“…don’t believe it, it never happened. You don’t have some brick wall just appear out of nowhere. It’s nothing but an urban legend.”
I look up from my beer. There are a couple of youngsters talking to each other. They are about thirty years younger than I am, and have the hair and the clothes and the attitude which I associate with young people these days. But it is not their appearance which interests me, but what they are talking about, for I know that it was not an urban myth. I was there.
“I saw it.” I say, speaking loudly enough that they cannot fail to hear me. “I saw it. I was there.”
The two young men turn to look at me. I don’t think that they had really noticed me until I spoke. Ah, the arrogance of the young, to imagine that they are the only important people in the world.
“You’re not Japanese.” one of them points out. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that I am not Japanese.
“You know, not everybody in Japan is Japanese.” I say. “I was working there at the time that the Wall appeared.”
“You said you saw it.” the other one says. “So it was real? It really happened?”
“Oh, yes, it all happened.” I say. “It might have been thirty years ago now, but it was as real as me sitting in this pub talking to you. Don’t let anybody tell you that it was nothing more than an urban legend. That’s crap.”
The two young men were sitting at a separate table in the pub. But they grab their pints of beer and sit down at mine.
“So what actually happened?” the first of them asks.
“Well, it all started one September about thirty years ago.” I say. “Like I said, I was working in Japan at the time.”
I don’t bother telling these two youths that I had actually settled down into Japan and had got married. They don’t need to know that. Besides, my marriage is all in the past.
“One morning, I heard on the local news about this strange white wall which had appeared overnight, entirely surrounding a small park not far from where I lived at the time. It was reported as though it was some sort of stunt, and it was suggested that it might be some sort of artistic statement. But the fact was that the people on the news report did not really know anything about the wall: who had built it, or how they had managed to construct it so quickly, for the wall had gone up overnight without anybody apparently seeing anybody construct it.
“Needless to say I went along to have a look at the wall. I was not the only one who went along. There was quite a crowd looking at the wall, some of them taking pictures of it.”
“Hang on.” one of the youths said. “I tried to look for pictures on line of this wall, but I wasn’t able to find any.”
“There is a very good reason for that.” I say. “No pictures of the wall exist. None of the photographs ever came out. Not even any of the TV film, either. The TV film was fine when it was on the crowd. But when the cameras were on the wall it was always so blurry that details could never be made out.
“Anyway, I didn’t know, when I walked to look at the wall, that none of the pictures of it would ever come out.
“The wall was tall, at least twelve foot tall, maybe more. Or does everybody say metres these days?
“Anyway, the wall was not brick, but made out of some sort of white stone. The wall looked like a single piece of stone. If any separate blocks had been used to build it they had been put together so well that not even a crack could be seen.”
“But it could not have been a single piece of stone.” one of the guys says. “You could not have made some single piece of stone so big, or put it around the park. It would have had to be made in sections.”
“I’m telling what I saw. I couldn’t see any seams in it. Now, do you want me to carry on with the story or what?”
“Yeah, go on.”
“Anyway, I saw the wall on the first day that it appeared, when it controlled its smallest extent. At that point it was only around some park, although I’m not sure park is the best description. It was a square piece of open grass with a park bench on it, a few bushes, and not much else. It did not even have a pond.”
“So no ducks?”
“No ducks.” I gather my thoughts, trying to picture that scene, all of those years ago. Most people did not have cameras, back then, even though we were in Japan. But there were enough of them taking pictures of the wall, anyway. It’s a shame that none of the pictures came out. I suppose, now, that everybody would be taking pictures with their camera phones. And they still would not come out.
“There were plenty of people, though.” I say, continuing with my tale. “There must have been hundreds of people there, come to look at this wall which had suddenly appeared. And it was not too long before the news people dot there with their cameras, filming the wall live. I think that was when people realised that, whatever we did, the wall could not be photographed or recorded in any way.
“I saw one of the broadcasts later, when I went home. So blurry that you could not see that a wall was there…”
I pause, and take a sip from my pint.
