A girl was crying in the black drawing.
She was alone, always in tears.
Flipping through the notebook, a twisted drawing popped out. A girl was standing in a black landscape, her eyes and mouth smeared manically.
The notebook was Aya’s diary, filled with her cries of pain.
Perhaps it was her only outlet. The images in the diary were completely different from the ones submitted at school. A girl was crying, drowning in dark colors. Her body had no mouth, no eyes, and sometimes not even a head. The pages were composed entirely of pictures, with very little text.
The moment I turned the page, an even more bizarre picture appeared.
A girl was standing with a knife in her hand. Around her lay a mountain of corpses, blood pooling underneath the dismembered heads and arms. The parts, however, were too small compared to the girl’s body.
Maybe they weren’t human.
Then I remembered the contents of the boxes.
They were chopped-up dolls.
I cleaned up today.
The picture was accompanied by a brief sentence in plain, dispassionate wording. But in contrast to the calm words, the picture vividly conveyed Aya‘s emotions.
The red-and-black scene was far too ghastly.
I turned the page again. There was a sudden change. Pastel colors filled the pages. The adorable, childlike drawings returned without warning. I squinted, assuming that she was forced to draw these. But that didn’t seem to be the case.
Aya had made a friend.
Nothing happened before or after that. I didn’t even know how they met. But Aya seemed to have found happiness. The pages that featured them together were colored in soft hues. Joyful days went on. Watching the girls having fun made me feel at ease. It made me want to pray that these days would last for a long time to make up for all the gruesome images.
But this was all in the past.
The end would inevitably come.
I couldn’t turn to the next page. I took a closer look and found that the pages were somehow glued to each other. I inserted my fingernail into the gap between the pages. When I peeled them off, something spilled out.
Red powder drifted.
Red like dried blood.
I pulled my hands back, and the notebook fell. I smelled oil. The thick layers of crayon had stuck the pages together, retaining their crimson color without oxidizing to a bloody black. A girl was buried in the middle of it.
She was holding a knife again.
There was an empty space at the edge of the otherwise fully-colored page bearing an impassive sentence.
Today I killed my friend.
“Mayu-san, what is—”
Mayuzumi suddenly turned back. She went out into the hallway and returned to the kid’s room. The sisters were snuggled together under the soft light, asleep. Their legs were intertwined, and their eyes were closed. Mayuzumi paid them no heed. She walked toward the cabinet and put her hand on the door.
There was no one inside. Mayuzumi opened her parasol and set it on her shoulder.
Slowly, she twirled it.
But nothing appeared. The cabinet was still.
No blood spilling, no bodies rolling out.
That only meant one thing.
No corpse was ever stored inside.
“Are you saying this is the same as Makihara’s case?” I asked. “She didn’t kill her friend, but for some reason, she thinks she did.”
The image of a cornered Makihara flickered through my mind. Guilt made him believe that he had killed his lover. If there was no body, then this must be a similar case.
No one died. And yet she thought she killed them.
But Mayuzumi shook her head. “No. She definitely killed her friend.”
She killed someone, but there was no body. She was contradicting herself.
Mayuzumi turned to the sleeping sisters. A red shadow fell on their cheeks. Sensing a presence, the older Aya opened her eyes.
“If you take away a person’s freedom of speech and action, what is left for them?” Mayuzumi whispered to no one in particular.
Aya looked at her suspiciously. Without waiting for a reply, Mayuzumi closed the parasol, then brandished it, pointing its tip at Aya.
Aya stared at the parasol in front of her. There was no hint of fear in her eyes.
Mayuzumi smiled deeply, and asked, “Who are you?”
A hush fell.
The sound of the falling rain filled my ears. Aya slowly lifted her body up. Her sister’s arm that was wrapped around her neck fell. There was no sign of her waking up; she was in a deep, almost strange, sleep.
Aya grabbed the parasol and moved it away from her face. Sitting on the bed, she looked at Mayuzumi.
“Where did that come from?” she said. “I believe I already said that I’m Aya’s sis—”
“No. She doesn’t have a sister,” Mayuzumi declared outright.
