“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. (Continue Reading…)