PseudoPod 771: The Human Chair

Show Notes

“The Human Chair” was originally published in Kuraku, October 1925, as “Ningen Isu.” As this story is in the public domain in its original Japanese, we thought a new translation would be a fascinating project that extends PseudoPod’s 1925 showcase from January of this year.

The Human Chair

by Edogawa Ranpo, translated by Allen Zhang

Yoshiko was accustomed to sending her husband off to work at ten each morning. Having at last gained her freedom, she would then make her way to the study which she shared with him and shut herself within its walls, whereupon she busied herself on a lengthy piece she was writing for the summer special edition of K magazine.

Elegant in stature and beloved by her fans, Yoshiko maintained a reputation enough that even her husband’s lofty position as the secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs paled by comparison. It seemed like every day that she was inundated with letter after letter from her innumerable worshippers. Today as well, as she sat down before her study desk, she made sure to glance through the fresh pile of letters from faceless admirers before beginning her work. Each one was as trite and uninteresting as the last, but Yoshiko, in her warm feminine consideration, would nevertheless read through every message directed to her, regardless of what it was.

After first dispatching with the simpler missives (a pair of envelopes and a postcard), she was left with what appeared to be a rather bulky manuscript sealed in a large envelope. Yoshiko had not received any notice of such a delivery, but even so, having an unsolicited manuscript sent to her was a fairly common occurrence in itself. The majority of such items were invariably dry, long-winded things. Despite this, Yoshiko determined to read the title at least, and so, slitting the envelope open, she retrieved the bundle of papers and looked at the first line.

It was bound with the usual manuscript stationery, as expected. What was unexpected was how it began. Where one would expect a title or author to be displayed, instead Yoshiko saw a line of greeting. “Dear Madam,” it read. Well then, she thought, this must be some form of letter after all. As she casually scanned the next few lines, however, she felt a strange sense of foreboding creep over her. Still, her innate curiosity aroused, she quickly read onwards despite her growing unease. It read as follows.

Dear Madam,

I beg that you forgive my presumptuousness in sending this unexpected letter for I am sure you do not know me. What I am about to tell you will no doubt come as a surprise, but I must confess to you the strange and terrible crimes that I have committed.

For these past few months I have lived as a demon, hiding from the gaze of my fellow man. Consequently there is nobody on this earth who knows of the fouls deeds I have done. I had hoped to continue this wretched existence forever, never to return to the human sphere.

I know not what change has stolen over my heart, but I am now driven to confess my wretched tale to another soul. I understand that even having said all this, my story will surely sound like the ravings of a madman, but I implore you, dear Madam, to read this letter until the end. By the end of my story it will become clear why I feel this way and why I sent this confession to be read by you and no other. 

Now then, where to begin. It is a tale so far detached from the realm of civilization and so utterly fantastical that it feels to me absurd to chronicle it with such mundane tools as pen and paper. Still, I suppose such concerns are no matter. I will start from the beginning and follow the events in order as they occurred.

I was extraordinarily hideous from birth. I must stress this fact, for if you were to indulge this hopeless wretch’s wish and meet me in person, you would surely faint in terror at my horrible visage, made all the more ghastly by my long years of neglect, if not for my warning.

And oh! What an unlucky wretch that I am! For as hideous as I was, within my breast burned a passion just as hot. I was a poor workman with the face of a monster, but in my heart I nurtured dreams of luxury and opulence that shone brightly enough to nearly blot out the sad reality of my existence.

If I had been born to a wealthy family, I surely would have drowned in various pleasures and thus lessened the burden of my grotesque features. Or perhaps if I had more talent in the artistic realm, I could have forgotten the bland world around me through the comforts of verse. Alas, I was allowed neither of these blessings, and I grew up the destitute son of a carpenter, inheriting my father’s work when he died and henceforth passing my days in unchanging tedium.

My specialty was in making chairs of all kinds. My chairs would never fail to please even the most critical of clients, and within the industry my reputation earned me no shortage of special commissions. With these commissions would come requests for special decorations for the backs and legs, and each client had his own preference regarding the texture of the seat cushion or various other details. An amateur could hardly imagine the pains it took to satisfy every demand, every whim, but for all the pain the pleasure was still greater. Perhaps it is impudent of me to say so, but the accomplishment that the artist feels at seeing his work finished before him could hardly be compared to the intense gratification that washed over me with each completed piece.