“So is that it?” one of the young men asks. I see that he is drinking half a pint of what smells like cider. Very fashionable, cider. I can’t stand it.
“What? No. no, that’s not it. That was only the beginning. You have to understand that, at the start, we did not know that it was malignant. Yeah, I think that people felt that it was all just some sort of a joke, a wall going up overnight around a tiny little park.
“Some people thought that it was just some sort of art installation. Other people thought that it might have been some sort of a prank. It was expected that somebody would come forwards to say that they were responsible. If anybody had, it would have made them famous all over Japan. But nobody ever came forwards.
“People began coming from abroad to look at the wall, as its fame spread. All sort of strange people came to look at it, from America and from Europe. And each person seemed to have their own theories as to what this wall was about. You had faded hippies saying that the wall had been built by the Japanese government, although they did not seem to know why they would put a big white wall around a small park. There were people who said that the wall had been built by little grey men who had come out of their flying saucers to build the wall, perhaps as some strange form of communication.”
I take another sip from my pint. It is suitably bitter.
“There is one other thing which I haven’t mentioned, and that there were no animals inside the wall, in that little park which had been surrounded by the white stone. I don’t mean that there weren’t any cats or dogs trapped inside. I don’t mean that at all. No, I mean that there were no animals at all. There was the grass, and the earth, and that was it. People went the other side of the wall, using ladders, to look if there were any clues on the other side of the wall to what it was all about.
“No clues were found, and no animals, not even insects. In fact, in all the time that I think that people watched the wall, I don’t think that any birds landed on the far side of that white stone wall. Perhaps they knew better than to do something like that.”
“What do you mean?” one of the young men asks.
“I’m getting to that.” I say. I know that I now have the full attention of these two men. They aren’t even touching their drinks at the moment.
“Well, what happened is that the Japanese government got fed up in having this strange wall around the park. There had been questions in the Diet as to where the wall had come from, and what should be done about it. The first question was not answered. But the Diet reached the conclusion that the wall had to come tumbling down, no matter who had built it.
“The official explanation was that people should have access to the park again. But the park was only grass and a bench. It was not like anybody had used it before the wall had appeared. Everybody knew that the explanation was bull. The real reason was that the Japanese government was embarrassed by the appearance of this wall, and the fact that nobody could explain where it had come from. Destroy the wall, they must have thought, and everything would go back to normal. All the people who had come to look at the wall would go home, and it would be back to business as usual. Except that it was not going to turn out to be quite that easy.
“Before the wall could be destroyed, though, it expanded. I don’t mean that it grew any higher. No, it expanded to have more area inside of it. Before the pavement around the park had been outside of the wall. But, suddenly, one morning, it was seen that the wall was right up to the road, and that it had swallowed up the pavement. Somehow the wall had rearranged itself to have the pavement inside it, rather than outside.
“Just like nobody had seen the wall appear, nobody saw the wall expand to control more territory. It was just noticed that it controlled more territory. Yeah, I think that is the right word for the area inside the wall: territory.
“It was then that the bulldozers went in to try to knock the wall down. If it had expanded any further then it would have formed a hazard to traffic. As at was it made it difficult for any drivers in cars to see around the corner of the road.
“You would have thought that would have been the end of the wall, and that the bulldozers would not have had all that much trouble knocking it down, even if it was made out of stone. But that was not the case. The bulldozers simply bounced off the wall. They had not done it any damage at all.
There were actually protesters there when the bulldozers came. The protesters tried to stop the bulldozers knock the wall down. Of course the protesters need not have bothered. But they had had no idea just how tough that wall was.
“Protesters? About a wall?”
“Well, it was not like it was an ordinary wall, was it? Some of the protesters were really weird. They said that the government wanted to knock down the wall because they could not understand it, and authority always tried to destroy what it did not understand.
“Anyway, like I said, the protesters need no have bothered, because the bulldozers did not harm the wall.
