Monday, 14 December 2009

Rage against the X-Factor

Seasons greetings everyone! I hope everyone is well and staying wrapped up warm.

Apologies to anyone this winds up, but I would like to write a little bit about ‘Rage against the X-Factor’, a facebook group which can be found here:

If the X-Factor single goes to Number one this week, Cowell’s monster will have dominated the Christmas charts for half a decade. Rage against the X-Factor is a means for those of us who shudder at this prospect to show that we have had enough. The idea is for everyone to go on line this week and buy ‘Killing in the name’ by rage against the machine. Some of RATM’s lyrics explain pretty well how I feel about X-Factor;
“The movie ran through me
The glamour subdued me
The tabloid untied me
I'm empty please fill me”
Basically, it is substance-less mollifying tabloid tripe as far as I am concerned. I have nothing against those who enjoy X-Factor watching and taking part, but there are a considerable number of Brits who are sick of having it pushed into our faces every Christmas in the form of the Christmas number one single. That is why this group exists. If you feel anything like I do about this please join, tell your friends about this group and most importantly please BUY ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ THIS WEEK!

A lot of people have made arguments against Rage against the X-Factor, and I would like to talk about a few of them.

1. “Sony BMG” – RATM’s record label Epic Records and the X-Factor label Syco are both subsidiaries of Sony BMG, so some people argue “The money is going to the same place anyway”

This is not an anti-capitalist protest, nor is it an anti-record label protest. If I boycotted Sony BMG I would miss out on a hell of a lot of great music. This is simply about being sick of the X-Factor single being number one every year, and the fact that everyone accepts it as a matter of course. (by the way for those of you who are on a personal hate campaign against Cowell; seeing as the two subsidiaries are unaffiliated companies none of the profits of ‘Killing in the name’ will end up in Cowell’s pockets)

2. “You’re all sheep!” – a few pedants have pointed out that we are all clubbing together and encouraging each other to buy a single made famous by the line “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” thereby apparently doing exactly what we are arguing against; conforming.

This is disingenuous. No one is forcing anyone to buy the single; we have simply settled on it as a song that everyone can choose to get behind if they want to use the democratic nature of the charts to register their discontent. It is the insidious nature of the X-Factor program, the way that it builds up to a climax just before the Christmas single that lets it exercise control over the British public. “Killing in the name” is a way to send a stark message to Cowell and the X-Factor that there are over half a million of us who are not so easily manipulated.

3. “It can’t be done”

Oh yes it can. Last year Alexander Burke’s Christmas Number one sold 576,000 copies. At the point of writing, Rage against the X-Factor had 722,499 members. It absolutely can be done. Simon Cowell Has commented on the group, accusing us of ‘spoiling the party’ for the X-Factor winner. Such arrogance! As if winning the X-Factor gives his singer the right to a Christmas number one. The only thing that gives the right to a Christmas number one is selling the most singles that week. It’s time for us to remind him where the power is.

4. “It’s not very Christmassy is it?”

This one really depends on what you get out of Christmas. I personally am not at all religious, so Christmas does not do anything for me spiritually. Nor am I particularly materialist, so the idea of a tacky Christmas tree and presents as far as the eye can see does not really get me going either. One part of Christmas I can wholeheartedly go for is the idea of “Goodwill to all mankind”. Bearing that in mind, how cool would it be if this year, instead of something about Santa Clause and Mulled wine, the British public chose a song that protested against racism in the police forces? I think it would be very cool indeed.

5. “You should buy a charity single or an independent single instead”

This is a very manipulative argument indeed. The music you choose should never be a moral choice. If I wanted to make chips and went to the supermarket to buy potatoes, if I then found that half the profits on all turnips went to charity, would I then be morally obliged to make turnip chips instead? The fact is if you are that interested in giving to charity you should not buy a single at all but should give the whole price to a charity instead. As for the idea of buying an independent single; I am all for supporting small record labels, but that is an argument for a different day. As I have said before this campaign is not a war on pop music or on big record labels; it is simply a chance for us to tell Cowell and his bloated hit machine; “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.”

So those of you that feel so inclined, please join me in a good old mosh for freedom this Christmas!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Accuracy of death 9

The man sat up and looked around, ascertained that he was in the street, and stood up, looking embarrassed. Slowly he began to walk. I, who had been hiding behind a vending machine, pursued the man. For some reason this time I have been doing a lot of following. The reason that I was paying attention to this man, and not Fujiki Ichikei, was for my own interest. In other words, it was not for work.

I knew that man.

If I say that, it invites the misunderstanding that I was an acquaintance of his, so to explain exactly; I had seen a photo of that man.

It had been in a music magazine that I had recently stood and read. He was the ‘genius’ producer that my colleague had taught me about. Rubbing his hips, he waddled down the backstreet. Amidst this, he took out his mobile phone.

Aware of my own good luck, I fixed my eyes on him and listened out. If a voice is riding a radio wave, we can hear it from afar. It is difficult to pick the desired information from the innumerable radio waves which fly through the air, but it is not impossible. If you know the place of transmission and the timing, it is comparatively simple. With the phone to his ear, he scurried to an office building, and entered the stairwell. I found the sound of the man’s ringing phone.

Before long, a woman’s voice could be heard, “Yes?”

“It’s me” I heard him say bluntly. I could not tell if he did not say his name because he was familiar with the woman, or just because he would be recognised by his phone number.

“How is it?”

