/ Language: English / Genre:prose_contemporary

Somersault

Kenzaburo Oe

Writing a novel after having won a Nobel Prize for Literature must be even more daunting than trying to follow a brilliant, bestselling debut. In Somersault (the title refers to an abrupt, public renunciation of the past), Kenzaburo Oe has himself leapt in a new direction, rolling away from the slim, semi-autobiographical novel that garnered the 1994 Nobel Prize (A Personal Matter) and toward this lengthy, involved account of a Japanese religious movement. Although it opens with the perky and almost picaresque accidental deflowering of a young ballerina with an architectural model, Somersault is no laugh riot. Oe's slow, deliberate pace sets the tone for an unusual exploration of faith, spiritual searching, group dynamics, and exploitation. His lavish, sometimes indiscriminate use of detail can be maddening, but it also lends itself to his sobering subject matter, as well as to some of the most beautiful, realistic sex scenes a reader is likely to encounter. – Regina Marler From Publishers Weekly Nobelist Oe's giant new novel is inspired by the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which released sarin gas in Tokyo 's subway system in 1995. Ten years before the novel begins, Patron and Guide, the elderly leaders of Oe's fictional cult, discover, to their horror, that a militant faction of the organization is planning to seize a nuclear power plant. They dissolve the cult very publicly, on TV, in an act known as the Somersault. Ten years later, Patron decides to restart the fragmented movement, after the militant wing kidnaps and murders Guide, moving the headquarters of the church from Tokyo to the country town of Shikoku. Patron's idea is that he is really a fool Christ; in the end, however, he can't escape his followers' more violent expectations. Oe divides the story between Patron and his inner circle, which consists of his public relations man, Ogi, who is not a believer; his secretary, Dancer, an assertive, desirable young woman; his chauffeur, Ikuo; and Ikuo's lover, Kizu, who replaces Guide as co-leader of the cult. Kizu is a middle-aged artist, troubled by the reoccurrence of colon cancer. Like a Thomas Mann character, he discovers homoerotic passion in the throes of illness. Oe's Dostoyevskian themes should fill his story with thunder, but the pace is slow, and Patron doesn't have the depth of a Myshkin or a Karamazov-he seems anything but charismatic. It is Kizu and Ikuo's story that rises above room temperature, Kizu's sharp, painterly intelligence contrasting with Ikuo's rather sinister ardor. Oe has attempted to create a sprawling masterpiece, but American readers might decide there's more sprawl than masterpiece here.

Kenzaburo Oe

Somersault

Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

PROLOGUE

BEAUTIFUL EYES IN A DOGLIKE FACE

A small figure was making its way forward-a man, it appeared, with ex- traordinarily well-developed muscles yet reduced in scale. Chest thrust out, he advanced into the gloom, clutching in his outstretched arms a structure made of two boomerang-shaped wings, one on top of the other. Narrow ban- ners hung down in front of him; beyond that was a brightly lighted stage. Just as he bent down to pass by a switchboard that jutted out into the passageway, one tip of the wing of the structure plunged under the tutu of a dancer who was hurrying past.

The small man and the young dancer froze. The girl, bent forward, shifted her weight to her right leg, leaving her wide-open left leg defenseless, elevated in midair, yet somehow she was able to keep her balance. She glared at the small man, her anger evident at having been forced into this helpless position. Her little face turned bright red, like a sunlit plum. But what looked back at her wasn't a small man. It was a boy-forehead, mouth, and ears pro- truding like those of a dog-yet with a strangely beautiful gaze.

The boy looked at her for the briefest of moments. In order to rescue the structure he supported in his outthrust arms, the boy tried to lift it up above the framework sticking out from the wall to his left, twisting the joint con- necting the two wings in an attempt to slide one half upward. For her part, the girl, through her billowed-out skirt, shifted the structure toward her ab- domen to absorb some of its weight, all the while keeping her left foot raised and balancing on the right one. From in front and behind the unfortunate pair, men in black leaned forward and jostled one another. At that instant, a flash of determination swept across the boy's doglike face and he flung his structure straight down, scattering hundreds of multicolored plastic pieces.

Now free, the girl pressed down her bell-shaped skirt and flew off in tears to join the group of dancers beside the stage.

The young boy pushed forward with his narrow yet strong shoulders, shoving aside the taller black-suited men. Like a very small model of some- one who's just completed a grand project, he strode off into the dark of the passage behind the stage, a dignified exit undeterred by the shouts of the men.

The dance troupe members halfheartedly consoled the girl, who was late, but they were concerned with their own costumes, and, besides, they'd missed their big chance that day to appear. The young boy, favored to receive the grand prize in the awards ceremony, had smashed to bits both his creation and any reason for him to make an appearance and had now disappeared.

Did destroying the model city he'd taken a year to create afford him a precocious, lawless sense of confidence-this boy who often fled from the center of Tokyo? Did seeing his creation as something whose sole purpose was to be broken to pieces make him wonder if even this huge metropolis could be razed if one wanted it to? But to what end? He had no idea, but there was plenty of time in life to try to answer that, or at least to formulate the question. This dog-faced boy, with his combination of breathtaking ugliness and beauty, must have been convinced of this, deep inside his still-forming body.

This episode took place at a public exhibition of imaginary landscapes of the future created from small plastic blocks, an event sponsored jointly by an American educational materials company and a Japanese firm that imported stationery supplies. In later years, Kizu, who had been on the screening com- mittee, often recalled the boy who had arrogantly removed himself from the competition. Kizu could never forget how, when he first saw the boy at the exhibition, the word child didn't come to mind, but rather the term small man.

He recalled the boy's moment-to-moment movements and expressions-at once so ugly you could barely bring yourself to watch, yet so lovely you felt your chest constrict-and the extraordinary vitality evident behind them.

Because he was a painter, it was second nature to Kizu to want to scrutinize, over time, the details of the object of his gaze, so he was struck by a desire to watch each stage of development of this strangely compelling little lump of a child: childhood, adolescence, and youth. He felt sure that someday he'd be able to do this yet equally certain it would never happen, for even when the boy was right in front of his eyes, it had all felt like a dream… The autumn when the exhibition was held had marked a new start in Kizu's life. Already in his late thirties, his major accomplishment was to be short-listed for the Yasui Prize, but he had actually won several awards, which had led to talk of a "Kizu style" being mentioned in the same breath as that of the work of an artist who specialized in reproductions of classic paintings, the kind found hanging in European galleries. Even so, some people still con- tinued to compare Kizu's painting with the American Urban School, which led to his receiving a Fulbright to study at an American university on the East Coast well known in the field of art education. As with the majority of Japa- nese artists, this should have been nothing more than a simple rite of passage, but Kizu was genuinely interested in art education methods, and, in his typically intense and focused way he decided to go back to graduate school. This took five years, during which he divorced the wife he'd left behind in Japan.

Now, several years later and PhD in hand, Kizu decided to say goodbye to life in the States and return to Japan.

Kizu had been asked to join the selection committee by its head, who'd been delegated the job by the corporate headquarters of the American company; the man had helped Kizu both during his Fulbright stay and after he extended it, and Kizu naturally felt obligated to him.

The creation the dog-faced boy came up with at the contest was amazingly inventive, yet what affected Kizu most was what radiated not from the work but from the boy's looks and attitude-his entire being. It pained Kizu to realize that he himself lacked the archetypal aura the boy possessed. Even when he was living in America he'd felt his style of painting had reached a dead end, a feeling that surfaced in the conviction that he had no ground to stand on as an artist.

After an assistant professor in Kizu's department at the American university failed to receive tenure and moved on to another institution, Kizu's mentor invited him to take the departed man's position. Kizu had spiritedly given up on having a career as an artist in his own country-a move spurred on by the deeds of that small man-so he accepted the mentor's invitation and returned to live more or less permanently in the United States. Kizu went on to spend the next fifteen years in the states on the East Coast, receiving ten- ure along the way. As part of academic life, Kizu had taken sabbaticals, and now for the first time he chose Japan for his sabbatical leave. An urgent reason lay behind this choice. Four years before, he had been operated on for colon cancer. The examinations and surgery he'd undergone after the first symptoms appeared were almost unbearable. What's more, his elder brother had undergone surgery for the same condition before Kizu; two years ago the disease had spread to his liver, and after one awful operation followed an- other, he passed away. Even though he felt unwell himself, Kizu refused to he examined further.

The previous autumn at a dinner party at his university's research institute, an oncologist of note commented that Kizu didn't look at all well and recommended he get a thorough checkup; he gave in to the sense of resignation he'd long held inside and had the doctor write a letter of introduction for him to a former student who ran his own clinic in Tokyo. Sick as he knew he was with cancer, though, the last thing Kizu wanted was any more pain- ful poking and probing or operations.

Before Kizu left for Tokyo, a visiting scholar of Japanese literature in the East Asian studies department (with a doctorate from Tokyo University, according to his business card) said to Kizu, "Ah, so you'll be the mendicant pilgrim returning to his ancestral shores?" It was just an offhand comment and Kizu took it as a playful remark. Nevertheless, it hit home-things were much more serious than that.

Still, out of these negative prospects surrounding his impending stay in Tokyo, Kizu was able to discover one positive goal-the desire to find the boy he'd run across at the exhibition some fifteen years before, the boy so ugly you couldn't bear to look at his face, yet who'd shown a flash of aching beauty.

Kizu wanted to meet him and see how the boy's life had taken shape in the intervening years. He grasped at a prescient feeling, akin to the dialectic of dreams, that this reunion could never come to pass, yet somehow-it most definitely would.

Soon after settling into the apartment house in Akasaka owned by his U. S. university, Kizu asked an arts reporter who had come to interview him on the state of art education in America to dig up the newspaper article on the events of that day fifteen years before. Even though the reporter's news- paper had been one of the sponsors of the contest, Kizu discovered, when the reporter sent him the article on the awards ceremony-for models constructed out of the kind of plastic blocks so popular both in America and this side of the Pacific-that it was surprisingly short and matter-of-fact. It didn't even mention the name of the boy who'd destroyed his creation just before taking it onstage for the final judging. A small sidebar on the same page, though, reported on the self-sacrificing actions of the boy and the courageous stance of the young girl, who suffered while trying to keep the model from being destroyed.

Kizu called up his contact again and was able to get in touch with the reporter who'd written the sidebar. This man himself, now an executive of the newspaper company, had been curious about the boy, who of course by now was a grown man, and had tried without success to do a follow-up inter- view four or five years ago.

At the time of the contest the boy was ten years old, in fifth grade in a private elementary school; he went on to graduate from the affiliated junior and senior high schools and entered Tokyo University. Until the time he enrolled in the department of architecture there, his name was still in his high school's annual alumni directory. He hadn't responded to the questionnaire the following year, however, and the high school listed his address as un- known. Inquiries at his university revealed that the boy had voluntarily with- drawn. He hadn't been in touch with his parents for quite some time, and even though they assumed he was all right, he might very well have been liv- ing a vagrant sort of life.

On the plus side, the reporter told him he knew how to get in touch with the young girl, now also an adult. When he'd written the original sidebar, his first inclination had been to focus on the young boy, but requests for an in- terview were turned down-whether by the boy or his parents was unclear.

So the reporter based his article on what the girl told him. He'd even gotten a New Year's card from the girl's mother in Hokkaido. The card was sent a few years ago, when the girl had gone to Tokyo in hopes of becoming a dancer; if Kizu wanted to get in touch with her he could start with the residence listed on the card.

Kizu wasn't surprised to hear that the boy, with his amazing sense of the three dimensional, had studied architecture, even if only for a short time.

Kizu remembered thinking when he saw the model the boy had been carry- ing, just before one wing of it got caught up under the girl's skirt, that its whole structure-the two boomerang-shaped wings, one on top of the other-must be an architectural design for a futuristic space station.

Kizu could understand, too, how when he got older, the boy dropped out of college. What sort of youth could be more appropriate for this boy, with his frightening canine face and beautiful, expressive eyes? This was the kind of person, after all, who could smash his own creation, something so big he could barely carry it-a creation that he must have constructed over what would have seemed like an endless year.

Since his current whereabouts were unknown even to his own family, it was probably impossible to track down the young man. Still, Kizu couldn't shake the optimistic feeling that during his special year in Tokyo he would somehow run across the boy.

One other person couldn't forget that day's meeting with the boy: the young dancer who'd been impaled by the boomerang model. She had a compelling reason for never forgetting that day, for the plastic tip of the model had robbed her of her virginity. She made this discovery during the long winter of her junior year in high school in Asahikawa, where her father had been transferred. She was having sex with the PE teacher who'd been teaching her dance, and the whole operation went so smoothly the teacher got upset, thinking she must be more sexually experienced than she'd made out, though truthfully it also put him at ease. She didn't say anything to him, but she recalled that abortive awards ceremony. When she had returned home the day of the ceremony, she'd extracted a yellow thumb-size plastic piece from the crotch of her panties, a piece covered with rust-colored blood.

The young girl knew that the way the newspaper article had portrayed events-the boy sacrificing his work in order to rescue the hapless girl from her predicament-was not what really happened. According to the article, as he was about to mount the stage with his already well-received model for the final judging, the boy had boldly taken action to save the girl from pain and embarrassment. But the girl knew that, with her stage costume on, it was a simple matter for someone to lift up her skirt, roll down her underwear, and remove the plastic wing that had inconveniently wormed its way under- neath; even with all the people around, she wouldn't have been embarrassed.

The wing tip intruding on her groin had indeed been painful, but she knew that the way she held her body, uncomfortable as it had been, kept the edge of the wing from causing even more pain.

For an instant there had been an entirely different, violent kind of pain, brought on by the boy's movement in powerfully flinging down the model.

The whole thing was a kind oí attack-an intentional attack, the girl sensed, that this boy directed against himself. Frightened by its cold-blooded barbarity, the girl had burst into tears.

These three people, whose lives crossed briefly some fifteen years before, were to meet again. The story about to unfold begins with their reunion.

As the alert reader will already have noticed, up to this point the viewpoint has been that of Kizu. The eyes that saw the young boy as a small person with the musculature and symmetry of a grown man could only have been those of an artist.

PART I

1: A HUNDRED YEARS

1

Young Ogi's new acquaintances had recently dubbed him the Innocent Youth, an appellation he didn't really mind, seeing that these people, except for the young girl, were nearly his father's age. The girl, he knew at a glance, was far less innocent than himself. Ogi recalled reading about the two elderly men-Patron and Guide, as they were called-in the newspaper some ten years before; they were central characters in a scandalous religious incident they called a Somersault. From Ogi's perspective, then, they were not only participants in an episode from the past but also men still in the prime of life- though reports of the incident a decade before had portrayed them as getting on in years.

The two men's unusual names came about in the following way. At the time of the incident, when the two severed their ties with the religious organization they led, The New York Times had substituted these playful names, and the two men decided to adopt them. Later on, they created a similarly playful name for the young girl who assisted them in their life together, christening her Dancer.

When Ogi first found out that the two men had maintained a strict silence in the years following the incident, he was deeply impressed. Other than the minimum connections needed to survive, they'd lived in total isolation from the outside world. Ogi was further amazed at Patron's enormous energy, despite the fact that he was the older of the two and wasn't so physically robust. Patron spent his days tucked away from society yet in high spirits, as if surrounded by matters of the utmost urgency. But Ogi had also caught a glimpse of the deep depression to which he was prone.

For his part, Guide was always calm and self-possessed and was clearly, even to an outsider, Patron's valued companion. When the two of them con- versed they reminded Ogi, straining to come up with an appropriate metaphor from his limited reading, of Kanzan and Jittoku, the legendary Tang dynasty monks. Peeking in on their amiable chats, Ogi inevitably found Dancer already with them, and after dealing with the two men became part of his regular job, he saw something unnatural, even irritating, in the way the girl related to these two elderly men. All these emotions vanished, how- ever, when Dancer revealed to Ogi her mother's dream that her daughter study education at the university in Asahikawa where her father taught science and become a middle school or high school teacher in Hokkaido. If I'd listened to her, Dancer told him, my life would have been very different. I never would have experienced the fulfilling days I've spent with these two men, who are, in every sense of the words, my true Patron-in the sense of teacher-and Guide. Ogi had to agree with her assessment. There was in- deed something special in the relationship between this young woman and the two older men.

Employing another youthful metaphor gleaned from his scanty read- ing experience, Ogi saw these two men in their fifties as a pair of grizzled sailors pulling into port after a grand ocean voyage. The image was prosaic, yet it had a sense of reality, despite the fact that placid, chubby little Patron and tall, muscular, hawk-profiled Guide wouldn't strike anyone as fellow sailors on a ship. Once this metaphor came to mind, though, Ogi tried it out on Dancer. Her reply left him flustered.

"Patron and Guide haven't yet made landfall but are still in the midst of a gigantic storm," Dancer replied. "In the not-too-distant future, as the waves and wind build up higher, even you will begin to see the gale and the down- pour. Until then, I suggest you find a safe harbor where you can take shelter."

"What about you?" Ogi asked.

"I'll hitch my star to the captain and the chief navigator," the girl said, nearly whispering, her mouth slightly open, her moist pink tongue visible.

Despite what this physical description might imply, there was a simple reason why Ogi did not at first feel entirely comfortable with Dancer. Granted she had a unique personality and was young and pretty enough to attract most young men. Viewed from a different angle, her habit of antagonizing him might very well be part of her charm.

Her voice and the way she spoke, as if she were whispering secrets, were alluring, her slim, lithe body right up next to you, as if she wanted to hold you close and start dancing. That intimate voice, though, was rarely restrained from adding some sharp, critical comment.

For innocent young Ogi, the combination of Dancer's whispery way of speaking and the way her mouth always seemed half open-which oddly enough didn't make her come across as dull; indeed, it appeared to him merely as a punctuation mark in an otherwise intelligent and alert expression-wasn't something he could view dispassionately.

2

As part of his present job, Ogi got in touch with Dancer, Patron and Guide's private secretary, once every other month. Since he'd taken the job, not once had it been the other way around-Dancer phoning him. But now here she was, suddenly contacting him with the message that Patron ur- gently wanted to see him. The phone message was relayed to him by fax from the Tokyo head office of the International Cultural Exchange Foundation, for which Ogi worked-the post that kept him in touch with Patron as part of his job. The fax arrived in Sapporo, where Ogi was escorting a French physician and his wife to a conference oí the Japan Dermatological Association: Someone named Dancer called-she's Japanese, I'm pretty sure-saying she had to get in touch with you immediately. She said Guide has collapsed from a hemorrhage and Patron has to see you right away. I assume these are nicknames? I asked for their real names, but she said you'd understand. Since it would cause more trouble than it's worth for the conference to give her your hotel and phone number, I requested that she get in touch with you through us here. The woman seemed almost possessed. Dancer, Guide, Patron-what kind of people have you got yourself mixed up with?

Ogi's main assignment at the time was to escort the doctor and his wife, both from Lyons, to an office at the hotel that had been booked for the con- ference; the doctor was to deliver the keynote address. After making a long- distance call to Patron's residence, Ogi escorted the French couple to the mammoth preconference dinner reception, where the head of the Associa- tion, a longtime research collaborator of the French doctor's, sat waiting at the table with his wife to greet them. This accomplished, Ogi explained his situation to the conference staff, rushed by taxi to the Chitóse airport outside Sapporo, and boarded the Tokyo-bound plane. Ogi realized he'd never before acted so rashly. It made him feel uncomfortable, yet this emotion alternated with a definite delight at having taken such a bold step.

The next morning, the foundation-or rather Ogi, as its representative- was to take the French doctor's wife around Sapporo by car while her hus- band was giving his speech. On the way back from the Chitóse airport, Ogi might very well get stuck in traffic and not make it back in time, but still he decided to fly to Tokyo without arranging for someone to fill in for him. Ogi was normally a person with a strong sense of responsibility, and though this word can easily take on a negative connotation, he was even something of a perfectionist. Despite all this, he found skipping the next day's work pro- foundly gratifying.

This feeling of satisfaction was certainly in keeping with his youthful innocence, but such behavior couldn't be measured by the yardstick he'd lived his life by up to this point. A premonition even struck him that this hasty act might end up destroying the self-image he'd so carefully crafted. Why Ogi made such an out-of-character decision at such a critical time, though, was quite simple. It was that gentle whispery voice, that half-open mouth like an eel moving through water. Even over the phone, when he called, Dancer's breathless and intimate way of speaking had grabbed him. Without letting him get a word in edgewise, she explained the situation.

"Guide was invited to a gathering of former members of the church, and he collapsed there, apparently from a brain aneurysm. Before Guide spoke, while they were still eating, he complained of a headache. After this he felt bad and vomited in the bathroom. Fortunately there was a doctor at the meeting, and he arranged for Guide to be taken right away to a univer- sity hospital where a friend of his works. They operated on him for eight hours, and at this point things look promising. But he lost a lot of blood.

Patron's been saying that ever since Guide took on the responsibilities of help- ing lead the church he's suffered from chronic collagen disease. Patron was worried that he's been battling illness for so long his blood vessels may have become weakened. He started crying after he said this. I can't handle all this alone. I need you to come back!"

Ogi told her he was scheduled the next morning to take the French doctor's wife, herself a tree specialist with some books to her name, to see the Tokyo University experimental tree farm, but Dancer brushed that aside.

"Don't wait till tomorrow. Take a plane to Haneda airport tonight and come straight to our headquarters. There's no one else nearby who can help.

Patron's miserable, like a stonefish shot by a spear gun."

Ogi pictured Dancer's slim, muscular shoulders and upper arms, and the imagery she employed made him wonder for a moment if she maintained her physique through a little scuba diving thrown in on top of her dancing.

He was convinced, though, of the urgency of the situation.

Arriving at Patron and Guide's office in Setagaya, Ogi walked through thick trees that gave way to a hedgerow toward the single-story building, all the while gazing up at the night sky. The stars were bright, the sky as clear as it had been in Hokkaido.

Before he could ring the front doorbell, Dancer opened the door from inside and stood there on the brick walkway, as if staring right through him.

"You should always ring the bell at the gate. Sometimes we have the Saint Bernard loose in the garden." Her always-sweet whisper contained a warning.

Dancer led the way into spacious connected living and dining rooms and, leaving Ogi in the faint glow of a lamp on a low bookshelf between a sofa and an armchair, strode off down the dark corridor leading to Patron's study-cum-bedroom.

Ogi sat down on the edge of the sofa nearest the entrance and recalled the time he'd delivered smoked turkeys from the foundation at the end of last year.

He had had a lot of stops to make, and the chairman had instructed him to fin- ish by Christmas Eve, so it was late at night by the time he reached Patron and Guide's home. At an intersection two streets away from the house he ran across Patron out walking his dog. Sleet was falling, the streetlights barely illuminat- ing the road, and the short stocky man walking slowly down the street in a rain poncho reminded Ogi of the wooden toy soldier his father had brought back for him as a present from Germany when he was a child. The man was accom- panied by a Saint Bernard whose body was as long as the man's torso. At first Ogi found his gaze drawn solely to the man's quiet footsteps, the way his body stayed completely level as he walked. The dog walked in exactly the same way.

The hood on the man's poncho covered his face, and the dog's body was cov- ered in the same material, which lent them a further air of similarity. After he passed them, it took a moment for Ogi to realize that the man was Patron, but he hesitated to turn and call out to him. The majestic and solemn way that Patron and his dog walked, like two brothers, kept him from saying anything.

Ogi recalled all this as he waited in the dimly lit room; he stood up and gazed out through a break in the curtain on the broad glass door at the dark- ened garden and its dense growth of trees. From behind a stealthy voice, Dancer's, addressed him.

"Are you checking out the doghouse? Why do that? He's inside it. You needn't worry that he'll attack you."

Used by now to her chiding, Ogi said nothing and merely looked down at the brick walkway below his feet. On both sides of the room, running the entire length, was a complicated sort of European shutter system, not now being used. Guide had explained why they were there to Ogi not long ago, as he stood on this very spot.

When Patron and Guide first moved into this house they had a terrible persecution complex and believed many people hated them. Fearful that these people would throw rocks at them, they decided to install sturdy shutters for protection. They were afraid that rocks thrown from outside would shatter the windows, so the sensible thing would have been to put the shutters on the outside of the fixed glass, but Patron had insisted on having them as close to him as possible as he lay reading on the sofa, so they put up these interior ones with their complex system of rails and wooden doors. Eventually the world lost interest in the two men, and once that happened Patron finally was will- ing to have this strange contraption removed someday. For whatever reason, Guide explained all these details to Ogi. On that day, Patron happened to be in the throes of one of his bouts with depression and did not come out of his room, so it was Guide who dealt with Ogi, visiting as usual on foundation- related business.

"Patron's awake now, and you can see him by his bedside. But no silly questions, okay?" Dancer continued, in an overbearing manner that made Ogi instinctively recall her entreaties to him over the phone.

Dancer spun around, pivoting from the waist. In the instant as she turned away, and just before following her down the corridor, Ogi was sure he caught a glimpse oí a thread of saliva deep in her mouth, glinting silver in the light of the low lamp. But the youth could only grasp in a conceptual way what might be sensual to another.

Patron was lying on his low bed facing them, in a room even darker than the hallway. Dancer led Ogi to a bedside table with a lamp on it; when he saw Patron's face in the lamplight, Ogi was pierced to the quick. Patron, so much older than he was, lay there looking up at Ogi with tearful imploring eyes, the kind of gaze you just couldn't hold. Ogi stared off into space and listened to his sad complaints.

"I don't have all that much goodness in the past to remember,"

Patron said, "and now I feel like I've lost the future as well. Even if I were to fall into a trance again and go over to the other side, anything I might say about my experiences there would just be so much nonsense. Guide is the only one who can make my words intelligible, so for the first time people on this side can understand me. Without Guide to listen to me, my words are like a feverish delirium, and afterward I have no memory of them at all. All that remains is the empty husk where the fruit of meaning once resided.

"Without Guide, my words are nonsense. Looking back now on our life together, I see with great clarity how true that is. Even if I were to write my memoirs, without him I couldn't say a thing. The same holds true for the Somersault. Guide put everything in order and created memories for me. But now that he's collapsed, what can possibly remain? I'm no better than a corpse.

"Nothing of substance will remain from my life, not even words. This is especially true when it comes to my concept of the future. Only through Guide can the visions I have be put into recognizable words and these con- cepts made possible. Without him I'm left with no past and no future. If all I have is the present, that's the same as saying that all I have left is this present hell! Why in the world did this happen to me?"

With this pitiful question-Ogi knew he wasn't really expecting an answer-Patron fell silent. Despite the impassioned words, his long, ener- vated, deeply still face maintained a passive look, demanding nothing of his listeners. The only relevant thought that passed through Ogi's mind was that he'd never in his life before encountered such a deeply peaceful yet despair- ing adult. An aged child with the despairing soul of a youth.

Ogi said nothing. Beside him, also silent, Dancer nodded a couple of times, like a mother soothing her child. I hear you, things will be fine, her nods conveyed, not seeking any solutions to the problem. How could she be so calm when she'd pleaded with him to rush back to Tokyo?

While Ogi stood there, unresponsive, Dancer got up and bustled briskly about the room. From the darkness beyond the circle of light cast by the lamp, somewhere over near the wall, she fetched a chair, one lower than a normal chair and the same height as the bed; next to that she placed a cushion for her own use. Ogi sat down in the chair, legs straight out in front of him; he smelled a powdery leather odor as Dancer plopped her rump down on the cushion.

This way the two of them were on the same level as Patron, who was leaning in their direction.

Ogi glanced over at Dancer, her half-open mouth glistening faintly in the light, then turned his gaze to Patron, waiting expectantly for his tearful voice to resume its tale of woe. There had to be a special reason why Dancer chose him to be her partner here, he thought, trying to compose himself.

In the west corner of the bedroom/study, just outside the curtain and the glass door, there was the movement of some large beast. That had to be where the doghouse was. The Saint Bernard's restless stirrings overlapped in Ogi's mind with Patron's black spacy eyes, and once again the image came to him of that sleety night, man and dog in identical rainwear, out for a walk.

3

Patron didn't say anything more that night; he fell asleep, and Dancer told Ogi-who ended up spending the night-to go back to the living room.

When the housekeeper they'd hired after Guide fell ill arrived the next morn- ing, Ogi left with Dancer to visit Guide in the university hospital in Shinjuku.

Seated behind the wheel of her Mitsubishi Pajero, glaring down on the road as if she were driving a tank, Dancer was a fearless driver. She handled the car like the agile danseuse she was, with a no-nonsense approach to ma- neuvering it through the maze of city streets.

Until they came out onto Koshu Boulevard, Dancer carefully chose one back road after another, avoiding traffic jams. The highway might take even more time, she said, almost making Ogi carsick each time she skill- fully changed lanes. She added, in a burst oí self-criticism, "Of course, this might save us ten minutes at most."

Dancer told him that after their talk Patron had slept soundly the whole night but was still in shock about what had happened to Guide. She said noth- ing more about Guide's condition, perhaps feeling she'd already discussed it enough when she called Ogi in Sapporo. Again Ogi sensed Dancer's matter- of-fact style. There was something about her lithe body and childlike expres- sion with its half-open mouth that made Ogi feel he had to be on his guard, yet her way of speaking was still whispery and vague. Beyond this, though, he sensed a strong reliable core. Even in a business setting, Ogi found it hard to maintain a proper reserve. Once negotiations began, he quickly took an interest in the person he was dealing with, making a real attempt to under- stand the other's point of view. All of which might support Dancer's calling him Innocent Youth, even though they still didn't know each other all that well. Ogi could equally well be labeled just a straightforward, affable young man. Sometimes, though, he would puzzle his listeners by abruptly denying what they said; this would happen when he decided, while listening in all sincerity, that what he was hearing was a waste of time.

Sitting in the car beside Dancer, listening to her whispery voice, Ogi knew that never once had anything she said been a waste of time. Never once had she upset him with a vapid repetition of the obvious.

Dancer dropped him off at the reception desk of the hospital, parked quickly in the lot in front, and eagerly tripped back inside. In her white Lycra sweater and narrow pair of pink trousers, she radiated youthful efficiency; Ogi wasn't surprised to see she already had on a visitor's badge. Getting the badges was such a simple matter it made him worry about how secure the hospital was. Ten years ago Patron and Guide, the latter now lying helpless in a hospital bed, were the focus of a major dispute within the ranks of their church, and the matter still remained unresolved.

They rode the elevator to the intensive care unit on the fifth floor, where the door opened inward after Dancer, her efficiency unfailing, used a phone high on the wall beside the entrance to phone for permission to enter.

Once inside the ICU they washed their hands with a liquid disinfec- tant soap, Dancer instructing Ogi not to wipe his hands on anything. Follow- ing her lead, Ogi held his hands in front of him, watching as the volatile soap dried before his very eyes; they came to a second set of automatic doors and entered the inner recesses of the ICU. On the floor was a three-yard strip of sticky tape spanning the width of the hallway, and again, following Dancer, Ogi stepped heavily on the strip, letting it grab his shoes. He was a large fly caught on a huge piece of flypaper, a typically shallow metaphor he came up with as the grip on his shoes tightened.

They passed by the nurses' station and, in the first of the row of private rooms, ran across a depleted, dejected patient clad in a robe lying there star- ing vacantly into space. Ogi understood quickly this wasn't Guide's room, but it was still a shock. Guide's room turned out to be a large one at the end of the corridor, a room with three or four beds partitioned off with white curtains; Guide lay in the nearest one, even worse off than the patient Ogi'd just seen.

He was hooked up to IV tubes, and a larger pleated tube was joined to an artificial respirator, his arms and legs restrained by sturdy rope. An electric monitoring system the size of a medium-sized TV was set up at the head of the bed, with green, red, and yellow lines flashing parabolas across the screen.

Even lying flat, Guide was obviously a big-boned man; the bed was a bit too short for him. His head was covered with a white hood, his eyes were closed, and the upper lid of his closed right eye was darkly congested with blood. His breathing was labored, hence the respirator tube running out of his mouth. His magnificently sturdy face was red, like an overly robust child's.

A nurse led Dancer and Ogi to his bedside, briefly checked the drip on the IV, and left without a word. As soon as she was gone, Dancer, standing with Ogi alongside the bed, where Guide's rough legs stuck out beyond the blanket, swiftly occupied the spot the nurse had vacated. She began rubbing Guide, from one shoulder, the top of which was outside his robe, down to his muscular chest.

"His nostrils are nicely formed, don't you think? He was able to breathe on his own until yesterday. And he had enough strength to kick off his cov- ers… They've intentionally lowered his body temperature. Touch his hand and see; it's strange how cold it is."

Ogi did as she asked. The hand was far colder than his own. It didn't possess the strength to squeeze back, but its heft and feeling still made him feel like Guide was moving it.

Dancer stroked all of Guide's exposed skin so intently that it seemed like she might crush the tubes strung out of him. Leaning over the bed, she cast an upward glance at Ogi, disappointed, it seemed, that he hadn't denied her obser- vation. Then, as if to lift her own spirits before she strode off to the nursing sta- tion, Dancer said, "I'm going to find the physician in charge and get the latest update. You stay here, and if Guide comes around, be gentle with him, okay?

If he were to regain consciousness surrounded by people he doesn't know well, he might have a fit and burst another blood vessel. And that would be the end."

Left alone, Ogi's mind wandered. Whenever Ogi had looked in on the three of them-Dancer, Patron, and Guide-Dancer always seemed to be paying sole attention to Patron and was even cold to Guide. With Guide, too, you could detect an occasional sense of reverence toward Patron, but when- ever Dancer tried to enter the scene he unhesitatingly ignored Patron's wishes and shooed her away. But now that Guide had collapsed, wasn't there a dis- tinctly sexual undertone in the way she caressed his skin?

These thoughts began to take him in a different direction, and in order to crush out the stirrings they provoked, he considered again the way Dancer was nursing Guide. Ogi had, half jokingly, gone along with the name Patron when referring to him, but was this man really mankind's Patron? And Guide-this man he both respected and felt a strong aversion to-could he really be the one to guide all the world? And was it only now, with Guide's suffering an aneurysm and losing consciousness-indeed, being on the verge of death-that Ogi came to this realization?

By the time Dancer returned, Ogi was sunk in a state of sad self-pity.

She had a sullen look on her face and her upturned nose wrinkled as she gave Ogi a cool glance and turned without a word for the ICU's exit. Experienc- ing again the uncomfortable sensation of the adhesive tape sucking at his heels, Ogi came to a halt at the double doors that should have opened in toward them; he froze for a moment, unable to think, as Dancer roughly reached out and punched the automatic button.

"What a grouch that doctor is. He's so pessimistic. He talked about brain death," Dancer said, unable to hide her displeasure, as she came to a halt in front of the bank of elevators. "Guide's brain is still swelling, he told me. At this rate the dark opening you could see in the middle of his brain in the CT scan might very well burst. I asked if they were taking any steps to reduce the swelling, but he didn't say a thing."

Dancer drove her Pajero out toward the intersection of Koshu Boule- vard, and Ogi glanced at his watch; he should be able to make it over to the foundation's headquarters before it closed for the day, he thought. He didn't have the courage to tell Dancer to turn left and take him to Shinjuku Station; instead, he just asked her to stop the car up ahead somewhere. But Dancer's reaction was convulsively severe; she was furious. "Where do you think you're going? You're going to run away? You see what shape he's in, and you want to leave me to take care of him all by myself?"

Just before the intersection the Pajero came to a stop, horns blasting behind it; the engine had stalled, quaking like a person with something stuck in his throat. Her face downturned, barbs of hatred shooting out in all direc- tions, Dancer struggled to get the car moving again and managed to pull onto the shoulder. Ogi realized with a start that she was crying, her shoulders under her white sweater quivering as she sobbed. Ogi didn't know what to do, so he just sat tight, as he usually did in cases like this. Then he got out and, more horns blaring at him, eased around to the other side of the car and got in on the driver's side. Dancer obediently moved over and, sinking back in her seat, covered her face with her lovely fingers, as Ogi started the car and moved into the traffic.

A mere ten minutes later, though, she had pulled herself together, wiped away her tears, and faced straight ahead. In her usual whispery voice, now a bit husky, she told Ogi the following, the whole thing striking him as a bit overly logical.

When Dancer had made up her mind to leave Asahikawa for Tokyo to pur- sue dancing, her father introduced her to his good friend Guide, who'd been his classmate in the science department in college. Her father was aware that Guide and Patron had been founders of a religious group but saw no reason to change his opinion that Guide was a trustworthy person. Dancer had seen TV reports on the religious group and was a little anxious, but she also de- cided to trust Guide and moved to Tokyo. Guide and Patron gave her a room in the office where they lived-albeit an inactive office-and in return she did housework for them. Around the time they started calling her Dancer, her duties smoothly shifted over to also being their personal secretary.

While she still lived in Hokkaido, Dancer had held her own recital, and a newspaper reporter in Sapporo had written a glowing review of it that had, m fact, been the push she needed to come to Tokyo. When she told the re- porter where she was now living, he wrote to tell her that not only had Patron and Guide renounced their church, they had made their whole religious doc- trine a laughingstock. They'd sold out to the authorities the radical faction in the church that had moved away from religious to political activities.

Dancer wasn't fazed. She didn't care what philosophy or beliefs the two might have had or what had become of it all; instead, she cherished the warm feelings she had for these two elderly men who welcomed her into their home and allowed her the freedom to do as she pleased. And when she listened to them talk to her about religious matters-either the doctrines they'd re- nounced or some entirely new ideas; she had no idea which-she found her- self drawn to them even more.

At this point Dancer was still unaware that Patron used to fall into unusual, deep trances. One time Patron fell into a deep melancholy, the first time it had happened since she'd moved into their office, and those few dark days left a lasting impression on her, as did the general relief when this cen- tral figure in their lives was finally able to shake free of his melancholy. After this episode, when Patron was excitedly talking with Guide, Dancer overheard what he said as she did some ironing on the divider separating the living and dining rooms.

"What I just went through," Patron told Guide, "wasn't like the trances I used to have. That's all I'm going to say about it for now, but I will say this: If only we had insisted from the beginning that our church was trying to accomplish something a hundred years in the future-in other words, that we were preparing for events that would occur at the end of the twenty-first century-we wouldn't have had to go through that unfortunate confronta- tion with the radical faction. Anybody can see that a hundred years from now all mankind will be forced to repent. It's obvious that mankind won't be able to avoid a total deadlock. And yet here we are, the advanced countries with their booming consumer culture and third-world countries lusting after the same, like something straight out of the Old Testament-pleasure-seeking cities like Sodom and Gomorrah on the eve of destruction.

"What we should have done was emphasize the need for mankind to re- pent in the face of this ultimate trial awaiting us a hundred years from now.

That's the foundation on which we should have built our church and prepared for the battles ahead. We should have preached that people should prepare over the next hundred years for the total repentance and salvation of mankind.

'When you consider the two thousand years since Jesus, a hundred years isn't such a long time. During the next hundred years we'll see new technology that will dominate over the next millennium. We have to begin now, not slack off; we have to continue our efforts.' That's what we should have said."

Guide impressed Dancer as a decisive person, but she'd never seen him speak his mind clearly, and though he was always kind to her she found him taciturn and hard to approach. But now he responded promptly, and Dancer could understand how very apt his name was.

"A hundred years, though, is a long time," Guide said. "I agree we should preach that a mere century separates us from inevitable destruction; nevertheless, if you actually live through a hundred years, it is a long time.

I'm always reminded of the group of women who viewed our Somersault as a descent into hell. They will face the next hundred years ever mindful of our fall. In the commune they live in, they're keeping the faith, patiently striving to make it through one year after another toward the hundred. But how do they instill this in their members-a way of living a hundred years one year at a time? How to keep the faith and not be taken advantage of by the radical faction?"

After this, Dancer began to pay close attention to Patron and Guide's conversations, she told Ogi, and even now, when they weren't engaged in religious activities, just working in their office helped her find the kind of happiness a true believer must feel. But now, just when she sensed that Patron was about to revive his religious activities for the first time in a decade, Guide collapses with a brain aneurysm and loses consciousness, and Patron goes into shock. Other than myself and Guide, who's ill, she told him, you're the one person who's closest to Patron. How can you abandon him and go back to your job?

4

Ogi would never forget the strange event that took place when he had introduced Patron to the chairman of the board of directors of the founda- tion he worked for. As the two men exchanged business cards, Patron hit the Chairman sharply on top of the head. The Chairman had Caucasian-like skin, and after receiving this blow to his right temple, most likely the first time in his more than seventy years that someone had hit him on the head, his large, oxen eyes looked on the verge of tears. As for the perpetrator of this blow, he himself maintained a stolid wooden expression.

On this particular day, Ogi had accompanied Patron to the Kansai area factory of the pharmaceutical company that was the Chairman's main busi- ness. It was autumn, and as they left the Osaka Station and headed out of the city, they followed a course that took them through a tunnel dug out at the hase of the mountain pass that formed a shortcut connecting two parts of the old highway. The autumn foliage was magnificent. Patron was already clothed for winter, dressed in an overcoat with a rounded collar, buttoned all the way to his throat, and a pear-shaped fedora, altogether like a dubious mutation of the Tohoku poet Kenji Miyazawa.

The factory and research facility were housed in a chalkstone building in the midst of rustic surroundings. As you went inside from the imposing façade there was a large entrance hall, and below the vaulted ceiling an ancient-looking marble statue of Hermes. The jovial Chairman came out to greet them. Patron was barely able to mumble a greeting, and right after this came the startling blow to the head. Afterward Ogi read a book translated into Japanese about the god Hermes and found out that he was both the god of medicine-fitting for the research center of a pharmaceutical company- and also the god of commerce, as well as a Trickster symbol. These memo- ries came back to him now that he'd decided to leave the International Cultural Exchange Foundation to work for Patron's religious organization and was on his way to report to the Chairman, who was attending a meeting at the headquarters of the foundation.

Ogi was ushered into the waiting room next to the large conference room and cautioned by the head of operations of the pharmaceutical company that the Chairman could spare five minutes and no more. The Chairman strode in robustly, clad in a navy blue suit and yellow necktie, shooed away this underling, and sank his sturdy frame into an armchair.

"Well, let's take our time, shall we?" he began. "That's why I had you come in. I have to report to Dr. Ogi, after all." (Ogi's father, a medical doctor, had business connections with this company.) "I hope your father's well? I haven't seen him since last year at the ceremony when he won that interna- tional prize."

"Thank you for asking. I think he's well, though it's probably been longer than that since I've seen him myself," Ogi replied, a bit nervously.

He hoped to avoid having the conversation turn to the troubles between himself and his father, especially since there was a different, more pressing question he needed to solve. "Through my work with the International Cul- tural Exchange Foundation, mostly work in Japan I've been involved with," he went on, "I've begun to have dealings with a man I know you are aware of, called Patron. Just as Patron was beginning to firm up plans for a new movement, something terrible's happened and he's found himself short- handed and asked me to help out. I'm not a follower of the man, and I don't know much about the troubles that took place ten years ago involving Patron, his colleague-the one who's fallen ill now-and the church he led up to that point, but after discussing things with Patron and his secretary, I decided that I want to do what I can. I know the foundation will view this as irrespon- sible, but that's what I'd really like to do. My father helped pave the way for me to work here, and you were generous enough to accept me, and I'd like to be the one to report directly to him about my decision."

Ogi paused. The atmosphere between them had changed suddenly. Ogi was sure he had no way of convincing the Chairman to understand his views, yet something about his vague arguments seemed to take hold of the older man. The appointed five minutes had passed, and his head of operations opened the heavy oak door leading into the reception-sized conference room and stuck his head in, only to be directed by the Chairman in a loud voice to tell the other executives to wait. He then told Ogi something quite unexpected.

Befitting the longtime industrialist he was, the Chairman quickly dealt with the business matters at hand. He accepted Ogi's resignation from the main company, which had had him on loan to the foundation. Ogi would not receive any severance pay, the Chairman said, but he wanted Ogi to continue to work as a liaison between himself and Patron. Since Ogi would become one of Patron's men, the Chairman made arrangements to continue to pay him a part-timer's salary.

"Now that's settled, I'd like to ask you something. Have you ever read Balzac? Balzac's not exactly in fashion here-it's been twenty years or more, I believe, since a publisher put out his collected works--but if you've read much of him, I'm sure you've run across the notion of Le Treize. I read this myself a long time ago. The idea behind Le Treize is that there's a group of thirteen powerful men who control France during one generation, includ- ing the underworld.

"When I was young I was fascinated by the idea. I wanted to form my own Japanese Treize, with myself as the head. Of course, that was a mere pipe dream. Now that I've reached my present age, though, when I look back at what I've accomplished I see the shadow of Le Treize behind it all. Or some- thing like it. At one time I was one of the main backers of a veteran politician who became prime minister and is still head of the most powerful political faction. Before Japan opened up diplomatic relations with China, I helped some of the more ambitious and resourceful politicians and business leaders of both countries carry on actual trade. And the International Cultural Ex- change Foundation that you've worked for, with its emphasis on the medical field-by not sparing any funds to back the most outstanding talent from China and France -reflects the deep influence of Le Treize.

These are of course unconscious influences, and I never actually thought to create my own group. Now, through the auspices of the founda- tion, we've made this personal connection with Patron. Whenever I think of him, I feel a wave of nostalgia. I've never met anyone like him before, which makes it contradictory to speak of nostalgia, I suppose, but what I mean is I get the same sort of feeling from him as when I read Balzac and imagined my very own Treize.

"Just when I was considering all this, I received a communication from the foundation's secretary, saying you'd grown closer to Patron and had been sloughing off your work for the foundation. She had so many complaints I had to check into things myself. I've confirmed what you told me-that Patron's right-hand man has collapsed, and that he plans to start a new move- ment. As a matter of fact, I was just mulling over what a difficult situation this is.

"I find this absolutely fascinating! Isn't Patron the very image of Le Treize? At least I'd like to think so. Amazingly, just when I felt this way, here you come along saying you want to work for him. I'll do what I can to help you out."

5

Ogi returned to the office from Hibiya and reported excitedly to Dancer about his conversation with the Chairman. She herself had just returned from the hospital, where she'd spent time with the still-unconscious Guide, mas- saging him to improve his circulation, none too good after lying so long in a hospital bed. This weekend, after tests to determine if he was able to with- stand it, he would undergo an operation to prevent hydrocephalus. When he heard this, Patron had taken to his bed again.

As Ogi reported on his meeting with the Chairman, Dancer's attitude was noncommittal. He found it easy to talk with her-that is, until he mentioned, jokingly, the Chairman's talk about Le Treize, which he'd omitted up till then, thinking it irrelevant. Dancer got suddenly irritated, and before he knew it things escalated to the point where she threw some fairly scathing remarks his way. Too late, he listened carefully, reflected on what she said, and realized that although he'd taken the Chairman's story of Le Treize as so much boastful talk, Dancer saw it as part of a serious evaluation of Patron and Guide.

"Are you really such an ineffectual person?" she asked him. "When I was a child I couldn't stand boys like you, I couldn't believe people could be that indecisive! You're like one of those boys all grown up. Don't think the name Innocent Youth that Patron and Guide gave you is entirely positive. I don't know what to do with people like you!"

Ogi was startled and couldn't help asking why.

"Don't you get it?" Dancer went on. "What you said isn't just weak, it's irresponsible!"

She wasn't so much disappointed as angry. Ogi felt confused but also sensed that she wasn't about to release him from the cage that surrounded him but was tightening the rope that bound them together, showing the kind of displeasure you find only between family members. For even in a situa- tion like this, though her voice grew ever more emphatic, he could detect a kind of trembling in her sad, whispery voice.

"Patron is shut up inside himself, in no shape whatsoever to give direc- tions, and even if Guide regains consciousness the chances are slim that he'll return to normal. You're the only one we can rely on!

"You knew how worried I was, so you put your assignment in Sapporo on hold and flew down here. These past ten days you've devoted yourself to helping us, and I'm grateful. You know very well the situation we're in, which is why you quit the foundation to work full time as a staff member in our office. When I heard you were quitting, I finally stopped worrying about you being a police spy."

"A police spy?" Ogi parroted.

"Really! You're beyond innocent. You know what happened ten years ago, right? I got this position because my father was a classmate of Guide's in college. So it wouldn't have been so strange that they might have thought me a police spy. But Patron and Guide welcomed me, provided me with a place to live in Tokyo, and let me develop my dancing. I'll never forget that. I have no idea what plans they have for the future, so I don't think I can be of much use to them as they restructure their religious movement. But I want to work for Patron. I want to be a believer.

"This is getting kind of personal, but I wanted more than anything to continue dancing, and when I came to Tokyo without any plans it was Patron who showed me what I really want to do most. Guide, too. Neither of them have said much to me about religious matters. You've only seen the severe side of Guide. It might be hard for you to imagine, but when you're a part of the peaceful relationship between the two of them, before you realize what's happening you find them leading you in new directions. Every day with them is simply amazing. I enjoy my dancing more, now, and I want to be- come one of Patron's followers. But suddenly, in the middle of all this, Guide's seriously ill.

With Guide unconscious and Patron in shock, all I can do is try my hest to get Patron back on his feet, right? Since I have no one else to rely on, 1 phoned you in Sapporo and insisted that you come here, and you've been more of a help than I ever expected.

This is what I think: Patron and Guide know I'm not very smart and don t have even a basic knowledge of religion, and that's why they never dis- cussed it with me. But I know how special the two of them are, and I've al- Ways done my very best for them. Now you're one of my colleagues and you know things I don't; you can teach me a lot, and I'm looking forward to it.

This may well be the chance for you to become my new mentor."

Dancer had never spoken so much before, but what surprised Ogi most was her final declaration. He'd been looking down as he listened to her, but now he glanced up and saw her staring right at him, mouth slightly open as usual, a steady stream of tears flowing down her cheeks. He knew he was a young man without much experience, yet at this moment Dancer struck him as even more wet behind the ears. Observing her in a detached way he never had before, he found her silly, even a bit unattractive, yet he went ahead and did something quite unexpected. Well, what else can I do? he asked himself, a generous sense of resignation coursing through him.

Ogi wrapped his arms around Dancer's slim yet solid neck and shoul- ders and drew her to him. He eased her crying face closer and kissed her thin lips.

At first Ogi was the initiator, but then Dancer leaned forward from the edge of the armchair she was sitting in and deliberately returned his kiss; she placed her left knee on the floor, nudged Ogi back in that direction, and rested her left leg on top of his right thigh. Their long kiss continued, Dancer rest- lessly rubbing her firm belly against Ogi's thigh; her fragrant breath grazed his neck for a moment. Dancer became an unexpectedly heavy weight, strain- ing his awkwardly bent back.

After a while she roused herself and gazed down abashedly at Ogi, lying there in an unnatural pose. "Not to worry," she said. "It won't be easy, but if we work together we can protect Patron!" With this she disappeared into the bathroom and then went off to Patron's room.

After a while Ogi sat up on the sofa and went to relieve himself in the guest toilet next to the front door. He gazed down steadily at his engorged, tor- mented penis. Then he picked up the hand mirror hanging by a ribbon next to the sink and examined a large blood blister that had developed inside his cheek.

"How did that all happen? This is too much!" he said pointedly to himself.

But a light feeling, a desire to be productive, welled up in him and he returned to the living-dining room to check out the way things were arranged in the corner where, starting today, he would work. Guide had his own resi- dence in a separate annex and apparently did all his work there. Since Ogi would be a member of Patron's office staff, the only place he could possibly work was here in the living room. Ogi checked out the telephone and fax, set up on a low wide partition separating the dining room from the living room.

Below this was a generous amount of storage space and a bookshelf for stor- ing fax equipment. In the east corner of the dining room was a mammoth desk twice the size of an ordinary study desk, and opening the drawers he found some brand-new disposable fountain pens, neatly sharpened soft lead pencils, and a set of thick German-made colored pencils. He'd seen Dancer seated there, busy at work.

On the west side of the living room the bookshelf above the sofa still had plenty of space in it, and between the back of the sofa and the partition were filing cabinets and a level board that could be used as a sideboard. Next to the wall on the east side of the living room, beside the TV and VCR, slightly removed from the side facing the garden, was an oblong object with a cover over it; Ogi discovered it was a copy machine.

"All right!" he said aloud, energy coursing through him as he stood in the middle of the living room, arms folded, surveying his surroundings. Move that desk over to the space on the east side of the living room, he thought, line up my chair and Dancer's facing each other across the two desks, and we'll have a nice little workstation. That would definitely be-all right!

Ogi's shout of joy wasn't just because he'd figured out how to arrange his office. It was as if his renewed sexual energy, missing an outlet for its dis- charge, had called out. He had no idea what he'd be able to accomplish here, working on Patron's staff, though he felt relieved to know the foundation would still be paying him something. He wouldn't be working here as a fresh- faced new believer-it was just a job, after all-but even so he was filled with an enthusiastic desire to shout for joy. All right!

6

Without rearranging any of the office equipment, Ogi moved the of- fice desk by himself, figured out how he and Dancer would both sit, checked the electrical outlets, and adjusted the height of his chair. He brought a rag and a bucket of water from the kitchen and cleaned the unused desk and shelves, generally getting his new workplace in order. As he did, the unkempt garden with its flowering dogwoods, camellias, and magnolias grew darker as the June twilight came on. The limpid blue sky stayed light for the longest time. Finished with his straightening up and with no work to do yet in the newly settled office, he sat on the side of the sofa nearer the garden, lost in thought, gazing out the window at the gathering gloom. Dancer suddenly appeared from the dark corridor. She had changed into a sleeveless linen shirt and a long light-colored skirt. With her hair pulled back, she reminded Ogi of an attractive Chinese girl he'd seen once in San Francisco 's Chinatown.

"Patron would like to talk with you," she said, her voice hard; Ogi understood she wanted him to act as if nothing had happened. Ever resigned, he played along. He realized that for the last two hours he'd been enjoying the afterglow of those lips and tongue, the movement of that belly.

Dancer waited for him to stand up, switched on the light in the corri- dor, and deftly explained things to him.

"We'll tell him about your conversation with the Chairman. If there's something you'd like to add, be sure to make it short. Patron may have some questions for you… By the way, you've done a good job of arranging your workstation."

The drapery with its design of groves of trees was half drawn, and a faint lustrous golden light shone through the lace curtains against the glass; in the western side of the room, at a what looked like a small ornamental desk, Patron's heavy form sat at an angle. On top of the desk were some envelopes- too small for mailing letters-and Patron, half turned in their direction, held a fountain pen in his pudgy fingers. The light wasn't conducive to writing letters, though.

Dancer and Ogi couldn't find any chairs to sit on, so they stood to- gether facing Patron. Patron's face still looked swollen, but he seemed to have recovered from his earlier emotional turmoil as Ogi reported on how he'd changed jobs, unable to resist touching on what the Chairman had told him about Balzac. Just as it had with Dancer, this brought on an irritable reaction.

"I can't believe Le Treize was such a simplistic idea. I think the Chair- man has his own preconception about it," Patron said, inclining his overly large head and casting a gloomy look at Ogi. "For someone like him who's lived such a focused life, no matter how imaginative the notion he's always got to bring it back down to earth. I'm flattered that he thought of Guide and me when he came up with these ideas, though I can't imagine how what we've done or are about to do might correspond to some modern-day Thirteen.

What do you think, Ogi?"

Ogi understood that Patron's question to him was nothing more than a rhetorical device he used when delivering a sermon, but he went ahead and replied. Although he was not a particularly voluble person, it was Ogi's na- ture that once he had something to say, he didn't hold back.

"The foundation holds regular conferences, one of which you attended, as you recall," Ogi said. "I used to be in charge of making the arrangements. The members included such people as the French ambassa- dor chairmen of large corporations, advisers to banks and brokerage firms, even a novelist who'd won the Order of Cultural Merit-to put it bluntly, all people whose careers in their respective fields are basically drawing to a close.

"There was some discussion about making you a member, and they decided to invite you once as a guest. Ever since the time I escorted you to the Kansai research facility, the Chairman has recommended you to the confer- ence. Being a clever group of men, they did not oppose having you partici- pate one time. To tell the truth, though, some of them acted as if they were receiving a jester into their midst. Several of the members' secretaries reported happily to me later that their bosses enjoyed your talk enormously. These secretaries also asked me, in their employers' stead, whether it was true that you and Guide had actually severed all ties with your church, or whether that was merely a diversionary tactic aimed at the upcoming trials.

"In other words, from the very beginning it's been just a pipe dream for those movers and shakers to join forces with an eccentric such as yourself.

They're cautious people; they were just amusing themselves at your expense.

Even if you had become a member, as soon as they knew you were about to begin leading a new religious movement you can be sure they'd have voted you out."

Patron listened carefully. Instead of adding a comment, though, he wound up their conversation by directing Ogi and Dancer to undertake a new job. The two young people withdrew and began preparing a late dinner. In the kitchen next to the dining room, they took out what was available in the refrigerator and set to work.

"Patron looks well, don't you think?" Dancer said to Ogi, as they di- vided up the work. "It's hard to believe, after how hopeless he said he felt once Guide looked like he wouldn't recover. Now, ten days later, with you work- ing as a secretary, here he is already set on starting a new movement. He's an amazing personality, don't you think? Though that's nothing new to me."

Sautéing a thinly sliced onion in butter, Ogi wanted to say, If that's nothing new to you, why don't you keep quiet? But Dancer, ever sensitive, ended her thoughts with a meaningful remark. "I think it was good for both °f you that Patron opened up so honestly." She was slicing a chunk of beef into thin strips in preparation for making a quick gourmet curry, her mouth half open as usual, revealing a tongue glistening with saliva that brought a painful twinge of nostalgia to Ogi.

Patron had told them as he outlined the task he wanted them to begin, I only rely on a very few of my followers, which isn't surprising, seeing as how I couldn't even rely on myself!"

This struck Ogi as a bit of a non sequitur, but Dancer gave a cute, non- chalant laugh.

"Ogi's working for us now as kind of an extension of his earlier job,"

Patron added, "but I don't think he's made the leap over to our side yet. Well, just so that we all agree on that, starting tomorrow I'd like you do this for me. It's the reason I called you both in here. I have a number of handwritten cards making up a name list. First I'd like Dancer to make two complete copies and return the originals to me."

Patron gathered up the papers on his desk that were too small for sta- tionery and handed them over to Dancer, who promptly disappeared into the living room and was back in the blink of an eye.

"What I'd like the two of you to do," Patron continued, "is to get in touch with my supporters on this list, mainly those in Tokyo and surrounding areas, but also some in outlying regions."

Patron was at the age when he should be wearing reading glasses, but he took the originals of the cards Dancer had returned to him, holding them at arm's length from his large face as he studied them. Dancer had been stand- ing next to Ogi, but now she moved closer to Patron; knitting her brow in a line of fine wrinkles, she attentively examined the copies, for all the world like a schoolgirl reading a handout of her lines for the school play. For Ogi, the handwriting of this man who'd been schooled in the precomputer age was surprisingly unimpressive, even childish. He felt compelled to question Patron about this rather audacious list.

"About Guide and your Somersault-I'm using the term the media used at the time-weren't you criticized by some of the followers in your church?

I heard that the radical faction was arrested and prosecuted, though not every member was caught, and while they didn't have a chance to make any public declaration against you, some terrible things were said during the trial. Even more moderate members who made up the core of your church denounced you, didn't they?

"What's the connection between the new supporters on this list and those earlier members of the church? Are these supporters sympathizers who still remained within the church? If so, then you didn't completely renounce the church but only cut off connections at a superficial level, maintaining a relationship with certain key members. Putting aside your statements on television directed at society at large, doesn't this mean that you lied to the Chairman of the foundation? I told him your Somersault meant you completely cut all ties with the church, and in fact had become its enemy."

For the first time that day Patron turned to face Ogi. He straightened up, his head held high, no longer a vulnerable old man but now like a large, combative animal asserting its dignity.

"I did not lie," Patron said, in a strong voice. "All the names on the list are people who've sent us letters in the ten years since we apostatized. I've omitted anyone who had a connection with our earlier activities.

"Through our Somersault, Guide and I renounced the church and our doctrine. Now we're about to step into a new stage. Some people view our renunciation as our fall into hell. According to Guide, after we left the church this was how a group of women followers who also left the church and now live an independent communal life interpreted it. Before a savior can accom- plish the things he has prophesied-before he can free this fallen world and lead the people into a transcendent realm-he first has to experience hell. That sort of notion. Before the Somersault, those same people called us Savior and Prophet, you'll recall.

"Be that as it may, through our Somersault, Guide and I seceded from the church. Since then the church has continued its activities, with Kansai headquarters leading the way, but the two of us have nothing to do with them.

Now that Guide has collapsed we're faced with the worst crisis-the biggest trial we've gone through since our secession.

"So I thought of contacting those who have nothing to do with the church who've sent us letters of support. As far as I remember, I've never met any of these people on the list. They became interested in us after Guide and I left the church and were spurned by society and became public laughing- stocks. I've started considering these new supporters just recently, and I'd like you to work at getting in touch with them, Ogi, together with Dancer, of course. This will be your first job here."

