Day 1: A Call from Mary-san
A college student’s summer break is the best.
Two whole months’ worth of time you can use however you want. You’re free to enjoy your youth in a sports club. You’re free to slack off in a student organization. You’re free to go to the ocean with friends. Of course, you’re free to work part-time, probing out a chance for love, you’re free to dejectedly turn back when you see the sheer volume of people at Big Sight, you’re free to ride the rails aiming to be train man, and you’re free to go to India to endow some exotic ancient power into your body.
Everyone has their own way of enjoying summer, and everyone spends their time as they please. But there is something one must always be wary of: just because you have the time, that doesn’t mean you have any obligation to do something with it. Paradoxically, while it may be a time you can use to do anything, it is also a time you can do nothing at all. To summarize, this is the concept of enlightenment.
Therefore, at this very moment, I’m lying around an airconditioned room, arbitrarily flipping through a magazine I bought but never read.
The room’s around ten square meters, plus full bath. In such a perfect environment for a college student like me to laze around, no one complains no matter what I do. Across the window glass, the cicadas cry out, and my room’s half-broken air conditioner makes a clattering din. The crack of melting ice in my barley tea is my only refreshment.
Sea, mountain, river.
They’re all splendid places to enjoy the summer- I’ve no mind to deny it- but even so, my room’s all I need. My glorious room. Even if the wallpaper is a little ripped, even if one of the bulbs is out, and even if the ventilation fan reeks of oil, it’s exceedingly difficult to replace this absolute space for one. No matter how small it is, a man’s home is his domain and his castle.
Now then it happened early afternoon, on a day where I was singing such praise of summer vacation.
It came without any forewarning, an abrupt beginning.
The call sound ringing through the space where I was supposed to be alone. A musical ditty I might or might not have heard before, but as I thought about it carefully, I got the feeling I really had never heard it in all my life.
Right, it all pointed to a single truth.
… My smartphone was ringing.
Hitting on that possibility in an instant, I braced my body.
I mean, ever since I bought my phone, it’s only ever made noise when my parents called or I received emergency alerts. I set a distinct ringtone for my family, therefore, this unfamiliar tone can only be the alert I’ve yet to hear, the emergency earthquake report.
Swiftly acting on my precise and logical decision, I hid under the bed at a speed that would amaze any cockroach, peering at the screen of my phone while I was at it.
And yet. It was there that I found myself enveloped in shock.
“This can’t be! A phone call, you say…!?”
Right… it was of all things, a phone call.
Of course, so what, you might be thinking. Looking at it through the lenses of common sense, it is only natural for a smartphone to ring. Whether it be smart or not, the phone part has yet to cast down the telephone’s legacy.
But that is only a take that lies within the category of sense you call common. When it comes to my phone that exists in a realm far surpassing the bounds of such a petty common sense, this phenomenon is practically impossible.
“I-impossible…! Someone out there actually knows my phone number…!?”
I mean, excluding my family, I don’t remember giving my number to anyone. If you want to make it sound cool, my smartphone held a true isolation from all communication devices outside of the family, it lay on essentially its own private network… I can only say it is inept as a phone.
For now, it looks like it’s not an earthquake, so I crawl out from under the bed and tap the ‘Answer’ button. The voice I hear from the other end is young… rather, it’s the voice of a young girl.
‘… Hello… hello!?’
The voice of a young girl I don’t know… meaning, this is a miscall.
I give a slight nod. A miscall, it’s just a miscall… I mean yeah, it did exist as a possibility. Even if no one knows my phone number, the number itself still exists. It isn’t strange if someone might call it by mistake.
… Then whatever the case, for now, is it not my style as an adult to give a kind correspondence to this young girl flustered over a miscall? I lightly clear my throat, adjusting my voice to a gentle setting before answering.
“Hello, who is this?”
‘Um! I’m called Mary-san.’
When I hit the hang-up button, a light sound chimes out.
This is the magical part about phones. Without looking at someone’s face, you can immediately cut them off when they become a pain. I get the feeling my granny in the country said something like that. No, she probably didn’t.
Tossing the phone to the side, I spit out my held breathe.
I know. This is that, she’s pretending to be that Mary-san from the urban legend.
I presume some girl with too much free summer break time on her hands tried to input some random number to commit mischief, and it just so happened to connect to me. Getting the number wrong is one thing; she might be a girl younger than me, and she might have a cute loli voice, but I’m not bored enough to earnestly answer a prank call.
