Lexington Ghosts

Lexington Ghosts

Lexington Ghosts

by Haruki Murakami

Translated by Christopher Allison

This is something that actually happened several years ago. I have altered the names on account of certain circumstances, but other than that it's entirely true.

I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts for about 2 years. At that time, I got to know this architect--a handsome guy, just past fifty, about half of his hair was white. He wasn't very tall. He enjoyed swimming a lot, swam everyday, and consequently was in very good shape. He played tennis once in a while as well. As for his name--let's call him Casey. He was single, and lived in this old mansion in Lexington, a suburb of Boston, together with an extremely reticent, sallow-faced piano tuner. His name was Jeremy: probably mid-thirties, tall, slender as a willow, hair thinning a little. In addition to being a piano tuner he also played tolerably.

A few of my stories had been translated into English, and then had appeared in a magazine. Casey had read these and sent me a letter through my publisher.

"I'm very interested in your work, and curious what kind of person you are," he wrote. I don't usually meet people who send me fan mail (in my experience, these kinds of meetings are never very fun or interesting), but I thought that meeting this guy Casey would probably be OK. His letter was really interesting, and imbued with a his rich sense of humor. I also had the optimism that comes with living overseas. We lived quite close to each other. Still, all of these circumstances didn't match up to one other, peripheral reason. The single biggest reason I wanted to meet this guy Casey was that he was the owner of a magnificent collection of old jazz records.

"If you searched the whole country over, you probably wouldn't find a single private collection that is so complete. I understand that you like jazz a lot, or are at least interested in it," he wrote. Just so. I am certainly interested in it. After reading his letter, I wanted to see this record collection so badly I couldn't stand it. When I get ensnared by a collection of old jazz records, all my psychological powers of resistance disappear, like a horse bewitched by the scent of some special tree.

Casey's house was in Lexington. That's about 30 minutes by car from where I lived. When I called him, he faxed me a detailed map with directions. One afternoon in April, I got in my green Volkswagen and drove to his house alone. I quickly picked it out. It's was a huge, old three-story house. It had probably been standing there for at least 100 years. Even in Boston's swank residential neighborhoods, where stately mansions stand side-by-side and all have long histories, this splendid house particularly stuck out. It was good enough for a postcard.

The garden was like a vast forest, and blue jays jumped from branch to branch, raising their sharp, merry voices all the while. There was a new BMW parked in the driveway. When I parked the car behind the BMW, a large mastiff who had been sleeping on the welcome mat on the front porch slowly got to his feet and barked dutifully two or three times. His bark seemed to suggest "It's not that I really want to bark, so I'll do it sort of halfway."

Casey came out and shook my hand. He had a firm handshake that seemed to confirm something. While he was shaking my hand, he patted my shoulder gently with his other hand. This was a frequent mannerism of his. "Hi. I'm glad you came. It's really nice to meet you," he said. He was wearing a fashionable white Italian shirt buttoned all the way to the top, a light brown cashmere cardigan, and soft cotton pants. He also had on a pair of small Georgio Armani-style glasses. All very smart.

Casey took me inside, sat me down on a sofa in the living room, and brought out a freshly-made pot of excellent coffee.

Casey wasn't overly forward; he'd had a good upbringing and was well-educated. Having traveled all over the world when he was young, he was a great conversationalist. We got to be good friends, and I went over to his house to hang out about once a month. And he shared the blessing of that splendid record collection with me. When I was there, I was able to listen to incredibly rare and valuable music as much as I liked, which I otherwise never would have heard. Compared to that record collection, the stereo system wasn't so great, but the old vacuum-tube amp produced a warm, nostalgic sound.

Casey used the house's study as his office, and drew up building plans on a big computer there. But he didn't tell me very much about his work. "It's not particularly important," he said with a laugh, as if making an excuse. I have no idea what kind of buildings he designed. He never appeared to be particularly busy. The Casey I knew was always sitting on the sofa in the living room, his wine glass tilted elegantly, reading a book or straining to hear Jeremy's piano. Or perhaps sitting in his garden chair playing with the dog. It's just a feeling I have, but I think that he didn't work that hard.