“The Japanese Diet then ordered in manual labourers to try to dissemble the wall. Is that the right word, dissemble? I can never recall whether it is dissemble or disassemble.”
“Disassemble.” one of the young men says.
“Disassemble. I stand corrected. Anyway, the workers didn’t disassemble the wall. Their picks did not even scratch the wall, no matter how hard they swung them.
“They even tried explosive charges. Now those should have collapsed the wall. But they didn’t affect it, either. I could actually hear the explosions going off where I lived. I went down to have another look at the wall. But it was still standing. The explosions had not even left marks on the white stone.
“I’d stopped coming down to look at the wall by then. Nobody in the city bothered coming to look at the wall by then. We all accepted it. It was only outsiders who bothered to come along to look at it. Not that there was really a lot to see. It was only a plain white stone wall, after all. But after hearing those explosions I went along to look at the wall, expecting to see that it had been reduced to rubble. But, of course, there had been no change at all.
“After the failure with the explosives the powers that be gave up trying to destroy the wall, at least for the moment. I guess that it was embarrassing to try to destroy a wall and fail, and Japanese politicians tend not to like end up looking foolish.
“Anyway, interest in the wall slowly died down. It became just one of those things. And nothing happened for around a month or so. Then came the day that the wall expanded to control more territory. It expanded to have an entire city block within it.
“It was realised what had happened some time during the middle of the night. It was probably only minutes after the wall expanded that it was noticed what had happened. But, like before, nobody saw the wall actually expand its area.
“The local police were told what had happened, and they turned up to find that the wall was now around an entire city block. The police decided to evacuate the people in that city block, and bring them over the wall. So ladders were got hold of, and put against the wall, so that people could climb over.
“The police went down into the area, to get the people out, but they found the entire city block was now in darkness, as though the electricity had been turned off. This was a place which never slept, either, an area full of pachinko parlours and hostess bars. It even had a love hotel.
“The police went into the various buildings, to tell the people that they should come out of the area. The police searched the area, going into the pachinko parlours to find that they were deserted, with none of the people who you might expect to see in them. There was nobody in the bars, either, neither staff or customer. There was no sign of violence – no blood, or anything like that, no sign of a ruckus. But there were drinks which were only half-finished, as though somebody had been torn away from them at a moment’s notice.
“The police searched the entire city block, not giving up the search until midday. But they did not find a single living creature. They did not even find any pets; not one cat, not one dog. And no idea where they had gone to.
“They tried the electric, expecting to find that they had fused, or something. But all the power worked. Appliances had simply been turned off; or turned themselves off, I don’t know.
“Like I said, around midday the police gave up the search. By then they had realised that they were not going to find any survivors. Everybody had disappeared, with no explanation as to how. But I reckon that as soon as the wall had expanded around the city block was the exact moment when the people had disappeared. And they were never found. Not a single person who had disappeared was ever found.
“The police retreated, out of the area controlled by the wall. And they reported what they had found.
“In the afternoon the JSDF turned up. The government had decided that it had had enough of this wall. Having some strange wall going around a park which was hardly used was one thing.
“The JSDF set up roadblocks, not allowing any traffic come down close to the wall. Then they brought in the bulldozers for a second time, having another go at getting id of this wall. But they were no more successful this time than they were the first. As before the bulldozers failed to even make the slightest mark on the white stone of the wall.
“Then the city blocks next to the wall were evacuated, at least in part, just in case the wall somehow managed to expand its territory yet again, and more people suddenly disappeared. But not everybody wanted to go. This was the centre of a large city, after all, and you cannot just shut down a black’s worth of businesses, let alone several blocks. Millions of yen were lost every day that those places were closed.
“Some places simply refused to close down, despite the danger, and the police did not press the case. If people wanted to risk disappearing into thin air I guess that it was up to them. There was also the possibility that some of the businesses were being run by one of the local yakuza gang. You did not really want to argue with them, I guess, not even if you were the police; and, at the time, they ran some of the sleazier nightspots in the city. Maybe the police were hoping that if the wall advanced again that some of the yakuza might disappear.
