“The Road” by Hiroshi Aramata is a short story that appears in Straight to Darkness: Lairs of the Hidden Gods Volume 3 published by Kurodahan Press, an anthology of Cthulhu Mythos Tales from Japan edited by Asamatsu Ken. The Road was translated from Japanese to English by Kathleen Taji.
This story caught my eye for two reasons:
Mainly, I’ve become intrigued with Hiroshi Aramata’s series of Japanese occult novels based around the history of Tokyo titled, Teito Monogatari, but sadly I’ve been unable to read them, as aside from a few short fan translations, they’ve yet to be translated from Japanese into English. However, the novels have been adapted into two films Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis and Tokyo: The Last War, an original animated video series titled Doomed Megalopolis, and a manga series keeping the original Teito Monogatari name. So I’ve been able to experience a bit of the series via fan-translations of the adaptations. I found the first film, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis to be an enjoyable watch, despite the filmmaker’s obviously needing to cram a lot of material into a single film. Some of you may be familiar with the series due to the iconic appearance of the series’ antagonist Yasunori Kato, who was an influence on the Street Fighter character, M. Bison (or Vega as he’s called in Japan), as well as several other fictional characters over the years.
It also turns out “The Road” is set primary in Providence, RI and focuses on the life of H. P. Lovecraft.
The story takes place from September 10th to September 11th 2001 and begins with a train ride from New York City to Boston, Massachusetts. The main character is an unnamed Japanese professional, possibly a scientist or educator, who is a huge fan of H. P. Lovecraft. Browsing the story a second time, the character’s sex could be either male or female. Either way, the main character can’t resist getting off the train to walk the platform during the train’s three-minute stop in Providence, RI.
As fate would have it, the train pulls away before the narrator can climb back on board. In the ensuing hours, the narrator finds themselves being given a personal tour of Providence by Lovecraft’s friend, C. M. Eddy, who died back in 1967. Needless to say, time-travel via metaphysics seems to play a part in this story. Evidently, a concept or mechanism the people of Providence refer to as “The Road” will be opening soon. The last time “The Road” opened was back in 1923 as a result of the Great Kanto Earthquake that rocked Japan. As an aside, the Great Kanto Earthquake plays a part in Aramata’s Teito Monogatari series as well, with Yasunori Kato, causing the devastating earthquake through the use of magic.
Overall I thought “The Road” was a solid story written in tribute to H. P. Lovecraft. The metaphysical concept of “The Road,” or “the shadow of time” as they sometimes call it in Providence, is kind of interesting, but I enjoyed the tour of Providence by C. M. Eddy more, myself. I know from my limited reading on Lovecraft’s life that portions of what Eddy tells the narrator aren’t accurate (Robert Price points some of these out in his introduction, which I recommend reading AFTER you read the story and not before, due to a few minor spoilers) but they didn’t detract from the story. As a matter of fact, the scenes with Eddy kind of brought my mind to Paul Malmont’s two pulp era novels featuring pulp fiction writers: The China Town Death Cloud Peril (which Lovecraft appeared in, and the main characters attended his funeral) and The Amazing, the Astounding, and the Unknown, both of which I enjoyed.
I didn’t much care for the climax of the tale, it felt a bit too generic, but I thought the actual ending was handled rather nicely.
If you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, I don’t think you’ll find much meat on the bone in this one. But if you’re a fan or scholar of Lovecraft the man, this will probably be more up your alley, but like I said, don’t expect 100% factual accuracy here.
I basically picked this up because I wanted to actually read a story written by Hiroshi Aramata and it just so happened the only story he has out there that’s been translated into English is a short story about H. P. Lovecraft and Providence. Given these circumstances, I’m glad I took the time to read “The Road” and am eternally crossing my fingers for his Teito Monogatari series to be translated into English.