||“Reiko’s Universe Box” (short story) by Shinji Kaijo
First published in Hayakawa SF Magazine (February 1981)
Currently available from Kurodahan Press’s Speculative Japan (2007)
|Original: Japanese, 1981
Translated by Toyoda Takashi and Gene van Troyer, 2007
Synopsis: Upon Ikutaro and Reiko’s wedding, they receive an anonymous gift of a “universe box” which actually contains a miniature universe within. As Ikutaro spends more time entertaining customers than with his subservient wife, Reiko’s attention shifts to the stellar mysteries of the box. Inside, a white star blazes, which she names Ikunosuke, and planets orbit. While these bodies have motion, the marriage quickly stagnates without emotions and one temper flares.
Analysis: The most intricate of gifts, the most detailed of items are often kept away, unappreciated, in closets or shelves so as to keep them from harm; fragile Bone Chine plates are stacked with liners in the dining room hutch while the plethora of visual and audio art on vinyl records are slotted away in the stereo cabinet. Another remarkably detailed gift is that of a human relationship; however, unlike plates and records, which can be rediscovered and brought back out, the stowing of emotion is irrevocable.
The husband invests his time at work, perhaps securing a future for the young couple, but while he’s thinking merely of the future, he has forgotten the single-most important focus of the now—his emotion. His wife had to find a way to cope with the emotionless state of her husband, the simple and placid state of their lives, so she turns her attention to the wonder held within the glassed box; there, she finds remarkable detail of which her marriage has been without. The husband finds this turn of attention to be adulterous. Rather than share in the wonder of detail from the box or in their emotion, the chasm of misunderstanding divides them, a chasm like that of the blackhole which has spawned inside the box.