2014年09月03日

エンジェルファンタジー|プロローグ

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月よ、そなたは美しい。 The moon, you are so beautiful.

プロローグ 古(いにしえ)の時代  ≪Japanese version≫

 広い野辺を吹き抜けて行く一陣の風は、咲き誇ったパステル色の花々を揺らしながら透き通る泉の水面にさざ波を描いた。八重の霞(かすみ)が花びらを伝う朝露(あさつゆ)となって、白々と明ける空の光で刹那(せつな)の宝石に変えられていた。そこかしこに長い影を伸ばした樹木の緑の間からも、彩り豊かな愛らしい衣を纏(まと)う妖精たちが一斉に飛び出して来たのである。戯(たわむ)れる一面の花々には茎や根がなかった。葡萄(ぶどう)に似た果実が七色の房を成して、地面からは離れた空間にぽっかりと浮かんでいるのであった。可憐(かれん)な花のひとつひとつもまた、真下の果実とは無関係であるかの様に宙に浮かんで咲いていた。
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Prologue Ancient times  ≪英語版≫

 The wind which blew through the large field drew ripples on the water surface of the spring which was transparent after swaying a lot of flowers of a pastel color. The haze became a morning dew on the petals and was changed into momentary jewelry with the light of dawn. Many fairies who wore clothes with a beautiful lovely color came out from between the leaves of the tree which made the long shadow too. The flowers with which they play had neither a stalk nor a root. The fruits similar to a grape were bunches of seven colors. It had floated in the space away from the ground. The flowers on fruits also floated in the other air, and were blooming.

 大きな翼に風を受けて舞い降りているのは、息を呑むほどに見目麗しい座天使たちだ。さながら湖の如(ごと)くに広大な聖泉で、白い翼と裸身を清める為に沐浴(もくよく)をするのであった。遥かに続く浅い瀬は、瞬く間に周りの水辺までも埋め尽くされて行った。上位の天使であるが故(ゆえ)に、天上の目に留まる場で外見を競い合っているのだ。天使たちは皆、両性具有(りょうせいぐゆう)であった。森羅万象(しんらばんしょう)を司る神々からも、愛や美を司る女神たちからも、その寵愛(ちょうあい)を受け得る高い身分の天使だったのである。新たな神の父や母となる事さえ夢ではなかった。天地創造以来の悠久の時を、こうした不文律(ふぶんりつ)に従いながら、今日までの天界の繁栄を滔々(とうとう)と築いて来たのであった。だが、この暗黙の慣(なら)わしを壊し兼ねない者が現れた。あまりに美しい最高位の熾天使(してんし)が、まさかに同じ年代で生まれて来てしまったのである。
「もう神は他の者を見てはくれない。夢中であの幼子だけを眺めている。」
「何もかもルシファーが変えてしまった。」
「忌々(いまいま)しい。」
「ルシファーが成長すればするほど、我らがみすぼらしく見えて行くに違いない。」
「思い知らせてやるべきだ。私たちの憤りを。」
「思い知らせてやるべきだ。この口惜しさと怒りを。」
木陰で重なり合う暗い瞳たちが、沐浴を終えた無垢(むく)な熾天使を遠巻きにして睨み付けている。羨望に囚(とら)われた若い天使の一団だった。
「それだけでは足らない。」「孤独と絶望の中で死の恐怖に震え上がらせてやるのだ。」
秘めたる皆の感情を煽(あお)り立てているのが、熾天使には及ばぬ智天使として生まれたベルゼバブだった。ルシファーが現れるまでは、神の視線を一身に集めて来た存在だったのである。誰よりも強い憎悪を抱いていた。
「どう。美味しいかい。」
「うん!」
金色(こんじき)の髪を心地の良い風に梳(と)かせて、ルシファーは泉から少し離れたお気に入りの花園の中にいた。もぎたての果実の房から一粒を摘(つ)まんで、赤い衣を着た妖精があどけない熾天使の口に押し込んでいたのだ。
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「もっと食べたい。」
「そうさ。もっともっと食べるんだ。」「もっともっと綺麗になればいい。」
「じゃあ、もっともっと食べたい!」
このエデンと呼ばれる花の実は、天使たちに永久(とわ)の美しさをも与えてくれている。しかし、まだ育ち盛りの幼い天使にとって、空腹を満たす喜び以外の意味などなかった。最高位であるルシファーの背中には、純白の対の翼が三組も生えているのだ。その分だけでも食欲が旺盛(おうせい)であるのが当然だった。
「君なら全能なる神が必ずお召しになる。」「そうしたら…。」
小さな妖精シャイタンは、首に下げている大きな鍵をぐっと握り締めた。
「…お母様の事?」
「ルシファーの大いなる力で、虐(しいた)げられている者たちを解放して欲しい。」
苦しげな表情であった。封印された魔界のどこかに、愛する母が閉じ込められているのだ。神に近い力を持つ者でなければ、封印を解く鍵を用いても扉を開く事は出来ない。天を欺(あざむ)いてまで自ら鍵の番人となったのは、心から信じ合える天使に真実を打ち明けて母の命運を託さんが為であった。
「分かってる。」
妖精が自ら友と呼ぶには、身分の違い過ぎる相手でもあった。ましてや下心を抱いて近付いた幼い熾天使だったのだ。それでもルシファーは全てを許して受け入れてくれた。唯一無二の、生涯の友になろうと笑顔で誓ってくれたのである。
「シャイタンのお母様は、私が絶対に助け出してみせるから。」

 The very beautiful angels with big wings had descended to the ground from the sky. They were Thrones. And were purging white wings and their body in the large sacred spring like a lake. Shoal and waterside were filled by huge numbers of angels in an instant. They were competing in beauty for eyes of God. It was because the angels of a higher rank had a chance. All of them were bisexuality. They could be loved from both God and Goddesses. And they could also become the father of new God, or the mother. Followed their own rule, they made The Angel's World prosper during the long period since the Creation. But, the problem which is likely to break this important rule occurred. Suddenly, the most beautiful angel was born in the same generation. the angel was Seraph of the topmost rank.
"Already, all of God cannot look at other Angels. They are looking only at that young angel absorbedly."
"Lucifer has changed everything."
"It’s annoying."
"If Lucifer grows, God will regard us as shabby figure."
"We should remind Lucifer about our indignation."
"We should remind Lucifer about our mortification and anger."
A few dark eyes which overlapped in the shade of a tree had looked with a glare at pure Seraph who finished purification. It was a group of young angels who thought enviable to Lucifer.
"I don’t think that punishment of yours is enough." "You must plunge a disturbance into loneliness and despair, we should terrify Lucifer in fear of death."
The angel who inflamed the secret feeling was Beelzebub of Cherub humbler than Seraph. Beelzebub had monopolized the eyes of God until Lucifer was born. Therefore, this angel held strong hatred rather than everyone.
"How was it? Is it delicious?"
"Yeah, It’s a good taste!"
Lucifer was in a favorite’s garden of flowers, combing its golden hair to a refreshing wind. That was the place which separated from the spring. The fairy who wear red clothes stuffed one of fresh fruits into the mouth of young Seraph.
"I’d like to eat more!"
"It’s OK. You can eat much more." "You can become more beautiful."
"Oh, I’d like to eat much more"
The name of the fruits of this flower was Eden. It continued giving angels eternal beauty. However, the rapidly growing young angel did not know any meanings other than the joy which fulfills a hunger. Lucifer of the topmost rank had three pairs of snow-white wings in the back. Naturally Seraph wanted a lot of nourishment for the wings.
"Omnipotent God will love you certainly." "When you made it, please you…."
Shaytan of the small fairy tight grasped a big key which was hanging from the head.
"…Is that meaning your mother’s problem?"
"Yes, I want Lucifer to release those who are oppressed by the super power of Seraph."
It was painful expression. The mother whom Shaytan loves was confined in somewhere in the devil's world(the place full of evil spirits.) which had sealed by God. Anyone who use the key for the seal could not open a gate of the devil’s world, if it was not an angel with super power close to God. Shaytan deceived God in order to rescue its mother, and became a keeper of the key. Then the small fairy looked for an angel of the topmost rank who can believe from the bottom of its heart.
"I know your wish very well."
The each position were too different if the fairy wanted to call it a friend. Furthermore, Shaytan had approached with a plot to the young Seraph for the own mother. But, Lucifer allowed and accepted all of them. Shaytan heard from the very beautiful Seraph the amazing words. Lucifer of smiling face promised that we become the best friend lifelong.
"I will rescue your mother absolutely."


