漂着の浜辺から
囁きのような呟き。
 



 ベータと別れた後、私は港に沿って歩いた。
 時計を見ると、午前十時。私の好きな時間だった。私は空を見上げた。空は明るくて、細く薄い雲が散らばっていた。視点をゆっくりと下げて行くと、空の青さはさらに深い青さに変わった。海だ。この島から見える海は、驚くほど青く見える。聞いた話では、海水に微量の石灰分が含まれているから、太陽の光を浴びるとこのような見事なコバルトブルーに見えるのだとか。海は、穏やかだった。港では、今日の仕事を既に終えた船が、ぎしぎしと揺れていた。潮の香りが、強く漂っていた。
 私は、イプシロンのいる埠頭を目指して歩いていた。彼の、無邪気な横顔が、どうしても気になって仕方がなかったからだ。
 埠頭には、大きな買い物籠のついた自転車が、一台止まっていた。そして、その少し先にイプシロンの姿があった。自転車は、彼のものだろうと私は思った。イプシロンは、と見れば、相変わらず私のことなど全く気がつかないといった風で、一心に宙に模様を描きながら、何かを呟いていた。その姿が、あまりに超然として見えたので、私は一瞬躊躇ったが、小さく息を吸い込んで、思い切って声をかけた。
 「こんにちは」
 イプシロンの動きがぴたりと止まった。はっとするような沈黙が降って来た。イプシロンは開いていた口をしっかりと閉じて、こちらを向いた。そして、私の頭の先から爪先まで、真っ直ぐに視線を這わせた。私はどきどきした。これほど真っ直ぐに、濁りのない大きな瞳で眺められるということには、慣れていなかったからだ。
 「こんにちは」
 イプシロンは、挨拶にしては相当ずれたタイミングで、そう言った。だが、不思議とそれが気にならなかった。言葉が、しっかりと私に向いていたからだ。
 「今日は、いい天気ですね」私は言った。
 「風が、綺麗ですね」イプシロンが言った。
 「そうですね。」私はちょっと笑った。「風が綺麗ですよね」
 「あなたは、先月からこの島にいる方ですね」イプシロンが言った。「時々、見かけます」
 「ええ、そうです」私は言った。「日本から来たんです」
 「日本?」イプシロンは言った。「中国の隣ですか?」
 「ええ、まあ、そうです」私は言った。「海を挟んでいますが、隣ですね」
 イプシロンは、微笑んだ。とても綺麗な微笑みだった。
 私は言った。「私もあなたをよく見かけるんです。ここにいるのを。ここが好きなんですか?」
 「一番、光が綺麗だから」イプシロンは言った。
 「ああ」私は言った。そして、辺りを見渡した。その私の仕草を見て、イプシロンは満足そうだった。
 「さっき、何か手で描いてましたね」私は、辺りを見渡しながら、言った。「あれは、何ですか?」
 「ブルーとイエローを手のひらで転がしていたんです」イプシロンは言った。
 「ブルーとイエロー?」
 「光の妖精なんです。昔は、グリーンやレッドもいたんだけど」イプシロンは言った。

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 上の写真は、先月横浜に行った時のもので、横浜大桟橋からベイブリッジを望んでいる。赤い球体は、月。美しい満月だった。

 最近、立て続けに二つ、「現実はSF小説を超えた」という記述を読んだ。そのうちの一つは、雑誌「Ku:nel」に掲載されていた、佐野洋子さんのエッセイだ。
 このエッセイを読みながら、僕はどうしても納得がゆかなかった。
 著者は、現実はかつてのSFで描かれた未来をはるかに超えて、悲惨な方に向かっていると言いたいのだろう。月に人が行くなんて言語道断だ。月は眺めるものだ。人はわきまえて、このあたりで踏みとどまるべきだと。
 だけど、それは全く間違っていると僕は思う。
 現実がSF小説よりも先に進んだことなど一度もない。現実がSFを超えたという人たちの頭の中には、未だに鉄腕アトムやスーパージェッターが飛び交っているのだろう。きちんとしたSF小説というものは、その時点の科学を踏まえた文学だから、現実より遅れるなどということは、ありえない。
 また、文明が進む事をやめてここで踏みとどまることは、我々の子孫に対して、余りにも無責任だと僕は思う。今の状況は、放置しておくと、壊滅的な状態になるのは確実だ。なんとか食い止めなければならないのだ。そして、ただ食い止めるだけではなく、その先のことも、さらに考えなければならない。科学がここで停止してしまって、どうやってそれができるだろう?
 それに、例え今それが一時的にできたとして、地球に有機物が生きて行ける年数には、確実にタイムリミットがある。東大の松井孝典教授によると、人間の環境破壊とは関係なく、あと五億年もしたら、地球上には普通の光合成生物が生存できなくなるという。人間ほど複雑な生物が、それだけ持つはずもない。残された未来は、それほど長くない。勿論、苦しみながら絶滅して行くのは自分たちではなく、はるか未来の子孫である。だからといって、優雅に自分たちが月を眺めて風流を楽しんでいればいいのか?
 佐野さんのエッセイで、彼女が言いたい事はもちろん心情としてはとてもよく理解できる。多分、やたらと核兵器を作ろうとする国や、洗濯物を干すのさえ嫌がってランドリーを使う国などが念頭にあるのだろう。だけど、本当に大事なのは、科学を否定することではなく、それらをきちんと運用するモラルや道徳を育てることのはずだ。
 普段は、人の書いたものにここまで突っかかることもないのだけれど、これだけ影響力の強いひとのエッセイの中に、「あんなSFの世界にならないうちに死にたい」なんて文章が出てきたのが、ちょっと嫌で、長々と描きました。

