2 The Split Zone
The glowing light around me disappeared. The street I stood on disappeared. The old man disappeared. And all the strange creatures disappeared.
I seemed to be standing inside of a very large hall inside of a large building. The hall felt deserted, without a single thing in sight. It was very spacious, maybe several hundred square meters in area. The space above me looked to continue on endlessly, like the building had been completely hollowed out, and the space around me was empty, simply contained by four walls. I'd been standing not too far from the north wall, where a large screen hung, nearly covering the entire wall. The remaining walls were covered with shining white tiles. Even though I stood a ways away from them, the brightness still pained my eyes.
I rubbed my eyes and then looked back at the screen in front of me. Suddenly, an image appeared on the screen, like a video was about to start broadcasting. It was a scene of a hospital room, shown from above. A girl laid in bed, her eyes closed. At her side sat a crying couple—her parents. My eyes widened, tears welling up in them.
My vision was muddled, and before I could react, two figures appeared before me, like a flash of light. When I looked carefully, I saw two people. Two men. One of them was blond haired and blue eyed, and he looked mixed. I couldn't help recalling my doctor, but he'd had black hair. And not only was this man blond, he had a pair of very blue eyes. His profile the only thing that felt a bit Chinese.
As for the other person... When I turned to look at him, my tears had already cleared up. My eyes were drawn to him, and in that moment, I forgot about all that I didn't understand about this situation.
He looked about the same age as me, and he wore a black high-collared sweater that covered his neck, reaching up to his chin, and a pair of black jeans. His hands were tucked into his pant pockets. His hair was slightly long and black, with choppy bangs that swept over but didn't block his eyes. His eyes were dark, deep, apathetic, like two black holes.
Faced with this boy who seemed to emanate darkness, I couldn't help stuttering some nonsense. "A-are you a grim reaper?"
The blond man scoffed at the question. Then he shook his hand in front of my eyes. "Hey, don't make a joke. Like you, he's just arrived here. From your world of the living."
What?? Our world of the living? My lips twitched. What was that sentence supposed to mean?
Before I could sort out my thoughts, my attention was pulled back to the large screen on the wall. The scene was the same as before, but the parents watching their daughter seemed to be crying harder now. Their bodies trembled and their eyes were filled with distress as they stared at the girl lying on the hospital bed.
A strong stabbing sensation swept across my heart. I pointed to the screen and turned to the blond man. "What's going on? Am I dead or what? How is it that I can see myself there? Who are you guys, and what is this place?"
The blond man slowly withdrew his playful smile and looked at me with a profound and serious expression. In a voice deeper than before, he said, "I can explain it to you, but I'm sure that you wouldn't be able to understand. I don't need for you to understand though. I'm just here to notify you, to let you know how to continue living here. No matter what suspicions you may have, please remember that I'm not here to lie to you."
"You're really long-winded." I glared at him, but my eyes couldn't help glancing back to the image of my tearful parents. That's right. The girl lying on the bed on that screen was me, and the couple crying beside her were my parents.
The blond man shrugged, seemingly unbothered by my reaction. "This place you're at now, that is, this city, is called Split Zone No.13, and in this place, only the consciousness can exist."
He paused, and then he gestured with his hands. "I'll explain it as plainly as I can. This is a space that has yet to be discovered by humankind, and its inhabitants are those who suffered from mind-splitting mental disorders. Because these disorders produce increased brain waves, and under certain stimuli, these brain waves can increase tenfold, they may be captured by a soul splitter in the Split Zone. And then, your consciousness is brought here, to this space."
What and what now?
My brows must have been twisted up like a wrinkly beef ball. I stared at him blankly and shook my head to express my inability to understand.
His expression belied that this was a common reaction. He explained carefully to me again, "Let's put it this way. When someone with a mental disorder is stimulated by something, their brain waves will greatly increase for a time. Your consciousness—your soul, if you will—can then be captured and brought here by the hosts of this space, a group called soul splitters. The one who captured your consciousness, to put it plainly, is like a bad guy who took your soul and dropped it into this world. Standing inside of this world right now is not your physical body, just your consciousness, your mind. And the sleeping girl you see on the screen is your true body in the real world, lying comatose inside of a psychiatric hospital. Do you understand?"
My expression was still wrinkled and blank as I tilted my head. "I seem to understand it, but what exactly are soul splitters? Why did they bring my consciousness here?"