“Just wait a bit longer” he said.

“It didn’t go well? I can’t wait any longer.”

“Don’t say that. It’s the real thing, there’s no mistaking. I heard it just a minute ago. That voice is the real thing.” His voice was impassioned, it gave the same impression that I got from the music magazine.

“It’s just, I didn’t manage to explain to her.”

“That her voice is the real thing?”

“It is. Singing is a talent. In other words, it’s the charm of the voice.”

“No matter how good her voice is, she could be tone deaf.”

“I was going to have her sing for me at karaoke, but there was a misunderstanding.”

“Is everything all right?”

“Believe in my instinct.”

“Why didn’t you do as you were told and explain it to her. She must have found you suspicious.”

“If they know I’m a producer, if they know I’m scouting them, most people become tense and expectant, and their performance becomes artificial.”

“You’re over thinking things” perhaps the woman was an old friend working in the same industry as him.

“It really was a good voice.”

“Do you know Catherine Fellia?” she asked.

“Who’s that?” The man asked out load.

“Who’s that?” I asked silently.

“An opera singer. She worked as a telephone operator, and by chance her voice was discovered by someone who called, and in the end she became a big singer. Well, it might just be an anecdote that was made up later, but it is the same as what you are doing. You fell for the voice of the complaints handling girl who happened to take your call.”

“That’s right.”

“Isn’t it foolish? And, you’ve made countless complaint calls, haven’t you?”

“To make sure. The more I hear it, the better that girls voice is.”

“How are her looks?”

“Nothing to write home about.” He answered at once, then laughed himself. It was a long, warm laugh. “It’s okay. That’s normal for people who haven’t had their talent uncovered. When her talent is uncovered, like skin peeling off, her outer charms will also appear. That’s how it is.”

“Well okay” the woman said in a voice which I could not tell whether it contained expectation or not, “I’ll wait just three more days, so get in touch.”

The phone went dead. The man replaced the mobile phone in to his pocket, and despite dragging his legs, he proceeded with his back straight in a pose fitting someone who moved purposefully, and entered a narrow street. As the roof ran out he nimbly opened his umbrella.

I did not follow him any further. Instead I stopped where I stood, and considered what was happening.

That producer had been attracted to the voice of Fujiki Ichikei, worker in the complaints handling department of an electronics maker. Somehow, this was how it appeared. Fujiki Ichikei had said that he had urged her to sing in a complaint call; was that also for this reason? It was a shambolic way of doing thins. However, I did not think it was a nasty way of doing things.

Well then, I looked up at the sky where I stood, and thought. I thought about what was going to happen to her. Did she really have a singing talent? No matter how the producer raved, I could not be sure she had a singing talent. Even if she had talent, I could not be sure that she would be successful. But it was unmistakably an attachment to the human world. On top of that, I could not judge whether such a thing could really bring happiness to her life.

I asked myself what I should do. At this rate if I gave a report of ‘Satisfactory’, Fujiki Ichikei would leave this world tomorrow. I did not know what sort of accident or event was prepared, but there was no mistaking that she would die.

I am not interested in the deaths of humans. Not concerning myself with anything except for the reason of work, I was not interested in what form the deat of the people I dealt with took.

It’s just that, if on the off chance the producer’s hunch was right, moreover, if on the off chance she successfully became a good singer, and what’s more, if a time came when I heard her song at a listening booth in a CD shop I visited; I thought that would be amusing.

I noticed, perhaps because the rain became stronger, the raindrops that bounced off the ground began to make a noise. It was if it was urging me to decide.

Recalling Fujiki Ichikei’s face; “Right!” I made up my mind.

I took my wallet from my pocket, and took a ten yen coin from it. Without hesitating, I flipped it with my finger. I caught the falling coin on the back of my hand. The coin landed on my hand, which was wet with rain water.

I looked at the coin. It was tails. “Oh!” I tilted my head. I had forgotten whether tails meant I should choose ‘satisfactory’ or ‘forego’. The momentum of the rain had increased considerably. Feeling like I had been nudged, I decided that was enough. I would go with ‘forego’.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Accuracy of death 8

I decided to move closer, saying “What’s wrong?” as if I had just been present by chance. The man standing by her side was trying to figure our my identity. He was staring me up and down.

“Mr Chiba, please save me” she got up, and tried to grab hold of my arm. I was not wearing gloves, so I avoided it.

“Has something happened?” It was a pain to ask as though I had no idea about something I already half understood.

“This man, umm, I said before” her speech was broken, so I made a good ‘guess’.

“The man on the phone?”

“That’s right.”

“Who are you?” the man appeared to have more gumption now than he had from afar. It is just, he did not have the countenance of a well-mannered company employee. He had a sharp look, and being stared at made me uncomfortable. The shoulders of his black jacket were being wet by the rain, but he did not appear concerned.

“I am just an acquaintance.” When I said it, Fujiki Ichikei looked sad and removed her gaze. “And you are?” I asked.

“I have business with her” I held back from saying; so you have no intention of talking honestly then?

At this point, Fujiki Ichikei began running rapidly. Even though she, who had been standing like a withered plant, gave no warning of moving, she suddenly fled. It was not me, but him who let out a gasp of “Ah!”

Her form was terrible, but the way she ran conveyed her desperation. As she ran her hands swung wildly, her head slanted and she looked likely to drop her bag. “Mr Chiba, I’m sorry, see you again” I heard her cry from a distance. Her loud voice echoed about the street; it had a good sound.