As I finished each chair, I would always first sit in it myself to test it. Despite my uniformly bland existence as a craftsman, this one activity never failed to fill me with an unspeakable satisfaction. I felt that no matter what manner of nobleman or beauty should ultimately sit upon this chair, it would be in a truly glorious residence worthy of its presence. The walls would be set with oils by van Gogh and Monet; crystal chandeliers would cascade from the ceiling, festooned with brilliant cut gemstones; on the floor, a Turkish rug, stretching from corner to corner; and finally, on the table before the chair, my chair, a vase of exotic flowers bursting in full bloom, filling the room with their sweet fragrance. As I basked in these visions, I felt almost as if I were the master of that very palace, and I was filled with an indescribable happiness and contentment.

These fruitless delusions only grew stronger with time. Within the realm of fantasy, I, no more than a poor, hideous craftsman in life, could become a prince, sitting in my own magnificent chair. And always in these fantasies, at my side would appear my sweetheart, angelic and smiling as she listened to my every word. That was not all. In my dreams, I would take her hands in mine, and we would even whisper sweet nothings to each other.

These moments never lasted long. Always there would be the shrill call of the nearby innkeeper or the hysterical sobbing of some ailing child to rend apart the rosy tapestry of my dreams and drag me awake. I was immediately faced with the bleak features of my loathsome reality and my own hideousness, so far from the prince that I was mere moments ago. And the angel who so sweetly showered her smiles upon me… Where was I to find such a being? Here even the nannies, covered in grime from head to toe from playing with their charges, would hardly deign to so much as glance in my direction. My chair alone was left to me, a last vestige of that happy reverie. Even then, I knew this chair would soon be carried off to some faraway place, to a world entirely separate from our own.

Thus, with each chair that I finished, I was beset with indescribable sadness. That terrible, unspeakable, horrible feeling only grew with time, and soon it was all too much for me to bear.

“If I should be forced to live the rest of my days like this, as a lowly maggot, why, I would rather die instead,” I resolved. Whether I was chiseling wood into shape, driving in nails, or mixing heady paints in a bucket, my mind remained fixed on this thought. “But wait, if I should die anyway, if I should have determination enough to end my own existence anyway, perhaps there is another way after all… 

And so my thoughts gradually began to turn in a far more sinister direction.

It was precisely at that time that I had received a commission for a set of large leather armchairs, a type that I had never created before. This particular order came from a foreign-run hotel in the same city of Y where I lived. Normally such orders would be imported from their home country, but the company that I worked for had worked to convince the owners that the skill of their Japanese craftsmen could match any imported wares. As the result of their long negotiation, this order eventually made its way to me. The weight of this responsibility drove me to forgo sleep and food as I tended to the creation of these chairs. I was truly, utterly devoted to my task, pouring my heart and soul into every moment of my work. 

As I gazed upon the finished chairs, I felt a satisfaction unlike any I had ever experienced. I was taken away by the results of my own labor. Then, as was my custom, I took one of the set of four that I had made, brought it out into the next room where the evening sunlight was filtering in through the windows, and lowered myself into the seat. What a comfortable chair it was! The seat cushion was at once luxuriously voluminous yet neither too soft nor too firm. The upholstering, a simple undyed gray suede, was of a heavenly texture. The thickly padded back was angled at the perfect incline to gently support my own. The armrests were elegantly arched and rose delicately to meet the occupant’s wrists. Each fiber of the chair seemed to come together in a sublime harmony, as if to embody the word “comfort” in every sense as it gently embraced its occupant.

I sank deep into the chair, blissfully stroking the armrests with both hands. As inevitably as in the past, my vision began to fill with vibrant scenes one after another, bursting forth like a rainbow before me. This was beyond a simple daydream, and I felt I must at last be hallucinating. Every thought that visited my mind played out in vivid detail before my very eyes, so much that I felt a vague sensation of dread at the spectacle.

As I sat there in this state, a terrible and wonderful idea rose unbidden into my mind. I thought then that I understood what Eve felt when the fell serpent whispered into her ear. This idea was at once wilder than my furthest fantasies and dreadful beyond compare. Yet before long, this dread turned to fascination, and I found myself unable to resist its temptation.

