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Contemporary Sad East Asian

Satoru fought against the wind and heaved the door shut. Outside, the snow covered everything under it, hiding away every secret beneath every inch of white. The wind howled on, rattling the windows in the dark. And even inside, he could still sense its terrifying strength as it lashed across his cabin in the hills into the unknown.

His body felt like it was burning. So much so it hurt like hell in every literal sense of the word. It seemed to eat away at his skin, slicing him, bit by bit, into sashimi. He groaned, grunting out in the dark as he moved, bearing the pain as he searched for the light—but of course, there was no light; there wasn’t even electricity.

He couldn’t help but curse when he remembered.

Satoru wanted to roar out. In pain or anger or fear or what, he didn’t know. All he knew was that a deep, wild emotion wished to ravage everything around him. But of course, he kept it all in, biting his frozen lip.

Groping through the dark, he eventually found a lantern. He checked and discovered there was some oil left inside. And so, lighting a match from his pocket, he brought the lantern to life. In its quiet radius, it lit up the cabin just enough for now. There was a fireplace on the right side, firewood stacked beside it. Pressing his lips, he shut his eyes, the light from the lantern illuminating through his lids. He let out a sigh, white mist coming out; a sigh of some indefinable emotion.

He placed the lantern on a nearby table and started working at the fireplace. No one had used it in a long time, and he was simply betting on the hope that the ice or snow didn’t block the chimney. Luckily, he was able to start the fire and the chimney seemed to be working well. What luck.

His head hurt, as if a piercing arrow had struck his skull and was clinging onto his brain-tissue, tearing out blood. A terrible headache would be the norm, he must accept it. The cold was getting to him, and all he could do was fight it, bracing himself for anything. Still, it just hurt—the cold was eating into his flesh, and soon, he would become one with it.

Just like grandpa…

He grunted at the thought and shook his head. He didn’t want to become one with the snow out here. He preferred the snow the way he knew it—as something forever falling at the farthest edge of his mind and memory, a storm walled off from the rest of his consciousness. A distant thought, something too far; too far from his mind’s reach. The lighter snow that fell during winter however, back in Tokyo, was something else. Sure, it was white and it caused troubles on different train routes and expressways, but it bore no connection to the snow here. The snow here was something else, some mythical beast. A sort of being that lurked along the outer perimeter of his subconscious. Forever there. Forever waiting for him to turn around and face it, where it would disappear and be a part of the infinite white of snow once more, calling out, as if trying to lure its next victim.

He shut his eyes, thinking about it, and turned to look around, studying the place, realizing now the sheer reality that he was here.

There was a kitchen at the back, but no water. There was no fridge either, only a tall cupboard that could act as one; but only act. There was also a dusty dining table, a few dirty plates left here and there, some piled into reckless stacks, the mold growing along its edges. He could even smell it; but the cold disrupted his senses.

Off to the right side however, between the kitchen and the stacks of firewood, was a wall displaying his grandfather’s mug collection. They were all hanging from wooden hooks, all of them oriented in the same way, each of them following a trend of the same shape. The only differences were the shape—some were more rounded, like a balloon that somehow melted along its sides—and the color and designs that were printed on them. There were ones from the States, from Hakone, Odawara, Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, the Philippines, and even London and Sydney. Some were simple souvenirs—which was most of them, since from a glance at their design Satoru could tell where they were from—while others were more in line with his grandfather’s interests: fishing, hiking, foraging, and bird-hunting. At the top of the display was a carving design that clearly depicted Mount Everest: his grandfather’s dream, one he wouldn’t stop talking about.

Again, finding now that everything reminded him of that long-gone grandfather, Satoru let out another sigh in resignation as he settled back in the couch, hard from age.

His grandfather went missing one winter, when his father came to check on him. He reported the case to the police, who were an hour away, and a search began. After several weeks, his grandfather’s body was found off a cliff by a river, buried under a few inches of snow by then. Satoru himself didn’t care about his grandfather, but what made Satoru hate him even more was the fact that his father died searching for that old man. He could never forgive him, and yet here he was, sitting in the very cabin his grandfather loved oh-so much just because watching over the cabin was now his responsibility since his father died. Why couldn’t his family just sell the place? He didn’t care what happened to his grandfather, let alone this cabin. So why didn’t the family simply sell the place off?

