Tincture Journal Online: Last Night in Tokyo

This short story is now available to read online via Tincture Journal‘s website.


Last Night in Tokyo

“What’s that noise?”

“An alarm.”

“An alarm?”

“Well yes I assume so.”

“So there’ll be someone here soon then.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“But there’s an alarm.”

“So?”

“So… people. The alarm will… raise the alarm. You know; someone breaks in, alarm sounds, cops; all that.”

“Security alarms are usually silent.”

“What are you talking about?”

“They’re usually silent. Why would you give someone you want to catch advanced warning?”

“What? Alarms are loud and noisy to scare people away. The alarm at my mum’s always brings the neighbours running.”

“Does this look like a house to you?”

“What?”

“Does this look like a house to you? It’s not—it’s a government building. Government buildings don’t make noise. They have those silent alarms that just make the buzzing noise in the security room so the guards know something’s up.”

“Umm… OK. So then Dr Professor…”

“Dr Professor?”

“Whatever.”

“What’s a Dr Professor?”

“Fuck, I don’t know. Smart arse then. Captain Fucking Brilliant. Einstein. Take your bloody pick.”

“My pick of what?”

“Gah! Of nothing. OK.”

“OK… were you asking a question?”

“Yes! Yes I was asking a question.”

“What was it?”

“About the alarm.”

“Ah yes. That. Still going. What about it?”

“Well if it’s not a damned burglar alarm and there’s no cops coming—we should totally be hiding though—then what the hell is it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Fire?”

“Fire?!”

“Yeah could be.”

“Fire? Fucking fire? There could be a fucking fire alarm going off and you’re just standing there.”

“Well you are too.”

“ … but… you… oh for goodness’ sake. Should we be getting out of here?”

“I thought you wanted to look at the view.”

“What?”

“The view. That’s why I brought you up here. I thought you’d like to see the city one last time.”

“OK. But now there’s an alarm and I find that worrying.”

“But if you don’t look out I’ll feel bad.”

“Feel bad, why would you feel bad?”

“Well, ’cause it was meant to be, like, a nice goodbye.”

“A nice goodbye?”

“Yeah. Cause I’m leaving.”

“WHAT?!”

“Surprise.”

“What the actual fuck are you talking about?”

“You know; dinner, date, beautiful view for a nightcap. The perfect date.”

“The perfect date?”

“Yeah, sort of an ‘I love you but I have to leave you’.”

“What?! You’re leaving me? I thought you were just leaving.”

“Well yes, but I figured you’d be staying.”

“OK. OK. I can’t really deal with this right now. There is an alarm, possibly a fire, and we’re here illegally.”

“Yes… and?”

“Well would you like to go?”

“Yes, that’s why we’re here.”

“No, not go from me, go from the fucking building before we get arrested or worse fucking killed.”

“We won’t get arrested—burglar alarms are silent.”

“FUCKING KILLED THEN. Either way, perhaps time to head for the stairs?”

“It’s locked.”

“Sorry what’s locked now?”

“The emergency exit.”

“How would you know?”

“I tried it just before.”

“When?”

“When you were running around looking for the security cameras and thinking we would get arrested.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me that we were trapped up here?”

“I thought it might upset you.”

“Well so does you claiming that we’re here for a break-up party, but that didn’t seem to worry you as much!”

“I thought you would want to know.”

“Really? You thought that in the last moments before I was engulfed by flames atop the tallest building in Tokyo I’d like to know that I was only here in the first place because my girlfriend decided that she was sick of me.”

“I’m not sick of you. I’m just leaving.”

“How is that different?!”

“Well I’m going overseas for a year.”

“When were you going to tell me about this?”

“Well, initially after dessert, but then I thought it might be more poetic up here.”

“Not when in the evening, dammit. How long have you been planning an overseas trip without telling me? And what do you mean more poetic?”

“Like lyrical, sensitive, elegiac.”

