The Room of the April Witch
This short story by Meteo Hoshizora is translated by Bimyou
The following story has disturbing content. Read with caution.
The Room of the April Witch
People are constantly clamoring for the joy of life. As for me, I find the joy of life in the hard and cruel battle of life - to learn something is a joy to me.
I am April. You are Fool.
The witch April has died.
The people all called her a liar, tortured her, and burned her at the stake.
Even though April had not lied.
"Ahh, I do not want to die. I am a witch."
Though she only lied the once, she received a punishment from god.
May your wish be promptly granted.
Many people died and the world was devastated.
April shut herself up in her room and stopped meeting anyone.
But she was too lonely like that, so just once per year she unlocked the door.
The witch's room is only open on April 1st.
One cannot tell a lie in this room.
Because April will make all those lies come true.
An old blind man lost his way and arrived there.
Without knowing who April was, the blind man lamented.
How wonderful it would be if these eyes could see----
The blind man received two wonderful eyballs.
The blind man was surprised, and stared at April's glossy black hair and her fingertips, white like marble.
"Are you beautiful?"
April shook her head. I am an ugly witch.
Inclining his head, the blind man touched April's fingers and face.
"No, you are wrong. You are a very beautiful person."
The blind man could now see anything. But until he had touched it with his own fingers, he did not know what it was.
"What is that?"
The blind man pointed at something shining in the skylight and asked.
That is the moon.
The blind man trembled as if he had seen something frightening and left the room.
Eventually, he decided to live his life with his eyes always shut.
A witch hunter arrived.
"I have found you, cursed witch of plagues and disasters."
The hunter called April unclean, raped her, and killed her.
He sliced through her slender neck, gouged out her chest, and took her heart.
The hunter put the heart, dripping blood, into a box, and triumphantly left with it.
Even after being burned with holy oil until only white ash remained, April was still a witch.
A curious suitor arrived.
"Please marry me, April the witch."
April exchanged vows with him, and gave birth to a child within one day.
The quickly-growing child was clever, soon learning words, and asked to be allowed to go out of the room.
April let the child do so.
The suitor, left behind, apologized to April.
"I am sorry, witch April. I am very worried for that child. Being condemned as a witch's child, I do not know what kind of persecution it might receive. I must protect it."
April nodded sadly.
The suitor went outside after the child, and never returned.
A travelling man who was called a saint arrived.
After making April swear that she would tell no other, the man came closer.
"Even though the truth is that I have no miraculous power, everyone waits eagerly for me. Why does a witch like you have power? Give me that devil's power."
The travelling man's pure white beard trembled and he broke down in tears.
"Even though I just wanted the children to smile."
April spoke to the man.
O saint. If you would accept my cursed power, I offer it to you.
But the man looked at the hand April held out and hung his head.
"Nay. I do not need such a terrible thing after all. I am just a somewhat deft-fingered old dodderer. And now even those fingers will not move as I want them to, and I cannot make even a single doll. I have used up all the money I had. I beg you, do not call me a saint."
Then you will die as a human.
Even still, each time they think of you, the children will smile.
"Ho ho, as if I could believe the words of a witch."
The man laughed at her.
At the end of his long trip, the man died alone, but afterwards he was called a holy man.
A sick person near death was being chased and arrived.
Hated by her loved ones, her house burnt, she no longer had anywhere to go.
She cowered in a corner of the room like an old rag.
"Don't touch me. Don't look at me. Leave me alone. If you don't want to catch this disease."
I am a witch. No disease will affect me.
Saying this, April put the woman on the bed and kindly nursed her.
But still she grew colder, so April took her hand and spoke to her.
I am a witch. If you wish for it, I will give you a body that will live longer than anyone.
But she was exhausted from her long, long suffering, and no longer wished to be cured.
"Thank you. Please, let me die."
She died. April cried.
A merchant visited. He called himself the greatest merchant in the world.
"Do I have any wishes? That's my line."
The merchant spoke on and on, giving the sales pitches for the goods he had brought.
April smiled gently as she listened, and spoke once he had finished everything.