He didn’t get it. He wanted so much to get away from the shadow of this place, of the woods up here, of the past the winter snow up here represented. He didn’t want this nonsensical task, this ridiculous responsibility. Why did the cabin need anyone to watch over it? From all he knew, the cabin could go on just fine without him. It may even prefer it.

But nevertheless, here he was, up here again in the hills of this snow country. Down below, about an hour or less away, laid a town that experienced snow daily, where in winter the snow may even rise to ten feet. He couldn’t do anything about his situation, here he was.

He couldn’t simply lie to his mother, who was the one who tasked him with this watching-over business. And so he came hiking up here, anyway, bearing the brutal cold and the even crueler stones of memory.

The snow reminded him too much.

But really, there was another reason he came here anyway: his wife died.

If it wasn’t for her death, he probably would’ve made up some excuse as he did every year to not go and stay at home. But her sudden death had left a void in his chest, and he didn’t know what to do with his feelings. He couldn’t put them anywhere; neither here nor there. And staying in that home didn’t do him any good either. So, for the first time in years, he accepted his mother’s request and ventured up here, bearing the excruciating journey.

To him, however, nothing was as excruciating as losing someone you love deeply, with all your heart, to the point where you simply couldn’t imagine ever living without them.

Now, though, he couldn’t help but find it ironic that it was here that he chose to run away to, even if for the time being. He could’ve gone anywhere else, and yet he went here of all places.

He shrugged, too tired to think about that. All he wanted now was to let something drown everything out of his mind.

“Haa…”

But as he closed his eyes, his mind wandered to a far-off memory that should’ve been hidden deep, deep within his heart. It was an old memory, one he decided to preserve in a special place just for it, in the innermost recess of his being.

It was a memory of his sister. Back then—when he was about fifteen to sixteen, his sister about five or six—his sister had been a rather problematic child. He didn’t know how, but somehow her personality ended up as something wild, something filled with rage, a personality that was so self-centered. She would demand treats and toys and would be enraged if people didn’t give her what she wanted. Money was a scarce commodity back then, especially; so they had to get used to her violent, selfish behavior. She was easily jealous, too, which caused a bunch of trouble as she would see a neighbor wearing a new dress and immediately demand their mother to buy a new one for her despite having just bought one the last week, of which she may ironically be wearing at that moment.

But one night, Satoru saw her vulnerable side.

She was afraid of death. Deeply. It wasn’t just a simple, loose fear of the unknown most kids think of when the concept of death is brought up. It was a sort of deep-set fear that shook her to the core. The fear of death itself is essentially the fear of the unknown, Satoru knew that, but most kids didn’t fill their heads with existential concepts at such a young age. She was only five or six then, and at that age Satoru was sure that he himself didn’t understand what death even meant. But here she was, tears in her eyes, her voice shaking and shrinking, turning shrill, fragile, saying she was afraid of death.

She was afraid that she would die, asking whether there is a way to not die, if there was some cure or some miracle that could allow her to live forever and never face that terrifying end. But of course, there wasn’t, and Satoru simply couldn’t lie, even if he tried to. His sister then went on to say she was afraid to lose him, afraid for their mother’s death, for their father’s; which was soon to come. His sister truly wanted something to hold on to, some hope, that there was a way to live on, for everyone to live on.

Essentially, for time to never tick another second, for her life to stay the way it was forever.

But of course, Satoru knew there wasn’t. And it was then that he realized what religion meant and what it’s function in both society and in separate individuals was—it gave people hope, and it gave them meaning. There are many out there who fear death, who are terrified of it, but religions gives them promises and, most importantly, that strand of hope that they may be able to mean something more, to live beyond death.

To conquer it, to be beyond death’s grasp.

Satoru didn’t want to think of this, he didn’t want to remember that scene, and yet it flowed on within him. But before he knew it, it had faded away and disappeared into the darkness outside, blown away by the violent winds of time.

He couldn’t recall what he said, what he replied to her with; all he remembered was what she said. Her words stuck with him, enduring within his heart.

Opening his eyes now, he wondered: where was she, now?

And why were there too many people who simply disappeared from his life? Why were all these people taken away from him? Why had death become a sort of theme in his life? What did they all mean? And, ultimately, what did this story of his mean to say?

His life: why had it come to this point?

But of course, to none of the question could he provide an answer.

It was probably someone else’s job; all he could do lay back and disappear into the shores of time as the beast came to snatch him away into the night.

January 18, 2021 17:44

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