Scrolls is a new 'experimental' collaboration in progress by James C. Hopkins and Yoko Danno. One of us writes the first half of a sentence and the other follows up the rest of the sentence. The latter begins the next sentence and drops it halfway, which is taken over by the former. Writing thus in turn we draw 'picture scrolls' with words. There is no rule except that a scroll should consist of five paragraphs. When we start a scroll we never know how it will develop and end. We have set out for adventures in an unknown land without a map or a compass.


♣  Scroll 14


I took a deep breath ten times, facing the morning sun and held it as long as I could possibly hold it. Orchids appeared in front of my eyes, then my long-dead grandmother's face and then a voice spoke to me, "Don't forget to breathe out, my dear, it's important." I looked around but only saw a thin white dog, running frantically down the path behind me. I exhaled, and decided to run after the dog. I needed to figure out why I was always haunted by specters—or should I say—haunted by the same old ghost that seemed intent on taking many different forms. Today the white dog, tomorrow a bunch of purple orchids would be watching me from the dim corner of my room.

Yesterday I saw the noodle shop waitress spying through a crack in the kitchen door. Of course the dog was faster, and I slowed down, thinking it was foolish to run after a phantom. My tooth suddenly began to ache. I wondered what I could eat for lunch—maybe momos? But maybe I wouldn't have lunch today, since we were supposed to be on the road all day, searching for a 5-year-old who had been missing these past few days. She was playing alone in the dry rice-field, while older kids were at school and no one noticed that she had disappeared. I'm sure that she's alive, but we should have known better.

She is easily wrapped up in her imaginary beings and it finally got her into trouble. I'm now quite sure she's below the earth, in a secret chamber, having followed a mole, her dear friend. I should have listened more carefully to her talk about the persuasive power of rodents and sky-drawings of crows, but I simply dismissed it as childhood fantasy—now I know better. In my own childhood I have spent hours folding colored paper into small birds and animals. They were animated while I was playing with them and from time to time one of them would fly out through the kitchen window, or run across the floor and out the door.

This has continued into the present day, where you are expected to see things only with your physical eyes. Yesterday I thought I was watching some foreign letters appearing on the wall of my room although actually there was nothing on the wall but a small black spider with red legs. The next morning, on the way to the noodle shop, a small French man in red stockings came waltzing down the street. He made an abrupt halt before me and asked if I had ever seen him before and I replied "non." Suddenly he leapt into the air, spun around, and raced off with his bushy tail dangling from his butt.

I'm feeling pretty sure the 5-year-old girl is safe by now, protected by the fox, her guardian god, and the fact that she has not yet gone to school. Dogs and foxes have the power to foresee the future, but humans barely understand their languages, which we need to start learning at least at the age of five. Likewise, they will develop a dependency on music and the whirring of locust wings for guidance through life. As for me, I've decided to return to the forest to find the exit of a mole's tunnel, just in case the 5-year old would come out from it. Now I've realized the secret chamber is their underground school and hope to apply for admission, myself. It's never too late for the violin.

(Photo by James C Hopkins: Malaysia)