Monthly Archives: May 2012
I’m excited that The Temporal is still going strong. It is now #483 in the Free list (which again, is horrible compared to that one experience with Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter which quickly zoomed under 100 in the entire Amazon store!) and #15 in Action & Adventure.
A few days ago, I took The Temporal off Smashwords (which was still pending review for the Premium distribution), and BN.com (which was not selling at all) to test KDP with it. KDP Select allows authors to make their books free for up to five days every three months. The only bad thing is for three months I have to agree to not sell the ebook anywhere else.
That’s fine. If I can get a few reviews on Amazon, it will be worth it. So far 468 people have downloaded it. That is over about 28 hours. Again, not nearly as impressive as when Tanaka went free–I counted two seconds, refreshed, and saw another “sale”! While I’m not getting that kind of response, one good side effect is, I’ve sold four, I think, Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughters since yesterday. I think the freebie is leading people to checkout my other work. I just wish I had more “other work”!
I had planned to make it free for just one day (yesterday), but it seemed to be gaining momentum last night so I decided to use the second free day for today. And overnight, it went from #30ish to #15 in Action & Adventure.
The Temporal by yours truly is free today at Amazon.
It has been doing well–not as well as Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter the first day it went free (see the old post), but not bad either.
Still, if you have space on your Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Android device, PC, or Mac, please download it today while it is still free.
It would make me ever so happy.
It is currently #30 in Amazon’s Action & Adventure category. Do I hear a #29?
It’s free and as someone told me on Twitter this morning, who can resist a freebie?
I had listed The Temporal for $2.99, but Amazon just price matched it against Smashwords, I guess. Now it is .99.
But I don’t mind. If it means more people reading and buying it, I’m happier–even with less money coming in.
I have five “likes” but so far, no reviews. As you know, reviews make or break an author’s effort. If you are interested in reading the novel for free in exchange for an honest review, please contact me.
Of course, I’d love to get five star reviews, but I’m not going to ask for it. If the work can’t stand on its on, I may be wasting my time and it would be better to know sooner than later.
I’m feverishly working on Book two. I have about 17k words written, and today, I spent a few hours working on the cover for it. I’m hoping to be done with the first draft by the end of June. July and August will be spent in editing. I’ll post the cover as soon as I am done with it.
Hopefully by the time the second book is ready, I’ll get my first The Temporal review!
When I finally got around to reading Rising Sun by Michael Crichton (I’ve never seen the movie) last year, I noticed that on page 334, there is a character called, “Akira Tanaka.”
That is the name of my hero in the Tanaka stories.
Of course, both “Akira” and “Tanaka” are very common names, but I thought it was amusing.
We don’t know too much about Crichton’s Akira Tanaka–I believe that may be the only place in his novel–but my Akira Tanaka is tough. To prove that point, here is a 1,500 short story detailing an event in Tanaka’s past: (I just realized that this story takes place before he took on the name “Akira”–oh, well.)
Tanaka & the Oyabun
Sweat beaded and rolled across Kazuo Kobayashi’s forehead. His head was tilted to better examine the pattern of tile set on the wall. Something about it had caught his eye, keeping his mind well away from the life-changing choice he had only a few hours to make. Water dripped in constant two-second intervals from the 1960s era bathtub faucet.
He cradled the bottleneck of his still cold beer between his thumb and forefinger, dangling it over the edge and allowing it to melodiously ding against the acrylic tub. The cold liquid provided a sharp contrast to the steamy bath.
A few inches from the drink was his SIG P230. The steam wasn’t good for the gun, but in case of an intruder, it would be good for his health. His other hand played absently with the bullet wound on his side. It had been years and yet the scar still seemed foreign to him.
The typical Japanese bath consisted of two rooms: A changing area and a room with a tub and shower. He had already showered away the grime, but the scars remained–the scars always remained.
He thought about his “choice.” The Tsugawara yakuza knew he had killed their boss, the Oyabun. The Tokyo Police had provided this apartment as a safe house, but there was no full-fledged Witness Protection Program. He knew they would find him eventually.
The American offer of asylum and a new identity was appealing. But this meant he would leave Japan. His friends, his family–they would all be made to believe that he was dead.