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 先日の日曜日の、絵画館前の銀杏並木。
 細い歩道を挟んだ左右で、紅葉の程度が違っているのが、面白かった。
 自然は、ダイナミックだけれど、繊細ですね。

 突然、CANを聞きたくなって、聞いている。
 今聞いているのは、「DELAY1968」という、デビューアルバム以前に録音された、幻のファースト。そのリマスター盤。
 CANというのは、七十年代の伝説的なドイツのバンド。一時期、日本人のボーカリスト「ダモ鈴木」が在籍していたということでも有名。ただ、僕が初めてカンの名前を知ったのは、「アント・サリー」のボーカリストだったPhewのメジャーデビューアルバム「Phew」。それは坂本龍一のプロデュースだったのだが、その演奏がCANだったのだ。
 カンは、プログレという範疇に入れられることが多いのだが、僕としては、そういう気がしない。僕が余りプログレは好きじゃないせいかもしれない。ついでに言えば、カンは、バンドというよりは、もしかしたらユニットという方が正しいかもしれない。カンのアルバムは、アルバムごとに結構印象が違うが、これはヴェルヴェット・アンダーグラウンドのアルバムなどともちょっと印象が似ている。そういえば、僕と同じように、ルー・リードが好きだった友人も、カンが好きだった。
 コクトー・ツインズといい、ドゥルッティ・コラムといい、そしてこのカンといいい、最近ちょっとそんな気分なんですね。

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 イプシロンは、とても背の低い青年で、皆からは、少し頭が足りないと思われている。一人きりで、港の堤防に座って、ぶつぶつと会話をしている事が多いからだ。けれども、くっきりとした顔をしたハンサムな青年で、その瞳は、透き通った淡い色をしている。だから、とても頭が足りないようには見えない。
 初めて私がイプシロンを見かけたのも、堤防を散歩していた時だった。一人で何かをぶつぶつと呟いて、指で宙に何かを描いて、時々笑っていた。小柄だけど、綺麗な顔をした青年だなと私は思ったが、その独り言は気になった。ただ、その時はそれほど深くは考えなかった。独り言も、とても小さな声だったから、何を喋っているのかは、分からなかった。
 それから幾日かして、港でベータと話をしていた時、遠くの堤防にその青年の姿を見つけ、訊いてみた。そうそう、ほら、あの向こうに見えている青年、この前も見たんだけど、何か独り言を喋っていた……
 「ああ、イプシロン」ベータは言った。「あいつは、いつもそうなんだよ」
 「いつも?」
 「そう。ほら、今もやってるだろ?こうやって、指で何かを追いかけるみたいにしてさ。まあ、ああやって堤防で一人でいるときは、だいたいそうだと思うよ。ちょっと、変わっているんだよ、あいつ」
 「どんなことを喋っているのかな?」
 「さあ」ベータは興味無さそうに言った。「よく知らないけど、特に何ってこともないんじゃないかな。でも、そういや前に俺が聞いた時は、何だかただの独り言って言うよりは、誰かと会話しているみたいだと思ったよ。グリーンとかブルーとか、色の名前をまるで誰かの名前みたいに呼んでたのが不思議だった。すごく愉しそうにね。まるで、グリーンとかブルーとかいうやつがすぐ近くにいて、そいつと話をしているみたいだったよ」
 「グリーン?ブルー?」
 「そう。色の名前だよ。良くわかんないだろ?」
 私は頷いて、遠くの堤防で一人で座っているイプシロンの姿を見詰めた。辺りにはカモメが舞っていたが、イプシロンは全く意に介していないようだった。ただ、文様を描くように、指を宙に躍らせていた。

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 今日は、千駄ヶ谷から、絵画館前、表参道、代々木公園、渋谷と散歩した。
 この時期には、必ず一度はこのコースを歩く。
 十年以上前からの、習慣のようなものだ。だから、絵画館前のイチョウ並木は、秋が終わる前に一度は見ておかないと、心残りになる。ただ、今日はまだ紅葉は半ばといったところ。やはり今年は秋が短いようだ。

 表参道で、花屋の店先に、赤いポインセチアに混じって、青いポインセチアを見た。真っ青というのではなく、浅葱色。上の写真がそれ。綺麗は綺麗なのだが、どこか不気味な感じもする。