At first, I simply did not want to relinquish this beautiful chair that I had poured such labors into. I wished nothing more than to forever go with it wherever it may be taken. But as I dozed, carried on the wings of my fantasies, this idea continued to spread its insidious roots within my mind, and before long, it bore a singular, terrible fruit. I must have lost my mind then. This vision was the extent of madness, yet I determined then to see it into reality.

I quickly selected the best of the four armchairs and smashed it to pieces. Then, I carefully remade it in such a way to suit my grotesque intentions.

It was an extremely large armchair, covered in leather on every surface from top to bottom. Besides that, the back and the armrests were of unusual thickness, such that the hollow cavern enclosed by these parts was spacious enough that if a man were to hide inside of it, it would be impossible to tell he was there from the outside. This space, of course, was filled with sturdy beams of wood and a multitude of springs, but I carefully arranged them so that if I placed my legs in the spot where a person would sit and positioned my head and torso into the back rest, sitting right in the pose of the chair, I had enough space to hide within.

Such modifications were my specialty, and I was able to include many conveniences into my design as well. For example, I left a gap in the leather, invisible from the outside, to let in air and sounds into my hiding space. In the back rest next to my head I constructed a little shelf on which I stacked bottles of water and hardtack. For certain purposes I also included a large rubber bag in the seat of the chair. This and countless other considerations went into my work, so that when I had finished I could remain hidden in the chair for two or three days on end without any inconvenience. In a sense, this chair had become a tiny room housing a single occupant.

I stripped down to a single shirt and, by way of the trapdoor I had installed underneath the chair, slid into the space I had prepared within. It was truly a strange sensation. Sitting in the stifling darkness, I felt as if I had crawled into a crypt instead. Now as I think about it, it truly was no different from a tomb. For as I crept into the chair, as if donning the helm of Hades, I was completely and utterly vanishing from the realm of my fellow man.

Before long, a dispatch from the company arrived in a large truck to claim the set of four chairs. My apprentice (the two of us lived alone in the residence), oblivious to the truth, helped the men move the chairs out. As they lifted my chair into the bed of the truck, one of the workmen groaned from the weight, and I felt my heart race within the little enclosure. Still, a heavy armchair is nothing unusual in itself, and soon enough I felt the rumbling of the truck announce our departure.

I was extremely anxious during this entire trip, but by the afternoon the chair that I was in had been installed without issue in one of the hotel’s rooms. I later learned that this room was not a private quarters but rather a lounge where people came and went frequently, visiting occasionally to meet with guests or read a newspaper and smoke a cigarette.

No doubt you have already guessed by now my intentions. I waited for the room to be empty of people before leaving my hiding spot and sneaking around the hotel, looking to steal what I needed. After all, who could imagine such a ridiculous thing as a person hiding inside of a chair? I was a shade among men, free to pillage from room to room as I pleased. By the time people began to raise an alarm, I simply returned to my spot within the chair, listening with glee to their inept attempts to find me. Have you ever been to the shore and seen a type of crab called the hermit crab? Its appearance is like a giant spider, and when people are nowhere around it struts about the shore as if it were king of its kind. The moment it hears the footsteps of a person approaching, however, it disappears into its shell with amazing speed. There, it ever so slightly stretches its ugly, spined claws out beyond the safety of its shell and waits for its enemy to leave. In that moment, I was truly a hermit crab myself. In lieu of a shell, I had my chair, and instead of the shore, I strutted about the halls of the hotel.

In any case, for all that my plan was preposterous and removed from the realm of common sense (and indeed because of this), it succeeded marvelously. By the third day after arriving at the hotel my thievery had become routine to me. The fear of capture and the thrill of success, combined with the pleasure I derived from hearing the hotel staff scurry here and there, never realizing that the target of their pursuit was mere inches away, proved intoxicating.

Unfortunately, I do not have time to go into detail about these adventures. I soon discovered a strange new pleasure, far more fulfilling than mere thievery. It is for the confession of this deed that I write this letter.

I must reverse the story a few days to when my chair was first placed in the lounge of the hotel.