"I think we need to start off by checking your list against the letters people sent," Dancer said. "Some of them might be trying to deceive us. We'll have you check our letters before we send them out, of course. Ogi, we can discuss this in the other room. Patron needs to rest."

Dancer helped Patron, clad in his dressing gown, get up from the small chair. Heavy head sunk between his soft shoulders, he shuffled back to his bed on weak, sickly legs.

That evening Ogi waited while, in the already darkened garden, Dancer went out to feed the Saint Bernard, who made sounds that were at once gen- erous and bighearted, unmistakably those of a large beast. Patron had gone to bed without eating. Ogi and Dancer finally had a late supper, and as they ate they reviewed their instructions.

"As I was listening to Patron," she said, "I couldn't help but wonder why-when you aren't a devotee of Patron's teachings-you're supporting him and working to help him. I know I asked you to, but I feel a little bad about it."

"I don't know… he has a sort of strange appeal," Ogi replied. "I've never met another man of his age quite like him."

2: REUNION

1

The story now shifts to the reunion of the artist Kizu and the dog-faced boy with the beautiful eyes fifteen years after their first meeting. In the in- terim one can safely assume that innocent young Ogi spared no pains as he worked with Dancer to carry out the task Patron assigned them. The account that unfolds now will shortly wind up at Ogi's place of work, and the two stories will merge into one.

By coincidence, Kizu was able to meet the young man whose growth he had been so obsessed by, though it took some time after the two of them grew close before he realized that the young man and the boy he'd seen so many years before were one and the same.

Back in his homeland on sabbatical, Kizu was living in an apartment in Akasaka; a former student introduced him to an athletic club in Nakano, where he became a member and began going twice a week to swim. One might not expect a person who's had a relapse of cancer to be so active, yet it was this very relapse that spurred him on. Soon after joining, Kizu began to take notice of a young man at the club, someone he caught sight of every once in a while but had never spoken to, let alone heard anyone else talk about. Kizu was drawn to this twenty-four or -five-year-old young man's beautiful body and his unique sense of style, all of which connected up, in Kizu's mind, with his plan to take up oil painting once again during his year in Tokyo. In the United States he'd been so involved in running the research institute, giving lectures and seminars, and taking care of a thousand and one other related tasks that he'd drifted away from creative art. Deciding to return to painting Was one thing, settling on the subject matter was another, and Kizu was still without a clue, though he did find the idea of painting a young man more attractive than that of a female nude.

Kizu watched the young man leading grade-school children in warm- up exercises by the poolside and correcting their form once they were in the water. Another scene stayed with him too, one that took place when the young man was doing his own personal training. One weekday, early in the after- noon, the pool on the first floor of the athletic club was relatively uncrowded, with just two children's classes and one adult group, the last made up mostly of women with a couple of elderly men thrown into the mix. In the lanes set aside for full members to swim laps there were only two or three swimmers, Kizu among them, as he paddled back and forth in the unusually cool trans- parent water.

Soon it was time for classes to change, and in the wide space between the main pool and the one used for synchronized swimming practice, a large class of children were going through their warm-up routine. Kizu had fin- ished his exercise for the day and was just leaving when he ran across a strange sight. At the bottom of the stairs, in a corner where there were show- ers and sinks for rinsing your eyes, there was a six-foot-square pool. Kizu had always thought it was just some special water tank, but now he under- stood it was for training people to hold their breath underwater. Three young girls stood there, leaning against the brass railing and looking down at the little pool; their high-cut swimsuits exposed the smooth skin of their muscular thighs.

A head wearing a white rubber swim cap bobbed straight up, breaking the surface, the shoulders following next in a quiet yet grandiloquent move- ment. In a moment the person turned to face the opposite direction, rested one hand on a depression in the wall just above the surface of the water, and took a deep breath. The body rising high above the water was that of a young man without an ounce of fat, his body stretched taut, but what caught Kizu's interest was how the body looked naturally strong, not the result of training.

The rubber swim cap he had on was one worn by swimming instructors, and just after the young man broke the surface from deep underwater Kizu had recognized him, for not many of the instructors had such a muscular build.

The tall girls gazing down into the pool were quite muscular, too, the base of their necks swelling up in an arc, interrupting the line of their shoulders. Once more the young man sank straight down beneath the water. Effortlessly, he let go of the inner wall of the pool, looked down, put his arms by his sides, and sank, leaving behind barely a ripple. And after a while, longer than one might expect, he forcefully yet quietly resurfaced, bobbing up past his shoul- ders, and took a huge gulping breath.

Soon the young man, gripping the trough that ran around the pool, lifted his face to look at Kizu; the young man didn't have goggles on, and his face showed nothing of the heightened vitality one might expect after such exer- tion. He completely ignored the young girls. His forehead was like a turtle's, the eyes sunken, the nose wide, lips full; the flesh down to his chin was like taut leather, the chin itself quite manly. Kizu thought he had never seen a Japanese with a face like this before, though it was most definitely of Mongo- lian stock: a fierce face yet one that looked, overall, refined. And from this very masculine face large eyes gazed out, a gaze that made Kizu feel he was being stared at by an obstinate woman.

Walking away, Kizu felt agitated. The wisdom gained with age allowed him to avoid trying to pin down this nameless unease; Kizu realized that di- verting his attention was a better course of action. After this, whenever he saw the young man leading an adult swimming class, a disquiet jolted him, and he averted his eyes.

The first time Kizu spoke to the young man was in the athletic club's so-called drying room. Things changed quickly at this club, with a third of the train- ing equipment, for instance, being replaced within the first six months after Kizu joined. Still, there was one place that was clearly a holdover from the past, a dim room about fifteen by eighteen feet that had just one small door and, in the middle, an elliptical wooden enclosure, in complete contrast to the ultramodern facilities on the other floors of the club. Inside the enclosure, dark stones were piled up and heated, like a sauna. In fact it was a kind of sauna room, though kept at a lower temperature than the modern saunas next door to the public baths.

Members sat on wide two-tiered wooden levels, leaning back against the unpainted wooden wall, drying their chilled bodies after swimming.

Children in the swimming school, of course, used the drying room, but vet- eran members plopped themselves down on oversized yellow towels and sweated in the room before they went swimming, loosening up their muscles this way instead of doing warm-up exercises.

The first time the young man spoke to Kizu, the two of them, as long- time members were wont to do, were already stretched out for some time in the darkened drying room. In the dull light, Kizu didn't realize that the per- son lying down in the far corner was this young man because-no doubt to increase the amount he sweated-he was completely wrapped in a towel from his head on down, with just his knees and the lower half of his legs sticking out.

Kizu had been in the drying room for quite some time when seven or eight young girls in their late teens took over the upper and lower tiers on the right side, directly opposite the entrance. The girls chattered away boister- ously; Kizu was already aware that they were members of the swim team at a Catholic girls high school. They were discussing the program they were preparing for their school's festival, based on the book of Jonah. They were already in a lively mood as they voiced their opinions and complaints in loud voices. One small girl, apparently an underclassman, spoke out in an espe- cially conspicuous way.

"We're the swim team," she complained, "so we should have been allowed to do the scenes where Jonah's thrown into the water, or where he's spit up from the whale's belly and swims to shore. But Sister's script has us doing the part in the storm where Jonah's grilled by all the sailors, and where he builds that hut on the outskirts of Nineveh and complains to God. What's a castor oil plant, anyway? Sounds pretty weird to me! We have to construct the set without even knowing what it looks like!"

Kizu finally spoke up. It had been through the auspices of the girls' swim coach, also an instructor of art and design, that Kizu had been introduced to the athletic club and joined for a year, and the girls had surely heard from their coach about his work in the United States.

Kizu told them how he had done the illustrations for a children's ver- sion of Bible stories. As part of his research for the book, he traveled to the Middle East, where he saw actual castor oil plants growing. "Come here this time next week," Kizu told them, "and I'll bring a colored sketch for you to look at. In the book of Jonah," he went on, "the castor oil plant is an impor- tant minor prop-no, maybe a major prop-expressing God's love." The stu- dents welcomed his proposal.

This decided, the occupying force of girls, their clumsy attempts at working up a good sweat over, left the drying room with hearty farewells more befitting an athletic meet. A jostle of muscular legs was visible just outside the cloudy heat-resistant glass of the door's window.

At this point the young man, oversized towel heavy with sweat wrapped around his waist, spoke up, his voice different from the times Kizu had over- heard it in the club.

"Professor, you seem to be quite well versed in the Bible."

Kizu was seated on the lower tier, in the back left-hand corner, the young man on the upper tier directly facing him. Perhaps not wanting to look down on Kizu, the young man clambered down to the lower tier and turned his face, the same color as a boiled crab's shell, toward Kizu, who replied, "Not at all-it's just as I told the girls. It's not like I attend church."

"I was about to tell the girls, but in the bookshelf in the third-floor mem- bers' lounge there's a copy of your children's book," the young man said. "The club's Culture Society collects and displays books written by the club's mem- bers. When I was a child-and until much later, in fact-I was amazed at how realistically people and objects are depicted in Renaissance paintings, and I find your illustrations in the children's book very similar. Children find this espe- cially appealing, I imagine. When I read your book, I could get a clear picture of how big Nineveh was and what the boat that went to Tarshish looked like."

The artist found the young man's observations interesting-since Kizu was young at the time he did these illustrations he'd been very conscious of his painting style, insisting on its anachronistic character-but what most impressed him was the young man's way of talking. Kizu recalled a certain Mexican stage actor with unusual looks. You would normally expect anyone aware that they had such extraordinary features to be a bit more reticent.

Kizu was silent and the young man went on. "I'm not a Christian either.

But ever since I was a child, the book of Jonah has bothered me."

"Since you've read my children's book it's obvious to you," Kizu said, "that I made the book of Jonah the centerpiece of the project."

"If I went to a church," the young man went on, "I'm sure I could hear a detailed explanation, but I don't get on well with clergy, so I've never found an answer to my concerns."

"Maybe it's not my place to ask, but what exactly are these concerns?"

Kizu didn't ask this expecting any specific answer to issue from the youth's somewhat cruel-looking mouth, but the young man responded eagerly, as if he'd been waiting for the chance.

"I don't know, I just feel anxious, wondering if the book of Jonah really ends where it does. I know it's a childish question, but I can't help wonder- ing if the Jonah we have now is complete, or whether it might originally have had a different ending."

"That's an interesting point," Kizu remarked. "Now that you mention it, I've felt somewhat the same, as if it's vague and doesn't go anywhere."

Cutting to the chase, the young man said, "Would it be possible, Pro- fessor, for me to come over to your home to hear more about this? The club office manager told me you have American citizenship and are living in extraterritorial, non-Japanese housing."

It's not extraterritorial; I'm not a diplomat. But if you're interested in the book of Jonah, I do have a few reference works, and I'd be happy to show them to you. I'm here at the club on Tuesdays and Fridays, but most other afternoons I'm free. Tell the office I said it's all right for you to get my address and phone number."

The young man was clearly elated by the news.

"I'm sorry to be so forward; you must think I'm pushy. I'll phone you later this week."

The sauna wasn't especially hot, but Kizu had reached his limit and decided to leave. He made his way around the heat source in the center of the room, pushed the unpainted door open, and went outside. Through the heat- resistant glass his eyes met those of the young man, who was leaning in his direction as if bowing. A faint smile came to Kizu's face, and he looked down and descended to the swimming pool.

2

The reader already knows why Kizu, teaching in the art department of an American East Coast university, decided to take a sabbatical in Tokyo. The same reason accounts for his not planning a terribly strenuous schedule dur- ing his sabbatical year. The university provided housing for him in an apart- ment building that had been acquired during the Occupation, changed management several times, was rebuilt, but continued to be owned by the university. The building was not solely for the use of faculty sent by Kizu's university-Japanologists from other universities were housed there as well- but as a faculty member from the home institution, Kizu had been given priority and provided with an apartment on the top floor, a two-bedroom apartment with four rooms altogether. He made the spacious living room and dining-kitchen into one large room, setting up beyond his dining table a space that became his studio. Between these he placed a sofa and armchair, and this became the spot where he spent most of his time.

Three days later, in the morning, the young man phoned, but Kizu was con- fused for a few moments, unable to recall who he was when he gave his name.

At the athletic club, though the way he spoke and the topics he talked about were intelligent enough, one couldn't separate his voice from the forceful physicality of his brawny features. On the phone, though, his voice came across as gentle and clear.

Once the young man was in the apartment, Kizu had him sit on the sofa that formed the boundary of the studio, and he sat down on the matching arm- chair, next to which was a table on which he'd placed the reference materials.

Ikuo-the young man's name-was dressed in jeans, T-shirt, and a cotton shirt with rolled-up sleeves over it; dressed, he looked much younger than when he'd been nude in the drying room. From Ikuo's unease as soon as he entered the apartment, though, Kizu had the feeling that these nondescript clothes were not his usual style and the young man felt ill at ease in this plebeian setting.

After Ikuo began coming to Kizu's place to model for him, he explained why, on this first day, he had gazed so intently at everything around him in the apartment. The ceilings, he said, were much higher than those in his own place in Tokyo. Not just the inside of the apartment, but the elevator area and the first-floor lobby with the residents' mailboxes were larger and had a rough- hewn no-nonsense look to them. Listening to Ikuo explain his sense of in- congruity with the surroundings, Kizu understood why, in contrast, he had felt so quickly at home. The apartment was an exact replica of the faculty housing in New Jersey he'd lived in as a new instructor for seven or eight years.

With Ikuo posing questions, Kizu showed him the research materials he'd promised and talked about what he'd learned about the book of Jonah while doing research for the children's books on the Old Testament.

"These are notes I copied from a translation of a book by someone named J. M. Meyers," Kizu said. "Meyers says that Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and a very large place, though saying that 'It took three days to go all around the city' has to be an exaggeration. Still, it's estimated that the population was 174,000. The Bible says, 'There were more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.' I realized that apart from the livestock the focus is on the children. Experts probably don't make much of this, however. In short, what God feels most sad about are the children and the livestock-the innocent. After all, the ones who have sinned are the adults.

"One other point Meyers makes is that the citizens of Nineveh are Gen- tiles. According to the words of God that Jonah conveyed, what stopped God from destroying the people of Nineveh was that these Gentiles truly repented.

Meyers says this must have been quite a shock to the Israelites, who were con- vinced they were the chosen people. The problem was, these chosen people were obstinate, while the people of Nineveh were obedient.

"The town of Tarshish that Jonah set sail for from Joppa was a port in Sardinia with a huge blast furnace-probably the farthest destination for any ship from Palestine. So Jonah was on a ship carrying steel or steel products.

Jonah thought that God's power extended only as far as the borders of the land of Israel. That makes sense, right? The storm hits the ship, and only Jonah is unperturbed. 'How can you sleep?' the captain wonders. But it's no wonder Jonah can sleep soundly. Gentiles might not understand it, but Jonah is convinced he's escaped God's wrath, which makes any storm look like the Proverbial tempest in a teacup.

"After this comes the part where he's thrown into the sea, enters the stomach of the whale, and finally goes to Nineveh. Then God's wrath is ex- plained, and it all ends, with Meyers commenting that Jonah 'wanted to re- strict God and his saving love to himself and his people. Jonah thought he had failed and would be the object of ridicule.'"

"The part about the children is interesting, isn't it," Ikuo replied in a dreamy voice, a voice etched in Kizu's memory of this first day. "This might be off the subject, but what a terrible thing it must have been to destroy the whole city of Nineveh. For us now, mightn't it be equivalent to destroying a city the size of Tokyo?"

They didn't take this thought any further. Kizu didn't have any reason to empathize with the young man's vision of the destruction of the entire population of a city like Tokyo. And from this commentary on the book of Jonah alone, he couldn't answer the question put to him in the drying room about whether the story of Jonah in the Bible is actually the whole story.

Ikuo quickly detected Kizu's confusion and neatly changed the sub- ject. Ikuo walked around the studio, looking at the sketches and oil paint- ings Kizu had begun now that he was painting again. He was clearly pleased to see the same distinctive style as that in the children's book; the color of the original paintings, he commented, is so much brighter, and looks like the use of color you find in modern American paintings. Kizu found these comments right on target. It was during this time that Ikuo proposed that if Kizu needed a nude male model he'd be happy if he'd hire him; while he was painting, Ikuo could learn more from Kizu-two birds with one stone and all that.

This decided, Kizu saw Ikuo out. This young man, he mused, might very well have already had the idea of posing in mind before he came to visit.

Still, Kizu found the same sort of faint smile he had outside the drying room once again rising to his lips.

That weekend Kizu woke up while it was still dark out. He noticed some- thing about the way he held his body in bed. Probably because he felt the cancer had spread to his liver, these days he always slept with his left elbow as a pil- low. It was a position based on a distant memory, a memory of himself at sev- enteen or eighteen, in the valley in the forest where he was born and raised, lying on the slope of a low hill. Sometimes this vision of himself appeared in dreams as a richly colored reality, Kizu seeing this as his own figure in the eternal present. And in the predawn darkness, in a dream just before waking, he returned to his eternal present body.

Kizu was at the point where his hair, to use the American expression, was salt and pepper, yet his mental image of himself was always that of this seventeen- or eighteen-year-old. Emotionally, he knew he hadn't changed much from his teen years. He was aware, quite graphically, of a grotesque disjuncture within him, a man with an over-fifty-year-old body attached to the emotions of a teenager. Kizu recalled the thirteenth canto of Dante's Inferno, the scene in which a soul on the threshold of old age picks up its own body as a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old and hangs it from some brambles.

Beginning a week later, Ikuo began posing to help Kizu with a series of tab- leaus he'd only vaguely conceived. As he drew, Kizu, influenced by what Ikuo had said that first day, lectured as he used to do in classrooms-though of course in American universities if a professor did all the talking he'd receive a terrible evaluation from the students at the end of the semester. Sometimes Kizu would respond promptly to the questions Ikuo asked as he posed; other times he gave himself until the following week to answer. Kizu recalled in particular one question from early in their sessions.

"Last time," Kizu said, "you asked me what it means for a person to be free. I think I struggled with the same question when I was young. So I gave it some thought. An anecdote I once read about a painter came to mind.

"In order to give you an idea of how I understand it, I need to give you another example, not from some book I read but a quote I heard from a col- league of mine who teaches philosophy, which is: A circle in nature and the concept of a circle within God are the same, they just manifest themselves differently.

"The anecdote took place during the Renaissance, when an official in charge of choosing an artist to paint a mammoth fresco requested one par- ticular artist (an artist I was quite taken with when I was young) to submit a work that best displayed his talents. The response of the artist-which be- came famous-was to submit a single circle he had drawn.

An artist draws a circle with a pencil. And that circle fits perfectly with the concept of a circle that resides within God. The person who can accom- plish this is a free man. In order to arrive at that state of freedom, he has had to polish his artistry through countless paintings. It was as if my own life work 1 had dreamed about was contained in this. When I was young, I mean."

Ikuo continued to hold his pose, gazing at the space in front of him, lis- tening attentively, his expression unchanged, his rugged features reminding Kizu of Blake's portrait of a youthful Los, likened to the sun-Kizu feeling he was brushing away with his crayon the shadows of Blake's colored block prints that shaded Ikuo's nude body.

Ikuo was silent until their next break. "I've been thinking about some- thing very similar to what you said, Professor. People say young children are free. Okay, but if you get even a little self-conscious you can't act freely, even though you might have been able to a few years before. When I was no longer a child, I fantasized about a freedom I could attain. And not just talking about it like this, either… "I've been thinking about Jonah, too. He tried to run away from God but couldn't. He learned this the hard way, almost dying in the process. Made me think how much the inside of a whale's stomach must stink!" Kizu couldn't keep from smiling faintly.

"Finally he gave up and decided to follow God's orders. Once he made that decision he stuck to his guns. Jonah complained to God that he'd changed his original plan. Aren't you supposed to finish what you first decided to do? he implored. Isn't the way Jonah acted exactly the way a free person is sup- posed to act? Of course it's God who makes this freedom possible-and cor- rect me if I'm wrong-but if God doesn't take into account the freedom to object to what He wants, how can He know what true unlimited freedom is?

That's why I'd like to read what happens next in the book ol Jonah."

Instead of a reply, a faint smile on Kizu's face showed he understood what the young man meant.

3

It was the beginning of autumn in Tokyo. Near the faculty housing where Kizu had lived in New Jersey, there was a so-called lake, actually a long muddy creek used for rowing practice, and every year as autumn arrived he used to hear from the far shore of the lake a cicadalike call; his African room- mate, an art history major, insisted it was a bird. Now in his Tokyo apart- ment he could see a mammoth nire tree that stood about five yards from his south-facing terrace. The soft broad rounded leaves reminded him of the stand of trees that lined the campus grounds back in New Jersey; he guessed it was a type of elm. He didn't stop to think that elms in Japan are, indeed, classi- fied as nire. The first time Ikuo had removed all his clothes to pose nude, he looked off at the far-off buildings through the leafy branches of the tree and remarked, "That amadamo screens us well here, though it won't after the leaves fall."

"Akadamo? "

"That's the name I heard it called when I was wandering around Hokkaido," Ikuo replied. "Most people call it a harunire-a wych elm-but it's different. I imagine it'll be blossoming soon. You can tell it from a wych elm by when it blooms, according to what my father told me…"

Ikuo's face, reminding Kizu of a carnivore's snout, was soon lost in rev- erie; Kizu too was lost in thought. Ikuo hadn't had any contact with his fam- ily in a long time and had never said anything about the home he grew up in.

His face was so unusual that Kizu felt sure Ikuo must have had a comical appeal when he was a boy and been a favorite in his family. After he grew up and began wandering in Hokkaido and elsewhere around the country, his family surely must have felt a profound sense of loss.

The wych elm near his terrace began to take on erotic connotations for Kizu. One morning, his gaze was drawn to the lush foliage of the tree, for it was swaying and shaking with unusual force. Soon he saw a pair of squirrels leaping about on a bare branch, disappearing in the shadows, their power concentrated in the base of their thick tails. Kizu could sense that the squir- rels were preoccupied with mating, and as their movements made the leaves shake exaggeratedly he felt familiar stirrings deep in his loins. Kizu could imagine, in the deep green shadows of the tree, Ikuo's slim waist, the muscles of his butt underneath the tough outer layer of skin softly expanding and contracting. For the first time in quite a while, Kizu's penis grew almost pain- fully erect.

As Kizu watched, the swelling peacefully subsided. He was lying naked, sunbathing opposite the wych elm, whose foliage covered a broad expanse. It was 9 A.M., and Kizu had spent an hour in the light of the sun, now behind the wych elm's branches. He'd spread a bed cover on the terrace floor and was lying down, his legs spread wide toward the window. This was his new habit, a sentimental yet possibly effective way to warm the insides of his cancer- ravaged body.

Today, though, with his abdomen bare in the sunlight, his pose called to mind a baby having his diapers changed. And an even more laughable image occurred to him: a racial memory, if you can call it that, of long ago, when he existed as genetic material in a monkey, and that monkey-him- self-was presenting his anus to the sun. Even within this gentle sunbath- ing, then, sexual yearnings brewed and bubbled… Before long, in the shadows of the wych elm, this time much closer to the terrace, a much more explicitly erotic movement began. On this canvas made up of the shadings of green and gentle waves, Kizu stretched out an imaginary pencil and traced the line of Ikuo's body, thighs slightly spread, from his waist to his rump viewed diagonally from behind. Once again he felt a rush of heated blood spread from his abdomen to his waist, his penis became rigid, and he began fondling his genitals with his left hand while sketching in the air. When he ejaculated, Kizu heard a powerful sigh-his own-calling out, "Ikuo, Ikuo! Ah-Ikuo!"

Kizu now knew what it was he'd been seeking from Ikuo ever since that day in the club's drying room. A man in his fifties only now awakening to the fact that he was gay, he realized that what he wanted was simply to have sex with this young man with the strong beautiful body.

After this Kizu eagerly anticipated the days when Ikuo posed for him.

Many a session passed, though, with nothing out of the ordinary happening.

When he was alone, Kizu had no idea how to make his daydreams a reality, and Ikuo, oblivious to Kizu's desires, said things that were painful for him to hear.

"Sometimes this studio smells like a bachelor my own age is living here!"

Ikuo said one day. "I blushed when I was modeling 'cause I thought it was because I hadn't bathed in a couple of days! I haven't been to the pool either, for a while."

Kizu wasn't embarrassed, but he did feel confused about his masturba- tion, a habit now revived after a long dormancy.

Ikuo also said to Kizu, and not as mere flattery, "They say when artists create they get younger-and in your case it's true!"

4

It was a dark day, as dark as if the sun had already set, the wind gusting out of the north. The hygiene cure, a dated term that made him wince-his sunbathing, in other words-which Kizu had continued entirely on his own since the middle of July, was out of the question on a day like this. The glass door was cold against his forehead as he gazed at the shadowy leaves of the wych elm rustling in the wind. The leaves were dry and dull, their under- sides, exposed when the wind curled them up, even more dry and whitish.

Until now, the only yellowish leaves he'd seen were those on branches bro- ken by the wind or by squirrels, but now there were clumps of lemon-colored leaves on several more recessed branches. Kizu spent the morning, till past noon, in a state of agitation. Ikuo was supposed to come in the morning, but he didn't show up. Two weeks before, on a Monday, he'd called and said he couldn't model that day. Thursday came, and again he didn't show up, this time not even phoning. The same thing happened both days the following week. On this particular day Kizu phoned the athletic club and was told that Ikuo wasn't out sick, in fact was at that very moment teaching an adult class.

Kizu said to tell Ikuo he'd called.

Finally, on a sunny Thursday morning, Ikuo appeared at his door, with- out giving any explanation for having taken two and a half weeks off. His reticence wasn't the result of some self-centered insecurity, but a willful de- cision to keep what he wanted to say within him, a stance that made Kizu all the more concerned. To top this off, something about Ikuo's nude body seemed unfamiliar. As artists are wont to do, Kizu looked at him intently as if he were listening to some strange sound. In contrast to his attitude when he came into the apartment, Ikuo was now quick to react. With the luxuriant foliage of the wych elm behind his right shoulder as he posed, the strong sun- light, which they hadn't seen in a while, above him, Ikuo kneaded the tight skin around his washboard abdomen.

"These past two weeks I've been training like crazy," he said. "Coach- ing recreational swimmers doesn't keep me in shape. My stomach's gotten pretty buff, but I'm worried the lines won't be the same as the last time I modeled."

"That's not a problem," Kizu replied. "Right now I'm concentrating on the swell of the shoulders. Your whole body does look quite toned."

Still seeming concerned, Ikuo kneaded the flesh of his abdomen, pull- ing it toward his navel. The movement pulled his soft but heavy penis away from his thick pubic hair and over toward his thigh.

Feeling Kizu's gaze, Ikuo fidgeted the muscles of his buttocks and tried, without success, to hide his genitals in the shadow of his thick thigh. Soon his penis started curving to the right, pointing toward the wych elm outside the glass door as it swelled to life. This was different from Kizu's recent erec- tions, reminding him of the uncontrollable, autonomous erections of his younger days.

Finally, Ikuo relaxed his pose and covered his penis with both hands, decisively turning a stern but blushing face to Kizu and looking straight at him for the first time that day.

"Actually, there's something I need to talk with you about," Ikuo said, and thinking about it got all these personal emotions welling up. And now look what's happened. You'll have to pardon my confusion. Calling h per- sonal emotions might sound a little strange, but you've taught me so many things. Sometimes I can't believe how kind you've been to me. These past few months I've felt less lonely than I have for years. I know it'll seem ungrateful, but I've given it a lot of thought and I've decided to quit my job in Tokyo.

When we first met in the pool drying room I was already thinking of doing this. I've worked there a full two years already. Fortunately, that allowed me to meet you, to get this modeling job, and to be able to study with you. I'm thankful, but if I just continue as a swimming coach, I'm never going to be able to solve any of the problems I'm facing-problems connected with what we were talking about last time, about being a free person.

"So the past two weeks I've been training like crazy and doing some thinking, and I came to the conclusion that I've got to leave. Yesterday I sub- mitted my resignation to the athletic club. Since I didn't give them two weeks' notice I won't be getting any severance pay, though."

Kizu felt as if the cells of his body were being surrounded by an over- whelming force of invaders, and he was choked by a visceral sense of grief.

At the same time he was convinced that this is how people are abandoned.

Now that he'd reached his fifties, he wondered, confused, was this all life had in store for him?

"Well," he said, "you're an independent spirit. I never imagined you'd be a swimming instructor for the rest of your life, let alone an artist's model.

Wanting to set off for somewhere is perfectly natural. Though it does make me wistful, I guess you'd say, or regretful."

As he said this, Kizu heard ill will mixed in with the sound of his pump- ing blood. Ikuo turned fervent eyes toward him, and with one totally unex- pected question, laid bare all of Kizu's recent fantasies.

"Professor, are you gay? Sometimes I've wondered whether you've been kind to me just to try to have a relationship with me, and whether the whole thing might not end with me having to beat the crap out of you. But I don't have those hostile feelings anymore, and, since this is the last time, if you'd like to do some kind of gay thing to me, I wouldn't hate you or anything.

That's what I was thinking about, and-well, you can see the result."

Kizu was struck by an unexpected emotion: This must be what they used to call heartrending grief, he thought. He stood up. Ikuo reacted defensively by protecting his genitals with his cupped hands. His pride wounded, Kizu said in a parched voice, nearly shouting, "That's not what's going on here! I don't know anything about homosexuality; I don't have any experience with it. Still, you have a beautiful body, and I do feel some sort of urges. I haven't been planning anything, but sadly, I do feel a kind of yearning. Maybe it's that time in my life. I don't know.

"This may sound like sour grapes, but why do you have to leave? Are you sure you'll never come back here again? Can't you seek your goal of being free together with me?"

Kizu fairly groaned this out. Not knowing how to continue, he collapsed in his chair, burying his face in his hands. He was crying. Through the spaces between his fingers, he could see Ikuo get down from the dais he'd been posing on, pressing down with one hand the bounding movements of his penis as he walked over to stand uncertainly in front of him, his waist slightly jutted for- ward. Kizu took himself by surprise, releasing his tear-stained hands to grasp Ikuo's buttocks, aiming for the anarchically moving penis and grasping it in his mouth. He opened his mouth wide, taking care not to hurt it with his false teeth, unsure how much pressure he could apply, getting the energetic penis to come to rest against his upper palate, wrapping his tongue around it as Ikuo held his head tightly with both hands.

Kizu acted like some old veteran, and when Ikuo ejaculated for what seemed like forever, Kizu couldn't have been happier. He let go his fingers from where they'd dug into the muscle and dimples on Ikuo's rump, and Ikuo's penis, still too large to be held in one hand, hung down next to Kizu's lips. Ikuo asked, vaguely, if there was some way he could repay him for all his kindness. Kizu gently shook his head, hoping to show that this was enough, and wiped away the excess semen dripping from the corners of his mouth with the back of his hand.

Kizu and Ikuo lay down side by side on wicker lounge chairs, the Vene- tian blinds half drawn to shut out the intense sunlight as they gazed up at the brilliant outline of the leaves of the wych elm against the cloudless autumn sky. They discussed how they would live now in Tokyo, after Ikuo quit his athletic club job and continued as Kizu's model. They decided not to make any quick decisions about the details. Occasionally they fell silent, simply enjoying the feeling of closeness. Ikuo was stretched out fully beside Kizu, who reached out to trace with his fingernails the circuit-board design of the skin-skin like the finest paper-on Ikuo's concave belly. Ikuo gazed down at this as if he were watching a drawing develop. Kizu saw how the move- ment of his fingernails made Ikuo's penis rub against his thigh. The head of the penis was dry, with fine reddish wrinkles, but looked wet. Embarrassed because it was starting to glisten again, Ikuo covered it with his dark shiny palm, and Kizu laid his own wrinkled palm on top.

Kizu dozed for a while and then awoke, as if his consciousness had been speared by a gaff, to see Ikuo still stretched out beside him. Ikuo's muscular shoulders-their layers like seams of armor-and his waist and buttocks were covered with droplets of sweat. Kizu raised himself up, choking with excite- ment, picked up the tissue paper box from the side table, and, lying so close to Ikuo he could teel the warmth of his body, began to masturbate. As he ejacu- lated a small amount of semen into the tissue, a light brownish color mixed, r›, Ikuo, whom he thought was asleep, reached over without moving to lay a sweaty hand on the artist's wizened thigh. Eyes closed, Ikuo shifted around, trapped Kizu's weak-looking body in his strong arms, and lovingly kissed Kizu's shoulders. Kizu guessed it was a gesture to assuage his guilty conscience at not wanting to fellate him. But Ikuo's face, close up as he gently kissed Kizu, showed a rapturous satisfaction.

5

Kizu spread out on the floor the drawings he'd done for his as-yet still inchoate tableau with Ikuo modeling for him; Ikuo, Kizu's worn-out dress- ing gown draped over his naked body, came over close to him to stare intently at one drawing in particular, a design Kizu had done on a separate sheet of paper and then attached to the bottom of one of the sketches of Ikuo. After a moment, uneasy, Kizu looked up and saw that, as often happened when he was concentrating on something, Ikuo had the clever, severe expression of a hawk or a falcon. He spoke in dreamy voice, his eyes glazed.

"A strange thought occurred to me that I've experienced this before. I can't really remember, but something in my childhood…"

At first Kizu was startled. Around the time he determined he had had a relapse of cancer, he decided to take his sabbatical in Japan in order to search for that young man from long ago. When this desire had been at its height, he'd even drawn up a sort of wanted-poster sketch of the boy's plastic model under the girl's skirt. Now, without any particular idea in mind, he'd attached this sketch to the drawing he'd done of Ikuo. Kizu looked at this, then turned his gaze to the real Ikuo beside him. Memories of fifteen years before sud- denly zoomed in, and in an instant he saw in Ikuo the fierce canine face and beautiful eyes of that young boy. Once he realized this, Kizu also understood how, ever since they'd first met in the drying room at the club, a voice had been nagging at him, berating him for not seeing the obvious.

In the midst of their now exultant conversation, Kizu laughed out loud a lew times, while Ikuo fell into deep thought. Ikuo had arrived in the morn- ing and didn't leave until sunset; in the afternoon, a powerful cloud bank blew in from the southeast, forming into cirrus clouds with a reddish lower layer.

Reflecting back on how full these hours had been, Kizu felt that everything that had happened to him over the past two or three weeks was a godsend.

"You've really captured that scene well in your sketch," Ikuo had said repeatedly, unable to contain himself. "I don't have any memory of how I actually appeared as a child myself, but this scene of the bulky model I busted my butt to make getting caught in that girl's skirt, and her comically trying to keep her balance, is exactly as I remember it. And her little angry face glar- ing back at me-her whole pose seemed to be making fun of me."

"I can't forget it either, even a mediocre painter like myself, " Kizu said, remembering how it was seeing that scene that convinced him he didn't have any talent.

"I've been self-consciously drawing since I was fourteen or fifteen, and even allowing for the time when I didn't paint, living as an artist has become- to use the expression you've used several times-an ingrained habit. You sketch on paper, synchronizing the speed of your hand movements, so that even if you aren't holding a pencil you retain the scenery, objects, and people in a purely visual memory."

Ikuo listened carefully to Kizu's excited words, at the same time star- ing entranced at the drawing of the young girl balancing strangely on one leg.

Kizu came back to reality.

"I know where this young girl is now," he said. "The newspaper com- pany told me. I even phoned once, trying to check it out on my own."

"What did she sound like?"

"As you might expect, she's a unique young woman. There's a certainty in her voice, the way she talks, that you don't find in young Japanese girls these days. And when I remember how she clutched your model, trying her hard- est not to lose her balance and let it fall, she's definitely not an average sort of girl. I don't have many memories as clear as that one. It's not just because of her, but she holds a treasured spot in my mind-along with the memory of the light I saw in a very special young boy who destroyed his own creation."

"Up to that age I was just an ordinary child," Ikuo said slowly, still lost in his own memories. "I was crazy about making all kinds of models, from preformed plastic pieces or from pieces of wood I carved with a knife; some- times I'd go for days with hardly any sleep. Constantly making something made me feel like I was telling a story in words.

"What I remember is that the girl was a strange one. When she got caught up by the model it was like she was challenging me. I remember hat- ing her because I lost the chance to win the top prize and get a free trip to Disneyland in California."

But now aren't you a little nostalgic when it comes to her?" Kizu asked excitedly. "You want to start a new life, right? Aside from the question of being a free man, this might be a good opportunity for you. Think about it.

11 s pretty extraordinary for that one day in the past to come back to life at a single stroke for three people. Why don't we invite her for dinner? Consid- ering the dramatic way you two first met, how could she pass up the chance f°r a reunion? We can use this sketch as a thank-you present."

3: SOMERSAULT

1

The young girl, who fifteen years before had been pierced by Ikuo's plastic model and yet managed painfully to maintain her balance, was now of course a grown woman, and when Kizu's invitation came she readily ac- cepted. Kizu was overjoyed to hear her say that after his first phone call to her she had remembered everything that happened on that long-ago day. She hastened to add that she was working now in the office of a religious move- ment and wouldn't be able to spare much time. She asked if they could meet during her lunch break, near the Seijo Gakuenmae Station, not far from her office.

The way she responded was so typical of this new generation of Japa- nese, Kizu mused, for when he invited her out for a meal she immediately asked if she could go ahead and make a reservation in a French restaurant she knew. They decided on a date and time, and the next day a fax arrived for Kizu with a map indicating landmarks such as an old Catholic church and the route the buses take to Shibuya, as well as a photo of the restaurant itself, an old-style former Japanese residence with a large zelkova tree in front.

On Friday the three of them settled into their seats at the restaurant under a clear plastic roof and the lush foliage of the zelkova branches. The young woman sat by the window on one side, with Kizu seated across from her and Ikuo by his side.

"The way I remember you," Kizu said to her, unwrapping the sketch from its cardboard cover, "is shown in this sketch, but I can still see traces of the young girl in you."

The young woman, glistening chestnut hair cascading past her shoul- ders, gazed at the sketch, her mouth exactly as Ikuo remembered it, lips slightly parted. She straightened her thin cylindrical neck and looked at Ikuo.

"As soon as we met today," she said, "I knew you were that frightening young boy. I remember you very well."

Ikuo was overwhelmed, and Kizu interceded.

"Ikuo's looks were definitely special from the time he was in grade school.

When I met him again for the first time in fifteen years, it took me a while to recognize him, though subconsciously I think I was aware of who he was."

Ikuo, blushing, turned his face from both of them. Kizu was reminded of the head of a young bull. The young woman, too, seemed to enjoy looking at him. The waiter came to tell them the lunch specials, and Kizu, constantly amazed at the high prices of wine in Tokyo, studied the wine list and ordered a California brand.

"I know you were a member of the ballet team that was going to per- form at the awards ceremony," Kizu said, "and I understand, from what some- one at the newspaper told me, that you're still involved in dance."

"I study under a teacher in India, but I'm only able to go once a year for five weeks. I've given a few recitals in Tokyo, but mainly I'm just doing it for my own amusement."

"Then how do you know when you're making progress?" Ikuo asked, his large eyes fixed on her face.

Kizu was astonished at the unexpected question, but the young woman was unfazed. It had been sprinkling when they entered the restaurant, and now the rain was coming down hard on the zelkova.

The young woman looked up at the water dripping off the clear roof.

"It's true my dance teacher lives far away," she said, "but right next to me I have two teachers who instruct me in much more important things. They're kind enough to make time each day to talk with me, though one of them is sick right now… I'm sure you heard from the reporter about the people I work for now, Patron and Guide?"

Shedi rected this question to Kizu. He nodded. The waiter poured him a glass of Napa Valley white wine, a type he'd often had in America, and turned a curious look at the young woman when she mentioned these un- usual names. Ikuo, face red, shot him an intentionally cruel, violent look that rnade Kizu shudder when he imagined the potential for violence underlying his own relationship with Ikuo these past two months. However, the one who most clearly felt the danger inherent here was the waiter, Ikuo's contempo- rary; after he finished pouring the wine he scurried off as if he had a sail attached to him and the wind at his back.

Only the young woman seemed unperturbed. She must have sensed the unusual roughness in Ikuo and seen the way the waiter acted, like a beaten dog with his tail between his legs, yet she didn't flinch or even seem tense.

"The names Patron and Guide are a little unusual," she said calmly, "and people who don't know about the incident they were involved in tend not to want to have anything to do with them. People who actually meet them, though, find them quite extraordinary. To give you an example, my Indian dance teacher doesn't dance himself anymore, but once he accompanied a dance troupe he used to choreograph, a troupe that's become one of the main- stays of Indian dance, on a trip to Japan. I'd been going to his dance seminar in Madras since I was in high school, and my teacher was worried when he heard I wasn't studying under a dance teacher here but was living with these religious leaders. When he came to see Patron, Guide, and me at our place, though, he was impressed."

"By Patron?" Ikuo asked, his face no longer red.

"By both of them. He said that in Indian mythology there's a duo much like them."

"You mean playing the roles of Patron and Guide?"

"Not exactly. I think he meant their faces, bodies, the way they talk and move and walk. The combination of the two of them."

"Since your teacher's a dance teacher then, he can perceive the secrets hidden behind physical movement?"

"Physical expression, you might call it," the young woman answered.

"He can detect the inner being of people by how they move. He showed a lot of respect for Patron and Guide and even danced for them in the annex they built for me to practice dance in. The teacher's students, the musicians who accompanied him, were quite bowled over. They hadn't seen him dance for ages."

"Did those students accompany him?" Kizu asked. "Maybe they had some premonition that he was going to dance."

"When I saw that they'd brought their instruments, I had a feeling that maybe he would dance. I mean, what with meeting Patron and Guide and all. Maybe he sensed this and had his students prepare for it."

Several varieties of intricate dessertlike hors d'oeuvres were brought to their table. Ikuo polished off one dish in a single bite and turned to the next.

The young woman possessed a healthy appetite too, assimilating the fuel she needed like an automatic machine.

Next they were served foie gras topped by a dark wine-colored sauce.

The waiter had made a point of emphasizing that it was flown in from France.

Ikuo gobbled his up quickly, and Kizu transferred his own to Ikuo's plate, eating instead some warmed vegetables he'd covered with the sauce. The young woman gazed at this, her mouth slightly open in what seemed to be her usual expression as she pondered things.

"I don't like Patron eating rich foods either," she said.

After this, they ate the final dish in silence-a moose steak that, by chance, they had all ordered from the two choices on the menu. Kizu followed the young people's lead. Ikuo must have been mulling over things to say while they ate, for just as they began their after-dinner coffees he burst out again with an unexpected question.

"The names Patron and Guide-have they used these names ever since they first started the church?"

"I don't think so," she answered. "In the church they used others."

"So even though they left the church they still maintain the ties they made to it and use those names. In other words, the game continues?"

The young woman took her coffee cup from her still slightly parted lips and returned it to the saucer. She stared fixedly at Ikuo. Kizu found it hard to separate his imagination from his memory of events, but he was sure that fifteen years before he'd seen the same look in her eyes.

"It's not a game," she said. "If you define a game as play, something done for fun, then no, these two men weren't playing a game these past ten years- they suffered too much for that. True, they left the church, and Patron is as we speak planning to begin a new movement. And Guide's collapse has been a major shock to him… Anyhow, to start a religious movement you need a committed core of followers. We're that first core of people now who are committed to Patron. Do you really imagine such a small group has the lei- sure to play games?"

What kind of teacher of mankind will Patron be in this new move- ment? And where will Guide lead humanity?"

"The world is on a path to destruction," the young woman said. "Patron is planning to be mankind's teacher in these perilous times. And Guide, assuming he recovers, will be his right-hand man. They've suffered the past ten years in order to discover this new way… Now it's my turn to ask a question. You asked what roles Patron and Guide will play in this new movement. Why did you want to know this? Or is this just your own game to pass the time while we're eating?"

Ikuo turned red again but spoke with conviction. "I've been living my whole life with the idea that the end of the world isn't that far off," he said, and I always wanted to be there to experience it. So why is it strange for some- one like me to be interested in what the Patron and Guide of mankind are planning to do?"

"It's true," Kizu broke in. "He has been thinking about the end of the world for a long while. Remember, he's the child who destroyed the plastic model of a megalopolis he'd so carefully constructed. After he smashed that model to bits, isn't it understandable for him to have a vision of the destruc- tion of Tokyo? Though I suppose you could label that just a child's game."

"I'm sure it wasn't a game," the young woman answered Kizu, "since any kind of event-once it takes place in reality-leaves traces behind, espe- cially with children." He found himself staring at her waxlike ears as she turned and focused on Ikuo. "I understand you gave a lot of thought to the end of the world, but have you ever belonged to any group that actually dwells on the end time? Any Christian denominations, for example?"

"I've put out a few feelers."

"What to do you mean by that?" she retorted.

"I mean I don't belong to any religious group now, but that doesn't mean I haven't tried out a few."

Kizu expected the young woman to feel rebuffed and pursue the matter more, but she didn't. Instead she looked at Ikuo with interest and said calmly, "I'd say you didn't meet me again just out of nostalgia for something that happened fifteen years ago. I think you're seriously checking out Patron and Guide. How about visiting our office as a next step? Meeting Guide's out of the question now, but I'd be happy to introduce you to Patron. I know I'm repeating myself, but he's gone through so many trying experiences that I can't be too careful."

2

Ikuo and Kizu stood under the eaves of the restaurant, the zelkova tree dripping copiously, and said goodbye to the girl. She flipped open her um- brella, and the two men ran out into the pouring rain and made a dash for the nearby parking lot. If Kizu had been alone he would have had one of the waiters bring his car around, but he decided to keep pace with his young companion's way of doing things.

"It seems to me that having a religious leader's office in a residential area like this might make the residents upset enough to force him out- not the old-time residents, maybe, but the nouveau riche. But she seems pretty carefree."

Ikuo said this as they drove past a crowded intersection, hemmed in by a bank on one side and a train station on the other, and caught sight of the girl and her practiced dancer's gait.

"Maybe it's because they're not holding any religious activities there now," Kizu speculated. "She said they were in the planning stages of a new movement. When this so-called Patron and Guide were involved in the scan- dal where they apostatized, they did have their headquarters downtown, as I recall. I remember reading about it in The New York Times. After they re- nounced their faith they must have wanted a quiet place to live. They call it an office, but apparently it's also their residence."

Two days before-to the kidding of his apartment's super, who chided him for his pointless faithfulness to the American economy-Kizu had pur- chased a brand-new Ford Mustang, the same car he drove in the States, and had promised to let Ikuo do the driving, but since he wasn't used to a steer- ing wheel on the left, today Kizu took the wheel. Besides, Kizu figured that part of Ikuo's forwardness at lunch was the wine talking.

As they headed toward Shibuya, Kizu asked Ikuo about something he hadn't quite understood during his conversation with the girl.

"As I explained earlier, Ikuo, I really do believe you've been thinking about the end of the world ever since you were a child. And that what hap- pened fifteen years ago is not unrelated to that.

"What strikes me as odd, though, is that you don't seem to recall much about the Somersault incident ten years ago. I read about it in the papers in the United States, so it must have been big news in Japan. The Times said it was widely reported on Japanese TV, and that Patron's remarks on televi- sion also played a major role."

"At the time it was called the Church of the Savior and the Prophet,"

Ikuo said. "I realized today when I was talking with that girl that I heard about it through the media."

"Then why didn't you put out feelers, as you put it, to that church?

Because it wasn't that well known before the leaders' renunciation?"

"For me, at least, it wasn't," Ikuo said. "I first heard of it when the lead- ers publicly announced they weren't saviors or prophets after all, and every- thing they'd preached was a bunch of bull. I watched the reports afterward that made fun of them and just felt contempt for people who'd do what they did. I really wanted to know what mankind should do, faced with the end of the world, and-I don't know-perhaps I felt betrayed."

Kizu glanced at Ikuo's face. His tone of voice indeed contained a hint of a grudge.

So what about the young lady? Seeing her after fifteen years-"I was surprised she was just as I remembered her," Ikuo said, his voice now calm. "It was like looking at your painting; her eyes were still like faded India ink, her mouth still open as if that were the correct way to breathe."

"Ha! She does seem to like to keep her mouth open, doesn't she. And her eyes!" Kizu said, as if ever the artist, continuing the sketch. "When they look at you they turn even darker."

"I also had a feeling of déjà vu, as if I knew exactly how she would turn out when she grew up."

Kizu understood exactly what he meant. Déjà vu neatly summed up his own feelings when he met Ikuo again and discovered he was the young boy from so long ago.

"She's definitely unique, isn't she?" Kizu said. "I knew that the first time we talked on the phone. Her job-her lifestyle choice, I guess you'd say-is pretty extraordinary, too."

"Do you think she believes in the new teachings of that old leader who did a Somersault?" Ikuo asked. "For the sake of her dance, even though he hasn't restarted his religious movement yet?"

"Are you going to accept her challenge and go meet this Patron?"

"I haven't really thought about it," Ikuo said. "First of all, I really don't know much about this Somersault."

"Shall I give a little lecture, then, based on what I know from The New York Times? The media over here treated the leaders' recantation entirely as a scandal, and I think that's what you remember. The Times correspondent, though, was really fascinated by the story. The religious group had been founded by two middle-aged men. One of them formulated their basic doc- trine based on his mystical experiences. Over time he refined this. The sec- ond man's job was verbal expression of the mystical experiences the first man had. He was also the one who took care of the day-to-day running of the church.

"The Times correspondent reported on their church for a year. He got to know the two leaders well; he's the one, in fact, who dubbed them Patron and Guide. I imagine he used these names because calling them Savior and Prophet would have provoked some serious negative reactions from his American readers. After the Somersault the two of them adopted these names themselves; they weren't fond of their earlier names, anyway.

"Anyhow, just around the time the correspondent was wrapping up his reporting, the Somersault incident occurred. What happened was that the two leaders negotiated with the authorities to inform on some potentially danger- ous activities of a radical faction within their church.

"It was on a much smaller scale than Aum Shinrikyo, but the research facility they owned in Izu became the focal point of the radical faction's ac- tivities, the cornerstone of which was their plan to occupy a nuclear power plant. One of the people at the research center had a PhD in physics. They wanted to turn a nuclear plant into an atomic bomb to force the leaders' teach- ings on all Japanese, or at least to preach the need for universal repentance now that the end of the world was drawing near. Or maybe by blowing up two or three nuclear plants they felt they could make everyone experience how very near the end of the world was. Their entire plan for repentance was based on this. Radical political groups all have the same basic idea, don't they- pushing the country into crisis? But here the target was nuclear power plants.

From the beginning this was an apocalyptic teaching.

"The church's leaders found they couldn't suppress the radical faction that had sprung up among them, so they went to the police. Sensing this might happen, the radical faction dispersed throughout the country. No one knew when or where they might attack a nuclear plant. At this point the leaders asked to hold a press conference. They indicated ahead of time what they planned to do and asked for full-scale coverage. I'm sure the authorities helped out in this as well.

"The first leader-Patron, as he's called now-sat in front of the cam- eras on live TV and told the church's radical faction members scattered throughout the country to abandon their plans to occupy a nuclear plant.

We are neither saviors nor prophets, he said. Everything we've preached till now has been one big joke. We abandon the church. Everything we've said and done was a silly prank. Now that we've confessed, we want you to stop believing.

"Especially you members of the radical faction, he went on. I want you to understand that our church is a sand castle built as a lark. We enjoyed play- ing the savior of the world and the prophet at the end time, using all those high-sounding phrases and acting solemn and grave. Thanks to all of you we had a wonderful time, especially getting incorporated as a religious founda- tion two years ago and receiving tons of money for our playacting. But this is as far as we'll take it. It's all a big farce, get it? Look at me, here on TV. How could you possibly believe I'm the savior of mankind? How can this scornful- looking partner of mine sitting here really be the prophet of the end of the world?

'Through this TV performance, the nation learned all about their Som- ersault, to use the term coined by the Times correspondent. The word became a Popular expression in Japan for a time.

To tell the truth, I don't know the scale of this event in Japan. I know that the news shows on commercial networks followed up on the story, treat- lng it as slapstick comedy, though I heard that NHK didn't report on it at all.

•dn t you see this when you were a child? What interested me while I was ln the United States was the correspondent's follow-up article on the after- math of the incident. 'The Japanese have a psychological aversion to recanta- tions,' he wrote, 'so with this announcement that everything they preached was just a joke, this false savior and false prophet came under severe attack.'

The correspondent also reported the outrage of ordinary Japanese citizens, who heaped abuse on the two men, and he included letters from people un- connected with the church who complained about its immorality.

"The correspondent found this one-sided attack rather strange.

'Through the Somersault of this false savior and false prophet,' he wrote, 'it is possible that several cities were spared a nuclear holocaust. The authorities insisted it was impossible for a nuclear power plant to be invaded and said a bunch of young amateurs would never be able to convert it into a stationary nuclear weapon. But how true was this? The people of Japan didn't give any credit to the church's two leaders who'd risked everything to defuse the cri- sis, concentrating instead on a moral critique of their recantation. This criti- cism became even more intense once it was known at the trial of the radical faction that, because of the deal they'd made with the authorities, the two lead- ers were going to avoid prosecution.' The correspondent ended by saying that the Japanese were certainly a strange race.

"Ikuo, I'm sure you saw these reports on TV and elsewhere about pub- lic opinion in Japan at the time, right? You wanted to be there to see the end of the world, after all. What did you think about it?"

"As I said before, I had nothing but scorn for them," Ikuo replied, "especially when those afternoon women's talk shows kept playing the so- called savior of mankind's recantation speech ad nauseam. Even though I was only a kid, it made me laugh. Deep down inside, though, I think I was disappointed."

3

Having talked for so long, Kizu drove in silence for a while. From Ikuo's continued silence, Kizu could sense something he couldn't quite lay a finger on, something he hadn't been conscious of recently. His liaison with Ikuo had given him back his self-confidence, though he sometimes felt their relation- ship was different from that of gay couples he used to see in his university community. Maybe it was the same with those couples, but Ikuo didn't seem to accept the kind of closeness you'd expect to arise from physical intimacy and made it clear he wanted to maintain a certain distance from Kizu.

Ikuo seemed genuinely interested in the reunion with the girl he'd had such a strange encounter with fifteen years ago, an interest mixed with curi- osity about the former religious leaders she was now working for. Ikuo's com- ments after listening to Kizu made him sense both how strong his interest was in Patron and Guide and also that he was hiding something.

Kizu turned to slowly look at Ikuo; the latter's face had lost its wine- induced flush and again looked like a statue with skin covering the indenta- tions and protruding bones. Shake it a bit, and the heavy lump of a head looked like it would tip right over.

The next day, though, after modeling for Kizu in the morning, Ikuo himself brought up the subject of the girl, as if filling in all his previous silence.

"The girl met Patron and Guide after their Somersault, yet she believes in them totally. The world's going to end, she said, and Patron and Guide will show us the way to deal with that. What they said and did during their Somersault doesn't seem to faze her."

"She puts more emphasis on their suffering over the past ten years," Kizu said. "I wonder if that's the basic approach the two of them will take as they start over. This new beginning means a great deal to her. That's why she got so angry when you used the word game. "

"Was I wrong to say that?" Ikuo turned his dark, affectionate eyes to Kizu, who felt a surge of desire race through him. "Like I said yesterday, I'm serious about the end time. But she changed the subject. I wish I could have heard more about Patron.

"This morning when I woke up, I regretted not asking for more details about what these leaders' ten years of suffering was all about. AU I remember from watching TV was this frivolous old guy blabbing on and on."

"Maybe this new beginning for them is a casual somersault in the oppo- site direction," Kizu remarked.

"Gymnasts sometimes move forward by doing one somersault after another," Ikuo said. "Unless we talk to them directly, though, we're merely tossing metaphors around."

In other words," Kizu said, "even if they're phonies you want to meet this self-styled savior of mankind and his prophet, right? Well, you have a standing invitation from her. And I think I'd like to go with you."

'Let me get in touch with her first."

Kizu couldn't read anything in Ikuo's expression, but as he looked at Ikuo s muscular chest and neck, exposed at the loose collar of the robe he'd thrown on over his nude body, Kizu found himself less interested in pur- suing the meaning behind Ikuo's expression than simply standing in awe at this young man's magnificent physique. What a waste, he thought, for such a fertile body to be given to someone who has so much still to attain spiritually.

No doubt Kizu was so involved in drawing Ikuo, preparing to create his tableau, because he wanted to capture this young man-for himself alone-before he leaped to the next stage, where that wonderful body would go hand in hand with spirituality. Kizu loved to imagine that Ikuo's body was already lending a sense of solemnity to the privileged thoughts that lay within him. And what convinced Kizu that something special lay in Ikuo's inner being was none other than what he had witnessed fifteen years before: beau- tiful eyes in the wildly ferocious face of someone who looked less a child than a small man.

After he met Ikuo again, Kizu had remembered a paper presented at a symposium his institute had sponsored that used as its text etchings based on old French prints depicting the stages through which a human face evolves out of wild animals' muzzles. When he first heard this presentation, show- ing how the cruelest of human faces developed from the line that began with the muzzle of a bear, Kizu had thought of the young boy carrying his plastic model. However, the bear-man's eyes were sunken and expressionless, while the young man's, equally sunken, had been full of suggestive feeling.

Kizu gazed steadily at his young friend. Ikuo sensed he was being looked at, stood up, threw his robe aside on the chair he'd been sitting on, and laid his naked suntanned body on the sofa. He spread his legs wide and beckoned to Kizu with a shy look. Though he was sunk back deep on the sofa, his long bountiful penis was clearly visible, already raising its head. Kizu went off to the bathroom first. Ikuo seemed ready to thank him for his help in bringing him together with the girl and Patron. Still, though, as he stood there, touch- ing his own penis, which was already so hard he could barely get it out of his pants, Kizu allowed himself a feeling of unalloyed pleasure.

In the afternoon, after Ikuo had gone home, Kizu was cutting his nails in the sunny spot beside the wide glass sliding doors. As he clipped the fourth toe of his right foot, he thought unexpectedly that it was like some good little beetle larva dug up from a mound of fallen leaves, very different from the other toes.

The toe of his left foot, he found, was exactly the same. He'd lived with these toes for over half a century. Why was it only now that he found them so funny?

Thinking it over, he paused in his clipping. It wasn't that his powers of observation were fading, but rather-as the last vestiges of youth disappeared from every corner of his body-that his toes had really begun Xochange. These are the toes, he thought, of someone whose cancer is back, who's going to end up an elderly corpse. If it hadn't been for his sexual relationship with Ikuo, though, he never would have noticed.

On Saturday, Kizu attended an international awards ceremony for a Japanese architect who had, during Kizu's time in the United States, garnered a worldwide reputation. He thought about inviting Ikuo, the former archi- tecture student, but the girl they'd met had asked him to take care of some- thing for her and he wouldn't be back until evening, so Kizu went alone.

Arriving at the hotel in Shimbashi, he found that only those involved in the actual ceremony were dressed formally, and he felt out of place in his tuxedo.

There were no other familiar faces at the party, either, and Kizu's relation- ship with the architect himself was superficial. When he had given a public lecture at the architecture department at Kizu's university, Kizu had served as discussant when the architect showed slides of the art museum he'd de- signed in Los Angeles.

Kizu greeted the architect and his wife and made an early retreat from the reception; next to the escalator, he ran across an American newspaper reporter he knew who wrote about the arts and architecture. The man, an old acquaintance, was also decked out in a tuxedo, and Kizu called out to him, kidding him he was going to stand out dressed like that. The reporter had been invited to a small dinner alter the ceremony, but decided to bow out, instead inviting Kizu, whom he hadn't seen in a long time, out for a chat. He led Kizu to a basement-level bar, and they settled in at the counter.

They'd just finished one glass of white wine each and were about to order another when the reporter's long-winded commentary on architecture connected up with the religious leader the girl was working for. It all started when the reporter mentioned an extraordinary place he ran across in the for- ests of Shikoku.

'The area is like a solitary island," he said, "in the hills about a two-hour drive from the airport. Makes you feel like you're being shown around the remnants of Japanese mythology. You arrive at this dead end with a sea of trees blocking the way. And in a village of fifteen hundred souls, can you believe it, there's an ultramodern chapel and dormitory!

Makes you wonder how there could be such large new buildings in a depopulated mountain village. What happened was a new religion arose in the village, and they hired one of Japan 's leading architects to build a head- quarters. But the new religion broke up and disappeared. The village didn't know what to do. They tried to find someone to take over the chapel for them.

Then they came up with a plan to convert it to a village junior high school, but that would have been too expensive, so it came to nothing. I suppose they wanted to keep the headquarters building as it was, since it was designed by such a famous architect.

"Finally a different religious organization expressed interest in the building, a group with a really unusual background. The Tokyo correspon- dent for The New York Times told me that"-at this point Kizu could guess what was coming-"ten years ago the two leaders had renounced their faith.