 最悪の事態が襲い掛かった。あろう事か。神々への反逆を意図していた罪で捕えられ、ルシファーは地の果てにある岩山の牢獄に幽閉(ゆうへい)されてしまったのだ。
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百年もの間、一切の食べ物が与えられなかった。夜は猛吹雪となる極寒(ごくかん)の地で、容疑者にされた幼い熾天使は痩(や)せ衰(おとろ)えて行った。真っ先に金色の長い髪が抜け落ちたのだ。キメ細かな白い肌は無残にヒビ割れ、血の通わなくなった手足が壊死(えし)して行った。吹き荒(すさ)ぶ北風から身を護(まも)る大きな翼も朽(く)ちて、純白の羽が残らずボロキレの様に抜け落ちてしまったのである。終には強烈な腐臭を放つカビが全身を覆い尽くしていた。来る日も来る日も死の恐怖に苛(さいな)まれたのだ。まだ幼いルシファーには神を信じて祈るしかない。祈りを捧げてさえいれば必ず真実が明らかとなって、この悪夢から解放される日がやって来るに違いない。そう信じて疑わなかった。露ほどのやましい気持ちもなかったからだ。天上の神々がまさかにそれを見紛(みまご)う筈(はず)がないではないか。否(いな)、もしかしたら自分は試されていて、全能なる神の愛に相応(ふさわ)しい天使かどうかを観察されているのも知れない。微塵(みじん)も疑いを抱いてはならない、そう考えていた。後少し。もう少しの辛抱なのだと、薄れ行く意識の中で何度も何度も自らに言い聞かせていた。
「これは酷(ひど)い。酷い臭いだ。」
「本当にこんな所にいるのか。信じられん。」「どこもかしこも凍り付いているではないか。」
「凍っておるのにこれほどの腐敗臭がするとは…。いかん。はき気がして来たぞ。」
「鼻が曲がってしまう。手早く済まして立ち去るに限る。」
ある日の夕暮れに現れたのは、神の代わりに審判を行う老いた使徒たちだった。
「いたいた。」「暗くてはっきり見えんが…。」
「あの隅に蹲(うずくま)っているのが、謀反(むほん)を企てたルシファーであろう。」
「ふん、聞くと見るとは大違いだ。」「あんなに醜い姿の天使だったのか。」
「わざわざ我らが問い質(ただ)すまでもあるまい。」「心もかなりの醜さと見た。」
「生きてはおらぬかも知れんのう。」「なにせ百年も忘れられておったのだ。」
「ぶるる。そっ、それにしても寒い。寒過ぎる。」「すぐに判決を言い渡そう。」
「そうだ。それがいい。」「ここは年寄りの長居する場所ではない。」
突き刺す様な北風が、高貴な衣一枚で訪れた使徒たちの結論を急がせた。
「有罪。」
「有罪。」
「ぶるるっ、もちろん有罪。」
ルシファーの耳にも冷酷な審判は聞こえていた。それでも指先ひとつ動かす事が出来ない。小さな声を届かせる力さえ残されてはいなかった。
彼らは牢の結界を解き放ち、この瞬間を待ち侘(わ)びていた無数の魑魅魍魎(ちみもうりょう)に、速(すみ)やかな刑の執行と後始末を命じたのである。現れた時と同様に使徒たちが風に乗って飛び去ると、息も絶え絶えの天使の血肉を貪(むさぼ)るべく、腹を空かせた獰猛(どうもう)な影が牢の入り口へと集まって来た。
「ル、ルシ…ファー。」
一日たりとも忘れた事のない大切な友の声だった。
「やっ…と、見付け…た。」
とめどもなくあふれ出す涙の先に浮かんでいるのは、紛れもないシャイタンであった。
「ごめん…ね。もう…心配…ない。」
小さく非力な妖精が、身の丈ほどもある重い小瓶を抱えていた。濃縮したエデンの花の果汁を詰め込んだ物だ。薄い二枚の羽根で精一杯に支えながら、シャイタンは命をかけて使徒の後を追って来てくれたのである。
「あり…が…と…う。」
だが、ルシファーの言葉は虚しく空を切った。白いドラゴンの細工の施された小瓶(こびん)の中身を友の口に流し終えた途端、二枚の羽根は剥(は)がれてしまい、力尽きた小さな体もろともに地面に落ちて凍り付いて行ったのである。
 十二夜にも渡って、全てを奪われた哀しみの慟哭(どうこく)が、岩山をくり抜いた牢獄の四方に木霊(こだま)した。ルシファーは神を呪った。天の仕打ちを呪った。その心に消し去る事の出来ない邪悪な怨念の焔(ほむら)を宿して行ったのである。十三日目の闇に悪魔と化して唸(うな)りを上げた時、自らの名をサタンと改めたのだった。
「本当に行くのですか。」
ルシファーの美を留めた女性の天使が、おぞましい姿のサタンの背に問い掛けた。
「是非(ぜひ)もない。」「我は魔界を統(す)べてその王となる。」
白い翼が黒い悪魔の巨体を包み込み、肌に触れた刹那に彼女の頬から涙が流れた。
「いつかきっと、再び私たちがひとつになれる事を信じています。」
サタンは己が美と良心を切り離し、闘いの足手まといとなる女の性も捨て去って悪魔と化していたのだ。
「我らが宿命の始まりだ。」
岩山を取り囲んでいた夥(おびただ)しい数の魑魅魍魎も、魔界の封印を解く鍵を手に飛び立つ最強の悪魔に従った。もう二度と如何(いか)なる神にも傅(かしず)く事はない。彼は天界を追われた数多(あまた)の堕(だ)天使たちとも語らって、神に仇(あだ)なす悪魔王となるつもりであった。 
「いつか…きっと。」
真っ白な翼も闇夜の空へと舞い上がった。天界に戻る場所のない美しき堕天使は、神々の目を逃れ得る人間の冥界へと翼を向ける以外になかったのである。

 The worst situation attacked them. It was a false charge. The most beautiful angel was caught for the crime which planned the treason to God, and Lucifer was confined at the prison of the rocky mountain in the end of the ground.
The suspected angel was not given any foods about one hundred years. Young Seraph became thin and declining at the very cold place with violent snowstorm. In every nights, the violent snowstorm was blowing to the prison. Long golden hair fell out first of all. Smooth white skin was cracked cruelly. The limbs with which the blood flow stopped had become necrosis. Even the large wings which protect themselves from the strong north winds decayed, and the all snow-white feather had fallen out. Finally, rotten mold with stink covered the whole body. Young Seraph shook at fear of death day after day. Lucifer only could believe in God and pray for God. When I pray more earnestly, the truth will become clear. And the day when I am released from this nightmare will surely come on too. The young Seraph had considered the future so. It was because there was no guilty feeling in Lucifer. Surely, Heavenly God cannot have been mistaken in good and bad. Omnipotent God might be examining the young angel. Lucifer thought he observe at whether the angel is suitable for own love. I must not have even a small doubt. Probably, It is a already short time. If a short time is put up with, I can return to the spring. In the fading consciousness, Lucifer was persuading own heart many times repeatedly.
"This is severe. It’s a severe smell."
"Is the angel in here really? I cannot believe it." "All the things are frozen."
"The smell is severe although all are frozen. Oh my God! I feel nauseated."
"My nose will break. We should make work finish early and leave immediately."
The elderly Apostles who judge instead of God appeared inthe twilight of a certain day.
"The suspect is there." "It’s darkness and the figure is not in sight clearly."
"I think that Lucifer who planned rebellion has crouched down in that corner."
"It’s different from the figure I heard." "That is too ugly an angel."
"We don’t need to examine it again." "The heart of that angel must also be quite ugly."
"Possibly Lucifer has already died." "Because God forgot it as long as a hundred years."
"My body is shivery. It’s very cold." "We should give a judgment right now."
"Exactly. It‘s a good idea." "Old Apostles must not be in this place for a long time."
Violent north winds hastened a judgment of Apostles who wore noble thin clothes.
"Lucifer is guilty."
"Guilty."
"It‘s unbelievable, so cold…. Of course, guilty."
The ear of Lucifer heard their cruel judgment. But the angel could not move even a fingertip. The power of making a small voice did not exist in the body, either.
They canceled the seal of the prison. Apostles ordered many monsters which were waiting for this moment to the predation and the early execution of punishment. Apostles rode on the wind and flew away like they appeared. In order to eat a dying angel's flesh, the hungry ferocious shadows gathered to an entrance of the prison.
"Lu…Luci…fer."
It was a voice of the most important fellow. It was the best friend‘s voice. The angel did not forget the voice even a day.
"I…found out you…at last."
It had floated in the air in front of the angel’s tear. It was Shaytan truly.
"I’m…sorry. Yo…You can…already feel…e…easy."
The small powerless fairy had a heavy little bottle which was same as own height. The condensed Eden fruit juice had filled it. Carried it hard with the thin wings, and Shaytan pursued the Apostles desperately.
"T…Tha…nk yo…u."
But, the voice of Lucifer did not reach the best friend's ear. Shaytan finished putting the contents of the bottle of the form of a white dragon into the best friend's mouth. Just then, thin wings separated from fairy’s back, and the powerless small body also fell to a ground and froze at instant.
 It continued for twelve nights. The voice of the sadness from which all were taken sounded in the four quarters of the prison of a rocky mountain. Lucifer cursed God. And cursed the irresponsible Heaven. The flame of the vicious deep-seated grudge blazed in the heart of Seraph. When it metamorphosed into an evil spirit in the darkness on the thirteenth night, Lucifer declared own name is Satan.
"Do you leave really?"
The female angel who had remaining the beauty of Lucifer said to Satan’s back of a horrifying figure.
"This is the not avoided fate." "I unify the devil's world and become the king."
She wrapped the huge body of the black evil spirit in white wings, and just as the face touched skin, the tear flowed on the cheek.
"Someday, I believe again that we can return to one."
Satan had separated both the beauty and the conscience, and had also separated obstructive parts of female for the battle.
"We have to struggle with each destinies."
Many monsters which had surrounded a rocky mountain followed the strongest evil spirit that had a key of the devil's world and flew away. Lucifer never attend any God any longer. He was going to become the king of the evil spirits which turns against God in cooperation with other angels banished from heavens.  
"Someday, I will…."
Snow-white wings also flew away to the dark sky. The beautiful angel without a place which returns to Heavens could not go anywhere except the Spiritual World of the human being which can escape the eye of God.

posted by 風のベル at 22:06| Comment(0) | TrackBack(0) | 小説 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

エンジェルファンタジー|第一話1

エピソード1(現代)