For a while after my arrival, the owners of the hotel came one after the other to test the quality of the chair. They eventually left, and a silence fell over the room. I thought that the room must be empty, but I was too afraid to leave my chair so soon after my arrival. For a very long time (or at least, that is how it felt), I strained my ears to catch even the slightest noise as I waited.

After remaining like this for some time, I heard heavy footsteps echoing from what I assumed was the hallway. When the footsteps came as close as three yards, the thick carpet that covered the floor of the room muffled them so that I could barely hear, but before long, I heard the ragged breathing of a man. Just as I realized what was about to happen, the heavy body of a large European man slammed into my lap and bounced two or three times. My thighs were separated from his vast buttocks by only a thin layer of suede, and I could feel his body heat permeate through the thin barrier. His broad shoulders leaned back exactly where my chest was, and his bulky hands stacked on top of mine across the leather. It seemed that he was smoking a cigar. I could smell a thick, masculine aroma wafting through the gaps in the leather into my little space.

Dear Madam, I ask that you imagine yourself in my situation at that moment. It is truly a spectacle bizarre beyond belief. I was beside myself in terror, trying desperately to make myself as small as possible as cold sweat dripped from my armpits. I felt my mind go blank, and I sat there in a daze as time passed.

This man was the first of many visitors, who each came and sat down on my lap before rising and immediately being replaced by another. Not a one realized that I was there – that the soft cushion beneath him was actually the thighs of a man hiding inside the chair.

A pitch black world, locked in on all sides by leather. What a mysterious allure this world held. From inside these walls humans seemed alien and obscure, far removed from the typical qualities one would associate with humanity. They were reduced to nothing more than a collection of voices, breathing, footsteps, rustling cloth, and a number of round, bouncy mounds of flesh. I found that I was able to identify each one of them not by sight, but by touch. One of them was grossly fat and had the texture of rotten fish. Another one was the exact opposite, an extremely skinny individual that felt indistinguishable from a skeleton. Besides that, I became familiar enough with the spines, shoulder blades, arms, thighs, and tailbones of the various people that came and went that no matter how similar in stature they were, the sum of this data allowed me to isolate the peculiarities of each and every one. There is no doubt in my mind that human beings can be identified by the texture of their bodies no less precisely than by their faces or their fingerprints.

The same thing can be said of the opposite sex. Normally one would judge potential partners by their appearance, but within the world of this chair, such considerations were nearly out of the question. All that existed here was the naked flesh, the voice, and the smells.

Dear Madam, I hope that I do not offend you with my extreme frankness. In that chair, I fell deeply and feverishly in love with a woman’s body (indeed, she was the first woman to sit down in my chair).

If I were to imagine from her voice, she was a rather young maiden from a foreign land. At that moment, nobody else was in the room. She seemed happy about some thing or other and was humming a strange tune as her footsteps entered the room with almost a dancing cadence. Right when I estimated she had reached the foot of the chair in which I lay hidden, she suddenly flung her bountiful yet graceful body upon my lap. Then she seemed to recall something humorous, as she began to laugh out loud and beat her legs and hands against the cushions, wriggling about like a fish caught in a net.

For nearly a half hour following this, she continued to move about on top of my lap, occasionally singing a song and matching the rhythm with little wiggles of her heavy body.

This was truly an unimaginable situation for myself. I had considered women to be objects of either worship or fear, having spent my entire life avoiding meeting their gazes with my own. Now, here was a woman I had never met, from a country I had never been to, in the same room, on the same chair as me. I was pressed so closely to her that I could feel the warmth of her skin through the thin layer of suede between us. Oblivious to all this, she was reclining in the most leisurely fashion with her full body weight resting on me. From within the chair, I could pretend that I was embracing her from behind. I could shower kisses upon her graceful neck from behind the leather. In fact, I was free to do whatever I wanted.  

Upon this startling realization, I completely forgot my initial objective of stealing and instead simply indulged in this new and strange world of sensation. I thought to myself: Is the world within this chair not, in fact, my true and proper home? An ugly, cowardly man such as myself was doomed to a life of inferiority and shame out there in the world of light. And yet, in this new world, by simply enduring the cramped space within this chair, that same man could draw close to, hear the voices of, and even touch the skin of such beautiful women who would never forgive his presence in that bright outside world.

