Wednesday, October 06, 2004

"Ten Nights' Dreams" Soseki Natsume

[This is my translation of the first story in "Ten Nights' Dreams" by Soseki Natsume. For a brief (and biased) information, please refer to my comment. Also, I'm more than happy to receive feedbacks from you!]

The First Night

I had a dream like this.

As I sat at the bedside with my arms folded, she, lying on her back, quietly said, I’m dying now. She laid her slender face of soft contour in her long hair spread on the pillow. From the bottom of her pure white cheek pleasantly shined the warm color of her blood, the lips were of course scarlet. In no way she looked dying. But she had announced in a quiet voice that she was dying. I myself felt that she was in fact dying. Thus, leaning over to her I asked, is that so, are you dying? Absolutely, she said, opening her eyes wide. Big, moist eyes, ebony all over inside the envelopes of long eyelashes. In the deep of the ebony eyes vividly floated my reflections.

Gazing into the transparent depth of the lustrous pupils, I wondered if she was dying nonetheless. Therefore, I put my mouth to the intimacy of the pillow and asked again, you’re not dying, are you? To this she replies, but I’m dying, I cannot help it, with her sleepy ebony eyes still wide open, her voice still quiet.

Then can you see my face, I asked frantically, to which she managed to throw back a smile, and said, of course I can see your face, can’t you see it’s reflected there? I silenced myself, took my face back from the pillow. Folding my arms, I wondered if she was dying no matter what.

After a while, she spoke again.

“When I’m dead, bury me, please. Dig a hole with a large pearl oyster. Then, place a fragment of a star that comes down from the sky as a marker. Everything done, please wait for me by the grave, I’ll come to see you again.”

I asked, when are you coming to see me?

“You see, the sun rises. Then the sun sets. Then it rises again. Then it sets again. –The red sun turns from the East to the West, from the East to the West— honey, can you wait?”

I nodded, silent. She raised her voice from the quiet tone, shook off hesitation, and said, wait a hundred years.

“Wait a hundred years, sitting at my graveside. I promise you I’ll come.”

I just said I would wait. At this, my reflections, that had been vivid in the ebony eyes, started to blur. As soon as my reflections started to flow, as if disturbed by the sudden movement of once-quiet water, her eyes snapped shut. A teardrop dripped down to her cheek through the long eyelashes. –And I knew she was dead.

And so I stepped out to the yard and dug a hole with a pearl oyster. The pearl oyster was a large, smooth shell with a sharp edge. Every time I scooped the dirt, moonlight twinkled in its inside. There also was the smell of wet dirt. Before long the hole was dug. I laid her in it. Then tenderly I sprinkled soft dirt over her. Every time I sprinkled, the moon light shined into the pearl oyster.

And so I went to pick up a fallen fragment of a star to set it lightly on the dirt. The fragment of a star was round. As it slid down the vault of heaven for over an eternity, the jags got scraped off, giving it a smooth surface, I imagined. As I held it and placed it on the dirt, my hands and chest were warmed a little.

I settled myself on a carpet of moss. Thinking that I was going to wait a hundred years thus from now, I folded my arms and glanced at the round grave mark. A while later, as she had said, the sun rose from the East. A big, red sun. It sank to the West, as she had said, a while later. It dropped, still red. I counted one.

After a while the crimson sun dragged itself up the sky. Then sank, tacit. I counted two.

Counting it so one by one, I lost count of the red sun. Countless red sun passed over my head. Yet, a hundred years was yet to come. At last, looking at the moss-covered round stone, I began to wonder if she had tricked me.

Right then, from beneath the stone, a green stem reached slantingly toward me. In an instant it grew, and stopped just about the height of my chest. Next moment, at the top of the tremulous stem, a slender bud, that had initially tilted its neck slightly, softly opened its petals. The bones inside me trembled at the scent of the snow-white lily at the tip of my nose. Hit by a dewdrop from the far above, the flower swayed with its own weight. I stretched my neck and kissed its white petals, wet with the cool dewdrop. Stepping back from the lily, I caught a glimpse of the distant sky, where solitary Phosphor burned.

Finally I realized, a hundred years has passed.


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