Double Dare

Below is an English translation of the third of seven short stories in Takemoto Novala's 2007 collection 幻想小品集, or Hallucination Anthology, originally published in Yaso 夜想/Sense of Beauty magazine in April 2006.

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Double Dare

Bauhaus played at a loud volume.

Giving a very heavy atmosphere, the wildly careening sound creeped in and filled the air, with Peter Murphy’s vocals sounding somehow like a prayer filling out the music.

Wearing a long dress from alice auaa made of black gauze that almost seemed to be decomposing, with open chest, shoulders, and back, with sleeves that would still be too long even if rolled up, and a high waist with an asymmetric hem, I stood in front of the mirror in my powder room running a comb through my bangs, which were cut straight above my eyebrows, and putting my shoulder-length hair into an updo with long curls hanging down.

I applied Anna Sui Brightening Fluid Foundation 99 heavily, following that with Pearl Brightening Compact Powder 700, to make my skin an almost unnatural-looking shade of almost white, like a bisque doll. I drew my eyebrows on in thin lines using a Vivienne Westwood eyebrow liner in dark brown. I used Vivienne Westwood again for my eyeliner, drawing it on thickly in lamp black, then colored in my eyes with Chacott eyeshadow 628 and finished them off by doing my eyelashes with MAC mascara base and MAC all black mascara. After that, I applied Anna Sui to my lips, and on my nails, already painted a glittery black Anna Sui 007, I added a mix of Mary Quant bright red R-17 and heavy glamorous R-08 to take away any green tint, added black R-38, and topped it all off with a gloss, R-56, and I was ready.

I was complete. The Gothic me.

Whether red, black, or the white of my skin, I only love bold daring colors, so if possible I would have liked to have used only Chacott, but doing one's face only with Chacott would be too gaudy, so I mix in Anna Sui and Mary Quant to create an elegant finish.

If you hadn’t said anything, I’m sure I wouldn’t have worn this dress from alice auaa that day, and I certainly wouldn’t have worn this heavy makeup that goes with the dress. You allowed me this freedom. Freedom from the self-deprecating shell of myself. I’ve lived my entire life worrying only about what others thought about me. I wonder when that started. That’s right. It’s been like that ever since I was a child, when my family and I went on a vacation to the sea in the summer of my first year of elementary school. My heart has been closed since then.

My older brother, 4 years older than me, always took good care of me and spoiled me. He’d say things like, when we became adults, we’d get married, with a straight face in front of other people, making everyone around including our parents laugh, and I sincerely believed that when I grew up I’d marry my big brother. One day, my brother and I both set out offshore with inner tubes. Mama told us to be careful not to go too far out, even if we had our inner tubes, and Papa made my brother promise that if we went out so far that we couldn’t touch the bottom anymore, he was to hold my hand and not let go, regardless of the inner tubes. My brother and I took off excitedly, planning to swim out as far as the buoys and come back. We arrived at the buoys faster than we’d planned. Then, my brother suggested we go out a little further. “If we only go a little further, it’ll be okay. Are you scared? You have your inner tube, and I’ll hold your hand.” I went along with his idea. It was just as we started to pass the buoys. A huge wave came and overtook us. I got caught up in the wave, and lost my inner tube and started to drown. I lost hold of my brother’s hand as well. I panicked and desperately tried to find something to hold on to. I opened my eyes and saw my brother’s leg, and grabbed on. But my brother kicked my head with his other leg and pulled away.

I have no memory past that instant. When I awoke, I was laying on the sand. I was told that the lifeguard had saved me. Our parents scolded both my brother and me harshly. My brother and I both apologized to our parents, but while my brother did confess that going beyond the buoys had been his idea, he didn’t mention the fact that I’d grabbed his leg while drowning or that he’d kicked me off. Even after we returned home, he acted as if nothing had happened, and didn’t seem to feel bad at all, and never apologized.

Thinking back on it now, my brother was still just a kid as well, and he’d almost drowned too. He was probably desperate just to save himself, and merely kicked off the thing that was clinging to his leg without any intention of doing so to me, rather than out of any ill intent. However, ever since then, I’ve realized that to accept love unquestioningly without defenses would mean to be betrayed, and eventually lead to death. Faith in other people, even those related to you, is nothing but an illusion. I could never tell anyone about this realization. However, in order to avoid being hurt, I built a strong wall between me and my brother, my parents, and my school friends. I never allowed anyone to get closer to me than a certain point, and I never tried to get closer myself. As I went along in this way, I naturally began to place a great deal of importance on the opinions of others, burying my true self down deep, and following the ways of others more than necessary.

