Reads: 60


The first rays of sunshine lit up my hotel room around eight am. The sun was already burning bright through the curtains, creating a prison wall of white light on the floor. I had made plans for today with my sister, but I got to say that stranger did awake my curiosity. What could he possible have that could make me feel better about myself? I’ve tried pretty much everything there is, from medication to yoga. I even tried therapy once, but from my little talk with my psychiatrist I knew he wouldn’t be able to tell me anything I didn’t know myself already. I could have looked for another one, but it was too much of a hassle. It all sounded a bit surreal to me, but what harm could it do to hear him out, right? He might be an organ thief or something and I could wake up without a kidney, but still, I had to hear him out or I might regret it someday. 


I told Marissa I wasn’t feeling up to it and I needed some time alone. Now that she knew what was up with me, she completely understood. Besides, I think she enjoyed herself a bit too much after I left yesterday. The smell of wine was intoxicating and this morning it definitely added to her nausea. Marissa wrapped herself in her blankets, well aware her cracking headache wasn’t gonna clear anytime soon.

By changing my plans I now had a whole day to myself. Enough time to explore Tokyo on my own. Of course it’s nice to explore it with my sister, but we both have our own interests, so it might do us both some good to have this time apart. 

“I’ll make it up to you tomorrow,” I said to her while getting ready to leave.

“Maybe we could go on a day trip to Mt. Fuji, that might be fun right?”

Mt. Fuji was something we both wanted to visit, but for our own personal reasons. I was curious to see what kind of inspiration it might bring me for my art, while my sister just wanted to see the most famous mountain in Japan. But that was for tomorrow, for now I just wanted to stroll through Harajuku, the center of Japanese youth and culture. I really wanted to see the cosplay on Jingu Bashi, the bridge between the station and the entrance to the Meji Shrine, but apparently it only acted as a gathering place on Sundays. I mostly spent most of the day visiting some of the beautiful gardens Tokyo had to offer. Luckily I brought my pencil and paper with me so I could practice my art once in a while. Drawing nature was one of my strengths, so being in that environment did wonders for me. 


Otsu 14h00 - I didn’t have much trouble remembering his face. He was the one with the tired look on his face drinking coffee by the open window. He was a shady looking person and even if you didn’t have trust issues like me, it still would be hard to trust him. I was staring at his hands, neatly folded over his blue sweater. I could tell he must have some kind of weapon under there. It could have been a knife or even a small pistol. Either way, he looked like a man who was ready to use any one of them. So I asked him, politely, to take his hands off of his sweater and show me what was underneath it. There was nothing though, so I felt like a complete idiot, a paranoid idiot even. 

“I’m glad you could make it,” he said while sipping from his coffee.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I should come or not. But I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt. So tell me, what is your magical thing that could help me?”

“First things first, can I get you something to drink?”

I hung my jacket over the wooden chair and placed myself in front of him, staring him dead in the eye. He signaled the waitress to bring another cup of coffee.

“I’m only going to tell you this because you look like a decent man. I’ve been down the same road as you and this actually changed my life.”

By the looks of him I couldn’t really say it changed for the better or not, so yeah, I was still a little skeptical at first. But on the other hand, I was still very curious what he was going to tell me.

“Down the same road?” I asked him.

How could he know what I was going through without anyone telling him?

“Like I said, I have been down the same road. I can tell when someone is suffering from a depression you know. But I can help you with that, so don’t worry!”

How could I not worry, he could be a psychopath for all I know I thought to myself.

He took another sip from his coffee, looked at his empty cup afterwards before his eyes locked with mine. He placed his elbows on the table, one hand was playing with an empty packet of sugar while his other hand was pointing at me.

“Look, you got to promise me you’re going to keep this to yourself okay?”

“Of course!” I promised him.

“Alright look,” he continued, “There’s a place down in Akihabara that’s called ‘Super Potato’. In that place, they have several arcade games, including a room filled with pachinko machines. You do know pachinko right?”

“The name rings a bell, but I’m not sure I know what it is though.”

“It’s a mechanical game used for recreational use, but most people use it for gambling. You can compare it to the western slot machines actually. The ball enters the playing field, which is populated by a large number of brass pins, several small cups into which the player hopes the ball will fall, and a hole at the bottom into which the ball will fall if it doesn't enter a catcher. The ball bounces from pin to pin, both slowing the fall and making it travel laterally across the field. A ball which enters a catcher will trigger a payout, in which a number of balls are dropped into a tray at the front of the machine. The object of the game is to capture as many balls as possible. These balls can then be exchanged for prizes. Do you understand?”

“I do yeah, I think I read about it once in high school. But what does this have to do with helping me? I don’t think gambling is the answer to my problems to be honest.”

“I’m not talking about the gambling part,” he continued, “in the back of Super Potato is a special Pachinko machine. Don’t get me wrong, it takes some practice, but when you beat the high score it’s possible to enter a whole new world.”

“A new world?”

“You got to let me finish first. Like I said, you can enter a whole new world if you beat the high score. If you ever dreamt about being someone else, or being in a whole other era, this is the way. But I’m not going to lie to you, like I said, I like you. It is not without risks, it’s actually quite dangerous. Like every other gambling device, it can also be very addictive, so you got to be careful.”

“You’re joking right?”

I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life and this sounded exactly like a science-fiction movie. I was still sceptic about the whole thing. Like most things I need to see it in action first before I actually believe it. 

“I understand you don’t believe me. I didn’t believe it either at first. So what I want to propose is that I just take you there sometime tomorrow and I’ll explain everything to you. What do you think?”

“Yeah sure, why not!”

We agreed to meet again tomorrow at eight at the entrance of Super Potato. I still couldn’t believe I was going through with this, but I was curious. What if he was right? 

I was getting up to leave, putting on my jacket, and while I was doing so I nearly knocked over a waitress. A cute one nevertheless.


My plans for the rest of the day consisted of going from coffee shop to coffee shop. That was right until a crushing pain came to one side of my head, making me unable to sit still, definitely in a crowded place. I never thought I would be getting a migraine in Japan, but here it was, making me yet again a prisoner of my pain. The only thing that would help was getting back to our hotel and close all the curtains. I staggered down the streets of Shinagawa, my right hand clamped to my right eye, hoping it would still the pain, even for just a little bit. 

It seemed my sister was out for the day; her headache must have been gone by now. I went back to my own room and closed the curtains, blocking every possible source of light and buried my head in my castle of pillows. And that’s when I dreamt about her…

Submitted: April 28, 2019

© Copyright 2020 Nick Van loy. All rights reserved.


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