He continued trying to discover meaning from the tiles while mulling over the choice in his mind. Of course, there really wasn’t a choice. If he stayed in Japan, he was a dead man.
A series of noises broke his focus from the tiles. The Yorkshire Terrier next door was barking as if someone had stepped on its tail. His neighbor was the only other apartment on the second floor. An intruder would have to pass by the small dog’s window. That dog never missed a visitor.
Must be Kawasaki’s lady friend, Kazuo thought as he relaxed and took a swig from his beer. No, it’s close to midnight.
Kawasaki-san was in his late seventies and tended to retire before nine. Kazuo set his bottle down and grasped the gun. He lifted his toe to silence the drip. The gentle swishing of displaced water soon gave way to silence. The dog also stopped barking.
After a few minutes of not hearing anything, his eyes turned back to the tiles and his muscles relaxed. His heavy foot sank back into the water.
Looking just above the troublesome faucet, he had a flush of remembrance. He understood why the tiles had caught his attention. The colors were a match. The crimson blood had stained the same pale blue tile floor. It was the yakuza boss’s blood.
Just then, Kazuo heard a different noise. It was low, soft, and tinny through the bathroom wall, but Kazuo recognized the sound as coming from the television and increasing in volume.
Sounds of children laughing blared through the walls. In an instant, Kazuo was out of the tub with a towel draped around his waist, dripping water into a drain in the center of the room.
With the gun held level to his eyes, he threw open the inner bathroom door. The outer bathroom room was empty.
The television changed to a commercial.
He continued toward the sliding glass door. The frosted glass had a sliver shaved off. He put his eye to the sliver. There appeared to be no one on the other side. After the peek, he realized the light behind him would have cast his shadow broadly for anyone on the other side to see.
But no one took the shot.
Rushing to the far side, he ducked behind the wall. While extending his left hand to slide the door open, his right hand held his gun with an unyielding grip.
The door slammed open against the butt of the doorframe making entirely too much noise. Kazuo had expected someone there, an ambush. But no bullets came flying; no yakuza rushed in.
The sound from the television changed to half volume.
Someone was in the living room, toying with him.
Kazuo lifted his weapon and followed it through the outer bathroom doorway into the middle room that was used for storage. The light escaping from the bathroom revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
He rushed, light-footed, to the wall, peering through the far doorway into the kitchen. On the cabinets, he could see soft, pulsating flashes of blueish light reflected from the television one small room away.
He crouched near the kitchen. He heard no sounds and saw no movement except that from the television. The volume was now low, but loud enough to mask any stealthy movements.
He took a quick glance left and right and saw no one hiding in the kitchen. Gripping his gun with both hands, he leaned in toward the living room.
There, on the couch, sat a man. As an affront to Japanese sensibilities, he had his shoes on. The light from the television tinted his features with varying colors and intensities. He didn’t move, but he was staring directly at Kazuo.
His weaponless arms were sprawled out on either side of the back rail of the couch. He propped his shoe upon the cushion.
“I’m a little surprised you didn’t install a dead-bolt.”
Kazuo aimed the gun at the man and inched forward. The stranger didn’t flinch. He eyed the intruder’s shoes–white oxfords, impeccably clean, but the leather was mature, well worn. The white boldly stuck out from under the navy blue pant legs. He wore a white tuxedo shirt with a ruffled front.
Seeing Kazuo’s eyes, the man said, “A bit overdressed, I admit. But, really, Kazuo, you could have done better than a cotton towel. Not even monogrammed.”
“Who are you?” Kazuo asked.
“I’ve been overseas. I came when I heard my brother had been murdered.”
Kazuo looked into the man’s eyes. He saw the resemblance. This was the brother of the leader of the yakuza he had killed.
“I have no quarrel with you,” Kazuo said. He was puzzled why the man seemed so relaxed, sitting on the couch without a weapon. He risked a glance to his left and right but saw no one else.
“That may be true, but I have a quarrel with you.”
“I have you at a disadvantage,” Tanaka said taking a step forward still holding his gun tight on target. “Get up and leave now.”
The man on the couch burst out in laughter. “Drop your weapon,” the man said, standing up.
Kazuo felt a cold, steel muzzle touch his left ear. There had been a man in the room. He’d come from a dark corner not illuminated by the television.