I didn’t do this as a form of self-affirmation, but rather I just thought there was no other way for me to protect myself. I went along quite successfully in this way, until I met you.

Strangely, I never really felt lonely. Before you told me how you felt about me, I’d had other relationships, few though they were. I’d even had physical relationships. However, even if I opened my body for someone, I never opened my heart. Because of this, no matter how much I aligned my interests with theirs, and how deferential I acted, in the end something always seemed missing to the other person, and in the end they always left. However, this didn’t budge me. I wasn’t looking for an everlasting love. Despite all this, you destroyed the fence surrounding me effortlessly and entered my heart at a frighteningly fast pace. And you proposed to me just one week before my 19th birthday.

“You can give me your answer any time. You’re still in school, and I just graduated myself, so I don’t expect us to get married immediately. I would just like you to seriously give some thought to our future.”

“Could you wait until next week?”

“Do you mean that you will answer me on your birthday?”


“I wonder how much hope I have.”

“Quite a bit.”

“I see. Well, in that case, even if you refuse me, or if you say you need more time, that day is your birthday. So let’s go to a fabulous French restaurant and eat a fantastic dinner.”

“You don’t have to work so hard.”

“I want to give this my all. What shall we do before dinner? Is there any place you’d like to go?”

“Not really.”

“You should decide once in a while!”

“…How about an amusement park?”

“An amusement park?”

“No good?”

“Of course not, but which amusement park would you like to go to?”

“One that’s not too big or full of fancy attractions. If it’s too big, there will be too many people and it’s just tiring.”

“That’s true. In that case, I’ll look for a rundown amusement park. But at night we’ll go to a fancy restaurant. So be sure to get all dolled up.”

“All dolled up… So I can’t dress like I usually do?”

“I don’t mean that you can’t… But you never wear anything besides the most normal of clothing. I don’t intend to ask you to wear a very expensive dress or to dress really sexily, but I feel like there’s probably some kind of clothing that you’ve always wanted to wear, or some fashion that really suits you.”

I stayed silent.

“If not, that’s okay too though.”

“Now I have two pieces of homework for next week, don’t I?”

“You don’t have to think too hard about it though. It’s not that you’re negligent with your appearance or anything, but you never talk about clothing, do you? You come along with me when I go to buy clothing, but if I ask you what kind of shop you’d like to visit, you always answer that there isn’t any. Usually it should be the opposite, the guy being dragged along quietly to go shopping with his girl!”

“Is that wrong?”

“Not really… You wear bland clothing, but you wear it well, so I always thought it seemed unusual that you’d have no interest in fashion. Is there any shop that you’ve always like the style of, even if you’ve never worn it?”

Alice auaa.”

“I don’t know that brand. Where is the shop? Something like Antwerp style?”

“It’s a Japanese brand.”

“Is it expensive?”

“It’s not cheap, but I have a part time job, and I don’t spend that much money, so I can afford it.”

“So why don’t you buy a dress from there and wear it?”

“Their clothing is pretty unusual, so I don’t think it’s appropriate for a date.”

“Is it too casual?”

“Actually, the opposite, it’s very outrageous. I guess you could say it’s gothic…”

“Gothic, huh. The current trend, that’s cool, I’d love to see it. I’d love to see you wearing that. How about I buy you something from that shop as a birthday present before we go to the amusement park?”

I was able to make the decision to buy alice auaa clothing because of these determined suggestions from you.

Alice auaa was established as an independent brand in 1999 in Kobe, and is the only brand in Japan to follow the true gothic aesthetic with absolutely no regard for trends. This brand’s clothing, which ruled over the darkness, was full of decadence and beauty, intelligence and eroticism, and brought to mind bondange and devil worship. Wearing it was like getting trapped deeper and deeper within a spiderweb or white gauze. That transformation indeed was the image of alice auaa, and their regularly released items included tops called “Net” and antique-image dresses with many small pieces of fabric stitched together called “Suture”. This unique feeling of destruction was what I sought, and this brand, who developed the materials to make their items all in-house, had struck a distinct chord with my heartstrings. Several years ago, I saw alice auaa for the first time in a magazine. The instant my eyes set upon the photo of the black wedding dress from a collection with several petticoats holding up the skirts, I fell in love. From that moment on, though their clothing was all far too decorative and unrealistic for me to actually purchase, I continued to be in awe of alice auaa’s clothing.

On my birthday, I arrived at our meeting place wearing the first alice auaa I had ever purchased, a black blouse made of gauze with tight sleeves that showed off the shape of the arm but a loose front that showed a bit of the bust, with a full black skirt covered in frills that was so long it almost touched the ground in back, yet was short enough to show the knees in front, a corset made of a hard fabric almost like denim, gauze leg warmers with several belts going around the legs covered with netting, and high heeled boots.

