- Prologue "To You"
- "Baroque Murder"
- "A Baroque Shop"
- "Sense Sphere"
- Translator’s Notes
Author: Mariko Shimizu
Volume 1: Sense Sphere
Prologue "To You"
The night is quiet.
The room resonates with the faint hum of the air conditioner, punctuated only by the tapping of the keyboard. That and the Malkuth Prayer. I can’t even hear the blaring alarm that constantly emits from the Special Hunter Abnormal Death Squad.
I wonder why it’s so quiet tonight.
It’s eerie. It’s as if everything has been scared into silence.
Terrified of this insane world, of this distorted world, and of the possibility that I myself may be going Baroque.
Maybe I’m just writing you this email to escape that fear, maybe because knowing I can’t escape makes me want to twist away from the terror all the more.
The story I want to tell you is not my own. I want to know, just how damn long has the world been distorting? How far is this going to go? I wonder if salvation will ever come for us...
Here is the girl’s data.
Yumi Anzai, 15 years old. Although you may not remember the name, you might remember her as the girl at the center of “the Afterschool Rooftop Murder” some years ago. Below are the testimonies of the students who witnessed the incident back then.
“I’m in after school detention and I hear something rustling, so I look up and see this black bundle falling. At first I thought some pranksters had dropped a dummy off the roof. But then I heard a huge BAAM, like even though I was on the second floor and all the windows were closed, there was this crazy sound like something bursting open. Everyone just knew that someone fell, so we all ran outside at the same time.”
On the concrete of the school courtyard, they found the broken body.
“I was trying to look through the gaps in the crowd so I only saw it for a second, but they were lying face down and looked smaller than they should have. I think maybe half of their body had been splattered all over the place. All the girls were crying, a whole bunch of guys puked as soon as they saw it, everyone was just going nuts and it freaking stank.”
Based on the uniform, the dead student was assumed to be male, but he could not be immediately identified due to the blood obscuring his features. Naturally, no one ventured close enough to identify the victim until Yumi was seen pushing her way through the crowd.
She was addressing the corpse. Some students recognized that she was calling out to her childhood friend who was one year above her at school.
Yumi knelt on the spot, the blood staining her gray skirt black. Without caring, Yumi felt around for his face. One of the spectating schoolgirls began to shriek.
“They’re… thank goodness, they’re not damaged.”
Yumi held two round, crimson spheres in either hand. Red and ochre strands extended from between her fingers, trailing away into the corpse’s ruined face. What Yumi held were the corpse’s eyeballs and what extended from them were nerve fibers. The very sight was enough to shock the crowd into silence. Yumi tore away the nerves that entangled the eyes and cast them to the ground. It is said that she gazed intently at the eyeballs as she began gently wiping the blood from their surfaces.
“These are so pretty, I just have to take them with me.”
It was quickly ascertained that it was Yumi who had pushed the boy from the roof and she was arrested by the police. You are already well aware of the uproar that followed.
“Were they caught up in an affair? For a 15 year old to become a murderer…”
“Her lawyer claimed she was of unsound mind due to a nervous breakdown.”
“They should question the teachers at her school again.”
Yumi’s family was exceedingly ordinary and consisted of three people: her father, her mother, and herself. She went to a public school and got average grades - the most interesting thing that could be said about her is that she occasionally attended the concerts of her favorite musician. At a glimpse, she was nothing special. She didn’t have any close friends, but that in itself isn’t unusual in this day and age. It’s likely that the relationship she had with the victim was not so much the romantic one the media portrayed it as, but rather the casual and impersonal one shared by neighbors.
So if we accept that the boy was merely an acquaintance, why did Yumi kill him?
For what reason did she gouge his eyes out?
Yumi truthfully confessed her motives, but the contents of her confession are in the hands of the police. It wasn’t long before a psychiatrist was called in to question Yumi. I can share that information with you, although I won’t immediately disclose how I obtained what was supposed to be confidential material. I’ve tried to be as succinct as possible, but my story is only just beginning. Yumi’s case is merely the beginning of the Baroque tale I have to tell you - only a few bars from the prelude.
Let’s return to Yumi for the time being.