A love, springing from within the chair! Such a mysterious, intoxicating sensation could surely be understood by no one who has not crept into this chair himself! It is a love composed exclusively of hearing, touch, and to the slightest degree, smell. A love found only in a world of darkness, never to be seen in this world. This is, without a doubt, a temptation that belongs to the realm of demons and devils. In fact, I can only imagine what manner of terrible and eldritch matters are conducted in the dark corners of this world, hidden away from the eyes of man.

It goes without saying that my intention was, at first, to simply steal what I needed and quit the hotel immediately. Having discovered this all too foreign pleasure, however, I found myself far from leaving, and instead I declared the chair my permanent residence and continued in this manner for some time.

On my nightly expeditions, I took great pains to ensure that I remained silent and invisible, and so I was in no danger of discovery. Even still, I am amazed by how long I was able to maintain my residence within the chair, never once throughout the long months attracting the suspicion of any passersby.

Night and day, I kept my arms and legs bent within the cramped space inside the chair. My body went numb from this abuse, and I eventually found myself unable to fully straighten. Consequently, when I left my hiding spot and made my way to the kitchen or toilets, I did so on all fours, crawling along the ground. What madness must have overtaken me then, for even as I endured such suffering, I never once thought to abandon that strange and wonderful world of touch. 

There were the occasional guests who took up residence in the hotel for one or two months at a time, but as with any hotel, there was a constant flux of visitors coming and leaving. The object of my own strange love would likewise inevitably shift in time with the flow of the guests. Each one left her indelible impression in my heart, but whereas normally these would be associated with a face, their physiques instead were imprinted into my memory.

There was one as sprightly as a colt, with a lithe, compact frame. Another was like a snake, her body constantly wriggling voluptuously. One woman was like a rubber ball, possessing a body of endless girth and elasticity. Yet another felt as robust as a Greek statue, her body solid and perfectly balanced above me. And there were so many more, each with her own unique traits and her peculiar allure.

As my attention was thus constantly drawn from each woman to the next, the days brought a number of completely unrelated experiences.

The first was when an ambassador from a large European nation (I learned this fact from the passing conversations of the Japanese staff) placed his immense frame squarely upon my lap. Evidently he was known more as a poet than as a politician, but for his fame I felt pride as much as excitement at the opportunity to become acquainted with the touch of his skin. He spoke with two or three of his countrymen for only about ten minutes before standing and leaving. Of course, I had no clue as to what the topic of conversation was, but with every gesture, he would shift around as well. This, combined with his unusually warm body temperature, produced an almost ticklish stimulation that eludes description.

At that moment, I suddenly thought, what if! What if I were to take a sharp knife and, plunging it through the thin leather, pierce through the man’s heart? Of course, such a wound would surely be fatal. The political spheres both in his home country and in Japan would be in a frenzy over such an event. Newspapers would fill their front pages with headlines of this tragedy. Furthermore, his death would not only impact the diplomatic relations between his own country and mine, but to lose a man of his talent would no doubt deal a grievous blow to the world of art as well. In my hand, I held the power to bring about such disaster. As I thought this, I could not suppress a strange glee that took over me.

The other incident was when a famous dancer from some foreign country arrived in Japan and, by chance, checked into that very hotel and sat in my chair. That moment left a strong impression much like the time with the diplomat but even more so, for this woman sent through the leather a sensation of the most ideal proportions, unlike any I had ever experienced. I felt myself so swept away by her beauty that any impure thoughts were driven from my mind as I simply admired her as one does a fine work of art.

These were only a few of the various rare and bizarre, even uncanny experiences that filled my days, but the purpose of my letter is not to chronicle them here in detail. My tale has gone on quite long as it is, and so I shall cut to the heart of the matter.

It had been a number of months since I had first arrived at the hotel when my living situation experienced a shift. For some reason or other, the hotel owners returned to their home country, leaving the hotel, furniture and all, in the custody of a Japanese company. This company rejected the opulent nature of its inheritance and so made plans to transform the hotel into one that could appeal to the more mainstream clients. Expensive furniture and other items that thus lost their value to the company were auctioned off by a large retailer. Among those items listed for auction was my own chair.

