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When People Would Vanish From the Smoking Room
A story from 2ch of living in smoke.
Once, it was such that people who smoked in smoking rooms would, from time to time, vanish into thin air en masse.
You can rest easy, however, as such things don't happen now.
What's to follow is a story that took place some time in the past.
He was a chain smoker, then 26 years old.
That night, he was enjoying a short Hope in a smoking room on a train platform.
Three college students were there laughing loudly, and he shooed them out.
He had done so mostly out of anger, but as a result, they were saved.
With the sound of a braking train, the man seemed to vanish into the smoke, and all sounds came to a halt.
The man looked up and saw it was pitch black outside the room.
What's more, it was snowing out of season.
This was the station no longer.
The man finished his cigarette. "Well then..."
He opened the door and was enveloped in smoke much thicker than that inside the room.
Some time later, he eventually realized that the snow was not snow, but ash.
It's a good thing I kept those college students from getting involved in this, the man thought.
With so much ash falling, he had to rely on streetlights to see ever-so-faintly his surroundings.
At any rate, he made his way forward.
It was a town of smoke, the ashtray of the world where no stars can be seen.
Such is how the people of the town liked to describe it, at least.
To be perfectly accurate, the falling ash wasn't only ash.
But no one knew what else to call it, so that's what they went with.
Because of the ash blocking out most light, the town was always gloomy.
As such, gas lamps lit the street all throughout the day.
People would often go out wearing masks to keep from breathing in the smoke.
Similarly, they'd wear hats to not get covered in ash, and kept their hair short, for the longer it was, the more ash-stained it got.
The grayness was all-permeating.
So not only the sky, but the trees, the flowers, the birds were all gray.
When you looked at them long enough, even your eyes would become gray.
Since smokers from all over the world were brought here, a common language was needed.
So the residents created their own words, though it's questionable how useful they were.
When you breathed in the smoke, many of your desires would be satisfied.
Time would seem to stop, and you wouldn't feel hungry.
But on the other hand, it would shorten your lifespan.
That's what those who came to the town were told first and foremost.
No one lived more than ten years in the town.
Most people rarely went out, secluding themselves at home.
They breathed a tolerable amount of smoke, played instruments with their family, played chess, and waited for their deaths.
Three years after coming to the town, the man still hadn't started a family.
He went out on days with relatively good weather and walked around at random.
He was considered an oddball by the townspeople.
Why does that man seemingly want to hasten his own death?
Why won't he start a family?
The man's ashenness progressed faster than any other.
His skin was pale, with almost no trace of color.
He considered it something to pride himself on.
He didn't give any consideration to wanting to return to the old world.
Coming to the town had hardly affected his normal activities.
In fact, it had just made things simpler and easier.
Day after day, the man actively shortened his lifespan.
Then one day, the man stumbled and tripped over a girl.
The girl's ashenness was quite severe.
The long hair that went down her back was dyed beautifully gray.
It seemed she had taken in too much ash in too short a time.
Her breathing was labored, and she was collapsed on the ground.
She was in a cold sweat with her eyes closed, and generally seemed in pain.
The man felt not sympathy or worry, but distaste for how the girl was more ashen than he.
It was most akin to jealousy.
The man swept the hair away from her face, put his lips to hers, and slowly sucked up the ash.
He kept the ash he sucked in his lungs.
Once the two were roughly equal in ashenness, the man pulled away and started coughing heavily.
The girl opened her eyes, blinked a few times, then stood up.
Regaining her posture, she shook her head of ash, then ran over to the violently-coughing man to pat his back.
The man looked for a place that would take in the girl.
He left her with a family near the river, but while wandering the next day, he found her sleeping under a bridge.
The man scolded her, but not understanding his language, she giggled at him.
She didn't seem to comprehend the danger of the ash.
On the way back to the house, he tried to ask her what happened, and it seemed she had decided to run away herself.
A similar event happened the next day, and several days after that, the man tripped over the girl again.
The man again sucked up the ash, and she stroked his back as he coughed, looking a little happy as she did so.
Ultimately, the girl ended up living with the man.
A European girl of 22, and an Asian man of nearly 30.
Later, the girl asked him, having picked up some words:
"You were walking around outside every day.
Is that because you were worried about me?"
The man did not deny it.
Also, upon the realization that he sacrificed his own lifespan to suck up the girl's ash, the girl became surprisingly obedient.
At last, the man had started a family.
He began first with making a chair.
His house only had a single desk, chair, and bed.
The bed and desk were fine, but obviously the chair could not be shared.
The main part of the job was cutting a log to serve as the back, but this was a difficult task in a town without many tools.
But with the girl's help, the chair was finished in two days.
The man was satisfied with the comfort and quality of the chair.
The girl let him have it, and kept the old one for herself.
The man would give it back to her, but the girl would switch them again - a competition of one pushing the new chair on the other.
Ultimately, it ended up belonging to the girl.
The man would take the girl to the town's sole cultural institution, the library.
As the girl didn't know many words, she would trespass into off-limits areas.
The girl was amused by the man hastily trying to stop her, the two of them running around the library, and them being scolded by the staff.
According to the girl, most of the negative words she knew, she learned at this time.
The girl was beginning to learn more and more words.
Sometimes, when the man was bored, he would take her to see the smoking room.
Whenever they found people newly brought to the town, they would give them masks and explain the nature of the ash that fell on the town.
Incidentally, they also taught them that "choke on pig shit and die in a fire" was a phrase meaning "thank you."
These people would call after the man and girl with the phrase as they left.
Indeed, they continued to use it for some time.