As I expected, you looked at me, wearing alice auaa from head to toe, up and down with a speechless expression on your face.

“This is that clothing that you said you liked?”


“It really is hardcore gothic.”

“Now you see why I said it wasn’t appropriate for a date, don’t you?”

“That’s true. But you like it, right? It’s strange, but it looks good on you. I can’t really say you look cute, but I think it looks good. But you really changed everything, your hair and makeup as well.”

“This is the real me. So you still don’t want to take back your proposal?”

“Of course not. Even if your fashion changes, you are still you.”

We headed towards the amusement park, which was mostly empty despite it being a Sunday. The roller coaster that rattled and shook with worrying sounds despite not even going very fast, the Ferris wheel that completed one full cycle in only a minute, the simple haunted house that wasn’t at all frightening, the House of Mirrors that surprised one by its very existence in this day and age. Even visiting every attraction in the park, we still were finished before it was time for dinner.

“Is there anything you’d like to go on again?”

“I want to go in the House of Mirrors.”

“But we already know the path, so won’t it be boring to go again?”

“Then I’ll go alone.”

“That’s okay, I’ll go with you.”

“No, if you’re with me I’ll get out too easily. I want to try by myself.”

“Okay, well in that case, I’ll be waiting at the smoking area near the exit for you to make it through on your own.”

Later that night, after we finished our red wine and main dish of lamb, I accepted your marriage proposal.

About three months have passed since that day. As if I’d broken through some barrier, I started wearing alice auaa regularly from then, and even started wearing an alice auaa men’s priest gown as room-wear, and even as my trip into full on gothic wear seemed to speed up faster and faster on each date, you accepted it, and we became closer and closer. But despite all this…

Every time you would stay over at my place, before we’d fall asleep together in my simple semi-double bed, I’d get up to take off my makeup. Tonight as well, we had sex, and then you fell asleep, so I got up carefully so as not to wake you and headed to the powder room to wash my face with cleanser and makeup remover, and then returned to your side in the bed. But what I found there was…

Rather than your peacefully sleeping body, I found your dead body, not breathing, with a great deal of blood was pouring out of the back of your skull, and your eyes wide open and white.

The white sheets were unable to soak up all the blood and it had made a pool. Next to the bed on the ground lay a large wrench covered in blood that had no reason to be there.

What in the world could have happened in the mere few minutes I was in the powder room? Just a moment earlier, we had just been discussing in general our plans from now until the wedding day. I grabbed the telephone to call an ambulance, though I could see that it was far too late for that, but I couldn’t think of what number to dial. Loud music I’d never heard before was playing from the music player. Not knowing what to do, I dropped the phone, and then was hit with fright as I realized that your killer could still be in the apartment or on the veranda; after all, only a moment ago you’d been alive. But the door was locked. The windows were closed. Overwhelmed with fear, I tried to run away without thinking it through, and ran back to the powder room. Since I’d just been in here alone, the killer couldn’t possibly be in here.

I had to calm down, I had to calm down, I thought, so I turned on the faucet to wash my face. I wiped my face off with a towel and looked in the mirror. But I saw someone standing behind me in the mirror. It looked like a women, but I was sure that I’d be killed if I met her eyes even in the mirror, so I couldn’t look to see who it was. I tried to scream, but I couldn’t make a sound.

The woman standing behind me did not move any closer, but said in a low voice,

“Finally that nuisance has been taken care of.”

I recognized the voice. I gathered my courage and looked in the mirror, and saw behind me a woman with black hair standing on end, her face hidden with a black cachenez like one would wear at a masquerade, wearing an alice auaa dress made of velour and knit fabrics, looking at me with a cold look and bright red lips. The very dress I’d been wearing earlier that day, before I’d taken it off and left it in the powder room to take a shower before we had sex.

“So the person who killed him was…”

“It was me.”


“You wished it to happen.”

“Who…are you?”

“Who, you ask? Have you forgotten already? We promised to always live together, just the two of us, didn’t we? But that man got in the way of that. And you have no guts. So I had to take care of it.”

“But I…I…I was going to marry him. I loved him!”

She laughed heartily.

“You loved him? Ha! Well, maybe you did to some extent. But you also hated him. This was revenge. You couldn’t possibly love anyone but me.”

I turned around. But no one was there.

It was an illusion.

I had been talking with an illusion.

Was I going crazy from the shock? I looked at the mirror again. But that woman was again standing there behind me.

“You still can’t accept reality, can you? We met at that House of Mirrors at the amusement part. Don’t you remember? I am you, and you are me!”

