Story IV – Part 06

Translator: Kell

I gargled furiously. I picked up my toothbrush, slathered it with toothpaste and brushed my teeth. I then strode out of the room and lit a cigarette. The familiar taste of smoke filled my lungs, and the convulsion in my throat vanished. Covering my face, I let out a deep sigh. The taste I felt in my dream still lingered on the tip of my tongue, the rich flavor and the sensation of the twitching flesh vivid. The white, plump, delicious finger was burned into my eyes.

What was that dream? It felt so real. What did I eat?

I was shocked. As if amused by my discomposure, my stomach wriggled. I punched it and returned to my room. Maybe it was because of Mayuzumi’s story. I had the same twisted dream yesterday. Though it was too detailed for a dream. It was like replicating a scene that happened in reality.

The feeling was familiar. It was similar to the dream I had after I collapsed on the cold floor.

It reminded me of the incident with the skull. The creature in my belly eat people’s thoughts and memories. The more gruesome it is, the more it loves it.

The thought horrified me. I realized that this could be more than just a dream. Could it be someone’s memory?

But whose?

Once again, the smell of rusty iron filled my mouth. I felt digusted at myself for thinking that the bloody taste was delicious. I staggered back to the room, where I caught a savory aroma.

Kugutsu was cooking meat.

My eyes widened. A delicious-looking piece of meat was cooking on the frying pan. After pouring some homemade sauce over the meat, Kugutsu picked up the spatula. Shredded cabbage with moderately charred and juicy meat on top. Sandwiching it between two pieces of hard bread, he turned around.

“Hmm? Oh, good morning, good sir. You look pale. Are you all right?”

I couldn’t answer. My mind was in chaos. Dreams and reality were jumbled together, and I couldn’t grasp the scene before my eyes. It felt terribly strange and discomforting.

Why is there meat?

“Kugutsu,” I called. “I thought you didn’t buy any meat.”

“I stocked up at the market this morning. Ah, you’ll be pleased to know that I finally got some good meat. It’s not much, but it should be just the right amount for breakfast. Please eat up. I made it, so it’s nothing grand, but you will be surprised. Good meat is so different.”

Kugutsu gave a sheepish smile. It certainly smelled delicious. The smell of burning fat made me want to throw up. The taste of the meat in my mind mixed with the taste of the meat I just felt.

Both were incredibly succulent.

What am I feeling right now?

My stomach hurled. I ran to the sink and spewed out its contents. The thing in my stomach laughed as it kicked me from the inside.

“Are you all right?!” Kugutsu asked with concern. My eyes widened, sweat trickling down my back. When did I start having these dreams?

It was after I met with Chihana and brought Kugutsu back to the apartment.

With a knot in my gut, I turned around. “Kugutsu, what kind of meat is that?” I asked.

He cocked his head curiously. “It’s pork.”

There was a tray of pork on the table. A chocolate cake was next to it. When did he make it? Maybe he hardly slept at all. There was no trace of malevolence from him.

I shook off the unpleasant feeling, telling myself that it was just my imagination. It was simply unthinkable.

But alarms were going off in my brain. I had witnessed all sorts of incidents before this. The most recent cases crossed my mind. A womb falling from the sky, skulls laughing, and a person turning into bubble.

Compared to those, a human being eating another human was far from abnormal.

There was no such thing as impossible.

I turned around, and swallowed a scream. Kugutsu’s face was suprisingly close to mine. A chill ran down my spine. In the back of my mind, I saw a white finger close to my eyeball.

There was meat in front of me, so I ate it.

I could see my face in Kugutsu’s eyes. A childlike terror ran through my whole body, and I almost pushed him away. Kugutsu wrinkled his nose like a sniffing dog and frowned.

“Good sir,” he said. “I know this is rude, but do you smoke, by any chance? You’re young, yet you already like cigarattes?”

“U-Uh, yeah… I do smoke, kinda. What about it?”

“You mustn’t. That’s not good. Cigarettes are bad for you. Your lungs, flesh, and blood vessels get tainted. You should quit. You mustn’t smoke. It’s as bad as medicine.”

Kugutsu shook his head ruefully. When I didn’t respond, he frowned and went back to cooking. As I watched him carry the soup, it hit me. Medicine, cigarettes. For some reason, he didn’t like toxins that stayed on the flesh.

A much more fancy breakfast than yesterday was laid out in front of me.

“Here you go, good sir. Please eat.” He gave a bright smile. “I’ve already eaten.”

A chill crawled down my back. I just couldn’t take a seat.

The steamy breakfast looked like something bizarre.

In the end, I refused to eat breakfast. Kugutsu looked unhappy, but when I told him to throw it away, he silently gobbled it up. He refused to eat, but he would eat food scraps. Watching his back as he washed the dishes, I felt an inexplicable sense of dread. I felt uneasy, as if I were holding a time bomb.

Mayuzumi hadn’t taken any medicine since this morning.

She said that her cough had stopped last night and that she was feeling much better.

When Kugutsu heard it, he gave a heartfelt smile.

Medicine stays in the flesh, but gets flushed out after a day or two.

For some reason, that fact weighed heavily on my mind. No. I knew exactly the reason. When I let my guard down, the sweet taste of blood returned to my mouth.

Fresh meat is good meat.

If humans were this good, how delicious would a god’s flesh be?

That dream terrified me. If that was someone’s memory that the monster devoured, that someone was undoubtedly a freak. But Kugutsu was Chihana’s subordinate, and a member of the Mayuzumi family. Was it really possible for a person with a verifiable identity to be a freak? Maybe I was just overthinking things. Maybe it was a dream created by the monster in my belly using Mayuzumi’s story.

I thought about contacting Chihana. I regretted not accepting her business card now. I searched through the pile of books in Mayuzumi’s room for some kind of notebook or memopad, but I couldn’t find anything.

Where was she keeping one? Maybe she didn’t have one in the first place.

She probably didn’t memorize phone numbers she wasn’t interested in.

As I put things back the way they were, I dropped a notebook, causing the pile of books to collapse. The taste in my mouth bothered me so much that I couldn’t act calmly. The taste was from the dream. It shouldn’t be real, but I couldn’t keep my wits about me that I began doubting my own memory.

It’s so good. Why don’t humans eat other humans?

Ah, I feel sorry for them.

The phone rang. I dashed into the living room and picked up the receiver. A soothing voice reached my ear.

“Hello. Is Kugutsu working hard?”

It was Mayuzumi Chihana. My grip on the receiver tightened. She was calling to check on Kugutsu—a good thing she did. I peered at the sofa. Mayuzumi showed no signs of waking up, but I tried to keep my voice as low as possible.

“Perfect timing,” I said. “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Is something the matter, Odagiri-sama? You don’t sound so good. Are you feeling unwell?”

I told her I was transferring the call to an extended line and headed for one of Mayuzumi’s room. Hidden in a dark room, the sound quality on the cordless phone was awful. But I didn’t want Mayuzumi to hear me. There’s no telling how she might make fun of me for dreaming of eating someone. She would definitely ask me if it was delicious. Like a broken dam, I told Chihana about my dream and asked about Kugutsu.

“I’ll get to the point,” I said. “Can that guy be trusted?”

After a moment of silence, she replied with a faint voice, “Color me surprised. The demon can pick up the thoughts and memories of others? For those who can’t read other people’s minds, that is a terrifying ability.”

“Who cares about that?! Is he a cannibal or not?!”

Was that dream true or was it just that, a dream?

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