They denounced all their own teachings, which was apparently a major shock!

The religious organization itself, though, kept on going, with quite a few believers still involved. Followers who left the church maintained their own divisions, ranging from a group of radical revolutionaries to a co-op of gentle Quaker-like women. Sort of an interesting case-and not very Japanese, when you think about it.

"Right now the activities of this church center around another head- quarters, in the Kansai region, where they've kept their name and religious foundation status. Most of the followers work in Osaka or Kobe and donate their pay, minus a small amount for living expenses, so they were able to purchase this chapel. And during the last ten years they completed the dor- mitory, according to the architect's original plans. Some Japanese certainly don't give up, do they?

"The religious organization, though, hasn't moved to this chapel and dorm. Small groups of them visit, staying in the monastery, which is what they call the dorm, and praying in the chapel. They also work for a week, taking care of the building and grounds, before they leave.

"I paid a visit to the building's caretaker, a local woman, and asked if these poor little lost sheep, whose leaders had renounced the faith, still be- lieve that the beloved pair will make a comeback. Her answer took me to- tally by surprise. (The old lady, by the way, was born in the village but spoke better English than the interpreter I brought with me.) 'Outsiders to the church, myself included, don't really understand this,' she said, 'but when believers pray in the chapel and raise their eyes upward, they say they see the souls of the two former leaders, separated from their suffering bodies so far away, hovering up in the air.' It's gotta be true-'cause how else can you ex- plain their keeping the faith for ten years after their leaders denied it?"

Kizu didn't let on that he'd just met a girl who worked for these two former leaders. The reporter, for his part, didn't go into much detail about this place with the modern buildings. The caretaker, afraid that tourist buses might start showing up, was wary of outsiders coming to visit. Through an introduction from an architecture journal, the reporter was able to view the inside of the chapel, but the woman never left his side and made sure he didn't take any photos.

Kizu, of course, had himself originally learned of the savior and the prophet of the end time through an interesting article in The New York Times.

The leaders' renunciation, their Somersault, he imagined, must have left an indelible impression on the two thousand or more followers they left behind, but even now, after meeting the young woman who worked for them, he couldn't shake the notion that it was all rather comical.

After hearing this reporter's story of how the abandoned followers had worked hard to collect enough money to buy and add on to the building, however, the story of this church took on a sharpened sense of reality. These leaders must really be something extraordinary, to motivate their followers so highly after they'd abandoned them.

And the followers who came to the building to pray, with great awe and sadness, insisted that the two leaders, after their Somersault, suffered so much that the souls of the two men took leave of their bodies and floated beside them as they prayed.

"Who knows?" Kizu said to the American reporter. "Maybe the souls of those two men really do fly all the way to those woods and into that mod- ern building." And he sighed.

4: READING R. S. THOMAS

1

On the day Ikuo phoned the office in Seijo, the young woman's reac- tion was different from when he met her in the restaurant. Sounding tense, she asked him to come alone.

During the morning of the Saturday awards ceremony Kizu attended, Ikuo had moved his things into Kizu's spare bedroom. He whiled away the rest of the morning without unpacking and then drove Kizu's car over to the young woman's office.

At four in the afternoon, Ikuo had phoned Kizu and told him the girl had had a car accident the day before yesterday at the entrance to the parking area of the hospital when she went to pay Guide a visit. She wanted badly to go see Guide that evening, but the young man she worked with was busy with preparations for starting Patron's new movement. With her car still in the repair shop she'd have to rely on Ikuo driving her in Kizu's car. Kizu still had to get ready to go to the architect's reception-and get the tuxedo prepared he'd convinced himself he had to wear-so he had ended up calling a cab.

Ikuo returned home late that night and told Kizu that the young woman wanted him to work as their official driver. His first assignment would be to pick up her car when the repairs were finished the beginning of next week.

He'd already quit his job at the athletic club, and the office would pay him a salary, so Ikuo was enthusiastic about the idea. The working hours were open- ended, he said-though later on they proved not to be-he'd just go over whenever they needed a driver. It shouldn't interfere with his modeling for Kizu- One more reason Ikuo was so drawn to this job offer was that driving for Patron would give Ikuo the opportunity to talk with him-although Pa- tron had yet to say a word to him of any spiritual matters.

Ikuo began to go every day for a full day's worth of training at the of- fice. Guide had still not regained consciousness, Ikuo reported, but in other respects was recovering nicely. Patron mostly stayed in his room; Ikuo had only been able to speak directly with him a couple of times but found him fascinating. "And the girl is called Dancer at the office," Ikuo added, "so that's what I'm going to call her."

A week passed, and word came that Patron wanted to meet Kizu, so he and Ikuo left for the office together. Kizu could sense Dancer at work be- hind the scenes to make this invitation possible. Ikuo had not yet had a good long talk with Patron, but starting on this day Kizu was able to.

Patron's voice was low but resonant. "I hear you're an artist," he said right off, skipping the usual formalities. "Even if I hadn't known that, I could have guessed." Patron was sunk deep into an unusually low armchair, his chubby, round face full of childlike curiosity. "It feels like you're tracing the outlines of my face and body with a pencil."

Kizu was flustered and didn't know how to respond. He and Ikuo had first been escorted to Patron's combination study and bedroom by Dancer.

Patron was still in bed. Dancer helped him over to the armchair and brought over a chair to face Patron for Kizu to use; Ikuo glided smoothly out of the room as if by previous arrangement. Kizu was introduced by Dancer to Ogi, "whom Patron calls our Innocent Youth," she said, who was working in the office at the front of the house.

"While you're observing me using your professional skills," Patron went on, "I've been doing the same. I sense you're undergoing a major change in your life right now, on a scale you've seldom experienced before."

Kizu found it comical that Patron would adopt the strategies of a fortune- teller on a crowded street, yet confronted with this man's dark eyes-steady, surprised-looking beady eyes, the whites showing above and below almond- shaped lids-the thought occurred to him that he might very well end up kneeling before him to confess his innermost thoughts. Considering his cancer relapse and his emotional and physical relationship with Ikuo, Patron's fortune-telling was right on target.

At any rate, to distance himself and give a neutral reply, Kizu relied on the skills he'd acquired teaching in an American university and brought up a Poet he was familiar with.

. When you reach my age," he said, "the sort of change you've mentioned is inevitably linked with death, though I try not to think about it. In this re- gard I've grown fond of a certain Welsh poet. I hope I can face death with the attitude found in his poetry."

Kizu went on spontaneously to translate a verse he'd memorized in the original: '"As virtuous men pass mildly away/ and whisper to their souls to go,' the poet writes, showing dying humans calling out to their souls as they are left with just the physical body. I think this fits me to a T."

"Usually it's the opposite, isn't it?" Patron said. "If one could make such a clean break with the soul, imagine how soundly the body would sleep. I've read John Donne myself. One of his other poems goes like this, doesn't it?

'But name not Winter-faces, whose skin's slack;/ Lank, as an unthrift's purse; but a soul's sack.' If an elderly person's body is like a withered sack, it should be easy for the soul to make its exit, I imagine."

Kizu was embarrassed at having his superficial knowledge exposed.

Instead of reproving him, though, Patron seemed to want only to show Kizu that he too was enamored of poetry.

"I haven't read any poetry for years, Japanese or foreign," Patron said.

"You've recently run across a new poet who has impressed you, have you?"

"It seems like everything about me is coming to light, bit by bit. But you're right," Kizu answered honestly. "Last summer I attended a sympo- sium on art education in a town called Swansea in Wales. The organizer of the seminar presented me with a volume of poetry by a local poet. That evening, as I leafed through it in our cliffside hotel it encouraged me so much-physically and mentally-that I couldn't stay lying down." (As he said this, Kizu realized that he'd always associated this restlessness with the re- lapse of his cancer; now he was pleased to interpret it as presaging his rela- tionship with Ikuo.)

"Despite my age, my face grew red and I paced back and forth in the small hotel room. Even if I were to meet this poet, I almost moaned, I don't have the energy or time left to respond to him, do I? You might suppose this marked some major change in my life, but I'm afraid I'm too wishy-washy a person for that."

"You said it was Wales, but the poet wasn't Dylan Thomas, I assume?

Since you said you've just recently discovered him." Patron asked this quickly, like some teasing child.

"The poet's name is R. S. Thomas."

"What kind of poems were they? Can you remember a verse, any at all?"

Patron asked, even more impatiently.

"I'm afraid I can't memorize verses like I used to… About his themes, though, maybe because his name is Thomas, he wrote several poems about Doubting Thomas. He wrote from Thomas's viewpoint, discussing the rea- sons why he had to touch Jesus' bloody wounds before he believed in the resurrection."

Patron's almond-shaped eyes were unusually intense as he listened.

"I wonder if you would read tome from his poetry collection?" he asked, making it clear this was not a passing wish. "Even if just once a week. Ikuo will be working in our office, and he's told me you have an interest in our activities too. For the past ten years I've needed to do this kind of study but haven't been able to."

Thus Kizu's meeting with Patron was so successful they decided that once a week Kizu would come and give Patron lectures on R. S. Thomas- something that, considering his art background, was way outside his field of expertise. As they drove home, Kizu found it strange that things had turned out the way they did, but Ikuo seemed to have expected it all along.

Kizu already had a paperback edition of Thomas's poems, the one he received in Wales, but he bought a volume of his collected works at the uni- versity co-op, along with a reference work on his poetry, and had them deliv- ered to his apartment. His own copy was filled with notes, and he wanted to present Patron with a clean and complete edition.

Instead of giving private lectures to Patron, Kizu planned just to read the poems together and discuss them, though two or three days later, when he was up far into the night, preparing, Dancer called him, and he headed off to their office despite the late hour. She explained to him that Patron's de- pression was back and he was staying up late and sleeping through the morn- ings. Kizu was led into the bedroom study; Ikuo, who'd driven him over, stayed out in the office beside Dancer and Ogi.

Kizu had selected as their first poem one from the collection Between Here and Now that was written when the poet was about the same age as Kizu and Patron: "You ask why I don't write.

But what is there to say?

The salt current swings in and out of the bay, as it has done time out of mind. How does that help?

It leaves illegible writing on the shore. If you were here, we would quarrel about it.

People file past this seascape as ignorantly as through a gallery of great art. I keep searching for meaning.

The waves are a moving staircase to climb, but in thought only.

The fall from the top is as sheer as ever. Younger I deemed truth was to come at beyond the horizon.

Older I stay still and am as far off as before. These nail-parings bore you? They explain my silence.

I wish there were as simple an explanation for the silence of God."

Patron had a lot to say about the poem. It occurred to Kizu that Patron's insomnia was due less to depression than to the recent intellectual stimula- tion that had entered his life and was cutting down on his hours of sleep.

Patron's large, moist eyes reminded Kizu of a photo he'd seen of a nocturnal marsupial from Tasmania.

'"You asf{why I don't write. I But what is there to say?' That line makes me recall a very pressing matter," Patron blurted out, for all the world like a bright yet rash child. "I've never written a thing, ever since I was young. In a way, though, I guess what I did up to the Somersault was a kind of writing.

Guide helped me in this, of course. The things I experienced in my trances I couldn't put into clear words, but I told them to Guide and he'd translate them into something intelligible.

"After the Somersault, I wasn't able to fall into any major trances, which Guide was aware of. This last half year, though, I could tell Guide wanted to say something to me, something like the first two lines of the poem. 'Why don't you fall into any trances? And why don't you tell me your visions?' But it, for instance, I were to fall into a trance now, I know I wouldn't come into con- tact with anything transcendental. Which is why I don't make the effort.

That's all I can say, if 'you asf^ why.

'"But what is there to say?'" he continued. "I'm holed up in this place as in a hideout, not looking at the tides in the bay every day. But for a long time I have been letting time flow from my heart-the movement the poet com- pares to the tides. These past ten years I've been doing nothing, merely ob- serving the flow of the tides in my own heart.

"Time… the flow of the tides move indeed. 'How does that helpT That's exactly right. 'It leaves illegible writing/ on the shore. If you were here,/we would quarrel about it.' Guide was by my side, but I never spoke to him of that writ- ing. When it flows out of my heart, what does time inscribe? Even if it could be deciphered, I know it would be meaningless. There would be nothing to quarrel about.

"But people live their lives for all they're worth, knowing nothing. I keep searching for meaning.'

' That's the truth. I didn't expect that everything would be thrilling in life. If someone accused me of just sitting on the beach, staring vacantly before me, I couldn't deny it. Sometimes when I feel in good spirits, that is still 'in thought only,' just climbing the stairs of waves.

"That's so painfully true! 'The fall from the top is as sheer/ as ever.' It's true. Every single day and night, all I've thought about is what happened ten years ago. The way I fell then, I continue to fall, moment after moment, in my mind.

"The next stanza expresses exactly how I feel right now. 'Younger I deemed truth! was to come at beyond the horizon./Older I stay still and ami as fay- off as before' What does 'these nail-parings' really point to? At any rate, here I am, sitting here blankly staring at the horizon. It's no wonder Guide got an- gry and asked why.

"This is what I should have said to him: 'They explain my silence./ I wish there were as simple/ an explanation for the silence of God! That hits it right on the head."

Patron's dark glistening eyes were no longer aimed at Kizu but were fixed steadily on an invisible companion only he could see.

The mid-October sky was threatening rain, the gloomy road beginning to lighten in the approaching dawn, as they sped toward home, Ikuo at the wheel. Kizu, meanwhile, ruminated on what Patron had said regarding Thomas's poem and his accompanying translation. 'Younger I deemed truth/ was to come at beyond the horizon,' he mused. I think that's true. Isn't that why I set out for America? And what was the result? I ended up never re- ally investigating that truth.

Ikuo got out of the car for a moment. As Kizu opened the side door next to the main entrance with the same key he used for his apartment, he heard Ikuo's voice, almost apologetically, from behind.

'I wish I could come up to my room now, but Ogi and Dancer have this plan we need to work on."

Kizu turned around and nodded.

'Yesterday, after I drove you and went back to the office," Ikuo went on› Dancer told me that Patron would like you to donate something he needs, s°mething of great value. Did you talk about this? Religious leaders might Seem unworldly, but they have a practical side too, don't they?"

Kizu suspected that Ikuo and Dancer were behind this pronouncement of Patron's. But he merely nodded again, pushed open the solid American- type steel door, and went in alone.

2

This year Kizu sensed that the seasons were changing quickly. Even on days when the morning light shone into his room above the branches of the wych elm, the position of the light was changing, no longer reaching the spot where he sunbathed in the nude.

Kizu's sunbathing, his middle-aged-man's habit, wasn't something he wanted others to see. Ikuo might be living with him and modeling in the nude, but even if Kizu often lounged nude on the sofa he never invited Ikuo to join him. Not that there were many chances to do so, with Ikuo now so busy at the office.

When he was alone, Kizu spent his time painting and preparing his readings of R. S. Thomas for Patron. He reread his note-filled paperback copy of Thomas's poems, gathered books of Thomas's prose writings, and read the theses and monographs that young Welsh scholars had written, like good con- scientious sons. He faxed the assistant in his office back in the States a request to look for these books. Coincidentally, the assistant's father happened to be an immigrant from Wales, from Thomas's own parish, in fact. Though he wasn't an Anglican but a member of a minor denomination, her father re- membered seeing Thomas, a clergyman, walking through the fields wield- ing a walking stick like some kind of sports equipment. She added a note in the package of books saying how surprised she was to find that even the Japa- nese were reading Thomas's poetry.

At one of their late-night readings, Kizu quoted the following Thomas poem.

"I emerge from the mind's cave into the worse darkness outside, where things pass and the Lord is in none of them.

"I have heard the still, small voice and it was that of the bacteria demolishing my cosmos. I have lingered too long on "this threshold, but where can I go?

To look back is to lose the soul

I was leading upwards towards the light. To look forward? Ah, "what balance is needed at the edges of such an abyss.

I am alone on the surface of a turning planet. What"

Kizu and Patron always began with Kizu reading aloud from his paper- back copy, Patron following along in the hardbound copy in his lap. Kizu's translations served as reference. Then they would discuss the poem, stanza by stanza. On this particular day when Kizu had read to this point, Patron thought the poem ended there, an understandable mistake since the poems in the collected works edition he was using were almost all complete on one page.

"That's exactly right." He sighed in admiration. "Only someone who's desperate, driven into a corner, could write a poem like that."

This didn't sit well with Kizu, the longtime teacher.

"Thomas divides his stanzas in unusual ways," he cautioned his pupil.

"The last word in this stanza, 'What, ' is the first word in the next stanza, ac- tually. The meaning of the line doesn't end there."

Patron's response was unexpected.

"But the next stanza isn't really necessary, is it?" he said confidently.

"How did you translate the next line? What comes after 'What'?"

"to do but, like Michelangelo's Adam, put my hand out into unknown space, hoping for the reciprocating touch?"

"I see! But even though he triumphantly produced this smart stanza, if you look at the whole poem it's an unnecessary addition, don't you think?"

"Don't you believe at all in this kind of 'reciprocating touch'?" Kizu questioned him.

"These past ten years I've been in the dark," Patron said, "but I haven't relied on a reciprocating touch. I emerge from the mind's/ cave into the worse darkness/ outside, where things pass and/ the Lord is m none of them.' I've ex- perienced this more often than I can recall, but I never attempted to find God as I passed through there. Doesn't Thomas at times try to be overly suggestive?

"Do you really need to keep your balance on the edge of the abyss? When I made my noisy reversal in front of the media, falling even farther into the abyss, it was like a Ping-Pong ball trying to sink down by itself into a tub of water. Even without the last stanza-no, even with it-I agree that this is an outstanding poem."

Kizu felt a slight maliciousness from Patron as he smiled at him in the gloom. Trying to control his rising displeasure, Kizu took out a volume of Thomas's prose writings and showed the following to Patron.

The ability to be in hell is a spiritual prerogative, and proclaims the true nature of such a being. Without darkness, in the world we know, the light would go unprized; without evil, goodness would have no meaning. Over every poet's door is nailed Keats's saying about negative capability. Poetry is born of the tensions set up by the poet's ability to be "in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

When he'd finished reading, Patron looked serious again.

"He's entirely correct," he said. "Thomas is a clergyman, but I think he says more telling things about poetry than about religion. In the final analy- sis, I should say, he's a poet."

Once more, Kizu felt he'd been given the slip. He said nothing. Com- pared to the craftiness of Patron, a man of about his own age, Kizu felt him- self rather naive.

Patron continued, trying to soothe Kizu. "Of course there's nothing of the poet about me, but I can sympathize with this particular one. This calm ability to be in hell and, as Keats puts it, the ability to be 'in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason'-these would be wonderful mottoes for my old age!"

Under the light of the lamp stand, Patron's head jutted forward as he read, and Kizu could see saliva glistening on both sides of his dark cocoonlike lips. His voice had risen in pitch, and Dancer, sensing in this a sign of excite- ment and exhaustion, quickly and stealthily stepped to his side, gave him medicine directly from her hand, and held a glass of water to his lips. Patron gave himself up to Dancer's practiced movements. She then transferred the cup to her left hand and wiped the saliva away from Patron's lips with the back of her other hand.

It was morning again when Kizu went home, but this time, instead of Kizu's Mustang, Ikuo drove a minivan, a present from Kizu for Patron to use for meetings he planned to hold in sites outside Tokyo. Expecting that he would be attending these meetings, Ikuo was doing his best to get used to driving the van.

"I think reading that Welsh poet with you is having a good psychologi- cal effect on Patron," Ikuo said. "For the first time in a while he came out to the front of the house, to the office, and chatted with the three of us, and he used an English phrase he said was from Thomas that he'd heard from you- quietly emerge. He read the poem to us. It was in the translation that you did, and I think it's wonderful."

Kizu reached into the briefcase on his lap, pulled out the copy he was using as a text, sandwiched in between his notes, angled it up in the pale, cloudy light, and read.

"As I had always known he would come, unannounced, remarkable merely for the absence of clamour. So truth must appear to the thinker; so at a stage of the experiment, the answer must quietly emerge. I looked at him, not with the eye only, but with the whole of my being, overflowing with him as a chalice would with the sea."

Ikuo nodded. "Patron said, 'If once again God is going to quietly emerge to me, I want to welcome him calmly, without flinching. I take this poem as a sort of sermon, and when I can accomplish this and I am able to 'quietly emerge' before you as mankind's Patron in the end time, I hope you too can welcome me as just calmly, without hesitating.' That's the last thing Patron said." And Ikuo clenched his mouth, in a way that reminded Kizu of a shal- low-water fish he'd seen on TV ripping apart a turban shell, and stared fix- edly at the lights of the oncoming cars.

Kizu wasn't sure what Ikuo was thinking, but he went ahead and spoke.

I want to believe that Patron is a man of great charisma."

Ikuo drove on in silence for a while, his mouth still set in that strange way. And then he spoke, quietly, of something he'd apparently been consid- ering ever since he was getting the minivan ready to take Kizu home.

"Yes, Patron certainly does have charisma. But is he planning to lead people using that charisma? That's the question. I used to think he used the media to appeal to the dispersed radical faction when he did his Somersault, but now I have the feeling that the Somersault was necessary for him. Once again, he said, God would quietly emerge.

"That's why," Ikuo continued, "though I feel his charisma, I have no real sense of what kind of person he is. I'm not sure whether I should get more deeply involved. Since you're well grounded and have a relationship with him that maintains a certain distance, I think it might be best for me to rely on that."

3

During the week Kizu was able to talk with Dancer, who came to his apartment just as Ikuo was setting out for the office. Ikuo hadn't told him in advance, but he'd urged Dancer to pay Kizu a visit.

The only person who had sat on Kizu's sofa since he'd been in Tokyo was Ikuo, so now, as Dancer sat on it-teacup and saucer resting on her shapely thighs, watching Kizu as he spoke, her eyes barely blinking, the pink inside her mouth showing as she sipped her tea-she looked incredibly delicate.

Appearance aside, Kizu already knew she never hesitated to speak her mind. Today, too, she broached a topic that took him completely by surprise.

"There still is a lot of criticism of Patron," she said. "So much it makes me realize how much more vicious the attacks must have been ten years ago.

Every time some article lambasting him was sent to us I always asked Guide for his opinion, but now with things the way they are… "One famous retired journalist writes the most abusive, scathing things, but I don't pay him any mind. I'd say the problem's more with the person who's writing than with anything to do with Patron. Recently we received a copy of a university bulletin that contained an interview between a Protes- tant theologian and an associate professor who'd just joined the same church.

Overall it was typical overbearing criticism of Patron, the main point being their agreement that since Patron had abandoned his own church, the only way he'd be saved was to join a proper church.

"I told Patron about this, and he said he wants to keep apart from all established churches, Protestant, Catholic, or whatever. Every person has that right, he said. If he were to share the same certainty in an objective external God with the other members of a church, his critics included, he said, he might very well lose his faith entirely. Instead of climbing into the same bed of faith with these people, he said he much preferred a gnashing of teeth and the uncertainty of belief, lying over seventy thousand fathoms, where he could taste the reason he was living in this world… "What I wanted to ask you, Professor, was what did he mean by over seventy thousand fathoms? I asked him, but he just said you mentioned it in one of your talks. Is the phrase from one of Thomas's poems?"

Dancer stopped speaking, her lips slightly parted as usual, and gazed at the artist.

"It's originally from Kierkegaard," Kizu replied, "though Thomas used it several times. I do remember linking the phrase with the poetry and dis- cussing Kierkegaard with Patron. This wasn't directly from Thomas's po- etry collections, but something from a volume published to commemorate the poet's eightieth birthday… this book, in fact. The author of the text I chose discusses the metaphorical uses Thomas has in his poems for the desolate farmland and sea in Wales… The author quotes two poems; the latter, en- titled "Balance," directly mentions Kierkegaard. Let's take a look at it."

No piracy, but there is a plank to walk over seventy thousand fathoms, as Kierkegaard would say, and far out from the land. I have abandoned my theories, the easier certainties of belief. There are no handrails to grasp. I stand and on either side there is the haggard gallery of the dead, those who in their day walked here and fell. Above and beyond there is the galaxies' violence, the meaningless wastage of force, the chaos the blond hero's leap over my head brings him nearer to.

Is there a place here for the spirit? Is there time on this brief platform for anything other than the mind's failure to explain itself?

"After this poem of Thomas's, the author quotes at length from Kierkegaard's writings. Shall I translate it for you?"

Without risk there is no faith. Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual's inwardness and the objective un- certainty. If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objec- tive uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thou- sand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.

"So that's what it means. Patron was quoting Kierkegaard," Dancer said, sounding for all the world like the intelligent heroine in some drama. "Patron jokes around at the most unexpected times, so often I don't know what he's really getting at. But even when he's joking, I think he's suffering over ques- tions of faith. I get the same feeling from those words of Kierkegaard. Thank you for helping me understand. I'm so happy I had a chance to talk with you."

Despite his years, Kizu felt buoyant-the same sort of happiness he felt when students had come to his office back at the university to ask pointed questions and then listen in rapt awe as he gave a detailed response.

Kizu had Dancer stay a little longer and showed her Thomas's collec- tion of poems to accompany a series of paintings, from Impressionist paint- ings to the work of the Surrealists. This book, a birthday present sent by the head assistant back at his home office, differed from both the paperback and collected works edition, for it contained vivid full-color plates of the paint- ings. Kizu found it odd as he watched her, the contrast between the way she gazed, open-mouthed, at the plates, and the nimbleness and efficiency with which she had earlier bustled about wiping away Patron's saliva. She still had a touch of the child about her, he realized.

In the evening, uncertain about when Ikuo was to return, Kizu went ahead and began preparing a stew. As he'd learned to do in America, he'd bought various cuts of beef and frozen the unused portions. Now, to use these leftovers, he cut them up and put them in a pot with water, celery, carrots, and onions-leftover vegetables from the bottom shelf of his refrigerator. The stew was just beginning to bubble when Kizu tasted it and decided that, all things considered, it could do with a pinch more salt. His chipper feelings from talking with Dancer were still with him as he tapped the plastic salt shaker smartly against the cutting board to loosen the lumps of salt inside. The salt shaker, it turned out, wasn't plastic but glass, and it shattered, a shard of glass cutting deeply into his right wrist.

The only doctor Kizu could think of was the well-known cancer spe- cialist his institute had introduced him to so, at his wits' end, he called the apartment superintendent, who advised him to go to a hospital in Rop- pongi where Kizu's university had a special arrangement. Kizu rushed off to the hospital in a taxi and, for the first time since his operation for intes- tinal cancer, had stitches taken in his skin. If this were your left wrist, the blunt physician remarked, hoping to be funny, you'd have some explaining to do.

Ikuo was still out when Kizu returned to his apartment. The pain in his wrist bothered him-making him consider the deeper pain that was sure to come from his cancer-so he went about cleaning up the kitchen to take his mind off it. Inside the brass sink there was one large pinkish drop of his blood.

Kizu couldn't shake off thoughts of his cancer, his mind drifting to how fragile his body was. When you consider the eternal soul, though, he thought, which links humanity's past, present, and future, the fragility of the body is of little consequence. Instead, it should be a sign pointing the way for people to overcome the individual ego. The eternal soul, connect- ing the far-off Stone Age with some perhaps purgatorylike future Electronic Age. But did he have faith in the soul? The closest thing to faith he had, he decided, with a sinking feeling, were the thoughts that arise from these very emotions.

In the end he gave up on the stew, making do with a can of Campbell's tomato soup and some large crackers that he ate in the living room. The illustrated poetry collection and the research books he'd shown Dancer were still on top of the small table. He picked up the book with the essay compar- ing Thomas and Kierkegaard, and flipped through an essay by a woman scholar on the poetry collection.

In a pedantic tone the woman noted that the word ingrowing was a key term for Thomas, that he was well aware that if one thought too long about something, there was the danger of one's thoughts becoming too narrow and closed in. As Yeats puts it, she wrote, "Things thought too long can be no longer thought, for beauty dies of beauty, worth of worth."

Thomas, then, wrote the poems that accompany the paintings in order to rescue himself from his own narrow way of thinking as a poet. At this point the author embarked on her main theme, an analysis of Thomas's poem on the famous René Magritte painting showing a boot changing, at the tip, into a human foot.

Kizu returned to his own closed-in, ingrown nail-parings. In the kitchen, too, this thought had arisen in his mind-a mental image of Tokyo hit by some catastrophe, too many dead bodies for anyone to do anything about, a favor only for the crows (this area didn't have any stray dogs)- the leftover bodies rotting, shriveling up, and himself among the dead. In the face of thoughts like these, how can one believe in the eternal soul?

"Well, maybe that's a kind of sign?" Kizu said aloud, as if to make cer- tain that these thoughts were ingrowing within him.

Starting with Dancer's visit, the day had been a busy one for him. And it turned out to be an important day for Patron's new movement. Dancer had dropped by Kizu's apartment on the way back from visiting Guide in the hospital, and when she was still on the way back to the office the news came in that Guide had regained consciousness. Ogi drove Patron over to the hos- pital right away, with Ikuo driving the minivan, Dancer aboard, close on their heels. This time they were all able to see Guide. In the evening, Patron wanted to discuss something with Kizu, so Ikuo called the apartment several times, but there was no reply. Kizu was out getting his injured wrist treated. When Ikuo returned to the apartment late that night, Kizu was still up, so they headed off to the office once again.

Kizu and Ikuo both knew very little about Guide's condition, so there wasn't much to talk about as they drove. When they arrived at Seijo, they learned that Ogi had stayed behind in the hospital waiting room on Guide's floor in case there were any changes. Dancer led Kizu inside. Patron was crouched down, head hanging on his chest, in the low armchair beside his bed. But as soon as Kizu sat down across from him, he looked up and a tor- rent of words gushed forth.

"Professor, Guide has regained consciousness! I don't know how his re- habilitation will go, but I know he'll be all right. He was asleep when I went into his room, but he opened his eyes right away and looked at me. He didn't say anything, which is understandable, seeing as how he'd only been conscious for two hours. But I saw in his eyes exactly what you talked about. I saw him quietly emerge.

"Guide closed his eyes after this, but I could tell he wasn't asleep since he blinked over and over. I stood beside his bed and couldn't contain my ex- citement. And I remembered some lines of poetry you had talked with me about, not Thomas's poetry but a Greek poem translated by E. M. Forster that Thomas apparently loved. You'll have to remind me of the exact wording."

"That was Pindar's ode: Man is the dream of a shadow, But when the god-given brightness comes A bright light is among men, and an age that is gentle comes to birth."

"Thank you, that's it exactly," Patron said, his eyelids swelling red- dish, his eyes turning tearful. "In our last lecture I think I spoke a bit too openly and hurt your feelings, and I apologize. The reason I've asked you over tonight is for you to lecture one more time on Thomas. With Guide recovering now, our movement will regain momentum. This is all well and good, but I might get too caught up in things to have time for any more poetry lectures. So tonight I was hoping you could read one of his more deeply contemplative poems."

Kizu complied right away. He picked from his notes one that he had already translated.

Grey waters, vast as an area of prayer that one enters. Daily over a period of years I have let the eye rest on them.

Was I waiting for something?

Nothing but that continuous waving that is without meaning occurred.

Ah, but a rare bird is rare. It is when one is not looking, at times one is not there that it comes.

You must wear your eyes out, as others their knees.

I became the hermit of the rocks, habited with the wind and the mist. There were days, so beautiful the emptiness it might have filled, its absence was as its presence; not to be told any more, so single my mind after its long fast, my watching from praying.

Kizu first read the original poem and then his translation, and after- ward Patron turned his eyes-no longer the tearful eyes of a child, but soft, the edges of the eyelids red-toward Kizu and spoke in a calm voice.

"How wonderful it would be if Guide continues to recover, his reha- bilitation goes well, and we could be like the hermit of the rock^s. But now that he's awakened, I don't imagine he'll want to live that way. Our tranquil days are over."

5: THE MOOSBRUGGER COMMITTEE

1

Ogi began organizing the name list from Patron the day after he got it.

He input all the information into the computer and then started writing each person individually, asking whether he or she would like to receive a letter of greetings from Patron now that he was on the verge of starting a new movement. (One of the reasons that Ikuo was asked to work at the office, not incidentally, was that Ogi was now spending all his time in this outreach task.)

Ogi informed the recipients that their names and addresses were in Patron's notebook and asked them to respond on an enclosed postcard. Nearly 30 per- cent wrote back to say they were looking forward to Patron's message.

Ogi crossed off the names of those who either didn't respond or said they weren't interested; when the names were those of celebrities he won- dered whether the name list might be Patron's own concoction. Still, those who responded were all ordinary people, people who, after the Somersault, had written to express sympathy and encouragement. Patron seemed to have cherished these expressions of goodwill in response to all his critics in the media.

Individual names on the list were no problem, but in cases involving the name of an organization, if the person who was listed as the head of the group didn't respond to the initial letter, Ogi, a perfectionist in such matters, called on the phone. In some cases, quite frankly, it was more curiosity that drove him than anything else.

In a new university town constructed in the outskirts of Tokyo, at the farthest end of a private railway line, there was one such organization in a multipurpose building rising among all the new housing subdivisions, a build- ing set aside, among other things, for various cultural and sporting activities.

The name of the organization was the Moosbrugger Committee. Ogi won- dered who in the world Moosbrugger might be. He'd sent the initial query to a man listed as the organization's contact person, but when he phoned the group it was a woman who answered. The woman sounded older than him- self, and her cheery, cartoony voice made Ogi suspect that this was merely a group of people who'd sent Patron a fan letter for fun. However, she turned out to be the officer in charge of overseeing the study groups who used the cultural center's facilities.

"I'd like to ask you about the Moosbrugger Committee," Ogi began, unsure of how to pronounce this Germanic-sounding name.

"Moosbrugger Committee? Aha! Yes, there was a group that went by that name here, but they're inactive now. Are you selling something?"

"No, I'm not a salesman, I'm working for a person we call Patron, and he received a letter from this committee."

"Patron? I see! They were a rather eccentric group, so I wouldn't put it beyond them. But that must have been several years ago. Why in the world would you be calling now?"

"I'm working for Patron, helping with his new movement. I apologize, but I don't know anything about the committee. Patron is now formulating new plans, and after a ten-year period of inactivity he's sending out greetings to individuals and groups who supported him ten years ago."

"You sound young, but you do seem to be on the ball," the woman said, in a voice quite different now from her earlier outrageously cheery laughter.

"Looking at our list of organizations, I see that the Moosbrugger Committee hasn't been active much, but since most of the members also belong to other study groups I imagine some of them are still coming to our center. I'll look into it, and if I run across some of them I'll give you a call. Would you tell me your telephone number please? My name is Nobuko Tsugane, and I work here at the center. The center itself receives funding from the Tokyo metro- politan government."

Ogi felt sure that after this phone call he could cross one more name off his list, but the next day the woman called him back and told him two mem- bers of the Moosbrugger Committee wanted to hear more about Patron's new plans. As they talked, Ogi decided to go visit them to discuss it, something he hadn't done before. So on the weekend, he took the Chuo Line train from Shinjuku and, after a couple of transfers, arrived at this university town an hour away from the city.

Ogi was born and raised in Tokyo during the Japanese economic boom and had graduated from college at the height of the Bubble Economy, but he still had no idea what scale this Culture and Sports Center-built jointly by Japanese Railway and a private railroad line-would be. As he climbed the stairs running between the two railroad stations, he was taken aback at the mammoth building rising in front of him. According to a pamphlet he picked up, the center contained a large concert hall boasting a pipe organ brought over from Germany, a medium-size theater and some smaller ones, and, in a separate building, a hotel with an international conference center with facili- ties for simultaneous interpreting. The two identical postmodern buildings were linked, and the connecting office, outfitted with a kitchen, was where he found the woman he'd talked with, Mrs. Tsugane.

Ogi proffered one of his old business cards, explaining that though he was working now for Patron, he had ties to the foundation on the card. Mrs.

Tsugane stared fixedly at him, a searching look on her face. Ogi felt a wave of nostalgia looking at this woman's narrow face, which despite its finely chis- eled features had a soft profile. Even more so, her dark, damp hair, falling in a gentle wave, sent a clear memory of something, he wasn't sure what, run- ning through him.

Mrs. Tsugane, noticing him looking at her hair, casually explained that she'd been for a swim during her lunch hour. She seemed a bit embarrassed at her own vitality, the lithe way she moved her body, clearly trained in high school or college sports-all of which fit perfectly her open laughter on the phone. Overall she seemed a well-brought-up intelligent woman.

Mrs. Tsugane said that the two women Ogi wanted to meet would be a little late, so she'd go ahead and tell him what she knew about the Moos- brugger Committee. "The committee began as a reading circle set up to dis- cuss Musil's A Man Without Qualities," she began, "and took its name from the name of a character in the novel, a strange person involved in sex crimes.

The members included people with backgrounds in sociology and psychol- ogy as well as housewives who loved literature.

"When the committee was formed, they planned mainly to have talks with a retired member of the police force who had been involved in a major sex crime investigation. Soon they were able to directly hear from the crimi- nal himself, which made the name of the committee all the more fitting.

"However, relations with rather peculiar individuals brought about some difficult problems. At one point it became necessary to give an hono- rarium to one of the guests they'd invited. Because the committee itself didn't have the funds, they made do with a contribution by one individual, but this gave rise to all sorts of complications. As these mounted, the Moosbrugger Committee found itself at a standstill. The two members who are on their way to see you now-one of whom was the woman who made that contribu- tion-were the members who, after Patron and Guide incurred the censure of society with the Somersault, began to be interested in them and planned to invite them as guests. As I said earlier, the two women are members of other cultural groups besides the Moosbrugger Committee, so don't worry if you don't arrive at any definite conclusion talking with them today-it's not like they're going out of their way to come here."

Just as Mrs. Tsugane concluded her neat summary, the two women entered the office, one of them a modest yet obviously strong-willed woman in her thirties, the other, younger, a large, ashen-faced woman who, perhaps because of her makeup, Ogi found hard to characterize. Mrs. Tsugane intro- duced them, the first woman as Ms. Tachibana, the second as Ms. Asuka. Mrs.

Tsugane drew out the older of the two women to talk about what led her to send a letter to Patron. Mrs. Tsugane handled this in a considerate yet efficient manner that increased Ogi's admiration for this experienced career woman.

Ms. Tachibana looked straight at Ogi through egg-shaped glasses; she sounded as if she'd prepared her remarks in advance.

"When the Moosbrugger Committee was originally formed-I wasn't yet a member then-their first guest speaker was a member of Patron's church. He was quite a strange character, which made him perfect for the committee: so much so they dubbed him 'Our Own Moosbrugger.' After he heard Patron's sermons, this man came to the outrageous conclusion that, with the world about to end, it didn't matter what sort of terrible things you did- in fact, those acts might even be of value-and he committed a crime. He'd served his time in jail and was out at this point, and we paid him an hono- rarium to speak to us about his experiences. I became a member the third time he spoke to us. I think he got the nickname Our Own Moosbrugger because he appeared so many times.

"At our meetings, someone raised the idea that it would be interesting to hear from the leader of the church the man belonged to, to hear his opin- ion about all this. We discussed it further, and this being a time when media reports on the Somersault were still fairly fresh in people's minds, we put two and two together and realized that the church leader on TV and the leader of Our Own Moosbrugger's church were one and the same. Maybe from the beginning it was unrealistic to ask this former leader who'd renounced his own church to come speak to us, seeing as how it'd be difficult for him to compare the radical faction that caused him so much trouble and a person like Our Own Moosbrugger.

"Still, the committee began to make preparations for his visit, came to me for advice, and that's how I ended up a member. The reason they came to me was that I'd talked to Ms. Asuka here, whom I'd met at the documentary film society at the center, and told her that I'd heard Patron give a sermon to a small gathering-this was before the Somersault, of course-and had been quite moved. Ms. Asuka makes films; actually, she's making her own docu- mentary about the main speaker at the committee, Our Own Moosbrugger.

She's a very self-assured woman and has a job that ordinary people would never think of doing, in order to earn the funds needed to finance her film.

She's the person who contributed the honorarium. At any rate, I was the one who sent the letter to Patron, using the name of the man who was the repre- sentative of the committee. You might think I thought that with Patron out of the church he might consider coming to talk with our group, but that wasn't my motivation at all; I just wanted to meet him myself."

"Did Patron write back?" Ogi asked.

"They waited a long long time and only now have a reply," Mrs. Tsugane put in.

"That's right. Over a thousand days. So-would it be possible for him to visit our group?"

"Patron's restarting his religious activities for the first time in a decade,"

Ogi said, "and he's contacting those people who wrote to him during that time.

So it might be possible."

"If he were to come, we'd have to get our committee up and running again. Not to bother him with old tales of Our Own Moosbrugger but to lis- ten to one of his wonderful sermons."

"I'd like to film his sermons too, since you've told me, Ms. Tachibana, how powerful a figure he is." Though her name had come up in the conversation, Ms. Asuka had remained silent, her flat face impassive in its greasepaintlike makeup. Now her remarks went immediately to the point.

Though her tone and voice were more affable than the other two women's, Mrs. Tsugane's next remarks brought Ogi up short.

"I understand that this Patron, as you call him, is getting back into re- ligious activities," she said, "but if your visit here to the Moosbrugger Com- mittee is for the purpose of recruiting converts, we can't allow the committee to use any of the conference rooms at the center. Outside of the meeting, of course, anyone is free to become a member."

It finally struck Ogi, whose innocence was in keeping with the nick- name his colleagues had given him, what his role had become-a religious canvasser.

"Just as when I wrote that letter," Ms. Tachibana said, "that isn't the reason why I want him to visit us. And I don't think that's where the inter- ests of the other members lie, either." In the overly hot central heating, strands of loose hair were plastered to her sweaty, pale forehead.

Ms. Asuka nodded in silent agreement.

"It's just that if we're going to have a relationship from now on," said Mrs. Tsugane, "I need you to understand that the Culture and Sports Center is a public facility."

Mrs. Tsugane said something next that, in one stroke, clarified the vaguely familiar feeling Ogi'd had ever since he met her; her face, too, was filled with a bright, wistful smile.

"When you were still a fresh-faced boy, Mr. Ogi, I sometimes saw you at your family's summer cottage in the Nasu Plateau. I tried to be friendly toward you, and according to your sister-in-law you liked me, too… and now look at you-grown into a wonderful young man."

After Ogi arrived back at his apartment, one station beyond the office at Seijo on the Odakyu Line, and began preparing dinner, the vivid memories Mrs.

Tsugane's remarks revived in him suddenly hit home. In the summer after his first year of high school, at their summer cottage in the Nasu Plateau, Ogi's whole family, from his father-head of the medical department at a public university-on down, were friends with a designer of hospital furniture who often came to stay with them. This year the man brought along his young wife Mrs. Tsugane. Her family had a summer home in the same area, and she and her husband were friends of Ogi's brother and sister-in-law. Ogi wasn't part of the two young couples' activities, since he was younger.

One day, when the young couples had changed into swimsuits at the house and gone to a nearby heated pool, Ogi went into the rest room connected to the bath and discovered the designer's wife's discarded white tank top, soft denim skirt, and a pair of panties with a flowery watercolor design in a laundry ham- per. Seized by a sudden impulse, Ogi stuffed the skimpy pair of panties in his pocket. That night he easily slipped the panties-two pieces of cloth connected by bits of elastic-onto his skinny body, and slept with them on, enveloped in a warm comfortable feeling, as if once more he were a happy baby. The next day, though, feelings of remorse clutched at him, and knowing that this panty thievery would not go unnoticed, he returned alone to Tokyo.

Every summer after that, Ogi begged off going to the summer cottage, saying he was busy with extracurricular activities.

2

When Ogi told her about the Moosbrugger Committee's proposal, Dancer said that while it might be possible for Patron to visit the committee, she wanted to wait before she broached the topic. For the time being, Patron had to concentrate on his discussions concerning their new plans with Guide, who had quickly recovered and had been released from the hospi- tal. Ogi, always meticulous when it came to their office work, wanted to get in touch with the Culture and Sports Center to let them know not to expect a quick reply. But he had another, more emotional, motive for call- ing: Mrs. Tsugane's voice on the phone, he had to admit, gave him a tingly feeling all over.

"I think you should get in touch with Ms. Tachibana directly," Mrs.

Tsugane told him, and gave him the telephone number; Ms. Tachibana worked in the library of a Jesuit university in Yotsuya.

"She's a very capable woman," Mrs. Tsugane went on, "and has been living for a long time with her handicapped younger brother. She isn't doing this as an act of self-sacrifice but because she feels it's the best way she and her brother can become more independent. Ms. Asuka is also a free spirit, with her own special way of putting that freedom into practice. As Ms. Tachibana implied, Ms. Asuka is involved in adult entertainment, saving up the funds she needs to make her own films… They're such opposites it makes me wonder how they've come to rely on each other so much as members of the committee… "Well, now that you know all this background, I'm sure you'll find plenty to talk about. After you do I'd like you to come see me. You do owe me something, right? Ha!"

Ogi got in touch that day with Ms. Tachibana's office, and they met the fol- lowing day, after she finished work, outside the side gate to the university.

They sat down for a talk on a bank that overlooked a moat, amid a line of cherry trees whose leaves had turned.

Ms. Tachibana had on a white and navy blue suit too subdued for her age, and, in contrast to her introspective demeanor, she strode toward him with firm, determined steps.

Ogi began by explaining to her about the young woman they all called Dancer, how she took care of Patron's daily needs and was responsible for many of the activities they had planned for the future, and then he gave her the message Dancer had asked him to relay. He apologized for his ambiva- lent reply the other day. Ms. Tachibana wasn't interested in talking about the Moosbrugger Committee, but wanted to explain why it was important for her, as an individual, to meet with Patron. Ogi readily agreed. Despite his youth, he was an excellent listener.

"I was once a student at this university," Ms. Tachibana began, "and a little more than ten years ago, just before the Somersault, when my brother and I were still living with our parents, an acquaintance invited me to a small gathering where Patron spoke.

"I wasn't a believer at the time, and though his sermon really moved me, it didn't convert me. At any rate, I'd become friends with the mother of a mentally challenged child who worked at the same welfare office where I took my brother, and she was the one who took me to the gathering. This mother wasn't a believer either.

"Life wasn't easy for me then, because of my brother. He could only use a few words, and has the cognitive ability of a four- or five-year-old, his motor skills about the same. But he has perfect pitch and composes music. He'd al- ready begun composing at the time. Once there was a concert at the Welfare Center and the volunteer pianist advised me to send copies of my brother's compositions to a famous composer, which I did right away. The composer wrote back, saying the melodies were exquisite, and also sent me a copy of a book he wrote. I brought the book with me. Here's what it says."

Ms. Tachibana took out a small hardcover book from her oversized handbag. Ogi motioned her over to some concrete seats shaped like tree stumps.

When one thinks, it's impossible to escape the agency of language. Even when one thinks in the medium of sound, there's an inevitable connec- tion with language. In my case, in order to form a framework in which my thoughts can be clearly expressed in the overall structure of my music and also in the details, I find it necessary to verify things in lan- guage. And I leave it up to a decision of the senses. I discover the themes of my music, too, through this sort of process. It has nothing to do with a poetic mood or anything like it.

"This made me think my brother's music has limitations. It's like there's a bar set up very low, and the music can't get over that hurdle. Perhaps the composer didn't want to hurt my feelings by telling me that directly, and that's why he sent me his book.

"My brother lies on the floor of our apartment, in our public housing apartment, and writes his compositions on music sheets. When he makes a mistake he erases it and then writes down the right notes. It's as if he al- ready has the music in his head and just needs to get the notes down on paper.

"He can't explain in words what kind of music he's trying to compose, and I doubt he's even thinking in words when he does compose. As the com- poser put it, he's unable to verify things in language.

"I started thinking about the limits of my brother's music, and I became quite sad and depressed as I realized what a dead end it was. I was feeling so down the woman I knew at the Welfare Center took me to hear Patron's sermon.

"It took place long ago, but I still remember it well; it was as if his ser- mon reached out and grabbed me right where I live.

"I took notes on his sermon in my notebook here; it was based on the words of a seventeenth-century philosopher: God revealed himself in Christ and in Christ's spirit, not following the words and images the prophets had given.

When the true spirit of things is grasped, apart from words and im- ages, then and only then are they truly understood… Christ actually, and completely, grasped this revelation.

"As I listened to him read each sentence aloud and then comment on it, I couldn't contain myself. I had to ask a question. The meeting was held in a small shop converted into a residence, which because of rising land prices was about to be sold; fifteen or sixteen believers filled this dim room near the en- trance, and we were seated just behind them. I raised my hand, leaned for- ward, and nearly shouted out my question. 'Sir,' I asked, 'I don't know anything about this special person named Christ, but could this be applied instead to someone else-say, an unfortunate person? A person who doesn't even know he's unfortunate and has a pure heart? Is it possible that God could reveal himself directly, not through words, but through music?'

"After I said this, Patron wove his way on unsteady legs through the narrow space between the people sitting in front and came and held my hand and whispered to me, 'That's exactly right!' I was still a young girl, and those words stayed in my heart. I felt as if my body and heart were filled with light."

As if to calm the tide of excitement, Ms. Tachibana was silent for a time, staring at the black trunks of the cherry trees in front of her. Ogi turned his gaze not on the shadows of the cherry leaves but toward the deep-hued autumn foliage of the mistletoe, even now turning darker as night approached.

So even a woman like this, he thought, a serious, modest person who calmly goes about doing her own job and living her own life, was encouraged by Patron. And now, even ten years after the Somersault, that emotion still re- mains alive inside her.

"I've been thinking about this for a long time," she went on, "but if Patron can come to the Moosbrugger Committee, I want to bring my brother along as a kind of test-to see whether Patron would reveal God in him, directly, without words or images. In the past, when my brother listened to music, you could see light filling his body and heart. That was when my par- ents were still alive. But now he's more like an old man; his head droops. I want him to meet Patron and be filled again with light, the way he used to be. Wouldn't that be a sign of God's revelation? I know my idea is a little wild, but after all the trouble you've gone through I just had to tell you. I'm sorry to have kept you so long-I appreciate your listening to me."

"No, I'm the one who should thank you," Ogi said. "I'm glad to hear that Patron has such power, even after the Somersault. Once his plans crys- tallize, you can expect a letter from him."

Ms. Tachibana nodded and stood up, made a slight bow, and walked off alone down the stone pathway in the direction of the Yotsuya Station. Ogi could imagine her taking walks here during her lunch break, with an invari- ably gloomy, serious look on her face. With her stolid way of walking, which took one's attention away from her features or manners, she disappeared down the path, her heels clicking against the stone paving.

So that he wouldn't seem to be following her, Ogi had set off in the opposite direction, down the path through the cherry trees. The farther he went the darker it became, and the only way he could reach the paved road lined with streetlights was to stray off the path and head toward the grassy slope. The moment he stepped off the path that sloped down through the trees, a thick branch of a cherry tree raked across his eyes and nose.

Holding his face, he plopped down on the withered lawn and grumbled a complaint directed less at his own pain than at something beyond.

"Why do there have to be so many unhappy people in the world? No wonder someone like this self-styled Patron of Humanity appears. What in the world is happening to life on this planet?"

3

When Dancer asked Ogi to report on his progress in contacting people, he submitted a revised name list to her, but he decided to approach Patron directly about Ms. Tachibana.

"Do you happen to recall," he asked Patron, "a small gathering about ten years ago when a young girl, whose younger brother was mentally chal- lenged, asked you a question? She wasn't one of the followers of the church.

This girl, still in her teens at the time, listened to your sermon and said her whole body was fdled with light."

Patron's pensive face, which looked like it was covered with a thin sheen of oil, came alive, the color rising.

"I do remember that," he said, his voice so suddenly transformed that Ogi nearly regretted his words, thinking they'd been too much of a shock.

"The girl told me her body and heart were fdled with light, and I could see that her skin, even the part covered by her clothes, was glowing."

Ogi recalled Ms. Tachibana's forehead, perfect for the kind of crown that adorned a Girls' Day doll, her tiny lips and chin. An image of her face as a youngster--not a particularly attractive girl-flashed through Ogi's mind.

And of light flooding through her thin, pale skin from within.

"That woman belongs to a group called the Moosbrugger Committee, which is on our list. In fact, she's the one who wrote to you. She wants to invite you to visit them. Before things become too busy with your new activities, would it be possible to fit a short meeting with the members of the committee into your schedule? She said she wanted to bring her mentally challenged brother along, too."

Ogi made up his mind to report to Ms. Tachibana that, although Patron couldn't make a firm commitment at this time, he did get the feeling he was leaning in that direction. The university library was closed, though, for a Founder's Day holiday. He phoned Mrs. Tsugane, and she told him her hus- band had received an award given in northern Europe for his designs for improved furniture for elderly patients. He was in Europe now to attend the awards ceremony, and she was bored and asked Ogi to come over to see her.

She had something she wanted to talk with him about, she added. Her voice had a force in it that couldn't be denied, so Ogi agreed to meet her Saturday afternoon at the entrance to the Culture and Sports Center.

On the appointed day, though, when she alighted from the elevator, Mrs. Tsugane wore a cold, serious expression completely in contrast with her voice on the phone. Silently, she led Ogi along a stone path heading to- ward the top of a hill right before them crowded with various cultural facili- ties and stores. Sculptures lined the narrow path, Ogi taking particular note of a combination of slabs of metal with complex reflections of the light and one mounted on a concrete base like an egg sliced in half. Elderly couples and small groups of young girls especially seemed to enjoy shaking the movable metal parts of some of the statues and stroking an almost comically old- fashioned realistic statue of an infant.

With no rhyme or reason to the way the level areas and steps were ad- joined, it was a tiring walk up the slope, and Mrs. Tsugane, lost in thought, eventually led the way to an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by a horseshoe- shaped ring of sunken stone seats; she went halfway around and began descending the south side of the hill. Without a word to Ogi, she strode off quickly toward a colony made up of a small group of residences and an apart- ment building rising up from slightly below.

She stopped at the brick entrance of the nearest residence, surrounded by yew trees, and for the first time seemed to relax. She had Ogi wait at the foyer as she went in, bustling noisily just past the door and then inviting him in. A spacious living room/kitchen greeted Ogi, a sparse woods visible on a steep slope outside. The lace curtain on the inset window was drawn, block- ing the unusually strong sunlight that had made them both perspire on the walk over. Ogi sat down on a sofa, his position affording him an angled view of the scenery to his right, and gazed at the framed picture hanging on the wall in front of him, a colored print of a railroad station constructed of iron, viewed from the front, and a plan, drawn in pencil, that continued on the same paper.

"This is where I escape to," said Mrs. Tsugane, catching what Ogi was looking at as she brought in a liter bottle of Evian and two fluted glasses. "My husband picked that up in France. He has a number of sketches of railway bridges too, all of which have a pagoda on them, obviously not of practical use but more as a type of monument."

"It's from the end of the nineteenth century, around the time the Eiffel Tower was built," Ogi said, noting the date on the print.

"That was the age when metal structures had a religious feel to them,"

Mrs. Tsugane said. She sat down on the sofa, waiting for Ogi's gaze to move from the print to her. "It's been so many years, but I wonder what happened to my missing panties? How about telling me the details?"

Ogi blushed, and felt like he was left dangling stupidly in the air. He fingered the Evian bottle on the low table, wondering how he should begin, as Mrs. Tsugane leaned forward and stretched out her hand as if she were about to slap his knee. Instead, she leaned back and said, in an intelligent, serious tone, "Please don't get angry, but just hear me out. I'm not doing this to have fun at your expense. It's just that recently I feel anxious, as if I'm stuck in a rut, and I feel a lot of nostalgia for those old days, and for the high school student who was so curious about my panties. I can imagine how tough it must have been for you, with your brother and his wife always leaving you out of their activities. And I wonder why I didn't do anything to help include you."

"The other day, after I got back to my apartment, I thought a lot about that," Ogi said. "Back then I just put your panties on and felt a gentle calm come over me and went to sleep… but I can't remember at all what hap- pened the next morning."

His words felt forced to him, a sense of reality missing from them. He blushed even more, afraid she might think he wasn't telling the truth, and took a sip of water. But Mrs. Tsugane seemed to accept everything he said.

She even inclined her head coyly to one side.

"This might be a naive question, but when a young man wears a woman's panties-assuming everything's normal with him-don't things get out of hand?"

"Not for me. Everything settled down nicely. It felt like my whole body was cocooned in a fluffy softness, and I slept soundly."

As she listened to Ogi, a yawn came to her flushed, small, round face, taking Ogi by surprise. Despite this, she appeared still to be deep in thought, and finally said, in a low voice, "Maybe you wanted to become a girl, you poor thing."

That certainly made sense, Ogi mused, when you consider how his geni- tals subsided and how calmly he slept after putting the panties on. Having confessed, his face red and drooping, Ogi realized that he might seem to be enjoying a kind of masochistic solace in all this, which made him blush all the more.

Mrs. Tsugane stared steadily at him for a time, then gulped and, steel- ing herself, made a decisive announcement.

"Certainly you don't strike me as girlish now. The subconscious desires you had as a young boy are still with us, inside your trousers. And the girl I used to be and the woman I am right now are very happy, I can tell you. Your brother and sister-in-law teased me no end about the panty incident, but it also brought on some erotic dreams. Why don't we reward our formerly naive selves? What do you say? Let's do it!"

Up the spiral staircase with its metal banister that ascended from the entrance with its vaulted ceiling, there was just one large bedroom, with a toilet and bath attached. The room contained little more than a vanity mir- ror and chair, an oak sideboard, and a double bed spilling over and occupy- ing the rest of the space. Mrs. Tsugane turned down the bedspread and light blanket and, standing firmly on the rug, legs set apart, took off her skirt, shrugged off her silk slip, and let it drop to the floor. After carefully remov- ing her stockings, she was taking off her panties when a faint smile spread lines from her flushed eyelids to her cheeks. Ogi didn't like that particular look, which was directed at him, but not to be outdone, he enthusiastically sloughed off his clothes.

Only three minutes into sex, as Ogi was moving vigorously up and down, his passion rising, Mrs. Tsugane pushed up her slim arms against his chest. Ogi was annoyed, but she modestly explained that she felt she was going to come first, and wanted him to get off her. She turned around, face down, hoisting up to a comical height the two white globes of her rump and the reddish slit between. She had all the seriousness of purpose of a little girl absorbed in play and Ogi, once again in a good mood, couldn't suppress a smile, feeling proud that such an intelligent older woman would openly show him such passion.

Ogi enjoyed remembering their sexual activities for many days there- after. Even when he was taking care of the inquiries related to Patron's name list-and the number of replies they received exceeded a hundred-he'd be possessed by fragmentary mental pictures of Mrs. Tsugane's body, and of her fingers, and of his as they moved over her. He made out a schedule of visits to the university town Mrs. Tsugane lived in, taking care of all the business at hand up to the last possible moment-sending out Patron's letters, getting in touch with people by e-mail, fax, and, when necessary, by phone. For her part, Mrs. Tsugane, with her insatiable desire and stamina-at least from the view- point of an inexperienced youth-responded to Ogi's every need. What's more, she displayed the kind of good sense appropriate to an older woman.

One day between bouts of sex as they lay sprawled out, resting their weary bodies, Mrs. Tsugane, puffing on a cigarette, said, sounding less like she was addressing Ogi than reciting lines from a one-man play, "Please don't tell anyone about what's going on between us. After my husband gets back from abroad, we won't be able to meet as frequently, and we'll both have time to do some soul-searching. In my experience, even if you try very hard to ana- lyze a physical relationship, one that's just begun, you'll find it meaningless to do so."

Innocent, and at the same time moralistic, Ogi listened to her, dead se- rious. A moment later, though, as Mrs. Tsugane, lying face down, slid up and reached out for the ashtray, Ogi's attention was riveted by the red lines on the outer part of her small buttocks attached to thick thighs, and by her anus, like a dried jujube-tree fruit, the only part of the sweaty flushed inner flesh of her skin that wasn't soaked, like an ornamental button amid the pubic hair surrounding it.

In the end, innocent young Ogi put these words of a most discreet and experienced older woman on a back burner and didn't pursue their implica- tions. After three weeks of bliss, though, the day came when he had to face an inevitable reality, on the heels of which he was ambushed by jealousy and ended up angry and miserable: Mrs. Tsugane's husband was coming back from Europe the following day.

Ogi learned that they wouldn't be seeing much of each other since she was going to take some time off from her job and spend a week with her husband at their cottage in South Izu before he reported back to his design center. When he heard this, Ogi felt like breathing a sigh of relief for his penis, which had never had such a workout. Perhaps eager to reward him for the time they'd have to be apart, when Ogi arrived at her refuge on this final day Mrs. Tsugane had laid out a plastic sheet on the rug at the foot of the bed, as well as a professional-size bottle of body lotion Ms. Asuka had given her.

Ogi had heard that Ms. Asuka worked in "adult entertainment," but it was only when he saw this bottle that he fully understood what this meant.