That was it. I suddenly understood everything.

The first day I’d been able to go out wearing the gothic look, makeup, and hair that I’d always loved was that day that I answered your proposal. We went on all the rides, including the house of mirrors. Surrounded by mirrors in this darkly lit space, walking through the maze of narrow hallways bumping into mirror after mirror, I lost sight of you for an instant.

I turned to go back down the path I’d come down, but I saw nothing but dozens of my own reflection. I stood in front of myself. Behind that, myself. I was surrounded by endless iterations of myself. And the me that I saw reflected so many times was so beautiful, I forgot that it was myself, and began to feel dizzy, surrounded by such beauty. When I waved my hand, those beautiful women waved back at me. When I shook my head, countless of others did the same. Those beautiful women who lived in the land of mirrors were more obedient than the best trained of dogs. They would never disobey me. They would never deceive me. They would never lie to me. They would never betray me. They understood everything about me accurately, perfectly, and loved me. These women, who so encompassed my ideal image, never looked at anyone except me.

“We were waiting for you. Our eternal lover.”

The me of the world of mirrors opened her mouths and spoke these words. I approached the closest one without thinking, and kissed those beautiful lips. An ecstasy unlike any I’d ever experienced enveloped me stronger than anything I’d ever felt.

However, after I had spent a short while in this perfect world belonging to only us, an outsider tried to intrude. It was you. You said, “Oh man, I lose sight of you for just a moment and here you are, getting lost in this place! The exit’s this way. If you walk looking at your feet rather than at the walls, this cheap kind of house of mirrors is easy to get through,” and with a slight push of my shoulder, came between me and my reflection.

I was reluctant to part from that feeling, so after we’d ridden all the attractions, I entered the house of mirrors one more time, this time alone. I never wanted to leave this labyrinth as long as I lived. However, that would be impossible. So I decided to take one of the endless beautiful reflections of myself home with me.

This was her. From that night on, I could meet her whenever I wanted by looking into a mirror, even if only the small compact mirror in my makeup pouch, while dressed in gothic style. I could allow no one to intrude into this honeymoon of mine, no matter who. This ruler of the mirror world grew stronger with each passing day, and desired to have me all to herself more and more. And finally, she said this.

“I can no longer stand to see you give your body to anyone else.”

Saying this, I opened the white bottle of Anna Sui foundation sitting in my powder room once more, in order to meet that gothic me again. To come back…

Completing my makeup, I took back my dress that she had been wearing, and turned toward the bed on which you slept. The sound volume of the Bauhaus playing on the radio was too quiet. I turned it to the max and the guitar riffs of Double Dare filled the room, filled in with the sound of Peter Murphy’s reverberant singing and screaming.

That’s it. Let’s put mirrors on all the walls of this room. On the ceiling and floor as well. I wonder where I could find someone to do that for me. Well, whatever. I’ll think about that tomorrow. Anyway, for now for some reason I’m really tired. I pushed you onto the floor and lay down on the blood-soaked sheets, and closed my eyes.

Continued report:
The female suspect visited a glassmaker in the local marketplace saying she wanted to cover her apartment with mirrors. The glassmaker visited her apartment to take an estimate, but noticed a strange smell, and found the partially decomposed body of a young man thrown carelessly in the bathtub of the residence. He reported it to the police, and the crime became known. We reported yesterday that the suspect admits to having killed him herself, but a new fact has come to light regarding this case. Originally the woman was insistent that the victim was her boyfriend whom she’d met in college and was recently engaged to be married to, but when the corpse was examined, it was discovered that the body actually belonged to her own brother, older than her by four years, whom she’d asked to visit her apartment. It is unclear why she lied about this, but according to the two’s parents and close acquaintances, the two siblings had a close relationship, and no big fight was known of, so the motives for the murder are as yet unknown. We will continue to bring you updates on this developing news story.

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Thank you for reading my first translation of one of Novala’s short stories. How did you like it? I chose to keep the format for this one simple, avoiding including any images so that you can imagine the story in your own mind. So, how was it, this dark, twisted tale of lust and desire? Certainly it is probably a darker and more gothic story than you are used to from our beloved Novala.

I will refrain from including many of my own thoughts here, in order to let you derive your own conclusions, but do take a moment to remember your own feelings upon seeing yourself dressed up, in whatever your chosen fashion is, the first time you knew you’d found “the real you”. Did it affect you as much as our lovely heroine from the story? Do be careful, though – you must be sure to keep touch of the real you, the real you inside your heart as well as the real you inside your mind, and not lose sight of reality as you grasp tight onto the new you that you may have found!