When questioned as to why she pushed the boy off the roof, she replied:
“Oh, well. I didn’t enjoy pushing him. The first thing I thought was “Oh no!” because there wouldn’t have been any point if his eyes were ruined in the fall.”
“You did that because you wanted his eyeballs?”
“At first, I was going to get mom or dad’s eyes to start with. I mean, anyone’s eyes would have been fine, but pulling the eyes out of a living person would have been horrible. I had been thinking about if I could have asked my parents for their eyes though, since I’m their child.”
On the day of the incident, Yumi had been on the rooftop, pondering how best to beg her parents for their eyes. That’s when the boy had appeared. Perhaps he had followed Yumi, as he saw her heading alone to the rooftop.
The two were leaning up against the fence. Yumi suddenly began speaking. To the boy’s surprise, Yumi had apparently said:
“I can’t explain it, but sometimes I’ll start preaching to people as if I were ten years older.”
Volume 1: Sense Sphere
“Are you out of your goddamn mind?”
“Stop speaking to me like that.”
“If you’re telling the truth, then something’s seriously wrong with you.”
“Why? People have beautiful eyes.”
“For you to say something like that, you’ve changed. I think you’re just trying to attract attention by acting like an asshole. It doesn’t suit you.”
He wasn’t speaking these words out of spite. Maybe he even had a thing for Yumi, the girl who up until now had been so ordinary.
However, Yumi had been genuine in what she said and could not understand this hostility.
“Stop talking to me like that.”
“Wanting to examine people’s eyeballs is so awful it’s literally nauseating.”
“Is it? I won’t know unless I see it for myself.”
“Well if that’s how you feel, why don’t you try it by gouging your own eyes out then.”
“I’d like to, but my eyes are no good. My eyes are merely extensions of a Sense Sphere.”
“Then why don’t you hurry up and wipe that expression off your goddamn face. You…”
Even though this scene had a certain heartwarming quality to it, unfortunately we don’t know what the boy would have said next.
The third time he spoke to her in a disrespectful tone, Yumi shoved him away. The boy was left defenseless, his upper body leaning over the fence. In that instant, Yumi shoved his exposed back with astonishing strength and the boy was sent hurtling downward.
“So the reason you shoved him was because he was speaking rudely to you?”
The psychiatrist inwardly thought that this case would be a lot easier if that had actually been her motivation. It’s not uncommon that carelessly chosen words of no importance, uttered by one person, can be taken as justification for murderous actions by another.
Unfortunately, what she said about eyeballs - especially if one were to pursue her bit about a “Sense Sphere” - indicated that this would almost definitely be a troublesome case.
Yumi quickly refuted the question.
“Sure, Ta-chan was mean to me three times. It probably would have been enough for him to have only done it once. When I thought about it, I just really wanted some eyes so I figured Ta-chan’s would do. Ta-chan’s eyes could be a sort of apology gift from him to me.”
The psychiatrist gave up and finally asked the question:
“Why do you want people’s eyes so badly?”
“I told you, they’re pretty.”
“What do you find so beautiful about the human eye?”
“Eyeballs (Yumi very clearly uses the word ‘eyeball’ here), are an evolved form of Sense Sphere.”
There it was again; the key to solving Yumi’s case seemed to be within these recurring mentions of “Sense Spheres”, whatever those were.
“What’s the difference between an eyeball and a Sense Sphere?”
“How do I put this… Eyeballs just stare straight ahead. They merely accept what they see. They feel so genuine in how pure and obedient they are. Sense Spheres on the other hand, well, they’re always trying to do something and keep us under surveillance. It’s repulsive, isn’t it?”
“Sense Spheres are?”
Yumi raised her voice for the first time.
“They’re, they’re like this-”
Yumi placed her hand on her throat, as if to repress something that was trying to climb into her mouth.
“Trying to get inside… my…”
“Please remain calm.”
After the mention of surveillance, the psychiatrist had enough experience to just about understand Yumi’s case, but decided to probe further.
“Where is this Sense Sphere?”
Yumi smiled slightly.
“You can’t see them, can you, sir?”
“I apologize, but I-”
“Sense Spheres are all around us, all over the world. For the moment, only some people can see them. If you touch one, only then can you truly see the world for what it is. But sir, seeing reality is not advisable.
