Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chapter 4 (g)

And with this I covered all the members of the Ushiromiya family. Honestly, if I didn't know that it is all real, I would mistake it for the setting of a soap opera. There is so much drama that you would probably need several hundreds episodes to cover it all. But then again, this is probably what the Ushiromiya are for the world. They are nothing but characters of a fascinating story, pawns standing on a chessboard, meant to be played with and mercilessly sacrificed.
But to me... it is different. Because I have personally met those persons on that island. I have been there, I have talked to them, I have memories of them. It was a long time ago, so even I cannot remember all the details, in addition, since I was still very young, I have spent most of my time with the cousins. So, in the end, I cannot say that I know a lot more than the rest of the world, but I can confirm that Jessica was dumb and vulgar, George was awkward and unpleasant, Battler was silly and unreliable, and Maria was an annoying little runt.
If I concentrate, I can probably see that place again. There are many fragmented images swirling around in my head, I just need to arrange them in the correct order. The first thing I see is a small gulf. Right in the middle there is a harbor, a single wooden quay stretching out to the sea. Beyond is the beach, where the children used to play on; picnics... treasure hunts... There is a long winding path that leads high above to the top of the cliff. When I finally climb the last set of stairs... a magnificent rose garden welcomes me. It is huge, gigantic, the roses are so tall that I cannot see beyond them. It is like being inside a garden maze. If I look to the right, I can see the majestic guest house. When the night comes, I will be sleeping there. If I proceed further and head left, I can eventually reach the mansion. It is a breathtaking view, it is as if I am suddenly pulled inside one of those old European estates. Everything is so big and strange. A butler welcomes me, he is nothing like Rokudou, this one is the real deal. Impeccable, elegant, perfect. I walk inside the great hall and... I find myself in front of that portrait... the portrait of the witch... Beatrice.
Suddenly I don't feel like remembering that place anymore. It is not a habit of mine wasting my precious little grey cells with memories that have no longer any purpose. That mansion was blown to smithereens, it not longer exists. But still... that butler... His name was Genji Ronoue, he was one of the few persons that Kinzo used to trust unconditionally. What foolishness! To trust a mere servant! It is as if I trusted Rokudou, ridiculous! Anyway that man died too that day, and there were other servants that met the same fate, but I can't care less about them.
Now when did that important event happen again? I think it was 1987, a year after the tragedy. That was the beginning of what would transform a mere news story into a worldwide phenomenon. It was all because Eva was desperate for money. Her siblings left her with so much trouble and debts, it is a miracle that she managed to survive. In the beginning it must have been really hard for her, so she sold everything that she could. Among the various inherited goods that she didn't care about, there was one of the many rare book collections of her father. It had been recovered from the library of the secret mansion Kuwadorian, which is why it wasn't affected by the explosion. Eva was absolutely unaware of its true value. I can pretty much relate to what she probably thought. In her eyes it was just a bunch of books about worthless occult garbage. Apparently Kinzo was a real expert on that subject. He used to hoard anything that dealt with western occultism, and he could pay ridiculous sums of money just to increase his collection. If there was a doubt that he was a madman, this should settle it. But fortunately for Eva, the world is full of rich idiots that don't have anything better to waste their money on. Those books were extremely rare, some were unique, even legendary. The discovery of Kinzo's secret library has often been compared to the finding of the dead sea scrolls. Some of those books until then were only rumored to have existed, that is how rare they were. Eva's auction inevitably caused a sensation. Scholars, historians, collectors, and dilettantes from all parts of the world suddenly became interested in Rokkenjima and its mysteries. This is how the incident gained international resonance.
Then, a few months later, a fisherman announced to the world a most unusual finding. He had recovered from the sea a strange bottle with a whole manuscript inside. What was narrated in there was definitely no ordinary story. Until then the question about what happened during those two days, from October 4 to the end of October 5, had remained without an answer. Until then it was hard to even speculate about that, since so little was known, but from that day everything changed. The message that was found inside that bottle reports a complete account of those very two days. It is written in first person from the perspective of Maria Ushiromiya, as if that brat wrote down everything that she saw as she was witnessing it. It is a detailed chronicle of what she experienced on her last two days of her life. In a way it is meant to look like a sort of testament that she entrusted to the sea before dying.
Naturally it was evident from the very beginning that nothing of the above can be true. There is no way that Maria could write all that stuff in two days, especially not in the middle of the situations described. The true author was definitely an older person, a 9 year old girl couldn't possibly know all those complicated words. Later it was confirmed that the handwriting was different from Maria's, and not just hers. None of the Ushiromiya could have written that, none of their handwritings match. Considering these facts, it should have been concluded that that message was just a fake, the product of the imagination of some kind of fanatic. However in that story are mentioned many details that only a person that had physically been on Rokkenjima could have known. This was confirmed by servants that used to work there, and I can confirm that too. Then someone remembered that a similar bottle was found near Rokkenjima, back when the rescue team was looking for survivors. That was a shocking revelation. The author was the same, those manuscripts were undoubtedly written by the same hand, and the stories were similar in many aspects. It was a real conundrum. Since the first bottle was retrieved near Rokkenjima and so close in time to the tragedy, the likeliness of that being a prank was almost null. And considering we are talking about a massive amount of pages, it can only be concluded that both stories were written before the island exploded. Best of all, they both describe how everyone attending the Ushiromiya family meeting of 1986 dies at the end of October 5. It is as if the author already knew what was going to happen.