Kazuo slowly set the gun on the floor.
“Good.” The man in front of the couch reached inside his jacket for his Beretta 92. He continued speaking, waving the pistol freely as if to aide comprehension.
“I suppose I should thank you. My brother and I weren’t without our disagreements–which is why I have spent the past few years in South America,” the man said, before leveling the gun at Kazuo. “Thank you.” The yakuza smiled. “But I’m afraid you will still have to die.”
Kazuo could hear the man behind him shift his footing, getting out of the line of shot.
“Kuro-san, why don’t we let them find Mr. Kobayashi in his birthday suit. Would you mind removing his towel?”
Kuro-san let out a grunt and began to pull on the tucked-in towel.
Kazuo allowed the man to turn him around, unwinding. Just as the end of the towel whipped off his body, Kazuo grabbed the cloth and yanked the man toward him. The startled Kuro-san tightened his grip and leaned in. Kazuo jumped behind the intruder, wrapping his arms around his neck. Kazuo’s other hand reached for the yakuza’s gun but failed to reach it.
Two shots rang out: loud, ear piercing in the small room. The man in the tuxedo shirt had panicked when he saw Kazuo move.
One shot went into the wall; the other went into Kuro-san’s belly.
Kazuo continued to use Kuro-san as a human shield as he successfully grabbed the gun. His arm shot out from over Kuro-san’s shoulder. The yakuza was alive, but bleeding a fountain from his belly.
“Drop it and leave.”
Kuro-san was moaning and losing strength. Kazuo kicked him toward the other man.
The Oyabun’s brother smiled and holstered his gun.
“Come on Kuro.”
Kuro-san staggered out behind the other man. Kazuo closed the door behind them and turned on the lights to make sure there were no hidden intruders. He was alone.
Kazuo made the decision. He would no longer be Kazuo Kobayashi. Who he would become and what he would do from here on was up for grabs. But he would take the Americans up on their offer.
Would you like to read this for FREE in exchange for an honest review? If so, please email me (see contact me page).
If you like thrillers with a slightly weird twist, this book is for you. It has some weirdness (hence the “supernatural” part) but I think it could also work as a straight thriller. Book two (The List of the Temporal, coming late summer) will be more of a “super hero” action thriller, however.
I would rate it as PG-13. Coarse language is at a bare minimum, and the violence isn’t described in detail, but there is some violence. The prologue below will give you a taste of what I mean.
About the book:
“Concise, action-packed chapters that really keep the pace moving. … CJ Martin will thrill you while making a surreal world seem so plausible.”
ETERNITY: Existence outside time
The Temporal, a supernatural thriller by CJ Martin
After his wife leaves him for a former friend, Sam Williams moves to Japan to start his life over.
But a quiet life for Sam was not to be.
A devastating earthquake in central Japan sends eternity crashing into time, enabling Sam to hear echoes of the past and even the future. Through the echoes, Sam and a mysterious Japanese woman learn of a terrorist plot that could plunge the world into turmoil and position a murderer as the leader of the free world.
They alone have the knowledge and ability to stop the plot.
But even with eternity on their side, can they stop it in time?
This novel has 62,000 words, 48 chapters (plus prologue and epilogue), and is about 250 printed pages.
And here is the Prologue in its entirety:
Four Months Ago…
With his right hand, Fakhr al Din reached for a large chunk of white cheese. He had lost his little finger, but was blessed by Allah to still have retained the full function of the other three and his thumb. The explosion had been greater than anticipated. In the end, however, the mission was successful. He allowed his hand to momentarily hover over the cheese, giving him a chance to admire its marred form—his small sacrifice for the cause.
The lighting in the room was dim and set primarily above the food on the table. His periphery was completely in shadow, but that shadow was not void of eyes watching and fingers gripping weapons. There were two guards ready to give their lives to protect the great imam of the Bushehr Province in Southern Iran.
He took a generous bite into the cheese while enjoying the heavy aroma of garlic in the air. The garlic paired surprisingly well with the hint of fragrant mint and thyme flowing from a gift basket in front of him. He had received many such gifts since an anonymous spokesman from his Warriors of the Sword had, through Al Jazeera, publicly taken credit for the latest bombing in Sderot, Israel. Of course, on CNN International and in English, Fakhr al Din himself had categorically denied any involvement in the “atrocious and unfortunate event.”