Following this discussion, the psychiatrist had this to report about Yumi:
“Yumi Anzai is convinced that she is being monitored by something called ‘Sense Spheres’ which are all over the world. She believes that she has become one with these Sense Spheres ever since she first became aware of their existence. These delusions appear to be typical symptoms of schizophrenia.”
Regarding the murder however, there was no ambiguity in the large number of eyewitness statements and testimonies. In the end, she was found to be accountable.
The 15 year old Yumi was prosecuted.
In the end, the case was over before it even went to trial.
Subject deceased. Death occurred in the morning, 72 days after the incident. Cause of death unknown. Upon autopsy, a strange spherical object was discovered within the body. The sphere had adhered to the lining of Yumi’s stomach wall and the tissues appeared to have an abnormal cellular structure not found in humans. This sphere is said to be currently stored within the deepest levels of a think tank organization, but nobody really knows. Equally unknown is whether or not this really is the alleged “Sense Sphere”, and if so, why it was discovered within Yumi’s body. I’m still unable to ascertain the facts.
What do you think?
Did Yumi Anzai really fuse with a Sense Sphere?
Did she witness the true nature of the world?
Well, if she hadn’t then there would be no Malkuth Order, but I do seriously wonder what she saw concerning the true reality of the world. Or perhaps that’s just me beginning to go Baroque.
As far as I know, Yumi’s case was the first Baroque Murder. However, at that time (despite it only being a few years ago), Baroque was still an uncommon term. That dreadful, eerie incident might have been the trigger which caused people all over the world to start using that phrase.
The Boys and Girls Serial Suicide Incident.
I’d like you to read this suicide note.
“I’m going to die this summer. There is no escape but death. All of this is thanks to Miss Rumi Kaihara. I have been relentlessly bullied by Miss Rumi over the past year. Miss Rumi has stalked me, torn out my hair, burned my belongings and dumped them in the river. She abducted my dog. Then, every day she would call and chant “All of your things are my things” like it was some kind of incantation.”
The 17 year old boy who wrote this letter mailed it to various media companies before committing suicide by throwing himself off an overpass.
However, all of the actions that the suicide note attributes to Rumi were in fact things that the boy had himself done to Rumi. At the time of the boy’s death, Rumi had developed a severe eating disorder. It is said that the boy had been force-feeding her strange meat of unknown origin, but perhaps it was related to the claim of a missing dog.
Another girl committed suicide after leaving behind three notebooks full of confessions alleging that she had grown weary of a secret love affair between her and a famous musician. The musician didn’t know her name or face, but after reading the confessions, he started to doubt his own memory due to how vivid and real the confessions sounded.
As far as I know, 73 boys and girls committed suicide this year. No matter how you look at it, even though the suicides themselves have no connection to one another, the dates of the suicides always coincide. There were no patterns in the number of days between suicides or what day of the week they occurred on, but every single time 5-10 people would kill themselves on the same day, as if they were prearranged.
The only other thing they had in common was that each person left behind a vivid account of a distorted delusion before their death. The contents of each delusion were different - one would claim to be a psychic who fought against evil, another would claim they were the product of incest between their father and sister. When asked if this was all the result of a new mental illness, one psychiatrist responded: “That’s incorrect. The delusions of true mentally-ill people are simpler, more incoherent and repetitive in nature. The delusions surrounding these suicides may be absurd, but there is an uncanny rationality and overwhelming persuasiveness to them. It’s all very baroque.”
Perhaps the doctor’s use of “baroque” was simply to give the media a good sound bite to use. Perhaps the use of “baroque” - a grand and excessive style of art that was once popular long ago - made for a catchy headline in the context of a modern day suicide story.
But whatever the reason, the usage of “Baroque” exploded, as if they had specifically chosen it to describe this sort of case. To say “that guy is Baroque” was to say that he’s a captive of delusions he can no longer control. The (all too prevalent) crimes with no discernable motive behind them were also categorized as “Baroque.” It was also said that the expressionless youths who preferred to live inside their own imaginary worlds exhibited “Baroque Face”.
Finally there were those who chose to capitalize on Baroques by opening businesses. I, Kitsune Kanazawa, am one such person.