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 「生家へ」
 色川武大著

を読んだ。
 
 自伝の中に幻覚が溶け込んでいるという、不思議な作品だが、強烈。
 この作品集は、「作品1」から「作品11」まで、そっけない通し番号が並んでいる。
 「怪奇小説アンソロジー」には、以前もこの作家の作品をあげたが、もう一つの候補として、ここから「作品1」を挙げる。「作品2」や「作品5」も棄て難いが、最後の一瞬が光景として焼きつく「作品1」を、選んだ。


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 埃を被ったダンボールの中から、大量に、昔描いていた絵が出てきた。主に、二十歳前後に描いていた絵。
 大半は、上のような、ちょっと病的なペン画。若い絵だけど、今ではちょっと描けないと思うので、紹介してみる。
 こうした作品群は、0.05ミリのドローイングペンで、下書きもなく描き始め、間違った線も意地でも生かそうとして描いた絵。着色は、マービーマーカー。どこにでも持ち運べて、気軽に描けたので、そうした画材になった。

 今、音楽を聴いている。
 「MIDLAKE」というアーティストの「The Trials of VAN OCCUPANTHER」というアルバム。
 一昨日だったか、J-WAVEの「ランデヴー」という、ビビさんがナビゲーターをされている番組で、このアルバムに収録されている曲「HEAD HOME」がオンエアされたのだが、気になったので購入した(この番組の、三時半くらいの時間に流れる曲は、なかないいいものがあります)。
 ボーカルの声は、最初はロン・セクススミスに似ていると思ったのだが、アルバムを通して聞くと、ルーファス・ウェンライトの方が似ているかもしれない。曲は、メランコリックなんだけれども暗くはなく、メロディアス。ニール・ヤングが好きな人にも、レディオヘッドが好きな人にも、イケそう。ちょっとローファイな感じのギターが、なかなかいい。
 

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Later, he found occasion to ship it off to England. Shortly after this, his life was attempted, and his time of service being up, he came home.
Here it ended, and yet I was no nearer to the solution than I had been when first I opened the book.
Standing up, I placed it on the table; then, as I reached for my hat, I noticed on the floor a half-sheet of paper, which had evidently fallen from the diary as I read. Stooping, I picked it up. It was soiled and, inparts illegible, but what I saw there filled me with astonishment. Here, at last, in my hands, I held the key to the horrible mystery that surrounded us!
Hastily I crumpled the paper into my pocket and, opening the door, rushed from the room. Reaching the hotel, I bounded upstairs to where Will sat reading.
"I've found it out! I've found it out!" I gasped. Will sprang from his seat, his eyes blazing with excitement. I seized him by the arm and, without stopping to explain, dragged him hatless into the street.
"Come on," I cried.
As we ran through the streets, people looked up wonderingly, and many joined in the race.
At last we reached the open space and the empty pedestal. Here I paused a moment to gain breath. Will looked at me curiously. The crowd formed round in a semi-circle, at some little distance.
Then, without a word, I stepped up to the altar and, stooping, reached up under it. There was a loud click and I sprang back sharply. Something rose from the centre of the pedestal with a slow, stately movement. For a second no one spoke; then a great cry of fear came from the crowd:
"The image! the image!" and some began to run. There was another click and Kali, the Goddess of Death, stood fully revealed.
Again I stepped up to the altar. The crowd watched me breathlessly, and the timid ceased to fly. For a moment I fumbled. Then one side of the pedestal swung back. I held up my hand for silence. Someone procured a lantern, which I lit and lowered through the opening. It went down some ten feet, then rested on the earth beneath. I peered down, and as my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I made out a square-shaped pit in the ground directly below the pedestal.
Will came to my side and looked over my shoulder.
"We must get a ladder," he said. I nodded, and he sent a man for one.
When it came, we pushed it through until it rested firmly; then, after a final survey, we climbed cautiously down.
I remember feeling surprised at the size of the place. It was as big as a good-sized room. At this moment as I stood glancing round, Will called to me. His voice denoted great perplexity. Crossing over, I found him staring at a litter of things which strewed the ground: tins, bottles, cans, rubbish, a bucket with some water in it and, further on, a sort of rude bed.
"Someone's been living here!" and he looked at me blankly. "It wasn't-" he began, then hesitated. "It wasn't that after all," and he indicated with his head.
"No," I replied, "it wasn't that." I assented. Will's face was a study.
Then he seemed to grasp the full significance of the fact, and a great look of relief crossed his features.
A moment later, I made a discovery. On the left-hand side in the far corner was a low-curved entrance like a small tunnel. On the opposite side was a similar opening. Lowering the lantern, I looked into the righthand one, but could see nothing. By stooping somewhat we could walk along it, which we did for some distance, until it ended in a heap of stones and earth. Returning to the hollow under the pedestal, we tried the other, and after a little, noticed that it trended steadily downwards.
"It seems to be going in the direction of the lake," I remarked. "We had better be careful."
A few feet further on the tunnel broadened and heightened considerably, and I saw a faint glimmer which, on reaching, proved to be water.
"Can't get any further," Will cried. "You were right. We have got down to the level of the lake."
"But what on earth was this tunnel designed for?" I asked, glancing around. "You see it reaches below the surface of the lake."
"Goodness knows," Will answered. "I expect it was one of those secret passages made centuries ago-most likely in Cromwell's time. You see, Colonel Whigman's was a very old place, built I can't say how long ago. It belonged once to an old baron. However, there is nothing here; we might as well go."
"Just a second, Will," I said, the recollection of the statue's wild leap into the lake at the moment recurring to me.
I stooped and held the lantern close over the water which blocked our further progress.
As I did so I thought I saw something of an indistinct whiteness floating a few inches beneath the surface. Involuntarily my left hand took a firmer grip of the lantern, and the fingers of my right hand opened out convulsively.
What was it I saw? I could feel myself becoming as icy cold as the water itself. I glanced at Will. He was standing disinterestedly a little behind me. Evidently he had, so far, seen nothing.
Again I looked, and a horrible sensation of fear and awe crept over me as I seemed to see, staring up at me, the face of Kali, the Goddess of Death.
"See, Will!" I said quickly. "Is it fancy?"
Following the direction of my glance, he peered down into the gloomy water, then started back with a cry.
"What is it, Herton? I seemed to see a face like-"
"Take the lantern, Will," I said as a sudden inspiration came to me.
"I've an idea what it is." And, leaning forward, I plunged my arms in up to the elbows and grasped something cold and hard. I shuddered, but held on, and pulled, and slowly up from the water rose a vast white face which came away in my hands. It was a huge mask-an exact facsimile of the features of the statue above us.
Thoroughly shaken, we retreated to the pedestal with our trophy, and from thence up the ladder into the blessed daylight.
Here, to a crowd of eager listeners, we told our story; and so left it.
Little remains to be told.
Workmen were sent down and from the water they drew forth the dead body of an enormous Hindoo, draped from head to foot in white. In the body were a couple of bullet wounds. Our fire had been true that night, and he had evidently died trying to enter the pedestal through the submerged opening of the passage.
Who he was, or where he came from, no one could explain.
Afterwards, among the colonel's papers, we found a reference to the High Priest, which led us to suppose that it was he who, in vengeance for the sacrilege against his appalling deity, had, to such terrible purpose, impersonated Kali, the Goddess of Death.

