I was nervous as I made my way through Ameya-yokocho. The market exuded a spicy mix of aromas from herbs, oils and exotic foods. Chickens squawked, old women shouted at passers-by and children ran in every direction. A student of the Edo period, I calmed myself by imagining Tokyo in those former days.
I sought a particular booth and an old man named Tsutomu Otaku. His specialty was herbs and blends, magical potions rumored to cure any condition known to man.
And I had a condition: advanced cancer in my lungs and stomach. American doctors offered no hope. Not that they refused to treat me. Oh no. They offered extra weeks, perhaps a month. In exchange for one experimental treatment after another. I couldn't risk it. American medicine exposes the underbelly of free enterprise. Doctors, Fat Wallets, patients, Satin Caskets. Tsutomu Otaku offered hope.
His stall was just as it had been described. Herbs hanging in dried bunches, old ceramic pots bubbling on a hotplate. The man himself sealed the deal. He looked oddly like Yoda, bowing and smiling when I handed him my business card and an envelope. A friend in New York had explained my problem on a folded piece of paper. The old man spoke, a tinny small voice. "Light is life," he whispered. "Life is light."
The treatment was swift and oddly electric. He looked deep into my eyes and I think he brushed my soul. Then he placed both hands on my chest, right above the disease. His flesh seemed to merge with my own. Then the vibration began. I wasn't sure who trembled, Tsutomu Otaku or me. When he pulled his hands back they held an ember, a beam of light.
He poured it into a golden bottle of an emulsion of liquid that now sparked and pulsed in the dim booth. Yoda-like, he bowed, smiled and handed me the container. It was incredible. Like it was alive.
"Drink," he said, his voice quite cracking from our shared emotion.
The taste was cool and citrus-like. The liquid coursed through me, deeper with each swallow. The bottle went dark. The light was inside me. My life returned. From my pocket I drew out a cashier's check for one million dollars. Now, renewed, I could earn it all again. My ideas, my genius, would not die.
Tsutomu Otaku bowed one last time and slipped soundlessly into the crowd. In the growing darkness I saw more light. It came from a box. Pulling it out, I saw it was filled with battery powered bulbs, bulbs so easy to palm.
I felt cold pain as my light began to dim.