Rain was falling, or, it felt like it should be. Many gray buildings… thousands of them, towering, seeming to emerge from the overcast weather, then disappear again. Howl knew they physically stood still, but the skyscrapers were moving regardless, sliding faders on a soundboard, back and forth in lines.
Near the boy who stood gazing out the window could be seen a small brown bird, surveying the city from the window cranny, feathers that were fluffed out for warmth, the gray haze having laid a sparkling mist on his feathers. The small sharp eyes watched the buildings’ movement, back and forth, on tracks dictated by their masters.
Howl felt very much that this city’s gray haze, in this time and place, was his friend: Tokyo, completely overcast in a summer’s dusk. The city held thousands, thousands, thousands, all speaking an alien language, like a gray vapour rising from all their mouths. It enveloped and connected everyone, the boy felt, giving form to the mass consciousness that was all-of-us, finally translated into an overcast mood even the small bird could understand: Shelter from the sun, and a cool mist.
Howl and the bird blinked, bright eyes refocused. One of the roofs was green; a skyscraper with a garden on top. As it slid on its hallucinated track out of the comfort-fog into focus, other roof gardens leapt into focus also. A thought came to the boy’s mind, and with a pen he gave it form:
“You cannot stop Life. It delivers, it expands, spills over itself in a kaleidoscopic pop-up book with so many stories that it takes billions of souls to make all of it conscious; to bring each moment into the illumination of conscious experience.”
The boy set the pen down, returned to his view of the city. Surrounded by millions of Japanese people, he felt them to be very human, very conscious, and very alien. He stood very still on the sidewalk sometimes, and the longer he would stand there, in the midst of the milling thousands (all alive, all capable of love, all blinds drawn up, mystery monitors running full blast), the more he noticed each face as it passed by. Different races of the Asian people leapt out for recognition. Japanese and Chinese, Korean, European, American. Howl now noticed obvious differences in facial structure between the Japanese and the Chinese that he’d never noticed before.
He turned to his pen and paper once more:
“All of us choosing thus to dwell here have, at best, limited visibility. All of us can see only each other, and only the city we live in. Outside of this overcast city, the world may exist; then again, it may not.”