Several months ago now I was contacted by a reader of my haikyo book, Ruins of the Rising Sun (now retitled Japan in Ruins), who let me know that it, along with my website, had really meant a lot to her. Now, as a writer and photographer, that really meant a lot to me. Reaching out through words and photos was a huge part of not only why I wrote that book, but also why I wrote all the individual posts on this site that contributed to it.
So, I wrote back, letting her know how touched I was by her email, and that it meant a lot to me too- even more now that it had moved her as well.
Wonderful, right? But it got even more wonderful when this reader, her name is Katy Page, sent me a short story she wrote inspired by one of my real-life explorations, in Nara Dreamland. What’s more, it’s a really moving piece of work, and she gave me permission to post it here.
Thank you Katy! Katy’s also great in that she’s been beta-reading a series of science fiction books I’m writing, all about ruins, and offering really great feedback. Thank you again!
Now without further ado, I give you-
The Spirit of Dreamland
by Katy Page (inspired by Nara Dreamland)
It had been a long time since any people had been here in great numbers. Their laughter and happiness still echoed in my ears all these years later. I often roamed my corner of the world looking for anything that might hold residual emotion. Occasionally I found a souvenir and some discarded personal item but usually it was things that had been abandoned with me.
There were a few people who still visited. The security guards came often but mostly they felt resigned to doing their jobs. Sometimes it was local youths daring each other and coming to damage what little I had left. The visitors I liked most were the urban explorers. They came with the kind of wonder and joy I basked in back in my heyday. They didn?t ruin anything and their emotions fed me well.
The other spirits in the area urged me to use what energy I had to scare the youths who came to vandalise my park but I didn?t want to do that. I didn?t want to soak up those emotions. True I was fading fast and soon there would be nothing left but I?d rather that happened than become some dark energy that brought the paranormal investigators and the thrill seekers. It had been a while since anyone had come with positive intentions.
I was drifting around the entrance when they came. At first laughing and joking but soon they split up and began to explore my world with reverence. I drifted after one of them but he must have been sensitive as he obviously felt my presence and began to radiate apprehension. I retreated to my favourite place at the highest point of the park and watched.
They took photos and explored like the excited children that had once gathered here laughing and screaming with joy. The explorers were quiet but I suppose they had no choice. As much as I wanted them to stay and enjoy my faded glory I knew the security guard would find them if they stayed too long. As the sun began to set they gathered to leave, taking my last hope for preservation with them. They had provided some small measure of happiness for me but it was not enough.
As the security guard made his evening inspection I watched from my favourite place. I knew that when the next inspection was made I would no longer be here. My park would live on but I would not be here to slow the inevitable decay. It hurt to see, and although I knew the sadder I felt, the quicker I would burn through the energy I had left, it hardly seemed like the tragedy it had been when there was hope for my park to have a life again.
Later that night the security guard was disturbed from his reverie by an eerie sound. It sounded like children?s laughter and carnival music. Warily he went to investigate. Suddenly there was a blinding light and the park lit up as if it was still in operation. He heard the rattle of a rollercoaster, and distant music and clatter of sideshows and arcade machines. The sounds of a busy summer?s day in the park?s peak surrounded him. He began to run, not stopping until he was far away.
The next day one of the other security guards arrived for his shift to find the gate to the park open. Looking around he noticed the park seemed sadder somehow. More decrepit and run down. The paint seemed to be more faded and peeling as if it had aged several years in just one night. Nobody ever heard about what was seen that night, and eventually the security guard convinced himself it had been a dream. If anyone noticed the park was decaying faster now they didn?t mention it or simply put it down to the ravages of nature. Only the local spirits knew there was no longer a spirit of Dreamland.
Thank you Katy! I knew I felt a ghostly presence there with me :).