“Don’t get in my way” the man advanced on me. He was probably more excited than he realised; he lent forward and flew at me with force. The same instant that I thought “Scary!” He lost his balance and fell.

There was a smack. I fell to the ground with him in my arms. Under my bottom was a manhole cover, on which rain water had collected. This wet the trousers I was wearing, and I felt the cold on my skin. Then I realised, I was touching him bare-handed. Why do humans have such a taste for causing problems? For a tired moment, I stared at his profile.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Accuracy of death 7

For four days, I did not do anything much that could be called work. No, in fact, as I did not meet Fujiki Ichikei until I was phoned by the investigation department it was not ‘anything much’ but rather ‘anything at all.’

During those four days, I wandered around inner city CD shops, enjoying music in front of the listening posts until the shop attendants gave me suspicious glances, I wandered around parks at midnight, I watched youths attacking groups of salary-men, and I read all the music magazines in the bookshops.

In the magazines, an interview was published with the producer my colleague had feverishly described as a ‘genius’ the other day. I did not know his name, but I had listened to several of the CDs that he was introduced as having produced. I remembered all of them as masterpieces, so I admitted; I see, he is a genius. When it is a matter of music, I am generously inclined towards humans.

Amongst his words was the character for ‘death’, and my eyes were drawn to it. “Before I die, I am waiting to come across a truly new talent” was written. Whether it was firm self-belief, or steady faith, I envied his vitality. I had no intention at all of quitting my job but, even so, I had none of the passion that oozed from this producer. Is that it? I thought. What I lack is passion for my work.

The phone rang with a call from the inspection office just as I pushed a button on the listening booth, so panicking, I left the shop.

“How is it?” came the question. They appeared to be doing a spot check, where they would contact us without warning, and check how work was going.

“I am doing it.” I answered ambiguously. It was a reply without excitement or enthusiasm.

“If you can give your report, then do so as soon as possible.” Came the inevitable reply.

“It might take up to the last minute.” This was also the same answer as always. Of course, it was a lie. I could have presented the report at that moment. Not just with Fujiki Ichikei, but in any situation, I could get by writing ‘satisfactory’ and having done with it. But usually those of us in the investigation department do not do so. Up until the last minute we walk about town in human form. Why? It is to enjoy lots of music.

“Approximately, how does it feel?” they asked finally.

“Probably ‘satisfactory’, I think.”

This kind of conversation, whether it was a customary occurrence, or a courtesy, was becoming a mere procedure.

Without change, she left the office at the usual time. Perhaps I imagined it, but her shoulders seemed to be more hunched than last time, and she gave off an appropriate air for someone approaching death.

She held an umbrella in the drizzling rain, and scurried forward. I followed her thinking she would head for the tube station, but contrary to my expectation she passed the entrance to the tube. She crossed at the intersection.

She proceeded along a colonnade lined with famous brand-name shops, and continued more and more into a sordid area. In a roofed pedestrian-only walkway, it was busy. Game arcades and fast food restaurants stood in a row, and piercing noises polluted the air.

Here, she stopped and stood. She sat on a bench near to a fountain that had been placed in the middle of the street.

Her head was lowered, and she held a woman’s fashion magazine at her chest, but she gave no sign of reading it. Perhaps she is waiting for someone, the thought struck me. The magazine seemed like a mark for a counterpart she had never met.

I had not expected that Fujiki Ichikei would have someone to wait for. Who could it be? If it was a friend or a acquaintance, there was no need to be so nervous. At that point, a possibility occurred to me. Perhaps it was that claimant. Perhaps, objecting to the complete lack of improvement in her daily life, she had thought that if there was even a small chance of a saviour, she would take the gamble. No, perhaps she had decided that, for example, even if there was no improvement, any event at all was better than her completely unchanging daily life. And so, she has decided to meet a claimant who can only be thought of as a pervert. It was very possible.

As I thought this, a middle-aged man strode towards the bench she was sitting at. He appeared to be in his early forties. He had shoulder-length permed hair, and wore coloured glasses. He wore all-black, medium-sized clothes, I imagined that this was not a person from an honest trade. In order to not obstruct passers by I moved close to a wall, and watched the situation.

The man spoke out to Fujiki Ichikei. She looked at the man with a fearful face, but for an instant, an expression of disappointment clearly floated across that face.

No matter how favourable the eye that looked on the middle-aged man, he could not be classified as a handsome man. On top of that, he did not look equipped to make a woman happy. In other words, he did not have enough charm to make up for his nonsensical claims. She must have sensed that in the instant she saw him.

I thought that he might also be disappointed when he saw her, but I was mistaken. When he met her eyes, the man gave a mood as if he had said ‘I see’, but gave no open indication of disillusionment.

The man spoke to her, and went to lead her towards the back of the town. She hesitated for a considerable time, but finally walked with the man.

However this unfolds, it can not have a happy result; I had already started to give up on her.

I have often witnessed unworldly women taken from their daily lives by unexpectedly appearing men. There are women who enter the entertainment industry and break their bodies with harsh work, there are those who make nothing but debt, losing their fortunes. I am not very interested in human tragedy, so I do not feel sympathy or compassion, but for the moment I imagined; so Fujiki Ichikei is going to be dragged down that path.

Following behind them, I entered a side street. When I did so I saw the man twenty meters ahead dragging Fujiki Ichikei against her will. In front of the man was a karaoke shop. On a gaudily illuminated building, the word ‘karaoke’ was set.