Even with the local popular support and the current pleasant refreshments, the imam hated to be kept waiting. Hamim, his head of security, was due for a report on local threats and was twenty minutes late.
Last week at Hamim’s request, the imam had ordered the killing of an innocent boy to remind the locals of the holy mission with which they were all entrusted: to protect Fakhr al Din. The boy’s parents had been quite cooperative. It was amusing to him how quickly planted evidence persuaded the father to disown his son, the infidel. As the child was dragged away to sentencing, his father led the frenzied chants of condemnation. The whole matter, of course, had not been the imam’s personal desire. But he had to periodically remind the neighborhood of their sacred duties.
Where is Hamim?
The Americans had taken an increased interest in him. He, however, felt sure his current safe house was secure. Two dozen loyal guards were on the grounds. The latest surveillance equipment continuously monitored every inch of the compound. A tunnel that exited into the kitchen of a nearby house was an escape route of last resort. In addition to all this, he had a more traditional security system stationed at the three entrances and trained to discover explosives, his Belgian Malinois dogs. These precautions would afford him the precious minutes needed to facilitate an escape if necessary.
Fakhr al Din grabbed his pita filled with lamb shawarma, but before he could bite, the door flung open.
“Hamim, where have you been?”
But it wasn’t Hamim.
Two strange men—Westerners wearing sunglasses and dark suits—stood in the doorway. He could see another shadowy figure in the distance beyond the men. A woman?
Two of the imam’s men, unseen and hidden by the shadows, stepped into the light. Brandishing their AK-47s, they let off a few rounds before they were silenced no more than two seconds later.
Fakhr al Din was left with his mouth open and without comprehension of what just happened. He had heard the rat-tat-tat of the weapons to his left and right, but what he saw straight in front of him defied understanding. Instead of blood and flesh ripped by bullets, he saw, for the briefest of moments, the two dark men’s hands go from their sides to a level equal with the incoming bullets. The motion—if it could be called motion—was quicker than his brain could process. It was as if their arms were in one position and then in the next moment, up to meet the bullets.
He heard the sounds of a dozen rounds ripping into and ricocheting off of the walls, furniture, and glassware around the room—but not into flesh.
In the next instant, the cleric, still looking forward, saw only the figure that had been behind the two men. The two black suited men had vanished, leaving what he could now confirm to be a woman. Her fiery-red hair was free and not held back by the traditional hijab head-covering. She was beautiful and terrifying.
Where are my men?
He turned left and then right to see his men held by the throat and off the ground, struggling to breathe.
Fakhr al Din looked at the table. His SIG P226 was next to the cheese. With the quickest of motions, he jerked his hand out, slapping it on the hard wooden surface where the gun had been a second ago. The woman had closed the two dozen feet within that timeframe and now held his weapon; its muzzle was directed at him.
He heard the sound of bodies pounding into the floor and turned to his left and then right. His guards were on the ground. Their throats were still tightly held by the intruders who were now down on one knee and had their heads turned toward the center of the room. Although the dark sunglasses hid their eyes, they both were clearly looking to the woman, waiting for her command.
“What—what do you want?”
“A chat. A private chat,” she said with a smile, causing the Iranian man to shudder. “Tell your men not to disturb us.”
The imam was at a loss. He felt her cold fingers gently lift his chin. Her motion first closed his opened mouth and then raised his entire head to meet her eyes. With the other hand, she held up his gun. Depressing the magazine release, she let the clip fall with a clunk onto the table.
“Tell them to go.”
Before he realized it, she had the gun lifted directly above her head. A single shot expended the remaining round, ejecting the spent casing and filling the small room with an explosive sound. It somehow seemed louder to the imam than had the bursts of the AKs. Bits of clay and plaster rained on Fakhr al Din, covering the table and cheese.
“Tell them to go—now.” The woman, having moved to his side away from the debris, startled him. Her voice was soft, silky even. If it weren’t for those eyes that seemed to drill violently and deeply into his soul, she might appear peaceful and sublime, like an angel.
“D—don’t disturb us,” the imam said to the men, keeping his attention fixed on the woman’s face. As terrible as they were, he feared to wander too far from those dark, piercing eyes. “Tell the others to not disturb us!” Dirt and plaster dropped from his beard as he shouted the order.