THE END

**********************

ホジスンのデビュー作の全文です。
ただ、作品としては、それほど読むべきところのある作品でもないかもしれませんね。

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 親愛なる
あけぼの子どもの森公園スタッフの皆さんへ
1999年8月17日

 あなた方の公園で摘んだ「よもぎ」で染めたコースターという素敵なバースデープレゼントを送ってくださるなんて、優しい方たちですね。毎日使っています。
 (バースデーカードの中の)「1999」年の切り抜き細工は、今まで日本からいただいたすべての贈り物同様に、上手にできていますね。あなた方はすばらしい人たちです。
 また(送っていただいた)写真を見れば、どうしてみんながあなた方の公園へ来たがるのかがわかります。遊んだり、安らいだり、くつろいだりするために来るのですね。
 私も仲間に入りたい……。

愛を込めて
トーベ・ヤンソン


 上は、あけぼの子どもの森公園(通称ムーミン谷公園)の中にある、資料館に展示されていた、トーベ・ヤンソンからの手紙。亡くなる二年前のものだ。

 今日、出勤前に立ち寄ったコンビニで、ふと見つけた「ku:nel」という雑誌を買った。特集タイトルが「ムーミンのひみつ」。けれども、内容としては、「トーベ・ヤンソンの秘密の島」と言うほうが、的を得ている。なぜなら、それほどのページを割いていないこの特集の大部分が、ヤンソンの名著「島暮らしの記録」で語られていたとても小さなクルーヴ島、その島での、二泊三日の滞在記だったからだ。読み進むと、この島に、見ず知らずの日本人を泊めるのは初めてだという記述を目にする。美しいカラー写真を見ることのできる、この小さな特集は、ヤンソンの「島暮らしの記録」を読みながら、傍らに置いておいて、時々眺めるのに最適かもしれない。

