Extra 8: Keep It Closed
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Eyeballs darted around under a light slumber. Lately, he would wake up to the sensation of them rolling around under the thin membrane of his eyelids. And annoyingly enough, they would immediately stop whenever he opened his eyes. Apparently, it was a response to dreams that occurred under REM sleep, but he had no idea what kind of dream that it even was. The room was bright with the curtains left open, and in the first place, he only went to sleep at around dawn. How many hours of rest did he even get? His body was like lead, his blood circulation sluggish—it was as if he had been stuffed to his fingertips with sand.
Sakae slowly sat up and stared blankly at the white wallpaper. Eventually, it turned into a screen, and hazy images materialized there without his volition—the last taping of the year, variety shows from other networks, his own desk at work. They flashed one after another at dizzying speeds, granting him no time to even determine whether they were memories of something real or not. If people dreamed in order for the brain to organize memories and emotions—to defragment itself—Sakae thought that maybe right now, he was sleeping while awake. This was a dream that was brought outside his body. That was why there was color. Even though he drank, he didn’t do drugs—which was what his sense of self-preservation vaguely grumbled to himself. But Sakae didn’t hate this sight that only he could see. Because only a very limited part of the brain was actually stimulated or actively used.
The timing of captions that was off by a couple of frames, the directions in the studio to make a punchline hit harder… He replayed the past mistakes clearly in his mind and thought about the work that he had coming up—episode planning, performers, corrections and bonus footage for the DVDs, promotional events. His head both froze and raced around as if under the effects of fire and ice. The images that flashed across the screen on the wall slowly lost all form and coherence and melted away. All that remained behind were shapeless colors like when he watched a movie marathon for hours on end. Sakae continued to watch the screen without blinking. When the vestiges of the dream disappeared and all that remained was a wall, Sakae picked up his cell phone from next to his pillow and unlocked it. He noticed on the LCD screen that today was January 1st. The calendar had changed to a new year. He thought nothing of it. He just had to do the same job last year as he had always done. But for how long? Until he could no longer do it anymore. But he didn’t know if it would be this year, next year, or much further into the future. Maybe he could longer “close his eyes” to it in the real sense of the phrase. But still, this reality was the only thing that he could give himself.
“Hey, how are you doing? Happy New Year~”
A director who just woke up from a nap walked over with his hair in full disarray. If a large earthquake were to strike right now, they would have to air his sloppy appearance with a caption that said, On the News Floor at the Onset of the Earthquake.
“Happy New Year.”
“Did anything happen on your watch?”
“Nope, nothing. No incidents, accidents, or even house fires. It was a pretty quiet New Year’s Eve.”
“That’s the best news, yeah~? Oh, what are you watching?”
On the computer monitor of the news desk, there was a window opened to a stream where all the network’s shows could be viewed.
“Oh, it’s GoGo’s New Year’s Special!”
“I haven’t watched the episodes that I have recorded at home, and I had a lot of free time earlier.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. It’s New Year’s, so it’s expected~ I have to watch it too~ Speaking of which, the producer of GoGo is just a bit older than me.”
“Man, it’s cruel how big a difference there is in our talent. I don’t think I could ever make a show like this.”
“Do you want to go into entertainment production?”
“Nah, I’m just saying… I mean, he’s at a national network with people and a budget at his disposal, airing a show during prime time on New Year’s Eve that millions of people are looking forward to watching. We’re in the same industry, but it’s like he’s in a completely different dimension from us. I can’t even imagine it. That’s why they call those people at the top ‘geniuses’, I guess.”
“Either that or they’re insane.”
“I’m sure there are cases where they’re both.”
And whether they possessed a madness where they enjoyed their own madness.
“Oh, the morning papers should be here now. I’ll go get them~”
The newspapers were delivered to the security office on the first floor, so someone had to go down to pick them up. When the director went to get them and he was alone again, he realized that he hadn’t sent out a New Year’s greeting. And not the normal postcards that people would send out, but a fax addressed to the Asahi TV News Bureau. It was a custom to post up for display all the New Year’s faxes from each of the affiliated stations up onto a whiteboard, but he hadn’t seen such a sight in a long, long time.
He searched for a suitable New Year’s image on the Internet, printed it out, and wrote, From Setouchi Asahi News Bureau. He thought about sending it just like that, but he picked up the pen again and added another line.
Please take care of yourselves and have a happy and healthy new year.
He wondered if he would see it. Probably not. The answer came to him in an instant. To begin with, he wouldn’t stop by the News department in the first place, and there was no possibility that he would see it in passing either. He thought about drawing a black line to erase the message, but in the end, he left it as it was.
He felt like he had seen a dream about the past. When he woke up, his field of vision was sideways. He could feel a soft cushion under his cheek, and in front of his eyes, the TV was rotated 90 degrees and played a movie.
“Oh, are you awake?”
“…Ugh, how long was I asleep?”
“Probably about 30 minutes. You just suddenly conked out.”
Apparently, his battery had run out through the night while marathoning the backlog of shows and movies that he had recorded (regardless of genre) or had loaded on his streaming playlist. In the meantime, Shitara seemed to have cleaned up the mess of empty bottles and cans from their drinking, because the coffee table was entirely clear.
“Should I rewind it?”
“Just let it play.”
It wasn’t like he was seriously following the story anyway, and he didn’t care if he missed a big chunk of the movie. He continued to watch the movie lazily from his horizontal position on the sofa when Shitara stood up and said, “You must be hungry.”
“Uh, not really.”
“Well, you should be. Give me a minute.”
Shitara started rummaging around in the kitchen, but he didn’t ask to pause the movie, so Sakae left him to his own devices. The kitchen sounds blended with the sound effects and foreign language dialog. There was the sound of the burner turning on and then something frying and sliding around in a pan. They should have sounded discordant, but somehow it felt comfortable in his half-awakened state, and Sakae almost drifted off to sleep again.
“You’re sleeping again? That’s fine, but accompany me for a bite first.”
Shitara placed two cans of beer on the cleared off coffee table. Sakae slowly sat up, and this time Shitara placed a bowl of popcorn filled to the brim.
“You gotta have this with a movie.”
When Sakae put into his mouth a piece of hot popcorn sprinkled with salt grains that seemed to melt into the treat, the burst-open kernel abruptly broke apart. So flimsy, he thought. Sakae opened a can of beer and asked just in case if he wanted to rewind the movie, but Shitara shook his head.
“I actually quite like thinking about what could have happened during the part that I missed.”
This year they spent the New Year’s holiday at home watching movies. He didn’t care how it was spent the year before that or any of the other years that he had missed. And instead of thinking about it, Sakae rested his head in Shitara’s lap and closed his eyes.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.