She nodded. Her two men immediately released their prisoners and returned to a standing position. In an instant, the two dark suited men were standing with their hands cupped in front like pall-bearers awaiting their duty. The guards on the floor rolled away from their captors, coughing.
“Go!” the woman shouted with a force beyond what seemed humanly possible.
The two men jumped to their feet and made for the door.
“Now,” she said as she walked casually to close the door, “I have a job for you. A job that I’m sure you will find to be mutually beneficial.”
The Present Day…
“Donata desu ka?—Who are you?”
Her hand darted up, grabbing air as if she could touch the visage of the man standing in front of her in her dream.
She only required five or ten minutes of sleep daily and yet this dream had continued for over half an hour. She had already kicked off the top futon and her head was far from the pillow. Sweat dripped from her brow.
“Do you not see me?”
She always remembered her dreams which seemed to begin immediately with her loss of consciousness and end when her body’s need for sleep was sated.
Particularly vivid were the dreams with him in it. His name was a mystery to her, but his face—she could recall it with exquisite detail and on command.
Her eyes fluttered, then opened with the full realization that she was not awake. Her mind projected the dream world onto the wooden ceiling above.
“Who are you?” she repeated.
The man stood two dozen feet or more away and was enveloped by an obscuring cloud—a first for a dream with him in it. Even still, her keen vision discerned a panic within his eyes.
How different this dream was. The man had always brought peace to her heart—not conflict and now… this horror. In previous dreams, the man recognized her. But now, she was invisible to him.
The man began to run. He was running from something and in her direction, but his position remained unchanged as if on a treadmill. He craned his neck over his shoulder in search of someone—his pursuer.
She sharpened her vision and dared to peer beyond the man to see the nightmare from which he was escaping. A moment later, he vanished. She realized she had moved ahead of his position and was seeing what he saw. She faced his nightmare directly.
As the scene gradually came into focus, she saw a street. It was in slow motion, but people were fleeing from some terror. She squinted her dream eyes hard until she saw what they saw. A fireball.
Then it all disappeared. There was nothing but white.
“Sam,” chanted some disembodied voices from the whiteness. It was a calm, sweet sound but with a multitude of voices singing in unison like a well-trained choir. It was as pleasant as the gentle whoosh of the ocean at eventide.
She answered, anticipating the voice. “Samuel Williams, the one at the hospital.”
She understood the meaning and allowed it all to slip away.
The Temporal Chapter Three by CJ Martin (Right click to download)
(If this is the first section you’ve heard, start with the Prologue Podcast)
Looking around, Sam thought he had to be in the States. The buildings up and down the street were American style with English lettering. But something was wrong. There was smoke, confusion, and a teary-eyed mother searching frantically for her child. An explosion. Screams. Some horn was blasting, building in volume and depth. Sam arched his neck in the direction of the sound. A creeping darkness encroached upon the periphery of his field of vision like an old-time photograph.
Something was terribly wrong.
Another explosion. More screams. A gaggle of people ran down the street toward him. In the distance, there was a ball of fire consuming everything in its path—as high as the sky, as wide as the buildings containing it. It grew larger heading—no, aiming—directly for Sam. His legs defied the command to move. He threw up his arms in a futile attempt to fire-proof his face.
Sam awoke with a gasp of air and labored breathing. He was in a hospital room, and through the half-curtained window, he could see it was a moonless night. A bathroom mirror light gave the room a subtle illumination—the kind that make shadows seem to be more than shadows.
He noticed there was an ancient night drawer opposite of the bathroom. The large sliding door to the room was closed. A thin, translucent bag in the trash can near the door twitched ever so slightly. There must be a draft, he thought. But then his eyes and ears made out a fan on the floor quietly circulating the air.
As his breathing returned to normal, he heard a voice to his left. A woman’s voice was speaking quickly and softly. He could only recognize scattered words here and there.
“Ikanakereba naranai—I must go…”
He turned but saw nothing.
Another voice, this time of an older man, came from the direction of the window. Sam jerked his head quickly, adjusting his eyes to the darkness. He heard one word:
Just then, the door cracked open, and he heard a third voice say, “Shitsurei shimasu.” The door slid open fully. A man very much visible walked in. The bathroom mixed its dim light with the bright hall and Sam could see it was a doctor.