“Not… I don’t mean… I know what fucking poetic means. Why here? Wait, no. Go back to the trip. How am I only hearing about this tonight?”

“Oh well I didn’t think you’d want to come.”

“And you didn’t think to ask?”

“Well you didn’t enjoy our trip to Kyoto.”

“That’s a bit different.”

“You don’t like going out for dinner.”

“What the hell does that have to do with it?”

“You like being at home.”

“Because shit like this happens when I leave it. Why the fuck is there water at my feet?”

“It’s been filling up for a while. I think it’s coming through the vents. Maybe it’s a cleaning mechanism.”

“Cleaning? Filling the room with water counts as cleaning?”

“It’s efficient.”

“Is it?”

“Why not?”

“OK, look. Before I’m drowned and I die—ironically alone and unhappy—could you just explain why the fuck—after I agreed to pack up and move to Tokyo with you ‘because it might be a bit of a laugh’—you got it into your head that I wouldn’t want to go travelling for a year and that, therefore, meant we needed to break up in the midst of what I thought was an early anniversary-celebration dinner. Could you do that for me?”

“You seemed happy here. You like being still. I thought it would give us both a chance at being free and happy for the next twelve months. Not fair if it’s just me having all the fun. If you’re still single and here when I get back we can pick up where we left off.”

“Hurray! You still planning on being alive tomorrow? OK shit this water is coming up fast.”

“Maybe we could try a window?”

“A window? We’re on the 112th floor.”

“I don’t think they unlock.”

“I don’t think that’s the problem.”

“You’re upset.”

“No, no. Why would I be upset? What could I possibly have to be upset about?”

“The water?”

“Yes, the water. Can we just go back a couple of steps. Why is here poetic?”

“Because we met here.”

“No we didn’t.”

“Yeah we did.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you? We met at the dive bar just off campus.”

“Nuh-uh, that’s where we first spoke. 2005: the joint exchange program between Melbourne and Tokyo; all the high-schoolers were brought here on the last night of the trip so we could comprehend the magnitude of the city. I dropped my beanie and you lent me yours. Years later, at those stupid welcome drinks, I finally found you again. I recognised you the moment I saw you. And at last I learnt your name; Ally.”

“Stacey, I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”

“I knew you didn’t remember me. But this was the first place we met, and so I thought it would be a good place to say a fond farewell.”

“I’ve never been to Japan before this trip. I’ve never even heard of the exchange programme you’re talking about. I grew up in fucking Brisbane! Now, are you seriously going to cap tonight off by telling me that you’ve had me mixed up with some fucking random for the past two years?”

“Oh shit.”

“Did you not wonder why I couldn’t speak any Japanese?!”

“Huh. Wow fuck that’s awkward.”

“Yeah you think?!”

“Hmm… you’re upset again.”

“Again? This is still from the first lot of upset.”

“Ah. Yes. Sorry.”

“Yeah? Oh well everything’s fine then.”

“Oh good.”

“Seriously?”

“What?”

“I’m going to just go stand over here by myself for a bit.”

“OK. You want me to come with?”

“No I really don’t.”

“I’m getting a bit scared about this water.”

“Yeah? Finally grasping the magnitude of the situation we’re currently stuck in?”

“It doesn’t look too good, does it?”

“No it really doesn’t.”

“Can I have a hug?”

“What?”

“I’m scared.”

“Jesus fucking Christ… yeah OK come over here.”