His deceased father had been a nationally famous psychologist, and had written five or six books, all of which were well on their way to becoming classics. Also a devoted jazz fan, he was a close friend of Prestige Records founder and producer Bob Weinstock, and on account of that his collection of jazz vinyl from the 1940's to the 1960's was, as Casey 's letter had said, astonishingly complete. While it's sheer volume was particularly impressive, one couldn't complain about the outstanding quality of the records either. Almost all the records were first editions and in perfect condition. Neither the jackets nor the disks themselves had the slightest blemish. It was very close to miraculous. Casey took great care with their preservation, and he handled each one as if he were bathing an infant.

Casey had no siblings, and his mother died when he was young. His father had never remarried. Hence, when his father had succumbed to pancreatic cancer 15 years before, he alone had inherited the house and all it's various heirlooms, including the complete record collection. Because Casey respected his father more than anyone, and loved him too, he didn't get rid of a single record, and preserved the whole collection with great care, just as it was. Casey liked to listen to jazz, but he wasn't as ardent a fan as his father. He really preferred classical music, and whenever Seiji Ozawa was conducting the Boston Symphony, he and Jeremy never failed to attend.

After I had known him for about a year, Casey asked me to take care of his house while we was away. Although it happened very rarely, he had to go to London for about a week on business. When Casey went away on trips, Jeremy usually looked after the house, but this time he couldn't. Jeremy's mother, who lived in West Virginia, was in declining health, and a short time before he had gone back home. So Casey called me.

"Sorry to do this to you, but I couldn't think of anyone else," he said. "And while I say ‘house-sitter,' aside from giving Miles (that was the dog's name) his food twice a day, there's not really anything else to do. You can listen to whatever records you like. And there's plenty of food and drink, so help yourself."

It didn't sound like a bad proposition. I was living alone at that time on account of certain circumstances, and the house next to my apartment in Cambridge was under construction, so there was an unbearable racket everyday. I got some extra clothes, my MacIntosh Powerbook, and a couple of books and went to Casey's house early in the afternoon one Friday. Casey had just finished packing and was about to call a taxi.

Have a good time in London, I said

"Yeah, of course," Casey said smiling. "Enjoy the house and the records. It's not a bad place."

After Casey had gone, I went to the kitchen and fixed a cup of coffee. Then I set up my computer on a table in the music room, which adjoined the living room and, listening to some of the records Casey's father had left behind, I worked for about an hour. It seemed like I should be able to get a lot of work done during the coming week.

The desk, a huge mahogany affair, had drawers on either side. It was from quite an ancient time. It was by far the oldest thing in the room, and beside anything from a different era, like the MacIntosh I had brought with me, it seemed as if it had remained there unmoved for an unimaginably long period of time. After his father had died, Casey hadn't added so much as a postage stamp to the music room--it was as if he regarded it as some holy shrine or reliquary. While the whole house was prone to dust on account of it's age, in the music room it was as if the flow of time had stopped until moments before. It was in perfect order. There wasn't a speck of dust on the shelves, and the desk was polished to sparkling.

Miles came in and lay down at my feet. I patted his head a few times. He was a terribly lonely dog, and couldn't stand to be alone for very long. He'd been trained to sleep on his own bed in the kitchen, but the rest of the time he was always at someone's side, unaffectedly attaching himself to some part of his companion's body.

The living room and the music room were separated by a high door-less doorway. In the living room there was a large brick fireplace, and a very comfortable three-person leather sofa. There were four mismatched arm-chairs, and three coffee tables, also all distinct. A fancy, but now somewhat faded, Persian carpet had been laid on the floor, and from the high ceiling dangled a chandelier of ancient origin. I went in and sat down on the sofa, taking in my surroundings. The clock above the fireplace chopped up the minutes with a tick-tock that sounded like someone smashing a window on tip-toes.

The tall wooden bookshelves against the wall were lined art books and volumes on all sorts of specialties. A couple of oil paintings of some unknown coastline hung on three walls, kind of haphazardly. The general impression created by this scenery was somehow fitting. No human form could be seen in any of these pictures, just lonely sea-scapes. They looked as though, if you brought your ear up close enough, you'd be able to hear the sound of the chill wind and the rough seas. Splendid pieces, all, but not a one that particularly stood out. There wafted from each one the smell of moderate, New England-style, but still quite detached, Old Money.

The record shelf was against one broad wall of the music room, and all of those old records were lined up neatly, in alphabetical order according to the performers' names. Even Casey didn't know exactly how many there were. It's probably around six or seven thousand, he had said. But there are the same number again, packed in cardboard boxes and stored in the attic. "I wouldn't be surprised if the whole place sank into the ground someday on account of the weight of all those old records, like the House of Usher."