“Ah, you are awake. We were very worried.”
The doctor flipped the light switch, illuminating the room and causing Sam to squint his eyes slightly.
“Doctor, wh… what’s going on? Where am I?”
“You were very lucky. Do you remember earthquake?”
Sam was unclear what happened at the beach, but, yes he nodded, it must have been an earthquake.
“It was shindo six—in the Richter scale, I don’t know, but it was big. We found you the next day. In fact, how do you say, the center of the earthquake was close where you were, maybe exactly where you were. A small hole opened under you and things fell over you. We had dogs and one of them found you. There was some fear of tsunami but it’s okay now.”
The doctor smiled quite a bit. He was very pleased that his English was being put to such good use. It was fairly rare for the doctor to have a patient with whom he could practice his English. It was a small village and the tourists were usually healthy.
“Ah, pardon me. I am Doctor Watanabe. And more importantly, you seem to be in good shape. You have some bruised ribs and mild dehydration, but considering, you are in excellent health. I’m not sure why you were out so long—I didn’t find any evidence of head trauma. Just be sure to drink plenty of water.”
Next to a pitcher on the side table was an upside-down cup. The doctor flipped it over and poured Sam a drink.
Sam took the small cup and drained it in one gulp. For a few moments, he just looked at the empty cup unable to process what had happened.
“Are you all right?” The doctor’s smile changed to a concerned frown. “Do you have any pain?”
Sam shook his head and focused his eyes and mind on the current situation. The earthquake made sense; the voices did not.
“No. Arigatou. I’m fine. Doctor, are… are there other people in this room?”
Dr. Watanabe seemed puzzled at first, but quickly stooped under the bed and obligingly peeked in the closet.
“Nope. I believe we are alone.”
“I know this sounds crazy, but I heard a woman over there and an older man at the window just before you came in.”
The doctor’s big smile returned.
“I’m sure you heard a patient in the next room. This is an old hospital. The walls are quite thin. We Japanese have a saying, ‘The walls have ears and the paper walls have eyes.’ Better not tell any secrets here!”
With that he gave a big chuckle. He told Sam to get some rest and that he would be around in the morning. A nurse would be on hand if needed. Her English wasn’t great, he said, but better than the day nurse’s.
Sam, slightly reassured, smiled back. The doctor turned off the light, and as he slipped out, he pulled the door shut. “Shitsurei shimasu,” Sam heard muffled from the hallway.
Sam closed his eyes, half expecting to hear the previous conversation continue. It didn’t, and Sam soon drifted off into a deep and pleasant sleep.
I had uploaded an earlier version of Mr. Smith’s huge fantasy (155,000 words!) here. Well, he changed the name and I had to do a much higher resolution image so he could print it. Unfortunately most of the images I had used were too small. So… I redid the whole thing.
I hope you like it better than the old one.
Get the free sample on your Kindle. If you like fantasy (think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) with elves and dwarves and things like that, I am sure you’ll love it. I’m not a big fantasy reader (okay, I have ready Lord of the Rings and a few of the Narnia books…) but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Get the free sample and if you like it, buying it would make E.C. Smith’s day.
The Temporal Chapter Two by CJ Martin (Right click to download)
(If this is the first section you’ve heard, See the Prologue Podcast)
Sam’s new job would begin later in the month. This gave him time to find an apartment and, of course, time to explore Japan. The hotel concierge helped him order shinkansen—bullet train—tickets to Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. The return trip would be a scenic route back through the Hokuriku area in central Japan.
It was August, the time of the Obon festival when everyone traveled, the concierge warned. Sam was fine with that. He wasn’t in a particular hurry and thought it therapeutic to be around crowds of unfamiliar distractions.
The next morning at the station, with a little help from a kind and elderly gentleman and a kid eager to practice his English, he found the correct train and waited in a line that led him directly to his seat.
In the train, his mind wandered aimlessly in search of an anchor. At times it seemed he didn’t have the strength to stop it from latching on to his wife—his ex-wife. (He had a hard time accepting that simple change of title.)