According to what he'd heard, the Our Own Moosbrugger fellow had used some of Ms. Asuka's contributions to pay a visit to her massage parlor.

They spread the lotion over each other's bodies and went through the same routine they normally performed on the bed. But this time Mrs. Tsugane didn't let Ogi pin her down; instead she got up on his chest and straddled him, facing away from him and bending over. As he knew it would, his penis trembled from this new workout as her head bobbed up and down on it.

Thinking to return the favor, Ogi stuck his neck out like a turtle, but with the rapid movement of her tight little rump, his tongue couldn't quite reach the red slit right before his eyes. He grabbed on to her glistening white butt, a hand on each hemisphere to hold it still, and relaxed his neck. But as Mrs.

Tsugane became more absorbed in performing fellatio, the bobbing move- ments of her head led her butt to rise and fall; Ogi touched his right index finger to the jujube fruit between her buttocks, and it slid in smoothly. As if to encourage the movements of his fingers, her rump gracefully slid down deeper and the young man's finger came to rest on a soft cocoon like a tiny ball of finely dried hay… After he returned to his apartment, Ogi finally realized what that had all been about. A few days before, as they took a break in bed, Mrs. Tsugane had mentioned that her furniture-designer husband had an interest in sca- tology and had shown interest in her urine and feces. Once it was out of the body it was dead, as far as she was concerned, and though she had urinated on him once, she didn't let him touch anything else, she said.

Mrs. Tsugane had given Ogi the body lotion bottle to throw away in the garbage cans outside the station on his way home, but as she did so she poured the remaining lotion into a small bottle of a generic brand of make-up, and put the apparently new container in her purse. Now when he recalled this he understood he'd been nothing more than a guinea pig in an experi- ment prepared for her returning husband's new sexual proclivities. And this became the trigger for the jealousy that consumed him the following week.

4

After a truly miserable week alone, when Ogi showed up at Mrs.

Tsugane's office she was on the phone, speaking slowly and deliberately.

She motioned to him to take a seat. Apparently she was talking with the PR department of a company regarding travel funding for a Polish avant- garde troupe that was scheduled to appear at the drama festival sponsored by the Culture and Sports Center the following spring. She had on a beige suit and, around her neck, a scarf of horizontal light green and grass-colored stripes. On his trip to Europe to the awards ceremony, Mrs. Tsugane had told Ogi proudly, she'd asked her husband to attend a famous scarf designer's show of his new collection.

As he listened to her endless phone call, Ogi remembered that long-ago summer day, her tank top, and her lush heavy hair cascading down her back.

Her hair now, bangs as well as the hair down the nape of her neck, was thin- ner and piled up on top of her head. He had learned that the wrinkles that ran from her eyes to the upper part of her cheeks grew darker as she got sexu- ally aroused, but now they were merely an indicator of aging skin; in her profile, as she quietly but persistently made her case over the phone, Ogi could see exhaustion seeping through.

She finally finished her call and hung up, a self-deprecating look on her face at having someone else witness her struggle over the phone.

"No matter how much I plead, they won't contribute the funds. Before the economic bubble burst, companies used to give money before they even heard what it was for. Nowadays, with the recession getting worse, they feel they've done their duty merely by listening."

Ogi nodded at her. He broached the topic he'd been thinking about all the way over on the Chuo Line train, his words sounding unnatural to him as he spoke.

"It seems it's impossible for Patron to come to a meeting of the Moos- brugger Committee. Not that he has no interest in Ms. Tachibana and her brother-quite the opposite. He wants to invite them to come to his own of- fice. I called her to convey the news and she seemed quite taken with the idea."

"If that's the case," Mrs. Tsugane said, staring fixedly at Ogi as if finally noticing him, "there's no reason for Ms. Tachibana to attend the Moosbrugger Committee anymore. She has a close friend in Ms. Asuka, and the other people on the committee are really not her type. This would mean too, wouldn't it, that you have no more business here? When we talked this morning, though we haven't seen each other for ten days, you didn't seem too enthusiastic about meeting me.

"Does this mean our relationship is over, now that my husband's back in the country? Did your sense of morality drive you to this decision? Surely you're not suddenly afraid of my husband?"

Ogi decided he'd best say nothing. Angry emotions welled up inside, but if he let her storm of words sweep over his head, this troublesome matter he didn't know how to begin to approach would simply resolve itself. The ten days of misery he'd experienced had made him think things out in a more adult way. It was worse than cowardly to put all the blame on her.

"I don't know if I can say anything about morality. But I do know that jealousy's made me miserable these past ten days, and there's no way out. If I said I was going to snatch you away from your husband, you'd be the first to laugh at me. But I still went ahead cooking up all kinds of silly schemes. Fi- nally, I decided that I couldn't keep on as I am, suffering from a jealousy that has me bent out of shape. In other words, the only way is to make a clean break."

"Isn't there some less drastic way?" Mrs. Tsugane asked. "Maybe we could go on as we are, for a while, and then say goodbye with only a mini- mum of pain."

"The pointless suffering I've been through made me realize that I can't stand being in this kind of pain anymore. If we keep on, my head will explode.

There's no other way. If we cut things off here I'll suffer for a time, but I can tough it out."

Mrs. Tsugane's small figure shrank farther into her chair, as she turned her pinked-rimmed eyes to Ogi. She licked her upper lip and the skin above it with her peach-colored tongue, which Ogi found, all over again, alluring.

"You're basically a very serious person, aren't you?" she asked. "Your parents are probably bemoaning the fact that, of all your brothers, you're the one who's gone bad and doesn't have a decent job, but you're still as serious as the high school boy I remember, jogging for all he was worth on the Nasu Plateau. So serious you just had to steal my panties, didn't you?

"I understand, so let's say goodbye. I'd like you to have a keepsake- and don't think a new pair of panties is what you want-so I'd like to give you a brand-new cassette player. With a cassette tape, too: music that Ms. Tachibana's younger brother composed. I listened to it a little this morn- ing, and it made me so sad I couldn't listen anymore. After your phone call, I had a premonition of what was going to happen. And now that it has, you can't expect me to listen to that music, can you? Farewell. Horseman, pass by!"

For about thirty minutes on the train to Shinjuku, Ogi sat with his head hanging down, but then he switched on the tape recorder and listened to the tape from the point where Mrs. Tsugane had stopped it. Each of the short pieces was made up of simple chord structures and melodies, but the music felt like the cries of a bared soul. So this is how a person lives with a mental handicap, Ogi thought, and how an unfortunate woman takes care of him all on her own. Heedless of the pair of high school girls who stared at him, Ogi felt tears coursing down his cheeks.

If Patron can make a light shine in someone like that, not just in their hearts but inside their very bodies, Ogi thought, I want to do my utmost to help him. He was crushed by a lump of grief, but even if he wasn't aware of it at the time, at the far end of his sorrow was a ray of light, and the dark monster of his jealousy was even now in retreat.

6: GUIDE

1

Kizu had heard from Dancer about the separate annex in the compound where their office was located, but he'd never seen it. Almost immediately after he was released from the hospital, though, Guide let Kizu know that he'd heard about him from Patron and wanted him to come over to visit, so they set a date and time.

In the minivan on the way over, Kizu learned from Ikuo that while Ogi was spending all his energies in laying the groundwork for Patron's new movement, Dancer was spending all her time taking care of Guide's day- to-day needs.

"Guide says he wants to participate in the new movement, but Dancer told him that after managing to survive a burst brain aneurysm his number- one priority should be getting back on his feet.

"And Guide retorted, 'If I'm going to die anyway with my skull full of blood, I might as well work while I can for that slipshod friend of mine!"

They walked around back of the main building, a half-Japanese half- Western affair under the dense foliage of a camphor tree, and came upon a building with white walls and Spanish-style roof tiles. The walls were thick, like the ones Kizu had seen in farmhouses in Mexico; the whole thing was built like a jail, with double-pane windows. They opened the heavy front door, and Kizu waited with Ikuo for Dancer. The sound of a similar heavy door was heard upstairs, a band of yellowish light shone on the white walls, and Dancer appeared, dressed in black tights and an ice-hockey shirt.

As he and Ikuo followed her, Kizu noticed that the steep stairs seemed out of character with the sense of open space the building imparted, and once they were upstairs and he looked back, the entrance where they'd removed their shoes seemed strangely far away. The spacious room that Kizu and Ikuo were shown into, lined as it was with bookshelves, looked like an academic's study. Guide was at the other end of the room, lying back on a raised chaise longue.

Dancer had Kizu and Ikuo sit down on a shiny white wooden platform with cushions on top. Guide's chaise longue, writing desk, and chair were all made of the same material. They were all simple yet solid looking.

After the initial introductions, Kizu looked around the room, and Guide, whose color looked perfectly healthy, said, " Professor, you're in charge of the art education department, I understand. I'm curious. What grade would you give this room, B minus? C plus?"

"Nothing that low. It's clear what you had in mind, and I like that."

"Guide designed the whole thing," Dancer put in, "and supervised the construction too. My dance studio's on the first floor."

"Architects were mostly all members of their high school art clubs and good with their hands, correct? I just helped out a bit in calculating construc- tion costs."

"Shall I make the room brighter so you can see the details better?" Dancer asked as she stepped to the half-opened curtain.

"No," Guide said, stopping her. "It's fine the way it is."

"Is strong light bad for you?" Kizu asked.

"No, it's not that. I just thought you'd rather not see the scars from my operation."

Guide seemed to have a dark gray hood over half his forehead, though it may have just been a scarf wrapped around his head, the ends touching the collar of his sweater in back. He was a stylish man, belying what Kizu had heard. His features included a strong yet not too broad nose and a straight mustache that occupied a willful upper lip. A pair of equally neat eyebrows were raised upward, toward his covered forehead. He turned his large black shining eyes, the whites visible on both sides and below, toward Kizu.

"I understand from Ikuo, Professor, that you read about our apostasy in the newspapers in America. I find this interesting, since I've never heard the reactions of intellectuals to what we did."

"The New York Times reporter who wrote the articles about Patron and you is Jewish-you can tell from the name," Kizu said. "I don't want to over- simplify his level of knowledge, but he did bring up the name of Sabbatai Zevi, a seventeenth-century figure who announced he was the Jewish Messiah but who ended up being forcibly converted to Islam by the Turks. A colleague of mine, a historian of religions, told me that, despite Zevi's apostasy, his fol- lowers continued to believe in his teachings for many years afterward, in an area stretching from Turkey and Eastern Europe to Asia Minor all the way to Russia. This made me start to wonder whether, after your Somersault, there were followers who still believed in the teachings you'd renounced and, if so, whether you and Patron were able to ignore them."

"This is precisely the area I wanted to ask you about, Professor," Guide said, in a calm, strong tone. "Ten years ago Patron and I discarded not only our followers but our teachings. On national television Patron told our fol- lowers that what we preached was rubbish and he wanted them to stop their foolishness.

"Even when he's joking around, Patron is the kind of person who only speaks what he believes is the truth. We may have been driven into a corner by circumstances, but he wasn't compelled to say things he didn't believe were true.

"I was at his side as Patron frantically considered what to do, and I racked my brain as well. And I came to the conclusion that that's all we could do. We drove ourselves to the point where there was no other possible out- come. We were dead men then, you might say. Having done our Somersault, we were like the living dead.

"Everything before the Somersault vanished for us. It was as if we were amnesiacs, bereft of any traces of our former lives. Since we'd abandoned our faith, we were nothing more than living puppets. But even puppets suffer, you know. Patron felt this, and so did I. He called it falling into hell. I agree, but at no time during these ten years did we discuss what this hell consisted of. We lived together all that time but never spoke of what was really most important.

"After our Somersault we were, as I said before, like the living dead, but you might say we were hibernating. Like sick bears who may die in their cave at any moment. Patron is a complex person, and perhaps his inner ex- perience was different. But I have never in my life experienced such a lazy decade, perhaps too lazy for our own good. If mental activity gets rid of cholesterol, our lack of activity alone was enough to make the blood vessels inside our brains so clogged they'd burst."

Dancer was standing beside Guide like a well-trained waiter, holding a flower-patterned tray level with her chest, on the tray a cup of water and various medicines. As Guide spoke about laziness, she shook her head ever so slightly from side to side. And when he paused and turned to pick up the cup of water, she rotated the tray so the pills were in front of him, as if to say, No water for you unless you take your medicine.

"What you said, Professor, is quite true," Guide said. "There are still some people who remain in the church, and some who've formed their own communal groups and continue to maintain their faith. Just before I went into the hospital, some of them got in touch with me; I had planned to meet with one group that's still within the church. I didn't tell Patron about this, but when I was released from the hospital I found out that he was communicat- ing too, on a private level, with small groups who had written directly to him.

"We haven't talked about it yet, but it would seem that, now that a de- cade has gone by, Patron's thought processes and mine are leaning in the same direction. It makes me realize what happens when two people live so closely for so long.

"At the time of our Somersault, both Patron and I hoped that the church would disappear. But soon the Kansai branch became a nonprofit founda- tion and took over. They didn't pour their energy into attacking us for our apostasy. Instead, they concentrated on defending the organization by refut- ing all the criticisms and ridicule put out by the media. But one other group that became independent after the Somersault did denounce us. And some followers were left on their own and joined groups like Aum Shinrikyo and fundamentalist Christian groups. We received communications from those men and women, too, trying to win us over to their views.

"Understandably, those people's interest in us has dissipated over the past decade, and they've stopped writing. I have no idea what's become of them. The ones we know the most about are those who formed groups out- side the church. One group, made up of women, continues to believe in Patron's teachings and, rather than criticize us, these women are trying to share our sin, if you view it as that, and the suffering that accompanies it. In fact, they see us as apostates falling into hell in order to atone for the sins of all mankind and thus summon forth salvation. They're praying for the day when we can escape our hell and return. Their prayers, I believe, consist of an attempt to visualize and truly comprehend this hell we're in. I don't know whether Patron was influenced by them to speak of us as falling into hell, or whether it was his original concept and they happened to hear of it and that's how they started speaking of it in those terms.

"Anyway, after ten years I was slowly but surely opening lines of com- munication with former believers, but I collapsed just as this opening became significant. Now that I've managed to survive and come home, I find Patron is beginning some new activities. The people he's plugged into, though, aren't former members, but people who got in touch with him only after the Som- ersault. What I find interesting is that both Patron and I see this ten-year period as a kind of turning point.

"I'm also fascinated by the idea of people continuing to believe in a false Messiah who's renounced his faith. There's the Kansai branch that's been going strong for a decade, and another group that wants to go back to the time of the Somersault and erase everything that happened. And then there are people eagerly awaiting Patron's return from the hell of apostasy. After all this time we can't just deny a connection with these men and women or with those who developed an interest in us more recently.

"I'd like to hear much more from you about this seventeenth-century Messiah and his apostasy. Would you talk to me as you did with Patron about English poetry? I know you'll need time to prepare; I'm in no hurry. It takes longer than ten years for our time in hell to end."

2

In the car on the way home, Kizu asked Ikuo, who'd been silent the whole time, what his impressions were.

"Even after I started working at the office I never had much chance to talk with Patron," Ikuo replied. "I'd heard him talk with Dancer and with Ogi, of course. When Guide was released from the hospital, though, and Dancer stayed behind to take care of the paperwork, I was alone with Guide, and later on I was asked to rearrange his room, and both times I was able to talk with him. He doesn't treat me merely as a driver hired to work there.

Since he came home from the hospital he and Patron don't seem to be doing much together, but listening to him today it's clear how important Patron is to him.

"I'd rather ask you, Professor, what you think about them, since you've had good long talks with both of them. You said Patron has a lot of charisma, but what do you make of the way he doesn't resist being called Patron? Guide, I can understand-he's Patron's guide, and the guide for those who approach him."

Kizu admitted he did feel Patron was very charismatic, yet even though they were still continuing their discussions of R. S. Thomas, he didn't have enough to go on to give a proper response. As if he anticipated this, Ikuo con- tinued, not waiting for the stammering Kizu to finish his reply.

"I believe you approached Patron, and later Guide, because you think it s risky for me to be working in their office. Which means it's nonsense for me to ask you this kind of question, I know. Still, I feel that by working alongside them I'm getting deeper into Patron, which is why I wanted to get your opinion. It's a spoiled streak in me, I know: getting more deeply involved with them because I want to and then making you get involved and relying on you.

"This is what I've been thinking: Ten years ago, Patron and Guide lost their faith. They said that all they'd taught up till then was one big joke. If we assume this wasn't some strategy or tactic directed against the authorities or the media, but was something they had to admit from the heart, will this new unexpected movement they're starting create a new kind of doctrine?

Or will they say they were wrong to deny their old teachings, and then re- pent and go back to square one? It seems to me that the people waiting for Patron's next move aren't unanimous in their attitudes."

"I wonder," Kizu said. "At this moment I really can't say. It may seem a little standoffish of me, but to be perfectly frank my ulterior motive in com- ing to their office was so I could be with you. They're not men who will let me get away with that for long. But I am going to try to find out an answer to your questions, especially about Patron."

The day after this conversation with Ikuo, Kizu, egged on by his own words, went over to the office for the first time without being invited.

He didn't accompany Ikuo in the minivan-Ikuo had left early in the morn- ing-but drove over in his Mustang after finishing his daily quota of painting.

It was past the dinner hour when Kizu arrived at the office, but when he parked his car in the hollow of shrubbery next to the gate, the front door was already open and someone was looking out at him. When Kizu went in, he found Ogi standing there, the front door wide open.

"You're expecting someone?" Kizu said in greeting. Ogi nodded and, though they hadn't spoken very loudly, motioned for Kizu to keep his voice down.

Ogi's voice was subdued. "Ikuo drove Dancer to get the doctor."

That's all he said. He slipped past Kizu to shut the front door noise- lessly. Having lived in America so long, Kizu didn't pay much attention to the sound of doors opening and closing, but he realized Ogi was taking care not to slam it.

Guide had come over to the front office trom his attached building. He wore an expensive cardigan with a frayed collar over his shirt and sat on the sofa on the garden side of the room, lost in thought. Ogi went back to the office to take care of some e-mail, and Kizu settled down on the edge of the sofa at a right angle to Guide.

As if Kizu were someone who belonged in this room and he himself did not, Guide nodded a tentative greeting. Then, noticing that Kizu was at loose ends, Guide turned his hood-covered bird-of-prey head to him.

"Patron is in a kind of state right now. It's not one of his deep trances, but something close to it. In the past we would have considered this a pre- liminary. Perhaps it's a prelude to his first deep trance in ten years, I don't know. It started early this morning, so it's been going on for over ten hours now. He hasn't been this way for so long, we thought it best to send for the doctor. Dancer has gone to fetch him."

Kizu had heard about these trances, and just learning that Patron might be close to being in one was enough to put him on edge. He said nothing, just looked at Guide as he continued.

"Would you agree to see him in this condition? Dancer has some plan for you to draw his portrait, so it could also be of help. Anyhow, it's some- thing you'll never see anywhere else."

"I barely know him. Do you think it's all right?" Kizu asked.

"As long as you don't make any noise, it'll be okay. Loud sounds seem to hurt him. In his condition now he's not completely gone over to the other side, but even so… Dancer had never seen him in this condition before and was beside herself; she couldn't drag herself away so I thought it best to send her for the doctor." Ogi looked up in their direction, and Guide said to him, "I'm going to take Professor Kizu in."

Guide led the way down the dim hallway and instructed Kizu to sit down next to the empty bed in his usual spot on the wooden chair, lit in the faint glow of a bedside lamp; Guide himself sat down on the middle of the bed. His actions were matter-of-fact, yet Kizu thought that even if this wasn't a deep trance Patron must be absorbed in something heavy and mystical that he'd never been privy to before. Still, when his eyes adjusted to the darkness he was shocked at what he saw.

Kizu knew there was a low chair Patron used for reading, and a straight- backed chair across from him that he himself used whenever they read po- etry together. What he saw now on the low chair was Patron, legs resting on a stool the height of two shoe boxes, head stuck deep between his widespread knees, arms hanging straight down on each side, unmoving.

Patron's face was hidden, the delicate nape of his neck covered tightly with a white collar, a jacket half slipping down his rounded back. Kizu re- membered seeing that gray jacket during their midnight poetry sessions, but the clothes he had on now were brand new. Perhaps he had several sets.

Wearing fine clothes must be a habit he picked up in his former days as an eager missionary. Another thought struck Kizu; namely, that Patron wore these brand-new clothes because he knew a deep trance was coming on.

Could this state really be only a preliminary? Patron seemed totally absorbed. He held his body in a way you would never expect from a living human being. He sat there, utterly still, every semblance of humanity gone, as if he were carved out of wood or wrought out of metal.

"He's held this position for over ten hours?" Kizu whispered. "Isn't it painful?"

"He doesn't seem to feel any pain. But physically there may be some damage. You know, like when kids bite their lips before the anesthetic wears off at the dentist."

"Why isn't this considered a deep trance?"

"He's too calm. In a deep trance his body moves. Before he goes into a deep trance he acts like this for a short while, and then it's as though he's toss- ing and turning in his sleep. That's the usual pattern. Only when something prevents him from going into a deep trance is he like this, as if he's in a chrysa- lis, for such a long time."

The two of them kept their voices down. Even after they stopped talk- ing, they stayed leaning close to each other, gazing at this unnatural shape in front of them, an object it would be difficult to call a living thing. Guide cleared his throat as if sighing and spoke in a low yet distinct voice. Once, he said, they had had a doctor, a specialist, measure Patron before and after a trance using some specialized equipment. This was twelve or thirteen years ago, done at the request of a TV network. Patron's brain waves and EKG were incredibly calm, his breathing and pulse barely detectable. For a person to have readings at this level and still be alive, the specialist explained, was truly remarkable.

"What about when he's in a trance?" Kizu asked.

"We couldn't attach any measuring instruments," Guide said. "His movements are so violent that after a deep trance he's completely spent, physically and emotionally. After he's come back, he says all sorts of complex things, as if he's possessed. He says he's standing in front of a kind of three- dimensional mesh, a display screen on which a blur of light is continuously changing, receiving information.

"Patron seems to confront some kind of white glowing object. When you look at him when he's like this, it's as if his body is reacting to each bit of information he's receiving, moving constantly, never static. It's too much to bear. When I try to help him interpret all this, I realize the amount and qual- ity of information he receives is amazing. That's one of his real trances. His fate is to have this very rare ability. This might sound exaggerated, but Patron can freely view the entire course of human history and experience every last detail. He traces it all with his own body. He conveys to us what he's learned about the history of mankind and even its future, speaking to us-in the present-of the end time."

"What is this blur of light you mentioned?"

"As someone who's listened to what Patron says after he returns from his trances, transmitting what that's all about is my job." Saying this, Guide, who'd been listening to some inner voice, now lifted his head as if to turn his ear to sounds from the world outside.

Kizu heard a car pull up and stop in the road beyond the garden, and several people came quietly into the residence.

"Dancer will take over now," Guide said. "I'll see you home, Professor.

Ikuo will have to come back later, so I can ride with you and we can talk some more."

Guide turned once again to the thing, sitting there like a strangely twisted statue, and then faced Kizu. His eyes now adjusted to the dark, Kizu could read the strong emotions rising to the surface in Guide's face. His ex- pression held, at one and the same time, a fierce penetrating look and a look that could have been either pity or love.

Kizu was about to stand up after Guide when a small, sunburned ener- getic old doctor came in-a minitank of a man, to use a phrase that Kizu and his friends had used when they were boys-together with Dancer. Ignoring their bows, the doctor strode right up to Patron, peered at him, and faced Dancer.

"It's exactly the same as in the past," the doctor said, in a nostalgic tone.

"If he's been this way until now, he'll be okay. But he might have one of his deep trances, so I'll sleep here tonight in his bed. I'll keep an eye on him, but I'm sure he'll be fine."

3

"About these deep trances again, you said that Patron sees a net that shows the entire history of the human race?" Kizu had had them park his Mustang in the garage and was now in the minivan, with Ikuo at the wheel and Guide alongside him. "No matter how big this white blur of light is, wouldn't individual people, and the groups they form, be no bigger than a cell? Or is this just some kind of metaphor, a model for a certain historical perspective?"

"It's neither a metaphor nor a model," Guide replied. (At that instant, Kizu caught an unexpected whiff of alcohol. Later, when asked, Ikuo said Guide only drank occasionally.) "No matter how minute something might be, Patron actually sees it. A cell can't be seen by the naked eye, but can you use physical parameters to measure what the visionary eye detects? Patron sees the entire world, from the beginning of time to the very end, as one whole vision.

"Inside that would be included, as one particle, you, on the verge of making an important decision about your life, and me, talking here with you.

Both present as eternal moments."

"If I were counting on death to help me escape myself," Kizu said, "that net would indeed be a kind of hell."

"I don't believe Patron is viewing hell in his visions," Guide replied seriously. "It's not as if he chooses what to see, as if he's purposefully inter- preting a satellite photograph, but rather that he's grasping the entire struc- ture oí this huge net of blurred white light. That's the stance he takes, I think, when he's in a trance.

"After one of his major trances, Patron talked with me about that. It's not like the blur of light is projected out in space but more like a bottomless hollow. The entire hollow is a kind of spinning and weaving net, and the net with its countless layers is a screen that reveals human existence in one fell swoop, from its beginning to its end, and each point on that net is moving forward. It covers everything from the origins of time-nothing other than the first signs of the Big Bang to come-to the time when everything flows back to the one ultimate being. That whole huge spinning hollow, Patron told me, you could call God. In other words, as he sits there with his head between his knees like a weighed-down fetus, he's about to embark on a trance in which he'll come face-to-face with that God."

"If that's what God is, it's just another way of saying there is no God."

Ikuo's eyes looked straight forward as he drove, his taut shoulders, twice the size of Patron's, filled with the tension of his remark.

"What do you mean, there is no God?" Guide asked him back.

"Saying that God is this hollow of the whole world is the same thing as saying there isn't any God, right?"

"But by saying that God is this hollow you're admitting there is a God."

"That might be true of people who accept that huge hollow and think it's enough," Ikuo said, "but for people who don't, it's the same as saying there is no God."

"For you, in other words."

"That's right. For me there is no God."

"I detect here something other than an abstract debate over the exis- tence of God. What really concerns you is whether God is actively working in your life or not."

"That's right, you got it," Ikuo admitted candidly, still stubborn.

Guide didn't say anything. Kizu couldn't intervene in their argument.

For a while Ikuo drove on, the three of them silent. Kizu caught another whiff of alcohol and noticed that Guide was hiding a small flask of whiskey in his coat pocket. Guide cleared his throat lightly and spoke.

"One sure thing, though, is that the white blur of light Patron confronts in his trances has decided the course of his life."

"If I confronted a God who's some huge hollow," Ikuo said, "well, I can tell you I wouldn't accept his deciding my life."

"Isn't this God that Patron senses in a holistic way, then, also the God you believe can speak to you directly?" Kizu asked. "Soon after I met you, Ikuo, I felt you were thinking about God as the power to grasp yourself. And I hoped that your notion of God would be like a passage enabling you to find an entrance to Patron's vast deep vision: namely, the God he confronts in his trances. Is the God that Ikuo's thinking of just one part of the all-embracing God that Patron sees?"

"It wouldn't fit Patron's definition of God to say one part of God," Guide said. "I spoke of a passage, but I think of it as a bundle of fiber-optic lines, with Ikuo on this side, at the terminus of one line, wondering if he can send a signal to the other side, the terminus of all the lines-in other words, to the enormous structure that is God."

"If there's a terminus on the other side, and an infinite number of them on this side, is it really possible that God would send a message directly to me?" Ikuo asked.

Guide was silent as he thought about it. The swaying of the speeding minivan made his head rock back and forth. Kizu could see he was fairly drunk by now, though he didn't let his drunkenness take over when he spoke.

"This might be a self-centered way of approaching it," Ikuo said, "but I think the only way to experience God is when the signal comes from his side to ours. Once his voice came to me and I did what it said, but afterward, when there was no response, there was no other way to meet God but to wait for his signal."

Ikuo stared straight ahead as he drove, his voice no longer angry, as it was a moment before, but filled with a sorrow that pierced Kizu to the quick.

Guide might have felt the same way, for he spoke now in a more formal way.

'Ikuo, have you spoken to Patron about this?"

"No. I've only just started working as his driver, and I haven't had a chance. Also, I think if I don't prepare myself before I talk with him, he'll end up having nothing more to do with me."

"But you came to work for Patron because you expected someday he might fulfill this longing you have toward God, right?"

"That's right. I met Dancer through a connection we had from before, but I felt Patron has the power to help us transcend our limits-something not unrelated to God."

Ikuo's words were not entirely unexpected, yet as he listened to this earnest confession Kizu was surprised and sympathetic.

"If that's the case, you should tell Patron exactly how you feel," Guide said to Ikuo, speaking the exact words of encouragement Kizu had been about to use. "Right now it would appear that Patron is laying the groundwork for a major vision, the kind that has eluded him for so long. At the next opportu- nity he may be able to interpret God's message to you in that blurred net of light. I'll call it your God for the time being, but there's no contradiction between that and Patron's all-inclusive God."

Kizu didn't quite follow Guide's final words. Ikuo went back to the first remarks, to make sure of what was most critical to him.

"Why would that be significant for me? Is it okay for me to think that he's interpreting a message from the God who once called out to me and was silent afterward?"

"What's wrong with that? With Patron trying to undergo a deep trance for the first time in so long, this may be an encouragement to him. Your ques- tions to Patron may spur him on."

"But if that happened, would it be a good thing?"

"If what happened?"

"If I happened to give him a push that affected the way he's living his life."

"You're afraid as an outsider you may have an influence on Patron?

Rather than an old person like me influencing him, it may very well need to be a young person who's struggling, working beside him, searching for the way. The poor in spirit. That would be you, all right. Though I've always seen you as the opposite type."

Guide was clearly drunk by now, but Ikuo pressed on.

"I don't want to hear Patron telling me some story just to make me happy."

"Patron isn't that clever," Guide said. "It's more likely the opposite. It you help him find his direction and give him a shove, that'll be his way of putting his life back together. Right now Patron's beginning a new movement.

It's actually been my hope that with his newfound desire to be active again, a young person like yourself who takes these things to heart would give him a shove in the right direction. Speaking from experience, though, once you get deeply involved with Patron, you won't come out unscathed. There's no way to avoid being influenced."

"So what should I do?" Ikuo asked. "If I were to sit down face-to-face with him, I wouldn't be able to say a thing. Committing a terrorist act would be a whole lot easier."

"Summon up the courage to appeal to him," Guide said. "Right now, Patron is awakening from his preparations for a vision, and the physical and emotional aftereffects will last for some time. But once he's over that, let's tell him your thoughts. Professor Kizu will help us too, won't you?"

Even though he was speeding along in the dark at eighty miles an hour, Ikuo turned around to Kizu and spoke in an urgent, almost pushy, tone.

"Please write a letter for me, explaining why I need to talk with Patron.

I haven't revealed everything to you, Professor, but still I'd like you to write the letter."

7: A SACRED WOUND

1

Patron had taken to his bed to recuperate and now, five days later, he was allowed to return to normal activities. In the evening, while Dancer was helping him take a bath, Ogi took a phone call from Guide in his annex.

Patron's bathroom was like a greenhouse, a brightly lit wing built onto the north side of his bedroom study. Patron liked to take long soaks in his roomy Western-style tub. Cordless phone in hand, Ogi called to him from just outside the changing room. There wasn't any sound of running water, but no one seemed to have heard him, so he stepped inside the changing room and stood facing the open door to the bathroom, going too lar to turn back.

The first thing Ogi saw was Patron stretched out in the bottom of the nearly empty tub that lay at right angles to his line of sight. Dancer abruptly cut off his view as she slipped in from the side and leaned her nude body over the edge of the tub; she had a detachable shower hose in her right hand. Her head seemed bulky with her hair piled high, and she cast a piercing glare at Ogi from upside down. She didn't try to hide anything; her legs were spread wide on the tiles. With her magnificent body, then, she was trying to hide Patron's naked form. Ogi placed the phone down on the threshold and re- treated. Guess even the changing room's off limits to me! he thought, find- ing it comical and yet disturbing.

Dancer soon appeared, neatly dressed, in front of Ogi's desk.

"I guess there's nothing we can do now that you saw it," she said, in a sort of affected calm, "but I would appreciate your not saying anything to Ikuo, Ms. Tachibana, or, of course, Professor Kizu."

She turned her back on him, her rump tightly sheathed in her skirt, and walked to the kitchen; after a time, she came back, her tongue visible between her slightly parted lips.

"You saw the wound in Patron's side, right? When I said you saw it a moment ago, what did you think I was talking about?"

Dancer said this very quickly and then gazed at Ogi silently, her face flushed with anger.

"When you wash a man's body, you have to undress yourself, right? If you think I was reproaching you for looking between my legs, I don't know what to say! When animals aren't in heat, their genitals aren't even genitals really, are they? Which goes double for humans! You're no longer the inno- cent you once were. I thought you'd grown up a little!"

Dancer twirled her high waist in an about-face to the right and set off again to the kitchen to prepare a late dinner for Patron, Guide, Ogi, and herself.

Ogi felt numbed with a vague coldness as he rested his face in his hands.

He lowered his eyes to some documents on his desk, but he couldn't concen- trate on the words. I saw it, he thought, and I did turn away as fast as I could, didn't I? Didn't I try to erase what I saw as much as I could? Despite what went on with Mrs. Tsugane, I set my gaze on Dancer's fleshy genitals! But I did see it, and can see it still-that reddish dark thing on the upper part of Patron's chubby white left side.

Back when Patron was made the leader of the church, did he already have that red gouged-out pomegranate-shaped wound in his side? That wasn't a scar but an open wound, with fresh blood oozing out. Ten years ago when he did his Somersault, was the wound like that? Or did it appear in the decade that followed? Or maybe it opened up only now that he's starting a rel igious movement again? At any rate, Ogi thought, now I've seen something I never imagined I would-the strangest of wounds.

2

The following week was a busy one for Ogi. The reason lay in that phone call he'd answered from Guide to Patron, the urgent call that led to all those complications. Guide had told him over the phone that he wanted to have a chance to talk with Patron.

The doctor had recommended, as part of his recovery, that Patron take a short trip for a change of scenery, so Patron decided to take the three young People, Ikuo, Dancer, and Ogi, on a trip outside Tokyo. Preparations fell to Ogi. He got in touch with his mother for the first time in a long while and had her send him the keys to their cottage in Nasu Plateau-the place where he first saw Mrs. Tsugane. Ms. Tachibana dropped by the office on a day off from work at the library-she was planning to quit the job someday-and Ogi decided their trip should take place on Saturday and Sunday, when Ms.

Tachibana could take care of the office for them the whole day.

They set off from Tokyo in the minivan, Ikuo at the wheel, late on Fri- day night. They'd chosen this late departure to avoid any traffic jams, but soon found themselves side by side with eighteen-wheelers that monopolized the highway. The minivan was comically puny compared to these mammoth trucks, but with Ikuo's bold driving, not once did any trucker behind them blare his horn to hound them to let him by. Even when they left behind the satellite cities that ringed Tokyo, the highway was still lit by streetlights, the inside of the minivan darker than the outside. Patron was sitting directly behind Ikuo, Dancer beside him, with Ogi in the rear seat, which allowed him to view everyone else from the back.

Ogi wanted to take a good long look at these three people, the core group of Patron's new movement-minus Guide, of course-and as he looked at their shoulders and the backs of their heads, he was struck by emotions he'd never felt before, a combined sense of how strange it all was and how thrilling.

Ogi was indeed drawn to this elderly man, fast asleep like a worn-out teddy bear, his large head fallen back; even though Ogi was working for him, he still didn't understand the part of Patron that was on a quest for spiritual matters. Ten years ago, Patron had denied all the teachings he was working so hard to disseminate and had renounced his church. And now, even though he was starting a new movement, he still hadn't shown them any new teach- ings to take the place of the old. And here was this unknown factor--Ikuo -seeking to talk about spiritual matters with Patron. What sort of fate could possibly have brought Ogi together with these people as fellow voyagers? That he was with them was a fact, but each day it was one unexpected thing after another. Add eccentric Dancer to the mix, and Ogi had a premonition that this group was about to take him on the ride of his life.

The country house to which Ogi was taking Patron and the others was part of a large parcel of land his grandfather had originally obtained when the Nasu Plateau area was first developed, which had remained in their family ever since. When they arrived at dawn it was still dark, with low-lying clouds, and through a line of barren trees they could see two or three other villas. The Ogi family's place, though, a large Western-style home, stood alone in a desolate spot. It seemed different from his memories of childhood summer vacations… They decided that Ogi would go up to the villa alone to open it, while Patron and the others stayed in the minivan they'd parked on the road below; the ground rose up on either side of the road, which lay below a dried-up grassy slope. After checking the lights and the water and switching on the propane gas heater next to the stove, Ogi looked down through the cloudy window. The barren forest surrounding the building was an old one, with huge gnarled trees; some trunks that had been cruelly felled by a typhoon were scattered about. Ogi began to regret bringing Patron to such a cold, forbidding place.

Before long Dancer ran up to the house to get it ready and told him she'd give a signal when the house was warm, so Ogi walked back down to the minivan. For the first time ever, he found Patron and Ikuo engaged in a friendly conversation. Ogi boarded the warm minivan in time to hear Patron say, "It's not exactly a desolate wilderness, but with the woods like this, after the leaves have fallen and before the snows, it does have that feeling. The place I went to in my visions was like this."

Ikuo seemed surprised. "Guide told me it was more like a dreamy atmosphere."

"Guide was almost always the first person I talked to when my visions were finished and I returned to this side, so his impression of what it was like may very well be just as accurate. The sense I had of it, though, was like being in a desolate place like this, confronting that blurred white light. Since it was painful to go from the other side back to this side, as painful as dying, I imag- ine, I suppose it's a bit of a contradiction to say that the other side is a more bitter, desolate place than this side."

"I had the impression that Guide always spoke of your visionary world in bright, cheery terms."

"Whenever I come back from the other side I talk about what I saw there in a kind of delirious way, and Guide listens and explains it all in a logical way. What he says stuns me."

"How could that be possible? You're stunned by hearing your own ex- periences told back to you?"

"It's entirely possible," Patron replied spiritedly, turning an amused look first at Ikuo, then at Ogi.

"You take leave of reality, go over to the other side, and accept the spiri- tual, right?" Ikuo said. "How can you be stunned by hearing about what you yourself saw?"

"Maybe that's the fate involved in using language to speak and to lis- ten, especially when you're dealing with transcendental matters. There's no direct connection between the visions I see in my trances and our language on this side. If I wanted to go over to the other side permanently, all I'd have to do would be to immerse myself in experiences that have nothing to do with language on this side. Being immersed like that is how God reveals Himself; it's everything to me.

"Still, I suffer tremendously to return to this side. There wouldn't be any problems if I stayed silent after I came back, but that would be as if what I experienced on the other side never took place. Guide's the one who told me I couldn't leave it at that and encouraged me to put my experiences into words. Often when I listen to Guide retelling my experiences, though, I feel he's unearthed deeper meaning to them than I ever realized. He definitely is my guide when it comes to making this mystical world clear to me. But I do sometimes feel uncomfortable with it. That's what I mean by saying I feel stunned."

There was more they seemed to want to say, but they fell silent for a time. Ogi sensed a movement out the van window and discovered Dancer out on the porch, doing a pirouette leap-her signal that the villa had warmed up enough to come inside.

3

The living room had the very latest propane heater-a device with self- regulating temperature and a gas leak detector-as well as a wood-burning fireplace, and it was there the three young people had a breakfast of ham, bacon, eggs, and vegetable salad the next morning. Dancer put away as much as the two young men. Patron's breakfast consisted of liquid food, appropri- ate to an elderly convalescent, that Dancer had brought along from Tokyo in a thermos. Once they were free of the day-to-day routine of the office, Ogi was struck by how very simple a matter it was to satisfy Patron's worldly desires. The same, of course, could be said of Guide.

After eating, they all went out for a walk. Before they left the villa, Dancer made Patron prepare for the winter cold by wearing an overcoat over his sweater and a long muffler that trailed down to his knees. The clouds hung lower than one would expect on a high plain, and it felt like the first snow of the season was just around the corner. Ogi took Patron's arm to help him along, but Patron soon said he needed time alone to think and strode aloofly off ahead of them.

The three young people walked behind Patron, keeping their distance, Ogi first, with Ikuo and Dancer side by side after him. Ikuo had taken out a folding wheelchair from the minivan and, with the chair still folded up, pushed it along, Dancer helping him.

Dancer had recommended that they buy the wheelchair after Guide had collapsed and it looked like he wouldn't soon recover. After he left the hospi- tal, though, Guide had no need of it, and it had been stored in the outbuild- ing and then loaded into the minivan. Patron was descending the gentle slope now with a healthy stride, but coming back he'd have the uphill slope to face and might be glad to use the chair. Dancer took all possible precautions when it came to Patron's health.

"I felt closer to Guide at first, but there was something I couldn't quite grasp about him," Dancer said to Ikuo, loud enough for Ogi, two or three paces ahead, to hear. "I don't know anything about what happened more than ten years ago. I've been thinking about this since I came to live with Patron and Guide and observe them up close. Guide always seems to be urging Pa- tron to do things, but once it seems that his words and actions are actually influencing Patron's judgment and actions, he immediately pulls back. I find his hesitation hard to fathom.

"I don't have anything to base this on, but I came up with a guess. I'm not saying that Patron was led into doing the Somersault by Guide, but maybe Guide did have an influence on Patron's decision. With this talk you're plan- ning to have with Patron, didn't you say you wanted to talk without Profes- sor Kizu and Guide around? Even if Professor Kizu couldn't make the trip because of his health, I wonder if Guide didn't think it better that he not be there since you and Patron had some important things to discuss. That must be the reason he didn't come, despite that long phone call and the fact that he urged you to go ahead and talk with Patron."

"It was Guide who encouraged me to bring my main concerns directly to Patron," said Ikuo, who had been silent up to this point.

Ogi sensed something, turned around, and saw Dancer twist to turn around to face Ikuo, who was a head taller than she was. In a very sharp tone of voice she said, "You're free to voice your own concerns, but whatever Pa- tron tells you should be shared with all of us. Patron isn't going to give you a hint for you alone; he will indicate the direction all of us should be taking.

Don't forget that!"

Dancer had clearly had her say; she began to walk more quickly in order to shorten the distance between herself and Patron. Urged on, Ogi and Ikuo picked up the pace. It was a simple matter for the young men and Dancer, with her gymnastic training, to catch up with Patron. He had stopped at the side of the road where raised earth marked the boundary of the older resi- dential section of the area; across from him was a paved road and a slope run- ning downhill and, even farther down the slope, a newer residential area that he was now gazing at. Dancer may have cut her conversation with Ikuo short because she noticed where Patron was standing.

A broad deep expanse of snow-covered mountains lay before them. On this side ran the line of woods that this morning had seemed desolate; bathed in the faint sunlight, the woods now had a gentle reddish-yellow tinge. The whole scene gave the impression that both people and trees had finished their preparations for the day, fast approaching, when snow would blanket ground and woods, and the far-off mountains would become one continuous stretch of white.

As the three of them reached the bundled-up Patron, he turned grace- fully toward them in his expensive boots at the sound of Dancer's voice and she briskly helped him into the wheelchair. Standing at the tip of that old road sloping down, their backs to it, they could feel the wind whipping up the slope, carrying with it a hint of cold air from the snow-covered mountains in the distance. At this season this was an appropriate spot to end their walk, and all of them understood it was the proper time to begin pushing Patron back up the hill. With her quick, unsparing way of working, Dancer was the per- fect attendant.

4

By six it was already dark. Patron had slept during the day and then eaten dinner in bed, and Dancer urged him to stay in bed for the time being.

Their group discussion, then, began at little after seven. The young people lit the wood in the fireplace, set an armchair in front of it for Patron, and settled down directly on an electric blanket they placed on the rug. They didn't face Patron directly, and as he stared into the fireplace, they followed suit, listen- ing intently and gazing at the flames. Ikuo had used a saw to cut up some of the pine, light brown birches, and cherry trees that had toppled over in the typhoon into six-foot-long logs, but couldn't find a hatchet to chop them into smaller pieces.

"I understand Guide suggested that you talk directly with me, Ikuo,"

Patron began. "He phoned me from his annex to tell me this. The fact that he didn't come to see me directly is a sign that he has something in mind.

Professor Kizu, too, sent me a letter outlining the background to your ques- tions, that your motivation for getting close to Guide and me can be traced to a desire you've had ever since you were a young boy. He wrote that you're a young man with something very special inside, and that if talking with me is needed to bring that to the surface, he wants to do what he can to help out.

"So it's obvious that Professor Kizu thinks you're a pretty special per- son. Dancer tells me that my answers to you shouldn't be for you alone, but for all of you, Dancer and Ogi included. In other words, whatever I say is connected to the movement I'm about to launch. In Guide's case, however, there's a separate issue at stake. Guide sympathizes with you, Ikuo, and the difficult questions you have, which is why he's advising you. I know him very well, though, and I know that can't be all there is to it.

"Guide is making the following proposal to me through you, Ikuo: In the past, God called to this young man. And I want you, for the sake of this young man, to act as intermediary to revive God's call to him.

"Guide is throwing up a challenge to me. He's also proposing that we try once more to do an important job that he and I weren't able to complete in the past. How this will come about, he's leaving up to me. According to Professor Kizu's letter, the God that appeared to you, Ikuo, told you to do something, and though you were still a child then, you waited with all your might to see what God wanted you to do. But you waited in vain.

"This is similar to the time before our Somersault, when Guide wanted me to act as intermediary between God and the radical sect he created. Around the time our church was getting established and really beginning to grow, he gathered a group of elite young people and created a place where they could freely conduct their research-his own special vanguard, in other words.

Doesn't it seem now as if he's singling you out, hoping to raise you up as a firm believer, as a kind of replacement for the sect? What I need to know is what fundamental difference Guide sees between then and now, between you and the radical faction in Izu.

"In the past we used to have these kinds of heavy discussions as he tried to grasp the vision I saw in my trance. Right now I've come back from an unsuccessful attempt to enter into a deep trance-my first in a decade. Guide tells me this is a preliminary to the return of those trances of old.

"I don't know yet what form it will take, but I've taken the first steps toward starting a new movement. Guide is essential to this, but you young people are also crucial. This is why I responded to Ikuo's appeal and asked you three to travel with me.

"I'd like to tell you young people about what Guide and I used to do in the old days and how our Somersault came about. Until we abandoned our movement, what was it I preached to our followers? In a nutshell, it was my hope that the world be filled with people who repent what's happened to our world, because that is the only way for life to be restored to our planet. In the visions I had in my trances, I grasped how to do this. The sect that Guide created came up with tactics for accomplishing this, tactics that would forc- ibly drag people with us until everyone realized the kind of future mankind was facing.

"I can't deny that that's the direction in which I led the church. Those who can envision the end of the world, the end time, will, in the near future, cre- ate an actual crisis that will be a productive opportunity for repentance; those people are out there, I said in my sermons. This is the point at which the sect Guide created rose to prominence within the church-working to bring about a crisis that would lead everyone to immediate repentance and preparing the meth- ods and shock troops to carry it out.

"Up till the stage where the ideology behind this young elite sect in Izu was set, Guide and I worked in harmony. Once the whole body of believers accepted the Izu sect's ideas, and the shock troops that would initiate a crisis grew until they had the power to destroy an entire city, then my sermons anticipating a crisis would take on a real sense of power. Guide wasn't the only one who believed this; I did too.

"The reason I preached about making my visions of the end of the world a reality is that I wanted the people who live on this planet to have the courage to face that crisis, while they still had the energy to be restored to life out of the ruins that, even then, were already appearing. What would be the point of hav- ing the human race repent en masse if they didn't have the courage or energy to do anything about it? That was my doctrine, and this was supposed to be the source of the orders for whatever actions the church was about to take."

This is a sermon in itself, Ogi thought. The sense of emotional tension that came across struck him as incongruous, so much so that he felt like in- terrupting Patron to say, Hey! I'm not one of your believers, I just work here!

Though he was, of course, up to his ears in helping Patron restart his reli- gious activities. What did Dancer think about all this? Just as this thought occurred to Ogi, Dancer interrupted Patron, though what she said didn't answer Ogi's unspoken question.

"Ogi and I have heard all this before from Guide," she said. "He painted a vivid picture of what the end of the world looks like in visions. Isn't that right?" Ogi, suddenly urged to agree, nodded but felt uneasy about how Patron would interpret his assent. "We've all read newspaper articles about overpopulation, our lack of resources, and the destruction of the environment, but the images that Guide painted for us really struck us to the core. They were heartrending. Guide told us you have profound visions, which you de- scribe in a torrent of words. He also told us he feels a great anxiety as he interprets these visions, anxiety about whether or not he's getting them right."

"It's not that I see visions," Patron said, "but rather that I'm assaulted by them, and the question then is how to convey this to people. The only way I could put them into some sort of logical language was through Guide's help.

He's the one who understands better than I-at the linguistic level-what my visions are all about."

"But it seems to me you're the one who established the basic system of the church," Dancer said. "Guide told me, too, that it might be impossible to convey the whole of your visions in language people can understand. Man- kind faces a cruel future, is at a dead end, staring at a wall; as long as people don't have a way to scale that wall, they'll never understand the depths of the crisis they're in. People are really good at ignoring danger. The task for your church was to bring the end of the world closer, to let people actually see it.

How was this supposed to happen? The only alternative was to present a model of this crisis to force people to repent. The tactics of the Izu radical faction were to precipitate this crisis, radically and concretely. That's what Guide said. Patron has just spoken of this, but the point I'm trying to make is that the two of them were in agreement at that time."

Ogi decided that Dancer's long interruption was a tactic of her own to give Patron a break from doing all the talking. But it also worked to encour- age the others to speak up, and now Ikuo raised a question.

"Setting aside the issue of the Izu radical faction and their gaining power in the church, if Patron's visions were the basis for the church's teachings, wasn't that doctrine correct and isn't it still correct? I mean, during the past ten years this crisis hasn't been resolved, has it? So why was it necessary at the time of the Somersault to deny these teachings? You and Guide announced that it was all nonsense, right?"

Sitting in a faded purple chair that Ogi remembered from childhood, Patron shifted to face Ikuo. As if to put a stop to this, Dancer spoke up.

"If you're going to talk about Patron's state of mind at the time of the Somersault, then all of us-since we weren't present at the time-need to consider the background. Don't you agree, Ikuo? The elite group that Guide created was already acting on its own, trying to bring ordinary people face- to-face with what Patron envisioned in his trances. When they got the idea to move the whole church body in that direction, the radical sect went ahead and took action, attempting to get the entire church implicated. Although the church's attitude wasn't yet set, the radical faction went ahead with its adventurist schemes."

Ikuo still didn't give up trying to speak directly to Patron. "I was still basically a child," he said, "when I saw the whole Somersault affair on TV.

Your announcement seemed like one more in a long string of jokes. This was right after Chernobyl, and I remember being upset, thinking it was absolutely insane to intentionally try to cause an accident like that. But I was also agi- tated by the thought that God had told the radical faction to Do it."

"If it was really God telling the radical faction to act, they wouldn't have collapsed so easily," Dancer said, not giving Patron a chance to respond. "With the information that Patron and Guide gave the authorities at the time of their Somersault, the radical faction's shock troops were arrested on their way to the nuclear power facility at Mount Fuji and their intentions for the plant came to light; the authorities, though, downplayed the scale of what they were plan- ning. Once power was brought to bear on the situation, in other words, the whole thing was treated as a farce. Guide told me that since it would have been too much for the government to admit the existence of a sophisticated plan to blow up nuclear power plants, they treated it as a crude, childish idea as a way of defusing any concerns the public might have. And what was par- ticularly effective in this effort to downplay and mock the plans-as you are well aware, Ikuo--was Patron and Guide's Somersault, that comical TV performance."

As Ogi saw it, Ikuo's question to Patron was at the heart of what really concerned the young man. He didn't think Patron, having undertaken this short trip to the cottage, could very well refuse to answer, nor could he un- derstand why Dancer insisted so strongly on blocking Patron's reply. Ogi was just about to summon up his courage and tell Dancer to let them hear what Patron had to say when the phone rang.

The phone was in the dining room, next to the spacious living room with its fireplace; to keep the heat in during the winter the glass door between the two rooms was kept closed. The ringing startled them. It was not yet 9 P.M., but all the surrounding houses were shut up and the silence of the high plain was more like the middle of the night. Ogi stood up to answer the phone and noticed that Patron looked particularly tense.

The caller wasn't unexpected-Ms. Tachibana, who was taking care of things back at the office-but what she had to say was. Several former mem- bers of the church were scheduled to visit Guide that evening, and he'd told Ms. Tachibana not to prepare any meal for them but to just serve tea; if they showed up after she went home she should lay out the tea things before leav- ing. He also told her that if Dancer called on their way to Nasu Plateau, Ms. Tachibana wasn't to say anything about Guide's having visitors.

The visitors didn't come while Ms. Tachibana was at the office, so she went ahead and followed the recipes Dancer left her and made dinner for Guide, whose diet had been restricted ever since he fell ill. After arranging the dinner on the dining table, Ms. Tachibana left to return to the college town where her brother was waiting in their apartment. Around eight o'clock she began to worry about the visitors and phoned the annex to tell Guide to leave the dirty cups and dishes for her to wash later, but there was no response. She called the office in the main building, but still no answer. She was so worried she thought she would go back to Seijo, despite the late hour.

Ogi hesitated to report what Ms. Tachibana had told him where Patron could overhear it. Patron-pressed to respond to Ikuo-was still excited in a cold, melancholy way. He didn't ask Ogi about the call but was obviously preoccupied with some unfortunate things that could happen, or might have already happened, to Guide. Patron watched silently as Ikuo rearranged the remaining logs in the fireplace.

It was impossible now to continue their discussion, so Ogi just waited for another phone call as Dancer gave Patron some sleeping pills and tranquilizers and went with him to his bedroom. Ikuo was dissatisfied, of course, at having to cut their conversation short, but since Patron had not fully recovered from his physical and emotional exhaustion, there was nothing they could do.

Dancer had her hands full taking care of Patron, so it was left to Ogi to get Ikuo's bedding ready in the second-floor bedroom. The heat of the fire- place didn't reach this room, and it was as cold as Tokyo in the middle of the winter. "You'll be fine if you use an electric blanket," Ogi told him, but Ikuo still seemed preoccupied after his discussion with Patron had fallen apart, and a bit suspicious of Ogi's practical advice.

Ogi went downstairs, banked the fire with ashes, and was getting his own futon ready on the floor when Dancer appeared and asked him to wake up Ikuo. Patron insisted on continuing his earlier talk with Ikuo in his bed- room, and wouldn't hear otherwise.

Dancer obviously wasn't too happy about it but did as Patron asked.

While they waited for Ikuo to dress and join them downstairs in front of the fireplace, she whispered to Ogi, "Patron was trying to get to sleep, but he seems upset, not just about Guide but about painful memories that our earlier talk brought to mind. He said tonight he wanted to finish talking about all the things he was going to say to Ikuo.

"I told him the medicine was going to take effect and tried to persuade him to wait until tomorrow morning. If Ikuo looks like he's going to start debating him, please caution him not to, okay? I'll be right beside you."

'Are you planning to censor his questions and give answers in Patron's place?" Ikuo asked, entering the room in time to hear Dancer's last words.

The fire had burned down to embers and the only light was that filter- ing in from the dining room; Ikuo's face was darkly flushed and his rough reaction was enough to make Dancer wince.

"Well, then, would you go with him instead of me, Ogi?" Dancer asked, in an edgy, teary voice. "If he doesn't find Patron's answers to his liking and starts to get violent, there's nothing I'd be able to do. I'll wait by the phone."

Ogi led Ikuo into the master bedroom. The room was large, Western style, with a high bed that Ogi's mother had said was just like one she'd seen in a photo of an American farmhouse in an interior design magazine. Both the overhead lights and the nightstand lamp were turned off. In the glow of an electric space heater set up at the foot of the bed, the two young men could make out an old chest of drawers but no chairs for them to sit on. They had to stand looking down at Patron, whose head was resting on the high pillows, and couldn't even tell if his eyes were open. Ogi thought optimistically that he was asleep, but he wasn't. Soon, eyes closed, he began to speak, his words to Ikuo quite thoughtful.

"Professor Kizu told me in his letter that he was surprised when he heard you say that you heard the voice of God when you were a teenager, that ever since then you've been waiting to hear God's voice again, and that right now you want me to act as intermediary so the voice of God will speak to you again."

Patron's voice was different from his earlier eloquent sermonizing tone; his tone was unclear, his tongue slurred, the words seemingly pushed up from deep inside his throat. Ogi was favorably impressed, though, that despite his poor physical and emotional state and his worries over Guide, Patron was bent on fulfilling his promise to Ikuo. On the same wavelength, Ikuo responded in an entirely natural tone of voice.

"I was convinced, as a child, that I had heard the voice of God, though I never told Professor Kizu the details surrounding this event. At any rate, I believed God spoke to me, and I've been waiting expectantly ever since for that voice to speak to me again. I quit college, never had a steady job, didn't make any friends, and never lived long in any one place, always waiting and waiting. But God was silent.

"This year, however, after I met Professor Kizu-or had a reunion with him, I should say-I felt that things were changing. And then I was able to meet you, Patron. And I knew that you of all people would understand what it means to a person to hear the voice of God. I know I'm just dreaming, but I hope that you can help me hear the rest of what God wants to tell me. I've also started to get interested in the radical faction that Guide created, since they're the very people who, through you, heard the voice of God telling them to get on with it! And just when that voice was about to be heard, you and Guide snuffed it out."

Ikuo finished speaking, as if this was what he'd been thinking of ear- lier when he asked about the Somersault, and Patron was silent for a time.

To Ogi the silence seemed too long, but finally Patron did speak. His speech was slower than before, and more disjointed. Ogi tried to put it in some kind of order so he could remember it. Since there was sufficient power in what Patron said to frighten an innocent youth like Ogi, he listened very carefully, trying to pick out what Patron mumbled, so his memory of it was reliable.

"Though Guide and I had begun a movement to show people a model of what the end of the world would be like and bring them to repentance, with the Somersault we abandoned it all. You asked me why Guide and I, particularly, denied our teachings then. You also said I served as an interme- diary and made them wait in a place where they could hear God's voice to get on with it! Well, not only did I make them wait in vain, I announced to the world how stupid they were to be waiting at all.

"For ten years afterward we were the laughingstock of Japan, but in our inner being we felt even more driven into a corner-like the living dead, as I've put it. And now I've been raised up out of the pit of hell to where I must proclaim the words of God: Do it! I've resigned myself to living out this fate.

If I'm the intermediary again for God's voice, this time I won't take back what he tells us to do. I promise you that, Ikuo.

"The reason we denied our teachings at the time of the Somersault is precisely because that's what a Somersault's all about. Whatever I do in this new direction I'm embarking on, I'll do as a person who has Somersaulted.

Someone who Somersaults also has to participate, in a personal way, in the call for repentance. If you think about it, it's all too clear how the end of the world will come about in a hundred years. Is a hundred years so far off?

"Ikuo, you said you want me to act as intermediary so you can hear God's voice. But the relevant question is, Is it possible for someone who's done a Somersault to confront God again? I've only just returned to the point of preparing for a deep trance, but I think the answer is yes, it is possible. Would God abandon a person who's gone so far as to do a Somersault? God wouldn't allow himself to be left a fool, would he? You have the conviction that you'll hear again the voice of God, and that's what's brought you to me. I'm sure for someone as young as you it must have been hard to maintain that convic- tion. You-or I should say you too-have received a wound that never heals.

But Ikuo, that is a sign…"

Patron's voice grew lower and ever more slow. Finally he fell silent, his quiet breathing no longer a voice, and then he began to snore peacefully. The two young men stood there, straining their ears. Soon, from behind them, they sensed something only slightly louder than Patron's snores. Backlit by the light from the dining room, Dancer stood in the doorway motioning to them. They went out into the hallway. As she shut the heavy door behind them Dancer leaned her small slim body against Ikuo and whispered, "Patron told you something very important, didn't he?"

Before Ikuo could respond, she relayed a message from Ms. Tachibana, who had finally telephoned again. Guide was missing. When she called the police, they came to the residence and found Patron's beloved Saint Bernard poisoned. First thing tomorrow morning, Ms. Tachibana told her, they had to return to Tokyo with Patron to deal with this emergency.

They had dug up the glowing coals from underneath the ashes and re- kindled the blackened firewood when Ms. Tachibana called a third time. He had had another stroke, she reported. Guide had been held prisoner in a se- cret hiding place, subjected to a rough interrogation, and then abandoned; the perpetrators had phoned in his whereabouts, and the ambulance crew had discovered Guide lying there alone.