Volume 1: Sense Sphere
“Is this the office of the Baroque Vendor?”
The boy who had come inquiring that day had the eyes characteristic of someone who had already succumbed to their Baroque. The color of the iris had become paler and his line of sight floated about indecisively.
“Yes, this is.”
I always endeavor to be courteous with Baroque clients, even the younger ones.
“I heard that if you come here by yourself, you can reclaim a lost Baroque that's been left in your custody.”
“Yes, that’s exactly right. However, we have custody of all sorts of Baroques here, so it would be helpful if you could describe the characteristics of your Baroque.”
While I said this, I had already booted up a program to begin creating a profile for him. Age: 15-16 years old. Thin, feminine face. Slightly high voice, and quavering fingers that were comparatively slender for a man’s. Contrary to his appearance, he’s likely to be prone to delusions about using violence to control others.
“Let’s see... My name is Aya Miayasaka, but I prefer to read “Aya” as “Fumi”. My hobbies include arson. So maybe my Baroque is burning.”
“Do you see the world burning?”
“Yeah. My fire is a flame that sears the world.”
I was right after all. This Fumi kid wants to rule the world using fire. If that’s the case, then it’s a simple matter of a destructive Baroque.
“... a flame that sears the world…”
As usual, my fingers begin dancing over the keyboard and begin typing the final message of the boy standing in front of me.
Baroque Shop. People who wish to die come here. These insane people then pay me a fee so that I will write them a story about their precious delusion. Sometimes what I write up are suicide notes. Illegal assisted suicide, like a master of black magic who performs last rites for the insane - I am well suited for this business and I take a certain pride in my work.
“How is this? Fumi Miyasaka has neurotically decided to take revenge on the world by burning both it and himself.”
I thought it was a promising start. Revenge is always a popular theme amongst those taken by Baroques.
“That’s wrong. It’s the other way around.”
On the contrary, it looks like my proposal had just been rejected.
“In burning the world, I wish to save it. If things stay the way they are, we’ll all be in a lot of trouble.”
“Be in a lot of trouble… well, in any case…”
Of course, I had no idea what he meant by that.
“I guess that’ll be all. Nevermind, hurry up and give me my Baroque. If you manage to escape the flames, look up the Melody of Tarantella.”
“Please wait a moment…”
I was bewildered. Ordinarily, people with delusions such as this do not visit my Baroque Shop. The customers I usually get are all anxiety and no imagination. They’re perfectly happy to die or go mad as long as you write them a story that makes them feel special.
“Don’t you know?”
Fumi looked straight at me. The Baroque had gone from his eyes some time ago.
“Sense Spheres. Angels… Abnormals. Hey, do you seriously not know!?”
I shook my head reluctantly.
Fumi hung his head and began muttering while he produced a disc from his pocket.
“Well then, listen to this.”
“What is this?”
“If you listen to this, you’ll see the world differently.”
Then Fumi blinked twice. His eyes began to drift around the room, and he began to resemble a typical Baroque boy once more.
“My Baroque wasn’t here either. Hey, that’s my only Baroque, so if you burn it the world will be okay, won’t it?”
And with that, he turned and left my office without waiting for my reply. Only the disc remained.
If you were in my place, would you have listened to the disc here?
Common sense would dictate that it would be unthinkable that a Baroque’s story could be true. To play it would risk getting caught up in someone else’s Baroque.
However, the boy’s strange words were stuck in my mind.
Sense Sphere, Angel… Abnormal.
Should I listen? Would listening to it actually cause me to see the world differently?
I knocked on the large black door, only to hear an unfriendly voice in return.
After a pause, the door opened with a heavy sound and I was greeted by the glowering eyes of Suzume Suzuki.
The interior of the room was also black, resembling some kind of underground theater. The black walls were made of a soundproof material, with black machine parts piled up to the ceiling, black cords snaking across the floor, and finally, Suzume’s black wardrobe. Suzume always wore black clothing. He appeared to have 40 sets of the exact same outfit.
“I was thinking about calling you, but I doubted that you’d have come out.”
I sat down on the half-crushed bed beneath the window as there was no other place to sit.
“That is the correct answer.”
