I found them intriguing and, at times, even disturbing.

“In my dreams, I visit the same city, again and again,” he said, vacant eyes glaring at me.

“…So I get this feeling that I’ve been to this city before. Before I know it, all these people I’ve met in dreams are coming out of the woodwork: old men, young women, you name it. I talk to this strange group of people about what happened before, hoping to continue the long series of events from previous dreams. But, more often than not, the same thing happens in every dream, and whenever I get the feeling something is going to happen, it generally turns out that way. It sounds crazy, but my hunches often turn out to be right. However, there’s another odd thing about these dreams: my face. In these dreams I always have the same face, and it’s completely different from what you see now. My face isn’t pale like this, it’s more of a reddish copper color. Even its shape is completely different: longer, with a well-defined nose, larger mouth, and eyes aglow with a passion you’d never believe, not to mention a wonderful head of hair and a stately beard. That imposing man in my dreams is me. What do you think? Pretty strange, right? That’s why I often have these strange thoughts. Could this city, and these people in my dreams, actually exist? Could I possess two bodies with different faces, sharing a single soul? Stuff like that. Oh, I can see you’re having trouble believing me. It’s written all over your face. Alright then, I’ll tell you an even stranger, more disturbing story–one that will wipe that smile right off your face. It’s a true story of something that just happened to me.”

1.

One day, I had this dream.

I was walking down a long hallway. Oddly enough, there wasn’t a single window. Everything was a yellow color–walls, ceiling–and at regular intervals on both sides of the extremely long hallway was a set of identical doors. I stood there, motionless except for my eyes inspecting each of the doorknobs, one by one. They all shared a dull brass color except for a shiny gold one on the fifth or sixth door down, on the left side if I remember correctly.

“A golden doorknob!”

When I came to the door with the shiny doorknob, my hand spontaneously reached out for it. Grabbing the golden doorknob, it twisted and pushed inward. Needless to say, the door opened easily each time I had this dream. I entered the room as if sucked in by some invisible force.

Inside was a bare living room, measuring roughly thirty square meters. A bright red carpet dominated the center, set under a light blue table and set of chairs. On the table rested a green, Spanish-style flower vase that always contained a pink carnation.

The room had a very unusual design. I took quite a liking to it, especially the large mirror hanging on a far wall. The full-sized mirror stretched from floor to ceiling, larger than the kind you find in barbershops. It was over 3 meters wide, framed on both sides by a narrow curtain made from an ornate, heavy-looking fabric that hung down from a rod at the top. Unfortunately, the room’s dim lighting obscured the curtain’s color, although it appeared to be a dark shade of indigo. The mirror faithfully reflected the contents of the room, just as you would expect. Whenever I entered that room I was always eager to walk straight up to the mirror and see my reflection. Because the mirror was at the far end of the room, angled away from me, I had to be directly in front of it to see myself. I had a habit of staring into that mirror, fascinated by my stately visage. Thrusting my chest out, I would imagine this is what Victor Emmanuel the First must have looked like. My image in the mirror followed suit, his chest raised triumphantly.

But just as I was enjoying myself making funny faces and idiotic gestures into the mirror, a voice suddenly called out from behind.

“Would you like something to drink, sir…?”

It was the voice of a young man.

I turned around to discover a silver tray on the table with a liquor bottle and a drinking glass upon it. A handsome, athletic teenage boy–who had presumably just spoken–stood with his back to the door. But there was someone else: a young woman standing dangerously close to him. How did these two get here so quickly?

The woman, her eyes downcast at first, gradually raised her head and glared at me.

(What the…)

I suddenly averted my gaze as if struck by some great force–the woman had been a lover of mine. Watching her waltz into the room with a young guy in tow, I was anything but calm.

However, getting hysterical now would only embarrass me. Maintaining perfect composure, I approached the table and sat down, facing away from the couple. I filled the glass with alcohol and silently raised it to my lips.

Behind me, I heard the frantic whispering of those two engaged in a private conversation. Their faint voices, intensified if as by an amplifier, thundered in my ears like a metal washbasin being pounded next to my head.

(Those two are far more than friends. I’m sure they’ve gone all the way!)

I struggled to hold back my emotions, but nothing could stop the rising anger. I shut my eyes, grabbed the glass, and gulped down the whole thing, then slammed it down on the table. The whispering died instantly.

I stayed calm and maintained my composure. Did those two come here just to show off? Did they really think I wouldn’t notice? If so, fine with me. I know–I’ll return the favor and pretend they don’t exist.