p.s.
 「七枚綴りの絵…土手での邂逅」を、本館の方にアップしました。最後の部分を中心に、手を入れています。

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On we ran. A minute, perhaps, passed. All at once I heard a hoarse cry ahead, followed by a loud scream, which ceased suddenly. With fear plucking at my heart, I spurted forward, Will close behind. Round the corner we burst, and I saw the two men bending over something on the ground.
"Have you got it?" I shouted excitedly. The men turned quickly and, seeing me, beckoned hurriedly. A moment later I was with them and kneeling alongside a silent form. Alas! it was the brave young fellow who had been the first to volunteer. His neck seemed to be broken. Standing up, I turned to the men for an explanation.
"It was this way, sir; Johnson, that's him," nodding to the dead man,
"he was smarter on his legs than we be, and he got ahead. Just before we reached him we heered him shout. We was close behind, and I don't think it could ha' been half a minute before we was up and found him."
"Did you see anything-" I hesitated. I felt sick. Then I continued,
"anything of That-you know what I mean?"
"Yes, sir; leastways my mate did. He saw it run across to those bushes an' -,,
"Come on, Will," I cried, without waiting to hear more; and throwing the light of our lanterns ahead of us, we burst into the shrubberies. Scarcely had we gone a dozen Paces when the light struck full upon a towering figure. There was a crash, and my lantern was smashed all to pieces. I was thrown to the ground, and something slid through the bushes. Springing to the edge, we were just in time to catch sight of it running in the direction of the lake. Simultaneously we raised our pistols and fired. As the smoke cleared away, I saw the Thing bound over the railings into the water. A faint splash was borne to our ears, and then-silence.
Hurriedly we ran to the spot, but could see nothing.
"Perhaps we hit it," I ventured.
"You forget," laughed Will hysterically, "marble won't float."
"Don't talk rubbish," I answered angrily. Yet I felt that I would have given something to know what it was rea45.
For some minutes we waited; then, as nothing came to view, we moved away towards the gate-the men going on ahead, carrying their dead comrade. Our way led past the little clearing where the statue stood. It was still dark when we reached it.
"Look, Herton, look!" Will's voice rose to a shriek. I turned sharply.
I had been lost momentarily in perplexing thought. Now, I saw that we were right opposite the place of the marble statue, and Will was shining the light of the lantern in its direction; but it showed me nothing save the pedestal, bare and smooth.
I glanced at Will. The lantern was shaking visibly in his grasp. Then I looked towards the pedestal again in a dazed manner. I stepped up to it and passed my hand slowly across the top. I felt very queer.
After that, I walked round it once or twice. No use! there was no mistake this time. My eyes showed me nothing save that vacant place where, but a few hours previously, had stood the massive marble.
Silently we left the spot. The men had preceded us with their sad burden. Fortunately, in the dim light, they had failed to notice the absence of the goddess.
Dawn was breaking as in mournful procession we entered the town.
Already the news seemed to have spread, and quite a body of the town people escorted us to the hotel.
During the day a number of men went up to the park, armed with hammers, intending to destroy the statue, but returned later silent and awestruck, declaring that it had disappeared bodily, only the great altar remaining.
I was feeling unwell. The shock had thoroughly upset me, and a sense of helplessness assailed me.
About midnight, feeling worn out, I went to bed. It was late on the following morning when I awoke with a start. An idea had come to me, and rising, I dressed quickly and went downstairs. In the bar I found the
landlord, and to him I applied for information as to where the library of the late Colonel Whigman had been removed.
He scratched his head a moment reflectively.
"I couldn't rightly say, sir; but I know Mr. Jepson, the town clerk, will be able to, and I daresay he wouldn't mind telling you anything you might want to know."
Having inquired where I was likely to meet this official, I set off, and in a short while found myself chatting to a pleasant, ruddy faced man of about forty.
"The late colonel's library!" he said genially; "certainly, come this way, Sir Herton," and he ushered me into a long room lined with books.
What I wanted was to find if the colonel had left among his library any diary or written record of his life in India. For a couple of hours I searched persistently. Then, just as I was giving up hope, I found it-a little green-backed book, filled with closely written and crabbed writing.
Opening it, I found staring me in the face, a rough pen-and-ink sketch of-the marble goddess.
The following pages I read eagerly. They told a strange story of how, while engaged in the work of exterminating Thugs, the colonel and his men had found a large idol of white marble, quite unlike any Indian Deity the colonel had ever seen.
After a full description-in which I recognized once more the statue in Bungalow Park-there was some reference to an exciting skirmish with the priests of the temple, in which the colonel had a narrow escape from death at the hands of the high priest, "who was a most enormous man and mad with fury."
Finally, having obtained possession, they found among other things that the Deity of the temple was another-and, to Europeans, unknown-form of Kali, the Goddess of Death. The temple itself being a sort of Holy of Holies of Thugdom, where they carried on their brutal and disgusting rites.
After this, the diary went on to say that, loath to destroy the idol, the colonel brought it back with him to Calcutta, having first demolished the temple in which it had been found.