That’s how it is, so I retrieved my manga, and sprawled myself out to continue reading when the smartphone rings again. The display shows the same number as before.
After a prompt press of the ‘Decline’ button, the phone went silent.
I read my manga in peace for a little while before, ping, a small sound chimes out.
Looking at the screen, a free messaging app had popped up.
After unsteadily inputting some study groups around my enrollment, it was an app that simply ate up memory without a single exchange. Was there any real point in it exerting its existence this late in the game.
My interest piqued, I opened it up to find an exceedingly long message printed out.
‘The summer rays make for a harsh season, but how are you holding up? It is a pleasure to meet you. I am called Mary and I am something of an urban legend in training. I understand that I am making a sudden, discourteous request, but if you would be so kind, could you please answer the phone? Of course, I have no intention of using up your time, and I am not considering anything as brazen as requesting you to play the part of a conversation partner. That being said- mind you- if you refuse to hear out my initial utterance, then to someone who aims to be Mary-san such as myself, it is a considerable jolt to my mentality and…
… So you see, I thought I would try my best and give it a go! When it comes to Mary-san, she’s an urban legend with a bit of a name in this industry. So personally, I’d rather not remain a trainee; I think I’d quite like to become the real Mary-san. Therefore, um, if it isn’t too troubling, could you please answer the phone…?’
… The hell, was my honest thought.
This was quite out there. I don’t know what to think of someone who tries so hard to push their own worldview onto another, and when it was this elaborate, it was too high up to be a game.
As I thought over that, my smartphone rang again.
When I tried answering for once, the words started rolling out like waves.
‘… Ah, it got through! U-um, you see, having you hang up instantly without giving me the opportunity to name myself was considerably harsh on my emotional wellbeing. It was almost as if the meaning of my existence was being shaved away, or should I say, I experienced a sense of loss as if the world didn’t need me… Um, when it comes to Mary-san, she’s got that thing going where the voice itself is practically the legend’s true essence! I’m begging you, please don’t hang up!’
The emotion-rich voice of a young girl turned strangely tear-mingled around the end.
I offered the girl some earnest words in return.
“The reception must be failing. I can’t hear a word she’s saying… hanging up.”
‘H-he can’t hear me!? W-why…!? Ah, it can’t be, the phone bill is…!? That… that can’t be…!’
“Kuh… I think I might’ve heard something, but some parts of it are phasing out. So this is a magnetic storm! Curse you, magnetic storm! … As a recall, a recent theory holds that the voice frequency that travels best through a magnetic storm is the tone of a Kuudere little sister-in-law who’s embarrassed, but still wants to be doted on by her big brother…?”
‘What!? U-umm, um… I-if you don’t have to go out today, why don’t you spend some time talking with me… I want to know more about you.’
“80 points. Splendid performance.”
‘Ehehe, thank you… no, you were definitely hearing me from the start, right? And wait, before that even comes into question, was there any real point in making it a sister-in-law…?’
“Are you crazy? If it’s a real sister, I can’t get heated up over it. So who are you?”
When I asked, the girl answered in a pensive voice.
‘… M-Mary-san won’t be broken. U-um, well you see, ahem. I’m a Mary-san in training, and my name is Mary. On this occasion, you have been determined as a target. It is a pleasure working with you.’
“Hmm… you sound young.”
‘I’m in training!’
Hehe, the supposed Mary laughed.
I don’t think that’s something to be that proud about.
“I see, I see, you’re in training… and so?”
‘Hmm? Something the matter?’
“No, even if you tell me you’re a Mary-san in training, what’s supposed to happen next?”
… It is here that I must make a confession.
To be perfectly honest, at that moment, I was thoroughly making light of this girl. At most, a slightly, no, considerably spacy young girl had too much summer free time on her hands, so she was trying to use her phone to conduct mischief. I thought I would tag along with her delusions and tease her down.
However. In the next instant, my condescension was completely crumbled.
‘…? Why isn’t that obvious? I’m a Mary-san in training, so I’m going to make my way to where you are, umm, Hagimura Akira.’
I couldn’t say a word… naturally. I mean, that was my name.
While the name Akira was common enough, my last name wasn’t the sort she could get on a lucky guess. Then do I know her? Have I simply forgotten this girl? … No, there’s no way. From the way she speaks, there’s no way I would ever forget such an intense young girl.
Did she get my number out of one of my friends… yeah, no. I don’t have any friends.
‘Can I call you Akira?’
“No, wait! … How do you know my name?”
