(untitled draft 2, revision 1)
You are undoubtedly aware, by this point, of the so-called Contagious Coma epidemic that’s caused panic and controversy worldwide due to the millions of people that have fallen into nonresponsive comas because of it – many of them for multiple years at this point – combined with the frightening inability of medical science to find a remedy for it. You are probably also conscious of the fact that I have some level of involvement in this whole affair, particularly in the outbreak of this disease in the United States. Indeed, I was asked to write a report – this very document you’re reading now – due to me both being the first Westerner to fall into one of the previously mentioned comas and being the only person to have awoken from it. My role in this outbreak, however, is perhaps greater than any of you have suspected thus far, although I desperately hope that I’m mistaken.
For years, before this horrendous state of affairs arose, I was a corporate wage-slave – a pencil pusher, you might say – and I lived as a man without dreams or ambitions. Having dropped out of college following several semesters filled with classes that were somehow simultaneously boring and stressful, I rapidly consumed what meager savings there were in my bank account. With no viable job opportunities in sight, I resorted to calling an old high school friend of mine out of desperation; as it happened, he had recently been promoted to some stratospheric managerial position in his company, and he thankfully recalled that he owed me a favor or two. Thus, I secured a job doing some nebulous task involving reviewing and signing documents that were meaningless forests of legalese and jargon. I hated it, but I had no realistic alternative.
I spent several miserable years in this position, earning barely enough money to keep my stomach full and my utilities active. The television was my lord and savior, its numbing glow saving me from reflecting on my circumstances or further wallowing in negativity. Abruptly, however, an envelope greeted me from my chronically empty mailbox one afternoon. A fortune had apparently been left for me by some distant, eccentric relative of mine; a scholar of the occult, his will claimed that he remotely observed my pathetic state, and, out of familial concern and consideration for his own advanced age, decided to bequeath his wealth onto me. Of course, the details – particularly that note about remote observation – scarcely crossed my mind, as flooded with joy, relief, and ecstasy as I was. I submitted a 2-week notice to that dreadful corporation the very same day that I confirmed the validity of that grimly glorious letter.
Once my newfound riches had been secured in my bank account, I immediately went out and purchased a high-quality handheld video camera. For ages, I’ve had this dream of wandering about the Earth, keeping a digital catalogue of the locations and people I encounter. The suffocation and poor wages of my previous employment restricted me from doing much of anything outside of trudging through oceans of impenetrable papers; it certainly didn’t pay well enough for me to buy luxury items like camcorders. Regardless, after obtaining an artificial eye to complement my own – in addition to warmer clothing, as a mass of cold air was hovering around the city at the time – I began taking frequent walks throughout the area, wandering to and fro and recording everything along the way.
I quickly encountered problems. Firstly, my ancient desktop computer – it had fallen into disuse from an absence of drive or motivation on my part while employed – lacked the necessary storage space to retain all of the footage I was recording. I managed to solve that following several days of browsing poorly-written forum posts, poring over technical guides, and ordering new hardware components; I ended up owning a much nicer computer accompanied by a cluster of storage disks arranged in what guides called a RAID. While its exact functionality eludes me even now, I never did have trouble with any failing components or a lack of space for my footage.
Secondly, many of the people whom I passed on my wanderings didn’t care for being recorded on camera, even indirectly. On a few occasions, I scarcely avoided being assaulted over the matter. Thus, after some admittedly difficult adjustments to my sleeping schedule, I began taking my walks in the loneliest hours of the morning. I remember feeling distinctly grateful that I could sleep whenever I chose rather than being shoehorned into sleeping schedule based upon my working schedule. I also found myself deeply moved rather often by the serene solitude of the post-midnight world.
It was after several weeks of increasingly long walks through the city, the surrounding suburban neighborhoods, and the outlying countryside when I realized that I had traversed essentially all of the nearby territory that could be reached and returned from within a single night of walking. Despite this, my desire to explore and document remained unsatisfied, so I made what, in retrospect, might have been a rash decision: I bought a plane ticket to travel to Japan. As arbitrary as it probably seems to you, it made sense to me because I, when I was much younger, watched a ridiculously large amount of anime. Thus, I always had this fanciful image of Japan being a colorful, wacky, and generally exciting place; this image faded as I aged, but, now that I had plenty of free resources and was in need of a new locale for exploration, I concluded that Japan would be my next destination.
