I ran and ran along the rough forest path, repeating his name over and over.
Taki-kun. Taki-kun. Taki-kun.
— It’s okay. I still remember. I won’t forget.
Before long, the light from Itomori Village began to peek through the gaps in the trees, and my ears began to pick up the faint festival music riding on the winds.
Taki-kun. Taki-kun. Taki-kun.
In the sky above, Tiamat’s Comet, with its dazzling tail trailing behind, sparkled brighter than the moon. I screamed his name in an attempt to push back the crushing fear.
Your name is Taki-kun!
The rumbling of a motorcycle engine became audible, and a pair of headlight beams shone into my eyes.
“Tesshi!” I yelled and ran towards the bike.
“Mitsuha! Where the heck were you!?”
Tesshi, wearing a big ridiculous helmet with a flashlight attached like he was going cave exploring or something, scolded me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t exactly explain what happened. Instead, I conveyed Taki-kun’s words.
“He said sorry for breaking your bike.”
Tesshi looked skeptical but didn’t question any further. He cut the engine and, as he ran off, yelled, “You’re gonna explain everything later, okay?!”
Itomori Electrical Substation – Entry Forbidden.
A plate with those words was attached to the metal fence, and beyond it lay the silhouettes of power transformers and steel towers and other complicated looking devices. It was an unmanned facility; the only light came from the red lamps installed on the machines.
“It’s gonna fall? That? For real?!” Tesshi, looking up at the sky, asked me.
We were standing in front of the fence surrounding the substation, gazing at the glittering comet above.
“It’s gonna fall! I saw it with my own eyes!” I said, staring straight into Tesshi’s eyes. Only two hours until impact. There was no time to be explaining things.
Tesshi gave me a suspicious look for a brief moment, then broke out into a little laugh. The laugh seemed to be more out of desperation than anything else. “Oh, so you saw it, huh? Well then I guess we have no choice!” With renewed vigor, he zipped open his sports bag, revealing a cylinder shaped like a relay baton wrapped in brown paper tightly packed in there. A water gel explosive. I gulped at the sight of it. Tesshi then took out a large pair of bolt cutters and began snipping away at the chains blocking the entrance to the substation. “Mitsuha,” he said. “Any further than this and it’s not just some prank.”
“Please, keep going. I’ll take all the responsibility.”
“Are you dumb? That’s not what I was asking for,” he said almost angrily, and for some reason turned a little red in the face. “Now we’re partners in crime!”
As if to smash the encroaching darkness, the sound of the chains being severed rang loudly throughout the surrounding air.
“Once the town’s power goes out, the school will switch to its emergency power system right away. Then we can broadcast!” Tesshi yelled into his smartphone.
I held his phone up to his mouth as he drove the motorcycle. A few homes beside the prefectural road sporadically illuminated our path. And ahead lay a dense gathering of light amidst the dark mountains, our destination: Miyamizu Shrine, site of the autumn festival. A strange sense of nostalgia suddenly overcame me, as if I were returning home after a long period of absence.
“Mitsuha, Saya-chin wants to talk to you.”
“Hello? Saya-chin?” I put the phone against my ear.
“Ahhh Mitsuhaa!” She was crying, or at least on the verge of it. “Hey, do I really have to do this!?”
A sharp pain shot through my chest when I heard her voice. If I were in Saya-chin’s position, I would probably be crying too. Just sneaking into the broadcast room at night alone by itself was no easy task.
“I’m sorry Saya-chin, but please.” Nothing I could say would make her job easier. “If we don’t do this, lots of people will die! Once you start broadcasting, keep going as long as possible!”
No response. Only a faint sniffling.
As anxiety began to take hold of me, the speakers suddenly burst back to life.
“Fine whatever! You and Tesshi owe me big time!”
“What did Saya-chin say?”
“You owe her big time.” Putting the phone away in my skirt pocket, I answered loud enough to be heard over the motorcycle engine.
“Alright, let’s go!”