I want nothing. I need nothing.
"No, no, surely you jest. If there is a thing you want, or something you want to do, say it. I will order anything and deliver it to you."
I spend my days quietly in this room, tend to the flowers in the courtyard, and am speaking to you like this; that is enough.
"That cannot be!"
The merchant became indignant, as if he had been made a fool of.
"Even you must have some worry. If you accidentally injure yourself, what will you do? Surely you will need medicine. This musket is perfect for driving away burglars. You are quite beautiful, but no one can stay young forever. This salve that uses a secret formula will preserve your youth."
I want nothing. I need nothing.
"I'm the greatest merchant in the world. I can't just leave without selling anything. I have my pride, too."
I understand. If that is your wish.
I will accept all of the goods you brought. This is the compensation.
What suddenly welled up in the merchant's heart were things he had no experience of, nor had he even imagined them: the calamities and gruesome events of this world, and all the misfortune that would befall him.
The merchant's hair was turned white in an instant, and he became like a living ghost; he unsteadily roamed around the room and left.
The village girls Juniper and Honeydew arrived.
"See. The witch is there, right?"
"It's not like I doubted you. Of course there'd be a witch somewhere. I just said I wasn't sure about taking ghost stories seriously."
Honeydew apologized to April.
"Please do not get angry, mistress. We will leave quickly."
"Hey, look at this. What a wonderful tea set."
Honeydew lamented how her companion's irresponsible untidiness created so many problems for her, while Juniper was thirsty and spoke selfishly.
Juniper drank many cups of black tea and left the room untidy, while Honeydew grudgingly cleaned up after her.
April did nothing.
A quack doctor came to visit.
She did as she was told during the medical examination, and her hair and blood and nails and meat and flesh, anyway, many parts of her were collected, and at the end she was told thus.
"You are sick. You should be hospitalized as soon as possible. It would be best to do it today."
While writing something in his medical records, the quack called out to her, saying that she was practically a living specimen.
I am not ill at all. I am a witch.
"Then that is the name of your disease. You have witch disease. Even if your flesh looks healthy, your heart is sick. You are abusing yourself, staying in this dim, stagnant room. As a doctor, it is my duty to cure you."
Finally, the quack gave April a sedative, and was going to pull her from the room.
Doctor, please just leave.
I do not want to go outside.
I do not want to hurt the people. Above all, I do not want to be injured myself.
I no longer wish for the world and myself to meet.
The quack did not listen to April's entreaty.
The quack became hair and blood and nails and meat and flesh, anyway, he became all sorts of parts and left the room.
An invisible dog arrived.
Although its nails made a scratching sound on the floor and it could be heard breathing, it had no appearance.
Its fur, rustling more than summer cypress. It gave off the unpleasant odor of eye mucus.
She guessed where it was and picked it up, but it snapped at her violently and eventually got away. April had no choice but to leave the dog alone.
On one stormy night, the dog was afraid and howled towards the other side of the door for a long time. She did not know who was there, but someone was. In the first place, other than on April 1st, no one was supposed to be able to get near the room. At least, no one alive.
Later, on a night when it was snowing heavily, the dog which had been sprawled by the hearth sprung up and howled at the door like fire. Leaving only the faint sound of the snow, someone left.
----And then, exactly a year later, at dawn.
Click, click, came the sound of the tip of a cane on the entranceway's stone.
The dog faintly showed itself, and stood quietly in front of the door.
April asked the dog.
Will you forgive the person who is precious to you?
The dog whined quietly and pushed at the door with the tip of its nose.
She opened the door slightly, and saw the dog off with just a little regret.
This was the one time that the witch April lived with a familiar.
An artist whose works did not sell arrived.
The artist tore out his hair and screamed in hysterics.
"I want to make a picture that no one has ever seen. The kind of magnificent picture that will touch people's hearts, awe them, and they will remember their whole lives."
A picture that no one had ever seen.
Even April did not understand the picture that he planned.
So she asked. In order to paint that picture, what kind of paintbrush is needed?
"I need a rare paintbrush! Unwavering as iron, as flexible as flame. With true colors on the tip of the brush."