I do not really like karaoke. Even though I adore listening to music. I have entered a karaoke shop as part of my work, but it was so unpleasant that I wanted to flee. I do not really understand why, but in my reasoning, there is a deep gap that is hard to traverse between music and karaoke. It is not a question of which side is better, it is merely that I can only enjoy one side, and can not cross to the other side; I think it is something like that.

I was able to guess why the man was trying to get her to go into the shop with him. If they enter the shop, private rooms are prepared, so that songs can be sung just as they have written; ‘In a natural voice; it would be suitable for closing the distance between them. Of course, once they had entered the room, he might intend to pounce on her, or he might simply want to let off some steam; neither case would be strange.

She was very reluctant. She was on the verge of squatting on the floor. She also looked likely to drop her umbrella. After this, it was no longer my concern, I thought. It is not my job to solve troubles between men and women. I went to turn my back, but just at that moment a voice flew forth.

“Mr Chiba! Please save me!”

It was a clear-cut, loud voice. Like a trumpet sounding deeply, Fujiki Ichikei called a name. My name; even as I realised this, time passed.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Accuracy of death 6

When I next met Fujiki Ichikei it was two days later, and it was drizzling. I waited in front of her office building, saw her as she left through the automatic door, and tracked after her. Cars passed along the road to the side, pushing through the water that had collected in the gutter, making sounds like waves.

Perhaps because she rushed more than last time, it was hard for me to follow her. Once I had got very close to her, I extended a gloved hand, and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around with a start. It was as if I had poured hot water on a sleeping cat; it was such a sensitive reaction that I was staggered.

Seeing my face, “Ah,” she gave off a small voice, and took on a relieved hue. It appeared that she was not afraid of me.

“The thing is” I took a handkerchief from my pocket “I wanted to return this.”

“Eh, is that mine?”

“Yes, before, when I spilled beer you lent it to me.”

“Oh, right.” Her face darkened and she twisted her neck. It was a lie. In fact, I had taken it from her pocket when I put her on a taxi.

“Thank you for last time, I don’t remember it well” She bowed as she spoke incoherently.

“I was wandering if you couldn’t talk with me again”

She looked around her restlessly.

It seemed more like caution than self-consciousness so, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked?” I showed some reserve.

“N-no.” she twisted her neck. “Um, the thing is, he might be nearby.”


“I might have said about it before, but there is an old guy who phones in with claims.”

“The person who complains to you personally?”

“Yes.” Her voice was small. “He phoned again today, and said things like, ‘I want to meet you.’”

“That’s scary.”

“So I wonder if he is nearby.”

So I got a taxi and took us immediately to the next town. I thought she might refuse my pushy approach, but fortunately she did not.

When we entered a coffee shop I had never seen before, she looked relieved and said “It should be safe in here”, relaxing her shoulders.

“That caller is creepy isn’t he” I matched her in conversation. It was not that I was completely insistent on hearing her talk, but if I could find out how bad daily life for her was, that would be enough to write her report; and more than anything else, if I listened to her worries like this I could get a sense of satisfaction that I was doing my job.

“At first, it was a complaint that the eject button on his video deck was broken.”

“If only you would speak a little louder.” Before I was conscious of it, I had said it.


“When you speak quietly it sounds gloomy.” Even without speaking she had a gloomy air, so I thought that at least she should brighten her tone.

“When I am at work I make an effort to use a brighter tone”

I should hope so, I thought. If she spoke with this voice, the callers would have even more to complain about.

“The people who get put through to me are all making trivial complaints, so all I do is listen to them and apologise earnestly, ‘please forgive us, please forgive us’ repeatedly.”

“I think I’m going to get depressed just by imagining it.”

“At first he was like that as well, but half way through he became strange. Suddenly he said ‘apologise once more’.”

“Once more?”

“he said ‘Apologise once more’. Of course, I apologized again, but he just repeated that. Again and again. He kept saying ‘once more’. Towards the end he got angry, telling me to say something.”

“Maybe he gets sexual excitement when girls apologise to him.” I did not have any evidence, but I was often surprised by human’s sexual tastes, so I did not think it impossible.

Her face blushed when she heard ‘sexual excitement’.

“And that was the end for that day, but he phoned again the next day. This time it was the television.”


“He said that the picture got narrower and narrower, then suddenly disappeared. Of course I said we would send a repair man, but he said that was unnecessary, and that I should explain the cause.”

“The cause of the problem?”

“There’s no way I could know the cause.”

“That’s not your job.”

“Because I’m complaints handling. I’ve never seen that television. He said I could say anything; so speak. In a louder voice, more clearly; he said.”

“He probably didn’t mind about the contents of the conversation. He just wanted to talk to you.” When I said it, she made a disgusted face.

“Next was a radio cassette player.”

“Music!” I shouted out without thinking. I became embarrassed at myself. “Was the radio cassette player broken?” I attempted to smooth my outburst over.

“I’m sure that was a lie as well.” She twisted her face. “He said that he could not get a cd out of the machine, and told me to sing the song.”

“That’s suspicious.”

“Right? He kept saying, ‘do you know this song? Try and sing it.’”

“The thing that needs repairing is that customer’s head. It’s horrible. And eventually, I suppose he said he wanted to meet you?”

“Yes.” She looked at the floor and spoke in a feeble voice. “After harping on and on about a broken DVD player, he asked me if I wouldn’t meet him somewhere.”

