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 2


Dogs are barking in unison with the sound of a train thumping down the tracks. It is well past midnight, the time that even plants and trees are gone to sleep. Like a sparkling eye, a flashlight is piercing through the dark woods between the tracks and the river—searching back and forth and back again. The searching stops and the light clicks off, and a sound of something jumping into the water.

A warm wind brushing past my face reminds me to breathe. I stay frozen in place for what seems like an hour, then start walking staggeringly towards the sound. My blood begins to circulate and a strange scene comes into view—a black dog with its hind legs in the river and front legs on the bank is tearing at a piece of meat. It takes a moment to realize that the meat is a human hand painted red.

The full moon reveals broken young trees trampled by an enormous animal, or something of the sort, all the way to the river bank. There is a small splash downstream, and I turn quickly to see what's going on. A young woman, her face and hands painted red, with red flowers in her hair, is washing off the blood from the neck of a water buffalo standing, mostly submerged, in the river. From where I am I can hear the woman singing, singing softly to herself - the song of allaying the anger of demons.

Her soft voice permeates the woods like moonlight, but the song itself is chilling. I stop in my tracks again, careful not to move a muscle, lest she senses me and starts searching for me. In fear of male, female, human, animal, dead, and not-yet dead there is nowhere to turn to. With certainty, the dog steps from the river, hand in mouth, and starts barking again forgetting the hand. Accidentally I must have killed my chance of getting away unnoticed.

The dog has sensed me and the flashlight is turned on. I give up my cover and start to run through the trees, heading back for the road. Running in the woods at night is like wading through a thick black fog. I feel like a child again—feet pounding, jumping, swerving, crashing through the brush. The dog is tearing behind me, gaining ground, and the young woman behind it. I give up fleeing and face her - she says apologetically, "They were going to kill my buffalo as a sacrifice—now, if you don't mind, I give them you instead."


(Photo by James C Hopkins: Sumatra)