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Chapter Two – At Any Cost

Over the next two years, Sai made countless trips to the cemetery. Every time, he’d lay toys on Martha’s grave, and the graves of other children, hoping for a chance to see them laugh and play again as they had in life.

‘It’s only polite to share, right, Martha? These kids don’t seem to like my toys so much, though… What am I doing wrong?’

Day after day, Sai would speak to the empty air in front of the little gravestone. One day, he was sure, he’d come back to find that the toys had moved or disappeared-- that he was getting through to his old friend. But that day never came.


‘Maybe it’s the materials I’m using. Is that why you can’t touch these? Hmm, if we think about it that way, then...’

His head alive with new ideas, Sai left the toys and shuffled back to his workshop to try something new.

Time marched onward, and the young toymaker continued to place offerings at the grave, to no avail. Then one evening, as the sun was going down, something occurred to him—an idea very different from his usual way of thinking.

‘If I could only find a way to give you a body again, you could play with these just fine.’

Why hadn’t he thought of that before? Finally, he had a direction to takes his research.


Thirty long years went by. Sai worked like a man possessed, barely eating or sleeping. His workshop deteriorated into a grimy, chaotic mess. His body became thin and emaciated. But he worked on, chasing after every last scrap of arcane knowledge he could find. He was determined to see Martha again, no matter the cost.

It was a cold, crips morning when Sai walked along the all-too-familiar path to Martha’s grave, a complex mess of steel and wires held under his arm. This was the result of his labors: a device that could, in theory, be used to a spirit physical form. He switched it on, and it began to emit a strange noise. It started as a low-pitched drone, but gradually got higher and higher, penetrating through the air, through stone buildings, even through living flesh. It was as if the whole of reality was being strained to its breaking point.

The machine stopped, and Sai looked around him. He didn’t see Martha anywhere.

‘Did it work…?’

Something in the air did feel different. Picking up on his device, Sai skulked away to investigate.

Even before he reached town, it was obvious that all was not well. It was too quiet. Even at this time of day, there should be crowds of people bustling around as they made their way to work. Sure enough, the streets were full of people now. But every last one of them had fallen to the ground. They lay there motionless, as if the life had been drained out of them, leaving only empty husks.

‘Wh-What is this? I was trying to convert souls into physical matter, not...not this. So why…?’

Sai felt his knees begin to buckled as he bgan to realize the full horror of what he had done. He ran throughout the town, desperate to find another living human. There had to be somebody out there besides him. ‘No, no, no, this is all wrong! This wasn’t meant to happen!’

Sai sank to his knees as despair gripped his heart. They were all gone. He’d spent his life trying to make contact with the dead, and now, he was the only living man left.

中巻【禁忌の代償】
あれから2年。おもちゃを作り終えた彼は両手いっぱいにお
もちゃを抱えて、墓地に向かっていた。子どもたちのお墓にお
もちゃを置いては、遊んでくれるまで待つ日々。
「調子はどうだいマルタ。近頃、ここにいる子達に
おもちゃをあげても遊んでくれないんだ。
何がいけないのか君の意見を聞かせておくれよ」
サイはおもちゃであふれかえった墓石――マルタのお墓に向
かって今日も話しかける。おもちゃが動いたり、無くなってい
たりしていたら、きっと遊んでくれたのだと思うことが出来た。
しかし、どの子どものお墓におもちゃをあげても、どれだけお
もちゃの数を積み重ねても、誰かが遊んでくれる日は来なかっ
た。
#「ああそうか、きっと今の君に合う素材で作らないと
触れないのかもね。少し見直してみよう」
一人で納得した様子のサイは、遊ばれることの無いおもちゃ
をお墓に残して立ち去った。

そんな日々がどれほど続いたのか。目を赤く腫らしながらサ
イはいつものようにお墓におもちゃを持って行き、今度こそは
遊んでくれるのではないかという期待を何度も裏切られ続ける
日々――そんなある日の晩、彼は突然思いついた。
「そうか、透明になった君に実体があれば、
普通のおもちゃで遊べるじゃないか」
何で気が付か無かったのだろうと自分で自分に驚きつつ、サ
イは急いで家に帰ると研究を始める。

それから30年。サイは寝食も忘れて、ぽつりぽつりと落ち
るものを拭いながら霊体に実体を持たせる研究を続けていた。
研究に研究を重ねた末、ついに理論的には霊体を実体化出来る
機械を完成させることとなる。早速、機械を起動するためお墓
に向かった。
サイが複雑に鋼を織り交ぜた機械を起動させると、独特な音
波が鳴り響いた。音波は波紋を広げるように、建物から人まで、
あらゆる『実体』の中に響き渡る。空気がパキパキと軋みを上
げた後には、澄んだ静寂が訪れた。これは成功したのではない
か、と握った拳に力を込めるサイ。しかし、いくら待っても、
マルタやお墓の子ども達の姿が現れる事も、声が聞こえてくる
ことも無かった。
「そんな、失敗したっていうのか?」
装置を起動して、何かが起こったという手応えは確かにあっ
た。何も起きていないはずはないと、サイは幽かな期待を胸に
街へと足を運ぶ。
――辿り着いた街に広がっていたのは、想像を絶する光景だ
った。多くの人と物で溢れ返っていた街はひどく静まり返り、
道という道には街の人々が倒れ伏していたのだ。折り重なるよ
うに無造作に倒れ伏す人々が、まるで身体という器を脱ぎ捨て
たかのように見える。
「僕は一体なにをしてしまったんだ……
僕はただ霊体に実体を与えたかっただけなのに――」
自らの過ちに呆然とするサイ。こわばる足を何とか動かして、
生きている者を探すために街を彷徨った。しかし沈黙した街で
生きている者は彼一人。時が経つにつれて、サイは自らの手で
犯した罪の重さに耐えかね膝をつく。
「ああ……こんなはずじゃなかったんだ。
そんなつもりは無かったんだ……!」
死者の街と化したこの場所で、皮肉にも誰よりも死者に会い
たいと願っていた彼一人だけが生きている。サイの嘆きに応え
る者は無く、慟哭は冷えきった街に吸い込まれて消えた。

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