I set an old Lee Connitz 10" on the turntable, and as I sat at the desk writing, time passed comfortably and tranquilly. I had a very pleasant sensation, like I had buried myself in a perfectly-fitting mould. As time passed, I felt like I developed a special, carefully-constructed intimacy with this room. The reverberation of the music permeated everything: every nook of the room, every tiny cavity in the walls, right down to the creases in the curtains.

That evening I opened a bottle of Montepulciano that Casey had left specially for me, poured it into a crystal wine glass, and drank several glasses, sitting on the sofa reading a new-release novel I had just bought. Even disregarding Casey's recommendation, the wine was great. I got a wedge of Brie out of the refrigerator and ate about a quarter of it with crackers. All the while, it was quiet as a mouse. Apart from the tick-tock of the aforementioned clock, the only sound that could be heard was the occasional car passing on the street out front. The street closest to the house was just a cul-de-sac, though, so traffic was limited just to people in the neighborhood. When evening came, it dropped off to almost nothing. Coming from Cambridge, with it's noisy student crowds, it felt like I was at the bottom of the ocean. As per my usual, when the clock struck 11 I began to feel a little tired. Putting the book aside, I set my wine glass in the kitchen sink and said goodnight to Miles. The dog curled up on top of his bed with resignation and, after a slight groan, shut his eyes. I turned out the lights and went up to the guest bedroom on the second floor. I changed into my pajamas and was soon fast asleep.

When I woke up, I was in a formless void. I didn't know where I was. For a little while I was senseless, like a wilted vegetable. Like a vegetable that's forgotten and left forgotten in a dark cupboard for a long time. At length I finally remembered that I was house-sitting for Casey. Oh, yeah. I'm in Lexington. I fumbled around for the wristwatch I had left on the pillow. When I pushed the button, the time appeared with a blue glow. It was 1:15.

I quietly raised myself from the bed and turned on a small reading lamp. It took me a minute to find the switch. The lamp was made of polished glass in the shape of a lily, and produced a yellow light. I rubbed my temples strongly with the palms of both hands, heaved a big sigh, and looked around the inside of the brightened room. I inspected the walls, gazed across the carpet, and looked up at the ceiling. Then, like collecting beans that had spilled out on the floor, I gathered up the fragments of my consciousness one-by-one, and got reacquainted with the reality of my body. Gradually, I became aware of something: there was a sound. A low rumble, like waves crashing against the shore--that sound is what had roused me from my deep sleep.

Someone is downstairs.

I tip-toed to the door and held my breath. Soon, I could hear the sound of my own heartbeat. There was no mistaking that there was someone in the house besides me. And it wasn't just one or two people. A sound like music could also be faintly heard. I had no idea why. A cold sweat began to trickle from my armpits. What in the world had gone on while I was asleep?

The first thing that popped into my head was that this was some kind of elaborate practical joke. Casey had only pretended to go to London, but in reality had stayed behind, and had organized a party in the middle of the night just to scare me. No matter how I thought it about it though, I couldn't convince myself that Casey was the type to play such a childish prank. His sense of humor was more refined, more elegant.

Or perhaps--I thought, as I stood there still leaning on the door--the people down there were acquaintances of Casey's whom I didn't know. They knew that Casey was going out of town (but not that I was house-sitting for him), and had decided to stop by his house in his absence. At any rate, I was pretty sure that they weren't burglars. When burglars break into someone's house, they usually don't play their music so loud.

I took off my pajamas and picked up my pants. I put on my sneakers and pulled a sweater over my T-shirt. But I was only one person. I wanted something in my hands. Glancing around the room, nothing suitable presented itself. There wasn't a baseball bat or a set of fire tongs. The only things I could see were the bed, the dresser, a small book shelf, and a framed picture.

When I went out into the hall, I could hear the noise more clearly. The sound of cheerful old-time music floated up like steam into the hallway from the bottom of the stairs. The melody was quite familiar, but I couldn't remember the name of the tune.

