|“Fnifmum” (short story) by Taku Mayumura|
|From Apostolou & Greenberg’s The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (1989)|
|Original: Japanese, 1989
Translated by Katsumi Shindo and Grania Davis, 1989
|“A surreal love story that spans centuries” (121)|
Synopsis: His body spanning a length of time, Fnifmum bores of using his “sensory organ” to see the same sights in the same eras along his temporal growth. For want of company, he looks to his tail, earliest in time, to communicate with Honycominah, but the time of their first meeting is too far back. Instead, he looks forward, ahead in his latest growth, to see two human escapees.
Analysis: This story has the most science fiction overtones but is also one of the most slippery to understand. The reader could pour over this story three times and still, perhaps, not grasp the nuances of what Mayumura is alluding to.
Fnifmum is a being with the freedom to move along a singular time-line, free to move back and revisit his history or push forward to view something new in the galaxy. He savors experiencing the mutually shared time/place when/where he met his closes companion, Honycominah. However, his age is much greater than hers and he now becomes aware than his age has affected his ability to reach the past.
Unable to touch the nostalgia, Fnifmum looks toward the future end of his expanding being… and sees two aliens of which he has never seen before: a bulbous head, two manipulating limbs on top and two locomotive limbs on the bottom. Clutching each in fear of the coming Space Troops, the deserted duo—with limited oxygen and clambering upon an airless world—decide to test their fate by employing the “emergency escape time-mechanism” (128).
A new emotion springs from Fnifmum, a sort of empathy he’s never shared with any other being. Gradually, as his fore-self extends into the future, he can see their fate unravel little by little, but he is not yet able to see their true fate—life or death. For this, he returns to a restful slumber in which time dissolves from his past and materializes in the future, where his own fate will day end.