The moment Tesshi let out his battle cry, the sound of a loud explosion, like that of a giant firework going off, rang out behind us. Stopping the bike, the two of us turned around. Two, three, four. More explosions followed one after another, and fat columns of black smoke began to rise up from the middle of the mountain where we were just minutes ago. An enormous transmission tower gradually tilted over, as if in slow motion.
“Tesshi!” My voice quivered.
“Ha.. ha…” His breathing, which almost sounded like laughing, also trembled.
Then, with an explosive bang, all the lights in the village abruptly went out. We did it. We really did it.
All of a sudden, the violently loud, ear rupturing wails of the emergency sirens burst out of speakers all around town. The ominous sounds, like screams of a giant, reflected off the mountains and completely enveloped the village.
Saya-chin. She took over the wireless disaster system. Tesshi and I locked eyes, nodded, then got back on the motorcycle. As we started out towards the shrine, Saya-chin’s voice began flowing from the speakers, as if to cheer us on. She read exactly what we had planned out in a voice so calm no one would have believed that she was crying just moments ago.
<This is the town hall. An explosion has occurred at the Itomori Electrical Substation. There is danger of additional explosions as well as a wildfire.>
Tesshi steered off the main road and onto a narrow mountain path. Going this way, we could reach the back of the main shrine building without having to drive up the stone staircase along the main entrance. I listened to Saya-chin’s voice sound throughout the village as I clung onto Tesshi’s back in my violently shaking seat. It was almost identical to her older sister’s voice; almost no one would doubt that it wasn’t an official broadcast.
<People in the following districts should immediately evacuate to Itomori High School: Kadoiri, Sakagami, Miyamori, Oyazawa…>
“This is it! Let’s go, Mitsuha!”
We jumped off the bike and began descending the flight of wooden stairs on the slope behind the shrine. Through the gaps in the trees I could see the countless stalls lined up on the grounds and the crowds of people walking between them like fish swimming aimlessly in a dark, overcrowded tank. As we ran, we threw off our helmets.
<I repeat. This is the town hall. An explosion has occurred at the Itomori Electrical Substation. There is danger of additional explosions as well as a wildfire…>
We reached the bottom, which put us right behind the main shrine building. Surrounding us were the silhouettes of people gathered for the festival and rapidly growing seeds of uneasiness among them. As if racing each other, Tesshi and I sprinted through the crowd, yelling as we went.
“Run away! Fire in the mountains! We’re in danger here!”
Tesshi’s voice was so loud it sounded like he was using a megaphone. I also screamed my lungs out, not about to lose to him. Run away! Fire! Run! Before long, we reached the dead center of the shrine grounds.
“Ehh, is there really a fire?” “Hey, let’s get out of here.” “Do we have to walk to the high school?”
Our shouting seemed to be doing some good at backing up Saya-chin’s orders on the wireless system. Couples in yukatas, groups of children, and elderly holding hands with their grandkids all shuffled hurriedly towards the exit. I breathed a sigh of relief. At this rate we would be fine. All thanks to him… him?
“Mitsuha!” Tesshi’s abrupt call caught my attention. “This is bad!”
Following Tesshi’s gaze, I noticed that there were more than a few people sitting idly beside food carts or standing around chatting. Some were even having a leisurely smoke, drinking, or joking around cheerfully.
“If a fire doesn’t actually come, we’ll never be able to get these guys to move! We need the fire department to come and force them out! You need to go to the town hall and convince the mayor…”
Tesshi stood almost right above me, yet his desperate shouts sounded far, far away.
“Oi, Mitsuha… what’s wrong!?”
“… Tesshi what do I do?” Unable to think about anything else, before I knew it I had turned to Tesshi in distress. “I can’t remember his name!”
“What are you talking about idiot!?” Tesshi yelled at me. “Look around you! You started all this!” He glared at me, his expression a mix of anger and concern.
Immediately evacuate to Itomori High School… For the first time, I noticed that Saya-chin’s voice was trembling with fear as she repeated her instructions on the speakers.
“Go Mitsuha!” Tesshi yelled. This time, rather than scolding me, he seemed to be desperately pleading. “Go and convince your old man!”