When the man took the girl walking, townspeople would be bemusedly ask such things as "Something wrong with your brain?"
The man generally ignored these questions.
The girl didn't understand them, so she asked the man:
"What did those people say?"
"They were praising us for being such a good match."
"I thought so," the girl nodded. "I agree, of course."
After having learned plenty of words, the girl said this:
"I knew the ash was bad for you from the beginning, actually."
"Then why did you go outside?", the man asked back.
"Hmm..." She pondered.
"I don't think I actively want to live.
Of course, though, not to the point that I want to die."
While the man agreed in his mind, his mouth said otherwise.
"It would be a waste to die so soon.
You never know. One day, something good might just come along..."
The girl asked, "How old are you?"
"Twenty-eight. No, twenty-nine now," the man replied, holding up fingers.
"So, did something come along? Something good?"
"It did," the man replied without hesitation.
The girl was quiet for a while.
She'd look the man in the eyes, then promptly look away.
She'd lower her head in thought again and again, and finally, she smiled.
"Well, something good just happened to me, too."
"Huh," the man said. "Will you tell me what?"
On a later date, the girl asked this:
"Why have you been living alone for so long?
Everyone else lives in groups."
"Good question. Always keep that one in mind."
The man turned out the light by the bed and lightly patted her head.
"Could it be that you're a shut-in? Or a scoundrel?"
"You've sure learned a lot of words. Unfortunately, I'm nothing so cool as that."
The man thought a while, then said:
"You might call me a "nuisance.""
"Nuisance? What's that?"
"You'll find out soon."
"Really?", the girl said, lightly patting the man's head.
After a short time, the girl abruptly opened her mouth.
"I like nuisances."
"That's not the right usage."
"Sure it is."
"You call people who aren't liked nuisances."
"Then you must be an old-sance."
"What's that supposed to mean?", he laughed. The girl was pleased by it.
It was exactly a year since the girl and the man met.
The man returned from a walk and found the girl sitting on the bed, head hung.
"What's wrong? Someone yell at you?", the man asked, but she shook her head.
"Someone came by earlier."
"Someone? What kind of someone?"
"A black-haired person."
"So, a newcomer?"
"Apparently, I'll be going back to my old world."
The man's hands stopped in the middle of pouring coffee.
The time's finally come, he sighed.
He'd thought something was strange.
"From what they said, I shouldn't be here in the first place.
That I was taken here by mistake."
"Well, it is strange that you're the only kid here, when you think about it."
The man didn't look toward the girl.
"So I'll be going back to my world.
As soon as today is over, I'll be gone."
"I see." The man paused. "Good."
The girl started to nod, then stopped and shook her head.
"Nothing good will happen if I go back. I wanted to be here."
"Well, then stay here. It's as simple as that."
The girl smiled at this.
"I suppose so. Yes, I'll stay behind."
She wrapped her arms around the man.
Her face buried in the man's back, she said:
"We weren't together very long, but thank you very much."
"Right. Let's keep it up in the future," the man replied.
"You're unbelievable," the girl said, shocked.
"So, what do you think today is?"
"The day we say goodbye."
"Nope. It's one year since you and I met.
It's an anniversary. I prepared some wine."
"We'll see about that."
"A toast to a chance meeting of fated fellows."
"You've gotten pretty good at talking."
"When you want to talk, it certainly helps you improve."
"Guess so. I've built up my vocabulary a lot, too."
"Choke on pig shit and die in a fire."
"No, no, I should be saying that to you."
"It's already been a year since we first met, huh?"
"Yep. When I was still in my twenties."
"If you hadn't found me, I would have been nothing but ashes by now."
"I'm grateful for you sucking up the ash from me, but I regret having my first kiss when I was unconscious."
"Don't call that a kiss. It's no moreso than when kids do it in jest."
"I've never kissed anyone in jest, either."
"Yes, I'm very protective."
"I guess I did a bad thing, then."
"You're ridiculous," she said, rocking her chair.
"Well," the man said, "here's where we introduce ourselves."
"Right," the girl nodded.
And then the two introduced themselves.
The time passed amazingly quick while they talked.
Why? Because the writer was running out of steam.
The girl saw a clock tower out the window, and said something convenient for the writer.
"Less than ten minutes left."
"Any last words you want to say?"
"Hope to keep on keeping on with you."
"This isn't the time!
Say something nice before I go away, please."
"I'm glad I was your first kisser. Like that?"
"Nothing like that."
The man sighed slightly, then spoke solemnly.
"I rarely admitted anything of the sort, but I actually really liked you.
You might not know what I'm spouting here, but if I were getting married, I'd be perfectly happy with someone like you."
"Indeed, you certainly didn't admit to how much you liked me."
"Right? Like I said."
"Well, I'm glad you said it in the end.
After all, that's what I was hoping to hear."
"Ah. Then I'm glad I said it, too."
They spent their final ten minutes holding hands.
The man opened his mouth to say some final parting words, but the girl's lips covered it.
Just as the man had done for her, she sucked up the ash from the man's lungs.
After sucking it all up, the girl said:
"Goodbye. You made me happy."
Before she could hear the man's response, she disappeared.
The bell of the clock tower rang in midnight.
The man gazed toward it, dumbfounded.
He wasn't even given the time to respond to her sudden act.
Always the same to the very end, he thought.
The man stood up and sat in the better of the two chairs.
He listened closely to the rings of the bell, which felt all too long.
Such was the story I thought up in the smoking room. And that is all!
I really liked it.
I might read it again!
Posted September 23rd, 2012