Legs trembling, I planted my feet firmly on the floor and stood up from the chair. I walked quietly to the large mirror at the far end of the room, making sure to avoid looking in their direction.

Before I knew it, I was standing before the mirror. I watched the couple’s reflection, their bodies all over each other, practically making love. The girl was taking the lead, trying to seduce him, but I detected a hint of hesitation in the boy. Blood rushed up from my legs into my head.

I looked at my face in the mirror and discovered my expression had completely changed. I saw my shoulders shaking uncontrollably. Oblivious to me observing them through the mirror, this indecent couple was in the middle of committing a depraved act. Panic began to creep in. I tried to scream, but nothing came out of my dry throat. I had to calm down…

I thought to enlist the aid of tobacco and pulled my cigarette case from my pocket. I tried to gently open the lid, keeping it hidden in the shadows of my body to avoid being seen, but for some reason it wouldn’t open. Realizing I should be careful about what my face revealed, I shifted my eyes to look at the reflection of my hand in the mirror. Then I looked at the cigarette case.

(Huh?)

I was a little startled; the thing in my hand was not a cigarette case but a…

(…pistol!)

My hand gripped none other than a small, boxy Browning pistol. A wave of vertigo washed over me.

That’s when it happened. The reflection of my hand, still holding the pistol, quietly floated up to the level of my chest. Defying logic, the hand crept upwards against my own will. Equally strange was seeing my hand’s reflection inch up slightly higher than my actual hand. It was incredibly disturbing–the hand in the mirror was somehow moving ahead of my own hand. I couldn’t bear to stand here and do nothing; if I stayed still like this in front of the mirror, I would surely go insane. After all, the movement of my reflection–even as I stood frozen before the mirror–would be certain evidence that I could no longer be counted among the living.

(…)

A tremor ripped through my body, nearly tearing it apart. I quickly raised the arm holding the pistol, chasing after its reflection, and it soon caught up with the image in the mirror.

(My, that was horrific!)

My body was completely drenched with sweat.

The pistol had risen a good ways above my chest, where its muzzle pressed firmly into my left shoulder. I twisted my shoulder back gradually. I squinted and aimed the gun. Once my target was fixed, I continued to rotate my body back, ever so deliberately.

My attempt to speak only resulted in a pathetic stutter. The couple continued their flirting, completely unaware of what I was about to do.

“Y-you bitch!”

Detestable slut!

I glanced at the mirror to see a few teeth exposed as I bit down hard on my lower lip. Time slowed to a crawl, my tormented expression urging me to the only natural conclusion: my two fingers on the trigger retracted…

Bang.

Oh shit, I really did it.

“…Ugggghhhhh…”

The girl bent over backward as if struck by a bolt of electricity. One hand clutched her chest while the other flailed wildly in the air; a moment later, she collapsed there on the spot.

“I killed someone. In the end, I’ve committed murder with my own hands!”

I approached the girl sprawled on the floor, so still I would have sworn she was in a deep sleep. Her clothes had a gaping red hole near the chest where fresh blood gushed out, trickling over her partially exposed breasts and down her neck. The boy was nowhere to be found; I assumed he had darted out of the room without me noticing.

“Shit, I just killed someone…” I mumbled.

Just then, I heard a derisive laugh in an all-too-familiar voice: my own.

“Oh…I get it. I’m having a dream where I murder someone…But if I’m not careful I’ll wake up in the middle of the best part. My hands should be trembling more, like I’ve actually killed someone. And I should be scared. Very scared…”

Unfortunately, something happened and I lost my memory of everything after that. I only remember up to the point where I shot and killed the girl.

2.

I must have bored you to tears with so much detail, especially considering I was only talking about a dream. But I wanted you to understand just how vivid and strange my dreams are.

My talk about dreams isn’t over yet. Now I’d like to tell you about an even more mysterious dream. I really hope you’ll listen to what I have to say.

Let’s see…I don’t remember how many days had passed, but eventually I had another dream.

Just I was making my way down a long hallway, I realized something.

“Another long hallway. The walls and ceiling are yellow, and…”

“I remember! I’ve been in this hallway before!” I thought to myself. But that quickly led to another, less desirable, realization.

“…Oh, I’m dreaming now. I’m really dreaming!”

As I walked down the hall, I tried to imitate my gait from the other day because I felt that otherwise I’d ruin a potentially wonderful dream…

Just like last time, I glanced at the doors one by one. I noticed a golden doorknob on the left side, five doors down.

