“Perspective” (short story) by Yuko Yamao
English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)
Original: Japanese (遠近法, 1982)
Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, 2011
Synopsis: From a vantage point of a stone cell, other stone cells wrap around from the right all the way around to the left; below, more floors of cells and the Perspective; above, more floors of cells and the Perspective. The world within the Sausage Universe is all the inhabitants know—the stone walls belong to them and the vast space between the cells belongs to the passing sun, moon, and the comical Gods upon the cloud. With no knowledge of their history or of their destiny, myths are abound and hope clings to mere whims.
Pre-analysis: Some people never leave their country, state, or town as they’re content with what they have, what they see, and who they are. Anyplace could be the setting for someone with such a narrow perspective. Regardless of the internal comings and goings, regardless of all the news from afar, regardless of the crazy transients, the so-called content seem to be more deprived than happy. Do caged birds sing because they miss the freedom of flight, or it is a voice of deprivation?
Analysis: When the world you have always known as an insular and hermitic as the Sausage Universe, there is very little to ignite curiosity. Through the shared come the Sun, the Moon, and the only oddity in an otherwise odd universe: The Celestial Family upon the Cloud with it mechanical comedy. But none of this is odd because it’s all they now between the walls of their lives—the physical confines of their universe. Imagination has only two directions, which might as well be the same direction because they offer the same perspective: up and down. Those who venture the climb are none the wiser.
The conclusion offers a fatalistic result of being confined to a closed system: a slow decay where the very core consumes itself. As the body itself cannot survive on sunlight alone, not can the Sausage Universe survive on repetition alone. Knowledge of its extremes simply limits its possibility of infinity, progressively making it more like a closed system than ever before; names and numbers only reinforce its confines.