§

As the sun descends behind the innumerable buildings jutting out into the clouds, the neon lights appear one by one like cat eyes awakening in the darkness. Tokyo—City of Lights—an entangled mass of pulsating, thumping neon. Yet in the spaces between the light, the darkness is thicker, deeper even than that suffocating moment before the dawn. Along one of these shadow paths creep two obscured silhouettes; they trip, giggling, as they crawl along the outer edge of the Tokyo Sky Tree. A dinner heavy with wine sits in their stomachs, its sweetened scent escaping through their shouted whispers as they urge each other on in faux silence to the forgotten, unlocked security door just off the main street. It opens on to a stairwell and closes automatically behind them. Startled, they both jump; a swallowed shriek escapes one of them before being smothered in further giggles and kisses. They begin to ascend, too drunk—or too unfocused perhaps—to register the absurdity of an unmarked, unlocked door leading to the tip of the tallest tower in Tokyo. On and on they climb until they emerge at the summit. They run from window to window, admiring the immensity of the glowing mass below them. Then one of them becomes startled, flinches at a loud noise. She becomes nervous, clearly wants to leave. The other remains still, her back to the Fuji-san window. They argue. As the first one becomes more agitated—and the second ever more still—a slight trickle of water begins to descend into the chamber from the vents which encircle and enclose the viewing platform. It goes unnoticed until the trickle becomes a steady stream. Now they are concerned; it is not stopping and they have just discovered that the door does not work. As the water reaches up to their waists, the argument is forgotten and they embrace; two scared, trapped animals who have realised they have only moments before they die. As the water stream turns into a violent torrent which bursts open the vents, they are submerged and the room overwhelmed. Then, under the pressure, a window breaks and they topple out in the fountain—still embracing—to the cold, cracked pavement far below. They land, bursting and crumpling beyond recognition—entwined further still—whetted only by the blood which gurgles from the ruined flesh. Where is the water? Where is the glass? At the top of the Sky Tree, there seems to be no disturbance; the windows are intact, the carpets dry, the lock on the emergency exit green for go. As the tangled, destroyed masses draw in a shocked and splattered crowd, the small light atop the tower’s spindle flashes in the night sky; crying out its existence amidst the illuminated city scape.

§

Ring ring.

“Stacey? Is the alarm still going off?”

“Nah—that’s just my phone.”

“What the hell just happened?”

“We fell.” Beep beep. “Voicemail.”

“Shit did we actually? You OK?”

“I don’t know. I think so. Do I look OK?”

“You look… the same. How are we even alive?”

“The water cushioned us.”

“You realise that makes absolutely no sense, right?”

“Well how else would we be alive?”

Ring ring.

“Is that your phone again?”

Yeah. Private number.” Beep beep. “Voicemail.”

“You’re not going to check that?”

“Probably not. Nothing good comes from private numbers.”

“Right. Can you help me up? I don’t believe I can stand.”

“You’re hurt?”

“No. I just don’t believe that I’m not.”

“Why not?”

“We fell. From all the way up there. How is this even possible?” Ring ring. “OK, seriously; either answer it or put it on silent.”

Beep beep. “Voicemail.”

“Yes, voicemail.”

“Do you think it’s weird?”

“Yes, yes I do.”

“No; not the fall. That there’s no people around.”

“There’s people over there.”

“Yes. But not here. If you just saw two people miraculously land in a travelling waterfall, would you not, like, go see what that was all about?”

“So maybe no one saw us.” Ring ring. “Oh for fuck’s sake Stacey! Give me that!”

“Why didn’t you answer it?”

“What?”

“I thought you would answer it.”

“You said you didn’t answer private numbers.”

“That doesn’t mean you don’t have to.”

“I know that. But it’s your phone.”

“Still.”

“Still what?” Beep beep.

“Voicemail.”

“Yes I know it’s voicemail! Why is it still on loud?”

“The silent is broken.”

“How is that even possible?”

“I dunno.”

“You going to listen to your voicemails?”

“Not tonight.”

“I think someone really wants to speak to you.”

“Then they should call on an unblocked number.”

Ring ring.

“OK this is stupid. Hello?”

“Hi and welcome to being dead.”

“What the hell?”

“Who is it?”

“Some sort of prank call.”

“Did you know that the dead count for over 150% per cent of the global population? That’s a ratio of 15:1 against the living.”

“Who is it though?”

“I don’t know—it’s automated.”

“Congratulations on your entry into this ancient and unlimited club. You have now joined ranks with some of the most celebrated and famous members of the human species.”

