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Fiction

The Trapped Boy

By Keiichiro Hirano
Translated from Japanese by David Karashima

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness.

I’m all alone. Gasping for air. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck.

The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. My heart has bared a set of fangs and they’re gnawing away at my chest. Baring uncontrollable frustration and boundless anxiety. I’m fired by a desperate excitement and I’m standing at the brink of collapse.

I can’t shake their faces, seared into my memory.

There’s no way to escape. I’m backed into a corner. I’m wishing the rain would wash away my memories.

I walk past the riverbank where they threw my books into the water and kicked me until I vomited blood. I walk past the used book store where I sold the manga I’d lifted—to make money, to hand over to them. I walk through the underpass where a line of smirking faces waited for me in the shadows after school.

And the rain, it doesn’t stop.

I run, my waterlogged sneakers like iron shackles. I see human shadows blur around me. I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor.

The guy who always hit me hardest is in front of the arcade, surrounded by his crew, opening and closing his mouth with a stupid look on his face.

I stop and watch him from a distance. I feel like throwing up. It’s like I’m losing my grip on reality. Blood careens through the maze of my veins.

A motorbike speeds past on my right, its tires spraying water.

A guy in the circle turns round sharply, glares at me, curses me, his voice rising an octave.

I try to bury my nervousness. I keep all traces of emotion from my face.

I take deep, steadying breaths and plunge my right hand into my pocket. My head feels woozy and my body won’t stop trembling. I bite down on my lip and strain to swallow saliva to wet my throat.

Their umbrellas are gathered in a circle: a sickly black hydrangea seen under a magnifying glass.

I look up. My right hand gripped tight around the flick-knife as if it were the door key my mother warned me time and time again not to lose.

My heart is beating fast. Then my foot kicks hard at the puddle on the ground, spraying filth across asphalt.

A brief flash in the distance is followed by the low rumble of thunder. He opens his eyes wide in surprise, and looks at me like he has no idea what’s going on.

The umbrella floats to the ground like a leaf, and cries of horror fill the air. Sounds of desperation. Sounds of hopelessness. Just like the sounds I made, when they beat me. Sounds of hopelessness. Sounds of desperation.

The umbrella floats to the ground like a leaf and cries of horror fill the air. He opens his eyes wide in surprise, and looks at me like he has no idea what’s going on. A brief flash in the distance is followed by the low rumble of thunder.

Then my foot kicks hard at the puddle on the ground, spraying filth across asphalt.

My heart is beating fast.

My right hand gripped tight around the flick-knife as if it were the door key my mother warned me time and time again not to lose.

I look up. Their umbrellas are gathered in a circle: a sickly black hydrangea seen under a magnifying glass.

I bite down on my lip and strain to swallow saliva to wet my throat.

My head feels woozy and my body won’t stop trembling.

I take deep, steadying breaths and plunge my right hand into my pocket.

I keep all traces of emotion from my face.

I try to bury my nervousness.

A guy in the circle turns round sharply, glares at me, curses me, his voice rising an octave.

A motorbike speeds past my right, its tires spraying water.

Blood careens through the maze of my veins. It’s like I’m losing my grip on reality.

I feel like throwing up.

I stop and watch him from a distance.

The guy who always hit me hardest is in front of the arcade, surrounded by his crew, opening and closing his mouth with a stupid look on his face.

I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor. I see human shadows blur around me. I run, my waterlogged sneakers like iron shackles.

And the rain, it doesn’t stop.

I walk through the underpass where a line of smirking faces waited for me in the shadows after school. I walk past the used book store where I sold the manga I’d lifted—to make money, to hand over to them. I walk past the riverbank where they kicked me until I vomited blood and then threw my books into the water.

I’m wishing the rain would wash away my memories.

I’m backed into a corner. There’s no way to escape. I can’t shake their faces, seared into my memory.

I’m fired by a desperate excitement and I’m standing at the brink of collapse. Baring uncontrollable frustration and boundless anxiety. My heart has bared a set of fangs and they’re gnawing away at my chest. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this.

Gasping for air.

I’m all alone.

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness. 


© Hirano Keiichiro. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by David Karashima. All rights reserved.

Read About Context Explore

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness.

I’m all alone. Gasping for air. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck.

The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. My heart has bared a set of fangs and they’re gnawing away at my chest. Baring uncontrollable frustration and boundless anxiety. I’m fired by a desperate excitement and I’m standing at the brink of collapse.

I can’t shake their faces, seared into my memory.

There’s no way to escape. I’m backed into a corner. I’m wishing the rain would wash away my memories.

I walk past the riverbank where they threw my books into the water and kicked me until I vomited blood. I walk past the used book store where I sold the manga I’d lifted—to make money, to hand over to them. I walk through the underpass where a line of smirking faces waited for me in the shadows after school.

And the rain, it doesn’t stop.

I run, my waterlogged sneakers like iron shackles. I see human shadows blur around me. I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor.