「月の上に棲む悪魔」

 思いも寄らない告知をされたのは、出産後わずかに半年が過ぎた頃だった。彼女が二十九歳の誕生日を迎えた翌月の、麗らかな小春日和(こはるびより)の午前の出来事である。右の乳房を全摘してからは三年が経過していた。原発がどの部位のがんであっても、医療者にとっての再発は患者の死を意味している。息を吹き返したがんの進行を阻止する手立ては、いまだ現代医学のどこにも存在してはいないのだった。出来得る限りの時を稼ぐ延命か、安らかな死を迎える為の緩和ケアが、終末期に残された医療行為の全てとなる。それぞれの過酷な現実とどう向き合うのか。待ったなしの苦悩が患者とそれを支える者たちとに突き付けられるのであった。しかも、彼女の場合は勢いに勝る若年性(じゃくねんせい)なのだ。成長の早い病魔が瞬く間に全身を蝕(むしば)んで行った。
 橋本優子。父親が都市銀行の支店長を勤める、経済的には恵まれた家庭で生まれ育った。彼女自身も地方銀行に就職して、将来を期待された若手の銀行マンと結ばれたのである。絵に描いた様な幸福が約束されているハズだった。男の子が二人、女の子が一人。愛し合っていたハズの夫と交わした、結婚前の大切な約束であった。新築したばかりの戸建ての家の庭には、彼女の好きな季節の花々が今も色鮮やかに咲いていたハズだったのである。
「眠っているのか。」
ずっと単身赴任をしている父親が、週末だけは帰宅して病院に通って来てくれている。ベッドに横たわる娘に生気のない表情を向けた母親は、がんの突起物でびっしりと覆われた優子の頬に手を触れながら力なく頷(うなず)いて見せた。
「昨日からモルヒネの量を増やして貰ったから。」「眠っているのか、朦朧(もうろう)としているのか…。」
「そうか。」「そんなに痛がったのか。」
「薬が切れたらすぐに悲鳴を上げるわ。」
医師は予後(よご)一年の命と診断していた。まだ五カ月しか経っていない。だが既に、肺にも肝臓にも、骨や脳にまでも転移していた。体液の循環と排泄(はいせつ)が滞った為に、行き場のない水分が下肢(かし)や腹腔(ふくくう)に溜まってパンパンに膨れ上がっている。臓器に収まり切らなくなったがんの塊(かたまり)が、硬貨ほどの大きさで無数に皮膚を押し上げていた。真っ先に左の乳房を征服した病魔は糜爛(びらん)となって、出来たばかりの瘡蓋(かさぶた)までも食い破りながら、白濁(はくだく)した臭い膿(うみ)を噴き出しているのだ。オピオイドの疼痛(とうつう)コントロールがなければ、堪(た)え難い激痛にのた打ち回る事になるのであった。脳への転移は家族にとってさらに深刻で、もう母親の顔さえ判別が出来なくなって来ている。見知らぬ者の中で目を覚ましても、この世の地獄以外は待っていない。こうして安静にさせておく事が最善であると、熟練した看護師たちには勧められていた。
 本人が再発を知らされてからの二か月は、心の奥底で奇跡を信じていたのかも知れない。生来の明るさを絶やさずに笑顔を振り撒いていたからだ。一歳に満たない愛娘に母の想いを遺したいと、ビデオレターを添えた二十年分もの誕生日プレゼントをテキパキと準備していたのである。銀行時代の同僚や親友たちとも積極的に会っていた。手強い病魔と闘う自らの決意を、泣き笑いを交えながら熱く語っていたのである。しかし、三か月を過ぎた頃から、がんは彼女の密かな期待を打ち砕いて行った。瞬く間に自立歩行が出来なくなって、家事の一切が高いハードルとなってしまったのだ。信じ難い速さで侵されて行く肉体は、絶望の淵(ふち)に立つ優子の精神をも蝕(むしば)んだのである。彼女は笑わなくなった。それどころか。泣きじゃくる我が子の声にも耳を塞いで、育児放棄にまで陥ってしまったのだ。迫り来る死の現実を受け容れる事が出来なかった。いつか見た映画の主人公の美しい最期を、本気で物まねしていた自分に愕然とさせられたのだった。
 僅かしかなかった時を、本当はどう過ごすべきであったのか。自分が娘に遺すべきだった本心からのメッセージとは一体何であったのか。父にも母にも我儘(わがまま)ひとつ言っては来なかった。どうしようもない恐ろしさに震えるこの身を、ずっとずっと母に抱き締めていて欲しかったのかも知れない。一晩中でも父の胸に顔を埋めて、どうして自分なのだと大声で泣き明かしたかったのかも知れなかった。だが出来なかった。何も出来ないままに、心残りだけを置き去りにして来たのである。
「あいつは…、悟…君は?」
母は苦虫を噛み潰した様な顔をして、項垂(うなだ)れていた首を横に振った。
「梓(あずさ)の世話があるからって。今日も来られないそうです。」
「親が、あいつの親がいるだろ。」「向こうの両親に預ければいいじゃないか。」
「今はとても忙しいらしいわ。」
「何だって!」
「悟さんも、親にまで迷惑を掛けたくない、そう言ってました。」
「迷惑だあ!この子が!!」「ほんとにそう言ったのか!」
「息子は貧乏くじを引いた。」「あちらのご両親はきっとそう思っていらっしゃる。」
父は思わず舌打ちをした。次の瞬間には込み上げる悔しさを抑え切れずに、熱くなる目頭を天井に向けて歯を食い縛ったのだ。
「貧乏くじ…。そんな言い方は止めてくれ。」
最新のホスピスには個室ばかりが並んでいた。どの病室の患者も一様に、余命は三カ月以内と宣告されている。穏やかな笑みを浮かべて天寿を過ごす者もあれば、脳メタによる譫妄(せんもう)で弄便(ろうべん)を仕出かす困り者もいた。看護師に暴言を吐いたり、テレビ台の上によじ登ったり、手の付けられない言動で、とことんまで迷惑を掛けてから亡くなる者も少なくないのだ。その患者たちに比べれば、優子はもう死んでいるに等しいのかも知れなかった。だが彼女は、ある心残りを諦(あきら)め切れずにいた。それ故に、安らかな眠りに就けるセデーションを拒んで、効果が切れれば猛烈な痛みだけが待っている医療用麻薬の延命を望んで、今日まで命を繋(つな)いで生きて来たのである。
「どうでした?」
病室を出た二人は、廊下の先にある休憩室の隅に腰を下ろしていた。
「ああ。思ってた通りだ。」
「そう。やっぱり…。」
「銀行が取引きしている会社の社長令嬢だそうだ。」「大学を出たばかりらしいが、父親もあいつの事をいたく気に入っていて、自宅にも度々招待していると書いてあった。」
両親は興信所を使ってまで調べ上げたのだ。疑惑は確信へと変わっていた。
「優子さえいなくなれば、あいつは直ぐに逆玉と言う訳だな。」
母は黙って聞いていた。裏切られた娘の悔しさを思えば、筆舌(ひつぜつ)に尽くし難い怒りを覚えるばかりだ。とは言え、孫の梓の未来もその悟の胸先三寸に掛かっているのであった。今ここで無暗に騒ぎ立てれば、どんな災いが梓に及ぶか知れたものではない。優子もそれを望むまいと考えていた。攻撃的な表現で感情を剥き出しにする夫を前に、彼女は慎重な判断を自らに課していた。
「あ、お早うございます。」
他には誰もいない休憩室に声を掛けて来たのは、このホスピスの病棟全体を預かる師長の袴田(はかまだ)夕美だった。特別な教育を受けた緩和ケアの認定看護師でもある。その後ろには疼痛コントロールを専門とする主任看護師の河合弘子と、褥瘡(じょくそう)で認定の資格を取った杉山静香師長の姿も見えていた。家族の様に優子の身を案じてくれて、先の見通しなども懇切丁寧(こんせつていねい)に話してくれている。夫婦は、ここを選んだ事だけが不幸中の幸いであったと、心から彼女たちを信頼して安堵(あんど)もしていた。両親は憐れな位に繰り返し頭を下げて、何も知らずに眠る娘の病室へと引き上げて行った。

Episodoe1 (Present age)

Act.1  The Evil Spirits Which Live Above The Moon

 Suddenly, she was informed of the diagnosis unbelievable. It was the day which passed half a year, after she gave birth to the baby. And it was in the morning like a bright spring of next month when she herself celebrated the twenty-ninth birthday. Three years had passed since all breast on the right side were excised. The relapse was meaning a patient's death to doctors, even if it was any primary cancer or part. Contemporary medicine did not still have the method of completely stopping progress of the cancers which relapsed. The life-prolonging treatment for the several months or the palliative care for peaceful death were the last medical practice left to the patient of the end term. The persons concerned needed to consider each severe situation. Abrupt suffering troubled a patient and the persons supporting it. Furthermore, she was juvenile cancer which is powerful more than elder patient’s cancers. The early tumor of growth had spread to the whole body at short time.
 Yuko Hashimoto. Economically, she was blessed because her father had worked as the branch manager of the city bank. She herself also found a job at the regional bank, and married a young bank clerk who was with a promising future. She had been promised ideal happiness too. The two boys and the one girl. They hoped to become three children's parents. In the yard of a built new house, probably her favorite flowers of four seasons had bloomed now vividly.
"Is she sleeping?"
The man was Yuko’s father who had been relocating to a new branch without his family. He always had come to this hospital during weekends. The mother turned her face which had no vitality to the daughter who lie on a bed. And the mother was bowed in assent feebly, when she touched with a hand to Yuko's cheek which was closely covered by the protuberances of cancer.
"Because the quantity of morphine was increased and dispensed from yesterday." "I don’t know she is sleeping now, or consciousness makes it dim."
"Really?" "Did she complain of the pain severe so?"
"But, if morphine goes out, she will scream immediately."
The doctor in charge was diagnosing Yuko’s remaining days as one year. But Only five months had passed. But already, the cancer had metastasize to a lung, liver and the bone, and the brain. The water which could not go anywhere accumulated in the leg or the abdominal cavity, and had swelled them. Because, circulation of body fluid stopped and excretion became difficult. The lump of the cancer which came out from internal organs was pushing up the skin innumerably in the size like a coin. The tumor which conquered the left breast first had become the inflammation, and tore it off with the own power to just made scab. It was blowing out the stinking pus which became white cloudy. If there was no pain control of Opioid, she had to suffer from intolerable pang. Metastasis to a brain was more serious for the family, she could not already make distinction of her mother's face. Even if she woke up in the unknown peoples, waiting for her was only the hell on earth. The nurses of expert recommended that calm is a best choice for Yuko.
 Possibly for two months since she heard the relapse of cancer, she believed the miracle from the heart. Always Yuko kept bright expression, and she was acting with smile. She wanted to leave the Yuko's mind to the beloved daughter who is less than one year old, and was preparing the twenty presents for the birthdays of twenty years which attached the video letter. She also saw the coworkers of bank age and the best friends of university actively. She was telling eagerly the determination to fight with a strong tumor, in laughs and tears. However, when it went over three months, cancer broke her secret expectation. Unassisted walking became impossible immediately and all the housekeeping became difficult. Her whole body was invaded with the speed which is hard to believe. The invader also attacked till the mind of Yuko who despaired. She stopped laughing. And she closed the ear also to her baby who cries in loud voice. It was the neglect. Yuko was not able to accept the actual death which approaches. She froze by realized own fault. Because, she imitated seriously of the beautiful last scene of some heroines of famous movies who saw in the past.
Yuko did not know what to do truly in short time. What was true message which she should present for the beloved daughter? Yuko never told own parents selfish wishes. In all the time, possibly I had wished the mother to give a tight hug to me who trembles with fear of death. Possibly I had wished to depend on the father's arms and cry in an all night. Possibly I had wished to ask him the reason why I must die. It was too late, but Yuko thought so. She could not do ever one of them. She wasted precious time and was bound by the regret which nothing made to fulfill.
"Did not Satoru come here?"
Satoru was Yuko's husband. The mother meant in silence Satoru is not coming who made unpleasant expression on her face.
"Satoru said that he has to take care of Azusa."
"Why!?" "Satoru has the parents too." "He should leave to his parents the care of Azusa."
"But Satoru said that they are very busy now."
"What"
"He doesn’t want to make trouble for own parents. Satoru also told me so."
"Trouble Our daughter’s thing is a trouble!?" "Did he say so really"
"The son was led on into buying rubbish." "His parents surely think so."
The father clucked his tongue. He could not put up with the regret which wells up. Next moment, he turned watery eyes to the ceiling and gritted his tooth.
"Rubbish…. Stop such a way of speaking."
In the newest hospice, many one-person rooms were located. The remaining days of the patients of all the sickrooms were less than three months. There were those who pass the last moment with a quiet smile. But there were some persons who did coprophilia suddenly. It was delirium by the metastasis of a brain. Other patients vomited abusive language to the nurses. Other patients climbed on television stands. They were freewheeling in the hospice. When compared with those patients, it was able to say that Yuko is already dead. However she could not give up only one hope. By its reason, she resisted the sedation which makes peaceful sleep. If the effect of morphine finishes, the violent pang was waiting for the patient. Although, she dared to have chosen it.
"How was the result of investigation?"
They who came out of the sickroom sat on the chair of the corner of a lounge.
"Yes. The result was the same as our doubt."
"It’s a sad report."
"She is the daughter of president of the bank’s customer company, I heard."
"The daughter has just graduated from the university." "But the father is pleased with Satoru, and had invited him to their house repeatedly. It’s a report of investigation."
Yuko's parents made the detective investigate Satoru. Their doubt changed to truth.
"If Yuko dies, he can win a promotion right now."
The mother was hearing it calmly. She felt only intense anger, if they consider only the regret of the betrayed daughter. However, the future of a grandchild's Azusa was also influenced by thinking of Satoru. Now, if they blamed him, she had worried that more sad misfortune may attack Azusa. The mother thought Yuko would not like to do so too. She had burdened herself with prudent judgment, looking at the husband who exposed anger by candid expression.
"Hi! Good morning."
It was Yumi Hakamada of the head nurse in charge of the whole ward of this hospice that greeted to the parents of the lounge. She was Certified-nurse of the palliative care which learned special education. In her back, there were Hiroko Kawai of the charge nurse who is specialist of the pain control, and were Shizuka Sugiyama of the head nurse who is Certified-nurse of bedsore. They worried about Yuko like the family and also told to the parents the future prospect carefully. This hospice which we chose were correct answers. The parents who trust them from the heart thought so. They bowed to the nurses repeatedly and returned to the sickroom of the sleeping daughter who cannot know anything. The middle-aged couple seemed tired and pitiful.

