I was in an unfamiliar place. My vision was filled with colour. No, you could say there wasn't any colour at all. This wasn't something that a human could understand. I fell into this place. Fell from a high place too. There weren't any indications on direction, but I knew that I fell from a high place. I also knew that when my fall ended, everything would be over. Where am I? Why am I like this? My brain was a rocking mess and I couldn't remember a thing. Damn it, stupid brain, hurry up and work!
My eyes suddenly focused on a bright, snow-white world.
Spacious, almost boundless.
It was like infinity, something without end.
It didn't look like something humans understood; it was that unbelievable.
...Oh yeah. "I was shot." Getting shot really was scary. It was forceful and it had scared the hell out of me. That also means......hey.......not good, I'm too agitated at the moment, so I can't think of any possible answers. Breathe deeply first. The air was very salty as I breathed in. Calm down, I was just at a familiar place, still at Bright Sun Cafe, but now I'm here instead.
I was falling head first and I was utterly naked. I really don't want to admit it. As much as I don't want to, there aren't any other possibilities left. "......am I dead?" What a remote-sounding question. Not many people would have realised such an obvious thing. Though I hadn't experienced death before, I could still make an accurate judgement based on knowledge and instinct. Stop fretting allowed the calmer sider of me to take control. Therefore, I was going through a near-death experience. Which was pretty obvious considering that being shot results in death. I'm not a robot, vampire, pillar man nor the ultimate organism, so of course being shot would result in death.
"......Oh I see, so I'm dead already." After saying that, I felt my body slowly melt away. I knew that I was done for and that death awaited me. This was my ending; there was nothing I could do about it.
Though this happens all of the time in novels, I still panicked when I had actually died. But after holding back these thoughts True, normal people wouldn't be able to experience death. Otherwise they must've died. What a wonderful experience and I was burning to tell someone. Except that I was already dead.
Okay, next is judgement time. Looking back at my life, most of the time, I was happy.
Though a lot of bothersome and painful things happened to me, I had many happy momens. I was pleased with my life; I don't regret anything. But thinking of the people who I had left behind still made me feel quite sad.
Dad and mom. Sorry, your son isn’t a good kid. I’m very happy to have once been one of your two children. Though I sometimes found you guys a bit annoying, I’d still like to thank you. I never told you this only because I was too arrogant. Both of you, please live to a ripe old age. If I ever had a life insurance, use that money.
Kazu-nii is gone. Sorry, your brother is so useless. The fate of the family lies in your hands and if you can, throw out my old computer. Our parent’s haven’t got Alzheimer’s yet, but if they do, make sure to look after them. Find a good boyfriend soon! I might be a bit overdoing this, but as it’s my last world, just be careful and live life to its fullest.
Also, the pets at home…anyway, do your best! I’ll cheer for you!
…That’s about it really.
I felt pretty awkward.
Although I love to read and often I could feel my own heart connected to the author, suddenly asking me to describe my mood wasn’t exactly something easy for me to do.
In this situation, I was unable to think of anything else to say.
Thank you and goodbye.
After saying this, I closed my eyes.
I was still falling, falling through an endless void.
An unmoving rainbow world enveloped me, like I was watching the scenery of passing life out of a car window.
How long was I going to fall for? In novels, they all say that it ends in a blink of the eye, well, do they really know what happens? What rubbish.
Couldn’t help it, as there’s time, I might as well read. The best way to forget about the boring atmosphere was to read.
I thought, while I groped for a book…
My hands flailed in the air.
After making sure several times, my suspicions were confirmed. And then--
I had only just realized the seriousness of it all.
None! None! None!
I first tried to reach for my pocket, but I hadn’t one and even my bag wasn’t with me. I was completely naked, so having no books should have been pretty obvious to begin with.
Are there any bookshops here? A second-hand bookshop would do, even a convenience store is okay, but are there any places that sell books? None at all?
Death is such an annoying thing!
Uwah! Having no books made me want to read more than ever! Is there really nothing to read? Really none at all? Advertisements and other stuff is fine, just give me something to read!
…None, there was just the rainbow world around me.
Not a word in sight.
Why didn’t I prepare myself for this beforehand!!
Ah, hang on a minute.
No, my brain is a mess. Calm down, think everything through calmly.
Can you not read after death?
My back was soaked with sweat and I felt very uncomfortable.
I wasn’t even sure I could feel my body, yes, I felt that uncomfortable.
This was terrible. Can’t read, what was going on, was this some nasty joke?
No way no way, that was impossible too.
This was worse than being shot to death.
I really had died, but anything was fine as long as I had books to read.
Masterpieces, rubbish works, bizarre stories, powerful writings, excellent novels to poor pieces of writing.
Geez, I don't want to die without a book in my hands.