The guy who always hit me hardest is in front of the arcade, surrounded by his crew, opening and closing his mouth with a stupid look on his face.

I stop and watch him from a distance. I feel like throwing up. It’s like I’m losing my grip on reality. Blood careens through the maze of my veins.

A motorbike speeds past on my right, its tires spraying water.

A guy in the circle turns round sharply, glares at me, curses me, his voice rising an octave.

I try to bury my nervousness. I keep all traces of emotion from my face.

I take deep, steadying breaths and plunge my right hand into my pocket. My head feels woozy and my body won’t stop trembling. I bite down on my lip and strain to swallow saliva to wet my throat.

Their umbrellas are gathered in a circle: a sickly black hydrangea seen under a magnifying glass.

I look up. My right hand gripped tight around the flick-knife as if it were the door key my mother warned me time and time again not to lose.

My heart is beating fast. Then my foot kicks hard at the puddle on the ground, spraying filth across asphalt.

A brief flash in the distance is followed by the low rumble of thunder. He opens his eyes wide in surprise, and looks at me like he has no idea what’s going on.

The umbrella floats to the ground like a leaf, and cries of horror fill the air. Sounds of desperation. Sounds of hopelessness. Just like the sounds I made, when they beat me. Sounds of hopelessness. Sounds of desperation.

The umbrella floats to the ground like a leaf and cries of horror fill the air. He opens his eyes wide in surprise, and looks at me like he has no idea what’s going on. A brief flash in the distance is followed by the low rumble of thunder.

Then my foot kicks hard at the puddle on the ground, spraying filth across asphalt.

My heart is beating fast.

My right hand gripped tight around the flick-knife as if it were the door key my mother warned me time and time again not to lose.

I look up. Their umbrellas are gathered in a circle: a sickly black hydrangea seen under a magnifying glass.

I bite down on my lip and strain to swallow saliva to wet my throat.

My head feels woozy and my body won’t stop trembling.

I take deep, steadying breaths and plunge my right hand into my pocket.

I keep all traces of emotion from my face.

I try to bury my nervousness.

A guy in the circle turns round sharply, glares at me, curses me, his voice rising an octave.

A motorbike speeds past my right, its tires spraying water.

Blood careens through the maze of my veins. It’s like I’m losing my grip on reality.

I feel like throwing up.

I stop and watch him from a distance.

The guy who always hit me hardest is in front of the arcade, surrounded by his crew, opening and closing his mouth with a stupid look on his face.

I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor. I see human shadows blur around me. I run, my waterlogged sneakers like iron shackles.

And the rain, it doesn’t stop.

I walk through the underpass where a line of smirking faces waited for me in the shadows after school. I walk past the used book store where I sold the manga I’d lifted—to make money, to hand over to them. I walk past the riverbank where they kicked me until I vomited blood and then threw my books into the water.

I’m wishing the rain would wash away my memories.

I’m backed into a corner. There’s no way to escape. I can’t shake their faces, seared into my memory.

I’m fired by a desperate excitement and I’m standing at the brink of collapse. Baring uncontrollable frustration and boundless anxiety. My heart has bared a set of fangs and they’re gnawing away at my chest. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this.

Gasping for air.

I’m all alone.

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness. 


© Hirano Keiichiro. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by David Karashima. All rights reserved.

Definitions

manga: Japanese comic books and graphic novels, aimed at both adults and children.

Meet Keiichiro Hirano

Author Keiichiro Hirano says in this TED Talk, “For quite a long time, I couldn’t figure out what kind of person I was.” Watch his talk, “Love Others to Love Yourself” (In Japanese with English subtitles.)

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Hear the Names

Listen to pronunciations of the Japanese names from this story, read aloud by the translator Allison Markin Powell.

 (Listen to the audio on SoundCloud.)

For more tips on pronouncing Japanese names and words, use this illustrated guide from wikiHow.com and this explanation of sounds, syllables, and stress from JapanesePod101.com.

Read the Original

For readers of Japanese, read the original Japanese language version of this story, “Tojikomerareta Shonen” (閉じ込められた少年), in the collection Shitatari ochiru tokei tachi no hamon.

Bullying in Japan

Read about bullying in Japanese schools in “Anatomy of Japanese Bullying” from Nippon, which says that “Children are taught that it is better to bully than to be bullied, and the victims tend to receive blame rather than sympathy.” The chart lists the different kinds of bullying in different countries.

Background on Japan

Pedestrians underneath umbrellas, their backs to us, walking on a Tokyo street on a rainy night.
Read the BBC’s short country profile of Japan, or visit nippon.com for the latest news. 

More from Keiichiro Hirano

Read more literature from Keiichiro Hirano, “The Bees that Disappeared,” published in Granta.

 

 

To find out some of Keiichi Hirano’s thoughts on Japanese literature after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, read the conversation in Wochi Kochi Magazine. In the third section, he also discusses the translation of Japanese.

Victims and Bullies

Read another story that complicates the roles of victims, “The Verb to Kill.”