 午後のラウンドを終えた袴田たち三人が、ナースステーションの奥の準備室へと戻って来ていた。身体科の医師や精神科の医師、それに技能を有する看護師らとチームを組んで、オーダーのあった他の病棟の患者にも緩和ケアを行っている。終末期以外の痛みを伴うがん患者は、こうしたエキスパートによるサポート医療を気軽に受ける事が出来るのだ。
「北6階の伊藤和子さん、来週には退院出来そうです。」
「そう!」「良かったね!」
「袴田師長が言われた通り、当初の退院予定より早かったです。」
直立不動で背後にいる河合が、電子カルテに看護記録を打ち込む彼女に報告していた。
「南4階の佐藤一郎さんですが。」
「あの前立腺がんのお父さんだね。」
「ええ。奥さんが不安で夜眠れないと…。」「精神科の予約を取って貰いました。」
国立の医科大学病院がある大都市に隣接した、高度経済成長期までは貿易で栄えた港湾地区の市立市民病院であった。市町村合併に伴う公的医療機関の統廃合で、新たに建てられた巨大な箱モノには、膨大な数の医療者と職員たちが犇(ひし)めき合っている。看護師だけでも千人に届かんとしていた。
この公のマンモス病院に限った事ではないが、地域の医師の多くが大学病院の医局に在籍していて、縦の支配と手厚い保護を受けながら従属的な勤務に甘んじている。博士と呼ばれて華々しく医学会で活躍する教授たちとは違って、生涯が丸抱えながら単調な標準治療のみに従事する彼らは正しく公務員であった。訴訟のリスクばかりを怖れていて、無難な選択肢以外は決して行わない。驚くほど手先の不器用な医師や、殆(ほとん)どメスなど握った事のない医師も少なくはなかった。自らの治療方針に疑念を持つ患者や、手土産を持参しない患者には露骨に態度を変えて、インフォームドコンセントどころか、患者の訴える辛い症状にさえ耳を傾けない医師も数多くいるのだ。密室に近い院内でのセクハラやパワハラは常態化していて、足繁く自らを訪ねて来る薬品会社との癒着(ゆちゃく)も半ば公然と行われている。無論、全ての医師がそうと言う訳ではない。だが志の低い彼らと同様に、あるいはそれ以上に、一般社会の常識とはかけ離れた思想信条を持つ看護師たちがいるのも、彼らに身を任せるしかない患者にとっての不幸な現実であった。
「ホスピスの橋本優子さんですが…。」
袴田の反応を窺う様に河合が切り出した。
「え、彼女が何。」
言葉を返したのは隣で腰掛けている杉山だった。
「大橋先生からモヒの量を減らせと言われました。」
「あっ、あ、そう。」「つまり…、セデーションに持ち込めって事?」
「はい、たぶん。」
「まあ、ここんとこホスピスが満床だからね。」「またお偉い大学さんからの圧力って訳か。」
「医局から三人ほど頼まれてるみたいです。」
同輩の師長である杉山も、無表情のままでPCに向かう袴田に目を移した。
「いいんじゃないかなあ。」
袴田は如何(いか)にも断定的なセリフを平然と言い放った。
「あの子、一昨日から死臭がしてた。」「ね、杉山師長。そうでしたよね。」
向き合う画面からは目を離さない。まともに論じる気もないのだ。
「う、うん。そう…だったかな。あ、…してたね。」「うん。してた。確かにしてたわ。」
「長くて二週間でしょ。」「いいじゃない、それで。」
「でも橋本さんは石川管理師長の…。」
若い河合は思わず口を挿(はさ)んでいた。
「だから何。」「それって病院の経営に関係あるかしら。」「慈善事業じゃないからね。」
「それは、そうですけど…。」
「大橋先生は大学でもお顔が広いから当然だわ。」「来年度は乳腺の城田先生も期限切れだし、教授とかの機嫌損ねたら大変かもね。」「稼ぎ頭がいなくなるかもしれない。」
外科副部長の大橋と皆が一目置く袴田が、二年も前から不倫の関係にある事を知らぬ者はない。河合が報告するまでもなく、二人の間では既に話が出来ていたのだ。
「大体さあ、親も親なんだよね。」「あの状態見て諦めないのが不思議。」
河合は胸を締め付けられる思いがした。袴田の看護師としての知識と経験は群を抜いている。何かと口煩(くちうるさ)い看護局長からの評価も高く、院内では諸々の委員会にも異例の出席を求められていた。そればかりではない。緩和ケアをテーマにした講演の依頼は引きも切らず、医療界での多岐に渡る人脈にも目を見張るものがあった。結婚、出産、子育てを経た五十代前半にして、今も進化を続ける野心的な勉強家なのだ。しかし、その半面で彼女の傲慢さは折り紙付でもあった。偽善的な独裁者が白衣を纏っていると言い換えても過言ではない。そう。いわゆる天使とはほど遠い生き様の看護師なのだ。自らの理想とするホスピスの運営に異を唱える者は、例えそれが死を目前にした患者であっても容赦しない。橋本優子の場合も、当初から目の敵にされていた。袴田が奨める緩和ケアを拒み続けて、土壇場まで猛烈な痛みと闘って来たからだった。河合はその苦しい胸の内を打ち明けられていた。心の底では優子の一助になってやりたいと考えていたのである。だが、どうしても袴田に事情を話す気にはなれなかった。耳を貸す訳がないと分かっているのだ。
「うふっ、モヒが効かなくなったって言えば諦めるわ。」「絶対見ていられないから。」
杉山もまた河合からは事情を聞かされていた。それでも、袴田の決定に抗(あらが)う事はなかった。さわらぬ神に祟(たた)りなしなのだ。
「あっ、やだーっ!」「もうこんな時間なんだ。デスカンファレンスに行かなきゃ!」
袴田にとっては、もはや話し合うべき事など残っていない。患者の一人一人に深く関わる時間も、感情を移入する思考も持ち合わせてはいなかったからである。
「ほんと忙しいわ!」「行って来まーす!」