“This is really weird.”

“Did you know, that other dead people include Oscar Wilde, Ghandi, Mozart, and TV’s Joan Rivers?”

“You could just hang up, you know.”

“Nah I want to know what the hell this is all about.”

“Whilst being dead, feel free to enjoy the innumerable benefits such standing confers on you. Why not try walking through a wall, flying, or just scaring the crap out of your still-living friends and family? Being dead doesn’t have to mean the end of fun. Why not take full advantage of your new lifestyle?”

“Is it some sort of weird marketing campaign?”

“Then what the hell are they selling?”

“Funeral plans? Coffins? Relics?”

“Stacey, please, don’t be morbid.”

“If you’re ready to take full advantage of your new situation, press 5 now to call back this number. Otherwise, come visit us at our headquarters. Our friendly staff are always happy to help—”

“I think it’s done.”

“So what was it selling?”

“No idea. Must just be generating buzz at this stage. Maybe we should listen to the voicemails?”

“OK.”

“You have four new voicemail messages. You have twelve saved messages.”

“Really Stacey?”

“I haven’t gotten round to clearing out the inbox yet.”

“Message received today at 1.53 am. You’re dead. To replay this message press 1…”

“That was unpleasant.”

“Did you recognise the voice?”

“No.”

“Message received today at 1.54 am. Really, you’re dead. To replay this message…”

“Who the fuck is this?”

“It’s just a prank Ally, don’t get so worked up about it.”

“It’s a pretty elaborate bloody prank.”

“Message received today at 1.54 am. Seriously, you’re both dead. Get used to it. To replay this…”

“This is just sick. People should be ashamed of themselves.”

“Message received today at 1.54 am. Look at where you fell. Did you really think you survived that? Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt! Message received…”

“Well there’s a joke in dire need of resuscitation.”

“Stacey, is this the time for that?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“End of messages. To replay all messages press—”

“Stacey, what did you do?”

“I deleted all the messages.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because they were upsetting you.”

“You deleted all the evidence!”

“Evidence of what?”

“Of the creepy fucking stalker stalking us with sick twisted voicemails!”

“He may have had a point you know.”

“What sort of a point?”

“Well, it does seem a bit unrealistic that anyone would survive that fall.”

“So what, we’re dead and we don’t know it?”

“It would make sense in the context of the voicemails.”

“Yes, but not in the context of we’re standing here breathing.”

“What’s that on the pavement?”

“It’s rubbish from the butcher’s next door.”

“It’s right where we fell.”

“So we must have just missed it—yay for us not smelling like rotted meat!”

“Ally. It’s wearing your skirt.”

“What?”

“It’s wearing the same skirt as you. And that’s the remains of my beads on the ground.”

“Just what the hell are you implying?”

“Ally, look! It’s us. That’s us. That’s our bodies. Oh my god. Oh my fucking god. Someone get an ambulance!”

“Holy fuck.”

“Seriously, we’re really hurt. Oh god you’re not moving.”

“Stacey, calm down—it’s OK.”

“No it’s not. How is it OK? Oh my god we’re actually dead.”

“OK OK, breathe. We need to get out of here.”

“Why? We need help!”

“Stacey I think it’s beyond help at this point. We need to leave. This is… this is not good. We need to get away from here.”

“No we need to stay and make sure we’re OK.”

“Stacey! We’re not OK and we’re not going to be OK! We need to go so we can clear our heads and work out what to do next. Come on!”

§

The agitated one leads the still one away from the distressing scene. As ambulance sirens sound in the distance, the two non-bodies slip through the shadows and street lights, through the walls and into alleyways, always unseen, always silent. And as the first pink light breaks its way over the horizon, returning the neon wonderland to its steel and concrete corporeality, the two figures begin to fade. They cling to each other one last time—a last attempt to find endurance, durability—as the dewy break of morning light pushes them into eternity, and they diminish to nothingness; forever entangled.

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