“The Empty Field” (short story) by Morio Kita
From Apostolou & Greenberg’s The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (1989)
Originally from Roger Elwood’s anthology Omega (1973)
Original: Japanese, 1973
Translated by Kinya Tsuruta and Judith Merril, 1973
“A crowd gathers to witness a momentous event” (62)
Synopsis: Atop a vacant hill wait a group of youth ready to receive messages from a UFO. Though only rumored, their expectations on this barren crest are electric, yet an old man, a reporter for a magazine or television, remembers the bounty that the hill once held. Amid the locusts and gnats, the rumors aren’t real yet only the memory of the past echoing forward through time feels real.
Analysis: Of the thirteen stories in Apostolou & Greenberg’s The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, Morio Kita’s short story “The Empty Field” is the most difficult to read and the most difficult from which to squeeze an analogy. The narrative jumps between a first-person perspective of the landscape and by italicized dialogue that is sandwiched between em dashes (the unusual quotation dash as stylized by James Joyce), some dialogue of which may not even be taking place in the perceiver’s reality.
Long ago, a humble hill once stood green; it was an unassuming mound of earth yet respected for its natural state and simplicity by the people. Then came the wave of so-called progress, turning the sweetly verdant knoll into a muddy, tire tread-worn eyesore. Ignorant to this change to the hill’s nature, the modern youth have flocked to its crest to witness a UFO, an embodiment of even more futuristic progress. They pay no heed to the innate majesty of the hill’s nature while sloppily treading through across its barren nape.
Meanwhile, the perceiver experiences the hill’s ancient and noble majesty yet also tramples through the sterile mud of the hill’s effluence. The echoes of the past leave an alien resonance, an indication of similar intervention.