What was Death doing! Read my desires! If desires could be read, I want to read it too!
Having no books to read was way more scary than dying.
Realising that I hadn’t anything to read made me want to read more than ever.
Akiyama Shinobu’s most recent book from "Mortal Sin" series came out last year. Although the last book was promised to come out soon, it still hadn’t and the series had yet to be completed. It was a long-running mystery series and it was my favourite as it described the frantic dances of the people and others. How could I die before finishing that series!?
The colours around me started to fade, probably to alert that my judgement time was over.
Go back, go back to the place where I can read.
With that one thought in mind, I started to struggle. Although I couldn’t think of any other plan and my current one wasn’t working too well, it was still something I had to try.
My heart had lit a firework. Strong, bright and determined.
I wanted to read. All I wanted to do was read.
There were still books for me to read, more books for me to read and even more books for me to read.
Therefore, I mustn’t die.
“No! No! No! No! No!”
A rumbling yell too.
My throat felt hot.
My body blended into my scream and it was carried far out into the universe.
It was like a song, a curse, something that wouldn’t stop screaming and yelling for the world.
“I must go back!!”
I really wanted to go back, back to Sumiya Residence, back to my life of being constantly surrounded by books.
I twisted my body like I was a professional swimmer. I swam and swam.
Fighting the battle of life and death, I struggled to get out of the rainbow world.
“There’s still books waiting for me to read!”
I knew that there was no way I could control my body, but the threat of falling gave me energy to struggle. But my mind wasn’t clear; I was simply relying on instinct. I want to read, I want to read, was the mantra in my mind and by all means, my only hope in escaping.
The rainbow world was coming to an end as I could now see a gray earth underneath me.
It's likely that life ends there.
And if that's the case, I must, must escape from it.
“It’s not over yet…”
There was only one thing in my mind.
“How could I just die?”
And that was as clear as day.
I had to finish Akiyama Shinobu’s masterpiece, “sin”. I still had to read the final volume, book seven.
I had always hoped to, always believed that one day I would read the best and my favourite book.
In this soulless world, my vision came down to a single item – a book in red covering, a thick and heavy book, a book I wanted to hold onto.
It was fine even if it was just my imagination. As nothing was confirmed, the red book that I had visualised, became my everything. It was working, imagining up a red book was helping me.
The grey earth was approaching rapidly, but I took no notice of it.
The scream ripped out of my throat and the sound died around me. I beg you, please return to how everything once was!
The bottom half of my body had sunk into the gray earth by then.
The bright red book disappeared into a gray box of the gray earth.
"What sort of joke is this!!"
I lunged for the bright red book.
My right hand reached out for the box, whereas my chest and left hand had already sunk into the gray earth.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain on my right hand and it was really painful too. The pain was unexpected and I had taken my right hand away from the box before I realised it.
Something from inside the box peeked outside.
A dog, a dog bit my hand.
The next moment, the dog had already leapt out of the box and was studying me carefully.
My mind was bombarded with questions, but it was soon followed by darkness.
Box, book, dog, head, everything sunk. In the end, my raised right hand disappeared into the sea of grayness too.
In other words,
I had failed miserably.
—————————————————————————————— [The following names, terms, expressions explained by author]
[Akiyama Shinobu] Author. Has won countless debut awards. Works are diverse, though all books have a hefty number of pages - all of them are over five hundred pages long. Famous works include the "Mortal Sin" series, "Police Dreams" series and "Street" series.
[Mortal Sin Series] Written by Akiyama Shinobu, widely acclaimed as Akiyama's most 'difficult to digest' series. The covers, storyline and construction capture the readers attention early on. A story about front guards versus powerful beasts. Described to finish in the seventh volume, but ever since the sixth volume was published last year, the series appears to be on hiatus. On the last page of the sixth volume, the main character's corpse appears. About half of the readers vomited when they read this.
[Rainbow World] Unknown as of this moment.
"Hey, you're still alive right? You're alive right?"
Something hard jabbed into my face.
I still want to sleep, sleep a little longer. What are you doing, don't annoy me. The alarm hasn't rung yet, so let me sleep a little longer.
I turned over, fighting over weakly.
"Oh oh, so you're sleeping huh? That's ok, that's ok, I've finished bandaging you up so you should be fine."
A soft voice from a distant place. I sat up groggily, my vision was blurred and my body felt drained of energy.
What's going on? What am I doing here? My mind slowly began to work again.
I got shot. Died.
Thinking of that, I immediately started to wake up. My body shook violently.
My memory was returning too, first the cafe, next the robber, then the bullet.
I got shot, died, then what?
I still remembered the sensation like burning iron that came with the bullet that hit me. I had clear memories of death.
I glanced around - white ceiling, yellow-green carpet and yellow walls.