8: A NEW GUIDE

1

After Ikuo returned to Tokyo from their trip to the Nasu Plateau, he slept over in the office, phoning Kizu to tell him how freezing cold it had been in the mountains. Tokyo was in the midst of Indian summer, but by the next day it suddenly began to feel more like winter. The cold continued for a week.

One day, when it felt like it might snow, Ms. Tachibana called Kizu. She had quit her job at the library earlier than she'd planned and was now working in Patron's office. She told Kizu that Patron was going to be visiting Guide in the hospital and wondered if Kizu would accompany him.

Kizu had already heard that Guide was expected to survive but that the chances he would regain consciousness were slim. Nor had Kizu seen Pa- tron in quite some time. Ikuo, who was now diligently handling most phone calls, had told him that Patron was in a blue funk and had holed up in his bedroom study. Since it was members of the former radical faction who had interrogated Guide to the point where he had a stroke, the incident obviously stemmed from the Somersault, so it was natural enough that Patron felt re- sponsible. Once more the media's attention was focused on Patron, Guide, and the events of a decade before.

Kizu headed off for the hospital in Ogikubo that Ms. Tachibana di- rected him to, and when he arrived at the nurses' station of the cerebral surgery department he found Patron waiting there in his high collar, look- mg for all the world like a servant in some Chekhov play. Patron set off without even giving Kizu a chance to say hello. Kizu watched him from behind, his fleshy shoulders and chubby body walking briskly as he led Kizu to the ICU. Patron told him he was a bit concerned at how much simpler all the preliminaries were here at this hospital, compared to the hospital in Shinjuku; security here was, as Kizu could see, minimal. Patron and Kizu went into the five-person intensive care unit. Kizu had vaguely imagined what his own hospital room would look like later on, when he himself was on the verge of death, but this room was very different--much noisier than he'd expected.

Guide was lying in the bed on the far right, his head swathed in ban- dages, two nurses bustling about him. Apparently they were having trouble getting the phlegm to drain correctly from the hole that had been opened in his throat. The head nurse spoke to the unresponsive Guide while she fixed the connection between the plastic tube and the machine it was attached to.

The inhalation sounds were now louder, the patient's breathing more pro- nounced, and Patron leaned his head back to look out the window. Kizu, too, gazed at the heavy clouds in the sky. The nurses finally unclogged the phlegm and, speaking words of encouragement to Guide, who of course couldn't re- spond, began putting away the machine.

Patron and Kizu were left alone with Guide, but before Kizu could walk over to stand at Guide's left side, Patron went over, leaned close to Guide's right cheek, and spoke to him.

"Guide! Guide! Professor Kizu's here. There's so much more you wanted to discuss with him, didn't you? Try to remember. Even if you can't speak, try to remember! It'll be good practice for when you can speak and can talk with him once more!"

This struck Kizu as a bit theatrical. Still, he felt a power flowing out of Patron as he moved Guide's hand closer to him, a power that might very well help in his recovery. The elbows of the two men were sticking out at angles, half their palms resting diagonally on the other's, and when Kizu saw Guide's large, dark, sinewy fingers wrap themselves around Patron's fleshy pale ones, he knew that--at least in part-Patron's message was get- ting across.

Guide's salt-and-pepper hair and skin gleamed cleanly from under the bandages that had been wrapped around him after his second operation. The wound from before was visible, his complexion flushed, his right eye engulfed in wrinkles. His left eye, in contrast, was wide open, but the pupil was un- focused. Guide's usual darkly sharp dignity was gone; he looked like some clownish old man from the countryside.

"Guide! Guide! Though your consciousness is asleep, the words are waiting to find a voice. If only you could interpret for me now! You put the visions I saw into words, but I can't do a thing for you! You do realize Pro- fessor Kizu's come to see you, don't you? Guide?"

Kizu could picture words stacked up like out-of-focus, blood-smeared playing cards inside Guide's head. Before long a large teardrop ran down Guide's right cheek.

At the same moment as Kizu, Patron noticed these tears. And the physi- cal vitality that Kizu had found disconcerting in Patron disappeared, like thin ice melting away. Now his large face revealed a deep exhaustion, his unblink- ing eyes fixed on Guide's tears. Again he spoke. "Guide, Guide," he said, in a low, soothing voice, too preoccupied to worry about Kizu anymore.

Patron's complexion darkened suddenly, like the sun disappearing behind clouds. His previous vitality and ceaseless speech were now hidden, a transformation that struck Kizu as odd.

Guide's reddened, comical face twitched sporadically, and he slowly licked his chapped lips. Soon he fell asleep and began to snore lightly, the white of his left eye showing. Patron's large head hung heavily; Kizu could see the thinning hair on top.

Dancer, who'd come in unnoticed and was standing behind Kizu, reached out the ball of her thumb, wet with saliva, and closed Guide's one open eyelid.

Drawn by Patron's pitiful look, Kizu turned around and watched as, still gaz- ing down at Guide, she stuck her wet thumb in her mouth again and sucked it.

Soon Dancer wiped her wet thumb on the paper apron each visitor was given, and straightened the clothes around Guide's bare chest and legs. A steel ball the size of a tennis ball dropped down from the hem of his yukata, star- tling Patron and Kizu, but without a word, Dancer picked it up and showed them how it was used to strengthen one's grip.

She then spoke to Patron, whose back was hunched up.

"Let's all go back to the office now," she whispered, and then explained things to Kizu in a composed voice. "Yesterday he was much better, and when the nurses called to him he made a V-for-victory sign, something he never does. Patron was ecstatic. But even today the doctors are amazed how strong his grip is. Try gripping his hand."

She looked alertly at the mister that was spraying disinfectant near the entrance of the ward. Kizu stuck his hands out toward it and misted his hands wet again. Guide's right hand did squeeze Kizu's hand back with a crude strength. Patron reached out and laid his plump palm on top of where the sharp joints of the two men's hands touched.

After this, they all headed back to the office. As Ikuo pulled up the minivan in front, Dancer, clearly the one in charge of their little group, straightened Patron's muffler and coat collar.

"You've been up and about since morning," she said to Patron, "so I'd like you to rest for a while. I know you have things to talk about with Profes- sor Kizu, but I want you to wait a little. Professor, you don't mind waiting for a while in the living room, do you? Ikuo, you'll give him a ride home later, right?"

Patron acquiesced silently. If meeting Patron for the first time in so long wasn't going to lead to any substantive discussion, Kizu felt he might as well have hailed a cab in front of the hospital and gone home alone. He didn't mind waiting for a time, though.

Since Guide suffered his calamity, the front gate of their residence had been bolted, so when he heard the van pull up Ogi came out to greet them and let them in. Supported on both sides by Dancer and Ogi as he walked into the house, Patron had none of the vitality he'd displayed in front of the nurses' station; watching him leaning his entire weight on the two young people, Kizu was cut to the quick.

2

In the corner office, Ms. Tachibana was sorting the letters they'd received from people who'd learned of Patron's new movement through newspaper reports of the incident involving Guide. When Kizu stopped by to ask her how the work was going, she merely said she'd taken over because Ogi was busy, her eyes remaining glued to the computer screen.

After leading Patron to his bedroom study and letting Dancer take over from there, Ogi came back and stood beside Ms. Tachibana's desk, but he didn't seem to have anything new to report. Ikuo had parked the car in the garage, reset the bolt in the gate, and come to sit down beside Kizu, silent, his arms folded over his massive chest.

Not long after, Dancer appeared in the office, leaned over, and whis- pered something into Ogi's ear. Usually Ogi played the role of younger brother to Dancer, but now she seemed to rely on him more than the other way around.

After listening to her, Ogi shared her confusion. Before long he spoke up.

"If that's what Patron wants, there's nothing you or I can do about it.

Why don't you just tell him exactly what Patron said?"

Dancer looked like a little girl who had been slapped in the face as she walked over to Kizu. "Patron says he wants you to be the new Guide," she said.

"New Guide? That's pretty unexpected!" Rather than replying to Dancer, Kizu seemed to be muttering to no one in particular. His words were like a pebble thrown down a deep well without response, but after some time Dancer finally spoke up.

"Whether you accept or not, you need to tell Patron yourself. I tell you, it's been one surprise after another. I have no idea what to do."

Dancer's voice was different from its usual piercing whisper, more muffled now; Kizu could catch a hint of her Hokkaido accent seeping through. Most likely this was the way she spoke when, years before, she was struggling to convince her family to let her study modern dance. At the same time, Kizu felt Ikuo's tense gaze clinging to him.

The person waiting for him, lying in bed, blanket and down comforter up to his chest, was neither the unusually vigorous person of the first half of their hospital visit nor the plainly exhausted person of the second half. Patron had a sort of composed strength about him now. He looked up at Kizu with dis- tant eyes and, with a solemn movement of his head, motioned for Dancer to leave them.

"In my new church," he said, "I'd like you to succeed Guide in his work.

To repay you, I'll help you overcome the terrible thing that's assailing you spiritually and physically."

Kizu answered at once, "If you have that kind of power, then you should fix Guide's brain!"

Patron didn't react to these mean-spirited words but lamented instead, in a voice so full of grief it was comical, "Ah-if only I couldV Taken aback by Patron's directness, Kizu felt deflated. Having lost his chance to continue by Kizu's interruption, Patron looked away, a dark look on his brow. Then he pulled himself together and began to speak in a more prosaic way, quite the opposite of the enthusiasm with which he'd invited Kizu to take Guide's place.

"With Guide the way he is now, maybe I'm just an old man who can't do a thing, and maybe I should just forget about this new movement and spend the rest of my days taking care of Guide. Isn't that what you're think- ing? When we read R. S. Thomas that topic came up, as I recall. I'd like to talk with Guide about it, though I have no idea if he'd understand what I say. At the time of the Somersault we'd already imagined that sort of future for us.

"But Professor, with Guide in the hospital, I can't just abandon my role as Patron and spend my time pushing him around in his wheelchair as he goes through rehabilitation; Guide was injured facing up to a group that held him against his will and put him through a trumped-up trial to get him to admit that the Somersault was a mistake.

"I don't think he'll ever be able to communicate with us again. But even if he were to die without regaining full consciousness or the ability to talk, he's fulfilled his mission in life. He has suffered as a true prophet.

"But I have to live on. Having done the Somersault and now unable, without Guide, to put my visions into words, I still have the audacity to keep on living. But if I just grow decrepit and senile and die, my life will have been in vain. And then what would being Patron amount to? Nothing-just one big joke.

"Only after I've lived a life befitting Patron do I want to die. Those people held Guide prisoner, gouging out what wounded him most, a more abominable act than actually killing him. That being the case, I want to rise up again to the point where they have to choose me as their target."

Patron turned sharp birdlike eyes to Kizu.

"Professor, please. You don't need to say a thing. You can be a Guide who just paints!" Patron implored. "You can express things in a way I can- not. Your painting can clarify what my visions mean. If you turn your eyes in the direction of my beliefs, that's enough. With Guide in the shape he's in now, can you really refuse? I have only a handful of young people around me. Other than you, what mature person can I count on?"

"I don't know if I'll be able to fill the role, but I'll do my best until he recovers," Kizu replied, overcoming his nervousness. "I've been stopping by the office every once in a while, but I'll come more often. I can be your partner."

"Ikuo can drive you back and forth," Patron said, his eyes sleepy like those of a contented bird. "Now, would you mind asking Dancer to bring me my sleeping pills?"

Kizu returned to the living room and told Dancer, who was still stand- ing beside the desk with Ogi, what Patron had said to him. As the young man and woman listened, he noticed for the first time a shared expression on their faces, like brother and sister. Kizu also noticed, in Ikuo's attitude as he looked up at him, that all three of them agreed with the decision Kizu had come to.

Ms. Tachibana, too, in her unobtrusive way, looked content.

As powdery snow swirled around him, Kizu stood on the pavement waiting for Ikuo to bring the minivan around. The snow was different from the light flakes that had fallen in the United States at his East Coast university and had the soft, easy-melting quality of snow he remembered from his childhood.

He felt a tinge of nostalgia. He got in beside Ikuo and looked up at the snowy sky, his heated mind reviewing his conversation with Patron.

Patron had said that if Kizu undertook the role of Guide he would help him overcome his spiritual and physical crisis; Kizu smiled coolly at the thought. He's not just dealing with my soul, he mused, but maybe sensed the reoccurrence of my cancer as well. He felt his cheeks tense up, though, at the memory of his huffy, mean response.

"There's something different about you," Ikuo said. "You seem-I don't know-cold, I guess. I've never seen you smile like that before. Have you changed your mind?"

"I'm smiling at myself, not at other people," Kizu replied.

"If you see Patron's proposal as too painful, I can understand that," Ikuo said, "but I was really keeping my fingers crossed you'd accept. I know you weren't too enthusiastic about the idea when Dancer first brought it up, and I was afraid it was going to be a problem. I was afraid you'd feel forced to go back to America, and I didn't want to end up having to choose between you.

If you left Japan, Patron would lose his new Guide, but we'd be completely lost as well."

"But I don't have any of the qualities to make Patron want to rely on me," Kizu said. "I don't know anything about his earlier teachings, even if he has renounced them. And when I think of Guide, still such a unique spirit despite his condition, I don't think I understand him, either."

"You've only known Patron a short time, but the two of you have had some pretty deep conversations," Ikuo said. "Knowing you, Professor, I imag- ine that if you take on the role of the new Guide you'll use the opportunity to study Patron more. I've been thinking about this for a while now, but I really want you to ask Patron why he began calling himself the savior of mankind- whether fake or otherwise. I wanted to ask him myself, but our trip to Nasu Plateau was cut short."

"If it's so important to you, I'll do it. I need to ask Patron about Guide, too, why he called himself the prophet of mankind-fake or otherwise."

In the faint light of the snowy sky, an unexpected smile rose, like a cheer- ful mask, to Ikuo's angular, deeply chiseled features. Kizu had no idea how he was interpreting his response but didn't pursue it further. Staring out at the thickening snow lashing the windshield, he began to feel a decided softness coming from Ikuo. Not that Ikuo's soldierly frame or muscles soft- ened, it was rather that something inside was seeping out. When he turned to Ikuo, the young man's faint smile was gone, replaced by a relaxed, youth- ful expression.

Ever since he had first met Ikuo at the athletic club and invited him to pose for him at his apartment, and even more so after they began a sexual relationship, Kizu sensed the tension draining from the young man from time to time. But still Ikuo's attitude toward him, and probably toward everyone, contained, deep down, something hard and unrelenting; when Kizu had been about to write the letter to Patron for him, he had thought about how the incident he'd talked about, about God calling him as a child, had affected his life ever since.

Not that Kizu believed everything that Ikuo revealed to him. Kizu didn't believe that in this day and age there was a God who would let a young boy have such a mystical experience-not that, for God, such a concept as this day and age was relevant. Nevertheless, it was true that after Ikuo quit college, the conviction that he'd had this experience was the cornerstone of his life. When Kizu first saw Ikuo at the athletic club he had the look of a lone jungle fighter. In his rugged features and hard body, Ikuo's expression was far removed from the soft, gentle look Kizu had often seen in people of the same age after he returned to Japan. This didn't mean that Ikuo had anything in common with the dry and prosaic Vietnam vets that Kizu sometimes taught in the United States; this young man's heart was full of a yearning that wouldn't allow him to settle for being dull and ordinary.

At first Kizu had sensed something of the wild animal in Ikuo. A true loner, he drew no one else to him, but his exterior, which rejected everyone and everything, hid something quite extraordinary. Even though they were lovers the hard armor that was very much a part of Ikuo was still in place.

But now, with Kizu's acceptance of the role of new Guide, came that faint smile, that unexpected softness. He remembered that Dancer had looked dis- pleased at Patron's proposal, but later, after Kizu had emerged from the bed- room study, both she and Ogi accepted the idea.

Kizu considered again what it would mean to be the new Guide. And when he recalled something Patron had said, it was almost enough to revive the faint smile Ikuo said he'd never seen before: You don't need to say a thing.

You can be a Guide who just paints! But hadn't Patron said Guide was a man of language, who fulfilled his role by speaking? How could Kizu possibly convey Patron's visions to others through painting?

Kizu tried to imagine serving as the new Guide, but he couldn't imag- ine himself taking a proactive stance. He'd follow Patron's lead and do what he could as a painter. But painting what? Surely Patron didn't think he would do kamishibai illustrations for a storytelling session, did he?

Eventually, the agitation he'd felt talking to Patron died down, though there was no doubt in his mind that he was beginning a new stage of his life, a stage that, thankfully, included Ikuo.

3

The next morning when Kizu awoke, it had stopped snowing. It was not yet seven, but he was too excited to stay in bed. With Ikuo busy every day in the office, housecleaning duties were once more his, and he spent time straightening up the living room. He didn't use the powerful American-made vacuum cleaner that came with the apartment, though, for fear that it would disturb the neighboring residents. Sensing a flutter outside, he turned to look and saw that the powdery snow had begun to fall again. Kizu's sensitivity to peripheral movement seemed to him a good indicator of his present state of mind, though he had no idea why he felt this way.

After cleaning up his studio for a while, he looked out past the veranda to where, down the grassy slope, the surface of the pond had turned white. A thin layer of ice had covered the pond, with snow now piled on top. Snow lay, too, on the thick branches of the leafless, darkly exposed wych elm. A flock of wild birds that normally would have been chased off by even a sprinkle of rain were oblivious to the powdery snow, occasionally shaking their bodies as each protected its spot on the branch. Kizu realized that the snow had had something to do with the stirring he felt deep inside himself.

The sun came out in the afternoon and the snow that had been clinging to one side of the wych elm's trunk and the nearly horizontal parts of the thick branches melted away. All the snow on the pond's surface had disappeared, but no ripples disturbed the pond, so it was still frozen. The snow was gone from the lawn, too, just some white spots here and there on the withered grass between the trees. During the morning the awareness he felt inside him was mixed with darkness, and he recalled, for the first time in a long while, the phrase tingle with excitement, but in the afternoon the clarity of the sky and the clouds seeped into his heart.

He couldn't help but consider the new and difficult task that confronted him, but he felt he had sufficient energy saved to face up to it, so his feelings were, to use the term his students in New Jersey used, entirely positive. The clouds spreading outside his window were not the beginnings of a storm but rather a watercolor painted across the bright sky.

In the upper third of a Wattman F6 sketch pad he held vertically, Kizu sketched glittering white clouds and a light blue sky infused with light; in the lower fourth of the paper a totally leafless woods and a range of twiglike branches. He left the middle of the page blank. He wasn't clear about this space at all, but his years of experience as an artist told him it was significant; this sketch, still five-twelfths empty, would only become a work of art when this blank area was filled in. He wasn't going to use what he saw outside his win- dow, though. The space was just the right size for his imagination to fill in with something suited to the sky above and the woods below.

After a while Kizu began filling in the remaining areas with a soft pen- cil sketch of two standing figures facing away from the viewer. He switched to watercolors for the figures and added many vertical banks of clouds to the light-blue sky.

What Kizu had drawn was himself and Ikuo standing there and, in a way somehow not unnatural for two grown men, holding each other's hand.

In the painting Kizu was dressed as he was now, in faded black cotton trou- sers, a wool shirt, and a wine-colored sweater. Ikuo wore jeans and an over- sized blue shirt with sleeves that were too long. On their feet were something you'd never need in this city, the kind of ankle-high lace-up winter boots you might find a U. S. artist in the Northeast wearing.

In a much more natural way than the fanciful images conjured up by run-of-the-mill surrealists, the figures of Ikuo and Kizu in the painting were walking off into the bright sky. Kizu realized he'd been taking Patron's trance world quite optimistically, hoping that he and Ikuo could stroll off into it in the near future. Even if you viewed this vision as his unconscious rising up to support his decision to become the new Guide, it was such a simplistic view he knew he himself, not Ogi, was the innocent one.

Construction work outside the apartment building that afternoon prevented people from parking in front, so Ikuo called him from down the road where he had parked. Kizu walked one block, to where Ikuo was waiting outside the car, and rested his hand on the young man's shoulder in lieu of a greet- ing, only to feel an inorganic coldness rising up at his touch, as if denying any affinity between them. Even if the young man's body was only transmitting the outside temperature, Ikuo was more taciturn than the day before. Inter- mittently in the course of their relationship Kizu had felt that they were going backward, to the time when they first met-and today was one of those days.

Ordinarily he would have taken the watercolor he'd painted that day out of its cardboard tube and shown it to Ikuo while they were waiting for a light to change. But today the timing was off.

"When you called a while ago, you said you'd just driven Dancer to the hospital for Guide's rehabilitation. Is he strong enough to undergo rehabili- tation? Is there a chance he'll recover his strength?"

Ikuo didn't respond right away to Kizu's question but just stared straight ahead. Finally, reluctantly, he answered.

"Dancer's doing her best, going to the hospital every day, but she doesn't believe he'll recover enough to take on his role as Guide again. The only thing she talked about in the car was what we can expect from you."

Kizu was escorted into the bedroom study by Ogi and sat down in a chair facing Patron, who was sunk deep in his armchair; Ikuo brought in a backless chair from the office for himself and sat down too. As they had gotten out of the car, Kizu had passed him the cardboard tube with the watercolor paint- ing in it; now Ikuo laid it in his lap and rested a hand on one end.

"We haven't done this before, but I'd like Ikuo to join us this time in hearing what you have to say, and Ogi tells me you've agreed," Kizu said.

"It's more proper now for me to say I'll listen to you," Patron said, his words brisk but his expression pensive. "Actually, I'd been hoping that we could both talk with Ikuo. There's also another reason for this meeting today. Often just after I wake up I'm in a kind of half-awake, half-asleep state, and when that happened again this morning I envisioned a scene before me.

I interpreted this as a sign that you would take on the role of being the new Guide with Ikuo beside you. I wanted to talk with you about this, and that's why I called you here without much warning.

"What I saw was you and Ikuo, hand in hand as I watched over you, stepping into space, each of you a sturdy support to the other in case one of you was about to fall. That was the scene I saw."

Kizu thought he was being taken in by some elaborate trick; at the same time he felt drawn in by those gentle, trusting eyes. He tried to resist.

"In this scene that you saw, was the place where you said Ikuo and I were walking-a space, you called it-was it the sky? If so, what was the weather like?"

"It was sunny," Patron replied. "I saw newly formed clouds gleaming whitely between the two of you and me, who was waiting to receive you. The clouds were shaped like a baby whale without a tail. The whale's head was three-dimensional; you could sense its weight, and the force of this weight made it move diagonally downward."

Kizu turned to look at Ikuo, who, before a word could pass between them, handed Kizu the cardboard tube on his lap. Kizu stuck two fingers inside the open end of the tube and extracted the watercolor painting, along with the cotton paper that was wrapped around it.

Patron took the painting and held it up to the light on the bedside table.

Kizu knew he often listened to classical CDs in this room, everything from ancient to modern music. The feeling rose up in Kizu that he was in the pres- ence of a considerable connoisseur of art.

After a while Patron lifted his eyes from the painting and laughed aloud, a simple, innocent burst of laughter. He nodded at Kizu, then passed the painting, its edges curling up on its own, over to Ikuo, who had been leaning over hesitantly to catch a glimpse. Patron didn't say a word about the con- gruence between the dream or vision he'd had and the scene depicted in the painting; his hearty laughter expressed it all. He evidently saw no need for any verbose explanation for himself, or for Kizu, or for Ikuo, who was por- ing over the painting.

It was Kizu, rather, taken in by Patron's laughter and unable to sup- press a smile, who felt that the painting cried out for interpretation. Kizu gazed at the painting in Ikuo's hands, as did Patron, Ikuo angling the paint- ing so it was easier for them to see, and once more he found himself unable to suppress a smile.

"This light-blue sky is what I saw from my apartment window this morning, and I painted it as it was," Kizu said. "The same with the grove of trees. The clouds, though, are something else. I'm amazed how accurate your description of them is-like a baby whale without a tail. These were clouds I saw outside the window of my university office in the States. Especially after I just took the job and was a little anxious about it, the clouds comforted me, so I added them nostalgically to the painting."

"That cloud-filled sky is the world on the other side toward which your soul is heading," Patron said. "It makes sense to see it as a nostalgic place."

"I wonder if I was thinking those kinds of things while I was painting it. It's a little vague to put it this way, I suppose, but I think I was envisioning Ikuo and me walking off into the bright sky as the two of us entered the world on the other side, the one you see in your trances. Rather than it being us entering my own trance."

"In a sense, though, they're one and the same," Patron said. "When you're so absorbed in your work, you break through to the other world of my trances. That's the ideal working relationship between patron and guide.

Guide once said that's what he was aiming at.

"Another important thing is that you and Ikuo are holding hands.

Through trances, we experience the world on the other side. But as Guide al- ways told me, because this great flow itself is God, you can't let yourself get caught up in the flow of ecstasy on the other side. Getting carried away by that flow means becoming one with God, and the ecstasy is a premonition of this.

"Of course, you could argue that getting caught up in it is actually the most natural thing to do. However, inside us all we have particles of light or resonance that are bestowed upon us by the One-and-only, the Almighty, or, in more prosaic terms, by God. For an individual, coming to faith means we take these particles of light or resonance so they're not some vague concept but are resituated in a more favorable environment in our own body and spirit.

Those particles of light or resonance are inside us, but they don't belong to us.

Even less are they created by us. They're put in our care by the Almighty.

Finally-and by this I don't mean just the inevitable result of the passage of time but also through training-we have to return these particles of light or resonance to the Almighty, where they originated. This is why we must keep them alive, unsullied. Not for a single moment must we forget these particles of light or resonance, which we take care of in our own bodies and spirit, are the source oí life, which we must in the end return to the Almighty.

"If we get drunk on the ecstasy of the trance and are swallowed up by this deep drunkenness, we won't be able to return from that huge flow back to this side. But one of the conditions of being a living human being is that you do not stay forever over there. In other words, if you are mechanically returned to this side, you'll never again be able to discover the particles of light or resonance within your body and spirit.

"No matter the level of the trance you're in, you have to wake up within it. You have to gaze at that huge flow with your eyes wide open. You have to let your body and spirit be transparent and gaze at those particles of light or resonance reflected in the mirror of that massive flow. This has nothing to do with what we might look like from the outside while in a trance.

"You recall Guide said that when I'm in a trance I confront a huge glow- ing structure? That's how he understood what I described, what I see when I'm gazing at this huge flow with open eyes. What I see and what he describes are one and the same. From the start, what you experience in a deep trance is something that can't be categorized in words. Which means that if you do attempt to transform it into words, there'll be many different ways of express- ing it-all of them accurate.

"To get back to your painting, you can't let feelings of ecstasy draw you into that massive flow. So what do you do to prevent it? Mystics in Europe used lections, sacred phrases-the words of a prayer-as a kind of handrail to keep from falling into the abyss of ecstasy. They'd tie sacred phrases around their waists as a kind of lifeline.

"In this painting, Professor, you're walking off into the depths of the sky holding on to Ikuo's hand. Ikuo's hand linked with yours is your hand- rail, your lifeline. Led by me, you've made the decision to go into the world on the other side. But from the first you refuse to be inundated by it. You won't allow yourself to be swallowed up in that massive flow. You've decided to protect the particles of light or resonance inside your body and spirit.

"Ikuo is your handrail, or lifeline, but by the same token if I were to lead him into a deep trance you want to keep him from sinking into that flow. And you did this painting of you and Ikuo holding hands in order to make this clear to yourself. Looking at this painting, I think Ikuo, too, can mentally prepare himself."

Patron turned from Kizu to look at Ikuo-Kizu found he couldn't help but do the same with a forceful shift of weight-and Ikuo nodded so deci- sively that Kizu was overjoyed.

4

Kizu still wasn't sure exactly what a guide was supposed to be or do, though it was clear Patron viewed him as both a personal adviser and an ad- viser to his new movement. Like Ikuo, Kizu was determined to absorb all Patron had to tell him. When he'd given Patron talks on the Welsh poet, Patron had been far from just a student. A new dynamic was at work here, with Patron now endeavoring to educate Kizu. Patron was attempting to revive the doctrine that he and the sick Guide had created-despite having denied it all by doing their Somersault.

"When Guide and I were young," he told Kizu, "there was a time when our youthful unease and energy drove us to devour books in order to find out more about mysticism. There was a great inherent difference, though, between our reading abilities. Guide would read books I'd never pick up on my own and then underline or circle in red those parts he thought I'd be interested in.

I'd read more than just those parts, of course, but never the entire book. I'd read the chapters that caught his attention enough for him to mark up. And if I didn't understand that chapter, I'd read the ones that bracketed it.

"Guide would use different-colored pencils to indicate the chapters that were for reference. Once he began to drink (which didn't happen all that often) he couldn't stop. He'd adopt this overbearing attitude that he was the one in charge of educating the leader of the church. He's a detail person, so he made a distinction between what he was teaching me and what was originally within me, something on a different plane from what we usually think of as educat- ing or being educated. Rather, he said he was led by what was inside me to find those kinds of books and read them.

"Does this make me sound pretty full of myself? Guide didn't treat me as someone with special privileges. He just happened to choose me as the Sav- ior-at that point we weren't using the names Patron or Guide-but he could easily have chosen someone else. What's most important exists in every per- son, the particles of light or resonance that flow out from the Almighty, the one Being that was there at the beginning, the Always-already who includes the entire universe. The only difference is that in some people those particles of light are clearer and give off a much more intense resonance. Yours are extraordinarily clear and intense, Guide told me when we met; that's where he found his surety that I was the one.

"At that time, Guide was still teaching mathematics and science in night school. All the various students in his gloomy classroom, he said, each had these particles of light or resonance. He told me he actually got the whole concept of these particles from one of the more progressive textbooks he used for his students.

"Most of us are convinced we're each active subjects who happen to contain DNA, but most scholars now agree that since the dawn of mankind humans have been little more than containers, vehicles to transport the DNA that determines our individuality.

"Guide taught me his basic doctrine: that the world was created by light radiating from the Almighty, that each of us contains within our bodies and spirits these particles of light or resonance, and eventually these will return to their Creator.

"People tend to believe that each of us as individuals are the center of things, but we really are nothing more than vehicles for these particles of light or resonance: just portable containers, until the time when each and every particle of light returns to the Almighty and becomes the Almighty. This flow- ing out and return takes place in a different way from the events that we're used to thinking about as happening in historical time. Both happen in an in- stant yet are also occurring eternally.

"I can't say I really understood what Guide meant at the time. When those particles of light or resonance return to the Almighty, they'll cast off the body they've occupied. They'll also separate themselves from the spirit, but this doesn't mean that our individuality is discarded like a used container.

Each of our individual souls will become particles of light or resonance and return to the Almighty. I didn't entirely understand it, but I was drawn to the idea.

"I've never prayed in a Christian church-let alone in an Islamic mosque or even a Buddhist temple, for that matter-and what I know about this may be the kind of random knowledge one picks up from movies, TV, and nov- els, but the faithful do say, don't they, Thy will be done? There's a scene in the Koran where Abraham and Isaac pray together as one, and you can find the same sort of thing in Buddhist tales. Thy will be done, I believe, is a universal element of prayer.

"Even in our own church, Thy will be done was the basis of everything we did. I didn't interpret God in an anthropomorphic way but as the light that penetrates the world, the universe, the whole, and all the details, each and every one. I said these particles of light or resonance are in me, and I'm just one speck in an infinite number, but these particles of light, like salmon swimming upstream, become part of countless other particles to create one enormous entity as they return to the Almighty. The faithful imagine this One-and-only in an anthropomorphic way, as the originating ultimate Al- mighty. Call it God, if you wish.

"This being called out once to you, Ikuo, and now you say you want to face that voice again and have me act as intermediary. There was a time, ap- parently, when you viewed God as something like God in the Old Testament, and I think it's all right that you want me to be a mediator for you. What the Almighty makes clear through me is directed at me, but all you need to do, Ikuo, is press the SHIFT key to change it to the voice of God you heard in your late teens. My God and the God you heard calling to you are one and the same, since the Almighty penetrates every detail in this world and in the entire universe. There can be no other God.

"You can't forget the voice of God you heard as a teenager. You staked your entire youth on waiting to hear the voice again. Even so, when Guide urged you to ask me to serve as intermediary between you and the Almighty, you hesitated-wondering whether it was right for you, as just one little in- dividual, to do something that might affect Thy will be done in the world, in the universe. Guide told me how impressed he was by this young man, so poor in spirit.

"I think Guide knew exactly what he urged you to do. Recently he ran across some words in a sixteenth-century book by a Sufi mystic that supported this belief. 'The process of all creation, which is from God, being restored to its true state,' the book said, 'requires more than simply a propulsive force from God; it also requires a propulsive force found in the religious activities of the created.'

The book goes on to say that 'this is why the prayerful hold a tremendous power in the inner world, and at the same time a tremendous responsibility to realize their messianic mission.'

"I believe Guide wanted to make this idea the basis for our new move- ment. And he started by encouraging you, Ikuo. I can imagine how dejected you must have been when he collapsed, but now-with Professor Kizu tak- ing over-you must feel as though you've been revived. And when I looked at this painting, I felt exactly the same way!"

9: THE BOOK ALREADY WRITTEN

1

When Patron was a child he learned of a book he knew he had to spend his entire life searching for. "How old were you at the time?" Kizu asked, but Patron neatly dodged the question.

It all began when Patron was attending a piano concert in place of his father, who was busy elsewhere; he was seated in special box enclosed in marble next to the main aisle that ran parallel to the stage. Right after the house lights dimmed, a tall skinny man approached him like the shadow of a bird flitting by and said, "You are a unique person, and there's something written about you in…"

The man leaned over the enclosure as he spoke and then left swiftly, bent over from the waist like someone late to the concert trying to not bother those already seated, walked quickly to a seat in the rear of the hall, and disappeared.

"It bothered me that I didn't catch the title of the book," Patron said.

'The concert was an all-Bach program and I was soon carried away by the music, but I found myself wondering whether the music was conveying to me the contents of that book. In other words, the man's words had an imme- diate effect, though what sort of content was being communicated, I couldn't have said. It was as if a surgical laser beam were shining on each word of that book inside me, and it was impossible to read it consciously-at least now that's how I look at it."

"I'm sure as you were growing up you read a lot of books," Kizu said, 'but did you ever run across a book and think This is it?"

Patron let the question pass by like a breath of wind grazing him, not letting it interrupt the rhythm of his narrative. "I never thought I'd run across an actual book. Still, sometimes I felt like I was reading it and knew all the words in it. If someone made a concordance based on that book, you'd find listed in it all the words I'd ever spoken. Still, my fate as described in that book was something that I created myself over a long period of time.

"I was always searching through large bookstores and libraries for that book, even thinking maybe I should write it myself. Indeed, it was by con- structing that book that I ended up living the life I've led. Before I could write such a book, I had to live in a way befitting its author. So there was no need to put things down on paper, and I didn't become an actual writer."

Patron said no more. While he mulled over his words a thought struck Kizu, a thought so overpowering that if he didn't suppress it he might burst out with it: Wasn't the title of that book Somersault? he wanted to shout.

He realized right away how flippant this would have been and breathed a sigh of relief that he hadn't actually voiced the question.

Later on he discovered another reason why he was happy he hadn't said this at the time; he was no longer convinced that the word Somersault could sum up Patron's whole life. After Patron and Guide admitted the way in which the term had been used to ridicule their actions, Kizu couldn't quite understand its new connotations. Another thought struck him: that if there was a book called Somersault he wanted to read it because it would contain something written about him.

With all this as background, Kizu was able to draw out from Patron a more focused response about his special book. On this particular day they were all discussing the mystical experiences Patron had had that Guide had de- scribed to Kizu and Ikuo. Deepening his understanding of this was, for Kizu, of the utmost importance. As the person chosen by Patron to be his new ad- viser, Kizu wanted to take over Guide's responsibilities as much as he could.

But ever since he'd agreed to assume the role, Patron had been somewhat casual about it, never pressing him. Still, he felt increasingly anxious.

"Guide told us once," Kizu began, "that when you are in a trance you're standing in front of a whitely glowing object, like a net that shows the entire past, present, and future of the world. I always assumed that mystical experi- ences meant you were communicating directly with God, which is why I thought this netlike structure must be God. The structure also struck me as a fantastic model of the world's whole past, present, and future. But the other day the idea came to me that perhaps this whitely glowing model itself is that one-of-a-kind book you told us about. So when you're in your trance you're focused entirely on reading that book."

"I agree," Patron said, his response so matter-of-fact that Kizu had doubts about what he'd just said. "But if I'd told Guide, when I related my visions to him, that it was the same as reading that book he wouldn't have accepted it. Books are limited in all kinds of ways, aren't they? A book has words printed in it. While you read it you can't change it. Reading can't be the same as living in the real world. Guide insisted on this rather simplistic line of reasoning.

"If you look carefully at that whitely glowing structure, you'll see that inside the net there are rapidly moving minute particles. Since it's structured this way, you can read your own present, Guide said, and you can live it and change your future. What I meant by a special book was exactly this type of new-style book."

"So," Kizu began, summoning up his courage, "was the Somersault, then, a kind of misreading the two of you had, as leaders of the church and, more specifically, of the activities of the radical faction? And didn't you and Guide notice this?"

"A misreading?" Patron gave it some thought.

Just as Kizu was about to withdraw his careless comment, Patron an- swered him with unexpectedly honest words.

"In this large book there's one thing that can't be misread, and that is the fact that, if mankind fails to repent, an irreversible time is fast approach- ing. Truthfully, though, if I were to describe for you the scene of the end of the world that I spoke about in the afterglow of my trance, and that Guide heard in the context of words on this side and then related to me, you'd be discouraged by how very ordinary it is. It's a picture of a medium-sized provincial city here in Japan. The afternoon is shining down on the scene, but it's entirely desolate. No dogs wandering around, no napping cats. The streets are filthy with garbage, but the amount remains the same; no gar- bage has been freshly discarded. All manufacturing facilities have stopped.

The people haven't been completely eliminated yet but are living off the remains of what's been manufactured and not replacing them once they're used up. There's no electricity, no running water, no public transportation.

Everyone's waiting for death in inconspicuous corners of this city, lying there, curled up, helpless babies once again, bereft of the skills needed to live.

"Why did things reach this state? Was a neutron bomb dropped that spared the buildings but is killing the people and animals through radiation?

Has a hitherto unknown epidemic broken out? It would still have been fine if this was just one medium-sized city that the outside world kept isolated, waiting for the radiation or epidemic to run its course. But if the exact thing is happening everywhere around the globe, doesn't this scene show us the human race becoming extinct?

"What I was surely doing was reading one page of this heretofore un- known kind ot book to Guide. How was this going to take place? Could it be halted? And what was God trying to tell us? I was supposed to read on, a Herculean task. Guide and I were agreed that we were standing at that very starting point."

2

"Looking back on it, I see this is where, for the hrst time since we'd begun our movement, a crack developed in our sense of oneness. Back at the very beginning, Guide discovered in me the person he'd been searching for and shaped me in that image. I have already told you what happened after that. At the same time, I discovered in him someone I could lean on. I pressed him hard, too, to make him become that support.

"He dubbed me Savior, but I didn't have any confidence that I was one, though he was way too strict to let me joke around about being a false savior or anything.

"Sad to say, I didn't think he'd always stay with me as my prophet. He took the words I spouted out when the effects of my deep trances were still with me and translated them into proper language. But every moment I was afraid that someday he'd find it too much trouble and get up and leave. If that happened, I'd be nothing. I'd still babble out delirious nonsense after my trances, but what would be the point?

"I had the feeling that maybe Guide didn't really need me. And this made me fearful of two things. First, I was afraid I was forcing him to work for me, and this might cause him to leave the church. Second, I was afraid that, as he became a more experienced prophet, he'd find me inadequate as a savior and look for someone more suited to the role.

"So a fissure opened up between us. By this time our church was al- ready registered as a nonprofit religious foundation, which immediately made tax matters easier to handle and gave our followers legal protection.

Up to this point, Guide, who'd studied mathematics, was our accountant, but after this some followers he'd trained took over the finances. This freed him up to do other things, and he used this free time to organize within the church a group of hand-picked followers, bright athletic young people. Since we started the church, I've always wanted all members to be equal. That's why I didn't create any official positions. After some time passed I told him my concerns about expanding his elite group any further. But he told me to let him have his way; having been a teacher for so many years, he said, he found it a real psychological boost to be able to have young people in his charge again.

"I haven't really said anything about my own position in the church, have I? Anyway, the basis for our teachings was this: that we should all be conscious that the end of the world was approaching, and be more open to it, on both an emotional and an intellectual level. And most importantly, we should repent.

Isn't it a tragedy for this planet to be destroyed-a planet that has sustained so many countless lives-because only a small minority are truly repentant?

(Though some people would argue that the only thing that's destroyed is the environment needed for mankind to survive, not the planet itself.)

"With these feelings in mind, Guide and I began spreading our mes- sage to the world. That's all it was, really. To tell the truth, I would have been happy dealing with the end of the world and repentance just on my own per- sonal level. If I had my own time connected with God I'd be able to face death without any regrets or fears. I wasn't thinking about the afterlife or the sal- vation of the soul, just that I'd be able to survive for a certain time. During that time, as the end time drew near, I'd have a clear understanding that it was the end, I would repent as one, individual human being, and, as far as possible, I would end my days in a personal relationship with God, like some mystical hermit. That was my dream. And it could have come true.

"Why did someone like me, then, become the leader of a religious or- ganization? Why did I come to have so many people call me Savior, and why did I let them? The reason is that I didn't train myself enough, like the her- mits of old had. Ultimately I couldn't free myself from the one basic element of humanity-language. During this time, my trances steadily became more profound. I was also able to expand the visions I encountered and make them more real. And I couldn't keep silent about it. I was awed by the magical power of language.

"There are two aspects here. The first is connected with the contents of my trances. I'd fall into a deep trance and enter the world beyond. After re- turning to our world, I couldn't keep from mulling over the visions I'd had there. And here, the role Guide played was decisive. I'd turn to him and talk about the visions I had but couldn't understand. Words just spilled out. He'd put what I said into some sort of logical order, and I'd tell him his words weren't like the experience. And once again, he and I would try to get closer to what I saw in my trances. The visions and these new words would illumi- nate each other. That's how I learned the irreplaceable power that words can have.

"The second aspect of language was this: When, through Guide's help, we were able to narrate from what I'd read in that book in my trances, people began to come to listen to us. Before I met Guide I'd been doing something similar. At first it was just one or two people who'd listen to my solitary tales and then use the details as a kind of fortune-telling to figure out their future.

The number of people gradually increased until there was a set group of about fifteen who'd gather together. And then new people would come, men and women with pressing concerns of their own. A woman would ask how she could get her runaway drug-taking son to come home. A man would say he treated his father-in-law so coldly it's practically like he committed suicide, and how can he deal with this? As I got a reputation for being able to give people hints to solve their personal problems, more and more people began to gather around me. I was able to live on their offerings. Up to then I'd eked out a living writing record reviews for a music magazine.

"As I've told you, it was at this point that I met Guide. He came to a gathering to get my advice on a very personal problem; his wife and autistic son were afraid of him and had run away from home. Even if we can't get back together right away, he said, he wanted to find out where they were and whether they were okay.

"And he did get some results, so afterward he still kept coming to see me. He'd come alone and we'd have long talks. One day he happened to be there when I went into a trance, and he took care of me for several days. After I was back to a normal state of consciousness, Guide told me, in clear language, what my mutterings had meant. I can never forget how surprised and happy I was when my visions were revived like that. That's how our relationship began.

"Before long he began seeing me as a savior. I don't know whether, in the beginning, he believed that or not. Maybe he thought it was an amusing nickname. But I began calling him Prophet, because of how he interpreted my visions. Those names helped our relationship run more smoothly. That was the turning point at which what had been a private gathering turned into a religious organization.

"Our church grew overnight. We started out with fifteen people, and in less than two years over five hundred people had renounced the world to join us. Having people renounce everything to join wasn't Guide's idea. One old lady did it and others followed suit. Since becoming a renuncíate meant selling your house and land and donating all your assets to the church, our financial situation improved by leaps and bounds. Guide took care of the bookkeeping, as well as of the steps needed to make our church nonprofit.

As I mentioned before, at that point we had over two thousand members.

"At this stage my own personal prayers and teachings were simple. I remember being questioned once by a Belgian reporter who was writing a piece on our church. I have trances, I told him, in order to gain a deeper under- standing of the approaching end of the world. This helps me be more open to it, intellectually and emotionally. My goal is complete repentance. As the power of the repentant grows, our connection with God will exceed the level of each individual and may even influence society.

"Suspicious of why the interpreter was silent, the Belgian reporter asked, 'Is that all?' just to make sure. 'Are your teachings really that simple?' The way he said it implied he was trying to unearth some secret teachings that had to exist in a church like ours, with over two thousand renunciates and funds exceeding two billion yen. To tell the truth, though, that was all there was to it.

"It was after our church became a religious foundation that Guide cre- ated his group of the best and the brightest of our young people. He expanded this group at a feverish pace. He bought some resort facilities in Izu that had belonged to a printing company and showed them how to fix it up; when it was finished it was quite a nice research facility. He created research teams to carry out inquiries in many fields-chemistry, biology, and physics-spar- ing no expense. At first the team members were selected from among our followers and were allowed to carry out the kind of research they had been doing in their former graduate schools and research labs. Over time, though, these members began to ask that former colleagues be allowed to join them.

As they did their research together, the new people would usually become believers, a development that took off quickly.

"Guide was always so excited when he reported to me on the activities of the Izu center. Those researchers who joined the church had all had some spiritual unease, and some people had dropped out of the competitive world of graduate school and research labs. Others couldn't get along with their academic advisers. Once these young people found our state-of-the-art re- search facility, they cooperated with their fellow researchers and immersed themselves in their research.

"The results they came up with at the research facility were good enough to present at international academic conferences, but in Japan once you leave your research lab it's difficult to get another job. These young researchers were oblivious to that, though, and went at their research with all the enthusiasm of young people training for a soccer match. Their attitude toward their work might very well be a model for how young people today should repent. All fired up, Guide told me he dreamed about organizing the education of this kind of young people.

"However, among this elite group, whom I'd left up to him for the most part and whom he mostly trained, a special sort of movement arose concern- ing our religious activities. In other words, what the press later dubbed the radical faction. This radical faction grew so quickly that it forced Guide and me to do our Somersault, but at first I had no misgivings about them whatso- ever. Rather, I felt a childish sense of relief. With this elite corps going at their research with such zeal, Guide wasn't likely to leave the church anytime soon.

That's what I hoped."

3

"Before long, Guide began running religious seminars at the Izu center and invited me to lecture. As I'm sure you know, Professor, from your years of teaching, seminars are an interesting forum for teaching because of the interaction between people involved. I was used to speaking about my reli- gious experiences as the visions I'd emotionally and physically experienced, with Guide helping to interpret them, but at the seminar the young people challenged me, and I discovered a new light shining on the page I'd seen in my vision. I found myself rereading this in front of them. That was how I discovered the way to proceed.

"I remember the first seminar well. Guide picked me up at headquar- ters and accompanied me to the Izu research center; our headquarters had begun as just a single rented room in Asukayama, where we used to meet, but soon we purchased the land and the whole apartment building and made a headquarters appropriate for this period of growth in the church.

"I had little academic background, and I thought it was a bother to have to go to Izu to appear in front of these former students from science depart- ments and medical schools. But something beyond this bothered me. The research facility, once a company resort, looked like an old deserted house from the outside, but once inside you could see how the members' devotion had made it into a pleasant place. To my surprise when I actually saw them all together, I found Guide had assembled over forty of these men and women.

The seminar began in a conference room right after we arrived, as we ate lunch. I was scared to death, but soon I was completely absorbed and found myself saying things I never would have normally said aloud. Guide, seated beside me, sometimes tilted his head to one side in disbelief, but still he viewed the proceedings happily.

"This elite group at the Izu research center was much more alert and active than the young followers at our usual gatherings. They sat at these old- fashioned long tables, no doubt left over from the days when the center was a recreational facility, and leaned forward toward me in rapt attention. I wasn't used to such attentive expressions and shining eyes. It gave me the kind of happy feeling you get when you see something completely new and unex- pected. Finally Guide spoke.

"'This isn't the first time you all have met Savior, is it? Most of you have heard him talk before, at various branch gatherings. I assume you're all pleased to have this opportunity to ask him questions directly?'

"They responded with youthful laughter, and one young woman spoke up and said it was the first time she'd actually seen me. She was part of a little five-person group that was seated in the front row, on the right. As soon as I entered the conference room I'd felt something was different about that group.

The young woman's hair was pulled back so tightly her forehead looked stretched, and though the color of her eyes was not pure Japanese, she was a type of person you might run across on the streets of Tokyo. Gesticulating in an offhand way that was different from people raised in Japan, she made the following statement: '"This is the first time I've met Savior,' she said. 'My mother became a follower first. My parents were divorced when I was little and I grew up with my father, who's of Irish extraction, in California. But my mother in Japan got very sick and wanted to see her ex-husband and daughter. She was hav- ing a terrible time trying to track us down when Savior gave her a hint that allowed her to locate us. After she got in touch with my father, he went to see her, quit his job, and decided to live in Japan. That's how our family was reunited.

'"I looked for a university I could transfer to from the one I was going to in the States. After I started school here I ran across an old friend from when I was a student in the American School in Yokohama, who was a follower of the Savior. When we graduated he was asked to come to the center here, and I came with him.

'"I was only able to nurse my mother for a short time, but throughout she told me about your teachings, so when I came here I wasn't completely ignorant. Hearing about how you helped my mother find us and, though she didn't recover, how my father changed after meeting her-all this made me believe in the power you possess. And now that I have met you I'm as happy as I imagined I'd be.'

"Still worked up after she finished speaking, the young woman covered her face with her silver-nailed hands and the boy with round glasses next to her, also a Eurasian, gave her a hug. The young women and men around them gave her an enthusiastic round of applause.

Guide turned to me-he was really speaking to everyone there-and by way of introduction explained that the group this girl was in felt more comfortable speaking English than Japanese. Including this girl, three of them had attended high school at the American School, and two more had lived in English-speaking environments in Fiji and Western Samoa and then returned to high school in Tokyo. Guide explained how these young people were a task force he'd created to deal with the foreign media. That wasn't their only job, of course; they'd all majored in computer science or engineering in college and were going to continue their work here at the center.

"After this bilingual group presented testimonies of how they came to faith, we had a question-and-answer period about the future of the church.

They had all swiftly devoured their lunch in the healthy way young people do and were waiting for me to respond to their questions, which I had to do alone, and I remember looking down impatiently at the food that was still on my plate, which I couldn't finish because of all the questions."

4

Patron continued reminiscing to Kizu about the meeting while flipping through a stack of cards that Dancer had brought to him from their office workstation; the cards were ones she'd made by copying out passages from church publications that predated the Somersault.

"One young man who asked some questions was trained in experimen- tal physics. Guide had great hopes for him. This is what the young man said: "Td been taking medicine for many years to control my epileptic sei- zures. Because of the medicine my head was always in a fog, and I worried that I wouldn't be able to handle the delicate elements of my research. As I feared, I was forced off the research team just when we were reaching the final stages of the research. I'd been on this team ever since I entered the de- partment, so this was a terrible shock. I couldn't get over it and quit the uni- versity before I graduated. Despite these problems, soon after I joined the church I was allowed to work in the prophet's research center and I felt-I'd like to check this English word with the bilingual group-overjoyed.

"'In the university I was too preoccupied with my own research project and couldn't recognize obstacles along the way, but after I started my re- search again here I felt I could understand the feelings of my former pro- fessor, the one who fired me, and why I wasn't allowed to be a part of the final critical stage of the project. Some of my former colleagues later joined me here, and we enjoy our research to the full every day. Hallelujah! If things continue as they have, I predict some good results before too much longer, and we'll be able to outwit all those colleagues of mine still in the university. The bilingual group has been kind enough to translate some of our research papers into English, and it's as if all the burdens and problems I used to face are gone.

'"But am I making a big mistake all over again? The impetus for join- ing the church was my frustration, my suffering, but what drew me further in was the Savior's teachings. The world is fast approaching its end, a point that my field of research confirms too. But even if our research team's efforts bear fruit-and I have no doubt they will-that's not going to do anything to stave off the end of the world, is it?

'"Is it really all right for us to just enjoy doing our research in this won- derful environment? The Prophet told us if our research gets results that become known abroad, people won't confuse our church with a cult. That's good, but even if people hold us in higher regard and we get more members, aren't we just doing the same thing that established religious organizations do?

'"There's a list in this little almanac here of the official numbers of members of various religious groups, many of which have huge numbers of followers. Tenrikyo, for instance, has 1.84 million members, Kongokyo has 440,000, Omotokyo has 170,000, Reiyukai 3.2 million, Seicho no ie 840,000, Sekai Kyuseikyo 840,000, Perfect Liberty Church has 1.26 million, Risho Kyosei Kai has 6.35 million, and Sokka Gakkai has more than any of these. If all these churches got together to repent and parade, there'd be 20 million people flooding the streets. But no one ever attempts to do that.

Even if our church grows bigger, won't it just become like all the others? If that's the case, my present happiness rests on dubious ground! What I'd like to hear from you are the concrete goals you have in mind for this church you lead.'

"I think what Guide said in response to this was important.

'"It would be even more fitting,' Guide said, 'if you included the large traditional Buddhist sects, as well as Catholics and Protestant denominations, though we're not planning to imitate any of them. If there's anyone here opti- mistic enough to think that you'll just spend your days leisurely doing re- search, you're very much mistaken.

'"The Savior has communicated many visions that he's had. The majority of you here have heard his sermons and, as they make clear, the Sav- ior has a comprehensive understanding of the end of the world.

'"The Savior's connection with God is personal, as will be ours as we repent. As our church grows more active, though, and as we call for true re- pentance and raise society's consciousness of the end of the world, we'll tran- scend that personal relationship with God. That's the basis of the Savior's teaching. And as for myself, as Prophet, I founded this research center because I wanted to improve the minds of those who were repentant.

'"As the question you've raised indicates, this center has become a solid research facility. It's obvious to me that each researcher here, as a firm believer, has his eyes set on the realistic goals set forth by the Savior. The urgent ques- tion you've raised springs directly from that. I'm happy my efforts haven't been in vain. However, don't close your eyes to the problems inherent in your question, problems that characterize the intellectuals in our church. How should we advance toward our goals? Isn't this a question each person must try to answer individually? In this community you're in now, where you can concentrate on both research and prayer, won't all your individual goals even- tually meld into one? That's my response as Prophet.'

"After this it was my turn, as Savior, to respond, which I did to some incidental questions; the responses I gave are all on these cards Dancer's put- ting together, which summarize the opinions I gave through the course of the discussion.

'"On a very basic level, I'm not the kind of person who can deal with society by myself,' I told them. 'When the visions I have in my trances are translated, though, I am driven by their power to speak out to you all. Those of you gathered here are all quite young, most of you having joined the church after it was already established; the first person who spoke today, I believe, is the son of one of my followers from the earliest days. I preached that one should cut one's worldly ties in order to repent, but when I see a case like this in which the bonds of family lead one to join the church, I stand in awe.

'"I used to live a hermit's life, like someone living in a cave-my own private life, with my own private trances, and private prayers-until the Prophet forced me to face my followers, whose number had swelled to form a real church, and to confront the outside world. However, as the Prophet has often said, my faith rests solely on the foundation of my trances. I have no set notions of the future, or any concrete plan as to how to proceed. That is the truth.

" 'When I am in one of my trances, I'm on the other side. When I'm there I don't have a consciousness of standing in front of it-this only comes after I've awoken and mulled over the experience-but what I come face-to-face with is everything in miniature: past, present, and future, every person, thing, and event. It all forms a glowing structure that I'm standing in front of. I'm led to read and understand this structure by a will moving horizontally and vertically at the speed of light. If you wish to use the word God, then that will is God, that structure itself is God, an understanding I come to only after I've returned.

'"To use a simpler metaphor, it's a book unlike any other, a book within a book, which includes the entire world, the entire universe. I'm on the other side, reading it. This means being conscious of things that transcend the real world, that tie together past and future. Reading this book also means I'm alive in this world, and by living I'm writing new sections of it. If I distance myself even a little, I realize that the words already written in the book, and the new words written in it, are not merely about my own individual inner life. They're not just about my own individual actions, and the limited range of influence these might have in the real world. What I read in that book is the entire past and future of the world-indeed, of the universe-but what happens is that even my own insignificant individual actions, my own pass- ing thoughts, very subtly rewrite the whole. And in this I find evidence that my trifling individual self is one of the saviors of humanity.

'"I think the problem can be summarized this way. All the followers in this church want to take some decisive practical action, with the Prophet and myself leading them. These actions are already written in the book I read in my trances and can be written anew. But I cannot, ahead of time, tell you what they are. When it becomes absolutely necessary for me to speak, when something that transcends us pushes me forward in order to speak, be assured that my vision will take the form of words at the most opportune moment and you'll be the first to know. That time hasn't arrived yet, but it isn't far off.'

"After I finished saying this, the Prophet-for the first time since I met him-swept away the distance he'd always maintained between us. He faced me, gave a slight yet truly heartful bow, and then turned toward the assembled group of hand-picked young people who filled the conference room.

'"Everyone, let us pray! Let us pray! Hallelujah! Let us have faith that even the prayers of the weak and helpless such as ourselves may write one new line in that massive book. And let us all have hope in the Savior's trying task of seeing that in his vision! Let us pray that we may discover what sort of actions are possible for us. Let us await, as we pray, ideas that come to us of our own accord yet are also written in that book. Let us pray for understand- ing. The end of the world is fast approaching. As we repent, what can we do?

What must we do? Let us also pray that through the mediation of the Savior, this massive book on the other side will reveal the actions we must take. In his presence, and relying on him alone, let us pray. Hallelujah!'"

Kizu had never before heard Patron so excited, or speak about Guide being so worked up. As a person getting on in years, Kizu knew that if this excitement infected him as well, later on, retrospectively, it would leave be- hind a quite ambiguous emotion. So he adopted an artist's strategy, taking a step back from his subject and reexamining it.

"Did Guide talk to you before all this about why he put forth such a theory? I'm sure the two of you must have discussed it thoroughly beforehand."

A childish, prankish expression crossed Patron's face. "I think Guide must have been worried that I was going to sidestep those zealous young people. I think he was afraid that at my advanced age I wouldn't have any- thing to say to them and might end up with a few curt words of greeting and call it a day. Looking back on it now, I think the temptation for a Somersault grazed by me at that moment, and Guide must have sensed it."

"I've only spent a short time with him," Kizu said, "but I got the im- pression that he's not the type who opens up to others. On the other hand, when Ikuo expressed an interest in questioning you directly, Guide was kind enough to make the arrangements. Were Guide's sermons always this emotional?"

"I never saw Guide so excited in front of the followers again, though he could be pretty emotional when we talked privately.

"Another issue was raised that day at the research center. One researcher stood up, a naive-looking man but actually one tough customer. 'You keep saying the end of the world is near,' he said, 'and I agree. As the earth's popu- lation increases, human dignity will go down the drain. But how will the world end? As one who quietly awaits this with a repentant heart, I'd be happy if you'd say a few words about how it will end.'

"A few of his fellows heckled him pretty severely for asking this. 'What good is asking that going to do? That's not important!' That sort of thing.

The young man turned on his detractors and shouted in an even louder voice than theirs: '"You all are repenting and praying because the approaching end of the world is important, right? If that's all it is, how is this any different from the apocalyptic teachings of traditional religions?' Why did you choose this par- ticular church to join?

'"I entered this church,' he went on, 'after I heard about the real, con- crete visions the Savior had about the end of the world in his trances. I wanted to know more. The more we know, in case the approaching end time gets stalled we can give it a push with our own hands.'

"A young woman wearing glasses as round as two tennis balls, a lively, intelligent sort who looked like she came from a good family, responded to this; she wasn't irritated, exactly.

'"But just because the momentum toward the end of the world comes to a halt,' she said, 'isn't it going a little too far for us to help it along? I'm just a simple person who works with computers, so maybe I haven't grasped the full extent of what you mean. What bothers me about the way you said it is the hint of cynicism. Not that I'm saying you're enjoying the idea of the world ending. Through the Savior's teaching I do want to repent, as the world comes to an end, and gain a deeper acceptance of what's going to occur. There's no room for cynicism or curiosity.'

"Guide broke in at this point to urge me to respond. Based on Dancer's cards, here is the gist of what I said.

"'My vision of the end of the world is limited to a view of a small-sized provincial city, a city on the verge of death. The end has not yet arrived but is surely on its way. Yet not a single voice arises in prayer. The citizens have lost all vitality. That's the scene I envision. What I want to do is to insert a group of repentant, prayerful people in the midst of this scene. My hope is that this will become the model for all human cities.