The announcement music began, snapping him back to reality. A tinny, speaker-tainted voice announced the next stop in Japanese.
Two elementary school girls giggled at seeing “Fuji-san” for the first time. Sam closed his eyes and was back in his childhood. He and his classmates had climbed that active volcano several times.
Living in Shizuoka prefecture, it was his school’s yearly summer field trip. Well, the bus would drive them up to level four and they would hike to level five. This is how they “climbed” Mt. Fuji. Still, even this short hike was enough to exhaust the young Sam. The air was thin and with every step, it became thinner.
Thoughts of his classmate’s laughter and the tossing of volcanic rock at the crows gave way to fleeting images of recent events mixed with absurd abstract notions that seem so sensible to a half-asleep mind. This continued until the announcement music brought him back to the train and Osaka was just ahead.
He got off and did the touristy stuff, not really sure about his direction. He came across and boarded an English tour bus. He heard all about Osaka Castle and that big crab in mid-town Osaka. But his mind kept wandering Stateside. Self-pity engulfed his thoughts. Nothing could penetrate this shroud of darkness it seemed—not even the sharp pincers of that giant crab.
A day or two later, he boarded a train to get to Kyoto and found a hotel for the night. After that, it was Hiroshima, but it was no matter. His mind was ever sinking, and his spirit was crushed under the weight of failure and betrayal. No change of scenery reciprocated a change of mind. But onward he went.
Hokuriku was different. He took local trains stopping at every minor town. A business man in his forties sat next to him all the way through Fukui prefecture. Unusually bubbly and eager to strike up a conversation with a foreigner, the man provided a welcomed distraction from Sam’s melancholy. The man had been on a week-long business trip; a week away from his family. The businessman stepped off at Eiheiji in northern Fukui leaving Sam to contemplate the meaning of the word, “family.”
In short order, Sam got off the train at Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture. It was a typical August morning in Japan: humid with no healing breeze. He found an information desk at the station and asked for an English guide to the sights around Ishikawa.
He had been here once before. His parents took him to Kenrokuen—one of the three great gardens of Japan, he was told. As a child he glossed over the controlled natural beauty of the garden. At thirty-five, he would have another look.
A young girl, surely on her first summer job, took his money and handed him his ticket. It had a full color photo of the park in the winter just as he had remembered it. The snow covered rock gardens, stone bridge, and roped trees he saw as a child instructed him how beauty—and by extension, love—needed to be restrained and cultivated. But it was now a hot, eternal summer and the trees were left naked and free. This led his thoughts back to his wife; was he too controlling or not enough? He knew the trees were trying to teach him something, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
Following the instructions on the tourist guide, he took a bus to Noto Peninsula. Noto boldly sticks out the top of Ishikawa prefecture into the Sea of Japan. Sam wanted to be bold.
They stopped at a small building that served as a bus stop. The sounds and smell of an unseen beach were strong and nearby.
The Japanese characters on a paper pinned to a board caught his eye. He started to ask someone what it meant, but thought it better to leave the mystery intact for now. He began jotting down a rough representation of the kanji to look up later.
He only copied a single character when a clock chimed and distracted him. He heard it ring one, two, three… He knew it had to be ten o’clock, but he continued counting anyway… six, seven, eight…
Somewhere between nine and ten, time stopped. The earth, a hungry lion, groaned. There seemed to be a pause, a preamble to the inevitable, like the moment after an orchestra tunes the strings but before the performance begins—an overwhelming silence.
In a moment seemingly outside time, he relived his birth. He didn’t have time to think of the oddity of it. In fact, it seemed there was no time involved. It was more of a holistic feeling; not a thought or memory, but something he just understood instinctively. He experienced his mother’s mixture of extreme pain and joy, seemingly opposite feelings in perfect harmony.
Then the rubber band snapped.
All the pent-up energy imploded inside him. Time had no hold on him. Sam, for that one moment, seemed to float outside his body; see all things, hear all things. His senses were heightened and time slowed if it existed at all. A terrible sound; of trumpets; a thousand percussion; brass instruments; simultaneously striking a crescendo of vastly discorded notes. The sound waves were even visible to Sam’s eyes as they blasted him with extraordinary force into a newly formed cavity. The building next to him collapsed and showered him with debris and large chunks of earth.