‘Eh? … I mean, I’m a Mary-san in training.’
“Something like that is…”
Impossible, right? I tried to say, when my words were cut off.
‘Ah, could it be you don’t believe me? … Fufufu, in that case, I’ll show you the power of Mary-san! Irregularity of the order ghost story, family urban legend, genus Mary-san, the power of Mary, formal apprentice of Mary-san… a clairvoyance that sees through a person’s background!’
Irregularities have that sort of taxological classification? Without giving me a chance to retort, Mary began to speak.
‘I see, I see. Akira, you were born in Hokkaido, eh? I’ve never been there before, but as Mary-san, I really should make the trip at least once… and, umm, your family consists of you, your parents and one younger sister. Ah, I see. That’s why you didn’t want a real sister…?’
“It’s been a while since I’ve felt such an urge to say ‘none of your business’!”
“You achieved excellent grades throughout middle and high school, and are currently enrolled in a public university in the Aomori Prefecture… Aomori, is it.”
There, Mary’s voice went just a little stiff.
It irritated me somewhat, so I offered a rebuttal.
“Something wrong with Aomori? It’s a good place you know. Not too many people, lots of land, the rent is cheap, and the apples and cherries are real tasty. It’s ridiculously easy to live here.”
‘Ah! T-that’s not what I was trying to… no, let’s just put that off for now. Anyways, right now, you are… a p-pervert! Pervert, pervert, pervert!’
She suddenly started shouting.
I have no idea what’s going on.
“… What’s wrong, did a pervert show up? Then for now, run away. No matter what, don’t think about fighting. Concentrate all your thoughts on moving your legs. Summer’s the season where the heat gets to everyone’s heads and the loonies multiply in numbers. For now, cut the line and call 110…”
“W-wrong! I’m talking about you, pervert!”
… Hmm? I tilt my head.
Is she perhaps talking to me? Have I just been called a pervert.
This sincere and honest gentleman? Good grief, your jokes are harsh, little lady.
“Oy, oy, what are you talking about, Mary? I don’t really get it, but why all of a sudden?”
“What is that book you have in your hands!? In the middle of the day!? … Y-you’re indecent!”
Following her words, my eyes fall onto the manga magazine I had been reading until naught but a moment ago.
Hmm. The cover has a woman in quite a precarious pose… I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the notion, but this is a comparatively common practice in order to increase sales. Normal stuff.
If you flip a few pages, you’ll find a depiction of a human drama deeply dyed in captivating narrative. I mean, it’s a manga, after all. That’s also normal… as of yet, nothing particularly strange has happened.
Perhaps a slightly indecent shot on the advertisement page at the back. Well, sure enough, it might be too stimulating for a child, but contents of this level are an accessory to all magazines. Normal stuff.
I close the magazine and shrug my shoulders.
Good grief, I wish she’d cut the false accusation… but perhaps to a young girl, even an issue like this is too stimulating. Just because she gave a reaction a bit too oversensitive, it would be pitiful to chastise her too much for it. I thought over such things as I finally turn to the spine of the book and read the title in my head. ‘Monthly Hyper Eros’… Ah, this is porn.
I frantically dredge up excuses, testing out my objections.
“Perish the thought, this isn’t a particularly dirty book. It’s your dirty mind that’s making it dirty.”
‘He went and made it my fault!’
“And wait, it’s that. If hypothetically, in the million to one, billion to one chance this is a dirty book, then so what? It’s not particularly dirty to read a dirty book. Look at it this way, they’re produced and marketed in order for someone to buy them, those sorts of things. In the several million years since the birth of humanity, we’ve reached this level of development, and yet you’re going to measure the result of this high-level economic activity on a scale of whether it’s dirty or not? I’m not sure what to think of that.”
‘So this is what humanity has come to…!’
Mary’s voice rung of hopelessness and despair.
Fret not, Mary. I think the same.
Desperately spinning my head, I search out a new opening.
“No, no, no, little Mary. Just think about it a little. It’s actually the opposite. It’s not that ‘I’m looking at something pervy in the middle of the day,’ it’s that ‘there’s no way I’d be looking at something pervy in the middle of the day,’ right? Meaning, thinking of it inversely, this isn’t something pervy, it’s a form of art. Just look at it, the lively, animated raw impetus drawn into this depiction.”
‘Uwah, this man is saying something crazy!’
