“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.
“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.”
“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.’