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Will had always spoken of the statue as god. Now, however, as my eyes ran over the various details, a doubt formed itself in my mind, and I suggested to Will that he was possibly mistaken as to the intended sex of the image.
For a moment he looked interested; then remarked gloomily that he didn't see it mattered much whether the thing was a man-god or a woman-god. The point was, had it the power to come off its pedestal or not?
I looked at him reproachfully.
"Surely you are not really going to believe that silly superstition?" I expostulated.
He shook his head moodily. "No, but can you or anyone else explain away last night's occurrences in any ordinary manner?"
To this there was no satisfactory reply, sol held my tongue.
"Pity," remarked Will presently, "that we know so little about this god. And the one man who might have enlightened us dead and gone-goodness knows where?"
"Who's that?" I queried.
"Oh, of course. I was forgetting, you don't know! Well, it's this way: for some years an old Indian colonel called Wingman lived here. He was a queer old stick and absolutely refused to have anything to do with anybody. In fact, with the exception of an old Hindoo serving-man, he saw no one. About nine months ago he and his servant were found brutally murd0ered-strangled, so the doctors said. And now comes the most surprising part of it all. In his will he had left the whole of his huge estate to the citizens of T-worth to be used as a park."
"Strangled, I think you said?" and I looked at Will questioningly.
He glanced at me a moment absently, then the light of comprehension flashed across his face. He looked startled. "Jove! you don't mean that?"
"I do though, old chap. The murder of these others has in every case been accomplished by strangling-their bodies, so you've told me, have shown that much. Then there are other things that point to my theory being the right one.
"What! you really think that the Colonel met his death at the same hands as-?" he did not finish. I nodded assent.
"Well, if you are correct, what about the length of time between then and Sally Morgan's murder-seven months isn't it? -and not a soul hurt all that time, and now-" He threw up his arms with an expressive gesture.
"Heaven knows!" I replied, "I don't."
For some length of time we discussed the matter in all its bearings, but without arriving at any satisfactory conclusion.
On our way back to the town Will showed me a tiny piece of white marble which he had surreptitiously chipped from the statue. I examined it closely. Yes, it was marble, and somehow the certainty of that seemed to give us more confidence.
"Marble is marble," Will said, "and it's ridiculous to suppose anything else." I did not attempt to deny this.
During the next few days, we paid visits to the park, but without result. The statue remained as we had left it. A week passed. Then, one morning early, before the dawn, we were roused by a frightful scream, followed by a cry of deepest agony. It ended in a murmuring gurgle, and all was silent.
Without hesitation, we seized pistols and with lighted candles rushed from our rooms to the great entrance door. This we hurriedly opened.
Outside, the night was very quiet. It had been snowing and the ground was covered with a sheet of white.
For a moment we saw nothing. Then we distinguished the form of a woman lying across the steps leading up to the door. Running out, we seized her and carried her into the hall. There we recognized her as one of the waitresses of the hotel. Will turned back her collar and exposed
the throat, showing a livid weal round it.
He was very serious, and his voice trembled, though not with fear, as he spoke to me. "We must dress and follow the tracks; there is no time to waste." He smiled gravely. "I don't think we shall do the running away this time."
At this moment the landlord appeared. On seeing the girl and hearing our story, he seemed thunderstruck with fear and amazement, and could do nothing save wring his hands helplessly. Leaving him with the body, we went to our rooms and dressed quickly; then down again into the hall, where we found a crowd of fussy womenfolk around the poor victim.
In the taproom I heard voices and, pushing my way in, discovered several of the serving men discussing the tragedy in excited tones. As they turned at my entrance, I called to them to know who would volunteer to accompany us. At once a strongly built young fellow stepped forward, followed after a slight hesitation by two older men. Then, as we had sufficient for our purpose, I told them to get heavy sticks and bring lanterns.
As soon as they were ready, we sallied out: Will and I first, the others following and keeping well together. The night was not particularly dark-the snow seemed to lighten it. At the bottom of the High Street one of the men gave a short gasp and pointed ahead.
There, dimly seen, and stealing across the snow with silent strides, was a giant form draped in white. Signing to the men to keep quiet, we ran quickly forward, the snow muffling our footsteps. We neared it rapidly. Suddenly Will stumbled and fell forward on his face, one of his pistols going off with the shock.
Instantly the Thing ahead looked round, and next moment was bounding from us in great leaps. Will was on his feet in a second and, with a muttered curse at his own clumsiness, joined in the chase again. Through the park gates it went, and we followed hard. As we got nearer, I could plainly see the black headdress, and in the right hand there was a dark something: but what struck me the most was the enormous size of the thing; it was certainly quite as tall as the marble goddess.
On we went. We were within a hundred feet of it when it stopped dead and turned towards us, and never shall I forget the fear that chilled me, for there, from head to foot, perfect in every detail, stood the marble goddess. At the movement, we had brought up standing; but now I raised a pistol and fired. That seemed to break the spell, and like one man we leapt forward. As we did so, the thing circled like a flash and resumed its flight at a speed that bade fair to leave us behind in short time.
Then the thought came to me to head it off. This I did by sending the three men round to the right-hand side of the park lake, while Will and I continued the pursuit. A minute later the monster disappeared round a bend in the path: but this troubled me little, as I felt convinced that it
would blunder right into the arms of the men, and they would turn it back, and then-ah! then this mystery and horror would be solved.