How much canvas would be sufficient?
"A vast one! Of course, not just large. It must be knitted of threads of faith and atonement. Every time the brushtip flashes like lightning, it will extend to the ends of the sea!"
Having said this so fervently, the artist suddenly became timid and clung to April's knee in a panic.
"Forgive me. Punish me. There is no way such a thing could exist. It was the nonsense of megalomania. It was wrong to even wish for it."
While comforting him, April spoke.
Even if it does not come true, is there such a thing as a wish that it is wrong to wish for?
The artist nodded with moist eyes, reverently left a kiss on her hand, and left.
I will stake my life on painting my ideal picture----so saying, he left.
The vampire princess Mei arrived and rested her red wings.
"We are similar", Mei said. She was also a heretic girl whose fate was to be unable to die.
They spent the day speaking of trivial things like the flowering plants adorning the courtyard and the tea that they liked.
"Surely, the god who cursed you will perish someday."
Leaving those words behind her, Mei flew away.
A reader arrived.
Yes, it is you.
Only on April 1st is the witch April's door unlocked, and visitors may come in.
But right now she is lying on the couch, dozing.
If you are not in a hurry, would you please wait a little while for her to wake up?
In the meantime, let us play a game.
The dream that fell out of her slumber is lightly touching your cheek.
What sort of impression did it give? Please select which of the following you thought it was.
[Cork, Washboard, Balsamic Vinegar, Wheat Harvest, Queen, God of Death]
Now, please choose a word that gives the feeling of being strongly connected to that word.
[Soap, Fishing, Wine, Hill Path, Sickle, Maypole, Bee]
From the options below, please pick the one that exemplifies that in terms of activity and essence.
[Run, Stick In, Inform, Rustle, Smell Sweet, Sing]
And now, the last one. Please choose the word that correctly applies to that activity.
[Alchemist, Water Mill, Rose, Quadrille, Covered Wagon, Puppet Show]
Have you made your choice? Let us see the answer.
It is "puppet show".
......pardon me. It seems you are disappointed.
Ah, look, April has awoken.
She is looking into your eyes gently, yet lonesomely, waiting for you to call to her.
If you put your wish into words, it is practically granted already. Even if it is a lie right now.
A true wish is more difficult to find than it is to grant.
April is smiling.
At some point, a single rose has appeared in her hand.
After that, for a long, long time, no one came to the room.
"Hey, I'm Fool. You're April, right?"
If you would like, I will grant your----
She began saying this, but Fool gently stopped her.
"You don't need to say anything."
Saying this, Fool spent the day loitering about the room, and finally
"I want to come here again."
So saying, he returned to the world.
The next year, Fool came again.
The year after that, and the year again after that, he came.
One year, fool brought a mechanical instrument.
Fool and April danced to the instrument's melody.
Fool's dancing was unbelievably bad, but until the day ended, April pestered him over and over to be her dance partner.
One year, the two of them took a stroll in the courtyard.
It was a small garden which did not even take 1 minute to go all the way around.
Fool knew a lot about the flowering plants there.
He loved plants very much, and just by listening to him talk about the various plants, she was happy.
One year, April treated Fool to home cooking.
It was not something created by magic, but simple cooking using ingredients that she had raised from seeds herself.
He made a solemn face, eating the food with an unfamiliar taste, but offered up his wooden bowl for another serving many times.
The aged Fool arrived.
"What I'm about to say is a lie."
With that introduction, Fool began to talk.
The world had perished long ago, and Fool was the last human on the planet.
Any calendar was meaningless now, and soon he would have no one to lie to.
I plan to make my grave near here, so if you feel like it, come visit; so saying, Fool left.
The next morning----
April left her room, and was surprised to see the people living peacefully.
The people had all become immortal, and everyone had the power to grant their own wishes.
Visiting a small graveyard, April found Fool's grave.
He was the last person to die on this planet.
Offering a flower that he had said he liked, April went to her knees in front of the grave.
"Ahh, god. I was a witch. But now I am not."
I am April. You are Fool.
The witch April has died.