“This is it,” I said with a smile.

I turned the golden doorknob and slipped into the room. Needless to say, things looked exactly the same as before: a red carpet in the center, above that an elegant table and chair set in blue, and on the table, a green vase holding an identical pink carnation.

I chuckled under my breath as I made my way to the room’s center, trying to keep from breaking out into laughter. From there, I inspected the far end of the room and found the large mirror. It was a great relief to see that mirror.

(I can imagine how in some occupations like acting, where each day the same movements are acted out with the same props, performances tend to get progressively easier after the first day–just like what I am experiencing now.)

Thoughts like this popped into my head.

The next moment, I found myself once again before the large mirror. The same stately appearance was reflected in it: a bold mustache surrounded by a storm of unkempt hair.

“Sir, would you like a…”

I looked behind me to see who had spoken and found the same handsome young man standing there. Beside him was the same young girl, eyes downcast, another character in this performance who hadn’t changed at all.

Adhering to the proper order of events, I returned to the table. I opened the liquor bottle and filled up the glass. Right then, as if on cue, I heard the hushed whispers of that couple behind me.

Infuriated, I chugged the entire drink in a single breath. I slammed down the glass, sprung to my feet, and staggered towards the mirror…

An uncomfortable feeling came over me, triggered by the vivid recollection of that terrible incident the other day. The thing that happened next was utterly terrifying. No, I don’t mean the part when I murdered someone; I mean when, standing before that large mirror, my reflection moved before I did. That uncanny sight, etched deeply in my mind…

“That was truly horrifying.”

My body trembled uncontrollably. I carefully watched my every move reflected in the mirror, afraid of what I might see.

I withdrew from my pocket not a cigarette case, but a pistol…

Yes, now is my chance!

I raised the pistol to my chest ever so slowly…ever so deliberately…

“Well, well…it seems my reflection is following me well today.”

I sighed, relieved to see no sign of the expected abnormality today. And yet, our movements could diverge at any moment…

“Whew, I’m safe…”

I was so happy, so relieved, that I nearly cried out. Nothing abnormal had occurred. I even tried flailing my arms up and down, but, like a film with perfectly synchronized audio and video tracks, my reflection stayed in lock-step with its counterpart, moving the same way at the same time, without even the slightest gap.

(Perhaps that terrible separation I witnessed the other day was simply a hallucination?)

This thought came to me, but then I realized there was no need to think so deeply about it. After all, this was just a dream; there was no rule stating everything had to make sense. If, for example, I stood in the middle of a field and wished for a desk, it might appear out of nowhere, like magic. In dreams, things like that would be perfectly normal.

I held the gun tightly against my left shoulder, took aim, and slowly twisted my shoulder back. The girl and boy whispered to one another excitedly, panting as if out of breath. I heard the young girl’s sensual whine, you know the kind that can drive you crazy.

“Take this, asshole!”

I pulled the trigger.

Bang.

The girl’s piercing shriek tore through the room.

Clutching her shoulder with one hand, she toppled over onto the carpet as her other arm twitched, clawing wildly at the air.

“Why is she still moving?”

I suspiciously approached the girl who was supposed to be dead from my gunshot. She was barely hanging on. But as I watched, her life faded away before my eyes. The bloodstained hand that had been clutching her shoulder gradually slid down, revealing a gaping wound that spurted fresh blood, a blooming flower. Her arms and legs twitched a few more times before collapsing to the floor, and her body finally went still.

“You put on quite a show in those final moments!”

Sneering, I approached her body and gave it a kick. It didn’t budge, as if she was in a deep sleep. I circled around to her head and gazed at her face from the side.

“Huh?”

I had been certain this woman was my old girlfriend, but I was shocked when I saw her face.

“It’s…not her.”

The realization struck me like a massive weight. I cradled her limp head and angled her face towards me.

“Oh no, this is…”

I’ve made a terrible mistake. I was so sure it was my old girlfriend, but I couldn’t have been more wrong; the woman’s corpse before me was unmistakably the wife of a close friend who was like a brother to me.

“D-damn it!”

My teeth clenched. Why hadn’t I realized this sooner? Clearly, murder was a terrible crime, but to shoot dead the wife of a good friend…how could I ever make it up to him?