 Hakamada with others who finished the afternoon round had returned to a inner room of a Nurse-station. Doctors were a surgeon and a psychiatrist. And special nurses' team. Hakamada and medical staff had given palliative care to the other ward’s patient who required it too. The painful cancer patient who is not the end term also could receive such support medical treatment freely.
"Kazuko Ito who is in the sixth floor of the north ward can leave during next week."
"Oh! sounds excellent!"
"It‘s earlier than the original leaving hospital schedule as Hakamada said."
Kawai who had stood at attention in back reported to the head nurse who had inputted into an Electronic-medical-recoding-system.
"Ichiro Sato of the fourth floor of the south ward is …."
"The gentleman of Prostatic Cancer? Right?"
"yes. I heard his wife had worried about their future and cannot sleep every night." "I made her take reservation of the psychiatry."
It was an area contiguous to a big city which has a National-medical-college-hospital. There was the Municipal-citizen-hospital of a harbor district which prospered as a trade center till rapid economic growth. The new gigantic building was built by streamlining of public medical facilities with a municipal merger. A huge number of medical staff and clerks were packed there. There were a little less than a thousand nurses too.
They were not only a public huge hospital, and were a post which governs a lot of the clinics of the area. However, many of doctors of the area were also on the register in a medical office of the university hospital in the end. The local doctors were content with subordinate work, accepting their power which can give the rule and protection. They were different from professors that was active in the major medical society. They who were secured for the whole life and give the countless patients only standard treatments were government officials surely. Fearing only the risks of the lawsuit, the doctors never choose except the safe treatments. There were many awkward doctors, so that nurses were surprised when he performed an operation. There were also many doctors who have not experience that used a scalpel. They disliked a patient who has a doubt about their treatment policy, or a patient who has do not bring any gift. The inferior doctors ignored even informed consent. The doctors did not listen to a patient’s appeals which is to a painful condition. The sexual harassment and power harassment in a completely exclusive hospital were everyday occurrence. The person in charge of a pharmaceutical company had bribed them openly. Of course, not all the doctors were the same as them. But, there were some nurses of the same mind as the inferior doctors too. No, they might have the low mind more than the doctors. They had the think which is widely different with the common sense of community. It was a misfortune of the patient who cannot but leave the own body to them.
"Yuko Hashimoto of the hospice. She is …."
Kawai began to talk, looking at the reaction of Hakamada.
"What’s? Anything happened to her?"
Sugiyama who had sat next to Hakamada made a question.
"Dr. Ohashi was instructed to reduce the quantity of morphine to me."
"Eh! Really?" "The meaning is …, You have to change the treatment into sedation?"
"Yes, maybe …."
"Maybe, since there are many patients waiting for own turn of the hospice these days." "Is it the pressure from the medical office of university this time also?"
Sugiyama added other question.
"It seems that he was asked from the medical office for three patients’ beds."
Sugiyama of the same head nurse looked at Hakamada who had gazed expressionless to the desktop PC.
"I think no problem"
Hakamada said it coldly.
"Her body has been stinking of the stench of death from the day before yesterday. Sugiyama, right?"
Hakamada was still gazing at PC. She did not have the mind which discuss earnestly, either.
"I… I think… maybe…. Hum…. Oh, Oh, yeah! That’s right." "It’s true."
Sugiyama could not but agree.
"Probably her life is two weeks." "No problem."
Hakamada said coldly again.
"But Yuko Hashimoto is an acquaintance of center chief Ishikawa."
Kawai who is youngest nurse interrupted the conversation.
"What do you want to say?" "Is it related to the management of this hospital?" "You know, we are not volunteers. Right?"
"Yes it is. I know well. but…."
"Since Dr. Ohashi has many coworkers at the university, It is natural for him." "And Dr. Shirota of the mammary gland will be contract expiration next year. I think that the next contract will not be made if the university professors' feelings are hurt." "A cash cow of this hospital may stop being."
Everybody knew that they are doing the extramarital affair from two years ago. They were Hakamada who is competent with Ohashi who is the surgery vice manager. Kawai did not need to report, because it was already decided by them.
"First of all, I think that parents have a problem." "I wonder, why don’t they give up? They saw such a daughter's condition, aren’t they?"
Kawai felt that something bound her heart tightly. The knowledge as a nurse of Hakamada and the experience were over the others. An evaluation to her from the nagging nurse director was high. She was specially present to various committees of a hospital. There were also other objective facts outside the hospital. The request of the lecture on the theme of palliative care was pouring in. Everyone was surprised by the variegated connections of Hakamada in the medical society. She had just reached her fifty's. She had managed a marriage, a childbirth, and a child-rearing without difficulty. Hakamada was an ambitious hard worker who still continues evolution. However, on the other hand, her arrogant behavior was very conspicuous. The hypocritical dictator wore the white robe. It was not exaggeration. She was not an angle in white. She did not accept those who objected to ideal management of the hospice. Though it was a patient facing death, Hakamada did not forgive. She hated Yuko Hashimoto from the beginning too. Because, Yuko had resisted the palliative care which Hakamada recommend, and had fought with the pain violent by today. Yuko’s sad wish was revealed to Kawai. At the bottom of her heart, Kawai had wanted to help for Yuko. But, there was no thought of telling Hakamada the situation. Kawai had expected Hakamada do not quite cooperate.
"Heh-heh! If you say that morphine lost the effect, the parents will give up." "They cannot see daughter ‘s tumble absolutely."
Sugiyama was hearing the situation from Kawai too. But she accepted with a no comment Hakamada's decision. It was let sleeping dogs lie.
"On, no" "It’s such a time! I have to go Death-conference"
Already, Hakamada did not need to discuss anything. She had neither the time to be deeply concerned with every patient, nor a empathy feeling.
"I’m so busy!" "I'm leaving"

 未だ夜も明け切らぬ翌日の早朝に、優子の両親は急変を知らされた。凄(すさ)まじい激痛に悲鳴を上げる娘の姿をまざまざと見せ付けられたのである。何食わぬ顔で病室に現れた袴田は、惨(むご)い決断を躊躇(ためら)う父と母に、安らかな最期を迎えさせてやるべきだと涙を浮かべて説いたのだった。
 二度と目覚める事のない深い眠りに落ちて行った。橋本優子の想いが叶えられる機会は永遠に奪われてしまったのだ。もう命が尽きて行くより他にない。その瞬間は刻一刻と近付いていた。あと五日だったのである。愛娘の梓の初めての誕生日が来るのだ。せめてもこの日だけは親子三人が顔を揃えて、家族としての最後の絆を遺しておきたい。そう考えていた。右の乳房を失った時から、夫の愛が遠ざかるのを感じていた。だが、梓が生まれて来てくれた。彼女にとっては奇跡の様な、俄(にわ)かには信じ難い妊娠と出産だったのである。だからこそ、今再びの奇跡を信じていた。自らの死に向かい合えなかったのも、その為だったのかも知れない。心から親身に世話をしてくれる河合にだけは、娘を連れた夫が必ず病室を訪れるからと伝えていた。何が何でもそれまでは生きていたい。白衣にすがり付いてまで必死にそう懇願していたのであった。まさかにこれほど容易(たやす)く裏切られるとは考えてもみなかった。
 昨日までは確かに聴こえていた父と母の話し声も、もう意識の中に入っては来ない。否、意識自体が消滅し様としているのであった。走馬灯の如くに駆け巡る筈の過去の記憶は、がん細胞に駆逐されて失われてしまったに違いない。少女時代の思い出も、まるで蘇ってなど来なかった。中心から離れている体の各所が、あたかも閉鎖する工場の機械の様にひとつひとつの動きを止めている。母の羊水を飛び出して以来、黙々と働き続けてくれた肺もその長い役割を終えた。気の遠くなるほどの血液を送り出して来た心臓も、最後の微弱な鼓動を止めて行ったのである。そして終に、彼女の生命を司って来た脳が、二十九年目の死を受け容れたのだった。

 It was in early morning which is before dawn of the next day. The parents heard sudden change of their daughter's condition from the nurse in charge. The figure of the daughter who scream with terrible sharp pang was displayed. Hakamada who appeared in the sickroom with the calm face spoke to the father and mother who had hesitated of the cruel decision. She persuaded the parents who should give the daughter peaceful death, showing some tears.
 Yuko Hashimoto fell into the deep sleep which never wake up. The opportunity which can fulfill a wish of the mother of Azusa had been lost forever. She had to die. The time of end had approached her, every seconds. She could fulfill the wish If alive five days after. It was the first birthday of the beloved daughter's Azusa. At least in that day, Azusa’s parents and a baby met together and she wanted to leave the last bonds as a family. Yuko wished it strongly. Since the right side breast was lost, she felt that a husband's love keeps away. But, Azusa was born. For her, it was just a miracle, and was the pregnancy and the childbirth which were not believed immediately. Therefore, Yuko had believed the miracle of twice. Therefore, maybe she could not face own death. Yuko had talked to Kawai who took care of her very kindly. It was the daughter accompanied by the husband certainly visit her sickroom on the day. "Anyway, I wish to live till the birthday." She held the white robe of Kawai and entreated for it desperately. She did not consider the kind nurse's betrayal.
Yuko was hearing her parents' voice till yesterday surely. But it did not enter into the consciousness of today. No, the consciousness itself was disappearing gradually. The past memory which must be visible just before death had been maybe destroyed and lost by the cancer cell. She could not remember memory of girlhood at all. The parts which are distant from the bodily center had stopped like the machines of the factory to close one by one. The lung which was working since the time that came out of the mother's amniotic fluid finished the long role. The heart which had sent out blood of an astronomical quantity also stopped the last weak beat. Finally, the brain which had managed her life accepted the death of age twenty nine.


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エンジェルファンタジー|第一話2

何かが聞こえている。動物の鳴き声だろうか。奥行きと重みのある低い響きに感じた。次第にそれが人の声であると聴き取れるまでになった。体験した事のない不思議な感覚だ。深い泥の中に埋もれた自分に向かって、誰かが呪文らしき言葉を唱えているかに思えた。
「!」
手首を掴まれたのだ。彼女はとっさにそれを振り払おうとした。しかし、物凄い力で前方へと素早く引き摺(ず)り出されて行ったのである。
「うわっ!」
一糸纏(まと)わぬ姿で相手の前に飛び出していた。瞳がかすんで定かには見えないが、真っ黒なフードと衣装に頭から覆(おお)われた何者かが、自分の手をきつく握り締めてその正面に立っているのだ。
「何これ!」「何なの一体!」「放しなさい!」「放して!」「放してって言ってるでしょ!」「この手を放しなさいーっ!!」
優子は逃れ様ともがいた。だが、勢い余って身を翻(ひるがえ)した刹那に、驚くべき異変に気が付いたのである。自らが寝ていたベッドの上には、まだ彼女自身が横たわっていた。父も母も、医師や看護師たちも、深刻な面持(おもも)ちでそれを囲んでいたのだ。死の哀しみに打ちひしがれて、涙で肩を震わせているとしか見えない。
「ああっ!」
急転直下の出来事だった。まさかに四肢(しし)が縮み出したのだ。掌(てのひら)から腕へ、足首から膝へ、胴に向って一斉に収縮していた。目を疑う事態は四肢だけには留まらない。剥(む)き出しの下半身から首までも、あっと言う間に収縮して消滅してしまったのである。丸くなった頭だけが宙に浮く状態となっていた。
「ママ!パパ!助けて!」「ママ、聞こえないのーっ!?」「パパ!パパーっ!」
葬儀場へと運ばれて行く自分に寄り添う両親に向かって叫んだ。彼女はまるでバスケのボールの様に掴(つか)まれていたのである。大きな黒いズダ袋が口を開いていた。優子はその中へと放り込まれて行ったのだ。重なり合う蒼白(あおじろ)い光の群れが見えた。そこにはもう、大勢の魂たちが詰め込まれていたのだった。
img028.jpg

 Something has been heard. Was it a groan of an animal? She felt the low sounds which have depth and dignity. She understood that is a human's voice gradually. It was strange feeling. She had never experienced it. Yuko thought that is recited mystic words toward her who was like buried into deep mud.
"!"
The wrist was caught by someone. She tried to shake it off immediately. But she was dragged out quickly to the front by terrible power.
"No"
She was out of the bed in nakedness. The figure was not yet visible clearly. Someone who have on a black-hood and a black-costume was standing in front of her, grasping a hand tightly with strong power.
"What’s this!?" "Don’t touch me!" "Stop it!" "Release my hand" "Right now" 
Yuko struggled to escape. And turned the own body with sufficient vigor. She noticed the trouble at that moment. On the bed in which she was sleeping, she herself still had laid. The father and the mother were surrounding it with serious expression. The doctor in charge and nurses were there too. In side of the corpse, they were crying. It seemed like they were overwhelmed with pathos of death.
"Ugh!"
It was inconceivable situation. All of limbs were beginning to be shrunk. Toward each arm from palms. Toward each leg from ankles. It did not stop in only limbs. Even toward a head from a naked lower half of the body, it was shrunk and disappeared in the twinkling of an eye. Only the head which became a ball had floated in the air.
"Mom! Dad! Help me! ""Mom! Cannot you hear me!?""Why!?""Hey, Dad! I’m scary"
Yuko shouted to the parents who accompanies her corpse which bring to the mortuary. She was taken just like a ball of the basketball. The black large bag was opening a drawstring. Yuko was thrown into it. And she saw the herd of pale lights. Already, a lot of souls of human being were packed in the darkness.

