The Sea of Trees. Conclusion. Aikogahara
When Yoko arrived at the entrance to the forest the sun had gone behind a cloud and a cold wind chafed at her face. She looked up at the sign. The first letter of Aokigahara had worn off and the remainder was concealed beneath the overlapping branches of the trees, but she had no doubt that this was the right place. She blundered through the bushes trying to find a smoother path. She had already twisted her ankle on the moss covered rocks that jutted up out of the ground. The wood was quiet and cool, a twilight world, and the tall trees seemed muffled in a conspiracy of silence. Delicate mushrooms bloomed in the mossy rocks and wild flowers were dotted among the foliage. No one would have guessed that a place of outstanding natural beauty could camouflage such a site of death and destruction.
She was aware of the rapid pounding of her heart. The blood thundered in her ears. Her breath came in laboured gasps and perspiration beaded her upper lip. She wasn’t fit. She never went to the gym with the other students from the English school, preferring the comfort of her car. It wasn’t enough to be thin. Irrelevant thoughts crowded into her mind, distracting her and sending her off course. Then, without warning, she went crashing to the floor and found herself struggling in swathes of sticky plastic tape, like a buzzing fly in a spider’s web. She remembered Noburo’s grisly explanation that the body hunters used the tape to mark the search areas. In that moment she felt helpless and without power, a victim of the forest. She was completely at its mercy.
Gazing up into the dense, greenery overhead, she saw a notice in red letters nailed to a trunk. ‘Please reconsider before you decide to die’.
The breeze sprang up and the leaves on the trees quivered and shook. They rattled in the branches and she fancied they were whispering secrets to each other. The twigs creaked and snapped. Yoko thought she heard voices keening on the wind and thought of the tales she’d heard about the Yurei, the spirits of the dead that could be heard howling through the forest.
No! Don’t be ridiculous, she told herself. It’s just an old wives’ tale. They don’t exist. She noticed the things from her bag were scattered over the forest floor. She scooped up her lipstick, purse and mobile phone and put them into her bag and got to her feet. Clutching the shoulder strap of her bag firmly she walked on through the trees. She picked her way over the lichen covered roots that twisted along the ground, trying not to look too closely at the bones and fragments of rotted fabric among the decaying mounds of leaves. She noted the remnants of leather wallets and the rusted keys gleaming dully from under the rich loam.
As she staggered along she glimpsed a body hanging from a tree in the distance, swinging gently in the wind. The weight caused it to spin slowly. She stared hard at it for a moment until she had satisfied herself it wasn’t Noburo. She stopped and rummaged in her bag and took out her mobile phone and keyed in his number but it was no use. She couldn’t get a signal. She glanced down and noticed a long length of string near her foot. Incongruously, she was reminded of Theseus unwinding his ball of twine in the Labyrinth of the Minotaur. She guessed it was someone’s strategy to ensure that they got out of the forest. She hoped they were successful and began to wonder if she would ever get out.
Her mind was still teeming with unbidden thoughts when she came upon Noburo. He was sitting with his back against a tree with a knife protruding from his stomach. The knife was firmly embedded in the bloody folds of his flesh. She reached out and touched him with her finger tip. His skin was ice cold. All life had left his body long ago. She knelt down and pressed her warm, moist face against his clammy, pale cheek. ‘Oh Noburo,’ she whispered. Then, as if in a grotesque reply, shockingly, the corpse fell forward and released a gush of air. Noburo coughed into her face, spraying her with tiny droplets of blood. She reared back in terror, her whole body quaking. She forced herself to remain calm, fighting back her revulsion. Then slowly and deliberately, she put a trembling hand on the handle of the knife and drew it out of his body…
There is no easy way to say this but I am leaving you. I am going away with Andrew. We love each other. I am so sorry this sounds cold and hard, but our life together is at an end. I have nothing left to give you. The vessel that once carried us down the river of life is now empty and you must find a new path.
I will always care for you.
My Dearest Yoko
I am staying at the Sheraton Hotel. I want you to come to me there as soon as you can. I believe that we only have one life and we must follow our hearts. I know you are the only woman with whom I can be truly happy. My room number is 9. Don’t hesitate. Just come. I am waiting for you.
Don’t be angry with me but I cannot come to you. I am only a weak woman. I am not strong enough to leave Noburo. He needs me. I cannot go away with you as we planned. How can we be happy when others are miserable? I could not bear to be the one to part you from your son.
I hope one day you will be happy. Please try to understand.
Your own Yoko
My little Yoko
If I am successful, this will be my final letter to you. Do you remember when we were first married and Fujitsu sent me on all those courses so far away? I wrote to you nearly every day. I missed you so much. We were so young and carefree in those days. I still miss you. I miss the sweet Yoko who showed me so much love and affection.
When I saw the note from Andrew that dropped out of your book I knew I had failed you. I knew that you could not love me any more. I have lost you, I have lost everything and I am nothing. Do not think badly of me.
Your very own