She had been a truly admirable woman. Her husband was a good friend of mine, but strange rumors about him had been circulating lately. Apparently he was making a great profit by loaning out money at an exorbitant interest rate but rarely returned home to see his wife waiting there alone. She would often visit me, worried sick, prostrating herself teary-eyed and begging that I help repair her relationship with her husband, seemingly gone sour due to her inadequacies. I had never met a nicer, more good-natured woman in my life, and I failed to understand how any man could pretend to know nothing of this woman and neglect his duties as a husband.

Thus, I began to pity this woman, consoling her whenever the opportunity arose. After visiting me she would always return home in a better mood. However, it seems that lately my friend had an odd suspicion of something going on between his wife and me. He was worried about us being alone frequently together in the same room, a concern I found both idiotic and maddening. How truly unfortunate.

“And now I have murdered that woman with my own hands. What am I going to do…”

I was too ashamed to face my friend; but I was even more remorseful toward his wife, whom I had shot dead. But at the same time, I would no longer be able to prove my innocence of the alleged relationship between us. I lied down beside her body, tormented by an excruciating pain like my intestines were being ripped apart…

“…How could have I been such a fool? I’m crying in the middle of a dream!”

I suddenly heard the sound of my own voice. Oh, it’s all just a dream.

The entrance burst open and a crowd clamored into the room. At its head stood the attractive young man I had seen with my friend’s wife, but when he saw me he backed away and disappeared into the crowd.

“You’re under arrest!”

A group of people wearing police officer uniforms rushed at me and restrained my arms. Just as I was thinking about how I would be executed soon, handcuffs were slapped on my wrists. I have no memory of what happened after that.

Well now, what do you think of these two dreams? Pretty strange, huh? Aren’t they’re almost too vivid?

3.

It was a quiet winter morning.

A high fence obscured the sun but the sky was clear for miles, the air refreshing like citrus.

Enclosed by the plain, white walls of the square room, my friend Hachiro Tomoeda was telling me once again about his dreams.

Sometimes my mind gets all messed up and causes me a great deal of trouble. I know it’s not because of my age, but my life is often thrown into disarray by my tendency to mix things up.

I think I was telling you the other day about two similar dreams where I killed someone, but I don’t remember how far I got. Most likely I stopped around the part where I was thrown in jail, awaiting a trial. Yeah, that sounds about right.

I remember talking about those dreams in earnest, unaware of my absurd misconception, but perhaps things didn’t happen like that. To be honest, during that conversation I was convinced you were not a person from a dream, but the real world. However, after being implicated in a murder and then talking to you in this jail cell, it’s clear that you’re also from the dream world. Why did it take me so long to realize this?

This is not easy for me since I’m hopelessly poor at explanations. But if you don’t mind, I’ll try once more. I told you about that murder incident; after that, I was jailed as a suspect. Sometimes you would come to visit me in jail–proof that the world where the murder occurred and the world you live in is one and the same. I spoke to you about the murder in my dream. Also, if you ask me, you yourself are from the same dream world. The way I see it, that murder took place in my dreams; to you, it took place in the world that you live in. But, you see, this is the dream world now where I am speaking…When a dimwit like me tries thinking about this stuff, I always get totally confused. Maybe I should just let someone else figure it all out. Anyway, I’ll tell you what happened next.

Like I said, at some point I discovered myself, jailed and awaiting trial. I was astonished to learn it was related to a murder in that room with the big mirror.

“My, what a terribly long dream I’m having…”

I didn’t find this out until later, but at the time I was apparently about to be put into a mental institution. So I’m really glad I figured everything out when I did.

After that they investigated me at length, and one of the court officials was a kind-hearted magistrate by the name of Sugiura. One day he came to me and started telling me a story. It was a mysterious tale skillfully crafted by a true creative genius, filled with uncanny events like you often find in short stories. While clearly a fabrication, I was intrigued to see how everything was woven together, so I’d like to tell you about it.

“Do you think those two dreams were really dreams? Even assuming they are, don’t you see an inconsistency between them?” the judge suddenly asked me, his tone reserved.

I kept quiet; these questions irritated me. He continued babbling, even more sure of himself. This is what he told me:

“You said you killed an old girlfriend in your first dream, and a friend’s wife in the second. If, as you say, you are seeing the same events repeatedly in dreams, then shouldn’t the victim be the same each time? Don’t you think it’s odd that the person you murdered was different?”

“Anything is possible in dreams,” I objected. “Characters can switch around arbitrarily.”

The man’s questions continued.