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 西荻窪のとある駐車場に駐車してある、謎のバス。
 気になるけれど、関わらないほうが良さそう(笑)。

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 初めて雑誌に掲載されたホジスンの小説は、この「The Goddess of Death」。
 掲載誌は、
 Royal Magazine 11(6) April 1904 p564-70
 この作品は、ホジスンお得意の海洋怪奇譚ではなく、オカルトと現実が混在している、カーナッキものに繋がってゆく作品です。
 ホジスン全集からから、テキストを起こしました。

***************************************



The Goddess of Death

by William Hope Hodgson

It was in the latter end of November when I reached T-worth to find the little town almost in a state of panic. In answer to my half-jesting inquiry as to whether the French were attempting to land, I was told a harrowing tale of some restless statue that had formed a nightly habit of running amuck amongst the worthy townspeople. Nearly a dozen had already fallen victims, the first having been pretty Sally Morgan, the town belle.
These and other matters I learnt. Wherever I went it was the same story. "Good Heavens! what ignorance, what superstition!" This I thought, imagining that they were the dupes of some murderous rogue. Afterwards I was to change my mind. I gathered that the tragedies had allhappened in some park nearby, where, during the day, this Walking Marble rested innocently enough upon its pedestal.
Though I scouted the story of the walking statue, I was greatly interested in the matter. Already it had come to me to look into it and show these benighted people how mistaken they had been; besides, the thing promised some excitement. As I strolled through the town I laughed, picturing to myself the absurdity of some people believing in a walking marble statue. Pooh! 'What fools there are! Arriving at my hotel, I waspleased to learn from the landlord that my old friend and schoolmate, William Turner, had been staying there for some time.
That evening while I was at dinner, he burst into my room and was delighted at seeing me.
"I suppose you've heard about the town bogey by now?" he said presently, dropping his voice. "It's a dangerous enough bogey, and we're all puzzled to explain how on earth it has escaped detection so long, Of course," he went on, "this story about the walking statue is all rubbish, though it's surprising what a number of people believe it."
"What do you say to trying our hands at catching it?" I said. "There would be a little excitement, and we should be doing the town a public benefit."
Will smiled. "I'm game if you are, Herton-we could take a stroll in the park tonight, if you like; perhaps we might see something."
"Right." I answered heartily. "What time do you propose going?"
Will pulled out his watch. "It's half-past eight now; shall we say eleven o'clock? It ought to be late enough then."
I assented and invited him to join me at my wine. He did so, and we passed the time away very pleasantly in reminiscences of old times.
"What about weapons?" I asked presently. "I suppose it will be advisable to take something in that line?"
For answer Will unbuttoned his coat, and I saw the gleam of a brace of pistols. I nodded and, going to my trunk, opened it and showed him a couple of beautiful little pistols I often carried. Having loaded them, I put them in my side pockets. Shortly afterwards eleven chimed, and getting into our cloaks, we left the house.
It was very cold, and a wintry wind moaned through the night. As we entered the park, we involuntarily kept closer together.
Somehow, my desire for adventure seemed to be ebbing away, and I wanted to get out from the place and into the lighted streets.
"We'll just have a look at the statue," said Will; "then home and to bed."
A few minutes later we reached a little clearing among the bushes.
"Here we are," Will whispered. "I wish the moon would come out a moment; it would enable us to get a glance at the thing." He peered into the gloom on our right. "I'm hanged," he muttered, "if I can see it at all!"
Glancing to our left, I noticed that the path now led along the edge of a steep slope, at the bottom of which, some considerable distance below us, I caught the gleam of water.
"The park lake," Will explained in answer to a short query on my part. "Beastly deep, too!"
He turned away, and we both gazed into the dark gap among the bushes.
A moment afterwards the clouds cleared for an instant, and a ray of light struck down full upon us, lighting up the little circle of bushes and showing the clearing plainly. It was only a momentary gleam, but quite sufficient. There stood a pedestal great and black; but there was no statue upon it!
Will gave a quick gasp, and for a minute we stood stupidly; then we commenced to retrace our steps hurriedly. Neither of us spoke. As we moved we glanced fearfully from side to side. Nearly half the return journey was accomplished when, happening to look behind me, I saw in the dim shadows to my left the bushes part, and a huge, white carven face, crowned with black, suddenly protrude.
I gave a sharp cry and reeled backwards. Will turned. "Oh, mercy on us!" I heard him shout, and he started to run.
The Thing came out of the shadow. It looked like a giant. I stood rooted; then it came towards me, and I turned and ran. In the hands I had seen something black that looked like a twisted cloth. Will was some dozen yards ahead. Behind, silent and vast, ran that awful being.
We neared the park entrance. I looked over my shoulder. It was gaining on us rapidly. Onward we tore. A hundred yards further lay the gates; and safety in the lighted streets. Would we do it? Only fifty yards to go, and my chest seemed bursting. The distance shortened. The gates were close to.... We were through. Down the street we ran; then turned to look. It had vanished.
"Thank Heaven!" I gasped, panting heavily.
A minute later Will said: "What a blue funk we've been in." I said nothing. We were making towards the hotel. I was bewildered and wanted to get by myself to think.
Next morning, while I was sitting dejectedly at breakfast, Will came in. We looked at one another shamefacedly. Will sat down. Presently he spoke:
"What cowards we are!"
I said nothing. It was too true; and the knowledge weighed on me like lead.
"Look here!" and Will spoke sharply and sternly. "We've got to go through with this matter to the end, if only for our own sakes."
I glanced at him eagerly. His determined tone seemed to inspire me with fresh hope and courage.
"What we've got to do first," he continued, "is to give that marble god a proper overhauling and make sure no one has been playing tricks with us-perhaps it's possible to move it in some way.
I rose from the table and went to the window. It had snowed heavily the preceding day, and the ground was covered with an even layer of white. As I looked out, a sudden idea came to me, and I turned quickly to Will.
"The snow!" I cried. "It will show the footprints, if there are any."
Will stared, puzzled.
"Round the statue," I explained, "if we go at once." He grasped my meaning and stood up. A few minutes later we were striding out briskly for the Park. A sharp walk brought us to the place. As we came in sight,
I gave a cry of astonishment. The pedestal was occupied by a figure, identical with the thing that had chased us the night before. There it stood, erect and rigid, its sightless eyes glaring into space.
Will's face wore a look of expectation.
"See," he said, "it's back again. It cannot have managed that by itself, and we shall see by the footprints how many scoundrels there are in the affair."
He moved forward across the snow. I followed. Reaching the pedestal, we made a careful examination of the ground; but to our utter perplexity the snow was undisturbed. Next, we turned our attention to the figure itself, and though Will, who had seen it often before, searched carefully, he could find nothing amiss.
This, it must be remembered, was my first sight of it, for-now that my mind was rational-I would not admit, even to myself, that what we had seen in the darkness was anything more than a masquerade, intended to lead people to the belief that it was the dead marble they saw walking.
Seen in the broad daylight, the thing looked what it was, a marble statue, intended to represent some deity. Which, I could not tell; and when I asked Will, he shook his head.
In height it might have been eight feet, or perhaps a trifle under. The face was large-as indeed was the whole figure-and in expression cruel to the last degree.
Above his brow was a large, strangely shaped headdress, formed out of some jet-black substance. The body was carved from a single block of milk-white marble and draped gracefully and plainly in a robe confined at the waist by a narrow black girdle. The arms drooped loosely by the sides and in the right hand hung a twisted cloth of a similar hue to the girdle.
The left was empty and half gripped.