 月も星もない。遠く離れた闇の上空にある次元の壁の切れ目から、大きなズダ袋を下げた黒尽くめの者たちが続々と街に戻って来ている。降り立ったのは市場へと連なる大路であった。
img017.jpg
左右に広がる棟続きの古びたあばら家は、如何にも退廃的で無国籍な造りなのだ。行き交う者の大半が、似た類いの黒衣に身を包んでいた。彼らは皆同様に、顔を覆い隠す黒いフードも目深に被っている。各々(おのおの)の腰には戦闘用の黒い大カマが吊るされていた。殺気を帯びた鋭い刃が、威圧的な銀色の光を放っているのだ。
 砂ぼこりの舞う大路の突当りに軒を並べた店の働き手たちも、やはり常識を大きく逸脱した個性派揃いだった。露天の広い敷地に千席もの椅子とテーブルを詰め込んだ酒場には、大量の酒と料理を運ぶ手員(ていん)たちが忙(せわ)しなく飛び回っていた。火葬される寸前の人の肩からもぎ取って来た物もあれば、大規模な事故現場でこっそり拾われた掌だけの物もある。次々に押し寄せる客の注文を聞く耳員(みみいん)は、厨房に伝える役目の口員(くちいん)へと伝票を回していた。早ばやと賑(にぎ)わい始めた酒場の隅々にまで気を配っているのが、全身に数え切れない目玉を貼り付けた背高のっぽの店主であった。彼の監視の目を逃れて手抜きをするなど不可能に近い。だからこその繁盛店なのだ。
img030.jpg
「いらっしゃいませーっ!」「いらっしゃいませーっ!」
二百席ほどの構えで大きくはないが、威勢の良い呼び込みをする隣の大衆食堂も負けてはいない。満席ともなれば足の踏み立て場もなくなる店内を、身の丈が客の半分しかない女性たちがスイスイと駆け回っていた。小人の一族であるのにどの娘も美しく、客の視線にはにかみながら働く姿が愛らしい。
img040.jpg
大盛りの定食を格安で提供する太っ腹な店主は、ゾウの如き怪力を備えた虎頭の大男であった。獰猛な眼差しで睨みを利かせている限り、看板娘たちが強引な誘いに悩まされる事もないのだ。店の売りはそれだけではなかった。食後に出されるスイーツが絶品なのである。美しい小人たちがこの店にだけ集まるのも、小洒落(こじゃれ)た制服を着られる事と、その甘い魅惑に心奪われての事だった。
 ズダ袋の中に優子たちの魂を詰め込んだ死神が、今日の狩りを終えて戻って来たのも同じ頃である。真っ直ぐ市場へは向かわずに、重い袋を担いだまま刀鍛冶(かたなかじ)の工房へと歩き出していた。新たに頼んだ大カマを受け取る期日だったのだ。
「ああ。清廉潔白で心の優しい奴は確実に地獄行きなのさ。」
得心のいかない新米の魂たちに、この袋で水先案内を務める魂の宇根(うね)が答えた。
「嘘だ!」「そんなの絶対におかしい!」
「地獄へ落ちるのは悪人だけよ!」
「何でだ!」「そんな事、神様が許す訳ないじゃないか!」
どんな人生を歩んで来た者であっても、事ここに至れば誰もが天国に行きたがる。ズダ袋の底に数百年も張り付いて、宇根は毎日そんな連中と同じ会話を繰り返して来ていた。まじめにコツコツと働いていた正直者ほど、想像も出来ない拷問がこの先に待っていると話したのだ。受け容れられなくて当然だった。
「神、だって?」「ふっ、勘違いしちゃあいけないよ。」「ここをどこだと思ってんだい。」
死神が持ち込む市場の為の仕込みが、今日はこの段階から始まっていた。
「ようく考えてみな。」「本当に甚振(いたぶり)りがいがあるのはどっちかってね。」
今度は宇根が畳み掛ける番だった。
「手前(てめえ)が地獄へ落ちるのも覚悟で、とんでもない修羅場をくぐり抜けて来た心臓に毛の生えてる様な悪人どもかい。それとも正直者だけは天国へ行けると信じて、悪魔の大嫌いな神や仏に頼って生きて来た気の小さい善人どもかい。」
「そっ、そんなバカげた理屈があるか!」
「じゃ、じゃあ、悪い人だけが罰も受けずに天国へ行けるって、そう言う事なの!」
「話が無茶苦茶だ!」
「あっはっはっ、無茶苦茶だから悪魔なのさ!」「天国なんてどこにもありゃしない。人間の考え出した夢物語だ。」「簡単な話じゃないか。お前らを創ったお偉い神様が、何で死んだ後のメンドウまでみなくちゃならないのさ。」「神ほど傲慢で冷酷で慾深い生き物はない。」「毎日の快楽を追いかけるのに夢中で、ひと山いくらの人間の魂なんぞに興味はないのさ。」「それとも何かい。誰かこの中に天国行きの切符でも持ってる奴がいるってのかい!?」
ズダ袋の中の四十近い数の魂たちは疑心暗鬼(ぎしんあんき)に陥(おちい)っていた。どこまで信じて良いのかも分からない。さもありながら、自分自身がどうなるのかは一番先に知りたかった。地獄へ送られるほどの善人なのか。それともギリギリの所で救われる小悪人なのか。自らの過去を思い起こしてみれば、必ずしも清く正しく生きて来た訳ではなかったからだ。他人に嘘をついた事も少なくはない。恋のかけ引きや職場の出世争いで、殊更(ことさら)にライバルの悪評を吹聴(ふいちょう)して回った事も一度や二度ではなかったのだ。法律に触れない程度の罪なら心当たりは限りなくある。もしも自己弁護の機会が与えられるのなら、如何に自分の心が汚くて、他人に酷い仕打ちをして来たかを訴えなければならない。皆、その準備も密かに心の内で始めていた。しかし、知恵の回る一部の者からは、更なる疑問も投げ掛けられたのだ。宇根の説明が事実だとして、地獄行きを免れた魂の行き場がどこになるかと言う問題であった。永遠に冥界を彷徨(さまよ)う以外には考えられなかったのである。
「輪廻…転生?」
「生まれ変わるって事か。」
「ああ。魂のリサイクルさ。」
「じゃ、じゃあ、悪人ならすぐ現世に戻れるって、そう言う事なの!?」
「おかしい。」「だったら、とっくに世の中が悪人だらけになってる筈じゃないか。」
「ふふっ、いい質問だ。」
人は生まれ変わる度に浄化され、無垢な魂に戻れるのだと言う。ごく稀(まれ)に前世の記憶を留めたままで転生する者もあるが、それは生前に関わった何かに対する執着が余りに強い場合に限られるのだと説明された。次第に皆は宇根の術中に嵌(はま)り出していた。万が一にも地獄へ送られた場合の、善人の行く末にまで質問が及んだのだ。
「煮たり焼いたり刻んだり…。見るも無残な化け物に変えられちまう。」「奴らの拷問から逃れたいなら、人間の魂をやめて僕(しもべ)になるしか方法はない。」
悪魔に誓いを立てた者たちも、醜い姿の魔物としてこっそり現世に戻されている。狙いを定めた人間に取り憑(つ)いて、甘美な悪の誘惑をその枕辺(まくらべ)で囁(ささや)くのだ。清廉潔白で心の優しい善人が犠牲者となれば、さらに僕の魔物が増えて行く仕組みであった。悪魔に課されたノルマを達成するまで、地獄に送られた魂が解放される事はなかった。
「そんな…。酷い。」
「酷過ぎる。」
「お前たちの運命は市場で決まる。」「魔物に買われりゃ、待ってるのは悪魔とのご対面だ。」
「嘘だろ…。俺たちを売るって事か。」
「死神も商売なんでね。」「地獄行きが嫌なら、せいぜいそのつもりで頑張りな。」
これから先は他の魂たちと悪行を競い合わなければならない。人の尊厳を嘲笑(あざわら)う卑劣な辱(はずかし)めであった。こうしておけば自(おの)ずとその本性が顕(あら)わになる。魔物たちの興味をそそって、値を吊り上げるには最適だった。宇根の名が魔界で知られているのも、才気あふれる狡猾なこの悪知恵のお陰なのだ。
「ほらほら、全部思い出したかい。」
水先案内も締め括(くく)りとなった。
「自分は善人なんかじゃなかった。心の卑(いや)しい、とっても悪い人間だったってね。」「さあ!市場は目の前だよ!」「悪党ども、覚悟はいいかい!」
宇根は得意げに毒づいた。もう今のセリフに反応する余裕さえないと分かっているのだ。愚かで姑息(こそく)な凡人たちに、悪足掻(わるあが)きさせるほど痛快な事はなかった。永遠に繰り返す水先案内の退屈しのぎにも最適だったのである。
 だが、今日の宇根は普段と少し様子が違っていた。最後に押し込まれた若い女の魂が気になったのだ。死そのものを受け容れられずにいる。そう見えていた。憂(うれ)いを含んだ暗い影のある魂ほど、悪魔が好んで甚振りたがる上物はない。自分だけは生まれ変わろうとして悪人ぶり始めた連中に比べたら、この目立つ魂は数倍の高値で忽(たちま)ち売り捌(さば)かれてしまう運命にあった。
 ドスンと地べたに下ろされた。縛られていた袋の口が解かれて、真上から髑髏(どくろ)の白い顔が覗き込んで来たのである。怖れ慄(おのの)く魂たちを三つ四つも鷲掴(わしづか)みにして、死神は市場の商人たちが値踏みする長テーブルの上へと並べて行った。次々に、やはり清廉潔白で心の優しい者から高い値が付けられている。土壇場の魂たちは大声を張り上げて、自分自身の悪行を高らかに謳(うた)うしかなかった。陳腐(ちんぷ)で惨(みじ)めな光景だった。オークションの会場をぐるりと囲む黒いベールの向こうからも、買い付けに集まった魔物たちの蔑(さげす)む低い笑いが漏れて来たのである。今日も宇根の作戦通りとなった。無論、その形振(なりふ)り構わぬ一所懸命さこそが、中途半端な善人を見分け得る何よりの証となるのだ。
「あんた、現世じゃいくつだったんだい。」
袋の入り口で何やら死神と話していた宇根が近付いて来た。
「さぞかしあっちじゃ別嬪(べっぴん)さんだったんだろうね。」「ふっ、何となく分かる。」
優子の魂は茫然自失(ぼうぜんじしつ)としていた。
「なあ、あたいの話ちゃんと聴こえてるかい。」
「え。」「あ、…はい。」
「はははっ、あんたがいくつだったか聞いたのさ!」
「ごめんなさい。」「二十九です。」
「そう。」「そんなに若かったんだ。」
広いズダ袋の中に他の魂たちは見当たらなかった。その刹那、優子は我に返ったのである。皆がどうなってしまったのか。自分がどうなってしまうのか。全く何も見当が付かない。宇根と皆とのやり取りを、彼女はまるで聞いてなかった。
「あたいは宇根。ここじゃそう呼ばれてる。」「生きてた頃の名前は覚えちゃいない。」
「橋本…優子です。」「優しい子の…。」
丁寧で品のある言葉遣いだった。名は体(たい)を表すと言う。あの時感じた以上の上玉だった。清廉潔白で心根の優しい女である事は間違いがない。魔物に買われていたなら、どんな目に遭わされていた事か。
「いい名だ。」「覚えとくよ。」
老練な水先案内は死神に合図を送った。自分の勘(かん)に狂いはないと確信したのだ。
「きゃっ!」
大きな骨の掌に真上から掴まれたのである。終に優子の魂も、袋の外へと引っ張り出されたのだった。