“In your first dream, when you killed your girlfriend, there was a simplicity, a surreal beauty. And yet, your second dream–where you killed your friend’s wife–wasn’t it painted in colors that seemed almost too vivid? Didn’t you detect something deliberate about this disparity?” he said, a deadly serious expression on his face.

The moment I heard this, I thought he really was on to something. The murder in the second dream did have a much deeper sense of realism. However, once I thought about it a little more, I realized he was badly distorting minor details just to argue his point, and this disgusted me.

“You’re quiet, but I think you understand what I’m saying, at least a little,” Judge Sugiura added, delivering another one-sided statement.

“Listen–I’ll tell you a few more discrepancies. First, what do you think of that room? What a truly unusual place. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a large mirror covering the wall, like in a barbershop, and an oddly remarkable red carpet. Even the plain colors of the table and chair set, their placement, and the flower on display were unusual. If someone was actually living there, you would expect a clutter of items; but those were nowhere to be found, and the room’s remarkable simplicity made it hard to forget once you saw it. Like the handiwork of a magician, it had the appearance of a room, yet was totally unfit for human habitation. Nothing more than a prop in a trick.”

“Come on, dreams are supposed to be remarkable and simple,“ I wanted to say, but I kept quiet.

“So what do you think? I bet all of this is starting to make sense to you,” the magistrate said, increasingly confident.

“Now there’s one final, truly great contradiction. I’m sure you remember the terrifying part of your first dream. That’s where the contradiction was. You grabbed the pistol and saw it in your reflection in the mirror. Then, strangely enough, you watched your hand raise above your chest, stopping somewhere near your left shoulder. Yet your actual hand hovered there unmoving, gripping the pistol you’d withdrawn from your pocket. In short, you had observed a gap between your actual body’s movements and your reflection in the mirror, a sight which terrified you to no end. By witnessing a mysterious rift between the spatial region encompassing your body, presumably possessing a single soul, and that of your body’s reflection, you were thrown into complete–and needless–confusion. Had you been an ordinary person with a sound mind, you would have surely realized the truth. This point is critically important. What would an ordinary person think? How strange…I’m not in a haunted house, but the reflection in this mirror before me is moving separately from my body. This can’t be right. The image in the mirror isn’t my reflection! Just like that, you should have figured it out. In other words, the large mirror before you was not actually a mirror; behind that panel of glass stood a person disguised as you, trying to make you believe he was your reflection. You should have picked up on that immediately–if you were an ordinary person, that is.”

This was a shock to even someone as dull as me, as if a hammer had suddenly struck my skull. But shock soon became anger as I began to question whether such an absurd thing was even possible.

“After all, the entire room’s interior was reflected in that mirror: the chairs, the table, and the bottle of liquor. But that’s not all. Even the girl and her handsome companion were reflected in the mirror. Is something that absurd actually possible?” I objected.

“It’s like I’ve been telling you. That room was specially prepared for the deception. What you thought was a reflection in the mirror was, in actuality, a separate room visible through a large pane of glass, made to appear identical to the room you were in. They just needed to put everything in the same location, turned to face the pane of glass. Same thing with the people. There were two different couples, one in each room, so each person appeared to have a reflection. In fact, there was another man in the far room. As I said, he was dressed just like you. In any case, not in your right mind, you mistook the faces of the two couples to be identical. After that point, it would have been easy to deceive anyone, even an ordinary person. Well now, let’s consider why someone would create dual rooms and make them appear to represent a single space. That couldn’t be any more obvious. The man disguised as you suggested your next action: aiming the pistol and shooting the girl behind you. The gunshot sound was probably from a blank cartridge and, as planned, she collapsed on the spot. Finally, in dramatic fashion she triggered the release of red iron oxide concealed in something like an eggshell, giving the impression of having been shot dead.”

“If that’s true, then why would he make me do such a thing?” I cried out.

“That’s obvious. They planned to lure you to the place of your second dream and have you actually murder your friend’s wife. They fooled you, a weak-minded man, into believing you were reliving the same dream, making you fire the pistol again in the second dream, just like the first. But the second time, the pistol was loaded with live ammunition and the second room was not used. By darkening that room, the pane of glass functioned like a mirror. It’s a trick commonly employed in circus attractions; everyone knows about it. But in any case–you have, unintentionally, murdered a woman.”

“But why me?” I shouted back at the judge.

“I investigated and found out the reason. It was the woman’s own husband who plotted to kill her–in other words, your friend. He was the one who orchestrated it all.”

“No, my friend would never do something so horrible,” I said.