That being said, it was clear from the start that those stories are not reliable. In the first place they both tell how a witch, using magic, summoning demons, and performing strange rituals, kills every single person on the island in a series of gruesome murders. Now, there are some idiots that actually believe that a real witch existed on Rokkenjima, but even they cannot deny that Eva didn't die in the real world, and that is a clear inconsistency. There is then the fact that the two stories, while following a similar plot, are decidedly different. For example the order and the way the victims are murdered are not the same. To settle the matter, both messages end with a sort of request; they ask for the reader to find the truth. Basically the author implicitly admits that the given fantastic explanation for the many deaths is a lie.
Considering all that, nobody should have taken those stories too seriously. But there was something about them, something very unsettling. Even people that at first laughed at all those imaginative descriptions had to change their opinions after taking in account certain facts. For example, the legend of the golden witch, Beatrice, which is portrayed as the culprit in both stories, doesn't just come out of nowhere, it already existed, and since a very long time.
Those that have met Kinzo, even occasionally, would often hear him telling a very strange tale. According to his claims, In the past he had met an incredibly beautiful woman. She had blue eyes and golden hair, and her name was Beatrice. That woman was actually a witch and Kinzo entered a contract with her. Because of that he was given ten tons of gold, an incredible fortune, and it was all thanks to that enormous capital that he was able to build his empire. Of course no one ever took him seriously, Kinzo was quite an eccentric man, and he was famous for telling such stories. However there are people that claim that the gold actually existed. How exactly did he manage to get his hands on such a ridiculous treasure is still speculated, but certainly, assuming this is true, it couldn't be anything legal. In that case the story of the witch would be just a cover, a lie he used in place of a truth that he couldn't openly tell.
The next question then is who could this Beatrice be. Once again there are people who claim she actually existed. Those are mainly servants that worked for Kinzo several years ago. According to them Beatrice is the mysterious woman that used to live in Kuwadorian. Only a selected few used to work in the secret mansion, but rumors of a witch living in the forest of Rokkenjima spread among all the servants. The legend was then enriched with many other particulars and grew out of proportions. Especially among the maids the fear of Beatrice was particularly strong. One couldn't work there without being told horrible stories about how those who made fun of the witch would incur her wrath.
"Beatrice is the master of the night, you must never disrespect her."
"Every night Beatrice appears in the VIP room at 2:00 AM, if you dare disturbing her, she will curse you and you will die."
"If you see a golden butterfly, run away! That is one of the witch's forms. Something very bad will happen, if you follow it."
These are but a few of the childish superstitions that the servants used to believe in. In many ways they were quite similar to school legends, and it isn't surprising, because the maids were for the most part very young girls. At that time any kind of unusual event or incident would be attributed to the witch pulling pranks or taking her vengeance on those who didn't show the due respect. It is interesting to note that a maid actually died in 1967, and another was severely injured several years later. Both cases were officially recognized as incidents, but most certainly they contributed to reinforce the idea that the witch existed, and that she was very vindicative.
In 1984 the legend was further strengthened by yet another of Kinzo's crazy stunts. In accordance to his will, a giant size painting portraying Beatrice was exposed in the great hall of the mansion. The mysterious witch that until then could only be imagined was suddenly given a form and a face. Along with that painting a strange metal plaque was placed on the wall; carved on it was the witch's epitaph.
That so called 'epitaph' was basically an elaborated riddle meant to give clues on how to reach the ten tons of gold. I really had a lot of fun solving it, never again my many little grey cells had to work that long before I could reach a conclusion. That was a real challenge. But the author of those strange messages interpreted it in a different way. The various lines of the riddle were taken in a more literal sense, and as such they became instructions of a serial murder divided in several steps. Basically it is 'And then there were none' all over again, but a bit more elaborated, and with more victims.
Once such extensive knowledge of both the epitaph and the legend of the witch is considered, it becomes even more clear that the author couldn't be an ordinary person. But what exactly was he or she thinking? What kind of objective this person had in mind for writing those stories and entrusting them to the sea?
Very soon people realized that everything suddenly makes sense if you analyze the manuscripts from a murder mystery perspective. After all the homage to Agatha Christie's masterpiece is quite evident, and if you remove the blatant lies, what you get are substantially crime fiction stories. Enthusiasts of the golden age of mystery novels often pointed out how the theme of 'magic' is inherent in the genre as a challenging factor. In other words the golden witch of those stories is a metaphorical representation of what the sleuth is meant to defeat, the incarnation of the illusion that must be dispelled in order to bring the truth to light. Once one realizes that, it automatically becomes clear that the detective is Battler Ushiromiya. The narrator, Maria, strongly believes in the witch's existence and in her magic, however she is constantly challenged by her older cousin. Battler refuses to accept the supernatural as an explanation for the murders, and through the analysis of clues and his reasonings he tries to explain everything by human means. However at the same time he refuses to accept hasty conclusions. So, whenever one of the characters is accused of being the murderer, after various circumstantial evidences are exposed, right when it seems that the case can be closed, Battler comes to the rescue and turns everything around. He usually starts with his signature line: 'Aaah, it's useless, it's all useless!' He says that, and then with a barrage of ridiculous arguments he manages to invalidate all the accusations one by one.