I could hear voices, too. Since there were a lot of people's voices mixed up together, I couldn't make out what they were talking about. Occasionally there was a laugh. It was a pleasant, airy laugh. It seemed like there was a party going on downstairs, and by the sound of it, it was just getting good. As if coloring the whole scene, the clinking of champagne glasses and wine glasses resounded merrily. There were probably people dancing, too; I could hear what sounded like the rhythmical creaking of leather on the wood floor.

I crept down the hallway to the landing of the staircase. Leaning forward over the banister, I looked down. Light spilled out from the high vertical window in the foyer, filling it with a queer, ghastly light. There were no shadows. The doors that separated the living room from the hall were shut tight. I know that I had left them open when I went to bed. I am absolutely certain of that. There was no alternative but that someone had shut them after I had gone upstairs to bed.

I was completely at a loss about what to do. One possibility was to return to my second-floor bedroom and hide. Lock the door from the inside, crawl into bed and... When I considered the matter calmly, this seemed like the most prudent course of action. And yet, standing at the top of the stairs, listening to the sounds of that cheery music and laughter, it was something of a shock to realize that it seemed to be growing quieter, like ripples on the surface of a pond subsiding. Judging by that atmosphere, I surmised that perhaps these were not an ordinary kind of people.

I took one long, deep breath and descended the stairs to the entrance hall. The rubber soles of my sneakers silently passed from one of those old wooden steps to the next. When I came to the foyer, I immediately turned left and went into the kitchen. Turning on the lights, I opened a drawer and retrieved a heavy meat cleaver. Casey was a cooking enthusiast and had a set of expensive German-made kitchen knives. The finely-polished stainless steel blade gleamed voluptuous and true in my hand.

But when I tried to imagine myself walking into that rollicking party gripping an enormous meat cleaver, I quickly realized that it was a bad idea. I poured myself a glass of water from the tap and returned the meat cleaver to the drawer.


What happened to the dog?

I realized for the first time that Miles was nowhere to be found. He wasn't on his usual pillow on the floor. Where in the world could he have gone? Wasn't it his job to bark or something if someone broke into the house in the middle of the night? Bending over, I felt the depression in the fur-covered pillow where he usually lay. No warmth remained. It seemed he'd gotten out of his bed long before and gone off somewhere.

I left the kitchen, went out into the foyer, and sat down on a small bench there. The music continued without a break and the conversation continued as well. Like waves, they swelled up from time to time, and then quieted down again, but they never stopped altogether. How many people were in there? It seemed like there had to be at least 15. Or maybe it was more like 20. At any rate, it seemed like that big living room was pretty nearly filled.

I thought for a second about whether I should throw open the doors and go in. That was a strange and difficult decision. I was the caretaker of the house after all, and as such it's management was my responsibility. On the other hand, I hadn't been invited .

I strained my ears to catch fragments of the conversation that crept through the cracks in the door, but it was impossible. The conversation blended into one monotonous whole, and I couldn't distinguish any individual words. While I knew that there was a conversation, it was like there was a thick plaster wall in front of me. There was no room for me to enter there. I stuck my hand in my pocket and pulled out a quarter. I twiddled it around in my fingers absently. That silver coin's solidity and reality restored me to my senses. Then something hit me, like a blow on the head from a fluffy mallet:

They were ghosts.

The folks assembled in the living room, listening to music and amiably chatting away weren't real people. The air pressure changed like a phase shift had taken place, and my ears were buzzing. I tried to swallow, but my throat had gone dry and I couldn't. I put the coin back in my pocket and looked around me. My heart began to thump heavily in my chest.

It seemed very odd that I hadn't realized this until now. How totally ridiculous to think that someone would break into the house and have a party. The sound of so many cars parking near the house, and the tramp of so many feet from the front gate to the house would certainly have woken me up. The dog probably would have barked. In short, there was no way that they could have entered the house.

I wanted Miles by my side. I wanted to put my hands around his big neck, smell that smell, feel the warmth of his skin. But the dog wasn't anywhere to be seen. I went and sat back down on the bench in the foyer by myself, as if I were under a spell. Naturally, I was terrified. But it surpassed the fear of any one particular thing. The fear was deep and mysterious like some vast desert.

Taking in a couple of deep breaths, I quietly replenished the air in my lungs. Little by little, my normal senses returned. It was a feeling like many cards were being turned over deep inside my consciousness.

Then I stood up, and muffling the sound of my footsteps exactly like before, I crept up the stairs. I returned to the bedroom and, without changing my clothes, got into bed.