Am I still alive?
Perhaps I had been resurrected, had already escaped from the rainbow world and was alive.
I didn't remember how this came to be though, as my memory was still foggy.
But one thing was for sure - I was alive.
I cheered happily, for confirmation, and with the new-found energy of a resurrected being.
"I can read now!!!!"
Was that just me? What I just said...it sounded a bit like a dog barking.
Probably just my imagination.
Please let it just be me.
But deep down, I knew what I had unmistakably heard that "yap" of a dog.
The unmistakable sound of a barking dog.
"What's up, Wanko? New-found energy? Good boy, I see that you're terrified of the rain outsde. But you sleep for a little longer if you want, to recover your lost energy."
Said a smug-looking guy. What was this afro guy saying? Don't point and peer at me like that, it's disgusting. And, why'd you call me that? I'm not some Wanko, I have a name too, Harumi Kazuhito.
Afro head walked away. There, through the transparent acrylic door, was a mirror. What was reflected on it was a dog and looked like nothing but a dog.
Damn it, only then did I realise how bad things were.
I lifted my right hand, the dog in the mirror lifted its front right paw.
I lifted my left hand, the dog in the mirror lifted its front left paw.
Uwah, no way. This was bad, this was very bad!
Ah, AH, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
"I'M A DOOOOOOOOOOOOG!"
But it sounded like a dog's bark.
My emotional cries had turned into the sounds of a dog.
I didn't get it, was this a dream? Possible.
I continued to wail, hoping it would wake me from my nightmare.
However, the world didn't change.
The sounds I was making weren't that of a human, as all I could hear were the pathetic whimperings of a dog. I wasn’t waking up and dreams that can't be woken up from were reality. I was just another dog.
Can someone tell me this, can dogs read?
Give me a book. Anyone who pities me must give me a book!!
—————————————————————————————— [The following names, terms, expressions explained by author]
[Dog] Miniature Dachshund puppy. Long black and yellow fur. Body is mainly black, except for patches above its eyes, its chin and the front of its four paws are a yellow-brown colour. Originated in Germany and characterised by its long body and short legs. Originally used to hunt badgers, but now widely welcomed as a domestic pet.
Afro first flicks the calendar to the right page then starts cleaning the shop. I was already used to such routines. The world continues to spin without you, whether you want it to or not.
It had already been three days since I first turned into a dog.
Firstly, Afro's name is Imekai Kyoshi.
Secondly, I am dog cage in a pet shop, known as "IGGY", in a shopping district of Shininba.
Thirdly, Afro found me in a cardboard box three days ago. He nursed me back to health when he realised that I was injured.
Lastly, I really was a dog.
What was I going to do? Who wrote such a tragic storyline?
Awakening, resurrection, possession of other beings, returning to the other world.
I had read many books related to those topics, so I knew almost everything there was to know about it; I just hadn’t expected something similar would happen to me. 'Reality is often stranger than fiction' really is a great saying. Reality, you never cease to amaze me!
But sometimes, reality is too harsh.
I had to accept reality, as I was a dog from head to toe, and it was undeniable. I wasn't quite sure what people considered to be dog toes, but in short, I had a dog's body.
Perhaps it was because of being left out in the rain, I was very weak and my movements were laboured. Afro would bring me food to eat, so food wasn't a problem. I learned that dog food was very delicious and the soft blankets made lying down really comfortable.
But most importantly, there were books here.
Although I didn't have a book for myself to read, I could still make out what Afro was reading by looking at the mirror reflection. When the shop had no customers, Afro would sit on the couch and read a book. The words in the mirror were inversed, but I couldn't care less. Afro was reading 'Those who Love the Seasons' at the moment, an early short story collection by Akiyama Shinobu. Really, Afro, you have the same interests as me?
What bothered me more than anything however, was that Afro flipped over too slowly. He read one page in the time I could read three.
Come on Afro, you can do it!!
—————————————————————————————— [The following names, terms, expressions explained by author]
[Imekai Kyoshi] Owner of a pet shop. Born in Ibaraki Area-M. Lives in apartment with wife in Tokyo Area-E. Hobby is mountain climbing, occupation is pet shop owner. Likes animals but has a weird taste with colour. His afro is sixty centimetres in diameter and said to expand everyday; one of Shininba's Seven Mysteries.
[IGGY] Pet shop. Well known chain stores across the country, selling dogs, cats, birds, monkeys, rabbits and other animals.
[Those who Love the Seasons] Written by Akiyama Shinobu. Describes the four seasons from the perspectives of four different magicians, the winter one being slight depressing.
Afro is crazy.
How dare he move my cage.
Wait, Afro. I get cool air here and I admit it's very comfortable, so thank you, but I can't see the book! Hey, why that proud look? You didn't do anything good, you did some horrible. Though you intentions were good, the result was a big failure!