Truly a funny read, but... what the hell is that?
This is not Battler, this is simply not him. I knew the guy, I have met him personally, and therefore I can tell with confidence: Battler wasn't like that! Or rather, from a certain perspective it is him, but not quite the same person. And it isn't just Battler, it seems that all the cousins in a way or another have been embellished and transformed into something else.
Jessica, for example, while her vulgar ways to express herself are faithfully represented, rather than being shown for the retarded rebellious teenager that she was, she is depicted as a good natured maiden with a pure heart.
The way George was changed, then, is absolutely hilarious. He is the one who got the biggest overhaul. That good for nothing, unsociable, and awkward fatso became a sort of prince from a shoujo manga. The George described in those stories is practically the perfect man. He is successful, decisive, gentle, responsible, strong; all qualities that the actual person never possessed. At least he was never described as a good looking man, I guess not even that author could go that far!
In Maria's case then, it is almost fascinating how many of her annoying habits are shown in a way that make her look cute instead.
From that I can reach a pretty solid conclusion: the author of those messages loved the cousins.
Such is the effect of love on a person's mind, it completely impairs the ability to make objective judgments. It makes you see things that do not exist. It is a horrifying psychological disorder that gravely affects the normal functioning of the brain. In extreme cases it even leads to death. That is how wrong love is. I can't believe this world keeps glorifying it.
So in the end, these murder mysteries, written by someone that was undoubtedly related to Rokkenjima and the Ushiromiya, and that supposedly already knew that everyone would die, ended up being seen as attempts to give clues to the world, so that one day the truth would be uncovered. Inevitably people started speculating that the Rokkenjima incident was a planned crime, and that somehow, by solving the fictional stories, the real culprit could be found. However a conclusion simply cannot be reached. These mysteries are incomplete, the detective never makes his final declaration, and in the end he dies like everyone else. I guess the author didn't have enough faith in Battler. So even if I were to tell my conclusions to the world, I wouldn't be able to prove that they are definitely correct. Everyone would keep sticking with their own theories, with their own interpretations, with their own delusions. This is the worst possible situation for me. I know what happened on that island on those two days, I know who is responsible, I know the meaning behind those stories, and I know who wrote them. But as long as I cannot back my claims with proofs, evidences, or logical arguments, they will never become truths.
But the Rokkenjima phenomenon doesn't end here. One day it was announced that a third bottle was found. For a long time it was speculated that other messages might have existed, aside from the two that were already found, and many expected that at least one more would be discovered eventually. So when the so much anticipated announcement was made, everyone enthusiastically welcomed it. But it didn't pass much time before people realized it was a fake. The storytelling was clearly different, and the narration wasn't nearly as compelling as in the originals. However this idea of writing alternative explanations of the Rokkenjima serial murder was soon emulated. Forgeries begun popping up everywhere, even from very distant countries. It all became a gigantic game, the truth didn't matter anymore. It was simply fun to read new interpretations, it was simply fun to imagine new scenarios, it was simply fun to make new theories and discuss them. This phenomenon reached its peak with the advent of internet. At that point everyone could easily write stories and make them available for reading in the world wide web.
As of today literally hundreds of different stories have been written. Some take a serious approach, and strive to be as much as plausible as possible. Some do not even try, and are completely unbelievable. There isn't a single victim of the Rokkenjima incident that hasn't been depicted as a cruel murderous monster at least once. The Ushiromiya family members have been killed over and over in the most horrible ways. The strangest theories have been proposed. Witches, espers, demons, aliens, spirits, vampires, the forgers didn't stop in front of anything. And then conspiracy theories, conspiracy theories, conspiracy theories. The government, the Americans, the Russian KGB, the Illuminati, Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese Red Army, these are but of few of the organizations, real and fictional, that have been described as being behind the tremendous explosion. It has been speculated that Kinzo had died several months before the tragedy. It has been speculated that Eva solved the epitaph and found the gold. It has been speculated that Rosa met Beatrice and killed her. It has been speculated that Battler was actually Kyrie's son. It has been speculated that other never previously mentioned people were present on that island, but that was just an excuse to add new characters to revitalize a stale setting.
There is a place where all these strange stories took form. It is a place that only exists in the collective thoughts of human minds, a place that lies in a purely imaginary field. That place isn't real, and yet... it exists.
It is a sea of infinite possibilities, a world of metaphors, a world beyond reality... the metaworld.
Lady Bernkastel is there, somewhere, traveling through infinite stories told and never told, in an eternal quest to find relief from her boredom.
In that place I was born anew.