“It’s not crazy. From ancient times, when you think of art, it’s got to be eros. Eros is what created art. Think over it with an honest heart. Milos’ Venus and Michelangelo’s David were both naked. Rather, old paintings are always naked. Was there really such a need? … It is quite likely that the people of the time hung paintings in place of dirty books. Look back on them now and they’re art. Meaning, a thousand years later, and this dirty book’ll be art too. When you think of it like that, you see, the fact that I’m reading it should be lauded as me inspecting the world from a future-man’s perspective… understand?”
‘I don’t understand at all! Are you trying to pick a fight with the world of art!?’
“… Aaaaah, shut it! In the first place, I’m a college student! Is it really so bad that I’m reading a dirty book in broad daylight!? Is it!? So how about it, little Mary-san trainee who likes to peep into someone else’s personal business!? You want to see!? Then take it all in!? The way they draw the middle toe of her right leg that makes you want to lick it all over is simply the best, isn’t it!”
I ended up snapping. As I waved a dirty book in the air, I heard a small ‘Eek,’ from the other side of the phone.
‘I-I understand, it was my fault! It’s my fault for arbitrarily peeking into someone’s life! S-so, um, please put away that i-indecent artifact…’
In respect of that voice, I hid the dirty book under my mattress.
“…I got too worked up. I’m sorry.”
‘N-no, um, in the first place, it’s my fault for saying something so selfish, so…’
“Come to think of it, that’s exactly right. It’s your fault for saying something selfish… what’s this, it looks like there was no need for me to apologize. Good grief, even when I swore I’d never apologize more than a hundred times in my life.”
‘How petty! Do you have no intention of leading a decent social life!?’
“Up to now, I’ve apologized nine hundred fifty six times. The breakdown has my mother at a hundred twenty one, my father at ninety six, my little sister at five hundred thirty three, and two hundred three miscellaneous.”
‘Your conviction’s already in pieces! And just how much do you apologize to your little sister!? … Urgh, fine, whatever. So, do you now believe I’m a Mary-san in training?’
I mull a moment.
My personal information was, well, based on how she went at it, there were ways to obtain it. Be that as it may, the way she was appreciating that dir… piece of artwork I was holding a moment ago wasn’t something she could find out so easily. If she had this room under surveillance, then perhaps she could see, but I can’t think I did anything to warrant something of that extent.
Could that mean this girl really is some Mary-san in training?
“Well, perhaps you are, but…”
‘Good, now that you believe…’
“… How about you show a piece of evidence to prove you really are a Mary-san in training!”
To a flustered Mary-san Trainee (temp), I promptly thrust in my demands.
“I heard Mary-san was supposed to be a beauty. Meaning that in order for you to be a Mary-san trainee, you must be a beautiful girl. Are you following?”
‘… H-huh? That’s not the sort of urban legend Mary-san is, but… I’ll admit she was originally a western doll, and I doubt she was made ugly, but…’
“Of course she’s a beauty! I’ll have you know I saw a fanfic with that setting just the other day!”
‘So you’re the sort of college student who can’t distinguish delusions from reality!?’
“Someone who takes the name of an urban legend shouldn’t be saying such a thing… Well whatever, for now, send over a selfie timestamped with today’s date and time. Otherwise, I won’t be able to discard my suspicions you’re an unscrupulous scamster using my personal info to con me.”
‘You’re quite the wary one…’
“It’s only natural for a college student living on his own to be wary. It’s a harsh world we live in.”
‘I-is that so… um, by regulation of the urban legend association, I’m not allowed to show my face in a photo, but is that alright?’
“… I’ll permit it.”
After I answered, ‘Understood,’ she said and hung up the phone.
After around a minute, a photo was sent to the free messaging app.
‘How is it?’
“So that’s you?”
‘That’s right. Did it come out well?’
“Hmm, I guess it did?”
Answering the call that came in after a further minute of waiting, I thought back over the photo.
Written on a scrap of paper included in the photo were the current time and date, proving it was something that had just been taken.
Wearing a white one-piece and straw hat, there stood a young girl who gave off a truly summerish vibe. Leaning forward, even as she hid her eyes with a hand, a faint smile spread across her mouth. Regardless of the fact that I could honestly only see it as an indecent photo, I could tell. That was a beautiful girl.
And as long as you’re a beautiful girl, about 99% of the world’s happenings are permitted. I mean look, just think of cigarettes. If the package had a beautiful woman panting on the cover with the text, ‘Suck on me… please, suck on me…’ I would probably buy them. That’s just how it works.
