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This is the end of the novel, and perhaps explains so much better than I possibly ever could, what the Ideal Existence is to me but few would call it existence at all. It just doesn’t seem ideal, especially not to someone as grounded as the Shadow. The Shadow represents the burdens and weights of reality.

‘You yourself created this Town. You made everything here. The Wall, the River, the Woods, the Library, the Gate, everything. Even this Pool. I’ve known all along.’

‘Then why did you not tell me sooner?’

‘Because you’d only have left me here like this. Because your rightful world is there outside.’ My shadow sits down in the snow and shakes his head from side to side. ‘But you won’t listen, will you?’

‘I have responsibilities,’ I say. ‘I cannot forsake the people and places I have created. I know I do you a terrible wrong. And yes, perhaps I wrong myself, too. But I must see out the consequences of my own doings. This is my world. The Wall is here to hold me in, the River flows through me, the smoke is me burning. I must know why.’

My shadow rises and stares at the calm surface of the Pool. He stands motionless amid the fall snow. Neither of us says a word. White puffs of breath issue from our mouths.

‘I cannot stop you,’ admits my shadow. ‘Maybe you can’t die here, but you will not be living. You will merely exist. There is no “why” in a world that would be perfect in itself. Nor is surviving in the Woods anything like you imagine. You’ll be trapped for all eternity.’

‘I am not so sure,’ I say. ‘Nor can you be. A little by little, I will recall things. People and places from our former world, different qualities of light, different songs. And as I remember, I may find the key to my own creation, and to its undoing.’

‘No, I doubt it. Not as long as you are sealed inside yourself. Search as you might, you will never know the clarity of distance without me. Still, you can’t say I didn’t try,’ my shadow says, then pauses. ‘I loved you.’

‘I will not forget you,’ I reply.

Long after the Pool has swallowed my shadow, I stand staring at the water, until not a ripple remains. The water is as tranquil and blue as the eyes of the beasts. I am alone at the furthest periphery of existence. Here the world expires and is still.

I turn away from the Pool and begin to walk back. On the far side of the Western Hill is the Town. I know she waits for me in the library with the accordion.

Through the driving snow, I see a single white bird take flight. The bird wings over the Wall and into the flurried clouds of the southern sky. All that is left to me is the sound of the snow underfoot.

— Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

It doesn’t feel like much is left. But it’s enough. And the shadow, who loves the character, wants them both to go back to reality together. But the shadow doesn’t know what it means to the character to live in the Town, merely existing. And the two part.

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