'"As I said earlier, in the beginning I was just a hopeless recluse who only thought about the salvation of his own soul. As I began to share my individual visions with other people-visions I had in trances that resulted from prayer- I couldn't stay hidden away any longer. And the spot where I ended up was so high it made me dizzy, a place where I also felt I was forced into a dead end.

'"I believe there are many like me now. Compared to two thousand years ago, many more people are leading mankind toward the final day, which I interpret as a sign that indeed the end time is drawing near. I stand before you as one of those people. Because I am, I hope to relate a vision that responds to the question I was just asked in a clearer, more inclusive way.

"'The next time one of my trances comes over me, that's what I plan to do. Striving to answer this ultimate question will add new sentences to the book in which everything, from the beginning to the end, is already written.

'"Today what we've done is confirm this. Everything has gone accord- ing to what's been written in the design, from the Prophet preparing this re- search facility, to his choosing all of you, to finally having me come here. Let's pray, not forgetting to thank the Prophet for what he's done. Hallelujah!'"

Patron's style of speaking, his pauses and his tone of voice, were just like his sermons; once he came to an end, he changed gears, a faint smile arising from something Kizu could only guess at.

"If you look at this first sermon I gave at the Izu research center, it would be irresponsible of me to insist that Guide was solely responsible for training the radical faction. As the new Guide, didn't you think the same thing as you listened to me? Anyhow, that's how it began, and though there were all sorts of complicated situations within the church at the time, my visions were what sparked the radical faction to develop its so-called Threshold Crosser device."

Noticing Kizu's suspicious look, Patron said with his fixed Cheshire cat smile, "It's a device to convert a nuclear power plant into a nonportable nuclear bomb. And if this had spread, you'd better believe mankind would have crossed a threshold it was never meant to."

10: WAKE MANIA WITHOUT END (I)

1

The ceiling of the prewar Western-style kitchen was strangely low, the window smeared, and the putty around the frame greasy. Outside, large wet snowflakes were falling; Kizu watched them out to the edge of the faint light illuminating the scene.

It was after dinner. Patron was listening to the CD version of Furt- wângler conducting Bach's St. Matthew Passion on the sound system set up next to the dining table. Soon a cold look came to his lace, and without con- cerning himself with Kizu he shut off the music halfway through. Outside, beyond Patron's drooping shoulders, sleet was changing to snow. Kizu felt uneasy, as if his sense of hearing had suddenly been stripped away from him, and he imagined Patron must be even more sensitive to the sudden silence.

Patron went into the kitchen to start washing up, and Kizu followed after him.

There was a huge pile of dirty dishes. At the beginning of the week Guide had taken a turn for the worse and been put in a private room, and Dancer, who'd been with him the whole time, had returned in the late after- noon for the first time to report on his condition. After dinner with Ogi, Ikuo, and Ms. Tachibana, the young people set off for the hospital. Ms. Tachibana, living with her younger brother, had to be home by a fixed time, so it was left to Kizu and Patron to clean up.

With his long years living alone in New Jersey, and now in his Tokyo apartment, Kizu was used to cooking and cleaning up on his own, but Patron was a compete novice when it came to washing dishes. It might have been easier if Kizu had done it alone. Patron, though, seemed genuinely afraid of withdrawing to his bedroom study. At Dancer's insistence there were no chemical cleansers in the kitchen, so it took quite some time to wash the filthy dishes the young people had left using only a large bar of coconut oil soap rubbed into a sponge. Kizu soon took over washing the dishes, Patron the drying. As he dried one dish after another, Patron began a long monologue.

"A while ago I told you how I came to know Guide, and how I was making a living as a fortune-teller. Guide's wife and autistic son ran out on him. His wife had left a note. She said he worried so much and was so overly solicitous toward their son she felt stifled, and they couldn't take it anymore.

'If you come after us and try to get us to come home,' she said, 'we'll kill our- selves. Just leave us alone.'

"When Guide brought this letter to me he was beside himself. A woman whose son was going to night classes at the high school equivalency school felt she just couldn't stand by without doing anything and brought Guide to one of our meetings. He wasn't hoping his wife and son would come back, he just wanted to know they were all right. Instead of trying to search for them, he thought I should read the letter, go into a trance, and tell him how they were. I had two different types of trances, and this required the shallow kind, which I could go into and out of at will.

"The scene I saw in my trance was clear enough but hard to pin down.

A middle-aged woman was sitting on a bus, a bulky bag beside her. From the shadows a young man leaped into the picture, and when he reached the front row of seats he rested his hand on the shoulder of a man sitting there and, in a quiet voice, asked him if he was getting off at the next stop.

"When I'd said this much, Guide began to tremble. 'That's definitely my wife and son,' he said. What he said next was the very first of his inter- pretations of my visions, one might say. 'My son likes buses,' he said, 'espe- cially the front row. My wife or I tell him not to, but he always sidles up to the front and asks whoever's sitting there that question. My wife's people live in Boso and earn their living farming and fishing, so they must be carrying fish and vegetables into Tokyo to sell. Seeing as how they make a round trip every day into the city on trains and buses, my son must be happy.'

"Even after Guide had determined where his family was, he still came sometimes to our meetings; before long his wife filed for divorce. His wife was afraid of him and didn't show up in family court, so the divorce wasn't finalized, but Guide just left it at that. He said the reason he didn't get di- vorced was like the idea you had, Professor Kizu, of you and Ikuo grasping hands and heading off to the other side. When his autistic son was to head off to the other side, Guide wanted to be there to help him. Guide had been over- zealous in educating his son so the boy had rebelled. When Guide had tried to suppress the rebellion, the mother felt sorry for the boy and the two of them ran away from home.

"Still, though, Guide's dream was to be able to help his son on the other side, to mediate between his son's soul and God. He couldn't give up this idea.

Guide was able to interpret my visions, and finally that became his full-time role. But behind his becoming a pillar of the church lay these personal emo- tional motives.

"And now Guide is unconscious, his body reacting only mechanically.

On the one hand is the brain of the autistic son, closed to the world outside; on the other, the brain of the father, struck down by an aneurysm. I'm haunted by a scene of endless sky and far-off horizon, with two oval-shaped dishes like these lying there. And a human brain on each one."

Patron held a large plate to the lacy apron at his chest, and while Kizu pictured what was happening in a far-off building surrounded by snow, he almost burst out laughing. With Patron's combination of the tragic and the comic, his solemn seriousness and his occasional doubtfulness, Kizu couldn't help but know he was in the presence of someone quite special.

"What really hurts most when I think of Guide is what he told me after he had his first attack, when he recovered and came home from the hospital.

When the blood vessel in his forehead burst, he said, he didn't get confused right away. He felt bad, got up go to the rest room to try to throw up, and was halfway there when he suddenly found himself not inside a building but standing in a wilderness at twilight. And with a great noise, this whole wil- derness was rolling up from the edges at the horizon. And then he lost con- sciousness. Guide used this expression, which makes it seem that the vision I had that I just told you about was something he told me. That's how strong a relationship we'd built up over such a long time.

"What comes to me now is that during his second attack there must have been a short period when his mind was still clear. Guide knew what was going on. How frightened he must have been, wondering whether the group that took him captive was hoping he'd collapse. He must have felt a terrible sad- ness too, knowing he'd lost forever his chance to find his son and escort him to the other side.

"That's how I imagined Guide's experience. And the conclusion I came to, Professor, is that although Guide wanted to be a mediator for his autistic son, in fact it was the son who was his railing, his lifeline."

Patron ran out of words. His spiritless face, poised between his bent left hand, about to grasp a plate, and his right, holding out a dish towel, fairly glinted with sorrow.

As he had never done before to anyone, Kizu placed his arm around Patron's apron-wrapped shoulder and led him out of the kitchen. The cur- tains were still open, and in the darkness of the garden the snow began to swirl silently. The two elderly men, in their loud aprons, faintly reflected in the windowpane, looked just like two children in a nursery school Christmas pageant who had stood rooted to one spot until, years later, they'd grown old.

2

Kizu planned to take Patron to his bedroom study and then wait in the office in case there was an emergency call from the hospital. But as they rounded the corner in the hallway Patron came to a halt and refused to go farther. Reluctantly, Kizu led him to the living room sofa, but again he pro- tested wordlessly and sat down in the armchair facing away from the glass door leading to the garden.

"Would you like to listen to Bach again?" Kizu asked.

Looking back at him, Patron shook his head.

"Well, then," Kizu said, "maybe I can use this opportunity to ask you something Ikuo wants me to ask."

"Dancer already told me," Patron said. "She came to me all excited and said Ikuo had just asked you to put this question to me: Whether false savior or genuine, how did you start thinking you were the savior? Isn't this what he wanted you to ask?" Kizu nodded. "Since he used these exact words with Dancer, I think that even before Ikuo talked to you he knew exactly what he wanted to say.

"The best way to answer is, once again, to begin by talking about Guide.

When I asked him to take on the job of Prophet, I didn't have a clear sense of myself as Savior. It was only after I forced him into the role of Prophet that he began to see my trances as mystical experiences and convinced me that I could use them to lead him and other people.

"Ever since I was a certain age I knew I couldn't avoid having these experiences. Over time they jolted me out of the everyday. Every time I had a mystical experience I suffered and was worn out, though afterward I felt totally energized. After I returned to this side, I was driven to tell people what I'd seen over there. Before Guide was with me I experimented with all sorts of ways to do this, but no one took me seriously, except for the predictions I made after I reluctantly starting earning a living as a fortune-teller.

"Soon I'd fall into depression again and begin to regret the stupid things I was doing. As I became more and more depressed, I had a premonition that when I hit bottom I'd be thrust into another mystical experience. So I real- ized depression wasn't going to make me kill myself.

"I was repeating this cycle over and over when I first met Guide. A true man of science, no doubt he was eager to uncover this fortune-teller as a fraud.

But the scene I saw in the trance portrayed-quite accurately, it turned out- his wife and autistic son.

"Since he was a scientist, Guide placed a high value on the scientific method and believed the only valid theory was one that grew out of this. He studied my trances with great inquisitiveness and soon experienced one of my deep trances. He made a distinction between the two kinds and concentrated on the more intense ones, with their visions I couldn't comprehend yet couldn't let slip away.

"Guide wasn't the kind of person to be satisfied with a halfhearted re- sponse, so I felt cornered and for the first time got serious about these visions myself. He took care of me when I had my trances, and I did my best to tell him the visions that remained like echoes in my mind. As if I had no other choice, I talked for about an hour, and gradually the roles of speaker and lis- tener were reversed. He connected the fragments of my vision and began talk- ing to me, convincing me that yes, indeed, what he was saying was what I saw in my trance.

"Since he could describe what I saw in my visions, I began to rely on him more and more. I would fall into one of these painful trances and have a vision, and during its aftereffects, when my psyche was still half destroyed, I'd blurt out some nonsense. He helped me link up the person I became in moments like that with the person I was after I'd recovered. I felt I could pull together the shattered personality I'd believed to be lost for over a decade.

"As I said a while ago, right after my trances I was always worked up.

I had to tell people what I'd seen. I knew what I said was mostly nonsense, but I just had to say something. And then I'd deeply regret having spoken and become depressed. Still, through that process I couldn't deny the mystical experiences I had. It was all so unspeakably painful.

"The difference now was that after I awoke from a trance and recov- ered from the unsettled emotional state that always followed, I had a patient listener who would put my scattered words in order. He gave meaning to the disaster that had ruined half my life, and through his help I discovered a new whole sense of self. What he made whole was me, the Savior, whether false or genuine. That was how it began."

Patron's monologue came to a halt. A long but not unnatural silence descended on them. With all other sounds absorbed by the falling snow, the sound of the gate outside being pushed open suddenly rang out loud and clear.

Dancer came into the living room, surrounded by the cold iron smell of the snow she'd brushed off at the entrance. Silently, she looked reprovingly at Patron and, ignoring Kizu, walked over to the armchair.

"I'll talk with you after you've gone to your room," she said, nimbly getting Patron up.

Kizu watched her propel Patron into his bedroom study, a clump of snow clinging to her skirt. Ikuo, coming in a moment later, plopped down without a word in the chair facing away from the dining room, the one at a right angle to the sofa. The scent Kizu sniffed out from his large body was the metallic smell of snow Dancer had brought with her, overlaid with sweat.

Ikuo held Kizu's questioning gaze and nodded gravely, his expression show- ing small signs both of a deep exhaustion and a renewed vigor.

"I see… He's gone. That is really a shame," was all Kizu could mus- ter. "So the two of you walked back all the way in the snow?"

"The train was stopped at Kyodo so we walked from there. Dancer's done so much serious training she barely broke a sweat. Ogi stayed at the hospital to deal with the police and make funeral arrangements. The news- papers seem to have caught wind of it, and reporters have been snooping around the night reception desk. I thought it would be a pain to have phone calls coming in here so I switched the office phone over to fax when we left- which is why we couldn't call you-and came back instead. Dancer in par- ticular wanted to report directly to Patron."

Dancer had led Patron into the back, as if scolding a child for staying up too late, but now no voices could be heard. Kizu fixed his gaze on the carved vine-covered clock on the wall, which hung next to the watercolor he'd pre- sented to Patron. It was already past three.

"When people die… even if it's from illness, it's a terrible thing," Ikuo said. "Guide may have been brain dead, just an object, but when I saw him sweep aside his IV tube and sit up halfway in bed to vomit, trying not to soil his bed, I knew this wasn't just some inanimate thing."

They suddenly noticed that Dancer had come out from Patron's room and was standing at the corner of the dining room, looking down at Kizu and Ikuo.

"Patron told me again that he wants you to be Guide," she said to Kizu.

3

The next morning dawned clear, not a cloud in the sky. Over a foot of snow piled up in the branches and treetops, and the trees in the garden leaned over at anarchic angles. The line of potted wild plants looked like deep-dish pot pies. The layer of snow covering the ground twinkled in dead silence. The morning was still early. Kizu and Ikuo had slept in the annex, and Kizu left Ikuo there, deep in the enduring sleep of a healthy young man, and went over to the main house. Dancer was already up, planted in the chair that Ogi nor- mally used, hard at work. When she saw Kizu she reported that last night she'd recorded Patron's statement on the death of Guide. She was letting Patron sleep in and was getting things ready for what was likely to prove a busy afternoon.

The small lamp on her desk just illuminated the documents on top of it, and in contrast to the bright snow coming from the north and south sides of the garden, in this darkly shadowed interior Dancer's face looked pale and swollen. Her nostalgic little-girl-with-a-cold face at the same time showed the pain of one who's been abandoned. Kizu wondered when Patron was planning to visit the hospital and how they planned to get there if the snow prevented them from taking the car.

"Patron isn't going to the hospital," Dancer replied. "Point-blank, with- out any emotion, he said there was no need, now that Guide has passed away."

"But he will have to bid farewell to the body, won't he? Is Ogi going to bring the body back here?"

"We've made an appointment at the crematorium; Ogi will take care of everything. We'll just wait for the ashes to be brought back here. In the afternoon we'll be inundated with reporters, and Patron plans to hold a press conference. We'll all be pretty busy. Ms. Tachibana will be bringing one of her colleagues but will have to wait until the trains are running again."

"How were Guide's wife and son told?"

As if wondering how much Kizu already knew about Guide's family, Dancer assumed her typical expression, mouth slightly open, for the first time this morning.

"I think Ogi contacted them last night, before dinner," she replied.

"When we got back to the hospital, his wife and son were already there. His wife seemed to think it was very important for her to see him once before he died-even if he wasn't able to realize she was there. When the doctors were performing heart massage and ordered everyone out of the room, she insisted on staying there and did so, along with her son. When we went back into the room, she looked devastated, as if it had been her chest they'd been massaging.

"All things considered, she held up well; she kept repeating to her poor son that his father had died repentant. Ogi's supposed to escort them to the crematorium. Guide's wife wanted to go back to Boso as soon as she could and told us that though her husband had been a big man and there would be a lot of bones left after the cremation, they need only bury a small portion."

"So his wife said he died repentant, did she?" Kizu said, his voice full of regret for the bereaved family.

Dancer leaped in adroitly. "I wonder how his wife and son understood the word. Ikuo and I discussed it on the way back, whether what she said about repentance is the same thing as the term Patron uses in his teaching, or whether she meant your garden variety of repentance."

"Do you mean Guide repenting what he did to his family?" Kizu asked her. "Maybe all repentance leads in the same direction."

"When Patron heard this, he cried," Dancer said, looking at Kizu closely to gauge his reaction.

"It must be a complex thing for Patron."

"Don't be so standoffish-like it has nothing to do with you," Dancer protested mildly. "Instead, as your first task as the new Guide, would you transcribe the tape of Patron's announcement?"

Dancer leaned forward to pass him the tape, still in its Walkman, her eyes as she did so overflowing with light reflected from the snow on the north side of the house like some alien on a TV movie. Dancer had a dignity that wouldn't take no for an answer, and her obvious exhaustion-she'd only managed to grab a few hours' sleep-did nothing to diminish the energy with which she took care of the work she had to do. Still, though, she showed her concern, saying, "If you'd like to have breakfast before you get to work, I'll make it."

"No, I don't want to bother you with those kinds of chores," Kizu said, borrowing a ballpoint pen and loose-leaf notebook. "Ikuo should be up soon.

I'll ask him to fix it."

Kizu settled down in the armchair Patron had recently occupied, put on the headphone, and pushed the PLAY button on the Walkman.

Patron was muttering, so at first Kizu couldn't understand him. He was about to turn up the volume but the switch was taped over. He looked up and Dancer, who'd been watching him all the while, nodded, her eyes like melted pools of ice. She seemed to be telling him to listen to the tape as it was, until Patron's low murmur itself changed in tone.

Headphones still on, Kizu turned to look at the snowy garden outside.

The small leaves of the azalea hedge shivered under the thick layer of snow; the snow-covered stems of the withered hydrangea leaves shook with the wind. Kizu noticed one clear difference between this scene and the one that greeted him on snowy mornings back in the States. At the thick base of the winter camellia, with its large white flowers, the snow was sticking to one side only. The snow was piled up on the branches and clumps of leaves, but the wind didn't budge it. At his apartment at the university the day after it snowed, the piled-up snow, as high as the roof and the trees, would blow up in the air and swirl around in dry and powdery flakes.

Gradually, though it was still muffled and at the same volume level, he could make out what Patron was saying. As he came to the end of the tape, one phrase in particular stood out: Thy will be done.

Kizu transcribed Patron's talk on the tape into the notebook. As he did so he felt a force pushing him back, interrupting the flow of the sentences, a force that had its roots in the quiet, calm measures in which Patron spoke.

Kizu couldn't reproduce this style in writing, and he was amazed all over again at the depth and intimacy that Patron and Guide had shared. Still, Kizu managed to finish a first draft, which he tore out of the notebook and placed beside the computer where Dancer was working.

"This is pretty flat and doesn't reflect Patron's tone of voice at all," Kizu explained timidly.

Guide has died of a brain aneurysm that was deliberately brought on by those who held him captive and, for a long time, harassed him in a kangaroo trial. The people in this group who victimized him were mem- bers ot the radical faction of our church at the time, ten years ago, when we did our Somersault. Several of these people belonged to the group that actually committed subversive activities. As a result these people, includ- ing ones who were legally sanctioned, took revenge on Guide and car- ried out their lynch-mob justice.

They were trying, after a ten-year delay, to make Guide take respon- sibility for the Somersault. But the Somersault was mostly my responsi- bility, something Guide did along with me. The relationship between Guide and myself continued all the while, from when it was just the two of us training ourselves spiritually, through when we formed a church, to the time when we undertook large-scale religious activities. The Som- ersault, too, took place as part of our longtime relationship. But I took the lead. It's illogical for the radical faction to kill Guide while not pur- suing me.

If they were aware ot this inconsistency yet still went ahead with it, it must be part of their strategy for the future. Their intention is to pro- voke me-but to what end? To direct me to perform another Somer- sault, this time without Guide backing me up?

What we did, though, makes that impossible. Having done our Som- ersault, the two of us tell into hell, where we stayed for ten years. lust when we found the strength to crawl out of this hell, Guide was tortured to death by those people who, clinging to their one-dimensional view- point, tried to force him into a backward Somersault. Now that he's been killed, all I have is a handful of trusted companions to help me begin my new movement.

This is what the people who killed Guide planned from the start.

They weren't really aiming at a reverse Somersault. Guide's refusal- unto death-to take a backward Somersault showed them exactly where we stood, stumbling up out of the abyss of our own private hell to begin again.

I'm announcing this to those who did not distort our Somersault and who patiently awaited our rebirth from hell. I am also appealing to those who only just learned about what happened to Guide and who want to hold him dear in their memory. Guide has been lost to us, but I, Patron, am taking a bold new step forward.

First of all, though, I will hold a memorial service for Guide. I would like to pray together with my new companions. Hallelujah! Thy will be done!

4

Dancer read Patron's announcement that Kizu had transcribed and, without expression, went to Patron's room to deliver it to him. Ikuo was up by this time and came over, and Kizu told him about the job he'd just com- pleted, urging him to listen to the Walkman. Ikuo, too, had a hard time at first in trying to turn up the volume. After he was finished listening, he said, excitedly: "Patron seems to be focusing on those who still believe in him and people who individually got in touch with him. But wouldn't this include people left over from the radical faction? Won't they respond to Patron's announcement too? Not those who were directly responsible for Guide's death, of course; that's out of the question. But don't some of these former faction members still want to take radical action?"

"You really seem to be interested in what moves that group is going to make," Kizu asked. "This meeting that Patron's going to hold is his way of memorializing Guide."

"Patron announced he's starting a new movement," Ikuo said, "so after the service there's no way he can retreat back into the hell he fell into after the Somersault. Not that I understand much about this hell or anything-"

Dancer rejoined them, interrupting Ikuo, who was about to say more.

"Patron says the announcement is fine," she said to Kizu. "He told me once that when he and Guide used to be engrossed in work together they'd invari- ably argue. Guide's task, as you know, was to take from Patron what could not be put into human language and somehow make it understandable, right?

I imagine, Professor, that as you listened to the tape you struggled with the same thing."

"But what I did was different from what Guide used to do," Kizu said, "which must have been an amazingly difficult undertaking. There's a con- text behind the nuances of what Patron says that I can't quite grasp, and I'm afraid I had to content myself with writing the sort of humdrum sentences anybody can come up with."

"I was talking with Ogi about creating a home page on the Internet for our new movement," Ikuo cut in. "People could access that and listen directly to Patron's announcement. What do you think?"

"Please don't get our Innocent Youth involved in all kinds of extrane- ous work," Dancer replied, sidestepping his question. "While he's busy at the hospital and crematorium, I'd like you to take care of the business here that needs to be done. I want to pass this announcement to the media, so I'd like you to input it into the computer."

Ikuo stretched out a long muscular arm to take the loose-leaf pages and began running his eyes over them.

"Patron said it's fine the way it is."

Undeterred by the way Dancer had flared up at him, Ikuo began in- tently working under Kizu's attentive gaze. Did the tension between these two young people have its origin in their conversation during their forced march through the snow the night before? Kizu wondered.

Less than an hour later the front doorbell rang, and since Dancer and Ikuo were engrossed in their work it was left to Kizu, ensconced on the sofa, to answer it. He stepped down onto the concrete floor of the entrance, unlatched the lock Ikuo had fastened, and found Ms. Tachibana and a young woman standing just outside the front door. The snow-covered garden behind them was excessively bright. Backlit by this, the pale young woman was introduced to him by Ms. Tachibana as her friend Ms. Asuka; Ms. Asuka merely nodded her head in greeting. Ms. Tachibana continued.

"There's someone outside the main gate who says he made a TV pro- gram about Patron before the Somersault," she said. "He hasn't seen Patron in fifteen years, and asked if Patron would be willing to meet him."

The three of them went to the office and found Dancer on the phone.

She soon held the receiver out for Ikuo.

"It's Ogi," she told him. "He says a bunch of people showed up at the hospital who are causing trouble. But he doesn't want the hospital to call the police to clear them out."

Ikuo took the receiver and began to talk, and Dancer, in her unaffected way, went over to stand beside Ms. Tachibana and Ms. Asuka, and the three of them went into the kitchen. Ikuo finished his phone call and told Kizu what it was all about.

"As Dancer said, a few members of the former radical faction saw the news on the morning TV show and came to the hospital. Ogi says he doesn't know if they have any connection with the ones who killed Guide, but he doesn't think they're the ones the police are looking for. Since the former radical faction consisted of people hand-picked and trained by Guide, it's only natural, I guess, that some of them would grieve over his death. Anyway, Ogi had them wait in a corner of the hospital waiting room while he was busy taking calls and greeting other visitors. He told them someone from our of- fice would be coming in an hour and asked them to wait at a coffee shop be- tween the hospital and the subway station."

"I'd like the Professor to stay here, so you go alone, Ikuo," Dancer said, sticking her face out from the kitchen; she and the other two women had been doing something in there. "I'll go talk with the TV reporter outside."

Kizu expected Ikuo to object to Dancer's unilateral orders, but he seemed instead to accept them wholeheartedly.

"What about breakfast? Would you like something before you go?"

Ms. Tachibana said, as she too stuck her head out from the kitchen.

Ikuo picked up his down jacket and muffler from the two Windsor chairs in a corner of the office that he and Dancer had used to drape their clothes over the previous night and, unconcerned about whether they were dry or not, prepared to leave.

"I'll pick up something at the McDonald's near the station," Ikuo said.

"I've made up these expense forms, so be sure to sign one before you go,"

Dancer said, holding out the envelope. She hurried to catch up with him and walked outside to talk with the reporter, who was waiting beyond the still snow-covered gate.

After some time, Dancer returned. The TV van to be used in a live re- mote was parked at the large railroad crossing, already cleared of snow, she reported, and they'd discussed how the media crowd was to be handled and the arrangements for the afternoon. The van driver told her about traffic conditions after the snowfall, and Dancer was optimistic that the road from the hospital to the crematorium and then back to headquarters with the re- mains would be passable. Preparations for breakfast were finished. Dancer went again to help Ms. Tachibana and Ms. Asuka and then took Patron's meal and her own into his bedroom study.

Kizu was quite dazzled by these young women's brisk way of work- ing. The meal they laid out on the dining table was a kind of brunch, a word now even used in Japan, and Kizu found himself unexpectedly nostalgic for life in America. Seeing Japanese homestyle meals becoming, in an entirely natural way, so close to ones in America made him realize how long he'd been away from his homeland.

Ms. Asuka, with her round forehead and long thin eyebrows, sat across from Kizu, looking quite aloof. She was adroitly eating ham with a slice of soft-boiled egg on top, and this, too, struck Kizu as part of a new Japanese way of eating. Unexpectedly, she asked him a direct question.

"There'll be TV cameramen at Patron's press conference this afternoon, won't there? If Patron is starting up his movement again, I'd like to record his sermon on video. I mentioned this to Ogi, and he sounded out Patron. I know a press conference and a sermon are different, but when I asked Dancer if I could start filming today for practice, she said I should ask you. "

"I think it would be all right, though I'm sort of feeling my way into this new role," Kizu ventured timidly.

"If Patron is officially launching his new movement, I'd like to bring my brother with me," Ms. Tachibana said.

"I have no idea how Patron plans to develop this new movement. One thing he did say in his announcement was that it's not a reverse Somersault.

And it's clear that he's appealing to new participants like you," Kizu said.

"We're really looking forward to it," Ms. Asuka said calmly, and Ms.

Tachibana nodded in agreement.

"Ikuo and I, too, have decided to follow Patron, but honestly speaking, that's all there is to it. There's no way I could replace Guide."

The three sat there silently, lost in their own thoughts. Their conver- sation may have come to a halt, but the dining area was filled with unusual vitality.

5

Only a handful of reporters showed up for Patron's afternoon press conference, representing one national newspaper, one national wire service, one Nagasaki newspaper-Kizu wondered why Nagasaki, but Patron said that was where Guide was from-and two weekly magazines. In addition to the reporters, a few photographers also showed up for the conference, which was set up by connecting the dining room and the living room. Though there were so few participants, with the sofas pushed off to one side next to the slid- ing glass door leading to the garden, and TV cameras from the TV station set up, it did have the feeling of a genuine press conference.

The reporters were asked to sit directly on the carpeting. Flanking them were Kizu and Ms. Tachibana. Ikuo, who had returned with Ogi, was hold- ing the urn that contained Guide's remains. In addition, there were three brawny men in their late thirties who had not given their names to Ms. Asuka, who was in charge of having people sign in, insisting instead that they'd al- ready cleared things. The men wore humble-looking outfits not in keeping with their robust physiques. As they settled down hesitantly into seats behind the TV crew, Ikuo watched them carefully but didn't acknowledge them.

Kizu could sense that Ogi, who as the emcee made a few opening re- marks before Patron appeared, was nervous about the presence of these men.

Ikuo, in contrast, couldn't have appeared more nonchalant.

Patron came into the room, accompanied by Dancer. The partition be- tween the dining room and the living room, which was one level lower, was set up for use as a table, and they had placed a chair there for Patron. He was dressed in navy blue cotton slacks and a paisley collared shirt, with a black denim shirt over it. Dancer, her arm around his back as they walked, wore a form-fitting green dress, adding a bit of accent to Patron's conser- vative appearance.

Patron sat down in the chair and Dancer stood to one side behind him.

Ogi had already taken up a similar position on Patron's other side. Kizu no- ticed how Dancer kept her eyes on the young men sitting behind the TV crew.

Previously somber, the young men were now suddenly rejuvenated as they trained their attention on Patron. For his part Patron swept the assemblage with his eyes, without paying attention to anyone in particular. He looked at Ogi and began speaking, sounding less like he was holding a press confer- ence than just having a private conversation.

"I'm planning to hold a memorial service and give a sermon to pay trib- ute to Guide's suffering… I assume you all have a copy of my announcement?"

Patron paused and looked out, head raised, as if to make sure the tele- vision crew had set up their camera in a good position for a view of his face and torso. Ms. Asuka stood beside the TV crew, video camera in hand. Kizu noticed a faint smile on her lips.

Before the reporters showed up, Kizu had expressed his misgivings to Dancer about allowing Patron to appear, defenseless, in front of the media.

She didn't answer him directly but did say that when she told Patron the name of the TV producer she'd met with he was relieved and seemed to be plan- ning to talk to the TV camera rather than the newspaper reporters.

"Is Ogi sending out invitations to the memorial service to people who said they'd like to attend?" Patron asked. "Ever since Guide's disaster was reported, he's been receiving e-mails and other communications. I'd like to hold the service within three weeks, and I'd like you to start thinking about a venue. We need to consider the scale of the meeting, and how many invita- tions to send out, so you'll need to confirm by checking Ogi's list. So far he has over two hundred names.

"We'll expand from this base of two hundred people. I plan to give a major sermon at the memorial service. I'm not expecting all the people who attend the service to want to participate in my new movement, but with that many people assembled I do want to announce the restarting of our up-till- now dormant movement. I'm also hoping people in the media will cover this announcement.

"At the start of our new movement, I want to make one position clear.

As our church expands-starting with Japan but including the entire world- we will never again compromise. I will call on every single person on this planet to repent. I want our church and all our activities to be permeated with this urgent call for universal repentance.

"After the Somersault, Guide and I fell into the abjectness of hell, where I was forced to ponder the salvation of mankind. Guide was the one pilot we could rely on. Just as we resurfaced, though, he was cruelly murdered. At the same time, this proved to me that the time to take action was near. I want to appeal again to people to repent at the coming end of the world. In order to carry this out, I will fight the final battle against the entire human race on this planet. My church does not possess nuclear weapons, nor does it manu- facture chemical weapons. People might wonder how we can possibly carry out a such a battle, and laugh at us for trying, but I believe we can and must fight. At the cost of his own life, Guide protected mankind's Patron-in other words, me. His death has revealed my legitimacy. In the end, people like us will emerge victorious."

When Patron ended there was applause, which startled Kizu. His sur- prise was also due in part to the strange feeling he got from what Patron had just said. Stretching themselves upward, the three vigorous young men be- hind the TV crew were among those clapping. Patron looked in their direc- tion for the first time and appeared to be searching his memory.

Seeing that Patron was not about to begin speaking again, a small dark- skinned man stood up to ask a question. He was the city section reporter from the national newspaper. He had been exchanging whispered comments with the woman beside him, a colleague by the look of it, as they eyed the three men in back.

"You just stated your determination to fight the final battle on earth," the reporter said, "which is a pretty frightening prospect when you think about it. You also said that you possess neither nuclear nor chemical weapons, and I can tell you that those of us in the secular world are thankful to hear that!"

He paused for a moment, apparently expecting laughter, but none of his colleagues laughed.

"Further, you have given us a surprisingly open view of the inner work- ings of your new movement and stated that you plan to restart your religious movement starting with just two hundred people. How can that be enough people to fight this final battle?"

The reporter paused again, waiting for a merry response, but this didn't work out as he'd hoped either. Kizu sensed it had something to do with the attitude of the three men who had earlier applauded.

"I'm assuming that what you told us is based on the principles of the movement you are about to begin," he went on, "but there's something that bothers me. Recently there was another religious group in our country that advocated an Armageddon fight to the finish, a group that committed indis- criminate terrorist acts against ordinary citizens by releasing sarin gas in the Tokyo subway. No one in Japan has forgotten this.

"The founder of this group, Aum Shinrikyo, was trained in India, and at the point where he first declared himself to be the Final Liberated One he had only thirty-five followers. By the next year this had grown to fifteen hundred. Later, a core leadership joined that committed several terrorist acts. The following year, the year their Mount Fuji headquarters was com- pleted, they reached thirty-five hundred followers and became a religious corporation. Two years later they ran candidates in a national election, and even the one billion yen they spent in the effort didn't seem to faze them, so great were their financial resources by this time. Finally, they made con- tacts with sources in the collapsing Soviet Union and purchased some large helicopters, all the while developing the capability to produce seventy tons of sarin.

"So they started with thirty-five people and got to this point in less than ten years. If they'd really been able to carry out their Armageddon battle, the four thousand people killed and injured in the sarin attack on the subway would have been nothing in comparison. The people of Tokyo already know this all too well, wouldn't you agree, that this religious group steadfastly did not compromise-not with Japanese society and not with mankind?

"You were the leader of a religious organization that was also recog- nized as a religious nonprofit organization. You have the experience and, as we've heard today, the faith to be that type of leader. I'm not saying that the Anti-Subversive Act should be applied to your church as you begin a new movement, but as someone whose job it is to report to the public, I don't want to be just a mouthpiece to publicize your group either. We in the media need to be self-critical. At a certain stage of Aum's rapid growth, the media actu- ally helped popularize it; this played well with the boom in interest in super- natural powers that the media also instigated. Even if we knew our articles were nonsense when we wrote them, many people began serious training in order to achieve supernatural powers, then became renunciates, abandoning their studies in college or their positions in society.

"Ten years ago, you yourself, fearing new developments that the radi- cal faction was instigating, abandoned your followers. As the leader you went on national television and revealed that nothing you'd done and said should be taken seriously. And you did your Somersault. This was absolutely neces- sary to abort the plans of the radical faction to take over a nuclear power plant.

And the remnants of this radical faction have now taken your companion captive and killed him.

"This is what we understand from police reports. However, here, at a press conference to announce a gathering to mourn the death of this victim, you make these antisocial pronouncements. What's going on here? I really find it hard to fathom-"

At this point Dancer cut off both the reporter and Patron, who was about to respond, and turned decisively to the assembled members of the media.

"Please consider the gentleman's words as more like a commentary on what Patron said than a question. For the rest of our time, we'd like to have a genuine question-and-answer session. Keep your questions concise, if you would. Since Guide met his untimely end, Patron has been exhausted both mentally and physically, so we'd like to keep this to a maximum of thirty minutes."

"All right, then, I'll rephrase it as a question," the reporter who'd just spoken said, raising his hand. "What do you mean when you say you'll fight the final war with the world? What was the Somersault all about? Its after- effects have not disappeared even after ten years, as we see from this recent tragic turn of events-"

Dancer wasn't about to let Patron take over.

"Why are you asking what the Somersault was all about?" she said.

"Patron and Guide went through that painful experience because the Som- ersault was necessary at that time. And they fell into hell, didn't they? Since you already know all this, I want to ask you how you could possibly ask what the Somersault meant."

The three vigorous young men clapped loudly and Dancer glared at them. To Kizu her stance looked like a mie, one of those frozen dramatic moments in kabuki when the actor assumes an exaggerated pose.

"Then I'll ask a different question," the reporter persisted. "Since the direction you'll be taking your church is toward a final war with the world, how do you differ from Aum Shinrikyo, which preached an apocalyptic vi- sion of Armageddon?"

Dancer looked ready to snap at him again, but Patron, the sleeves of his oversized denim shirt flapping, stopped her. To Kizu this action was yet an- other of Patron's gestures he'd perfected over time.

"In the past," Patron said, "both Guide and I believed that only through our own deaths would we be able to send out a clear message for people to repent. The idea of occupying a nuclear power plant and using it as a nuclear weapon that didn't need a delivery system was based on this. When our shock corps went into action, it would mean that Guide and I were going to die- together with these young people who, through their actions, repented, cleansed their souls, and were headed toward rebirth.

"However, what would we do if-in this suffering world-some people decided that they alone would survive? Realizing that what we'd said and done was being used to justify this erroneous way of thinking, we did the Somersault. This new church we're starting, however, is not at all like that."

At this point Dancer, who was there to support Patron physically, skill- fully took over. The three men seated behind the TV crew seemed about to protest-not at Patron's words but over the reporter's attitude--but Dancer raised her hands to stop both them and the reporters and helped Patron to his feet. By the time Ogi announced that the press conference was over, the two of them had already disappeared down the darkened hallway.

Kizu watched as Ikuo stepped in to smooth things down among the three men as they shouted at the dark-skinned reporter, who had been the sole interlocutor at the press conference. Freed by Ikuo's intervention, the re- porter walked over to talk with Kizu.

11: WAKE MANIA WITHOUT END (II)

1

In the end, the indomitable reporter talked Kizu into going with him to a coffee shop on the road back to the station from the office. The owner of the shop, busy brewing some coffee through a siphon, took their orders and slipped back behind the antique counter, while the reporter turned to Kizu and reintroduced himself.

"I originally worked for an economics trade paper, but soon after I shifted over to a regular newspaper I began covering the story of those men; in my first article I called them the Don Quixote and Sancho Panza of new religions. Using the names the people in the church used at the time, the Prophet, tall and thin, was Don Quixote, while roly-poly Savior was Sancho Panza. But my editor complained that readers would get confused unless I called the founder of the church Don Quixote, so they reversed the names.

"I'm not just saying this to butter you up, but I find it interesting that you also, as Patron's new adviser, are a fairly large-boned man."

Without any indication that he was absorbing this, Kizu asked a ques- tion of his own. "Have you been gathering material on the two men all this time?"

"In our paper I'm mainly the one who covered them."

"I'd like to help you as much as I can," Kizu said, "but I don't have a lot of background knowledge. Could you fill me in on Guide's childhood and the background to his joining the religious movement? I've been asked to take over his job)-only a part of it, of course-but it bothers me that I know next to nothing about my predecessor."

The reporter's dark skin and features put Kizu in mind oiakprasu tengu, a legendary goblin with a crow's beak.

"Guide was born in Nagasaki City," the reporter began, as he stared back at Kizu, "and as an infant survived the atomic bombing. His mother died; his father, an army doctor, was at the front; he was rescued by his uncle, also a physician, who came back for him in the chaos following the bombing. A dramatic sort of childhood, I'm sure you'd agree. His family had been Catholic for generations, and Guide was baptized as an infant. He ended up leaving the church when he was in high school, though, when he read in the paper that a famous Catholic man of letters was granted an audience by Emperor Hirohito. That was enough reason for him to bid Catholicism adieu.

"Guide admitted this was a childish reaction, but at the time he con- cluded that he couldn't continue in his faith. This relates to the dilemma that's been around since the Meiji period, when Christianity swelled in influence at the same time that nationalism came to the fore. You know the old saw: Who is greater, Jesus Christ or the Emperor?

"As a young man, Guide decided that Christ could never have real authority in this country. So he spent the following years cut off from the church, entered the science department at the university, and became obsessed with a new idea-that it was exactly in a country like Japan that Jesus Christ must appear in the Second Coming. Guide started attending Protestant churches with only one goal in mind. When he found a minister who was open to him, he would confront him: Who is greater, Jesus Christ or the Emperor?

"Our country's Emperor was no longer the god people thought he was before and during the war. The new constitution defined him as a symbol of the state, with no actual power. This is what the minister told Guide. Stub- born young man that he was, though, Guide insisted: Who is greater, Jesus Christ or the Emperor? And this led to a falling-out between him and the Protestant church.

"His dream was for Jesus' Second Coming to take place in Japan so he could finally answer the question of who was greater. But since it didn't look like Christ was going to appear, he came up with the radical idea of people creating a substitute with their own hands.

"In Guide's heart, then, someone like Patron was necessary, and from early on he had the idea of creating that sort of figure. I think the explanation for the two of them getting together might lie in this, don't you think?"

"I can see you're a real reporter, since you've cut right to the core of what I've been concerned about. You've given me a lot to think about concerning Guide's background," Kizu honestly admitted.

I

The reporter smiled, a friendly, shy smile.

"Saying I'm a real reporter also points out my weak points. When I in- terviewed Guide he explained things in great detail. He's quite well read and had some interesting ideas. One concerned the nature of symbols, which came from something he'd read by a Jewish scholar. The work he read discussed the Star of David, the symbol of the state of Israel. Some people insist that the Star of David calls to mind the Jewish people's road to the gas chamber and that a new symbol of life would be more fitting for a new country. After re- viewing these arguments, the scholar insisted on the exact opposite interpre- tation. For his generation, the Star of David was a holy symbol born of their suffering and death. And precisely for this reason, it's valuable to light the path toward life and rebuilding. Next, in somewhat cryptic language, he wrote that before ascending to the heights the road descends into the darkest abyss, and what had been a symbol of utter humiliation thus achieves greatness.

"Using this scholar's work as a reference, Guide began to have doubts about whether the symbolic Emperor for Japan and the Japanese defined in the postwar constitution was like the sort of symbol the Jewish scholar had discussed. What Guide and others were searching for was a holy sign or sym- bol for their generation created from suffering and death, something they could hold up as lighting the way to life and regeneration.

"I couldn't write this in my article, but that's what I concentrated on.

Right after I heard this, however, Guide and Patron did their Somersault.

'Everything we've said and done has been one big joke,' they said, as their parting shot. I was thoroughly disappointed, even angry. In other words, with the Emperor greater than Patron, this would be just a repetition of the same old cycle the Japanese people have experienced since the creation of the Meiji constitution.

"After the Somersault I gave up reporting on them. But then, ten years later, suddenly Guide is murdered, which explains why I'm here today. Patron didn't criticize his own actions in the Somersault, though, and even though he says he's starting up the movement again he doesn't seem to have any idea where he's headed. In place of the murdered Guide, you'll be a member of the leadership. What do you think: Has Patron picked up on Guide's ideas about life and regeneration?"

"I have no idea either of the direction Patron's renewed movement will take," Kizu replied. "I started working for Patron simply because a young friend of mine was drawn to him. I've only known Patron for a short while, but I'm very impressed by him. I want him to be resurrected as a spiritual leader, and I plan to do whatever I can to help him. I guess my viewpoint is that of a father who can't just sit by idly and watch his son take on some dangerous task but has to leap in and share the responsibility. Also, Patron asked me to replace the murdered Guide. A strange request, and equally strange for someone like me to accept, but I did, though I don't have the fog- giest idea of what he wants me to do."

"To use Patron's phrase for it, with Guide-his companion in the fall into hell-suddenly taken from him, things must look pretty uncertain for him, now that he's alone. Even so, I imagine it must have been a shock to be told you'd be the new Guide." The reporter's eyes behind his glasses softened somewhat as he smiled.

"From what you've told me, Em convinced that Guide was a religious man," Kizu said. "The words he quoted, too, are in keeping with what I know of him. I also understand the intensity with which Patron considered Guide, through his suffering and death, the holy symbol of this generation. When I consider the ten years following Patron and Guide's Somersault, I think I understand even better both the idea of falling into a dark place before you ascend to the heights and the idea of a symbol of utter humiliation."

The reporter sat mulling over what Kizu said. Then he nodded, snatched up the check on the table, and signaled the owner of the coffee shop.

"A lot to think over before the memorial service," he said. "One thing's clear, though: Patron's found himself an excellent new Guide."

2

The next day when Kizu and Ikuo showed up at the office, Dancer and Ogi were huddled together in the midst of a dispirited discussion. Several newspapers were spread out on the office desk. Kizu imagined they were depressed because the only article on the previous day's press conference was written by the single persistent reporter. That morning Kizu had checked all the newspapers in the below-ground meeting room of his apartment building.

When Ikuo came in the minivan, he reported that the morning TV news an- chors had showed a scene of Patron talking at the press conference and made comments on the death of Guide that touched on the Somersault ten years ago.

When Kizu mentioned this to Dancer and Ogi, however, it turned out they were discussing something completely different.

"I'm not surprised, since all the newspapers are definitely anti-Patron,"

Dancer answered. "What's unfortunate is that the attitude of the media has spread to society in general. All the halls and conference sites have turned us down. This is a memorial service for someone killed by terrorists, right? Why won't they let us use their hall? What a bunch of spineless idiots!"

A hand bell rang out from Patron's room, and Dancer leaped to her feet.

Once again her generous response impressed Kizu as she disappeared down the darkened corridor, a worried look on her face. The hand bell, Ogi ex- plained, was originally used in Patron's church to signal the beginning and end of prayer time. After the Somersault, neither Patron nor Guide had touched it, but since Guide's death, Patron had sought it out.

As was his wont, though, Ogi didn't explain any further, instead taking up where Dancer had left off. "None of the people we've been negotiating with over possible venues has criticized Guide for being responsible for ter- rorist acts. And they remember Patron and his Somersault very well. All the early reports in the papers touched on the former radical faction that held him captive and drove him to his death. Could they be afraid of an attack on Patron?"

As he listened to Ogi, Kizu thought of the lounge in his apartment build- ing where he'd read the newspapers that morning. If you removed the parti- tion between it and the dining room, it could easily seat four or five hundred people, even allowing for a small temporary stage. The dining room was closed, and the apartment bulletin had reported that very few people used the lounge. It shouldn't be hard, should it, to rent that room?

"The underground lounge of my apartment building is built in Ameri- can style and would seat five hundred people for a meeting," Kizu said. "Why don't you try there. The building manager is an American, so I doubt he'd react the way Japanese do. There's no parking lot, but it's close enough from the Akasaka-Mitsuke subway to walk."

After Ikuo parked the minivan in the garage, he and Ogi spread out a map of Tokyo and began examining it. Dancer came back in. As soon as Kizu had explained his idea to her, she nearly yelled at the young men.

"Why are you wasting time checking out the location? Every other hall has turned us down, so that's our last hope. Have the Professor call right away and begin negotiations!"

The apartment manager responded that as long as it wasn't some openly anti-American political meeting he didn't see a problem. Thus the first hurdle regarding Guide's memorial service was overcome.

Ikuo was put in charge of coordinating initial arrangements for the ser- vice, as well as organizing a security team. Considering how kind the man- ager had been, they wanted to do their utmost to see that no acts of violence took place in the confines of this American-owned property. As far as prepa- rations for the service, everyone, from Kizu on down, pinned their hopes on Ikuo. Ikuo's plan of attack, however, remained secret, and he said nothing about the lineup he had in mind for the security team. Kizu recalled the three young men at Patron's press conference, and how Ikuo had, if only for a short while, dealt with them. At any rate, Ikuo was out of the office on related matters when Kizu stuck his head in and spoke with Dancer. Ogi, too, was out helping arrange the service, so Dancer and Ms. Tachibana were left to run the office.

"Professor, you know Ikuo best, right?" Dancer said. "He's such a male chauvinist that if you or Patron aren't there and I ask him how arrangements are going, I barely get a response."

"You have to admit he's reliable, though," Ms. Tachibana added.

Dancer and Ms. Tachibana were hard at work addressing individual invitations to the memorial service, using the list of names Ogi had come up with, lumping together those who had founded their own special groups after leaving the church. Patron had hoped to invite the church's Kansai headquar- ters, if there was enough space in the improvised meeting room. Dancer re- read the letters they'd received from individuals, as well as the replies sent in to Ogi's inquiries, checking to see that there wasn't some hidden leg-pulling in the letters. For her part, Ms. Tachibana addressed the envelopes in a tran- quil, beautiful script.

"Neither Patron nor Ogi can detect simple malice in others," Dancer explained, "but I can sniff out people who aren't up front. Due to my bad upbringing, perhaps."

"Patron took great care with letters from people he didn't know,"

Ms. Tachibana added, ever serious. "I was quite moved to find he'd kept the note I sent him years ago about my younger brother, folded up all nice and neat."

"Such a heartfelt letter must have been a great encouragement to him,"

Dancer said. "There are several letters that respond to Guide and Patron's having fallen into hell. Patron and Guide have always been kind to me, and I've never properly expressed my thanks. I did and said some things to Guide I wish I could take back now, but I can't."

"I'm sure that's not true," Ms. Tachibana said, looking straight at Dancer so intently through her oval glasses that Dancer could only look down.

"I'd like to explain to Patron about the place we're going to use for the memorial service," Kizu said. "Could I see him now?"

"I'll go see if he's up. He hasn't been sleeping well lately and has been taking medicine during the day."

Soon after Dancer left, the sound of the hand bell ringing from Patron's room told them he was awake.

3

When Kizu went in, Patron was standing beside the armchair waiting for him, wearing what looked like a brand-new light-colored gown. To Kizu he seemed quite lively.

"I understand you negotiated with the people from the American uni- versity," Patron said.

Kizu proceeded to tell him about the underground lounge at his apart- ment. The building's main entrance was at the basement level, with the first floor facing an expansive garden in back with a pond; the gently sloping gar- den had a calmness about it you wouldn't expect to find in the heart of Tokyo.

The participants would walk down from the right side of the building and enjoy the vista as they headed toward the memorial service.

Kizu finished his explanation, but still Patron stayed beside him. He didn't seem to have anything he wanted to talk about but just cheerfully en- joyed gazing at Kizu. Kizu broached the topic of Guide's background and what he'd heard from the newspaper reporter, and Patron filled in even more of the details. Guide's uncle-who'd found the infant Guide beside his dead mother at a collection spot in Nagasaki for bodies of people killed in the bomb- ing and taken him home-was a man of strong faith. As he grew up, Guide mourned his absent mother; though he knew how she had died, he had no actual memories of her. He felt his mother's death and his father's disappear- ance after the war were part of God's plan for him and had led to his good fortune in being taken in by his kind, naively optimistic uncle, but still he struggled with a sense of guilt toward his parents whenever he went to church.

Guide's father was at the front in China when Nagasaki was hit by the atomic bomb. After he was repatriated, he made one visit to his brother-in- law's family, in the Goto Islands off the coast of Nagasaki, where they'd been evacuated. He didn't reclaim his son, and even after Guide's uncle had re- built the clinic and moved back to Nagasaki City, he didn't get in touch. The one time he was at his brother-in-law's in Goto, this repatriated officer was obviously greatly disturbed. He drank to excess and told them how in China, he'd witnessed unspeakable atrocities committed by Japanese troops. He had planned to resist if they tried to force him to massacre peasants and rape women, but he knew it wasn't enough just to sit by passively while others killed and looted.

The fact that he was an officer, a doctor, also weighed heavily on him, because of what the Chinese novelist Lu Shun had written: If you're going to war, it's best to go as a doctor… It's heroic, yet safe. You can't avoid beingtested.

Was this the will of GodP Ever since he was a child, Guide had thought often about God's will, no doubt because of his father's stories, as told to him by his adopted father.

The Nagasaki that his father saw after he was repatriated was utterly destroyed by an atomic bomb, the second to fall on Japan. Nagasaki had the highest concentration of Catholics in Japan. He'd committed no atrocities himself, yet his own wife, a woman of strong faith, was killed and her youth- ful body destroyed, leaving a baby behind. This had to be God's will, God's plan, he concluded. A sin is committed in a certain place, and just by being in that place aren't those who didn't participate equally guilty? Further, when God punishes us, he doesn't distinguish between the sinful and the blame- less. We're punished for the simple fact that we're human.

Guide's father understood this through his experience. He realized that to live is to suffer and through this he could find repentance. Nagasaki must be filled with people who feel the same way. Together with them, he wanted to make Nagasaki a shining example in Japan of a place filled with the re- pentant, and he began to work to see this happen. This was a huge undertak- ing, well beyond him no matter how much time he devoted to it. I won't be able to come see my son very often, he told his brother-in-law, but I hope you'll forgive me, as someone who shares my faith.

His brother-in-law, also a doctor, was much more of a realist. He was resigned to the repatriated officer's never regaining his mental stability and leading a steady life. Ever since he'd made his way through the still radioac- tive rubble of Nagasaki searching for his younger sister and his nephew, he knew that even a tragedy of this magnitude would lead only a small minority of people to repent. II someone were to stand at the ruins of Urakami Cathe- dral, show a charred Pietà to all the survivors milling about, and shout at them to repent, he might very well be stoned to death.

Guide's father disappeared after that, but his brother-in-law began to hear reports about him. They weren't detailed, but the outlines were clear enough. He didn't hear about any repatriated officer being stoned to death after shouting to people to repent in the nuclear wasteland of Nagasaki, but he did hear news of a young leader walking a tightrope separating the legal from the illegal in regard to concessions at the occupation force's base in nearby Sasebo. Had his young brother-in-law done a complete about-face? Was he doing his best to commit sinful acts, testing God's will and God's plan in an utterly un-Catholic way? After a while these rumors of a young leader in Sasebo faded away. This wasn't a time when the Japanese yakuza gangs were able to fight the MPs and survive.

So Guide was raised by his stepfather, who himself drank as he re- lated these stories. Kizu wondered how, because of Guide's past, the Som- ersault reverberated differently within his inner being from within Patron himself.

"I know even less about the Somersault than I do about Guide's back- ground, but I guess I'm digging into what makes me most anxious," Kizu said, summoning up his resolve. "Guide considered you his Patron, too, and the names you used were perfect for the kind of relationship you had. Didn't you take turns being the leader?"

"That's right," Patron replied. "Actually when it comes down to church doctrine and activities, I think Guide was much more the leader than I ever was."

"Which is exactly why I can't fill his shoes," Kizu insisted. "You're a unique person, and I know Guide must have been too. But I'm not. I want to help you out, but the one great hope of my life, my one and only desire for the future, is to be with Ikuo. Ikuo is absorbed in working for you, so here I am.

"Although I'm aware I can never measure up to Guide, I still want to do whatever I can. I was hoping you'd teach me what role you envision this new Guide playing. Otherwise I'll be lost. At my age it's not easy to take on new responsibilities without understanding what you're supposed to be doing.

It's very hard for me, a lovesick old man who wants more than anything else to hang out with a certain young person, to just slouch around the office with nothing to do."

After he said this, Kizu felt the blood rise to his face. And he felt Patron gazing at his hot, fleshy face-at first with a flash of surprise, then with a sense of sympathy tinged with sad resignation. Kizu knew that what he blurted out was considered beyond the pale here in Japan, but it did reveal his true feel- ings. And when he spoke with Patron, more than anything else Kizu wanted to show how he really felt.

After a moment of silence, Patron said, "Professor, I'd like you to under- take something that goes in a different direction from what Guide did but that's also absolutely essential to our movement. If I say this you might get upset, thinking it's something I just came up with on the spur of the moment, but as someone once said, a historian is a prophet who looks backward. The late Guide was a forward-looking prophet, and I've been thinking of having you be a backward-looking one. I'd like you to play the role of historian con- cerning the entire process of my constructing a new church."

"Historian?" Kizu echoed.

"I haven't hurt your feelings, I hope?" Patron asked timidly, even fearfully.

"No. I appreciate your thought."

"Before I met the late Guide," Patron went on, "whenever I had visions, I thought they were symptoms of an illness. As I began to awaken from trances I couldn't control, I blurted out delirious things-the kind of things I never imagined would be intelligible. While I still had a family, my wife took care of me while I was in my trances; she was convinced that they were attacks of mental illness. She called it-my spouting all this nonsense after I awoke- the return of the wobbles.

"I mentioned this before, but it was Guide who took this delirious talk and made sense of it. This enabled me to relate my experiences on the other side. The accumulation of all this became the teachings of the Savior and the Prophet. Alone, I never would have been able to do a thing."

"But first you had those trances and visions, right?" Kizu said. "Guide wasn't creating anything new, he was just telling you what you yourself had said. You said the words, delirious though they might sound, and he just re- arranged them into something logical. Like Guide did, I sense in you a strange and wonderful power to inspire. I'm not good with words; it's only when I paint that the things influencing me come out smoothly. Take that watercolor of Ikuo and me walking in the sky-it's not so much that what I painted hap- pened to correspond to what you envisioned but rather that the silent words inside of you took hold of me, inspiring me to paint that picture. But being your historian would involve words more than painting, wouldn't it?"

Patron held his heavy-looking head upright, took a deep breath, and then spoke.

"I want you to paint a picture of me too. I have a hunch that it will con- vey something very important."

Patron's eyes-the pupils distinctly separate from both top and bottom lids-looked straight at Kizu. He nodded once and answered the question Kizu had posed earlier.

"I want you to do the opposite of what Guide used to do. Guide fulfilled his role of Prophet by having me relate the future. But with our Somersault we denied all that. We made the doctrine of interpreting my visions one big joke, and the two of us unhesitatingly apostatized. For Guide and me, our Somersault was the truth. And the ten years of hell that followed were not meant to erase this. Quite the opposite: The truth of our Somersault was etched into us, which is the very reason that, even though he was interrogated by the former radical faction to the point where he suffered mightily, bursting a blood vessel, Guide did not denounce our Somersault. And then he died. You under- stand, then, another reason why I can't do another Somersault? This is why I said Guide's death legitimized me.

"I've told you, Professor, much more about Guide than I've ever told anyone else. And about the Somersault and our descent into hell. I've done this so you can record them. The same holds true for the new movement I'm about to launch. Put in these terms, don't you think the term historian makes sense here? My hope for you as an artist is for much more than this, actu- ally… Anyway, that's what I wanted to tell you."

As Kizu was leaving the room, Patron's solemn expression softened so unexpectedly it was almost comical. "I didn't know you were so attached to Ikuo. He's quite a special young man, and if his charm has led you to us, I'd say he's already made a major contribution to our church!"

Kizu felt, anew, that he was seeing Patron's complex nature, something he had to be on guard for. Dancer, passing him as he went out of the room, had obviously heard Patron's words, her mouth, with its pearlescent luster, open even wider than usual as she gazed steadily at Kizu. Kizu turned around once more and saw a satisfied look on Patron's face.

4

The next day when Kizu broached the subject of going back to the United States, Ikuo exploded. These days Kizu had found something humor- ous in Ikuo's face, with its prominent cheekbones, but his words now brought out only anger and malice in the young man.

"How can you do that?" Ikuo barked out. "You're going to abandon us and run away-now, when we're on the verge of beginning something new and important? How can you just hightail it to America and put an end to us?"

Kizu was startled, but he didn't feel like responding emotionally.

Despite how busy he'd become, he was well aware that his physical ailments and deep exhaustion had fenced him in, pushing him away from the young man.

"Of course, I'd like you to come with me if you can get away from the office," he explained. "You don't need to get a visa these days… But I know you're busy arranging for the memorial service.

"I'm planning to put all my affairs in order in the States and come back again to Japan. It's also the time of year when they're making the schedule for the next academic year. After that I plan to return to Tokyo and devote myself to Patron's church. I think it's best if I resign from the university. It could be a major problem for the university if one of their tenured professors helped lead a religious organization in Japan.

"I'm going to settle my estate, have a lawyer divide my wife and children's portion, take care of the taxes and everything else; the balance I'll transfer to the church. Since I'll be a part of Patron's new religious movement, this strikes me as the proper way to handle my affairs. With all the things to take care of, I imagine it will take me about ten days. At my age, jet lag really hits you hard, but I feel I have to get going."

Ikuo was dumbfounded. He couldn't even manage an apology. The area around his eyes reddened, and he withdrew without a word to begin prepar- ing dinner with the ingredients Kizu had purchased. Every once in a while the kitchen was utterly silent, Ikuo undoubtedly pausing in his cooking to ponder what he'd heard, and Kizu felt sorry about the young man's depressed and troubled feelings. Meanwhile, until Ikuo called him to the dinner table he had set in the kitchen, Kizu packed for his round trip to the United States.

The meal Ikuo made consisted of a mound of french fries with steaks, a vegetable salad, and canned minestrone. That was all, but Kizu happily enjoyed the meal, knowing how carefully Ikuo had prepared it. Ikuo remained silent, sitting across from him as they ate, his puffy eyes turned downward.

