by HARUKI MURAKAMI
translated by Chirstopher Allison
My name is Creta Kano, and I help my sister Malta Kano with her
Of course my real name isn't Creta Kano. That's my name when I help
my sister. It's just my professional name. When I'm not at work, I
use my real name, Taki Kano. I call myself Creta because my sister
calls herself Malta.
I have not yet been to the isle of Crete.
Sometimes, I look at maps. Crete is a Greek island near Africa. It
is long and thin in shape, like a dog's meaty bone, and has famous
ruins. The Knossos Palace is there. There's a story about a young
hero who rescued a princess from a maze. If I ever had the chance, I
think I'd like to go to Crete.
My job is to help my sister listen to the sound of water. My
sister's occupation is listening to the sound of water. She listens
to the sound of the water that permeates people. This isn't as easy
as it sounds, though, and not just anyone can do it. Talent is
necessary, as well as practice. My sister is probably the only
person in Japan who can do it. She learned this skill many years ago
on the island of Malta. Allen Ginsberg and Keith Richards had also
been to the center where my sister received her training. The island
of Malta is that special a place. Water holds very great meaning at
that place. My sister trained there for many years. Thus, when she
returned to Japan, she took the name Malta Kano, and began listening
to people's waters professionally.
The two of us live together in an old single-family house in the
mountains. It has a cellar, where my sister stores the countless
samples of waters that she has gathered from every part of Japan.
These are put in ceramic water jugs and lined up in rows. Just like
wine, a cellar is the ideal place for preserving water. My duty is
to protect that water carefully. If there is detritus floating in
it, I scoop it out, and I make sure that it doesn't freeze in the
winter. In the summer, I keep the bugs out. It's not that difficult
a job. It doesn't take much time. So I spend most of every day
drawing blueprints for buildings. When clients come to visit my
sister, I also make tea.
Everyday, my sister goes down to the basement and applies her ear to
each of the water jugs one-by-one, listening for the subtle sounds
they emit. Two or three hours every day. This is practice for her
ears. Each individual water produces a slightly different sound. She
makes me do it, too. I close my eyes and focus every nerve in my
body on my ears. But I can barely hear the sound of the water at
all. I probably don't have the necessary talent as much as my
First, listen to the water in the vessels. When you can do that, you
will also become able to hear the sounds of the waters in people's
bodies, my sister says. I apply my ears earnestly. But I can't hear
anything. There have been times when I thought I heard something. It
feels like something incredibly far away moving suddenly. It's like
the sound of a tiny insect flapping its wings two or three times.
It's not so much a sound as a slight flutter in the air. But it
disappears instantly. Like it's playing hide and seek.
Malta says it's too bad that I can't hear the sound. "It's exactly
people like you for whom this practice is necessary," Malta says.
Then she shakes her head. "If you could just do it, then your
problem would be resolved simultaneously," Malta says. My sister
worries about me very deeply.
I certainly do have a problem. And no matter what I do, I can't
escape it. Whenever men see me, they all decide to rape me. As soon
as one sees me, he pushes me to the ground and unfastens my belt. I
have no idea why this happens. But it's been this way for a long
time. Since I was old enough to remember.
Certainly, I think of myself as a beautiful woman. And I have a
great body. My chest is big and my hips are narrow. When I look at
myself in the mirror, I think I'm sexy. When I walk through town all
of the men stop and stare at me distractedly. "It's like you're
being raped for every single pretty woman in the whole world," Malta
says. I think that's it exactly. I alone have to go through this. I
guess it's my unique responsibility. This inclination in men is
probably on account of my timidity. Since I get nervous when men
look at me this way, they probably come to want to rape me without
even thinking about it.
Because of this, I have thus far been raped by quite a variety of
men. Forcibly, violently raped. By teachers in school, by fellow
students, by private tutors, by an uncle on my mother's side, by the
gas meter reader, by a fireman who had come to put out a fire at the
house next door. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, nothing
works. I've been cut with a knife, I've had my face struck, and I've
been strangled with a hose. In such fashion I have been violently
A long time ago, I stopped going out of the house altogether. If
these things had kept happening, eventually I certainly would have
been killed. I live with my sister Malta in the mountains, apart
from human habitation, and take care of the water vessels in the
On just one occasion, I managed to kill my attacker. No; to say it
correctly, the killer was my sister. That man was, of course, raping
me. It happened in the cellar. He was a police officer. He had come
in the course of some investigation, and as soon as he opened the
door, he pushed me down as if he couldn't stand it an instant
longer. Then he ripped off my clothes, and pushed his pants down to
his knees. His gun made a scraping sound on the floor. Do whatever
you like, but please don't kill me, I begged. The police officer
slapped my face. But just then, my wonderful sister Malta came home.
Hearing the racket, she took a big metal bar in her hands. Then she
valiantly hit the policeman in the back of the head with the bar.
There was a sound like something caving in, and the policeman lost
consciousness. Next, she retrieved a cleaver from the kitchen and,
just as one would split open the belly of a tuna, she slit the
policeman's throat. Cutting his throat made no sound. My sister is
really good at sharpening knives. The knives my sister sharpens are
always unbelievably sharp. I was dumbfounded as I watched all of
"Why did you do that? Why did you slit his throat?" I asked.
"It's better this way. He won't be any further trouble. And anyway,
your attacker was a policeman. You don't want him coming back to
haunt you," Malta said. My sister is very adept at solving problems.
