Spiral by Koji Suzuki. Originally published in Japan as Rasen in 1995. English translation copyright 2004. Spiral is the second part of the Ring trilogy of novels by Koji Suzuki.
The story starts with Mitsuo Ando, a doctor who is performing an autopsy on the body of Professor Ryuji Takayama who had died of a sudden heart attack at the end of the previous book, Ringu. Ando is separated from his wife following the accidental drowning of their three-year old son.
Ando meets Mai Takano the young lover of Professor Takayama. It turns out that Takano has seen the cursed videotape but why is she still alive? She should have died one week after seeing the tape.
The story builds on the idea of the videotape acting as a virus, transmitting information about Sadaka Yamamura who had been murdered in the first book. Sadaka had imprinted information on the videotape by psychic communication. This information had been passed on to Mai Takano who had been ovulating at the time of watching the tape. The virus had transmuted her egg and Takano gave birth to a new Sadako.
Ando was romantically interested in Takano but knew she had seen the video tape. When Ando discovers Takano is missing after not appearing for a date, he tracks her down but only finds her body in a ventilation shaft of a building. Ando meets the reformed Sadaka who had presented herself as Takano’s sister.
The book finished by Ando becoming involved in Sadako’s scheme for the world and being rewarded by the return to life of his drowned son. Certainly a bizarre story but one I couldn’t put down!
Spiral contained a summary of the first book in the form of a journalistic account kept by Asakawa, concluding with his description of the contents of the tape:
While investigating the simultaneous deaths by heart attack of four young people in Tokyo and Kanagawa prefecture on the evening of September 5th, Asakawa had come up with the idea that the culprit was some kind of virus. Scientifically speaking, it was the obvious conclusion. And since autopsies on the four bodies had indeed revealed a virus that closely resembled smallpox, it turned out that Asakawa’s hunch had been right. It had been Asakawa’s guess that since the four had died at the same moment, they must have picked up the same virus together at the same place. He’d figured that the key to the whole case must lie in figuring out where they were exposed to the virus, that is, in determining the route of transmission.
Asakawa had succeeded in finding out when and where the four had been together: August 29th, exactly a week before their deaths, at South Hakone Pacific Land, in a rented cabin, Villa Log Cabin No. B-4.
The next page, page twenty-two, started with Kazuyuki Asakawa himself heading toward the cabin in question. He took the bullet train to Atami, then rented a car and took the Atami-Kannami highway to the highland resort. Rain and darkness limited the visibility, and the mountain road was awful. He’d made reservations for cabin B-4 at noon, but it was past eight at night when he finally checked in. So this was where those four kids had spent the night: the thought gave Asakawa a jolt of fear. Exactly a week after they’d stayed in this cabin, they were dead. He knew it was possible that the same spectral hand would touch him, too. But he couldn’t overcome his reporterly curiosity and ended up searching B-4 from top to bottom.
From something the kids had written in a notebook on the property, Asakawa determined that they had watched a videotape that night, so he went to the manager’s office to search for that tape. He’d found an unlabelled, unboxed tape lying on the bottom shelf. Was this what he was looking for? With the manager’s permission, he took the tape back to cabin B-4, and, with no way of knowing what it contained, he inserted it into the VCR in the living room and watched it all the way through.
At first, everything was dark. Asakawa described the opening scene like this: In the middle of the black screen a pinpoint of light began to flicker. It gradually expanded, jumping around to the left and right, before finally coming to rest on the left-hand side. Then it branched out, becoming a frayed bundle of lights, crawling around like worms…
Something red and viscous spurted across the screen. This was followed by a view of a mountain that he could tell at a glance was an active volcano. Lava flowed from its mouth; the earth rumbled. The eruption lit up the night sky. Then this scene was suddenly cut off, replaced by a white background, in front of which the character for “mountain,” written in black, faded in and out of view. Then a scene of two dice bouncing around on the bottom of a bowl.
Finally a human figure appeared onscreen. A wrinkled old woman sat on a tatami mat. She was facing the camera and saying something. She spoke in a nearly incomprehensible dialect, but he could tell, more or less from the sound of her words, that she was predicting somebody’s future, warning him or her.
Next, a newborn baby, wailing. There was no discernible link between scenes. One followed another with all the abruptness and randomness of someone flipping over cards.
The infant disappeared, replaced by hundreds of faces, filling the screen and multiplying as if by cellular division, all against the background of a multitude of voices intoning accusations: Liar! Fraud! Then an old television set, displaying the character sada.
Then a man’s face appeared. He was gasping for breath and dripping with sweat. Behind him could be seen a lush thicket of trees. His eyes were red and full of bloodlust; his mouth was contorted with screams and drool. His bare shoulder was deeply gouged, and blood flowed from the wound. Then came again, from nowhere in particular, the cry of a baby. In the center of the screen was a full moon, from which fell fistsized stones, landing with dull thuds.
Finally, more words appeared on the screen.
Those who have viewed these images are fated to die at this exact hour one week from now. If you do not wish to die, you must follow these instructions exactly…