“Perhaps he likes you.”
“Me?” I was surprised that she had not made the assumption.

“He might have found your service enchanting” Perhaps if that was true, she might lose her desire to die.

“No way…” she fluttered, and showed a little happiness, but soon realised; “I’m not happy about being liked by such a weird person.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” An almost insane complaining customer was unlikely to make her happy, and it was hard to imagine the gloomy girl having a bright future in a couple with a complaint claimant.

She was quiet for a while. As I worried about whether I should say something, I looked out of the window, and a frowning pedestrian who walked carrying an umbrella came into view. Puddles had gathered unevenly on the pavement, carving the ground unevenly.

“Recently there’s been a lot of rain, hasn’t there.”

“When I work, it always rains.” I confided.

“You’re a rain man aren’t you?” She smiled, but I did not understand what was funny. However, at that point, an old question popped into mind.

“And is that what a snowman is as well?”


“Someone who, when they are about to do something, it snows?”

She burst out laughing; “That’s funny.” And clapped her hands.

I became serious. I was unwilling to have my serious remark mistaken for humour. Because I did not understand what was funny, I was unable to move the conversation on. Pitifully, this experience is extremely common for me.

After a while, she let her voice out; “What exactly is my life?” It was as if she had been holding back, but now was boiling over, and I was startled. It resembled the voice of a woman who had thrown herself down a hole she could not crawl out from, and who wondered cajolingly “I don’t suppose a rope will come down…”

Perhaps she is asking for me to save her, I thought. She looked as though she expected this man in front of her to pluck her out of her low-flying life with nothing good in it. In fact, this time I had quite a charming appearance. This was not a welcome thing. Sadly, it was not useful, and it strayed from the classification of my work. Among my colleagues are those who think things like; because their marks are going to die in a week, they at least want to give them good memories of that short time, but I had no such interests. That is the same as decorating hair that is about to be cut. Either way, the fact that the hair is about to be cut will not change, so there is no meaning to doing anything to it. Just as the barber will not spare hair, I will not spare the girl.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Accuracy of death 5

After putting her in a taxi, I wondered around a late night game arcade. Because it looked like my work was going to go smoothly, my steps were light. I am always comfortable doing my work. If you are willing to take human form, and meet humans, all you have to do is talk to them a little and write a report entry. I do not have to deal with my colleagues, but can act on my own ideas on the ground, which suits me.

I went into a CD shop. It is rare to find an all-night CD shop, so I am pleased when I do. The customers in the shop beyond eleven at night were sparse, but they were present. I moved flittingly past the shelves to an area where several listening posts were arranged. If I had to name something more interesting than work, I would say listening to music. When music flows from the headphones sitting on my ears, my senses feel fresh, and I savour a thrilling emotion. It is truly wonderful. I am not interested in the death of humans, but the idea of music ceasing with their death is hard on me.

“Ah!” I noticed something. It appeared to be a middle aged man in front of a listening post wearing headphones, but it was one of my colleagues.

I tapped his shoulder.

The man’s eyes were half closed as if he was drunk, and he turned around with a start. Taking off his headphones, “Hey.” He smiled.

“Is your charge in this area too?” I asked.

“Yeah, today’s the last day though.”

“You’ve finished the report? Or you’ve seen the end?”

“Seen the end” he raised his shoulders. “They got drunk and on their way home and fell onto the tube tracks.”

When our one-week investigation ends, we send a report of the results to the head department. In cases where the result is ‘satisfactory’, no, well the result is usually “satisfactory”, but in those cases; the next day, in other words on the eighth day, the death is put into practice. When we witness that death, our work is done.

By the way, we are not informed in advance about how our target will die. The cause of death does not occur within our seven-day investigation period either, for instance; with the charge having an injury on the sixth day which gets worse and leads to death on the eighth day, so that we have no way to imagine how they will die until the time comes to witness their death.

“Having a last listen before you go back?” I pointed at the headphones.

“Yeah, I dunno when the next one’s gonna be…” he smiled.

We often listen at CD shops when we get time in between working. If there is a customer listening single-mindedly, without even moving, it could be me or one of my colleagues. Previously, I had gone to see films if I had a chance, but I once saw it written that ‘Angels gather in libraries.’ “I see”, I thought. For them it is libraries. For us it is CD shops.

“This album is brilliant.” He gave me the headphones. I put them on my ears. It was not rock, nor was it pop; but I heard a lively female vocal.

“This is nice” I agreed as I returned the headphones. I was aware that to put it unkindly, we could be said not to enjoy music in between work, but to work in between enjoying music. A slightly boastful expression floated across the face of the colleague in front of me, and he began to say,

“In this album, you should pay attention to the producer” and continued to swiftly talk about how the producer was a genius.

“But, this music is good because the girl singing has a good voice and good musical sense. I replied. “It’s got nothing to do with the producer.

“That’s it. A song is a voice. The producer is also saying that. It’s about talent and ability. That’s exactly why.”

“That’s exactly why?”

“For uncovering this singing voice, the producer is great.”

I made a dubious reply. It was just a suspicion, but I thought that he might be grouping his own steady work with the behind-the-scenes work of a producer.

“What about you?” he nodded to me.

“I started my investigation today. But luckily, it looks like it’s going to be simple.” I remembered Fujiki Ichikei’s face.