She lifted back the parasol, twirled it around and poked my arm, which was holding a dictionary. The pain made me let go of the diary; the notebook fell to the floor.
Red pages were scattered about.
A lonely girl was crying.
“Look. Where in her diary do you see a sister? Odagiri-kun was sad for nothing. The tragedy happened because she was lonely. Having even one person by her side to support her could have prevented the worst from happening. There was no sign of her having had a sister, even in the clothes that were put in storage.”
She had no sister. The loneliness drove her to a wall, and she ended up killing her mother.
If that was the case, who was this person who called herself Aya’s sister?
“She was alone. She’s always been alone.”
“You’re finally home.”
Aya‘s voice replayed in my mind. Her sweet, longing voice.
She’d been alone all this time.
The tip of the parasol turned the pages, revealing hellish scenes, endless pages of red and black. Then suddenly, she stopped.
Two little girls were playing together.
Colored with soft hues, the drawings were poor yet lovely. Compared to the previous pages, these days were like paradise.
She had escaped hell and entered heaven.
But there was no sign of it on the previous page. A beautiful scene unfolded without any warning.
“The only one that stood by her was the ‘friend’ she suddenly made.”
Once again, Mayuzumi turned the page. The peaceful scene drifted away at a tremendous speed. The tip of the parasol struck the red page hard, and dried crayon dust scattered.
“But she killed that friend,” Mayuzumi muttered. “She killed her with her knife,” she added in a singsong tone.
Mayuzumi flipped the pages back to the opposite direction, and stopped the parasol on a gruesome page.
A girl with a knife was standing there.
At her feet lay a dismembered doll.
“Now there are two similar drawings in this diary. The first one is this. I believe the doll in the storage room and this corpse are the same. But there is one strange thing about it.”
Her parasol glided across the page. Something impossible was flowing from the torn limbs.
“Blood is pouring out.” Mayuzumi pointed to the caption. “I cleaned up today.” She flashed a nasty smile.
Aya did not respond.
“Now, let’s examine the riddle again.” Mayuzumi’s voice resounded cheerfully amid the sound of rain that echoed like static noise. “If you take away a person’s freedom of speech and action, what is left for them?”
Words are silenced, actions are restricted. What do they turn to for help? Humans can’t survive under grueling conditions unless they have a distraction.
“Freedom of imagination is the only thing that can’t be taken away that easily. In an environment where she couldn’t even make friends, she turned to a doll for help. But that’s all over now.”
Mayuzumi tapped the page with her parasol, and ran it across the emotionless words.
I cleaned up today.
But the scene around the girl was hardly tidy. Dolls had their joints severed and their heads cut off. At her feet was a pool of blood.
Aya, however, described it as clean.
“You don’t usually call chopping up dolls ‘cleaning up’. It’s probably what her mother called it. She was annoyed at her daughter’s penchant for playing with dolls. So she told her to ‘clean up’. Aya must have disobeyed, so her mother made her clean up the dolls with her own hands as punishment.”
You can’t play with a broken toy.
Aya‘s mother’s strictness must have reached the point of near insanity. She could not tolerate her daughter’s defiance. That’s why, as punishment, she had her clean up the dolls with her own hands.
“She must have seen the doll as something close to a human being. This image tells me that the dry run is over. Truly unfortunate.”
The girl with the knife in her hand stared at the bloody body parts.
I cleaned up today.
I groaned at the thought of what Aya saw. The child in my belly stirred and laughed. My entire field of vision was filled with a girl standing still. The poorly-drawn images only served to intensify the grotesqueness. The doll that toppled in the storeroom came to mind.
Its neck, legs, arms, torso, were lying in pieces.
How did Aya feel when she thrust the knife into the joints and severed them with her weight? And why did she keep those dolls in storage?
Broken toys should be thrown away. They have no use.
Vertigo struck. The realization sent my head into a spiral.
They had a use.
Her mother kept them as a reminder for her daughter never to cross her again.
But to Aya they were no different than corpses.
How could she do this?