At first, I was disappointed to learn of this fact. Then I thought to use this chance to return to the company of my fellow man once more and begin a new life for myself. By this point I had saved up a considerable sum from my thieving habits so that even if I were to return to society, I would never be at risk of falling back into that penury which I had left behind. Still, as I reflected on my situation, I realized that although leaving the hotel behind was certainly a disappointment in one sense, in another sense it opened up a new hope entirely. This hope sprung from my experiences these past few months. I had loved many and various women throughout my stay, yet because these were all foreign women, no matter how lovely, how delightful their bodies were, I was always left with a sense of wanting something more. Could it be that in the end, we Japanese are unable to feel true love for any except our fellow Japanese? This thought gradually solidified within my heart. At that time, my chair was being presented for auction. Perhaps this time it would be claimed by a Japanese buyer and placed in a household among other Japanese people. This became my new hope. I decided that in any case, I would continue my life within the chair for a little while longer.

The two or three days I spent in the store awaiting auction were truly stifling and unpleasant. To my relief, once the auction began, a buyer immediately appeared for my chair. Old as it was, it was still a fine chair that quickly drew the attention of many.

The buyer was some government official from the metropolitan area not far from Y city. I felt quite ill as I was constantly jostled and shaken in the truck that carried my chair the few miles from the warehouse to the buyer’s residence, but this was nothing compared to the joy I felt at knowing the buyer was Japanese, just as I had hoped.

This official was the owner of a rather splendid home, and I was soon placed within a spacious study in the main estate. To my intense satisfaction, I discovered that this study was not often used by the husband himself but rather mostly visited by his beautiful young wife. For nearly a month from that day forward, I was never apart from her. Barring only the times when she retired to the dining room or to bed, her graceful form was always right above mine. This was because the wife was constantly in the study, engrossed in her writing.

It goes without saying that I loved her dearly. Not only was she the first Japanese woman I encountered, but her body was of truly exquisite beauty. For the first time in my life, I felt true love. By comparison, none of those experiences in the hotel could be worthy of the title of love. As proof of this, I had never once thought to do any more than enjoy my secret caresses before, but now I fervently wished to make myself known to her.

I wanted for her to recognize my existence within the chair, and, as laughably selfish as it is, I wanted her to love me. But how would I indicate such to her? If she were to suddenly learn that someone was hiding within her chair, she should surely call for her husband or the maids in her surprise. All my plans would come to nothing, and I would face the judgment of the law for a heinous crime.

And so, I endeavored to provide her with the most comfortable seat I could so that she would think fondly of this chair. As an artist, she doubtlessly possessed more sensitive faculties than others. I hoped that she would sense the life within her chair and feel a sense of love for it, not as a lump of matter, but as a living creature.

Whenever she placed her weight upon my body, I strove to receive her as softly and comfortably as I could. When I sensed that she was tired, I would adjust the angle of my lap to shift her posture, carefully moving just enough so that she would not notice. And when she dozed above me, I ever so gently rocked my lap back and forth to simulate the motions of a cradle.

Perhaps my efforts were rewarded, or perhaps it was simply wishful thinking, but it seemed that recently she started to show love for my chair. She sank her body into my chair with the sweet affection that a mother shows for her infant or a maiden shows in her lover’s embrace. For my own part, the feeling of her moving around atop my lap was soon deeply familiar to me as well.

Thus my passions grew day by day. And now, at last, dear Madam, dear sweet Madam, at last I found myself entertaining a truly outrageous wish far beyond my lot in life. I thought to myself that if I could but once gaze upon the face of my lover and exchange words with her, I could die a happy man.

Dear Madam, no doubt you have long since realized the truth of the matter. The one I refer to as my lover, and I hope dearly that you will forgive this presumptuousness, is none other than yourself. From that day that your husband purchased my chair from the warehouse in Y city, I have been here, a miserable man with nothing to offer but my love for you.

Dear Madam, if you would be so kind to grant my one request, could I ask that you meet me, just once? Would you please offer just one word of comfort to this miserable, abominable wretch? I ask for nothing more. I am simply too wretched and loathsome to do so. Please, please, would you grant this last ardent wish of a truly unhappy man?

I left from the residence last night in order to write this letter. It was simply too dangerous for me to ask you of this in person, nor could I bring myself to do it in any case.