“There’s no use defending him. We’ve already gathered sufficient evidence. Your friend is quite a despicable fellow. His failed business venture demanded a great deal of money, and there was a life insurance policy on his wife for an enormous sum. He couldn’t just kill his wife with his own hands, so he tried to use you instead. Apparently he even fabricated an excuse to lure his wife to that room. She was brought inside and saw you who had, according to the rumors, gone insane. Then you shot and killed her. In any case, I’m glad your mental state has recovered so quickly since arriving here.”

As I listened, I was nearly fooled by his well-crafted story. Could my friend really have plotted such an elaborate scheme? I felt there was something wrong with the judge’s logic.

“But Mr. Magistrate, something doesn’t seem right. How did my friend manage to manipulate me so easily?”

“Isn’t that obvious too? Did you not have the habit of explaining your dreams to him in great detail? He used that to take advantage of you.”

So you see, my friend, that’s what I was told. I really pity the magistrate for wasting so much time fretting over these minute details, because he’s claiming that you used me to kill your own wife to avoid dirtying your own hands. I can’t believe he has the audacity to say those things about you. Fortunately, everything happened in a dream so it doesn’t really matter. Had it actually happened, we would be in some serious trouble.

But, you see, that magistrate just wouldn’t give up. What a pain in the ass.

“You’re mistaken about those things happening in a dream. If you still believe that, then I’ll just have to prove to you how wrong you are…” the magistrate said.

When I asked him what he had in mind, he lead me to a mirror.

“So which is it?” he asked. “Is the face you see reflected here the one from your dreams, or the one from the real world?”

When I looked in the mirror, a sickly pale, very round face stared back at me. It was nothing like the stately visage I’d seen in my dreams.

“It’s my face from the real world,” I answered honestly.

With that, the magistrate continued, an unspoken I told you in his eyes.

“Now isn’t that strange. You’ve been saying this is all a dream. But if the face you saw now was your real face, that’s really strange. Am I wrong? Now listen up. You’ve got to think hard and remember everything. This dream world that you believe in has never existed. There’s only one reality. You claimed there was an alternate reality where you had a different face, but in the end your two faces are one and the same. Are you following me? When your mental condition deteriorates, you become like a comselftaughtjapanese.completely different person. You stop combing your hair, let your beard grow out. There are even times where you’ve run around half-naked outside, eventually hiding somewhere in the mountains. You get a sunburn there and your appearance drastically changes. Let’s try one more thing while I have you here. First, ruffle your well-combed hair and make it stand up all over. Next, put on this fake beard I have here. Then we’ll apply some brown facial powder…Now take a look at your face in the mirror. Does it ring a bell? I bet it’s exactly like the face you thought you had in the other reality,” he said with a chuckle.

I was utterly shocked. The magistrate was right…But wait a minute, something was still fishy. His skill in solving this case appeared impeccable, yet the truth was far from that. He knew practically nothing about math, and his logic was completely off. In other words, he had secretly retouched my face in the dream world with makeup to make it look identical to my real face. Then he had undone that disguise to return my dream face to its prior state. This by no means proves the magistrate’s one-sided story. I knew it–I’m definitely dreaming.

That sure was a close call. It’s like I’ve been saying, my friend: we’re both in the middle of a dream now…

Just then, the steel door opened with a creak. As I expected, the head prison guard silently entered carrying handcuffs, followed by the warden, skinny as a bird, and the prison chaplain who resembled a large potato wrapped in a gold brocade vestment.

“If you’ll pardon me for interrupting you…” said the prison guard. “The time has come to execute the prisoner’s sentence, so Mr. Tomoeda, I’d like to ask you to leave.”

My friend stood up abruptly from his chair. He embraced me, glaring at the others.

“You mustn’t be afraid. Whatever anyone says, this is all part of a dream, even if you are about to climb the gallows. You mustn’t believe you’re actually going to die, because ultimately, you’re just dreaming about being executed. There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of…As soon as you get too uncomfortable, just wake up from this dream. I’m sure a moment later you’ll find yourself in a warm bed, hearing your children in the next room switching on the radio to listen to the morning calisthenics. Don’t stay there mulling about the terrible dream you just had; quickly jump out of bed so you aren’t late to work. Well then, if you’ll excuse me…” And with that, he left my prison cell.

Yes, yes! I knew it was a dream! Gallows…bring on the gallows!

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(English translation Copyright © 2019 by J. D. Wisgo)
Please see selftaughtjapanese.com for more information about J.D. Wisgo and his translations.