Thriller Restaurant Series – Volume 32
The Death God’s Old Shoes
By Kenmochi Hiroko
Long ago there lived a young man.
Why must humans die? Surely, there must be a country where one can live forever, he thought, and because no one could tell him where to find such a place, at last he decided to go and search for it on his own.
He traveled far and wide until he met an old man with a white beard down to his chest who was pulling a handcart full of stones.
“I have something to ask, old man. Do you know a country where people never have to die?” the youth said.
The elderly man replied, “I don’t know any country like that, but if dying is so terrible, it’s good you’re here with me. I don’t have to die until I’ve cleared all the stones from that mountain and it’s completely flat.”
“But, how long would that take?”
“Hm… I suppose one hundred years.”
“Well, at that time, surely you’d have to die, right?”
“I see your point.”
“Well then, this isn’t the country I’ve been looking for,” the young man said, then thanked the elderly man and headed off once more.
He traveled far and wide until he found himself in the middle of a large forest where, this time, an old man with a beard down past his back was cutting branches from a tree using a small knife. The youth asked the old man about a country of immortality and the old man replied, “I don’t know of any country like that, but if dying is so terrible, it’s good you’re here with me. I don’t have to die until I’ve cut the branches one by one from all the trees of this forest using a knife. I suppose it should take at least two hundred years.”
The youth saw that, despite this, after two hundred years passed and he finished cutting all the branches he’d still have to die, so he headed off again.
He traveled far and wide until he came to the bank of a lake. An old man with a beard down to his knees stood there watching a duck drink the lake water.
The young man asked about a country of immortality and the old man said, “I don’t know of any country like that, but if dying is so terrible, it’s good you’re here with me. I’m watching the duck drink the lake dry. I don’t have to die until the lake is dried up. I suppose it should take at least 300 years.”
The youth saw that this wasn’t a land of immortality, so he headed off again. He traveled far and wide until, one day, he came to a handsome estate. When he knocked, an elderly man with a beard down to his feet answered the door. The youth asked the man about the location of a country of immortality and the old man said, “You must have searched for a long time. Yes, this is a country where people never have to die.”
The youth was ecstatic. Now that he’d finally found a country of immortality, he was invited in and lived with the elderly man. There were no troubles. An unknown number of days and years passed and the young man eventually lost track of time. One day he went to talk to the elderly man because he unexpectedly became nervous about how his parents were doing and wanted to go and see them.
The old man said, “Your parents passed away long ago. Even knowing that, do you still want to go?”
The young man replied that he wanted to go to his hometown at any cost.
“If you want to go that badly, I’ll lend you my horse. He’ll take you anywhere you want to go. You must make sure to never get off the horse. If you dismount you’ll finally have to die.”
The youth mounted the horse and left. He headed back on the route where he’d met the old men while searching for the country of immortality. The duck that’d been drinking the water had drunk every last drop of the lake and its bones were scattered on the bank. All of the branches of the forest were pruned and, similarly, there were piles of bones in the forest and at the site where there had been a mountain.
All those old men must have died. Thank goodness I found the country of immortality, the young man thought.
Before long, the horse stopped in a place he didn’t recognize at all. Not only were there rows of houses, but the mountain and fields were completely changed.
“This can’t possibly be the place I used to live,” the young man said, preparing to leave when a voice called out to him.
“Sir, it’s bad of me to ask, but can I possibly ask for your assistance?”
Without thinking, the youth stopped his horse and looked at the speaker. It was a man who had dropped the wheel of his handcart in a ditch and was trying to pull it out even though it was exhausting and nearly impossible to do by himself. Worn-out shoes were piled up like a mountain in the handcart. The sun was setting.
Feeling sorry for the man, the youth placed one leg on the ground. It was at that moment that the man seized the youth’s arm and pulled with all his strength.
“Finally. I’ve caught you. I’m a death god. It’s good you looked at these old shoes. After your death you’ll put them on, however many worn-out pairs there are. You can’t run away!”
And so, this is a tale of how the young man, also, eventually had to die.