A woman in work clothes stood before a tangled pile of bodies.
Several boys and girls looked as though they’d been individually melted in intense heat, and then been left stacked together into a messy pile. The woman pondered what must have happened to leave these bodies like this. The pile resembled a puzzle ring made in extremely poor taste, as she attempted to find even a part of her daughter’s body.
It was enough to make one feel faint. The woman in work clothes took out a box of cigarettes. With a practiced motion, she lightly hit the box to take one out and put it in her mouth. She lit the cigarette.
The light of the cigarette lit the dim room faintly.
In the middle of a remote rural town surrounded by mountains, a woman and her daughter lived in a small hut. The woman, in the middle of her farming work, was covered in mud. They lived by raising just enough vegetables to provide for themselves, occasionally going into town for daily necessities.
Thinking that, since this is one of those few days she’ll be in town, they might as well pick up rice and other goods they’re running out of... The woman let out a sigh, laden with tobacco smoke. Her daughter had died. Unable to live the same kind of life as yesterday, life had no more meaning. It was a mood that wouldn’t allow one to lift even a finger.
“Even though you were a good girl who didn’t trouble her parents...” she whispered to herself. Around the time when her cigarette was at half length, it got to be hard to breathe, so the woman spat it onto the ground. She stamped out the cigarette, which was still lit, with her thick boot sole, and scowled in reaction to the smell of fat that pricked her nose.
Strangely enough, the weird pile of corpses that lay in front of her didn’t smell at all. The bodies should smell of decay or death, she thought, but look like a piece of avante-garde art instead. Just a decoration, even. Her daughter’s body was so incomprehensibly joined with those of the other boys and girls that even her own mother couldn’t tell her apart. Although they’d long since ceased to be a loving family.
“You’ve really done it, haven’t you, at the very end...I can’t just cremate all these bodies and divide them up evenly by grams to give to all the bereaved families, can I?” Suddenly feeling sick after saying that joke-like line seriously, the woman couldn’t help but throw up. No tears were coming. She only felt surprise because she thought she’d be the one to die first. This was probably shock. Weirdly, it felt like her senses were being dulled.
She found the body: blended meat jutted out of the sleeve cuffs and skirt of the familiar uniform of the high school her daughter had attended. The arms had been left alone, painting a strangely grotesque picture, as if a human had grown 6 or 8 arms.
The head was lost. Because of that, its humanity was lost, and the feeling that this section was her daughter didn’t occur to her. Nothing would change, even if she stared at it forever. This section of body— the bodies, she corrected herself, must have been mushed together for a reason. This meant that, through her daughter, the woman shared a connection to the other teenagers in that pile and by association, their parents.
Getting involved with them would be troublesome, so she should probably leave quickly. There would be a hearing about this later, and an officer was waiting at the entrance to this morgue. Guardians, and other affiliated persons, were being called in to identify the bodies, but...judging from the state of the bodies, that would be difficult.
“Are you really dead? You...even though you’re only in high school...” She touched the surface of her daughter’s body one last time.
Something latched onto the woman’s wrist, and not even a scream could come out— her whole body just froze.
Fearfully turning her eyes towards it, out of the back of the body— from a gap in the worn out school uniform— a new arm had grown. Just as a cicada or butterfly would emerge from a cocoon, an arm emerged from the body and grabbed onto the woman’s wrist, who was right next to it.
Frozen in horror, she just couldn’t react to this abnormal stimulus. So as to call out to the officer who was waiting nearby, she turned around and opened her mouth to yell, but no voice came out.
The woman had lived a life of seclusion deep in the mountains, interacting with no one, not even her own daughter— she’d almost completely forgotten how to speak. And so, standing in a trance, her mind had completely blanked.
Meanwhile, the arm had used her as leverage to slide out of the body. After the arm came a shoulder, and then a neck, a torso, a lower half...all of it came crawling out. The situation was, evidently, strange: this corpse— even if it was large— consisted of several boys and girls mixed together, and only had enough mass to make up one body.
Yet there was another living person, hiding inside...? Was that even possible? Is this reality? the horrified woman wondered, Or is it a dream? The situation was like a bad B-movie, and she struggled to comprehend its reality.
“Hanemori—” The something that came out of the cadaver raised a voice, which sounded like a baby’s first cry.
It was covered in blood and some sort of filthy liquid, such that you couldn’t even recognize its face, if it had one. The voice sounded like a girl’s, but it was blurred beyond recognition. The voice was not her daughter’s; she wouldn’t know that name.
“Hanemori...Joururi, is it?” That girl who had come out of the cadaver spoke that name which sounded too strange to be a name. The woman reflexively muttered in the negative. Hanemori Joururi: no woman exists who goes by that name. At least, not in this reality. It was a name from the past, buried at the bottom of the earth. A name no one should remember anymore.
Besides, that wasn’t even a real name: it was an unheard of, garish, unpleasant name. She should have already abandoned it, thrown it away, and been free of that name long ago, thought the woman, and she shook her head in order to deny it.
However, the bloodstained girl was not satisfied. “Then, who are you...?” she asked, in an awfully clear voice.
The girl clung to the woman, and she promptly shook the girl off. Powerlessly, the girl drooped and fell to the floor. As if dragged along with her, the weird carcass of mixed bodies jumped. Wet blood still overflowed from the missing head, and for an instant, it looked like a simple set of facial features.
And it was ridiculing her.
“Please, tell me who you are? Who are you...?” the girl kept muttering, asking the same question over and over, and the woman kicked the girl away as she retreated.
While she was unable to form words, the officer outside had noticed that something was strange and come over. The officer’s footsteps, the girl’s questions, and the woman’s unconscious screams: all echoed throughout the room loudly enough to hurt one’s ears, eternally.