Everyone had forgotten about that poorly-lit tank. The octopus was thought to be long dead.
But the animal did not die. The octopus was hiding behind a rock. When he awoke, he had to endure days and days of horrific hunger in an unfortunate, forgotten tank. With no prey in sight, no food left anywhere, he ate his own legs. When he finished eating them all, he turned his body inside out and began eating parts of his innards.
One morning, a guard came and found the tank empty. There was no creature to be seen in any crevice of the rock. The octopus had all but disappeared.
But the octopus did not die. Even after disappearing, he still was eternally alive there. In the antiquated, empty, forgotten water tank of the aquarium. Eternally—most likely through many centuries—an animal with a horrible deficiency and dissatisfaction was alive, invisible to the human eye.
“That is Hagiwara Sakutarou’s The Deathless Octopus. I omitted most parts. I think the inside of this doghouse is in the same state. An invisible animal with horrible deficiency and dissatisfaction is alive in there. How was the dog treated?” Mayuzumi asked.
“We took good care of it,” Nanami replied with a smile, her fingers crossed behind her back.
Mayuzumi’s brows furrowed slightly. Then the corner of her mouth lifted. “I see. Then how did you come to have this dog? You don’t look like the type to get one willingly.”
“That’s not true. I want like a poodle or something. My aunt had to move, so she gave it to us. My grandma couldn’t take care of it, so I’ve been doing it myself.”
Nanami was a helpful girl, so she must have done her best. She often shared stew and snacks with me.
Mayuzumi spun her parasol around and inclined her head. “Well, if you say so. Can I see the body? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ll know what’s going on here once we check the corpse.” She gave a cat-like grin.
“We already buried the body,” Nanami replied, smiling. “There’s nothing to see. Oh, but I do have a picture. I felt sorry for it, so I wanted to bury it as soon as possible. But I wanted to take a picture since it was a strange death. Please give me a moment. I’ll go get it.”
She ran back to the apartment and returned with a picture in her hand. She handed it to us with a sad look on her face. We examined the picture closely. The dog’s body had been drained of blood, shriveled like a half-dried mummy. As I studied the photo, I found something odd. The corpse barely had any flesh. What’s more, there were several bite marks on its legs.
Its exposed flesh looked as if the skin had been ripped open with fangs and the blood licked clean with a tongue. Until all the hair was gone and the bones were exposed.
“Nanami-san,” I said. “What are these wounds? And it looks too thin, even taking into account that its blood had been drained.”
“The doggy was sick. Some kind of disease in its organs. It couldn’t eat food, and it started chewing on its legs. It’s my fault. I didn’t take it to the vet right away.”
Nanami hung her head low, and rubbed her large, tearful eyes.
“What kind of a disease was it?” Yuusuke asked with a frown.
“I’m just a child, so I don’t remember what it was called.” Nanami smiled. She pinched the hem of her skirt and bowed.
Then I realized something. “I don’t recall ever hearing a dog.”
“It was muzzled at first. Until it became tame. That’s probably why you didn’t hear anything. He was a good, quiet boy.”
Nanami flashed an angelic smile. Mayuzumi and Yuusuke exchanged glances.
“The clan head,” Yuusuke whispered. “Shirayuki-san, was it? I’m glad we didn’t bring her along.”
“I wholeheartedly agree,” Mayuzumi said. “She and Nanami-kun would have been at each other’s throats like some battle of giant monsters.”
They turned their attention back to the doghouse. There was a strange presence coming from within, but we couldn’t see anything. It was completely black, almost as if a large, black-furred creature was crammed inside.
An animal with a horrible deficiency and dissatisfaction, invisible to the human eye.
“I’d like to see how dangerous this thing is,” Mayuzumi said. “Can something be done about it? Is this all it is, a presence?”
What was inside the blackness? How did the dissatisfied soul change?
“A starving creature will eat anything,” Mayuzumi added. “If this is the dog’s frustration and hunger materialized… If it has a mouth and teeth that are only invisible. That would be terrifying.”
But no one wanted to stick their hand inside either. A strong animal odor assailed my nose. The darkness remained quiet and still.
Yuusuke swung something around. “And that’s where this thing comes in!”
The word ‘god’ was running around at full speed inside a plastic bag. It startled me. Apparently the bag was fastened to Yuusuke’s bat bag all along. I panicked. I wondered how Nanami would react when she saw this obviously bizarre creature. She was a scaredy-cat. How would I explain this to her?
But contrary to my expectations, Nanami smiled.
“Looks like a cheap toy,” she said. “Is this a hobby of yours, Mr. Bum?”
The rampaging ‘god’ clearly had a will of its own, but it didn’t seem to bother Nanami. While I felt relief, Yuusuke frowned.
“Does this look like a toy to you? Doesn’t it, like, pique your interest or something?”
“I’m not interested in things I’m not interested in,” she declared.
Yuusuke was about to say something, but gave up.
“Okay, whatever,” he said as he opened the plastic bag.