I’ll omit the specifics of traveling, finding housing, and struggling with the language, as they aren’t relevant to this report. Instead, I’ll resume from when I had finally managed to settle into a surprisingly small room in an apartment complex. I, as before, began taking walks in the wee hours of the morning, capturing the sights and experiences both with my eyes and the eye of my camera. While it certainly wasn’t the madhouse of moe and anime that my youthful self had imagined, there was still a beauty to it, analogous to the serenity I felt in my city back home. It truly is a shame that more people aren’t aware of this wonder and tranquility that even our industrialized society offers to those who seek it.
On one evening in particular, however, I encountered a small group of teenagers talking in excited whispers amongst themselves while carrying what looked like the box of some board game with them. As I was feeling especially bold and outgoing that night for no nameable reason, I approached them and greeted them with what I hoped was a disarming smile. They were initially guarded, but I apparently conveyed my honesty when I expounded upon who I was, what I was doing, and my curiosity about them to them. They introduced themselves as Hideki, Tsubaki, and Kensuke, and they explained that they had gotten ahold of a “spirit board” and intended to try summoning ghosts with it, and they courteously invited me to join them and observe anything that might occur. In spite of my skepticism regarding ghosts and the like, I agreed to join them.
After taking a shortcut through what I’m certain was a red light district and navigating a maze of back alleyways, we arrived at the front gate of a fence which encircled one of the largest houses I had seen in Japan thus far – although it was only slightly above average by US standards. Once inside, the teenagers made quick work of setting up the board, as well as shutting off all of the other lights and lighting a circle of candles around it, and burning several sticks of incense. I watched silently, thankful for my camera’s night vision setting, as they sat around the board. Kensuke extracted a sheet of paper from his pocket and began reading a chant of some sort in archaic Japanese. Once he finished, a draft of air flowed past us, flickering the candles, and a glowing string of characters appeared on the board, reading as follows (in Japanese, of course):
WHO ARE YOU
Despite my skepticism, my skin crawled with goosebumps at the sight of the fiery text, and the teenagers exchanged frightened whispers and glances for a moment. Eventually, Kensuke replied aloud:
“We are (FULL NAMES REDACTED), and, if we may, we wish to speak with the spirit of (NAME REDACTED), oh honorable spirits.”
Another breath of wind; the characters on the board changed:
WE DO NOT ACT BY THE WHIMS OF THE LIVING
“Please, oh great spirits, he was our dear brother, and he died before his time. Would you allow him to come and speak with us, for however short a time?”
HE CANNOT COME TO YOU
Here, there was a brief pause, as the three deliberated about what to do next. Before any of them could speak, a gust stronger than those before it swept through the room, extinguishing a few of the candles.
YOU CAN GO TO HIM
At this, a fierce rumbling shook the house. The sound of dishes smashing echoed out of a nearby room, and one of the windows in the main room shattered. The teenagers threw themselves prostrate against the floor, and I stood staring at the luminescent board, rooted in place out of fear and awe. The rumbling slowly diminished, and one last string of characters lit up on the board:
Cautiously, we stepped outside into the fenced-in yard. A dimly glowing ellipse about two meters in height and one meter in width stood off to the left of the house, level with the ground. The border of it was a brilliant electric blue, but the center was a mixture of grays and browns; the colors were blurred, as though looking through old, clouded glass. With difficulty, I tore my eyes away from the portal and stepped back inside to examine the board. It had gone dark, and the incense and candles had both been snuffed out with it. I stepped back outside and joined the teenagers, who were clustered anxiously around the rip in space. Hideki shakily suggested trying to walk through it, since their brother who had passed away might be waiting on the other side. I distractedly swapped out the battery and memory card of my camera with the spares I had brought with me while they discussed the prospects of walking through the doorway. I proposed that I travel in alone, as I was older and had no close living relatives; meanwhile, I would have a rope secured around my waist so that they could pull me back through if need be. After a moment, the teenagers agreed, and Kensuke ran to the nearby supply shed to get rope while Tsubaki and Hideki went inside to clean up the broken plates and window.
Now, at this point, your disbelief in the factuality of this report has more than likely reached astronomical levels. I swear to you that I am conveying the truth as I experienced it, and that the even less credible accounts that follow this point are also completely true. Moreover, there should still be copies of the video footage of all of this somewhere. I don’t know what happened to my computer while I was comatose, but a record of these events is saved on there. Surely, if the international community is as desperate as I’ve been led to believe, then this task force should have the resources at its disposal to retrieve my computer for supporting evidence to this report. But I’ve digressed, so I’ll return to my narrative.
