Eriko Yamamoto used to respect life. As a little girl, she liked running around in the park, playing hide and seek with the other kids, and she always charmed everyone with her beautiful, honest smile. As she grew, she became serious, introvert, a bit premature, but as she was extremely clever, she was a teenager to be proud of.
The first change came, when Eriko and her family moved to London from Japan. They lived in an elegant suburb of Osaka before, where there were big, sophisticated houses, silent and polite people with families and “proper jobs” and peaceful, clean parks, perfect for wandering around aimlessly for hours and thinking of nothing. But in London, they moved to a flat in the noisy downtown, and Eriko could not help hearing the traffic jammimg loudly, the stray dogs barking, the neighbours arguing and the pubs playing stupid music all the time. She could not escape the noise even at school. She was afraid of being “the strange new girl”, but surprisingly, her classmates were open and friendly, sometimes a bit too much, as Eriko felt. They really wanted her to be the part of their class, they invited her to parties, they were talking to her in the breaks, so they tried their best to be as lovely and outcoming just as they could.
This whole thing made Eriko really sad. She knew that her new friends want the best for her, but she was just annoyed by it. She felt uncomfortable in the smoky bars that they liked that much, she did not like beer which they drank all the time, and she felt like covering her ears with her hands any time they started talking, because they were so loud, nasty and childish she wanted to run away. But Eriko did not say a word about it to anyone. For a while, she went with them to the pubs, drank beer and pretended to like it, and she joined the conversations, even though they made her sick. She was a good girl, she appreciated their efforts and did not want to hurt them. She could do it for a year, but after that, she gave up. At the age of eighteen, she decided on ignoring people and their opinions. She was longing for peace so desperately she was unable to care about anything or anyone else. From one day to another, she stopped talking to her classmates, she got into the habit of eating alone in the cantine and she refused all the party invitations she got. In the first few weeks, the guys were asking her about this sudden change all the time, but as Eriko was just giving them a black look any time they tried to catch her attention, they realised they were unwanted and gave up getting their friend back.
First, Eriko felt a little bit bad for being so mean to the people around her, but soon she realised she felt much better than before. She was free at last. In a month or so, all the pain she was carrying so long was gone. She learnt the moral of the stroy, she felt: she doesn’t need people to be happy. Or, more precisely, she needs no people around her to be happy. She worked very hard at school and became a coroner, which made almost everyone be scared of her, but she did not mind. She liked her profession in which she found the perfect sense of calm and relief. ‘Corpses are silent’ she always answered, when she was asked about her job.
Now, at the age of fifty three, Eriko was completely satisfied with her life. She remained as introvert as she was at eighteen, but she felt neither lonesome, nor sorrow. Actually, she did not feel anything. During the years she got convinced that life is something pointless and insecure, and it can lead to a sudden and gloriless end any time, and is unnecessary to be attached to. ‘One day, everyone will end up on my stainless steel table, naked, cold, abandonned’. She found this thought rather comforting, than scary or perverted, like most people would do. She knew that ‘everyone’ includes her also, but it only made her like this idea even more. What she did not know was that ‘one day’ means ‘today’ for her.
This day was like all the others in many years. She got up at 7:00, made some green tea and drank it with some healthy, whole grain wheat biscuits. She put on a white shirt and a powder-coloured costume, she carefully tied up her hair in a bun and used no make-up. She have caught the underground and arrived at her workplace at eight. Until one o’clock in the afternoon, she was working without a stop. At that time, she walked to a nearby Japanese restaurant and had some vegetarian sushi. While eating, she was watching the early spring wind blowing and benting the young trees. Next to her table sat a couple, neither of them could be older than twenty. They were kissing, holding hands, and they seemed to be happy only because they had each other. Eriko was staring at them for some minutes, but she was not envy. She has never had a boyfriend or a husband, and she was still virgin, but she was never interested in such things ever in her life.
She got back to work soon and finished at half past six. She was walking to the underground station deep in her thoughts. In the afternoon, her young assistant said something silly she could not forget. The girl told her she read on the internet, that people hear an odd noise before they die, most similar to a car trying to stop. ‘The sound of death’ said the girl, obviously frightened. ‘Bullshit’ Eriko wanted to answer, but she never swore. She have never believed in heaven, or any other supernatural things, but these myths sometimes made her feel uneasy. It was clear for her that the fact she is a coroner does not mean she knows that much more about death than the others and she did not like it. She was annoyed by stupid and supersticious people and she wanted to deny their misbeliefs, but she was unable.
Being so focused on these thoughts she did not realise crossing the road. She was just stunned by suddenly hearing the very sound her assistant described to her. ‘A car trying to stop’ she thought, but she did not find the connection between this noise and the place where she was standing, frozen. The next moment, she saw a strong light shining directly in her face and blinding her. She did not understand. She never knew that only in an hour, she was back at her workplace, and was lying on her own stainless steel table, naked, with her always emotional assistant crying over her corpse.