Amigara Mountain

Adapted from 阿弥殻断層の怪 (Amigara Dansō no Kai) by Junji Ito

One — The Earthquake

There was a lull in big-ticket news stories that summer, so when the quake hit, the media blitz that ensued seemed a bit excessive at first. It was true that several rural villages and towns, of the few that even remained anymore, were hit with mild setbacks, but no damage had struck the City, where most of the country now called home. Aside from a few crumbling edifices and some broken bones (no reported deaths or missing persons), there wasn’t much else to cover. A destroyed shrine took the top slot for two full news cycles, covered in every angle imaginable—human interest, religious connotations, repair costs, local reactions, the works. At first it seemed that the Amigara Earthquake, named after the mountain that had acted as its epicenter, was simply a natural disaster that underperformed the reputation the media deemed worthy to fabricate around it.

But the news outlets eventually latched themselves onto a potential goldmine of a story—a nerve was struck, the incubus of this whole, strange tale, and the beginning of my involvement in the matter. After the story in question aired, the rest fell into place with ease, as if the pointless rabble, the dry, pastoral filler wasting away the summer, purposefully underperformed the colossal main event that lay waiting in the wings.

I was cramming in a meal between classes, my last two of the term, when the broadcast brass played from the pod on the wall. “Good evening, New Japan. The time is 16:00. We will now present the evening news. Breaking development from the Amigara story…” Great, more of this nonsense. How many ways could they spin this thing? I was halfway across the room to switch the pod to a new channel when my mind processed what they were actually saying. “…natural phenomenon? It seems the shifted fault unveiled a strange pattern. It was first discovered by a passing medical aircraft flying in supplies to nearby villages. The NJB News team has acquired the first known documented footage of the phenomenon, live now from the mountainside. A warning—the following images may be unsettling. Viewer discretion is highly advised.”

***

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/homeaway/

The drive home is a rabies shot, agitated,
you twitch from state line to county line
to places in between,
the coordinates slipstream daydreams —
You remember the road numbers:
145th, 194th
impossibly lengthy, made of pulverized
bonemeal and crunch coat,
those steel-cut graveled byways

You remember the inhabitants
rendered from bacon fat and ham hock
tourniquets and night shift salt licks
Or those pubertied boys and their
percussion kits behind the old band shell,
blasting canonfire flams back there
on Thursday nights, before the
sweating, stinking performance

of pops classics, patriotica,
the flags swatting the air,
or was that the yellowed sheet
music, free from clothespin
bondage?

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Reminders

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1.

It would be a lie to say that I didn’t know the dead man, but it would be the truth to say I can no longer remember his name. Too many nights filled with foreign smoke and strong drink. Too many days scratched away listlessly. But I know it’s still down inside me somewhere, being chewed up and digested again and again.

It’s been buried so many times, on the tip of my tongue in the pitch of nightfall, but never fully exposed. Maybe it will surface one day, as these things often do, when least expected.

I have wondered why I forgot the name. Before his death he was someone I saw a lot—you couldn’t say I knew him, but he was definitely a constant. We worked at the market for a couple months anyway. A friend of mine said it best over drinks, as we sat next to a shelf of nameless corporate nobodies at some long-forgotten bar in the legal district: it’s easier to forget a face that wants forgotten, he said. That was at least five years ago—my dog didn’t get hit by the bus yet, we had a president worth having, I had more hair. My god. What is five years but an endless and terrifying chasm that has the potential so suck away your very lifeblood?

Both he and the dead man now share a common denominator: both absent from my life.

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