 No moon, no stars. There was a crack of dimension wall in the sky high of far darkness. Grim reapers who wore black clothes and lowered the large bag were returning from there to the town one after another. They landed at the main street which led to a market. Old shabby houses which located on both sides of the main street were visible very decadent, and were statelessness. Most figures which are walking wore similar black-costumes. They also wore the black-hoods which hide each face. A black large scythe for the battles had hung on their waist. The sharp bloodthirsty edge had shone in dangerous silver.
Much dust was floating in the main street. The staff of several restaurants in the end of the street were individual appearance which deviated greatly from common sense too. Flying hand-staffs had carried busily a lot of dishes and alcohol in the large open bar which prepared the chair and table of a thousand. There were the hands wrested away from the shoulder of a person just before being cremated. And there were only palms gathered secretly in the scene of the big accident. Ear-staffs who heard the orders from customers who one after another came had sent slips to lip-staffs who tell it to the kitchen. Already, also today’s bar began to be prosperous. The tall manager which has many eyeballs in the whole body had watched corners of all in the bar. It was almost impossible any staffs deceives and neglects eye of his surveillance. Therefore, it was the prosperity bar.
"Step right up!" "Step right up!"
The next small restaurant of about two hundred seats was doing its best by the barker’s voice. Female staffs' height were only a half of customers. They were running in the restaurant of no vacancy freely. Every woman were beautiful although it was Midget tribe. They were working shyly because were surrounded by many customers’ eyes. Their appearances were so lovely. The exciting manager who sells the dishes of large serving at bargain price was a big man of tiger’s head with brute force of an elephant. The star women were not afflicted by forcing invitation as long as he was the guard with the ferocious eyes. The special feature of the restaurant was not only it. The sweets after a meal were artistic rarities. It was for the attractive service dress and the temptation of sweet that beautiful Midgets gather only in this restaurant.
It was also at that time that grim reaper which packed the soul of Yuko and others into the black large bag finished today's hunting, and returned. He who shouldered a heavy bag was beginning to walk to a sword-smith's studio, without going to the market straight. It was the date which receives a large scythe which he had newly ordered.
"Sure, The fellows whose heart is upright and kind have to go Hell certainly."
As a woman, it was a rude and a offensive tone. Une who was a pilot in this bag answered to spiritual rookies who could not get conviction.
"It‘s a lie!" "Such a talk is absolutely absurd!"
"It’s only bad persons who have to go Hell!"
"why, good persons!?" "God does not allow such a thing!"
Everyone wanted to go Heaven when they died, even if their past was what kind of a life. Sticking to the bottom of the black large bag for hundreds years, Une repeated the same conversation as such people every day. She told rookies that torture of hell is waiting for good persons who were working seriously. Naturally they could not accept explanation.
"God?" "Ha, You don’t mistake." "Can’t you understand what kind of place?"
Today’s advance brain wash required for them that take the soul into the market had begun from this situation.
"You must consider it again." "Which is pleasant to torture?"
Une showered them with a peculiar logic this time.
"Is it a bad person with the strong mind which was ready for Hell and was in the place of awful shambles?" "Or Is it a good person with the faint mind who believed only truthful people able to go to Heaven? Moreover they depended for all of lives on the God or Buddha. You know, the evil spirits have intense hatred against them."
"Su, Such absurd reason!?"
"Really!? Really, can only bad persons go to Heaven, without receiving punishment!?"
"Your talk is foolish!"
"A-ha-ha! It’s the evil spirits since It’s foolish!" "Heaven does not exist anywhere. It’s a empty dream which humans considered." "So easy talk." "Great God created human beings. You must thank them for only it fully. What is the reason for which God care until after human's death?" "God has haughtiness and coldness and greediness more than any creatures." "They are absorbed in daily pleasure and are not interested in the vulgar human's souls." "Or is the soul who has a ticket which bound for Heaven in this bag?"
The souls of the number close to forty in the black large bag changed to suspicious fearful mind. They could not judge to believe all of talk of the pilot. However, they wanted to know first what will happen to himself or herself. A good person or a bad person? Because they were not alive uprightly or kindly when remembering their past. They told others the lie in their life repeatedly. At own love or for a work, They spread the rival's unfavorable criticism in many times. And had a lot of misdemeanor memory which did not break the law. If there is an opportunity of defense, they who have dirty heart and severe vice needed to appeal of it. They had begun the preparation of pretext secretly. But a few smart persons mentioned another question. If explanation of Une was a fact, it was what happened to the soul which did not go hell. They just only thought the souls wandering in the spiritual world forever.
"Transmigration… born again?"
"Its meaning, we can become other person?"
"Yeah, the soul is recycled."
"Is that meaning a bad person can return to the human’s world immediately?"
"It‘s too strange." "If it’s true, the human’s world must be filling to capacity by bad persons long ago."
"Well, good question."
When people were born again, they were initialized, and Une said that any soul can return to a pure baby. But there were the rare souls which made transmigration without losing own memory. She explained the soul who was fixing strongly against something while in the human’s life. Everybody were beginning to fall into the trap of Une gradually. The question had reached till good person's fate that was sent to Hell.
"Boiled, or burned, or chopped, everyone was changed into a horrible figure." "If you wanna escape demon's torture, you must abandon yourself as a human’s soul and become their servant."
The pilot said. The servant which made a vow to a demon was also secretly returned to the human’s world as a goblin of ugly figure. They possessed a target’s human and whispered about luscious seduction of evil in the bedroom. When the good person whose heart was upright and kind became a victim, it increased number of the servant. It was convenient system for demons. The soul sent to hell was not released until it achieved the quota imposed from the demon.
"such a thing…. It’s a too terrible."
"It is a too fearful system."
"Your fate is decided by the market." "When you were bought to the goblin, waiting is meeting with the demon."
Une said so and threatened.
"You are kidding, aren't you? Does he sell us?"
"The grim reaper is a trader." "If Hell sending is scary, do your best frantically."
From that time, they had to vie seriously with the other souls about their wrongdoings. It was the nasty humiliation for ridiculing the humans’ dignity. In this situation, each true character became clear naturally. Seller attracted the interest of goblins and was the best for raising a price. Une’s name was famous in the Devil's World because she had the cunning wisdom to be full of wit.
"Oh, You remembered all?" "I’m not a good person. I’m a very bad person with a dirty mind." "Right?"
The pilot started the last scene.
"Hey, Guys! The market is right here!" "The black villains! Are you ready!?"
Une spoke out bitter proudly. They were not able to react to the pilot’s boos any longer. She was understanding so. It was pleasant to make stupid and temporizing ordinary humans do useless defense. It was the best for the time killer which repeat the pilot forever.
 But, today's Une was different delicately. She was looking at the young female's soul who was packed in at the end. The young woman could not accept the death itself yet. Une regarded Yuko so. The souls with dark shadow containing anxiety were choice goods which demons most want to the torture. The especial soul would immediately sell at the highest price unlike the other souls who desired to change born again and began to pretend in bad person.
 Bam! It was put on the ground. Bound drawstring of the black large bag was untied, and the white face of skull looked into them from right above. Grim reaper grasped timid souls of three or four. And he put them on a long table which buyers of the market decide a price. One after another, the high value was attached from the person whose heart is upright and kind. The souls in a predicament could not but raise the big voice, and could not but explain their own wrongdoing. It was a humorous and pitiable sight. Low laughter of goblins which came to buy them also from the back of the black veil surrounding the hall of an auction was heard. The buyers had scorned goods clearly. The strategy of Une was successful today also. Of course, the halfway wicked attitude of souls became a suitable proof which distinguishes a good person.
"Hi." "How old were you in the human’s world?"
Une who was talking something with grim reaper outside the bag had approached.
"I guess you were a beautiful lady in the human's world." "I got it vaguely."
The soul of Yuko was absent-minded.
"Come on. Can you hear me?"
"Eh, It’s me?" "I beg your pardon?"
Her talking was polite and gentle.
"A-ha-ha, I asked how old were you!"
"Sorry. I am twenty nine year old."
"Twenty nine?" "You were so young in the human’s life."
Other souls had disappeared from the black large bag. At that moment, Yuko came back to herself. What had happened to everybody? What would happen to herself? Yuko completely understood nothing. She was hearing no conversation of Une and everybody.
"My name is Une. Here, I’m called so." "I don’t remember the name of the time of having been human being."
"My name is Yuko Hashimoto." "Yuko's meaning is a kind woman."
Yuko answered courteously. The name and the personality did often accord. Une could assure a jewel of superior grade more than she felt at first. Yuko was woman who has upright and kind heart certainly.  If a goblin bought her, a demon must have made her torture violently than others.
"Oh, Sounds lovely." "I’ll remember."
The pilot with abundant experience sent the signal to the grim reaper. Because Une checked that its intuition was right.
"Eek!"
Yuko was grasped by the big palm of bone from right above. The soul of Yuko was also taken out from the bag at last.