I suddenly snapped back to the moment as if someone had slapped me. “Got it!” I nodded and sprinted off with all my might.
Behind me, I heard Tesshi’s yelling once again. “Then run away! Go to the high school!”
Saya-chin’s voice continued to echo throughout the village. “There is danger of a wildfire. Please evacuate to Itomori High School.”
I plowed through the stream of people, dashed through the torii which marked the shrine’s exit, and ran down the flight of stone stairs. You started all this, Tesshi had said. He was right. I, we, started all this. As I ran, I glanced up at the comet. Now that all the lights on the ground had gone dark, it appeared even brighter. The comet trailed its long tail above the clouds, leaving behind glittering bits of dust as if it were a giant moth showing off its brilliant scales. You’re not gonna win this one!
It’s going to be okay. We can make it in time. I repeated those words, which someone who I can’t remember had recently said to me, in my head.
It happened on an autumn day, when I was still a middle schooler.
Around that time, I was just getting used to living alone with my dad. We had finished dinner, which wasn’t very good despite how much we struggled to make it, and were drinking tea. I munched on an apple, while my dad had a beer.
The comet was just about the only thing on the news that day. I didn’t really have any interest in stars or space or all that, but those phrases like revolving around the sun with a period of 1200 years, or an orbital radius of 16.8 billion kilometers blew my mind. Just knowing that such phenomena on a scale so much larger than ourselves existed in the world amazed and frightened me at the same time.
“Look at that!” The announcer in the television suddenly shouted in excitement. “It appears as if the comet has split into two. Around it… countless falling stars are springing forth.”
The camera zoomed in, showing the fractured comet sailing through the sky with the highrises of Tokyo in the background. Countless long, thin strands continually appeared and disappeared at the head of the comet. I opened my eyes wide, entranced by the otherworldly beauty of the spectacle.
The creak of a door being opened suddenly mixed in with the commands being broadcasted on the wireless disaster system. A short scream from Saya-chin, followed by familiar voices of a few men flowed from the speakers.
<What are you doing!?> <Hurry up and turn it off!>
After the crash of a chair being toppled over and the short screeching sound of feedback, the transmission cut off.
“Saya-chin!” I stopped running. She was found by the teachers. Large drops of sweat poured out of my body and landed on the asphalt with plopping noises. I stood on a road which circled the lake and led to both the town hall and the high school. I heard confused voices from a few people walking along the evacuation route.
“What’s going on?” “Something happen?” “Do we still evacuate?”
This is bad, I began to think, when the speakers sprung to life once again.
<This is the Itomori town hall.>
This time, it wasn’t Saya-chin or his sister: it was the old man in charge of broadcasting at the town hall, whose voice I vaguely remembered.
<We have confirmed an accident. Everyone, do not panic. Please wait for further instructions.>
I burst out running again. Someone from the town hall must have found out what we were doing and contacted the school. Right now, Saya-chin was probably being questioned by the teachers. Tesshi will probably be in big trouble too.
<I repeat. Do not panic. Please wait for further instructions.>
No! Don’t wait where you are! I need to stop this broadcast!
I left the main road and dashed down a rough sloped path with thick grass growing out from the cracks in the asphalt: a shortcut to the town hall. Thorns pricked at my bare feet. Spiderwebs stuck to my face. Some kind of bug got into my mouth.
Finally, I reached the bottom of the hill and once again ran onto the main road. I couldn’t spot a single person around me; my only companion was the voice continuing to order citizens to wait for further instructions. As I ran, I spat out a wad of saliva and wiped the sweat and tears and spider silk off my face with my sleeve. My legs were beginning to lose strength and falter. Still, I ran. I refused to slow down. On a sharp curve, my body grazed the guardrail which was the only thing preventing me from tumbling into the lake below.
I looked to the side, alarmed. The lake was shining faintly. Still running, I peered at it more carefully. No, the lake itself wasn’t shining. The calm surface of the water was reflecting the sky. As if it were a mirror, the lake displayed two glittering tails…. two? I glanced up.
— Ah, at last.
“… it split!”