The ‘god’ leapt out like some springed contraption and tried to escape, but Yuusuke quickly caught it again with one hand.
“If you’re not interested, that’s all good,” he said. “Do you have some string I could borrow?”
Nanami brought a piece of string from the apartment, which Yuusuke used to bind the ‘god’. He held the end of the string like a dog’s leash. The ‘god’ still tried to run away, but the string pulled it back. Lacking intelligence, it kept moving its legs, unaware of its predicament. A mound had formed at its feet from its constant scraping at the soil.
“The more I look at it, the weirder it looks,” I muttered as I watched the automatic hole digger.
Mayuzumi let out a dry chuckle. “For the record, it wasn’t my fault that this creature was born.”
The strain in her voice suggested she wasn’t too fond of these kinds of weird creatures. I discovered a weakness in an unusual place.
Yuusuke lifted ‘god’ up. Even in the air, it still kept on moving its legs. I would love to know where it was planning to go. Yuusuke adjusted the angle slightly and placed the ‘god’ back on the ground, before gently letting it go. The ‘god’ broke into a run, charging straight ahead with the string still attached to it.
Into the doghouse.
The ‘god’ vanished in the darkness. For a while, nothing happened. The darkness was still and quiet. Just when I thought nothing would happen, a beast howled.
Muddled with grief, it sounded somewhat human. The doghouse started shaking, first a quiver, that gradually turned into wild rattling. It was as if a huge beast was rampaging inside, pounding the kennel from within. Something flew into the air. It was ‘god’, half-shredded. Something followed it from within and snatched it.
It was the arm of a bloody, thin animal.
The ‘god’ was dragged inside. There was a crushing sound.
“Is the dog feeling sick, Mommy? No, it’s feeling hungry, my child,” Mayuzumi mumbled, shaking her head.
The doghouse eventually stopped shaking, and silence returned. No more sounds came from inside. Once again, the darkness solidified. We remained silent. There was definitely some sort of a monster inside. We didn’t know what to do.
“Nanami-kun,” Mayuzumi called, watching the doghouse. “Do you use this backyard regularly?”
“No.” Nanami shook her head.
“Do you still need this doghouse?”
Mayuzumi looked to be deep in thought. She closed her eyes, twirling her red parasol around. What was she planning to do with the monster? How could we alleviate the dog’s frustration? I stared at her with bated breath.
Mayuzumi gave a nod. “Odagiri-kun,” she called.
“Borrow some planks and nails from Nanami-kun.” She pointed the tip of her parasol at me.
Why do we need nails and planks? I searched through the junk in the backyard and found broken boards and a rusty carpenter’s set. I asked for Nanami’s permission to use them. When Yuusuke and I were both ready, Mayuzumi nodded and folded her arms.
“Now hammer those planks around the doghouse!” she said.
“Roger that!” Yuusuke nodded and began hammering away at the planks.
There was rhythmic thumping coming from behind me. Mayuzumi watched Yuusuke work with a satisfied look on her face.
“Are you planning to physically seal the doghouse?” I asked with half-lidded eyes.
Mayuzumi was silent, a smile plastered on her face.
Then she nodded grandly. “That’s right!”
“Are you sure that’s enough?!”
No way in hell that was enough.
Mayuzumi grinned. She pointed her parasol at me, and in a serious tone said, “Let me ask you, then, Odagiri-kun, you hopeless, gullible fool with a soft spot for kids. A man who will one day cry about getting scammed because he lacks the brain. What’s the problem in sealing it off?”
Did she just casually insult me? I couldn’t let it slide.
But she kept poking me with her parasol, urging me to answer.
“…Problem?” I uttered dumbly.
“This creature can never leave the doghouse. Then the biggest problem is when someone sticks their hand inside. No one would go near a creature caged at a zoo. One look and it’s obvious that they’re dangerous. If they climb over the cage and become food, then that’s their own fault. The best way to deal with this is to do the same thing. By modifying the doghouse so that humans can’t get in.”
Yuusuke was hammering nails at an incredible speed behind me. Joining together several planks, he skillfully sealed the entrance.
Watching him work, Mayuzumi snorted. “A creature’s hunger can’t be exorcised that easily. I’ll reach out to some acquaintances who’re experts at this kind of thing. Satisfying the hunger of the dead is not my field. Not for a creature like me. This is the best I can do for now. We’ll put up some warning signs later.”
Yuusuke continued rhythmically hammering away. Suddenly he grabbed something that was in the way of his work—the piece of string that was left lying on the ground—and pulled it toward himself.
“What you can’t see does not exist. Likewise, what you can’t feel may as well not exist. Don’t you know the saying, Odagiri-kun?”
At the end of the string was the remains of ‘god’. It had been chewed off brutally. It trembled for a moment, then slipped off the string as it turned back to ink.
Black water dripped onto the ground.
“Let sleeping dogs lie,” Mayuzumi said. “And they lived happily ever after.”