And I'm the one who suffers because of you! What should I do now, I can't read anymore. I still couldn't control my body, but I could only see the posters and calendars from here. The poster was a picture of cute puppies playing. I don't want to see puppies, you don't heal my pain, transform into a book before appearing in front of me. In other words, there were no words, I could only read the print on the poster and the calendar dates. I couldn't stand it and I really missed reading. Today was the 16th...ah, isn't that when "Blue Red" comes out? Damn it, I really wanted to read. Hey Afro, you get what I mean, hurry up and let me read. I really want to read. Uwah, you're back. Good Afro, you're a decent guy after all. Good good, now give me something to read. No, I didn't want more food! —————————————————————————————— [The following names, terms, expressions explained by author] [Blue Red] Gotou Hikaru's bestseller about a spacecraft 'Blue Red' and their captain, crew as they sail to the ends of the universe. Acclaimed adventure novel. The spacecraft is pink. [Poster] Japan Puppy Society's poster. Has been there since the opening of the best shop, colours have faded. —————————————————————————————— -----☆-----☆-----☆----- August 18 I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read. I want to read.
I can't take this anymore, I want to read.
The hunger for text had given me distorted thoughts and I felt closer to death than death itself.
Ah, the world is turning into paper.
Did my hunger inspire this dream?
It seemed that an interesting story was about to unfold, something impressive.
On my deathbed, my dreams are illusions. I heard footsteps, the sound of brisk footsteps. Expression as bright as the raging fire. Clothing as black as night. Walking alone. Black coat flying open. Even the holster on her thigh glowed silver. Her firm, haughty eyes emitted the light of determination. Moving towards destination.
Completely uninterested in the high-pitched meows of the stray cats, hurriedly dodged the pedestrians and cars braked abruptly. Moving forward swiftly, only interested in target; something important in this ugly yet beautiful world. Speed decreased. Stopped moving. At the end. The desperate end. A promising start. "Sorry for the long wait." In front was a small pet shop. Sign said "IGGY". "The protagonist debuts." Between dream world and reality, I saw it. The silhouette of a person pushing open the shop door. Bright light, distinct silhouette. As beautiful as a genuine protagonist. [picture] My lost consciousness was being pulled back.
I shook my head.
"I-I-I've said this before..." Sharpening sound and the second gate was destroyed.
"This, is not..." Sharpening sound and the third gate was destroyed. "Not a commodity..." Sharpening sound and the fourth gate was destroyed and Afro's determination was shattered. "I understand...please take it away then..." "So, how much is it?" It appeared to look like a normal conversation between shopkeepers and their customers, but the atmosphere was unusually tense. Afro, you did your best, your opposition was the wrong one. "Nothing, as I just said, this dog is not a commodity. I only took him out of the rain. If you don't mind, please adopt him." "...yeah, of course." This conversation may sound very warm, but there was no trace of smile in Scissor-woman's eyes and Afro's face looked like it was about to burst into tears. The other pets in the store had scurried to the back of their cages and my cage was too damaged. It looked more like hell than anything else. The few sentences exchanged between Afro and Scissors-woman had decided my fate. I could not interrup, just quietly watch from the side. "I don't want to take your things for nothing. Oh yeah, you can give me this cage too, then help me pick out the things dogs need and I'll pay by credit card. Does your shop help transport goods too? My house is nearby, I just don't want to do it myself." "Of course, no problem!" I was obviously involved from start to finish, but they concluded without my opinion. Negotiation successful, Afro ran to select a couple of goods in the store. I watched Scissors-woman out of my battered cage. Close up, I found her looks rather handsome, like some beauty out of a book. It allowed me to forget about my current situation for a while, as I stared blankly at her. Afro took out the receipt and Scissors-woman put the silver scissors that had damaged my cage back into the red holster on her thigh. She let go of the cage and took the receipt from Afro. Having said that, her scissors and hands were both gone, meaning that the two forces holding up the cage had disappeared.
As expected, the dog cage was pulled to the ground by gravity. "AH!?" "AH!?" The cage fell to the ground and the shock was like being in an elevator when the cable snaps; the impact left me unconscious. My vision darkened, I only saw endless black. Who would let go of both hands at the same time? Is this woman an idiot? Despite my complaints, I was still just a dog. —————————————————————————————— [The following names, terms, expressions explained by author] [Things Dogs Need] Cage. Toiletries. Food bowl. Water fountain. Toys. Brush. Comb. Dog shampoo. Dog rinse. Dog scratch toys. Ear cleaner. Collar. Lead. Dog food. Total comes to thirty-eight thousand, nine hundred yen. [Gravity] Whether you be dog or president, this is inevitable. ——————————————————————————————