Then, read a story of bullying and revenge from China, “Timid as a Mouse,” also on WWB Campus.

Watch the film All About Lily Chou-Chou, which tells the story of a boy in high school and his struggles with bullying. (Unrated, and in Japanese with English subtitles.) Part I is embedded below.

Darker Depictions of Japan

Watch a video about artist Shohei Otomo, whose artwork deals with the “gritty” side of Japan.

Structure and Mood*

Read William Blake’s “The Tyger,” another structurally unique work of “fearful symmetry.”

 

* For Teaching Idea 1

Unreliable Narrators*
Rainy Days*

Look at some images of rain in Japan: the ghosts of rainy season; a rainy street scene; and another image of a rainy city street

Read “All Summer in a Day,” by Ray Bradbury, another story of alienation, bullying, and rain. You could also listen to the audio of the story.

Or, you could watch a film adaptation:

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

*For Teaching Idea 3

English

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness.

I’m all alone. Gasping for air. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck.

The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. My heart has bared a set of fangs and they’re gnawing away at my chest. Baring uncontrollable frustration and boundless anxiety. I’m fired by a desperate excitement and I’m standing at the brink of collapse.

I can’t shake their faces, seared into my memory.

There’s no way to escape. I’m backed into a corner. I’m wishing the rain would wash away my memories.

I walk past the riverbank where they threw my books into the water and kicked me until I vomited blood. I walk past the used book store where I sold the manga I’d lifted—to make money, to hand over to them. I walk through the underpass where a line of smirking faces waited for me in the shadows after school.

And the rain, it doesn’t stop.

I run, my waterlogged sneakers like iron shackles. I see human shadows blur around me. I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor.

The guy who always hit me hardest is in front of the arcade, surrounded by his crew, opening and closing his mouth with a stupid look on his face.

I stop and watch him from a distance. I feel like throwing up. It’s like I’m losing my grip on reality. Blood careens through the maze of my veins.

A motorbike speeds past on my right, its tires spraying water.

A guy in the circle turns round sharply, glares at me, curses me, his voice rising an octave.

I try to bury my nervousness. I keep all traces of emotion from my face.

I take deep, steadying breaths and plunge my right hand into my pocket. My head feels woozy and my body won’t stop trembling. I bite down on my lip and strain to swallow saliva to wet my throat.

Their umbrellas are gathered in a circle: a sickly black hydrangea seen under a magnifying glass.

I look up. My right hand gripped tight around the flick-knife as if it were the door key my mother warned me time and time again not to lose.

My heart is beating fast. Then my foot kicks hard at the puddle on the ground, spraying filth across asphalt.

A brief flash in the distance is followed by the low rumble of thunder. He opens his eyes wide in surprise, and looks at me like he has no idea what’s going on.

The umbrella floats to the ground like a leaf, and cries of horror fill the air. Sounds of desperation. Sounds of hopelessness. Just like the sounds I made, when they beat me. Sounds of hopelessness. Sounds of desperation.

The umbrella floats to the ground like a leaf and cries of horror fill the air. He opens his eyes wide in surprise, and looks at me like he has no idea what’s going on. A brief flash in the distance is followed by the low rumble of thunder.

Then my foot kicks hard at the puddle on the ground, spraying filth across asphalt.

My heart is beating fast.

My right hand gripped tight around the flick-knife as if it were the door key my mother warned me time and time again not to lose.

I look up. Their umbrellas are gathered in a circle: a sickly black hydrangea seen under a magnifying glass.

I bite down on my lip and strain to swallow saliva to wet my throat.

My head feels woozy and my body won’t stop trembling.

I take deep, steadying breaths and plunge my right hand into my pocket.

I keep all traces of emotion from my face.

I try to bury my nervousness.

A guy in the circle turns round sharply, glares at me, curses me, his voice rising an octave.

A motorbike speeds past my right, its tires spraying water.

Blood careens through the maze of my veins. It’s like I’m losing my grip on reality.

I feel like throwing up.

I stop and watch him from a distance.

The guy who always hit me hardest is in front of the arcade, surrounded by his crew, opening and closing his mouth with a stupid look on his face.

I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor. I see human shadows blur around me. I run, my waterlogged sneakers like iron shackles.

And the rain, it doesn’t stop.

I walk through the underpass where a line of smirking faces waited for me in the shadows after school. I walk past the used book store where I sold the manga I’d lifted—to make money, to hand over to them. I walk past the riverbank where they kicked me until I vomited blood and then threw my books into the water.

I’m wishing the rain would wash away my memories.

I’m backed into a corner. There’s no way to escape. I can’t shake their faces, seared into my memory.

I’m fired by a desperate excitement and I’m standing at the brink of collapse. Baring uncontrollable frustration and boundless anxiety. My heart has bared a set of fangs and they’re gnawing away at my chest. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this.

Gasping for air.

I’m all alone.

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness. 


© Hirano Keiichiro. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by David Karashima. All rights reserved.

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