When I was in the second grade of elementary school, I went hunting for bugs with my friend Takeshi in the mountain behind our school. That mountain was our playground, we knew every single nook and cranny. Well, it wasn’t really a mountain so much as it was a small forest.
So then Takeshi suddenly screamed out, “Hey, a red butterfly!” and took off running. I ran off after him as fast as I could, but by the time I reached him, out of breath, he was standing still.
“Take-chan, what happened? Did it get away?”
“Yeah, it got away. It was so big, man!”
We walked around trying to find it again, but it was nowhere to be seen. The sun was beginning to set, so we decided to head back home and made for the path back.
Now, there’s a particular rule regarding this mountain. “You must walk towards the setting sun.” If you walk towards the sun, you can find your way back to the path and find your way out. The topography meant that if you got lost, all you had to do was walk towards the sunset and you’d always get out.
But at the time, we didn’t feel like that rule was necessary for us. We knew everything about the mountain. It was unbelievable that we would get lost and have to rely on the setting sun to get out.
We chatted about games as we walked.
“Huh? What’s this?”
A ‘No Through Road’ sign was standing before us. There were no roads through the mountain. We didn’t even know what a road sign was at the time. There had never been anything like that in the mountain before.
“That’s weird. Did we take a wrong path?”
“But, I’ve never seen this place before.”
“…yeah, you’re right. Are we lost?”
We didn’t feel any sense of danger whatsoever, we just tried going back from where we came. But as we tried and tried we were surrounded by unfamiliar scenery. Such a thing should have been impossible.
“Hey! Where are we?”
Takeshi was about to cry. I’d never been there before either. At any rate, we started walking towards the setting sun. That was the rule. Slowly it began to set. Walking towards it, we eventually found our way out.
I said goodbye to Takeshi, and when I was about 500m from home, Takeshi came running towards my back at full speed. When I asked him what was going on, he said there was a funeral taking place at his house. He was scared and couldn’t go home, so he came to find me instead. He urged me to come back with him, so I went to his house to check it out.
There really was a funeral.
Takeshi’s older brother had died. But there was no-one inside the house and it was locked, so we couldn’t get in. I took the sobbing Takeshi back to my house right away.
As soon as I opened the door, my grandfather came flying towards me. As I stared at him, confused, he slapped me across the face. He dragged me inside and I got in deep trouble. It turned out that Takeshi and I had been missing for two days. We told them what happened, but no-one believed us. They also said there was no funeral taking place at Takeshi’s house, either.
For the next month I was grounded. When it finally ended, I went back to the mountain with Takeshi, but we couldn’t find any trace of that road sign.