 大通りに面した総合受付のある南側の棟とは違って、がん相談支援センターの設置された北病棟はどこか心寂(うらさび)しい印象があった。袴田はセンター長の石川に呼ばれて、ホスピスの緩和ケアを受けたいと言う七十代女性の家族と面談していた。
「ええっ、そうなんですか!」「じゃあ伊藤先生が勧めて下さったんですね!」
新たな予備軍は大歓迎なのだ。彼女の声も弾んでいた。
「ええ。はいはい。」「それはお辛かったですよね。とてもよく分かります。」
末期の膵臓がんと告知された母親の代わりに、同居する二男夫婦が思い余ってセンターを訪れたのである。
「はい、そうなんです。膵臓は発見され難いがんで、転移してる率も高いんですね。」
変幻自在。如何にも残念そうな口ぶりの袴田が、豊富な知識の披露を始めた。
「伊藤先生から後半年もないって言われました。」
「事前にお母様のカルテを拝見しました。確かにおっしゃる通りの状態と思います。」
「あの、それで。」「ちょっといいですか。」
何かを言いたげに様子を窺(うかが)っていた嫁が、一番聞きたい話を切り出さない夫に業を煮やして唐突に割り込んで来た。
「ここのホスピスって、どれ位お金が掛かりますか。」
「あ…。」「はい。ご心配…ですよね。」「お母様は高額医療費の申請をなされましたか。」
「え。」「あ、いいえ。」「何ですかそれ。」
「分かりました。費用の件はソーシャルワーカーから詳しく説明して貰いますね。」
袴田はそれが主たる相談の目的だと察して、行政の手続きを熟知している専門家を呼んだ。彼らだけではないのだ。全国にあるがん拠点病院の相談支援センターを訪れる相談者は、医師以外のコ・メディカルのサポートを無料で受ける事が出来た。オペ後の食事に関する問題であれば管理栄養士が、リハビリやリンパ浮腫のドレナージであれば理学療法士が、心の苦しみを和らげたいのなら臨床心理士が、と言った具合にである。経験豊富な看護師などの務める専任のがん相談員も、患者やその家族の様々な悩みに対応していた。多くが主治医とその治療に対する院内での不満や不信であるが、セカンドオピニオンから先進医療まで、幅広い院外情報も求められるのであった。特に女性の乳がんや婦人科がんの場合は、医療用ウイッグに補正ブラ、乳房再建手術などのセンシティブな助言も必要とされて来る。同じがん種の者たちが触れ合う事の出来る患者会も、センターの相談員が主催して定期的に行われている事が多かった。
「結局、お金の話ばっかりでしたね。」
鼻先で笑う様に、袴田は息子夫婦の事をそう評した。
「え、ええ…。」「お疲れ様でした。珈琲お飲みになりますか。」
いつもながらのヘイトスピーチの予感に、センター長は話を逸らそうとしたのだ。
「有難うございます。飲みたい時は自分で淹れますから。」
センターとは名ばかりで、実際に常駐している職員は石川の他にはいなかった。
「お嫁さん、妊娠六カ月ですってね。」「先行きが不安で一杯みたい。」
「だからか!」「金、金、金って煩いと思った!」
石川が口にした補足の意味と、袴田が受け取った言葉の意味には大きな隔たりがあった。否、充分に彼女の意を介していながら、敢(あ)えて話をすり替えたのかも知れない。
「あのお嫁さん、長男夫婦が海外勤務だから、仕方なく義母の面倒(めんどう)みてるって強調してましたね。」「ああヤダヤダ!」「あんたの女房は金しかないのかって、あの頼りない旦那(だんな)に言ってやりたかったです。」「ね。そう思いませんか。」「ほんとに困った嫁ですね。」.
「そ、そう…でしたね。」
「年金たくさん貰ってるのに食費しか入れてくれないとか。こないだも一人で温泉旅行に行ったとか。義母の悪口言い出したら止まりませんでした。」「鬼嫁だ、鬼嫁鬼嫁。ね!」
気に入らない相手との面談を終える度に、相談者の風貌や考え方を論(あげつら)っては酷評する。袴田のストレス解消法であった。だが、聞かされている側の石川は堪らない。彼女はこの相談支援センターの成功に賭けているからだ。袴田よりも職位が上の管理師長でありながら、清廉潔白で心の優しい石川は病院内での評価が低かった。自分の立場を貶(おとし)めている原因のひとつが、袴田による陰口である事も本当は承知しているのだ。それでも、自ら関係を損(そこ)ねる事は出来なかった。相談業務の円滑な運営には、袴田の協力が欠かせないのだ。それほどまでにしてセンターを守りたかった。定年間際の石川にとって、正にこの場所が最後の花道を飾る為の大切な舞台だったのである。
「何か今日は疲れちゃったなあ。」「ふあーあ!」「はあ、眠い眠い。」
「あの子、亡くなったんですね。」
大あくびをしながら背伸びをする袴田に、さりげなく自分から問い掛けてみた。
「ふあーあ!」「あの…子。どの子でした?」
「橋本さんの…。」「橋本優子さんです。」
「橋…。ああ、師長さんのお知り合いの娘さんね!」「そうなんです。早かったんです。」
自分が何をしたのか、まるで気に掛けていない。否、これも又、自らの関与に言及させない為の、袴田一流の切り替えなのかも知れなかった。石川はそう理解した。心の負担に堪え切れなくなった河合から、全容の報告を極秘で受けていたのである。今回が初めてではなかった。詳細な記録もその度ごとに書きためてあるのだ。一段と大きなあくびをする袴田に、石川は薄ら寒いものを感じていた。

 North ward which has the cancer patient support center unlike south ward with a reception which face to avenue was a lonely impression. Hakamada was called from Ishikawa of the center chief and had counseled the family of a seventy’s woman who want to receive the palliative care of a hospice it.
"Wow! Yes, Is that true?" "Did Dr. Ito recommend the hospice?"
The new reserve was a big welcome. Her voice was also bouncing.
"Yes. Yes it is." "It was hard for you. I can understand very well."
A second son and his wife who live together visited for counseling instead of their mother diagnosed as the pancreatic cancer of the last stage. Two persons seemed to be troubled very much.
"Exactly. Discovery of the pancreas cancer is very difficult. Almost patients are getting worse and the risk of metastasis is high."
Kaleidoscopic Hakamada explained regretfully. And it was boast of own abundant knowledge too.
"Dr. Ito said, there is no life of half a year."
"I saw the your mother's chart in advance. I think that it is in a bad state as surely said."
"Well, Then…." "Can I ask you a question?"
The wife who put up with something and was hearing the conversation has participated suddenly. It was because she became irritated to the husband who do not ask the most important thing.
"How much money is needed for this hospice?"
"Oh, Yes. It is natural worries." "Did your mother-in-law apply for Benefits for High-cost Medical Care?"
"…apply?" "What’s it?"
"I understood. The social worker explains the issue of hospitalization expense in detail."
Hakamada thought that it is a purpose of their main counseling. Therefore, she called the specialist of the procedure of administration. There were also the specialists in other fields. The persons who visited the cancer patient support center in the national area were able to receive the support of co-medicals other than a doctor for free. The consultation about the meal after an operation were national registered dietitians. The rehabilitation or the drainage of lymphedema was physiotherapists.
If they wanted to soften pain of the heart, the clinical psychologist counseled. The counselor of the nurse who has abundant experience also corresponded to various troubles of a patient and its family. Although many were the dissatisfaction and distrust against a doctor in charge and its medical treatment, the wide information from a second opinion to highly advanced medical treatment was also required. Sensitive advice of Medical Wig, Brassiere, reconstruction of the breast, etc. was required for especially a female breast cancer and gynecology cancer. Patients meeting which the persons of the same cancer kind can exchange the information about was also periodically held sponsored by the counselor.
"She had talked only about the money after all."
Hakamada who sneered commented so against husband and wife.
"Hum…Maybe…I tink so too." "Thank you very much. Would you like some coffee?"
It was usual Hate-speech. The center chief tried to change subject.
"No thanks. If I wanna drink, I’ll prepare by myself."
The cancer patient support center was name only, and the actual full-time personnel were just Ishikawa herself only.
"The daughter-in-law is six months of pregnancy, I heard." "She is very worried about the future."
"Oh Such a reason!?" "Therefore, I heard money, money, money, and I thought she is so stingy!"
The big difference was among the meaning of supplementary explanation about which Ishikawa spoke, and the other meanings which Hakamada heard. No, fully guessing the intention of the center chief, possibly she changed the meaning purposely.
"Since their eldest son husband and wife live in overseas, the daughter-in-law was emphasizing that it is taking care of the mother-in-law reluctantly." "Unbelievable!" "Your wife consider only money. I wanted to tell it to the uncertain husband." "Do you think so?" "She herself is big issue."
"Y…Yes. That’s right."
"The mother-in-law has got many pensions. But we have received only food expenses. The mother-in-law went alone traveling to hot-spring resorts the other day. She said so." "She could not stop the abuse about the mother-in-law." "She is the money-monger, the money-bad!"
Whenever she finished counseling with an unpleasant person, she criticized their looks or talk severely. It was Hakamada's stress alleviation method. But, Ishikawa who heard it felt stress. It was because a success of this center was Ishikawa’s hope. She was the head nurse manager of a high rank than Hakamada. However, Ishikawa who was upright and kind was given low evaluation in the hospital. She knew one of the causes which worsen her position in fact was the backbiting by Hakamada. She was not still able to spoil a relation from herself. Cooperation of Hakamada was indispensable to management of the cancer patient support center. Ishikawa wanted to protect the center, even if it threw away own pride. Just before retirement age, this center was an important theater for just adorning the last runway of her career.
"I’m tired today." "Yawn!" "Phew, I‘m so sleepy."
"I heard that woman died."
Ishikawa asked casually Hakamada who does a big yawn and stretching.
"Yawn!" "Woman…. Which woman?"
"Mr. Hashimoto's …." "It’s Yuko Hashimoto."
"Hashi…, Oh! The daughter of an acquaintance of the head nurse manager!" "Yes, that’s right. She gone early."
She did not feel a guilty feeling from Hakamada. It was a poker face for probably escaping check of Ishikawa. She thought so. Kawai who became guilty mind had reported to the head nurse manager in the top secret. This time was not the first. Ishikawa had written down detailed record in every case. She felt eeriness to Hakamada who had begun big yawns again.

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