I rapidly flipped through the channels. All of them had announcers enthusiastically narrating the sudden, unexpected celestial show.
“The comet has no doubt split into two.” “This was not expected.” “This is truly a fantastic sight.” “It is safe to say that the comet’s core was split.” “It was far from the Roche limit, so the only possible explanation is that some change occurred within the comet itself…” “No word from the National Astronomical Observatory yet…” “Something similar happened in 1994 with the Shoemaker-Levy Comet; it broke into at least 21 fragments as it collided with Jupiter.” “Is there any danger to us?” “Comets are lumps of ice, so most of it will likely melt before reaching the surface. Even if it becomes a meteorite, the probability of it landing on inhabited ground is very low…” “It is hard to predict the course of the fragments in real time.” “Being able to witness such a grand spectacle, and moreover it just happening to be night here in Japan… this is truly good luck we may only receive once in a lifetime.”
“I’m going to take a look!” I told my dad as I abruptly stood up and dashed down the stairs of the apartment building. From a nearby hill, I gazed up at the night sky. Myriad lights sparkled above, almost as if a whole other Tokyo had been formed. The sight was simply beautiful, like something straight out of a dream.
As I ran through the dark village like a lost child, the fragmented comet seemed to only make my loneliness more prominent.
— Who? Who? Who was he?
Continuing to run, and unable to tear my eyes away from the comet, I desperately racked my brain.
— Someone important. Someone I must not forget. Someone I didn’t want to forget.
Only a little farther until the town hall. And only a little longer until the comet became a meteorite and fell.
— Who? Who? Who are you?
I drew out the last of my strength, raising my speed.
— Your name?
Suddenly I let out a yelp. The tips of my toes had gotten caught in a depression in the road. Before I even had time to think of falling, the ground was already right in front of my face. I felt an impact as my body began to roll around. Piercing pain spread throughout every limb. My vision blurred, then went black.
I heard his voice in my ears.
“So we don’t forget each other when we wake up.”
Back then, you said that… and wrote on my hand.
Still lying on the ground, I opened my eyes. In my fuzzy field of view, I managed to make out my right hand, clenched in a fist. Slowly, I lifted up my stiffened fingers. Something was written there on my palm. I strained my eyes and looked.
I love you.
My breath stopped for a moment. I tried to stand up, but there was hardly any strength left in me. Still, eventually my two legs once again stood on the asphalt. Then, once more, I looked at my palm. But that was all that was written.
Tears began to flow from my eyes, returning my vision to a blurry mess. At the same time, a wave of warmth began to spread throughout my body. As I bawled, I laughed softly and told him, “How am I supposed to know your name with this…”
Then, once again, I broke out in a dash.
I’m not scared anymore. Not frightened of anyone. Not lonely.
I understand now.
I am in love. We are in love.
That’s why we’re going to meet again.
That’s why I’m going to live.
I will live.
No matter what happens, even if a comet falls on me, I will live.
No one would have predicted that the comet’s core would have split into two, or that a massive lump of rock was hidden within its ice covered interior.
Apparently, that day happened to be the village’s Autumn Festival. The time of impact was 8:42 p.m. And the place of impact: Miyamizu Shrine, the main center of the festival.
The meteorite instantly annihilated everything in a broad area centered around the shrine. The impact created a crater almost a kilometer wide in diameter. Water from the nearby lake flowed into the newly created depression, drowning almost half of the village. Itomori Village became the stage for the worst meteorite disaster in human history.
All that information ran through my head as I looked down upon the new Itomori Lake. The calm surface of the water reflecting the warm rays of the sun amidst the morning fog seemed so tranquil, making it hard to believe that three years ago such a tragic event unfolded there. The fact that the comet I saw three years ago in Tokyo, which had enraptured me with its beauty as it streaked across the night sky, brought about this destruction was also somewhat hard to come to terms with.
I stood all alone on the boulder covered summit of a mountain.
When I woke up, I had found myself here.
Suddenly, I got the urge to look at my right hand. There was a random line drawn on my palm, like someone had started to write something.
“What is this…?” I mumbled softly. “What was I doing here?”