"Why do soul splitters exist here, and why do they bring people here? Those are questions that I am unable to answer. My responsibility is simply to tell you that you've been brought here by the soul splitters. Those who have been brought to this space take on a form of their choosing while they live here, and their bodies remain in a coma in the real world. As long as your consciousness remains here, your physical body will never wake, and so we often say that the people who have just arrived have died."
The blond man pointed to the screen, at my comatose body. His words meant that 'You're essentially dead, and that's why your soul has come here.'
"In other words, I've become a vegetable in the real world?" I looked at the screen, at myself, in astonishment.
"You can think of it that way. However, doctors will not interpret it as a vegetative state, but rather cerebral death." The blond man nodded.
"How can I get back?" I nearly shrieked out the question.
The blond man pointed to my chest. "Look at the key in front of your chest." As he pointed, I looked down and discovered that there was now a golden key hanging from my neck.
"It's called a splitting key. Everyone who arrives in the Split Zone will slowly form what's called a split symbol, and then this key will appear around their neck. As for the split symbol, take a look at him." He pointed to the silent, black-clothed young man at his side. The boy slowly turned around. With his back to me, he pulled down the collar of his sweater, revealing the back of his neck. There, was a crescent moon symbol that glowed faintly.
The blond man pointed his finger and made a circular motion around the crescent shape on the boy's skin. "This design is called a split symbol. Everyone in the Split Zone will form one within an hour of their arrival here. The symbols will be different for each person, and they can be located anywhere on the body. Once the symbol is formed, your body's characteristic glow will slowly fade, and you will become one of the 'people' of this place. Since your split key has appeared, I expect that your split symbol will be complete soon. At that time, you will belong to this place."
My eyes widened, my mind not entirely comprehending the blond man's words. The black-clothed boy slowly adjusted his collar, hiding away his split symbol. He turned back and looked at me with indifferent eyes, as if looking at me, but also as if looking past me. I couldn't help following his gaze. I turned around, but there was nothing there. At the other end of the hall, there seemed to be a door on the wall, but it was far away from us.
When I turned back, the blond man looked at me with a trace of something in his eyes. Sympathy perhaps, but it also looked like pity.
As he looked at me, he sighed. "I know that the situation must be difficult to understand, but you have to remember, you're dead, and that's why you're here. You may feel that this is just a dream, but as the days pass, you'll slowly come to realize that it's all real."
Everything was very strange. It was too unbelievable. But his words caused me to fall into an abyss, dropping down and down and down.
He paused a moment, and then he continued, "However, I'm also responsible for telling you that everyone who is brought here has a counterpart, that is, the soul splitter who captured you here. Each person's soul splitter is different, and the one who brought you here will have the same split symbol as you, located in the same place, having been formed at the same time. You must try to find them."
"Why should I find them?" I couldn't help asking.
The blond man fixed his eyes on me and said, "When you find them, you can leave. To put it more directly, when you find them, you'll be resurrected."
My eyes widened. That meant that there was a chance to go home?
The blond man immediately answered my question, as if he could read my thoughts. "When you find the soul splitter with the same split symbol as you and insert your splitting key into their symbol, your consciousness will return to the world you came from."
"What if I never find them?" My body seemed to be trembling slightly.
A mysterious expression crossed the blond man's face. "Then your consciousness will forever remain here, and your parents will continue to watch over your brain-dead body, forever carrying an aching feeling, a hope that you'll one day wake up. They will live a bitterly painful life until—"
"Enough!" I cut him off, unable to believe the frightening things I was hearing.
Psych Roundup (&TL note):
Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects how someone thinks, feels, and behaves, creating a rift in their perception of reality. Among other things, a schizophrenic may also suffer from hallucinations.
There’s a term that the author uses, that can translate to ‘schizophrenia,’ or more directly, ‘(a disorder) where the mind has split.’ Sometimes the term is used as a suffix to a disorder’s name (e.g. double identity mind-splitting disorder), and sometimes it’s used as a descriptor, to group certain disorders together (e.g. mind-splitting mental disorders). For ease of translating and reading, I do/will drop the phrase ‘mind-splitting’ in many instances.
In the latter instance, while the term ‘mental disorder’ is a pretty wide and general term, at least for the purpose of this translation, mentions of mental disorders usually refer to the specific subset of ‘mind-splitting’ mental disorders. This fictitious(?) subcategory would include disorders similar to schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, personality disorders, but not, for example, eating or sleep disorders.