Suzume took two cans from the refrigerator and threw one of the drinks at me.
“So, what’s your business here today?”
“I’m here about a disc.”
I pulled out the disc left by the mysterious boy, Fumi Miyasaka, who had come inquiring at my office.
“I tried playing it the normal way, but there’s no sound on it. Would you have some other way of listening to it, Suzume?”
“Isn’t your CD player just broken?”
“I don’t think that’s the problem.”
I told Suzume how I came by the disc.
“So this Fumi kid said that if you listen to this disc, the world would look different?”
“But that kid’s Baroque isn’t he? Do you go around believing stuff like that?”
“I know, I know. But something strange he said stuck in my head… Sense Sphere… Angel… Abnormal…”
Suzume took the disc from my hands and began silently toying with it for a time.
“Well Kitsune, it’s fine if you’d like to listen to it… it’s probably just simple encryption, but…”
Suzume smirked an evil grin.
“Before that, would you like to see this? It’s data I collected some time ago.”
Suzume sat in front of the room’s second largest monitor and called up the data. I glanced up at the screen from behind him, only to see that the saved data was simply entitled “BAROQUE”.
Volume 1: Sense Sphere
Suzume and I met through the internet. We started to get to know each other because our screen names (“Fox” and “Sparrow”) were similar. Once we discovered that our homes weren’t very far away, we’ve begun meeting in person like this.
Suzume’s job is digital music production. He’s an expert not only of sound design but of computers in general, and as you’d expect from somebody like him, his hobbies include eavesdropping and hacking mobile phones.
“Sigh, I feel so unmotivated to even show you this since the information was so easy to hack in to.”
Was his overconfidence and sarcasm a product of his unpopularity amongst women?
Nevermind, psychoanalysis of Suzume wasn’t relevant right now.
“However, this is some pretty astonishing stuff.”
“... This is…”
[Perception/Sense Sphere Investigation Interim Report]
“I think it’s from a secret government research institute. When I saw this, I thought that maybe Baroques had started appearing in the upper layers of society too.”
My eyes scanned the text on the screen.
...the data shows that many people who have come into contact with this sphere have entered a hallucinatory state in which they become obsessed with delusions, eventually resulting in madness, and in some cases, suicide. There is a theory that this sphere is a new kind of organism that transmits an unknown virus, but as of yet there is no confirmation…
“In other words, this means that these Sense Spheres make a person go Baroque, driving them to madness or suicide?”
“Don’t ask me. There’s more.”
...With our current technology, no method has been discovered to prevent the damage caused by contact with a Sense Sphere. What follows, however, is a proposal that suggests it may be possible to detect their existence.
Then there was the image file. A photograph of a man with a delicate figure, who the file introduced as the inventor of the Sense Sphere detection system “Perception”. A man who, if one looked closely, resembled the boy who left me the disc - Fumi Miyasaka. But what I saw behind his shoulders was…
“They look fake. But common sense would dictate that only an idiot would use photographs from a fancy dress party on official documents.”
I remembered Fumi’s words.
Sense Sphere. Angel. Abnormal.
A figure with wings on their back - an Angel.
“Show me the data on this “Perception” thing.”
“I don’t have it, sorry. Once I found it, I got caught up in a security system of theirs. This is just what I was able to grab before I was detected.”
“Well, don’t get discouraged. At least we’ve still got the disc from that Baroque brat.”
“Never mind that, how did Fumi get involved with a secret like this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe if we listen to the disc, we’ll be able to understand something.”
Suzume placed the disc in the drive.
“...What do you think? Is it legit or just a Baroque?”
Suzume answered by placing his headphones against one ear and proceeded to analyze the disc.
“Well, if that’s what you believe, then it’s good enough for me.”
“I’m not totally sure though…”
For Suzume, information on the Sense Spheres was just part of his collection of hacked data. It didn’t matter if it was the truth or not...
“There haven’t been any announcements about this stuff anywhere.”
Suddenly something on the headphones caught Suzume’s attention and his eyebrows fell.
“...There’s something I don’t like about the security systems I’ve run into so far. All of this information could have been obtained by anyone with just a moderate level of skill. Could it be that the government is deliberately leaking information about the Sense Spheres…”
“Have there been any implicit warning signs of that?”