As you read this letter, I will be wandering the grounds around the manor, pale with anxiety as I wait.

If, by chance, you should deign to grant this ever so brazen request, place your handkerchief upon the dianthus in the window of your study. With that sign, I will wait at the gate of the manor as simply another visitor.

Thus, the curious letter concluded with a fervent request.

By the midpoint of the letter, Yoshiko had already been seized with a horrible premonition and turned deathly pale.

She stood up unconsicously and ran from the study, leaving the dreaded armchair behind as she entered the Japanese style living room beyond. She thought to tear up and throw away the horrible letter without reading the rest, but something stayed her hand, and so she sat down at the little desk in the living room and continued to read.

Her premonition proved true.

What a terrible thing to learn! That armchair which she had sat upon day after day had contained a strange man within it all this time.

“Ohh, how very dreadful!”

Yoshiko felt a chill run down her back as her body began to tremble.

She stood there in a daze, unable to fully comprehend the situation and completely helpless for a solution. Examine the chair? No, no, she could hardly even bear the thought. Even if the chair no longer held its usual resident, there was no doubt in her mind that some filthy residue remained, whether from his meals or from his body.

“Madam, a letter for you.”

She gave a start and turned to see a member of the maid staff standing there with an envelope that had just arrived.

Yoshiko took the envelope from her and reflexively moved to open it to retrieve its contents when she saw the address upon it. She recoiled in horror, the envelope falling from her hands. There, in a hand identical to that which had written the loathsome letter from earlier, was written her own name.

For a long time she debated whether she should open the envelope or not. At last, she tore open the seal and, with trembling fingers, withdrew the letter from within and read its contents. It was a remarkably short letter, but even so, the few lines that composed it were enough to give Yoshiko another surprise.

I beg that you forgive my impudence in sending this sudden letter. I have always enjoyed reading your works. Enclosed in a separate envelope is a rough manuscript of my own writing. If you would be so kind as to read it and provide your honest critique of it, I would be honored beyond words. For certain reasons, I have taken the liberty of posting the manuscript before writing this letter, and so I assume that by the time you are reading this, you will have read the manuscript already. What did you think of it? If my little ramblings would have left you with a lasting impression, then I would certainly be pleased to hear it.

I intentionally omitted the title on the manuscript, but I am thinking of titling it “The Human Chair.”

I hope you can look past my rudeness. Sincerely yours, ______.

About the Authors

Edogawa Ranpo

Edogawa Ranpo

Tar? Hirai (1894 to 1965), better known by the pseudonym Edogawa Ranpo, was a Japanese author and critic who played a major role in the development of Japanese mystery fiction. Many of his novels involve the detective hero Kogoro Akechi, who in later books was the leader of a group known as the “Boy Detectives Club.”

Find more by Edogawa Ranpo

Edogawa Ranpo

Allen Zhang

Allen Zhang

Allen Zhang is an electrical engineering student at Georgia Tech who enjoys reading fiction from around the world. He appreciates a variety of genres from Greco-Roman classical literature to contemporary Japanese smartphone applications.

Find more by Allen Zhang

Allen Zhang

About the Narrator

Ron Jon

Ron Jon

Ron Jon is a creator of haunted atmospheres – melding loops, field recordings, synths, library music, found sounds & home made instruments. He is a narrator, musician, singer, student of parapsychology & the supernormal. He is a writer of disturbing micro-fiction for adults & children’s books. He has a new album out titled – ‘Cosmicism’. The music is inspired by the literary philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft called ‘Cosmicism’. The premise being that there is no recognisable divine presence, such as God, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence. The album cover art is an original illustration of Cthulhu by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Want to listen? Go to the bandcamp site: Or go to the blog:

With this new set of micro-horrors the spectre collector went back to basics.

Nothing too tricky, nothing too fancy. Just keep ‘em short, sharp and creepy.

The album’s called “Demons Like Us” and it’s a bumper crop of small yet perfectly formed aural disturbances to fright and delight your senses. Give it a spin, like it on your socials, what the hell spoil yourself and buy it. You’ve been cooped up long enough, you deserve it. You’ll find it on Bandcamp here –

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Ron Jon