“Whether it’s simple or whatever, from the beginning it’s bound to be ‘satisfactory’”

“I mean to be a bit serious about judging her. I want to stock up as much information as I can and give a correct judgement.” That’s my nature.

“But, in the end it’s gonna be ‘Satifactory’ isn’t it.”

“Probably” That was how it was in reality, I could not deny. “But at least for the moment, I intend to take it seriously.”

“For the moment?”

“Yeah, for the moment.” I nodded, and took a pair of headphones from the next booth, put them on my head and pressed the play button.

“Bye then.” My colleague waved his hand and left the shop.

Whether it is jazz, rock, classic; whatever it is, music is the best. Just by listening I become happy. Probably, my friends are the same. It is not at all the case that we all have skulls on our jackets and listen to heavy metal because we are gods of death.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Accuracy of death 4

“Other than work, what do you enjoy? When you have time off.”

“Time off?” she made a face like she had never heard such a stupid question, “I don’t do anything. Just housework. And I toss coins.”

It seemed that she was getting drunk. Her speech was slurring and her eyelids looked heavy.

“Toss coins?”

“If it comes up heads I will become happy; thinking that I toss ten yen coins. It’s a simple kind of fortune telling.” She looked as if she had exceeded self-mockery and reached enlightenment. “But most of the time, it comes up tails. So this time I decide if it comes up tails I will become happy, and toss it…”

“And it comes up heads.”


“Perhaps you are over-thinking it”

“If even a fifty percent probability fails you, you lose your desire to live.” She gulped down her beer. “Whether I’m here or not, it’s the same, that’s why I wouldn’t mind dying.

“If you died, there are lots of people who would be sad” I said insincerely.

“There is one person.” Her body swung unsteadily. The old guy who requests me by name at complaints handling.” Then she laughed loudly, showing her teeth. “Really, I want to die. Because there is nothing good in my life.”

The people that we take charge of tend to talk about death without prompting. They fear death, they welcome it or they obsess over it; whatever the case, their face darkens and they come around to talking about it.

Apparently, this is because humans subconsciously guess our identity. I learned that at training. “Gods of death give humans a premonition of their death.”

In fact, since long ago there have been humans who can faintly sense us. Some people get nervous, saying ‘It’s cold’, some leave writing clearly denoting premonition of their death; ‘I feel like I am going to die soon…’ Sometimes there are people sensitive to our existence that call it divining and tell others about us.

“You shouldn’t say I want to die so lightly.” I said disingenuously.

“Every day, I just take calls of complaint, and on top of that there is nothing bright in my private life; there is no reason to go on living. I want to register a complaint about my own life.” She spat a line that could not be thought of as happy.

I refrained from saying that there is no reason for living in first place.

“You know lifespans? you know fate? I wonder if those things exist.” She appeared to have a constitution that was not strong against alcohol. Her dark face had sunk dully. According to the data from the information department, she had no real experience of sitting to a meal with a man. So it might be that with her nerves and exultation, she was drinking too fast.

At the next table, a close looking man and woman were eating facing each other. “I’m full up, I can’t eat any more” said the woman with an expression that mixed embarrassment and coquetry, and the man facing her said eagerly,

“It’s okay, I’ll eat it for you.”

“How kind of you, thank you.” The woman said gratefully, although why the one handing over the food should be grateful, I cannot understand.

“Life spans exist” I answered, returning my attention to Fujiki Ichikei, “it’s just that not everyone dies at their furthest extent.”

She guffawed with laughter. “That doesn’t make sense. The time that a person dies is the extent of their lifespan. To die before the extent of your lifespan, that’s a weird thing to say, isn’t it.”

“If everyone waited until the end or their life span to die, it would be disastrous.” Strictly speaking, I should not be talking about this, but I could tell she was becoming heavily inebriated, so I continued. “The balance would crumble.”

“What balance?”

“Population, the environment, the world’s balance.” To be honest, I did not know the details.

“But surely people die at the end of their lifespan”

“There are times when they die before their lifespan. Like in unexpected accidents, in unplanned events. That’s not part of a lifespan. In fires, in earthquakes, by drowning; things like that are decided separately from lifespans.”

“Who decides them?” her eyelids began to widen.

I thought to answer honestly ‘Gods of death.’ But because I think that is a nasty term I changed it to “God, I suppose.” Gods of death have ‘god’ in their name, so it is not exactly untrue.

“That’s a lie!” she said “If there is a God, why doesn’t he save me?!” Her voice had become rather loud and was clear. Oh! I thought. For a moment, it sounded like a pretty voice. “But on what basis does god decide who dies?”

“I don’t know that either.” I answered truthfully. I didn’t know what basis was held, or what principle followed in choosing humans. That was a different department. I do no more than my job, as instructed by that department.

“But arbitrarily deciding, making random accidents, it’s unforgivable isn’t it.”


“If you don’t research carefully before you decide, that’s no good” she said in a sing-song voice and slumped her head onto the table with a bang.

My thoughts exactly, I agreed strongly in my heart. That is exactly why I have come to you… I think.

Investigating, putting the death into practice, and reporting on it. That is my job.

I say investigating, but it is not much. One week before hand we contact the party, talk to them two or three times and write either ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’. The investigation system is almost ceremonial, and the result is almost always a report of ‘satisfactory’

“Ah, I want to die” the girl said as if she was sleep talking with her cheek against the table. “I want to die tomorrow.”