It was around 2 A.M. when the teenagers finished up their chores and had retrieved the rope. By a stroke of luck (or, perhaps, misfortune), the supply shed had an incredible length of rope – at least 300 meters in length – and we secured one end to a nearby Japanese maple tree and the other end around my waist. The others promised that they’d wait by the tree so that they could pull me back together should I need help. I thanked them graciously, and made them promise not to blame themselves should something happen to me. They wished me luck as I walked up to the portal. I tried to push my hand through it and encountered no resistance despite its glassy appearance. I hesitated, then closed my eyes and stepped into it.
I opened my eyes to find myself standing in a field of an unfamiliar knee-height grass, all of which had dried to a dull yellow-orange. The sky was the deep gray of an overcast Autumn evening, and the air, completely still, thick with an earthy scent. Shortly ahead of me was a large, ruinous building of unfamiliar architecture, and I noticed a cratered, overgrown road snaking off from the building toward what vaguely resembled a city far in the distance off to my right. My camera was still in my hand and still recording, and the rope remained secured around my midsection. I turned around and saw a similar portal to the one that had brought me here about a meter or so behind me. I walked to view it from the side, and I noticed that the rope went through the opening and ended abruptly, not extending out of the other side. The reverse side of the portal was an opaque blue, and it firmly resisted my attempted to push through it.
I advanced toward the building, and I came across what must have been a parking lot as I drew close. It was in a state of disrepair comparable to both the building and the road leading to it, and the remains of an odd-looking car sat alone in the lot. The tires were cracked and completely flat, the paint had peeled off in places to reveal a skin of rust, and, as one of the windows had been smashed out, mold had claimed the interior. Turning again toward the structure, I noticed that the door leading inside had been propped ajar. My breath caught in my throat, and I feared for a moment that some sinister force had set a trap for me. Several seconds passed, then I began approaching the door slowly, assuring myself that, based upon the condition of more or less everything I’d seen thus far, nothing alive had been here for quite some time.
I peered through the doorway, the scant, dull light from the sky illuminating the interior. The first room was a small, functional lobby, now littered with shards of glass from the destroyed front windows and other detritus. The smashed husk of a computer monitor lay among the rubble, which set me thinking: Perhaps this wasn’t an alternate dimension or parallel world? Between that rusted car and this computer screen, it seems like I could very well still be on Earth, in some forgotten corner of a distant country. As utterly impossible as teleportation would sound to me under normal circumstances, my mind accepted it more readily than it could stomach the idea of parallel worlds. Beyond a door in the left side of the wall opposite the entrance was a stairwell spiraling both upward and downward. I gathered up some slack in the guide cable and began walking upstairs, as, although the building only looked two stories tall, I didn’t care to guess how deep underground it could extend.
Fortunately, the stairs were entirely intact, although covered in debris. As I climbed, I realized that, should the kids back on the other side of that gateway panic and start trying to pull me back, I’d be in for a rough ride. Steeling myself, I opened the door at the top of the stairs. A narrow hallway lined with doors greeted me. The first room on my right resembled an administrative office of some sort. The room was in mildly better repair than the lobby downstairs, as the desk and filing cabinet both seemed undamaged. Out of curiosity, I tried to open both; the drawers on the desk were locked, but the filing cabinet opened readily. The top three drawers were empty, but the bottom one had a few folders inside. Picking them up, I glanced at my phone to check the time, nearly dropping the folders when I realized nearly an hour had passed already. While that meant there were still several hours before daylight back home, I didn’t want to worry the teenagers, nor did I particularly care to linger around that building much longer. I hurried back down the stairs, out of the building, and through the portal.
The teenagers were visibly relieved to see me return. As I pulled the leftover slack out of the opening, they peppered me with questions about what happened, if I saw their friend, and so forth. I stopped the recording on the camera and passed it to them to watch. I removed the rope from around me and from the tree, then suggested we move inside. They agreed, and invited me to stay the night with them, as their parents – the three of them were brothers, unsurprisingly – were out of town for the week. I accepted the offer, since I was now dead-set on exploring that mysterious building, analyzing the documents, and figuring out exactly what was going on.