“Whatever the case, I don’t think I’d be interested in leaking this information to the world. It’s much more fun to just eavesdrop on cell phone calls… hm!?”
Suzume placed the headphones over both ears and began to furiously tap the keyboard. While staring at the monitor, he continued talking as if in a delirium.
“But that’s the problem with being a hacker, you just keep discovering damaging information… this is seriously dangerous, secret… uh…”
Suzume’s fingers stopped moving.
“What’s wrong? Can you not analyze it?”
Suzume pulled the headphones off of his ears before falling out of his chair.
No movement. Suzume was unconscious.
I pulled out the headphone jack.
For a moment, just a moment, my field of vision swam and distorted as the sound of a deep breath seemed to swallow the room. And then there were the spheres. Packed together as far as the eye could see, dark red spheres of various sizes. Continuously expanding and contracting like some kind of heart, I felt the spheres trying to absorb me…
The spheres disappeared. The room returned to its regular appearance. Suzume, however, did not regain consciousness.
I lifted Suzume into a sitting position. It was then that I saw a strange object displayed on the monitor screen.
Nine hours later at the hospital, Suzume opened his eyes.
He didn’t remember fainting.
“As soon as I had succeeded in analyzing the disc you brought in, I ran out of memory.”
“Then, what did you hear?”
“All I remember is that it was a very simple piece of music. Just a line of notes, I’m certain it was a melody of some kind… like music to treat dancing sickness… a Tarantella melody.”
“What did you just say?”
Suzume narrowed his eyes.
“Just now, something about a Tarantella melody.”
“...Yeah. What about it?”
Fumi had also mentioned the Melody of Tarantella. Was that what was on the disc?
“Just for a few seconds, I think I heard that sound. My body melted and flowed with the music… For a moment, I was everywhere.”
That was bad. Feelings of being everywhere at once is one of many early symptoms of going Baroque. Probably.
“Did you see the spheres? Dark red, with an eerie internal movement?”
The ones I had glimpsed for just a moment.
Suzume, absentmindedly looking at his hands, began to repeatedly crack his knuckles. I remembered seeing my father do the exact same thing shortly before his death.
“I’m pathetic…” said Suzume, abruptly and in a weak voice.
“Even though I existed everywhere, now, I’m only right here.”
I didn’t think that this was the kind of thing that Suzume, a cynical realist, would say.
“What happened to that disc? I’d like to hear it again.”
I shook my head. Even after all that, I had also tried to play the disc again, only to find that it no longer had any data on it.
“You’re lying. You can’t erase a disc just by playing it.”
“I’m telling the truth.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Suzume covered his ears and lapsed into silence.
As the results of his tests were fairly normal, Suzume was discharged from the hospital that same day.
I brought Suzume home. As we parted ways, he said “I’m going to reproduce that song.”
I wanted to believe that it was just my imagination that made his eyes appear Baroque.
I don’t know what happened to Suzume after that.
Was it the purpose of the Tarantella Melody that Suzume heard to cause hallucinations, or was there another agenda at play? I just couldn’t believe any of it.
It would be a long time before I saw Suzume again.
Kitsune’s and Suzume’s names translate directly to “Fox” or "someone who is sly" and “Sparrow” or "someone who is knowledgeable" respectively. It’s a bit of a toss-up as to which version should be used. I’ve kept their original pronunciations as no direct indication is given that these names are pseudonyms (other than perhaps the characters using them for screen names - the only instance in which I fully translated them). Their family names are also both clearly Japanese, so “Kitsune Kanazawa” sounds much more consistent than “Fox Kanazawa”, and so on.
- In the 13th century, people came to believe that poisonous spider bites could be cured by playing a type of music which came to be known as ‘tarantellas’ (or ‘tarantella melodies’ in the case of this story). The music would allegedly drive the listener into an uncontrollable dancing mania. The frenzied, flailing physical activities of those affected was thought to (at least temporarily) cure the venom of the spider bite. The dancing mania the patients engaged in bears similarities to the dancing sickness of the 11th century, in which large crowds of people would fall to a kind of mass psychosis in which they would all lose control of themselves and begin convulsing.