The music and conversation meandered on. I couldn't sleep well, so I had no choice but to lie there, until almost day-break. Leaving the light on, I leaned against the headboard and stared at the ceiling, trying to hear the sounds of the never-ending party below. Eventually, I managed to fall asleep.

When I woke up the next morning, it was raining. It was a quiet drizzle, whose sole purpose was to soak the earth. The blue jays sang from under the eaves. The clock's hour hand showed a little before nine. The doors between the foyer and the living room were again standing open, as I had left them when I went to bed. The living room was not disordered. The book that I had been reading lay open on the couch. Fine cracker crumbs were still scattered across the top of the coffee table. Just as I had anticipated, there were no traces of the party.

Miles was curled up on the kitchen floor, sound asleep. He got up and I gave him his dog food. Shaking his ears, he ate greedily and with relish, as if nothing had happened.

The bizarre party in the middle of the night took place the first night I stayed at Casey's house. After that, nothing unusual transpired. Lexington's quiet, secretive nights returned without incident. But for some reason, almost every night I was there I'd wake up in the middle of the night. It was always between 1:00 and 2:00. I guess I was just high-strung, staying in someone else's house. Or perhaps I was anxious about a recurrence of that strange party.

When I woke up like this, I'd hold my breath, and strain to hear anything in the darkness. But there was never a sound. Occasionally, I'd hear the sound of leaves rustling in the garden. At those times I'd go downstairs and get a drink of water in the kitchen. Miles was always curled up asleep on the floor, and when he saw me he'd get up happily, wag his tail, and lay his head on my feet.

I'd take the dog with me into the living room, turn on the lights, and carefully look around. I never felt anything there, though. The sofa and the coffee table were always lined up silently in their places. Those cold oil paintings of the New England coast hung on the walls as always. I'd sit down on the couch for 10 or 15 minutes and just kill time. And when I wasn't able to discover any clue as to what had happened, I'd close my eyes and focus on my consciousness. But I couldn't feel anything. I was simply in the suburbs on a quiet and peaceful night. I'd open the window that looked out on the garden and breathe in the flower-laden spring air. The curtains would flap slightly in the night breeze, and in the woods, owls would hoot.

When Casey returned after a week in London, I decided not to say anything about what had happened that night, for the time being. I can't really explain why. I just had a feeling that it was better that way. Anyway.

"So, how was it? Anything happen while I was gone?" Casey asked me as we stood in the foyer.

"No, nothing special. It was really quiet and I got a lot of work done." That was totally the truth.

"That's great," Casey said with a happy look on his face. Then he pulled a bottle of expensive scotch out of his bag that he'd gotten for me as a souvenir. We shook hands and parted, and I drove the Volkswagen back to my apartment in Cambridge.

After that, I didn't see Casey for about six months. We talked on the phone a few times. Jeremy's mother had died, so that reticent piano tuner had returned to West Virginia permanently. At that time, I was in the final stages of a long novel, so except for matters of utter necessity, I didn't have room to meet anyone or go anywhere. I was spending more than twelve hours a day at my desk working, and I don't think I was ever more that a kilometer away from my house.

The last time I met Casey was at a cafe near the Charles River boathouse. I walked there to meet him and we had a cup of coffee together. I don't know why, but Casey had aged considerably since our last meeting. He was almost unrecognizable. He looked like he had gained ten years. The white in his hair had increased, and he had dark bags under his eyes. The backs of his hands had also become more wrinkled. I couldn't reconcile him with the Casey I had known before, who had always taken such care about his appearance. Perhaps he had some kind of disease. But Casey didn't say anything about it, so I didn't ask.

Jeremy probably won't come back to Lexington, Casey said to me with a sinking voice, gently shaking his head from left to right. I call West Virginia once in a while and talk to him on the phone. The shock of his mother's death changed him somehow, he said. He's different from the Jeremy of the old days. He only talks about the constellations now. From beginning to end, this unfortunate astrology talk. How the constellations are positioned today, and so what it's OK to do today, what should be avoided, that kind of thing. When he was here, he never mentioned the stars even once.

"I'm really sorry," I said. But I didn't really know who in the world he was talking about.

