[After Dark (2004), by Haruki Murakami]
The camera draws back slowly to convey an image of the entire room. Then it begins observing details in search of clues. This is by no means a highly decorated room. Neither is it a room that suggests the tastes or individuality of its occupant. Without detailed observation, it would be hard to tell that this was the room of a young girl. There are no dolls, stuffed animals, or other accessories to be seen. No posters or calendars. On the side facing the window, one old wooden desk and a swivel chair. The window itself is covered by a roll-down window blind. On the desk is a simple black lamp and a brand-new notebook computer (its top closed). A few ballpoint pens and pencils in a mug. By the wall stands a plain wood-framed single bed, and there sleeps Eri Asai. The bedclothes are solid white. On shelves attached to the opposite wall, a compact stereo and a small pile of CDs in their cases. Next to those, a phone. A dresser with mirror attached. The only things placed in front of the mirror are lip balm and a small, round hairbrush. On that wall is a walk-in closet. As the room’s only decorative touch, five photographs in small frames are lined up on a shelf, all of them photos of Eri Asai. She is alone in all of them. None show her with friends or family. There is a small bookcase, but it contains only a handful of books, mostly college textbooks. And a pile of large-size fashion magazines. It would be hard to conclude that she is a voracious reader. Honestly speaking, the information regarding Eri Asai that we can glean from the appearance of this room is far from abundant. It gives the impression that preparations have been made to hide her personality and cleverly elude observing eyes. Near the head of the bed a digital clock soundlessly and steadily renews its display of the time. We wait. We hold our breath and listen. The clock displays 0:00.