Humans do not die while we are investigating them. Suicides and disease are out of the jurisdiction of death-gods, so we do not know when they will happen, but they will not occur during an investigation period. So I felt a little sorry for her, thinking ‘It’s too bad, but you can’t die quite yet.’

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Accuracy of death 3

“Is it really not a trick?” The girl who sat facing me was still half in doubt. As her voice was hard to hear, I moved my ear closer. It was a Russian restaurant. I had had to pick her up when she lost her composure, and half-forcibly get her to accompany me to the restaurant while her consciousness was faint and her guard was down.

“It’s not a trick. I just want to apologise.”

“Really?” she lost her frozen expression, and her cheeks began to blush instead.

“When you fell down suddenly, I was surprised” There was no way that I could explain it had happened because I had touched her with my bare hands. If I touch a human with bare hands, their lifespan shortens by a year, but as this woman is in all probability close to death, it should not be a problem.

“It was a first for me, my body is usually sturdy.”

If only she would speak more clearly, I thought to myself. Such a quiet voice tires out the speaker and the listener both. In a small voice “Um, what’s your name?” She inquired.

“I’m Chiba.” When we are sent to work, we are given a name. It is always the name of a town or borough. Our age and appearance change every time, but our names are always place names. It must be the management’s signature. “What’s your name?”

“Fujiki Ichikei”

She explained that it was written with the kanji for ‘one wish’. “My parents gave me the name hoping I would be blessed with just one talent. It’s silly, isn’t it.”


“Surely they can’t have expected to raise a girl without merit like me.” It seemed less like she was inviting sympathy, and more like she was begrudging her circumstance.

She swallowed a piece of egg. “I’m not easy on the eyes.” She ejaculated. I genuinely misunderstood. I squinted my eyes and moved backwards,

“No, I can see you easily” I responded, “you’re easy on the eyes” she burst into a smile. As though there was a light on her face, it became bright for a moment

“Not like that, I mean I don’t make an impact.”

“Ah.” I could not deny it strait away. She does not make an impact. That is exactly right. She asked my age, so I answered twenty two. I had been set the same age as her.

“You look composed for your age.”

“I get told that a lot.” This was the truth. From my colleagues as well, I often get told that I look composed or I look cold. It is just that I do not like pointless playfulness, and I am not good at expressing my feelings, but apparently from another’s eyes I look particular.

She began to talk about her office. Her voice was characteristically difficult to hear, but the conversation appeared to be becoming smooth. Rather than her thawing, it was probably to do with the high pace with which she was drinking beer.

She works in the headquarters of a major electronics company. Apparently.

“That’s a first-rate company. That’s great!” I put on my best envious voice.

“But it’s complaint handling” she drew her eyebrows unattractively.” I’m in the complaints handling department. It’s not a job that anyone would want.”

“Complaints handling?”

“I take calls from customers. Initially they get connected to another desk, but malicious people get passed on to me. So my speciality is troublesome complaints.”

“Sounds depressing”

“Yes” here she dropped her shoulders, and nodded a gloomy head. “It’s really depressing. Because there is nothing but people complaining. They come storming, nagging, being sarcastic and threatening. I only attend to people like that. I think I will go mad.

“Is it tough every day?”

“No” she shook her head “It is too tough every day.”

“That bad?”

“Even though I am like this, when I was on the phone I would put on a very cheerful voice. Because I felt sorry for the customer. But when they keep accusing you, your feelings stagnate.”

Her voice was such a damp little voice, like bubbles bursting on the surface of a murky pond, that I could not imagine her producing a cheerful voice on the phone.

“Recently, there has been an especially weird customer”


“Some one how specifically requests me to complain”


“There are five girls in the complaints handling department, and who gets reached is random, but this guy gives my name on the phone.”

“That’s terrible.” Having a stalker-like complainer is nasty.

“It’s too terrible” she drooped, looked at me with lifeless eyes, and with a weak smile; “It’s enough to make you want to die.” She said

I almost said it out loud. Your wish will come true.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Accuracy of death 2

On the near side of the subway staircase I stepped under a roofed section, and closed my umbrella. Before I closed it, I shook the water from it firmly, two or three times. A bit of dirt that was stuck to the umbrella flew onto the back of the woman who stood in front of me.

“Ah!” I loosed my voice. It was a bigger piece of dirt than I expected. The woman looked behind her suspiciously.

“Please forgive me. Some droplets flew…” I bowed my head. She twisted her neck, and haphazardly pulled at the suit she wore, resting her eyes on the dirtied patch. When she had confirmed there was a patch of dirt the sixe of a five hundred yen coin on the grey cloth, once again her suspicious eyes turned toward me. She looked angry, but of course, she had the right to be angry; she really looked more bewildered than angry. She went to go down the stairs, so I panicked, and stood in front of her.

“Wait a minute, I’ll pay for the cleaning” I said.

I had not checked carefully, but this time I should have an appearance that would charm a young woman. I was told by the information department that I was a young man in his early twenties who could pass for a model in a fashion magazine. The information department researches and decides on an appearance and age that will aid in our work.

Therefore, it is hard to imagine that my appearance inspired dislike in her; I think it must have been brining up money that made her suspicious.

She said something.

‘No it’s all right’ or ‘Don’t bother’; I managed to grasp that it was something of that nature, although she spoke in such a small, retiring voice that I could not hear what she said.

“Wait a minute” without thinking, I went to grab her arm as a reflex. I withdrew my hand immediately.