Quite a lot of blood poured out of him. My sister put all of the
blood into one of the water vessels. "Removing the blood and hiding
it is crucial," Malta said. "That way, he won't be able to cause us
any trouble." We held the policeman's booted feet up until all the
blood had run out. He was a big man, and holding up his feet and
supporting his body was really difficult. If Malta wasn't so strong,
there's no way we would have been able to do it. She has a body like
a lumberjack and is very strong. "It's not your fault that men
attack you," Malta said, still holding his feet. "It's on account of
the water inside your body. The water inside your body is troubled.
So others are attracted to your water. They become very stimulated."
"Then how can I drive these waters from my body?" I asked. "I can't
stay hidden away up here like this forever, avoiding the sight of
other people. I don't want my life to end like this." I really
wanted to go live in the outside world. I have an architecture
license. I got it through a correspondence course. Since then, I had
entered various design contests, and had won several prizes. My
specialty is designing steam-powered power plants.
"It won't do to hurry. Use your ears. If you do that, you'll be able
to hear the answer," Malta said. Then she shook the policeman's
feet, and the last drops of blood ran out into the water vessel.
"We just killed a police officer. What in the world are we going to
do? If anybody finds out, we'll be in deep trouble," I said. Killing
a police officer is a serious crime. I couldn't bear the thought of
the death penalty.
"We'll just have to bury him out back," Malta said.
So we buried the policeman with the slit throat in the garden. We
buried his pistol and his handcuffs and his scissors and his boots,
too. Malta dug the hole, moved the body, and filled it up again, all
by herself. While she was working, she sang "Going to A-Go-Go" in a
mock Mick Jagger voice. After she had finished, we both stomped the
dirt down, and piled fallen leaves on top.
The local police, of course, conducted an exhaustive investigation.
They practically tore the grass up by the roots looking for the
missing officer. The investigation came to our place. We were asked
various questions. But they didn't find any clues. "It's OK. We
won't be found out," Malta said. "We cut his throat and drained the
blood out. And I dug that hole quite deep." So we breathed a little
sigh of relief.
Starting the following week, however, the ghost of the murdered
police officer came into our house. He lurked around the cellar just
as he had been in life, with his pants down around his knees. There
was the scraping sound of his gun against the floor. This seemed to
me like a fairly indecent appearance, but I guess no matter how it
looks, a ghost is still a ghost.
"That's funny. Even though I slit his throat so that he wouldn't
come back..." Malta said. At first, I was scared of the ghost. After
all, we had been the ones who killed the policeman. I would crawl
into my sister's bed and fall asleep trembling. "You don't have to
be afraid. He can't do anything to you. Anyway, we slit his throat
and drained out all the blood. He can't get it up," Malta said.
Before long, I got used to the ghost being there. With the skin of
his slit throat flapping around, the policeman's ghost wandered
around here and there, but he didn't do anything. He just walked
around. Once you got past the sight of him, he wasn't anything that
special. And he didn't try to rape me. Without any blood, there was
no way he could have anyway. And he couldn't speak, either; whenever
he tried to say anything, the air just escaped with a hiss from the
hole in his neck. It certainly was just as my sister had said. Once
you slit his throat, you'll have no further trouble. Every once in a
while, I'd get naked while he was around on purpose, just to try to
get him excited. I'd even open my legs. I did some really indecent
things, too. Such terribly lewd things that I had no idea I could
even do things like that. Totally brazenly. But it was like the
ghost couldn't feel a thing.
Doing this stuff gave me a lot of confidence.
I stopped being timid.
"I won't be timid anymore. I won't be afraid of anybody. No one will
take advantage of me," I said to Malta.
"That may be," Malta said. "But it'll all be for naught if you can't
hear your own body's water. That's a tremendously important thing."
One day, I received a phone call. The caller asked if I would draw
up plans for a new power plant that was being built. The offer made
my chest flutter. I came up with several different designs for the
plant in my head. I wanted to go back out into the world and build
lots of power plants.
"But when you're back in society, you're bound to have a hard time
of it," Malta said.
"I really want to do it," I said. " I want to try it all from the
beginning one more time. I think everything will be all right this
time. I'm not timid anymore. Nobody will take advantage of me."
Malta shook her head. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do, she
"But be careful. Don't let your guard down at all," Malta said.
I went into the outside world and did the plans for several power
plants. In the blink of an eye, I was at the top of my field. I had
natural ability. The plants I designed had originality, they were
sturdy, and there wasn't a single accident. They received high
praise from the people who worked in them as well. Whenever anyone
started to build a power plant, they always came to me first. And I
got rich. I bought a whole building in the best part of town and
lived in the very top of it. It had an alarm system and an
electronic lock, and I hired a gay bodyguard the size of a gorilla.
In such fashion, I passed a happy, elegant life. Until that man
He was huge. He had smoky green eyes. Evading all the alarms, he
broke the lock off, beat up my bodyguard, and kicked down the
bedroom door. As I stood there in front of him, I wasn't nervous at
all, but the man didn't seem to notice. He ripped off my clothes,
and lowered his pants to his knees. Then, after he had brutally
raped me, he slit my throat with a knife. The knife cut unbelievably
well. It sliced through my throat as easily as through warm butter.
The cut was so smooth, it was almost as though I didn't even know it
had happened. Then the darkness came. The police officer was walking
around in the darkness. He started to speak, but since his throat
had been cut, the air just came out with a hissing sound. Then I
heard the sound of my body's water. It's true. You really can hear
it. The sound was really small, but it was definitely audible. I
sunk down inside my body, put my ear to the wall, and listened to
that faint sound of water dripping. Drip...drip...drop...