Meaning, even if the existence of the urban legend Mary-san’s existence is in doubt, and this girl claims to be her trainee or something like that, I should permit it.
“Very well, I’ll accept it… Hmph, what’s become of me. The past me would’ve tried to forcefully tease you into a pose to suit my tastes, making you take a photo smeared in an expression of embarrassment. You should be thankful I’ve gone soft.”
‘Soft? Isn’t there something else you should be saying…? Rather, the past Akira-san was just a plain dangerous individual, was he not? Practically a criminal.’
“Well, when I put her up to it, she hated it like crazy.”
‘You actually did it!? To who!?’
‘So that’s why you’re always apologizing to her…’
As Mary let quite the formless silence drift across the line, tsk, tsk, tsk, I wagged my finger from side to side.
“Little Mary, you cannot get through life on nothing but ideals. If it’s possible to love someone, it’s just as possible to hate them. What’s necessary is the capacity to understand that hatred is yet another aspect and form of human interaction. And a spirit noble enough that the likes of prostrating on all fours and begging for forgiveness is of little consequence.”
‘Think of the consequences a bit! I almost misunderstood and thought you were saying something nice!’
“I get where you’re coming from. I had a time like that too. A time where what other people said all sounded like trivial babble to me… but as the years go by, you realize. I was immature for not being able to act on such trivial notions. The people we call adults, they’re the ones who know the trivial things are trivial, yet even so, they’re able to act on them.”
‘That sounded like the last line from an adolescence novel.’
“… Hmm, I see it’s too soon for you.”
When I tied a pretty bow on the conversation like that, I heard a mutter of, ‘How am I supposed to interact with this person…!?’ from the other end.
And it was there it occurred to me.
No matter how you look at it, didn’t I screw around a bit too much with someone I just met for the first time?
As it stands, I’m apparently terrible at dealing with people. No, I don’t particularly see myself as a bad speaker, and I’m not aware if I said anything particularly strange, but when I look back on my present state of having practically no friends, then I must be bad at dealing with people after all.
The point is, I don’t really understand the boundaries between what’s suitable and what’s not. According to my sister, I’m a man who can’t read the mood. A no-reading-air-man, and when it finally came to college, just an air-man. That’s the sort of person I am, apparently.
“Sorry, Mary. It looks like my phone’s about to go dead, so I’m going to hang up for now.”
Since I’d realized it, I tried to be tactful when I heard an ‘Eeeh!?’
‘C-can’t we talk a little longer…?’
… Surprisingly, I got the feeling that voice was filled with truly regretful sentiment. I was taken aback.
But, well, once you’ve said it, you can’t just change the story to, ‘My battery suddenly went back up to 100%!’
“Just for today… well, you can call again tomorrow. If you’re bored, I wouldn’t mind keeping you company.”
‘R-really!? Yay! In that case, I’ll be calling you again tomorrow at this time!’
‘Well then, have a good day.’
Leaving a small call of, ‘I’ll do my best to walk there! Alright!’ the line was cut.
“Walk? … In the end, what was all that?”
I tilted my head as I thought. In the end, I don’t really get what she wanted to do.
For now, I saved the picture Mary sent over and while I was at it, I saved her number in my address book before returning to my early afternoon reading.
 Mary-san is a famous Japanese urban legend
A young girl loses her beloved old western doll Mary in a move. One day she’s sitting home alone when the phone starts to ring. When she answers, she hears another girl’s voice on the line.
“This is Mary-san. I’m in the garbage dump right now…”
The girl hangs up, but the phone immediately rings once more.
“This is Mary-san. I’m at the tobacco shop at the corner…”
And before long, “This is Mary-san. I’m in front of your house.” The call came in.
The young girl fearfully peers through the peephole of the front door, but no one’s there. It must have been someone’s mischief after all. The phone rings again. Feeling relieved, the girl picks up…
“This is Mary-san. I’m right behind you.”
 Tokyo Big Sight is where Comiket, Comic Market is held.
 Train man is a story that originated on 2Chan about an Otaku who helped some girls being harassed on a train. This eventually leads to romance. It has been adapted into a series, movie, manga, and novel among other things
 110 is the emergency number in Japan
TL: As this is not a fantasy novel, not many things are actually explained. That is why I included footnotes. I do not intend to make a trend of it. I do not vouch for the quality of this story. It’s just, my studies have gotten difficult, and this is something I read through for solace. The original text can be found at http://ncode.syosetu.com/n6767dv/ and it’s a short series with 8 chapters total.