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真鶴  




 帰り道、書店に立ち寄って、文芸書の平積みを何となく眺めたら、白地に朱の字で、大きく「真鶴」とだけ書かれてある本を見つけた。「えっ?」と思い、良く見ると、川上弘美さんの新作長編らしい。
 軽く、驚いた。
 ぱらぱらとめくって見ると、やはり真鶴を舞台にした長編のようだ。
 偶然とはいえ、真鶴、「来ている」かもしれませんね。

 上の写真は、真鶴の”上の”道路から眺めた琴が浜。
 
 今年の夏は、本当に真鶴に良く通った。
 去年は二回、今年は五回ほど通った。
 回数事体は、もしかしたら、「大した事ないじゃないか」と思われるかもしれないが、僕の住んでいる吉祥寺からは、片道で三時間以上かかる。そう言えば、今度は、「何をそんなにしてまで」と思われるかもしれない。

 真鶴の駅から、先端の三ツ石までは、五キロほどあるから、せっせと歩いても、大体一時間くらいかかる。駅からはバスが三十分に一本ほど出ているし、タクシーもあるから、そちらを使ったほうがいいのは確かだ。そうすれば、十五分ほどで着く。
 だが、僕はその七回のうち三回は片道は歩き、さらに残りのうち二回は、往復とも歩いた。
 しかも、ウェットスーツだのフィンだのが入った、重い荷物を背負って。物好きにもほどがあると自分でも思うが、途中、立ち寄りたい場所がいくつかあったから、そうなってしまったのだ。上の写真の「琴が浜」もそうだし、「尻掛」もそうだ。それに、「魚つき保安林」も、言うまでもなく、そうだ。



 上の写真は、中川一政美術館の少し先で、道が三つに分かれているところがあるのだが、その一番右の道を行くと辿り着く、旅館の廃墟。番場浦の少し手前に当たる。
 先ほどは「廃墟」と書いたが、後にここで老婆を見かけたので、もしかしたら、まだ住んでいる人がいるのかもしれない。

 真鶴は、奇妙な魅力があって、何もない場所には違いないのだが、なぜか行きたくなってくる。こうして書いていても、ふと行きたくなってくる。川上弘美さんの小説は、読んでいないが、ぱらぱらと見た限りでは、多分作者の川上さんも、真鶴を歩いたに違いない。

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 スパムトラックバックが多く、鬱陶しいので、事前承認が必要ということにしました。
 承認が必要とは言っても、アダルトサイトや商業サイトではない普通のトラックバックは、よほどのことがない限り無条件で受け付けます。

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