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Short story, Thriller

Drowning in the sea of trees

Author: R J D Moore

The unnatural light of the factory burned Yoshi’s retinas. It was late in the year, darkness fell early and his hours were long. He hadn’t seen daylight in what seemed like a thousand years. His wife Aki had lost her job due to the economy two years prior, so Yoshi had to work all the hours he could for them to survive. He felt little more than a robot. He repeated the same task over and over repeatedly like a clockwork animal. The white lights disorientated and bewildered his sense of time; the clocks could easily be changed and no-one would be any the wiser.

The Foreman called to Yoshi that it was the end of his shift. He stretched his frail slim frame in to a C shape and rubbed his sore back with a worn out, grease smeared glove. He could barely walk as his nuts chaffed against the harsh unforgiving fabric of his trousers, every movement felt like a napalm explosion. The hours he was doing were crazy – he was up at first light and home well after the sun had made its exit. He was exhausted, but the shame of not being able to provide was worse.

When Yoshi got home it was pitch black, his wife Aki and little girl Akira where tucked up in bed, unaware of his presence. He felt like a ghost as he floated around his abode checking on his family, the moon reflecting off his grey malnourished skin. He hadn’t even conversed with them much in the last month. The only conversation he had had with his wife was about a loan and using her mother as a guarantor and the only interaction with his daughter had been about a poo she had just completed. He sat down at the table to eat the cold meal that had been left by his wife. Next to it was a note.

“I love you” it stated. Yoshi broke down. He couldn’t take it anymore; the shame, the workload, eating poorly, not seeing daylight or his family. He had made his mind up: he was going to die. At least if he was dead his family would get his life insurance payout and he could rest. Like a warrior he was going to commit the final act himself rather than be swallowed up by life’s twisted fabric; at least this way he would have the dignity in providing for his family.

The sun broke Yoshi’s slumber like a hammer to a glass window. He was so used to the rhythm of waking up at the same time each day he didn’t even need an alarm clock. He was more machine than man these days; at least machines can’t kill themselves Yoshi thought. His death would be his final act as a man. He kissed his family goodbye for the last time and slumped into his car. He was still exhausted and every muscle ached. Every day for as far back as he could remember had been exactly the same; a wash rinse repeat cycle of dreariness and time loops, he didn’t even know what day it was. He started the car in a daze and drove to the nearest store.

Yoshi had decided to head to Aokigahara, Sea of trees, a forest known to be haunted by the angry souls of those who seek release. He checked his bag was filled with the necessary implements and headed on his way. It was a long drive from the north of the island of Honshu. Yoshi checked his watch several times, almost feeling guilty for not turning up to work, breaking the cycle felt very strange. The roads twisted and turned down scenic emerald highways, the grey icy peak of Mount Fuji poking out the top. This was the longest time Yoshi had been subjected to natural light and nature in so long it felt surreal, like a dream he was sure he would cruelly wake from.

He arrived at the huge sprawling forest by mid-afternoon. He negotiated his way to the entrance through hordes of tourists who would hike down the trails set out for them. Yoshi took a detour over the rope and into the depths of the forest, leaving the voices of the tourists far behind him. As he clambered over moss and rocks he noticed something unnatural in the distance; a red ribbon was flapping out of sync with the green scenery.

Yoshi’s curiosity got the better of him and he decided to follow it. The ribbon seemed to be endless; the bleak flapping sound it made was the only sound that could be heard in the dead of the forest. The endlessness of the ribbon and the endlessness of the forest disorientated him even more than he was already. All of a sudden it ended abruptly, Yoshi looked around: Nothing. That couldn’t be right? He continued. In the distance he noticed something catching the light, so he bent down to investigate. It was what appeared to be a plain gold wedding band; much like his own. The ring was heavy with sadness, it engulfed him with woe and he fell to his knees. The forest felt like it was feeding on his negativity as he dropped.

He picked himself up off the ground and continued with his backpack over a mossy mound. There was something swaying in the breeze a few yards away. As he got closer he discovered it was a young girl of around 20, swinging from a rope. Her clothes were damp and a lifeless sadness was painted all over her face. He broke down in floods of tears; she looked just like his wife Aki. He took out a knife and cut her down. She hadn’t been there long as hadn’t started to decompose. It couldn’t be her, could it? He stroked the hair from off her cold damp face to take a better look; she could have been her twin. There is no way it could be her, he had left he house before her. No way?

He flopped onto the floor overwhelmed and weary next to the corpse, he took out the ring he had picked up and placed it on her finger. The wind lifted some leaves and a smell of perfume filled his nostrils. He put his head in his hands and cried, just then he herd a voice whisper through the trees

“Thank you”.

Yoshi darted to his feet. There was no-one to bee seen.

He shivered.

Yoshi sat on the mound near the young girl and drank a bottle of water. He took out a picture of his wife from his wallet and looked at it solemnly. He wanted to see her again; he also wanted to make sure that the girl he had just discovered wasn’t in fact his wife. He couldn’t tell anymore. How long had he been here anyway? Time had abandoned him and his brain no longer functioned properly. He sat in silence and listened to the birds and the streams, he wasn’t ready to die. He would fight.

Suddenly the silence was broken. In the distance he could hear voices, they sounded like shouting. He picked up his backpack and went to find out what was going on in the distance. As he got closer he could see two guys in suits viciously wrapping a noose around a third guy’s throat. They looked like gang members, maybe a fracas between two factions. One member held the would-be hangee while the other threw the rope over a branch and began to hoist him up. The man kicked and shook violently in the breeze while the two men laughed and shared a cigarette. Yoshi hid behind a tree, trying not to let a single sound escape. The men made jokes as one of them disrespectfully stubbed out his cigarette on the dead mans shoe. He shook no longer. The men began to walk back, talking loudly. Yoshi tried to remain as silent as possible but a branch under his feet betrayed him. The two men pulled out their guns and aimed them in Yoshi’s direction.

“Who’s there?” the larger of the men shouted

“We know there is someone there” grunted the smaller grumpier man

Yoshi froze in cold sweat, there was no escape, the only thing he could do was run. He found his feet were running before his brain could catch up. Bullets whizzed past him and splintered trees in his path. He had never felt so alive, ironic as only an hour ago he was about to kill himself. He sprinted over rocks and mossy logs and was making good ground until he caught his foot in a vine and fell on his face knocking himself unconscious.

He awoke with a rope around his neck and the two men staring blankly at him, just another mundane day’s work.

“What are you doing here?” asked the smaller grumpier gang member

“I came here to kill myself” sighed Yoshi “but I have changed my mind” he pleaded “I have decided I want to get home and to live”

“Well that’s unfortunate timing” barked the larger man “you have witnessed something that we don’t want anyone to know about”

“I won’t tell a sou….”

“I don’t give a shit” interrupted the grumpy man “you have two choices, you can be hanged? Or we will torture you, then shoot you, then hang you?”

“Those aren’t great choices” Yoshi suggested

“They are you’re only choices” Said the big man, making a sad face and smoothing down his suit.

“Fine just do it” Yoshi submitted

The Men pulled on the rope and Yoshi felt his entire weight pull on his neck. The rope creaked as it twisted its way round the large branch and tightened on his throat. Yoshi took a last deep breath; it was really difficult to breath now. White and green flickers of the thin trees and the light of the sky cracked in his line of sight. He tried to grab at the rope with his hands to no avail. It was going to happen. As he felt his life slipping into the white fog he saw the young girl, she caressed him in her arms and vanished. The last thing he could hear over the rope creaking was the wind in the trees and the birdsong. His last thought was: ‘Life is beautiful.’