Kizu felt bad about how upset he looked. That night, still without a word, Ikuo performed his sexual services so completely that Kizu forgot all about his illness and exhaustion. In each and every thing Ikuo did, though, Kizu could catch a glimpse of someone who was voluntarily prostituting himself.

Returning to his university in New Jersey, Kizu was confronted with some- thing else unexpected: The female head of his research institute announced he'd been accused of sexual harassment.

A year before his sabbatical, one of the students in Kizu's fall seminar was a woman exchange student from Japan who had an unusually confrontational attitude. Kizu became really aware of her when, as they were approaching the end of the fall term without her having said anything of substance in the semi- nar, he asked her if she might make a presentation at their next class. He asked this in front of the mailboxes at the institute's office where he ran across her; one of his colleagues was right beside them, using the copy machine. She re- plied in English in a loud voice, as Kizu noticed a moment too late, so that the American professor wouldn't misunderstand their discussion.

"I'm an auditor in your class, Professor, so I'm not obliged to write re- ports or make presentations. Please don't mistake me for one of your lazy students!"

The young woman was twenty-seven or twenty-eight, of medium height but well built, someone who-at least from the perspective of Kizu's genera- tion-represented a completely new type of Japanese. Her face, though, with its dark hair, pouty little lips, and Fuji-shaped brow, was definitely old school.

Kizu had published a paper once in the university bulletin on women's faces in ukjyoe prints, classifying them as unassuming plain types and demoness types, and he was once again drawn to this woman and her classic features.

The next semester she didn't sign up for Kizu's seminar, but one day when there was still snow on the campus she showed up at his office dur- ing lunch break; she explained that one of the male students was bothering her, which is why she couldn't attend his seminar, but she had some of her own artwork in her apartment that she'd like to show him, she said, invit- ing him with a modesty quite unlike her previous outburst. Kizu happened to be free that afternoon, so he went with her in her Citroën to her place, where she lived with a roommate; Kizu was surprised to find it was an apartment in the center of town, outfitted with a concierge. The living room and kitchen weren't so big, but on the ceiling of her bedroom was a tem- pera painting in arabesque style of flowers and birds she'd done herself, which meant that even if she hadn't purchased the apartment she was liv- ing there under a long-term lease. Her roommate was out on a date until late, so Kizu enjoyed the chirashizushi she prepared for him and looked over several tableaus. These also depicted birds and flowers. Kizu sat on the cloth- covered sofa while the young woman sat in front of him on the floor, hold- ing the paintings she wanted to show him, dressed in a black wool outfit with a short skirt that revealed her fleshy thighs, though he pretended not to notice.

That was all that happened. Soon after, Kizu happened to be in New York City, and since the university had been unable to procure a model for him, he stopped by an adult store to buy a video so he could get an eyeful of young black and Hispanic men. He spied a three-pack of condoms for sale in a box near the register, mixed in with aphrodisiacs and sex toys, and bought it. But the woman never invited him back to view her artwork.

The particulars in the sexual harassment charge were these: First, that he came over to her apartment on a night her roommate was out, saying he'd take a look at her paintings; second, having carelessly mentioned the paint- ing on her bedroom ceiling, she was forced to show it to him; third, he made a suggestive joke about the uncensored book of ukjyoe prints she had on a bookshelf; fourth, as Kizu sat on the sofa, he looked at her inner thighs as she crouched on the floor in front of him; and fifth, during this time, he intended her to see that something was coming alive in his trousers.

As Kizu sat opposite the head of his research institute, he not only had to read the e-mails the young woman had submitted, he had to listen to the tape recording she'd secretly made of their conversation that night.

Kizu was so deflated that the institute head, who at first had had a fret- ful look on her face, burst out laughing; listening to Kizu's constrained way of talking on the tape, she said, and the woman's relaxed voice, he hardly came across as overly macho.

In fact, what really gave Kizu a shock was how pitifully immature he sounded. He was seeing himself as a precocious child talking with adults about grown-up topics, the tape mercilessly revealing how, deep down, he hadn't matured at all since those early postwar days back in his home village.

If that fidgety middle-aged character on the tape had had an ounce of courage and propositioned the woman, Kizu knew he would have been turned down flat. Suddenly, sitting there in front of the institute head, Kizu found a new self springing up, a new Kizu who acted as he never would have before.

He admitted that everything the young woman had listed had probably taken place, agreed he was in the wrong as far as what she'd interpreted as sexual harassment, and announced his decision to resign his teaching position.

The head of the institute, originally sympathetic, now turned indignant.

As Kizu left her office, the feeling struck him that he had come back to the university from Tokyo for the sole purpose of receiving this punishment, and he said to himself, silently, I've done an act of repentance1.

A second event awaited Kizu in America, one that took place in the hotel he was staying at in New York the night before his flight back to Tokyo. That morning Kizu woke with his usual uncomfortable feeling in his gut, exhausted from having forced himself to get back to sleep any number of times. In order to suppress what this exhaustion had triggered-the headlong rush of his mind into darkness-one of the pieces of wisdom he'd picked up in his advancing old age was that it was best to get up and get his body moving.

So Kizu got up out of bed, as if hurrying off somewhere, and went into the sitting room of his hotel suite, a room partitioned off simply from the bedroom by a white-framed door with a square mirror set on it--the Japanese owner had come up with double-door construction, which had proved quite popular, according to what Kizu had heard from a woman in a painting class for expatriate Japanese he used to teach. Beyond the cur- tain, which he'd left open the night before, a seventy-story high-rise build- ing with a green-and-white crown structure on top blocked his view. Below a broad layer of clouds that covered the sky, darker clouds moved, and a fine rain was falling. The raindrops fell a long, long way down. What would it look like if it snowed? Kizu wondered. And just then he discovered that it was snowing, fine flakes swirling in the air. This wasn't a particularly remarkable scene. The snow lacked force, as if it might peter out at any moment. But Kizu saw in the movements of his heart and the appearance of the snow a synchronicity he took as a sign. Inside his chest he felt some- thing, like a bulb sprouting.

Two men-one given the suspicious name Savior, the other called Prophet, abandoned their followers, did a Somersault, and for ten years lan- guished in what they termed hell. And now one of them was restarting a movement calling on people to repent: to make them deeply aware of, and prepared for, the end of the world.

He and Ikuo had joined the movement. And now Kizu had even settled his estate and given up his job. But hadn't this duo of Patron and Guide misunderstood their roles? The real Patron was actually Guide, who'd been taunted by his former followers and tortured until he died an agonizing death. The surviving Patron had been nothing but a puppet, a springboard for Guide's mystical philosophy. Didn't this account for the awful shock that Guide's misfortune and death brought on?

If that were true, it meant the new movement they were starting was without a leader, only this person called Patron and himself, a makeshift new Guide without the least hint of mysticism about him. Bereft of their true leader, they weren't even able to comprehend the meaning of Guide's sacri- fice and could only stagger about pointlessly.

The snow had stopped. The flakes had fallen past the fortieth floor, where Kizu stood, but by street level had changed to rain. With the blanket of clouds lightening and the darker clouds gone, the rain, too, seemed about to clear up. To the left of the narrow building directly across from him there was a smaller building, clouds of steam rising from it, beyond which he could see the trees in Central Park, with their fresh spring foliage. Moving his eyes as if following along with a soft-tipped watercolor brush, Kizu continued to gaze at the clumps of leaves propped up by the young, uncertain trunks of the trees.

12: INITIATION OF NEW BELIEVERS

1

The reporter who covered the memorial service press conference had sent Kizu a fax telling him where to find a group of women believers who had left the church after the Somersault and were now living a communal life in the southwest part of Kanagawa Prefecture. So on a Saturday after- noon near the end of April, Kizu set off for this suburban bedroom commu- nity, one that still had a scattering of rice fields, about an hour from Shinjuku on the Odakyu express train.

The believers occupied a closed elementary school they'd converted into a residence. They numbered some forty people, mothers and children as well as single women, all living a quiet, bucolic life. Thinking he'd just check out the environment these women lived in, Kizu set off with Ikuo at the wheel of his Ford Mustang. The wooden schoolhouse was at the base of a line of low gentle hills, but three-quarters of the school grounds had been dug up and was enclosed as a large-scale plastic-covered greenhouse. Kizu and Ikuo parked their car on the road that ran along the former school grounds and set off ón foot.

In the narrow space left in front of the school building, some children were playing in a sandbox outfitted with a horizontal exercise bar, a scene that brought on a nostalgia that pierced Kizu to the quick. There were seven or eight children, upper elementary school or junior-high kids by the look of them, all oí them dressed in simple plain clothes-very different from the aggressive, gaudy colors Kizu was used to seeing each time he returned to Japan-as if a half century had been ignored and he was swept back into the colors he remembered from his childhood.

"It's like a black-and-white movie," Ikuo said.

The children played without saying a word. Ikuo strode from the path beside the greenhouse over to the sandbox, and Kizu, hesitating, followed suit.

As he got closer he noticed that the children were gazing at a line of ants in the corner of the box. Very different from the usual overbearing attitude of kids who haven't quite decided whether or not to squash a bug, tormenting it until they did, these children showed an unexpected reverence for small living creatures.

The children didn't seem on their guard at the approach of these two strangers, nor did they show any friendly interest. The older children espe- cially seemed to be purposely ignoring them. After a while Ikuo rested his hands on the horizontal bar, too low for him, and pulled himself upright on it. He tucked in his legs, pushed his elbows tight against his chest, and slowly rotated around the bar five or six times. The younger children looked at him with open admiration. Kizu, too, found himself looking with appreciative eyes at Ikuo, from his thighs to the tips of his feet, as he held his body stationary, stretched out vertically upside down. Beyond Ikuo's upside-down body, Kizu caught sight of flower petals fluttering down from the tops of hills; looking more carefully, he saw they were wet snowflakes.

Kizu remembered the scene from his hotel window high above the New York streets, snow vanishing in the air. Sometimes he wondered what he'd been thinking about that morning. Now that he considered it again, he felt that maybe he'd made this journey here to the countryside to grope for some meaningful clue. If the snow across the ocean had been a sign, this out-of- season snow here in Japan must be one too. The children were now looking up at the snowy sky. The older children stood off to one side in a clump, but even the younger kids standing close by were calm and well mannered. All of them looked entirely relaxed as they gazed up at the swirling snow.

Ikuo silently lowered himself from the bar-his controlled landing as casual as the attitude of the children-and he and Kizu walked back toward the car, leaving the children behind, all gazing up at the snowy sky, some of the older children whispering among themselves.

"Boy, oh, boy," Ikuo murmured.

Kizu knew he didn't mean the unexpected snow. Ikuo felt oppressed by the children's natural dignity. Kizu was about to express his agreement when they found, standing next to their car and waiting for them, oblivious to the snow, a short, solidly built middle-aged woman. Continuing their own conversation was out of the question.

Kizu surmised that it was one of the children's mothers, a representa- tive of this commune that, while he'd only caught a glimpse of it, was obvi- ously quite tidy and organized, who'd come out to challenge these suspicious- looking intruders.

Kizu didn't catch sight of anyone looking out the line of first- or second- story windows of the schoolhouse, glass windows whose gleaming well- polished look contrasted with the old window frames, but apparently the report of their presence had spread among the residents. As Kizu and Ikuo walked on against the blustery wind and snow, the woman stood there at a corner they had to turn. She'd been looking down until they approached, but now, quite suddenly, she spoke out in a charged, emotional voice.

"This is a private road. The land was originally donated to the town by my husband's grandfather, and after the school closed it was sold. I'm paying taxes on it. And I can't have you parking your car here."

"I'm very sorry," Kizu said. "I thought it was a public road."

"If it were a public road there'd be even more reason not to park!" the woman said vehemently. With stubby fingers she brushed away the snow- flakes that clung to her curly reddish-brown hair and her flushed face. "I saw you watching the children. If you try to take any photographs, my husband says he's going to come over; he's been watching you from the farm.

Rubberneckers and the media have stopped coming here, and the mothers and children don't want to be bothered. But now you TV people come trying to stir things up! Why can't you leave us alone? We've never bothered the people in this neighborhood. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, you know!"

Kizu was finally able to get a word in edgewise. "So you share the same beliefs?"

With a look that was neither surprise nor fear, the woman stared directly at him for the first time. "What? Don't come around making false accusations!

I've lived here most of my life-why would I adopt the religion of people who're just temporary residents?"

The woman sputtered to a halt, and Kizu himself was so flustered Ikuo intervened.

"The Professor and I are working for the gentleman who used to be the leader of this little community. We're not connected with any TV station or weekly magazine. Their former leader is concerned about what kind of life the group has been living after they became independent of the church. We just came to observe, not to bother anyone."

"By former leader, you mean the one who did the Somersault? These women aren't angry about that anymore. There are some profound reasons for this, apparently, though I have no idea what… So he's worried about them, is he?"

Her words were somewhat feeble now. Apparently a basically kind- hearted person, she seemed to regret having scolded these people who had come from so far away, and shook her lightly snow-covered head to get her pluck back.

"Well, if that's the case, with this unexpected snow and all, why don't you just rest here for a while? This is a private road, so your car will be fine!

They're packing lilies in boxes inside the greenhouse. Maybe you'd like to take a look?"

She seemed so apologetic it would have been rude to turn down her sug- gestion. Kizu hadn't planned to stay, but he looked at the woman, her skin roughened by gooseflesh, and nodded, so she hurried ahead. By the time they arrived at the greenhouse closest to the road, the children in the sandbox who'd been gazing up at the snow had formed a line and were quietly filing toward the building.

The old woman went in a step ahead of them, past what looked like the door of a warehouse, and Kizu and Ikuo followed, brushing the already melt- ing snowflakes from their heads, chests, and shoulders. The children stood at one corner of the greenhouse in swirling snow that was coming down harder than ever. If they'd been seeking shelter from the snow, the only place to find it around the greenhouse, a structure made of thick metal piping covered with tough tentlike plastic sheeting, was under the eaves at the entrance. The chil- dren, though, didn't seem to have come over in order to get out of the snow. As he watched them standing there through the steadily falling snow, their expres- sions and even the outlines of their faces now blurred, a slight sense of the un- earthly was added to Kizu's earlier impression. Ikuo, too, had to look away.

2

They went inside the greenhouse, only slightly warmer than outside, and found that they had to walk quite some distance to where the packing operation was under way, watching their step as they moved through a maze of obstacles. All sorts of objects, large and small, were arbitrarily piled up on the path. They stumbled over what at first appeared to be small empty boxes but turned out to be as heavy as bricks. On both sides of the path the equip- ment required to grow the plants wasn't just laid out flat; they bumped their heads and shoulders on various pipes. For outsiders it was a veritable laby- rinth. Kizu found himself concerned, too, about the strange little line of chil- dren who followed their movements through the three-tiered window in the plastic covering the greenhouse.

People were working in the greenhouse in a clearing cut out of the long line of cultivated plants. Hemmed in on both sides by equipment, some twenty women were seated, busy at work, on top of a platform covered with mats.

This particular greenhouse seemed to be in an in-between stage between cul- tivation and harvesting; all that could be seen in back were several lines of dark green leaves forming a frame in the cultivating apparatus used to grow flowers. On this side were the women, seated in a large circle with mounds of lilies in front of them that they were packing into long cardboard boxes.

Kizu had been raised in the country and was used to the customs of farmers, but when he first saw farm women in the Tokyo area working in the fields with cloth head coverings, he found it a bit suspect. The women here, too, worked with their heads covered, in this case with simple knitted hats. The women were of all ages, yet they all shared the same pale faces, the same quiet look.

More noticeable than anything else, though, was the overpowering, ani- mal-like odor of the lilies. Kizu noticed how Ikuo's sturdy face recoiled from the smell. The women worked so silently that Kizu and Ikuo found them- selves tiptoeing, and this heavy scent wafting over from the silent women made for a grotesque sense of incongruity.

Kizu and Ikuo had come close to the women, but they kept on work- ing without showing the slightest bit of interest. With relaxed yet swift motions, they packed away the lilies, while Kizu and Ikuo stood there, over- whelmed. The woman who accompanied them had already gone behind the circle of working women, stuck her head in between the boxes of packed lilies and the mound of unpacked flowers, and begun speaking to the women.

Before long a man's head popped up above the piled boxes of lilies-a close-cropped white head with white whiskers-and stared at Kizu and Ikuo.

Approaching from the side, before the woman who'd accompanied them re- turned, this man, the farm's owner, dressed in a white collared shirt and wine- colored vest, walked in front of the working women, their bare arms full of lilies, distributing empty boxes. Then he lifted a box that was larger than the others and lowered it to the ground; he was making a place on the platform for Kizu and Ikuo to sit. The woman led them up onto the mats, while the man went back to his original position; whether through innate shyness or because he was the type who kept people at arm's length, he merely nodded slightly to greet them. The women went on working, oblivious to the two men, who'd now become part of their group.

Not that the women were rejecting these unexpected visitors. The farm woman who'd led them in, after glancing at the farm owner, sitting off to one side, began addressing the other women, who cheerfully stopped and paid attention.

"I'll pass around the business card I received from this gentleman, who tells me he's working for the former leader of the church you all used to belong to. I know we've talked recently about the man who was with this leader at the time of the Somersault, the one we read about in the paper who was tor- tured to death.

"It seems the former leader is concerned about what sort of life all of you have been living. This gentleman wasn't really planning to meet you and talk with you today, he said, and maybe I'm butting in where I don't belong, but I thought it would be nice for you to meet him, seeing as how he's also a professor at an American university. I'm sure you heard my husband scold me for my rash assumptions."

The woman stopped speaking and bowed her head, and the company fell silent. Kizu wondered if they were waiting for him to introduce himself but realized that the woman had essentially covered what needed to be said.

While Kizu was hesitating, the farm woman whispered to an old woman sit- ting opposite her.

For an old lady, this second woman was unusually erect, though some- thing was wrong with her legs, and she sat differently from the rest of the women, her feet splayed out to one side. For a woman of her generation she was quite large, with fine features, putting Kizu in mind of someone from a good family who happened to live near the sea.

"If you don't mind, I'll speak first," the old woman said. "Do you think the children watching us are all right? The snow looks like it's letting up, so maybe there's no need to tell them to go inside."

There was no response from those around her, and the old woman shook her head magnanimously at the children outside the window. She turned to glance at the buds on the oak tree growing toward the high windows and then, taking her own sweet time, went on.

"We heard rumors that the Savior and the Prophet had emerged from their shut-in life and were beginning a new movement. We read later in the newspaper about the Prophet's awful death, which grieves us terribly. We also talked about what this new movement will be about, didn't we? However, he's the one who cut his ties with the church, and we're just a little group here, suffering in our own way. Still, knowing he's concerned about us might pos- sibly move our own group in a different direction."

The woman stopped speaking and looked up at the branches of the dark oak through the melting snow on the top of the window, and all the women in the circle turned their eyes in that direction. Kizu sensed that the other women were quite used to her style of speaking.

"Actually I've been thinking for a while about the scope of our group- I should add that not everyone's here today-and I thought it might be com- pared to that clump of leaves out there. Today we have this unseasonable snow, but the buds have already started to come out, haven't they, on the oaks and zelkovas? Not long ago they were just dark trunks-even the tips of the thin- nest branches looked old and withered-and it made me feel sorry, thinking that when trees get big every part of them ages.

"Once a tree starts budding, though, it takes off with such energy that the whole tree is revitalized, not just the branches but even down to the trunk.

It makes me think about whether our little group has the vigor of those buds sprouting out on the oak tree. Just to make sure, I counted them, and discov- ered there are about forty buds on every three feet of branch, which really brings home to me how small our group is. Even when the Savior's church was at its peak, if you compare it to the buds, it was made up of fewer mem- bers than the number of buds on that single oak tree. And our group is just one very small branch.

"I'm afraid I've strayed off the topic, as I often do, but as we've talked in our small group, this is how we think about what happened after the Som- ersault: Though the Savior and Prophet survived, they descended into hell.

The Prophet either stayed in hell or was killed just as he was crawling out- either way, it's a great tragedy. My husband was a classmate in medical school of the man who adopted him as an infant, so I've heard things about him from that source too. What a cruel, painiul thing to have happened… "The Savior and the Prophet fell into hell, and that was where they atoned. I can only imagine how incredibly painful it was for both of them to suffer such disgrace for ten years. When you look back on something once it's over, one's life seems to have passed by in an instant, though of course it all depends on the quality of that particular time. Having spent the last ten years living together with all of you, I feel that quite strongly.

"What do you say? How about talking to these gentlemen about our past ten years? The weekly magazines have treated us like eccentrics aban- doned by Savior and Prophet. But we have our own thoughts about life here.

Why don't we share something of them. Anybody? Ms. Takada, how about you?"

Kizu glanced around at the women listening to the old lady and came across one whose unusual features riveted his attention. Her face had a ter- rible scar, as if maybe when she was a baby she'd been slashed with a hatchet from one ear down to her cheek. More than the scar, though, one of her eyes was completely covered over by a smooth layer of skin. She looked around thirty, and as she'd been listening to the old lady speak she didn't make any attempt to hide the side of her face with the skin-covered eye. This was the Ms. Takada the old lady had named. The woman responded right away, turn- ing unflinchingly to face Kizu and the others.

"It's only natural that I felt a pain in my heart when the Savior and the Prophet did their Somersault, but in my case physically I couldn't deal with the pain; I vomited every day. Some people were concerned I was having morning sickness, though that was impossible.

"Over and over I'd go to sleep and dream that the Somersault never took place and feel relieved, only to awaken to the awful truth. This happened day after day. At first I felt as if the Savior had betrayed me. It was like being covered with ants that were biting me, but I'd been anesthetized and couldn't feel anything. But I could sense that the anesthesia would wear off and sud- denly I'd be hit by this enormous pain, which led to my vomiting all the time.

"Never once, in all my life, have I run across a person as kind as Savior was, and that's why I felt betrayed. After I joined the church, many people were kind to me, but Patron's kindness-I'm sure all of you would agree- was on a whole other level.

"This happened after my unhappy marriage broke up, soon after I re- nounced the world. The church had a house in Yokohama in a brand-new subdivision-remember?-on a high piece of land, from which you could see the ocean. A lot of times I'd gaze out absently at the ocean from the big window on the second floor where we had a meeting room. There was a large horse chestnut tree outside, too. One day Savior, who happened to be staying there, was sitting beside that big window when he called me over and told me to come closer and look deep into his eyes. He was sitting in his usual arm- chair where he liked to read, beside the window. So I knelt down in front of him and gazed into his eyes. It was the time of year when the horse chestnut's leaves were still soft, a fine clear morning when I was left in charge of clean- ing and answering the phones while everyone else was out working.

"I was afraid he was going to make a pass at me. But he said it so casu- ally I couldn't resist, and though I was wary, I went ahead and knelt in front of him. He told me to look once inside his eyes, and what I saw was this: my own face, beautiful, completely unscarred. The face of a young woman, her eyes wide open in surprise.

"Next he told me to smile, since then I'd see my own face smiling. I tried to smile, but I was so happy I burst into tears. My eyes were so full of tears I couldn't see a thing, and the thought occurred to me that since my face was reflected in his eyes like that, unscarred, that was exactly how he saw me.

"He'd encouraged me so much that when he did his Somersault and said everything he'd done and said was a joke, I couldn't accept it. He looked totally insincere when he was talking in front of the TV cameras, which may have been the way the camera caught him, but the words were defi- nitely his.

"The way he acted ridiculed us, trampled down our desire for salva- tion and all the efforts we'd made to reach it. We were suffering and unhappy and needed salvation more than anything, yet he was laughing in our faces.

On top of that, the whole world was laughing at this silly Savior and Prophet who were ridiculing their followers, which made me feel as if we were being doubly mocked. I think we all felt that way, angry at what had happened. We kept the faith, though, and felt we had to settle the score with those apostates.

Some people even gave sermons advocating revenge."

3

"I was probably angrier than anyone else, but I still couldn't forget how the Savior had used his own eyes as a mirror to show me my real face. Every time I remembered that, new rage would well up within me. Was what he'd said just a bad joke?

"As time passed, though, I calmed down, and began to think that the Somersault might have been a childish prank, without any malice behind it.

I realized how I'd been moved by him and how happy that made me. And I became convinced that the beautiful face I saw reflected in the Savior's eyes was my real face, the one my soul possessed before I was born, so I was able to forgive him and think of him with fondness. That's how I was able to keep my faith during these ten years of living together with all of you."

When Ms. Takada finished speaking, her companions surrounded her with an empathetic silence. The wife of the owner of the greenhouses, her upper body stiff, pushed up her glasses with a small calloused palm to wipe away the tears. Her husband shot her a look of rebuke and turned away. After her tears were over, the woman-as if it was her wont to speak up despite the patriarchal authority over her-cleared her throat with a little cough and broke the circle of silence.

"He wasn't hypnotizing you when you saw your beautiful face with two eyes. You were seeing your real face!"

The farm owner inclined his head, which reminded Kizu of the profile of General Nogi on playing cards he used as a child, and poked his wife's shoulder. She twisted away to avoid his hand and continued unhesitatingly.

"I don't really know what kind of person the Savior was, but if as you say he's come back from hell, you should have him show you your real face once more. This time try to keep from crying and give him a big smile!"

"If he has returned, that's enough for me," the one-eyed woman said, calmly yet passionately. "But more than my own healing, everything will be healed, since he's atoned for all our sins in hell. Actually, in the past ten years, I don't hate this face so much anymore."

"That's the way to think about it!" the farm owner shouted, his voice filled with both indignation and self-reproach. "My unthinking better half said some stupid things, but you have your real face now! Why do you have to hate it?"

"I think that's quite enough of your little marital spats and solutions to the problem, Mr. Sasaki. These two men have come all this way to see us. Shouldn't we let them speak?" The speaker here was a woman around forty or so who looked like she'd been an athlete in her younger days.

Saying this, the woman turned a somewhat sullen smile toward Kizu and Ikuo. With her lightly tanned face and strong look, she stood out among all the pale faces. The woman seemed frankly surprised that the doctor's widow, the woman with the congenital defect in her face, and all the other women who had listened so intently to their stories had opened up so much to these two strangers who had suddenly appeared in their midst. Only this woman who had just spoken seemed to have some complicated psychologi- cal barrier.

"The Savior-Patron, as the newspapers now call him-well, if he truly is to return to us, I expect he'll make a direct appeal. Since the two of you just planned to take a look at how we're living, I don't expect you have any sort of message for us from him, do you?"

"No, we don't," Kizu said, feeling a bit wretched as he said it. "We didn't even tell Patron we were coming."

"You haven't been believers very long, have you?" the woman asked.

"Apart from these young people here, I know the faces of most of the believ- ers above a certain age. My job in the church kept me in contact with them."

As he turned a searching look at Kizu, the farm owner had now calmed down from his earlier pronouncement, his skin color fading back to match his white hair and whiskers.

"The Professor and I are much newer believers than all of you," Ikuo answered in Kizu's stead. "I know this might sound a little vague to you. Even though I say we're followers, we haven't done much yet to help Patron with his religious activities. We got to know Patron and Guide just before they restarted their religious activities-years after the Somersault, of course. It's clear, though, that Patron will be relying a lot on the Professor in the days to come. I only knew the late Guide for a short time, but he was someone I re- spected very much. And Patron-well, I've never met a person like him before, a leader like that."

"What are your feelings about the Somersault?" the woman asked. "I ask because all of us are somewhat fixated on it… We gathered a small group together, after we were abandoned by our leaders, and lived as if in the wilderness for ten years. And we suffered-which made Guide's death all the more painful. They didn't take us with them when they descended into hell, but now that they came back after atoning, and are starting this new movement, I think we'll be waiting for a call."

Kizu was apprehensive about how Ikuo would reply, but he answered quite seriously. "I'm sure you've read this in the newspaper, and I don't know much more than what Patron said at the press conference for Guide's me- morial service. I read about the Somersault in the papers and saw it on TV, though I was still a child at the time.

"As I've been working alongside Patron, though, I've learned this: Since the police had figured out what the radical faction was up to, if Patron and Guide hadn't abandoned the church the authorities would have come down hard on the entire movement. The whole thing would have exploded-maybe to the point where politicians would be up in arms trying to enforce every word of the Anti-Subversive Activities Law.

"But as long as the leaders discarded their church, the whole thing could be dismissed as some petty scandal. And that's exactly what happened. It was the Somersault that the TV news shows had such great fun with. There was a pitfall in this, though, because the authorities and the police were under the impression that they'd uncovered all the activities the radical faction was in- volved in. But the investigation didn't go as smoothly as they hoped. The church avoided self-destructing, and a core remained active.

"In a sense what was emphasized was what I saw as a child and what the Professor saw reported abroad-namely, Patron's Somersault pronounce- ments on TV. But after I had a chance to talk with Patron and Guide, and meet all of you here, I understand a lot more about how much you all have suffered, and especially Guide, before he was murdered."

"What's the motivation behind Patron's deciding to start a new move- ment?" the woman asked. "I understand he was thinking of doing this even before Guide was killed."

'Tm not in a position to say, really," Ikuo replied, "but my opinion is that if this crisis hadn't ended with a small bang as it did, Patron and Guide- and the whole church-would have taken things as far as they possibly could.

The Somersault prevented this, but somewhere along the line the idea of repentance as the end of the world approaches disappeared. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but hasn't the true mission of the church remained alive only among those people Patron abandoned? And now isn't Patron-as someone who's experienced hell-trying once more to take on this mission? Well, those are my thoughts. Please understand that my generation is pretty ignorant of what went on in the past. After the collapse of Aum, young people who were search- ing for salvation lost a forum to carry out this search. What are they supposed to do? Patron and Guide felt a sense of responsibility toward this situation, and that's what motivated them. And, as if waiting for this chance, some people killed Guide."

"You can call it a return or a resurrection or whatever, but what I want to know is what are his immediate plans? Now that Guide isn't with him anymore." This was asked by the old lady who was sitting up erect, her legs out to one side.

"I think Patron wants to take responsibility for the gap in time after he and Guide fell into hell," Ikuo said. "Because he abandoned people like your- selves who continued to keep the faith. Actually, you should be getting a message from him quite soon.

"At the time of the Somersault, Patron stated that everything he'd said and done up till then was all a joke, a big gag. I don't know anything about the real substance of this, so what I did was read through the transcripts of his sermons that predated the Somersault that were among the documents my colleagues have been looking at. In one of the sermons, Patron remarked on the increase in the number of people who need to be saved. This latent power of the soul's thirst now, he said--and this was ten years ago-exists on a large scale, from urban areas like Tokyo to provincial cities, even reach- ing to disintegrating farming communities. In my visions, Patron said, these countless young people, filled with anxiety and pained frustration, all take on one face. And this face, he said, raises a silent cry: The flames are coming!

Was this, too, just a joke? I think he'll be taking action that gives us the answer to that."

From over toward the mountains the same hand bell Kizu had heard at their office rang out, startling him. He looked out through the three-level window, and in the shafts of twilight sun shining through breaks in the wind- tossed clouds he saw the children who had earlier been gazing into the green- house all filing away, led by a tall girl ringing the bell.

"It's five o'clock," one strong-looking woman said, "time that we set aside for prayer. I don't know how you all pray with this man you call Patron, but it would be nice if you would join us, like Mr. and Mrs. Sasaki do, in silent meditation.

"Today it's my turn to say a few words as we pray. I'd like to express my thanks at having these unexpected visitors and being able to listen to what they have to say. As I listened to them, something welled up in me I'd like to talk about. A person told us once, also just before our prayer time, that the reason we felt close to each other when we were in the church was that we all share similar weaknesses. These are the kind of people who ran off and formed this group, yet to me it was only a very short time during which we suffered after being crushed by the crisis of the Somersault.

"Soon after the Somersault, we wanted to accompany Savior and Prophet to hell, to take care of them, but we knew that that was beyond our endurance. If it was something we could endure, why did the two of them take on the Somersault alone?

"And so our communal life here continued. Every moment, we had engraved on our minds the fact that those two had fallen into hell to atone for our sins and were humiliated and suffered, and we prayed for them. We believed that when they were resurrected, they would lead a huge procession calling for repentance at the end of the world and we could join them once again.

"But just on the eve of this procession-just as the Savior was struggling to be resurrected-the Prophet passed away. I feel we've been very fortunate to be here these ten years, living a prayerful life. Just as Patron's decision to be resurrected gelled, Guide suffered that terrible death-a death to atone for us all-not just us but for all people on this planet. And it was this act of atone- ment that gave Savior the strength to take the final step toward resurrection.

"So, through the intercession of the Savior, who is alive among us, let us pray for our dear departed Prophet!"

4

As Kizu closed his eyes and began to pray, he discovered something laugh- able about himself. Patron had dubbed him the new Guide, yet he'd never been in the habit of praying and no words of prayer came to him now. At a loss, he began mentally sketching a full-length drawing of Patron. He gave himself up to the feeling of moving a charcoal pencil, tracing Patron's face, his body, and the way he held himself, and as he did so his imaginary Patron sprang to life. It was quite realistic, yet it overlapped with what the reporter had told him, his mental image of Patron suddenly decked out in Spanish farmer's dress from the Middle Ages. A round and chubby figure, certainly nothing martial about him, casual, yet surprisingly nimble. Come to think of it, didn't Sancho Panza, too, get lost in thought sometimes just like Patron?

And Guide as Don Quixote-his upright posture and thin figure and his long scrupulous face were perfect for the role. That morning in the hotel in New York came back to him once again, when the snow turned to rain before it reached the ground. Was he now supposed to join the antics of this man pretending to be mankind's Patron by performing antics of his own as the newly chosen Guide? Could a clowning pair really lead these praying women, with so much suffering behind them, in a march toward repentance at the end of the world? Wasn't this asking the impossible?

Kizu felt a burning sensation run up his back. He opened his eyes. He'd participated occasionally in silent prayer in America, but nothing that lasted as long as this. It was already ten minutes since they began, with no sign from the circle of women that they were nearing the end.

Eyes closed, heads held straight, the women looked totally transformed from when they had been packing lilies into boxes. And very different, too, from the way they were earlier today, listening to their colleagues' stories and to the replies of Kizu, Ikuo, and the husband and wife who owned the farm.

The women, their hats off now, looked irretrievably tired, as if they were pieces of machinery suffering from metal fatigue and about to break apart.

The face of the one old lady who, from the waist up had such good posture, reminded him of a death mask. And looking at the young woman with the scar running from her ear, over where one eye should be, and down her cheek, Kizu was shocked all over again.

"It's a good time for us to leave, don't you think?" the farmer's wife whispered into Kizu's ear. "Sometimes their silent prayers go on lor more than twenty minutes. Occasionally we do overtime till six, but five is their prayer time and after that they usually clean up and call it a day."

The farmer's wife had already stood up and was making her way through the cultivation equipment. Kizu followed after the farmer, bent over as he walked, with Ikuo bringing up the rear. There was no reaction from the praying women as they walked out. Despite the lighting inside, as they came out of the greenhouse it was like emerging from a dark cave into the brilliance of the snow. They felt liberated by the light and invigorating air- refreshing after the oppressive odor of the lilies. With the old school build- ing as a backdrop in the twilight, they could see the shaggy young leaves of an oak tree they hadn't noticed before. For a moment the leaves were rustled by a strong wind. Blue sky was visible through a few cracks in the clouds, which tumbled violently across the sky.

The farm owner turned his white-sideburned sallow face toward the hills and said, "There's going to be a storm, though it'll pass quickly. I'd bet- ter go check on the rest of the farm."

As her husband walked briskly away, the farm wife bowed to them, her red hands held to her face for warmth, and followed him toward where the blackened earth was filled with the brilliant green of mustard plants.

Kizu and Ikuo continued on to the road where they'd parked their car. The new leaves of the beech trees on the school grounds sparkled like gold paper, but when they passed by them the sun was blocked out by the clouds and the leaves turned dark. Right beneath the tree several of the younger chil- dren were squatting, drawing on the ground or otherwise amusing them- selves, no doubt, while waiting for their mothers to finish work. But they were so motionless; could they really be playing? And then it struck Kizu: These children, as well as the older children who were standing off at some distance, were praying.

The wind blew down to ground level, blowing straight toward Kizu and Ikuo. Thunder roared, and large drops of rain began to fall. Looking around, Kizu saw that the children had all sought shelter in the school build- ing. This was the first time today anyone had moved quickly.

Lightning flashed in the dark. As he watched the wind blowing the rain, Ikuo carefully pulled out onto the road. Kizu, too, gave himself up to watch- ing the force of the wind and rain. As the farm owner had said, the storm was soon over, but as they got onto the highway it was littered with broken tree branches and their new leaves. The Ford Mustang continued down the silent, thickly wooded dark slope, flicking aside the branches.

"Those women's prayers were pretty powerful, weren't they?" Ikuo said, after a long spell of silence.

"You and I have both spoken directly with Patron and Guide, and everyone's counting on us to help out with Patron's new movement. But I don't think that we-or myself, at least-can ever approach the depth of the prayers we just witnessed."

"There are lots of ways to contribute to Patron's new movement," Ikuo replied. "Never forget that Patron is counting on you. But yes, I'd agree- their prayers are pretty amazing."

"Did you notice that the children were praying too?"

"In his Somersault, Patron made fun of everything he'd done, right?

The thought just struck me for the first time that if he hadn't done that he would have had a lot more worries."

"You mean about what people who pray so intensely would do after they'd been abandoned?" Kizu asked.

"Right. When I was watching those women praying, I was thinking how extraordinary it is for them to live like this for ten years. And I was also think- ing that it was very possible they might not have put up with things passively but taken a different tack entirely. I know it must have been tough emotion- ally for Patron when he thought about having to abandon followers like these.

But isn't that why he had to make such a big joke about things-so these prayerful women would be shaken to the core?"

"I guess so, and yet he wasn't able to shake them," Kizu said. "Still, the worst-case scenario Patron feared didn't take place. For ten years they lived like we just saw, praying ceaselessly. I suspect if we met the radical faction who murdered Guide, who've lived their own kind of life of faith over the last decade, we'd find them pretty formidable too.

"I really don't have a mental picture of what the hell Patron and Guide fell into was like, but for Patron, who survived alone and was resurrected, I can't imagine life will be very easy from now on."

That evening, on the drive back to Tokyo, Ikuo said one more thing.

"I think the road ahead is going to be bumpy for you too, Professor, now that you've decided to be with Patron. But I really want to thank you for com- ing back from America!"

13: HALLELUJAH

1

The day of the memorial service dawned clear and sunny, a typical end- of-spring morning. Since Kizu, officially a professor until the end of the aca- demic year, was the only one among the participants privileged to use the American university-owned facilities freely, he set out diligently that morn- ing to walk around the grove of trees and sloping lawn by the pond on the southeast side of the garden and see if there were any weak points through which outsiders could crash the service.

From his room Kizu couldn't tell, but the young trees bordering the grounds were slippery elms, the same as the young trees planted on the cam- pus of his New Jersey university to replace larger trees destroyed by insects.

These days he hadn't seen much of the squirrels from last summer, the ones whose vigorous movements among the green leaves of the wych elm had aroused him. They might very well have shifted over to these younger trees in order to eat the soft seeds or the young buds, for the branches had defi- nitely been gnawed. The ground was littered with twigs that had quickly dried up.

Kizu picked up one little branch, and in a flash of inspiration, while he was checking out its withered flowers, he solved a riddle that had bothered him ever since he moved to the United States. Within layers of anthers the color ot dried sunflowers, a dark-colored stigma poked out rigidly. It looked like a hankp, the kind of personal-name seals Japanese used instead of signa- tures. The word stigma came from the Latin for mark, or brand, which came in turn from a Greek word for tattoo, similar to a seal. One semester, Kizu had even lectured on the history of European seals.

Up till now, whenever Kizu had been teaching students to sketch flow- ers and spoke about the pistil he'd always wondered why the tip of this part of the flower was called the stigma. Whenever Kizu examined the pistil of a daffodil, he would rack his brain trying to figure out why the stigmata, the plural of stigma, shared its name with the stigmata of Jesus, the crucifixion wounds on his hands and feet. But suddenly he realized that the sacred wounds were like seals impressed on Jesus' body, and the riddle was easily solved. Feeling this was a good omen for the upcoming memorial service, Kizu placed the small branch back on the soft young grass.

They had arranged for the front gate of the apartment building to be closed while the memorial service was in progress. Dancer and Ogi would be on the tiled carport just outside the main entrance, protected by the security force Ikuo was leading, as they checked their list of invitees against the invi- tation each person brought.

It was imperative that all participants come on time. After the start of the service the security guards planned to shut the side door and stand guard.

Patron would wait in Kizu's apartment, and then Kizu and Dancer, after she'd finished checking all the invitations, would escort him to the service. The other participants would enter the hall on the building's south side, through a cor- ridor below the veranda on the first floor, while Patron would take an eleva- tor to the basement and proceed to the meeting room down a corridor between the bicycle racks and the laundry room.

Ikuo's task was to bring Patron from the office in Seijo to the apartment building; when he and his three security guards had arrived in the minivan with Patron, then and only then would the front gate be opened. Kizu and the building manager had already sent out a letter to the other residents, Kizu's university colleagues, asking their cooperation in not using their cars from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M.

After Kizu had checked the grounds, he walked up to the front gate, where Ikuo was just getting out the minivan to go pick up Patron. Ikuo left the security guards inside, thirtyish men dressed in light charcoal-gray pull- overs and dark gray trousers-a kind of uniform for those organizing the memorial service-and got out of the driver's seat; he was dressed similarly.

Kizu explained to him how the grounds of this building, which had served as the Cultural Affairs Section during the Occupation, was still, as in the old days, surrounded by a high, sturdy chain-link fence.

Ikuo listened attentively. "The security guards have all had military training," he said, "so unless we're attacked by a huge force, the front gate should hold. It's hard to imagine an attacking force of that size moving about the center of Tokyo, though, don't you think?"

The three uniformed guards inside, who didn't greet Kizu, nodded to one another at Ikuo's confident words. Ikuo had from the first been openly enthusiastic as he made the security preparations, and perhaps his bluster was for their ears.

Ikuo returned to the minivan. Kizu watched as he raced off; then he helped the guard close the front gate. The guard was an old Filipino man over seventy who claimed he'd been working there since the Occupation; far from looking put out at having to do something beyond his job description, the old man seemed positively buoyant. Kizu guessed this was due to Ikuo's influ- ence. Despite his dark, forbidding looks, the young man could be sunny and charming beyond belief.

A long table was set up next to the side entrance, where Ogi sat with the list of attendees; he nodded to Kizu, who walked over to him and said, "Ikuo's security squad seems to be doing a good job."

Ogi agreed, and looked out over the porte cochere. Right next to him were three more guards, also in their thirties and dressed in uniform; on the other side of the pavement, five guards stood at set intervals. Ogi didn't seem to mind that the guards who'd gathered at one end of the table heard him as he explained things to Kizu, who had dimly sensed the situation.

"The members of the security squad are all followers from the Izu re- search center, before the Somersault," Ogi said. "The radical faction, in other words… At that time the police intervened in everything they did, so they left the church, formed their own group, and continued to keep the faith… The ones who kidnapped Guide and caused his death were one element of this group, not the ones cooperating with us, of course; they didn't approve of that. Since the people who took Guide are being held in custody, there's no chance they'll be coming here."

"Aren't some of the members of the former radical faction who joined the security squad the ones who attended Patron's press conference?" Kizu asked.

"I believe so. It was afterward that Ikuo started getting in touch with members of the faction. He didn't act alone; he had Dancer's help in finding out how to locate them. I'm a naive person-hence my nickname-but if they'd asked me I would have advised them to discuss things with Patron first.

I was left out of the loop, but now that I see the security squad he put together I think Ikuo made the right decision."

The men, who were within earshot of Kizu and Ogi's conversation, casually moved away to stand beside the concrete wall of the entrance and, bunched together, began smoking. They had a sophisticated air about them.

"Still," Kizu said, "even if they criticized how their colleagues let Guide die, they used to be part of the radical faction, so aren't they still upset because of the Somersault? If Patron doesn't apologize for the Somersault at the memorial service, and doesn't criticize his own actions, then what…?"

"When I heard the guards for the service were former members of the radical faction the thought occurred to me too," Ogi said, "that if Patron plays dumb regarding the Somersault there might very well be trouble. When I mentioned that to Ikuo, he went over to discuss things with them, and apparently they came to some kind of understanding."

"I know bringing this up won't get us anywhere, but what if their under- standing with Ikuo is just a ruse and they're planning to take over the me- morial service and lynch Patron?" Kizu said, as he glanced around inside the side gate. "We'd be playing right into their hands. I mean, they're the only potentially violent group at the service."

"Dancer asked Ikuo the same thing. He said if it came to that, he'd stand up to them and defend Patron himself, and she was satisfied. What I'm hoping is that Patron's sermon will go over well, not just with the former radical faction but with the women's group you and Ikuo visited. We have limits on the number of participants, so we weren't able to invite anyone from the Kansai headquarters, the group that continued to run the religious corpora- tion. The rest of the people coming are individual participants. Professor, did you help prepare Patron's sermon for today?"

"I did," Kizu replied, "but I imagine he'll end up mostly improvising, even though his meetings with me have been like miniature model sermons.

The only thing I've done consciously to help him is to check some of the quotes from the Bible and elsewhere."

One of the men smoking by the wall took a walkie-talkie out of his pocket, spoke into it, and came back. In the broad street outside, a single large tourist bus was slowly pulling up to the curb with one of the security staff guiding it, also with a walkie-talkie in hand. He walked over to where Ogi and Kizu were and asked if they'd allow these participants, who had overes- timated the amount of time they'd be stuck in traffic, to come in early. As Ogi refused their request, Kizu saw a side of him he'd never seen before. "Have them find a place near the moat to park and let them eat their lunches a bit early," Ogi instructed the guard.

The tourist bus started off again, the clump of children in front look- ing out the window at them. It was the women's group Kizu had visited with Ikuo. The older girl who had led the line of children off after their prayers was among them, waving something that looked like a lily as it caught the faint white light. It was a hand bell. Her fingers rested on the inside to keep it from ringing.

2

In the meeting hall for the memorial service, a room combining the lounge and the dining room of the apartment building, there were already over three hundred and fifty participants, including the organizers. The women's group were the only ones who had brought their children with them.

Only they and the former members of the radical faction in the security de- tail were followers from before the Somersault; the rest were new converts from the past ten years, people Ogi had contacted after they had sent indi- vidual letters to Patron. One example of the latter was Ms. Tachibana, who'd brought along her mentally challenged younger brother. Ms. Asuka was there as well, recording the proceedings with her video camera.

After escorting Patron to his apartment and going down to check on the meeting hall, Kizu was asked by Ogi to take still photos of the event. Ogi clearly wanted to give him a role that would allow him to walk freely about the hall, not under the restrictions imposed by the security detail. Ogi added that, if things got out of hand, he and the others would whisk Patron to safety, while Kizu was to take refuge as quickly as he could in his apartment.

During their short exchange, the participants had lined up in the corri- dor beside the lawn on the south side of the building and were filing inside.

Ms. Tachibana was there, along with her brother, his handsome, even solemn features set off by fixed eyes behind thin-framed glasses; a rather flamboyant woman in her mid-thirties was walking with them. When Ogi spotted her he flushed red in apparent consternation.

Kizu and the others were in the unused laundry room, watching the line of people through the frosted glass window. Dancer quickly noticed Ogi's reaction. It was clear she was interested.

The time was soon approaching for the service, so Kizu and Dancer escorted Patron down to the elevator lobby. Kizu noticed that Patron was dragging his right leg ever so slightly, and as they descended to the basement, Dancer supported Patron's back. They walked past the bicycle racks and the laundry room. When they came to the heavy door leading to the meeting room, they could sense the mass of people waiting there, even though there were no voices coming from the other side. All the participants had taken their seats, but they knew that Ogi, who was in charge of the itinerary, would want to stay on track, and it was five minutes before the scheduled start.

Kizu turned to Patron and asked about an attack of gout that had begun a week before.

"No, it doesn't hurt anymore," Patron replied, pulling himself away from some other thought that preoccupied him. "The inflammation's gone, just the embers left… A long time ago, when I had my first attack of gout, Guide explained-very coldly, I thought-how it starts with the base of your big toe, moves to your shin, goes to your waist, and then reaches your heart.

It's already gotten to my shin. At first it doesn't hurt so much, but at the end it spreads quite fast. I don't have much time."

Patron straightened up from the concrete wall he'd been leaning against to take the weight off his leg. Dancer, her paper-thin skin pale from excite- ment, took out a brush and tidied the collar of his midnight-blue jacket. Ogi opened the door to greet them, and Patron walked into the meeting hall, not dragging his leg at all.

Looking at Patron from behind, Kizu saw a relaxed man used to pub- lic speaking but with a touch of nerves. Perhaps out of concern for Patron's bad leg, Dancer had set up the podium on the same level as the seats. Head down, Patron proceeded past the front row of chairs that pressed up close.

Dancer and Kizu went over to stand in front by Ogi and Ikuo. Patron rested both hands on the podium, apparently taking a moment in prayer. Then he raised his head. A deep sigh wafted over the packed assembly.

Patron thrust his chest out and stood silently facing the audience. With a brusque but dignified movement he turned to gaze at the photograph of Guide and the high vase with its branches of dogwood flowers in full bloom that were behind him. Then he turned back to face the audience and spoke for the first time.

"Thank you all for coming here to this service in memory of Guide. In the years after the Somersault, until Guide was cruelly murdered, he and I were always together. For Guide and myself this was a time when we fell into hell. The most painful aspect of our hell was that during those ten years I never once had a major trance, and as a consequence Guide was unable to interpret any visions for me. We existed in a silent darkness. The kind of scene dis- played here was over. Without recovering his health, Guide was lost to me."

Patron fell silent again and turned back to the photograph behind him.

It was a snapshot of the two of them sitting in armchairs in Patron's study.

Patron looked absentminded, as if recovering from an illness, while Guide, his hair dark and luxuriant, was leaning toward Patron.

Kizu looked around the hall. The group of women he'd visited on the hilly district along the Odakyu Line occupied seats in the center, a few rows back from the front, their quiet children with them.

"Why were the two of us together during those ten years of hell? " Patron went on. "Because each of us had had his own hell decided for him, I believe.

We did the Somersault together and fell into hell together. One of the after- effects-or, I should say, legacies-of the Somersault was that, as one condi- tion of our respective hells, we had to see each other day after day. Then, after ten years passed and we were considering climbing up out of the abyss-in other words, when we were starting to grope toward a new be- ginning-Guide was killed. This was also exactly the time when I began to find signs that my trances were about to return.

"Once more I felt banished to the wilderness. Even if in the near future my painful deep trances were to return, without Guide's intervention I wouldn't be able to put these visions into words. All my suffering would be in vain. Now I believe I've found a new Guide, though I am not saying that I've discovered someone to translate my visions. The Guide who was murdered was a unique individual, which indeed was one of the reasons he was killed.

"Without him, when I return from my trances, emotionally and physi- cally drained, I'm unable to extract information from the other side from my dark, muddled brain. A fear seizes me each and every day that, if I am unable to unravel it, this lump of information will disappear.

"Once I lost Guide, I started reading, desperately searching through books that might show me how to create a line of communication between this side and the other, which is what I want the new Guide to help me do.

One thing I read was the description from the Bible of Jesus on the cross. As long as Jesus could complete his work on the cross, he could leave the resur- rection entirely up to God.

"I quote from the gospel according to Mark.

"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'-which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'

"When some of those standing near heard this, they said, 'Listen, he's calling Elijah.'

"One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put in on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 'Leave him alone now. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down,' he said.

"With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

"The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom."

"I just can't get the face of Jesus out of my mind, crying out in a loud voice as the earth turns dark. I realize it's a tasteless parody, but if I use the name that the old-timers among you are used to and imitate Jesus, in this dark situation I'm in right now, I imagine in my shock and anger I would raise up a loud voice and cry, My Prophet, my Prophet, why have you for- saken me?"

Resting both arms on the podium, Patron leaned backward, his face to the surprisingly large space above the underground lounge, and vehemently shouted this out. The windows facing the lawn were bright, and with the lights on at the other side of the room it felt to the participants as if an opaque mem- brane was hanging over them. The children sitting right in front of Patron all tucked in their chins as if something quite scary was about to happen.

"I would like to quote once more from the Bible. This is from the first letter of John: "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

"This particular passage has caused me great pain. In the last trial, you did not leave us, and though you continued to belong to us, neither Guide nor I remained with you. And I became the antichrist-both when I fell into hell, and even now that I have resurfaced. Is there so much misery and pain for mankind that this is the only alternative-that I must be seen as the antichrist?

"Guide was the only other person who agreed that I must tread this path.

Together with me he did the Somersault and accompanied me to hell. This was his choice, I think, because he insisted to the end on the necessity of the Somersault. It was a Somersault where the antichrist appears, which signals the end of the world. That is the way I understand it now."

3

Dancer, her narrow profile tucked in tightly, was whispering in Ogi's ear. As if he'd been waiting for this, Ogi nodded. Both arms thrust out, he held out a sign that said THE FIRST HALF OF THE SERMON IS FINISHED AND THERE WILL NOW BE A COFFEE BREAK… Patron let his arms fall to the sides of the po- dium, and Dancer held her hand out and led him out of the hall for a while.

By the time the audience had risen to their feet, tables had been set up in front and on both sides, with Styrofoam cups filled with coffee and small packets of cream and sugar, all done by the security squad, which had also stood guard- ing both sides of the door through which Patron had entered. The commu- nal women's group helped pass out coffee cups to the rest of the participants.

The tall doctor's widow with the unusual walk directed this operation.

Kizu knew it was now customary in Japan for meetings and seminars to include a coffee break, but still he found it quite a sight to see things go so smoothly at a memorial service, especially one with over three hundred and fifty attendees. He looked around for the young woman with the facial scar and spotted her still sitting with the children, who were waiting patiently as she handed out little cartons of coffee from a large cardboard box.

"They're very well organized, aren't they?" said the newspaper reporter Kizu knew from the press conference as he passed Kizu a Styrofoam container of coffee; standing by the wall, Kizu had been unable to take photogtaphs of the goings-on or squeeze into line for coffee. "It turned out to be a good idea to have former radical-faction members work the security detail," the reporter added, "though I admit I was skeptical when I first heard about it."

"It's a lovely and solemn gathering, isn't it?" said a woman beside him, dressed in subdued clothes and also sipping coffee. She was the woman who had been beside the dark-skinned reporter at the press conference. Today she had pinned to her chest the white flower given to distinguish the twenty people from the media who were in attendance.

"I was quite surprised by how austere Patron was when he spoke," the reporter said,"because during the Somersault he wasn't that way at all. Guide was the gloomy one then, and Patron the clown."

"For a newspaper reporter, you talk too much," the woman said reprov- ingly. "It doesn't give us a chance to hear him speak."

Kizu sensed that she had heard something from her colleague about himself, so before she could ask for his take on the memorial service, he headed off to the door behind which Patron was waiting, receiving a nod from the ladies collecting the coffee cups. The guards standing there recognized Kizu and let him pass.

Kizu cut through the bicycle rack area and went over to the elevators, where he found Ikuo leaning against the door of the elevator to keep it propped open and available. Ogi stood in front of him, showing him a pile of documents, with a pair of scissors on top, and Ikuo seemed to be checking something. Patron was sitting in a round chair next to the wall opposite.

Dancer stood protectively close behind him, so he could lean back against her.

She was telling him some of her ideas about how the second half of the ser- mon should go.

"I understand how important the past is, but haven't you said enough about it? I'd like you to talk about the future, what your plans are. The follow- ers are hanging on your every word. Even the children are listening intently."

Patron didn't directly respond to her, his eyes wide open as if he were attempting to see underwater. As Kizu approached, Patron asked him, "Pro- fessor, what do you think the audience thinks about the Somersault?"

Kizu was at a complete loss. Patron was looking up, waiting for his answer, when Dancer stuck her head next to his shoulder and intervened.

"Let's begin the second half and talk about that later. You have to talk about your future activities now. Speak with confidence."

"Ladies and gentlemen," Patron began again, "with the ideas I mentioned in the first half of my sermon, I'm planning to begin a new movement. Having lost Guide, I feel even more compelled to get started without a moment's delay.

I can only hope and pray that something will take the place of Guide's inter- pretations of my visions-an ability we'll never see again-as things appear to me through this movement.

"No longer will I have a partner who can arrange into words the dark- ness of a human being's soul-my own. I can only reach inside my slit-open belly and yank out something-I have no idea what-and preach the most nonsensical, incoherent ideas.

"However, Guide taught me this: The only way I'll find a path is by stick- ing my hands into that dark place. That memory itself has been lost along with everything else we accumulated, and I can hear him accusing me of being noth- ing but a scarecrow filled with straw, which thoroughly discourages me.

"Speaking of the word straw, when I was quite young, about the age of the children who've come here to remember Guide, I thought about this word.

Since all of you little ones are listening carefully to what I say, I'd like to di- rect this to you. When I was a child, I was told the expression like a drowning man clutching at a straw. And this expression bothered me. To tell the truth, I hated it. It made me feel awful.

"Imagine there's a poor child who's drowning in the river. And for whatever reason there are some adults standing on the bank just casually look- ing on. The child grasps at straws floating by. The adults burst out laughing.

And finally, they step into the river and save the drowning child. That's the scene I imagined. A long time afterward, I told Guide about this and he told me that he imagined it this way: When you open a drowned child's hand you find he was clutching straw. He said he felt as if he'd actually seen this occur when he was a child.

"Ladies and gentlemen, that's the kind of person Guide was. It anything, it made me feel that I was the drowned child he saw, that he saw my cold wet hand clutching the straw and took pity on me. I have decided to restart my movement and build a new church. But if Guide is now like the drowning child, then through our new church I intend to discover the straw his fingers were clutching.

"By unraveling the words of the visions I had in my trances, Guide cre- ated our theology. At the time of the Somersault when I said it was all non- sense, this is what I meant. The basic idea is that God is the totality of nature that created this world. Living a life of faith for us means being accurately and fully aware of this fact. When we achieve this, we realize that our aware- ness itself is, from the very start, made possible by God. What flows from God into us makes this awareness possible, making us able to verbalize it.

"At the time of the Somersault, what was at work inside me when I said that our theology was nonsense was another theology just starting to sprout, a miserable theology that toyed with the first. Nature, which makes up the totality of this planet-the environment we humans live in, in other words-is steadily falling apart. We've gone beyond the point of no return. God as the totality of nature-including human beings-is decaying bit by bit. God is terminally ill.

"Moreover, our awareness of God as being destroyed, of God with an incurable illness, is itself a part of God. Our crumbling God, our God who's sick, is the one who makes us aware-just like a mother teaching her baby to speak: a mother who is falling apart, who's dying from an incurable disease and is talking to her baby, who is fading away along with her, telling the baby what she knew from the start would happen.

"What I'd like to say right now, based on my new theology at the time of the Somersault, is this: From our viewpoint, as infants whose fate is to die around the same time as our mother, we have the right to stand up to God and say that this wasn't part of his plan! The dying mother hears the nonsen- sical words of the feverish baby, puts them in the proper context, and returns them to the baby's mouth. It is in that mother-child dialogue that we should find mankind's true repentance, because the ones who made this happen, who destroyed the natural world, who destroyed God and gave him an incurable disease, are none other than mankind itself. Isn't this how the church of the one who will lead them to repentance, the church of the antichrist, should be constructed: through protesting to God?

"Having lost Guide I've lost the way to interpret my visions, and now- dragging the Somersault along with me-here I stand. And I have decided to restart my movement focusing on leading people to this kind of repentance.

"Just as there is no doubt that Christ's humiliating death had meaning, there must be meaning in the desperate struggle of the antichrist who has stepped into hell. Otherwise, in that first consciousness of God as He created the world, why did He structure it so that there would appear so many antichrists at the end? God is the very one who, among all the things of cre- ation, cannot be dismissed by a joke, the one existence that has absolutely no reason ever to turn a Somersault."

After finishing, Patron propped his hands on the podium, and let his shoulders relax and his head hang down as he looked absently around the audience. Dancer approached and spoke to him, but Patron shook his head and pointed listlessly with his left hand at Ogi. Ogi responded to this, and looked at Dancer, who nodded back at him. Ogi went over to stand between Dancer and Patron. Calling forth all his strength, Patron leaned forward and, looking straight ahead toward the assembled multitude, cried out, "Ladies and gentlemen, please pray for Guide. Hallelujah!"

4

Patron hung his large head down and began silently praying, and Dancer and Ogi closed their eyes and followed suit. The people in the audi- ence shifted in their seats and began to pray silently; the sound of this mass movement of bodies was surprisingly peaceful. Kizu closed his eyes, too, and prayed. Filtered through an image of Guide in his mind, he prayed for Pa- tron. Lord, please help this person. And give me strength.

Just as at the farm along the Odakyu Line, Kizu found the lengthy prayer a little too much to take, and he opened his eyes to find Ikuo standing by the door Patron had used. Ikuo stood with legs apart as if he were about to start a fight, facing the quiet, praying crowd, all them with their eyes closed.