I had forgotten to wear a glove. It is forbidden to touch a human body with a naked hand. Just by being touched, humans can faint and become difficult, so it is forbidden except for in emergencies. It is a rule. Those who break it are forced to do a set period of manual labour and attend an educational course. Breaking such a trivial rule is like, in human terms, throwing away a cigarette butt or ignoring a traffic light, so I did not feel it was necessary to be overly fastidious about it, but even though I think it is interfering, it is a rule that should be followed.

“Getting dirt on such an expensive suit, I can’t leave it like that” I said.

“Expensive… the whole suit was 10 000 yen” finally the girl spoke in a voice I could hear. “Are you being sarcastic?”

“It doesn’t look so cheap” in fact, it easily looked that cheap. “If that’s the case, all the more; it must be rare to find such a bargain.”

“Don’t worry about this stain” she said darkly, “at this point I’m not worried about a mark or two.”

Yes, with your life-span, a stain like that is not a problem. You will be dead in a week anyway, I thought, but I did not say it.

“Okay, lets do this; how about you let me buy you dinner by way of an apology?”

“Huh?” she made a face like she had never heard this line before.

“I know a good restaurant. They are not likely to let me in on my own, so it would help me is you came.”

She stared at me. Humans are really deeply suspicious. They are extremely scared of being made idiots out of, yet are easy to fool. There can be no helping them. Of course, I have no intention of helping them.

“Where is everyone hiding?” she prickled.


“Your friends are hiding somewhere, laughing, aren’t they? Laughing at me, enjoying my response to your pick up.” Rather than talking, she gave the impression of reciting a Buddhist prayer.

“Pick up?” I said as if I had been shoved.

“I may not look so good, but I am not causing anybody trouble, so please leave me alone.” She went as to go ahead. At this point, without thinking I grabbed her shoulder with my bare hands. By the time I had thought ‘Oh no!’, she had turned her head around, and made a face like she had seen a god of death, well no, she had seen a god of death, but in any case her face paled to blue as the blood rushed away, and she sat down helplessly where she was.

It was too late to regret it. All I could do was pray that I had not been seen by a colleague. I took a pair of gloves from my pocket, put them on both hands, and held the girl where she had collapsed on the floor.

Accuracy of death 1

Accuracy of Death
Isaka Kotaro

Accuracy of Death
Quite some time ago, the head of a barber shop told me he had no interest in hairstyles.
“I cut customers’ hair with scissors, innit. From the morning, when the shop opens, until it closes in the evening, without rest, it’s snip snip. It feels good to see a customer’s head being made fresh, but is doesn’t particularly mean I like the hair style.”
Five days later he was stabbed in the stomach by a random street-slasher and died, but of course at that time, without anticipating his death, he spoke with a lively and cheerful voice.
When asked “So, why are you running a barber shop then?” he replied with a grim smile.
“Because it’s my job.”
This is exactly in how I think, or to put it more pompously, this is exactly my philosophy.
I am not so interested in the deaths of humans. Whether a president gets sniped on a 12 mile-per-hour parade, or whether a young boy and his dog freeze to death in front of a Rubens painting, I am not interested.
In fact, the barber in question once allowed “I am afraid of dying.” In reply to this, “Do you remember anything from before you were born?” I questioned “Before you were born, did you feel fear? Did you feel pain?”
“The thing we call death is like that, isn’t it. You just return to the state you where in before you where born. It is not frightening, nor is painful.”
A person’s death is neither of interest nor of value. To put it another way, the death of anyone is of equal value. Therefore, it is of no importance to me who dies when. Even so, today I am making the effort of going out in order to ensure a person’s death.
Why? Because it is my job. Exactly like the barber said.

I was in front of a building. A place a hundred meters from the tube station front, it is the twenty-floor high office of an electronics maker. One side of the wall was like a glass window, while the other side reflected the walkway and opposite building’s emergency stairway. I was standing by the front entrance, resting on a folded umbrella.
The clouds overhead were deep black, with bulges redolent of tensed muscle. Rain was falling. It was not with a heavy force, but neither did it look like stopping soon., it felt persistent. Whenever it is time for me to work, the weather is unfavourable. I was under the impression that bad weather was something that came with the job of dealing with death, but when I asked my associates I gathered this was not the case and have recently come to understand that it is just chance. When I say that I have never seen clear weather, my associates look at me with even more disbelieving eyes than humans, but it is the truth, and nothing can be done.
I looked at the clock. It was 18:30. According to the schedule passed out by the information department, it was about time for the figure to appear. Just as soon as I think it, I mark her leaving through the automatic door.
The figure of the girl who raised a transparent vinyl umbrella as she walked was dull. From behind, that she did not appear to have any excess fat for her height, was all there was to say in praise. She was round-shouldered, bow-legged, and walked facing downwards, so that she looked older than her twenty two years. The jet-black hair tied behind her head gave a dark impression, and more than anything else, whether it was fatigue or sorrow, a shadow of tiredness was cast from her brow to her neck. The fact that she appeared to be wrapped in a dull lead colour could not just be due to the rain that moistened the pavement. It is not as though all would be corrected if she had used make-up, but she did not appear to have any will to decorate herself at all, and even the suit she wore was far from designer ware.
Stepping into a wide stride, I followed after her back. Twenty meters ahead was an entrance to the underground station, I should catch up with her there. That was how I was instructed. I wanted to get it over with quickly, as always. I would do what I had to do, nothing more. Because it is my job.