"When my mother died, I was only ten years old," Casey began, his eyes fixed on his coffee cup. "Since I didn't have any brothers of sisters, it was just the two of, my father and I, left behind. She died in a yachting accident in the early fall one year. We were totally unprepared psychologically for the shock of my mother's death. She was young and vivacious; more than ten years younger than my father. It had never occurred to either my father or myself that one day my mother would die. But then one day she was suddenly gone from this world. Poof. Like she'd vanished into thin air. She was clever and gorgeous and everybody liked her. She like to go out walking, and had a great stride, with her back stretched, her chin thrust forward slightly, and both hands clasped behind her. She walked with such an air of pleasure. She usually sang songs while she walked. I loved to go walking with her, the two of us together. Whenever I think of my mother, I see her walking along the boardwalk by the sea in Newport, bathed in the vivid light of a summer morning. The hem of her long summer dress fluttered coolly in the breeze. It was a cotton flower-print dress. That scene is burned into my mind like a photograph.

"She was very dear to my father, and he valued her tremendously. I think he probably loved her even more deeply than he loved me. He was that kind of person. He loved things that he had gained by his own hand. To him, I was something obtained by a natural string of events. This is not to say that he didn't love me: I was his one and only son. But he never loved me as much as he loved my mother. This is something I understood well. There was no one that my father loved like my mother. After my mother died, he never remarried.

"For three weeks after my mother's funeral, my father slept continuously. That's not an exaggeration. Literally, for three weeks straight.

"Occasionally, he would stagger out of bed and, without saying anything, drink a glass of water and eat a little food. He looked like a sleepwalker or a ghost. It was always only for the shortest possible time, and then he'd get back into bed. With the shutters shut tight, and the air stagnant in that dark room, he slept like an enchanted princess. He hardly moved at all. He didn't roll over and his expression remained the same. Being very uneasy about him, I went back to his side time after time to check up on him. I was afraid he would suddenly die in his sleep. When I came in to fluff his pillow and bring him food, I looked closely at his face.

"But he didn't die. He just slept deeply, like a stone buried in the ground. I think he probably didn't dream. In that dark, quiet room, only the sound of his regular breathing could be heard. That sleep, so long and deep, was unlike anything I had ever seen. He looked like a person departed for another world. I remember being very afraid. Completely alone in that huge mansion, I felt like I had been abandoned by the whole world.

"15 years ago, when my father passed away, I was obviously very sad, but frankly I wasn't that surprised. My father looked just the same dead as he had during that deep sleep. He's just like he was then, I thought to myself. It was deja vu. This overwhelming deja vu, like something deep inside of me had shifted. From a distance of 30 years, I retraced the past just as it had been. Only this time, I couldn't hear the sound of his breathing.

"I loved my father. I loved him more than anyone else in the world. I respected him, too. But even more than that, I was strongly bound to him, both emotionally and spiritually. I know this may sound strange, but when my father died I, too, got in bed and slept for many days, exactly like my father had when my mother died. It was like I had succeeded to some special ritual of my bloodline.

"It probably lasted for about two weeks. During that time I slept and slept and slept... I slept until time decayed and melted away into nothing. No matter how much I slept, it was never enough. At that time, the world of sleep was the real world, and the everyday world became nothing more than a vain and temporary place. It was a superficial world devoid of the color of life. I thought that I didn't want to live anymore in such a world. Gradually, I came to understand what I imagine my father must have felt like when my mother died. Do you get what I'm saying? Things take on a different shape all together. Without these new shapes, they can't exist."

Casey was then silent for a moment as if he was thinking about something. It was late fall, and the sound of acorns falling and hitting the ground with a thud occasionally reached my ears.

"There's only one thing I can say," Casey said raising his head, his familiar stylish smile returning to his lips. "When I die, there is not one person in the world who will have to sleep that deep sleep."

Sometimes I think about the Lexington ghosts: about their unknown character and number, and about that lively party they had in the living room of Casey's old mansion in the middle of the night. And I think about Casey and his long, solitary deep sleep, as if in preparation for death, in the second floor bedroom, with the shutters shut tight. And I think about his father. I think about Miles, the lonely dog, and that breathtaking record collection. Jeremy playing Shubert. The blue BMW wagon parked in front of the front door. But they all have the feeling of things that happened a terribly long time ago in a place terribly far away. Even though they just happened recently.

I've never told these things to anyone until now. Whenever I try to think about it, although it seems like a very strange tale indeed, perhaps on account of the distance, it doesn't seem very strange to me at all.