“Anyway, I told you about the barriers, didn’t I?”
“Good. Well, those barriers were manned by the JSDF – that’s the Japanese Self-Defence Force. It had been noted that nobody had ever seen the wall advance, and it was reasoned that, if somebody kept watch on the wall all of the time, then it would be unable to expand the territory which it controlled. It would not make the wall go away. But if it could be stopping expanding then that would be something.
“Well, it didn’t work. One of the soldiers at one of the barriers glanced towards where one of the other barriers should have been and saw only white wall. The wall had expanded down one of the roads, going up to the pavement on the far side. One of the barriers was now inside the territory controlled by the wall.
“The JSDF soldiers on the outside climbed up onto the top of the wall to look down at their comrades, who should now have been inside the wall, next to the barrier which had been swallowed up. Except that they weren’t there. They had disappeared, just like the other people who had been swallowed up by the wall. The barrier was still there. But the soldiers had gone, weapons and all. And they had not had enough time to even give any sort of a warning. They had not got to fire off a single shot.
“The JSDF soldiers had disappeared, like the other people. And, like the other people, they were never seen again.
“Attempts were then made to destroy the wall for the third time. I think that the government were getting pretty frantic by then. They simply did not know what to do. But I think that they had realised that the wall was something malignant and truly evil.
“More explosives were tried, carefully set so that, when they blew the wall apart, none of the buildings nearby were damaged. There was some scientist who came on the TV back then, saying that if they could just breach one section of the wall then the entire wall would collapse.
“These explosives damaged the wall no more than the first lot had. A flamethrower was used, in some bizarre attempt to burn a whole through the white stone. But it did not even create any scorch marks. As the flamethrower had failed welding gear was tried. But that didn’t work, either.
“Acid was tried, in an attempt to dissolve the stone. But it resolutely refused to dissolve. It appeared to be entirely impervious to harm.
“There seemed to be no way to stop the advance of the strange white wall.”
I pause, and take another sip of my beer. I think that these two young men have almost forgotten their half pints of cider. They are hanging on my every word.
“Well, they never did work out how to stop the wall. In the end they did not need to, because, a few days after it had swallowed up those JSDF guys, the wall vanished. It disappeared as though it had never been there. It was actually seen to disappear. One second it was there, and then it was gone. It was not disassembled. It simply vanished.
“There is not much more to say about the incident of the wall. The people who were surrounded by the wall were never seen again. They have gone. It’s been around thirty years now, so I don’t suppose that we will ever see them again.”
“So where did they go to?” one of the guys asks.
“Another dimension?” I reply. But it is nothing more than a guess. “You know, I’ve had three decades to think about the wall, and I still can’t say for certain what it really was. But I don’t think that it was just a wall. I think that it was something a lot more sinister than that. But it was something which looked like a white stone wall in our dimension.
“I think that it was an attempt at invasion – not by aliens, but from some other dimension. That is the best which I have been able to come up with, after thirty odd years of thinking about the incident. I think it was an invasion, but that, in the end, it was called off, for reasons which I don’t know. Otherwise, what is there which could have stopped the wall from expanding to encircle the entire world?”
I stand up and finish my pint of beer. Time to go home – there is a programme which I want to see on the television tonight.
“There is one other thong, though.” I say, as a parting comment. “I said that you couldn’t take pictures or record the wall, and that is one of the reasons that I think that the wall was of some extra-dimensional origin. But it does not just seem to be mechanical devices which the wall affected. I find that people I knew, who were there at the time, have since forgotten that they saw the wall, and that they now think that it was nothing but an urban legend. The wall does not like being remembered. But I remember. I’m not going to forget. Somebody needs to remember what happened back then, just in case the wall should ever reappear.”
I walk out of the pub, before the two guys can say anything to me. It’s cold outside, so I put on my scarf and gloves. Then I walk home, my thoughts still on that strange white stone wall.
I remember. Somebody has to.