If intruders had wanted to throw the service into chaos, it would have been easy and now would have been the time. So Ikuo had a very good reason for not joining them in prayer. Kizu could sense in Ikuo, standing there like a rock that could at any moment swing into action, something menacing that outweighed the usual affinity he felt for him.

Please help this young man too, Kizu thought; I don't really know much about who he is, but he's in the grip of something that took hold of him when he was a child, that propels him forward--toward something. Kizu bowed his head and resumed his fervent prayers. I don't know what Ikuo is so fired up about, he prayed, but if this is, as Patron said, a small part of Your con- sciousness of the world, isn't that something to smile about? I pray that You help this young man so busily moving in that direction.

Here I am calling out to You, Kizu prayed, yet truthfully I'm not sure about You. But through this young man I am leaving my whole life up to You.

I know that I have, inside me, an incurable illness that's fairly common for someone my age. But as long as this doesn't come to the surface and steal away my ability to participate in the movement, please help me contribute in some fashion-lor the sake of this young man who doesn't care what means he uses to realize this strange idea of his. I suspect the physical love he allows me might just be one more means to an end for him, though even my suspicion is sweet.

When Ogi announced the end of the silent prayer time, several hands shot up in the row of reporters-a show of hands from those who wanted to question Patron about his sermon. Patron was standing behind the podium, gathering himself together, and Dancer leaned toward him to ask for instruc- tions. Patron gave a short reply. Reconfirming this, Dancer told Ogi what Patron had said.

"This is the time when we'd like to hear your responses to the sermon,"

Ogi said in a high voice, "and Patron said he would like to select the speak- ers. The person Patron has selected is Mrs. Shigeno, from the women's group that during these ten years was independent of the church and organized a communal life of faith. Mrs. Shigeno is also the person who, on the death of her husband, contributed the large hospital her family ran, as well as the land, to the church, as a special contribution to commemorate the church's becom- ing a religious corporation.

"In the early period of the church, Guide was in charge of finances, and he was not inclined to accept contributions from followers who had renounced worldly possesions, which meant the church's financial situation was unstable.

It was Mrs. Shigeno who convinced Guide to accept these monetary dona- tions, and it was through her that the church finally got on firm financial ground."

The old woman whom Kizu had noticed before, working despite her bad legs, was dressed the same as the other women around her, though her upper body, especially with the light gray scarf she had wrapped stylishly around her neck, took a backseat to none. Being careful of her legs, she rose serenely to her feet and took the wireless microphone that Dancer brought over. Her dignified face was full of tension, but the way she started her speech was appealing.

"That introduction is a bit overblown, I'm afraid. My money was going to be taken away in taxes anyway, so it's different from those follow- ers who give up everything they own. Though I must admit that at my age having such a handsome young man say nice things about me isn't a bad feeling at all!

"I do have a few things I'd like to ask about the sermon, but I don't want to take up too much valuable time so I'll just touch on the one basic thing I've been thinking about these past ten years.

"When Patron and Guide turned their Somersault, to use the names you use now, I had the feeling that I'd already experienced that before.

"This happened at the time of our defeat in World War Two-an- cient history, I'm afraid, for the young people here today. I was a student in a girls' school in a provincial town and was mobilized to work in a para- chute factory. The representatives from each class were called to the main office and told that work would stop a half hour before lunchtime that day.

We were to assemble with our teachers in the auditorium to listen to the radio.

"What really shocked us students was that the Emperor spoke in an entirely human voice, just like ours. This was the era when pictures of the Emperor and Empress hung like pictures of God in the chapel next to the auditorium.

"We learned about Patron and Guide's Somersault, too, through reports in the media-which reminded me of hearing the Emperor on the radio so many years ago.

"For us members of the church, Guide was like someone special selected from congregation. But Patron was different-he was directly connected to God. During the Somersault, though, here was Patron saying that all the mystical things he'd said and done were a joke. It was less like God's son becoming human than finding out he was, from the beginning, just an ordi- nary person. Wasn't this Patron's equivalent of the Emperor's speech, this time not on radio but on TV, with Patron adding all these comical gestures as he renounced his divinity?

"Wanting to understand Patron's Somersault, I took another look at the Emperor's renunciation speech. After the Somersault the young people be- came quite emotional, but I was too old for that. And after giving it a lot of thought I arrived at the following conclusion.

"The Emperor certainly did renounce his divinity then, but for the people of this country, in the hearts of its citizens, he didn't change at all, did he? It's a long story so I'll leave out the details, but what I ended up thinking about Patron is something similar. He announced that he's not directly con- nected with God, and there's not much we can do about that. He'll have to live the rest of his life cut off from God, but that doesn't affect my faith in him, or the faith of my companions. We are still fully prepared to follow him.

"It's been years since I heard his sermons, but it brings back many memories. We heard rumors about how Patron and Guide were living, and it was painful to hear him speak today about the ten years he suffered in hell. How awful this must have been for Patron, alienated from God, shut up day after day with Guide, with whom he still had such strong emotional ties. I can only imagine how ghastly this must have been. And Guide, still fallen in hell, was murdered, unable ever again to help Patron with his vi- sions. How dreadful!

"When I think about it, isn't Patron even now pushed into a corner, suffering every day? Though my image of him is still that of a younger man, I'm so happy he didn't make some frivolous statement in today's sermon about how he'd regained his connection with God. The ever-suffering Patron has returned to us and has put out the call for a new movement. After ten years of suffering, there is no better master of the church to welcome back. Patron is fine just the way he is.

"I've been a little outspoken, I'm afraid, but the fact is, we were all shaken by the Somersault. The thought has even crossed my mind that losing Guide was retribution for our unfaithfulness. But Patron's fall and suffering have made him the perfect leader of our new church-and we mustn't lose him. I am overjoyed to follow Patron's new movement."

A hand bell rang out. The packed auditorium absorbed some of the sound, but with the windows closed the sound fairly snapped in the air. The row of children in front all stood up and in loud spirited voices shouted out, "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!"

Urged on by the hand bell, which led the chorus, the children vigor- ously-and without any sound of scraping chairs-sat back down as one.

Leaning with his elbows on the podium and all his weight shifted onto it, Patron raised his head. His lusterless face was exhausted, his eyes teary. Even so, in a hoarse voice he spoke words of encouragement.

"I would like to say this in response to what I've heard. When I fell into hell, my connection with God was severed. This was part of my hell because I did the Somersault. I've lost my connection with God and have nothing to do with visions I might see in trances anymore, but I still find myself burning with a desire to communicate the words from the other side. So where does that leave me? The reason I quoted from the first letter of John was to an- swer this: Dear children, this is the last hour, and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

"As a sign that the end time is here, antichrists are popping up all over the world, and I am one of them. I am going to be building a new church, and I want you to be clear on this: I'm starting this church as one antichrist among many. Why would you follow a leader, knowing full well he's an antichrist? With the exception of the children, it's because you, too, are all sinners. You're the ones who've destroyed God as the totality of nature and given him an incurable disease. It is for your sake, you who have committed these sins, and for my sake, as one himself who has sinned, that Guide died in such an excruciating, horrible way."

Patron stopped speaking. Kizu picked up now on how Dancer thrust her right arm slightly forward and made a twisting motion with her wrist.

At one end of the row of children one of the older girls, her head raised high to watch Dancer intently, got the signal and rang the hand bell, and the chil- dren all stood as one and shouted out, "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!"

After they stopped and had returned to their seats, Patron's voice contin- ued over the faint reverberation. "This parade led by an antichrist will, in the end, reach the path to salvation-because this is a parade of the repentant, and even if I die a death befitting an antichrist, one more horrid even than Guide's, your march must go on. In order that the harvest gained by Guide's death will not be in vain, each one of us must play his part. Hallelujah!"

The hand bell rang out once more, and the children's voices filled the hall like a loud aria. With the exception of the reporters, all the participants joined in: "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!"

In the midst of this chorus, Ogi and Dancer leaped forward to grab the lectern that, together with Patron's upper body leaning so heavily against it, seemed on the verge of tipping over, helped turn him around, and hurried him off to the elevator. Reporters who pushed forward trying to question Patron were met by a line of security guards who formed a human wall.

14: WHY PATRON? AND WHY NOW?

1

An hour after the announcement that the memorial service was over, the partition between the dining hall and the lounge was back in place, the metal folding chairs piled up and stored away. Tables and chairs were re- turned to their original places in the lounge, where a press conference was to take place, the result of objections by representatives of the media. Some re- porters were upset by Patron's absence from the press conference, but most accepted that he was too exhausted to attend. A long table was set up beside the window that looked out on the lawn. The members of Patron's newly announced church sat on one side, and the reporters sat across from them on the other.

Ogi and Dancer appeared first. Ikuo was still directing the security staff even at this press conference and sat off to one side, leaving enough space beside him so he could move if he needed to. One more member of the secu- rity staff was there, a fortyish man named Koga who looked, to Ogi's eyes, a bit of an anachronism with his rigid, possibly military-trained posture. Kizu had heard from Ikuo that this man, with his lively intelligent eyes, had been the only medical doctor at the Izu research center.

Ms. Tachibana and her younger brother were there as well, as was Ms. Asuka, who, as she had done at the memorial service, stood behind the row of reporters to film the event with her handheld video camera. The group of women living communally had taken their chartered bus back home, having turned down Dancer's request that one of them stay and take part.

The press conference began with a question from the dark-skinned reporter for the national newspaper.

"Last month at the press conference with Patron, quite frankly I felt it strange to see Dr. Koga there, since he was on the side that was at odds with Patron and Guide over the Somersault. Not that I'm saying he had anything to do with Guide's death, mind you! At any rate, I'm happy he's able to join this question-and-answer session. The first thing I'd like to ask is whether the people on the security staff today, in other words the former radical fac- tion, have reached a reconciliation with Patron's church?"

Dr. Koga gazed at the questioner with a youthful expression that belied his years-though before he replied, his eyes clouded for just a moment and a solemn look came over his face.

"You've called us the former radical faction, and it was you in the media who originally dubbed us the radical faction, " Dr. Koga said, in a sonorous voice. "As I wanted to say at the time, it wasn't as if we just went off on our own and created a sect. We all worked at our research under Guide's super- vision at the facility provided for us. Before long the entire research center was unified as the cutting edge of Patron's teachings. And our activities began to confirm this. You asked whether we've reconciled with Patron's church.

Well, right now I think of Patron and the church as separate entities. The headquarters of the church exists in Kansai, and this church is active as a re- ligious corporation. If there's going to be a reconciliation with the church, Patron should be the one seeking it.

"Some of you just laughed at this, but I think that shows you don't know much about the Somersault ten years ago. Patron and Guide did turn a Som- ersault. To say that the motivation for the Somersault lay in the activities of the so-called radical faction is a one-sided, solely political view. I reserve com- ment, but probably most people see it this way.

"It was Patron and Guide who announced the Somersault and left the church. Those of us in the church had our beliefs ridiculed and were aban- doned by the founder. But in the sermon that he gave to eulogize Guide today, Patron reached out to all believers. That's how I see it, and frankly I was quite moved by his words."

"True, Patron did say he wants to make peace with you," the reporter said, "and you accept that, which seems auspicious. Does this mean, then, that Guide was executed because he didn't accept a reconciliation?"

"Calling it an execution isn't correct," Dr. Koga shot back. "I wasn't there until the very end, but as a doctor I think I know more about what happened than you do. In his sermon a short while ago Patron used the term murdered, and I understand his feelings, but it's an overly sentimental view. It's flat-out inaccurate. I'm confident that the charges will be dropped. And I expect the media to make a full apology.

"This is what really happened. Putting together all we'd been thinking about over the last ten years, we asked Guide whether he could make a fresh start together with us. Guide was willing to discuss it, but in the deliberations that followed we couldn't reach an agreement. And while this was happen- ing my understanding is that an accident took place."

The reporter wanted to pursue this further but a woman beside him with a classic oval face interrupted with a question for the doctor. "Patron an- nounced that he will restart his movement and has made up with you people in the former radical faction. He also told us he is one of the antichrists.

What I'd like to make sure I understand is how you feel about the violent adventurism of the former radical faction?"

"If we put the two together," Dr. Koga said, "Patron's being the antichrist and the violent adventurism you spoke of, that would make for one terrible misfortune, certainly. That's what you're implying, right? You have to under- stand, though, that even with the former radical faction, violence and destruc- tion were never the goals. We were using our own means to make society aware that the human race had to atone for its sins. The time of trial at the end time was fast approaching, and no matter how the Almighty's will might manifest itself, we wanted to help make that will come true by repenting.

That's what inspired us.

"The so-called radical faction's designs were destroyed by the Somer- sault of the two leaders who had provided us with our basic vision. Despite being betrayed and abandoned, though, the faction deepened its understand- ing of the Somersault and their thinking and has stayed together to this very day. And now Patron, who has suffered more than we have-something we understood more about in our talk with Guide-is starting this new move- ment that we have great hopes for. As for this term antichrist, I don't think Patron wants us to interpret it as an evil figure who will cause confusion and disaster at the end time; rather it should be viewed as part of the painful, hard look he's taken of himself.

"Even for those of us who once opposed Patron and Guide with all our might, Patron remains an indispensable person. What I've said here is not just an answer to your question but a response to Patron's sermon from those members of the radical faction who participated in today's memorial service."

2

After speaking with so much emotion, Dr. Koga's expression indicated he was finished, yet the woman reporter wasn't about to let him off so easily.

"At the memorial service I noticed you too prayed silently for Guide," she remarked. "But being a doctor, don't you feel some responsibility for what happened? You must have known that Guide had had a brain aneurysm before, and it must have been common knowledge among your ci rcle that they would interrogate him for that long."

Dr. Koga had been sitting up straight, but now, like a weasel, he raised his head even higher as he answered. "I believe what you're asking is, Do I feel responsible for the results of things done by a group I've been associated with for a long time? As you said, I am a physician, but even if I were a brain specialist it would be difficult to know, just by looking at a person, if he were likely to have a burst aneurysm. In fact, it might be impossible."

"Could you answer the question more directly?"

"I don't know if this is what you're looking for," Dr. Koga replied, "but as someone who knew Guide for a long time, I feel more sadness at his death than responsibility. Guide responded to the former radical faction's invita- tion to talk because he believed that even if he were destroyed, his death would directly link up with what came afterward: his hopes for Patron's restarting his movement. Which led me to want to participate in it."

The woman reporter was clearly unsatisfied, but the other reporter took over the questioning.

"At the time of the Somersault," he said, "in the television announce- ment-or perhaps I should say performance-what impressed me most about what Patron said was this: Although they continued their movement with the idea that the end time was coming in two or three years, he said that nobody seriously believed it. And while they were trying to get humanity to repent, those two or three years passed and people decided they were just a bunch of dummies and laughed at them like it was a joke that took forever to get to the punch line.

"I think it's important for the former radical faction members, as well as everyone who plans to join this new movement of Patron's, to remember his argument in the Somersault. Even now, as an antichrist, if Patron once again declares that the end oí the world is near, can you go along with this?"

Dancer responded. "It's true that in the past Patron predicted the end of the world in two or three years and called for repentance. At the time of the Somersault he said this was a joke, that the end was greatly delayed. Does starting the new movement mean he's once again setting back the timetable for the end of the world? That's what you're laughing at, right? But is that what he preached at today's memorial service?

"After all that time he spent in hell, I don't think he's saying there should be another Somersault and we should all pretend the earlier one never took place. He was talking about a much more important problem than the amount of time that will elapse before the end of the world. We found his ideas quite moving, and we've recommitted ourselves to following him. And not just those of us who work with him every day. That's essentially what the women's group said as well."

"We'll have to wait to see what your new movement is all about before we can give an objective opinion about whether this is another Somersault or not," the reporter said. "I'd like to ask one more brief question, if you don't mind, and I'd appreciate it if you'd respond briefly so we can quote it in the newspaper: Why now-after Aum Shinrikyo-has Patron returned?"

Dancer motioned for Ogi to answer.

"Patron believes that if there hadn't been a Somersault ten years ago,"

Ogi said, "the church, with the radical faction leading it, would have ended up just like Aum. And if that happened our church, again like Aum, would have been attacked and destroyed. Patron needed to send out a message of healing for his followers. Also, he wants to put into practice a teaching that will soothe all the young people hurt by Aum Shinrikyo. That's one reason why now, after the Aum affair, Patron has revived his movement."

"Do you plan to reach out directly to people belonging to Aum?"

"No. When I say young people hurt by Aum, I'm not just referring to members of the cult. Our movement will have a broader appeal."

"Logically, then," the reporter persisted, "your broad appeal would allow former Aum members to join. And if that happens, wouldn't they be involved in a joint struggle with former radical-faction members who've helped Patron restart his movement, which would only put the authorities on edge?"

Dr. Koga fielded this one. "Maybe I shouldn't poke my nose into this, but since you said former radical-faction members are helping Patron and I'm one of them, I'll try to respond. I have no way of knowing how the authori- ties or the police feel. But the Aum Shinrikyo's understanding of Armaged- don and our own concept of armed struggle are completely different. We were calling on society-the country-the world-to repent. One step in doing this was to occupy a nuclear power plant and get the attention of those who weren't listening.

"One clear difference between us and Aum was that, as our movement calling for repentance progressed and we blew up a nuclear plant, it would be very obvious that those participating in the operation did not intend to survive. Even if young people from Aum had participated, as long as they still accepted the teaching that they would survive Armageddon, I doubt they'd have gone along with our ideas. Because we put our own lives on the line."

"If the plan by the radical faction to occupy a nuclear power plant had been realized, wouldn't this have been even more dangerous than the Aum sarin gas attack?" This was asked, in a fit of indignation, by another reporter who up till then had remained silent. "If neither side takes a good hard look at their past, and the radical faction takes part in Patron's new movement, people won't stand for it. Haven't we learned anything from Aum? There's no way this should be allowed."

"Who won't stand for it? And what are they going to do?" Ikuo declared.

Ogi could feel the mood of the gathering change. Ikuo didn't speak rudely or in a loud voice, but there was something in the way he delivered these ques- tions that flouted the basic rules of this gathering.

Ikuo fell silent, his strong neck thrust out as he awaited a reply. As if he'd been treated in a violent, outrageous manner, the reporter turned bright red behind his oval-framed glasses. He may also have been feeling some pres- sure from the room next door, separated from this lounge by only a thin ply- wood wall, for at the same time as this press conference was going on there was a banquet in the dining room for those who'd helped prepare and run the memorial service, one that included many members of the security squad.

At times Ogi felt Dancer's plans were overly clever, but he had to admit that using the two rooms in this way was a stroke of genius. Actually he found it strange that after the memorial service, when the reporters were dissatisfied-in a fighting mood, even-about having their question-and-an- swer session attenuated, things had proceeded so peacefully that a question like Ikuo's stood out. The reporters' reticence might very well have been affected by the knowledge that among the people next door, who were trying to keep their voices down and not laugh, were those whose intimate com- panions had murdered the very man they were gathered to commemorate.

3

After a period of silence, Ogi was surprised again when Ms. Tachibana stood up, showing what must have been unusual fortitude on her part. Her younger brother, the one with mental disabilities, sat next to her, his face as tense as if he were the one about to speak.

"My brother and I were not followers of the church," Ms. Tachibana began. "At the time of Patron and Guide's Somersault we merely watched from outside with great concern. Still, we were surprised by what they said.

In the Somersault, Patron said he wasn't serious about the world ending in two or three years. Are you saying, then, it'll come sooner? someone asked, making fun of him. For me it's rather that question itself which I found unexpected.

"With Patron in the lead, we're facing the end of the world and doing all we can to repent. Even now I am constantly thinking of my soul and my brother's. The timing of when the end comes isn't as important as the fact that we are-right now-repenting as the world draws to an end.

"Before a chance meeting opened my eyes to Patron's teachings, my brother and I went to a different church, a church founded on Saint Peter's having seen and talked to the resurrected Jesus. After we attended this church for several years I began to feel that the people there didn't have a genuine sense of repentance. My brother and I-I understand very well what my brother is thinking, by the way-sought a deeper level of repentance and found we couldn't stand being there, because people didn't see repentance as a pressing concern.

"After a time something happened that led us to distance ourselves from the church. A Bible study class for beginners started and I asked spe- cial permission for my brother and me to attend. My brother couldn't re- ally understand how, three days after his crucifixion, Christ rose again.

When he stubbornly persisted in this, he was scolded by the priest.

"I gathered my courage and told the priest that I believe it's true that on a certain day in history Jesus rose again, but also in myself, right now, I feel he's arisen. That's what I feel as I pray. My brother can't put this into words, I went on, and perhaps doesn't even think in terms of words, but every time I have a friend play the music he's composed, I can see Jesus risen right now in his heart.

"When I said this the priest looked shocked and told me the two of us are Gnostic heretics. The religious aficionados there started laughing. My brother hates this-it's literally painful for him, actually: people laughing at something he doesn't understand-and he slammed the desk, scandalizing everyone. We never went back.

"My brother and I both feel that the end of the world is the same as Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection-it's both something that happens at a certain point in time in history and also an event that is always with us. If not, then the inevitable end of the world will have meaning for those who experience it but none for those who died beforehand.

"When my brother and I feel repentance, we feel as if we're seeing the end of the world clearly right in front of our eyes. And we see Patron, look- ing down on the frightening scene at the end of the world, holding our hands as we ascend into heaven. I'm not much of a speaker, and I don't think I can convey what I feel, but if you listen to the composition my brother wrote called 'Ascending to Heaven,' I believe you'll be able to feel the joy of passing away as Patron holds your hand.

"This joy is not an intellectual exercise for my brother. He's a simple soul, but he expresses with great vividness the joy of ascending to heaven. He's able to do this, I think, because at the very moment of composition he's as- cending to heaven hand in hand with Patron."

Ms. Tachibana touched the shoulder of her brother, who didn't have bin- ocular vision and whose eyes, while wide open, were wall-eyed. Her brother picked up a medium-sized cassette recorder he'd had on his lap and, with unexpectedly graceful movements of his surprisingly beautiful fingers, set it in motion.

Until the music actually started, Ogi was anxious. If the music was child- ish, he thought, that would be understandable, but if it turned out to be some- thing incredibly dull that would be even worse. But the low but piercing piano music invited one to smile with unalloyed joy.

When the tape was finished, the bug-faced reporter whose pronounce- ments had been interrupted by Ikuo-now with an even more insectlike, poker-faced look on his face-made the following comment.

"I understand that this music depicts the feeling of having Patron lead one by the hand into heaven, but it's a very short piece, isn't it, taking less than two minutes for the ascent? At any rate, I'm not given any space in the music review section of the paper, but I think it'd be difficult to convince readers if I wrote that a mentally handicapped person had had a mystical experience while he strung together bits of Bach or Mozart."

Ogi watched as Ikuo rose to his feet, as if he were danger incarnate.

"It's obvious that, along with your reference to his being mentally handi- capped, you look down on the composer, Mr. Morio Tachibana. You said he's using bits of Bach or Mozart-well, which is it? And from which works?"

The reporter again ignored Ikuo's questions. Ms. Tachibana's brother, undaunted by Ikuo's earsplitting delivery, looked as if he was straining to hear the reporter's reply.

4

Thus the press conference fizzled to a close. On the way out, Ogi over- heard the dark-skinned reporter speak to Dancer, whom he'd gotten to know, and what he said struck Ogi as entirely reasonable.

"I understand that Patron will be restarting his movement," the reporter said, "but there doesn't seem to be any shared point of view among his fol- lowers. Though I suppose if I put Patron's sermon and the comments of the communal women's group together I can come up with some sort of article."

After seeing the members of the press to the side entrance, and thank- ing the security staff, who, along with Dr. Koga, were about to leave, Ogi stuck his head in the dining hall. The partition was back in place, and in a corner of the wall next to the window there was an upright piano. Ms. Tachibana and her brother had brought over folding chairs and sat facing each other.

Ikuo was standing beside them, talking with Ms. Tachibana's brother.

"That man was an unintelligent, stupid man, wasn't he?" Ikuo said, slowly, pausing between phrases. As proof that his words got through, Ms. Tachibana's brother, one eye fixed on Ikuo's mouth, nodded.

"The newspaper reporter gave his opinion about your music, didn't he? "

Ms. Tachibana added. "Ikuo's saying that that was the opinion of an unintel- ligent, stupid man."

"I could sense that Morio was surprised by how ridiculous that guy's opinions were. Or was he angry? Somehow it seems that way."

"When people laugh at my brother," Ms. Tachibana said, "or show they don't take him seriously, he does get angry, but he just looks like he has a stom- achache. Most people don't realize he's angry."

"Just a moment ago when I saw Morio's expression, it reminded me so much of myself as a child," Ikuo said, with such fervor it took Ogi by sur- prise. "When I got angry it felt like the space between my chest and stomach was being wrung in a knot. It was such a strong feeling that people mis- understood and thought I was crying, and I ended up lashing out at the arro- gant bullies around me, which got me in a lot of trouble."

"Well, I never!" Ms. Tachibana's brother said, with a sigh of criticism.

"Morio knows exactly what you're talking about," Ms. Tachibana said.

"He doesn't do anything violent, but when he's angry it's painful for him, and sometimes he even vomits."

"You don't need to!" Morio said, evidently meaning she didn't need to explain things that far, but it was clear he was wasn't upset.

"That asinine reporter mentioned Bach and Mozart," Ikuo said. "Would you let me listen to that tape again? I want to check to see what part of the piece he means by that."

Morio stood up, took the tape recorder out of a paper bag beside him, placed it on the table, and switched it on. As the music filtered out, Ikuo lis- tened intently. He was silent, but, sensing his request, Morio rewound the tape and played it again.

Ogi was surprised at what happened next. Ikuo pulled a chair out from under the piano that was by the window, sat down, unlocked the keyboard, and played a phrase from the music. His playing was confident, not the hesi- tant touch of someone feeling his way through a piece. After a pause he be- gan to play a short melody that, to Ogi's ears, sounded similar but different.

After this, adding chords as he went, he painstakingly repeated Morio's com- position.

"It's not Bach, and certainly not Mozart either," Ikuo said to Morio, after carefully closing the piano lid. "It's entirely your own music." His quiet voice contrasted with the tone of the piano he'd just played.

"I think so too," Morio said in a low voice, sounding as if he meant to encourage Ikuo more than himself.

Ikuo locked the piano-he'd borrowed the key for this very reason from the building superintendent-and turned his fierce-looking face, all angles and depressions, to gaze out the window. With smooth motions, Ms. Asuka filmed the scene with her video camera, first shooting Ms. Tachibana and Morio, then Ikuo's profile and the large trunk of the wych elm and the ex- panse of lawn. Before her camera turned in his direction, Ogi hurriedly wiped away a tear.

It was getting late, so the three young people-Ogi, Ikuo, and Dancer-re- turned to the office in Seijo, where Dancer put Patron, who was tired and didn't feel like eating anything, to bed, and then they set off for a Chinese restaurant in a narrow street along the Odakyu Line.

Inside the restaurant was a staircase on the left leading to the second floor and a kitchen that jutted out to just below the staircase going off into the back of the restaurant; on the other side of the counter, on the right-hand side, were four tables along the wall. There were no other customers, and the three of them chose the table farthest from the entrance. Ogi and Dancer sat on one side of the table, Ikuo on the other, his bulk overwhelming them.

Dancer had asked the reporters at the memorial service to fax her cop- ies of their reviews for the next morning's papers. Inside a paper bag she carried faxes from those who'd conscientiously kept their promise. As she examined them, they ordered beer to celebrate the successful conclusion of the service. Ogi began to talk about the piano with Ikuo. Ogi was surprised to know that Ikuo played, since there was an Ibaha piano in the annex where Guide had lived but Ikuo had never once shown any interest in it.

Ikuo talked about his musical background, starting with how he took piano lessons from his mother, a graduate of Tokyo Arts Institute who'd been a music teacher in high school. His mother hadn't encouraged him to take music further, though. Ever since he was small he'd shown an aptitude for science, always making models and conducting experiments of one kind or another. One other reason was the scary look he had had ever since he was a child, a face that was bound to unsettle any panel of judges if he were to take the stage as a pianist.

"Ikuo, I think one can say you're certainly a pianist in your fingers, they have such strength and beauty," Dancer said; she'd just finished looking over the faxes and had caught only the tail end of the conversation.

She passed around three articles about the memorial service that were to appear in the morning papers. Two of them were just short pieces discuss- ing the obvious, how this church gained notoriety ten years ago when its lead- ers renounced its teachings and how at a memorial service to one of the leaders who had suddenly passed away the surviving leader had declared that he was starting his religious movement again.

On the other hand, the dark-skinned reporter's article appeared in the second section of the general news pages as a five-column sidebar. The head- line read AFTER AUM SHINRIKYO, WHY HAS PATRON RETURNED? First there was an explanation of the Somersault by the two men, named Savior and Prophet at the time, and how this nipped in the bud the terrorist plans of the church's radical faction. However, ten years later, while the two men, now known as Patron and Guide, were formulating their program for restarting their move- ment, the former radicals had kidnapped Guide, held him against his will, and roughed him up to the point of death.

Yesterday, the article went on, a memorial service was held for Guide at which two noteworthy events took place: Patron announced that he was restarting his religious movement, and two groups of followers who had con- tinued in the faith even after being abandoned by their leaders had both ex- pressed their desire to participate. Among these was part of the former radical faction. Patron's explanation for starting a new religion in the climate of intense criticism after the Aum Shinrikyo affair was quoted: When there is a great desire on the part of young people for spiritual salvation, nothing will be solved by crisis-management measures taken to crush new religious groups just because one group that absorbed these young people committed a blunder. Our attitude is to be open to any and all young people searching for salvation. With none of the established religions, including Buddhism and Christianity, offering this, I believe there is a place for us to care for these young people.

"At any rate," Ogi said, "I think he's done a good job by focusing on the question of why now, after Aum, Patron is starting again."

"I talked afterward with the reporter who wrote this article," Dancer said.

"But there's not a single line about what Patron said about the antichrist,"

Ikuo said.

"I made very sure he didn't add that," Dancer retorted. "As I spoke with the reporter on my cell phone, Patron was right beside me and he didn't ad- monish me at all."

"But that was the most interesting part of the whole sermon," Ikuo insisted.

"We have to make sure Patron doesn't have the rug pulled out from under him by the media, don't we? I want to avoid having them use a word like antichrist."

This said, Dancer drained her glass of beer and poured herself another.

Their order ofgyoza rice came just at that moment and she tucked into it with relish. Before the three of them were half finished, she got up and went over to the counter to order a late-night snack to take home for Patron. But when she returned to their table her spirits were dampened.

"The cook asked me if only one order of noodles and vegetables was enough. Because we always got two orders, one for Patron and one for Guide.

Even though it was in all the papers, he still didn't realize that Guide was murdered. And it was for people like him that Guide died!"

Dancer didn't even try to keep her voice down.

5

It was late at night by the time they got back to the office. Dancer checked to see that Patron was still up, and while she was reheating the food she'd brought back-taking care of his stomach before giving him his sleeping pills-Ogi printed out the e-mails they'd received. Ikuo read through them too. Ms. Tachibana wanted Ikuo, more than anyone else, to read the e-mail from her. It said: I think my brother was hurt by what happened at the press conference. We get these comments a lot, where people casually say that something he composed is like somebody else's-they're meant as praise for people with mental handicaps, but he finds them hard to comprehend. For him music just wells up naturally in him, like a birdcall, the sound oí the wind, or a heartbeat.

These days he doesn't like letting other people listen to his music. The reason I urged him to play his tape, which he had a pianist record, was because of how important that piece is to both of us.

Ever since we went to that small gathering with Patron so long ago when he spoke with such caring words about my brother, Patron's been one of the main topics of conversation between us. My brother's vocabulary is poor, but his grammar is correct and if you listen carefully you realize what he's saying makes a lot of sense.

Once, actually more like a memory coming back to me, I suddenly told Morio about one of his compositions, "Morio, it's like we're going into heaven, with Patron leading us by the hand." And my brother said, very emphatically, "That's right!" This was the piece that, even though Patron couldn't join us, Morio was so excited about letting you all hear-only to be rewarded with those snide comments by the reporter.

Ikuo, when you asked, on my brother's behalf, which pieces of Bach or Mozart the reporter meant exactly, you can't imagine how tense my brother was! My own heart was beating a mile a minute. And that cowardly reporter couldn't say a thing.

Because of what you did, though, for the first time in our lives our honor has been redeemed. What's more, Morio really enjoyed the style in which you play. He can't put it into words, but he likes a powerful performance that doesn't have room for anything vague. More than anything else he dislikes playing that pussyfoots around. After we got home my brother was gazing for the longest time at his handwritten manuscript of that piece.

Speaking for both of us, we couldn't be happier that you're working to help Patron. Hallelujah, hallelujah!

Along with the e-mail came a fax of five handwritten compositions by Morio, each of them a page or two in length. Written in light pencil, the notes looking like a series of bean sprouts that were hard to decipher in places, and written over here and there in pen, the whole thing apparently had been checked by Ms. Tachibana. My brother really enjoyed your playing, so he's send- ing over some other of his compositions, she noted.

Ikuo carefully studied the sheets of music. "All three times I couldn't catch it and just played that section in my own way, as anyone who's studied music might. For Morio, of course, I wasn't getting it. He was kind enough to overlook that, but that's why he sent me the sheet music. All the pieces take off from that one piece, and if you study them together you can see there is a clear, connecting structure to them. Ms. Tachibana may think the music just seems to well up in him naturally, but in each successive piece the theme is developed in a carefully structured way."

Dancer had returned to the office and read the e-mail Ikuo had received, but just stood there without a word, her mouth slightly open, gazing off into space. What concerned her most among the messages was an e-mail from the person who had run the church after Patron and Guide stopped. He was an executive at one of the largest construction firms in the Kansai region, and though the headquarters didn't send a group delegation to the memorial ser- vice he wrote that he was quite moved by what he heard by phone from mem- bers who had attended individually.

His e-mail soon moved on to more practical matters, saying that, though he didn't know the direction Patron's newly founded movement would take, he assumed it would be based on a communal lifestyle. Perhaps, he suggested, the church could make use of some buildings in the woods of Shikoku that the Kansai headquarters owned. He added that he would be in Tokyo soon on business and could discuss it with Patron or, if that was out of the question, with members of his staff. All the Kansai people-who helped obtain the buildings, participated in refurbishing them, and were even now taking care of them-were hoping that Patron and Guide would rise again and make use of the facilities. We pray that our dream will become a reality, he wrote. Once more, let me express my deepest condolences on the passing of Guide.

Their schedule for this very long day was now over, and Dancer, whose bed was in the small room diagonally across the hall from Patron's-Ogi slept beside the entrance, Ikuo on the second floor of the annex-suggested that, since the studio was soundproof, Ikuo might like to try playing Ms. Tachibana's brother's compositions on Guide's piano. Up till now Dancer had only shown an interest in the next morning's newspaper articles and the e-mail from the church headquarters, and Ogi was surprised by her sugges- tion. Ikuo, too, seemed unsure if she was serious or not.

But Dancer, straightening up the documents on the desk, along with the PC and other devices on it, turned to Ikuo, who hadn't said anything and was about to leave, and repeated her offer, then went on to say, "When I met you when you were a child, I already felt there was something special about you. That model you made and were so gingerly carrying when it got caught in me-you didn't know what to do. Those eyes that glared back at me weren't the eyes of an ordinary child. A long time later the word came to me to de- scribe what they looked like, and I thought: This was a person who expresses dreadful things. Even so, meeting you fifteen years later, I'm disappointed to find you aren't trying to express anything now. That's why, now that I've learned you play the piano, I want to hear you."

After she said this, Ikuo didn't hesitate. He took out Morio's music, which he'd put on a bookshelf, and stood up, grasping it in his huge hand.

He strode off outside along the path that, despite the streetlight in the stand of trees, was dark, with Dancer walking in his footsteps as if leaping from one stepping-stone to the next. Following at some distance, Ogi felt as if he were viewing a ballet: a sprite dancing in the shadow of some giant beast.

Ikuo's playing threw cold water on Ogi's excitement. After running through the five short pieces, with brief intervals between them, he remained very still in front of the piano, while Dancer stood motionless in the center of the dance floor. Ogi felt the two of them had just shared something very special-something from which he was excluded.

15: YEARS OF EXHAUSTION

1

A few days after the memorial service, Kizu awoke in the morning to the sound of a feeble sigh-his own voice, he realized-and knew it wasn't the first time this had happened. Snuggled in his blanket, he felt a balance deep within him collapse, giving rise to this voice that circumvented his con- sciousness. This time it had come out as a protracted ahhhh, and he knew he was shouldering an exhaustion that had hardened and would never dissipate.

That sigh, then, echoed with a sense of his own body trying to comfort itself Alter a while he got out of bed to use the bathroom. Before he sat down on the toilet, Kizu looked out the window at the wych elm; strangely enough, it had regained the vivid softness it had had a week or two before, possibly as a result of the drizzle that had fallen all through the night. As he stood up, the large American-style toilet bowl looked-to use the first words that came to him-as if it were dyed a shining vermilion that dissolved the large pile of tarlike feces. Had all the energy he'd accumulated in his anus and intestines by exposing them to sunlight last summer now made his feces shine? No. It's come at last, Kizu thought. A thin sad smile came to his face. He avoided looking at himself in the mirror and flushed away the contents of the bowl.

As he walked back to his bed, Kizu looked out at the wych elm again; though the rain continued, beyond the branches he could spy a patch of light blue sky. But this blue sky, over the soft leaves washed by the rain, didn't have the usual effect on him. His cancer was back. He had long since come to terms with the fact that it was only a matter of time. And knowing this he'd come to Japan to start a new life. But up till now he'd tried to avoid facing any tan- gible signals his body might be sending him. Or at least, he realized, he'd postponed acknowledging them.

But now he could no longer ignore the cancer. For quite some time he'd felt something wrong inside him; was it now going to accelerate? Would he soon be racked with unspeakable pain? What held Kizu's attention was less the thought of pain-though of course this too was one way to avoid think- ing about it-but thoughts of how much, as long as he was able to be up and about, he wanted to continue his physical relationship with Ikuo-at the same time, of course, not doing anything to dampen Ikuo's enthusiasm for work- ing for Patron. He wanted to be close to the track Ikuo was running along, while still accomplishing his own goals. What was necessary now was get- ting a sense of how many days he had left to live his new life with Ikuo and Patron, as well as the best ways to cope with the pain once it began.

The director of Kizu's research institute had written him a letter of introduction to a local doctor, so Kizu telephoned the clinic and made an appointment. What he was really hoping for, though, was less a physical checkup than for the doctor to grasp the principle he'd committed himself to-the decision to live in a symbiotic relationship with his disease. Know- ing the director of the institute would be a definite advantage here.

When he went in for his appointment, Kizu spoke to the doctor about his own past illnesses and then about his brother's cancer, all the details from the first occurrence to his death. He also told the doctor how, from the time his own cancer was first detected, he felt swept along by an unstoppable course of treatment, something he now wanted at all costs to avoid. Could you pos- sibly, he asked, just ascertain that it's cancer by using traditional methods and then help me live with it at home?

Kizu was full of apprehension as he related his somewhat self-centered desires, but to his surprise the doctor agreed. Or at least he consented to ex- amine him as his patient wanted.

Once the doctor had listened to his hopes, Kizu grew mellow and said, as he got dressed, "I think my dark mood of the last few years may have been a psychological expression of my cancer. It may sound like I'm exaggerating, but for the past six months I've felt so utterly positive it's as if I'm a young man all over again. I want to hold on to that feeling for the time I have left.

For a year, if that's possible. Just to live a normal life for a year-without any operations, taking medicine when the pain gets to be too much, and, if I can, continuing to paint. Even if I can't do that, I want to live on my own and watch the activities of my young friend. Do you think I have a year left?"

The doctor was evasive, saying that it was possible, as far as today's checkup showed. But he wasn't at all indifferent to Kizu's hopes.

"You are an American citizen, so after the pain starts I can be more free in prescribing medicine for you than I would be with a Japanese," the doctor said. "I'll be getting in touch with the surgeon who first operated on you in New Jersey. That's where I met your friend the professor who introduced you to me." After saying this, the doctor, who was much younger than Kizu, be- gan addressing him as Professor too. "You may not have a lot of time left, Professor, but you should be able to enjoy it to the fullest. Keep your spirits up! I feel like you've taught me that."

Kizu wondered about the childish enthusiasm of this statement. If my cancer can be fought through an operation or radiation therapy or medicine, he thought, even if it just means letting the doctor get his way, shouldn't he have challenged me to put up a good fight against my disease? Isn't he giving in too easily to my requests, implying-after just a simple examination--that my case is hopeless and the cancer will never go into remission?

"When you palpated my rectum your finger didn't seem to reach to the place where the cancer is," Kizu said, in a mischievous, sour-grapes sort of way. "Does this mean that when I have anal sex the penis won't hit the part that hurts?"

"Well, you can see how long my finger is," the doctor said, his earlier openness to Kizu now vanished.

In the taxi on the way home, though, Kizu couldn't forget what he'd said to tease the doctor. Well, he told himself, at least the hospital didn't grab me in its claws! But then he felt peeved: Was it really all right to announce so casually that he had terminal cancer? Not that he wanted to pin his hopes on some doctor newly returned from America and his latest high-tech machin- ery who might tell him that no, he didn't have cancer. Before long his own words came back to haunt him. There was no reason for him to suppress them.

Soon after he started teaching at the university in New Jersey, he had had an affair with a Jewish woman whom he later married. Her name was Naomi, and she'd lived with her former husband in Kobe; when he met her she had moved to New York and was writing her dissertation on the his- tory of comparative art, and Kizu helped her decipher some of the brush writing in an illustrated Muromachi-period book. To celebrate finishing that work they had dinner together, with some wine, and when he was waiting at the bus stop under an enormous hickory tree to see her off on her bus back to New York, they kissed. Kizu took the first step, but she responded enthusiastically. Naomi was a large woman, taller than Kizu, and she held his head to steady it as they kissed intimately-not the other way around.

Kizu was still young and his penis soon rose up and pressed against her belly.

As they waited for the bus on the boulevard in front of the university Naomi told him, after giving it a lot of thought, that she wouldn't mind going back to his apartment again.

He put clean sheets on the bed-not the right size ones, it turned out- and she began to, painfully, kiss his penis; he twisted to one side and began licking her strongly fragrant genitals; then, as he tried kissing her slightly reddish, cute little anus, Naomi called out in a small voice. After intercourse she told him about how her alcoholic ex-husband, when he did want sex, which wasn't too often, usually wanted anal sex. Taking this as a cue, Kizu tried it himself for the first time. She pulled apart her generous reddish but- tocks to help him, and Kizu, although his penis wasn't quite hard enough, was able to penetrate her. Afterward she told him, happily, that it was all so intense she wasn't even sure if she came or not. After they got married, though, their sex turned more solemn, and never again did they stray like this into forbidden fields.

In the taxi, Kizu remembered the way Naomi's fingers moved and be- came possessed by the idea of doing the same thing for Ikuo. He fantasized about being penetrated by Ikuo's penis in a similarly intense way, positive that if the two of them weren't able to reach that level of feeling, until the day death came to take him he never would.

If such thoughts were motivated by the fact that he had a clear case of cancer, couldn't this be seen as a positive response to his illness? But Kizu couldn't help feeling he was being silly about the whole thing and laughed at himself for acting like some doddering old geezer. Still, he couldn't shake the notion from his mind.

2

Ikuo was kept busy after the memorial service, and it was a week before he was able to return to Kizu's apartment. He came with Dancer to express their thanks to the building superintendent for allowing them to use the facilities, and the two of them went together with Kizu to the man's office.

The super was in a good mood, since the meeting place had been left so spic- and-span he didn't have to pay an extra fee to their regular janitorial com- pany to clean up.

Dancer left, so Kizu and Ikuo were able to lounge on the sofa in Kizu's atelier and talk. Perhaps concerned because they hadn't seen each other in a week, Ikuo tried to humor Kizu.

"Patron told me what you said to him: that you don't know what direc- tion his movement will take but as long I stay with it you'll stick with him."

"That's right," Kizu responded. "I really am interested in his new move- ment. You've helped me enter a new world I never would have found alone."

"That seems especially true since you came back from America."

"After all the trouble I'd taken to make a life over there, it wasn't easy giving up my home. I'd gotten far, I thought, but it didn't feel as if my life had taken a completely unexpected path. After coming back to Japan I felt really excited; for the first time in my life I didn't know what to anticipate.

At my age, though, such positive emotions are always counterbalanced by a sense of unease. At any rate, I'm not going to back down."

"I can sense that."

"Those feelings, though, don't guarantee I'll do a good job of succeed- ing in Guide's position. He was one of a kind."

"It's like there are two people inside Patron," Ikuo said, "one who has visions, the other who interprets them. Guide's role was to make that second person inside Patron speak. As I was listening to Patron at the memorial ser- vice, it came to me how much he had suffered after Guide's death. And I wondered whether, as he suffered, the person inside him who interprets the visions may have taken on a diflerent form. Taking that a step further, I began to wonder whether Patron might not be able to put his visions into or- dinary language now, without any outside help. If he can, maybe Guide's death was necessary for Patron to begin his new movement."

Kizu felt something was wrong with this and brought up a point he'd noticed a while back. "It's logical, what you said. Not that I mean you've been illogical up till now, it's just that the logic you're using here is different. I'm wondering whether some of the radical faction's way of thinking has rubbed off on you as you worked with them."

Ikuo gazed back with a watchful, penetrating gaze, as if staking out some prey he was about to pounce on.

"I've learned a lot by talking with them," he said. "Working with them at the memorial service taught me how capable they are and how strongly they feel their convictions. Patron's movement has been able to take shape through proposals that the Kansai headquarters has made, and there's been discussion about including them in the new movement in order to firm up the support base-along with the group of women we visited. It would be hard to make a go of this new church relying solely on the participation of individuals. This will mean, though, that the list Ogi compiled of contributors after the Som- ersault won't be of much use-"

Ikuo stopped speaking, no doubt thinking that he'd gotten too far ahead of himself, and stood up.

"I've been too busy to take a shower these days, so if you don't mind-"

Ikuo's smile seem to be humoring Kizu, as he'd done before. But some- thing welled up within Kizu, a thrill just like the day when, as a child, he'd first walked along the seashore and spotted a manateelike lump on the beach.

The same rush of excitement he felt the first time he and Ikuo had sex. His throat felt parched.

Kizu took out the sheets he'd gotten back from the laundry and made up the bed. He went in to take a shower himself, passing Ikuo, who was wear- ing a dressing gown as he came out of the bathroom. But how should he bring it up to Ikuo? He racked his brain as he thoughtlessly scrubbed himself too hard and felt his body tighten with pain. Since the clear signs of cancer had appeared, Kizu had been careful about touching his belly, but now he'd forgotten.

Broaching the subject turned out to be easier than he had thought. "Let's try something a little different this time," Kizu said in an experienced tone, half playfully, and Ikuo, as casually as a chess player making a necessary stra- tegic move, said that he'd already had a bit of experience playing the man, if that's what Kizu wanted.

With an eager movement out oí keeping with his age, Kizu flipped him- self over on his belly and, as Naomi had done, propped himself up on his chin and shoulders as he added some spit and pulled aside the folds of his buttocks.

Ikuo struggled to penetrate, and Kizu felt a sharp pain that nearly made him cry out, but all for naught. Kizu remembered how it felt when, as he stroked the milky, flushed skin of Naomi's buttocks, he playfully had inserted first one finger and then a second as he roughly spread her sphincter. But he couldn't tell Ikuo to do the same, and he didn't have the nerve to do it himself.

Finally, as if the energy level he'd strained to keep up proved too much, Ikuo collapsed. Kizu sat up and noticed tears forming in Ikuo's large, sunken eyes. Kizu took Ikuo's still-engorged penis in his mouth to console it for all its struggles, but Ikuo remained passive and couldn't come.

After Ikuo went home, Kizu thought about the tears in Ikuo's eyes and how he'd instinctively turned away to try to hide them. What kind of tears were those? As he and Ikuo had talked that day he tried not to worry about the new situation with his cancer. With Patron's new movement beginning, he'd have to talk with Ikuo about his illness, now that it had taken a sudden turn for the worse, but it didn't seem fair to bring it up just as he was attempt- ing to get their sexual relationship to enter a new phase.

Kizu wondered whether the sexual behavior of an old man, uncon- cerned with appearances, might not, in the eyes of someone much younger, go beyond the ugly and comical to arouse feelings of pity and sorrow. But late that night, as he once again climbed into bed and touched a wide, wet spot on the sheets, the thought struck him that he had been so hard on the young man he had made him cry. Shocked, Kizu tried to brush the thought aside.

3

Kizu was the type, once he started something, to persist-his character molded by his experiences in America, where he often felt terribly isolated and found that once he gave up, things got even worse-and he wasn't about to get discouraged by a couple of failed experiments. A motivating factor behind his persistence, Kizu was well aware, was the jealousy aroused in him when Ikuo revealed that he'd played the man before. As one failure followed another, this jealousy for some unknown past rival turned into a burning rage.

As a far-off memory, Kizu recalled reading Plato's words to the effect that human beings cannot hold two different emotions within them at the same time. This idea served to protect the emotions that-at the conscious level-he'd already prevented from making a comeback: the fear that his strong jealousy of Ikuo would accelerate the spread of the cancer within him, and his regret at having run from the advice he'd received in America to have himself get a thorough examination.

Dancer phoned him, asking him, if it was possible, to come over to dis- cuss something with Patron. Recently Kizu had caught a ride two or three times with Ikuo when he went back to the office, but each time he found everyone rushing around like mad and had left without speaking with Patron.

Today, though, as he entered Patron's bedroom study, he spied a plan of the buildings in Shikoku that Dancer had prepared. As was his wont, though they hadn't seen each other since the memorial service, Patron didn't greet Kizu; instead, he seemed to be watching him closely. Finally Patron spoke up, explaining how he wanted to move his office to the building in the woods shown in the plan and start his church there. Kizu mentioned he'd heard from the newspaper reporter that the buildings were unusual modern structures and were being taken care of very thoroughly-but Patron cut him short.

"After they purchased these buildings, the followers apparently took turns staying in them for short periods of time," Patron said, "and things went smoothly between the people from the Kansai headquarters and the local people. Which isn't to say that if we move there to build our church there won't be friction. We need to understand this before we begin, and I think as Ikuo said the first step is to have an organized vanguard group of followers move to Shikoku. I'd planned to start the new movement with people who contacted me after the Somersault, but what Ogi's done will eventually be of use."

Patron went on to explain what Kizu was aware of how the Kansai head- quarters had directed his attention to this woods surrounded by mountains and how things had developed since then.

"The Kansai headquarters, which essentially means the whole church that's been active till now, has proposed to give these buildings over to me in order for me to build a new church. While Guide and I were in hell and com- pletely unproductive, the Kansai headquarters built up quite a sound finan- cial base. Sometimes I even wonder whether it's right to accept all they've accomplished."

"If the church will again be centered around you and these people will be absorbed into it," Kizu said, "their proposal makes perfect sense. You might even say that after your Somersault the Kansai headquarters anticipated a day like this and prepared accordingly."

"I imagine that to them my actions in the Somersault must have seemed pretty shallow."

"But when you look at all the groups that have been able to maintain themselves independently," Kizu said, "the Kansai headquarters, the women's commune, and the former Izu radical faction, that must mean your teach- ings had an underlying and enduring strength."

"But Guide and I completely denied those teachings. And I'm not about to reverse my position."

"When I listen to you I get the impression you want to reach out first of all to the followers you abandoned. What with all those fights the local gov- ernment had to get Aum Shinrikyo to evacuate their satyan, I imagine our job from now on won't be easy."

"Indeed it won't," Patron said, a glint in his eye. "Can I ask you, too, Professor, to move to our new headquarters in Shikoku?"

"Ikuo is very enthusiastic about your plan for the church and, as I've told you, I go where he goes."

Still looking Kizu straight in the eye, Patron said, "Of course, I'll also be counting on you to be the new Guide. Anyway, the reason I asked you to come over today is that Dancer feels anxious. She thinks you've changed some- how. Now that I see you myself I see something's troubling you. I haven't asked Ikuo about this, but I feel there's something going on with you physi- cally that isn't encouraging."

Kizu was surprised, but at the same time he found this completely natu- ral. "At the beginning of this month I started to show some clear symptoms," he began. "And I had a specialist confirm what I thought. It's not at a stage where an operation would help much, and actually I left America because I didn't feel like having one. It's terminal cancer. My doctor was very sympa- thetic to my viewpoint and said he'll help me control the pain so I can remain active on my own.

"As time goes on it'll be harder and harder for me to be the Guide, but as long as I'm not a burden, I want nothing more than to help Ikuo. At my checkup I wasn't given a definite amount of time I have left, but I'm count- ing on a year."

Patron leaned forward toward Kizu, his head tilted to one side. Kizu saw his intent eyes fill with a sorrow deeper than any he'd ever seen in a liv- ing person, let alone in any painting. In the very depths of this, like another eye, Patron gazed with great curiosity at this being named Kizu before him.

"Since you were told you have a year to live by someone with experi- ence in these matters, I imagine that's the way it'll turn out. You may be going through a physical crisis, but spiritually you're strong. While I'm still able to count on your help, I want to make very clear again the significance behind my starting this church. If the historian doesn't have much time left, the ones creating history can't afford to dawdle… I expect that within this year, sooner rather than later, you will see a. sign I give, or a sign I become, and then you'll be able to write your history. I'll say it once again-that will be your task as the new Guide."

Patron lowered his eyelashes-thick lashes for a man his age. Eyes closed, he remained silent, as if he'd forgotten Kizu was there. Noiselessly Kizu stood up, left the room, and reported to Dancer what had just taken place. With a look that said she realized something very important had transpired in their discussion, she disappeared down the darkened corridor.

In the minivan on their way back to Kizu's apartment, Kizu told Ikuo about Patron's comments about looking for a sign-and becoming a sign-within a year. And related to this he told him all about his cancer. As always, Ikuo kept his eyes on the road as he drove. Kizu looked straight ahead too, even after he finished, but he could sense that Ikuo was deeply moved by what he'd heard. After a long stretch of silence, Ikuo finally spoke.

"When I was at a turning point in my life, you gave me a clue as to where to go, even though it meant a personal sacrifice on your part. We still haven't known each other that long, but you've done this for me any number of times.

When Patron heard you had cancer and only a year left, he must have come to a decision. I don't know what he means about giving a sign, but I do know you should take it seriously."

When they arrived at the apartment, as if by unspoken agreement they put off making dinner and went directly to bed. Ikuo diligently kneaded and massaged Kizu's buttocks and gave them some light slaps. Other than a few words to make sure that he wasn't putting too much weight on Kizu's abdo- men-that it wasn't painful-Ikuo was silent. Soon, as if making a comfort- able breakthrough in Kizu's body, Ikuo's penis penetrated him at a single stroke, and he stopped moving. Taking his time, Ikuo caressed Kizu's tes- ticles and penis, as well as the area around his own penis that was so snugly buried. With Ikuo's penis deep within him, Kizu came. It was exactly the kind of internal intense feeling that Naomi had spoken of.

Soon, making sure that his penis wasn't pushed out, Ikuo, gingerly pushing his weight forward and asking Kizu again if it hurt him, slowly pene- trated deeper into Kizu's now relaxed body. After a short spell of smooth in-and-out, with a youthful sigh Ikuo came. Kizu felt a damp heat spread through him, and experienced again the same sensation, but on a gentler scale.

Ikuo's now half-limp penis slowly, then at the end more quickly, exited his body, and Kizu knew exactly what Naomi meant when, after that first sexual encounter, she'd pronounced it lovely.

Kizu experienced a deep sense of fulfillment now that their sexual love had been consummated. Lying face down, he was unable to see Ikuo as, back turned to him, he carefully wiped himself and Kizu down with a towel-his only regret in an otherwise satisfying encounter.

4

With their sexual relationship now cemented, the circle complete, Kizu no longer felt as compelled as he had before to have sexual relations with Ikuo.

And the same was nearly true of Ikuo. They were sexually calm, like an ex- perienced middle-aged couple.

Kizu had finished the technical preparations for the oil tableau he'd begun in Tokyo, and though he hadn't yet settled on a major theme, he worked in tandem on several works that were vaguely leading him in that direction, all of which kept him occupied. Ikuo spent most of his time on preparations for the move to Shikoku, and even when he could return to the apartment to model for Kizu, more often than not he had to rush off without any sexual interludes. Free of any sexual frustration or psychological turmoil, though, Kizu saw his young lover off and found himself rather enjoying the free time and quiet to continue his painting. Along with the years of exhaustion he'd felt ever since his cancer had resurfaced, a lingering sense of weariness after such intense sexual intercourse also had something to do with this.

For their part, after creating a model of the new church in Shikoku, Patron and Dancer were hoping that Kizu would come to the office. Ogi and Ikuo were both busy with their respective groups-the communal women's group that lived along the Odakyu Line for Ogi, the remnants of the Izu re- search group for Ikuo-trying to get some concrete plans nailed down for the groups to move to Shikoku, and Patron, Dancer, and Ikuo spent much time in the office discussing these matters.

Two weeks after revealing his disease to Patron, Kizu caught a ride to the office after Ikuo had spent the night. Ikuo had an appointment to final- ize some plans with Dr. Koga, so Kizu got out in Shibuya and hailed a cab from there. Hearing this, Dancer said, "Ikuo's pretty cold, isn't he," know- ing all the while that Ikuo needed to concentrate on his work and that prepa- rations with the former radical faction were on track.

Dancer had heard from Patron about Kizu's illness and already had made known to Patron her concerns about his health, yet now that she was face-to-face with him she didn't express her sympathy. Trusting in Patron's healing power, though, she made sure that when he was in the office Kizu sat nearest to Patron. When they went into Patron's room to talk, they es- tablished a pattern of lining Kizu's chair up beside Patron's armchair, with Dancer facing them as she took notes. Sitting like this, Kizu felt a definite heat radiating from Patron that spread from his side, to his waist, and then even deeper.

Dancer rearranged the entire office as they prepared for the move to Shikoku. Previously there'd been a low bookshelf for LPs and documents in front of the large glass door leading out to the garden, but this had been moved to the annex and the space it once occupied was wide open. The rainy season had yet to begin, and one sunny luxuriant day followed another, the long- untended garden a cheerful scene now, bursting with young leaves and shoots of grass growing where the doghouse of the poisoned Saint Bernard had once been.

Along with the new arrangement of the chairs, there was now a couch set out behind them, next to the bathroom. It was newly purchased, some- thing they planned to take with them to Shikoku, and on the day Kizu took the cab to the office and was escorted into Patron's room, he found Morio Tachibana lying on the couch, reading a small yellow book of musical scores.

When Patron, calling Ms. Tachibana's brother by his first name, asked him to put on a CD, the brevity of the response made Kizu realize that this wasn't the first time Morio had spent time here.

Patron discussed his basic plans for moving the new church to Shikoku, an explanation that was connected with Morio's being here. "The model that we'll base our new church on will be the women's commune near Odawara and the safe house of the former Izu Research Institute group. First of all we'll have these two groups move to Shikoku-groups that Dancer now calls the Quiet Women and the Technicians. After that we'll gradually move the other individuals with whom Ogi's been in touch.

"It's also necessary to have a reliable core of office staff. Dancer is increas- ingly busy, so I've had Ms. Tachibana come to take care of my day-to-day needs.

She's the only one who wasn't a follower from before the Somersault that we'll be taking into our inner circle. Morio can't live apart from Ms. Tachibana. I considered this in light of the fact that the men in the Shikoku church are all renunciates who've cut their ties with their families, and I reached the con- clusion that I'll have Morio come with us to Shikoku to assist me in my work.

Just looking at him so absorbed in music does my heart good. He's also good at finding the CDs I want to hear right away."

As soon as he heard his name, Morio-who had a keen ear-raised his head and looked in Patron's direction. Patron nodded gently to him, and he went back to reading the score.

"Having quit my teaching position in America, I need to move out of my apartment in Tokyo anyway," Kizu said. "As I've said several times, I'm planning to go with Ikuo to Shikoku. I'm hoping to be able to live with him there with a modicum of privacy. If possible, I'd like to use the money I saved in the States to purchase a house next to the church. I'll use the house for myself, but the house itself and any remaining money I'll donate to the church."

"I'm very grateful to you," Patron said. He gave instructions to Dancer.

"Please contact the people taking care of the buildings there and see that it's done. I'm hoping nothing will interfere with your private life there, Pro- fessor. Please consult with Ogi and Ikuo about what sort of tasks you'll be doing."

"Ikuo says he wants to use Morio's music to accompany the sermons and other church ceremonies in Shikoku. Maybe we could propose this to Dancer and Ogi."

"That would be fine," Patron said empha